Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the papers of historian and diplomat George Bancroft of Massachusetts, New York, and Newport, R.I. It contains personal and professional correspondence, including that of several American presidents; writings; financial papers; research notes; travel journals; memoranda books; and printed material that chronicle much of the political history of nineteenth century Europe and the United States.
George Bancroft (3 Oct. 1800-17 Jan. 1891), the eighth of thirteen children born to Aaron and Lucretia Chandler Bancroft of Worcester, was an American historian and diplomat. In 1811 he entered New Hampshire's Phillips Exeter Academy and, in 1813, moved on to Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1817 at the age of seventeen and then embarked on a path to becoming a minister, devoting six months toward an M.A. at the Harvard Divinity School.
At the end of 1817, Bancroft became aware of the possibility of continuing his education away from Harvard. With a recommendation from Edward Everett and the sponsorship of Harvard president John T. Kirkland, Bancroft left for Germany the following year where he attended Georgia Augusta University in Göttingen. In 1820, he was awarded a doctorate from that university and then embarked on a grand tour of Europe. He spent an extended stay in Berlin where he encountered philosophers like Hegel and Schleiermacher, and then visited Paris, traveled in Switzerland and Italy, and met distant relatives in London. In June, 1822, he finished his tour and returned to the United States.
Upon returning to the U.S., Bancroft accepted a one-year appointment as an instructor in Greek at Harvard. Disillusioned with the post, Bancroft collaborated with Joseph Cogswell to establish a new educational institution shaped after the German Gymnasiums he visited in Europe. In 1824, they opened the Round Hill School in Northampton, Mass. As this project was forming in 1823, Bancroft published a volume of poetry.
Bancroft left Round Hill in 1827 and wrote extensively for the North American Review and other magazines, providing translations of German works, and started to take an interest in local politics. Before he engaged in politics, he wanted to publish the first volume of his History of the United States, for which he began collecting material in 1832. The volume appeared in 1834 and sold well; Bancroft continued publishing volumes of his History for the next forty years, resulting in ten published volumes.
After some minor political setbacks and the death of his first wife in 1837, Bancroft was appointed collector of the port of Boston, a position he used to benefit the Democratic Party with which he was aligned. He moved to Boston in 1838 and continued scholarly activities preparing for the next volumes of his History, hosting foreign dignitaries, and taking part in Democratic political activities, helping his party to win the governorship in 1839. In 1844, Bancroft ran unsuccessfully for the governor's seat in Massachusetts. However, after playing a leading role at the Democratic National Convention that year, newly-elected President James K. Polk appointed him Secretary of the Navy, a post for which he moved to Washington, D.C. During his tenure, Bancroft established the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and he briefly served as the acting Secretary of War. In 1846, Polk offered him an ambassadorship in London, largely to help settle the Oregon boundary dispute, which he quickly accepted and held for the next three years. With the election of Zachary Taylor in 1848, Bancroft's ambassadorship ended. He moved to New York and worked steadily on his History.
In 1867, President Andrew Johnson offered Bancroft the post of US minister to Prussia, enabling him to return to Germany. Bancroft remained in Berlin for seven years, after Ulysses S. Grant appointed him minister to the German Empire in 1871. During this tenure in Berlin, Bancroft spent much time negotiating agreements with various principalities relating to naturalization and citizenship issues; these became known as the "Bancroft Treaties."
Following his return to Washington and publication of the tenth volume of his History in 1874, Bancroft spent the next years revising his work and publishing the Centenary Edition in 1876 followed by a two-volume edition of documents pertaining to the ratification of the Constitution. Between 1882 and 1884, Bancroft published the last revision of his History and incorporated all previous volumes into a final whole. He continued authoring articles and notes, and wrote a biography of Martin Van Buren. In 1885, the American Historical Association, then only two years old, elected Bancroft its president.
In 1827, Bancroft married Sarah Dwight, the daughter of a prominent merchant-banker. They had four children: Sarah (1831-1832), Louisa (b.1833), John Chandler Bancroft (b.1835), and George, Jr. (b.1837). His wife never recovered from the birth of their fourth child and died in 1837. Bancroft moved to Boston and, in 1838, married the widow Elizabeth Bliss, with whom he had one child: Susan Jackson Bancroft (b.1839). Beginning in 1852, Bancroft summered at Rosecliff, his home in Newport, R.I. An amateur horticulturalist and rosarian, Bancroft helped to cultivate the "American Beauty" rose. He died of pneumonia in 1891 at the age of 91.
The papers of historian and diplomat George Bancroft consist of 72 document boxes and 12 volumes, spanning the years 1815 to 1908. The collection consists primarily of the correspondence and professional papers used by M.A. DeWolfe Howe in preparation for writing The Life and Letters of George Bancroft (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908). According to Howe's preface, Bancroft organized much of the correspondence himself, and had collected many of his own letters from the original recipients. Bancroft's grandson, Wilder D. Bancroft, donated these papers to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1909. Before the family loaned the papers to Howe shortly after Bancroft's death, most of his private and family papers were removed and now form the bulk of the George Bancroft papers at Cornell University.
