Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/278

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264
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

This double difficulty of thought, with the double set of delusions fallen into by those who do not surmount it, is, indeed, naturally associated with the once-universal, and still-general, belief that societies arise by manufacture, instead of arising, as they do, by evolution. Recognize the truth that aggregates of men, like other aggregates, grow, and acquire their structural characters through a process of modification upon modification, and there are excluded these antithetical errors that man remains the same and that man is readily alterable; and along with exclusion of these errors comes admission of the inference that the changes which have brought social arrangements to a form so different from past forms will in future carry them on to forms as different from those now existing. Once become habituated to the thought of a continuous unfolding of the whole and of each part, and these misleading ideas disappear. Take a word and observe how, while changing, it gives origin in course of time to a family of words, each changing member of which similarly has progeny; take a custom, as that of giving eggs at Easter, which has now developed in Paris into the fashion of making expensive presents of every imaginable kind enclosed in imitation-eggs, becoming at length large enough to contain a brougham, and which entails so great a tax that people go abroad to evade it; take a law, once quite simple and made to meet a special case, and see how it eventually, by successive additions and changes, grows up into a complex group of laws, as, out of two statutes of William the Conqueror came our whole system of statutes regulating land-tenure;[1] take a social appliance, like the press, and see how from the news-letter, originally private and written, and then assuming the shape of a printed fly-leaf to a written private letter, there has, little by little, evolved this vast assemblage of journals and periodicals, daily, weekly, general, and local, that have, individually and as an aggregate, grown in size while growing in heterogeneity—do this, and do the like with all other established institutions, agencies, products, and there will come naturally the conviction that now, too, there are various germs of things which will in the future develop in ways no one imagines and take shares in profound transformations of society and of its members—transformations that are hopeless as immediate results, but certain as ultimate results.

Try to fit a hand with five fingers into a glove with four. Your difficulty aptly parallels the difficulty of putting a complex conception into a mind not having an adequately complex faculty. In proportion as the several terms and relations which make up a thought become numerous and varied, there must be brought into play numerous and varied parts of the intellectual structure, before the thought can be comprehended; and, if some of these parts are wanting, only fragments of the thought, and not the thought as a whole, can be taken in. Con-

  1. Reeves, "History of English Law," vol. i., pp. 34-36 (second edition).