The great value of contemporary History—that is, history written by actual witnesses of the events which they narrate,—is now beginning to be appreciated by general readers. The improved character of the journalism of the present day is the best evidence of this advancement, which has been a work of no ordinary labour. Truth is not of such easy acquisition as is generally supposed; and the chances of obtaining unprejudiced accounts of events are rarely improved by distance from the time at which they happen. In proportion as freedom of thought is enlarged, and liberty of conscience, and liberty of will, are increased, will be the amount of trustworthiness in the written records of contemporaries. It is the rarity of these high privileges in chroniclers of past events which has led to so many obscurities in the world's history, and warpings in the judgment of its writers; to trust some of whom has been compared to reading with “coloured spectacles.” And, one of the features of our times is to be ever taking stock of the amount of truth in past history; to set readers on the tenters of doubt, and to make them suspicious of perversions; and to encourage a whitewashing of black reputations which sometimes strays into an extreme equally as unserviceable to truth as that from which the writer started.
It is, however, with the view of correcting the Past by the light of the Present, and directing attention to many salient points of Knowledge for the Time, that the present volume is offered to the public. Its aim may be considered great in proportion to the limited means employed; but, to extend what is, in homely phrase, termed a right understanding, the contents of the volume are of a mixed character, the Author having due respect for the[v] emphatic words of Dr.