The collection documents Bancroft's studies at Harvard University and the University of Göttingen in Germany; his travels throughout Europe; his founding of the Round Hill School in Northampton, Mass; the research, writing, and publication of the many volumes of his History of the United States; and his involvement in Massachusetts and U.S. politics. It is especially rich in letters of the two periods through which Bancroft held public office: from 1841 to 1849, when he was collector of the Port of Boston, secretary of the Navy, and minister to England; and from 1867 to 1874, when he was minister to Prussia and the German Empire. Significant topics include presidential elections, Democratic Party politics, the Northwest boundary dispute, the annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, the American anti-slavery movement, Reconstruction-era politics, German politics and foreign relations, German emigration and naturalization treaties, and the Franco-Prussian War. Later papers chronicle Bancroft's retirement years in Washington, D.C. and Newport, R.I; social activities; and his hobby of cultivating roses.
Bancroft's correspondence forms the largest part of his collection. It contains letters on political and historical matters from many of the most prominent persons in the 19th century, including John Thornton Kirkland, Edward Everett, George Ticknor, William Cullen Bryant, Jared Sparks, William Hickling Prescott, Samuel A. Eliot, Robert C. Winthrop, James Fenimore Cooper, Francis Parkman, Henry John Temple (the third Viscount Palmerston), William Gladstone, Marcus Morton, Caleb Cushing, John C. Calhoun, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John L. O'Sullivan, Charles Sumner, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Presidential correspondents include Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Ulysses S. Grant. A small of amount of family correspondence is in the collection, including that with his father Aaron Bancroft, his wife, Elizabeth Davis Bancroft, and his nephew J.C. Bancroft Davis.
Personal and professional papers include orations, dissertations, sermons, and poetry from his university days; political speeches and essays; and drafts and research notes from parts of Bancroft's History of the United States. Also included are papers related to his public disagreement with Scottish historian James Grahame, financial papers, and various awards and appointments. Volumes include Bancroft's diaries kept from 1818 to 1822 while studying at the University of Göttingen under Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher and while traveling in Europe. Diary entries include descriptions of his studies in language, literature, religion, and philosophy; meetings with Goethe and Lord Byron; observations of people and customs in Germany; sights seen in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and England; time spent with friends; and social events. Numerous memoranda books kept by Bancroft and others from 1847 to 1890 (with gaps) contain brief and sporadic entries noting appointments made, letters sent, observations, lists, and notes.
Gift of Wilder D. Bancroft, April 1909.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Correspondence, 1817-1891
Bancroft's correspondence reflects his personal and professional life from his studies at Harvard University and the University of Göttingen in Germany through his death in 1891. The bulk of the letters are those written to Bancroft, but the series also contains Bancroft's original letters (which he later collected from recipients) and some retained copies of his outgoing correspondence, especially during years when he held political or diplomatic office as Secretary of the Navy (1844-1845), minister to Great Britain (1846-1849), and minister to Prussia and the German Empire (1867-1874). The series contains only a small amount of family correspondence, including letters from his father, Aaron Bancroft, his wife Elizabeth Davis Bancroft, his brother-in-law John Davis, and his nephew J. C. Bancroft Davis. Throughout his correspondence are frequent discussions of Bancroft's historical writing and research, descriptions of political events, opinions of national and international affairs, and family financial matters. Notable correspondents and topics are detailed in the box-level descriptions below.
Bancroft writes from Leyden; Göttingen; Dresden; Berlin; Heidelberg; Paris; Geneva; Rome; Naples; Livorno; Genoa; Marseilles; Worcester; and Cambridge. Notable correspondents are Edward Everett, Samuel A. Eliot, John T. Kirkland, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Joseph Cogswell, and Nathaniel Bowditch.
Topics include: Bancroft's studies in Europe, life at the university in Göttingen, his visit to Johann Wolfgang Goethe (22 May 1819), his travels in Germany, Unitarianism, the University of Berlin, political and intellectual currents in Germany, his meeting with Lord Byron, Bancroft's return to the United States, and his future plans.
Bancroft writes from Cambridge, Boston, Worcester, Northampton, and Niagara Falls. Notable correspondents are Jared Sparks, Samuel A. Eliot, John T. Kirkland, George and Anna Ticknor, Felicia D. Hemans, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William H. Prescott, John Pickering, and John G. Palfrey.
Topics include: Bancroft's poetry, his decision to open the Round Hill School in Northampton, his writings for the North American Review, George Ticknor's visits to Madison and Jefferson (26 Dec. 1824), Henry W. Longfellow's description of James Fenimore Cooper in Paris (20 Aug. 1826), Bancroft's engagement and marriage to Sarah Dwight, and Harvard College affairs.
Bancroft writes from Northampton and Cleveland, Ohio. Notable correspondents are George Ticknor, Felicia D. Hemans, William H. Prescott, John T. Kirkland, Caleb Cushing, John Pickering, Jared Sparks,William Ellery Channing, Martin Van Buren (13 May 1831), Joseph Story, James Savage, John C. Calhoun, Samuel G. Drake, Marcus Morton, Robert Rantoul, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Topics include: Round Hill school affairs and students; Bancroft's interest in a political career and senatorial candidacy; his writings on banking; the Democratic party in Massachusetts; and Bancroft's requests for original manuscripts and first-hand accounts as sources for his History of the United States, such as Ezra Ripley's letter about the Battle of Lexington and Concord (23 July 1834) and Edward Everett's contacts with Lafayette (25 July 1834).
