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Founding Father’s Papers Reveal How History Repeats Itself
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (November 20, 2008) – Americans held hostage by an Islamic power, a nation divided over whether to go to war, and widespread fears about a fast-moving and deadly epidemic. If this is “Jeopardy!” the category must be “The 1980s,” right?
Then again, it also might be “The 1790s.”
The Papers of George Washington has released volume 14 of its Presidential Series, which covers the last four months of 1793, a period dominated by a yellow fever epidemic that largely shut down the federal government and all but emptied the city of Philadelphia. At the same time, President Washington was struggling to keep America out of a broad European war while Americans held captive in Algiers suffered long months, even years, in hope of ransom or rescue.
In his introduction to the volume, editor David R. Hoth writes: “During the last four months of 1793, as in the summer preceding, [Washington] and his administration were chiefly involved with maintaining the neutrality of the United States during the war that pitted France against Great Britain and her allied powers.” Each of the two primary combatants pressured the fledgling American government to enter the fray on their side, leaving Americans divided over whether to enter on behalf of France or of Britain, or to support the president’s proclamation of neutrality. British protests of the actions of French privateers off the American coast forced the United States to define for the first time the limits of our territorial waters. Meanwhile, both France and Britain were attacking American trade vessels on the open seas and confiscating goods bound for foreign ports.
Elsewhere, American vessels were being attacked by Barbary pirates and the crews held captive, some for as long as eight years by this time, in Algeria. The dey, or ruler, of Algiers demanded ransom for the captives as well as payment from nations for safe passage of their trading vessels through the Mediterranean.
Such challenges from abroad were complicated at home by a deadly yellow fever epidemic that forced the substantial evacuation of Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time. “Diagnosed in mid- to late August, the growing epidemic soon depopulated the city, as those who were able fled,” Hoth writes. “The deaths and departures greatly reduced the operations of government.” Washington left on 10 Sept. and later wrote to former secretary Tobias Lear: “It was my wish to have stayed there longer; but as Mrs. Washington was unwilling to leave me amidst the malignant fever which prevailed, I could not think of hazarding her & the Children any longer by my remaining in the City."
The Washington Papers project was established in 1968 at the University of Virginia under the joint auspices of the university and the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. An exhaustive worldwide document search has yielded the most complete collection of Washington documents ever assembled – photocopies of some 135,000 manuscript items from more than 300 repositories and private owners around the world.
The annotated documents are being published in separate series corresponding to significant segments of Washington's life. Completed series include The Diaries of George Washington, 1748-99 (six volumes); the Colonial Series, 1748-75 (10 volumes); the Confederation Series, 1784-88 (six volumes); and the Retirement Series, 1797-99 (four volumes). Two series remain in progress: The Revolutionary War Series, 1775-83, has published 18 of an anticipated 40-plus volumes; and the Presidential Series, 1788-97, is expected to number 21 volumes upon completion. The project also has published The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793-97 (one volume).
“In addition to being the 14th book in the Presidential Series,” said project Editor in Chief Theodore J. Crackel, “the new volume is the 60th published overall of a projected 90. Like those before it, this volume lets us see Washington the man – not just the president who adorns the dollar bill.” Copies of this and other volumes are available through the University of Virginia Press, P.O. Box 400318, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4318. Orders also can be placed by toll-free telephone (1-800-831-3406) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Papers of George Washington is funded largely through grants and private, tax-deductible donations. To contact the project, call (434) 924-3569; send e-mail to email@example.com; visit the PGW website at http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/; or write to: The Papers of George Washington, P.O. Box 400117, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4117.
A Tribute to Associate Editor Beverly Runge (September 7, 1929 - April 18, 2008)
George Washington never knew Beverly Runge, but she knew him quite well. She had been to his home countless times and also knew his family, his neighbors and closest friends, and even a number of Washington’s passing acquaintances.
Her relationship with Washington, one-sided though it was, blossomed over a span of more than 50 years. It began at Mount Vernon and, some time later, was renewed with these words: “A Journal of my Journey over the Mountains began Fryday the 11th. Of March 1747/8 ... Began my Journey in Company with George Fairfax Esqr.; we travell’d this day 40 miles to Mr. George Neavels in Prince William County.”
