Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Richard Rush Papers, 1812-1856

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Richard Rush papers
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1812-1856
Extent: 31 items
The Richard Rush papers contain the incoming and outgoing correspondence of Richard Rush, on topics such as the War of 1812, family news, and political views.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1937-1980. M-364, M-805, M-1008, M-1314, M-1382, M-1466, M-1532, M-1553, M-1647, M-1882, M-1898.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Richard Rush Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Richard Rush papers are arranged chronologically.


Richard Rush was born August 29, 1780, the third child of prominent Philadelphia physician Dr. Benjamin Rush and his wife, Julia Stockton. A 1794 graduate of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), he was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1800 and practiced law there for 11 years. In 1809, he married Catherine Elizabeth Murray, with whom he had 11 children, including lawyer and writer Benjamin Rush (1811-1877), lawyer James Murray Rush (1813-1862), and Richard H. Rush (1825-1893).

Rush served briefly as attorney-general of Pennsylvania in 1811; the following year, he was chosen comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, and in 1814, he became U.S. attorney-general under Madison. He was acting secretary of state in 1817 and responsible for the Rush-Bagot Agreement with Great Britain, establishing limited naval armaments on the Great Lakes. James Monroe appointed Rush minister to Great Britain in 1817, in which capacity Rush distinguished himself by settling disputes arising from the War of 1812 over the Northwest boundary and fisheries. He also played an important role in preparing for the negotiations that resulted in the Monroe Doctrine.

Rush returned to the cabinet as secretary of the treasury, 1825-1829, and was John Quincy Adams' running mate in the presidential election of 1828. Following his defeat, Rush remained in private life for a number of years.. He resumed his public career in 1835 to act as co-commissioner in the Michigan-Ohio boundary dispute, and again in 1836-1838 as advocate for the United States in British courts regarding the Smithson bequest, which would establish the Smithsonian Institution. Rush accepted his last important office in the Polk administration, serving as United States minister to France, 1847-1851. He died July 13, 1859.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Richard Rush papers consist of 31 letters, spanning 1812-1856. Rush wrote 19 of the letters; his wife Catherine wrote 4; his brothers, Samuel and William, also wrote a total of 4, and miscellaneous writers contributed a few additional items.

Most of the correspondence in the collection is political in nature. Several letters from the War of 1812 period refer to battles, pirates, and the burning of Washington. On September 7, 1813, Rush wrote to John Binns, agreeing that it had been an error to attack York instead of Kingston and also to leave "the fate of Sacketts harbour [sic] suspended by a hair." In another letter, he stated that he did not believe that the United States should treat light cruisers from "Carthegena" (Cartagena) as pirates (December 26, 1814). A series of four letters written to Rush from his wife, Catherine, gives updates and family news from Piney Grove, Virginia, where she and the children resided in the summer of 1814, in order to avoid the dangers of Washington, D.C. The correspondence mentions the burning of "poor Washington," and reports rumors of the looting of Georgetown (September 3, 1814).

Letters from the post-war period include one from Rush to his partner in the Rush-Bagot Agreement, Charles Bagot, lending him books of speeches by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (January 22, 1817); one to Nicholas Biddle concerning problems with Alabama banknotes (January 21, 1829); and a letter of May 16, 1853, in which he called Harriet Beecher Stowe "the authoress of that systematic and carefully-wrought 'log-cabin' libel against the South," and fretted that she would influence English nobles and possibly "feed a war." Also present are letters from William and Samuel Rush, younger brothers of Richard, to their mother, Julia. These contain family news, references to Richard, and political opinions. In his letters of July 7 and July 27, 1831, Samuel Rush expressed his wish that Richard would support Henry Clay, and wondered in the latter if Richard had been turned against Clay by antimasonry.

The latest items in the collection are a series of eight letters between Rush and Major John S. Williams, who wrote a book on the invasion of Washington by the British. They document Rush's suggestions and corrections to Williams' work, as well as Williams' presentation of the book to George B. McClellan in 1864.

Subject Terms

    • Bagot, Charles, 1781-1843.
    • Botany--United States.
    • Clay, Henry, 1777-1852.
    • Family life--Virginia--Piney Grove.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)
    • Piney Grove (Va.)
    • Rush family.
    • Sackets Harbor, Battle of, Sackets Harbor, N.Y., 1813.
    • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896.
    • United States--Dept. of the Treasury.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • United States--Politics and government--1783-1865.
    • Washington (D.C.)
    • Washington (D.C.)--History--Capture by the British, 1814.
    • Bigelow, Jacob, 1786-1879.
    • Mason, A.M.
    • Rush, Catherine.
    • Rush, Richard, 1780-1859.
    • Rush, Samuel.
    • Rush, William.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence,  September 16, 1812-January 7, 1864 [series] (31 folders)
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Two items in the collection are located in the Book Division:

    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds the following collections with material related to Richard Rush:

    • The Duane Norman Diedrich collection: one letter from Rush to Paulding, February 8, 1840.
    • The Lewis Cass papers: Letters from Rush: April 14, 1835; March 31, 1841; February 9, 1844; August 28, 1844; December 20, 1845; January 2, 1847; January 30, 1847.
    • The Joseph Story papers: 1819.
    • The John M. O’Connor papers: Letters from Richard Rush: November 17 and November 18, 1820.
    • The Jacob Jennings Brown papers: One letter to Rush, November 10, 1827.

    The University of Delaware Special Collections holds the Rush family papers, with correspondence from Richard Rush.