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HISTORICAL PREFACE, INTENDED FOR THE SECOND EDITION. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 1 (Principles of Morals and Legislation, Fragment on Government, Civil Code, Penal Law) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 1.
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I. The Bookseller’s obliging attention, in applying for my permission to do what he had a full right to do without any such permission, had produced on my part a desire to make, in some shape or other, a return for it. I could think of none more suitable than the supplying him with a few recollections, relative to the effects, public and private, which followed this my first attempt, and the then unseen causes in which they have for some time appeared to me to have had their root.
I had gone some length, when the conception struck me, that, by being put together in a certain order, the facts might be made productive of an incomparably more useful effect: and in this hope I must find what consolation I can for the consumption of a quantity of time much exceeding my original expectations. The change consists, in the adding, as deduced from the particular facts, a confirmation of those general conceptions, in the development and application of which, no small portion of the aggregate mass of my intervening works have been employed, namely, that no system or form of government ever had, or ever could have had, for its actual and principal end in view, the good of any other persons, than the very individuals by whom, on each occasion, the powers of it were exercised: that, in particular, this has been the case with the least bad of all bad governments—the English; that of the Anglo-American United States being the first of all governments to which the epithet of good, in the positive sense of the word, could with propriety be attached: that, in England in particular, in this case have been all the individuals, and all the bodies, among whom the powers of government have, at any time, been shared; and in a more particular manner, such of the functionaries as have been at the head of the judicial department; functionaries by whom, under the notion and pretence of exercising no other than judicial power, legislative power has, with the connivance and in subservience to the sinister interest of the supreme and sole ostensible Legislature, been all along usurped and exercised.
What at the same time occurred to me was—that those all-comprehensive conclusions, of which in my view the facts are demonstrative, and which will accordingly, in this comparatively short trifle, be seen expressed in the most direct terms, and without any the smallest doubt, disguise, or reserve,—are the same as those which, in the Memoirs of Bubb Doddington and of Horace Walpole, as well as in many others, by which of late years such new and instructive lights of the same colour have been spread over the field of Government, suggest themselves to an observant mind, but have not in either of those works received any such determinate expression: and that thus, in the minds of some readers, this little additional Fragment, thus incidentally pinned upon a former Fragment, might have the farther use, of serving as a sort of key to the mysteries, as yet but incompletely revealed, in those no less instructive than interesting anterior, and in every sense greater, works.
As to claim to confidence, the relative time of publication gives to this Preface, so far as it goes, the advantage over those works. For the correctness of the narration, it affords a sort of security, which in those instances has no place: the narrative not having in either of them been intended for publication, till the Author should be out of the way of all personal responsibility in respect of it.*
II. When the Fragment made its appearance, the sensation it produced was for some time not inconsiderable. To the unqualified admiration which the Commentaries had for so many years been in possession of, it constituted the first considerable exception, perhaps the very first exception, bearing any thing like a general aspect, that had ever been seen in print. No name being in the titlepage, nor any information concerning the author obtainable from the bookseller, conjecture set itself to work. More than one father was found for it: each of the very first class: no minor one: Lord Mansfield, Lord Camden, and Mr. Dunning: the latter, five years afterwards, cabineted and ennobled under the title of Lord Ashburton.
It was by Dr. Johnson that it was fathered upon Dunning, that prime leader of the King’s Bench Bar. Much about that time, I belonged to a dinner club, of which Johnson was the Despot. It was not, however, immediately from his mouth that the conjecture reached me: it came through some other member, to whom he had mentioned it. Completely erroneous as it was, it was not perhaps completely groundless: the sagacity of his deluded but powerful mind was exemplified by it. The eloquence of Dunning was eminently and exclusively of the logical cast; not any the slightest ray of sentimentality was ever seen to issue from it. As to myself, in the days of my studentship, the chief part of my attendance was paid at the King’s Bench. If, in my style, appropriate aptitude in any shape or degree is discernible, it is probably in no small degree to Dunning that it is due. Precision, correctness, clearness, guardedness, in expression,—closeness in argumentation,—seemed to me his characteristic features: in these, combined with force, he seemed to me altogether without a rival. To these he added a sort of controversial insinuation, such as belonged to his purposes, and not to mine. That which I here speak of is that which I heard from him in public; for in private, at that time, I never had had any the slightest intercourse with him. At the Bar, of all men that I had ever heard, he had been the one whom I had heard with the greatest pleasure and attention; the one, whose style in speaking, it seemed to me, that on all occasions it would be matter of the highest satisfaction to me to be able in any way to imitate.
When the style has thus been mentioned, every thing has been mentioned in which the Lexicographer’s conjecture could find any the slightest support. It proves the collateral fact—that not only the affections, but the acquirements, of the pre-eminent lawyer who was the subject of it, were altogether unknown, to the miserable and misery-propagating ascetic, and instrument of despotism, by whom it was delivered. In the Fragment, marks of some little general acquaintance with the field of science and general literature may be seen here and there peeping out. The office of his father—a country Attorney, whose abode was in the little town from which the son, on his elevation, took his title—had been the University of John Dunning. Whatever analogy may, in respect of certain faculties, have had place between the illustrious advocate and the obscure reformist,—in respect of feelings and wishes with relation to the universal interest, nothing could be much more opposite. Some grounds for this assurance will be presently seen.
The two other conjectures were still more completely groundless: and, though coming from professional men, as completely destitute of, or rather opposite to, manifest probability, as conjectures can easily be. I speak of the intrinsic evidence afforded by the work, compared with the high political situation, and professionally known characters, of these its reputed authors.
As to Lord Camden, nothing could be much less assorted to his character or situation than a work of the complexion of the Fragment. On the hill of forensic ambition, Lord Camden’s place had for years been on the summit; the Author’s was at the very bottom. To Lord Camden, in his situation, nothing could be more completely wanting than all inducement to assume and keep up the tone of juvenility and tyro-ship, which will be seen pervading the work, and painting in genuine colours the state of the Author’s mind.
For improvements in the state of the Law, the Author had long been under the stimulus of that appetite, which age, the grand moderator of most appetites, has left hitherto undamped. To Lord Camden, all improvement in that line was an object of undisguised aversion. For this assurance, the direct evidence afforded by documents of a public nature—the direct evidence—negative and positive together, will of itself, if my recollection does not greatly deceive me, afford tolerably sufficient warrant; and, if so, the little private incidents which will be seen presently, will receive their explanation from it, and operate in the character of circumstantial evidence in confirmation of it. In favour of innovation in any such shape, not a syllable, I am confident, is to be found in any speech of his that has been handed down to us. If this be correct, here then, though but negative, is the direct evidence. As to positive evidence, the same sources would be found to afford that which is but too conclusive. I recollect not, nor would it be worth the search, at what exact time my eyes were first wounded by it. The following little history will enable the reader, should he think it worth his while, to find it.
Some time after the appearance of the Fragment, the House of Commons was found to contain a small knot of young men, in whose minds a disposition to contribute to the improvement of the Law had begun to manifest itself. William Eden, who afterwards entered into the diplomatic career, and was raised to the Peerage by the title of Lord Auckland, was one of them; probably enough (for I have no recollection about the others) at the head of them. The first fruit of their labours was the production of a bill, which had for its object the clearing the Statute-Book of a few insignificant samples of its antique rubbish. If I recollect right, there were half a dozen of them. Altogether incapable were they of doing good in any shape. On the other hand, they did no harm in any shape: always excepted the encumbering the Statute-Book, contributing to the confusion with which it covers the field of legislation, and loading, with so much useless lumber, the memory and the purse. Of one of these samples alone, the remembrance still dwells with me. Date, the 27th of Edward I.; language, French; object, preventing the importation of certain pieces of coined metal called pollards or crokards. I know not how it happened, nor is it material: it was with that commodity as with corn at present, the abundance of it was a nuisance: severe penalties were employed for the exclusion of it. The reader need scarce be informed that the danger of an excess in that article could not be very menacing at the time of the bringing in of Mr. Eden’s Bill. In the Commons it was suffered to pass: but, in the House of Lords, it found armed against it an authority altogether irresistible.
It was Lord Camden’s. From such authority, in a place where authority is every thing, very few words were sufficient. I remember reading them in the newspapers. Of the words themselves I have no recollection, nor are they worth searching for: as to the purport of them, what I am confident of, is, that it would be found in the Book on Fallacies, probably in Mr. Dumont’s edition of it in French; and moreover, that it would serve for the exclusion, as well of the most important improvement, as of the minute projected benefit which it was thus employed to crush.
Not even by any of the most determined anti-reformists of the present day, with or without the mask of a reformist on his countenance, would the reform, if such it may be called, be termed either intemperate or immoderate. Seeing it thus dealt with, I was chagrined to the degree that may be imagined: chagrined, and at that time even astounded; for at that time, no suspicion to the prejudice of the liberalism of that head of the Whig lawyers had, I believe, as yet presented itself to my mind.
III. Among the effects of the work, such as it was, was a sort of concussion, produced by it in the sort of world it belonged to: in the world of politics, but more particularly in the world of law: more particularly still, in the higher regions; the inhabitants of which, in this as in other professions, form a sort of celestial conclave, of the secrets of which, whatsoever observation is endeavoured to be made from the subjacent low grounds, is made through a medium impregnated with awe, admiration, and conjecture.
The peep here given into its mysteries will, perhaps, be found neither uninteresting nor uninstructive: it may be assistant to the grand purposes which the work itself has for its objects—objects which may be seen containing the germ of every thing which, on the same field, has been sown by the same hand since. A more particular object is the throwing light into the den of the long-robed Cacus.—Cacus felt the light, and trembled.
The more extensive, and indeed all-comprehensive object is, the pointing attention to the imperfections which even at that time of day were seen swarming in the frame of the government, and to the ricketiness of the only foundations in which, on the ground of argument, it had ever found support. No such imperfection having place but what brought profit, in some shape or other, to those among whom the power was shared, their interest of course was, that those same imperfections should, in their whole mass, remain for ever unremoved, and therefore be at all times as little as possible in view.
As a basis for all such operations as should be directed to this same object, the Fragment, at the same time, Fragment as it was, undertook to set up, and may be seen setting up accordingly, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, in the character of the proper, and only proper and defensible, end of government; as the only standard by which any apt judgment could be formed on the propriety of any measure, or of the conduct of any person, occupied in making opposition, or giving support to it. At that time of day, so far as regards the general frame of the Government, scarcely in any one of those imperfections did the Author of the Fragment see the effect of any worse cause than inattention and prejudice: he saw not in them then, what the experience and observations of nearly fifty years have since taught him to see in them so plainly, the elaborately organized, and anxiously cherished and guarded products of sinister interest and artifice.
Under the name of the principle of utility, (for that was the name adopted from David Hume), the Fragment set up, as above, the greatest happiness principle in the character of the standard of right and wrong in the field of Morality in general, and of Government in particular. In the field of Government, it found in this country the original contract in possession of that character.
The existence of that pretended agreement (need it now be said?) was and is a fable: authors of the fable, the Whig lawyers. The invention, such as it was, had been made by them for their own purposes, and nothing could have been better contrived: for, the existence of the contract being admitted, the terms remained to be settled: and these would of course be, on each occasion, what the interest of the occasion required that they should be. It was in this offspring of falsehood and sinister interest that the Fragment beheld the phantom, on the shoulders of which, the Revolution that substituted Guelphs to Stuarts, and added corruption to force, had till then had its sole declared support. Against this phantom, the Fragment will be seen making declared war: the only war but one that had ever been made against it, on any side, and the only war without exception that had ever been made against it, on the side and in favour of the people. Against this attack, thus made, no defence has, I believe, ever been attempted: scarcely since that time has the chimera been seen to show itself; scarcely, at any rate, under its own name. Such as it was, it was the offspring of Fiction; meaning here by the word Fiction, that which is meant by it in law-language.
A fiction of law may be defined—a wilful falsehood, having for its object the stealing legislative power, by and for hands which could not, or durst not, openly claim it,—and, but for the delusion thus produced, could not exercise it.
Thus it was that, by means of mendacity, usurpation was, on each occasion, set up, exercised, and established.
A sort of partnership was thus formed: formed, in so far as a partnership can be said to have place, between a master and his at all times removable servants: a partnership, having for its object the extracting, on joint account, and for joint benefit, out of the pockets of the people, in the largest quantity possible, the produce of the industry of the people. Monarch found force; lawyers, fraud: thus was the capital formed. Creatures of a day, and for years together, neither possessing present nor certainty of future existence, the representatives of the people, now such convenient partners, were not as yet ripe for admittance. Parties in the concern as yet but those two:—monarch and lawyers. Whatever was the fraud thus practised, partners on both sides found their account in it: interests of both provided for of course.
The monarch, not being acknowledged in the capacity of sole legislator, had every thing to gain, by suffering these his, at all times, removable creatures, thus to exercise the power belonging to that office; for, with the instrument thus constructed, and always at hand—an instrument which continually increasing experience showed to be so fit for use—depredation and oppression might at all times be exercised: exercised in shapes and degrees in which he could not have dared to exercise them by himself in a direct way, or to propose in an open way to the representatives of the people.
As little could the authors of this power-stealing system fail to find their account in it: since, for the sake of the profit received by him as above, their master could do no otherwise than connive all along at those other lies and devices, by which depredation and oppression were acted by them for their own benefit. Here again was another source of profit to the head partner: for, in virtue and to the extent of his power of patronage,—upon each vacancy, their office, with the annexed plunderage, became his; his—not to retain indeed, but at any rate his to give.
Mendacity is a name too soft for falsehood thus applied; applied to such purposes, and by men so situated: for, in comparison of the suffering thus produced, the greatest ever produced by any thing to which the word is applied in the intercourse between individual and individual, would be found inconsiderable. An operation, by which the nature and effects of it would be placed in their full and true light, is obvious and simple. Run over the field of law, as laid down in any of the books: pick out the several parts in which a fiction in any shape has been employed; the most extensively and mischievously operative will be found in Blackstone: for others, the books of judicial procedure called Books of practice, would be to be looked at: set down the several fictions, under the several heads they belong to; in each instance, the particular mischief to the public, together with the profit to the judge or judges of the judicatory (called the court, for the purpose of letting in the servants to a share of the worship paid to the master) are the articles to be looked for; if honestly looked for, in no case would there be much difficulty in finding them; in the profit made out of each fabrication, would be seen the final cause of it.
One pre-eminently serviceable and all-comprehensive effect there is, to which, if to no other, they would every one of them be found contributory. This is general debility in the understanding of the deluded people: for, the more prostrate that debility, the more flagrant the ulterior degree of depredation and oppression, to which they might thus be brought to submit. Of the degree of debility produced, no better measure need be given, than the fact of men’s having been in this way made to regard falsehood as an instrument not only serviceable but necessary to justice.
In others, this vice was not only punished all the while by these appointed guardians of virtue, but painted in its proper colours. That which is vice in all others, how could it in them be virtue? how, but that to them belonged the power of making wrong and right change natures, and determining what shall be morality as well as what shall be law; making as well the one as the other thus dependent—not on their effects on the happiness of the community at large, but on the ever-changeable good pleasure of the possessors of power, by what means soever obtained, and in what manner soever exercised; thus, in regard to morality: and in regard to truth, the power of determining, if not what shall be truth, what, to all practical purposes, shall be taken for it. To produce ductility, produce debility. No recipe was ever more effectual: no time at which the virtue of it has been more thoroughly understood than at present. But for this, how could judges have been suffered to make law, or priests gospel, as they have been and still are?
