Imágenes de páginas

that slovenliness of thinking which is often concealed beneath a peculiar ostentation of logical neatness.

Having determined the ends, Mr. Mill proceeds to consider the means. For the preservation of property, some portion of the community must be intrusted with power. This is government; and the question is, how are those to whom the necessary power is intrusted to be prevented from abusing it?

Mr. Mill first passes in review the simple forms of government. He allows that it would be inconvenient, if not physically impossible, that the whole community should meet in a mass; it follows, therefore, that the powers of government cannot be directly exercised by the people. But he sees no objection to pure and direct democracy, except the difficulty which we have mentioned.

tocracy may soon be saturated with the objects of their desires, and may then protect the com munity in the enjoyment of the rest? Mr. Mill answers in the negative. He proves, with great pomp, that every man desires to have the actions of every other correspondent to his will. Others can be induced to conform to our will only by motives derived from pleasure or from pain. The infliction of pain is of course direct injury; and even if it take the milder course, in order to produce obedience by motives derived from pleasure, the govern ment must confer favours. But, as there is no limit to its desire of obedience, there will be nɔ limit to its disposition to confer favours; and, as it can confer favours only by plundering the people, there will be no limit to its disposi tion to plunder the people. "It is therefore not true, that there is in the mind of a king, or in the minds of an aristocracy, any point of saturation with the objects of desire."

"The community," says he, "cannot have an interest opposite to its interest. To affirm this would be a contradiction in terms. The Mr. Mill then proceeds to show that, as mocommunity within itself, and with respect to narchical and oligarchical governments can itself, can have no sinister interest. One com-influence men by motives drawn from pain as munity may intend the evil of another; never well as by motives drawn from pleasure, they its own. This is an indubitable proposition, will carry their cruelty, as well as their rapaand one of great importance." city, to a frightful extent. As he seems greatly to admire his own reasonings on this subject, we think it but fair to let him speak for him

Mr. Mill then proceeds to demonstrate that a purely aristocratical form of government is necessarily bad.


"The reason for which government exists is, that one man, if stronger than another, will take from him whatever that other possesses and he desires. But if one man will do this, so will several. And if powers are put into the hands of a comparatively small number, called an aristocracy,-powers which make them stronger than the rest of the community, they will take from the rest of the community as much as they please of the objects of desire. They will thus defeat the very end for which government was instituted. The unfitness, therefore, of an aristocracy to be intrusted with the powers of government, rests on demonstration."

"The chain of inference in this case is close and strong to a most unusual degree. A man desires that the actions of other men shall be instantly and accurately correspondent to his will. He desires that the actions of the greatest possible number shall be so. Terror is the grand instrument. Terror can work only through assurance that evil will follow any failure of conformity between the will and the actions willed. Every failure must therefore be punished. As there are no bounds to the mind's desire of its pleasure, there are, of course, no bounds to its desire of perfection in the instruments of that pleasure. There are, therefore, no bounds to its desire of exact. ness in the conformity between its will and the actions willed; and, by consequence, to the strength of that terror which is its procuring cause. Even the most minute failure must be visited with the heaviest infliction; and as failure in extreme exactness must frequently happen, the occasions of cruelty must be in cessant.

In exactly the same manner Mr. Mill proves absolute monarchy to be a bad form of govern


"We have thus arrived at several conclu

"If government is founded upon this as a law of human nature, that a man, if able, will take from others any thing which they have and he desires, it is sufficiently evident that when a man is called a king he does not change his nature; so that when he has got power to enable him to take from every man what hesions of the highest possible importance. We pleases, he will take whatever he pleases. have seen that the principle of human nature To suppose that he will not, is to affirm that upon which the necessity of government is government is unnecessary, and that human founded, the propensity of one man to possess beings will abstain from injuring one another himself of the objects of desire at the cost of of their own accord. another, leads on, by infallible sequence, where power over a community is attained, and nothing checks, not only to that degree of plander which leaves the members, (excepting al ways the recipients and instruments of the plunder,) the bare means of subsistence, but to that degree of cruelty which is necessary to keep in existence the most intense terrors."

