The Documentary History of Philanthropy and Voluntarism in the United States is a collection of edited primary documents, interpretive texts, and bibliographic references. It is intended for use as a curricular resource and reference work on the development of charities, voluntary associations, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic giving, and voluntary action.

The Documentary History is a work-in-progress. At present, it covers the development of institutions and activities through the end of the nineteenth century. Two major nineteenth century topics remain to be covered: fraternal/sororal associations and the charity organization movement.

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These texts are available free of charge. Users are asked, however, to give credit to the editor when these materials are included in course packets.

The Documentary History Project has been generously supported by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund, and the Program on Non-Profit Organizations, Yale University.

Peter Dobkin Hall

Hauser Center on Nonprofit Organizations

John F. Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University





1. The Statute of Charitable Uses (1601)

2. Virginia and the Elizabethan Charitable Tradition

Articles, Lawes, and Orders, Diune, Politique, and Martiall for the Colony in Virginia (1610)

Laws of Virginia (1623-4)


3. John Winthrop, "The Modell of Christian Charity" (1630)


4. Harvard College -- America's Oldest Eleemosynary Corporation

Reverend John Eliot Appeals for Support for a College in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

"New England's First Fruits" (1643)

Harvard's Charter of 1650

Tutor Sever's Argument on the Constitution of Harvard College (1723)

President Leverett's Reply (1723)


5. Individual Philanthropy in Early America: The Last Will and Testament of Robert Keayne (1653)


6. The Charity of Edward Hopkins: The Hazards of Charitable Trusts in Colonial America


7. Philanthropy in Colonial Virginia: The Founding of the College of William & Mary (1689)

Robert Beverly: account of the founding of the college, from "The History and Present State of Virginia" (1705)


8. Doing Good in the World: Cotton Mather and the Origins of Modern Philanthropy

BONIFACIUS: AN ESSAY upon the GOOD, that is to be Devised and Designed, BY THOSE Who Desire to Answer the Great END of Life, and to DO GOOD While they Live (1710)

"Rules for the Society of Negroes. 1693" (to be done)

9. Gilds and Artisan Associations

The Company of Shoomakers (1648)


10. Benjamin Franklin and the Origins of Secular Voluntarism

Excerpts from the Autobiography (1771-88)

"An Address to the Public from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage" (1789)

Last Will and Testament (1788)

Codicil (1789)


11. "That Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity: Freemasonry and the Origins of Secular Philanthropy and Voluntarism

The Constitutions of the Freemasons (1723)

From the Pennsylvania Gazette (1730)

Enoch Huntington, A Sermon Preached at Middletown, June 28, 1797, on the Occasion of the Festival of St. John the Baptist (1797)

From the Pennsylvania Gazette (1731)


12. Voluntary Associations and the Rise of the Professions

Petition of the Physicians of Norwich, Connecticut to the General Assembly (1763)

The "Graph. Iatroon Letter" (1765)

Prospectus of Cotton Tufts as to the Formation of a Medical Society in Massachusetts (1765)

"An Act to Incorporate certain Physicians by the name of the Medical Society" (1780)

Benjamin Rush, "A Discourse Delivered Before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Feb. 6, 1787. On the Objects of Their Institution."


13. The Great Awakening and the Origins of Religious Voluntarism

Jonathan Edwards, "Narrative of Surprising Conversions" (1736)

Jonathan Edwards, "The Revival of Religion in New England" (1742)


14. Virginia and the Tradition of Public Philanthropy

"An Act to make provision for the support and maintenance of Ideots, Lunatics, and other persons of unsound minds" (1769)

Thomas Jefferson, "Revisal of the Laws of Virginia," from Autobiography (1822)

"An Act for incorporating the rector and trustees of Liberty Hall Academy" (1782)

"An Act to authorize the establishing of fire companies" (1788)

"Report of the Commissioners on the University of Virginia" (1818)


15. Voluntary Associations and the American Revolution

Virginia Resolutions establishing a committee of correspondence (1773)

Resolutions of the Massachusetts House of Representatives agreeing to the Virginia Proposal (1773)

Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York (1773)

Newspaper Report of the Boston Tea Party (1773)

By-Laws of the Friendly Society of Middletown, Connecticut (1774)



1. The Founding Fathers and Voluntary Organizations

James Madison, "Federalist #10: The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection" (1787)

2. Factions, Political Associations, and Parties: Civil Society and Government in the Early Republic

"The Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati" (1783)

"A New and Strange Order of Men": Attacks on "Self-Created" Societies

Cassius (Aedanus Burke), "Considerations on the Society or Order of Cincinnati" (1783)

