U.C. Berkeley history professor H. Morse Stephens attempted to forge an extraordinary agreement with Secretary of War Taft for access to confidential Army records collected by the War Department and Gen. Greely.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
UNIVERSITY EXTENSION DEPARTMENTBERKELEY, CALIFORNIA
Faculty Club, July 22, 1906.
The Hon. W.H. Taft,
On 23 April, just after the recent calamity in San Francisco, the Committee of Fifty in that city, upon the motion of Judge W.W. Morrow, appointed a Committee on History to draw up an authorized account of the earthquake, the fire, the emergency government and the relief measures undertaken, and upon the same day Judge Morrow, as President of the local Red Cross, appointed the same Committee to draw up a report of the work of the Red Cross during the same period. I have been appointed the member of the Committee to draw up the draft of both these histories. For that purpose I have been engaged during the last months in collecting the material of primary importance. I particularly need the fullest information with regard to the action taken army between 18 April and 5 June. I discussed the possibility of obtaining this information with General Greely at Judge Morrow's table yesterday, and General Greely informed me that he would be willing to let me have copies of his reports, of all reports to him and of the reports he had forwarded to the War Department, if you gave him permission. I write to ask for this permission.
I have had some experience as an historian and I can promise that no improper use will be made of the documents sent to me; that confidential documents will be seen by no eyes but mine; that no criticism of individual action will be made; and that the draft of those paragraphs relating to the army shall be submitted to General Greely before being laid before the other members of the History Committee. May I ask, if, under these conditions, you would have the kindness to direct General Greely to send me copies of his reports and reports made to him, and if you would let me have from the War Department copies of the reports sent in by officers from San Francisco, of which copies have not been kept at the Presidio. The History Committee will gladly pay the expense of making transcripts from these reports.
I need hardly point out that I need these confidential reports, not so much for the purpose of making direct use of anything contained in them, as for the purpose of understanding matters, at present handled by rumor only, in such a way as to give the exact truth. As an instance I might refer to the report of Captain Coleman on dynamiting buildings.
have asked my friends, President Benjamin Ide Wheeler of the University
of California and Judge W.W. Morrow, to certify to you that I am a person
who can be trusted with the information that I desire, and that I will
make proper use of it.
Dear Secretary Taft:
The enclosed letter implies a request which I deem reasonable and worthy. Professor Stephens is a first-rate historical scholar and withal a man of rare tact and good judgement. He is making up the story of the disaster and its relief as a sample of the proper type of historical investigation. You can trust absolutely to his discretion and wisdom.
(signed) Benj. I. Wheeler
Hon. Wm. H. Taft
July 24, 1906
THE MILITARY SECRETARY'S OFFICE
Referring to your letter of July 22, 1906, in which you express a desire to obtain copies of all reports made by Major General Greely and other officers relative to the earthquake in San Francisco in April last, I beg leave to advise you that I have forwarded to you by mail this date, under a separate cover, a printed copy of a "Special Report of Maj. Gen. Adolphus W. Greely, U.S.A., Commanding the Pacific Division, on the Relief Operations Conducted by the Military Authorities of the United States at San Francisco and Other Points, with Accompanying Documents."
The Military Secretary.