Page images

partial histories of political works, only embracing very limited portions of time, and having but a circumscribed geographical range. The present work is an attempt to supply an obvious deficiency, by carrying our inquiries over a larger portion of time and country, and pointing out, as distinctly as possible, those various progressive step or land-marks, in the great framework of European thought, on legislation and general government.

As this work is, as far as I know, the first attempt of the kind in general literature, I must crave the kind indulgence of readers and critics for many shortcomings and imperfections which, I am not without fear, may be found in it. I have had no one to guide me in either its arrangement or execution; and when the varied mass of my materials is taken to account, the long period of history I have had to traverse, the multifarious and complicated nature of political and legislative principles, the clouds of party-spirit and bitterness in which they have so frequently been enveloped, and, above all, the difficulty of obtaining books on the subject; when, I say, these several matters, and many others which will present themselves to reflecting minds, are duly considered, it cannot fail to suggest itself to every candid understanding, that it will be only an act of common charity to view the errors I may have committed, whether of fact or opinion, with a lenient and friendly eye. My constant desire has been to elicit truth. I have had no party views to support, or feel interested in. I have endeavoured at all times to contemplate politics as a great science, second only in importance to the welfare of man, to theology itself; and wish now to be looked upon as the very humble historian of the many checkered phases and fortunes of its general literature.

I have written this work with the intention of making its several parts as popular as possible. The time, I conceive, has come when all reading and thinking men should know more of the history and nature of politics than they really do; and it has been my

constant desire to keep ever before me the state of the popular understanding on the subject; taking care not to overload it with recondite speculations, or a profusion of notes, on trivial topics of antiquarian or historical curiosity. It would have been, comparatively, an easy task to have made these volumes double their size, but this would not have answered the

purpose I had in view. To get at the minds of ordinary readers by the easiest and most direct route, has been my chief aim.

The present two volumes bring down the history of

political literature to the year 1700. They may be considered as distinct volumes. They have each an introduction, and a general summary at the end. The third volume will embrace the political literature of the whole of the eighteenth century; and the fourth will treat of the leading political systems of Europe, from the year 1800 till the present day. Both these volumes are in a state of forwardness.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »