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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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according to his light, and always has pursued it, and always
must pursue it. To say that a man has done anything, is to say
that he thought it for his happiness to do it. Will the
principle run thus--pursue the greatest happiness of mankind,
whether it be your own greatest happiness or not? This is absurd
and impossible; and Bentham himself allows it to be so. But, if
the principle be not stated in one of these two ways, we cannot
imagine how it is to be stated at all. Stated in one of these
ways, it is an identical proposition,--true, but utterly barren
of consequences. Stated in the other way, it is a contradiction
in terms. Mr Bentham has distinctly declined the absurdity. Are
we then to suppose that he adopts the truism?

There are thus, it seems, two great truths which the Utilitarian
philosophy is to communicate to mankind--two truths which are to
produce a revolution in morals, in laws, in governments, in
literature, in the whole system of life. The first of these is
speculative; the second is practical. The speculative truth is,
that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness. The
practical rule is very simple; for it imports merely that men
should never omit, when they wish for anything, to wish for it,
or when they do anything, to do it! It is a great comfort to us
to think that we readily assented to the former of these great
doctrines as soon as it was stated to us; and that we have long
endeavoured, as far as human frailty would permit, to conform to
the latter in our practice. We are, however, inclined to suspect
that the calamities of the human race have been owing, less to
their not knowing that happiness was happiness, than to their not
knowing how to obtain it--less to their neglecting to do what
they did, than to their not being able to do what they wished, or
not wishing to do what they ought.

Thus frivolous, thus useless is this philosophy,--
"controversiarum ferax, operum effoeta, ad garriendum prompta, ad
generandum invalida." (Bacon, "Novum Organum".) The humble
mechanic who discovers some slight improvement in the
construction of safety lamps or steam-vessels does more for the
happiness of mankind than the "magnificent principle," as Mr
Bentham calls it, will do in ten thousand years. The mechanic
teaches us how we may in a small degree be better off than we
were. The Utilitarian advises us with great pomp to be as well
off as we can.

The doctrine of a moral sense may be very unphilosophical; but we
do not think that it can be proved to be pernicious. Men did not
entertain certain desires and aversions because they believed in
a moral sense, but they gave the name of moral sense to a feeling
which they found in their minds, however it came there. If they
had given it no name at all it would still have influenced their
actions; and it will not be very easy to demonstrate that it has
influenced their actions the more because they have called it the
moral sense. The theory of the original contract is a fiction,
and a very absurd fiction; but in practice it meant, what the
"greatest happiness principle," if ever it becomes a watchword of
political warfare, will mean--that is to say, whatever served the
turn of those who used it. Both the one expression and the other
sound very well in debating clubs; but in the real conflicts of
life our passions and interests bid them stand aside and know
their place. The "greatest happiness principle" has always been
latent under the words, social contract, justice, benevolence,
patriotism, liberty, and so forth, just as far as it was for the
happiness, real or imagined, of those who used these words to
promote the greatest happiness of mankind. And of this we may be
sure, that the words "greatest happiness" will never, in any
man's mouth, mean more than the greatest happiness of others
which is consistent with what he thinks his own. The project of
mending a bad world by teaching people to give new names to old
things reminds us of Walter Shandy's scheme for compensating the
loss of his son's nose by christening him Trismegistus. What
society wants is a new motive--not a new cant. If Mr Bentham can
find out any argument yet undiscovered which may induce men to
pursue the general happiness, he will indeed be a great
benefactor to our species. But those whose happiness is
identical with the general happiness are even now promoting the
general happiness to the very best of their power and knowledge;
and Mr Bentham himself confesses that he has no means of
persuading those whose happiness is not identical with the
general happiness to act upon his principle. Is not this, then,
darkening counsel by words without knowledge? If the only fruit
of the "magnificent principle" is to be, that the oppressors and
pilferers of the next generation are to talk of seeking the
greatest happiness of the greatest number, just as the same class
of men have talked in our time of seeking to uphold the
Protestant constitution--just as they talked under Anne of
seeking the good of the Church, and under Cromwell of seeking the
Lord--where is the gain? Is not every great question already
enveloped in a sufficiently dark cloud of unmeaning words? Is it
so difficult for a man to cant some one or more of the good old
English cants which his father and grandfather canted before him,
that he must learn, in the schools of the Utilitarians, a new
sleight of tongue, to make fools clap and wise men sneer? Let
our countrymen keep their eyes on the neophytes of this sect, and
see whether we turn out to be mistaken in the prediction which we
now hazard. It will before long be found, we prophesy, that, as
the corruption of a dunce is the generation of an Utilitarian, so
is the corruption of an Utilitarian the generation of a jobber.

The most elevated station that the "greatest happiness principle"
is ever likely to attain is this, that it may be a fashionable
phrase among newspaper writers and members of parliament--that it
may succeed to the dignity which has been enjoyed by the
"original contract," by the "constitution of 1688," and other
expressions of the same kind. We do not apprehend that it is a
less flexible cant than those which have preceded it, or that it
will less easily furnish a pretext for any design for which a
pretext may be required. The "original contract" meant in the
Convention Parliament the co-ordinate authority of the Three
Estates. If there were to be a radical insurrection tomorrow,
the "original contract" would stand just as well for annual
parliaments and universal suffrage. The "Glorious Constitution,"
again, has meant everything in turn: the Habeas Corpus Act, the
Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the Test Act, the Repeal of
the Test Act. There has not been for many years a single
important measure which has not been unconstitutional with its
opponents, and which its supporters have not maintained to be
agreeable to the true spirit of the constitution. Is it easier
to ascertain what is for the greatest happiness of the human race
than what is the constitution of England? If not, the "greatest
happiness principle" will be what the "principles of the
constitution" are, a thing to be appealed to by everybody, and
understood by everybody in the sense which suits him best. It
will mean cheap bread, dear bread, free trade, protecting duties,
annual parliaments, septennial parliaments, universal suffrage,
Old Sarum, trial by jury, martial law--everything, in short,
good, bad, or indifferent, of which any person, from rapacity or
from benevolence, chooses to undertake the defence. It will mean
six-and-eightpence with the attorney, tithes at the rectory, and
game-laws at the manor-house. The Statute of Uses, in appearance
the most sweeping legislative reform in our history, was said to
have produced no other effect than that of adding three words to
a conveyance. The universal admission of Mr Bentham's great
principle would, as far as we can see, produce no other effect
than that those orators who, while waiting for a meaning, gain
time (like bankers paying in sixpences during a run) by uttering
words that mean nothing would substitute "the greatest
happiness," or rather, as the longer phrase, "the greatest
happiness of the greatest number," for "under existing
circumstances,"--"now that I am on my legs,"--and "Mr Speaker, I,
for one, am free to say." In fact, principles of this sort
resemble those forms which are sold by law-stationers, with
blanks for the names of parties, and for the special
circumstances of every case--mere customary headings and
conclusions, which are equally at the command of the most honest
and of the most unrighteous claimant. It is on the filling up
that everything depends.

The "greatest happiness principle" of Mr Bentham is included in
the Christian morality; and, to our thinking, it is there
exhibited in an infinitely more sound and philosophical form than
in the Utilitarian speculations. For in the New Testament it is
neither an identical proposition, nor a contradiction in terms;
and, as laid down by Mr Bentham, it must be either the one or the
other. "Do as you would be done by: Love your neighbour as
yourself:" these are the precepts of Jesus Christ. Understood
in an enlarged sense, these precepts are, in fact, a direction to
every man to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest
number. But this direction would be utterly unmeaning, as it
actually is in Mr Bentham's philosophy, unless it were
accompanied by a sanction. In the Christian scheme, accordingly,
it is accompanied by a sanction of immense force. To a man whose
greatest happiness in this world is inconsistent with the
greatest happiness of the greatest number is held out the
prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, from which he
excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures here.

This is practical philosophy, as practical as that on which penal
legislation is founded. A man is told to do something which
otherwise he would not do, and is furnished with a new motive for
doing it. Mr Bentham has no new motive to furnish his disciples
with. He has talents sufficient to effect anything that can be
effected. But to induce men to act without an inducement is too
much, even for him. He should reflect that the whole vast world
of morals cannot be moved unless the mover can obtain some stand
for his engines beyond it. He acts as Archimedes would have
done, if he had attempted to move the earth by a lever fixed on
the earth. The action and reaction neutralise each other. The
artist labours, and the world remains at rest. Mr Bentham can
only tell us to do something which we have always been doing, and
should still have continued to do, if we had never heard of the
"greatest happiness principle"--or else to do something which we
have no conceivable motive for doing, and therefore shall not do.
Mr Bentham's principle is at best no more than the golden rule of
the Gospel without its sanction. Whatever evils, therefore, have
existed in societies in which the authority of the Gospel is
recognised may, a fortiori, as it appears to us, exist in
societies in which the Utilitarian principle is recognised. We
do not apprehend that it is more difficult for a tyrant or a
persecutor to persuade himself and others that in putting to
death those who oppose his power or differ from his opinions he
is pursuing "the greatest happiness," than that he is doing as he
would be done by. But religion gives him a motive for doing as
he would be done by: and Mr Bentham furnishes him no motive to
induce him to promote the general happiness. If, on the other
hand, Mr Bentham's principle mean only that every man should
pursue his own greatest happiness, he merely asserts what
everybody knows, and recommends what everybody does.

It is not upon this "greatest happiness principle" that the fame
of Mr Bentham will rest. He has not taught people to pursue
their own happiness; for that they always did. He has not taught
them to promote the happiness of others, at the expense of their
own; for that they will not and cannot do. But he has taught
them HOW, in some most important points, to promote their own
happiness; and, if his school had emulated him as successfully in
this respect as in the trick of passing off truisms for
discoveries, the name of Benthamite would have been no word for
the scoffer. But few of those who consider themselves as in a
more especial manner his followers have anything in common with
him but his faults. The whole science of Jurisprudence is his.
He has done much for political economy; but we are not aware that
in either department any improvement has been made by members of
his sect. He discovered truths; all that THEY have done has been
to make those truths unpopular. He investigated the philosophy
of law; he could teach them only to snarl at lawyers.

We entertain no apprehensions of danger to the institutions of
this country from the Utilitarians. Our fears are of a different
kind. We dread the odium and discredit of their alliance. We
wish to see a broad and clear line drawn between the judicious
friends of practical reform and a sect which, having derived all
its influence from the countenance which they have imprudently
bestowed upon it, hates them with the deadly hatred of
ingratitude. There is not, and we firmly believe that there
never was, in this country a party so unpopular. They have
already made the science of political economy--a science of vast
importance to the welfare of nations--an object of disgust to the
majority of the community. The question of parliamentary reform
will share the same fate if once an association be formed in the
public mind between Reform and Utilitarianism.

