While the Early State Records collection contains numerous examples of proclamations and other messages from individual officials, it also contains addresses on a wide variety of topics from private citizens or experts in their respective fields.  Together all these documents allow researchers to examine both official responses to various situations, as well as consider individual opinions in determining the status of a particular issue. 


Not surprisingly, researchers can find numerous examples of church messages and admonishments on a variety of topics.  Some authors even combined poetry and religious reflections, as found in LLMC #20861.  This 1774 self-published, sentimental prose was a religious consideration from G. Hughes regarding a fire which occurred at Governor William Tyron’s house at Fort George, and was both supportive of the governor in his temporal life, and reassuring that he would enter the Heavenly Gates.


Generally, however, these religious-based documents were sermons addressed to congregations or other interested groups.  For example, in LLMC #00084t, Rev. Caleb Blood, a pastor at a Baptist church in Shaftsbury, Vermont, gave a sermon the day before an October 1791 election.  Preached to the legislature and using numerous Scripture references, Blood emphasized the need to follow divine rules in the governance of mortals.  Linking both God’s judgment and grace, this lengthy sermon eventually concluded that “the law of love to God and Man, is essential to a truly patriotic character” (page 31).  This sermon combined mercy and judgment and the need for venerable and respectful rulers, while also reminding the members of the legislature of their duties to the people. 


However, one of the most unusual religious documents was found in LLMC #39670.  Written in Spanish, this 1799 Papal bull was sent to the Provinces of New Spain (now part of central and southern Mexico) and announced indulgences for praying at five different altars for the success of the Spanish Crusades to occur in 1782-1783.  Interestingly, in 1779, Spain re-started peace treaty negotiations with the Ottoman Empire.  Threatening a Crusade to begin in 1782 may have contributed to the peace treaty signed with the Turks on September 14, 1782.  Thus, this document provided a contemporaneous insight into both religious beliefs of an 18th century church and its political strategy for the Crusades[1]


Some of these records are surveys or reviews addressed to let the general public know about a specific topic or area of interest.  For example, in LLMC #20603, a pamphlet was written following the 1664 transition of New Netherland to New York.  Printed in 1670 in London, Daniel Denton provided information regarding soil, climate, geography of New York, as well as advice on the accommodations and Indian customs.  Similarly, in LLMC #01157t, a September 1872 address by Dr. H. Latham of Laramie City, Wyoming Territory was delivered to a Nebraska State Fair audience.  He not only reviewed the agriculture, minerals, and industries in Nebraska, but made various comparisons to other states and territories.[2]   


Early State records also contained individuals’ addresses to specific interest groups.  LLMC #01153t contained a January 8, 1877 address by J.M. Woolworth to the Nebraska State Bar Association on the topic of the dignity, service and prospects of the profession of law.  On a different topic, LLMC #01141t was an 1873 publication by J.T. Allan from the Nebraska State Horticultural Society on growing forests.  Likewise, focused committees also presented their findings and opinions to a targeted audience.  For example, in LLMC # 20982, a committee offered its observations relating to schools which would be presented before the 1778 yearly meeting of the Friends (Quakers).  Among the recommendations was a proposal for a subscription in order to pay the teachers, as well as reiterating the necessity of education.  These more specific reviews allow researchers to determine the historical interests of the times, as well as the concerns of various groups.


Finally there were the citizens’ appeals or warnings.  One such document is found in LLMC #20843.  This March 20, 1774/5 broadside was written by “A Freeholder” and implored the inhabitants of New York City to only punish two citizens to the extent of the law.  The author then reminded the population that to exceed the punishment determined by Congress would be unjust and unnecessary.  While the particular offense was not stated, these wrongdoings were presumably well known by the population and had undoubtedly raised the ire of many of the population.  The broadside concluded to encourage humanity and justice.[3]  In LLMC #20714, a December 12, 1706 broadside utilized this public forum to warn fellow residents of Charlestown about an unscrupulous proprietor of a misleading advertisement called "Advantageous Proposals."  This advertisement claimed that Mobile, West Florida was a wonderful opportunity for people to make their fortunes; in fact, the author likened the situation to kidnapping or slavery.[4]   


As the Early State Records collection continues to add more resources, a wide variety of opinions, summaries, and reflections of the times have also increased.  While official documents are essential, these glimpses in individuals’ thoughts provide advantages to researchers, allowing them to view the reactions beyond official statements and policies.   While we live in the "here and now," these publications document the real "there and then."

Early State Records is one of LLMC’s most substantial initiatives, thanks to the patronage of several libraries which are listed *here* as well as a grant award from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).  LLMC is digitizing 2000+ reels from the Library of Congress’ microfilm collection, containing the records, treatises, newspaper accounts and other legal or related documents from pre-colonial through early statehood of the 48 states as well as Native American tribes.  Applying advanced digitization post-processing and value-added metadata  to these primary and secondary sources which were held in numerous state, federal and foreign libraries, historical societies, archives and legislatures, LLMC’s LLMC Digital online service will make many hidden documents, such as the manuscripts, available to researchers and society as a whole. 

Written by Joyce Savio Herleth, Saint Louis University School of Law 



[1] Interestingly, the microfiche of this document was originally found at the American Antiquarian Society Library in Worcester, Massachusetts, rather than in a formerly Spanish territory.  This points to the varied documents found throughout all of the contributing institutions.   

[2] See also LLMC #01158t, in which J. Sterling Morton delivered a September 2, 1878 address on a similar topic, also at the State Fair in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

[3] On the other hand, Paul Revere issued a leaflet to stir up citizens, as well as to inform them.  His October 5, 1774 broadside reported that Boston masons and carpenters ceased their work on barracks for English soldiers once they learned of the purpose of this project.  LLMC #20817.

[4] Some advertisements were more typical and subject to less negative response.  For example, in LLMC #20730, a broadside dated April 10, 1731 announced the public auction of a plantation owned by Myndert Lefever.  The ad contained a description of the New Jersey property, location, and other details relating to the sale, all which could be of interest to some researchers.  A related document was also found at LLMC #20729.