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superfluous, perhaps irrelevant, reflections, or accumulating an excess of detail and illustration. A diligent and laborious revision, frequently repeated, has been productive of numerous alterations, and, I hope, proportional improvement in the style of my performance.
The third and fourth volumes of the present Work, form the second composition which was prospectively announced in the preface to my first historical publication. They continue the history (commenced in the first two volumes) of the older American States, and also embrace the rise and progress of those which were subsequently founded,—till the revolt of the United Provinces from the dominion of Britain, and their assumption of national independence. Properly speaking, they form a continuation, not of my original publication, but of my original Work as it has been subsequently altered and amended.
In the preface to my first publication, I announced a third composition which was intended to embrace the history of the Revolutionary War, and the establishment and consolidation of the North American Republic. But I have been induced by various reasons to abandon the purpose I had entertained of this ulterior effort. My first publication has had such scanty success, as forcibly to impress me with the expediency of improving the execution rather than extending the range of my historical design; of strengthening my claims, rather than multiplying my demands on the attention of the public. And since
my first publication, I have met with and read
Botta's History of the War of American Independence-a work of so much merit, and so well suited, I think, to the present era, that it seems to me to render any other composition on the same subject, at present, quite superfluous. Thirty or forty years hence, a final and more compendious delineation of the scene may be required.
In the collection of materials for the composition of this Work, I have been obliged to incur a degree of toil and expense, which, in my original contemplation of the task, I was very far from anticipating. Considering the connection that so long subsisted between Great Britain and the American States, the information concerning the early condition and pro
of these communities, which the public libraries of Britain are capable of supplying, is amazingly scanty. Many valuable works illustrative of the history and statistics, both of particular States and of the whole North American commonwealth, are wholly unknown in the British libraries : a defect the more discreditable, as these works have long enjoyed a high repute at the seats of learning on the continent of Europe ; and as the greater part of them might be procured without difficulty in London or from America.
After borrowing all the materials that I could so procure, and purchasing as many more as I could find in Britain or obtain from America, my collection proved still so defective in many respects, that in the hope of enlarging it, and in compliance with the advice of my friend Sir William Hamilton, (of whose counsel and assistance I can better feel the obligation than express the value) I undertook a journey in the year 1825, from Edinburgh, where I was then residing, to Gottingen: and in the library of this place, as I had been taught to expect, I found a richer treasury
of North American literature, than any, or indeed, all of the libraries of Britain could at that time supply. From the resources of the Gottingen library, and the liberality with which its administrators have always been willing to render it subservient to the purposes of literary inquiry, I derived great advantage and assistance. I am indebted also to the private collections of various individuals in England and France, for the perusal of some very rare and not less valuable and interesting works, illustrative of the subject of my labours. To particularize all the persons who have thus or otherwise assisted my exertions, and enriched my stock of materials, would weary rather than interest the reader,----whom it less imports to know what opportunities I have had, than what use I have made of them. Yet I must be indulged in one grateful allusion to the advantage I have enjoyed in the communications which I have had the honour of receiving from that illustrious friend of America and of human nature, the late General La Fayette.
History addresses her lessons to all mankind : but when she records the fortunes of an existing people, it is to them that her admonitions are especially directed. There has never been a people on whose character their own historical recollections were calculated to exercise a more animating or salutary influence, than the nation whose history I have undertaken to relate.
In national societies established after the manner of the United States of North America, history does not begin with obscure traditions or fabulous legends. The origin of the nation, and the rise and progress of all its institutions, may be distinctly ascertained ; and the people enabled to acquire a complete and accurate conception of the character of their earliest national ancestors, as well as of every succeeding generation through which the inheritance of the national name and fortunes has devolved on themselves. When the interesting knowledge thus unfolded to them reveals, among other disclosures, that their existence as a nation originated in the noblest efforts of wisdom, fortitude, and magnanimity, and that every successive acquisition by which their liberty and happiness have been extended or secured, has proceeded from the exercise of the same qualities, and evinced their faithful preservation and unimpaired efficacy,--respect for antiquity becomes the motive and pledge of virtue; the whole body of the people feels itself ennobled by the consciousness of ancestors whose renown will constitute, to the end of time, the honour or reproach of their successors; and the love of virtue is so interwoven with patriotism and with national glory, as to prevent the one from becoming a selfish principle, and the other a splendid or mischievous illusion. If an inspired apostle might with complacency proclaim himself a
citizen of no mean city, a North American may feel grateful exultation in styling himself the native of no ignoble land,—but of a land that has yielded as rich a harvest of glory to God and of happiness to man, as any other portion of the world, from the earliest lapse of recorded time, has ever had the privilege of affording. A more elevated model of human character could hardly be proposed to the imitation of the people of New England, Pennsylvania, and some others of the North American States, than that which their own early history bequeaths to them. It is at once their interest and their honour to preserve with sacred care a bequest so richly fraught with the instructions of wisdom and the incitements of duty. They will cherish a generous and profitable self-respect, while they comply with the canon of Divine wisdom, to “remember the days of old, and consider the years of many generations;" and the venerated ashes of their fathers will dispense a nobler influence than the relics of the prophet of Israel, in reviving piety and invigorating virtue.
The most important requisite of historical compositions, and that in which, I suspect, they are commonly most defective, is truth--a requisite, of which even the sincerity of the historian is insufficient to
In tracing ascertained and remarkable facts, either backward into their original, or forward
1 “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”—Washington's Speech to Congress, 30th April, 1789.