As the moment arrives for publishing a portion of the work, I am impressed more strongly than ever with a sense of the grandeur and vastness of the subject; and am ready to charge myself with presumption for venturing on so bold an enterprise. I can find for myself no excuse but in the sincerity with which I have sought to collect truth firom trust-worthy documents and testimony. I have desired to give to the work the interest of authenticity.
I have applied, as I have proceeded, the principles of historical skepticism, and, not allowing myself to grow weary in comparing witnesses, or consulting codes of laws, I lhave endeavored to impart originality to my narrative, by deriving it from writings and sources which were the contemporaries of the events that are described. Where different nations or different parties have been engaged in the same scenes I have not failed to examine their respective reports. Much error had become incorporated with American history.
Many of the early writers in Europe were only careful to explain the physical qualities of the country; and the political institutions of dependent colonies were not thought worthy of exact inquiry. The early history was often written with a carelessness which seized on rumors and vague recollections as sufficient authority for an assertion which satisfied prejudice by wanton perversions, and which, where materials were not at hand, substituted the inferences of the writer for authenticated facts.
These early books have ever since been cited as authorities, and the errors, sometimes repeated even by considerate writers, whose distrust was not excited, have almost acquired a prescriptive right to a place in the annals of America. On these and other points, on which I have differed from received accounts, I appeal with confidence to the judgment of those who are critically acquainted with the sources of our early history.
I have dwelt at considerable length on this first period, because it contains the germ of our institutions. The maturity of the nation is but a continuation of its youth.
The spirit of the colonies demanded freedom from the beginning. It was in this period, that Virginia first asserted the doctrine of popular sovereignty; that the people of Maryland constituted their own government; that New Plymouth, Connecticut, New Haven, New Hampshire, Maine, rested their legislation on the popular will; that Massachusetts declared itself a perfect commonwealth.
In the progress of the work, I have been most liberally aided by the directors of our chief public libraries; especially the library at Cambridge, on American history the richest in the world, has been opened to me as freely as if it had been my own. The arrangement of the materials has been not the least difficult part of my labor. A few topics have been anticipated; a few, reserved for an opportunity where they can be more successfully grouped with other incidents.
To give unity to the account of New Belgium, I reserve the subject for the next volume. For the work which I have undertaken will necessarily extend to several volumes.
The first volume is now published separately; and for a double motive. The work has already occasioned! I have thought that the public would recognize the sincerity of my inqutiries, and that, in those states where the materials of history have as yet been less carefully collected, and less critically compared, I should make for myself friends disposed to assist in placing within my reach the sources of information which are essential to success.
The volume, of which a third edition is now published, has been carefully revised, and several pages rewritten. The expressions of regard and interest which I have received from persons of very opposite relations in speculative and in practical life, cheer me in the continuance of my labor; they cannot increase my sense of the duty of impartiality. Spanish Love of Maritime Adventure, p. Garay, De Ayllon, 36 —Cortes. Condition of England favors Colonization, p.
History of Slavery and the Slave Trade, p. Influence of Calvin, p. Plymouth Monopoly opposed, p. THE United States of America constitute an esseintial portion of a great political system, embracing all the civilized nations of the earth. At a period when the force of moral opinion is rapidly increasing, they have the precedence in the practice and the defence of the equal rights of man. The sovereignty of the people is here a conceded axiom, and the laws, established upon that basis, are cherished with faithful patriotism.
While the nations of Europe aspire after change, our constitution engages the fond admiration of the people, by which it has been established. Prosperity follows the execution of even justice; invention is quickened by the freedom of competition; and labor rewarded with sure and unexampled returns. Domestic peace is maintained without the aid of a military establishment; public sentiment permits the existence of but few standing troops, and those only along the seaboard and VOL.
A gallant navy protects our commerce, which spreads its banners on every sea, and extends its enterprise to every clime. Our diplomatic relations connect us on terms of equality and honest friendship with the chief powers of the world; while we avoid entangling participation in their intrigues, their passions, and their wars.
Our national resources are developed by an earnest culture of the arts of peace Every man may enjoy the fruits of his industry; every mind is free to publish its convictions.
Our government, by its organization, is necessarily identified with the interests of the people, and relies exclusively on their attachment for its durability and support.
Even the enemies of the state, if there are any among us, have liberty to express their opinions undisturbed; and are safely tolerated, where reason is left free to combat their errors. Nor is the constitution a dead letter, unalterably fixed; it has the capacity for improvement; adopting whatever changes time and the public will may require, and safe from decay, so long as that will retains its energy.
New states are forming in the wilderness; canals, intersecting our plains and crossing our highlands, open numerous channels to internal commerce; manufactures prosper along our watercourses; the use of steam on our rivers and rail-roads annihilates distance by the acceleration of speed.
There is no national debt; the community is opulent; the government economical; and the public treasury full. Religion, neither persecuted nor paid by the state, is sustained by the regard for public morals and the convictions of an enlightened faith.
See is safest to follow the oldest, Peter Ramusio, iii. The prospect of gain prompted the next enterprise.
Intelligence is diffused with unparalleled universality; a free press teems with the choicest productions of all nations and ages. There are more daily journals in the United States than in the world beside.
A public document of general interest is, within a month, reproduced in at east a million of copies, and is brought within the reach of every freeman in the country.
An immense concourse of emigrants of the most various lineage is perpetually crowding to our shores; and the principles of liberty, uniting all interests by the operation of equal laws, blend the discordant elements into harmonious union.
