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ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by
D. APPLETON & CO.,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.
This volume has grown up in answer to a want experienced in the study of the political history of our country. It aims to bring within the means and easy reference of all classes of persons the chief political and legislative acts of the Government, the formation, history, and practices of the various political organizations which have acted a part in national politics, and the operation of Constitutional Government in the United States.
Under a government where every man is a sovereign, the character and operations of that government cannot be too well or too universally understood. If danger threatens our civil institutions, it arises from a want of requisite information on the part of those who assume the duties and responsibilities of citizen electors, or actual participators in the administration of public affairs. In counteracting any such tendencies, and in disseminating that correct political intelligence which is essential to public prosperity and the preservation of our liberties, it is hoped this work may bear at least an humble part.
In its preparation, a determination to confine it to its present limits has been rigidly adhered to; and the difficulty has been, in traversing the vast field of our political record, rather to determine what could be excluded than what should be admitted. Facts and explanations are condensed into the smallest space consistent with a clear and distinct exposition of the origin and growth of parties, their changes and revolutions, and their position on questions of great national interest.
The controlling purpose has been to render the work strictly historical. In the presentation of dates and principles, the action of Congress and the Executive, the views of eminent statesmen on questions at issue, the formation and position of parties, in addition to the official records of the Government—which have been the principal source of information-a large range of approved and standard authors have been consulted.
The statistical information appended, it is believed, will not be destitute of value. Such as has not been compiled expressly for this work has been drawn from sources entitled to great confidence. The Constitution is a certified copy, and is free from errors, which too commonly exist to
the injury of those who make that instrument a study.
It is possible that errors may be detected in this book; it is hoped, however, that they are of a minor character. No effort has been spared to render it correct and reliable, and, as such, emphatically a Hand-Book of political intelligence for the politician and statesman, and a source of desirable information to the people.
To facilitate reference, in addition to a full index, the topics of greatest interest are so headed as to indicate at once their locality.
With an humble trust that this volume will prove a means of culture, of laying broader and deeper faith in the capacity of the people for self-government, and in fostering a spirit of devotion to the interests of our free institutions, it is respectfully submitted to the public.
CORTLAND, NEW YORK, August, 1859.