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Annual meeting of the Southern Historical Society.

On Thursday evening, November 2d, the Society assembled in the hall of the House of Delegates, in the State Capitol at Richmond, in its annual meeting. In the absence of the President, General Jubal A. Early (who wrote that only the most imperative business engagements could have detained him from the meeting), the Vice-President, Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, presided.

The meeting was opened with an appropriate and fervent prayer, by Rev. J. B. Jeter, D. D., after which the annual report of the Executive Committee was read by the chairman, General Dabney H. Maury, as follows:

Fourth annual report of the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society, for the year ending October 31st, 1876.

In presenting our fourth annual report, the Committee feel constrained to congratulate the Society on the gratifying progress we have made during the past year, and the bright prospects which open before us in the future.

Our Society has steadily grown in public favor, our membership has largely increased, and there have been continuous additions of most valuable material to our collection.

As we have from time to time made acknowledgement through the papers of contributions received, we deem it unnecessary to give here a catalogue of

Material on hand.

But we may say that our collection is now generally recognized as one of very great value. We have received frequent letters from North, South, East and West, and from Europe, asking for information on various points of historical interest, and in nearly every instance our archives afforded the information sought. Several gentlemen engaged in writing important parts of the history of our struggle for constitutional freedom, have acknowledged valuable assistance received from us, and have signified their purpose of consulting our archives more freely in the future.

Indeed we have already on our shelves ample material for a true history of the “war between the States,” with the exception of the year 1864, and the early part of 1865. We have invaluable material for this latter period; but our collection is less complete for [246] these years than any others, and we beg our friends who may have material which would throw light upon this part of the war to send it promptly forward to our office. We have not been in condition to purchase documents or Mss., but we have been highly gratified at the cheerful alacrity with which our patriotic people have given us material which no money could purchase. We have the promise of many Mss., documents, &c., of value, and we beg our friends not to delay sending them forward, lest some mishap befall them ere they reach our shelves. We would also gladly receive as a loan anything which persons may not be willing to give us, and would hold it strictly subject to the wishes of the owner.


The Committee indicated in their last report their earnest desire to make a monthly publication, which should at the same time keep up interest in our work, preserve valuable Mss. from the risk of being lost, and aid students of our history in their researches. We had fully decided that it would be better for us to do our own publishing, than to form an alliance with any existing magazine, but the condition of our treasury made us hesitate to assume liabilities which we might not be able to discharge. Just after our annual meeting, however, our Vice-President for the District of Columbia, W. W. Corcoran, Esq., whose princely liberality to every good work has given him a world-wide reputation, made us a donation which determined us to try the experiment of a monthly publication. Accordingly we issued in January last the first number of our “Southern Historical Society Papers.” This publication has proved a decided success. Although the depressed condition of the country, the excitement of a heated Presidential canvass, and other causes have combined to make this an exceedingly unfavorably year for such an enterprise, our monthly has fully met the cost of its publication, and would have more than done so but for the extra expense of our numbers on the “Treatment of prisoners” (which we scattered broadcast in this country and in Europe), the cost of reissuing several of the numbers which ran out, and the cost of stereotyping. These three items alone amount to $1,568. Our present experience woud have enabled us to avoid the whole of this extra expense.

As to the interest and value of these “Papers,” we have testimony from every quarter, as well as the steady increase of our subscription [247] list, which has now run up to 1,560. We have as regular subscribers, not only leading Confederates, but a number of distinguished Federal officers, some of the more important public libraries of this country, and a number of prominent gentlemen and public libraries in Europe. We sent our discussion of the “Treatment of Prisoners” to a large number of the principal newspapers and libraries at the North, and about 300 copies to different parts of Europe. We have reason to believe that these have already produced valuable fruit. Several English gentlemen have written their warm appreciation of the importance and value of our Papers. A distinguished officer and able military critic of the Prussian army has written that they “give him great pleasure and create great interest in the historical world,” and a distinguished French historian writes that he is highly gratified at receiving them, and promises to give them, especially the numbers on the prison question, “a careful study.”

