As things now stand, the course of instruction in American history in our public schools embraces three distinct treatments of the subject. Three separate books are used. First, there is the primary book, which is usually a very condensed narrative with emphasis on biographies and anecdotes. Second, there is the advanced text for the seventh or eighth grade, generally speaking, an expansion of the elementary book by the addition of forty or fifty thousand words. Finally, there is the high school manual. This, too, ordinarily follows the beaten path, giving fuller accounts of the same events and characters. To put it bluntly, we do not assume that our children obtain permanent possessions from their study of history in the lower grades. If mathematicians followed the same method, high school texts on algebra and geometry would include the multiplication table and fractions.
There is, of course, a ready answer to the criticism advanced above. It is that teachers have learned from bitter experience how little history their pupils retain as they pass along the regular route. No teacher of history will deny this. Still it is a standing challenge to existing methods of historical instruction. If the study of history cannot be made truly progressive like the study of mathematics, science, and languages, then the historians assume a grave responsibility in adding their subject to the already overloaded curriculum. If the successive historical texts are only enlarged editions of the first text — more facts, more dates, more words — then history deserves most of the sharp criticism which it is receiving from teachers of science, civics, and economics.
In this condition of affairs we find our justification for offering a new high school text in American history. Our first contribution is one of omission. The time-honored stories of exploration and the biographies of heroes are left out. We frankly hold that, if pupils know little or nothing about Columbus, Cortes, Magellan, or Captain John Smith by the time they reach the high school, it is useless to tell the same stories for perhaps the fourth time. It is worse than useless. It is an offense against the teachers of those subjects that are demonstrated to be progressive in character.
In the next place we have omitted all descriptions of battles. Our reasons for this are simple. The strategy of a campaign or of a single battle is a highly technical, and usually a highly controversial, matter about which experts differ widely. In the field of military and naval operations most writers and teachers of history are mere novices. To dispose of Gettysburg or the Wilderness in ten lines or ten pages is equally absurd to the serious student of military affairs. Any one who compares the ordinary textbook account of a single Civil War campaign with the account given by Ropes, for instance, will ask for no further comment. No youth called upon to serve our country in arms would think of turning to a high school manual for information about the art of warfare. The dramatic scene or episode, so useful in arousing the interest of the immature pupil, seems out of place in a book that deliberately appeals to boys and girls on the very threshold of life’s serious responsibilities.
It is not upon negative features, however, that we rest our case. It is rather upon constructive features.
First. We have written a topical, not a narrative, history. We have tried to set forth the important aspects, problems, and movements of each period, bringing in the narrative rather by way of illustration.
Second. We have emphasized those historical topics which help to explain how our nation has come to be what it is to-day.
Third. We have dwelt fully upon the social and economic aspects of our history, especially in relation to the politics of each period.
Fourth. We have treated the causes and results of wars, the problems of financing and sustaining armed forces, rather than military strategy. These are the subjects which belong to a history for civilians. These are matters which civilians can understand — matters which they must understand, if they are to play well their part in war and peace.
Fifth. By omitting the period of exploration, we have been able to enlarge the treatment of our own time. We have given special attention to the history of those current questions which must form the subject matter of sound instruction in citizenship.
Sixth. We have borne in mind that America, with all her unique characteristics, is a part of a general civilization. Accordingly we have given diplomacy, foreign affairs, world relations, and the reciprocal influences of nations their appropriate place.
Seventh. We have deliberately aimed at standards of maturity. The study of a mere narrative calls mainly for the use of the memory. We have aimed to stimulate habits of analysis, comparison, association, reflection, and generalization — habits calculated to enlarge as well as inform the mind. We have been at great pains to make our text clear, simple, and direct; but we have earnestly sought to stretch the intellects of our readers — to put them upon their mettle. Most of them will receive the last of their formal instruction in the high school. The world will soon expect maturity from them. Their achievements will depend upon the possession of other powers than memory alone. The effectiveness of their citizenship in our republic will be measured by the excellence of their judgment as well as the fullness of their information.
