|Description||Copies of outgoing letters to British Government officials, missionaries on furlough or sick leave, students in training, CMS Association Secretaries and Auxiliaries, the CMS President, overseas authorities, bishops (including overseas bishops visiting the UK), archbishops, related organisations, the Charity Commissioners and others in the UK. The letter books were used by all of the CMS Secretaries but from the 1880s they develop into Lay Secretary's correspondence mostly with the Foreign Office. They also include a few letters from the CMS President. Volumes 4-18, dated 1842-1873, have summaries of letters from Henry Venn [compiled by Dr Max Warren]. Letters are superscribed or subscribed with clerks' annotations giving the name of the addressee.|
The correspondence includes much relating to overseas missions (with references to relationships with overseas dignitaries and governing bodies and the steps taken to develop particular areas of work); letters written in response to enqiries respecting CMS expenditure, regulations and practice (including issues raised regarding action taken in respect of individual missionaries); correspondence concerning publications and language work; letters to donors regarding the use to which their donations will, or have been, put and letters written in response to charges against the CMS, allegations over the conduct of individual missionaries and press articles and circulars impacting on the Society's interests. There are also some letters providing testimonials for missionaries, concerning arrangements for missionaries' passage overseas, deputations, specific financial issues, offer of staff appointments and honorary positions, the status and training of CMS candidates and dealing with many other aspects of home administration.
The letters to missionaries largely relate to their time in the UK or concern their return overseas, such as requests for their assistance with deputations and confirmation of grants to be awarded to those unable to return; there are also a few letters concerning permission to marry, applications for grants, termination of student places at [Islington] College and, occasionally, letters further to, or explaining, committee decisions regarding offers of service or the closure of a missionary's connection with the Society. Much of the correspondence with bishops concerns missionary candidates for Holy Orders, their ordination and placement overseas and arrangements in anticipation of their return to the UK.
The sequence is notable for the large number of letters addressed to the Foreign and Colonial Office including correspondence concerning the rights and welfare of residents of Sierra Leone, New Zealand and New South Wales, the welfare of individual missionaries, conditions in areas in which CMS missionaries were working (sharing missionaries' accounts of hostilities and acknowledging intelligence received) and government aid in development of CMS work overseas (arrangements for missionaries' passage overseas; grants of land and other assistance with regards to property; the securing of land and protection of CMS interests with a few related CMS returns listing numbers of missionaries, catechists, schoolmasters and mistresses etc).
Manuscript indexes are loosely inserted at the front of volumes 1-14, 16-19 and 21-23. The original indexes for letter books 15 and 20 are missing; letter book 20 has a typescript, replacement index. Entries are indexed in broadly alphabetical order, either by name or professional title of addressee (letters) or type of enclosure (memorial, memoranda, minutes etc), including entries under the name of organisations and a few institutions. As many of the letters were written as a result of resolutions agreed at committee meetings, the committee minutes and indexes in the records of the General Secretary's Department can also be used as finding aids to establish the existence and date range of correspondence relevant to an individual or research topic [see CMS/G/C].