Edward Coles (December 15, 1786 – July 7, 1868) was a planter and politician, elected as the second Governor of Illinois (1822 to 1826). From an old Virginia family, as a young man Coles was a neighbor and associate of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, as well as secretary to President James Madison (1810 to 1815).
|2nd Governor of Illinois|
December 5, 1822 – December 6, 1826
|Preceded by||Shadrach Bond|
|Succeeded by||Ninian Edwards|
|Private Secretary to the President|
January 1810 – March 1815
|Preceded by||Isaac Coles|
|Succeeded by||James Payne Todd|
|Born||December 15, 1786|
Albemarle County, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||July 7, 1868 81) (aged|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Sally Logan Roberts (1809 to 1883)|
|Alma mater||College of William and Mary|
An anti-slavery advocate throughout his adult life, Coles inherited a plantation and slaves but eventually left Virginia for the Illinois Territory in order to set his slaves free. He manumitted 19 slaves in 1819, and acquired land for them. In Illinois, he twice led political campaigns that prevented the legitimization of slavery in the new state. Coles corresponded with and advised both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to free their slaves. In his final years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he helped shape early historians' views of the presidents' republican ideals.
Early life and education
Coles was born on December 15, 1786, at Enniscorthy, a plantation in central Virginia's Albemarle County on the Hardware River, a tributary of the James River. He was the youngest male among ten surviving children of John Coles (1745–1808) and Rebecca Tucker (1750–1826). Young Coles' earliest teachers were prominent lawyer Wilson Cary Nicholas and Mr. (probably Rev.) White who lived by Dyer's Store. After a term at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, Coles transferred to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
While at William and Mary, Coles was strongly influenced by the enlightenment ideals taught by the Rt. Rev. James Madison (first Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia and President of the College). The teacher and cleric considered slavery morally indefensible, but a problem without a clear solution. Young Coles determined not to be a slaveholder and not to live where slavery was accepted. However, he kept these views from his father, whose illness (and that of his elder brother) caused Coles to end his formal education in the summer of 1807, for fear that his father would substitute other property for slaves when writing his last will and testament. His bachelor uncles in Norfolk, Travis and John Tucker, had freed slaves when such had become legal in Virginia, and Coles' father John noted that some of the slaves freed by Travis (a devout Methodist) were now living in near starvation. Keeping quiet ensured that Coles would inherit slaves, thus providing him with the opportunity to give freedom.
When his father died in 1808, Coles received 12 slaves and a 782-acre plantation on the Rockfish River in Nelson County, Virginia, subject to a mortgage. After John Coles' estate was settled on Christmas Eve, 1808, Edward Coles revealed his emancipation plans to his family, to great consternation. As he sorted through the challenges posed by family resistance and Virginia law (which since 1806 required freed slaves to leave the state within a year, and had also increased restrictions on already free blacks), Coles abandoned his earliest plan to free his slaves in Virginia. He went to Kentucky in the summer of 1809 to investigate a land claim of his uncle Travis Tucker, but came home without plans to move to that new state (which allowed slavery).
Coles placed his plantation for sale in December, 1809, despite the collapsed real estate market during the depression of 1807, and began to plan for a move to the Northwest Territory (where slavery had been at least technically abolished in 1787). However, for years he received no reasonable offers, and so continued to operate it through an overseer. Coles turned down offers to exchange his slaves for other property, but honored the requests of his family and neighbors to keep his plans secret from his slaves.
The Coles family was one of the First Families of Virginia. His great-grandfather, Walter Coles, had been a customs officer in Ireland who moved to what became Richmond, Virginia and made his fortune as a merchant. His grandfather John had been one of the petitioners requesting that Richmond be recognized as a new town, and continued to develop the family's business and social ties through marriage to the youngest daughter of Quaker merchant Isaac Winston. Edward Coles's father John (a/k/a John II) developed Enniscorthy from a hunting camp into a profitable farm, and continued the family's business and social success.
