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This work is the first of a series of four, which, although distinct in authorship, and each complete in itself, are designed to furnish in a brief but readable form a connected history of the United States from the discovery of the Continent to the present time. The present volume, on the Colonial Period, carries the narrative down to the year 1756, the date of the Declaration of War between England and France. It embraces, therefore, the beginnings of the decisive struggle of the two nations for dominion in America, or of what used to be called the “Old French War.” The record of the remainder of the Colonial Period may conveniently find a place in connection with the era of the Revolution, of which it was the prelude.
Until we reach the point where the narrative in this volume ends, it is expedient, at least in a work of no larger compass than the present, to trace the history of the Colonies one by one. It is true that the English Colonies from the beginning were moving slowly towards the goal of political unity. In the American Union the federal and national elements are combined in the way so concisely stated in a passage from the pen of Madison in The Federalist, where it is said : “Our sys
tem is neither a national nor a federal system, but a composition of both. In its foundations, federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of
government are drawn, partly federal and partly national; in the operation of these powers, national, not federal ; in the extent of them, again, federal, not national; and finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, neither wholly federal nor wholly national.” Albeit the system was, " in its foundations, federal, not national,” yet from the start, prior to any organic connection of the Colonies, save their common relation to the British Crown, historical forces were in action that were destined to create a national factor of not less power than the federal element in shaping our civil polity. But in the space traversed by the present volume the Colonies were predominantly distinct communities, so that with the exception of the group of them comprised in New England they can best be treated separately. Yet the English Revolution of 1688 is so important a landmark, that it appeared to me advisable to break the narrative into two parts. By this arrangement the attention is not kept fastened on each Colony by itself through the entire course of the history, while the others are in the main left out of sight. It also seemed a little more conducive to unity of impression to take
the several Colonies in a different order in the second Part, from that adopted in the first.
While it has been my aim in the composition of this book to consult brevity, I have not been willing to reduce the narrative to a bare sketch. Political events must necessarily have a prominent place; but manners, customs, and phases of intellectual progress are not left unnoticed.
It need not be said that there is often controversy, and sometimes heated controversy, respecting events in the past and the merits of actors who have long ago passed off the stage. In this particular our early American history forms no exception. As to the judgments expressed in the following pages on persons and things that are still the subject of debate, all I can say is that they have not been hastily formed, and that I have given heed to the familiar, but never trite, injunction to hear both sides—"Audi alteram partem."
While I have spent much time in the study of the original sources, with special painstaking on doubtful points, I have received aid from many writers who in later times have explored the field of our early history, or particular sections of it. There are three of the comparatively recent works to which I am bound to make special acknowledgments. These are Winsor's “Narrative and Critical History of America," Doyle's "English Colonies in America," and Palfrey's “History of New England.” A brief estimate of the character of these works will found in the Bibliographical Note at the end of the volume.
NEW HAVEN, February 26, 1892.