Other governments are convulsed by the innovations and reforms of neighboring states; our constitution, fixed in the affections of the people, from whose choice it has sprung, neutralizes the influence of foreign principles, and fearlessly opens an asylum to the virtuous, the unfortunate, and the oppressed of every nation. And yet it is but little more than two centuries, -since the oldest of our states received its first permaaent colony.
Before that time the whole territory was an unproductive waste. Throughout its wide extent the arts had not erected a monument. The axe and the ploughshare were unknown.
The soil, which had been gathering fertility from the repose of centuries, was lavishing its strength in magnificent but useless vegetation. In the view of civilization the immense domain was a solitude.
It is the object of the present work to explain how the change in the condition of our land has been accomplished; and, as the fortunes of a nation are not under the control of blind destiny, to follow the steps by which a favoring Providence, calling our institutions into being, has conducted the country to its present happiness and glory. The national pride of an Icelandic historian has indeed claimed for his ancestors the glory of having discovered the western hemisphere.
It is , said, that they passed from their own island to Green- land, and were driven by adverse winds from Greenland to the shores of Labrador; that the voyage was often repeated; that the coasts of America were ex tensively explored, and colonies established on the shores of Nova Scotia or Newfoundland.
It is even suggested, that these early adventurers anchored near the harbor of Boston, or in the bays of New Jersey; and Danish antiquaries believe that Northmen entered the waters of Rhode Island, inscribed their adventures on the rocks of Taunton River, gave the name of Vinland to the south-east coasts of New England, and explored the inlets of our country as far as Carolina.
But the story of the colonization of America by Northmen, rests on narratives, mythological in form, and obscure in meaning; ancient, yet not contemporary.
Sturleson, whose zealous curiosity could hardly have neglected the discovery of a continent. Imagination had conceived the idea, that vast in-. During his lifetime he met with no adequate recompense. The self-love of the Spanish monarch was offended at receiving from a foreigner in his employ benefits too vast for requital; and the contemporaries of the great navigator persecuted the merit which they could not adequately reward.
Nor had posterity been 1 Antiquitates Americanre, Haf. Schib- New York, i. Humboldt, Examen Critique, ii. Columbus was a native of Genoa. The commerce of the middle ages, conducted chiefly upon the Mediterranean Sea, had enriched the Italian republics, and had been chiefly engrossed by their citizens.
The path for enterprise now lay across the ocean. The states which bordered upon the Atlantic, Spain, Portugal, and England, became competitors for the possession of the New World, and the control of the traffic which its discovery was to call into being; but the nation which, by long and successful experience, had become deservedly celebrated for its skill in navigation, continued for a season to furnish the most able maritime commanders.
Italians had the glory of making the discoveries, from which Italy derived no accessions of wealth or power. In the new career of western adventure, the Amer- ican continent was first discovered under the auspices of June the English, and the coast of the United States by a native1 of England.
In the history of maritime enterprise in the New World, the achievements of John and Sebastian Cabot are, in boldness, success, and results, second only to those of Columbus.
The wars of the houses of York and Lancaster had ceased; tranquillity and thrifty industry had been restored by the prudent 1 History of the Travayles in the " Sebastian Cabot tolde me, that he East and West Indies, by' -R.
England were thronged with Lombard adventurers The fisheries of the north had long tempted the merchants of Bristol to an intercourse with Iceland;l and the nautical skill, necessary to buffet the storms of the Atlantic, had been acquired in this branch of northern commerce.
Nor is it impossible, that some uncertain traditions respecting the remote discoveries which Icelanders had made in Gren;land towards the north-west, " where the lands2 did nearest meet," should have excited " firm and pregnant conjectures. He obtained from that nc nchc a patent,4 emMar.
The passage from c. Cabot, reported in Racausio, Dis- 4 See the patent in Hakluyt, iii. C Islands, countries, provinces, or regions, hitherto unseen cHAP. It was further stipulated in this "most ancient American state paper of England," 1 that the patentees should be strictly bound in their voyages to land at the port of Bristol, and to pay to the king one fifth part of the emoluments of the navigation; while the exclusive right of frequenting all the countries that might be found, was reserved, unconditionally and without limit of time, to the family of the Cabots and their assigns.
Under this patent, containing the worst features of colonial monopoly and commercial restriction, John Cabot 2 and his celebrated son Sebastian, embarked for the west.
Of what tempests they encountered, what mutinies they calmed, no record has been preserved. The discovery of the American continent,3 probably in the latitude of fifty-six degrees, far, therefore, to the north of the Straits of Belle-Isle, among the polar bears, the rude savages, June and the dismal cliffs of Labrador, was the fruit of the voyage.
It has been attempted to deprive the father of the glory of having led the expedition. The surest documentary evidence confirms his claims. He and his son Sebastian first approached the continent, which no European had dared to visit, or had known to exist. The map of Feb. The extract from the map in latitude fifty-six degrees. The of Sebastian Cabot is equally ex- work of Ortelius, in the editions of plicit.
The navigators hastened homewards to announce their success. Thus the discovery of our continent was an Yet the Cabots derived little benefit from the expedition, which their genius had suggested, and of which they alone had defrayed the expense.
Posterity hardly remembered, that they had reached the American continent nearly fourteen months before Columbus, on his third voyage, came in sight of the main land; and almost two years before Amerigo Vespucci sailed west of the Canaries. England acquired through their energy such a right to North America, as this indisputable priority could confer.
Confidence and zeal awakened; and Henry grew circumspect in the concession of rights, which now seemed about to become of immense value.
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