Monthly Archives: January 2006

Item of the Day: Letter from John Quincy Adams to Mr. Murray (1801)

Full Title: To Monsieur Murray, Ministre des Estats Un d’Amerique, La Haye from John Quincy Adams. May 2, 1801.

[This signed letter from John Quincy Adams to William Vans Murray was written shortly after Adams’ recall as Minister to Prussia by President John Adams following John Adams’ defeat by Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. William Vans Murray, a great personal friend of John Quincy Adams, served as Minister Resident to The Netherlands from March 2, 1797 to September 2, 1801. Murray is best known as a diplomat especially in his role as envoy during the Convention of Mortefontaine in 1800 which ended the Quasi-War between the United States and France.]

Dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for the information from Mr. McHenry which was accurate. I have already received my letter of recall, the motive which alledged to me is that the objects of my mission have been entirely accomplished. I have long been of opinion that the expense of maintaining a minister constantly at this court could not be compensated to the public by any service he can render. I have express’d repeatedly these sentiments to my father and have often felt very uneasy at finding myself in such a situation. […?…] the tempest in the North of Europe, my [opinion?] has been in some degree apparent but my utility here is still so problematical in my own mind — that I feel relieved by my removal from the station.

I will not pretend that there are no points of view in which this incident affects me otherwise than agreeably. But if the most immediate affects of interest or convenience would be clearer from a longer continuance in the diplomatic career, perhaps more liberal and more extensive considerations concur to urge my return. I have spent nearly half my life in Europe. The centre of every good American’s attachments ought to be in his own country: and we find both from reason and experience that too long a residence in Europe is apt to give Americans habits and sentiments not congenial to their native soil. I have always apprehended the danger of this effect to myself, and its removal now for the second time counterbalances feelings of the moment which would cast lingering looks behind.

As you live, eat and sleep in your boots, I hope you will not think I mean by this to recommend your putting on your spurs. When the sum of your residence in Europe shall have amounted to fourteen years, you will only have the same to weight these considerations that I have already.

In the English newspapers I have read the President’s inaugural speech. It contains ample professions of a conciliatory temper, an high panegyric upon Washington, an offensive and ungenerous allusion to the immediate predecessor. It is not the first time that Jefferson has indulged his passions in such an indirect attack against a man he always esteemed but according to my notions of what is decent and fit even between political antagonists he could not have chosen a more improper time to gratify his spleen than he now did. There is in the speech too a great deal of the common jacobinical cant — “friends & fellow citizens — and the spasmodic affections of infuriated man” etc etc etc. But setting aside these mere formalities there are engagements, which if words have any meaning, pledge the new administration to the support of all the essential principles upon which our government has hitherto been conducted. I have a sincere hope that this pledge will not be forfeited — I consider it as one of the misfortunes of the new administration that they are placed in the unavoidable dilemma, of ruining their country, or of proving apostates to their own principles, and as I love my country much more than I feel concerned for their reputations, I hope they will take the latter alternative.

I write you still with perfect freedom upon this subject. After my return to America, I hope still to enjoy the benefit of your correspondence, but I shall be sensible to the reserve due to your situation, as I hope and believe Mr. Jefferson will not deprive the union of your active and useful services. If he […?…] can give him elevated sentiments, he will on the contrary place you in a post more worthy of you.

My wife is yet so ill, confined to her bed, that I shall not be able to leave this place for several weeks. Continue to write me therefore until further notice. I intend if possible to embark at Hamburg for Boston.

Faithfully yours,



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Filed under 1800's, Legal, Letters, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Irving’s Salmagundi (1814)

Full Title:

Salmagundi; or, the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Laucelot Langstaff, Esq. And Others.
Volume I

Written by Washington Irving (1783-1859). Printed in New-York by David Longworth, 1814.

Notes, by William Wizard, esq. A description of the dance called the waltz — the intertwining of arms et cetera — the ecstatic fatigue of both parties at its conclusion:

1. Waltz] As many of the retired matrons of this city, unskilled in “gestic lore,” are doubtless ignorant of the movements and figures of this modest exhibition, I will endeavor to give some account of it, in order that they may learn what odd capers their daughters sometimes cut when from under their guardian wings.