Though in the Fragment the mask was not taken off so completely or forcibly as here, still the effects produced by any such disclosure may, without much difficulty, be imagined. Nowhere, till this little work appeared, nowhere had there been a heart to declare—nowhere, perhaps, even an eye clearly to see—that, in the hands of these arbiters of every man’s destiny, this pretended product of matchless wisdom—this object of veneration to the deluded multitude—had never been any thing better than a cover for rascality. By no former hand had the gauntlet been thrown down in the face of the brotherhood: that gauntlet, which, though so repeatedly offered again to learned vizards no eye has ever yet seen the possibility of taking up.
IV. The effects produced on sinister interest—on sinister interest in these high places—by the wounds thus given to it, may without much difficulty be imagined. But the greatest happiness of the greatest number requires, that they should be not only imagined but proved: and this they shall now be, in so far as natural probability, aided by whatever support it may be thought to receive from the character of the narrator, can gain credence, for the indication given of a set of actings and workings, of which, for the most part, the mind, in its most secret recesses, was the theatre. These effects the reader will see in the deportments of the various personages—keepers and workers of the state engines—in relation to the present work and another by the same hand; and among them will be found the several shining lights, to which, by the conjecturists, who thereby so clearly proved themselves not to have been members of the above-mentioned conclave, the work was, as above, ascribed.
He will see the great lawyers of the age—those of the one party as well as those of the other—concurring (and he will learn to judge whether it was not by concert) in a system of deportment and discourse having for its effect—(and he will judge, whether it had not also for its object)—the keeping covered up in the napkin the talents, such as they were, by which the unwelcome performance had been produced. He will see the hand of a great statesman employing itself at length in the endeavour to draw them out of the napkin, and put them to use.
But for the great purpose which have been seen, never would the patience of the public have been tried by any such string of personal anecdotes, in which an insignificant individual cannot but be the most prominent figure. In themselves the facts, are much too trivial to afford a warrant even for the time employed in bringing them to view—a time which, considering the engagements, the performance of which has thus been delayed,* cannot be thought of without remorse. One consolation is, as already observed—(and this it is that constituted the temptation)—that, to the all-comprehensive theory of which those engagements required the establishment, these anecdotes will afford the confirmation given by particular experience.
Fundamental principles of the Constitutional branch of the all-comprehensive Code now forming, three:—
1. End-indicating principle, the greatest-happiness principle.
2. Obstacle-indicating principle, the universal self-preference-announcing principle.
3. Means-indicating principle, the interest-junction-prescribing principle. To him to whom the House of Commons’ Votes, or even the newspaper indications given of them, are familiar, neither a warrant, nor a key will be found wanting for these denominations, laconic as they are.
Of all the great public men who will here pass under review, one alone will be seen, to whom the greatest happiness principle, and the Author of the Fragment, in respect of the proclamation and applications made of it, was not, according to all appearance, an object of aversion. Of this aversion, the cause lay (it will be seen) in the nature of the species, of the class, and of the situation of the class on the one part; not in the nature of the individuals on either part. In that same situation, the conduct of any other individuals would, without material variation, have been the same: the individuals in question being of both parties; men, in every sense as good as any that are ever likely to be in those same situations so long as the form of government is what it is.
Sinister interests, two in the same breast—lawyer’s interest and ruling statesman’s interest: lawyer’s interest, hostile to that of all suitors, and of all those who may have need to be so, that is to say—of all who are not lawyers. Ruling statesman’s interest, hostile to all subjects’ interest, in a form of government, which, to the inclination common to all breasts, adds in the ruling hands adequate power: power, to an amount sufficient for winding up to the pitch of perfection the system of depredation and oppression: power, by means of the corruption and delusion, which are the essence of this form of government, in addition to that physical force and those means of intimidation and remuneration, which belong of necessity to every form of government.
Of the three confederated interests, that of the lawyer tribe is in a more particular degree mischievous: mischievous, in as much as, to their share in the common sinister interest, they add one which is peculiar to themselves, and in as much as, by the peculiar strength given to their minds by exercise, they take the lead of all the other members of the confederacy, and are the men by whose exertion whatsoever is most difficult of that which is wished to be done, is done.
And thus will be seen an exemplification of the obstacle-indicating—the universal-self-preference indicating—principle.
So long as the form of Government continues to be what it is,—not better and better, but continually worse and worse,—must the condition of the people be, until the sinister sacrifice—the sacrifice of the interest of the many to the interest, joint or several, of the one or the few—shall have been consummated. In that which Austrian Italy—in that which English Ionia—in that which Ireland is—may be seen even now that which England is hastening to be. Forms continuing what they are, Englishmen cannot too soon prepare themselves for being shot, sabred, hanged, or transported, at the pleasure of the placed and momentarily displaceable creatures, of a Monarch, free from all check, but the useless one of an Aristocracy, sharing with him in the same sinister interest. Precedents have already been established: and, by whomsoever made, whether by those who claim to make law, or by those who in the very act disclaim it, every thing for which a precedent has been made is regarded as justified. Of the several particular interests of the Aristocrat in all his shapes, including the fee-fed lawyer, and the tax-fed or rent-fed priest, all prostrate at the foot of the throne—is composed the everlastingly and unchangeably ruling interest. Opposite to the interest of the greatest number—opposite through the whole field of Government—is that same ruling interest. That which this interest requires, is—that the quantity of power, wealth, and factitious dignity, in the possession and at the disposal of the ruling few, should be at all times as great as possible. That which the interest of the subject many requires, is—that the quantity of power and wealth at the disposal of the ruling few should at all times be as small as possible: of these necessary instruments, the smallest quantity; of that worse than useless instrument—factitious dignity, not an atom: no such instrument of corruption and delusion, no such favoured rival, and commodious substitute, to meritorious and really useful service: no such essentially disproportionate mode of remuneration, while, for really useful service, apt notification would afford the only remuneration, which in the shape of honour can be proportionate. Can opposition be more complete? But, to be governed by men, themselves under the dominion of an interest opposite to one’s own, what is it but to be governed by one’s enemies? In or out of office; possessors or expectants; Tories or Whigs; leaning most to the Monarchical side, or most to another side equally hostile to that of the people—what matter is it in which of these situations a man is, if to all the interest, he adds more than the power, of an enemy? Vain, therefore—vain for ever, will be all hope of relief, unless and until the form given to the Government is such, that those rulers in chief, whose particular interests are opposite to the universal interest, shall have given place to others whose particular interests have been brought into coincidence with that same universal interest; in a word, till the interest-junction-prescribing principle, as above, shall have been carried into effect. In the Anglo-American United States, this problem—has it not been solved?
Six public characters must now be brought upon the stage; Mr. or Sir Alexander Wedderburne, Lord Mansfield, Earl of Shelburne, Lord Camden, Mr. Dunning, Colonel Barré: denominations those which belonged to them at the time spoken of.
In the case of Lord Shelburne, it will be seen how ill-assorted the picture of the statesman is with those of the lawyers that precede and follow it. But the interpolation is unavoidable; without it, the other personages could not have been brought to view.
V. The first personage to be produced is Wedderburne; at the time here spoken of, Solicitor-General; afterwards, with the title of Lord Loughborough, Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas, and under that and the subsequent title of Earl of Rosselyn, Lord Chancellor.
The Fragment had not been out long, when a dictum which it had drawn from him, showed me but too plainly the alarm and displeasure it had excited. The audacious work had come upon the carpet: in particular, the principle of utility which it so warmly advocates: this principle, and the argument in support of it, in opposition to the Whig-Lawyer fiction of the original contract. “What say you to it?” said somebody, looking at Wedderburne. Answer—“It is a dangerous one.” This appalling word, with the application made of it to the principle, contains all that was reported to me. Of the rest of the conversation nothing; any more than of the other parties to it: for on this, as on other similar occasions, what came to me come through cautious strainers: attached to me, more or less, by principle and affection, but to the adversary by pressing interests. The dictum, such as it is, though but from this one member of the conclave, will be a sufficient key to whatsoever might otherwise seem mysterious in the language or deportment of those others.
