Historic Doubts Relative To Napoleon Buonaparte

Richard Whatley
Historic Doubts Relative To
Napoleon Buonaparte

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Title: Historic Doubts Relative To Napoleon Buonaparte
Author: Richard Whately
Release Date: March 30, 2006 [EBook #18087]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Is not the same reason available in theology and in politics?... Will you
follow truth but to a certain point?--BURKE'S Vindication of Natural
The first author who stated fairly the connexion between the evidence
of testimony and the evidence of experience, was Hume, in his ESSAY
ON MIRACLES; a work abounding in maxims of great use in the
conduct of life.--Edinburgh Review, Sept. 1814, p. 328.


Several of the readers of this little work (first published in 1819) have
derived much amusement from the mistakes of others respecting its
nature and object. It has been by some represented as a serious attempt
to inculcate universal scepticism; while others have considered it as a
jeu d'esprit, &c.[1] The author does not, however, design to entertain
his readers with accounts of the mistakes which, have arisen respecting
it; because many of them, he is convinced, would be received with
incredulity; and he could not, without an indelicate exposure of
individuals, verify his anecdotes.

But some sensible readers have complained of the difficulty of
determining what they are to believe. Of the existence of Buonaparte,
indeed, they remained fully convinced; nor, if it were left doubtful,
would any important results ensue; but if they can give no satisfactory
reason for their conviction, how can they know, it is asked, that they
may not be mistaken as to other points of greater consequence, on
which they are no less fully convinced, but on which all men are not
agreed? The author has accordingly been solicited to endeavour to
frame some canons which may furnish a standard for determining what
evidence is to be received.
This he conceives to be impracticable, except to that extent to which it
is accomplished by a sound system of Logic; including under that title,
a portion--that which relates to the "Laws of Evidence"--of what is
sometimes treated under the head of "Rhetoric." But the full and
complete accomplishment of such an object would confer on Man the
unattainable attribute of infallibility.
But the difficulty complained of, he conceives to arise, in many
instances, from men's _mis-stating the grounds of their own
conviction_. They are convinced, indeed, and perhaps with very
sufficient reason; but they imagine this reason to be a different one
from what it is. The evidence to which they have assented is applied to
their minds in a different manner from that in which they believe that it
is--and suppose that it ought to be--applied. And when challenged to
defend and justify their own belief, they feel at a loss, because they are
attempting to maintain a position which is not, in fact, that in which
their force lies.
For a development of the nature, the consequences, and the remedies of
this mistake, the reader is referred to "Hinds on Inspiration," pp. 30-46.
If such a development is to be found in any earlier works, the Author of
the following pages at least has never chanced to meet with any attempt
of the kind.[2]
It has been objected, again, by some persons of no great logical
accuracy of thought, that as there would not be any moral blame
imputable to one who should seriously disbelieve, or doubt, the

existence of Buonaparte, so neither is a rejection of the
Scripture-histories to be considered as implying anything morally
The same objection, such as it is, would apply equally to many of the
Parables of the New Testament. It might be said, for instance, that as a
woman who should decline taking the trouble of searching for her lost
"piece of silver," or a merchant who should neglect making an
advantageous purchase of a "goodly pearl," would be guilty of no
moral wrong, it must follow that there is nothing morally wrong in
neglecting to reclaim a lost sinner, or in rejecting the Gospel, &c.
But any man of common sense readily perceives that the force of these
parables consists in the circumstance that men do not usually
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