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Adams, Henry - History of the United States During the Administrations of Madison (1809–1817)

Henry Adams

History of the United States During the Administrations of Madison (1809–1817)

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In the fall of 1879, with The Life of Albert Gallatin recently published, Henry Adams left America for London, Paris, Madrid, and Seville to do research in government archives. Adams wrote that he was in "pursuit of the larger subject, for which the Gallatin is only a preliminary study." This larger subject, a "History of the United States from 1801 to 1815," as he then called it, "will be an affair of at least ten years work, and will exhaust all that I have to say in this world, I hope. To compress this into three volumes and to expunge every unnecessary syllable, will be my great labor for several years. To make it readable is the great hope of my life."

As he continued to examine hitherto secret documents, his collection of relevant materials grew. In 1880, after taking stock of his European documents and beginning to write, Adams expressed a hope to publish in 1886; he gradually realized, however, that he would need more time--and more space--than he had planned. The history of Jefferson's two presidential administrations took shape during the early 1880s, and by the end of 1884 these first two parts of the History were written--and indeed were in print in private editions of six copies each for circulation among friends. Adams' progress in these years was rapid; in addition to this work on the History, he published the biography John Randolph and the novels Democracy and Esther. That progress was slowed, however, first by fatigue and then by the suicide of his wife, Marian, in December 1885.

Adams returned from a restorative trip to Japan in the summer of 1886 with a new resolve to finish his history. Working sometimes ten hours a day, he moved ahead on the history of Madison's administrations while continuing to fill gaps in the first two parts. By 1888, after Adams had spent nearly a decade researching, writing, and expanding, the History had grown to a size that he thought would require eight published volumes--two for each of the four presidential administrations that his work considered. (Madison's second administration, combined with a long, detailed general index, eventually filled three volumes instead of two, bringing the trade edition to nine volumes.)

In June 1888 Adams' assistant, Theodore Dwight, a former State Department librarian, wrote to arrange for publication with Charles Scribner's Sons. Adams requested as printer the Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm of John Wilson & Son, which set type and prepared the stereotype plates that would be used for all subsequent printings during Adams' lifetime. Through the rest of 1888 and 1889, Adams supplied copy to Wilson, worked on proofs, and rewrote the later portions of the History. He also negotiated with Charles Scribner on nearly every aspect of production and design--binding, thickness of paper, page design, typography, reproduction of maps and plans, and indexing--and on subjects such as whether or not to have chapter titles and what system to use in running heads. The nine volumes of History of the United States (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1889-91) were issued in a ten-volume set with Adams' Historical Essays. He himself was not at home to receive copies of his final volumes; after sending the last revised proofs to Wilson, he set off for Polynesia in August 1890, leaving Dwight in charge of final details.

Adams believed he was writing the History for "a continent of a hundred million people fifty years hence," as he told an English friend, and he strove to improve the work by constant revision and incorporation of new information. As late as September 1889, he was in Ottawa gathering material about the War of 1812, and in early 1890 he was still working in new documents arriving from England.

Revision did not end with publication. Adams knew, as he complained in one letter, "how impossible it is to make a first edition accurate in its statements and reasoning, to say nothing of its style." He returned to the French archives after his Polynesian trip, and he revised parts of the History at various times throughout the 1890s.

In January 1899, Adams requested Scribner's to "be so kind as to send me a set of my History for revision and correction, So that in future my absence may not interfere with your requests." In February he told his friend Elizabeth Cameron that he was enjoying reading his own work, "which I am correcting in case of further editions"; and by March he returned the set to Scribner's "with a list of the pages on which corrections are to be made." These final revisions were cut into the plates and appeared in new printings of parts of the History as Scribner's required more copies.

This Library of America volume contains the last two parts of Adams' work, History of the United States of America during the First Administration of James Madison and History of the United States of America during the Second Administration of James Madison. The companion volume contains the first two parts covering Thomas Jefferson's two administrations. In each case, the text is that of the last printing containing new revisions by Adams.

