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

§ 14. Hazard

Of the efforts of Prince and Hutchinson as early collectors of documents mention has already been made. After the Revolution the first activity of that kind was due to the interest of Ebenezer Hazard (1744–1817) and Jeremy Belknap. Born the same year, they both graduated from college in 1762. Becoming fast friends, they left to posterity a correspondence which gives us our best glimpse of the conditions under which historical writing went forward in the two decades after the war.

Hazard first of the two began to collect documents. In 1777 he was appointed surveyor of post-roads and in 1782 postmaster-general. As surveyor he travelled over many parts of the country. He thus had opportunity to copy historical documents, and formed the design of publishing a documentary history of the Revolution. He rightly thought it a proper time to make collections of papers which otherwise would be lost. Congress gave him permission to take copies of such papers as were in its hands, free of expense of copying, and voted one thousand pounds for his expenses in securing copies elsewhere. This particular scheme was not realized, and there is no evidence that Hazard used the money voted. Dismissed from the office of postmaster-general in 1789 to make room for a politician, he soon afterwards announced a work with the title Historical Collections, State Papers, and Other Authentic Documents; and in 1792 the first volume was published. It contained papers, many of them very rare, relating to the American colonies before 1660. In 1794 came Volume II, most of it given up to the records of the New England Confederation. The two volumes did not pay expenses, and the editor, absorbed in business, lost interest in their continuation. Judged by what he published merely, Hazard had only a moderate influence on history in the United States. It is as the first collector and editor of documents after the Revolution that we must estimate him. He had the notion, shared by Sparks and Force in a later period, that it is possible to present the history of a people in a collection of documents. It was his failure to satisfy the general reader with such a collection that caused Hazard’s publication to remain unsold, and to be a source of discouragement to its compiler.