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|Size||4.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1900 items)|
|Abstract||James McDowell was born 13 October 1795, son of Colonel James McDowell and Sarah Preston. He married Susanna Smith Preston in 1818. McDowell was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1833. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1831-1835 and 1837-1838, as governor of Virginia, 1842-1846, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1847-1851. Among McDowell's major political concerns were internal improvements, slavery, and public education. The collection includes correspondence, writings, financial and legal material, and other papers of James McDowell. Most of the papers are letters, addresses, and essays relating to affairs in Virginia and the nation, including slavery in the territories, internal improvements, temperance, nullification, Democratic party politics, colonization societies, collegiate and literary societies, and colleges in Virginia.|
|Creator||McDowell, James, 1795-1851.|
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1795: Born, 13 October, Cherry Grove Plantation, Rockbridge County, Va., son of Colonel James McDowell and Sarah McDowell.
1805-1812: Attended William McPheeters's classical school in Greenville, Va., and a boarding school in Brownsburg, Va.
1812: Attended Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Va.
1813: Attended Yale College, New Haven, Conn.
1814: Transferred to the College of New Jersey (Princeton University); graduated salutatorian, circa 1818.
1818: Married cousin, Susanna Smith Preston, 7 September; moved to an estate called "The Military," near Lexington, Ky.
1823: Returned to Virginia; began construction on Colalto Plantation, near Lexington, Va.
1827: Served as justice of the peace for Rockbridge County, Va.
1831: Joined the Presbyterian Church; elected to Virginia House of Delegates, where he served until 1835.
1833: Defeated by John Tyler in U.S. senatorial election.
1837: Re-elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served until 1838.
1838: Delivered "West Augusta Speech" at Princeton, calling for reconciliation between the abolitionists and the proponents of slavery.
1842: Elected governor of Virginia; served until 1846.
1846: Seated as member of U.S. House of Representatives, 6 March, replacing William Taylor.
1847: Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1851; death of wife in October.
1848: Partially paralyzed as result of heart attack.
1851: Died, 24 August, at Colalto.
Additional biographical information can be found in James Glen Collier, "The Political Career of James McDowell, 1830 1851" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1963).Back to Top
Correspondence, speeches, essays, public addresses and notes, bills, legal papers, and other material of McDowell, chiefly during his terms as state legislator, governor, and congressman. Topics include slavery in Virginia and in the nation, but especially in the territories; internal improvements; temperance; nullification; Democratic Party politics in Virginia; colonization societies; collegiate and literary societies; land speculation; currency and credit issues; and education, both public school and higher education, in Virginia.
Some papers relate to other members of the McDowell family. These include correspondence and other items relating to James McDowell's father Colonel James McDowell, mother Sarah McDowell, wife Susanna Preston McDowell, son in law Charles Scott Venable, and brother-in-law Virginia statesman Thomas Hart Benton. Many family letters, especially those from James McDowell to his wife, discuss agriculture and plantation management. Other materials include records pertaining to Washington College (later Washington and Lee University), a detailed emancipation contract between James McDowell and one of his slaves, and the childhood reminiscences of Francis Preston Venable, James McDowell's grandson and professor of chemistry and president of the University of North Carolina.Back to Top
Early items are chiefly correspondence of James McDowell's father, Colonel James McDowell in Rockbridge County, Va., with various individuals concerning land speculation and business affairs in Fayette County, Ky., and other places. Many letters relate to Colonel McDowell in his capacity as inspector of revenue. Also included is Colonel McDowell's personal correspondence with his wife, Sarah McDowell, especially in 1813 when he was serving in the U.S. army near Richmond.
Correspondents include: James Breckenridge (3 letters, 1796-1802); Edward C. Carrington (many letters from Colonel McDowell to Carrington, 1801-1810); John McDowell, Colonel McDowell's brother(?) (14 letters, 1792-1800); and Francis Preston (1 letter, 1796).
