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from the Records of several towns and churches throughout this country, as also from private registers, gravestones, and the information of aged and intelligent persons.
The reader will easily conceive how large and difficult a field now lay before me; when all these manuscripts were to be perused, examined, and compared both with themselves and with those accounts already published; their varieties and contradictions solved, their mistakes discovered; the chronological order of all their passages found out; one regular abridgement taken from them ; what several wanted, to be supplied from others; and the most material and proper passages, words and phrases selected from them all, and placed together in a natural order, and so as to enlighten each other.
For in my tracing several authors on this occasion, I soon saw cause to come into the same sentiment and resolution with the Rev. Mr. Strype in his preface to the first volume of bis Annals of the Reformation : which I shall mention in his own words. I have chosen commonly to set down things in the very words of the records, and originals, and of the authors themselves, rather than in my own, without framing and dressing them into more modern language ; whereby the sense is sure to remain entire as the writers meant it; whereas by affecting too curiously to change and model words and sentences, I have observed the sense itself to be often marred and disguised.' Yea, more scrupulous than Mr. Strype on this account, for instead of commonly, I have so universally observed this rule, that where I have inserted sentences or words of my own, for illustration, I have either enclosed them in crotchets , or added them at the end of paragraphs, without any author cited after them. And I know not that I have ever changed any words or phrases, unless they were very uncouth, or obsolete ; and then I have taken special care to answer them with others of the same exact importance ; only in some very few instances I have used a softer term for a severer.
In the history of our own times, we may freely use our own expressions ; but in all accounts of events before, every writer must take from others, whether he mentions his originals or no. though it be more laborious, yet it seems not only more ingenuous to cite them, but also carries more authority, and gives the inquisitive reader greater satisfaction. But those who have no regard to those authorities, may in the reading omit them ; unless where they think the passage of too great moment.
And here I must observe, that Mr. Morton's history, from the beginning of the Plymouth people to the end of 1646, being chiefly Governor Bradford's manuscript abbreviated ; from hence it comes to pass that in many articles and paragraphs which I cite from Governor Bradford, both Mr. Morton and I happen to use the same words and sentences ; not that I deduce them from Mr. Morton, but because they are the original words and sentences in Governor Bradford.
Some may think me rather too critical, others that I relate some circumstances too minute, and others, that I need not have interrupted the reading with so many notes in the margin. As for the first, I think a writer of facts cannot be too critical ; it is exactness I aim at, and would not have the least mistake if possible pass to the world. If I have unhappily fallen into any, it is through inadvertency only, and I shall be obliged to those who will be so kind as to send me their corrections. As to the second, those things which are too minute with some, are not so with others; those minute things are observed with pleasure by the people who live in the places where they were transacted, which are inconsiderable to those who never saw them; and there is none who attentively reads a history either ancient or modern, but in a great many cases wishes the writer had mentioned some minuter circumstances, that were then commonly known, and thought too needless or small to be noted. Besides, smaller matters are of greater moment among a smaller people and more affect them, which are less important and affecting as the people grow more numerous. And I have therefore thought it a proper rule in history, to mention smaller things in the infancy of these plantations, which I shall gradually omit as they grow a greater people. But as to the third, I wish I had placed many of the notes in the body of the page ; and propose to do so in the rest of the work.
Is to impartiality, I know it is usual for the writers of history to assert it; some in their prefaces, others in the front of their works ; some in the strongest terms, who have been notoriously guilty of the contrary; and I am apt to think that many are partial who are insensible of it. For myself, I own, I am on the side of pure christianity, as also of civil and religious liberty; and this for the low as well as the high, for the laity as well as the clergy; I am for leaving every one to the freedom of worshipping according to the light of his conscience; and for extending charity to every one who receives the Gospel as the rule of his faith and life ; I am on the side of meekness, patience, gentleness and innocence ; and I hope, my inclination to these great principles will not bias me to a misrecital of facts; but rather to state them as I really find them for the public benefit. Nor will the nature or design of this work, which is rather a register or collection of matters as described by others, so much admit of partiality, as a proper history where the writer allows himself the freedom of using his own expressions.
In citing Fuller, for the births, ages and characters of persons, I sometimes mean his Abel Redivivus, but otherwise, his Charch History of England. And whereas I observe some mistakes in Mr. Hubbard's History of New England, the reader may consider, that as we have only a copy of that valuable work, the substance whereof I propose to give the public; some of those mistakes may be owing to the transcriber only, and some that learned and ingenious author fell into for want of Governor Bradford's History, and some other materials which I happen to be favored with.
In short, I cite my vouchers to every passage, and I have done my utmost first to find out the truth, and then to relate it in the order. I have labored after accuracy, and yet I dare not say, that I am without mistake ; nor do I desire the reader to conceal any he may possibly find. But on the contrary, I offer this work to the public view, that it may be perused with the most critical eye, that every error may be discovered, and the correction published in the following volume, which I hope will not be long a composing, having passed through the much greater difficulties in this first, and abstracted many of my materials towards the second.
As an introduction to the New-England Chronology, it may be grateful to many readers, to see the age of the world when this part of the earth came to be known to the other; and the line of time, with the succession of the principal persons, events, and transactions, which had been running on from the creation to the settlement of this country, by a colony from England. And this, I shall briefly show, under the following articles
; which seem to me, the most clear and natural heads, or successive periods of Chronology ; especially for an English reader.
1. The Scripture patriarchs. II. The judges of Israel. III. The kings of Judah. IV. The Babylonian, Persian, Grecian and Egyptian monarchs. V. The Roman Empe
VI. The Greek Emperors. VII. The kings of England. 1. From Egbert, the first king of England, to the first discovery of the new world, by Christopher Columbus. 2. From thence to the discovery of New-England, and death of queen Elizabeth.
And that I may crowd the more matter in a little room, I shall make use of the following plain, and easy characters, for words and sentences that may very frequently occur in this composure. As,
Y. stands for year; Y. L. for year of life ; Y. R. for year of rule, or reign; Y. W. for year of the world, that is, from the creation of the world ; Y. C. for year of Christ, that is, from the birth of Christ ; b. for at the beginning of the year, either a little before or after ; e. for at the end of the year, either a little before or after ; m. for month ; d. for day;
k. for king.
And the years are supposed to be solar, and nearly complete, that is, either a little more or less; and to begin at the spring, till the entrance of the fourth period ; and then we begin with the Julian year, namely, the first of January. So the Chaldeans, Persians, Armenians, most other eastern nations, and the ancient astronomers who placed Aries, the first of the signs, at the Vernal Equinox ; as also Virgil, Eusebius, Ambrose, Cyril, Austin, Bede, Melancthon, Calvin, Scaliger, Lydiat, Bucholzer, Bunting, Coddoman, Kepler, Krechzem, Mercer, Alsted, Spondan, Capellus, E. Simpson, Langius, (see Lydiat, Alsted, Stauchius) and so Dupin.