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Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845) Papers

Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845) Papers

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LEVERETT SALTONSTALL (1783-1845) PAPERS, 1715-1845

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Saltonstall, Leverett, 1783-1845
Title:Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845) Papers
Quantity:9.5 linear feet (18 boxes)
Abstract:The Leverett Saltonstall Papers document the political and legal activities of Leverett Saltonstall, attorney, member of the Massachusetts House and Senate, first mayor of Salem, and Congressman in the United States House of Representatives.
Collection Number:MSS 243

Series List

SERIES I. Personal Papers
SERIES II. Maritime Cases
SERIES III. Civil Cases
A. Real Estate
B. Probate
C. Litigation
D. Criminal
SERIES IV. Political Papers
A. Federal
B. State
C. Salem
D. Speeches and Journals

Scope and Content Note

The Leverett Saltonstall Papers document the political and legal activities of Leverett Saltonstall, attorney, member of the Massachusetts House and Senate, first mayor of Salem, and Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. Included is correspondence and legal documentation pertaining to civil and marine court proceedings, mayoral and congressional papers, speeches, and personal financial documents. The collection is organized into four series.

Series I. Personal Papers contains personal correspondence, business papers, and bills. Included herein are Saltonstall's commonplace books for 1799 and 1800, his ledger for 1804, a copy of his diary (January 1806-May 1807), and a variety of reference materials (1715-1807) that predate Saltonstall's legal career and were used as precedents for other cases. There are also two folders of papers relating to his handling of the affairs of Mary Perkins.

Series II. Maritime Cases pertains primarily to insurance claims against lost and/or damaged cargo, vessels damaged and/or lost, and piracy. Documentation includes ship manifests, correspondence, bills and receipts, lists of seamen and officers, requests for indemnification, depositions, and related court documents. A typical case is that of the schooner Bold Runner, a Marblehead fishing vessel that collided with an English brig on Georges Bank, May 14, 1831. The schooner, deserted by her crew, was found by the schooner Glide of Gloucester, towed to port, and sold at auction. The case deals with insurance claims of rectification.

A more unusual case is that of the barque Pacific, which was captured en route to Rotterdam by Danish privateers in April of 1809. The ship was carried to Christiansand, Norway, and condemned as a prize. The resulting claims against seizure and losses of flour, indigo, rice, and sugar spanned almost twenty years and the legal systems of three countries.

A list of the marine cases is contained in Appendix I.

The majority of the collection revolves around the Series III. Civil Cases. The papers relating to these cases run from 1755 to 1840 and involve all aspects of the law. This series is further broken down into four subseries: Real Estate, Probate, Litigation, and Criminal. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically.

One outstanding criminal case is Pike v. Green, 1835. Pike was accused of physically abusing his seven-year-old housemaid Sarah P. Jay, and then abandoning her in the poorhouse. The case notes are quite extensive and include depositions, court proceedings, and newspaper accounts of the trial.

The litigation case of John Manning et al. v. The Fifth Parish of Gloucester (1824-1827) includes a notebook detailing the history of the parish from its separation in 1754 from the First Parish of Gloucester and its organization as an autonomous precinct. Included is a list of individuals who, with John Manning, left the Fifth Parish.

The 1813 litigation case of Trustees of Phillips Academy v. James King offers documentation of the formation of the Andover Theological Seminary. King, executor of the will of Mary Norris, widow of a Phillips Academy benefactor, was accused of not clearing a debt for a sizeable legacy. Of related interest is the case of Murdock v. the Trustees of Phillips Academy. Murdock, an instructor at the Academy, was charged with the "want of sound orthodox" principles in divinity.

Series IV. Political Papers is further divided into four subseries. Subseries A. Federal papers relate to various federal issues, including some specific tariff issues, and constituents' correspondence. Subseries B. State papers involve issues and acts passed during Saltonstall's years in the state legislature and state judiciary. Subseries C. Salem papers involve various aspects of Salem government. Subseries D. Speeches and Journals contain speeches given by Saltonstall. See Appendix II for a list of speeches.

Biographical Sketch

Leverett Saltonstall was born on June 13, 1783, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, to Dr. Nathaniel Saltonstall and Ann (White) Saltonstall. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College. Saltonstall received his degree in law from Harvard in 1802 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa the following year.

After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a law practice in Haverhill, Saltonstall moved to Salem, Massachusetts, and entered the law office of William Prescott. Through the influence of Prescott, Saltonstall became active in the Essex County Federalist caucuses. Saltonstall's oratorical skills enable him to win the 1813 election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. There he served in the General Court during the years 1813-1815, 1816-1817, 1822-1823, 1827-18830, 1834, and 1844, serving during sixteen terms. Saltonstall also won election to the Massachusetts Senate in 1817-1820, was Senate president in 1831, and served his final term in 1844.

In March 1836, Saltonstall was inaugurated as the first mayor of Salem. This accomplishment was the culmination of his many years of active interest in the community both as a resident and as a representative in the Massachusetts General Court. A popular mayor, Saltonstall was reelected in 1837 and 1838. He was also one the founders of the Essex Historical Society and its vice-president.

In 1838, Saltonstall was elected to the United States Congress as a Whig representative from Essex County, District Two. In Washington, he dealt with a variety of issues, foremost among them the tariff of 1841. Saltonstall did not enjoy public service on the federal level. He described himself as a "gloomy politician"; for this reason he did not run for a second term.

Upon his return to Salem in 1843, Saltonstall lived in semiretirement, retaining only a few clients but accepting a nomination representing Salem to the General Court.

On May 8, 1845, Saltonstall died of complications of gout and asthma at his Salem residence with his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Saunders) Saltonstall, and their children in attendance.

A biography of Leverett Saltonstall may be found in the introduction of the first volume of The Papers of Leverett Saltonstall, 1816-1845, selected and edited with an introduction by Robert E. Moody (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1978).

Index Terms

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.

Perkins, Mary
Saltonstall, Leverett, 1783-1845
Andover Theological Seminary
Essex Historical Society
Fifth Parish Church of Gloucester
Phillips Exeter Academy
Account books
Alfred (Ship)
Argonaut (Ship)
Civil law
Criminal law
Franklin (Ship)
Friendship (Schooner)
Indians of North America
Insurance law
Laura (Brig)
Letter writing
Maritime law
Probate law and practice
Real property
Trials (Fraud)
Trials (Piracy)
Whig Party (U.S.)
Gloucester (Mass.)
Massachusetts--Politics and government
Salem (Mass.)--Politics and government
United States--Congresses
United States--Politics and government


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


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 Museum.

Preferred Citation

Leverett Saltonstall (1783-1845) Papers, MSS 243, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The origin of this collection is unknown, except for the copies of the diary, which were a gift from William Saltonstall in 1976. Business letters were purchased on July 19, 2010 (acc # 2010.024).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Marion Clark, January 1992. Updated by Halley Grogan, December 2012.

Related Material

Andrew Dunlap Papers, 1754-1847, MSS 150

For additional Leverett Saltonstall material please visit Philcat our online catalog.

Appendix I

Appendix II

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