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John Adams

Debate Night

Monday nights at 7, often in Packard’s room or Crosby’s chamber, promised a fair fight. Samuel Shapleigh, a Maine orphan-turned-law-student and Harvard butler, must have been the one to beat. Since the informal Harvard debating society convened in mid-February 1792, Shapleigh regularly trounced his peers on questions of government, culture, religion, and slavery. Snowbound on the other side of the Charles (and history), I trailed Shapleigh’s progress in the club minutes for 1792-1793, recently digitized thanks to the Colonial North American Project at Harvard Libraries. Read more