« AnteriorContinuar »
TWO SOUTHERN HISTORICAL COMMISSIONS.1
These two neat volumes are the first fruits of State Historical Commissions in the Southern States. They are due more largely to the enthusiasm of their respective editors than to any other single individual. They are the first products of State supported institutions and are valuable not only for the work already performed and printed herewith, but also for that promised for the future. The Mississippi volume has been noticed already in these pages (VI, pp. 42831), but as it is developed along the same lines and in the same way as the Alabama Report, which clearly serves as its model, it may be well to make a short examination of what each editor has attained in his work.
The plan of the volumes is the same. This plan has been carried out with different degrees of success in different parts. As this is the first Report each properly begins with the Act of Assembly, the charter, under which the Commissions were organized. This is followed by an administrative report, including an outline of the field which it was attempted to cover in the volumes under consideration; then comes a review of the present condition of historical work in those States, including the efforts of historical societies, patriotic associations, schools and colleges, libraries and museums, with recommendations for future work.
A long and valuable chapter on the materials and sources for the history of each of these States found in depositories beyond their borders is then presented, including reports on
* REPORT OF THE ALABAMA HISTORY COMMISSION TO THE GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA. Edited by Thomas McAdory Owen, Dec. 1, 1900. Vol. 1. Montgomery, Ala.: Brown Printing Co., 1901. O. pp. 447.
PUBLICATIONS OF THE MississIPPI HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Edited by Franklin L. Riley. Vol. 5. Oxford, Miss.: Printed for the Society, 1902. (First Report of the Mississippi Historical Commission.) 0. pp. 384.
the public archives of Spain, France, England, the public offices of the United States, of various individual States, and of many public libraries. These reports were prepared by many hands and represent very varying degrees of fulness and value. In this connection there seems to be no sufficient reason for the long lists of common, everyday Mississippi books found in various public libraries that are inserted in that Report. Had the books mentioned been rare and little known that would have been reason enough, but some of the lists are made up of the commonest and cheapest. If these libraries contain rare and valuable books dealing with Mississippi they have not catalogued them. The reason for inserting seems to have been bibliographical, but this was unnecessary, for Owen's Bibliography of Mississippi, the best piece of work of the kind ever done for a Southern State, covers the field and far surpasses anything attempted here.
There are sections devoted to an account of the manuscripts, papers and documents in public archives within the States. Here the contents of the public offices, State and Federal, city and county, together with many semi-public organizations, are examined and reports made on their character, extent and historical value. The fulness of the reports on the Mississippi Historical Society and on the University of Mississippi are to be highly commended. The former owns the Ames collection of reconstruction material; the latter contains the extensive and very valuable Claiborne collection, and is of enough importance to be printed in full in the Alabama Report also.
There are chapters on historical papers in private hands and one of great promise on private collectors and students. The collector and scholar, however, must prepare for disappointment for such these chapters are, mostly because of the fewness of collectors and the carelessness of many in preserving papers. It is only by a liberal interpretation of what is meant by historical manuscript sources, by including in the list many authors of books of little importance, in some cases of a single pamphlet, that a fair showing can be made. But this is no fault of the editors; they have done this work conscientiously and thoroughly; the fault lies in an unfortunate characteristic of the Southern people; for various reasons they have been neither a nation of writers nor a nation of collectors. In the sections on collectors the field has been thoroughly covered, but few collections remarkable for their extent, completeness, or rarity of the books possessed, are to be found in either State. From this fact we must conclude that there are few men who have attempted an exhaustive and minute study of local history. Before such extensive work can be undertaken collections must be formed and at present public collections will not compare with those in private hands. Of private collections note should be made of those of Dr. J. L. M. Curry, J. H. B. Hall, Peter Joe Hamilton, George W. Hamner, O. D. Street, and above all, the unrivalled collection of the editor of the Alabama Report, of which an extensive summary is given. Separate chapters are given to the records of the Civil War and to Indian and aboriginal remains. To the Mississippi Report is added a chapter on the extinct towns and villages of the State, by the editor.
Both Reports are supplied with indexes which are represented as complete with certain exceptions. It is preposterous to claim that indexes of 8 and 15 pages can be an adequate representation of 400 pages of historical matter of the kind presented here. The result is that for the general the mass of this material is buried. The vices of most index makers are lack of general intelligence, lack of system and unscrupulous haste. We regret to say that the makers of the indexes to these very valuable and exhaustive Reports are by no means blameless when judged by the canons of a complete and workable index.
It is proper to say that the editors are the largest contrib
utors to these volumes, that they have done an immense amount of work in finding suitable contributors, in editing and unifying their productions and in laborious but important details. Errors appear here and there, especially in Spanish names, but the men to whose energy and enthusiasm the volumes are mainly due must take high rank among the few pioneers of scientific historical work in the South.
On comparing the two Reports with one another the critic is forced inevitably to the conclusion that the one from Alabama is superior. It is the earlier in date of publication; it furnished the model and laid down the lines of work which the Mississippi Report has followed, but with unequal steps. In grasp of general design, broad knowledge of the subject, wide acquaintance with the literature of Southern history, thoroughness of execution, and general accuracy and fulness the earlier Report is much the superior.
REVIEWS AND NOTICES.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL ASSOCIAtion for the year 1900. Washington: G. P. O. 1901. 0. Vol. I., pp. xv+652; Vol. II, 303.
This Report is made up of the papers presented at the Detroit meeting in 1899. An account is given of that meeting and 17 papers are here printed. The longest is on "Sectionalism and Representation in South Carolina,” by Wiliam A. Schaper. The second volume contains the Report of the Public Archives Commission.
A number of the papers in the present volume are of interest to Southern students.
The president of the Association, Edward Eggleston, takes for his inaugural address “The New History,” but he nowhere tells us clearly what he means by this term; he leads us to infer, after cogitation and groping in the dark, that he means what the Germans call culturgeschichte. He tells us what he does not mean, the history of wars and battles. The work of Thucydides is a “splendid piece of literature;" the credulity of Herodotus condemns him and neither these nor Tacitus can teach us to write history in the modern sense. Sir Walter Raleigh is one of the earliest examples of the modern method. He is in a sense both Herodotus and Thucydides and something more for he is modern. Freeman's famous dictum is condemned and Green's charge is flung at him,--that he was "neither social, literary, nor religious.” Scott is given credit for being the author of the change in the methods of historical writing for in his novels we begin to get the history of the people. The French took up Scott's ideas, then the Germans while the English speaking historians have been the slowest. Gardiner is given a dig while Lecky is commended as the one who