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If the mode of election was what it ought to be, there would be no more difficulty in women voting for a representative in Parliament than for a director at the India House. The world will find out at some time that the readiest way to secure justice on some points is to be just on all: that the whole is easier to accomplish than the part; and that, whenever the camel is driven through the eye of the needle, it would be simple folly and debility that would leave a hoof behind."
Why, says or sings Mr. Bentham, should not women vote? It may seem uncivil in us to turn a deaf ear to his Arcadian warblings. But we submit, with great deference, that it is not our business to tell him why. We fully agree with him that the principle of female suffrage is not so palpably absurd that a chain of reasoning ought to be pronounced unsound merely because it leads to female suffrage. We say that every argument which tells in favor of the universal suffrage of the males tells equally in favor of female suffrage. Mr. Mill, however, wishes to see all men vote, but says that it is unnecessary that women should vote; and for making this distinction he gives as a reason an assertion which, in the first place, is not true, and which, in the next place, would, if true, overset his whole theory of human nature; namely, that the interest of the women is identical with that of the men. We side with Mr. Bentham, so far, at least, as this, that when we join to drive the camel through the needle, he shall go through hoof and all. We at present desire to be excused from driving the camel. It is Mr. Mill who leaves the hoof behind. But we should think it uncourteous to reproach him in the language which Mr. Bentham, in the exercise of his paternal authority over the sect, thinks himself entitled to employ.
"Another of their perverted ingenuities is, that 'they are rather inclined to think' that it would, on the whole, be for the interest of the majority to plunder the rich; and if so, the Utilitarians will say that the rich ought to be plundered. On which it is sufficient to reply, that for the majority to plunder the rich would amount to a declaration that nobody should be rich; which, as all men wish to be rich, would involve a suicide of hope. And as nobody has shown a fragment of reason why such a proceeding should be for the general happiness, it does not fol
low that the Utilitarians' would recommend it. The Edinburgh Reviewers have a waiting-gentlewoman's ideas of 'Utilitarianism.' It is unsupported by anything but the pitiable 'We are rather inclined to think—and is utterly contradicted by the whole course of history and human experience besides-that there is either danger or possibility of such a consummation as the majority agreeing on the plunder of the rich. There have been instances in human memory of their agreeing to plunder rich oppressors, rich traitors, rich enemies-but the rich simpliciter never. It is as true now as in the days of Harrington that 'a people never will, nor ever can, never did, nor ever shall, take up arms for levelling. All the commotions in the world have been for something else; and 'levelling' is brought forward as the blind to conceal what the other was."
We say, again and again, that we are on the defensive. We do not think it necessary to prove that a quack medicine is poison. Let the vendor prove it to be sanative. We do not pretend to show that universal suffrage is an evil. Let its advocates show it to be a good. Mr. Mill tells us that, if power be given for short terms to representatives elected by all the males of mature age, it will then be for the interest of those representatives to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. To prove this, it is necessary that he should prove three propositions: first, that the interest of such a representative body will be identical with the interest of the constituent body; secondly, that the interest of the constituent body will be identical with that of the community; thirdly, that the interest of one generation of a community is identical with that of all succeeding generations. The first two propositions Mr. Mill attempts to prove, and fails. The last he does not even attempt to prove. We therefore refuse our assent to his conclusions. Is this unreasonable?
We never even dreamed, what Mr. Bentham conceives us to have maintained, that it could be for the greatest happiness of mankind to plunder the rich. But we are "rather inclined to think," though doubtingly and with a disposition. to yield to conviction, that it may be for the pecuniary interest of the majority of a single generation in a thickly-peopled country to plunder the rich. Why we are inclined to think
so we will explain, whenever we send a theory of government to an Encyclopædia. At present we are bound to say only that we think so, and shall think so till somebody shows us a reason for thinking otherwise.
