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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.955

Records compiled by Eliphalet Pearson relating to the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity

This collection documents the involvement of Eliphalet Pearson, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages and the College's interim President from 1804 to 1806, in the selection of the Hollis Professor of Divinity in 1805 at Harvard. Correspondence from New England ministers supports Pearson's desire to elect an orthodox Calvinist as Hollis Professor of Divinity, a narrative written by Pearson defends the selection of a Calvinist as Divinity Professor, and nomination slips and ballots provide evidence of the voting preferences of the Fellows of the Harvard Corporation. Additional records contain the questions Pearson used to challenge the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity, extracts taken from the Massachusetts General Court Acts of 1642, 1650, and 1657 and the Harvard Corporation records used in Pearson's research during the selection process, a draft of a broadside focusing on theology, and Henry Ware's course of reading for divinity students at Harvard.

Dates

  • 1804-1808 and undated

Creator

Researcher Access

Records compiled by Eliphalet Pearson relating to the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity, are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

.22 cubic feet (1 legal half-document box)

This collection documents the involvement of Eliphalet Pearson, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages and the College's interim President from 1804 to 1806, in the selection of the Hollis Professor of Divinity in 1805 at Harvard. The collection contains correspondence from New England ministers supporting Pearson's desire to elect an orthodox Calvinist as Hollis Professor of Divinity, a narrative written by Pearson defending the selection of a theologically "sound and orthodox" individual for Divinity Professor, and nomination slips and ballots which provide evidence of the voting preferences of the Fellows of the Harvard Corporation and also highlight the difficulties in selecting a new professor. In addition, the records contain the questions Pearson presented at a meeting of the Board of Overseers on February 14, 1805 to challenge the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity and extracts, probably used in Pearson's research during the selection process, taken from the Massachusetts General Court Acts of 1642, 1650, and 1657 and Harvard Corporation records pertaining to Harvard College and the Divinity Professorship. Additional records include a draft of a broadside, Theses Theologica, focusing on theology, and Ware's course of reading (1808) illustrating the religious instruction given to students of divinity at Harvard at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The records demonstrate Harvard's movement away from orthodox Calvinism to the more liberal theology of Unitarianism and the controversial rejection of Pearson himself as a candidate for the Harvard presidency.

The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.

Historical Note on Eliphalet Pearson

Eliphalet Pearson (1752-1826), scholar and the first principal of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, served as Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages from 1786 to 1806; Fellow of the Harvard Corporation from 1800 to 1806; and Acting President of Harvard University from 1804 to 1806. Pearson was an influential figure at Harvard as a professor and a contributor to many Harvard committees. After the death of Harvard President Joseph Willard (1738-1804) in September 1804, Pearson, an orthodox Calvinist, assumed the duties as president and soon became embroiled in controversy with other Corporation members regarding the election of Henry Ware (1764-1845), a Unitarian Congregationalist, as Hollis Professor of Divinity. Disenchanted with Harvard's increasingly Unitarianism and the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor in 1805, Pearson left Harvard and returned to Andover, Massachusetts, to help establish the Andover Theological Seminary in 1808. At the Seminary, Pearson served as professor of sacred theology (1808-1809) and as president of the board of trustees (1802-1821).
Historical Note on the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity After the death of David Tappan (1752-1803), the third Hollis Professor of Divinity, on August 27, 1803, efforts to appoint a replacement by the Harvard Corporation stalled over the religious beliefs the next Hollis Professor should hold. The Reverend Henry Ware (1764-1845), a Unitarian Congregationalist, was supported by the laymen members of the Corporation. However, Eliphalet Pearson (1752-1826), Hancock of Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages, argued that the statutes of the Hollis Professorship of Divinity required that the Divinity Professor be a Calvinist, and Pearson opposed every candidate proposed that did not meet this religious qualification. Ware's supporters replied that requiring a religious test for a professorial candidate was a "barbarous relic of Inquisitorial power" and contrary to the spirit of the government and people.

