Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Henry Goulburn Papers, 1813-1826; bulk 1814

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, January 2011

Summary Information
Title: Henry Goulburn papers
Creator: Goulburn, Henry, 1784-1856
Inclusive dates: 1813-1826
Bulk dates: 1814
Extent: 1 linear foot
The Goulburn papers (301 items) contain the diplomatic correspondence and official documents of Henry Goulburn, British negotiator of the Treaty of Ghent. The collection includes the official and private letters between the British commissioners and the British Foreign Office, letters between the American and British commissioners, and drafts of the treaty. Included is one of the six original copies of Treaty of Ghent, written in the hand of Henry Clay and signed by each commissioner.
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:

1941, 1975. M-412, M-1714.

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.

Alternate Format:

This collection has been microfilmed

Preferred Citation:

Henry Goulburn Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection was originally ordered into four series:

  • Series I: Correspondence to and from the foreign office
  • Series II: Correspondence between the British and American Commissioners and Miscellaneous letters
  • Series III: Brouillons (drafts) to the foreign office
  • Series IV: Private Correspondence, to and from Lord Bathurst, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Liverpool


British politician Henry Goulburn (1784-1856) was born in London, England, to Munbee Goulburn and Susannah Chetwynd. Henry graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, with a Master of Arts degree in 1808, and became undersecretary of the home department in 1810. From 1812 to 1821, Goulburn served as an undersecretary for war and colonies department. In May 1814, he was appointed peace commissioner to the United States, serving with Admiral James Gambier and William Adams to negotiate the treaty to end the War of 1812. The negotiating team traveled to Ghent in August 1814 to meet with the five American commissioners, Albert Gallatin, John Quincy Adams, James Ashton Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell. On December 24, 1815, the commissioners signed the Treaty of Ghent, which essentially restored British and American territorial borders and maritime rights to their pre-war state.

Goulburn resigned from the colonial office in 1821 and was appointed chief secretary to the Marquis of Wellesley, lord lieutenant of Ireland. In 1826, Goulburn unsuccessfully campaigned to represent Cambridge University in the House of Commons and instead was elected to a seat for Armagh, Ireland. Cambridge finally elected him to Parliament in 1831, and he held that seat until his death in 1856. During this period, Goulburn also served as chancellor of the exchequer and home secretary.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Goulburn papers (301 items) contain the diplomatic correspondence and treaty drafts of the British and American negotiations for the Treaty of Ghent. The collection includes the letters between the British commissioners and the British foreign office, both official and private, and between the American and British commissioners. These comprise 80 letters, 74 drafts and copies of letters, and various enclosures, treaty drafts, and memoranda. Also present is one of the six original copies of Treaty of Ghent, written in the hand of Henry Clay and signed by each commissioner.

Goulburn and the other British commissioners primarily communicated with Prime Minister Liverpool, Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh, and Secretary of War Earl Bathurst, providing them with updates on the negotiation process and receiving instructions and peace guidelines from their superiors. The foreign office also kept the commissioners abreast of military developments in North America, such as the burning of Washington and their defeat at Plattsburgh, New York. Goulburn and his colleagues also exchanged notes, formal gambits, and treaty drafts with the American commissioners ("Ministers Plenipotentiaries") John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, and Jonathan Russell. The collection also contains copies of communications with President James Madison and Secretary of State James Monroe. The negotiations centered on agreements regarding frontier boarders, Native American land guarantees, naval impressments, Atlantic fishery rights, and general maritime rights. Together, these papers document the peace treaty proceedings throughout the fall of 1814, which ultimately led to the settlement at Ghent.

Below is a list of many of the collection’s most notable items. Each is a letter unless otherwise noted.

