Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews



Life, Journals, and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL.D.: Volume

I. By William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler. (Athens: Ohio

University Press, 1987. xii + 524p.; notes. $40.00/set.) Volume II. By

William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler. (Athens: Ohio University

Press, 1987. iv + 495p.; notes, appendices, index. $40.00/set.)

Manasseh Cutler was a community builder of the first rank during a very

formative era in our nation's history. To mark the Centennial of the Northwest

Ordinance, his grandchildren published a compendium of his papers to applaud

Cutler's achievements. Their foremost goal was to gain recognition for Cutler,

his New England principles and his Federalist persuasion. Combining the roles

of editors, biographers and historians intermittently, they sought to counter a

prevailing Jeffersonian and Democratic bias to the history of our republic's

first west. Cutler, as a pivotal director of the Ohio Company of Associates in

1787-1788, was the architect of key aspects of the Northwest Ordinance and

hence the architect for the five new states that would evolve from the territory.

At the Bicentennial of the Ordinance, Ohio University Press has printed the

twin volumes and thus provides us with further perspective on the rich life of

a remarkable man. It is now more clear than in 1888 that in addition to his Ohio

enthusiasms (the ancient Indian mounds at Marietta, magnificent black walnuts

and sycamores on the Muskingum, the initial charter for Ohio University),

Cutler simultaneously created two other types of communities. From 1771 to

1823 he led his congregation and town of Ipswich hamlet (later Hamilton),

Massachusetts, through a half decade of turbulence. All the while through a

correspondence network that stretched from New England to the Carolinas,

and from Sweden to Hindustan, he tirelessly pursued myriad scientific

curiosities. Where his grandchildren might focus on his political achievements

in 1787-1788, now his versatility as community booster and enlightened

polymath are equally attractive.

The editing of these volumes, as pointed out by Lee Nathaniel Newcomer in

1960 (MVHR 47:88-101), is not up to the standards of current practice. A

variety of materials from Cutler's pen are combined with a potpourri of public

papers, Ohio Company records and commentaries from Cutler's contemporar-

ies. These are but selections from more than 75 volumes located chiefly at

Northwestern University. The grandchildren censored as they edited, blended

narrative with documents and, one third of the way through the second

volume, replaced a chronological approach with chapters of correspondence

passing to and from Cutler's desk. For the modern reader this approach is

distracting. If the Ohio University Press had wished to make a scholarly

contribution, at least it could have offered a more complete index.

Cutler's journals are the gems at the core of this collection. They are of two

types as they cover 1765-1823, with only nine years missing. By and large they

record the pace and prospects of the usual life of an unusual pastor (e.g., "June

30, 1800. About Town. Wrote to General Putnam. Completed the Charter for

the University." II, 38.). At other times, such as his 1787 trip to New York and

Philadelphia, the diaries are rich in detail. In the Bicentennial we are obliged to

Cutler for his evocative descriptions of turtle frolics and steam engines in