Charles and Levi Woodbury Papers, 1833-1894 – MS014

Charles and Levi Woodbury Papers, 1833-1894 – MS014

Source: Gift of Mrs. Louis deRochemont of New Castle, N.H. in 1983; Letters from Levi Woodbury to his family in1833 [folders #1-4, 40 pieces] gift of Joseph W.P. Frost.

Citation: Levi Woodbury Papers, MS014, Portsmouth Athenaeum

Size: 1 Hollinger Box (.5 linear foot)

Access: No restrictions

Processed by: Carolyn Eastman in October 1990

Related Materials: Levi Woodbury Correspondence [1827-28] in Portsmouth Athenaeum Records [Ms. 1], Box 25, Folder 4. On subject of Athenaeum as repository of government documents.


Chiefly correspondence of Charles Woodbury and his father, Levi Woodbury (1789-1851), governor, legislator, cabinet official, and U.S. Supreme Court justice; and other papers of Charles Woodbury, including speech (1854), bills, receipts, legal papers, and other materials. Includes correspondence of Levi Woodbury, chiefly with family members, reflecting his travels (April-May, 1833) by steam and rail along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Georgia, describing places seen, fellow travelers, floggings of slaves, and immigrants heading west; information concerning Levi Woodbury’s support of James Madison during the War of 1812, his appointments as secretary of the U.S. Navy by Andrew Jackson and secretary of the treasury (a post he retained during Martin Van Buren’s administration), and nomination for the U.S. presidency; correspondence of Charles Woodbury, principally with his father, relating to business, family, and personal matters; love-letters of Charles Woodbury written to Lily Macalester; and materials relating to Frederick Warren, a bark owned by C.L. Woodbury, sailing out of Boston, the family residence in Portsmouth, Woodbury School (Portsmouth), and Free Will Baptist Church, Lowell, Mass. Correspondents of Charles Woodbury include his sister and brother-in-law, Frances (Woodbury) Blair and Montgomery Blair, Nehemiah Eastman, G.V. Fox, Archibald H. Lowery, Asa Ham, and John B. Rittenhouse.

Scope and Content

This collection consists lmost entirely of correspondences. It is divided into two subgroups: the papers of Levi Woodbury, comprised of correspondence [1833-44] and one updatd speech, and the papers of Charles levi Woodbury, comprised of correspondence [1842-68] and a small number of legal, financial, and miscellaneous papers.

The large part of the correspondence of Levi Woodbury are daily letters written by him to his family during April-May 1833, while trqeling by steamboat and railroad along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, visiting Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, Geogia etc. These letters are descriptive rather than opinionated, discussing the scenery, Negro floggings, wighting emigrants heading West, and his fellow trqvelers and thir politicl opinions; he incudes stories about gambling and drinking. Extract from these letters were published in the third volumne of the Writings of Levi Woodbury, edited by Charles Levi Woodbury and published in 1852. Each letter is numbered and dated in a red pencil, and the pieces used in the book are marked. There are some gaps in the numbering indicating that some letters qare missing. The rest of Levi’s correspondence and his speech date from the 1840’s.

The bulk of Charles levi Woodbury’s papers date from 1847-55 and are divided into two series, Correspondence and Other Papers. Charles’ most frequesnt correspondent was his father, whose letters discussed business, family and personal matters. Other correspondents include his uncle, Nehemiah Eastman, his sister Frances ‘woodbury Blair and her husband Montgomery Glair [Pres. Lincoln’s postmaster general]; his rothers-in-law G.V. Fox [Lincoln’s Assistent Secretary of the Navy] and Archibald H. Lowery; and Asa Ham, who cared for the Woodbury mansion in Portsmouth. There are also a number of love letters to and from Lily Macalester.

Charles’ other papers include an 1894 speech given before the Woodbury School in Portsmouth, small number of legal papers, bills, receipts, and cancelled checks, and some miscellaneous material. His conntection to some of the legal and miscellaneous papers is not clear; these papers incjde an 1845 report report of crew disobedience aboard the Bark Frederick Warren of Boston; a copy of an 1836 deed for the Lowell [Mass.] Free Will Baptist Church; and an 1857 hand-drawn cartoon. Two deRochemont pieces have been seperated from the Woodbury papers, and it is possible some of the miscellaneous material may not be connected.

