Letters On The Study And Use Of History Quotes

"They Make Truth Serve As A Stalking-horse To Error"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: At various times Bolingbroke was politician, statesman, philosopher, man of letters, and historian. As a member of Queen Anne's Tory ministry he was important in the negotiations leading to peace with France; at other times he turned Grub Street journalist to edit successively the Examiner and the Craftsman. As a philosopher he strongly opposed religious orthodoxy and was important in the eighteenth century development of Deism, contributing much to the Essay on Man of the otherwise Catholic Alexander Pope. His Letters on the Study and Use of History concerns the importance of history as a branch of humanistic study, but his distaste for orthodox religion permeates the work. In the fourth letter he discusses the authenticity of the historical record, defending it against French philosophers who alleged it to be all fable but insisting that religious historians have deliberately distorted and misrepresented the testimony of history:

Baillet . . . and other learned men of the Roman church have thought it of service to their cause, since the resurrection of letters, to detect some impostures, and to depose, or to unniche, according to the French expression, now and then a reputed saint: but they seem in doing this to mean no more than a sort of composition: they give up some fables, that they may defend others with greater advantage, and they make truth serve as a stalking-horse to error. The same spirit that prevailed in the Eastern church, prevailed in the Western, and prevails still.