Guide to the James and William Alexander Papers1711-1909(Bulk 1711-ca.1770)MG 70

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Arrangement

Restrictions

Access Points

Administrative Information

Bibliography

Series Descriptions and Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, 1722-1849

Series 2: Journal, 1711-1713

Series 3: Account Books, 1720-1762

Series 4: Legal Documents, 1711-1909

Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1720-1881

Guide to the James and William Alexander Papers1711-1909(Bulk 1711-ca.1770)MG 70Inventory prepared by Abdur R. Yasin.

Guide to the James and William Alexander Papers
1711-1909
(Bulk 1711-ca.1770)
MG 70



The New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Contact: NJHS Library
(973) 596-8500 x249
© 2005 All rights reserved.
The New Jersey Historical Society, Publisher
Inventory prepared by Abdur R. Yasin.

Finding aid encoded by Julia Telonidis. August 2005. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Alexander, James.
Title: James and William Alexander Papers
Dates:1711-1909 (Bulk 1711-ca.1770)
Abstract: The papers consist mostly of letters and receipts. There are also some school essays, and a math word problem.
Quantity: 5 linear ft. (13 boxes)
Collection Number: MG 70

Biographical Note

James Alexander James Alexander was born in Scotland, heir to the title of Earl of Stirling, in 1691. As youth, he was well educated and trained as an engineer officer. In early adulthood, though a Whig in politics, he formed connections with the Jacobites and served in the forces of the Old Pretender during the Rebellion of 1715. When his group faced defeat, he fled for America. In America, he was quickly established among the opponents of the colonial House of Brunswick, though he received numerous favors from them. On November 7, 1715, he was made surveyor-general of the Province of New Jersey and later of New York. In 1718, he became the recorder of Perth Amboy, N.J., where he resided. By 1723, James Alexander had been made deputy-secretary of New York (1718), boundary commissioner of New Jersey and New York (1719), a member of the Councils of New York and New Jersey (1721, 1723 respectively), a member of the provincial bar and attorney-general of New Jersey (1723).

In 1725, with his seat in the Council of New Jersey, he tried to make positive legal reforms but in vain. As a result, in 1727, he stepped down as attorney-general of New Jersey. In 1732, he was removed from the Council of New York by Gov. Cosby because he was thought as “unworthy to serve His Majesty”.[1] After being accused of near treason by Mr. Clarke, President of the Council, for working up the people to the pitch of rebellion, he was removed from the Council of New Jersey.

James Alexander regained his stature by taking the case of Peter Zenger, a printer and publisher “whose paper was the vehicle of invective and satire against the governor and his adherents,” who was charged with libel and with inviting sedition. After being charged with contempt and removed from the roll of attorneys, Alexander and William Smith were able to obtain a verdict. Two years later, they were reinstated as members of the bar. Around this time, Alexander was recalled to the Council of New York after a change of administration upon the death of Cosby. Alexander was also still considered to be a member of the Council of New Jersey.

He then moved to New York, where he stayed active in the councils and his practice. In 1756, he heard of a ministerial plot against the colonialists. He rushed to Albany to oppose it, though at the time, he was suffering from gout. There he experienced complications from his condition and contracted a cold. On April 2, 1756, James Alexander died.

William Alexander Better known as Lord Stirling, William Alexander, son of James Alexander, was born in New York City in 1726. He, like his father, was well educated early on and was associated with his mother as a merchant in New York. In the early stages of the French and Indian War, he served as a commissary, aide, and secretary to Gov. Shirley. In 1756, Alexander accompanied him to England, and in the next year, defended him as a witness before the House of Commons. It was during this time that William Alexander spent considerable money and time to make his bid for the sixth Earl of Stirling. In 1759, he was given the title he was pursuing but later in 1762, the Lords’ Committee of Privileges resolved that he had not secured his claim. In the previous year (1761), Alexander had already returned to America assuming the title of Lord Stirling.

Wealthy and socially prominent, he married the sister of Gov. Livingston and held various offices in New Jersey such as surveyor-general, member of the Council, assistant to the governor and a governor of Kings (Columbia) College . He promoted agriculture, manufacture, and mining. Before the war, he resided in his mansion in Basking Ridge, N. J. after selling his New York home.

By the onset of the Revolution, Stirling opposed the Stamp Act and organized a company of grenadiers. He was suspended from the Council after a heated correspondence with the Loyalist Gov. Franklin. On November 7, 1775, he was made colonel of the 1st New Jersey Regiment and raised and equipped two regiments in the state. In January 1776, with forty volunteers in a pilot boat, he captured at Sandy Hook the British transport Blue Mountain Valley. For this, he was thanked by Congress, and in March of the same year received the commission of brigadier-general in the Continental army. He then prepared for the imminent British invasion after his appointment to the chief command in New York City. The Forts Lee and Washington as well as others in Harlem and on Long Island were built under his direction.

