Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
PREFACE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 2.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Instead of encumbering my small pages with references to authorities and acknowledgments of suggestions, I give notice in this place that I am indebted to various authors and to some private friends, not only for the information on which the argument of this tale is founded, but for lights respecting negro character and manners which have enabled me to impart whatever truth may be recognized in my slave personages. My object having been to appropriate every thing. properly authenticated, which could illustrate my subject, I leave it to those who may be amused by the employment to joint out whence I derived this argument, or that anecdote, or those elements of scenery. At the same time, I cannot admit that I have copied. The characters are intended to he original, the arguments are recast, the descriptions recomposed, and, to the best of my knowledge, no part of the work is a mere republication of what has been written before.
If it be objected that the characters for which sympathy is claimed might have been made more interesting, I reply that our sympathy for slaves ought to increase in proportion to their vices and follies, if it can be proved that those vices and follies arise out of the position in which we place them, or allow them to remain If the champions of the slave had but seen how his cause is aided by representing him as he is,—not only revengeful, but selfish and mean,—not only treacherous to his master, hut knavish to his countrymen, indolent, conceited, hypocritical, and sensual,— we should have had fewer narratives of slaves more virtuous than a free peasantry, and exposed to the delicate miseries of a refined love of which they are incapable, or of social sensibilities which can never be generated in such a social condition as theirs.
That slaves cannot be made objects of attachment is one argument against them in the mouths of slaveholders. I have attempted to employ the same argument in their behalf. That they command our sympathies by their injuries alone, that they claim our compassion by their vices yet more than by their sufferings, is a statement the force of which their adversaries cannot gainsay, since they themselves have furnished us with the plea.
While endeavouring to preserve the characteristics of Negro minds and manners, I have not attempted to imitate the language of slaves. Their jargon would be intolerable to writer and readers, if carried through a volume. My personages, therefore, speak the English which would be natural to them, if they spoke what can be called English at all.
If I had believed, as many do, that strong feeling impairs the soundness of reasoning, I should assuredly have avoided the subject of the following tale, since Slavery is a topic which cannot be approached without emotion. But, convinced as I am, on the contrary, that the reason and the sensibilities are made for co-operation, and perceiving, as I do, that the most stirring eloquence issues from the calmest logic, I have not hesitated to bring calculations and reasonings to bear on a subject which awakens the drowsiest, and fires the coldest. Whether the deductions which appear to me as clear as day, are here made equally apparent to others, I am unable to judge. I can only testify that it has been my most earnest desire to make them so, and to lead the minds of my readers through the same course with my own. If I have succeeded, they will find that the argumentative part of the subject arises naturally from that which appears at first sight to bear the least relation to argument.
While conversing directly with my readers, I take the opportunity of thanking those friends to my undertaking whom I cannot approach through other channels, for the important assistance they have afforded me, by furnishing me with books and other means of information on the topics of my course which vet remain to be treated. Of all the kind offices which have been rendered to me on account of this work, the one in question is perhaps the most acceptable, because tile most widely beneficial.