MHS News

Unique set of Revolutionary-Era Newspaper Volumes Reunited at the MHS

Harbottle Dorr collection, vol ii, p 557The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) announced today the acquisition of the fourth volume of a set of Revolutionary-era Boston newspapers collected, annotated, and indexed by Harbottle Dorr, Jr., from 1765-1776. With the other three volumes already in the Society’s collections, volume four, covering the years 1772-1776, completes the set as originally compiled by Dorr. It was auctioned at James D. Julia, Inc., an auction house in Fairfield, Maine, on August 25. The purchase was made possible through a combination of gifts to the MHS from anonymous donors and a distribution from the Society’s acquisition fund.

The MHS is thrilled to have all four volumes under one roof. “This new acquisition is a wonderful complement to the Society’s collections,” explains Dennis Fiori, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society. “This was a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of such historical importance. Not only are we reuniting a set of significant resources on the Revolution, but we are ensuring that it remains part of the public domain.”

Though not a household name, Harbottle Dorr, Jr., a shopkeeper in Boston at the time of the American Revolution, is an important historical figure due to the remarkable archive of Boston newspapers he collected between 1765 and 1776. Dorr systematically indexed the contents of the newspapers, and, as he was well versed in the heated politics of his day, he often noted the identities of anonymous contributors. The annotated volumes provide the insights of an ordinary man as the Revolution unfolded around him. In the introduction to volume four, Dorr writes, “I have thought it worth while to collect them, tho’ at considerable expence, and VERY GREAT TROUBLE, in hopes that in future, they may be of some service, towards forming a POLITICAL History of this Country, during the shameful, and abandoned administration of George the third’s despotic Ministry.”

Harbottle Dorr collection, vol iii, index, p10Former MHS Trustee Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, emeritus, at Harvard University, notes,  “… those rare records that reveal what the Revolution meant to ordinary men who experienced it…. The more ordinary the mind and the more typical the career, the more valuable the documentation, and there is no more ordinary active participant in the Revolution and no one who left behind a more revealing record of the inner, personal meaning of the Revolution than a Boston shopkeeper with the unlikely name of Harbottle Dorr. His passionately patriotic scribbling in the margins of the newspapers and pamphlets he collected and his comments in his superbly confused indexes to his volumes are unique in the literature of the Revolution."

Dorr divided his archive of 3,280 pages of newspapers and other documents, including pamphlets, political cartoons, and broadsheets, into four volumes. Volumes two and three were donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1798 by Josiah Quincy.  The first volume was acquired by the Society in 1888. The fourth volume, dating from 1772-1776, has been in the possession of the Bangor Museum and Center for History in Maine since 1914 when it was donated by Thomas Upham Coe. 

comments: 0 | permalink

Adams Family Papers Online Catalog Launched

Slip FileThe MHS is pleased to announce the launch of the Online Adams Catalog (OAC), a comprehensive database of records that describe documents related to John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and other Adams family members, as well as their extended network of correspondents, from the 17th to the 19th century. The culmination of four years of collaboration between the Society’s archivists, web development team, and Adams Papers editors, this searchable catalog contains over 110,000 records describing all known documents that were written by or to members of the Adams family. The project was funded by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the Packard Humanities Institute.

Editors of the Adams Papers Editorial Project at the MHS, responsible for publishing documentary editions of the papers of the family (including diaries, correspondence, political papers, and more) have meticulously cataloged over the last 50 years all known Adams documents at the MHS, at other repositories, and in private collections. They established a color-coded system of paper slips for tracking individual items. The OAC was designed to convert this in-house file of paper slips into an online database, not only to facilitate the publication of print volumes but to provide access to that information for interested researchers via the MHS website.

