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CHAPTER I. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
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Analysis of Authority.
§ 2. Appeal to Authority, in what cases fallacious.
I. What, on any given occasion, is the legitimate weight or influence of authority, regard being had to the different circumstances in which a person, the supposed declaration of whose opinion constitutes the authority in question, was placed at the time of the delivery of such declaration?
1st, Upon the degree of relative and adequate intelligence on the part of the person whose opinion or supposed opinion constitutes the authority in question,—say of the persona cujus;—2dly, Upon the degree of relative probity on the part of that same person;—3dly, Upon the nearness or remoteness of the relation between the immediate subject of such his opinion and the question in hand;—4thly, Upon the fidelity of the medium through which such supposed opinion has been transmitted (including correctness and completeness:) upon such circumstances, the legitimately persuasive force of the authority thus constituted seems to depend: such are the sources in which any deficiency in respect of such persuasive force is to be looked for.
Deficiency of attention—i. e. intensity and steadiness of attention—with reference to the influencing circumstances on which the opinion, in order to be correct, required to be grounded; deficiency in respect of opportunity or matter of information, with reference to the individual question in hand; distance in point of time from the scene of the proposed measure; distance in point of place:—such, again, are the sources in which, the situation of the person in question being given, any deficiency in respect of relative and adequate intelligence is, it seems, to be looked for.
It is in the character of a cause of deficiency in relative and adequate information, that distance in point of time operates as a cause of deficiency in respect of relative and adequate intelligence; and so in regard to distance in point of place.
As to relative probity, any deficiency referable to this head will be occasioned by the exposure of the persona cujus to the action of sinister interest: concerning which, see Part V. Chapter III.—Causes of the utterance of these fallacies.
The most ordinary and conspicuous deficiency in the article of relative probity, is that of sincerity: the improbity consisting in the opposition or discrepancy between the opinion expressed and the opinion really entertained.
But as not only declaration of opinion, but opinion itself, is exposed to the action of sinister interest,—in so far as this is the case, the deficiency is occasioned in two ways: by the action of the sinister interest, either the relevant means and materials are kept out of the mind; or, if this be not found practicable, the attention is kept from fixing upon them with the degree of intensity proportioned to their legitimately persuasive force.
As to the mass of information received by any person in relation to a given subject, the correctness and completeness of such information, and thence the probability of correctness on the part of the opinion grounded on it, will be in the joint ratio of the sufficiency of the means of collecting such information, and the strength of the motives by which he was urged to the employment of those means.
On both these accounts taken together, at the top of the seale of trustworthiness stands that mass of authority which is constituted by what may be termed scientific or professional opinion: that is, opinion entertained in relation to the subject in question by a person who, by special means and motives attached to a particular situation in life, may with reason be considered as possessed of such means of insuring the correctness of his opinion, as cannot reasonably be expected to have place on the part of a person not so circumstanced.
As to the special motives in question, they will in every case be found to consist of good or evil; profit, for instance, or loss, presenting themselves as eventually likely to befall the personin question—profit or other good in case of the correctness of his opinion—loss or other evil in the event of its incorrectness.
In proportion to the force with which a man’s will is operated upon by the motives in question, is the degree of attention employed in looking out for the means of information, and the use made of them in the way of reflection towards the formation of his opinion.
Thus in the case of every occupation which a man engages in with a view to profit, the hope of gaining his livelihood, and the fear of not gaining it, are the motives by which he is urged to apply his attention to the collection of whatsoever information may contribute to the correctness of the several opinions which he may have occasion to form respecting the most advantageous method of carrying on the several operations by which such profit may be obtained.
1. The legitimately persuasive force of professional authority being taken as the highest term in the scale, the following may be noticed as expressive of so many other species of authority, occupying so many inferior degrees in the same scale:—
2. Authority derived from power. The greater the quantity of power a man has, no matter in what shape, the nearer the authority of his opinion comes to professional authority, in respect of the facility of obtaining the means conducive to correctness of decision.
3. Authority derived from opulence. Opulence—being an instrument of power, and to a considerable extent applicable in a direct way to many or most of the purposes to which power is applicable—seems to stand next after power in the scale of instruments of facility as above.
4. Authority derived from reputation, considered as among the efficient causes of respect. By reputation, understand, on this occasion, general reputation, not special and relative reputation, which would rank the species of authority under the head of professional authority as above.
Note, that of all these four species of authority, it is only in the case of the first that the presumable advantage which is the efficient cause of its legitimately persuasive force extends to the article of motives as well as means. By having the motives that tend to correctness of information, the professional man has the means likewise; since it is to the force of the motives under the stimulus of which he acts, that he is indebted for whatever means he acquires. It is from his having the motives, that it follows that he has the means.
But in those other cases, whatsoever be the means which a man’s situation places within his reach, it follows not that he has the motives—that he is actually under the impulse of any motive sufficient to the full action of that desire and that energy by which alone he can be in an adequate degree put in possession of the means.
On the contrary, in proportion as in the scale of power the man in question rises above the ordinary level, in that same proportion, in respect of motives for exertion (be the line of action what it may,) he is apt to sink below the same level: because, the greater the quantum of the share of the general mass of objects of desire that a man is already in possession of, the greater is the amount of that portion of his desires which is already in a state of saturation, and consequently the less the amount of that portion which, remaining unsatiated, is left free to operate upon his mind in the character of a motive.
