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SOCIETY OF PHILADELPHIA.
RECOMMENDING THE PUBLICATION OF CERTAIN ANCIENT RECORDS.
To the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The memorial of the American Philosophical Society held at Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge, and of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, by their committees for this purpose specially appointed, most respectfully showeth :
That it is the misfortune of the Nations of the old Continent, that their early history is lost in the night of time. Excepting the Holy Scriptures, no records have been preserved of the first settlements of mankind. All else beyond a period not very remote is veiled in obscurity. Recourse has been had to fabulous traditions made up of fabled Heroes and Demi-gods in abundance, the offsprings of vanity and of ignorance. Of our British ancestors, nothing is known before the invasion of their island by Julius Cæsar, of our German forefathers, the noble defence made by the immortal Herman against the legions of Varus, whom he defeated and conquered, is the first authentic account, after which follows a long period of darkness to the time of their great emperor Charlemagne. The ancient history of Asia, (the cradle of mankind) engages at this moment the attention of the learned of Europe. For that pupose, Asiatic societies have been formed under royal patronage, both in England and in France. The study of Egyptian antiquities is every where patronized, encouraged and promoted. Scientific travellers are sent to that country at royal expense, obelisks and other monuments are imported at an immense cost, and grace the public squares, the museums, and other repositories of the great capitals. England boasts of the rosetta monumental stone. France of her Egyptian obelisk, which once adorned ancient Thebes, and is now erected in the midst of her capital, where it is the most attractive object to the admiration of travellers. Unable to penetrate into the future, man loves to inquire into the past, to interrogate his most remote ancestors, and to learn from their experience how to pursue good and eschew evil. He is disappointed and mortified, when instead of historical facts, he finds
fabulous records and incredible tales, more calculated for the amusement of children than the instruction of mankind.
It is the good fortune of the people of these United States, that their early history is not involved in obscurity and doubt. Although of recent origin, it already engages the attention of the learned in this country and elsewhere. Historical and antiquarian societies are established in almost every state in the Union, and their labours are eagerly sought after and read by our citizens with patriotic pleasure, and by foreigners with ardent curiosity.
The history of Pennsylvania deserves and obtains a particular attention. She alone can boast of a founder, whose name will go down to posterity, with those of the most celebrated Legislators. Her citizens are descended from two illustrious nations, alike renowned for science, and for the glory acquired by arms. The mixture of German and of British blood, has implanted in our commonwealth those solid virtues which lead nations to prosperity; and the warmth of the Irish heart, bas not contributed a little to the character which she has acquired for generous hospitality. In every respect, her history is full of interest and will become so more and more. It is therefore of the highest importance, that the authentic records from which that history is to be deduced should not be lost to posterity. The facts posterior to our revolution are in no danger of being so lost, the press since that time has been active in perpetuating them, in the shape of journals, newspapers and printed records of every description. But it is not so with the materials of our colonial history. In single manuscript copies, they are deposited in the office of the Secretary of State, where fire or some other accident may in a moment destroy them, so that those interesting memorials, unless effectual measures are taken to preserve them, will be lost to us and to our posterity forever.
Among those documents the most important is undoubtedly the minutes of the Provincial Council from the organization of the Colonial government under William Penn down to the revolution. This invaluable record was fortunately preserved amidst the horrors of war and the troubles attending our revolution. If it should be lost, a link will be wanting in the chain of events which constitute the history of our state. Your honors well know that the council were not only possessed of the executive power, but were also a branch of the legislature, as they had a negative upon all the laws proposed by the assembly. If the records of their proceedings should by some accident be lost, many important parts of our colonial history will be left in obscurity, and false notions will at length be established in their stead by the ingenuity or perhaps design of future chroniclers.
More than eighty years ago, in the year 1752, when Pennsylvania was yet a poor infant colony, and her means and resources were not in the least degree to be compared to those of this rich and powerful state, a patriotic legislature caused to be printed at their expense, the votes and proceedings of their predecessors from the time of the landing of the founder, and his first assembly held at Chester, in 1682, and the work was continued in six large folio volumes, down to the time of our revolution. The cost of this publication must have been to them and to the people whom they represented comparatively immense, while on the contrary, your memorialists have reason to believe that that of publishing the minutes of council will be but trifling, particularly if we consider it in comparison with their importance. They hope that your honors will not show themselves in this respect, less patriotic than their noble and virtuous predecessors.
Next to the minutes of Council, your memorialists consider the treaties made with the Indians under the colonial government, to be the most important. They will be of the utmost interest to our descendants, and it will be highly honorable to this great state, to show to the world that in all the relations of Pennsylvania with the Indian tribes, no recourse has been bad to war or to the sbedding of human blood, except when we were obliged to combat them as the allies of another nation, who employed them for the purpose of subduing our country.
