EVERYBODY who reads this book through will wonder that a man who ought to be able to tell so much has really told so little.
I have known personally and quite intimately, or have known intelligent and trustworthy persons who have known personally and quite intimately, many men who have had a great share in the history of this country and in its literature for a hundred and thirty years.
In my younger days there were among my kindred and near friends persons who knew the great actors of the Revolutionary time and the time which followed till I came to manhood myself. But I did not know enough to ask questions. If I had, and had recorded the answers, I could write a very large part of the political and literary history of the United States. I never kept a diary, except for a few and brief periods. So for what I have to say, I must trust to my memory. I have no doubt that after these volumes are published, there will come up in my mind matter enough to make a dozen better ones.
I invoke for this book that kindly judgment of my countrymen which has attended everything I have done in my life so far. I have tried to guard against the dangers and the besetting infirmities of men who write their own biography. An autobiography, as the word implies, will be egotistical. An old man's autobiography is pretty certain to be garrulous. If the writer set forth therein his own ideals, he is likely to be judged by them, even when he may