Manuscript Group 70 Alexander, James and William Papers, 1711-1909
Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 70 Alexander, James and William Papers, 1711-1909, 5 linear feet
Call Number: MG 70 + item description or item call number from card catalog
Alexander, James and William Papers, 1711-1909
5 linear feet
Processed by Abdur R. Yasin
Rutgers University – Newark
The Alexander Papers span the years of 1711 through 1909
(predominant dates 1711-ca.1770). This collection consists
of correspondence, journals, legal documents, and printed
materials. The collection is 5 linear feet and is contained
in 13 boxes.
The documents and materials in this collection contain a vast
amount of information nearly spanning two centuries. It
features an in depth look into the lives of two landholders
during the height of the American Revolution and their respective
parts in the formation of the original 13 colonies, the very
backbone of the United States of America.
The Alexander Papers came to The New Jersey Historical Society
from two major sources. Sixteen volumes, including business
records, letter copybooks, and personal documents, were donated
(in part) by William A. Duer and James G. King in 1845 and 1849.
In addition to it, the majority of letters to and from James
Alexander, were purchased by the New Jersey Historical Society in
1987 from the Charles Applebaum company, a firm specializing in
rare books and collections.
James Alexander was born in Scotland, heir to the title of Earl
of Stirling, in 1691. As youth, he was well educated and
trained as an engineer officer. In early adulthood, though
a Whig in politics, he formed connections with the Jacobites and
served in the forces of the Old Pretender during the Rebellion of
1715. When his group faced defeat, he fled for America.
In America, he was quickly established among the opponents of the
colonial House of Brunswick, though he received numerous favors
from them. On November 7, 1715, he was made
surveyor-general of the Province of New Jersey and later of New
York. In 1718, he became the recorder of Perth Amboy, N.J.,
where he resided. By 1723, James Alexander had been made
deputy-secretary of New York (1718), boundary commissioner of New
Jersey and New York (1719), a member of the Councils of New York
and New Jersey (1721, 1723 respectively), a member of the
provincial bar and attorney-general of New Jersey (1723).
In 1725, with his seat in the Council of New Jersey, he tried to
make positive legal reforms but in vain. As a result, in 1727, he
stepped down as attorney-general of New Jersey. In 1732, he
was removed from the Council of New York by Gov. Cosby because he
was thought as unworthy to serve His Majesty.
After being accused of near treason by Mr. Clarke, President of
the Council, for working up the people to the pitch of rebellion,
he was removed from the Council of New Jersey.
James Alexander regained his stature by taking the case of Peter
Zenger, a printer and publisher whose paper was the vehicle
of invective and satire against the governor and his
adherents, who was charged with libel and with inviting
sedition. After being charged with contempt and removed
from the roll of attorneys, Alexander and William Smith were able
to obtain a verdict. Two years later, they were reinstated as
members of the bar. Around this time, Alexander was
recalled to the Council of New York after a change of
administration upon the death of Cosby. Alexander was also
still considered to be a member of the Council of New Jersey.
He then moved to New York, where he stayed active in the councils
and his practice. In 1756, he heard of a ministerial plot
against the colonialists. He rushed to Albany to oppose it,
though at the time, he was suffering from gout. There he
experienced complications from his condition and contracted a
cold. On April 2, 1756, James Alexander died.
Better known as Lord Stirling, William Alexander, son of James
Alexander, was born in New York City in 1726. He, like his
father, was well educated early on and was associated with his
mother as a merchant in New York. In the early stages of
the French and Indian War, he served as a commissary, aide, and
secretary to Gov. Shirley. In 1756, Alexander accompanied
him to England, and in the next year, defended him as a witness
before the House of Commons. It was during this time that
William Alexander spent considerable money and time to make his
bid for the sixth Earl of Stirling. In 1759, he was given
the title he was pursuing but later in 1762, the Lords
Committee of Privileges resolved that he had not secured his
claim. In the previous year (1761), Alexander had already
returned to America assuming the title of Lord Stirling.
Wealthy and socially prominent, he married the sister of Gov.
