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American Literature:
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Richard Hildreth

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

In marked contrast with Bancroft's eloquent declamatory narrative stands Richard Hildreth's "History of the United States." It is dry in style, judicial in tone, never aiming at brilliance or entertainment. The author declared his object to be "to set forth the personages of our Colonial and Revolutionary history such as they really were, . . . their faults as well as their virtues." Three volumes brought the history down from the discovery of America to the adoption of the Constitution. Three more, which surpass the former in interest, carry it on to the year 1821. The author, who had projected his work while a college student, evidently desired to correct the partisan bias manifested in Bancroft's work, and for this purpose it is valuable, though it can never become popular.

Richard Hildreth was born at Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 1807. He graduated from Harvard in 1826, studied law, but after some practice in Boston, became editor of the "Boston Atlas." He was opposed to slavery, and wrote a novel, "Archy Moore" (1837), which was afterward republished under the title, "The White Slave." Another volume, "Despotism in America" (184o), treated of the political, economical and social aspects of slavery. For three years he resided in British Guiana, and there wrote his "Theory of Morals" (1844), and "Theory of Politics," which was not published until 1853. Meantime he had removed to New York and began to publish his History. He was connected with the "New York Tribune." In 1861 he was appointed Consul at Trieste, but when his health failed, he resigned and removed to Florence, where he died in 1865.

Though Hildreth aimed to be impartial, and by his calm, judicial tone, gives that impression, his interest in the politics of the day governed his treatment of men of the past and made him in some cases unjust. Yet in the main his views of the founders of our Government are eminently correct.

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