Guide to the Collection
Representative digitized documents from this collection:
Restrictions on Access
Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below). Black and white microfilm is also available for use in the library.
This collection consists of the papers of Presbyterian clergyman Benjamin Colman related to his ministerial career, in particular as minister of Boston's Brattle St. (Fourth) Church, on various local church councils, on the corporation of Harvard College, and as a member of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and Parts Adjacent, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
Benjamin Colman was one of the most prominent ministers of his generation. He was born in Boston, Mass., the son of William and Elizabeth Colman. As a young man, he was greatly influenced by Increase Mather, Cotton Mather, and Ezekiel Cheever, and at Harvard by William Brattle and John Leverett. After graduating from Harvard in 1692, he preached for six months at Medford before returning to Harvard for his A.M. degree. In 1695, he sailed for England, but was captured en route by French pirates and imprisoned in France. Ransomed, he moved to London and became involved with the American and English Dissenters there and at Bath. In 1699, friends and family in New England convinced him to return to Boston and take charge of the new Brattle Street Church, where he was immediately embroiled in controversy over reforms in the Congregational Church. He and the other founders of the church issued a Manifesto in 1699 and The Gospel Order Revived in 1700, which angered the Mathers and other traditionalist ministers.
Though Colman advocated a distinct separation between Anglicans and Congregationalists, he maintained a sympathetic and mutually supportive relationship with the Church of England. He coordinated many missionary endeavors among the Indians, often in cooperation with Anglican clergymen like Bishop White Kennett. As a member of the Harvard College Corporation and the Overseers, Colman was also active in Harvard College affairs and secured many patrons for Harvard and Yale, including the very influential Thomas Hollis. Colman was an avid reader of modern English thinkers and continued to correspond with colleagues in England. In 1731, he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the University of Glasgow. In 1740, during the first Great Awakening, he invited George Whitefield to preach at various pulpits in Boston and at Harvard. When Whitefield alienated and angered many Boston clergy with his criticisms, Colman successfully mediated the disputes that arose.
Colman married three times: to Jane Clark in 1700; to Sarah Crisp Clark, widow of John Leverett, in 1732; and to Mary Pepperrell, also a widow, in 1745. All three of his children were born to his first wife, but none survived him. His daughter Jane Colman Turell was widely acclaimed as a poet.
Kennedy, Rick. "Benjamin Colman." American National Biography. Ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. Vol. 5. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 256-258.
The papers of Benjamin Colman, 1641-1806, consist of two boxes of loose manuscripts and are primarily concerned with his ministerial career, especially his connection with Boston's Brattle Street Church, his activities on various church councils, and his work among Indians on behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and Parts Adjacent and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. His correspondents include Jonathan Belcher, Elisha Cooke, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Hollis, Cotton and Increase Mather, William Shirley, Samuel Shute, and Sir Robert Walpole.
The collection also contains letters to his daughter Jane Colman Turell, as well as materials related to George Whitefield, Boston schools, provincial government, the colonial customs service, and Harvard College.
Also available on microfilm, P-133 (1 reel).
Gift of Peter Thacher, 1793.
Restrictions on Access
The Benjamin Colman papers were given to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Rev. Peter Thacher, 29 January 1793. They were bound on 6 May 1914 with the assistance of the Winthrop Funds.
Note: This is the first item in the Colman volume dated 1697-1734.
Also available on microfilm P-207.
Also available on microfilm P-207.
Printed in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1st series, vol. 5.
Subscribers include Joshua Gee, Joseph Emerson, John Hancock, James Cushing, Samuel Dexter, Thomas Foxcroft, Ebenezer Parkman, Stephen Williams, Ames Cheever, Samuel Checkley, Oliver Peabody, Joseph Parsons, Phillips Payson, Charles Chauncy, William Cooper, Daniel Greenleaf, Nathan Buckman, Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Fiske, Joseph Baxter, Peter Reynolds, Joseph Sewall, James Stone, Seth Storer, Jonathan Townsend, John Webb, Nathaniel Rogers, John Barnard, Jonathan Bowman, Ebenezer Turell, William Welsteed, John White, Jeremiah Wise, William Johnson, John Rogers, Samuel Phillips, William Balch, John Tufts, Moses Hale, and Henry Messinger.
Feb.-May 1734digital content
Printed in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 56, pp. 19-24.
June-Dec. 1934digital content
Jan.-Mar. 1735digital content
Apr.-June 1735digital content
July-Sep. 1735digital content
Nov.-Dec. 1735digital content
Jan.-Mar. 1736digital content
Apr.-Nov. 1736digital content
Jan.-May 1737digital content
July-Nov. 1737digital content
Jan.-July 1739digital content
Aug.-Dec. 1739digital content
Jan.-May 1740digital content
July-Dec. 1740digital content
Benjamin Colman papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.