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Robert Goodloe Harper family papers

Identifier: MS 0431


The Robert Goodloe Harper Family Papers consist of manuscripts belonging to the Harper, Carroll, and Pennington families. The collection begins in 1747 with a file of letters to Richard Croxall on the Baltimore Iron Works and concludes in the twentieth century with papers of various members of the Pennington family. The bulk of the collection, from 1784 to 1825, centers around Robert Goodloe Harper (1765-1825) and his wife, Catharine Carroll Harper (1778-1861), and include correspondence with Richard Caton, John Eager Howard, John F. Mercer, Samuel Smith, Alexander Contee Hanson, J.H.B. Latrobe, Robert Walsh, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton.


  • 1747-1910
  • Majority of material found in 1784-1825


Conditions Governing Access

Public use restricted to microfilm: Manuscripts Department microfilm MS 431; 5 rolls.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Robert Goodloe Harper, congressman and Baltimore lawyer, was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, in January, 1765, the only son of cabinetmaker Jesse Harper and his wife Diana Goodloe. When Robert Goodloe was about four, his parents moved to Granville, North Carolina, where he and his eight sisters grew up. At age fifteen he volunteered as a militiaman under General Nathanael Greene, and seemed headed toward a military career. His father, however, insisted that he attend college, so in 1784 Robert Goodloe Harper set out for the College of New Jersey at Princeton. Because of his meager funds, he had to earn his tuition and board by tutoring in grammar school. Harper had entered The College of New Jersey in June, 1784; he was able to graduate in September, 1785, Harper's autobiography, dated January 10, 1801, and filmed in this publication, discusses his college career. In Princeton University, General Catalogue (Princeton, 1746-1908), he is listed as having graduated in September, 1785, and received a LLD in 1820.

He returned to the south, this time to Charleston, South Carolina, to study law. Admitted to the bar in 1786, Harper entered practice in the remote Ninety-Six District of South Carolina. There he became involved in the cause of reapportionment of the under-represented up-country districts. In 1794 Harper served briefly in the state legislature, but his political ambitions were national, and while a state legislator he won a seat in the Fourth Congress from Ninety-Six. Before he could take that office, a vacancy occurred in the Orange-burg District when the incumbent died. Harper was successful in obtaining that seat. Thus he set out for Philadelphia to serve in the Third Congress before being seated in the Fourth.

Harper's career in Congress, and the controversy over his party affiliation, has been fully treated by Joseph William Cox in Robert Goodloe Harper: The Evolution of A Southern Federalist Congressman. Dissertation, University of Maryland, 1967. (Published on demand by University Microfilms.)

Party labels and divisions on national issues seem to have had little effect on the South Carolina up-country. While political opponents charged that Harper had been elected as a Republican and deserted his constituents in becoming a Federalist, Harper seems at first to have considered himself an independent. Until the quasi-war with France in 1798, his Federalist sentiments were of less importance than the interests of his section. His constituents must have agreed with his politics—and he kept them well informed by letters--or they would not have returned him to Congress until 1801. A good speaker, and a natural leader, Harper became prominent, serving as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from 1797 to 1801.

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 made the Federalist Party suspect in most of the South. Harper's own Federalism had become increasingly radical, and he had risen in importance in the party councils. By 1799, however, with winds of change in his own district, Harper decided to leave politics and return to the practice of law. Earlier land speculations had left him deeply in debt, and he badly needed financial security. The magnificent opportunities in the growing port of Baltimore attracted him, and having friends there, Harper decided to open a Baltimore law practice in the summer of 1799 while still representing Ninety-Six in the House.

His decision to move north may have been influenced by his friendship with Charles Carroll of Carrollton and his daughter Catharine Carroll. Kitty, as she was called by her family, was young, attractive, and very rich. Her elder sister, Mary, had in 1786 married the handsome and impecunious Englishman, Richard Caton, and it was Caton who pleaded Harper's case before his prospective father-in-law. Harper also presented Charles Carroll with an autobiographical sketch, explaining his background, the root of his indebtedness (land speculation) and his career in Congress. The elder Carroll was finally convinced that Harper was a worthy suitor, and the marriage took place in May, 1801.

