Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XIII.: EXCLUSION OF PLACEMEN, &C. FROM THE RIGHT OF VOTING—MISCHIEVOUSNESS AND PROFLIGACY OF THE OPPOSITE ARRANGEMENT. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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SECTION XIII.: EXCLUSION OF PLACEMEN, &C. FROM THE RIGHT OF VOTING—MISCHIEVOUSNESS AND PROFLIGACY OF THE OPPOSITE ARRANGEMENT. - 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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EXCLUSION OF PLACEMEN, &C. FROM THE RIGHT OF VOTING—MISCHIEVOUSNESS AND PROFLIGACY OF THE OPPOSITE ARRANGEMENT.
On the topic here brought to view, something has been said already, in a preceding section (§ V.;) something also in the Plan itself: in each of these places something; and surely in either of them enough to satisfy any reasonable and unprejudiced mind: in a word, any mind whatever, that is not led blindfold, either by sinister interest or interest-begotten prejudice, or by an undiscriminating regard to custom: custom, that blind guide, to the guidance of which, if to the rejection of reason, none but the blind submit themselves.
Placemen seated by the king, with right of speech, and even right of motion: placemen from all the departments of government, from which a demand for information can present itself—each of them with right of speech and motion—but in every case without vote:—this is what is there proposed.†
Decompose thus in idea the existing practice, though as yet it never has been decomposed in practice. Perform this operation for yourself, gentle reader, if so it be that your habits and faculties are suited to the task—suited to the performance of the operation; or, at any rate, to the conception and remembrance of the result of it:—if not, turn, at any rate, from this section; else, nothing that you will see in it can be otherwise than misconceived.
Let there be no mistake. By nothing that has here been said, or will be said, is any such foolish insinuation meant to be conveyed,—as that, to the possession of an office under the crown—accompanied with any such mass of profit as shall be found adapted to the nature of it,—to the possession of any such situation, when considered by itself, any mark of reprobation ought to be annexed. To the case in which it operates with the effect of a bribe—a regularly repeated bribe—to this case, and to this alone, is everything which has been, or will be, said of offices, in the character of masses of the matter of corruption, meant from first to last to be applied. No:—considered in its own nature—considered even in any connexion, other than that of the sort here in question—office is no more a bad thing than money is a bad thing. Censure passed on office thus connected, is no more a censure passed on office at large, than censure passed on a murder committed for the sake of money with a knife, would be a censure on the use of money or on the use of knives. Considered in this point of view,—and independently of the particular connexion here pleaded against,—as it is with any one office, so is it with every other:—to no part of the official establishment—whether among those parts in which the office is in the gift of the monarch, or among those of which the patronage is in any other hands;—neither to any such part, nor to the whole taken in the aggregate;—has anything which is here said been ever meant to have any application.
If the sitting in perpetual judgment over the conduct of the several functionaries, possessors of offices in all the several departments of government—if this be not of the number of the functions properly belonging to, and, in show at least, exercised by the Commons House,—what other functions are there that can be said to belong to that same House? If, in so far as exercised with propriety and effect, this function of the House has not its use,—to what good use, with what good effect, can its other functions—all or any of them—be exercised?
In the situation of those functionaries, who, under the official name of judges, are judges and nothing more,—an incident which of necessity has sometimes happened, is—that, of a suit, in which one of these judges has been a party, being instituted and carried on in a judicatory in which his seat on the bench was situated;—of course, when the cause has come to be heard, he has been anywhere but upon that bench. What would his brethren—what would the bar—what would the audience—what would the public—have thought and said, had he staid and voted there? If, in a word, the judica-teipsum principle—the principle brought to view by Blackstone, for the purpose of condemnation—and illustrated by the story of the sinning and repentant pope, who, in virtue of a sentence passed by himself upon himself, was burnt alive,—were, on any of those seats which are called benches, realized?
