University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries
University of Georgia Libraries

Finding Aid for Abraham Baldwin Papers c. 1770-1808 (UGA 97-092)

A Note on the Collection
Scope and Contents
Contents Inventory

Record Group 1 : President's Office
.50 Cubic Feet : 1 Hollinger box

Introduction to the Collection:

Abraham Baldwin, Georgia politician and educator, and Founder of the University of Georgia, was born in North Guilford, Connecticut, on November 22, 1754, to Michael and Lucy Dudley Baldwin. Michael, the local blacksmith, had moved his family (including Abraham and his seven half-siblings) to New Haven to secure an education for his children. There, Abraham attended Yale College, and remained three years after graduation to study theology. He was licensed to preach in 1775, but became a tutor at Yale instead, remaining there until 1779. He joined the Continental Army as a Chaplain, serving in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. During this service, he met George Washington, Nathanael Greene, and other future leaders. Yale asked him to return as a professor of Divinity in 1781, but Baldwin declined, preferring to study the law rather than submit to the narrow controlled environment at the college. After he was licensed to practice, he elected to move to Georgia in 1783, probably at the urging of Greene.

Settling in Savannah, Baldwin quickly found his place in Georgia, and followed the relocation of the state capitol to Augusta. In the fall of 1784, he was elected to the legislature from Wilkes County, and soon became well-to-do by means of his thriving law practice. In February of 1784, he had been asked to sit on a board of trustees charged with administering a land grant of 40,000 acres set aside by the state for the purpose of establishing a "College or Seminary of Learning". Baldwin wrote the charter for the University of Georgia, and saw it adopted by the state legislature in January of 1785. This charter was the first ever written and adopted for a state-supported public University.

The University, originally to be sited at the planned new state capitol in Louisville, was not built until 1801 due to a war with Creek Indians, and then it was situated at a spot on the Oconee River selected by a committee led by Baldwin. The town was named Athens, and work on the actual University was begun. Also in 1785, Baldwin was named a delegate to the Confederation Congress, where he served until the Constitution became the law of the land. From 1788 to 1798, he served in the House of Representatives, and he was elected a Senator by the state legislature that same year. He would remain in the U.S . Senate until his death, serving several times as President pro tempore of that body. He chaired the committee which structured the national executive branch, and accomplished much in the area of negotiations with the various Indian tribes in his adopted home state.

A man of enormous personal integrity, he was able to avoid a duel when challenged. Baldwin was firmly committed to states' rights, and felt that, although slavery was wrong, that Georgia would eventually abandon it. He was opposed to war as a tool of political policy, and though originally more conservative in his political philosophies, gradually became more liberal, and counted Thomas Jefferson as a close friend.

The day after the closing session of the 9th session of Congress (March 4, 1807), Abraham Baldwin died in Washington D.C., and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.

Source: Dictionary of Georgia Biography, Vol. 1, p. 47-8, E. Merton Coulter.

A Note on the Collection:

Eighty-six of the 88 documents in the Abraham Baldwin Papers came to the University of Georgia in 1901 as a result of a gift from Mrs. John F. Weir (Mary French Weir), whose relation, E.D. Weir, alerted the University to the existence of the documents in the following letter:

"58 Trumbull Street
New Haven.

To the Secretary of the University of Georgia:
My Dear Mr. Hull,

Mrs. John F. Weir (Mary French Weir) wishes to present to the University of Georgia some papers that relate to the State of Georgia, and to Georgia University, dated a hundred years ago. These papers belonged to Abraham Baldwin, and there passed to his nephew Rev. Dr. John W. French, and were found a few months ago in an old trunk in the attic of the house of Dr. French's daughter Mrs. Weir.

It seems to Mrs. Weir that the University of Georgia would appreciate the value of such documents as connected with the early history of the University and state, and if you will kindly let me know where and to whom to send these papers. Mrs. Weir will express them to Georgia on receipt of your letter.

Very Truly yours
E.D. Weir
September the second

In October of 1954, Dr. E. Merton Coulter donated to the collection the document "Observations on ye Literature of Georgia", which he had found amongst the papers of the late University Professor H.C. White.

In January of 1963, a letter was purchased from the estate of Lester Hargrett. This letter, dated January 31, 1797, was from Baldwin to Mordecai Sheftall, pertaining to a pending claim the latter had in Congress.

The collection was held with the other manuscript collections in the University of Georgia Libraries until some time between 1974 and 1979, when the papers were transferred to University Archives. In that same time period, the papers were microfilmed.

Note on the January, 2010 Edit: We have made some emendations to the finding aid, and we thank Steven Scurry for his assistance in this regard.