On a signal being given by the music, the gentleman seizes the lady round her waist; the lady, scorning to be outdone in courtesy, very politely takes the gentleman round the neck, with one arm resting against his shoulder to prevent encroachments. Away then they go, about, and about, and about — “about what, sir?” — about the room, madam, to be sure. The whole economy of this dance consists in turning round and round the room in a certain measured step: and it is truly astonishing that this continued revolution does not set all their heads swimming like a top; but I have been positively assured that it only occasions a gentle sensation which is marvellously agreeable. In the course of this circumnavigation, the dancers, in order to give the charm of variety, are continually changing their relative situations; — now the gentleman, meaning no harm in the world, I assure you, madam, carelessly flings his arm about the lady’s neck, with an air of celestial impudence; and anon, the lady, meaning as little harm as the gentleman, takes him round the waist with most ingenuous modest languishment, to the great delight of numerous spectators and amateurs, who generally, form a ring, as the mob do about a pair of amazons pulling caps, or a couple of fighting mastiffs.

After continuing this divine interchange of hands, arms, et cetera, for half an hour or so, the lady begins to tire, and with “eyes upraised,” in most bewitching languor petitions her partner for a little more support. This is always given without hesitation. The lady leans gently on his shoulder, their arms intwine in a thousands seducing mischievous curves — dont be alarmed, madam — closer and closer they approach each other, and in conclusion, the parties being overcome with ecstatic fatigue, the lady seems almost sinking into the gentleman’s arms, and then — “Well, sir! and what then?” — lord, madam, how should I know!

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Filed under 1810's, Culture, Journal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: The History of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade (1808)

Full Title: The History of the Rise, Progress, & Accomplishments of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament.

Written by Thomas Clarkson, M.A. Printed in Philadelphia by James P. Parke, 1808.

Volume I. Chapter V.

Anthony Benezet may be considered as one of the most zealous, vigilant, and active advocates, which the cause of the oppressed Africans ever had. He seemed to have been born and to have lived for the promotion of it, and therefore he never omitted any the least opportunity of serving it. If a person called up on him who was going a journey, his first thoughts usually were, how he could make him an instrument in its favor; and he either gave him tracts to distribute, or he sent letters by him, or he gave him some commission on the subject, so that he was the means of employing several persons at the same time, in various parts of America, in advancing the work he had undertaken.

. . .

Finding, also, in the year 1783, that the Slave-trade, which had greatly declined during the American war, was reviving, he addressed a pathetic letter to our Queen . . . who, on hearing, the high character of the writer of it from Benjamin West, received it with marks of peculiar condescension and attention. The following is a copy of it.

To Charlotte Queen of Great Britain.

“Impressed with a sense of religious duty, and encouraged by the opinion generally entertained of thy benevolent disposition to succour the distressed, I take the liberty, very respectfully, to offer to thy perusal some tracts, which, I believe faithfully describe the suffering condition of many hundred thousands of our fellow-creatures of the African race, great numbers of whom, rent from every tender connexion in life, are annually taken from their native land, to endure, in the American islands and plantations, a most rigorous and cruel slavery; where by many, very many of them, are brought to a melancholy and untimely end.

“When it is considered that the inhabitants of Great Britain, who are themselves so eminently blessed in the enjoyment of religious and civil liberty, have long been, and yet are, very deeply concerned in this flagrant violation of the common rights of mankind, and that even its national authority is exerted in support of the African Slave-trade, there is much reason to apprehend, that this has been, and, as long as the evil exists, will continue to be, an occasion of drawing down the Divine displeasure on the nation and its dependencies. May these considerations induce thee to interpose thy kind endeavors in behalf of this greatly injured people, whose abject situation gives them an additional claim to the pity and assistance of the generous mind, inasmuch as they are altogether deprived of the means of soliciting effectual relief for themselves; that so thou mayest not only be a blessed instrument in the hand of him ‘by whom kings reign and princes decree justice,’ to avert the awful judgments by which the empire has already been so remarkably shaken, but that the blessings of thousands ready to perish may come upon thee, at a time when the superior advantages attendant on thy situation in this world will no longer be of any avail to thy consolation and support.

