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ON

AMERICAN LITERATURE,

WITH

REMARKS ON SOME PASSAGES

OF

AMERICAN HISTORY.

BY SAMUEL L. KNAPP.

Nor rough, nor barren, are the winding ways

Of hoar antiquity, but strewn with flowers."
“ Peace to the just man's memory,- let it grow
Greener with years, and blossom through the flight
Of ages ; let the mimick canvass show
His calm benevolent features ; let the light
Stream on his deeds of love, that shunn'd the sight
Of all but heaven, and in the book of fame
The glorious record of his virtues write,
And hold it up to men, and bid them claim
A palm like his, and catch from him the hallowed flame."

Bryant.

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Southern District of New York, ss.

BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the 8th day of October, A. D. 1829, in the fifty-fourth year of the Independence of the United States of America, SAMUEL L. KNAPP, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following, to wit:

“Lectures on American Literature, with remarks on some passages of American History. By Samuel L. Knapp.

“Nor rough, nor barren, are the winding ways

Of hour antiquity, but strewn with flowers,
" Peace to the just man's memory,--let it grow
Greener with years, and blossom through the flight
of ages ; let the mimick canvass show
His calm benevolent features ; let the light
Strcam on his deeds of love, that shunn'd the sight
Of all but heaven, and in the book of fame
The glorious record of his virtues write,
And hold it up to men, and bid them claim
A palm like his, and catch from him the hallowed flame."

Bryant
" The freshness of that past shall still
Sacred to memory's holiest musings be."

Sands."
In conformity to the act of Congress of the United States, entitled, “An
Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps,
Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during
the tiine therein mentioned.” And also to an Act, entitled, “ An Act, sup-
plementary to an Act, entitled, an Act for the encouragement of Learning,
by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and
proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and ex-
tending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching
historical and other prints."

FRED. J. BETTS,
Clerk of the Southern District of New-York.

Ludwig & Tolefree, Printers.

TO

WILLIAM AUSTIN SEELY, ESQ.

COUNSELLOR AT LAW.

MY DEAR SIR,

To you, who, amid the cares of a full practice in a laborious and an allabsorbing profession, surrounded by clients and engaged in courts, have found time, by system and method, to collect the literature and science of every age, and to taste, most liberally, of their sweets, I respectfully dedicate this humble volume, in which I have attempted to describe, by a few faint sketches, and with some passing remarks, the literature, the talents, and the character of our ancestors. I have taken this liberty, because I was confident that you would favour the effort, whatever might be its success with the publick, as you understood the motives which called it forth; and for another reason, which is, that I know you are among the number who are anxious that we, as a people, should speak freely and justly of ourselves, and honestly strive to place our claims to national distinction on the broad basis of well authenticated historical facts ; this would soon be accomplished, if all our able and enlightened scholars would come forward to aid the few who are toiling in the cause : yet, with a few exceptions, our pride has rather led us to make spirited retorts, than laborious researches, for an answer to those who question our literary and scientifick character :- The work I now present you and the publick, is only offered as the opening argument of junior counsel, in the great cause instituted to establish the claims of the United States to that intellectual, literary, and scientifick eminence, which we say, she deserves to have, and ought to maintain ; and in this, I have attempted but little more than to state my points, name my authorities, and then have left the whole field for those abler advocates who may follow me. To be thought by you, and those like you, capable of judging, that I have opened the cause fairly, and made out a respectable brief to hand to others, will be sufficient praise for me; I will not, in these few lines, devoted to personal respect and friendship, enter far into my plans, or fully express my hopes; but leaving these for time to develop, or for your private ear, I will only add my sincere prayers that your life may be long, and continued as happy and prosperous as it has heretofore been, and that your genervus exertions, of every kind, may at all times meet with a just measure of gratitude, the richest recompense a high mind can receive.

Your obliged friend and humble servant,

SAMUEL L. KNAPP. November, 1829

Every book that is ushered into the world, is a mental experiment of the writer, to as certain the taste, and to obtain the judgement of the community; and the author can only be certain of one thing, and that is, of his intentions in his publication. Of my intentions, 1 can only say, as, perhaps, I have a dozen times said in the course of my work, they were to exhibit to the rising generation something of the history of the thoughts and intellectual labours of our forefathers, as well as of their deeds. There is, however, an intimate connexion between thinking and acting, particularly among a free and an energetick people. My plan, when I commenced my researches, was an extensive one, and I gathered copious materials to carry it into effect. For several years past, I have had access to libraries rich in American literature ; but when I sat down to work up the mass I had collected, the thought suggested itself to my mind, that no adequate compensation could ever be reasonably ex. pected for my pains; and then the consciousness that I was in some measure trespassing upon my professional pursuits, went far to quench my zeal, and to chase away my visions of literary reputation. Still, I could not be persuaded to relinquish altogether my design, and I therefore set about abridging my outlines, dispensing with many of my remarks, and giving up numerous elaborate finishings I had promised myself to make in the course of my work. And another thought struck me most forcibly, that a heavy publication would not be readily within the reach of all classes of youth in our country, but that a single volume of common size, in a cheap edition, might find its way into some of our schools, and be of service in giving our children a wish to pursue the subject of our literary history, as they advanced in years and in knowledge. The instructors of our youth, when true to their trust, form a class in the community that I hold in respect and esteem, and they will pardon me for making a few remarks to them. Your calling is high, I had almost said holy. To your intelligence, patience, good temper, purity of life, and soundness of principles, parents look for the forming of healthy, vigorous minds, in their children. If you cannot create talents, you can do something better ; you can guide the fiery, and wake up the dull; correct the mischievous, and encourage the timid. _The temple of knowledge is committed to your care; the priesthood is a sacred one. Every inscription on the walls should be kept bright, that the dimmest eye may sce, and the slowest comprehension may read and be taught to understand. Your task is great, and every member of the community, who is able to give you any assistance, should come to your aid in the great business of instruction. In this way much has been done ;-much, however, remains to be done. The elements of learning have been simplified, and thousands of children have been beguiled along the pathway of knowledge, who never could have been driven onward. Geography has been made easy and fascinating, and the elements of natural philosophy very pleasant; and what was once difficult and harsh to young minds in many studies, has become attractive. History, both sacred and profane, has assumed new charms as it has been prepared for the school-room ; I speak of the history of other countries, nct of our own. We have very good histories—narrative, political, military, and constitutional; but I know none, as yet, that can be called literary-meaning by the term, a history of our literature, and of our literary men; and probably it will be a long time before we shall have such an one as we ought to have. Our Sismondis, D'Israelis, are yet to arise. You will struggle in vain to make American history well understood by your pupils, unless biographical sketches, anecdotes, and literary selections, are mingled with the mass of general facts. The heart must be affected, and the imagination seized, to make lasting impressions upon the memory.

