Across the Zodiac eBook

Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 587 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.

“Scientific controversies,” he replied, “enlist our strongest and angriest feelings.  It is held that only wickedness or lunacy can resist the evidence that has convinced a vast majority.  By arithmetical calculation the chances that twelve men are wrong and twelve thousand [11] right, on a matter of inductive or deductive proof, are found to amount to what must be taken for practical certainty; and when the twelve still hold out, they are regarded as madmen or knaves, and treated accordingly by their fellows.  If it be thought desirable to invoke a legal settlement of the issue, a council of all the overseers of our scientific colleges is called, and its decision is by law irrevocable and infallible, especially if ratified by the popular voice.  And if a majority vote be worth anything at all, I think this modern theory at least as sound as the democratic theory of politics which prevailed here before the Communistic revolution, and which seems by your account to be gaining ground on Earth.”

“And what,” I inquired, “is your political constitution?  What are the powers of your rulers; and how, in the absence of public discussion and popular suffrage, are they practically limited?”

“In theory they are unlimited,” he answered; “in practice they are limited by custom, by caution, and, above all, by the lack of motives for misrule.  The authority of each prince over those under him, from the Sovereign to the local president or captain, is absolute.  But the Executive leaves ordinary matters of civil or criminal law to the Courts of Justice.  Cases are tried by trained judges; the old democratic usage of employing untrained juries having been long ago discarded, as a worse superstition than simple decision by lot.  The lot is right twelve times in two dozen; the jury not oftener than half-a-dozen times.  The judges don’t heat or bias their minds by discussion.  They hear all that can be elicited from parties, accuser, accused, and witnesses, and all that skilled advocates can say.  Then the secretary of the Court draws up a summary of the case, each judge takes it home to consider, each writes out his judgment, which is read by the secretary, none but the author knowing whose it is.  If the majority be five to two, judgment is given; if less, the case is tried again before a higher tribunal of twice as many judges.  If no decision can be reached, the accused is acquitted for the time, or, in a civil dispute, a compromise is imposed.  The rulers cannot, without incurring such general anger as would be fatal to their power, disregard our fundamental laws.  Gross tyranny to individuals is too dangerous to be carried far.  It is a capital crime for any but the officers of the Sovereign and of the twelve Regents to possess the fearfully destructive weapons that brought our last wars to an end.  But any man, driven to desperation, can construct and use similar weapons so easily that no ruler will drive a man to such revengeful despair.  Again,

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Across the Zodiac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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