Correspondence of James McDowell begins around October 1813. Colonel McDowell's correspondence with his wife continues through 1832, and there are many letters between father and son. James McDowell's first letters are about his life as a student at Yale in 1813 and 1814. Later, there are many letters from James McDowell to his wife, Susanna Preston McDowell, before and after their marriage in 1818, as well as correspondence of James and Susanna with Susanna's sisters Eliza (Mrs. Edward C. Carrington) and Sally (Mrs. John B. Floyd), and with other members of the Preston and McDowell families, including James's brother-in-law, Thomas Hart Benton. In the 1820s, there are several letters reflecting James McDowell's involvement with colonization societies.
Correspondents include: Thomas Hart Benton (9 letters, 1821-1830); James Breckenridge (3 letters, 1817-1830); Ralph Gurley, secretary of the American Colonization Society (2 letters, 1828 and 1830); and Francis Preston (3 letters, 1818-1828).
In addition to the continued family correspondence between Colonel McDowell and his wife and between the Colonel and James McDowell (until the Colonel's death in 1835), there are letters to James McDowell from friends, U.S. congressmen and other national figures, state legislators and other members of the Virginia elite, students, college presidents, and constituents in the 1830s and 1840s. Many letters concern McDowell's commitment to temperance and his belief in the value of college groups, especially collegiate literary societies. Other letters are concerned with such topics as internal improvements in Virginia, slavery in the territories, the Nullification crisis, colonization societies, Virginia politics, currency and credit issues, public education, and colleges in Virginia. While there is surprisingly little about the political campaigns that McDowell must have mounted to win office, many letters relate to his responsibilities after those offices were attained (Virginia House of Delegates, 1831-1835 and 1837-1838; governor of Virginia, 1842-1846; U.S. House of Representatives, 1846-1851).
There are many letters written home by McDowell as he traveled either for the government or to check on lands he apparently held near Columbus, Miss. Until her death in October 1847, most of these letters were written to his wife, Susanna Preston McDowell, and deal chiefly with family matters. They also offer her instruction and advice on how to manage Colalto, the McDowell plantation near Lexington, Va., which, considering McDowell's heavy travel schedule, she seems to have handled on her own.
Correspondents include: Joseph Bell (3 letters, 1831-1834); Thomas Hart Benton (over 60 letters, 1830-1838 and 1843-1846); James Breckenridge (1 letter, 1831); Joseph Cabell (2 letters, 1843-1844); Charles Dimmock, Captain at the Richmond Armory (several dozen letters, 1844-1847); Lyman Copeland Draper (1 letter, 1847); Landon C. Garland (2 letters, 1847-1848); Samuel E. Goodson (9 letters, 1837-1838 and 1842-1847); Archibald Graham, a doctor of Lexington, Va. (over 30 letters, scattered over this period); Reuben Grigsley of Rockbridge County, Va. (9 letters, 1830-1835 and 1846); Ralph Randolph Gurley (1 letter, 1846); Thomas Henderson of Lexington, Va. (2 letters, 1846); George Washington Hopkins, U.S. congressman of Abingdon, Va. (over 20 letters, 1830s); John Letcher, Lexington, Ky., attorney and editor, later governor (numerous letters, 1830s and 1840s); Francis McFarland, Presbyterian minister (4 letters, 1848-1851); Francis McGavock of Nashville, Tenn. (1 letter, 1838); John Marsh, temperance reformer (12 letters, 1851); John Murray Mason (2 letters, 1844); Samuel McDowell Moore, U.S. congressman (1 letter, 1832); Francis Preston (2 letters, 1832-1833); Thomas Jefferson Randolph, grandson of Thomas Jefferson (7 letters, 1838-1846); Benjamin Wood Richards, classmate of McDowell and later mayor of Philadelphia (7 letters, 1842-1850); William H. Richardson, adjutant general of Virginia (over 50 letters, 1842-1850); William Taylor, U.S. congressman, and other members of the Taylor family (numerous letters, 1831-1846); John H. Wartmann of Harrisonburg, Va. (over 20 letters, 1840s); Thomas Willis White, founder of the Southern Literary Messenger (4 letters, 1834-1838).
