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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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beg the question; and proceeds to settle the point by proving,
after his fashion, that no combination of the three simple forms,
or of any two of them, can possibly exist.

"From the principles which we have already laid down it follows
that, of the objects of human desire, and, speaking more
definitely, of the means to the ends of human desire, namely,
wealth and power, each party will endeavour to obtain as much as

"If any expedient presents itself to any of the supposed parties
effectual to this end, and not opposed to any preferred object of
pursuit, we may infer with certainty that it will be adopted.
One effectual expedient is not more effectual than obvious. Any
two of the parties, by combining, may swallow up the third. That
such combination will take place appears to be as certain as
anything which depends upon human will; because there are strong
motives in favour of it, and none that can be conceived in
opposition to it...The mixture of three of the kinds of
government, it is thus evident, cannot possibly exist...It may be
proper to enquire whether an union may not be possible of two of

"Let us first suppose, that monarchy is united with aristocracy.
Their power is equal or not equal. If it is not equal, it
follows, as a necessary consequence, from the principles which we
have already established, that the stronger will take from the
weaker till it engrosses the whole. The only question therefore
is, What will happen when the power is equal?

"In the first place, 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 idea,
therefore, is wholly chimerical and absurd...

"In this doctrine of the mixture of the simple forms of
government is included the celebrated theory of the balance among
the component parts of a government. By this it is supposed
that, when a government is composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and
democracy, they balance one another, and by mutual checks produce
good government. A few words will suffice to show that, if any
theory deserves the epithets of 'wild, visionary, and
chimerical,' it is that of the balance. If there are three
powers, how is it possible to prevent two of them from combining
to swallow up the third?

"The analysis which we have already performed will enable us to
trace rapidly the concatenation of causes and effects in this
imagined case.

"We have already seen that the interests of the community,
considered in the aggregate, or in the democratical point of
view, is, that each individual should receive protection; and
that the powers which are constituted for that purpose should be
employed exclusively for that purpose...We have also seen that
the interest of the king and of the governing aristocracy is
directly the reverse. It is to have unlimited power over the
rest of the community, and to use it for their own advantage. In
the supposed case of the balance of the monarchical,
aristocratical, and democratical powers, it cannot be for the
interest of either the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine
with the democracy; because it is the interest of the democracy,
or community at large, that neither the king nor the aristocracy
should have one particle of power, or one particle of the wealth
of the community, for their own advantage.

"The democracy or community have all possible motives to
endeavour to prevent the monarchy and aristocracy from exercising
power, or obtaining the wealth of the community for their own
advantage. The monarchy and aristocracy 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."

If any part of this passage be more eminently absurd than
another, it is, we think, the argument by which Mr Mill proves
that there cannot be an union of monarchy and aristocracy. Their
power, he says, must be equal or not equal. But of equality
there is no criterion. Therefore the chances against its
existence are as infinity to one. If the power be not equal,
then it follows, from the principles of human nature, that the
stronger will take from the weaker, till it has engrossed the

Now, if there be no criterion of equality between two portions of
power there can be no common measure of portions of power.
Therefore it is utterly impossible to compare them together. But
where two portions of power are of the same kind, there is no
difficulty in ascertaining, sufficiently for all practical
purposes, whether they are equal or unequal. It is easy to judge
whether two men run equally fast, or can lift equal weights. Two
arbitrators, whose joint decision is to be final, and neither of
whom can do anything without the assent of the other, possess
equal power. Two electors, each of whom has a vote for a
borough, possess, in that respect, equal power. If not, all Mr
Mill's political theories fall to the ground at once. For, if it
be impossible to ascertain whether two portions of power are
equal, he never can show that even under a system of universal
suffrage, a minority might not carry every thing their own way,
against the wishes and interests of the majority.

Where there are two portions of power differing in kind, there
is, we admit, no criterion of equality. But then, in such a
case, it is absurd to talk, as Mr Mill does, about the stronger
and the weaker. Popularly, indeed, and with reference to some
particular objects, these words may very fairly be used. But to
use them mathematically is altogether improper. If we are
speaking of a boxing-match, we may say that some famous bruiser
has greater bodily power than any man in England. If we are
speaking of a pantomime, we may say the same of some very agile
harlequin. But it would be talking nonsense to say, in general,
that the power of Harlequin either exceeded that of the pugilist
or fell short of it.

If Mr Mill's argument be good as between different branches of a
legislature, it is equally good as between sovereign powers.
Every government, it may be said, will, if it can, take the
objects of its desires from every other. If the French
government can subdue England it will do so. If the English
government can subdue France it will do so. But the power of
England and France is either equal or not equal. The chance that
it is not exactly equal is as infinity to one, and may safely be
left out of the account; and then the stronger will infallibly
take from the weaker till the weaker is altogether enslaved.

Surely the answer to all this hubbub of unmeaning words is the
plainest possible. For some purposes France is stronger than
England. For some purposes England is stronger than France. For
some, neither has any power at all. France has the greater
population, England the greater capital; France has the greater
army, England the greater fleet. For an expedition to Rio
Janeiro or the Philippines, England has the greater power. For a
war on the Po or the Danube, France has the greater power. But
neither has power sufficient to keep the other in quiet
subjection for a month. Invasion would be very perilous; the
idea of complete conquest on either side utterly ridiculous.
This is the manly and sensible way of discussing such questions.
The ergo, or rather the argal, of Mr Mill cannot impose on a
child. Yet we ought scarcely to say this; for we remember to
have heard A CHILD ask whether Bonaparte was stronger than an

Mr Mill reminds us of those philosophers of the sixteenth century
who, having satisfied themselves a priori that the rapidity with
which bodies descended to the earth varied exactly as their
weights, refused to believe the contrary on the evidence of their
own eyes and ears. The British constitution, according to Mr
Mill's classification, is a mixture of monarchy and aristocracy;
one House of Parliament being composed of hereditary nobles, and
the other almost entirely chosen by a privileged class who
possess the elective franchise on account of their property, or
their connection with certain corporations. Mr Mill's argument
proves that, from the time that these two powers were mingled in
our government, that is, from the very first dawn of our history,
one or the other must have been constantly encroaching.
According to him, moreover, all the encroachments must have been
on one side. For the first encroachment could only have been
made by the stronger; and that first encroachment would have made
the stronger stronger still. It is, therefore, matter of
absolute demonstration, that either the Parliament was stronger
than the Crown in the reign of Henry VIII., or that the Crown was
stronger than the Parliament in 1641. "Hippocrate dira ce que
lui plaira," says the girl in Moliere; "mais le cocher est mort."
Mr Mill may say what he pleases; but the English constitution is
still alive. That since the Revolution the Parliament has
possessed great power in the State, is what nobody will dispute.
The King, on the other hand, can create new peers, and can
dissolve Parliaments. William sustained severe mortifications
from the House of Commons, and was, indeed, unjustifiably
oppressed. Anne was desirous to change a ministry which had a
majority in both Houses. She watched her moment for a
dissolution, created twelve Tory peers, and succeeded. Thirty
years later, the House of Commons drove Walpole from his seat.
In 1784, George III. was able to keep Mr Pitt in office in the
face of a majority of the House of Commons. In 1804, the
apprehension of a defeat in Parliament compelled the same King to
part from his most favoured minister. But, in 1807, he was able
to do exactly what Anne had done nearly a hundred years before.
Now, had the power of the King increased during the intervening
century, or had it remained stationary? Is it possible that the
one lot among the infinite number should have fallen to us? If
not, Mr Mill has proved that one of the two parties must have
been constantly taking from the other. Many of the ablest men in
England think that the influence of the Crown has, on the whole,
increased since the reign of Anne. Others think that the
Parliament has been growing in strength. But of this there is no
doubt, that both sides possessed great power then, and possess
great power now. Surely, if there were the least truth in the
argument of Mr Mill, it could not possibly be a matter of doubt,
at the end of a hundred and twenty years, whether the one side or
the other had been the gainer.

But we ask pardon. We forgot that a fact, irreconcilable with Mr
Mill's theory, furnishes, in his opinion, the strongest reason
for adhering to the theory. To take up the question in another
manner, is it not plain that there may be two bodies, each
possessing a perfect and entire power, which cannot be taken from
it without its own concurrence? What is the meaning of the words
stronger and weaker, when applied to such bodies as these? The
one may, indeed, by physical force, altogether destroy the other.
But this is not the question. A third party, a general of their
own, for example, may, by physical force, subjugate them both.
Nor is there any form of government, Mr Mill's utopian democracy
not excepted, secure from such an occurrence. We are speaking of
the powers with which the constitution invests the two branches
of the legislature; and we ask Mr Mill how, on his own
principles, he can maintain that one of them will be able to
encroach on the other, if the consent of the other be necessary
to such encroachment?

Mr Mill tells us that, if a government be composed of the three
simple forms, which he will not admit the British constitution to
be, two of the component parts will inevitably join against the
third. Now, if two of them combine and act as one, this case
evidently resolves itself into the last: and all the
observations which we have just made will fully apply to it. Mr
Mill says, that "any two of the parties, by combining, may
swallow up the third;" and afterwards asks, "How is it possible
to prevent two of them from combining to swallow up the third?"
Surely Mr Mill must be aware that in politics two is not always
the double of one. If the concurrence of all the three branches
of the legislature be necessary to every law, each branch will
possess constitutional power sufficient to protect it against
anything but that physical force from which no form of government
is secure. Mr Mill reminds us of the Irishman, who could not be
brought to understand how one juryman could possibly starve out
eleven others.

But is it certain that two of the branches of the legislature
will combine against the third? "It appears to be as certain,"
says Mr Mill, "as anything which depends upon human will; because
there are strong motives in favour of it, and none that can be
conceived in opposition to it." He subsequently sets forth what
these motives are. The interest of the democracy is that each
individual should receive protection. The interest of the King
and the aristocracy is to have all the power that they can
obtain, and to use it for their own ends. Therefore the King and
the aristocracy have all possible motives for combining against
the people. If our readers will look back to the passage quoted
above, they will see that we represent Mr Mill's argument quite

Now we should have thought that, without the help of either
history or experience, Mr Mill would have discovered, by the
light of his own logic, the fallacy which lurks, and indeed
scarcely lurks, under this pretended demonstration. The interest
of the King may be opposed to that of the people. But is it
identical with that of the aristocracy? In the very page which
contains this argument, intended to prove that the King and the
aristocracy will coalesce against the people, Mr Mill attempts to
show that there is so strong an opposition of interest between
the King and the aristocracy that if the powers of government are
divided between them the one will inevitably usurp the power of
the other. If so, he is not entitled to conclude that they will
combine to destroy the power of the people merely because their
interests may be at variance with those of the people. He is
bound to show, not merely that in all communities the interest of
a king must be opposed to that of the people, but also that, in
all communities, it must be more directly opposed to the interest
of the people than to the interest of the aristocracy. But he
has not shown this. Therefore he has not proved his proposition
on his own principles. To quote history would be a mere waste of
time. Every schoolboy, whose studies have gone so far as the
Abridgments of Goldsmith, can mention instances in which
sovereigns have allied themselves with the people against the
aristocracy, and in which the nobles have allied themselves with
the people against the sovereign. In general, when there are
three parties, every one of which has much to fear from the
others, it is not found that two of them combine to plunder the
third. If such a combination be formed, it scarcely ever effects
its purpose. It soon becomes evident which member of the
coalition is likely to be the greater gainer by the transaction.
He becomes an object of jealousy to his ally, who, in all
probability, changes sides, and compels him to restore what he
has taken. Everybody knows how Henry VIII. trimmed between
Francis and the Emperor Charles. But it is idle to cite examples
of the operation of a principle which is illustrated in almost
every page of history, ancient or modern, and to which almost
every state in Europe has, at one time or another, been indebted
for its independence.

Mr Mill has now, as he conceives, demonstrated that the simple
forms of government are bad, and that the mixed forms cannot
possibly exist. There is still, however, it seems, a hope for

"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 conclusion, that good
government is impossible. For, as there is no individual or
combination of individuals, except the community itself, who
would not have an interest in bad government if intrusted with
its powers, and as the community itself is incapable of
exercising those powers, and must intrust them to certain
individuals, the conclusion is obvious: the community itself
must check those individuals; else they will follow their
interest, and produce bad government. But how is it the
community can check? The community can act only when assembled;
and when assembled, it is incapable of acting. The community,
however, can choose representatives."

The next question is--How must the representative body be
constituted? Mr Mill lays down two principles, about which, he
says, "it is unlikely that there will be any dispute."

"First, The checking body must have a degree of power sufficient
for the business of checking."

"Secondly, It must have an identity of interest with the
community. Otherwise, it will make a mischievous use of its

The first of these propositions certainly admits of no dispute.
As to the second, we shall hereafter take occasion to make some
remarks on the sense in which Mr Mill understands the words
"interest of the community."

It does not appear very easy, on Mr Mill's principles, to find
out any mode of making the interest of the representative body
identical with that of the constituent body. The plan proposed
by Mr Mill is simply that of very frequent election. "As it
appears," says he, "that limiting the duration of their power is
a security against the sinister interest of the people's
representatives, so it appears that it is the only security of
which the nature of the case admits." But all the arguments by
which Mr Mill has proved monarchy and aristocracy to be
pernicious will, as it appears to us, equally prove this security
to be no security at all. Is it not clear that the
representatives, as soon as they are elected, are an aristocracy,
with an interest opposed to the interest of the community? Why
should they not pass a law for extending the term of their power
from one year to ten years, or declare themselves senators for
life? If the whole legislative power is given to them, they will
be constitutionally competent to do this. If part of the
legislative power is withheld from them, to whom is that part
given? Is the people to retain it, and to express its assent or
dissent in primary assemblies? Mr Mill himself tells us that the
community can only act when assembled, and that, when assembled,
it is incapable of acting. Or is it to be provided, as in some
of the American republics, that no change in the fundamental laws
shall be made without the consent of a convention, specially
elected for the purpose? Still the difficulty recurs: Why may
not the members of the convention betray their trust, as well as
the members of the ordinary legislature? When private men, they
may have been zealous for the interests of the community. When
candidates, they may have pledged themselves to the cause of the
constitution. But, as soon as they are a convention, as soon as
they are separated from the people, as soon as the supreme power
is put into their hands, commences that interest opposite to the
interest of the community which must, according to Mr Mill,
produce measures opposite to the interests of the community. We
must find some other means, therefore, of checking this check
upon a check; some other prop to carry the tortoise, that carries
the elephant, that carries the world.

We know well that there is no real danger in such a case. But
there is no danger only because there is no truth in Mr Mill's
principles. If men were what he represents them to be, the
letter of the very constitution which he recommends would afford
no safeguard against bad government. The real security is this,
that legislators will be deterred by the fear of resistance and
of infamy from acting in the manner which we have described. But
restraints, exactly the same in kind, and differing only in
degree, exist in all forms of government. That broad line of
distinction which Mr Mill tries to point out between monarchies
and aristocracies on the one side, and democracies on the other,
has in fact no existence. In no form of government is there an
absolute identity of interest between the people and their
rulers. In every form of government, the rulers stand in some
awe of the people. The fear of resistance and the sense of shame
operate in a certain degree, on the most absolute kings and the
most illiberal oligarchies. And nothing but the fear of
resistance and the sense of shame preserves the freedom of the
most democratic communities from the encroachments of their
annual and biennial delegates.

We have seen how Mr Mill proposes to render the interest of the
representative body identical with that of the constituent body.
The next question is, in what manner the interest of the
constituent body is to be rendered identical with that of the
community. Mr Mill shows that a minority of the community,
consisting even of many thousands, would be a bad constituent
body, and, indeed, merely a numerous aristocracy.

"The benefits of the representative system," says he, "are lost
in all cases in which the interests of the choosing body are not
the same with those of the community. It is very evident, that
if the community itself were the choosing body, the interests of
the community and that of the choosing body would be the same."

On these grounds Mr Mill recommends that all males of mature age,
rich and poor, educated and ignorant, shall have votes. But why
not the women too? This question has often been asked in
parliamentary debate, and has never, to our knowledge, received a
plausible answer. Mr Mill escapes from it as fast as he can.
But we shall take the liberty to dwell a little on the words of
the oracle. "One thing," says he, "is pretty clear, that all
those individuals whose interests are involved in those of other
individuals, may be struck off without inconvenience...In this
light women may be regarded, the interest of almost all of whom
is involved either in that of their fathers, or in that of their

If we were to content ourselves with saying, in answer to all the
arguments in Mr Mill's essay, that the interest of a king is
involved in that of the community, we should be accused, and
justly, of talking nonsense. Yet such an assertion would not, as
far as we can perceive, be more unreasonable than that which Mr
Mill has here ventured to make. Without adducing one fact,
without taking the trouble to perplex the question by one
sophism, he placidly dogmatises away the interest of one half of
the human race. If there be a word of truth in history, women
have always been, and still are, over the greater part of the
globe, humble companions, play things, captives, menials, beasts
of burden. Except in a few happy and highly civilised
communities, they are strictly in a state of personal slavery.
Even in those countries where they are best treated, the laws are
generally unfavourable to them, with respect to almost all the
points in which they are most deeply interested.

Mr Mill is not legislating for England or the United States, but
for mankind. Is then the interest of a Turk the same with that
of the girls who compose his harem? Is the interest of a Chinese
the same with that of the woman whom he harnesses to his plough?
Is the interest of an Italian the same with that of the daughter
whom he devotes to God? The interest of a respectable Englishman
may be said, without any impropriety, to be identical with that
of his wife. But why is it so? Because human nature is NOT what
Mr Mill conceives it to be; because civilised men, pursuing their
own happiness in a social state, are not Yahoos fighting for
carrion; because there is a pleasure in being loved and esteemed,
as well as in being feared and servilely obeyed. Why does not a
gentleman restrict his wife to the bare maintenance which the law
would compel him to allow her, that he may have more to spend on
his personal pleasures? Because, if he loves her, he has
pleasure in seeing her pleased; and because, even if he dislikes
her, he is unwilling that the whole neighbourhood should cry
shame on his meanness and ill-nature. Why does not the
legislature, altogether composed of males, pass a law to deprive
women of all civil privileges whatever, and reduce them to the
state of slaves? By passing such a law, they would gratify what
Mr Mill tells us is an inseparable part of human nature, the
desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting pain upon others.
That they do not pass such a law, though they have the power to
pass it, and that no man in England wishes to see such a law
passed, proves that the desire to possess unlimited power of
inflicting pain is not inseparable from human nature.

If there be in this country an identity of interest between the
two sexes, it cannot possibly arise from anything but the
pleasure of being loved, and of communicating happiness. For,
that it does not spring from the mere instinct of sex, the
treatment which women experience over the greater part of the
world abundantly proves. And, if it be said that our laws of
marriage have produced it, this only removes the argument a step
further; for those laws have been made by males. Now, if the
kind feelings of one half of the species be a sufficient security
for the happiness of the other, why may not the kind feelings of
a monarch or an aristocracy be sufficient at least to prevent
them from grinding the people to the very utmost of their power?

If Mr Mill will examine why it is that women are better treated
in England than in Persia, he may perhaps find out, in the course
of his inquiries, why it is that the Danes are better governed
than the subjects of Caligula.

We now come to the most important practical question in the whole
essay. Is it desirable that all males arrived at years of
discretion should vote for representatives, or should a pecuniary
qualification be required? Mr Mill's opinion is, that the lower
the qualification the better; and that the best system is that in
which there is none at all.

"The qualification," says he, "must either be such as to embrace
the majority of the population, or something less than the
majority. Suppose, in the first place, that it embraces the
majority, the question is, whether the majority would have an
interest in oppressing those who, upon this supposition, would be
deprived of political power? If we reduce the calculation to its
elements, we shall see that the interest which they would have of
this deplorable kind, though it would be something, would not be
very great. Each man of the majority, if the majority were
constituted the governing body, would have something less than
the benefit of oppressing a single man. If the majority were
twice as great as the minority, each man of the majority would
only have one half the benefit of oppressing a single
man...Suppose in the second place, that the qualification did not
admit a body of electors so large as the majority, in that case,
taking again the calculation in its elements, we shall see that
each man would have a benefit equal to that derived from the
oppression of more than one man; and that, in proportion as the
elective body constituted a smaller and smaller minority, the
benefit of misrule to the elective body would be increased, and
bad government would be insured."

The first remark which we have to make on this argument is, that,
by Mr Mill's own account, even a government in which every human
being should vote would still be defective. For, under a system
of universal suffrage, the majority of the electors return the
representative, and the majority of the representatives make the
law. The whole people may vote, therefore; but only the majority
govern. So that, by Mr Mill's own confession, the most perfect
system of government conceivable is one in which the interest of
the ruling body to oppress, though not great, is something.

But is Mr Mill in the right when he says that such an interest
could not be very great? We think not. If, indeed, every man in
the community possessed an equal share of what Mr Mill calls the
objects of desire, the majority would probably abstain from
plundering the minority. A large minority would offer a vigorous
resistance; and the property of a small minority would not repay
the other members of the community for the trouble of dividing
it. But it happens that in all civilised communities there is a
small minority of rich men, and a great majority of poor men. If
there were a thousand men with ten pounds apiece, it would not be
worth while for nine hundred and ninety of them to rob ten, and
it would be a bold attempt for six hundred of them to rob four
hundred. But, if ten of them had a hundred thousand pounds
apiece, the case would be very different. There would then be
much to be got, and nothing to be feared.