On August 27, 1776, the battle of Long Island commenced, which he is chiefly associated with. He was under the direction of Putnam and charged with the defense of the coast road. With no fortifications and 1,500 to 2,000 troops, he faced the enemy in what was the earliest meeting of an American army with its opponent in the open field. His troops were attacked by Gen. Grant and Lord Cornwallis; Stirling’s main body escaped by fording the Gowanus Creek while Lord Stirling himself along with a portion of his force held Cornwallis at bay for a while. He was later forced to surrender to the German De Heister.

The British as well as Washington recognized Stirling for his bravery. He was later exchanged and would take part in later campaigns. His services would lead to his promotion to major-general on Feb. 19, 1777. Stirling would go on to play important roles in notable events like Valley Forge and the inquiry concerning the treachery of Benedict Arnold. By the early 1780s, the war was coming to a close.

Stirling led a brilliant military career and received praise from his colleagues as well as his enemies. After his death on Jan. 15, 1783, his wife Lady Stirling received a letter of esteem from General Washington.

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Scope and Content Note

The papers, 1824-1878, consist mostly of letters and receipts. There are also some school essays, and a math word problem.

The Alexander Papers span the one hundred ninety-eight years between 1711 and 1909. The collection is divided into four series: correspondence, account books, record books, and miscellaneous material. The document types include loose letters, letter copybooks, a journal, wills, deeds, and newspaper clippings.

The correspondence contains eighteen contemporary letters to and from James and William Alexander. Though this is a small number, the remainder of this series is a lot more extensive. It contains letter copybooks and indexes copied from the originals possessed by the New York Historical Society. In these volumes, there are more letters addressed to and from William Alexander which give more insight on his time period and lifestyle.

The journal series contains the earliest part of the collection. The single entry is a journal kept by James Alexander while on board H.M.S. Arundell from 1711 to 1713. It provides a look at seafaring in colonial history.

The series titled account books contains four volumes of books which contain descriptions of transactions made by the Alexanders. Here, the transactions range from land agreements to debts and span over a forty year period.

The legal documents series is made up of seven record books and other documents that were of legal importance to the Alexanders. The seven record books resemble the account books of the previous series but with one major difference: the account books were set up like journal entries while the record books contain original or duplicates of the deeds for the listed lands. Within the record books are listings for lands as early as 1664 and as late as 1764. Last, there are two other documents of varied importance like the “State of Claim of William Alexander” and Issac Sharp’s Will which make up the last parts of this series.

The last series of this collection, miscellaneous, concludes the collection. Within this series are documents which have little to no relevance to the Alexanders and the contemporaries of the time. It spans the years from 1720-1881. Series Descriptions

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Arrangement

This collection is organized into three series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1722-1849

Series 2: Journals, 1711-1713

Series 3: Account Books, 1720-1762

Series 4: Legal Documents, 1711-1909

Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1720-1881

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

**PATRONS SHOULD USE MICROFILM COPY BEFORE CONSULTING ORIGINALS**

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.

Use Restrictions

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials.

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Access Points

The entries below represent persons, organizations, topics, and forms documented in this collection.
Subject Names:
Alexander, James, 1691-1756.
Alexander, William, 1726-1783.
Washington, George, 1732-1799.
Zenger, John Peter, 1697-1746.
Subject Organizations:
Arundel (Ship)
Council of New Jersey.
Council of New York.
United States. Continental Army--History
Subject Topics:
Acquisition of property--New Jersey.
Attorneys general--New Jersey.
Command of troops.
Generals.
Long Island, Battle of, New York, N.Y., 1776.
Surveyors--New Jersey.
Subject Places:
Basking Ridge (N.J.)
Sandy Hook (N.J.)
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Document Types:
Account books.
Clippings.
Journals.
Letters (Correspondence).

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 70, James and William Alexander Papers, The New Jersey Historical Society.

Acquisition Information

Gift (in part) of William Alexander Duer and James G. King, 1845, 1849.

Processing Information

These papers were originally housed with Manuscript Group 384. At the time of processing, they were removed and formed into a separate collection. The letters and most of the receipts are in good condition, however, many of the receipts are beginning to show wear. The ink and pencil on some of the letters and receipts is fading.

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Bibliography

Johnson, Allen.Dictionary of American Biography.New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1928.

