Overview of the Collection
Scope and Content
Overview of the Collection
Title: William Eaton Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1792-1829
Bulk dates: 1798-1805
Collection Number: mssEA 1-555, mssFAC 385
555 pieces in 9 boxes, 11 envelopes, and 1 case
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
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San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: This collection contains the papers of American soldier and
diplomat William Eaton (1764-1811), chiefly accumulated during his service in the
Mediterranean and dating between 1798 and 1805. The papers document the relations between
the United States and the Barbary states, the Tripolitan War (1801-05), James Leander
Cathcart, and naval operations of the U.S. and European powers.
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The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from
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necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item]. William Eaton Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino,
Purchased from Charles T. Harbeck, through the agency of George D. Smith, 1917.
William Eaton (1764-1811), American soldier and diplomat, was best known for his exploits in
the Barbary states from 1798 to 1805. After a period of service in the United States Army in
Georgia, he became United States consul to Tunis and took part in the negotiations concerning
some changes in the 1797 treaty with this country. In 1803, following a conflict with Tunis
authorities, he was expelled from the country, and returned to the United States. Having
succeeded in promoting his plan for an American intervention designed to support a rival
claimant for the rule of Tripoli, Eaton arrived to the Mediterranean in 1804, with the fleet
commanded by Samuel Barron, as United States naval agent to the Barbary States. Eaton 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. Following the peace
of 1805, Eaton returned to the United States. He obtained a grant of 10,000 acres in Maine
from the Massachusetts legislature and later received about $10,000 to liquidate claims for
his expense in Tripoli. In May 1807-1811, he served as a member of the Massachusetts House
of Representatives. He finally retired
to his home in Brimfield, Massachusetts, and died in 1811.
Scope and Content
This collection contains the papers of William Eaton, chiefly those accumulated during his service in the Mediterranean. 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. Included are letters, documents
(including 9 volumes of contemporary copies), commonplace books, manuscripts, with a few sketches. The papers document the
relations between the U.S.
and the Barbary states, the Tripolitan War (1801-05), James Leander Cathcart, naval operations of the U.S. and European powers.
Also included are items related
to Eaton's professional and personal affairs -- his army career, business transactions, claims against the U.S., and relations
with his family and friends.
I. Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers
- A. Algiers: Consulship of Richard O'Brien (official and personal
- B. Tripoli
- 1. Consulship of James Leander Cathcart (official and personal
- 2. War, 1801-1805
- a. Nicolai C. Nissen, Danish Consul and U.S.
- 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 in the collection include Ahmed II, Bey of Tripoli (11 pieces); Samuel Barron (6 pieces); Samuel Briggs
& Briggs Bros. (firm) (7 pieces);
James Leander Cathcart (108 pieces); George G. Coffin (4 pieces); George Davies (3 pieces); William Eaton (92 pieces including
11 volumes); Hammoudah, Bey of Tunis (3 pieces);
Thomas Jefferson (3 pieces);
Rufus King (6 pieces); Ahmed Korshid, Viceroy of Egypt (3 pieces); James Madison (6 pieces); Francesco Mendrici (5 pieces);
Alexander Murray (3 pieces); Nicolai Christian Nissen (37 pieces)
Richard O'Brien (71 pieces); Timothy Pickering (5 pieces); Antonio Porcile (3 pieces); Stephen Pyncron (4 pieces); William
Loughton Smith (3 pieces); and others.
The chronological distribution of the correspondence and miscellaneous papers is: 1792-1798 (26 pieces); 1799 (60 pieces);
1800 (72 pieces); 1801 (125 pieces); 1802 (71 pieces); 1803 (21 pieces); 1804 (26 pieces); 1805 (71 pieces); 1806-1811 (36
1813-1829 (3 pieces).
Some notable items include:
- 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)
1799. 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)
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
Some papers appear in: Naval documents related to the United States wars with the Barbary powers ... / Prepared by the Office
of Naval Records and Library, Navy Department, under the supervision of Captain Dudley W. Knox, U.S. (Washington : U.S. Govt.
Print. Off., 1939-44).
Items are arranged chronologically within the following groupings: Boxed materials (Boxes 1-9); Loose volumes (EA 198-208);
Facsimiles (1 case).
Barron, Samuel, -1810 -- Correspondence.
Cathcart, James L. (James Leander), 1767-1843 -- Correspondence.
Eaton, William, 1764-1811 -- Archives.
King, Rufus, 1755-1827 -- Correspondence.
Madison, James, 1751-1836 -- Correspondence.
O'Brien, Richard, approximately 1758-1824 -- Correspondence.
Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829 -- Correspondence.
United States. Army -- Officers -- Archives.
United States. Navy -- History -- Tripolitan War, 1801-1805 -- Sources.
Consuls -- United States -- Archives.
Diplomats -- United States -- Archives.
Navy agents -- United States -- Archives.
Africa, North -- Foreign relations -- United States.
Libya -- History -- 1551-1912 -- Sources.
United States -- Foreign relations -- Africa, North.
United States -- Foreign relations -- 1789-1809.
United States -- History -- 1783-1815 -- Sources.
United States -- History -- Tripolitan War, 1801-1805 -- Sources.
Harbeck, Charles Thomas, 1850- former owner.
Barron, Samuel, -1810.
Cathcart, James L. (James Leander), 1767-1843.
King, Rufus, 1755-1827.
Madison, James, 1751-1836.
O'Brien, Richard, approximately 1758-1824.
Pickering, Timothy, 1745-1829.