Charles William Cathcart Papers

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
Cathcart, C. W. , (Charles William), 1809-1888
Charles William Cathcart papers
Date [inclusive]
0.66 Cubic feet

Preferred Citation note

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

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Scope and Contents note

This collection documents the political interests of various members of the Cathcart family during the years 1821-1889, and is divided as such into the affairs of two generations: that of James Leander Cathcart and that of his sons, James, Charles, John and Henry, with the greatest amount of material pertaining to Charles Cathcart.

Letters of the senior Cathcart comprise the first part of the collection. There are several letters, which expound upon his grudge against the "new" government after his long years of valuable service. He has appealed to his old friends for help in securing employment with the government to no avail, and included are copies of letters he received from Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, naval office Isaac Chauncy, and John Rodgers, president of the Navy Board. A copy of the bill, which was finally passed granting him "full satisfaction of his claims against the U.S." is included. Through letters, there is evidence of his efforts to obtain a position in the Treasury Department for his son, James.

Also included is the book The Captives: Eleven Years as a Prisoner in Algiers by James Leander Cathcart, re-typed in 1979 from an original published circa 1890. It tells of his capture by the British as a midshipman on the U.S. frigate, Confederacy. After he escaped he worked in the merchant service on the Maria of Boston and was then captured by the Algerians in 1785. He rose from a slave to become a Christian clerk to the Dey of Algiers. In 1796 he went back to the United States and became Consul to Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, Leghorn, Madeira, Cadiz. He served as an U.S. agent in Louisiana from 1823-1843. Photocopies of portraits include Henry Nassau Cathcart, Jane Bancker Cathcart, and James Leander Cathcart.

Other letters pertain to the political environment of the Cathcarts, in particular that of Charles, and the part played in political affairs. Much of Charles' personal political philosophy is visible through his letters and those of his friends. There are several comments on the 1836 election and the candidates involved. Included also are some candid opinions of Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson. The Whig convention 1840 is described. He makes reference to the war in Mexico in a letter dated May 31, 1846. There are a series of letters (many to Governor Wright of Indiana) pertaining to the appointment of Charles Cathcart as Senator and regarding the following U.S. senatorial race and the implications of the various outcomes, 1852-1853.

There are several letters about the Civil War and life as a soldier from Charles' son, James, and his nephew, Will Peabody. Several references are made in letters of this period to political activities during the Civil War. Included is also Charles' suggestion to amend the Constitution giving the "boys in the field a vote."

A large number of newspaper clippings cover such topics: letters of Henry Clay and the Texas question, 1844; the political career of Charles Cathcart; several election years, most of which are those with which Charles was concerned; extracts from the address at the Utica Abolition Convention, 1844; the account of the church trial against Cathcart, May 30, 1859; the death notice and final speech of Stephen Douglas, 1861; and the appeal of the Southern Commissioners--the request of the Confederacy for British sympathy.

Through Charles Cathcart's letters to his wife when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he has given an excellent picture of life in Washington, D.C. around 1846. Included is his account of a dinner at the President's Inaugural Ball.

Several land deeds and titles are contained in the collection, some of which pertain to the sale of Michigan Road lands, but most of which refer to Indiana land, dated around the year 1875.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Revision Description

  May 2003

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Conditions Governing Use note

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Custodial History

Gift of Chamberlain-Warren Three Oaks Collection; Judith Osborn.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Chamberlain Memorial Museum.
  • United States. Army -- Military life -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States. Army.


  • Autobiographies
  • Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
  • Legal instruments
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Microfilms
  • Photographs
  • Speeches, addresses, etc.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Africa, North
  • Algiers (Algeria)
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, British
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Registers
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 19th century
  • Washington (D.C.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
  • Cathcart, Henry Nassau
  • Cathcart, James L., (James Leander), 1767-1843
  • Cathcart, James Leander, II
  • Cathcart, John
  • Clay, Henry, 1777-1852
  • Douglas, Stephen A., (Stephen Arnold), 1813-1861
  • Jackson, Andrew, 1767-1845
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
  • Madison, James, 1751-1836
  • Osborn, Judith L.
  • Peabody, William
  • Pettit, John, 1807-1888
  • Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862


  • Antislavery movements -- United States
  • Elections -- Indiana
  • Elections -- United States -- 19th century
  • Freedmen -- United States
  • Political conventions
  • Slavery -- United States

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Collection Inventory


Scope and Contents note



Box Folder


1 1

 January-March 1836 

1 2

 April-June 1836 

1 3

 July-September 1836 

1 4

 October 1836-1838 

1 5


1 6


1 7


1 8


1 9


1 10

 January-May 1846 

1 11

 June-November 1846 

1 12


1 13


1 14


1 15


2 1


2 2


2 3


2 4


2 5


2 6


2 7


2 8


2 9

Financial Records 

Box Folder


2 10


2 11

Legal Records 

Box Folder


2 12


2 13


2 14
Box Folder

Land Deeds, 1875 

2 15

Map of Land Holdings, n.d. 

2 16

Speech of Cathcart on Oregon Question, 1846 

2 17

Speech by John Pettit on the Homestead Bill, 1854 

2 18

Paper on Tariff Law, n.d. 

2 19

Handbill for August Election, 1836 

2 20

Tallies of Election Votes, 1837 

2 21

Statement showing members of Freemen and Slaves in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbus, Virginia, and Kentucky, 1840 

2 22

Prices of Commodities, 1842 

2 23

List of Men in Civil War Regiments, 1861-1865 

2 24

Specifications for Windmill Improvements, n.d. 

2 25

Visiting Cards, n.d. 

2 26

Newspaper Clippings 

Box Folder


2 27


2 28


2 29


2 30


2 31


2 32
Box Folder

Article on Agricultural College at Lansing, n.d. 

2 33

The Captives: Eleven Years as a Prisoner in Algiers by James L. Cathcart- retyped copy 

2 34

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Reel 1: Papers 


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People. Cathcart, John Lemon 

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