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into indolent despondency, if he find, as he often will, that the majority of those around us do not seem to come up to the standard which those institutions and enactments appear to him to imply. He takes for granted that the whole, or the chief part, of the members of those assemblies, &c., in which such and such measures were carried, must have been men of a corresponding degree of good sense, and moderation, and public spirit: and perceiving (as he thinks) that an assembly of such men could not now be found, he concludes that wisdom and goodness (in governments at least) must have died with our ancestors; or at least that no good is at present to be hoped from any government. And yet perhaps the truth will be that the greater part of the very assemblies whose measures he is admiring may have consisted of men of several parties, each of which would, if left entirely to itself, have made a much worse decision than the one actually adopted; and that one may have been such, as, though not actually to coincide with, yet most nearly to approach to the opinions of the wisest and best members of the assembly, though those may have been but a small minority. And it may be therefore, that he may have around him the materials of an assembly not at all inferior in probity or intelligence to that which he is contemplating with despairing admiration.

'A king, when he presides in council'

It is remarkable how a change of very great importance in our system of government was brought about by pure accident. The custom of the king's being present in a cabinet council of his ministers, which was the obvious, and had always been the usual state of things, was put an end to when the Hanoverian princes came to the throne, from their ignorance of the English language. The advantage thence resulting of ministers laying before the sovereign the result of their full and free deliberations—an advantage not at all originally contemplated,—caused the custom to be continued, and so established that it is most unlikely it should ever be changed.


FORTUNE is like the market, where, many times, if you can stay a little, the price will fall; and again, it is sometimes like Sibylla's1 offer, which at first offereth the commodity at full, then consumeth part and part, and still holdeth up the price; for occasion (as it is in the common verse) turneth a bald noddle after she hath presented her locks in front, and no hold taken; or, at least, turneth the handle of the bottle first to be received, and after the belly,2 which is hard to clasp.' There is surely no greater wisdom than well to time the beginnings and onsets of things. Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men than forced them: nay, it were better to meet some dangers half way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep. On the other side, to be deceived with too long shadows (as some have been when the moon was low, and shone on their enemies' backs), and so to shoot off before the time, or to teach dangers to come on, by over-early buckling1 towards them, is another extreme. The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion (as we said) must ever be well weighed; and generally it is good to commit the beginnings of all great actions to Argus with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briarcus with his hundred hands—first to watch, and then to speed; for the helmet of Pluto,6 which maketh the politic man go invisible, is secrecy in the counsel, and celerity in the execution; for when things are once come to the execution, there is no secrecy comparable to celerity—like the motion of a bullet in the air, which flieth so swift as it outruns the eye.

1 Sibylla. The Sibyl.

1 Belly. That protuberance or cavity of anything resembling the human belly. An Irish harp hath the concave, or belly, at the end of the strings.'—Baron, Nat. Hut. * Pluod. viii.

* Buckle. To go; to hasten towards.

'Soon he buckled to tho field.'—Spenser.

• Homer, II. v. 843.


Pbo. Contba.

'Fortuna multa festinanti vendit, 'Occasio, instar Sibylla?, miimi t obla

quibus morantem donat. turn, pretium augct.

'Fortune often SELLS to the hasty 'Opportunity, like the Sibyl, dimi

what she Gites to thote who wait.' nishes her offering, and increases her price, at each visit.'

'Celeritas, Orci galea.

'Speed is the helmet of Pluto.'


This matter of 'Delays' is most emphatically one in which, as Sir Roger de Coverley might have decided, much may be said on both sides. The rules which Bacon does give are very good; but, as it has been well observed, 'genius begins where rules end/ and there is no matter wherein rules can go a less way, or wherein there is more call for what maybe called practical genius: that is, a far-sighted sagacity, as to the probable results of taking or not taking a certain step, and a delicate tact in judging of the peculiar circumstances of each case.

