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UTILITARIAN THEORY OF GOVERNMENT."

-[EDINBURGH Review, October, 1829.]

We have long been of opinion that the Utilitarians have owed all their influence to a mere delusion—that, while professing to have submitted their minds to an intellectual discipline of peculiar severity, to have discarded all 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 prescrip

tive 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 exectations. A chosen champion of the school as 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 baromet 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 J.ilitarian Theory of Government, and the “Greatest Happiness Principle.”

be afraid;—that this logic will impose on no man who dares to look it in the face. The Westminster Reviewer begins by charging us with having misrepresented an important part of Mr. Mill's argument. “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 benevolent 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 surface, and penetrate to the springs within.” This ls * the reviewers have omitted at the eng. It is persectly 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 passage which was extracted, he does not understand 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 interpretations. 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 inconsistencies, unexplained—to lay down a general principle of the widest extent, and to deduce doctrines from that principle by syllogistic argument, 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 Lenmark 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 pro-
ceeds, 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 dis-
fering in their external form, practically good?
Be it what it may, it certainly is not that which
Mr. Mill proves a priori that it must be, a de-
mocratic 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. Ob-
serve 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 accom-
panied by an increase or diminution of heat,
we may hope that we have really discovered
the object of door 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 en-
joyed; 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 mo-
narch, who, in appearance at least, is absolute,
Mr. Mill thinks, that the only mode of arriving
at the true principles of government, is to de-
duce them a priori from the laws of human na-
ture. 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 solu-
tion of all the difficulties, both speculative and
practical, will perhaps be found. If it cannot,
we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary
Wol. W.-88

conclusion, that good government is impossi
ble.” That the Danes are well governed with-
out a representation, is a reason for deducing
the theory of government from a general prin-
ciple, from which it necessarily follows, that
good government is impossible without a re-
presentation 1 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 un-
fair, that we are almost ashamed to notice them.
“When it was said that there was in Den-
mark 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 ba-
lance; 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 con-
test 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 accu-
racy:-
“It seems impossible that such equality
should evere exist. How is it to be esta-
blished? Or by what criterion is it to be as-
certained? 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, ac-
cept 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 aristo-
cracy will never forget their enmity to the de-
mocracy, 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 ba-
lance, 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 '." to have meant, his
8

argument would leave the popular theory of the balance quite untouched. For it is the 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. “Mr. Mill never asserted “that under no despotic government does any human being, ercept 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.' He said that absolate power leads to such results, “by infallis bie sequence, where power over a community is attained, and nothing checks.' The critic on the Mount never made a more palpable misquotation. “The spirit of this misquotation runs through every part of the reply of the Edinburgh Review that relates to the Essay on Government; and is repeated in as many shapes as the Roman Pork. The whole description of “Mr. Mill's argument against despotism,'—including the illustration from right-angled triangles and the square of the hypothen use, is founded on this invention of saying what an author has not said, and leaving unsaid what he has.” 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 aristccracies 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

some motive interferes to keep them from doing so. 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 rapacity 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. 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 exercise of the intellect, like those propositions in mechanics in which the effect of friction and of the resistance of the air is left out of the question; and which, therefore, though correctly deduced from the premises, are in practice utterly false. For if Mr. Mill professes to prove only that absolute monarchy and aristocracy are pernicious without checks,—if he allows that there are checks which produce good government, even under absolute mo

narchs and aristocracies,—and if he omits to

tell us what those checks are, and what effects they produce under different circumstances, he surely gives us no information which can be of real utility. But the fact is, and it is most extraordinary that the Westminster Reviewer should not have perceived it, that if once the existence of checks on the abuse of power in monarchies and aristocracies be admitted, the whole of Mr. Mill's theory falls to the ground at once. This 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. 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 cocclusion 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 government will not be the want of will to oppress.

If a king or an aristocracy, having, as Mr.

propriety turn the maxim round, and lay it Mill tells us that they always must have, the will

down as the fundamental principle of govern

mert, that all rulers will govern well, unless

to oppress the people with the utmost severity want the power, then the government, by what

ever name it may be called, must be virtually a mixed government, or a pure democracy: for it is quite clear that the people possess some power in the state—some means of influencing 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, thereforé, 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 élementum of the schoolmen, and differ from the lines and magnitudes of Euclid. We can reason d priori cn 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 indi* visible, 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 meano

ing of the word circle. But when we analyze his speculations, we find that his notion of power is, in the words of Bacon, “phantastica et male terminata.” 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 d 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. 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 filst 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 Caesars. The sentence of death which the great council of the commonwealth passed on Nero, was strictly according to the theory of the constitution. 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 distributed, 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 powerof power recognised by the theory of the constitution,--he is palpably wrong. for example, we have had for ages the name and form of a mixed government, if nothing more. Indeed, Mr. Mill. 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 philosophical 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 otherhuman beings must ultimately consist, he would have perceived, not only that there are mixed government