Edward Coles' maternal grandfather was born in Bermuda, and related to Virginia jurist St. George Tucker. His mother's maternal ancestors were among the "first & most respectable settlers at old Jamestown."
Edward's elder brother, Isaac A. Coles, served as private secretary to both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison during their administrations. Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation was nearby in Albemarle County. Furthermore, the wife of James Madison, Dolley Payne Todd Madison, was Coles' first cousin, and Coles became a frequent guest at their Montpelier plantation also nearby. James Monroe owned Ash Lawn-Highland plantation on the other side of Green Mountain for 24 years (until forced to sell it in 1825 due to financial problems), and offered young Coles use of his library, although the relationship with this family was more distant since Monroe split his time at Oak Hill plantation in Loudoun County.
Isaac managed and ultimately inherited Enniscorthy, subject to a life estate held by his mother (who died in 1826). His brother Walter had drawn his share of the inheritance early, and managed Woodville plantation for many years before his father's death. John Coles III built a mansion called Estouteville on his inherited portion, and Tucker Coles built Tallwood plantation on the upper acres that he inherited—both married daughters of Sir Peyton Skipwith, the only baronet in Virginia. Their sister Rebecca became the second wife of South Carolina planter Richard Singleton, with whom she had five children. Her sister Elizabeth (Betsy) never married. Mary Coles married Robert Carter and moved to his nearby Redlands plantation. Their sister Emily married Richmond lawyer John Rutherfoord, who owned Tuckahoe plantation in Goochland County and later served as acting governor of Virginia (1841–42). Their son John Coles Rutherfoord witnessed the Civil War's devastation, and his grandson W.A.R. Goodwin became an Episcopal minister and helped found Colonial Williamsburg. Their sister Callie (Sarah) married Andrew Stevenson, who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives as well as American minister to the United Kingdom.
Service in the White House
Some months after taking office as President, James Madison invited Coles to become his private secretary. His brother Isaac had been performing those duties, as well as delicate courier tasks (particularly with France in the days leading up to the War of 1812). However, Isaac Coles, perhaps inappropriately acting out his earlier military career dreams, beat up Maryland representative Roger Nelson and, after a critical Congressional report concerning the incident, was forced to submit his resignation on December 29, 1809. Neighbor James Monroe (soon to become Secretary of State) convinced Edward Coles to accept that secretarial position, and Coles served from January 1810 to March 1815, despite intervals of ill-health.
Coles' term as presidential secretary delayed his plans to free his slaves. However, Coles developed a good relationship with Madison, with whom he would often speak with "perfect candor", and formed a lasting admiration for the president. While Madison's secretary, Coles initiated private correspondence with Thomas Jefferson over the issue of slavery, as discussed below. Coles gained political experience as Madison's assistant, served as his primary emissary to Congress, and managed much of the patronage flowing from the 162-employee executive branch. Among other duties, Coles hand-copied the president's official correspondence for the national archives.
Coles met John Adams during a tour of north-eastern states in 1811. Along with Benjamin Rush, Coles worked to diminish tensions and rewarm relations between Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Coles also spent considerable time in Philadelphia receiving medical treatment from Dr. Physick, among others, as well as began a long friendship with Nicholas Biddle, who became controversial as a banker and anti-slavery advocate. As the War of 1812 ended, Coles resigned due to continued ill health in February, 1815,
Upon recovering in June, Coles and his 40-year-old mulatto slave and coachman, Ralph Crawford, toured the Northwest Territory in search of land Coles could purchase and develop as a home for himself and a place for the slaves he still proposed to free. Coles wrote letters to President Madison and to relatives expressing dissatisfaction with the high land prices in Ohio, then with squatters, real estate speculators and fraudulent businessmen as he travelled further west into the Indiana (and what became the Illinois) Territory. In the Missouri Territory Coles bought some land for investment, before finally embarking in St. Louis on a keel boat for his trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, from where Coles ultimately sailed home to Virginia.
