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led. After proceeding a long time in this manner, he was surprised to find a perfect uniformity in the country through which he passed, and to meet with no human being, nor come in sight of any habitation. He was, however, encouraged by observing, as he advanced, the prints of horses' feet, which indicated that he was in no unfrequented track: these became continually more and more numerous the further he went, so as to afford him a still increasing assurance of his being in the immediate neighbourhood of some great road or populous village; and he accordingly paid the less anxious attention to the bearings of the country, from being confident that he was in the right way. But still he saw neither house nor human creature; and, at length the recurrence of the same objects by the roadside opened his eyes to the fact, that all this time, misled by the multitude of the turnings, he had been riding in a circle; and that the footmarks, the sight of which had so cheered him, were those of his own horse; their number, of course, increasing with every circuit he took. Had he not fortunately made this discovery, perhaps he might have been riding there now.
The truth of the tale (and we can assure our readers that we at least did not invent it) does not make it the less useful by way of apologue: and the moral we would deduce from it is, that in many parts of the conduct of life, and not least in government and legislation, men are liable to follow the truck of their own footsteps,—to set themselves an example,—and to flatter themselves that they are going right, from their conformity to their own precedent.
It is commonly and truly said, when any new and untried measure is proposed, that we cannot fully estimate the inconveniences it may lead to in practice; but we are convinced this is even still more the case with any system which has long been in operation. The evils to which it may contribute, and the obstacles it may present to the attainment of any good, are partly overlooked, or lightly regarded, on account of their familiarity, partly attributed to such other causes as perlaps really do co-operate in producing the same effects, and ranked along with the unavoidable alloys of human happiness,—the inconveniences from which no human policy can entirely exempt us. In some remote and unimproved districts, if you complain of the streets of a town being dirty and dark, as those of London were for many ages, the inhabitants tell you that the nights are cloudy and the weather rainy: as for their streets, they are just such as they have long been ; and the expedient of paving and lighting has occurred to nobody. The ancient Romans had, probably, no idea that a civilized community could exist without slaves. That the same work can be done much better and cheaper by freemen, and that their odious system contained the seeds of the destruction of their empire, were truths which, familiarized as they were to the then existing state of society, they were not likely to suspect. “If you allow of no plundering, said an astonished Mahratta chief to some English officers, how is it possible for you to maintain such fine armies as you bring into the field ?' He and his ancestors, time out of mind, had doubtless been following their own footsteps in the established routine; and had accordingly never dreamed that pillage is inexpedient as a source of revenue, or even one that can possibly be dispensed with. "That is the way it is always done, Sir;' or We always do so and so;' are the answers generally returned by the vulgar to an inquiry as to the reason of any practice. Recent experiment, indeed, may bring to light and often exaggerate the defects of a new system; but long fumiliarity blinds us to those very defects.'
And among the obstacles those have to encounter who are advocating any kind of novelty, this is one: that every instance of failure in the application of any new system is sure to be, by most people, attributed to the system itself; while in the case of an old and established system, any failure is either reckoned a mere unavoidable accident, or is attributed to the individual.
If, for instance, some crop turns out ill, under an established system of agriculture, this failure is attributed either to the weather, or else to unskilfulness in the individual farmer; but if it takes place under a new system of husbandry, it will usually be taken as a decisive proof that the system itself is wrong. So again, if a patient dies, under the routine-system of Medicine, blame is laid, if there be any, on the individual practitioner: but if a patient die who has been treated according to some new system, this is likely to be taken as conclusive against the system itself. And so, in other cases.
One practical consequence of the attachment of men to what they have long been used to is, that it is a great point gained,
" London Review, 1829.
when there does exist need for a change, to have brought about some change, even though little or nothing of improvement, because we may look forward with cheering hope to a remedy of the remedy—a removal of the newly introduced evils,—as a change far more easily to be brought about than the first change. Alterations in any building are easily made while the mortar is wet. “So it is in legislation and in all human affairs. While the most inconvenient and absurd laws are suffered to remain unchanged for successive generations, hardly an act is passed that any defects in it are not met by .acts to amend' it, in the next and in succeeding sessions.
