Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION X.: BRIBERY AND TERRORISM COMPARED. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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SECTION X.: BRIBERY AND TERRORISM COMPARED. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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BRIBERY AND TERRORISM COMPARED.
Bribery and terrorism,—mischiefs compared. In both instances, what is it that forms the character of the case? Is it not the spuriousness of the will to which the effect is given? In both cases, is it not that the will, to which the effect is given, is the will—not of the person whose will it appears to be, and in pretence is intended to be, and in reality said to be,—but that of some other person, whose will it does not appear to be, and in pretence is intended not to be, and accordingly is not said to be?
Well: so much for the general nature and character of the effect produced, supposing it produced. Now, as to the degree of probability, as a mathematician would say,—is the degree of certainty, as other men say,—that belongs to this important and mischievous effect.
The quantity of interest at stake—for conception’s sake, be it money or money’s worth, for it comes to the same thing—say the sum at stake: this sum, being in the two cases the same—say, for example, £5;—for one instance in which you would find it producing this effect in the way of bribery, in ten instances perhaps you would find it producing that same effect in the way of terrorism.
Situations in which the effect depends,—two: that of the elector to be operated upon, and that of the proposed representative, by whom or to whose use the other is to be operated upon. Look, in the first place, to the first: for, unless it be with a prospect of accomplishment, an object is not aimed at. Here, if bribery is to be the instrument employed, behold the obstacles—the opposing motives—which the seductionist—the proposed representatives or his supporters—have to overcome: fear of punishment at the hand of the law—fear of reproach from without—and, in so far as conscience may be regarded as concerned in the matter, fear of reproach from within. In this same case, if terrorism is the instrument—and the only sinister instrument in the way to operate—by no one of the above obstacles does the power of the instrument find itself opposed. In the case of bribery, the operation has an external tangible instrument, viz. the money, or money’s worth; and the application of the instrument is rendered determinate by the circumstances of place and time, and by the necessary acts of intercourse betwixt man and man for the purpose. To the case of terrorism belongs not any one of all these exterior and determinate accompaniments:—no such tangible instrument does it admit of: of no such intercourse is there any need in it:—no external and determinate object does it present, to which any such inward sentiment as fear of reproach can attach. In this state of things the two first of the three restraining motives cannot, and the other (generally speaking) will not, operate.
Look now to the situation of the person—the proposed representative—by whom, or to whose use, the effect is to be produced. To the production of it by bribery, special application is on every occasion necessary: special application, and that attended with hazard in various shapes to him by whom, or to whose use, it is made:—hazard of scorn and reproach, instead of acceptance, at the time; in case of engagement, hazard of non-fulfilment; in either case, hazard of disclosure, followed or not followed by prosecution. To the production of the effect by terrorism, no special application is, with any such constancy, necessary: in many instances, it assuredly has place—perhaps in most: but there is no saying to what extent it may be produced, by the mere notoriety of the wishes of the person, in whose power is the source of terror:—by this general indication, with or without the assistance of any of those particular indications, of which, in infinite variety, the case is susceptible.
To the application and operation of the matter of seduction in the shape of bribery, the matter of wealth in the shape of ready money is necessary: and, in proportion as the desired effect is produced,—or rather as the endeavour, successful or unsuccessful, to produce the effect is exerted,—loss equal in amount to the expenditure is sustained. In the case where it is in the shape of terrorism that this same naturally useful, but accidentally misapplied and pernicious, matter operates,—though in this case, as in the other, the quantity of matter capable of operating towards the effect has its limits,—still, without loss in any shape to him by whom the profit is reaped, does it perform its seductive office.
In a word, so far as bribery is the instrument, loss is certain, profit precarious: so far as terrorism is the instrument, loss none; effect, if any, profit without loss.
In the case of bribery, the danger of punishment at the hands of law, together with the less uncertain, though less intense, suffering at the hands of general disrepute,—these together may be seen composing no slight obstacle to the procurement of agents, such as to the requisite disposition shall add the ability, necessary to the production of the effect desired. On the other hand, in the case of terrorism, operating in the way in question—while, as above, what may very well happen is—that no application of any kind whether made on the part of the terrorist himself, or on the part of any person in the character of an agent, shall be necessary,—yet in that same character scarcely will there exist that well-wisher to his cause, in whose instance any aversion to the task of conveying the appropriate intimation will have place.