New York City,
February 8, 1921.
“The Nations of the West” (popularly called “The Pioneers”), designed by A. Stirling Calder and modeled by Mr. Calder, F.G.R. Roth, and Leo Lentelli, topped the Arch of the Setting Sun at the Panama-Pacific Exposition held at San Francisco in 1915. Facing the Court of the Universe moves a group of men and women typical of those who have made our civilization. From left to right appear the French-Canadian, the Alaskan, the Latin-American, the German, the Italian, the Anglo-American, and the American Indian, squaw and warrior. In the place of honor in the center of the group, standing between the oxen on the tongue of the prairie schooner, is a figure, beautiful and almost girlish, but strong, dignified, and womanly, the Mother of To-morrow. Above the group rides the Spirit of Enterprise, flanked right and left by the Hopes of the Future in the person of two boys. The group as a whole is beautifully symbolic of the westward march of American civilization.
“The Nations of the West”
The tide of migration that set in toward the shores of North America during the early years of the seventeenth century was but one phase in the restless and eternal movement of mankind upon the surface of the earth. The ancient Greeks flung out their colonies in every direction, westward as far as Gaul, across the Mediterranean, and eastward into Asia Minor, perhaps to the very confines of India. The Romans, supported by their armies and their government, spread their dominion beyond the narrow lands of Italy until it stretched from the heather of Scotland to the sands of Arabia. The Teutonic tribes, from their home beyond the Danube and the Rhine, poured into the empire of the Cæsars and made the beginnings of modern Europe. Of this great sweep of races and empires the settlement of America was merely a part. And it was, moreover, only one aspect of the expansion which finally carried the peoples, the institutions, and the trade of Europe to the very ends of the earth.
In one vital point, it must be noted, American colonization differed from that of the ancients. The Greeks usually carried with them affection for the government they left behind and sacred fire from the altar of the parent city; but thousands of the immigrants who came to America disliked the state and disowned the church of the mother country. They established compacts of government for themselves and set up altars of their own. They sought not only new soil to till but also political and religious liberty for themselves and their children.
It was no light matter for the English to cross three thousand miles of water and found homes in the American wilderness at the opening of the seventeenth century. Ships, tools, and supplies called for huge outlays of money. Stores had to be furnished in quantities sufficient to sustain the life of the settlers until they could gather harvests of their own. Artisans and laborers of skill and industry had to be induced to risk the hazards of the new world. Soldiers were required for defense and mariners for the exploration of inland waters. Leaders of good judgment, adept in managing men, had to be discovered. Altogether such an enterprise demanded capital larger than the ordinary merchant or gentleman could amass and involved risks more imminent than he dared to assume. Though in later days, after initial tests had been made, wealthy proprietors were able to establish colonies on their own account, it was the corporation that furnished the capital and leadership in the beginning.
The Trading Company. — English pioneers in exploration found an instrument for colonization in companies of merchant adventurers, which had long been employed in carrying on commerce with foreign countries. Such a corporation was composed of many persons of different ranks of society — noblemen, merchants, and gentlemen — who banded together for a particular undertaking, each contributing a sum of money and sharing in the profits of the venture. It was organized under royal authority; it received its charter, its grant of land, and its trading privileges from the king and carried on its operations under his supervision and control. The charter named all the persons originally included in the corporation and gave them certain powers in the management of its affairs, including the right to admit new members. The company was in fact a little government set up by the king. When the members of the corporation remained in England, as in the case of the Virginia Company, they operated through agents sent to the colony. When they came over the seas themselves and settled in America, as in the case of Massachusetts, they became the direct government of the country they possessed. The stockholders in that instance became the voters and the governor, the chief magistrate.