Organizing an Opposition: The Rise of the Democratic Societies

Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, "Principles, Articles, and Regulations, Agreed upon, Drawn, and Adopted, May 30, 1793"

Democratic Society of Pennsylvania, "Circular Letter to the Counties, July 4, 1793"

"Report of the Case of Joshua Stow vs. Sherman Converse, for a Libel" (1819)

The Federalist Attack on the Democratic Societies

George Washington, "Sixth Annual Address to Congress" (1794)

U.S. House of Representatives, "Answer to the President's Speech" (1794)

The Democratic Societies Respond to the National Debate

Democratic Society of the City of New York, "Address to 'Fellow Freemen'" (1795)

Federalist Reprise

George Washington, "Farewell Address" (1796)

The Legitimation of Political Associations

Thomas Jefferson, "Inaugural Addresss" (1801)


3. From Ecclesiastical Establishment to Voluntary Body: The Transformation of American Religious Organizations

Towards a Voluntary Tradition; The Establishment of Religious Liberty in Virginia

James Madison, "Memorial and Remonstrance on Religious Freedom" (1785)

Thomas Jefferson, "An Act for Religious Freedom" (1779, 1786)

From Establishment to Voluntarism: The New England Experience

Zephaniah Swift, "On Ecclesiastical Societies" (1797)

Timothy Dwight, "The Triumph of Infidelity" (1788)

An Act for the support of Missionaries to preach the Gospel in the northern, and western parts of the united States, and among the Indian Tribes (1798)

Resolve of the Connecticut General Assembly, October 1798

The Legitimation of Religious Voluntarism

James Kent, "The Free Exercise of Religious Profession and Worship" (1844)

"Ecclesiastical Corporations" (1844)

Alexis De Tocqueville, from Democracy in America (1835)

"Religion Considered as a Political Institution which Powerfully Contributes to the Maintenance of a Democratic Republic among the Americans" (1835)

"The Indirect Influence of Religious Opinions"

"Principle Causes which Render Religion Powerful in America"

"How Religion in the United States Avails Itself of Democratic Tendencies"

"How Religious Belief Sometimes Turns the Thoughts of Americans to Immaterial Pleasures"


4. From Friendly Societies to Labor Unions: Artisans and Voluntary Associations

"The Trial of the Boot and Shoemakers of Philadelphia, on an Indictment for a Combination and Conspiracy" (1806)


5. Black Philanthropy and Voluntarism in the Early Republic

"Preamble and Rules of the Philadelphia Free African Society" (1787)

Letter of the Reverend Andrew Bryan to An English Philanthropist Describing the Progress of the Baptist Churches in Savannah, Georgia (1800)

Rev. Daniel Coker, "Sermon Delivered Extempore in the African Bethel Church, on the 21st of January 1816. . . on Account of the Colored People gaining their Church (Bethel) in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania"

Preamble to the Charter of the Pennyslvania Augustine Society (1818)

"To the Public" (An Account of Black Charitable and Voluntary Organizations in Philadelphia, 1831)

"To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (January 1832)" (a protest against proposed ammendements to the Pennsylvania constitution which would have deprived Blacks of political rights).


6. The Search for an American Law of Charity

James Sullivan, "Opinion of the Attorney General of Massachusetts on the Life of the Corporation, 1802"

"Terrett and Others v. Taylor" (1815)

Thomas Jefferson Comments on the Actions against Dartmouth College Proposed by New Hampshire Governor William Plumer (1816)

The Jeffersonian View: New Hampshire Justice William H. Richardson's Opinion in "The Trustees of Dartmouth College v. William H. Woodward" (1817)

The Federalist View and the Federal Courts: Arguments and Opinion in "The Trustees of Dartmouth College vs. Woodward" (1819)

Counterpoint: The Supreme Court Upholds the Rights of States to Limit Private Philanthropy

"The Trustees of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, et al., vs. Hart's Executors (1819)

The Girard Will Case: "The Law of Charity is the Law of the Land."

"Francois Fenelon Vidal, John F. Girard, and Others, Citizens and Subjects of the Monarchy of France, and Henry Stump, Complainants and Appellants, v. The Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia, the Executors of Stephen Girard, and Others, Defendants" (1844)

An Ambiguous Legacy

Opinion of Henry St. George Tucker in "Gallego's Executors v. Attorney General" (1832)

Joseph Story, "Chancery Jurisdiction" (1820)

Joseph Story, "Literary Tendencies of the Times" (1842)

Joseph Story to James Kent on the Girard Will Case (1844)


7. De Tocqueville, Democracy, and the Crystallization of American Civil Society

From Democracy in America (1835)

"Parties in the United States"