Coles was delayed again in fulfilling his covenant with freedom by a diplomatic trip to Russia (1816–1817) at President Madison's request, to resolve a diplomatic incident concerning the Russian consul's arrest in Philadelphia for raping a maid. After successfully completing his mission in St. Petersburg, Coles toured Brussels, Paris and England. While in England, Coles met ambassador John Quincy Adams and social reformer Morris Birkbeck. Coles extolled such enthusiasm about Illinois that Birkbeck bought land, moved and established a settlement. Upon his return, Coles wrote a paper comparing slavery and Russian serfdom, so if an ulterior motive for the diplomatic assignment was dissuading Coles from his manumission plan, it failed. Moreover, Coles wrote about (and long remembered) the pervasive bribery and unethical business practices he encountered in Russia.
Correspondence with Jefferson
In 1814 Coles wrote a letter to his Albemarle County neighbor Thomas Jefferson, asking the former President to again embark on a campaign of emancipation and publicly work for an end to slavery in Virginia. Jefferson's response has become a signal document in the study of Jefferson's troubling and complex relationship with the institution of slavery. At age 71 and generally retired from politics and because Virginia law did not allow for emancipation of slaves, Jefferson declined Cole's request, advising his young friend and associate to stay in Virginia to help in the long-term demise of slavery. Coles’ disappointment is clear in his return letter of September 26, 1814.
In the fall of 1817, Coles sold his plantation to his eldest brother Walter, having declined James Monroe's request that he continue as the new President's private secretary. Instead, Coles embarked on a second reconnaissance mission to the Northwest Territories (1818). He bought land in the American Bottom in Illinois Territory. Coles also participated in the Illinois Constitutional Convention at Kaskaskia, Illinois after Indiana became a state. Coles worked with Baptist John Mason Peck, Methodist Peter Cartwright, Quaker James Lemen, and publisher Hooper Warren to successfully oppose a faction that wanted to legitimize slavery in the new territory's constitution.
Coles then returned to Virginia, planning to display his deep moral objections to slavery and finally manumit the slaves he inherited from his father after leaving the Commonwealth. In late March 1819, having collected the final payment from Walter, Edward Coles was ready to move to the Illinois Territory. President Monroe had appointed him Register of Lands for the new territory, with an office at Edwardsville.
Coles sent his trusted slave (and travel companion during his previous Northwest Territory trips) Ralph Crawford with wagons and 16 other slaves (total 6 adults and 11 children) ahead on the Great Wagon Road north to Pennsylvania. To the derision of many family and friends, Coles had let the slaves ride on ahead, none of them knowing his plans to free them at that time. Coles traveled separately. They met at Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where the party boarded a pair of flatboats and began a water-bound journey: floating on the Monongahela River north to Pittsburgh, then west along the Ohio River toward Illinois. Coles selected a point west of Pittsburgh to announce to his slaves their immediate freedom and also his plan to provide land to each head of a family. Coles captured the scene in an autobiographical piece written some 25 years later. Decades later, the river emancipation became the subject of a mural in the first floor (south hall) of the Illinois State Capitol.
The Coles party arrived in Edwardsville, early in May 1819, and Coles began his service as Register of Lands. He also completed the manumission process by purchasing land so as to give each freed head of family 160 acres (0.65 km2). Coles also provided employment and other ongoing support for those he had freed. As Register through 1822, Coles mediated and untangled complicated land disputes, thus earning a reputation for fairness and honesty.
