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MEMBER OF THE NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, MEMBRE DE LA SOCIÉTÉ ORIENTALE DE FRANCE,
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P R E F A C E.
IN presenting to the public a new History of the United States, it is only evident propriety, that the indulgence of the reader should be asked to a few preliminary remarks respecting the object had in view in these volumes, and the claims which it is conceived they have upon the attention of our countrymen.
The one great object ever before me has been, to present a truthful, impartial, and readable narrative of the origin, rise, and progress of that mighty Republic which now extends from ocean to Ocean, and which is moving onward, year by year, with gigantic strides, to increased power and importance among the family of nations. Having an entire and thorough conviction of the superintending care and control of Divine Providence in our country's affairs; having no ends to gain but those of truth and right; having no theories to establish, no partisan views or wishes to gratify; I have honestly endeavored to ascertain what the truth is, and then to set it forth as clearly, and as fully, as was possible within the limits to which I was restricted. Mere speculations on historic points, I have avoided; attempts to penetrate, or pronounce upon, the motives of men and nations, beyond what may be regarded as plainly and fairly deducible from their acts, I have deemed of little value; and, in general, I have preferred to leave the intelligent reader to draw his own conclusion from an impartial presentation of the facts and circumstances of the case. I have spared no labor in order to be accurate and reliable; I have not neglected to consult any work of value which was within my reach; and, in all cases of difficulty or doubt, I have carefully and conscientiously sought to compare and sift conflicting accounts, and to lay that before the reader which seemed to be the nearest approximation to the truth which probably, under the circumstances, can now be attained.
On the various questions respecting which our countrymen always have been, and most likely always will be, divided in sentiment, I have tried to give the views of both sides, and, as far as possible, in the language of the advocates of the two sides, believing that this is the only fair and candid mode of dealing with controverted topics. As illustrations, I may take the liberty of referring to the points at issue between the federalists and democrats; the subject of internal improvements; the United States Bank question; the Missouri compromise; the slavery question; etc. I may also mention, that I have everywhere given clear and precise references to the standard authorities on both sides of contested questions, besides quoting quite largely from official documents and papers; so that the reader who chooses to examine more at large any topic for himself, can do so, to the fullest extent that he may desire. -
I do not, however, make any pretence to have written what is contained in the following pages in a state of indifference with regard to the points at issue, whatever the points may be. It would be idle to suppose that any American, of ordinary intelligence, has not some distinct views as to the main subjects, which have been under discussion among a people who have the amplest liberty to write, speak, and set forth in any way they choose, their opinions and views on any and all topics. Hence, I avow, without hesitation, that my convictions and sympathies are very clear and settled in my own mind. By birth and education an American, I claim to be alive to every thing which affects the honor, the good name, the glory of my country; and having been bred up in an old-fashioned school, by parents and grandparents directly connected with the heroic age of our Republic, I have the most profound and earnest sense of the greatness of the men, and the sound
ness of the principles of those noble patriots, who fought the battles, framed the Constitution, and administered the government of our country in her early days. But, while entertaining distinct political, social, and ethical views, I beg to assure the reader, that I am not unmindful of the duty of a historian in regard to all such matters as these; I am conscious of having no desire to obtrude upon others merely personal views and opinions; I have not, wittingly at least, ever done so; and I have felt it a duty, at all times, to endeavor to set every man and every topic in such light before the reader, as they may fairly claim to be their due. In how far I may have succeeded in my well-meant efforts, in this particular, it would be unbecoming in me to pronounce. I am content to leave the decision of the question to the judgment of those who are competent to decide, and who, I doubt not, will decide truthfully and justly.
The various authorities on which I have relied, are accurately noted throughout the volumes. I have used these authorities freely, but not Servilely. I have drawn from all sources whatever seemed to me valuable and important for the purpose which I had in view; and I have taken especial care to preserve the just chronological order and sequences of public events. In the main features of the narrative, I have followed the consensus of such writers as Marshall, Ramsay, Pitkin, Grahame, Bancroft, Irving, and the like; at the same time, I have not hesitated to form and express an independent opinion, where there seemed to be occasion for it; and I have sought to correct, or modify, or enlarge, in several respects, where the special contributions to our history afforded the means and called for such a course.
That a Work, covering so large an extent of time and space, and treating of so vast a variety of matters, should be free from occasional errors, is not to be expected by any who know how exceedingly difficult it is to avoid error in writing on historical subjects. With all the care and devotion which I have given to these volumes, I hardly dare flatter myself that here and there errors of the press, and errors of statement,