Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/192

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Later Historians

the Revolutionary struggle on the Western border, extending it later to the entire Western region. He travelled widely in the West, visiting the explorers who still lived, ransacking old garrets, winning the confidence of important men, and collecting finally a vast treasure of material out of which he hoped to write a detailed history of the frontier. In 1853 he became corresponding secretary and chief executive officer of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. His efforts were constantly and wisely directed towards increasing its collections, enlarging the scope of its publications, and inducing the State to appropriate the funds necessary for development. He is rightly called the father of the Society. To it he bequeathed his large collection of historical material, itself a worthy nucleus of any society s possessions. His work was continued after his death by Reuben Gold Thwaites (1853-1913), who was an active writer of history as well as an eminent librarian. His service to Western history has not been surpassed.

To crown the series of events attending the creation of historical societies came the organization of the American Historical Association in 1884. Herbert Baxter Adams, of the Johns Hopkins University, was the most active person in bringing together the distinguished group of scholars who launched the enterprise and got it incorporated by the national government in 1889. In 1895 The American Historical Review was established in connection with the work of the Association. Taken together these two expressions of historical effort have bound up the interests of scattered American scholars, intensified their purpose, clarified their understanding, and enabled them to lay better foundations for a national school of history than we could have expected to evolve under the old individualistic method of procedure. They have had, also, an important influence on the writing of history, although it is probable that their best work is in the nature of a foundation for a greater structure to be erected in the future.

The origin of the great collections of historical documents in the United States goes back to similar enterprises in Europe. In France the series known as the Acta Sanctorum had been projected in the seventeenth century, but the movement had its fruition after the end of the Napoleonic wars, when several national series were authorized at public expense.