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The History Sets Out. Observations On The Excellency Of The English
Constitution And Curious Examinations Before A Justice Of Peace.
On the first of April, in the year ----, the watchmen of a certain parish (I know not
particularly which) within the liberty of Westminster brought several persons
whom they had apprehended the preceding night before Jonathan Thrasher,
Esq., one of the justices of the peace for that liberty.
But here, reader, before we proceed to the trials of these offenders, we shall,
after our usual manner, premise some things which it may be necessary for thee
to know.
It hath been observed, I think, by many, as well as the celebrated writer of three
letters, that no human institution is capable of consummate perfection. An
observation which, perhaps, that writer at least gathered from discovering some
defects in the polity even of this well-regulated nation. And, indeed, if there
should be any such defect in a constitution which my Lord Coke long ago told us
"the wisdom of all the wise men in the world, if they had all met together at one
time, could not have equalled," which some of our wisest men who were met
together long before said was too good to be altered in any particular, and which,
nevertheless, hath been mending ever since, by a very great number of the said
wise men: if, I say, this constitution should be imperfect, we may be allowed, I
think, to doubt whether any such faultless model can be found among the
institutions of men.
It will probably be objected, that the small imperfections which I am about to
produce do not lie in the laws themselves, but in the ill execution of them; but,
with submission, this appears to me to be no less an absurdity than to say of any
machine that it is excellently made, though incapable of performing its functions.
Good laws should execute themselves in a well-regulated state; at least, if the
same legislature which provides the laws doth not provide for the execution of
them, they act as Graham would do, if he should form all the parts of a clock in
the most exquisite manner, yet put them so together that the clock could not go.
In this case, surely, we might say that there was a small defect in the constitution
of the clock.
To say the truth, Graham would soon see the fault, and would easily remedy it.
The fault, indeed, could be no other than that the parts were improperly
Perhaps, reader, I have another illustration which will set my intention in still a
clearer light before you. Figure to yourself then a family, the master of which