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CHAPTER IX.: GOOD RULE AND BAD RULE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 9 (Constitutional Code) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 9.
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GOOD RULE AND BAD RULE.
Of bad rule, or say misrule, the sensible evil effects in all shapes, are reducible to one or other of two denominations—oppression and depredation.
They may even be comprehended under the single name of oppression: the exercise of depredation in so far as committed by the hands of rulers, being but a particular modification of oppression: oppression exercised for this particular purpose: applied to the purpose of obtaining benefit in some shape, at the expense of the persons on whom the oppression is exercised.
But oppression may be exercised in cases where no immediate benefit in any shape, is the object, the attainment of which is the final cause of the oppression exercised: no benefit in any shape, unless the pleasure resulting from the contemplation of the suffering produced by the oppression in the breast of the oppressed person, be regarded as coming under the denomination of benefit.
Though in this way the cause of the evil may, in all its shapes, be comprisable under the one denomination of oppression, there will be a convenience in the employing of the other denomination, namely depredation likewise, and thus considering it as something distinct from oppression at large. For as in the two cases, the evil effects on the part of the sufferers are different, so are the modes of operation on the part of the agents different.
The giving support and strength to the power of depredation is the chief purpose to which the exercise of a power which, in its immediate effect, is purely oppressive, is principally directed.
When, for example, individuals who are suffering under the privations produced by the depredation exercised at their expense, make communication of their sufferings, or of the cause to which they ascribe those sufferings, or of the displeasure with which the authors of those sufferings are regarded by them; and for the making of such communication to this effect, pain, under the name of punishment, or any other, is inflicted on them, without anything in the shape of money, or anything else, from the use of which the rulers would derive pleasure in any shape, being taken from them; here, indeed, oppression is exercised on them, but it cannot be said that in this particular instance depredation is exercised upon them: at the same time, but for the depredation the oppression would not have been exercised.
In every government, which has for its object and effect the pursuit of the happiness of the governors at the expense and by the correspondent sacrifice of the happiness of the governed, oppression at large will be the habitual and unintermitted practice of the government in all its ranks.
The only species of government which has or can have for its object and effect the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is, as has been seen, a democracy: and the only species of democracy which can have place in a community numerous enough to defend itself against aggression at the hands of external adversaries, is a representative democracy.
A democracy, then, has for its characteristic object and effect, the securing its members against oppression and depredation at the hands of those functionaries which it employs for its defence, against oppression and depredation at the hands of foreign adversaries, and against such internal adversaries as are not functionaries.
Every other species of government has necessarily, for its characteristic and primary object and effect, the keeping the people or non-functionaries in a perfectly defenceless state, against the functionaries their rulers; who being, in respect of their power and the use they are disposed and enabled to make of it, the natural adversaries of the people, have for their object the giving facility, certainty, unbounded extent and impunity, to the depredation and oppression exercised on the governed by the governors.
The argumentation, creation, or preservation of felicity, being the all-comprehensive object of desire and end in view, as to human action in every situation, so, necessarily in that of all those by whom rule is exercised, felicity, together with its opposite, infelicity, in their several modifications, are as necessarily the subject matters of its operations. But in their several modifications, these same elements are also, by an equal necessity, rendered the equally necessary and indispensable instruments for the attainment of that end. In no case without the elements of infelicity and felicity, only by pain and pleasure applied to them in a certain manner, can sensitive beings be rendered instrumental in the exclusion of evil, or in the production of good: in the exclusion of pain, or in the production of pleasure.
When, however, they are spoken of, as being employed in the character of instruments, they are spoken of by appellatives, different from those by which they are designated, when spoken of in the character of ends.
Force, intimidation, and remuneration: by one or other of these three denominations may be characterized all those incorporeal instruments of rule, which being indisputable instruments of all rule, cannot therefore but be such with relation even to the best rule.
By force, understand here physical force—that of which the body as contradistinguished from the mind, is the seat. Only by means and through the intervention of this instrument, can those others be brought into action. Only by physical force, (by whatsoever agent applied to them,) can any operation be performed upon objects not endowed with sensation, in a word, upon inanimate things: and in this respect many are the occasions on which this only mode of operating upon things, is not less necessary to the purpose of operating with efficiency upon persons. Only by force, by physical force, can a person who, against the will of the occupant, continues in a house, be removed out of it, if neither intimidation nor remuneration are capable of being applied with effect to the purpose of affording him an inducement, adequate to the purpose of causing him to remove himself.
Force, in so far as considered as being applied to the mind, and applied not without effect, is termed intimidation.
Intimidation is the eventually efficient cause of the matter of evil, considered as applied to the purpose in question. The most prominent and extensive instance, is that in which the matter of evil is applied to this same purpose in the character of matter of punishment: punishment in the event of a man’s failing to contribute to the felicity of the person in question, in the manner pointed out to him by the directive rule of law, which the arrangements of government furnish.
Remuneration, is the efficient cause of the matter of good, considered as applied to the purpose in question: good applied in consideration of a man’s having contributed, or being engaged, or expected to contribute to the felicity of the person in question, in some manner pointed out, as above, by directive rules, laid down with more or less precision by those arrangements, in the furnishing of which the government is occupied.
Among the imperfections of language, may be reckoned the not furnishing a denomination which shall designate in relation to good, that which is designated by intimidation in relation to evil. Intimidation, is fear exciting: what is wanting is a single word by which hope-exciting may be expressed.
The more particularly the analogy between punishment and reward is brought to view, the more ample is the practically useful instruction that is conveyed. The more clearly it is seen that to reward is to punish, when the dispensing hand in question is the hand of government, and that as to whatsoever is above the least quantity sufficient, remuneration is depredation,—with the less difficulty will men be brought to extend to the matter of reward, whatsoever frugality they are not averse to apply in the case of punishment.
Towards the holding up to view this instructive analogy, something, it is hoped, has been done in the Théorie des Peines et des Récompenses: but, on going back to it, I should not expect to find that as much was done there as might at present be done.*
Intimidation and remuneration are employed, both of them by good rule and by misrule. But, though in this they agree, there is one point in which they not only are different, but opposite: this is the quantity of the matter which they respectively employ. By good rule, it is, as in the one case, so in the other, minimized; it is the least possible: by misrule, it is maximized.
By good rule, intimidation is minimized. Why? Even because threatening to produce evil would be in vain, if with more or less frequency the threat were not executed—the evil were not produced: and even because the fear of evil is itself evil: from the fear of sufferance, actual sufferance is inseparable.
By good rule, allurement, or prospect of remuneration, is also minimized. Why? Because, in government, good is not procured but by means of evil: the matter of good by means of the matter of evil. Indeed, to no small extent the matter of good and the matter of evil are one and the same thing. Witness wealth: witness power. By the receipt of wealth, pleasure—enjoyment is produced: by the loss of it, pain; and so likewise in regard to power.
Between wealth and power, the connexion is most close and intimate; so intimate, indeed, that the disentanglement of them, even in the imagination, is matter of no small difficulty. They are each of them respectively an instrument of production with relation to the other. By wealth, with or even without parting with it, power may be obtained: even in the import of the word power, that of wealth is included: since power, employing for its instrument the matter of remuneration, includes in it, the power of making application of the matter of wealth, and thereby the possession of it. Occasions, however, are not wanting in which, while on the one hand, wealth is conferred, no power over any particular person, or any particular thing, is conferred. Occasions on the other hand are not wanting, in which, while power is conferred, the matter of wealth is not at the same time in any determinate shape conferred. Anything else that comes under the denomination of remuneration, follows or does not follow, according to the use that happens to be made of the power.
Under misrule, waste of the matter of good and evil, in both its forms, takes place of course: the quantity wasted affords a measure, the most exact that can be found of the degree or quantity of the misrule—of the badness of the rule: receivers of the bitter fruits, the adversaries of the misrule; of the sweets, its chief operators and their accomplices.
As to adversaries, misrule has as many as among the individuals subject to it, there are those who, to sensation, add the faculty of thought: proportioned to the degree of sufferance, is the degree of resentment naturally produced. Thus it is, that misrule has for its inseparable concomitant, the thirst of vengeance: and this thirst is essentially insatiable.
As to the sweet fruits, it is under pretence of the demand for them, in the character of instruments of government, that they are collected. That to this destination they are in part applied, is what cannot be avoided on the one part, nor denied on the other; for otherwise, the government, whatever it be, could not be in existence. But to this indispensable portion is added, of course, as large a portion as possible, of which there is neither need nor use: and this needless and superfluous portion, is what in addition to whatsoever is needful, is made the subject of division among the rulers, their instruments, dependents and favourites.
In addition to force, intimidation, and remuneration, which are necessary to all rule, misrule adds corruption and delusion.
The matter or efficient cause, of corruption, is the matter of good, considered as employed in giving effect to sinister interest, and thereby to evil.
By delusion, understand the production of erroneous conceptions, the effect of which is to engage men to concur in the sacrifice of the universal to the sinister interest.
In regard to these instruments of misgovernment, the need there is of them differs more or less according to the form of the government.
Considered in regard to its form—a government is in the hands either of a ruler, or of rulers. If in the hands of a single ruler, it is a pure monarchy.
