S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Most of our fellow-subjects are guided either by the prejudice of education, or by a deference to the judgment of those who, perhaps, in their own hearts, disapprove the opinions which they industriously spread among the multitude.
With regard to authority, it is the greatest weakness to attribute infinite credit to particular authors, and to refuse his own judgment to Time, the author of all authors, and therefore of all authority.
The vices of authority are chiefly four: delays, corruption, roughness, and facility. For delays give easy access; keep times appointed; go through with that which is in hand, and interlace not business but of necessity. For corruption doth not only bind thine own hands or thy servants from taking, but bind the hands of suitors also from offering: for integrity used doth the one; but integrity professed, and with a manifest detestation of bribery, doth the other; and avoid not only the fault, but the suspicion. Whosoever is found variable, and changeth manifestly without manifest cause, giveth suspicion of corruption: therefore, always, when thou changest thine opinion or course, profess it plainly, and declare it, together with the reasons that move thee to change, and do not think to steal it. A servant or a favourite, if he be inward, and no other apparent cause of esteem, is commonly thought but a by-way to close corruption. For roughness, it is a needless cause of discontent: severity breedeth fear, but roughness breedeth hate. Even reproofs from authority ought to be grave, and not taunting. As for facility, it is worse than bribery; for bribes come but now and then; but if importunity or idle respects lead a man, he shall never be without; as Solomon saith, To respect persons it is not good, for such a man will transgress for a piece of bread.
With respect to the authority of great names, it should be remembered that he alone deserves to have any weight or influence with posterity, who has shown himself superior to the particular and predominant error of his own times; who, like the peak of Teneriffe, has hailed the intellectual sun before its beams have reached the horizon of common minds; who, standing, like Socrates, on the apex of wisdom, has removed from his eyes all film of earthly dross, and has foreseen a purer law, a nobler system, a brighter order of things; in short, a promised land! which, like Moses on the top of Pisgah, he is permitted to survey, and anticipate for others, without being himself allowed either to enter or to enjoy.
Mankind are apt to be strongly prejudiced in favour of whatever is countenanced by antiquity, enforced by authority, and recommended by custom. The pleasure of acquiescing in the decision of others is by most men so much preferred to the toil and hazard of inquiry, and so few are either able or disposed to examine for themselves, that the voice of law will generally be taken for the dictates of justice.