Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2017
Madrid, 4 February 1780
“Et illud in primis statuo frastra tentare plurimos inter perfectos, consummatosque jurisconsultos numerari, nisi una simul historiarum periti sint, et antiquitatis colligant memoriam.”JANUAR. IN REP J. C.
Today, standing here before you to acknowledge the distinction with which this illustrious Academy has honored me, is the most joyous and laudable of my life. The embarrassment of seeing myself adorned with a title that I did not deserve would diminish my pleasure of receiving it, if I did not recognize that when you granted me the right to sit among you, you are not honoring what I am today, but what I wish to become, rewarding my desire with a sort of anticipatory distinction. And to stimulate even further my love of wisdom, you award me the prize beforehand, even though it should only be given after wisdom has been attained.
Incorporated, then, into this assembly, the wellspring of erudition and learned criticism [crítica] in Spain; sitting among the wise, whose knowledge of history is enhanced by that of the useful sciences; part of this circle of select men who, fleeing idleness and dissipation, come to worship truth in its sanctuary while ignorance and preoccupations [preocupaciones] overpower the masses, I am beginning to regard myself as a different man, and, enthused by a powerful spirit of emulation, I wish to follow in your footsteps and imitate your zeal, because I am convinced that only by accompanying you in your vigils and labors might I justly aspire to share in your reputation and true glory.
Nothing satisfies me more than the hope of acquiring from your company and conversation a small portion of your learning; of enriching with it the limited patrimony of my own ideas; and thus making myself worthy both of standing beside you, and of my own profession. Because, gentlemen, if the science of history is, as I believe, entirely necessary for jurisprudence, where else but among you could I attain the knowledge that I confess to lack, and without which I cannot duly discharge my duties as magistrate?