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A POPULAR HISTORY
THE UNITED STATES,
FIRST DISCOVERY OF THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
OF THE STATES.
PRECEDED BY A SKETCH OF THE PRE-HISTORIC PERIOD AND THE
AGE OF THE MOUND BUILDERS.
WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT
SYDNEY HOWARD GAY.
IF, as is quite possible, there has been some impatience on the part of subscribers to this work to see the second volume, we have not permitted the suspicion of its existence to hurry us in the least. The writing of history is one of the things that is not necessarily well done, because it is done quickly. Rather the converse of that proposition is true, and our readers should thank us that we have not been tempted into haste.
It was not meant by the use of the term “ Popular” in the title of this work to imply — as is so often the case — that this was to be a merely superficial work, — a compilation of other general histories. Its purpose is to commend it, by its method, its treatment, the historical aspects to be presented, to the popular reader, — that large class in this country who seek repose and recreation in general literary culture, but with whom literature is not the business of life. But by no means is it intended to sacrifice to that purpose either accuracy or comprehensiveness ; nor to disregard the approbation of the few, who are learned in history and whose judgment upon a work of this sort is the test of real value, in the attempt to write an entertaining narrative.
There is no short or royal road that leads to such an end. The sources of knowledge are hidden away, in part, in the archives of States ; in the publications of Historical Societies, and the MSS. they have treasured ; in old, scarce, and almost unknown books; in the results of the researches of diligent scholars, both here and in Europe, and in other tongues than our own. True, it is in these mines that all previous historians have delved and toiled, availing theinselves of the labors of others, or making for themselves new discoveries. But it is in later years that these discoveries have been the most valuable and the most interesting; that the accumulation of material has been the most abundant, and the more out of the reach of the general reader. The time had come for an attempt at a fresh history of this country which should garner those treasures scattered over so wide a field.
To this task we have brought, at least, conscientious diligence: we try to gather together the product of all this laborious research and precious knowledge, guarding ourselves at the same time with an equal care against accepting mere novelties because they are new, and may be sensational.
For the rest, we aim not to make a dry record of mere annals, but rather to preserve, wherever it is found, that flavor of romance and adventure, — hitherto so neglected, which belongs to the earlier voyages and settlements; to give a narrative of events that had results, and of the character and institutions of the people who made the events. Many apologies are due to our readers for many shortcomings, – how many none can know so well as we, — but an apology for delay is not one of them. There is an implied promise of thoroughness and care on our part which we do not mean to break by undue haste.
Meanwhile, that there shall be no undue delay, we call to our aid the help of others wherever it can be used. Of the present volume it is proper and pleasant to say that the portion contained in the last four chapters, — relating to the early history of the extreme South and West, which, from its want of connection with the rest of the country at that period, admitted of independent treatment, — is written by the Rev. E. E. Hale. His long and careful study of French and Spanish colonization on this continent is an assurance of how well and faithfully he has continued here in a graver tone those labors of which he has produced some fruit in other books. We have received also most valuable assistance in laborious research, and in the gathering together of much
material, from the Rev. John Weiss and Mr. Edward L. Burlingame; and still further and constant aid from the latter gentleman in help in the selection and arrangement of illustrations, in the preparation of indexes, and much other work, which upon volumes of the size of these is more important than conspicuous.
To the first volume of this History, as well as to this, it is due to say that the oldest living and most distinguished American scholar, whose name it bears, has given to every line — read in proof before printing — the benefit of his careful criticism, his ripe judgment, and his candid discrimination. The title of the work implies that it has passed already a far more rigid censorship, both for its matter and its manner, than any other reader is ever likely to exercise.
SYDNEY HOWARD GAY. West Brighton, Staten Island, May, 1878.