"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," according to Mr Mill, "the foundation of
government." That the property of the rich minority can be made
subservient to the pleasures of the poor majority will scarcely
be denied. But Mr Mill proposes to give the poor majority power
over the rich minority. Is it possible to doubt to what, on his
own principles, such an arrangement must lead?

It may perhaps be said that, in the long run, it is for the
interest of the people that property should be secure, and that
therefore they will respect it. We answer thus:--It cannot be
pretended that it is not for the immediate interest of the people
to plunder the rich. Therefore, even if it were quite certain
that, in the long run, the people would, as a body, lose by doing
so, it would not necessarily follow that the fear of remote ill
consequences would overcome the desire of immediate acquisitions.
Every individual might flatter himself that the punishment would
not fall on him. Mr Mill himself tells us, in his Essay on
Jurisprudence, that no quantity of evil which is remote and
uncertain will suffice to prevent crime.

But we are rather inclined to think that it would, on the whole,
be for the interest of the majority to plunder the rich. If so,
the Utilitarians will say, that the rich OUGHT to be plundered.
We deny the inference. For, in the first place, if the object of
government be the greatest happiness of the greatest number, the
intensity of the suffering which a measure inflicts must be taken
into consideration, as well as the number of the sufferers. In
the next place, we have to notice one most important distinction
which Mr Mill has altogether overlooked. Throughout his essay,
he confounds the community with the species. He talks of the
greatest happiness of the greatest number: but, when we examine
his reasonings, we find that he thinks only of the greatest
number of a single generation.

Therefore, even if we were to concede that all those arguments of
which we have exposed the fallacy are unanswerable, we might
still deny the conclusion at which the essayist arrives. Even if
we were to grant that he had found out the form of government
which is best for the majority of the people now living on the
face of the earth, we might still without inconsistency maintain
that form of government to be pernicious to mankind. It would
still be incumbent on Mr Mill to prove that the interest of every
generation is identical with the interest of all succeeding
generations. And how on his own principles he could do this we
are at a loss to conceive.

The case, indeed, is strictly analogous to that of an
aristocratic government. In an aristocracy, says Mr Mill, the
few being invested with the powers of government, can take the
objects of their desires from the people. In the same manner,
every generation in turn can gratify itself at the expense of
posterity,--priority of time, in the latter case, giving an
advantage exactly corresponding to that which superiority of
station gives in the former. That an aristocracy will abuse its
advantage, is, according to Mr Mill, matter of demonstration. Is
it not equally certain that the whole people will do the same:
that, if they have the power, they will commit waste of every
sort on the estate of mankind, and transmit it to posterity
impoverished and desolated?

How is it possible for any person who holds the doctrines of Mr
Mill to doubt that the rich, in a democracy such as that which he
recommends, would be pillaged as unmercifully as under a Turkish
Pacha? It is no doubt for the interest of the next generation,
and it may be for the remote interest of the present generation,
that property should be held sacred. And so no doubt it will be
for the interest of the next Pacha, and even for that of the
present Pacha, if he should hold office long, that the
inhabitants of his Pachalik should be encouraged to accumulate
wealth. Scarcely any despotic sovereign has plundered his
subjects to a large extent without having reason before the end
of his reign to regret it. Everybody knows how bitterly Louis
the Fourteenth, towards the close of his life, lamented his
former extravagance. If that magnificent prince had not expended
millions on Marli and Versailles, and tens of millions on the
aggrandisement of his grandson, he would not have been compelled
at last to pay servile court to low-born money-lenders, to humble
himself before men on whom, in the days of his pride, he would
not have vouchsafed to look, for the means of supporting even his
own household. Examples to the same effect might easily be
multiplied. But despots, we see, do plunder their subjects,
though history and experience tell them that, by prematurely
exacting the means of profusion, they are in fact devouring the
seed-corn from which the future harvest of revenue is to spring.
Why then should we suppose that the people will be deterred from
procuring immediate relief and enjoyment by the fear of distant
calamities, of calamities which perhaps may not be fully felt
till the times of their grandchildren?

These conclusions are strictly drawn from Mr Mill's own
principles: and, unlike most of the conclusions which he has
himself drawn from those principles, they are not as far as we
know contradicted by facts. The case of the United States is not
in point. In a country where the necessaries of life are cheap
and the wages of labour high, where a man who has no capital but
his legs and arms may expect to become rich by industry and
frugality, it is not very decidedly even for the immediate
advantage of the poor to plunder the rich; and the punishment of
doing so would very speedily follow the offence. But in
countries in which the great majority live from hand to mouth,
and in which vast masses of wealth have been accumulated by a
comparatively small number, the case is widely different. The
immediate want is, at particular seasons, craving, imperious,
irresistible. In our own time it has steeled men to the fear of
the gallows, and urged them on the point of the bayonet. And, if
these men had at their command that gallows and those bayonets
which now scarcely restrain them, what is to be expected? Nor is
this state of things one which can exist only under a bad
government. If there be the least truth in the doctrines of the
school to which Mr Mill belongs, the increase of population will
necessarily produce it everywhere. The increase of population is
accelerated by good and cheap government. Therefore, the better
the government, the greater is the inequality of conditions: and
the greater the inequality of conditions, the stronger are the
motives which impel the populace to spoliation. As for America,
we appeal to the twentieth century.

It is scarcely necessary to discuss the effects which a general
spoliation of the rich would produce. It may indeed happen that,
where a legal and political system full of abuses is inseparably
bound up with the institution of property, a nation may gain by a
single convulsion, in which both perish together. The price is
fearful. But if, when the shock is over, a new order of things
should arise under which property may enjoy security, the
industry of individuals will soon repair the devastation. Thus
we entertain no doubt that the Revolution was, on the whole, a
most salutary event for France. But would France have gained if,
ever since the year 1793, she had been governed by a democratic
convention? If Mr Mill's principles be sound, we say that almost
her whole capital would by this time have been annihilated. As
soon as the first explosion was beginning to be forgotten, as
soon as wealth again began to germinate, as soon as the poor
again began to compare their cottages and salads with the hotels
and banquets of the rich, there would have been another scramble
for property, another maximum, another general confiscation,
another reign of terror. Four or five such convulsions following
each other, at intervals of ten or twelve years, would reduce the
most flourishing countries of Europe to the state of Barbary or
the Morea.

The civilised part of the world has now nothing to fear from the
hostility of savage nations. Once the deluge of barbarism has
passed over it, to destroy and to fertilise; and in the present
state of mankind we enjoy a full security against that calamity.
That flood will no more return to cover the earth. But is it
possible that in the bosom of civilisation itself may be
engendered the malady which shall destroy it? Is it possible
that institutions may be established which, without the help of
earthquake, of famine, of pestilence, or of the foreign sword,
may undo the work of so many ages of wisdom and glory, and
gradually sweep away taste, literature, science, commerce,
manufactures, everything but the rude arts necessary to the
support of animal life? Is it possible that, in two or three
hundred years, a few lean and half-naked fishermen may divide
with owls and foxes the ruins of the greatest European cities--
may wash their nets amidst the relics of her gigantic docks, and
build their huts out of the capitals of her stately cathedrals?
If the principles of Mr Mill be sound, we say, without
hesitation, that the form of government which he recommends will
assuredly produce all this. But, if these principles be unsound,
if the reasonings by which we have opposed them be just, the
higher and middling orders are the natural representatives of the
human race. Their interest may be opposed in some things to that
of their poorer contemporaries; but it is identical with that of
the innumerable generations which are to follow.

Mr Mill concludes his essay, by answering an objection often made
to the project of universal suffrage--that the people do not
understand their own interests. We shall not go through his
arguments on this subject, because, till he has proved that it is
for the interest of the people to respect property, he only makes
matters worse by proving that they understand their interests.
But we cannot refrain from treating our readers with a delicious
bonne bouche of wisdom, which he has kept for the last moment.

"The opinions of that class of the people who are below the
middle rank are formed, and their minds are directed, by that
intelligent, that virtuous rank, who come the most immediately in
contact with them, who are in the constant habit of intimate
communication with them, to whom they fly for advice and
assistance in all their numerous difficulties, upon whom they
feel an immediate and daily dependence in health and in sickness,
in infancy and in old age, to whom their children look up as
models for their imitation, whose opinions they hear daily
repeated, and account it their honour to adopt. There can be no
doubt that the middle rank, which gives to science, to art, and
to legislation itself their most distinguished ornaments, and is
the chief source of all that has exalted and refined human
nature, is that portion of the community, of which, if the basis
of representation were ever so far extended, the opinion would
ultimately decide. Of the people beneath them, a vast majority
would be sure to be guided by their advice and example."

This single paragraph is sufficient to upset Mr Mill's theory.
Will the people act against their own interest? Or will the
middle rank act against its own interest? Or is the interest of
the middle rank identical with the interest of the people? If
the people act according to the directions of the middle rank, as
Mr Mill says that they assuredly will, one of these three
questions must be answered in the affirmative. But, if any one
of the three be answered in the affirmative, his whole system
falls to the ground. If the interest of the middle rank be
identical with that of the people, why should not the powers of
government be intrusted to that rank? If the powers of
government were intrusted to that rank, there would evidently be
an aristocracy of wealth; and "to constitute an aristocracy of
wealth, though it were a very numerous one, would," according to
Mr Mill, "leave the community without protection, and exposed to
all the evils of unbridled power." Will not the same motives
which induce the middle classes to abuse one kind of power induce
them to abuse another? If their interest be the same with that
of the people they will govern the people well. If it be
opposite to that of the people they will advise the people ill.
The system of universal suffrage, therefore, according to Mr
Mill's own account, is only a device for doing circuitously what
a representative system, with a pretty high qualification, would
do directly.

So ends this celebrated Essay. And such is this philosophy for
which the experience of three thousand years is to be discarded;
this philosophy, the professors of which speak as if it had
guided the world to the knowledge of navigation and alphabetical
writing; as if, before its dawn, the inhabitants of Europe had
lived in caverns and eaten each other! We are sick, it seems,
like the children of Israel, of the objects of our old and
legitimate worship. We pine for a new idolatry. All that is
costly and all that is ornamental in our intellectual treasures
must be delivered up, and cast into the furnace--and there comes
out this Calf!

Our readers can scarcely mistake our object in writing this
article. They will not suspect us of any disposition to advocate
the cause of absolute monarchy, or of any narrow form of
oligarchy, or to exaggerate the evils of popular government. Our
object at present is, not so much to attack or defend any
particular system of polity, as to expose the vices of a kind of
reasoning utterly unfit for moral and political discussions; of a
kind of reasoning which may so readily be turned to purposes of
falsehood that it ought to receive no quarter, even when by
accident it may be employed on the side of truth.

