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The annual meeting of the Southern Historical Society.

There assembled in the State Capitol of Virginia, at Richmond, on the 31st of October, 1883, a fine audience, gathered to hear Father Ryan, who was expected to deliver the address, and to attend the meeting of the Society.

General J. A. Early, President, called the meeting to order, and expressed his regret that Father Ryan (for reasons unknown to the committee) had failed to come, and that the audience would be denied the pleasure of hearing him. He made a few remarks on the importance of the work of the Society, and the obligations of our people to sustain it.

Colonel R. L. Maury explained that the chairman of the Executive Committee, General Dabney H. Maury, was in New York, where he was detained by business, and read from him the following letter:


Letter of General Maury.

Gentlemen of the Historical Society,—I have the honor to submit to you the reports of the Secretary and Treasurer of our Society.

They show a balance in our treasury of $4,633.42 of the endowment [530] fund. The endowment fund has been given to us for the preservation of our archives.

We need at once a fire-proof office, and we will use all efforts to procure from the States of the late Southern Confederacy such contributions as will secure that object. Texas has been prompt and liberal in this behalf, and I am assured Mississippi will follow her lead so soon as the Legislature of the State assembles.

When I organized this Society, in 1868, there was but little general hope of our ever attaining what we have now accomplished. From the day of our re-organization, in 1873, and the transfer of our domicil, I have never had a doubt of our success. When Mr. Hayes was installed as President, his Secretary of War, McCreary, wrote to me inviting cooperation between the archive office of the Southern Historical Society and the archive office of the United States. His proposals were liberal and his whole action enlightened He appointed General Marcus J. Wright, of the late Confederate army, to the duty of collecting from all sources the records of the Confederacy, and sent him to confer with me about the details of our cooperation.

This policy of Mr. McCreary has almost completed our work of collection. We have now to deal with that of preserving what we have collected, and it is the duty of all who have an interest in our work, in every State of the late Southern Confederacy, to procure for us such appropriations as will place—here, in Richmond—an office of ample and safe structure, where we will be able to preserve for history the true story of the war between the States. This done, the great work and object we have so long striven for will be complete.

I am, gentlemen, with warmest regards, your friend and comrade,

Dabney H. Maury, Chairman Executive Committee.

The Secretary of the Society (Dr. J. William Jones) then read the report of the Executive Committee, which had been unanimously adopted by the Committee at a meeting held for the purpose.

annual report of the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society for the year ending October the 31ST, 1883.

In presenting our Ninth Report your Committee are glad to be able to congratulate the Society that we have realized the promise [531] made in our report last year, and ‘have not only paid the last dollar of our old debt, but have in our treasury the nucleus of a permanent endowment fund.’

We are gratified also to say that there is a wider interest in our work than ever before, and every promise that by wise management and vigorous effort we shall be able to realize at no distant day our most sanguine expectations, and to put the Society on a basis which shall insure the successful prosecution of its work long after its present friends have passed away.

The past two years

we regard as the most successful in our history.

In November, 1881, your Committee had to face a crisis which threatened the suspension of our publication, the loss of our archives, and the very existence of the Society. An old debt, which had lapped over from previous years, threatened to engulf us.

But we went to work vigorously to meet the emergency. Old friends stood by us and new ones have rallied to our help—so that we are enabled now to report that we have regularly issued our Papers, paid $2,600 on account of old debt, reprinted missing numbers to make complete sets at a cost of $726.50, expended $734.53 on account of extra binding and other necessary extra expenses; and are still able to report $4,633.42 deposited in the savings bank to the credit of our special fund, besides $255.19 due it by our current fund. Besides these important pecuniary results, the canvass we have made has extended the knowledge of our work over a large territory where it was before comparatively unknown—added largely to our membership, raised us up active friends, secured most valuable material for our archives, and given promise of much larger results in the future.

Publications.

We have issued regularly our Southern Historical Society Papers, and are now completing our Volume XI, which will be ready for binding by the 1st of December.

We have continued to receive from every quarter—from the North and from Europe, as well as from leading Confederates—the most gratifying assurances of the interest and value of these Papers, while we are gradually placing full sets of them on the shelves of the prominent public and private libraries of the country. The action of the great State of Texas in purchasing one hundred and sixty sets for [532] distribution in the counties of the State must have a happy effect in inducing other States to follow her example, and in calling the attention of private collectors to their value.

We have now on hand about three hundred complete sets (worth unbound at least $7,200), and a much larger number of particular volumes.

It is very gratifying to note the frequency with which writers on any part of the war quote from our Papers, and to see how they are modifying the views and correcting many of the errors of even Northern historians, while they are making an impression in Europe as surprising as it is gratifying to all who desire to see vindicated the truth of Confederate history.

