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Fergusson/Hamilton papers

Abstract

Title:
Fergusson/Hamilton papers
Author/Creator:
Fergusson, Robert and Alexander Hamilton
Collection number:
2003-20
Size:
0.25 linear feet
Bulk dates:
1761-1827
Inclusive dates:
1761-1827
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Repository:
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email: askhornbake@umd.edu
Abstract:

Robert Fergusson and Alexander Hamilton were buying agents for Scottish trading firms during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Both Fergusson and Hamilton were born in Scotland, but came to Maryland as young men and established themselves both as agents and as men of property. Fergusson owned Nanjemoy, an estate in Charles County, though he lived in Georgetown and later at "Mulberry Grove," also in Charles County, near Port Tobacco. Hamilton maintained a sizeable estate in Prince George's County, including more than ten slaves at the time of his death in 1799. The Fergusson/Hamilton papers date from 1761 to 1827, with the majority of documents dating from the 1780s and 1790s. The bulk of the papers consist of correspondence between Scottish firms such as Glassford & Company and their Maryland representatives Fergusson and Hamilton. Other documents include statements of debts incurred by planters and storekeepers with whom the agents dealt, records of the disposition of estates, and some agreements about the running of Fergusson's own estate. The collection also includes a number of legal writs from Worcestershire, England, and several drafted commentaries on a 1786 debate in the Maryland legislature on how to ease the post-Revolutionary War economic depression. The authorship and precise date of the political commentaries are unclear.

Important Information for Users of the Collection

Restrictions:

This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Fergusson/Hamilton papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/1339
Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Status:

This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Robert Fergusson and Alexander Hamilton were agents for the Scottish firm of James Glassford & Company during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Glassford & Company traded primarily in tobacco, though the company was also concerned with other goods, including coffee, sugar, and slaves. Fergusson and Hamilton made contracts with local stores, which in turn purchased tobacco directly from planters. The agents were then responsible for arranging for the crop to be shipped to Europe. Their responsibilities also included collecting payment for debts and distributing payment for goods and services.

Fergusson was born in Moniave, near Dumfries, in Scotland, around 1745. By 1772, he was established in the American colonies as an agent, or "factor" in contemporary parlance, of Glassford & Company. At different times, he also represented James Brown & Company and Neil Jamieson & Company. Fergusson owned Nanjemoy, an estate in Charles County, though he lived in Georgetown and later at "Mulberry Grove," also in Charles County, near Port Tobacco. The move to "Mulberry Grove" might have accompanied his marriage to Elizabeth Ballantine in 1788. Robert Fergusson died in 1813.

Hamilton was also born in Scotland, in Mauchline, Ayrshire. He was not closely related to either the American statesman of the same name or the Hamilton Family whose papers are held at the University of Maryland Libraries. As a young man, Hamilton emigrated to America. In 1768 he became a factor in Piscataway, Prince George's County, Maryland. Eventually he and Fergusson both served as factors for James Brown & Company as well as Glassford & Company. Hamilton maintained a sizeable estate of his own, including more than ten slaves at the time of his death in 1799.

Robert Fergusson and Alexander Hamilton corresponded frequently on business matters and appeared to be on friendly terms.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Fergusson/Hamilton papers date from 1761 to 1827, with the majority of documents dating from the 1780s and 1790s. The bulk of the papers consist of correspondence between European firms such as Glassford & Company and their Maryland representatives, primarily Robert Fergusson and Alexander Hamilton. Other documents include statements of debts incurred by planters and storekeepers with whom the factors dealt, records of the disposition of estates, and some agreements about the running of Fergusson's own estate, Nanjemoy.

The collection also includes a number of legal writs from Worcestershire, England, and several letters and poems commenting on debates carried on in the Maryland Gazette in the mid to late eighteenth century. The authorship and subjects of these political commentaries are unclear.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Fergusson/Hamilton Papers from Carmen D. Valentino in 2002. This collection was the first purchase by the Libraries from the R. Lee and Evelyn Y. Hornbake Fund.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Sarah Heim, February, 2003.

