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‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

The June release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several legislative reports on bills relating to policies toward indigenous peoples of North America. Also found in this release are a number of documents pertaining to the Territory of Orleans, which became the State of Louisiana when it was admitted to the Union in 1812. Two of these documents of particular interest are a report on a House bill titled, “Further Providing for Government of the Territory” and a letter from William C.C. Claiborne, Governor of the Orleans Territory.


Orleans, February 26, 1803 - December 26, 1815

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Following sections authorizing the establishment of a state government in the Orleans Territory, the bill contains a section detailing how the census will be performed. This version of the bill includes a curious amendment that could result in a lower official population and delay in the path to statehood.

The handwritten changes to the printed bill indicate the bracketed portion of the following is to be omitted; additions to the bill’s language are in bold.

‘Those Unfortunate Strangers’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

‘Subject to Removal’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The May release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes an array of diverse documents chronicling the nation’s westward expansion in the nineteenth century.


Special List of Cartographic Records Relating to the Territory of Wisconsin; Entry 1, Manuscript and Annotated Maps and Related Cartographic Records, 1839

These large maps of Wisconsin Territory, “Exhibiting the Position of the Lands Occupied by Indian Tribes in Amity with the United States; and also The Lands Ceded to the United States by Treaty with various Indian Tribes,” are but two examples of the valuable cartographic records found in this collection.

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Segregated Records Relating to Ratified Indian Treaties, 1836-1847; Treaty No. 242, Nov. 19, 1842

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Treaty 242 is representative generally of the United States’ method of acquiring lands under Manifest Destiny and is but one of many such examples in this collection of that doctrine’s codification. 

‘Subject to Removal’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

“Humbugs and fol-de-rols!”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

This final release of plays from Nineteenth-Century American Drama includes a devastating assault on Abraham Lincoln, an all-female cast in a courtroom drama meant to ridicule women, and a “Negro sketch in two scenes.”


The Royal Ape. By William Russell Smith (1863)

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William Russell Smith was a U.S. congressman from Alabama who served from 1851 to 1857. He subsequently served as a member of the first and second Confederate Congresses. Smith was not the first, nor the last, to describe Lincoln as a simian. He wrote this “dramatic poem” after the Union’s defeat in the Battle of Manassas as the South preferred to call what the North called the First Battle of Bull Run. It is dated January 1, 1863, in anticipation of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Smith’s cast of characters—with the exception of two former slaves, two White House maids, and extras including officers, soldiers, citizens, and senators—are all prominent politicians and generals of the time. In following the action of the play, knowledge of the actual events of the time provides some perspective.

Act I, Scene I, occurs in the White House on the eve of the battle which Smith refers to as Manassas. We discover Mrs. Lincoln and her son Robert who would have been age 20. He has just returned from the House of Representatives and describes with gusto a physical fight that had broken out there.

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“Humbugs and fol-de-rols!”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

‘A Melancholy Catalogue of Events’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The April release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, has added more than 350 additional documents to this unique digital collection. Among them are the two Civil War-era reports below from top officials of the New Mexico Territory: Henry Connelly and William Frederick Milton Arny. Both were appointed to their positions by President Lincoln.


Third Annual Message of Governor Connelly to Legislature, December 6, 1864

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Addressing “Gentlemen of the Council And House of Representatives,” Henry Connelly writes:

The mind of man is a mighty maze in which is engendered, not only the more amiable qualities of the heart, those which teach us charity towards our fellow-beings, and amiabilities of social life, but it is also the laboratory from which do sometimes issue the effects of passion, that lead to the unhappiness of the human race. Pride, envy, egotism, malevolence, and ambition, so unamiable in private life, frequently become criminal when carried into the discharge of public duties.

Connelly continues:

The exercise of these virtues is as essential in legislation as it is in the intercourse of social life. Courtesy in discussion, charity and consideration, with respect to the motives and intentions of your associates, and harmony in your councils, cannot fail to result in honor to yourselves and in benefit to the public.

‘A Melancholy Catalogue of Events’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

When Readex recently posed this question to a wide range of researchers, we heard four crucial things:

  • Modern styling—researchers want primary source databases that are visually engaging and feel “right”
  • Ease of use—both experts and novices want their path to primary sources to be simple and intuitive
  • Speed!—software must search quickly, deliver relevant results in a blink, and rapidly display large images
  • Flexible tools that optimize content use and which map to common user needs and workflows.

With this feedback front and center, Readex has been busy making fresh improvements to its interfaces.

Two months ago I had the pleasure of announcing a major overhaul of the America’s Historical Newspapers and World Newspaper Archive platform. User reaction has been extremely positive, and it’s gratifying to see more usage and better research outcomes.

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We’ve already saved many users a substantial amount of time, too, by introducing a number of efficiencies to the interface.

Of course the work is never done, nor should it be. It’s important to stay abreast of needs and to make continuous improvements to our interfaces and services.

During the past several months we’ve been focusing on the fourth bullet above—“flexible tools that optimize content use.” Much of our effort has focused on enhancing the “document view” experience (sometimes called the “image viewer”) in our products. This is where users encounter the actual primary source in image form.

