The papers of Attorney General Cummings are important partly because of the conception of public duty and policy which they disclose and partly because they show the imprint of that conception upon the activities of a great department of the government. The papers of any cabinet member have a more than routine significance in that, however quiet the movement of public affairs and however methodical the activities of the head of a department of the government, his position makes him a participant in matters of unquestioned importance. He becomes a significant factor in the unfolding of the nation's history and in the development of governmental machinery for dealing with the nation's problems.
In times of crisis or transition for the nation as a whole or of development and change in the department involved, the man and his records become particularly important. The public papers of Attorney General Gregory, for instance, who headed the Department of Justice during the World War, would be of great value for a study of law enforcement in war time. The papers of Attorney General Wickersham, covering an important period of antitrust law enforcement, would be of value to students of that subject. The papers of Attorney General Bates, judging from his diary which has been published by the American Historical Association, would yield materials of great value for a study of the Civil War administration.
Attorney General Cummings served through the period of a crisis no less serious than war, during which the Department of Justice underwent transitions of fundamental importance. The interest of historians and students of government generally could be served best by the publication of a number of volumes which would include all the significant documents in the Department of Justice files. Facilities for such a broad publication program are not now available. On the basis of judgment exercised as explained below, a number of papers have been selected to illus