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PREF A C E
THE Essays now submitted to the Public in a collected form have been written at various times during the last twenty years, and have, for the most part, appeared in Blackwood's Magazine; with the Publishers of which the Author, during that long period, has been in terms of unbroken friendship and constant communication. As the Political Papers, which were all published in the Magazine contain the Contemporary views of an anxious observer of public events during that period, in the course of which the most important questions ever agitated in this country or on the Continent were made the subjects of public discussion, he thinks that, as representing the opinions of a large portion of Contemporaries on these subjects, they may not be without interest to subsequent times. The measures they embrace are the most important ever brought into action in this or perhaps any other country, and which, for good or for evil, have imprinted their effects on its future history. They include, among others, PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, the two FRENCH REVOLUTIONS of 1830 and 1848, NEGRO EMANCIPATION, the COLONIAL SYSTEM, the CHANGES in the CURRENCY, FREE TRADE, the NAVIGATION Laws, the INCREASE of CRIME and TRANSPORTATION. To the Political Treatises, which occupy about half the Work, have been added a variety of Essays on subjects of HISTORY, LITERATURE, and TASTE, which had formed the recreation of the Author
during that period, or to which he had been led by his studies connected with the “ History of Europe during the French Revolution.”
As the interest of the Political Essays, if they possess any, is chiefly derived from the coincidence between the events predicted at the moment, as likely to result from the changes which were in progress, and those which are now known to have arisen from them, care has been taken to reprint them exactly as they first appeared, with no other alterations than such omissions and transpositions as the putting together successive articles on the same subject required, in their transference from a periodical Journal to their present form. In submitting them now in a collected form to the Public, after the effects predicted have in great part been realised, the Author is anxious to guard against conveying the impression that he regards the situation of the country as hopeless, or that the consequences which have ensued from Reform, and its offspring Free Trade, are beyond the reach of remedy. Whatever has been introduced by man may be modified by man. All evils of human origin are susceptible of human remedy. Suffering is the great Mentor of Nature to show us when we have gone astray; and the consequences developed in these Essays are not to be regretted, if they teach the monitory lessons on which the future destinies of the Empire are in a great degree dependent. Perhaps not equivocal symptoms of such a revolution of opinion may already be discerned amongst us.
POSSIL HOUSE, March 28, 1850.