Throughout 2018, we met with users and asked them about the image viewer. Here’s what they said:

What makes a primary source interface a GREAT interface?

Secrets, Deception and Thwarted Love: Comediettas in Nineteenth-Century American Drama

Hundreds of plays in Nineteenth-Century American Drama are designated as comedies in their titles. Of these, there are scores of scripts subtitled as comedietta which oxforddictionaries.com defines as “a short comedy, typically light-hearted or farcical in tone or subject matter.” Some common themes are entwined in most comediettas. As seen in these examples, these themes include mistaken identity (accidental or deliberate), talking at cross purposes and other miscommunications, inheritances with conditions, and love triumphant.


Miss Madcap: A Comedietta in One Act

By Charles Townsend

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This comedy concerns a will with conditions that necessitate deception. When the curtain rises, Clara is sorting through her mail, opening a letter from her father. She reads it aloud.

“My dear daughter. Your aunt Charlotte is dead. She leaves her fortune to your cousin, Augustus Everson, and yourself—provided you two marry. If either of you refuse to marry, the property goes to the other. I have just seen Augustus. He looks like a dude, but he will hardly throw away a fortune by refusing to marry you, and, although he is a bitter pill—well, suit yourself. He is coming to see you. As ever, your loving father.”

Secrets, Deception and Thwarted Love: Comediettas in Nineteenth-Century American Drama

‘Every honest man in Montana’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The March release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes several items relating to the fascinating history of the Territory of Montana.


Clipping, on Calling of Political Convention (1866)

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) led the Young Irelanders in the Rebellion of 1848. He was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death. Instead, Meagher was “transported for life” to Australia.

Escaping to the United States in 1852, he worked as a journalist, studied law, and lectured on Irish nationalism. At the outbreak of the Civil War Meagher joined the Army, eventually becoming a brigadier general. After the war President Andrew Johnson appointed Meagher as Montana’s Territorial Secretary of State; he also served as acting governor until Governor Green Clay Smith (1826-1895) arrived and assumed the executive duties.

Early in January 1866 the Montana Democrat reported:

Gov. Meagher has changed the time of the election of Delegates of the Convention, to Saturday, the 24th day of February, 1866, and the meeting of the same to Monday, the 26th day of March. The reasons for the change are given in connection with the Proclamation, which are quite satisfactory.

The Governor’s proclamation can also be found in this collection. Defending the Governor from accusations of political chicanery, the Montana Democrat continued:

‘Every honest man in Montana’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

“He saw the folly of it, and died”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

There are over 200 scripts whose authorship is credited to Anonymous in Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900. An examination of these titles suggests several categories into which many of these can be sorted. Thirty of these are “Ethiopian” or other less cautious euphemisms. Others are meant for school exercises or home entertainment, while still others are the scripts of unique college or club, church, and charity productions. Some of the dramas seem to have been commissioned for specific celebrations, usually political or historical. There are also scripts that deal with sensitive or social issues that were controversial in their time. These are among the most interesting plays attributed to Anonymous.


The Lost Spade; or, The Grave Digger’s Revenge (1864)

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This political drama was published when the American Civil War still raged. The title page offers a further subtitle: “A great political, martial, serio-comic legendary, romantic and farcial [sic] drama.” It also notes that it was “Written by the Happy Democratic Family, expressly for the Peace Democracy.” The Peace Democracy refers to the Copperheads who were also called Peace Democrats. These Democrats were opposed to the war and favored appeasing the Confederacy. In 1864 prominent Copperheads were put on trial for treason.

Because this script focuses on this dissident bloc of northern Democrats, some of whom were prone to violence, the author may well have had sufficient reason to write anonymously. He provides staging directions and a cast list.

“He saw the folly of it, and died”: Highlights from Nineteenth-Century American Drama

‘The Corrupt and Imbecile Administration’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The March release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes speeches delivered in a Massachusetts church exalting the nation, in the Tennessee House of Representatives describing a conspiracy that divided the country, and in the U.S. Senate asking a fundamental question of the country’s citizenry.


De Profundis Clamavi: The Cause, the Crime, and the Cure of our National Suicide (1861)

By Daniel Steele

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On September 26, 1861, five months after the Civil War began, Pastor Daniel Steele (1824-1914) gave a sermon celebrating nationalism.

Nationality magnifies and exalts the insignificant individual, crowns him with dignity and honor, throws an arm of protecting power about him, and holds a broad shield over his defenseless head.

Steele then presents the first of several comparisons he uses to illustrate American superiority.

‘The Corrupt and Imbecile Administration’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

‘The Language and Sentiments of Treason’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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The February release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes a Civil War-era warning of an impending invasion from Texas, a petition to allow black suffrage under the Colorado constitution, and reports of murder and robbery on the Mexican border.


Address of Legislature to Citizens, on Invasion from Texas, January 29, 1862

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In 1862 Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley led a brigade of volunteer cavalry to invade the Territory of New Mexico. By advancing north along the Rio Grande from Fort Bliss, he hoped to eventually seize the gold and silver mines in Colorado. In the days leading up to the attack, the Territorial Legislature of New Mexico issued an address to the citizenry, warning them of the coming incursion and alerting them to the dangers they faced.

‘The Language and Sentiments of Treason’: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

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