University of Virginia Library

3727. HISTORY, Neglected Material.—

It is truly unfortunate that those engaged in
public affairs so rarely make notes of transactions
passing within their knowledge. Hence
history becomes fable instead of fact. The
great outlines may be true, but the incidents
and coloring are according to the faith or fancy
of the writer. Had Judge Marshall taken half
your pains in sifting and scrutinizing facts, he


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would not have given to the world, as true history
a false copy of a record under his eye.
Burke again has copied him, and being a second
writer, doubles the credit of the copy.
When writers are so indifferent as to the correctness
of facts, the verification of which lies
at their elbow, by what measure shall we estimate
their relation of things distant, or of
those given to us through the obliquities of
their own vision? Our records it is true in
the case under contemplation, were destroyed
by the malice and Vandalism of the British
military, perhaps of their government, under
whose orders they committed so much useless
mischief. But printed copies remained, as
your examination has proved. Those which
were apocryphal, then, ought not to have been
hazarded without examination.—
To William Wirt. Washington ed. vi, 370. Ford ed., ix, 471.
(M. 1814)