Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: CORRUPTION. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 9 (Constitutional Code)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER X.: CORRUPTION. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Taken in its largest sense, the word corruption is employed to denote the deterioration of the subject to which it is applied,—the rendering it worse than it was before, or would have been otherwise. Corruptio is in Latin, breaking up: the breaking up of the texture of the subject in question: it being understood that, by such breaking up, it is rendered worse. In the first instance, the word was used in a physical sense: the breaking up the texture of a mass of animal or vegetable matter; from thence, it comes to be used in a moral sense,—the breaking up for the worse, the texture of the mental frame.
When the sense in which the word is used is the physical sense, no more than one object is necessarily considered as having place in the operation: namely, the corruptible mass in which the change has place: by another object, operating in the character of a ferment, the change may be promoted: but no such exterior object is necessary to it.
Where the sense in which the word is used is the moral sense, the idea of two objects at once is commonly presented by it: the part in which the one appears, an active part; the part in which the other appears, a passive part. The objects thus presented to view are commonly persons. In this case what is presented to view, is an operation in which two persons are concerned: one the agent in the operation, corrupting the other, and thereby rendering himself a corruptor: the other, the patient in the operation, being corrupted by the former, and by the having been so corrupted becoming and continuing corrupt.
Thus it is, that an operation called corruption has been performed: and by the same word corruption, the result of the operation—the state of things brought about by it—is designated.
In the operation thus described, by the party corrupting corruptive influence has been exercised: by the party corrupted, say in one word, (on the plan mentioned and recommended by Blackstone,) the corruptee—corrupt obsequiousness has been practised.
In the idea thus brought to view, is also commonly comprised that of an auxiliary agent, considered as being employed as an instrument by the principal one. This instrument is a quantity of what may be termed the matter of corruption, employed in that same character of an instrument. Applied in the physical sense, and to a physical subject, this instrument is what is called a jerment. This matter, employed as an instrument to act upon the mind, if it operates, it is in the character of an inducement that it operates.
An inducement is constituted either of the matter of evil or of the matter of good, operating on the mind in those their respective characters.
An inducement, to which the name of corruptive might without impropriety be attached, is an inducement of the intimidative kind. Say, for example, the fear of death: intimation being given, that if the party meant to be corrupted will not do the sinister service desired at his hands, he shall be put to death,—in the opposite case, not.
An instrument of this sort is not, however, the sort of instrument, the idea of which will, by the words, matter of corruption, instrument of corruption,—be in general most apt to be excited. Not a portion of the matter of evil, but a portion of the matter of good, is the sort of instrument, the idea of which will, by any such appellations, in general be apt to be excited.
This matter of good will be some portion of the matter of which the external instruments of felicity are composed, namely, power and wealth, with or without the addition of factitious honour or dignity.
In regard to corruption, the first grand distinction is, the distinction between that which is designed, and that which is undesigned. By undesigned, understand that which is capable of having place without design, not that which is not ever, in any instance, the result of design: for of that which is capable of having place without design, there is not any portion but what is not altogether capable of having place with and by design, and is abundantly in the habit of being so produced.
Suppose the creation of it the work of chance: nothing is more natural than that the preservation of it shall be the work of design.
The corruptive influence by which, in the case of bribery, an elector of a representative of the people in a mixed monarchy is engaged to give his vote in favour of a candidate by whom, or by whose agent, money is given for it, is the work of design. On the other part, the corrupt obsequiousness is accompanied with a consciousness of the nature of the corrupting inducement to which it is indebted for its existence. The corruption, in consequence of which the representative perseveres in giving support to the measures of the monarch, in that same monarchy, for a course of years, notwithstanding any depredation and oppression of which those same measures are all the while productive, may by possibility, be produced on the one part without any such design, and on the other part without any such self-criminating consciousness. The monarch, in his quality of chief executive functionary, must have subordinates, in the several situations, with large masses of emolument attached to them. The representative, seeing that these situations must have place, and thinking that the masses of emolument attached to them must have place, thinks that of these good things the possession and enjoyment may as well be in his hands as in any other’s. The monarch is kind and bountiful: in return for kindness and bounty, the moral and the religious sanction join in commanding gratitude: and thus it is, that without design of evil on the one part, or consciousness of it on the other, corruption may do its work, and evil, to any intensity, extent, and duration, be produced.
Corruption may also be distinguished into personal, or say personally seated, and systematic, or say systematically seated.
By the case in which it is personally seated, understand the case in which a determinate individual is assignable, by whom a portion of the matter of good, constituting the temptation, has been presented to the view of the individual at whose hands the sinister service was desired, and the bait accordingly swallowed, and the sinister service rendered. In this case stands the transaction between the candidate and the elector, as above. By the case in which the corruption is not personally but systematically seated, understand the case in which no such individual is assignable, but the cause of the corrupt transaction—the source of all transactions of the same nature pervading the whole official establishment, is in the system or frame of government.
A system of government in which an irremoveable functionary possesses an indispensable share in the supreme legislative power, and at the same time the whole or the greatest part of that branch of the supreme executive power, by which the subordinate functionaries are placed, and, in a proportion more or less considerable, displaceable, is a system in which corruption is systematically seated. On the one part, the corruptive influence of the chief functionary, on the other part, the corrupt obsequiousness on the part of the people’s representatives, has its source, not in the mental texture of this or that individual, but in the political texture of the system or frame of government itself. It will therefore, of necessity, go on in the production of the fruits of corruption, namely, depredation and oppression, in a quantity continually increasing, unless, and until the form of government receive an apt and adequate change.
Obsequious dependence is produced by fear or hope: fear of eventual evil, or hope of eventual good.
Dependence by the tie of fear is generally most effective: the greatest evil which a dependent is capable of receiving at the hands of a superior being more than equal to the greatest good. Suppose the degree of probability of the result to be the same, the same sum produces more effective dependence by the fear of losing it, than by the hope of gaining it: punishment, by the fear of losing it produces a dependence more effective, than reward, by the hope of gaining it.