Correspondence after James McDowell's death in August 1851 consists of letters of condolence written to McDowell's daughter, Salley Campbell Preston Miller. There are also letters involving another McDowell daughter, Margaret Cantey McDowell Venable, her husband Charles Scott Venable, a professor of mathematics at Hampden Sidney College, and their son Francis Preston Venable, later professor of chemistry and president of the University of North Carolina. There are few letters during the Civil War period.
Financial and legal papers of James McDowell and McDowell family members. The 1728 item is a fragment of a deed involving Alexander McDowell, an ancestor of James McDowell. Materials include sales receipts, statements of accounts, lists of expenditures, indentures, notes and briefs for legal cases, vote tallies, and court dockets. Of interest are the will of Colonel James McDowell; records of land transactions in Fayette County, Ky,; inventories of James McDowell's slaves; and an emancipation contract, circa 1831, between McDowell and his slave, Lewis James, requiring that Lewis both purchase his freedom and apply for emigration to Liberia. There are only a few items after James McDowell's death in 1851. The 1864 item is a series of Confederate bonds. (For other papers relating to colonization and emancipation, see Series 3.)
Drafts of speeches, addresses, essays, and reports that James McDowell presented to various groups, societies, and organizations, including the Virginia House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives. McDowell's writings reflect his interests in the public affairs and intellectual life of Virginia and the nation, especially in the 1830s and 1840s. Many items are speeches to citizens, legislators, and members of collegiate societies on topics such as slavery in the territories, internal improvements, and constitutional government.
Most items have been grouped by topic; those not arranged by topic are arranged by type (e.g., miscellaneous speeches and resolutions before the Virginia House of Delegates).
Slavery in the territories, loose speeches and articles. Speeches and articles, some fragments, by James McDowell, 1847-1851, on the Wilmot Proviso, the Oregon Bill, territorial governments for Utah and New Mexico, the Compromise of 1850, and the Northwest Ordinance (1787). Included are portions of a book length essay on the latter. Titles include: "First Oregon Bill," [1847?]; "Upon the formation of territorial governments upon grounds of mutual deference and concessions," 1850; and "Speech in the House on ...the boundary of Texas and the imposition of the Wilmot Proviso upon the territorial governments of Utah and New Mexico," 1850. #00459, Subseries: "3.1. Slavery" Folder 67-69
Slavery in the territories, Bound speeches (formerly volumes 3, 4, and 8). Three small volumes of speeches on slavery in the territories made by James McDowell in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1850 (formerly volumes 3, 4, and 8). There are printed copies of speeches on the Wilmot Proviso and on the formation of governments in New Mexico and California. (See also the section below on the United States Constitution for essay on the Northwest Ordinance in relation to the United States Constitution.) #00459, Subseries: "3.1. Slavery" Folder 70-72
United States economic conditions writings. Speeches, resolutions, and other writings, some fragments, by James McDowell about United States government policies on currency, credit, taxes, and tariffs. Titles include: "Remarks on the effects of banks in a agricultural community," 1825; "Resolution against the removal of the U.S. government deposits from the Second Bank of the United States," circa 1833; and "Remarks on tea and coffee tax and the Walker Tariff," circa 1847. #00459, Subseries: "3.2. Economics" Folder 76
Internal improvements loose materials. Speeches, essays, reports, and resolutions, some fragments, by James McDowell on canals, roads, turnpikes, and railroads for Virginia, particularly the James River and Kanawha Canal project. Titles include: "Baltimore & Ohio Railroad," 1828; "Internal improvement," circa 1830s; "Remarks on road law and bill," circa 1830; "Resolution supporting the joint stock principle of the Internal Improvement Fund and the Staunton and Potomac Railroad," circa 1831; "James River and Kanawha Company," undated; and "Memorial supporting the Richmond and Cartersville Turnpike," undated. #00459, Subseries: "3.2. Economics" Folder 78-79
