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ciples, hold equally with respect to most of the practical arts. Among these, however, there is one of far fuperior dignity to the reft; which, partly on account of its importance, and partly on account of some peculiarities in its nature, seems to be entitled to a more particular confideration. The art I allude to, is that of Legislation ; an art which differs from all others in some very essential respects, and to which, the reasonings in the last Section must be applied with many restrictions.

Before proceeding farther, it is necessary for me to premise, that it is chiefly in compliance with common language and common prejudices, that I am sometimes led, in the following observations, to contrast theory with experience. In the proper sense of the word Theory, it is so far from standing in opposition to experience, that it implies a knowl. edge of principles, of which the most extensive ex. perience alone could put us in poffeffion. Prior to the time of Lord Bacon, indeed, an acquaintance with facts was not considered as effential to the form, ation of theories ; and from these ages, has descen. ded to us, an indiscriminate prejudice against gener, al principles, even in those cases in which they have been fairly obtained in the way of induction.

confirm many of the observations in this Section, by an appeal to facts still fresh in the recollection of my Readers ; and in one or two instances by slight verbal corrections, to guard against the possibility of uncandid misinterpretation : but, for various reasons, which it is unnecessary to state at present, I feel it to be a duty which I owe to inyself, to send the whole discussion again to the press in its original form. That the doctrine it inculcates is favorable to the good order and tranquility of society, cannot be dispated; and as far as I myself am personally interested, I have no wish to yitiate the record which it exlibits of my opinions.

On some points which are touched upon very slightly here, ! have explained myself more fully, in the fourth Section of my Biographical Account of Mr. Smith, read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1793, and published in the third Volume of iheir Transactions.

But not to dispute about words : there are plainly two sets of political reasoners ; one of which con. sider the actual inftirutions of mankind as the only safe foundation for our conclusions, and think every plan of legislation chimerical, which is not copied from one which has already been realised ; while the other apprehend that, in many cases, we may reason safely a priori from the known principles of human nature, combined with the particular cir. cumstances of the times. The former are commonly understood as contending for experience in oppofition to theory; the latter are accused of trusting to theory unsupported by experience : but it ought to be remembered, that the political theorist, if he proceeds cautiously and philosophically, founds his conclusions ultimately on experience, no less than the political empiric ;-—as the astronomer, who predicts an eclipse from his knowledge of the principles of the science, rests his expectation of the event on facts which have been previously ascertained by obfervation, no less than if he inferred it, without any reasoning, from his knowledge of a cycle. There is, indeed, a certain

degree of practical skill which habits of business alone can give, and without which the moft enlightened politician must always appear to disadvantage when he attempts to carry his plans into execution. And as this skill is often (in consequence of the ambiguity of language) denoted by the word Experience ; while it is seldom poffeffed by those men, who have most carefully studied the theory of legislation ; it has been very generally concluded, that politics is merely a matter of routine, in which philosophy is rather an obstacle to fuccefś. The statesman who has been formed among official details, is compared to the practical engineer; the speculative legiflator, to the theoretical mechanician who has passed his life among books and diagrams.--In order to ascertain how far this opinion


is just, it may be of use to compare the art of lege illation with those practical applications of mechan. ical principles, by which the opposers of political theories have so often endeavored to illustrate their reasonings.

I. In the first place, then, it may be remarked, that the errors to which we are liable, in the use of gen. eral mechanical principles, are owing, in most instan. ces, to the effect which habits of abstraction are apt to have, in withdrawing the attention from those applications of our knowledge, by which alone we can learn to correct the imperfections of theory.Such errors, therefore, are, in a peculiar degree, incident to men who have been led by natural taste,or by early habits, to prefer the speculations of the closet, to the bustle of active life, and to the fatigue of minute and circumftantial observation.

In politics, too, one species of principles is often misapplied from an inattention to circumstances; thofe which are deduced from a few examples of particular governments, and which are occasionally quoted as universal political axioms, which every wise legislator ought to assume as the ground-work of his reasonings. But this abuse of general principles should by no means be ascribed, like the absurdities of the speculative mechanician, to over-refinement, and the love of theory ; for it arises from weaknesses, which philosophy alone can remedy'; an unenlightened veneration for maxims which are fupposed to have the fanction of time in their favor, and a paffive acquiescence in received opinions.

There is another class of principles, from which political conclufions have sometimes been deduced : and which, notwithstanding the coinınon prejudice against them, are a much surer foundation for our reasonings : I allude, at present, to those principles which we obtain from an examination of the human conftitution, and of the general laws which regulate

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the course of human affairs ; principles, which are certainly the result of a much more extensive induc. tion, than any of the inferences that can be drawn from the history of actual establishments.

In applying, indeed, fuch principles to practice, it is necessary (as well as in mechanics) to pay attention to the peculiarities of the case ; but it is by no means necessary to pay the same scrupulous attention to minute circumstances, which is essential in the mechanical arts, or in the management of private business. There is even a danger of dwelling too much on details, and of rendering the mind incapable of those abstract and comprehensive views of hu. man affairs, which can alone furnish the statesman with fixed and certain maxims for the regulation of his conduct. " When a man, (says Mr. Hume) “ deliberates concerning his conduct in any particu« lar affair, and forms schemes in politics, trade,æcon“ omy, or any business in life, he never ought to “ draw his arguments too fine, or connect too long " a chain of consequences together. Something is “ sure to happen, that will disconcert his reasoning, “ and produce an event different from what he ex

pected. But when we reason upon general sub“jects, one may juftly affirm, that our speculations “ can scarce ever be too fine, provided they are just; " and that the difference betwixt a common man 6 and a man of genius, is chiefly seen in the shallow. “ ness or depth of the principles upon which they “ proceed. -- 'Tis certain that general principles, how. “ever intricate they may seem, muft always, if they “ are just and found, prevail in the general course of

things, though they may fail in particular cases 6 and it is the chief business of philosophers to re

gard the general course of things. I may add, " that it is also the chief business of politicians ; ef

pecially in the domestic government of the state, $ where the public. good, which is, or ought to be,

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“ their object, depends on the concurrence of a mul“ titude of cafes, not, as in foreign politics, upon ac“cidents, and chances, and the caprices of a few per« fons."*

II. The difficulties which, in the mechanical arts, limit the application of general principles, remain invariably the same from age to age : and whatever observations we have made on them in the course of our past experience, lay a fure foundation for future practical skill ; and supply, in fo far as they reach, the defects of our theories. In the art of govern. ment, however, the practical difficulties which occur are of a very different nature. They do not present to the ftatesman, the fame fteady fubject of examination, which the effects of friction do to the engineer. They arise chiefly from the passions and opinions of men, which are in a state of perpetual change; and, therefore, the addrefs which is neceffary to overcome them, depends lefs on the accuracy of our observations with respect to the past, than on the fagacity of our conjectures with respect to the future. In the present age, more particularly, when the rapid communication, and the universal diffusion of knowledge, by means of the press, ren. der the situation of political societies essentially different from what it ever was formerly, and secure infallibly, again{t every accident, the progress of human reason; we may venture to predict, that they are to be the most successful statesmen, who, paying all due regard to past experience, search for the rules of their conduct chiefly in the peculiar circumftances of their own times, and in an enlightened anticipation of the future history of mankind.

III. In the mechanical arts, if, at any time we are at a loss about the certainty of a particular fact, we have it always in our power to bring it to the test of


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