“To the tracts on this subject to which I have thus ventured to crave thy particular attention, I have added some which at different times I have believed it my duty to publish, and which, I trust, will afford thee some satisfaction, their design being for the furtherance of that universal peace and goodwill amongst men, which the gospel was intended to introduce.

“I hope thou wilt kindly excuse the freedom used on this occasion by an ancient man, whose mind, for more than forty years past, has been much separated from the common intercourse of the world, and long painfully exercised in the consideration of the miseries under which so large a part of mankind, equally with us the objects of redeeming love, are suffering the most unjust and grievous oppression, and who sincerely desires thy temporal and eternal felicity, and that of thy royal consort.

Anthony Benezet.”

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Filed under 1800's, Legal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Religion, Slavery

Item of the Day: Complete Works of Fielding (1784)

Full Title:

The Works of Henry Fielding, Esq; with the Life of the Author. A New edition, in Ten Volumes. To which is now added, The Fathers; or, The Good-natured Man.

Written by Henry Fielding. Printed in London for W. Strahan, J. Rivington and Sons, T. Payne, S. Crowder, T. Longman, J. Robson, C. Dilly, G. Kearsly, G. Robinson, J. Johnson, T. Cadell, T. Lowndes, R. Baldwin, W. Cater, G. Nicol, S. Bladon, J. Murray, W. Otridge, J. Sewell, W. Lane, J. Bowen, and W. Fox, 1784.

From Volume VI, Book VI of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Chapter I, “Of Love”:

IN our last book we have been obliged to deal pretty much with the passion of love; and in our succeeding book, shall be forced to handle this subject still more largely. It may not, therefore, in this place be improper to apply ourselves to the examination of that modern doctrine, by which certain philosophers, among many other wonderful discoveries, pretend to have found out, that there is no such passion in the human breast.

Whether these philosophers be the same with that surprising sect, who are honourably mentioned by the late Dr. Swift; as having, by the mere force of genius alone, without the least assistance of any kind of learning, or even reading, discovered that profound and invaluable secret that there is no God; or whether they are not rather the same with those who, some years since, very much alarmed the world, by shewing that there were no such things as virtue or goodness really existing in human nature, and who deduced our best actions from pride, I will not here presume to determine. In reality, I am inclined to suspect, that all these several finders of truth, are the very identical men who are by others called the finders of gold. The method used in both these searches after truth and after gold, being indeed one and the same, viz. the searching, rummaging, and examining into a nasty place; indeed in the former instances, into the nastiest of all places, A BAD MIND.

But though, in this particular, and perhaps in their success, the truth-finder, and the gold-finder, may very properly be compared together; yet in modesty, surely, there can be no comparison between the two; for whoever heard of a gold-finder that had the impudence or folly to assert, from the ill success of his search, that there was no such thing as gold in the world; whereas the truth-finder, having raked out that jakes, his own mind, and being there capable of tracing no ray of divinity, nor any thing virtuous, or good, or lovely, or loving, very fairly, honestly, and logically concludes, that no such things exist in the whole creation.

To avoid, however, all contention, if possible, with these philosophers, if they will be called so; and to shew our own disposition to accommodate matters peaceably between us, we shall here make them some concessions, which may possibly put an end to the dispute.

First, we will grant that many minds, and perhaps those of the philosophers, are entirely free from the least traces of such a passion.

Secondly, that what is commonly called love, namely, the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate white human flesh, is by no means that passion for which I here contend. This is indeed more properly hunger; and as no glutton is ashamed to apply the word love to his appetite, and to say he LOVES such and such dishes; so may the lover of this kind, with equal propriety, say, he HUNGERS after such and such women.

Thirdly, I will grant, which I believe will be a most acceptable concession, that this love for which I am an advocate, though it satisfies itself in a much more delicate manner, doth nevertheless seek its own satisfaction as much as the grossest of all our appetites.

And, lastly, that this love, when it operates towards one of a different sex, is very apt, towards its complete gratification, to call in the aid of that hunger which I have mentioned above; and which it is so far from abating, that it heightens all its delights to a degree scarce imaginable by those who have never been susceptible of any other emotions than what have proceeded from appetite alone.