One word to your pride :-you are aware that it has been said by foreigners, and often repeated, that there was no such thing as American literature; that it would be in vain for any one to seek for proofs of taste, mind, or information, worth possessing, in our early records; and some of our citizens, who have never examined these matters, have rested so quietly after these declarations, or so faintly denied them, that the bold asserters of these libels have gained confidence in tauntingly repeating them. The great epoch in our history --the revolution of 1775—seemed sufficient, alone, to many of the present generation, to give us, as a people, all the celebrity and rank, among the nations of the earth, we ought to aspire to, without taking the trouble to go back to the previous ages of heroick virtue and gigantick labours. Many of the present generation are willing to think that our ancestors were a pious and persevering race of men, who really did possess some strength of character, but, without further reflection, they are ready to allow that a few pages are "ample room and verge enough" to trace their character and their history together. I have ventured to think differently, and also to flatter myself, that, at the present day, it would not be a thankless task to attempt to delineate some of the prominent features of our ancestors in justification of my opinion. This errour can only be eradicated by your assistance, and that by instilling into the minds of our children, in your every-day lessons, correct information upon these subjects;—and while you lead your pupils through the paths of miscellaneous and classical literature-and, at the present day, even the humblest education partakes of much that is of a classical nature—be it your duty, also, to make them acquainted with the minutest portions of their country's history. No people, who do not ļove themselves better than all others, can ever be prosperous and great. A sort of inferiority always hangs about him who unduly reverences another. If "know thyself,be a sound maxim for individual consideration, “think well of thyself,” should be a national one. Patriotism and greatness begin at the maternal bosom, are seen in the nursery and primary school, and quicken into lite in every advancing stage of knowledge. Guardians of a nation's morals, framers of intellectual greatness, show to your charge, in proper lights, the varied talent of your country, in every age of her history; and inscribe her glories of mind, and heart, and deed, as with a sun-beam, upon their memories,

Nero. York, Nov. 1829.

CONTENTS.

LECTURE I.

The English language our inheritance; all other possessions from our own

industry. The care we have taken of it. The language of a people a

proof of their advancement in knowledge. The effect of climate on language.

Our language too much neglected. The language of the ancient Britons.

The Saxon language from Alfred the Wise to Alfred the Great. The

change of the Saxon after the conquest. The origin of the English language.

For good poetry there must be a high degree of mental cultivation. The

English language enriched from many sources. The copiousness, and the

strength of the English language ; Specimens; beauty, sweetness, majesty,

with specimens for illustration. The diffusion of the English language.

The attention now paid to the acquisition of it. The necessity of keeping

it pure. The origin of dictionaries. Dr. Johnson's labours. Dr. Web-

ster's dictionary. The invention of the Cherokee alphabet. See-quah-yah

the inventor; the method of his invention of letters, and of numbers; his

talents and character. The Cherokee newspaper, &c.

9

LECTURE II.

* Literature. Plan of the following lectures. Greek literature. General

observations. Roman and Arabick literature. The value of lectures in

communicating knowledge. The state of learning when our ancestors

came to this country. The character of the colonists. Sir Walter Raleigh

sent to this country. The Virginia settlement. John Smith, his character

and writings. The pilgrims. The settlement of the province of Massa-

chusetts Bay. The value of the bible to the first settlers; and to all men.

The object and hopes of the lecturer.

29

LECTURE III.

Sketches of some of the pilgrims ; Brewster, Bradford, Standish, Winslow.

Proofs of the intellectual advancement of the pilgrims. The books they
wrote ; Morton's Memorial, Winslow's Good News, Mourt's Journal.
The precarious situation of the first settlers. The colony of Massachusetts
Bay. Winthrop, as a magistrate and historian, Dudley, Sir Richard
Saltonstall, John Wilson, John Elliot, the apostle to the Indians. The
Sheppards and their writings. Nathaniel Ward, Peter Bulkley, Nathaniel
Rogers, Ezekiel Rogers. The founding of Harvard College. Presidents,
Dunster, Chauncey, Hoar, Oaks, Rogers, Increase Mather. Mathematical
science. John Sherman. Progress of literature in the ancient dominion.
Their clergy., Maryland settled by respectable catholicks. New-York.
History of the Waldenses. Settlement of Connecticut; its distin-
guished men; of New-Hampshire; of Rhode Island. Roger Williams.
The character of the females of that age; the cause of their superiority.
General remarks upon our progenitors.

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