Under oriental despotism, the person at whose command the means of information exist in a larger proportion than they do in the instance of any other person whatever, is the despot; but necessary motives being wanting, no use is made by him of these means, and the general result is a state of almost infantine imbecility and ignorance.
Such, in kind, varying only in degree, is the ease with every hand in which power is lodged, unincumbered with obligation; or, in other words, with sense of eventual danger.
In England, the king, the peer, the opulent borough-holding or county-holding country gentleman, should, on the above principle, present an instance of the sort of double scale in question, in which, while means decrease, motives rise.
But so long as he takes any part at all in public affairs, the sense of that weak kind of eventual responsibility to which, notwithstanding the prevailing habits of idolatry, the monarch, as such, stands at all times exposed, suffices to keep his intellectual faculties at a point more or less above the point of utter ignorance; whereas, short of proveable idiotism, there is no degree of imbecility that in either of those two other situations can suffice to render it matter of danger or inconvenience to the possessor, either to leave altogether unexercised the power annexed to such situation, or, without the smallest regard for the public welfare, to exercise it in whatever manner may be most agreeable or convenient to himself.
All this while, it is only on the supposition of perfect relative probity, viz. of that branch of probity that consists of sincerity, as well as absence of all such sources of delusion as to the person in question are liable to produce the effects of insincerity—in a word, it is only on the supposition of the absence of exposure to the action of any sinister interest, operating in such direction as to tend to produce either erroneous opinion, or misrepresentation of a man’s opinion on the subject in question, that, in so far as it depends on the information necessary to correctness of opinion, the title of a man’s authority to regard bears any proportion either to motives or to means of information as above.
On the contrary, if, either immediately or through the medium of the will, a man’s understanding be exposed to the dominion of sinister interest, the more complete as well as correct the mass of relative information is which he possesses, the more completely destitute of all title to regard, i. e. to confidence, unless it be in the opposite direction, will the authority, or pretended or real opinion, be.
Hence it is, that on the question, What is the system of remuneration best adapted to the purpose of obtaining the highest degree of official aptitude throughout the whole field of official service?—the authority of any person, who here or elsewhere, now or formerly, was in possession or expectation of any such situation as that of minister of state, so far from being greater than that of an average man, is not equal to 0, but in the mathematical sense negative, or so much below 0; i. e. so far as it affords a reason for looking upon the opposite opinion as the right and true one.
So, again, as to this question—What, in so far as concerns cognoscibility, or economy and expedition in procedure, the state of the law ought to be?—in the instance of any person who here or elsewhere, recently or formerly, but more particularly in this country, was in possession or expectation of any situation, professional or official, the profitableness of which, in the shape of pecuniary emolument, or in any other shape (such as power, reputation, ease, and occasionally vengeance,) depended upon the incognoscibility, the expensiveness, the dilatoriness, the vexatiousness of the system of judicial procedure—the weight of the authority—the strength of its title to credit on the part of those understandings to which the force of it is applied,—is not merely equal to 0, but in the mathematical sense negative, or so much below 0.
Note, that where, as above, the weight or probative force of the authority in question is spoken of as being not positive but negative (being rendered so by sinister interest,) what is taken for granted is, that the direction in which the authority is offered is the same as that in which the sinister interest acts; for if, the direction in which the sinister interest acts lying one way, the direction in which the opinion acts lies the other way—in such case, the title of the opinion to credit on the part of the understandings to which it is proposed, so far from being destroyed or weakened, is much increased; because the grounds for correctness of opinion, the motives and the means which in that case lead to correctness being more completely within the reach of, and according to probability present to, the minds of this class of men, the forces that tend to promote aberration having by this supposition spent themselves in vain, the chance for correctness is thereby greater.
Accordant with this, and surely enough accordant with experience and common sense, is one of the few rational rules that as yet have received admittance among the technically-established rules of evidence. In a man’s own favour his own testimony is the weakest—in his disfavour, the strongest, evidence.
It is on this account that, wherever a man is in a superior degree furnished as above with means of, and motives for, obtaining relevant information, the stronger the force of the sinister interest under the action of which his opinion is delivered, the stronger is his title to attention. In the way of direct and relevant argument applying to the question in hand in a direct and specific way, if the question be susceptible of any such arguments, in proportion to the efficiency of the motives and means he has for the acquisition of such relevant information, is the probability of his bringing such information to view. If, then, instead of bringing to view any such relevant information, or by way of supplement and support to such relevant information (when weak and insufficient,) the arguments which he brings to view are of the irrelevant sort, the addition of such bad arguments affords a sort of circumstantial evidence, and that of no mean degree of probative force, of the inability of the side thus advocated to furnish any good ones.
Closeness of the relation between the immediate subject in hand, and the subject of the supposed opinion of which the authority is composed, has been mentioned as the third circumstance necessary to be considered in estimating the credit due to authority:—of this, it is evident enough, there cannot be any common and generally applicable measure: it is that sort of quantity, of the amount of which a judgment can only be pronounced in each individual case.
