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world is inconsistent with the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is held out the prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, from which he excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures here.
sect. He discovered truths; all that they have done has been to make those truths unpopular. He investigated the philosophy of law; he could teach them only to snarl at lawyers.
mind between Reform an Utilitarianism.
We entertain no apprehensions of danger to This is practical philosophy, as practical as the institutions of this country from the Utili that on which penal legislation is founded. A tarians. Our fears are of a different kind. We man is told to do something which otherwise dread the odium and discredit of their alliance. he would not do, and is furnished with a new We wish to see a broad and clear line drawn be motive for doing it. Mr. Bentham has no new tween the judicious friends of practical reform motive to furnish his disciples with. He has and a sect which, having derived all its influence talents sufficient to effect any thing that can be from the countenance which they have impru effected. But to induce men to act without an dently bestowed upon it, hates them with the inducement is too much even for him. He deadly hatred of ingratitude. There is not, should reflect that the whole vast world of and we firmly believe that there never was, in morals cannot be moved, unless the mover this country, a party so unpopular. They can obtain some stand for his engines beyond have already made the science of political it. He acts as Archimedes would have done, economy-a science of vast importance to the if he had attempted to move the earth by a welfare of nations-an object of disgust to the ever fixed on the earth. The action and re-majority of the community. The question of action neutralize each other. The artist la- parliamentary reform will share the same fate, bours, and the world remains at rest. Mr. if once an association be formed in the public Bentham can only tell us to do something which we have always been doing, and should still have continued to do, if we had never heard of the "greatest happiness principle," or else to do something which we have no conceivable motive for doing, and therefore shall not do. Mr. Bentham's principle is at best no more than the golden rule of the Gospel without its sanction. Whatever evils, therefore, have existed in societies in which the authority of the Gospel is recognised, may, à fortiori, as it appears to us, exist in societies in which the Utilitarian principle is recognised. We do not apprehend that it is more difficult for a tyrant or a persecutor to persuade himself and others that, in putting to death those who oppose his power or differ from his opinions, he is pursuing "the greatest happiness," than that he is doing as he would be done by. But religion gives him a motive for doing as he would be done by: and Mr. Bentham furnishes him with no motive to induce him to promote the general happiness. If, on the other hand, Mr. Bentham's principle mean only that every man should pursue his own greatest happiness, he merely asserts what everybody knows, and recommends what everybody does.
It is not upon this "greatest happiness principle" that the fame of Mr. Bentham will rest. He has not taught people to pursue their own happiness; for that they always did. He has not taught them to promote the happiness of others at the expense of their own; for that they will not and cannot do. But he has taught them how, in some most important points, to promote their own happiness; and if his school had emulated him as successfully in this respect as in the trick of passing off truisms for discoveries, the name of Benthamite would have been no word for the scoffer. But few of those who consider themselves as in a more especial manner his followers, have any thing in common with him but his faults. The whole science of jurisprudence is his. He has done much for political economy; but we are not aware that in either department any improvement has been made by members of his
We bear no enmity to any member of the sect: and for Mr. Bentham we entertain very high admiration. We know that among his followers there are some well-intentioned men, and some men of talents: but we cannot say that we think the logic on which they pride themselves likely to improve their heads, or the scheme of morality which they have adopted likely to improve their hearts. Their theory of morals, however, well deserves an article to itself; and perhaps, on some future occasion, we may discuss it more fully than time and space at present allow.
The preceding article was written, and was actually in types, when a letter from Mr. Bentham appeared in the newspapers, importing, that "though he had furnished the Westminster Review with some memoranda respecting the greatest happiness principle,' he had nothing to do with the remarks on our former article. We are truly happy to find that this illustrious man had so small a share in a performance which, for his sake, we have treated with far greater lenity than it deserved. The mistake, however, does not in the least affect any part of our arguments; and we have therefore thought it unnecessary to cancel or cast anew any of the foregoing pages. Indeed, we are not sorry that the world should see how respectfully we were disposed to treat a great man, even when we considered him as the author of a very weak and very unfair attack on ourselves. We wish, however, to intimate to the actual writer of that attack, that our civilities were intended for the author of the "Preuves Judiciaires," and the "Defence of Usury," and not for him. We cannot conclude, indeed, without expressing a wish,though we fear it has but little chance of reaching Mr. Bentham,-that he would endea vour to find better editors for his compositions If M. Dumont had not been a rédacteur of a dif ferent description from some of his successors, Mr. Bentham would never have attained the distinction of even giving his name to a sect
UTILITARIAN THEORY OF GOVERNMENT.*
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, OCTOBER, 1829.]