  • October 5, 1813: Letter from Baring Ashburton to Lord Castlereagh concerning impressments and preliminaries to the negotiations with America
  • November 8, 1813: Letter from St. John's merchants to Sir Richard Goodwin Keats concerning special fishing privileges near Newfoundland for France and the United States
  • January 7, 1814: Newspaper clippings reporting peace overtures
  • June 29, 1814: A proclamation from President James Madison which refers to the British blockade of the United States a "paper blockade"
  • July 18, 1814: A memorial concerning Loyalist Reverend Bennet Allen's claim for lost property
  • July 28, 1814: Instructions from Lord Castlereagh of the foreign office to the British Peace Commission containing requests and requirements for peace (14 enclosures)
  • August 8, 1814: Protocol of the peace conferences as revised by the British and American commissioners
  • August 9, 1814: Report to Castlereagh on preliminary meetings at Ghent, with enclosed letters from President Madison to the American commissioners
  • August 14, 1814: Letter from Castlereagh to British commissioners concerning Indians, fisheries, and boundaries
  • August 19, 1814: A draft note from British commissioners to the Americans outlining the British peace requirements
  • August 24, 1814: The American commissioners rejection of the British terms
  • August 30, 1814: Letter enclosing a copy of a note from Castlereagh to James Monroe offering direct negotiations instead of Russian mediation
  • September 1, 1814: Letter from Henry Bathurst to Goulburn, rebuking him for almost breaking off negotiations
  • September 4, 1814:Draft of the treaty with British alterations
  • September 9, 1814: Letter in which the United States rejects the Canadian boundary proposed by Great Britain
  • September 16, 1814: Letter from Henry Bathurst to Goulburn concerning pressures to make peace for political reasons in Britain
  • September 17, 1814: Letter from Robert Liverpool to Goulburn concerning negotiating for Indian boundaries
  • September 19, 1814: Draft letter from British commissioners to American commissioners concerning boundaries and Indian affairs
  • October 4, 1814: Letter from Goulburn to Bathurst concerning the burning of Washington and the decision to communicate this intelligence to the American commissioners (response on October 21, 1814)
  • October 8, 1814: Letter from British commissioners to American commissioners regarding an ultimatum on the Indian question
  • October 13, 1814: Letter from American commissioners to the British commissioners defending the Louisiana Purchase and denying territorial ambitions
  • October 18, 1814: Letter from Bathurst to the British commissioners concerning impressments, maritime law, fisheries, and the boundaries of Maine, Niagara, and Michilimackinac
  • October 21, 1814: Letter from Liverpool to Goulburn concerning the grave political consequences of continuing the war
  • November 10, 1814: American treaty submission with British comments
  • November 21, 1814: Letter from Bathurst to Goulburn discussing the effect of Prevost's failure at the Battle of Plattsburgh on the peace process
  • November 1814: American commissioners to British commissioners concerning the disposition of prisoners after the peace treaty is signed with an American amendment to article 8 of the treaty
  • December 7, 1814: Letter from British commissioners to American commissioners concerning the charge of the British stealing slaves during the war
  • December 10, 1814: Letter from British commissioners to Castlereagh concerning verbal alterations in the treaty, technical details, and general progress in negotiations
  • December 14, 1814: Letter from British commissioners to Castlereagh concerning copies of the article relating to the Passamaquoddy Islands
  • December 14, 1814: Letter from American commissioners to British commissioners concerning the Passamaquoddy Islands and the boundaries on the Mississippi River
  • December 26, 1814: Letter from Bathurst to Goulburn congratulating him on the treaty signing
  • December 26, 1814: Letter from American commissioners to British commissioners concerning a project for a commercial treaty between the United States and Great Britain
  • December 28, 1814: Commercial treaty in the hand of John Quincy Adams
  • December 29, 1814: Letter from American commissioners to British commissioners regarding stolen slaves that the British sold in the West Indies
  • December 30, 1814: Letter from Goulburn to Bathurst explaining minor changes to the treaty

The collection contains one letter from Goulburn, stationed at the Irish Office, to an unknown recipient concerning Goulburn's interest in representing Cambridge University in the British House of Commons (February 8, 1826).

Subject Terms

    • Canada--Boundaries--Maine.
    • Diplomatic and consular service, American.
    • Fisheries--Newfoundland and Labrador.
    • Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.)
    • Ghent (Belgium)
    • Great Britain--Politics and government----History--19th century.
    • Great Britain. Treaties, etc. United States, 1814 Dec. 24.
    • Herald (Ship)
    • Impressment.
    • Indians of North America--Wars--1812-1815.
    • Merchants--England--London.
    • Merchants--Newfoundland and Labrador.
    • Niagara Frontier (N.Y.)--History--War of 1812.
    • Passamaquoddy Bay (N.B. and Me.)
    • Plattsburg, Battle of, Plattsburgh, N.Y., 1814.
    • Politicians--Great Britain.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Indians.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Peace.
    • Washington (D.C.)--History--Capture by the British, 1814.
    • Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.
    • Adams, William, 1772-1851.
    • Allen, Bennet, 1736-1819.
    • Ashburton, Alexander Baring, Baron, 1774-1848.
    • Bathurst, Henry Bathurst, Earl, 1762-1834.
    • Bayard, James A. (James Asheton), 1767-1815.
    • Bunbury, Henry, Sir, 1778-1860.
    • Castlereagh, Robert Stewart, Viscount, 1769-1822.
    • Clancarty, Richard Le Poer Trench, Earl of, 1767-1837.
    • Clay, Henry, 1777-1852.
    • Cockburn, George, Sir, 1772-1853.
    • Crawford, William Harris, 1772-1834.
    • Gallatin, Albert, 1761-1849.
    • Gambier, James Gambier, Baron, 1756-1833.
    • Gordon, Robert, Sir, 1791-1847.
    • Goulburn, Henry, 1784-1856.
    • Hamilton, William, 1777-1859.
    • Liverpool, Robert Banks Jenkinson, Earl of, 1770-1828.
    • Madison, James, 1749-1812.
    • Monroe, James, 1758-1831.
    • Morier, John Philip, 1776-1853.
    • Russell, Jonathan, 1771-1832.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Passports.
    • Treaties.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Henry Goulburn papers [series]
    Box   1  
     July 22, 1813-August 30, 1814
    Box   2  
     September 1-October 31, 1814
    Box   3  
     November 1, 1814-March 15, 1815;  February 8, 1826; and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Alternate Locations

    The following printed item is located in the Clements Library Book Division: State Papers, On the Negotiation And Peace With America, 1814: With a Preface And Notes.... London: Printed by G, Sidney; published by Sherwood, Neely and Jones, 1815.

    Related Materials

    The following Clements Library collections contain letters to and from Henry Goulburn. See the Clements Library card catalog for more details:

    • The John Wilson Croker papers contain 17 items related to Goulburn (1810-1822)
    • The Great Britain Army collection contains one item related to Goulburn (November 5, 1819)
    • The Viscounts Melville papers contain 21 items between Goulburn and Robert Saunders Dundas Melville and one item from William Hull to Goulburn (1814-1834)

    The following Clements Library collections contain material relating to the Treaty of Ghent:


    Barker, G. F. R. "Goulburn, Henry (1784--1856)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004.

    Jenkins, Brian. Henry Goulburn, 1784-1856: a Political Biography . Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996.