1888: To Publish…or Not

A proposed publication raised editorial questions this year, questions that today we would say have to do with intellectual and editorial honesty.  Excerpts from a diary kept by Thomas Rodney in December 1776 and January 1777 during the Princeton campaign had been read at Society meetings, and the Society decided to publish the entire diary.

 But this was an era when people did not necessarily believe in “telling it like it is”—some people did not think that anything derogatory about a person should be published, even when it appeared in a primary source.  As he worked on editing the diary, Society president Leonard Wales reported that “Captain Rodney, in recording camp gossip makes statements which reflect on the loyalty of prominent American officers of that time, and at this point the members discussed the advisability of suppressing these names in the publication of the diary.”  They weren’t sure that they wanted to publish anything that might reflect badly on Revolutionary patriots. 

 A couple of months later the issue came up again.  However, after much discussion, Society members decided to do the right thing:  “it was decided by vote, that the diary be printed in full, and that no names be suppressed.”

 Inquiring minds want to know: what were the passages in dispute?  Several readings of the diary as it was published in 1888 do not show anything that touches on the loyalty of American officers.  The only mention of Tory sentiment is in regard to members of the Fisher family, relatives that Rodney acknowledges are Quakers and Tories.  He stayed with them in Philadelphia, and they advised him to make a deal with the British.  Thomas Rodney refused.

 In 1888, the Rodney family still owned the original diary and allowed the Society to publish it.  Although the Society has large holdings on Thomas Rodney, this is not among them.  It is in the Library of Congress.

From Delaware Historical Society Minutes, April 16, 1888
From Delaware Historical Society Minutes, April 16, 1888

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s