« ForrigeFortsett »
HIS TO R Y
REIGN OF GEORGE III.
TERMINATION OF THE LATE WAR.
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,
A VIEW OF THE PROGRESSIVE IMPROVEMENT OF ENGLAND,
IN PROSPERITY AND STRENGTH, TO THE
ACCESSION OF HIS MAJESTY.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
BY ROBERT BISSET, LL, D.
A NEW EDITION.
NO. 73, STATE-STREET.
TO enlarge on the magnitude of the subject on which I have adventured to write, would be unnecessary, and might be unwise. Every reader must know, that the æra is eventful and interesting: an expatiation, therefore, on the greatness and importance of the theme, would only manifest the imprudence of the choice, should the execution prove inadequate. I am fully aware, that many votaries of historical literature deem it more difficult to write a history of present times, than of remote transactions : experience, however, does not confirm the opinion, as some of the most authentic and impartial works have recorded events which passed during the lives of the authors. Citation of instances would be superfluous, both to classical and modern readers. The writer who is competent to the task of composing a history, may execute the work on a cotemporary subject, as easily as on any other. The peculiar difficulty belonging to a performance of this kind, is to avoid prejudice and partiality; yet it is no more impracticable for an historian to deliver the truth respecting living characters, than for a witness to deliver faithful testimony according to the best of his knowledge. An ardent partisan of any of the great political leaders, might find it impossible to render impartial justice in a narrative which includes their conduct; but a writer that is totally unconnected with the parties, has no motive to distort truth for the sake of either the one or the other. I conceive, therefore, that no valid objection can lie against the choice of the theme, except such as may refer to the competence of the author. On this subject it would ill become me to speak; in a few words, however, I shall mention the reasons which determined me to engage n the present undertaking, hoping they may serve as an apolo
by to those who may think that I have made an essay beyond my strength. Having devoted the chief part of my literary attention to biographical and historical studies, I conceived an idea many years ago of writing a history, choosing for my subject the transactions and events with which I was chiefly conversant, and by which I was most deeply interested and imprese sed. Britain, from the revolution to the present time, appeared to me to afford a scope for narration and reflection, equal to any that had hitherto been treated in history ; and. I cherish-". ed a hope of being able, some time or other, to complete a narrative of that period.
Commencing literary adventure with more moderate pursuits, progressive encouragement emboldened me to attempt the Life of Burke. The subject naturally called my attention to more recent transactions and events than those which I had ori-ginally proposed first to narrate; and with proud pleasure I contemplated the efforts of my country, displaying in arduous struggles the exhaustless abundance of British resources, and the invincible force of the British character; still more striking": ly manifested in the times in which I live, than even those which had immediately or shortly preceded.
The reception which that work met from the public, and from all the reviewers at the tiine, of whatever party or po litical sentiments, inspired me with hopes that I might be enabled to execute a work not uninteresting or unimportant to : others, on a subject the examination of which was so pleasing and instructive to myself. Other gentlemen, I was aware, had handled the same period ; but, without discussing the literary merits of either Messrs. Macfarlane or Belsham, I readily saw, and knew the world believed, that both these gentlemen were rather repeaters of party notions and reports, than original composers of authentic and impartial history; the ground, therefore, did not appear to me to be pre-occupied.
For materials, besides examining all the periodical and occasional narratives of the times, I carefully investigated state papers, and many other written documents, with which I had been liberally furnished by private communication. For political, commercial, naval, and military information, I applied to men who were most conversant in these subjects, and fortunately never applied in vain. By conversation with intelligent and experienced gentlemen both in the land and sea service, I ac.