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because many advantages may be expected from the perusal of these small productions, which are scarcely to be found in that of larger works.
If we regard history, it is well known, that most political treatises have for a long time appeared in this form, and that the first relations of transactions, while they are yet the subject of conversation, divide the opinions, and employ the conjectures of mankind, are delivered by these petty writers, who have opportunities of collecting the different sentiments of disputants, of enquiring the truth from living witnesses, and of copying their representations from the life; and, therefore, they preserve a multitude of particular incidents, which are forgotten in a short time, or omitted in formal relations, and which are yet to be considered as sparks of truth, which, when united, may afford light in some of the darkest scenes of state, as, we doubt not, will be sufficiently proved in the course of this miscellany; and which it is, therefore, the interest of the publick to preserve unextinguished.
The same observation may be extended to subjects of yet more importance. In controversies that relate to the truths of religion, the first essays of reformation are generally timorous; and those, who have opinions to offer, which they expect to be opposed, produce their sentiments by degrees, and, for the most part, in small tracts : by degrees, that they may not shock their readers with too many novelties at once; and in small tracts, that they may be easily dispersed, or privately printed: almost every controversy, therefore, has been, for a time, carried on in pamphlets, nor has swelled into larger volumes, till
the first ardor of the disputants has subsided, and they have recollected their notions with coolness enough to digest them into order, consolidate them into systems, and fortify them with authorities.
From pamphlets, consequently, are to be learned the 'progress of every debate; the various state to which the questions have been changed; the artifices and fallacies which have been used, and the subterfuges by which reason has been eluded : in such writings may be seen how the mind has been opened by degrees, how one truth has led to another, how error has been disentangled, and hints improved to demonstration, which pleasure, and many others, are lost by him that only reads the larger writers, by whom these scattered sentiments are collected, who will see none of the changes of fortune which every opinion has passed through, will have no opportunity of remarking the transient advantages which error may sometimes obtain, by the artifices of its patron, or the successful rallies by which truth regains the day, after a repulse ; but will be to him, who traces the dispute through into particular gradations, as he that hears of a victory, to him that sees the battle.
Since the advantages of preserving these small tracts are so numerous, our attempt to unite them in volumes cannot be thought either useless or unseasonable; for there is no other method of securing them from accidents; and they have already been so long neglected, that this design cannot be delayed, without hazarding the loss of many pieces, which deserve to be transmitted to another age.
The practice of publishing pamphlets on the most important subjects, has now prevailed more than two centuries among us; and therefore it cannot be doubted, but that, as no large collections have been yet made, many curious tracts must have perished; but it is too late to lament that loss ; nor ought we to reflect upon it, with any other view, than that of quickening our endeavours for the preservation of those that yet remain ; of which we have now a greater number, than was, perhaps, ever amassed by any one person.
The first appearance of pamphlets among us, is generally thought to be at the new opposition raised against the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome. Those who were first convinced of the reasonableness of the new learning, as it was then called, propagated their opinions in small pieces, which were cheaply printed; and, what was then of great importance, easily concealed. These treatises were generally printed in foreign countries, and are not, therefore, always very correct. There was not then that opportunity of printing in private; for the number of printers were small, and the presses were easily overlooked by the clergy, who spared no labour or vigilance for the suppression of heresy. There is, however, reason to suspect, that some attempts were made to carry on the propagation of truth by a secret press; for one of the first treatises in favour of the Reformation, is said, at the end, to be printed at Greenwich, by the permission of the Lord of Hosts.
In the time of king Edward the Sixth, the presses were employed in favour of the reformed religion, and small tracts were dispersed over the nation, to reconcile them to the new forms of worship. In this reign, likewise, political pamphlets may be said to have been begun, by the address of the rebels of Devonshire; all which means of propagating the sentiments of the people so disturbed the court, that no sooner was queen Mary resolved to reduce her subjects to the Romish superstition, but she artfully, by a charter *, granted to certain freemen of London, in whose fidelity, no doubt, she confided, intirely prohibited all presses, but what should be licensed by them; which charter is that by which the corporation of Stationers in London is at this time incorporated.
Under the reign of queen Elizabeth, when liberty again began to flourish, the practice of writing pamphlets became more general; presses were multiplied, and books were dispersed; and, I believe, it may properly be said, that the trade of writing began at that time, and that it has ever since gradually increased in the number, though, perhaps, not in the style of those that followed it.
In this reign was erected the first secret press against the church as now established, of which I have found any certain account. It was employed by the Puritans, and conveyed from one part of the nation to another, by them, as they found themselves in danger of discovery. From this press issued most of the pamphlets against Whitgift and his associates in the ecclesiastical government; and, when it was at last seized at Manchester, it was
* Which begins thus, “ Know ye, that We, considering and manifestly perceiving, that several seditious and heretical books or tracts—against the faith and sound catholick doctrine of holy mother, the church," &c.
employed upon a pamphlet called More Work for a Cooper.
In the peaceable reign of king James, those minds which might, perhaps, with less disturbance of the world, have been engrossed by war, were employed in controversy; and writings of all kinds were multiplied among us. The press, however, was not wholly engaged in polemical performances, for more innocent subjects were sometimes treated ; and it deserves to be remarked, because it is not generally known, that the treatises of Husbandry and Agriculture, which were published about that time, are so numerous, that it can scarcely be imagined by whom they were written, or to whom they were sold.
The next reign is too well known to have been a time of confusion, and disturbance, and disputes of every kind; and the writings which were produced, bear a natural proportion to the number of questions that were discussed at that time; each party had its authors and its presses, and no endeayours were omitted to gain proselytes to every opinion. I know not whether this may not properly be called The Age of Pamphlets ; for, though they, perhaps, may not arise to such multitudes as Mr. Rawlinson imagined, they were, undoubtedly, more numerous than can be conceived by any who have not had an opportunity of examining them.
After the Restoration, the same differences, in religious opinions, are well known to have subsisted, and the same political struggles to have been frequently renewed ; and, therefore, a great number of pens were employed, on different occasions, till, at