American History Told by Contemporaries


A Good Library of Sources

SINCE, from the Revolution onward, the history of the nation moves forward in one great movement, it is first of all important to have a set of the debates of Congress, and, so far as possible, of the reports of the Supreme Court. Exact titles of these publications will be found in Channing and Hart’s Guide, § 30.


1790–1854. B. R. Curtis, Reports of Decisions in the Supreme Court of the United States; with Notes and a Digest. 22 vols. Boston, 1881.—Condensed reports.

1855–1862. Samuel F. Miller, Reports of Decisions in the Supreme Court of the United States. 4 vols. Washington, 1874–1875.—Condensed reports, in continuation of Curtis.

1863–1874. John William Wallace, Cases Argued and Adjudged. 23 vols. Washington, 1870–1876.

1875–1882. William T. Otto, Cases Argued and Adjudged. 17 vols. Boston, 1876–1883.—Also bears the title, United States Reports, Supreme Court, Vols. 91–107.

1882–1899. J. C. Bancroft Davis, United States Reports. Vols. 108–177. 70 vols. New York, etc., 1884–1900.

1791–1895. Official Opinions of the Attorneys General of the United States. 20 vols. Washington, 1852–1895.

United States, Annals of Congress. 42 vols. Washington, 1834–1856.—Includes records of the debates from 1789 to 1824.

United States, Register of Debates in Congress. 29 vols. Washington, 1825–1837.—Includes the debates for those years.

United States, Congressional Globe: containing Sketches of the Debates and Proceedings. 109 vols. Washington, 1835–1873.—Contains the debates from 1833 on.

United States, Statutes at Large. 30 vols. Boston, etc., 1850–1899.—The official text of statutes from 1789 to 1899.

American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive. Folio, 38 vols. Washington, 1832–1861.

United States, ACompilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. 10 vols. Washington, 1896–1899.—A valuable official publication, poorly edited by James D. Richardson, containing all the presidents’ messages and proclamations except nominations for office. Sold by the government at cost.


The period from 1783 on is not so rich as the preceding in personal journals, but the following may be noted:—

John Adams, in his Works, Vol. III. (Edited by Charles Francis Adams.) Boston, 1851.—Fragmentary.

John Quincy Adams, Memoirs. (Edited by Charles Francis Adams.) 12 vols. Philadelphia, 1874–1877.—Covers the period from about 1795 to 1848, and is the most precious memorial left by any statesman after the Revolutionary period.

Thomas Jefferson, The Anas, in his Works, Vol. IX. (Edited by H. A. Washington.) Washington, 1854.

William Maclay, Journal. (Edited by Edgar S. Maclay.) New York, 1890.—The most valuable periodical journal of the period.


One of the largest sources for an accurate knowledge of the social conditions of America is the body of travels, chiefly by foreigners. A long list wilt be found in Channing and Hart’s Guide, § 24. The following are of special importance:—

Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Travels through North America, during the Years 1825 and 1826. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1828.

Morris Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey in America [1817]. London, 1818.

J.P. Brissot de Warville, New Travels in the United States of America, performed in 1788. Dublin, 1792.

Frances Anne (Kemble) Butler, Journal [1832–1833]. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1835.

Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North-America, in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782. 2 vols. London, 1787.

J.Hector St. John [de Crèvecœur], Letters from an American Farmer [1770–1781]. London, 1782.

Charles Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation. London, 1842.

Timothy Dwight, Travels; in New-England and New-York [1796–1811]. 4 vols. New Haven, 1821–1822.

Captain Basil Hall, Travels in North America in the Years 1827 and 1828. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1829.

James Hall, Sketches of History, Life, and Manners in the West. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1835.

Charles Lyell, Travels in North America [1841–1842]. 2 vols. London, 1845.

Henry T[heodore] Tuckerman, America and her Commentators; with a Critical Sketch of Travel in the United States. New York, 1864.

Elkanah Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs . . . including Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from 1777 to 1842. (Edited by W. C. Watson.) New York, 1856.

Isaac Weld, Jr., Travels through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the Fears 1795, 1796, and 1797. London, 1799.


John Adams, Works; with a Life of the Author, Notes, and Illustrations. (Edited by Charles Francis Adams.) 10 vols. Boston, 1850–1856.

Henry Clay, Works. (Edited by Calvin Colton.) 6 vols. New York, 1863.

Alexander Hamilton. Works. (Edited by Henry Cabot Lodge.) 9 vols. New York, etc., 1885–1886.

John Jay, Correspondence and Public Papers. (Edited by H. P. Johnston.) 4 vols. New York, etc. [1890–1893].

Thomas Jefferson, Writings . . . being his Autobiography, Correspondence, Reports, Messages, etc. (Edited by H. A. Washington.) 9 vols. Washington, 1853–1854.

James Madison, Letters and Other Writings. (By order of Congress.) 4 vols. Philadelphia, 1865.

James Monroe, Writings. (Edited by S. M. Hamilton.] Vols. I-III. New York, etc., 1898–1900.—In preparation.

George Washington, Writings . . . being his Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, etc. (Edited by Jared Sparks.) 12 vols. Boston, 1837.

Daniel Webster, Works. [Edited by Edward Everett.] 6 vols. Boston, 1851.


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Chicago: "A Good Library of Sources," American History Told by Contemporaries in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 10–11. Original Sources, accessed October 2, 2022,

MLA: . "A Good Library of Sources." American History Told by Contemporaries, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, pp. 10–11. Original Sources. 2 Oct. 2022.

Harvard: , 'A Good Library of Sources' in American History Told by Contemporaries. cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.10–11. Original Sources, retrieved 2 October 2022, from