Our objection to the essay of Mr Mill is fundamental. We believe
that it is utterly impossible to deduce the science of government
from the principles of human nature.

What proposition is there respecting human nature which is
absolutely and universally true? We know of only one: and that
is not only true, but identical; that men always act from self-
interest. This truism the Utilitarians proclaim with as much
pride as if it were new, and as much zeal as if it were
important. But in fact, when explained, it means only that men,
if they can, will do as they choose. When we see the actions of
a man we know with certainty what he thinks his interest to be.
But it is impossible to reason with certainty from what WE take
to be his interest to his actions. One man goes without a dinner
that he may add a shilling to a hundred thousand pounds: another
runs in debt to give balls and masquerades. One man cuts his
father's throat to get possession of his old clothes: another
hazards his own life to save that of an enemy. One man
volunteers on a forlorn hope: another is drummed out of a
regiment for cowardice. Each of these men has, no doubt, acted
from self-interest. But we gain nothing by knowing this, except
the pleasure, if it be one, of multiplying useless words. In
fact, this principle is just as recondite and just as important
as the great truth that whatever is, is. If a philosopher were
always to state facts in the following form--"There is a shower:
but whatever is, is; therefore, there is a shower,"--his
reasoning would be perfectly sound; but we do not apprehend that
it would materially enlarge the circle of human knowledge. And
it is equally idle to attribute any importance to a proposition,
which, when interpreted means only that a man had rather do what
he had rather do.

If the doctrine, that men always act from self-interest, be laid
down in any other sense than this--if the meaning of the word
self-interest be narrowed so as to exclude any one of the motives
which may by possibility act on any human being, the proposition
ceases to be identical: but at the same time it ceases to be

What we have said of the word "self-interest" applies to all the
synonymes and circumlocutions which are employed to convey the
same meaning; pain and pleasure, happiness and misery, objects of
desire, and so forth.

The whole art of Mr Mill's essay consists in one simple trick of
legerdemain. It consists in using words of the sort which we
have been describing first in one sense and then in another. Men
will take the objects of their desire if they can.
Unquestionably:--but this is an identical proposition: for an
object of desire means merely a thing which a man will procure if
he can. Nothing can possibly be inferred from a maxim of this
kind. When we see a man take something we shall know that it was
an object of his desire. But till then we have no means of
judging with certainty what he desires or what he will take. The
general proposition, however, having been admitted, Mr Mill
proceeds to reason as if men had no desires but those which can
be gratified only by spoliation and oppression. It then becomes
easy to deduce doctrines of vast importance from the original
axiom. The only misfortune is, that by thus narrowing the
meaning of the word desire the axiom becomes false, and all the
doctrines consequent upon it are false likewise.

When we pass beyond those maxims which it is impossible to deny
without a contradiction in terms, and which, therefore, do not
enable us to advance a single step in practical knowledge, we do
not believe that it is possible to lay down a single general rule
respecting the motives which influence human actions. There is
nothing which may not, by association or by comparison, become an
object either of desire or of aversion. The fear of death is
generally considered as one of the strongest of our feelings. It
is the most formidable sanction which legislators have been able
to devise. Yet it is notorious that, as Lord Bacon has observed,
there is no passion by which that fear has not been often
overcome. Physical pain is indisputably an evil; yet it has been
often endured and even welcomed. Innumerable martyrs have
exulted in torments which made the spectators shudder: and to
use a more homely illustration, there are few wives who do not
long to be mothers.

Is the love of approbation a stronger motive than the love of
wealth? It is impossible to answer this question generally even
in the case of an individual with whom we are very intimate. We
often say, indeed, that a man loves fame more than money, or
money more than fame. But this is said in a loose and popular
sense; for there is scarcely a man who would not endure a few
sneers for a great sum of money, if he were in pecuniary
distress; and scarcely a man, on the other hand, who, if he were
in flourishing circumstances, would expose himself to the hatred
and contempt of the public for a trifle. In order, therefore, to
return a precise answer even about a single human being, we must
know what is the amount of the sacrifice of reputation demanded
and of the pecuniary advantage offered, and in what situation the
person to whom the temptation is proposed stands at the time.
But, when the question is propounded generally about the whole
species, the impossibility of answering is still more evident.
Man differs from man; generation from generation; nation from
nation. Education, station, sex, age, accidental associations,
produce infinite shades of variety.

Now, the only mode in which we can conceive it possible to deduce
a theory of government from the principles of human nature is
this. We must find out what are the motives which, in a
particular form of government, impel rulers to bad measures, and
what are those which impel them to good measures. We must then
compare the effect of the two classes of motives; and according
as we find the one or the other to prevail, we must pronounce the
form of government in question good or bad.

Now let it be supposed that, in aristocratical and monarchical
states, the desire of wealth and other desires of the same class
always tend to produce misgovernment, and that the love of
approbation and other kindred feelings always tend to produce
good government. Then, if it be impossible, as we have shown
that it is, to pronounce generally which of the two classes of
motives is the more influential, it is impossible to find out, a
priori, whether a monarchical or aristocratical form of
government be good or bad.

Mr Mill has avoided the difficulty of making the comparison, by
very coolly putting all the weights into one of the scales,--by
reasoning as if no human being had ever sympathised with the
feelings, been gratified by the thanks, or been galled by the
execrations, of another.

The case, as we have put it, is decisive against Mr Mill, and yet
we have put it in a manner far too favourable to him. For, in
fact, it is impossible to lay it down as a general rule that the
love of wealth in a sovereign always produces misgovernment, or
the love of approbation good government. A patient and far-
sighted ruler, for example, who is less desirous of raising a
great sum immediately than of securing an unencumbered and
progressive revenue, will, by taking off restraints from trade
and giving perfect security to property, encourage accumulation
and entice capital from foreign countries. The commercial policy
of Prussia, which is perhaps superior to that of any country in
the world, and which puts to shame the absurdities of our
republican brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, has
probably sprung from the desire of an absolute ruler to enrich
himself. On the other hand, when the popular estimate of virtues
and vices is erroneous, which is too often the case, the love of
approbation leads sovereigns to spend the wealth of the nation on
useless shows, or to engage in wanton and destructive wars. If
then we can neither compare the strength of two motives, nor
determine with certainty to what description of actions either
motive will lead, how can we possibly deduce a theory of
government from the nature of man?

How, then, are we to arrive at just conclusions on a subject so
important to the happiness of mankind? Surely by that method
which, in every experimental science to which it has been
applied, has signally increased the power and knowledge of our
species,--by that method for which our new philosophers would
substitute quibbles scarcely worthy of the barbarous respondents
and opponents of the middle ages,--by the method of Induction;--
by observing the present state of the world,--by assiduously
studying the history of past ages,--by sifting the evidence of
facts,--by carefully combining and contrasting those which are
authentic,--by generalising with judgment and diffidence,--by
perpetually bringing the theory which we have constructed to the
test of new facts,--by correcting, or altogether abandoning it,
according as those new facts prove it to be partially or
fundamentally unsound. Proceeding thus,--patiently,--diligently,
--candidly,--we may hope to form a system as far inferior in
pretension to that which we have been examining and as far
superior to it in real utility as the prescriptions of a great
physician, varying with every stage of every malady and with the
constitution of every patient, to the pill of the advertising
quack which is to cure all human beings, in all climates, of all

This is that noble Science of Politics, which is equally removed
from the barren theories of the Utilitarian sophists, and from
the petty craft, so often mistaken for statesmanship by minds
grown narrow in habits of intrigue, jobbing, and official
etiquette;--which of all sciences is the most important to the
welfare of nations,--which of all sciences most tends to expand
and invigorate the mind,--which draws nutriment and ornament from
every part of philosophy and literature, and dispenses in return
nutriment and ornament to all. We are sorry and surprised when
we see men of good intentions and good natural abilities abandon
this healthful and generous study to pore over speculations like
those which we have been examining. And we should heartily
rejoice to find that our remarks had induced any person of this
description to employ, in researches of real utility, the talents
and industry which are now wasted on verbal sophisms, wretched of
their wretched kind.

As to the greater part of the sect, it is, we apprehend, of
little consequence what they study or under whom. It would be
more amusing, to be sure, and more reputable, if they would take
up the old republican cant and declaim about Brutus and Timoleon,
the duty of killing tyrants and the blessedness of dying for
liberty. But, on the whole, they might have chosen worse. They
may as well be Utilitarians as jockeys or dandies. And, though
quibbling about self-interest and motives, and objects of desire,
and the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is but a poor
employment for a grown man, it certainly hurts the health less
than hard drinking, and the fortune less than high play; it is
not much more laughable than phrenology, and is immeasurably more
humane than cock-fighting.



(June 1829.)

"Westminster Review" Number XXI., Article XVI. "Edinburgh
Review" Number XCVII., Article on Mill's Essays on Government,

We have had great reason, we think, to be gratified by the
success of our late attack on the Utilitarians. We could publish
a long list of the cures which it has wrought in cases previously
considered as hopeless. Delicacy forbids us to divulge names;
but we cannot refrain from alluding to two remarkable instances.
A respectable lady writes to inform us that her son, who was
plucked at Cambridge last January, has not been heard to call Sir
James Mackintosh a poor ignorant fool more than twice since the
appearance of our article. A distinguished political writer in
the Westminster and Parliamentary Reviews has borrowed Hume's
History, and has actually got as far as the battle of Agincourt.
He assures us that he takes great pleasure in his new study, and
that he is very impatient to learn how Scotland and England
became one kingdom. But the greatest compliment that we have
received is that Mr Bentham himself should have condescended to
take the field in defence of Mr Mill. We have not been in the
habit of reviewing reviews: but, as Mr Bentham is a truly great
man, and as his party have thought fit to announce in puffs and
placards that this article is written by him, and contains not
only an answer to our attacks, but a development of the "greatest
happiness principle," with the latest improvements of the author,
we shall for once depart from our general rule. However the
conflict may terminate, we shall at least not have been
vanquished by an ignoble hand.

