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Washington Hunt Letters

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Aug 1987

Biographical History

Washington Hunt (1811-1867) was born in Windham, New YOrk. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1834, and commenced practice in Lockport, New York. After an unsuccessful attempt in 1836 for election to Congress, he was appointed judge of the court of common pleas of Niagara County, a position he held from 1836-1841. He later ran successfully as the Whig party candidate for Congress and served six years (1843-1849); during his tenure he served as chairman of the Committee on Commerce. Hunt served as comptroller of New York in 1849 and 1850 and was then elected Governor of the State from 1850-1852. After his retirement to his farm in Lockport, he served as temporary chairman of the Whig National Convention in 1856 and as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1864. In 1860 he was offered (but declined) the Democratic nomination for Vice President.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Washington Hunt Letters consist of personal and business correspondence, both incoming and outgoing, concerning national and local (New York State) issues. Topics discussed include land sales (William C. Bouck, John L. Graham) and the purchase of a railroad (M. W. Brown). There are also two letters to the Commissioners of the Canal Fund concerning legislative opposition to the (Erie) Canal Law. Of particular interest is a letter to Samuel Ruggles in which Hunt discusses the death and character of William L. Marcy.

In letters to both William Shelton and Ruggles, Hunt deplores the regional interests which threaten to divide the country and in an 1855 letter to the latter, Hunt writes:

...We have turned back the portentous tide of sectional fanatacism and the country is saved from the dark calamities which seemed to be almost upon us...The demon of discord may continue to roar and growl, but his back is broken, and we may dismiss our apprehensions.

At the height of the Civil War, in an 1862 letter to Shelton, Hunt states, "My heart is heavy and sorrowful when I think of these tens and hundreds of thousands of kindred American citizens seeking to shed each others blood."

An incoming letter from James Madison Porter requests information concerning tax law and the sale of real estate in New York State. In an 1836 letter to Graham, Hunt expresses his belief that the state should not legislate land sales: "His Excellency must leave men to buy and sell according to their own ideas of pecuniary advantage."

Arrangement of the Collection

Letters are arranged alphabetically.


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.

Subject Headings


Bouck, William C., 1786-1859.
Graham, James Lorimer.
Hunt, Washington, 1811-1867.
Marcy, William L. (William Learned), 1786-1857.
Porter, James Madison, 1793-1862.
Ruggles, Samuel B. (Samuel Bulkley), 1800-1881.
Shelton, William, -1699.


Governors, New York (State)


Erie Canal (N.Y.)
New York (State), History, 1775-1865.

Genres and Forms

Letters (correspondence)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Washington Hunt Letters,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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