Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART IV.: FALLACIES OF CONFUSION, THE OBJECT OF WHICH IS, TO PERPLEX, WHEN DISCUSSION CAN NO LONGER BE AVOIDED. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
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PART IV.: FALLACIES OF CONFUSION, THE OBJECT OF WHICH IS, TO PERPLEX, WHEN DISCUSSION CAN NO LONGER BE AVOIDED. - 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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FALLACIES OF CONFUSION,
QUESTION-BEGGING APPELLATIVES—(ad judicium.)
Petitio principii, or begging the question, is a fallacy very well known even to those who are not conversant with the principles of logic. In answer to a given question, the party who employs the fallacy contents himself by simply affirming the point in debate. Why does opium occasion sleep? Because it is soporiferous.
Begging the question is one of the fallacies enumerated by Aristotle; but Aristotle has not pointed out (what it will be the object of this chapter to expose) the mode of using the fallacy with the greatest effect, and least risk of detection,—namely, by the employment of a single appellative.
Exposition and Exposure.—Among the appellatives employed for the designation of objects belonging to the field of moral science, there are some by which the object is presented singly, unaccompanied by any sentiment of approbation or disapprobation attached to it—as, desire, labour, disposition, character, habit, &c. With reference to the two sorts of appellatives which will come immediately to be mentioned, appellatives of this sort may be termed neutral.
There are others, by means of which, in addition to the principal object, the idea of general approbation as habitually attached to that object is presented—as, industry, honour, piety, generosity, gratitude, &c. These are termed eulogistic or laudatory.
Others there are, again, by means of which, in addition to the principal object, the idea of general disapprobation, as habitually attached to that object, is presented—as, lust, avarice, luxury, covetousness, prodigality, &c. These may be termed dyslogistic or vituperative.*
Among pains, pleasures, desires, emotions, motives, affections, propensities, dispositions, and other moral entities, some, but very far from all, are furnished with appellatives of all three sorts:—some, with none but eulogistic; others, and in a greater number, with none but those of the dyslogistic cast. By appellatives, I mean here, of course, single-worded appellatives; for by words, take but enough of them, anything may be expressed.
Originally, all terms expressive of any of these objects were (it seems reasonable to think) neutral. By degrees they acquired, some of them an eulogistic, some a dyslogistic, cast. This change extended itself, as the moral sense (if so loose and delusive a term may on this occasion be employed) advanced in growth.
But to return. As to the mode of employing this fallacy, it neither requires nor so much as admits of being taught: a man falls into it but too naturally of himself; and the more naturally and freely, the less he finds himself under the restraint of any such sense as that of shame. The great difficulty is to unlearn it: in the case of this, as of so many other fallacies, by teaching it, the humble endeavour here is, to unteach it.
In speaking of the conduct, the behaviour, the intention, the motive, the disposition of this or that man,—if he be one who is indifferent to you, of whom you care not whether he be well or ill thought of, you employ the neutral term:—if a man whom, on the occasion and for the purpose in question, it is your object to recommend to favour, especially a man of your own party, you employ the eulogistic term:—if he be a man whom it is your object to consign to aversion or contempt, you employ the dyslogistic term.
To the proposition of which it is the leading term, every such eulogistic or dyslogistic appellative, secretly, as it were, and in general insensibly, slips in another proposition of which that same leading term is the subject, and an assertion of approbation or disapprobation the predicate. The person, act, or thing in question, is or deserves to be, or is and deserves to be, an object of general approbation; or the person, act, or thing in question, is or deserves to be, or is and deserves to be, an object of general disapprobation.
The proposition thus asserted is commonly a proposition that requires to be proved. But in the case where the use of the term thus employed is fallacious, the proposition is one that is not true, and cannot be proved: and where the person by whom the fallacy is employed is conscious of its deceptive tendency, the object in the employment thus given to the appellative is, by means of the artifice, to cause that to be taken for true, which is not so.
By appropriate eulogistic and dyslogistic terms, so many arguments are made, by which, taking them altogether, misrule, in all its several departments, finds its justifying arguments, and these in but too many eyes, conclusive. Take, for instance, the following eulogistic terms:—
1. In the war department,—honour and glory.
2. In international affairs,—honour, glory, and dignity.
3. In the financial department, liberality. It being always at the expense of unwilling contributors that this virtue (for among the virtues it has its place in Aristotle) is exercised—for liberality, depredation may, in perhaps every case, and without any impropriety, be substituted.
4. In the higher parts of all official departments, dignity—dignity, though not in itself depredation, operates as often as the word is used, as a pretence for, and thence as a cause of depredation. Wherever you see dignity, be sure that money is requisite for the support of it: and that, in so far as the dignitary’s own money is regarded as insufficient, public money, raised by taxes imposed on all other individuals, on the principle of liberality, must be found for the supply of it.*
Exercised at a man’s own expense, liberality may be, or may not be, according to circumstances, a virtue:—exercised at the expense of the public, it never can be anything better than vice. Exercised at a man’s own expense, whether it be accompanied with prudence or no—whether it be accompanied or not with beneficence, it is at any rate disinterestedness:—exercised at the expense of the public, it is pure selfishness: it is, in a word, depredation: money or money’s worth is taken from the public to purchase, for the use of the liberal man, respect, affection, gratitude, with its eventual fruits in the shape of services of all sorts—in a word, reputation, power.
When you have a practice or measure to condemn, find out some more general appellative, within the import of which the obnoxious practice or measure in question cannot be denied to be included, and to which you, or those whose interests and prejudices you have espoused, have contrived to annex a certain degree of unpopularity, in so much that the name of it has contracted a dyslogistic quality—has become a bad name.
Take, for example, improvement and innovation: under its own name to pass censure on any improvement might be too bold: applied to such an object, any expressions of censure you could employ might lose their force; employing them, you would seem to be running on in the track of self-contradiction and nonsense.
But improvement means something new, and so does innovation. Happily for your purpose, innovation has contracted a bad sense; it means something which is new and bad at the same time. Improvement, it is true, in indicating something new, indicates something good at the same time; and therefore, if the thing in question be good as well as new, innovation is not a proper term for it. However, as the idea of novelty was the only idea originally attached to the term innovation, and the only one which is directly expressed in the etymology of it, you may still venture to employ the word innovation, since no man can readily and immediately convict your appellation of being an improper one upon the face of it.
With the appellation thus chosen for the purpose of passing condemnation on the measure, he by whom it has been brought to view in the character of an improvement, is not (it is true) very likely to be well satisfied: but of this you could not have had any expectation. What you want is a pretence which your own partisans can lay hold of, for the purpose of deducing from it a colourable warrant for passing upon the improvement that censure which you are determined, and they, if not determined, are disposed and intend to pass on it.
Of this instrument of deception, the potency is most deplorable. It is but of late years that so much as the nature of it has in any way been laid before the public: and now that it has been laid before the public, the need there is of its being opposed with effect, and the extreme difficulty of opposing it with effect, are at the same time and in equal degree manifest. In every part of the field of thought and discourse, the effect of language depends upon the principle of association—upon the association formed between words, and those ideas of which, in that way, they have become the signs. But in no small part of the field of discourse, one or other of the two censorial and reciprocally correspondent and opposite affections—the amicable and the hostile—that by which approbation, and that by which disapprobation, is expressed—are associated with the word in question by a tie little less strong than that by which the object in question, be it person or thing—be the thing a real or fictitious entity—be it operation or quality, is associated with that same articulate audible sign and its visible representations.
To diminish the effect of this instrument of deception (for to do it away completely, to render all minds, without exception, at all times insensible to it, seems scarcely possible) must, at any rate, be a work of time. But in proportion as its effect on the understanding, and through that channel on the temper and conduct of mankind, is diminished, the good effect of the exposure will become manifest.
By such of these passion-kindling appellatives as are of the eulogistic cast, comparatively speaking, no bad effect is produced: but by those which are of the dyslogistic, prodigious is the mischievous effect produced, considered in a moral point of view. By a single word or two of this complexion, what hostility has been produced! how intense the feeling of it! how wide the range of it! how full of mischief, in all imaginable shapes, the effects!*
IMPOSTOR TERMS—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—The fallacy which consists in the employment of impostor terms, in some respects resembles that which has been exposed in the preceding chapter; but it is applied chiefly to the defence of things, which under their proper name are manifestly indefensible. Instead, therefore, of speaking of such things under their proper name, the sophist has recourse to some appellative, which, along with the indefensible object, includes some other—generally an object of favour; or at once substitutes an object of approbation for an object of censure. For instance, persecutors in matters of religion have no such word as persecution in their vocabulary: zeal is the word by which they characterize all their actions.
In the employment of this fallacy, two things are requisite:—
1. A fact or circumstance, which, under its proper name, and seen in its true colours, would be an object of censure, and which, therefore, it is necessary to disguise:—(res tegenda.)
2. The appellative which the sophist employs to conceal what would be deemed offensive, or even to bespeak a degree of favour for it by the aid of some happier accessary:—(tegumen.)†
Exposure.—Example: Influence of the Crown.—The sinister influence of the crown is an object which, if expressed by any peculiar and distinctive appellation, would, comparatively speaking, find perhaps but few defenders; but which, so long as no other denomination is employed for the designation of it than the generic term influence, will rarety meet with indiscriminating reprobation.
Corruption,—the term which, in the eyes of those to whom this species of influence is an object of disapprobation, is the appropriate and only single-worded term capable of being employed for the expression of it—is a term of the dyslogistic cast. This, then, by any person whose meaning it is not to join in the condemnation passed on the practice or state of things which is designated, is one that cannot possibly be employed. In speaking of this practice and state of things, he is therefore obliged to go upon the look-out, and find some term, which, at the same time that its claim to the capacity of presenting to view the object in question cannot be contested, shall be of the eulogistic or at least of the neutral cast; and to one or other of these classes belongs the term influence.
Under the term influence, when the crown is considered as the possessor of it, are included two species of influence: the one of them such, that the removal of it could not, without an utter reprobation of the monarchical form of government, be by any person considered as desirable, nor, without the utter destruction of monarchical government, be considered as possible;—the other such—that in the opinion of many persons, the complete destruction or removal of it would, if possible, be desirable,—and that, though consistently with the continuance of the monarchical government, the complete removal of it would not be practicable, yet the diminution of it to such a degree as that the remainder should not be productive of any practically pernicious effects would not be impracticable.
Influence of will on will—influence of understanding on understanding: in this may be seen the distinction on which the utility or noxiousness of the sort of influence in question depends.
In the influence of understanding on understanding, may be seen that influence to which, by whomsoever exercised, on whomsoever exercised, and on what occasion soever exercised, the freest range ought to be left—left, although, as for instance, exercised by the crown, and on the representatives of the people. Not that to this influence it may not happen to be productive of mischief to any amount; but that because without this influence scarce any good could be accomplished, and because, when it is left free, disorder cannot present itself without leaving the door open at least for the entrance of the remedy.
The influence of understanding on understanding is, in a word, no other than the influence of human reason—a guide which, like other guides, is liable to miss its way, or dishonestly to recommend a wrong course, but which is the only guide of which the nature of the case is susceptible.
Under the British constitution, to the crown belongs either the sole management, or a principal and leading part of the management of the public business: and it is only by the influence of understanding on understanding, or by the influence of will on will, that by any person or persons, except by physical force immediately applied, anything can be done.
To the execution of the ordinary mass of duties belonging to the crown, the influence of will on will, so long as the persons on whom it is exercised are the proper persons, is necessary. On all persons to whom it belongs to the crown to give orders, this species of influence is necessary; for it is only in virtue of this species of influence that orders, considered as delivered from a superordinate to a subordinate—considered in a word as orders, in contradistinction to mere suggestions, or arguments operating by the influence of understanding on understanding,—can be productive of any effect.
Thus far, then, in the case of influence of will on will, as well as in the case of influence of understanding on understanding, no rational and consistent objection can be made to the use of influence. In either case, its title to the epithet legitimate influence is above dispute.
The case, among others, in which the title of the influence of the crown is open to dispute—the case in which the epithet sinister, or any other mark of disapprobation, may be bestowed upon it (bestowed upon the bare possession, and without need of reference to the particular use and application which on any particular occasion may happen to be made of it,)—is that where, being of that sort which is exercised by will on will, the person on whom on the occasion in question it is exercised, is either a member of parliament, or a person possessed of an electoral vote with reference to a seat in parliament.
The ground on which this species of influence thus exercised is, by those by whom it is spoken of with disapprobation, represented as sinister, and deserving of that disapprobation, is simply this:—viz. that in so far as this influence is efficient, the will professed to be pronounced is not in truth the will of him whose will it professes to be, but the will of him in whom the influence originates, and from whom it proceeds: in so much, that if, for example, every member of parliament without exception were in each house under the dominion of the influence of the crown, and in every individual instance that influence were effectual,—the monarchy, instead of being the limited sort of monarchy it professes to be, would be in effect an absolute one—in form alone a limited one; nor so much as in form a limited one any longer than it happened to be the pleasure of the monarch that it should continue to be so.
The functions attached to the situation of a member of parliament may be included, most or all of them, under three denominations—the legislative, the judicial, and the inquisitorial: the legislative, in virtue of which, in each House, each member that pleases takes a part in the making of laws; the judicial, which, whether penal cases or cases non-penal be considered, is not exercised to any considerable extent but by the House of Lords; and the inquisitorial, the exercise of which is performed by an inquiry into facts, with a view to the exercise either of legislative authority, or of judicial authority, or both, whichever the case may be found to require. To the exercise of either branch may be referred what is done, when, on the ground of some defect either in point of moral or intellectual fitness, or both, application is made by either house for the removal of any member or members of the executive branch of the official establishment—any servant or servants of the crown.
But, for argument’s sake, suppose the abovementioned extreme case to be realized, all these functions are equally nugatory. Whatever law is acceptable to the crown, will be not only introduced but carried; no law that is not acceptable to the crown, will be so much as introduced: every judgment that is acceptable to the crown will be pronounced; no judgment that is not acceptable to the crown will be pronounced: every inquiry that is acceptable to the crown will be made; no inquiry that is not acceptable to the crown will be made: and in particular, let, on the part of the servants of the crown, any or all of them, misconduct in every imaginable shape be ever so enormous, no application that is not acceptable to the crown will ever be made for their removal; that is, no such application will ever be made at all: for in this state of things, supposing it, in the instance of any servant of the crown, to be the pleasure of the crown to remove him, he will be removed of course; nor can any such application be productive of anything better than needless loss of time.
Raised to the pitch supposed in this extreme case, there are not, it is supposed, many men in the country, by whom the influence of the crown, of that sort which is exercised by the will of the crown on the wills of members of parliament, would not be really regarded as coming under the denomination of sinister influence; not so much as a single one by whom its title to that denomination would be openly denied.
But among members of parliament, many there are on whom, beyond possibility of denial, this sort of influence—influence of will on will—is exerted: since no man can be in possession of any desirable situation from which he is removable, without its being exerted on him; say rather, without its exerting itself on him: for to the production of the full effect of influence, no act, no express intimation of will on the part of any person, is in any such situation necessary.
Here, then, comes the grand question in dispute. In some opinions, of that sort of influence of will on will, exercising itself from the crown on a member of parliament, or at any rate on a member of the House of Commons, composed of the elected representatives of the people, not any the least particle is necessary—not any the least particle is in any way beneficial—not any the least particle, in so far as it is operative, can be other than pernicious.
In the language of those by whom this opinion is held, every particle of such influence is sinister influence, corrupt or corruptive influence, or, in one word, corruption.
Others there are, in whose opinion, or at any rate, if not in their opinion, in whose language, of that influence thus actually exercising itself, the whole, or some part at any rate, is not only innoxious but beneficial, and not only beneficial but—to the maintenance of the constitution in a good and healthful state—absolutely necessary: and to this number must naturally be supposed to belong all those on whom this obnoxious species of influence is actually exercising itself.
VAGUE GENERALITIES—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—Vague generalities comprehend a numerous class of fallacies, resorted to by those who, in preference to the most particular and determinate terms and expressions which the nature of the case in question admits of, employ others more general and indeterminate.
As expression is vague and ambiguous when it designates, by one and the same appellative, an object which may be good or bad, according to circumstances; and if, in the course of an inquiry touching the qualities of such an object, such an expression is employed without a recognition of this distinction, the expression operates as a fallacy.
Take, for instance, the terms, government, laws, morals, religion. The genus comprehended in each of these terms may be divided into two species—the good and bad; for no one can deny that there have been and still are in the world, bad governments, bad laws, bad systems of morals, and bad religions. The bare circumstance, therefore, of a man’s attacking government or law, morals or religion, does not of itself afford the slightest presumption that he is engaged in anything blameable: if his attack is only directed against that which is bad in each, his efforts may be productive of good to any extent.
This essential distinction the defender of abuse takes care to keep out of sight, and boldly imputes to his antagonist an intention to subvert all governments, laws, morals or religion.
But it is in the way of insinuation, rather than in the form of direct assertion, that the argument is in this case most commonly brought to bear. Propose anything with a view to the improvement of the existing practice in relation to government at large, to the law, or to religion, he will treat you with an oration on the utility and necessity of government, of law, or of religion. To what end? To the end that of your own accord you may draw the inference which it is his desire you should draw, even that what is proposed has in its tendency something which is prejudicial to one or other or all of these objects of general regard. Of the truth of the intimation thus conveyed, had it been made in the form of a direct assertion or averment, some proof might naturally have been looked for: by a direct assertion, a sort of notice is given to the hearer or reader to prepare himself for something in the shape of proof; but when nothing is asserted, nothing is on the one hand offered, nothing on the other expected, to be proved.
Exposure.—Among the several cloudy appellatives which have been commonly employed as cloaks for misgovernment, there is none more conspicuous in this atmosphere of illusion than the word Order.
The word order is in a peculiar degree adapted to the purpose of a cloak for tyranny—the word order is more extensive than law, or even than government.
But, what is still more material, the word order is of the eulogistic cast; whereas the words government and law, howsoever the things signified may have been taken in the lump for subjects of praise, the complexion of the signs themselves is still tolerably neutral: just as is the case with the words constitution and institutions.
