« AnteriorContinuar »
all he has proved, that it is for the interest of the people to respect property, he only makes matters worse, by proving that they understand their interests. But we cannot refrain from treating our readers with a delicious bonne bouche of wisdom, which he has kept for the last moment.
"The opinions of that class of the people who are below the middle rank are formed, and their minds are directed, by that intelligent, that virtuous rank, who come the most immediately in contact with them, who are in the constant habit of intimate communication with them, to whom they fly for advice and assistance in all their numerous difficulties, upon whom they feel an immediate and daily dependence in health and in sickness, in infancy and in old age, to whom their children look up as models for their imitation, whose opinions they hear daily repeated, and account it their honour to adopt. There can be no doubt that the middle rank, which gives to science, to art, and to legislation itself, their most distinguished orna ments, and is the chief source of all that has exalted and refined human nature, is that portion of the commuuity, of which, if the basis of representation were ever so far extended, the opinion would ultimately decide. Of the people beneath them, a vast majority would be sure to be guided by their advice and example "
This single paragraph is sufficient to upset Mr. Mills theory. Will the people act against their own interest? Or will the middle rank act against its own interest? Or is the interest of the middle rank identical with the interest of the people? If the people act according to the directions of the middle rank, as Mr. Mill says that they assuredly will, one of these three questions must be answered in the affirmative. But if any one of the three be answered in the affirmative, his whole system falls to the ground. If the interest of the middle rank be identical with that of the people, why should not the powers of government be intrusted to that rank? If the powers of government were intrusted to that rank, there would evidently be an aristocracy of wealth; and "to constitute an aristocracy of wealth, though it were a very numerous one, would," according to Mr. Mill, leave the community without protection, and exposed to all the "evils of unbridled power." Will not the same motives which induce the middle classes to abuse one of kind of power, induce them to abuse another? If their interest be the same with that of the people, they will govern the people well. If it be opposite to that of the people, they will advise the people ill. The system of universal suffrage, therefore, according to Mr. Mill's own account, is only a device for doing circuitously what a representative system, with a pretty high qualification, would do directly.
So ends the celebrated essay. And such is this philosophy, for which the experience of three thousand years is to be discarded; this philosophy, the professors of which speak as if it had guided the world to the knowledge of navigation and alphabetical writing; as if, before its dawn, the inhabitants of Europe had lived in caverns and eaten each other! We VOL. V.-86
are sick, it seems, like the children of Israel, of the objects of our old and legitimate worship. We pine for a new idolatry. All that is costly and all that is ornamental in our intellectual treasures must be delivered up, and cast into the furnace-and there comes out this calf!
Our readers can scarcely mistake our object in writing this article. They will not suspect us of any disposition to advocate the cause of absolute monarchy, or of any narrow form of oligarchy, or to exaggerate the evils of po pular government. Our object at present is, not so much to attack or defend any particular system of polity, as to expose the vices of a kind of reasoning utterly unfit for moral and political discussions; of a kind of reasoning which may so readily be turned to purposes of falsehood, that it ought to receive no quarter, even when by accident it may be employed on the side of truth.
Our objection to the essay of Mr. Mill is fundamental. We believe that it is utterly impossible to deduce the science of govern. ment from the principles of human nature.
What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely and universally true? We know of only one; and that is not only true, but identical; that men always act from self-interest. This truism the Utilitarians proclaim with as much pride as if it were rew and as much zeal as if it were important. But in fact, when explained, it means only that men, if they can, will do as they choose When we see the actions of a man, we know with certainty what he thinks his interest to be But it is impossible to reason with certainty from what we take to be his interest to his actions. One man goes without a dinner, that he may add a shilling to a hundred thousand pounds: another runs in debt to give balls and masquerades. One man cuts his father's throat to get possession of his old clothes: another hazards his own life to save that of an enemy. One man volunteers on a forlorn hope: another is drummed out of a regiment for cowardice. Each of these men has, no doubt, acted from self-interest. But we gain nothing by knowing this, except the pleasure, if it be one, of multiplying useless words. In fact, this principle is just as recondite, and just as important, as the great truth, that whatever is, is. If a philosopher were always to state facts in the following form-"There is a shower: but whatever is, is; therefore, there is a shower," his reasoning would be perfectly sound; but we do not apprehend that it would materially enlarge the circle of human knowledge. Ad it is equally idle to attribute any importance to a proposition, which, when interpreted, means only that a man had rather do what he had rather do.
