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George Bancroft Correspondence

An inventory of his correspondence at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Jun 1989

Biographical History

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was an American historian and statesman, and an active promoter of secondary education both in his home state and at the national level. As U. S. Secretary of the Navy under James K. Polk, Bancroft established the Naval Academy at Annapolis and later served as U.S. Minister to Great Britain (1846-1849), Prussia (1867-1871), and the German Empire (1871-1874). He is best remembered however for his 10-volume History of the United States, a work which fellow historian Leopold von Ranke called "the best book ever written from the democratic point of view." [From the Dictionary of American Biography.]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Bancroft Correspondence consists of 22 letters, chiefly outgoing. Characteristic of his assignments as Secretary of the Navy and foreign minister, Bancroft's correspondence consists largely of recommendations for appointments (Mrs. Duncan, Ambrose H. Sevier), letters of introduction (A.D. Bache, John H. Campbell), responses to social invitations (Hendrick Wright), and acknowledgements of receipt of various items, including books (Mr. AUstin, Joel Munsell, Mr. Trumbull), historical documents (Baron Parke, Mr. Phelps) and edibles (Mrs. Edward Pierrepont). A devotee of the opera, Bancroft extended invitations to various New York and Berlin productions (Mrs. Faulkner, Mrs. Wright).

Yet predictably it is his observations about historical events which reveal Bancroft's analytical mind at work. Writing of the Civil War, Bancroft notes (3 Sept. 1863):

I remain of the opinion which I have held from the first, that the insane & senseless hatred of the poor negro is the great difficulty. It has prolonged the war & is the only obstacle to its close.

Taking an optimistic view of the sweep of events, Bancroft waxes philosophical (4 Nov 1847):

The study of history confirms faith in Providence, for even the defeat of well-considered designs of good men, often leads to results most favorable to human happiness.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. A Selected index to correspondence is provided at the end of this inventory.


Access Restrictions:

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Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Bache, A. D. (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867.
Bancroft, George, 1800-1891.
Campbell, John H. (John Hull), d. 1868.
Childs, George William, 1829-1894.
Munsell, Joel, 1808-1880.
Sevier, Ambrose Hundley, 1801-1848.
Wright, Edward H.
Wright, Hendrick Bradley, 1808-1881.


Diplomats, United States.
Historians, United States.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George Bancroft Correspondence,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents


Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence