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REGENCY AND REIGN
King George the Fourth.
BY WILLIAM COBBETT.
PRINTED BY MILLS, JOWETT, AND MILLS,
business of a Preface is twofold; first, to tell the reader why the work is written and published; and, second, to describe to him the manner in which it is done, and to apprize hiin of other circumstances the want of a previous knowledge of which might produce inconvenience to him
2. With regard to the first, the why is, that
we may have, at once, a record of the acts and
character of the king in question, while these are all fresh in our minds, while a great part of the actors are still alive, while official and other documents are within our reach, while the field is fairly open for controversy on the matters stated, and, above all, that the History may
be of use; that it may afford us an example of what we ought to follow, or warn us against what we ought to shun. Of what use to us of this day is the history of the tyrant, Henry VIII., or that of his racking and ripping-up daughter, Elizabeth, compared to what it would have been to our fathers, if written at the close of their
savage reigns ? And, of what use would the
history of the transactions of the late regency and reign be to our great grandchildren, compared to the use that it must naturally be to us? In short, history, like all other writing, is valuable in the proportion in which it is calculated to produce good effects; in proportion as it is calculated to stimulate men to useful exertion, or to make them shun that which is mischievous; in proportion as it is calculated to have a practical effect in the affairs and on the condition of men, To have these effects it
must come, not only before the nation have forgotten the transactions and characters to
which it relates, but before it has ceased to feel the effects of those transactions. Ancient
history may, with a few learned and deepthinking persons, be of real use; but, to the mass of mankind, it can be but little other
ully be to
3. It may be said, that the writer, having lived during the period, or part of it, of which he is the historian, may possibly have been engaged in the transactions of it himself, and cannot, therefore, be expected to be so impartial as he ought to be. But, what is the great business of history? It is to record facts'; and, if the facts be true, of what consequence are the feelings of the historian ? He may, indeed, when delineating motives and consequences and characters, give way to his bias ; but, then, as in the case of the facts, he exposes himself to contradiction, and the matter is set right; discussion takes place; and out of discussion comes the establishment of truth.
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