Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

a course of some years, the net balance, formed by the profits in question, amounted to a certain sum, proportioned to the size of the performance. And, in fine, I must add to the account of the many favours I have received, that I was allowed to carry on the above business of selling my book, without any objection being formed against me from my not having served a regular apprenticeship, and without being molested by the inquisition. Several authors have chosen to relate, in writings published after death, the personal advantages by which their performances had been followed: as for me, I have thought otherwise ; and, fearing that during the latter part of my life I may be otherwise engaged, I have preferred to write now the account of my successes in this country, and to see it printed while I am yet living.

I shall add to the above narrative (whatever the reader may be pleased to think of it) a few observations of rather a more serious kind, for the sake of those persons who, judging themselves to be possessed of abilities, find they are neglected by such as have it in their power to do them occasional services, and suffer themselves to be mortified by it. To hope that men will in earnest assist in setting forth, the mental qualification of others, is an expectation which, generally speaking, must needs be disappointed. To procure one's notions and opinions to be attended to, and approved by the circle of one's acquaintance, is the universal wish of mankind. To diffuse these notions farther, to numerous parts of the public, by means of the press or by others, becomes an object of real ambition : nor is this ambition always proportioned to the real abilities of those who feel it : very far from it. When the approbation of mankind is in question, all persons, whatever their different ranks may be, consider themselves as being engaged in the same career; they look upon themselves as being candidates for the very same kind of advantage : high and low, all are in that respect in a state of primæval equality; nor are those who are likely to obtain some prize, to expect much favour from the others.

This desire of having their ideas communicated to, and approved by, the public, was very prevalent among the great men of the Roman commonwealth, and afterwards

[merged small][ocr errors]

with the Roman emperors ; however imperfect the means of obtaining those ends might be in those days, compared with those which are used in ours. The same desire has been equally remarkable among modern European kings, not to speak of other parts of the world ; and a long catalogue of royal authors may be produced. Ministers, especially after having lost their places, have shown no less inclination than their masters, to convince mankind of the reality of their knowledge. Noble persons of all denominations have increased the catalogue. And, to speak of the country in which we are, there is, it seems, no good reason to make any exception in regard to it; and great men in it, or in general those who are at the head of the people, are, we find, sufficiently anxious about the success of their speeches, or of the printed performances which they sometimes condescend to Tay before the public : nor has it been every great man, wishing that a compliment may be paid to his personal knowledge, that has ventured to give such lasting specimens.

Several additions were made to this work at the time I gave the first English edition of it. Besides a more accurate division of the chapters, several new notes and paragraphs were inserted in it; for instance, in the 11th chapter of the 2d book : and three new chapters, the 15th, 16th, and 17th, amounting to about ninety pages, were added to the same book. These three additional chapters, never having been written by me in French, were inserted in the third edition made at Amsterdam, translated by a person whom the Dutch bookseller employed for that purpose: as I never had an opportunity to peruse a copy of that edition, I cannot say how well the translator performed his task. Having now parted with the copyright of the book, I have farther added four new chapters to it (10, 11, B. I.; 19, 20, B. II.) by way of taking a final leave of it; and in order the more completely to effect this, I may perhaps give, in a few months, a French edition of the same (which I cannot tell why I have not done sooner), in which all the above-mentioned additions, translated by myself, shall be inserted.

In one of the former additional chapters (the 17th, B. II.) mention is made of a peculiar circumstance attending the English government, considered as a monarchy, which is the solidity of the power of the Crown. As one proof of this peculiar solidity, it is remarked, in that chapter, that all the monarchs who ever existed, in any part of the world, were never able to maintain their ground against certain powerful subjects (or a combination of them) without the assistance of regular forces at their constant command; whereas it is evident that the power of the Crown, in England, is not at this day supported by such means; nor even had the Eng. lish kings a guard of more than a few scores of men, when their power, and the exertions they at times made of it, were equal to what has ever been related of the most absolute Roman emperors.