If the doctrine that men always act from self-interest be laid down in any other sense than this-if the meaning of the word selfinterest be narrowed so as to exclude any one of the motives which may by possibility act on any human being,-the proposition ceases to be identical; but at the same time it ceases to be true.
What we have said of the word "self-inte
rest" applies to all the synonymes and circum- | about the whole species, the impossibility of locutions which are employed to convey the answering is still more evident. Man differs same meaning; pain and pleasure, happiness from man; generation from generation; naand misery, objects of desire, and so forth. tion from nation. Education, station, sex, age, accidental associations, produce infinite shades of variety.
The whole art of Mr. Mill's essay consists in one simple trick of legerdemain. It consists in using words of the sort which we have been describing, first in one sense and then in another. Men will take the objects of their desire if they can. Unquestionably-but this is an identical proposition: for an object of desire means merely a thing which a man will procure if he can. Nothing can possibly be inferred from a maxim of this kind. When we see a man take something, we shall know that it was an object of his desire. But till then, we have no means of judging with certainty what he desires, or what he will take. The general proposition, however, having been admitted, Mr. Mill proceeds to reason as if men had no desires but those which can be gratified only by spoiliation and oppression. It then becomes easy to deduce doctrines of vast importance from the original axiom. The only misfortune is, that by thus narrowing the meaning of the word desire, the axiom becomes false, and all the doctrines consequent upon it are false likewise.
Now, the only mode in which we can con ceive it possible to deduce a theory of government from the principles of human nature, is this. We must find out what are the motives which, in a particular form of government, impel rulers to bad measures, and what are those which impel them to good measures. We must then compare the effect of the two classes of motives; and according as we find the one or the other to prevail, we must pronounce the form of government in question good or bad.
Now let it be supposed that, in aristocrat.ca! and monarchical states, the desire of wealth, and other desires of the same class, always tend to produce misgovernment, and that the love of approbation, and other kindred feelings, always tend to produce good government Then, if it be impossible, as we have shown that it is, to pronounce generally which of the two classes of motives is the more influential, it is impossible to find out, a priori, whether a monarchical or aristocratical form of government be good or bad.
Mr. Mill has avoided the difficulty of making the comparison, by very coolly putting all the weights into one of the scales,-by reasoning as if no human being had ever sympathized with the feelings, been gratified by the thanks, or been galled by the execrations, of another.
When we pass beyond those maxims which it is impossible to deny without a contradiction in terms, and which, therefore, do not enable us to advance a single step in practical knowledge, we do not believe that it is possible to lay down a single general rule respecting the motives which influence human actions. There is nothing which may not, by association or by comparison, become an object either of desire or of aversion. The fear of death is generally considered as one of the strongest of our feelings. It is the most formidable sanction which legislators have been able to devise. Yet it is notorious that, as Lord Bacon has observed, there is no passion by which that fear has not been often overcome. Physical pain is indisputably an evil; yet it has been often endured, and even welcomed. Innumerable martyrs have exulted in torments which made the spectators shudder; and, to use a more homely illustration, there are few wives who do not long to be mothers.
