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Conclusions - Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Pubic Opinion during the 19th Century (2nd ed. 1919) 
Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (London: Macmillan, 1919). 2nd edition.
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What then are the inferences which can be drawn from the rapid growth of collectivism and the force of the circumstances, feelings, or beliefs which in England oppose its further progress?
One assertion may be made with confidence. It is that the prevalence of inconsistent social and political ideals (which often by the way co-exist in the mind of one and the same person) is full of peril to our country. For it is more than possible that English legislation may, through this inconsistency of thought, combine disastrously the defects of socialism with the defects of democratic government. Any grand scheme of social reform, based on the real or supposed truths of socialism, ought to be carried out by slow and well-considered steps taken under the guidance of the best and the most impartial of experts. But the democratic idea that the people, or any large number of the people, ought to have whatever they desire simply because they desire it, and ought to have it quickly, is absolutely fatal to that slow and sure kind of progress which alone has the remotest chance of producing fundamental and beneficial social changes. Democratic legislation, on the other hand, ought to have the advantage of harmonising with, or at any rate not going much beyond, the public opinion of a given time. But this harmony between law and sentiment is easily contemned by socialists, who feel that they know better than do the electors of England what is really for the good of the English people. Hence it is all but certain that great changes planned by enthusiasts will, if they seem to be popular, be carried out with haste and without due consideration as to the choice of the means proper to obtain a given end, and, on the other hand, that on some occasions a party of self - called reformers will force on the electors changes which, whether good or bad, are opposed to the genuine convictions of the people. All that it is necessary to insist upon is that either blunder is likely to cause huge loss, and it may be ruin, to England. This is a matter of ominous significance.
Another line of reflection is absolutely forced upon a student of recent legislation. The socialists of England who desire “the abolition of the wage system,”1 are, he will see, aiming at a fundamental revolution in the whole condition of English society. The change may be the most beneficial of reforms or the most impracticable of ideals. But in any case it will involve a severe conflict, and a conflict which may last not for years, but for generations. The arduousness of the fight is certain. Englishmen, and especially that class of Englishmen who will have to pay the immense sums, and make the large sacrifices required for carrying out the revolution longed for by enthusiastic socialists, will offer the most stubborn opposition to a change which touches the very foundation of existing society. To Englishmen at least it is one thing to assent to the removal of definite and assignable grievances, it is quite another thing to sanction a course of unlimited innovation justified rather by the feelings and the hopes than by the arguments of its advocates. It is equally certain that the revolution to which socialism points cannot be worked out until the lapse of a long period of time. The social transformation of the modern world must be compared both in its importance and in its difficulty with the Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or with the French Revolution. The Reformation represented a conflict extending over at least 130 years, the French Revolution can hardly even now be said to have reached its close, and, if we consider it as ended, has covered more than 100 years. In 1789 the best and wisest men in Europe expected from political reforms results as fundamental and as beneficial as any Englishman with leanings towards socialism can expect from social reforms.1 In the one case we know, and in the other case we may conjecture that the expectations of reformers have been based to a large extent on the failure to understand the nature of man.
The last reflection which I will venture to suggest inevitably takes the form of a question. What are the hopes which a reasonable man may cherish with regard to the progress of collectivism in England? Unless he be a person of astoundingly sanguine temperament it would be difficult for him not to perceive that the combination of socialistic and democratic legislation threatens the gravest danger to the country. One may go a step further than this, and point out that if you look to the course of English history, founded as it is on individualism, or to the actual condition of English society, based, as it is, on the ideas suitable to the greatest of commercial communities, the transformation of England into a socialistic State looks like an absolute impossibility. But this fact does not preclude—it really favours—the anticipation that definite reforms of law or custom, and still more of feeling, which are now advocated on more or less socialistic grounds, may be adopted with success by Englishmen. The possible fulfilment of this hope rests upon the assumption that democracy in its best form can become a government which at any rate tries to look, not to the interest of a class, even though the class be made up of the greater number and the poorest among the inhabitants of England, but to the interest of the whole nation. We must assume, we must indeed hope, that the socialists of England will accept the profoundly true dictum of Gabrielle Tarde that “a socialist party can, but a working man’s party cannot, be in the great current of progress.”1 For a party of socialists may aim at the benefit of the whole State, a labour party seeks the benefit of a class. English democracy now knows its power, as English kings knew their power in the Middle Ages, as the English