Thus, whether the measure or arrangement be a mere transitory measure or a permanent law—if it be a tyrannical one, be it ever so tyrannical, in the word order you have a term not only wide enough, but in every respect better adapted than any other which the language can supply, to serve as a cloak for it. Suppose any number of men, by a speedy death or a lingering one, destroyed for meeting one another for the purpose of obtaining a remedy for the abuses by which they are suffering—what nobody can deny is, that by their destruction, order is maintained; for the worst order is as truly order as the best. Accordingly, a clearance of this sort having been effected, suppose in the House of Commons a Lord Castlereagh, or in the House of Lords a Lord Sidmouth, to stand up and insist, that by a measure so undeniably prudential order was maintained, with what truth could they be contradicted? And who is there that would have the boldness to assert that order ought not to be maintained?
To the word order, and the word good, the strength of the checks, if any there were, that were thus applied to tyranny, would be but little if at all increased. By the word good, no other idea is brought to view than that of the sentiment of approbation, as attached by the person by whom it is employed to the object designated by the substantive to which this adjunct is applied. Order is any arrangement which exists with reference to the object in question;—good order is that order, be it what it may, which it is my wish to be thought to approve of.
Take the state of things under Nero, under Caligula: with as indisputable propriety might the word order be applied to it, as to the state of things at present in Great Britain or the American United States.
What in the eyes of Bonaparte was good order? That which it had been his pleasure to establish.
By the adjunct social, the subject order is perhaps rendered somewhat the less fit for the use of tyrants, but not much. Among the purposes to which the word social is employed, is indeed that of bringing to view a state of things favourable to the happiness of society: but a purpose to which it is also employed, is that of bringing to view a state of things no otherwise considered than as having place in society. By the war which in the Roman history bears the name of the social war, no great addition to the happiness of society was ever supposed to be made; yet it was not the less a social one.
As often as any measure is brought forward having for its object the making any the slightest defalcation from the amount of the sacrifice made of the interest of the many to the interest of the few, social is the adjunct by which the order of things to which it is pronounced hostile, is designated.
By a defalcation made from any part of the mass of factitious delay, vexation, and expense, out of which, and in proportion to which, lawyers’ profit is made to flow—by any defalcation made from the mass of needless and worse than useless emolument to office, with or without service or pretence of service—by any addition endeavoured to be made to the quantity, or improvement in the quality of service rendered, or time bestowed in service rendered in return for such emolument—by every endeavour that has for its object the persuading the people to place their fate at the disposal of any other agents than those in whose hands breach of trust is certain, due fulfilment of it morally and physically impossible,—social order is said to be endangered, and threatened to be destroyed.
Proportioned to the degree of clearness with which the only true and justifiable end of government is held up to view in any discourse that meets the public eye, is the danger and inconvenience to which those rulers are exposed, who, for their own particular interest, have been engaged in an habitual departure from that only legitimate and defensible course. Hence it is, that, when compared with the words order, maintenance of order, the use even of such words as happiness, welfare, well-being, is not altogether free from danger, wide-extending and comparatively indeterminate as the import of them is: to the single word happiness, substitute the phrase greatest happiness of the greatest number, the description of the end becomes more determinate and even instructive, the danger and inconvenience to misgovernment and its authors and its instruments still more alarming and distressing; for then, for a rule whereby to measure the goodness or badness of a government, men are referred to so simple and universally apprehensible a standard as the numeration table. By the pointing men’s attentions to this end, and the clearness of the light thus cast upon it, the importance of such words as the word order, which by their obscurity substitute to the offensive light the useful and agreeable darkness, is more and more intimately felt.
In the same way, again, Establishment is a word in use, to protect the bad parts of establishments, by charging those who wish to remove or alter them, with the wish to subvert all establishments, or all good establishments.*
The constitution has some good points; it has some bad ones: it gives facility, and, until reform—radical reform—shall have been accomplished, security and continual increase to waste, depredation, oppression, and corruption in every department, and in every variety of shape.
Now, in their own name respectively, waste depredation, oppression, corruption, cannot be toasted: gentlemen would not cry, Waste for ever! Depredation for ever! Oppression for ever! Corruption for ever! But The constitution for ever! this a man may cry, and does cry, and makes a merit of it.
Of this instrument of rhetoric, the use is at least as old as Aristotle. As old as Aristotle is even the receipt for making it; for Aristotle has himself given it: and of how much longer standing the use of it may have been, may baffle the sagacity of a Mitford to determine. How sweet are gall and honey! how white are soot and snow!
Matchless Constitution! there’s your sheet-anchor! there’s your true standard!—rally round the constitution;—that is, rally round waste, rally round depredation, rally round oppression, rally round corruption, rally round election terrorism, rally round imposture—imposture on the hustings, imposture in Honourable House, imposture in every judicatory.
Connected with this toasting and this boasting, is a theory, such as a Westminster or Eton boy on the sixth form, aye, or his grandmother, might be ashamed of. For among those who are loudest in crying out theory (as often as any attempt is made at reasoning, any appeal made to the universally known and indisputable principles of human nature,) always may some silly sentimental theory be found.
The constitution,—why must it not be looked into?—why is it, that under pain of being ipso facto anarchist convict, we must never presume to look at it otherwise than with shut eyes? Because it was the work of our ancestors,—of ancestors, of legislators, few of whom could so much as read, and those few had nothing before them that was worth the reading. First theoretical supposition, wisdom of barbarian ancestors.
When from their ordinary occupation, their order of the day, the cutting of one another’s throats, or those of Welchmen, Scotchmen, or Irishmen, they could steal now and then a holiday, how did they employ it? In cutting Frenchmen’s throats in order to get their money: this was active virtue:—leaving Frenchmen’s throats uncut, was indolence, slumber, inglorious ease. Second theoretical supposition, virtue of barbarian ancestors.
Thus fraught with habitual wisdom and habitual virtue, they sat down and devised; and setting before them the best ends, and pursuing those best ends by the best means, they framed—in outline at any rate—they planned and executed our Matchless Constitution—the constitution as it stands: and may it for ever stand!
Planned and executed? On what occasion? on none. At what place? at none. By whom? by nobody.
At no time? Oh yes, says everything-as-it-should-be Blackstone. Oh yes, says Whig after Whig, after the charming commentator; anno Domini 1660, then it is that it was in its perfection, about fourteen years before James the Second mounted the throne with a design to govern in politics as they do in Morocco, and in religion as they do at Rome; to govern without parliament, or in spite of parliament: a state of things for which, at this same era of perfection, a preparation was made by a parliament, which being brought into as proper a state of corruption as if Lord Castlereagh had had the management of it, was kept on foot for several years together, and would have been kept a-foot till the whole system of despotism had been settled, but for the sham popish plot by which the fortunate calumny and subornation of the Whigs defeated the bigotry and tyranny of the Tories.
What, then, says the only true theory—that theory which is uniformly confirmed by all experience?
On no occasion, in no place, at no time, by no person possessing any adequate power, has any such end in view as the establishing the greatest happiness of the greatest number, been hitherto entertained: on no occasion, on the part of any such person, has there been any endeavour, any wish for any happiness other than his own and that of his own connexions, or any care about the happiness or security of the subject-many, any further than his own has been regarded as involved in it.
Among men of all classes, from the beginning of those times of which we have any account in history—among all men of all classes, an universal struggle and contention on the part of each individual for his own security and the means and instruments of his own happiness—for money, for power, for reputation natural and factitious, for constant ease, and incidental vengeance. In the course of this struggle, under favourable circumstances connected with geographical situation, this and that little security has been caught at, obtained, and retained by the subject-many, against the conjoined tyranny of the monarch and his aristocracy. No plan pursued by anybody at any time—the good established, as well as the bad remaining, the result of an universal scramble, carried on in the storm of contending passions under favour of opportunity—at each period, some advantages which former periods had lost, others, which they had not gained.
But the only regular and constant means of security being the influence exercised by the will of the people on the body which in the same breath admit themselves and deny themselves to be their agents, and that influence having against it and above it the corruptive and counter-influence of the ruling few, the servants of the monarchy and the members of the aristocracy—and the quantity of the corruptive matter by which that corruptive influence operates, being every day on the increase; hence it is, that while all names remain unchanged, the whole state of things grows every day worse and worse, and so will continue to do, till even the forms of parliament are regarded as a useless incumbrance, and pure despotism, unless arrested by radical reform, takes up the sceptre without disguise.
While the matter of waste and corruption is continually accumulating—while the avalanche composed of it is continually rolling on—that things should continue long in their present state seems absolutely impossible. Three states of things contend for the ultimate result:—despotic monarchy undisguised by form; representative democracy under the form of monarchy; representative democracy under its own form.
In this, as in every country, the government has been as favourable to the interests of the ruling few, and thence as unfavourable to the general interests of the subject-many,—or, in one word, as bad—as the subject-many have endured to see it,—have persuaded themselves to suffer it to be. No abuse has, except under a sense of necessity, been parted with—no remedy, except under the like pressure, applied. But under the influence of circumstances in a great degree peculiar to this country, at one time or another the ruling few have found themselves under the necessity of sacrificing this or that abuse—of instituting, or suffering to grow up, this or that remedy.
It is thus, that under favour of the contest between Whigs and Tories, the liberty of the press, the foundation of all other liberties, has been suffered to grow up and continue. But this liberty of the press is not the work of institution, it is not the work of law: what there is of it that exists, exists not by means but in spite, of law. It is all of it contrary to law: by law there is no more liberty of the press in England, than in Spain or Morocco. It is not the constitution of the government, it is not the force of the law; it is the weakness of the law we have to thank for it. It is not the Whigs that we have to thank for it, any more than the Tories. The Tories—that is, the supporters of monarchy—would destroy it, simply assured of their never being in a condition to have need of it: the Whigs would with equal readiness destroy it, or concur in destroying it, could they possess that same comfortable assurance. But it has never been in their power; and to that impotence is it that we are indebted for their zeal for the liberty of the press and the support they have given to the people in the exercise of it. Without this arm they could not fight their battles; without this for a trumpet, they could not call the people to their aid.
Such corruption was not, in the head of any original framer of the constitution, the work of design: but were this said without explanation, an opinion that would naturally be supposed to be implied in it, is, that the constitution was originally in some one head, the whole, or the chief part of it, the work of design. The evil consequence of a notion pronouncing it the work of design would be, that, such a design being infinitely beyond the wisdom and virtue of any man in the present times, a planner would be looked out for in the most distant age that could be found;—thus the ancestor-wisdom fallacy would be the ruling principle, and the search would be fruitless and endless. But the non-existence of any determinate design in the formation of the constitution may be proved from history. The House of Commons is the characteristic and vital principle. Anno 1265, the man by whom the first germ was planted was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, a foreigner and a rebel. In this first call to the people, there was no better nor steadier design than that of obtaining momentary support for rebellion. The practice of seeing and hearing deputies from the lower orders before money was attempted to be taken out of their pockets, having thus sprung up, in the next reign Edward the First saw his convenience in conforming to it. From this time till Henry the Sixth’s, instances in which laws were enacted by kings, sometimes without consulting Commons—sometimes without consulting them or Lords, are not worth looking out. Henry the Sixth’s was the first reign in which the House of Commons had really a part in legislation: till then, they had no part in the penning of any laws; no law was penned till after they were dissolved. Here, then, so late as about 1450 (between 1422 and 1461,) the House of Commons, as a branch of the legislature, was an innovation: till then (anno 1450,) constitution (if the House of Commons be a part of it,) there was none, Parliament? Yes: consisting of king and lords, legislators; deputies of commons, petitioners. Even of this aristocratical parliament, the existence was precarious: indigence or weakness produced its occasional reproduction; more prudence and good fortune would have sufficed for throwing it into disuse and oblivion: like the obsolete legislative bodies of France and Spain, it would have been reduced to a possibility. All this while, and down to the time when the reassembling of parliaments was imperfectly secured by indeterminate laws, occasioned by the temporary nature of pecuniary supplies, and the constant cravings of royal paupers, had the constitution been a tree, and both Houses branches, either or both might have been lopped off, and the tree remain a tree still.*
After the bloody reigns of Henry the Eighth and Mary, and the too short reign of Edward the Sixth, comes that of Elizabeth, who openly made a merit of her wish to govern without parliament: members presuming to think for themselves, and to speak as they thought, were sent to prison for repentance. After the short parliaments produced in the times of James the First and Charles the First by profusion and distress, came the first long parliament. Where is now the constitution? Where the design?—the wisdom? The king having tried to govern without lords or commons, failed: the commons having extorted from the king’s momentary despair, the act which converted them into a perpetual aristocracy, tried to govern without king or lords, and succeeded. In the time of Charles the Second, no design but the king’s design of arbitrary government executed by the instrumentality of seventeen years long parliament. As yet, for the benefit of the people, no feasible design but in the seat of supreme power; and there, conception of any such design scarce in human nature.
The circumstance to which the cry of Matchless Constitution is in a great degree indebted for its pernicious efficiency, is—that there was a time in which the assertion contained in it was incontrovertibly true: till the American colonies threw off the yoke, and became independent states; no political state possessed of a constitution equalling it or approaching it in goodness, was anywhere to be found.
But from this its goodness in a comparative state, no well-grounded argument could at any time be afforded against any addition that could at any time be made to its intrinsic goodness. Persons happier than myself are not to be found anywhere: in this observation, supposing it true, what reason is there for my forbearing to make myself as much happier than I am at present, as I can make myself?
This pre-eminence is therefore nothing to the purpose; for of the pains taken in this way to hold it up to view, the design can be no other than to prevent it from being ever greater than it is.
But another misfortune is, that it is every day growing less and less: so that while men keep on vaunting this spurious substitute to positive goodness, sooner or later it will vanish altogether.
The supposition always is, that it is the same one day as another. But never for two days together has this been true. Since the Revolution took place, never, for two days together, has it been the same: every day it has been worse than the preceding; for by every day, in some way or other, addition has been made to the quantity of the matter of corruption—to that matter by which the effect of the only efficient cause of good government, the influence of the people, has been lessened.
A pure despotism may continue in the same state from the beginning to the end of time: by the same names, the same things may be always signified. But a mixed monarchy, such as the English, never can continue the same: the names may continue in use for any length of time; but by the same names, the same state of things is never for two days together signified. The quantity of the matter of corruption in the hands of the monarch being every day greater and greater, the practice in the application of it to its purpose, and thence the skill with which application is made of it on the one hand, and the patience and indifference with which the application of it is witnessed, being every day greater and greater, the comparative quantity of the influence of the people, and of the security it affords, is every day growing less and less.
While the same names continue, no difference in the things signified is ever perceived, but by the very few, who having no interest in being themselves deceived, nor in deceiving others, turn their attention to the means of political improvement. Hence it was, that with a stupid indifference or acquiescence the Roman people sat still, while their constitution, a bad and confused mixture of aristocracy and democracy, was converted into a pure despotism.
With the title of representatives of the people, the people behold a set of men meeting in the House of Commons, originating the laws by which they are taxed, and concurring in all the other laws by which they are oppressed. Only in proportion as these their nominal representatives are chosen by the free suffrages of the people, and, in case of their betraying the people, are removable by them, can such representatives be of any use. But except in a small number of instances—too small to be on any one occasion soever capable of producing any visible effect—neither are these pretended representatives ever removable by them, nor have they ever been chosen by them. If, instead of a House of Commons and a House of Lords, there were two Houses of Lords and no House of Commons, the ultimate effect would be just the same. If it depended on the vote of a reflecting man, whether, instead of the present House of Commons, there should be another House of Lords, his vote would be for the affirmative: the existing delusion would be completely dissipated, and the real state of the nation be visible to all eyes; and a deal of time and trouble which is now expended in those debates, which, for the purpose of keeping on foot the delusion, are still suffered, would be saved.
As to representation, no man can even now be found so insensible to shame, as to affirm that any real representation has place: but though there is no real representation, there is, it is said, a virtual one; and with this, those who think it worth their while to keep up the delusion, and those who are, or act and speak as if they were deluded, are satisfied. If those who are so well satisfied with a virtual representation, which is not real, would be satisfied with a like virtual receipt of taxes on the one part, and a virtual payment of taxes on the other, all would be well. But this unfortunately is not the case: the payment is but too real, while the falsity of the only ground on which the exaction of it is so much as pretended to be justified, is matter of such incontestable verity, and such universal notoriety, that the assertion of its existence is a cruel mockery.
Balance of Power.
In general, those by whom this phrase has been used, have not known what they means by it: it has had no determinate meaning in their minds. Should any man ever find for it any determinate meaning, it will be this—that of the three branches between which, in this constitution, the aggregate powers of government are divided, it depends upon the will of each to prevent the two others from doing anything—from giving effect to any proposed measure. How, by such arrangement, evil should be produced, is easy enough to say; for of this state of things one sure effect is—that whatsoever is in the judgment of any one of them contrary to its own sinister interest, will not be done; on the other hand, notwithstanding the supposed security, whatsoever measure is by them all seen or supposed to be conducive to the aggregate interest of them all, will be carried into effect, how plainly soever it may be contrary to the universal interest of the people. No abuse, in the preservation of which they have each an interest, will ever, so long as they can help it, be removed—no improvement, in the prevention of which any one of them has an interest, will ever be made.
The fact is, that wherever on this occasion the word balance is employed, the sentence is mere nonsense. By the word balance in its original import, is meant a pair of scales. In an arithmetical account, by an ellipsis to which, harsh as it is, custom has given its sanction, it is employed to signify that sum by which the aggregate of the sums that stand on one side of an account, exceeds the aggregate of the sums that stand on the other side of that same account. To the idea which, on the sort of occasion in question, the word balance is employed to bring to view, this word corresponds not in any degree in either of these senses. To accord with the sort of conception which, if any, it seems designed to convey, the word should be, not balance, but equipoise. When two bodies are so connected, that whenever the one is in motion, the other is in motion likewise, and that in such sort, that in proportion as one rises the other falls, and yet at the moment in question no such motion has place, the two bodies may be said to be in equipoise; one weighs exactly as much as the other. But of the figure of speech here in question, the object is not to present a clear view of the matter, but to prevent any such view of it from being taken: to this purpose, therefore the non-sensical expression serves better than any significant one. The ideas belonging to the subject are thrown into confusion—the mind’s eye, in its endeavours to see into it is bewildered; and this is what is wanted.
It is by a series of simultaneous operations that the business of government is carried on—by a series of actions: action ceasing, the body-politic, like the body-natural, is at an end. By a balance, if anything, is meant a pair of scales with a weight in each: the scales being even, if the weights are uneven, that in which is the heaviest weight begins to move; it moves downward, and at the same time the other scale with the weight in it moves upwards. All the while this motion is going on, no equipoise has place—the two forces do not balance each other: if the wish is that they should balance each other, then into the scale which has in it the lighter weight, must be put such other weight as shall make it exactly equal to the heavier weight; or, what comes to the same thing, a correspondent weight taken from that scale which has in it the heavier weight.