Bancroft writes from Springfield and Boston. Notable correspondents are Pierce Butler, Martin Van Buren, Levi Woodbury, Benjamin F. Butler, Harriet Martineau, William H. Prescott, Theodore Sedgwick, Marcus Morton, William Ellery Channing, Angelina E. Grimke, Francis Preston Blair, John G. Palfrey, John Greenleaf Whittier, Franklin Pierce, Jared Sparks, John C. Calhoun, and Robert Rantoul.
Topics include: state and national politics, Bancroft's 1836 Independence Day oration, the Democratic party in Hartford and Boston, the Van Buren administration, Bancroft's appointment as collector of the port of Boston, the anti-slavery movement, Andrew Jackson in retirement, and Bancroft's marriage to his second wife, Elizabeth Davis Bliss.
Correspondence, 1839-April 1840
Bancroft writes from Boston. Notable correspondents are Henry D. Gilpin, William H. Prescott, Levi Woodbury, Theodore Sedgwick, Josiah Quincy, Jared Sparks, James Fenimore Cooper, George E. Ellis, Andrew Jackson, Horace Mann, Edward Everett, and Martin Van Buren (18 Mar. 1840).
Topics include: the Massachusetts and Connecticut Democratic parties, Andrew Jackson's views on Tennessee politics (25 June 1839), problems in the banking industry, and the Democratic national ticket.
Correspondence, May 1840-May 1841
Bancroft writes from Boston. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, Levi Woodbury, Edward Everett, Henry R. Schoolcraft, Henry D. Gilpin, Amos Kendall, Charles Sumner, Robert Gould Shaw, Marcus Morton, Benjamin F. Butler, Martin Van Buren (20 Nov. 1840, 11 Mar. 1841), Thomas Hart Benton, John L. O'Sullivan, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and John C. Calhoun.
Topics include: Bancroft's third historical volume, the presidential campaign, the Massachusetts Democratic party, Daniel Webster's reputation, accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Bancroft's resignation as collector of the port of Boston.
Correspondence, June 1841-1842
Bancroft writes from Boston and Washington, D.C. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, Martin Van Buren (12 June 1841, 4 Feb. 1842, 19 Feb. 1842, 9 Oct. 1842, 21 Nov. 1842), Marcus Morton, John C. Calhoun, John L. O'Sullivan, Jared Sparks, Henry D. Gilpin, Andrew Jackson (9 Dec. 1841), Amos A. Lawrence, Josiah Quincy, Robert Rantoul, William Cullen Bryant, Levi Woodbury, Edward Everett, and Lewis Cass.
Topics include: Bancroft's History, Massachusetts Democrats and their stand on slavery, Harvard history curriculum and teaching, Charles Dickens's American tour, and Massachusetts politics.
Bancroft writes from Boston and New York. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, Edward Everett, Marcus Morton, Martin Van Buren (21 Jan. 1843, 4 Feb. 1843, 19 Mar. 1843, 23 Apr. 1843, 1 June 1843, 3 June 1843, 8 June 1843, 19 June 1843, 24 July 1843, 27 Aug. 1843, 7 Oct. 1843, 23 Oct. 1843), John L. O'Sullivan, Wendell Phillips, Henry D. Gilpin, Charles Sumner, Jared Sparks, Theodore Sedgwick, Harriet Martineau, Lewis Cass, Josiah Quincy, John Davis, and William Cullen Bryant.
Topics include: Democratic politics, the publication of Bancroft's History, Massachusetts elections, presidential candidates Lewis Cass and Martin Van Buren, and slavery.
Correspondence, 1844-Feb. 1845
Bancroft writes from Boston and Washington. Notable correspondents are Martin Van Buren (5 Jan. 1844, 25 Feb. 1844, 13 Mar. 1844, 23 Mar. 1844, 16 Apr. 1844, 8 May 1844, 3 July 1844, 10 Sept. 1844, 30 Sept. 1844, 5 Oct. 1844, 28 Nov. 1844, 16 Dec. 1844, 27 Dec. 1844, 30 Jan. 1845, 15 Feb.1845), Marcus Morton, Silas Wright, Jared Sparks, Edward Everett, John L. O'Sullivan, William H. Prescott, Franklin Pierce (4 June 1844), James K. Polk (20 July 1844, 25 Nov. 1844, 30 Jan. 1845), Levi Woodbury, James Buchanan (26 July 1844), Lewis Cass, Benjamin F. Butler, Andrew Jackson (16 Nov. 1844), and Henry D. Gilpin.
Topics include: foreign editions of Bancroft's History; campaign biographies of Van Buren and Polk; the Democratic National Convention; Tennessee politics; the nomination of James K. Polk; Bancroft's accounts as collector of the port of Boston; Democratic party politics in Vermont, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island; Bancroft's nomination as the Mass. Democratic candidate for governor; his Tammany Hall speech; presidential election results; Polk administration appointments; and the possibility of Bancroft as a cabinet member.
Correspondence, March-11 May 1845
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are Martin Van Buren (1 Mar. 1845, 7 Mar. 1845, 19 Apr. 1845), James K. Polk (3 Mar. 1845, 20 Mar. 1845, 8 May 1845), William Cullen Bryant, Henry D. Gilpin, Marcus Morton, Levi Woodbury, Franklin Pierce (17 Mar. 1845, 10 Apr. 1845, 11 May 1845), Levi Lincoln, Edward Everett, John C. Calhoun, John Davis, and Benjamin Butler.