Warm from the mouth of the oracle, the response was brought to me. What I saw but too clearly was—the alarm and displeasure of which it was the evidence: what I did not see was—the correct perception couched in it; the perception, I mean, of the tendency of the principle with reference to the particular interest of the particular class, to the head of which the already elevated lawyer was on his way.
Till within a few years—I am ashamed to think how few—did this same response remain a mystery to me. The principle of utility a dangerous principle! Dangerous, to endeavour to do what is most useful! The proposition (said I to myself) is a self-contradictory one. Confusion of ideas on his part (for I could find no other cause) was the cause to which I attributed it. The confusion was in mine. The man was a shrewd man, and knew well enough what he meant, though at that time I did not. By this time my readers, most of them, know, I hope, what he meant, as well as he. The paraphrase, by which upon occasion they would expound it, would be to some such effect as this:—“By utility, set up as the object of pursuit and standard of right and wrong in the practice of government, what this man means to direct people’s eyes to is—that which, on each occasion, is most useful to all those individuals taken together, over whom Government is exercised. But to us, by whom the powers of government are exercised over them,—to us, so far from being most useful, that which would be most useful to them, would, on most occasions, be calamitous. Let this principle but prevail, it is all over with us. It is our interest, that the mass of power, wealth, and factitious dignity we enjoy at other people’s expense, be as great as possible: it is theirs, that it be as small as possible. Judge, then, whether it is not dangerous to us. And who should we think of but ourselves?”
Thus far Wedderburne. What this one lawyer said, all those others thought. And who knows how many hundred times they may not have said it?
Not long after, I found myself in company with him. It was the first time and the only one. It was at the house of my intimate friend Linda, of whom presently. Any account given of me by him could not but have been in an eminent degree favourable. Wedderburne eyed me, but did not speak to me. He was still Solicitor-General. With all deference, I ventured some slight question to him. It was of a sort that any one could have put to any one. Answer short and icy.
VI. I come now to Lord Mansfield. Not many days from the publication of the Fragment had elapsed, when he had not only taken cognisance of it, but been delighted by it. There was in those days a Mr. Way, who was, or had been, in office under him, and whom, it should seem, he had been in the habit of employing to read to him at odd times. Be this as it may, he was employed in reading this little work. Some connexions of mine were intimate with Mr. Way. The effects produced by it on the language and deportment of the noble and learned hearer, were reported to them by this reader, and it may be imagined they were not long in reaching me. Some of the remarks that dropt from his Lord were also mentioned. While this or that passage was reading—“Now,” cried his Lordship, “he seems to be slumbering:” while this or that other—“Now he is awake again.” Which were the sleepy parts, which the animated and animating ones, was at that time a mystery to me: to me, it was at length cleared up: whether it be so to the reader, he will presently have to determine.
This was not the only ground I had for expecting a favourable notice on the part of Lord Mansfield. On that occasion it had happened to me to minister, as will be seen presently, to an antipathy of his: on another occasion it fell in my way to minister to his self-complacency. I think, it was between the publication of the Fragment on Government, and that of the Introduction to Morals and Legislation, that I took my second trip to Paris. In the passage-boat from Dover I joined company with David Martin. David Martin was a Scotchman: he was a portrait painter; he had painted a portrait of Lord Mansfield; his errand to Paris was to procure an artist, to make an engraving of it. From an English hand, an engraving that would be satisfactory was not to be had for less than 1500 guineas. Strange (I remember his mentioning) was the artist, by whom that price had been required. The young painter’s errand to Paris was to import a cheaper one. The expedition was not altogether fruitless. Two engravings there are, and I believe no more than two considerable ones, of Lord Mansfield. One represents him in the zenith of his political career; the other, near the close of it. The earliest is that for which his admirers are indebted to the brush, and in no small degree to the graver, of David Martin. While at Paris, Martin and I took up our quarters in the same lodging-house. His inquiries brought him to an engraver, whose name was Littret de Montigny; they entered into an agreement; I drew up the articles of it. The subject was not without its difficulties; the language French: I am but a sorry Frenchman now; I was, I imagine, not quite so bad an one then. My performance went through the hands of several Frenchmen, artists as well as others; one alteration alone being made in it; the substitution of the word art to the word metier, which, with unconsciously offensive impropriety, I had employed. The artist was imported; but perseverance failed: the task of finishing fell back into the hand of the painter, as above.
Martin was familiar at Ken Wood. To the noble and learned patron, the Parisian expedition could not be an uninteresting one: particulars were called for and given:—the document was produced. He read it and took particular notice of it: it received his unqualified approbation. The draught was, in the whole complexion of it, one of the ordinary track of business. He inquired who the draughtsman was, and was informed.
From the first morning on which I took my seat on one of the hired boards, that slid from under the officers’ seats in the area of the King’s Bench (it was about ten years before the publication of the Fragment), at the head of the gods of my idolatry, had sitten the Lord Chief-Justice. What his politics were, I did not comprehead; but, being his, they could not but be right. Days and weeks together have I made my morning pilgrimage to the chief seat of the living idol, with a devotion no less ardent and longing, and somewhat less irrational, than if it had been a dead one. Summons to the interior would have been admission into Paradise. No such beatification was I predestinated to receive. The notice taken of my Fragment had kindled my hopes; the notice taken of my draught had revived them; they were revived a second time, and with no better result.
Among my long-robed disciples, the first in the order of time (George Wilson, silkgownsman, and head of the Norfolk circuit, being second, and Romilly third) was John Lind. Having received the Holy Ghost—as much of it at least, whatever it be, as the bishop could give him—he had gone from Baliol College, Oxford, to a chaplainship at the sublime Porte. Dismissed for being too agreeable to his Excellency’s mistress, he was, in his passage through Warsaw, retained to read English to a Prince Czartorinski, father or uncle to Prince Adam, whose correspondence with me appears in my Papers on Codification, and uncle or cousin to the amiable, the virtuous, the unfortunate Stanislaus, last Polish King of the Aristocratico-Monarchico-Anarchical Republic of Poland. With the Prince he had not been long, before he was taken from him by the King. With the rank of Privy Counsellor he was made Director of a corps of 400 Cadets, organized by him, under the orders of the King, to serve as a seminary of liberal education, and a rampart against priestcraft. Every thing could not be begun at once: education at large remained in the hands of Jesuits.
While he was occupied in this charge, the time came for a nephew of the King’s, Prince Stanislaus Poniatowski, to be sent upon his travels. The care of him was given to John Lind. It was the time of the first partition. Lind had not been many weeks in London, when, under the title of “Letters on Poland,” he produced an octavo volume, in which the atrocity of the transaction was painted in lively and appropriate colours. Aided by his commissions and his address, it procured for the author high and favourable notice. He was well received at the Prime Minister’s—Lord North’s. He was well received at the house of his Honourable and Right Reverend Brother, and at the card-table of his not less Reverend Wife. He was rather too much at that Table; sometimes have I seen him returning from it with a tolerably well-filled purse, but too often with an empty one. His connexion with the King of Poland assisted his celebrity in bringing him acquainted with Lord Mansfield, with whom Stanislaus, during a year’s stay in England, had been intimate. Lind was, in fact, the Resident of Poland at the Court of London, though, as being a subject of the King of England, he could not be received as the representative of a foreign potentate. Twice or thrice a-week, as regularly as the post went out, he used to write a letter to his master. Occasion pressing, I remember with what pride I one day officiated as his deputy. In the sunshine of official favour, he produced another political work. It was entitled, “Remarks on the Acts of the Thirteenth Parliament, &c.” It touches, however, upon no others than those which related to the Colonies. The foundation he had from me: it constitutes the first section of the work. I had committed to writing, in the compass of those few pages, the state of the question, as it had presented itself to me. He informed me of his project. Recollecting this paper, I put it into his hand. Little did I expect to see it figuring away in print, much less without the alteration of a word, and in a situation so leading and conspicuous.