Of Mr Bentham himself we shall endeavour, even while defending
ourselves against his reproaches, to speak with the respect to
which his venerable age, his genius, and his public services
entitle him. If any harsh expression should escape us, we trust
that he will attribute it to inadvertence, to the momentary
warmth of controversy,--to anything, in short, rather than to a
design of affronting him. Though we have nothing in common with
the crew of Hurds and Boswells, who, either from interested
motives, or from the habit of intellectual servility and
dependence, pamper and vitiate his appetite with the noxious
sweetness of their undiscerning praise, we are not perhaps less
competent than they to appreciate his merit, or less sincerely
disposed to acknowledge it. Though we may sometimes think his
reasonings on moral and political questions feeble and
sophistical--though we may sometimes smile at his extraordinary
language--we can never be weary of admiring the amplitude of his
comprehension, the keenness of his penetration, the exuberant
fertility with which his mind pours forth arguments and
illustrations. However sharply he may speak of us, we can never
cease to revere in him the father of the philosophy of
Jurisprudence. He has a full right to all the privileges of a
great inventor: and, in our court of criticism, those privileges
will never be pleaded in vain. But they are limited in the same
manner in which, fortunately for the ends of justice, the
privileges of the peerage are now limited. The advantage is
personal and incommunicable. A nobleman can now no longer cover
with his protection every lackey who follows his heels, or every
bully who draws in his quarrel: and, highly as we respect the
exalted rank which Mr Bentham holds among the writers of our
time, yet when, for the due maintenance of literary police, we
shall think it necessary to confute sophists, or to bring
pretenders to shame, we shall not depart from the ordinary course
of our proceedings because the offenders call themselves

Whether Mr Mill has much reason to thank Mr Bentham for
undertaking his defence, our readers, when they have finished
this article, will perhaps be inclined to doubt. Great as Mr
Bentham's talents are, he has, we think, shown an undue
confidence in them. He should have considered how dangerous it
is for any man, however eloquent and ingenious he may be, to
attack or defend a book without reading it: and we feel quite
convinced that Mr Bentham would never have written the article
before us if he had, before he began, perused our review with
attention, and compared it with Mr Mill's Essay.

He has utterly mistaken our object and meaning. He seems to
think that we have undertaken to set up some theory of government
in opposition to that of Mr Mill. But we distinctly disclaimed
any such design. From the beginning to the end of our article,
there is not, as far as we remember, a single sentence which,
when fairly construed, can be considered as indicating any such
design. If such an expression can be found, it has been dropped
by inadvertence. Our object was to prove, not that monarchy and
aristocracy are good, but that Mr Mill had not proved them to be
bad; not that democracy is bad, but that Mr Mill had not proved
it to be good. The points in issue are these: whether the
famous Essay on Government be, as it has been called, a perfect
solution of the great political problem, or a series of sophisms
and blunders; and whether the sect which, while it glories in the
precision of its logic, extols this Essay as a masterpiece of
demonstration be a sect deserving of the respect or of the
derision of mankind. These, we say, are the issues; and on these
we with full confidence put ourselves on the country.

It is not necessary, for the purposes of this investigation, that
we should state what our political creed is, or whether we have
any political creed at all. A man who cannot act the most
trivial part in a farce has a right to hiss Romeo Coates: a man
who does not know a vein from an artery may caution a simple
neighbour against the advertisements of Dr Eady. A complete
theory of government would indeed be a noble present to mankind;
but it is a present which we do not hope and do not pretend that
we can offer. If, however, we cannot lay the foundation, it is
something to clear away the rubbish; if we cannot set up truth,
it is something to pull down error. Even if the subjects of
which the Utilitarians treat were subjects of less fearful
importance, we should think it no small service to the cause of
good sense and good taste to point out the contrast between their
magnificent pretensions and their miserable performances. Some
of them have, however, thought fit to display their ingenuity on
questions of the most momentous kind, and on questions concerning
which men cannot reason ill with impunity. We think it, under
these circumstances, an absolute duty to expose the fallacy of
their arguments. It is no matter of pride or of pleasure. To
read their works is the most soporific employment that we know;
and a man ought no more to be proud of refuting them than of
having two legs. We must now come to close quarters with Mr
Bentham, whom, we need not say, we do not mean to include in this
observation. He charges us with maintaining,--

"First, 'That it is not true that all despots govern ill;'--
whereon the world is in a mistake, and the Whigs have the true
light. And for proof, principally,--that the King of Denmark is
not Caligula. To which the answer is, that the King of Denmark
is not a despot. He was put in his present situation by the
people turning the scale in his favour in a balanced contest
between himself and the nobility. And it is quite clear that the
same power would turn the scale the other way the moment a King
of Denmark should take into his head to be Caligula. It is of
little consequence by what congeries of letters the Majesty of
Denmark is typified in the royal press of Copenhagen, while the
real fact is that the sword of the people is suspended over his
head, in case of ill-behaviour, as effectually as in other
countries where more noise is made upon the subject. Everybody
believes the sovereign of Denmark to be a good and virtuous
gentleman; but there is no more superhuman merit in his being so
than in the case of a rural squire who does not shoot his land-
steward or quarter his wife with his yeomanry sabre.

"It is true that there are partial exceptions to the rule, that
all men use power as badly as they dare. There may have been
such things as amiable negro-drivers and sentimental masters of
press-gangs; and here and there, among the odd freaks of human
nature, there may have been specimens of men who were 'No
tyrants, though bred up to tyranny.' But it would be as wise to
recommend wolves for nurses at the Foundling on the credit of
Romulus and Remus as to substitute the exception for the general
fact, and advise mankind to take to trusting to arbitrary power
on the credit of these specimens."

Now, in the first place, we never cited the case of Denmark to
prove that all despots do not govern ill. We cited it to prove
that Mr Mill did not know how to reason. Mr Mill gave it as a
reason for deducing the theory of government from the general
laws of human nature that the King of Denmark was not Caligula.
This we said, and we still say, was absurd.

In the second place, it was not we, but Mr Mill, who said that
the King of Denmark was a despot. His words are these:--"The
people of Denmark, tired out with the oppression of an
aristocracy, resolved that their king should be absolute; and
under their absolute monarch are as well governed as any people
in Europe." We leave Mr Bentham to settle with Mr Mill the
distinction between a despot and an absolute king.

In the third place, Mr Bentham says that there was in Denmark a
balanced contest between the king and the nobility. We find some
difficulty in believing that Mr Bentham seriously means to say
this, when we consider that Mr Mill has demonstrated the chance
to be as infinity to one against the existence of such a balanced

Fourthly, Mr Bentham says that in this balanced contest the
people turned the scale in favour of the king against the
aristocracy. But Mr Mill has demonstrated that it cannot
possibly be for the interest of the monarchy and democracy to
join against the aristocracy; and that wherever the three parties
exist, the king and the aristocracy will combine against the
people. This, Mr Mill assures us, is as certain as anything
which depends upon human will.

Fifthly, Mr Bentham says that, if the King of Denmark were to
oppress his people, the people and nobles would combine against
the king. But Mr Mill has proved that it can never be for the
interest of the aristocracy to combine with the democracy against
the king. It is evidently Mr Bentham's opinion, that "monarchy,
aristocracy, and democracy may balance each other, and by mutual
checks produce good government." But this is the very theory
which Mr Mill pronounces to be the wildest, the most visionary,
the most chimerical ever broached on the subject of government.

We have no dispute on these heads with Mr Bentham. On the
contrary, we think his explanation true--or at least, true in
part; and we heartily thank him for lending us his assistance to
demolish the essay of his follower. His wit and his sarcasm are
sport to us; but they are death to his unhappy disciple.

Mr Bentham seems to imagine that we have said something implying
an opinion favourable to despotism. We can scarcely suppose
that, as he has not condescended to read that portion of our work
which he undertook to answer, he can have bestowed much attention
on its general character. Had he done so he would, we think,
scarcely have entertained such a suspicion. Mr Mill asserts, and
pretends to prove, that under no despotic government does any
human being, except 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. This, we say, is untrue.
It is not merely a rule to which there are exceptions: but it is
not the rule. Despotism is bad; but it is scarcely anywhere so
bad as Mr Mill says that it is everywhere. This we are sure Mr
Bentham will allow. If a man were to say that five hundred
thousand people die every year in London of dram-drinking, he
would not assert a proposition more monstrously false than Mr
Mill's. Would it be just to charge us with defending
intoxication because we might say that such a man was grossly in
the wrong?

We say with Mr Bentham that despotism is a bad thing. We say
with Mr Bentham that the exceptions do not destroy the authority
of the rule. But this we say--that a single exception overthrows
an argument which either does not prove the rule at all, or else
proves the rule to be TRUE WITHOUT EXCEPTIONS; and such an
argument is Mr Mill's argument against despotism. In this
respect there is a great difference between rules drawn from
experience and rules deduced a priori. We might believe that
there had been a fall of snow last August, and yet not think it
likely that there would be snow next August. A single occurrence
opposed to our general experience would tell for very little in
our calculation of the chances. But, if we could once satisfy
ourselves that in ANY single right-angled triangle the square of
the hypothenuse might be less than the squares of the sides, we
must reject the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid altogether.
We willingly adopt Mr Bentham's lively illustration about the
wolf; and we will say in passing that it gives us real pleasure
to see how little old age has diminished the gaiety of this
eminent man. We can assure him that his merriment gives us far
more pleasure on his account than pain on our own. We say with
him, Keep the wolf out of the nursery, in spite of the story of
Romulus and Remus. But, if the shepherd who saw the wolf licking
and suckling those famous twins were, after telling this story to
his companions, to assert that it was an infallible rule that no
wolf ever had spared, or ever would spare, any living thing which
might fall in its way--that its nature was carnivorous--and that
it could not possibly disobey its nature, we think that the
hearers might have been excused for staring. It may be strange,
but is not inconsistent, that a wolf which has eaten ninety-nine
children should spare the hundredth. But the fact that a wolf
has once spared a child is sufficient to show that there must be
some flaw in the chain of reasoning purporting to prove that
wolves cannot possibly spare children.

Mr Bentham proceeds to attack another position which he conceives
us to maintain:--

"Secondly, That a government not under the control of the
community (for there is no question upon any other) 'MAY SOON BE
SATURATED.' Tell it not in Bow Street, whisper it not in Hatton
Garden,--that there is a plan for preventing injustice by
'saturation.' With what peals of unearthly merriment would
Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus be aroused upon their benches, if
the 'light wings of saffron and of blue' should bear this theory
into their grim domains! Why do not the owners of pocket-
handkerchiefs try to 'saturate?' Why does not the cheated
publican beg leave to check the gulosity of his defrauder with a
repetatur haustus, and the pummelled plaintiff neutralise the
malice of his adversary, by requesting to have the rest of the
beating in presence of the court,--if it is not that such conduct
would run counter to all the conclusions of experience, and be
the procreation of the mischief it affected to destroy? Woful is
the man whose wealth depends on his having more than somebody
else can be persuaded to take from him; and woful also is the
people that is in such a case!"

