Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]

WE could not find it in our hearts to leave to an uncertain, and, perhaps, unwelcome reception, the compilation which we here offer to the reader. A preface is a letter of introduction, designed to secure for a work a favorable reception, and too often makes a display of qualities not found in its subject. We shall, therefore, not attempt to accumulate a mass of high sounding epithets, to usher in the approach of our book, nor assert, in the usual style of a preface, that no knowledge is so important to man, as that which we intend to convey.

But we would admonish the young American of the necessity of knowing something more of the subject on which he the most frequently reads and converses. It is not sufficient to know that our government has been alternately administered by federalists and republicans, but it is necessary to learn their difference, from the prominent measures of each administration; and this can be learned only from public documents. It is true that the press teems with political publications, from which it might be supposed that the people could obtain the requisite information. But it is to be remembered, that most of these exhibitions of political faith are made by men who have formed their creed, not from the light emitted by the "fathers of our constitution," but from the peculiar circumstances connected with their education and early associations; and how honest soever may be the advocates of different views, it cannot be denied that a more accurate knowledge of the basis of our government can be obtained from the doctrines of those who labored to confirm and strengthen it. All political wisdom was not revealed to the early apostles of American independ

ence, but an accurate estimate of the comparative value of different political truths can be best obtained from a knowledge of the circumstances in which they originated, and of their progress to the present time.

The statistical information in this work has been carefully collected from the most approved authorities, and the necessary corrections in them have been made, wherever typographical errors appeared.

In the lives of the men who were chiefly instrumental in conducting our country through the storm of the revolution, we have endeavored to delineate the peculiar features of their political characters, by a relation of the prominent incidents in their lives, rather than by identifying them with any political party. In this portion of our book, we have exceeded the limits which we prescribed to ourselves in our prospectus, that we might not mar the symmetry of the structure, by omitting any of its parts.

We would, in conclusion, express our gratitude to our friends, for the activity and zeal which they have manifested in extending to us their valuable aid and encouragement.

[ocr errors]




WHEN, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments, long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce

« PreviousContinue »