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influences this peculiar people, zealous of the honor and service of Jehovah, were conducted to a new world; where for the first time a temple was raised to the Lord, the prayer of faith ascended, and the song of gratitude and joy broke the silence of the solitary wilderness — that song which Moses sang, “The Lord is our strength and song, and he is become our salvation. He is our God and we will prepare him an habitation.” — That land is our common country.
Forever may that prayer continue to ascend in this grateful country. Forever may that song continue to praise our Father's God. Long, O long, may that habitation continue to stand, embracing as it now does the wide limits of our extended country, until it shall number among the worshipers of the Redeemer the vast multitude of our busy and increasing population.
There is a country, the eventful vicissitudes of whose progress from infancy to national maturity and greatness; the extraordinary and successful results which marked that progress, far transcending the natural agencies employed, point the eye of faith with unwavering confidence to a special superintending Providence which controls and directs the affairs of nations as well as of individuals: while the dictates of reason combine with the suggestions of faith to assure us, that the great Ruler of the world has selected and established there the abode of a chosen people, entrusted with the care and maintenance of those great principles of Christian piety and civil liberty, which, radiating upon the nations of the earth, are destined to bless the world with light, liberty and happiness. — That Country is our own.
What a field for profound reflection and useful instruction is presented by the review of the early history of such a country? Can we meditate upon the piety of our Forefathers, and will not the standard of our moral and religious feelings (the firmest basis upon which our Republic rests) be elevated? Can we dwell upon their struggles and constancy in the cause of civil freedom, and will not our patriotism burn in a purer and brighter flame? Can we study the institutions which their prudence and wisdom have erected for the security of the rights of man, and will not the boundaries of our own wisdom be enlarged the better to maintain and transmit these inestimable rights to posterity ?
Gentlemen of the Georgia Historical Society:
It is for the purpose of making our contribution (with particular reference to our own State) to the means for the completion and perfection of the extended chain of our country's history, that this Association has been organized, and this anniversary occasion is observed. History is but a series of causes and effects, instructing as well by the power and force of example as by the deductions of philosophy. The preservation of all, even the minute facts and incidents of all the parts and members, is essential to the perfection of the whole; and no single link in the great chain can be severed, without impairing the useful and accurate instruction it is adapted to impart. As we recede from the period of our origin and infancy the means of correct information must constantly diminish; while time and accident will obscure and obliterate much that is valuable and worthy of preservation.
At once then, to direct the public attention to the subject, to arouse its curiosity, to awaken its interest, to combine and concentrate the talent and industry of the State in “collecting, preserving and diffusing information relating to the history of Georgia in all its various departments, and to American history generally,” * this is the interesting object, the noble purpose of your Society.
We come here to withdraw ourselves for a sacred hour from the busy scenes of life, from the cares and pursuits of the present, to meditate on the past, to commune with the spirits of our ancestors, to familiarize ourselves with the knowledge of our own state and country. How rich the field in which we are invited to roam, how various the topics which claim and merit our observation! In the successive returns of this celebration, the Orator will select from the mass of appropriate subjects — he will sketch the lives and characters of some of the most distinguished personages of our earlier history, with their influences upon the destinies of their country. He will link, as it were, the present with the past; in visions of hope he will associate both with the future. He will ascend along the line of ancestral history up to our beginnings, and examine the civil and political institutions of that early day, commencing with the charter, propriety and royal governments in the different colonies; and trace their influence and bearing upon the subsequent political events of the country. He will explore the foundation and elements of our social union, mark their progressive operation in the organization of society, to the full developement of principles in that beautiful system, under which, the nation reposes in happiness and security. The systems of education, progress of learning, and present condition of literature will not escape observation — and the history of religion, with its practical effects upon the moral character, babits and manners of the people, will not be overlooked. In occasional connection with his subject, the orator will descend down the stream of that distant posterity where reality is lost in hope, where the mind staggers at the contemplation, and the eye grows dim at the bright visions which blaze around the distant future; and amid the expansion of her noble principles and free institutions anticipate the coming glory and rising grandeur of his country. Such are some among the ample materials which the plan of your Society will furnish, as separate and successive themes, for the exercises of 'this day." Upon this, the occasion of our first assemblage, I shall limit myself to the performance of a more humble task, whilst I briefly remark upon the formation and progress of Historical Societies in our country, invite your attention to a brief consideration of portions of our early history, and endeavor to present some of its prominent facts and incidents in a form, I trust, more attractive than the mere details and narrative of history.
