for a full year more, will test to the utmost my power of condensation to conclude the work in another volume of the generous amplitude of this.
My subject naturally divides itself into two parts: I. How we got into the War for the Union; and
II. How we get out of it
. I have respected this division in my east of the present work, and submit this volume as a clear clucidation of the former of these problems, hoping to be at least equally satisfactory in my treatment of the latter.
It is the task of the historian to eliminate from the million facts that seemed important in their day and sphere respectively, the two or three thousand that have an abiding and general interest, presenting these in their due proportions, and with their proper relative emphasis.
Any success in this task must, of course, be comparative and approximate; and no historical work ever was or will be written whereof a well-informed and competent critic might not forcibly say, “Why was this fact stated and that omitted?
Why give a page to this occurrence, and ignore that, which was of at least equal consequence?
Why praise the achievement of A, yet pass over that of B, which was equally meritorious and important?”
But, especially in dealing with events so fresh and recent as those of our great convulsion, must the historian expose himself to such strictures.
Time, with its unerring perspective, reduces every incident to its true proportions; so that we are no longer liable to misconceptions and apprehensions which were once natural and all but universal.
We know, beyond question, that Braddock
's defeat and death before Fort Du Quesne had not the importance which they seemed to wear in the eyes of those who heard of them within the month after their occurrence; that Bunker Hill
, though tactically a defeat, was practically a triumph to the arms of our Revolutionary fathers; that the return of Bonaparte
exerted but little influence over the destinies of Europe
, and that little of questionable beneficence; and that “fillibusterism,” so called, since its first brilliant achievement in wresting Texas
and annexing her to this country, though attempting much, has accomplished very little, toward the diffusion either of Freedom or Slavery.
And so, much that now seems of momentous consequence will doubtless have shrunk, a century hence, to very moderate dimensions, or perhaps been forgotten altogether.
The volume which is to conclude this work cannot, of course, appear till some time after the close of the contest; and I hope to be able to bestow upon it at least double the time that I was at liberty to devote to this.
I shall labor constantly to guard against Mr. Pollard
's chief error — that of supposing that all the heroism, devotedness, humanity, chivalry, evinced in the contest, were displayed on one side; all the cowardice, ferocity, cruelty, rapacity, and general depravity, on the other.
I believe it to be the truth, and as such I shall endeavor to show, that, while this war has been signalized by some deeds disgraceful to human nature, the general behavior of the combatants on either side has been calculated to do honor even to the men who though fearfully misguided, are still our countrymen, and to exalt the prestige of the American
That the issue of this terrible contest may be such as God, in His inscrutable wisdom, shall deem most directly conducive to the progress of our race in knowledge, virtue, liberty, and consequent happiness, is not more the fervent aspiration, than it is the consoling and steadfast faith, of H. G.