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This new aspect of the party strife demanded of course appellations and names more designative of the altered form in which the contest was to be carried on-and the old and almost unintelligible names were accordingly abandoned, and gave place to the more comprehensible and philosophically constructed appellations of Conservatists and Reformers—the former having for their professed purpose to maintain things in the condition in which they at the time were found to exist--and the latter to produce a change more or less extensive_according to the demands which the abuses or deficiencies that might be found in the long established order might represent as fit to be complied with.
It is quite evident then, that this is a state of the contest not only different from all those in which it has previously appeared—but far more suited to an age of philosophical light—and founded on the most comprehensive views, indeed, which can be taken, of the order to which all earthly institutions are necessary subject. It is a contest now of principles in the strictest and widest sense of the term ;—and hence the suitableness of the present treatise,-the purpose of which is, to give some farther insight than seems generally to have been acquired, into the order of nature, as composed at once of repose and of progression,—to explain the laws to which the great processes of nature, as an everchanging, yet ever apparently stationary system, seems to be subject—and thus to prepare men for forming a better opinion respecting those party contests which profess to have a reference to the fundamental constitution of human society throughout all its varieties and which are likely to be best conducted by those who have gained the most philosophical and comprehensive views of the entire arrangements to which the great order of life, in all its portions and subdivisions, is necessarily subjected. The inquiry, besides, is evidently one, independent of its application to political contentions, of great moral and philosophic interest---taking, as it does, for its subject--the entire plan of the Divine-Economyand leading the mind, even on the most cursory examination of it ---into topics of consideration that are at once characterized by the greatest beauty---and the most interesting novelty and extent. The author is very far from thinking that he has been able to do justice to all the parts of a subject so characterized by its vastness---and offering so many topics of the most powerful interest...
but it is a matter of no little astonishment that, so far as he knows, the subject has never previously been subjected to any similar investigation---and he ventures, therefore, to claim for himself the honour of having so far done a good service, if he has been able to direct the thoughts of speculative minds to the great outlines of the inquiry, and has thus laid the foundation of an investigation which future inquirers may prosecute with better aids than those of which he has been able to avail himself--and to an extent which his powers may not have enabled him to reach.
In the mean time, amidst very great, and it may be irremediable evils, to which the strife, under this, its latest aspect, has given origin, there has been some good mingled with the eviland the following general results may be safely stated as the chief ingredients of that good.
In the first place, it has obviously served in some degree to open and enlarge the conceptions of a very respectable class of the community, who previously were engrossed with the notion, that the last state of the world had been attained -and that no future change would ever be able to subvert the opinions or institutions to which they had been accustomed. It is quite ridiculous to think to what an extent this limited view of things had gained possession of the public mind-it seems indeed to be a prejudice, which has more or less affected the apprehensions of mankind in all ages, and under all the variety of institutions to which their times have given an establishment—but it is evidently a vulgar and very partial conception---and though, like many other notions of the same kind, not altogether without some foundation in appearances---nor destitute of good effects, is yet unsuited to an enlightened view of human affairs, and therefore unfit to be indulged by men living in an age of philosophical light and refinement.-It is something gained unquestionably to have had our ideas in some measure enlarged as to the extent and grandeur of the scheme which Divine Providence is carrying forward, even with respect to the affairs of our own world---and the first good, accordingly, which times of innovation produce, is this destruction of a vulgar and limited mode of thought---and the introduction, at least among minds of reflection, of a style of thinking more in accordance with their actual condition in life---and fitted to give them juster conceptions of the grandeur and boundlessness of the plan of which
their passing arrangements and institutions are but a transitory and in some respects, it may be, an insignificant element.