In return to all these concessions, I desire of the philosophers to grant, that there is in some (I believe in many) human breasts, a kind and benevolent disposition, which is gratified by contributing to the happiness of others. That in this gratification alone, as in friendship, in parental and filial affection, as indeed in general philanthropy, there is a great and exquisite delight. That if we will not call such disposition love, we have no name for it. That though the pleasures arising from such pure love may be heightened and sweetened by the assistance of amourous desires, yet the former can subsist alone, nor are they destroyed by the intervention of the latter. Lastly, that esteem and gratitude are the proper motives to love, as youth and beauty are to desire; and therefore, though such desire may naturally cease, when age or sickness overtakes its object; yet these can have no effect of love, nor ever shake or remove from a good mind, that sensation or passion which hath gratitude and esteem for its basis.

To deny the existence of a passion of which we often see manifest instances, seems to be very strange and absurd; and can indeed proceed only from that self-admonition which we have mentioned above: but how unfair is this? Doth the man who recognizes in his own heart no traces of avarice or ambition, conclude, therefore, that there are no such passions in human nature? Why will we not modestly observe the same rule in judging of the good, as well as the evil of others? Or why, in any case, will we, as Shakespeare phrases it, ‘put the world in our own person?’

Predominant vanity is, I am afraid, too much concerned here. This is one instance of that adulation which we bestow on our own minds, and this almost universally. For there is scarce any man, how much soever he may despise the character of a flatterer but will condescend in the meanest manner to flatter himself.

To those, therefore, I apply for the truth of the above observations, whose own minds can bear testimony to what I have advanced.

Examine your heart, my good reader, and resolve whether you do believe these matters with me. If you do, you may now proceed to their exemplification in the following pages; if you do not, you have, I assure you, already read more than you have understood; and it would be wiser to pursue your business, or your pleasures (such as they are), than to throw away any more of your time in reading what you can neither taste nor comprehend. To treat of the effects of love to you, must be as absurd as to discourse on colours to a man born blind; since possibly your idea of love may be as absurd as that which we are told such blind man once entertained of the colour scarlet; that colour seemed to him to be very much like the sound of a trumpet: and love probably may, in your opinion, very greatly resemble a dish of soup, or a sirloin of roast-beef.

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Filed under 1780's, Fiction, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Il Consolato del Mare (1599)

Full Title Page:








in Leuante, & in Ponente: & d’altre

cose utilissime, & necessarie

a i Nauiganti.


accurata diligentia, che s’è potuto,

corretto, & ristampato.

IN VENETIA, Apresso Lucio Spineda.

M D X C I X.

Bound With:





tutti gli Statuti, & Ordini: disposti da gli an-

tichi, per ogni caso di Mercantia

& di Nauigare:


come di Mercanti, & Patroni di

naue, & nauilij.


sopra l’Armate di Mare, sicurtà, entrate, vscite;

& con il Portolano del Mare.

Di nuouo con quella più accurrata diligentia, che s’è potuto

corretto, & ristampato.


IN VENETIA, Apresso Lucio Spineda.
M D X C I X.

The text of the “Portolano” is attributed to Alvise da Cadamosta (1430-1480), the Venetian navigator who made two voyages to Guinea for Prince Henry.

The “Consolato” was a highly important sourcebook of maritime legislation. The institution of the Consolato del Mare made a major contribution towards the codification and development of shipping law and laid the basis for present-day maritime law. It was first published in 1494 in Barcelona, and based on fourteenth-century surveys of maritime customs. It achieved its widest circulation in Italian, more specifically Venetian, editions in the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition to legal information, it also provides extensive information on the practical running of the ship, maritime organization, and taxes and tariffs. Printed in Venice by Lucio Spineda, 1599.

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Filed under 1590's, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Travel

Item of the Day: Memoirs of A Captivity Among Indians of North America (1824)

Full Title:

Memoirs of A Captivity Among Indians of North America, From Childhood to the Age of Nineteen: With Anecdotes Descriptive of Their Manners and Customs, To Which Is Added, Some Account of the Soil, Climate, and Vegetable Productions of the Territory westward of the Mississippi.

Written by John Dunn Hunter. Printed in London by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1824.

