James L. Stanton Correspondence
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
James L. Stanton was born in Wilmington, Newcastle County, Delaware, circa 1858-1862, the son of Louis Stanton and Elizabeth R. Stanton. He became a lawyer by his early twenties in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and practiced law until at least 1920. Stanton worked in the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. under Attorney General Benjamin Harris Brewster (1816-1888), first as Chief Pardon Clerk from 1882 to 1884, and then as General Agent from 1884 to 1885, in which role he was preceded by Brewster Cameron. Established as a statutory office by the attorney general under annual appropriation acts in 1873, the General Agent was responsible for the detection and prosecution of crimes. During Stanton's tenure, the Department of Justice prosecuted the Star Routes cases, which dealt with the fraudulent awarding of postal delivery contracts by postal officials in southern and western areas of the United States. Stanton left the federal government in 1885 to return to private practice in Philadelphia.
The collection consists of correspondence documenting the work of attorney James L. Stanton as Chief Pardon Clerk (1882-1884) and General Agent (1884-1885) in the United States Department of Justice under Attorney General Benjamin Harris Brewster, along with a few related writings by Stanton. Among the many cases and events the letters document are the trials surrounding the Star Routes scandal involving United States postal officials, which Attorney General Benjamin Harris Brewster prosecuted, as well as a Western Union Telegraph quo warranto case, and the House of Representatives' Springer Committee investigations.
Correspondence includes handwritten and typewritten letters, both incoming and outgoing, telegrams, and interoffice directives, comprising over 200 loose items that total about 380 pages, as well as a letter press-copy book containing Stanton's outgoing letters from July 9, 1884, to June 30, 1885, which number over 150 in total and span nearly 300 additional pages. While there are several earlier and later letters, the bulk of the correspondence in this collection dates from April 1883 to December 1886. Frequent correspondents include Benjamin Harris Brewster, William Haight, and Brewster Cameron, though Stanton also corresponds with many others, including Senator James R. Young, Representative William Springer, and several United States attorneys and post office inspectors.
Most letters are professional in nature, regarding cases prosecuted or under consideration by the Department of Justice, including many references to mail routes important to the Star Routes graft; congressional hearings with which the department was involved; routine operations of the department; conversations with various local attorneys general and other officials across the United States; and political maneuvering surrounding government appointments and elections; though a few personal letters regarding Stanton's family and finances are also included. Stanton assisted Brewster very closely as reflected in Brewster's many letters and memoranda to Stanton that contain highly detailed, methodical instructions as to how to proceed on specific cases. While most letters are either written by or to Stanton directly, there are several related letters between third parties present throughout his correspondence.
The small amount of Stanton's writings included in the collection consist of drafts and notes on the topics of eminent domain, the appropriate response to insults to the American flag, the 1884 Republican National Convention, and a pardon case.
Arranged by material type, then chronologically.
Purchase, 2016 (AM 2016-92).
This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in September 2016. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in September 2016.
No materials were separated during 2016 processing.
- Fraud investigation -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources
- Law -- United States -- Cases -- 19th century -- Sources
- Lawyers -- United States -- 19th century -- Correspondence
- Practice of law -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources
- Star routes -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
- Trials (fraud) -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Kelly Bolding
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
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.
Consists of James L. Stanton's onionskin press-copy book, containing 159 outgoing letters (including two of Attorney General Benjamin Harris Brewster's 1884 letters to Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln), totaling about 294 pages. Frequent among Stanton's many correspondents are Benjamin Harris Brewster (over 40 letters), Brewster Cameron (24 letters, mostly during Cameron's tenure as Arizona Collector of Public Monies), and William Haight. While most letters regard Stanton's legal work in the Justice Department during his time as General Agent, there are also letters to several of Stanton's friends in the private sector and a letter to his parents regarding his financial investments and personal situation. The letters press-copied here document Stanton's work on the Star Routes cases, the Springer Committee investigations, and numerous other cases across the United States. The final letters document Stanton's resignation as General Agent in 1885 and subsequent return to Philadelphia to enter private practice, shortly after President Chester A. Arthur and Attorney General Benjamin Harris Brewster left their posts.Physical Description
Includes a long letter from M. E. Olmsted (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) to Benjamin Harris Brewster.Physical Description
Includes an 1884 Republican National Committee circular and fundraising notice.Physical Description
Consists of four manuscript drafts of miscellaneous writings attributed to James L. Stanton, including "Insults to a flag" (1882), a draft essay or speech attacking the use of deadly force to avenge insults to the American flag because of the harm done to the widows and children of soldiers killed in the effort; "Right of Eminent Domain" (circa 1883), an unsigned legal brief supporting the federal government's right to "take private property for the public use" as "too well settled to be now disputed"; "Bulletins of Nomination of Blaine," nine numbered pages of notes on the proceedings of the 1884 Republican National Convention; and a seven-page untitled memorandum beginning, "On this 16th day of Nov. 1883 one S. N. Callender called me here in my office in regard to the pardon case of his two brothers," endorsed by Stanton's then supervisor Brewster Cameron.Physical Description
Consists of a single unsigned letter to General James B. Coryell, very likely from Henry W. Shoemaker (1880–1958), regarding the politics of local daily newspapers in Blair County, Pennsylvania, particularly the Altoona Tribune's purchase of the Altoona Times in an effort to maintain the business of the Pennsylvania Railroad.Physical Description