The young couple moved to Gay Street in Baltimore, where Harper had his practice. There they enjoyed the society of many of Maryland's wealthiest and most influential families. Harper's wealthy new friends shared his interest in Federalism and land speculation. His correspondence reveals friendship with John Eager Howard, John Ross Key and the Samuel Chases.

An able orator, Harper's practice prospered. He was frequently in Washington, pleading cases and leading the defense in the impeachment trials of Judge Pickering and Justice Chase. As a successful attorney, Harper had students, such as Virgil Maxcy, Robert Walsh, Jr. and Christopher Hughes, Jr., reading law under his tutelage. Law and politics were often intertwined, not only in the impeachment cases but also in the case of the Federal Republican riots in

Baltimore in July, 1812. The anti-administration editorials of Alexander Contee Hanson had made him and his paper the object of hatred among local Republicans. His editorial opposing war with Britain on June 20, 1812 led to a mob attack on June 22, and again on July 27, after the paper had removed its operation to Georgetown. This last attack on the Baltimore offices of the paper led to the death of a member of the mob and the protective confinement of the paper's defenders, including Hanson, General James M. Lingan and General Henry Lee, to the Baltimore City jail, from whence they were dragged by the mob, beaten, and Lingan killed. Hanson was tried for the death of the member of the mob, Harper acting as his attorney. Harper's own sentiments were decidedly pro-peace with Britain, as shown by his correspondence with English diplomat George Henry Rose, whom he met when the latter was on a mission to the United States in 1807. Harper was a devoted Federalist, and his defense of Federalism before the bar and in the papers led to personal and political clashes. At least one, with leading Maryland Republican John Francis Mercer in 1800, nearly led to a duel. Most of his cases, however, were nonpartisan. For example, he represented Baltimore merchants in claims arising from the French spoliation of American commerce.

Harper's success in law, his popularity as an orator, and the survival of the Federalist party in Maryland after the War of 1812 led him to return to the political arena. His war record was no detriment. He had a command at the Battle of North Point in September, 1814, and served as major general in the Maryland militia. In 1816 he was elected by the General Assembly as Federalist Senator from Maryland. His tenure, however, was brief, and he resigned in December under the press of private business. While in the Senate, he had found time to run as Federalist candidate for Vice-President, and he again sought that office in 1820. By the election of 1824, like Maryland Federalists Virgil Maxcy and Roger Brooke Taney, he was supporting Andrew Jackson. Harper was preparing to again run for Congress when he died suddenly in January, 1825.

In addition to his political concerns, Harper played a leading role in the colonization efforts of the early nineteenth century. While in Congress from South Carolina, Harper had opposed abolition, but had not supported efforts to reopen the African slave trade. In Baltimore, however, Harper must have found attitudes toward slavery different. In 1808 he became one of the original members of Samuel J. Mill's society for the colonization of Negroes in Ohio or in Africa, which became the American Bible Society. When the American Colonization Society was formed, he was one of those who defended its objects, and he became an influential member of the Maryland State Colonization Society, along with John H. B. Latrobe and Moses Shepherd. It was he who proposed the name Liberia for the American Colonization Society's settlement in Africa, and for him the town of Harper, near Cape Palmas, was named.

Harper was also interested in maintaining Baltimore's commercial prosperity in an era when the city that had canal connections to the middle west would be assured of commercial dominance. In December, 1823 he spoke to a public meeting called by the mayor of Baltimore on the expediency of a canal connection between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Canal connections with the Susquehanna, however, were preferred, and a survey was proposed.

Much of Harper's professional and social life centered around his wife's family. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was one of the wealthiest men in America, and his financial affairs were cared for more by his two sons-in-law than by his son, Charles Carroll of Homewood. The latter had married heiress Harriet Chew and lived at Homewood House (now part of The Johns Hopkins University). Charles of Homewood does not seem to have been particularly close to his younger sister, and so Catharine and her family spent most of their time with the Catons. Richard Caton had been a merchant and land developer, but was never independent of his wife's money. Mary Carroll Caton had been given land near the present Catonsville, called Castle Thunder, but the Catons divided most of their time between their Baltimore mansion on Lombard Street and their Baltimore County estate, Brooklandwood. Richard Caton may never have had financial success, but his daughters, known as the American Graces, were among the first to trade American fortunes for British titles. Three, Mary, Elizabeth, and Louisa married members of British or Irish nobility. The youngest, Emily, married British diplomat John McTavish, but settled in the United States to raise her family. All kept their aunt and uncle Harper constantly informed of their activities.

