CHAPTER ONE IN DEFENCE OF HISTORY

EVERY0NE recalls the majestic exordium of Webster's reply to Hayne. "Mr. President," he began, "when the mariner has tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course." In that sentence Webster indicated one of the cardinal utilities of history. Mankind is always more or less storm-driven; and history is the sextant and compass of states which, tossed by wind and current, would be lost in confusion if they could not fix their position. It enables communities to grasp their relationship with the past, and to chart on general lines their immediate forward course. It does more. By giving peoples a sense of continuity in all their efforts, and by chronicling immortal worth, it confers upon them both a consciousness of their unity, and a feeling of the importance of human achievement. History is more than a mere guide to nations. It is first a creator of nations, and after that, their inspirer. Without it this world, a brilliant arena of human action canopied by fretted fire, would indeed become stale, flat, and unprofitable, a congregation of pestilent vapors.

By looking either at the past or the present we can see how vitally history serves its purpose as a womb or matrix of nations. The strongest element in the creation of any human organization of complex character and enduring strength is the establishment of common tradition by the narration of its history.

-3-

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