We bear no enmity to any member of the sect; and for Mr Bentham
we entertain very high admiration. We know that among his
followers there are some well-intentioned men, and some men of
talents; but we cannot say that we think the logic on which they
pride themselves likely to improve their heads, or the scheme of
morality which they have adopted likely to improve their hearts.
Their theory of morals, however, well deserves an article to
itself; and perhaps, on some future occasion, we may discuss it
more fully than time and space at present allow.

The preceding article was written, and was actually in types,
when a letter from Mr Bentham appeared in the newspapers,
importing that, "though he had furnished the Westminster Review
with some memoranda respecting 'the greatest happiness
principle,' he had nothing to do with the remarks on our former
article." We are truly happy to find that this illustrious man
had so small a share in a performance which, for his sake, we
have treated with far greater lenity than it deserved. The
mistake, however, does not in the least affect any part of our
arguments; and we have therefore thought it unnecessary to cancel
or cast anew any of the foregoing pages. Indeed, we are not
sorry that the world should see how respectfully we were disposed
to treat a great man, even when we considered him as the author
of a very weak and very unfair attack on ourselves. We wish,
however, to intimate to the actual writer of that attack that our
civilities were intended for the author of the "Preuves
Judiciaires," and the "Defence of Usury"--and not for him. We
cannot conclude, indeed, without expressing a wish--though we
fear it has but little chance of reaching Mr Bentham--that he
would endeavour to find better editors for his compositions. If
M. Dumont had not been a redacteur of a different description
from some of his successors, Mr Bentham would never have attained
the distinction of even giving his name to a sect.



(October 1829.)

Westminster Review (XXII., Article 16), on the Strictures of the
Edinburgh Review (XCVIII., Article 1), on the Utilitarian Theory
of Government, and the "Greatest Happiness Principle."

We have long been of opinion that the Utilitarians have owed all
their influence to a mere delusion--that, while professing to
have submitted their minds to an intellectual discipline of
peculiar severity, to have discarded all sentimentality, and to
have acquired consummate skill in the art of reasoning, they are
decidedly inferior to the mass of educated men in the very
qualities in which they conceive themselves to excel. They have
undoubtedly freed themselves from the dominion of some absurd
notions. But their struggle for intellectual emancipation has
ended, as injudicious and violent struggles for political
emancipation too often end, in a mere change of tyrants. Indeed,
we are not sure that we do not prefer the venerable nonsense
which holds prescriptive sway over the ultra-Tory to the upstart
dynasty of prejudices and sophisms by which the revolutionists of
the moral world have suffered themselves to be enslaved.

The Utilitarians have sometimes been abused as intolerant,
arrogant, irreligious,--as enemies of literature, of the fine
arts, and of the domestic charities. They have been reviled for
some things of which they were guilty, and for some of which they
were innocent. But scarcely anybody seems to have perceived that
almost all their peculiar faults arise from the utter want both
of comprehensiveness and of precision in their mode of reasoning.
We have, for some time past, been convinced that this was really
the case; and that, whenever their philosophy should be boldly
and unsparingly scrutinised, the world would see that it had been
under a mistake respecting them.

We have made the experiment; and it has succeeded far beyond our
most sanguine expectations. A chosen champion of the School has
come forth against us. A specimen of his logical abilities now
lies before us; and we pledge ourselves to show that no
prebendary at an anti-Catholic meeting, no true-blue baronet
after the third bottle at a Pitt Club, ever displayed such utter
incapacity of comprehending or answering an argument as appears
in the speculations of this Utilitarian apostle; that he does not
understand our meaning, or Mr Mill's meaning, or Mr Bentham's
meaning, or his own meaning; and that the various parts of his
system--if the name of system can be so misapplied--directly
contradict each other.

Having shown this, we intend to leave him in undisputed
possession of whatever advantage he may derive from the last
word. We propose only to convince the public that there is
nothing in the far-framed logic of the Utilitarians of which any
plain man has reason to be afraid; that this logic will impose on
no man who dares to look it in the face.

The Westminster Reviewer begins by charging us with having
misrepresented an important part of Mr Mill's argument.

"The first extract given by the Edinburgh Reviewers from the
Essay was an insulated passage, purposely despoiled of what had
preceded and what followed. The author had been observing, that
'some profound and benevolent investigators of human affairs had
adopted the conclusion that, of all the possible forms of
government, absolute monarchy is the best.' This is what the
reviewers have omitted at the beginning. He then adds, as in the
extract, that 'Experience, IF WE LOOK ONLY AT THE OUTSIDE OF THE
FACTS, appears to be divided on this subject;' there are
Caligulas in one place, and kings of Denmark in another. 'As the
surface of history affords, therefore, no certain principle of
decision, WE MUST GO BEYOND THE SURFACE, and penetrate to the
springs within.' This is what the reviewers have omitted at the

It is perfectly true that our quotation from Mr Mill's essay was,
like most other quotations, preceded and followed by something
which we did not quote. But, if the Westminster Reviewer means
to say that either what preceded or what followed would, if
quoted, have shown that we put a wrong interpretation on the
passage which was extracted, he does not understand Mr Mill

Mr Mill undoubtedly says that, "as the surface of history affords
no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond the surface,
and penetrate to the springs within." But these expressions will
admit of several interpretations. In what sense, then, does Mr
Mill use them? If he means that we ought to inspect the facts
with close attention, he means what is rational. But, if he
means that we ought to leave the facts, with all their apparent
inconsistencies, unexplained--to lay down a general principle of
the widest extent, and to deduce doctrines from that principle by
syllogistic argument, without pausing to consider whether those
doctrines be or be not consistent with the facts,--then he means
what is irrational; and this is clearly what he does mean: for
he immediately begins, without offering the least explanation of
the contradictory appearances which he has himself described, to
go beyond the surface in the following manner:--"That one human
being will desire to render the person and property of another
subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of
pleasure which it may occasion to that other individual, is the
foundation of government. The desire of the object implies the
desire of the power necessary to accomplish the object." And
thus he proceeds to deduce consequences directly inconsistent
with what he has himself stated respecting the situation of the
Danish people.

If we assume that the object of government is the preservation of
the persons and property of men, then we must hold that, wherever
that object is attained, there the principle of good government
exists. If that object be attained both in Denmark and in the
United States of America, then that which makes government good
must exist, under whatever disguise of title or name, both in
Denmark and in the United States. If men lived in fear for their
lives and their possessions under Nero and under the National
Convention, it follows that the causes from which misgovernment
proceeds existed both in the despotism of Rome and in the
democracy of France. What, then, is that which, being found in
Denmark and in the United States, and not being found in the
Roman Empire or under the administration of Robespierre, renders
governments, widely differing in their external form, practically
good? Be it what it may, it certainly is not that which Mr Mill
proves a priori that it must be,--a democratic representative
assembly. For the Danes have no such assembly.

The latent principle of good government ought to be tracked, as
it appears to us, in the same manner in which Lord Bacon proposed
to track the principle of Heat. Make as large a list as
possible, said that great man, of those bodies in which, however
widely they differ from each other in appearance, we perceive
heat; and as large a list as possible of those which, while they
bear a general resemblance to hot bodies, are nevertheless not
hot. Observe the different degrees of heat in different hot
bodies; and then, if there be something which is found in all hot
bodies, and of which the increase or diminution is always
accompanied by an increase or diminution of heat, we may hope
that we have really discovered the object of our search. In the
same manner we ought to examine the constitution of all those
communities in which, under whatever form, the blessings of good
government are enjoyed; and to discover, if possible, in what
they resemble each other, and in what they all differ from those
societies in which the object of government is not attained. By
proceeding thus we shall arrive, not indeed at a perfect theory
of government, but at a theory which will be of great practical
use, and which the experience of every successive generation will
probably bring nearer and nearer to perfection.

The inconsistencies into which Mr Mill has been betrayed by
taking a different course ought to serve as a warning to all
speculators. Because Denmark is well governed by a monarch who,
in appearance at least, is absolute, Mr Mill thinks that the only
mode of arriving at the true principles of government is to
deduce them a priori from the laws of human nature. And what
conclusion does he bring out by this deduction? We will give it
in his own words:--"In the grand discovery of modern times, the
system of representation, the solution of all the difficulties,
both speculative and practical, will perhaps be found. If it
cannot, we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary conclusion
that good government is impossible." That the Danes are well
governed without a representation is a reason for deducing the
theory of government from a general principle from which it
necessarily follows that good government is impossible without a
representation! We have done our best to put this question
plainly; and we think that, if the Westminster Reviewer will read
over what we have written twice or thrice with patience and
attention, some glimpse of our meaning will break in even on his

Some objections follow, so frivolous and unfair, that we are
almost ashamed to notice them.

"When it was said that there was in Denmark a balanced contest
between the king and the nobility, what was said was, that there
was a balanced contest, but it did not last. It was balanced
till something put an end to the balance; and so is everything
else. That such a balance will not last, is precisely what Mr
Mill had demonstrated."

Mr Mill, we positively affirm, pretends to demonstrate, not
merely that a balanced contest between the king and the
aristocracy will not last, but that the chances are as infinity
to one against the existence of such a balanced contest. This is
a mere question of fact. We quote the words of the essay, and
defy the Westminster Reviewer to impeach our accuracy:--

"It seems impossible that such equality should ever exist. How
is it to be established? Or by what criterion is it to be
ascertained? If there is no such criterion, it must, in all
cases, be the result of chance. If so, the chances against it
are as infinity to one."

The Reviewer has confounded the division of power with the
balance or equal division of power. Mr Mill says that the
division of power can never exist long, because it is next to
impossible that the equal division of power should ever exist at

"When Mr Mill asserted that it cannot be for the interest of
either the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine with the
democracy, it is plain he did not assert that if the monarchy and
aristocracy were in doubtful contest with each other, they would
not, either of them, accept of the assistance of the democracy.
He spoke of their taking the side of the democracy; not of their
allowing the democracy to take side with themselves."

If Mr Mill meant anything, he must have meant this--that the
monarchy and the aristocracy will never forget their enmity to
the democracy in their enmity to each other.

"The monarchy and aristocracy," says he, "have all possible
motives for endeavouring to obtain unlimited power over the
persons and property of the community. The consequence is
inevitable. They have all possible motives for combining to
obtain that power, and unless the people have power enough to be
a match for both they have no protection. The balance,
therefore, is a thing the existence of which upon the best
possible evidence is to be regarded as impossible."

If Mr Mill meant only what the Westminster Reviewer conceives him
to have meant, his argument would leave the popular theory of the
balance quite untouched. For it is the very theory of the
balance that the help of the people will be solicited by the
nobles when hard pressed by the king, and by the king when hard
pressed by the nobles; and that, as the price of giving alternate
support to the crown and the aristocracy, they will obtain
something for themselves, as the Reviewer admits that they have
done in Denmark. If Mr Mill admits this, he admits the only
theory of the balance of which we ever heard--that very theory
which he has declared to be wild and chimerical. If he denies
it, he is at issue with the Westminster Reviewer as to the
phenomena of the Danish government.