The case, as we have put it, is decisive against Mr. Mill; and yet we have put it in a manner far too favourable to him. For in fact, it is impossible to lay it down as a general rule, that the love of wealth in a sovereign always produces misgovernment, or the love of approbation good government. A patient and far-sighted ruler, for example, who is less desirous of raising a great sum immediately, than of securing an unencumbered and progressive revenue, will, by taking off restraints from trade, and giving perfect security to property, encourage accumulation, and entice capital from foreign countries. The commercial policy of Prussia, which is perhaps superior to that of any government in the world, and which puts to shame the absurdities of our republican brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, has probably sprung from the desire of an absolute ruler to enrich himself. On the other hand, when the popular estimate of virtues and vices is erroneous, which is too often the case, the love of appro
Is the love of approbation a stronger motive than the love of wealth? It is impossible to answer this question generally, even in the case of an individual with whom we are very intimate. We often say, indeed, that a man loves fame more than money, or money more than fame. But this is said in a loose and popular sense; for there is scarcely a man who would not endure a few sneers for a great sum of money, if he were in pecuniary dis-bation leads sovereigns to spend the wealth of tress; and scarcely a man, on the other hand, the nation on useless shows, or to engage in who, if he were in flourishing circumstances, wanton and destructive wars. If, then, we can would expose himself to the hatred and con- neither compare the strength of two motives, tempt of the public for a trifle. In order, there- nor determine with certainty to what descripfore, to return a precise answer, even about a tion of actions either motive will lead, how can single human being, we must know what is the we possibly deduce a theory of government amount of the sacrifice of reputation demand- from the nature of man? ed, and of the pecuniary advantage offered, and in what situation the person to whom the temptation is proposed stands at the time. But when the question is propounded generally
How, then, are we to arrive at just conclusions on a subject so important to the happiness of mankind? Surely by that method which, in every experimental science to which
it has been applied, has signally increased the power and knowledge of our species,-by that method for which our new philosophers would substitute quibbles scarcely worthy of barbarous respondents and opponents of the middle ages, by the method of induction;-by observing the present state of the world,-by assiduously studying the history of past ages, by sifting the evidence of facts,-by carefully combining and contrasting those which are authentic,-by generalizing with judgment and diffidence, by perpetually bringing the theory which we have constructed to the test of new facts, by correcting, or altogether abandoning it, according as those new facts prove it to be partially or fundamentally unsound. Proceeding thus,-patiently, diligently, candidly,-we may hope to form a system as far inferior in pretensions to that which we have been examining, and as far superior to it in real utility, as the prescriptions of a great physician, vary ing with every stage of every malady, and with the constitution of every patient, to the pill of the advertising quack, which is to cure all human beings, in all climates, of all diseases.
This is that noble science of politics, which is equally removed from the barren theories of the Utilitarian sophists, and from the petty craft, so often mistaken for statesmanship by minds grown narrow in habits of intrigue, jobbing, and official etiquette;-which, of all ences, is the most important to the welfare
of nations,—which, of all sciences, most tends to expand and invigorate the mind,-which draws nutriment and ornament from every part of philosophy and literature, and dispenses, in return, nutriment and ornament to all. We are sorry and surprised when we see men of good intentions and good natural abilities abandon this healthful and generous study, to pore over speculations like those which we have been examining. And we should heartily rejoice to find that our remarks had induced any person of this description, to employ, in researches of real utility, the talents and industry which are now wasted on verbal sophisms, wretched of their wretched kind.
As to the greater part of the sect, it is, we apprehend, of little consequence, what they study, or under whom. It would be more amusing, to be sure, and more reputable, if they would take up the old republican cant, and declaim about Brutus and Timoleon, the duty of killing tyrants, and the blessedness of dying for liberty. But, on the whole, they might have chosen worse. They may as well be Utilitarians as jockeys or dandies. And though quibbling about self-interest and motives, and objects of desire, and the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is but a poor employment for a grown man, it certainly hurts the health less than hard drinking, and the fortune less than high play: it is not much more laughable than phrenology, and is immeasurably more humane than cock-fighting.
BENTHAM'S DEFENCE OF MILL.*
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, JUNE, 1829.]
