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from the study of either: if there be truths, it must be desirable that they should be discovered and embraced. Scepticism must ever be a misfortune or a defect: a misfortune, if there be no means of arriving at truth; a defect, if while there exist such means we are unable or unwilling to use them. Believing that political science has its truths no less than moral, I cannot regard them with indifference, I cannot but wish them to be seen and embraced by others.
On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that these truths have been much disputed; that they have not, like moral truths, received that universal assent of good men which makes us shrink from submitting them to question. And again, in human affairs, the contest has never been between pure truth and pure error. Neither then may we assume political conclusions as absolutely certain ; nor are political truths ever wholly identical with the professions or practice of any party or individual. If for the sake of recommending any principle, we disguise the errors or the crimes with which it has been in practice accompanied, and which in the weakness of human nature may perhaps be naturally connected with our reception of it, then we are guilty of most blameable partiality. And so it is no less, if for the sake of decrying an erroneous principle, we depreciate the wisdom, and the good and noble feelings
with which error also is frequently, and in some instances naturally, joined. This were to make our sense of political truth to overpower our sense of moral truth; a double error, inasmuch as it is at once the less certain, and to those who enjoy a Christian's hope, by far the less worthy.
While then I cannot think that political science contains no truths, or that it is a matter of indifference whether they are believed or no, I have endeavoured also to remember, that, be they ever so certain, there are other truths no less sure; and that one truth must never be sacrificed to another. I have tried to be strictly impartial in my judgments of men and parties, without being indifferent to those principles which were involved more or less purely in their defeat or triumph. I have desired neither to be so possessed with the mixed character of all things human, as to doubt the existence of abstract truth; nor so to dote on any abstract truth, as to think that its presence in the human mind is incompatible with any evil, its absence incompatible with any good.
In this first volume of my History, I have followed the common chronology without scruple; not as true, but as the most convenient. Where the facts themselves are so uncertain, it must be a vain labour to try to fix their dates minutely. But when we arrive
at a period of greater certainty as to the facts, then it will be proper to examine, as far as possible, into the chronology.
Those readers who are acquainted with Niebuhr, or with the history written by Mr. Maldon, for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, may be surprised to find so little said in this volume upon the antiquities of the different nations of Italy. The omission, however, was made deliberately; partly because the subject does not appear to me to belong essentially to the early history of Rome, and still more, because the researches now carried on with so much spirit in Italy, hold out the hope that we may obtain, ere long, some more satisfactory knowledge than is at present attainable. Pelasgian inscriptions, written in a character clearly distinguishable from the Etruscan, have been discovered very recently, as I am informed, at Agylla or Care. And the study and comparison of the several Indo-Germanic languages is making such progress, that, if any fortunate discovery comes in to aid it, we may hope to see the mystery of the Etruscan inscriptions at length unravelled. I was not sorry, therefore, to defer any detailed inquiry into the antiquities of the Italian nations, in the expectation that I might be able hereafter to enter upon the subject to greater advantage.
Amongst the manifold accomplishments of Niebuhr's mind, not the least extraordinary was his philological knowledge. His acquaintance with the manuscripts of the Greek and Roman writers was extensive and profound; his acuteness in detecting a corrupt reading, and his sagacity in correcting it, were worthy of the critical ability of Bentley. On no point have I been more humbled with a sense of my own inferiority, as feeling that my own professional pursuits ought, in this respect, to have placed me more nearly on a level with him. But it is far otherwise. I have had but little acquaintance with manuscripts, nor have I the means of consulting them extensively; and the common editions of the Latin writers in particular, do not intimate how much of their present text is grounded upon conjecture. I have seen references made to Festus, which on examination have been found to rest on no other authority than Scaliger’s conjectural piecing of the fragments of the original text. But besides this, we often need a knowledge of the general character of a manuscriptor manuscripts, in order to judge whether any remarkable variations in names or dates are really to be ascribed to the author's having followed a different version of the story, or whether they are mere blunders of the copyist. For instance, the names of the consuls, as given at the beginning of each year in the present text of Diodorus, are in many instances so corrupt, that one is tempted to doubt how far some apparent differences in his Fasti from those followed by Livy, are really his own, or his copyist's. And the text of Cæsar's Commentaries is also so corrupt, and has in the later editions been sometimes so unhappily corrected, that I dread the period when I shall have to follow it as the main authority of my narrative, and can no longer look to Niebubr’s sagacity for guidance.
There are some works which I have not been able to consult; and there are points connected with the topography of Rome and its neighbourhood, on which no existing work gives a satisfactory explanation. On these points I have been accustomed to consult my valued friend Bunsen, Niebuhr's successor in his official situation as Prussian Minister at Rome, and his worthy successor no less in the profoundness of his antiquarian, and philological, and historical knowledge. From him I have received much important aid—the continuation of the benefit which I derived from his conversation, when I had the happiness of studying the topography of Rome with him, and of visiting in his society some of the most memorable spots of ancient Latium. Without his encouragement and sympathy I should scarcely have