COLLECTION GUIDES

1709-1841

Guide to the Collection

browse digital content

Representative digitized documents from this collection:

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available as microfilm and color digital facsimiles. Use of the originals is restricted.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the papers of Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), author and patriot from Massachusetts. Also included in the collection are her son Winslow Warren's letters and journals, 1781-1785.

Biographical Sketch

Mercy Otis Warren, author, historian, and patriot, was born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on 14 September 1728. She was the third of thirteen children and the first daughter of James Otis (1702-1778) and Mary (Allyne) Otis. She was educated by her uncle Rev. Jonathan Russell and sat in on her brother's lessons as he prepared for Harvard. While at Harvard, her brother continued to suggest books for her to read.

Warren's interest and involvement in politics began early and continued throughout her life. Her father worked as a lawyer, judge, and colonel of the militia, and her brother James Otis, Jr. (1725-1783) was an outspoken opponent of the writs of assistance. In 1754, Mercy Otis married James Warren (1726-1808), who would go on to become a member of the Massachusetts legislature, and the Warrens hosted meetings at their home in Plymouth for leading opponents of British colonial policies. The meetings were attended by many prominent revolutionary figures, such as John Adams and Samuel Adams.

Though Warren had been writing poems since 1759, she gained notoriety for her political dramas supporting the revolutionary cause and satirizing British representatives in the colonies. Her first play, The Adulateur, appeared in a Boston newspaper in 1772 and cast the royal governor of Massachusetts as the villainous Rapatio. Among Warren's other political plays were The Defeat (1773) and The Group (1775).

In 1788, Warren wrote Observations on the New Constitution, in which she articulated her reasons for opposing ratification of the Constitution. In 1790, she published Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, a collection that included two verse dramas. But by far Warren's most important literary work was History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), a three-volume history she had begun in the late 1770s. This work led to a public schism between her and John Adams; in it, Warren accused Adams of forgetting "the principles of the American revolution." After several years and a heated exchange of letters, Warren and Adams reconciled in 1812.

Mercy Otis Warren had five sons: James (1757), Winslow (1759), Charles (1762), Henry (1764), and George (1766). She continued to correspond with political and literary friends until her death in Plymouth on 19 October 1814.

Sources

James, Edward T., Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer, eds. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Collection Description

The Mercy Otis Warren papers consist of three boxes of loose papers and one letterbook. Warren's correspondence makes up the bulk of the collection. Warren's letterbook contains copies of her outgoing letters from 1770 to 1800, likely transcribed and annotated by her son James Warren. Recipients of her letterbook copies include Abigail Adams (1744-1818), John Adams (1735-1826), Martha Washington (1731-1802), Catharine Macaulay (1731-1791), and members of her family. Loose correspondence includes letters dating from 1709 to 1841 sent between Warren and her husband James and sons Winslow, George, Henry, and Charles, as well as with Samuel Allyne Otis (1740-1814), Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), and James Freeman (1759-1835). Also included are fragments of Warren's dramatic writings and copies of her poems.

Among the topics covered in Warren's correspondence are her opinions of the political climate before, during, and after the American Revolution; brewing hostilities with England; news of the Revolution, especially in letters to her son Winslow while he was abroad; the formation of a new government; state politics, in particular her husband's career; and her political satires, dramas, and other writings.

The final series consists of Winslow Warren's letters home and journals kept while in France, 1781-1783, and Portugal, 1784-1785.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Charles Warren, 1942.

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available as microfilm and color digital facsimiles. Use of the originals is restricted.

Other Formats

This collection is available as microfilm and color digital facsimiles.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Letterbook, 1770-1800digital content

This series consists of Warren's letterbook, containing 500 pages of copies of letters written by Warren to 35 correspondents during the years 1770-1800, likely transcribed and annotated by her son James Warren. Several pages of the book are blank. For a list of select recipients and the page numbers of the letterbook on which correspondence with that individual appears, see Select List of Correspondents below.

Vol. 1 (XT)P-20, Reel 1digitized
digitizedLetterbook

II. Correspondence, 1709-1841digital content

This series consists of letters and copies of letters written in the years 1709-1841. The bulk of the correspondence is heavily concentrated in the years 1772-1800. Most of the papers are arranged chronologically.

The microfilm edition includes four topical targets:

1. "Mercy Warren to Winslow Warren," including "Letters containing many of the most remarkable Events from the memorable AEra of the Stamp Act, 1765, to the Commencement of Hostilities between Great Britain & the American Colonies, 1775";

2. "Mercy Warren to Winslow Warren," including "Letters containing many of the most remarkable Events from the memorable AEra of the Stamp Act, 1765, to the Commencement of Hostilities between Great Britain & the American Colonies, 1775";

3. "Mercy Warren to John Adams," including "Remarks & Observations in reply to ten Letters received by Mrs. Warren from John Adams, late President of the United States" and a notebook containing letters from Warren to John Adams, 16 July-27 August 1807; and

4. "Poems," containing 52 pages of Warren's poetry.

Box 1Folder 1P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1709-1766
Box 1Folder 2P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1770-1774

Copy of map of Kennebuc Purchase removed to Mss. Large 1770.

