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William Godwin: his Friends and Contemporaries
Ch. IV. 1793
Samuel Newton to William Godwin, 14 December 1793

Contents Vol. I
Ch. I. 1756-1785
Ch. II. 1785-1788
Ch. III. 1788-1792
Ch. IV. 1793
Ch. V. 1783-1794
Ch. VI. 1794-1796
Ch. VII. 1759-1791
Ch. VII. 1791-1796
Ch. IX. 1797
Ch. X. 1797
Ch. XI. 1798
Ch. XII. 1799
Ch. XIII. 1800
Contents Vol. II
Ch. I. 1800
Ch. II. 1800
Ch. III. 1800
Ch. IV. 1801-1803
Ch. V. 1802-1803
Ch. VI. 1804-1806
Ch. VII. 1806-1811
Ch. VIII. 1811-1814
Ch. IX. 1812-1819
Ch. X. 1819-1824
Ch. XI. 1824-1832
Ch. XII. 1832-1836
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Produced by CATH
Dec. 14th, 1793.

“Since, Sir, you have been so condescending as to favour me with another epistle, I think it, from our former connection, my duty (and I annex a real meaning to the term) to reply with all due respect, but with all simplicity and integrity. I have often said that there might be a volume collected from your work which would make, in my opinion, one of the most valuable political systems that I ever perused, and, as far as justice, equality, and liberty are recommended in it, I heartily wish the motives and arguments were impressed upon the heart of every human being, particularly on the rich, the powerful, and the learned. Viewing it altogether, I own it is a wonderful production; but I must confess that it has such a cast of character in it from its author, that
I am inclined to think I should have known it to have been yours, had not your name stood in the title page.

“I never affected the reputation of a philosopher, nor have I ever courted the countenance and recommendations of the reputed Literate; but I have for a number of years thought for myself, read productions on all sides of religious and political questions, and been very particular in my observations on the associations, habits, and character of my species. The result of my observations has been this:—Two sets of men have appeared to my view which I wish not to imitate. The one is composed of those who seek popularity, reputation, and interest by embracing the most fashionable systems in the religion and policy of the age, and by following the esteemed great with a sort of implicit confidence and submission. I suspect these have no genuine sincerity. The other set is composed of those who affect in everything singularity, who delight in contradiction, whose fort is objection, whose aristocracy is dictation, and whose pride is that of superior genius, accuracy, and judgment to all others. These may boast of sincerity, and treat the bulk of mankind as the swinish multitude who are not capable or worthy of examining and judging on the subject of religion and policy with themselves. In this spirit there is something in my view truly despicable; yea, I smile at a Johnson, or a Hume, when they assume the air of the latter set of men, and as I conceive resentment and indignation virtues, if properly, that is proportionably directed against vice and usurpation, without wishing to injure persons, I think myself justified by immutable justice, in allowing these sensations to pass in my mind. Yes, I feel not any remorse for indulging them, though I have as firm a belief as you can have in the most certain and indissoluble connection between moral causes and effects. But I use not the word necessarian because I think the philosophers who have adopted it are guilty of a vulgar error, in appropriating a word to a sense contrary to its general acceptation.

“That Goliath of critical and moral censure, Johnson, would, perhaps, have thought me a most seditious and dangerous Sectary for rejecting all establishments of religion, and for seriously
ridiculing every order of priests constituted by the reigning powers.
Hume would have deemed me a servile, implicit, narrow soul, for believing a religion which was embraced by my parents, though I think I have as fairly examined it as any man in the island. But I laugh at his conceit, and pity his prejudices, guessing, from what I know of his life, how his associations of ideas were formed; for as a philosopher pretending to the most accurate and deep investigations, he should have accounted for this phenomenon, how the books containing the Hebrew and Christian systems of religion came to be published. If they were forgeries, who were their authors, and what their motives and ends in publishing such singular schemes, so different from all the fine conceptions and sublime notions of all politicians and philosophers that ever existed? I can resolve questions of this sort with regard to the Coran, and every other pretended revelation from God, but I never saw this done with respect to the Bible.

“Our associations of thought, and habits of mind are so totally different, that it is no wonder we should determine very oppositely one to the other on many subjects, and therefore you will not be surprised if I should affirm, as I do with the greatest sincerity: the evidence for the being of a God from analogy, or arguing from the effect to the cause, and of a future state from our desires, and from the supposed justice of the divine government, does not strike my mind so forcibly, nor afford it so much satisfaction as that which it is impressed with, for the undoubted truth of the Hebrew and Christian religions. You may think I have not examined as fairly and impartially as you have done. I must think the same of you. Here your right to judge is the same as mine. Here is the equality I would maintain. And if you think you have far superior genius, that is a point I cannot dispute with you. Those of this character I have found committing as many blunders, and run into as many extravagant absurdities as any of more moderate abilities. In short, Mr Godwin, my views of mankind, the little knowledge I have of myself, the account my religion gives me of man, which I find confirmed by fact, prevent my boasting with an aristocratical air of any superior talents, lead
me to think I am not so great a man as I once thought myself to be, and compel me so conscientiously to impress it in your thoughts, that you and I, and all mankind are more upon an equality with respect to a capacity for the most certain and useful knowledge in politics, morals, and religion than you are perhaps in the habit of admitting. As your friend really thought, so he has discharged his duty, in wishing to convince you of it, thinking this to be the greatest friendship without servility or prejudice.”