A NOTE ON SOURCES
|There are many collections of
Coles papers, only some of which I have consulted. The main ones are at
the Princeton University Library and the Historical Society of
Pennsylvania. The collection at the Princeton University Library contains
many Coles letters from his later years, as well as the famous exchange of
letters with Jefferson in 1814. The collection at the Historical Society
of Pennsylvania is more extensive, including Coles' three autobiographies,
his account books, and the date book that first Coles' mother and then
Coles kept, recording the family comings and goings at
Much of the important collection at the Chicago Historical Society is reprinted in Clarence Alvord, Governor Edward Coles, Illinois Historical Society Library, 1920. This invaluable book also reprints the most extensive biography of Coles, E.B Washburne's Sketch of Edward Coles, Second Governor of Illinois, and of the Slavery Struggle of 1823-4 (Chicago, 1882).
There are also important Coles papers at the New York Public Library, the University of Virginia Library (especially in the Carter and Cabell collections), and reprinted in the William and Mary Quarterly of 1927. Many other significant collections exist, which I have not consulted, including the Dolley Madison, Andrew Stevenson, and Singleton Family papers in the Library of Congress, and the Richard Singleton and John Rutherfoord papers in the Duke University Library. Carter, Singleton, Stevenson, and Rutherfoord were all brothers-in-law of Coles, who wrote regularly to his siblings, their spouses, and their children, and it is likely that a good many of Coles' letters can be found in these papers.
Perhaps the richest and most extensive collection of Coles papers remains in private hands: the Roberts Coles papers. I describe my experience in finding and examining these papers in a separate note. Suffice it to say here that they are unfortunately not available to researchers, and that one of the main reasons I decided to put my own unfinished research on the Web was to make sure that what I learned from them does not simply languish in my files.
A final major source of information is the newspapers of the period, especially the Illinois newspapers from 1818-1826. Most issues of the newspapers published during these years are available on microfilm from the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, Illinois: the Illinois Intelligencer, the Illinois Gazette, the Republican-Advocate, and the Edwardsville Spectator.
These, then, are the major sources from which my work is drawn. Other sources--histories of the period, local state and county histories, genealogical records, and biographies--are listed in the bibliography. I have in the notes indicated where sources corroborate or conflict with one another, attempting to convey the varying shades of speculation and conviction which are so necessary to intelligent and informed reading. However, since I haven't touched my work on Coles in over twenty-five years, I am not familiar with what may have been written about him since 1980.