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'HE following work is the substance of various fpeculations, which occafionally occupied the author, and enlivened his leifure-hours. It is not intended for the learned; they are above it: nor for the vulgar; they are below it. It is intended for those who free from the corruption of opulence and depreffion of bodily labour, are fond of useful knowledge; who, even in the delirium of youth, feel the dawn of patriotism, and who in riper years enjoy its meridian warmth. To fuch men this work is dedicated; and that they may profit by it, is the author's ardent wish; and probably will be while he retains life fufficient to form a wifh.
May not he hope, that this work, child of his gray hairs, will furvive, and bear testimony for him to good men, that even a laborious calling, which left him VOL. I.
not many leisure-hours, never banished from his mind, that he would little deferve to be of the human fpecies, were he indifferent about his fellow-creatures :
Homo fum: humani nihil a me alienum puto:
Most of the fubjects handled in the following fheets, admit but of probable reafoning; and with refpect to fuch reafonings, it is often difficult to fay, what degree of conviction they ought to produce. It is easy to form plaufible arguments; but to form fuch as can ftand the teft of time, is not always eafy. I could amuse the reader with numerous examples of conjectural arguments, which, fair at a diftant view, vanish like a cloud on a near approach. Several examples, not to go farther, are mentioned in the preliminary difcourfe of this book. The hazard of being misled by such arguments, gave the author much anxiety; and after his utmoft attention, he can but faintly hope, that he has not often wandered far from truth.
Above thirty years ago, he began to collect materials for a natural history of man; and in the vigour of youth, did not think the undertaking too bold, even for a single hand. He has difcovered of late, that his utmost abilities are scarce fufficient for executing a few imperfect ketches.
Edinburgh, Feb. 23. 1774.