James McDowell papers, 1770-1915 (bulk 1820-1850).

Creator: McDowell, James, 1795-1851.
Collection number: 459
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Abstract: James McDowell was born 13 October 1795, son of Col. James McDowell and Sarah Preston. He married Susanna Smith Preston in 1818. McDowell was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1833. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1831-1835 and 1837-1838, as governor of Virginia, 1842-1846, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1847-1851. Among McDowell’s major political concerns were internal improvements, slavery, and public education. The collection includes correspondence, writings, financial and legal material, and other papers of James McDowell. Most of the papers are letters, addresses, and essays relating to affairs in Virginia and the nation, including slavery in the territories, internal improvements, temperance, nullification, Democratic party politics, colonization societies, collegiate and literary societies, and colleges in Virginia.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Correspondence covers topics such as McDowell’s involvement with colonization societies (1820-1851) and views on slavery in the territories (1831-1851). Of particular note is his correspondence in two letters from 1828 and 1830 with Ralph Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society (Folders 12-13)

Financial and legal materials contain an inventory of McDowell’s slavesĀ as well as an emancipation contract (c. 1831) between McDowell and his slave, Lewis James, requiring that Lewis both purchase his freedom and apply for emigration to Liberia (Folder 65).

McDowell’s writings contain several speeches and articles on slavery in the territories, colonization of Africa by slaves; the “Great Slavery Debate” in the Virginia General Assembly, 1831-1832; and miscellaneous notes on slavery (Folders 67-75).