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VII. GENERAL OR UNIVERSAL CONSENT.
What most people agree in believing, is likely to be true in the abstract; but when we can show that a certain opinion is held universally, this is one of the strongest arguments that can be adduced in its support. We must not, however, carry this principle too far; for large multitudes of men have frequently held, and acted on, opinions which proved to be erroneous. But, in general, the rule that “the consent of mankind is the voice of nature," is a sound principle, and one which
many actions and opinions. Thus, one argument to prove the existence of God may be drawn from the universality of this belief; as it is well known that by all men, and in all ages, a belief in a Supreme Being has existed.
The reasoning in the following model is founded upon this principle :
§ No nation can exist with
out a government. The necessity for some form of government has been always so keenly felt, that no community was ever known to exist without it. Its form may, and does, vary
in various countries ; but no human power has ever been strong enough to abolish it altogether. Even in cases of the wildest civil discord, the first thing done by successful revolutionists is to form a new, or at least a provisional, government; for every one feels that without some rule, no man's life would be safe for a moment. It was said by an eminent historian, that men may go without food for twentyfour hours, but that they cannot dispense with a government for that space of time.
The arguments on the propositions in the list below are to be drawn from the principle of general or universal consent.
Propositions proved by general or universal Consent.
1. Virtue is its own reward, and vice its own punish
ment. 2. We should avoid extremes. 3. Wealth has great influence. 4. Do to others as you would be done by. 5. It is never too late to mend. 6. “ Worth makes the man, and want of it the
fellow.” 7. A liar is never to be believed. 8. A marshy country produces fever. 9. Ignorance and crime go hand in hand. 10. “Evil communications corrupt good manners." 11. No man would deal with a known rogue. 12. A large body of men never agree on one subject. 13. Variety is charming. 14. Novelty is the chief pleasure in travelling. 15. Rational beings are responsible for their actions. 16. Trials are the lot of human nature. 17. Pride alienates friends. 18. The most commercial nations are the most wealthy. 19. Virtue alone produces happiness. 20. The young can never be experienced.
Proverbs are short and pithy sentences, containing some moral or practical precept ; it is not generally known who was the author of these sentences; but they are supposed to have originated with the common people, and may be regarded as the result of the experience, and the exponents of the practical wisdom of a nation. Much knowledge of national characteristics may be drawn from the study of proverbs, and they are frequently quoted in order to strengthen a position, or illustrate an opinion in arguing. Thus the expediency of calm deliberation in action may be shown in the proverb, “Most haste, worst speed ;” and the necessity of perseverance is illustrated in the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race," &c.
In the following model the position is supported by a proverb :
Given proposition. Appearances are deceiving.
Most people have a very natural tendency to judge of things as they appear. There is little doubt that the first impression — whether favourable or otherwise - made by the sight of any object is likely to be deep and lasting. Nay, more; this impression may interfere with our judgment of it, even when we are afterwards better acquainted with its nature. But though we may allow something to first impressions, it is most unwise to judge wholly by them, should remember the truth of the proverb, “ All is not gold that glitters."
The pupil is to use the following propositions as subjects to be illustrated by proverbs, as in the above model.
Propositions to be illustrated by Proverbs. 1. The strictest attention should be paid to early
education. 2. It is unwise to take trifles to heart. 3. Let us attend to one thing at a time. 4. We should profit by the present opportunity. 5. Important measures should be well considered. 6. Some good may be found in everything. 7. No pleasure is unmixed with evil. 8. We should not be over confident. 9. No one should attempt a task for which he is unfit. 10. Age brings experience. 11. You may judge of a man's character by his com
panions. 12. The imperfect should not accuse others of imper
fection. 13. Be careful in small matters. 14. Do not talk of what you do not understand. 15. Every one should look after his own business. 16. It is useless to bewail our misfortunes. 17. Desultory study is of no avail. 18. Bad example spreads rapidly. 19. The most wonderful works may be accomplished
by time and perseverance. 20. Defects should be promptly remedied.
IX. SAYINGS OR QUOTATIONS.
It is a common practice with writers to quote passages, or make extracts, from authors of acknowledged
merit; either to throw some light on their own meaning, or support their view of the question before them. This, however, should not be done too frequently by a young writer, as it will partially interfere with that independence of thought which every one should endeavour to attain. Neither is it always necessary that the passage quoted be in the exact words of the original author ; it will be sufficient if the substance of his meaning be given, or even if a passing allusion be made to his general views. But on no occasion should these extracts be lengthy; as this would call away the reader's attention from the subject, and also detract considerably from the writer's originality. Those who are well acquainted with Lord Bacon's “Essays," Shakspere's Plays, or Pope's and Wordsworth's Poems, can never be at a loss for quotations on a great variety of subjects.
The model below will illustrate this form of argument:
Given proposition . . There is some good in everything.
The natural tendency to extremes from which few minds are altogether free, has led many people to imagine that some conditions in life are wholly and unqualifiedly evil. But this is an error; it seems a law of nature that all things should be a mixture of good and evil. Indeed, what is called good, means that in which good preponderates; and what is generally termed evil, means whatever we find possessing evil qualities which more than counterbalance the good. Thus, the best characters have their defects;