We have long been of opinion that the Uti- be afraid;--that this logic will impose on ne litarians have owed all their influence to a man who dares to look it in the face. mere delusion-that, while professing to have The Westminster Reviewer begins by charg submitted their minds to an intellectual disci- ing us with having misrepresented an import pline of peculiar severity, to have discarded all | ant part of Mr. Mill's argument. sentimentality, and to have acquired consummate skill in the art of reasoning, they are decidedly inferior to the mass of educated men in the very qualities in which they conceive themselves to excel. They have undoubtedly freed themselves from the dominion of some absurd notions. But their struggle for intellectual emancipation has ended, as injudicious and violent struggles for political emancipation too often end, in a mere change of tyrants. Indeed, we are not sure that we do not prefer the venerable nonsense which holds prescriptive sway over the ultra-tory, to the upstart dynasty of prejudices and sophisms, by which the revolutionists of the moral world have suffered themselves to be enslaved.
The Utilitarians have sometimes been abused as intolerant, arrogant, irreligious, as enemies of literature, of the fine arts, and of the domestic charities. They have been reviled for some things of which they were guilty, and for some of which they were innocent. But scarcely anybody seems to have perceived, that almost all their peculiar faults arise from the utter want both of comprehensiveness and of precision in their mode of reasoning. We have, for some time past, been convinced that this was really the case; and that, whenever their philosophy should be boldly and unsparingly scrutinized, the world would see that it had been under a mistake respecting them.
We have made the experiment, and it has succeeded far beyond our most sanguine expectations. A chosen champion of the school has come forth against us. A specimen of his logical abilities now lies before us; and we pledge ourselves to show, that no prebendary at an Anti-Catholic meeting, no true-blue baronet after the third bottle at a Pitt Club, ever displayed such utter incapacity of comprehending or answering an argument, as appears in the speculations of this Utilitarian apostle; that he does not understand our meaning, or Mr. Mill's meaning. or Mr. Bentham's meaning, or his own meaning; and that the various parts of his system-if the name of system can be so misapplied-directly contradict each other. Having shown this, we intend to leave him in undisputed possession of whatever advantage he may derive from the last word. We propose only to convince the public that there is nothing in the far-famed logic of the Utilitarians, of which any plain man has reason to
Westminster Review, (XXII. Art. 16,) on the Strictures of the Edinburgh Review (XCVIII. Art. 1.) on the U.ilitarian Theory of Government, and the "Greatest
"The first extract given by the Edinburgh Reviewers from the essay was an insulated passage, purposely despoiled of what had preceded and what followed. The author had been observing, that some profound and bene volent investigators of human affairs had adopted the conclusion, that of all the possible forms of government, absolute monarchy is the best. This is what the reviewers have omitted at the beginning. He then adds, as in the extract, that 'Experience, if we look only at the outside of the facts, appears to be divided on this subject;' there are Caligulas in one place, and kings of Denmark in another. As the surface of history affords, therefore, no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond the sur» face, and penetrate to the springs within. This is what the reviewers have omitted at the end."
It is perfectly true, that our quotation from Mr. Mill's Essay was, like most other quotations, preceded and followed by something which we did not quote. But if the Westminster Reviewer means to say, that either what preceded, or what followed, would, if quoted, have shown that we put a wrong interpretation on the pas sage which was extracted, he does not under stand Mr. Mill rightly.
Mr. Mill undoubtedly says that," as the surface of history affords no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond the surface, and penetrate to the springs within." But these expressions will admit of several interpreta. tions. In what sense, then, does Mr. Mill use them? If he means that we ought to inspect the facts with close attention, he means what is rational. But if he means that we ought to leave the facts, with all their apparent incon. sistencies, unexplained-to lay down a general principle of the widest extent, and to deduce doctrines from that principle by syllogistic ar gument, without pausing to consider whether those doctrines be, or be not, consistent with the facts,-then he means what is irrational; and this is clearly what he does mean: for he immediately begins, without offering the least explanation of the contradictory appearances which he has himself described, to go beyond the surface in the following manner:-"That one human being will desire to render the person and property of another subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of pleasure which it may occasion, to that other individual, is the foundation of government The desire of the object implies the desire of the power necessary to accomplish the object.” And thus he proceeds to deduce consequences
directly inconsistent with what he has himself stated respecting the situation of the Danish people.