If in the hands of rulers more than one, it is either an unmixed or a mixed government.
If an unmixed government, it is either an aristocracy or a democracy.
If a mixed government, the mixture may be composed of monarchy and aristocracy alone, of monarchy and democracy alone, of aristocracy and democracy alone, or of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy—all three.
Of these seven cases, the exemplifications of pure monarchy are most numerous.
The case of pure aristocracy is not exemplified to any considerable extent.
Of the case of pure democracy, the longest established, and as yet the only completely established, exemplification, is that afforded by the cluster of incorporated republics, constituting the Anglo-American United States.
Of the mixture composed of monarchy and aristocracy, an exemplification is now scarcely to be seen anywhere.
Of the mixture composed of monarchy and democracy, an exemplification may be seen in the case of Spain, as also in that of Portugal.
Of the mixture composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, in howsoever different proportions, exemplifications may be seen in England and in France.
In regard to the use made of the two above-mentioned instruments of misrule, the case of the bipartite mixture composed of monarchy and democracy, and that of the tripartite mixture composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, are so nearly the same, that what is said of either one, may with very little variation be found applicable to the other.
As, in so far as with monarchy, a portion of either of the two other simple forms of government has place, the power of the monarch finds a limit in the power or powers thus conjoined with it: the will of the monarch has a source of resistance and obstruction in those other wills. The sensation thus produced in his breast, being of an unpleasant nature, an object of his constant endeavour will of course be, the removal of it, by the lessening of the obstructing power—by lessening the resistance opposed to his will by the obstructing wills.
Wherever such a monarchy has place, the disposal of official situations, is to an extent more or less considerable, in the hands of the monarch: and to these same situations (all or most of them, objects of general desire, above-mentioned) is attached, money and power, with or without factitious honour and dignity. This power is called the power of patronage. It is the interest and desire of the monarch to increase the number of these situations as much as possible. It is the duty of that body to which belongs the portion of power co-ordinate with that of the monarch, with reference to the interests of the community at large, to diminish the number of those situations.
In so far as between the monarch on the one hand, and the majority of representatives as they are called, on the other, an agreement can be come to, and is accordingly come to, respecting the proportions in which the patronage shall be shared between the parties, the sacrifice of the universal interest, takes place of course.
The arrangements which afford a promise of operating as securities to the fabric of government, against corruption, and corruptive influence,—against that dry rot, to which all government stands exposed, by the nature of the materials of which it must everywhere be composed, may, it is believed, be comprehended all of them, under one or other of the heads following, viz.:—
1. Minimizing the quantity of power in the hands of the functionaries.
2. Minimizing the quantity of the matter of wealth at the disposal of functionaries.
3. Minimizing the quantity of the matter of wealth, employed as pay of functionaries.
4. Applying legal counterforces to the power of functionaries.
5. Applying moral counterforces to the power of functionaries.
6. Exclusion of factitious honour, or say factitious dignity.
7. Exclusion of all other factitious instruments of delusive influence.
As in the case of every other act, so in the case of every act of government: add the power to the will, the act takes place: take away either, the act does not take place.
The problem is,—throughout the whole field of legislation, how to prevent the sinister sacrifice: leaving at the same time unimpaired, both the will and the power to perform whatsoever acts may be in the highest degree conducive to the only right and proper end of government,
In the case of a public functionary, the will is on each occasion under the pressure of two opposite and conflicting interests: his fractional share in the universal interest, and his own particular and personal interest. The former is a fraction, and everywhere a small one,—a partnership interest in a firm in which the partners are counted by millions: the latter, is an integer: and the forces with which they act, are proportional. Still, be the fraction ever so small, action will be determined by it, if the integer be either taken out of the scales, or overbalanced.
Whatsoever arrangement has for its object the prevention of the sinister sacrifice, must apply itself either to the will or the power: but the same arrangement may apply itself to both.
Of the two necessarily conjunct faculties, take in hand first the power: leaving the power to do good, take away, or if that cannot be done minimize, the power to do evil.
Into the composition of all power, enter three elements: intensity, extent, duration. Its intensity has for its measure the magnitude of the effect produced by the exercise of it, within the extent assumed by it: the extent, has for its measure, in so far as it has persons for its subjects, the number of those same persons; in so far as it has things, their number and respective values: as to duration, it has in this case, the same measure as in all other cases.
In the highest rank, to the intensity of power, it will be seen, no limits can easily, if at all, be assigned, without taking away along with the power to do evil, the power to do good, and thus leaving evil unopposed: to the extent still less: to the duration, with the utmost ease, as well as perfect safety: witness in a word the United States.
In any rank, but the highest, limits may be set to it, in any of its elements or dimensions, without any the slightest difficulty.
Power, considered in respect of the instruments by which it operates on the human mind, and exercises it, is either power operating by punishment, whence fear of evil, or power operating by reward, whence hope of good. Of reward or say remuneration, the main shape is the matter of wealth: or for shortness, (putting, as is not unusual, the part for the whole,) in one word, money: by which must in this case be understood not only money, but money’s worth,—everything that is to be had for money. In so far as punishment is the instrument employed and trusted to, the word power is retained and employed; in so far as reward is the instrument employed and trusted to, the word money or some equivalent of it, is most commonly employed. And note, that by being taken away, the matter of punishment, may be made matter of reward, witness pardons: as likewise, by being taken away, the matter of reward may be made matter of punishment: witness fines.
When public money is placed at the disposal of a public functionary, the purpose for which it is so placed may be that of its passing out of his hands in exchange for something designed to be employed in the public service; or that of its being applied to his own use, in retribution for the services, whatsoever they may be, which he is regarded as rendering, or about to render, to the public.
So much for power taken by itself: for power, and the minimization of it, considered as a means of prevention applicable to the abuse of it. Now as to the other faculty, the will. By the force of that particular interest to the action of which every human breast stands exposed, every functionary is, at every moment prompted as above, to make by himself, or to concur in making, the sinister sacrifice. If this sinister force can by any means be prevented from becoming in that way effective, it must be by the operation of some counterforce, in addition to that opposed by his share in the universal interest: self-preference or sinister force the temptation, counterforce the sanction, antagonizing with one another. As to sanctions, three of them, there has been frequent occasion to hold up to view elsewhere: the political, including the legal, the popular or say the moral, and the superhuman, or say the religious.
For a counterforce to the native indigenous sinister interest, first as to the political sanction, including the legal. The force of this sanction is, the whole of it, at the disposal of the rulers: therefore in the very nature of the case, it is incapable it may be said of being opposed to them: if for a moment it were so, the next moment they would rid themselves of it. True. But though two rulers taken singly cannot be made punishable,—legally punishable at the same time and for the same cause, each of them by the will of the other—yet arrangements in considerable variety, are by no means wanting, by which opposition may, even under an absolute monarchy, be made for a time at least, to the will of the rulers, even of the supreme ruler or rulers. For example, in a monarchy, were it only to satisfy those whom it may concern that such as is expressed in a certain document, is the will of the monarch, the countersign, the name for example of some official servant of his is regarded as necessary,—this servant so long as he continues in such his office, has a negative upon that branch of his master’s power, and possesses in conjunction with him, a share in it.
So again in an absolute monarchy, suppose two official servants in the service of the same monarch, in the same office, or in different offices, and one of them having committed a misdeed, the other takes measures for punishing him: the misdoer being at the same time a favourite with the monarch. To the monarch were he so disposed, and determined to exercise it, the power of saving the misdoer from all punishment, and from all prosecution, cannot be wanting. But this power, for some reason or other, it may happen to him, not to be disposed to exercise: here, then, may be seen another instance of a counterforce even in an absolute monarchy, opposing itself to the will of the sovereign: a counterforce which though by adequate exertion it might always be in his power, yet for this or that cause, on this or that occasion, it is not his will to overpower, and reduce to inefficiency.
Thus have two instances of such counterforces been brought to view: both of them capable of having place even under the strongest of all governments—an absolute monarchy. But in like manner as these two may have existence, and actually have existence, so in any number may other such cases have existence. In the political machine, obstacles of this sort, have the effect that friction has in a corporeal machine.
Thus much may suffice for such counterforces belonging to the political sanction, as are capable of having existence, and not altogether without efficiency, even under and against the supreme power in a monarchy the most absolute.
Now as to the force of the popular or say the moral sanction, considered in respect of its capacity of operating in relation to the will of the possessor or possessors of the supreme power in the character of a counterforce. What for the present may suffice for bringing this moral force, to view, is the phrase public opinion: an object, the conceptions commonly suggested by which, though not as clear as could be wished, cannot be to any eye an altogether new one. In the opinion thus denominated stand included all those by whose obedience, the power of the monarch be he who he may, or of the rulers, be they who they may, is constituted. Let this opinion take a certain turn, the habit of obedience ceases on the one part, and with it, all power on the other. Accordingly in every government but a representative democracy, the idea of this sanction (and of the counterforce which it opposes) is, of all ideas that are capable of presenting themselves to a ruling mind, the most disagreeable, the most hateful and afflictive. Between these two sanctions, in every such government a war has place, a war which, until either the form of the government be made to give way to the democratical, or the people reduced to the condition of beasts, and the force of this sanction thus reduced to nothing, can never cease.
