North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Iredell Papers
Donna E. Kelly, Editor
Historical Publications Section
4622 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-4622
Phone: (919) 733-7442
Fax: (919) 733-1439
'The Papers of James Iredell'
Iredell Papers

Last Updated 9/21/10


On January 23, 1962, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, then executive director of the National Historical Publications Commission, wrote a letter to Dr. Christopher Crittenden, at that time director of the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History. In his letter Dr. Holmes reported on the interest of Justice Felix Frankfurter of the United States Supreme Court in seeing the papers of Justice James Iredell Sr., edited and published. Justice Frankfurter considered Iredell, who was the first North Carolinian to serve on the United States Supreme Court, one of the brilliant minds of his time, and, in fact, of the nation’s entire history.

During the ensueing months inquiries were made of a number of scholars concerning the advisability of a new edition of the Iredell Papers. The consensus was that such a project had great merit; that the 1857 edition of the Life and Correspondence of James Iredell, edited by Griffith J. McRee, was incomplete and contained inaccuracies; and that a multivolume series should be undertaken if and when funding could be obtained. The name of Dr. Don Higginbotham, then on the faculty of the Department of History at Louisiana State University and later at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was proposed as editor.

Arrangements were made with Dr. Higginbotham to edit the papers, with publication by what is now known as the Office of Archives and History of the Department of Cultural Resources. The Papers of James Iredell, volumes I (1767-1777) and II (1778-1783) subsequently were published in 1976. Volume III followed in 2003.

Plans for publishing The Papers of James Iredell call for four volumes consisting of letters, political essays, and an assortment of other materials. Three have been published to date as mentioned above. Two additional volumes, devoted exclusively to legal papers, will be edited at a later date. However, certain select documents illustrating Iredell’s career as a lawyer, state judge, state attorney general, and associate justice of the United States Supreme Court already appear in the initial three volumes and will appear in the fourth volume, especially those that cast light on political developments during the American Revolution and the Federal period. Particularly reserved for the final volumes will be Iredell’s legal opinions, legal essays, case notes, fee books, and court docket books.

Volumes I and II contain virtually every known letter written by Iredell or written to him through the year 1783. Volume III (1784-1789) covers the period leading up to the ratification of the Constitution, for which Iredell wrote many supportive essays and letters. Volume IV (1790-1799) will cover Iredell's Supreme Court years.

The next volume to be published will be The Papers of James Iredell, Volume IV (1790-1799). A date for publication has not been set.

For more information about this documentary project contact the editor, Donna Kelly, at

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