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A Vindication of Mr. Fox's History of the Early Part of the Reign of
James the Second. By SAMUEL HEYWOOD, Sergeant at Law. 4to.
SUPPOSING this work to be effectually what the title professes, there are several good reasons why it should be published. In the first place, it is necessary to the in: tellectual good order of the community that minds of pre-eminent superiority should be, by a general and established law, the objects of a respect, partaking in a certain degree of homage, and shown in a somewhat ceremonious deference. They are the natural nobility and magistracy in what may be called the economy of sense; and it is easy to foresee what will be the consequence, if they are to be subjected to such a levelling system, as that all sorts of people may venture on whatever impertinent freedoms they please, -as that every smatterer in knowledge and pretender to ability may beard them, rudely question them, contradict them, and proclaim them as ignorant or incapable. Mind itself, the noblest thing we have among us, would be insulted, and be liable to become degraded, by this indecorous treatment of its higher specimens and exhibitions: the just rules of thinking, which can be kept in force only by a deference for the dictates and exemplifications of these superior minds, would be swept aside, the self-importance of little spirits would grow arrogant, and a general anarchy of intellect would lead to its general prostration. The prescriptive rights, therefore, of this privileged order, ought to be carefully maintained.
Doubtless this reverence for superior mind may, in some circumstances, degenerate into servility and superstition. It will be recollected, what a despotic empire over the thinking world was acquired by Aristotle. Other powerful spirits have, in different ages, estab
lished upon this veneration tyrannies, less extended and durable indeed than his, yet greatly obstructive of the free exercise and the progress of the human understanding; though it may, at the same time, be doubted whether it was not, in many instances, better to entertain those systems of notions, admitted through submission to these ascendant minds, than to be in that state of utter mental stagnation which, but for their ascendency, would have been the condition of many of their believing devotees. But this superstitious deference to high mental powers, has so far declined, from whatever causes, that nothing is now more common than to see persons of very ordinary endowments assuming with all possible assurance and self-complacency, to put themselves forward in even a contemptuous hostility to the strongest minds of the present or past times. It will be salutary, therefore, as tending to repress this arrogance, and enforce due subordination, to have now and then a signal example made of one of the offenders. And it is peculiarly equitable that the instance selected for this purpose should be that in which the great person assailed and exulted over is recently dead, and the comparatively small one assailing, enjoys immense benefits connected with his capacity of partisan.
Another good reason for the publication, if the work justifies the title, is, that it must necessarily form, by its proofs and illustrations, a valuable historical supplement to Mr. Fox's work. It must be, in effect, partly the same thing as if Mr. Fox himself had investigated each question to its utmost minutiæ, had produced more authorities, and trebly fortified every assertion. The Vindicator may have fortified the statements, even more completely than the historian himself could,-having had the advantage of being directed, by the attempts of an earnest enemy, where to accumulate the means of defence. The evidence which effectually defends a work against a long laborious attack in detail, must be of an extremely specific nature; and the corroboration thus obtained is therefore of very great value. If, then, Mr. Heywood is successful, Mr. Fox's work both acquires a more decisive au
thority than it could be held to possess before it had sustained the attack, and annihilated the assailant, and is made, by Mr. Heywood's defensive accessions, a much ampler history of the events to which it relates. Mr. Fox's book is sure to be among the very first of those that will be consulted in future times, by such as shall in those times carry their retrospect so far as to the events in question, much of Mr. Heywood's auxiliary assemblage of evidence will justly claim to go down with the principal work, to confirm and to amplify its representations. Thus the work, in point of value, takes a higher and more general ground than that of being merely a defence of a particular book against the exceptions of a Mr. Rose.
