Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark/Appendix
Private business and cares have frequently so absorbed me as to prevent my obtaining all the information during this journey which the novelty of the scenes would have afforded, had my attention been continually awake to inquiry. This insensibility to present objects I have often had occasion to lament since I have been preparing these letters for the press; but, as a person of any thought naturally considers the history of a strange country to contrast the former with the present state of its manners, a conviction of the increasing knowledge and happiness of the kingdoms I passed through was perpetually the result of my comparative reflections.
The poverty of the poor in Sweden renders the civilisation very partial, and slavery has retarded the improvement of every class in Denmark, yet both are advancing; and the gigantic evils of despotism and anarchy have in a great measure vanished before the meliorating manners of Europe. Innumerable evils still remain, it is true, to afflict the humane investigator, and hurry the benevolent reformer into a labyrinth of error, who aims at destroying prejudices quickly which only time can root out, as the public opinion becomes subject to reason.
An ardent affection for the human race makes enthusiastic characters eager to produce alteration in laws and governments prematurely. To render them useful and permanent, they must be the growth of each particular soil, and the gradual fruit of the ripening understanding of the nation, matured by time, not forced by an unnatural fermentation. And, to convince me that such a change is gaining ground with accelerating pace, the view I have had of society during my northern journey would have been sufficient had I not previously considered the grand causes which combine to carry mankind forward and diminish the sum of human misery.