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The title of the work does not convey to the reader an adequate idea of its scope and design. The author has accomplished much more than his title promises. It is not the “ history of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella” merely, but of Spain, for a considerable time previous to the commencement of that reign, and continued through the regencies of Ferdinand and of Ximenes which succeeded it, to the beginning of the reign of Charles the Fifth. The plan of the work is singularly bold and philosophical.
In two introductory chapters of more than ninety pages we have a graphic and very satisfactory view of the political condition of Spain, from the eighth to the fifteenth century. During that long and dreary period, it was broken up into a number of small but independent States, divided in their interests and often in deadly hostility with each other. By the middle of the fifteenth century, these numerous States bad become reduced to four ; Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and the Moorish kingdom of Granada. Of the first two of these our author gives a more particular account in his introductory chapters, the history of their constitutions, the characteristics of the people, their religious enthusiasm, the influence of their Minstrelsy, their chivalry, the Cortes, its power, boldness, etc. the nobility, their privileges and wealth, knights, clergy, the poverty of the crown, &c. all which are necessary to enable the reader to understand the origin of subsequent events and the agencies concerned in their production.
We are thus presented with the scattered and heterogeneous materials which were about to be combined to constitute a great nation ; a nation“ born to decay,” but destined, during the brief career of its glory and its conquests, to exert a more signal influence, on the civilization of Europe and the world, than any other nation of its time.
The marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella first united the crowns of Castile and Aragon. After this, their policy and success in arms soon reduced to subjection the kingdoms of Granada and Navarre, and thus completed the internal national structure of modern Spain. In the meantime Sicily and the Balearic Isles had descended to Ferdinand, with the crown of Aragon, and during the same reign Naples and the whole of lower Italy were added to the Spanish dominions, while the arms of Ximenes acquired for it a new sovereignty in the north of Africa, and the discoveries of Columbus extended the empire of Spain to a world before unknown.
And not only was Spain, at this time, the most interesting nation in the world, but the age of Ferdinand and Isabella's reign was one of the most important points in the world's history. It was an age of revolution and of wonderful expansion of the elements of modern civilization. The properties of the needle had now just begun to be applied to maritime adventure, unfolding new avenues to wealth and knowledge. Gunpowder and fire-arms were beginning to modify
the art of war; and printing had just come into use, diffusing intellectual life with a rapidity and to an extent before unknown. It was an age too of concentration among the powers of Europe, when the first visible causes began to operate which have resulted in the modern political state of the European nations. The whole European world was in a state of excited action, and the human mind was moving forward with visible and accelerated steps. Learning was about to revive, the impulses were now given which resulted in the glorious Protestant Reformation, and the discovery of the American continent, first opened that broad theatre for the development of the principles of civil and religious freedom, which are so happily illustrated in the Constitution and usages of our own United States, and which are even now exerting a reflex influence so benign and powe erful upon the old world.
The history of the reign which embraced the beginnings of these great ends, is one of more than common interest, not only to the general reader, but to the philosopher, the statesman, the philanthropist and the Christian of every land; while, to Americans, it embraces topics of peculiar attraction.
We deem it unnecessary and out of place to attempt, here, an extended review of this admirable history. Every part of it seems to us so indispensable to the full and correct understanding of the whole, that, to give an adequate exhibition of the merits of the work, we should need to write it over again, and give to our author the credit of original discovery, in regard to most of the important matters of which it is composed. They are such as have never before been presented in the English language. This history is therefore essentially a new one, though the times of which it treats have long since passed away. Robertson's “ Charles the Fifth," and the works of Hallam, Roscoe, Milman, Flechier and Sismondi have treated in a popular historical form several topics embracing partial views of Spanish affairs under the administration of Ferdinand and Isabella. Irving, of our own country, in his lives of Columbus and other Spanish voyagers, and also in his chronicle of the Conquest of Granada, has shed a brilliant light upon some of the striking events of that age. But a full history of that reign, its internal policy, its external relations, its important connections with the preceding and subsequent ages of the world, was never attempted by any historian in our language, until it has not only been attempted but executed in a most attractive and satisfactory manner by our countryman, Mr. Prescott.
The leading personages in this bistory, as the title indicates, are the reigning sovereigns of Spain. Associated with them are “ the Admiral,” Columbus, “ the great Captain," Gonsalvo, and Ximenes, whose various characteristics and exploits made him the wonder of his age. Around these several heroes of his narrative, to say nothing of a host of inferiors, our author throws all the life and interest
of biography, while the grand events which the history of these individuals draws in its train, introduce the reader, almost unconsciously, to a well arranged and systematic history of Spain in that eventful period of the world.
Next to the discovery of America by Columbus, one of the most interesting topics embraced in this work, especially to the ecclesiastical historian, is the origin and history of the modern Inquisition. Most of the materials of this bisiory, which, until now, have been inaccessible to English readers, have been gathered by our author from the very voluminous documents, in French, recenily disclosed by Llorente, a late sccretary of that dread tribunal. "These are here condensed and the substance of them is presented in a highly attractive form, throwing much new light upon an institution, which must forever remain a blot upon the reign of the beautiful queen. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain, who were the first victims of inquisitorial cruelty, bears still more severely upon the character of one, whose influence in many respects makes us proud to recognize her as the “mother of America.” This expulsion, the fall of Granada and the fate of the Jews in Africa, whither they were driven, furnish many scenes of heart-rending interest.
