Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity…. But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and checks in some measure its irresistible flow, so that, of all things done in it, as many as history has taken over it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip away into the abyss of oblivion.
The historian has a duty both to himself and to his readers. He has to a certain extent the cure of souls. He is accountable for the reputation of the mighty dead whom he conjures up and portrays. If he makes a mistake, if he repeats a slander on those who are blameless, or holds up profligates or schemers to admiration, he not only commits an evil action; he poisons and misleads the public mind.
The greatness of today is built on the efforts of past centuries. A nation is not contained in a day nor in an epoch, but in the succession of all days, all periods, all her twilights and all her dawns.
We are reminded by William James … that everyone … has in truth an underlying philosophy of life … a stream of tendency … which gives coherence and direction to thought and action…. All their lives, forces which they do not recognize and cannot name, have been tugging at them—inherited instincts, traditional beliefs, acquired convictions; and the resultant is an outlook on life, a conception of social needs, a sense in James's phrase of “the total push and pressure of the cosmos, ” which, when reasons are nicely balanced, must determine where choice shall fall.
—Benjamin N. Cardozo