We now come to a more important passage. Our opponent has
discovered, as he conceives, a radical error which runs through
our whole argument, and vitiates every part of it. We suspect
that we shall spoil his triumph.

power leads to such results 'by infallible sequence, where power
over a community is attained, AND NOTHING CHECKS.' The critic on
the Mount never made a more palpable misquotation.

"The spirit of this misquotation runs through every part of the
reply of the Edinburgh Review that relates to the Essay on
Government; and is repeated in as many shapes as the Roman pork.
The whole description of 'Mr Mill's argument against despotism,'
--including the illustration from right-angled triangles and the
square of the hypothenuse,--is founded on this invention of
saying what an author has not said, and leaving unsaid what he

We thought, and still think, for reasons which our readers will
soon understand, that we represented Mr Mill's principle quite
fairly, and according to the rule of law and common sense, ut res
magis valeat quam pereat. Let us, however, give him all the
advantage of the explanation tendered by his advocate, and see
what he will gain by it.

The Utilitarian doctrine then is, not that despots and
aristocracies will always plunder and oppress the people to the
last point, but that they will do so if nothing checks them.

In the first place, it is quite clear that the doctrine thus
stated is of no use at all, unless the force of the checks be
estimated. The first law of motion is, that a ball once
projected will fly on to all eternity with undiminished velocity,
unless something checks. The fact is, that a ball stops in a few
seconds after proceeding a few yards with very variable motion.
Every man would wring his child's neck and pick his friend's
pocket if nothing checked him. In fact, the principle thus
stated means only that governments will oppress unless they
abstain from oppressing. This is quite true, we own. But we
might with equal propriety turn the maxim round, and lay it down,
as the fundamental principle of government, that all rulers will
govern well, unless some motive interferes to keep them from
doing so.

If there be, as the Westminster Reviewer acknowledges, certain
checks which, under political institutions the most arbitrary in
seeming, sometimes produce good government, and almost always
place some restraint on the rapacity and cruelty of the powerful,
surely the knowledge of those checks, of their nature, and of
their effect, must be a most important part of the science of
government. Does Mr Mill say anything upon this part of the
subject? Not one word.

The line of defence now taken by the Utilitarians evidently
degrades Mr Mill's theory of government from the rank which, till
within the last few months, was claimed for it by the whole sect.
It is no longer a practical system, fit to guide statesmen, but
merely a barren exercise of the intellect, like those
propositions in mechanics in which the effect of friction and of
the resistance of the air is left out of the question; and which,
therefore, though correctly deduced from the premises, are in
practice utterly false. For, if Mr Mill professes to prove only
that absolute monarchy and aristocracy are pernicious without
checks,--if he allows that there are checks which produce good
government even under absolute monarchs and aristocracies,--and
if he omits to tell us what those checks are, and what effects
they produce under different circumstances,--he surely gives us
no information which can be of real utility.

But the fact is,--and it is most extraordinary that the
Westminster Reviewer should not have perceived it--that if once
the existence of checks on the abuse of power in monarchies and
aristocracies be admitted, the whole of Mr Mill's theory falls to
the ground at once. This is so palpable, that in spite of the
opinion of the Westminster Reviewer, we must acquit Mr Mill of
having intended to make such an admission. We still think that
the words, "where power over a community is attained, and nothing
checks," must not be understood to mean that under a monarchical
or aristocratical form of government there can really be any
check which can in any degree mitigate the wretchedness of the

For all possible checks may be classed under two general heads,--
want of will, and want of power. Now, if a king or an
aristocracy, having the power to plunder and oppress the people,
can want the will, all Mr Mill's principles of human nature must
be pronounced unsound. He tells us, "that the desire to possess
unlimited power of inflicting pain upon others, is an inseparable
part of human nature;" and that "a chain of inference, close and
strong to a most unusual degree," leads to the conclusion that
those who possess this power will always desire to use it. It is
plain, therefore, that, if Mr Mill's principles be sound, the
check on a monarchical or an aristocratical government will not
be the want of will to oppress.

If a king or an aristocracy, having, as Mr Mill tells us that
they always must have, the will to oppress the people with the
utmost severity, want the power, then the government, by whatever
name it may be called, must be virtually a mixed government or a
pure democracy: for it is quite clear that the people possess
some power in the state--some means of influencing the nominal
rulers. But Mr Mill has demonstrated that no mixed government
can possibly exist, or at least that such a government must come
to a very speedy end: therefore, every country in which people
not in the service of the government have, for any length of
time, been permitted to accumulate more than the bare means of
subsistence must be a pure democracy. That is to say, France
before the revolution, and Ireland during the last century, were
pure democracies. Prussia, Austria, Russia, all the governments
of the civilised world, are pure democracies. If this be not a
reductio ad absurdum, we do not know what is.

The errors of Mr Mill proceed principally from that radical vice
in his reasoning which, in our last number we described in the
words of Lord Bacon. The Westminster Reviewer is unable to
discover the meaning of our extracts from the "Novum Organum",
and expresses himself as follows:

"The quotations from Lord Bacon are misapplications, such as
anybody may make to anything he dislikes. There is no more
resemblance between pain, pleasure, motives, etc., and
substantia, generatio, corruptio, elementum, materia,--than
between lines angles, magnitudes, etc., and the same."

It would perhaps be unreasonable to expect that a writer who
cannot understand his own English should understand Lord Bacon's
Latin. We will therefore attempt to make our meaning clearer.

What Lord Bacon blames in the schoolmen of his time is this,--
that they reasoned syllogistically on words which had not been
defined with precision; such as moist, dry, generation,
corruption, and so forth. Mr Mill's error is exactly of the same
kind. He reasons syllogistically about power, pleasure, and
pain, without attaching any definite notion to any one of those
words. There is no more resemblance, says the Westminster
Reviewer, between pain and substantia than between pain and a
line or an angle. By his permission, in the very point to which
Lord Bacon's observation applies, Mr Mill's subjects do resemble
the substantia and elementum of the schoolmen and differ from the
lines and magnitudes of Euclid. We can reason a priori on
mathematics, because we can define with an exactitude which
precludes all possibility of confusion. If a mathematician were
to admit the least laxity into his notions, if he were to allow
himself to be deluded by the vague sense which words bear in
popular use, or by the aspect of an ill-drawn diagram, if he were
to forget in his reasonings that a point was indivisible, or that
the definition of a line excluded breadth, there would be no end
to his blunders. The schoolmen tried to reason mathematically
about things which had not been, and perhaps could not be,
defined with mathematical accuracy. We know the result. Mr Mill
has in our time attempted to do the same. He talks of power, for
example, as if the meaning of the word power were as determinate
as the meaning of the word circle. But, when we analyse his
speculations, we find that his notion of power is, in the words
of Bacon, "phantiastica et male terminata."

There are two senses in which we may use the word "power," and
those words which denote the various distributions of power, as,
for example, "monarchy":--the one sense popular and superficial,
the other more scientific and accurate. Mr Mill, since he chose
to reason a priori, ought to have clearly pointed out in which
sense he intended to use words of this kind, and to have adhered
inflexibly to the sense on which he fixed. Instead of doing
this, he flies backwards and forwards from the one sense to the
other, and brings out conclusions at last which suit neither.

The state of those two communities to which he has himself
referred--the kingdom of Denmark and the empire of Rome--may
serve to illustrate our meaning. Looking merely at the surface
of things, we should call Denmark a despotic monarchy, and the
Roman world, in the first century after Christ, an aristocratical
republic. Caligula was, in theory, nothing more than a
magistrate elected by the senate, and subject to the senate.
That irresponsible dignity which, in the most limited monarchies
of our time, is ascribed to the person of the sovereign never
belonged to the earlier Caesars. The sentence of death which the
great council of the commonwealth passed on Nero was strictly
according to the theory of the constitution. Yet, in fact, the
power of the Roman emperors approached nearer to absolute
dominion than that of any prince in modern Europe. On the other
hand, the King of Denmark, in theory the most despotic of
princes, would in practice find it most perilous to indulge in
cruelty and licentiousness. Nor is there, we believe, at the
present moment a single sovereign in our part of the world who
has so much real power over the lives of his subjects as
Robespierre, while he lodged at a chandler's and dined at a
restaurateur's, exercised over the lives of those whom he called
his fellow citizens.

Mr Mill and the Westminster Reviewer seem to agree that there
cannot long exist in any society a division of power between a
monarch, an aristocracy, and the people, or between any two of
them. However the power be distributed, one of the three parties
will, according to them, inevitably monopolise the whole. Now,
what is here meant by power? If Mr Mill speaks of the external
semblance of power,--of power recognised by the theory of the
constitution,--he is palpably wrong. In England, for example, we
have had for ages the name and form of a mixed government, if
nothing more. Indeed, Mr Mill himself owns that there are
appearances which have given colour to the theory of the balance,
though he maintains that these appearances are delusive. But, if
he uses the word power in a deeper and philosophical sense, he
is, if possible, still more in the wrong than on the former
supposition. For, if he had considered in what the power of one
human being over other human beings must ultimately consist, he
would have perceived, not only that there are mixed governments
in the world, but that all the governments in the world, and all
the governments which can even be conceived as existing in the
world, are virtually mixed.

If a king possessed the lamp of Aladdin,--if he governed by the
help of a genius who carried away the daughters and wives of his
subjects through the air to the royal Parc-aux-cerfs, and turned
into stone every man who wagged a finger against his majesty's
government, there would indeed be an unmixed despotism. But,
fortunately, a ruler can be gratified only by means of his
subjects. His power depends on their obedience; and, as any
three or four of them are more than a match for him by himself,
he can only enforce the unwilling obedience of some by means of
the willing obedience of others.

Take any of those who are popularly called absolute princes--
Napoleon for example. Could Napoleon have walked through Paris,
cutting off the head of one person in every house which he
passed? Certainly not without the assistance of an army. If
not, why not? Because the people had sufficient physical power
to resist him, and would have put forth that power in defence of
their lives and of the lives of their children. In other words,
there was a portion of power in the democracy under Napoleon.
Napoleon might probably have indulged himself in such an
atrocious freak of power if his army would have seconded him.
But, if his army had taken part with the people, he would have
found himself utterly helpless; and, even if they had obeyed his
orders against the people, they would not have suffered him to
decimate their own body. In other words, there was a portion of
power in the hands of a minority of the people, that is to say,
in the hands of an aristocracy, under the reign of Napoleon.

