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Le passé et le présent sont nos moyens ; l'avenir est notre objet-PASCAL
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PREFACE. Eheu! 18!
This study is presented with a feeling of unfeigned diffidence to the candour, the indulgence, and the thoughtful attention of the reader; to his candour, because in scarcely any subject is an author so exposed to ready misapprehension ; to his indulgence, because this effort is always crude, and sometimes perhaps ambitious to solve what is insoluble ; to his thoughtful attention, because in the impossibility of establishing infallible conclusions by the unaided efforts of one solitary inquirer, the only useful function is to propose theses for the thought and the discussion of others.
For this is indeed a subject in whose attack Vico, Bossuet, and Herder failed with a fame for boldness and illsuccess, which at once attracts and appals those who are ambitious to follow in their steps. Perhaps the ruin of these new efforts may with theirs help to fill the trench, and over them others may advance to that victory, to which this attempt contributes only by showing the difficulty and the dangers of the assault.
But whatever may be the measure of its failure, do not judge of this effort as if it were hung upon the walls of an exhibition gallery, but of your charity think that you are admitted into the studio of an artist to see the progress of an unfinished work. In one respect, how
ever, the analogy fails : it may never be that the author, like an artist, can profit by your suggestions. He is dead so far as these matters are concerned. Censure or praise or advice for future guidance would be but that posthumous criticism, which if it reaches them can affect but slightly the spirits of those who feel that it relates to a past state of existence gone never to return.
For if it is due to the reader to let him know something of the author, I will not debar from this cheap privilege those who may have the courtesy to become my readers. I belong to an order into which no one enters till comparatively late in life, and after the years of youth and early manhood have been spent in the most laborious and anxious preparations for the practice of a profession, which unless its members were men of liberal education and extensive and varied attainments would cease to hold that high rank which it now occupies — with so much of public advantage — in our country. Those preparations are not confined, nor indeed do they till late embrace strictly professional study; for before a man is fit to enter upon even the candidature of the English bar, it is necessary that he should possess a mind refined and disciplined by careful and assiduous culture of the more important intellectual accomplishments.
The study which above all others demands the attention of a person who aspires to become a member of the bar is the study of history. In pursuing that study as a qualification for my profession, I was led to inquiries and researches which have resulted in the composition of this book. Little pleased with its execution,-sometimes doubtful of the soundness of its conclusions, -always certain that if some one would devote himself to this study with less distraction than I could, he might produce