Abraham Baldwin papers

Abraham Baldwin papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: University of Georgia Archives
Creator: Baldwin, Abraham, 1754-1807
Title: Abraham Baldwin papers
Dates: 1770-1808
Quantity: 0.5 Linear feet (1 box)
Coll. Number: UA97-092

Biographical/Historical Note

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.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence, remarks about and copies of legislation, financial documents, and writings by Abraham Baldwin.


Organized into four series: Addresses, correspondence, invitations and notices; legislative documents; fiscal documents; and miscellaneous documents.

Index Terms

Account books.
Adams, John, 1735-1826 -- Correspondence
Baldwin, Abraham, 1754-1807 -- Diaries
Budget--United States.
Debts, Public--Georgia.
Debts, Public--United States.
Few, William, 1748-1828 -- Correspondence
Financial records.
Findley, William, 1741 or 2-1821 -- Correspondence
Georgia--Politics and government--1775-1865.
Hull, William, 1753-1825 -- Correspondence
Jackson, James, 1757-1806 -- Correspondence
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Correspondence
Legislation--United States.
Legislative records.
Literature--Georgia--History and criticism.
Mansfield, Jared, 1759-1830 -- Correspondence
Maps (documents)
Maritime law--United States.
Natural law.
Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829 -- Correspondence
Revolutionary literature, American.
Saint Louis (Mo.)--Description and travel.
State universities and colleges--Law and legislation--Georgia.
Tariff--United States.
Taxation--United States.
United States--Foreign relations--1783-1815.
United States--Foreign relations--Treaties.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Claims.
United States--Militia.
United States--Politics and government--1783-1809.
United States.. (Title of a work--Constitution.; )
University of Georgia.
Yazoo Fraud, 1795.

General Notes

RG 1

Administrative Information

Custodial History note

Eighty-six of the 88 documents in the Abraham Baldwin Papers (1770-1808) came to the University of Georgia in 1901 as a result of a gift from Mrs. John F. Weir (Mary French Weir). 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.

Preferred Citation

Abraham Baldwin papers, UA97-092, University Archives, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing


1. 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.
11Address of Founding of University of Georgia [with transcription and scan], 1785 February 25
2Corres. John Adams to Wilkes Co. Grand Jury (copy), 1798 December 24
3Corres. John Adams to U.S. Senate (copy), 1799 December 31
4Corres. A. Baldwin to U.S. President, 1799 December 27
5Corres. A. Baldwin to Mordecai Sheftall, 1797 January 31
6Corres. A. Baldwin to (?) concerning Georgia, 1800 December 4
7Corres. A. Baldwin to Commissioners on Ga. Boundary, 1800 January 30
8Corres. Peter Crawford to Baldwin, 1804 December 2
9Corres. Peter Crawford to General Dearborn (War Dept.), 1804 December 2
10Corres. Peter Crawford to Baldwin, 1806 December 7
11Corres. Obadiah Crawford to Baldwin, 1805 September 26
12Corres. John Donnelly to Baldwin (Virginia land bounty), 1804 October 29
13Corres. William Few to Baldwin (University Treasurer), 1799 December 21
14Corres. William Findley, 1808 May 22
15Corres. James Gunn to Baldwin (Ga lands for sale), 1796 March 9
16Corres. John Habersham to Baldwin, 1802 March 15
17Corres. S. Hammond to Baldwin (life in St. Louis), 1806 January 29
18Corres. S. Hammond to Baldwin (life in St. Louis) [transcribed], 1806 December 13
19Corres. William Hull to Baldwin (Georgia Land Purchases), 1800 March 11
20Invitation to Confederational Congress (in Latin), 1781 November 4
21Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (Univ. Senatus Academicus), 1800 November 26
22Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin, 1800 December 5
23Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (Senatus Academicus), 1800 December 10
24Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (land cessesion cover letter), 1800 December 10
25Corres. James Jackson to "Gentleman" (legislative cover), 1800 December 10
26Corres. James Jackson to Baldwin (University Act), 1801 January 13
27Corres. Thomas Jefferson to Baldwin (copy) Indian negotiations (copy), 1801 July 13
28Corres. Samuel Lyman to Baldwin (Sedgewick scandal), 1794 January 2
29Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (western expansion), 1806 January 1
30Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (western expansion), 1806 December 6
31Corres. Jared Mansfield to Baldwin (Cincinnati/western lands), 1807 January 10
32Corres. James McNeil to Baldwin (land commission), 1800 December 5
33Corres. R. Patterson to George Logan (AB pendulum query), 1805 January 12
34Corres. R. Patterson to George Logan (AB pendulum query), 1805 January 13
35Corres. Timothy Pickering to Baldwin (terr. claims commission), 1799 December 30
36Corres. Timothy Pickering to Baldwin (commission meeting), 1800 February 27
37Corres. Fragment (AB?) regarding U.S. Frontier interests
38Corres. to Paterson (sic) regarding outfitting boy's academy
39Corres. Aquila Scott to William Few (power of attorney), 1799 April 11
40Corres. James Sullivan to Baldwin (Georgia land purchase), 1800 March 11
41Notice of meeting, Commissioners of Georgia, 1800 March 11
42Corres. unknown author (Augusta) re Pickering's French post, 1799 February 28
43Corres. extract of a letter warning of ambition in Washington's aide-de-camp [Alexander Hamilton mentioned], circa 1790s

