As the object of this work is to give to the reader of the present day an intelligible view of a transaction of the past, and not to illustrate any thing else than the said transaction, no attempt has been made to preserve the orthography of that period. Most of the original papers were written without any expectation that they would ever be submitted to inspection in print; many of them by plain country people, without skill in the structure of sentences, or regard to spelling; which, in truth, was then quite unsettled. It is no uncommon thing to find the same word spelled differently in the same document. It is very questionable whether it is expedient or just to perpetuate blemishes, often the result of haste or carelessness, arising from mere inadvertence. In some instances, where the interest of the passage seemed to require it, the antique style is preserved. In no case is a word changed or the structure altered; but the now received spelling is generally adopted, and the punctuation made to express the original sense.
It is indeed necessary, in what claims to be an exact reprint of an old work, to imitate its orthography precisely, even at the expense of difficulty in apprehending at once the meaning, and of perpetuating errors of carelessness and ignorance. Such modern reproductions are valuable, and have an interest of their own. They deserve the favor of all who desire to examine critically, and in the most authentic form, publications of which the original copies are rare, and the earliest editions exhausted. The enlightened and enterprising publishers who are thus providing facsimiles of old books and important documents of past ages ought to be encouraged and rewarded by a generous public. But the present work does not belong to that class, or make any pretensions of that kind.
My thanks are especially due to the Hon. Asahel Huntington, clerk of the courts in Essex County, for his kindness in facilitating the use of the materials in his office; to the Hon. Oliver Warner, secretary of the Commonwealth, and the officers of his department; and to Stephen N. Gifford, Esq., clerk of the Senate.
David Pulsifer, Esq., in the office of the Secretary of State, is well known for his pre-eminent skill and experience in mastering the chirography of the primitive colonial times, and elucidating its peculiarities. He has been unwearied in his labors, and most earnest in his efforts, to serve me.
Mr. Samuel G. Drake, who has so largely illustrated our history and explored its sources, has, by spontaneous and considerate acts of courtesy rendered me important help. Similar expressions of friendly interest by Mr. William B. Towne, of Brookline, Mass.; Hon. J. Hammond Trumbull, of Hartford, Conn.; and George H. Moore, Esq., of New-York City,—are gratefully acknowledged.
Samuel P. Fowler, Esq., of Danvers, generously placed at my disposal his valuable stores of knowledge relating to the subject. The officers in charge of the original papers, in the Historical Society and the Essex Institute, have allowed me to examine and use them.