« PreviousContinue »
layers not to jump off scaffolds and break | do it. Will the principle run thus-pursue the their legs.
greatest happiness of mankind, whether it be Does Mr. Bentham profess to hold out any your own greatest happiness or not? This is new motive which may induce men to promote absurd and impossible, and Mr. Bentham himthe happiness of the species to which they self allows it to be so. But if the principle belong? Not at all. He distinctly admits that, be not stated in one of these two ways, we canif he is asked why governments should attempt not imagine how it is to be stated at all. Stated to produce the greatest possible happiness, he in one of these ways, it is an identical proposican give no answer.
tion-true, but utterly barren of consequences. “The real answer," says he, “appeared to Stated in the other way, it is a contradiction in be, that men at large ought not to allow a go- terms. Mr. Bentham has distinctly declined vernment to afflict them with more evil or less the absurdity. Are we then to suppose that he good than they can help. What a government adopts the truism? ought to do, is a mysterious and searching There are thus, it seems, two great truths question, which those may answer who know which the Utilitarian philosophy is to comniuwhat it means; but what other men ought to nicate to mankind-two truths which are to do, is a question of no mystery at all. The produce a revolution in morals, in laws, in word ought, if it means any thing, must have governments, in literature, in the whole system reference to some kind of interest or motives: of life. The first of these is speculative; the and what interest a government has in doing second is practical. The speculative truth is, right, when it happens to be interested in doing that the greatest happiness is the greatest hapwrong, is a question for the schoolmen. The piness. The practical rule is very simple, for fact appears to be, that ought is not predicable it imports merely that men should never omit
, of governments. The question is not why when they wish for any thing, to wish for it, or governments are bound not to do this or that, when they do any thing, to do it! It is a great but why other men should let them if they can comfort for us to think, that we readily assenthelp it. The point is not to determine why ed to the former of these great doctrines as the lion should not eat sheep, but why men soon as it was stated to us; and that we have should eat their own mutton if they can." long endeavoured, as far as human frailty would The principle of Mr. Bentham, if we under- permit
, to conform to the latter in our practice. stand it, is this, that mankind ought to act so as We are, however, inclined to suspect, that the to produce their greatest happiness. The word calamities of the human race have been owing ought, he tells us, has no meaning, unless it be less to their not knowing that happiness was used with reference to some interest. But the happiness, than to their not knowing how to interest of a man is synonymous with his obtain it-less to their neglecting to do what greatest happiness :-and therefore to say that they did, than to their not being able to do what a man ought to do a thing, is to say that it is they wished, or not wishing to do what they for his greatest happiness to do it. And to say ought. that mankind ought to act so as to produce their Thus frivolous, thus useless is this philosogreatest happiness, is to say that the greatest phy,—"controversiarum ferax, operum effeta, happiness is the greatest happiness and this ad garriendum prompta, ad generandum inis all!
valida.”* The humble mechanic who discoDoes Mr. Bentham's principle tend to make vers some slight improvement in the construcany man wish for any thing for which he would tion of safety lamps or steam vessels, does not have wished, or do any thing which he more for the happiness of mankind than the would not have done, if the principle had magnificent principle," as Mr. Bentham calls never been heard of? If not, it is an utterly it, will do in ten thousand years. The mechanic useless principle. Now, every man pursues teaches us how we may, in a small degree, be his own happiness or interest-call it which better off than we were. The Utilitarian adyou will. If his happiness coincides with the vises us, with great pomp, to be as well off as happiness of the species, then, whether he ever we can. heard of the "greatest happiness principle" or The doctrine of a moral sense may be very not, he will, to the best of his knowledge and unphilosophical, but we do not think that it can ability, attempt to produce the greatest happi- be proved to te pernicious. Men did not enterness of the species. But, if what he thinks tain certain desires and aversions because they his happiness be inconsistent with the greatest believed in a moral sense, but they gave the happiness of mankind, will this new principle name of moral sense to a feeling which they convert him to another frame of mind? Mr. found in their minds, however it came there. Bentham himself allows, as we have seen, that If they had given it no name at all, it would he can give no reason why a man should pro- still have influenced their actions: and it will mote the greatest happiness of others, if their not be very easy to demonstrate that it has ingreatest happiness be inconsistent with what fluenced their actions the more, because they he thinks his own. We should very much like have called it the moral sense. The theory of to know how the Utilitarian principle would the original contract is a fiction, and a very run, when reduced to one plain imperative absurd fiction ; but in practice it meant, what proposition. Will it run thus--pursue your the "greatest happiness principle,” if ever own happiness? This is superfluous. Every it becomes a watchword of political warfare man pursues it, according to his light, and will mean-that is to say, whatever served the always has pursued it, and always must pursue turn of those who used it. Both the one ex. it. To say that a man has done any thing, is to say that he thought it for his happiness to
Bacon, Novum Organnm.
