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I AM now beginning to review and write over again the history of my own time, which I first undertook twenty years agoand have been continuing it from year to year ever since: and I see some reason to review it all. I had while I was very young a greater knowledge of affairs than is usual at that age; for my father, who had been engaged in great friendships with men of both sides, living then retired from all business, as he took my edu-2 cation wholly into his own hands, so he took a sort of pleasure to relate to me the series of all public affairs. And as he was a man so eminent for probity and true piety, that I had all reason to believe him; so I saw such an impartial sense of things in him, that I had as little reason to doubt his judgment as his sincerity. For though he adhered so firmly to the king and his side, that he was the singular instance in Scotland of a man of some note, who, from the beginning to the end of the war, never once owned or submitted to the new form of government set up all that while; yet he did very freely complain of the errors of the king's govern
1 This history he writ some beginning of the reign of king
time before the year 1705. but William and queen Mary he
how long, he has not any where dates the continuation of his
told; only it appears it was history on the first day of May,
then finished, because in the 1705. Original Editors.
ment, and of the bishops of Scotland. So that upon this foundation I set out at first to look into the secret conduct of affairs among us.
I fell into great acquaintance and friendships with several persons, who either were or had been ministers of state, from whom, when the secret of affairs was over, I studied to know as many particulars as I could draw from them. I saw a great deal more among the papers of the dukes of Hamilton than was properly a part of their memoirs, or fit to be told at that time: for when a licence was to be obtained, and a work was to be published fit for that family to own, things foreign to their ministry, or hurtful to any other families, were not to be intermixed with the account I then gave of the late wars. And now for above thirty years I have lived in such intimacy with all who have had the chief conduct of affairs, and have been so much trusted, and on so many important occasions employed by them, that I have been able to penetrate far into the true secrets of counsels and designs.
This made me twenty years ago write down a relation of all that I had known to that time: where I was in the dark, I past over all, and only opened those transactions that I had particular occasions to know. My chief design in writing was to give a true view of men and of counsels, leaving public transactions to gazettes and the public historians of the times. I writ with a design to make both my self and my readers wiser and better, and to lay open the good and bad of all sides and parties, as clearly and impartially as I my self understood it, concealing nothing that I thought fit to be known, and representing things in their natural colours withI
out art or disguise, without any regard to kindred or friends, to parties or interests: for I do solemnly say this to the world, and make my humble appeal 3 upon it to the great God of truth, that I tell the truth on all occasions, as fully and freely as upon my best inquiry I have been able to find it out. Where things appear doubtful, I deliver them with the same incertainty to the world.
Some may perhaps think, that, instead of favouring my own profession, I have been more severe upon them than was needful. But my zeal for the true interest of religion and of the clergy made me more careful to undeceive good and well meaning men of my own order and profession for the future, and to deliver them from common prejudices and mistaken notions, than to hide or excuse the faults of those who will be perhaps gone off the stage before this work appear on it. I have given the characters of men very impartially and copiously; for nothing guides one's judgment more truly in a relation of matters of fact, than the knowing the tempers and principles of the chief actors b.
b Bishop Burnet was a man of the most extensive knowledge I ever met with; had read and seen a great deal, with a prodigious memory, and a very indifferent judgment: he was extremely partial, and readily took every thing for granted that he heard to the prejudice of those that he did not like: which made him pass for a man of less truth than he really was. I do not think he designedly published any thing he believed to be false. He had a boisterous vehement manner of ex
pressing himself, which often made him ridiculous, especially in the house of lords, when what he said would not have been thought so, delivered in a lower voice, and a calmer behaviour. His vast knowledge occasioned his frequent rambling from the point he was speaking to, which ran him into discourses of so universal a nature, that there was no end to be expected but from a failure of his strength and spirits, of both which he had a larger share than most men; which were accompanied
If I have dwelt too long on the affairs of Scotland, some allowance is to be made to the affection all men bear to their native country. I alter nothing of what I wrote in the first draught of this work, only I have left out a great deal that was personal to my self, and to those I am descended from: so that this is upon the matter the same work, with very little change made in it.
I look on the perfecting of this work, and the carrying it on through the remaining part of my life, as the greatest service I can do to God and to the world; and therefore I set about it with great care and caution. For I reckon a lie in history to be as much a greater sin than a lie in common discourse, as the one is like to be more lasting and more generally known than the other. I find that the long experience I have had of the baseness, the malice, and the falsehood of mankind, has inclined me to be apt to think generally the worst both of men and of parties: and indeed the peevishness, the ill nature, and the ambition of many clergymen, has sharpened my spirits perhaps too much against them: so I warn0 my reader to take all that I say on these heads with some grains of allowance, though I have watched over my self and my pen so carefully, that I hope there is no great occasion for this apology.
I have shewed this history to several of my friendsd, who were either very partial to me, or
with a most invincible assur- it was a favour he had granted
ance. Dartmouth. to several others, and if any
c I will take his warning, part of it had been published
Swift. before its time, he might have
d He offered to shew it to thought it came from me:
me, which I avoided, knowing though he was so civil as to