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Series Descriptions and Container List

 

Series 1: Correspondence, 1722-1849

Scope and Content:

Correspondence consisting of contemporary letters, copied letters, and indexes to the letter copybooks. The contemporary letters, 17 of the 18 were either written by or for James Alexander, are arranged alphabetically and chronologically. These fall in between 1722 and 1739. The last, a letter sent by William Alexander to Jacob Ford is dated back to 1768. The letters within the two volumes of letter copybooks are also listed chronologically. These letters are to and from William Alexander (Lord Stirling) primarily, between the years 1754 and 1783 and his involvement in the Revolutionary War. Some letters are even addressed to George Washington. Last, there are the corresponding indexes to these letter copybooks.

BoxFolderTitleDate
11James Alexander, Letters received, from: Barclay, John (5 letters); Davis, Isabella (3 letters); 1723 Lane, Henry (3 letters).1722-1728
12James Alexander, Letters sent, to: Gov. Morris (1 letter); Lane, Henry (3 letters); Mr. Murray (1 letter); unknown (1 letter)1723
13William Alexander, Letters sent: Ford, Jacob (1 letter); Letter copybooks1768-1849
14Vol. 1, (copied from originals it the library of the NYHS[2]) 1845
15Vol. 2; Catalogs to letter copybooks1849; n.d.
16Index to the above letter copybookn.d.
17Copy of the index n.d.

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Series 2: Journal, 1711-1713

Scope and Content:

The journal within this series is the earliest document of the collection and provides a contemporary account of the daily events and conditions on board a colonial vessel.

BoxFolderTitleDate
18Journal kept by James Alexander on board the H.M.S. Arundell 1711-1713

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Series 3: Account Books, 1720-1762

Scope and Content:

This series is made up of books that are financial listings kept first by James Alexander, then by his son William. These books were set up like journals, giving daily records of their financial activities. These records are listed in a fairly strict chronological order and cover over forty years with little break in the continuation of years. Last, within the pages are also letters received and copies of letters sent out by the two men.

Box TitleDate
2 Volume 1 1720-1740
2 Volume 2 1740-1743
2 Volume 3 1751-1755
2 Volume 4 1755-1762

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Series 4: Legal Documents, 1711-1909

Scope and Content:

The seven boxes are record books. These books have either original or copies of the grants and deeds of lands in New York and New Jersey. The books arranged according to state and which Alexander was keeping the records. The two folders that make up the last part of this series include the state of claim of William Alexander to the position of Earl of Stirling and the will of Issac Sharp, a landholder in Salem County, New Jersey. **Index for these records is located in the library reading room.**

Box TitleDate
6 New Jersey Record Book (James Alexander) 1664-1740 , 462 pages1740
Box TitleDate
7 New Jersey Record Book (James Alexander) 1690-1764, 406 pages ca. 1749-1764
Box TitleDate
8 New Jersey Record Book (James Alexander)1682-1753, 711 pages ca. 1750-1753
Box TitleDate
9 New Jersey Record Book (William Alexander) 1747-1771, 340+ pages ca. 1747-1771
Box TitleDate
10 New York Record Book (James Alexander) 10 Volume 1, 1665-1752, 536 pages n.d.
Box TitleDate
11 Volume 2, 1707-1754, 72 pages n.d.
Box TitleDate
12 Rutherfurd Record Book 12 1755-1764, 85 pages ca. 1755-1764
BoxFolderTitleDate
131State of Claim of Lord Stirling (William Alexander) 1772
132Will of Sharp, Isaac (March 22, 1770) 1909

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Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1720-1881

Scope and Content:

This final series of the collection is made up of the remainder of materials. The peace proposal (box 13, folder 5) is a document involving James Alexander and his high political standing. Folder seven which titled Table of Contents….Rutherfurd Collection, does not provide a clear association to the Rutherfurd Record Book in series IV. The other documents like the copies of the newspaper clippings (box 13, folder 5), Contents and Correspondence (box 13, folder 3), and Indenture (box 13, folder 8) which make little to no mention of the Alexanders, are also among the materials in the miscellaneous series.

BoxFolderTitleDate
133Contents and correspondence 1720-1738
134Answer to the proposal of New York for peace 1754
135Newspaper clippings in reference to Rev. Allen H. Brown1876-1881
136Copy and correspondence of Maj. Gen. Earl of Stirling (William Alexander) by William A. Duer n.d.
137Table of contents of volumes containing the papers of James Alexander in the Rutherfurd Collection n.d.
138Indenture, 1696 (photostat copy) n.d.

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