Inventory of the William Eaton Papers, 1792-1829

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© 2000
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Inventory of the William Eaton Papers, 1792-1829

The Huntington Library

San Marino, California

Contact Information

  • Manuscripts Department
  • The Huntington Library
  • 1151 Oxford Road
  • San Marino, California 91108
  • Phone: (626) 405-2203
  • Fax: (626) 449-5720
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Huntington Library staff
© 2000 The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

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
KING, Rufus
KORSHID, Ahmed, Viceroy of Egypt
MENDRICI, Francesco
MURRAY, Alexander
NISSEN, Nicolai Christian
O'BRIEN, Richard
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

Important or interesting items


1795, Nov. 26.


PICKERING, Timothy. To William Eaton. Instructions relative to the Creek Indians


1798, June 14.


SEAGROVE, James. Return of the Creek Indians at Colerain


1798, Dec. 18.


PICKERING, Timothy. Instructions to Richard O'Brien, William Eaton, and James Leander Cathcart


1799, Apr. 28.


NELSON, Horatio, Viscount Nelson and Duke of Bronte. To Yussuf, Bey of Tripoli. Letter copied by James L. Cathcart and enclosed in a letter to William Eaton (1799, June 22)


1799, Nov. 2.


SMITH, William Loughton. To William Eaton. A résumé of the political affairs of the United States at that time (letter press copy)




EATON, William. Note of the effects granted to the regency of Tunis by the peace with the United States


1801, July 10.


KING, Rufus. To Richard Dale, regarding the regalia for Tunis (letter press copy)


1802, Mar. 15.


MORTIMER, H. W. & SON, and T. MORTIMER (firm). To Rufus King: Account for arms presented to the Bey of Tunis. Annexed to the above: 1802, Feb. 10. RANDALL & BRIDGE (firm). Bill for jewels set in gun mountings; also, invoice of jewels for the Bey of Tunis


1804, Sep. 5.


O'BRIEN, Richard. To William Eaton. Letter telling of the attack on Tripoli


1804, Sep. 15.


BARRON, Samuel. Verbal orders of Commodore Barron to Captain Hull of the U.S. Ship Argus. Attested by Isaac Hull and William Eaton


1807, June 8.


AHMED II. To William Eaton. Friendly letter thanking Eaton for his efforts in Ahmed's behalf (in Italian, with Ahmed's signature and seal)