The balance is now restored. The two scales hang even: neither of the two forces preponderates over the other. But with reference to the end in view, or which ought to be in view—the use to be derived from the machine—what is the consequence?—All motion is at an end.
In the case in question, instead of two, as in a common pair of scales, there are three forces, which are supposed, or said to be, antagonizing with one another. But were this all the difference, no conclusive objection to the metaphor could be derived from it; for, from one, and the same fulcrum or fixed point you might have three scales hanging with weights in them, if there were any use in it. In the expression, the image would be more complicated, but in substance it would be still the same.
Pre-eminently indeterminate, indistinct, and confused on every occasion, is the language in which, to the purpose in question, application is made to this image of a balance; and on every occasion, when thus steadily looked into, it will be found to be neither better nor worse than so much nonsense: nothing can it serve for the justification of—nothing can it serve for the explanation of.
The fallacy often assumes a more elaborate shape:—“The constitution is composed of three forces, which, antagonizing with each other, cause the business of government to be carried on in a course which is different from the course in which it would be carried on if directed solely by any one, and is that which results from the joint influence of them all, each one of them contributing in the same proportion to the production of it.”
Composition and resolution of forces: this image, though not so familiar as the other, is free from the particular absurdity which attaches upon the other: but upon the whole, the matter will not be found much mended by it. In proportion as it is well conducted, the business of government is uniformly carried on in a direction tending to a certain end—the greatest happiness of the greatest number:—in proportion as they are well conducted, the operations of all the agents concerned, tend to that same end. In the case in question, here are three forces, each tending to a certain end: take any one of these forces; take the direction in which it acts; suppose that direction tending to the same exclusively legitimate end, and suppose it acting alone, undisturbed, and unopposed, the end will be obtained by it: add now another of these forces; suppose it acting exactly in the same direction, the same end will be attained with the same exactness, and attained so much the sooner: and so again, if you add the third. But that second force—if the direction in which it acts be supposed to be ever so little different from that exclusively legitimate direction in which the first force acts, the greater the difference, the further will the aggregate or compound force be from attaining the exact position of that legitimate end.
But in the case in question, how is it with the three forces? So far from their all tending to that end, the end they tend to is in each instance as opposite to that end as possible. True it is, that amongst these three several forces, that sort of relation really has place by which the sort of compromise in question is produced: a sort of direction which is not exactly the same as that which would be taken on the supposition that any one of the three acted alone, clear of the influence of both the others. But with all this complication, what is the direction taken by the machine? Not that which carries it to the only legitimate end, but that which carries it to an end not very widely distant from the exact opposite one.
In plain language, here are two bodies of men, and one individual more powerful than the two bodies put together—say three powers—each pursuing its own interest, each interest a little different from each of the two others, and not only different from, but opposite to, that of the greatest number of the people. Of the substance of the people, each gets to itself and devours as much as it can: each of them, were it alone, would be able to get more of that substance, and accordingly would get more of that substance, than it does at present; but in its endeavours to get that more, it would find itself counter-acted by the two others; each, therefore, permits the two others to get their respective shares, and thus it is that harmony is preserved.
Balance of forces.—A case there is, in which this metaphor, this image, may be employed with propriety: this is the case of international law and international relations. Supposing it attainable, what is meant by a balance of forces, or a balance of power, is a legitimate object—an object, the effectuation of which is beneficial to all the parties interested. What is that object? It is, in one word, rest—rest, the absence of all hostile motion, together with the absence of all coercion exercised by one of the parties over another—that rest, which is the fruit of mutual and universal independence. Here then, as between nation and nation, that rest which is the result of well-balanced forces is peace and prosperity. But on the part of the several official authorities and persons by whose operations the business of government in its several departments is carried on, is it prosperity that rest has for its consequence? No: on the contrary, of universal rest, in the forces of the body-politic as in those of the body-natural, the consequence is death. No action on the part of the officers of government, no money collected in their hands—no money, no subsistence; no subsistence, no service;—no service, everything falls to pieces, anarchy takes the place of government, government gives place to anarchy.
The metaphor of the balance, though so far from being applicable to the purpose in question, is in itself plain enough: it presents an image. The metaphor of the composition of forces is far from being so: it presents not any image. To all but the comparatively few, to whom the principles of mechanics, together with those principles of geometry that are associated with them, are thus far familiar, they present no conception at all: the conversion of the two tracts described by two bodies meeting with one another at an angle formed by the two sides of a parallelogram, into the tract described by the diagonal of the parallelogram, is an operation never performed for any purpose of ordinary life, and incapable of being performed otherwise than by some elaborate mechanism constructed for this and no other purpose.
When the metaphor here in question is employed, the three forces in question—the three powers in question, are, according to the description given of them, the power of the Monarch, the power of the House of Lords, and the power of the People. Even according to this statement, no more than as to a third part of it would the interest of the people be promoted: as to two thirds, it would be sacrificed. For example: out of every £300 raised upon the whole people, one hundred would be raised for the sake, and applied to the use of the whole people; the two other thirds, for the sake and to the use of the two confederative powers—to wit, the monarch and the House of Lords.
Not very advantageous to the majority of the people, not very eminently conducive to good government, would be this state of things; in a prodigious degree, however, more conducive would it be, than is the real state of things. For, in the respect in question, what is this real state of things? The power described as above by the name of the power of the people, is, instead of being the power of the people, the power of the monarch, and the power of the House of Lords, together with that of the rest of the aristocracy under that other name.
This is a Whig’s cry, as often as it is a time to look bold, and make the people believe that he had rather be hanged than not stand by them. What? a revolution for the people? No: but, what is so much better, a revolution for the Whigs—a revolution of 1688. There is your revolution—the only one that should ever be thought of without horror. A revolution for discarding kings? No: only a revolution for changing them. There would be some use in changing them—there would be something to be got by it. When their forefathers of 1688 changed James for William and Mary, William got a good slice of the cake, and they got the rest among them. If, instead of being changed, kings were discarded, what would the Whigs get by it? They would get nothing;—they would lose not a little: they would lose their seats, unless they really sat and did the business they were sent to do, and then they would lose their ease.
The real uses of this revolution were the putting an end to the tyranny, political and religious, of the Stuarts:—the political, governing without parliament, and forcing the people to pay taxes without even so much as the show of consenting to them by deputies chosen by themselves:—the religious, forcing men to join in a system of religion which they believed not to be true.
But the deficiencies of the revolution were, leaving the power of governing, and in particular that of taxing, in the hands of men whose interest it was to make the amount of the taxes excessive, and to exercise misrule to a great extent in a great variety of other ways.
So far as by security given to all, and thence, by check put to the power of the crown, the particular interest of the aristocratical leaders in the revolution promised to be served, such security was established, such check was applied. But where security could not be afforded to the whole community without trenching on the power of the ruling few, there it was denied. Freedom of election, as against the despotic power of the monarch, was established;—freedom of election, as against the disguised despotism of the aristocracy, Tories and Whigs together, remained excluded.
ALLEGORICAL IDOLS—(ad imaginationem.)
Exposition.—The use of this fallacy is the securing to persons in office, respect independent of good behaviour. This is in truth only a modification of the fallacy of vague generalities, exposed in the preceding chapter. It consists in substituting for men’s proper official denomination, the name of some fictitious entity, to whom, by customary language, and thence opinion, the attribute of excellence has been attached.
Examples:—1. Government; for members of the governing body. 2. The law; for lawyers. 3. The church; for churchmen. The advantage is, the obtaining for them more respect than might be bestowed on the class under its proper name.
Exposure.—I. Government. In its proper sense, in which it designates the set of operations, it is true, and universally acknowledged, that everything valuable to man depends upon it: security against evil in all shapes, from external adversaries as well as domestic.
II. Law: execution of the law.—By this it is that men receive whatsoever protection they receive against domestic adversaries and disturbers of their peace. By government—law—the law—are therefore brought to view the naturalest and worthiest objects of respect and attachment within the sphere of a man’s observance: and for conciseness and ornament (not to speak of deception) the corresponding fictitious entities are feigned, and represented as constantly occupied in the performance of the above-mentioned all-preserving operations. As to the real persons so occupied, if they were presented in their proper character, whether collectively or individually, they would appear clothed in their real qualities, good and bad together. But, as presented by means of this contrivance, they are decked out in all their good and acceptable qualities, divested of all their bad and unacceptable ones. Under the name of the god Æsculapius, Alexander the impostor, his self-constituted high priest, received to his own use the homage and offerings addressed to his god. Acquired, as it is believed, comparatively within late years, this word government has obtained a latitude of import in a peculiar degree adapted to the sinister purpose here in question. From abstract, the signification has become, as the phrase is, concrete. From the system, in all its parts taken together, it has been employed to denote the whole assemblage of the individuals employed in the carrying on of the system—of the individuals who, for the time being, happen to be members of the official establishment, and of these more particularly, and even exclusively, such of them as are members of the administrative branch of that establishment. For the designation either of the branch of the system, or of the members that belong to it, the language had already furnished the word administration. But the word administration would not have suited the purpose of this fallacy: accordingly, by those who feel themselves to have an interest in the turning it to account, to the proper word administration, the too ample, and thence improper word government, has been, probably by a mixture of design and accident, commonly substituted.
This impropriety of speech being thus happily and successfully established, the fruits of it are gathered in every day. Point out an abuse—point to this or that individual deriving a profit from the abuse: up comes the cry, “You are an enemy to government!” then, with a little news in advance, “Your endeavour is to destroy government!” Thus you are a Jacobin, an anarchist, and so forth: and the greater the pains you take for causing government to fulfil, to the greatest perfection, the professed ends of its institution the greater the pains taken to persuade those who wish, or are content to be deceived, that you wish and endeavour to destroy it.
III. Church.—This is a word particularly well adapted to the purpose of this fallacy. To the elements of confusion shared by it with government and law, it adds divers proper to itself. The significations indifferently attachable to the word Church are—1. Place of worship; 2. Inferior officers engaged by government to take a leading part in the ceremonies of worship;* 3. All the people considered as worshippers; 4. The superior officers of government by whom the inferior, as above, are engaged and managed; 5. The rules and customs respecting those ceremonies.
The use of this fallacy to churchmen, is the giving and securing to them a share of coercive power; their sole public use, and even original destination, being the serving the people in the capacity of instructors—instructing them in a branch of learning, now more thoroughly learnt without than from them.† In the phrase “church and state,” churchmen are represented as superior to all non-churchmen. By “church and king,” churchmen are represented as superior to the king. Fox and Norfolk were struck off the the list of privy councillors for drinking “The sovereignty of the people:” the reduction would be greater, were all struck off who have ever drank “Church and king.” According to Bishop Warburton’s Alliance, the people in the character of the church, meeting with all themselves in the character of the state, agreed to invest the expounders of the sacred volume with a large share of the sovereignty. Against this system, the lawyers, their only rivals, were estopped from pleading its seditiousness in bar. In Catholic countries, the churchmen who compose Holy Mother Church possess one beautiful female, by whom the people are governed in the field of spiritual law, within which has been inclosed as much as possible of profane law. By Protestants, on Holy Mother Church the title of Whore of Babylon has been conferred: they recognise no Holy Mother Church. But in England, churchmen, a large portion of them, compose two Almæ Matres Academiæ—kind Mother Academies or Universities. By ingenuity such as this, out of “lubberly post-masters’ boys” in any number, one “sweet Mrs. Anne Page” is composed, fit to be decked out in elements of amiability to any extent. The object and fruit of this ingenuity is the affording protection to all abuses and imperfections attached to this part of the official establishment. Church being so excellent a being, none but a monster can be an enemy, a foe to her. Monster, i. e. anarchist, Jacobin, leveller, &c. To every question having reform or improvement in view as to this part of the official establishment, the answer is one and the same: “You are an enemy to the church.” For instance, among others, to such questions as follow:—1. What does this part of the official establishment do, but read or give further explanation to one book, of which more explanation has been given already than the longest life would suffice to hear? 2. Does not this suppose a people incapable of being taught to read? 3. Would it not be more read if each of them, being able to read, had it constantly by him to read all through, than by their being at liberty some of them to go miles to hear small parts of it? Suppose it admitted, that by the addition of other services conducive to good morals and good government, business for offices not much inferior to the existing ecclesiastical offices might be found, then go on and ask—1. As to the connexion between reward and service, do not the same rules apply to these as to profane offices? 2. Pay unconditioned-for service,—is it more effectual in producing service here than there? 3. Here more than there,—can a man serve in a place without being there? 4. Here, as there, is not a man’s relish for the business proved the greater, the smaller the factitious reward he is content to receive for doing it? 5. The stronger such his relish, is not his service likely to be the better? 6. Over and above what, if anything, is necessary to engage him to render the service, does not every penny contribute to turn him aside to other and expensive occupations, by furnishing him with the means? 7. In Scotland, where there is less pay, is not residence more general, and clerical service more abundant and efficient?
Answer: Enemy!—and, if English-bred, Apostate!
1. In Scotland, does any evil arise from the non-existence of bishops? 2. In the House of Lords, any good? 3. Is not non-attendance there more general than even non-residence elsewhere? 4. In judiciali, does any bishop ever attend, who is not laid hold of after reading prayers? 5. In legislatura, ever, except where personal interest wears the mask of gratitude? 6. Such non-attendance, is it not felt rather as a relief than as a grievance?
Answer: “Enemy to the church!”
1. In Ireland, what is the use of Protestant priests to Catholics, who will neither hear nor see them? to whom they are known but as plunderers? 2. By such exemption from service, is not value of preferment increased? 3. By patrons, as by incumbents, are not bishopricks thus estimated? 4. Is it not there a maxim, that service and pay should be kept in separate hands? 5. In eyes not less religious than gracious, is not the value of religion inversely as the labour, as well as directly as the profit? 6. Is not this estimate the root of those scruples, by which oaths imposed to protect Protestantism from being oppressed, are employed in securing to it the pleasure of oppressing?
Answer: “Enemy to the church!”
SWEEPING CLASSIFICATIONS—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—The device of those who employ in the way of fallacy, sweeping classifications, is that of ascribing to an individual object (person or thing) any properties of another, only because the object in question is ranked in the class with that other, by being designated by the same name.
In its nature, this fallacy is equally applicable to undeserved eulogy as to undeserved censure; but it is more frequently applied to the purpose of censure, its efficiency being greater in that direction.
Exposure.—Example 1: Kings—Crimes of Kings.—In the heat of the French revolution, when the lot of Louis XVI. was standing between life and death, among the means employed for bringing about the catastrophe that ensued, was the publication of a multitude of inflammatory pamphlets, one of which had for its title “The Crimes of Kings.”
Kings being men, and all men standing exposed to those temptations by which some of them are led into crimes, matter could not be wanting for a book so entitled: and if there are some crimes to the temptation of which men thus elevated stand less exposed than the inferior orders, there are other crimes, to which, perhaps, that elevation renders them but the more prone.
But of the man by whom on that occasion a book with such a title was published, the object, it is but too probable, was to compose out of it this argument: Criminals ought to be punished—kings are criminals—and Louis is a king; therefore Louis ought to be punished.
Example 2: Catholics—Cruelties of Catholics.—Not long ago, in the course, and for the purpose of the controversy on the question, whether that part of the community which is composed of persons of the Catholic persuasion, ought or ought not to be kept any longer in a state of degradation under the predominant sect, a book made its appearance, under the title of “Cruelties of the Catholics.”
Of any such complete success, as the consigning in a body to the fate in which that Catholic king was, with so many of his nearest connexions, involved, all such British subjects as participate with him in that odious name, there could not be much hope: but whatsoever could, by the species of fallacy here in question, be done towards the promoting of it, was done by that publication. The object of it was to keep them still debarred from whatsoever relief remains yet to be administered to the oppressions under which they labour: either it had this object, or it had none.
To the complexion of this argument, and of the mind that could bring it forward, justice will not be done, unless an adequate conception be formed of the practical consequences to which, if to anything, it leads.
Of the Catholics of the present and of all future time, whatsoever be the character, the cruelties, and other enormities committed by persons who in former times were called by the same indefinitely comprehensive name, will still remain what they were. Whatsoever harsh treatment, therefore, this argument warrants the bestowing on these their namesakes at the present time, the same harsh treatment will, from the same argument, continue to receive the same justification, so long as there remains one individual who, consistently with truth, is capable of being characterized by the same name.
Be they what they may, the barbarities of the Catholics of those times had their limits: but of this abhorrer of Catholic barbarities, the barbarity has, in respect of the number of intended victims, no limits other than those of time.
Of the man who, to put an end to the cruelties of kings, did what depended upon him towards extirpating the class of kings, the barbarity, so far as regarded this object, was, comparatively speaking, confined within a very narrow range. All Europe would not have sufficed to supply his scaffold with a dozen victims. But after crushing as many millions of the vermin, whom his piety and his charity marked out for sacrifice, the zeal of the abhorrer of Catholic cruelties would have been in the condition of the tiger whom, in the plains of Southern Africa, a traveller depicted to us as lying breathless with fatigue amidst a flock of antelopes.
In the same injurious device the painter of the crimes of kings might, by a no less conclusive argument, have proved the necessity of crushing the English form of the Protestant religion, and consigning to the fate of Louis XVI. the present head of it.
By order of King James I. two men, whose misfortune it was not to be able to form, in relation to some inexplicable points of technical theology, the same conception that was entertained, or professed to be entertained, by the royal ruler and instructor of his people, were burnt alive.* George IV. not only bears in common with James I. the two different denominations—viz. Protestant of the Church of England, and King of Great Britain—but, as far as marriage can be depended on for proof of filiation, is actually of the same blood and lineage with that royal and triumphant champion of local orthodoxy.
If, indeed, in the authentic and generally received doctrines of the religion in question, there were anything that compelled its professors to burn or otherwise to destroy or ill-treat all or any of those that differed from them, and if by any recent overt-act an adherence to those dissocial doctrines had appeared in practice, in such case the adherence to such dissocial doctrines would afford a just ground for whatsoever measures of security were deemed necessary to guard other men from the effect of such doctrines and such practice.
But by no doctrines of their religion are Catholics compelled to burn or otherwise ill-treat those who differ from them, any more than by the doctrines of the Church of England James I. was compelled to burn those poor Anabaptists.
If from analogy any sincere and instructive use had on this occasion been intended to be derived from different countries professing the same persuasion,—in these our times a much more instructive lesson would be afforded than any that could be derived from even the same country at such different times.
