The last time that I had the honour of reading a paper before this Association, I was told with some asperity by one of the subsequent speakers that the subject was not new, and that he himself had dealt with it some years before. It is better, therefore, that I should at once proclaim that the subject that I propose to deal with in the present paper is by no means new. It has been dealt with years ago by a sister Society, and it is dealt with every year by our own Association in our statistical tables. I venture to submit, however, that there is no necessary obligation upon any member of this or of any other learned body to confine his attention to matters that have never been dealt with before. It is not competent, I submit, to any member to draw a line round any department of knowledge, and to cry to all comers “Hands off! This is my preserve, and trespassers will be prosecuted.” Surely if we think, however presumptuously and erroneously, that we can see a way to advance knowledge in any particular direction or by any particular method, we need not be deterred from doing our best by the knowledge that the field we propose to till is not wholly unreclaimed ground, but has already been under cultivation to some extent.
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