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The following pages lay claim to the share of merit that may be due to a spirit of diligent research which took nothing at second hand where an original writer, or document, could be consulted, and would not be turned aside, by any authority, from the anxious pursuit, and resolute vindication, of the Truth. They are offered, therefore, with the confidence inspired by a consciousness of good faith. Yet the author is sufficiently aware that the public has nothing to do with the integrity of his purpose, or the patient industry with which it has been followed up, except so far as a valuable result may have been achieved.
What is now submitted made part, originally, of a much more extensive plan. But there was found, at every turn, so much to clear up, and the materials for rectification so multiplied, that it seemed impossible to treat the subject satisfactorily without giving to it, in connexion with any other, a cumbrous and disproportioned air. To hazard assertions, and to venture on the requisite plainness of criticism, without producing the evidence which justified a departure from received opinions could have effected no good purpose, and would have justly incurred the charge of presumption. Error
was too deeply intrenched to permit a hope of dislodging it, unless through the regular, though tedious, forms of investment.
The author is very sensible of the dry and argumentative manner here imparted to topics which have usually been viewed, and treated, as susceptible of the highest embellishment. He can only hope that others may catch a feeling, such as gained on himself at every step, which, in the disentanglement of facts, rejects impatiently, rather than solicits, whatever does not conduce directly to the result. The mind seems to demand, with sternness, that this labour shall first be gone through, as the eye requires a solid foundation, and an assured elevation, before it can rest with complacency on the decorative acanthus.
Amidst a great deal of undeniably fine writing on the subject with which the present volume is connected, it would seem to have secured to itself less than any other of patient and anxious labour. The task of setting facts right has been regarded as an unworthy drudgery, while an ambitious effort is witnessed to throw them before the public eye in all the fantastic shapes, and deceptive colouring, of error. Gibbon remarks of Tillemont, that his inimitable Accuracy “ almost assumes the character of Genius." Many writers of the present day seem to have constantly in view the tendency of the public mind to a classification of powers, and to dread lest any remarkable display of the quality in question, might be artsully seized on as characteristic, and thus prejudice their claims to the highest honours of authorship
A new and urgent motive may be suggested for en