To come nearer home,--Mr Mill tells us that it is a mistake to
imagine that the English government is mixed. He holds, we
suppose, with all the politicians of the Utilitarian school, that
it is purely aristocratical. There certainly is an aristocracy
in England; and we are afraid that their power is greater than it
ought to be. They have power enough to keep up the game-laws and
corn-laws; but they have not power enough to subject the bodies
of men of the lowest class to wanton outrage at their pleasure.
Suppose that they were to make a law that any gentleman of two
thousand a-year might have a day-labourer or a pauper flogged
with a cat-of-nine-tails whenever the whim might take him. It is
quite clear that the first day on which such flagellation should
be administered would be the last day of the English aristocracy.
In this point, and in many other points which might be named, the
commonalty in our island enjoy a security quite as complete as if
they exercised the right of universal suffrage. We say,
therefore, that the English people have in their own hands a
sufficient guarantee that in some points the aristocracy will
conform to their wishes;--in other words, they have a certain
portion of power over the aristocracy. Therefore the English
government is mixed.

Wherever a king or an oligarchy refrains from the last extremity
of rapacity and tyranny through fear of the resistance of the
people, there the constitution, whatever it may be called, is in
some measure democratical. The admixture of democratic power may
be slight. It may be much slighter than it ought to be; but some
admixture there is. Wherever a numerical minority, by means of
superior wealth or intelligence, of political concert, or of
military discipline, exercises a greater influence on the society
than any other equal number of persons,--there, whatever the form
of government may be called, a mixture of aristocracy does in
fact exist. And, wherever a single man, from whatever cause, is
so necessary to the community, or to any portion of it, that he
possesses more power than any other man, there is a mixture of
monarchy. This is the philosophical classification of
governments: and if we use this classification we shall find,
not only that there are mixed governments, but that all
governments are, and must always be, mixed. But we may safely
challenge Mr Mill to give any definition of power, or to make any
classification of governments, which shall bear him out in his
assertion that a lasting division of authority is impracticable.

It is evidently on the real distribution of power, and not on
names and badges, that the happiness of nations must depend. The
representative system, though doubtless a great and precious
discovery in politics, is only one of the many modes in which the
democratic part of the community can efficiently check the
governing few. That certain men have been chosen as deputies of
the people,--that there is a piece of paper stating such deputies
to possess certain powers,--these circumstances in themselves
constitute no security for good government. Such a constitution
nominally existed in France; while, in fact, an oligarchy of
committees and clubs trampled at once on the electors and the
elected. Representation is a very happy contrivance for enabling
large bodies of men to exert their power with less risk of
disorder than there would otherwise be. But, assuredly, it does
not of itself give power. Unless a representative assembly is
sure of being supported in the last resort by the physical
strength of large masses who have spirit to defend the
constitution and sense to defend it in concert, the mob of the
town in which it meets may overawe it;--the howls of the
listeners in its glory may silence its deliberations;--an able
and daring individual may dissolve it. And, if that sense and
that spirit of which we speak be diffused through a society,
then, even without a representative assembly, that society will
enjoy many of the blessings of good government.

Which is the better able to defend himself;--a strong man with
nothing but his fists, or a paralytic cripple encumbered with a
sword which he cannot lift? Such, we believe, is the difference
between Denmark and some new republics in which the
constitutional forms of the United States have been most
sedulously imitated.

Look at the Long Parliament on the day on which Charles came to
seize the five members: and look at it again on the day when
Cromwell stamped with his foot on its floor. On which day was
its apparent power the greater? On which day was its real power
the less? Nominally subject, it was able to defy the sovereign.
Nominally sovereign, it was turned out of doors by its servant.

Constitutions are in politics what paper money is in commerce.
They afford great facilities and conveniences. But we must not
attribute to them that value which really belongs to what they
represent. They are not power, but symbols of power, and will,
in an emergency, prove altogether useless unless the power for
which they stand be forthcoming. The real power by which the
community is governed is made up of all the means which all its
members possess of giving pleasure or pain to each other.

Great light may be thrown on the nature of a circulating medium
by the phenomena of a state of barter. And in the same manner it
may be useful to those who wish to comprehend the nature and
operation of the outward signs of power to look at communities in
which no such signs exist; for example, at the great community of
nations. There we find nothing analogous to a constitution; but
do we not find a government? We do in fact find government in
its purest, and simplest, and most intelligible form. We see one
portion of power acting directly on another portion of power. We
see a certain police kept up; the weak to a certain degree
protected; the strong to a certain degree restrained. We see the
principle of the balance in constant operation. We see the whole
system sometimes undisturbed by any attempt at encroachment for
twenty or thirty years at a time; and all this is produced
without a legislative assembly, or an executive magistracy--
without tribunals--without any code which deserves the name;
solely by the mutual hopes and fears of the various members of
the federation. In the community of nations, the first appeal is
to physical force. In communities of men, forms of government
serve to put off that appeal, and often render it unnecessary.
But it is still open to the oppressed or the ambitious.

Of course, we do not mean to deny that a form of government will,
after it has existed for a long time, materially affect the real
distribution of power throughout the community. This is because
those who administer a government, with their dependants, form a
compact and disciplined body, which, acting methodically and in
concert, is more powerful than any other equally numerous body
which is inferior in organisation. The power of rulers is not,
as superficial observers sometimes seem to think, a thing sui
generis. It is exactly similar in kind, though generally
superior in amount, to that of any set of conspirators who plot
to overthrow it. We have seen in our time the most extensive and
the best organised conspiracy that ever existed--a conspiracy
which possessed all the elements of real power in so great a
degree that it was able to cope with a strong government, and to
triumph over it--the Catholic Association. An Utilitarian would
tell us, we suppose, that the Irish Catholics had no portion of
political power whatever on the first day of the late Session of

Let us really go beyond the surface of facts: let us, in the
sound sense of the words, penetrate to the springs within; and
the deeper we go the more reason shall we find to smile at those
theorists who hold that the sole hope of the human race is in a
rule-of-three sum and a ballot-box.

We must now return to the Westminster Reviewer. The following
paragraph is an excellent specimen of his peculiar mode of
understanding and answering arguments.

"The reply to the argument against 'saturation,' supplies its own
answer. The reason why it is of no use to try to 'saturate' is
precisely what the Edinburgh Reviewers have suggested,--'THAT
thieves, and the thieves' cousins,--with their men-servants,
their maid-servants, and their little ones, to the fortieth
generation. It is true, that 'a man cannot become a king or a
member of the aristocracy whenever he chooses;' but if there is
to be no limit to the depredators except their own inclination to
increase and multiply, the situation of those who are to suffer
is as wretched as it needs be. It is impossible to define what
ARE 'corporal pleasures.' A Duchess of Cleveland was 'a corporal
pleasure.' The most disgraceful period in the history of any
nation--that of the Restoration--presents an instance of the
length to which it is possible to go in an attempt to 'saturate'
with pleasures of this kind."

To reason with such a writer is like talking to a deaf man who
catches at a stray word, makes answer beside the mark, and is led
further and further into error by every attempt to explain. Yet,
that our readers may fully appreciate the abilities of the new
philosophers, we shall take the trouble to go over some of our
ground again.

Mr Mill attempts to prove that there is no point of saturation
with the objects of human desire. He then takes it for granted
that men have no objects of desire but those which can be
obtained only at the expense of the happiness of others. Hence
he infers that absolute monarchs and aristocracies will
necessarily oppress and pillage the people to a frightful extent.

We answered in substance thus. There are two kinds of objects of
desire; those which give mere bodily pleasure, and those which
please through the medium of associations. Objects of the former
class, it is true, a man cannot obtain without depriving somebody
else of a share. But then with these every man is soon
satisfied. A king or an aristocracy cannot spend any very large
portion of the national wealth on the mere pleasures of sense.
With the pleasures which belong to us as reasoning and
imaginative beings we are never satiated, it is true; but then,
on the other hand, many of those pleasures can be obtained
without injury to any person, and some of them can be obtained
only by doing good to others.

The Westminster Reviewer, in his former attack on us, laughed at
us for saying that a king or an aristocracy could not be easily
satiated with the pleasures of sense, and asked why the same
course was not tried with thieves. We were not a little
surprised at so silly an objection from the pen, as we imagined,
of Mr Bentham. We returned, however, a very simple answer.
There is no limit to the number of thieves. Any man who chooses
can steal: but a man cannot become a member of the aristocracy
or a king whenever he chooses. To satiate one thief, is to tempt
twenty other people to steal. But by satiating one king or five
hundred nobles with bodily pleasures we do not produce more kings
or more nobles. The answer of the Westminster Reviewer we have
quoted above; and it will amply repay our readers for the trouble
of examining it. We never read any passage which indicated
notions so vague and confused. The number of the thieves, says
our Utilitarian, is not limited. For there are the dependants
and friends of the king and of the nobles. Is it possible that
he should not perceive that this comes under a different head?
The bodily pleasures which a man in power dispenses among his
creatures are bodily pleasures as respects his creatures, no
doubt. But the pleasure which he derives from bestowing them is
not a bodily pleasure. It is one of those pleasures which belong
to him as a reasoning and imaginative being. No man of common
understanding can have failed to perceive that, when we said that
a king or an aristocracy might easily be supplied to satiety with
sensual pleasures, we were speaking of sensual pleasures directly
enjoyed by themselves. But "it is impossible," says the
Reviewer, "to define what are corporal pleasures." Our brother
would indeed, we suspect, find it a difficult task; nor, if we
are to judge of his genius for classification from the specimen
which immediately follows, would we advise him to make the
attempt. "A Duchess of Cleveland was a corporal pleasure." And
to this wise remark is appended a note, setting forth that
Charles the Second gave to the Duchess of Cleveland the money
which he ought to have spent on the war with Holland. We
scarcely know how to answer a man who unites so much pretension
to so much ignorance. There are, among the many Utilitarians who
talk about Hume, Condillac, and Hartley, a few who have read
those writers. Let the Reviewer ask one of these what he thinks
on the subject. We shall not undertake to whip a pupil of so
little promise through his first course of metaphysics. We
shall, therefore, only say--leaving him to guess and wonder what
we can mean--that, in our opinion, the Duchess of Cleveland was
not a merely corporal pleasure,--that the feeling which leads a
prince to prefer one woman to all others, and to lavish the
wealth of kingdoms on her, is a feeling which can only be
explained by the law of association.

But we are tired, and even more ashamed than tired, of exposing
these blunders. The whole article is of a piece. One passage,
however, we must select, because it contains a very gross

said, '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 general
confiscation,' etc."

CORRECT, there would have been another scramble for property, and
another confiscation. We particularly pointed this out in our
last article. We showed the Westminster Reviewer that he had
misunderstood us. We dwelt particularly on the condition which
was introduced into our statement. We said that we had not
given, and did not mean to give, any opinion of our own. And,
after this, the Westminster Reviewer thinks proper to repeat his
former misrepresentation, without taking the least notice of that
qualification to which we, in the most marked manner, called his

We hasten on to the most curious part of the article under our
consideration--the defence of the "greatest happiness principle."
The Reviewer charges us with having quite mistaken its nature.

