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In offering this work to the public, the author is perfectly aware of the disadvantage under which he labours, when attempting to controvert doctrines supported by the authority of Malthus, Ricardo, M'Culloch, and Torrens, and which are deemed by one of the most distinguished writers of the day, to be “almost too plain for formal statement."* He is fully aware that by a large portion of those who think upon Political Economy, a doubt of the truth of those doctrines is considered as evidence that they are not “even comprehended,"* and that, therefore, his book is likely to be thrown aside as unworthy of the time required for its perusal.
To all such, he would desire to call to mind the fact that in almost all departments of knowledge the orthodoxy of the present day is but the heresy of time past, and that many of those doctrines now held by themselves, and believed to be undeniably true, were, but a little time since, ridiculed as absurd. The disciples of Ptolemy had, as they believed, undoubted evidence of the truth of his system. They saw the sun revolve round the earth, and they found in the Scriptures confirmation of the correctness of his theory. Copernicus was denounced as a heretic, and his system was deemed too absurd for serious confutation, yet that of Ptolemy exists no longer, and it would now be as ridiculous to call in question that of Copernicus, as it was in former times to believe in its truth. Such having been the case in past times, it is possible that it may be so again, and that doctrines in Political Economy now so firmly established that to call them in question is deemed proof of want of ability
• All this appears almost too plain for formal statement. It is, however, one of the most recent discoveries in Political Science : so recent, that it can scarcely be said to be universally admitted in this country, and that abroad it does not seem to be even comprehended."-Senior, Outline, p. 177.
for their comprehension, may pass away and be as utterly for gotten as is now the Ptolemaic system.
It has been well said by an eminent writer of our time, that Fevery one must of course think his own opinions right; for if • he thought them wrong, they would no longer be his opinions : .but that there is a wide difference between regarding ourselves as infallible, and being firmly convinced of the truth of
our creed. When,' he says, 'a man reflects on any particular doctrine, he may be impressed with a thorough conviction of
the inprobability, or even impossibility of its being false : and so he may feel in regard to all his other opinions when he makes them objects of separate contemplation. And yet, * when he views them in the aggregate, when he reflects that not a single being on the carth holds collectively the same,
when he looks at the past history and present state of man• kind, and observes the various creeds of different ages and .nations, the peculiar modes of thinking of sects, and bodies,
and individuals, the notions once firmly held which have been * exploded, the prejudices once universally prevalent which have been removed, and the endless controversies which have distracted those who have made it the business of their lives
to arrive at the truth; and when he further dwells on the consideration, that many of these his fellow creatures have had a .conviction of the justness of their respective sentiments equal to his own, he cannot help the obvious inference, that in his own opinions it is next to impossible that there is not an admixture of error ; that there is an infinitely greater probability of his being wrong in some than right in all.'*
All that the author desires, is that his arguments may be fairly weighed, and to that end that the reader will • strengthen
himself, by something of an effort and a resolve, for the unprejudiced admission of any conclusion which shall appear to be • supported by careful observation and logical argument, even •should it prove of a nature adverse to notions he may have
previously formed for himself, or taken up, without examination, on the credit of others. Such an effort is, in fact,' says Sir John Herschel, “a commencement of that intellectual discipline
* Essay on the Publication of Opinions, Section V.
which forms one of the most important ends of all science. It is the first movement of approach towards that state of 'mental purity which alone can fit us for a full and steady per*ception of moral beauty as well as physical adaptation. It is *the euphrasy and rue" with which we must purge our sight” before we can receive and contemplate as they are the linea"ments of truth and nature."
The portion of his work now submitted to the reader has extended itself much beyond the limits originally assigned to it, in consequence of the necessity for examining the opposing views of other writers. The author deemed it almost useless to offer his own views without attempting to show what he considered to be the errors that existed in those who had preceded him, and the causes of those errors: How far he has succeeded the reader will decide.
Treatise of Astronomy, p. 1.