* Constitution of the Society.
The history of Georgia has been written ; much that was ready to perish has been there rescued from oblivion and preserved to posterity. But the history of Georgia is not complete, nor indeed can be, without the aids to be obtained from the manuscript papers in the offices of the English government. Many years since, the state of Georgia applied to the general government for its interposition in obtaining copies of such manuscripts having reference to this State; cand in 1828, a bill for this object, and making provision for procuring copies of all the papers in the English offices relating to the colonial history of this country, was reported in congress. It was never acted on. That this measure should have encountered such a fate is truly to be deplored. The subject was altogether worthy of the attention of congress, and was appropriately the business of the national government. The importance of preserving their records has been justly appreciated by every people as far back as we have traces of civilized society. That Moses in the wilderness, and Aaron, and the ancient Israelites under the Kings had national repositories for national documents has been rendered more than probable by a variety of arguments which cannot here be recapitulated.* Among the ancient Egyptians, the preservation of the public records was an important duty of the priesthood. The Persians had their house of rolls or records, for we read in Holy Writ that Darius, the king, ordered search to be made in the house of rolls, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus, the king, &c.
Athens and Rome had their public libraries and repositories, and among modern nations none has manifested a higher sense of the importance of this duty than England. Her parliament makes an annual appropriation for printing ancient manuscript records and documents, to more than double the amount it would cost the United States to procure a copy of all the American colonial papers.t Yet these essential materials of American colonial history remain shut up in the office of the Board of Trade and Plantations in England.
The National Library at Washington is represented as being remarkably deficient in books and information relating to America. A copy of these papers, deposited in the national archives, would constitute an invaluable addition and secure the necessary materials for the future historian of our country.
The State has not been wholly insensible to the importance of this subject. In 1824, a gentleman I was engaged by the legislature to collate, arrange and publish the papers, relating to this matter, in the State offices at Milledgeville. He was subsequently induced to visit England and collect facts with the view of writing our history. The death of that gentleman deprived the public of the benefits of his labors. The State has recently made renewed efforts for
* See National Register, published in London, 1819. Introductory remarks to the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, upon the propriety of purchasing, for the public, Dr. Binney's library. * See an article in N. A. Review, for 1830.
# Joseph Vallence Bevan.
this purpose through the agency of one,* who has succeeded in procuring twenty-two folio manuscript volumes, copied from the English offices, and by your last legislature deposited in the archives of this Society. From the judgment, ability and industry of this gentleman, it is believed much valuable information will be found to be contained in them. While these exertions have been making to gather materials abroad, it cannot fail to be gratifying, that an institution has risen up to secure and preserve whatever valuable and instructive may be collected at home. And surely there is much to be done here. The object of the Society will be to collect every printed volume, pamphlet, document and manuscript having relation to our early history, - especially during the period of the Revolution. The correspondence of officers of the army; and many valuable papers of this kind, are now scattered through the country in the hands of the descendants of these gallant men. Correspondence of the early governors of the State, and of our delegates in congress, during that period, will also be interesting and claim its attention. The publication of the most important of such manuscripts, for their preservation and diffusion, will probably be attempted. Georgia, we trust, will not want a competent historian to use and combine the mass of materials that may be thus collected and secured from these various sources. Massachusetts has the honor of having set the example and led the way in the organization of these useful associations. Her far-famed Society was organized as early as the year 1791, by some of her distinguished citizens, among whom were Belknap and Sullivan, the historians. It has published about thirty octavo volumes.
The New York Society was organized in 1804, by Egbert Benson, her first president, De Witt Clinton, T. L. Mitchell, Dr. Hossack, and others. It has published four volumes; the last of which comprised the second volume of Smith's History of New York, left by the author in manuscript.
In New Hampshire a society was formed in 1822; her first volume appeared in 1824.
In 1815, a Committee of the American Philosophical Society, of Philadelphia, was formed expressly for historical
* Rev. Charles Wallace Howard.