In the situation of any one of the twelve, say rather of the fifteen superior judges,—on the occasion, though it were of but one single cause, and that between individual and individual,—suppose a man convicted of having received a bribe:—by bench, bar, audience, public—what would be thought and said of him, as above? By the very height of its improbability (for assuredly few political suppositions can be more improbable,) the case serves but the better in the character of a case put in the way of supposition, for the purpose of argument.
Well—here, in the Commons House—in the instance of every member by whom a political situation of any other kind, under the patronage of the crown, is at the same time holden, this judica-teipsum principle, as above explained, is it not exemplified and realized?
In any such instance—on any occasion in which, by any such member, in case of a division, a vote is given—the other situation having either money or money’s worth attached to it—the taint of bribery, is it in any degree less strong upon the case of such member, than if a bank note—say of a hundred pound—had but just before been received by him?—received, under an engagement, “implied,” or (if Mr. Speaker pleases) “express,” that such or such should be the direction given to his vote? Oh no: it is abundantly more strong; for, in the section in which the comparison has been made between bribery and terrorism, this has been shown already. At any time at which a quarter’s salary is put into his hand, the effect of it in the way of seductive influence,—is it in any degree less than that which would be produced by money to the same amount put into his hand (suppose him not in that or any other office,) under a stipulation—implied or express as before—that during the next ensuing quarter, on every occasion on which a vote should come to be given by the Cabinet Ministers,—such of them as were in the House,—his vote should be on the same side with theirs? Less, did I say? Not it indeed; but much greater. Why? Answer: Because, in the case of a bribe, so called,—the amount of it, being on each occasion fixed, is on each occasion limited: whereas, in the case of the bribe not so called—of the bribe received under the name of salary attached to an office,—though that one office and no other is in the man’s possession, yet in prospect,—by the side of it, beneath it, and above it,—each with its emoluments, is a cluster of other offices—a cluster boundless in number and value—for self and friends.
In the highest—in the most comprehensive—in the in every way most important seat of judicature in existence,—in the judicatory in which the lives and fortunes—the everything—not of A and B only, but of all the inhabitants of the whole empire—not to speak of those of almost all other countries on this globe—are, day by day,—if not actually at stake,—liable to be at stake, in the exercise given to its powers,—do the men in question,—in a number, on almost every occasion, capable of deciding the part taken by the whole House, and thence by the whole Government,—as often as the conduct of the partnership to which they belong is called in question, sit and act, each man as judge in his own cause: each of them, in respect of every vote he gives (I speak of those who to their seats add offices of emolument, from which they are removable at the pleasure of the crown,) each of them tainted with the matter of corruption; and that, as hath been shown, in a form, in comparison of which bribery is purity.
Suppose this told of a foreign country:—with what horror would not the state of government in that country be regarded! with what commiseration that of the wretched people!
Think then of the American United States!—think of the sentiments with which, on so many accounts—and on none more particularly than on this account—the condition to which we are doomed, cannot but be regarded by a citizen of those happy States!
Storm of indignation in the breast of Honourable Gentleman:—at this page, should his patience have lasted him thus long,—down, not improbably, goes the page on the floor, and then the foot upon it. Never but of one complexion—and that the purest—are his conduct, his intentions, or his motives. Self-regarding interest—the motive corresponding to that interest—the sort of motive, on the general predominance of which over every other the whole species is continually dependent for its very existence,—never for any such sordid motive can any place be ever found in so honourable a breast.
A hundred to one,—for want of the habit of examination, no tolerably clear conception has he, on any occasion, of the springs of action by which his own conduct is determined: no tolerably clear conception of anything that is passing in his own mind.
On the present occasion,—supposing him able to endure any such task, as that of forming a comparative estimate of the degrees of mischievous efficiency, as between corruption in the shape of bribery, commonly so called, on the one part, and corruption in the shape of place-holding and place-hunting on the other,—in the following queries he may perhaps find some assistance, while occupied in that more instructive than pleasant process:
1. Whether, if on any occasion, in effect or in intention, the measure brought upon the carpet by the minister be mischievous, or the measure opposed by him beneficial,—in which case his opposition, in so far as effectual, is mischievous,—whether, in any such case,—for securing, as far as depends upon votes in that House, the production of the mischief,—any means more effectual than the sort of arrangement in question could be devised?
