The history of the United States of America is reflected through the National Library of Scotland's collections, which span over 400 years.
to colonies', by
Sir William Alexander, 1624
Our collections include colonial era books and manuscripts, along with modern material about the colonialisation of North America, including books from the early 17th century about the European discovery of America.
You will find many treasures in our collections which relate to the American Revolution, including:
- 'Official letters to the honorable American Congress, written during the war', 1795: signed by George Washington, first President of the United States
- Letter sent by George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the American Continental Army, to Major General William Smallwood, Newburgh, July 1782
- Correspondence from key Loyalist figures and propaganda
- A commemorative copy of the Declaration of Independence, from 1852
- 'The constitutions of the several independent states of America … Published by order of Congress', 1781.
Scots played a role in the slave trade and its abolition, both in Scotland and the Americas. Useful resources about Scotland's links with slavery include:
- Papers of Scottish planters and sugar merchants
- First-hand accounts of the voyages of slave ships
- Printed and manuscript material about the abolition and emancipation movements.
Important Scots in abolition
The collections contain material relating to important Scottish abolitionists, including:
- Eliza Wigham of the Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society
- Jane Smeal, secretary of the Glasgow Ladies Auxiliary Emancipation Society
- Thomas Pringle, author of many Anti-Slavery Society publications
- George Combe, phrenologist and abolitionist.
American abolitionists in Scotland
We have a collection of works relating to American anti-slavery campaigners who visited Scotland:
- Publications recording abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass' campaign against the Free Church of Scotland taking money from slave-owning presbyteries. This includes the 1846 pamphlet 'Send back the money!' [Shelfmark 3.2362(49)]
- Early editions of publications by and about Frederick Douglass, for example 'Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass', 1845 [Library shelfmark AB.1.79.186]
- An 1846 edition of Moses Roper's 'Narrative of the adventures and escape of Moses Roper from American slavery' printed in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Roper visited Scotland in 1836, speaking at many venues throughout the country
- Author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe toured Scotland in 1853, the same year she published 'A key to uncle Tom's cabin', [Shelfmark H.S.632(1)].
American Civil War
More books have been written on the subject than on any other in American history. The dimensions of the war have been defined, studied and re-imagined by historians and artists of all kinds.
You will find an extensive collection of material on all aspects of the American Civil War, including many recently published scholarly works looking at the conflict.
In 2015, the Library showcased items from its collections in a display about the American Civil War, including many fascinating items from the United States collections.