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IT will, perhaps, be expected by the public, that some reason should be assigned for publishing an Introduction to a History without the history itself. The author has to reply in explanation thereof, that his original intention was most certainly to complete the work he had undertaken. As this design of his has been of long standing, and numerous circumstances have intervened so as to interrupt his progress therein, it would afford but little amusement or satisfaction to the reader to peruse a rehearsal of them here in detail. It will be sufficient to mention, that whenever the author's occupation in life would permit his indulgence in any literary pursuit, that of history always presented to him the strongest attractions. But as it is natural for every man to feel an anxiety to know something of the transactions of his own neighbourhood, rather than of those abroad, so an acquaintance with the history of our native country is a more natural object of desire than that of distant nations. A native of the American States, will always feel an interest in the affairs of any one of them. But contracting the circle of his patriotic sensations to a smaller compass, he finds that the individual state, of which he is a citizen, nay indeed the county and neighbourhood of his nativity, will more particularly claim both his affection and his attention. The citizen of Maryland, however, has hitherto in vain inquired for some information relative to the past transactions of his own individual state.
While almost every other state in the Union has had its historian, Maryland, though one of the earliest British colonies, has never yet
had even its first provincial transactions developed to the inquiring reader. Under the influence of these sentiments, the author of this Introduction, about six years past, undertook the task of examining the Provincial Records, at Annapolis, with a view of extracting from them the necessary materials for his design. He soon perceived, that the task of procuring these materials was a much more arduous one than he expected. It was impossible to compile and digest from voluminous books of records, scattered in different offices, where the author would be liable to constant interruptions, any historical work worthy of perusal. He perceived, that he must have either the original books themselves, or full copies of the documents which they contain, in his private apartment, before he could extract from them a recital or narrative of their contents. He takes pleasure, however, in this opportunity of expressing his acknowledgments of the polite attentions and readiness to oblige, which he received from the two gentlemen, who filled the offices of clerk of the Council, and that of the late General Court. But, formidable as the labour of copying was, the author would have readily encountered it, had it not become evident to him, that a residence at Annapolis for a year or two at least, would be necessary for the purpose. Of this his circumstances in life did not at that time permit. He retired, therefore, from his pursuit, with much reluctance, though still cherishing some hope, that it might at some future time be in his power, by a temporary residence at Annapolis, to complete the task he had assigned himself. Before this could be accomplished by him, he received information, that the gentleman, who has obliged the citizens of this state with a most useful work, “ The Landholder's Assistant,” had undertaken also, a History of the state of Maryland. As he has manifested much judgment and abi
lity in the execution of the work already published by him, just mentioned, and as he has all the materials either under his own direction, (being register of the Land-office,) or near at hand to him, the public may expect to be amply gratified with his performance. Should, however, the gentleman just mentioned,* not have undertaken the work, or having undertaken it should have since relinquished it, the author of this volume would think himself authorised to pursue his original intentions.
It might not perhaps be improper in this place to suggest to the legislature of the state, or at least to those members of it who may be competent judges of the utility and importance of a faithful history of their native country, that the written memorials of the state, whence only that history can be extracted, being comprized in a few M$. volumes of which no duplicates exist, even should they fortunately escape an accidental destruction by fire, yet are constantly acted upon by the mouldering hand of time. The curious inquirer, who would wish to know something of the causes and origin of many of our political as well as civil institutions, may soon be told, that these reliques of the doings of our ancestors have been considered as useless rubbish, and no longer exist. Might it not, therefore, be suggested, that as the finances of the state are, as we are told, in a very prosperous situation, and the public have much money to spare, some judicious compiler should be employed to arrange and publish such documents remaining on our provincial or state records as would in any way be necessary to form materials for a faithful compilation of our history? A plan of this kind has already been executed with
respect to the aggregate history of the several states of the Union, by
* Mr. Kilty, the gentleman here alluded to, died since this work has been in the printer's hands.
Mr. Ebenezer Hazard, which, it seems, was undertaken at the instance of the legislature of the United States. One great excellence which the Art of Printing boasts over that of manuscript, is the preservation of historical materials, by the multiplication of copies. If such a number only of the collection proposed was printed, as would be sufficient to deposit a copy in each of the several public offices of every county in the state, their preservation would be satisfactorily secured. Another advantageous result from this might possibly accrue. It is favourable to the cause of truth, that the materials of history should be accessible to all. Under free governments, both the animosity of political parties, and the fanaticism or bigotry of religious sects are well known to be peculiarly prevalent. It is not enough, that the historian of such governments should have talents for declamation, and should have attained to celebrity in the senate or the forum. He should be one who has accustomed himself to view the scrambles of parties and the prejudices of sects“ in the calm lights of mild philosophy.” How has the once elevated character of Fox, the English Demosthenes, faded from its former lustre, by one little feeble historical effort—the emanation of partyfeelings, while that of the diffident and retired Hume rises daily in importance, and bids fair to be immortal. Besides, the same facts may present themselves to different writers in different points of view. One may state some circumstances attending a transaction, which throw much light on it, while others may omit the same, considering them as immaterial to the purpose. A variety of historians, therefore, contributes much to the preservation of historical truth. Thus a modern historian is enabled at this day to present to the world a more perfect history of Rome, than that of either Livy or Tacitus.