2. Whether, in the case of punishable bribery,—the bribe being either in possession or in prospect,—the connexion between the desired end and the criminal and punishable means, can, in any degree, be closer than—or even so close as—in the present case?
3. Whether, by the impunity which in the bribery case has not place, and in this case has place, the strength of the temptation, or the probability of its being yielded to, is diminished?
4. The like questions, with regard to the ignominy and reproach which in the case of the bribery have place,—and which in the present case find their place occupied by honour and respect;—at any rate in the breasts of the custom-led and unreflecting multitude?
5. Whether, in the case of the bribery, the quantity of the matter of good,—operating, whether in the shape of money, money’s worth, or any other shape, in the character of matter of corruption,—is not fixed, and by being fixed, limited?—and whether,—to the quantity of that same precious matter, in the shape of offices and so forth, capable of being held by himself, or by connexions of his of all sorts and sizes—relations, friends, dependents—in countless multitudes—held by the side of him, underneath him, and above him—his own situation being, at the same time, compared with the moment at which a bribe in the ordinary form is received, a permanent one,—and, unless it should please him whose place is above all a perpetual one—whether, to the quantity of this same seductive matter there be any determinate limits? whether, compared with that of a mass of the matter of corruption, applied and received in the shape of a bribe commonly so called, the seductive power of a mass of that same matter, in the shape here in question,—in the eye of imagination, inflamed as it is by desire,—be not as infinity to one?
6. Whether, in the connexion which thus by positive institution has been established between the public mischief and the private benefit, there be any the smallest public use?—the smallest public use,—or, except the creation, preservation, or increase of the public mischief, any other assignable intended use or effect than the production of the private benefit?
7. Whether, if in any of the imputations here attached to the monstrous conjunction in question—the conjunction of the perpetually accountable situation with the situation to which account is perpetually rendered—whether, if in any of these imputations there be anything really grievous to the feelings of any one to whom they apply, there has ever been a time at which it has not been in his power to rid himself of it?—and whether there has ever been a time at which it has not been in the power of the majority of those who find their profit in the monstrosity, to rid the country of it?
8. Whether, when, in a case of imputed delinquency, all other evidence, and that sufficient, is against a man,—any other resource be left to him than the vehemence of the protestations by which he makes assertion of his own innocence?—and whether, from any such vehemence, the probative force of such his evidence receives in the eye of reason any increase?*
Suppose a prize offered, for him, by the fertility of whose imagination that political arrangement should be proposed, which, with a view to justice and public utility, should be most flagrantly flagitious;—to any purpose but that of corruption and misrule, the most grossly and palpably absurd:—could any other be found capable of making a match for this? Oh no: not although every man who ever gave himself to politics were to employ his whole life in the research. Suppose such a prize offered,—would all the poetry, added to all the oratory of the right honourable the president of the board of controul, suffice him to win it?—No, not even though the Quarterly Review and British India were left to themselves, and the whole mass of his powers concentrated upon this one object.
A constitution, with this poison—slow, but not the less sure—in the bowels of it! Rotten, even from the time that this poison was injected into it, must have been the Matchless Constitution,—rotten at the core—and, of such rottenness, what we are now suffering is among the fruits.
As a match for Utopia, suppose a Cacotopĩa discovered and described,—would not filth in this shape be a “fundamental feature” in it?
For fear of the influence of the crown in a relatively subordinate sphere,—judges forsooth in certain courts—though in certain courts only—judges, in courts where four of them sit together, though not in the court in which the powers of all four are condensed into one breast—judges in these relatively subordinate situations, fixed firmly on their benches,—while on the benches on which the fate of these men and all others depends,—the judges, on whom the whole of the business depends, are thus kept—kept for ever—in a state—not only of dependency, but corruptedness! Behold here another gnat strained at, while camels and cameleopards are swallowed.
Search the whole fabric through, where will an end be found to this tissue of hypocrisy:—to this mixture of sham securities and real mischiefs—of sham securities provided, and real mischiefs fostered?—efficiency to bad purposes, coupled with inefficiency to good ones?