Now this is certainly very pleasant writing: but there is no
great difficulty in answering the argument. The real reason
which makes it absurd to think of preventing theft by pensioning
off thieves is this, that there is no limit to the number of
thieves. If there were only a hundred thieves in a place, and we
were quite sure that no person not already addicted to theft
would take to it, it might become a question whether to keep the
thieves from dishonesty by raising them above distress would not
be a better course than to employ officers against them. But the
actual cases are not parallel. Every man who chooses can become
a thief; but a man cannot become a king or a member of the
aristocracy whenever he chooses. The number of the depredators
is limited; and therefore the amount of depredation, so far as
physical pleasures are concerned, must be limited also. Now, we
made the remark which Mr Bentham censures with reference to
physical pleasures only. The pleasures of ostentation, of taste,
of revenge, and other pleasures of the same description, have, we
distinctly allowed, no limit. Our words are these:--"a king or
an aristocracy may be supplied to satiety with CORPORAL
PLEASURES, at an expense which the rudest and poorest community
would scarcely feel." Does Mr Bentham deny this? If he does, we
leave him to Mr Mill. "What," says that philosopher, in his
Essay on Education, "what are the ordinary pursuits of wealth and
power, which kindle to such a height the ardour of mankind? Not
the mere love of eating and of drinking, or all the physical
objects together which wealth can purchase or power command.
With these every man is in the long run speedily satisfied."
What the difference is between being speedily satisfied and being
soon saturated, we leave Mr Bentham and Mr Mill to settle

The word "saturation," however, seems to provoke Mr Bentham's
mirth. It certainly did not strike us as very pure English; but,
as Mr Mill used it, we supposed it to be good Benthamese. With
the latter language we are not critically acquainted, though, as
it has many roots in common with our mother tongue, we can
contrive, by the help of a converted Utilitarian, who attends us
in the capacity of Moonshee, to make out a little. But Mr
Bentham's authority is of course decisive; and we bow to it.

Mr Bentham next represents us as maintaining:--

"Thirdly, That 'though there may be some tastes and propensities
that have no point of saturation, there exists a sufficient check
in the desire of the good opinion of others.' The misfortune of
this argument is, that no man cares for the good opinion of those
he has been accustomed to wrong, If oysters have opinions, it is
probable they think very ill of those who eat them in August; but
small is the effect upon the autumnal glutton that engulfs their
gentle substances within his own. The planter and the slave-
driver care just as much about negro opinion, as the epicure
about the sentiments of oysters. M. Ude throwing live eels into
the fire as a kindly method of divesting them of the unsavoury
oil that lodges beneath their skins, is not more convinced of the
immense aggregate of good which arises to the lordlier parts of
the creation, than is the gentle peer who strips his fellow man
of country and of family for a wild-fowl slain. The goodly
landowner, who lives by morsels squeezed indiscriminately from
the waxy hands of the cobbler and the polluted ones of the
nightman, is in no small degree the object of both hatred and
contempt; but it is to be feared that he is a long way from
feeling them to be intolerable. The principle of 'At mihi plaudo
ipse domi, simul ac nummos contemplor in arca,' is sufficient to
make a wide interval between the opinions of the plaintiff and
defendant in such cases. In short, to banish law and leave all
plaintiffs to trust to the desire of reputation on the opposite
side, would only be transporting the theory of the Whigs from the
House of Commons to Westminster Hall."

Now, in the first place, we never maintained the proposition
which Mr Bentham puts into our mouths. We said, and say, that
there is a CERTAIN check to the rapacity and cruelty of men, in
their desire of the good opinion of others. We never said that
it was sufficient. Let Mr Mill show it to be insufficient. It
is enough for us to prove that there is a set-off against the
principle from which Mr Mill deduces the whole theory of
government. The balance may be, and, we believe, will be,
against despotism and the narrower forms of aristocracy. But
what is this to the correctness or incorrectness of Mr Mill's
accounts? The question is not, whether the motives which lead
rulers to behave ill are stronger than those which lead them to
behave well;--but, whether we ought to form a theory of
government by looking ONLY at the motives which lead rulers to
behave ill and never noticing those which lead them to behave

Absolute rulers, says Mr Bentham, do not care for the good
opinion of their subjects; for no man cares for the good opinion
of those whom he has been accustomed to wrong. By Mr Bentham's
leave, this is a plain begging of the question. The point at
issue is this:--Will kings and nobles wrong the people? The
argument in favour of kings and nobles is this:--they will not
wrong the people, because they care for the good opinion of the
people. But this argument Mr Bentham meets thus:--they will not
care for the good opinion of the people, because they are
accustomed to wrong the people.

Here Mr Mill differs, as usual, from Mr Bentham. "The greatest
princes," says he, in his Essay on Education, "the most
despotical masters of human destiny, when asked what they aim at
by their wars and conquests, would answer, if sincere, as
Frederick of Prussia answered, pour faire parler de soi;--to
occupy a large space in the admiration of mankind." Putting Mr
Mill's and Mr Bentham's principles together, we might make out
very easily that "the greatest princes, the most despotical
masters of human destiny," would never abuse their power.

A man who has been long accustomed to injure people must also
have been long accustomed to do without their love, and to endure
their aversion. Such a man may not miss the pleasure of
popularity; for men seldom miss a pleasure which they have long
denied themselves. An old tyrant does without popularity just as
an old water-drinker does without wine. But, though it is
perfectly true that men who for the good of their health have
long abstained from wine feel the want of it very little, it
would be absurd to infer that men will always abstain from wine
when their health requires that they should do so. And it would
be equally absurd to say, because men who have been accustomed to
oppress care little for popularity, that men will therefore
necessarily prefer the pleasure of oppression to those of

Then, again, a man may be accustomed to wrong people in one point
and not in another. He may care for their good opinion with
regard to one point and not with regard to another. The Regent
Orleans laughed at charges of impiety, libertinism, extravagance,
idleness, disgraceful promotions. But the slightest allusion to
the charge of poisoning threw him into convulsions. Louis the
Fifteenth braved the hatred and contempt of his subjects during
many years of the most odious and imbecile misgovernment. But,
when a report was spread that he used human blood for his baths,
he was almost driven mad by it. Surely Mr Bentham's position
"that no man cares for the good opinion of those whom he has been
accustomed to wrong" would be objectionable, as far too sweeping
and indiscriminate, even if it did not involve, as in the present
case we have shown that it does, a direct begging of the question
at issue.

Mr Bentham proceeds:--

"Fourthly, The Edinburgh Reviewers are of opinion, that 'it
might, with no small plausibility, be maintained, that in many
countries, there are two classes which, in some degree, answer to
this description;' [viz.] 'that the poor compose the class which
government is established to restrain; and the people of some
property the class to which the powers of government may without
danger be confided.'

"They take great pains, it is true, to say this and not to say
it. They shuffle and creep about, to secure a hole to escape at,
if 'what they do not assert' should be found in any degree
inconvenient. A man might waste his life in trying to find out
whether the Misses of the 'Edinburgh' mean to say Yes or No in
their political coquetry. But whichever way the lovely spinsters
may decide, it is diametrically opposed to history and the
evidence of facts, that the poor ARE the class whom there is any
difficulty in restraining. It is not the poor but the rich that
have a propensity to take the property of other people. There is
no instance upon earth of the poor having combined to take away
the property of the rich; and all the instances habitually
brought forward in support of it are gross misrepresentations,
founded upon the most necessary acts of self-defence on the part
of the most numerous classes. Such a misrepresentation is the
common one of the Agrarian law; which was nothing but an attempt
on the part of the Roman people to get back some part of what had
been taken from them by undisguised robbery. Such another is the
stock example of the French Revolution, appealed to by the
'Edinburgh Review' in the actual case. It is utterly untrue that
the French Revolution took place because 'the poor began to
compare their cottages and salads with the hotels and banquets of
the rich;' it took place because they were robbed of their
cottages and salads to support the hotels and banquets of their
oppressors. It is utterly untrue that there was either a
scramble for property or a general confiscation; the classes who
took part with the foreign invaders lost their property, as they
would have done here, and ought to do everywhere. All these are
the vulgar errors of the man on the lion's back,--which the lion
will set to rights when he can tell his own story. History is
nothing but the relation of the sufferings of the poor from the
rich; except precisely so far as the numerous classes of the
community have contrived to keep the virtual power in their
hands, or, in other words, to establish free governments. If a
poor man injures the rich, the law is instantly at his heels; the
injuries of the rich towards the poor are always inflicted BY the
law. And to enable the rich to do this to any extent that may be
practicable or prudent, there is clearly one postulate required,
which is, that the rich shall make the law."

This passage is alone sufficient to prove that Mr Bentham has not
taken the trouble to read our article from beginning to end. We
are quite sure that he would not stoop to misrepresent it. And,
if he had read it with any attention, he would have perceived
that all this coquetry, this hesitation, this Yes and No, this
saying and not saying, is simply an exercise of the undeniable
right which in controversy belongs to the defensive side--to the
side which proposes to establish nothing. The affirmative of the
issue and the burden of the proof are with Mr Mill, not with us.
We are not bound, perhaps we are not able, to show that the form
of government which he recommends is bad. It is quite enough if
we can show that he does not prove it to be good. In his proof,
among many other flaws, is this--He says, that if men are not
inclined to plunder each other, government is unnecessary, and
that, if men are so inclined, kings and aristocracies will
plunder the people. Now, this we say, is a fallacy. That SOME
men will plunder their neighbours if they can, is a sufficient
reason for the existence of governments. But it is not
demonstrated that kings and aristocracies will plunder the
people, unless it be true that ALL men will plunder their
neighbours, if they can. Men are placed in very different
situations. Some have all the bodily pleasures that they desire,
and many other pleasures besides, without plundering anybody.
Others can scarcely obtain their daily bread without plundering.
It may be true, but surely it is not self-evident, that the
former class is under as strong temptations to plunder as the
latter. Mr Mill was therefore bound to prove it. That he has
not proved it is one of thirty or forty fatal errors in his
argument. It is not necessary that we should express an opinion
or even have an opinion on the subject. Perhaps we are in a
state of perfect scepticism: but what then? Are we the
theorymakers? When we bring before the world a theory of
government, it will be time to call upon us to offer proof at
every step. At present we stand on our undoubted logical right.
We concede nothing; and we deny nothing. We say to the
Utilitarian theorists:--When you prove your doctrine, we will
believe it; and, till you prove it, we will not believe it.

Mr Bentham has quite misunderstood what we said about the French
Revolution. We never alluded to that event for the purpose of
proving that the poor were inclined to rob the rich. Mr Mill's
principles of human nature furnished us with that part of our
argument ready-made. We alluded to the French Revolution for the
purpose of illustrating the effects which general spoliation
produces on society, not for the purpose of showing that general
spoliation will take place under a democracy. We allowed
distinctly that, in the peculiar circumstances of the French
monarchy, the Revolution, though accompanied by a great shock to
the institution of property, was a blessing. Surely Mr Bentham
will not maintain that the injury produced by the deluge of
assignats and by the maximum fell only on the emigrants,--or that
there were not many emigrants who would have stayed and lived
peaceably under any government if their persons and property had
been secure.

