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CORRESPONDENCE, ADDRESSES, MESSAGES, AND OTHER
PAPERS, OFFICIAL AND PRIVATE,
SELECTED AND PUBLISHED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS;
A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR,
NOTES AND ILLUSTRATIONS.
BY JARED SPARKS.
JOHN B. RUSSELL.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-seven, by JARED Sparks, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
PRINTERS TO THE UNIVERSITY.
The plan of this work, and the manner of executing it, are fully explained in the Introductions to the First and Second Parts. A few particulars only remain to be added.
The large mass of papers, which accumulated in the hands of Washington during the long period of his public life, as well as those of a private nature, were carefully preserved by him at Mount Vernon. By his will he left the estate at Mount Vernon and all his papers to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, who was for more than thirty years one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ten years ago these manuscripts were placed in my possession by Judge Washington, for the purpose of preparing for the press and publishing the work, which is now brought to a conclusion and submitted to the public. The original papers, including Washington's own letters and those received by him, and amounting to more than
two hundred folio volumes, have recently been purchased by Congress, and are deposited in the archives of the Department of State at the seat of government.
With these materials, it will readily be supposed, the work might have been extended to a much larger number of volumes. A limit was fixed, which it was believed would embrace all the most valuable parts of Washington's writings, and at the same time not trespass too much on the means of purchasers. The task of selection has not been without its difficulties. I feel bound to say, however, that any errors in this respect should be attributed to defects of judgment, and not to carelessness or negligence. Neither time, expense, nor labor in examination, has been spared.
In regard to the text, also, it is proper here to repeat what has been said in another place, that frequent embarrassments have occurred. It was Washington's custom, in all his letters of importance, first to write drafts, which he transcribed. In making the transcripts he sometimes deviated from the drafts, omitting, inserting, and altering parts of sentences; nor did he always correct the drafts, so as to make them accord with the letters
as sent to his correspondents. These imperfect drafts were laid aside, and from time to time copied by an amanuensis into the letterbooks. Hence the drafts, as now recorded, do not in all cases agree precisely with the originals that were sent away.) My researches have brought under my inspection many of these original letters. Regarding them as containing the genuine text, I have preferred it to that in the letter-books, and it has accordingly been adopted whenever it could be done. But the discrepances are of little moment, relating to the style, and not to the substance. (For the most part I have been obliged to rely on the letterbooks; and, for the reasons here mentioned, it is probable that the printed text may not in every particular be the same as in the originals, that is, the corrected copies, which were sent to his correspondents. These remarks apply chiefly to private letters, written when Washington was at Mount Vernon, and to those written during the French war. In the periods of the Revolution and the Presidency, much more exactness was observed; and, as far as my examination has extended, there is generally a literal accordance between the original letters and the transcripts in the letter-books.