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It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.

  1. Can I reorder it as "Yet this government never furthered any enterprise [of itself], but [furthered the enterprise] by the alacrity, with [the alacrity] it got out of its way"?
  2. What does "alacrity" mean here? and "by the alacrity"?
  • The government never took steps to further an enterprise except by quickly stepping aside so as not to impede the progress of that enterprise. never of itself modifies "the government furthered". Never of itself did the government further any enterprise... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 3 '17 at 9:32
  • by the alacrity with which it [the govt] got out of its [the enterprise's] way. That prepositional phrase also modifies "the government furthered an enterprise". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 3 '17 at 9:37
  • The pattern: X never did Y except by doing Z. X never did Y but by doing Z. (but is a synonym of except there) – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 3 '17 at 9:40
  • Consider: He helped by bringing the paint and brushes. The by-phrase describes the manner of his helping. He never helped with the work except by bringing the paint and brushes. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 3 '17 at 9:44
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He ate the food quickly, and by that, I knew he was very hungry.

He ate the food with great speed, and by that, I knew he was very hungry.

with great speed is a prepositional phrase with a noun-phrase as the object of with. It means "quickly" and works like an adverb to modify "he ate the food". It gives info about the manner of the eating of the food.

The by-phrase modifies the main clause; it expresses how I knew, the means by which I knew. When we want to make that noun-phrase "great speed" the object of by we must relocate with and use a relative:

I knew he was very hungry by the great speed with which he ate the food.

By the great speed with which he ate the food, I knew he was very hungry.

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