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The Middle Period 1817-1858   By: (1844-1931)

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THE MIDDLE PERIOD

THE AMERICAN HISTORY SERIES

THE MIDDLE PERIOD

1817 1858

BY

JOHN W. BURGESS, PH.D., LL.D.

PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, AND DEAN OF THE FACULTY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK

WITH MAPS

NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1910

COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

To the memory of my former teacher, colleague, and friend,

JULIUS HAWLEY SEELYE,

philosopher, theologian, statesman, and educator, this volume is reverently and affectionately inscribed.

PREFACE

There is no more serious and delicate task in literature and morals than that of writing the history of the United States from 1816 to 1860. The periods which precede this may be treated without fear of arousing passion, prejudice, and resentment, and with little danger of being misunderstood. Even the immaculateness of Washington may be attacked without exciting anything worse than a sort of uncomfortable admiration for the reckless courage of the assailant. But when we pass the year 1820, and especially when we approach the year 1860, we find ourselves in a different world. We find ourselves in the midst of the ideas, the motives, and the occurrences which, and of the men who, have, in large degree, produced the animosities, the friendships, and the relations between parties and sections which prevail to day.

Serious and delicate as the task is, however, the time has arrived when it should be undertaken in a thoroughly impartial spirit. The continued misunderstanding between the North and the South is an ever present menace to the welfare of both sections and of the entire nation. It makes it almost impossible to decide any question of our politics upon its merits. It offers an almost insuperable obstacle to the development of a national opinion upon the fundamental principles of our polity. If we would clear up this confusion in the common consciousness, we must do something to dispel this misunderstanding; and I know of no means of accomplishing this, save the rewriting of our history from 1816 to 1860, with an open mind and a willing spirit to see and to represent truth and error, and right and wrong, without regard to the men or the sections in whom or where they may appear.

I am by no means certain that I am able to do this. I am old enough to have been a witness of the great struggle of 1861 65, and to have participated, in a small way, in it. My early years were embittered by the political hatreds which then prevailed. I learned before my majority to regard secession as an abomination, and its chief cause, slavery, as a great evil; and I cannot say that these feelings have been much modified, if any at all, by longer experiences and maturer thought. I have, therefore, undertaken this work with many misgivings.

Keenly conscious of my own prejudices, I have exerted my imagination to the utmost to create a picture in my own mind of the environment of those who held the opposite opinion upon these fundamental subjects, and to appreciate the processes of their reasoning under the influences of their own particular situation. And I have with sedulous care avoided all the histories written immediately after the close of the great contest of arms, and all rehashes of them of later date. In fact I have made it an invariable rule to use no secondary material; that is, no material in which original matter is mingled with somebody's interpretation of its meaning. If, therefore, the facts in my narration are twisted by prejudices and preconceptions, I think I can assure my readers that they have suffered only one twist. I have also endeavored to approach my subject in a reverent spirit, and to deal with the characters who made our history, in this almost tragic period, as serious and sincere men having a most perplexing and momentous problem to solve, a problem not of their own making, but a fatal inheritance from their predecessors.

I have been especially repelled by the flippant superficiality of the foreign critics of this period of our history, and their evident delight in representing the professions and teachings of the "Free Republic" as canting hypocrisy... Continue reading book >>




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