Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Asher Robbins Papers, 1794-1813

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Asher Robbins papers
Creator: Bourne, Benjamin, 1755-1808
Inclusive dates: 1794-1813
Extent: 22 items
The Asher Robbins papers consist primarily of letters by Robbins, a Rhode Island lawyer and politician, to Benjamin Bourne, concerning business and political matters.
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:

1949. M-763.

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:

Asher Robbins Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Asher Robbins papers are arranged chronologically.


Asher Robbins was born October 26, 1761, in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the son of Joshua Robbins and Sarah Harris. He graduated from Yale College in 1782 and worked as a tutor at Rhode Island College (now Brown University) before studying law and being admitted to the bar in 1792. In 1791, he married Mary Ellery, and they had at least 8 children. Robbins first practiced law in Providence, and moved to Newport three years later. He became United States district attorney in 1812 and was elected to the Rhode Island state assembly from 1818 to 1825. Robbins then served several terms as a Whig senator from Rhode Island, 1827-1833 and 1835-1839, and returned to the state assembly in 1840-1841. He served as postmaster of Newport, Rhode Island, from 1841 until his death on February 25, 1845.

Benjamin Bourne was born December 9, 1755, in Bristol, Rhode Island, the son of lawyer and politician Shearjushub Bourne and Ruth Bosworth Church. Bourne was elected to the Rhode Island state assembly in 1780, and as the state's first U.S. Representative in 1790. Thereafter, he served as a judge for the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals. He died on September 17, 1808.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Asher Robbins papers consist of 22 letters from Asher Robbins, primarily to Benjamin Bourne, written between 1794 and 1813. The letters are concentrated in the period 1794-1800 and deal in particular with Robbins' and Bourne's mutual interests in land and currency speculation, and legislation regarding these matters. In a letter of January 20, 1795, Robbins revealed his suspicions of "some schemes" concerning a debt owed by the state of Rhode Island, about which he was "in the dark." He also shared his thoughts regarding the actions of the Governor, Arthur Fenner, on the matter. In a letter of January 28, 1796, Robbins praised Bourne's acquisition of 100,000 acres of land in an unspecified state as a "great purchase," and discussed the terms of the sale. A series of letters from 1800 concerns Robbins' lobbying efforts in Washington to effect changes in congressional redistricting. Letters also discuss business matters, mutual friends and acquaintances, and political matters. On December 25, 1795, Robbins wrote to Bourne concerning his client, Dirk Rhodes, an African American man who claimed that the United States owed him money for military services. In this letter and a subsequent one on January 28, 1796, Robbins provided some details of the case.

Correspondence between Robbins and Bourne ended in 1808, when Bourne died. The four items postdating this include letters of introduction and correspondence concerning sale of livestock (November 2, 1812).

Subject Terms

    • Apportionment (Election law)
    • Fenner, Arthur, 1745-1805.
    • Land speculation.
    • Lawyers--Rhode Island.
    • Newport (R.I.)
    • Providence (R.I.)
    • Rhode Island--Politics and government, 1775-1865.
    • Robbins, Asher, 1761-1845.
    • United States. Congress--History--18th century.
    • United States. Congress--History--19th century.
    • United States--Politics and government--1783-1809.
    • Robbins, Asher, 1761-1845.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   43, Small Collections  
    Asher Robbins papers,   January 2, 1794-December 12, 1813 [series] (11 folders)
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    Two letters written by Robbins are housed in the Postal History Collection: May 18, 1794, and October 12, 1794.

    Related Materials

    Lucius Lyon papers: Asher Robbins to Lucius Lyon, November 4, 1839

    Oliver Hazard Perry papers: Joseph Anderson to Robbins, February 23, 1820


    Robbins, Asher. An Address to the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture: and Other Useful Arts, in the State of Rhode-Island & Providence Plantations, at their Annual Meeting, Holden in Providence, on the Second Day of September, A.D. 1802. Newport (R.I.): Printed at the Office of the Newport Mercury, 1802.

    Robbins, Asher. Address to the Rhode-Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestick Industry, Delivered at Pawtuxet, October 16th, 1822. Providence: Miller & Hutchens, printers, 1822.

    Robbins, Asher. Oration, Delivered on the Fourth of July, A.D. 1927, at Newport, R.I. Providence: Miller & Hammond, 1827.