Harper's family life was not idyllic. He seems to have been out of touch with his own sisters after he moved to Baltimore. There is some correspondence with Elizabeth Harper Hyde concerning the education of his nephews, and near the end of his life Harper was in contact with his sister Mary Goodloe, and her husband, Baltimore physician Joseph Speed. Catharine Harper was perhaps not the ideal wife. Her letters to her husband are filled with complaints over his frequent absences and allusions to her frail health (although she outlived her husband, and all but one daughter, dying in 1861.) One wonders how much Harper's absences from home were influenced by the press of business, and how much by his wife's complaints. Home to the Harpers in fact seems to have been quite mobile. They had an estate, Oakland, near Brooklandwood in Baltimore County, and a city mansion on Gay Street, but Catharine seems to have preferred the society of Annapolis, where her father had an elegant mansion. The house, on Spa Creek, is now owned by St. Mary's Catholic Church.

Seven children were born to the Harpers: Charles Carroll, Mary Diana, Richard Caton, Elizabeth Hyde, Emily Louisa, and Robert Goodloe, Jr. Richard died as an infant, and only Charles Carroll and Emily Louisa lived past teenage. The children enjoyed all the material advantages of their parent's station. The Carroll tradition of a European education--begun when Charles Carroll of Annapolis sent his son, the future Charles of Carrollton, to France--was continued with the Harper children. They were educated in Baltimore by Elizabeth Bailey Seton (Mother Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity), then sent to Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Charles, Mary Diana, and later Robert, Jr. were sent to Paris to complete their education, and Charles went to Harvard in 1821.

Throughout his life, Robert Goodloe Harper played influential roles: as a politician and Federalist leader, as an attorney, and as a leading spirit in the colonization of American Negroes in Africa. Yet much of the man has remained unexplained to posterity. His career after his marriage to Catharine Carroll is poorly documented; only family letters survive to any extent, and these reveal little of the man or his motives. He certainly enjoyed being the center of the political and of the social arena, and must have been pleased when the Baltimore city registers elevated him from attorney-at-law to gentleman. His championing of the cause of colonization, however, reveals a man with foresight and commitment. Harper will never be considered among the great men of his time, yet he was atypical, and his rise from cabinetmaker's son to wealth and prominence should not go unrecorded.


3.75 Linear Feet (9 full Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



The microfilm of the Robert Goodloe Harper Family Papers, in five rolls, are filmed in format II B. All items in the collection, with the exception of typescript copies of letters and genealogical notations (presented in the Carroll-Harper-Caton Family Chart) have been included.

The papers have been filmed in chronological order. Enclosures have been filmed immediately after the items with which they have been enclosed. Deviations from chronological order have been noted in appropriate targets. Items which are dated by month and year only have been filmed at the end of the month, those dated with the year only have been filmed at the end of the year. Items which, from internal evidence, can only be dated by decade have been placed at the end of the last year of the decade. The reader is advised to use undated items, and items which have been placed, undated, within a year series, with some caution. While some undated items can be dated by internal evidence with relative ease, it has not been possible in the preparation of these papers to provide definitive date assignments for all such items.

ROLL I: 1747-1807

ROLL II: 1808-1815

ROLL III: 1816-1820 March

ROLL IV: 1820 April-1834

ROLL V: 1835-1910, and undated manuscripts

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Clapham Pennington, 1927.

Related Materials

MS 430, Mary Diana Harper letters, 1800-1818

MS 1029, Charles Carroll Harper letterbook, 1829-1830

MS 1827, Josias Pennington collection, 1713-1904

MS 1304, Robert Goodloe Harper correspondence, 1801-1912


Several books and articles were extremely valuable in the preparation of this pamphlet. Joseph William Cox, Robert Goodloe Harper, Portrait of a Federalist Congressman (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Maryland, 1967), the most recent scholarly evaluation of Harper's life to his retirement from South Carolina politics in 1801, is meticulously researched and well written. Exploding many myths about Harper's politics without being blind to his obvious faults, it should be considered the standard work on Harper's early career. Charles William Sommerville, Robert Goodloe Harper (Washington: Neal Co., 1899) covers Harper's entire career. A doctoral dissertation at The Johns Hopkins University, written with the resources then available, it is more responsible for the myths about Harper than it is for an enlightening look at his life and attitudes. The Dictionary of American Biography has been used for information on the lives of Harper, Virgil Maxcy, Alexander Contee Hanson, and Robert Walsh, Jr., and the Dictionary of National Biography for Sir George Henry Rose. Genealogical information was found in the Dielman File and the Pennington Genealogical Collection at the Maryland Historical Society. Works used in research for the roll notes can be found with them.