Scope and Content Note:

The Abraham Baldwin Papers consist of documents generated between (circa) 1770 and 1818, as well as numerous undated documents. These documents have been organized in the following series:

Addresses, Correspondence, Invitations and Notices: These 43 items are arranged alphabetically first by type, and within the correspondence, by author. In the case of multiple same-party correspondence, the items are arranged chronologically. Of particular interest is correspondence with/from John Adams, Peter and Obadiah Crawford, William Few, William Findley, John Habersham, William Hull, James Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Lyman, Jared Mansfield, and Timothy Pickering. Two letters from S. Hammond to Baldwin regarding life in St. Louis in 1806 are insightful into frontier conditions, and there are likewise two letters (Patterson to Logan) which discuss a query by Baldwin as to the nature of the pendulum. Finally, there is an undated fragment of a letter warning of excessive ambition in General Washington's aide-de-camp.

Legislative Documents: Thirty-one documents comprise this series, which is generally ordered chronologically, with non-dated documents following those with actual or assigned dates. These papers compass a broad range of legislative issues, including foreign policy initiatives, land disputes, state and federal legislative processes and statutes, Revolutionary War service claims, acts pertaining to the State University, proposals for a national militia and national academy, treaties, navigation law, and duties and taxation. There is also a Report on the State of the Republic, dated 1806.

Fiscal Documents: These five documents touch on both Georgia and Federal debt analysis, land purchase, and federal budget analysis.

Miscellaneous Documents: The final nine documents are widely divergent, including Baldwin Journal entries, his book of accounts for the years 1800-1806, Baldwin essays on the right of revolt against England, natural law, and the nature of the federal constitution. There are also his Observations on the Literature of Georgia, extracts from Joel Barlow's Commonplace Book, and a hand-drawn map of Georgia which appears to date from the last decade of the 18th Century, though it is undated.

