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'HIS little book is an attempt to do for the study of American
history what the photographer does for the study of art, — to collect a brief series of illustrations which, without including a hundredth part of the whole field, may give examples of the things most important to know. Yet, as no sensible person expects to get a knowledge of art simply from seeing a series of lantern slides, so it is not expected that the history of the United States can be learned from a Source Book, without the intelligent use of a good text-book or narrative history to bring out the connection and to suggest the many great men, large events, and broad movements which in this small collection of reprints have no mention. What I hope is that these brief records may awaken interest in the books from which they came and in the men who wrote them; that a clearer idea of what our ancestors did and thought and suffered may be had from their own writings; that the book may serve as a part of the material necessary for topical study; and, above all, that it may throw a human interest about the necessarily compact and factful statements of text-books.
In making up the texts I have taken some pains to give an objectlesson in the methods of using and citing books, by adopting the severe principles of scientific work in history; in every case I have sought for the earliest authentic edition of printed material ; every omission is indicated by periods (...); the text is reprinted precisely, necessary corrections or glosses being indicated by brackets or in the margin; and to every extract is appended an exact reference to the source from which it came. Acknowledgments of the use of materials are thus in every case made by reference to the editions used; I am under much obligation to the owners of copyright material, who have most fully and generously given their permission to reprint extracts.
The facsimile illustrations are intended to suggest to young people the kind of manuscript and other material with which historians are familiar. For the frontispiece nothing more characteristic of Puritan sentiment, Puritan government, and Puritan hand-writing could be found than the Mayflower Compact of 1620. The two pieces of Continental currency show the rude engraving and printing of the time, as well as the financial devices of the Revolution. Charles Carroll of Carrollton's letter on his fugitive slaves is a rare example of the business-like fashion in which the best planters looked upon their chattels. The extracts from the final Proclamation of Emancipation show Lincoln's characteristic hand-writing, in one of the most famous of the sources of American history.
I make no excuse for reproducing the few documents as exactly as possible; and I make none for printing extracts from books exactly as they appear in the original editions, with any peculiarities of grammar or spelling which now would be errors. In the seventeenth century, and even in the eighteenth, there were as yet no fixed rules on such subjects; and town clerks and other writers often had little book education. Pupils of the age of those for whom this book is intended will not find their own style affected by these obvious deviations from modern usage ; and to reduce the quaint and wandering sentences of our ancestors to order would be like putting Cotton Mather into the silk hat and plain black coat of modern society.
The work of preparation has been interesting to me; I hope the result
may be interesting to those who use it. Though I have chosen extracts which would bring out the two sides of great controversies, I take no other responsibility for the sentiments herein expressed than that of one who introduces a set of living, individual people, who speak for themselves of their lives, their interests, their standards, and their conception of their country's history.
ALBERT BUSHNELL HART. CAMBRIDGE, April 2, 1899.