pression and the other sound very well in de- / were to be a radical insurrection to-morrow,-
indeed be a great jury, martial law, every thing, in short, good, bad,
the New Testament it is neither an identical The most elevated station that the "greatest proposition, nor a contradiction in terms; and, happiness principle" is ever likely to attain is as laid down by Mr. Bentham, it must be either this, that it may be a fashionable phrase among the one or the other. “Do as you would be newspaper writers and members of Parliament done by: Love your neighbour as yourself;" --thai it may succeed to the dignity which has these are the precepts of Jesus Christ. Under been enjoyed by the “ original contract,” by the stood in an enlarged sense, these precepts are, "constilution of 1688,” and other expressions in fact, a direction to every man to promote of the same kind. We do not apprehend that the greatest happiness of the greatest number. it is a less flexible cant than those which have But this direction would be utterly unmeanpreceded it, or that it will less easily furnish a ing, as it actually is in Mr. Bentham's philosopretext for any design for which a pretext may phy, unless it were accompanied by a sanction. he required. Tue original contract” meani, in the Christian scheme, accordingly, it is acin the Convention Parliament, the co-ordi- companied by a sanction of immense force. Date authority of the Three Estates. If there To a man whose greatest happiness in this
BENTHAM'S DEFENCE OF MILL.
695. worid is inconsistent with the greatest happi- . sect. He discovered truths; all that they have ness of the greatest number, is held out the done has been to make those truths unpopular. prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, He investigated the philosophy of law; he from which he excludes himself by wronging could teach them only to snarl at lawyers. his fellow-creatures here.
We entertain no apprehensions of danger to This is practical philosophy, as practical as the institutions of this country from the Utilithat 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 imprueffected. 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 mind between Reform an Utilitarianism. which we have always been doing, and should We bear no enmity to any member of the still have continued to do, if we had never sect: and for Mr. Bentham we entertain very : heard of the “greatest happiness principle,”- high admiration. We know that among his or else to do something which we have no con- followers there are some well-intentioned men, ceivable motive for doing, and therefore shall and some men of talents: but we cannot say not do. Mr. Bentham's principle is at best that we think the logic on which they pride no more than the golden rule of the Gospel themselves likely to improve their heads, or without its sanction. Whatever evils, there the scheme of morality which they have adoptfore, have existed in societies in which the au- ed likely to improve their hearts. Their theory thority of the Gospel is recognised, may, a for- of morals, however, well deserves an article to tiori, as it appears to us, exist in societies in itself; and perhaps, on some future occasion, which the Utilitarian principle is recognised. we may discuss it more fully than time and We do not apprehend that it is more difficult space at present allow. 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 opi The preceding article was written, and was nions, he is pursuing "the greatest happiness,” actually in types, when a letter from Mr. Ben. than that he is doing as he would be done by. tham appeared in the newspapers, importing, Bit religion gives him a motive for doing as that though he had furnished the Westminster he would be done by: and Mr. Bentham fur- Review with some memoranda respecting the nishes him with no motive to induce him to greatest happiness principle,' he had nothing promote the general happiness. If, on the to do with the remarks on our former article. Other hand, Mr. Bentham's principle mean only We are truly happy to find that this illustrious that every man should pursue his own great man had so small a share in a performance est happiness, he merely asserts what every- which, for his sake, we have treated with far body knows, and recommends what everybody greater lenity than it deserved. The mistake,
however, does not in the least affect any part It is not upon this greatest happiness prin- of our arguments; and we have therefore ciple" that the fame of Mr. Bentham will rest. thought it unnecessary to cancel or cast anew He has not taught people to pursue their own any of the foregoing pages. Indeed, we are happiness; for thai they always did. He has not sorry that the world should see how renot taught them to promote the happiness of spectfully we were disposed to treat a great others at the expense of their own; for that they man, even when we considered him as the auwill not and cannot do. But he has taught thor of a very weak and very unfair attack on them how, in some most important points, to ourselves. We wish, however, to intimate to promote their own happiness; and if his school the actual writer of that attack, that our civili
had emulated him as successfully in this re- ties were intended for the author of the --- spect as in the trick of passing off truisms for "Preuves Judiciaires," and the Defence of
discoveries, the name of Benthamite would Usury,"--and not for him. We cannot con. have been no word for the scoffer. But few clude, indeed, without expressing a wish, of those who consider themselves as in a more though we fear it has but little chance of especial manner his followers, have any thing reaching Mr. Bentham,—that he would endea. in common with him but his faults. The vour to find better editors for his compositions whole science of jurisprudence is his. He has If M. Dumont had not been a rédacteur of a dir done much for political economy; but we are ferent description from some of his successors, nul aware that in either department any im- Mr. Bentham would never have attained the provement has been made by members of his distinction of even giving his name to a sect
UTILITARIAN THEORY OF GOVERNMENT."
