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This faithful historian also possessed another needed trait, that of perceiving that real history cannot be written save by the comparative method. To understand aright the record of English doings in the New World, some consideration of the history of Old England, and of the world in general, was needed. Therefore, we have his weighty introduction of eighty-four pages, from Adam to King James I. · In this introduction a very compact arrangement by tables is presented, and the necessary explanations are given in foot-notes. The connection between Christian and secular history, and between Continental and English, is carefully shown ; and important social acts, such as the invention of printing, the completion of the Wycliffe Bible, etc., are duly noted. It is certain that New England possessed no other historical compend so full, so convenient, or so trustworthy as this general introduction by Prince.
Like that later historian, Henry Thomas Buckle, the laborious Prince began on a scale which he could not follow to the end. Only the first volume of the work was ever published, though three thirty-twopage pamphlets subsequently appeared. September 7, 1630, is the last regular entry of a date, in the bound issue, though October 14, 1632, is mentioned. The continuation brought the record to August 5, 1633, and it there stops, a fragment, but a useful and meritorious fragment. The author was a slow worker and a busy man ; there was waiting for such work as his a real but not an enthusiastic nor a lasting welcome ; and he apparently allowed his zeal to flag toward the close of his life. In what he did he
displayed the internal qualities needed in an historian :
that Trimountain be called BOSTON.
To this Town, the major Part of the Church in a little time Removes from Charlestown; and so much increases,
as that One Hundred fifty & one are admitted by Oct. 14 1632, when they peaceably Divide into two Churches.
“Thus out of small Beginnings * Great Things have been produced by His HAND that made all things, and gives Being to all things that are: and as one small Candle may light a Thousand ; so the Light Here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sort to our whole Nation: Let the Glorious Name of JEHOVAH have all the Praise."
A service analogous to Prince's for Massachusetts, was performed for Virginia by William Stith, third William president of Virginia's college of William Stith, 1689–1755. and Mary, which was the centre of the intellectual life of the colony. Stith, like Prince, was a native of the region whose history was undertaken; and, like him, he availed himself of the materials left by preceding writers. The parallel is continued when we say that Stith was a minister, that he lived at the colonial capital, and that both his studies and his personal acquaintance with celebrities were wide. Prince's book appeared in Boston in 1736; Stith’s in Virginia in 1747 ; and both were but parts of projected works, Prince's coming down to 1630, Stith's to 1624. Neither book was a model of literary style, but Prince's could boast the more orderly arrangement. Stith, however, usually brought his sentences to a close, which Prince sometimes forgot to do.
Stith had not reached the modern critical position as an historian ; indeed, he did not sift alleged facts with sufficient industry. John Smith was at that time in full credit as a veracious chronicler, and Stith's “ History of the First Discovery and Settlement of Virginia " duly and respectfully follows his statements. But the manuscript and printed authorities in Williamsburg were by no means confined to Smith's works; and the learned author of this new book relied largely upon other sources.
* This quotation is from Bradford.
The History is decidedly the most important work of its class produced in the Southern colonies before the Revolution. Virginia had a record worth writing, and the time had come to reduce it to a permanent form. The original sight-seers had passed away; now followed the sober chroniclers of days already become historic. Virginia from 1607 to 1624 was in its first --but by no means its last-period of romantic story; and Stith did his best to describe faithfully the doings of men already half passed into a legendary stage. His success was not commanding, but it was respectable.*
* His book (published in 1747) appeared five years before the author became president of William and Mary. A verbatim reprint appeared in New York in 1866.
“The reverend William Stith, a native of Virginia, and president of its college, has also written the history of the same [early] period, in a large octavo volume of small print. He was a man of classical learning, and very exact, but of no taste in style. He is inelegant, therefore, and his details often too minute to be tolerable, even to a native of the country whose his. tory he writes.”—Thomas Jefferson, “ Notes on the State of Virginia," ed. 1801, 346–7.
THE THEOLOGIANS OF THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGH
WEIGHTY works with long titles—these we find by the dozen in the collections of American books and pamphlets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By them the bibliographer can minutely trace the progress of printing in the New World, and the theologian can define the character and follow the course of religious opinion and practice in a land where religion was the all-important thing. But have they any literary value ? What has literature to do with such treatises as these ? :
“ The Covenant of Grace Opened: Wherein These Particulars are Handled; viz.: (1) What the Covenant of Grace is ; (2) What the Seales of the Covenant are ; (3) Who are the Parties and Subjects fit to receive these Seales. From all which Particulars Infants Babtisme is proved and vindicated.”
“ The Application of Redemption by the Effectual Work of the Word and Spirit of Christ, for the Bringing Home of Lost Sinners to God.”
“A Survey of the summe of Church-Discipline : Wherein, The Way of the Churches of New-England is warranted out of the Word, and all Exceptions of weight, which are made against it, answered."