Internal improvements bound materials (formerly volumes 7 and 10). Also included is a small volume entitled "Remarks on the construction of a general system of internal improvements in Virginia," 1831 (formerly volume 7) and a notebook containing, in addition to a few scattered accounts, notes on internal improvement (formerly volume 10). #00459, Subseries: "3.2. Economics" Folder 80-81
United States Constitution loose materials. Speeches and fragments of writings by James McDowell on the federal system of government and the power of state governments. Titles include: "Our American federal union," 1851, and "Some hasty remarks on state sovereignty," undated. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 82-83
United States Constitution bound materials (formerly volumes 6 and 9). Two small volumes, one containing an essay on the Northwest Ordinance in relation to the Constitution (formerly volume 6) and the other a speech on the concept of federal union (formerly volume 9). There is also a printed copy of the speech on federal union. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 84-85
Virginia politics and government. Speeches and essays by James McDowell on such topics as constitutional conventions, the rights of citizens, and the duties of a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates. Titles include: "Staunton convention: a few observations upon it," 1825; "James McDowell vs. unlimited convention," 1826; "Charlottesville convention," circa 1830; and "On the right of instruction," circa 1834. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 88
Election campaign writings. Speeches and writings, some fragments, relating to various elections. Included are outlines and drafts of speeches by James McDowell supporting Democratic candidates in the presidential elections of 1824, 1828, 1836, 1840, and 1848, and a lengthy essay defending Andrew Jackson and questioning the constitutionality of congressional procedures in the disputed election of 1824. There are also speeches and essays that relate to McDowell's political campaigns, particularly in the 1830s, and a few that relate to candidates in non presidential races. Included are an essay on McDowell's candidacy for the U.S. senate in 1833 and a speech, circa 1831, in support of Virginia Governor James Barbour. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 90-91
Miscellaneous speeches and resolutions before the Virginia House of Delegates. Writings by James McDowell on points of law, legislative procedure, and public education, including "An outline of remarks on the creation of the court of appeals," 1831. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 93
Miscellaneous speeches and resolutions before the United States House of Representatives. Drafts and fragments of speeches and resolutions by James McDowell, 1847-1851, on various issues before the House of Representatives, including the election of Howell Cobb as speaker of the House. #00459, Subseries: "3.3. Politics and government" Folder 94
Miscellaneous presentations to collegiate and literary societies. Drafts of and notes for addresses, circa 1815-1843, given by James McDowell before various collegiate societies at Washington College, Virginia Military Institute, Amherst, Princeton, and other colleges. Some of the topics covered are temperance, Bible study, and general morality. #00459, Subseries: "3.4. Other writings and notes" Folder 98-99
Miscellaneous writings. Speeches, addresses, and articles, some fragments, circa 1816-1850, by James McDowell on civic, humanistic, and other concerns. Included are addresses on the power of conversation, 1815; on the association of ideas, 1816; on Lafayette and James Madison, 1824 and 1836; and on the benefits of agricultural societies, undated. #00459, Subseries: "3.4. Other writings and notes" Folder 101-104
Genealogical notes, correspondence, and clippings, chiefly of James McDowell's daughter, Sally Campbell Preston Miller, circa 1884-1891, relating to the life of her father and to other members of the McDowell family. Included is a list, circa 1810, of the descendants of Andrew McDowell (born 1710).
Miscellaneous papers relating to Washington College; printed memorials and circulars received by James McDowell, chiefly about internal improvements; and other materials, including draft constitutions for agricultural, collegiate, and debating societies.
Processed by: Lynn Roundtree, 1983; Pamela Dean and Tim West, 1986; Roslyn Holdzkom, 1991
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008
This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.Back to Top