Topics include: Bancroft's appointment as secretary of the Navy, the Democratic press in Boston, the Brooklyn drydock, the proposed post for Nathaniel Hawthorne, Martin Van Buren's appointment as minister to Great Britain, and American foreign relations.
Correspondence, 12 May-18 July 1845
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are Martin Van Buren (12 May 1845, 23 May 1845), Marcus Morton, John L. O'Sullivan, Theodore Parker, Levi Woodbury, Benjamin Butler, Robert B. Forbes, Edward Everett, James K. Polk (7 July 1845), Robert F. Stockton, William H. Prescott, and James Buchanan (18 July 1845).
Topics include: Martin Van Buren declining an appointment as minister to Great Britain, relations with Mexico, settling the Oregon boundary dispute, the U.S. Naval Observatory, the Texas annexation, claims under the 1835 Cherokee treaty, Andrew Jackson's health, the public timber question in Florida, Bancroft's eulogy of Jackson, Harvard College reform, Massachusetts politics, and the frigate Constellation.
Correspondence, 19 July-30 Sept. 1845
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are James Fenimore Cooper, Edward Everett, John L. O'Sullivan, James K. Polk (18 Aug. 1845, 15 Sept. 1845), James Buchanan (25 Aug. 1845), and Lewis Cass.
Topics include: the Voorhess court-martial, the Oregon boundary dispute, Tennessee elections, U.S. relations with Mexico, a political appointment for Nathaniel Hawthorne, Massachusetts Democratic Party politics, and the Texas annexation question.
Correspondence, October-December 1845
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are Robert F. Stockton, James Buchanan (6 Oct. 1845, Nov.1845), Lewis Cass, James Fenimore Cooper, Levi Woodbury, Marcus Morton, Matthew C. Perry, and James K. Polk (24 Nov. 1845).
Topics include: naval matters, the Oregon boundary dispute, the war between French and Spanish Haiti, political attacks on Buchanan, and abolitionism among Massachusetts Democrats.
Correspondence, January-April 1846
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are John L. O'Sullivan, Levi Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Marcus Morton, Robert B. Forbes, Lewis Cass, William Cullen Bryant, William H. Prescott, and James K. Polk (6 Feb. 1846, 25 Mar. 1846).
Topics include: negotiations on the Oregon boundary dispute, new steamships for the Navy, the naval defense of Lake Superior, and Bancroft's new volume of his History.
Correspondence, May-August 1846
Bancroft writes from Washington. Notable correspondents are James K. Polk (9 May 1846, 11 May 1846, 25 May 1846, 27 May 1846, 4 June 1846), Marcus Morton, Lewis Cass, James Gadsden, John L. O'Sullivan, James Buchanan (31 May 1846), Benjamin F. Butler, Charles Sumner, John Davis, and Caleb Cushing.
Topics include: foreign translations of Bancroft's History, the Oregon negotiations and resulting treaty, the Massachusetts Democratic Party, naval reforms, U.S. relations with Mexico, the expected conquest and settlement of California, and improving American trade with the British Colonies.
Correspondence, September 1846-April 1847
Bancroft writes from Washington and London. Notable correspondents are Theodore Parker, James K. Polk (10 Sept. 1846, 11 Sept. 1846, 18 Sept. 1846, 30 Jan. 1847), Franklin Pierce (17 Sept. 1846), William H. Prescott, Caleb Cushing, Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston), James Buchanan (29 Dec. 1846, 25 Feb. 1847), George Caitlin, Marcus Morton, and Charles Sumner.
Topics include: Bancroft's resignation as secretary of the Navy, Bancroft's appointment as minister to Great Britain, New York's tribute to Bancroft upon his sailing to England, Anglo-American relations, British historical manuscripts, ending the Mexican War, British politics, Bancroft's experiences in England, and the British tobacco tariff.
Correspondence, May-December 1847
Bancroft writes from London. Notable correspondents are Samuel F. B. Morse, William H. Prescott, James Buchanan (14 June 1847, 29 Sept. 1847), and Asa Gray.
Topics include: the Irish famine, foreign opinion of the Mexican War, French and Prussian historical manuscripts, presidential politics, Bancroft's travels in England, negotiations for free trade between England and the United States, the Anglo-American postal agreement, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and developments in the field of astronomy.
Correspondence, January-July 1848
Bancroft writes from London. Notable correspondents are Edward Everett, William H. Prescott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marcus Morton, Charles Sumner, Lewis Cass, Louisa Johnson Adams, James Buchanan (15 May 1848), Samuel Cunard, Robert Peel, and James K. Polk (17 June 1848)
Topics include: free trade negotiations, the Anglo-American postal agreement, territorial terms of the settlement of the Mexican War, the U.S. treaty with Mexico, Everett's attempts at Harvard reform, New York Democratic politics, American commercial relations with England and France, political turmoil in Europe, and rules of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Correspondence, August 1848-March 1849
Bancroft writes from London. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, William W. Corcoran, Marcus Morton, James K. Polk (9 Sept. 1848, 15 Sept. 1848, 27 Oct. 1848, 5 Jan. 1849, 22 Jan. 1849) Edward Everett, Harriet Martineau, James Buchanan (30 Sept. 1848, 16 Oct. 1848, 23 Oct. 1848, 11 Dec. 1848, 18 Dec. 1848, 8 Jan. 1849, 5 Feb. 1849, 18 Feb. 1849, 3 Mar. 1849), Dolly Madison, Francis Preston Blair, George Peabody, John Davis, and John Y. Mason.