That was the first entry Washington made, at age 16, in a series of diaries that would chronicle the balance of his life. Those diaries have been compiled and annotated in book form – six volumes in all – and parallel some 50 other volumes of Washington documents published so far by the Papers of George Washington project since its inception in 1968.
Beverly Runge was instrumental in the decades-long undertaking, and her painstaking research into the life of Washington will continue to serve as an underpinning as the project moves forward to include eventually some 90 volumes.
“The volumes would not be nearly as far along, nor as good as they are, without Beverly,” said W. W. Abbot, who served as the Papers’ second editor in chief and led the project from 1977 until his retirement in 1997. “She was absolutely invaluable.”
Runge passed away April 18 at age 78. Her 37 years at PGW will stand unsurpassed, having outdistanced even the tenure of Philander D. Chase, who retired in March after 35 years with the project. Before she arrived at the Papers, Runge served as assistant curator at Mount Vernon during the mid-1950s, and after moving to Charlottesville in 1956 continued to work on Mount Vernon’s manuscript collection for several years.
Her professional legacy is that of a tenacious researcher who, despite her obvious talents and depth of expertise, was just as determined to remain in the background. Abbot described her as “very modest”; Chase said she “was never one to seek the spotlight,” an observation echoed almost verbatim by another longtime colleague, Dorothy Twohig, who was with the project at the beginning and served as the third editor in chief.
Runge was a major contributor to getting the project set up, said Twohig, and played a key role in identifying and organizing what eventually became a repository of 135,000 photocopied Washington documents. She was “a pillar of the project [who] probably never got the credit she deserved,” Twohig added, noting that when Runge balked at efforts to place her in charge of the project’s Colonial Series (covering the years 1748-75), Abbot nevertheless had her name displayed as “Editor” for the final edition of the 10-volume series.
Most of all, Runge will be remembered for her tenacity and skills as a researcher, especially when it came to identifying obscure individuals and untangling familial relationships.
“Whenever anyone on the staff was confronted with a baffling family genealogy or land transaction,” said Chase, “he or she went to Beverly, who almost always was able to make sense of the complicated and seemingly contradictory documents.”
“She was like a terrier – she wouldn’t let those people go” until she could identify them, Twohig recalled. “Sometimes that would take a lot of work.”
Chase, who served as editor in chief from 1998 to 2004, described her as “a researcher's researcher. She knew where to find the details necessary to explain complex events accurately and clearly, and no one was ever more indefatigable in digging them out than she was. Her knowledge and work ethic were remarkable and earned the respect and lasting affection of her colleagues. . . . Beverly also had a broad understanding of Washington and his place in history, particularly Washington the planter and farmer, and Washington the French and Indian War soldier. She knew more about the workings of Washington's Virginia Regiment and the building of frontier forts than almost anyone else.”
Her Mount Vernon experience also made her the resident authority on that critical facet of Washington’s life. “Beverly really was our Mount Vernon expert,” Twohig said. “She knew more about Mount Vernon than any of us.”
Runge was born Sept. 7, 1929, in Richmond, Va. She received a BA in English from Mary Washington College in 1950 and an MA in history from the University of Virginia in 1954. She was the widow of William Runge, former head of the McGregor rare books collection at U.Va. They are survived by two sons and two daughters. Beverly Runge began her career with the Washington Papers in October 1970 and retired as a full-time employee in 1995. But she returned to work part-time until shortly before her death. Her final day in the office, March 21, preceded by one workday the retirement of her longtime friend and colleague Phil Chase.
“I had the great privilege and pleasure of working with her for 35 [years],” Chase said. “Her scholarly and personal integrity were unsurpassed, but she also had a marvelous sense of humor and a contagious excitement about history and life that endeared her to everyone who knew her. Her presence as both an editor and a person will be greatly missed.”
Never-Ending Chase: Editing Founding Father's Papers Is a Calling, Not a Career
May 1, 2008 — Philander D. Chase has spent 35 years in George Washington's world — and he's not done yet.
Chase, 65, retired March 24 as senior editor of the Papers of George Washington, housed at the University of Virginia's Alderman Library. But he does not lack for work. He plans to use some of the Washington archive to write a book about Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian drillmaster who molded Washington's army at Valley Forge. He is also continuing to work on the 19th volume of the Washington Papers' Revolutionary War series.
