Slike strani

removal of the cause removes the existing effect, although it may prevent the fresh creation of similar effects. For example, the deposition of a ruler who has exercised his supreme power in an oppressive manner will prevent the continuance of his oppressions, but it will not obliterate the effects of his past misgovernment. The revolution of 1789, which destroyed the system of the old monarchy of France, did not extinguish its enduring consequences; nor were the ill effects of Napoleon's rule cancelled by his dethronement, and detention at St. Helena.

A similar remark may be extended to all laws and political institutions, which influence the texture of society, and produce a certain social state. Whatever creates a national habit or custom, creates an effect which becomes independent of its original cause, and is likely to outlive it. If a law forms a large portion of the community to habits of industry and frugality, or impels them to laziness and improvidence, it produces consequences which will themselves, in their turn, become causes, and act independently of their first origin. Again, not only bad political institutions, but wars, famines, commercial crises, and revolutions, which destroy wealth, and disturb trade and industry, are attended with consequences which survive their temporary cause. They leave a large arrear of loss to be worked off by slow and successive efforts they demolish rapidly, what can only be rebuilt slowly.

A nation long subjected to bad laws, which have vitiated its social system, resembles a chronic patient. The cause may be removed, but the effect is there, and can only be remedied by a long course of regimen and alterative treatment. The effects have become a substantive malady, independent of their origin. If a disease has been caused by any excess, as in eating, drinking, bodily or mental exertion, the first care of the physician will probably be, to put a stop to the bad habit in which the disease has originated. By so doing, he prevents the disease from being aggravated by a repetition of its original stimulus; he cuts off all future augmentation of the evil. But he will not be contented with this prevention of additional ill-he will seek, by proper remedies, to suppress or diminish the disease which



exists, and this disease he will endeavour to counteract by an independent treatment, having no reference to the cessation of its original cause. The subsisting disease has its own appropriate conditions, which, together, constitute its present cause, and against these the physician now directs his measures.

It is after this method that the statesman deals with evils inherent in the structure of society: if he observes that a law which has existed for some time in the country has, on the whole, produced bad effects, and if he believes that it has a continuing tendency to produce similar effects for the future, he attempts to procure its repeal. Should this attempt be successful, he has secured the country against the renewal of those bad effects after the repeal of the law. But he sees that the evil consequences previously produced by the law do not cease with its repeal-it has left permanent marks upon the face of society, and although time would perhaps efface them, he attempts, by other independent measures, to accelerate this gradual process.


§ 3 A question is discussed at some length by Suarez, in his Tractatus de Legibus, whether a law ceases with the cessation of its cause.(2) This is a question which involves an investigation of the circumstances under which a law ceases to be in force, and which scarcely admits of a satisfactory solution, in the very general terms in which it is here proposed. If, by the cause of a law, is meant the legislature or government which enacted it, then the dissolution of that government, by conquest or other means, does not necessarily imply the revocation of its laws. We know by experience that many, if not most, of the laws of a conquered nation are generally retained in force, at least for a time, by the conquerors. The legal relations of the Roman provinces, and of the dependencies of England which have been acquired by conquest, may be cited as examples. But if, by the cause of a law, is meant the ratio legis-the circumstances which led to its enactment, or the mischief to be remedied-then the

(2) L. vi. c. 9: Utrum aliquando lex tota per seipsam cesset causâ ejus cessante.'

extent to which a law may be repealed ipso facto, when those circumstances or that mischief cease to exist, will depend upon the rules respecting the continuance of laws which obtain in each country. The general doctrine of the civilians, quoted by Suarez, is, that when the reason of the law ceases generally throughout the community, the law itself ceases. (3) The doctrine of the English law is different. No English statute can be repealed by a change of circumstances, or by desuetude-it can only be abrogated by the power which enacted it.(*)

(3) Communis consensus est, cessante ratione legis generaliter seu frequentius in totâ communitate, legem cessare.'-Ib. § 5. (4) Dwarris, ib. p. 672.




[ocr errors]




E have, in the seven preceding chapters, examined the subject of political causation, so far as the determination of past causes and effects, and also of special causes and effects, having reference to the future, is concerned. Both these classes of causes relate to a special and definite case, either actual For supposed. We now enter upon the inquiry into general causes and effects; which, being stated in abstract terms, and without reference to any given case, are independent of time, and apply equally to the past and the future. In order to investigate this subject, it is necessary to ascertain the nature of political theory, and to inquire 'how far propositions having a scientific generality can be laid down in politics?


It has been already shown(') that every argument respecting causation in a single instance implies a general proposition, either proved or to be proved. It either assumes a general principle of causation as established, or it proceeds to establish such a principle by an ulterior inductive argument. If a historian alleges certain facts as the cause of any event which he narrates, he either refers this event to an admitted principle of causation; or, if he detects the operation of a cause not before observed, he must be prepared to affirm the possibility of its operation in other similar cases. For example, the person who first perceived, in an individual case, that both parties to a voluntary exchange are, or expect to be, gainers by it; that the succession in a despotic monarchy is accompanied with bloodshed, or that prices rise when

(1) Above, ch. ix. § 7.

the standard of a currency is diminished, and understood the nature of the causation, would unavoidably extend the same principle, by an inductive argument, to other similar instances.

Causation must always be first perceived in a single case, or a few adjacent cases, before it can be extended to a large class. Scientific genius consists in detecting causation in singulars, and in tracing out the general law on which the causation depends. The fall of an apple might suggest to Newton the trains of thought which led him from terrestrial attraction to the law of universal gravitation. In human affairs, likewise, simple transactions of buying and selling, ordinary acts of practical administration or judicature, might suggest to a theorist general principles in economical or political science.

In reasoning upon political causation in individual cases, the general proposition is, indeed, usually assumed, and the difficulty of the argument consists in determining which, out of several causes admitted to be adequate, is the cause in the given instance. For example, the event of which the cause is under investigation may be a popular insurrection, a fall of prices, or a decay of trade; and several causes, each of which is confessedly adequate for the production of the effect, may be assigned for it: the problem will then consist in selecting, out of many concurrent and possible causes, the true antecedent.

Whether, however, we mount to the general principle of causation from an individual instance, or expound the individual instance by applying to it a general principle of causation already established, the process by which the general principle is or has been obtained is the same. It is obtained by an inductive argument, of which the basis is, that whatever is the cause of one individual of a class, is the adequate cause of other individuals of the same class; and the conclusiveness of the argument depends, first, on the sagacity with which the class is formed, and, next, on the subsidiary processes by which the direct inference is tested and confirmed.

Now, in the physical sciences, the detection of the cause in a single instance often leads, by an easy and certain generaliza

[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »