The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988 Page: 97
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sity, conceived a bold plan: to edit and publish the papers of Jefferson
Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. It had been done
before, sort of, but Vandiver wanted the project to be definitive. Bell I.
Wiley and Haskell M. Monroe, the project's first managing editor, were
present at the borning, which appropriately took place at a meeting of
the Southern Historical Association.
A good many years passed before the volumes of Davis material began
to appear. Vandiver, while still president of the Association Board of Direc-
tors and chief advisory editor, now worries more about the Texas legislature
and the future of Texas A&M, and Monroe has become president of the
University of Texas at El Paso. Lynda Lasswell Crist now serves as editor.
Because of the careful groundwork done by the first crew, the volumes
have begun to appear more regularly. Volume 4 appeared in 1983 and
volume 5 appeared only two years later. The same careful attention to
detail is evident in both.
Volume 4 covers Davis's prewar career, but it is a mistake to read this
volume as if it reflected the interests of a future president of anything.
Like the first three volumes, which dealt with Davis's youth and educa-
tion, his second marriage and early political activities, his military career
and continued political career, respectively, volume 4 reveals a man whose
horizon was still his state boundary. In this volume Davis moves into a
national forum, but he also encounters one more opportunity to remain
merely a state personality. Within these pages he rises to prominence in
the Senate, yet loses a race for the governorship of his state. He could
have spent the rest of his life, by his own testimony, happy as a planter.
But of course the events of the 1850s swept him along, and in the 1860s
he became one of the two most important political leaders on the North
Davis's increased activity during the period covered by volume 4 forced
the editors to be selective in the material printed, but all known Davis
material is calendared, if not presented. An excellent section titled
"Editorial Method" should be read carefully before examining the various
letters and documents. Something as apparently unobtrusive as brackets
tells the reader if the date of a letter was penned by Davis or determined
from internal evidence. For the years 1849 - 1852, over one thousand Davis
items from forty-four repositories, six private collections, and "numerous
printed sources" (p. xix) have been found. Of that number, 108 are printed
in full. Items appropriate to time periods covered in earlier volumes are
presented in an appendix.
In volume 5 the record of Davis's role in United States history keeps
pace with his growing importance. Over 21,000 items are extant for the
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988, periodical, 1987/1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/m1/123/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.