But it is not our intention to enumerate the topics of these attractive volumes. As we have already remarked, a larger portion of the work is new to the English reader, and the materials, rich and various, are arranged in admirable order to produce an ever-growing interest in the reader.
On the whole we are proud to recommend this history, both at home and abroad, as an American work; while we congratulate the author on the rapid sale of the first three editions, and a popularity already acquired, which will ensure him an ample return for his long continued labor and research, under embarrassments of no ordinary character.
3.—History of the United States from the Discovery of the Ameri
can Continent. By George Bancrofl. Vol. I. Fourth Edition, pp. 469. Vol. Il. Third Edition, pp. 468. Boston :
Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1838. Another American work ;-issued by the same publishers, in beautiful style, and worthy to stand by the side of “ Prescoll's Fer. dinand and Isabella," as an American and English classic, This work, like the preceding, will compare advantageously with the best standard histories in our language. It is an honor to the country and the age.
We notice these works in the order in which they should be read and pondered ;-for they are worthy of more than a simple reading ; —they deserve to be studied. Prescott introduces us to the condition of the world as it was, in the incipient stages of modern civilization, and brings us into sympathy with the nation which was honored with the discovery of the new continent. Bancroft takes up the story where Prescott leaves it; not to narrate the history of the ill-fated Spain, through the glorious reign which succeeded that of the Catholic Sovereigns, to its present humbled and broken condition, but to pursue a branch of modern history, spirit-stirring and buoyant with hope, where, amid many conflicts, it is true, and over numerous and appalling obstacles, the general progress of affairs has been onward, and upward.
We do not intend to intimate by these remarks that “ Bancroft's United States” is a continuation of the other work above named. It is a history complete in itself. It covers a portion of the same ground with that of Prescott, and derives its materials, thus far, from the same or similar sources. It will be read, however, with a more lively interest, and its early events be more fully comprehended by readers who are thoroughly acquainted with Spanish affairs, at the time of the discovery of the American continent.
This work is designed to be extended to several volumes. The two volumes named at the head of this notice are already before the public, and the publishers inform us that the third volume is in the press, while the author is diligently pursuing his investigations.
The first volume was published in 1831, and has been sufficiently praised by the Reviewers, as well in Europe as in this country. The second has met with an equally flattering reception, and both have been carefully revised by the author in the editions now before the public.
These volumes are wholly occupied with the Colonial history of this country. The running titles of their several chapters are“Early voyages-French settlements ;-Spaniards in the U. S. ;England takes possession of the country,-Colonization of Virginia ; -Slavery, dissolution of the London Company ;-Restrictions on Colonial commerce ;-Colonization of Maryland ;—The Pilgrims;Extended colonization of New England ;—the united colonies of New England ;—the restoration of the Stuarts ;— Massachusetts and Charles II. ;-Shaftsbury and Locke legislate for Carolina ;—the colonies on the Chesapeake bay ;-New Netherlands ;—the people called Quakers in the U. S. ;— James II. consolidates the Northern col. onies ;-the results thus far.” Under each of these general heads there is a wonderful variety of incidents of thrilling interest, and many rich trains of thought concerned in placing fully before the reader the leading facts and events of the times. These appear to have been sought out with great care, and are arranged with a due regard to the order of time, as well as to their bearings upon each other, and the whole is presented in a style at once concise, lucid and often highly finished and elegant.
The author possesses the best advantages for original investigation of the early American history, and has already spent years of la
borious preparation for his work. Hitherto he has pursued it with a candor and impartiality which are the crowning excellencies of a historian, and should his life be spared to complete what he has so worthily begun, we may hope to possess a standard American history, which future inquirers will find little occasion to correct.
Mr. Bancroft's description of the Pilgrims of New England, in his first volume, has been so often quoted and so deservedly praised, that it would be superfluous to refer to it here as a specimen of his style, whether of language or of thought. Many other passages of equal beauty are embraced in these volumes. His work is studded with gems of this sort.
4.-Elements of Psychology: included in a Critical Examination
of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding. With additional pieces. By Victor Cousin, Peer of France, etc. Translated from the French, with an Introduction and Notes, by the Rev. C. S. Henry, D. D. Second Edition, prepared for the use of Colleges. New York : Gould & Newman, 1838.
This work is a translation of ren lectures of M. Cousin, (from the sixteenth to the twenty-fifth inclusive,) contained in the second volume of his " History of Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century." These lectures are pronounced in the Edinburgh Review, (October 1830,) to be “the most important work on Locke since the Nouveaux Essais of Leibnitz," and by others, have been lauded as perhaps the greatest master-piece of philosophical criticism ever exhibited to the public.”
Mr. Henry's translation has been before the public since 1834, and having, as the translator informs us, been “introduced into a number of our most respectable Universities and Colleges," a judgment has doubtless been formed of its merits by many who have had more opportunity to study it than ourselves, and whose opinions will not be affected by any remarks of ours. Nor is it our design to depreciate the value of this work as a whole. It is a splendid production. Its classification of the mental faculties is a manifest improvement upon that of Locke, and, in the chapter on “ Moral Relations,” our author reasons with triumphant' conclusiveness against the error of Locke, Paley and others, who confound moral obligation with the influence of rewards and punishments assigned by law. Cousin maintains the essential and immutable distinction between right and wrong, and that, under a wise and good administration, certain actions are required because they are right, and others forbidden because they are wrong, independently of the reward promised or punishment threatened to enforce or prevent them. His chapter also on the “ Association of Ideas,” his encomium upon the Third Book of Locke and his observations on disputes about