We have had the two numbers (March and April) which discuss the “Treatment of prisoners,” bound into a beautiful volume, which our friends should help us to place in every public library. We have also very beautifully bound copies of the first volume of our Papers.

In regard to the character of the Papers which we publish, the committee have had frequent and earnest consultation, and have agreed upon a general policy which, we trust, will meet the approbation of the Society. If we had a source of revenue which rendered us independent of any popular interest attaching to our publications, it might be the best policy to publish occasional volumes of “transactions,” carefully collated, and containing nothing but what would be of high historic value; but as we have found by past experience that we must make frequent publications in order to keep up an interest which will secure the means of carrying on our work, it seems clearly best that we should issue a monthly.

We might confine this monthly publication to official reports, discussions of military movements by our ablest military critics, and such like papers, and this course would be doubtless most agreeable to many of our honored friends, but we must have also a popular element to please the masses, who read and pay for the monthly, or the enterprise will soon break down. Our policy, therefore, is that while preserving the strictly historical character [248] of the magazine, and never sending out a number which is not of real historic value, we shall at the same time intersperse narratives which tell of the camp, the march, the bivouack, the battle-field, the hospital, or the prison, and give vivid pictures of the every day inner life of the Confederate soldier.

The extent to which the Southern Historical Society is to be held as endorsing everything contained in the papers we publish, is a question so often raised that we allude to it here. Of course the Society, whose members are scattered all through the country, cannot meet to pass upon each paper, and cannot endorse what is published further than as it is done by its Executive Committee. The members of the Committee are accustomed to give very careful consideration to the propriety of each publication, but even they are not to be considered as endorsing everything they publish.

In the mass of Mss. on our shelves, and constantly coming in, there are many statements made by eye-witnesses, or active participants, concerning events of which we have no personal knowledge. Even the official reports of our most distinguished and trustworthy officers contain conflicting statements about events which they view from different stand-points. It is obvious that it would not be proper for the Committee to assume the responsibility of deciding who is right in such cases, and we must, therefore, either publish nothing about which any difference of opinion can arise (and that course would limit us to a very narrow field), or we must publish, impartially and without comment, both sides, being careful to admit nothing which has not a responsible name attached to it. It has seemed to the Committee far better to publish these papers now, while living witnesses can sift them, than that they should be allowed to sleep in our archives, and be produced in years to come, when, perhaps, no competent witness of the events recorded will be alive to attest their accuracy or refute their errors.

Confederate archives at Washington.

At the meeting which reorganized our Society, held at the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs in August, 1873, a resolution was adopted requesting the Secretary of our Society to communicate with the Secretary of War at Washington, in reference to allowing the Society access to the Confederate archives collected there. No favorable opportunity presented itself, and the correspondence had not been opened until last November, when our Secretary had an interview [249] with the private secretary of General Belknap, which resulted in a letter from the Secretary of War to the Society, in which he gave some interesting facts concerning the Confederate records, and the progress that had been made towards preparing them for publication, assured us that there was no purpose of mutilating those records, and asked our co-operation in completing his files of Confederate reports and documents. Our Secretary replied, expressing our earnest desire that all of the Confederate archives should be published, and our readiness to co-operate with the Department at Washington — provided they would reciprocate, giving us copies of papers we need in exchange for what they wanted. The Secretary of War did not seem, in his reply, disposed to accede to our conditions, but it was still hoped that a mutually satisfactory arrangement could be effected, when General Belknap resigned, and the correspondence was broken off. We have not deemed it wise since to renew it, but we hope the day is not far distant when a returning sense of justice and fair dealing will allow us full access to those missing links of a history of which no true Southerner need be ashamed, and of which every true American will one day be proud.