"Being a documentary editor is a life, not a career," Chase said.
Theodore Crackel, editor-in-chief of the Papers of George Washington, described Chase as the institutional memory of the project.
He launched the Revolutionary War series of the Washington Papers and has trained just about every editor since 1983," Crackel said. "He has also developed into a leading expert on the Revolutionary War, as well as an expert on Steuben and Henry 'Light Horse Harry' Lee [who commanded cavalry units during the Revolutionary War]. His retirement will be a great loss to us in that way.
Having earned a Ph.D. in history at Duke University, Chase came to Charlottesville in 1973 for a one-year fellowship at the Papers of George Washington as a documentary editor, a job he said requires "academic training and hands-on experience.
Then I stayed on for another year with funding from the University and from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union," Chase said. "I've been 'staying for another year' for 35 years.
Chase will miss the "research, writing, collaboration and interacting with the public.
One of the most remarkable things about Phil was his readiness to help anybody,Crackel said. He would work with [historian and author] David McCullough or a high school student with equal enthusiasm.
Crackel also values him as a raconteur.
Phil loves to talk and he can carefully unwind a long and entertaining story," Crackel said. "He is gregarious, outgoing and always a lot of fun."
Chase's work involves stories, transcribing the writings of Washington and the people around him, interpreting damaged or smudged words and determining a document's meaning through background and context.
While describing documentary editing as "technical and tedious," he said the reward is "getting to know historical figures as people.
Aside from affairs of state, Chase said Washington's writings range from cryptic to mundane to deeply personal.
Washington could be cryptic to be "deliberately restrained and tactful, not divulging his full feelings on matters," Chase said. Other entries dealt with the weather, what crops were planted where and who had visited. "These are mundane, but they offer a look at the rhythm of Washington's life," Chase said. Washington also detailed the life and death of his stepdaughter, Patsy, an epileptic who died from a seizure in 1773. Washington kept a record of her "fits" on his calendar, and noted when they got worse.
You learn how much human nature is the same and that their reactions are not unique," Chase said. "They had difficulties they endured and got through. You get a more realistic feel about them." Even people more than 200 years dead can still surprise, as new documents surface and old ones are re-interpreted. "It never fails," Chase said. "By the time you understand a document, it turns out to be something else.
Editors are attracted to specific writings, and Chase said he has cherished documents in each of the volumes of the Washington Papers. He specifically cited a passage, "There is no restraining the pens or tongues of men when they are charged with a little vanity," an observation of Washington's from 1775.
Chase said the 18th century is "an ideal time in which to work," because of the amount of written material available. The men and women who played leading roles in forming the union were dedicated to communicating their thoughts and ideas. "They had a sense of what was important," he said.
By contrast, future historians examining this era may suffer; current electronic archives will be hard to maintain over the years, he said, and much correspondence by e-mail is simply eliminated and telephone conversations are not recorded.
We may not have access to a lot of documents," he said. "This is the information age, but we may end up knowing less than from the era of the quill pen.
Chase said the Papers of George Washington is one of the best archives of any former president, containing 135,000 photocopies of documents, including 40,000 letters to and from Washington, making it a tremendous resource for scholars and historians.
Chase had started out to be an engineer, as his father was, and because there was an emphasis on engineering in the era of Sputnik. But one of his engineering professors advised him to pursue the humanities.
I found out I had a passion for research and writing history," he said.
Chase described Washington as the "master of retirement," having done it three times. Washington retired back to Mount Vernon at the end of the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763), and then again in 1783 after the Revolutionary War. He was persuaded out of retirement to be president, from which he wanted to retire after his first term, but he was convinced into a second term.
He was glad to leave when John Adams was inaugurated," Chase said. "But when he retired, he did not wash his hands of it all. He was still active with his correspondence and he kept his hand in. He was still busy and involved with many things.
