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HISTORY has been filed, “ The evidence
of time-The light of truth-The school of virtue–The depository of events.” It is calculated for the purposes of showing the principles on which states and empires have risen to power, and the errors by which they have fallen into decay, or been totally diffolved : and of pointing out the fatal effects of intestine divisions and civil wars, whether arising from the ambi, tion, weakness, or inattention of princes; or from the mercenary disposition, pride, and false policy of ministers and statesmen; or from mistaken ideas, and the abuse, of government and liberty, It should oblige all, who have performed any distinguished part on the theatre of the world, to appear before us in their proper character; and to render an account of their actions at the tribunal of posterity, as models which ought to be followed, or as examples to be censured and avoided.
The instructions that events afford, are the soul of history; which doubtless ought to be a true relation of real facts during the period it respects. An essential requisite in an historian is the knowledge of the truth; and as in A 2
order to perfection he ought to be superior to every temptation to disguise it, some have said, that " he should have neither country, nor particular religion.” The compiler of the present history can assure the public, that he has paid a sacred regard to truth, conscious of his being answerable to a more awful tribunal than that of the public; and has labored to divest himself of all undue attachment to every person, country, religious name or profession : whenever the reader is inclined to pronounce him partial, let him recollect, that he also is subject to the like human frailty. A regard to truth has oíten reítrained him from the use of strong and florid expressions, that he might not impose upon the reader a pleasing delusion, and lead him into false conceptions of the events undertaken to be related.
The following work is not confined to the conteft between Great Britain and the United States of America, but includes all the other
of the war which originated from that contest.
in the beginning of the first letter, the reader is acquainted with the reaso:s that produced an historical account of the first settlers in the Thirteen Colonies, and of their successors, down to the close of 1771. The insertion of what followed to the commencement of hostilities, was neccísary for the connecting of the two periods.
The form of letters, instead of chapters, is not altogether imaginary, as the author, from his arrival in America in 1770, maintained a correspondence with gentlemen in London, Rotterdam and Paris, answering in general to the prefixed dates.
He apprehended, that by keeping to such form, and making the narrative agree with the moment to which it related, and by introducing the various insertions necessary for the authenticating of facts, a present ideal existence of past events might be produced in the mind, similar to what is felt when a well-executed historical painting is examined. The better to secure this point, feveral parts are written in the present tense. If the author has failed in the execution, it is hoped that the candid reader will admit of the good intention as an apology.
He has kept, as far as he could, to a chronological order. This has necessarily interrupted the narrative of particular parts ; which, though a disappointment to some, may prevent the tediousness that might otherwise have been felt by perfons of a different taste. It may at least serve to prevent or correct the too frequent mistakes of ascribing prior events, partly or wholly to subsequent facts.
The author regrets his not having placed the year at the top of the page, together with the month and day at
the side, earlier than now appears; and also his not having given every European letter the immediate resemblance of being written to him by a correspondent. He flatters himself, that he has in some measure compensated for these and other defects, by the general contents of every letter in each volume prefixed to the same; by a copious index to the whole at the end of the last; and by a collection of maps and plans, about which neither care, nor expence, has been spared to render them valuable.
Struck with the importance of the scenes that were opening upon the world, in the beginning of 1776, he formed an early design of compiling their history, which he made known to the late commander in chief of the American army;
and meeting with the desired encouragement from him, he applied himself to the procuring of the best materials, whether oral, written, or printed. Oral communications were minuted down while fresh in the memory; the written were directed immediately to himself in many instances, in others only imparted : the productions of the European press could not be received with any regularity or certainty during the war, but were improved as they could be obtained.
The United States, in congress assembled, favored him with an inspection of such of their records as could with propriety be submitted to the 9