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As instruction was the sole end of my inquiries, I here venture to offer the result of them to the candour of the publick, since my only motive for writing was a most ardent concern for the welfare of my country. The design therefore of these papers is, to warn my countrymen, by the example of others, of the fatal consequences which must inevitably attend our intestine divisions at this critical juncture; and to inculcate the necessity of that national union, upon which the strength, the security, and the duration of a free state must eternally depend. Happy, if my weak endeavours could in the least contribute to an end so salutary, so truly desirable!
In the numerous quotations from the Greek and Latin historians, which are unavoidable in a treatise of this nature, I have endeavoured to give the genuine sense and meaning of the author, to the best of my abilities. But as every reader has an equal right of judging for himself, I have subjoined in the margin, the original words of the author, with the book, page, name, and date of the respective edition, I made use of, for the ease as well as the satisfaction of the candid and judicious: for that vague and careless manner, which some writers affect, of quot. ing an author by name only, without specifying the particular passage referred to in evidence, is neither useful, nor satisfactory to the generality of readers ; whilst the unfair method, too often practised, of quoting disjointed scraps, or unconnected sentences, is apt to raise strong suspicions, that the real sentiments and intention of the author are kept out of sight,
and that the writer is endeavouring to palm false evidence upon his readers.
I must take the liberty of offering another reason, which, I confess, was of more weight with me, because more personally interesting. As the British state and the ancient free republicks were founded upon the same principles, and their policy and constitution nearly similar, so, as like causes will ever produce like effects, it is impossible not to perceive an equal resemblance between their and, our manners, as they and we equally deviated from those first principles. Unhappily, the resemblance between the manners of our own times, and the manners of those republicks in their most degenerate periods, is, in many respects, so striking, that unless the words in the original were produced as vouchers, any well-meaning reader, unacquainted with those historians, would be apt to treat the descriptions of those periods, which he may frequently meet with, as licentious, andistinguished satire upon the pre
The behaviour of some of our political writers makes an apology of this nature in some measure necessary; on the one hand, that I may avoid the imputation of pedantry, or being thought fond of an idle ostentatious parade of learning; on the other; lest a work calculated to promote domestick peace and union, should be strained, by the perverseness of party construction, into an inflammatory libel.
I am not at all surprised at those encomiums which the philosophers and poets so lavishly bestow upon the pleasures of a country retirement. The profu. sion of varying beauties, which attend the returning seasons, furnishes out new and inexhaustible subjects for the entertainment of the studious and contemplative. Even winter carries charms for the philosophick eye, and equally speaks the stupendous power of the great author of nature. To search out and adore the Creator through his works, is our primary duty, and claims the first place in every rational mind. To promote the publick good of the community of which we are born members, in proportion to our situation and abilities, is our secondary duty as men and citizens. I judged therefore a close attention to the study of history the most useful way of employing that time which my country recess afforded, as it would enable me to fulfil this obligation: and upon this principle I take the liberty of offering these papers as my mite towards the publick good.
In the course of these researches nothing gave me so much pleasure as the study of ancient history: because it made me so truly sensible of the inestimable value of our own constitution, when I observed the very different maxims and conduct, and the strong contrast between the founders of despotick monarchies, and the legislators of the free states of antiquity. In the former, that absurd and impious doctrine of millions created for the sole use and pleasure of one individual, seems to have been the first position in their politicks, and the general rule of their conduct. The latter fixed the basis of their respective states upon this just and benevolent plan, " that the safety and happiness of the whole community was the only end of all government.” The former treated mankind as brutes, and lorded it over them by force. The latter received them as their fellow-creatures, and governed them by reason: hence whilst we detest the former as the enemies and destroyers; we cannot help admiring and revering the latter, as the lovers and benefactors of mankind.
The histories which I considered with the greatest attention, gave me the highest entertainment, and affected me most, were those of the free states of Greece, Carthage, and Rome. I saw with admiration the profound wisdom and sagacity, the unwearied labour and disinterested spirit of those amiable and generous men, who contributed most towards forming those states, and settling them upon the firmest
foundations. I traced with pleasure their gradual progress towards that height of power, to which in process of time they arrived; and I remarked the various steps and degrees by which they again declined, and at last sunk gradually into their final dissolution, not without a just mixture of sorrow and indignation.
It would be a labour of more curiosity, than of real use at this time, to give a long detail of the original formation of those states, and the wise laws and institutions by which they were raised to that envied degree of perfection; yet a concise account of the primitive constitution of each state may be so far necessary, as it will render the deviations from that constitution more intelligible, and more fully illustrate the causes of their final subversion. But to point out and expose the principal causes, which contributed gradually to weaken, and at length demolish and level with the ground, those beautiful fabricks raised by the publick virtue, and cemented by the blood of so many illustrious patriots, will, in my opinion, be more interesting and more instructive.
When I consider the constitution of our own country, I cannot but think it the best calculated for promoting the happiness, and preserving the lives, liberty, and property of mankind, of any yet recorded in profane history. I am persuaded too, that our wise ancestors, who first formed it, adopted whatever they judged most excellent and valuable in those