Topics include: the Mexican peace, democracy in Europe, American presidential politics, Texas annexation, the Mecklenberg Resolves, Europe's attitude toward the United States, negotiations for a postal convention, the U.S. and Massachusetts election of 1848, political organization for the new territory of California, Bancroft's prospects under the Taylor administration, and American shipping laws.
Correspondence, April 1849-April 1850
Bancroft writes from London and New York. Notable correspondents are Benjamin Apthorp Gould, Thomas B. Macaulay, William H. Prescott, Robert B. Forbes, James Buchanan (29 June 1849, 14 Nov. 1849, 13 Dec. 1849), Charles Sumner, Henry John Temple (3rd Lord Palmerston), Charles E. Norton, Theodore Parker, Lewis Cass, and Jared Sparks.
Topics include: commercial negotiations with England and France, the British repeal of the Navigation Acts, Bancroft's new volume of his History, Bancroft's retirement from his British post and his return to America, the Taylor presidential administration, Mosquito Coast negotiations, slavery issues, and U.S. policy toward Germany.
Correspondence, May 1850-April 1852
Bancroft writes from New York. Notable correspondents are Jared Sparks, John Carter Brown, William H. Prescott, Charles Sumner, William Cullen Bryant, Francis Parkman, John Davis, and Washington Irving.
Topics include Bancroft's historical works and the new volume of his History.
Correspondence, May 1852-December 1853
Bancroft writes from Newport, R.I. and New York. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, Franklin Pierce (30 June 1852), Theodore Sedgwick, William L. Marcy, James Buchanan (27 Nov. 1852, 8 Jan. 1853, 3 June 1853), Edward Everett, Martin Van Buren (4 Apr. 1853), Henry D. Gilpin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jared Sparks, James Savage, William Cullen Bryant, and William Makepeace Thackeray.
Topics include: presidential politics, European editions of Bancroft's books, Bancroft's investments and the sale of his western lands, North Carolina politics, U.S. interest in Cuba, slave trade statistics, and the Pierce cabinet.
Correspondence, 1854-April 1855
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Julia Ward Howe, Charles Francis Adams, William Cullen Bryant, William H. Prescott, Washington Irving, Theodore Parker, William L. Marcy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Sumner, Thomas Gallaudet, and Henry D. Gilpin.
Topics include: Bancroft's newly published volume and European additions of his History, his New-York Historical Society oration, and the Pierce administration.
Correspondence, May 1855-August 1856
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are William H. Prescott, Henry D. Gilpin, Edward Everett, Robert C. Winthrop, Benjamin H. Latrobe, Francis Parkman, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Topics include western land speculation and depositions from Bunker Hill survivors.
Correspondence, September 1856-October 1857
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Henry D. Gilpin, William H. Prescott, William L. Marcy, Francis Parkman, Edward Everett, Washington Irving, Benjamin H. Latrobe, and James Murray Mason.
Topics include: Bancroft's western lands, Bancroft's resignation from the Seventy-Six Society, the presidential campaign, Pierce's Kansas policy, the Naval Observatory and Academy, the Dred Scott decision, and manuscripts in European archives.
Correspondence, November 1857-July 1858
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Francis Parkman, Lewis Cass, William H. Prescott, Edward Everett, Henry D. Gilpin, Washington Irving, Stephen A. Douglas, Levi Woodbury, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Topics include: the Lecompton Constitution, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Bancroft's new volume of his History, and the Northwest boundary dispute.
Correspondence, August 1858-February 1860
Bancroft writes from Newport, R.I. and New York. Notable correspondents are Edward Everett Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lewis Cass, William Cullen Bryant, William H. Prescott, Henry D. Gilpin, George Ticknor, Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, and Francis Preston Blair.
Topics include: Bancroft's recently published volume, the Northwest boundary dispute, the death of William H. Prescott, and aid for the Hungarian movement.
Correspondence, March 1860-December 1861
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are George Ticknor, Lewis Cass, Edward Everett, William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Levi Lincoln, Edward Everett Hale, William H. Seward, and George B. McClellan.
Topics include: the Northwest boundary dispute, Bancroft's recently published volume, the British attitude toward the United States, expectations of Lincoln's administration, and legislation aimed against the South.
Correspondence, 1862-April 1863
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are William H. Seward, Jared Sparks, John A. Andrew, William P. Fessenden, Edward Everett Hale, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Everett, James T. Fields, Robert C. Winthrop, Charles Sumner, John C. B. Davis, and George Ticknor.
Topics include: the British attitude toward the American Civil War, French policy, the Trent affair, American relations with Canada, anti-slavery meetings, the abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C., emancipation in Maryland, Bancroft's decision not to run for Congress, wartime politics, and Bancroft's controversy with historian James Grahame.
Correspondence, May 1863-September 1864
Bancroft writes from New York, Newport, R.I., and Washington, D.C. Notable correspondents are Edward Everett, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Murray Forbes, George Ticknor, William H. Seward, Robert C. Winthrop, and James T. Fields.
Topics include: Anglo-American relations, the New York draft riots, Bancroft's controversy with Grahame, the Northwest boundary dispute, the Democratic Party platform, and the publication of Bancroft's latest volume.