From “Memoirs.”

Of the place of my nativity, and the circumstances of my parentage, I am altogether ignorant, and fear that I shall for ever remain so; as I have assiduously explored every avenue through which I could expect information, both while I was with the Indians, and since my residence in the United States. . . . This part of my history, together with most of the incidents of early life, which generally, in works of this kind, form an interesting portion, will, in all probability, for ever remain unknown. Nevertheless, some features in this period were so strongly marked as to leave indelible impressions on my mind; while others not so strikingly characterized, like the imperfect recollection of a dream, cross my memory, but fix on it no decided and satisfactory images.

. . .

I was taken prisoner at a very early period of my life by a party of Indians, who from the train of events that followed, belonged to, or were in alliance with, the Kickapoo nation. At the same time, two other white children, a boy and a small girl, were also made prisoners.

I have too imperfect a recollection of the circumstances connected with this capture, to attempt any account of them; although I have reflected on the subject so often, and with so great interest and intensity, under the knowledge I have since acquired of the Indian modes of warfare, as nearly to establish at times a conviction of my mind of a perfect remembrance. There are moments when I see the rush of the Indians, hear their war-whoops and terrific yells, and witness the massacre of my parents and connections, the pillage of their property, and the incendious destruction of their dwellings. But the first incident that made an actual and prominent impression on me happened while the party were somewhere encamped, no doubt shortly after my capture; it was as follows: The little girl whom I before mentioned, beginning to cry, was immediately despatched with the blow of a tomahawk from one of the warriors: the circumstance terrified me very much, more particularly as it was followed with very menacing motions of the same instrument, directed to me, and then pointed to the slaughtered infant, by the same warrior, which I then interpreted to signify, that if I cried, he would serve me in the same manner. From this period till the apprehension of personal danger had subsided, I recollect many of the occurrences which took place.

Soon after the above transaction, we proceeded on our journey till a party separated from the main body, and took the boy before noticed with them, which was the last I saw or heard of him.

The Indians generally separate their white prisoners. The practice no doubt originated more with a view to hasten a reconciliation to their change, and a nationalization of feelings, than with any intention of wanton cruelty.

The Indians who retained me continued their march, chiefly through woods, for several successive days; a circumstance well remembered by me, because the fear of being left behind called forth all my efforts to keep up with them, whenever from fatigue or any other cause they compelled me to walk, which was often the case.

After a long march and much fatigue, we reached their camps, which were situated on a considerable stream of water; but in what particular part of section of country, I am wholly unable to say. Just before our arrival, however, we were met by a great number of old men, women, and children, among whom was a white woman attired in the Indian costume: she was the wife of a principal chief; was a great friend to the Indians; and joined with, an I believe surpassed, the squaws in the extravagancy of her exultations and rejoicings on account of the safe return of the warriors with prisoners, scalps, and other trophies obtained from their vanquished foes.

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Filed under 1820's, American Indians, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Travel

Item of the Day: Beccaria’s Crimes and Punishments (1788)

Full Title:

An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. By The Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected.

Written by Cesare Beccaria. Printed in Edinburgh by James Donaldson, 1788.

Chapter XVI. Of torture:

THE torture of a criminal, during the course of his trial, is a cruelty consecrated by custom in most nations. It is used with the intent either to make him confess his crime, or explain some contradictions, into which he had been led during his examination; or discover his accomplices; or for some kind of metaphysical and incomprehensible purgation of infamy; or, finally, in order to discover other crimes, of which he is not accused, but of which he may be guilty.

No man can be judged a criminal until he be found guilty; nor can society take from him the public protection, until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted. What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen, so long as there remains any doubt of his guilt? The dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary. If he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of law, every man is innocent, whose crime has not been proved. Besides, it is confounding all relations, to expect that a man should be both the accuser and accused; and that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibers of a wretch in torture. By this method, the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned. These are the inconveniences of this pretended test of truth, worthy only of a cannibal; and which the Romans, in many respects barbarous, and whose savage virtue has been too much admired, reserved for the slaves alone.

