If we look at our country today, we see a great nation of about .130,000,000 people engaged in many industries in a land where only five hundred years ago the only people were Indians who roamed at will in their primitive state. The Indians here numbering less than 1,000,000 were content to make their living mainly by hunting, fishing, and a little agriculture; they had no desire to cut down the forests and prepare the land for large-scale agriculture; they did not attempt to build industrial centers and carry on extensive trade.
They learned little or nothing of the progress which other peoples of their own time were making. Such a contrast shows what great changes have taken place. We study the history of the United States to understand these changes.
American civilization as we know it today is not merely the product of the efforts of our people during the few hundred years of our history. It is only a phase in the social development of the race – a development which began long before America was discovered, and to which many peoples throughout the centuries have made contributions. In order to appreciate fully the American habits, customs, institutions, and ideals as they now exist, we must know from whence they have come and something of the struggles through which they have passed. A knowledge of our Old World background will help us to understand the vexing problems of today, to be more appreciative of the debt we owe the past, to be less boastful of our own accomplishments, and to feel a responsibility for contributing to our social development.