Harvard University was founded in 1636 and was incorporated in May 1650. Many signers of the Declaration of Independence graduated from Harvard, including: John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and others. As did several national leaders, such as Joseph Story and John Quincy Adams.

Below is a 1650 incorporation charter for Harvard College from the WallBuilders library. Below is the transcript with corrected spelling and expanded abbreviations:

At the General Court held at Boston in the year. 1642

Whereas through the good hand of God upon us, there is a College founded in Cambridge in the County of Middlesex, called Harvard College, for the Encouragement whereof this Court has given the Sun of £400, and also the Revenue of the Ferry between Boston and Charleston, and that the well ordering and Managing of the said College is of great concernment.
It is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that the Governor and Deputy Governor, for the time being, and all the Magistrates of the Jurisdiction, together with the teaching Elders of the Six next adjoining towns viz. Cambridge, Watertown, Charleston, Boston, Roxbury and Dorchester, and the President of the said College, for the time being shall from time to time have full power and authority, to make and establish all such orders, statutes, and constitutions, as they shall see necessary, for the instituting, guiding and furthering of the said College and the several members thereof from time to time in Piety, Morality, and Learning as also to dispose order and manage to the use of the said College and the members thereof, all Gifts, Legacies, Bequests, Revenues, Lands, and Donations, as either have been, are or shall be conferred, bestowed or any ways shall fall or come to the said College,

And whereas it may come to pass, that many of the said magistrates and said Elders may be absent, or otherwise employed about other weighty affairs when the said College may need their present Help and Counsel,
It is therefore ordered that the greater a Number of the Magistrates and Elders which shall be present with the President shall have the Power of the whole, provided that if any Constitution, or disposed orders by them made, shall be found hurtful to the said College or members thereof, or to the Wealth-Public, then upon the appeal of the Party or Parties grieved unto the Company of overseers first mentioned, they shall repeal the said order or orders (if they shall see cause) at the next meeting or stand accountable thereof to the next General Court.

For the further encouragement and promoting the Weal and Government of the Students in the College, the General Court held at Boston the 30th of May, 1650, made and granted under the Seal of the Colony, this following Charter.

Whereas through the good hand of God many devoted Persons have been and daily are moved and stirred up to give and bestow, sundry Gifts, Legacies, Lands, and Revenues for the advancement of all good Literature, Arts, and Sciences in Harvard College in Cambridge in the county of Middlesex and to the Maintenance of the President and Fellows, and for all accommodations of Building and all of the necessary Provisions that may Conduce to the Education of the English and Indian Youth of the County in Knowledge and Godliness.

It is therefore ordered and enacted by the Court and the Authority thereof, that for the furthering of so good a Work and for the proposed aforesaid, that from hence forth that the said College in Cambridge in Middlesex aforesaid, in New England shall be a Corporation consisting of Seven Persons, viz. a President, five Fellows, and a Treasurer or Purse, and that Henry Dunster shall be the first President. Samuel Mather, Samuel Danforth, Master of Art, Jonathan Mitchell, Comfort Star, and Samuel Eaton, Bachelor of Art, shall be the five fellows, and Thomas Danforth to be present Treasurer all of the time being Inhabitants in the Bay and shall be the first Seven Person of which the said Corporation shall consist and the said Seven persons or the greater Number of them procuring the presence of the Overseers of the College and by their Counsel and Consent shall have power, and are hereby Authorized at any time or times to Elect a new President, Fellows, and Treasurer, so oft from time to time as any of the said Person or Persons, shall die or be Removed which said President and Fellows for the time being, what power here after in Name and Fact become body Politic and Corporate in Law to all Intents and Purposes, and shall have perpetual secession and shall be called by the name of President and Fellows of Harvard College, and from time to time be eligible as aforesaid, and by the name they and their Successors shall and may purchase and acquire to themselves or take and receive upon, free Gifts and Donations, and Land Tenements and Hereditaments within this Jurisdiction of Massachusetts not exceeding the value of £500 per annum, or any goods and sums of money…. [end of manuscript, to read full charter see here]


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