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Guide to the John W. Taylor Papers
 MS 615

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Margaret Bausman

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 14, 2014
Finding Aid is written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Taylor, John W., 1784-1854
Title: John W. Taylor Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1798-1852
Abstract: John W. Taylor (1784-1854) served as a United States Congressman from 1813-1833 and was appointed Speaker of the House twice. This collection is primarily correspondence from many of Taylor’s contemporaries to him illuminating his role as a statesman particularly as to his leadership of the Restrictionist cause to abolish slavery in the newly developing western territories.
Quantity: 3.75 Linear feet
Language of Materials Note: The John W. Taylor Papers are written in English.
Call Phrase: MS 615

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Biographical / Historical Note

Timeline for John W. Taylor
1784 John W. Taylor born March 26, 1784 in Charlton, New York
Son of Judge John Taylor
1799 Enrolled at Union College at 15 years of age
1803 Graduated Union College
Member of Phi Beta Kappa
1803-1807 Founded and taught at The Ballston Centre Academy
Studied law with Samuel Cook
1807 Earned credentials as Attorney at Law in New York State
1810 Earned credentials as Counselor of Law in New York State
1811 Appointed Deputy Post Master of Hadley, Saratoga Country, New York
1812-1813 Served in the New York State Assembly
Served as New York State Commissioner of Loans
1813-1833 Elected at 29 years of age for 10 consecutive terms to Congress as the House Representative from Saratoga County
1820-1821 Served as Speaker of the House for the 16th Congress
1825-1827 Served as Speaker of the House for the 19th Congress
1827 Became a member of the New-York Historical Society
1840-1842 Served in the New York State Assembly
1842 Suffered a paralytic stroke
Moved to daughter’s home in Cleveland, Ohio
1854 Died September 18, 1854 in Cleveland, Ohio at 70 years of age
Buried in Ballston Spa, New York

Historical Context:

Described as a man who advocated “measures and not men... actions and not words”, John W. Taylor was as much a product of his times as he was a creator of them, generating a legacy which while lacking direct recognition nevertheless permeates the American socio-political landscape in seminal and enduring ways. His papers reflect a deep and abiding commitment to service to his country, his constituents and his personal convictions.

Raised in an established American family with roots in Saratoga County, New York dating to 1692, Taylor distinguished himself early as a gifted student and debater. Upon graduation from Union College at the age of 19, he founded the Ballston Academy, engaged in successful business ventures, served as the Deputy Post Master and earned his law credentials. He married a young woman of Scottish descent, Jane Hodges, with whom he raised 5 sons and 3 daughters. Appointed to the State Assembly in 1811, Taylor’s steady independence propelled him to federal office in 1813 as a Republican Congressman. Thus at the age of 29, Taylor joined a group of young, ambitious men including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun who wrestled with the nuances of the physical, legal, political and spiritual governance of a county only just evolving from its infancy toward its first toddling steps as an individualized political entity.

John W. Taylor entered the national political arena during the second half of the War of 1812 in which the United States failed to extend its territory into Canada but succeeded in establishing itself as a militarily stalwart and politically autonomous country. Thus ensconced in President James Monroe’s Era of Good Feeling, purported as a time of national unity while the country strove to expand, it was James Tallmadge, Jr. and Taylor, both congressmen from New York State, who in 1819 ushered the debate of the abolitionist into the goal of western expansion.

Championing the Restrictionist cause was an ethical imperative for Taylor who fervently promoted and authored amendments aimed at preventing and/or limiting the legally sanctioned institution of slavery into newly created states. Using his considerable parliamentarian talents as a tactful, fluent, concise and effective orator, Taylor’s response to southern Secessionists threats was resolute: “The honorable gentleman greatly mistakes the people of this country if he supposes this Union, cemented by strong interests, consecrated by glorious achievement, sanctified by the blood of heroes, and endeared by victories won by the exertion and treasure of all … can ever be destroyed or in the least impaired by promoting the cause of humanity and freedom in America”.

The results were variable often highlighting yet another seminal and enduringly contentious issue regarding the extent of the power of the Constitution as well as that of the federal government to dictate legislation upon States. Ultimately, many of Taylor’s unsuccessful but core proposals formed the bedrock of the ensuing Missouri Compromises including the establishment of a geographic boundary between slave and free states at the 36/30 parallel known as the Mason-Dixon Line.

