Manuscript Group 331, William Pennington (1796-1862), Lawyer, Governor of New Jersey, U.S. Congressman Papers, 1795-1915 (Bulk dates: 1820-1865)


Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs

Manuscript Group 331, William Pennington (1796-1862), Lawyer, Governor of New Jersey, U.S. Congressman

Papers, 1795-1915 (Bulk dates: 1820-1865), 0.25 linear feet / 16 folders

Call Number: MG 331 + folder number



Pennington was a lawyer from Newark who served as governor of New Jersey, 1837-1843, and as a Whig and Republican representative to the 36th U.S. Congress, 1859-1861.   Many of his letters and legal papers relate to his duties as a trustee for the New Jersey Protection and Lombard Bank.  Included is correspondence of Alfred P. Condit, John Cox, Israel Crane, Andrew Gray, John C. Hamilton, Phebe Pennington, James Robertson, and John Wilson.

Biographical Note:

The Pennington Family of New Jersey is descended from Ephraim Pennington, one of the first settlers of Newark, New Jersey, whose father, also Ephraim Pennington, immigrated to New Haven, Connecticut around 1643.

William Pennington, the son of Phoebe Wheeler (d.1804) and William S. Pennington (1757-1826), was born in Newark, New Jersey on May 4, 1796.  He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), studied law with Theodore Frelinghuysen, and was licensed as an attorney in 1817, as a counselor in 1820, and as a sergeant-at-law in 1834.  From 1817-1826, he was a clerk in the district and circuit courts of New Jersey, where his father was a judge.  In politics he was a Whig/Republican and was elected as a member of the 1828 New Jersey State Assembly and as the governor and chancellor of New Jersey from 1837-1843.  During his time as governor, he was involved in a New Jersey congressional election scandal referred to as the Broad Seal War, where the Whig commissions he signed were overturned by Congress and given to Democrats.

When Pennington left office, he returned to his law practice and the hope that he would be appointed a chancellor or ambassador.  He turned down President Millard Fillmore’s nominations as territorial governor of Minnesota and as a claims judge under the treaty that ended the Mexican War, and did not return to public office until his election as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1858.  He served as a representative until 1861 and was the speaker of the House in 1859.  After he left office, he returned to his law practice in Newark, New Jersey.

William Pennington married Caroline Burnet (1797-1872), the daughter of Joanna Alling and Dr. William Burnet, Jr. (1754-1799), on May 23, 1820.  The couple had four children together: William S. Pennington, Henrietta Pennington, Mary Pennington, and Edward R. Pennington. William Pennington died in Newark on February 16, 1862.


American National Biography.

Dictionary of American Biography.

Pennington Family File, The New Jersey Historical Society.

Provenance Note:

The source of this collection is unknown.  It was possibly the gift of William Pennington (1869-1922), a member of The New Jersey Historical Society.

Scope and Content Note:

The papers largely consist of the correspondence, court documents, contracts, and financial documents of William Pennington (1796-1862), dating from 1795-1915, with bulk dates of 1820-1865.  The documents have been arranged by the above record types.

Most of the correspondence in the collection is written to William Pennington (1796-1862), with a lesser number of letters to Caroline Burnet Pennington, William Pennington (1869-1922), and Albert P. Condit.  Correspondents of William Pennington (1796-1862) include Alexander M. Cumming, Israel Crane, Robert Campbell, John Cox, Joseph C. Hornblower, James Robertson, and Anthony Rutgers, and the letters mostly pertain to legal matters and court cases.  There is one letter from the firm Anderson & Raymond dealing with a well-known inheritance case that Pennington argued, Gifford v. Thorn.  The collection also contains a series of letters written to Albert P. Condit, a Newark lawyer, from William Pennington (1796-1862) during his time in Washington, D.C. as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In these letters Pennington discusses the politics of the times, referring to the presidential nominations of 1860 and then to President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet appointments.  Pennington also informs Condit that he will not run for reelection, saying, “the House of Representatives is a place for a younger man.”

Pennington’s legal career is also documented in the court records contained in these papers. There are briefs, arguments, notes, opinions, pleas, notices, depositions, warrants, summons, subpoenas, and powers of attorney for various cases Pennington was involved in, one of which was a case against the New Jersey Protection and Lombard Bank, of which Pennington was a trustee.  This series also contains the charges in a case brought by Samuel Pennington (1765-1835) and Stephen Gould against Robert Hays regarding a breach of contract to sell and deliver the Newark newspaper, The Sentinel of Freedom.  William Pennington’s father, William S. Pennington (1757-1826) was the attorney for this case.

Lastly, the papers contain contracts and financial documents of William Pennington (1796-1862) and his business acquaintances, friends, and family.  These items include land deeds for Newark and Pequannock, New Jersey; bonds; a petition for a peddler’s license; an inheritance agreement; receipts; promissory notes; checks; accounts; and court bills.  There is also a small collection of signatures, including the autograph of William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”), and an 1863 muster roll for Company K of the 21st Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers of the Confederate Army.

