Faustian Bargain: Harvard Removes Reference To “Pilgrims” In 181-Year-Old “Fair Harvard” Hymn As “Insufficiently Inclusive”

We recently discussed how Harvard dropped its long use of “House Masters” as racially insensitive.  Now it is dropping the last line of its 181-year-old “Fair Harvard” hymn as “insufficiently inclusive.”  The line refers to “Till the stock of the Puritans die” and some feel the reference is problematic because it refers to white ancestors.  As many on this blog know, I am an ardent traditionalist and oppose such revisionist moves whether it is the removal of names or portraits or seals.  The change at Harvard is the result of the work of the Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging created by University President Drew G. Faust.  Frankly, it is a Faustian bargain for Harvard in further stripping away historical elements to satisfy contemporary attitudes.  I do not believe such changes are nearly as beneficial as teaching students to use history with an understanding and perspective of institutional change.

“Fair Harvard” anthem has been used at key events since the 1800s.  The final verse states:

Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!

To thy children the lesson still give,

With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,

And for Right ever bravely to live.

Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,

As the world on Truth’s current glides by,

Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,

Till the stock of the Puritans die.


There should be nothing wrong with a song that reflects the long and proud history of Harvard.  The faculty and students are now thankfully more diverse and that is something to celebrate. However, you can celebrate your diversity while maintaining your history.  Written by the Reverend Samuel Gilman (class of 1811) for the university’s 200th anniversary in 1836, the song is filled with dated references.

Yet, Danielle S. Allen, a professor in the department of government insists that the last line makes the pursuit of truth only a matter for one group.  That is, in my view, ridiculous.  I doubt seriously that anyone at Harvard identifies today as a “Puritan.”  It is an archaic reference that captures the period of the writing of the song.  Indeed, the song itself makes clear that it is referencing the history and “relics” of the institution in the very first verse:

Fair Harvard! we join in thy Jubilee throng,
And with blessings surrender thee o’er
By these Festival-rites, from the Age that is past,
To the Age that is waiting before.
O Relic and Type of our ancestors’ worth,
That hast long kept their memory warm,
First flow’r of their wilderness! Star of their night!
Calm rising thro’ change and through storm.


The school released a statement that “The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging launched this competition to affirm that Harvard’s motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of our community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint.”   However, Veritas means truth and the best path to truth is not the denial but recognition of the institution’s history.  The song captures the historical roots of Harvard while the faculty and students reflect its future.

43 thoughts on “Faustian Bargain: Harvard Removes Reference To “Pilgrims” In 181-Year-Old “Fair Harvard” Hymn As “Insufficiently Inclusive””

  1. JT said above: “I doubt seriously that anyone at Harvard identifies today as a “Puritan.”

    True. Nowadays the Puritans describe themselves as “social justice warriors” or “antifas.” But they are Puritans through and through, full of hellfire and brimstone at anyone who does not accept their ludicrous dogmas. Give them half a chance and they will be hanging climate-change deniers in Salem again.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. The university has failed to teach the concept of anachronism. Universities repeatedly cull classic writers, seals, pledges, and now traditional refrains, because they do not reflect modern values. But they are not supposed to. One must not apply the standards of today when judging the past, because exactly zero people would hold up. Not even Abraham Lincoln, who sent hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to their deaths to free the slaves, would fit in at a modern day Berkley lecture.

    So by enabling students to excise everything about the past that does not fit the future, they will lobotomize our culture and accumulation of learning.

    Why not just remove the entire song? It contains “thee” and “thou” which clearly springs from the antiquity of Europe. It could be culled because it uses Caucasian forms of speech at a time when there was no equality, and so it might be a trigger.

  3. When you are a “Puritan” you are religiously pure and you have a tan. A black guy’s tan will not be noticed.
    Now days the one trait of Harvard and Yale types is that they believe that their feces does not stink. They use the letters in abbreviation: SDS for Sh__ Don’t Stink. Back in the Vietnam War days SDS was a radical group. They thought their feces did not stink too.
    The Harvard and Yale snobbery is the worst thing on planet Earth. Fly over and flush.

  4. We can no more scrub the context out of 2017 America than we can out of who we are as individuals. If Faust and his ilk were in charge of creating navigational charts, would they remove all the hazards and only chart their preferred destinations?

  5. It’s always nice to agree with Professor Turley, completely as here. The young who make up the buck of the protests about most historical elements in songs, seals and portraits do everyone including themselves from the historical perspectives of centuries-old institutions.

