Collection Scope and Content Note
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The Lewis Cass papers (1185 items) contain the political and governmental letters and writings of Lewis Cass, American army officer in the War of 1812, governor and senator from Michigan, American diplomat to France, secretary of war to Andrew Jackson, secretary of state to James Buchanan, and Democratic candidate for President. Included are letters, speeches, financial documents, memoranda, literary manuscripts, newspaper clippings, and a travel diary. In addition to documenting his official and governmental activities, the collection contains material related to Cass' influence on Native American policy and his role in presidential politics.
The Correspondence series (981 items) contains the professional and political letters of Lewis Cass. These reveal details of Cass' entire career and involve many of the most important political topics of the day. Within the series are communications with many prominent American politicians and military officers, including John Adams (2 items), Thomas Hart Benton (4 items), James Buchanan (20 items), John C. Calhoun (3 items), Henry Clay (1 item), Jefferson Davis (3 items), Stephen Douglas (2 items), Secretary of State John Forsyth (5 items), Albert Gallatin (2 items), William Henry Harrison (3 items), Samuel Houston (1 item), Andrew Jackson (23 items), Thomas Jefferson (1 item), Francis Scott Key (3 items), Alexander Macomb (4 items), James Monroe (1 item), Samuel F. B. Morse (2 items), Franklin Pierce (1 item), James K. Polk (8 items), Richard Rush (6 items), William Seward (3 items), Winfield Scott (3 items), Zachery Taylor (2 items), John Tyler (2 items), Martin Van Buren (8 items), Daniel Webster (4 items), and many others. This series also contains a small number of personal letters, including communications with Cass' siblings, his nephew Henry Brockholst Ledyard, and his friends.
The collection's early papers (1777-1811) contain material related to Cass' family, his education, his professional career in Ohio, and relations between the United States government and Native Americans. The earliest item is from Elizabeth Cass' father, Joseph Spencer, relating to his service in the Revolutionary War. Two letters are from John Cass, Lewis' father, concerning business, and five items are from Cass' siblings, written to him at Philips Exeter Academy (1790-1795). His service as an Ohio congressman is represented by a single resolution, drafted by Cass, and submitted by the Ohio Congress to President Jefferson, voicing their commitment to the constitution and the Union (December 26, 1806, with Jefferson's response enclosed). Also present are nine items related to Native American relations, including formal letters to the Chippewa, Delaware, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Shawnee, and Wyandot tribes, from Superintendent of Indian Affairs Richard Butler, Northern Territory Governor Arthur St. Clair, and Secretary of War James McHenry. Of particular importance is a signed letter from several tribes to President James Monroe, composed shortly after the Battle of Tippecanoe, stressing the importance of treaties and lobbying to employ John Visger on behalf of the Indians (November 13, 1811). Two miscellaneous items from this period are letters from John Adams: one letter to Charles Guillaume Frederic Dumas requesting permission for Adams to return to America after the Treaty of Paris (March 28, 1783), and one to a group of volunteer troops of light dragoons (July 12, 1798).
Eleven letters deal with Cass' role in the War of 1812. Topics discussed include raising a regiment in Ohio (March 23, 1813), concerns with obtaining food and clothing for troops and British prisoners at Detroit (November 1813), and Cass' thoughts on receiving the governorship of the Michigan Territory (December 29, 1813). Of note is a letter containing William Henry Harrison's impressions on Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory on Lake Erie, sent to Secretary of War John Armstrong (enclosed in September 13, 1813). For more material relating to the War of 1812 see the Manuscript Writing series.
The collection contains 55 letters from Cass' tenure as governor of Michigan Territory (1815-August 1831). These represent a broad range of topics including territorial administration, expeditions throughout the western territory, western expansion, and studies of and treaties with Native Americans. Contacts include travelers from the east coast interested in Michigan and Indian affairs, officials in outposts throughout Michigan, officials from eastern states, and officials from Washington including presidents, their cabinets, and congressmen.