As in a constitution which has for its object the greatest happiness of the one, or the few, the main object will necessarily be to minimize this counterforce, or even to annihilate it, so in a constitution which has for its object the greatest happiness of all, the great object will be to maximize it. The cause that presents itself as being in the highest degree conducive and contributory to this purpose will here come to be delineated in its place: and in the reception given to whatsoever shall promise to be in the highest degree contributory to this effect, may be seen, the most instructive test that imagination can frame of appropriate moral aptitude, on the part of rulers.
Lastly comes the superhuman or say religious sanction. But of this it will be seen, that to any such purpose as that of being employed in the character of a counterforce to the power of those, in whose hands is the force of the political including the legal sanction, it is essentially inapplicable. To the possessors of the supreme power, be they who they may, instead of being a counterforce, it will be an instrument in their hands: giving facility instead of applying restriction to misrule.
Is not the force of the religious sanction capable of being employed with useful effect, in the character of a counterforce to the possessors of the supreme operative power?
Assuredly not. The question here is—what shall be, what can be, reasonably expected to be done, by the possessors of the supreme operative power, in the way of applying a bridle to their own power? Only under the fear of what may otherwise happen to them, from the displeasure of the people, can they be reasonably expected to do anything to the intent of its contributing to this end. Under that apprehension it is not impossible, for it is not unexampled, that institutions may be established, operating with considerable force towards the production of this effect. But as to the force of the religious sanction, in no political state has the supreme operative power, ever made this application of it: in no political state is it at all probable, that by the supreme operative, any application should ever be made of it, to any other or better purpose, than that of an augmentation of its own force, instead of a diminution of it: in a word, the converting it, into an instrument of support to misrule, instead of an instrument of restraint upon misrule. A part of the people are separated from the rest: a pretence is set up of their holding with the Almighty Power, a sort of intercourse, which no other part of the people hold with it. Of this pretended intercourse, no proof has ever been given: the assertion is therefore plainly groundless. Yet upon no better ground than this unsupported assertion, do they take upon them to predict misery beyond conception, and without end, to whosoever shall presume to deviate in his conduct from the path whch they chalk out. This path, is the path of unreserved obedience to the rulers with whom they enter into a confederacy. This confederacy, for the purpose of enabling the contracting parties the more effectually to make the more extensive sacrifice of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, to their own particular and sinister interest, is called the alliance between state and church, or, in the order in which they are preferably mentioned, between church and state. Thus delusion lends its aid to oppression, and oppression extorts money to pay for the assistance of imposture.
As to moral and legal responsibility, the counterforces thus distinguished, require, in the first place, a joint consideration.
By moral responsibility, understand here the result of subjection, effective subjection—to the power of the moral sanction, as applied by the public-opinion tribunal.
By legal responsibility, understand effective subjection to the power of the political, including the legal sanction, as applied by the several legal judicatories that have place under the government in question.
To the word responsibility, the import thus attached, is common to all languages which have sprung out of, or derived supplies from, a Latin stock. In English, however, attached to this same word, is another import which requires to be distinguished from it. A person is said to be a responsible person, not in virtue of his actual and effectual subjection to either tribunal, (and in particular, the legal,) but in virtue of his being in such a situation, principally in respect of his pecuniary circumstances, that if it were the desire of government, that by means of coercion he should be made to do, or suffer so and so, he would accordingly be made to do so and so: namely by reason of his being in possession of benefits, either in money or power, or both, on which it would be in the power of government at large, and the judicial branch of it, in particular, to take hold, supposing it disposed to do so.
The distinction is a real and an important one. In England, the situation of king, by the avowed state of the law, is placed above the field of legal responsibility, to the purpose of exposure to punishment. He cannot be made to suffer, nor, consequently, to do anything that it does not please him to do, or suffer.
In the other sense, however, he is in an abundant degree responsible: he has money enough for example, by which, could it be got at without his name, he could be brought to do anything which, by any one, it was desired he should be seen doing. It is by the plenitude of his responsibility in this particular sense, that he is eased of all responsibility in the general sense: so material it is that the two senses should be mutually distinguished.
In general, from the top of the scale to the bottom, the more abundantly responsible a man is, in respect of sufficiency, the less responsible is he in respect of effectual exposure to punishment.
Under an absolute monarch, no responsibility can, in the instance of any functionary under him, have place, unless such should be the master’s pleasure: and it will not be the master’s pleasure, unless he be an object of his personal displeasure, whatsoever misdeeds he may have committed, to the detriment of the universal interest.
So far as this effective responsibility has place, so far, it is evident, the power of the legal sanction cannot be presented in the character of a counterforce to the power of government, in the hands of a supreme ruler, or set of supreme rulers.
But a case not altogether incapable of having place is,—at the charge of one set of functionaries, his subordinates and instruments, say in the department of finance, he suffers punishment to be administered by another set, say those belonging to the judicial department: here, then, the force of one of those sets acts as a counterforce to another set, his equally obsequious instruments.
Thus much as to an absolute monarchy. In the case of a limited monarchy, the result is not, in this respect, materially different. In this case likewise, the power of giving impunity to any one, and every one, is commonly given by law: such is the general rule: and if in words and show there be any exceptions, the extent given to them is extremely narrow, and, even to that extent, they are without substance and effect. As to this point, between an absolute and a limited monarchy, the mean difference consists in this: the impunity which, in a direct and open way, might by law be alike conferred in both monarchies, is, in an absolute monarchy, accordingly conferred in a direct and open way; in a limited monarchy in some indirect and concealed way, in preference. In a limited monarchy, the acts of the monarch and his instruments are necessarily, in one way or other, more exposed to observation than in an absolute monarchy. Suppose then a case in which the grant of impunity would, in the eyes of the public, be in a flagrant degree repugnant to the received notions of justice, there may be a convenience in employing some indirect and covert method, rather than a direct and open one, for the production of the effect. A party of soldiers, for example, are they set on to slaughter a company of malcontents, whose abstinence from all violation of the law, has rendered it impracticable to apply punishment by the hand of a judge? The monarch, if he pleased, might first give the order to the slaughterers, and then pardon them. Under the English constitution, such is its excellence, the king might thus kill his subjects, and has done so, and yet no law be violated.
So much as to the case of a monarchy.
In the case of a representative democracy, at the charge of the members of the supreme operative power without exception, legal responsibility may have place without difficulty: legal responsibility, not in name only, but in effect, namely to the purpose of exposure to punishment. Even during their continuance in office, the minority remain, in the very nature of the case, in a state of legal responsibility, as towards and under the majority: and from and after the expiration of their authority, being on a footing no other than that of the other members of the community, they remain, each and every of them, responsible in the legal sense for whatsoever they may have done—whether in that situation or any other.
Look now to moral responsibility: responsibility to the purpose of eventual exposure to the punitive power of the public-opinion tribunal: and in particular, the power of the democratical section of that same invisible, yet not the less effectively operative, tribunal.
To not altogether ineffective responsibility in this shape, not only in a representative democracy, but even in an absolute monarchy, the possessors of the supreme operative power are capable of standing exposed. In fact in this shape, in some, even the most completely absolute monarchies, the monarch is always to a certain degree responsible, and feels himself so to be: though in some monarchies, at some times, such has been the feebleness of this responsibility, in the character of a counterforce to the powers of government in the highest grade, that the effect of it in respect of a cause of mitigation to the evils of misrule, namely of depredation and oppression, has hardly been perceptible.
The less the quantity of counterforce a public functionary feels opposed to his particular interest in other shapes, the greater the need there is of his finding it opposed to him in this shape. An absolute monarchy is therefore the sort of government in which the need of it is most pressing, and in which accordingly, if the end of the government was the greatest happiness of the greatest number, it would be established with the greatest promptitude, and maintained with the most anxious care. But as in all monarchies the end in view is the happiness of the one with or without a small number of sharers in the operative power, the repression of this same prime instrument of security to good government and good morals, has been the object of the most anxious and uninterrupted care.
For bringing into action the force of the public-opinion tribunal—for bringing it to bear upon any pernicious act, by whomsoever performed, whether by a public functionary, or by a non-functionary, two distinguishable sorts of matter are contributory: namely evidentiary matter, and commentative matter or matter of comment. By evidentiary matter, understand matter, the effect or tendency of which is, to bring or hold up to view the individual act in question, in conjunction with all the several circumstances, on which the nature of its operation on the happiness of the community depends. By matter of comment, understand all such discourse the effect or tendency of which is, to afford indication true or false, correct or erroneous, concerning the operation of such act on the happiness of the community, in such sort as to be in this or that way contributory or detrimental to it.
All such salutary matter in both these forms, every functionary, in proportion to the power which, from the nature of his situation, he has of pursuing his own particular interest, at the expense of the universal interest, has an interest in the suppression of: an interest, the strength of which is in proportion to the profit capable of being derived by him, from such sinister acts. Every functionary in proportion to his power: and accordingly in a monarchy, whether absolute or limited, the monarch: in a monarchy, limited by an aristocracy, the aristocracy.
