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THE “HISTORICAL RECORDS” of New South Wales are published with the object of affording the fullest information obtainable concerning the foundation, progress, and government of the mother colony of Australia. It was with a similar
that the publication was commenced, more than two years ago, of the “ History of New South Wales, from the Records.” All the material that the Government could command was placed at the disposal of the writer, and in the volume issued from the Government Printing Office in June, 1889, this reservoir of information was largely drawn upon. But when Vol. II of the History was in preparation it was considered desirable to make a change in the plan. It was determined that while the publication of the History should go on, the records themselves, with the exception of those that are trivial or formal, should be printed in full, in separate volumes, so that the public might have, on the one hand, a historical work founded on official documents, and on the other, the material upon which the narrative is based.
The adoption of this course serves a double purpose. In the first place, it enhances the value of the History, for it enables the reader to turn at any point from the narrative of the writer to the fuller information which the reports and despatches supply. The advantage gained by this treatment of the official
papers is obvious. No matter how faithfully a writer of history may perform his task, he cannot cover all the ground; no matter. how acutely he may criticise the actors who take part in the scenes he describes, he cannot exhibit them in so clear a light as they are shown in their own writings. Thus the publication of the Records may be regarded as desirable from the historical point of view.
In the second place, the printing of the Records gives immediate and lasting public value to State papers which would otherwise be of service to the few-only those, in fact, who have leisure to search the bulky manuscripts which have been collected by the Government. In the absence of printed records, the inquirer who endeavours to learn in what manner New South Wales was founded-how the settlement was governed in the early days—by what steps it grew-how difficulties were encountered and overcome—what mistakes were made, and how they were correctedby whom injustice was perpetrated, and in what way retribution fell upon
oppressor—can command no better sources of information than tradition, and the accounts of writers who had to make history from insufficient material. He is in the position that a jury would occupy if it were required to give a verdict upon hearsay evidence. The publication of the Records will change all that. With the printed Records in the public libraries and on the book-shelves of all who care to purchase them, the student of history will have the best possible material at his disposal. He will be able to read for himself, and draw his own conclusions from direct testimony.
It is not entirely a new departure that has been taken. --The importance of preserving and reproducing national records is recognised in most civilised countries, and especially so in Great Britain. In earlier times, when Ministers of the Crown treated official despatches as their private property, and on quitting office carried to their own houses manuscripts which belonged to the nation, little care was taken of the records, and such a thing as giving information to the public concerning them does not appear to have had any place in the minds of those in authority. This indifference no longer exists. All public documents are carefully preserved ; inventories of them are taken, and they are accurately described in printed calendars. With a few exceptions, the State