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LETTERS AND ESSAYS,
On various Subjects.
BY THOMAS PAINE,
PRINTED BY W. T. SHERWIN, 183, FLEET STREET,
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST NUMBER OF
THE PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE,
TO THE PUBLIC.
The design of this work has been so fully expressed in the printed proposals, that it is unnecessary to trouble the reader now with a formal preface; and instead of that vain parade with which publications of this kind are introduced to the public, we shall content ourselves with soliciting their candour, till our more qualified labours shall entitle us to their praise.
The generous and considerate will recollect, that imperfection is natural to infancy; and that nothing claims their patronage with a better grace than those undertakings which, beside their infant state, have many formidable disadvantages to oppress them.
We presume it is unnecessary to inform our friends that we encounter all the inconveniencies which a magazine can possibly start with. Unassisted by imported materials, we are destined to create, what our predecessors, in this walk, had only to compile. And the present perplexities of affairs have rendered it somewhat difficult for us to procure the necessary aids.
Thus encompassed with difficulties, this first number of THE PENNSYLVANIA MAGAZINE entreats a favourable reception; of which we shall only say, like the snow-drop, it comes forth in a barren season, and contents itself with foretelling, that CHOICER FLOWERS are preparing to appear.
Philadelphia, January 24, 1775.
TO THE PUBLISHER OF THE PENNSYLVANIA
In a country whose reigning character is the love of science, it is somewhat strange that the channels of communication should be so narrow, and limited. The weekly papers are at present the only vehicle of public information. Convenience and necessity prove that the opportunities of acquiring and communicating knowledge, ought always to enlarge with the circle of population. America has now outgrown the state of infancy: her strength and commerce make large advances to manhood; and science, in all its branches, has not only blossomed, but even ripened on the soil. The cottages as it were, of yesterday, have grown to villages, and the villages to cities; and while proud antiquity, like a skeleton in rags, parades the streets of other nations, their genius, as if sickened and disgusted with the phantom, comes bither for recovery
The present enlarged and improved state of things gives every encouragement which the editor of a new magazine can reasonably hope for. The failure of former ones cannot be drawn as a parallel now. Change of times adds propriety to new measures. In the early days of colonization, when a whisper was almost sufficient to have negociated all our internal concerns, the publishing even of a newspaper would have been premature. Those times are past, and population has established both their use and their credit. But their plan being almost wholly devoted to news and commerce, affords but a scanty residence to the muses. Their path lies wide of the field of science, and has left a rich and unexplored region for new adventures.
It has always been the opinion of the learned and the curious, that a magazine, when properly conducted, is a nursery of genius; and by constantly accumulating new matter, becomes a kind of market for wit and utility. The opportunity which it affords to men of abilities to communicate their studies, kinilles up a spirit of invention and emulation. An unexercised genius soon contracts a kind of mossiness, which not only checks its growth, but abates its natural vigour. Like an untenanted house, it falls into decay, and frequently ruins the possessor.
The British Magazines, at the commencement, were the repositories of ingenuity; they are now the retailers of tale
and nonsense. Frem elegance they sunk into simplicity, from simplicity to folly, and from foliy to voluptuousness. The Gentleman's, the London, and the Universal Magazines bear yet some marks of their originality: but the Town and Country, the Covent Garden and Westminster are no better than incentives to profligacy and dissipation. They have added to the dissolution of manners, and supported Venus against the Muses.
America yet inherits a large portion of her first imported virtue. Degeneracy is here almost a useless word. They who are conversant with Europe would be tempted to be lieve, that even the air of the Atlantic disagrees with foreign vices; if they survive the voyage they either expire on their arrival, or linger away in an incurable consumption. There is a happy something in the climate of America which disarms them of all their power both of infection and attraction.
But while we give no encouragement to the importation of foreign vices, we ought to be equally as careful not to create any. A vice begotten might be worse than a vice imported. The latter depending on favour, would be a sycophant; the other by pride of birth would be a tyrant. To the one we should be dupes; to the other, slaves.
There is nothing which obtains so general an influence over the manners and morals of a people, as the press ; from that, as from a fountain, the streams of vice or virtue are poured forth over a country: and of all publications none are n more calculated to improve or infect than a periodical one, All others have their rise, and their exit; but this renews the pursuit. If it has no evil tendency, it debauches by the power of repetition; if a good one, it, obtains favour by the gracefulness of soliciting it. Like a lover it woos its mistress with unabated ardour, nor gives up the pursuit without a conquest.
The two capital supports of a magazine are utility and entertainment. The first is a boundless path, the other an endless spring. To suppose that arts and sciences are an exhausted subject, is doing them a kind of dishonour. The divine mechanism of the creation reproves such folly and shews us by comparison, the imperfection of our most refined inventions. I cannot believe that this species of vanity, is peculiar to the present age only. I have no doubt but it existed before the flood and even io the wildest ages of antiquity. 'Tis a folly we have inherited, not created; and the discoveries which every day produces, have gieatly