We never said that the French Revolution took place because the
poor began to compare their cottages and salads with the hotels
and banquets of the rich. We were not speaking about THE CAUSES
of the Revolution, or thinking about them. This we said, and
say, that, if a democratic government had been established in
France, the poor, when they began to compare their cottages and
salads with the hotels and banquets of the rich, would, on the
supposition that Mr Mill's principles are sound, have plundered
the rich, and repeated without provocation all the severities and
confiscations which at the time of the Revolution, were committed
with provocation. We say that Mr Mill's favourite form of
government would, if his own views of human nature be just, make
those violent convulsions and transfers of property which now
rarely happen, except, as in the case of the French Revolution,
when the people are maddened by oppression, events of annual or
biennial occurrence. We gave no opinion of our own. We give
none now. We say that this proposition may be proved from Mr
Mill's own premises, by steps strictly analogous to those by
which he proves monarchy and aristocracy to be bad forms of
government. To say this, is not to say that the proposition is
true. For we hold both Mr Mill's premises and his deduction to
be unsound throughout.

Mr Bentham challenges us to prove from history that the people
will plunder the rich. What does history say to Mr Mill's
doctrine, that absolute kings will always plunder their subjects
so unmercifully as to leave nothing but a bare subsistence to any
except their own creatures? If experience is to be the test, Mr
Mill's theory is unsound. If Mr Mill's reasoning a priori be
sound, the people in a democracy will plunder the rich. Let us
use one weight and one measure. Let us not throw history aside
when we are proving a theory, and take it up again when we have
to refute an objection founded on the principles of that theory.

We have not done, however, with Mr Bentham's charges against us.

"Among other specimens of their ingenuity, they think they
embarrass the subject by asking why, on the principles in
question, women should not have votes as well as men. AND WHY

'Gentle shepherd, tell me why?'--

If the mode of election was what it ought to be, there would be
no more difficulty in women voting for a representative in
Parliament than for a director at the India House. The world
will find out at some time that the readiest way to secure
justice on some points is to be just on all:--that the whole is
easier to accomplish than the part; and that, whenever the camel
is driven through the eye of the needle, it would be simple folly
and debility that would leave a hoof behind."

Why, says or sings Mr Bentham, should not women vote? It may
seem uncivil in us to turn a deaf ear to his Arcadian warblings.
But we submit, with great deference, that it is not OUR business
to tell him why. We fully agree with him that the principle of
female suffrage is not so palpably absurd that a chain of
reasoning ought to be pronounced unsound merely because it leads
to female suffrage. We say that every argument which tells in
favour of the universal suffrage of the males tells equally in
favour of female suffrage. Mr Mill, however, wishes to see all
men vote, but says that it is unnecessary that women should vote;
and for making this distinction HE gives as a reason an assertion
which, in the first place, is not true, and which, in the next
place, would, if true, overset his whole theory of human nature;
namely, that the interest of the women is identical with that of
the men. We side with Mr Bentham, so far, at least, as this:
that, when we join to drive the camel through the needle, he
shall go through hoof and all. We at present desire to be
excused from driving the camel. It is Mr Mill who leaves the
hoof behind. But we should think it uncourteous to reproach him
in the language which Mr Bentham, in the exercise of his paternal
authority over the sect, thinks himself entitled to employ.

"Another of their perverted ingenuities is, that 'they are rather
inclined to think,' that it would, on the whole, be for the
interest of the majority to plunder the rich; and if so, the
Utilitarians will say that the rich OUGHT to be plundered. On
which it is sufficient to reply, that for the majority to plunder
the rich would amount to a declaration that nobody should be
rich; which, as all men wish to be rich, would involve a suicide
of hope. And as nobody has shown a fragment of reason why such a
proceeding should be for the general happiness, it does not
follow that the 'Utilitarians' would recommend it. The Edinburgh
Reviewers have a waiting gentlewoman's ideas of 'Utilitarianism.'
It is unsupported by anything but the pitiable 'We are rather
inclined to think'--and is utterly contradicted by the whole
course of history and human experience besides,--that there is
either danger or possibility of such a consummation as the
majority agreeing on the plunder of the rich. There have been
instances in human memory, of their agreeing to plunder rich
oppressors, rich traitors, rich enemies,--but the rich
simpliciter never. It is as true now as in the days of
Harrington that 'a people never will, nor ever can, never did,
nor ever shall, take up arms for levelling.' All the commotions
in the world have been for something else; and 'levelling' is
brought forward as the blind to conceal what the other was."

We say, again and again, that we are on the defensive. We do not
think it necessary to prove that a quack medicine is poison. Let
the vendor prove it to be sanative. We do not pretend to show
that universal suffrage is an evil. Let its advocates show it to
be a good. Mr Mill tells us that, if power be given for short
terms to representatives elected by all the males of mature age,
it will then be for the interest of those representatives to
promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. To prove
this, it is necessary that he should prove three propositions:
first, that the interest of such a representative body will be
identical with the interest of the constituent body; secondly,
that the interest of the constituent body will be identical with
that of the community; thirdly, that the interest of one
generation of a community is identical with that of all
succeeding generations. The two first propositions Mr Mill
attempts to prove and fails. The last he does not even attempt
to prove. We therefore refuse our assent to his conclusions. Is
this unreasonable?

We never even dreamed, what Mr Bentham conceives us to have
maintained, that it could be for the greatest happiness of
MANKIND to plunder the rich. But we are "rather inclined to
think," though doubtingly and with a disposition to yield to
conviction, that it may be for the pecuniary interest of the
majority of a single generation in a thickly-peopled country to
plunder the rich. Why we are inclined to think so we will
explain, whenever we send a theory of government to an
Encyclopaedia. At present we are bound to say only that we think
so, and shall think so till somebody shows us a reason for
thinking otherwise.

Mr Bentham's answer to us is simple assertion. He must not think
that we mean any discourtesy by meeting it with a simple denial.
The fact is, that almost all the governments that have ever
existed in the civilised world have been, in part at least,
monarchical and aristocratical. The first government constituted
on principles approaching to those which the Utilitarians hold
was, we think, that of the United States. That the poor have
never combined to plunder the rich in the governments of the old
world, no more proves that they might not combine to plunder the
rich under a system of universal suffrage, than the fact that the
English kings of the House of Brunswick have not been Neros and
Domitians proves that sovereigns may safely be intrusted with
absolute power. Of what the people would do in a state of
perfect sovereignty we can judge only by indications, which,
though rarely of much moment in themselves, and though always
suppressed with little difficulty, are yet of great significance,
and resemble those by which our domestic animals sometimes remind
us that they are of kin with the fiercest monsters of the forest.
It would not be wise to reason from the behaviour of a dog
crouching under the lash, which is the case of the Italian
people, or from the behaviour of a dog pampered with the best
morsels of a plentiful kitchen, which is the case of the purpose
of America, to the behaviour of a wolf, which is nothing but a
dog run wild, after a week's fast among the snows of the
Pyrenees. No commotion, says Mr Bentham, was ever really
produced by the wish of levelling; the wish has been put forward
as a blind; but something else has been the real object. Grant
all this. But why has levelling been put forward as a blind in
times of commotion to conceal the real objects of the agitators?
Is it with declarations which involve "a suicide of hope" that
man attempt to allure others? Was famine, pestilence, slavery,
ever held out to attract the people? If levelling has been made
a pretence for disturbances, the argument against Mr Bentham's
doctrine is as strong as if it had been the real object of

But the great objection which Mr Bentham makes to our review,
still remains to be noticed:--

"The pith of the charge against the author of the Essays is, that
he has written 'an elaborate Treatise on Government,' and
'deduced the whole science from the assumption of certain
propensities of human nature.' Now, in the name of Sir Richard
Birnie and all saints, from what else SHOULD it be deduced? What
did ever anybody imagine to be the end, object, and design of
government AS IT OUGHT TO BE but the same operation, on an
extended scale, which that meritorious chief magistrate conducts
on a limited one at Bow Street; to wit, the preventing one man
from injuring another? Imagine, then, that the Whiggery of Bow
Street were to rise up against the proposition that their science
was to be deduced from 'certain propensities of human nature,'
and thereon were to ratiocinate as follows:--

"'How then are we to arrive at just conclusions on a subject so
important to the happiness of mankind? Surely by that method,
which, in every experimental science to which it has been
applied, has signally increased the power and knowledge of our
species,--by that method for which our new philosophers would
substitute quibbles scarcely worthy of the barbarous respondents
and opponents of the middle ages,--by the method of induction,--
by observing the present state of the world,--by assiduously
studying the history of past ages,--by sifting the evidence of
facts,--by carefully combining and contrasting those which are
authentic,--by generalising with judgment and diffidence,--by
perpetually bringing the theory which we have constructed to the
test of new facts,--by correcting, or altogether abandoning it,
according as those new facts prove it to be partially or
fundamentally unsound. Proceeding thus,--patiently, diligently,
candidly, we may hope to form a system as far inferior in
pretension to that which we have been examining, and as far
superior to it in real utility, as the prescriptions of a great
physician, varying with every stage of every malady, and with the
constitution of every patient, to the pill of the advertising
quack, which is to cure all human beings, in all climates, of all

"Fancy now,--only fancy,--the delivery of these wise words at Bow
Street; and think how speedily the practical catchpolls would
reply, that all this might be very fine, but, as far as they had
studied history, the naked story was, after all, that numbers of
men had a propensity to thieving, and their business was to catch
them; that they, too, had been sifters of facts; and, to say the
truth, their simple opinion was, that their brethren of the red
waistcoat--though they should be sorry to think ill of any man--
had somehow contracted a leaning to the other side, and were more
bent on puzzling the case for the benefit of the defendants, than
on doing the duty of good officers and true. Such would, beyond
all doubt, be the sentence passed on such trimmers in the
microcosm of Bow Street. It might not absolutely follow that
they were in a plot to rob the goldsmiths' shops, or to set fire
to the House of Commons; but it would be quite clear that they
had got A FEELING,--that they were in process of siding with the
thieves,--and that it was not to them that any man must look who
was anxious that pantries should be safe."