What other public ante-revolutionary documents there are in the Secretary's office that may be thought worthy of publication, your memorialists do not know; but they would humbly suggest the propriety of having a correct list of them made and published for future consideration; and also, that those who are engaged in the study of the bistory of our country, may know what materials exist in the possession of the government, which may be consulted by them in the prosecution of their labors.
Your memorialists therefore respectfully pray that your Honors will be pleased to take the above suggestions into their serious consideration, and adopt such measures as their wisdom shall dictate in favor of the objects of this memorial.
And they shall ever pray, &c. .
For the American Philosophical Society, held at Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge. PETER S. DU PONCEAU,
Committee. J. FRANCIS FISHER, For the Historical Society of Pennsylvania,
PETER S. DU PONCEAU,
JOB R. TYSON, Philadelphia, December 8th, 1836.
COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF REPRÉSENTATIVES.
J. WASHINGTON TYSON, Chairman.
The Committee to whom was referred the joint memorial of the American Philosophical Society held at Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge, and of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, recommending the publication of certain public records, report : • That they have examined the subject with that attention which its importance and the character of the memorialists demand. These two societies whose memorial is before the committee, include a large portion of the intellect, literature and science of Philadelphia. One of them, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, has for its objects, the collection and preservation of the materials of our domestic history. All know how much it has already contributed to these purposes and to the correction of historical errors. Its published memoirs, attest the intelligence, industry, and public spirit of its members. About twenty years ago, the Philosophical Society, added to its standing committees, a committee of history. Since that period, it has embraced within the wide circle of its investigations, every thing connected with our state and federal annals. The volume published by the committee, comprising a learned correspondence between Du Ponceau and Heckewelder, and an excellent account of thé Moravian Indians, by the latter, as well as the collections which, it is understood, have since been made, constitute some of the Historical claims of the society. As cbairman of each of the two committees who drafted the memorial before us, it is gratifying to find the name of the distinguished and venerable Du Ponceau, himselfa name of which the state, nay, the whole country, has so much reason to be proud for his great talents," deep erudition and fervent patriotism.-The memorial is therefore commended to the respectful consideration of this body, by the character of the memorialists who speak in it upon their own subject, upon one with which they may be presumed to be intimately acquainted; and upon one of high and commanding importance to the state.
In regard to the prayer of the memorialists, your committee cannot but heartily concur in the opinion, that it is important to preserve from eventual destruction and all detriment, the records of this com. monwealth while under a colonial government, and that the safest means of effecting such preservation, is to cause them to be published and widely distributed through the state. These valuable records are at present in a state of great insecurity, and liable to many accidents, any one of which may occasion their loss and total destruction. To guard against such events, is therefore of the highest importance.
The history of a country, is all in the acts of its government. The public records are the only safe materials on which the historian can rely. Before the invention of printing, those documents could with difficulty be preserved; they were liable to be, and immense numbers of them were in fact destroyed by fire, by foreign and civil wars, by the perishable quality of their materials, and by the carelessness of those in whose custody they were placed. After the art of printing became known, the jealousy of government, prevented for a long period the publication of most important records, and the proprietary government of Pennsylvania, participated in that feeling, so that the proceedings of the colonial councils, were in a great measure considered as state secrets, and accessible but to few. Bcfore the revolution, their publication could not have been permitted.
In the infancy of the Colony, when printing presses were few, and the expense of printing too great to be borne by our small and dispersed population, even the daily proceedings of the legislative body remained in manuscript for the space of seventy years. It was not until the year 1752, that the legislature determined on publishing their journals; beginning with those of the first assembly, which met at Upland, now Chester, Delaware county, in the year 1682. It was a bold and an expensive project for that time, it was nevertheless undertaken; the old journals were printed, and the publication continued until the period of the revolution. The whole, consisting of seven large folio volumes, is in our library at this place, and in many of the public and private libraries throughout the state, a monument of the zeal and patriotism of our ancestors.
Since the revolution, all important public documents, bave been regularly published under the authority of the legislature, and the copies have been multiplied through a great number of newspapers, so that the facts which are to be the materials of our future bistory, are beyond the reach of any accident, above contingency, and secure from the danger of being lost to posterity.
But those of the preceding period, are still exposed to the dangers of decay, removal, mutilation and destruction. If they should happen to be lost, through the neglect of the present generation, a stigma will rest upon us, which no lapse of time can efface. The nations of Europe are at this moment strongly impressed with the necessity of preserving their ancient records, by means of the press. The government of Great Britain have, at an immense expense, commenced the publication of theirs, beginning with Dooms-day book, a record of the time of William the Conquerer, and thence proceeding through the series of past ages. Thirty-two volomes of this collection have already been published; sixteen of which are large thick folios, and