From the organization of the Society it has been crippled by the want of means to properly carry on its work. We are glad to be able to report a decided improvement in this respect during the past year, for while we could have used very judiciously more money, we have not been so cramped as heretofore, have had much greater facilities than ever, and feel assured that the Society is now on a sound financial basis, and that its receipts in the future will fully meet all of its necessary expenses. At the same time we will need money to buy books for our library, to purchase Mss. and documents which we cannot otherwise procure, to put our publications on the shelves of public libraries whose managers will not purchase them, and to do many other desirable things — so that those of our friends who are able to do so would be promoting a good work by making donations to the treasury of the Society.

The following summary of receipts and disbursements from October 25th, 1875, to October 31st, 1876, will exhibit the financial workings and present status of the Society: [250]


Membership fees, subscriptions, and advertisements.$3,746 30
Donation of W. W. Corcoran, Esq500 00
Total receipts$4,246 30
Cash on hand, as per last report815 66
Total funds$5,061 96


Paid George W. Gary for printing Monthly Papers$2,471 85
Paid L. Lewis for stereotyping192 00
W. S. Simons for binding100 00
Office desk, book shelves, mailing Monthly Papers, and miscellaneous office expenses158 00
Commissions to agents294 63
Postage account273 12
Stationery, postal cards and printing, receipt books, circulars, etc147 3  
Freight and express18 0  
Paid clerk105 00
Salary of Secretary from October 15th, 1875, to October 31, 1876,1,250 00
Total expenditures$5,010 02
Balance in the treasury$51 94

We have the following liabilities:

George W. Gary, for printing$819 00
L. Lewis, for stereotyping259 00
W. S. Simons, for binding44 27
Total liabilities$1,122 27

To liquidate this amount we have the following available assets:

Donation promised 4th of November$500 00
Due from advertisers203 00
Due from agents282 00
Due from booksellers83 00
Renewal fees now due180 00
Total$1,248 00

We have abandoned stereotyping for the present, and so reduced our expenses for printing that $250 per month will hereafter cover the cost of getting out our Papers. With our present list of subscribers we can make our monthly receipts for the coming year more than meet all of our expenses. There will be due us on the 1st of January from annual members and subscribers $4,500, and we hope to largely increase our list during the coming year. But our friends must stand by and help us, in order that our hopes may be realized.



We have keenly felt the need of efficient canvassers in every locality of the South; but while we have had a few reliable, efficient agents, we have found it exceedingly difficult to secure them in many localities. Our friends everywhere would render us most valuable aid by either canvassing for us themselves, or securing suitable agents who will do so.

In conclusion,

your Committee would express their daily increasing conviction of the value and importance of the work in which we are engaged, and would beg our friends everywhere who intend to help us to do so at once. The time may not have come when a perfectly impartial history of the late war can be written, but the time is rapidly passing by when you can contribute your mite towards collecting the material from which the historian of the future shall do justice to as pure a cause as any for which patriot blood was ever shed — as gallant a people as ever fought for the right — as noble an army of heroes as ever trod the earth.

By order of the Executive Committee.

J. Wm. Jones, Secretary. Dabney H. Maury, Chairman. Office Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va., Nov. 1st, 1876.

The Secretary (Rev. J. Wm. Jones) then stated that the Committee had been very much disappointed in their efforts to secure an annual orator; but that it was hoped that a number of gentlemen present would make brief addresses. Very effective speeches were then made by Rev. Dr. J. B. Jeter, General W. B. Taliaferro, General H. H. Heth, United States Senator (Colonel) R. E. Withers, Rev. J. L. M. Curry D. D. Ll. D., and General Dabney H. Maury.

The Secretary made explanations concerning several matters in the report — the policy and acts of the committee were warmly endorsed by the speakers — and the report was unanimously adopted.

The Society unanimously passed resolutions commending to the warm sympathies and liberal contributions of lovers of country everywhere the effort now being made to place in Richmond a statue of our great chieftain--General R. E. Lee.

It was felt by all present that this meeting of the Society was not only a very pleasant one, but that a fresh impetus was given to our important work. We enter upon our new fiscal year with renewed zeal, and quickened hope.

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