This second work received the commendations of Lord Mansfield. The freedom with which his Lordship’s Quebec Bill is treated in it was pardoned by him; in declaration and appearance at least: in that part I had not any share; but it can scarce be that he did not think I had. The basis, on which the whole work rested, could not have been unobserved by him. Lind being so much with Lord Mansfield, his Lordship could not but hear again of me. In fact he did hear of me; mention, as having been made of me, was every now and then reported to me; to the last, however, I heard nothing as from him.
If not by Horace Walpole’s Memoirs, by the general histories of the time, I must suppose the reader more or less acquainted with the character of Lord Mansfield. If so, he cannot have turned over many pages in the Fragment, without seeing, that the principles displayed in it stand in as direct opposition to the so well known biases and endeavours of the great Ultra-Tory, as can easily be imagined.
To me all this neglect remained a mystery. The Chief-Justice had retired from office, perhaps from life, before my inquiries had led me any further into Constitutional law than the Fragment shows. Till a dozen years ago or less, (will it be believed?) I knew not what was meant by influence. For I know not how long, my mind remained fast bound in the silken chains thrown around it by his eloquence. When quibbles stood in the way of his purpose, he would speak slightingly of them, and I thought him liberal. Invectives rained upon him, but I thought him calumniated. As the American controversy, the badness of the only arguments employed against bad government, whether on the one side of the water or the other, had left me sticking to it. Party, I belonged to none: I knew not what sort of a thing party was. In that book of Lind’s, I had placed the question, as above, on the ground of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, meaning always in both countries taken together. With me it was a matter of calculation: pains and pleasures, the elements of it. No party had argued the question, or taken it up, on that ground. No party had any stomach for calculation: none, perhaps, would have known very well how to go about it, if they had. The battle was fought by assertion. Right was the weapon employed on both sides. “We have a right to be as we now choose to be,” said people on the American side. “We have a right to continue to make you what we choose you should be,” said rulers on the English side. “We have a right to legislate over them, but we have no right to tax them,” said Lord Camden, by way of settling the matter: as if irreconcileable interests could be reconciled by a distinction without a difference. When our self-styled Representatives join with King, Lords, and Soldiers, in forcing us to give them money,—Speaking to the King, they say—we give it you. “Doing this,” said the Whig Chancellor, “is not making laws:” revenue laws are not laws. By the same reason, it may be proved, that if, before he takes your purse, a highwayman says Give it me, this will not be robbing you.
I have been running wild: age does so upon stories of younger years. I come back to the aversion. I come back to the fruit of it—the neglect which sat so heavy upon me. What remains is—to reconcile the belief of it, with the delight afforded by the same work at the same time, as proved to me by the unquestionable evidence above mentioned. The task will not be a difficult one.
There was a heart-burning between the noble and learned Lord, and the Author of the Commentaries. In the King’s Bench, while his Lordship was Chief, Sir William was Puisne. To the Puisne, sitting on the same Bench with the scorning and overpowering Chief, was sitting in hot water. “I have not been consulted, and I will be heard,” said another of his Puisnes once in my hearing: it was Wiles, son to the Chief Justice. But to return to Blackstone. The state of humours could no longer be concealed, when, for quiet, the weaker party was glad to slip down from the King’s Bench into the Common Pleas. All this put together—if the Fragment be looked into in this view, there will not, it is believed, be much difficulty in discovering, which were the sleepy, which the awakening parts. In some were seen the tormentor of his tormentor; hence the delectation: in others, a liberalism and a logic, threatening his despotism and his rhetoric; hence the aversion.
VII. Now opens a very different scene: chief place, Bowood. In the year 1781 and not before, not less than five years after its publication, the Fragment—for such was the declaration made—produced me a visit from the Earl of Shelburne; that visit, kindness,—and that sort and degree of esteem, which it belongs to any person, rather than to the object of it, to call by its appropriate name. Nothing could have been more unexpected. By Lord Mansfield I was disappointed; at Lord Shelburne’s I was indemnified: at Ken Wood, I should have been mortified and disgusted; at Bowood I was caressed and delighted. A novel—nor that altogether an uninteresting one—might be made, out of a correct and unvarnished picture, of the incidents, to which that visit, to a garret at Lincoln’s-Inn, gave birth. Fifty years hence, if I have nothing else to do, I will set about it.
Of esteem, not to speak of affection, marks more unequivocal one man could not receive from another, than, in the course of about twelve years, I received from Lord Shelburne. But for such only as belong to the great public purpose in view, can time or room be found here. One thing will be found not altogether foreign to it. Though not its existence, my attachment to the great cause of manking received its first encouragement, and its first development, in the affections I found in that heart, and the company I found in that house. Amongst the friendships it gave me, was Dumont’s; one that it helped to form, was Romilly’s.
Some weeks had elapsed, when the visit to Lincoln’s Inn produced one of some minutes to Shelburne House, and that, one of some weeks to Bowood. This had not lasted many days, when the purpose of it, or at least one purpose, was declared to me. A scene took place, the remembrance of which is, at more than forty years distance, as fresh in my mind as if it had been but yesterday. The rest of the company used to sit down to supper: I not. A little before they repaired to the supper table, I used to retire for the night. In my way was a room, on a table in which, the guests used to receive or deposit the lights they had need of in passing to and from their several apartments. Repairing to it one evening for my candles,—in the act of taking them up, I was met by the Master of the House, with those which he came to deposit. “Mr. Bentham,” said he, candles in hand—“Mr. Bentham,” in a tone somewhat hurried, as his manner sometimes was, “what is it you can do for me?” My surprise could not but be visible. Candles still in hand—“Nothing at all, my Lord,” said I; “nothing that I know of: I never said I could: I am like the Prophet Balaam: the word that God putteth into my mouth—that alone can I ever speak.” For discernment he was eminent; for quickness of conception not less so. He took this for what it was meant for—a declaration of independence. He deposited his candles; I went off with mine. If by this rencontre any expectation of his was disappointed,—neither his kindness, nor the marks of his esteem, were lessened. Some years after, more than once did it happen to me to do something for him. But, so it happened, it was always in pursuit of the greatest happiness principle; and whatever was done, nothing did he know of it till after it was done. I shall again have to speak of him presently.
VIII. Another cause may perhaps have had its share in producing the visit of Lord Shelburne to the assailant of the Commentaries: a breach (I mean) between the Lord and the Commentator. The fact was once mentioned, but neither time nor particulars ever known to me. If it was by the above supposed confederacy that the visit was so long retarded, and at that time this breach recent,—by that stimulus was perhaps given the force, by which at last their trammels were broken through.
Blackstone seems to have had something about him, that rendered breaches with him not difficult. It was while I was a child without a guide,—idling, trembling, and hiding myself at Queen’s College Oxford,—that the Commentator, then Fellow of All Souls, took possession of the new created Law Professorship. Browne, Provost of Queen’s, was then Vice-Chancellor. Professor served Vice-Chancellor with notice, accompanying it with a claim of precedence. The Vice-Chancellor, when in the streets, was, and I suppose is, preceded by a stick with silver on it, called a mace, and a man called a beadle to carry it. “Let him walk,” said Browne, “before my Beadle.”
Lord Shelburne had been the making of Blackstone. The Lord had been in personal favour with George III. He introduced the Lecturer, and made the Monarch sit to be lectured: so he himself told me. The lecturer, as any body may see, shewed the King how Majesty is God upon earth: Majesty could do no less than make him a Judge for it. Blasphemy is—saying any thing a Judge can gratify himself, or thinks he can recommend himself, by punishing a man for. If tailoring a man out with God’s attributes, and under that very name, is blasphemy, none was ever so rank as Blackstone’s. The Commentaries remain unprosecuted; the poison still injected into all eyes: piety is never offended by it: it may be perhaps, should piety in high places ever cease to be a tool of despotism.
I, too, heard the lectures; age, sixteen; and even then, no small part of them with rebel ears. The attributes, I remember, in particular, stuck in my stomach. No such audacity, however, as that of publishing my rebellion, was at that time in my thoughts.