Processing note:

When the collection was accessioned, the documents were already arranged in chronological order, and some were housed in clear plastic sleeves. The papers were separated into series by correspondent and by type. The papers were removed from the plastic sleeves, and the most fragile were placed in acid-free Mylar sleeves. The entire collection was then transferred to acid-free folders and housed in an acid-free box. Several very fragile items were sent away for cleaning, deacidification, and encapsulation. Oversize items were separated from the collection, placed in acid-free map foldering and housed in a mapcase. Separation sheets in the original folders indicate where oversize items were removed.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup complete by Sarah Heim, June 2004.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Robert Fergusson, 1772-1801 (42 items)

This series consists of correspondence to and from Robert Fergusson, as well as statements of debt and agreements about the administration of Fergusson's estate, Nanjemoy, in Charles County, Maryland. Subjects discussed include trade conditions, Fergusson's responsibilities as agent for different firms, and shipping arrangements for goods. Correspondents include Fergusson's overseer, Benjamin Edelen, his rent-collector George Grey, and other tobacco agents and representatives of Glassford & Company and other firms. The arrangement is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1772-1801 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence, 1772-1801 series 1box 1folder 2

Series 2: Alexander Hamilton, 1771-1796 (65 items)

This series consists of correspondence to and from Alexander Hamilton, as well as statements of financial obligation. Letters between Fergusson and Hamilton are included in this series. Subjects discussed include Hamilton's replacement as factor for James Brown & Company, his work for Glassford & Company, shipping arrangements, and letters from his father in Scotland. The arrangement is alphabetical by type of correspondence, business or family, and chronological within each type.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / FrameItem
Business Correspondence, 1771-1796 series 2box 1folder 1
Business Correspondence, 1771-1796 series 2box 1folder 2
Family Correspondence -- Six of 26 items available online, 1768-1770 series 2box 1folder 3
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his son, Alexander Hamilton, in Port Tobacco, Maryland Online, September 26, 1768 series 2box 1folder 3item 1
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his son, Alexander Hamilton, in Port Tobacco, Maryland Online, December 7, 1768 series 2box 1folder 3item 2
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his son, Alexander Hamilton, in Port Tobacco, Maryland Online, February 17, 1769 series 2box 1folder 3item 3
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his brother, John Semple, merchant Online, February 17, 1769 series 2box 1folder 3item 4
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his son, Alexander Hamilton, in Port Tobacco, Maryland Online, June 28, 1769 series 2box 1folder 3item 5
Letter, John Hamilton in Mauchline, Scotland, to his son, Alexander Hamilton, in Port Tobacco, Maryland Online, October 24, 1770 series 2box 1folder 3item 6

Series 3: Other Correspondence, 1761-1804 (26 items)

This series contains correspondence and other documents related to Maryland agents other than Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fergusson. Companies mentioned include James Glassford & Company and Neil Jamison & Company. The arrangement is alphabetical by correspondent and chronological within each correspondent.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Andrew Buchanan, 1762 series 3box 1folder 1
Neil Jamison, 1761-1768 series 3box 1folder 2
Other correspondence and documents, 1770-1804 series 3box 1folder 3

Series 4: Political Commentary, 1768, undated (5 items)

This series consists of poems and letters, apparently written in response to debates in the Maryland Gazette during the mid to late eighteenth century. Two of the pieces are signed with pseudonyms, one with "Z" and the other with "Quinctius Cincinnatus," the name of a Roman hero who left retirement to defend Rome against invasion, but returned to his farm rather than remaining in power. The name Quinctius Cincinnatus has been crossed out and changed to Tom Telltruth Jr. The pieces do not appear to have been published in the Gazette, but are consistent in form, style, and subject with letters published in 1768. The arrangement is chronological, with undated documents last.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Political Commentary, 1768, undated series 4box 1folder 1

Series 5: English Legal Documents, 1826-1827 (9 items)

This series consists primarily of writs for the arrest of various men in Worcestershire, England. Records of legal agreements are also included. It is not clear how these documents came to be associated with the Fergusson/Hamilton papers. The arrangement is chronological.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
English Legal Documents, 1826-1827 series 5box 1folder 1

Related Material

Many local repositories hold materials relating to Robert Fergusson, Alexander Hamilton, the companies that employed them, and trade in Maryland during the late eighteenth century. More of Robert Fergusson's papers can be found in the special collections of Georgetown University. The Maryland Historical Society holds further correspondence of Alexander Hamilton, and the Library of Congress has a collection of records of James Glassford & Company of Glasgow. Extracts from Alexander Hamilton's letterbooks, part of the Glassford & Company collection, were published in the Maryland Historical Magazine, volume 61, number 2, pages 146-166 and number 3, 305-328. An inventory of the goods and chattels left by Alexander Hamilton upon his death in 1799 can be found online at http://gunstonhall.org/probate/HMLTN99.PDF.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.

Subjects

Names (Added Entries)