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No characters are more conspicuous in hiftory, or excite greater admiration in the
generality of readers, than those of celebrated warriours and conquerors : we suppose them to partake of a nature more than human; we deck their statues and pictures with laurel; and we dignify them with the name of Great; though, perhaps, if they were stripped of their bright arms, and divested of their pompous titles, we should find most of them to be the meanest and basest of mankind. This infatuation arises, partly from the deplorable servility of our minds, and our eagerness to kiss the foot which tramples on us; partly from our ascribing to the superior force and abilities of one man that success, in which chance or treachery have often a considerable share, and which could never be obtained without the united effort of a multitude; and partly from our mistaking the nature of true virtue, which consists, not in destroying our fellow-creatures, but in protecting them, not in seizing their property, but in defending their rights and liberties even at the hazard of our own safety. Many Roman generals, who had neither valour nor prudence to recommend them, have procured the honour of a triumph for victories gained by their officers; and Cicero, in his speech for Marcellus, ventured to depreciate the glory of Cæfar himself, by asserting, that a commander receives no small asistance from the courage of bis men, the ad. vantage of his situation, the ftrength of bis allies, and the plenty of bis provisions : but Fortune, he adds, claims the greatest praise in every prosperous achievement, as military aétions owę their chief
success to ber favour *. Power is always odious, always to be fuf pected, when it resides in the hands of an individual ; and a free poople will never fuffer any single man to be more powerful than the laws, which themselves have enacted or con.
* Bellicas laudes folent quidam extenuare verbis, easque detrahere ducibus, communicare cum militibus, ne propriæ fint imperatorum ; et certè in armis militum virtus, locorum opportunitas, auxilia fociorum, classes, commeatus, multum juvant: maximam verò partem quafi fuo jure Fortuna fibi vindicat, et quidquid eft profperè geftum, id peene omne ducit suum. Pro Marcel. 2.
firmed: but no kind of power is more licentiously insolent than that, which is supported by force of arms. It was this, which enabled Marius and Sylla to drench the streets of Rome with the blood of her most virtuous citizens; a consciousness of superior force gave Cafar spirits to pass the Rubicon, and oppress the liberty of his country, which the profligate tyrant Ostavius finally extinguished with the same detestable instrument: and the insatiable avarice of princes, joined to the pride of conquest and the love of dominion, has filled the world with terrour and misery, from Sefoftris who invaded Afric and Europe, to the three mighty potentates, who are ravaging Poland. How much more splendid would their glory have been, if, instead of raising their fame on the subversion of kingdoms, they had applied their whole thoughts to the patronage of arts, science, letters, agriculture, trade; had made their nations illustrious in wisdom, extensive in commerce, eminent in riches, firm in virtue, happy in freedom; and had chosen rather to be the benefactors, than the destroyers, of the human species !
These sentiments, which, as nothing can prevent my entertaining them, so nothing fall prevent my expressing as forcibly as I am able, were sufficient to have deterred me from ever attempting to write The Life of a Conqueror; unless it had been for the sake of exposing a character of all others the most infamously wicked, and of displaying the charms of liberty by showing the odiousness of tyranny and oppression; but a circumstance, which it will be proper to relate from the beginning, induced me to depart from my resolution, and hurried me from the contemplation of civil and pacifick virtues to the more dazzling, but less pleasing, scenes of victories and triumphs.
A great northern monarch, who visited this country a few years ago,
years ago, under the name of the prince of Travendal, brought with him an Eastern manuscript, containing the life of NADER SHAH, the late sovereign of Perha, which he was desirous of having translated in England. The secretary of state, with whom the Danish minister had conversed upon the fubject, sent the volume to me, requesting me to give a literal translation of it in the French language ; but I wholly declined the task, alledging, for my excuse, the length of the book, the dryness of the subječt, the difficulty of the style, and, chiefly my want both of leisure and ability to enter upon an undertaking so fruitless and fo laborious. I mentioned, however, a gentleman, with whom I had not then
the pleasure of being acquainted, buť who had distinguished himself by his translation of a Persian history, and was far abler than myself to satisfy the King of Denmark's expectations. The learned writer, who had other works upon his hands, excused himself on the account of his many engagements ; and the application to me was renewed : it was hinted, that my compliance would be of no small advantage to me at my entrance into life, that it would procure me some mark of distinction, which might be pleasing to me, and, above all, tbat it would be a reflection upon this country, if the King should be obliged to carry the manuscript into France. Incited by these motives, and principally by the last of them, unwilling to be thought churlish or morose, and eager for the bubble Reputation, I undertook the work, and sent a specimen of it to his Danish Majesty ; who returned his approbation of the style and method, but desired, that the whole translation might be perfeetly literal, and the Oriental images accurately preserved. The task would have been far easier to me, had I been directed to finish it in Latin ; for the acquisition of a French *ftyle was infinitely more tedious; and it was necessary to have every chapter corrected by a native of France, before it could be offered