Hypocrisy? Yes: over and over. Can any hypocrisy be more shameless—more transparent—than that which is manifested in marking bribe-taking with punishment, and, as far as may be, with infamy, while, in the person of a so-styled representative of the people, place-holding under the crown is held in honour? The place-holding held in honour!—Why? Even because the corruptors and the corrupted—the bestowers and the receivers of the matter of corruption—have need that so it should be. Bribe-taking marked with punishment and with infamy!—Why? Even because the corruptionists,—by whom the matter of corruption, together with the impunity and the honour, is given and received in that other—in that wholesale and so much more profitable shape,—have no need of it in any such petty and retail shape. By vituperating it in the shape in which it is of no use to them, men think to earn—and, if they do earn, it is without expense—the praise of virtue: of that virtue, the vice opposite to which has taken such full and never disturbed possession of their practice and their hearts.
Limit the number of those pretended representatives of the people? of these real representatives of the monarch? Limit the number of those public trustees into whose hands, as sure as quarter-day comes, the bribe by which they are hired shall be paid? Limit the number of those men who, on the bench of justice, as often as they become malefactors, shall sit in judgment on their own conduct and that of their accomplices? Well: when, for the purpose of this limitation, a bill is ready for passing, tack on then to it a rider, limiting the number of street-prostitutes that shall be employed as teachers in any boarding-school for young ladies.
Once upon a time, and once only,—into one of the plans of moderate reform, peeped (it will be seen)—and with congenial modesty—a proposition for a limitation to this effect. Once, and once only: nor does it appear that, on that one occasion, a proposition so daring—so innovational—so Utopian—so near to Jacobinical—found any one to second it.*
Oh blessed Constitution!—that in which (for of this you will find men ready to assure you) business could not go on, unless, in this way, delinquents—and those upon the largest scale—were judges in their own cause! And thus it is that, in the mind of every man who thinks, impeachment—the sole legal remedy against misrule—has been blotted out of the list of remedies.
Give me a place—give me a peerage—give me court favour: I will pocket £10,000 of the public money—I will confess I have done so,—and with honour on their lips—proclaiming each man his own honour—noble lords shall declare me innocent.
Oh Matchless Constitution!—And so, in this Matchless Constitution—such is the nature and virtue of it—business could not go on,—unless, besides being judges, each one of them in his own cause, those by whom everything is done, were not—every one of them—throughout the whole course of his service—corrupted: corrupted in a mode of corruption beyond comparison more effectual and more mischievous than that of bribery!
Look now to the United States!—look to the General Congress! See whether, in that head seat of democratic government, corruption in any such shape is in any instance to be found. What! does not business then go on in Congress?—in Congress, where, in the very last year that was, there was a surplus to the amount of a fourth of the year’s income, instead of a deficit, as here, to the amount of a sixth?†
Take the heir-apparent of a duke—(alas! poor duke!)—take him, and, having seated him in the House of Commons, put him into a coloured sinecure, to serve as a substitute to an automaton for signing papers: his hand to the papers; the will by which it is directed, together with the judgment, such as it is, that belongs to that will, safe lodged all the while in another place. In this one picture behold the anti-jacobin triad—Waste, Corruption, and Oppression: waste made of the salary; corruption, the purpose it is applied to; Oppression, the channel through which for such purposes it is extracted. Behold the lauded preparatory seminary for the training of young nobility to business: behold a training school for young nobility, in the true anti-jacobin style: behold in the triad the true and everlasting object of anti-jacobin worship: behold now the regius professor of piety in the Honourable House: behold him—should any such blasphemy as this assault his eyes—behold him rending his heart—not at the sight of the waste—not at the sight of the corruption—not at the sight of the oppression—but at the allusion which, with the help of Mr. Attorney-general, he will have descried: the allusion made to a something more sacred than the Bible—to a substitute, which, with all-embracing, and blessedly efficient, orthodoxy, is put into the place of that old-fashioned miscellany—a substitute which, in the Established Church of Scotland, a man would no more rend his heart about, than in the Established Church of Morocco.