After Robert Goodloe Harper's death in 1825, his papers were for the most part retained by his family and passed to the only surviving grandchild, Emily Louisa Harper. In 1853 she married William Clapham Pennington, the son of Baltimore lawyer Josias Pennington. Upon their deaths the papers were inherited by their sons, Harper and Clapham Pennington. In 1927 Clapham Pennington gave the Maryland Historical Society the family papers, including a genealogical collection on the Carroll, Harper and Pennington families.

The collection is catalogued in the Maryland Historical Society, and recorded in its Manuscript Collections of the Maryland Historical Society (Baltimore, 1968) as the Harper-Pennington Collection (MS 431). For the purpose of publication, it was decided that the name Robert Goodloe Harper Family Papers would be more appropriate. The genealogical collection, which has not been filmed, is separately catalogued as G5045.

The Maryland Historical Society, in addition to the collections of Carroll family papers described in the published manuscript guide, has four other collections directly related to the Harper family, which under the conditions of the National Historical Publications Commission grant have not been included in this publication. The Mary Diana Harper Letters (MS 430) consist of the correspondence of Robert Goodloe Harper's eldest daughter from 1814 until her death in 1818. These two volumes of letters, in contemporary bindings, were probably part of the original Pennington gift. Also of uncertain provenance is the letterbook (MS 1029) of Harper's eldest son, Charles Carroll Harper, while he was a member of the United States mission to Paris. In addition, the Society possesses one box of miscellaneous Harper, Carroll and Pennington manuscripts (MS 1827) which were removed from the Pennington Genealogical Collection in a recent reorganization. In 1956 the Society purchased forty additional Harper items (MS 1304). Dating from 1801 to 1912, they include scattered letters of a legal nature, a file of twenty-three letters from Elizabeth Bailey Seton on the education of the Harper children, and several letters of John Pendleton Kennedy, Severn Teackle Wallis, and William C. Pennington.

There is a small collection of Harper correspondence at the Library of Congress, which was purchased at auction in Baltimore in 1914. That correspondence ranges in date from 1799 to 1823 and includes among scattered topics, letters from Harrison Gray Otis.

There are also thirteen Harper letters in the Society's Vertical File of individually accessioned items.

With the exception of letters on his children's schooling, Harper does not appear to have kept his papers in any particular order. The present collection has been arranged chronologically, the only exceptions being files on his children, and a file of letters, in contemporary binding, between Josias Pennington and his friend John Pendleton Kennedy. Details of correspondents and subject matter will be found in the notes for each roll.

Processing Information

All items have been arranged in chronological order with the exception of bound series, which have been filmed under the date of the last item with a target under the first. Every attempt has been made to supply the year of undated items, and the few remaining undated items have been placed in the alphabetical series at the end of the last roll.

This guide and the five accompanying rolls of microfilm are published by the Maryland Historical Society under the sponsorship of the National Historical Publications Commission. The Society is pleased to make this collection more widely available to scholars.

Several people have helped bring this microfilm edition to completion. I greatly appreciate the generous understanding, advice, and aid offered by Mr. Fred Shelley of the National Historical Publications Commission. Mr. P. William Filby, Assistant Director of the Maryland Historical Society, was an enthusiastic supporter of the project from its inception in 1968 and has constantly sustained it with his interest. Mr. Edward G. Howard, Consultant on Rare Books to the Society, provided able assistance with bibliographic matters, and advice on preparing this guide. Dr. Joseph W. Cox kindly permitted us to use his dissertation on Harper. Mr. T. Wistar Brown of Rhistoric Publications, Philadelphia, has been most generous with his technical advice. Dr. and Mrs. John B. Boles have read the guide and offered invaluable suggestions. Finally, an acknowledgement of gratitude must be extended to Mr. David Paulson, who prepared the manuscripts for filming and operated the camera, and without whose assistance the project could not have been completed.