Under the English form of government, all desirable offices, without any exception worth taking into account, being in the gift of the monarch, and to the greater part of the extent, the power of dislocation being, in relation to those same offices, also in his hands,—hence, on the part of all other members of the community, dependence, more or less effective, has place universally. The interest of this one member being opposite to that of all the rest, it is his constant desire, and correspondent endeavour, to cause them to support his interest at the expense of theirs. Thus, under that form of government, corruption is all prevalent on the part of those who possess, and those who look to possess, a share in it. And whatever may be the variation in degree, as in that, so is it, in this respect, in every other limited monarchy.
One great misfortune attendant on the use made of corruption and delusion is, the extreme facility with which the fabrication of these instruments of misrule is attended. Force and intimidation are not applied without special and strenuous exertions on the part of possessors of power, specially directed to the production of obsequiousness—the desired effect. Corruption and delusion are produced by them not only without any strenuous exertions, but without so much as any expense in the article of thought: are produced by them just as well when asleep as when awake.
To exercise corruptive influence to any amount—to produce corrupt obsequiousness to any amount, it is not necessary that either endeavour, or so much as desire so to do, should have place in the mind of the ruler. All that is necessary, is, the desire and the endeavour, which in his situation is of course followed by accomplishment,—the endeavour to produce, and of course the production of, waste. In a word, all that is necessary to him is, on every occasion that presents itself, to yield to the appetite for money in his own breast, or in the breasts of any individual or individuals connected with him, in the way of interest or sympathy: for the purpose of their individual gratification the money is put into their pockets: thereupon, by the eventual expectation of the like benefit from the like source, corruptive obsequiousness is produced in the breast and conduct of ten, twenty, or perhaps fifty times, as many breasts as those in which the gratification attached to the receipt and expenditure of the money, was produced.
In itself corruption is no evil, for neither is the receipt, nor the conferring of a benefit, in any shape an evil; in so far as it is an evil, corruption is so, only in respect of the evil effects produced by it: abstraction made of these effects, it is even a good.
To prevent here and there an insulated breach of trust, effected by means of remuneration, is impossible; but to prevent the evil effects of corruption from having place to any such amount as to be perceptible on a national scale, is possible.
In a limited monarchy, corruption by intimidation at large, cannot have place to any considerable extent: the intimidation and the consequent suffering would extend to those by whose power the limitation to that of the monarch is applied. They would call in the power of the people to their aid, and make a change either in the form of government, or in the person of the chief governor and his family, or both.
The case in which corruption by intimidation is capable of having place, is therefore reduced to that in which corruption by intimidation is connected with corruption by remuneration: the state of intimidation in question having for its efficient cause, the fear of losing a benefit, which has proceeded from the intimidating hand.
Such then will be the effect of the universally applying dislocative power here proposed to be vested in the people, in their quality of members of the constitutive authority: it will be an effectual preventive of depredation, and oppression in every other shape, at the hands of rulers. It will not indeed operate as a completely effectual preventive of corruption in the shape of corrupt remuneration in particular instances as above; but, so few will be these instances, and the evil effects, if any, so inconsiderable, that in a national point of view, they may be regarded without much regret by the most anxious lover of mankind.
Suppose that in the instance of this or that office, the choice made of the functionary by the patron, as between C, a corruptor, (in whose favour the matter of corruption has been employed,) and N, a non-corruptor, (in whose favour no matter of corruption has been employed,) has been determined by the giving of a daughter of C’s, in marriage to a son of the patron’s, with a fortune greater than would have been given otherwise: C and N, being exactly upon a par, in respect of appropriate aptitude. In this case the corruption has place, but by the supposition no ill effects whatever are among the results of it.
Suppose now, that though neither of the candidates be to any such degree absolutely unapt, as that any determinate ill effects should be seen to result from their want of aptitude, in such sort as to be neither of them perceptibly below par in the scale of aptitude,—yet one of them there is, to whom, though above par in the scale of aptitude, the one who is not above par, has been preferred. This is the sort and degree of corruption, against which neither the universally applying dislocation in the hands of the constitutive, nor this, in addition to all remedies whatsoever, which the nature of the case admits the application of, can ever operate as a completely adequate preventive. But so long as the effects of corruption rise not above this height, neither the framer of the constitutional code, nor any spectator of it, need feel much dissatisfaction at the contemplation of the work.
Corruption may be understood in a more extensive sense, namely, by being considered as designating the matter of good or evil, operating on the mind of an individual in such sort, as to cause him in contemplation of a less good to forego a greater, or by the contemplation of a less evil to subject himself to a greater, or by the contemplation of a less evil to forego a greater good.
Thus when Esau, as in the history, sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage, thus sacrificing to a lesser present, a greater future interest, his will may on this occasion be considered as having been governed by corruptive influence: and the portion of the matter of corruption by which the effect was produced, was, in this case, the mess of pottage.
In a word, whosoever the party is, to whose happiness reference is made by the word good, every case in which the lesser good is embraced in preference to the greater, or even the greater evil in preference to the less, may be considered as a case in which corruption, or say corruptive influence, has had place, and has in such sort operated, as to have given birth to the sinister effect.
An elector, who by his vote should contribute to the establishment of a constitution having for its effect, instead of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, the greatest or supposed greatest happiness of the ruling few at the expense of the happiness of the many, would, supposing himself to become in consequence of the misrule, a sufferer to a greater amount than that of the benefit received by his vote, be an Esau selling his birth-right for a mess of pottage.
Look to a man whose situation places him under the temptation above described,—see him putting into his pocket the reward thus proffered by it,—conceive him standing up and saying—never from either the prospect or the receipt of this reward, has my conduct ever experienced any the slightest influence,—a declaration to any such effect can it, in the instance of any man which ever breathed, have presented any so much as the slightest claim to credence? Yes: if,—when for the obtainment of legal evidence of a capital crime, pardon, together with a thousand pounds reward, has been offered to any partaker in the crime who, with the effect of producing the conviction of a fellow criminal, will repair to the judicatory and give his narrative of the case, if, in the course of his narrative he should take upon him to say—neither by the assurance of receiving the thousand pounds, nor by the assurance of saving my forfeited life, am I influenced by the statement I am now giving,—if, with a protestation to this effect in his mouth, the malefactor could present any claim to credence.
