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dustry, they are always dissolving into individuality. Any thing in the nature of incorporation is almost impracticable amongst them. Hope, fear, alarm, jealousy, the ephemerous tale that does its business and dies in a day, all these things, which are the reins and spurs by which leaders check or urge the minds of followers, are not easily employed, or hardly at all, amongst scattered people. They assemble, they arm, they act with the utmost difficulty, and at the greatest charge. Their efforts, if ever they can be commenced, cannot be sustained. They cannot proceed systematically.
THERE are occasions, I admit, of public necessity, so vast, so clear, so evident, that they supersede all laws. Law being only made for the benefit of the community, cannot in any one of its parts resist a demand which may comprehend the total of the public interest. To be sure, no law can set itself up against the cause and reason of all law. But such a case very rarely happens; and this* most certainly is not such a case. The mere time of the reform is by no means worth the sacrifice of a principle of law. Individuals pass like shadows; but the commonwealth is fixed and stable. The difference, therefore, of to-day and to-morrow, which to private people is immense, to the state is nothing. At any rate, it is better, if possible, to reconcile our œconomy with our laws, than to set them at variance; a quarrel which in the end must be destructive to both.
* This was spoken by Mr. Burke on his propositions for an economical reform.
THE LAW NOT FAVOURABLE TO CORPORATIONS.
SMALL, indeed, was the security which the corporation of London enjoyed, before the act of William and Mary, and which all the other corporations secured by no statute, enjoy at this hour, if strict law was employed against them. The use of strict law has always been rendered very delicate by the same means, by which the almost unmeasured legal powers residing (and in many instances dangerously residing) in the crown, are kept within due bounds; I mean, that strong superintending power in the house of commons, which inconsiderate people have been prevailed on to condemn as trenching on prerogative. Strict law is by no means such a friend to the rights of the subject, as they have been taught to believe. They who have been most conversant in this kind of learning will be most sensible of the danger of submitting corporate rights of high political importance to these subordinate tribunals. The general heads of law on that subject are vulgar and trivial. On them there is not much question. But it is far from easy to determine what special acts, or what special neglect of action, shall subject corporations to a forfeiture. There is so much laxity in this doctrine, that great room is left for favour or prejudice, which might give to the crown an entire dominion over those corporations. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly true, that every subordinate corporate right ought to be subject to controul; to superior direction; and even to forfeiture upon just cause. In this reason and law agree. In every judgment given on a corporate right of great political importance, the policy and prudence make no small part of the question. To these considerations a court of law is not competent; and indeed an attempt at the
least intermixture of such ideas with the matter of law, could have no other effect, than wholly to corrupt the judicial character of the court, in which such a cause should come to be tried. It is besides to be remarked, that if in virtue of a legal process a forfeiture should be adjudged, the court of law has no power to modify or mitigate. The whole franchise is annihilated, and the corporate property goes into the hands of the crown.
THE true lawgiver ought to have a heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and respect his kind, and to fear himself. It may be allowed to his temperament to catch his ultimate object with an intuitive glance; but his movements towards it ought to be deliberate. Political arrangement, as it is a work for social ends, is to be only wrought by social means. There mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force. If I might venture to appeal to what is so much out of fashion in Paris, I mean to experience, I should tell you, that in my course I have known, and, according to my measure, have co-operated with great men; and I have never yet seen any plan which has not been mended by the observations of those who were much inferior in understanding to the person who took the lead in the business. By a slow but well-sustained progress, the effect of each step is watched; the good or ill success of the first, gives light to us in the second; and so, from light to light, we are conducted with safety through the whole series. We see, that the parts of the system do not clash. The evils latent in the most
promising contrivances are provided for as they arise. One advantage is as little as possible sacrificed to another. We compensate, we reconcile, we balance. We are enabled to unite into a consistent whole the various anomalies and contending principles that are found in the minds and affairs of men. From hence arises, not an excellence in simplicity, but one far superior, an excellence in composition. Where the great interests of mankind are concerned through a long succession of generations, that succession ought to be admitted into some share in the councils which are so deeply to affect them. If justice requires this, the work itself requires the aid of more minds than one age can furnish. It is from this view of things that the best legislators have been often satisfied with the establishment of some sure, solid, and ruling principle in government; a power like that which some of the philosophers have called a plastic nature; and having fixed the principle, they have left it afterwards to its own operation.
To proceed in this manner, that is, to proceed with a presiding principle, and a prolific energy, is with me the criterion of profound wisdom. What your politicians think the marks of a bold, hardy genius, are only proofs of a deplorable want of ability. By their violent haste, and their defiance of the process of nature, they are delivered over blindly to every projector and adventurer, to every alchymist and empiric.
THOSE who attempt to level, never equalize. In all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. The levellers therefore only change and pervert the natural order
of things; they load the edifice of society, by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.
Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above. They never raise what is below: and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest.
A CONSCIENTIOUS person would rather doubt his own judgment, than condemn his species. He would say, I have observed without attention, or judged upon erroneous maxims; I trusted to profession, when I ought to have attended to conduct. Such a man will grow wise, not malignant, by his acquaintance with the world. But he that accuses all mankind of corruption ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one. In truth I should much rather admit those whom at any time I have disrelished the most, to be patterns of perfection, than seek a consolation to my own unworthiness, in a general communion of depravity with all about me.
That this ill-natured doctrine should be preached by the missionaries of a court I do not wonder. It answers their purpose. But that it should be heard among those who pretend to be strong assertors of liberty, is not only surprising, but hardly natural. This moral levelling is a servile principle. It leads to practical passive obedience far better, than all the doctrines which the pliant accommodation of theology to power has ever produced. It cuts up by the roots, not only all idea of forcible resistance, but even of civil opposition. It disposes men to an abject sub