REVIEWS OF The History of All Nations (1849-1851), by Samuel G. Goodrich

Reviews of other works by Goodrich
The Literary World, 29 June 1850
Knickerbocker, November 1850

Notice. The Literary World, 6 (29 June 1850): 637. Ed. Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck.

WILKINS, CARTER & CO. issue with promptness the successive numbers of S. G. Goodrich’s History of all Nations. The 14th number of this comprehensive work is occupied with the Hindoos. The tact and acumen of the editor eminently qualify him for this undertaking. The wood-cut illustrations are numerous.


Knickerbocker, November 1850: 461-463. Ed. Lewis Gaylord Clark.

A History of all Nations, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time, or a Universal History, in which each Country is separately noticed. By S. G. Goodrich. Boston, Wilkins and Carter.

It appears that Mr. Goodrich, who is most known by his educational works, does not shrink from more formidable undertakings. A few years since he gave to the public a Universal Geography, containing one thousand pages of broad octavo; soon after, a popular series of twenty volumes, entitled the ‘Cabinet Library;’ and now we have the first volume of a ‘Universal History,’ which, when completed, will fill twelve hundred pages in double column royal octavo.

This latter work is likely to enhance the author’s reputation, as it seems to us eminently successful in an attempt to present an historical view of the world, adapted at once to popular reading, and useful as a treasure of historical reference. Considering the ordinary mode of presenting general history in one consentaneous chronological view, as bewildering to most readers, and necessarily excluding that clearness and minuteness of detail, essential to the interest of a narrative, he gives a continuous and connected history of each country by itself. In cases which require, as when the history of one nation crosses that of another, or connects itself with the general affairs of the world, he introduces such views and sketches as are desired, in order to give the full scope of the subject in hand. In this way, almost every page of the work is invested with the attraction belonging to precise, detailed narrative. It greatly increases the value of the work that the geography, ancient and modern, of each country, is distinctly given with stylographic maps, as a preliminary to the history. Thus the reader sets out upon his historical studies with a clear idea of the position, shape, extent, population, climate and resources of every country to which they relate. The histories are brought down to the present time, and are closed by a sketch of the character and manners of the people. The work, therefore, may be regarded as an historical and geographical view of the world, embracing the present condition of each country, and the steps by which it has reached its actual condition. The first volume is now complete, and the second will be published in a few weeks.

The plan of the work, considered as a treatise for the million, appears to us most excellent, and the execution is in a high degree felicitous. It is marked by the clearness, vigor and simplicity of style, characteristic of the author. It is not a mere copy or servile compilation; many of the general views are original and striking, and are frequently presented with force and eloquence. The following passage from the

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General View of Asia, will be interesting in itself, and afford a fair illustration of the author’s style:

‘But if such has been the history of Asia for the past, there is reason to believe that a change is not remote. Indeed, within the present century, great and significant changes have actually taken place in Asia. If we direct our attention to the west, we shall see that the Turkish power, which has been the impassable wall between Europe and Asia, seems gradually wasting away. Not long since, its territories were estimated at nearly one million of square miles; now they can hardly be rated above half a million. It has lost its possessions in Africa; Greece has been separated from its provinces in Europe; and Russia has taken portions of its Asiatic provinces. Of those which remain, some are independent in all but name, while the rest are divided by race and history, leaving only religion as the principle of cohesion and of fidelity to the government. The territory of Turkey has, therefore, been reduced one-half within the last fifty years, while its moral and political power, in view of the relative strength and intelligence of European nations, is reduced in an equal degree. It is clear that if it were to become the policy of any leading nation of Europe to crush the Ottoman empire, its fate would be inevitably sealed; and even if no such catastrope should happen, the influence of intercourse with Christendom, which is already visible in Turkey, must, ere long, as effectually subdue the barbarism of the people, as if they were to pass under the yoke of foreign conquest.

‘On the north, the entire continent is in possession of Russia; the great peninsula of the south is subject to Britain; and these two powers, advancing in their ambitious designs, have almost met, face to face, within the limits of the ancient empire of Persia. Neither of these energetic nations is likely to recede; on the contrary, their conquests will probably be indefinitely extended. On the east of Asia, a momentous change has recently taken place, the brazen gates of Chinese exclusion have been rudely broken open by the Samson of the sea, and ‘the beginning of the end’ seems already shadowed forth to the view.