Term as Illinois Governor
Coles ran for governor in the election of 1822. To his great surprise, he won the election by a very tight margin, defeating Chief Justice Joseph Philips (an ally of Judge Jesse Thomas and prominent slavery advocate in his own right who eventually returned to Kentucky), Associate Justice Thomas C. Browne(the eventual candidate of the Ninian Edwards faction) and militia commander James B. Moore. Coles had left Illinois on election day believing he had lost, and received the news of his victory while in Virginia recovering from bilious fever. He accordingly cleared up his land office accounts in Washington, D.C. and returned to Illinois. Madison sent him a package containing a pedometer, and a note, "As you are about to assume new motives to walk in a straight path, and with measured steps, I wish you to accept the little article enclosed, as a type of the course I am sure you will pursue, and as a token of the affection I have so long cherished for you."
Coles’ inaugural address included a clear call for the end of slavery in Illinois and revision of the Black Code, as well as advocated internal improvements (especially a canal link to the Great Lakes) and aid to agriculture and education. Slavery was a very important topic at the time, because that first state constitution only permitted current practices using slave labor in the salines (salt evaporation factories) through 1825. A proslavery faction had hoped to eliminate the first constitution's anti-slavery clause and transform Illinois into a slave state like Missouri. Coles’ bold call for an end to slavery stiffened their resolve and led to a rancorous legislative effort which began with the Shaw-Hansen Affair (concerning whether to seat a pro-slavery candidate backed by voters who came from Missouri, or his anti-slavery opponent). Governor Edward Coles led the opposition to a bill approving a referendum to hold another constitutional convention, recognizing it as a dishonest attempt to more clearly legalize slavery in the state. After the bill passed, Coles committed his total pay as governor ($4000) to defeat the referendum, and led a committee of anti-slavery citizens, religious leaders, and legislators (who committed another $1000). The aristocratic, awkward Virginian and his allies then dispelled a plethora of false economic arguments spread by slavery proponents, while in the aftermath of the Panic of 1819 keeping secret their printing help from much-reviled Philadelphians (Nicholas Biddle and Roberts Vaux). The 18-month political struggle used committees in each county as well as traveling preachers.
On August 2, 1824, Illinois voters rejected the pro-slavery convention referendum (as well as re-elected anti-slavery U.S. representative Daniel Pope Cook). However, by year's end pro-slavery legislators refused to approve Coles' appointment of his anti-slavery friend Morris Birkbeck as secretary of state. Furthermore, lieutenant governor Adolphus Hubbard attempted to wrest the governorship away from Coles during his trip to Virginia in late 1825, causing additional confusion, although Hubbard also lost the gubernatorial election the next year to Ninian Edwards (the state Constitution also included a provision modelled on Virginia's which precluded governors from running for reelection). Finally, a lawsuit that political opponents in Madison County, Illinois brought against Coles for failing to pay a slave tax on his freed slaves years earlier took several more years, including shenanigans by pro-slavery judge Samuel McRoberts, before the Illinois Supreme Court ruled such payment unnecessary. Coles' valedictory speech as governor in December 1826 reminded legislators of his previous speeches urging them to abolish slavery and its remnants (especially heritability) in the new state, as well as to finance a canal to the Great Lakes watershed and a penitentiary.
After his term as governor expired, Coles returned briefly to Virginia, where his mother had died that spring. Coles then returned to his farm outside of Edwardsville. He focused on agricultural and business pursuits, between continued trips to Virginia and Philadelphia to visit family and friends and to search for a wife. His friend Daniel Pope Cook was defeated by a proslavery opponent in 1826, and legislators had selected their pro-slavery speaker John McLean to fill unexpired U.S. Senate terms in 1824 and 1829 (voters ultimately electing Elias Kent Kane and John McCracken Robinson to those seats). Coles made his last run for public office in 1831. As candidate for Congress, running against eight candidates including pro-slavery Democrats Joseph Duncan (allied with Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford) and Sidney Breese (a Jacksonian Democrat), Coles polled a distant third. He had been out of public view for some years, and refused to align himself with any political party. Instead, Coles campaigned on his successful term as governor, proclaimed his association with the founding fathers, and criticized the Jacksonian platform. Still, Coles felt devastated by the political defeat, and moved back east. Nonetheless, in 1835, Illinois legislators authorized Coles to sell bonds to finance his canal project, but since they also refused to back the bonds with state credit, sales proved slow.