Scope and Contents

Roll I: 1747 - 1807

Roll I of the Robert Goodloe Harper Family Papers begins with a series of manuscripts belonging to the Carroll family. The papers of Richard Croxall (162 frames), employed by the Carrolls at the Baltimore Iron Works on Gwynns Falls, off the Patapsco River in Baltimore County, concern the years 1747 to 1749. The forge was well established, having been founded in 1731 by Benjamin Tasker, Daniel Dulany, Dr. Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, and his cousin Daniel Carroll, all wealthy planters, the first two provincial office holders. See Johnson, Keach, "The Genesis of the Baltimore Iron Works," Journal of Southern History, XIX (No. 2, 1953), p. 157-179.

Letters to Croxall (Richard Croxall, son of the immigrant Richard Croxall and of Johanna Carroll of Ireland, died in 1785, and is described as a landowner advanced in years. See Dielman File, Maryland Historical Society. His will was probated in 1785, see Wills, Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland) are concerned mainly with the production and sale of bar iron although some deal with labor problems, particularly the problem of runaway enslaved people. Croxall's major correspondents are the partners Dr. Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Benjamin Tasker, and Charles Carroll, Esq.

Material on the Carrolls and the Baltimore Iron Works can be found in Dr. Charles Carroll of Annapolis Letterbooks, MS 208 and 208.1, Maryland Historical Society. Charles Carroll, Esq., may be Charles Carroll of Annapolis (of Anne Arundel County), father of the signer, although the signature does not appear similar to later documents signed by him and appears on documents as early as 1713.

There follow a number of scattered Carroll letters: The last letter to Charles Carroll of Carrollton from his mother, Elizabeth Brooke Carroll, in 1760; letters in 1786 from Carroll to his cousin Daniel Carroll of Duddington on the fitness of Richard Caton to marry Carroll's daughter Mary, and some scattered deeds concerning the Stevenson, Ruxton, and Moody families. The bulk of the collection after 1784, however, directly concerns Robert Goodloe Harper.

Robert Goodloe Harper's papers begin in 1784 in a series of letters written to Harper from various members of his family while he was attending the College of New Jersey at Princeton. They include letters from his sisters Frances and Letitia, his brother-in-law Robert Hyde (husband of Elizabeth Harper), and his parents Jesse and Diana Goodloe Harper. Included are letters from friends and classmates, including Alexander Cummings McWhorter, and John Henry of Albany, New York. Family letters to Harper when he moved to Charleston to practice law include those of his sisters Diana, Mary, and Cathy. Letitia remained the family spokesman, particularly after the deaths of Jesse Harper and Diana Goodlow Harper in 1788. John Henry continued a sporadic correspondence, discussing New York and national politics, and law. In 1788 Harper moved to the Ninety-Six District, South Carolina, and entered politics, but his political activities are not apparent from the letters of Diana and Letitia Harper. Harper retained some ties in Charleston, as letters between 1790 and 1799 are addressed to him there, but correspondence is confined to letters from his sisters and brother-in-law. About 1797 he was involved as counsel in a suit over property confiscated in the American Revolution, and the manuscript draft of his argument survives.

Harper moved to Baltimore in 1800, and sought the hand of Catharine Carroll. Her father, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, wrote his son-in-law, Richard Caton for information on Harper. Harper's papers for the year include extensive correspondence between mid-October and December, 1800, concerning a published slur by John Francis Mercer (1759-1821). Mercer had published a letter in the Baltimore Federal Gazette charging that the federal assessment on his Stafford County, Virginia, lands was exorbitant. The issue became a political one, and under the nom de plume of Civis, Harper defended the assessment. There ensued a newspaper duel which nearly led to a real duel. John Eager Howard acted as a second for Harper, as apparently did John Ross Key. The duel, however, seems to have been avoided, leaving as its memoir the series of letters between Harper and Mercer. (Harper numbered this series, but for consistency with the rest of the collection, the order here used is by date rather than document.)