"It is very evident that this reasoning extends to every modification of the smaller number. Whenever the powers of government are placed in any hands other than those of the community, whether those of one man, of a few, or of several, those principles of human nature which imply that government is at all necessary, imply that those persons will make use of them to defeat the very end for which government exists."

Now, no man who has the least knowledge of the real state of the world, either in former ages or at the present moment, can possibly

But is it not possible that a king or an aris-be convinced, though he may perhaps be be

[ocr errors]


ldered, by arguments like these. During | execration, are feelings from the influence of the last two centuries, some hundreds of absolute princes have reigned in Europe. Is it true that their cruelty has kept in existence the most intense degree of terror, that their rapacity has left no more than the bare means of subsistence to any of their subjects, their ministers and soldiers excepted? Is this true of all of them? Of one-half of them? Of one-tenth part of them? Of a single one? Is it true, in the full extent, even of Philip the Second, of Lewis the Fifteenth, or of the Emperor Paul? But it is scarcely necessary to quote history. No man of common sense, however ignorant he may be of books, can be imposed on by Mr. Mill's argument; because no man of comm n sense can live among his fellow-creatures for a day without seeing innumerable facts which contradict it. It is our business, however, to point out its fallacy; and, happily, the fallacy is not very recondite.

use of other means.
at command, it would almost supersede the

We grant that rulers will take as much as they can of the objects of their desires; and for the prevention of injurious acts, is too ob"The importance of this powerful agency, that when the agency of other men is neces-vious to need to be illustrated. If sufficiently sary to that end. they will attempt by all means in their power to enforce the prompt obedience of such men. But what are the objects of human desire? Physical pleasure, no doubt, in part. But the mere appetites which we have in common with the animals, would be gratified almost as cheaply and easily as those of the animals are gratified, if nothing were given to taste, to ostentation, or to the affections. How small a portion of the income of a gentleman in easy circumstances is laid out merely in giving pleasurable sensations to the body of the possessor? The greater part even of what pain derived from the unfavourable sentiments It is strange that a writer who considers the is spent on his kitchen and his cellar, goes not of others as so acute, that, if sufficiently at to titillate his palate, but to keep up his charac- command, it would supersede the use of the ter for hospitality, to save him from the re-gallows and the treadmill, should take no noproach of meanness in house-keeping, and to tice of this most important restraint, when cement the ties of good neighbourhood. It is discussing the question of government. We clear, that a king or an aristocracy may be will attempt to deduce a theory of politics in supplied to satiety with mere corporeal plea- the mathematical form, in which Mr. Mill desures, at an expense which the rudest and lights, from the premises with which he aas poorest community would scarcely feel. himself furnished us.

sentiments of mankind, it is necessary to know "To know how to direct the unfavourable in as complete, that is, in as comprehensive, a way as possible, what it is which gives them birth. Without entering into the metaphysics of the question, it is a sufficient practical answer, for the present purpose, to say that the unfavourable sentiments of man are excited by every thing which hurts them."

which scarcely any man is perfectly free, and which in many men are powerful and constan' motives of action. As we are afraid that, if we handle this part of the argument after our own manner, we shall incur the reproach of sentimentality, a word which, in the sacred language of the Benthamites, is synonymous with idiocy, we will quote what Mr. Mill himself says on the subject, in his Treatise on Jurisprudence.

derived from the unfavourable sentiments of "Pains from the moral source are the pains mankind. of rising to a height with which hardly any other pains incident to our nature can be These pains are capable compared. There is a certain degree of unfavourableness in the sentiments of his fellowcreatures, under which hardly any man, not below the standard of humanity, can endure to live.