What is the political intention of punishments? To terrify, and to be an example to others. Is this intention answered, by thus privately torturing the guilty and the innocent? It is doubtless of importance, that no crime should remain unpunished: but it is useless to make a public example of the author of a crime hid in darkness. A crime already committed, and for which there can be no remedy, can only be punished by a political society, with an intention that no hopes of impunity should induce others to commit the same. If it be true, that the number of those, who, from fear or virtue, respect the laws, is greater than of those by whom they are violated, the risk of torturing an innocent person is greater, as there is a greater probability that, cateris paribus, an individual hath observed, than that he hath infringed the laws.

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Filed under 1780's, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Hobbes’s Thucydides (1634)

Full Title:

Eight Bookes of the PELOPONNESIAN WARRE Written by THVCYDIDES the sonne of OLORVS. Interpreted with Faith and Diligence Immediately out of the Greeke By Thomas Hobbes Secretary to ye late Earle of Deuonshire.

Written by Thucydides, translated by Thomas Hobbes. With maps, illustrations, and errata from the first edition. Imprinted in London for Richard Mynne in Little Brittaine at the signe of :S: Paul, 1634.

From “To the Readers”:

THough this Translation haue already past the Censure of some, whose Iudgements I very much esteeme; yet, because there is something, I know not what, in the censure of a Multitude, more terrible then any single Iudgement, how seuere or exact soeuer, I haue thought it discretion in all men, that haue to doe with so many, and to me, in my want of perfection, necessary, to bespeake your Candor. Which that I may vpon the better reason hope for, I am willing to acquaint you briefly, upon what grounds I undertooke this Worke at first; and haue since, by publishing it, put my selfe upon the hazard of your censure, with so small hope of glory, as from a thing of this nature can be expected. For I know, there meere Translations, haue in them this property, that they may much disgrace, if not well done; but if well, not much commend the doer.

It hath beene noted by diuers, that Homer in Poesie, Aristotle in Philosophy, Demosthenes in Eloquence, and others of the Ancients, in other knowledge, do still maintaine their Primacy, none of them exceeded, some not approached, by any, in these later Ages. And in the number of these, is iustly ranked also our Thucydides; a Workeman no lesse perfect in his worke, then any of the former; and in whom (I beleeue with many others) the Faculty of writing History is at the highest. For the principall and proper worke of History, being to instruct, and enable men, by the knowledge of Actions past, to beare themselues prudently in the present, and prouidently towards the Future, there is not extant any other (merely humane) that doth more fully, and naturally performe it, then this of my Author. It is true, that there be many excellent and profitable Histories written since; and in some of them, there be inserted very wise discourses, both of Manners and Policie. But being discourses inserted, and not of the contexture of the Narration, they indeed commend the knowledge of the Writer, but not the History it selfe; the nature whereof, is meerely narratiue. In others, there bee subtile coniectures, at the secret aymes, and inward cogitations of such as fall vnder their Penne; which is also none of the least vertues in a History, where the coniecture is throughly grounded, not forced to serve the purpose of the Writer, in adorning his stile, or manifesting his subtilty in coniecturing. But these coniectures cannot often be certaine, unlesse withall so euident, that the narration it selfe may bve sufficient to suggest the same to the Reader. But Thucydides is one, who, though he neuer digresse to reade a Lecture, Morall or Politicall, upon his owne Text, nor enter into mens hearts, further then the actions themselues euidently guide him, is yet accounted the most Politique Historiographer that euer writ. The reason whereof I take to bee this: He filleth his Narrations with that choice of matter, and ordereth them with that Iudgment, and with such perspicuity and efficacy expresseth himselfe, that, as Plutarch saith, he maketh his Auditor a Spectator. For he settteh his Reader in the Assemblies of the People, and in the Senates, at their debating; in the Streets, at their Sedition; and in the Field, at their Battels. So that looke how much a man of understanding, might haue added to his experience, if he had then liued, a beholder of their proceedings, and familiar with the men, and businesse of the time; so much almost may be profit now, by attentiue reading of the same here written. He may from the narrations draw out lessons to himselfe, and of himselfe be able, to trace the drifts and counsailes of the Actors to their seate.

