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Such is the sad side of the retrospect which the recurrence of this Anniversary suggests. And yet, apart from the sorrow which the demise of the good, the useful, and the loved always causes, there is nothing unusual in the fact that upon the flight of these two years and more we should be forcibly reminded of the operation of that inexorable law
"All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.”
Although these founders of our Society have been gathered to their fathers, the temple which they planned survives, and subsequent years have strengthened its walls and enriched its porches. The purpose they conceived found encouragement at the hands of those who came after them. The charities of the benevolent and the intellectual gravitated hitherward, and thus has it come to pass that within the fair borders of this charming City there exists no more attractive edifice, no retreat more seductive, no more cultured resort than HODGSON Hall. Long may this institution remain the pride of Savannah and the honor of Georgia.
At the date of the inception of the Georgia Historical Society,—aside from tracts encouraging the foundation of the Colony and furnishing accounts of its development under the guidance of the Trustees and during the early years of its existence,--but two histories of Georgia had been published.
There appeared in London, in 1779, anonymously, but, as we now know, from the pen of the Reverend Alexander Hewatt,-a Presbyterian Clergyman and a former resident of Charleston,-who had departed thence when he perceived that an open rupture between the Crown and
the Thirteen Colonies in North America was imminent,two octavo volumes entitled “ An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Colonies of South Carolina and Georgia.” While in this work the Colonial history of Georgia is narrated at some length, the attention of the author was chiefly occupied with a recital of events connected with the establishment and growth of the Colony of South Carolina. His labors ended with the dawn of the Revolution: and this history,then long out of print,-was inaccessible to the general reader.
Soon after the formation of the General Government Mr. Edward Langworthy,—at first a pupil and then a teacher at Whitefield's Orphan House, afterwards enthusiastic “Liberty Boy,” Secretary of the Provincial Congress of Georgia, and one of the early representatives from Georgia in the Congress of the Confederated States,-formed the design of writing a history of this State. Of fair attainments, and personally acquainted with the leading men and transactions of the period, he was well qualified for the task, and addressed himself with energy to the collection of materials requisite for the undertaking. It would appear, from a published prospectus of the work printed in the Georgia Gazette, that this history was actually written. Suitable encouragement however, not having been encountered, the contemplated publication was never made. Mr. Langworthy died at Elkton, in Maryland, early in the present century, and all efforts to recover both his manuscript and the supporting documents which he had amassed have thus far proved utterly abortive.
From the press of Seymour and Williams of Savannah was issued, in 1811, the first volume of Major Hugh McCall's “ History of Georgia ;” and this was followed, in 1816, by the second volume, published by William Thorne Williams. Oppressed by physical infirmities, and a martyr to the effects of the exposures and dangers experienced as an officer in the army of the Revolution,-now confined to his couch,—again, a helpless cripple, locomoting in an easy chair upon wheels,-dependent for a livelihood upon the salary paid him as City Jailor,often wholly interrupted in his labors,-and then, during intervals of pain, writing with his portfolio resting upon his knees,—without the preliminary education requisite for the scholarly accomplishment of such a serious undertaking, and yet fired with patriotic zeal and anxious to wrest from impending oblivion the fading traditions of the State he loved so well and whose independence he had imperiled everything to secure,-Major McCall, in the end, compassed a narrative which we all prize and which, in its recital of events connected with our Revolutionary period and the part borne by Georgians in that memorable struggle, is invaluable. There hangs his portrait. This hall is dignified by its
dignified by its presence. We salute it with honor and gratitude : and, speaking for the living in the face of the dead, we applaud alike his services in the cause of freedom and his labors with his pen when his sword had been sheathed in victory. Whatever may hereafter be achieved by the historians of Georgia during the long and, we trust, prosperous years which are in store for our grand old Commonwealth, to him must they all come at last for the fullest accounts of the perils and the privations, the affairs and the incidents of our primal Revolution.
Appreciating the propriety, nay, the necessity of collecting, arranging and publishing all papers relating to the settlement and political history of this State, the
Legislature, in 1824, designated Mr. Joseph V. Bevan as a suitable person to perform this important task, and made an appropriation in partial defrayal of the expenses incident to the undertaking. It was understood, at the time, that Mr. Bevan was in possession of some interesting reports, documents, communications, and other manuscripts which were to be utilized in that behalf. His early death terminated the enterprise, and no is advised of the fate which overtook his collections. They have seemingly been lost beyond recovery.
In December, 1837, the General Assembly of Georgia empowered the Governor to select a competent party whose duty it should be, in behalf of the State, to repair to London and there procure, from the Government offices, copies of all records appertaining to the settlement and Colonial life of Georgia. The Reverend Charles Wallace Howard was entrusted with the execution of this mission. He returned with copies of letters and documents filling twenty-two folio volumes. Fifteen were taken from the originals on file in the Office of the Board of Trade : six from those in the custody of the State-Paper Office, and the remaining one from documents forming a part of the King's Library. The material thus secured has been but partially utilized, and will prove of value to the future historian.
Such was the progress made in the preparation of a general history of Georgia, such the effort to collect original matter, and such were the failures which had occurrel at the time when it entered into the minds of leading citizens in Savannah to organize this Society. Its avowed object was the collection, preservation, and diffusion of information relating to the history of Georgia in all its various departments. To that end its officers and members, with a zeal worthy of all commendation, by correspondence, circular, contribution, purchase and petition concentrated as rapidly as they could in the library of the Institution all printed and manuscript matter within the range of present possibility.
Rightly discerning that it was their immediate mission to garner up the materials and entrust to the future historian their proper arrangement and utilization, the founders of this Society, at the outset, disclaimed all design of writing a history of the State. So earnest was the Society in the prosecution of its mission, and so eager to offer palpable evidence of its vitality, and to assert a right to honorable companionship in the sisterhood of kindred institutions, that in the second year of its existence it printed its first volume of Collections. A valuable and interesting publication it is, containing Judge Law's masterly oration upon the celebration of its first anniversary,reprints of Oglethorpe’s “ New and accurate Account of the Provinces of South Carolina and Georgia,” --Francis Moore's
Voyage to Georgia, begun in the year 1735.”—Benjamin Martyn's “Impartial Inquiry into the State and Utility of the Province of Georgia,”—and his “ Reasons for establishing the Colony of Georgia with regard to the Trade of Great Britain,” &c.,—and the honorable Thomas Spalding's “ Sketch of the Life of General James Oglethorpe.”
It is not an exaggeration to affirm that this first contribution of our cherished Society will compare favorably with the transactions of any kindred society within the wide borders of this land. And the second,-given to the public two years afterwards,--was like unto it in historical value and genuine interest. Listen to its contents :- A Α. discourse, by Dr. William Bacon Stevens, on early events connected with the Revolution in Georgia, -and reprints of