Digitization project shows college kids haven’t changed much since 1743

111015blog otis portrait2
Credit: Portrait by Joseph Blackburn via Wikipedia

Harvard University last week launched a website for The Colonial North American Project, which for years has been digitizing thousands of documents and letters from the 17th and 18th centuries with the design of making them publicly available online.  While many of the documents hold great historical significance, others merely reflect life in the times, such as a letter from James Otis Jr. – he of “Taxation without representation is tyranny” fame – to his father, James Otis Sr., also a prominent colonial attorney.

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Here’s the letter:

111015blog otis letter Harvard University

And here’s a partial transcript from a report in the Boston Globe:

James Otis Jr. needed 15 shillings for belt buckles, 15 more to print his “theses,” and a little extra to put toward “any manner of entertainment” for commencement at Harvard.

In a letter to his father, James Otis Sr., dated June 17, 1743, the young scholar pleaded for the money.

“Pray Sir, send me money Enough for I believe I Shall not write again before commencement,” Otis said in the letter, signing it, “Your most Obedient Son.”

So while James Otis Jr. would gain fame for his opposition to unfair taxation, he was not in his college days above pestering the old man for a few shillings.

The story made no mention of whether his request was obliged.

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