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John W. Taylor Papers

Call Number

MS 615


1798-1852, inclusive


Taylor, John W., 1784-1854


3.75 Linear feet

Language of Materials

The John W. Taylor Papers are written in English.


John W. Taylor (1784-1854) served as a United States Congressman from 1813-1833 and was appointed Speaker of the House twice. This collection is primarily correspondence from many of Taylor's contemporaries to him illuminating his role as a statesman particularly as to his leadership of the Restrictionist cause to abolish slavery in the newly developing western territories.

Biographical / Historical Note

Timeline for John W. Taylor

1784 Son of Judge John Taylor John W. Taylor born March 26, 1784 in Charlton, New York
1799 Enrolled at Union College at 15 years of age
1803 Member of Phi Beta Kappa Graduated Union College
1803-1807 Studied law with Samuel Cook Founded and taught at The Ballston Centre Academy
1807 Earned credentials as Attorney at Law in New York State
1810 Earned credentials as Counselor of Law in New York State
1811 Appointed Deputy Post Master of Hadley, Saratoga Country, New York
1812-1813 Served as New York State Commissioner of Loans Served in the New York State Assembly
1813-1833 Elected at 29 years of age for 10 consecutive terms to Congress as the House Representative from Saratoga County
1820-1821 Served as Speaker of the House for the 16th Congress
1825-1827 Served as Speaker of the House for the 19th Congress
1827 Became a member of the New-York Historical Society
1840-1842 Served in the New York State Assembly
1842 Suffered a paralytic stroke Moved to daughter's home in Cleveland, Ohio
1854 Died September 18, 1854 in Cleveland, Ohio at 70 years of age Buried in Ballston Spa, New York

Historical Context:

Described as a man who advocated "measures and not men... actions and not words", John W. Taylor was as much a product of his times as he was a creator of them, generating a legacy which while lacking direct recognition nevertheless permeates the American socio-political landscape in seminal and enduring ways. His papers reflect a deep and abiding commitment to service to his country, his constituents and his personal convictions.

Raised in an established American family with roots in Saratoga County, New York dating to 1692, Taylor distinguished himself early as a gifted student and debater. Upon graduation from Union College at the age of 19, he founded the Ballston Academy, engaged in successful business ventures, served as the Deputy Post Master and earned his law credentials. He married a young woman of Scottish descent, Jane Hodges, with whom he raised 5 sons and 3 daughters. Appointed to the State Assembly in 1811, Taylor's steady independence propelled him to federal office in 1813 as a Republican Congressman. Thus at the age of 29, Taylor joined a group of young, ambitious men including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun who wrestled with the nuances of the physical, legal, political and spiritual governance of a county only just evolving from its infancy toward its first toddling steps as an individualized political entity.

John W. Taylor entered the national political arena during the second half of the War of 1812 in which the United States failed to extend its territory into Canada but succeeded in establishing itself as a militarily stalwart and politically autonomous country. Thus ensconced in President James Monroe's Era of Good Feeling, purported as a time of national unity while the country strove to expand, it was James Tallmadge, Jr. and Taylor, both congressmen from New York State, who in 1819 ushered the debate of the abolitionist into the goal of western expansion.

Championing the Restrictionist cause was an ethical imperative for Taylor who fervently promoted and authored amendments aimed at preventing and/or limiting the legally sanctioned institution of slavery into newly created states. Using his considerable parliamentarian talents as a tactful, fluent, concise and effective orator, Taylor's response to southern Secessionists threats was resolute: "The honorable gentleman greatly mistakes the people of this country if he supposes this Union, cemented by strong interests, consecrated by glorious achievement, sanctified by the blood of heroes, and endeared by victories won by the exertion and treasure of all … can ever be destroyed or in the least impaired by promoting the cause of humanity and freedom in America".

The results were variable often highlighting yet another seminal and enduringly contentious issue regarding the extent of the power of the Constitution as well as that of the federal government to dictate legislation upon States. Ultimately, many of Taylor's unsuccessful but core proposals formed the bedrock of the ensuing Missouri Compromises including the establishment of a geographic boundary between slave and free states at the 36/30 parallel known as the Mason-Dixon Line.

