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trained in knowledge and in virtue ; but they cannot be compelled into this path. This consideration teaches candor and charity towards all who do not yet see the truth as we do. It admonishes us also, while keeping our eyes steadfast on the good which we seek to secure, to moderate our expectations, and to be content to see the day of triumph postponed.
It is this essential condition of the Law of Progress, that serves to reconcile movement with stability, and to preserve order even in change ; as in nature all projectile forces are checked and regulated by the law of inertia, and the centrifugal motion of the planets is restrained by the attraction of gravitation. In this principle of moderation, honestly pursued, from motives of justice and benevolence, and promising “ the wellripened fruits of wise delay," we may find a proper Conservatism, which, though it may not always satisfy our judgment, can never fail to secure our respect.
But there is another Conservatism - and in the treatment of the subject it becomes necessary for me to exhibit it - of a widely different character, which performs no good office, and cannot secure our respect. Child of indifference, of ignorance, of prejudice, of selfishness, it seeks to maintain things precisely as they are, deprecates every change, and in disregard of the transitory condition of all that proceeds from the hands of man, blindly prays for the perpetuity of existing institutions. In its influences it is productive of disorder, rather than of order, and, indeed, is destructive rather than justly conservative. In violation of the Law of Progress, it plants itself upon the ancient ways, and vainly exalts all that has been done by our ancestors
as beyond addition and above amendment. It is well illustrated in the early verses:
Some ther be that do defye
and ever do
And again, in the conversation between two eminent English ecclesiastics; “ Brother of Winchester," said Cranmer to Lord Chancellor Gardyner, "you like not any thing new unless you be yourself the author of it." “ Your Grace wrongeth me,” replied the destructive Conservative, “I have never been author yet of any one new thing, for which I thank
Such a conservatism is the bigotry of science, of literature, of jurisprudence, of religion, of politics. An example will best exhibit its character.
When Sir Samuel Romilly proposed to abolish the punishment of death for stealing a pocket-handkerchief, the Commons of England consulted certain officials of the law, who assured the House, that such an innovation would endanger the whole criminal law of the land ! And when this illustrious reformer and model lawyer (for all men in the history of the English law Romilly is most truly the model lawyer) afterwards proposed to abolish the obscene punishment for high treason, requiring the offender to be drawn and quartered, and his bowels to be thrown into his face, while his body yet palpitated with life, the Attorney-general of the day, in opposing this humane amendment, asked, “ Are the safeguards, the ancient landmarks, the bulwarks of the
* Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, Vol. II. cap. 40, p. 51.
Constitution to be thus hastily removed ?" Which gave occasion for the appropriate exclamation in reply, 66 What! to throw the bowels of an offender into his face, one of the safeguards of the British Constitution ! I ought to confess that until this night I was wholly ignorant of this bulwark !"* An irrational enormity, which finds a fit parallel only in our own country – where slavery is sometimes called 66 divine institution," and important to the stability of our Constitution !
Esto perpetua was the dying conservative ejaculation of Paul Sarpi, of Venice, over the constitution of that atrocious republic; and this same phrase has been since applied by Sir William Blackstone to the British Constitution, enfolding so many inequalities, and so many abuses. It were well
- and all must agree in this — to exclaim of Truth, of Justice, of Peace, of Freedom, may it be perpetual! But is it not irrational to claim this for any institutions of human device, and, of course, finite? How can they hope to provide for the Infinite Future! The finite cannot measure itself with the Infinite. Nothing from Man's hands - por laws nor constitutions can be perpetual. It is God alone who builds for eternity. His laws are everlasting
It is this pernicious prejudice, which has been the fruitful parent of the persecution and neglect, that has been the lot of too many of the discoverers of truth. Among the ancient Greeks, they who first assigned the natural causes of thunder and storms, while the ears of
* Essays of Basil Montagu, p. 69.
men were still unaccustomed to such explanations, were condemned by the conservative savages of that day for impiety to the gods. In the eighth century, an ignorant, conservative Pope persecuted a priest, who declared that the world was round. And at a later day, to the everlasting scandal of mankind, the book of Copernicus, unfolding the true system of the universe, was condemned, as heretical and false, by a conservative Papal bull; and Galileo, after announcing the annual and diurnal motions of the earth, was sentenced to the dungeons of the conservative Inquisition. This was in Italy; but in England - and here we come nearer home - Harvey was accustomed to say, that after the publication of his book on the circulation of the blood of the great epochs of modern discovery — " he fell mightily in his practice, and it was believed by the vulgar that he was crack-brained, and all the physicians were against his opinion.” * And on another occasion, he is reported to have declared that no persons older than forty, at the time of his discovery, received it as true. In short, the age of forty was a dividing line of life - a Mason and Dixon's line ! - determining the capacity to receive that truth. Surely this little story may well admonish all who have passed that conservative line to be careful how they are inhospitable to any new truth.
This same undue tenacity of existing things, and repugnance to what is new, has thrown impediments successively in the way of the great improvements by which travel and intercourse among men have been promoted. It might be supposed that stage-coaches,
* Aubrey's Letters and Lives, Vol. II. p. 383.
when first introduced into England, would have been welcome, though novel, as an undoubted aid to the comfort of men. But this was not universally the case. An early writer calls for their suppression, breaking forth against them in this wise : “ These coaches," he says, " are one of the greatest mischiefs that hath happened of late years to the kingdom - mischievous to the public, destructive to trade, and prejudicial to lanąs. First, by destroying the breed of good horses, the strength of the nation, and making men careless of attaining to good horsemanship, a thing so useful and commendable in a gentleman; for, hereby, they become weary and listless when they ride a few miles, and unwilling to get on horseback, not able to endure frost, snow, or rain, or to lodge in the fields; and what reason, save only their using themselves so tenderly, and then riding in these stage-coaches, can be given for this their inability ? Secondly, by hindering the breed of watermen, who are the nursery for seamen, and they the bulwark of the kingdom ; for if these coaches were down, watermen, as formerly, would have work, and be encouraged to take apprentices, whereby their number would every year greatly increase. Thirdly, by lessening of his majesty's revenues; now four or five travel in a coach together, without any servants, and it is they that occasion the consumption of beer and ale on the roads, and all innkeepers do declare, that they sell not half the drink, nor pay the king half the excise they did before these coaches set up.
Such was the conservative bill of
* Harleian Miscellany, Vol. VIII. pp. 32-35; (ed. 8vo. 1810 ;) The Grand Concern of England, 1673.