John W. Taylor went on to serve as Speaker of the House twice, during the second half of the 16th Congress in 1821 and again for the entire 19th Congress of 1825-1827. A statesman who advocated service to the people above service to a political party, his reluctance to be drawn into the contentious fractioning within the New York State Republican party between the Bucktails led by Martin Van Buren and the supporters of Governor DeWitt Clinton with whom Taylor was ultimately associated nearly cost him the 1821 appointment. By 1825, the machinations required to maintain political footing on the national stage had aligned Taylor solidly with long time ally John Quincy Adams in whose 1825 election Taylor provided pivotal support.

During the years of 1833-1842, intervening his Congressional Service and incapacitation from a paralytic stroke, Taylor returned to Saratoga County where he practiced law, served in the State Assembly and was instrumental in the development of the Whig party. Taylor spent his waning years in Cleveland, Ohio in the care of his daughter. He was buried upon his death at age 70 in Ballston Spa. Despite an absence of 12 years, his memorial at the courthouse was well attended by dignitaries and citizens of every ilk and he was eulogized as a man who "was lauded when he flourished and strengthened when he fainted, as scarce ever was a man before."

Historical Resources:

Alexander, DeAlva Stanwood. "John W. Taylor." Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association 1 (January 1920): 14-37.

Booth, John Chester. Excerpt from Booth's History of Saratoga County, New York: 1858. Eds. Violet B. Dunn & Beatrice Sweeney. Saratoga County Bicentennial Commission, 1977. 11 December 2009 http://www.townofcharlton.org/CHS/highlightshistory.html

Johnson, William R. "Prelude to the Missouri Compromise: A New York Congressman's Effort to Exclude Slavery from Arkansas Territory." New-York Historical Society Quarterly 48 (January 1964): 31-50.

Spann, Edward K. "The Souring of Good Feeling: John W. Taylor and the Speakership Election of 1821." New York History 41 (October 1960): 379-399.

Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett and Cornelius E. Durkee. Excerpt from History of Saratoga County, New York: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers. Philadelphia: Evert & Ensign, 1878. Interlaken, New York: Hearts of the Lakes Publishers, 1979.  www.ancestory.com 11 December 2009 http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nysarato/Sylvester/chap27.html

United States: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. John W. Taylor, 1784-1854. 11 December 2009 http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=T000091

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Scope and Content Note

The John W. Taylor Papers consist primarily of correspondence received by John W. Taylor in his capacity as a Congressional Representative of New York State from 1813-1833. The correspondence is generally of a political nature reflective of the germane issues of the period including western expansion, the anti-slavery movement, tariffs, banking, elections, the post office, and personal matters. Notable correspondents include Henry Clay, DeWitt Clinton, Alfred Conkling, Edward Everett, Jonathan Fisk, John B. C. Lucas, Henry C. Martindale, John McLean, Charles Miner, Hezekiah Niles, Eliphalet Nott, John Savage, Ebenezer Sage, Ambrose Spencer, James Tallmadge,Jr., Daniel D. Tompkins, Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, Hugh White, William Woodbridge and Samuel Young.

There is also correspondence from Taylor in draft or copy format as well as over 80 letters from Taylor to his wife, Jane Hodges Taylor. Other materials include speeches, governmental documents including resolutions, committee lists, notes and rosters, financial documents including receipts, stock certificates, mortgages, indentures and deeds, diplomas and certificates, personal notes, calling cards and invitations. The collection includes a land grant signed by James Monroe, an 1821 letter from Thomas Jefferson, and an 1819 epistle from the vintner John Adlum entitled Of the Cropogation of Vines.

Presidential Signatures

  1. Presidential Signatures
  2. Series 1 / Box 1 / Folder 1: Letter for John Quincy Adams, 1820
  3. Series 1 / Box 2 / Folder 6: Letter from James Monroe, 1814
  4. Series 1 / Box 3 / Folder 7: Entirely correspondence from Martin Van Buren
  5. Series 1 / Box 4 / Folder 3: Letter from Thomas Jefferson, 1821
  6. Series 4 / Box 5 / Folder 9: Land Grant signed by James Monroe

Arrangement Note

The John W. Taylor Papers are arranged both alphabetically and chronologically.