It seems to us that every true Confederate who can afford it, ought to place in his library a full set of our back volumes, and become a regular subscriber, and we confess that we cannot see how some of our old comrades neglect to support this enterprise, while they spend five times its cost on Northern periodicals which constantly misrepresent the facts of our history.

Material on hand.

Our acknowledgments from time to time of material received for our archives, render it unnecessary to enumerate here valuable gifts which have come to us during the past year.

We have only to repeat what we have said in former reports, that without the means of purchasing a Ms. or a book, the generous gifts of friends have enabled us to make a collection which could be sold for a large sum of money, but which is of priceless value, for the vindication of the name and fame of our Confederate people.

Our collection is widely recognized as of great value, and writers are freely consulting it. But we are still anxious to collect everything which may be of any value, and we again appeal to our friends to help us by sending to our archives (as a loan, if they cannot give it) any material which they may have or can secure. We especially commend the example of our honored friend, W. W. Corcoran, Esq., (our Vice-President for the District of Columbia,) who has, during the year, added to his previous kindness by purchasing and presenting to the Society valuable material.

If our work were to close now, we feel assured that we have already accomplished grand results, and that even if our collection were scattered, our publications would live on and testify for the truth. [533]

But we have an increasing conviction that we are but on the threshold of our usefulness, if we can enter the open door of our opportunity and place our Society on a permanent basis.

Our needs,

in order to accomplish this, are—

1. A Permanent Endowment Fund. 2. A Fire Proof building for our archives.

We need not argue here the importance—nay, the absolute necessity—of securing these at the earliest practicable day.

We need the means of purchasing books, Mss., and documents which we cannot otherwise secure. We ought to provide for the absolute security of our archives, and to make them more accessible to those desiring to consult them. We should provide more efficient means for collecting material still scattered through the country and perishing in the hands of private individuals. We need sufficient clerical force to put in proper shape the vast material which we have collected, and conduct properly the very large and increasing correspondence of the office. We need to be independent of the fluctuations of annual receipts—in a word to put the Southern Historical Society on a footing akin to the richly endowed Societies of the country, in order that it may do efficiently the great work committed to its charge. We can compass this important work by combining the efforts of our friends in several ways.

1. We believe that the Legislatures of the States which composed the Confederacy, may be induced to follow the lead of Texas and make appropriations to an enterprise in which they are all so vitally interested. We ask our friends in each State to exert themselves in this behalf.

2. There are surely men of large means who feel sufficiently interested to be willing to make large contributions towards putting the Society on a permanent basis, and linking their names with this effort to vindicate the truth of history. We beg our friends everywhere to seek out such men and bring proper influences to bear upon them.

3. That much may be accomplished by lectures and entertainments properly managed, the success of our friends in Baltimore and New Orleans, and the splendid lecturing campaigns of General Fitzhugh Lee abundantly prove. Will not our friends in the cities and towns arrange for such efforts during the coming winter? [534]

4. And there are many individuals who can contribute $1,000, $500, $100, or less sums, towards swelling our endowment—the money to be paid in instalments, if preferred, and sent as may be convenient to our Treasurer, Judge George L. Christian.

We beg our friends to send forward their own names with the amounts they can subscribe, and time and manner of payment, and to exert themselves to induce others to do likewise.

Finances.

We have received and disbursed during the past of ‘Current Fund’ as follows:

Receipts.

Subscriptions, advertisements, and sale of Papers,$3,914 09
Borrowed of ‘Special Fund,’255 19
————
Total receipts,$4,169 28

Disbursements.

Paid W. Ellis Jones for printing,$1,895 78
Paid Simons & Bro., for binding,662 13
Paid Secretary on account of salary,1,000 00
Porter, expressage, postage, telegrams, stationery, clerk, and sundry office expenses,562 42
————
$4,120 33
Balance in the Treasury to credit of the ‘Current Fund,’$48 95

‘Special Fund.’

Receipts from all sources from November 1st, 1882, to October 31st, 1883,$8,705 65
————
Disbursements: Paid balance in full of debt due George W. Gary,$406 65
Paid Secretary on account of salary due for years 1877 and 1878 (as shown by reports for those years,)592 61
For reprinting missing numbers,496 50
Binding, insurance and freight on Texas sets,605 78
Temporary loan to ‘Current Fund,’255 19
Paid for agency work,1,740 00
————
Total disbursements,$4,096 73
Balance to credit of this fund [deposited in the City Savings Bank, and bearing five per cent. interest,]$4,633 42


[535]

If we add to the amount of funds in hand, the value of the 300 complete sets of Papers, for which we are finding ready sale, mentioned above as worth, unbound, $7,200, and a subscription to our Special Fund of $4,000, already secured from entirely responsible parties, it will be seen that the financial outlook of the Society is decidedly hopeful.

