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layers not to jump off scaffolds and break their legs. Does Mr. Bentham profess to hold out any new motive which inay induce men to promote the happiness of the species to which they belong 1 Not at all. He distinctly admits that, if he is asked why governments should attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness, he can give no answer. “The real answer,” says he, “appeared to be, that men at large ought not to allow a government to afflict them with more evil or less good than they can help. What a government ought to do, is a mysterious and searching question, which those may answer who know what it means; but what other men ought to do, is a question of no mystery at all. The word ought, if it means any thing, must have reference to some kind of interest or motives: and what interest a government has in doing right, when it happens to be interested in doing wrong, is a question for the schoolmen. The fact appears to be, that ought is not predicable of governments. The question is not why governments are bound not to do this or that, but why other men should let them if they can help it. The point is not to determine why the lion should not eat sheep, but why men should eat their own mutton if they can.” The principle of Mr. Bentham, if we understand it, is this, that mankind ought to act so as to produce their greatest happiness. The word ought, he tells us, has no meaning, unless it be used with reference to some interest. But the interest of a man is synonymous with his greatest happiness:–and therefore to say that a man ought to do a thing, is to say that it is for his greatest happiness to do it. And to say that mankind ought to act so as to produce their greatest happiness, is to say that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness—and this is all ! Does Mr. Bentham's principle tend to make any man wish for any thing for which he would not have wished, or do any thing which he would not have done, if the principle had never been heard of If not, it is an utterly useless principle. Now, every man pursues his own happiness or interest—call it which you will. If his happiness coincides with the happiness of the species, then, whether he ever heard of the “greatest happiness principle" or not, he will, to the best of his knowledge and ability, attempt to produce the greatest happiness of the species. But, if what he thinks his happiness be inconsistent with the greatest happiness of mankind, will this new principle convert him to another frame of mind Mr. Bentham himself allows, as we have seen, that he can give no reason why a man should promote the greatest happiness of others, if their greatest happiness be inconsistent with what he thinks his own. We should very much like to know how the Utilitarian principle would run, when reduced to one plain imperative proposition. Will it run thus—pursue your own happiness? This is superfluous. Every
do it. Will the principle run thus—pursue the greatest happiness of mankind, whether it be your own greatest happiness or not This is absurd and impossible, and Mr. Bentham himself allows it to be so. But is the principle be not stated in one of these two ways, we cannot imagine how it is to be stated at all. Stated in one of these ways, it is an identical proposition,-true, but utterly barren of consequences. Stated in the other way, it is a contradiction in terms. Mr. Bentham has distinctly declined the absurdity. Are we then to suppose that he adopts the truism There are thus, it seems, two great truths which the Utilitarian philosophy is to communicate to mankind—two truths which are to produce a revolution in morals, in laws, in governments, in literature, in the whole system of life. The first of these is speculative; the second is practical. The speculative truth is, that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness. The practical rule is very simple, for it imports merely that men should never omit, when they wish for any thing, to wish for it, or when they do any thing, to do it! It is a great comfort for us to think, that we readily assented to the former of these great doctrines as soon as it was stated to us; and that we have long endeavoured, as far as human frailty would permit, to conform to the latter in our practice. We are, however, inclined to suspect, that the calamities of the human race have been owing less to their not knowing that happiness was happiness, than to their not knowing how to obtain it—less to their neglecting to do what they did, than to their not being able to do what they wished, or not wishing to do what they ought. Thus frivolous, thus useless is this philosophy, “controversiarum ferax, operum efforta, ad garriendum prompta, ad generandum invalida.” The humble mechanic who discovers some slight improvement in the construction of safety lamps or steam vessels, does more for the happiness of mankind than the “magnificent principle,” as Mr. Bentham calls it, will do in ten thousand years. The mechanic teaches us how we may, in a small degree, he better off than we were. The Utilitarian advises us, with great pomp, to be as well off as we can. The doctrine of a moral sense may be very unphilosophical, but we do not think that it can be proved to be pernicious. Men did not entertain certain desires and aversions because they believed in a moral sense, but they gave the name of moral sense to a feeling which they found in their minds, however it came there. If they had given it no name at all, it would still have influenced their actions: and it will not be very easy to demonstrate that it has influenced their actions the more, because they have called it the moral sense. The theory of the original contract is a fiction, and a very absurd fiction; but in practice it meant, what the “greatest happiness principle,” if ever 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.
it. To say that a man has done any thing, is wo say that he thought it for his happiness to
Both the one ex
* Bacon, Novum Organum.