- November 21, 1816, January 11 and February 2, 1817: A discussion between Cass and Henry Clay regarding opening a branch of the United States Bank in Lexington, Kentucky
- February 12, 1817: A letter concerning troop service under General Hull in the War of 1812
- August 14 and 25, 1817: Letters between Cass and President James Monroe relating to travel in the Ohio Territory
- June 10, 1818: Courts martial for depredations against Indians at Detroit
- October 20, 1818: A letter from Alexander Macomb concerning the purchase of Cass' servant Sally for $300
- December 9, 1821, October 14, 1823, and April 24, 1824: Three letters from John C. Calhoun about governmental promotions, the vice presidency, and Indian affairs
- November 14, 1821 and February 16, 1824: two letters discussing or addressed to John C. Calhoun from Cass.
- March 21, 1830: A letter from Cass to President Jackson requesting the reinstatement of a Major Clark into the army
Cass communicated frequently with David Bates Douglass, an engineer who worked with Cass in Michigan. In his letters, Douglass often mentions their mutual colleague Henry Schoolcraft, and Douglass' mapping areas of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Also of interest are five letters to George Wyllys Silliman, a lawyer in Zanesville, Ohio, and nephew of Lewis Cass, from friend William Sibly (November 17, 1827-November 6, 1828) and from cousin Elizabeth Cass (May 1, 1829). Sibly discussed personal and social news and made several comments on women. Elizabeth mentioned a month-long visit from Martin Van Buren and described Detroit as being "in turmoil" because of conflicts between the "Masons & Anti-Masons--Wing men & Biddle men--Sheldonites and Anti Sheldonites . . ."
Cass served as Andrew Jackson's secretary of war from 1831-1836. Most of the 194 items concern Washington politics; department of war administration; affairs of the president and cabinet; and requests for appointments, promotions, and political favors from congressmen and other politicians. Of note are 18 letters and memoranda from Andrew Jackson to Cass and other cabinet members, regarding Indian resettlement (1831-1836), firearms delivered to members of congress (November 3, 1834), and news of generals Samuel Houston and Santa Anna and the war with Mexico (August 31, 1836). Cass was also involved with the administration of West Point; he received news of leadership changes and recommendations for admissions and teaching posts, including one request from author Washington Irving (March 20, 1834). During this period, Cass kept in close contact with Secretary of the Treasury Louis McLane.
- August 1, 1831: A letter from General Winfield Scott voicing support for his appointment as secretary of war
- August 8, 1831: Cass' acceptance of the secretary of war position
- August 29, 1831: A long letter from William Henry Harrison discussing his loyalty to Cass, Colonel Shelby's personal jealousy and his attempts to replace Harrison in congress, the presidential aspirations of Henry Clay, and the poor state of Harrison's personal fortunes
- December 31, 1831: A letter from Susan Wheeler Decatur of Georgetown, South Carolina, concerning her declining finances
- February 24, 1832: A letter from Henry R. Schoolcraft describing the state of the settlement at Sault Ste. Marie and mapmaking at the mouth of the Mississippi River
- July 26, 1832: A letter from General Alexander Macomb to Cass offering condolences for the loss of his daughter Elizabeth and informing Cass of a cholera epidemic in western forts
- November 24, 1833: Cass to Richard Smith, United States Bank cashier, with instructions to close the accounts of the war department and Indian Agency
- April 3, 1834: A letter from Cass' brother George Cass concerning his family's finances
- May 12, 1834: Congressman James K. Polk concerning a general appropriations bill and Indian annuity bill that passed the house
- June 20 and October 20, 1834: Two letters from Benjamin Waterhouse of Harvard University discussing temperance and early American history concerning General Wolfe's attack on Canada and Bunker Hill
- April 18- December 24, 1835: Seven letters concerning the territorial conflict between Michigan and Ohio over the Toledo Strip
- February 22, 1836: A letter from John Henry Eaton to Cass describing the state of affairs in Florida and a revolt of Indians in Tampa Bay
- July 4, 1836: Edgar Allen Poe to Cass concerning contributions to the Southern Literary Messenger
From 1836 to 1842, Cass served as Jackson's minister to France. Many of the 148 items from this period are letters of introduction from Cass' colleagues in Washington, New York, Albany, Boston, Baltimore, and Virginia, for family and friends traveling in France and Europe. Though most of these travelers were well connected young men from prominent families, two letters were for women traveling without their husbands (August 29 and September 27, 1841). In 1842, before Cass returned to America, he communicated with senators and the President's cabinet regarding negotiations with the British for Canadian boundary lines, and other news from the continent. Throughout Cass' time in France, he received updates on his finances and properties in Detroit from Edmund Askin Brush.