These Vertues of my Author did so take my affection, that they begat in me a desire to communicate him further; which was the first occasion that moued mee to translate him. For it is an errour we easily fall into, to beleeue, that what soeuer pleaseth vs, will be, in like manner and degree, acceptable to all; and to esteeme of one anothers Iudgment, as we agree in the liking, or dislike of the same things. And in this errour peraduenture was I, when I thought, that as many of the more iudicious, as I should communicate him to, would affect him as much as I my selfe did. I considered also, that he was exceedingly esteemed of the Italians and French in their owne Tongues; notwithstanding that he bee not uery much beholding for it to his Interpreters. Of whom (to speake no more then becomes a Candidate of your good opinion in the same kinde) I may say this, That whereas the Author himselfe, so carrieth with him his owne light throughout, that the Reader may continually see his way before him, and by that which goeth before, expect what is to follow, I found it not so in them. The cause whereof, and their excuse may bee this: They followed the Latine of Laurentius Valla, which was not without some errours, and he a Greeke Copie, not so correct as now is extant. Out of French hee was done into English, (for I neede not dissemble to haue seene him in English) in the time of King Edward the sixth; but so, as by multiplication of errour, hee became at length traduced, rather then translated into our Language. Hereupon I resolued to take him immediately from the Greeke, according to the Edition of Æmilius Porta; not refuting, or neglecting any uersion, Comment, or other helpe I could come by. Knowing that when with Diligence and Leasure I should haue done it, though some error might remaine, yet they would be errors but of one decent; of which neuerthelesse I can discouer none, and hope they bee not many. After I had finished it, it lay long by mee, and other reasons taking place, my desire to communicate it ceased.

For I saw, that, for the greatest part, men came to the reading of History, with an affection much like that of the People, in Rome, who came to the spectacle of the Gladiators, with more dlight to behold their bloud, then their Skill in Fencing. For they be farre more in number, that loue to read of great Armies, bloudy Battels, and many thousands slaine at once, then that minde the Art, by which, the Affaires, both of Armies, and Cities, be conducted to their ends. I obserued likewise that there were not many, whose eares were well accustomed to the names of the places they shall meet with in this Histroy; without the knowledge whereof, it can neither patiently be read ouer, perfectly vnderstood, nor easily remembred.

From “The Oration of the Ambassadours of CORCYRA”:

MEN of Athens, It is but Iustice, that such as come to implore the ayde of their neighbours, (as now doe wee) and cannot pretend by any great benefit or League, some precedent merit, should before they goe any futher, make it appeare, principally, that what they seeke conferreth profit, or if not so, yet it is not prejudiciall at least, to those that are to grant it: and next, that they will bee constantly thankfull for the same. And if they cannot doe this, then not to take it ill, though their suite bee rejected. And the Corcyræans being fully perswaded that they can make all this appeare on their owne parts, haue therefore sent us hither, desiring you to ascribe them to the number of your Confederates. Now so it is, that we haue had a Coustome, both vnreasonable in respect of our Suite to you, and also for the present vnprofitable to our owne estate. For, hauing euer till now, beene vnwilling to admit others into League with vs, we are now not onely suiters for League to others, but also left destitute by that meanes, of friends in this our Warre with the Corinthians. And that which before wee thought wisdome, namely, not to enter with others into League, because wee would not at the discretion of others enter into danger, wee now finde to haue beene our weaknesse, and imprudence. Wherefore, though alone wee repulsed the Corinthians, in the late Battell by Sea, yet since they are set to inuade us with greater preparation, out of Peloponnesus, and the rest of Greece; and seeing with our owne single power we are not able to goe through; and since also the danger, in case they subdue vs, would bee very great to all Greece; it is both necessary that wee seeke the succours, both of you, and of whomsoeuer else wee can; and we are also to be pardoned, though we make bold to crosse our former custome of not hauing to doe with other men, proceeding not from malice, but error of iudgement. Now if you yeeld vnto vs, in what wee request, this coincidence (on our part) of need, will on your part bee honourable, for many reasons. First, in this respect, that you lend your helpe to such as haue suffered, and not to such as haue committed the iniustice. And next, considering that you receiue into League, such as haue a testimony of it, if euer any can be so indeleble. Besides this, the greatest Nauie but your owne, is ours: Consider then, what rarer hap, and of greater griefe to your enemies, can befall you, then that that power, which you would haue prized aboue any money, or other requitall, should come uoluntarily, and without all danger or cost, present it selfe to your hands; bringing with it reputation amongst most men; a gratefull minde from those you defend; and strength to your selues. All which haue not happened at once to many. And few there bee of those that sue for League, that come not rather to receiue strength, and reputation, then to conferre it: If any heere thinke, that the Warre wherein wee may doe you seruice, will not at all bee, hee is in an errour, and seeth not, how the Lacedæmonians, through feare of you, are already in labour of the Warre; and that the Corinthians, gracious with them, and enemies to you, making way for their Enterprize, assault us now, in the way to the invasion of you heereafter, that wee may not stand amongst the rest of their common Enemies, but that they may be sure before-hand, either to weaken vs, or to strengthen their owne estate.