Back to Virginia
Worried about his unmarried status and increasing partisanship, Coles decided to leave Illinois shortly after his election loss. He made another trip to Virginia, which was involved in its own debate over slavery after Nat Turner's rebellion. After Turner's execution, Coles wrote Thomas Jefferson Randolph urging emancipation and colonization to prevent further disasters, stressing that slavery restricted Virginia's economic development. At year's end, while visiting James and Dolley Madison at Montpelier, Madison confided in Coles his wish to manumit his own slaves and asked Coles about his experiences as he tried to find the right way to accomplish this while still providing for Dolley as his widow. However, Madison died in 1836 without freeing any of his slaves which were left in a will to his wife Dolley.
Later life in Philadelphia
Coles moved to Philadelphia in 1832, gratified by its active social and intellectual life, as well as slavery's absence. At age 46, Coles married prominent socialite Sally Logan Roberts (1809 to 1883) on November 28, 1833. The couple had three children: Mary Coles, Edward Coles, Jr., and Roberts Coles. Sally Coles inherited significant property upon her father's death, but it (and much of Coles' own fortune) was devastated by the Panic of 1837. Furthermore, his family's renovated Enniscorthy plantation burned down in 1839, and his elder brother Isaac only survived the disasters by two years. Coles's last public appointment was in 1841, when he served on a committee investigating the U.S. Bank, which ultimately led to the resignation of his friend Nicholas Biddle. Coles unsuccessfully sought political appointments from his Virginia classmates who had become high federal officials, John Tyler and Winfield Scott. Still, rental income from real estate investments (widely spread geographically) kept the growing family financially comfortable. Coles and his young family travelled often to visit his extended family and properties in Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as Illinois and later Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey.
However, Coles never resumed his political career, uncomfortable with the new party system. Nonetheless, he rejoiced when Abraham Lincoln, whom he remembered as a young Illinois lawyer, was elected President. The elderly ex-governor briefly met the newly elected president on his journey to Washington. Coles had also publicly taken exception to Senator Stephen A. Douglas' characterization of slavery's history in Illinois during the Kansas-Nebraska debate of 1854.
Coles turned to history during his later years. He was recognized as one of the few remaining men with close personal knowledge of both Madison and Jefferson, and burnished their reputations as champions of the republican ideals that had also motivated Coles during his entire life. Coles had lobbied both Jefferson and Madison (and later Thomas Jefferson Randolph) to free their slaves. Coles was surprised when Madison failed to do so, only later learning that lawyer Robert Taylor had persuaded the former President to leave emancipation instructions for his widow, whose father had gone bankrupt after freeing his slaves many years earlier. Dolley, with other personal economic priorities (especially a son addicted to gambling), freed no slaves upon her death in 1849. Coles also wrote about the Northwest Ordinance. However, most of Coles' own papers from Illinois were destroyed in a fire in 1852 while his friend John Mason Peck was writing a history of the new state. Coles also assisted Virginia historians William Cabell Rives and Hugh Blair Grigsby, and New Yorker Henry S. Randall.
To his father's great disappointment, Roberts Coles returned to Virginia in 1860, where he became a slaveowner (buying a plantation from a relative) and engaged to Jennie Fairfax of Richmond. After the Civil War began, he enlisted in the Green Mountain Greys and was elected captain. Roberts Coles died (as did the other Confederate captain) during the Battle of Roanoke Island, February 8, 1862.
Coles died, aged eighty one years, in his home (1303 Spruce Street in Philadelphia) on July 7, 1868. While devastated by his younger son's death fighting for the Confederates, Coles lived to see slavery abolished through President Lincoln's issuing the Emancipation Proclamation as well as ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Coles also lived to see his elder son and namesake, Edward Coles, Jr., marry Elizabeth (Bessie) Mason Campbell, relative of anti-slavery founding father George Mason (descendant of his younger brother Thomson Mason) on February 25, 1868. Edward Coles Jr. became a prominent lawyer in Philadelphia, and a long-time vestry member of Christ Church, which still displays a plaque honoring his service on the south wall inside the nave.