Correspondence, October 1864-December 1865
Bancroft writes from New York and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Edward Everett, William Cullen Bryant, Julia Ward Howe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Richard Henry Dana, Charles Sumner, Salmon P. Chase, James Russell Lowell, Millard Fillmore (8 Feb. 1865), Samuel J. Tilden, Andrew Johnson (29 Apr. 1865, 24 Oct. 1865, 29 Oct. 1865, 9 Nov. 1865, 14 Nov. 1865), Charles Francis Adams, and Edwin M. Stanton.
Topics include: the Century Club's tribute to Bryant, the vacancy of the Supreme Court chief justice's seat, support for the 13th amendment, the National Freedmen's Relief Assoc., Louisiana reconstruction, Lincoln's legacy, and Andrew Johnson's requests for Bancroft to come to Washington, D.C.
Bancroft writes from New York, Washington, D.C., and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Charles Sumner, Edwin M. Stanton, Andrew Johnson (10 Jan. 1866, 4 Aug. 1866), Gideon Welles, Salmon P. Chase, Charles Francis Adams, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Lord John Russell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cassius M. Clay, William Cullen Bryant, Robert C. Winthrop, and Edward Everett Hale.
Topics include: the publication of Bancroft's next volume, Johnson's plan for reconstruction, Bancroft's eulogy of Lincoln before Congress, Tennessee reconstruction, the growing sensitivity of British leaders to American criticism, the British reaction to reconstruction, Johnson's veto of the Civil Rights Act, and current legislation.
Bancroft writes from New York, Berlin, Paris, and Barcelona. Notable correspondents are William H. Seward, Francis Parkman, Charles Sumner, Ulysses S. Grant (8 June 1867), Samuel J. Tilden, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Salmon P. Chase, William James, Samuel F.B. Morse, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Otto von Bismarck.
Topics include: the Northwest boundary dispute, Anglo-American relations, Bancroft's appointment as minister to Prussia, diplomatic relations with Germany and Spain, the Alaska purchase, French reaction to Johnson's post-war policies, U.S. commerce with Portugal, negotiations with Denmark and Spain for the West Indies, German emigration to the U.S., Franco-Prussian relations, German unification, and Prussia's claim to the military service of expatriates.
Correspondence, January-November 1868
Bancroft writes from Berlin, Milan, Munich, and Budapest. Notable correspondents are Samuel F.B. Morse, William H. Seward, Russell Sturgis, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Topics include: the liability of German expatriates for military service, famine relief in East Prussia, Europeans' impressions of the U.S., the progress of naturalization treaty negotiations, diplomatic relations between Germany and Mexico, the Juarez government in Mexico, Bismarck's health, the U.S. impeachment crisis, and Franco-Prussian relations.
Correspondence, December 1868-July 1869
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are John Adams Dix, William H. Seward, Otto von Bismarck, and William Tecumseh Sherman.
Topics include: German naturalization treaties, Anglo-German postal negotiations, the American attitude toward the Franco-Prussian war, the U.S. lease of Japanese lands, the unification of Germany, Mexican diplomatic relations with Germany and Italy, Bancroft's quarrel with John Adams Dix, German reaction to the Grant administration, the Northwest boundary dispute, the Alabama claims, political and economic conditions in Mexico, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Japan, and German emigration to the U.S.
Correspondence, August 1869-February 1870
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Elihu B. Washburne and Hamilton Fish.
Topics include: the ratification of German naturalization treaties, protection of German emigration, the treaty between U.S. and China, German policy toward China, the Northwest boundary dispute, filibustering expeditions to Cuba, German mediation between the U.S. and Spain, and the treaty of San Domingo.
Correspondence, March-October 1870
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Otto von Bismarck, Hamilton Fish, Louis-Joseph Papineau, and Queen Augusta of Prussia.
Topics include: negotiations for Cuba, the emigration treaty, Austro-Hungarian affairs, Chinese piracy, the Treaty of San Domingo, Fish's attempt to resign from the cabinet, the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, pro-German sentiment in the U.S., and Bancroft's diplomatic war work.
Correspondence, November 1870-June 1871
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Hamilton Fish, John L. O'Sullivan, Elihu B. Washburne, and John Murray Forbes.
Topics include: Franco-German maritime neutrality, the Black Sea question, the evacuation of Danes from Paris, relations between Germany and Austria, Franco-Prussian War relief, American attitude toward the unification of Germany, pressure in Congress for Bancroft's recall, Anglo-American relations, Bancroft's resignation, the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian war, the Alabama claims, and the German arbitration of the Northwest boundary dispute.
Correspondence, July 1871-January 1872
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Hamilton Fish, Elihu B. Washburne, George S. Boutwell, William H. Seward, Charles W. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Adams.
Topics include: the Alabama claims, the Northwest boundary dispute and arbitration, Bancroft's endowment of Harvard's Kirkland Fellowship, and French republicanism.
Correspondence, February-December 1872
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Hamilton Fish, Charles W. Eliot, and William Tecumseh Sherman.
Topics include the Geneva arbitration, Jewish persecution in Moldavia and Wallachia, and the Northwest boundary arbitration award.
Correspondence, January 1873-May 1874
Bancroft writes from Berlin. Notable correspondents are Charles W. Eliot, Hamilton Fish, Daniel E. Sickles, James Watson Webb, Charles Francis Adams, Henry Draper, Richard Henry Dana, John Adams Dix, and Bernhard Ernst von Bulow.