  1. Series 1: Correspondence
  2. Series 2: Speeches
  3. Series 3: Governmental Documents
  4. Series 4: Financial Documents
  5. Series 5: Personal Papers

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
  • Clay, Henry, 1777-1852
  • Clinton, DeWitt, 1769-1828
  • Conkling, Alfred, 1789-1874
  • Everett, Edward, 1794-1865
  • Fisk, Jonathan, 1778-1832
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
  • Lucas, John B. C., d. 1842
  • Martindale, Henry C., 1779(?)-1860
  • McLean, John, 1785-1861
  • Miner, Charles, 1780-1865
  • Monroe, James, 1758-1821
  • Niles, Hezekiah, 1777-1839
  • Nott, Eliphalet, 1773-1866
  • Sage, Ebenezer, 1755-1834
  • Spencer, Ambrose, 1765-1848
  • Tallmadge, Jr., James, 1778-1853
  • Tompkins, Daniel D., 1774-1825
  • Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862
  • Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852
  • Woodbridge, William, 1780-1861
  • Young, Samuel, 1779-1850

Document Type

  • Broadsides
  • Certificates
  • Deeds
  • Diplomas
  • Invitations
  • Mortgages
  • Receipts
  • Speeches
  • Stock certificate
  • Visiting Cards

Subject Topics

  • Abolitionists -- United States.
  • Antislavery movements -- United States.

Subject Places

  • Ballston Spa (N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Politics and government
  • Saratoga Country (N.Y.)
  • Union College (Schenectady, N.Y.)
  • United States -- Politics and government.


  • Lawyers -- New York (N.Y.)
  • Politicians

Subject Uniform Title(s)

  • United States. Congress.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the John W. Taylor Papers, MS 515, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

The New Jersey Historical Society holds a small collection related to John W. Taylor including a hand-written genealogy.

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Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, 1812-1847

Arrangement Note

Series 1: Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Scope and Content Note

Series 1 consists of two subseries. Subseries 1 contains correspondence received by John W. Taylor primarily through the years of 1813-1833 while he served in Congress. The letters address a range of local, state and federal political issues including elections, political parties and abolition. Subseries 2 consists of draft or copy forms of correspondence created by John W. Taylor. This subseries includes over 80 letters to his wife, Jane Hodges Taylor from 1813-1833 that document a somewhat more intimate reflection on his day-to-day political life. Also in Subseries 2 is a draft of Taylor's letter sent to and the response received from Thomas Jefferson. While Jefferson declines knowledge of Taylor's request for information about Phi Beta Kappa, he does offer an unsolicited, somewhat cryptic but supportive in tone recognition of Taylor's political endeavors presumably with regard to his abolitionist stance. In light of Jefferson's acknowledged concern of the impact of the abolitionist movement upon the cohesiveness of the Union and his publicly neutral stance regarding the Missouri Compromises, this is an intriguing aspect of the collection.

Subseries 1: Correspondence received by John W. Taylor, 1812-1847

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Adams - Attwater
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Bailey - Booge
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Booth - Burch
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Campbell - Clark
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Clay - Conkling
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Cook - Cushman
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Davis - Dwight
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Easton - Everett
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Fenton - Freeman
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Gales & Seaton - Gue
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Haines - Hebb
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Hendricks - Judah
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Keeler - Knickerbacker
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Lane - Lucas
Box: 2 Folder : 5 McArthur - McMaster
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Maris - Nott
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Ostrander - Preston
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Reed - Rush
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Ebenezer Sage
Box: 2 Folder : 10 St. John - Spafford
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Spencer - Swift
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Taney - Turner
Box: 3 Folder : 3 James Tallmadge
Box: 3 Folder : 4 John Taylor
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Daniel D. Tompkins
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Upham - Vinton
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Martin Van Buren
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Watrous - Willard
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Wilmer - Wright
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Yates - Youngblood

Subseries 2: Correspondence from John W. Taylor, 1812-1841 and Undated

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Adams - Crawford
Box: 4 Folder : 2 DeFouch - Granger
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Harris - Nott
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Paine - Swift
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Tallmadge - Young
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Unknown
1820-1832 and Undated
Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Correspondence
Box: 4 Folder : 7 John W. Taylor letters to his wife, Jane Taylor
Box: 4 Folder : 8 John W. Taylor letters to his wife, Jane Taylor

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Series 2: Speeches, 1800-1839

Arrangement Note

Series 2: Speeches is arranged chronically with the exception of two folders of undated material.