President Joseph Willard died on September 25, 1804, before a successor to Tappan could be named. As the senior member on the Harvard faculty, Pearson was appointed acting president and soon after the election process for both the president and Hollis professorship began. Pearson supported the Reverend Jesse Appleton (1772-1819), a leader of the conservative element of the Congregational churches for the Divinity Professorship. The Corporation was equally divided and spent the month of December 1804 debating the merits of various candidates. On February 1, 1805, a compromise was proposed that would have Ware elected president of Harvard and Appleton as Hollis professor. After several trial ballots, Ware was nominated for the Hollis professorship by a single vote. On February 14, 1805, the Board of Overseers elected Ware as the new Hollis Professor of Divinity, and thus the oldest theological professorship in the country became Unitarian. The professorship controversy created a divide between Pearson and the liberal members of the Corporation and diminished Pearson's chances to be elected Harvard's next president. On December 11, 1805, the Corporation elected Fisher Ames (1758-1808), the Federalist statesman, as president of Harvard. However, citing poor health and old age, Ames declined the appointment. On March 1, 1806, Pearson resigned both his chair and fellowship at Harvard when it became apparent to him that he would not be selected as the next Harvard president. On March 3, 1806, the Corporation elected the Reverend Samuel Webber (1759-1810), Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and a Unitarian, President of Harvard University.
Historical Note on the Hollis Professorship of Divinity The Hollis Professorship of Divinity was founded in 1721 by Thomas Hollis (1659-1731), a London merchant and one of the earliest supporters of Harvard College. It is the oldest endowed chair in the United States and the first professorship in theology in the country. The previous holders of the Hollis Professorship of Divinity were Edward Wigglesworth (1721-1765), Edward Wigglesworth (1765-1794), and David Tappan (1792-1803).

Arrangement

The records are arranged in seven series:
  1. Correspondence, 1804-1805
  2. Intended publication relative to choice of Professor of Divinity, 1805
  3. Nomination slips and ballots, 1804-1805
  4. Questions to be proposed to Overseers at meeting to confirm the choice of Mr. Ware, [1805 February 14]
  5. Extracts from college and government records, undated
  6. Theses Theologica, first draft, [1805]
  7. Dr. Ware's course of reading for a student in divinity, 1808 September 2

Acquisition information

The complete provenance of these records is unknown. Many of the records presumably were created in the course of University business and may have remained at Harvard after Eliphalet Pearson resigned his professorship and Corporation membership in 1806. Many of the records are marked with a handwritten note "Pearson papers."

Online access

All of the records have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Papers of Eliphalet Pearson, 1752-1826 (HUM 79): this collection contains a note regarding the selection of a new Hollis Professor of Divinity and an extract of a letter describing one of the candidates, Rev. Jesse Appleton.
  2. Papers of Henry Ware, Sr., 1783-1842 (HUG 1871): this collection contains materials Ware created over more than half a century beginning as a Harvard undergraduate in 1785, a minister in Hingham, Mass., and later as the Hollis Professor of Divinity.
  3. The Rules, Orders, and Statutes relating to the Professor of Divinity in Harvard College, at Cambridge, in New England, can be found in Rules and Statutes of the Professorships in the University at Cambridge, 1846 (HUC 4000.46.78).

References

  • Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Hollis Professorship of Divinity, 1721." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
  • Fuess, Claude M. "Pearson, Eliphalet." Dictionary of American Biography. Ed. Dumas Malone, Vol. XIV. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943. 358.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  • Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.
  • Wright, Conrad. "The Election of Henry Ware: Two Contemporary Accounts, Edited with Commentary." Harvard Library Bulletin 17 (July 1969) : 245-278.

General note

This document last updated 2018 December 17.

Processing Information

This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the nineteenth century, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in July 2011.
Link to catalog
Title
Pearson, Eliphalet, 1752-1826. Records compiled by Eliphalet Pearson relating to the election of Henry Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity, 1804-1808 and undated: an inventory
EAD ID
hua37011

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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