nobility knew its power after the Revolution of 1688, as the middle class knew its power between 1832 and 1866. This historical retrospect suggests much hope. The best of our kings, the most sagacious of our nobility, the most humane and the most prudent of our middle class did, though they each often displayed gross ignorance and marked selfishness, try honestly to govern with a view to the welfare of the whole country. It is to be hoped rather than expected that the English democracy may, under great temptations to err, display as much public virtue as the nobles of 1688 or the ten-pound householders of 1832. On the question whether our hope is well founded the opinion of intelligent and not unsympathetic foreigners is better worth attention than can be the judgment of any Englishman affected, as it must be, by the political sympathies and conflicts of the day. Mr. Lowell has studied the English Constitution more thoroughly than have most Englishmen. He has also carried the analysis of public opinion in England and in the United States a step further than any recent writer. Now of our country he says, “the political system of England, which was never that of an absolute monarchy, and has never become quite a democracy of the traditional type but has ever carried the forms of one age over into the next, and thus combined some of their virtues.”1 These words hint at the aspirations of a reasonable Englishman; it may be hoped that we may carry the individualistic virtues and laws of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, and there blend them with the socialistic virtues of a coming age. Mr. Charles W. Eliot, the eminent predecessor at Harvard of President Lowell, suggests to a certain extent the mode by which this end may be accomplished. He believes and preaches that, without any tremendous legal change, the social unrest, the existence whereof every one acknowledges, can gradually be put an end to, if we come to the conclusion arrived at by him after studying for a good many years the question of content in labour, that “the conditions of content in labour, which I have enjoyed personally, are those which all labouring people ought to enjoy.”2 Weigh now the words of an eminent German professor who has carefully studied the economic history of England and recognises the development of socialistic ideas among modern Englishmen: “Economic liberalism taught England to believe in the rights and greatest possible development of the individual; to regard each man as equal before the Law, and to display toleration towards the opinions of others, whether in politics or in religion; to place the same social value on all professions, and to respect what other nations and races hold holy. To other nations these and other characteristics of Liberal culture are still novel and unfamiliar. The Englishman will not lose them even under a new social system, for they have become an integral part of his national character.”1 The hopes suggested by these foreign observers of our public life are confirmed by the whole history of England. It has condemned violent revolution, but has favoured the gradual reform or abolition of admitted defects in a tolerable state of society. Englishmen are likely, therefore, to favour the gradual amendment of a social condition as good as, and possibly sounder than, the condition of any other large European country. To this consideration may be added the confidence that the increased sympathy assuredly now felt by the best men and women of England with the wants of the poorer classes will facilitate wise legislation, and create or restore “the conditions of labour under which the labourer may reasonably be expected to be contented, efficient, and happy.” Here, however, we approach the realm of prophecy. A prudent man will in these circumstances do well to adopt as his conclusion the words of Alexis de Tocqueville:
“Le socialisme restera-t-il enseveli dans le mépris qui couvre si justement les socialistes de 1848? Je fais cette question sans y répondre. Je ne doute pas que les lois constitutives de notre société moderne ne soient fort modifiées à la longue; elles l’ont déjà été dans beaucoup de leurs parties principales, mais arrivera-t-on jamais à les détruire et à en mettre d’autres à la place? Cela me paraît impraticable. Je ne dis rien de plus, car, à mesure que j’étudie davantage l’état ancien du monde, et que je vois plus en détail le monde même de nos jours; quand je considère la diversité prodigieuse, qui s’y rencontre, non seulement parmi les lois, mais parmi les principes des lois, et les différentes formes qu’a prises et que retient, même aujourd’hui, quoi qu’on en dise, le droit de propriété sur la terre, je suis tenté de croire que ce qu’on appelle les institutions nécessaires ne sont souvent que les institutions auxquelles on est accoutumé, et qu’en matière de constitution sociale, le champ du possible est bien plus vaste que les hommes qui vivent dans chaque société ne se l’imaginent.”1
LECTURES ON THE RELATION BETWEEN LAW AND PUBLIC OPINION IN ENGLAND
[1 ]See Industrial Unrest and Trade Union Policy, by Charles Booth, pp. 15-21.
[1 ]Englishmen of the twentieth century can hardly believe in the wildness of the hopes originally excited by the French Revolution. The shortest and by far the most impressive picture of the boundless expectations “of better days to all mankind” formed by men of sense and judgment is to be found in Books IX-XI of Wordsworth’s Prelude.
[1 ]Tarde, Les Transformations du pouvoir, p. 258. “Toute politique qui se propose le triomphe exclusif d’une classe ou d’une caste, fût-ce de la classe ou de la caste la plus nombreuse et la plus déshéritée, est rétrograde au premier chef. Un parti socialiste peut être dans le grand courant du progrès; un parti ouvrier non.”
[1 ]A. L. Lowell, Public Opinion and Popular Government, p. 295.
[2 ]Successful Profit-Sharing, by Charles W. Eliot. The same view seems to me practically adopted in Industrial Unrest and Trade Union Policy, by Charles Booth.
[1 ]Economic Liberalism, by Hermann Levy, Ph.D., p. 124.
[1 ]Souvenirs d’Alexis de Tocqueville (Paris, 1893), pp. 111 and 112.