The older our country
becomes, the larger its population, the greater its diversification
of industry, of blood, and of culture, the more our calm judgment
acknowledges the debt this people and nation owe to its early
settlers. It was they who laid the foundation and fashioned the
shape of the governmental, social, and industrial edifice, to which
we of this generation make only additions or subtractions.
The first settlers in New
England were differentiated form the first settlers of any number in
Western North America by the fact that religious intolerance in
England at the time of their emigration was a compelling force in
causing it. This gave the movement and settlement a somewhat
religious character. Unquestionably the New England settler who had
fled from religious oppression and his descendants were a great
influence in the formation of what may be called our American
institutions, which so effectively guard man in his freedom of
worship, freedom of speech, his choice of religion, his right of
trial by jury, his right to property, and those other inalienable
rights upon which no other individual or even government itself can
encroach, the statement of which was finally permanently embodied in
the Constitution of the United States.
This book is a record of
the descendants of that stock in another and later development of
our national life. It was one hundred and sixty-seven years after
the landing of the Pilgrims and shortly after the Revolutionary War,
in April, 1788, when there occurred the great emigration to the
"Territory Northwest of the River Ohio," to be governed under the
ordinance passed by Congress in 1787 with its antislavery procision.
During this period of one hundred and sixty-seven years American
institutions may be said in general to have been defined, although
the antislavery provisions of the Ordinance of 1787 were not
included in the Constitution of the United States until after the
It is fortunate for
America that her institutions had this long evolution in a
population the character of which did not greatly change, either
through emigration or incongruous immigration, and which developed
its strong characteristics largely because of a difficult
environment. From no other kind of people or conditions could such
institutions have been evolved.
It is not too much to say
that had the transportation facilities of the early days in America
been what they are now, to say nothing of other great differences
between past and modern environment, our institutions would have
developed along far different lines. Principles do not take our
institutions were firmly established and become the heritage of all
our people, the easy transportation which in the old days would have
prevented their development became in later days the means of
establishing them in all parts of our country.
A study of the
development of the spirit of the Middle West is simply the study of
the reaction of the oldest American stock imbued with the old
American traditions and the spirit of its institutions to a new
environment different in some respects from that in which the same
stock evolved those institutions and traditions.
Brown's Hundred Years-will be for a student of American human nature
a classic textbook. This wonderful woman tells in a simple and
natural way the story of her life. If her purpose was any other than
to tell her story exactly as it was, the book would have lost its
value. As one reads these pages, he realizes that Grandmother Brown
gives facts as she sees them and opinions formed without the
handicap of a preconceived philosophy which often warps the
statements of historical writers.
The author of the book,
her daughter-in-law, has succeeded in transferring to its pages a
fine picture of the New England character as it reacted two hundred
years after the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers to a new environment.
The book is more than that. It is an epic of American life in the
early and later days of the Middle West.
No on can read the story
without the continuing sense of its inherent truthfulness, without
added reverence for the old American stock, transplanted but
unchanged, without an added realization of the fact that the
important things of life are the simple ones, and that small duties,
faithfully performed, sum themselves up finally in the creation of
high character commanding universal respect and interest, and
becoming an influence for unbounded good to our citizenship.
CHARLES G. DAWES.