INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME VII.
of invigorating, only enervates the reader. Such history is the record of petty things and sensational incidents, not one of which is worthy of record save in so far as it illustrates the larger and silent contention which is going on throughout the civilized world.
This statement applies with peculiar force to American citizenship at the present day. The American citizen sees around him a vast and growing society. He thinks that the mere massing and augmentation of human forces in the United States signify greatness and perpetuity. He watches the contention between the upper and the under man with the same interest which he feels in the contest of two wrestlers on the stage. ' He does not reflect upon the result which is certain to ensue from the victory of the one or the other of the contestants. He is satisfied to have been interested with the fight and to be able to talk it over with others who neither know nor care for anything but the fight itself.
Through all the processes of society the same thing may be witnessed. From the smallest contention of the local neighborhood the lawsuit of a farmer with the magnate of a township who is carrying a new road from his own plantation through the farmer's field to the post officeall the way upward to the presidential election, the interest turns evermore upon the inconsequential question, What is it? and never upon the all-important question, What does it signify?
The current history of the United States, and indeed of all countries, in order to be valuable, must interpret the event into its meaning. Such interpretation may not sat- isfy the journalistic passions of the day, but without it there can be no history. It is true that such interpretation will traverse and perhaps offend a thousand prejudices. The political predilections, the economic tradi- tions, the social superstitions, indeed the whole form and body of the time, may be roused by even the smallest administration of truth.
This method abbreviates not a little the pro- longed and inane narrative of current facts. It takes out the essential principle and heart of things, and briefly delineates only what is vitalto the end that the reader, as well as the beholder, shall be able to discern the nature of what is done.