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the first, it is said, that the sale of the preceding volumes bad not defrayed the expense of publication. He had been at great cost, of time and labor at least, in amassing the materials for his work. Several of these were now his own—others were, of course, in public offices.
Dr. BELKNAP, by the interest of friends who knew his worth, had been transferred from his parish in New Hampshire, and had become a pastor in Boston; and he, having “engaged in preparing his American Biography, and Hon. George R. Minot,” the elegant historian of the Insurrection in Massachusetts, “who was occupied in writing a continuation of Hutchinson's History, had frequent occasion in 1789," observes Dr. HARRIS, “ of conferring together with reference to materials to be consulted. They knew that the Rev. Dr. Eliot* possessed the Ms. of Hubbard's History ; that Rev. Dr. THACHER had the diary of his ancestor, a very early settler ; and concluded that Họn. JAMES WINTHROP, of Cambridge, retained papers of his ancestor, the governor, and of other branches of that celebrated family. To have a place of common deposit of such documents, for ready access and consultation, they proposed to these gentlemen to unite with them, in contributing and collecting aids to their own labors and those of others. In 1790, therefore, a meeting was holden, the day however is not given, to agree on the object. Five gentlemen were present, and the Society, it appears, was then virtually formed. But on separating, at the adjournment, each agreed to bring a friend to the next meeting. Accordingly, on the 24th of January of the next year, ten persons met, and embodied themselves with due formality. The Hon. Judge Tudor, Rev. Drs. BelKNAP, THACHER and Eliot, and Judge WINTHROP, attended the first informal meeting : and at the embodying were present, beside them, Rev. Dr. FREEMAN, Judge Minor, Hon. W. BAYLIES, of Dighton, Judge SULLIVAN, and Mr. Wallcut. Yet, in the printed paper inserted in
The writer ought never to name this amiable and accomplished scholar, and modest
, benevolent man, his early patron and friend, without grateful emotions. Dr. Eliot says of himself, that "his taste always led him to collect curious M88. and ancient books;" and that he was favored with many letters of the Hutchinson and Oliver families." His venerated father had been an attentive collector of similar documents, and enjoyed the correspondence of Hollis, with occasional accessions to his library from a source so munificent.
their volumes, the “establishment” of the Society is dated 1790.
Judge Sullivan, afterward governor of the Commonwealth, was chosen President, Mr. Wallcut,* Recording Secretary, Dr. BELKNAP, Corresponding Secretary, Judge TUDOR, Treasurer, and Dr. Eliot, Librarian.
The OBJECTS of the association were, not only to collect and to preserve, but also to communicate such materials as might be procured for a complete history of this country, with its topography, natural productions, and aborigines, as also a view of all valuable efforts of ingenuity and industry made by its inhabitants, with biographical and statistical delineations, and accounts of institutions of a benevolent or literary kind, or in any manner connected with the welfare of the country, and illustrating the progress of its civilization and prosperity, in arts or science, and in agriculture, commerce, or manufactures.t
In pursuance of their plan, the associates began their collection, consisting at first of mutual contributions of books, mss. and such articles of curiosity, connected with their object, as were offered by their friends. We regard with astonishment the immense collections of books in Europe and are mortified on comparing with them the
This gentleman early occupied himself in collecting books and mss., and, by copying, which was with him a favorite idea, to multiply the chances that a rare or unique document should descend to posterity. The far greater part of this collection is now, by the liberality of the late owner, the property of the American Antiquarian Society, and a part has gone to Bowdoin college.
The following is a copy of the original record, in which, with peculiar elegance of language, the aim and design of the Society are developed.
“The preservation of books, pamphlets, manuscripts and records, containing historical facts, biographical anecdotes, temporary projects, and beneficial speculations, conduces to mark the genius, delineate the manners, and trace the progress of society in the United States, and must always have a useful tendency to rescue the true history of this country from the ravages of time, and the effects of ignorance and neglect.
"A collection of observations and descriptions in natural history and topography, together with specimens of natural and artificial curiosities, and a selection of every thing which can improve and promote the historical knowledge of our country, either in a physical or political view, has long been considered as a desideratum; and as such a plan can be best executed by a society whose sole and special care shall be confined to the above objects : We the subscribers do agree to form such an institution, and to associate for the above purposes, subject to the following regulations.
“ ARTICLE 1. This Society shall be called the Historical Society, and consist of a number not exceeding thirty, (a) who shall, at the time of their election, be citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Art. 2. That each member, at the time of his admission, shall pay five dollars (@) Enlarged, subsequently, and “sixty" substituted.
scantiness of our own literary resources. Yet it is to be remembered, that ages alone have sufficed to amass the former—and that public acts of the respective governments have successively augmented them. Thus the Royal Library of Paris, the first establishment of the kind in Europe, is indebted to a law of near three centuries' continuance, that a copy of every work he publishes be presented to it by each bookseller. With such aid, the increase is no marvel.* But, in relation to the collection now contemplated, it commenced with private efforts of men of restricted means.
