The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XVII. Writers on American History, 1783–1850

§ 10. Palfrey

An historian who did not liberate himself entirely from patriotic bias was John Gorham Palfrey (1798–1881). Although he falls slightly without the limits of time assigned to this chapter, he was by nature and purpose a member of what has been called the “filio-pietistic” group. Bred a Unitarian minister, and pastor for a time of Brattle Square Church, Boston, he served as Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature in Harvard University (1830–39). From 1836 to 1843 he was editor of The North American Review. He held several political offices in his State, and was a member of Congress in 1847–49. From 1861 to 1867 he was postmaster of Boston. He wrote many tracts, religious, political, and historical. Nevertheless, he kept true to his love for the history of New England. In 1858–64 he brought out in three volumes a History of New England during the Stuart Dynasty. It won instant recognition and the author followed up his success with two more volumes, History of New England from the Revolution of the 17th Century to the Revolution of the 18th (1875–90). The two parts were later shorn of their most irrelevant passages and issued as a Compendious History of New England in four handy volumes. So far as the mere statement of facts goes, it is safe to say that Palfrey has given us a complete and sufficient history of colonial New England. He has not been careless or slothful. But to Palfrey all that New Englanders did and thought was good. He did not question the spirit of Puritanism, and he did not find its narrowness unpleasant; he accepted it as a thing of course. He was the last of the complacent defenders of the old régime in the land of Bradford and Winthrop. Before he had retired from the scene Charles Francis Adams’s severe blows were beginning to tell.