IX. Now as to Lord Camden. The preparatory mention of Lord Shelburne was necessary to the mention of his political associates and advisers, and in particular this their Chief. I was already at Bowood, when the Ex-Chancellor, with his unmarried daughter, made their appearance. The marked kindness and attention shown to me in that family, could leave no doubt as to the manner in which I had been spoken of to the grave personage. From the very first, however, the manner of his address to me carried with it in my eyes a sort of coldness and reserve. This being the first time of my seeing him,—I was not in a condition to form an immediate judgment, whether such was his general manner, or whether there was any thing in it, that applied in a particular manner to myself.
Of the drift of my book, and the sort of sensation it had made, it is not in the nature of the case he should have been ignorant: not a syllable on the subject did he ever say to me. He saw the countenance that was shown to me by every body else: no such countenance did he ever show to me. No advance did I ever make to him: to him, in his situation, it belonged, not to me, in mine, to make advances. On no occasion did he ever make any to me.
Not many days had elapsed, when a little incident helped to strengthen my suspicions. One evening after dinner, Miss Pratt was singing: I was accompanying her on a violin. “Not so loud! Not so loud! Mr. Bentham!” cried Lord Camden, tone and manner but too plainly indicating displeasure.
“You eat too much, Mr. Bentham!” said he one day to me; nor was there any want of hearers. “You eat too much. Reading so much as you do, two or three ounces a-day should be enough for you.” The fact was—all the rest of the company sat down to two meals of meat: I, unless when forced, never to more than one. At that one, if excess was ever observed, none was ever experienced. Two purposes seemed as if aimed at: representing me as a glutton, and representing me as that sort of bookworm, by which nothing could ever be “done for” his noble friend. In a similar strain was what little he ever said to me. “But your own deportment:” says somebody—“may there not have been something in it that was displeasing to him?” To this point I shall speak presently.
A man of such celebrity, and who had for so many years occupied the first places in the law, could not fail of awakening, in a man in my situation and of my turn of mind, a desire to form some conception of the bent of his. I observed his conversation; I observed the books he opened, and set before him. I watched with particular interest every opportunity of observing, whether the system of law ever presented itself to his mind, as being, in any part of it, or as to any point in it, susceptible of melioration. By nothing I could ever catch, could I ever divine that any such conception had ever entered into his head:—with the exception of here and there an anecdote, such as the sphere he had always moved in could not fail to have furnished him with, I heard nothing in his talk that might not have been heard in any drawing-room, or in any coffeehouse.
X. I come now to John Dunning.
It was one evening after dinner that he made his appearance. He came fresh from Bristol, of which city he was Recorder. I found him standing in a small circle, recounting his exploits. They were such as, when associated with the manner in which he spoke of them, and the feelings that sat on his countenance, brought up to me Lord Chief-Justice Jefferies. He had been the death of two human beings: he looked and spoke as if regretting there had not been two thousand. Upon my approach, the scowl that sat on his brow seemed more savage than before. The cause I had not at the time any suspicion of: the effect was but too visible. As I came up, he was wiping his face: the weather was warm, and he had in various ways been heated. It was the tail only of a sentence that I heard. It appeared to me incorrect: I expressed a hope that it was so. Subdued and respectful (I well remember) was my tone; for, notwithstanding the freedom to which no member of the Bar could have been unaccustomed,—the temerity, such as it was, was by no means unaccompanied with the fear of giving offence. The scowl was deeper still: he made no answer: he took no further notice of me: bystanders smothered a titter as well as they could. Supper was soon after served: it was a meal of which I never partook. He went off the next morning: I saw no more of him: I had seen quite as much as was agreeable to me.
In conversation with Lord Shelburne once, an observation of mine was—that what Junius says of the practice of the long robe, when he calls it “the indiscriminate defence of Right and Wrong,” is not precisely true; for that, upon the whole, Wrong, in his quality of best customer, enjoys a pretty decided preference. “Natural enough,” replied my noble friend: and I remember hearing it observed of Dunning, that he never seemed to do the thing so much con amore, as when the wrong was on his side.
XI. Last comes Colonel Barré.
On his arrival at Bowood, he too found me already established there: Barré was a perfect man of the world. Dunning was sitting for one of Lord Shelburne’s seats: Barré for another. Speeches are assigned to him in the Debates, and mention is made of him in Junius:—similes are there ascribed to “Mr. Burke;” “sarcasms” to “Colonel Barré.” But his great merit was martyrdom: he had suffered under the third of the Georges, as of late Sir Robert Wilson under the fourth. Being a soldier of fortune, he was regarded as being, in a more exclusive degree, the property of his patron. When the patron became Minister, an indemnity, value £3000 a-year, was given to the protegé. During his ministry, the patron occupied the villa at Streatham, at which Brewer Thrale used to entertain Burke, Johnson, and their associates. I was sitting there after dinner with Lord Shelburne and Barré,—no one else present but Lady Shelburne,—when the print was brought in, which represents Lord Shelburne giving the dole to Barré in the character of Belisarius: both are striking likenesses.
Now as to what passed at Bowood between him and me. Towards others, his deportment was easy: towards myself, stately, distant, and significant. What (said I to myself) can I do to propitiate this minor divinity? Except from the sort of reports which give nothing but the surface, he was altogether unknown to me. In my portmanteau I had imported two articles:—an unfinished quarto in print, of which presently,—and a manuscript of between a dozen and a score of pages. It was an attack upon Deodands. When a man, who has a child and a waggon, loses the child by the waggon’s going over it,—a notion, that my paper had been labouring to produce, was—that the loss of the child would be suffering enough, without the loss of the waggon’s being added to it. Different has been, and continues to be, the opinion of the sages of the law; so, of course, of those who worship them.—“English” are all our institutions: this, as well as every other.
The Colonel being a soldier, not a lawyer, while presenting him with this specimen of them, little did I think of encountering in his mind any very formidable prepossession. Vain confidence!
One day, finding him alone at the common reading-table, I put into his hand my little paper. A day or two after, I ventured to ask whether it had been looked at. “Mr. Bentham,” said he, returning it with a look and tone of scorn, “you have got into a scrape.”
“Scrape, Colonel! what scrape? I know of no scrape the case admits of.” No answer. The unfortunate paper was pocketed. I went my way, and there the matter ended.
“You are a greenhorn: you know nothing of the world. You wrote that book of your’s; you made your foolish attacks upon the lawyers; you thought it would be a treat to us to see you running at them: you are a silly fellow; you don’t know how necessary they are to us. What have we to do with Deodands? You thought to cut a figure; you have got yourself into a scrape.” In this paraphrase, I found the interpretation—the only one I could ever find—for the appalling riddle. A confirmation, which this interpretation received, will be seen presently. It was not, however, received till some years afterwards.
Meantime, a little incident rendered me a little more fortunate: it recovered for me more or less of the ground which the Deodand had lost me. It was at the dawn of the French Revolution. Some of the leading men were in London. The Lansdowne House cook not being yet arrived from the country (it was the autumn of 1788), the dinner was given at Colonel Barré’s. Circumstances were such, that I could not well have been left out of the invitation. In the drawing-room, the conversation turned upon the House of Common’s debates. The Colonel’s name had been looked for and not found. The remark touched upon a sore place—so I found afterwards. Embarrassment was visible. I stept in to his relief. “M. le Colonel,” said I, “est comme le Dieu dans la fable: il ne paroit que dans les grandes occasions.” A buzz of applause run round: the Colonel, whom I had got out of this scrape, was most conspicuous and most audible.
It was two or three years after this that the enigma of the scrape received the solution above hinted at. When my proposal, for a Penitentiary System upon the Panopticon plan, had received acceptance, Colonel Barré, with every body else, knew of it.
Speaking to a common friend who had been acting officially on the occasion of it,—“I am glad,” said he, “to see Mr. Bentham turning his hand to useful things.” Seeing that I do not betray his name, the friend, whether he remembers it or no, will, I hope, pardon me.* Why was the one thing useful, while the other was so much otherwise as to have got me into a scrape? The reader has, perhaps, already answered for me. Neither the lawyer tribe, nor any other section of the ruling few, had any visible interest in the evils to which the Panopticon plan would have applied a remedy. A prison, in which all the prisoners could, at all times, be seen at a glance by the keeper,—without his being seen by any of them, or changing his place,—was more intelligible than a deodand: and, if a man, who had then the whole Ministry with him—Pitt, Dundas, Rose, every body—could be said to be in a scrape, it could not be a very pitiable one.
I have mentioned the Colonel’s embarrassment. The cause of it was this; I knew it not till afterwards. Person and manner imposing; self-possession perfect. But ignorance was extraordinary; extraordinary even in Honourable House: indolence, no less so. From Dunning, the patron used to extract his information; to Barré, he was forced to administer it. “The trouble I used to have in fighting him up,” (that was Lord Shelburne’s expression to me one day) “is altogether inconceivable.”
The inaptitude of the showy soldier may perhaps furnish an additional means of interpretation for the “What-can-you-do-for-me?”
The Ministry (Lord North’s) was already tottering. In America, the war of misgovernment, against the only possible good government, was unpromising. Profiting by the weakness of England, Ireland had raised herself within an ace of independence. It was her quinquennium; it was her golden age: by universal confession, it was an age of concord, tranquility, morality, festivity, and happiness. But for the sinister aristocratical interest of her Whig Chief, Charlemont,—she would have substituted, to her still increasing misery, that felicity which can never be seen on this side of the Atlantic, till it has been imported from the other.
As Ministry darkened, Opposition brightened. Always on the watch for men of talents in all lines, Lord Shelburne was now on the look-out for recruits in the line of politics. He had felt the want of them; it has been seen how. Dunning could not be at the Bar or at Chambers, and in the House, at the same time.
XII. This greatest happiness principle had been declared “dangerous:” of course every consistent application of it: this was from Alexander Wedderburne. Comes now a confirmation by Lord Camden and Mr. Dunning: words different, for so circumstances required: meaning, the same. The Introduction to Morals and Legislation, was not published till 1789: it had been printed, the greatest part of it, in 1781; the second edition of it is now in the press. In the trunk, which accompanied me to Bowood, in 1781, was a copy of it: it had not been long there, before it was in Lord Shelburne’s hands.
All the entreaties I could use were insufficient, to prevent him from treating the Ladies with it at the breakfast table. Not to speak of the general complexion of it, in one particular it was peculiarly ill adapted to such an auditory. In some eight or ten places, the reader will, in the second edition, meet with the word sexual. In the place of this, stands, in the first edition, a word, more appositely stationed in a medical advertisement, than in the places in which I had seated it. When the word bolted out, some little embarrassment was the consequence. At length, the word certain presented itself to the noble Lecturer,—and, by the help of the substantive significative of the subject-matter, together with the pause and the confusion, constituted a succedaneum, and that a tolerably adequate one.—The Lectures had not been numerous, when, to my no small relief, an influx of company put an end to them.
Before I left Bowood,—Lord Shelburne, after observing to me, “how new the subject was to him, and how ill qualified he was of himself to appreciate a work, in which so much depth of thought had been displayed,” informed me, “that his intention was to submit it to the consideration of men better qualified than himself to comprehend its merits, and derive the profit that was to be derived from it;” and, in this view, Lord Camden and Mr. Dunning were particularized.”
I had not been long in London, on my return from Bowood, when I received a visit from Lord Shelburne. “I will deal plainly with you,” said he: “I told you I should put your book into the hands of Lord Camden and Mr. Dunning. I have done so. Lord Camden acknowledged its merits in the character of a theoretical work; but he confessed he had found some difficulty in comprehending it, and if such is the case with me (said he), I leave you to imagine how it may be with the generality of readers.” Thus far Lord Shelburne. Of Dunning’s opinion I recollect not any particulars: it was but too plainly of the same cast.
Here was a second “scrape:”—another work, by the same man, by whom nothing “could be done for” the head of a party: a work which had nothing to do with “useful things.” Thus incomprehensible was it to the wisest of the wise. It has not been so to babes and sucklings. Two boys of sixteen have been giving a spontaneous reading to it: in the person of a tailor, it has found a spontaneous and unpaid Editor, who, having read it as an amateur, gives himself in this way a second reading of it. It is the basis of that one in French, for which so much use has been found, or at least thought to be found, in other countries.
Of the effects, of that report, on me,—a conception may be formed from the above-mentioned dates. The work would not have come out when it did, in 1789, but for George Wilson.
XIII. One objection remains: and my hypothesis must, if possible, be cleared of it. “Nothing intentionally disagreeable in you did any of these personages see,” says somebody: “this, you may have credit for, without much difficulty. But, in the tout ensemble of a man, there may be disagreeable matter to any amount, without his intending it. Can you be quite sure, that something of this sort may not have had place in your case? for, if yes, then this, and not your reforms and improvements, may have been the thing that set them against you: and if so, your proof fails.”
The answer will, I hope, be a tolerably satisfactory one. In the case of Wedderburne, the person had not been seen: the work was not only the sole object of displeasure, but the declared cause of it.
In the case of Lord Mansfield, the person was never seen in such sort as to be known in conjunction with the name. In the case of the disdainful soldier, not only the contempt, but the cause of it, was declared: declared before any other had any time for coming into existence.
For the two remaining cases, I must take other ground. If, in the eyes of the two great lawyers, or either of them, cause of personal disgust towards the Author had had place, and that in such degree as to extend itself to the work,—let it be judged whether the effect could have failed to be still more sensible on that sex, whose sensibility, in such a case, is naturally so much more acute. True it is, that what, on this or that individual occasion, may have been the sort of sentiment produced in the mind of this or that individual of the one sex, by the person or deportment of this or that one of the other, is not of itself of any great political moment. But whether,—on the part of those who are obeyed and paid, as guardians of the happiness of the species,—there be a conspiracy, and that a standing one, and till the Anglo-American United States afforded one exception, a universal one—a conspiracy against that of which they are the professed guardians—this is no such trifle.
To close the evidence against the conspiracy, I must now call two Ladies. What I have to say is not of a nature to point any sentiment of disrespect towards either of them: and, if it were, they are not in a condition to be much affected by it.
1. Enter, first, Miss Pratt. When upon my fiddle’s overpowering her voice, the part of Hogarth’s enraged musician was played by her noble and learned father, his rage was rendered the less distressing to me by his daughter’s not appearing to be a sharer in it. Not that there was not war between us: not that she was not the aggressor; but, whatever was the cause of the war, it was any thing but that. I remember not whether it was before or after this, that a letter came to me, as from a gentleman, who had been of the company, alluding to offence received from me, and suggesting the propriety of a rencontre. The gentleman was a quiet gentleman, and nothing had passed between us.—It was a forgery: the forger was discovered; it was Miss Pratt. Flagrant was the enormity. The investigation had not been indelicate. Vengeance would have been justice. But mediatrixes surrounded me. Mercy took the place of justice. The father was neither party nor privy. This was the first time of my seeing the lady; it was also the last. More than thirty years had elapsed, when the aunt of the late Marquis of Londonderry, being in company with a friend of mine, took notice of the pleasant days she had that year passed at Bowood. The adversary she had made to herself was not unremembered.
At this time, or some subsequent one, I received in the bosom of the same family, a general invitation from her now noble brother, the present Marquis. Sensibility to the kindness was not wanting. But he had not been witness to any thing of what had fallen on me from his father: without business or special invitation, I never went anywhere: and a house in which the head is cold, is not a house to visit at. This last piece of evidence is upon my brief; but in a court of justice I should pause before I called the witness. The invitation was of the number of those, which are not quite so likely to be remembered by the giver as by the receiver.
