Manuscript Group 57, Lawrence Kearny (1789-1868), U.S. Naval Officer Papers, 1814-1844


Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs

Manuscript Group 57, Lawrence Kearny (1789-1868), U.S. Naval Officer Papers, 1814-1844, 0.8 linear feet / 6 volumes

Call Number: MG 57 (os)



A log book of the U.S.S. Warren, 1827-1828; four letter books, 1814-1829, 1839-1844, kept by or for Kearny while in command of the U.S. Ships Enterprise, Warren, Unites States, Potomac, and Constellation; a book of verse written by Lawrence Kearny and other aboard the U.S.S. Warren, 1827-1829; orders and regulations, 1827-1834, of the H.M.S. Menai, the U.S.S. Brandywine, and the U.S.S. St. Louis, copied by Lawrence Kearny, bearing the binding title Regulation Book and the flyleaf inscription “Captn…Lawrence Kearny, U.S. Frigate Potomac.”  Of particular interest are letters written by Kearny while commander of the East India Squadron.  During this period, 1840-1844, he was responsible for protecting American interests in China.

Gift, in part, of J. Lawrence Boggs, 1937.

Biographical Note:

Lawrence Kearny, the son of Elizabeth Lawrence and Michael Kearny, was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1789.  He joined the U.S. Navy in 1807 as a midshipman, and in 1809, he served aboard the United States Ships Constitution, and President.  In 1810, Kearny was transferred to the Enterprise and was on that ship at the beginning of the War of 1812.  In August of 1812, Kearny requested a transfer to the Constitution, but instead was given command of the schooner Caroline, and a year later was promoted to lieutenant.  Kearny commanded the Ferret and the Nonsuch for the rest of the War of 1812.  Shortly before the war was over in 1815 Kearny gained recognition for capturing a British ship.

After a successful expedition against pirates off the southern coast of Cuba in 1821 Kearny was promoted to master commandant, given command of the Warren, and ordered to the Mediterranean Sea to fight Greek pirates preying on international merchant shipping.  In 1834, he took command of the Potomac and in 1840, of the Constellation.  He was soon sent to Buenos Aires where he became commander of the East India Squadron, consisting of his ship and the Boston, and then ordered to China to defend American mercantile interests during the Opium War (1839-1842).  Upon learning that the British had gained preferred trading status with the Chinese at five ports, Kearny took it upon himself to acquire similar privileges for the United States.  Ten months later the Chinese granted his request.  He then returned to the United States via New Zealand and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) where he persuaded the British to cease their cessation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Kearny continued working for the U.S. Navy after his long journey to and from China.  He was President of the Board of Examiners (of naval officers) (1846), member of the lighthouse board and commander of the Norfolk Navy Yard (1847), mayor of Perth Amboy (1848), superintendent of the Atlantic mail ships (1852), and commander of the New York Navy Yard (1857).  Kearny retired from the navy in 1861 and was promoted to commodore on the retired list in 1867.  That same year he was also appointed to the New Jersey Board of Pilot Commissioners.

Lawrence Kearny married Josephine C. Hall in 1834 and together they had two children.  Kearny died in Perth Amboy, at the home in which he was born, in 1868.

Provenance Note:

The collection was donated by J. Lawrence Boggs in 1937.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists of six volumes of letter books, a ship log, and a scrapbook kept by Lawrence Kearny from 1814-1844.  The collection measures 0.8 linear feet.

The papers include 4 letterbooks, dating from 1814-1844, containing copies of letters written by Lawrence Kearny to various government officials regarding political matters.  There are letters to William Delano, Jr., the U.S. Consular agent in Canton, regarding U.S. citizens’s claims for losses incurred by riotous Chinese in 1843; and letters to William Hooper, the U.S. Commercial Agent in Oahu (Hawaii), regarding King Kamehameha III’s cession of power to the United States.  There are also letters Kearny wrote regarding sites for lighthouses and a request for musicians for his ship.

The ship log, kept for Kearny’s ship the U.S.S. Warren, dates from 1827 to 1828.  The log has daily entries in which the officer of the watch notes the weather, water, amount of food on hand, and the latitude and longitude.  Beginning on February 23, 1827, the wind directions and course of the ship are noted by the hour.  The different officers of the watch also made notations and periodically there are entries indicating the number of sick sailors and officers.

The scrapbook kept by Kearny, dates from 1840, and contains wedding announcements, anecdotal press clippings, mostly humorous short stories, and notes on rules that naval officers must follow.


Box List:

Box Title Date
1 Letter Book 1814-1829
2 Letter Book 1828-1829
3 Letter Book 1839-1842
4 Letter Book 1842-1844
5 Ship’s Log 1827-1828
6 Scrapbook 1840


Processed by James Lewis, May 2001 as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

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