Slike stranica

probably have been unknown but for the chance finding of a letter of inquiry among the dead man's letters. Important letter-books are still absolutely missing, as well as scrap-books and other illustrative material. It required literally years to resuscitate a part of the papers once so carefully preserved.

How is the public to be educated up to an understanding of the value of historical material? Now and then a collection is rescued from loss or scattering as were the three thousand Jefferson documents recently presented by a descendant of the great Democrat to the Massachusetts Historical Society; but material is perishing every day for lack of intelligent interest in the deeds of our fathers or the memorials of their deeds. One longs for the Mohammedan superstition against destroying the smallest scrap of paper, lest it have written upon it the name of God.

The principal agency for the preservation of papers is the historical societies, whose function will be considered below; but there are several other means of arousing public interest. One is, to set the public schools at work; and a conspicuous example of success is the town of Brookline, Mass., where the pupils of the high school have identified historical sites, have used the unpublished local records, and have even printed some results of their modest investigations. Where there is no such wealth of interesting material as in Brookline, teachers may at least make it a part of their instruction in American history to call the attention of children to the value of manuscript materials, and to encourage their bringing into class for exhibition such interesting letters and papers as they may find in their own family possessions. Sometimes unsuspected treasures will be brought to light, as in the quiet Ohio family in which the head bethought himself of an old land-warrant, which proved to bear a remarkable autograph of President Andrew Jackson.

Local and state commissions, officially appointed, may be very helpful in smelling out forgotten manuscripts; and Massachusetts and Rhode Island have established such commissions, so as to put pressure on the town authorities to preserve their records. Should the interstate archive commission suggested above ever be created, the resident member in each state might eventually become practically such a public conscience himself-with or without official appointment; or he might move public sentiment toward the organization of a record commission.

Manifestly, however, the most effective work in these lines is to Since none has ever be done by a permanent national commission. been created by the government, the American Historical Association in 1895 provided for a body of five persons to be known as

The Historical Manuscripts Commission; and the first volume of the results of their work has appeared in the annual report of the Association for 1896, as a government publication. The energy of the commission is shown not only by this valuable volume, but by its obtaining the right to use the long secluded John C. Calhoun papers, which are to appear in a new volume of the reports. Interest and aid in the work of that commission have been widely secured; what it now needs is the co-operation of local and state societies and the use of more funds than the $500 a year generously voted it by the American Historical Association. The Manuscripts Commission is now at work searching for records of a century or half a century ago; in due time their labors should so affect public sentiment that fifty years hence the historian may find the documents of our own period carefully kept and intelligently opened to his study.

The preservation of historical material will help future writers, but another of the duties of historical students is to work out results. Until about thirty years ago most of the conscious historical writing in this country was either put into elaborate works or into solid articles in periodicals; the monograph was little known. Two influences have since led to keen and intelligent monographic work in the United States: foreign example and the opportunity of publishing in series.

When Charles Kendall Adams in Michigan and Henry Adams in Massachusetts began about the same time in the seventies to introduce the "seminar method" of historical study, they made their students acquainted with the painstaking research in very limited fields which characterizes the German "doctor's dissertations," and they encouraged like study and publication by their students. Then came the influence of the Johns Hopkins Studies, the first systematic collection of such detailed work in America. Some brief historical monographs have also been published from time to time in the periodicals of political science, economics and sociology, and several of the universities have now entered on the issue of formal series of monographs on subjects in American history and government, besides the many individual ventures.

The quality of much of this work is high, and many young American scholars are thus preparing the way for future historians. In several respects, however, monographs are less effective than they ought to be. The first defect is duplication, due to the fact that there is no convenient way of finding out either what has been done or what is being done in the subject which the student may

select; hence he may discover at the end of his labors that his work is superceded before it is ready. It would greatly serve "the cause" if monograph material, including the more elaborate articles in periodicals, were somehow kept catalogued, so that investigators might learn where to look for light and beginners might know what to avoid. Already the professors of American history in some of the large universities have been induced to combine in preparing an annual co-operative list of the doctor's theses now under way.

Another defect is the slowness with which the most serious and startling gulfs are filled. No subject in American constitutional history is so important as the congressional system of government; yet it is only within three years that we have had any systematic account of either the Committee System, the Senate or the Speaker of the House. We have still absolutely no detailed account of the Confederate States of America or of Spanish diplomacy with the United States. There is no monograph on presidential removals from office, or the Seminole war, or President Grant's relations with the Cuban imbroglio. If some historian of weight would only print his list of desiderata, many aspirants for historical reputation would be amazed at the vast amount which remains to be done.

