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Account of American Editions of Fo-
reign Publications

Art. IV.

The History of America, Books IX.
and X. Containing the History of
Virginia to the Year 1688, and of
Connecticut to the Year 1652. By
William Robertson, D. D. &c.
8vo. pp. 196. Philadelphia. J
Humphreys. 1799.

The subject of this book, and
the name of the writer, will
not fail to excite attention in Ame-
rican readers. The history of our
native country will always deserve
to be of chief moment in our eyes;
and the discussion of this subject
by the most eloquent historian of
modern times, cannot fail to afford
us uncommon gratification.

Some regret must arise, on ob-
serving the short term to which
this performance is limited. The
narrative of the causes and incidents
of the revolution, by such a pen,
would have been inestimable. Er-
roneous statements and conclusions
might have been expected; but
these blemishes are inseparable from
the works of man, and would have
been amply compensated by gene-
ral adherence to truth, by judicious
selection and arrangement, and by
the charms of perspicuity and ele-

But in deploring the want of a
more ample story, we must not
underrate the value of that which
we possess. Of the various periods
in American history, that of the
original colonization of these shores
is, in many respects, of more im-
portance than the revolutionary pe-
riod; and, among all the States, the
birth of those of Virginia and New-
England is most worthy to be

The colonization of Virginia is
first discussed. This event is a co-

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pious fund of speculation to moral
and political reasoners. Its true
causes are pointed out by this wri-
ter with his usual penetration; and
are shown to be the spirit of emu-
lation in the government of Eng-
land, excited by the glory acquired
in this career by the Spaniards; the
passion for adventure, and the thirst
of gain in the English subjects, pro-
voked by the example of the
wealth suddenly acquired by their

It is common for the greatest and
most excellent effects to flow from
the meanest and most trivial causes.
The settlement of North-America
is, in its consequence, the greatest
event in the history of mankind;
and yet it arose from the most per-
verse habits, and most sordid pas-
sions incident to man. Columbus
aimed only to open a new road for
the passage of nutmegs and pepper
from Malabar to Europe. Cabot
was impelled by the same views;
by that petty emulation which sub-
sisted between Venice and Genoa,
and by the desire of enriching him-
self and his children. The English
princes acted for the sake of glory;
and Willoughby, Frobesher, Drake,
Gilbert, Ralegh, and Greenville,
from a restless and adventrous spirit,
and the ambition of eclipsing Ga-
ma, Cortez, and Pizarro. The end
was much the same; they would
not have scrupled to employ the
same means, but a different scene
was reserved for their exploits; and
avarice and cruelty were either
frustrated, or limited to a narrower

The founders of Virginia were,
for the most part, the refuse of their
country, banished by their vices, or
allured by their avarice to the New
World, where they sifted the sands
for gold, quarrelled and tormented
each other, massacred the natives,
or perished with famine. In time
they learned the necessity of subor-
dination and industry, and laid the

foundation of the present state of
things. The birth of this State was
attended with painful and long pro-
tracted throes, and constitutes a di-
versified and humiliating tale.

New-England forms a consider-
able contrast to Virginia. The
differences which, at present, sub-
sist between the political and eco-
nomical condition of the two coun-
tries, are not greater than those
which distinguished their origin.
The discovery and name of New-
England were, indeed, the fruits
of the national and commercial spirit
of the English, but its colonization
was owing to an higher principle.
The origin, progress, and effects
of this principle, are deduced by this
writer, with a succinctness, com-
prehensiveness, and perspicuity that
cannot fail to give delight to the in-
telligent reader. Indeed, it is in
the exhibition and deduction of ge-
neral causes that Robertson emi-
nently excells. Luxuriance of style
and eloquence of narration are
common and trivial attributes, in
comparison with the statement of
wide-spread, yet latent; of slow, yet
incessant revolutions, in opinion and

The changes of religion at the
æra of the reformation were of
two kinds; and were greater or less
deviations from the ancient model,
according as the interest of the
prince dictated. England, during
several reigns, seemed to fluctuate
between the different forms of Ro-
man, Lutheran, and Calvinistic;
but after touching the two extremes
under Mary and Cromwell, finally
subsided into something which re-
ceded less, in its creeds, formalities,
and modes of ecclesiastical govern-
ment, from the papal institutions,
than any which called itself reform-
ed. The dissenters from the ruling
sect were subject to penalties, or
driven into exile: the catholics, at
one time, sought shelter in the wes-
tern deserts from the persecutions

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of Elizabeth and Cromwell; and
the Brownists, at another, betook
themselves to the same means of
safety and repose. The latter sect
were the original emigrants to New-
England. Their ecclesiastical scheme
approached nearer to the ideas of
absolute equality among men, than
any other; and this scheme, con-
trary to ordinary rules, has not es-
sentially degenerated.

Their progress was accompanied
with the usual train of disasters.
Their courage was depressed, and
their numbers thinned by pestilence
and famine. Civil dissension, con-
tention with the claims of the Eng-
lish government, war with the Co-
lonists of France and Holland, and,
lastly, the extermination of the na-
tives, compose the series of their
early history.

Compared with the number of
people, all the evils which afflict
mankind were endured, by these
colonists, in as great a degree as
the history of the world any where
exhibits. These evils are faithful-
ly and circumstantially related by
cotemporary writers, and the judi-
cious recital would benefit mankind
as much as those greater revolutions
which have shaken the nations of
the Old World.

The present narrative is nothing
more than a compendium, the
events of a busy period of twenty-
three years, being comprised in
forty-three scantly pages. This
compendium is replete with proofs
of discernment, and of specimens
of just selection and arrangment.
Hutchinson, Mather, Chalmers, and
Neal, are the authors by whom,
chiefly, his materials are supplied.

One part of this subject, the his-
tory of Connecticut, has been late-
ly discussed, with much copious-
ness, by a writer of our own coun-
try, Dr. Trumbull. It would be
no unprofitable exercise to compare
the works of the two writers, and
to estimate their respective claims

to excellence in reasoning and com-
position. How much it is to be
wished that a third historian would
arise, combining the accuracy and
minuteness of the one with the
rhetoric and judgment of the other!
Perhaps occasion will hereafter be
taken to introduce a parallel between
them. At present we are obliged
to dismiss this work, with com-
mending it to the study of all those
who desire the knowledge of their
native country, who are curious
observers of mankind, or who de-
light in contemplating the produc-
tions of genius and taste.


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