2. 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.
144Legislation: an act opening the Land Office, 1783 February 17
45Legislation: ratification of Articles, Georgia Constitution, 1789 May 6
46Legislative: Congressional testimony on Yazoo Act, 1796 January 22
47Legislation: an act for Land Appropriation, 1796 February 13
48Legislative: journal of Georgia State Land Commissioners, 1799 December 3
49Legislation: resolution against war with the French Republic, 1799
50Legislative: remarks on dispute with England, 1790s
51Legislative: remarks by AB pertaining to Foreign Ministers, 1798 February
52Legislative: remarks by AB on Congress' Rules and Practices, 1790s
53Legislative: remarks by AB on Public Debt, 1790s
54Legislative: propositions for Land Claims, 1800 March 12
55Legislative: remarks by AB on U.S. Propositions, 1800 March 13
56Legislative: appointment of Georgia Electors, 1800 November 18
57Legislative: address and remonstrance to U.S. Congress [by Georgia General Assembly] (2 copies), 1800 December 2
58Legislative: act enlarging powers of Georgia Commisioner's (2 copies), 1800 December 2
59Legislation: letters of transfer of Gen. Assembly action (2 copies), 1800 December 2
60Legislation: an act Locating the State University (GA) (2 copies), 1800 December 5
61Legislative: report of Senate Committee on French Spoliations, 1802 April
62Legislative: deposition of Revolutionary War Service (Donnelly), 1804 October 22
63Legislative: petition regarding the collection of import duties, 1804
64Legislative: report on the State of the Republic [Legislature of Georgia], 1806 January 3
65Legislation: A bill for classing the Militia, 1806 February 20
66Legislative: A bill to incorporate a national academy, 1806 March 4
67Legislative: An act to establish uniform weights and measures [considered by 2nd Congress], circa 1791-1793
68Legislative: remarks by AB on Navigation Laws, circa 1794
69Legislative: AB's notes on debate of the Treaty with England [per House debate of Jay Treaty?], circa 1794
70Legislative: Committee resolution on import duties and taxes
71Legislative: chart on "suability", Chisholm v. Georgia
72Legislative: muliple fragments (6) of legislation cover letters, 1783-1796
73Legislative: abstract (AB), Act of Assumption [1st Congress?], circa 1790
74Legislative: remarks by AB on Federal Manuvres (sic), 1800 December

3. Fiscal documents

These five documents touch on both Georgia and Federal debt analysis, land purchase, and federal budget analysis.
175Analysis of U.S. Debt, 1787
76Analysis of State of Georgia Debt (John Meals), 1790 April 30
77Analysis of debt to State of Georgia (Edward Telfair), 1790 June 7
78Land Purchase documents (William Longstreet), 1800 April 5
79Notes pertaining to federal budget analysis, 1792-1805

4. 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.
180AB journal entries pertaining to Indian customs, 1770s
81AB journal with entries from Barlow's Commonplace Book, 1770s
82Attestation of W. Warner to [French and Indian] war service [circa 1758] of J. Donnelly, 1800 December 29
83AB book of accounts, 1800-1806
84Essay fragment on right to revolt against England, post 1798 February
85AB's observation on the literature of Georgia
86AB Essay on Natural Law, 1770s
87AB map of Georgia
88AB essay on the nature of the federal constitution
89Thomas Jefferson to Baldwin on Indian Negotiations [framed photocopy; see also folder 27], 1801 July 13