If in Ireland, where three-fourths or more of the population is composed of Catholics, no ill-treatment has, within the memory of man, been bestowed by Catholics, as such, upon Protestants, as such; while in the same country so much ill-treatment has on other accounts been bestowed by each of these persuasions upon the other; it is, it may be said, because the power of doing so with impunity is not in their hands.
But in countries where the Catholic religion is the predominant religion, and in which at the same time, as in our islands, barbarity on the score of heresy was by Catholics exercised according to law, and in the countries in which the exercise of those barbarities was at those times most conspicuous,—of no such barbarities has any instance occurred for a long course of years.*
SHAM DISTINCTIONS—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—Of the device here in view, the nature may be explained by the following direction for the use of it:—
When any existing state of things has too much evil in it to be defensible in toto, or proposals for amendment are too plainly necessary to be rejectible in toto, the evil and the good being nominally distinguished from each other by two corresponding and opposite terms, eulogistic and dyslogistic, but in such sort that, to the nominal line of distinction thus drawn, there corresponds not any determinate real difference,—declare your approbation of the good by its eulogistic name, and thus reserve to yourself the advantage of opposing it without reproach by its dyslogistic name, and so vice versa declare your disapprobation of the evil, &c.
Exposure.—Example 1: Liberty and Licentiousness of the Press.—Take for example the case of the Press.
The press (including under this denomination every instrument employed or employable for the purpose of giving diffusion to the matter of human discourse by visible signs)—the press has two distinguishable uses,—viz. moral and political: moral, consisting in whatsoever check it may be capable of opposing to misconduct in private life—political, in whatsoever check it may be capable of opposing to misconduct in public life, that is, on the part of public men—men actually employed, or aspiring to be employed, in any situation in the public service: opposing viz. by pointing on the persons to whom such misconduct is respectively imputable, a portion more or less considerable of disapprobation and consequent ill-will on the part of the public at large—a portion more or less considerable according to the nature of the case.
If to such misconduct there be no such check at all opposed, as that which it is the nature of the press to apply, the consequence is, that of such misconduct, whatsoever is not included in the prohibitions and eventual punishment provided by law, will range uncontrouled: in which case, so far as concerns the political effect of such exemption from controul, the result is power uncontroulable, arbitrary despotism, in the hands whatsoever they are, in which the powers and functions of government happen to be reposed: and, moreover, in the instance of such misconduct as is included in that system of prohibition and eventual punishment, the controul will be without effect, in so far as by delay, vexation, and expense, natural or factitious, the individual who would be led to call for the application, is prevented from making such demand.
At the same time, on the other hand, the use of the press cannot be altogether free, but that on pretence of giving indication of misconduct that has actually taken place, supposed misconduct that never did actually take place, will to this or that individual be imputed.
In so far as the imputation thus conveyed happens to be false, the effects of the liberty in question will, so far as concerns any individual person thus unjustly accused, be of the evil cast, and by whomsoever they are understood so to be, the dyslogistic appellation licentiousness will naturally be applied.
Here then comes the dilemma—the two evils between which a choice must absolutely be made. Leave to the press its perfect liberty; along with the just imputations, which alone are the useful ones, will come, and in an unlimited proportion, unjust imputations, from which, in so far as they are unjust, evil is liable to arise.
But to him whose wish it really is that good morals and good government should prevail, the choice need not be so difficult as at first sight it may seem to be.
Let all just imputations be buried in utter silence,—what you are sure of is, that misconduct in every part of the field of action, moral and political, private and public, will range without controul—free from all that sort of controul which can be applied by the press, and not by anything else.
On the other hand, let all unjust imputations find, through this channel, an unobstructed course,—still, of the evil—the personal suffering threatened by such infliction—there is neither certainty, nor in general any near approach to it. Open to accusation, that same channel is not less open to defence.* He, therefore, who has truth on his side, will have on his side all that advantage which it is in the nature of truth to give.
That advantage,—is it an inconsiderable one? On the contrary supposition is founded, whatsoever is done in the reception and collection of judicial evidence—whatsoever is intended by the exercise of judicial authority, by the administration of whatsoever goes by the name of justice.
Meantime, if any arrangements there be, by which the door may be shut against unjust imputations, without incurring to an equal amount that sort of evil which is liable to result from the exclusion of just ones, so much the better.
But unless and until such arrangements shall have been devised and carried into effect, the tendency and effect of all restrictions having for their object the abridging of the liberty of the press, cannot but be evil on the whole.
To shut the door against such imputations as are either unjust or useless, leaving it at the same time open to such as are at the same time just and useful, would require a precise, a determinate, a correct and complete definition of the appellative, whatsoever it be, by which the abuse—the improper use—the supposed preponderantly pernicious use—of the press, is endeavoured to be brought to view.
To establish this definition, belongs to those, and to those alone, in whose hands the supreme power of the state is vested.
Of this appellative, no such definition has ever yet been given—of this appellative no such definition can reasonably be expected at the hands of any person so situated, since, by the establishing of such definition, their power would be curtailed, their interest prejudiced.
While this necessary definition remains unestablished, there remains with them the faculty of giving continuance and increase to the several points of abuse and misgovernment by which their interest in its several shapes is advanced.
Till that definition is given, the licentiousness of the press is every disclosure by which any abuse, from the practice of which they draw any advantage, is brought to light, and exposed to shame:—whatsoever disclosure it is, or is supposed to be, their interest to prevent.
The liberty of the press is such disclosure, and such only, from which no such inconvenience is apprehended.
No such definition can be given but at their expense:—at the expense of their arbitrary power—of their power of misconduct in the exercise of the functions of government,—at the expense of their power of misgovernment—of their power of sacrificing the public interest to their own private interest.
Should that line have ever been drawn, then it is that licentiousness may be opposed without opposing liberty: while that line remains undrawn, opposing licentiousness is opposing liberty.
Thus much being understood, in what consists the device here in question? It consists in employing the sham approbation given to the species of liberty here in question under the name of liberty, as a mask or cloak to the real opposition given to it under the name of licentiousness.
It is in the licentiousness of the press that the judge pretends to see the downfall of that government, the corruption of which he is upholding by inflicting on all within his reach those punishments which by his predecessors have been provided for the suppression of all disclosures by means of which the abuses which he profits by might be checked.
Example 2:—Reform, temperate and intemperate.—For the designation of the species or degree of political reform, which, by him who speaks of it, is meant to be represented as excessive or pernicious, the language affords no such single-worded appellative as in the case of liberty:—the liberty of the press. For making the nominal and pretended real distinction, and marking out on the object of avowed reprobation the pernicious or excessive species or degree, recourse must therefore be had to epithets or adjuncts: such, for instance, as violent, intemperate, outrageous, theoretical, speculative, and so forth.
If, with the benefit of the subterfuge afforded by any of these dyslogistic epithets, a man indulges himself in the practice of reprobating reform in terms thus vague and comprehensive, and without designating by any more particular and determinate word, the species or degree of reform to which he means to confine his reprobation, or the specific objections he may have to urge, you may in general venture to conclude it is not to any determinate species or degree that his real disapprobation and intended opposition confines itself, but that it extends itself to every species or degree of reform which, according to his expectation, would be efficient; that is, by which any of the existing abuses would find a corrective.
For, between all abuses whatsoever, there exists that connexion—between all persons who see each of them any one abuse in which an advantage results to himself, there exists in point of interest that close and sufficiently understood connexion, of which intimation has been given already. To no one abuse can correction be administered, without endangering the existence of every other.
If, then, with this inward determination not to suffer, so far as depends upon himself, the adoption of any reform which he is able to prevent, it should seem to him necessary or advisable to put on for a cover, the profession or appearance of a desire to contribute to such reform,—in pursuance of the device or fallacy here in question, he will represent that which goes by the name of reform as distinguishable into two species; one of them a fit subject for approbation, the other for disapprobation. That which he thus professes to have marked for approbation, he will accordingly, for the expression of such approbation, characterize by some adjunct of the eulogistic cast—such as moderate, for example, or temperate, or practical, or practicable.
To the other of these nominally distinct species, he will at the same time attach some adjunct of the dyslogistic cast—such as violent, intemperate, extravagant, outrageous, theoretical, speculative, and so forth.
Thus, then, in profession and to appearance, there are, in his conception of the matter, two distinct and opposite species of reform—to one of which his approbation, to the other his disapprobation, is attached. But the species to which his approbation is attached is an empty species,—a species in which no individual is, or is intended to be, contained.
The species to which his disapprobation is attached, is, on the contrary, a crowded species, a receptacle in which the whole contents of the genus—of the genus reform—are intended to be included.
POPULAR CORRUPTION—(ad superbiam.)
Exposition.—The instrument of deception, of which the argument here in question is composed, may be thus expressed:—The source of corruption is in the minds of the people; so rank and extensively seated is that corruption, that no political reform can ever have any effect in removing it.*
Exposure.—This fallacy consists in giving to the word corruption, when applied to the people, a sense altogether indeterminate—a sense in and by which all that is distinctly expressed is the disaffection of the speaker as towards the persons spoken of, imputing to them a bad moral character or cast of mind, but without any intimation given of the particular nature of it.
It is the result of a thick confusion of ideas, whether sincere, or affected for the purpose.
In the case of a parliamentary election, each elector acts as a trustee for himself and for all the other members of the community, in the exercise of the branch of political power here in question. If, by the manner in which his vote is received from him, he is precluded (as by ballot) from the possibility of promoting his own particular interest, to the prejudice of the remainder of the universal interest,—the only interest of his which he can entertain a prospect of promoting by such his vote, is his share of the universal interest: and for doing this, he sees before him no other possible means than the contributing to place the share of power attached to the seat in question in the hands of that candidate who is likely to render most service to the universal interest.
Now, how inconsiderable soever may be in his eyes this his share in the universal interest, still it will be sufficient to turn the scale where there is nothing in the opposite scale: and, by the supposition, the emptiness of the opposite scale has been secured in the mode of election by ballot, where the secresy thereby endeavoured at is accomplished, as to so complete a certainty it may be. If, then, to continue the allusion, the value of his share in the universal interest, in his eyes, is such as to overcome the love of ease—the aversion to labour—he will repair to the place, and give his vote to that candidate who, in his eyes, is likely to do most service to the universal interest: if it be not sufficient to overcome that resisting force, he will then forbear to give his vote; and though he will do no good to the universal interest, he will do no harm to it.
Thus it is that, under an apposite system of election procedure, supposing them in the account of self-regarding prudence equal, the least benevolent set of men will, on this occasion, render as much service to the universal interest as the most benevolent: the least benevolent, if that be what is meant by the most corrupt; and if that is not meant, nothing which is to the purpose, nor in short anything which is determinate, is meant.
On the other hand, in so far as the system of election is so ordered, that by the manner in which he gives his vote a man is enabled to promote his own separate interest, what is sufficiently notorious is, that no ordinary portion of benevolence in the shape of public spirit will suffice to prevent the breach of trust in question from being committed.
In the case, therefore, of the subject-many, to whom exclusively it was applied, the word corruption has no determinate and intelligible application. But to the class of the ruling few, it has a perfectly intelligible application—application in a sense in which the truth of it is as notorious as the existence of the sun at noonday. Pretending to be all of them chosen by the subject-many,—chosen, in fact, a very small proportion of them in that manner—the rest by one another,—they act in the character of trustees for the subject-many, bound to support the interest of the subject-many: instead of so doing, being with money exacted from the subject-many bribed by one another acting under the ruling one, they act in constant breach of such their trust, serving in all things their own particular and sinister interests, at the expense and to the sacrifice of that interest of the subject-many, which, together with that of the ruling few, composes and constitutes the universal interest. Corrupt, corruption, corruptors, corruptionist, applied to conduct such as hath been just described,—the meaning given to these terms wants assuredly nothing of being sufficiently intelligible.
A circumstance that renders this fallacy in a peculiar degree insidious and dangerous, is a sort of obscure reference made by it to certain religious notions—to the doctrine of original sin as delivered in the compendium of Church of England faith, termed the 39 articles.
Into that doctrine, considered in a religious point of view, it is not necessary on this occasion to make any inquiry. The field here in question is the field of politics; and, applied to this field, the fallacy in question seeks to lay the axe to the root of all government. It applies not only to this, but to all other remedies against that preponderance of self-regarding over social interest and affection, which is essential to man’s existence, but which, for the creation and preservation of political society, and thence for his well-being in it, requires to be checked—checked by a force formed within itself. It goes to the exclusion of all laws, and in particular of all penal laws; for if, for remedy to what is amiss, nothing is to be attempted by arrangements which, such as those relative to the principle and mode of election as applied to rulers, bring with them no punishment—no infliction,—how much less should the accomplishment of any such object be attempted by means so expensive and afflictive as those applied by penal laws!
By the employment given to this fallacy, the employer of it afforded himself a double gratification: he afforded an immediate gratification to his own anti-social pride and insolence, while he afforded to his argument a promise of efficiency, by the food it supplied to the same appetite in the breasts of his auditors, bound to him, as he saw them to be, by a community of sinister interest.
Out of the very sink of immorality was this fallacy drawn: a sentiment of hatred and contempt, of which not only all the man’s fellow-countrymen were the declared, but all mankind in at least equal degree were the naturally supposable object:—“So bad are they in themselves, no matter how badly they are treated: they cannot be treated worse than they deserve: Of a bad bargain (says the proverb) make the best; of so bad a crew, let us make the best for ourselves: no matter what they suffer, be it what it may, they deserve it.” If Nero had thought it worth his while to look out for a justification, he could not have found a more apt one than this: an argument which, while it harmonized so entirely with the worst passions of the worst men, screened its true nature in some measure from the observation of better men, by the cloud of confusion in which it wrapped itself.
In regard to corruption and uncorruption,—or to speak less ambiguously, in regard to vice and virtue,—how then stands the plain and real truth? That in the ruling few there is most vice and corruption, because in their hands has been the power of serving their own private and sinister interest, at the expense of the universal interest: and in so doing, they have, in the design and with the effect of making instruments of one another for the accomplishment of that perpetual object, been the disseminators of vice and corruption:—That in the subject-many, there has been least of vice and corruption, because they have not been in so large a degree partakers in that sinister interest, and have thus been left free to pursue the track pointed out to them, partly by men who have found a personal interest in giving to their conduct a universally beneficial direction—partly by discerning and uncorrupted men, who, lovers of their country and mankind, have not been in the way of having that generous affection overpowered in their breasts by any particular self-regarding interest.
Nearly akin to the cry of popular corruption is language commonly used to the following effect:—“Instead of reforming others—instead of reforming your betters, instead of reforming the state, the constitution, the church, everything that is most excellent,—let each man reform himself—let him look at home, he will find there enough to do, and what is in his power, without looking abroad and aiming at what is out of his power,” &c. &c.
Language to this effect may at all times be heard from anti-reformists—always, as the tone of it manifests, accompanied with an air of triumph—the triumph of superior wisdom over shallow and presumptuous arrogance.
One feature which helps to distinguish it from the cry of popular corruption, is the tacit assumption that, between the operation condemned and the operation recommended, incompatibility has place: than which, when once brought clearly to view, nothing, it will be seen, can be more groundless.
Certain it is, that if every man’s time and labour is exclusively employed in the correcting of his own personal imperfections, no part of it will be employed in the endeavour to correct the imperfections and abuses which have place in the government; and thus the mass of those imperfections and abuses will go on, never diminishing, but perpetually increasing with the torments of those who suffer by them, and the comforts of those who profit by them: which is exactly what is wanted.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE SEVEN PRECEDING FALLACIES.
In the seven preceding fallacies, and in others of a similar nature, the device resorted to is uniformly the same, and consists in entirely avoiding the question in debate, by substituting general and ambiguous terms in the place of clear and particular appellatives.
In other fallacies, the argument advanced is generally irrelevant, but argument of some kind they do contain. In these, argument there is none; Sunt verba et voces prætereàque nihil.
To find the only word that will suit his purpose, the defender of corruption is obliged to make an ascent in the scale of generalization—to soar into the region of vague generalities, till he comes to a word by the extensiveness of whose import he is enabled, so by confounding language to confound conceptions, as without general and immediate fear of detection to defend, with a chance of success, an object, of the defence of which there would, under its proper and peculiar name, be no hope.
When of two terms—viz. a generic term, and a special term included under it—the specific term alone is proper, i. e. the proposition into the composition of which it enters, true; the generic term, if substituted to it, is ambiguous; and of the ambiguity, if the effect of it is not perceived, the consequence is error and deception.
Opposite to this aërial mode of contestation, is the mode already known and designated by the appellation of close reasoning.
In proportion as a man’s mode of reasoning is close (always supposing his intention honest,) for the designation of every object which he has occasion to bring to view, he employs in preference the most particular expression that he can find—that which is best adapted to the purpose of bringing to view everything which it is its object to bring to view, as clear as possible from everything which the purpose does not require to be brought, and which in consequence it is his endeavour to avoid bringing to view.
In proportion as a man is desirous of contributing on every occasion to the welfare of the community, and at the same time skilled in the means that most directly and certainly lead to the attainment of that end, he will, on the occasion of the language employed by him in the designation of each measure, look out for that plan of nomenclature and classification by which the degree and mode of its conduciveness or repugnancy to that end may be the more easily and correctly judged of.
Thus, in regard to offences,—acts which on account of their adverseness to the general welfare are objects meet for discouragement—for prohibition—and in case of necessity, for punishment,—not content with the employing for the designation of each such act in particular, that mode of expression by which every individual act partaking of the common nature indicated by the generic term may be brought to view, to the exclusion of every act not partaking of that common nature, he will, for the designation of the relation it bears to other offences, and of the place which it occupies in the aggregate assemblage of these obnoxious acts, find for it and assign to it some such more general and extensive appellation as shall give intimation of the mode in which the wound given by it to the general welfare is perceptible.
1. Offences against individuals other than a man’s self, and those assignable individuals; 2. Against a man’s self; 3. Against this or that particular class of the community; 4. Against the whole community without distinction.
In the case of individuals,—offences against person, against reputation, against property, against condition in life—and so on through the other classes above designated.*
For the opposite reason,—in proportion as, without regard to, and to the sacrifice of, the general welfare, a man is desirous of promoting his own personal or any other private interest, he will, on the occasion of the language employed in the designation of each measure, look out for that plan of nomenclature and classification, by which the real tendency of the measure to which he proposes to give birth or support, shall be as effectually masked as possible—rendered as difficult as possible to be comprehended and judged of.