If we assume that the object of government is the preservation of the persons and property of men, then we must hold that, wherever that object is attained, there the principle of good government exists. If that object he attained both in Denmark and in the United States of America, then that which makes government good must exist, under whatever disguise of title or name, both in Denmark and in the United States. If men lived in fear for their lives and their possessions under Nero and under the National Convention, it follows that the causes from which misgovernment proceeds, existed both in the despotism of Rome, and in the democracy of France. What, then, is that which, being found in Denmark and in the United States, and not being found in the Roman empire, or under the administration of Robespierre, renders governments, widely differing in their external form, practically good? Be it what it may, it certainly is not that which Mr. Mill proves à priori that it must be,-a democratic representative assembly. For the Danes have no such assembly.
The latent principle of good government ought to be tracked, as it appears to us, in the same manner in which Lord Bacon proposed to track the principle of heat. Make as large a list as possible, said that great man, of those bodies in which, however widely they differ from each other in appearance, we perceive heat; and as large a list as possible of those which, while they bear a general resemblance to hot bodies, are, nevertheless, not hot. Observe the different degrees of heat in different hot bodies, and then, if there be something which is found in all hot bodies, and of which the increase or diminution is always accompanied by an increase or diminution of heat, we may hope that we have really discovered the object of our search. In the same manner, we ought to examine the constitution of all those communities in which, under whatever form, the blessings of good government are enjoyed; and to discover, if possible, in what they resemble each other, and in what they all differ from those societies in which the object of government is not attained. By proceeding thus we shall arrive, not indeed at a perfect theory of government, but at a theory which will be of great practical use, and which the experience of every successive generation will probably bring nearer and nearer to perfection. The inconsistencies into which Mr. Mill has been betrayed, by taking a different course, ought to serve as a warning to all speculators. Because Denmark is well governed by a monarch, who, in appearance at least, is absolute, Mr. Mill thinks, that the only mode of arriving at the true principles of government, is to deduce them à priori from the laws of human nature. And what conclusion does he bring out by this deduction? We will give it in his own words:"In the grand discovery of modern times, the system of representation, the solution of all the difficulties, both speculative and practical, will perhaps be found. If it cannot, we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary | VOL. V.-88
conclusion, that good government is impossi ble." That the Danes are well governed without a representation, is a reason for deducing the theory of government from a general principle, from which it necessarily follows, that good government is impossible without a representation! We have done our best to put this question plainly; and we think, that if the Westminster Reviewer will read over what we have written, twice or thrice with patience and attention, some glimpse of our meaning will break in, even on his mind.
Scme objections follow, so frivolous and unfair, that we are almost ashamed to notice them. "When it was said that there was in Denmark a balanced contest between the king and the nobility, what was said was, that there was a balanced contest, but it did not last. It was balanced till something put an end to the balance; and so is every thing else. That such a balance will not last, is precisely what Mr. Mill had demonstrated."
Mr. Mill, we positively affirm, pretends to demonstrate, not merely that a balanced contest between the king and the aristocracy will not last, but that the chances are as infinity to one against the existence of such a balanced contest. This is a mere question of fact: We quote the words of the Essay, and defy the Westminster Reviewer to impeach our accuracy :
"It seems impossible that such equality should ever exist. How is it to be esta|blished? 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 Reviewer has confounded the division of power with the balance or equal division of power. Mr. Mill says, that the division of power can never exist long, because it is next to impossible that the equal division of power should ever exist at all.
"When Mr. Mill asserted that it cannot be for the interest of either the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine with the democracy, it is plain he did not assert that if the monarchy and aristocracy were in doubtful contest with each other, they would not, either of them, accept of the assistance of the democracy. He spoke of their taking the side of the democra cy; not of their allowing the democracy to take side with themselves."
If Mr. Mill meant any thing, he must have meant this-that the monarchy and the aristocracy will never forget their enmity to the democracy, in their enmity to each other.
"The monarchy and aristocracy," says he, "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, and unless the people have power enough to be a match for both, they have no protection. The balance, therefore, is a thing, the existence of which, upon the best possible evidence, is to be regarded as impossible."
If Mr. Mill meant only what the Westminster Reviewer conceives him to have meant, his 3 N
If there be, as the Westminster Reviewer acknowledges, certain checks which, under political institutions the most arbitrary in seeming, sometimes produce good government, and almost always place some restraint on the ra pacity and cruelty of the powerful; surely the knowledge of those checks, of their nature, and of their effect, must be a most important part of the science of government. Does Mr. Mill say any thing upon this part of the subject? Not one word.
argument would leave the popular theory of | some motive interferes to keep them from dothe balance quite untouched. For it is the ing so. very theory of the balance, that the help of the people will be solicited by the nobles when hard pressed by the king, and by the king when hard pressed by the nobles; and that, as the price of giving alternate support to the crown and the aristocracy, they will obtain something for themselves, as the reviewer admits that they have done in Denmark. If Mr. Mill admits this, he admits the only theory of the balance of which we never heard-that very theory which he has declared to be wild and chimerical. If he denies it, he is at issue with the Westminster Reviewer as to the phenomena of the Danish government.