In May, 1801, Robert Harper married Catharine Carroll with the consent of her father. His autobiographical sketch, dated January 10, 1801 and described elsewhere in this pamphlet, was undoubtedly influential to this consent. Once married, Harper became an advisor to the wealthy elder Carroll. The bulk of the correspondence between 1801 and 1807 is with his father-in-law. Matters discussed included family health, local gossip, financial matters, the numerous law suits engaged in by Carroll, and Carroll's acid comments on the state of national politics during the Jefferson administration. Harper had ample opportunity to observe the new administration because legal affairs often took him to Washington. These trips were painful to his wife, as her letters amply illustrate. Harper's family correspondence of this period also includes some letters of family matters from Richard Caton.

Harper supervised the education of a son of Robert and Elizabeth Harper Hyde at the College of New Jersey. Letters from Samuel S. Smith informed Harper of his nephew's progress, and of his expulsion in 1807 for insulting a tutor and being a troublemaker at the college.

No letters from national political figures have survived for the period 1801-1807. Indeed there are only rare glimpses of Harper's law practice, mainly in letters from Virgil Maxcy, who read law under him. In 1805 a letter on strictly legal matter introduces the reader to a long correspondence with Robert Walsh, Jr., of Philadelphia, most of which is in the latter reels. The only hint of a larger correspondence between Harper and Harrison Gray Otis is the draft of a lengthy letter on law and politics in 1806.

Roll II: 1808 - 1815

There is no break in subject matter in Robert Goodloe Harper’s letters between 1807 (Roll I) and 1808-1809. Family matters, letters from his wife, father in law, and brother in law Richard Caton predominate. Virgil Maxcy’s legal letters continue, as does the correspondence with Samuel S. Smith over on the conduct of Harper’s nephew at the College of New Jersey. That matter was evidently concluded to the satisfaction of all concerned, as Elizabeth Hyde wrote one of her rare letters to her brother in 1810 expressing gratitude for his interest in her children.

Family letters are by no means the only correspondence at the end of the decade. Count Julius de Menon introduced himself to Harper, and began a correspondence which continued when de Menon returned to his native France. Harper’s earlier Francophobia apparently did not prevent later friendships with French citizens, or the education of his children in France. His political sympathies with England are obvious in the letters from English diplomat George Henry Rose. The Rose letters from 1808 to 1813 reveal a friendship begun when Rose was in Washington in 1807 on a diplomatic mission, and continued after Rose’s return to England. The deepening crisis between England and America was of concern to both men.

The international situation is mirrored in Harper’s correspondence from 1810 to 1815. Harper’s Federalist leadership in Congress before his move to Maryland precluded any sympathy with the Madison administration and the growing hawkishness of the Republicans. The affair of the Federal Republican, which would end in 1812 in riot and murder, is foreshadowed in 1810 by letters from Robert Walsh Jr., Philadelphia lawyer, and in those from Alexander Contee Hanson, editor of the Federal Republican, and as such an object of Republican antipathy in Baltimore. Letters from Maxcy, and from Harper’s law student, Christopher

Hughes Jr., also reflect this tension. After the Federal Republican riot in July, 1812, Harper was chosen to represent Hanson and the defenders of the paper against charges of murder. The indictment is included in Harper’s papers, as well as considerable correspondence on the trial between Hanson, Harper, Maxcy, John Hanson Thomas, and Benjamin Stoddert.

With the War of 1812, Harper’s political activities increased. He was absent on legal and political business in Washington more often, and letters from Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Richard Caton reflect concern for the political situation. Harper was a noted orator, and several speeches of this period appear in draft. He had been involved in the French Spoliation Claims, (his draft of a speech on this matter dates from around 1811), and so was interested enough to copy Virginian Charles Fenton Mercer’s speech on the repeal of the French Decrees. In a draft of remarks on the manner in which war with Britain should be conducted, he suggested alternative methods which Britain might use in conducting the war, possible consequences, and appropriate actions on the part of the United States.

Although Harper followed the Hartford Convention with interest, and discussed it in a long letter to William Sullivan, he did not share its extreme Federalist viewpoint. Instead, he commanded troops at the Battle of North Point in 1814, and was a major general in the Maryland militia.