Vast amounts of interrelated data are now retrievable with the click of a mouse. Researchers can search by name, date, keyword, holding institution, or any combination of these elements. All of the information about a document is pulled together and displayed in a single record, including the name of the institution holding that document and where, if anywhere, it has been printed. In many cases, individual records also contain links to digital images and even transcriptions of manuscripts at the MHS website. These include over 1,100 letters between John and Abigail, the diplomatic correspondence of John and John Quincy Adams, and other items available as part of the Adams Papers Digital Editions, the Adams Family Papers Electronic Archive, and the Diaries of John Quincy Adams Digital Collection. The interface also allows researchers to limit their search to only those documents available online.

comments: 0 | permalink

The MHS Welcomes 34 New Fellows

The Fellows of the MHS approved the election of the following new Fellows at the Annual Meeting on 11 May 2011:

Leslie Berlowitz
Leslie Berlowitz is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which she has led since 1997.  She received her training, in American literature, at New York University and Columbia University.  Before accepting her present position she was the Vice President for Academic Advancement at New York University.

Ellen Berkland
Ellen Berkland was the Archaeologist of the City of Boston from 1996 to October 2010; she has recently accepted a position in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation managing 450,000 acres of below-ground resources.  As the City Archaeologist she has been responsible both for 28 collections owned by the Commonwealth and the city’s own archaeological collections.  She has conducted archaeological digs in the area beneath the Central Artery as well as on Boston Common, in the back lots of the Blackstone block and the Paul Revere House, and on the Harbor Islands, unearthing evidence of Boston’s history from when it was the Shawmut Peninsula to the twentieth century.

Benjamin L. Carp
Benjamin L. Carp teaches American history at Tufts University.  He graduated from Yale University and received his graduate training at the University of Virginia.  His first book, Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution, appeared in 2007.  While he was working on it he held one of the Society’s short-term fellowships.  His second book, Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America, was published this year.  Prof. Carp participates frequently in the Society’s Boston Area Early American History Seminar, to which he presented a chapter of his second book, and will serve on its short-term fellowship selection committee next spring.

Flavia Cigliano
Flavia Cigliano is the Executive Director of the Nichols Hose Museum in Boston, a position she has filled since 1999.  Prior to assuming her present position, she was the Executive Director of the Whistler House Museum in Lowell.  She graduated from Emmanuel College, did graduate study in Romance languages at the University of California, Berkley, and earned an MBA at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management. 

Ellen R. Cohn
Ellen R. Cohn is the Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin documentary editing project at Yale University.  Ms. Cohn joined the staff of the Franklin Papers project shortly after graduating from Wesleyan University and advanced through the ranks from Associate in Research to her present position, which she assumed in 1999.  At the Franklin Papers she leads one of the premier documentary editing projects in the country, a participant with the Society’s Adams Papers project in the Founding Fathers Papers consortium.  In addition to her editorial work on more than a dozen volumes in the Franklin Papers series, she is the author of half a dozen articles.  She served as a site visitor of the Adams Papers for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission in 2001.

Lorna Condon
Lorna Condon is the Curator of Library and Archives at Historic New England.  She is a graduate of Emmanuel College (B.A.) and Simmons College (M.S. in Library Science).  Ms. Condon held positions at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and The Jackson Homestead/Newton Historical Society before becoming the Associate Archivist at what was then called the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities and is now Historic New England.  She became the Curator and Archivist in 1990.

Natalie Dykstra
Natalie Dykstra is an Associate Professor of English at Hope College, where she has taught since 2000.  She received her undergraduate degree from Calvin College and a master’s degree at the University of Wyoming before taking her Ph.D. at the University of Kansas.  Professor Dykstra held one of the Society’s short-term fellowships in 2000 to work on her present project, a study of the photography of Marian “Clover” Adams, much of whose work is in our collections.  She has also spoken on the subject at a Society meeting.  In February, Professor Dykstra served on the selection committee for our MHS-NEH long-term fellowships.

Jeannine Falino
Jeannine Falino is a decorative arts scholar.  For many years a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, she played a leading role in the development of the Society’s bicentennial exhibition there in 1991.  After leaving the Museum in 2003, she pursued a freelance career until 2009, when she accepted a curatorial appointment at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.  She served two terms as a member of the Society’s Collections Committee.

Alison Games
Alison Games is the Dorothy M. Brown Distinguished Professor of History at Georgetown University.  She took her A.B. in history at Harvard and Radcliffe colleges and went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her Ph.D.  After teaching at Grinnell College, in 1995 she accepted a position at Georgetown.  Her publications include: Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World (1999) (for which she held one of the Society’s short-term fellowships); The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660 (2008); and Witchcraft in Early North America (2010).