pression and the other sound very well in debating clubs; but in the real conflicts of life, our passions and interests bid them stand aside and know their place. The “greatest happiness principle” has always been latent under the words, social contract, justice, benevolence, patriotism, liberty. and so forth, just as far as it was for the happiness, real or imagined, of those who used these words to promote the greatest happiness of mankind. And of this we may be sure, that the words “the greatest happiness” will never, in any man's mouth, mean more than the greatest happiness of others which is consistent with what he thinks his own. The project of mending a bad warld, by teaching people to give new names to old things, reminds us of Walter Shandy's scheme, for compensating the loss of his son's nose by christening him Trismegistus. What society wants is a new motive—not a new cant. If Mr. Bentham can find out any argument yet undiscovered which may induce men to pursue the general happiness, he will indeed be a great benefactor to our species. But those whose happiness is identical with the general happiness, are even now promoting the general happiness to the very best of their power and knowledge; and Mr. Bentham himself confesses that he has no means of persuading those whose happiness is not identical with the general happiness, to act upon his principle. Is not this, then, darkening counsel by words without knowledge If the only fruit of the “magnificent principle” is to be, that the oppressors and pilferers of the next generation are to talk of seeking the greatest happiness of the greatest number, just as the same class of men have talked in our time of seeking to uphold the Protestant Constitution—just as they talked under Anne of seeking the good of the Church, and under Cromwell, of seeking the Lord—where is the gain? Is not every great question already enveloped in a sufficiently dark cloud of unmeaning words ! Is it so difficult for a man to cant some one or more of the good old English cants which his father and grandfather canted before him, that he must learn, in the school of the Utilitarians, a new sleight of tongue, to make fools clap and wise men sneer Jet our countrymen keep their eyes on the neophytes of this sect, and see whether we turn out to be mistaken in the prediction which we now hazard. It will before long be found, we prophesy, that, as the corruption of a dunce is the generation of an Utilitarian, so is the corruption of an Utilitarian the generation of a jobber. The most elevated station that the “greatest happine.s principle” is ever likely to attain is this, that it may be a fashionable phrase among newspaper writers and members of Parliament —that it may succeed to the dignity which has been enjoyed by the “original contract,” by the “constitution of 1688,” and other expressions of the same kind. We do not apprehend that it is a less flexible cant than those which have preceded it, or that it will less easily furnish a pretext for any design for which a pretext may be required. The “ original contract” meant, in the Convention Parliament, the co-ordinate authority of the Three Estates. If there
were to be a radical insurrection to-morrow, the “original contract” would stand just as well for annual parliaments and universal suffrageThe “Glorious Constitution” again, has meant every thing in turn : the Habeas Corpus Act. the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the Test Act, the Repeal of the Test Act. There has not been for many years a single important measure which has not been unconstitutional with its opponents, and which its supporters have not maintained to be agreeable to the true spirit of the constitution. Is it easier to ascertain what is for the greatest happiness of the human race than what is the constitution of England 1 If not, the “greatest happiness principle” will be what the “principles of the constitution” are, a thing to be appealed to by everybody, and understood by everybody in the sense which suits him best. It will mean cheap bread, dear bread, free trade, protecting duties, annual parliaments, septennial parliaments, universal suffrage, Old Sarum, trial by jury, martial law, every thing, in short, good, bad. or indifferent, of which any person, from rapacity or from benevolence, chooses to undertake the defence. It will mean six and eightpence with the attorney, tithes at the rectory. and game-laws at the manor-house. The statute of uses, in appearance the most sweeping legislative reform in our history, was said to have produced no other effect than that of adding three words to a conveyance. The universal admission of Mr. Bentham's great principle would, as far as we can see, produce no other effect than that those orators who, while waiting for a meaning, gain time (like bankers paying in sixpences during a run) by uttering words that mean nothing, would substitute “the greatest happiness,” or rather, as the longer phrase, “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” for, “under existing circumstances,”—“now that I am on my legs,”—and, “Mr. Speaker, I, for one, am free to say.” In fact, principles of this sort resemble those forms which are sold by law-stationers, with blanks for the names of parties, and for the special circumstances of every case—mere customary headings and conclusions, which are equally at the command of the most honest and of the most unrighteous claimant. It is on the filling up that every thing depends. The “greatest happiness principle” of Mr. Bentham is included in the Christian morality; and, to our thinking, it is there exhibited in an infinitely more sound and philosophical form than in the Utilitarian speculations. For in the New Testament it is neither an identical proposition, nor a contradiction in terms ; and. as laid down by Mr. Bentham, it must be either the one or the other. “Do as you would be done by: Love your neighbour as yourself;” these are the precepts of Jesus Christ. Understood in an enlarged sense, these precepts are, in fact, a direction to every man to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. But this direction would be utterly unmeaning, as it actually is in Mr. Bentham's philosophy, unless it were accompanied by a sanction. In the Christian scheme, accordingly, it is accompanied by a sanction of immense force. To a man whose greatest happiness in this 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. This is practical philosophy, as practical as that on which penal legislation is founded. A man is told to do something which otherwise he would not do, and is furnished with a new motive for doing it. Mr. Bentham has no new motive to furnish his disciples with. He has talents sufficient to effect any thing that can be effected. But to induce men to act without an inducement is too much even for him. He should reflect that the whole vast world of morals cannot be moved, unless the mover can obtain some stand for his engines beyond it. He acts as Archimedes would have done, if he had attempted to move the earth by a lever fixed on the earth. The action and reaction neutralize each other. The artist labours, and the world remains at rest. Mr. 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, a furtiori, 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
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. We entertain no apprehensions of danger to the institutions of this country from the Utilitarians. Our fears are of a different kind. We dread the odium and discredit of their alliance. We wish to see a broad and clear line drawn between the judicious friends of practical reform and a sect which, having derived all its influence from the countenance which they have imprudently bestowed upon it, hates them with the deadly hatred of ingratitude. There is not, and we firmly believe that there never was, in this country, a party so unpopular. They have already made the science of political economy—a science of vast importance to the welfare of nations—an object of disgust to the majority of the community. The question of parliamentary reform will share the same fate, if once an association be formed in the public mind between Reform an Utilitarianism. We bear no enunity 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 endeavour to find better editors for his compositions If M. Dumont had not been a réducteur of a dif|ferent description from some of his successors, : Mr. Bentham would never have attained the distinction of even giving his uame to a sect.
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 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 Utilitarian 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 is what the reviewers have omitted at the end.” 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 1 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 “abservient 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 IJenmark 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 a 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 principies of government, is to deduce them a priori from the laws of human nature. And what conclusion does he bring out Wy 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, wiil perhaps be found. If it cannot, we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary Wol. W.-88
conclusion, that good government is impossible.” 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 insinity 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 established? 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 al!. “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 democracy; 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 endeavourin to obtain unlimited power over the persons j 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 '', to have meant, his 3