The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Cushing, Caleb, 1800-1879
Caleb Cushing (1800-1879)
0.25 linear feet (1 box)
The Caleb Cushing Papers
document the personal, business, and legal affairs of Caleb Cushing.
SERIES I. Business and Legal Papers SERIES II. Personal Correspondence
B. Spofford Correspondence
SERIES III. Manuscripts and Printed Material
Scope and Content Note
The Caleb Cushing Papers document the personal, business,
and legal affairs of Caleb Cushing. The papers are divided into three series.
Series I. Business and Legal Papers contain notes and
documents from 1822 to 1867. These papers include notes about certain legal cases,
receipts, wills, titles, and legal advice. Correspondence clearly about business
matters can be found here as well. Of interest in the "Pettingate vs. Piper" case,
in which Richard Pettingate, a Navy first office, was accused by second mate Walter
Piper of smuggling tobacco for personal use. The two men later made threats to kill
one another. A number of papers concerning this case will be found in Box 1, Folder
2. Also included is an anonymous letter detailing the possibility of the swindling
of American ships in exchange for free status at a brothel in London in May
Series II. Personal Correspondence is divided into
two subseries. Subseries A.Correspondence contains a sampling of Cushing's letters
to and from many people. They include complaints, invitations to several functions,
thank you notes, letters recommending promotions, and letters asking for favors.
Also included is a letter from a man who claimed he was held against his will for
twelve years. He wanted justice, asking for Cushing's help. Other notes, such as an
original love poem, can be found here as well.
Subseries B. Spofford Correspondence is of both a
personal and business nature. The two earlier letters from 1829 and , are
addressed to Doctor Richard Spofford (1787-1872), a Newburyport physician who
apparently treated Cushing's wife during her illness. His son, Richard Smith
Spofford (1833-1888), was a Newburyport attorney and husband of writer Harriet
Prescott Spofford. He was a friend and business acquaintance of Cushing a most of
the Spofford correspondence is addressed to him, primarily from the early 1860s.
Cushing detailed a trip to Europe, describing his interest in astronomy and biology.
He discussed business transactions with Spofford and also gives an account of a
possible scandal. Cushing related to Spofford details of his legal cases and asked
him to handle some business transactions for Cushing while Cushing was out of
Series III. Manuscripts and Printed Material includes
notes Cushing made in preparation for a history of Newbury, Massachusetts he was
writing. Also included is a manuscript of this history written for the Newbury
bi-centennial in 1835. Folder 10 includes a miniature printing of the Boston Transcript from 1874 and campaign pamphlets
against Benjamin Franklin Butler, who lost his campaigns for governor in 1878 and
1879, but became governor from 1883 to 1884.
Caleb Cushing was born in Salisbury, Massachusetts on
January 17, 1800, the son of Lydia (Dow) and John Newmarch Cushing. He graduated (as
Latin salutatorian) from Harvard College in 1817, and he was admitted to the
Massachusetts bar four years later.
On November 23, 1824, Cushing married Caroline Elizabeth Wilde. In that same
year, he became a representative in the Massachusetts General Court. In 1826,
Cushing became a state senator. His wife died in 1834, leaving him childless. In
that same year, he was elected to Congress as a representative, serving four
In 1843, Cushing was appointed United States Commissioner to China, where he
negotiated and signed the Treaty of Wang Hiya, which opened several Chinese ports to
American merchants. During his time as commissioner, he learned the Manchu language.
Known for his linguistic ability, Cushing was fluent in French, Spanish and Italian
By 1851, Cushing was back in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he was elected
the first mayor of that city. A year later, he resigned after accepting the position
of Associate Justice of the Supreme Judiciary Court of Massachusetts. Later that
same year, Cushing became United States Attorney General under President Franklin
Pierce. In 1857, with a new administration in Washington, Cushing returned to the
Massachusetts legislature. Cushing was active in the administrations of both Abraham
Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant appointed Cushing United States
Minister to Spain in December 1873. He retired to Newburyport in 1877, where he died
on January 2, 1879, after suffering from erysipelas, an acute skin disease.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Spofford, Richard S. (Richard Smith), 1833-1888
Spofford, Richard S., Dr., 1787-1872
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Many of the items in this collection were purchased in 1929, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1954,
1955, 1959, 1962, 1991, and 2003. Thirty-three items, mostly correspondence with
Richard Spofford, were purchased in 1949. Series III was a gift from the Phillips
Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 2009 (Acc 2009.023). The rest of the collection
is of unknown origin.
Collection processed by Michael Willens, December 1993. Updated by Rachel Jirka,
Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 4. New York:
Currier Family Papers, 1836-1913, MSS 180
John Newmarch Cushing Papers, MSS 186
Young Men's Union Records, 1855-1880, MSS 245
Cushing, Caleb, Receipt dated July 8, 1772, Fam. Mss.
Letters signed by Caleb Cushing (earlier generation), Autograph Collection
The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
Many of the items in this collection were purchased in 1929, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1954, 1955, 1959, 1962, 1991, and 2003. Thirty-three items, mostly correspondence with Richard Spofford, were purchased in 1949. Series III was a gift from the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 2009 (Acc 2009.023). The rest of the collection is of unknown origin.