Susan J. Goganian
Susan J. Goganian is the Director of the Beverly Historical Society, a position she has held since 2008.  Between 1996 and 2007 she was the Director of Public Programs and education at the Bostonian Society, and in 2007-2008 she was the Director of Programs and Operations for the Boston Harbor Association.  Ms. Goganian graduated from Bates College and earned master’s degrees in business administration at the University of Maine and in history at Northeastern University.  She has taught public history and oral history at Northeastern University and is an Adjunct Professor at Suffolk University, where she teaches oral history.  A decade ago, when the Society received a grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to gather oral histories from each secretary of environmental affairs from the establishment of the position, Ms. Goganian coordinated the project.

Jonathan Hecht
Jonathan Hecht is the State Representative for the 29th Middlesex District, which covers Watertown and West Cambridge.  He was born in Cambridge, attended Belmont public schools, and received an A.B. in History from Stanford University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.  After practicing law in New York City, he worked from 1990 to 1994 as a Program Officer for Human Rights and Governance in the Beijing office of the Ford Foundation.  Upon returning from China, he worked from 1994 to 1998 as a Research Fellow and Lecturer in Law in the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.  In 1999, he co-founded the China Law Center at Yale Law School; he served as its Deputy Director in 2006.  In 2005 he was elected to the Watertown Town Council and in 2008 to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he serves on the Joint Committees on Health Care Financing, Elder Affairs, and State Administration & Regulatory Oversight.

Micheline Jedrey
Micheline Jedrey retired recently from the Wellesley College, where she was Vice President for Information Services and College Librarian.  A graduate of Smith College, she worked between 1971 and 1987 in a variety of positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before accepting a position at Wellesley as the Associate Librarian for Technical Services.  She became the College Librarian in 1989 and added the title of Vice President for Information Services in 1994.  She is a member of the Society’s Collections Committee.

Elizabeth B. Johnson
Elizabeth B. Johnson is a major figure in the Boston non-profit world as a philanthropist.  She is or has been a trustee or officer of The Trustees of Reservations, Historic New England, and Old South Meeting House.  She is also a member of the Collections Committee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Her husband, Edward C. Johnson III, is a Fellow of the Society.

John F. Kerry
John F. Kerry is the senior Senator from Massachusetts.  After graduation from Yale University, he served in the United States Navy, including two tours in South Vietnam.  During the second of these tours he was the skipper of a Swift Boat patrolling the country’s river system.  For his leadership, courage, and sacrifice under fire during this period he received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.  He came to public attention after his naval service for his senate testimony against the war.  Kerry attended Boston College Law School.  After working as a prosecutor in Middlesex County he was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1982 and Senator in 1984.  He was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President in 2004.

Kathy Lawrence
Kathy Lawrence is a scholar of the American Transcendentalist movement.  A graduate of Yale University, she took her Ph.D. in American and New England Studies at Boston University.  Professor Lawrence is a member of the English Department at The George Washington University.  She held one of the Society’s short-term fellowships in 2004-2005 and will serve on our selection committee for short-term fellowships in 2011.

Jill Lepore
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper, ’41, Professor of American History at Harvard University, where she is also the chair of the History and Literature Program.  Prof. Lepore graduated from Tufts University and took her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University.  She received one of the Society’s short-term fellowships for her first book, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (1998), which earned a Bancroft Prize.  Her other books include New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (2005), and, most recently, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (2010).  She is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where her frequent contributions usually concern historical topics.  She is a former member of the steering committee of the Society’s Boston Area Early American History Seminar.

Janina Ann Longtine
Janina Longtine is a physician. An Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, she is also the Director of Medical Diagnostics in the Pathology Department of Brigham & Women’s Hospital.  A former chair of the Board of Trustees of Historic New England, she is an active collector of nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings by Boston women artists.