In the English law, under the principle of arrangement—which till comparatively of late years was the only one, and which is still the predominant one—such were the groupes into which, by the classical denominations employed, they were huddled together, that by those denominations not any the slightest intimation was given of the nature and mischief of the offences respectively contained under them. Treasons, felonies unclergyable, felonies clergyable, premunires, misdemeanors.
By the four first of these five denominations, what is designated is, not the offence itself, but the treatment given to the offender in respect of it in the way of punishment: by the other denomination, not so much as even that—only that the act is treated on the footing of an offence, and on that score made punishable: it is the miscellaneous class, the contents of which are composed of all such offences as are not comprised under any of the others.
To what cause can a scheme of arrangement so incompatible with clear conception and useful instruction be ascribed?
Its creation may be traced to one source: its continuance to another. For its creation (such is its antiquity,) the weakness of the public intellect presents an adequate cause. Of treason and felony—terms imported at the Norman conquest with the rest of the nomenclature of the feudal system—the origin is lost in the darkness of primæval barbarism: religion—a perversion of the Christian religion, gave birth, after a hard and long labour, to the distinction between clergyable and unclergyable: religion, by a further perversion, gave birth to premunires in the reign of Edward III.
To the designs of those whose interest it is that misrule in all its shapes should be perpetuated, and thence, that useful information, by which it might be put to shame, and in time to flight, should as long as possible be excluded, nothing could be more serviceable than this primæval imbecility. Under these denominations in general, and in particular under felony, acts of any description are capable of being ranked with equal propriety, or rather with equal absence of impropriety: acts of any description whatsoever, and consequently acts altogether pure from any of those mischievous consequences from which alone any sufficient warrant for subjecting the agents to punishment can be found; and offences thus clear of every really mischievous quality have accordingly been created, and still continue in existence, in convenient abundance.
By this contrivance, the open tyranny of the lawyer-led legislator, and the covert tyranny of the law-making judge, are placed at the most perfect ease. The keenest eye cannot descry the felonies destined to be created by the touch of the sceptre upon the pattern of the old: the liveliest imagination cannot pourtray to itself the innoxious acts destined to be fashioned or swollen into felonies.
Analogous to this ancient English system—correspondent and analogous both as to the effect itself and as to its cause, is the system lately brought out by the legislators of France and their forced imitators in Germany. Faute, contravention, dêlit, crime—classes rising one above another in a climax of severity,—all of them, designative how indeterminately soever, rather of the treatment to which at the hands of the judge, the agent is subjected, than of the sort of act for which he is subjected to that treatment—much less of the ground, or reason, on which (regard being had to the quality and quantity of mischief) it is thought fit he shall be so dealt with.
Lawyer-craft, in alliance with political tyranny, may be marked out as the source of this confusion in the English case; lawyer-craft in subjection to political tyranny, in the French case.
In England, it is the interest of the man of law that the rule of action should be, and continue, in a state of as general uncertainty and incognoscibility as possible: that on condition of pronouncing on each occasion a portion of the flash language adapted to that purpose, he may, in his state of law-adviser and advocate, be master of men’s purses; in his state of judge,—of purse, reputation, condition in life, and life itself, to as complete a degree, and with as little odium and suspicion as possible. This is the state of things which it always has been, and will be his interest to perpetuate: and this is the state of things which hitherto it has been in his power to continue, and which accordingly does to this day continue in existence.
In France, where the man of law is not the ally of the politician, but his slave, that which it is not the interest of the politician to keep out of the view of the subject, is—what the law is;—that which it is his interest to keep (nor even that in all parts) out of the view of the subject, is—what it is for the interest of the subject that the law should be;—what, in a word, the law ought to be.
Having brought the rule of action within a compass, the narrowness of which, in respect of the quantity of words, has never, regard being had to the amplitude of the matter, yet been equalled, the tyrant of France has by this one act of charity displayed a quantity of merit, ample enough of itself to form a covering to no inconsiderable a portion of his sins.
But the exemplifications of vague generalities afforded by these systems of classification are sufficiently striking. To save the authors of the systems from ranking any one of the offences in question under a denomination which would be manifestly inapplicable to it, and from the discredit which would attach to them from such a source,—ascending to a superior height in the logical scale—in the scale of genera and species,—they provide a set of denominations so boundless in their extent, as to be capable without impropriety of including any objects whatsoever on which it might be found convenient to stamp the factitious quality desired. Noxiousness to other individuals in this or that way—noxiousness to a person himself in this or that way—noxiousness to a particular class of the community in this or that way—noxiousness to the whole community in this or that way,—these are qualities which it is not in the power of despotism to communicate to any act of any sort: but to cause such persons as it is performed by to be punished with such or such a punishment,—these are effects which, be the sort of act what it may, it is but too easy for supreme power, in whatsoever hands reposed, to annex to it.
Here, then, are so many instances where the turn of the man in power not being capable of being served, or at least so well served, by giving to an object that which is at once its most particular and most proper name, a name of more general and extensive import is employed for the purpose of favouring that deception, which by the designating of it by such its proper name, would have been dissipated, and thus giving to an exercise of power, which, if rightly denominated, would have been seen to be improper and mischievous, the chance of not appearing in such its true light.
ANTI-RATIONAL FALLACIES—(ad verecundiam.)
Exposition.—When reason is found or supposed to be in opposition to a man’s interests, his study will naturally be to render the faculty itself, and whatsoever issues from it, an object of hatred and contempt.
So long as the government contains in it any sort of abuse from which the members of the government, or any of them, derive in any shape a profit, and in the continuance of which they possess a proportionable interest, reason being against them, persons so circumstanced will be in so far against reason.
Instead of reason, we might here say thought. Reason is a word that implies not merely the use of the faculty of thinking, but the right use of it: but sooner than fail of its object, the sarcasm and other figures of speech employed upon the occasion are directed not merely against reason, but against thought itself; as if there were something in the faculty of thought that rendered the exercise of it incompatible with useful and successful practice.
1. Sometimes a plan, the adoption of which would not suit the official person’s interest, is without more ado pronounced a speculative one: and by this observation all need of rational and deliberate discussion,—such as objection to the end proposed, as not a fit one—objection to the means employed, as not being fit means,—is considered as being superseded.
To the word speculative, for further enforcement, are added or substituted, in a number more or less considerable, other terms, as nearly synonymous to it and to one another, as it is usual for words called synonymous to be; viz. theoretical, visionary, chimerical, romantic, utopian.
2. Sometimes a distinction is taken, and thereupon a concession made. The plan is good in theory, but it would be bad in practice; i. e. its being good in theory does not hinder its being bad in practice.
3. Sometimes, as if in consequence of a further progress made in the art of irrationality, the plan is pronounced to be too good to be practicable: and its being so good as it is, is thus represented as the very cause of its being bad in practice.
4. In short, such is the perfection at which this art is at length arrived, that the very circumstanee of a plan’s being susceptible of the appellation of a plan, has been gravely stated as a circumstance sufficient to warrant its being rejected: rejected, if not with hatred, at any rate with a sort of accompaniment, which to the million is commonly felt still more galling—with contempt.
“Looking at the House of Commons with these views,” says a writer on the subject of parliamentary reform, “my object would be to find out its chief defects, and to attempt the remedy of these one by one. To propose no system, no great project, nothing which pretended even to the name of a plan, but to introduce in a temperate and conciliatory manner . . . . one or two separate bills.”*
In this strain were these men proposed to be addressed, anno 1810, by Mr. Brougham: in this strain were they addressed, anno 1819, by Sir James Mackintosh, in moving for a committee on the penal laws. To give a man any chance of doing anything with them, in this same way they have ever been addressed, and must ever be addressed, till by radical reform (for it cannot be by anything less) the house shall have been purged of a class of men, of whom the most complete inaptitude in respect of every element of appropriate aptitude, is an essential characteristic. In the scale of appropriate probity—in the scale of appropriate intellectual aptitude, to find their level, a man must descend below that of the very dregs of the people. Oh what a picture is here drawn of them, and by so experienced a hand! How cutting, yet how unquestionably just, the perhaps unintended, perhaps intended satire! To avoid awakening the real terrors of some, the sham terrors of others, all consistency, all comprehensive acquaintance with the field of action, must be abjured. When idolatry in all its shapes shall have become extinct, and the words wise ancestors no longer an instrument of deception but a by-word, with what scorn will not ancestors such as these be looked back upon by their posterity!
Intimate as is the connexion between all these contrivances, there is however enough of distinction to render them, in this or that point of view, susceptible of a separate exposure.
Abuse of the words Speculative, Theoretical, &c.
Exposure.—On the occasion of these epithets, and the propositions of which they constitute the leading terms, what will be held up to view in the character of a fallacy, is—not the use of them, but merely the abuse.
It may be placed to the account of abuse as often as in a serious speech, without the allegation of any specific objection, an epithet of this class bestowed upon the measure is exhibited as containing the expression of a sufficient reason for rejecting it, by putting upon it a mark of reprobation thus contemptuous.
What is altogether out of dispute is, that many and many a measure has been proposed, to which this class of epithets, or some of them, would be justly applicable. But a man’s conceptions must be wofully indistinct, or his vocabulary deplorably scanty, if, be the bad measure what it may, he cannot contrive to give intimation of what, in his view, there is bad in it, without employing an epithet, the effect of which is to hold out, as an object of contempt, the very act of thinking—the operation of thought itself.
The fear of theory has to a certain extent its foundation in reason. There is a general propensity in those who adopt this or that theory, to push it too far; i. e. to set up a general proposition which is not true until certain exceptions have been taken out of it—to set it up without any of those exceptions—to pursue it without regard to the exceptions,—and thence, pro tanto, in cases in which it is false, fallacious, repugnant to reason and utility.
The propensity thus to push theory too far is acknowledged to be almost universal.
But what is the just inference? Not that theoretical propositions—i. e. propositions of considerable extent—should from such their extent be concluded to be false in toto; but only, that in the particular case inquiry should be made, whether, supposing the proposition to be in the character of a general rule generally true, there may not be a case in which, to reduce it within the limits of truth, reason, and utility, an exception ought to be taken out of it.
Every man’s knowledge is, in its extent, proportioned to the extent as well as number of those general propositions, of the truth of which, they being true, he has the persuasion in his own mind: in other words, the extent of these his theories comprises the extent of his knowledge.
If, indeed, his theories are false, then, in proportion as they are extensive, he is the more deeply steeped in ignorance and error.
But from the mere circumstances of its being theoretical, by these enemies to knowledge its falsehood is inferred as if it were a necessary consequence—with as much reason as if, from a man’s speaking, it were inferred as a necessary consequence, that what he speaks must be false.
One would think, that in thinking there were something wicked or else unwise: every body feels or fancies a nece-sity of disclaiming it. “I am not given to speculation”—“I am no friend to theories.” Speculation—theory,—what is it but thinking? Can a man disclaim speculation, can he disclaim theory, without disclaiming thought? If they do not mean thought, they mean nothing; for, unless it be a little more thought than ordinary, theory, speculation, mean nothing.
To escape from the imputation of meditating destruction to mankind, a man must disclaim everything that puts him above the level of a beast.
A plan proposes a wrong end—or, the end being right, proposes a wrong set of means. If this be what a man means, can he not say so? Would not what he says have somewhat more meaning—be a little more consistent with the principles of common sense, with common honesty, than saying of it that it is theoretical—that it is speculative?
As to the epithet utopian, the case in which it is rightly applied seems to be that in which, in the event of the adoption of the proposed plan, felicitous effects are represented as about to take place, no causes adequate to the production of such effects being to be found in it.
In Sir Thomas More’s romance, from which the epithet utopian has its origin, a felicitous state of things is announced by the very name.
Considering the age in which he lived, even without adverting to the sort of religion of which he was so honest and pertinacious an adherent, we may be sufficiently assured that the institutions spoken of by him as having been productive of this effect, had, taking them altogether, very little tendency to produce it.
Such, in general, is likely enough to be the case with the portion of political felicity exhibited in any other romance: and thus far the epithet romantic is likely enough, though not certain, to be found well applied to any political plan, in the conveyance of which to the notice of the public, any such vehicle is employed. Causes and effects being alike at the command of this species of poet in prose, the honour of any felicitous event is as easily ascribed to uninfluencing circumstances, or even to obstacles, as to causes.
If the established state of things, including the abuse which in so many shapes is interwoven in it, were anything like what the undiscriminating defenders of it represent it as being—viz. a system of perfection—in this actually established system (real in so far as abuse and imperfection are ascribed to it—imaginary in so far as exemption from such abuse and imperfection is ascribed to it)—might indeed be seen an utopia—a felicitous result, flowing from causes not having it in their nature to be productive of any such effects, but having it in their nature to be productive of contrary effects.
In every department of government, say the advocates of reform, abuses and imperfections are abundant; because the hands in which the powers of government are reposed, have, partly by their own artifice, partly by the supineness of the people, been placed in such circumstances, that abuse in every shape is a source of profit to themselves.
Under these circumstances, if any expectation were really entertained that by these hands any considerable defalcation from the aggregate mass of abuse will ever be made,—to no other expectation can the charge of utopianism be with more propriety applied: effects so produced, would be produced against the force of irresistible obstacles, as well as absolutely without a cause.
But in that same system there has all along been preserved, by the many, a faculty—and that a faculty every now and then, though much too seldom and too weakly, exercised,—of creating, and without very considerable inconvenience or danger to themselves, uneasiness, more or less considerable, to these their rulers. In the state of things thus described, there is nothing of utopianism; for it is matter of universally notorious fact; and in this faculty on the part of the many of creating uneasiness in the bosoms of the few—in this faculty on the part of those who suffer by the abuses of creating uneasiness in the bosoms of those who profit by them,—in this invaluable, and, except in America, unexampled faculty—rests the only chance, the only source of hope.
Good in theory, bad in practice.
Even in the present stage of civilization, it is almost a rare case, that by reason, looking to the end in view, matters of government are determined: and the cause is, the existence of so many institutions, which being adverse to the only proper end, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, are maintained, because favourable to the interests of the ruling few. Custom, blind custom, established under the dominion of that separate and sinister interest, is the guide by which most operations have been conducted. In so far as the interest of the many has appeared to the governing few to coincide with their own separate interests, in so far it has been pursued—in so far as it has appeared incompatible with those interests, it has been neglected or opposed.
One consequence is, that when by accident a plan comes upon the carpet, in the formation of which the only legitimate end of government has been looked to, if the beaten track of custom has in ever so slight a degree been departed from, the practical man, the man of routine, knows not what to make of it: its goodness, if it be good—its badness, if it be bad, are alike removed out of the sphere of his observance. If it be conducive to the end, it is more than he can see; for the end is what he has not been used to look to.
In the consideration of any plan, what he has not been used to, is to consider what, in the department in question, is the proper end of every plan that can be presented, and whether the particular plan in question be conducive to that end: what he has been used to, is, to consider whether in the matter and form it be like what he has practised. If in a certain degree unlike, it throws him into a sort of perplexity. If the plan be a good one, and in the form of reasons, the points of advantage whereby it is conducive to the proper end in view have been presented,—and in such sort that he sees not any, the existence of which he feels himself able to contest, nor at the same time any disadvantages which he can present in the character of preponderant ones,—he will be afraid so far to commit himself as to pronounce it a bad one. By way of compounding the matter, and to show his candour, if he be on good terms with you, he will perhaps admit it to be good—viz. in theory. But this concession made,—it being admitted and undeniable that theory is one thing and practice another, he will take a distinction, and, to pay him for his concession, propose to you to admit that it is not the thing for practice; in a word, that it is good in theory, bad in practice.
That there have been plans in abundance which have been found bad in practice, and many others, which would, if tried, have proved bad in practice, is altogether out of dispute.
That of each description there have been many which in theory have appeared, and with reference to the judgment of some of the persons by whom they have been considered, have been found plausible, is likewise out of dispute.
What is here meant to be denied, is, that a plan, which is essentially incapable of proving good in practice, can with propriety be said to be good in theory.
Whenever, out of a number of circumstances the concurrence of all of which is necessary to the success of a plan, any one is, in the calculation of the effects expected from it, omitted, any such plan will, in proportion to the importance of the omitted circumstance, be defective in practice; and if such be the degree of importance, bad—upon the whole, a bad one; the disadvantageous effects of the plan not finding a compensation in the advantageous ones.
When the plan for the illumination of the streets by gas-lights was laid before the public by the person who considered himself, or gave himself out for the inventor, one of the items in the article of expense—one capital article, viz. that of the pipes, was omitted. On the supposition that the pipes might all of them have been had for nothing, and that in the plan so exhibited no other such imperfections were to be found, the plan would, to the persons engaged in the undertaking, be not merely advantageous, but advantageous in the prodigious degree therein represented. If, on the contrary, the expense of this omitted article were such as to more than countervail the alleged balance on the side of profit, then would the plan, with reference to the undertakers, prove disadvantageous upon the whole, and in one word, a bad one.
But whatever it prove to be in practice, in theory, having so important an omission in it, it cannot but be pronounced a bad one; for every plan in which, in the account of advantages and disadvantages—of profit and losses, any item is on the side of disadvantage or loss omitted, is, in proportion to the magnitude of such loss, a bad one, how advantageous soever upon trial the result may prove upon the whole.
In the line of political economy, most plans that have been adopted and employed by government for enriching the community by money given to individuals, have been bad in practice.
But if they have been bad in practice, it is because they have been bad in theory. In the account taken of profit and loss, some circumstance that has been necessary to render the plan in question advantageous upon the whole, has been omitted.
This circumstance has been the advantage, which from the money employed would have been reaped, either in the way of addition to capital by other means, or in the way of comfort by expenditure.
Of the matter of wealth, portions that by these operations were but transferred from hand to hand, and commonly with a loss by the way, were erroneously considered as having been created.
Too good to be practicable.
There is one case in which, in a certain sense, a plan may be said to be too good to be practicable—and that case a very comprehensive one. It is where, without adequate inducement in the shape of personal interest, the plan requires for its accomplishment that some individual or class of individuals shall have made a sacrifice of his or their personal interest to the interest of the whole. Where it is only on the part of some one individual, or very small number of individuals, that a sacrifice of this sort is reckoned upon, the success of the plan is not altogether without the sphere of moral possibility; because instances of a disposition of this sort, though extremely rare, are not altogether without example: by religious hopes and fears, by philanthropy, by secret ambition, such miracles have now and then been wrought. But when it is on the part of a body of men or a multitude of individuals taken at random, that any such sacrifice is reckoned upon, then it is that in speaking of the plan the term utopian may without impropriety be applied.
