It is now nearly thirty years since the author became imbued with the conviction that the great writers on the civilization of Europe had left out of account one of the principal influences which has contributed to hasten or retard the progress of society. Race, climate, natural resources, religions, laws, customs, and other circumstances had been accorded their due weight. Money only was slighted: Money which is essentially a social institution; Money, whose operation upon society one of these same writers likened to the circulation of blood in the human body; Money, without which another of them declared that organized society was inconceivable. Montesquieu, Hume, Alison, and Bastiat did indeed treat the subject; but neither of them accorded to it the importance it deserved.
In looking back upon his resolution to supply this omission the author is amazed at his own temerity. It can only be said that he had no suspicion of the difficulties which lay before him. He was indeed conscious that the way was a long one, but of its dangers and pitfalls he had no warning. His preparation consisted of a course of study in political economy and several years' practice as a public writer in elucidating the principles of that "science." That he was not without some success in mastering these principles and satisfying his readers, is proved by the undiminished popularity of the journals entrusted to his management. The effect upon himself was, however, of quite a different kind. The more he studied, the less he believed; and in the end he became a confirmed sceptic.