Commonplace book of Nathaniel Freeman, 1786-1787

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Content Notes

Nathaniel Freeman made entries in this commonplace book between 1786 and 1787, while he was an undergraduate at Harvard College. The book includes the notes Freeman took during three of Hollis Professor Samuel Williams' "Course of Experimental Lectures," and cover Williams' lectures on "The Nature & Properties of Matter," "Attraction & Repulsion," and "The Nature, Kind, & Affections [?] of Motion." These notes also include one diagram. The book also includes forensic compositions on the subjects of capital punishment, the probability of "the immortality of the soul," and "whether there be any disinterested benevolence." It also includes a poem Freeman composed for his uncle, Edmund Freeman; an anecdote about Philojocus and Gripus; an essay called "Character"; a draft of a letter to the Harvard Corporation requesting that, in light of the public debt, the Commencement ceremonies be held privately to lower expenses and exhibit the merits of economy; and an "epistle" to his father, requesting money. This epistle begins: "Most honored sire, / Thy son, poor Nat, in humble strains, / Impell'd by want, thy generous bounty claims."

Biographical Notes

Lawyer and Brigade Major Nathaniel Freeman was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts on May 1, 1766. His parents were Nathaniel and Tryphosa (Colton) Freeman. He attended Harvard College, where he received an A.B. in 1787 and an A.M. in 1790. He married Mary "Polly" Ford (b. 1772) on June 27, 1791, the same year he was admitted to the bar. Freeman established a legal practice in Sandwich and Cape Cod, and he was elected as a Massachusetts Representative to the national Congress in 1795. He served two terms, from 1795-1797 and from 1797 to 1799. He also served in the Massachusetts Militia for sixteen years in the rank of Brigade Major and was selected as a Justice of the Peace in 1793. Nathaniel Freeman died in Sandwich, Massachusetts on August 22, 1800.