The Coles family grave at Woodlands Cemetery in west Philadelphia includes the final resting places of the former governor, his wife Sally, as well as their three children. His daughter Mary Coles (who never married) and Caroline Sanford founded the Church Training school for Deaconesses in Philadelphia in 1891, and served as its president as well as a faculty member. The school generally graduated 7 to 10 pupils per year (the highest number in residence was 30 in 1912-13), which were in great demand and served not only in hospitals and parishes in Pennsylvania, but throughout the United States and missions abroad. In 1895 Mary Coles secured the re-interment of her brother Roberts from the family cemetery at Enniscorthy. Edward Jr. and Bessie Coles were also buried at the new family gravesite.
Coles was among the very few slaveholders who manumitted his slaves entirely as a testament to the republican ethos that was at the heart of the American Revolution and enlightenment. He is also noteworthy for his attempts to pressure Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson Randolph to work to end of slavery in Virginia and for James Madison to free his slaves.
Coles County, Illinois was named for him, and more recently an elementary school on the south side of Chicago. During his lifetime, the Illinois legislature named the county seat of then-huge Pike County, Coles Grove, but the town disappeared and its physical location may now be in Calhoun County.
- "National Register of Historic Places : Enniscorthy" (PDF). Dhr.virginia.gov. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "A Guide to the Enniscorthy Collection 1926-1970 Enniscorthy, Collection, 1926-1970 11606". Ead.lib.virginia.edu. April 1, 2000. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Top buyer: Enniscorthy owner waits for Tyco axe | The Hook - Charlottesville's weekly newspaper, news magazine". Readthehook.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Contributed by Bruce G. Carveth. "Coles, Edward (1786–1868)". Encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Edward Coles, Patrician Emancipator- IHT 12:1 2005". Lib.niu.edu. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Chapter 3: Slavery". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Document:Coles, Edward. "Autobiography." April 1844. Coles Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Washburne, 1882 Chapter II, p.16
- Contributed by Bruce G. Carveth. "Coles, Edward (1786–1868)". Encyclopediavirginia.org. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Chapter 6: Rockfish". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle and Carveth, pp. 25-27.
- "Chapter 2: Virginia". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Historical Society of Pennsylvania". Digitallibrary.hsp.org. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- "Charlottesville Chapter of the National Organization for Women (CNOW) - Herstory of women in Albemarle County, VA". Cvillenow.avenue.org. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "The Coles Family". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 7. 1899. JSTOR 4242233.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 27-28.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 28-38.
- Washburne, 1882 p.21
- Washburne, 1882 pp.9-10, 19, 38.
- Document:Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, December 5, 1811, in Ford, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 298.
- "Chapter 11: The Tomb of Worldly Happiness". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 40-41, 50.
- Norton, 1920 p.12
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 50-52.
- "Chapter 12: First Visit to Illinois". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 53-55.
- Leichtle, 2011 p. 56--better cite needed than general no-page cite to Coles' autobiography
- "Chapter 13: Europe". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Document:Edward Coles to Thomas Jefferson, July 31, 1814, E. Coles Papers, Princeton University Library
- Document:Thomas Jefferson to Edward Coles, August 25, 1814, E. Coles papers, Princeton University Library
- Document:Edward Coles to Thomas Jefferson, September 26, 1814, E. Coles Papers, Princeton University Library
- Crawford, 2008 pp.98-106
- Washburne, 1882 pp.21-31
- Washburne, 1882 pp.38-39
- Norton, 1920 pp.10-11
- Ress, 2006 pp. 62-74
- "Chapter 14: Second Trip to Illinois". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 57-58.
