by small degrees


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Adv.1.by small degrees - by a short distance; "they moved it by inches"
References in classic literature ?
It should also be known, that it often happens that a free state, where the supreme power is in the laws, may not be democratic, and yet in consequence of the established manners and customs of the people, may be governed as if it was; so, on the other hand, where the laws may countenance a more democratic form of government, these may make the state inclining to an oligarchy; and this chiefly happens when there has been any alteration in the government; for the people do not easily change, but love their own ancient customs; and it is by small degrees only that one thing takes place of another; so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about a revolution in the state.