It may be added that the books of the Secretary and the Treasurer show detailed statements of receipts and disbursements, which, sustained by proper vouchers, have been submitted to and passed upon by our Auditing Committee, who also must approve every account before the Treasurer can pay it.

In conclusion,

it only remains for us to return to the Society the trust committed to our charge with an expression of our deep conviction of its great importance—our earnest desire that it may be wisely managed and zealously pushed to the full fruition of our hopes.

Adopted by the unanimous vote of the Committee October 30, 1883.

J. William Jones, Secretary.

On motion of Colonel William Allan, of Maryland (formerly Chief of Ordnance of the Second Corps A. N. V.), the report was adopted by the meeting.


Remarks of Colonel Allan.

In moving the adoption of the report, Colonel Allan said:

Mr. President,—In making this motion I cannot refrain from expressing the gratification which the reports just read have given us. The condition of the Society, as shown by them, is better than ever before in our history. To have no debt, and at the same time to have assets actual, or within reach, of $12,000 or more, besides a subscription list adequate for current expenses, is indeed an excellent showing, and justifies our congratulations to the Executive Committee and officers of the Society upon their successful management.

The work done by the Society has been most important and valuable. For years it testified to the truth amid the prejudice and vituperation which was the lot of the Confederate cause. An immense change in recent years has taken place in the estimates made in [536] Europe, as well as in the North itself, in regard to our war. A spirit of justice and fairness is replacing the old one of passion and hate. It is possible to find now many fair accounts of leading events in the war and of the characters of leading Southern men in Northern books. The work of this Society has had much to do in bringing about this salutary change. It has contributed much to true history by its own publications; it has furnished much valuable material to the archives of the war, now being published by the Government; it has been the means of collecting and preserving a large amount of data of the greatest importance that would otherwise have remained scattered, and for the most part have been gradually lost.

But its work is not yet done. It has really only been begun. However gratifying the change which has been brought about in Northern sentiment in regard to the events of the war, we must not, we should not, allow the history of our side of this great struggle to be written by those who fought against us. Future generations should not learn of the motives, the sacrifices, the aims, the deeds of our Southern people, nor of the characters of their illustrious leaders only through the pens of their adversaries. What have not Carthage and Hannibal lost in the portraits—the only ones that remain to us—drawn by Roman historians? An example will illustrate what I mean. The other day I went over the field which will be ever memorable for the two great battles of Manassas, two of the most illustrious of Confederate victories. The quiet of twenty years of peace had settled upon that field. Few signs remained of the grand strifes in which the South drove back the invaders. I found upon that field two monuments, and but two. One of them, placed just in rear of the Henry house, has been erected in honor of the Federal soldiers who fell there. The other, over the knoll where Fitz John Porter charged, commemorates the brave men of his corps who there died in the vain attempt to drive Jackson from the old railroad cut. At the Henry house I looked about for other memorials. Nothing is to be seen. The little shaft placed to mark the spot where Barton fell has been chipped away entirely by curiosity vandals. A little cedar bush alone enables the guide to point out the place where Bee poured out his blood, from which he baptized Jackson with his name of ‘Stonewall.’ Nothing marks where Jackson and his men stood ‘like a stone wall;’ and yet in all the ages to come the last memory of that first battle of Manassas to fade out of the knowledge and admiration of mankind will be that ‘Stonewall!’ Understand me, comrades. Not one word have I to say [537] in criticism of the monuments placed to commemorate the brave deeds of the Union soldiers who died on that field; but if these men be worthy of such honor from their comrades, how much more do we owe to the men who twice won victory at the price of blood on this spot; or to those noble South Carolinians under Gregg, who, on the left of A. P. Hill, on August 29, 1862, held their position with a tenacity not exceeded by the British squares at Waterloo; or to that gallant division of Stark's, which met and bore the brunt of Porter's attack on August 30th, and when they had no more cartridges used the butts of their muskets and even the stones that lay around them as arms! The deeds of such men and of many others like them deserve to be kept green for all time. They constitute a priceless legacy to their countrymen—to their descendants. We trust this Society will go on with its noble work, and that the kindly interest and appreciation of our people will be manifested in giving it the means to carry out the plans of the Executive Committee.

After a few remarks from the Secretary the meeting adjourned, all seeming to be very much pleased at the hopeful condition of the Society.

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