"Their meetings were first held in the office of Judge Minot, in Spring lane. But, being liable to interruption there, they obtained the use of a small apartment in Faneuil Hall, being the north-west corner of the attic,' a place," says the writer's authority, “as retired and recondite, as explorers into the recesses of antiquity could think
and two dollars annually, to create a fund for the benefit of the institution. And any member shall be exempted from the annual payment of two dollars, provided he shall, at any time after six months from his admission, pay to the treasurer thirty-four dollars in addition to what he had before paid.
"ART. 3. All elections shall be made by ballot. No member shall nominate more than one candidate at the same meeting, and all nominations shall be made at a meeting previous to that at which the ballot is to be taken.
“ ART. 4. There shall be four stated meetings of the Society in each year, namely, on the last Tuesdays of January, April, July and October. And occasional meetings shall be convened on due notification from the president, or, in case of his absence, by one of the secretaries, upon the application of any two of the members.
“Art. 5. There shall be annually chosen, at the meeting in April, a president, a recording and corresponding secretary, a treasurer, a librarian, and a standing committee of three.
* Art. 6. All communications which are thought worthy of preservation, shall be entered at large, or minuted down in the books of the Society, and the originals kept on file.
Art. 7. At the request of any two members present, any motion shall be de ferred to another meeting for further consideration before it is finally determined upon. "ART. 8. All accounts shall be kept in dollars and cents.
" ART. 9. Five members present shall be a quorum for all purposes, excepting those of making alterations in, or additions to the foregoing Articles, and the election of members.
* ART. 10. No member shall be chosen unless there are eight members present at the election.
"Art. 11. The first Article shall not restrict the Society from electing corresponding members in any other State or country.
"ART. 12. The members who are chosen in other States and countries shall Dot exceed the number of thirty, (a) and shall not be required to make contribution with the members who are citizens of the Commonwealth.
* See a valuable paper on libraries, and the poverty of our own, in the July No. (1837) of the North American Review. (6) Altered, as before ; and several articlea bave been altered also, or enlasged, as became requisite.
of visiting.” * In a few months, however, after this removal, they were accommodated in the building originally erected for the proposed linen factory, † in which the Massachusetts Bank transacted business.
Their literary materials increasing, they were anxious to present them to the public in a permanent form. But it was “the day of small things," and the means were wanting for publication. In this emergency, it was proposed by Dr. BELKNAP, in the autumn of 1791, to encourage a periodical contemplated by two young men, I just commencing the business of printing. Accordingly, in a sheet attached to the “ American Apollo,” which made its appearance weekly, in 1792, commencing with the year, the publications of the Society began, and thus was completed the first volume of their “Collections." These now amount to twenty-six volumes, divided into series of ten volumes each, denominated decades, the last volume of each decade containing the index of the series. As they were originally printed in small editions, several of the volumes have, of necessity, been re-commited to the press. Still it is difficult to obtain the set complete.
In order to forward the designs of the Society, their Corresponding Secretary had already addressed to many gentlemen, throughout the United States and the adjacent islands, the following “Circular Letter," with its accompaniment :
“A Society has lately been instituted in this town, called the HistoriCAL SOCIETY ; the professed design of which is, to collect, preserve, and communicate materials for a complete history of this country, and accounts of all valuable efforts of human ingenuity and industry, from the beginning of its settlement. In pursuance of this plan, they have already amassed a large quantity of books, pamphlets, and manuscripts ; and are still in search of more : a catalogue of which will be printed for the information of the public.
* Notes of Rey. Dr. HARRIS.
“ They have also given encouragement to the publication of a weekly paper, to be called the AMERICAN Apollo ; in which will be given the result of their inquiries into the natural, political, and ecclesiastical history of this country. A proposal for the printing of this paper is here inclosed to you ; and it is requested that you would promote subscriptions, and contribute to its value and importance by attention to the articles annexed. The Society beg leave to depend on your obliging answer to these heads of inquiry, when leisure and opportunity will permit.
“Your letters addressed, free of expense, to the subscriber, will be gratefully received, and duly noticed in the Society's publications ; and you will have the satisfaction of contributing to the general stock of knowledge, with which they hope to entertain the public. “In the name, and by order of the Society,
- JEREMY BELKNAP, Cor. Sec. “ Summer street, Boston, Nov. 1, 1791."
“ Articles on which the Society request information. “1. The time when your town was granted and incorporated ; its Indian name; when the settlement began ; whether it was interrupted, and by what means; to what colony or county it was first annexed ; and if there have been any alterations, what they are, and when made.
2. The exploits, labors and sufferings of the inhabitants in war ; particular accounts of devastations, deaths, captivities and redemptions.
3. Divisions of your town into parishes and precincts, or the erection of new towns within the former limits.
4. Time of gathering churches of every denomination ; names of the several ministers ; the times of their settlement, removal and death ; and their age at the time of their death.
5. Biographical anecdotes of persons in your town, or within your knowledge, who have been remarkable for ingenuity, enterprise, literature, or any other valuable accomplishment; an account of their literary productions, and, if possible, copies of them.