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their course, or these must comply with the common apprehensions and humours of the seamen, or else they will fall together by the ears, and so throw one another overboard, and leave the ship in the direction of the strongest, and perhaps to perish, in case of hard weather, for want of hands.
Just so in a state, divisions of opinion, though upon points of common interest or safety, yet, if pursued to the height, and with heat and obstinacy enough on both sides, must end in blows and civil arms, and by their success, leave all in the
power of the strongest, rather than the wisest or the best intentioned, or, perhaps, expose it to the last calamity of a foreign conquest. But pothing besides the uniting of parties upon one common bottom, can save a state in a tempestuous season; and every one, both of the officers and crew, is equally concerned in the safety of the ship as in their own, since, in that alone, theirs are involved.
HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY.
IT may be expected that having written the life of an historian (Plutarch), I should take occasion to write something concerning history itself; but I think to commend it is unnecessary, for the profit and pleasure of that study are both so very obvious, that a quick reader will be before hand with me, and imagine faster than I can write. Besides that, the post is taken up already; and few authors have travelled this way, but who have strewed it with rhetoric as they passed. For my own part, who must confess it to my shame, that I never read any thing but for pleasure, it has always been the most delightful entertainment of my life, but they who have employed the study of it as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of their private man
ners, and the management of public affairs, must agree with me, that it is the most pleasant school of wisdom. It is a familiarity with past ages, and an acquaintance with all the heroes of them: it is a prospective glass, carrying your soul to a vast distance, and taking in the farthest objects of antiquity. It informs the understanding by the memory, it helps us to judge of what will happen, by shewing us the like revolutions of former times. For mankind being the same in all ages, agitated by the same passions, and moved to action by the same interests, nothing can come to pass, but soine precedent of the like nature has already been produced, so that having the causes before our eyes, we cannot easily be deceived in the effects, if we have judgment enough but to draw the parallel.
God, it is true, with his divine providence, over-rules and guides all actions, to the secret end he has ordained them; but in the way of human causes, a wise man may easily discern, that there is a natural connection betwixt them ; and though he cannot foresee accidents, or all things that possibly can come, he may apply examples, and by them foretell, that from the like counsels will probably succeed the like events ; and thereby in all concernments, and in all offices of life, be instructed in the two main points on which depend our happiness, that is, what to avoid, and what to chuse.
The laws of history in general, are truth of matter, method, and clearness. of expression. The first property is necessary, to keep our understanding from the impositions of falsehood; for history is an argument framed from many particular examples or inductions: if these examples are not true, then those measures of life which we take from them, will be false, and deceive us in their consequence. The second is grounded on the former; for if the method be confused, if the words or expressions of thought are in any way obscure, then the ideas which we receive must be imperfect, and if such, we are not taught by them what to elect, or what to shun. Truth, therefore, is required as the foundation of history, to inform us; disposition and perspicuity as the manner to inform us plainly; one is the being, the other is the well being of it.
History is principally divided into these three species, Commentaries or Annals; History, properly so called ; and Biography, or the lives of particular men.
Commentaries, or Anvals, are (as I may so call them) naked history, or the plain relation of matter of fact, according to the succession of time, divested of all other ornaments.
and motives of actions are not here sought, unless they offer themselves, and are open to every man's discernment. The method is the most natural that can be imagined, depending only on the observation of months and years, and drawing in the order of them, whatsoever happened worthy of relation. The style is easy, simple, unforced, and unüdorned with the pomp of figures; conceits, guesses, politic observations, sentences, and orations are avoided: in a word, a bare narration is its business. Of this kind, the Commentaries of Cæsar are certainly the most admirable, and after him the Annals of Tacitus may have place, nay even the prince of Greek historians, Thucydides, may almost be adopted into the number. For though he instructs every where by sentences, though he gives the causes of actions, the counsels of both parties, and makes orations where they are necessary; yet it is certain that he first designed his work a Commentary; every year writing down), like an unconcerned spectator, as he was, the particular occurences of the time, in the order as they happened; and his eighth book is wholly written after the way of annals; though outliving the war, he inserted in others those oruaments, which render his work the most complete and most instructive extant. VOL. I.