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ployed in the composition. Such thoughts as are less intimately connected with the subject, are thrown into notes, at the end of each section ; those only being retained in the text, which were of an explanatory nature, or served to remove objections, which could not be directly answered, without greatly encreasing the limits, and retarding the progress of the work.
The second is the most encumbered with notes, because the principles which it contains, being more particularly controvertible, require the support of a greater accumulation of proof.
It is not improper on this occasion to observe, that there are several reasons which may render a work contemptible in the opinion of the public; such as, that the author has not taken sufficient pains to merit approbation ; that he is defective in abilities, or chargeable with disingenuousness. I can safely affirm, that I have nothing with which to reproach myself on the latter of those heads. It is only in prohibited publications that truth is now to be found; for in others, falsebood is discernible. The greater number of authors are in their writings, what men of the world are in their conversation : solicitous only to please, they are wholly indifferent, provided they attain their purpose, whether it be by means of falschood or truth.
A writer who is desirous of the favour of the great, and the transitory applause of the present hour, must adopt implicitly the current principles of the time, without ever attempting to examine or question their authority; and from this source arises the want of originality, so general among literary productions. Books of intrinsic merit, and which discover real genius, are the phænomena but of very few periods in the space of many ages; and their appearance, like that of the sun in the forest, serves only to render the intervening darkness more conspicuous. They constitute an epoch in the history of the human understanding, and it is from the principles they contain, that future improvements in science derive their origin.
It would ill become me to say any thing in praise of this work; I shall, therefore, only observe, in respect to its principles, that I have advanced no sentiment which was not suggested by my own reflection, nor affirmed any proposition which I do not believe to be true.
In exposing some prejudices, I may be thought perhaps, to have conducted myself with too little reserve. I have treated them with the same ingenuous freedom, which a young man, is apt to use towards an old woman, whom he is under AS
no inducement either to flatter or depreciate. Through the whole inquiry, truth has been my principal object ; and this consideration, it is to be hoped, will stamp some value on the work. A sincere love of truth is the disposition most favourable for discovering her.
I have all along endeavoured to express my ideas with perspicuity; and have never sacrificed any sentiment to popular prepossession. If, therefore, the book be void of merit, it ought to be imputed to the fault of my judgment, and not to a depravity of heart. Few, I believe, can with justice say so much in their own favour.
To some readers this work will appear to be written with great boldness. There are periods
every country when the word prudent bears the same signification with vile ; and when those productions only are esteemed for their sentiments, which are written in a style of servility.
It was once my intention to have published this book under a fictitious name, as the only means of reconciling with my own safety the desire I entertained of rendering service to my country. But, during the time I have been employed in the work, a change has happened in the circumstances and government of my
fellow-citizens. The disorder, which I hoped in some
measure to remedy, is become incurable : the prospect of public utility is vanished, and I defer the publication of the work, till its author be no more.
My country has at length submitted to the yoke of despotism. She will never again produce any writer of extraordinary eminence. It is the characteristic of despotic power to extinguish both genius and virtue.
The people of this country will never more signalize themselves under the appellation of French : the nation is now so much debased as to become the contempt of Europe. No fortunate crisis can henceforth ever restore her liberty. She will expire of a consumption. Conquest alone can afford a remedy proportioned to the virulence of her disease; and the efficacy even of this, chance and circumstances must determine.
In all nations there are certain periods when the citizens, undetermined what measures they ought to take, and remaining in a state of suspense between a good and bad government, are ex. tremely desirous of instruction, and disposed to receive it. At such a time, if a work of great merit makes its appearance, the happiest effects may be produced: but the moment once past, the people, insensible to glory, are, by the form of At
their government, irresistibly inclined towards ignorance and baseness. Their minds are then like parched earth : the water of truth may rain upon them, but without producing fertility. Such is the state of France.
Henceforth, among the French, the estimation of learning will daily decline, with its utility ; as it can only serve to shew in a stronger light the misery of despotism, without supplying the means of evading it.
Happiness, like the sciences, is said to advance progressively over the world. Its course is now directed towards the North. There great princes cherish the seeds of genius, and genius is ever accompanied with a high degree of public felicity.
Nothing can be more opposite than the state of the south and north parts of Europe at present. Clouds of thicker darkness are perpetually overspreading the South, produced by the mists of superstition and of Asiatic despotism. The horizon of the North becomes every day more bright and effulgent. A Catherine II. and a Frederick, render themselves dear to humanity. Convinced in their own minds of the value of truth, they encourage the cultivation of it in others, and afford their patronage to every effort by which it may be farther investigated. It is to such sovereigns