Daniel Mandell
Daniel Mandell is an Associate Professor of History at Truman State University, where he has been on the faculty since 1999.  Professor Mandell received his bachelor’s degree at Humboldt State University, an M.A. in urban and environmental studies from Tufts University, and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia.  He has devoted most of his research and writing to the history of native Americans in New England, a subject on which he is a leading scholar.  His books include Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts (1996), King Philip’s War: the Conflict Over New England (2007), and Tribe, Race, History: Native Americans in Southern New England, 1780-1880 (2010).  The Society supported Professor Mandell with a short-term fellowship in 1995.

John T. Matteson
John T. Matteson is a Professor of English at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.  Prof. Matteson received his A.B. from Princeton University and took a J.D. at Harvard Law School.  After practicing law he concluded that literary scholarship would be more fulfilling.  He entered the doctoral program at Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D. in English.  Professor Matteson’s first book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (2007), won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008.  He is now working on a biography of Margaret Fuller.  Prof. Matteson took part in the Society’s 2010 conference on Fuller, and his essay for that program, “‘Woes . . . of Which We Know Nothing’: Fuller and the Problem of Feminine Virtue,” will appear in our forthcoming conference essay collection.

John J. McCusker
John J. McCusker is the Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of History and a Professor of Economics at Trinity University in San Antonio.  His appointments prior to accepting this position included a fellowship at the Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a professorship in history at the University of Maryland.  Prof. McCusker’s research focuses on the economic history of the colonial period.  His Money and Exchange in Europe and American, 1600-1775: A Handbook (1978; reissued with corrections, 1992) is widely used and the standard work in its area.  And The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 (1985; 2nd ed. 1991), which he coauthored with Russell R. Menard, shaped the thinking of a generation of scholars who learned from it how the export of staple crops shaped the American colonial economy.

Arthur McGinnes
Arthur McGinnes is the owner and president of MicroMedia/SOURCECORP-Document Management of Norwood, a company in the document imaging industry.  Before coming to his present firm in 1984, he spent nearly two decades in advertising.  He also served as Assistant Dean of Students at Dartmouth College, his alma mater.  Mr. McGinnes earned his M.B.A. at the Tuck School at Dartmouth.  His community activities include current service on the boards of Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center (of which he is chairman), Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.  He is past chairman of the Dartmouth Alumni Fund and a past member of the boards of the Squam Lakes Association, the Squam Lakes Conservation Society, and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.

Ann Louise Coffin McLaughlin
Ann Louise Coffin McLaughlin was Senior Editor at Harvard University Press, where she worked from 1953 to 1992. In this capacity, an on-going responsibility was to serve, in effect, as the Press's liaison with the Society's Adams Papers project.  More than 30 volumes in the series benefited from her incisive and supportive efforts. Over the decades, Adams Papers editors, including Lyman H. Butterfield, Robert J. Taylor, and Richard Ryerson, valued her editorial contributions.  She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and a long-time member of the Society.

G. Marshall Moriarty
G. Marshall Moriarty is a retired Partner of the Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, where he was a civil litigator.  He graduated from Harvard College, received a Fulbright Fellowship, and then went on to Harvard Law School, where he edited the Harvard Law Review.  Clerkships followed, first at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then at the Supreme Court of the United States.  After serving as an assistant to the Hon. Elliot Richardson, at the time the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Mr. Moriarty joined the firm of Ropes and Gray in 1972; he became a Partner of the firm in 1977.  He became a Trustee of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1992 and Chairman of the Board in 2003.  He is a Trustee Emeritus and immediate Past President of the Boston Athenaeum.

Heather S. Nathans
Heather S. Nathans is a Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland—College Park.  She graduated from Dartmouth College in theatre and then earned a doctorate in the same subject from Tufts University.  An accomplished stage director, Professor Nathans is also one of the leading scholars of the early history of  theatre in the United States.  Her publications include Early American Theatre from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson (2003) and Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage (2009).  The Society supported both projects with short-term fellowships.  Professor Nathans served as a member of the Society’s MHS-NEH selection committee in 2007.

Patricia Reeve
Patricia Reeve is an Assistant Professor of History at Suffolk University, where she has also administered programs in American history for teacher training.  Before accepting this appointment she served for nearly two decades in a variety of teaching and administrative positions at the University of Massachusetts—Boston.  Her Ph.D., completed in 2007, is from Boston College.  Her publications include work on health and labor in nineteenth-century Massachusetts.

