In taking the same view again, we discover the manner in which light and information proceed under a free government in a good cause. An individual, for example, begins; he communicates his sentiments to others. Thus, while alive, he enlightens; when dead, he leaves his works behind him. Thus, though departed, he yet speaks, and his influence is not lost. Of those enlightened by him, some become authors, and others actors in their turn. While living, they instruct, like their predecessors; when dead, they speak also. Thus a number of dead persons are encouraging us in libraries, and a number of living are conversing and diffusing zeal among us at the same time. This, however, is not true in any free and enlightened country, with respect to the propagation of evil. The living find no permanent encouragement, and the dead speak to no purpose in such a case.
This account of the manner in which light and information proceed in a free country, furnishes us with some valuable knowledge. It shows us, first, the great importance of education; for all they who can read may become enlightened. They may gain as much from the dead as from the living. They may see the sentiments of former ages. Thus they may contract, by degrees, habits of virtuous inclination, and become fitted to join with others in the removal of any of the evils of life.
It shows us, secondly, how that encouraging maxim may become true, That no good effort is ever lost. For if he, who makes the virtuous attempt, should be prevented by death from succeeding in it, can he not speak, though in the tomb? Will not his works still breathe his sentiments upon it? May not the opinions, and the facts, which he has recorded, meet the approbation of ten thousand readers, of whom it is probable, in the common course of things, that some will branch out of him as authors, and others as actors or labourers, in the same cause?
And, lastly, it will show us the difficulty (if any attempt should be made) of reversing permanently the late noble act of the legislature for the abolition of the Slave-trade. For let us consider how many, both of the living and the dead, could be made to animate us. Let us consider, too, that this is the cause of mercy, justice, and religion; that as such, it will always afford renewed means of rallying; and that the dead will always be heard with interest, and the living with enthusiasm, upon it.
Author devotes this chapter to considerations relative to himself—fears that by the frequent introduction of himself to the notice of the reader he may incur the charge of ostentation—Observations on such a charge.