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IT is a Herculean task to write a good history; and the value of such a one cannot be overestimated. By history we learn what mankind have been and done in all past ages. By history the best men in every age and century of the world are set before us for our imitation, and the worst for our detestation. By history we learn how nations, empires, kingdoms, have arisen, flourished, decayed, and passed away. By history we become acquainted with the genius, laws, and customs of men who shone as stars in their generation; and behold, as in a mirror, the disposition, character, and talents which produced their virtue or their vice, and entitled them to the respect, veneration, and grateful remembrance of their successors, or made them a reproach to the end of the world. By history, too, we get a knowledge of how the arts and sciences arose, and how inventions were first arrived at, cultivated, and improved; and finally, as “history” but “repeats itself” in every age of the world, we see the finger of an Almighty Ruler presiding over the destiny of men, and ordering all things and events, so that, it must be visible to all, that He ruleth among the children of men, and showing that “the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet riches to men of understanding.”
From these characteristics of general history, the transition is natural and easy to the particular one before us. Having
resided many years in Philadelphia, and become familiar with the biography of the early settlers of Pennsylvania, and the events that have taken place since, through their historians; and believing that no State in the Union offers richer material for a valuable history; and, moreover, being drawn to the task from a love of research into past times, – the author, with much pleasure, has compiled the following pages. It will be universally acknowledged that our resources of wealth in coal, iron, oil, &c., are unsurpassed by any State of this great republic.
Pennsylvania has abundant cause of gratitude to God, that she was settled by a Christian people, and, especially, that she received her name from one of the wisest, noblest, and best of men; and, as exhibited in this history, for many generations, even down to this period of our grand centennial, she has honored her early settlers, in her appreciation of that education, virtue, religious principle, and civil freedom, which were vouchsafed unto her by such men as William Penn and his coadjutors. It will be shown that she has well developed her material resources; but in nothing has she been more conspicuous than in the character of her men and women.
With the hope and belief that the reader will be amused, entertained, and instructed, his mind enlarged, affection elevated, by the perusal of what is gathered from the authors named in the work, from whose resources I have richly drawn, and from the more recent statistics of the Commonwealth, I commit the work to the intelligent sons and daughters of Pennsylvania.
W. M. C. PHILADELPHIA, 1876.