Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 4. Belknap; Trumbull; Proud; Minot; H. M. Brackenridge; Ramsay; Burk; Williamson

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

§ 4. Belknap; Trumbull; Proud; Minot; H. M. Brackenridge; Ramsay; Burk; Williamson

Of the state histories that appeared in this period a few are worthy of mention. Jeremy Belknap (1744–98) wrote a History of New Hampshire (three volumes, 1784–92), which is of the first rank in our historical compositions. Had its theme been more extended, it would have become a household memory in the country. Benjamin Trumbull’s (1735–1820) History of Connecticut (2 vols., 1818) and Robert Proud’s (1728–1813) History of Pennsylvania (2 vols., 1797–98) were of scholarly standards but heavy in style. George Richards Minot (1758–1802), a brilliant Massachusetts lawyer, wrote a History of the Insurrection in Massachusetts (1788), dealing with Shays’ Rebellion, and followed it by a continuation of Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts (2 vols., 1798–1803). The books were well written and have maintained their credit. Here should be mentioned Henry M. Brackenridge’s (1786–1871) History of the Western Insurrection (1817), a fair-minded narrative of the Whisky Insurrection, which was very popular and ran through several editions. Three Southern books which may here be spoken of are hardly up to the standard of the state histories. Dr. Ramsay’s History of South Carolina (2 vols., 1809) was not equal to his work on the Revolution. John D. Burk (d. 1808) wrote a less valuable work in his History of Virginia (3, vols., 1804–05). He was an ardent Republican who rhapsodized on liberty. Dr. Hugh Williamson (1735–1819), who wrote a History of North Carolina (2 vols., 1812), was a Pennsylvanian by birth, clergyman and physician by education, merchant and politician by necessity. He lived a while in Edenton, North Carolina, was elected a member of the Continental Congress, and served in the Constitutional Convention. In 1793 he removed to New York, where he acquired a high reputation for learning. His history, however, was thin and disappointing.