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These times have seen a peak of economic emphasis. It has not only been sensed like a rising wind but also materially felt like a rough stone surface; and the doctrine has followed that the pocket book parrates history. Thither has American historical literature tended. Professor Channing's works emphasize trade motives. Much of supposed revelation has been written of New England's rum and codfish aristocracy. Fiske's guileless picture of the Constitutional Convention, newer authors have reformed. The wealth, business, and lineage of the "Fathers" have been analysed to prove the Constitution but a bulwark of property. While the rise apace of the new west was so much a matter of fields, food, and transportation that less hardy, influences have been easily forgotten.
One cannot deny that men ahungered are original causes in history; of that fear of security and dreams of gold have won many battles. But it is inevitable that a hard and fast insistence on the ultiquity of these motives calls for a reaction. Professor Holcombe's "Political Parties of Today", for example, discards, in its very logical history of Democratic and Republican politics, all forces less constant than King Cotton and King Corn. Excellent extremes like this are apt to annoy some humanist.
So, in its first-book review of the new year, the New York Times chooses to consider Professor Caldwell's "Short History of the American People". From his position as Professor of American History at Rice Institute, Texas, Mr. Caldwell writes weight into "the elements of human feeling and emotion". He cites the war hero presidents and places "Uncle Tom's Cabin" against the Dred Scott Decision. He delves moreover into the particular field of New England historians to characterize the Puritans. As he finds them, they were more wide-spread than is supposed, and their influence more glowingly complex.
Seek and find is, of course, the watch word. Upon the stone work of economic necessity, there undoubtedly sits a many-timbered structure which blends at its base, lacking uttenly such a precise boundary as oil has upon water. And delineation will remain far from exact until individual man can be sure of his own motives, can answer accurately. "Why did you vote (or speak or think or fight) thus and so?
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