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CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE LITERARY AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY
NEW YORK, NEW BRUNSWICK, DELAWARE, ETC.
In entering upon a new and untried department of British literature, some allowance should be made for the difficulty of the attempt. There are in the English language many works relating to the history of particular countries, of individual sovereigns, and of distinct periods of time; such are those of Rapin, Hume, Smollett, Robertson, Mackintosh, Henry, Aikin, Alison, and others; but that which we may venture to call philosophical history has not yet attracted any attention. The French works of De Tocqueville, Cousin, and Guizot, have no parallel, or similar works, in the English language; and yet it would appear that that kind of history which applies itself to all nations, and to all circumstances, should possess more interest than the mere detail of historical events, however vital those may be to the people immediately concerned in them. As to its importance, every person who reads, thinks, and reflects, must agree on the subject. Whoever has perused the pages of those truly noble British papers which give an account of the sufferings of large numbers of the English agricultural population, may perhaps find in this Essay a reason given for the depressed state in which a majority of them unfortunately remain. Some readers may consider that we have been too discursive; but the subject is one of such immense extent, that the difficulty we have felt has been to confine it within its present limits: thus it seemed very desirable to have devoted a chapter to British history, and to have shewn what have been really fortunate events, and those which have been the reverse; but we abstained from want of room. And the difficulties which attend the discussion of any subject frequently arise more from the want of a proper definition of terms, than from any real difference in the minds of readers and writers respecting any given proposition. Thus, in describing the effect of Governments on Boundaries, it seemed necessary to explain our definition of government, and its various kinds, previous to entering into its influence on human affairs. Others may consider the illustration by animals as too desultory; but it appears absolutely essential, in a work of this nature, to introduce some foreign machinery, if it is not too remote, in order to enliven and assist the detail of political events. In conclusion, the Author, in introducing a new subject to British thinkers and writers on the political and historical economy of nations, has merely to recommend it to abler pens to correct the mistakes and to supply the deficiencies of the present Essay.