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Entered, according to act of Congress, in the year 1839,
By LEONARD Bacon,
Printed by B. L. Hamlen.
The completion of two hundred years from the settlement of the town and colony of New Haven, was celebrated with appropriate religious and civic observances, on the 25th of April, 1838. As the Church with which I am connected as pastor, is coeval with the colony, and was indeed the parent of the civil state, it seemed proper for me to notice in the pulpit an occasion so interesting. In compliance therefore with the expressed desires of many without, as well as within, the circle of my pastoral charge, I undertook to prepare one or more discourses illustrative of our ecclesiastical history, little thinking of such a volume as this. But as I proceeded, from one Sabbath evening to another, I found the materials so abundant, and the expressions of interest on the part of the hearers were so strong, that my discourses, instead of being, according to my first expectation, three or four, became thirteen.
The interest, not to say the value, of history, depends chiefly upon details. I might have summed up the history of this Church in a few paragraphs ; but in that form it would have been dry and unprofitable. Need I, then, apologize, for the minuteness of this history? Why may not the 'annals of a parish' be as lively with illustrations of human nature, and as rich in important practical lessons, as the annals of an empire ?
If in speaking of the fathers of New England, and particularly of New Haven, I have insisted more on their virtues than on their faults and errors, it is partly because while their faults have been often and sufficiently blazoned, their virtues have been, to the popular mind, but imperfectly illustrated; and partly because we in this age are far more likely to forget their virtues, than to adopt their errors, or to imitate their faults. If I have spoken freely of the secular constitution of the Church of England, and of the evils, resulting from it which made our fathers exiles, it is no more than becomes a man and an American; and the candid reader will observe, that in so doing, I have not spoken at all of the Episcopal Church as it is organized in this country. I am far from imputing to American bishops, chosen by the people of their charge, and responsible to those who choose them, the sins of English prelates under the Stuarts. A man might even believe that Laud deserved to die on the scaffold as a traitor to the liberties of England, and yet think none the worse of Bishop White.
Historical Discourses, even though prefaced with a text of Scripture, are not sermons, and ought not to be judged as if they were. If the reader finds words or passages unsuited to the gravity of the pulpit, he may be reminded that the printed book is not exactly what was uttered in the congregation. More than half the volume has been written since the last of the discourses was delivered; and though the original form has been retained, the expression has frequently been changed, and the didactic and religious reflections, appropriate to the time and place, have been generally omitted.
The sources from which I have derived my information, are generally referred to in marginal notes. Yet in this place some more distinct acknowledgment seems due to those, by whose labors so much has been done to illustrate the early history of New England. But why should I speak of the many occasional discourses which have treated of the history of particular towns or Churches, or of the more stately and elaborate works of Trumbull, Holmes, and Hutchinson ? To name the thirty seven volumes of the Massachusetts Historical Society ; the notes on Morton's Memorial by Judge Davis; the accurate transcript of Winthrop's History, by Mr.
Savage, with the vast and various lore in the notes of the transcriber, is to praise them : without these works as examples of what diligence can do, as guides showing how such investigations are to be conducted, and as sources of information, I should have done nothing. And in naming the last of these works, I am reminded of my obligations to the first editor of Winthrop. The perusal and reperusal of “Winthrop's Journal,” together with the study of Trumbull's first volume, made me feel when I was yet a boy, that the New England race “is sprung of earth's best blood.” And knowing as I now know, under what disadvantages that first edition was published, before the public had begun to be interested in such documents, before even Massachusetts had a historical society, by the unaided enterprise of a young man to whom the undertaking was attended with heavy pecuniary sacrifices; and knowing how much historical inquiries in New England have been stimulated and aided by that publication; I cannot but regard it as not among the least of the many debts of American literature to the now venerable lexicographer. Mr. Savage's more perfect and more fortunate edition, the fruit of years of learned toil, cheered by the cooperation of enthusiastic antiquaries, aided by appropriations from the treasury of a generous commonwealth, and greeted by an applauding public that had already learned to honor its ancestry, needed not the poor recommendation of disparaging censures upon its predecessor.
I must be allowed to add my acknowledgment of the aid which I have received in these studies, from the learning and kindness of Professor Kingsley. Certainly it was a rare privilege, to be able to avail myself continually of hints and counsels, from one so familiar with the written and unwritten history of New England, and especially of Connecticut.
Some of my friends have expressed a little impatience at the delay of this publication. The mere magnitude of the volume will probably be to them a sufficient apology for the delay. Had I been told twelve months ago, that within a year I should prepare and publish such a volume, gathering