Another good reason for such a publication, may perhaps be found in the necessity of checking the assumption of official men, and exciting in the nation a salutary suspicion of them. It is not seldom seen, with what an air of consequence the general claims of a minor public functionary shall be put forth ; but he is apt to take a tone peculiarly authoritative and oracular, whenever he is pleased to pronounce upon questions demanding the kind of knowledge and of judgment supposed to be acquired among exact details and minute records. He assumes, as a thing admitting no dispute, that, in his official capacity, he is the perfection of accuracy; and, on the strength of this assumption, confidently claims credit for the same virtue, in any extraofficial application of his knowledge. And there is among mankind, an extreme willingness to yield to such men this credit for accuracy both in matters within their office, and in matters without it. This facility of confiding arises partly from indolence, partly from want of the means of judging, and partly from that reverence of government, through all its branches, which has always been one of the most prominent features of the human character. Now if it be really true, as many shrewd observers of human nature and of men in place, have asserted, that there is, after all, no security against many and great errors in the arrangements, reckonings, and statements, of these men, without the constant interference of a suspicious vigilance on the part of those whose affairs they administer,-it may be very useful, as tending both to recover the people from this blind confidence, and to check the assurance that demands it, that, when any one of these official men ventures out from the shaded and the guarded sanctuary of state, where he is but very imperfectly within reach of scrutiny, and takes a ground where he can be subjected to a full and public examination,-it may be very useful for some keen inquisitor to seize upon hin, and put to a severe test this public, ostentatious, and challenging display of his virtue of exquisite accuracy; which he himself cannot disown to be a very fair specimen of his general accuracy, and an illustration of his official accuracy, when he professes that it is from the official cultivation of this virtue, that so much of it comes to appear in the extra-official performance.
We will name only one more of the good effects likely to attend such a work, and making it desirable. It may serve as a warning that no man, in or out of office, who is not very sure he is a superior man to Mr. Rose, should write, (or at least should publish if he has written,) a polemical quarto in the spare hours of a very few weeks ; or that, at any rate, if he is under the compulsion of fate to perform such an operation within such a time, it should not be against another book of little more than the same bulk, on which one of the strongest minds in the world has expended about the same number of years that the said assailant can afford weeks.-Or if any man should ever again be under the power and malice of fate even to this whole melancholy extent, the warning may, at the very least of all, be of service so far as to raise him from that last worst spite of his evil fortune, that would make him go through this task with an air of the most honest and lively self-congratulation, on performing a victorious exploit!
These, we should think, will be admitted to be very good and sober reasons (and others might be added) why the book should come before the public, if it be what it professes to be. With this admission the reader must begin the perusal ;-and by the time he comes to the conclusion, it may be difficult for him to refuse admitting also, that the book does fulfil, with extraordinary fidelity, the promise or threat in the title. He will probably be of opinion, that he never witnessed an attack more cool, comprehensive, and effectual, nor a defeat involving a more hopeless and complete humiliation ;-complete, unless it be an alleviating circumstance that it will not be insulted with pity. Mr. Rose came forward a good deal in the manner of a person called upon by duty to stop the progress of a public mischief, and remove a public nuisance. The leisure fragments of a very few weeks were all that could be spared for the purpose from his valuable time; but quite enough for the easy task of deposing Mr. Fox from the dignified rank of historian, and proving his deeply pondered judgments, and carefully conducted narration, to be little better than a series of mis-statements in point of fact, applied to party purposes by prejudiced and erroneous comments. The Right Honourable Censor, in addition to that disinterested rectitude of judgment, the want of which in Mr. Fox is condescendingly apologised for, while condemned, holds himself forth as possessing a great advantage, in having been accustomed to “official accuracy;"—and also he has the privilege of perusing sundry valuable manuscript documents. One inducement to his interference, indeed, is the wish to rescue the character of a friend's ancestor from misrepresentation ; but he also entertains the more ambitious hope, and meritorious purpose, of reudering “service to his country.” The achievement is finished. The performer has constructed for himself a proud station among the ruined labours of Mr. Fox. He receives there, and probably deems himself not much the worse for, several transient attacks. But, all this while, there is a sober indefatigable engineer, of the name of Heywood, who has silently carried a mine under this triumphal structure, and lodged his gunpowder; and while the redoubted occupant is regaling himself with the selfapplause, and all the rich rewards of this and so many