Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Historical Sketch of the War of 1812,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. XII: Literary Criticism - part 04 (1902), pp. 252-254


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[page 252, continued:]

HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE SECOND WAR BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND GREAT BRITAIN, DECLARED BY ACT OF CONGRESS, THE 18TH OF JUNE 1812, AND CONCLUDED BY PEACE, THE 15TH OF FEBRUARY 1815. BY CHARLES J. INGERSOLL. IN THREE VOLUMES. VOL. I. EMBRACING THE EVENTS OF 1812-13. PHILADELPHIA: LEA AND BLANCHARD.

[Broadway Journal, Oct. 11, 1845.]

A VOLUME of more than 500 pages octavo. It is rather a series of vivid pictures on the subject of the late War, than an Historical Sketch of it. Force and novelty abound, and we are never permitted to doubt the honesty of the narration, but there is a slight tinge of the whimsical about the book which may operate, in the first instance, to prevent a very general appreciation [page 253:] of its merits — which are undoubtedly great. By way of exemplifying our meaning we quote a brief passage from an account of Timothy Pickering.

His reputation was that of a consistent upright man, who lived and died firm to the conviction he cherished; hard but honest. On a great field day debate in 1811, on the Loan Bill, when the House, in committee of the whole, gave six weeks to those speeches for political capital at home and abroad, which are among the ways and means of free countries with a free press — much preferable to more serious combats — Mr. Pickering, in the course of his harangue, looking through his spectacles full in the chairman’s face, said, with great emphasis, swinging his long arm aloft, that he stood on a rock. “I stand on a rock,” said he “from which all democracy” — then raising his voice and repeating it — “not all democracy and hell to boot, can move me — the rock of integrity and truth.”

“These things are more honored in the breach than in the observance” — by silence than by historical record. The passage, too, will afford some idea of Mr. Ingersoll’s style which, like Mr. Pickering’s character, is “hard but honest” — as well as (more definitely) of his mere English, which is loose and uncouth to a very reprehensible degree. Take, for instance, the first paragraph of the volume:

In this historical sketch I shall endeavor to submit the truth in an account of the contest between Great Britain and the United States of America, declared by Act of Congress, approved the 18th of June, 1812. It enacted that war was already declared to exist between the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Dependencies thereof, and the U. S. of America and their territories; [page 254:] and that the President of the U. S. was thereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the U. S., to carry the same into effect, and to issue to private armed vessels of the U, S., commissions, or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he should think proper, and under the seal of the U. S. against the vessels, goods and effects of the government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the subjects thereof.

Here a “contest” is “declared.” Whether the “thereby” in “thereby unauthorized” refers to the territories, the war, or the act, it is difficult to determine. “The same” is equally ambiguous as regards its reference, and it seems to be the “Seal of the U. S.” which is set “against the vessels, goods and effects” of the British. The whole paragraph is awkward in the extreme.

But happily the value of the book does not depend upon trifles such as these. It gives a plain, discerning and evidently faithful view of the events of the war, and will be received with favor by all who are competent to decide upon the worth of an historical treatise.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Historical Sketch of the War of 1812)