Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/745

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NATURE AND LIMITS OF SCIENCE OF POLITICS.

usually demand modification in view of the circumstances of the people and of the day, but that the greatest allowance must always be made in all political reforms for the influence of fixed sentiments and habits. It also may happen that bad institutions—such as a bad poor-law system, or, in the criminal law, a falsely-conceived relationship between crimes and punishments—may have generated a vast and complex web of affiliated ideas, customs, institutions, and laws, which can severally be neither defended in principle nor yet rudely disdained and cast aside.

For not only do custom and habit enable a people, or classes of a people, to work in long-established grooves with the smallest amount of friction and obstruction, but the mere fact of the long existence of a familiar usage so far fashions in its own image the mind and even the conscience of a people that a critical reformer has a hard and unpopular task to perform in assaulting even the most indefensible abuses. The large mass of the people, if disused to political change of any but the most cautious, slow, and tentative kind, have their sentiments of loyalty and reverence outraged by the sudden introduction of what is new and unfamiliar. Their mind has been trained and pruned in such a way as to be unable to conceive, as a mere intellectual notion, a better ordered world than that in which they live. Where too great a disparity, both in sentiments and in intellect, exists between the reformer and the people, or even between different classes of the people *in the same community, it may show that the times are not yet ripe for changes recommended by deference to the claims of logic and of justice.

Instances in point are supplied by the difficulties experienced by the British Indian Government in dealing with such patently immoral institutions as polygamy; by the attachment of the Scotch to a law of marriage which notoriously facilitates the most cruel of frauds; and by the obstacles in all countries to any comprehensive reconstruction of the systems of land-tenure and inheritance, and of civil, and still more of criminal, procedure. These last-mentioned institutions have seldom been radically altered in any country by any process short of revolution, however persuasive the voice of right, of reason, and of utility, in favor of change. So vast is the number of individual persons interested in these classes of matters, so well habituated are they, and consequently so deeply attached, to the recognized forms, usages, or even gestures, customarily in use—many of which are of a public nature and are daily witnessed by all men—that any vital reconstruction seems little short of sacrilege, and the most conclusive reasons in favor of it are scarcely comprehensible.

3. It is needless to point out that the conception of Politics as a Science is much affected by the imperfections of Politics as a practical Art. It is not only by reason of the existence of ineradicable institutions and ideas that the scientific development of political studies is