Thus much as between bribery and terrorism:—now as to the two contrasted cases, in both which the force is supposed to be applied in the shape of terrorism,—in the one case by the power of the law; in the other case without the power of the law. Suppose an act passed—(many a worse law has been passed, is passing, and will be passed)—suppose an act passed, imposing a penalty of £5 on every man, who, being tenant of the Duke, Marquis, or Earl of Mickleland, viz. to his estate at Fearham, in the county therein mentioned,—and having moreover a right of voting at all elections in and for the said county,—shall, at any election of a knight to serve in parliament in and for the said county,—refuse or omit to give such his vote in favour of any such person whom for that purpose it shall please such his grace, or such his lordship, to nominate. Suppose for this purpose a bill moved for:—here would be an occasion for Whig eloquence!—here would be fretting, and fuming, and vociferation! Even now, supposing any such bill moved for—(not that—considering the more convenient shape in which the same effect is produced for the benefit of both parties—not that in either there exists any the smallest interest exciting any one to move it)—highly questionably it might be,—nay, even now, while everything that is most atrocious, and most fatally destructive of what little remains good in the constitution is passing every day—questionable it might be, whether a bill to any such effect would make its way through the two Houses.
Well:—but in a law to such an effect, in point of efficiency and thence of mischievousness, would there be anything comparable to what has place in this behalf, in the existing and everlastingly lauded state of things? Sums the same, of the thus legitimated influence of property, would the force be equal to the already “legitimate influence” possessed by that same representative of, and substitute to, probity and intellectual aptitude, in the present state of things? No: a dead letter, or not much stronger, would be the five-pound penalty. By the profit of it, even if levied and received, would be covered but a small part of the expense. Instead of the lordly and angry hand,—by this or that friendly and commissioned hand (such are the powers of appropriate legal arrangements) might the profit be received: by an appropriate microscope, a flaw—such as all proceedings are kept exposed to—might peradventure be discovered; but before this, by the very attempt, as indicated by the purchase of the first piece of parchment by which the proceedings were commenced, might such a storm of odium be raised, as the nerves of his grace, or his lordship—though he had been a Sir James Lowther—would not be able to stand.
So much for the case in which,—neither by him whose endeavour it is to impose it, nor by him whose endeavour it is to avoid it,—the loss is any otherwise to be looked for, than through the ever-wavering and perpetually-delusive hand of the man of law. Contrast it now with the case in which the source from which it is looked for, is a force, which without need of any such treacherous and inadequate instrument may be applied at pleasure. In the former case, odium maximized; vexation and expense certain; execution distant and uncertain:—in this case, execution at pleasure; odium covered up; no vexation, no expense.
In the instance of vote-compelling terrorism, the establishing it by law is, as above, as yet but a supposition. In the instance of competition-excluding terrorism, it has, as everybody knows, now, for above this century past, been matter of fact: (year 1710: Act 9 Anne, c. 4, § i.) £300 landed property—and that too in a particular shape—the minimum: £300 a-year, going as far as a thousand a-year at least, money of the present time. At that time the monied interest being particularly strong among the Whigs, the landed interest among the Tories,—Tories strong in the House of Commons,—so it was, that, on the occasion of the exclusion thus endeavoured to be put upon the genuine elements of appropriate aptitude in favour of the spurious ones, monarchy and aristocracy acted with conjunct force. In both creeds, property is probity, was then a fundamental article. Well:—after all, triumphing over sinister theory, experience forced upon men the conviction, that, with the Birmingham article employed to the exclusion of the genuine one, business could not go on. So completely had the absurdity of the idea been demonstrated,—anno 1784 and thenceforward, that of the two great leaders of the opposite parties, Pitt the second and Charles Fox—each in his day a minister—a situation in which, if any, the demand for appropriate probity should have been at the highest pitch—the one had from the first no more than a minimum—and that to the last drowned in debt: the other, not even that minimum. Well: neither of them having on principle,—one of them not having even by law,—a right so much as to sit in the House, how come they to be there? Answer: Oh—by the usual instruments—House-of-Commons’ craft and lawyer-craft—the difficulty had been removed. Lawyers had been to work, and set up a manufactory of sham qualifications. Lawyers got their fees; disqualified men, their seats;—the work, which should have been performed by sincerity, was bungled out by the more acceptable hand of fraud: and thus, in the Blackstone phrase, everything was as it should be.
Thus much for the comparison between the case of the seductionist whose instrument is bribery, and that of him whose instrument is terror: the situation in both cases being that of an individual. The same representative of the source of the power being in this case, as in the two former, still the same.
Compare now the situation of the individual operating in the character of terrorist, with that of the universal seductionist: the seductionist, by whose hand, though by no means unpractised in the use of terror, the instrument of seduction most extensively and conspicuously employed is—the instrument mostly known by the name of bribery, or corruption:—the instrument of alluring influence.
By both seductionists—the individual terrorist and the universal seductionist—in whichsoever of his two shapes the latter may, on the occasion in question, be found operating—the same mighty mass of advantage is possessed:—in the one case, as in the other, without personal application—without application so much as by agents—yet, with the sure assistance of agents, and these unpaid—in abundance—may the desired effect be purchased. No expense—not so much as of thought: no exposure to rebuff and scorn:—no exposure to that sort of disappointment which, in case of engagement, is produced by the breach of it on the other side:—no exposure to legal punishment—to public reproach—nor so much as to reproach of conscience:—all these so many millstones hanging over the head of the venal, and, comparatively at least, innoxious sinner, whose sin has taken upon itself the nature of bribery.
But in all these cases, the less efficient the restraint, in these and all other imaginable shapes, opposed to the pernicious effect,—the greater, in each instance, the probability of its taking place: the greater, in each instance, the probability of its taking place, the greater the extent to which upon the whole it will take place, and thence upon the whole the greater the mischievousness of it: in each instance, in which it is efficient,—the result being, in both cases, of one and the same nature, viz. the giving effect to the will of some other man, instead of that of the voter, by whom the vote is given as the expression of his own free will,—the comparative aggregate mischievousness of the two practices is great in proportion to the extent in which they respectively have place.
Yes: compared with the system of terrorism, the system of bribery is virtue. Under the system of bribery, both parties are pleased: the giver of the bribe gets what he most desires; the receiver of it what he most desires: both parties are gratified; both parties are contented; in both situations you see smiling faces, indexes of contented hearts. Under the system of terrorism, whatsoever feeling of satisfaction can have place, look for it on one side only: and even on that side scarcely can it have place, without having for its alloy the apprehension of odium, and that odium just:—frowns above; gloom below:—sympathy, satisfaction, nowhere.
Turn back now to what is said on the extent of the right of suffrage: note once more the collateral uses attached to the amplitude of that extent: apply these considerations to the present case. In comparison of what has place under terrorism,—urbanity, though under the system of bribery not so much cherished as under the system of freedom, finds a door naturally open to receive it: not so under terrorism. Whence the difference?—The answer has been already given: Of the benefit that may be acquired by the receipt of a bribe a man has no need, equal to what he has of that, of which—he having already the habitual possession or fixed expectation of it,—terrorism threatens him with the loss. Whatsoever be the magnitude of his bribes, yet, suppose him to a certain degree obnoxious, whether it be in public or in private life—and in particular if it be, for instance, the man whose sole trust is in those means of sinister influence, he may, to an extent more or less considerable, experience the mortification of seeing them refused. Repression of insolence is therefore in his situation prescribed by considerations, and urged by motives, which, in the case of the secure terrorist, or the possessor of a proprietory seat, have no place.
Thus it is that—each being considered separately—bribery, if not absolutely, compared with terrorism at least, is a useful practice. Terrorism having place on one side, place bribery on the other,—the lesser evil, if evil it be now to be called, becomes positively useful, by the check it is capable of giving to the greater evil. By the terrors inspired by a full purse brandished on the other side, the vote-compelling terrorist may himself be either driven out of his seat, or so wrought upon as, in respect of it, to bear his faculties more meekly than he would otherwise. Himself incapacitated—by peerage, for example—or disinctined,—the nominee, to whom, under the influence of this check, he has recourse, may (it may thus happen) be a person less unpopular—in any, or every respect, less unapt—than the person who, but for this salutary restraint, would have been the object of his choice.
Of one mischief with which terrorism is pregnant, while bribery is altogether pure from it, no more than a slight hint can in this place be afforded. Producing with so much more disastrous an efficiency the same common disease, viz. spuriousness of suffrage,—the force of terrorism operates at the same time towards the suppression of the only remedy. By the same tyranny, by which the demand for reform is created, the petition system, in which alone it can originate, is endeavoured to be crushed. Desperateness is thus another symptom added to the malignity of the disease: and to this symptom the influence of bribery is happily inapplicable. By mere situation,—no expense in any shape, not so much as in the shape of thought,—does the bare image of the frowning terrorist repel from the paper—repel in countless numbers—the hands by which, if free, it would have been signed: while, strong as is the interest by which, in so many places, the disbursement of the money necessary to the purchase of votes is produced,—on no occasion is any interest strong enough to produce any such disbursement, in the quantity necessary to the purchase of signatures to petitions, to be found.
Interested alike in the preservation and increase of abuse and misrule in all its forms,—monarchy, and the aristocracy that crouches under its feet, operate—with united force operate—as in case of votes—even without exertion—still more powerfully of course if with exertion—towards the keeping the door as closely shut as possible against the only remedy. The situation in this case operated upon is that of the aggrieved subject, who—but for the frown of inexorable tyranny—would have become a petitioner, but who, by the spectacle of the united thunderbolts suspended over his head, finds his hand arrested, and the complaining paper prevented from receiving his signature.
Not satisfied with operating in the quiet and negative form of restraint,—coercion is at this moment busying itself in the positive and more galling form of constraint,—under the guise of declarations of loyalty, circulating or stationing declarations of abhorrence as towards the only remedy:—under the G—s as under the Stuarts, woe be to petitioners!—grace and favour to abhorrers!