Guide to the Papers of Charles Fenton Mercer,U.S. Congressman 1748-1861 MG 328
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Inventory prepared by Althea Bernheim as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle Kovacs. February 2004. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.
Charles Fenton Mercer, the son of James and Eleanor (Dick) Mercer, was born June 6, 1778 in Fredericksburg Virginia. He attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) where he received his undergraduate and masters degrees, 1797 and 1800 respectively. He studied law with George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod Washington, a justice of the United State Supreme Court and was admitted to the bar in 1802. He went on to practice law in Aldie, Virginia.
From 1810-1817, he served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. In addition, during the War of 1812, he was aide to the governor and in command at Norfolk holding the rank of brigadier-general.
While in the Virginia Assembly, 1812-1813, he sponsored legislation to organize the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company; he eventually served as its first president from 1828 to 1833. In 1816 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served in that office from March 4, 1817, until his resignation on December 26, 1839.
Mercer was a strong supporter of public education, the abolition of slavery with an emphasis on the freeing and emigration of slaves to outside the United States, and the development of the American West. Later on in his life he spent much of his energy on the Anglo-American colonization of Texas. In addition, Mercer was very active in the Virginia Colonization Society and the National Society of Agriculture.
In 1839, after resigning from Congress, Mercer became a cashier for the Union Bank of Florida at Tallahassee. He continued to pursue his personal interests and made several trips to Europe. Shortly before his death he returned to Virginia, where he died on May 4, 1858. He never married.
This collection documents the personal and legal dealings of Charles Fenton Mercer (1778-1858) spanning the years 1748-1861. These papers consist of a variety of documents including deeds, wills, a bond, a diary, a cadastral map, correspondence, a speech by James Madison, poetry by the author, and newspaper clippings. The correspondence includes letters from Henry Clay, Edward Everett, James Monroe, Alexander Garnett, Theodore Garnett, Bishop Rutledge, Lord Radstock, and Winfield Scott.
The diary kept by Charles Fenton Mercer contains entries for February 22 through November 8 of 1816, and includes entries on finances, appointments, and observations. This diary is published by A. Small of Philadelphia and includes the following information: an almanac, distances of places from Washington City, Government of the United States, departments at the seats of government, duties on goods imported, and tax tables.
Of particular interest is the hand copied daily orders of General George Washington, these orders were issued while the army was in Morristown.
In many of the copied documents, as well as in the biographical writings, there is no clear indication as to the author of the document.
This collection is arranged alphabetically by folder title and chronologically within.
There are no access restrictions on this collection.
Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.
Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.
The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials.
This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 328, Charles Fenton Mercer Papers, The New Jersey Historical Society.
This collection was a gift of Martin B. Monroe.
This collection, except the diary, was originally processed as a part of Manuscript Group 1.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Nancy Ethie Eagleton, “The Mercer Colony in Texas, 1844-1883,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39-40 (April-October 1936).
DAB; Carter, Robert Allen. “Virginia Federalist in Dissent: A Life of Charles Fenton Mercer.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1988; Egerton, Douglas R. Charles Fenton Mercer and the Trial of National Conservatism. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989.