The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Military Manuscripts at the MHS and Beyond

It is not uncommon for the MHS library to receive copies of new publications from authors that did research here. In fact, we have an entire set of shelves devoted to displaying this type of new publication. After some time on display, these volumes are typically moved to our closed stacks and then available by request. Less often, we receive a new publication from a researcher that we deem appropriate to move immediately into our reference collection.

We recently received a newly published book called Military Manuscripts at the State Historical Societies in New England (2014). This volume, put together by Paul Friday, provides extensive documentation of manuscript collections relevant to military history in New England. Each chapter shines a spotlight on one individual institution and provides detailed lists of manuscript collections that contain materials related to military matters.

Since I started working at the MHS in 2011, Mr. Friday’s face has been one of the more familiar ones in the reading room. Over the years he placed scores of requests to consult manuscript materials from myriad collections in our holdings. The result is a box-level, sometimes folder-level inventory of military-related papers that the Society preserves. The sources include a large variety of material types, from maps and charts to correspondence and orderly books to printed materials like broadsides. The materials he worked with encompass a large chronology, going back as far as the Pequot War of the 1630s all the way up to the Vietnam War.

The countless hours of work that Mr. Friday did result in extremely valuable identifications of military papers held here. From documenting a single letter by Gen. John Burgoyne in the Bromfield family papers, to identifying thirty-five boxes, seven volumes, and three oversize items in the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers.

In addition to identifying such relevant collections, Mr. Friday also provides explanations in each chapter about the various organization schemes used by the different institutions, catalogs available for researchers (online and physical), procedures for requesting materials, hours of operation, and so forth.

At the back of the volume there are four appendices made up of several glossaries and complementary information. Also, there are five separate indices and a section introducing them.

Because he used available finding aids and collection guides to locate collections with military papers, Mr. Friday acknowledges that each historical society holds additional relevant collections that did not have companion finding aids and so did not show up in the volume. Despite this limitation, the volume as a whole will surely prove a tremendous help for researchers performing primary source research into the military history of New England and the United States. 


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 April, 2015, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It is an active week here at the Society. Here is what is on tap.

Kicking things off on Monday, 6 April, is a special book launch featuring author David Grayson Allen and his new publication Investment Management in Boston: A History. This book explores the history of Boston's evolution as a center of American money management, from early settlement to the twenty-first century. This event begins at 5:30PM and is open to the public. Please RSVP by calling 617-646-0578. 

On Wednesday, 8 April, stop by at noon for a Brown Bag lunch talk. This time around we have Jacqueline Reynoso of Cornell University presenting "When 'the Fourteenth Colony' Lost its Place: Quebec after 1776." This event is free and open to the public. 

Also on Wednesday is the third program in the Lincoln & the Legacy of Conflict series. Join us as Martha Hodes, Professory of History - New York University, presents "Mourning Lincoln." This event is open to the public with a fee of $20 (no charge for Fellows and Members). Registration is required so please RSVP. Reception begins at 5:30PM and the program begins at 6:00PM. 

And on Thursday, 9 April, begins "'So Sudden an Alteration': The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution." This conference continues on Friday and Saturday, 10 and 11 April and consists of a variety of sessions focused on discussion of academic papers circlated prior to the conference. While the conference is open to the public, registration is required to attend the various sessions

Kicking off the conference on Thursday evening is the keynote address given by Holton McCauslan, Professor of History at the University of South Carolina. McCausland's talk, "'Not Yet': The Originality Crisis in American Revolution Studies" begins at 5:00PM and is followed by a reception, 6:00PM-8:00PM. All are welcome to attend. RSVP by email or phone 617-646-0568.

Please note that the library closes early at 3:30PM on Thursday, 9 April, and remains closed on Friday and Saturday, 10-11 April. Normal hours resume on Monday, 13 April. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 5 April, 2015, 12:00 AM

Untangling North Atlantic Fishing, 1764-1910, Part 2: Anglo-American Treaties regarding the Fishery, 1783-1818


As discussed in a prior post, Great Britain previously held claim to the fish in the North Atlantic. American negotiators successfully secured the right to fish the North Atlantic in the post-Revolution negotiations at Paris in 1783:

It is agreed that the People of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the Right to take Fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other Banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other Places in the Sea, where the Inhabitants of both Countries used at any time heretofore to fish … American Fishermen shall have Liberty to dry and cure Fish in any of the unsettled Bays, Harbors, and Creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador.

As you can see, successful treaty negotiations in 1783 allowed the Americans to retain the right to fish in the region, and also to use British North American coastal lands for drying and curing, allowing them to better preserve their catches.

