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INTRODUCTORY NOTE No final history of the United States of America has been written, or is likely to be written. Research is constantly bringing to light new facts that correct details or modify the traditional view of larger questions; and the most impartial historian is subject to personal or sectional bias which leads to his works' being regarded as imperfect by another generation, or as unfair by the people of parts of the country other than his own. In such a series as the present, then, it is unwise to represent the story of the growth of this nation by the summary of any one scholar.
The alternative has been to place before the reader a selection of the most important documents which record in contemporary terms the great events in the history of the country. Beginning with the personal records of the earliest discoverers of the continent, the selection goes on to present the first attempts at organizing a machinery of government made by the first settlers of the New England colonies; proceeds to the landmarks of the struggle for independence and the formation of the Constitution; shows the laying of the foundation of national policies and of the interpretation of the Constitution; indicates by the texts of the treaties themselves the acquisition of each successive increase of territory; and reveals by the original state papers the main causes and effects of the wars in which the country has from time to time been engaged, Read in succession, these documents afford a condensed view of the political progress of the American people; freed from any prejudice save that which swayed the makers of the history themselves.
AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS
THE VOYAGES TO VINLAND
[The following account of the discovery of North America by Leif Ericsson is contained in the “ Saga of Eric the Red”; and the present translation is that made by A. M. Reeves from the version of the Saga in the Flateyar-bók, compiled by Jón Thordharson about 1387. The part of the coast where Leif landed is much in dispute, the most recent investigations tending to the southern part of the coast of Labrador, though many scholars believe Vinland to have been on the New England shore.]
LEIF THE LUCKY BAPTIZED
FTER that sixteen winters had lapsed, from the time
when Eric the Red went to colonize Greenland, Leif,
Eric's son, sailed out from Greenland to Norway. He arrived in Drontheim in the autumn, when King Olaf Tryggvason was come down from the North, out of Halagoland. Leif put into Nidaros with his ship, and set out at once to visit the king. King Olaf expounded the faith to him, as he did to other heathen men who came to visit him. It proved easy for the king to persuade Leif, and he was accordingly baptized, together with all of his shipmates. Leif remained throughout the winter with the king, by whom he was well entertained.
BIARNI GOES IN QUEST OF GRBENLAND HERIULF was a son of Bard Heriulfsson. He was a kinsman of Ingolf, the first colonist. Ingolf allotted land to Heriulf between Vág and Reykianess, and he dwelt at first at Drepstokk. Heriulf's wife's name was Thorgerd, and their son, whose name was Biarni, was a most promising man. He formed an inclination for voyaging while he was still young, and he prospered both in property and public esteem. It was his custom to pass his winters alternately abroad and with his father. Biarni soon became the owner of a trading-ship; and during the last winter that he spent in Norway [his father] Heriulf determined to accompany Eric on his voyage to Greenland, and made his preparations to give up his farm. Upon the ship with Heriulf was a Christian man from the Hebrides, he it was who composed the Sea-Roller's Song, which contains this stave:
“ Mine adventure to the Meek One,
Monk-heart-searcher, I commit now;
Hold the hawk's-seat ever o'er me !" Heriulf settled at Heriulfsness, and was a most distinguished man. Eric the Red dwelt at Brattahlid, where he was held in the highest esteem, and all men paid him homage. These were Eric's children: Leif, Thorvald, and Thorstein, and a daughter whose name was Freydis; she was wedded to a man named Thorvard, and they dwelt at Gardar, where the episcopal seat now is. She was a very haughty woman, while Thorvard was a man of little force of character, and Freydis had been wedded to him chiefly because of his wealth. At that time the people of Greenland were heathen.
Biarni arrived with his ship at Eyrar [in Iceland] in the summer of the same year, in the spring of which his father had sailed away. Biarni was much surprised when he heard this news, and would not discharge his cargo. His shipmates inquired of him what he intended to do, and he replied that it was his purpose to keep to his custom, and make his home for the winter with his father; “and I will take the ship to Greenland, if you will bear me company.” They all replied
" that they would abide by his decision. Then said Biarni,
Our voyage must be regarded as foolhardy, seeing that no one of us has ever been in the Greenland Sea.” Nevertheless, they put out to sea when they were equipped for the voyage, and sailed for three days, until the land was hidden by the water, and then the fair wind died out, and north winds arose, and fogs, and they knew not whither they were drifting, and thus it lasted for many “ dægr.” Then they saw the