As to the fidelity of the medium through which the opinion constitutive of the authority in question has been, or is supposed to have been, transmitted,—it is only pro memoria that this topic is here brought to view in the list of the circumstances from which the legitimately persuasive force of an opinion constitutive of authority is liable to experience decrease, of its admission into this list the propriety is, on the bare mention, as manifest as it is in the power of reasoning to make it. In this respect, the rule and measure, as well as cause, of such decrease, stand exactly on the same ground as the rule with respect to any other evidence; authority being, to the purpose in question, neither more nor less than an article of circumstantial evidence.
The need for the legitimately persuasive force of authority, i. e. probability of comparatively superior information on the one hand, is in the inverse ratio of information on the part of the person on whom it is designed to operate, on the other. The less the degree in which each man is qualified to form a judgment on any subject on the ground of specific and relevant information—on the ground of direct evidence—the more cogent the necessity he is under of trusting, with a degree of confidence more or less implicit, to that species of circumstantial evidence: and in proportion to the number of the persons who possess, each within himself, the means of forming an opinion on any given subject on the ground of such direct evidence, the greater the number of the persons to whom it ought to be matter of shame to frame and pronounce their respective decision, on no better ground than that of such inconclusive and necessarily fallacious evidence.
Of the truth of this observation, men belonging to the several classes, whose situation in the community has given to them, in conjunction with efficient power, a separate and sinister interest opposite to that of the community in general, have seldom failed to be in a sufficient degree percipient.
In this perception, in the instance of the fraternity of lawyers, may be seen one cause, though not the only one, of the anxiety betrayed, and pains taken, to keep the rule of action in a state of as complete incognoscibility as possible on the part of those whose conduct is professed to be directed by it, and whose fate is in fact disposed of by it.
In this same perception, in the instance of the clergy of old times in the Romish church, may be seen in like manner the cause, or at least one cause, of the pains taken to keep in the same state of incognoscibility the acknowledged rule of action in matters of sacred and supernatural law.
In this same perception, in the instance of the English clergy of times posterior to those of the Romish church—in this same perception may be seen one cause of the exertions made by so large a proportion of the governing classes of that hierarchy, to keep back, and if possible render abortive the system of invention which has for its object the giving to the exercise of the art of reading the highest degree of universality possible.
To return. Be the subject-matter what it may, to the account of fallacies cannot be placed any mention made of an opinion to such or such an effect, as having been delivered or intimated by such or such a person by name, when the sole object of the reference is to point out a place where relevant arguments adduced on a given occasion may be found in a more complete or perspicuous state than they are on the occasion on which they are adduced.
In the case thus supposed, there is no irrelevancy. The arguments referred to are by the supposition relevant ones; such as, if the person by whom they have been presented to view were altogether unknown, would not lose anything of their weight; the opinion is not presented as constitutive of authority, as carrying any weight of itself, and independently of the considerations which he has brought to view.
Neither is there any fallacy in making reference to the opinion of this or that professional person, in a case to such a degree professional or scientific, with relation to the hearers or readers, that the forming a correct judgment on such relevant and specific arguments as belong to it, is beyond their competence. In matters touching medical science, chemistry, astronomy, the mechanical arts, the various branches of the art of war, &c., no other course could be pursued.
Appeal to Authority, in what cases fallacious.*
The case in which reference to authority is open to the imputation of fallacy, is where, in the course of a debate touching a subject lying in such sort within the comprehension of the debaters, that argument bearing the closest relation to it would be perfectly within the sphere of their comprehension,—authority (a sort of argument in the case here in question not relevant) is employed in the place of such relevant arguments as might have been adduced on one side, or in opposition to irrelevant ones adduced on the other side.
But the case in which the practice of adducing authority in the character of an argument is in the highest degree exposed to the imputation of fallacy, is, where the situation of the debaters being such, that the forming a correct conception of, and judgment on, such relevant arguments as the subject admits, is not beyond their competency, the opinion, real or supposed, of any person who from his profession or other particular situation, derives an interest opposite to that of the public, is adduced in the character of an argument, in lieu of such relevant arguments as the question ought to furnish.—(In an Appendix to this Chapter will be given examples of persons whose declared opinions, on a question of legislation, are in a peculiar degree liable to be tinged with falsity by the action of sinister interest.)
He who, on a question concerning the propriety of any law or established practice with reference to the time being, refers to authority as decisive of the question, assumes the truth of one or other of two positions: viz. that the principle of utility—i. e. that the greatest happiness of the greatest number—is not at the time in question the proper standard for judging of the merits of the question: or, that the practice of other and former times, or the opinion of other persons, ought to be regarded in all cases as conclusive evidence of the nature and tendency of the practice—conclusive evidence, superseding the necessity and propriety of any recourse to reason or present experience.
In the first case, being really an enemy to the community, that he should be esteemed as such by all to whom the happiness of the community is an object of regard, is no more than right and reasonable,—no more than what, if men acted consistently, would uniformly take place.
In the other case, what he does is, virtually to acknowledge himself not to possess any powers of reasoning which he himself can venture to think it safe to trust to: incapable of forming for himself any judgment by which he looks upon it as safe to be determined, he betakes himself for safety to some other man, or set of men, of whom he knows little or nothing, except that they lived so many years ago; that the period of their existence was by so much anterior to his own time—by so much anterior, and consequently possessing for its guidance so much the less experience.