Robert G. Ripley, Jr.
Robert G. Ripley, Jr., is an Executive Vice President of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.  A graduate of Bentley College with advanced training at Bryant College and Nichols College, Mr. Ripley has worked in the financial and software industries in a career marked by several successful start-ups and turn-arounds.  He became active in the MHS in 2006 and is a member of the Finance Committee.  He is also active on a variety of community boards in Falmouth, including the Board of Trustees and Finance Committee of the Falmouth Historical Society.

Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan is the President of the Boston Public Library, a position she assumed in 2008.  As the library’s president she is responsible for a system with more than 7 million books and twenty-six neighborhood branches as well as the central library on Boylston Street. She is a graduate of Mankato State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, and the University of Minnesota, where she received her master’s degree in library science.  Before accepting her present position she was the head of the Hennepin County, Minnesota, library system.

Paul W. Sandman
Paul W. Sandman, a graduate of Boston College and Harvard Law School, practiced law at the Boston law firm of Goodwin, Procter & Hoar before accepting a series of senior positions at Wang Laboratories and Boston Scientific Corporation.  When he left the latter company after fifteen years in 2008, he was Executive Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel.  Mr. Sandman has been active at the Society since becoming a Member about four years ago.  He is a member of the Finance Committee and the Board of Overseers.  Other past and present community activities include service on committees and boards of the New England Conservatory, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay.

Bruce J. Schulman
Bruce J. Schulman is the William E. Huntington Professor of History at Boston University, where he is also the department chair.  Professor Schulman is a graduate of Yale University, where he received his bachelor’s degree, and Stanford University, where his graduate studies culminated in a Ph.D. in history.  He taught at UCLA before moving to Boston University in 1994.  His publications include From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938-1980 (1991) and The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Politics, and Society (2001).

Theodore Sedgwick
Theodore Sedgwick is President Obama’s nominee as Ambassador to the Slovak Republic.  A business executive, he has experience in the publishing and timber industries.  Pasha Publications, which he founded and served a chief executive for two decades, is a specialty publisher focused on energy, defense, and the environment.  He has also been an active supporter of cultural and environmental institutions.  Mr. Sedgwick has served on the boards of the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Shakespeare Theater Company, the Gennadius Library (Athens, Greece), the Civil War Preservation Trust, and the Wetlands America Trust.  Mr. Sedgwick is a graduate of Harvard College.

Anne E. Sternlicht
Anne E. Sternlicht is a Vice President at Eaton Vance Investment Counsel, where she advises on wealth management strategies for individuals, families, and foundations.  She joined Eaton Vance in 2007 after holding positions with Citibank and The Bank of New York Trust Company.  While she was at The Bank of New York, Ms. Sternlicht played an important role in the establishment of the Society’s planned giving program.  After she moved to Eaton Vance, she coordinated the firm’s lead sponsorship of the Society’s Annual Dinner and Cocktails with Clio reception as well as its support for the 2008 exhibition John Adams: A Life in Letters.  Ms. Sternlicht is a graduate of Brown University and the Citicorp Institute for Global Finance.  She is a member of the Society’s Board of Overseers.

John Wood Sweet
John Wood Sweet teaches history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  As an undergraduate at Amherst College he prepared a senior honors thesis on religion in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Concord that served as the basis for an essay published in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, “The Liberal Dilemma and the Demise of the Town Church: Ezra Ripley’s Pastorate in Concord, 1778-1841.”  He took his Ph.D. at Princeton University; the Society supported his dissertation research with a short-term fellowship.  In revised form, the dissertation appeared in 2003 as Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North.  The New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, headquartered at the MHS, supported his next project, on dreams in early America, with a grant in 2003-2004.  Prof. Sweet served on the selection committee for MHS-NEH long-term fellowships in February 2010.