Yet, British impressment continued despite the stipulation that United States citizens “continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish.”  British maritime strength relied on the ability to force able seamen of any nation into service to fight its wars and replace the dead and deserters. Well aware of the injustice of the practice, the United States House of Representatives submitted a report entitled Legislative Provision Necessary for the Relief of American Seamen Impressed into the Service of Foreign Powers on 25 February 1796. The report’s proposals were twofold: relieve impressed seamen and provide documentation of citizenship. The House committee promoted “a provision for support of two or more agents, to be appointed by the Executive, and sent, the one to Great Britain, the other to such places in the West-Indies, where the greatest number of British ships of war may resort, and to continue there for such time as the President may deem necessary.” This plan did not cease the practice of impressment. British economic sanctions against the United States and increasing American outrage regarding impressment led to the War of 1812.

Following the British victory, the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 reversed much of the previous agreement regarding fishing rights made in 1783. Chief negotiator John Quincy Adams, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, and statesmen Henry Clay, James A. Bayard, and Jonathan Russell met with Lord James Gambier, Doctor William Adams, and Under Secretary of State Henry Goulburn in Ghent, Belgium in 1814 to negotiate a peace. The British vied for retention of gains made during the war while Americans held fast to pre-war boundaries and rights. In manuscript copies of Henry Goulburn’s correspondence held at MHS, the British negotiator outlines the important topics for discussion: British maritime rights, Indian protection, establishing borders, and fishing rights. While the third article of the Treaty of Ghent stipulated the restoration of prisoners of war, the British retained the right to impress men into maritime service.

Anglo-American land and sea disputes may have continued ad nauseam without the circumstances and consequential agreements following the War of 1812. The end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 reduced British impressment of American seamen. The Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817 restricted naval armaments from the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. The Treaty of 1818 resulted in the solidification of the 49th parallel as the northern land boundary between the United States and British North America. The British confirmed the United States’ right to fish the coast of Newfoundland, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador and to dry and cure in unsettled Newfoundland and Labrador. In exchange, “the United States hereby renounce for ever, any Liberty heretofore enjoyed or claimed by the Inhabitants thereof, to take, dry, or cure Fish on, or within three marine Miles of any of the Coasts, Bays, Creeks, or Harbours of His Britannic Majesty’s Dominions in America.” These agreements established important borders that remain today. This middle ground agreement between Great Britain and the United States held for nearly two decades before resuming contestation.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 3 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

“More fool than Knave”: Dr. George Logan and the Logan Act

Over the last few weeks the Logan Act, a bill passed by Congress and signed by President John Adams in late January 1799 has been widely discussed in the national news. Here at the Adams Papers, work has just begun on Adams Family Correspondence, volume 13, in which Dr. George Logan, whose actions provoked this legislation, is a major topic of conversation for the Adamses on both sides of the Atlantic.

In September 1798, tensions between France and the United States were running high. The specter of war loomed large as the revelation of France’s bribery attempt in the XYZ Affair and continued attacks on American vessels led to a buildup of American armed and naval forces with growing chants of “millions for defense, but not a sixpence for tribute.” It was in this climate that from their place in Berlin, John Quincy and Thomas Boylston Adams reported on the arrival of Logan in Europe. John Quincy detailed that Logan was claiming to be an envoy representing the Democratic-Republican Party, which opposed John Adams’s administration. At first refused a passport into France, Logan continued to represent himself as officially representing the United States while waiting in the Netherlands, and was eventually granted permission to enter France and given audiences with members of the French government to discuss the differences between the two nations. Thomas summarized his views on Logan—“a villain & a traitor to his Country.”

After Logan returned to the United States in November, he met with President Adams to discuss what he had learned from his meetings with the French government and to convince Adams that the French had peaceful intentions. Abigail’s nephew, William Smith Shaw, serving as John’s secretary, reported to the First Lady, who had remained in Quincy: “[Logan] then said, that he had just come from France and that he had the pleasure to inform the president that the directory had altered their conduct respecting America and had become more pacifick. Why then, said the president, have they not repealed their decrees against our commerce? here Logan stammered and said they were making preparations to do it.” John next asked if Logan believed that France would faithfully maintain a new treaty with the US, and he answered affirmatively claiming “the firm and united conduct of the Americans had proved to the directory the impolicy of their conduct.” Shaw reported that this response made John “burst into a broad laugh.” Adams continued his questioning, as Logan became increasingly uncomfortable until he “seemed to want some lurking place like the Turtle to draw in his head and to hide his face.” From this report, Abigail ultimately concluded in a letter to her husband that Logan was “more fool than Knave.”

Whether fool or knave, hero or villain, the Federalist controlled Congress had no patience with his meddling and passed the act prohibiting unauthorized private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States. The law has been in force ever since.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 1 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch Diary, Post 42

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Thursday, March 2d.

Thank God for the triumphant progress of the Union arms, the occupation of Savannah, Columbia, Charleston, and Wilmington.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 31 March, 2015, 12:00 AM

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