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OUR love of antiquities, the contemplation of days by-gone, is an impress of the Deity.-It is our hold on immortality. The same affection which makes us reach forward and peep into futurity, prompts us to travel back to the hidden events which transpired before we existed. We thus feel our span of existence prolonged even while we have the pleasure to identify ourselves with the scenes or the emotions of our forefathers. For the same cause relics are so earnestly sought and sedulously preserved," they are full of local impressions," and transfer the mind back to “ scenes before."
As Americans, we see in a short life more numerous incidents to excite our observation and move our wonder, than any other people on the globe. The very newness of our history ministers to our moral entertainment and increases our interest in contemplating the passing events. A single life in this rapidly-growing country, witnesses such changes in the progress of society, and in the embellishments of the arts, as would require a term of centuries to witness in full-grown Europe. If we have no ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to employ our researches ; no incomprehensible Stonehenge nor Circle of Dendara to move our wonder; we have abundant themes of unparalleled surprise in following down the march of civilization and improvement, from the first landing of our pilgrim forefathers to the present eventful day!
The wealth and ambition of a potent prince may have accomplished a magnificent city in shorter time upon the banks of the Neva; but in this country we have many equal wonders by the energies and resources of a people, until lately “no people." The wisdom of our free institutions has made our land the desired asylum of the oppressed. Here human life is not wantonly wasted in ambitious broils for sovereignty; we therefore behold our population quadrupled in a term of forty years, and our hardy pioneers subduing the soil, or advancing their settlements, from the Atlantic to the Pacific wave. Canals, rivaling in magnitude the boasted aqueducts of imperial Rome are in successful operation. By these and tarnpikes, inaccessible districts are brought nigh; mountains charged with metallic treasures are entered, and their deposits of iron, coal, and lead, &c. lavished over the land. Cities, towns, and villages, arise in the West, as if by enchantment.--Many of their present inhabitants redeemed their soils from a waste howl.
ing wilderness. In less than twenty years our exports have grown from twenty to eighty millions. Our navy, from * cock-boats and rags of striped bunting," has got up to power and renown. Our private law, commercial code, and bold diplomacy, have grown into a matured and learned system. Our inventions and improvements in the arts, which began but yesterday, make us, even now,
a wonder unto many;" and our vapour vessels, while they fill all our waters and overcome the rapids of our great Mississippi and Missouri, are accommodating and enriching the old world by their adoption and imitation. Here we have no lordly potentates in church, lording it over the consciences of the people;" no standing armies to endanger their liberties; no despots to riot on the oppression of the subject. Nay, so exalted are our privileges, as a self-governed people, that the fact of our example and happiness is bidding fair to regenerate other nations, or to moderate the rigour of despotic governments throughout the world !
If topics like these, which enter into the common history of our growing cities, may be the just pride and glory of an American, must not the annals which detail such facts, (and to such, these pages are devoted,) be calculated to afford him deep interest; and should it not be his profit as well as amusement to trace the successive steps by which we have progressed from comparative nothingness, to be “a praise in the earth !"
There are minds, feeling and cultivated, which can derive rich moral pleasure from themes like those, for
« Is there a man with soul so clead
This is my own, my native land!” Such a Philadelphian, may now stand upon the site of Philade). phia and feel his soul partaker of its grandeur. He beholds a city and liberties with a population of 110,000 souls, assessed at a value of 43 millions of dollars ; containing edifices and improvements of princely magnificence and expenditure. He looks through the long vista of progressive ages, and imagines to what wide extended range
He foresees, as at no distant period, when all the area from river to river will be filled with closely compacted houses, “ stretching street on street." From such elevation and comprehension of thought, he looks back on
Only seven scores of years have past since the plot of this wide-spread city lay in woods or waste fields of blackberries and whortleberries. Then it was daily traversed by swarthy Indians, and the leafy arbours were vocal with plumed songsters; at such a crisis, he sees and considers the landing and settlement of our enterprising founders—they had to encounter and subdue innumerable inconveniences which riches and the arts have since changed or hidden from our eyes. The heads and the hands which achieved those choies benefits for us are no more ; we now tread
their asbes beneath the soil which they subdued for our use. Oh! the meinory of it is touching,«
And the heart is stone That feels not at it, or it feels at none !" A Philadelphian has every reason to prize and venerate such forefathers,-men of peace and men of worth. The excellency of the morals which regulated their lives, infused itself into all the institutions which they, as public officers, established for the government of the people. We their descendants will embalm their memory, because we inherit and enjoy the rich patrimony which their wisdom and enterprise created.
The progress of such a society, originating our present fair
City of brotherly love," becomes therefore, if duly told, a tale of stirring interest, and should be the favourite theme of her sons,
“ Go call thy sons,-instruct them what a debt
Those sacred rights to which themselves were born!" Such views and such feelings impressed and imbued the mind of the author, else he had never attempted these pages. His stimulus was purely con amore; recompense he did not contemplate, and time he could ill spare from other engagements, wherefore, indulgence for casual imperfections is but justly due from the considerate reader. He wrote at first for his sole gratification, never intending his collections for the public eye, nor now does he encounter that ordeal but by the encouragement of those friends who are willing to accept the performance by their sense of his limited means to perfect it. If it should stimulate others to add to these materials it will be a grateful service. And if the example, thus set to the sister cities of New York, Boston, &c. should engage minds of kindred feelings and adequate industry to make similar collections of their domestic history, the usefulness of the present publication will be still more felt and acknowledged; and the eventual aim of the author still more accomplished. *
We should not forget these things : Our land, and our fathers kave been the subject of many heaven-descended mercies. They who love to contemplate the cause of the numerous effects, so indicative of our blessings as a nation, will regard it not less a duty of piety than of patriotism, to thus preserve their memorial.
*The Annals of Portsmouth, Lewis' History of Linn, Gibbs' Collections of Salem, and Davis' Notices of Plymouth, are already works of the nature which we wish to see multiplied in our country.