Domestic rather than foreign political affairs were of more importance to Harper after 1814, when the Bank of the United States became his central interest. In letters to D. A. Smith and Senator Richard Stockton of New Jersey in late 1814 and early 1815 he expressed his opinions on the Bank and its forthcoming re chartering, perhaps a foreshadowing of his own re-entrance into national politics in 1816. Certainly the controversy over a purloined letter to George Bear which appeared in the Baltimore Patriot in late 1815 indicated that Harper was still a man of considerable political importance.

Family matters were never neglected; the financial affairs of the Carrolls and the Catons took precedence even in wartime. By the second decade of the nineteenth century Harper’s own children were of school age, and their education assumed an increasing portion of the correspondence. At first they were tutored in Baltimore by Mrs. Elizabeth Bailey Seton (Mother Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity), then were sent to Mount Saint Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Charles and Mary Diana wrote letters home beginning in 1813.

Roll III: 1816 - 1820 March

In January, 1816, Robert Goodloe Harper was elected to the United States Senate from Maryland. His surviving correspondence for the year, however, does not reflect his political activities to any great extent. The most important letters were the continuing correspondence with Robert Walsh, Jr., of Philadelphia, Harper's publisher and friend. Together they had published in 1813 a series of letters from Harper on the Russian victories over Napoleon in 1812. Their letters in the period 1816 through 1820 reflect great interest in the politics of the Era of Good Feelings.

Most of Harper's correspondence in this roll is of a personal nature, either from other attorneys like Jonathan Meredith and his old friend Virgil Maxcy, or from members of his own family. There are many letters from Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Harper's two oldest children, Mary Diana and Charles Carroll, in school at Emmitsburg. Also included are letters from Richard and Mary Carroll Caton, and from their daughters, Mary Caton Patterson (married to Robert Patterson, the son of a prominent Baltimore merchant, and brother of Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson, wife of Jerome Bonaparte), Emily Caton McTavish, Louisa Caton and her Irish husband, Sir Fenton Hervey, and Elizabeth Caton. Louisa and Elizabeth spent a great deal of time in Europe, and they provided their aunt and uncle Harper with contacts for their European excursion in 1817-1818.

Harper sent his eldest son, Charles, to Paris to be further educated in 1817. Frequent exchanges between Harper and his son's tutor, O'Maley, supplemented by letters of Charles himself, give a good view of the type of schooling sought by Americans abroad. Harper was able to see the fruits of the enterprise when he himself visited Paris. There he renewed his old friendship with Count Julius de Menon, and made several new acquaintences in de Menon's circle. Only letters from Charlotte de perrigy La Pelletier [sic] and P. Doulevy survive, but from references the Harpers must have been entertained frequently and extensively. They were joined on occasion by Elizabeth Caton, in Europe to visit her sister Louisa.

Soon after returning to Maryland in the summer of 1818, Harper revived his political correspondence with Robert Walsh, Jr. Both men were concerned with the Presidential election of 1820, and the Missouri question. Harper even spoke to the Maryland Senate on the explosive Missouri issue. Nevertheless, the great majority of the material from 1816 to early 1820 deals with the Harper family and their immediate relatives.

Roll IV: 1820 April - 1834

Harper had resigned his United States Senate seat in 1816, and had run unsuccessfully for the Vice-Presidency. In 1820 he was still interested in that office. Long letters from Virgil Maxcy, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Robert Walsh, Jr., reflect intense interest in the political situation and Harper's role in the election.

Charles Carroll Harper, in his last year of study with O'Maley, frequently wrote descriptions of his life in Paris. In 1821 Charles went to Harvard, and for the next three years his comments on the college and Boston were sent home to his parents. Harper's eldest daughter, Mary Diana, had died in 1818. The only other Harper child in school was Elizabeth Hyde Harper. Her letters from 1820 until her death in 1823 followed closely her activities at school in Emmitsburg.

The correspondence with Count Julius de Menon, begun in 1808, continued through 1821. During the last five years of Harper's life, his correspondence--except that with Walsh--was increasingly concerned with family matters. One of Harper's main concerns became the family of his sister-in-law, Mary Carroll Caton. Two of her daughters, Emily and Louisa, were living abroad, the latter a widow in 1819. Elizabeth and Mary Caton Patterson were at home, and were especially close to the Harpers, particularly after the death of Mary's husband in 1822.

