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Inventory of the William Eaton Papers, 1792-1829
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographic Sketch
  • General Description of the Manuscripts
  • Subject matter
  • Persons represented
  • Originals or copies

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: William Eaton Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1792-1829
    Creator: Eaton, William, 1764-1811
    Extent: 555 items, including 11 volumes.
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    This collection of 555 items is considered, from evidence of handwriting on wrappers which formerly separated groups of the manuscripts, to be part of the library purchased from Charles T. Harbeck in 1917, through the agency of George D. Smith.


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], William Eaton Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Biographic Sketch

    William Eaton (1764-1811) played a conspicuous part in the affairs of the United States and the Barbary Powers from 1798 to 1805. After a period of service in the U. S. Army in Georgia, he was appointed U. S. Consul to Tunis, in 1798, and was instrumental in removing the obstacles to ratification of the peace negotiated by a former chargé d'affaires. In 1804, appointed Navy Agent to the Barbary States, he led an expedition in behalf of the deposed ruler of Tripoli, in an attempt to end the war between that country and the United States begun in 1801. When the success of the venture seemed almost secured with the capture of Derne, Eaton was surprised to be ordered to leave Tripoli, and to learn that negotiations by Tobias Lear for a peace, involving the ransom of American captives and maintaining the usurping ruler, were concluded.
    Upon Eaton's return to America, his complaints and too outspoken denunciations of the peace with Tripoli deprived him of the sympathy that his exploits had aroused. He finally retired to his home in Brimfield, Massachusetts, and died, in 1811, a disappointed man.

    General Description of the Manuscripts

    The main period covered by these papers is that of 1798 to 1805, relating to the Barbary affairs. The earlier and later items are for the most part of a personal nature. The chronological distribution may be indicated as follows:
    Correspondence and miscellaneous papers:
    1792 - 1798
    26 pieces
    60 pieces
    72 pieces
    125 pieces
    71 pieces
    21 pieces
    26 pieces
    71 pieces
    1806 - 1811
    36 pieces
    1813 - 1829
    3 pieces
    Letterbooks, journals, commonplace books, etc.
    1796, May 16 - 1798, Dec. 27.
    Letterbook (134 pp.)
    1798, Dec. 18 - 1799, Dec. 9.
    Letter and record book (267 pp.)
    1799, Apr. 8 - 1802, Feb. 13.
    Letter and commonplace book (139 pp.)
    1799, Dec. 14 - 1801, June 28.
    Letterbook and journal (320 pp.)
    1799 - 1802.
    33 pp. from a commonplace book
    1800, July 4 - 1801, Oct. 2.
    Letterbook and journal (64 pp.)
    1801, June 28 - 1802, Aug. 23.
    Letterbook (256 pp.)
    1802, Sep. 12 - 1803, Mar. 22.
    Letter and record book (190 pp.)
    1804, Jan. 2 - 1805, June 17.
    Letterbook and journal (203 pp.)
    1804, Jan. 2 - 1805, Nov.
    Commonplace book (118 pp.)
    1804, June 22 - 1805, Feb. 14
    Letterbook (88 pp.)

    Subject matter

    I. Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers

    • A. Algiers: Consulship of Richard O'Brien (official and personal correspondence)
    • B. Tripoli
      • 1. Consulship of James Leander Cathcart (official and personal correspondence)
      • 2. War, 1801-1805
        • a. Nicolai C. Nissen, Danish Consul and U.S. Chargé d'Affaires (official correspondence)
        • b. Expedition in behalf of Ahmed II (Hamet Karamanli), ending in the occupation of Derne
        • c. U. S. naval operations:
          • 1). Attack on Tripoli
          • 2). Co-operation with the land force at Derne
      • 3. Treaty of peace
    • C. Tunis: Consulship of William Eaton
      • 1. Negotiations with the bey
      • 2. Relief of Danish captives

    II. General naval operations in the Mediterranean

    • A. European Powers
    • B. The United States

    III. Eaton's personal affairs

    • A. Early army service: Recruiting, service in Georgia, courtmartial, etc.
    • B. Personal correspondence with family and friends
    • C. Business transactions
    • D. Claims against the United States

    Persons represented

    (by three or more items, either originals or copies)
    AHMED II, Bey of Tripoli
    BARRON, Samuel
    BRIGGS, Samuel, & BRIGGS BROS. (firm)
    CATHCART, James Leander
    COFFIN, George G.
    DAVIES, George
    EATON, William
    (92, including 11 vols.)
    HAMMOUDAH, Bey of Tunis
    JEFFERSON, Thomas
    KING, Rufus
    KORSHID, Ahmed, Viceroy of Egypt
    MADISON, James
    MENDRICI, Francesco
    MURRAY, Alexander
    NISSEN, Nicolai Christian
    O'BRIEN, Richard
    PICKERING, Timothy
    PORCILE, Antonio
    PYNCRON, Stephen
    SMITH, William Loughton

    Originals or copies

    Most of the letters are originals, but the official government communications are mainly copies. Many of the letters are duplicated in the letterbooks; some are only in the letterbooks