Chase said he will stay involved in many things, but he plans to stay retired.
by Matt Kelly, reprinted from UVA Today (visit the UVA Today's page for audio)
Valerie Champeau, a ninth-grade student at Clarkstown High School North in New City, N.Y., visited the Papers of George Washington on January 25, 2008, in order to conduct research on her project for this year's National History Day competition. Ms Champeau's project is the so-called Newburgh Conspiracy of March 1783, in which Washington successfully overcame a move by some of his officers to lead a march on Congress in order to secure long-overdue pay, pensions, and other benefits. Joined by her mother Beth Champeau and guided by Associate Editor Edward G. Lengel, Valerie consulted many unpublished documents in our collection, along with print and electronic resources available at the Washington Papers project and in the University of Virginia library. We wish her the best of luck on her project!
Associate editor Christine S. Patrick presented a program entitled "George Washington: A Personal Glimpse" to the Jack Jouett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Charlottesville, Va., on April 12, 2007. Washington's relationship with his wife, his love of Mount Vernon, and the value he placed on his military, political, and personal papers were emphasized.
The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition released. A landmark in historical scholarship, The Papers of George Washington encompasses five separate series and the complete diaries. This digital edition offers the complete Papers to date in one online publication. You may search on full text and by date, author, or recipient across all volumes and series. The exceptional indexing of the individual print volumes is combined here into a single master index, and all internal document cross-references are linked.
Bill Ferraro is scheduled to speak on April 16, 2007, to the Mahwah Museum Society in Mahwah, New Jersey. This group has special interests in Andrew Hopper--a prominent citizen of the Ramapo Valley who hosted George Washington in his home several times during the Revolutionary War--and the march of the Continental and French troops from New York to Yorktown in 1781. Bill's talk is titled "War Without Battles: George Washington and the Continental Army in New Jersey, 1779-1781," and will focus on scouting and intelligence activities under the direction of Brigadier General William Maxwell posted in Elizabeth-Town.
Ed Lengel is featured in an A&S Online article - George in War. "Scholar Edward Lengel follows Washington from his struggles in the French and Indian War through his triumphs in the Revolutionary War. Along the way he is continually surprised by discoveries he makes about the man." read more»
Ed Lengel also appeared in the History Channel documentary, "The Search for George Washington," which aired on February 17th. read more»
In January 2007, Assistant Editor William M. Ferraro received a $1,500 research grant from the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Virginia to examine and microfilm selected letters between Ellen Ewing Sherman and her sister Maria Theresa Ewing Steele in the Charles Ewing Papers at the Library of Congress. These letters will help him complete his book manuscript on the Sherman-Ewing Family during the Civil War, a project begun before he joined the Papers of George Washington in June 2006 that is an outgrowth of his longstanding interest in the extended family of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman.
On November 10, at a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush awarded the 2005 National Humanities Medal to eleven distinguished Americans and one scholarly research project - The Papers of George Washington - for their contributions to the humanities. The National Humanities Medal honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand America's access to important humanities resources. more»
Christine Patrick was elected to serve as secretary of the Association for Documentary Editing, 2005-2007.
Christine Patrick's article "Trials and Tribulations: As Found in the Journals of Samuel Kirkland" appeared in Documentary Editing (Fall 2005, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 107-113). She also contributed several entries to the Encyclopedia of New York State (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005).
Christine Patrick presented a paper "A Witness to Despair: Samuel Kirkland and the Oneida Indians" at the Northeastern Native Peoples and the American Revolutionary Era, 1760-1810, conference at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Connecticut on September 23, 2005. She also presented "'When the Calamity of the war came': The Sullivan Campaign of 1779" at the Conference on Iroquois Research, Rensselaerville, New York, October 2, 2005.
President George W. Bush talks with editors in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, April 29, 2005, after they presented him with volume 12 of the Presidential Series. From left are: Ted Crackel, Christine Patrick, Phil Chase, John Pinheiro, former assistant editor, and Bruce Cole, chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities.
Philander Chase lectured on David Hackett Fischer's 2004 book Washington's Crossing for the "Books Sandwiched In" program at Charlottesville's Northside Library on January 21, 2005, and again at the Crozet Library, Crozet, Va., on January 25, 2005. He gave a President's Day lecture entitled "Wasn't That a Time? George Washington at Valley Forge" at Brevard College, Brevard, NC, on February 21, 2005. His review of William Howard Adam's 2003 book Gouverneur Morris: An Independent Life appeared in the February 2005 issue of the American Historical Review.