Alexander Webb III
Alexander Webb III is a partner at Saltonstall & Co.  Mr. Webb is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; he earned an M.B.A. at Columbia Business School.  Before taking his present position in 1998 he held various positions at State Street Research and management Co., Fidelity Management Trust Co., and the Boston Company.  He is a member of the Board and chairman of the Investment Committee of Historic New England.

comments: 0 | permalink

New Acquisition: Letter from Abigail Adams to Cotton Tufts

Abigail Adams letter to Dr. TuftsThe Massachusetts Historical Society is pleased to announce that it recently acquired a letter that Abigail Adams wrote on 2 March 1788 to Dr. Cotton Tufts, the Adamses' financial agent in the United States for the period that they were abroad. Judge Lawrence T. Perera donated the letter as a gift in memory of his father, Guido R. Perera. It is a classic example of Abigail’s correspondence with Dr. Tufts, blending business issues and personal news with astute political observations. Adams Papers Managing Editor Margaret A. Hogan comments, “This letter is an extraordinary find as we had no previous record of it.” She continues, “Abigail’s comments on the state of politics in Europe, and her observations concerning events related to the U.S. Constitution, make this a valuable letter for scholars interested in the Adamses and the history of the era.”

Married to John Adams, Abigail was an invaluable partner to him as his political career developed. After his election to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 and throughout the Revolution, Abigail was often left alone to raise the children, manage the farm, supervise the household and tenants, and care for extended family and friends. The letters she exchanged with John and other family members reveal her cares and worries, document her frank opinions and advice, and give an extraordinary view of everyday life in 18th-century New England.

In 1784, Abigail joined her husband in Europe, where he had been on diplomatic missions since 1779. This letter to Dr. Tufts was one of the last letters Abigail wrote from her home in Grosvenor Square, London, to the United States prior to her return in June 1788. Cotton Tufts, a cousin of Abigail’s, was one of the Adamses’ most important correspondents while they were abroad. He, in fact, helped to negotiate the purchase of the house now known as the Adams National Historical Park that John and Abigail would make their home upon their return to Massachusetts.

Along with her comments on the increasingly tenuous situation in France, where the financial and political crisis would shortly lead to revolution, Abigail’s thoughts on the American government and the need for it to be put on a stronger footing are especially noteworthy. Consideration of the new U.S. Constitution by the individual states was ongoing at this time—Tufts himself represented Weymouth as a delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention—and Abigail makes clear her own position: “How necessary is it my dear sir, for our own National honour & dignity Safety & security, that we should not cavil away our present advantages, but that our Government should assume a New & more respectable form, and by experience, rectify what we find amiss—” Also remarkable in this letter is Abigail’s particular appreciation for “the writer of those excellent paper”—Publius, the pseudonym used collectively by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison—in authoring the Federalist Papers.

comments: 0 | permalink

From the Archives: A Letter Written to Robert C. Winthrop from Fort Sumter

Anderson letterWhile looking through the Winthrop Family Papers for poetry written by Theodore Winthrop, one of the first soldiers killed in the Civil war, Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey came across a remarkable letter that Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter, wrote to Robert C. Winthrop just after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. Writing just a month before Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, Anderson thanks Winthrop for praising his refusal to surrender Fort Sumter to the Confederate forces. He predicts that the fort can not be resupplied and that a “patricidal” war will ensue. Anderson recollects that he had met Winthrop in Boston when Gen. Winfield Scott was on his way to Maine. Anderson, who  had been Scott’s aide, believed that if Scott had been in the “Presidential Chair,” the Civil War could have been avoided.  In August 1861, Winthrop received a second letter from Anderson—who had been quickly promoted to the rank of brigadier general—thanking Winthrop for the gift of a Bible as a token of thanks for Anderson’s service.

Robert Charles Winthrop (1809-1894) was a sixth-generation descendant of Gov. John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Winthrop read law with Daniel Webster and represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives, where he was the Speaker of the House from 1847 to 1849, and Senate.  A Unionist, but not an abolitionist, Winthrop was a celebrated public speaker and active philanthropist.  He was a Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society for 55 years and served as President of the Society from 1855 to 1885.  He assembled and donated large portions of the Society’s extraordinary collection of Winthrop family papers. 

Transcription:

Fort Sumter, S. C.
March 8.  18[6]1

Hon. Robt. C. Winthrop
Boston. Mass.