In 1823 Harper's correspondence with his sisters, Elizabeth Harper Hyde and Mary Goodloe Harper Speed was reopened. They had seldom been in communication after Harper's move to Baltimore in 1800, even though Mary was married to Baltimore physician Joseph Speed (1773-1847). In addition there are some unrelated items: a series of letters from Herman Allen to John Pendleton Kennedy, Baltimore attorney, politician and author, on the appointment of an unidentified Mr. Walsh to the United States mission to Chile, and the extant portions of a letterbook of Charles Carroll of Carrollton from 1814 to 1821.

In 1824 Harper announced his candidacy for a Congressional seat, and a draft of one of his speeches survives. He expounded his present views on Jackson's candidacy and defended his past Federalist career in a series of letters published in the National Gazette, edited by Robert Walsh, Jr. and William Fry. Harper was probably intending to return to politics when he died suddenly in January, 1825.

Family correspondence for the last year of Harper's life centers on Charles Carroll of Carrollton's financial matters, particularly his will, and the education of the youngest Harper children; Emily Louisa and Robert Goodloe, Jr. There is a particularly interesting file of letters from J. Dubois of Mount Saint Mary's, Emmitsburg, concerning the progress of the various Harper children sent there from 1813 to 1824.

Family papers continue after Robert Goodloe Harper's death. Charles Carroll Harper, the eldest son, was now head of the family, but he looked increasingly to his grandfather for advice, particularly in the settlement of his father's estate. Charles had attempted to follow his father into politics in 1825, but being unsuccessful, he put his talent in French to good use as secretary of the American legation in Paris. In 1827 he married Charlotte Chiffelle, and a series of letters between husband and wife exist for 1834.

The youngest son, Robert Goodloe, Jr., followed the family tradition of study in France, again with O'Maley. From 1830 to 1834 Robert wrote his mother, sister Emily, his brother, and first cousin, Charles Carroll of Doughoregan, on life in Paris. Sadly, he died in 1834 on his way home from Europe.

Roll V: 1835 - 1910

Robert Goodloe Harper's widow, Catharine Carroll, and his daughter, Emily Louisa, went to Paris in the summer of 1835, and remained in France until August 1836. Charles Carroll Harper, at home at the family estate Oakland, in Baltimore County, kept his mother and sister constantly informed on events at home. He himself returned to Europe shortly after his family came home, and died in Rome in June, 1837.

Emily Louisa, youngest of the Harper girls, remained unmarried, and died at Virginia Beach in 1892 at the age of eighty. She evidently led a lively social life in the mid-1840s, summering fashionably in Newport, Rhode Island, and exchanging news of home with Baltimore attorney and prominent Catholic layman, William George Read (1800-1846) and his family, distantly related by marriage. After 1846, however, there are no more letters from members of the immediate family.

William Clapham Pennington, son of an old and prominent Baltimore family, married Emily Louisa Harper, daughter of Charles Carroll and Charlotte Harper, in 1853. Pennington brought an interest in genealogy into the family, the fruits of which can be found in a fine genealogical collection at the Maryland Historical Society. His father, Josias Pennington (1797-1874), was a prominent Baltimore lawyer and an unusually cultivated gentleman. See the obituary in the Baltimore Sun, May 23, 1874.

One of Josias Pennington's closest friends was the accomplished author, attorney and politician, John Pendleton Kennedy (1795-1870). For information on John Pendleton Kennedy, see Charles H. Bohner, John Pendleton Kennedy: Gentleman From Baltimore (Baltimore, 1961.) Kennedy had served in the Maryland and national legislatures, and in 1852 was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Filmore. In that position he promoted exploration of the Arctic and Pacific. His philanthropic activities in Baltimore were legion. Correspondence between the two begins in 1822 and continues through 1869. Many of the letters are from Kennedy during his three European tours, the last, in 1865, when he represented the United States at the Exposition of Industry in Paris. Kennedy and Pennington also had a common interest in the Peabody Institute of Baltimore, of which Kennedy was President of the Board of Trustees.

At the end of Roll V are some few items impossible to date: a letter to Charles Carroll Harper from a Granville, North Carolina, neighbor of his father, and some school work completed by unidentified Harper children.

Guide to the Robert Goodloe Harper family papers
Under Revision
Bayly Ellen Marks. Microfilming and guide sponsored by the National Historical Publication Commission
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  • 2019-08-01: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

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Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States