Scope and Content Note

Series 2 consists of manuscripts of speeches delivered by John W. Taylor. This includes his 1803 graduation address from Union College entitled An Oration on Human Happiness, a published address of 1831 offered at "The Convention of Republican Antimasonic Delegates", a range of commencement speeches as well as oration pertaining to political matters and ideology. This series contains approximately a dozen orations prepared for Fourth of July celebrations.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Speeches
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Speeches
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Fourth of July Speeches

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Series 3: Governmental Documents, 1808-1832

Arrangement Note

Series 3: Governmental Documents is arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series 3 consists of documents related to governmental functions including resolutions, meeting notes, decrees, constituent issues, election tallies, rosters and committee lists. There is an undated broadside announcing John W. Taylor's nomination for Congress and a copy of a constituent's 1829 request for a Revolutionary War veteran's pension benefit.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Congressional Documents
1813-1827 and Undated
Box: 5 Folder : 5 State and Local Documents
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Constituent Issues
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Documents related to Elections
1808-1813 and Undated
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Rosters and Committee Lists

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Series 4: Financial Documents, 1798-1832

Arrangement Note

Series 4: Financial Documents is arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series 4 consists of documents related to finance including a land grant signed by James Monroe, Taylor’s Power of Attorney to his wife, Jane (Hodges) Taylor, business arrangements which include his father-in-law John Hodges, receipts, stock certificates, indentures and deeds.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 9 Financial Documents

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Series 5: Personal Papers, 1803-1832 and Undated

Arrangement Note

Series 5: Personal Papers is arranged chronologically. Of note, Series 5 contains 13 “bundles” of calling cards and invitations housed in Box 6. The wrappers of 8 of the original “bundles” of 13 bear annotation with dates and are thus arranged chronologically followed by the remaining 5 undated “bundles”. The original wrapping materials are housed separately in Box 7 and arranged in the same order.

Description of the original 13 bundles:

8 bundles with outer markings: 1.“Cards & Invitations, 1818 – 1819, 2 fep. (?), 15 Cong”. White paper wrapper with “draft” of business letter regarding court proceedings of an indebted client dated Aug. 25, 1918 on the inside. Tied with pink ribbon. 2.“Cards ???, Dec. 21 to Jan. 20. 1822”. White paper wrapper. 3.“Cards, 1 fefs. (?) 18th Congrefs, Dec. 1. 1823 to May 27. 1824 –". White paper wrapper. 4."Visits, 2 fep. (?) 20th Cong". White paper wrapper with pink ribbon. 5.“1829, 1830”. White paper wrapper. 6.“Cards ?? 2 fep (?), 21 Cong. 1830-31”. White paper wrapper tied with pink ribbon. 7."Cards of Visit, 1 fep (?) 22 Cong, 1831. 32”. White paper wrapper tied with pink ribbon. 8.“Cards, 2 fefs (?). 22 Cong, 1823 – 33”. Tan paper wrapper tied with pink ribbon.

5 bundles with no outer markings: 2 bundles in white paper wrappers tied with pink ribbon. 1 bundle in tan paper wrapper tied with thin brown twine. 1 bundle wrapped in tissue paper tied with pink ribbon. 1 bundle in white paper wrapper on the inside of which there is a list of foreign dignitaries.

Scope and Content Note

Series 5 consists of diplomas and certificates, personal notes, invitations and calling cards. There is Taylor's 1803 diploma from Union College, several certificates attesting to Taylor's law credentials and a certificate declaring Taylor a Deputy Post Master. There is a series of undated papers which appear to be Taylor's notes and musings related to political activities. There is a substantial collection of calling cards spanning the years Taylor held office in Washington.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 10 Diplomas and Certificates


Box: 5 Folder : 12 Invitations
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Calling Cards and Invitations
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Calling Cards
ca. 1827-1829
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 7 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 8 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 9 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 10 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 11 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 12 Calling Cards
Box: 6 Folder : 13 Calling Cards and Invitations
Box: 7 Wrapping Materials for Calling Card Bundles

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