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IT has long been a subject of surprise and regret,
many valuable periodical publications in the United States, no one should have been devoted to the preservation of an authentic and complete collection of American state papers and official records. Şeveral weekly and other publications, it is true, have professed to devote a portion of their columns for this purpose; but the mass of extraneous matter with which these valuable documents are mingled, in publications of this nature, is such as to render it a work of labour to refer to them; and from their being generally conducted by violent partizans, they lose much of their authority and usefulness. The official documents in works of this kind too, are generally incomplete, and are seldom, if ever, derived from authentic sources, but merely copied from newspapers, which, from the hurry and carelessness with which they are conducted, are liable to numerous omissions and the most gross blunders.
To supply this deficiency is the principal object of the present publication. For this purpose, it is intended to publish two volumes annually, the first of which will be devoted chiefly to legislative proceedings, and notices of internal improvements, and of the progress
of the arts and manufactures, &c.; the second to recording events more strictly historical.
But though the main object of the Register, is the collection and arrangement of documents respecting American history, its pages will not be exclusively devoted to that purpose. It is expected that sufficient room will generally be found for recording the most important events occurring in other countries, and particularly in Europe. The importance of the transactions of the United States for the last eighteen months, however, and the anxiety of the Editor to give the documents of that interesting period complete and entire, have induced him to devote the first volumes exclusively to American affairs, and to postpone a number of interesting articles which had been prepared, among which are a history of the campaigns in Russia and Germany, in 1812–13, and a history of the revolution in Spain, up to the present time.
The Register commences with a “Review of the Political Institutions of the United States." This review contains short comparative notices of the various provisions of the different state governments, with a more ample detail of the institutions of the federal government. It is believed that this essay will be found generally interesting, as comprising in small compass much useful information, not to be otherwise attained without a great deal of labour and research.
The history of the proceedings of congress during the two sessions held since the declaration of war, with a complete collection of the state papers laid before them by the executive, copied from the originals printed for the use of congress, occupies the remainder of the volume. The plan which has been adopted in this section of the work is to present the proceedings of congress digested into a regular narrative, giving a view of their acts, and of the propositions which have occupied their attention, in their natural order, without regard to the time of their occurrence. The advantages of this plan over that of a journal will, it is believed, be sufficiently obvious to every reader. In the proceedings of the first session of the 13th congress, will be found a digested view of the system of internal revenue, which went into operation on the first of January, 1814.
The second volume is occupied by a history of the most remakable events that have occurred from the de. claration of war to the commencement of the year 1814, followed by a complete collection of official historical documents for that period, in which will be found a number of interesting official letters which are now for the first time made public. The official documents are so arranged as to show at one view both the British and American statements, and they generally follow the order of the history, of which they may be considered an amplification and elucidation.
The work has been divided into two annual volumes, in compliance with the wish of many of the subscribers, who objected to its bulkiness on the former plan, and suggested that its interest would be much increased, by publishing it twice instead of once a year*.
* To accommodate those who prefer it in its original shape a few will be bound with the two volumes in one. Henceforward one volume will be published as soon as possible after the conclusion of each session of congress; the other about the commencement of the year, probably on the first of February.
It was originally intended that an introductory volume should have been published, containing the speeches or messages of the different presidents, at the opening of each session of congress, and the diplomatic correspondence relative to the infractions of the rights of the United States by the belligerent powers, which it was expected would have contained a compendious view of the Union since the adoption of the Federal constitution. In examining the archives of congress, however, for the purpose of making this collection, it was found, that the presidential speeches and messages would be extremely imperfect unless they were accompanied by the voluminous documents that were at the same time laid before that body, to which numerous references are made. Such a vast mass of other important documents throwing a light on the history of the country was likewise found, as determined the Editor to relinquish this part of his plan for the present, with a view of employing all the leisure that his work would afford, in drawing up such a digest of the proceedings of congress and of the valuable historical documents in the capitol, as, connected with notices of the most remarkable events that have taken place, would form a complete history of the United States. It will be easily perceived that this will be a work of much time and labour. Its extent cannot at present be exactly ascertained, though it most probably will fill at least three or four volumes; it will of course be optional with the subscribers either to purchase these volumes or not.