By every act a functionary exercises for the purpose of destroying or weakening the power of this counterforce, in order to prevent or restrain the publication of such tutelary discourse, he manifests himself an enemy thus engaged in a course of actual hostility against the happiness of the community.
In the sinister interest by which they are engaged in the endeavour to effect such suppression, functionaries engaged in giving execution and effect to the acts of a bad government, and functionaries engaged in misdeeds for their own benefit, in disobedience to the good acts of a good government, are naturally joined by individuals concerned, or meaning to be concerned in such pernicious acts, to the repression of which, the power of the legal sanction is not applicable.
Of every such indication, and of every such comment, the tendency is defamation: defamation with reference to the party to whom the alleged pernicious act, whatsoever it be, is thereby imputed. To oppose defamation as such, to oppose without exception or discrimination every act to which the term defamation may with propriety be applied, is to act as an accomplice to all crimes—as an instrument of all mischief as above. Every such act is therefore a virtual confession of such complicity: of such hostility to the happiness of the greatest number.
To profess to be a supporter, either of good government or of good morals, and at the same time to profess to be desirous of seeing defamation suppressed or even restricted, in a case in which the imputation conveyed by it, is true, is little less than a contradiction in terms: it is to desire that the same thing shall, and shall not have place, at the same time.
One case there is and but one, in which the effect of defamation, supposing the misdeed charged by it, really committed, is not to increase, but to reduce the quantity of happiness in the community. This is, where the mischief produced, is produced—not by the act itself, but by the disclosure of it. In this case are comprehended all those, in which for want of sufficient maturity in the public judgment, the popular antipathy has been drawn upon this or that act, the nature of which is not, upon the balance, of a pernicious nature.
Examples of this case are:—
1. In a community in which the public mind is infected with the disease of intolerance in matters of religion, indication of an act evidencing the entertaining an opinion contrary to that which is established or predominant.
2. So, in the field of taste. Eccentricity of any venereal appetite, the sexual for example, by which no pain in any assignable shape, is produced anywhere. Here by the supposition, by the act itself, no pain, no sensible evil is produced: but by the disclosure of it, evil to a most deplorable amount may be produced: by the antipathy, though by the supposition groundless,—by the antipathy called forth by it, a whole life may be filled with misery. The real enemy to the happiness of the community, is not he by whom this obnoxious act has been exercised, but he by whom the indication of it has been afforded. The suffering being greater, the mischief is greater, in the case where the act has been, than in the case where the act has not been really exercised. For he in whose instance, the imputation has been groundless, has for his consolation, that which is wanting to the other.
3. Indication of a breach of a marriage contract, on either side, more particularly the female. Suppose the commission of it unknown, no pain is produced by it anywhere. What then, when committed, ought it to remain exempt from punishment? Oh, no! Why not? Even for this cause: namely that without the commission, the divulgation could not have place: and that by commission, divulgation is always rendered but too probable.
Those who cry out against what they call the licentiousness of the press, as if it were so much uncompensated evil, for which complete suppression would be an appropriate and innoxious cure, might with much more reason cry out against all punishment without distinction, and in particular against all punishment at the hands of the legal sanction, and the tribunals by which the force of that sanction is applied: for, in no other form, at once so gentle and so efficient, and in particular, in no form of legal punishment, could punishment be employed in the repression of anything, that has ever been characterized by the names of crime or vice.
Punishment, as applied by the legal tribunals, attaches to such evil acts alone, the mischief of which has place, as well in a shape sufficiently determinate, as in a quantity sufficiently great, to warrant the application of evil, in the shape and in the quantity to which the denomination of punishment is in common use. Punishment as applied by the public-opinion tribunal, applied as it is in effect, without the name, attaches itself to mischief in all shapes, in which the hand of man can without special and sufficient justification, be instrumental in the production of it.
Applied by the legal tribunal, punishment is not only thus narrow, in its applicability, and thence in its use; but continually exposed to the danger of running into excess: evils from which, the punishment which the public-opinion tribunal makes application of, is altogether exempt and free.
The efficiency of the popular or moral sanction, with its public-opinion tribunal, cannot be strengthened, but the efficiency of the law, in so far as its force is employed in augmentation of the happiness of the people, is also strengthened. In so far as a misdeed, which by reason of its detrimental effect on happiness, is vicious, and thereby exposes the agent to punishment, at the hands of the public-opinion tribunal, is moreover criminal,—an act of delinquency against the law, exposing the agent to punishment, at the hands of the law,—every channel through which defamation as above, may be divulgated, is a channel through which, in so far as the defamation takes this turn, strength and efficiency are given to the law.
Through these channels, men who would otherwise remain helpless, receive help, and abatement of their sufferings: injuries and sufferings which, would otherwise swell to a boundless magnitude, and be rendered altogether remediless, are met by complaint, and kept within bounds: through these channels men who, by their own indigence and the rapacity of lawyers, are deprived of all help at the hands of the legal sanction, with its judicatories, find a limit and a mitigation to their sufferings.
For, suppose the act in question, to be of the number of those, to which punishment stands attached, as well at the hands of the legal sanction, as at the hands of the popular or moral sanction: this being the case, to give intimation of it, to the members of the community at large in their capacity of members of the public-opinion tribunal, is to give indication, by the light of which, not only witnesses, but prosecutors at the bar of the competent legal tribunal, may be brought into action, and the further investigation of whatever relevant facts would otherwise remain in darkness, produced: that which to the public-opinion tribunal is evidence to the purpose of conviction in an immediate way, being to the legal tribunal, evidence to the purpose of investigation for the obtainment of ulterior evidence, such as suffices in the first place, for a ground to accusation; and in the next place, for the obtainment of such evidence as shall suffice for conviction and punishment.
Against all such misdeeds as are produced or protected by supreme rulers, the legal sanction, with the corresponding judicatories refuse of course all redress: against all such misdeeds, whatever redress, if any, is afforded, it is by the popular or moral sanction, with its public-opinion tribunal, that it must be afforded.
Of the channels through which, information in both its shapes, as above, must find its way to the public eye, and the public ear, beyond all comparison, the most ample and efficient are those, in the designation of which, the collective term, the press, is commonly employed: and of those again, the most ample and efficient are those, for the designation of which the collective term, the periodical press, is employed. Every act by which the net mass of benefit, derivable through these channels, is lessened or endeavoured to be lessened, is of the number of those by which the actor is rendered as above, an enemy to all mankind.
For lessening the net amount of this benefit, the nature of the case affords two expedients or courses of policy. The one consists in the blocking up of the channels, and thereby stopping, in the whole or in part, the current of information that would otherwise make its way through them to the eyes and ears of the public—of the members of the community taken in the aggregate. The other consists in rendering, in a greater or less degree corrupt and delusive, the stock of information, which is so received: the one system may be styled the blockading or obstructive system, the other the corruptive. The obstructive operates by the simple subtraction of such information as being correct, is at the same time usefully instructive. The corruptive operates by the addition of a mass of information in itself false, and designed to be deceptious. By subtraction, deception may also be produced as well as by corruption. To this purpose, what may happen to be sufficient is, to render partial the stock which is suffered to pass on: partial, that is to say, in the bad sense of the word, being the same in which it is used, when subservient to injustice; that which is regarded as operating against the side meant to be favoured by the deceit being stopped; while that which is regarded as operating in favour of it, is suffered to pass on.
For operating on the obstructive plan, the nature of the case affords two modes of restriction,—the licensing system, and the prosecuting system.
Licensing is an operation, of which prohibition, and that a universally extensive one, forms the principal ingredient. In the first place, comes prohibition which applies to everything: in the next place, comes permission, given to any such persons, or any such things, as it is intended to exempt from the prohibition.
In comparison with the licensing system, the prosecuting system is in an eminent degree inefficient. It cannot be employed, except in so far as the very sort of thing, which it is the endeavour of it, to cause not to be done, has been actually done. Where it does operate, its mode of operation is comparatively weak, and its effect uncertain. In the licensing system is included the employing, for the stoppage of the obnoxious matter, physical force: seizing, for example, the whole impression of a work, and either keeping or destroying it. It operates not only thus upon the body, but also upon the mind; viz. in the way of intimidation, by fear of loss, if similar works are prepared for publication in future. While it keeps from observation, the mischief which it produces, prosecution proclaims that same mischief. The punishment which, in the shape of loss, as above, is one of its means of action, is much more effective, than any which, being applied under the name of punishment, cannot be applied without prosecution, for a preliminary to it: not to speak of the expense, the uncertainty which, in the case of prosecution, always hangs upon the result, together with the delay and vexation, which even on the prosecutor’s side, stand inseparably attached to prosecution, is saved. Not only too, is the punishment so much more efficacious; but it is, moreover, kept concealed from observation; and thus is not only more efficacious than punishment under the name of punishment, but at the same time less odious. Though it affords just ground for greater odium, yet it attracts less.
By the prosecuting system, punishment is applied as above, under the name of punishment, having, or seeking to have, the effect of prohibition. If, in England, it be in the way of common law that the punishment is applied, the prohibition is fictitious: as to the act for which the punishment is sought to be inflicted, there has been none. As to future contingent similar ones, each man is left to imagine for himself a prohibition, from the case in which he sees the punishment applied.