In this case,—if, neglecting the question of practicability,—on the mere consideration of the nature of the results, the production of which is aimed at by the plan, it can with propriety be termed a good one, the observation, too good to be practicable, cannot justly be accused of want of truth.
But it is not any such intimation that, by those in whose mouths this observation is most in use, is meant to be conveyed. The description of persons by whom chiefly, if not exclusively, it is employed, are those who, regarding a plan as being adverse to their interests, and not finding it on the ground of general utility exposed to any preponderant objection, have recourse to this objection in the character of an instrument of contempt, in the view of preventing those from looking into it, who might otherwise have been so disposed.
It is by the fear of seeing it practised, that they are drawn to speak of it as impracticable.
In the character of opposers of a plan, of the goodness of which—that is, of its conduciveness to the welfare of the whole community taken together—they are themselves persuaded, it cannot be their intention or wish to exhibit themselves: it is not, therefore, in any such property of the plan that it can be their aim to engage those on whom it depends, to look for the cause of the impracticability which they impute to it.
Under favour of such observation as may have been made of the instances in which plans—the goodness of which, supposing them carried into effect, has been beyond dispute—have failed of success, what they aim at is the producing, in superficial minds, the idea of a universal and natural connexion between extraordinary and extensive goodness and impracticability: that so often as upon the face of any plan the marks of extraordinary and extensive utility are discernible, these marks may, as it were by a signal, have the effect of inducing a man to turn aside from the plan, and, whether in the way of neglect and non-support, or in the way of active opposition, to bestow on it the same treatment that he would be justified in bestowing upon a bad one.
“Upon the face of it, it carries that air of plausibility, that, if you were not upon your guard, might engage you to bestow more or less of your attention upon it. But were you to take the trouble, you would find that, as it is with all these plans that promise so much, practicability would at last be wanting to it. To save yourself from this trouble, the wisest course you can take, is, therefore, to put the plan aside, and think no more about the matter.”
There is a particular sort of grin—a grin of malicious triumph—a grin made up of malicious triumph, with a dash of concealed foreboding and trepidation at the bottom of it—that forms a natural accompaniment of this fallacy, when vented by any of the sworn defenders of abuse: and Milton, instead of cramming all his angels of the African complexion into the divinity school disputing about predestination, should have employed part of them at least in practising this grin, with the corresponding fallacy, before a looking-glass.
Proportioned to the difficulty of persuading men to regard a plan as otherwise than beneficial, supposing it carried into effect, is the need of all such arguments or phrases as present a chance of persuading them to regard it as impracticable: and according to the sort of man you have to deal with, you accompany it with the grin of triumph, or with the grimace of regret and lamentation.
There is a class of predictions, the tendency and object of which is to contribute to their own accomplishment; and in the number of them is the prediction involved in this fallacy. When objections on the ground of utility are hopeless, or have been made the most of, objections on the ground of practicability still present an additional resource: by these, men who, being convinced of the utility of the plan, are in ever so great a degree well-wishers to it, may be turned aside from it: and the best garb to assume for the purpose of the attempt, is that of one who is a well-wisher likewise.
Till the examples are before his eyes, it will not be easy for a man who has not himself made the observation, to conceive to what a pitch of audacity political improbity is capable of soaring—how completely, when an opportunity that seems favourable presents itself, the mask will sometimes be taken off—what thorough confidence there is in the complicity or in the imbecility of hearers or readers.
If to say a good thing is a good thing is nugatory, and, as such, foolish language—what shall we say of him who stands up boldly and says, to aim at doing good is a bad thing?
In so many words, it may be questioned whether any such thing has yet been said: but what is absolutely next to it, scarce distinguishable from it, and in substance the same thing, has actually been said over and over. To aim at perfection, has been pronounced to be utter folly or wickedness; and both or either at the extreme. To say that man (the species called man) has so much as a tendency to better himself, and that the range of such tendency has no certain limits,—this has been—speculation: propositions or observations to that effect have also been set down as a mark of wickedness. “By Priestley, an observation to this effect has somewhere or other been made: by Godwin, an observation to this effect has somewhere or other been made: by Condorcet, or some other Frenchman or Frenchmen of the class of those who, for the purpose of holding them up to execration, are called philosophers, an observation to this effect has somewhere or other been made.
“By this mark, with or without the aid of any other, these men, together with other men of the same leaven, have proved themselves the enemies of mankind: and you too, whosoever you are, if you dare to maintain the same heresy, you also are an enemy to mankind.”
In vain would you reply to him, if he be an official man:—Sir, Mr. Chalmers who, like yourself, was an official man, has maintained this tendency, and written a book, which from beginning to end is a demonstration of it as clear and undeniable as Euclid’s: and Mr. Chalmers is neither a madman nor an enemy to mankind.
In vain would you reply to him, if he call himself a Christian:—Sir, Jesus said to his disciples, and to you if you would be one of them, “Be ye perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect;” and in so doing, has not only assumed the tendency, but commanded it to be encouraged and carried to its utmost possible length.
By observations such as these, may the sort of man in question be perhaps for a moment silenced: but neither by this, nor anything, nor anybody, though one rose from the dead, would he be converted.
To various descriptions of persons, over and above those who are in the secret, a fallacy of this class is in a singular degree acceptable and conciliating:—
1. To all idle men—all haters of business; a considerable class, where a share in the sovereignty of an empire such as ours is parcelled out into portions which are private property—where electors’ votes are free in appearance only, and scarcely in appearance—and where the votes that are sold for money are in fact among the freest that are to be found.
2. All ignorant men—all who, for want of due and appropriate instruction, feeling themselves incapable of judging on any question on its own merits, look out with eagerness for such commodious and reputation-saving grounds.
3. All dull and stupid men;—in whose instance, information—reading—such as has fallen to their lot, has not yet been sufficient to enable them to determine a question on its own merits.
When a train of argument—when but a single argument, is presented, that requires thought—an operation so troublesome and laborious as that which goes by the name of thought,—an expression of scorn levelled at the author or supposed author of this trouble, is as far as it goes, a just, howsoever scanty and inadequate, punishment for the disturbance attempted to be given to honourable repose.
Under the name of theory, &c., what is it that to men of this description is so odious? What but reference to the end—to that which, on that part of the field of thought and action which is in question, is, or at any rate ought to be, the end pursued, and thence, in every case, the end in view—(how often must it, and ever in vain, be repeated?)—the greatest happiness of the greatest number? But were reference made to this end—to this inflexible standard—everything almost they do—everything almost they support—would stand condemned. What, then, shall be the standard? Custom—custom: custom being their own practice, blindly imitating the practice of men in the same situations, put in motion and governed by the same sinister interests.
PARADOXICAL ASSERTION—(ad judicium.)
1. Dangerousness of the principle of utility. 2. Uselessness of classification. 3. Mischievousness of simplification. 4. Disinterestedness a mark of profligacy.
Exposition.—When of any measure, practice, or principle, the utility is too far above dispute to be capable of being impeached by reasoning, a rhetorician to whose interests or views it has appeared adverse, has in some instances, in a sort of fit of desperation, made this attack upon it; taking up the word or set of words commonly employed for the designation of it, without any such attempt as that of opposing it by any specific objection, he has assailed it with some vehement note of reprobation or strain of invective, in which the mischievousness or folly of it has been taken for granted, as if it were undeniable.
Exposure is a sort of process of which the device in question is scarce susceptible: but for the purpose of exposition, an example or two may have its use.
Utility, method, simplification, reason, sincerity. By a person unexperienced in the arts of political and verbal warfare, it would not readily be imagined that entities like these should, by any man laying claim to the distinguishing attribute of man, be pointed out as fit objects of hatred and contempt: yet so it is.
1. As to Utility.—Already has been named “a great character in a high situation,” by whom the principle of utility was pronounced a dangerous one.* A book might be mentioned, and one of no small celebrity,† in which the same principle—the principle of utility—has been pronounced useless:—the principle itself, and consequently every investigation in which, to the purposes of legislation or common life, application is endeavoured to be made of it.
What must be acknowledged is, that to make a right and effectual use of it, requires the concurrence of those requisites which are not always found in company:—invention, discernment, patience, sincerity—each in no inconsiderable degree; while, for the pronouncing of decisions without consulting it, decisions in the ipse dixit style, nothing is required but boldness.
Not that, on any occasion on which it promises to suit his purpose, and he feels in himself a capacity to apply it to that purpose, the most decided scorner of it ever fails to make use of it. It is only when, if consulted, its decisions would be against him, or he feels himself awkward at consulting it, that he ever takes upon him to do without it: and to prove anything to be right or wrong, thinks it sufficient for himself to say so.
Classification a bad thing—Good method a bad thing.
On the same occasion in which a convenience was found in pronouncing the principle of utility useless, the like convenience was found in professing the like contempt for that quality in discourse which goes by the name of good method, or simply, method, and that sort of operation called good classification, or simply, classification.
When the subject a man undertakes to write upon is to a certain degree extensive—as for example, the science of morals, or that of legislation—whether what a man says be clear or not of falsehood, will depend upon the goodness of the method in which the parts of it have been cast:—1. If, for example, snow and charcoal were both classed under the same name, and neither of them had any other,—if the question were asked, whether the thing known by that name were white or black, no inconsiderable difficulty would be found in answering it either by a yes or no. 2. And if, under favour of the identity of denomination, sugar of lead were to be used in a pudding instead of any of the sort of sugar usually applied to that purpose, practical inconveniences analogous to those which were experienced by Thornbury from eating pancake,‡ might probably be found to result from the mistake thus exemplified in the tactical branch of the art or science of life, call it which you please.
In the course of an attempt made∥ to cast the whole multitude of pernicious actions into apt classes,—as a fruit, and proof, and test of the supposed aptitude, about a dozen propositions were mentioned as being capable of being, without any deviation from the truth of things, ascribed to the pernicious acts respectively collected together under one denomination by the names respectively assigned to the four classes to which they were referred.
On the same occasion, intimation was likewise given, that in the system of law and law terms in use for the designation of offences among English lawyers, no such fair general denomination could be found, to the contents of which an equal number, and it might perhaps have been added, any number at all, of common propositions could, without error and falsehood, be ascribed. A system of classification and nomenclature which can never be employed without confounding, at every turn, objects which, to prevent practical and painful accidents, require to be distinguished, must, by every man who has not a decided interest in maintaining the contrary, be acknowledged to be very ill adapted to those which are, or at least which ought to be, its purposes.
Here, then, was an intimation given, that the whole system of English penal law is in an extreme degree ill adapted to what ought to be the purposes of every system of law; and an implied invitation to those, if any such there were, who being conversant in the subject of law, had any desire to see it well adapted to its professed purposes, to show that the system was not, in respect of the points indicated, a bad one—the radically bad one it was there represented to be,—or else to take measures for making it better. But it being the interest of every one who is most conversant with this subject, that the whole system, instead of being as good as it can be made, should be as bad as those who live under it will endure to see it, the invitation could not in either branch be accepted.
In any other branch of science that can be named—medicine, chemistry, natural history in all its branches, the progress made in every other respect is acknowledged to be commensurate to, and at once effect and cause, in relation to the progress made in the art of classification: nor in any one of those branches of science, would it perhaps be easy to find a single individual by whom the operation of classification would be spoken of as anything below the highest rank in the order of importance. Why this difference? Because in any one of these branches of science there is scarce an individual to whose interest the advancement of the science is opposed: whereas among the professors of the law there exists not an individual to whose interest the advancement of the art of legislation is not opposed—is not either immediately detrimental or ultimately dangerous.
By the opposite vice, complication, every evil opposite to the ends of justice,—viz. uncertainty of the law itself, unnecessary delay, expense, and vexation, in respect of the execution—is either produced or aggravated.* Consequently, to every one by whom any wish is entertained of seeing the mass of these evils reduced, a fervent desire is entertained of seeing the virtue of simplification infused into the system of law and judicial procedure. On an occasion that took place not long ago, if the account of the debates can be trusted, a gentleman was found resolute and frank enough to stand up and rank this virtue,—if after that, such it may be called—among the worst of vices: the use of it was evidence of Jacobinism—evidence of the circumstantial kind indeed, but sufficiently conclusive.
If, on a declaration to that effect, any sentiment of disapprobation were visible in the language or deportment of that Honourable House, none such are, at least, recorded, and if none such really were perceptible, this circumstance alone might afford no inconsiderable ground for the desire expressed by some, of seeing the character of that Honourable House undergo a thorough change.
Disinterestedness a mark of profligacy.
In his pamphlet on his Official Economy Bill, to give up official emolument is by Edmund Burke pronounced, in so many words, to be “a mark of the basest profligacy.”
On somewhat more defensible grounds might this position itself be pronounced as strong a mark as ever was exhibited, or ever could be exhibited, of the most shameless profligacy.
An assumption contained in it, besides others too numerous to admit of their being detailed here, is—that in the eyes of man there is nothing that has any value—nothing that is capable of actuating and giving direction to his conduct, but the matter of wealth: that the love of reputation and the love of power are themselves, both of them, without efficient power over the human heart.
So opposite is this position of his to the truth, that the less the quantity of money which, in return for his engagement to render official service, a man, not palpably unfit for the business of it, is content to accept, the stronger is the proof, the presumptive evidence thereby afforded, of his aptitude in all points with relation to the business of that office: since it is a proof of his relish for the business—of the pleasure he anticipates from the performance of it.†
Blinded by his rage, in this his frantic exclamation, wrung from him by the unquenched thirst for lucre,—this madman, than whom none perhaps was ever more mischievous—this incendiary, who contributed so much more than any other to light up the flames of that war, under the miseries occasioned by which the nation is still groaning,—poured forth the reproach of “the basest profligacy” on the heads of thousands, before whom, had he known who they were, he would have been ready to bow the knee. Not to mention the whole magistracy of the empire, whose office is that of justice of the peace,—among other persons before whom he was in the habit of prostrating himself, of the verbal filth he thus casts around him, one large mass falls upon the head of the Marquess Camden, and from his rebounds upon those other official heads, from which the surrender made of the vast mass of official emolument drew forth the stream of eulogium which the documents of the day present us with.
How to turn this fallacy to account.
To let off a paradox of this sort with any chance of success, you must not be anything less than the leader of a party. For if you are, instead of gaping and staring at you, men will but laugh at you, or think of something else without so much as laughing at you; because there is no laughing at anything without thinking of it.
Moreover, a thing of this sort succeeds much better in a speech, than in a book or pamphlet—and that for several reasons.
The use of a speech is to carry the measure of the moment; and if the measure be but carried, no matter for the means. The measure being carried, the paradox is seen to be no less absurd and mischievous than it is strange: no matter—the measure is carried: war is declared, or a negotiation for peace broken off. Peace you will have some time or other, but in the meantime the paradox has had its effect. A law has passed; and that law an absurd and mischievous one: some day or other, the mischief may receive a remedy; but that day may not arrive these two or three hundred years.*
In a speech, too, it is all profit—no loss: your point may be gained, or not gained; your reputation remains where it was. It is your speech, or not your speech, whichever is most convenient. To A, who under the notion of its being yours, admires it, it is your speech; to B, who, because it is yours, or because it is an absurd and mischievous one, spurns at it, it is not your speech. If the words of your paradox are ambiguous, as they will be if they are well and happly chosen,—susceptible of two senses, an innoxious and a noxious one—this is exactly what is wanted. A, who on your credit is ready to take it, and to adopt it in the noxious one which suits your purpose, is suffered silently to take it in that noxious one: but if B, taking it in the noxious one, attacks you and pushes you too hard, then some adherent of yours (not you yourself, for it would be weak indeed for you to appear in the matter,) some adherent of yours brings out the innocent sense, vows and swears it was that meaning that was yours, and belabours poor B with a charge of calumny.
If in the choice of your expression you have been negligent or unfortunate, so that no more than one sense, and that one indefensible, can with any colour of reason be ascribed to it, you thus lose part of your advantage. But still no harm can happen to you: you disavow—that is, your adherent for you disavows—the very words:—and thus everything is as it should be.
Thus it is that from speeches—spoken and unminuted speeches—you derive much the same sort of advantage as is derived from that sort of sham law (which, in so far as it is made by anybody, is made by judges, and is called common or unwritten law) by lawyers: thundering all the while the charge of insincerity or folly in all who have the assurance to ascribe to it either a different word or a different meaning. To the supposed speech, as to the supposed law, they give what words they please, and then to those words they give what meaning they please. The law, indeed, neither has, nor ever had, any determinate form of words belonging to it; whereas the speech could not have been spoken, unless it had had a set, and that a complete one, of determinate words belonging to it. But in the speech—the words never having been committed to writing, or if they have been, evidence of their being the same words not being producible,—the speech-maker is as safe as if he had never uttered any one of those words.
In the intellectual weakness of those on whom, in this form, imposition is endeavoured to be practised—in this degrading weakness, and in the state of servitude in which they are accordingly held by the shackles of authority,† may be seen the cause of that success, and thence of the effrontery and insolence which this species of imposition manifests. In proportion as intellect is weaker and weaker, reason has less and less to hold upon it; authority, fortified by the appearance, real or fallacious, of strong persuasion, more and more.
It is in this way that, strange as at first mention it cannot but appear—it is in this way—and when addressed to minds of such a texture, the more flagrant and outrageous the absurdity, the stronger its persuasive force. Why? Because, without the strongest ground, a persuasion—so strong a persuasion—of the truth of a proposition, at first sight at least so adverse to truth, it is taken for granted, could not have been formed.
When the terrors of which religion is the source, are the instruments employed for inculcating it, the strength of the persuasion thus inspired presents little cause for wonder. In the intensity of the exertion made for the purpose of believing—the greater the difficulty, the greater is, in case of success, the merit. Hence that most magnanimous of all conclusions, credo quia impossibile est. Higher than this, the force of faith—the force, and consequently the merit—cannot go: by this one bound, the pinnacle is attained; and whatsoever reward Omnipotence has in store for service of this complexion, is placed out of the reach of failure.
