William Alexander 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
William Alexander, who claimed the disputed ns2:title of Earl of Stirling, was an American major-general during the American Revolutionary War. He married Sarah Livingston, sister of the New Jersey governor William Livingston. During the French and Indian War, he joined the British Army Commissariat, where he became aide-de-camp to Governor William Shirley. He traveled to London in 1756 to testify on behalf of Shirley, who was facing charges of dereliction of duty. While there he claimed the vacant ns2:title of Earl of Stirling in the Peerage of Scotland, as senior male descendant of the first earl's grandfather, and was permitted to vote in an election of the Scottish representative peers. The British House of Lords refused to recognize his claim without proof of descent, but he continued to style himself Earl of Stirling all his life. He returned to America in 1761, using the ns2:title Lord Stirling, and was appointed Surveyor-General of the Province of New Jersey and was a member of the Provincial Council. When the American Revolutionary War began, Stirling was made a colonel in the New Jersey militia. He outfitted the militia at his own expense and was always willing to spend his own money in support of the cause. He distinguished himself early by leading a group of volunteers in the capture of an armed British transport. He built his grand estate in Basking Ridge, N.J., where George Washington occasionally stayed during the War.
The collection consists of selected correspondence and documents of and about William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling). Most of the correspondence dates from the American Revolutionary War. Apart from an autograph note about a visit to Colonel Peabody, there is only one other original letter by Alexander. In this letter, addressed to Brigadier General Smallwood and dated January 26, 1779, Stirling discusses military tactics. Other letters, all concerning military affairs, are from Alexander Hamilton, General John Peter Muhlenburg, Caleb North, William Woodford, and Col. Hay. In addition, there is correspondence between John Mehelm, sole executor of Alexander's estate, and Benjamin Robinson, a trustee of Alexander's estate, regarding a balance of $1500 from the proceeds of Alexander's estate.
Documents include one dated Nov. 1, 1779, about the conditions of a sale ("Vendue") of property belonging to Alexander in Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, N.J. Another one, dated Nov. 27, 1779, and signed by Elias Boudinot and addressed to Richard Stevens and John Mehelm, concerns land belonging to Alexander in Baskinridge, N.J.
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.
Note to Peabody was a gift of William Nelson in 1905.
Documents and letters related to William's estate were a gift of Lars de Lagerberg, Friend of the Library, on May 16, 1950.
Correspondence during the Revolutionary War was a gift of Mrs. Archibald Crossley (Mr. Crossley was a member of the Princeton Class of 1917) in December 30, 1964. Various AM.
This collection was processed by Dina Britain on May 7, 2009. Finding aid written by Elizabeth Mulvey on June 9, 2009. Folder Inventory added by Hilde Creager (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.