Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Southard, Samuel L. (Samuel Lewis), 1787-1842
Samuel L. Southard Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1783-1893 (mostly 1802-1846)
170 boxes and 73.6 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-170


This collection consists of papers of New Jersey politician, lawyer, and governor Samuel Lewis Southard, presenting a rather comprehensive view of Southard's personal and professional life, as well as the state of American politics and the law profession during the first half of the nineteenth century. Included is a significant amount of Southard's personal and professional correspondence and notebooks. Also contained in this collection are printed materials from Southard's library, other printed documents, and papers generated by family members and associates.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The Samuel L. Southard Papers consist of writings, correspondence, printed documents, and other materials. The writings include notebooks, scraps of personal notes, speeches read in public, and drafts of speeches, all in Southard's hand. The notebooks contain primarily legal notes pertaining to Southard's career as a prominent New Jersey lawyer and judge. The books and scraps also contain notes on political and personal matters.

The correspondence documents not only Southard's personal and professional life, but American politics in the first half of the nineteenth century. It includes letters to and from Southard and drafts of letters. Correspondents include many prominent politicians of the time—John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, Henry Clay, James Madison, and James Monroe all communicated with Southard.

In addition to correspondence, the collection includes a wide variety of documents. There is an extensive record of Southard's legal career including Southard's case notes from many cases. Also included is a significant amount of material on Southard's Congressional career. While not the bulk of the papers, Southard's interest in American Indian affairs and African-American slavery is well-documented and includes some of the most significant material in the collection. There are also several boxes of New Jerseyana containing documents on New Jersey government and business. A significant amount of printed material is also contained within the collection. This includes a number of rare almanacs, journals, pamphlets, speeches—which have been individually cataloged—and several boxes of newspaper clippings.

The Samuel L. Southard papers also contain material pertaining to Southard's father, brother, wife, children, and other personal and professional associates. The bulk of these papers is correspondence, but also included are schooling and financial records. Much of it seems to have been maintained by Southard's son Henry, as many of the documents relate directly to him.


This collection is arranged in five series: Series I. Writings; Series 2. Correspondence; Series 3. Subject Files; Series 4. Papers of Family Members and Associates; and Series 5. Printed Material.

Collection Creator Biography:

Southard, Samuel L. (Samuel Lewis), 1787-1842

Born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, in 1787, Samuel Lewis Southard was the son of Henry Southard, a two-time member of Congress from New Jersey. Southard graduated from Princeton in 1804, eventually going to Virginia to work as a private tutor for family friends the Taliaferro family. There he made the acquaintance of political leaders, including James Monroe, in whose cabinet he would later serve. In 1811, Southard returned to New Jersey to practice law in Flemington. After becoming a successful prosecutor, Southard entered politics in 1815, when he was elected to the state general assembly as a Whig. Shortly thereafter, Southard became a justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. The popularity Southard had gained as a prominent New Jersey prosecutor and the political friendships he had established helped him get appointed to a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 1821. He represented New Jersey as a Jeffersonian Republican. Southard resigned from his U.S. Senate seat in 1823 when President James Monroe named him Secretary of the Navy, a post which he held with distinction through the administrations of Presidents Monroe and John Quincy Adams. Southard vigorously opposed the policies of Adams' successor Andrew Jackson, most notably over the National Bank issue. Southard returned to New Jersey after Jackson's inauguration in 1829. Southard and his family moved to Trenton, as Southard had been nominated by his party to run for a recently vacated U.S. Senate seat. Though he lost the U.S. Senate election, the state legislature elected him to serve as attorney general of New Jersey. Southard also began to practice law again after returning to New Jersey. In 1832, Southard reluctantly accepted his party's nomination for governor and was elected by the state legislature shortly thereafter. The governorship was not what Southard was looking for in his political career. He resigned in 1833 and was again elected by the legislature to the U.S. Senate, where he served until shortly before his death in 1842. Although not remembered as one of the great statesmen of his day, Samuel Southard was an important figure in New Jersey politics.

Collection History


The Southard Papers were purchased for Princeton University Library in 1957 through the generosity of Albert Southard Wright class of 1900, Peter H. B. Frelinghuysen class of 1904, Carl Otto Von Kienbusch class of 1906, and Sterling Morton class of 1906. These gentlemen acquired the collection from a philatelist, William C. Coles of Moorestown, N.J., who in his search for philatelic treasures, came upon the papers by chance when told there was a trunk of old papers in the attic of a farmhouse being sold due to mortgage foreclosure. He bought the trunk sight unseen, discovering he had no stamps but, instead, the entire correspondence of Samuel L. Southard.


No accruals are expected.


The bound books from Southard's library were moved to the Rare Books Division for cataloging. Several maps were moved to the Historic Maps Collection. All other material has been retained.


These papers were processed with an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Casey Babcock in the fall of 2005. It was originally processed by Esther Felt Bentley in 1964. She was largely responsible for organizing the index. Finding aid written by Casey Babcock in fall of 2005 and early part of 2006.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Samuel L. Southard Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-170