"Political Associations in the United States"

"Of the Use Which Americans Make of Pubic Associations in Civil Life"

"Of the Relation between Public Associations and Newspapers"

"Relation of Civil to Political Associations"



1. Timothy Dwight on the Status of Private Charity at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century

"The Effects of the Principles Avowed by the Leaders of the French Revolution"

"Vindication of the Establishment of the Public Worship of God in Conncticut"

". . .State of Rhode Island -- . . .State of Religion and Learning -- Common Schools"

"Manners and Morals of the People of New England. . . -- The Poor Supported and Educated -- Public and Private Charities"

"Academies of New England -- Colleges -- State of these institutions in 1812 -- Law and Theological Seminaries -- Medical, Historical, and Philospophical Societies -- Social Libraries"

"Williamstown--Col. Williams--Williams College"

"Donations for the Promotion of Learning. . . ."

Dealing with Diversity

"State of New York-- . . .Account of what has been done for the support of Learning and religion--The different sects into which it is divided"

"City of New York. . .--Hospital--Bridewell, and City Prison--Old and New Alms House--College of Physicians and Surgeons--Elgin Botanic Garden--Schools--Literary Societies--Orphan Asylum. . . ."


2. The Evangelical Impulse and the Nationalization of Voluntarism

Lyman Beecher to Rev. Asahel Hooker, January 22, 1811, on the church's "determination to restore purity and preserve order."

Lyman Beecher, "The Temperance Reformation" (1812)

Lyman Beecher to Rev. Asahel Hooker, July 28, 1812, agitating for the establishment of a "reformation society for the state"

Lyman Beecher to Rev. Asahel Hooker, November 24, 1812, healing "democracy of its deadly wound"
Lyman Beecher, "Organizing" (1814)

Lyman Beecher, "Doing Good to the Poor" (1815)

Lyman Beecher, "The Hanover Association" (1827)

Lyman Beecher, Plea for the West (1835)


3. Voluntary Support of Higher Education and the Invention of Modern Fund Raising

Ezra Stiles, "Change of Constitution of Yale College" (1792)

"The Funds of Yale College" (1818)

"A Copy of the Acts and Doings Respecting the De Forest Fund" (1823)

The Yale Report of 1828

"Formation of the Society of Alumni" (1827)

Correspondence about the Centum Milia Fund Drive (1831-32)

"The Case of Yale College" (September 1, 1832)

"The Case of Yale College" (July 30, 1832)

Alumni Demand Voice in College Governance (1870)


4. The Origins of Trusteeship: Moral Agency, Stewardship, and the Management of Societies

Leonard Bacon, "The Christian Doctrine of Stewardship in Respect to Property. A Sermon Preached at the Request of the Young Men's Benevolent Society of New Haven, Conn." (1832)

Leonard Bacon, "Responsibility in the Management of Societies" (1847)

Leonard Bacon, "Sketch of the Life and Public Services of Hon. James Hillhouse of New Haven" (1860)


5. Philanthropy and Political Economy

Mathew Carey, on immigrant organizations in Philadelphia (from the Autobiography) (1833)

Mathew Carey, "Essays on the Public Charities of Philadelphia, intended to vindicate the Benevolent Societies of this City from the charge of encourgaing Idleness" (1829)

Mathew Carey, "an encouraging example, by the imitation of which, without the aid of official station, or political power, every private citizen may become a public benefactor" (1834)

Joseph Tuckerman, "Mr. Tuckerman's Semiannual Reports on His Service as Minister at Large in Boston" (1832)


6. Arguments against the Institutionalization of Philanthropy

William Ellery Channing, "Remarks on Associations" (1829)

Francis Wayland, "The Limitations of Human Responsibility" (1838)


7. Boston and the Tradition of Urban Elite Philanthropy

The Massachusetts General Hospital and the Origins of Elite Philanthropy

James Jackson and John Collins Warren, "A Letter Circulated to Some of Our Wealthiest and Most Influential Citizens, for the Purpose of Awakening in Their Minds an Interest in the Subject of a Hsopital" (1810)

Boston's Elite and the Concentration of Philanthropic Capital

"Harvard College and Massachusetts General Hospital versus Francis Amory" (1830)

Resistance to the Institutionalization of Philanthropy

William Ellery Channing, "Associations" (1830)

The Lowell Institute: Embracing the Dilemmas of Inequality

Edward Everett, "A Memoir of Mr. John Lowell, Jun., Delivered at the Introduction to the Lectures on His Foundation in the Odeon, 31st December, 1839"

The Crystallization of Elite Philanthropy

George Bancroft, "Minority Report of the Overseers' Committee of Visitation" (1845)