If, to assurances to this effect, protestations were added,—if, to protestations, eyes lifted up to heaven,—if, to eyes lifted up to heaven, summonses to God to come down and bear witness,—if, to summonses to God to bear witness, tears,—if, to tears, faintings were added; to the claim made by the simple declarations, would any additional claim either in the case of the chancellor in office or out of office, or in the case of the minor malefactor, be made to credence? Yes; if by his display in the character of Iago, Mr Kean calls him from the grave, calls the dead to life, and transforms himself into that personage.
By the common name of corruptionists, corruptors and corruptees may both of them be designated. By the use of this common appellative, the difficulty and obscurity attached to the operation of ascertaining, which of the two parts was, on this or that occasion, acted by the individual or individuals in question, may be avoided.
Everywhere, the whole official establishment, is a corruptive establishment: to possess the sinister benefits of corruption, is the universal wish.
But, without their own pale, the members of the official establishment have, in their quality of corruptors, or would-be corruptors, their accomplices, and in the natural course of things, their confederates. These are the several classes of which the aristocracy of the country is composed.
They have, all of them, that which is sufficient to make them so: the particular and sinister interest, and the situation in life, which gives them (such of them as are not rulers) the faculty of serving by confederacy with such as are rulers, that same sinister interest.
Of the expense of government, every part which has for its effect or its object, the affording to the few gratification in which the many cannot participate, is so much of the corruptive fund employed in gaining over the aristocratical classes, and obtaining their support and assistance in the depredation and oppression exercised on the many.
To the other ingredients of the corruption-fund may be added, everything that goes by the name of grace and favour: admission to places to which others would not be admitted: admission to more convenient or more honourable situations in places in which persons in general are admitted: opportunities of purchasing this or that object of desire with more certainty, or upon terms more advantageous, than those on which persons at large can obtain them.
Corruption has place where, by means of some benefit to himself, a functionary is made to violate his trust.
On this occasion, the following points must be considered, namely:—
1. The sinister effect produced, viz. mischief in some shape or other to the public service.
2. The nature of the benefit, or say, the sinister benefit, received.
3. The person corrupted,—say the corruptee.
4. The hand by which the sinister benefit is received, namely, the corruptee’s own or some other.
5. The person benefited by the sinister effect—say the corruptor.
6. The immediately corrupting hand by which the sinister benefit is applied.
7. The relative time at which the sinister benefit is received: relation had to the time at which the sinister effect is produced: namely, consequent or antecedent.
8. The motive by the operation of which, on the mind of the individual corrupted, the corruption, and thence the sinister effect, is produced.
1. As to the sinister effect of the corruption: This considered in its general complexion, is violation of the trust in question: of the trust, correspondent to the power, with which in virtue of his office, the functionary on whom the corruption operates, is invested; or if the functions be no other than such by the exercise of which no power is exercised,—the duties attached to the situation of the corruptee. The object here proposed, being the keeping as far as possible excluded, corruption wherever it is liable to have entrance, or at any rate the keeping excluded as far as possible whatever evil effects it is pregnant with, the effect must to this purpose be presumed to be in every case, evil: in what particular shape, will depend upon the particular nature of the function attached to the office whatsoever it be, and the correspondent trusts or duties of which the violation is produced.
2. As to the nature of the benefit. This may be good in any of its shapes. The matter of corruption is accordingly the matter of good in any of its shapes, considered as employed to this sinister purpose. For examples of the shapes in which the matter of good is at the disposition of governments or individuals, take the several external instruments of felicity in all their shapes: including money, power, factitious dignity, ease at the expense of official duty, vengeance at the expense of justice.
In the idea of good in all its shapes, is included the idea of evil in all its shapes. How so? Because whatever be the shape in which it is possible for evil to show itself, the exclusion or removal of it, is a correspondent good: and in the same way, under the idea of evil in all its shapes, is included the idea of good in all its shapes.*
Good may accordingly be divided and distinguished into positive and negative. Positive good, is good not consisting in the absence or removal of evil: negative good is good consisting in the exclusion or removal of evil.
Punishment may therefore in this way be made and accordingly is made an instrument of corruption. Give a man to understand that if he will not render the sinister service he will be punished; but that if he does render it, he shall remain unpunished: the non-application of the punishment has the effect of reward. Where the instrument is in both cases the same, as in the case of money, and the magnitude of it equal, the actuating force of punishment is much greater than that of reward. Aggregate value of a man’s property say £100. Give him £50, you do not produce near so much enjoyment, as you do suffering by taking from him that same sum: the ratio of £100 to £50 is twice as great as the ratio of £150 to £100. Give him £100, still further are you from producing on his part as much enjoyment as you would suffering, by taking from him that same sum: you in this case take from him his all: scarcely by giving him £1000, would you produce so much enjoyment, as you would suffering by so stripping him. Man is susceptible of pain in greater quantities than pleasure.
Considered as forming part and parcel of the matter of corruption, a benefit requires to be distinguished into that which is irrevocable and that which is revocable. In the case where it is irrevocable, the effective, or say corruptive, force with which it operates, is that only which belongs to it in the quality of matter of reward. In the case in which it is revocable, the corruptive force with which it operates is that which belongs to it in the character of matter of punishment. By giving to a man an eventually permanent benefit, of which you reserve to yourself the power of depriving him at pleasure, you invest yourself with a power of inflicting punishment—you place him in a state of dependence and subjection to that same power. As to the creation of such a power, it is an evil altogether inevitable: for without power of dislocation on the one part, and dislocability on the other, no tolerably efficient security for appropriate aptitude on the part of subordinates, can be established. But for excluding the abuse of it no securities which the nature of the case admits of can be superfluous.
To this head belongs the case of pardons, and the exercise of mercy, which has been considered elsewhere.
3. The corruptee: namely a public functionary of any grade in any department, at whose hands the sinister service is thus obtained: whether his function has power in any shape attached to it or not.