Be the absurdity ever so flagrant—the nature of man considered, and how absolute the dominion which is exercised over him by the passions of fear and hope—be the absurdity ever so flagrant, cause of just wonder can never be afforded by any acceptance which it receives, with the support afforded to it by the most irresistible of the passions:
The understanding is not the source—reason is of itself no spring of action: the understanding is but an instrument in the hand of the will: it is by hopes and fears that the end of action is determined;—all that reason does, is to find and determine upon the means:
But where, at the mere suggestion of a set of men with gowns of a certain form on their backs—where at their mere suggestion (unsupported by any motive of a nature to act on the will), we see men living and acting under the persuasion, that in the vice of lying there is virtue to metamorphose into justice the crime of usurpation;—here, it is not the will that is confounded and overwhelmed: it is the understanding that is deluded.*
NON-CAUSA PRO CAUSA: OR, CAUSE AND OBSTACLE CONFOUNDED—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—When in a system which has good points in it, you have a set of abuses, or any of them, to defend,—after a general eulogium bestowed on the system, or an indication more or less explicit of the good effects the existence of which is out of dispute, take the abuses you have to defend, either separately or collectively (collectively is the safest course,) and to them ascribe the credit of having given birth to the good effects.
Cùm hoc, ergò propter hoc.
In every political system which is of long standing, and which, not having been produced, any considerable part of it, in prosecution of any comprehensive design, good or bad, but piecemeal at different and distant times, according to the casual and temporary predominance of conflicting interests—whatsoever may be the good or the bad points in the state of things which at any given time constitutes the result of it, among the incidents which may be observed as having place in it, some, upon proper scrutiny and proper distinction made, may be seen to have operated in the character of effective or promotive causes—others, in the character of obstacles or preventives—others, to have been in relation to them, in the character of immaterial incidents, or inoperative circumstances.
In such a system, whatsoever are the abuses or other imperfections in it, and whatsoever are the prosperous results observable in it, these prosperous results will have found, in the abuses and imperfections, not so many efficient or promotive causes, but so many obstacles or preventives.
Meantime, if so you can order matters, that instead of being recognised as having operated in the character of obstacles, the abuses in question shall be believed to have operated in the character of efficient or promotive causes, nothing can contribute more powerfully to the effect which it is your endeavour to produce.
If you cannot so far succeed as to cause the prosperous results in question to be referred to the abuses by which they have been obstructed and retarded, the next thing you are to endeavour at is, to cause them to be ascribed to some inoperative circumstance or circumstances, having in appearance some connexion or other—the nearer the better—with the abuses.
At any rate, you will, as far as depends upon you, cause the prosperous circumstances in question to be referred to any causes rather than the real ones: for in proportion as it becomes manifest of what causes they are the results, it will become manifest of what other circumstances they have not been the results: whereupon, no sooner is any one of the abuses you have to defend, considered in this point of view, than a question will be apt to occur.—Well, and this?—what has been the use of this? To which no answer being found, the consequence is such as need not be mentioned.
Real knowledge being among the number of your most formidable adversaries, your endeavour must of course be to obstruct its advancement and propagation as effectually as possible.
Real knowledge depends in a great degree on the being able, on each occasion, to distinguish from each other, causes, obstacles, and uninfluencing circumstances;—these, therefore, it must on every occasion be your study to confound as effectually as possible.
Exposure.—Example 1—Good Government: Obstacle represented as a cause,—the influence of the Crown.
If the superiority of the constitution of the English limited monarchy, as compared with all absolute or less limited monarchies, be in England a point undisputed, and regarded as indisputable, and the characteristic by which that limited monarchy is distinguished from all absolute and less limited monarchies, is, the influence, the superior influence of the mass of the people—the influence exercised by the will of the nominees of the people on the wills of the nominees of the king, and thence on the conduct of the king himself,—a circumstance which, in so far as it operates, diminishes the efficiency of this influence, and on many, if not most occasions, may be seen to destroy that efficiency altogether, cannot with propriety be numbered among the causes of that superiority, but must, on the contrary, be placed to the account of the obstacles that obstructed it.
In point of fact, the members of the House of Commons—some really, all in supposition, nominees of the mass of the people—act, as to the nominees of the king, viz. (the members of the executive department) with the authority of judges,—viz. to the purpose of causing punishment to be inflicted under the name of punishment, in case of special delinquency, not without the concurrence of the House of Lords—but, to the purpose of causing removal, without any such concurrence.
In so far as over the will of the nominees of the people as above mentioned, acting in their above-mentioned character of judges, an efficient influence is exercised by the king or his nominees, the efficiency of this judicial authority is destroyed; the nominees of the king, in the exercise of their respective functions, committing any enormities at pleasure; and thereupon, in the character, though without the name of judges, absolving themselves, and, if such be their pleasure, praising themselves for what they have done.
In this case, the fallacy consists in representing, defending, and supporting, in the character of an indispensable cause of the acknowledged prosperous results, the sinister and corruptive influence in question—a circumstance which, so far from being in any degree a promotive cause, is an obstacle.
In what way it operates in the character of an obstructive and destructive circumstance, has already been shown above: in what way, with relation to the same effect, it can operate as a cause, has never been so much as attempted to be shown—it has been on every occasion taken for granted, and this on no other ground than that of its being a concomitant circumstance.
Example 2—Effect, Good Government: Obstacle represented as a cause,—station of the Bishops in the House of Lords.
To good government, neither in the situation, of a bishop, nor in any other situation can a man be contributory any further than as he takes a part in it.
In that department of government which is carried on in the House of Lords, a man cannot bear a part any further than as he takes a part in the debates carried on there, or at least attends and gives his vote.
But of the whole body of bishops, including, since the Union, those from Ireland, a small part, upon an average scarce so many as a tenth, are seen to attend and give their votes: and as for speaking—when any instance of it happens to take place, it sets men a-staring and talking as if it were a phenomenon.
How comes it that the number of those who vote, and especially of those who speak, is so small? Because a general feeling exists, that to that class temporal occupations and politics are not suitable occupations.
And why not suitable?
1. Because, in that war of personalities, in which, in a large proportion, the debates in that as well as in the other House consist, a man of this class is in a peculiar degree vulnerable. The Apostles—did they bear any part in, had they any seat in, the Roman senate, or so much as in the common-council of the city of Jerusalem? Was it Peter, was it James, was it John—was it not Dives, that used to clothe himself in purple and fine linen? Walking from place to place to preach, comprised their occupations. It yours were the same, would you not be rather more like them than you are?
2. Because there is a general feeling, though not expressed in words, from a sort of decency and compassion, that a legislative assembly is not a fit place for a man who is not at liberty to speak what he thinks; and who, should he be bold enough to bring to view any one of the plainest dictates of political utility, might be put to silence and confounded by reference to this or that one of the thirty-nine Articles, or by this or that text of Scripture, out of a Testament Old or New.
So many things of which, however improbable, he is bound to profess his belief.
So many things which, however indefensible by reason, he would be bound, were he to open his mouth, to defend.
Matter of duty to him to be—matter of infamy not to be—steeled against conviction.
So many vulnerable parts with which he is embarrassed, and with which an antagonist of his is not embarrassed.
So many chains with which he is shackled, and with which an antagonist of his is not shackled.
A man, whose misfortune should it be to hear a word or two of reason, it would be his duty not to listen to it.
To a man thus circumstanced, to talk reason would have something ungenerous in it and indecorous: it would be as if a man should set about talking indecently to his daughter or his wife.
In vain would they answer, what has been so often answered, that neither Jesus nor his Apostles ever meant what they said—that everything is to be explained and explained away. By answers of this sort, those and those alone would be satisfied, whose satisfaction with everything that is established is immoveable, and not susceptible of experiencing diminution from any objections, or increase from any answers.
Example 3.—Effect, Useful national learning: Obstacle stated as a cause,—system of education pursued in Church-of-England Universities.
On the subject of learning, to the question whether, with relation to it, the universities might with more propriety be considered as causes or as obstacles, much need not here be said, after what has been said on the subject by the Reverend Vicesimus Knox, and of late by the Edinburgh Review.
If these fragments, with the exception of the scurrilous parts of the Review, were put together and made into a book, a most instructive addition to it might be made by a history of the treatment experienced from this quarter by the inventions of the Quaker Lancaster. In the age of academical and right reverend orthodoxy, learning, it would there be seen, is, even to the very first rudiments of it, an object of terror and hatred.
Of this Quaker, though he undertook not to attempt to make converts, what is certain is, that no school would, under his management, have been a school of perjury: and since, in so far as by his means the elementary parts of knowledge made their way among the people, intellectual light would take place of intellectual darkness, he experienced the hostility that might so naturally have been expected from those who love darkness better than light; to wit, for a reason which may be seen in that book, the knowledge of which it was his object to diffuse, as it was theirs to confine and stifle it.
In virtue and knowledge—in every feature of felicity, the empire of Montezuma outshines, as everybody knows, all the surrounding states, even the commonwealth of Tlascala not excepted.
Where (said an inquirer once, to the high priest of the temple of Vitzlipultzli,) where is it that we are to look for the true cause of so glorious a pre-eminence? “Look for it!” answered the holy pontiff—“where shouldst thou look for it, blind sceptic, but in the copiousness of the streams in which the sweet and precious blood of innocents flows daily down the altars of the great God?”
“Yes,” answered in full convocation and full chorus the archbishops, bishops, deans, canons, and prebends of the religion of Vitzlipultzli:—“Yes,” answered in semi-chorus the vice-chancellor, with all the doctors, both the proctors and masters regent and non-regent of the as yet uncatholicized university of Mexico:—“Yes, in the copiousness of the streams in which the sweet and precious blood of innocents flows daily down the altars of the great God.”
Example 4.—Effect, National virtue: Obstacle represented as a cause,—opulence of the elergy.
In several former works it has been shown.* that, be the effect what it may,—in so far as money, or in any other shape, the matter of reward, is, in the character of an efficient cause, employed in the view or under the notion of promoting it,—what degree of efficiency shall attend in such case the use made of the instrument, depends not so much upon its magnitude as upon the manner in which, and the skill with which, it is applied; and in particular, that in so far as that instrument is composed of public money, it is no less possible, and in some cases much more frequent, so to apply it, that the production of that effect shall, instead of being promoted, be prevented: that when, as for working, a man is paid alike whether he does work or whether he does none, to expect work from him is impossible, and to pretend to expect it, mere mockery: that after engaging to render an habitual course of service (for the rendering of which no extraordinary degree of talent or alacrity is necessary,) a fit person has received that which is necessary to obtain his free engagement for the rendering it, every penny added has no other tendency than to afford him means and incentives to relinquish his duties for whatever other occupations are more suitable to his taste.
Now if this be true of all men, it is true of every man: and it is not a man’s being called prebend, canon, dean, bishop, or even archbishop, that will in his case, or in any other person’s case, make it false.
It is a proposition that, be it ever so true, is not evident, but requires argument deduced from experience to render it so, that by such service as is rendered by the English clergy, virtue is in any degree promoted.
It is a proposition that, be it to a certain extent ever so true, is to a certain extent notoriously not true, that to the procurement of such service, money from any source is necessary. For without a particle of money passing from hand to hand, service of this sort is rendered by men one towards another, viz. among the people called Quakers: and if for the exhibiting to view the comparative degrees of efficiency with which service of this sort is rendered—work of this sort done—who is there that will take upon him to deny that the highest degree of the scale would be found occupied by the people called Quakers, or disputed with them by the people called Methodists—while the very lowest would be recognised as being occupied without dispute by the members sacred or profane of the established and most opulently endowed Church of England?
It is another proposition that still remains to be proved, that, admitting that for the procurement of this service—to the whole extent in which for the production of virtue it is wanted—money is necessary; it is also necessary, that for the raising of the necessary quantity, money should, by the power of government, be forced out of the pockets of unwilling contributors.
PARTIALITY-PREACHER’S ARGUMENT—(ad judicium.)
“From the abuse, argue not against the use.”
Exposition.—From abuse it is an erorr (it has been said) to argue against use.
The proposition is an absurd one, make the best of it: but the degree of absurdity will depend upon the turn that may be given to the sentence.
Whichsoever he the turn given to it, the plain and undeniable truth of the case, as between use and abuse, will alike serve for the exposure of it.
Be the institution what it may, whatsoever good effects there are that have resulted from it, these constitute, as far as experience goes, the use of it: whatsoever ill effects have resulted from it, these, in so far at least as they have been the object of foresight and the result of intention, constitute the abuse of it.
Thus as to past results: and the same observation applies to expected future ones.
Exposure.—Now then come the fallacies to the propagation of which it may and must have been directed:—
1. In taking an account of the effects of an institution, you ought to set down all the good effects, and omit all the bad ones.
This is one of the purposes to which it is capable of being applied: this needs not much to be said of it.
2. In taking an account of the effects of an institution good and bad, you ought not to argue against it on the supposition that the sum of the bad ones is greater than the sum of the good ones, merely from the circumstance, that among all its effects taken together, there are some that belong to the bad side of the account.
In this latter sense, such is the character of the maxim, that nothing can be said against the truth of it. As an instruction, it is too obvious to be of any use: in the way of warning, it cannot by possibility do any harm; nor is it altogether out of the sphere of possibility, that in this or that instance it may have its use.
Applied to a man’s pecuniary affairs, it amounts to this; viz. Conclude not that a man has no property because he has some debts.
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS—(ad judicium.)
In this case, surely, if in any, exposition is of itself exposure.
The insertion of this article in the list of fallacies, was suggested by the use made of it in the Courier newspaper of the 27th of August 1819, as reported and commented upon in the Morning Chronicle of the 28th.*
The end justifies the means. Yes: but on three conditions, any of which failing, no such justification has place:—
1. One is, that the end be good.
2. That the means chosen be either purely good—or if evil, having less evil in them than on a balance there is of real good in the end.
3. That they have more of good in them, or less of evil, as the case may be, than any others, by the employment of which the end might have been attained.
Laying out of the case these restrictions, note the absurdities that would follow.
Acquisition of a penny loaf is the end I aim at. The goodness of it is indisputable. If, by the goodness of the end, any means employed in the attainment of it are justified, instead of a penny, I may give a pound for it: thus stands the justification on the ground of prudence. Or, instead of giving a penny for it, I may cut the baker’s throat, and thus get it for nothing: and thus stands the justification on the ground of benevolence and beneficence.
In politics, what is the use of this fallacy? In the mouth of one whose station is among the ins, it will serve for whatsoever cruelties those by whom power is exercised may at any time find a pleasure in committing on those over whom power is exercised, for the purpose of confirming themselves in the power of committing more such cruelties.
The ins, as such, have the power to commit atrocities; and that power having sinister interest for its spur, is never suffered to be idle. For the use of this fallacy, in so far as it can be worth their while to employ a cloak, they have therefore a continual demand.
The outs, acting under the impulse of the same spur, sharpened by continual privation and continually repeated disappointment, have on their part a still more urgent demand for the same fallacy, though the opportunities of making application of it but rarely present themselves to their hands.
The oracular party adage, invented by the Whigs—Not men but measures—or, Not measures but men—(for according as you complete the sentence, you may word it either way,)—this bold but slippery instrument of fallacy has manifest alliance with the present. Seating in office fit men, being the end, every thing depending upon that end, and the men in question being the only ones by which it can be attained, no means can be imagined, which by such an end may not be justified.
OPPOSER-GENERAL’S JUSTIFICATION:—NOT MEASURES BUT MEN; OR, NOT MEN BUT MEASURES—(ad invidiam.)
According to the notions commonly entertained of moral duty under the head of probity, and in particular under the head of that branch of probity which consists in sincerity, whatsoever be the nature and extent of the business in question, private or public, it is not right for a man to argue against his own opinion;—when his opinion is so and so, to profess it to be the reverse, and in so doing, to bend the force of his mind to the purpose of causing others to embrace the opinion thus opposite to his real one.
That, in particular, if, being a member of the House of Commons, and in opposition, a measure, which to him seems a proper one, is brought on the carpet on the ministerial side, it is not right that he should declare it to be in his opinion pernicious, and use his endeavours to have it thought so, and treated as such by the House; and so again, if, being on that same side, a measure such as to him appears pernicious, is brought on the carpet on the side of opposition, it is not right that he should declare it to be in his opinion beneficial and fit to be adopted, and accordingly use his endeavours to make it generally thought so, and as such adopted by the House.
An aphorism, said to have been a favourite one with the late Mr. Charles Fox, is the proposition at the head of this chapter.
Not men but measures! or, Not measures but men!—are the two forms, in either of which, according as the ellipsis is filled up, the aphorism may be couched.
Not measures but men! is the more simple expression of the two, it being in that form that the aphorism is marked out for approbation: reprobation being the sentiment attached to its opposite, Not men but measures!
If you look to speeches, then comes the constant, and constantly interminable question—what were the words in the speeches? The words are in that case on each occasion genuine or spurious, the interpretation correct or incorrect, according as it suits the purpose of him who is speaking of it, and more particularly of him who spoke it, that it should be.
But on one occasion we have the aphorism from the pen of Charles Fox himself: and then, if applied to the question of sincerity or insincerity, as above, it is found to have no direct bearing on it.
“Are to be attended to,” are the words employed on this occasion to complete the proposition. “How vain, how idle, how presumptuous,” says the declaimer in his attempt to put on the historian, “is the opinion that laws can do everything! and how weak and pernicious the maxim founded upon it, that measures not men, are to be attended to!”
Weak enough, as thus expressed, it must be confessed; and abundantly too weak to be by a statesman considered as worth noticing, even by so vague and ungrounded a note of reprobation. As if any one ever thought of denying that both ought to be “attended to!” and as if, even in a debating club, words so vague and unmeaning as “attended to” were a fit subject of debate.
What must be confessed is, that to a man who wishes well to his country, and sees a set of men who in his opinion are a bad set, conducting the affairs of it, few things are more provoking than by this or that comparatively unimportant, but so far as it goes beneficial measure, to see them obtain a degree of reputation, of which one effect may be to confirm them in their seat.
But what seems not to have been sufficiently “attended to” is, that it is by the badness of their measures, that the only warrant for giving to the men the appellation of bad men, can be grounded: that if they are really the bad men they are supposed to be, have a little patience, and they will come out with some bad measure, against which, it being by the supposition bad, and by yourself looked upon as such, you may, without prejudice to your sincerity, point your attacks: and if no such bad measure ever came from them, the imputation of their being bad men is rather premature.
Distressing indeed to a man of real probity must be the alternative: to see a set of men fixed in this their all-commanding seat, and making a proportionally extensive and pernicious use of it; or, for the purpose of taking what chance is to be had of precluding them from this advantage, to keep on straining every endeavour to make the House and the public look upon as pernicious, a measure, of the utility of which he is himself satisfied.
In the abomination of long and regularly corrupt parliaments lies the cause of this distress.
