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FREDERICK VON RAUMER,
“If we compare the present condition of our Union with its actual state at the close of the
Revolution, the history of the world furnishes no example of a progress in improvement, in
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY
WILLIAM W. TURNER.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1845, by
J. & H. G. LANGLEY, in the Clerk's office of the trict Court of the United States for the Southern
District of New York.
S. W. BENEDICT, PRINTER,
16 Spruce street, New York.
This work of BARON VON RAUMER which has been recently published in Germany, although in good part of a didactic nature, will not it is thought be without interest for the American public, on account of the reputation which this veteran historian has already acquired, the almost personal concernment of the topics he discusses to every American citizen, and the candid and kindly spirit in which he writes. His opinions on the whole respecting the institutions, the past history, and the future prospects of this country, are in the highest degree favorable; and whenever he allows himself to find fault, which is but seldom, he does it with evident reluctance, and with the air of a friend whose admonitions are wholesome, and not with the bitterness of an enemy. The comparisons too, which he makes between many of the American institutions and the corresponding institutions of Europe, will be found useful and instructive. One virtue of his will not be the less esteemed on account of its rarity among writers in this country; and that is, that he has at least endeavored to make himself well acquainted with what he has undertaken to write about. He has also shown great and commendable carefulness in every instance, not to violate the privileges of a guest by exposing to the world the confidences of private and social intercourse-a proceeding which some writers on both sides of the water might imitate with advantage.
The Author has made numerous quotations from American works; and these I have compared with the originals, wherever I could have access to them. The delay occasioned by these verifications has unavoidably caused the publication to be postponed somewhat beyond the expected time. I observed in the course of making them, that the Author had occasionally fallen into slight errors in the hurry of copying; these, where I have noticed them, I have silently corrected. In every other respect, I have endeavored, as in duty bound, to faithfully render the Author's meaning, whatever may be the statements or sentiments he puts forth ; which of course does not involve an endorsement of every thing contained in the book. Indeed I have often felt inclined to add a correcting or explanatory note, but in general have refrained from every thing of the kind: because want of time would not have permitted me to do it except in a very partial degree; and because, as the Germans would say, it is rather the subjectivity than the objectivity of the book that will claim the attention of readers in this country. Americans will not resort to a work of this kind, written by a foreigner, and which treats of such a variety of delicate and difficult topics, to obtain minute information on matters of fact. What they will feel curious to know is, what are the opinions of an intelligent and well informed man, placed by circumstances beyond the reach of local passions and prejudices, on the various topics that have long agitated and continue to agitate the national mind.
Although the Author's anxiety not to decide on hasty or onesided grounds, but to do justice to all the valid arguments advanced on either side, may sometimes give him an appearance of wavering, it will be found that the principles of the widest liberty are every where adopted as his own. The opinions which he thus expresses are not without their value in another point of view, for those whose sympathies are not confined within the physical boundaries of their own country; for they show us what are the thoughts and aspirations that now engage the minds of the foremost men among our German brethren. The cheering sun of liberty is now scattering its effulgent beams over all the habitations of men. And as the nations turn towards its divine light, and bless its genial life-restoring warmth, they laugh the scowling despots to scorn, who would persuade them it is but a scorching and devouring flame. The Anglo-Saxon offshoot of the great northern family of nations has long basked and thriven in this sunshine of the soul. The glistening eyes of Germans and Scandinavians look upon the success and happiness of their more fortunate kinsmen with feelings, not of envy, but of honest pride and emulation. They too are resolved to share these high privileges. Already they buckle on their armor for the field; the notes of preparation sweeping across the Atlan. tic already meet our ears; nay, already the combat with the powers of tyranny and superstition has begun,—and who can doubt of a glorious victory at last ? Lord, hasten the day!
W. W. T. New York, November, 1845.
In the course of my historical labors I have been led from ancient to mediæval, and lastly to modern, the most modern history of all. Here the French Revolution is usually designated by its admirers, as the highest point of human development; while it is condemned by its opponents, as an incontrovertible proof of human folly and sinfulness. To the foriner, any further progress beyond what has been attained seems scarcely possible; the latter despair of the future altogether. Neither of these views satisfied me in the least ; and the more I desired to become acquainted with the actual present and the probable future of mankind, the more I became convinced that this latter was by no means to be sought in Europe alone, and that amid the splendors and horrors of the French Revolution the Germano-American one had been too much overlooked.
Eager for information, I took up in succession a great number of books of travels. But what for the most part were the representations I encountered ? A country of late origin and in every respect more imperfect than the other parts of the world, an unhealthy climate, infectious diseases, a dead level of democracy originating in a lawless and villanous rebellion, a presumptuous rejection of all the natural distinctions of society, together with shameful ill-treatment of the negroes and Indians. Politics every where a prey to party spirit; religion split up into a multitude of sects ; indifference to science and art, an immoderate worship of Mammon, an eager striving after material advancement with a neglect of the spiritual and the amiable ; nowhere truth and faith, nowhere the amenities of refined social existence; a total want of history and of great poetical recollections, &c. &c.
Can it be wondered at, when a well-informed writer angrily exclaims : “I have read nearly all the statements of travellers in the United States for the last thirty years ; and it has filled me with astonishment that