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when writers, who, in their prefaces, have proftrated themselves before the fuperiority of their readers as fupreme judges, will yet, in their works, pafs judgments on Plato, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and their compeers, in blank affertions and a peremptory ipfe-dixi, and with a groffness of cenfure, which a sensible schoolmaster would not apply to the exercises of the youths in his upper forms. I need no outward remembrances of my own inferiority, but I possess them on almost every shelf of my library; and the very book which I am now ufing as my writing desk (Lord Bacon's Novum Organum) inspires an awe and heartfelt humility, which I would not exchange for all the delight which Buonaparte can enjoy at the moment that his crowned courtiers hail him emperor of emperors, and lord paramount of the Weft.
As the week, which is to decide on the continuance of the Friend, coincides with the commencement of the new year, the present address has not inappropriately taken its character from the two-faced god to whom the first month is indebted for its name; it being in part retrospective, and in part profpective. Among the various reasons which Ovid, in the paffage from which I have taken my motto, has made Janus himself affign for his bifront appearance, he has omitted the most obvious intention of the emblem, that of inftructing his worfhippers to commence the new year with a religious, as well as prudential, review of their own conduct, and its confequences during the past year: and thus to look onward to the year before them with wiser plans, and with strengthened or amended resolutions. I will apply this to my own conduct as far as it concerns the prefent publication; and having already fufficiently informed the
reader of the general plan which I had proposed to myself, I will now, with the fame fimplicity, communicate my own calm judgment on the manner in which that plan has been so far realized and the outline filled up. My first number bears marks of the effort and anxiety with which it was written, and is compofed lefs happily than I could wish. It affuredly had not the cheerful and winning afpect, which a door-keeper, prefenting the bill of fare, ought to poffefs.. Its object, however, was fo far answered, as it announced diftinctly the fundamental pofition or grand poftulate on which the whole superstructure, with all its supporting beams and pillars, was to reft. I call it a postulate, not only because I deferred the proofs, but becaufe, in strictness, it was not fufceptible of any proof from without. The fole poffible question was— Is it, or is it not, a fact?-and for the answer every human being must be referred to his own consciousness.
If man be a free agent, his good and evil must not be judged according to the nature of his outward actions, or the mere legality of his conduct, but by the final motive and intention of the mind. Now the final motive of an intelligent will is a principle: and confequently to refer the opinions of men to principles (that is to abfolute and neceffary, instead of secondary and contingent, grounds) is the best and only secure way of referring the feelings of men to their proper objects. In the union of both consists the perfection of the human character.
The fame fubject was illuftrated in my second essay, and reasons affigned from the peculiar circumstances of the age, and the present state of the minds of men, for giving this particular direction to their ferious ftudies,
instead of the more easy and attractive mode of inftruction adapted by my illuftrious predeceffors in periodical literature. At the fame time, being conscious how many authorities of recent, but for that reason more influential reputation I muft of neceffity contravene in the support and application of my principles, both in criticism and philosophy, I thought it requifite to state the true nature of prefumption and arrogance, and thus, if it were poffible, preclude the charge in cases where I had not committed the offence. The object of the next four numbers was to demonftrate the innoxiousness of truth, if only the conditions were preserved which the reason and confcience dictated; to fhew at large what those conditions were which ought to regulate the conduct of the individual in the communication of truth; and by what principles the civil law ought to be governed in the punishment of libels. Throughout the whole of these numbers, and more especially in the latter two, I again, and again recalled the attention of the reader to the paramount importance of principles, alike for their moral and their intellectual, for their private and national, confequences; the importance, I fay, of principles of reason, as distinct from, and paramount to, the maxims of prudence, even for prudence' fake. Some of my readers will probably have seen this subject fupported by other and additional arguments in my seventh letter, On the grounds of hope for a people warring against Armies,' published during the last month, in the Courier.
In the meantime I was aware, that in thus grounding my opinions in literature, morals and religion, I should frequently use the fame or fimilar language as had been applied by Rouffeau, the French phyfiocratic philofophers, and their followers in England, to the nature
and rightful origin of civil government. The remainder of my work, therefore, hitherto has been devoted to the purpose of averting this mistake, as far as I have not been compelled by the general taste of my readers to interrupt the systematic progress of the plan by effays of a lighter kind, or which at least required a less effort of attention. In truth, fince my twelfth number, I have not had courage to renew any subject which did require attention. The way to be admired is to tell the reader what he knew before, but clothed in a statelier phraseology, and embodied in apt and lively illuftrations. To attempt to make a man wiser is of neceffity to remind him of his ignorance, and in the majority of inftances, the pain actually felt is fo much greater than the pleafure anticipated, that it is natural that men should attempt to shelter themselves from it by contempt or neglect. For a living writer is yet fub judice: and if we cannot follow his conceptions or enter into his feelings, it is more consoling to our pride, as well as more agreeable to our indolence, to confider him as loft beneath, than as foaring out of our fight above us. Itaque id agitur, ut ignorantia etiam ab ignominia liberetur. Happy is that man, who can truly fay, with Giordano Bruno, and whofe circumstances at the fame time permit him to act on the sublime feeling ;
Procedat nudus, quem non ornant nubila,
Si cum natura fapio et fub numine,
Should the number of subscribers remaining on my
lift be fufficient barely to pay the
expences of the pub
lication, I fhall affuredly proceed in the present form, at leaft till I have concluded all the subjects which have been left imperfect in the preceding effays. And this, as far as I can at present calculate, will extend the present volume to the twenty-eighth or perhaps thirtieth number. The first place will be given to Fragments and sketches of the life of the late Admiral Sir Alexander Ball.' I fhall next finish the important subject left incomplete at the ninth number, and demonftrate that defpotism and barbarism are the natural result of a national attempt to realize anti-feudalism, or the fyftem of philofophical jacobinism. This pofition will be illuftrated and exemplified at each step by the present state of France; and the essay will conclude with a detailed analysis of the character of Buonaparte, promised by the author fo many years ago in the Morning Poft, as a companion to the character of Mr. Pitt, which I have been requested by men of the highest reputation in the philofophical and literary world, to republish in a more permanent form. In the third place, I fhall conduct the fubject of taxation to a conclufion, my effay on which has been grossly misunderstood. These mifconceptions and mifrepresentations I fhall ufe my beft efforts to remove; and then develope the influences of taxation and a national debt, on the foreign trade of Great Britain and laftly, [the only mournful part of the tale] on the principles and intellectual habits of the country. And the volume, whether it be deftined to stand alone or as the first of a feries, will conclude with a philofophical examination of the British conftitution in all its branches, feparately and collectively. To the next, or twenty-firft number, I fhall annex a note of explanation requested by many intelligent readers, concern