Scope and Content
Title: Francis Baylies
Bulk Dates: 1848-1852
Collection Number: mssHM
Baylies, Francis, 1783-1852
The Huntington Library,
Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: The collection consists of a series of 48 letters sent by American
Congressman Francis Baylies to General John E. Wool between 1848 and 1852. Baylies
writes extensively, and often scathingly, of antebellum era politics, statesmen,
military operations, military leaders, and social movements. Specific topics covered
include the Mexican-American War, the presidential elections of 1848 and 1852, New
York state politics, and revolutionary activity in Europe in 1848-1849.
Language of Material: The records are in English.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services
Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to
quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such
activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is
one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item], Francis Baylies correspondence, The Huntington
Library, San Marino, California.
The collection was purchased for the Huntington from the William Reese Company
by the Library Collector's Council, January 19, 2013.
Francis Baylies (1783-1852) was born on October 16, 1783, in Taunton, Massachusetts.
He was a great-grandson of Quaker ironmaster Thomas Baylies (1687-1756), nephew of
Hodjiah Baylies (1756-1843), an aide-de-camp to General George Washington during the
American Revolution, and brother of Congressman William Baylies (1776-1865). Baylies
studied law and was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts in 1810. He ran
unsuccessfully for Congress in 1818 before being elected to the Seventeenth,
Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Congresses. He was the only New Englander to vote against
John Quincy Adams when the presidential election of 1824 went to the House. Baylies
ran as a Federalist, Jackson Federalist, and Jacksonian before being defeated in a
re-election bid in 1827. He subsequently served as a member of the Massachusetts
House of Representatives from 1827 until 1832. He was briefly appointed as charge
d’affaires in Buenos Aires in 1832, and after returning to the United States was
re-elected to the House of Representatives. Baylies married Mrs. Elizabeth Moulton
Deming in 1822. He published An Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth in
1830 and A Narrative of Major General Wool’s Campaign in Mexico, in the years 1846,
1847, and 1848 in 1851. Baylies died in Taunton on October 28, 1852.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of a series of 48 letters sent by Francis Baylies to General
John E. Wool between 1848 and 1852. Baylies writes extensively, and often
scathingly, of antebellum era politics, statesmen, military operations, and military
leaders. Individuals discussed (often disparagingly) in the letters include John
Quincy Adams ("the concentrated essence of selfishness and malignity"), Thomas Hart
Benton, Braxton Bragg, James Buchanan, Lewis Cass, Henry Clay, Caleb Cushing, George
Mifflin Dallas, Jefferson Davis, Millard Fillmore, Horace Mann ("a mock philanderer
and great humbug"), William L. Marcy, Gideon Johnson Pillow, James K. Polk, Winfield
Scott, William Henry Seward ("the greatest political rogue"), Zachary Taylor ("cool
and sensible and sagacious"), Nicholas Trist, John Tyler, J. Watson Webb, Daniel
Webster (whom Baylies came to admire as having "the highest powers of eloquence"),
and Levi Woodbury.
Baylies's early letters were written to Wool while Wool was posted in Monterey
following the Mexican-American War. Baylies writes of the adoption of the Treaty of
Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the accomplishment of which, he notes, was the result of Nicholas
Trist saying "virtually to Squire Polk - you may kiss my axxx" (March 12, 1848).
Baylies also doubts the terms of the treaty, writing that he would not want to see
more of Mexico annexed than could be "swamped by the Yankees," namely, New Mexico
and California (in a letter dated May 14, 1848, Baylies notes that he has "no wish
to see the mongrel races of Mexico admitted to that high privilege [of shared
sovereignty]. I would sooner admit the Choctaws or Cherokees whom I think more
civilized..."). Although his own political views and alliances were often in flux
("In a chaos of parties who can tell which is right?" he wrote to Wool in 1849),
Baylies remained a staunch admirer of Wool, whom he praised as a hero of the Battle
of Buena Vista. He frequently asserts that it was Wool, and not Zachary Taylor, who
had been responsible for victory, writing that "it was your rigid discipline alone
which pressed the inchoate mass...into the shape and fashion of soldiers and imbued
them with the military pride and spirit without which battles cannot be won" (Jan.
21, 1849). Baylies also saw Wool as the victim of political gamesmanship (when J.
Watson Webb was competing with Wool for a political post in 1849, Baylies suggested
that to achieve success Webb would "swear that General Taylor like a fabled Knight
of Romance had defeated whole armies with his single arm"), but on congratulating
Wool on his promotion to brevet major general in 1848 concluded that "tardy justice
is better than the denial of justice."
In his early letters, Baylies also updates Wool with extensive news of the
revolutionary activity in Europe in 1848-1849, including the establishment of the
French Second Republic, which he described as a "stupendous revolution" (March 19,
1848). He also writes of events in Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia,
and Turkey, and worries about American preparedness for the consequences of the
upheaval, noting that "I think Squire Buchanan would keep firmer nerves in a
Pennsylvania coal mine, than amidst the streams of lava which these European
volcanoes will vomit upon us" (Apr. 21, 1848).
Letters dated after September 5, 1848, were addressed to Wool in Troy, New York, and
after that time Baylies's interest shifts to American politics. He writes
expansively of the presidential election of 1848, in which he gave his full support
to Zachary Taylor, who he believed was "the only man in the nation who can turn his
back on the...venal cliques...who would throng his camp" (June 4, 1848). He also
noted that the 1848 Democratic Convention in Baltimore "exhibited a scene of
violence, recklessness, quarrelling and rudeness which was never transcended" (June
4-6, 1848). Baylies also writes extensively of the candidates in the 1852 election,
of New York state politics (including references to local elections and Democratic
party factions the Barnburners and Locofocos), of his doubts about the principles of
the Monroe Doctrine ("manifestly absurd," he wrote in October 1849), and of general
social movements, often elaborating on his idea that "government, laws, and property
are creatures of society" (Apr.6, 1848). Other specific topics covered include the
emancipation of slaves in the West Indies (which Baylies believed might have
"consequences...more alarming to the South than even they apprehend" ([Apr.6,
1848]); social demonstrations during what Baylies calls "Anniversary Week" in New
York on May 15, 1848, which he summarized as "disgusting"; his May 1850 trip to
Boston; some political notes on Massachusetts and Rhode Island; his brother William
Baylies's political interests (Oct. 21, 1848); and his support of federal funding to
improve canals near the Great Lakes and build a railroad "from the Mississippi to
the Pacific" (March 10, 1849).
Although Baylies wrote in October 1849 that he was "not lazy; neither am I too fat
to wield the pen, although I might not figure in digging gold in California," he
also alludes often to his troubles with gout, particularly starting in 1851. The
last letter he wrote himself is dated August 21, 1852, and in it he asks Wool to
help a man named James Marshall Lincoln, who "in a fit of eccentricity" had enlisted
in the army and wished to be released. The final letter was written for Baylies by
his niece Leonice on October 12, 1852, shortly before Baylies's death. The
collection also includes a letter sent to Wool after Baylies's death from William
Baylies, who thanks Wool for being with his brother during his final illness. Also
included with the collection are two essays by an unknown author on the Canadian
Rebellions of 1838, dated 1862 and possibly expanding on Baylies's earlier research
on the topic.
The collection is arranged chronologically.
Adams, John Quincy,
Benton, Thomas Hart,
Clay, Henry, 1777-1852.
Dallas, George Mifflin,
Marcy, William L.
(William Learned), 1786-1857.
Pillow, Gideon Johnson,
Polk, James K. (James
Seward, William Henry,
Trist, Nicholas Philip,
Webb, J. Watson (James
Wool, John Ellis,
Mexico. Treaties, etc.
United States. 1848, Feb.2.
Convention (1848: Baltimore, Md.)
Buena Vista, Battle of, Mexico,
Mexican War, 1846-1848.
Politics and culture--United
Slavery, abolition, and
(Mass.)--Description and travel.