« PrécédentContinuer »
The first which we shall notice, as the one most arbitrary and decisive in its influence, is the defection of the publisher. To dwell on the grounds of this would only lead us into a disgusting detail of all those arts of intimidation which have been so fedulously and so fuccessfully practised upon this class of men ever since the plan was adopted of attempting to regulate principles of faith by the statutes of a penal code, and to circumscribe the province. of inquiry by the barriers of a dungeon.
Another circumstance, of important though fecondary influence in affixing this hafty period to the pursuit of our work, has been the Now accession of public fupport. It belongs not to our prefent purpose to affign our own conjectures as to the cause of this. Whether it be imputable to want of merit on our part, or to want of fpirit on the part of the public-whether it ought to be attributed more to the vigour of enemies or to the languor of friends-whether its cause be of a personal and individual nature, or must be looked for in the general character of the times are subjects of fpeculation, on which it were useless to pronounce a vague opinion, and not easy perhaps to establish a decisive one.
But there is yet another consideration, which has had no small share in influencing the discontinuance of this undertaking, and which we think it important to explain.
Political discussion becomes dangerous only by being confined. The great source of error in political, as in every other, science, is never the too free, but in all inftances the too partial examination of the subjects which it involves. Nothing can be more obvious than that all principles thus formed mult abound with disproportions, with inconsistencies, and with falsehoods : and that, so long as this radical defect subsists, and especially where it is perpetuated and confecrated by the short fighted policy of tyrannic institutions, no energy of thought, however strong, no powers of reafoning, however skilful, can counteract its pernicious influence, or obviate its erroneous results. Where the mind is constrained to this partial view of the subjects of its investigation, every new train of reasoning is but a new 4
avenue to error ; every new turn of sentiment but a new modification of prejudice. It is with the intellectual, as it is with the bodily, conftitution. The organs of either may be fo fettered that even their moft ordinary exertions shall be attended with violent and feverish irritation :the range of exercise allowed to either may be fo confined, that the most temperate motion shall produce dizziness and laffitude, instead of inspiring energy and animation. The mind, fettered in its powers, and circumscribed in its action, by an authority as alien from it in nature as it is hostile to it in its influence, is mocked in its every effort by the dizziness of sophistical delusion, or debilitated by the feverish irritation of prejudice and passion.
The alternative which this view of the state of human intellect presents to us is painful to contemplate, but not difficult to decide upon. Whilft the only mode which is left to us of influencing the sentiments of men is by leading them to facrifice one prejudice in favour of another, and by engaging their passions in fupport of principles of which their reason is not allowed the examination, whilst we are denied to enter into a rational and full discussion of the subjects in which the interests of man are most intimately involved, and are permitted only to guide him either by the more refined delusions of sophiltry, or by the groffer ones of selfish intereft,-we feel no hesitation in renouncing at once both expedients. We disclaim an office so humiliating to human nature; so equivocally conducive, even in its best exercife, to any objects of rational folicitude. We shelter ourselves in the secret hope that man will ere long awaken from his lethargy; that, resuming the exercise of a privilege which he cannot delegate to others, and which, without the groffest dereliction of duty, he cannot abdicate himself, he will learn that to subject his opinion to any jurisdiction but that of truth is a treachery for which he stands cognizable to a tribunal, of greater than any human authority; and that, his faculties of intellect reorganized, he will proceed to tread the paths of reason and philosophy, without owning any control but that of truth, or acknowledging any guide but his own conviction. If this be a hope little corresponding with the present aspect of society, it is yet one in which its present aspect most forcibly invites us to indulge. Whilst we are continually reminded of the danger of venturing upon a stream, rough, turbulent, and perilous, is it possible for us to forget that, before that stream was diverted into unnatural channels, and confined within artificial embankments, its progress was calm, and clear, and tranquil ; through all its course, an object of ever-varied beauty ; through all its extent, a source of inexhaustible fertility?
In the mean time, it is our consolation to reflect that however neglected, or however opposed; however feebly supported, or however partially defeated; however abused by its enemies, or however disgraced by its friends; the ultimate and effential interests of truth can never be either sacrificed by the one or destroyed by the other. And it is a subject of interesting and awful contemplation to trace the self-destructive effects of that power, whose progress we now view only in its haughty triumph over the exercise of reason, and in its defolating ravages in the fair field of human improvement.
The grand immediate agents of revolution have, at all times, been those very prejudices, those diseased passions, those intellectual depravities, which it is the deadly quality of oppression to generate and to foster. Sophiftry and prejudice are weeds which seldom arrive at maturity in the natural climate of opinion; but which spring up with exuberant fertility in the hot-beds of tyranny and superstition. They are the great and dreadful re-agents, which nature has appointed to control the excesses of the corruption which produces them,--which blindly nurtures whilft it dreads them-which generates whilft it seeks to ftifle them.
3 f. b.
Page. Line. 18 9 after religion' read the comfort and inftruction of
the common people. This essay merits &c.
« toxifolia' read taxifolia
• hycopodium Lycopodium 216 8
• that the time' that when the time 255
of all 277 34 Iedulus'
edulis polinatus' palmatus 45
Sphærocarpus Sphærococcus 2;8 12
Thrix 305 6
animalculæ animalcula 308 19
for « described' read descried
• ferofity' ferocity
elusive' read delusive 539 29 dele the signature E
13 f. b. afier force infert
7 f. b.