Livingston and held various offices in New Jersey such as
surveyor-general, member of the Council, assistant to the
governor and a governor of Kings (Columbia) College . He promoted
agriculture, manufacture, and mining. Before the war, he
resided in his mansion in Basking Ridge, N. J. after selling his
New York home.
By the onset of the Revolution, Stirling opposed the Stamp Act
and organized a company of grenadiers. He was suspended
from the Council after a heated correspondence with the Loyalist
Gov. Franklin. On November 7, 1775, he was made colonel of
the 1st New Jersey Regiment and raised and equipped two regiments
in the state. In January 1776, with forty volunteers in a
pilot boat, he captured at Sandy Hook the British transport Blue
Mountain Valley. For this, he was thanked by Congress,
and in March of the same year received the commission of
brigadier-general in the Continental army. He then prepared
for the imminent British invasion after his appointment to the
chief command in New York City. The Forts Lee and
Washington as well as others in Harlem and on Long Island were
built under his direction.
On August 27, 1776, the battle of Long Island commenced, which he
is chiefly associated with. He was under the direction of Putnam
and charged with the defense of the coast road. With no
fortifications and 1,500 to 2,000 troops, he faced the enemy in
what was the earliest meeting of an American army with its
opponent in the open field. His troops were attacked by
Gen. Grant and Lord Cornwallis; Stirlings main body escaped
by fording the Gowanus Creek while Lord Stirling himself along
with a portion of his force held Cornwallis at bay for a while.
He was later forced to surrender to the German De Heister.
The British as well as Washington recognized Stirling for his
bravery. He was later exchanged and would take part in
later campaigns. His services would lead to his promotion
to major-general on Feb. 19, 1777. Stirling would go on to
play important roles in notable events like Valley Forge and the
inquiry concerning the treachery of Benedict Arnold. By the
early 1780s, the war was coming to a close.
Stirling led a brilliant military career and received praise from
his colleagues as well as his enemies. After his death on Jan.
15, 1783, his wife Lady Stirling received a letter of esteem from
Scope and Contents
The Alexander Papers span the one hundred ninety-eight years
between 1711 and 1909. The collection is divided into four
series: correspondence, account books, record books, and
miscellaneous material. The document types include loose
letters, letter copybooks, a journal, wills, deeds, and newspaper
The correspondence contains eighteen contemporary letters to and
from James and William Alexander. Though this is a small
number, the remainder of this series is a lot more extensive.
It contains letter copybooks and indexes copied from the
originals possessed by the New York Historical Society. In
these volumes, there are more letters addressed to and from
William Alexander which give more insight on his time period and
The journal series contains the earliest part of the collection.
The single entry is a journal kept by James Alexander while on
board H.M.S. Arundell from 1711 to 1713. It provides
a look at seafaring in colonial history.
The series titled account books contains four volumes of books
which contain descriptions of transactions made by the
Alexanders. Here, the transactions range from land
agreements to debts and span over a forty year period.
The legal documents series is made up of seven record books and
other documents that were of legal importance to the Alexanders.
The seven record books resemble the account books of the previous
series but with one major difference: the account books
were set up like journal entries while the record books contain
original or duplicates of the deeds for the listed lands. Within
the record books are listings for lands as early as 1664 and as
late as 1764. Last, there are two other documents of varied
importance like the State of Claim of William
Alexander and Issac Sharps Will which make up the
last parts of this series.
The last series of this collection, miscellaneous, concludes the
collection. Within this series are documents which have
little to no relevance to the Alexanders and the contemporaries
of the time. It spans the years from 1720-1881.
|Series I: Correspondence, 1722-1849||7 Folders in 1 Box|
Correspondence consisting of contemporary letters, copied
letters, and indexes to the letter copybooks. The
contemporary letters, 17 of the 18 were either written by or for
James Alexander, are arranged alphabetically and chronologically.
These fall in between 1722 and 1739. The last, a letter
sent by William Alexander to Jacob Ford is dated back to 1768.
The letters within the two volumes of letter copybooks are also
listed chronologically. These letters are to and from
William Alexander (Lord Stirling) primarily, between the years
1754 and 1783 and his involvement in the Revolutionary War.
Some letters are even addressed to George Washington. Last,
there are the corresponding indexes to these letter copybooks.
|Series II: Journals, 1711-1713||1 Folder|
The journal within this series is the earliest document of the
collection and provides a contemporary account of the daily
events and conditions on board a colonial vessel.
|Series III: Account Books, 1720-1762||4 Boxes|
This series is made up of books that are financial listings kept
first by James Alexander, then by his son William. These
books were set up like journals, giving daily records of their
financial activities. These records are listed in a fairly
strict chronological order and cover over forty years with little
break in the continuation of years. Last, within the pages
are also letters received and copies of letters sent out by the
|Series IV: Legal Documents, 1711-1909||7 Boxes and 2 Folders|
The seven boxes are record books. These books have either
original or copies of the grants and deeds of lands in New York
and New Jersey. The books arranged according to state and
which Alexander was keeping the records. The two
folders that make up the last part of this series include the
state of claim of William Alexander to the position of Earl of
Stirling and the will of Issac Sharp, a landholder in Salem
County, New Jersey.
|Series V: Miscellaneous, 1720-1881||6 Folders in 1 Box|
This final series of the collection is made up of the remainder
of materials. The peace proposal (box 13, folder 5) is a
document involving James Alexander and his high political
standing. Folder seven which titled Table of
Contents .Rutherfurd Collection, does not provide a
clear association to the Rutherfurd Record Book in series IV.
The other documents like the copies of the newspaper clippings
(box 13, folder 5), Contents and Correspondence (box 13,
folder 3), and Indenture (box 13, folder 8) which make
little to no mention of the Alexanders, are also among the
materials in the miscellaneous series.
Volume 1 1720-1740
Volume 2 1740-1743
Volume 3 1751-1755
Volume 4 1755-1762
1664-1740 , 462 pages 1740
1690-1764, 406 pages ca. 1749-1764
1682-1753, 711 pages ca. 1750-1753
1747-1771, 340+ pages ca. 1747-1771
Volume 1, 1665-1752, 536 pages n.d.
Volume 2, 1707-1754, 72 pages n.d.
1755-1764, 85 pages ca. 1755-1764
|SERIES I: Correspondence||1722-1849|
|1||1||James Alexander. Letters received|
|Barclay, John (5 letters)||1722-1728|
|Davis, Isabella (3 letters)||1723|
|Lane, Henry (3 letters)||1723|
|2||James Alexander, Letters sent|
|Gov. Morris (1 letter)||1723|
|Lane, Henry (3 letters)||1723|
|Mr. Murray (1 letter)||n.d.|
|unknown (1 letter)||n.d.|
|3||William Alexander. Letters sent|
|Ford, Jacob (1 letter)||1768|
|Letter copybooks,||1845, 1849|
|4||Vol. 1, (copied from originals it the library of the NYHS),||1845|
|Catalogs to letter copybooks||n.d.|
|6||Index to the above letter copybook,||n.d.|
|7||Copy of the index||n.d.|
|SERIES II: Journal||1711-1713|
|1||8||Journal kept by James Alexander on board the H.M.S.
|SERIES III: Account Books||1720-1762|
|SERIES IV: LEGAL DOCUMENTS||1711-1909|
|New Jersey Record Book (James Alexander)|
|New Jersey Record Book (William Alexander)|
|New York Record Book (James Alexander)|
|Rutherfurd Record Book|
|13||1||State of Claim of Lord Stirling (William Alexander)||1772|
|2||Will of Sharp, Isaac (March 22, 1770)||1909|
|SERIES V: Miscellaneous||1720-1881|
|13||3||Contents and correspondence||1720-1738|
|4||Answer to the proposal of New York for peace||1754|
|5||Newspaper clippings in reference to Rev. Allen H. Brown||1876-1881|
|6||Copy and correspondence of Maj. Gen. Earl of Stirling (William Alexander) by William A. Duer||n.d.|
|7||Table of contents of volumes containing the papers of James Alexander in the Rutherfurd Collection||n.d.|
|8||Indenture, 1696 (photostat copy)||n.d.|
Initial processing of this collection was provided as part of the “Farm
to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission.
 Johnson, Allen, Dictionary of American Biography (New
York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1928), p. 168
 New York Historical Society
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