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Filed under 1630's, History, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651)

Full Title:

Leviathan, or, the Matter, Form, and Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil. By Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury

Written by Thomas Hobbes. Printed for Andrew Crooke in London at the Green Dragon in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1651.Introduction:

NATURE (the Art whereby God hath made and governs the World) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal: For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why may we not say, that ell Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheels, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that Rational and most excellent work of Nature, Man. For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE, (in latine CIVITAS) which is but an artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the Soveraignty is an Artificial Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; The Magistrates, and other Officers of Judicature and Execution, artificial Joynts; Reward and Punishment (by which fastned to the seat of the Soveraignty, every joynt and member is moved to performe his duty) are the Nerves, that do the same in the Body Natural; The Wealth and Riches of all the particular members, are the Strength; Salus Populi (the peoples safety) its Business; Councellours, by whom all things needful for it to know, are suggested unto it, are the Memory; Equity and Laws, an artificial Reason and Will; Concord, Health; Sedition, Sickness; and Civil War, Death. Lastly, the Pacts and Covenants, by which the parts of this Body Politique were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that Fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.

To describe the Nature of this Artificial man, I will consider

First, the Matter thereof, and the Artificer; both which is Man.
Secondly, How, and by what Covenants it is made; what are the Rights and just Power or Authority of a Soveraign; and what it is that preserveth and dissolveth it.
Thirdly, what is a Christian Common-wealth.
Lastly, what is the Kingdom of Darkness.

Concerning the first, there is a saying much usurped of late, That Wisdom is acquired, not by reading of Books, but of Men. Consequently whereunto, those persons, that for the most part can give no other proof of being wise, take great delight to shew what they think they have read in men, by uncharitable censures of one another behind their backs. But there is another saying not of late understood, by which they might learn truly to read one another, if they would take the pains; and that is, Nosce teipsum, Read thy self: which was not meant as it is now used, to countenance, either the barbarous state of men in power, towards their inferiors; or to encourage men of low degree, to a sawcie behaviour towards their betters; But to teach us, that for the similitude of the thoughts, and Passions of one man, to the thoughts, and Passions of another, whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth, when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, &c. and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts, and Passions of all other men, upon the like occasions. I say the similitude of Passions, which are the same in all men, desire, fear, hope, &c. not the similitude of the objects of the Passions, which are things desired, feared, hoped, &c. for these the constitution individual, and particular education do so vary, and they are so easie to be kept from our knowledge, that the characters of mans heart, blotted and confounded as they are, with dissembling, lying, counterfeiting, and erroneous doctrines, are legible onely to him that searcheth hearts. And though by mens actions we do discover their design sometimes; yet to do it without comparing them with our own, and distinguishing all circustances, by which the case may come to be altered, is to decypher without a key, and be for the most part deceived, by too much trust, or by too much diffidence; as he that reads, is himself a good or evil man.

But let one man read another by his actions never so perfectly, it serves him onely with his acquaintance, which are but few. He that is to govern a whole Nation, must read in himself, not this, or that particular man, but Man-kind: which though it be hard to do, harder to learn than any Language, or Science; yet, when I shall have set down my own reading orderly, and perspicuously, the pains left another, will be onely to consider, if he also find not the same in himself. For this kind of Doctrine, admitteth no other Demonstration.

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Filed under 1650's, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt