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The position now occupied by the State of Illinois, in the American Confederacy—its present importance—its future hopes, and ultimate con. sequence-render an excuse unnecessary for attempting its history. Whether the attempt shall succeed or not, remains to be seen.
Many have supposed, that a State so young can furnish nothing of interest deserving the historian. They seem, however, not to consider, that Illinois was settled at an early day—that the Spaniards once claimed
-that the French once occupied—that the English once conquered—and the Americans afterward held “this proud domain” by right of conquest; that the Gaul, the Saxon, and the savage-the Protestant, the Jesuit, and the Pagan-for more than a century here struggled for mastery. They have also forgotten, or never knew, that John Law and his associates, in “ the Mississippi Scheme," once claimed the whole territory as theirs—that Fort Chartres was built by them at an expense of several millions, and that a portion of its soil is now held and occupied, under titl es derived from that “eminent speculator.”
Considerations, growing out of the above circumstances, will explain the reason in part, why the author has introduced some apparently irrel. evant matter into his narrative. It will be discovered, however, upon reflection, that no such irrelevant matter has found a place in the volume now offered to the public; but, on the contrary, that the History of Illinois (as Sterne says in the middle of some one of his interminable digressions in Tristam Shandy,) has “ all the while been progressing.”
Should our explanation be thought defective, we, in that case, assure our readers, as the Roman pontiff did Bonaparte, the young conqueror of Italy, when the former was about to give the latter his blessing-on perceiving an air of incredulity lurking in “ the young conqueror's eye,” he at once changed his discourse, and dexterously observed ; "the blessing of an old man can do you no harm.” It is just so with our book. These digressions are not intended for the perusal of those who read merely to criticise, but for those who read for information. Such will derive “no harm,” and may, perhaps, derive some benefit from their perusal. By beginning however at the end, and reading backward,
(as the lobster travels,) the whole difficulty will be obviated, and the connection between all its parts distinctly perceived.
There is, in Illinois proper, much good historical matter. Some of the most thrilling scenes in the history of our race have occurred in Illinois. Its early settlement by the French-the narratives of their first Missionaries thither—the expedition of Colonel Clarke to Kaskaskia, and after. ward to Vincennes—the account given by him of the savages, and of his mode and manner of treating them, are nowhere else surpassed. The massacre at Chicago the Black Hawk war- the Mormon Prophet-the history of the Illinois Banks—its Canal and internal improvements and lastly, of its credit, cannot fail (if properly told,) to interest both the citizen and the stranger.
The author regrets his inability to do them more ample justice. He also regrets, that in the hurry of the moment, he has not more frequently given credit; and on some occasions, done better justice to those from whose works he has so liberally extracted. Professional avocations, and the hurry and confusion incident thereto, together with the necessity imposed on him of employing others to transcribe his manuscripts for the press, are the only apologies he can offer. A poor excuse is better than none. The following work was written at a distance from well-assorted libraries. The means of information, at his disposal, were defective upon many subjects of which he treats. He has endeavored, however, to avail himself of all the resources in his power; and although he is aware of its defects, the work, he hopes, will be thought by some worthy of perusal.
In order to make it readable, he has now and then borrowed an Indian massacre from some of the adjacent States. This license is, perhaps, more poetical than historical. Inasmuch, however, as it has been taken for the sole benefit of the reader, “the theft,” he apprehends, “ will not be deemed profane."
Chicago, Illinois, May 22nd, 1844.