- October 4, 1836: President Jackson's acknowledgement of Cass' resignation as secretary of war, and Cass' appointment as minister to France
- February 5, 1837: Plans for the Cass family's trip to the Mediterranean on the USS Constitution , including the suggestion that the women wear men's clothing in the Holy Land
- November 3, 1837: Remarks regarding the reaction in Boston to a visit from Sauk Chief Keokuk (Kee-O-Kuk) and a group of Blackhawk Indians
- September 10-December 14, 1841: Ten letters about a court of inquiry concerning Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Edward Worrell's record keeping for medicine and supplies at the hospital at Fort Niagara
- March 14, 1842: A letter from Daniel Webster to Cass relating to the abolition of slavery
- April 25, 1842: A letter from Daniel Webster to Cass regarding the rights of "visit and search, the end of the African slave trade, the 'Creole Case,'" and the Oregon compromise
- June 29, 1842: A letter from John Tyler reporting on Congress' activities and further negotiations with Lord Ashburton, the Maine boundary and the "Creole Case"
Between 1842 and 1857, Cass served two senate terms representing Michigan, competed for the Democratic nomination for president in 1844 and 1852, and lost the presidency to Zachery Taylor in 1848. Letters from this time period amount to 278 items. In December 1842, when first arriving back in America from France, Cass received a number of welcoming letters from officials in Boston and Philadelphia, including one that suggested he could be chosen as Democratic vice presidential nominee (December 28, 1842). Cass soon returned to Detroit but kept up with news from Washington. As presidential contender and then senator, Cass was concerned with the biggest issues of the day, including relations with England over the Oregon Territory; relations with Mexico; Indian affairs; and the Wilmot Proviso and the spread of the slavery to new states and territories. In addition to discussions of slavery in the South, Cass received reports on slavery in California, Missouri, Utah, Kansas, and Texas. The year 1848 is dominated with material on the presidential election, consisting of letters expressing support and discussing the landscape of the election. Of note are 45 letters, spanning 1844-1859, from Cass to Massachusetts Congressman Aaron Hobart of Boston,
which feature both personal and political content.
- July 8, 1743: A letter from Andrew Jackson regarding relations with France and England and the Oregon Bill
- May 6 and 11, 1844: Letters from Cass discussing his chances to be nominated to run for president at the Baltimore Democratic Convention, and his thoughts on the annexation of Texas and the "Oregon Question"
- July 1844: A letter from William Berkley Lewis describing the political climate surrounding Andrew Jackson's campaign and assent to the presidency (30 pages)
- July 30 and 31, 1845: Letters from Lewis Henry Morgan concerning a council of Iroquois at Aurora, New York, and the education of the Indians of western New York
- December 24, 1845: A letter from Henry Wheaton concerning commerce and communications through the isthmuses at Suez, Egypt, and at Panama
- March 19, 1846: A letter from Francis Parkman, Jr., regarding the study of the Indians of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
- August 5, 1846: A letter from Cass concerning Democratic Party politics and the war with Indians in Florida
- December 26, 1846: A letter from Cass on the state of the Democratic Party and his intention to run for president
- January 6, 1848: A letter from Cass discussing the Wilmot Proviso
- April 6, 1748: A letter from Henry Hunt regarding the war in Mexico and General William Worth
- May 23, 1848: A letter from W. T. Van Zandt who witnessed the French Revolution, and mentioned that two of the King's grandchildren hid in a nearby boarding house
- June 13, 1848: A letter from Stephen Douglas reassuring Cass that Southerners are "satisfied with your views on the slavery question, as well as all others"
- August 24 and November 14, 1848 and January 9, 1849: Letters from President Polk concerning the politics of slavery in the senate and the Wilmot proviso
- October 25, 1851: A letter from relative Sarah Gillman, whose husband is prospecting in California and is in need of a loan