    I wish universities such as Harvard would leave historical artifacts just the way they are but maybe they will have to change something in the way they teach history and historical perspective. What was WAS – it remains history, for good or ill. And no amount of revisionist décor will change the bad things the founders did, but it will also not change the good things they did.

    Slavery was the ugliest episode in the annals of American History, even worse than the remaining current racial prejudices that it engendered. But it IS part of our history, part of Yale’s, part of Harvard’s and, I daresay, if we look hard enough, we will find some amount of it lurking in virtually everything that was created back then.

    Why don’t the same protesters try to force the removal of Richard Cheney’s pictures out of Washington institutions? Nixon’s? Jefferson’s? Maybe those who want that think they can somehow change history by coloring it out of history books. But that’s what China, North Korea, Russia have done since their revolutions. Dictators throughout history have done it – as far back as the Pharaohs, even further. Do the protesters want to be like them?. 1984 – be careful what you wish for, for your dreams may come true.

  6. Today’s faculty are midgets on the shoulders of giants. Here’s an idea.

    1. Seize the endowments of Harvard and Yale. Distribute them proportionately among all other baccalaureate-granting institution in proportion to the census of each.

    2. Auction off their real estate, valuables and sundry equipment.

    3. Load their faculty, their trustees, the university president, and every single administrator concerned with academic and student affairs bar the registrar into an old troop ship and point them toward Europe. Or Argentina. Or wherever. Any attempting to return to the United States get summarily tossed in prison for three years and then sent back to wherever.

  7. There was a case a few years ago at the ECtHR where a secularist challenged the Italian state practice of displaying the crucifix in public school classrooms.In a concurring judgment agreeing with the dismissal of the complaint,Judge Bonello of Malta opened his analysis with the following comment:”1.1. A court of human rights cannot allow itself to suffer from historical
    Alzheimer’s. It has no right to disregard the cultural continuum of a nation’s
    flow through time, nor to ignore what, over the centuries, has served to
    mould and define the profile of a people. No supranational court has any
    business substituting its own ethical mock-ups for those qualities that
    history has imprinted on the national identity. On a human rights court
    falls the function of protecting fundamental rights, but never ignoring
    that “customs are not passing whims. They evolve over time, harden over
    history into cultural cement. They become defining, all-important badges
    of identity for nations, tribes, religions, individuals”1 :see Lautsi and others v Italy,Grand Chamber,18/03/2011.

  8. Harvard wants to a leader in the culture wars. Nobody has a right to be more ashamed of America than Harvard. But so much of our “shameful” history is responsible for Harvard’s prestige and wealth. That’s why the revisionist mob will never allow it to escape its share of that blame. Its hypocrisy will only speed its decline.

    1. But so much of our “shameful” history is responsible for Harvard’s prestige and wealth. T

      Virtually none of it is. Real output in the United States was in 1865 < 1% of what it is today. Perhaps 13% of the workforce consisted of slave labor and it's a reasonable inference that a smaller share of the human capital was manifest in slave labor (and, of course, the black population in Massachusetts was inconsequentially small).

  9. I think we should go back to doing the Bellamy salute during the pledge.

  10. I’m old enough to remember when, back in the late 60’s, the terrible tales of China’s Red Guard were all the rage at Yale and other elite campuses. Sadly, history is repeating itself, only this time academia and its student minions are instituting their own Red Guard self-purge.

    1. Absolutely! I am often reminded of the Cultural Revolution these days when I read about these sorts of things. Read “Life and Death in Shanghai” and see the frightening parallels. No discussion about that these days and there should be. Academics should take note that the Red Guard turned on them.

  11. There are appropriate and long overdue changes that should be made, to establish equality between the sexes for example-however many there may be these days. Perhaps the ‘man’ part of many identifying labels should be changed out with person, etc. The pendulum swings in both directions to equal extremes.

    However, obscuring and/or erasing history takes away the one hope/blessing/gift/whatever mankind/personkind/whateverkind… has; that is to realize how we have evolved socially from the conditions of a thousand years ago in Western and other societies-still present for the viewing in some societies, to where we are now, not perfect but not burning people at the stake for using the wrong hand, or ruining their lives for their opinions-one only has to remember the fifties in the US for examples of lives ruined for verboten ideological involvements, attachments, etc. Allocating literary works by Mark Twain and others to be edited and even taken off the shelves teaches nothing about our society’s societal improvement. If whites in the South referred to blacks as (this won’t get posted if I type the word), then that is the appropriate word for the book. What is infinitely more appropriate is teaching the understanding of how it is wrong, and was wrong, and how our only salvation is in realizing it was wrong, and how some people take longer to realize this than others.

