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THE SUBJECTS OF HISTORY
HAVE generally been the exploits of the dar. ing adventurer, or the intrigues of the dark and malignant tyrant, whose only delight is in destroying the peace and happiness of man. kind.
“ THE heroes of historians have, in general, been the great destroyers of mankind, those who have ravaged kingdoms, overthrown empires, and thinned the human race. Men have been deified and sainted, not for the goodness, but for the greatness of their exploits, ifot for their endeavours to civilize and improve the state of mankind by the introduction of mild and equitable laws, and the cultivation of the arts of peace, but for an inordinate and selfish spirit of ambition and aggrandizement. The reign of just and peaceful sovereigns which like the tranquil seasons of nature, impart health, and life, and cheerfulness, to every thing around, has been regarded as but an infe. rior and secondary object of their attention ; valued, perhaps, most as it renovates the ener. gies of a nation, and fits it for the ambitious views of a military successor. No; it is the mighty troublers of the earth, the hurricanes of proud war and conquest, which deform the fair face of nature, which in their wasteful progress sweep whole nations to the grave, that has been too much the theme of historic applause and admiration. When we behold the title of great conferred op such men as Alexander, Cæsar, Louis the Fourteenth, or even Pe. ter of Muscovy, every moral and humane mind must reprobate the profanation of the attribute.
and lament the folly of the world which can join in the applause of what it ought severely to condemn and dignify what merits its abhorrence and execration. But the common vulgar of mankind too easily adopt the very preju. dices which are their ruin, and caught with the whistling of a name, fall down before, and worship the very bcast that is to devour them!”
SHOULD be a faithful record of the virtues and vices of mankind---thus drawn with fidelity it administers in a high degree to intellectual improvement.
“ IF a work unite the advantages both of public and private history; if it display not only the crimes but the virtues of mankind ; if it delineate the progress of civilization, the ad. vancement of the arts and sciences; if by its examples or warnings it tend to inspire the mind with the love of goodness, and with an abhorrence of vice ; if it confirm the truth, or shew the excellence of natural or revealed re. ligion, it may effect some of the most impor. tant purposes in human life, and render men wise and benevolent, holy and blessed for ever. more! Since then History may teach both wisdom and virtue, and since it undoubtedly displays what progress men have made in improve. ment of various kinds, it may justly be termed the volume of Providence, and may join with Nature and Divine Revelation, in proving that all things work together for good!"
AN ESTIMATE OF HISTORY
OUGHT to be made by readers who are intent on their own improvement; the following remarks may be of use in assisting them to form a judgment on this important subject.
“SOME may deem it only a pleasing illusion of the imagination, but I hold it as a truth that the virtue which constitutes at once the ornament and felicity of man, bas most of the graces in her train, and amongst these that modesty which declines a proud shew to the world, is a distinguished and inseparable attendant. It is, therefore, that we rarely meet with virtue in the splendid display of history, whether in the court or in the camp, in the senate or in the forum, or even in the academic grove, or where she might at least be expected, at the tribunals of executive justice. And it is therefore that the vices of man are thought to preponderate over his virtues, because history is little other than a record of his follies, his crimes, and his misery! Whether we take a retrospective view of past ages, or consult the present history of the world, what have we generally presented to our view, but one disgusting series of the heaviest calamities, and the most shocking vices that can afflict or degrade humanity? We hardly turn over a page which is not crimsoned with blood, or polluted with foul crimes. Barbarous violence, sanguinary wars, horrid devastations, merciless persecutions, murders, rapes, poisons, and assassinations, lordly ty. rants trampling upon and insulting the rights of human nature, and abject tyrants crouching beneath the yoke of a withering despotism,
which has, from age to age, gone on debasing the human character, and blasting every rising effort of genins and virtue. Such are the scenes which history chiefly exhibits to our view. To the reader, therefore, who looks, perhaps, solely for amusement, and with no view to any specific instruction or advantage, such
pic. ture of the debasement and misery of his fel. low.creatures can afford gratification!”
THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND llas been written by various hands, and, of course, with different degrees of ability and judgment; the merits of the leading historians of Britain are thus well described :...
“ WHEN a narrator has any inferior object in view, the judicious and discerning are not long in discovering his aim. It was soon per. ceived, for instance, that Hume was too partial to the Stuarts, and that one of his objects in writing the previous history of England was to shew that the encroachments of the royal power were not without precedent in the reigns of the Tadors. Though the question' might still be referred to principles of general policy and jus. tice, yet if the mind should receive an undue bias from such representations, it may easily recover its bent by application to the narrative of Macauley, or if that be thought too favour. able to the republican party, every prejudice may be removed by perusing the pages of the patient and candid Rapin. It has been sarcas. tically observed by Voltaire, that the best his. tory of England was written by a foreigner; bat it should be recollected that this foreigner
was a student of the English law, and previ. ously well acquainted with the principles of civil and religious liberty. Whether Henry's History of Great Britain may not wrest the laurel from Rapin, future ages will probably determine. Perhaps the principal defect in this excellent work may be too rigid an adhe. rence to a previously formed plan, which separates subjects naturally united, unnecessarily multiplies references, or occasions frequent and tedious repetitions."...J. Holland.
STUDY OF HISTORY
pages with a proper temper and disposition; separat. ing the good from the evil, and referring every event to the agency of the supreme being.
" CONSISTENT and regular students of his. tory will not, however, content themselves with reading the annals of mankind in detached portions. But whilst they pay a proper tri. bute of respect to the works of those writers who have selected striking periods for the la. bour of their pens, they will endeavor to col. lect a just and complete idea of all the events, changes, and improvements, which have taken place in the world from the earliest ages of which there is any account down to the present day. That war should engross so much of the historian's attention may justly be la. mented by the benevolent and humane. Yet whilst the faithful description of its incidents may render it still more an object of horror, it cannot be denied that, contrary to expectation, and in opposition to the efforts and opinions of the ambitious and tyrannical, it has, in various