‘Thus, on all sides, the moral and religious barriers opposed to Asiatic civilization are giving way. Already one-third of its territory is in possession of the two leading European nations; and from the extension of our own frontiers to the Pacific—thus bringing us within five thousand miles of Asia—a new element is added upon which to found calculations of improvement. It has often been remarked, that the course of intellectual illumination among nations has been like that of the sun, carrying its light over the world from east to west. The poet, following this idea, and alluding to America, has said:

‘Westward the star of empire takes its way, etc.

In view of recent events, we may go beyond this prophetic suggestion, and while we see our country reflecting back upon Europe the civilization it borrowed there, we may soon behold it following the course of nature and of history, and completing the cycle by carrying civilization to Asia, destined to result in its regeneration.’

The chapters on Tartary, which the author characterises as ‘the great nursery of nations; the armory of Divine Providence, whence were drawn the weapons for the destruction of corrupt, worn-out or imbecile nations,’ are exceedingly interesting, and present a page of historical wonders hitherto little regarded or appreciated. This part of the work is the result of great labor and research, and is a valuable contribution to history. An elaborate ethnographical table of the various tribes is given, which serves to divest the subject of that complication which has hitherto rendered it inaccessible to general reading.

We are happy to remark that in his sketches of personal and national character the author has not followed in the track of antiquated prejudice. He seems to have come to his task with liberal views and an impartial spirit, in the light of which many subjects wear a new and more truthful aspect. The Chinese national character and literature, a subject by the way treated with a good deal of learning, are redeemed from the contempt so largely bestowed upon them by the writers of the last century. We might note many other instances of the kind. We have space only to add the following extract, closing our notice by remarking, that the work displays not only Mr. Goodrich’s accustomed industry, good taste and talent for description, but a high degree of ability as a philosophical historian. The following passage is taken from an exceedingly interesting chapter on the character of the French nation:

‘Here, then, is France; at once homogenous and fragmentational and provincial. There is no land where the people are more universally devoted to the central idea of country than this. La Belle France is the object of great idolatry; yet, as we have said, the local peculiarities remain strongly marked. France is like a painting, having one grand design, yet showing the separate threads of the canvass behind, and beyond the colors which give unity to the surface. The solution of this phenomenon is found in the early history of France. The Celts—a noisy race, ‘which over-

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ran Europe sword in hand, from a vain and uneasy desire to see, know and busy themselves with every thing’—were still a genial, social people. These formed the basis of the present population, and gave tone and color to the texture of society. They were broken into many bands and tribes, and settling in different parts of the country, perpetuated their peculiarities, often deriving from the soil and climate the instruments by which these were preserved, and perhaps exaggerated.

‘Considering the Celtic stock as the basis of the modern Gallic nation, we must nevertheless remember the mixture of Grecian blood at Marseilles and the contiguous country; of Norman, in what still bears the name of Normandy; of Roman, infused during nearly five centuries of Roman dominion; and fially of German, in the migrations of the Burgundians, Visigoths, and Franks. This mixture of nations has been highly advantageous to France. It seems a general law that the simple, original races are rather designed to break the soil than to reap the harvest of civilization. The pure Caucasian—if we take the people inhabiting the country which gives name to the race, as its example—has never advanced beyod barbarism; the Mongolian, in his native land, is little better than a savage; the Malay, the Negro, and the American Indian, have never, by themselves, shown a capacity for improvement beyond a very limited degree. The first nations, unmixed, always seem to remain children. With them the physical is predominant. The historian speaks of those which early people Europe, ‘with large, fair, soft, succulent bodies,’ as the infants of a ascent world. It is by grafting that the finest fruits are produced. The crab-apple will remain a crab forever if its sap be not mingled with that of other kinds. The pippin is the result of a long and careful crossing of varieties. Thus it is, among the mixed races of mankind, that we se the intellectual gaining an ascendancy over the material; it is among nations in whose veins is mingled the blood of various kindreds and tongues, that are found the highest examples of intellectual and moral endowment. What was even England , with its Anglo-Saxon race, till the infusion of French-Norman blood? Do not all the monuments of which she boasts take their date since the conquest? In early ages, war—the instinct of uncivilized man—effected the mixture which Providence seems to have designed as the instrument of human improvement; in a more enlightened age, adopting the spirit of the gospel, which extends its blessings alike to Jew and Gentile, it should be the aim of every good man to soften the hostility of races, and promote the progress of society, by mingling all into one fraternity of states and nations.’

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