4. The immediately receiving hand—the hand by which, without the intervention of any other, the sinister and corruptive benefit is received. This may be that of the corruptee or any other: of any other person whatsoever, if connected with the corruptee by any tie of self-regarding interest, or though it be but sympathetic interest. For example, a son of the corruptee, or any other person who is in such sort in the dependence of the corruptee, that but for the sinister benefit thus received, the corruptee would, at his own expense, have had to make provision to the same or any part of the amount. Or even an ever so-perfectly-independent friend; for so long as sympathy has place between man and man, the sinister effect of corruption may be produced as fully by a benefit conferred on a person other than the corruptee, as by a benefit conferred on the corruptee himself.
This or that man who would not be won by a benefit offered to him for himself, might be won by a benefit, especially if conferred in a manner called handsome, on a friend.
5. Corruptor or corruptors: parties by whom the benefit from the sinister effect is reaped.
On each occasion these may be distinguished into special corruptor or corruptors, and corruptor or corruptors-general. Special corruptors are those by whom the benefit on the occasion of this or that individual transaction is reaped. Corruptors-general are those by whom the benefit from the whole system of corruption taken in the aggregate is reaped.
In every political state the whole body of public functionaries constituting the supreme operative, require to be considered in the character of corruptors and corruptees: at the best, they are at all times exposed to the temptation of being so, and in a greater or less degree are sure to be made to yield to that temptation. In a republic the sinister effect of that temptation is capable of being confined within bounds—within such bounds as will exclude all practical evil. Under that form of government the constitutive authority is placed over the supreme operative, with dislocative power with relation to it, as well as locative.
Between the corruptors and the corruptees, the distinction is not very easy to trace out and delineate. In an absolute monarchy, the corruptor and corruptee may be said to be one. For the monarch or corruptor-general has in one hand the whole mass of the instruments of felicity; and in the other, he lodges them all for his own use: sacrificing to his own expectation of happiness, the happiness of the people at large. But, as by his own hand alone no such sinister sacrifice could be made, hence the necessity he is under of applying more or less of the matter of good in his hands to the making of corruptees.
In the case of a mixed monarchy, the distinction shows itself most clearly.
6. The immediately corrupting hand:—the hand by which, without the intervention of any other, the sinister benefit is applied to the receiving hand. This may be the hand of him, by whom, on the particular occasion in question, the sinister benefit is received, or any other. With relation to the sinister effect, whether it be the one or the other, will of course make no difference.
7. The relative time at which the sinister benefit is received: namely, before or after the production of the sinister effect,—the rendering of the sinister service on the part of the corruptee.
Relation had to this point, the receipt of the matter of corruption may be said to be antecedential or consequential.
According as it belongs to the one or to the other of these two descriptions, the inducement, or say, the motive by which, on the part of the corruptee, the sinister service, the sinister effect is produced, is, it will be seen, of a very different description.
8. The inducement, or say, the motive or motives by which, on the mind of the corruptee, the sinister service and with it the sinister effect, is produced.
This will be altogether different, according as the receipt of the sinister benefit, in respect of relative time, is antecedential or consequential as above.
Of the two cases, the simplest is that where the receipt is consequential: in this case, the determining motive is expectation, or hope of the benefit in question. Where the receipt is precedential, the determining motive will generally be gratitude, and sometimes the fear of the reproach of ingratitude, or of perfidy.
If the views of the legislator do not comprehend corruption in all its possible shapes, as well or better might he leave it untouched altogether: for, whatsoever be the shapes to which the arrangements made by him do so extend, to those will it betake itself and operate with effect.
The two shapes or forms—the consequential and the antecedential, are apt to have place and operate together in the same case: indeed it is not often that they are found separate. In so far as they are separate, of that in which the remuneration is regarded as consequent to the corrupt service rendered, the efficiency is obviously much more assured and discernible. In this surest case, it is altogether by expectation that it is produced. From this one circumstance flow several important results.
To produce every bad effect of corruption, there needs not any special act of corruption. There sits a person who has good things in abundance at his disposal, and who has an interest in disposing of them in a certain way, namely, in favour of such persons as, by their agency, contribute to the accomplishment of a certain end. An individual observes what passes and acts accordingly. By his agency he contributes to that end: why? because in consequence and consideration of the doing so, he expects to receive some good thing or other, in the character of a reward. Whether at the hands of the person in question, he actually receives any such good thing, makes not to this purpose any difference.
In a certain state of things, to produce the effect of corruption, no corruptor, other than the corrupted person himself, is necessary. In virtue of a pre-established state or order of things, a sinister effect to the community at large, and a beneficial one to himself, follows from an act, the performance of which lies within his own competence. Thus in the case of the war, commenced by the monarch without any previous declaration, he, by a pre-established arrangement, and by means of his legal instruments, received the net amount of the depredation.
This is the simplest case, where the expectation or hope of the benefit in question is the determining motive, or say, inducement. The moving pleasure, is the pleasure produced by the contemplation of the pleasures which the possession will, it is expected, afford: accompanied as the contemplation is, with the belief more or less intense, of their future existence.
Suppose a functionary who has an office at his disposal. He locates in it an indisputably unapt individual, from whom, however, a bribe is expected: and afterwards in consideration of, and recompense for, the benefit thus conferred, the functionary receives a sum of money, which is, in this case, called a bribe; or suppose a legislator, meaning a person having a share in the legislative power, in the expectation of receiving for himself or friend a lucrative office at the hands of a minister, who (for the purpose of adding to the number of good things at his disposal) is bringing about an unjust war, gives his vote in favour of the war, and receives the office accordingly; or suppose an elector in the expectation of receiving a certain sum of money at the hands of a candidate for a seat in the legislature, delivers his vote for that same candidate, and thereupon afterwards receives the money.
In all these cases, the cause by which the sinister effect is produced, is the pleasure of expectation, by the contemplation of the good eventually expected,—the desire of that same good—the good itself not being yet in possession—in a word, by hope.
In the case where the receipt is precedential, the motive or inducement must be of quite a different stamp. With relation to the individual benefit in question, hope it cannot be: for, by possession, expectation has been crowned and terminated.
Suppose the sinister service rendered: the act must have had for its cause one of the following, namely:—
1. Gratitude, meaning the sentiment of gratude: sympathy for the corruptor,—the benefactor,—sympathy produced by the contemplation of the enjoyment received from his benevolent, effective, and beneficent hands.