Mr. Bentham's answer to us is simple assertion. He must not think that we mean any discourtesy by meeting it with a simple denial. The fact is, that almost all the govern
ments that have ever existed in the civilized world have been, in part at least, monarchical and aristocratical. The first government constituted on principles approaching to those which the Utilitarians hold was, we think, that of the United States. That the poor have never combined to plunder the rich in the governments of the Old World, no more proves that they might not combine to plunder the rich under a system of universal suffrage, than the fact that the English kings of the House of Brunswick have not been Neros and Domitians proves that sovereigns may safely be intrusted with absolute power. Of what the people would do in a state of perfect sovereignty we can judge only by indications, which, though rarely of much moment in themselves, and though always suppressed with little difficulty, are yet of great significance, and resemble those by which our domestic animals sometimes remind us that they are of kin with the fiercest monsters of the forest. It would not be wise to reason from the behavior of a dog crouching under the lash, which is the case of the Italian people, or from the behavior of a dog pampered with the best morsels of a plentiful kitchen, which is the case of the people of America, to the behavior of a wolf, which is nothing but a dog run wild, after a week's fast among the snows of the Pyrenees. No commotion, says Mr. Bentham, was ever really produced by the wish of levelling: the wish has been put forward as a blind; but something else has been the real object. Grant all this. But why has levelling been put forward as a blind in times of commotion to conceal the real objects of the agitators? Is it with declarations which involve "a suicide of hope" that men attempt to allure others? Was famine, pestilence, slavery, ever held out to attract the people? If lev
elling has been made a pretence for disturbances, the argument against Mr. Bentham's doctrine is as strong as if it had been the real object of disturbances.
But the great objection which Mr. Bentham makes to our review still remains to be noticed:
"The pith of the charge against the author of the essays is that he has written an elaborate Treatise on Government,' and 'deduced the whole science from the assumption of certain propensities of human nature.' Now, in the name of Sir Richard Birnie and all saints, from what else should it be deduced? What did ever anybody imagine to be the end, object, and design of government as it ought to be but the same operation, on an extended scale, which that meritorious chief magistrate conducts on a limited one at Bow Street; to wit, the preventing one man from injuring another? Imagine, then, that the Whiggery of Bow Street were to rise up against the proposition that their science was to be deduced from 'certain propensities of human nature,' and thereon were to ratiocinate as follows:
"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 the 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 pretension to that which we have been examining, and as far superior to it in real utility, as the prescriptions of a great physician, varying 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.'"
"Fancy now-only fancy-the delivery of these wise words at Bow Street; and think how speedily the practical catchpolls would reply that all this might be very fine, but as far as they had studied history, the naked story was, after all, that numbers of men had a propensity to thieving, and their business was to catch them; that they, too, had been sifters of facts; and, to say the truth, their simple opinion was, that their brethren of the red waistcoat--though they should be sorry to think ill
of any man-had somehow contracted a leaning to the other side, and were more bent on puzzling the case for the benefit of the defendants than on doing the duty of good officers and true. Such would, beyond all doubt, be the sentence passed on such trimmers in the microcosm of Bow Street. It might not absolutely follow that they were in a plot to rob the goldsmiths' shops, or to set fire to the House of Commons; but it would be quite clear that they had got a feeling, that they were in process of siding with the thieves, and that it was not to them that any man must look who was anxious that pantries should be safe."
This is all very witty; but it does not touch us. On the present occasion, we cannot but flatter ourselves that we bear a much greater resemblance to a practical catchpoll than either Mr. Mill or Mr. Bentham. It would, to be sure, be very absurd in a magistrate, discussing the arrangements of a police-office, to spout in the style either of our article or Mr. Bentham's; but, in substance, he would proceed, if he were a man of sense, exactly as we recommend. He would, on being appointed to provide for the security of property in a town, study attentively the state of the town. He would learn at what places, at what times, and under what circumstances, theft and outrage were most frequent. Are the streets, he would ask, most infested with thieves at sunset or at midnight? Are there any public places of resort which give peculiar facilities to pick-pockets? Are there any districts completely inhabited by a lawless population? Which are the flash-houses, and which the shops of receivers? Having made himself master of the facts, he would act accordingly. A strong detachment of officers might be necessary for Petticoat Lane; another for the pit entrance of Covent Garden Theatre. Grosvenor Square and Hamilton Place would require little or no protection. Exactly thus should we reason about government. Lombardy is oppressed by tyrants; and constitutional checks, such as may produce security to the people, are required. It is, so to speak, one of the resorts of thieves; and there is great need of police-officers. Denmark resembles one of those respectable streets in which it is scarcely necessary to station a catchpoll, because the inhabitants would at once join to seize a thief. Yet, even in such a street, we should wish to see an officer appear now and