Page images
PDF
EPUB

they benefit, do no service to mankind. There are but so many good places in the theatre of life; and he who puts us in the way of procuring one of them does to us indeed a great favour, but none to the whole assembly. He adds a little after, “A wide space is left to the discretion of the individual, where the claims of the community are either not pressing or wholly silent.'

Another point in which the advantage of the individual is quite distinct from that of the public, I have touched upon in a Lecture on the Professions, from which I take the liberty of adding an extract. It is worth remarking that there is one point wherein some branches of the Law differ from others, and agree with some professions of a totally different class. Superior ability and professional skill, in a Judge, or a Conveyancer, are, if combined with integrity, a public benefit. They confer a service on certain individuals, not at the expense of any others : and the death or retirement of a man thus qualified, is a loss to the community. And the same may be said of a physician, a manufacturer, a navigator, &c., of extraordinary ability. A pleader, on the contrary, of powers far above the average, is not, as such, serviceable to the Public. He obtains wealth and credit for himself and his family; but any special advantage accruing from bis superior ability to those who chance to be his clients, is just so much loss to those he chances to be opposed to: and which party is, on each occasion, in the right, must be regarded as an even chance. His death, therefore, would be no loss to the Public; only, to those particular persons who might have benefited by his superior abilities, at their opponents' expense. It is not that advocates, generally, are not useful to the Public. They are even necessary. But extraordinary ability in an advocate, is an advantage only to himself and his friends. To the Public, the most desirable thing is, that pleaders should be as equally matched as possible; so that neither John Doe nor Richard Roe should have any advantage independent of the goodness of his cause. Extraordinary

Reprinted in the Elements of Rhetoric, and also in the volume of Lectures and Reviews.

? On this it has been remarked by an intelligent writer, that, when there are tro very superior pleaders in existence, the death of one of them would be a national lose. And this would hold good, if the two were always engaged on oppo

ability in an advocate may indeed raise him to great wealth, or to a seat on the bench, or in the senate; and he may use these advantagesmas many illustrious examples show-greatly to the public benefit. But then, it is not as an advocate, directly, but as a rich man, as a judge, or as a senator, that he thus benefits his country.'

Bad officers, treasurers, ambassadors, generals, and other false

and corrupt servants, set a bias upon their bowl, of their own petty ends and envies, to the overthrow of their master's great

and important affairs.' It seems not to have occurred to Bacon that the mischief he so well describes could take place except from the selfish wisdom of persons entrusted with some employment, and sacrificing the interest of their employer to their own. But, in truth, the greatest amount of evils of this class—that is, the sacrifice of public good to individual profit,—has arisen from the favour claimed by, and shown to, certain classes of men, in no official situation, who have persuaded the nation (and, doubtless, sometimes themselves also), that their own interest was that of the State. Both the Spaniards and the English prohibited their colonies from trading with any but the mother-country; and also from manufacturing for themselves; though the colonists were fellow-citizens, and were virtually taxed for the profit, not of the State, but of certain manufacturers and mer. chants. For, if they had found the goods produced in the mother-country to be cheaper and better than they could make for themselves, or buy elsewhere, they would have supplied themselves with these of their own accord, without need of prohibiting laws; but whenever this was not the case—that is, whenever there was any occasion for such a law,– it is plain they were paying an extra price, or buying inferior articles, for the profit of the manufacturers at home. Yet this never seemed to strike even the Americans themselves, or their advocates, at the time when the revolt broke out, It was only avowed taxation for the benefit of the government at home (which had laid out something for them) that they complained of.

site sides. But that is so far from being necessarily, or usually, the case, that, on the contrary, it is a common practice for a party who has engaged a very eminent barrister to plead for him, to give also to another eminent barrister a retaining-fee (it might be called a restraining-fee), without expecting him to take any part in the pleading, but merely to prevent his being engaged by the opposite party.

And this did not arise from comparative indifference to the welfare of our colonial fellow-subjects; for the like sort of policy has been long pursued at home. We imported timber of inferior quality from Canada, when better was to be had at a tenth part of the distance, lest saw-mills in Canada, and timberships engaged in that trade, should suffer a diminution of profit; though the total value of them all put together did not probably equal the annual loss sustained by the Public. And we prohibited the refining of sugar in the sugar colonies, and chose to import it in the most bulky and most perishable form, for the benefit of a few English sugar-bakers; whose total profits did not probably amount to as many shillings as the nation lost pounds.

