The Family Book of History: Comprising a Concise View of the Most Interesting and Important Events in the History of All the Civilized Nations of the ... and Alphabetically Arranged (Classic Reprint)
History has been defined by a celebrated writer as 'Philosophy teaching by example.' Its value to mankind is now so obvious, that it is generally regarded as indispensable to the enlightened progress of human society. It adds to our own experience, the immense treasure of the experience of those who have gone before us: some of whom, probably, have been placed in circumstances similar in some respects to our own. The great lesson apparent on the page of History, is, that virtuous principles and practices are the chief cause of the happiness, and true glory of nations. By its faithful delineations, vice appears odious, when stripped of its mask, with which for a time it deceived mankind. It is a truth which will apply to every age, that there is a difficulty in forming an impartial estimate of cotemporary characters and events: but when time has calmed the turbulent passions of the moment, the intervening mist between us and truth, will be in a measure dispelled.
To an American citizen some knowledge of History seems almost indispensable to the enlightened performance of his political duties. By it we learn to profit by the successes and failures of others: 'It makes us acquainted with human nature, and enables us to judge how men will act in given circumstances, and to trace the connexion between cause and effect in human affairs. It serves to free the mind from many narrow and hurtful prejudices: to teach us how to admire what is praiseworthy, wherever it may be found: and to compare, on enlarged and liberal principles, other countries with our own.' 'A knowledge of history has a tendency to render us contented with our condition in life, by the views which it exhibits of the instability of human affairs. It teaches us that the highest stations are not exempt from severe trials, that riches and power afford no assurance of happiness: and that the greatest sovereigns have not unfrequently been more miserable than their meanest subjects.'
If the attention of the mind, especially that of the rising generation, can be brought to take an interest in the study of History, a point of very great importance is gained. The human mind is of such a nature, that it must be, of necessity, occupied in the pursuit of some object: if it has no taste for those subjects which tend to elevate man in the scale of being, it will seek its gratification in those pleasures which tend to degrade and brutalize. History, considered merely as an amusement, possesses superior advantages over novels and romances.
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