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Collection Overview

Pearce, James Alfred, 1804-1862
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Pearce Family Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1802-1917 (mostly 1820-1863)
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1


Consists of selected correspondence and other material of members of the Pearce family of Maryland.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

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.

Collection Creator Biography:

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.

Collection History


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.

Custodial History

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.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

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:

Pearce Family Collection; 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:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1