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Edwards Pierrepont papers

Call Number: MS 400

Scope and Contents

The Edwards Pierrepont Collection, though quite small, does provide important materials pertaining to various aspects of his professional and personal life. There are also materials relating to the important political issues of the day. The collection is divided into two series: CORRESPONDENCE and SPECIAL FILES. CORRESPONDENCE is divided into two subsections: "General Correspondence" and "Correspondence of Others."

"General Correspondence," which forms the major part of the series, includes letters about legal cases from clients and other lawyers, letters of congratulation on Pierrepont's appointments to various positions and on speeches he gave or pamphlets he wrote, letters from friends and officials in Great Britain, and letters concerning a published letter of advice written by Pierrepont to his son, Edward Pierrepont. In addition, there are letters from Samuel Augustus Willoughby Duffey (1843-1887), Pierrepont's nephew and a presbyterian minister and hymnologist, and from Samuel Augustus Willoughby, Pierrepont's father-in-law, for whom Pierrepont acted as attorney.

Many of the letters Pierrepont received relate to some of the important political issues of the day. There are, for example, a number of letters from William Maxwell Evarts, a classmate and life-long friend of Pierrepont's, who became Secretary of State and Attorney General. These include letters concerning Evarts' Civil War mission to England, the impeachment of President Johnson, the Hayes-Tilden election, and political affairs in general. There are also letters from Roscoe Conkling, mainly of a personal nature, but also touching upon the Republican party.

Pierrepont received a number of letters and telegrams pertaining to the Mississippi crisis, a series of armed uprisings by white vigilanties against the Negro "scalawag" coalition which formed the backbone of Radical Reconstruction in the south. Letters from the following persons are pertinent: Adelbert Ames, governor of Mississippi; Blanche Kelso Bruce; W. W. Dedrick; Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State; President Ulysses S. Grant, and his son, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (1852-1929); J. B. Guthrie; Levi P. Luckey, Grant's secretary; W. Noonan, and A. Warner.

Letters pertaining to the "whiskey ring" include those written to Pierrepont by Benjamin Helm Bristow, Secretary of the Treasury; David Patterson Dyer, United States representative, and President Grant. There are also letters written by Pierrepont to David Patterson Dyer, Scott Lord, and President Grant.

Letters on the question of bimetallic currency were written to Pierrepont by J. B. Bick, U. S. Senator; Richard P. Bland; Frederick Augustus Conkling, U. S. Representative; the National Bi-metallic Coinage Association; the National Executive Silver Committee (of which Pierrepont was a member); Henry E. Pierrepont; William E. Rogers; William Sawkerner; and William M. Stewart.

Other correspondents of note include Simeon E. Baldwin, jurist and governor of Connecticut; Henry Barnard, first U. S. commissioner of education; James Birney, lawyer and diplomat; George Bliss, U. S. district attorney for the southern district of New York; Simon Cameron, Secretary of War; Edward C. Cannington, U. S. district attorney for Washington; John Adams Dix, governor of New York and United States minister to France; Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College; Marshall O. Roberts, a leading capitalist; William H. Seward, secretary of state; Benjamin Silliman, Jr., chemist; and Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. There is also a letter and printed circular signed by William Marcy Tweed and others.

"Correspondence of Others" consists of letters received by Pierrepont's wife and a number of business letters received by Alfred H. P. Edwards, whose estate Pierrepont administered. Correspondents of note, not previously mentioned, includes Noah Davis, U. S. district attorney for the southern district of New York; Frederick William Seward, Undersecretary of State; John Palmer Usher, Secretary of the Interior; and Henry Ward Beecher.

SPECIAL FILES consists primarily of legal and financial documents, newspaper clippings, and copies of printed articles. Most of the legal material pertains to cases in which Pierrepont acted as attorney. In addition, there are affidavits, contracts, some of which relate to Pierrepont's private transactions as a property-holder, and papers relating to the estates which Pierrepont administered. The financial material consists mostly of receipts received by Pierrepont and his wife, purchases made in Europe. There are also insurance certificates, promissory notes, and miscellaneous receipts. Of particular interest are two proclamations (1874 and 1875) by President Grant concerning the Mississippi crisis.

A calendar of the important correspondence in the Collection is contained in the Appendix to this Register. Additional important correspondence has been added to the Collection since this calendar was completed.


