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Cornelius Mathews


Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1839.

In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of New-York.
Printed by William Osborn,
88 William Street.

Part 1            Part 2             Notes


THE author solicits the attention of his countrymen to the following work. He ventures to do so for reasons which seem to him a sufficient justification of his present labors. His main design was to make those gigantic relics, which are found scattered throughout this country, subservient to the purposes of imagination. He has, therefore, dared to evoke this Mighty Creature from the earth and striven to endow it with life and motion. Simultaneous and coeval with this the great race that preceded the red men as the possessors of our continent, have been called into being. With whatever success the author may have accomplished this portion of his task, the venerable race which struggled and endured in these fair fields, ere they became our home and dwelling place, must be allowed to awaken our feelings and share our generous regards. In describing the Mound-builders no effort has been made to paint their costume, their modes of life or their system of government. They are presented to the reader almost exclusively under a single aspect, and under the influence of a single emotion. It matters not to us whether they dwelt under a monarchical or popular form of polity; whether king or council ruled their realms nor, in fine, what was their exact outward condition. it is enough for us to know, and enough for our humanity to inquire, that they existed, toiled, felt and suffered; that to them fell, in these pleasant regions, their portion of the common heritage of our race, and that around those ancient hearth-stones, washed to light on the banks of the far western rivers, once gossiped and enjoyed life, a nation that has utterly faded away. We are moved deeply in looking upon their mortuary remains — those disinterred and stately skeletons — for we know that they once were men, and moved among men with hearts full of human impulses, and heads warm with mortal schemes and fancies. Of this, History could make us no surer. Over the earth where they repose, purple flowers spring up, and with the brilliancy of their hues, and the sweetness of their breath, give a splendor and fragrance to the air. This touches him as deeply, the author must confess, and seems to his untravelled eyes as beautiful as any thing he can read of Athens, of cloudless Italy, or the sunny France. Humanity and nature are all with which the heart wishes to deal, and we have them here in their naked outlines and grandeur. There is enough here for author and reader if they be of strong minds and true hearts. A green forest or a swelling mound is to them as glorious as a Grecian temple; and they are so simple as to be well nigh as much affected by the sight of a proud old oak in decay near at home, as by the story of a baronial castle tottering to its fall three thousand miles off.

The author is aware of the difficulty and magnitude of his undertaking. He knows as well as any one can know, the obstacles to vanquish and remove; and he also knows the obstacles that will not be vanquished nor removed. Notwithstanding all this he feels assured, if he has contended in any degree successfully with the great tress and majesty of the subject, he will have accomplished some slight service for the literature of his country, and something, he ventures to hope, for his own good name.

New-York, January, 1839.