Guide to the George W. Crawford Papers

MSN/EA 0500


Collection Summary

Title: George W. Crawford papers
Dates: 1784-1853 (bulk 1843-1853)
Collection No.: MSN/EA 0500
Creator: Crawford, George W., 1798-1872
Extent: 36 items; 2 containers
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: The collection consists primarily of manuscript letters directed to the Georgia Whig politician George W. Crawford during the 1840s and early 1850s.

Selected Search Terms

Crawford, George Washington, 1798-1872
Galphin claim
Whig Party (Ga.)
Georgia -- Politics and government -- 1775-1865
Whig Party (U.S.) -- History

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: George W. Crawford Papers, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: Gift of Walter J. Trohan, 1969. Arranged and described in 2003, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2009, by George Rugg.

Biographical Note

George W. Crawford was born in Columbia County, Georgia on 22 December 1798, the son of Peter Crawford and Mary Ann MacKintosh. He was cousin to the prominent Georgia politician William H. Crawford (1772-1834), a presidential candidate in 1824. After graduating from the College of New Jersey Crawford studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1822, setting up a practice in Augusta, Georgia. His public career included service as Georgia attorney general (1827-1831); member of the Georgia legislature (1837-1842); member of the U. S. House of Representatives (1843); governor of Georgia, for two terms (1843-1847); and secretary of war in the cabinet of President Zachary Taylor (8 March 1849 to 23 July 1850). From the early 1840s he was a staunch Whig. Crawford is best remembered as a central figure in the scandal surrounding the Galphin Claim, which shook the Taylor administration in the spring of 1850. The Galphin Claim was a 77-year-old debt owed to the descendents of the Georgia Indian trader George Galphin; Crawford had long been the family's legal agent in pressing the claim upon the state and Federal governments. After becoming secretary of war Crawford received a share of a government payment to the Galphins of more than $190,000—a "raid on the Treasury" that led to intense criticism of the entire administration. After resigning his cabinet post Crawford left public life for a decade. In 1861 he served as chairman of Georgia's secession convention. He died at his plantation, Bel Air, on 22 July 1872.

Scope and Content Note

Twenty-nine of the 36 items in the collection are letters addressed to George W. Crawford, mostly from the period 1843-1853. Thirteen of these are directed to Crawford as secretary of war; 9 as governor of Georgia. There are no letters written by Crawford himself. There is no obvious common denominator that would account for the preservation of these particular letters as a group. The 29 letters were written by almost as many different individuals. Most have at least some bearing on politics. There are patronage letters; letters touching on state and national issues; and letters from fellow Whigs (including Berrien of Georgia and Cabell of Florida) dealing with party matters. There are also several miscellaneous land records, and a group of four items relating to the settlement of the Galphin Claim (though little of the correspondence touches on this issue).

Arrangement Note

The material in folders 1 through 32 is arranged chronologically, one item per folder. Folder 33 contains four items relating to the Galphin Claim.

Container List