Josiah Quincy, "Speech of Josiah Quincy, President of Harvard University, before the Overseers of that Institution, February 25, 1845, on the Minority Report of the Committee of Visitation, Presented to That Board by George Bancroft, Esq., February 6, 1845" (1845)

Samuel Atkins Eliot, "Public and Private Charities of Boston" (1845)

Samuel Atkins Eliot, "Charities of Boston" (1860)


8. The Feminization of Philanthropy

Catherine Beecher, "An Essay on the Education of Female Teachers" (1835)

Lydia Sigourney: The Sweet Singer of Hartford

"On the Union of Ladies of Great Britain, with Those of America, in Plans of Benevolence for Africa" (1835)

"Religious Tracts" (1835)

"On Seeing a Lady's Gold Chain, among the Offerings at the Temperance Society" (1835)

"Hymn for a Charitable Association" (1835)

"Education of Pious and Indigent Young Men" (1835)

"Prayers of the Deaf and Dumb" (1845)

The Popularization of Charity

Louisa May Alcott, from Little Women (1868-9)

Beyond the Women's Sphere: Varieties of Public Advocacy

"Female Industry Association, New York" (1845)

"To the Women interested in Association" (1847)

Dorothea Lynde Dix, Advocacy, and the Tradition of Public Philanthropy

Josepha Hale, "Dix, Dorothea L." (1851)
Josephine Shaw Lowell and the Transformation of the Woman Volunteer

Beyond Charitable Dilettantism

Letters from Josephine Shaw Lowell to Mrs. Robert Gould Shaw (1878, 1888)

In the Cause of Women

"Reformatories for Women" (1878)

Non-Humanitarian Philanthropy

"Sunday School Talk to Children" (1888)

Empowering the Powerless

"Paper Read at the First Public Meeting of the Working Women's Society" (1888)

Women and Public Questions

"Relation of Women to Good Government" (1899)

Women in Philanthropy


9. The Search for Community in an Industrial Society

John Humphrey Noyes, from History of the American Socialisms (1869)

"Birds-Eye View of the Experiments"

"Theory of National Experience"

"Review and Results"

10. The Continuing Tradition of Public Philanthropy

The Debate over the Smithsonian Institution (1826-46)

"Will of James Smithson" (1826)

"Richard Rush to John Forsyth" (1836)

"Proceedings in the Senate, 1835-46"

John Quincy Adams, "Diary" (1836-1846)

Joseph Henry, "Digest of an Act of Congress Establishing the Smithsonian Institution"

The Debate over Federal Assistance to the Insane

Franklin Pierce, "Inaugural Address" (1852)

Franklin Pierce, "First Annual Message" (1853)

Franklin Pierce, "Veto of a bill entitled 'An act making a grant of public lands to the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons" (1854)


11. The Civil War: "An Epoch in American Philanthropy"

The Problem of Methodless Enthusiasm

Lucius Pierpont Brockett, from "The Philanthropic Results of the War in America" (1864)

"Contributions for the Comfort of Soldiers and the Relief of Their Families. --The "Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon" and the "Cooper Shop Refreshment Saloon," of Philadelphia. --The "Union Relief Association," of Baltimore. --The "Subsistance Committee," of Pittsburg. --Other Similar Organizations Elsewhere. --The Simultaneous Impulse to Work for the Soldiers, at the Opening of the War. . ."

Documents of the United States Sanitary Commission

"No. 1. An Address to the Secretary of War" (May 18, 1861)

"No. 3. Plan of Organization for 'The Commission of Inquiry and Advice in Respect of the Sanitary Interests of the United States Forces,' with Approval by the Secretary of War" (June 13, 1861)

"No. 5 To the Presidents and Officers of the Various Life Insurance Companies" (June 21, 1861)

"No. 7. Letter to the Public, soliciting Contributions" (June 22, 1861)

"No. 16. Appeal of the Executive Finance Committee in the City of New York" (July 13, 1861)

"No. 32. Report Concerning the Women's Central Association of Relief at New York to the United States Sanitary Commission at Washington" (October 12, 1861)

"No. 49. Provision for Disabled Soldiers -- Letter to S.G. Perkins" (August 15, 1862)

"No. 50. What They Have to Do Who Stay at Home" (October 21, 1862)

"No. 60. An Account of the Executive Organization of the Sanitary Commission, and the Reasons for It, Suggested by the Criticisms of the Committee of the 'Cincinnati Branch of the Sanitary Commission'" (December 18, 1862)

"No. 85. Theodore W. Dwight, 'As to the Trusts on Which the Funds of the U.S. Sanitary Commission Are Held, and the Objects to Which They Can Be Applied'" (November 4, 1864)

