Manasseh Cutler Papers, 1777-1790


Date: 1777-1790 | Size: 1 microfilm_reel(s)


These are letters from Jeremy Belknap, Aaron Dexter, Ezra Stile, Samuel Vaughan, Jr., and others. There are also drafts of some of Cutler's letters.

Background note

Manasseh Cutler (1742-1823; APS 1785) was a Congregational minister, Revolutionary War veteran, lawyer, politician, and amateur scientist. He is best known for his role in setting up a colony in Ohio and for helping to establish Ohio University.

Cutler was born in Killingly, Connecticut on May 13, 1742. He descended from a line of clergymen, but did not immediately take up the cloth. After graduating from Yale College in 1765, he worked as a teacher, a merchant, and an attorney. Cutler eventually settled on a religious vocation, becoming the minister of the Congregational Church in Ipswich Hamlet [now Hamilton], Massachusetts in 1771. He held this position for over fifty years, until his death in 1823.

During the Revolutionary War, Cutler served as a chaplain to the 11th Massachusetts Regiment and to Jonathan Titcomb's Brigade. Returning home after the war, he studied and practiced medicine to supplement his income.

In 1786, along with Rufus Putnam and Winthrop Sargent, Cutler formed the Ohio Company of Associates. The group sought to find land on which war veterans could settle. On behalf of the company, Cutler negotiated the purchase of 1.5 million acres of land in the Ohio Valley from the federal government. A colony was then set up in Marietta and became the first permanent settlement in the present state of Ohio. Historians believe Cutler was a leading contributor to the Northwest Ordinance, the set of laws that governed the land. In particular, it is thought he played a major part in the sections of the law which prohibited slavery and promoted public education.

Cutler was also instrumental in the founding of Ohio University, the first chartered institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory. He highly valued education and secured a 46,000-acre land grant from Congress to establish a university in the territory. This grant led to the establishment of Ohio University in 1804.

For a short period of time, Cutler dabbled in politics. He was elected to the Massachusetts General Court in 1800 and to the United States House of Representatives in 1801. A Federalist, he was a member of Congress from Massachusetts for two terms from 1801-1805.

Possessing an intellectual curiosity, Cutler also studied astronomy, botany, and meteorology in his free time. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781, the American Philosophical Society in 1785, and the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.

Cutler died in Hamilton, Massachusetts on July 28, 1823.

Collection Information

Physical description

1 microfilm reel. Place and date of reproduction unknown.


Received from Northwestern University and accessioned, 03/08/1962.

Location of originals:

Originals in: Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Ill.

Early American History Note

This is a microfilm of an early American collection that may be of interest to researchers at the APS and may complement an original manuscript collection at the APS.

Indexing Terms


  • Microfilm Collection

Personal Name(s)

  • Belknap, Jeremy, 1744-1798
  • Cutler, Manasseh, 1742-1823
  • Dexter, Aaron
  • Stiles, Ezra, 1727-1795
  • Vaughan, Samuel, 1762-1827


  • Botany.
  • Natural history.