Those tastes and propensities which belong to us as reasoning and imaginative beings, are not, indeed, so easily gratified. There is, we admit, no point of saturation with objects of desire which come under this head. therefore the argument of Mr. Mill will be just, And unless there be something in the nature of the objects of desire themselves which is inconsistent with it. Now, of these objects there is none which men in general seem to desire more than the good opinion of others. hatred and contempt of the public are geneThe rally felt to be intolerable. It is probable, that our regard for the sentiments of our fellow-people. creatures springs by association from a sense of their ability to hurt or to serve us. this as it may, it is notorious, that when the But be habit of mind of which we speak has once been formed, men feel extremely solicitous about the opinions of those by whom it is most improbable, nay, absolutely impossible, that they should ever be in the slightest degree injured or benefited. The desire of posthumous fame, and the dread of posthumous reproach and VOL. V.-85

[ocr errors]


the people.
No rulers will do any thing which may hurt

following we humbly offer to Mr. Mill as its
This is the thesis to be maintained; and the
syllogistic demonstration.

to themselves.
No rulers will do that which produces pain

But the unfavourable sentiments of the peo
ple will give pain to them.

may excite the unfavourable sentiments of the
Therefore no rulers will do any thing which

But the unfavourable sentiments of the peo
ple are excited by every thing which hurts

may hurt the people, which was the thing to
Therefore no rulers will do any thing which
be proved.

imitated Mr. Mill's logic, we do not see why
Having thus, as we think, not unsuccessfully
we should not imitate what is at least equally
perfect in its kind, his self-complacency, and
3 L

proclaim our Euga in his own words: "The chain of inference, in this case, is close and strong to a most unusual degree."

The fact is, that when men, in treating of things which cannot be circumscribed by precise definitions, adopt this mode of reasoning, when once they begin to talk of power, happiness, misery, pain, pleasure, motives, objects of desire, as they talk of lines and numbers, there is no end to the contradictions and absurdities into which they fall. There is no proposition so monstrously untrue in morals or politics that we will not undertake to prove it, by something which shall sound like a logical demonstration, from admitted principles.

solicitous about the opinion of his neighbours as a rich man.

But we do not see that, by reasoning a priori on such subjects as these, it is possible to advance one single step. We know that every man has some desires which he can gratify only by hurting his neighbours, and some which he can gratify only by pleasing them. Mr. Mill has chosen only to look at one-half of human nature, and to reason on the motives which impel men to oppress and despoil others, as if they were the only motives by which men could possibly be influenced. We have already shown that, by taking the other half of the human character, and reasoning on it as if it were the whole, we can bring out a result diametrically opposite to that at which Mr. Mill has arrived. We can, by such a process, easily prove that any form of government is good, or that all government is superfluous.


Mr. Mill argues, that if men are not inclined to plunder each other, government is unnecessary; and that, if they are so inclined, the powers of government, when intrusted to a small number of them, will necessarily be abused. Surely it is not by propounding dilem as of this sort that we are likely to arrive at sound conclusions in any moral science. The whole question is a question of degree. If all men preferred the moderate approbation of their neighbours to any degree of wealth, or grandeur, or sensual pleasure, government would be unnecessary. If all men desired wealth so intensely as to be willing to brave the hatred of their fellow-creatures for sixpence, Mr. Mill's argument against monarchies and aristocracies would be true to the full exBut the fact is, that all men have some desires which impel them to injure their neighbours, and some desires which impel them to benefit their neighbours. Now, if there were a community consisting of two classes of men, "If any expedient presents itself to any of one of which should be principally influenced the supposed parties effectual to this end, and by the one set of motives, and the other by the not opposed to any preferred object of pursuit, other, government would clearly be necessary we may infer, with certainty, that it will be to restrain the class which was eager of plun- adopted. One effectual expedient is not more der, and careless of reputation: and yet the effectual than obvious. Any two of the parpowers of government might be safely intrust-ties, by combining may swallow up the third ed to the class which was chiefly actuated by That such combinations will take place, apthe love of approbation. Now, it might, with pears to be as certain as any thing which deno small plausibility, be maintained, that, in pends upon human will: because there are many countries, there are two classes which, in strong motives in favour of it, and none that some degree, answer to this description; that can be conceived in opposition to it. . . . the poor compose the class which government The mixture of three of the kinds of governis established to restrain: and the people of ment, it is thus evident, cannot possibly exist. some property the class to which the powers of government may without danger be confided. It might be said, that a man who can barely earn a livelihood by severe labour, is under stronger temptations to pillage others than a man who enjoys many luxuries. It might be said, that a man who is lost in the crowd is less likely to have the fear of public opinion before his eyes, than a man whose station and mode of living rendered him conspicuous. We do not assert all this. We only say, that it was Mr. Mill's business to prove the contrary; and that, not having proved the contrary, he is not entitled to say, "that those principles which imply that government is at all necessary, imply that an aristocracy will make use of its power to defeat the end for which governments exist." This is not true, unless it be true that a rich man is as likely to vet the goods of his neighbours as a poor ¤; ...d that a poor man is as likely to be