Topics include: the Harvard Kirkland fellowship, the revision of German naturalization treaties, Bismarck's attitude toward the Spanish Republic, the Shah of Persia's desire to establish diplomatic relations with the U.S., Germany's Asiatic policy, Volume 10 of Bancroft's History, negotiations between Germany and Denmark, American citizens in Germany, German clerical politics, the Northwest boundary dispute, the German attitude toward the American annexation of Cuba, the cession of the Danish West Indies to Germany, Romania's independence from Turkey, Bancroft's recall as minister, and Bancroft's interview with Bismarck.
Correspondence, June 1874-October 1875
Bancroft writes from Berlin, Paris, New York, Washington D.C., and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Bernard Ernst von Bulow, Marian Cross Lewes ("George Eliot"), Hamilton Fish, John W. Draper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles C. Perkins, William Cullen Bryant, Henry Adams, William Dean Howells, William Tecumseh Sherman, and James Russell Lowell.
Topics include: John C. B. Davis's appointment as minister to Germany, Bancroft's audience with the German emperor, Bancroft's retirement, a new edition of Bancroft's History, and William Tecumseh Sherman's memoirs.
Correspondence, November 1875-March 1877
Bancroft writes from Washington and Newport, R.I. Notable correspondents are Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil; Caleb Cushing; William Cullen Bryant; William Tecumseh Sherman; James Russell Lowell; Marshall Jewell; Henry Cabot Lodge; and Benjamin F. Butler.
Topics include: Bancroft's histories; entertaining the emperor of Brazil; and the court martial of Bancroft's nephew, Bancroft Gherardi.
Retirement correspondence, April 1877-January 1891
Bancroft writes from Washington and Newport, R.I. His post-retirement years contain more correspondence with family members and personal friends. Notable correspondents are Henry Cabot Lodge, Caleb Cushing, Henry Adams, Francis Parkman, Charles C. Perkins, James G. Blaine, Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Frisbie Hoar, Charles Francis Adams, William Tecumseh Sherman, Samuel J. Tilden, William E. Gladstone, Matthew Arnold, Hamilton Fish, Sarah Childress Polk, Frances Folsom Cleveland, and John Greenleaf Whittier.
Topics include: Bancroft's historical writings, new editions of Bancroft's History, publishing contracts, research and historical manuscripts, the reminiscences of Caleb Cushing, the new California constitution, German constitutional history, the death of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Van Buren's career and his proposed biography, copyright legislation, printing the Massachusetts Acts and Resolves, the Legal Tender Act, the preparation of John C. Fremont's memoirs, the proposed Columbian Celebration of 1892, Bancroft's honorary degree from Columbia, a biographical sketch of James K. Polk and his administration, and Bancroft's service during the Franco-Prussian War. In addition, much of his later correspondence is related to gardening, financial management, and his affiliations with social clubs and historical societies.
II. Personal and professional papers, 1816-1890
This series contains a variety of Bancroft's writings, including essays, sermons, poetry, speeches, and manuscript drafts. Also in the series are papers related to Bancroft's feud with Scottish historian James Grahame, financial records, research notes for Bancroft's historical and political works, and various papers related to his personal and professional life.
A. Writings, 1816-1887
Arranged chronologically within record types.
This subseries includes Bancroft's orations, dissertations, and sermons from his studies at Harvard and from the brief time he preached at Unitarian churches in Worcester, Bolton, Portsmouth, and Boston in 1822 and 1823. Also included are manuscript drafts of Bancroft's poetry and an editorial proof of poetry translations labeled "rejected." Articles and miscellaneous writings include an 1826 printed essay on the Round Hill School in Northampton, a manuscript draft of Bancroft's acceptance speech for the 1844 Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts, his 1867 "Remarks upon Prussian Expatriation," a printed copy of Bancroft's March 1867 letter to the editor of the North American Review, a typed memorandum of the 1884 U.S. Supreme Court opinion on legal tender, and other miscellaneous writings. Bancroft's manuscript drafts of portions of his History of the United States, the bulk of which relate to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the War of 1812, are also in this subseries.
B. Papers related to the James Grahame controversy, 1839-1846
Papers in this subseries relate to the historical disagreement between Bancroft and Scottish historian James Grahame (d. 1842) about the character of colonist John Clarke of Rhode Island, which devolved into a series of personal attacks. Included are copies of letters from James Grahame to others that mention Bancroft, newspaper clippings containing Bancroft's accusations against Graham, Josiah Quincy's 1846 pamphlet "The Memory of the Late James Grahame Vindicated" which refuted Bancroft's charges, an editorial proof of Bancroft's pamphlet refuting Quincy's assertions, and several undated articles.
C. Financial papers, 1847-1890
Financial papers include statements of book purchases, interest and dividend statements for the Dwight trust account, bank statements, receipts, royalty statements, and in later years, accounts of gardening supplies and lists of rose purchases. The bulk of financial papers date from the 1880s.
D. Research notes and materials, n.d.
This subseries includes lists of sources; timelines; extracts from letters, reports, and conversations; copies of documents; and research notes, some of which are written in German. Research material appears to have been collected largely for Bancroft's historical work, but also as background for his early teaching at Harvard and his political career.