"No. 90. Circular Addressed to the Branches and Aid Societies Tributary to the U.S. Sanitary Commission." (May 15, 1865)

"No. 95. Provision Required for the Support and Relief of Disabled Soldiers and Their Dependents" (December 15, 1865)



1. Reconstruction

Edward L. Pierce, "The Contrabands at Fortress Monroe" (1862)

The Port Royal Experiment

Edward L. Pierce, "The Negroes at Port Royal, S.C. -- Second Report of the the Government Agent" (1862)

John Murray Forbes to Edward Atkinson, May 23, 1862

Forty Acres and A Mule: The Freedmen's Bureau

War Department, "Special Field Order No. 15, Military Division of the Mississippi, Savannah, Georgia, January 16, 1865."
"Second Freedmen's Bureau Act," 39th Congress, 1st Session (1866).

Oliver Otis Howard, "On the Benevolent Societies," May 19, 1865.

From The American Freedman, "The Cleveland Meeting" (June 1866).

From The American Freedman, "Education and Religion" (September 1866).

From the American Freedman, "A Bone of Contention" (December 1866).

From The American Freedman, "Go and Do Likewise" ((March 1867).

The End of Reconstruction

Oliver Otis Howard, "The Beginning of Howard University" (1904)

Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, "Desire for Education Waning" (1875)

J.E.L. Curry, "The Mistakes of Reconstruction Education" (1904)

Booker T. Washington, "General Armstrong's Plans for Negro Education"


2. Taxation or the New Model of Boston Charity

Charles W. Eliot, "To the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, appointed "to inquire into the expediency of revising and amending the laws of the State relating to taxation and the exemptions therefrom" (1874).


3. Philanthropy, Institutions, and the Search for National Order

Wealth and the Problem of Leadership

Oliver Wendell Holmes, from Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Oliver Wendell Homes, from Elsie Venner

The Civil War and the Vindication of Boston's Elite

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Introduction," Harvard Memorial Biographies (1866)

"Fighting the Wilderness, Physical and Moral": Charles W. Eliot and the Emergence of the Private University

Charles W. Eliot, Correspondence, 1869-69

Charles W. Eliot, "The New Education" (1869)

"The Civilization of a People May Be Inferred from the Variety of Its Tools": Elite HIgher Education and the Modern Economic and Political Order

Charles W. Eliot, "Inaugural Address as President of Harvard" (1869)


4. "A Mission to the Millionaires": Wealth and Reform

Henry George, from Progress and Poverty (1879)

Edward Bellamy, from Looking Backward (1886)

Jacob Riis, from How the Other Half Lives (1890)

W.T. Stead, "Jay Gould: A Character Sketch" (1893)

"American Millionaires and Their Public Gifts" (1893)

Reforming Charities Law

Alexander Clarence Flick, "The Broken Will," from Samuel Jones Tilden: A Study in Political Sagacity (1939)

"Decided against Cornell" (1888)

James Barr Ames, "The Failure of the Tilden Trust" (1893/1913)

Richard Ely, "The Universities and the Churches" (1894)

Laws of the State of New York Passed at the One Hundred and Sixteenth Session of the Legislature, Begun January Third, 1893, and Ended April Twentieth, 1893, in the City of Albany. (1893), I: 1077-8.

George J. Hagar, "Magnitude of American Benefactions," The Review of Reviews XXIX (April 1904), pp. 464-5.


5. Andrew Carnegie and the "Gospel of Wealth"

The Viewpoint of a Practical Man

Andrew Carnegie, from "An Employer's View of the Labor Question" (1886)

Andrew Carnegie, from "Results of the Labor Struggle" (1886)

Andrew Carngeie, "Wealth" (1889)

Andrew Carnegie, "Testimony to the Commission on Industrial Relations" (1916)


6. Reforming Governance: The Higher Learning in America

Frederic H. Hedge, "University Reform: An Address to the Alumni of Harvard, at Their Triennial Festival, July 19, 1866" (1866)

Theodore Dwight Woolsey, "Dr. Hedge's Address to the Alumni of Harvard." (1866).

"Yale Alumni Dinner -- A Pleasant Gathering at Delmonico's" (1869)

"Dinner of Yale Alumni" (1869)

"Yale College -- The Dinner of New-York Alumni of Yale College," Editorial (1869)

Noah Porter, "American Colleges and the American Public" (1869)

"Speech of W.W. Phelps" (1869)

William Graham Sumner, "The Ways and Means of Our Colleges" (1870)

The Higher Learning in America

Thorstein Veblen, "The Governing Boards," from The Higher Learning in America (1918)