If it be in the way of real or statute law that the punishment is applied, the eventual denunciation made of it, comes before it—the subject of the prohibition has been described.
Prohibition is either complete, as, under the name of prohibition, it is of course; or incomplete, as it is, where in so far as, to the form of prohibition, that of taxation is substituted. Under every application of the taxing system, in so far as applied to articles for consumption or use, an application of the licensing system is contained. Pay the tax, you have a license to use the article; omit paying the tax, the license is refused to you. But under the licensing system, is in this case concealed the corruptive system. By the effect of the tax, such information as a man is able and willing to purchase, and obtain by paying the tax, is suffered to pass on, and reach him: such as he is either not able, or not adequately willing thus to purchase, is stopped and prevented from reaching him. Note the consequence, where there is a desire to serve the comparatively rich at the expense of the comparatively poor. That which the poor man has need of, to enable him to form a right judgment and pursue a line of conduct beneficial to his interest, is stopped from reaching him: while his comparatively rich antagonist receives the matter on both sides. In the contest between rich and poor, the means of attack are thus suffered to find their way to the rich: while from the poor, the means of defence are kept back, and rendered inaccessible.
The indirect mode of corruption, by garbling, is not altogether so mischievous as either of the two others. Of the matters thus kept from publication, no such individual selection can be made, as in the other case. Still, however, separation in no small degree mischievous can be made, and is made.
As it is only by the power of government, that this corruption and this obstruction can be carried into effect, it is manifestly for the purpose of misrule, for the purpose of giving extension and perpetuity to misrule, and thereby to human misery in all its shapes, that war upon the happiness of mankind, in both these shapes is carried on.
But information to any one nation, is information to every other: thus to add to misrule and misery, in one nation, by obstructing the press, is to endeavour to add to misrule and misery in all. It is still more extensively and effectively an act of hostility against all nations than piracy is. For the mischief and terror produced by a pirate is confined to the seas in which his acts of piracy are exercised: it is confined also within the space of time, never a very long one, during which those acts continue to be exercised. But the mischief produced by the suppression of information on the side of the victims of misrule, while false and delusive information in support of misrule is let through, may spread itself over all nations, and continue in all times.
Among the consequences of restrictions imposed in the ordinary form on the press, one is the efficiency thus given to false reports in their most mischievous shapes: false and mischievous reports as such, whosoever may be the parties on whom the evil produced by them falls.
Take, in the first place, the situation of the ruling functionaries, and in particular those of the highest rank, in the scale of subordination. Defamation in the written shape, it is possible to keep suppressed. Defamation to the same effect, in an oral shape, it is not possible to keep suppressed. You may keep a watch upon all presses: you cannot keep a watch upon all tongues. When it is in a printed shape, it is in a determinate shape: and being in a determinate, and that an enduring shape, any one who feels disposed to make answer to it, knows what it is he answers, and where to find it. In whatever state it first makes its appearance, in that state it remains: it cannot by the author, or by the adopter, be altered from shape to shape, in a manner contrary to truth and justice, just as occasion calls. It may be met and opposed in whatsoever manner is best adapted to the nature of it. Is it in any way false, it may be opposed by simple denial, or by the statement of the opposite truth: is it not only false but improbable, the arguments demonstrative of the improbability may be opposed to it: is it mischievous, the mischievousness of it may be laid open to view, and shame proportioned to the evil, be poured down upon the head of the author and his accomplices in proportion as they are discovered.
Such are the facilities which present themselves for the encountering of it, when the shape in which it presents itself is thus determinate.
Now, suppose it merely in the oral shape. Being refutation proof, being proof against exposure, the probability is, that even in its first shape it is false. It is either a complete fabrication, in the whole texture of it, or if there be a groundwork of truth belonging to it, an embroidery of falsehood is interwoven in it, such as suits the particular purpose, whatever it be. But this first, howsoever mischievous and injurious, is naturally its least mischievous and least injurious shape: and even in this shape, it is not capable of being encountered. From the first mouth it passes on to another, and in the second mouth further mischievousness, further injuriousness, with or even without consciousness and intentionality, are naturally added. Thus it travels on, from mouth to mouth, and as it rolls on, it adds to its mischievousness and injuriousness at every stage: to the number of these stages, there is no limit: and at no one of them, can it ever be encountered.
A circumstance which has a natural tendency to provoke falsehood, and through falsehood, injury to the prejudice of the government by which the restriction is imposed, is the resentment which the restriction itself calls forth: a resentment, than which nothing can in any case be better grounded or more just. Where oppression is exercised, and there is no other remedy,—no other defence against it is afforded by the nature of the case, falsehood if not justifiable, is at any rate comparatively excusable. Of every such restriction, the effect and object is to secure efficiency and impunity to oppression and depredation in every shape, the worst imaginable not excepted. From no course that can be taken by the endeavour to put an end to such an instrument of oppression, can any evil be produced equal to the evil produced by the application of the instrument itself, if the application be effective.
To the encountering of such endeavours by appropriate falsehoods, in the way of retaliation, the grand objection is, that in general it will be needless: for, seldom are they employed but for the purpose of concealing enormities, the correct statement of which would suffice for the imfamizing of the oppressive rulers, without the addition of anything that is not true: and besides, in proportion as falsehood comes to be discovered, the discovery casts reproach upon the heads of those concerned in the propagation of it, and discredit upon such reproachful imputations as are true.
Be this as it may, thus much is clear, that where any such restriction is employed, whether all the injurious allegations made against the rulers are true or not, no suspicions that can be entertained of them can be ill-grounded: for, supposing the intentions of a ruler the worst imaginable, such is the course which he would not fail to take for the carrying of them into effect: while on the other hand, suppose his conduct free from all just imputation of misrule, no need would he have of any such screen: the just odium which the employing of it could not fail to draw upon him, would be so much net evil drawn down upon him by himself.
By no number of determinate acts of tyranny, could a more proper and reasonable cause for resistance and insurrection be afforded, (supposing success in a sufficient degree probable,) than by the establishment of this restriction: for in the use of this instrument, the intention of exercising tyranny in its worst shape is included: the intention, coupled with a probability always but too great, of its being carried into effect.
In proportion to the amount of the burthen of the restriction, does it exclude from the exercise of the functions of the public-opinion tribunal, a number more or less considerable of its members: it excludes from the benefit of appropriate information, those in whose instance such information is most needed.
There are two correspondent and apposite modes of laying claim to the exercise of the blockading power, on the ground of alleged or assumed superiority in intellectual aptitude: the one consists in magnifying the alleged aptitude of the governors; the other in parvifying the aptitude of the governed. Each of them is employed as occasion serves. The parvifying mode may be used in all situations, as it may happen: it gives no offence to the reader or hearer, if he be of the ruling, or otherwise, influential class: in a word, unless, in his own conception, he belongs to that inferior class at the expense of which the pretension is set up. The magnifying mode, being in fact, the self-magnifying mode, cannot, without giving offence, be employed in any other situation, than those in which custom has thrown its veil over arrogance, impudence, and insolence: namely, the situation of those, by whom the power of surmounting contradiction by punishment is possessed and exercised.
It is curious to see with what complacency, in certain authoritative discourses, the possession of the maximum of official aptitude in all its branches, and in particular, intellectual aptitude, in the degree indicated by the romantic appellation, wisdom, is predicated of themselves, by the very scum of the population: for be it pot or be it kingdom, that which occupies the top of it, is it not the scum? by a set of men, in comparison of whom, the most vicious of those whom they consign to death, or punishment which ends not but with life, are virtuous: by a body, composed of the principals and instruments of misrule, depredation, and oppression, all upon the largest scale: of corruptors and corrupted: of selfish and empty-headed lawyers:—led by a few venal utterers of vague generalities and common-place fallacies: men, whose minds being debilitated by that worse than useless education, which under a system of corrupt and corruptive establishments, overgrown opulence bestows, know not an unapt argument from an apt one, a relevant argument from an irrelevant one, possessing neither the inclination nor the ability to discern the difference.
Whichsoever of the two courses be taken, they lead to the same result: absolute power on the part of those on whose behalf they are taken: absolute subjection, with no option, other than that between silence and obsequiousness, on the part of those at whose expense they are taken. “What by depravity, what by folly, you are incapacitated not only from giving direction to your own conduct, but from having any part in the choosing of those, by whom direction to it shall be given. Such being your deplorable state, it belongs to us, and to us alone, to give direction to your conduct in this line, as in every other; to determine what you may say, and what you shall not say: for, so sure as you are suffered to say anything to our prejudice, to start so much as a doubt on our probity or our wisdom, so sure will you do injury, irremediable injury to yourselves, and to one another. The points by which your happiness now and for ever, is most deeply affected, are those which belong to religion and politics: on these, it is therefore, in a more particular manner, our duty to prevent your looking in any other point of view, than such as we prescribe. It is your first of duties to hold yourselves deprived of all liberty on these points: it is our first of duties, so to hold you deprived of it.”