It is important to keep in mind that in some cases, where (as Bacon has expressed it) 'not to decide is to decide,' a delay may amount to a wrong decision; and in other cases may at least produce serious evil. Thus, there was once a very learned and acute Lord Chancellor, none of whose decisions, I believe, were ever reversed, but who very often decided, virtually, against both parties, by delaying his decision till both were beggared by law-expenses, and broken down in mind and body by anxious care. And he delayed filling up livings for two or three years, or more, to the great detriment of the parish, and sometimes with heavy loss of the revenue of the benefice.

The greater part of men are bigots to one or the other of the opposite systems,—of delay, or of expedition; always for acting either on the maxim of 'never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day,' or, on the opposite one, which is said to have been in the mouth of Talleyrand, 'never do to-day what can be done to-morrow.'

But still worse are those mock-wise men who mingle the two systems together, and are slow and quick just in the same degree that a really wise man is; only, in the wrong places: who make their decisions hastily, and are slow in the execution; begin in a hurry, and are dilatory in proceeding; who unmask their battery hastily, and then think of loading their guns; who cut their corn green, (according to the French proverbial expression of 'manger son ble en herbe,') and let their fruit hang to ripen till it has been blown down by the winds and is rotting on the ground.

'The ripeness or unripeness of the occasion must ever be well


It is a common phrase with the undiscriminating advocates of delay, that 'The World is not yet ripe for such and such a measure.' But they usually forget to inquire 'Is it ripening? When, and how, is it likely to become ripe? or, Are men's minds to ripen like winter pears, merely by laying them by, and letting them alone?'

'Time,' as Bishop Copleston has remarked, {Remains, p. 123,) 'is no agent.' When we speak of such and such changes being brought about by time, we mean in time,—by the gradual and imperceptible operation of some gentle agency. We should observe, therefore, whether there is any such agency at work, and in what direction;—whether to render a certain change more difficult or easier. If you are surrounded by the waters, and want to escape, you should observe whether the tide is flowing or ebbing. In the one case, you should at once attempt the ford, at all hazards; in the other,you have to wait patiently. And if the water be still, and neither rising nor falling, then you should consider that though there is no danger of drowning, you must remain insulated for ever, unless you cross the ford; and that if this is to be done at all, it may be as well done at once.

The case of slavery in the United States is one of a rising tide. The rapid multiplication of slaves which has already rendered their emancipation a difficult and hazardous step, makes it more so every year, and increases the danger of a servile war such as that of St. Domingo.

The serfdom of the Russians is, perhaps, rather a case of still water. There seems no great reason to expect that the state of things will grow either worse or better, spontaneously.

In each of these cases, the slaves and the serfs are not ripe for freedom; no enslaved people ever are; and to wait before you bestow liberty, or political rights, till the recipients are fit to employ them aright, is to resolve not to go into the water till you can swim. You must make up your mind to encounter many very considerable evils, at first, and for some time, while men are learning to use the advantages conferred on them.

It is the part of wisdom, however, to lessen these evils as far as can be done by careful preparation, and by bringing forward the several portions of any measure in the best order. A striking instance of the wisdom of this rule was exhibited in the measures adopted in reference to the Irish Roman-catholics. The first thing done was to bestow political power on the lowest, most ignorant, and most priest-ridden of the people, by giving them the elective franchise; at the same time making this a source of continual irritation and continued agitation, because they were still restricted from electing members of their own persuasion. Roman-catholics were still precluded from sitting in parliament, because, forsooth, 'no one of that Church could be safely trusted with political power!' So said thousands, and hundreds of thousands, for nearly forty years, during which Roman-catholics had been exercising political power (as freeholders) in the most dangerous way possible. The next step was to admit Roman-catholics to seats; which ought to have preceded—as almost every one now admits—the conferring of the elective franchise; because the Roman-catholics who would thus have been admitted to a share of political power would have been few, and would have belonged to the educated classes. And last of all came that which should have been the first of all,—the providing of some such schooling for the mass of the people as might render them at least one degree less unfit for political power.

And, was the long interval between the beginning and the end of this series of measures, occupied in providing against the dangers to be apprehended as resulting? Quite the reverse. Instead of holding out, so as to gain better terms, we held out for worse. The ministry of 1806 provided certain conditions as safeguards, which that of 1829 would not venture to insist on.

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