Under this system, when the whole system of abuses has a determined patron on the throne, and that patron has got a set of ministers that suit this ruling purpose, misrule may swell to such a pitch, that without any one measure in such sort bad that you can fix upon it, and say, this is a sufficient ground for punishment, or even for dismission, the State may be at the brink of ruin:—meantime some measure may be introduced, against which, though good, or at least innoxious of itself, the people, by means of some misrepresentation of matter of fact, or some erroneous opinion or other which prevails among them, may, to the disgrace and expulsion of the ministry, be turned against it; and then comes the distressing alternative.
But were the duration of the assembly short, and the great and surely effective mass of the matter of corruption expelled and kept out of it, no such alternative would ever present itself: the chance of ridding the country of a bad set of ministers would be renewed continually. The question supposed to be tried on each occasion might be the question really tried; whereas at present, on each occasion, the question tried is but one and the same, viz. Shall the ministry, or shall it not, continue?
The question brought on the carpet is like the wager in a feigned issue, a mere farce, which, but for its connexion with the principal question above mentioned, would not be deemed worth trying, and would not be tried.
REJECTION INSTEAD OF AMENDMENT—(ad judicium.)
Exposition.—This fallacy consists in urging, in the character of a bar, or conclusive objection against the proposed measure, some consideration which, if presented in the character of a proposed amendment, might have more or less claim to notice.
It generally consists of some real or imaginary inconvenience, alleged commonly, but not necessarily, as eventually to result from the adoption of the measure.
This inconvenience, supposing it real, will either be preponderant over the promised benefit, or not preponderant.
In either case, it will be either remediable or irremediable.
If at the same time irremediable and preponderant, then it is, and then only, that in the character of an objection it is of itself conclusive.
By him in whose mind discernment and candour are combined, this distinction will be not only felt, but brought to view. If in respect of adequate discernment there be a failure, it will not be felt: if in respect of candour only, it will have been felt, but it will not be brought to view.
The occasion by which opportunity is afforded for the working of this fallacy, is the creation of any new office, including the mass of emolument which, without inquiry into the necessity, or any means taken for keeping down the quantum of it within the narrowed limits which the good of the service admits of, is, by the union of habit with the sinister interest that gave birth to it, annexed as of course, upon their creation, to all new offices.
The fallacy,—what there is of fallacy in the case, consists in the practice of setting up the two universally applicable objections, viz. need of economy, and mischief or danger from the increase of the influence of the crown, in the character of peremptory bars to the proposed measure.
Exposure.—The ground on which an objection of this stamp may with propriety be considered and spoken of under the denomination of a fallacy, is where the utility of the proposed new establishment is left unimpeached, and the sole reason for the rejection proposed to be put upon the proposed measure, consists in the above topics, or one of them.
In such case, on the part of him by whom any objections so inconclusive in their nature are relied on, the reliance placed on them amounts to a virtual acknowledgment of the utility of the proposed new establishment: inasmuch as in an address from one rational being to another, nothing seems, upon the face of the statement at least, more unnatural, than that if a man could find any objection that would apply to the particular establishment in question, in contradistinction to all others, he should confine himself to an objection which applies alike to almost all existing establishments; that is, to almost the whole frame of the existing government.
Such is the case where the two commonplace objections in question, or either of them, are brought out in the character of objections by themselves, and without being accompanied by any specific ones.
But even when added to specific ones, an objection thus inconclusive in its nature, if urged in a direct way, and dwelt upon with any emphasis, can scarcely—at least while there remain any useless places unabolished, or any overpaid places, from which the overplus of emolument remains undefalcated—be exempted from the imputation of irrelevancy.
At any rate, wherever it happens that a minister at present in office sees opposite to him in the House another person who has at any time been in office, it seems an observation not very easy to answer in the character of an argument ad hominem, should it be said, “When you were in office, there were such and such offices which were of no manner of use; these you never used your endeavours to abolish, notwithstanding the use that would have resulted from the abolition, in the shape of diminution of needless expenditure and sinister influence: yet now, when a set of offices is proposed, for which you cannot deny but that there is some use, your exertions for the benefit of economy are reserved to be directed against these useful ones.”
No doubt but that, on the supposition that the two opposite masses of advantage and disadvantage being completely in equilibrio,—advantage in the shape of service expected to be rendered in the proposed new offices on the one hand, disadvantage in the shape of expense—of the emolument proposed to be attached to them on the other,—a weight much less than that of the mischief from the increase of sinister influence, would suffice to turn the scale.
Take also another supposition. Suppose (what is not in every case possible) that the value of the service expected to be obtained by means of the proposed new offices is capable of being obtained, and has accordingly been obtained in figures. Suppose, on the other hand (what will very frequently be feasible,) that the expense of the establishment may with sufficient precision be obtained in figures—and being so obtained, on striking the balance, found to be less than the advantage so expected from the service. Suppose, lastly (what is impossible,) that the value of the mischief which, in the shape of introduction of additional influence, were with sufficient precision capable of standing expressed in figures, had been so expressed—and being so expressed, the quantity of mischief in this shape were found sufficient to turn the scale on the side of disadvantage.
Here would be a sufficient reason for the rejection of the proposed establishment, and thence a sufficient warrant for bringing into the field the argument in question, commonplace as it is. But in regard to this last supposition, at any rate, how far it is from being capable of being realized, is but too evident.
Upon the whole, therefore, so far at least as concerns the objection drawn from the increase that would result to the sinister influence of the crown, it may be said, that whatsoever time is spent in descanting upon this topic, may be set down to the account of lost time.
It is a topic, the importance of which is surely sufficient to entitle it to be considered by itself. The influence of the crown, it ought always to be remembered, can no otherwise receive with propriety the epithet sinister, than in so far as, by being directed to and reaching a member of parliament or a parliamentary elector, it affects the purity of parliament. But by a system of measures properly directed to that end, the constitution of parliament might be effectually guarded against any degree of impurity capable of being productive of any sensible inconvenience, whatsoever were the lucrativeness of the utmost number of offices, for the creation or preservation of which so much as a plausible reason could be found: and were it otherwise, the proper remedy would be found, not in the refusal to create any new office, the service of which was understood to over-balance in any determinate and unquestionable degree the mischief of the expense, but in the taking the nomination out of the hands of the crown, and vesting it in some other and independent hands.
The putting all places in these respects upon the same footing,—necessary and unnecessary ones—properly paid and overpaid ones,—wears out and weakens that energy which should be reserved for, and directed with all its force against, unnecessary places, and the overplus part of the pay of overpaid ones.
Another occasion on which this fallacy is often wont to be applied, is the case in which, from the mere observation of a profit as likely from any transaction to accrue to this or that individual, a censure is grounded, pronouncing it a job.
The error in case of sincerity, the fallacy in case of insincerity, consists, in forgetting that individuals are the stuff of which the public is made; that there is no way of benefiting the public but by benefiting individuals; and that a benefit which, in the shape of pleasure or exemption from pain, does not sooner or later come home to the bosom of at least some one individual, is not in reality a benefit—is not entitled to that name.
So far then from constituting an argument in disfavour of the proposed measure, every benefit that can be pointed out as accruing, or likely to accrue, to any determinate individual or individuals, constitutes, as far as it goes, an argument in favour of the measure.
In no case whatsoever—on no imaginable supposition—can this consideration serve with propriety in the character of an argument in disfavour of any measure. In no case whatsoever—on no imaginable supposition—can it, so far as it goes, fail of serving with propriety in the character of an argument in favour of the measure. Is the measure good?—it adds to the mass of its advantages. Is the measure upon the whole a bad one?—it subtracts, by the whole amount of it, from the real amount of the disadvantages attached to the measure.
At the same time, in practice, there is no argument, perhaps, which is more frequently employed, or on which more stress is laid, without doors at any rate, if not within doors, than this, in the character of an argument in disfavour of a proposed measure—no argument which, even when taken by itself, is with more confidence relied on in the character of a conclusive one.
To what cause is so general a perversion of the faculty of reason to be ascribed?
Two causes present themselves as acting in this character:—
1. It is apt to be received (and that certainly not without reason) in the character of evidence—conclusive evidence—of the nature of the motive, to the influence of which the part taken by the supporters of the measure, or some of them (viz. all who in any way are partakers of the private benefit in question,) ought to be ascribed.
In this character, to the justness of the conclusion thus drawn, there can in general be nothing to object.
But the consideration of the motive in which the part taken, either by the supporters or the opposers of a measure, finds its cause, has elsewhere been shown to be a consideration altogether irrelevant;* and the use of the argument has been shown to be of the number of those fallacies, the influence of which is in its natural and general tendency unfavourable to every good cause.
The other cause is, the prevalence of the passion of envy. To the man to whom it is an object of envy, the good of another man is evil to himself. By the envy of the speaker or writer, the supposed advantage to the third person is denounced in the character of an evil, to the envy of the hearers or the readers:—denounced, and perhaps without any perception of the mistake, so rare is the habit of self-examination, and so gross and so perpetual the errors into which, for want of it, the human mind is capable of being led.
In speaking of the passion or affection of envy, as being productive of this fallacious argument, and of the error but for which shame would frequently restrain a man from the employment of it,—it is not meant to speak of this passion or this affection as one of which, on the occasion in question, the influence ought to be considered as pernicious on the whole.
So far from being pernicious, the more thoroughly it is considered, the more closely it will be seen to be salutary upon the whole; and not merely salutary, at least in the best state of things that has yet been realized, but so necessary, that without it, society would hardly have been kept together.
The legislator who resolves not to accept assistance from any but social motives—from none, save what in his vocabulary pass under the denomination of pure motives, will find his laws without vigour and without use.
The judge who resolves to have no prosecutors who are brought to him by any but pure motives, will not find that part of his emolument which, under the present system of abuse, is composed of fees, and may save himself the trouble of going into court—of sitting on penal causes. The judge who should determine to receive no evidence but what was at the same time brought to him, and, when before him, guided by pure motives, need scarcely trouble himself to hear evidence.
The practical inference is—that, if he would avoid drawing down disgrace upon himself instead of upon the measure he is opposing, a man ought to abstain from employing this argument in confutation of the fallacy; since, in as far as he employs it, he is employing in refutation of one fallacy (and that so gross an one, that the bare mention of it in that character may naturally be sufficient to reduce the employer to silence,)—he is employing another fallacy, which is of itself susceptible of a refutation no less easy and conclusive.
It is only by the interests, the affections the passions—(all these words mean nothing more than the same psychological object appearing in different characters)—that the legislator, labouring for the good and in the service of mankind, can effect his purposes. Those interests, acting in the character of motives, may be of the self-regarding class, the dissocial, or the social:—the social he will, on every occasion where he finds them already in action, endeavour not only to engage in his service, but cherish and cultivate: the self-regarding and the dissocial, though his study will be rather to restrain than encourage them, he will at any rate, wherever he sees them in action or likely to come into action, use his best endeavours to avail himself of directing their influence, with whatever force he can muster, to his own social purposes.
[* ]See the nature of these denominations amply illustrated in Springs-of-Action Table, in Vol. I.
[* ]See this principle avowed and maintained by the scribes of both parties, Burke and Rose, as shown in the Defences of Economy against those advocates of depredation,—in Vol. V.
[* ]As an instance remarkable enough, though not in respect of the mischievousness, yet in respect of the extent and the importance of the effects producible by a single word, note Lord Erskine’s defence of the Whigs, avowedly produced by the application of the dyslogistic word faction to that party in the state.
[† ]The device here in question is not peculiar to politicians. By an example drawn from private life, it may to some eyes be placed, perhaps, in a clearer point of view. The word gallantry is employed to denote either of two dispositions, which, though not altogether without connexion, may either of them exist without the other. In one of these senses, it denotes, on the part of the stronger sex, the disposition to testify on all occasions towards the weaker sex those sentiments of respect and kindness by which civilized is so strikingly and happily distinguished from savage life. In the other sense, it is, in the main, synonymous to adultery: yet not so completely synonymous (as indeed words perfectly synonymous are of rare occurrence) but that, in addition to this sense, it presents an accessary and collateral one. Having, from the habit of being employed in the other sense, acquired, in addition to its direct sense, a collateral sense of the eulogistic cast, it serves to give to the act, habit, or disposition, which in this sense it is employed to present, something of an eulogistic tincture, in lieu of that dyslogystic colouring under which the object is presented by its direct and proper name. Whatever act a man regards himself as being known to have performed, or meditates the performance of, under any expectation of his being eventually known to have performed it, he will not, in speaking of it, make use of any term the tendency of which is to call forth, on the part of the hearer or reader, any sentiment of disapprobation pointed at the sort of act in question, and consequently, through the medium of the act, at the agent by whom it has been performed. To the word adultery, this effect, to every man more or less unpleasant, is attached by the usage of language. On every occasion in which it is necessary to his purpose to bring to view an act of this obnoxious description, he will naturally be on the look-out for a term in the use of which he may be supposed to have had another meaning, and which, in so far as it conveys an idea of the forbidden act in question, presents it with an accompaniment, not of reproach, but rather of approbation, which in general would not have accompanied it but for the other signification which the word is also employed to designate. This term he finds in the word gallantry.
[* ]In the church establishment, the bad parts are—
[* ]Between Henry the Third, and Henry the Sixth (anno 1265 to 1422) it is true there were frequent acts ordaining annual, and even oftener than annual parliaments.a Still these were but vague promises, made only by the king, with two or three petty princes: the Commons were not legislators, but petitioners: never seeing, till after enactment the acts to which their assent was recorded.
[* ]Articles 19, 20.
[† ]Ex. gr. from unordained Methodists, &c. and Quakers.
[* ]Consult Hume, Tindal, Harris, Henry.
[* ]Even in Spain, I have been assured, if I may depend upon an assurance given me by persons fully informed, and of the most respectable character, no instance of a capital execution for any offence against religion has occurred within these twenty-two or twenty-three years.
[* ]If it by accident be not so, this constitutes a different and distinct evil, for which is required a different and distinct remedy.
[* ]This was an argument brought forward against parliamentary reform by William Windham in the House of Commons, and by him insisted on with great emphasis. This man was among the disciples, imitators of, and co-operators with,Edmund Burke—that Edmund Burke with whom the subject-many were the swinish multitude:—swinish in nature, and apt therefore to receive the treatment which is apt to be given to swine. In private life, that is, in their dealings with those who were immediately about them—at any rate, such of them as were of their own class—many of these men, many of these haters and calumniators of mankind at large, are not unamiable; but, seduced by that sinister interest which is possessed by them in common, they encourage in one another the anti-social affection in the case where it operates upon the most extensive scale. If, while thus encouraging himself in the hating and contemning the people, a man of this cast finds himself hated by them, the fault is surely more in him than them; and, whatever it may happen to him to suffer from it, he has himself to thank for it.
[* ]See Principles of Morals and Legislation, Ch. XVIII. Vol. I. p. 96, et seq.
[* ]This was Brougham: the time about June 1810. Reference is made to the Government periodical called the Satirist (by Manners,) June 1810, No. 33, p. 570. But that wretched performance is now pretty well forgotten.
[* ]This was Brougham: the time about June 1810. Reference is made to the Government periodical called the Satirist (by Manners,) June 1810, No. 33, p. 570. But that wretched performance is now pretty well forgotten.
[† ]The Edinburgh Review.
[‡ ]In the pancake in question, which, at a table at the Cape of Good Hope was served up to a company, of which Thornbury, better known by his travels in Japan, was one, white lead was employed instead of flour:—some recovered, and some died.
[∥ ]In a book written anno 1780, published anno 1789, under the title of Introduction to Morals and Legislation.—(See Vol. I. of this collection.)
[* ]See Scotch Reform, Vol. V. Delay and Complication Tables.
[† ]See Bentham par Dumont. Théorie des Peines et des Récompenses: (Rationale of Punishment, Vol. I. p. 388, and Rationale of Reward, antea, p. 189, et seq.) and Defences of Economy against Edmund Burke and George Rose, Vol. V. p. 278, et seq.
[* ]Till lately, the country has suffered in a variety of ways by the law made in the reign of Elizabeth to prevent good workmanship: the effect is felt; the cause, men cannot bear to look at.
[† ]See Ad Verecundiam, Part I. Fallacies of Authority.
[* ]To form a ground for decision, a judge asserts, as true, some fact which to hisknowledge is not true—some fact, for the assertion of which, if, in the station of a witness, and without having for his protection the power of a judge, a man were to venture the assertion of, he would by this same judge be punished with imprisonment and infamy. To screen it from the abhorrence due to [Editor: illegible word] this lie, exceeding in wickedness the most wicked of the assertions commonly brought into view under that name, is decked up in the same appellation, fiction, which is employed in bringing to view the innoxious and amusing pictures of ideal scenes for which we are indebted to the poetic genius. What you are thus doing with the lie in your mouth,—had you power to do it without the lie?—your lie is a foolish one. Have you no such power?—it is a flagitious one. In this mire may be seen laid the principal part of the foundation of English common law.
[* ]Rationale of Punishment, Do. of Reward; Defence of Economy against Burke, and Do. against Rose, ut supra; Church-of-Englandism Examined, 1818.
[* ]The Courier newspaper is, in the other public prints, perpetually spoken of as enjoying the favour of the monarch of the day. I have all all along been upon the watch to see whether a denial in any shape of that assertion would be given: I have never been able to hear of any such thing. The fact admitted, a conclusion which can scarcely be refused is, that the principles manifested in that paper are the principles entertained and acted upon by that royal arbiter of our fate, in whose disposal the lives and fortunes of about twenty millions or thereabout in the three kingdoms, and sixty millions in Asia, are placed. Without deigning to wait for and receive, or if received, to have regard to the evidence on the other side, at the solicitation of Lord Sidmouth, Secretary of State, the Prince Regent, by one letter dated August 1819, bestows his approbation upon the conduct maintained by the Manchester magistrates, on the occasion of the slaughter committed by their officers—by the armed yeomanry—on an unarmed multitude: and by another, dated the same month, upon Sir John Bing, the general commander of the regulars, for the support given by him to it. What shall we say of this? Let prudence give the answer. The secretary is worthy to serve such a sovereign: the sovereign is worthy to be served by such a secretary. Every stroke he adds to his own portrait, the faithful servant adds to that of his royal patron and protector. A complete portrait, thus formed by lines copied from the Courier, would constitute a most instructive and interesting piece.
[* ]See Part II. Chap. I. Personalities.
[* ]Between Henry the Third, and Henry the Sixth (anno 1265 to 1422) it is true there were frequent acts ordaining annual, and even oftener than annual parliaments.a Still these were but vague promises, made only by the king, with two or three petty princes: the Commons were not legislators, but petitioners: never seeing, till after enactment the acts to which their assent was recorded.
[a]See Christian on Blackstone.