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Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Having felt the liveliest interest in the present Government of the United States, almost from the time of its commencement in 1789, I began, some six or seven years since, to prepare materials for its political history. I thought that sufficient time had then elapsed to enable the world to decide on the competency of the American people to self-government, and on the merits of their confederate republic.
It could then be seen whether, in its relations with other States, its course was pacific, liberal, and just; and how far it could bear the burdens and hazards of war, when honorable peace was no longer attainable. The same retrospect might show us the consequences of those political dissensions from which no free people are exempt; teach us whether, in the party struggles for ascendency, the public welfare is sometimes sacrificed or overlooked; whether, when such ascendency is once attained, individuals, as well of the minority as the majority, are still secure in their rights of conscience, of speech, of action, and of property. We might also see whether measures which were not unjust were also wise; whether solid benefits have not been occasionally sacrificed to passion or prejudice, and small immediate
gains suffered to prevail against great permanent advantages.
Such are some of the objects of inquiry which give to history its dignity and utility. These, and such as these, the author's efforts, however inadequate, will aim to elucidate in the following pages. To aid him in the execution of his work, it has been his good fortune to have a personal knowledge of many who bore a conspicuous part in the Revolution, and of nearly all those who were the principal actors in the political dramas which succeeded. In seeking to profit by this advantage, he will endeavor to guard against those biases to which writers of contemporary history are exposed. He does not, indeed, claim to have been free from party prejudices. Such indifference is neither attainable nor desirable. But now that time has cleared away the mists by which political objects were once enshrouded, he trusts that he shall be able to do substantial justice to all parties, and thus, as truth may require, commend what he may have once disparaged, and censure that which he once approved.
The work, as now written, extends to General Harrison's elevation to the Presidency, in 1841. This seemed to the author as far as he could prudently go — at least without obtaining some testimony from public sentiment of his fairness to his contemporaries. The succeeding volumes will be issued as rapidly as is consistent with a careful revision.
Philadelphia, June 10th, 1856,