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This book is yours; you suggested, encouraged, and to a great degree directed it, you may therefore claim its patronage as matter of right. Were the case otherwise, I should scarcely have ventured to obtrude my homage, because I should fear my power to control my feelings. To your Grace's friendship I owe incentives to exertion, motives for confidence, and fresh grounds of hope, inexpressibly precious to the labourer in the field of literature, who must pass through many dark and stormy days before he can expect the seed he has sown to produce even a scanty harvest. The language of gratitude, if warm, would savour of adulation, and be rejected by you; if cold, it would too closely resemble ingratitude to be adopted by me. I
lay my work before you therefore with such silent and reverential feelings as best beseems the position of the obliged and the benefactor; but I cannot abstain from uttering my ardent prayer that
you may long continue to be the ornament and the hope of our common church, our common country, and our common nature.
I have the honour to be
Grateful and obliged servant,
W. COOKE TAYLOR.
34, Arlington Street, Camden Town,
Sept. 25th, 1840.
This work was suggested by the Archbishop of Dublin, and it has had throughout the benefit of His Grace's assistance and superintendence. It is necessary that this should be emphatically stated, in order that the Author may escape the imputation of presumption in discussing a subject to which His Grace had already directed his attention in his Lectures on Political Economy. He would not have attempted “to bend the bow of Ulysses," had he not been invited to the task by its legitimate owner, and taught by him how to draw the string and aim the shaft. His Grace, however, is not responsible for more than general directions; he has strong claims on the merits of the work, but all its imperfections rest on the Author's head.
The design of it is to determine, from an examination of the various forms in which society has been found, what was the origin of civilization; and under what circumstances those attributes of humanity which in one country become the foundation of social happiness, are in another perverted to the production of general misery. For this purpose the Author has separately examined the principal elements by which society, under all its aspects, is held together, and traced each to its source in human nature; he has then directed attention to the development of these principles, and pointed out the circumstances by which they were perfected on the one hand, or corrupted on the other. Having thus by a rigid analysis shewn what the elements and conditions of civilization are, he has tested the accuracy of his results by applying them to the history of civilization itself, as recorded in the annals of the earliest polished nations, and has thus been led to consider the principal moral causes that have contributed to the growth and to the decline of states. He has in this way applied recorded facts as a test of the accuracy of his reasoning, and if in any part he may have erred, he has supplied the reader with the means of detection.
The descriptions of the usages and customs of savage life have been taken from the travellers, ancient and modern, whose narratives have best stood the test of experience and criticism. Where it was necessary to make a choice, preference has been given to those whose views of the nature and tendency of barbarism differed most from those advocated by the Author. Viewing barbarism as a degradation of our nature, it has been an object to point out the tendencies to corruptions, similar in kind, if not in degree, which exist in civilized life, and to shew how necessary it is that society should always keep in action its two great conservative principles -intelligence and virtue.
In the chapter on the Evidences of Lost Civilization the Author hazarded a conjecture that further investigations of the American continent would strengthen the evidence he had collected, to prove that, previous to its discovery by Columbus, it had possessed a greater share of the arts and sciences than could be deduced from the present condition of the Indian races, or from the accounts given of them by their early conquerors. Scarcely had the sheet containing this conjecture gone through the press, when it was singularly confirmed by the following announcement in the daily papers :
“Messrs. Stephens and Gatherwood, of New York, now in Guatemala, have sent home accounts of their latest antiquarian discoveries between Quirche and Palenque. They have found ancient temples and statues, varying from ten to twenty-six feet high, similar to those in Palenque. Some of the monuments resemble the Phænician or Carthagenian remains. Thus it will doubtless be proved that America, instead of being a · New World,' is one of a very ancient character."
Two chapters have been devoted to an examination of the Scriptural Account of the Origin of Civilization; in these the Author has been anxious that the spirit of reverence should regulate but not check the spirit of investigation and inquiry. He has throughout consulted the records in the original language; not because he undervalues our authorized version, but because there is a suggestive simplicity in the Hebrew forms of speech which no translation could preserve, but which is of great value in pointing out fresh paths of research, and guiding the way to discovery. He has, however, given only results; for his object was not to parade learning, but to simplify and condense, for general readers, the information accumulated by the meritorious labours of Biblical scholars and critics.
In the historical investigations connected with the subject, the Author has endeavoured to shew that the