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It is proper to notice that a slight change has been made in the title of this treatise,—not with any view of bringing it before the notice of the public as a new work,-but for the purpose of relieving it from a misapprehension of its object, which the original title was considered likely to suggest. The truth is, that from the importance of the views which opened upon the mind of the Author, as he proceeded with the work, it necessarily assumed a more philosophic form,-as well as a larger size, than was imaged in the original plan of the treatise ;—and as the fanciful and quaint title of "My Old House" has been considered as conveying too frivolous an idea of the object of the work, the Author has been induced to present it to the public under the more grave, and, he hopes, more applicable title in which it now solicits the attention of the public. The work itself is, in all other respects, the same as before ;-nor does the Author think that the impulse given to the public mind, by the love of change, at the time when the work was composed, has been so exhausted, that no future necessity will be felt for such views as the present treatise is intendto illustrate and recommend as practically useful.
EDINBURGH, 10th Feb. 1844.
Ar a time when every thing around us is in a state of change-" when old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new,”—it seems natural for those, whose chief business is rather to speculate on the events of life, than to take an active share in their management-to turn their thoughts more carefully towards the essential tendency which seems to belong to the whole order of Nature, to be in a ceaseless state of alteration and of progress-more especially, to ascertain, as far as possible, the laws to which those great changes which occasionally vary the scene of human life seem to be subject—and to point out the rules which ought to be applied to all such events, with the view of determining whether they are in accordance with the progressive tendencies of Nature, or are to be regarded as but occasional irregularities, or retardations of her course.
This being the design of the present treatise, the disquisitions which it involves, evidently belong to a higher class than those which relate merely to the passing contentions of the daythey are, in truth, not so properly or entirely political, as philosophical and moral-and are to be tried, with the view of ascertaining their justness, not by their tendency to promote the views of any party or sect, but, by their conformity with general truth, and by their character as correct generalizations of the results which human affairs are constantly presenting to our consideration.
At the same time, such generalizations are so far different from mere abstract disquisitions, that they necessarily blend themselves, almost at every instant, with the passing events and obvious order of life-and more especially cannot fail to present themselves, as either justifications or refutations of the transactions of times, when great changes are in progress, and when, consequently, ordinary life assumes a character in a great measure different from that in which it more familiarly offers itself to our notice.
From the peculiarity now stated, it cannot but be, that, in the course of so long a treatise as the present, there must be occasional allusions to the events that are at present exciting the interest
and determining the party partialities of the various classes of the community. Yet the author has endeavoured to make all such allusions as general and inoffensive as possible-and he ventures to hope that, as his treatise is essentially of a general and philosophic cast, the views which it exhibits, may in their prevailing character, be such, as the majority of thinking minds may not be unwilling to adopt ;—for it is in the application of principles, rather than in these principles themselves, that in all such times, the real difference seems to consist-and there is, confessedly, a higher and calmer region of thought, in which all the distractions and oppositions that agitate the mere surface of the earth, meet and are reconciled.
It is of vast moment, however, that the views which this higher region presents should, in all times of great agitation, be made familiar to the minds of men, and exhibited in their most engaging colours-both because they are more comprehensive and tranquil than those which are more commonly entertained—and because their natural effect, when justly apprehended and strongly felt, is to abate the fierceness of ordinary contentions -and gradually to enable men to see that there are views in which all parties may coalesce, at