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ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1833, by
NATHANIEL CHIPMAN, LL. D.
The subject of government has employed the pens of the first philosophers of every age, from the time of Plato and Aristotle to the present day. To them the world are much indebted, especially to some of the moderns. None of them, however, as far as recollection serves, have attempted, or at least, have succeeded in an investigation of first principles; in analyzing the social nature of man, and deducing from the relations thence resulting, the principles that ought to be pursued in the formation of civil inštitutions ; and yet it is believed, this is the only certain ground of investigation, the only mode in which any general, consistent, and practical principles in the science of government can be established. The greater number of those who have written on this subject have employed themselves in illustrating and recommending the principles and form of some government, for which they had conceived a predilection; while others in their theories have consulted the imagination rather than the understanding. It will, therefore, be readily perceived that the theories and principles of neither class of these writers can be of general, much less of universal application ; that they cannot be applied, at least, indiscriminately, to governments of a different construction, and embracing different, and in many respects opposite principles. Such are the civil and political institutions of these United States; they differ in principles and construction very essentially from all that have preceded them. The Author convinced of that difference of principles and the excellence of our institutions owing chiefly to that difference, published as early as the year 1793, a small work entitled, “ Sketches of the Principles of Government,” with a view of briefly illustrating the principles on which they are founded. That little work which was well received at the time, has long been out of print.
The Author had entertained a design, as 'no treatise had appeared fully embracing the subject, of publishing a revised edition of that work; but on a review, he found it too limited in its plan, as well as deficient in arrangement. He, therefore, resolved to new-cast the whole, to enlarge the plan, to give it a more regular and scientific arrangement, and as far as he was capable, to make it an elementary treatise on that kind of government which has been adopted in these United States. In the execution of this task, although the work consists principally of new and additional matter, the Author has in several instances, admitted portions of his former work with such corrections as were suggested by a long course of observations and experi
He has enjoyed many advantages favorable to the accomplishment design,-he has been an attentive observer of passing events, and not unfrequently an actor in the political scenes that have occurred in a period of more than half a century commencing with the controversy between the states (then colonies) and the mother country,—which eventuated in their independence, and, finally, in the establishment of the present government on the true principles of freedom-a period agitated and occupied with revolutions and revolutionary movements, which have extended with various effects to all the civilized nations of Europe and the whole of the American continent, and which have produced a more thorough investigation, and discussion of the social and individual rights of man and the nature and principles of free governments than is to be found in any other age, indeed, than all preceding ages within the reach of history. With what success the work has been executed must be left to the decision of the public. Such a work adapted to the civil and political institutions of the country has been hitherto, a desideratum, which it was the Author's ambition to supply. If, however, he has failed in this, it will be a sufficient consolation, should what he has attempted, excite some writer of more leisure and of a higher order of talents to accomplish the task, although, now at the advanced age of fourscore he can hardly expect personally to enjoy that consolation.
The Author has throughout the whole endeavored at the investigation of natural principles, and to follow truth wherever it led ;-he has several times been induced to differ from the opinions of some writers of the first talents and reputation. Although he has examined these opinions with the freedom of philosophical discussion, it has been his constant aim to treat the writers with that decent respect which they merit from every lover of science.
As to the manner and style of the work, if it should be thought that they savor of former times, the apology is, that the author himself, more properly belongs to an age that is now past.
Tinmouth, Vermont, July 10, 1833.