We have had great reason, we think, to be | However sharply he may speak of us, we can gratified by the success of our late attack on never cease to revere in him the father of the the Utilitarians. We could publish a long list | philosophy of Jurisprudence. He has a ful. of the cures which it has wrought, in cases right to all the privileges of a great inventor; previously considered as hopeless. Delicacy and, in our court of criticism, those privileges forbids us to divulge names; but we cannot will never be pleaded in vain. But they are refrain from alluding to two remarkable in- limited in the same manner in which, fortustances. A respectable lady writes to inform nately for the ends of justice, the privileges of us, that her son, who was plucked at Cam- the peerage are now limited. The advantage bridge last January, has not been heard to call is personal and incommunicable. A nobleman Sir James Mackintosh a poor ignorant fool can now no longer cover with his protection more than twice since the appearance of our every lackey who follows his heels, or every article. A distinguished political writer in the bully who draws in his quarrel; and, highly Westminster and Parliamentary Reviews has as we respect the exalted rank which Mr. Benborrowed Hume's History, and has actually got tham holds among the writers of our time, yet as far as the battle of Agincourt. He assures when, for the due maintenance of literary pous that he takes great pleasure in his new lice, we shall think it necessary to confute sostudy, and that he is very impatient to learn phists, or to bring pretenders to shame, we shall how Scotland and England became one king- not depart from the ordinary course of our prodom. But the greatest compliment that we ceedings because the offenders call themselves have received is, that Mr. Bentham himself Benthamites. should have condescended to take the field in defence of Mr. Mill. We have not been in the habit of reviewing reviews; but as Mr. Bentham is a truly great man, and as his party have thought fit to announce in puffs and placards that this article is written by him, and contains not only an answer to our attacks, but a development of the "greatest happiness principle," with the latest improvements of the author, we shall for once depart from our general rule. However the conflict may terminate, we shall at least not have been vanquished by an ignoble hand.
Whether Mr. Mill has much reason to thank Mr. Bentham for undertaking his defence, our readers, when they have finished this article, will perhaps be inclined to doubt. Great as Mr. Bentham's talents are, he has, we think, shown an undue confidence in them. He should have considered how dangerous it is for any man, however eloquent and ingenious he may be, to attack or to defend a book with out reading it. And we feel quite convinced that Mr. Bentham would never have written the article before us, if he had, before he be gan, perused our review with attention, and compared it with Mr. Mill's Essay.
Of Mr. Bentham himself, we shall endeavour, even while defending ourselves against his reproaches, to speak with the respect to which his venerable age, his genius, and his public services entitle him. If any harsh expression should escape us, we trust that he will attribute it to inadvertence, to the momentary warmth of controversy,-to any thing, in short, rather than to a design of affronting him. Though we have nothing in common with the crew of Hurds and Boswells, who, either from interested motives, or from the habit of intellectual servility and dependence, pamper and vitiate his appetite with the noxious sweetness of their undiscerning praise, we are not perhaps less competent than they to appreciate his merit, or less sincerely disposed to acknow-issue are these, Whether the famous Essay on ledge it. Though we may sometimes think his Government be, as it has been called, a perfect reasonings on moral and political questions solution of the great political problem, or a sefeeble and sophistical-though we may some- ries of sophisms and blunders; and whether times smile at his extraordinary language-we the sect which, while it glories in the precision can never be weary of admiring the amplitude of its logic, extols this Essay as a masterpiece of his comprehension, the keenness of his pene- of demonstration, be a sect deserving of the ratior, the exuberant fertility with which his respect or of the derision of mankind. These, mind pours forth arguments and illustrations. we say, are the issues; and on these we with full confidence put ourselves on the country.
He has utterly mistaken our object and meaning. He seems to think that we have undertaken to set up some theory of govern ment in opposition to that of Mr. Mill. But we distinctly disclaimed any such design. From the beginning to the end of our article, there is not, as far as we remember, a single sentence which, when fairly construed, can be considered as indicating any such design. If such an expression can be found, it has been dropped by inadvertence. Our object was to prove, not that monarchy and aristocracy are good, but that Mr. Mill had not proved them to be bad; not that democracy is bad, but that Mr. Mill had not proved it to be good. The points in
It is not necessary, for the purposes of this investigation, that we should state what oar
The Westminster Review, No. XXI., Article XVI. Edinburgh Review, No. XCVII., Article on Mill's Essays on Government, &c.
trusting to arbitrary power on the credit of these specimens."
