Records of the Corporation relating to College tax exemptions, [1797]-1799

About this Collection

Harvard University , Corporation.
Financial records.
Collection Title
Records of the Corporation relating to College tax exemptions, [1797]-1799
.26 cubic feet (1 half legal document box)
Harvard University Archives

Content Notes

This collection contains twenty-eight handwritten documents created and collected by the Harvard Corporation as part of their efforts between 1797 and 1799 to persuade the Massachusetts General Court to enact legislation increasing the monetary value of the College's tax-exempt real estate. The records begin with a copy of the initial July 15, 1797 memorial submitted to the General Court requesting a larger exemption than that stipulated in the Charter of 1650, and the subsequent documents reflect the complications that emerged after the Committee of the Town of Cambridge submitted their own petition to the General Court attempting to minimize both the property exemptions and the tax exemptions of College officers.

Biographical Notes

Harvard College was founded by the Massachusetts General Court, and the Charter of 1650 established the Harvard Corporation as the primary governing body of the College. The Charter exempted Harvard from paying taxes on real estate worth up to five hundred pounds per annum. In 1797, the Harvard Corporation petitioned the state legislature for an increase in the monetary value of their real estate tax-exemption. The Corporation's petition incited protest from the town of Cambridge which argued that the exemptions placed a burden on the town by unfairly limiting their tax revenue. The Corporation, Harvard professors, and the town of Cambridge offered memorials and related documentation to General Court committees during their legislative session in 1799 related to the issue of the College's tax exemptions. The General Court did not respond to the Corporation's request in 1799, but it also did not change the tax exemption for College officers; the annual tax act approved on February 24, 1800 included the traditional exemption clause. Disagreement between the Corporation and local towns over the College's tax exemptions continued into the 19th century and was impacted by court decisions and state tax legislation.