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or speaker's real frame of mind is one of utter uncertainty, as when something is said to be true to a certain extent.' Such formulas as both perhaps' and 'to a certain extent' are, doubtless, sometimes used in the manner adverted to by writers possessed of great stores of knowledge and remarkable capacity; but scholars set a bad example in giving way to the usage, and are themselves sometimes beguiled by it into easy and slipshod methods of disposing of difficulties. When, for instance, the most learned and accurate of English historians, of whose marvellous erudition Germany might be proud, says, in his Constitutional History,' that from 1381 onwards rural society in England began to work into its later forms, to be modified chiefly, and perhaps only, by the law of settlement and the poor laws,' he suffers himself to be led by this makeshift of a phrase into laxity and carelessness. The law of settlement and the poor laws were themselves only effects. Their causes—including the enclosures and evictions of the Tudor period, the dissolution of the monasteries, the disintegration of feudal society, the restrictions and monopolies of guilds and town corporations, the law of real property, the limitation of the rural franchise-directly affected rural society, as well as indirectly through the poor laws and the law of settlement. Yet the reader of the passage is likely to carry away the impression that these laws were the primary, and perhaps the only,' factors concerned, and the historian himself has evidently been betrayed into a statement which, at least, falls far short of the truth.
Another set of characteristic formulas are, on the other hand,' still,' yet,' and their congeners. It is a rule of logic that of two contradictory expressions both cannot be true; and when a writer is in doubt which of two assertions to make, the proper course evidently is to make neither. But the method in vogue is to make both, tacking them together with an 'on the other hand,' or a yet,' or some equivalent conjunction, and thus producing an impression of knowing all that can be said on both sides, and exhausting the subject. The great scholar just referred to is above artifices of this kind, but he has not always abstained from all appearance of evil. Thus, in one chapter of his Constitutional History,' after admitting the difficulty of tracing the career of the villein for several hundred years, Dr. Stubbs says, 'When he comes before us in the reign of Richard II., his condition is one which suggests that the three centuries that have elapsed since the Conquest have been for him centuries of continuous decline.' But in a later chapter we read, The English ceorl had had slaves of his own, and the Norman lawyer steadily depressed the ceorl himself to the same level; his Latin name villanus had been a symbol of freedom, but his privileges were bound to the land, and when the Norman lord took the land he took the villein with it. Still the villein retained his customary rights, his house and land, and rights of wood and hay. Law and custom, too, protected him in customs more than in
theory. The final definition of manors which resulted from the statute Quia Emptores may itself have helped the villein. Since that statute the villein's spirit may well have risen; it was by a mere legal form that he was described as less than free.' So profound an investigator might surely have found a better method of dealing with some contradictory evidence. But the easiest method was to put together two opposite statements like the obverse and reverse faces of a coin, and leave the reader to take his change out of them. Another writer of eminent genius and striking literary power, who has been made a scapegoat for the sins of his age against accuracy and care, adds a later chapter to the history of the villein in which similar contradictions occur. Inferior artists who have neither Dr. Stubbs's erudition, sagacity, and capacity for taking trouble, nor Mr. Green's brilliancy, readily acquire the art of setting down conflicting statements, and producing by an easy method an impression of thoroughness at the cost of the poor reader, whose mind is left in a muddle.