Thus it is, that with benevolence in their mouths, all by whom any such language is employed, declare themselves in effect, enemies of mankind. If the benevolence be but in their mouths, it is bad: if it be in their hearts, it is worse, still worse. If so it be, that it is only by some temporal and temporary interest of his own, that a man is induced thus to persecute and torment others, no sooner is that interest overcome by an opposite interest, than the persecution ceases: by force, by intimidation, by superior benefit from a contrary course, he may be led to give it up at any time. But if it really be, either by fear of infinitely intense and lasting torment, or hope of infinitely intense and lasting happiness, that a man stands engaged thus to do his utmost for the tormenting of others, in the only state of things which falls under our experience or observation, his mischievousness in the first-mentioned character is small in comparison with his mischievousness in this. If in all other points, his conduct be even a pattern, not only of beneficence, but of benevolence, he is rendered by it but the more mischievous: the more so, the more extensive his beneficence; for the utmost good a man can do by beneficence in other shapes, can never approach to the evil it may happen to him to do by maleficence in this. If, therefore, there be a sort of man whom interest and moral duty, should lead all others to shun contact with, as they would shun contact with a man infected with the plague, it should be the man, who, under a sincere persuasion of religious duty on his part, seeks to prevent others from the defence or utterance of opinions, be they what they may, on any subject belonging to the field of religion, or the field of government.
In the case of private defamation, the mischief stares every one in the face. But along with it is mixed much good, and of this good, men do not in general seem sensible.
To take the strongest case,—the case in which if in any, the evil would appear pure,—the case where the misconduct imputed is, by the imputer, known not to have had place: the imputation, in a word, known to have been knowingly and wilfully false. Here the effects of the first order, the uneasiness experienced by the individual to whom the misconduct is imputed, are evil: though less evil, than where the imputation is true, because a man suffers less from the imputation when groundless, than when true. The effects of the second order, the apprehension excited in other persons at large,—the apprehension of being made sufferers by similar attacks from the same or other sources, are also evil. But by the contemplation of the evil suffered in these two ways by groundless imputations, the attention of men is directed to, and the more firmly fixed upon, the like suffering as being more or less likely to be produced by true imputations: and in this way, accordingly, addition is made to the fear of punishment at the hands of the public-opinion tribunal. What is too obvious and too certain, to pass unnoticed is, that, the inducement being equal in both cases, a defamer, if he knew of an article of misconduct of which his intended victim had been really guilty, proofs of his guilt more or less satisfactory, being in existence, would never think of preferring an ungrounded accusation in any shape to that same well grounded one.
Not that currency knowingly allowed to false and unjust imputation, is in any degree, as such, conducive and necessary to the repression of the misconduct that would have had place, had the imputation been well grounded.
Not that the antipathy against the inventors and common circulators of such false imputations, is not well founded: not that they ought not to be subjected to legal punishment, in so far as sufficient proof can be obtained.
All that is meant is, that all imputations grounded and ungrounded together, ought not to be suppressed without distinction, for the more effectual suppression of ungrounded ones. The public-opinion tribunal with its numerous useful effects, ought not to be suppressed, for the single benefit of more effectually preventing the pernicious ones.
That which a man suffers, in whose instance the imputation is false, is little in comparison with what the man suffers, in whose instance the same imputation is true.
Accordingly the marks of vexation exhibited will naturally be in the same proportion: the intensity of the desire manifested for suppression and vengeance.
Factitious honour is a sort of counterfeit substitute for money, invented and fabricated by governments. Money procures services: factitious honour procures services, and among them even such as it is not in the power of money to reach.
Power and money, though, in both instances, the less the quantity that can be made to serve the better, are, to the purpose of doing good, indispensable instruments in the hands of rulers: they are both of them, according to the direction in which they are made to operate, instruments of preponderant good, or instruments of preponderant evil. Factitious honour, it will be seen, is purely an instrument of evil. In the hands of rulers, power and money require to be minimized; out of the hands of rulers, factitious honour requires to be altogether kept.
One advantage, in beginning with power, on the occasion of the minimization process,—one reason for proceeding in this order may now be visible: the less the power you have to contend with, the greater the facility in such application as you have to make to the will. Thus, as above: if the possessor of the power is, at all events, to keep his hold of it so long as he lives, or even so long as he remains legally unconvicted of a specific misdeed, the difficulty of dealing with him may be insurmountable: and by a mass of power, small in extent, as well as intensity, evil to an almost indefinite amount may be produced, were it only that by means of one lot of power thus intrenched as in a stronghold, others indefinite in number and value may be added by him. On the other hand, when it is to the dimension of its duration that the defalcating-knife is applied, no power so ample in its other two dimensions but may be conferred with comparative safety. Witness, in the Roman commonwealth, the dictatorship,—a power which, with the exception of what was thus defalcated from it, was absolute monarchy.
All this while, one thing is undeniable, namely, that for the purpose of establishing, and in the endeavour to establish, security, those who establish government must begin with establishing insecurity: insecurity, viz. as against those in whose hands the means of security against others are reposed. On the other hand, another thing is no less undeniable: namely, that without this risk, the other, a still greater evil, cannot by any possibility be avoided, and that is, want of security against foreign enemies or unempowered malefactors.
Another thing equally true is, that by the badness of other governments, whoever you are, you are prevented from making your own, whatever it is, so good as otherwise it might be.
In this case are the civilized nations of Europe at present with their standing armies. In every foreign nation, each nation beholds a population which may every moment become a hostile one,—a population of foreign adversaries: each nation is thus laid under the unhappy necessity of providing itself with a correspondent instrument of defence: to preserve itself from a distant yoke, it submits itself to present servitude.
Hence it is, that to the other articles in the list of counterforces must be added the institution of a national militia.
The more extensive this counterforce is, the greater the security of the nation, not only against foreign, but against domestic adversaries: not only against the rulers and subjects of every foreign nation, but against its own rulers, whoever they are.
Against these, where the quantity of armed force in this shape is at its maximum, so is this security—the security thus established: in a word, it is entire: for in this case, the degree of efficiency with which, in case of depredation or oppression on the part of rulers, the people are capable of acting in concert, for the purpose of redress, is at its maximum: an entire people, with arms in their hands, cannot be employed as instruments of oppression: why? for this plain reason, that they have no victims to act against—to operate upon.
The elementary units of this force—the individuals of which it is composed, are no other than the members of the public-opinion tribunal. They are judges with arms in their hands, prepared, in case of necessity, to give execution to their own judgments.
A force thus circumstanced may be so organized, as that while it is incapacitated from being made to act as an instrument of offence, it may be rendered completely adequate for every purpose of defence: and to this purpose one simple arrangement is sufficient: a declaration, that without an express law for the purpose, no part of the population thus fortified shall be obliged or permitted to move out of the territory of the state.
For providing the community with the very maximum of force in this shape, small, in comparison is the utmost expense that can be necessary.
Of the incorporeal instruments of misrule, shall fiction be added to the list? With respect to the others, it is altogether disparate: for it is not produced by the same efficient causes,—by money, power, and factitious honour.
Though not the sister of delusion, it is, however, in a certain sense, the offspring of that evil genius. Fiction, men have actually been made to regard as an instrument apt and necessary to good government in general, and to good judicature in particular.
So mischievous an error, where shall the efficient cause of the prevalence of it be found? In delusion,—in delusive influence. By the same causes that delusion has been produced, has this pre-eminently mischievous error been produced. By the several efficient causes of delusive influence, men have been led to regard as their natural and best friends—their protectors and guardians, their most implacable and irresistible enemies; namely, kings, and judges and advocates, placed over them by kings.
For giving effect to the system of depredation and oppression, concerted between the arch-depredator and these his instruments, they have woven a tissue of falsehood—they have concocted a mass of poison in the shape of falsehood, and with the name of fiction,—which, by the stupid ignorant patience of the people, they have been suffered to inject into every vein of the body-politic, and have thus added this source of corruption to the others.
Corruption and delusion are necessary concomitants to each other: the same causes that produce the one, produce the other likewise: the corruption cannot exist, but the delusion must exist likewise: the delusion cannot exist, but the corruption must exist likewise: for it is out of the same matter that both evils are engendered.
Not so fiction. Without fiction, corruption and delusion might have done their worst.
Fiction is a production of peculiarly English growth. In the Roman law, the word may here and there be seen.*
Fiction debases the moral part of the mental frame of all those by whom application is made of it.
Fiction debases the intellectual part of the mental frame of all those upon whom the imposition passes, and by whom the lie uttered in place of a reason is accepted as constituting a reason, and that a sufficient one: and when employed by a judicial functionary, the evil is greatly aggravated.
In general, fiction may be stated to be an instrument of arbitrary power, invented by functionaries invested with limited power, for the purpose of breaking through the limits by which their power was intended to be circumscribed.
Reference had to the greatest happiness of the greatest number, appropriate aptitude, on the part of public functionaries, depends upon the efficiency and the use made of the several securities above-mentioned.
Reference had to the greatest happiness of the ruling one and few, appropriate aptitude, on the part of those same functionaries, depends in great measure on the non-application of those same securities.
Taking them one by one, the state of the matter in this respect will be as follows:—
All Branches taken together.
All Branches taken together.
In defence of the system of misrule as at present carried on in England, a plea in bar against reform, and a plea that seems to be most generally employed and relied on, is—that the system that has place now, is the same as that by which all the good effects that have ever been experienced have been produced: the same on which all the praises that have ever been bestowed upon it by foreign nations as well as its own, have been bestowed.