- August 9, 1852: A letter from Cass to John George
- August 30, 1853: A letter from Cass to President Franklin Pierce congratulating him on his election and recommending Robert McClelland, regent of the University of Michigan, for the position of secretary of the interior
- April 1, 1856: W.W. Drummond of Salt Lake City commented on Mormons, polygamy, slavery, the statehood of Nevada, and local support for the Nebraska Bill. Enclosed is a printed bill of sale for a runaway slave
- June 24, 1856: Cass' explanation that the Democratic party must work to preserve the Union
The series contains 171 letters from Cass' service as James Buchanan's secretary of state from 1857-1861. During his time, he received communications dealing with political unrest in the South over the slavery issue, and concerning foreign relations with Mexico, England, France, Russia, Nicaragua, and Cuba. Of particular interest are ten letters from the Minister to England George Mifflin Dallas who reported on parliamentary and political news in London (April 28, 1857-February 2, 1858). He discussed the British views on slavery in America and about the Oregon border; activities of the British East India Company; England's conflicts in India, West Africa, and China; the planning of the transatlantic telegraph and the first communication between Queen Victoria and President Buchanan; and American relations with France and Russia. Cass also received frequent memoranda from Buchanan concerning foreign relations, focusing on treaties with Mexico. The series contains 10 letters from supporters, reacting to Cass' resignation from Buchanan's administration for failing to use force in South Carolina (December 14, 1860-January 2, 1861). Also present are three personal letters from Cass to his young nephew Henry Brockholst Ledyard.
- March 19, 1757: A letter from Judah Philip Benjamin relating intelligence on the political situation in Mexico, led by Ignacio Comonfort, and urging the United States to make a treaty with Mexico for control of California without delay
- August 3, 1857: A letter from Jefferson Davis discussing issues in Cuba, Panama, Mexico, and England, and offering his thoughts on states' rights and state creation
- August 5, 1857: A memo from Buchanan inquiring about the United States' relationship with England and political division in the Democratic Party
- November 17-20, 1857: Sculpture design for decorations on the Capitol building at Cincinnati, Ohio
- August 30, 1858: A letter from Francis Lieber explaining his poem celebrating the transatlantic telegraph
- October 27, 1858: A letter from Rebecca P. Clark, General William Hull's daughter, claiming that she had a long-suppressed pamphlet ready to publish that would redeem her father's reputation and prove that the United States did not invade Canada in 1812 in order to maintain the slave state vs, free state balance of power
- January 27, 1859: A letter from Buchannan expressing his desire to take lower California from Mexico
- December 6, 1859: A letter from George Wallace Jones regarding the administration's position on the slavery question and the "doctrine of non-interference"
- December 19, 1859: A letter from Jeremiah Healy, a prospector from San Francisco, requesting a loan to extract silver and lead ore from his mine to compare it to the "Comstock Claim"
- April 14, 1760: An unofficial letter from Robert M. McClelland concerning peace with Mexico and dealings with Lord John Russell
- May 29, 1860: A letter from former Governor John B. Floyd regarding a friend who wants to set up a commercial house in Japan
- December 6, 1860: An unofficial letter from General John Wool concerning South Carolina's secession and troops to protect the fort at Charleston
- December 17, 1860: A letter of support from Lydia Howard Sigourney for Cass' resignation
The collection contains only 9 letters written after Cass' resignation from the Buchanan administration until his death, though a few of these are from old connections in Washington. One particularly interesting letter is a response from President Lincoln's office concerning Cass' request that he parole two of Elizabeth Cass' nephews who were Confederate officers (June 30, 1864). Going against his standard policy, Lincoln agreed to the parole out of respect for Cass.
