Scope and arrangement
The Joseph Hawley papers, dating 1653 to 1804, consist of letters and documents relating to him or members of his family dealing with public and private affairs, especially during the colonial wars and the Revolutionary era. Among these are letters to and from Joseph Hawley and his brother Elisha Hawley; Elisha Hawley’s brief journal of the Crown Point expedition, 1755; items pertaining to the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in Northampton; and papers of the Northampton Committee of Correspondence, of which Hawley was chairman. The collection also includes Joseph Hawley's writings on religious, legal and political topics, circa 1740s-1783, notably concerning the Stamp Act and the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention; sermon notes, 1724-1750, taken by Joseph Hawley with his own Bible commentaries, the early notes probably taken by Joseph Hawley's father; Hawley's legal notes on a dispute between a Mr. French and Joseph Allen of Deerfield, ; and two undated texts in Latin, possibly from Hawley’s student days.
Letters and documents dating 1653 (Old Style) through the 1750s consist largely of correspondence of Joseph Hawley and Elisha Hawley regarding personal, family and military matters, including Elisha's affair with Martha Root, religious and church matters, and defense of the Massachusetts frontier. Notable items pertaining to Elisha Hawley include his copy of the covenant of the people of Northampton, 1741/2, with his comment and signature, 1747; his manuscript plan of a town plot near Fort Massachusetts (1750 September), his brief journal during the Crown Point expedition, 1755, and his letter to Joseph the day of his fatal wounding, 1755 September 8. Other correspondents on military matters include Ephraim Williams Sr., Ephraim Williams Jr., and Philip Schuyler (1747/8 February). Also present are two drafts of Joseph Hawley's letter apologizing to Martha Root dated 1750 August 8. A few items dating prior to the 1740s relate to land and other transactions, notably a petition from Springfield setters to establish a plantation at present day Northampton dated the 6th day of the 3rd month 1653 (Old Style). Notable items concerning Jonathan Edwards’s ministry at Northampton include an unsigned letter from Jonathan Edwards to the Town Precinct meeting concerning his salary, 1744 November 6, his letter to Joseph Hawley of 1754 November 18 giving his opinion on Hawley's role in his dismissal, and Hawley’s response of 1755 [January] 21. Samuel Hopkins' letter of 1761 March 21 to Hawley regarding Hawley's published letter to Reverend Hall about the Edwards affair, and Hawley's response to Hopkins April 1 are also pertinent. Additional items are found in undated materials, circa 1740s-circa 1781.
Letters written by Hawley to his wife Mercy at Northampton while attending to legal or government affairs concern the state of his health, personal matters, and general political events as they relate to his plans to return home. There are also a few letters from Joseph Hawley to their nephew and adopted son, Joseph Clarke, regarding family and local matters. Hawley's intermittent periods of mental and physical illness are glimpsed in references he makes in letters to his friends and relatives, and in letters to him expressing concern and good wishes, such as that from Nathan Birdsey (1767 February 18) and James Sullivan (1777 February 19).
Hawley's activities at the colonial General Court, Provincial Congress and the resumed General Court are not well represented. Items reflecting his influence and prestige during the Revolutionary era include colonial agent William Bollan's 1771 account of his work in London, sent to Hawley by Judge Edmund Trowbridge; letters from Thomas Cushing advising him of political developments; and the Congressional appointment of Hawley as Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department, 1775 July 13. Although Hawley continued to serve in the General Court in 1776, much of his time from late February 1775 was spent in Northampton, chairing its Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety. Many letters and documents from 1775 through 1779 are directed to or sent by the Committee, either to Hawley as chairman, or his elected successors, including Joseph Clarke. These concern measures taken against loyalists and, notably, documents relating to British naval prisoners of war and American suspects sent to Northampton by George Washington and the General Court. These include signed paroles and protests against conditions at the Northampton goal, some signed by Royal Navy officer Henry Edwin Stanhope (1754-1814), and letters from American officers, such as Horatio Gates and local militia officer Seth Pomeroy, concerning the prisoners. Additional items are found in undated materials. Letters from the communities of Sunderland (1778) and Chesterfield (1779) to the Committee express the need for a constitutional convention. Also from this period are various military documents, including a list of militia companies in Northampton from 1777-1779, and charges against militia officers O. Lyman and D. Pomeroy (1779).
Notable letters written by Joseph Hawley to Ephraim Wright 178 April 16 and to Caleb Strong, 1782 June 7 and June 24, describe deep unrest in western Massachusetts over the heavy load of debt borne by citizens, especially men who had not yet been paid for their Army service. Materials dating 1787-1804 consist of a letter from the daughter of a loyalist, Sarah Troutbeck, and papers of Joseph Clarke relating to the estates of Joseph Hawley and David Turner.
A few documents relating to town meetings such as warrants and minutes, and local legal proceedings, as well as military commissions for Joseph and Elisha Hawley, are interspersed.
Undated letters and documents, circa 1740s-circa 1781, include letters to and from Joseph Hawley, among them a brief note from Jonathan Edwards; religious writings signed by Joseph Hawley including A Covenant with God; incomplete letters written by Thomas Prince and Thomas Foxcroft to Timothy Dwight following Jonathan Edwards' dismissal as minister at Northampton; Elisha Hawley's report on scouting a route from Northampton to Albany, New York, and Joseph Hawley's signed draft of his letter to Reverend David Hall ("Revd. Sr.") concerning Edwards. Items from the Revolutionary War period include a document signed by Joseph Warren listing Parliamentary acts related to a resolve of the Continental Congress; lists of British and other prisoners of war held at Northampton; and a letter from men at Pittsfield, Massachusetts to the Northampton Committee of Correspondence advising of a petition to call a constitutional convention.
Joseph Hawley writings comprise his commonplace book, circa 1740s-circa 1779, a disbound notebook and loose items consisting of quotations and writings, mainly on religious and legal topics; his nearly complete drafts of letters submitted to the Boston Evening Post in 1767 concerning the legal context of the “Berkshire Affair” during the Stamp Act crisis; Hawley's draft of Northampton's response to the Constitutional Convention, circa 1780 May; and a draft of his letter to the Constitutional Convention giving his personal views on flaws in the draft constitution, as submitted to printers Draper and Folsom for publication, dated 1780 June 5. Also, brief legal notes on an arbitration at Deerfield, ; an incomplete manuscript in Hawley's hand of the remonstrance presented to the Council convened at Northampton in May, 1751 regarding Jonathan Edwards; and Hawley's legal opinion on the tenure of Justices of the Superior Court, incomplete, circa 1773; as well as drafts of an act for the recovery of debt, 1782; and a petition for Northampton regarding the Court of General Sessions, 1783.
Sermon notes, 1724-1750 and undated, on folded and stitched signatures, are in two different hands; only a few are dated. The earlier notes, 1724-circa 1734, were probably taken by Joseph Hawley II, with sermons by ministers Stoddard, Edwards (1731), and Hopkins (1731), and a text preached by Edwards on Second Corinthians 11:14 (sermon given in 1734). Notes taken 1741, 1750 and undated are in the hand of Joseph Hawley and include sermons by Whittlesey (1741 December 6) and Edwards (1750 July 15; with a list inside the fold of tenants and rent amounts). Undated notes include Hawley's own commentaries on biblical texts.
Texts in Latin are writings on Graeco-Roman history in two notebooks, possibly from Hawley's student days.