Biographical Notes

Levi Woodbury (22 Dec. 1789 – 4 Sept. 1891) was born in Francestown, N.H., to Peter and Mary Woodbury. He attended Atkinson Academy and graduated from Dartmouth College with honors in 1809. He studied law under Judge Jeremiah Smith at the Litchfield [Conn.] Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1812, starting a practice in Francestown. In June 1819 he married Elizabeth Williams Clapp [1796-1873], the daughter of Asa Clapp [a wealthy merchant] and Elizabeth Wendell Quincy of Portland, and the couple moved to a 40-acre home on what is now Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth. Their children were Charles Levi Woodbury [see below], Mary Elizabeth [married Montgomery Blair], Francis Anstris [married Archibald H. Lowery], Virginia Lafayette [married G.V. Fox], and Ellen Carolina Woodbury, who never married.

After serving in several public offices in New Hampshire, including terms as governor and judge of the state superior court, Woodbury was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1825. He supported such legislation as the annexation of Texas, the occupational of Oregon, and lowering duties on salt, tea and other staples. He was one of the government officials who arranged for the Portsmouth Athenaeum to become a repository of government documents. Woodbury left the Senate in 1831 when he was appointed Secretary of the Navy by Pres. Andrew Jackson. Among other accomplishments in this post, he reorganized the Coast Survey, recommended the formation of the steam marine, and encouraged temperance among sailors by replacing the liquor rations with cash pay. In 1832 he wrote a report of the use of live oak for the navy.

In 1834 Woodbury was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by Jackson, a post he retained during the whole of Martin Van Buren’s administration, retiring on the inauguration of Pres. Harrison in 1841. It was during this term that the controversy of the Bank of the United States was debated between the Democrats and Whigs. Woodbury had been an opponent of the policy of the Bank as early as 1829, charging its officers with political favoritism. Jackson was anxious to dissolve the Bank, believing that centralized banking was an enemy to democracy. As Secretary to the Treasury Woodbury arranged for government receipts to be deposited in state and local banks, rendering the U.S. Bank inactive. He also had the national debt paid off, and asked the Congress to use the government’s financial surplus in the treasury for public works.

Woodbury was again elected to the U.S. senate in 1841, where he spoke for the eto power of the president, claining that without it the executive would be “mere pageant.” In 1845 he accepted President Polk’s appointment to the Supreme Court. As a justice he gave the opinion of the court that slavery was ” a political question, settled by each stte for itself.” He wrote extensively on the subject of slavery, the rights of the states in relation to the federal government, and the enforcement of objectionalbe laws.In 1848 Woodbury was nominated for the U.S. Presidency by the Democratic Party and at the time of his death in 181 was consided the likely presidential candidate. He died in Portsmouth of bronchial troubles.

Charles Levi Woodbury (22 May 1820 – July 1898) was born and educated in Portsmouth. He studied at Georgetown university and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia at the age of eighteen. Woodbury never married.

After passing the bar, Woodbury studied law in Hayneville, Alabama, for weveral years. In about 1845 he settled in Bosotn and began to practise law with the girm Rantoul, Woodbury and Upham. A Democrat, he apparently had no political ambition for office, declining a foreigh missin to Bolivia offered by President Franklin Pierce in 1853. He did attend conventions and campaigned for the Democratic party throughout his life.

Woodbury held several judicial position in Massachusetts. He was admitted to the bar of the supreme court in Boston on a motino by Daniel Webster; from 1858-61 he served as U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts. He was an avid student of history and law, writing for magaines on such subjects as reciprocity with Canada and the decay of U.S. navigation. In 1852 he edited the writings of his father levi; he also reserarched his family genealogy, published after his death by his sister Ellen. He was involved as a Mason in Massachusetts, and was a proprietor of the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

He inherited his father’s library and was active as a book collector. In 1872 the great fire of Boston destroyed a large portion of his books, about half of which were rare books and incunabla. he bequeathed his library to the thenaeum in 1899.

The Woodbury mansion in Portsmouth was the family’s summer home until Levi Woodbury’s death in 1851. Elizabeth Woodbury inhabited the home until her death in 1873, after which it was not used by the family. Charles Woodbury died in Boston in 1898 and was buried in the family plot at Harmony Grove.

Biographical Timeline

1789 Levi Woodbury [LW] born, Francestown, N.H.

1805-09 LW studied and graduated from Dartmouth.

1812 LW admitted to bar. Practiced law in Francestown. Supported Madison in War of 1812 and wroteThe Hillsborough Resolves in response to Daniel Webster’s Rockingham Resolutions Condemning the war.