John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company
Four of the thirteen colonies in America owed their origins to the trading corporation. It was the London Company, created by King James I, in 1606, that laid during the following year the foundations of Virginia at Jamestown. It was under the auspices of their West India Company, chartered in 1621, that the Dutch planted the settlements of the New Netherland in the valley of the Hudson. The founders of Massachusetts were Puritan leaders and men of affairs whom King Charles I incorporated in 1629 under the title: “The governor and company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.” In this case the law did but incorporate a group drawn together by religious ties. “We must be knit together as one man,” wrote John Winthrop, the first Puritan governor in America. Far to the south, on the banks of the Delaware River, a Swedish commercial company in 1638 made the beginnings of a settlement, christened New Sweden; it was destined to pass under the rule of the Dutch, and finally under the rule of William Penn as the proprietary colony of Delaware.
In a certain sense, Georgia may be included among the “company colonies.” It was, however, originally conceived by the moving spirit, James Oglethorpe, as an asylum for poor men, especially those imprisoned for debt. To realize this humane purpose, he secured from King George II, in 1732, a royal charter uniting several gentlemen, including himself, into “one body politic and corporate,” known as the “Trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America.” In the structure of their organization and their methods of government, the trustees did not differ materially from the regular companies created for trade and colonization. Though their purposes were benevolent, their transactions had to be under the forms of law and according to the rules of business.
The Religious Congregation. — A second agency which figured largely in the settlement of America was the religious brotherhood, or congregation, of men and women brought together in the bonds of a common religious faith. By one of the strange fortunes of history, this institution, founded in the early days of Christianity, proved to be a potent force in the origin and growth of self-government in a land far away from Galilee. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul,” we are told in the Acts describing the Church at Jerusalem. “We are knit together as a body in a most sacred covenant of the Lord ... by virtue of which we hold ourselves strictly tied to all care of each other’s good and of the whole,” wrote John Robinson, a leader among the Pilgrims who founded their tiny colony of Plymouth in 1620. The Mayflower Compact, so famous in American history, was but a written and signed agreement, incorporating the spirit of obedience to the common good, which served as a guide to self-government until Plymouth was annexed to Massachusetts in 1691.
The Original Grants
Three other colonies, all of which retained their identity until the eve of the American Revolution, likewise sprang directly from the congregations of the faithful: Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, mainly offshoots from Massachusetts. They were founded by small bodies of men and women, “united in solemn covenants with the Lord,” who planted their settlements in the wilderness. Not until many a year after Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson conducted their followers to the Narragansett country was Rhode Island granted a charter of incorporation (1663) by the crown. Not until long after the congregation of Thomas Hooker from Newtown blazed the way into the Connecticut River Valley did the king of England give Connecticut a charter of its own (1662) and a place among the colonies. Half a century elapsed before the towns laid out beyond the Merrimac River by emigrants from Massachusetts were formed into the royal province of New Hampshire in 1679.
Even when Connecticut was chartered, the parchment and sealing wax of the royal lawyers did but confirm rights and habits of self-government and obedience to law previously established by the congregations. The towns of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield had long lived happily under their “Fundamental Orders” drawn up by themselves in 1639; so had the settlers dwelt peacefully at New Haven under their “Fundamental Articles” drafted in the same year. The pioneers on the Connecticut shore had no difficulty in agreeing that “the Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men.”
The Proprietor. — A third and very important colonial agency was the proprietor, or proprietary. As the name, associated with the word “property,” implies, the proprietor was a person to whom the king granted property in lands in North America to have, hold, use, and enjoy for his own benefit and profit, with the right to hand the estate down to his heirs in perpetual succession. The proprietor was a rich and powerful person, prepared to furnish or secure the capital, collect the ships, supply the stores, and assemble the settlers necessary to found and sustain a plantation beyond the seas. Sometimes the proprietor worked alone. Sometimes two or more were associated like partners in the common undertaking.
William Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania
Five colonies, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Carolinas, owe their formal origins, though not always their first settlements, nor in most cases their prosperity, to the proprietary system. Maryland, established in 1634 under a Catholic nobleman, Lord Baltimore, and blessed with religious toleration by the act of 1649, flourished under the mild rule of proprietors until it became a state in the American union. New Jersey, beginning its career under two proprietors, Berkeley and Carteret, in 1664, passed under the direct government of the crown in 1702. Pennsylvania was, in a very large measure, the product of the generous spirit and tireless labors of its first proprietor, the leader of the Friends, William Penn, to whom it was granted in 1681 and in whose family it remained until 1776. The two Carolinas were first organized as one colony in 1663 under the government and patronage of eight proprietors, including Lord Clarendon; but after more than half a century both became royal provinces governed by the king.
The English. — In leadership and origin the thirteen colonies, except New York and Delaware, were English. During the early days of all, save these two, the main, if not the sole, current of immigration was from England. The colonists came from every walk of life. They were men, women, and children of “all sorts and conditions.” The major portion were yeomen, or small land owners, farm laborers, and artisans. With them were merchants and gentlemen who brought their stocks of goods or their fortunes to the New World. Scholars came from Oxford and Cambridge to preach the gospel or to teach. Now and then the son of an English nobleman left his baronial hall behind and cast his lot with America. The people represented every religious faith — members of the Established Church of England; Puritans who had labored to reform that church; Separatists, Baptists, and Friends, who had left it altogether; and Catholics, who clung to the religion of their fathers.
New England was almost purely English. During the years between 1629 and 1640, the period of arbitrary Stuart government, about twenty thousand Puritans emigrated to America, settling in the colonies of the far North. Although minor additions were made from time to time, the greater portion of the New England people sprang from this original stock. Virginia, too, for a long time drew nearly all her immigrants from England alone. Not until the eve of the Revolution did other nationalities, mainly the Scotch-Irish and Germans, rival the English in numbers.
The populations of later English colonies — the Carolinas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia — while receiving a steady stream of immigration from England, were constantly augmented by wanderers from the older settlements. New York was invaded by Puritans from New England in such numbers as to cause the Anglican clergymen there to lament that “free thinking spreads almost as fast as the Church.” North Carolina was first settled toward the northern border by immigrants from Virginia. Some of the North Carolinians, particularly the Quakers, came all the way from New England, tarrying in Virginia only long enough to learn how little they were wanted in that Anglican colony.
The Scotch-Irish. — Next to the English in numbers and influence were the Scotch-Irish, Presbyterians in belief, English in tongue. Both religious and economic reasons sent them across the sea. Their Scotch ancestors, in the days of Cromwell, had settled in the north of Ireland whence the native Irish had been driven by the conqueror’s sword. There the Scotch nourished for many years enjoying in peace their own form of religion and growing prosperous in the manufacture of fine linen and woolen cloth. Then the blow fell. Toward the end of the seventeenth century their religious worship was put under the ban and the export of their cloth was forbidden by the English Parliament. Within two decades twenty thousand Scotch-Irish left Ulster alone, for America; and all during the eighteenth century the migration continued to be heavy. Although no exact record was kept, it is reckoned that the Scotch-Irish and the Scotch who came directly from Scotland, composed one-sixth of the entire American population on the eve of the Revolution.
Settlements of German and Scotch-Irish Immigrants
These newcomers in America made their homes chiefly in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Coming late upon the scene, they found much of the land immediately upon the seaboard already taken up. For this reason most of them became frontier people settling the interior and upland regions. There they cleared the land, laid out their small farms, and worked as “sturdy yeomen on the soil,” hardy, industrious, and independent in spirit, sharing neither the luxuries of the rich planters nor the easy life of the leisurely merchants. To their agriculture they added woolen and linen manufactures, which, flourishing in the supple fingers of their tireless women, made heavy inroads upon the trade of the English merchants in the colonies. Of their labors a poet has sung:
“O, willing hands to toil;
Strong natures tuned to the harvest-song and bound to the kindly soil;
Bold pioneers for the wilderness, defenders in the field.”
