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

§ 9. Hildreth

Twenty-one years after Pitkin’s book was published, New England found a still abler and more satisfying historian in Richard Hildreth (1807–65), who in 1849 gave to the world the first three volumes of his History of the United States; three more appeared in 1852. The six volumes cover the years 1492 to 1821. For the lover of entertaining literature the book is a failure, but for one who enjoys a solid presentation of facts it has merit. Few other men have written down so many statements of fact in so small a compass with such great reliability. In the preface Hildreth said that he wished to describe the fathers of the nation as they were,

  • unbedaubed with patriotic rouge, wrapped up in no fine-spun cloaks of excuses and apologies, without stilts, buskins, tinsel, or bedizzenment, in their own proper persons, often rude, hard, narrow, superstitious and mistaken, but always earnest, downright, manly, and sincere. The result of their labours is eulogy enough; their best apology is to tell the story as it was.
  • There can be no doubt that the author tried in all honesty to carry out his purpose. “We encounter [in Hildreth],” said The Edinburgh Review, “the muse of American history descended from her stump, and recounting her narrative in a key adapted to our own ears.”