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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 favor 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 anything 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.
We have no dispute on these heads with Mr. Bentham. On the contrary, we think his explanation true-or, at least, true in part; and 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 favorable 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 being, except the tools of the sovereign, possess more than the necessaries of life, and that the most intense degree of terror is kept up by constant cruelty. This, we say, is untrue. It is not merely a rule to which there are exceptions; but it is not the rule. Despotism is bad; but it is scarcely anywhere so bad as Mr. Mill says that it is everywhere. This we are sure Mr. Bentham will allow. If a man were to say that five hundred thousand people die every year in London of dram-drinking, he would not assert a proposition more monstrously false than Mr. Mill's. Would it be just to charge us with defending intoxication because we might say that such a man was grossly in the wrong?
We say with Mr. Bentham that despotism is a bad thing. We say with Mr. Bentham that the exceptions do not destroy the authority of the rule. But this we say that a single exception overthrows an argument which either does not prove the rule at all, or else proves the rule to be true without exceptions; and such an argument is Mr. Mill's argument against despotism. In this respect there is a great difference between rules drawn from experience and rules deduced à priori. We might believe that there had been a fall of snow last August, and yet not think it likely that there would be snow next August. A single occurrence opposed to our general experience would tell for very little in our
calculation of the chances. But if we could once satisfy ourselves that in any single right-angled triangle the square of the hypothenuse might be less than the squares of the sides, we must reject the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid altogether. We willingly adopt Mr. Bentham's lively illustration about the wolf; and we will say in passing that it gives us real pleasure to see how little old age has diminished the gayety of this eminent man. We can assure him that his merriment gives us far more pleasure on his account than pain on our own. We say with him, Keep the wolf out of the nursery, in spite of the story of Romulus and Remus. But if the shepherd who saw the wolf licking and suckling those famous twins were, after telling this story to his companions, to assert that it was an infallible rule that no wolf ever had spared, or ever would spare, any living thing which might fall in its way-that its nature was carnivorous-and that it could not possibly disobey its nature, we think that the hearers might have been excused for staring. It may be strange, but is not inconsistent, that a wolf which has eaten ninety-nine children should spare the hundredth. But the fact that a wolf has once spared a child is sufficient to show that there must be some flaw in the chain of reasoning purporting to prove that wolves cannot possibly spare children.
Mr. Bentham proceeds to attack another position which he conceives us to maintain:
'Secondly, That a government not under the control of the community (for there is no question upon any other) may soon be saturated.' Tell it not in Bow Street, whisper it not in Hatton Garden-that there is a plan for preventing injustice by 'saturation.' With what peals of unearthly merriment would Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus be aroused upon their benches, if the 'light wings of saffron and of blue' should bear this theory into their grim domains! Why do not the owners of pocket-handkerchiefs try to 'saturate? Why does not the cheated publican beg leave to check the gulosity of his defrauder with a repetatur haustus, and the pummelled plaintiff neutralize the malice of his adversary, by requesting to have the rest of the beating in presence of the court, if it is not that such conduct would run counter to all the conclusions of experience, and be the procreation of the mischief it affected to
destroy? Woful is the man whose wealth depends on his having more than somebody else can be persuaded to take from him; and woful also is the people that is in such a case!"
Now this is certainly very pleasant writing: but there is no great difficulty in answering the argument. The real reason which makes it absurd to think of preventing theft by pensioning off thieves is this, that there is no limit to the number of thieves. If there were only a hundred thieves in a place, and we were quite sure that no person not already addicted to theft would take to it, it might become a question whether to keep the thieves from dishonesty by raising them above distress would not be a better course than to employ officers against them. But the actual cases are not parallel. Every man who chooses can become a thief; but a man cannot become a king or a member of the aristocracy whenever he chooses. The number of the depredators is limited; and therefore the amount of depredation, so far as physical pleasures are concerned, must be limited also. Now, we made the remark which Mr. Bentham censures with reference to physical pleasures only. The pleasures of ostentation, of taste, of revenge, and other pleasures of the same description, have, we distinctly allow, no limit. Our words are these: "A king or an aristocracy may be supplied to satiety with corporal pleasures, at an expense which the rudest and poorest community would scarcely feel." Does Mr. Bentham deny this? If he does, we leave him to Mr. Mill. "What," says that philosopher, in his Essay on Education-"what are the ordinary pursuits of wealth and power, which kindle to such a height the ardor of mankind? Not the mere love of eating and of drinking, or all the physical objects together which wealth can purchase or power command. With these every man is in the long-run speedily satisfied." What the difference is between being speedily satisfied and being soon saturated, we leave Mr. Bentham and Mr. Mill to settle together.
The word "saturation," however, seems to provoke Mr. Bentham's mirth. It certainly did not strike us as very pure English; but, as Mr. Mill used it, we supposed it to be good
Benthamese. With the latter language we are not critically acquainted, though, as it has many roots in common with our mother-tongue, we can contrive, by the help of a converted Utilitarian, who attends us in the capacity of Moonshee, to make out a little. But Mr. Bentham's authority is, of course, decisive; and we bow to it.
Mr. Bentham next represents us as maintaining:
"Thirdly, That though there may be some tastes and propensities that have no point of saturation, there exists a sufficient check in the desire of the good opinion of others.' The misfortune of this argument is, that no man cares for the good opinion of those he has been accustomed to wrong. If oysters have opinions, it is probable they think very ill of those who eat them in August; but small is the effect upon the autumnal glutton that ingulfs their gentle substances within his own. The planter and the slave-driver care just as much about negro opinion as the epicure about the sentiments of oysters. M. Ude throwing live eels into the fire as a kindly method of divesting them of the unsavory oil that lodges beneath their skins, is not more convinced of the immense aggregate of good which arises to the lordlier parts of the creation than is the gentle peer who strips his fellow-man of country and of family for a wild-fowl slain. The goodly land-owner, who lives by morsels squeezed indiscriminately from the waxy hands of the cobbler and the polluted ones of the nightman, is in no small degree the object of both hatred and contempt; but it is to be feared that he is a long way from feeling them to be intolerable. The principle of 'At mihi plaudo ipse domi, simul ac nummos contemplor in arcá,' is sufficient to make a wide interval between the opinions of the plaintiff and defendant in such cases. In short, to banish law, and leave all plaintiffs to trust to the desire of reputation on the opposite side, would only be transporting the theory of the Whigs from the House of Commons to Westminster Hall."
Now, in the first place, we never maintained the proposition which Mr. Bentham puts into our mouths. We said, and say, that there is a certain check to the rapacity and cruelty of men, in their desire of the good opinion of others. We never said that it was sufficient. Let Mr. Mill show it to be insufficient. It is enough for us to prove that there is a set-off against the principle from which Mr. Mill deduces the whole theory of government. The balance may be, and, we believe, will be, against despotism and the narrower forms of aristocracy. But what is this to the correctness or incorrect