We now come to a more important passage. Our opponent has discovered, as he conceives, a radical error which runs through our whole argument, and vitiates every part of it. We suspect that we shall spoil his triumph.
The line of defence now taken by the Utilitarians evidently degrades Mr. Mill's theory of government from the rank which, till within the last few months, was claimed for it by the whole sect. It is no longer a practical system, fit to guide statesmen, but merely a barren ex ercise of the intellect, like those propositions in mechanics in which the effect of friction and "Mr. Mill never asserted that under no des- of the resistance of the air is left out of the potic government does any human being, except the question; and which, therefore, though cor tools of the sovereign, possess more than the necessa-rectly deduced from the premises, are in praeries of life, and that the most intense degree of terror tice utterly false. For if Mr. Mill professes to is kept up by constant cruelty. He said that ab- prove only that absolute monarchy and aristosolate power leads to such results, by infalli-cracy are pernicious without checks,—if he bie sequence, where power over a community allows that there are checks which produce is attained, and nothing checks. The critic on good government, even under absolute mothe Mount never made a more palpable mis-narchs and aristocracies, and if he omits to quotation. tell us what those checks are, and what effects
"The spirit of this misquotation runs through they produce under different circumstances, he every part of the reply of the Edinburgh Re-surely gives us no information which can be view that relates to the Essay on Government; of real utility. and is repeated in as many shapes as the Ro- But the fact is, and it is most extraordinary man Pork. The whole description of Mr. that the Westminster Reviewer should not Mill's argument against despotism,'-including have perceived it,—that if once the existence the illustration from right-angled triangles and of checks on the abuse of power in monarchies the square of the hypothenuse,—is founded on and aristocracies be admitted, the whole of Mr. this invention of saying what an author has Mill's theory falls to the ground at once. This not said, and leaving unsaid what he has." is so palpable, that in spite of the opinion of the Westminster Reviewer, we must acquit Mr. Mill of having intended to make such an admission. We still think that the words, "where power over a community is attained, and nothing checks," must not be understood to mean, that under a monarchical or aristocratical form of government there can really be any check which can in any degree mitigate the wretchedness of the people.
We thought, and still think, for reasons which our readers will soon understand, that we represented Mr. Mill's principle quite fairly, and according to the rule and law of common sense, ut res magis valeat quam pereat. Let us, however, give him all the advantage of the explanation tendered by his advocate, and see what he will gain by it.
The Utilitarian doctrine then is, not that despots and aristocracies will always oppress and plunder the people to the last point, but that they will do so if nothing checks them.
In the first place, it is quite clear that the doctrine thus stated, is of no use at all, unless the force of the checks be estimated. The first law of motion is, that a ball once projected will fly on to all eternity with undiminished velocity, unless something checks. The fact is, that a ball stops in a few seconds after proceeding a few yards with very variable motion. Every man would wring his child's neck, and pick his friend's pocket, if nothing checked him. In fact, the principle thus stated, means only that government will oppress, unless they abstain from oppressing. This is quite true, we own. But we might with equal propriety turn the maxim round, and lay it down as the fundamental principle of governmert, that all rulers will govern well, unless
For, all possible checks may be classed under two general heads,-want of will, and want of power. Now, if a king or an aristocracy having the power to plunder and oppress the people, can want the will, all Mr. Mill's principles of human nature must be pronounced unsound. He tells us, "that the desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting pain upon others, is an inseparable part of human nature;" and that “a chain of inference, close and strong to a most unusual degree," leads to the cocclosion that those who possess this power will always desire to use it. It is plain, therefore, that, if Mr. Mill's principles be sound, the check on a monarchical or an aristocratical govern ment will not be the want of will to oppress.
If a king or an aristocracy, having, as Mr. Mill tells us that they always must have, the will to oppress the people with the utmost severity want the power, then the government, by what
There are two senses in which we may use the word power, and those words which denote the various distributions of power, as for example, monarchy-the one sense popular and superficial, the other more scientific and accurate. Mr. Mill, since he chose to reason à priori, ought to have clearly pointed out in which sense he intended to use words of this kind, and to have adhered inflexibly to the sense on which he fixed. Instead of doing this, he flies backwards and forwards from the one sense to the other, and brings out conclusions at last which suit neither.
ever name it may be called, must be virtually | ing of the word circle. But when we analyze a mixed government, or a pure democracy: for his speculations, we find that his notion of it is quite clear that the people possess some power is, in the words of Bacon, "phantastica power in the state-some means of influencing et male terminata." the nominal rulers. But Mr. Mill has demonstrated that no mixed government can possibly exist, or at least that such a government must come to a very speedy end: therefore, every country in which people not in the service of the government have, for any length of time, been permitted to accumulate more than the bare means of subsistence, must be a pure democracy. That is to say, France before the revolution, and Ireland during the last century, were pure democracies. Prussia, Austria, Russia, all the governments of the civilized world, were pure democracies. If this be not a reductio ad absurdum, we do not know what is. The errors of Mr. Mill proceed principally from that radical vice in his reasoning, which, in our last number, we described in the words of Lord Bacon. The Westminster Reviewer is unable to discover the meaning of our extracts from the Novum Organum, and expresses himself as follows:
"The quotations from Lord Bacon are misapplications, such as anybody may make to any thing he dislikes. There is no more resemblance between pain, pleasure, motives, &c., and substantia, generatio, corruptio, elementum, materia,—than between lines, angles, magnitudes, &c., and the same."
It would perhaps be unreasonable to expect that a writer who cannot understand his own English, should understand Lord Bacon's Latin. We will, therefore, attempt to make our meaning clearer.
What Lord Bacon blames in the schoolmen of his time, is this,-that they reasoned syllogistically on words which had not been defined with precision; such as moist, dry, generation, | corruption, and so forth. Mr. Mill's error is exactly of the same kind. He reasons syllogistically about power, pleasure, and pain, without attaching any definite notion to any one of those words. There is no more resemblance, says the Westminster Reviewer, between pain and substantia, than between pain and a line or an angle. By his permission, in the very point to which Lord Bacon's observation applies, Mr. Mill's subjects do resemble the substantia and elementum of the schoolmen, and differ from the lines and magnitudes of Euclid. We can reason à priori on mathematics, because we can define with an exactitude which precludes all possibility of confusion. If a mathematician were to admit the least laxity into his notions; if he were to allow himself to be deluded by the vague sense which words bear in a popular use, or by the aspect of an ill-drawn diagram; if he were to forget in his reasonings that a point was indivisible, or that the definition of a line excluded breadth, there would be no end to his blunders. The schoolmen tried to reason mathematically about things which had not been, and perhaps could not be, defined with mathematical accuracy. We know the result. Mr. Mill has in our time attempted to do the same. He talks of power, for example, as if the meaning of the word power were as determinate as the mean
The state of these two communities to which he has himself referred-the kingdom of Denmark and the empire of Rome-may serve to illustrate our meaning. Looking merely at the surface of things, we should call Denmark a despotic monarchy, and the Roman world, in the first century after Christ, an aristocratical republic. Caligula was, in theory, nothing more than a magistrate elected by the senate, and subject to the senate. That irresponsible dignity which, in the most limited monarchies of our time, is ascribed to the person of the sovereign, never belonged to the earlier Cæsars. The sentence of death which the great council of the commonwealth passed on Nero, was strictly according to the theory of the constitu tion. Yet, in fact, the power of the Roman emperors approached nearer to absolute dominion than that of any prince in modern Europe. On the other hand, the king of Denmark, in theory the most despotic of princes, would, in practice, find it most perilous to indulge in cruelty and licentiousness. Nor is there, we believe, at the present moment, a single sovereign in our part of the world, who has so much real power over the lives of his subjects as Robespierre, while he lodged at a chandler's and dined at a restaurateur's, exercised over the lives of those whom he called his fellow-citizens.
Mr. Mill and the Westminster Reviewer seem to agree, that there cannot long exist, in any society, a division of power between a monarch, an aristocracy, and the people; or between any two of them. However the power be distri buted, one of the three parties will, according to them, inevitably monopolize the whole. Now, what is here meant by power? If Mr. Mill speaks of the external semblance of power,of power recognised by the theory of the constitution, he is palpably wrong. In England, for example, we have had for ages the name and form of a mixed government, if nothing more. Indeed, Mr. Mili himself owns, that there are appearances which have given colour to the theory of the balance, though he maintains that these appearances are delusive. But if he uses the word power in a deeper and phi losophical sense, he is, if possible, still more in the wrong than on the former supposition. For if he had considered in what the power of one human being over other human beings must ultimately consist, he would have perceived, not only that there are mixed governments