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not of really free and unprejudiced inquiry, but of previous accident.
An apology is due from a lawyer who presumes to meddle with subjects out of his own profession. He is, it is said, a man of narrow mind, and necessarily limited information. It is not for him to say (perhaps he could not say) that the imputation is unjust. But, by way of compensation, he has, on a subject of this nature, some advantages over others. That narrow and microscopic vision with which he is charged, does not altogether unfit him for the minute and steady examination of the abstract theories of political economy. He has no interest, except in the general welfare; and living, as a mere lawyer does, retired from the world and general politics, he has a chance of being in a measure exempt from the prejudices of party, and from that fanaticism, which in politics and political economy, as well as in other things, sometimes, like an epidemic, seizes the people, high and low.
In France, Germany, Holland, and the United States, the general opinion of educated men on these subjects is very different from that which yet reigns here. Indeed, until lately, no Englishman, who should have ventured to dispute the passionate persuasion of the public, could have hoped for a fair and candid hearing. It was necessary to wait. As a brilliant
Frenchman once said of fanaticism of a different sort, "Il faut attendre que l'air soit purifié."
No one is more conscious of the defects to be found in these pages, than the writer. He is sensible that a more popular tone has been adopted than is perhaps quite appropriate to the severity of such inquiries. But it was necessary. A mere dry dissertation, in the better style of political economists, about yards of cloth and quarters of corn, would never have had even a chance of being read. He trusts, however, that be has not been betrayed into any disrespectful or uncandid language towards those who think differently, and who are perhaps better informed.
London, October 31, 1849.