Too Long; Didn't Read
The best friends of the Royal Society have long admitted, whilst they regretted, its declining fame; and even those who support whatever exists, begin a little to doubt whether it might not possibly be amended.
The great and leading cause of the present state to which the Royal Society is reduced, may be traced to years of misrule to which it has been submitted. In order to understand this, it will be necessary to explain the nature of that misrule, and the means employed in perpetuating it.
It is known, that by the statutes, the body of the Society have the power of electing, annually, their President, Officers, and Council; and it is also well known, that this is a merely nominal power, and that printed lists are prepared and put into the hands of the members on their entering the room, and thus passed into the balloting box. If these lists were, as in other scientific societies, openly discussed in the Council, and then offered by them as recommendations to the Society, little inconvenience would arise; but the fact is, that they are private nominations by the President, usually without notice, to the Council, and all the supporters of the system which I am criticizing, endeavour to uphold the right of this nomination in the President, and prevent or discourage any alteration.
The Society has, for years, been managed by a PARTY, or COTERIE, or by whatever other name may be most fit to designate a combination of persons, united by no expressed compact or written regulations, but who act together from a community of principles. That each individual has invariably supported all the measures of the party, is by no means the case; and whilst instances of opposition amongst them have been very rare, a silent resignation to circumstances has been the most usual mode of meeting measures they disapproved. The great object of this, as of all other parties, has been to maintain itself in power, and to divide, as far as it could, all the good things amongst its members. It has usually consisted of persons of very moderate talent, who have had the prudence, whenever they could, to associate with themselves other members of greater ability, provided these latter would not oppose the system, and would thus lend to it the sanction of their name. The party have always praised each other most highly—have invariably opposed all improvements in the Society, all change in the mode of management; and have maintained, that all those who wished for any alteration were factious; and, when they discovered any symptoms of independence and inquiry breaking out in any member of the Council, they have displaced him as soon as they decently could.