"All that they have established is, that they do not understand
it. Instead of the truism of the Whigs, 'that the greatest
happiness is the greatest happiness,' what Mr Bentham had
demonstrated, or at all events had laid such foundations that
there was no trouble in demonstrating, was, that the greatest
happiness of the individual was in the long run to be obtained by
pursuing the greatest happiness of the aggregate."

It was distinctly admitted by the Westminster Reviewer, as we
remarked in our last article, that he could give no answer to the
question,--why governments should attempt to produce the greatest
possible happiness? The Reviewer replies thus:--

"Nothing of the kind will be admitted at all. In the passage
thus selected to be tacked to the other, the question started
was, concerning 'the object of government;' in which government
was spoken of as an operation, not as anything that is capable of
feeling pleasure or pain. In this sense it is true enough, that
OUGHT is not predicable of governments."

We will quote, once again, the passage which we quoted in our
last Number; and we really hope that our brother critic will feel
something like shame while he peruses it.

"The real answer 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."

We defy the Westminster Reviewer to reconcile this passage with
the "general happiness principle" as he now states it. He tells
us that he meant by government, not the people invested with the
powers of government, but a mere OPERATION incapable of feeling
pleasure or pain. We say, that he meant the people invested with
the powers of government, and nothing else. It is true that
OUGHT is not predicable of an operation. But who would ever
dream of raising any question about the DUTIES of an operation?
What did the Reviewer mean by saying, that a government could not
be interested in doing right because it was interested in doing
wrong? Can an operation be interested in either? And what did
he mean by his comparison about the lion? Is a lion an operation
incapable of pain or pleasure? And what did he mean by the
expression, "other men," so obviously opposed to the word
"government?" But let the public judge between us. It is
superfluous to argue a point so clear.

The Reviewer does indeed seem to feel that his expressions cannot
be explained away, and attempts to shuffle out of the difficulty
by owning, that "the double meaning of the word government was
not got clear of without confusion." He has now, at all events,
he assures us, made himself master of Mr Bentham's philosophy.
The real and genuine "greatest happiness principle" is, that the
greatest happiness of every individual is identical with the
greatest happiness of society; and all other "greatest happiness
principles" whatever are counterfeits. "This," says he, "is the
spirit of Mr Bentham's principle; and if there is anything
opposed to it in any former statement it may be corrected by the

Assuredly, if a fair and honourable opponent had, in discussing a
question so abstruse as that concerning the origin of moral
obligation, made some unguarded admission inconsistent with the
spirit of his doctrines, we should not be inclined to triumph
over him. But no tenderness is due to a writer who, in the very
act of confessing his blunders, insults those by whom his
blunders have been detected, and accuses them of misunderstanding
what, in fact, he has himself mis-stated.

The whole of this transaction illustrates excellently the real
character of this sect. A paper comes forth, professing to
contain a full development of the "greatest happiness principle,"
with the latest improvements of Mr Bentham. The writer boasts
that his article has the honour of being the announcement and the
organ of this wonderful discovery, which is to make "the bones of
sages and patriots stir within their tombs."

This "magnificent principle" is then stated thus: Mankind ought
to pursue their greatest happiness. But there are persons whose
interest is opposed to the greatest happiness of mankind. OUGHT
is not predicable of such persons. For the word OUGHT has no
meaning unless it be used with reference to some interest.

We answered, with much more lenity than we should have shown to
such nonsense, had it not proceeded, as we supposed, from Mr
Bentham, that interest was synonymous with greatest happiness;
and that, therefore, if the word OUGHT has no meaning, unless
used with reference to interest, then, to say that mankind ought
to pursue their greatest happiness, is simply to say, that the
greatest happiness is the greatest happiness; that every
individual pursues his own happiness; that either what he thinks
his happiness must coincide with the greatest happiness of
society or not; that, if what he thinks his happiness coincides
with the greatest happiness of society, he will attempt to
promote the greatest happiness of society whether he ever heard
of the "greatest happiness principle" or not; and that, by the
admission of the Westminster Reviewer, if his happiness is
inconsistent with the greatest happiness of society, there is no
reason why he should promote the greatest happiness of society.
Now, that there are individuals who think that for their
happiness which is not for the greatest happiness of society is
evident. The Westminster Reviewer allowed that some of these
individuals were in the right; and did not pretend to give any
reason which could induce any one of them to think himself in the
wrong. So that the "magnificent principle" turned out to be,
either a truism or a contradiction in terms; either this maxim--
"Do what you do;" or this maxim, "Do what you cannot do."

The Westminster Reviewer had the wit to see that he could not
defend this palpable nonsense; but, instead of manfully owning
that he had misunderstood the whole nature of the "greatest
happiness principle" in the summer, and had obtained new light
during the autumn, he attempts to withdraw the former principle
unobserved, and to substitute another, directly opposed to it, in
its place; clamouring all the time against our unfairness, like
one who, while changing the cards, diverts the attention of the
table from his sleight of hand by vociferating charges of foul
play against other people.

The "greatest happiness principle" for the present quarter is
then this,--that every individual will best promote his own
happiness in this world, religious considerations being left out
of the question, by promoting the greatest happiness of the whole
species. And this principle, we are told, holds good with
respect to kings and aristocracies as well as with other people.

"It is certain that the individual operators in any government,
if they were thoroughly intelligent and entered into a perfect
calculation of all existing chances, would seek for their own
happiness in the promotion of the general; which brings them, if
they knew it, under Mr Bentham's rule. The mistake of supposing
the contrary, lies in confounding criminals who have had the luck
to escape punishment with those who have the risk still before
them. Suppose, for instance, a member of the House of Commons
were at this moment to debate within himself, whether it would be
for his ultimate happiness to begin, according to his ability, to
misgovern. If he could be sure of being as lucky as some that
are dead and gone, there might be difficulty in finding him an
answer. But he is NOT sure; and never can be, till he is dead.
He does not know that he is not close upon the moment when
misgovernment such as he is tempted to contemplate, will be made
a terrible example of. It is not fair to pick out the instance
of the thief that has died unhanged. The question is, whether
thieving is at this moment an advisable trade to begin with all
the possibilities of hanging not got over? This is the spirit of
Mr Bentham's principle; and if there is anything opposed to it in
any former statement, it may be corrected by the present."

We hope that we have now at last got to the real "magnificent
principle,"--to the principle which is really to make "the bones
of the sages and patriots stir." What effect it may produce on
the bones of the dead we shall not pretend to decide; but we are
sure that it will do very little for the happiness of the living.

In the first place, nothing is more certain than this, that the
Utilitarian theory of government, as developed in Mr Mill's Essay
and in all the other works on the subject which have been put
forth by the sect, rests on those two principles,--that men
follow their interest, and that the interest of individuals may
be, and in fact perpetually is, opposed to the interest of
society. Unless these two principles be granted, Mr Mill's Essay
does not contain one sound sentence. All his arguments against
monarchy and aristocracy, all his arguments in favour of
democracy, nay, the very argument by which he shows that there is
any necessity for having government at all, must be rejected as
utterly worthless.

This is so palpable that even the Westminster Reviewer, though
not the most clear-sighted of men, could not help seeing it.
Accordingly, he attempts to guard himself against the objection,
after the manner of such reasoners, by committing two blunders
instead of one. "All this," says he, "only shows that the
members of a government would do well if they were all-wise," and
he proceeds to tell us that, as rulers are not all-wise, they
will invariably act against this principle wherever they can, so
that the democratical checks will still be necessary to produce
good government.

No form which human folly takes is so richly and exquisitely
laughable as the spectacle of an Utilitarian in a dilemma. What
earthly good can there be in a principle upon which no man will
act until he is all-wise? A certain most important doctrine, we
are told, has been demonstrated so clearly that it ought to be
the foundation of the science of government. And yet the whole
frame of government is to be constituted exactly as if this
fundamental doctrine were false, and on the supposition that no
human being will ever act as if he believed it to be true!

The whole argument of the Utilitarians in favour of universal
suffrage proceeds on the supposition that even the rudest and
most uneducated men cannot, for any length of time, be deluded
into acting against their own true interest. Yet now they tell
us that, in all aristocratical communities, the higher and more
educated class will, not occasionally, but invariably, act
against its own interest. Now, the only use of proving anything,
as far as we can see, is that people may believe it. To say that
a man does what he believes to be against his happiness is a
contradiction in terms. If, therefore, government and laws are
to be constituted on the supposition on which Mr Mill's Essay is
founded, that all individuals will, whenever they have power over
others put into their hands, act in opposition to the general
happiness, then government and laws must be constituted on the
supposition that no individual believes, or ever will believe,
his own happiness to be identical with the happiness of society.
That is to say, government and laws are to be constituted on the
supposition that no human being will ever be satisfied by Mr
Bentham's proof of his "greatest happiness principle,"--a
supposition which may be true enough, but which says little, we
think, for the principle in question.

But where has this principle been demonstrated? We are curious,
we confess, to see this demonstration which is to change the face
of the world and yet is to convince nobody. The most amusing
circumstance is that the Westminster Reviewer himself does not
seem to know whether the principle has been demonstrated or not.
"Mr Bentham," he says, "has demonstrated it, or at all events has
laid such foundations that there is no trouble in demonstrating
it." Surely it is rather strange that such a matter should be
left in doubt. The Reviewer proposed, in his former article, a
slight verbal emendation in the statement of the principle; he
then announced that the principle had received its last
improvement; and gloried in the circumstance that the Westminster
Review had been selected as the organ of that improvement. Did
it never occur to him that one slight improvement to a doctrine
is to prove it?

Mr Bentham has not demonstrated the "greatest happiness
principle," as now stated. He is far too wise a man to think of
demonstrating any such thing. In those sections of his
"Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation", to
which the Reviewer refers us in his note, there is not a word of
the kind. Mr Bentham says, most truly, that there are no
occasions in which a man has not SOME motives for consulting the
happiness of other men; and he proceeds to set forth what those
motives are--sympathy on all occasions, and the love of
reputation on most occasions. This is the very doctrine which we
have been maintaining against Mr Mill and the Westminster
Reviewer. The principal charge which we brought against Mr Mill
was, that those motives to which Mr Bentham ascribes so much
influence were quite left out of consideration in his theory.
The Westminster Reviewer, in the very article now before us,
abuses us for saying, in the spirit, and almost in the words of
Mr Bentham, that "there is a certain check to the rapacity and
cruelty of men in their desire of the good opinion of others."
But does this principle, in which we fully agree with Mr Bentham,
go the length of the new "greatest happiness principle?" The
question is, not whether men have SOME motives for promoting the
greatest happiness, but whether the STRONGER motives be those
which impel them to promote the greatest happiness. That this
would always be the case if men knew their own worldly interests
is the assertion of the Reviewer. As he expresses some doubt
whether Mr Bentham has demonstrated this or not, we would advise
him to set the point at rest by giving his own demonstration.