2. Fear of the reproach of ingratitude, namely, in the event of the non-rendering the sinister service, for the obtainment of which, the sinister benefit has been conferred on the one part, received on the other. If, in so far as in a case of this sort, that which is called ingratitude is the subject of reproach, it is because this is one of the points on which the force of the public-opinion tribunal has been made to operate in a direction unfavourable to the greatest happiness of the greatest number: namely, by a judgment, which has for its cause sinister interest on the part of the aristocratical section of that tribunal, and relative ignorance on the part of the more numerous or democratical section. Gratitude at large, is a sentiment which, in every other breast, (not to speak of his own,) every individual, in proportion as he understands his interest, sees it to be his interest to cherish: in gratitude for past kindnesses, he will see the source of future ones. But for a misdeed, to the prejudice of the whole community, service rendered to an individual is no justification.
3. Fear of the reproach of perfidy. In so far as the acting in the way in question, towards the production of the sinister effect, is regarded as matter of moral obligation, in requital for the sinister benefit, the whole transaction on both sides being considered as forming the subject-matter of a contract, superadded to the reproach of ingratitude, will on this same occasion, be the reproach of perfidy. Men ought to requite services, is a general rule. Men ought still more punctually to requite services, when engaged for by contract, is another general rule. Unbounded in its extent is the benefit derived from the observance of both these general rules. Either of them would suffice for the destruction of society, were it not narrowed by certain exceptions. But the good from the observance of the general rule, meets the eye much oftener than does the evil from the non-observance of the exceptions. In whatsoever shape or degree an act is mischievous, an engagement to bear a part in the commission of it, does not do away the mischievousness of it.*
Great and nearly irresistible has been, and is but just ceasing to be, the influence of the members of the aristrocatical section of the public-opinion tribunal, over the minds of the members of the democratical section: not only the influence derived from power—the influence of will on will; but the influence derived from knowledge, the influence of understanding on understanding. On every part of the field of action, have the subject many found themselves under the necessity of deriving their conceptions and their judgments, from the reports made to them, by the ruling and influential few: and with no exception, capable as yet† of operating with any considerable influence, have these reports contained anything but what was false, and in effect, if not in intention, delusive, causing the people to regard as conducive to their interests, those practices which were most adverse to those same interests: practices having for their effect the establishment of misrule, and of corruption as an efficient cause of it.
As in the case of mutually beneficial and innoxious engagements, mischief and vice consists in the breach of them, so in the case of those so extensively noxious engagements, does mischief and vice consist in their observance. Of the non-observance of a class of engagements, the ultimate effect is—that the practice of entering into such engagements is at an end. This is exactly the result conducive to human happiness—the result desirable in the case of all preponderantly noxious engagements. If, for example, notwithstanding all engagements, no favours were by any possessor of patronage ever obtained at the hands of any member of the legislative body, nor therefore at the hands of a majority of that body, no part of his patronage would ever be made to take that direction: it would be applied, the whole of it, to his own particular purposes, good or bad, whichever they happened to be: but, at any rate, it would not be applied to that worst of bad purposes, causing the legislative to add depredation to depredation, and oppression to oppression, by giving constantly increasing patronage, and undisturbed impunity, to the executive.
Of all the members of the community, taken in the aggregate, it is therefore no less decidedly their interest, that in regard to all such noxious engagements, unfaithfulness should be entire, than it is, that in regard to all preponderantly beneficial ones, observance and faithfulness should be entire.
From sense of interest come all notions of honour. There are, says a common observation, notions of honour among thieves. How should it be otherwise? Gangs of robbers could not have existence unless engagements between member and member, for the purpose of the common pursuit, had existence.
But if by fidelity to honest engagements between man and man, entered into for an innoxious purpose, the happiness of mankind is promoted,—so by fidelity to engagements between thief and thief, entered into for the purpose of thieving, the happiness of mankind is diminished.
Of the matter of corruption, the elements may be distinguished into the immediately applying and the unimmediately applying. By those which are immediately applying, understand those which are themselves among the objects of general desire, or to which some of those same objects are attached: those the application of which is unimmediate, are those in which the immediate objects have their source.
Of those which are unimmediate, the most fruitful by far are, wars and distant dependencies. Wars and distant dependencies beget offices: offices, corrupt obsequiousness: corrupt obsequiousness on the part of all who seek them, as towards all who give them.
Wars are alike employable in all monarchies. Distant dependencies are peculiar to those which are in possession of a quantity more or less considerable of naval force.
Where, as in the latter case, situation is favourable, these sources of corruptive influence are necessarily productive of each other. Never can war take place, but the quantity of the matter of corruption must increase: successful or unsuccessful, this is among the number of the effects of it. Be it ever so unsuccessful, it makes addition to the number of offices: of military offices, obviously: and in the train of military offices, come civil ones. In so far as credit has place, it adds to the quantity of public debt, and of the taxes imposed for the payment of the interest of it. Public debt requires offices for the payment of it: taxes require offices for the extraction of them. In a monarchy possessing distant dependencies, if a war in which it is engaged, proves successful, an addition to the extent or number of those dependencies, is a natural and frequent consequence of the success. To every other such government, each such dependency is an object of envy, and among all together a bone of contention: hence it is, that as war begets distant dependencies, so do distant dependencies beget wars.
In both these instances, diametrically opposite to the universal interest, is that particular interest by which in every monarchy the rulers are so uniformly governed. No war has there ever been by which the citizen subjects have not been losers: no war has there ever been by which their rulers have not been gainers. No distant dependency, by the possession of which the people at whose expense it has been acquired, are not losers: no such possession by which the rulers, by whom whether acquired or no it is retained, are not gainers.
In the literature of most states may be seen a sort of periodical work, in which is represented the state of the official establishment: the offices that have place in the state, being designated by their respective titles, with or without a designation, complete or incomplete, of the masses of emolument and other objects of desire respectively attached to them, and the individuals by whom, at the time of the publication in question, these offices are respectively possessed. In these books may be seen the matter, the maximization of which has in every government but one, been hitherto the primary, not to say the sole end of government, in the breasts of the respective rulers.
