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AN. ËS S À y

ON THE
ORIGIN and IMPORTANCE

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THOUGH the Scheme of the following

1 Miscellany is so obvious, that the Title alone · is sufficient to explain it; and though several Col

lections have been formerly attempted upon Plans, as to the Method, very little, but, as to the Capacity and Execution, very different from ours; we; being poffefsed of the greatest Variety for such a Work, hope for a more general Reception than those confined Schemes had the Fortune to meet with; and, therefore, think it not wholly unnecessary to explain our Intentions, to display the Treasure of Materials out of which this Miscellany is to be compiled, and to exhibit a general Idea of the Pieces which we intend to insert in it. .

There is, perhaps, no Nation in which it is so necessary, as in our own, to assemble, from time

VOL. II,

to

to time, the small Tracts and fugitive Pieces, which are occasionally published: For, besides the generał Subjects of Enquiry, which are cultivated by us, in common with every other learned Nation, our Conftitution in Church and State naturally gives Birth to a Multitude of Performances, which would either not have been written, or could not have been made publick in any other Place,

The Form of our Government, which gives every Man, that has Leisure, or Curiosity, or Vanity, the Right of enquiring into the Propriety of publick Meafures, and, by Confequence, obliges those who are intrusted with the Administration of national Affairs, to give an Account of their Conduct to almost every Man who demands it, may be reasonably imagined to have occafioned innumerable Pamphlets, which would never have appeared under arbitrary Governments, where every Man lulls himfelf in Indolenice under Calamities, of which he cannot promote the Redress, or thinks it prudent to conceal the Uneasinefs, of which he cannot complain without Danger.

The Multiplicity of religious Sects tolerated among us, of which every one has found Opponents and Vindicators, is another Source of unexhaustible Publication, almoft peculiar to ourselves ; for Controversies cannot be long continued, nor frequently revived, where an Inquisitor has a Right to shut up the Disputants in Dungeons; or where Silence can be imposed on either Party, by the Refufal of a Li. cense.

Not that it should be inferred from hence, that political or religious Controversies are the only Products of the Liberty of the British Press; the Mind once let loose to Enquiry, and suffered to operate without Restraint, necefsarily deviates into peculiar Opinions, and wanders in new Tracks, where she is indeed sometimes loft in a Labyrinth, from which

though

though the cannot return, and scarce knows how to proceed; yet, fometimes, makes useful Discoveries, or finds out nearer Paths to Knowledge.

The boundless Liberty with which every Man may write his own Thoughts, and the Opportanity of conveying new Sentiments to the Publick, without Danger of suffering either Ridicule or Censure, which every Man may enjoy, whose Vanity does not incite him too hastily to own his Performances, naturally invites those who employ themselves in Speculation, to trý how their Notions will be received by a Nation, which exempts Caution from Fear, and Modesty from Shame; and it is no Wonder, that where Reputation may be gained, but needs not be lost, Multitudes are willing to try their Fortune, and thrust their Opinions into the Light; sometimes with unsuccessful Haste, and sometimes with happy Temerity.

It is observed, that, among the Natives of England, is to be found a greater Variety of Humour, than in any other Country; and, doubtless, where every Man has a full Liberty to propagate his Con

ceptions, Variety of Humour must produce Variety · of Writers; and, where the Number of Authors is so great, there cannot but be some worthy of Distinction.

All these, and many other Causes, too tedious to be enumerated, have contributed to make Pamphlets and small Tracts a very important Part of an English Library; nor are there any Pieces, upon which those, who aspire to the Reputation of judicious Collectors of Books, bestow more Attention, or greater Expence; because many Advantages may be expected from the Perusal of these small Productions, which are scarcely to be found in that of larger Works.

If we regard History, it is well known, that most political Treatises have for a long Time appeared in

this

B2

this Form, and that the first Relations of Trant actions, while they are yet the Subject of Converfation, divide the Opinions, and employ the Con. jectures of Mankind, are delivered by these petty Writers, who have Opportunities of collecting the different Sentiments of Disputants, of enquiring the Truth from living Witnesses, and of copying their Representations from the Life; and, therefore, they preserve a Multitude of particular Incidents, which are forgotten in a short 'Time, or omitted in formal Relations, and which are yet to be considered as Sparks of Truth, which, when united, may afford Light in some of the darkest Scenes of State, as we doubt not, will be sufficiently proved in the Courfe of this Miscellany; and which it is, therefore, the Interest of the Publick to preserve unextinguished.

The fame Observation may be extended to Subjects of yet more Importance. In Controversies that relate to the Truths of Religion, the first Efsays of Reformation are generally timorous; and those, who have Opinions to offer, which they expect to be opposed, produce their Sentiments, by Degrees; and, for the moft Part, in small Tracts : By Deo grees, that they may not shock their Readers with too many Novelties at once; and in small Tracts, that they may be easily dispersed, or privately printed: Almost every Controversy, therefore, has been, for a Time carried on in Pamphlets, nor has swelled into larger Volumes, till the first Ardor of the Difputants has subsided, and they have recollected their Notions with Coolness enough to digest them into Order, consolidate them into Systems, and fortify them with Authorities.

From Pamphlets, consequently, are to be learned the Progress of every Debate; the various State to which the Questions have been changed; the Artifices and Fallacies which have been used, and the Subterfuges, by which Reason has been eluded: In

such

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