The Germans. — Third among the colonists in order of numerical importance were the Germans. From the very beginning, they appeared in colonial records. A number of the artisans and carpenters in the first Jamestown colony were of German descent. Peter Minuit, the famous governor of New Motherland, was a German from Wesel on the Rhine, and Jacob Leisler, leader of a popular uprising against the provincial administration of New York, was a German from Frankfort-on-Main. The wholesale migration of Germans began with the founding of Pennsylvania. Penn was diligent in searching for thrifty farmers to cultivate his lands and he made a special effort to attract peasants from the Rhine country. A great association, known as the Frankfort Company, bought more than twenty thousand acres from him and in 1684 established a center at Germantown for the distribution of German immigrants. In old New York, Rhinebeck-on-the-Hudson became a similar center for distribution. All the way from Maine to Georgia inducements were offered to the German farmers and in nearly every colony were to be found, in time, German settlements. In fact the migration became so large that German princes were frightened at the loss of so many subjects and England was alarmed by the influx of foreigners into her overseas dominions. Yet nothing could stop the movement. By the end of the colonial period, the number of Germans had risen to more than two hundred thousand.
The majority of them were Protestants from the Rhine region, and South Germany. Wars, religious controversies, oppression, and poverty drove them forth to America. Though most of them were farmers, there were also among them skilled artisans who contributed to the rapid growth of industries in Pennsylvania. Their iron, glass, paper, and woolen mills, dotted here and there among the thickly settled regions, added to the wealth and independence of the province.
A Glimpse of Old Germantown
Unlike the Scotch-Irish, the Germans did not speak the language of the original colonists or mingle freely with them. They kept to themselves, built their own schools, founded their own newspapers, and published their own books. Their clannish habits often irritated their neighbors and led to occasional agitations against “foreigners.” However, no serious collisions seem to have occurred; and in the days of the Revolution, German soldiers from Pennsylvania fought in the patriot armies side by side with soldiers from the English and Scotch-Irish sections.
Other Nationalities. — Though the English, the Scotch-Irish, and the Germans made up the bulk of the colonial population, there were other racial strains as well, varying in numerical importance but contributing their share to colonial life.
From France came the Huguenots fleeing from the decree of the king which inflicted terrible penalties upon Protestants.
From “Old Ireland” came thousands of native Irish, Celtic in race and Catholic in religion. Like their Scotch-Irish neighbors to the north, they revered neither the government nor the church of England imposed upon them by the sword. How many came we do not know, but shipping records of the colonial period show that boatload after boatload left the southern and eastern shores of Ireland for the New World. Undoubtedly thousands of their passengers were Irish of the native stock. This surmise is well sustained by the constant appearance of Celtic names in the records of various colonies.
Old Dutch Fort and English Church near Albany
The Jews, then as ever engaged in their age-long battle for religious and economic toleration, found in the American colonies, not complete liberty, but certainly more freedom than they enjoyed in England, France, Spain, or Portugal. The English law did not actually recognize their right to live in any of the dominions, but owing to the easy-going habits of the Americans they were allowed to filter into the seaboard towns. The treatment they received there varied. On one occasion the mayor and council of New York forbade them to sell by retail and on another prohibited the exercise of their religious worship. Newport, Philadelphia, and Charleston were more hospitable, and there large Jewish colonies, consisting principally of merchants and their families, flourished in spite of nominal prohibitions of the law.
Though the small Swedish colony in Delaware was quickly submerged beneath the tide of English migration, the Dutch in New York continued to hold their own for more than a hundred years after the English conquest in 1664. At the end of the colonial period over one-half of the 170,000 inhabitants of the province were descendants of the original Dutch — still distinct enough to give a decided cast to the life and manners of New York. Many of them clung as tenaciously to their mother tongue as they did to their capacious farmhouses or their Dutch ovens; but they were slowly losing their identity as the English pressed in beside them to farm and trade.
The melting pot had begun its historic mission.