The Reviewer has not attempted to give a general confirmation of
the "greatest happiness principle;" but he has tried to prove
that it holds good in one or two particular cases. And even in
those particular cases he has utterly failed. A man, says he,
who calculated the chances fairly would perceive that it would be
for his greatest happiness to abstain from stealing; for a thief
runs a greater risk of being hanged than an honest man.

It would have been wise, we think, in the Westminster Reviewer,
before he entered on a discussion of this sort, to settle in what
human happiness consists. Each of the ancient sects of
philosophy held some tenet on this subject which served for a
distinguishing badge. The summum bonum of the Utilitarians, as
far as we can judge from the passage which we are now
considering, is the not being hanged.

That it is an unpleasant thing to be hanged, we most willingly
concede to our brother. But that the whole question of happiness
or misery resolves itself into this single point, we cannot so
easily admit. We must look at the thing purchased as well as the
price paid for it. A thief, assuredly, runs a greater risk of
being hanged than a labourer; and so an officer in the army runs
a greater risk of being shot than a banker's clerk; and a
governor of India runs a greater risk of dying of cholera than a
lord of the bedchamber. But does it therefore follow that every
man, whatever his habits or feelings may be, would, if he knew
his own happiness, become a clerk rather than a cornet, or
goldstick in waiting rather than governor of India?

Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose, like the Westminster
Reviewer, that thieves steal only because they do not calculate
the chances of being hanged as correctly as honest men. It never
seems to have occurred to him as possible that a man may so
greatly prefer the life of a thief to the life of a labourer that
he may determine to brave the risk of detection and punishment,
though he may even think that risk greater than it really is.
And how, on Utilitarian principles, is such a man to be convinced
that he is in the wrong? "You will be found out."--
"Undoubtedly."--"You will be hanged within two years."--"I expect
to be hanged within one year."--"Then why do you pursue this
lawless mode of life?"--"Because I would rather live for one year
with plenty of money, dressed like a gentleman, eating and
drinking of the best, frequenting public places, and visiting a
dashing mistress, than break stones on the road, or sit down to
the loom, with the certainty of attaining a good old age. It is
my humour. Are you answered?"

A king, says the Reviewer again, would govern well, if he were
wise, for fear of provoking his subjects to insurrection.
Therefore the true happiness of a king is identical with the
greatest happiness of society. Tell Charles II. that, if he will
be constant to his queen, sober at table, regular at prayers,
frugal in his expenses, active in the transaction of business, if
he will drive the herd of slaves, buffoons, and procurers from
Whitehall, and make the happiness of his people the rule of his
conduct, he will have a much greater chance of reigning in
comfort to an advanced age; that his profusion and tyranny have
exasperated his subjects, and may, perhaps, bring him to an end
as terrible as his father's. He might answer, that he saw the
danger, but that life was not worth having without ease and
vicious pleasures. And what has our philosopher to say? Does he
not see that it is no more possible to reason a man out of liking
a short life and a merry one more than a long life and a dull one
than to reason a Greenlander out of his train oil? We may say
that the tastes of the thief and the tyrant differ from ours; but
what right have we to say, looking at this world alone, that they
do not pursue their greatest happiness very judiciously?

It is the grossest ignorance of human nature to suppose that
another man calculates the chances differently from us, merely
because he does what, in his place, we should not do. Every man
has tastes and propensities, which he is disposed to gratify at a
risk and expense which people of different temperaments and
habits think extravagant. "Why," says Horace, "does one brother
like to lounge in the forum, to play in the Campus, and to anoint
himself in the baths, so well, that he would not put himself out
of his way for all the wealth of the richest plantations of the
East; while the other toils from sunrise to sunset for the
purpose of increasing his fortune?" Horace attributes the
diversity to the influence of the Genius and the natal star: and
eighteen hundred years have taught us only to disguise our
ignorance beneath a more philosophical language.

We think, therefore, that the Westminster Reviewer, even if we
admit his calculation of the chances to be right, does not make
out his case. But he appears to us to miscalculate chances more
grossly than any person who ever acted or speculated in this
world. "It is for the happiness," says he, "of a member of the
House of Commons to govern well; for he never can tell that he is
not close on the moment when misgovernment will be terribly
punished: if he was sure that he should be as lucky as his
predecessors, it might be for his happiness to misgovern; but he
is not sure." Certainly a member of Parliament is not sure that
he shall not be torn in pieces by a mob, or guillotined by a
revolutionary tribunal for his opposition to reform. Nor is the
Westminster Reviewer sure that he shall not be hanged for writing
in favour of universal suffrage. We may have democratical
massacres. We may also have aristocratical proscriptions. It is
not very likely, thank God, that we should see either. But the
radical, we think, runs as much danger as the aristocrat. As to
our friend the Westminster Reviewer, he, it must be owned, has as
good a right as any man on his side, "Antoni gladios contemnere."
But take the man whose votes, ever since he has sate in
Parliament, have been the most uniformly bad, and oppose him to
the man whose votes have been the most uniformly good. The
Westminster Reviewer would probably select Mr Sadler and Mr Hume.
Now, does any rational man think,--will the Westminster Reviewer
himself say,--that Mr Sadler runs more risk of coming to a
miserable end on account of his public conduct than Mr Hume? Mr
Sadler does not know that he is not close on the moment when he
will be made an example of; for Mr Sadler knows, if possible,
less about the future than about the past. But he has no more
reason to expect that he shall be made an example of than to
expect that London will be swallowed up by an earthquake next
spring; and it would be as foolish in him to act on the former
supposition as on the latter. There is a risk; for there is a
risk of everything which does not involve a contradiction; but it
is a risk from which no man in his wits would give a shilling to
be insured. Yet our Westminster Reviewer tells us that this risk
alone, apart from all considerations of religion, honour or
benevolence, would, as a matter of mere calculation, induce a
wise member of the House of Commons to refuse any emoluments
which might be offered him as the price of his support to
pernicious measures.

We have hitherto been examining cases proposed by our opponent.
It is now our turn to propose one; and we beg that he will spare
no wisdom in solving it.

A thief is condemned to be hanged. On the eve of the day fixed
for the execution a turnkey enters his cell and tells him that
all is safe, that he has only to slip out, that his friends are
waiting in the neighbourhood with disguises, and that a passage
is taken for him in an American packet. Now, it is clearly for
the greatest happiness of society that the thief should be hanged
and the corrupt turnkey exposed and punished. Will the
Westminster Reviewer tell us that it is for the greatest
happiness of the thief to summon the head jailer and tell the
whole story? Now, either it is for the greatest happiness of a
thief to be hanged or it is not. If it is, then the argument, by
which the Westminster Reviewer attempts to prove that men do not
promote their own happiness by thieving, falls to the ground. If
it is not, then there are men whose greatest happiness is at
variance with the greatest happiness of the community.

To sum up our arguments shortly, we say that the "greatest
happiness principle," as now stated, is diametrically opposed to
the principle stated in the Westminster Review three months ago.

We say that, if the "greatest happiness principle," as now
stated, be sound, Mr Mill's Essay, and all other works concerning
Government which, like that Essay, proceed on the supposition
that individuals may have an interest opposed to the greatest
happiness of society, are fundamentally erroneous.

We say that those who hold this principle to be sound must be
prepared to maintain, either that monarchs and aristocracies may
be trusted to govern the community, or else that men cannot be
trusted to follow their own interest when that interest is
demonstrated to them.

We say that, if men cannot be trusted to follow their own
interest when that interest has been demonstrated to them, then
the Utilitarian arguments in favour of universal suffrage are
good for nothing.

We say that the "greatest happiness principle" has not been
proved; that it cannot be generally proved; that even in the
particular cases selected by the Reviewer it is not clear that
the principle is true; and that many cases might be stated in
which the common sense of mankind would at once pronounce it to
be false.

We now leave the Westminster Reviewer to alter and amend his
"magnificent principle" as he thinks best. Unlimited, it is
false. Properly limited, it will be barren. The "greatest
happiness principle" of the 1st of July, as far as we could
discern its meaning through a cloud of rodomontade, was an idle
truism. The "greatest happiness principle" of the 1st of October
is, in the phrase of the American newspapers, "important if
true." But unhappily it is not true. It is not our business to
conjecture what new maxim is to make the bones of sages and
patriots stir on the 1st of December. We can only say that,
unless it be something infinitely more ingenious than its two
predecessors, we shall leave it unmolested. The Westminster
Reviewer may, if he pleases, indulge himself like Sultan
Schahriar with espousing a rapid succession of virgin theories.
But we must beg to be excused from playing the part of the vizier
who regularly attended on the day after the wedding to strangle
the new Sultana.

The Westminster Reviewer charges us with urging it as an
objection to the "greatest happiness principle" that "it is
included in the Christian morality." This is a mere fiction of
his own. We never attacked the morality of the Gospel. We
blamed the Utilitarians for claiming the credit of a discovery,
when they had merely stolen that morality, and spoiled it in the
stealing. They have taken the precept of Christ and left the
motive; and they demand the praise of a most wonderful and
beneficial invention, when all that they have done has been to
make a most useful maxim useless by separating it from its
sanction. On religious principles it is true that every
individual will best promote his own happiness by promoting the
happiness of others. But if religious considerations be left out
of the question it is not true. If we do not reason on the
supposition of a future state, where is the motive? If we do
reason on that supposition, where is the discovery?

The Westminster Reviewer tells us that "we wish to see the
science of Government unsettled because we see no prospect of a
settlement which accords with our interests." His angry
eagerness to have questions settled resembles that of a judge in
one of Dryden's plays--the Amphitryon, we think--who wishes to
decide a cause after hearing only one party, and, when he has
been at last compelled to listen to the statement of the
defendant, flies into a passion, and exclaims, "There now, sir!
See what you have done. The case was quite clear a minute ago;
and you must come and puzzle it!" He is the zealot of a sect.
We are searchers after truth. He wishes to have the question
settled. We wish to have it sifted first. The querulous manner
in which we have been blamed for attacking Mr Mill's system, and
propounding no system of our own, reminds us of the horror with
which that shallow dogmatist, Epicurus, the worst parts of whose
nonsense the Utilitarians have attempted to revive, shrank from
the keen and searching scepticism of the second Academy.

It is not our fault that an experimental science of vast extent
does not admit of being settled by a short demonstration; that
the subtilty of nature, in the moral as in the physical world,
triumphs over the subtilty of syllogism. The quack, who declares
on affidavit that, by using his pills and attending to his
printed directions, hundreds who had been dismissed incurable
from the hospitals have renewed their youth like the eagles, may,
perhaps, think that Sir Henry Halford, when he feels the pulses
of patients, inquires about their symptoms, and prescribes a
different remedy to each, is unsettling the science of medicine
for the sake of a fee.

