Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/195

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


BALFOUR

mainly for this reason — that while the recog- nition of the reign of the law is the chief among the pleasures imparted by science, our inevitable ignorance makes it the least among the pleasures imparted by history.

It is no doubt true that we are surrounded by advisers who tell us that all study of the past is barren except in so far as it enables us to determine the laws by which the evolution of human societies is governed. How far such an investigation has been up to the present time fruitful in results I will not inquire. That it will ever enable us to trace with accuracy the course which States and nations are destined to pursue in the future, or to account in detail for their history in the past, I do not believe.

We are borne along like travelers on some unexplored stream. We may know enough of the general configuration of the globe to be sure that we are making our way toward the ocean. We may know enough by experience or theory of the laws regulating the flow of liquids, to conjecture how the river will behave under the varying influences to which it may be subject. More than this we can not know. It will de- pend largely upon causes which, in relation to any laws which we are ever likely to discover, may properly be called accidental, whether we are destined sluggishly to drift among fever- stricken swamps, to hurry down perilous rapids, or to glide gently through fair scenes of peace- ful cultivation.

167

�� �