Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 16.djvu/424
Southern Historical Society Papers.
The seal, which is excellently engraved, was generously executed, without cost to the Society, by Mr. M. S. O'Donnell, Boston, Massachusetts.
It seems meet that some account of the origin of the famous prototype of the seal of the Society should be given here. Further, a recent publication in that admirable exponent and enlightened medium, the New Orleans Picayune, happily gives so many ungarnered details of the adoption of the Great Seal, that it becomes a duty to aid in their permanent preservation.
The Great Seal of the Confederate States of America was engraved in 1864, by the late Joseph S. Wyon, of London, England, predecessor of Messrs J. S. and A. B. Wyon, chief engravers of Her British Majesty's seals, etc., and reached Richmond not long before the evacuation of the city, April 3, 1865. It was of silver, and in diameter measured nearly four inches. At the evacuation it was overlooked by the Confederate authorities, and subsequently fell into the possession of the late genial and accomplished Colonel John T. Pickett, of Washington, D. C., who, after having a number of electrotype copies in copper, silver and gold plating made from it, presented the original to Colonel William E. Earle, of Washington, D. C. This last gentleman, on December 27th, 1888, formally presented it to the State of South Carolina. The announcement of the gift elicited from the Picayune, in its issue of January 6, 1889, the interesting report of an interview, by one of its representatives, held with Hon. Thomas J. Semmes, of New Orleans, which follows:
"Mr. Semmes said it always afforded him pleasure to converse on the events of the war, particularly the transactions of the Confederate Senate. He was attorney-general of Louisiana in 1861. When it became necessary to elect to the Confederate Senate, organized under the new constitution, Mr. Semmes and General Edward T. Sparrow were chosen senators from this State. In drawing for terms he drew that for four years, while General Sparrow drew that for six years. This was at Richmond, Va., in February, 1862.
"In speaking of his services in the Senate, Mr. Semmes said he was appointed a member of the finance committee in conjunction with Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, of Virginia, and Hon. Robert Barnwell, of South Carolina and a member of the judiciary committee, of which Hon. B. H. Hill was chairman. He was also chairman of the joint committee on the flag and seal of the Confederate States. He drafted, under the direction of Hon. R. M. T. [Robert Mercer Taliafero Hunter] Hunter, the 'tax in kind'`