If, in the course of this controversy, we have refrained from
expressing any opinion respecting the political institutions of
England, it is not because we have not an opinion, or because we
shrink from avowing it. The Utilitarians, indeed, conscious that
their boasted theory of government would not bear investigation,
were desirous to turn the dispute about Mr Mill's Essay into a
dispute about the Whig party, rotten boroughs, unpaid
magistrates, and ex-officio informations. When we blamed them
for talking nonsense, they cried out that they were insulted for
being reformers,--just as poor Ancient Pistol swore that the
scars which he had received from the cudgel of Fluellen were got
in the Gallia wars. We, however, did not think it desirable to
mix up political questions, about which the public mind is
violently agitated, with a great problem in moral philosophy.

Our notions about Government are not, however, altogether
unsettled. We have an opinion about parliamentary reform, though
we have not arrived at that opinion by the royal road which Mr
Mill has opened for the explorers of political science. As we
are taking leave, probably for the last time, of this
controversy, we will state very concisely what our doctrines are.
On some future occasion we may, perhaps, explain and defend them
at length.

Our fervent wish, and we will add our sanguine hope, is that we
may see such a reform of the House of Commons as may render its
votes the express image of the opinion of the middle orders of
Britain. A pecuniary qualification we think absolutely
necessary; and in settling its amount, our object would be to
draw the line in such a manner that every decent farmer and
shopkeeper might possess the elective franchise. We should wish
to see an end put to all the advantages which particular forms of
property possess over other forms, and particular portions of
property over other equal portions. And this would content us.
Such a reform would, according to Mr Mill, establish an
aristocracy of wealth, and leave the community without protection
and exposed to all the evils of unbridled power. Most willingly
would we stake the whole controversy between us on the success of
the experiment which we propose.



(July 1830.)

"The Law of Population; a Treatise in Six Books, in Disproof of
the Superfecundity of Human Beings, and developing the real
Principle of their Increase". By Michael Thomas Sadler, M.P.
2 volumes 8vo. London: 1830.

we did not expect a good book from Mr Sadler: and it is well
that we did not; for he has given us a very bad one. The matter
of his treatise is extraordinary; the manner more extraordinary
still. His arrangement is confused, his repetitions endless, his
style everything which it ought not to be. Instead of saying
what he has to say with the perspicuity, the precision, and the
simplicity in which consists the eloquence proper to scientific
writing, he indulges without measure in vague, bombastic
declamation, made up of those fine things which boys of fifteen
admire, and which everybody, who is not destined to be a boy all
his life, weeds vigorously out of his compositions after five-
and-twenty. That portion of his two thick volumes which is not
made up of statistical tables, consists principally of
ejaculations, apostrophes, metaphors, similes,--all the worst of
their respective kinds. His thoughts are dressed up in this
shabby finery with so much profusion and so little
discrimination, that they remind us of a company of wretched
strolling players, who have huddled on suits of ragged and faded
tinsel, taken from a common wardrobe, and fitting neither their
persons nor their parts; and who then exhibit themselves to the
laughing and pitying spectators, in a state of strutting,
ranting, painted, gilded beggary. "Oh, rare Daniels!"
"Political economist, go and do thou likewise!" "Hear, ye
political economists and anti-populationists!" "Population, if
not proscribed and worried down by the Cerberean dogs of this
wretched and cruel system, really does press against the level of
the means of subsistence, and still elevating that level, it
continues thus to urge society through advancing stages, till at
length the strong and resistless hand of necessity presses the
secret spring of human prosperity, and the portals of Providence
fly open, and disclose to the enraptured gaze the promised land
of contented and rewarded labour." These are specimens, taken at
random, of Mr Sadler's eloquence. We could easily multiply them;
but our readers, we fear, are already inclined to cry for mercy.

Much blank verse and much rhyme is also scattered through these
volumes, sometimes rightly quoted, sometimes wrongly,--sometimes
good, sometimes insufferable,--sometimes taken from Shakspeare,
and sometimes, for aught we know, Mr Sadler's own. "Let man,"
cries the philosopher, "take heed how he rashly violates his
trust;" and thereupon he breaks forth into singing as follows:

"What myriads wait in destiny's dark womb,
Doubtful of life or an eternal tomb!
'Tis his to blot them from the book of fate,
Or, like a second Deity, create;
To dry the stream of being in its source,
Or bid it, widening, win its restless course;
While, earth and heaven replenishing, the flood
Rolls to its Ocean fount, and rests in God."

If these lines are not Mr Sadler's, we heartily beg his pardon
for our suspicion--a suspicion which, we acknowledge, ought not
to be lightly entertained of any human being. We can only say
that we never met with them before, and that we do not much care
how long it may be before we meet with them, or with any others
like them, again.

The spirit of this work is as bad as its style. We never met
with a book which so strongly indicated that the writer was in a
good humour with himself, and in a bad humour with everybody
else; which contained so much of that kind of reproach which is
vulgarly said to be no slander, and of that kind of praise which
is vulgarly said to be no commendation. Mr Malthus is attacked
in language which it would be scarcely decent to employ
respecting Titus Oates. "Atrocious," "execrable," "blasphemous,"
and other epithets of the same kind, are poured forth against
that able, excellent, and honourable man, with a profusion which
in the early part of the work excites indignation, but after the
first hundred pages, produces mere weariness and nausea. In the
preface, Mr Sadler excuses himself on the plea of haste. Two-
thirds of his book, he tells us, were written in a few months.
If any terms have escaped him which can be construed into
personal disrespect, he shall deeply regret that he had not more
time to revise them. We must inform him that the tone of his
book required a very different apology; and that a quarter of a
year, though it is a short time for a man to be engaged in
writing a book, is a very long time for a man to be in a passion.

The imputation of being in a passion Mr Sadler will not disclaim.
His is a theme, he tells us, on which "it were impious to be
calm;" and he boasts that, "instead of conforming to the candour
of the present age, he has imitated the honesty of preceding
ones, in expressing himself with the utmost plainness and freedom
throughout." If Mr Sadler really wishes that the controversy
about his new principle of population should be carried on with
all the license of the seventeenth century, we can have no
personal objections. We are quite as little afraid of a contest
in which quarter shall be neither given nor taken as he can be.
But we would advise him seriously to consider, before he
publishes the promised continuation of his work, whether he be
not one of that class of writers who stand peculiarly in need of
the candour which he insults, and who would have most to fear
from that unsparing severity which he practises and recommends.

There is only one excuse for the extreme acrimony with which this
book is written; and that excuse is but a bad one. Mr Sadler
imagines that the theory of Mr Malthus is inconsistent with
Christianity, and even with the purer forms of Deism. Now, even
had this been the case, a greater degree of mildness and self-
command than Mr Sadler has shown would have been becoming in a
writer who had undertaken to defend the religion of charity.
But, in fact, the imputation which has been thrown on Mr Malthus
and his followers is so absurd as scarcely to deserve an answer.
As it appears, however, in almost every page of Mr Sadler's book,
we will say a few words respecting it.

Mr Sadler describes Mr Malthus's principle in the following

"It pronounces that there exists an evil in the principle of
population; an evil, not accidental, but inherent; not of
occasional occurrence, but in perpetual operation; not light,
transient, or mitigated, but productive of miseries, compared
with which all those inflicted by human institutions, that is to
say, by the weakness and wickedness of man, however instigated,
are 'light;' an evil, finally, for which there is no remedy save
one, which had been long overlooked, and which is now enunciated
in terms which evince anything rather than confidence. It is a
principle, moreover, pre-eminently bold, as well as 'clear.'
With a presumption, to call it by no fitter name, of which it may
be doubted whether literature, heathen or Christian, furnishes a
parallel, it professes to trace this supposed evil to its source,
'the laws of nature, which are those of God;' thereby implying,
and indeed asserting, that the law by which the Deity multiplies
his offspring, and that by which he makes provision for their
sustentation, are different, and, indeed, irreconcilable."

"This theory," he adds, "in the plain apprehension of the many,
lowers the character of the Deity in that attribute, which, as
Rousseau has well observed, is the most essential to him, his
goodness; or otherwise, impugns his wisdom."

Now nothing is more certain than that there is physical and moral
evil in the world. Whoever, therefore, believes, as we do most
firmly believe, in the goodness of God, must believe that there
is no incompatibility between the goodness of God and the
existence of physical and moral evil. If, then, the goodness of
God be not incompatible with the existence of physical and moral
evil, on what grounds does Mr Sadler maintain that the goodness
of God is incompatible with the law of population laid down by Mr

Is there any difference between the particular form of evil which
would be produced by over-population, and other forms of evil
which we know to exist in the world? It is, says Mr Sadler, not
a light or transient evil, but a great and permanent evil. What
then? The question of the origin of evil is a question of ay or
no,--not a question of more or less. If any explanation can be
found by which the slightest inconvenience ever sustained by any
sentient being can be reconciled with the divine attribute of
benevolence, that explanation will equally apply to the most
dreadful and extensive calamities that can ever afflict the human
race. The difficulty arises from an apparent contradiction in
terms; and that difficulty is as complete in the case of a
headache which lasts for an hour as in the case of a pestilence
which unpeoples an empire,--in the case of the gust which makes
us shiver for a moment as in the case of the hurricane in which
an Armada is cast away.

It is, according to Mr Sadler, an instance of presumption
unparalleled in literature, heathen or Christian, to trace an
evil to "the laws of nature, which are those of God," as its
source. Is not hydrophobia an evil? And is it not a law of
nature that hydrophobia should be communicated by the bite of a
mad dog? Is not malaria an evil? And is it not a law of nature
that in particular situations the human frame should be liable to
malaria? We know that there is evil in the world. If it is not
to be traced to the laws of nature, how did it come into the
world? Is it supernatural? And, if we suppose it to be
supernatural, is not the difficulty of reconciling it with the
divine attributes as great as if we suppose it to be natural?
Or, rather, what do the words natural and supernatural mean when
applied to the operations of the Supreme Mind?

Mr Sadler has attempted, in another part of his work, to meet
these obvious arguments, by a distinction without a difference.