E. Miscellaneous papers, 1824-1888
Included in Bancroft's miscellaneous papers are calling cards, publishing contracts, reminiscences of Elizabeth Davis about her father, collections of poetry and Bancroft's speech honoring the 70th birthday of William Cullen Bryant in 1864, genealogical material, Bancroft's presidential appointments as minister to Berlin from 1868 to 1872, honorary degrees, lists of memberships, lists of presents given to Bancroft for his 85th birthday, lists of roses ordered and received, and papers related to Bancroft's gift to the City of Worcester for a memorial scholarship in honor of his parents.
III. Bound volumes, 1815-1890
This series consists of 55 bound volumes that span nearly all of Bancroft's life. The bulk of the volumes fall primarily within in two broad categories: journals and memoranda books. In addition, there are three notebooks, one letterbook, and one account book. Loose items removed from the volumes are placed in folders behind the volumes.
Bancroft's early journals document his time in Europe as a young man, both as a student and a tourist. He describes his arrival in Europe in the summer of 1818, his studies at Georgia Augusta University in Göttingen, and various excursions through Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and other parts of Europe from 1818 to 1822. Entries pertain to philosophy, theology, poetry, language, literature, social customs and conventions, natural surroundings, and people met along the way. Bancroft interacted with many prominent European and American intellectuals of his day, and often recorded his interactions in his journals. Those people include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Washington Irving, and Lord Byron. The journals also contain writings from many different languages, including English, German, French, Greek, and Latin. His post-study travels took him through Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, and briefly England. Typescripts of selected entries, most likely transcribed as part of the preparation for the publication of Howe's Life and Letters of George Bancroft, are placed in the folder with their corresponding volume.
The memoranda books Bancroft kept from 1846 to 1890 (with gaps) are printed line-a-day diaries with shorter and less substantive entries than his earlier journals, serving more as day-to-day agendas. Many volumes contain lists of addresses and contacts, information related to local merchants and tradesmen, appointments, letters sent, and miscellaneous notes. Some of the volumes contain entries written in multiple hands. For some years there are duplicate copies of the printed diaries containing similar entries in different hands.
Also included in this series is an 1877 journal chronicling Bancroft's trip to Nashville to receive the papers of former President Polk.
Bancroft started this notebook while a student at Harvard University. It primarily contains academic exercises and writings, some poems, and a few of Bancroft's accounts.
Started at the end of Bancroft's Harvard years and continuing into his first year in Germany, this volume contains notes related to various Bible verses and a few book lists and reading lists.
Maintained during his first two years in Germany, this volume contains copies of correspondence that Bancroft sent to various family members. Many of the letters are addressed from Göttingen where he was a student, but there are also letters written from Leyden (Holland), Berlin, and Prague.
The first of several "travel journals" begins with Bancroft's arrival in Europe in the summer of 1818. It includes comments on scenes that he passed while traveling through the Netherlands and Germany, details about his arrival at the university, procedures for obtaining a degree, and academic topics.
This volume begins with writings translated from Arabic and Greek, as well as some original material written in Latin. Entries then turn to various academic and social subjects, travel notes, and entries about luminaries like Hegel, Schleiermacher, and Moliere.
This volume contains entries detailing some of Bancroft's travel through Germany, including visits to Johan Wolfgang von Goethe. Bancroft also comments on the Missouri Compromise and presents details of his travel itinerary.
Many entries in the volume were written while Bancroft was visiting Heidelberg and contain descriptions of the countryside around that town and various castles. Loose items include a small 1819 account book.
This disbound volume was kept while on an extended stay in Paris. Included are poems that Bancroft translated from German. Other entries relate to various cultural activities like trips to the theater and the Louvre, comments on academic topics, and interactions with luminaries like Lafayette and Washington Irving. Many entries were written in French.
This disbound volume, kept while traveling in England, contains entries about sightseeing in London as well as encounters with various relations.
This journal was kept while traveling through France and Switzerland. Entries focus on scenes of natural beauty.
This journal was written while traveling through Switzerland and Italy, with extended stays in Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
This journal describes travels in Italy, particularly Rome and Naples. Entries include references to the Vatican Library, Christmas and New Year in Rome, a trip to Pompeii, and Bancroft's night of imprisonment in Amalfi near Salerno.
This journal documents the end of Bancroft's time in Italy and contains some entries that detail his meeting with Lord Byron at Monte Nero.
These pages contain brief entries describing Bancroft's voyage from Marseilles to New York.
This notebook is primarily composed of research notes pertaining to various events in United States history.
This journal documents an 1887 trip that Bancroft took through Kentucky and Tennessee, where he accepted the papers of Pres. James Polk from Polk's wife. It also describes a stop at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage estate.
IV. Printed material, 1825-1908
This series contains newspaper clippings, including reviews of Bancroft's History of the United States (1860), serializations of historical essays, and English and German articles of historical or political interest. Also included are reprints of historical articles, material related to New York's Century Club, theater and concert programs, printed memorials and dedications, New York Senate resolutions, bank and stockholder reports, garden catalogs and price lists, articles about Bancroft and his work, an 1889 program and ticket for the centennial of Washington's inauguration held in the House of Representatives, a copy of an 1899 House bill to erect a statue of Bancroft at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, resolutions and memorials upon Bancroft's death, and a 1908 review of Howe's Life and Letters of George Bancroft.Also included is a small scrapbook of clippings describing Bancroft's trip to Nashville, Tenn. to view the Polk presidential papers in 1887.
George Bancroft papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection and its subcollections are indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.