Adams began History of the United States of America during the First Administration of James Madison late in 1884, drawing on his extensive collection of manuscripts from foreign and State Department archives. Events of the following two years--Marian Adams' decline and death in 1885, the Japanese trip with John La Farge in 1886--slowed progress on the book. Work nevertheless went on, and a draft of this third part of the History was finished by summer 1887. Adams spent the summer at his ancestral home in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he hoped to begin the long process of revision. He soon found he was making such rapid progress, however--working six to ten hours a day and "making it just dance"--that he could finish before returning to Washington in the fall. To speed the work, Adams employed "a female called a caligraphess . . . meaning a type-writer," to whom he dictated portions of this second draft. "With this vile modem innovation I shall spoil my work," he wrote, "but I shall either be in my pleasant grave on this day two years, or my history will be done and out."

In the fall Adams arranged to have the manuscript printed by John Wilson & Son of Cambridge in a small private edition for his own use, as the first two parts of the History had been in 1883 and 1884. These "draft" volumes, with wide margins and interleaved blank pages, were intended to provide a clean text to revise for publication, safeguard the work, establish the priority of Adams' scholarship, and elicit comments and criticism from colleagues--including his brother Charles Francis Adams and the historian George Bancroft. The texts of each were divided into five "books"--an organization dropped in the trade edition. By the time the private edition of First Administration of James Madison was ready in late 1888, Dwight had already arranged for trade publication of the History with Charles Scribner's Sons.

Setting copy for the trade edition was a revised copy of the privately printed draft volume. As with the earlier parts of the History, Adams used the comments of the readers of his draft volumes in preparing printer's copy for Scribner's. Some further changes were made just before the work appeared in response to a protest on behalf of General William Hull's descendants, who sought to protect his reputation from any imputation of cowardice. The trade edition was issued in two volumes--fifth and sixth in the series--on September 26, 1890, in a printing of 2000. Subsequent impressions may have corrected the "small errata" that Dwight mentioned in an 1891 letter to Scribner's.

On October 7, 1896, Adams wrote to William Brownell of Scribner's: "A dozen changes, or thereabouts, ought to be made in my volumes V and VI. Most of these are trifling, but the last chapter of volume VI is considerably affected by Russian publications since I wrote. . . . If possible I will not overrun paging, but just now I am not quite sure of the subject." A revised printing of First Administration of James Madison was published later that year. New information about diplomatic relations between Czar Alexander I and Napoleon prompted some of the changes. "Roumanzoff answered his appeal" became "Alexander answered his appeal" (288.27); more precise information led Adams to change the sentence "Before many months had passed, he found himself winning successes that could be explained only by the direct interposition of the Czar against the resistance of Roumanzoff and the ambassador of France" to "By a good fortune almost equal to that which brought Monroe to Paris on April 12, 1803, Adams was officially received at St. Petersburg on October 25, 1809, only two days before the Czar first revolted against Napoleon's authority" (284.14-18). Documents Adams discovered in French archives after his Polynesian trip threw new light on the character of the Count de Crillon. Adams rewrote a passage at 422.36-423.2, citing an article on the subject that he had written to help launch the first volume of the American Historical Review in 1895. Other changes involved qualifications of assertions of fact. "Louis Grandprıı alone defending his flag" was qualified to "almost alone" (214.25), for example, and the statement that "none" of the American brigadier-generals in 1812 had ever "commanded a regiment in face of an enemy" was altered to "Excepting Hull, none seems ever before" to have done so (494.5-7).

Adams made his final set of revisions in the entire four-part work in January 1899. They were cut into the plates and appeared in new printings of each volume as Scribner's required more copies. The only change in First Administration of James Madison was a new citation to Paul Leicester Ford's edition of The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (10 volumes, 1892-99) where a manuscript had been cited in the earlier printings. The change first appeared in the revised printing issued in 1901, which is the text presented here.

