The first president of our Association, Edwin F. Gay, remarked to me as he was pondering the subject of his presidential address that presidents of learned societies should present in their messages to their scholarly colleagues the results of their current research. This seems to me to be a capital idea, but, as I look back upon the speeches of my predecessors, I discover how few have followed the counsel of our wise and esteemed forebear. Even Gay himself, in his command performance, failed to adhere to his own precept. Most of our presidential addresses have been devoted to making suggestions for research (mostly to be undertaken by others), to delineating the broad “tasks” of economic history, to defending the kind of work in which the speaker has been engaged, and to advocating some particular methodology in our discipline. In the course of time, our presidents have exposed a variety of positions, have espoused a multitude of causes, and from time to time have excited controversy. They have created a tradition that presidential addresses should be homilies and exhortations.