The cause of this peculiarity in the English government, is said, in the same chapter, to lie in the circumstance of the great or powerful men, in England, being divided into two distinct assemblies, and, at the same time, in the principles on which such a division is formed. To attempt to give a demonstration of this assertion otherwise than by facts (as is done in the chapter here alluded to) would lead into difficulties which the reader is little aware of. In general, the science of politics, considered as an exact science,—that is to say, as a science capable of actual demonstration,-is infinitely deeper than the reader suspects. The knowledge of man, on which such a science, with its preliminary axioms and definitions, is to be grounded, has hitherto remained surprisingly imperfect: as one instance how little man is known to himself, it might be mentioned that no tolerable explanation of that continual human phænomenon, laughter, has been yet given ; and the powerful complicate sensation which each sex produces in the other, still remains an equal inexplicable mystery.

To conclude the above digression (which may do very well for a preface), I shall only add, that those speculators who will amuse themselves in seeking for the demonstration of the political theorem above expressed, will thereby be led through a field of observations which they will at first little expect; and in their way towards attaining such demonstration, will find the science, commonly called

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

metaphysics, to be at best but a very superficial one, and that the mathematics, or at least the mathematical reasonings hitherto used by men, are not so completely free from error as has been thought.*

Out of four chapters added to the present edition, two (the 10th and 11th, B. I.) contain, among other things, a few strictures on the Courts of Equity; in which I wish it may be found I have not been mistaken: of the two others, one (19th, B. II.) contains a few observations on the attempts that may, in different circumstances, be made, to set new limits to the authority of the Crown ; and, in the 20th, a few general thoughts are introduced on the right of taxation, and on the claim of the American colonies in that respect. Any farther observations I may make on the English government, such as comparing it with the other governments of Europe, and examining what difference in the manners of the inhabitants of this country may have resulted from it, must come in a new work, if I ever undertake to treat these subjects. In regard to the American disputes, what I may hereafter write on that account will be introduced in a work which I may at some future time publish, under the title of Histoire de George Trois, Roi d'Angleterre, or, perhaps, of Histoire d'Angleterre, depuis l'Année 1765 (that in which the American stamp-duty was laid) jusques à l'Année 178—, meaning that in which an end shall be put to the present contest.t

Nov: 1781.

* Certain errors that are not discovered, are, in several cases, compensated by others, which are equally unperceived.

Continuing to avail myself of the indulgence an author has a right to claim in a preface, I shall mention, as a farther explanation of the peculiarity in the English government above alluded to, and which is again touched upon in the postscript to this advertisement, that a government may be considered as a great ballet or dance, in which, as in other balets, every thing depends on the disposition of the figures.

† A certain book, written in French, on the subject of the American dispute, was, I have been told, lately attributed to me, in which I had no share.

POSTSCRIPT.

NOTWITHSTANDING the intention above expressed, of making no additions to the present work, I have found it necessary, in this new edition, to render somewhat more complete the 17th chapter, Book II., On the peculiar foundations of the English monarchy ; as I found its tendency not to be very well understood; and, in fact, that chapter contained little more than hints on the subject mentioned in it: the task, in the course of writing, has increased beyond my expectation, and has swelled the chapter to about sixty pages above what it was in the former edition, so as almost to make it a kind of separate book by itself. The reader will now find, that in several remarkable new instances, it proves the fact of the peculiar stability of the executive power of the British crown, and exhibits a much more complete delineation of the advantages that result from that stability in favour of public liberty.

These advantages may be enumerated in the following order :-). The numerous restraints the governing authority is able to bear, and the extensive freedom it can afford to allow - the subject, at its own expense. II. The liberty of speaking and writing, carried to the great extent it is in England. III. The unbounded freedom of the debates in the legislature. IV. The power to bear the constant union of all orders of subjects against its prerogatives. V. The freedom allowed to all individuals to take an active part in government concerns. VI. The strict impartiality with which justice is dealt to all subjects, without any respect whatever of persons. VII. The lenity of the criminal law, both in regard to the mildness of punishments, and the frequent remission of them. VIII. The strict compliance of the governing authority with the letter of the law. IX. The needlessness of an armed force to support itself by, and, as a consequence, the singular subjection of the military to the civil power.

« НазадПродовжити »