But when a man gives this account of himself—when he represents his own mind as labouring under this kind and degree of imbecility,—what can be more reasonable than that he should be taken at his word?—that he should be considered as a person labouring under a general and incurable imbecility, from whom nothing relevant can reasonably be expected?
He who, in place of reasoning deduced (if the subject be of a practical nature) from the consideration of the end in view, employs authority, makes no secret of the opinion he entertains of his hearers or his readers: he assumes that those to whom he addresses himself are incapable, each of them, of forming a judgment of their own. If they submit to this insult, may it not be presumed that they acknowledge the justice of it?
Of imbecility—at any rate of self-conscious and self-avowed imbecility—proportionable humility ought naturally to be the result;
On the contrary, so far from humility,—of this species of idolatry—of this worshipping of dead men’s bones,—all passions the most opposite to humility—pride, anger, obstinacy, and overbearingness,—are the frequent, not to say the constant, accompaniments.
With the utmost strength of mind that can be displayed in the field of reasoning, no reasonable man ever manifests so much heat, assumes so much, or exhibits himself disposed to bear so little, as these men, whose title to regard and notice is thus given up by themselves.
Whence this inconsistency?—whence this violence? From this alone, that having some abuse to defend—some abuse in which they have an interest and a profit—and finding it on the ground of present public interest indefensible, they fly for refuge to the only sort of argument in which so much as the pretension of being sincere in error can find countenance.
By authority, support, the strength of which is proportioned to the number of the persons joining in it, is given to systems of opinions at once absurd and pernicious—to the religion of Buddh, of Brama, of Foh, of Mahomet.
And hence it may be inferred that the probative force of authority is not increased by the number of those who may have professed a given opinion—unless, indeed, it could be proved that each individual of the multitudes who professed the opinion, possessed in the highest degree the means and motives for ensuring its correctness. Even in such a case, it would not warrant the substitution of the authority for such direct evidence and arguments as any case in debate might be able to supply, supposing the debaters capable of comprehending such direct evidence and arguments: but that, in ordinary cases, no such circumstantial evidence should possess any such legitimately probative force as to warrant the addition, much less the substitution of it, to that sort of information which belongs to direct evidence, will, it is supposed, be rendered sufficiently apparent by the following considerations:—
1. If in theory any the minutest degree of force were ascribed to the elementary monade of the body of authority thus composed, and this theory were followed up in practice, the consequence would be, the utter subversion of the existing state of things:—as for example—if distance in point of time were not sufficient to destroy the probative force of such authority, the Catholic religion would in England be to be restored to the exclusive dominion it possessed and exercised for so many centuries: the toleration laws would be to be repealed, and persecution to the length of extirpation would be to be substituted to whatever liberty in conduct and discourse is enjoyed at present;—and in this way, after the abolished religion had thus been triumphantly restored, an inexorable door would be shut against every imaginable change in it, and thence against every imaginable reform or improvement in it, through all future ages:
2. If distance in point of place were not understood to have the same effect, some other religion than the Christian—the religion or Mahomet for example, or the way of thinking in matters of religion prevalent in China—would have to be substituted by law to the Christian religion.
In authority, defence, such as it is, has been found for every imperfection, for every abuse, for every the most pernicious and most execrable abomination that the most corrupt system of government has ever husbanded in its bosom:—
And here may be seen the mischief necessarily attached to the course of him whose footsteps are regulated by the finger of this blind guide.
What is more, from hence may inferences be deduced—nor those ill-grounded ones—respecting the probity or improbity, the sincerity or insincerity, of him who, standing in a public situation, blushes not to look to this blind guide, to the exclusion of, or in preference to, reason—the only guide that does not begin with shutting his own eyes, for the purpose of closing the eyes of his followers.
As the world grows older, if at the same time it grows wiser (which it will do unless the period shall have arrived at which experience, the mother of wisdom, shall have become barren,) the influence of authority will in each situation, and particularly in parliament, become less and less.
Take any part of the field of moral science, private morality, constitutional law, private law—go back a few centuries, and you will find argument consisting of reference to authority, not exclusively, but in as large a proportion as possible. As experience has increased, authority has been gradually set aside, and reasoning, drawn from facts, and guided by reference to the end in view, true or false, has taken its place.
Of the enormous mass of Roman law heaped up in the school of Justinian—a mass, the perusal of which would employ several lives occupied by nothing else—materials of this description constitute by far the greater part. A throws out at random some loose thought: B, catching it up, tells you what A thinks—at least, what A said: C tells you what has been said by A and B; and thus, like an avalanche, the mass rolls on.
Happily, it is only in matters of law and religion that endeavours are made, by the favour shown and currency given to this fallacy, to limit and debilitate the exercise of the right of private inquiry in as great a degree as possible, though at this time of day the exercise of this essential right can no longer be suppressed in a complete and direct way by legal punishment.