This is all very witty; but it does not touch us. On the present
occasion, we cannot but flatter ourselves that we bear a much
greater resemblance to a practical catchpoll than either Mr Mill
or Mr Bentham. It would, to be sure, be very absurd in a
magistrate discussing the arrangements of a police-office, to
spout in the style either of our article or Mr Bentham's; but, in
substance, he would proceed, if he were a man of sense, exactly
as WE recommend. He would, on being appointed to provide for the
security of property in a town, study attentively the state of
the town. He would learn at what places, at what times, and
under what circumstances, theft and outrage were most frequent.
Are the streets, he would ask, most infested with thieves at
sunset or at midnight? Are there any public places of resort
which give peculiar facilities to pickpockets? Are there any
districts completely inhabited by a lawless population? Which
are the flash houses, and which the shops of receivers? Having
made himself master of the facts, he would act accordingly. A
strong detachment of officers might be necessary for Petticoat
Lane; another for the pit entrance of Covent Garden Theatre.
Grosvenor Square and Hamilton Place would require little or no
protection. Exactly thus should we reason about government.
Lombardy is oppressed by tyrants; and constitutional checks, such
as may produce security to the people, are required. It is, so
to speak, one of the resorts of thieves; and there is great need
of police-officers. Denmark resembles one of those respectable
streets in which it is scarcely necessary to station a catchpoll,
because the inhabitants would at once join to seize a thief.
Yet, even in such a street, we should wish to see an officer
appear now and then, as his occasional superintence would render
the security more complete. And even Denmark, we think, would be
better off under a constitutional form of government.

Mr Mill proceeds like a director of police, who, without asking a
single question about the state of his district, should give his
orders thus:--"My maxim is, that every man will take what he can.
Every man in London would be a thief, but for the thieftakers.
This is an undeniable principle of human nature. Some of my
predecessors have wasted their time in enquiring about particular
pawnbrokers, and particular alehouses. Experience is altogether
divided. Of people placed in exactly the same situation, I see
that one steals, and that another would sooner burn his hand off.
THEREFORE I trust to the laws of human nature alone, and
pronounce all men thieves alike. Let everybody, high and low, be
watched. Let Townsend take particular care that the Duke of
Wellington does not steal the silk handkerchief of the lord in
waiting at the levee. A person has lost a watch. Go to Lord
Fitzwilliam and search him for it; he is as great a receiver of
stolen goods as Ikey Solomons himself. Don't tell me about his
rank, and character, and fortune. He is a man; and a man does
not change his nature when he is called a lord. ("If Government
is founded upon this, as a law of human nature, that a man, if
able, will take from others anything which they have and he
desires, it is sufficiently evident that when a man is called a
king, he does not change his nature, so that, when he has power
to take what he pleases, he will take what he pleases. To
suppose that he will not, is to affirm that government is
unnecessary and that human beings will abstain from injuring one
another of their own accord."--"Mill on Government".) Either men
will steal or they will not steal. If they will not, why do I
sit here? If they will, his lordship must be a thief." The
Whiggery of Bow Street would perhaps rise up against this wisdom.
Would Mr Bentham think that the Whiggery of Bow Street was in the

We blamed Mr Mill for deducing his theory of government from the
principles of human nature. "In the name of Sir Richard Birnie
and all saints," cries Mr Bentham, "from what else should it be
deduced?" In spite of this solemn adjuration, with shall venture
to answer Mr Bentham's question by another. How does he arrive
at those principles of human nature from which he proposes to
deduce the science of government? We think that we may venture
to put an answer into his mouth; for in truth there is but one
possible answer. He will say--By experience. But what is the
extent of this experience? Is it an experience which includes
experience of the conduct of men intrusted with the powers of
government; or is it exclusive of that experience? If it
includes experience of the manner in which men act when intrusted
with the powers of government, then those principles of human
nature from which the science of government is to be deduced can
only be known after going through that inductive process by which
we propose to arrive at the science of government. Our knowledge
of human nature, instead of being prior in order to our knowledge
of the science of government, will be posterior to it. And it
would be correct to say, that by means of the science of
government, and of other kindred sciences--the science of
education, for example, which falls under exactly the same
principle--we arrive at the science of human nature.

If, on the other hand, we are to deduce the theory of government
from principles of human nature, in arriving at which principles
we have not taken into the account the manner in which men act
when invested with the powers of government, then those
principles must be defective. They have not been formed by a
sufficiently copious induction. We are reasoning, from what a
man does in one situation, to what he will do in another.
Sometimes we may be quite justified in reasoning thus. When we
have no means of acquiring information about the particular case
before us, we are compelled to resort to cases which bear some
resemblance to it. But the more satisfactory course is to obtain
information about the particular case; and, whenever this can be
obtained, it ought to be obtained. When first the yellow fever
broke out, a physician might be justified in treating it as he
had been accustomed to treat those complaints which, on the
whole, had the most symptoms in common with it. But what should
we think of a physician who should now tell us that he deduced
his treatment of yellow fever from the general theory of
pathology? Surely we should ask him, Whether, in constructing
his theory of pathology, he had or had not taken into the account
the facts which had been ascertained respecting the yellow fever?
If he had, then it would be more correct to say that he had
arrived at the principles of pathology partly by his experience
of cases of yellow fever than that he had deduced his treatment
of yellow fever from the principles of pathology. If he had not,
he should not prescribe for us. If we had the yellow fever, we
should prefer a man who had never treated any cases but cases of
yellow fever to a man who had walked the hospitals of London and
Paris for years, but who knew nothing of our particular disease.

Let Lord Bacon speak for us: "Inductionem censemus eam esse
demonstrandi formam, quae sensum tuetur, et naturam premit, et
operibus imminet, ac fere immiscetur. Itaque ordo quoque
demonstrandi plane invertitur. Adhuc enim res ita geri
consuevit, ut a sensu et particularibus primo loco ad maxime
generalia advoletur, tanquam ad polos fixos, circa quos
disputationes vertantur; ab illis caetera, per media, deriventur;
via certe compendiaria, sed praecipiti, et ad naturam impervia,
ad disputationes proclivi et accommodata. At, secundum nos,
axiomata continenter et gradatim excitantur, ut non, nisi
postremo loco, ad maxime generalia veniatur." Can any words more
exactly describe the political reasonings of Mr Mill than those
in which Lord Bacon thus describes the logomachies of the
schoolmen? Mr Mill springs at once to a general principle of the
widest extent, and from that general principle deduces
syllogistically every thing which is included in it. We say with
Bacon--"non, nisi postremo loco, ad maxime generalia veniatur."
In the present inquiry, the science of human nature is the
"maxime generale." To this the Utilitarian rushes at once, and
from this he deduces a hundred sciences. But the true
philosopher, the inductive reasoner, travels up to it slowly,
through those hundred sciences, of which the science of
government is one.

As we have lying before us that incomparable volume, the noblest
and most useful of all the works of the human reason, the Novum
Organum, we will transcribe a few lines, in which the Utilitarian
philosophy is portrayed to the life.

"Syllogismus ad 'Principia' scientiarum non adhibetur, ad media
axiomata frustra adhibetur, cum sit subtilitati naturae longe
impar. Assensum itaque constringit, non res. Syllogismus ex
propositionibus constat, propositiones ex verbis, verba notionum
tesserae sunt. Itaque si notiones ipsae, id quod basis rei est,
confusae sint, et tenere a rebus abstractae, nihil in iis quae
superstruuntur est firmitudinis. Itaque spes est una in
Inductione vera. In notionibus nil sani est, nec in Logicis nec
in physicis. Non substantia, non qualitas, agere, pati, ipsum
esse, bonae notiones sunt; multo minus grave, leve, densum,
tenue, humidum, siccum, generatio, corruptio, attrahere, fugare,
elementum, materia, forma, et id genus, sed omnes phantasticae et
male terminatae."

Substitute for the "substantia," the "generatio," the
"corruptio," the "elementum," the "materia," of the old
schoolmen, Mr Mill's pain, pleasure, interest, power, objects of
desire,--and the words of Bacon will seem to suit the current
year as well as the beginning of the seventeenth century.

We have now gone through the objections that Mr Bentham makes to
our article: and we submit ourselves on all the charges to the
judgment of the public.

The rest of Mr Bentham's article consists of an exposition of the
Utilitarian principle, or, as he decrees that it shall be called,
the "greatest happiness principle." He seems to think that we
have been assailing it. We never said a syllable against it. We
spoke slightingly of the Utilitarian sect, as we thought of them,
and think of them; but it was not for holding this doctrine that
we blamed them. In attacking them we no more meant to attack the
"greatest happiness principle" than when we say that Mahometanism
is a false religion we mean to deny the unity of God, which is
the first article of the Mahometan creed;--no more than Mr
Bentham, when he sneers at the Whigs means to blame them for
denying the divine right of kings. We reasoned throughout our
article on the supposition that the end of government was to
produce the greatest happiness to mankind.

Mr Bentham gives an account of the manner in which he arrived at
the discovery of the "greatest happiness principle." He then
proceeds to describe the effects which, as he conceives, that
discovery is producing in language so rhetorical and ardent that,
if it had been written by any other person, a genuine Utilitarian
would certainly have thrown down the book in disgust.

"The only rivals of any note to the new principle which were
brought forward, were those known by the names of the 'moral
sense,' and the 'original contract.' The new principle
superseded the first of these, by presenting it with a guide for
its decisions; and the other, by making it unnecessary to resort
to a remote and imaginary contract for what was clearly the
business of every man and every hour. Throughout the whole
horizon of morals and of politics, the consequences were glorious
and vast. It might be said without danger of exaggeration, that
they who sat in darkness had seen a great light. The mists in
which mankind had jousted against each other were swept away, as
when the sun of astronomical science arose in the full
development of the principle of gravitation. If the object of
legislation was the greatest happiness, MORALITY was the
promotion of the same end by the conduct of the individual; and
by analogy, the happiness of the world was the morality of

"...All the sublime obscurities, which had haunted the mind of
man from the first formation of society,--the phantoms whose
steps had been on earth, and their heads among the clouds--
marshalled themselves at the sound of this new principle of
connection and of union, and stood a regulated band, where all
was order, symmetry, and force. What men had struggled for and
bled, while they saw it but as through a glass darkly, was made
the object of substantial knowledge and lively apprehension. The
bones of sages and of patriots stirred within their tombs, that
what they dimly saw and followed had become the world's common
heritage. And the great result was wrought by no supernatural
means, nor produced by any unparallelable concatenation of
events. It was foretold by no oracles, and ushered by no
portents; but was brought about by the quiet and reiterated
exercise of God's first gift of common sense."

Mr Bentham's discovery does not, as we think we shall be able to
show, approach in importance to that of gravitation, to which he
compares it. At all events, Mr Bentham seems to us to act much
as Sir Isaac Newton would have done if he had gone about boasting
that he was the first person who taught bricklayers not to jump
off scaffolds and break their legs.

Does Mr Bentham profess to hold out any new motive which may
induce men to promote the happiness of the species to which they
belong? Not at all. He distinctly admits that, if he is asked
why government 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 anything, 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 not 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
anything for which he would not have wished, or do anything 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 man pursues it,

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