The chief sinners of the age, however, in respect of the use of saving clauses, makeshifts, equivocal phrases, duplicity of speech, and such like shams,' to use Mr. Gladstone's expression, are unquestionably the writers on economic subjects. You consult, for example, in relation to the Bill respecting the liability of employers for accidents to their workmen, which has been the subject of so much recent discussion, a celebrated Report of the House of Commons, and you find it laid down that if the liability of employers be extended to the accidents in question, sooner or later the position will find its level by a readjustment of wages.' Prove to a class of workmen that a fall of wages must certainly before long follow the imposition of a new liability on capitalists, and you will produce a legitimate effect; but it is throwing dust in the air and darkening counsel to say that a fall will take place sooner or later. They may fairly answer that a contingency indefinitely postponed may never take place, and may be regarded as void for remoteness, as the lawyers say. Long before it happens, if ever, they may be dead and gone, or the trade may have passed through a revolution from other causes of which the effect may be to raise wages. The à priori economic method abounds in like lax and slipshod formulas, in the long run,' 'in the absence of disturbing causes,'' tendency,' and so forth. It has the attraction of being an easy method, yielding apparently great results at small cost. A clever man in an arm-chair, without any investigation of history or inspection of the facts of life and business, and with his eyes shut to the real movements and conduct of mankind, is assumed to be capable of thinking out the laws of the economic world and their operation, from a few general assumptions. The tenacity with which so loose a method has been clung to reminds one of Boswell's account of a long argument between Dr. Johnson and a Mr. McAulay, who expatiated on the advantages of a loose system of religious belief, and could not be driven out of his track,' until the learned doctor wound up the
discussion with 'Sir, you are a bigot to laxness.' 'Orthodox 'political economy makes men in like manner bigots to laxness. Curious evidence of the random and superficial mode in which its premisses have been obtained is afforded in reference to the assumption that wages are proportionate to risk. The staple argument against making employers liable for accidents to their workmen, is that wages in dangerous employments involve a proportionate compensation which makes it the interest of employers to reduce the risk to a minimum by careful superintendence and other precautions. The assumption forming the base of this reasoning is supposed to be derived from Adam Smith. At the beginning of his famous chapter on the variations of wages and profits in different employments, that philosopher doubtless includes the probability or unprobability of success' among the causes diversifying pecuniary remuneration; but he subsequently explains at considerable length that it is the notion men form of the probabilities and improbabilities in their own minds that influences the competition for employments, and that their notions are almost always astray. The chance of gain is by every man more or less overvalued, and the chance of loss is by most men undervalued.' The root of the matter, according to him, is the absurd presumption of men in their own good fortune and their overweening conceit of their abilities,' and he adds that the contempt of risk and the presumptuous hope of success are in no period of life more active than at the age at which young people choose their profession.' So that wages, instead of being proportionate to risk, vary commonly in the opposite direction, if there be at the same time a chance of drawing a prize in the lottery. Tocqueville traces to democracy the diffusion of a love for general propositions and formulas such as those on which à priori political economy is built. One of the distinctive characteristics, according to him, of democratic ages is the love which all men have for easy successes; and this characteristic he finds in their intellectual as well as their practical processes. democratic age, he argues, love general ideas because they dispense with the study of particular cases. They contain much in a small volume, and yield a great product in a short time. Lors donc qu'après un examen inattentif et court, ils croient apercevoir entre certains objets un rapport commun, ils ne poussent pas plus loin leur recherche, et sans examiner dans le détail comment ces divers objets se ressemblent ou diffèrent, ils se hâtent de les ranger tous sous la même formule, afin de passer outre.' As the present writer has already observed, however, we should hesitate to ascribe the tendency simply to democracy or the levelling of class distinctions. The generalisations of abstract political economy have found more favour with capitalists than with labourers, and are more congenial to plutocracy than to democracy. Yet the haste to arrive at great results at small cost of intellectual effort, which is so characteristic of the abstract economic method, is no mere peculiarity of a particular school of economists, but a vice of the age, which shows itself alike
in its philosophy, its trade and its statesmanship; in its short cuts to knowledge as its leaps in the dark in both legislation and commercial speculation. An ancestor of the present writer, Charles Leslie the Nonjuror, entitled one of his works A Short and Easy Method with the Deists;' but the Deists were not so easily disposed of, and survived the assault. Men of letters and science in our own day are much given to trying what might be called 'short and easy methods with the ignorant,' in the shape of primers.' It has been said that horsemanship is the only art a prince learns to perfection, because a horse is no flatterer, and will throw a prince as fast as a common man if he can't ride. Yet it is not altogether true that there is no royal road to learning. A prince usually learns several languages in his childhood without trouble; and in later life the best guides are always at hand to lead him on his way, the best sources of information are at his beck. It is nearer the truth to say there is no popular road to knowledge, such as the system of primers leads many to suppose. If attempts are to be made to condense whole sciences into a few easy pages, it is well that they should be made by the best masters, even if high scientific ability be diverted thereby from original research to the production of school books. The evil is that the tendency of the age being to short cuts and easy methods, a system of cramming is the result. The writer not long ago, on his way to examine candidates for some public appointments, saw before him a youth with a brand new copy of a little Primer of Political Economy in his hand. Half an hour afterwards the same youth came in for examination, and it became evident that he had trusted to cramming at the last moment a few score of very small pages of large print, and thereby mastering the elements of the subject. Such is really the sort of promise the modern primer is understood to hold out; and examination, as a test of ability, diligence, and knowledge, would be mockery if the promise were kept. Short and easy methods in science and philosophy are a delusion, a mockery, and a snare.'
