The Butter Rebellion, which took place at Harvard University in 1766, was the first recorded Harvard student protest in what is now the United States. In the decade preceding the American Revolution, economic difficulties made the acquisition of fresh food difficult at Harvard.
A satirical account of the "Butter Rebellion," written in biblical style, was penned during the American revolutionary crisis. According to this account, one meal with particularly rancid butter led Asa Dunbar (the grandfather of Henry David Thoreau) to tell a tutor, "Behold, our butter stinketh!" In the account, Dunbar was punished for insubordination, and the next morning his fellow students protested by leaving their hall, cheering in Harvard Yard, and dining in town.
The protests were led by seniors Dunbar, Daniel Johnson and Thomas Hodgson. The Harvard Corporation admitted much of the butter served to students was rancid, but was alarmed by a month of "violent, illegal, and insulting proceedings." Eventually the Corporation enlisted the help of Massachusetts governor Sir Francis Bernard, 1st Baronet, who addressed students in the chapel, and ended the crisis.
- The Book of Harvard, satirical account of the Butter Rebellion
- Samuel Elliot Morrison, Three Centuries of Harvard (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936), 117-118.
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