History of the United States of America during the Second Administration of James Madison was the only one of the four parts that did not have a private "draft" printing before trade publication. Adams worked on his manuscript during late 1887 and 1888, interrupting the writing to do research in the War Department, correct proofs for the private printing of the third part of the History, and to take short trips with friends. Back at the family library in Quincy during summer 1888, he wrote six to ten hours a day, confessing that "the frenzy of finishing the big book has seized me." The narrative portion was finished in September: "In imitation of Gibbon," Adams noted in his diary, "I walked in the garden among the yellow and red autumn flowers, blazing in sunshine, and meditated."

Adams began rewriting Second Administration of James Madison in 1889, while preparing printer's copy and correcting proofs of the earlier volumes. He set a typist to work at the beginning of the manuscript, and he rewrote--starting from the last chapter. Throughout the year, new documents were woven into the text: Adams' British friend Sir Robert Cunliffe helped secure naval reports in the London Foreign Office, and Adams went to Ottawa in August to search out additional material in the Canadian War Office. As late as November, with First Administration of Thomas Jefferson already published, Adams told Cunliffe, "I shall still have time to use new material. . . . The more the better" as long as Second Administration of James Madison is not in print." This new material, along with the engraved maps and plans Adams was supervising and the growing general index he was assembling, swelled the work until in January 1890 Adams wrote to Scribner that Second Administration of James Madison would "have to take three volumes or make uncomfortably thick ones." In August 1890, the final proofs of the index were left with Dwight, and Adams departed with John La Farge for Tahiti.

The trade edition, set from Adams' manuscript, was published in three volumes on January 10, 1891. By the end of the year, 2300 copies were in print, some of these perhaps incorporating the "one or two corrections" Dwight mentioned in an October 1891 letter to Scribner's. Adams' last changes in Second Administration of James Madison, made during the final revision of the History in 1899, first appeared in a 1904 printing. Of the changes, most of which were in the four concluding chapters, one was stylistic: "the men interested more than the societies was revised to "the men were far more interesting than the societies" (1333.24-25). Two involved the change of "State-rights" to "States-rights" that Adams marked throughout the History. Most changes qualified or altered assertions of fact. In a discussion of the artillery battle at New Orleans, the first printing stated that "During the entire war, no other battle was fought in which the defeated party had not some excuse to offer for inferiority." This was qualified to "No other baffle of the war, except that at Chrystler's Farm, left the defeated party with so little excuse for its inferiority" (1165.34-35). The claim about post-routes in 1817 that "none was yet established beyond the Mississippi" was altered to "they were already beyond the Mississippi" (1298.16-17); and the statement that American periodicals in 1817 were not much inferior to British "for neither the Edinburgh nor the Quarterly Review was established until several years later" was revised to read "for the Edinburgh was established only in 1802, and the Quarterly not till 1809" (1319.14-15). The text of the 1904 printing, where the changes first appeared, is the one printed here.

This Library of America volume presents the texts of the 1901 printing of History of the United States of America during the First Administration of James Madison and the 1904 printing of History of the United States of America during the Second Administration of James Madison, which incorporate Adams' final revisions in those works. Adams' large general index (which he himself assembled by reworking and expanding the indexes to the first three parts and adding entries for the fourth) has been separated into two indexes corresponding to this edition's two-volume format, and entries have been corrected where necessary. Maps and plans are reproduced from the History by courtesy of The Massachusetts Historical Society.

Adams treated the four administrations as distinct units, and insisted on four different title pages with four sets of volume numbers--"I" and "II" for each of the first three units and "I," "II," and "III" for the fourth. He compromised with Charles Scribner's desire for a series format, however, by allowing the spines of the volumes to bear the series title "History of the United States," inclusive dates, and consecutive volume numbers 1 through 9. The Library of America has followed an analogous practice in the present edition: different title pages for the two volumes with the series title and dates stamped on the binding.

This volume is concerned with presenting the texts of the 1901 and 1904 printings; it does not attempt to reproduce features of the typographic design, such as the display capitalization of chapter openings. The texts are reproduced without change, except for the correction of typographical errors. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization often are expressive features, and they are not altered, even when inconsistent or irregular.

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