Of the 50 letters written after Cass' death (1766-1917), the bulk are addressed to Cass' granddaughter, Elizabeth Cass Goddard of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Cass' grandson, Lewis Cass Ledyard. These primarily relate to family and business matters and are not related to Lewis Cass. Of note are a letter from William Cook to Lewis Cass Ledyard containing copies of four letters from Cass to J. P. Cook in 1856 (September 15, 1909), and a letter to Henry Ledyard concerning Cass family portraits. Other notable contributors from this period include Ulysses S. Grant (August 18, 1868), Congressman James A. Garfield (1871) Julia Ward Howe (written on a circular for a New Orleans exposition, 1885), and Elizabeth Chase on women's suffrage (October 1886).
This series contains 24 undated letters from all phases of Cass' career, including his time in Detroit, Paris, and Washington. Of note is a letter to Cass from William Seward concerning a social engagement, and three letters to Elizabeth Goddard from Varina Davis, in which she voices her opinions on bicycling and offers sympathy for the death of a child.
The Diary series (1 volume) contains a personal journal spanning June 11 to October 5, 1837, just before Cass began his service as diplomat to France. The 407-page volume, entitled "Diary in the East," documents Cass and his family's tour of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Among the places visited were the Aegean Sea, the Dead Sea, Egypt and the Nile, Cyprus, and Lebanon. Entries, which were recorded daily, range from 3 to 20 pages and relate to travel, landmarks, local customs, and the group's daily activities.
The Documents series (115 items) is made up of financial, legal, military, honorary, and official government documents related to Cass and his relatives. Early documents relate to the Revolutionary War service of Dr. Joseph Spencer, the father of Elizabeth Cass and the military discharge of Cass' father Jonathan Cass. War of 1812 items include 16 receipts of payments to soldiers for transporting baggage, a payment of Cass' troops approved by Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, and a report made up of eyewitness accounts of General Hull's surrender at Detroit (September 11, 1812).
Material related to Native Americans includes a treaty between Anthony Wayne and various tribes (August 3, 1795); the Treaty of St. Mary's with Cass, Duncan McArthur, and the Wyandot Indians; several permission bonds awarded by Governor William Hull to Michigan merchants for Indian trade (1798-1810); and Cass' 48-page report detailing the reduction of Native population in North America (with a population count by region), the agriculture and hunting practices of Native Americans, and the history and future of American Indian relations (July 22, 1829).
- March 11, 1826: Cass' oath of office for Governor of the Michigan Territory
- August 1, 1831: Cass' appointment to Secretary of War by Andrew Jackson.
- March 6, 1857: Cass' appointment to Secretary of State by James Buchanan.
Cass' personal accounts are documented in three ledgers kept by Edmund Askin Brush's agency, which managed his financial and land interests, including payments on loans, interest, rent, and land sales and purchases (September 1832-March 1843, January 30, 1836, and undated). Honorary documents include memberships in the New York Naval Lyceum, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and the Buffalo Historical Society, and a degree from Harvard.
- 1776: One bill of Massachusetts paper currency
- January 5, 1795: Power of attorney for Aaron Burr to Benjamin Ledyard
- December 21, 1816: An item documenting the Bank of the United States opening a branch in Lexington, Kentucky
- 1836-1841: Twelve items related to the divorce of Mary K. Barton of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from her violent husband Seth Barton
- November 11, 1842: A menu for a dinner celebrating Cass at Les Trois Frères Provençaux
- November 5, 1845: A printed protest from the citizens of Massachusetts who met at Faneuil Hall, Boston, concerning the annexation of Texas as a slave state
- 1850: Three signup sheets to purchase printed copies of a Cass speech on the Compromise of 1850 and a copy of "Kansas--The Territories"
- February 27, 1878: Lewis Cass, Jr.'s last will and testament
- March 17, 1821: A merchant pass for the Bark Spartan , signed by John Quincy Adams, illustrated with a ship and a harbor with a lighthouse
- July 19, 1833: A membership document from the Rhode Island Historical Society featuring neoclassical imagery of a woman in front of a city and a shield with an anchor inscribed with the word "Hope"
- 1837: A bank note picturing Greek gods
- 1858-1860: Three passports with large state department seals
The Speeches series (17 items) contains 16 items related to Indian affairs spanning 1792-1816, and one undated item concerning agriculture in Michigan. The speeches were delivered by individual Native Americans (Grand Glaize, Painted Tobacco, Maera Walk-in-the-Water, Yealabahcah, Tecumseh, and the Prophet); Indian confederacies to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs; and the Indian commissioners to the Cherokee, Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomie, Shawnee, and Wyandot tribes.
