BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller


Introduction to the study of the law of the constitution

by Albert Venn Dicey

Excerpt:

"one essential rule. . . . It is this, that if ever we should English

"find ourselves disposed not to admire those writers J? TMtltu'

"or artists, Livy and Virgil for instance, Raphael or

"Michael Angelo, whom all the learned had admired,

"not to follow our own fancies, but to study them until

"we know how and what we ought to admire; and if

"we cannot arrive at this combination of admiration

"with knowledge, rather to believe that we are dull,

"than that the rest of the world has been imposed on.

"It is as good a rule, at least, with regard to this ad

:' mired constitution (of England)\ We ought to under

"stand it according to our measure; and to venerate

;' where we are not able presently to comprehend."1

"No unbiassed observer," writes Hallam in 1818, "who derives pleasure from the welfare of his species, "can fail to consider the long and uninterruptedly in"creasing prosperity of England as the most beautiful :' phenomenon in the history of mankind. Climates :' more propitious may impart more largely the mere "enjoyments of existence; but in no other region have

1 Burke, Works, iii. (1872 ed.), p. 114.
B B

"the benefits that political institutions can confer been "diffused over so extended a population; nor have any "people so well reconciled the discordant elements of wealth, order, and liberty. These advantages are '' surely not owing to the soil of this island, nor to the "latitude in which it is placed; but to the spirit of its "laws, from which, through various means, the char"acteristic independence and industriousness of our "nation have been derived. The constitution, there"fore, of England must be to inquisitive men of all "countries, far more to ourselves, an object of superior "interest; distinguished, especially, as it is from all "free governments of powerful nations, which history "has recorded, by its manifesting, after the lapse of "several centuries, not merely no symptom of irre"trievable decay, but a more expansive energy." 1

These two quotations from authors of equal though of utterly different celebrity, recall with singular fidelity the spirit with which our grandfathers and our fathers looked upon the institutions of their country. The constitution was to them, in the quaint language of George the Third, "the most perfect of human formations";2 it was to them not a mere polity to be compared with the government oiany other State, but so to spp.qk a sar.rp.rl mystery of wtjflpamanship; it "had (as we have all heard from our youth up) not been made but had grown "; it was the fruit not of abstract theory but of that instinct which (it is supposed) has enabled Englishmen, and especially un

1 Hallam, Middle Ages (12th ed.), ii. p. 267. Nothing give* a more vivid idea of English sentiment with regard to the constitution towards the end of the eighteenth century than the satirical picture of national pride to be found in Goldsmith's Citizen of the World, Letter IV.

8 See Stanhope, Life, of Pitt, i. App. p. 10.

civilised Englishmen, to build up sound and lasting institutions, much as bees construct a honeycomb, without undergoing the degradation of understanding the principles on which they raise a fabric more subtlely wrought than any work of conscious art. The constitution was marked by more than one transcendent quality which in the eyes of our fathers raised it far above the imitations, counterfeits, or parodies, which have been set up during the last hundred years throughout the civilised world; no precise date could be named as the day of its birth; no definite body of persons could claim to be its creators, no one could point to the document which contained its clauses; it was in short a thing by itself, which Englishmen and foreigners alike should "venerate, where they are not able presently to comprehend."


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