political creed is, or whether we have any political creed at all. A man who cannot act the most trivial part in a farce has a right to his Romeo Coates-a man who does not know a vein from an artery may caution a simple neighbour against the advertisements of Doctor Eady. A complete theory of government would, indeed, be a noble present to mankind; but it is a present which we do not hope, and do not pretend, that we can offer. If, however, we cannot lay the foundation, it is something to clear away the rubbish-if we cannot set up truth, it is something to pull down error. Even if the subjects of which the Utilitarians treat were subjects of less fearful importance, we should think it no small service to the cause of good sense and good taste, to point out the contrast between their magnificent pretensions and their miserable performances. Some of them have, however, thought fit to display their ingenuity on questions of the most momentous kind, and on questions concerning which men cannot reason ill with impunity. We think it, under these circumstances, an absolute duty to expose the fallacy of their arguments. It is no matter of pride or of pleasure. To read their works is the most soporific employment that we know; and a man ought no more to be proud of refuting them than of having two legs. We must now come to close quarters with Mr. Bentham, whom, we need not say, we do not mean to include in this observation. He charges us with maintaining,
First, that it is not true that all despots govern ill-whereon the world is in a mistake, and the whigs have the true light. And for proof, principally, that the king of Denmark is not Caligula. To which the answer is, that the king of Denmark is not a despot. He was put in his present situation, by the people turning the scale in his favour, in a balanced contest between himself and the nobility. And it is quite clear that the same power would turn the scale the other way, the moment a king of Denmark should take into his head to be Caligula. It is of little consequence by what congeries of letters the majesty of Denmark is typified in the royal press of Copenhagen, while the real fact is, that the sword of the people is suspended over his head in case of ill-behaviour, as effectually as in other countries where more noise is made upon the subject. Everybody believes the sovereign of Denmark to be a good and virtuous gentleman; but there is no more superhuman merit in his being so, than in the case of
We have no dispute on these heads with Mr Bentham. On the contrary, we think his ex
a rural squire who does not shoot his land-planation true-or, at least, true in part; and steward, or quarter his wife with his yeomanry
we heartily thank him for lending us his assistance to demolish the essay of his follower. His wit and his sarcasm are sport to us; but they are death to his unhappy disciple.
Mr. Bentham seems to imagine that we have said something implying an opinion favourable to despotism. We can scarcely suppose that, as he has not condescended to read that portion of our work which he undertook to answer, he can have bestowed much attention on its general character. Had he done so, he would, we think, scarcely have entertained such a suspicion. Mr. Mill asserts, and pretends to prove, that under no despotic government does any human
"It is true that there are partial exceptions to the rule, that all men use power as badly as they dare There may have been such things as amiable negro-drivers and sentimental masters of press-gangs; and here and there, among the odd freaks of human nature, there may have been specimens of men who were 'No tyrants, though bred up to tyranny.' But it would be as wise to recommend wolves for nurses at the Foundling, on the credit of Romulus and Remus, as to substitute the exception for the general fact, and advise mankind to take to
Now, in the first place, we never cited the case of Denmark to prove that all despots do not govern ill. We cited it to prove that Mr. Mill did not know how to reason. Mr. Mill gave it as a reason for deducing the theory of government from the general laws of human nature, that the king of Denmark was not Caligula. This we said, and we still say, was absurd.
In the second place, it was not we, but Mr. Mill, who said that the king of Denmark was a despot. His words are these:-"The people of Denmark, tired out with the oppression of an aristocracy, resolved that their king should be absolute; and under their absolute monarch are as well governed as any people in Europe." We leave Mr. Bentham to settle with Mr. Mill the distinction between a despot and an absolute king.
In the third place, Mr. Bentham says, that there was in Denmark a balanced contest between the king and the nobility. We find some difficulty in believing that Mr. Bentham seriously means to say this, when we consider that Mr. Mill has demonstrated the chance to be as infinity to one against the existence of such a balanced contest.
Fourthly, Mr. Bentham says, that in this balanced contest the people turned the scale in favour of the king against the aristocracy. But Mr. Mill has demonstrated, that it cannot possibly be for the interest of the monarchy and democracy to join against the aristocracy; and that wherever the three parties exist, the king and the aristocracy will combine against the people. This, Mr. Mill assures us, is as certain as any thing which depends upon human will.
Fifthly, Mr. Bentham says, that if the king of Denmark were to oppress his people, the people and nobles would combine against the king. But Mr. Mill has proved that it can never be for the interest of the aristocracy to combine with the democracy against the king. It is evidently Mr. Bentham's opinion, that "monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, may balance each other, and by mutual checks produce good government." But this is the very theory which Mr. Mill pronounces to be the wildest, the most visionary, the most chimerical, ever broached on the subject of government.