- November 29, 1796: A speech from George Washington to the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Miami, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Piankeshaw, and Kaskaskia Indians
- August 18, 1807-1810: Five speeches to and from General William Hull and various Indian tribes, including the Wyandot Chief Maera (Walk-In-The-Water)
- December 21, 1807-January 31, 1809: Four speeches from President Thomas Jefferson to various Indian tribes
- 1816: A speech from Shawnee Chief Yealabahcah and the Prophet Tecumseh in a council with Lewis Cass
For additional Indian speeches see the Manuscript Writings series. The Clements Library Book Division has several published versions of Cass' political speeches spanning 1830-1856.
The Manuscript Writings series (41 items) consists of Cass' non-correspondence writings, of which 30 are undated. Though Cass did not pursue a formal higher education after his years at Philips Exeter Academy, he received many honorary degrees and published scholarly works on the history of Native Americans and American political issues. This series contains 13 items that reveal Cass' views on Native Americans, including a 104-page item on Indian treaties, laws, and regulations (1826); notes on the war with the Creek Indians in 1833 (undated); undated notes and articles on the Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Miami tribes and lands; a 23-page review of published works on Indians; two sets of notes with corrections by Cass that were later published in the Northern American Review, and a four-page essay on Indian language.
Two items relate to the War of 1812. The first is a notebook entitled "Extracts from Franklin's Narratives," which contains copies of letters, speeches, and documents relating to Tecumseh and The Prophet, Canadian Governor George Prevost, President Madison's speeches to Congress, and Canadian General Henry Proctor, spanning 1812-1813. The second is an eyewitness account of the siege and battles of Fort Erie in 1814 by Frederick Myers (September 27, 1851). Also present are copied extracts from other writers' works, including Charlevoix's Histories and a work on Indiana by an unidentified author.
- April 9, 1858: A memorandum in regard to an interview with Colonel Thomas Hart Benton on his deathbed
- Undated: 34 pages of autobiographical writings
- Undated: 42 pages of notes on the creation of the universe and the theory of evolution
- February 10, 1836: A poem by Andrew Buchanan performed at Mrs. White's party
- August 30, 1858: "An Ode on the Sub-Atlantic Telegraph," by Dr. Francis Lieber
- Undated: Two genealogical items related to Elizabeth Cass' ancestors
- Undated: a draft of a biographical essay on Cass' early years by W. T. Young (eventually published in 1852 as Life and Public Services of General Lewis Cass)
The Printed Items series (13 items) is comprised of printed material written by or related to Cass. Many of the items are contemporary newspaper clippings reporting on Cass' role in government and eulogies assessing his career after his death.
- November 4, 1848: A 4-page Hickory Sprout newspaper with several articles on Cass and his presidential bid. This paper also contains pro-Democrat and pro-Cass poetry set to the tune Oh! Susannah
- 1848: A political cartoon lampooning Cass after his defeat to Taylor in the presidential election
- March 25, 1850: An announcement for a ball at Tammany Hall in honor of Cass
- July 17, 1921: A Detroit Free Press article on the dedication of the Cass Boulder Monument at Sault Ste. Marie
- Three engraved portraits of Cass
- Undated: A newspaper clipping with recollections of Lewis Cass as a young boy
- Undated: An advertisement with a diagram of the Davis Refrigerator.
The Autographs and Miscellaneous series (21 items) contains various autographs of James Buchanan (October 10, 1860), Theodore Roosevelt (August 11, 1901), and author Alice French with an inscription and a sketch (September 29, 1906). This series also contains 19 pages of notes from Cass collector Roscoe O. Bonisteel, who donated many of the items in this collection, and four colored pencil sketches of furniture.