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Account Of A Book Entitled An Historical And Critical Enquiry
by [?]

Account of a book entitled an historical and critical enquiry into the evidence produced by the earls of Moray and Morton against Mary queen of Scots, etc.

With an examination of the reverend Dr. Robertson’s Dissertation, and Mr. Hume’s History, with respect to that evidence.

We live in an age, in which there is much talk of independence, of private judgment, of liberty of thought, and liberty of press. Our clamorous praises of liberty sufficiently prove that we enjoy it; and if, by liberty, nothing else be meant, than security from the persecutions of power, it is so fully possessed by us, that little more is to be desired, except that one should talk of it less, and use it better.

But a social being can scarcely rise to complete independence; he that has any wants, which others can supply, must study the gratification of them, whose assistance he expects; this is equally true, whether his wants be wants of nature, or of vanity. The writers of the present time are not always candidates for preferment, nor often the hirelings of a patron. They profess to serve no interest, and speak with loud contempt of sycophants and slaves.

There is, however, a power, from whose influence neither they, nor their predecessors, have ever been free. Those, who have set greatness at defiance, have yet been the slaves of fashion. When an opinion has once become popular, very few are willing to oppose it. Idleness is more willing to credit than inquire; cowardice is afraid of controversy, and vanity of answer; and he that writes merely for sale, is tempted to court purchasers by flattering the prejudices of the publick.

It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot pay for praise; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity? yet there remains, still, among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right, in opposition to fashion. The author, whose work is now before as, has attempted a vindication of Mary of Scotland, whose name has, for some years, been generally resigned to infamy, and who has been considered, as the murderer of her husband, and condemned by her own letters.

Of these letters, the author of this vindication confesses the importance to be such, that, “if they be genuine, the queen was guilty; and, if they be spurious, she was innocent.” He has, therefore, undertaken to prove them spurious, and divided his treatise into six parts.

In the first is contained the history of the letters from their discovery by the earl of Morton, their being produced against queen Mary, and their several appearances in England, before queen Elizabeth and her commissioners, until they were finally delivered back again to the earl of Morton.

The second contains a short abstract of Mr. Goodall’s arguments for proving the letters to be spurious and forged; and of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Hume’s objections, by way of answer to Mr. Goodall, with critical observations on these authors.

The third contains an examination of the arguments of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Hume, in support of the authenticity of the letters.

The fourth contains an examination of the confession of Nicholas Hubert, commonly called French Paris, with observations, showing the same to be a forgery.

The fifth contains a short recapitulation, or summary, of the arguments on both sides of the question.

The last is an historical collection of the direct or positive evidence still on record, tending to show what part the earls of Murray and Morton, and secretary Lethington, had in the murder of the lord Darnley.

The author apologizes for the length of this book, by observing, that it necessarily comprises a great number of particulars, which could not easily be contracted: the same plea may be made for the imperfection of our extract, which will naturally fall below the force of the book, because we can only select parts of that evidence, which owes its strength to its concatenation, and which will be weakened, whenever it is disjoined.