Box 1 Contents Inventory

1 Address of Founding of University of Georgia [w/transcription & scan]
Feb. 25, 1785
Corres. John Adams to Wilkes Co. Grand Jury (copy)
Dec. 24, 1798
Corres. John Adams to U.S. Senate (copy)
Dec. 31, 1799
Corres. A. Baldwin to U.S. President
Dec.27, 1799
Corres. A. Baldwin to Mordecai Sheftall
Jan. 31, 1797
Corres. A. Baldwin to (?) concerning Georgia
Dec. 4, 1800
Corres. A. Baldwin to Commissioners on Ga. Boundary
Jan. 30, 1800
Corres. Peter Crawford to Baldwin
Dec. 2, 1804
Corres. Peter Crawford to General Dearborn (War Dept.)
Dec. 2, 1804
Corres. Peter Crawford to Baldwin
Dec. 7, 1806
Corres. Obadiah Crawford to Baldwin
Sept. 26, 1805
Corres. John Donnelly to Baldwin (Virginia land bounty)
Oct. 29, 1804
Corres. William Few to Baldwin (University Treasurer)
Dec. 21, 1799
Corres. William Findley
May 22, 1808
Corres. James Gunn to Baldwin (Ga lands for sale)
Mar. 9, 1796
Corres. John Habersham to Baldwin
Mar. 15, 1802
Corres. S. Hammond to Baldwin (life in St. Louis)
Jan. 29, 1806
Corres. S. Hammond to Baldwin (life in St. Louis) [transcribed]
Dec. 13, 1806
Corres. William Hull to Baldwin (Georgia Land Purchases)
Mar. 11, 1800
Invitation to Confederational Congress (in Latin)
Nov. 4, 1781
Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (Univ. Senatus Academicus)
Nov. 26, 1800
Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin
Dec. 5, 1800
Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (Senatus Academicus)
Dec. 10, 1800
Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (land cessesion cover letter)
Dec. 10, 1800
Corres. James Jackson to "Gentleman" (legislative cover)
Dec. 10, 1800
Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (University Act)
Jan. 13, 1801
Corres. Thomas Jefferson to Baldwin (copy) Indian negotiations (copy)
Jul. 13, 1801
Corres. Samuel Lyman to Baldwin (Sedgewick scandal)
Jan. 2, 1794
Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (western expansion)
Jan. 1, 1806
Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (western expansion)
Dec. 6, 1806
Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (Cincinnati/western lands)
Jan. 10, 1807
Corres. James McNeil to Baldwin (land commission)
Dec. 5, 1800
Corres. R. Patterson to George Logan (AB pendulum query)
Jan. 12, 1805
Corres. R. Patterson to George Logan (AB pendulum query)
Jan. 13, 1805
Corres. Timothy Pickering to Baldwin (terr. claims commission)
Dec. 30, 1799
Corres. Timothy Pickering to Baldwin (commission meeting)
Feb. 27, 1800
Corres. Fragment (AB?) regarding U.S. Frontier interests
Corres. to Paterson (sic) regarding outfitting boy's academy
Corres. Aquila Scott to William Few (power of attorney)
Apr. 11, 1799
Corres. James Sullivan to Baldwin (Georgia land purchase)
Mar. 11, 1800
Notice of meeting, Commissioners of Georgia
Mar. 11, 1800
Corres. Unknown Author (Augusta) re Pickering's French post
Feb. 28, 1799
Corres. Extract of a letter warning of ambition in Washington's aide-de-camp [Alexander Hamilton mentioned]
c. 1790s
Legislation: An Act Opening the Land Office
Feb. 17, 1783
Legislation: Ratification of Articles, Georgia Constitution
May 6, 1789
Legislative: Congressional testimony on Yazoo Act
Jan. 22, 1796
Legislation: An Act for Land Appropriation
Feb. 13, 1796
Legislative: Journal of Georgia State Land Commissioners
Dec. 3, 1799
Legislation: Resolution against war with the French Republic
Legislative: Remarks on Dispute with England
Legislative: Remarks by AB pertaining to Foreign Ministers
[Feb. 1798]
Legislative: Remarks by AB on Congress' Rules and Practices
Legislative: Remarks by AB on Public Debt
Legislative: Propositions for Land Claims
Mar. 12, 1800
Legislative: Remarks by AB on U.S. Propositions
Mar. 13, 1800
Legislative: Appointment of Georgia Electors
Nov. 18, 1800
Legislative: Address & Remonstrance to U.S. Congress [by Georgia General Assembly] (2 copies)
Dec. 2, 1800
Legislative: Act Enlarging powers of  Georgia Commisioner's (2 copies)
Dec. 2, 1800
Legislation: Letters of transfer of Gen. Assembly action (2 copies)
Dec. 2, 1800
Legislation: An Act Locating the State University (GA) (2 copies)
Dec. 5, 1800
Legislative: Report of Senate Committee on French Spoliations
April 1802
Legislative: Deposition of Revolutionary War Service (Donnelly)
Oct. 22, 1804
Legislative: Petition regarding the collection of import duties
Legislative: Report on the State of the Republic [Legislature of Georgia]
Jan. 3, 1806
Legislation: A Bill for classing the Militia
Feb. 20, 1806
Legislative: A Bill to incorporate a national academy
Mar. 4, 1806
Legislative: An Act to establish uniform weights and measures [considered by 2nd Congress]
[c. 1791-1793]
Legislative: Remarks by AB on Navigation Laws
[c. 1794]
Legislative: AB's notes on debate of the Treaty with England [per House debate of Jay Treaty?]
[c. 1794?]
Legislative: Committee resolution on import duties and taxes
Legislative: Chart on "suability", Chisholm v. Georgia
Legislative: Muliple fragments (6) of legislation cover letters
Legislative: Abstract (AB), Act of Assumption [1st Congress?]
[c. 1790?]
Legislative: Remarks by AB on Federal Manuvres (sic)
Dec., 1800
Fiscal: Analysis of U.S. Debt
Fiscal: Analysis of State of Georgia Debt (John Meals)
Apr. 30, 1790
Fiscal: Analysis of debt to State of Georgia (Edward Telfair)
June 7, 1790
Fiscal: Land Purchase documents (William Longstreet)
Apr. 5, 1800
Fiscal: Notes pertaining to federal budget analysis
Miscellaneous: AB Journal entries pertaining to Indian customs
[c. 1770s?]
Miscellaneous: AB Journal w/entries from Barlow's Commonplace Book
Miscellaneous: Attestation of W. Warner to [French and Indian] war service [c.1758] of J. Donnelly
Dec. 29, 1800
Miscellaneous: AB Book of Accounts
Miscellaneous: Essay fragment on right to revolt against England
[post-Feb. 1798]
Miscellaneous: AB's Observation on the literature of Georgia
Miscellaneous: AB Essay on Natural Law
[c. 1770s?]
Miscellaneous: AB Map of Georgia
Miscellaneous: AB Essay on the nature of the federal constitution
89. Miscellaneous: Thomas Jefferson to Baldwin on Indian Negotiations [framed photocopy; see also Folder 27] July 13, 1801

Gilbert Head, Jennifer Keller and Brandy Savarese April 1998/January 2010