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DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, ss.
District Clerk's Office.
BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the second day of June, A. D. 1827, and in the fifty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America, ERASTS WORTHINGTON, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following, to wit:
"The History of Dedham, from the beginning of its settlement in September, 1635 to May,
"Beatus ille qui procul negotiis,
Paterna rura bubus exercet suis
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled 'An Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.' And also to an Act, entitled An Act, supplementary to an Act, entitled an Act for the encouragement of Learning, by se uring the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving and etching historical and other prints.'
JNO. W. DAVIS,
Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.
SOME facts related in the following sketch, will appear trivial. I am not certain that a sufficient reason can be given for extending the history of a town of no considerable extent, to so many pages. Several considerations, however, have prevailed over this doubt. It has appeared to me that a town like Dedham, having its first settlement at an early date, having copious materials for an history, and nearly resembling a much larger extent of country around it, in its character and past transactions, might be properly selected for a full historical and topographical description. The history of a town, although much of it must necessarily have only a local interest, may yet be so arranged, that it may afford some views of society, not exhibited in more general histories. It may bring us nearer the homes, and enable us to see more distinctly the doings of the inhabitants. It may assist us in tracing the origin of manners and customs, and in judging of the influence of laws and public proceedings, on the character of the people.
Under all forms of government in this state, whether it were colonial, provincial, or republican, many important measures, and especially all revolutionary proceedings, have been submitted to the primary assemblies of the people, to be examined and acted on by them. During the revolutionary war in particular, towns and parishes not only expressed their opinions on many subjects connected with that event, but they actually exercised much of the jurisdiction of a national government in prosecuting that war. How these small corporations, organised solely for municipal or parochial purposes, transacted that business, how they succeeded in procuring soldiers and warlike stores, and did other things to promote the same great end, is a proper subject for historical inquiry. Reflections of this kind have induced me to state facts somewhat minutely, which if they be not viewed in their connection as causes or effects, are comparatively speaking, of no importance.
In this essay I have endeavoured, so far as my materials would permit, to exhibit a faithful view of society in this place, in a retrospect of one hundred and ninety years. In doing this, I have endeavoured on the one hand, to avoid the error of bestowing extravagant or unmerited praise, and on the other, to give no just cause of offence, by an improper narration of private affairs, having no relation to the general character. I have attempted to do what gratitude and justice require to be done, to make
known the substantial virtues, and the real merit of the present and past generations in this town, but in doing this, I have not submitted to the disgraceful and immoral task of composing an historical sketch, and therein suppressing all notice of the errors or follies of past times, as some have suggested ought to be done. I have hesitated whether the events of the last twenty years, should be herein related, but I have concluded, that as a witness of events can give a more satisfactory account of things, the history should be brought down to the present time.
The records of the town and parishes, and of the first church, have been my authorities, except when I have quoted others. These records I have carefully perused, and have found them so circumstantial in some cases, that they would authorise me to state some facts, no where directly asserted. When I have depended on tradition, I have given notice of it.
Before the reader finally condemns me for descending too much to small affairs, I hope he will reflect that there are some popular precedents to lead me astray, among which are Espriellas Letters and governor Winthrop's Journal, and I might likewise mention as additional motive, an increasing taste for these kinds of historical details.