Materials in British Archives for American Colonial History

Charles M. Andrews
1905 American Historical Review  
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Persistent and long search has frequently been made for documents bearing on a given subject or connected with the history of a given colony, but such investigation has usually been confined to well-known and fairly well-arranged collections, examination of which was comparatively easy and a successful result highly probable. Outlying sources, records relating to other than colonial subjects, and groups containing only occasional and isolated documents have remained largely unexplored; while even such compact and clearly defined collections as the Colonial Office papers have never been thoroughly and critically examined. The time was therefore opportune for a more thoroughly organized attack upon the British records, and for the discovery, as far as human imperfection would allow, of all documents that directly or indirectly bear upon our history. Tedious though the work promised to be, it seemed to be justified by the possibility of obtaining even an approximate description of each isolated document, important or unimportant, and of each collection, great or small, that might some time be needed by future writers of our history. The task was a large one, but two conditions proved eminently favorable to a rapid prosecution of the work: first, the concentration of the bulk of the material in a few great centers, like the British Museum and the Public Record Office; and secondly, the unfailing courtesy of the officials in charge as well as of many private individuals, who without exception did all in their power to promote the undertaking. In most cases, though not in all, the facilities for research are adequate for student purposes, and though hours seem short, notably at the Bodleian Library, the overzealous investigator is forced thereby to take a needed relaxation. Except occasionally in certain cases where the quarters are cramped and special searchrooms cannot be spared, the student will meet with few restrictions, 1 This article is a preliminary report to the Bureau of Historical Research of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. (325) 326 C. M. Andrews and will be able to employ his time to the best advantage. Private collections, of which there are many in England, are not so readily accessible, and in a number of instances are closed entirely. It is much to be regretted that so many official papers are at the present time in private hands; for though many of them have been dealt with in the reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, it is well known that the earlier of these reports are in need of extended revision. Furthermore, many papers of an official character, which were deemed the private property of the official in authority at the time, have disappeared from view, and there seems to be no way of finding out whether they are in existence or not. A search for lost documents among private papers is a practical impossibility. One can only wish that more private collections would find their way into public depositories, either by gift or purchase, as in the case of the Hardwicke papers in the British Museum or the Shaftesbury papers in the Public Record Office. The five depositories that may be deemed of first importance are the Bodleian Library, the British Museum, the Privy Council Office, the Royal Institution, and the Public Record Office. Other documents, though in no cases numerous, are in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth, the episcopal library at Fulham, the librarv of Sion College, the library of the Geographical Society, and among the records of the Herald's office, the Old Bailey Proceedings, and the manuscripts in Somerset House and the Courts of Law. There are a few volumes relating to trade and to the Philippines in the India Office, which can be found in the catalogue of its manuscripts entitled, Printed List of General Records, 1599 to 1879 (1902). A few papers, mostly duplicates, are to be found in the Owen Wynne collection in All Souls College, Oxford, and a few also in the Bibliotheca Pepysiana, Mlagdalene College, Cambridge. Of the latter a large number are copies of the Pepys papers in the Bodleian, but one manuscript volume is unique. It contains copies by Samuel Wiseman, "principal clerk to the Honorable Commissioners " who were sent to Virginia in i676-i677, of all the documents connected with the work of that commission, many of which are not in the Public Record Office. Among the Pepys " Miscellanies" are also a number of papers relating to shipping and the plantations, among which are the report of the Council of Trade of i66o to the king " concerning the Trade and Navigation of the kingdom," and one or two "Considerations " upon the Foreign Plantations, dated about I684- I685. As was to have been expected, the Pepys papers relate largely to matters connected with the admiralty and the navv. In the Bodleian Library the total number of documents relating American Colonial History in British Archzives 32 7 to American history is not large, and as a whole cannot be deemed of special importance. Some of them, however, are of value and serve to throw light into dark places and to extend our knowledge of matters hitherto imperfectly known. While there are a few groups of related documents, such as the Newman, Champante, and Clarendon papers, yet the majority have no connection with one another. Four only of the great collections, which have made the Bodleian Library justly famous, contain documents for our purpose: the Ashmolean, Tanner , Rawlinson (including the Pepvs), and the Clarendon. Of these four, the first and second furnish scarcely a score of documents, while the third and fourth contain a very large nuimber. The Ashmolean manuscripts give us the instructions to Gates and Lord Delaware and the procedure at the interment of William Lovelace'; the Tanner, largely ecclesiastical in character and of a date not later than I699, contain various papers and letters of Edward Randolph regarding the religious condition of New England, other similar letters from Massachusetts and Maryland, and the patent drawn up by Charles II for the erection of Virginia into a bishopric, of which another and slightly different copy is to be found among the Wynne papers. The Rawlinson Manuscripts, A, B, C, D, contain large numbers of papers of a miscellaneous character, from i66o to about I730. A contains many letters sent to Lord Arlington from America, and the papers which Pepys collected in order to clear himself from the charges of John Scott, among which is a petition, hitherto unknown, of John Winthrop for a charter for Connecticut. B has papers relating to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and its work of sending ministers to the colonies; and it also contains the large and very valuable colleclection of Champante papers, one hundred and thirty in number, relating to New York politics after 1700. C contains the papers of Henry Newman, secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and agent for New Hampshire, relating to that province; the Coxe papers (some of which are in A), which throw light on New Jersey; a large collection of log-books of ships; a mass of papers relating to the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, with letters from John Eliot, Edward Winslow, Thomas Weld, and others, about I65I-I653; and other papers of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, of considerable importance for the churches in America, with letters from the governors and reports on the condition of religion there. D contains a few letters belonging to the Newman collection and copies of three letters from Thomas Newe, scholar of Exeter College, 'Printed in the AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, IX, 522 ff., April, I904.
doi:10.2307/1834724 fatcat:iuexefc3mrhehmssasio5ns2m4