A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Lewis Cass-Leverett Saltonstall Correspondence

Lewis Cass (1782-1866) wrote this series of letters to Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845) from 1799 to 1823. Most were sent from the Northwest Territory and the new state of Ohio where Cass describes the challenges and opportunities he found there.

Lewis Cass  was born in Exeter, New Hampshire and attended Phillips Exeter Academy with Leverett Saltonstall in 1797-1798. The academy was not far from Saltonstall’s home of Haverhill, Mass. Detail of letter from Lewis Cass to Leverett Saltonstall, 5 November 1799Cass was still a student at the academy when he wrote to Saltonstall at Harvard College in 1799. He speaks of joining his father, Jonathan Cass, who was stationed in Wilmington, Delaware as a soldier. The family moved to the Northwest Territory in 1800, eventually settling in Marietta, Ohio.

Detail of letter from Lewis Cass to Leverett Saltonstall, 18 November 1802 Cass studied law there, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1802. His letters to Saltonstall illustrate the difficulty of life on the frontier and offer descriptions of  Indian mounds, rivers, and the surge of immigrants to the territory. The letters also discuss opportunities for lawyers in the west, political and social development of the territory on the eve of Ohio statehood, and the framing of the Ohio Constitution. In his letter of 12 July 1803, Cass states, "I should not wish to raise expectations, which may never be realized, but I sincerely think this is the best country in the world for a young man."

More about Cass ...

In 1813, Cass was appointed the second governor of the Michigan Territory by President James Madison as thanks for his military service as brigadier general during the War of 1812. He served until 1831, when he became secretary of war under Andrew Jackson. He later served as ambassador to France (1836-1842), senator from Michigan (1845-1857), and secretary of state under James Buchanan (1857-1860). He ran for the presidency in 1848 but was defeated by Zachary Taylor.