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THE design of this work is to afford an annual record of the proceedings of the British Parliament, together with an examination of the principal topics discussed in that assembly, and of the manner in which its functions are performed.
The wealth and power of Great Britain-the rank which she holds in the scale of national intelligence and the freedom of speech for which her legislative assemblies have been so long celebrated,―render British history a matter of no ordinary interest and importance; and for this history the two Houses of Parliament must supply the most authentic as well as the most instructive materials.
It is surprising, therefore, that the debates of the British Parliament have never yet been arranged for the purpose of examination or reference;-that they are only to be found in the chaotic miscellany of daily reports;—and that they have been subjected to no periodical comment more systematic or accurate than the brief and hurried remarks of a newspaper editor.
The conductors of the present work have endeavoured to supply this remarkable deficiency in our periodical literature, and if they have only in a moderate degree succeeded in carrying their design into execution, they will have produced a work as novel as it is important. Some now living remember the sensation produced by the first appearance of the ANNUAL REGISTER; and if that work was deemed to have formed an epoch in the annals of literature, it is hoped that the present will be esteemed at least as striking an accession to the means of diffusing political knowledge.
In the first place, all the debates on a given subject, after having been carefully revised and collated, have been collected under the general head to which they respectively belong; nothing being omitted but mere conversations, of no interest except at the moment of utterance; such as discussions regarding the day or hour at which a given debate should be entered on, questions of order, and the like.
At the end of the debates, is a careful examination, as well of the measures discussed, as of the arguments adduced on both sides of the question, and of the conduct of Parliament with reference to the matter in hand.
Of these critical essays it is not for the conductors of the work to say much; but they can safely affirm, that they are and will be exempt from vehemence or invective, and impartially directed to what ought to be the only end of legislation-not the predominance of a particular party, sect, or portion of the communitybut, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
A Prefatory Treatise on Political Fallacies indicates the spirit and principles in which the debates have been examined. This treatise may be not unuseful to those who wish to form an estimate of the amount of talent and knowledge actually assembled in the two Houses of Parliament, and by degrees may have the effect of ridding the debates of a set of arguments almost always irrelevant, and but too generally delusive.
To foreign nations, particularly France and the United States of America, the whole will afford a view of British affairs, more clear, comprehensive, and authentic, than any which can be obtained elsewhere.
Such is the present work, and such its claims to public favor.
Even if feebly executed, it cannot be of mean assistance to the progress of knowledge and improvement ;-but as neither expence nor labour have been spared to its completion, the conductors are not without hopes that the execution may in some degree correspond with the design.
The difficulty and extent of the undertaking have doubtless rendered unavoidable, at the outset, many defects, but for these it is hoped some allowance will be made, when it is stated that the work was not projected until July last, and that in every future Session the conductors will have the advantage of nearly a whole year for the preparation of the materials it may afford.
The work will in future appear on the first of January in every year.