For bringing to view the influence of the matter of corruption upon public functionaries, the shortest course that can be pursued is to commence with that mass which, in a mixed and limited monarchy, is in the hands of the monarch: from thence a conception of the extent and operation of it, in inferior hands, may be formed without difficulty.
In its composition it includes all those external instruments of felicity which constitute the necessary instruments of government, together with those which not being needed nor capable of having place but under a bad government, are exclusively the produce of a bad government. In addition to power and money, it accordingly includes factitious honour and dignity, vengeance and official ease.
These objects, not only does the monarch possess and employ for his own gratification, but he possesses the faculty of making communication of them to all those who occupy in relation to him, the situation either of instruments or favourites.
Prodigious is the quantity of public money a man may receive—receive and, in a certain sense, convert to his own use, if he can but content himself with receiving it by any hand other than his own: prodigious in proportion, the power he may thus exercise: prodigious the degree of servility and baseness he may thus surround himself with: prodigious the contribution he may be able to make to the treasury of public mischief and misrule. No part of the money thus received being seen to go, nor perhaps actually going, into his own purse, the consequence is—that to any amount the praise of disinterestedness may be attached to the career of rapacity thus run, the praise of independence to a course the most abject and dependent.
The influence exercised over those who are actually partakers in the good things conferred by it, is inconsiderable, in comparison with that exercised over those who never receive any share in it. In the train of one single possessor there is no saying how many expectants are attached.
Numerous, in many cases, are the links, one beneath another, in what may be termed the chain of patronage or dependence. By the monarch an office is conferred, to which is attached the power of placing, with reference to, suppose twenty offices: to each of which such offices, is attached the power of placing, with relation to twenty more offices, and so on: and to the possessor of every office in each such rank, is attached a swarm of expectants, as above.
Of these good things, so great is the variety, that there is something capable of suiting every taste, and among them are those with which a man may suit himself, and at the same time be receiving the praise of disinterestedness. Those whom no lucrative places may gain over, a ribbon may subdue.
If with relation to the individuals, on whom it operates, the power in question were confined to the placing of them in the several desirable situations, vast would be the influence exercised by it. But in relation to no small portion of the aggregate (probably the largest proportion) is annexed the power of displacing. But in comparison with the power of displacing, the power of placing is comparatively trifling. In the mere power of placing, no power of punishment is included. In the power of displacing, with reference to a situation of the kind in question, is included a power of punishment far superior in its effect, to any power commonly exercised under that name. Excessive would be deemed (and on that account interdicted by the bill of rights) a pecuniary punishment, by which a man in England should be deprived of a situation equal in value to the least valuable situation in any of the government boards.
Not till after trial, nor without conviction, can any punishment which is called punishment be inflicted. No conviction, no trial is requisite in the other case: without opportunity of defence, without exposure to the eye of the public-opinion tribunal, without a moment’s warning, it may be inflicted at any time.
It enjoys to a prodigious degree an exemption from the controlling power of the public-opinion tribunal: that power to the operation of which, the exercise of coercive power is in a much greater degree subjected.
For the production of any corruption aimed at, no act on the part of the corrupter-general is necessary, Therefore no act is there, to which disapprobation can attach itself.
This unofficial judicatory is scarcely less subject to his corruptive influence than are the official judicatories. Nothing can he ever do, or abstain from doing,—no course, on any occasion, can his actions take, but laudation and admiration follow it, and attach upon it. Laud is bestowed upon him, for everything he parts with, and for everything he keeps in his own hands, especially if and in so far as, others are let in to a participation of the benefit of it. Not an article can he consume or use for his own personal gratification, but from various quarters, praise follows him for what is done. In the first place come all those who derive a profit from the supplying him with it, or hope to do so with similar articles. To act thus, is called conferring a benefit on trade, and in the pleasure of conferring this public benefit, he is said to find his only motive. By every such act, he moreover adds to the splendour and lustre of the crown and the throne: and by all to whom the constitution is an object of attachment, the necessity of this splendour and this lustre is a fundamental and unquestionable article.
If, and as often as, money or money’s worth to any amount is parted with by him, without any immediate receipt or expectation of an equivalent in any determinate shape, or at any determinate time, the field of praise receives another great enlargement. Then in full chorus may be heard joining, all those to whom munificence generosity and liberality, are objects of sympathy and admiration. Not a particle of money can he thus give, which has not been extorted from unwilling contributors, not a particle can he give, which will not be reimbursed to him in the same manner. In his situation, not a particle can he ever give, which is not given at the expense of others. But his case is confounded with that of those benefactors, who have no means of giving but at their own expense. Of a half-starved beggar, who should share a penny just received from the hand of casual charity, with another in the same condition, the so dearly exercised beneficence would remain unknown and unapplauded: and even though it were universally known, faint is the applause that would be vouchsafed to self-denying liberality when exercised on so minute a scale. To help to gain a million sterling for paying debts already contracted, and make way for contracting more, suppose a monarch promising to the public a collection of books,* purchased at the public expense, of no use to the purchaser, and of no determinate and assignable use to anybody else—the praises of royal munificence will be sounded in the assembly of the legislature, and echoed wherever the fame of the virtue reaches.
As to the prevention or even diminution of corruption, nothing in a government so constituted can be more plainly or everlastingly impossible. Of all arrangements employed for the professed purpose of excluding it, or diminishing it, by means of punishment, the effect, if any, is to give increase to it, or to increase the mischievousness of it.
The only case to which punishment can attach to it, is that where a direct bargain is made. But in the case of any such bargain, the quantity of mischief will have its express limits: put out of the case the bargain, the quantity will be unlimited. The greater the service I render to the giver of good gifts, the greater is the value of the good gifts which I may reasonably expect to receive. Such is the reasoning which, in a breast so situated, can never fail to be made.
At the same time by the profession and apparent endeavours thus made to put an end to a practice, to the increase of which, or at least the maintenance, all real endeavours are directed, the effect if any, is to give strength to the delusion employed, to secure submission to the misrule. By no man can support have been given to any such pretended or supposed remedy, without proof made of inaptitude opposite to one or other branch of appropriate aptitude: in case of insincerity, of the branch opposite to moral aptitude: in case of sincerity, of the branch opposite to intellectual aptitude.
