Announcement of the Execution of the Final Contract
In 2014 Kings College London approached PG Lindsey Brock about the SAR sponsoring a visiting professor to review a discovery of new documents found in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. These documents were papers from King George III , as well as four other kings of that era, with the bulk being from George III. In return for a payment of $38,600 per year the SAR would pay for a professor to travel to London and work on these archives with the idea of ultimately cataloging and digitizing them for publication.
This would be a five year project with the total payment being $193,000 if we remained as a sponsor for the entire five years. In return for our sponsorship Kings College would use their best efforts to provide publicity for us, encourage the visiting professors to continue their contact with the SAR and give consideration to allowing any papers of King George III that are exhibited in the USA to be done in conjunction with an SAR Congress.
I would consider the obligations on the part of Kings College under this original proposal to be aspirational instead of contractual. While KCL may aspire to attain those goals there was no firm obligation on their part under the proposed contract. I opposed the project because of the loose language in the agreement and because there were no guarantees as to what may be discovered in the papers that relate to the Revolutionary War. They stated that there were some 350,000 documents and that in their initial survey of a small percentage of the papers there was little they found that would be relevant to our mission. I thought $193,000 was a lot of money for us to spend on a project that would potentially yield us little in return either in the way of new members, publicity or increased funding.
Michael Elston (VA) had been appointed by PG Brock to work with KCL and so to insure continuity I continued that appointment. At the Fall Leadership meeting he presented the program to the Trustees and asked that they vote to enter into the agreement with KCL and fund the payments. During the discussion several proponents stated that they believed money could be raised privately to fund the first 2 years, with two compatriots stating that they had commitments to cover the first payment of $38,600. The Trustees then voted 40 to 23 to enter into the agreement with KC and stated that the money would come from both the SAR Foundation and the SAR operating fund. I objected to the terms of the contract and asked that if they wanted me to sign the proposed agreement that they direct me to sign it as I did not want anyone to think I signed such a poor contract voluntarily. The Trustees did vote to do that and also asked that I attempt to renegotiate the contract and when I was satisfied that I had the most favorable terms available that I then sign the contract.
What Happened Next?
In October I began working on a new draft of the agreement and began discussing possible changes with KCL. I submitted a new version of the contract and it was accepted by KCL with a few minor modifications. The contract was executed on February 15, 2016. I believe the new contract is vastly improved and provides us with guarantees instead of promises. Specifically the new contract provides for the following guarantees that were not contractual obligations under the original contract:
1) Visiting Professors will be selected by KCL just as in the original agreement but now the selection list will be determined by an SAR committee made up of SAR members and one KCL representative who will submit a list of between 3 and 5 applicants to KCL who will select the Visiting Professor from that list. The original agreement would allow the SAR to make recommendations but KCL would develop the list of candidates and make the selection.
2) KCL will require in their contract with the Visiting Professor that the professor write a paper to be submitted to the SAR on their work with these papers. They must also be available to speak at SAR national and state events. For any paper submitted by the professor to the SAR for publication, the SAR will maintain the copyright although the SAR agrees to grant a license to the author, KCL and the Royal collection Trust for non-commercial use. Under the original agreement KCL only agreed to communicate their expectation to the professor but that was not binding only aspirational.
3) If there are discoveries and KCL puts together a traveling exhibit then they agree to give the SAR the right to display that exhibit at our headquarters in Louisville for at least 120 days. The contract now states that KCL will include SAR members in any events where the papers are exhibited in the United States. The original agreement only provided that consideration would be given to scheduling an exhibit so that it coincides with an Annual Congress and it said KCL would use its best efforts to include SAR members in any exhibits of the papers. Aspirational phrases such as consider and best efforts have now been converted to contractual obligations.
4) KCL will have a representative report to the SAR Congresses that occur during the life of this agreement on the status of the project. There was no provision such as this in the original contract.
5) KCL will send out at least two press releases per year to top media markets in the United States discussing this project as well as any significant discoveries and the involvement of the SAR. The original agreement simply said that any press releases about the project issued to priority US markets will include the involvement of the SAR. There was no requirement that any press releases be issued by KCL.
6) If KCL does digitize any of the papers then they must provide those papers to the SAR in a digital format at least 120 days prior to them being made available to the public on the internet. We also have an exclusive for 200 miles around our library. This means if someone within 200 miles of Louisville wants to view these documents they will have to come to our library during this 120 day period. The original agreement said that KCL, where possible would provide the digital images, and that they would attempt to do this as early as possible.
These were the major changes I negotiated. The First Lady Mickey Jo, who is also an attorney, was a great help in this process. The first payment to KCL is due March 1, 2016. I have appointed a Kings College Visiting Professor committee, chaired by PG Joe Dooley (VA), to develop the proposed list of visiting professors to submit to KCL and to work with the visiting professors both during and after their time at KCL. Mike Elston (VA) will serve as the chairman of the Kings College Project committee so any questions about the operation of the program should be directed to him.
I am still opposed to our involvement in this project because I think it is unlikely we will get our moneys worth out of this in terms of publicity, new members or increased donations. If there are some significant discoveries then we will contribute to the knowledge of this time in our history and perhaps it will be worth it. Part of my opposition was because of the way in which the original contract was written but I am much happier with the new version and I think it offers more protection for us. But at this time I can see many other uses for that money that will directly contribute to achieving our mission. However, the Trustees have made their decision so we must all try and make this a success.
If you want to be a part of this project or if you want to make a donation please contact Mike Elston. If you are a state or chapter president tplease forward this to your state society and chapter members. Thank you.
Tom Lawrence (TX)