But it has been as assuredly established by this strife, in the second place, that the affairs of a community can never permanently be conducted by a party professing to be guided, through. out their whole course, by what have been termed movement and reforming principles. For nature, we have seen, is conservative as well as progressive
and if there be constant change or tendency to change in her appointments, that change, however, is most frequently under the surface-while the great establishments on the face of the world seem, amidst all this secret progression, to be in a fixed and permanent condition. This is the great and secret law according to which the entire plan of Providence is conducted—repose, therefore, conformably with this ordination of nature, must be the master element of every political constitution that aims at a permanent duration-and that is consequently fitted to be of any essential advantage to mankind---and there never was a greater absurdity than that a perpetual effort to produce change could be adopted by any community as the guiding principle of its security and welfare. The true purpose and use of a movement party, is either to come forth occasionally to urge the vessel of the state in her course, when she seems to be lagging on her way-or perhaps to act as a propelling influence to prevent any such retardation as might be inconsistent with the successful prosecution of her destiny--but the helm must be held by hands that are fitted to keep her steady in her course ---and that will preserve the well-regulated state of the whole machinery by which her movements are to be conducted.
And hence it is implied, in the last place, that if a movement party does continue to hold the power of a state, that party must itself become conservative and therefore so far relinquish the principles on which it first took possession of its place-or if it finds, as will assuredly happen, that under its direction, all sorts of evils threaten the vessel of the state, it must resign its power to hands better fitted to conduct it--and in whose steadfastness the hearts of all who are interested in the progress of the navigation, will repose with an assurance that no reckless movement will endanger the final issue of the course on which they are bound.
It is thus that wide views of the order of nature-always tend to lessen the apprehensions of men lest their present interests should be lost amidst the apparent disasters to which great changes seem to expose the affairs of life-that men having such views can therefore look calmly forward to a time when the just and useful principles to which they have pledged themselves must regain the ascendancy which for a time they had lost-and that, in fact, the enlightened and guiding minds of the community always are the calmest amidst such occasional appearances of disaster—and anticipate with confidence the eventual arrival of a period when, after agitations of a longer or shorter duration, according to circumstances—the settled order of nature will again take effect---and the principles which they have adopted in cooperating with her operations, shall become the guiding maxims amidst the calm that has ensued.
Meanwhile, the following seem to be the practical maxims of government, to which the preceding reflections lend the sanction of their authority :
In the first place, that as no state of society is essentially and permanently durable, it is the wisdom of legislators to be aware of this tendency to alteration---and not too long to resist such remedies as the altered state of the country may demand.
In the second place, that in all such changes, however, care should be taken to apply them only to undeniable and pressing exigencies---to avoid the use of all terms fitted to suggest or to foster the hope of universal alterations---and always to be aware that change is essentially of a restless and extravagant character, and constitutes one of the great dangers against which, in its extreme tendencies, the wisdom of legislation has been authorized to guard.
And, in the last place, that as this desire for universal change is a morbid and delusive state of the public mind---and has an essential tendency to defeat all the purposes at which it professes to aim---and in reality to render impossible any good and substantial improvement whatever, it ought to be treated as a malady of a peculiarly dangerous and insidious nature---and repressed by all the means which legislative wisdom can devise as best suited to the case. At the same time, as, from its nature, it is not a malady which can be met in most cases by violent remedies, it is
best assailed by preventive measures---and among these, perhaps the chief is, the avoidance, on all occasions, of any such terms or notions as may beget the idea that all things are in a state to require alteration---and which consequently seem to consecrate the very work of destruction, by the fallacious and ambiguous terms that veil its malignancy. Reform is thus the most dangerous word that can be known among a people ;---and the morbid state of mind to which it is apt to give occasion, is one which the most energetic measures may justifiably be employed to prevent or to suppress---the more so that the distemper is apt to conceal itself under an aspect which promises health and renovated vigour to the whole social constitution---while it is really sapping its very foundations, and preparing it for an eventual and most melancholy dissolution.
The state of the problem, however, is one of no difficult solution, when considered merely on general and speculative grounds ---but which, in its detailed application to affairs, presupposes to its due management---the very highest accomplishments which political wisdom has been known to have acquired.