John W. Taylor went on to serve as Speaker of the House twice, during the second half of the 16th Congress in 1821 and again for the entire 19th Congress of 1825-1827. A statesman who advocated service to the people above service to a political party, his reluctance to be drawn into the contentious fractioning within the New York State Republican party between the Bucktails led by Martin Van Buren and the supporters of Governor DeWitt Clinton with whom Taylor was ultimately associated nearly cost him the 1821 appointment. By 1825, the machinations required to maintain political footing on the national stage had aligned Taylor solidly with long time ally John Quincy Adams in whose 1825 election Taylor provided pivotal support.

During the years of 1833-1842, intervening his Congressional Service and incapacitation from a paralytic stroke, Taylor returned to Saratoga County where he practiced law, served in the State Assembly and was instrumental in the development of the Whig party. Taylor spent his waning years in Cleveland, Ohio in the care of his daughter. He was buried upon his death at age 70 in Ballston Spa. Despite an absence of 12 years, his memorial at the courthouse was well attended by dignitaries and citizens of every ilk and he was eulogized as a man who "was lauded when he flourished and strengthened when he fainted, as scarce ever was a man before."

Historical Resources:

Alexander, DeAlva Stanwood. "John W. Taylor." Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association 1 (January 1920): 14-37.

Booth, John Chester. Excerpt from Booth's History of Saratoga County, New York: 1858. Eds. Violet B. Dunn & Beatrice Sweeney. Saratoga County Bicentennial Commission, 1977. 11 December 2009

Johnson, William R. "Prelude to the Missouri Compromise: A New York Congressman's Effort to Exclude Slavery from Arkansas Territory." New-York Historical Society Quarterly 48 (January 1964): 31-50.

Spann, Edward K. "The Souring of Good Feeling: John W. Taylor and the Speakership Election of 1821." New York History 41 (October 1960): 379-399.

Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett and Cornelius E. Durkee. Excerpt from History of Saratoga County, New York: with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers. Philadelphia: Evert & Ensign, 1878. Interlaken, New York: Hearts of the Lakes Publishers, 1979. 11 December 2009

United States: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. John W. Taylor, 1784-1854. 11 December 2009

Arrangement Note

The John W. Taylor Papers are arranged both alphabetically and chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

The John W. Taylor Papers consist primarily of correspondence received by John W. Taylor in his capacity as a Congressional Representative of New York State from 1813-1833. The correspondence is generally of a political nature reflective of the germane issues of the period including western expansion, the anti-slavery movement, tariffs, banking, elections, the post office, and personal matters. Notable correspondents include Henry Clay, DeWitt Clinton, Alfred Conkling, Edward Everett, Jonathan Fisk, John B. C. Lucas, Henry C. Martindale, John McLean, Charles Miner, Hezekiah Niles, Eliphalet Nott, John Savage, Ebenezer Sage, Ambrose Spencer, James Tallmadge,Jr., Daniel D. Tompkins, Martin Van Buren, Daniel Webster, Hugh White, William Woodbridge and Samuel Young.

There is also correspondence from Taylor in draft or copy format as well as over 80 letters from Taylor to his wife, Jane Hodges Taylor. Other materials include speeches, governmental documents including resolutions, committee lists, notes and rosters, financial documents including receipts, stock certificates, mortgages, indentures and deeds, diplomas and certificates, personal notes, calling cards and invitations. The collection includes a land grant signed by James Monroe, an 1821 letter from Thomas Jefferson, and an 1819 epistle from the vintner John Adlum entitled Of the Cropogation of Vines.

Presidential Signatures

  1. Presidential Signatures
  2. Series 1 / Box 1 / Folder 1: Letter for John Quincy Adams, 1820
  3. Series 1 / Box 2 / Folder 6: Letter from James Monroe, 1814
  4. Series 1 / Box 3 / Folder 7: Entirely correspondence from Martin Van Buren
  5. Series 1 / Box 4 / Folder 3: Letter from Thomas Jefferson, 1821
  6. Series 4 / Box 5 / Folder 9: Land Grant signed by James Monroe

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the John W. Taylor Papers, MS 515, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Related Archival Materials Note

The New Jersey Historical Society holds a small collection related to John W. Taylor including a hand-written genealogy.

Collection processed by

Margaret Bausman

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:46:32 -0400.
Language: Finding Aid is written in English.


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