  • 1813-1902


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in 1964 and 2003.


Arranged in two series and one addition: I. Correspondence, 1845-1902. II. Special Files, 1813-1902.


3.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence correspondence, legal and financial documents, printed matter, and other papers of Edwards Pierrepont, attorney, judge, Attorney General of the United States, and minister to Great Britain. Some of the correspondence relates to such questions as Reconstruction, bimetallism, the "whiskey ring" controversy, the Hayes-Tilden election, and the Republican Party. Important correspondents include William Maxwell Evarts, Adelbert Ames, Hamilton Fish, Ulysses S. Grant, William H. Seward, Edwin M. Stanton, and Roscoe Conkling.

Biographical / Historical

Edwards Pierrepont, attorney, judge, Attorney General of the United States, and minister to Great Britain, was born in North Haven, Connecticut, the son of Giles and Eunice (Munson) Pierpont (Edwards later adopted an early family spelling of his surname), March 4, 1817. He attended Yale College, graduating in 1837. Pierrepont studied law at the New Haven Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1840. From 1840 to 1841, he was a tutor at Yale. In the latter year he went to Columbus, Ohio, where he became a law partner of Phineas B. Wilcox. In 1846 he moved to New York City and established a successful legal practice. He also became an active worker for the Democratic party and was elected judge of the superior court of New York City in 1857. He was a supporter of the Union cause and helped to organize the War Democrats in support of the reelection of Lincoln in 1864. He returned to the regular Democratic party in the election of 1866, but with the nomination of Seymour and Blair in 1868, he switched his support to Ulysses S. Grant who later appointed him to several offices.

In 1867 Pierrepont assisted the United States Attorney General in the prosecution of John H. Surratt for complicity in the assassination of Lincoln. He was a member of the New York state constitutional convention, 1867-1868, and a member of the Committee of Seventy which exposed and attacked the "Tweed ring." Pierrepont was appointed Attorney General of the United States in 1875. From 1876 to 1877 he served as minister to Great Britain. In the latter part of his life, Pierrepont published many pamphlets on financial questions, most of which advocated the adoption of a bimetallic standard of currency.

Pierrepont was married in 1846 to Margaretta Willoughby of Brooklyn, New York. He died on March 6, 1892. (See also the chronology which follows).

CHRONOLOGY - Pierrepont, Edwards, 1817-1892

Born in North Haven, Connecticut, son of Giles and Eunice (Munson) Pierpont; great-great-grandson of the Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale College; christened Edwards Munson Pierpont
Entered Yale College in the Class of 1837; classmate of William Maxwell Evarts, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., Samuel Jones Tilden, and Morrison Remick Waite.
Graduated from Yale College.
Studied law in Columbus, Ohio and at New Haven Law School; served as a tutor in Yale College, 1840-1841.
Practiced law in Columbus, Ohio.
Removed to New York City and entered the practice of law; married Margaretta Willoughby.
Daughter, Margaretta Willoughby Pierrepont, born.
Elected Judge of the Superior Court of the City of New York (served 1857-1860).
Son, Edward Pierrepont, born.
Appointed to Special Commission on Prisoners of State, together with John Adams Dix.
Instrumental in organizing War-Democrats in favor of Lincoln's re-election.
Elected a member of the New York State Constitutional Convention; appointed by the United States Attorney General to conduct the prosecution against John H. Surratt, accomplice in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Supported Ulysses S. Grant for president.
Appointed United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (served 1869-1870).
Member of "Committee of Seventy" against "Tweed ring" in New York.
Named director, counsel, and treasurer of the Texas and Pacific Railroad.
Campaigned for Ulysses S. Grant in the Grant-Greeley presidential contest.
Declined nomination as United States Minister to Russia; awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Yale College.
Appointed United States Attorney General in the Grant Cabinet (served 1875-1876). Involved in prosecution of the "whiskey ring."
Appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain (served 1876-1877).
Awarded an honorary D.C.L. from Oxford University; re-entered private practice.
Elected director of the Chicago Central Elevated Railroad Company.
Death of son, Edward Pierrepont.
Died March 7 in New York City.
Guide to the Edwards Pierrepont Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Joy Pitman
April 1971
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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