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"FIRST STEPS IN GENERAL HISTORY," FIRST STEPS IN ENGLISH
I was born an American; I will live an American; I shall die an Ameri-
D. LOTHROP AND COMPANY
FRANKLIN STREET, COR, OF HAWLEY
MONG the great events that marked the world's revival
from the sleep of the Dark Ages, none was more remarkable than the revelation of the American continent. From the moment when the ship of Columbus was sighted off the coast of Spain, bearing the proofs of his discovery, the name America became the synonym of wealth, of adventure, of freedom. No tale was too romantic to be believed, if its scene were laid in the New World, and the popular enthusiasm of the Crusades was repeated in the stir and excitement that ensued when the early adventurers prepared to set out on their quests for the Terrestrial Paradise, the Fountain of Youth, and the treasures of gold which were supposed to be in the possession of the savages.
The story of the discovery and exploration of America presents to us, one after another, the deluded searchers after gold, the martyrs who paid for their knowledge of a new continent with their lives, and the devotees of religion, who earnestly endeavored to carry the Christian faith to a people whose blank heathenism they honestly commiserated. The records of the early settlers have furnished an unfailing source of romantic themes for the poet and the novelist, and now, as we close the fourth century in America's history as a factor in modern civilization, all past predictions of wealth and greatness sink into insignificance in the presence of accomplished facts, and the future of our country looms up before the world in grander proportions and with more commanding promise than ever before.
The name America, which, by accident or mistake, was given to the Western World, fell, in the process of time, to the principal nation on the Continent, and for more than a century, the inhabitants of the United States have been known the world over as the American people.
It is the history of this people that the present volume is interested with. The author desires to tell, in brief, how the country was first settled, what motives incited the adventurers who left European civilization to plant colonies on our shores; how those colonies gradually learned that there was strength in union, and that it was to their credit before the world to be one nation ; how the early fear that a Republican form of government was not adapted to a large country was dissipated, and how the whole land was gradually developed until its present position among the nations was reached.
It is interesting to note how the name America has taken hold upon the people. There has been natural growth in this respect. The colonies of France, Spain, and England, were the “ American" colonies, and as the States which took their places became the chief nation on the continent, they assumed the name American at an early period. The war by which they achieved their independence was always “the” American revolution, and into that struggle the people entered in the spirit of the words of Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, uttered in 1765, “ There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker, known on the continent, but all of us Americans.” At its close, when Washington addressed the Governors of the different States to urge upon them the formation of an “indissoluble union," he referred to the people as the citizens of America.” In laying down his office at the close of his Presidential terms, he said, “ The name of America, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism."
The reader of the speeches of later statesmen will
remember how this sentiment became a general inheritance, and with what frequency the talismanic name American was used by them to stir the patriotic heart. This is especially exemplified by Webster, who said on one occasion, “I am an American, and I know no locality in America: that is my country;" and again, with even emphasis, “I was born an American; I will live an American ; I shall die an American.”
Never was the sense of nationality so strong in America as at present, and one of the results is seen in the revived interest in the study of all topics connected with our history, no less than in the philosophic spirit in which they are approached. One of the chief difficulties encountered in
preparing a small history of this kind, and one which constantly presents itself, is the question, “What shall be omitted ?" The difference between the various singlevolume histories of America consists largely in the selection of topics, in their arrangement, in the degree in which their statements are self-explanatory, in the underlying and controlling thought, as well as in the political, moral and social bias of the writer.
Special passages have been devoted to the manners and habits of the past, and the work has been illustrated throughout with extracts from letters, diaries, newspapers and other contemporary writings, which enliven the narrative and enable the reader to put himself in sympathy with the people who act in the history as it passes before him. Many of these appear in the form of notes, which are placed for convenient reference at the bottom of the pages to which they refer.
Among the subjects presented with a certain degree of fulness, which have been sometimes slightly considered in single-volume histories of America, are the following, which seem to lie at the foundation of a true conception of the subject.