In England, in the world, but that all the governments in the world, and all the governments which can even be conceived as existing in the world, are virtually mixed. If a king possessed the lamp of Aladdinif he governed by the help of a genius, who carried away the daughters and wives of his subjects through the air to the royal Parc-auxcerss, and turned into stone every man who wagged a finger against his majesty's government, there would, indeed, be an unmixed despotism. But, fortunately, a ruler can be gratified only by means of his subjects. His power depends on their obedience; and, as any three or four of them are more than a match for him by himself, he can only enforce the unwilling obedience of some, by means of the willing obedience of others. Take any of those who are popularly called absolute princes—Napoleon for example. Could Napoleon have walked through Paris, cutting off the head of one person in every house which he passed? Certainly not without the assistance of an army. If not, why not? Because the people had sufficient physical power to resist him, and would have put forth that power in defence of their lives and of the lives of their children. In other words, there was a portion of power in the democracy under Napoleon. Napoleon might probably have indulged himself in such an atrocious freak of power if his army would have seconded him. But if his army had taken part with the people, he would have found himself utterly helpless; and even if they had obeyed his orders against the people, they would not have suffered him to decimate their own body. In other words, there was a portion of power in the hands of a minority of the people, that is to say, in the hands of an aristocracy, under the reign of Napoleon. To come nearer home, Mr. Mill tells us that it is a mistake to imagine that the English government is mixed. He holds, we suppose, with all the politicians of the Utilitarian school, that it is purely aristocratical. There certainly is an aristocracy in England, and we are afraid that their power is greater than it ought to be. They have power enough to keep up the gamelaws and corn-laws; but they have not power enough to subject the bodies of men of the lowest class to wanton outrage at their pleasure. Suppose that they were to make a law, that any gentleman of two thousand a year might have a day-labourer or a pauper flogged with a cat-of-nine-tails whenever the whim might take him. It is quite clear, that the first day on which such flagellation should be administered, would be the last day of the English aristocracy. In this point, and in many other points which might be named, the commonalty in our island enjoy a security quite as complete as if they exercised the right of univer. sal suffrage. We say, therefore, that the English people have, in their own hands, a sufficient guarantee that in some points the aristocracy will conform to their wishes;–in other words, they have a certain portion of power over the aristocracy. Therefore the English government is mixed. Wherever a king or an oligarchy refrains from the last extremity of rapacity and tyranny,

through fear of the resistance of the people, there the constitution, whatever it may be called, is in some measure democratical. The admixture of democratic power may be slight. It may be much slighter than it ought to be ; but some admixture there is. Wherever a numerical minority, by means of superior wealth or intelligence, of political concert, or of military discipline, exercises a greater influence on the society than any other equal number of persons,—there, whatever the form of governmay be called, a mixture of aristocracy does in fact exist. And wherever a single man, from whatever cause, is so necessary to the community, or to any portion of -it, that he possesses more power than any other man, there is a mixture of monarchy. This is the philosophical classification of governments; and if we use this classification we shall find, not only that there are mixed governments, but that all governments are, and must always be, mixed. But we may safely challenge Mr. Mill to give any definition of power, or to make any classification of governments, which shall bear him out in his assertion, that a lasting division of authority is impracticable. It is evidently on the real distribution of power, and not on names and badges, that the happiness of nations must depend. The representative system, though doubtless a great and precious discovery in politics, is only one of the many modes in which the democratic part of the community can effectually check the governing few. That certain men have been chosen as deputies of the people, that there is a piece of paper stating such deputies to possess certain powers, these circumstances in themselves constitute no security for good government. Such a constitution nominally existed in France; while, in fact, an oligarchy of committees and clubs trampled at once on the electors and the elected. Representation is a very happy contrivance for enabling large bodies of men to exert their power, with less risk of disorder than there would otherwise be, But assuredly it does not of itself give power Unless a representative assembly is sure of being supported, in the last resort, by the physical strength of large masses, who have spirit to defend the constitution, and sense to defend it in concert, the mob of the town in which it meets may overawe it;-the howls of the listeners in its gallery may silence its deliberations;–an able and daring individual may dissolve it. And if that sense and that spirit of which we speak be diffused through a society, then, even without a representative assembly, that society will enjoy many of the blessings of good government. Which is the better able to defend himself, —a strong man with nothing but his fists, or a paralytic cripple encumbered with a sword which he cannot lift : Such, we believe, is the difference between Denmark and some new republics in which the constitutional forms of the United States have been most sedulously imitated. Look on the Long Parliament, on the day on which Charles came to seize the five members, and look at it again on the day when Cromwell stamped with his foot on its floor. On which

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