« PreviousContinue »
THE COURSE OF AMERICAN HISTORY
[Address by Woodrow Wilson, historian, essayist, professor of jurisprudence and politics in Princeton University since 1890 (born in Staunton, Va., December 28, 1856; -), delivered before the New Jersey Historical Society.]
GENTLEMEN :-In the field of history, learning should be deemed to stand among the people and in the midst of life. Its function there is not one of pride merely: to make complaisant record of deeds honorably done and plans nobly executed in the past. It has also a function of guidance: to build high places whereon to plant the clear and flaming lights of experience, that they may shine alike upon the roads already traveled and upon the paths not yet attempted. The historian is also a sort of prophet. Our memories direct us. They give us knowledge of our character, alike in its strength and in its weakness; and it is so we get our standards for endeavor,-our warnings and our gleams of hope. It is thus we learn what manner of nation we are of, and divine what manner of people we should be.
And this is not in national records merely. Local history is the ultimate substance of national history. There could be no epics were pastorals not also true,-no patriotism, were there no homes, no neighbors, no quiet round of civic duty; and I, for my part, do not wonder that scholarly men have been found not a few who, though they might have shone upon a larger field, where all eyes would have seen them win their fame, yet chose to pore all Copyright, 1896, by Woodrow Wilson. By special permission of the author and his
publishers, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.