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Pearce Family Collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Pearce, James Alfred, 1804-1862

William Pearce, the ancestor of the family was granted the majority of present day Colchester lands (around 800 acres) in Kent County, Maryland. Gideon Pearce, his descendant, operated a ferry from the northern-most point of Colchester Farm across to Cecil County. James Alfred Pearce, Maryland representative and senator, was the son of Gideon Pearce and the grandson of James A. Pearce, Sr. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1822, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1824. Elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1831, Pearce went to Congress in 1835 as a Democrat, and served, with the exception of one term (1839-1841), until 1843, when he was elected to the United States Senate; there he remained until his death. During his long service in the Senate he was especially interested in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. Pearce took a deep interest in educational matters, and in 1832 he was elected one of the governors of Washington College. Convinced that he was more useful in the Senate, he declined two positions offered him by President Millard Fillmore. James Alfred Pearce's name was repeatedly mentioned for the presidency. His son, James A. Pearce, Jr., served in the Union Army (from Maryland) during the Civil War.

James Alfred Pearce, Sr., was the father of Gideon Pearce. He was Court Justice in Maryland from 1760 to 1764 and in 1774, Commissioner of Tax, 1777-1781, and served in the Lower House of the state legislature, 1782-1785.

The collection consists of selected correspondence and other material of Pearce family members: James Alfred Pearce, his father, Gideon Pearce, his grandfather, James Alfred Pearce, Sr., and his son, James A. Pearce, Jr. Correspondents include George Edmund Badger (1795-1866), Rufus Choate (1799-1859), Edward Everett (1794-1865), Benjamin Apthorp Gould (1824-1896), John Letcher (1813-1884), William Learned Marcy (1786-1857), Abel Parker Upshur (1791-1844), Severn Teackle Wallis (1816-1894), and Richard Henry Wilde (1789-1847). There are drafts of two letters by James Alfred Pearce to President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), dated July 19 and July 21, 1830, declining the position of Secretary of the Interior, as well as one letter from President Millard Fillmore, dated July 19, 1850, asking Pearce to join his cabinet as Secretary of the Interior. There is a letter from William Cabell Rives (1793-1868) relating to the Library of Congress and its acquisition of the James Madison manuscripts. There are three letters from President Franklin Pierce: the first (January 15, 1862) praises Pearce about a debate in the Senate regarding a resolution of Mr. Trumbull; the second (January 17, 1862), marked "Private," asks Pearce not to mention anything about "loyalties" mentioned in his previous letter; the third letter (February 18, 1862) asks Pearce for his opinions on some political matters. Included are letters to James A. Pearce, Jr., from friends and family members relating to the death of his father. There is a letter (1917) from James A. Pearce, Jr., to a family member ("My Dear Pearce") regarding letters (1820) which he found that his grandfather wrote to his father when he entered the College of New Jersey, and another letter (1822) dating from just after his father's graduation. He also mentions a poem titled "The Sacrifice," written by an admirer and addressed to his grandmother, Julia Pearce, dated October 12, 1804, a few months before she married. Those letters and poem are in the collection. Also included is the last will and testament of James Alfred Pearce, Sr., dated March 30, 1802.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

All items without an accesion number are the gift of Arthur W. Crisfield, 1958.

Letter to A. P. Upshur dated Dec. 21, 1841, AM 140 Pyne-Henry.

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Pearce, James Alfred: Letter from the House of Representatives to the Secretary of the Navy, 21 December 1841. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pearce, James Alfred: Miscellaneous Official Correspondence, 1830-1860. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Materials Viewable Online
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Pearce, James Alfred: Newspaper Clippings, 1856-1861. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pearce, James Alfred, Jr: Correspondence Regarding His Father, 1862-1917. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"The Sacrifice" Poem by W. Henry to Pearce's Mother, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pearce, Gideon: Letters, 1820-1822. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Pearce, James A: Last Will and Testament, 30 March 1802. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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