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WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, ESQ. M. P.
TO WHOSE EFFORTS IN PARLIAMENT
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CAUSE
THE LIFE OF DR. BUCHANAN WAS DEVOTED,
IS EMINENTLY TO BE ATTRIBUTED;
AND BY WHOSE PRIVATE FRIENDSHIP,
AND PUBLIC SUPPORT,
HE WAS HONOURED;
THE FOLLOWING MEMOIRS
ARE WITH SENTIMENTS OF THE HIGHEST
RESPECT AND ESTEEM
THE observation of Lord Bacon, as to the deficiency in the biographical department of literature in v his day, is certainly not applicable to the present times. We have rather to complain of excess than of defect. While ample justice has been done to the lives of eminent persons, it must be confessed, that accounts of obscure individuals have been unnecessarily multiplied..
The Author of the following Memoirs trusts that he will not be deemed liable to this charge. The person to whose life and writings they relate is already well known to the world, and has established an undoubted claim to posthumous regard. The prominent station which Dr. Buchanan occupied in India, and the zeal and ability with which he laboured to promote the interests of Christianity in that country and throughout the eastern world, seem to demand some commemoration of his character and exertions; and, unless the writer of these pages is much mistaken in his judgment, they describe "a person in whom," to use the language of the celebrated author just alluded to, "actions, both great and small, public and private, "are so blended together," as to secure that "gen❝uine, native, and lively representation," which forms the peculiar excellence and use of biography.
There is this additional reason for giving to the public some account of Dr. Buchanan, that, from the nature of the subjects to which his attention was directed, he unavoidably incurred a considerable degree of displeasure on the part of those whose opinions or prejudices he felt it to be his duty to oppose. It is but reasonable, therefore, that his views and motives should be fully and fairly developed, that the world may have an opportunity of forming a just estimate of his character and labours.
How far the Author of the following Memoirs may have succeeded in this object must be left to the public to determine. He is fully aware of the difficulty pointed out by a consummate judge of human nature,' of representing impartially sentiments or actions, respecting which much difference of opinion and feeling will necessarily exist, according to the knowledge and the dispositions of the reader upon the subject in question. It has undoubtedly been his aim to exhibit the character and conduct of Dr. Buchanan in their true light, and to enable the world to determine the degree of merit to which he may be justly entitled.
For this purpose, he has endeavoured to render him, as much as possible, his own biographer, and has ac'cordingly interwoven with the narrative of his life a series of extracts from letters to many of his friends and correspondents. Independently of the authentic and interesting nature of the information thus conveyed, where, as was eminently the case with Dr. Buchanan, the writer is upright in his general views, and simple in the expression of them, his correspondence formed one of the principal sources of the Memoirs
a Thucyd. Hist. ii. 35.