.... It may be proper to inquire, whether union may not be possible of two of them. "Let us first suppose, that monarchy is united with aristocracy. Their power is equal or not equal. If it is not equal, it follows, as a necessary consequence, from the principles which we have already established, that the stronger will take from the weaker till it engrosses the whole. The only question, therefore, is, What will happen when the power is equal?

"In the first place, it seems impossible that such equality should ever exist. How is it to be established? or, by what criterion is it to be ascertained? If there is no such criterion, it must, in all cases, be the result of chance. If so, the chances against it are as infinity to one. The idea, therefore, is wholly chimerical and absurd.

We must now accompany Mr. Mill on the next stage of his argument. Does any combination of the three simple forms of government afford the requisite securities against the abuse of power? Mr. Mill complains that those who maintain the affirmative generally beg the question, and proceeds to settle the point by proving, after his fashion, that no combination of the three simple forms, or of any two of them, can possibly exist.

"From the principles which we have already laid down, it follows that, of the objects of human desire, and speaking more definitely, of the means to the ends of human desire, namely, wealth and power, each party will endeavour to obtain as much as possible.

"In this doctrine of the mixture of the simple forms of government is included the cele brated theory of the balance among the corr

ponent parts of a government. By this it is supposed that, when a government is composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, they balance one another, and by mutual checks produce good government. A few words will suffice to show that, if any theory deserves the epithet of wild, visionary, and chimerical,' it is that of the balance. If there are three powers, How is it possible to prevent two of them from combining to swallow up the third? "The analysis which we have already performed will enable us to trace rapidly the concatenation of causes and effects in this imagined case.

"We have already seen that the interest of the community, considered in the aggregate, or in the democratical point of view, is, that each individual should receive protection; and that the powers which are constituted for that purpose should be employed exclusively for that purpose...... We have also seen that the interest of the king and of the governing aristocracy is directly the reverse. It is to have unlimited power over the rest of the community, and to use it for their own advantage. In the supposed case of the balance of the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical powers, it cannot be for the interest either of the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine with the democracy; because it is the interest of the democracy, or community at large, that neither the king nor the aristocracy should have one particle of power, or one particle of the wealth of the community, for their own advantage

tors, each of whom has a vote for a borcugh, possess, in that respect, equal power. If not, all Mr. Mill's political theories fall to the ground at once. For if it be impossible to ascertain whether two portions of power are equal, he never can show that, even under a system of universal suffrage, a minority might not carry every thing their own way, against the wishes and interests of the majority.

Where there are two portions of power differing in kind, there is, we admit, no criterion of equality. But then, in such a case, it is absurd to talk, as Mr. Mill does, about the stronger and the weaker. Popularly, indeed, and with reference to some particular objects, these words may very fairly be used. But to use them mathematically is altogether improper. If we are speaking of a boxing-match, we may say that some famous bruiser has greater bodily power than any man in England. If we are speaking of a pantomime, we may say the same of some very agile harlequin. But it would be talking nonsense to say, in general, that the power of the harlequin either exceeded that of the pugilist, or fell short of it.