My Dear Sir:

Accept my sincere thanks for the kind and complimentary manner in which, you allude to me, in your glorious letter to the Union Meeting at Troy—  Would to God, that our people; in every part of our Country, were imbued with the patriotic sentiments which fill your heart—  then, soon, very soon, by the blessing of God, would the dark Clouds, which now obscure our vision and chill our hopes, be dispelled, and “Peace Liberty and Union” return, and unfurl, once  (more)                                                
   
[Page 2]
more, and I trust, forever, the glorious Stars and Stripes over a united and happy people.  The prospect looks to us here, very gloomy.  The Inaugural, as understood by these people, confirms them in the opinion, that there will be bloodshed—  I do not yet despond— but confess that war seems, to me, inevitable if the President intends keeping possession of this work, and collecting the revenue—  Our provisions can not be made to last many weeks longer—  the Southern Confederacy will not permit supplies of any kind to enter without a fight—  and the approaches to this harbor are so perfectly guarded by batteries, well situated and strongly armed, that an entrance can only be effected  (after)                                         

[Page 3]
after a bloody and well contested battle.  Vessels will be under fire, from the time they cross the bar—  and all the cannels may be closed—  until they reach this work—  and, even then, they would e within range of the guns of some of the batteries which have been constructed to pour their shot upon us.  I hope that God will have mercy upon us, and spare us from a patricidal war—  My trust is in Him; as I feel that in the complications, in which we are entangled.  He, and He, only, can save us from the ruin our own doings are bringing upon us— Your are correct in saying that you think you (saw)
 
[Page 4]

saw me when our friend Genl. Scott was on his way to Maine—  as I remember, then, to have had the pleasure of seeing you—  Had the Genl. been in the Presidential Chair, our country, by God’s blessing, would not have been in the sad condition in which it is now.  Again thanking you for your kind message of greeting, in these troublous times, and wishing you every blessing.
   
I am, Sir,
Very Sincerely Your friend
Robert Anderson
Major USA

Fort Sumter, S. C.

                                                 March 8.  18[6]1

 

Hon. Robt. C. Winthrop

Boston. Mass.

 

My Dear Sir:

 

Accept my sincere thanks for the kind and complimentary manner in which, you allude to me, in your glorious letter to the Union Meeting at Troy—  Would to God, that our people; in every part of our Country, were imbued with the patriotic sentiments which fill your heart—  then, soon, very soon, by the blessing of God, would the dark Clouds, which now obscure our vision and chill our hopes, be dispelled, and “Peace Liberty and Union” return, and unfurl, once  (more)                                                

                                                                                                                  

[Page 2]

 

more, and I trust, forever, the glorious Stars and Stripes over a united and happy people.  The prospect looks to us here, very gloomy.  The Inaugural, as understood by these people, confirms them in the opinion, that there will

be bloodshed—  I do not yet despond— but confess that war seems, to me, inevitable if the President intends keeping possession of this work, and collecting the revenue—  Our provisions can not be made to last many weeks longer—  the Southern Confederacy will not permit supplies of any kind to enter without a fight—  and the approaches to this harbor are so perfectly guarded by batteries, well situated and strongly armed, that an entrance can only be effected  (after)                                         

 

 

 

[Page 3]

 

after a bloody and well contested battle.  Vessels will be under fire,

from the time they cross the bar—  and all the cannels may be closed—  until they reach this work—  and, even then, they would e within range of

the guns of some of the batteries which have been constructed to

pour their shot upon us.  I hope that God will have mercy upon us, and spare us from a patricidal war—  My trust is in Him; as I feel that in the

complications, in which we are entangled.  He, and He, only, can save us from the ruin our own doings are bringing upon us— Your are correct in saying that you think you (saw)

  

[Page 4]

 

saw me when our friend Genl. Scott was on his way to Maine—  as I remember, then, to have had the pleasure of seeing you—  Had the Genl. been in the Presidential Chair, our country, by God’s blessing, would not have been in the sad condition in which it is now.  Again thanking you for

your kind message of greeting, in these troublous times, and wishing you every blessing.

                                                                                                                  

I am, Sir,

Very Sincerely Your friend

Robert Anderson

Major USA

 

comments: 0 | permalink

older posts