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George Bancroft Correspondence

An inventory of his correspondence at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Bancroft, George, 1800-1891.
Title: George Bancroft Correspondence
Inclusive Dates: 1844-1881
Quantity: 1 folder (SC)
Abstract: Papers of the American historian, diplomat. Bancroft served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy under James K. Polk, and later as U.S. minister to Great Britain (1846-1849), to Prussia (1867-1871), and to the German Empire (1871-1874). Consists of correspondence, chiefly outgoing; includes recommendations for appointments, letters of introduction, responses to social invitations, and acknowledgements of receipt of books, historical documents, and various other items. Correspondents include A.D. Bache, John H. Campbell, G.W. Childs, Joel Munsell, Ambrose Sevier, Edward H. Wright, and Hendrick B. Wright.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was an American historian and statesman, and an active promoter of secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. As U. S. Secretary of the Navy under James K. Polk, Bancroft established the Naval Academy at Annapolis and later served as U.S. Minister to Great Britain (1846-1849), Prussia (1867-1871), and the German Empire (1871-1874). He is best remembered however for his 10-volume History of the United States, a work which fellow historian Leopold von Ranke called "the best book ever written from the democratic point of view." [From the Dictionary of American Biography.]

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Bancroft Correspondence consists of 22 letters, chiefly outgoing. Characteristic of his assignments as Secretary of the Navy and foreign minister, Bancroft's correspondence consists largely of recommendations for appointments (Mrs. Duncan, Ambrose H. Sevier), letters of introduction (A.D. Bache, John H. Campbell), responses to social invitations (Hendrick Wright), and acknowledgements of receipt of various items, including books (Mr. AUstin, Joel Munsell, Mr. Trumbull), historical documents (Baron Parke, Mr. Phelps) and edibles (Mrs. Edward Pierrepont). A devotee of the opera, Bancroft extended invitations to various New York and Berlin productions (Mrs. Faulkner, Mrs. Wright).

Yet predictably it is his observations about historical events which reveal Bancroft's analytical mind at work. Writing of the Civil War, Bancroft notes (3 Sept. 1863):

I remain of the opinion which I have held from the first, that the insane & senseless hatred of the poor negro is the great difficulty. It has prolonged the war & is the only obstacle to its close.

Taking an optimistic view of the sweep of events, Bancroft waxes philosophical (4 Nov 1847):

The study of history confirms faith in Providence, for even the defeat of well-considered designs of good men, often leads to results most favorable to human happiness.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. A Selected index to correspondence is provided at the end of this inventory.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Bache, A. D. (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867.
Bancroft, George, 1800-1891.
Campbell, John H. (John Hull), d. 1868.
Childs, George William, 1829-1894.
Munsell, Joel, 1808-1880.
Sevier, Ambrose Hundley, 1801-1848.
Wright, Edward H.
Wright, Hendrick Bradley, 1808-1881.


Diplomats, United States.
Historians, United States.

Genres and Forms




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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George Bancroft Correspondence,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: KM
Date: Jun 1989
Revision history: 4 Jan 2008 - converted to EAD (MRC)

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SC 103 1844-1847 (6 letters)
SC 103 1853-1863 (6 letters)
SC 103 1871-1872 (5 letters)
SC 103 1875-1881 (4 letters)
SC 103 Undated (3 letters)

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Selected index to correspondence

  • Austin, Mr. : 13 Oct 1872
  • Bache, Alexander Dallas : 20 Nov 1855
  • Campbell, John Hull : 10 Mar 1846 (incoming)
  • Childs & Peterson : 15 Jun 1858
  • Duncan, Mrs. : 28 Mar 1872
  • Faulkner, Mrs. : 14 Dec 1857
  • Frothingham, Mr. : Undated
  • Munsell, Joel : 26 Jan 1875
  • Nicholas, I. S. [?] : 24 Oct 1845
  • Parke, Baron : 4 Nov 1847
  • Phelps, Mr. : 30 July 1860; 10 Jan 1878
  • Pierrepont, Mrs. Edward : 11 Jan 1876
  • Sevier, Ambrose H. : 21 Apr 1845 (incoming)
  • Trumbull, Mr. : 5 Sep 1881
  • Wright, Edward H. : Undated
  • Wright, Hendrick Bradley : 14 Jun 1844
  • Wright, Mrs. : 21 Nov 1871; 1 Jan 1872; 31 Dec 1872

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