In mechanics, in astronomy, in mathematics, in the new-born science of chemistry—no one has at this time of day either effrontery or folly enough to avow, or so much as to insinuate, that the most desirable state of these branches of useful knowledge, the most rational and eligible course, is to substitute decision on the ground of authority, to decision on the ground of direct and specific evidence.
In every branch of physical art and science, the folly of this substitution or preference is matter of demonstration—is matter of intuition, and as such is universally acknowledged. In the moral branch of science, religion not excluded, the folly of the like receipt for correctness of opinion would not be less universally recognised, if the wealth, the ease, and the dignity attached to and supported by the maintenance of the opposite opinion, did not so steadily resist such recognition.
Causes of the employment and prevalence of this fallacy.
It is obvious that this fallacy, in all its branches, is so frequently resorted to by those who are interested in the support of abuses, or of institutions pernicious to the great body of the people, with the intention of suppressing all exercise of reason. A foolish or untenable proposition, resting on its own support or the mere credit of the utterer, could not fail speedily to encounter detection and exposure;—the same proposition, extracted from a page of Blackstone, or from the page or mouth of any other person to whom the idle and unthinking are in the habit of unconditionally surrendering their understandings, shall disarm all opposition.
Blind obsequiousness, ignorance, idleness, irresponsibility, anti-constitutional dependence, anti-constitutional independence, are the causes which enable this fallacy to maintain such an ascendency in the governing assemblies of the British empire.
First, In this situation one man is on each occasion ready to borrow an opinion of another, because through ignorance and imbecility he feels himself unable, or through want of solicitude unwilling, to form one for himself; and he is thus ignorant, if natural talent does not fail him, because he is so idle. Knowledge, especially in so wide and extensive a field, requires study; study, labour of mind, bestowed with more or less energy, for a greater or less length of time.
But, secondly, In a situation for which the strongest talents would not be more than adequate, there is frequently a failure of natural talent; because in so many instances admission to that situation depends either on the person admitted, or on others to whom, whether he has or has not the requisite talents is a matter of indifference, that no degree of intellectual deficiency, short of palpable idiocy, can have the effect of excluding a man from occupying it.
Thirdly, The sense of responsibility is in the instance of a large proportion of the members wanting altogether; because in so small a proportion are they at any time in any degree of dependence on the people whose face is in their hands, and because, in the instance of the few who are in any degree so dependent, the efficient cause, and consequently the feeling of such dependence, endures during so small a proportion of the time for which they enjoy their situations: because also, while so few are dependent on those on whom they ought to be dependent, so many are dependent on those who ought to be dependent on them—those servants of the crown, on whose conduct they are commissioned by their constituents to act as judges. What share of knowledge, intelligence, and natural talent, is in the House, is thus divided between those who are, and their rivals who hope to be, servants of the crown. The consequence is, that, those excepted in whom knowledge, intelligence, and talent, are worse than useless, the House is composed of men, the furniture of whose minds is made up of discordant prejudices, of which on each occasion they follow that by which the interest or passion of the moment is most promoted.
Then, with regard to responsibility, so happily have matters been managed by the house,—a seat there is not less clear of obligation than a seat in the opera-house: in both, a man takes his seat, then only when he cannot find more amusement elsewhere; for both the qualifications are the same,—a ticket begged or bought: in neither is a man charged with any obligation, other than the negative one of not being a nuisance to the company; in both, the length as well as number of attendances depends on the amusement a man finds, except, in the case of the house, as regards the members dependent on the crown. True it is, that a self-called independent member is not necessarily ignorant and weak: if by accident a man possessed of knowledge and intelligence is placed in the house, his seat will not deprive him of his acquirements. All, therefore, that is meant is, only that ignorance does not disqualify, not that knowledge does. Of the crown and its creatures it is the interest that this ignorance be as thick as possible. Why? Because, the thicker the ignorance, the more completely is the furniture of men’s minds made up of those interest-begotten prejudices, which render them blindly obsequious to all those who, with power in their hands, stand up to take the lead.
But the Emperor of Morocco is not more irresponsible, and therefore more likely to be ignorant and prone to be deceived by the fallacy of authority, than a member of the British Parliament:—the Emperor of Morocco’s power is clear of obligation; so is the member’s:—the emperor’s power, it is true is an integer, and the member’s but a fraction of it; but no ignorance prevents a man from becoming or continuing Emperor of Morocco, nor from becoming or continuing a member:—the emperor’s title is derived from birth; so is that of many a member:—to enjoy his despotism, no fraud, insincerity, hypocrisy, or jargon, is necessary to the emperor; much of all to the member:—by ascending and maintaining his throne, no principle is violated by the emperor; by the member, if a borough-holder, many are violated on his taking and retaining his seat:—by being a despot, the emperor is not an impostor; the member is:—the emperor pretends not to be a trustee, agent, deputy, delegate, representative; lying is not among the accompaniments of his tyranny and insolence; the member does pretend all this, and (if a borough-holder) lies. A trust-holder? Yes; but a trust-breaker;—an agent? Yes; but for himself;—a representative of the people? Yes; but so as Mr. Kemble is of Macbeth;—a deputy? Yes; because it has not been in their power to depute, to delegate anybody else:—deputy,—delegate,—neither title he assumes but for argument, and when he cannot help it; deputation being matter of fact, the word presents an act with all its circumstances—viz. fewness of the electors, their want of freedom, &c.; representation is a more convenient word—the acts, &c. are kept out of sight by it—it is a mere fiction, the offspring of lawyer-craft, and any one person or thing may be represented by any other: by canvass with colours, a man is represented; by a king, the whole people; by an ambassador, the king, and thus the people.
