« PrejšnjaNaprej »
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
PREFACE TO VOL. I.
THE following work was commenced several years ago, but the prosecution of it has been repeatedly interrupted by other occupations, by a long absence in Europe, and by occasional derangement of health. It is only within the last two or three years that I have been able to apply myself to it steadily. This is stated to account for the delay in its publication.
The present volume treats of the earlier part of Washington's life previous to the war of the Revolution, giving his expeditions into the wilderness, his campaigns on the frontier in the old French war; and the other "experiences,' by which his character was formed, and he was gradually trained up and prepared for his great destiny.
Though a biography, and of course admitting of familiar anecdote, excursive digressions, and a flexible texture of narrative, yet, for the most part, it is essentially historic. Washington, in fact, had very little private life, but was eminently a public character. All his actions and concerns almost from boyhood were connected with the history of his country. In writing his biography, therefore, I am obliged to take glances over collateral history, as seen from his point of view and influencing his plans, and to narrate distant transactions apparently disconnected with his concerns, but eventually bearing upon the great drama in which he was the principal actor.
I have endeavored to execute my task with candor and fidelity; stating facts on what appeared to be good authority, and avoiding as much as possible all false coloring and exaggeration. My work is founded on the correspondence of Washington, which, in fact, affords the amplest and surest groundwork for his biography. This I have consulted as it exists in manuscript in the archives of the Department of State, to which I have had full and frequent access. I have also made frequent use of " Washington's Writings," as published by Mr. Sparks; a careful collation of many of them with the originals having convinced me of the general correctness of the collection, and the safety with which it may be relied upon for historical purposes; and I am happy to bear this testimony to the essential accuracy of one whom I consider among the greatest benefactors to our national literature; and to whose writings and researches I acknowledge myself largely indebted throughout my work.
PREFACE TO VOL. V.
THE present volume completes a work to which the author had long looked forward as the crowning effort of his literary career.
The idea of writing a life of Washington entered at an early day into his mind. It was especially pressed upon his attention nearly thirty years ago while he was in Europe, by a proposition of the late Mr. Archibald Constable, the eminent publisher of Edinburgh, and he resolved to undertake it as soon as he should return to the United States, and be within reach of the necessary documents. Various circumstances occurred to prevent him from carrying this resolution into prompt effect. It remained, however, a cherished purpose of his heart, which he has at length, though somewhat tardily, accomplished.
The manuscript for the present volume was nearly ready for the press some months since, but the author, by applying himself too closely in his eagerness to finish it, brought on a nervous indisposition, which unfitted him for a time for the irksome but indispensable task of revision. In this he has been kindly assisted by his nephew, Pierre Munro Irving, who had previously aided him in the course of his necessary researches, and who now carefully collated the manuscript with the works, letters, and inedited documents from which the facts had been derived. He has likewise had the kindness to superintend the printing of the volume, and the correction of the proof sheets. Thus aided, the author is enabled to lay the volume before the public.
How far this, the last labor of his pen, may meet with general acceptation is with him a matter of hope rather than of confidence. He is conscious of his own short-comings and of the splendid achievements of oratory of which the character of Washington has recently been made the theme. Grateful, however, for the kindly disposition which has greeted each successive volume, and with a profound sense of the indulgence he has experienced from the public through a long literary career, now extending through more than half a century, he resigns his last volume to its fate, with a feeling of satisfaction that he has at length reached the close of his task, and with the comforting assurance that it has been with him a labor of love, and as such has to a certain degree carried with it its own reward.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
(From the original in possession of H. E. Pierrepont,
Esq.. Brooklyn, N.Y.).............
MONUMENT TO WASHINGTON AT RICHMOND, VA.
drawing (after a photograph) made for this work. By J. W. Ehninger, Esq..
SITE OF WASHINGTON'S BIRTHPLACE.
WASHINGTON, PATRICK HENRY, and PENDLETON, going to the
NEW YORK IN 1768. (From the rear of Col. Rutger's House).