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To the Members of the Massachusetts Historical Society.


In conformity with the request expressed by your vote, in December, 1842, I have prepared the subjoined Memoir of James Grahame, LL. D., author of the History of the United States of North America. Having never enjoyed the advantage of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Grahame, the sole means I then possessed of complying with your request were derived from his writings, and a short correspondence, originally official in its nature, and extended subsequently by an interchange of only a few letters. I should, therefore, have wholly declined the undertaking, had not these slight and transient opportunities deeply impressed my mind with the moral purity and intellectual elevation of his character. It seemed to me, moreover, incumbent upon some American to attempt to do justice to the memory of a foreigner who had devoted the chief and choicest years of his life to writing the history of our country, with a labor, fidelity, and affectionate zeal for the American people and their institutions, which any native citizen may be proud to equal, and will find it very difficult to surpass.

Under these circumstances, my purpose to attempt the task having been formed, I immediately communicated with Mr. Grahame's family and European friends, and received from his highly accomplished widow, from John Stewart, Esq., his son-in-law, and from Sir John F.W. Herschel, Bart., who had maintained with him from early youth an uninterrupted intimacy and friendly correspondence, extracts from his diary, and from letters written by him to themselves or others, accompanied with interesting notices illustrative of his sentiments and views. Robert Walsh, Esq., the present American consul at Paris, VOL. IX.


well known and appreciated in this country and in Europe for his moral worth and literary eminence, who had enjoyed the privilege of an intimate personal acquaintance with Mr. Grahame, also transmitted to me many of his letters to himself

. William H. Prescott, Esq., and the Rev. George E. Ellis, with others of his correspondents, have extended to me like favors.

From these sources I have been enabled to sketch the subjoined outline of Mr. Grahame's life and character ; in doing which, I have studied, as far as possible, to make his own language the expositor of his mind and motives.

JOSIAH QUINCY. Cambridge, 28 July, 1845.

James GRAHAME, the subject of this Memoir, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on the 21st of December, 1790, of a family distinguished, in its successive generations, by intellectual vigor and attainments, united with a zeal for civil liberty, chastened and directed by elevated religious sentiment.

His paternal grandfather, Thomas Grahame, was eminent for piety, generosity, and talent. Presiding in the Admiralty Court, at Glasgow, he is stated to have been the first British judge who decreed the liberation of a negro slave brought into Great Britain, on the ground, that “a guiltless human being, in that country, must be free”; a judgment preceding by some years the celebrated decision of Lord Mansfield on the same point. In the war for the independence of the United States, he was an early and uniform opponent of the pretensions and policy of Great Britain ; declaring, in the very commencement of the contest, that "it was like the controversy of Athens with Syracuse, and he was persuaded it would end in the same


He died in 1791, at the age of sixty, leaving two sons, Robert and James. Of these, the youngest, James, was esteemed for his moral worth, and admired for his genius; delighting his friends and companions by the readiness and playfulness of his wit, and commanding the reverence of all who knew him, by the purity of a life under the guidance of an ever active religious principle. He was the author of a poem entitled “ The Sabbath,” which, admired on its first publication, still retains its celebrity among the minor effusions of the poetic genius of Britain.

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