Manasseh Cutler

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Manasseh Cutler (May 13, 1742 – July 28, 1823) was an American clergyman involved in the American Revolutionary War. He was influential in the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and wrote the section prohibiting slavery in the Northwest Territory. Cutler was also a member of the United States House of Representatives. Cutler is "rightly entitled to be called 'The Father of Ohio University.'"[1]

Manasseh Cutler
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1805
Preceded byBailey Bartlett (11th)
Ebenezer Mattoon (3rd)
Succeeded byWilliam Stedman (11th)
Jeremiah Nelson (3rd)
Constituency11th district (1801–03)
3rd district (1803–05)
Personal details
Born(1742-05-13)May 13, 1742
Killingly, Connecticut Colony, British America
DiedJuly 28, 1823(1823-07-28) (aged 81)
Hamilton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Alma materYale College
Military service
AllegianceUnited States United States
Branch/service Continental Army
Years of service1776,
Unit11th Massachusetts Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Another portrait of Manasseh Cutler

Cutler was born in Killingly in the Connecticut Colony. In 1765, he graduated from Yale College and after being a school teacher in Dedham and a merchant – and occasionally appearing in court as a lawyer – he decided to enter the ministry. He married Mary Balch within a year of graduating from Yale.[2] Mary's sister, Hannah, married Jabez Chickering, making Cutler the uncle of their son, also named Jabez Chickering.[3]

Cutler studied under Mary's father, Thomas Balch, the minister at Dedham's Second Parish Church, for the ministry.[2] From 1771 until his death, he was pastor of the Congregational church in what was the parish of Ipswich, Massachusetts until 1793, now Hamilton.

For a few months in 1776, he was chaplain to the 11th Massachusetts Regiment commanded by Colonel Ebenezer Francis, raised for the defense of Boston. In 1778, he became chaplain to General Jonathan Titcomb's brigade and took part in General John Sullivan's expedition to Rhode Island. Soon after his return from this expedition he trained in medicine to supplement the scanty income of a minister. In 1782, he established a private boarding school, directing it for nearly a quarter of a century.

In 1784 a geological party, headed by Manasseh Cutler, named the highest peak in the northeast Mount Washington.

In 1786, Cutler became interested in the settlement of western lands by American pioneers to the Northwest Territory. The following year, as agent of the Ohio Company of Associates that he had been involved in creating, he organized a contract with Congress whereby his associates (former soldiers of the Revolutionary War) might purchase one and a half million acres (6,000 km²) of land at the mouth of the Muskingum River with their Certificate of Indebtedness. Cutler also took a leading part in drafting the famous Northwest Ordinance of 1787 for the government of the Northwest Territory, which was finally presented to Congress by Massachusetts delegate Nathan Dane. In order to smooth passage of the Northwest Ordinance, Cutler influenced and won the votes of key congressmen by making them partners in his land company[citation needed]. By changing the office of provisional governor from an elected to an appointed position, Cutler was able to offer the position to the president of Congress, Arthur St. Clair.[4] From 1801 to 1805, Cutler was a Federalist representative in Congress.

Cutler was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781.[5] Besides being proficient in the theology, law and medicine of his day, he conducted painstaking astronomical and meteorological investigations and was one of the first Americans to conduct significant botanical research. He is considered a founder of Ohio University and the National Historic Landmark Cutler Hall on that campus is named in his honor. In 1785, Cutler was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society.[6] He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Yale University in 1789. Manasseh was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.[7]

Cutler died in 1823 at Hamilton, Massachusetts. Three of his descendants were members of the U.S. Congress-and one vice president:

Departure of pioneers from Manasseh Cutler's parsonage in 1787
Manasseh Cutler prepared this wagon for the first pioneers to the Ohio Country

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Life of Manasseh Cutler, Vol. 2, p. 21.
  2. ^ a b McCullough, David (May 7, 2019). The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. Simon & Schuster. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-5011-6869-7. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  3. ^ Cutler, William Parker; Cutler, Julia Perkins (1888). Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL.D. R. Clarke. p. 56. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  4. ^ McDougall, Walter A. Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History, 1585-1828. (New York: Harper Collins, 2004), p. 289.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter C" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  6. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  7. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  8. ^ New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1801 – March 3, 1803
Succeeded by
William Stedman (district moved)
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district

March 4, 1803 – March 3, 1805
Succeeded by