The more important results of monographic work seem readily to find publishers; but there is a body of shorter or more abstruse works for which there is no regular medium. The American Historical Association has sometimes published such work in its Papers or Annual Report-for instance, the recent elaborate account of Proposed Amendments to the Federal Constitution; and many painstaking pieces of work find refuge in little-read publications of local societies; but the country needs to furnish some kind of opportunity for really scholarly works on American history, which are too brief or too detailed for commercial publication. At present recourse in such cases must ordinarily be had to the writer's pocket, or to the publication fund of his university.

A means of stimulating scientific work in history, very familiar in other countries, is the offering of prizes. Many of the colleges have special prize funds; but competition is usually limited to students of that institution. Mr. John C. Ropes has recently set an example of reform by offering a prize for brief monographs in subjects drawn from Napoleon's career, open to students of several universities. What is now needed, however, is an annual national prize, or series of prizes, offered in such a way as to make success a distinguished honor, so that an award may help a man's whole The money value ought to be enough to make it an object, and the circumstances of the award such as to bring the suc


cessful contestant's name and work to the knowledge of those interested in history throughout the country.

One of the fundamental needs of American history is a proper general history of the United States, and the ambitious youth can set before himself no task more important or more difficult. Besides the old-fashioned historians like Bartlett and George Tucker, few writers have essayed the task of setting forth the complete history of their country except in brief and ordinarily juiceless text-books. Bancroft spent fifty years in his attempt to "write a history down to his own time" and stopped fifty years back of the date when he first entered on his labors. The next generation of writers, Parkman, Henry Adams, McMaster, Rhodes, Schouler and the rest, have chosen limited fields. Fame, large royalties and national gratitude will be the meed of him who in two or three compact volumes will set forth a scholarly and yet interesting history of the things that have really told in the life of the nation.

Till this new historian come, furnished with the accuracy of Hildreth, the breadth of view of Bancroft, and the style of Parkman, we may perhaps reach the same end by the co-operative method. To fit together the work of many writers in right perspective is always difficult, and in a brief work almost impossible. Justin Winsor's mighty Narrative and Critical History is a kind of pudding-stone in which the boulders furnished by the writers are set in a matrix of the editor's learning, which circumfuses and permeates the whole mass. A supplementary volume, covering the last hundred years of our history, would be a boon to historical students; but where is there another master-mind like Winsor's? Nevertheless it is worth considering whether the right kind of combined effort might not enlist six or eight specialists in making a National History of the United States, under the auspices of some acknowledged authority.

Besides a general history we need several careful studies of special phases of American history. First of all we lack a constitutional history of the colonial period, in which the variations of English institutions under the conditions of a new life shall be set forth, and the principle of "the survival of the fittest" shall be applied to our present systems of government. We need quite as much a constitutional history of the Revolution which shall discover the real causes of that great division in the English race, and, at the same time, shall clear up the transition from colonial to state and national government. The germs of our present federal system are to be found in the period from 1775 to 1778; and yet none of the general histories of the period really describes either the state or the national governments of that time; and we have only scattered

monographic work. The history of slavery is also still to be written: Von Holst has taken up the political side; but there is room for a dispassionate account of what slavery actually was on the plantation and in the mansion, and how it affected the lives of white men and women. The constitutional side of the Civil War is also to be studied as yet only in brief articles or chapters; we do not know the whole story of the vicissitudes of the constitution in that epoch.

There is a like paucity of the right kind of books on industrial and social life in America. We know what political principles the colonists strove for better than we know what were their moral and business standards. The kinks in the reasoning of our forefathers on such subjects as smuggling, piracy, the slave-trade, and Indian neighbors, are still a puzzle to their descendants. Did the Puritan clergy crack jokes after the Thursday lecture? Did the Pennsylvania German trader water the rum intended for white people? Was the slave-dealer a respected citizen in Georgia? Did the merchant systematically pay his debts to the English manufacturer? Such questions and others more important can be answered only after much delving in colonial archives, much expenditure of gray matter and much wear on modern pens, typewriters and typesetting machines. Land and land-tenure is perhaps the most difficult subject of historical research; yet we really know more about the "hide" and "free and common socage" than about the granting, survey, recording, transfer, quitrents and taxation of colonial land, or the occupation of the West in the early part of our own century. Above all we have no systematic account of the chief concern of millions of our forefathers-their religion. Many are the histories of American churches; nowhere is there an account of religion as a vital, formative force in colonial and federal history. What we need to know about our ancestors, whether English, colonial, or nineteenth-century, is, what did they think was right and wrong in private and public affairs? To give us the means of answering that question is one of the best opportunities open to the coming historian.

Perhaps we cannot expect much further advance in secondary writing till we have better means of reaching the sources and the secondary works already in existence. A boon to every man interested in his country's history would be a discriminating bibliography. To say nothing of the existing single volumes of selected titles, more or less classified, there have been three attempts at American bibliography on a large scale. Sabin's Dictionary of American Bibliography has suffered from the same causes as the French Academy's Dictionnaire: it attempts a task almost impos

« PrethodnaNastavi »