Box 1Folder 3P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1775
Box 1Folder 4P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-April 1776
Box 1Folder 5P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedSeptember-December 1776
Box 1Folder 6P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1777
Box 1Folder 7P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1778
Box 1Folder 8P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1779
Box 1Folder 9P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-March 1780
Box 1Folder 10P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-June 1780
Box 1Folder 11P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedAugust-December 1780

Letter to James Warren from Nathaniel Lothrop, et al. removed to Mss. Large 23 October 1780.

Box 1Folder 12P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-June 1781
Box 1Folder 13P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedSeptember-December 1781
Box 1Folder 14P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1782
Box 1Folder 15P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1783
Box 1Folder 16P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedApril-August 1784
Box 1Folder 17P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedSeptember-December 1784
Box 1Folder 18P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1785
Box 1Folder 19P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1786
Box 1Folder 20P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1787
Box 1Folder 21P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1788
Box 1Folder 22P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1789
Box 1Folder 23P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-June 1790

List of names, "Dramatis," removed to Mss. Large 1790.

Box 1Folder 24P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedAugust-December 1790
Box 1Folder 25P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedJanuary-July 1791
Box 1Folder 26P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedAugust-December 1791
Box 1Folder 27P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1792
Box 1Folder 28P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1793
Box 1Folder 29P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1794-1797
Box 1Folder 30P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1799
Box 1Folder 31P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1800
Box 1Folder 32P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedUndated correspondence (1 of 2)
Box 1Folder 33P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedUndated correspondence (2 of 2)
Box 2Folder 1P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1801-1802
Box 2Folder 2P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1803
Box 2Folder 3P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1805
Box 2Folder 4P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1806-1807
Box 2Folder 5P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1808
Box 2Folder 6P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1809
Box 2Folder 7P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1810
Box 2Folder 8P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1811-1813
Box 2Folder 9P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1814
Box 2Folder 10P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1819-1822
Box 2Folder 11P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized1841
Box 2Folder 12P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies to Winslow Warren, pp. 1-20
Box 2Folder 13P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies to Winslow Warren, pp. 22-40
Box 2Folder 14P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies to Winslow Warren, pp. 41-60
Box 2Folder 15P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies to Winslow Warren, unnumbered
Box 2Folder 16P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies of Stamp Act letters to Winslow Warren, pp. 1-20
Box 2Folder 17P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedCopies of Stamp Act letters to Winslow Warren, pp. 21-40
Box 2Folder 18P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedLetter copies to John Adams, pp. 7-62

Some pages are missing from this sequence.

Box 2Folder 19P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedLetter copies from John Adams, pp. 1-63
Box 2Folder 20P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedAnswers to John Adams's Letters and Interrogations
Box 2Folder 21P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitized"Dramatis" manuscript
Box 2Folder 22P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedPoems
Box 2Folder 23P-20, Reel 2digitized
digitizedPoems

III. Winslow Warren letters and journals, 1781-1785digital content

This series consists of letters and journals written by Winslow Warren while in France, 1781-1783, and Portugal, 1784-1785.

Box 2Folder 24P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren correspondence, 1781-1783

Includes photocopy of handwritten index to Winslow Warren materials.

Box 2Folder 25P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren correspondence, 1782-1783
Box 2Folder 26P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren correspondence, 1784-1785
Box 2Folder 27P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren correspondence, 1784-1786
Box 2Folder 28P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren journals, 1781
Box 2Folder 29P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren journals, 1781-1782
Box 2Folder 30P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren journals, 1782-1783
Box 2Folder 31P-355, Reel 1digitized
digitizedWinslow Warren collection wrapper

Select List of Correspondents

Below is a list of select recipients of the letters contained in Mercy Warren's letterbook, Series I. Each name is followed by the page number(s) on which the correspondence appears. The list is not a complete index.

Adams, Abigail, 129-148, 498-500
Adams, John, 149-204
Adams, Samuel, 475
Congress, Members of, 482-484
Gerry, Elbridge, 469-474
Hancock, Dorothy Quincy, 123
Knox, Henry, 476-479
Lincoln, Hannah, 33-36
Livingston, Catherine, 55
Macaulay, Catharine, 1-32
Montgomery, Janet Livingston, 39-53
Otis, James, 85-87, 93-94
Otis, Rebecca, 57
Otis, Samuel Allyne, 450-454
Sever, Sally, 457-467
Temple, Mrs. Robert, 88-91
Warren, Charles, 350-356
Warren, George, 369-447
Warren, Henry, 488-495
Warren, James, 213-233
Warren, Winslow, 237-340
Washington, Martha, 118-122, 126-128
Winthrop, Hannah Fayerweather, 59-79

Preferred Citation

Mercy Otis Warren papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Adams, Abigail Louisa Smith, 1798-1838.
Adams, John, 1735-1826.
Freeman, James, 1759-1835.
Gerry, Elbridge, 1744-1814.
Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810.
Macaulay, Catharine, 1731-1791.
Otis, Samuel Allyne, 1740-1814.
Warren family.
Warren, Charles.
Warren, George.
Warren, Henry.
Warren, James, 1726-1808.
Warren, Winslow, 1760-1791.
Washington, Martha, 1731-1802.

Subjects:

Authors, American.
Drama.
Family history--1750-1799.
Family history--1800-1849.
Massachusetts--Politics and government--1775-1865.
Poetry.
Political satire.
Politicians' spouses.
Portugal--Description and travel.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Public opinion.
United States--Politics and government--1775-1783.
United States--Politics and government--1783-1809.
Voyages and travels.
Women authors.
Women poets.