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Virginia was the earliest settlement made by men of the Anglo-Saxon race upon the soil of America. Her infancy was attended by events which have imparted to her all the interest that the Romance of Real Life can afford. In her very childhood she presented a model of those republican governments, which have since yielded happiness to millions in the Western Hemisphere. And in more mature years she has powerfully contributed, by her statesmen, her precepts, and her example, to give character to the great confederacy of which she is a member. The virtues and the faults, the glory and the shame of the "Old Dominion," have never been without influence upon the whole American Republic.
Her history then deserves to be studied. Several writers have devoted attention to her progress, and some of their works possess merit which ought to have introduced them to general notice. But they have been read by the few and neglected by the many. The Histories of Smith, Beverley, Keith, Stith, Burk, and Campbell, are either entirely out of print, or so nearly so, that they cannot be obtained without much difficulty, and "the young men of Virginia remain more ignorant of the career of their own state, than of that of Greece or Rome."
The author of the volume now offered to the public, was induced, by a sense of his own ignorance, to turn his thoughts to the sources from which might be drawn knowledge concerning his native state. He formed the plan of writing her history in four parts—
Part I. To embrace the period from the Discovery and Settlement of Virginia by Europeans, to the Dissolution of the London Company, in 1624.
Part II. From 1624, to the Peace of Paris, in 1763.
Part III. From 1763 to the Adoption, by Virginia, of the Federal Constitution, in 1788.
Part IV. From 1788 to the present time.
The volume completed, contains the first and second parts, under this arrangement. It is believed that the history of our Revolutionary struggle will most naturally begin with the measures of the English Parliament which were adopted immediately after the Peace of Paris. The remainder of the work may be embraced in another volume, but when it can be completed is, at present, uncertain.
In writing the Colonial History, the author has endeaPREFACE. ix
voured to draw from the purest fountains of light the rays which he has sought to shed upon his subject. Convinced that truth should be the first object of the historian, he has laboured with earnestness in examining, sifting, and comparing the evidence, printed and in manuscript, upon which he has relied. Every material statement of fact has been verified by a reference to the original authority, in order to guide those who may wish to test the accuracy of the work.
In deducing inferences from facts, he has used all freedom, and has depended solely upon his own judgment. To err is human,—nor can the author flatter himself with the hope either that he has avoided error, or that he will escape censure; but conscious of no desire save that of giving an impartial delineation of his subject, he is tempted to hope that candour will find at least as much to approve, as prejudice will seek to condemn.
In preparing this volume, he has been aided by several gentlemen, who have placed within his reach rare books and treasures in manuscript, which were indispensable to his purpose. To these friends he need not now do more than render his thanks. It will not be necessary to name them, inasmuch as, should they read these lines, they will at once recognise his object, and accept his gratitude. To Gen. William H. Richardson, Librarian of Virginia, he is under obligations which he cannot refuse to acknowledge. This gentleman has given him access to the Library of the State, and has permitted him to consult the works there found, as freely as he could have desired. The office of the General Court has also been open to him, and its records have in many cases proved valuable guides in his search for truth.