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Charles William Cathcart papers

Identifier: 00006

Scope and Contents

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. The governor appointed James as first lieutenant and regimental quartermaster for Company S and F of the 99th Indiana Infantry on August 27, 1862. He mustered out on June 5, 1865. Will mustered in on August 9, 1862, in Company E of the 4th Indiana Cavalry. He was killed in a skirmish at Rutherford Creek, Tennessee, sometime in 1863. Most letters deal with camp life and duties as well as political activities during the Civil War. Also included is Charles' suggestion to amend the Constitution to give 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.


  • Creation: 1821 - 1889


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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


0.66 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

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

Legal Status

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

Charles William Cathcart Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US