Related Collections:

Manuscript Group 234, William S. Pennington (1757-1826) Papers

Manuscript Group 675, Pennington-Satterthwaite Family Papers

Folder List:

Folder Title Dates
1 To Albert P. Condit from William Pennington
(13 letters)
2 To Caroline Burnet Pennington
– Pennington (Whitehead), Phebe 1814
– Pennington, William (1796-1862) 1860
– Robins, Eliza H. 1822
To William Pennington (1869-1922)
– Adams, W.I. Lincoln 1911
– Henrick, James Frederic (2 letters) 1915
3 To William Pennington (1796-1862) from:
– Anderson, R.J. 1854
– Anderson, William J. 1827
– Anderson & Raymond 1835
– Campbell, Robert 1835
– Cox, John 1841
– Crane, Israel 1822
– Cumming, Alexander M. 1854
– Disborough, W. 1838
– Edwards & (McC?) 1837
– Griffin & Wheaton 1836
– Griswold, Samuel H. (2 letters) 1827, 1829
– Hamilton, John C. 1822
– Masters, M( ), & Co. 1837
– Robertson, James 1824
– Rutgers, Anthony 1834
– A. Valentine & Sons 1832
– Van den Heusel, J.C. 1823
– Ward, J.W. 1844
– ( ), A. 1838
4 To Miscellaneous:
– To Ancell, Jeremiah from G. Gray (2 copies) 1830
– To Bryce, William from J.E. Crane 1825
– To Duxbury, Caleb from Andrew Gray 1830
– To Green, C.S. from William Pennington (1796-1862) 1853
– To Gummere, Samuel R. from Richard Howell 1843
– To Hornblower, Joseph C. from Benjamin W.
– To Ludlow, John R. from William Pennington
– To McLaren, D. from Cornel G. Lake 1820
– To Mallory, Garrick from F.C.F. Randolph (copy) 1825
– To Priest, Edward C. from John Wilson (7 letters) 1828-1829
– To Pur(?), Rev. (M?) from William Pennington
– To Riggs, Caleb S. from William Kent 1826
– To Riker, J.C. from T. Little 1852
– To Rogers, Benjamin W. from Gould Phinney 1822
– To Ru(ggles?), S.B. from William Pennington
– To Tomlinson, W.A. from Sturges Bradley 1825
– To ( ) from William Pennington (1796-1862) 1859
Court Documents:
5 Briefs, Arguments, Notes, Opinions, Pleas, Notices,
– Collins, John vs. the estate of Robert Taylor and
– Cummings, A.M. vs. Joseph L. Josephs, et al.:Notes on
– Dod, Stephen & Robert Baldwin vs. Jacob Alyea:
and notices
– Eden, Rachel vs. John Rathbones: Exceptions to
– Hull, Amos G. vs. Christian Stockman: Brief n.d.
– Lawrence, Samuel A. vs. Henry Morris: Notes on
6 – New Barbadoes Toll Bridge Co. vs. John A. Berry
Abraham J. Berry: Notice
– New York Lombard Association vs. New
Jersey Manufacturing
and Banking Company: Notice and Bill
– Peek, Aaron v. Thomas Buick and Ann
Roome, administrators
of B. Roome: Notes on trial
– Pennington, Samuel (1765-1835) vs. John Wallis:
case – Draft of argument, William S. Pennington (1757-1826), attorney
– Pennington, Samuel (1765-1835) and Stephen
Gould vs.
Robert Hays – Breach of contract regarding the Sentinel of Freedom: Charges,
William S. Pennington (1757-1826), attorney
– Pierson, Jabez, Joseph Pierson, and others vs.
Squire and others: Affadavit
– Rogers, B.W. vs. Gould Phinney: Notes n.d.
– Spinning, Benjamin vs. William H.
Gomersall: Notice of
trial date
– Starbuck, Charles and Nathaniel vs. Abraham and
Tice: Brief
7 Depositions, Warrants, Summons, Subpoenas,
Power of
Attorneys, and Clerk’s certificates:
– Birch, Tho.: Power of Attorney, to Aaron S.
– Condit, Joel W.: Deposition in case concerning
officer elections for The Proprietors of the Bridges over the Rivers Passaic an Hackensack
– Fish, Randal: Warrant, wanted in NY 1837
– Meloney, Nathaniel: Power of attorney to Amzi
– Pennington, Jabez P., Samuel H. Pennington, et
Subpoena in case against Calvin Ferrman, Samuel Smith, et al.
– Poillon, Peter: Warrant 1842
– Richardson, J.W.: Power of Attorney to Charles S.
– Smith, Josiah S., John H. Smith, Sarah Eckerson,
Van Nostrand, Jacob Van Nostrand, and Henry Van Nostrand: Summons to appear in the
Bergen County Orphan’s Court
– Vandevender, Dean: Warrant, wanted in NY 1840
– Young, William C. and Henry P. Cropsey: Power
of Attorney
– Juror summons 1828
– Clerk’s certificates (3) 1829, 1834, 1837
8 Papers regarding the New Jersey Protection and
9 Land Deeds:
– Cory, Jonathan and Frances to James Turnbull 1833
– Crane, Samuel M. & Jane Maria and Daniel B.
Crane to
George Carter and Amos K. Carter
– Goble, Luther to Zephaniah Drake 1833
– Keene, James to David Smith 1836
– Poinier, John & Elizabeth to Peter Hill 1807
– Reeve, William, executor of Isaac Reeve, to
Reeve, Jr.
– Sayrs, Caleb and Uzal Sayrs, executors of
Jonathan Sayrs
to David Nichols, Jedidiah Johnson Nichols, and Isaac Nichols
10 Bonds:
– Russell, Caleb bound to Richard Prosser 1827
– Wheeler, Caleb bound to John R. Crane 1823
– Woodruff, Archibald, David D. Crane, and Josiah
bound to Newark Mutual Fire Insurance Company
11 Other Contracts:
– Agreement between Moses Ogden and Elizabeth
regarding Lucy (Jamison) Robertson
– Petition for a Peddler’s license: Michael Quinn 1838
Financial Documents:
12 Receipts, Promissory Notes, Checks, Accounts 1798-1834
13 Receipts, Promissory Notes, Checks, Accounts 1835-1886, n.d.
14 Court Bills and Accounts 1823-1835
15 Muster Roll of Company K of the 21st Regiment of
Carolina Volunteers, Confederate Army
April 30-June30, 1863
16 Signatures and Empty envelopes n.d.

Processed by Kim Charlton, March 2000 as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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