Remedy against the influence of this fallacy.
For banishing ignorance, for substituting to it a constantly competent measure of useful, appropriate, and general instruction, the proper, the necessary, the only means, he not deep beneath the surface.
The sources of instruction being supposed at command, and the quantity of natural talent given, the quantity of information obtained will in every case be as the quantity of mental labour employed in the collection of it—the quantity of mental labour, as the aggregate strength of the motives by which a man is excited to labour.
In the existing order of things, there is, comparatively speaking, no instruction obtained, because no labour is bestowed: no labour is bestowed, because none of the motives by which men are excited to labour are applied in this direction.
The situation being by the supposition an object of desire, if the case were such, that without labour employed in obtaining instruction, there would be no chance of obtaining the situation, or but an inferior chance;—while, in case of labour so employed, there would be a certainty, or a superior chance:—here, instruction would have its motives;—here, labour applied to the attainment of instruction—here, consequently, instruction itself—would have its probably efficient cause.
The quality—i. e. the relative applicability of the mass of information obtained—is an object not to be overlooked.
The goodness of the quality will depend on the liberty enjoyed in respect of the choice. By prohibitions, with penalties attached to the delivery of alleged information relative to a subject in question, or any part of it, the quality of the whole mass is impaired, and an implied certificate is given of the truth and utility of whatsoever portion is thus endeavoured to be suppressed.
Lawyers; oppositeness of their interest to the universal interest.
The opinions of lawyers in a question of legislation, particularly of such lawyers as are or have been practising advocates, are peculiarly liable to be tinged with falsity by the operation of sinister interest. To the interest of the community at large, that of every advocate is in a state of such direct and constant opposition (especially in civil matters,) that the above assertion requires an apology to redeem it from the appearance of trifling: the apology consists in the extensively prevailing propensity to overlook and turn aside from a fact so entitled to notice. It is the people’s interest, that delay, vexation, and expense of procedure, should be as small as possible:—it is the advocate’s, that they should be as great as possible; viz. expense, in so far as his profit is proportioned to it—factitious vexation and delay, in so far as inseparable from the profit-yielding part of the expense. As to uncertainty in the law, it is the people’s interest that each man’s security against wrong should be as complete as possible; that all his rights should be known to him; that all acts, which in the case of his doing them will be treated as offences, may be known to him as such, together with their eventual punishment, that he may avoid committing them, and that others may, in as few instances as possible, suffer either from the wrong, or from the expensive and vexatious remedy. Hence it is their interest, that as to all these matters the rule of action, in so far as it applies to each man, should at all times be not only discoverable, but actually present to his mind. Such knowledge, which it is every man’s interest to possess to the greatest, it is the lawyer’s interest that he possess it to the narrowest, extent, possible. It is every man’s interest to keep out of lawyers’ hands as much as possible—it is the lawyer’s interest to get him in as often, and keep him in as long, as possible,—and thence, that any written expression of the words necessary to keep non-lawyers out of his hand may as long as possible be prevented from coming into existence; and when in existence, may as long as possible be kept from being present to his mind,—and when presented, from staying there.* It is the lawyer’s interest, therefore, that people should continually suffer for the non-observance of laws, which, so far from having received efficient promulgation, have never yet found any authoritative expression in words. This is the perfection of oppression: yet, propose that access to knowledge of the laws be afforded by means of a code, lawyers, one and all, will join in declaring it impossible. To any effect, as occasion occurs, a judge will forge a rule of law: to that same effect, in any determinate form of words, propose to make a law, that same judge will declare it impossible. It is the judge’s interest that on every occasion his declared opinion be taken for the standard of right and wrong—that whatever he declares right or wrong be universally received as such, how contrary soever such declaration be to truth and utility, or to his own declaration at other times:—hence, that within the whole field of law, men’s opinions of right and wrong should be as contradictory, unsettled, and thence as obsequious to him as possible; in particular, that the same conduct which to others would occasion shame and punishment, should, to him and his, occasion honour and reward; that on condition of telling a lie, it should be in his power to do what he pleases, the injustice and falsehood being regarded with complacency and reverence; that as often as by falsehood, money, or advantage in any other shape can be produced to him, it should be regarded as proper for him to employ reward or punishment, or both, for the procurement of such falsehood. Consistently with men’s abstaining from violences, by which the person and property of him and his would be alarmingly endangered, it is his interest that intellectual as well as moral depravation should be as intense and extensive as possible; that transgressions cognizable by him should be as numerous as possible; that injuries and other transgressions committed by him should be reverenced as acts of virtue; that the suffering produced by such injuries should be placed, not to his account, but to the immutable nature of things, or to the wrongdoer, who, but for the encouragement from him, would not have become such. His professional and personal interest being thus adverse to that of the public, from a lawyer’s declaration that the tendency of a proposed law relative to procedure, &c. is pernicious, the contrary inference may not unreasonably be drawn. From those habits of misrepresenting their own opinion (i. e. of insincerity) which are almost peculiar to this in comparison with other classes, one presumption is, that he does not entertain the opinion thus declared;—another, that if he does, he has been deceived into it by sinister interest, and the authority of co-professional men, in like manner deceivers or deceived: in other words, it is the result of interest-begotten prejudice. In the case of every other body of men, it is generally expected that their conduct and language will be for the most part directed by their own interest, that is, by their own view of it. In the case of the lawyer, the ground of this persuasion, so far from being weaker, is stronger than in any other case. His evidence being thus interested evidence, according to his own rules his declaration of opinion on the subject here pointed out would not be so much as hearable. It is true, were those rules consistently observed, judicature would be useless, and society dissolved: accordingly they are not so observed, but observed or broken pretty much at pleasure; but they are not the less among the number of those rules, the excellence and inviolability of which the lawyer is never tired of trumpeting. But on any point such as those in question, nothing could be more unreasonable, nothing more inconsistent with what has been said above, than to refuse him a heariny. On every such point, his habits and experience afford him facilities not possessed by any one else, for finding relevant and specific arguments, when the nature of the case affords any; but the surer he is of being able to find such arguments, if any such are to be found, the stronger the reason for treating his naked declaration of opinion as unworthy of all regard: accompanied by specific arguments, it is useless; destitute of them, it amounts to a virtual confession of their non-existence.