    That people so stupid as this Faust fellow make it to such levels in academia and other fields is what needs to be scrutinized. Here and now lies the travesty, not the reference to pilgrims of centuries before. People must celebrate the examples that they have improved. Otherwise how could one enjoy a movie about pirates, war, cowboys, etc.

  12. These people are so self-absorbed that they actually believe they are the generation that will change history by simply eliminating some lines in a hymn.

  13. What a shame and a blight on academia. Nobody can trust history anymore, and now nobody can trust Harvard to preserve history and truth.

  14. Someone needs to explain to me on the decision to alienate the philanthropic alumni in these matters.
    Doesn’t Harvard depend on them?

  15. Who’s the precious snowflakes now.

    ‘The fact that history is being rewritten …. has become outrageously reminiscent of another time in history.’
    Lmfao. Another time, indeed… Could it be any and every time, all the time?

    Americans complaining about history being rewritten… lol.

    Traditionalists, go back to your caves in Europe, ey. Whatcha doin online anyway.

  16. How ridiculous and dangerous. Those who would wash away history will regret it..

  17. The fact that history is being rewritten to appease certain groups of people has become outrageously reminiscent of another time in history. Books are being removed, along with statues, paintings, sculptures, and flags. Free speech is silenced or can only occur in designated free speech zones. This Politically Correct Society has become sick and demented.

    1. I have no problem with private schools doing as they damned well please, whether holding onto tradition or otherwise. On the other hand, when, say, the Supreme Court of the United States determines God, the Bible, and opening Judeo-Christian prayer permeate the halls of government as a tradition which doesn’t violate the Establishment Clause, it has gone too far. It’s intellectually intolerable and destructive public policy to euphemistically label as tradition what I consider an oligarchic opioid being used to corral our citizenry into servitude.

      1. It amazes me how the non-included groups strive to be the only group to be included in what ever. We are destroying American history by such capitulation. In my mind, “the task force on inclusion and belonging” along with Drew Faust has done a disservice to the University and it’s students.

        It is inconceivable that Academia continues to debate over the plain English documents that support this country. The since passed Supreme Court Judge Antoine Scalia said most eloquently that the Constitution is not a living document. It says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say. If people like Foust are not happy with government then work within the system to change it. Don’t degrade our country for their personal aggrandizement.

    2. Totally agree, Kathleen. Speech is free, in their minds, as long as it’s speech they approve. It has gone way past the point of being eye-rolling behavior and has become quite frightening reminiscent of the futuristic, dystopian movies of my youth in the 60s. And what in the world does “inclusive” really mean? Inclusive of what?

  18. Hello? It was inclusive when it was written. WTF! Maybe the initiators of this rule should contemplate their navels for a few more years…..

    1. Actually, it wasn’t inclusive when it was written. There were also Pilgrims, Quakers, Shakers, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Methodists, natives, Africans and many others who were not included. It was only for the Puritans and their descendants, note the automatic acceptance of progeny of previous students, the first of whom were Puritans. Even so, case can be made that line should have been left. It’s an important part of Harvard’s elitist history.

      1. note the automatic acceptance of progeny of previous students,

        You can’t stop lying, can you?

        Actually, it wasn’t inclusive when it was written. There were also Pilgrims, Quakers, Shakers, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Methodists, natives, Africans and many others who were not included.

        The song was written in the early 19th century when the establishment in Massachusetts was Congregationalist and Unitarian. Catholics were a tiny minority in North America outside of Philadelphia, Maryland, and Quebec, and the Jewish population miniscule. Shakers never numbered more than about 6,000 in the United States and they tended to eschew the larger society. Your whole conception of American history is a rusty template that rolled off the production line in 1971.

        1. yes, Congregationalist and Unitarian, they fit in the “and others” category. Harvard was established in the 17th century, the song was written in the 19th century. I guess the only ones who count with you are those in the majority, minorities need not apply, just like then.

          1. I guess the only ones who count with you are those in the majority,

            You made a point of running off a laundry list of demographic slivers that were inconsequentially small in 1811. You fancy it was Harvard’s job to eschew any particular educational mission, eschew its history, and go scrounging around for people ‘bettykath’ fancies were ‘marginalized’ (and likely had not the slightest interest in attending Harvard). The latter-day shticks of student affairs apparatchicks didn’t interest anyone in 1811. Or in 1948. They don’t interest anyone who runs a serious institution with a serious mission (except as necessary to keep rent-seeking lawyer-predators off your back). People who have real goals are interested in achieving those goals, such as producing educated men. They’re not interested in your goals because your goals are silly.

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