Brehon Law | Irish History and Genealogy
For instance, the author’s first fundamental principle is, that the successive changes which take place in human affairs are no more left to chance “in the moral than in the physical world, but that the progress of society, social, moral, and political, together with the whole train of events which compose the history of the human race, are as much the effect of certain fixed laws as the motions of the planets or the rotation of the seasons.” [P. 2] His second principle is, that the changes in political institutions are the effects of previous changes in the condition of society and of the human mind. It may truly be said, that whoever knows these two principles, possesses more of the science of politics than was known even to eminent thinkers fifty years ago.
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It is needless to dwell on differences in opinion between Mill and Tocqueville, since the dissimilarities are less important than what the men shared in common, Mill saw Tocqueville as he saw himself—a leader in the great transition of thought between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and a contributor of social insights and ideas to those who desired for Europe a new liberal age. In his he described how Tocqueville more effectively than any other contemporary depicted the virtues of democracy as well as its perils. He admitted that his French friend reinforced his own fears about the political tyranny of popular opinion and influenced him in shifting his ideal from that of pure democracy to its modified form later presented in Both men observed in America harsh forms of popular tyranny, not in laws, but in what Mill called the dispensing power over all law. “The people of Massachusetts,” he remarked, “passed no law prohibiting Roman Catholic schools, or exempting Protestants from the penalties of incendiarism; they contented themselves with burning the Ursuline convent to the ground, aware that no jury would be found to redress the injury” (177). In these cases popular tyranny was expressed not merely in the action of mobs, incited by the passions of religion, party, or race, but by the inability of the administrative and judicial organs to work effectively owing to their direct dependence on popular opinion.
If protection against themselves is confessedly due to children and persons under age, is not society equally bound to afford it to persons of mature years who are equally incapable of self-government? If gambling, or drunkenness, or incontinence, or idleness, or uncleanliness, are as injurious to happiness, and as great a hindrance to improvement, as many or most of the acts prohibited by law, why (it may be asked) should not law, so far as is consistent with practicability and social convenience, endeavour to repress these also? And as a supplement to the unavoidable imperfections of law, ought not opinion at least to organize a powerful police against these vices, and visit rigidly with social penalties those who are known to practise them?