- [EDINBURGU Review, OCTOBER, 1829.]
We have long been of opinion that the Uti-| be afraid ;--that this logic will impose on no 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 charge submitted their minds to an intellectual disci- ing us with having misrepresented an importpline of peculiar severity, to have discarded allant part of Mr. Mill's argument. sentimentality, and to have acquired consum " The first extract given by the Edinburgh mate skill in the art of reasoning, they are de- Reviewers from the essay was an insulated cidedly inferior to the mass of educated men passage, purposely despoiled of what had prein the very qualities in which they conceive ceded and what followed. The author had themselves to excel. They have undoubtedly been observing, that some profound and benefreed themselves from the dominion of some volent investigators of human affairs had absurd notions. But their struggle for intel- adopted the conclusion, that of all the possible lectual emancipation has ended, as injudicious forms of government, absolute monarchy is and violent struggles for political emancipation the best. This is what the reviewers have too often end, in a mere change of tyrants. omitted at the beginning. He then adds, as in Indeed, we are not sure that we do not prefer the extract, that • Experience, if we look only at the venerable nonsense which holds prescrip- the outside of the facts, appears to be divided on tive sway over the ultra-tory, to the upstart this subject; there are Caligulas in one place, dynasty of prejudices and sophisms, by which and kings of Denmark in another. "As the the revolutionists of the moral world have surface of history affords, therefore, no certain suffered themselves to be enslaved.
principle of decision, we must go beyond the surThe Utilitarians have sometimes been abused face, and penetrate to the springs within. This as intolerant, arrogant, irreligious, -as enemies is what ihe reviewers have omitted at the of literature, of the fine arts, and of the domes- end.” tic charities. They have been reviled for some It is perfectly true, that our quotation from things of which they were guilty, and for some Mr-Mill's Essay was, like most other quotations, of which they were innocent. But scarcely preceded and followed by something which anybody seems to have perceived, that almost we did not quote. But if the Westminster Reall their peculiar faults arise from the utter want viewer means to say, that either what preceded, both of comprehensiveness and of precision in or what followed, would, if quoted, have shown their mode of reasoning. We have, for some that we put a wrong interpretation on the pastime past, been convinced that this was really sage which was extracted, he does not underthe case, and that, whenever their philosophy stand Mr. Mill rightly, should be boldly and unsparingly scrutinized, Mr. Mill undoubtedly says that, “ as the surthe world would see that it had been under a face of history affords no certain principle of mistake respecting them.
decision, we must go beyond the surface, and We have made the experiment, and it has penetrate to the springs within." But these succeeded far beyond our most sanguine ex- expressions will admit of several interpretapectations. A chosen champion of the school tions. In what sense, then, does Mr. Mill use has come forth against us. A specimen of his them? If he means that we ought to inspect logical abilities now lies before us; and we the facts with close attention, he means what pledge ourselves to show, that no prebendary is rational. But if he means that we ought to at an Anti-Catholic meeting, no true-blue baro- leave the facts, with all their apparent inconnet after the third bottle at a Pitt Club, ever sistencies, unexplained to lay down a general displayed such utter incapacity of comprehend- principle of the widest extent, and to deduce ing or answering an argument, as appears in doctrines from that principle by syllogistic arthe speculations of this Utilitarian apostle; gument, without pausing to consider whether that he does not understand our meaning, or those doctrines be, or be not, consistent with Mr. Mill's meaning, or Mr. Bentham's meaning, the facts,then he means what is irrational; or his own meaning; and that the various parts and this is clearly what he does mean : for he of his system-if the name of system can be immediately begins, without offering the least so misapplied-directly contradict each other. explanation of the contradictory appearances ...
Having shown this, we intend to leave him in which he has himself described, to go beyond undisputed possession of whatever advantage the surface in the following manner " That he may derive from the last word. We pro- one human being will desire to render the perpose only to convince the public that there is son and property of another subservient to his nothing in the far-famed logic of the Utilita- pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of rians, of which any plain man has reason to pleasure which it may occasion, to that other
individual, is the foundation of government Westminster Review, (XXII. Art. 16,) on the Stric- The desire of the object implies the desire of tures of the Edinburgh Review (XCVIII. Art. 1, on the the power necessary to accomplish the object." U.Ilitarian Theory of Government, and the “Greatest Happiness Principle."
