The sunsets on our great lakes are peculiarly beautiful, and scarcely a bright day closes into evening without attracting admiration by its varied pictures of colored and gilded cloud-scenes. As I have looked upon them with a group of friends, each one beholds scenes unnoticed or unrecognized by others. Some see human figures in forms which are to others those of grotesque animals; and what to one may be burning cities or embattled armies, is to another but a confused and unmeaning cloud mass.
Thus do we all see differently what has the same external form, and hence a reason for writing many books upon even frequently-described countries and peoples. It is not the ground over which the traveler goes which alone appears in his book, but tho individuality of him who observes it. Each prismatic observer presents his own colored ray to make up the clear beam of truth; and no aggregate description of multiplied observers will make foreign nations accurately acquainted with each other, even when in close proximity, or derived from the same stock.
There is, then, room for my gatherings from the remote regions respecting which I write, and I am conscious they will not be missed from the vast mass left for other observers and future years.
In addition to this justification for presenting the public with the present volume, I have been for thirty years by necessity of position an observer in an important national institution, with its own peculiar usages and internal politics. It has been my conviction, from an early period, that this institution, in its organic structure, was not in harmony with our national character; not a natural emanation from it, but a graft from a morbid outgrowth of systems we have rejected as wrong in themselves or inapplicable to us.