Henry Hamilton drawings of North American scenes and Native Americans
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Extent.5 linear feet (2 boxes)
Through Hamilton's annotated drawings as well as his manuscript journals, "a positive evaluation of Native American character and culture emerges which contradicts the stereotype of the imperious British officer. He maintained a healthy curiosity and strove for an objective, scientific view of the alien culture. Nowhere is this better seen than in his unofficial recordings of Native American life and character and especially in this collection of portrait drawings. The portraits, however, are not mentioned in Hamilton's most detailed document, his Journal for 1778-79, the period of Clark's conquest of Illinois country." (Walsh)
Biographical / Historical
Hamilton was the British Lieutenant-Governor at Detroit from 1775-1778 and was the man responsible for implementing British Indian policy in the Old Northwest during the American Revolution. He was called the "Hair-Buyer General" by his adversary George Rogers Clark, referring to Hamilton's alleged practice of offering bounties for American scalps, but many historians have since dispelled much of this legend. In August of 1778, Hamilton learned that the Virginians under Colonel George Rogers Clark were descending the Ohio River to invade Illinois country to occupy posts there, including Vincennes on the Wabash River. Hamilton mounted an expedition to counterattack and drive the Virginians from Vincennes. He set out in September and October via the Maumee and Wabash Rivers but by February 1779 Clark retook Vincennes and took Hamilton prisoner. Hamilton was taken by the Americans to Williamsburg, Virginia and held in jail until parole was arranged in October of 1780. He was then taken to New York where he was exchanged for an American prisoner in March of 1781 and he arrived in London in June.
Hamilton was sent back to Quebec from 1782 to 1785 as Lieutenant-Governor and later Deputy-Governor. He was Lieutenant-Governor, then Governor of Bermuda from 1785-1794, and Governor of the Dominica from 1794-1796. In March of 1795, at the age of 61, Hamilton married Elizabeth Lee (25 years old), daughter of Colonel Lee of Banbury, Oxfordshire. They had only one child, Mary Anne Pierpoint Hamilton, who died unmarried on 1871 Dec. 12. Hamilton died in 1796 at Antigua while still holding office.
Hamilton's older brother was Sackville Hamilton, a Privy Councillor and Chief Secretary for Ireland. It was this brother's great-granddaughter, Mrs. Rice, who donated the Hamilton material to Harvard.
- I. Drawings of North American Native Americans
- II. Drawings of North American scenes
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Martin W. Walsh. "The Native American Sketches of Henry Hamilton." Michigan History Magazine, May-June 1997, pp21-27; and
- Brian Leigh Dunnigan. Frontier Metropolis: Picturing Early Detroit, 1701-1838. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001.
- Hamilton, Henry, d.1796. Henry Hamilton drawings of North American scenes and Native Americans: Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
- EAD ID
Part of the Houghton Library Repository
Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.
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