If things themselves are to be considered, and not mere words—the things themselves and not merely the words employed in speaking of them, nothing can be further from the truth. The assertion, if it be anything to the purpose, amounts to this: viz. that, to the power exercised by the ruling one, in conjunction with the sub-ruling few, once the subject many, there exists at present checks and securities against abuse, either the same as, or not less effectual than, any which ever had place at any former point of time.
This will be found completely false and groundless, whether the power of aggression on the part of the one and the few be considered, or the power of self-defence on the part of the many.
On the part of the rulers the power of aggression may be distinguished into the power of violence and the power of corruption: on the part of the subject many the power of self-defence may be distinguished into that which they exercise by their representatives, meaning always their actual deputies and delegates freely chosen by them, and that which they exercise by themselves.
First, as to the power of aggression by violence. It consists in, and in its amount is proportioned to, the standing force of a military nature under the absolute command of the ruling one. Of this force there are two branches: the land force and the sea force. For the period of comparison take, in the first place, the year 1753, being the fifth year after the war that terminated in the peace of 1748.
Army in 1753, 20,000. Army in 1821, 100,000.
Navy in 1753, 15,000. Navy in 1821, 60,000.
So far as aggressive power is concerned, to say that it is no greater now than it was in 1753, is to say that one hundred thousand is no more than twenty thousand: or that sixty thousand is no more than fifteen thousand.
The more assured the influence and efficiency of those causes, by the force of which, in every government, the ruling functionaries are, on each occasion, prompted and urged to concur in the making of the sinister sacrifice, the more strenuous and universal will of course be the endeavours to conceal from the eyes of all who do not participate in the benefit of it, the existence of the sacrifice itself, and thence the existence and the efficiency of the motives which on each occasion give birth to it. By action (if sufficiently observed) the demonstration afforded by it is on every occasion complete: for producing disbelief of the existence of it—for preventing men from descrying motives through the medium of actions, remain as the only resource which the nature of the case furnishes or admits of—professions. In this case the actions constitute the circumstantial evidence, and professions—mere words, the direct evidence. The circumstantial evidence by which the existence of the sacrifice, and the part borne by each man in the making of it, is demonstrated, being conclusive, nothing is left but to abuse the ears, and if possible, blind the eyes and confound the understanding, the conception, and the judgment, by an all-embracing, and indefatigably, and vehemently urged body of this same direct evidence: evidence which in every instance is mendacious. But the mendacity of it not being in its nature capable of being rendered perceptible to sense—perceptible to the bodily organs of those addressed in the character of judges; hence it is that it ever has been in the most unblushing manner obtruded, and will so continue to be to the very last.
For this purpose, not inconsiderable is the variety of phrases; as common as any is purity of motives. By this phrase what is meant to be insinuated is, either that in the part the man takes he has no regard whatsoever for his own personal interest, or any other narrow interest, or that if he has any, it gives way at all times to his regard for the national or some other more extensive interest. But preferably the meaning is, such being the more direct and obvious import of the words, the utter absence of every particle of self-regard. Of this immaculate purity, each man in the most peremptory manner asserts the existence in his own instance: deny it, or hesitate to admit it, you offer him an affront—an affront, the stain of which he perhaps not unfrequently invites you to permit him to wash away with your blood. Of this same purity he calls upon you, though perhaps in a tone not quite so loud, to admit, on the part of his colleagues and supporters. Nor yet, unless under the smart of some particular provocation, or in the ardour of some particularly advantageous thrust, is he backward in the acknowledgment of the same purity in the breasts of honourable gentlemen on the other side of the house. By this means while the praise of good temper and candour is obtained, the price for the purchase of the corresponding acknowledgment on the other side, is thus paid in advance.
No government so corrupt but that it is in the habit of receiving acknowledgments of this sort from its opponents. Nor are these acknowledgments inconsistent with the rules of policy. For if the position were—all is impurity on that side, all is purity on our side,—people might be found to doubt of it, especially in those instances in which the very same men have been seen sometimes on the one side sometimes on the other: and in that case the result might be, in some eyes, a rational supposition of its non-existence on either side.
At the expense of truth (need it be said?) is all this laudation and self-worship, every atom of it. But the more irrefragably true is the contrary position, the more strenuous is the urgency of the demand for it. Thus it is, that urged by the necessity which on all sides they are under of making men in general continue in the belief of the non-existence of that which they are seeing and feeling the effects of at every moment, public men join in the inculcating of the errors correspondent and opposite to the most important truths: in causing men to believe that, under a form of government so thoroughly corrupt, that all who belong to it are in a state of corruption—none are: to believe in that fabled purity which is not ever true even where temptation is at its minimum, much less in a situation in which it is at its maximum.
This being the language of ruler-craft, what is the language of simple truth? That in spite of everything which is said, the general predominance of self-regard over every other sort of regard, is demonstrated by everything that is done: that in the ordinary tenor of life, in the breasts of human beings of ordinary mould, self is everything, to which all other persons, added to all other things put together, are as nothing: that this general habit of self preference is so far from being a just subject of denial, or even a reasonable cause of regret, that the existence of it is an indispensable condition not only to the wellbeing but to the very being of the human species, and should therefore be a cause of satisfaction: that admitting, as perhaps it may be admitted, that in a highly matured state of society, in here and there a highly cultivated and expanded mind, under the stimulus of some extraordinary excitement, a sacrifice of self-regarding interest to social interest, upon a national scale, has not been without example—public virtue in this shape cannot reasonably be regarded as being so frequently exemplified as insanity: and that as in the case of insanity so in this,—it is in what has place in the conduct on the part of the thousands, and not in what has place in the conduct of one in every thousand, that all rational and useful political arrangements will be grounded.
Of a state of things thus incontrovertible, no sooner is the existence to a certain degree extensively acknowledged, than all pretence to this species of purity will be regarded as would an assertion of chastity in the mouth of a prostitute at the very moment of solicitation: regarded as an insult to the understandings of all those to whom it is addressed,—and will as such be resented.
Partly through artifice, partly through blind imitation, almost every sort of document, by which right instruction ought to be administered, is regularly and constantly employed in the drawing of those flattering pictures of human nature: flattering in so far as that disposition is ascribed, by which if really possessed in the degree in which it is represented as possessed, the destruction of the whole species would be the consequence. These pictures of human nature are drawn without any determinate and declared line of distinction, yet so ordered, that the favourites of fortune are the only individuals that have the benefit of it.
In all histories, in all biographies, in all funeral sermons, in all obituaries, is praise poured out with the most boundless, and indiscriminating profusion, upon those who howsoever spoken of while living, are thus richly compensated when dead. That for fortune’s favourites alone is the praise destined—that by them alone it is, or can be invoked, is not expressly said: yet so it is, that to none other, can any part of it ever have application.
Thus it is that in all these documents, honour and praise bestowed, operates as a bounty upon oppression and depredation, as an encouragement to persevere in all those courses by which human misery on the largest scale is produced.
It is from the same pernicious artifice that the adage—“of the dead say nothing but what is good,” has its source: i. e. give on every occasion false and delusive instruction, in the most important of all branches of art and science: instruction by which the few may be engaged to commit oppression and depredation in every shape, and the many engaged to submit to it.
Tender in their sympathy for those who have no feeling: callous to the sufferings of all those who are exposed to suffer from the crimes of their confederates.
This doctrine is inculcated in all seats of instruction, in every monarchy. To his disadvantage, nothing: to his advantage, anything. Thus, bating a few exceptions, the portrait presented by the aggregate of these documents, is that of universal excellence. Not that by the word excellence, anything approaching to the character of a distinct idea, can be ever presented: all that is presented, is a something by which the individual is constituted a fit subject of admiration and consequently of imitation. But these so fit subjects of admiration and imitation, to which class do they belong? Uniformly to that class, by which all the mischief done in the world has been done: while those who never come in for any share of this admiration and this praise, are with a few exceptions as before, of the class of those, by whom at the same time, whatever good has been done, has been done.
In the labouring—the productive class, life in its general tenor, is a life of beneficence: whatever maleficence has place forms the exception, and in comparison with the beneficence, those exceptions are extremely rare. By the produce of his labour, he procures his own subsistence, and contributes to that of the family to which he belongs: in so doing, he contributes at the same time to his own gratification: for by the constitution of human nature, gratification is inseparably attached to those operations by which the individual—and hence by which the species—is preserved. At the same time to an indefinite amount, according to the nature of his employment, he contributes to the gratification of others in abundance: others by whom no such contributions are made to the general stock of felicity. By him, no mischief is done: no depredation committed—no oppression in any other shape, committed.
Not the smallest particle of that praise and admiration ever falls to the share of this uniformly beneficent class. So far from being objects of respect or sympathy, they are objects of contempt and antipathy: they serve but as foils, to the receptacles of all excellence.
Here, then, are two distinct and opposite classes: the one composed of those by whom the disagreeable sensation, called disgust, is constantly experienced: the other composed of those who are the objects of it—those from whom it is experienced. But those from whom it is experienced, are undoubtedly, in a physical sense, comparatively impure: the quality, on account of which they are the objects of disgust, is impurity: while the opposite agreeable quality is among the incontestable attributes of those by whom they are contemplated in this point of view. But by those by whom everything is produced, small indeed in comparison is either the time or the money that can be afforded by them in freeing themselves from impurities:—never sufficient for the satisfaction of those, their superiors in the scale of fortune.
Unfortunately of the appellation impure, in the case in which it is with propriety applied to the productive classes, the propriety is much more obvious and incontestable, than in the case in which, it is with so much less propriety applicable to those same classes, namely, in the moral sense,—while it is with so much more propriety applicable to the unproductive classes. If a man be covered with dirt, you see it in a moment by a glance at his face. But if he be a man, who, after sacrificing to his own gratification the subsistence of 100,000 human beings of the productive class, is still running in debt, disdaining to apply a bridle to that rapacity by which he is urged to go on, in the same sinister sacrifice, so long as an obtainable particle of it remains unsacrificed—nothing of this do you see in his face, or in anything about him; on the contrary, you see him encompassed with trappings, the object of which, (and in but too great a degree the effect,) is to cause you to regard him, not as being distinguished by any of those mischievous qualities, by which he is so pre-eminently distinguished,—but as one who is pure of all those qualities, from the effects of which, suffering, in various shapes, to other individuals, is derived.
To the devising of any well-grounded and rational course, for the surmounting of the obstacles opposed to good government, by the universal self-preference in the breasts of the functionaries of government—of the constituted guardians of the universal interest—the first step was the taking a true observation of the existence and shape of that same universally prevalent, particular, and sinister interest. This theory being accomplished, correspondent and accordant practice becomes a matter of course. Hence, into the compass of these two words, may be condensed the all-directing and leading rule—minimize confidence. Such, then, is the advice which the framer of this constitution has not been backward in giving to all who are disposed to accept it. Confine within the strictest limits of necessity, whatsoever confidence you may be tempted to repose either in them or their successors.
At the same time, here as in a watch, does this main-spring require another to antagonize with it. Of all constituents be it, at the same time the care, from no delegate to withhold any of that power, which may eventually be necessary to the due performance of the service looked for, at his hands. While confidence is minimized, let not power be withheld. For security against breach of trust, the sole apt remedy is,—on the part of trustees, not impotence, but constant responsibility, and as towards their creators—the authors of their political being—on every occasion, and at all times, the strictest and most absolute dependence. In the first place with powers no otherwise limited, on the part of the Supreme Legislative, the most absolute dependence on the Supreme Constitutive, and thus in a chain reaching down to the lowest functionary: each link, through the medium of the several increasing links, in a state of equally perfect dependence on the Supreme Legislative, and by this means on the Supreme Constitutive. If the Supreme Constitutive were in a single hand—in the hand of a monarch, no objection would there be, on his part, to this chain of dependence: nor on the part of any of those who, that the many may be dependent on them, are so well content to be dependent on that one. Can it be said there is less reason for content when the few are thus dependent on the many?
With the maximization of beneficial power, to reconcile and embrace the minimization of maleficent power, lies the great, not to say, the only difficulty. For surmounting it, the course here taken is—the keeping throughout the whole field of action, in the hands of the many, the faculty of dislocating the possessors of operative power—in the hands of those by whom, and in so far as, maleficently exercised, the suffering thus produced will be felt.
In vain would the efficiency of the course, here recommended, be questioned, or its alleged dangerousness asserted and magnified. For a complete demonstration of its efficiency, as well as its undangerousness, one and the same example has already sufficed. This is that of the Anglo-American United States. In essentials, the principals by which the arrangements in the constitution of that confederacy have been determined, are the same, it may be seen, as those here laid down and applied. Of that constitution, the fundamental principle is the omnipotence of the many: the omnipotence in so far as established by the constitutive power, though not a particle of the operative power can be seen lodged in those same hands.
By the adoption and application made of this principle, while an unexampled quantity of good has been produced, and evil, in the shape of evil, from misrule excluded,—not a particle of the alleged mischiefs or dangers has ever been seen to result: while the evils, which, for want of this safeguard, have, at the same time, as well as in all former times, been produced in all other governments, are and have been, multitudinous, intense, and incontrovertible; and are destined to go on increasing, till the governments themselves are dissolved.
Not that even in this hitherto matchlessly felicitous system, imperfections of detail are wanting: witness the still unabrogated sanction given to domestic slavery on account of difference of colour, and the misrule submitted to at the hands of the lawyer tribe, for want of an all-embracing and determinate rule of action: not to speak of a quantity of useless and thence mischievous complication, by which the transparency of the system still continues to be disturbed. But in these imperfections there is nothing that flows from the above-mentioned fundamental principle: nor yet any evil that may not be seen in still greater abundance in those other states, in the constitutions of which this principle has no place. Neither is there any evil, which, without any change in the constitution, might not receive, and beyond doubt is destined sooner or later to receive, an easy cure; while to the evils resulting from the constitutions of all other states, no cure can by possibility be effected by any other means, than the abrogation of those constitutions, and substituting the sort of constitution, of which it is the characteristic to have for its fundamental principle, the omnipotence of the many, as above.
At the same time, men being the same everywhere, not less universally exemplified is the principle of self-preference in that, than in every other form of government. But where the government is in the hands of all, or what comes to the same thing, of those whose collective interests are the same with the interests of all, the natural effect of the principle of self-preference is—not as in the case where it is in the hands of one, or of a few, the sacrifice of the interest of all, to the interest of that one or those few; but the sacrifice of all interests that are opposed to the happiness of all. In so far as his aim is, to sacrifice all interests to his own,—the interests of others, to that which is peculiar to himself, no man finds any effective number of hands disposed to join with his: in so far as his aim is, to serve such of his interests alone, as are theirs as well as his, he finds all hands disposed to join with his: and these common interests correspond to the immediately subordinate right and proper ends of government, maximization of subsistence, abundance, security, and equality. In so far as by the principle of self-preference, he is led to promote his own happiness, by augmenting theirs at the same time, or even without diminishing it, so far he finds himself capable of acting without obstruction: but no sooner does he attempt to promote his own happiness, by means by which theirs is diminished, than he finds obstruction thrown in his way, by all whose happiness is, by this his enterprise already more or less diminished, and by all who, in case of his success, are apprehensive of suffering the like diminution. Thus, then, the principle of self-preference, has for its regulator in the breast of each, the consciousness of the existence and power of the same principle in the breasts of all the rest: and thus it is that the whole mechanism is at all times kept in a state of perfect order, and at all times performs to admiration everything that is desired of it, everything it was made for.
As to professions, and boasts of purity of motives; in the debates and discussions that have place in those United States, little or nothing of this sort of talk is heard. Why? Because, in the first place, there is no such demand for it: in the next place, there would be no use for it, for there would be no prospect of its gaining credence.
No such demand: for by no functionary, or set of functionaries, is any such power there possessed as that of exercising depredation or oppression in any shape—that of making of the interests of others, any such enormous sacrifices, to his own particular interest, as are made under all other governments,—any such power, nor consequently, any such habit. The sinister interest not being proved by his actions, there is no such circumstantial evidence, calling for direct evidence to furnish a disproof of it.
No credence would any such profession obtain if uttered. In a monarchy, while producing its effects in the way of corruption on the self-styled agents of the people, the matter of good above-mentioned, in their hands, and thrown round their persons, is producing its effects in the way of delusion upon the people themselves. Full, they are seen to be of money, power, and factitious dignity: proportionably full, under favour of the delusion, they are believed to be, of excellence. As of excellence in general, so of excellence in the shape of sincerity in particular: so that, when they say their motives are so pure, their regard for the interests of the people so intense, their disregard for their own interests so entire, the assertion of all these impossibilities, impossibilities as they are, is not the less followed by belief.
But in those United States, no such source of delusion has place: no man, whose impudence has soared to any such pitch, as to make pretension to any such excellence. By inward consciousness, each man stands assured of the dominion of the principle of self-preference in himself: by analogy, receiving continual support from experience, each man stands equally assured of its existence in the breast of every other man. No man, therefore, sees any advantage in coming forward with pretensions, which, if made, would be productive of no other fruit than scorn and ridicule.
By nothing which is to be found in that example, is any contradiction or exception applied to the rule, by which the greatest happiness of the rulers themselves is asserted to be the end in view of all rule: why? for this simple reason,—the supreme rulers themselves, are those, whose interests are not decidedly distinguishable from those interests of which the universal interest is composed.
Whatsoever moral considerations,—notions of moral obligation,—should induce a man to abstain from acts injurious to individuals, or to the community in the aggregate, and to oppose himself to acts of the like tendency on the part of the other individuals, or of foreigners, considered in the character of enemies, should urge him to the like conduct as against the correspondent acts of misrule, on the part of the government, and as against the form and system of government which gives birth to them. So much with regard to direction: then as to force and energy. In the case of the public wrong, the resistance ought to be to what it is in the case of the private wrong, as are the number of the sufferers in the two cases; in other words, as the mischief done by the public wrong, is to the mischief done by the private wrong.
[* ]See, in this collection, vol. i. p. 390, vol. ii. p. 189.
[* ]See vol. vii. p. 420 and note.