The most delusive and dangerous of short and easy methods are however some to which not young students but experienced politicians and veteran statesmen are becoming prone. The same eagerness for immediate results that leads the trader to seek his fortune by a few big speculations instead of by a lifetime of energetic and careful work, is seen in the policy that makes leaps in the dark in legislation. The excessive influence of oratory tends to make wise and permanently beneficial measures a secondary object. Results,' it used to be said, 'not processes, are for the public eye;' but the process rather than the result is the orator's chief concern. The haste too visible in every other phase of modern society, and often incompatible with speed, is nowhere more conspicuous than in Parliament. We are all in such a hurry here,' said an eminent legal member of the House of Commons to the writer, when it was discovered that a Bill which ought to have been watched and amended had slipped through the Commons and been read twice in the Lords, though containing a
clause artfully framed to affect a pending suit. The 'hurry' had been such that it was only the day before the one fixed for the third reading in the Upper House, and through the intervention of an outsider with the Lord Chancellor, that the mischief was detected and defeated.
The temptation to resort to short and easy methods with Irish difficulties seems to be found irresistible by statesmen of both parties. When a noble lord said of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill
The sole reason of this Irish Bill is to buy off a block by the Home Rulers -he described accurately the object of the Irish University Bill of the late Government, of which he had himself been a distinguished member. On Mr. Parnell's opposition to voting the estimates becoming troublesome, the successful and flourishing Queen's University was thrown over, and a new university founded on paper with no distinct plan, by a skeleton Act which left everything unsettled. It was predicted at the time that the precedent of legislation in blank, leaving the Legislature itself in the dark as to what was being done, and handing over the task of determining the real nature and operation of the enactment to an external and inferior authority, would be soon followed. The prediction was fulfilled by the provisions of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which delegated to the County Court judge the solution of a problem the Government confessed itself unequal to. The results of seven centuries of misgovernment and misfortune on the character of the Irish people, as well as on the situation of things at the moment, are not to be so easily disposed of. The Irish Land Question began with Henry II., whose mode of relieving distress when he flung to a shivering beggar a cloak torn from the back of one of his own friends, seems to have furnished the model for Mr. Forster's Bill. The beggar, we may well believe, was little the better of the cheap charity, and was going about naked the next day on the look-out for another covering.
Two propositions ought to be conceded on all sides in relation to the Irish Land Question, and the method of its solution: first, that the history of the inhabitants of the distressed districts of Ireland gives them a strong claim on the English Legislature and nation; and, secondly, that the chief use of the soil of a country, and the main object of the State with respect to it, ought not to be to afford rent to a small number of landlords. The first of these propositions rests on the treatment the people of Ireland met with from England from the reign of Henry II. to that of Victoria. The invasion of the island, the repeated confiscations of the lands of the natives, the hard choice between hell or Connaught' offered by the Cromwellians, the penal laws against the Catholics, the withering law of real property, the statutes for the suppression of Irish manufactures and trade, make a dismal history of which one chapter had been told by Lord Dufferin as follows:
From Queen Elizabeth's reign until within a few years of the Union the various commercial confraternities of Great Britain never for a moment relaxed their relentless grip on the trades of Ireland. One by one, each of our nascent industries was either strangled in its birth, or handed over,