Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Ellery Account and Letter Book, 1751-1773

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, July 2011

Summary Information
Title: William Ellery account and letter book
Creator: Ellery, William, 1727-1820
Inclusive dates: 1751-1773
Extent: 1 volume
The William Ellery account and letter book contains financial records and correspondence by the signer of the Declaration of Independence, from his time as a merchant and lawyer in Newport, Rhode Island, between 1751 and 1773.
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, 1993. M-342, M-2957.3.

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:

William Ellery Account and Letter Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


William Ellery was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on December 22, 1727. After graduating from Harvard College in 1747, Ellery returned to Newport and established himself as a merchant. As his financial success increased, Ellery became involved in politics, soon establishing himself as a local leader of the Sons of Liberty. By 1769, he had taken up the legal profession, and in March 1776 the Rhode Island Assembly chose Ellery to succeed the deceased Samuel Ward as a member of the Continental Congress. Ellery signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 and later served on the Congressional Board of Admiralty. Following the American Revolution, Ellery returned to Newport as a merchant and lawyer, and was appointed a customs collector by George Washington in 1790. Ellery died on February 5, 1820. He had two wives and fathered sixteen children.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Ellery account and letter book contains financial records and correspondence by the signer of the Declaration of Independence, from his time as a merchant and lawyer in Newport, Rhode Island, between 1751 and 1773. Accounts cover a variety of goods, many originating from naval trade. Though most of the transactions are simple invoices or records of money owed, the book includes a "Wharfage Account" (January 1763-May 11, 1764) and an "Account of Ferryage" (May 9, 1763-March 27, 1764). Occasionally, Ellery mentioned specific vessels taking on or offloading goods, such as the entry entitled "Invoice of Merchandize Ship'd by Barnard's of Harrison on Board the Pitt [,] Pollipus Hammond Commr." (November 20, 1764). He also used this volume as an abbreviated letter book to retain copies of letters on legal and business matters, especially credit and debt. Ellery's most frequent correspondents were William Rodman of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and William Redwood of Philadelphia, for whom he attempted to collect debts.

Three letters accompany the account and letter book:

  • 1779 September 28. Henry Laurens ALS to William Ellery; State House, Philadelphia. 2 pages. Respecting an election for “the Minister for treating with the Court of Great Britain” and the arrival of Count d’Estaing.
  • 1789 June 1. William Ellery ALS to Nathaniel Appleton; Newport, [Rhode Island]. 3 pages. Regarding Rhode Island’s relation to the Union.
  • 1805 January 2. William Ellery ALS to N. G. Duffield; Newport, Rhode Island. 2 pages. Concerning the sale of books ordered from Duffield and the settlement of accounts with him. He also offers his thoughts on learning languages, especially French.
Subject Terms

    • Collecting of accounts.
    • Newport (R.I.)
    • Shipping--United States--History.
    Genre Terms:
    • Account books.
    • Letter books.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    William Ellery account and letter book,  1751-1773 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds several additional items written by or to William Ellery:

    • Henry Clinton papers: November 7, 1776, John Bartlett to William Ellery
    • Hubert S. Smith Naval collection: June 6, 1805

    The Book Division holds the following volume, a selection of government documents with marginal notes by William Ellery: United States. Congress. Acts of the Congress of the United States, passed from 1789, to 1794, inclusive.


    Fowler, William. "Ellery, William." American National Biography Online. 2000.