And thus he proceeds to deduce consequences
directly inconsistent with what he has himself conclusion, that good government is impossi "sta!cd respecting the situation of the Danish ble.” That the Danes are well governed with people.
out a representation, is a reason for deducing If we assume that the object of government the theory of government from a general prinis the preservation of the persons and property ciple, from which it necessarily follows, that of men, then we must hold that, wherever that good government is impossible without a reobject is attained, there the principle of good presentation! We have done our best to put government exists. If that object he attained this question plainly; and we think, that if the both in Denmark and in the United States of Westminster Reviewer will read over what we America, then that which makes government have written, twice or thrice with patience and good must exist, under whatever disguise of attention, some glimpse of our meaning will title or name, both in Denmark and in the break in, even on his mind. United States. If men lived in fear for their Scme objections follow, so frivolous and unlives and their possessions under Nero and fair, that we are almost ashamed to notice them. under the National Convention, it follows that “When it was said that there was in Denthe causes from which misgovernment pro- mark a balanced contest between the king and ceeds, existed both in the despotism of Rome, the nobility, what was said was, that there was and in the democracy of France. What, then, a balanced contest, but it did not last. It was is that which, being found in Denmark and in balanced till something put an end to the ba. the United States, and not being found in the lance; and so is every thing else. That such Roman empire, or under the administration of a balance will not last, is precisely what Mr. Robespierre, renders governments, widely dif- Mill had demonstrated.” fering in their external form, practically good ? Mr. Mill, we positively affirm, pretends to Be it what it may, it certainly is not that which demonstrate, not merely that a balanced conMr. Mill proves à priori that it must be-a de- test between the king and the aristocracy will mocratic representative assembly. For the not last, but that the chances are as infinity to Danes have no such assembly.
one against the existence of such a balanced The latent principle of good government contest. This is a mere question of fact: We ought to be tracked, as it appears to us, in the quote the words of the Essay, and defy the sare manner in which Lord Bacon proposed Westminster Reviewer to impeach our accuto track the principle of heat. Make as large racy :a list as possible, said that great man, of those "It seems impossible that such equality bodies in which, however widely they differ should ever exist. How is it to be estaîrom each other in appearance, we perceive blished? Or by what criterion is it to be as. heat; and as large a list as possible of those certained? If there is no such criterion, it which, while they bear a general resemblance must, in all cases, be the result of chance. to hot bodies, are, nevertheless, not hot. Ob- If so, the chances against it are as infinity to serve the different degrees of heat in different one." hot bodies, and then, if there be something The Reviewer has confounded the division which is found in all hot bodies, and of which of power with the balance or equal division the increase or diminution is always accom- of power. Mr. Mill says, that the division of panied by an increase or diminution of heat, power can never exist long, because it is next we may hope that we have really discovered to impossible that the equal division of power the object of our search. In the same manner, should ever exist at all. we ought to examine the constitution of all “ When Mr. Mill asserted that it cannot be those communities in which, under whatever for the interest of either the monarchy or the form, the blessings of good government are en- aristocracy to combine with the democracy, it joyed; and to discover, if possible, in what is plain he did not assert that if the monarchy they resemble each other, and in what they all and aristocracy were in doubtful contest with differ from those societies in which the object each other, they would not, either of them, acof government is not attained. By proceeding cept of the assistance of the democracy. He thus we shall arrive, not indeed at a perfect spoke of their taking the side of the democratheory of government, but at a theory which cy; not of their allowing the democracy to take will be of great practical use, and which the side with themselves.” experience of every successive generation will If Mr. Mill meant any thing, he must have probably bring nearer and nearer to perfection. meant this--that the monarchy and the aristo
The inconsistencies into which Mr. Mill has cracy will never forget their enmity to the de been betrayed, by taking a different course, mocracy, in their enmity to each other. ought to serve as a warning to all speculators. “ The monarchy and aristocracy,” says he, Because Denmark is well governed by a mo- "have all possible motives for endeavouring narch, who, in appearance at least, is absolute, to obtain unlimited power over the persons and Mr. Mill thinks, that the only mode of arriving property of the community. The consequence at the true principles of government, is to de- is inevitable. They have all possible motives duce them å priori from the laws of human na- for combining to obtain that power, and unless ture. And what conclusion does he bring out the people have power enough to be a match by this deduction ? We will give it in his own for both, they have no protection. The bar words :—“In the grand discovery of modern lance, therefore, is a thing, the existence of times, the system of representation, the solu- which, upon the best possible evidence, is to tion of all the difficulties, both speculative and be regarded as impossible." practical, will perhaps be found. If it cannot, If Mr. Mill meant only what the Westminster we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary Reviewer conceives him to have meant, his