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This work was suggested by the Archbishop of Dublin, and it has had throughout the benefit of His Grace's assistance and superintendence. It is necessary that this should be emphatically stated, in order that the Author may escape the imputation of presumption in discussing a subject to which His Grace had already directed his attention in his Lectures on Political Economy. He would not have attempted “to bend the bow of Ulysses," had he not been invited to the task by its legitimate owner, and taught by him how to draw the string and aim the shaft. His Grace, however, is not responsible for more than general directions; he has strong claims on the merits of the work, but all its imperfections rest on the Author's head.
The design of it is to determine, from an examination of the various forms in which society has been found, what was the origin of civilization; and under what circumstances those attributes of humanity which in one country become the foundation of social happiness, are in another perverted to the production of general misery. For this purpose the Author has separately examined the principal elements by which society, under all its aspects, is held together, and traced each to its source in human nature; he has then directed attention to the development of these principles, and pointed out the circumstances by which they were perfected on the one hand, or corrupted on the other. Having thus by a rigid analysis shewn what the elements and conditions of civilization are, he has tested the accuracy of his results by applying them to the history of civilization itself, as recorded in the annals of the earliest polished nations, and has thus been led to consider the principal moral causes that have contributed to the growth and to the decline of states. He has in this way applied recorded facts as a test of the accuracy of his reasoning, and if in any part he may have erred, he has supplied the reader with the means of detection.
The descriptions of the usages and customs of savage life have been taken from the travellers, ancient and modern, whose narratives have best stood the test of experience and criticism. Where it was necessary to make a choice, preference has been given to those whose views of the nature and tendency of barbarism differed most from those advocated by the Author. Viewing barbarism as a degradation of our nature, it has been an object to point out the tendencies to corruptions, similar in kind, if not in degree, which exist in civilized life, and to shew how necessary it is that society should always keep in action its two great conservative principles -intelligence and virtue.
In the chapter on the Evidences of Lost Civilization the Author hazarded a conjecture that further investigations of the American continent would strengthen the evidence he had collected, to prove that, previous to its discovery by Columbus, it had possessed a greater share of the arts and sciences than could be deduced from the present condition of the Indian races, or from the accounts given of them by their early conquerors. Scarcely had the sheet containing this conjecture gone through the press, when it was singularly confirmed by the following announcement in the daily papers :
“Messrs. Stephens and Gatherwood, of New York, now in Guatemala, have sent home accounts of their latest antiquarian discoveries between Quirche and Palenque. They have found ancient temples and statues, varying from ten to twenty-six feet high, similar to those in Palenque. Some of the monuments resemble the Phænician or Carthagenian remains. Thus it will doubtless be proved that America, instead of being a • New World,' is one of a very ancient character.”
Two chapters have been devoted to an examination of the Scriptural Account of the Origin of Civilization ; in these the Author has been anxious that the spirit of reverence should regulate but not check the spirit of investigation and inquiry. He has throughout consulted the records in the original language; not because he undervalues our authorized version, but because there is a suggestive simplicity in the Hebrew forms of speech which no translation could preserve, but which is of great value in pointing out fresh paths of research, and guiding the way to discovery. He has, however, given only results; for his object was not to parade learning, but to simplify and condense, for general readers, the information accumulated by the meritorious labours of Biblical scholars and critics.
In the historical investigations connected with the subject, the Author has endeavoured to shew that the principal delusions which have at different times exercised a pernicious influence over humanity, were founded not on absolute falsehood, but on misconceived truths; and therefore should be viewed, not with anger, but with pity and tenderness for the frailties of our fellowmortals. He has laboured to deduce from the records of mistaken opinion, lessons of mutual toleration, mutual forbearance, and brotherly kindness, derived from our sharing a common nature; so as in all things to maintain the influence of Christian charity, which “thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”
The examination of the diversified elements which have contributed to form our modern system of civilization has led the Author over ground already traversed by the most eminent publicists of modern times; they have shewn how opinions embody themselves in forms and institutions, and how these institutions necessarily influence actions. He could scarcely hope to add any thing to the researches of such men as Lieber, Guizot, Jouffroy, and Victor Cousin, but he has endeavoured to condense and unite their several disquisitions, so as to form an outline of the philosophical history of opinions, and their influence on life an action.
Viewing indigence and vice as the great destructive agents in human society, he has deemed it necessary to examine the means adopted by public and private benevolence for their condition, and to test their efficacy by new recorded experience. This may be termed an inquiry into the conservative principles of society-a subject naturally suggested by the history of civilization, but one of too great extent and importance to be fully discussed in a single chapter. The author has therefore laboured rather to point out what should be the subjects of inquiry than to answer the doubts and solve the difficulties which such a wide and tangled field of investigation must necessarily present.
It would be not only presumptuous, but absurd, to assert that ie has executed such a task perfectly and completely; it would be saying in other words, that he had detected all the wrongs and errors of humanity, and had provided their appropriate remedies. He is aware that he has done little more than collect the scattered materials which eminent moralists and philanthropists have produced, and formed them into a kind of map, which may be both a convenient record of what has been alrei.dy accomplished, and perhaps a guide to future discovery. To use the illustration of an American poet, he has been anxious to leave “ foot-prints on the sands of time”
Foot-prints, that perhaps another
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
Seeing, shall take heart again. In the discussion of such a variety of topics as necessarily enter into the complicated histories of barbarism and civilization, many of which have been the themes of bitter dispute and angry controversy, the Author, without at all compromising his own opinions, has been anxious to avoid saying anything which could reasonably offend persons of any creed, sect, or party. In one instance he regrets to find that he has violated the rule; he has spoken of the Socialists and their plans with more flippancy than he could wish, not because he has