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Of A History Of Events Which Have Not Happened
by [?]

Such a title might serve for a work of not incurious nor unphilosophical speculation, which might enlarge our general views of human affairs, and assist our comprehension of those events which are enrolled on the registers of history. The scheme of Providence is carrying oil sublunary events, by means inscrutable to us,

A mighty maze, but not without a plan!

Some mortals have recently written history, and “Lectures on History,” who presume to explain the great scene of human affairs, affecting the same familiarity with the designs of Providence as with the events which they compile from human authorities. Every party discovers in the events which at first were adverse to their own cause but finally terminate in their favour, that Providence had used a peculiar and particular interference; this is a source of human error and intolerant prejudice. The Jesuit Mariana, exulting over the destruction of the kingdom and nation of the Goths in Spain, observes, that “It was by a particular providence that out of their ashes might rise a new and holy Spain, to be the bulwark of the catholic religion;” and unquestionably he would have adduced as proofs of this “holy Spain” the establishment of the Inquisition, and the dark idolatrous bigotry of that hoodwinked people. But a protestant will not sympathise with the feelings of the Jesuit; yet the protestants, too, will discover particular providences, and magnify human events into supernatural ones. This custom has long prevailed among fanatics: we have had books published by individuals, of “particular providences,” which, as they imagined, had fallen to their lot. They are called “passages of providence;” and one I recollect by a crack-brained puritan, whose experience never went beyond his own neighbourhood, but who having a very bad temper, and many whom he considered his enemies, wrote down all the misfortunes which happened to them as acts of “particular providences,” and valued his blessedness on the efficacy of his curses!

Without venturing to penetrate into the mysteries of the present order of human affairs, and the great scheme of fatality or of accident, it may he sufficiently evident to us, that often on a single event revolve the fortunes of men and of nations.

An eminent writer has speculated on the defeat of Charles the Second at Worcester, as “one of those events which most strikingly exemplify how much better events are disposed of by Providence, than they would be if the direction were left to the choice even of the best and the wisest men.” He proceeds to show, that a royal victory must have been succeeded by other severe struggles, and by different parties. A civil war would have contained within itself another civil war. One of the blessings of his defeat at Worcester was, that it left the commonwealth’s men masters of the three kingdoms, and afforded them “full leisure to complete and perfect their own structure of government. The experiment was fairly tried; there was nothing from without to disturb the process; it went on duly from change to change.” The close of this history is well known. Had the royalists obtained the victory at Worcester, the commonwealth party might have obstinately persisted, that had their republic not been overthrown, “their free and liberal government” would have diffused its universal happiness through the three kingdoms. This idea is ingenious; and might have been pursued in my proposed “History of Events which have not happened,” under the title of “The Battle of Worcester won by Charles the Second.” The chapter, however, would have had a brighter close, if the sovereign and the royalists had proved themselves better men than the knaves and fanatics of the commonwealth. It is not for us to scrutinise into “the ways” of Providence; but if Providence conducted Charles the Second to the throne, it appears to have deserted him when there.