The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

II. The Historians, 1607–1783

§ 23. Rev. Thomas Prince

A much better writer was the Rev. Thomas Prince, of Boston, whom we have encountered in connection with Bradford’s manuscript. The preservation of documents and rare pamphlets was to him a labour of love, and by industry he collected a large library of valuable materials. Many of the books are now preserved in the Boston Public Library. Prince’s devotion to history is recognized in the name of the Prince Society, of Boston, one of the most honoured of American historical organizations. The result of his efforts at writing history was a Chronological History of New England, in the Form of Annals, the first volume of which appeared in 1736. It began with the creation of man on the sixth day and proceeded rapidly to the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Then it moved with great detail through the events of the succeeding decade, until a hint from the publisher that the book was becoming too large brought it to an end with 7 September, 1630. The poor sale of the volume discouraged the author, who did not resume his work until 1755. He then began a continuation in serial parts at sixpence each; but the sale was so small that he gave up the project after three numbers had been issued.

Prince’s work is a delight to the genealogist and the antiquarian, for precision marks every step he took.

  • “I cite my vouchers to every passage,” he said, “and I have done my utmost, first to find out the truth, and then to relate it in the clearest order. I have laboured after accuracy; and yet I dare not say that I am without mistake; nor do I desire the reader to conceal any he may possibly find.”
  • No modern scientific historian could speak better. If Prince lacked literary ability, the want was made up in his strict sense of accuracy; and we should remember that it is rare that the world has a man who is endowed with both characteristics.