- Ress, 2006 p.12
- Leichtle and Carveth, pp. 59-64.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 64-70.
- Washburne, 1882 pp.47-49
- Bateman, 1918 p.110
- Document:"The Emancipation of the Slaves of Edward Coles." October 1827, Folder 21, Box 3, Coles Family Papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
- Washburne, 1882 pp.44-46
- Bateman, 1918 p.259
- Washburne, 1882 pp.54-55
- Leichtle, 2011 pp. 85-87.
- Washburne, 1882 p.92
- "Chapter 19: Governor Coles". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Washburne, 1882 pp.238-239
- Document:"The Shaw-Hansen Election Contest." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Vol. 7, No. 4, Jan., 1915
- "Chapter 20: The Struggle in the Legislature". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- "Narrative of the Life of Edward Coles". Poemsforfree.com. August 22, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle and Carveth pp. 141-143
- citing Alvord, Governor Edward Coles (Illinois State Historical Society, 1920) at pp. 210-213.
- "Chapter 25 : The Result". Poemsforfree.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Norton, 1920 p.271
- Leichtle and Carveth pp. 146-149
- "Chapter 26: The Rest of a Life". Poemsforfree.com. November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle and Carveth pp. 152-153.
- Leichtle, 2011 pp.161-162
- Document:Edward Coles to James Madison, January 8, 1832, folder 30, box 1, E. Coles Papers, Princeton University Library.
- Leichtle and Carveth, pp. 201-203
- Document:Guasco, Suzanne Cooper. "Managing Memory: The Cultivation of Elite Authority in Jacksonian America." paper presentation, annual conference, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) Conference, Buffalo, NY July 20–23, 2000.
- Leichtle and Carveth, pp. 160-166.
- Leichtle and Carveth, p. 172, 177.
- "Governors of Edwardsville - City of Edwardsville, Illinois". Cityofedwardsville.com. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Leichtle and Carveth, pp. 191-199.
- Washburne, 1882 p.248
- Mary Sudman Donovan, A Different Call: Women's Ministries in the Episcopal Church 1850-1920, pp. 115 (Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse-Harlow 1986
- "US Slave: The Virginian Named Edward Coles". Usslave.blogspot.com. December 6, 2011. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 87.
- "Making the Grade: inside Coles Elementary". abc7chicago.com. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "Chicago Public Schools". schoolinfo.cps.edu. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Archived May 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- Coles, Edward, (1856). History of the Ordinance of 1787, (primary source) Historical Society of Pennsylvania, pp. 33, Url
- The Coles Family papers, containing correspondence, various papers and materials belonging to Edward Coles, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Alvord, Clarence; Walworth, (1909). Kaskaskia records, 1778-1790, Volume 19.
Illinois State Historical Library, 691 pages.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) E'book1, E'book2
- Bateman, Newton; Selby, Paul (1918). Historical encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 1.
Munsell Pub. Co., Chicago. p. 621. Url
- Crawford, Alan Pell (2008). Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson.
Random House Digital, Inc. p. 352. Url
- Guasco, Suzanne Cooper (2013). Confronting Slavery: Edward Coles and the Rise of Antislavery Politics in Nineteenth-Century America.
Northern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0875806899.
- Leichtle, K.E.; Carveth,, Bruce G. (2011). Crusade Against Slavery: Edward Coles, Pioneer of Freedom.
Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 268. ISBN 9780809389445.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) Url
- Norton, Wilbur Theodore (1911). Edward Coles: Second Governor of Illinois. 1786-1868.
Washington Square Press. p. 30. E'book
- Ress, David (2006). Gov. Edward Coles and the Vote to Forbid Slavery in Illinois, 1823–1824.
McFarland Publishers. Jefferson, NC. p. 203. ISBN 9780786426393. Url
- Washburne, Elihu Benjamin (1882). Sketch of Edward Coles.
Negro Universities Press. p. 253. Url
| Governor of Illinois