Fisher Ames collection (1783-1805)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Meg Hixon, November 2013
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Fisher Ames collection
Creator: Diedrich, D. N. (Duane Norman)
Inclusive dates: 1783-1805
Extent: 23 items
This collection is mostly made up of letters written by United States politician Fisher Ames from the 1780s to early 1800s. He discussed political topics such as the first United States Congress, Congressional disagreements, sectarianism in Congress, the United States presidential election of 1796, and several prominent politicians. Two printed portraits of Ames are also included.
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

Donated, D. N. Diedrich, 1988-2007. M-2435, M-2551, M-2710a, M-2710b, M-3093.3, M-3313.1, M-3476.1, M-4028, M-4124.1, M-4600.40.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation

Fisher Ames Collection, E. L. Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end. Two items are housed in the Graphics Division.


Fisher Ames was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, on April 9, 1758, the son of Nathaniel Ames and Deborah Fisher. After graduating from Harvard College in 1774, he taught school and practiced law in Dedham. His lengthy political career included terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1788) and the United States House of Representatives (1789-1796), and an appointment to the Massachusetts convention regarding the ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1804, he declined an invitation to become president of Harvard, citing his poor health. Fisher Ames died on July 4, 1808.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection (23 items) contains 21 letters by United States politician Fisher Ames, including 17 letters pertaining directly to United States politics. From March 4, 1789, to June 3, 1805, he wrote to multiple correspondents about his experiences in the United States House of Representatives. Ames commented in depth on issues such as poor attendance during the legislature's inaugural session, the location of the national capital, sectarian disagreements between congressmen from the North and South, the presidential election of 1796, the First Bank of the United States, and the role and members of the federal judiciary. He mentioned prominent politicians such as Benjamin Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, William Branch Giles, and James Madison. In one undated letter, Ames advised the recipient to avoid a political career and commented briefly on the Embargo and the possibility of war with England and France.

The collection's other manuscripts include a financial document between Ames and Eli Pond, regarding board for a colt (May 30, 1783), correspondence concerning the Episcopal Church in Boston, Massachusetts (August 14, 1797), an invitation to speak to a charitable organization (February 22, 1803), and the construction of a wall (October 22, 1804). Two portraits, housed in the Graphics Division, are engravings based on paintings by Gilbert Stuart and Alonzo Chappel.

Subject Terms

  • Courts--United States.
  • Episcopal Church.
  • Political questions and judicial power--United States.
  • Presidents--United States--Election--1796.
  • United States. Congress (1st : 1789-1791)
  • United States. Congress (2nd : 1791-1793)
  • United States. Congress (3rd : 1793-1795)
  • United States. Congress. House.
  • United States--Politics and government--1789-1809.
  • United States. Supreme Court.
Subjects - Visual Materials:
  • Ames, Fisher, 1758-1808.
  • Ames, Fisher, 1758-1808.
  • Chappel, Alonzo, 1828-1887.
  • Stuart, Gilbert, 1755-1828.
Genre Terms:
  • Engravings (prints)
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Fisher Ames collection [series]
  : E. L. Diedrich Collection  
 May 30, 1783-October 22, 1804, and  undated     Two engraved portraits are housed in the Graphics Division. 

Additional Descriptive Data

Alternate Locations

Two engraved portraits of Fisher Ames are housed in the Graphics Division. They have been catalogued separately:

  • Chappel, Alonzo. Fisher Ames. New York: Johnson, Fry & Co., publishers, 1864.
  • Prud'homme, John Francis Eugene, and Gilbert Stuart. Fisher Ames. 1800.

Related Materials

The Clements Library contains many additional materials related to Fisher Ames, including prints and published works. Fisher Ames is also mentioned in a letter from Samuel Jarvis to Charles Sigourney, Jr., housed in the Single Items Collection (March 12, 1824).


"Ames, Fisher (1758-1808)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Web.

Bernhard, Winfred E. A. "Ames, Fisher." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.