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articles as he wanted from that market, they have little in them of public or permanent interest. They show the exactness of method, the unceasing industry, the minuteness of detail, and rigid economy, with which he managed all his affairs, and prosecuted every kind of business he undertook. Political reflections, general remarks, and opinions on higher topics, are occasionally introduced, but these are incidental, few, and brief. From this part of the correspondence such selections have been made, as were suited to the objects of the present work.
For many years previous to the revolution, it was Washington's custom to keep a diary of some of the principal incidents, that occurred within his observation. For this purpose he commonly used an almanac, interleaved with blank paper, and bound in a small volume. He made daily entrances under three heads, namely, first,“ Where, how, or with whom, my time is spent ; secondly, “ Account of the Weather ;” thirdly, “Remarks and Observations." He was a careful observer of the weather, and almost every night recorded the aspect of the heavens during the preceding day, whether cloudy or fair, the direction of the winds, and temperature. Whenever he left home he carried the interleaved almanac in his pocket, as also another little book, in which he entered daily the amount of money paid out by him, and the specific objects for which it was paid. This habit ceased during the revolution, but was renewed afterwards. The contents of his diary turned chiefly on agricultural operations and other business concerns. These volumes, kept for a series of years,
afford some biographical materials not destitute of interest.
It has been a task of some difficulty to determine what general principles should be adopted, in selecting the parts for publication from the whole body of papers left by Washington. In the first place, the mass of manuscripts, which extends to eighty volumes, consisting chiefly of letters, is so large as to preclude the idea of publishing more than a comparatively small portion. Again, from the nature of the correspondence, being mostly official, and many of the letters having been written to different persons on the same subject, there are necessarily frequent repetitions, and numerous particulars constantly intervening, which, though essential at the time in the transactions to which they relate, have no longer any interest or moment. Of this description are the innumerable details incident to the subordinate arrangements of an army, such as supplies, provisions, clothing, camp equipage, arms, ammunition, and other points of minor consideration, which engaged the incessant care of the commander-in-chief, and entered largely into his correspondence even with Congress and the highest officers both civil and military. To print all the materials of this kind would not only be useless in itself, but would add so much to the size and expense of the work, as, at the same time to make it cumbersome and unattractive to readers, and raise its cost above the means of many individuals, who may wish to possess these personal records and authentic memorials of the acts, opinions, and character of the father of his country.
Under these circumstances I have endeavoured to pursue such a course, as would the most effectually attain the object to be desired, in bringing these papers before the public; namely, to exhibit the writings of Washington in a manner, that will render strict justice to the imperishable name of their author, and contribute the greatest advantage to his countrymen, both at the present time and in future ages. For this purpose I have laid down two rules, which I have labored to follow with as much discrimination as possible; first, to select such parts, as have a permanent value on account of the historical facts which they contain, whether in relation to actual events, or to the political designs and operations in which Washington was a leading or conspicuous agent; secondly, to comprise such other parts, as contain the views, opinions, counsels, and reflections of the writer on all kinds of topics, showing thereby the structure of his mind, its powers and resources, and the strong and varied points of his character. Upon this plan it has been my study to go carefully through the manuscripts, without regard to what has heretofore been made public, and gather from the whole, and combine into one body, the portions most important for their intrinsic value and historical characteristics; so that the work, in its complete form, may be a depository of all the writings of Washington, which it is essential to preserve, either as illustrating his political and private life, or the history of his country during the long and brilliant period of his public career.
According to this plan, when a letter throughout bears the features above described, it will be printed entire, as will in every case the addresses, speeches, messages, circulars, and other state papers, issued by him from time to time. But many of the letters, both in the public and private correspondence, for the reasons already assigned, will necessarily be printed with omissions of unimportant passages, relating chiefly to topics or facts evanescent in their nature, and temporary in their design. Special care will be taken, nevertheless, in all such omissions, that the sense shall not be marred, nor the meaning of the writer in any manner perverted or obscured. Nor is this difficult, because the omitted passages usually treat upon separate and distinct subjects, and may be removed without injury to the remaining portions of the letter.
It ought to be premised here, that, in preparing the manuscripts for the press, I have been obliged sometimes to use a latitude of discretion, rendered unavoidable by the mode in which the papers have been preserved. They are uniformly copied into volumes, and this task appears to have been performed, except in the revolutionary correspondence, by incompetent or very careless transcribers. Gross blunders constantly occur, which not unfrequently destroy the sense, and which never could have existed in the original drafts. In these cases I have of course considered it a duty, appertaining to the function of a faithful editor, to hazard such corrections as the construction of the sentence manifestly warranted, or a cool judgment dictated. On some occasions the writer himself, through haste or inadvertence, may have fallen into an awkward use of words, faults of grammar, or inaccuracies of style, and when such occur from this source, I have equally felt bound to correct them. It would be an act of unpardonable injustice to any author, after his death, to bring forth compositions, and particularly letters, written with no design to their publication, and commit them to the press without previously subjecting them to a careful revision. This exercise of an editor's duty, however, I have thought it allowable to extend only to verbal and grammatical mistakes or inaccuracies, maintaining a scrupulous caution that the author's meaning and purpose should thereby in no degree be changed or affected.
As this work is intended to be strictly a collection of Washington's writings, it is deemed unadvisable to encumber it with notes and foreign matter, any further than is requisite to explain and properly illustrate the text. The notes will for the most part be short, historical, and explanatory, touching only on particulars relevant to the subject in hand. There will be an Appendix at the end of each volume for topics, which may demand additional inquiry or investigation, and also for original materials not suited to the body of the work.
Should the notes in this First Part seem to trespass on the rule of brevity, an apology may be found in the fact, that the history of the events upon which they have a bearing is but little known, and that hardly any of the letters to which they are attached have hitherto been published. Some new matter is thrown into the Appendix, claiming a place there, as containing biographical sketches of Washington's early years, elucidating the transactions of his first campaigns, and, above all, vindicating him from a charge, which the French historians have wrongfully perpetuated as a spot on the brightness of his fame.