Edward Spencer Beesly

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Edward Spencer Beesly (23 January 1831 – 7 March 1915) was an English historian, professor of history at University College London, and editor of the Positivist Review.


  • We are all of us accustomed to exaggerate the successes and magnify the prospects of the cause we favor. It is a habit arising mainly from a desire to convert others to our way of thinking, and since by far the largest part of mankind not only submit to the accomplished fact as soon as it is recognised, but accept it as satifactory, we are tempted to resort to this method of conversion as the most potent and expeditious. In proportion, however, as the prestige created is ill-founded, it is sure to be followed by discouragement and reaction. A cause which has solid elements of strength, is best served in the long run by unexaggerated estimates of its past, and sober forecasts of its future.
  • In an English court of justice every effort is made to narrow down the discussion to a simple issue of fact. Every irrelevant allegation on either side is jealously excluded by the presiding judge. Usage and public opinion prescribe a course to the jury from which they cannot deviate; though even in England, on political trials, the animus of jurymen leads them sometimes to disregard the evidence. But at Rome, a State trial, though technically relating to a specified act, virtually dealt with the whole life of the accused. Nor was this all. The jury looked on it as their duty to take into consideration other circumstances which we should deem still more foreign to the question. Among these notoriously was the political bearing their verdict would have. A Roman jury never forgot that it was in some sort a committee of the Legislative Assembly.
  • The government, worship, and doctrine of the Established Church are the most abiding works left by Elizabeth on the national life of England. Logically it might have been expected that the settlement of doctrine would precede that of government and worship. It is characteristic of a State Church that the inverse order should have been followed. For the Queen the most important question was Church government; for the people, worship.
    • Queen Elizabeth. London: Macmillan & Co. 1892. p. 14.  (1st edition 1888)

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