In a pure monarchy, (it has been already stated,) the operation of corruption has little place, in comparison with what it has in a mixed and limited monarchy.
There is no subject-matter for it to work upon. In a mixed and limited monarchy, this subject-matter is essentially present. This subject-matter is the body which represents, or is dealt with as if it represented, the people, and which as such is let in for a share in the exercise of the sovereign power of legislation. Without the concurrence of this body, the sinister desires of the monarch cannot receive their gratification: with that concurrence they may do so to an unlimited extent. But in an unmixed and unlimited monarchy, they may and do receive their gratification to an unlimited extent, without the concurrence of any such body: for no such body has place in it.
Not that even in the most unlimited monarchy, corruption is without its influence, nor therefore altogether without its use. It contributes to the mass of that sinister influence, but for which many, whom it has the effect of preventing, might otherwise embrace the cause of the universal interest.
In England, in virtue of the pre-established harmony, so long as the Constitution stands, corruption with its etceteras is predestinated to go on in a state of perpetual advance: never to be stationary, much less retrograde.
In this or that department an enormous abuse is brought to light. A member in opposition moves for papers to serve as documents with a view to the moving for a committee to inquire and report. On this occasion, till of late years, the practice was to resist the inquiry in limine—to refuse the papers. This practice continues at present; but upon the whole, such a facility in the granting them has place as forms a striking contrast with the ultimate result.
The case is, and so it has been found, that on this ground, in relation to their own sinister interest, the government cannot do wrong. If the papers are refused all subsequent trouble is saved: though they gain nothing, yet nothing do they lose: for as to reputation of probity for this long time none have they had to lose. If the papers are granted, then instead of loss comes positive gain of abuse. Of the mass of abuse a portion more or less considerable is brought to light: placed in so strong a glare as to be wholly uncontrovertible. Now comes the season of candour. The seat of the abuse being in the misconduct of the subordinates of government, it belongs to government to rectify what is amiss in the conduct of those its subordinates. A commission is now wanted: a commission, i.e. a set of commissioners, all of them of course named in one or other of two ways, by government. But this being a public service—a service of considerable labour—a labour too, the quantity of which will naturally be apt to increase with the quantity of abuse, remuneration becomes necessary: it being without example that, in some shape or other, it should not be given, it is given as of course, no argument being regarded as necessary to be produced in support of it: the only argument, if any, regards the quantum and the shape.
As to the modes of nominating these commissioners, there are two; by the Crown, or by Parliament: by the Crown, is by the Ministry in their closet; by the Parliament, is by the Ministry in the House of Commons; the result being equally at command in both instances, a question that naturally occurs is, wherein can consist the difference? what is it that should render it an object to either party, that either course should be chosen in preference to the other?
To give the answer, another distinction must be brought to view. In the number of these commissioners it is thought or not thought advisable by government to place a member of Parliament: a member of Parliament, i. e. one who is already of the number of their own adherents, or one who by this means is to be made so. If there be no member of Parliament, all they get by the business is the confirmation of the abuse, the impunity of those concerned in it, and the increase given to the quantity of the matter of corruption employed as such: if a member of Parliament, who was not before of the number of their adherents, is put into the commission; in that case, they get the additional advantage of this addition to their list.
In every political state, in which there exists a legislative body with an executive authority in other hands, there are two parties in the representative body: one composed of persons by whom the sweets of office are either possessed or expected to be received: call these the Ins. Another composed of those, by whom no expectation of favour in that shape is entertained, and whose whole course is accordingly directed, in the endeavour to gain possession of the aggregate mass of those sweets of office, and to that end, to the putting out of possession, the actual possessors: these are the Outs.
The Outs are not less in an unquestionable state of dependence than the Ins: nor in their case is the dependence less corruptive than in the other. In the state of the dependence, there is indeed some difference in the two cases. In the case of the Ins, the individuals on whom the dependence is, are more determinate: in the case of the Outs, less determinate. Still, however, neither in the nature of the dependence, nor (except in regard to the degree of corruptive efficiency) in its effects, is there in the two cases any difference.
In both situations, the temptation to yield to, and be determined by, the sinister influence, applies to every individual member: nor in the instance of any one such individual, on any occasion, can the probability of his resisting it, and not being determined by it, be asserted.
At the same time, it is on both sides, on all public occasions a universal practice of every individual, not only to deny the actual prevalence of the corruptive influence in question on each particular occasion, but the possibility of its prevalence on any occasion in his instance.
In denying the existence of this prevalence, the sort of phrase commonly employed is that by which purity of motives is professed.
True it is, that on this or that occasion, thus much it may be competent to a man (always on the supposition, that by the nature of the motives by which his conduct is determined, the merits of the question are in some determinate way affected,) to make known and thence to assert, namely,—that on the occasion in question, he does not stand exposed to sinister interest in any shape; or if there be any shape, in which he is exposed to sinister interest, that sinister interest has for its counterpoise, a right and proper interest, by which it is overpowered.
When the phrase corruptive influence is employed, it is by the laws and institutions themselves that the corruptive influence must be said to have been applied: applied to the individual in such manner as to have given birth to the sinister effect.
Dear in this case, it may be imagined how dear, both to corrupters and corrupted, are these same laws and institutions.
In this case it is not common for complaints of corruption to have place to any considerable extent: in general scarcely is it seen, or so much as suspected, that in consequence of this state of things, any considerable mischief has place: every man, as early as he has been taught anything, having been taught to regard as objects of the most prostrate veneration and the most boundless confidence, those same sources and receptacles of corruption—those same instruments of depredation and oppression.
At the same time this is the case in which mischief has place in a quantity, greater by far than in the opposite case. It has place to a greater extent, and throughout the whole of its extent it is effectually out of the reach of all cure, or even of restraint; for no one individual is perceptible on whom it is possible, without the appearance of injustice, to fix in any shape the imputation of blame.
