Thursday, December 29, 2016

Treasures from the Worcester Room: A Historical Feud!

Some of my favorite books in our Worcester Room collection are books that have to do with Worcester's most influential citizens throughout its long, proud history.  Unquestionably, any list of famous Worcesterites would have to include renowned historian and politician George Bancroft. Bancroft is the namesake of both the prestigious Bancroft Prize for history, as well as Worcester's Bancroft Tower.  However, you don't get to that level of influence without making a few enemies along the way, which is why our Worcester Room collection includes the 1867 title Correspondence and Remarks Upon Bancroft's History of the Northern Campaign of 1777, and the Character of Major-Gen. Philip Schuyler by George L Schuyler.

For fans of Hamilton, yes this is the same Philip Schuyler who was Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law.  The book features George Schuyler’s long and increasingly angry letters to George Bancroft regarding what he felt were slanderous criticisms of General Schuyler’s commanding ability in Bancroft’s account of the Revolutionary War.  A descendant of Philip, George also considered himself a historian, and wrote the book to feature a point-by-point defense of  Philip Schuyler’s conduct during the war, also including all of George and Bancroft's testy correspondence with each other.

In one exchange, George Schuyler writes that “I have no alternative but to deny publicly the correctness of your account of General Schuyler’s character for courage, which I can view in no other light than a gratuitous insult,” whereby Bancroft responds with “the tone of your note today shows conclusively how proper it was for me to decline entering into a correspondence with you, on a subject which you can hardly be expected to consider with the critical calmness of a disinterested inquirer.” I can’t help but feel that if this dialogue were to take place today, it would be delivered through a series of angry tweets.

While most of the books regarding influential Worcester residents tend to be respectful biographies, it is occasionally refreshing to read about a historical argument like this.  It is nice to know that those from the 1800's could be just as preoccupied with petty feuds as we can be today.  Just another example of the fascinating items that can be found in the library's Worcester Room collection.

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