So matters stand on the question, what ought to be law?
On the question what the law is, so long as the rule of action is kept in the state of common, alias unwritten, alias imaginary law, authority, though next to nothing, is everything. The question is, what on a given occasion A (the judge) is likely to think: wait till your fortune has been spent in the inquiry, and you will know; but forasmuch as it is naturally a man’s wish to be able to give a guess what the result will eventually be, before he has spent his fortune, in the view if possible to avoid spending his fortune, and getting nothing in return for it, he applies, through the medium of B (an attorney,) for an opinion to C (a counsel), who, considering what D (a former judge) has, on a subject supposed to be more or less analogous to the one in question, said or been supposed to say, deduces therefrom his guess as to what, when the time comes, judge A, he thinks, will say, and gives it you. A shorter way would be, to put the question at once to A; but, for obvious reasons, this is not permitted.
On many cases, again, as well-grounded a guess might be had of an astrologer for five shillings, as of a counsel for twice or thrice as many guineas, but that the lawyer considers the astrologer as a smuggler, and puts him down.
But Packwood’s opinion on the goodness of his own razors would be a safer guide for judging of their goodness, than a judge’s opinion on the goodness of a proposed law: it is Packwood’s interest that his razors be as good as possible;—the judge’s, that the law be as bad, yet thought to be as good, as possible. It would not be the judge’s interest that his commodity should be thus bad, if, as in the case of Packwood, the customer had other shops to go to; but in this case, even when there are two shops to go to, the shops being in confederacy, the commodity is equally bad in both; and the worse the commodity, the better it is said to be. In the case of the judge’s commodity, no experience suffices to undeceive men; the bad quality of it is referred to any cause but the true one.
Example 2. Churchmen; oppositeness of their interest to the universal interest.
In the lawyer’s case it has been shown, that on the question, what on such or such a point ought to be law,—to refer to a lawyer’s opinion, given without or against specific reasons, is a fallacy—its tendency, in proportion to the regard paid to it, deceptious;—the cause of this deceptious tendency, sinister interest, to the action of which all advocates and (being made from advocates) all judges stand exposed. To the churchman’s case the same reasoning applies: as in the lawyer’s case, the objection does not arise on the question, what law is, but what ought to be law,—so in the churchman’s case, it does not arise as to what in matters of religion is law, but as to what in those matters ought to be law. On a question not connected with religion, reference to a churchman’s opinion as such, as authority, can scarcely be considered as a fallacy, such opinion not being likely to be considered as constitutive of authority. To understand how great would be the probability of deception, if on the question, what in matters of religion ought to be law, the unsupported opinion of a churchman were to be regarded as authority, we must develope the nature and form of the sinister interest by which any declaration of opinion from such a quarter is divested of all title to regard. The sources of a churchman’s sinister interest are as follows:—
1. On entering into the profession, as condition prevedent to advantage from it in the shape of subsistence and all other shapes, he makes of necessity a solemn and recorded declaration of his belief in the truth of 39 articles, framed 262 years ago—the date of which, the ignorance and violence of the time considered, should suffice to satisfy a reflecting mind of the impossibility of their being all of them really believed by any person at present.
2. In this declaration is generally understood to be included an engagement or undertaking, in case of original belief and subsequent change, never to declare, but if questioned, to deny such change.
3. In the institution thus established, he beholds shame and punishment attached to sincerity—rewards in the largest quantity to absurdity and insincerity. Now the presumptions resulting from such an application of reward and punishment, to engage men to declare assent to given propositions, are—1st, That the proposition is not believed by the proposer; 2. Thence, that it is not true; 3. Thence, that it is not believed by the acceptor. It is impossible by reward or punishment to produce real and immediate belief: but the following effects may certainly be produced:—1. The abstaining from any declaration of disbelief; 2. Declaration of belief; 3. The turning aside from all considerations tending to produce disbelief; 4. The looking out for, and fastening exclusive attention to, all considerations tending to produce belief—authority especially, by which a sort of vague and indistinct belief of the most absurd propositions has everywhere been produced.