But if neither open accusation, nor so much as secret imputation, can have place, still less can remedy in any shape have place. So far, therefore, as the corruption has place in this shape, the system of misrule by means of corruption may be said to have been raised to the very pinnacle of perfection.
The greater the extent to which corruption in this shape has place, the more conclusively probative is the circumstantial evidence by which it is proved, that on the part of the persons exercising in chief the powers of government, (and by whom, in the whole or in part, the profit from the mass of corruption thus constituted has been reaped,) the corruption that has place, is the fruit of design: that they know what they are about, and are fully conscious of the evil that has place, and that they, by being supporters, are, for the time being, authors of it.
In this case the corruption may be said to be single-seated: or, borrowing an expression from botany, monœcious. The persons thus corrupted, namely the persons reaping the sinister and dishonest profit, may be said to be self-corruptors, self-corrupted: and a species of misdeed styled self-corruption may be said to have place and to be habitually committed.
Where the corruption is double-seated, or say diœcious, the nature of it is more easily conceived. In this case the corruption is reciprocal: by the corruptor and the corruptee a sinister benefit is either reaped or expected to be reaped.
Self-corruption always has place, in the case where the two powers, legislative in chief, and executive in chief, have place in one and the same hand.
This is as truly a case of corruption as that where it is double-seated: by the hand of power a benefit is reaped, and it is at the expense and by the sacrifice of the universal interest that it is reaped. With how much more facility the sinister private benefit, is in this case reaped, than in the other case, and the sinister public effect produced, is sufficiently manifest.
In the present case, there is no room for self-corruption in the highest grades: by the supposition, the legislative power is in one set of hands, the power of patronage in another.
In any one of these two departments, self-corruption may have place. In the executive, a superordinate, to save himself from providing at his own expense for a son of his, places him, though unapt, in a situation under him. This is as truly an instance of corruption, as if to a stranger he had sold the place for what it would bring, and put the money into his own pocket: the prime minister, for example, appoints a coward or drunken son to the command of an army.
Being engaged in the carrying on a manufacture, or having a son or other near relative of his who is so engaged, an influential member induces the Legislature to pass a probative or restrictive law, having for its object, the preventing the rest of the community from being supplied, with the sort of article in question, in better quality, or on cheaper terms. Behold here, an instance of self-corruption in the Legislature.
In the Judiciary department, the whole mass of that spurious sort of law which goes by the name of unwritten or common law, is the product of self-corruption. The judicial power entrusted to the Judges, is employed in lodging legislative power in their own hands. To the field of this power, scarce are there any assignable limits: scarcely is it distinguishable from that of the legislative. By means of it the Parliament of Paris, in the middle of the seventeenth century, contended with the Regent for the Sovereignty.
If power were all, and power had no tendency to beget money, here would be matter of corruption abundantly sufficient to produce the sinister effect. But wherever there is power, money cannot fail to follow it. Under the name of fees, Judges impose taxes on the suitors, denying protection and security against injury to all those who are not able to pay those taxes—that is to say, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the state. Formerly, the head judicatory in France, the Parliament of Paris, set such a price upon their definitive judgments that, for want of customers, they found themselves under the necessity of giving it up in particular instances, by selling a something at much less than an equivalent, as they could make it on cheaper terms. In Scotland, the Court of Session, taking French judicature for their example, have followed in this particular the same course.
By this in England have been produced the enormous emoluments of the higher judges: and thence the denial of what is called justice both in England and Ireland.
By the supreme and acknowledged Legislature, acting and acknowledged in that character, this usurpation is connived at.
Thus much as to the incurable nature of corruption: now as to the extent given to its influence. Observe the several classes which, by the nature of their situations, are subjected to the operation of it:
1. The several members of the legislature: and in the instance of every one of them, every individual who has, or supposes himself to have, any connexion with him, by any adequate tie of self-regarding, or though it be but sympathetic interest.
2. The several connexions, in like manner, of the administrative chief himself.
3. The several ministers, heads of the several departments of the administration, with their several clusters of connexions, as above.
4. All individuals who look either to the prime minister, or to any of the sub-ministers, or to any of their subordinates having locative power, with reference to official situations under them—these and their several connexions.
Let it not be said—this, then, is an objection against a representative democracy. For, suppose any other form of government, the case is beyond comparison worse.
Although the complete exclusion of corruption is too much to hope for, what is not too much to hope for is, the bringing it about to a degree less than it exists at present even in the United States: and though it were never to be reduced to an inferior degree, if it could but be brought down to that degree in every political state, a reduction to that extent might be contemplated with exultation by a lover of mankind.
For reducing its evil effects to a minimum, several arrangements present themselves: one consists in reducing to its minimum the quantity of the matter of good capable of operating in the character of matter of corruption: another, in providing a terminative remedy, by giving, as above, to the constitutive, the power of removing from the establishment unapt members, in any number, as soon as may be after their inaptitude has become, in the judgment of that authority, sufficiently manifest. A third expedient consists in the bringing to bear, in undiminished force, the power of the public-opinion tribunal upon the conduct of the individual by whom, in each instance, the location is performed: vesting the power of location in the hands of a single functionary, and no more than one, much less in any such large number as shall constitute what in England is called a Board.
This last arrangement, if adopted, would put an exclusion upon the administrative, that is to say, upon the locative branch of he power of the senate in the constitution of the United States.
Thus in act, every form of government, except where the only possible antiseptic system is applied, and in tendency, even where it is applied, the whole official establishment is a corruptive establishment. To establish the constitution, is to establish a system of corruption by law. Well, and with strict truth, may it be said to be by law: for by constitutional law it is planted, and by penal law it is supported and maintained; and by law in neither ever has been, nor is, nor ever can be, excluded.
[* ]Good and evil being opposites, what is predicated of each may, by an appropriate change in the context, be with equal truth and propriety predicated of the other: and so with regard to reward and punishment.
[* ]Another inducement may, it seems, be added to the above; namely, the hope of receiving similar sinister benefits, on other occasions: which of course would not be likely to be the case, if it were known that on a former occasion, the service was not performed, after the benefit had been conferred.—Ed.
[* ]In allusion to the library of Geo. III. presented to the nation by his successor in 1823.—Ed.