And the land-owners maintained, till very lately, a monopoly against the bread-consumers, which amounted virtually to a tax on every loaf, for the sake of keeping up rents.

Other selfishness,' (says Mr. Senior, in his Lectures on Political Economy,) - may be as intense, but none is so unblushing, because none so much tolerated, as that of a monopolist claiming a vested interest in a public injury.' But, doubtless, many of these claimants persuaded themselves, as well as the nation, that they were promoting the public good.

ESSAY XXIV. OF INNOVATIONS.

S the births of living creatures at first are ill-shapen, so are A all innovations, which are the births of time: yet, notwithstanding, as those that first bring honour into their family are commonly more worthy than most that succeed, so the first precedent (if it be good) is seldom attained by imitation : for ill, to man's nature as it stands perverted, hath a natural motion, strongest in continuance; but good, as a forced motion, strongest at first. Surely every medicine is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils: for time is the greatest innovator; and if time of course alters things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end ?

It is true that what is settled by custom, though it be not good, yet at least it is fit; and those things which have long gone together, are, as it were, confederate with themselves whereas new things piece not so well; but, though they help by their utility, yet they trouble by their inconformity;? besides, they are like strangers, more admired, and less favoured. All this is true, if time stood still; which, contrariwise, moveth so round, that a froward retention of custom is as turbulent a thing as an innovation ; and they that reverence too much old times, are but a scorn to the new. It were good, therefore, that men in their innovations, would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived; for otherwise, whatsoever is new is unlooked for—and ever it mends some, and pairs4 others; and he that is holpen takes it for a fortune, and thanks the time; and he that is hurt, for a wrong, and

i To. For.

•Marks and points out each man of us to slaughter.' Ben Jonson. 2 Inconformity. Incongruity ; discordance. 3 Round. Rapid. Sir Roger heard them on a round trot.'- Addison. + Pair. To impair. “No faith so fast,' quoth she, “but flesh does paire.'

Flesh may impaire,' quoth he, ' but reason can repaire.''-Spenser, • What profiteth it to a man if he wynne all the world, and do peyringe to his soul ?'_Wickliff's Translation of Mark viji.

imputeth it to the author. It is good also not to try experiments in States, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and well to beware, that it be the reformation that draweth on the change, and not the desire of change that pretendeth? the reformation : and lastly, that the novelty, though it be not rejected, yet be held for a suspect;2 and, as the Scripture saith, “That we make a stand upon the ancient way, and then look about us, and discover what is the straight and right way, and so to walk in it.'3

ANTITHETA ON INNOVATIONS.
PRO.

CONTRA.
Omnis medicina innovatio.

Nullus auctor placet, præter tempus. * Every medicament is an innovation.' *One bows willingly to no authority

but Time.' *Qui nova remedia fugit, nova mala operitur.

*Nulla novitas absque injuria; nam He roho shuns new remedies must præsentia convellit. expect new evils.'

Every novelty does some hurt, for it

unsettles what is established.' Novator maximus tempus : quidni igitur tempus imitemur?

Quæ usu obtinuere, si non bona, at * Time is the great innovator ; why saltem apta inter se sunt. then not imitate Time ?

* Things that are settled by long use,

if not absolutely good, at least fit well *Mor sa morum retentio, res turbu together.' lenta est æque ac novitas.

A stubborn adherence to old practices Quis novator tempus imitatur, quod breeds tumults no less than novelty.' novationes ita insinuat, ut sensus fallant?

Show me the innovator who imitates *Cum per se res mutentur in deterius, Time, that slides in changes impersi consilio in melius non mutentur, quis ceptibly.' finis erit mali?

* Since things spontaneously change Quod præter spem evenit, cui profor the worse, if they be not by design dest, minus acceptum ; cui obest magis changed for the better, evils must accu molestum. mulate without end.

•What happens unexpectedly, is, for that reason, less welcome to him whom it profits, and more galling to him whom it hurts.'

Pretend. To put forward or exhibit as a cover.

Lest that heavenly form, pretended

To hellish falsehood, snare them.'- Millon. ? Suspect. Something suspicious. If the king ends the difference, and takes away the suspect'-Suckling.

3 Compare Jer. vi. 16.

« PreviousContinue »