On no other part of the field of knowledge are reward or punishment now-a-days considered as fit instruments for the production of assent or dissent. A schoolmaster would not be looked upon as same, who, instead of putting Euclid’s Demonstrations into the hands of his scholar, should, without the Demonstrations, put the Propositions into his hand, and give him a guinea for signing a paper declarative of his belief in them, or lock him up for a couple of days without food on his refusal to sign it. And so in chemistry, mechanics, husbandry, astronomy, or any other branch of knowledge. It is true, that in those parts of knowledge in which assent and dissent are left free, the importance of truth may be esteemed not so great as here, where it is thus influenced; but the more important the truth, the more flagrant the absurdity and tyranny of employing, for the propagation of it, instruments, the employment of which has a stronger tendency to propagate error than truth.
4. For teaching such religious truths as men are allowed to teach, together with such religious error as they are thus forced to teach, the churchman sees rewards allotted in larger quantities than are allotted to the most useful services. Of much of the matter of reward thus bestowed, the disposal is in the king’s hands, with the power of applying it, and motives for applying it, to the purpose of parliamentary service, paying for habitual breach of trust, and keeping in corrupt and see et dependence on his agents, those agents of the people whose duty it is to sit as judges over the agents of the king. In Ireland, of nine-tenths of those, on pretence of instructing whom this vast mass of reward is extorted, it is known, that, being by conscience precluded from hearing, it is impossible that they should derive any benefit from such instruction.
In Scotland, where government reward is not employed in giving support to it, Church-of-Englandism is reduced to next to nothing.
The opinions which, in this state of things, interest engages a churchman to support, are—1. That reward to the highest extent has no tendency to promote insincerity, even where practicable, to an unlimited extent, and without chance of detection; 2. Or that money given in case of compliance, refused in case of non-compliance, is not reward for compliance; 3. Or that punishment applied in case of non-compliance, withheld in case of compliance, is not punishment; 4. Or that insincerity is not vice but virtue, and as such ought to be promoted; 5. That it is not merely consistent with, but requisite to, good government to extort money from poor and rich, to be applied as reward for doing nothing, or for doing but a small part of that which is done by others for a small proportion of the same reward, and this on pretence of rendering service, which nine-tenths of the people refuse to receive.
It is the interest of the persons thus engaged in a course of insincerity, that by the same means perseverance in the same course should be universal and perpetual; for suppose, in case of the reward being withheld, the number annually making the same declaration should be reduced to half: this would be presumptive evidence of insincerity on the part of half of those who made it before.
The more flagrant the absurdity, the stronger is each man’s interest in engaging as many as possible in joining with him in the profession of assent to it; for the greater the number of such co-declarants, the greater the number of those of whose professions the elements of authority are composed, and of those who stand precluded from casting on the rest the imputation of insincerity.
The following, then, are the abuses in the defence of which all churchmen are enlisted: 1. Perpetuation of immorality in the shape of insincerity; 2. Of absurdity in subjects of the highest importance; 3. Extortion inflicted on the many for the benefit of the few; 4. Reward bestowed on idleness and incapacity, to the exclusion of labour and ability; 5. The matter of corruption applied to the purposes of corruption in a constant stream; 6. In one of these kingdoms, a vast majority of the people kept in degradation, avowedly for no other than the above purposes. But whoever is engaged by interest in the support of any one government abuse, is engaged in the support of all, each giving to the others his support in exchange.
It being the characteristic of abuse to need and receive support from fallacy, it is the interest of every man who derives profit from abuse in any shape, to give the utmost currency to fallacy in every shape—viz. as well to those fallacies which render more particular service to others’ abuses, as those which render such service to his own. It being the interest of each person so situated to give the utmost support to abuse, and the utmost currency to fallacy in every shape, it is also his interest to give the utmost efficiency to the system of education by which men are most effectually divested both of the power and will to detect and expose fallacies, and thence to suppress every system of education in proportion as it has a contrary tendency. Lastly, the stronger the interest by which a man is urged to give currency to fallacy, and thus to propagate deception, the more likely is it that such will be his endeavour: the less fit, therefore, will his opinion be to serve in the character of authority, as a standard and model for the opinions of others.
[* ]“An unquestionable maxim,” it is said, is this:—“Reason, and not authority, should determine the judgment:” Said? and by whom? even by a bishop; and by what bishop? even Bishop Warburton: and this is not in one work only, but in two. The above words are from his Div. Legat. ii. 302; and in his Alliance, &c. is a passage to the same effect: here, then, we have authority against authority.
[* ]A considerable proportion of what is termed the common law of England is in this oral and unwritten state. The cases in which it has been clothed with words—that is, in which it has been framed and pronounced—are to be found in the various collections of reported decisions. These decisions, not having the sanction of a law passed by the legislature, are confirmed or overruled at pleasure by the existing judges; so that, except in matters of the most common and daily occurrence, they afford no rule of action at all.