Com. Wilkes’s Narrative.



  As this expedition formed a new feature in our annals, and one of the sort we most need to see developed, and as narratives of such expeditions form one of the most agreeable entertainments ever given through the medium of print, we opened this first volume of the Commander’s Chronicle with a good deal of eagerness. But we are much disappointed to be carried no farther and introduced to no more novel topics or details of information by passing through so many pages. The author is not skilled in the important art of knowing what to omit, neither does he seize with good judgment on leading points and give them due relief. These defects must, of course, pervade the other four volumes, but when we get to land or waters less familiar, we may hope, at least, to feel a little more as if we were on an Exploring Expedition. The public is interested to know that a great national purpose was followed up with fidelity and good judgment, and therefore wants an outline of what was done from the beginning. But it is principally interested to know what it did not before, and, thus far, there is little to answer this desire.

  We are not, indeed, like the English on their little island compelled to take ship to discover new empires for thought and knowledge, since no person can move about at all in our own immense and unexamined empire without making of each journey an exploring expedition, yet these large outward-bound designs to serve the aims of policy and science do not exhaust our strength, but rather increase it for inquiries as to objects nearer home, and every important fact we can win is precious to us. So is every plan, such as this was, that implies value for liberal culture as a national and general concern, and helps to educate men of science by giving scope to their powers. But it is what the naturalist and the man of science has to tell that must chiefly interest us in this Expedition, and it is rather tiresome to be detained so long in the South American States. We await the other volumes for news of bird and beast and unplowed waters, and starry heavens in aspects yet unscanned.*

“Com. Wilkes’s Narrative.” New-York Daily Tribune, 7 May 1845, p. 1.