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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601615

William Maxwell Evarts papers


The William M. Evarts papers relate to Evarts' professional concerns. They deal mainly with transportation, especially railroads, land claims, problems which arose in the South in the post-Civil War period, and cases argued by Evarts for the U. S. Government.


  • Creation: 1849 - 1887

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (5 boxes, 1 Paige box)

These 6 boxes of papers were collected and produced by William Maxwell Evarts from 1849 to 1887 and they span from his tenure as an Assistant U.S. District Attorney, through his service as U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of State, into his first term as a U.S. Senator.

The Evarts Papers include a limited amount of correspondence, but extensive handwritten case notes and memoranda relating to cases, handwritten and printed briefs, points, and arguments, as well other legal and legislative documents, newspaper articles, charts, and maps. The bulk of the collection is made up of Evarts' manuscript case notes and printed case documents that Evarts annotated and corrected.

The cases that these papers represent cover a variety of subjects and seem to either be cases that Evarts argued himself, or they were cases whose documents Evarts used for reference. Most of the cases involve public or private transportation, especially railroads, land claim cases, cases argued by Evarts for the U. S. Government, or are cases dealing with problems that arose in the South after the Civil War period.

Historical/Biographical Note

William Maxwell Evarts

b. February 6, 1818 in Boston

Son of Jeremiah and Mehitabel (Sherman) Barnes Evarts; grandson of Roger Sherman

Graduated from Yale College in 1837, LL.B, Dane Law School of Harvard College

Admitted to the New York bar in 1841

1843 formed law firm in N.Y.C. with Charles E. Butler. Cases included: Monroe Edwards, forger; Savannah privateers; Prize cases during Civil War

1843, he married Helen Minerva Wardner; they had twelve children.

1849-1853 Evarts served as assistant district attorney for the southern district of N.Y.

1860 became chairman of the New York delegation to the Republican National Convention

Served as counsel for Johnson's defense in the Impeachment trial of President Johnson in 1868

Attorney general of the U.S. under President Johnson, July 1868-March 1869.

1870-1880, Evarts served as president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York

1871-1872 one of the counsel for the U.S. in the Geneva arbitration proceedings on the Alabama claims

1877 argued claims before electoral commission for Rutherford B. Hayes and the Republican party in the Hayes-Tilden presidential election dispute

U.S. Secretary of state during the Hayes administration (1877-1881)

U.S. Senator, 1885-1891

d. 1901.

Series List

Note: This collection was originally arranged, inventoried, and recorded by an unknown individual. Because the arrangement of the collection may have been done by a relative, secretary, or Evarts himself, the Evarts Papers have been kept in this original order.

  1. Series I. Papers re. New York City Ferry Franchise, 1851-1860.1851-1860.

    Copiesof court proceedings and Evarts' notes and memos on two cases. Mostpapers relate to the complaint brought by New York State against NewYork City disputing which governing body had the right to establishand control the operation of ferries between New York, Long Island,and the city of Brooklyn. William Maxwell Evarts acted as attorneyfor the City.

  2. Series II. Papers re. U.S. Navy Yard, East River, New YorkCity, 1853-1862.1853-1862.

    Suitbrought by United States Government against HenryRuggles. Ruggles obtained a permit from the State of New York allowing him to erect a dockand wharf on shoreline adjacent to a U.S. Naval Yard and Hospital onthe East River. The U.S. sued, saying that the docks and wharveswould negatively affect the shoreline and the yard's accessibility toships. Also includes material from a related suit brought by thePeople of the State of New York v. Ruggles over water rights.

  3. Series III. Papers re. New York City Street Railways, 1858-1885.1858-1885.

    Includes printed, annotated, and manuscript court records andrelated documents from trials that Evarts was involved in thatconcerned railway rights in New York City.

  4. Series IV. Papers re. U. S. Government interest in CottonSalvage Cases, 1865-18691865-1869
  5. Series V. Papers re. the Missouri Test Oath Cases, 1866-18691866-1869
  6. Series VI. Newspaper clippings re. The Geneva AwardDisposition, 18731873
  7. Series VII. Papers re. The Cañon del Rio de Chama Land Grant,New Mexico, 18741874
  8. Series VIII. Papers re. Railroad Cases, 1856-18691856-1869
  9. Series IX. Papers re. Miscellaneous Litigation
  10. Series X. Miscellaneous Papers

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Contact Curator of Modern Manuscripts and Archives.

Processing Information

Processed by David de Lorenzo, October, 1989; edited by Sally Vermaaten, April, 2004.

Evarts, William Maxwell. Papers, 1849-1887: Finding Aid
Harvard Law School LibraryCambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

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