Reader, is the language here too warm for you? Turn to the Plan itself, there may you find the substance of it in as cool a state as the coldest heart can desire.
In any language—warm or cold—let him, who thinks he can, produce an answer to it.
Look once more to the United States:—see—whether, in that seat of democracy—of representative democracy—where swinish rulers are chosen by swinish multitudes—see whether, in that seat of illegitimate incorruption and good government—any such monster is to be found, as a man constituted judge—perpetual judge—in his own cause?
Oh blessed Constitution!—a constitution in which it is become a fundamental principle—become, I say—for for centuries it was otherwise* —that, among those who rule, there shall not be a man who is not judge in his own cause! Can it be matter of wonder, that among men thus self-qualified for the function of rendering justice—men,—in whose instance the sacrifice of universal interest to particular—of social interest upon the largest scale to self-regarding interest upon its own narrow scale—of duty, in a word, to interest, is matter of constant and universal practice—should not be to be numbered among those who are given to change?
And in this state is the Constitution, which in this very state, on pain that shall follow, we are called upon and forced to love!
Say, Mr. Wilberforce, how long shall a state of things like this be looked upon with no other than a smiling and admiring countenance? How long shall reform, and not abuse, be the object of all fears? When immorality is thus operating—operating upon the largest scale—say, what in this world is religion good for, if, instead of a check, immorality finds in it a support?—if, instead of a support, morality finds in it a substitute?
The man who, with open eyes, lauds the constitution with these sins in it—sins circulating in every vein, and tainting every fibre—the man who, with open eyes (and your eyes,—have they not had time to open themselves?) lauds and cherishes all these sins, say, where is the sin among them all, of which the guilt does not lie upon his head?
Sad—oh sad condition of human nature! Conceive, if you can, the enormity so atrocious, that, so as this one circumstance be but superadded to it,—viz. that of its having been habitually practised—practised with impunity by men in power, and under the protection of the law—will not, if by any strange accident exposed and complained of, find in that quarter a host of inexorable and indignant supporters and defenders—in that of the suffering multitude, alas! with how few exceptions!—so many indifferent and incurious observers, if not prostrate venerators! Presented at first in its true colours, and by its proper phrase, it would not perhaps have gained acceptance: presented in an improper phrase—dressed up in false colours—it passes without objection,—and, for ages after ages, the country is tormented by it.
Ah! when will the yoke of Custom—Custom, the blind tyrant, of which all other tyrants make their slave—ah! when will that misery-perpetuating yoke be shaken off?—when, when will Reason be seated on her throne?
[† ]Say, in a number equal to the average of the number of those, who since the irish Union have had seats in the House,—army and navy officers, nominated of course by the monarch: officers—not, as now, engaged in active service, thence in a line of duty, with the fulfilment of which, the fulfilment of that of a Member of the Commons House would, if constancy of attendance, as hereinafter proposed, were effectually enforced, be incompatible,—but veterans, who, their service in their respective lines being at an end, would,—to a body of professional experience superior to that which at present, under the dispensations of blind chance, is afforded by the average of all characters and all ages,—add a degree of leisure, such as would not present a demand for any abatement from the most perfect constancy of attendance.
[* ]Like queries, in the case of a chancellor, supreme judge in a judicatory in which, immediately or through the channel of patronage, he pays himself by fees, the aggregate amount increasing with the aggregate of individual bankruptcy and public misery produced or increased by war—in the case of the judge of a prize court paying himself and Co. in like manner—the aggregate amount of the fees depending altogether upon war—chancellor and judge strenuous from first to last in the support given to war, by vote, eloquence, and influence. Think of this, and then say, whether, under a government so formed, in looking for the causes of war, commencement, and continuance, the eye need to convey itself to any unmeasurable distance?
[* ]See Section XVI. Moderate Reform, &c.
[† ]See above, Section IV. p. 16, note.
[* ]See Section XV—Representatives—Impermanence, &c.