"The scourges of human existence, as necessary regulators of the
numbers of mankind, it is also agreed by some, are not
inconsistent with the wisdom or benevolence of the Governor of
the universe; though such think that it is a mere after-concern
to 'reconcile the undeniable state of the fact to the attributes
we assign to the Deity.' 'The purpose of the earthquake,' say
they, 'the hurricane, the drought, or the famine, by which
thousands, and sometimes almost millions, of the human race, are
at once overwhelmed, or left the victims of lingering want, is
certainly inscrutable.' How singular is it that a sophism like
this, so false, as a mere illustration, should pass for an
argument, as it has long done! The principle of population is
declared to be naturally productive of evils to mankind, and as
having that constant and manifest tendency to increase their
numbers beyond the means of their subsistence, which has produced
the unhappy and disgusting consequences so often enumerated.
This is, then, its universal tendency or rule. But is there in
Nature the same constant tendency to these earthquakes,
hurricanes, droughts, and famines by which so many myriads, if
not millions, are overwhelmed or reduced at once to ruin? No;
these awful events are strange exceptions to the ordinary course
of things; their visitations are partial, and they occur at
distant intervals of time. While Religion has assigned to them a
very solemn office, Philosophy readily refers them to those great
and benevolent principles of Nature by which the universe is
regulated. But were there a constantly operating tendency to
these calamitous occurrences; did we feel the earth beneath us
tremulous, and giving ceaseless and certain tokens of the coming
catastrophe of Nature; were the hurricane heard mustering its
devastating powers, and perpetually muttering around us; were the
skies 'like brass,' without a cloud to produce one genial drop to
refresh the thirsty earth, and famine, consequently, visibly on
the approach; I say, would such a state of things, as resulting
from the constant laws of Nature, be 'reconcilable with the
attributes we assign to the Deity,' or with any attributes which
in these inventive days could be assigned to him, so as to
represent him as anything but the tormenter, rather than the kind
benefactor, of his creatures? Life, in such a condition, would
be like the unceasingly threatened and miserable existence of
Damocles at the table of Dionysius, and the tyrant himself the
worthy image of the Deity of the anti-populationists."

Surely this is wretched trifling. Is it on the number of bad
harvests, or of volcanic eruptions, that this great question
depends? Mr Sadler's piety, it seems, would be proof against one
rainy summer, but would be overcome by three or four in
succession. On the coasts of the Mediterranean, where
earthquakes are rare, he would be an optimist. South America
would make him a sceptic, and Java a decided Manichean. To say
that religion assigns a solemn office to these visitations is
nothing to the purpose. Why was man so constituted as to need
such warnings? It is equally unmeaning to say that philosophy
refers these events to benevolent general laws of nature. In so
far as the laws of nature produce evil, they are clearly not
benevolent. They may produce much good. But why is this good
mixed with evil? The most subtle and powerful intellects have
been labouring for centuries to solve these difficulties. The
true solution, we are inclined to think, is that which has been
rather suggested, than developed, by Paley and Butler. But there
is not one solution which will not apply quite as well to the
evils of over-population as to any other evil. Many excellent
people think that it is presumptuous to meddle with such high
questions at all, and that, though there doubtless is an
explanation, our faculties are not sufficiently enlarged to
comprehend that explanation. This mode of getting rid of the
difficulty, again, will apply quite as well to the evils of over-
population as to any other evils. We are sure that those who
humbly confess their inability to expound the great enigma act
more rationally and more decorously than Mr Sadler, who tells us,
with the utmost confidence, which are the means and which the
ends,--which the exceptions and which the rules, in the
government of the universe;--who consents to bear a little evil
without denying the divine benevolence, but distinctly announces
that a certain quantity of dry weather or stormy weather would
force him to regard the Deity as the tyrant of his creatures.

The great discovery by which Mr Sadler has, as he conceives,
vindicated the ways of Providence is enounced with all the pomp
of capital letters. We must particularly beg that our readers
will peruse it with attention.

"No one fact relative to the human species is more clearly
ascertained, whether by general observation or actual proof, than
that their fecundity varies in different communities and
countries. The principle which effects this variation, without
the necessity of those cruel and unnatural expedients so
frequently adverted to, constitutes what I presume to call THE
LAW OF POPULATION; and that law may be thus briefly enunciated:--


"The preceding definition may be thus amplified and explained.
Premising, as a mere truism, that marriages under precisely
similar circumstances will, on the average, be equally fruitful
everywhere, I proceed to state, first, that the prolificness of a
given number of marriages will, all other circumstances being the
same, vary in proportion to the condensation of the population,
so that that prolificness shall be greatest where the numbers on
an equal space are the fewest, and, on the contrary, the smallest
where those numbers are the largest."

Mr Sadler, at setting out, abuses Mr Malthus for enouncing his
theory in terms taken from the exact sciences. "Applied to the
mensuration of human fecundity," he tells us, "the most
fallacious of all things is geometrical demonstration;" and he
again informs us that those "act an irrational and irrelevant
part who affect to measure the mighty depth of God's mercies by
their arithmetic, and to demonstrate, by their geometrical
ratios, that it is inadequate to receive and contain the efflux
of that fountain of life which is in Him."

It appears, however, that it is not to the use of mathematical
words, but only to the use of those words in their right senses
that Mr Sadler objects. The law of inverse variation, or inverse
proportion, is as much a part of mathematical science as the law
of geometric progression. The only difference in this respect
between Mr Malthus and Mr Sadler is, that Mr Malthus knows what
is meant by geometric progression, and that Mr Sadler has not the
faintest notion of what is meant by inverse variation. Had he
understood the proposition which he has enounced with so much
pomp, its ludicrous absurdity must at once have flashed on his

Let it be supposed that there is a tract in the back settlements
of America, or in New South Wales, equal in size to London, with
only a single couple, a man and his wife, living upon it. The
population of London, with its immediate suburbs, is now probably
about a million and a half. The average fecundity of a marriage
in London is, as Mr Sadler tells us 2.35. How many children will
the woman in the back settlements bear according to Mr Sadler's
theory? The solution of the problem is easy. As the population
in this tract in the back settlements is to the population of
London, so will be the number of children born from a marriage in
London to the number of children born from the marriage of this
couple in the back settlements. That is to say--

2 : 1,500,000 :: 2.35 : 1,762,500.

The lady will have 1,762,500 children: a large "efflux of the
fountain of life," to borrow Mr Sadler's sonorous rhetoric, as
the most philoprogenitive parent could possibly desire.

But let us, instead of putting cases of our own, look at some of
those which Mr Sadler has brought forward in support of his
theory. The following table, he tells us, exhibits a striking
proof of the truth of his main position. It seems to us to prove
only that Mr Sadler does not know what inverse proportion means.

Countries Inhabitants on a Children to a
Square Mile, about Marriage

Cape of Good Hope 1 5.48
North America 4 5.22
Russia in Europe 23 4.94
Denmark 73 4.89
Prussia 100 4.70
France 140 4.22
England 160 3.66

Is 1 to 160 as 3.66 to 5.48? If Mr Sadler's principle were just,
the number of children produced by a marriage at the Cape would
be, not 5.48, but very near 600. Or take America and France. Is
4 to 140 as 4.22 to 5.22? The number of births to a marriage in
North America ought, according to this proportion, to be about

Mr Sadler states the law of population in England thus:--

"Where the inhabitants are found to be on the square mile,

From To Counties Number of births to 100 marriages

50 100 2 420
100 150 9 396
150 200 16 390
200 250 4 388
250 300 5 378
300 350 3 353
500 600 2 331
4000 and upwards 1 246

"Now, I think it quite reasonable to conclude, that, were there
not another document in existence relative to this subject, the
facts thus deduced from the census of England are fully
sufficient to demonstrate the position, that the fecundity of
human beings varies inversely as their numbers. How, I ask, can
it be evaded?"

What, we ask, is there to evade? Is 246 to 420 as 50 to 4000?
Is 331 to 396 as 100 to 500? If the law propounded by Mr Sadler
were correct, the births to a hundred marriages in the least
populous part of England, would be 246 x 4000 / 50, that is
19,680,--nearly two hundred children to every mother. But we
will not carry on these calculations. The absurdity of Mr
Sadler's proposition is so palpable that it is unnecessary to
select particular instances. Let us see what are the extremes of
population and fecundity in well-known countries. The space
which Mr Sadler generally takes is a square mile. The population
at the Cape of Good Hope is, according to him, one to the square
mile. That of London is two hundred thousand to the square mile.
The number of children at the Cape, Mr Sadler informs us, is 5.48
to a marriage. In London, he states it at 2.35 to a marriage.
Now how can that of which all the variations lie between 2.35 and
5.48 vary, either directly or inversely, as that which admits of
all the variations between one and two hundred thousand? Mr
Sadler evidently does not know the meaning of the word
proportion. A million is a larger quantity than ten. A hundred
is a larger quantity than five. Mr Sadler thinks, therefore,
that there is no impropriety in saying that a hundred is to five
as a million is to ten, or in the inverse ratio of ten to a
million. He proposes to prove that the fecundity of marriages
varies in inverse proportion to the density of the population.
But all that he attempts to prove is that, while the population
increases from one to a hundred and sixty on the square mile, the
fecundity will diminish from 5.48 to 3.66; and that again, while
the population increases from one hundred and sixty to two
hundred thousand on the square mile, the fecundity will diminish
from 3.66 to 2.35.

The proposition which Mr Sadler enounces, without understanding
the words which he uses, would indeed, if it could be proved, set
us at ease as to the dangers of over-population. But it is, as
we have shown, a proposition so grossly absurd that it is
difficult for any man to keep his countenance while he repeats
it. The utmost that Mr Sadler has ever attempted to prove is
this,--that the fecundity of the human race diminishes as
population becomes more condensed,--but that the diminution of
fecundity bears a very small ratio to the increase of
population,--so that, while the population on a square mile is
multiplied two hundred-thousand-fold, the fecundity decreases by
little more than one half.

Does this principle vindicate the honour of God? Does it hold
out any new hope or comfort to man? Not at all. We pledge
ourselves to show, with the utmost strictness of reasoning, from
Mr Sadler's own principles, and from facts of the most notorious
description, that every consequence which follows from the law of
geometrical progression, laid down by Mr Malthus, will follow
from the law, miscalled a law of inverse variation, which has
been laid down by Mr Sadler.

London is the most thickly peopled spot of its size in the known
world. Therefore the fecundity of the population of London must,
according to Mr Sadler, be less than the fecundity of human
beings living on any other spot of equal size. Mr Sadler tells
us, that "the ratios of mortality are influenced by the different
degrees in which the population is condensated; and that, other
circumstances being similar, the relative number of deaths in a
thinly-populated, or country district, is less than that which
takes place in towns, and in towns of a moderate size less again
than that which exists in large and populous cities." Therefore
the mortality in London must, according to him, be greater than
in other places. But, though, according to Mr Sadler, the
fecundity is less in London than elsewhere, and though the
mortality is greater there than elsewhere, we find that even in
London the number of births greatly exceeds the number of deaths.
During the ten years which ended with 1820, there were fifty
thousand more baptisms than burials within the bills of
mortality. It follows, therefore, that, even within London
itself, an increase of the population is taking place by internal

Now, if the population of a place in which the fecundity is less
and the mortality greater than in other places still goes on
increasing by propagation, it follows that in other places the
population will increase, and increase still faster. There is

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