But scanning the list, however, more closely, a distinction becomes readily apparent between the former cases and the present one. We see that they were all fairly representative men of good character and honorable repute; men who, it was confessed, had added to the good name of the Commonwealth. Never before has the case arisen where a firm stand could be taken as regards a man's public life and character; never before has a decision been made on a man for whose record any apology could be asked or offered. So although precedent of a kind is easily brought forward why a degree should be conferred on the office, yet the case of conferring it on the man is something radically different than ever before.
A great deal of interest has been excited of late as to whether precedent entitles any incumbent of the governor's chair to a degree; and , in this connection, it is interesting to note, especially with regard to the present governor, what the custom of Harvard has been hitherto. The first honorary degree of LL. D. that Harvard ever gave, was conferred on General Washington, for "his eminent services in the cause of his country and to this society." The first governor who had a degree was James Sullivan in 1807-8; but it is noteworthy that down to 1823 and even later, with few exceptions, the governors already possessed degrees given by the college. From Gov. Sullivan in 1807 until Gov. Butler in 1883, each one, with one exception, (namely, Increase Sumner, in 1797,) has had his degree, and since 1840 there has been an unbroken line of governors who have had honorary degree conferred upon them. The men represent every distinct shade of political feeling, and it does not appear that the college has taken any note of a man's politics or standing - the fact that he was governor was apparently sufficient.