“Those who remember the University of Oxford at the commencement of this century, when, in fact, it hardly deserved the name of an university,—who remember with what difficulty, and after what long delay, the first statute for degree-examinations was introduced—how palpable were the defects of that statute, and how imperfectly it worked,—and, lastly, how easily, in comparison, these defects were, one by one, remedied, and successive improvements from time to time introduced, such persons must have profited little by experience, if they deprecate the application of any remedy to any existing law or institution that is in itself evil, for fear the remedy should not be such, in the first essay, as to meet their wishes."
'A froward retention of custom is as turbulent as an innova
tion, and they that reverence old times too much are but a scorn to the new.'
To avoid the two opposite evils—the liability to sudden and violent changes, and the adherence to established usage, when inconvenient or mischievous,-to give the requisite stability to governments and other institutions, without shutting the door against improvement,—this is a problem which both ancient and modern legislators have not well succeeded in solving. Some, like the ancient Medes and Persians, and like Lycurgus, have attempted to prohibit all change; but those who constantly appeal to the wisdom of their ancestors as a sufficient reason for perpetuating everything these have established, forget two
* See Kingdom of Christ, Appendix to Essay ii, note 0, page 355, 4th edition.
things: first, that they cannot hope for ever to persuade all successive generations of men that there was once one generation of such infallible wisdom as to be entitled to control all their descendants for ever; which is to make the earth, in fact, the possession not of the living, but of the dead; and, secondly, that even supposing our ancestors gifted with such infallibility, many cases must arise in which it may be reasonably doubted whether they themselves would not have advocated, if living, changes called for by altered circumstances. For instance, those who denoted the southern quarter from meridies (noon) would not have been so foolish as to retain that language had they gone to live in a hemisphere where the sun at noon is in the north. But, as Dr. Cooke Taylor remarks in The Bishop: “An antiquated form, however perverted from its original purpose, gratifies the lazy in their love of ease; it saves them the trouble of exchanging their old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus : and new the sumpsimus must appear, though it be a restoration ; it averts the mortification of confessing error, which is always so abhorrent to the self-satisfied stupidity of those who grow old without gaining experience.'
*Vel quia nil rectum, nisi quod placuit sibi, ducunt;
Imberbi didicere, senes perdenda fateri.' It is to be observed, however, that in almost every department of life, the evil that has very long existed will often be less clearly perceived, and less complained of, than in proportion to the actual extent of the evil. If
you look to any department of government, or to any parish or diocese, that has long been left to the management of apathetic or inefficient persons, you will usually find that there are few or no complaints; because complaints having long since been found vain, will have long since ceased to be made. There will be no great arrears of business undone, and of applications unanswered; because business will not have been brought before those who it is known will not transact it; nor applications made, to which no answer can be hoped for. Abuses, and defects, and evils of various kinds, which ought to have been prevented or remedied, men will have learned to submit to as to visitations of Providence; having been left without redress till they have at length forgotten that any redress is due, or is possible: and
this stagnation will have come to be regarded as the natural state of things.
‘llence, it will often happen that in a parish for instance, where for a long time very little has been done, it will appear at first sight as if there were in fact very little to do: the spiritual wants of members of the Church not appearing to be unattended to, because many persons will have ceased to be members of the Church, and many others will be unconscious that they have an v spiritual wants.
* And in a Church, accordingly, that has been long without an efficient government, the want of such government will often be very inadequately perceived, from its not even occurring to men to consider whether the enormous increase of dissent, of internal discord, and of indifference to the Church, are evils which it comes within the province of a government in any degree to prevent or mitigate.'
With those who maintain that the present is not the best time, -on account of the violence of contending parties—for the restoration of a Church-government, I so far agree, that I am convinced it would have been much better to have taken the step several years ago; before the excitement caused by one of those parties had arisen; and yet better, some years earlier still, when the removal of religious disabilities first left the Church destitute of any legislature consisting exclusively of its own members: and that, again, a still earlier period would have been preferable, when considerable attention was for a time attracted to a work on the subject, by a person, then, and now, holding the office of Archdeacon.
"But it is far from being sufficient,—as seems to be the notion of some persons—to show that the present is not the fittest conceivable occasion for taking a certain step. Besides this, it is requisite to show,—not merely that a better occasion may be imagined,—or that a better occasion is past ;—that the Sibylline Books might have been purchased cheaper
some time ago ;-but that a more suitable occasion is likely to arise hereafter : and how soon ; and also, that the mischief which may be going on during the interval will be more than compensated by
* This, and another passage in this note, are extracted from Thoughts on Church-government