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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRANÍ
By A. P. T. ELDER.
Rights of translation reserved.
A century of presidential lives is now inwoven with a century of American history. We are now in the centennial decade of our American national existence. We have just celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concor, of Bunker Hill and Bennington, the Declaration of Independence, the evacuation of Boston, the surrender of Cornwallis, the departure of the British from New York, and last, Washington's surrender of his commission. Very soon will come the centennial of the adoption of the constitution, which will close the centennial period of that great series of events, which gave us and the world the American republic. This book is designed to be a celebration of these and related events, all in one, and a rehearsal of the leading events of our country's first century.
It is thought that a double interest will attend the history by having it strung on the string of the presidents' lives, and a double value as well, by making the most of the book biographical as well as historical.
We are drifting away from the great fountains of our national stream, and multitudes of those who live under our institutions know but little of their cost or meaning. The later generations read our history but little, and our foreign population scarcely at all. To remedy this neglect, by putting history into biography and linking biography with the highest official place in the nation, is one of the objects hoped to be secured by this endeavor.
By the great interest that attaches to our presidents, on account of their personal worth as well as high position, it is hoped to win the attention of the young, first to the fine likenesses presented, and then to the sketches of the lives of our rulers.
As the lives of the presidents so overlap each other, and so many lived contemporaneously, there must be not a little. repetition, which the author has accepted without scruple as necessary to a fair presentation of each life.
The difficulty of reducing the great amount of material in the personal lives and historical relations of the presidents to the narrow limits of a moderate-sized book cannot be realized by any one till he undertakes a similar task.
The difficulty of reconciling the conflicting statements of different biographers and the differences of historians, and of supplying the deficiencies of their information, is greater than can be apprehended till one has had the experience of an effort of this kind.
The author's hope is to so win attention to the history and biography of the country that his readers will get a thirst for the larger works, and will so acquaint themselves with them as to become alive to the principles involved in our government and its history. Few things would be more beneficial than a general re-study of our national history. Patriotism is waning for want of it. G. S. W.
CHICAGO, January 2, 1884.