Richard Hildreth

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Richard Hildreth

Richard Hildreth (June 28, 1807 – July 11, 1865), was an American journalist, author and historian.[1] He is best known for writing his six-volume History of the United States of America covering 1497–1821 and published 1840-1853.[2] Historians consider it a highly accurate political history of the early Republic, but with a strong bias in favor of the Federalist Party and the abolition of slavery.[3]

Early life[edit]

Hildreth was born at Deerfield, Massachusetts.[4] He was the son of Hosea Hildreth (1782–1835), who was a teacher of mathematics and later a Congregational minister.[5]

He attended Phillips Exeter Academy, starting in 1816, and staying for seven years thereafter. In 1826, he graduated from Harvard College. After studying law at Newburyport, he was admitted to the bar at Boston in 1830.[5]


In 1832, Hildreth he became joint founder and editor of a daily newspaper, the Boston Atlas.[5]

In 1834, he wrote a popular anti-slavery novel The Slave: or Memoir of Archy Moore (1836; enlarged edition, 1852, The White Slave).

In 1837 he wrote for the Atlas a series of articles vigorously opposing the annexation of Texas. In the same year he published Banks, Banking, and Paper Currencies, a work which helped to promote the growth of the free banking system in America.

In 1838 he resumed his editorial duties on the Atlas, but in 1840 removed, on account of his health, to British Guiana, where he lived for three years and was editor of two weekly newspapers in succession at Georgetown. He published in this year (1840) a volume in opposition to slavery, Despotism in America (2nd ed., 1854).

In 1849 he published the first three volumes of his History of the United States, two more volumes of which were published in 1851 and the sixth and last in 1852. The first three volumes of this history, his most important work, deal with the period 1492–1789, and the second three with the period 1789–1821. The history is notable for its painstaking accuracy and candor, as they are based on very careful analysis of the primary sources. The later volumes favor the Federalists. In dealing with the Jeffersonians, Hildreth calls them both "Republicans" and "Democrats" on the same page, but never "Democratic Republicans."

Hildreth's Japan as It Was and Is (1855) was at the time a valuable digest of the information contained in other works on that country (new ed., 1906). He also wrote a campaign biography of William Henry Harrison (1839); Theory of Morals (1844); and Theory of Politics (1853), as well as Lives of Atrocious Judges (1856), compiled from Lord Campbell's two works.

Between 1857 and 1860 Hildreth worked for the New York Tribune and during the same period he wrote several anti-slavery tracts for the fledgling Republican party under various pseudonyms. Poor health forced him to retire from his writing career in 1860. As a meed Massachusetts Governor Nathaniel Prentiss Banks and Senator Charles Sumner successfully lobbied for Hildreth's appointment as the United States consul at Trieste in 1861. In 1865 he resigned from that position and moved to Florence, where he died on July 11, 1865. He is buried near Theodore Parker in the English Cemetery, Florence

Selected works[edit]

In an overview of writings by and about Hildreth, OCLC/WorldCat lists roughly 270 works in 870+ publications in 11 languages and 12,800+ library holdings.[6]

This list is not finished; you can help Wikipedia by adding to it.
  • Archy Moore, the white slave; or, Memoirs of a fugitive, 1836
  • The history of banks; to which is added a demonstration of the advantages and necessity of free competition in the business of banking, 1837
  • Banks, banking, and paper currencies; In three parts. I. History of banking and paper money. II. Argument for open competition in banking. III. Apology for One-Dollar notes. 1840
  • Theory of morals an inquiry concerning the law of moral distinctions and the variations and contradictions of ethical codes, 1844
  • Theory of politics; an inquiry into the foundations of governments and the causes and progress of political revolutions. 1853
  • Despotism in America: an inquiry into the nature, results, and legal basis of the slave-holding system in the United States, 1854
  • The History of the United States of America, 6 vol
  • Japan as it was and is, 1855


  1. ^ Carnes, Mark C. (2005). "Richard Hildreth," American National Biography, Supplement 2, pp. 258–260.
  2. ^ Charles Wells Moulton (1910). 1855-1874. p. 453.
  3. ^ Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., "The Problem of Richard Hildreth," New England Quarterly (1940) 13#2 pp. 223–245 in JSTOR
  4. ^ Schlesinger Arthur M. "The Problem of Richard Hildreth," The New England Quarterly. Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jun. 1940), pp. 223–245.
  5. ^ a b c Hughes, Lynn Gordon. "Richard Hildreth," Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography; retrieved January 9, 2012.
  6. ^ WorldCat Identities: Hildreth, Richard 1807–1865 ; retrieved November 8, 2012.


  • Emerson, Donald E. (1946). Richard Hildreth Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. "The Problem of Richard Hildreth," New England Quarterly (1940) 13#2 pp. 223–245 in JSTOR

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hildreth, Richard". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 463.