1816 LW elected clerk of the N.H. Senate. On board of trustees of Dartmouth College.

1817 LW appointed judge of N.H. Superior Court by Gov. William Plumer.

1819 LW married Elizabeth Williams Clapp.

1820 Son Charles Levi Woodbury [CLW] born.

1821 LW buys share # 24, Portsmouth Athenaeum.

1823-25 LW Governor of New Hampshire.

1825 LW Speaker, N.H. House of Representatives.

1825-31 LW U.S. Senator.

1831-34 LW Secretary of Navy.

1834-41 LW Secretary of Treasury.

1838 ? CLW admitted to bar in Washington D.C.

1841-45 LW U.S. Senate.

1842 ?-44 ? CLW practiced law in Hayneville, Alabama.

1845-51 LW U.S. Supreme Court.

1845 ? CLS member firm of Rantoul, Woodbury & Upham.

1848 LW nominated for U.S. Presidency.

1849-52 CLW U.S. Commissioner of Circuit Court, Dept. of Massachusetts.

1851 LW died in Portsmouth.

1853 CLW declined mission to Bolivia, offered by President Pierce.

1856 CLW delegate to Democratic convention, nominating James Buchanan.

1857 CLW served in lower house of N.H. legislature.

1858-61 CLW served as U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts.

1870-71 CLW served in Massachusetts House of Reps.

1872 Great fire of Boston, destroying about 2000 volumes of CLS’s library.

1873 Elizabeth W.C. Woodbury died.

1897 CLW elected head of U.S. Circuit Court bar commission.

1898 CLW died in Boston. Athenaeum share # 24 passed to CLW’s nephew,Woodbury Blair.

1899 Library of CLW bequeathed to Portsmouth Athenaeum.

1900 Woodbury Mansion in Portsmouth is sold to Frank Jones.


Cole Donald B. Jacksonian Democra y in New Hampshire, 1800-51. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.

McGee, John Paul. Levi Woodbury: The Portrait of a Supreme Curt Justice. Williamsburg, VA: College of William and Mary, Marshall Wythe School of Law, 1975 [essay].

Woodbury, Charles Levi, edited by E.C.D.Q. Woodbury. Genealogical Sketches of the Woodbury Family. Mahcnester, NH: John B. Clarke Company, 1904. Contains an introductory memoir of Charles Woodbury by his sister.

Woodbury, Charles Levi. Memoir of Levi Woodbury. Cambridge, MA: John Wilson & Son, 1881.

Woodbury, Levi, edited by Charles Levi Woodbury. Writings of Levi Woodbury, LL.D.:Political, Judicial, and Literary. Bosotn: Little, Brown and Company, 1852. In three volumes.

Series List

I. Levi Woodbury

II. Charles Levi Woodbury

A. Correspondence

B. Other Papers


I. Levi Woodbury

Folder 1-4 Letters to Family, 1833 [40 pieces]

Folder 5 General Correspondence and Speech, 1844 [8 pieces]

II. Charles Levi Woodbury

A. Correspondence

Folder 6 Frances Ann Woodbury Blair, 1849-55 [9 pieces]

Folder 7 Montgomery Blair, 1848-55 [12 pieces]

Folder 8 A.L.E. Clapp, 1846, 1850 [2 pieces]

Folder 9 Nehemiah Eastman, 1853 [3 pieces]

Folder 10 G.V. Fox, 1851-68 [3 pieces]

Folder 11 George Gifford, 1850 [4 pieces]

Folder 12 Asa ham, 1850-54 [4 pieces]

Folder 13 Archibald H. Lowery, 1850-58 [13 pieces]

Folder 14-15 Lily Macalester 1854-55 [22 pieces]

Folder 16-17 J.B. Rittenhouse, 1843-68 [24 pieces]

Folder 18-21 Levi Woodbury, 1842-51 [60 pieces]

Folder 22-28 General Correspondence, 1842-68 [116 pieces]

Folder 29 Correspondence of firm Rantoul, Woodbury and Upham, 1846 [2 pieces]

B. Other Papers

Folder 30 Speech at Installation of School [Woodbury School?] in Portsmouth, 1854 [5 pages]

Folder 31 Bills, Receipts, and Cancelled Checks, 1854-94 [19 pieces]

Folder 32 Legal Papers, 1836-49. [6 pieces]

Folder 33 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1846-85 [7 pieces]

Folder 34 Miscellaneous, 1841-57 [4 pieces]

Oversized Box 2

Folder 11 Report of Crew Disobedience on Bark Frederick Waren, 1845.