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Daniel S. Dickinson Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Dickinson

Scope and Content of the Collection

Collection is mainly correspondence to Dickinson, his daughter Lydia D. Courtney, and his son-in-law Samuel G. Courtney from personal and political friends. There is one photograph of an unknown man and some official paperwork, including a contract of indenture and appointments to posts. This collection primarily focuses on the Civil War and the antebellum political scene, and includes many materials that praise Dickinson for his political achievements. Notable individuals include but are not limited to Henry Clay, John Tyler, James Buchanan, James K. Polk, William H. Seward, Daniel Webster, Lewis Cass, Dorothea Dix, and Reverdy Johnson.


  • Creation: 1799-1892
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1830 - 1860



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Daniel S. Dickinson Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Daniel S. Dickinson Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of collector

Daniel Stevens Dickinson was born on September 11, 1800 in Goshen, Connecticut to parents Daniel T. Dickinson and Mary (nee Caulkins), the fourth of eight children. In 1807, the family moved to Guilford, New York, where he attended common school until he was apprenticed to a clothier around the age of 16, but never practiced the profession. Dickinson began teaching in public and private schools from 1820 to 1825. While a teacher, he pursued his interests in land surveyance and law and worked in the law office of Clark & Clapp, Esq., until he was admitted to the bar in 1828. From 1828 to 1831 he served as the Postmaster of Guilford until he moved to Binghampton in 1831. In 1834 he became the first president of Binghampton when it was incorporated, and worked in this role until his election to state senate in 1837. In 1840, Dickinson ran for the position of Lieutenant-Governor of the State of New York, but was defeated; in 1842 he ran again and was victorious. In 1844, Dickinson was appointed to the U.S. Senate as a Senator from New York, following the resignation of Nathaniel Tallmadge. He won a re-election to serve as Senator until 1851.

During his time in the U.S. Senate he was the chairman of the Committee on Finance (1849-1850), Committee on Manufactures (1845-1849), and the Committee on Private Land Claims (1849-1851). Notably, President Pierce nominated him for the position of Collector of the Port of New York in 1853, but Dickinson declined the position. In that same year, he was highly favored to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but withdrew from the race in favor of General Lewis Cass. Between the years of 1852-1861, he was less active in the political realm, but was believed to have delivered over one hundred speeches on salient issues and presidential candidates during this time. He received his Doctorate in Law from Hamilton College in New York in 1858. In 1861 he was elected the Attorney-General of New York State. He accepted the position of the United States Commissioner for the final settlement of the Hudson Bay and Puget Sound agricultural claims. After being appointed by President Lincoln, he served as the United States attorney for the southern district of New York until his death on April 12, 1866.

Dickinson married Lydia Knapp in 1822. They had four children: Manco C. Dickinson, Virginia E. Dickinson Murray, Lydia L. Dickinson Courtney, and Mary S. Dickinson Mygatt. They are all buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, in Binghampton, New York.

As a politician, Dickinson was known best for his participation in Henry Clay’s “Committee of Thirteen,” which earned him commendation and respect from both the North and the South before and during the Civil War. His political views were conservative, with an emphasis on state rights and the Constitution. Dickinson worked for compromise until the war was declared, at which point he was strictly pro-Union and sought to prevent party infighting to bring the war to a quick end. In regard to slavery, he held a non-interference view and supported the Territories’ right to choose for themselves whether to allow or ban the practice as they formed. He opposed the Wilmot Proviso and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and supported the annexation of Texas, the occupation of Oregon, and the Mexican war. His oratorical skills were commended across the nation both during and after his life. Many of his works were collected by his brother John Dickinson in Speeches, Correspondence, Etc., of the Late Daniel S. Dickinson, of New York. This title can be found in the Newberry.


2 Linear Feet (2 oversize boxes)


Daniel S. Dickinson was a prominent Civil War politician from New York, a conservative Democrat who worked toward compromise before the war began. During the war, he sought to quash Union internal political disagreement and after the war he remained in politics. He was commended by the public and politicians on both sides of the conflict for his oratorical skills and genial manner. This collection is mainly composed of correspondence to that effect, as well as some letters on the subjects of the war and of slavery, from people such as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, William H. Seward and Lewis Cass.


Materials arranged by format and thereunder recipient and sender.

Collection Stack Location

1 39 2


Bequest, Tracy Dickinson Mygatt, 1974.

Processed by

Jessica Xi, 2019.

Inventory of the Daniel S. Dickinson Papers, 1799-1892, bulk 1830-1860
Jessica Xi and Emily Richardson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States