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On Saturday afternoon I got about three or four free hours to work on the American Bible Society (ABS) project in my Messiah College office. I spent most of the time reading through addresses and reports (mostly from 1815-1817) from a few dozen local and state Bible societies.
When the American Bible Society was founded in 1816, its managers asked these local societies to connect with them as “auxiliary” societies. These auxiliaries could buy Bibles at a discount rate from the national headquarters in New York and distribute those Bibles according to local needs. In exchange, these local societies changed their constitutions to reflect their auxiliary status and promised to send all surplus revenue to the ABS.
There are so many parallels between the creation of the ABS and the creation of the United States Constitution. I am not sure whether I want to run with this comparison, but there were some local Bible societies–Philadelphia and Baltimore come to mind–that did not want to join the ABS because their leaderships believed that the distribution of the Bible was done best at the local level by distributors who understood local needs. The fact that many of the founders of the ABS were Federalists or National Republicans makes this even more interesting.
I hope to begin writing the first chapter soon. On Saturday I spent a lot of time making editorial notes (very similar to the prose that will eventually appear in the chapter) using the “comments” tool in Microsoft Word.
I feel like we are making progress, but it is still very, very early. I have a meeting with Katie Garland on Tuesday to discuss her progress on the 1865-1918 section of the book. Stay tuned.