If Mr. Mill's argument be good as between different branches of a legislature, it is equally good as between sovereign powers. Every government, it may be said, will, if it can, take the objects of its desires from every other. If the French government can subdue England, it will do so. If the English government can subdue France, it will do so. But the power of England and France is either equal or not equal. The chance that it is not exactly equal is as infinity to one, and may safely be left out of the account; and then the stronger will infallibly take from the weaker, till the weaker is altoge ther enslaved.

"The democracy or community have all possible motives to endeavour to prevent the monarchy and aristocracy from exercising power, or obtaining the wealth of the community for their own advantage. The monarchy and aristocracy have all possible motives for endeavouring to obtain unlimited power over the persons and property of the community. The consequence is inevitable; they have all possible motives for combining to obtain that power."

Surely the answer to all this hubbub of unmeaning words is the plainest possible. For some purposes France is stronger than England. For some purposes England is stronger than France. For some, neither has any power at all. France has the greater population, England the greater capital; France has the greater army, England the greater fleet. For an expedition to Rio Janeiro or the Philippines, England has the greater power. For a war on the Po or on the Danube, France has the greater power. But neither has

If any part of this passage be more eminently absurd than another, it is, we think, the argument by which Mr. Mill proves that there cannot be a union of monarchy and aristocracy. Their power, he says, must be equal or not equal. But of equality there is no crite-power sufficient to keep the other in quiet sub. rion. Therefore the chances against its exist-jection for a month. Invasion would be very ence are as infinity to one. If the power be perilous; the idea of complete conquest on not equal, then it follows, from the principles either side utterly ridiculous. This is the of human nature, that the stronger will take manly and sensible way of discussing such from the weaker, till it has engrossed the questions. The ergo, or rather the argal, of Mr. whole. Mill, cannot impose on a child. Yet we ought scarcely to say this; for we remember to have heard a child ask whether Bonaparte was stronger than an elephant?

Now, if there be no criterion of equality between two portions of power, there can be no common measure of portions of power. Therefore it is utterly impossible to compare them together. But where two portions of power are of the same kind, there is no difficulty in ascertaining, sufficiently for all practical purposes, whether they are equal or unequal. It is easy to judge whether two men run equally on the evidence of their own eyes and ears fast, or can lift equal weights. Two arbitrators, The British constitution, according to Mr. whose joint decision is to be final, and neither Mill's classification, is a mixture of monarchy of whom can do any thing without the assent and aristocracy; one house of Parliamen of the other, possess equal power. Two elec- being composed of hereditary nobles, an! the

Mr. Mill reminds us of those philosophers of the sixteenth century, who, having satisfied themselves a priori that the rapidity with which bodies descended to the earth varied exactly as their weights, refused to believe the contrary

Mr. Mill tells us, that if a government be composed of the three simple forms, which he will not admit the British constitution to be, two of the component parts will inevitably join against the third. Now, if two of them com. bine and act as one, this case evidently resolves itself into the last; and all the observations which we have just made will fully apply to it. Mr. Mill says, that "any two of the parties, by combining, may swallow up the third;" and afterwards asks, "How is it possible to prevent two of them from combining to swallow up the third?" Surely Mr. Mill must be aware, that in politics two is not always the double of one. If the concurrence of all the three branches of the legislature be necessary to every law, each branch will possess constitutional power sufficient to protect it against any thing but that physical force, from which no form of government is secure. Mr. Mill reminds us of the Irishman, who could not be brought to understand how one juryman could possibly starve out eleven others.

other almost entirely chosen by a privileged class, who possess the elective franchise on account of their property, or their connection with certain corporations. Mr. Mill's argument proves that, from the time that these two powers were mingled in our government, that is, from the very first dawn of our history, one or the other must have been constantly encroaching. According to him, moreover, all the encroachments must have been on one side. For the first encroachment could only have been made by the stronger, and that first encroachment would have made the stronger stronger still. It is, therefore, matter of absolute demonstration, that either the Parliament was stronger than the crown in the reign of Henry VIII., or that the crown was stronger than the Parliament in 1641. "Hippocrate dira ce que lui plaira," says the girl in Molière; "mais le cocher est mort." Mr. Mill may say what he pleases; but the English constitution is still alive. That, since the Revolution, the Parliament has possessed great power in the state, is what nobody will dispute. The king, on the other hand, can create new peers, and can dissolve Parliaments. William sustained severe mortifications from the House of Commons, and was, indeed, unjustifiably oppressed. Anne was desirous to change a ministry which had a majority in both houses. She watched her moment for a dissolution, created twelve tory peers, and succeeded. Thirty years later, the House of Commons drove Walpole from his seat. In 1784, George III. was able to keep Mr. Pitt in office, in the face of a majority of the House of Commons. In 1804, the apprehension of a defeat in Parliament, compelled the same king to part from his most favoured minister. But in 1807, he was able to do exactly what Anne had done nearly a hundred years before. Now, had the power of the king increased during the intervening century, or had it remained stationary? Is it possible that the one lot among the infinite number should have fallen to us? If not, Mr. Mill has proved that one of the two parties must have been constantly taking from the other. Many of the ablest men in England think that the influence of the crown has, on the whole, increased since the reign of Anne. Others think that the Parliament has been growing in strength. But of this there is no doubt, that both sides possessed great power then, and possess great power now. Surely, if there were the least truth in the argument of Mr. Mill, it could not possibly be a matter of doubt, at the end of a hundred and twenty years, whether the one side or the other had been the gainer.posed to that of the people. But is it identical with that of the aristocracy? In the very page which contains this argument, intended to prove that the king and the aristocracy will coalesce against the people, Mr. Mill attempts to show that there is so strong an opposition of interest between the king and the aristocracy, that if the powers of government are divided between them, the one will inevitably usurp the power of the other. If so, he is not entitled to conclude that they will combine to destroy the power of the people, merely because their interests may be at variance with those of the people. He is bound to show, not merely that

But is it certain that two of the branches of the legislature will combine against the third? "It appears to be as certain," says Mr. Mill, "as any thing which depends upon human will; because there are strong motives in favour of it, and none that can be conceived in opposition to it." He subsequently sets forth what these motives are. The interest of the democracy is, that each individual should receive protection. The interest of the king and the aristocracy is, to have all the power that they can obtain, and to use it for their own ends. Therefore the king and the aristocracy have all possible motives for combining against the people. If our readers will look back to the passage quoted above, they will see that we represent Mr. Mill's argument quite fairly.

Now we should have thought that, without the help of either history or experience, Mr. Mill would have discovered, by the light of his own logic, the fallacy which lurks, and indeed scarcely lurks, under this pretended demonstration. The interest of the king may be op

But we ask pardon. We forgot that a fact, irreconcilable with Mr. Mill's theory, furnishes, in his opinion, the strongest reason for adhering to the theory. To take up the question in another manner, is it not plain that there may be two bodies, each possessing a perfect and entire power, which cannot be taken from it without its own concurrence? What is the meaning of the words stronger and weaker, when applied to such bodies as these? The one may, indeed, by physical force altogether destroy the other. But this is not the question. A third party, a general of their own. for ex

ample, may, by physical force, subjugate them
both: nor is there any form of government,
Mr. Mill's Utopian democracy not excepted,
secure from such an occurrence.
We are
speaking of the powers with which the consti
tution invests the two branches of the legisla-
ture; and we ask Mr. Mill how, on his own
principles, he can maintain that one of them
will be able to encroach on the other, if the
consent of the other be necessary to such en-

« AnteriorContinuar »