2. Next comes Mrs. Dunning. Her husband, on his arrival at Bowood, found her there, and he left her there. Her stay was considerable—her voice, too, my fiddle had accompanied, as also her piano, on which she was a proficient. No complaint of overloudness there. The aversion, whatever it may be, that had been conceived by the husband—had it been shared in by the wife? About ten or eleven years had elapsed, when an incident occurred, which may be regarded perhaps as affording some proof of the negative.
Lord Ashburton had paid the debt of nature. One day, at Lansdowne House, the master of it took me aside, and in express terms, after an eulogium pronounced on the dowager, gave it me as his opinion, that should my wishes point that way, disappointment was not much to be apprehended. The case was sufficiently intelligible. The Lady’s only son—the present Lord—was a minor, and in tender age. “Your son,” said he, “requires a guardian. Mr Bentham would be a faithful one. Your brothers are engrossed by other cares.” No such conversation had indeed been mentioned to me; but circumstances sufficiently spoke it. My surprise was considerable: gratitude not inferior. But the offer was of the sort of those which may be received in any numbers, while at most only one at a time can be profited by. I have mentioned brothers. The founder of the Baring dynasty was one of them. He and I were good friends.
Much of all this is but too little to the purpose. But what is to the purpose is—that, in a family, in which whatever is best in aristocratical manners was at the highest pitch of refinement, whatever aversion was entertained by the great Law Lords was peculiar to the confederacy, and was not shared in by those who, had any ordinary cause of disgust had place, would naturally have been most sensible to it.
XIV. A tolerably satisfactory solution (the reader may now perhaps think) has been given, for the tardiness of the advances made by Lord Shelburne to the Author of the Fragment, coupled and contrasted with the cordiality of them, when made. On this hypothesis, the cognizance he took of it was not less early than that taken of it by the lawyer tribe, including his above-mentioned learned advisers. His disposition towards the Author was thereupon of the kind afterwards manifested. Meantime they, seeing to what it led, and looking upon their influence on him as endangered by it, concurred in the endeavour to prevent his making any such advances. At length, came some incident or reflection, the effect of which was—his breaking loose from their trammels. When at last the young intruder made his appearance in the circle,—thereupon, with or without concert, came the practice of doing what the nature of the case admitted of, towards keeping down his influence, and preserving their own views on political subjects from being supplanted—supplanted by other views so opposite as they saw his to be.
In itself nothing can be more unimportant than the little intrigue was, if there was one: no one can be more fully sensible to its unimportance, than he is, who, if there was one, was the subject of it. But, in regard to the State and form of Government in this country, what it proves, so far as it proves any thing, is of no mean importance. It is—that, under the Government under which we live, the particular interest of the rulers is in direct opposition to almost every thing that is good;—to all reform, to all considerable melioration, even to the stopping of the career of abuse in any line; and thence, on almost all points, to the universal interest: and that, as it can never fail to be in their inclination, so is it at all times in their power to make sacrifice—continual and all-comprehensive sacrifice—of that same universal interest, to that same particular and sinister interest.
Under such a form of Government, the ruler, in all his shapes, deriving an advantage, immediate or unimmediate, from every thing by which the universal interest receives injury;—feeling that sinister interest assaulted, by almost every thing, by which service in any shape is rendered to the universal interest;—beholds an adversary, not to say an enemy, in every man by whom any such service is endeavoured to be rendered.
As to the Lawyer,—to the sinister interest which is common to him, with all others, by whom, in a government so constituted, the powers of government are exercised,—this man adds another sinister interest, peculiar to his own tribe: an interest, in that system, by which, while not so much as a chance for justice is allowed to any but a comparatively few, even those few are kept in a state of oppression: oppressed, by factitious delay, vexation, and expense, created by lawyers, in the situation of judges and legislators, for the sake of the profit extracted by the fraternity out of the expense.
The consequence is a confederacy—a perpetual and indissoluble confederacy—among the ruling few of all classes, to defend themselves and one another, against all such endeavours, as, by service rendered to the universal interest, act thereby in necessary opposition to that particular and sinister interest. Of this confederacy, whatsoever be the state of parties, the ruling men of all parties are members: members, linked together against the universal interest, by that particular and sinister interest, in which they are all of them partakers: for, whatsoever may be the hostility of the two sinister interests to one another, the hostility of both to the only right and proper interest is much more extensive and unchangeable. On any of the points, on which that system of corruption, depredation, and oppression, in which they have a common interest, rests, let any serious attack be made,—mutual hostility vanishes, and alliance against the common adversary takes the place of it.
XV. Only one piece of evidence more. It is however a sweeping one.
Among my friends was and is one, who, during the period in question, to a judgment fully competent, added materials not less adequate, to the forming the most correct conception, respecting the state of the affections in certain of the personages above mentioned, with relation to those whose interest in this as in all countries composes the universal interest. I asked him once, and begged of him to consider, whether, on the part of them, or any of them, on any occasion whatsoever, it had ever happened to him to observe any symptoms of real regard for the universal interest: in a word, whether, according to the best observation he could make, any object, beyond the field of the general scramble for power, ever found a place in their affections. Those on the Tory side—Wedderburne and Lord Mansfield—were out of the question.—Lord Camden, Dunning, and Barré, were particularly mentioned. His answer was clear, deliberate, and decisive:—it was in the negative.
XVI. A natural enough object of curiosity will be the sort of sensation, produced by the little work, in the mind of the learned Author, whose great work is the subject of it. Some small satisfaction, on this point likewise, it happens to be in my power to afford. It had not long been out, when, from one quarter or another, the intelligence was brought to me. The question had been asked him—I never knew from whom—for in telling such tales out of school great caution was in every instance observed: be this as it may, a question had been asked him—whether he knew who the Author was? “No,” was the answer; “not his name: all I know of him is where he comes from:—he is a Scotchman.” The conjecture had much better grounds than those others that have been mentioned. The Scotch minds were less ill-suited than the English to the sort of business he saw done. The Scotch law having for its foundation the Roman,—the range of thought, in the field of law, is necessarily much less narrow, among Scotch than among English lawyers. By the arguments in the Fragment, their sinister interests, their interest-begotten prejudices, their reputation, are not so directly struck at, as those of their southern brethren. As to fiction, in particular, compared with the work done by it in English law, the use made of it in theirs is next to nothing. No need have they had of any such clumsy instruments. They have two others, and of their own making, by which things of the same sort have been done with much less trouble. Nobile officium gives them the creative power of legislation: this, and the word desuetude together, the annihilative. Having less need of insincerity than the English,—language has with them been less impudently insincere. When the English said James the Second had abdicated his throne,—the contrary being true in the eyes of every body,—the Scotch said he had forfeited it. So much as to intrinsic evidence.
Now as to extrinsic. By the sort of notices taken of the Fragment by Lord Mansfield, as above, a suspicion might naturally enough be produced in the mind of the harassed Puisne, that the adversary was a sort of sad dog, of the Scotch breed, set upon him by the overbearing Chief.
A question somebody else put to the Author of the Commentaries was—whether it was his intention to make any answer to the critique? “No,” was the reply: “not even if it had been better written.” But, though he made not any answer to it, nor any express mention of it by its name, he did not altogether refrain from noticing it. In the preface to the then next edition of his work, (and, I take for granted, to all the subsequent ones) there are allusions to it. Intimation is given, that the work would be the better, instead of the worse, for the attack thus made on it. So far as regarded the currency of his work,—if ever I entertained expectations of seeing it lessened, as for aught I know I did, they were pretty effectually disappointed. What, at that time, I had not sufficiently perceived was—that, for the sort of work that his is, the demand was in its nature boundless: for the sort of work that mine was, the demand is bounded by very narrow limits. What the law is, or is likely to be taken to be,—every man, if it were possible, and not too much trouble to him, would know. What the law ought to be, is as yet of the number of those things, about which few indeed,—on any points, except such few and comparatively narrow ones, in which it has happened to a man to take some particular interest,—either know any thing or care.
We never met: two years, however, had not elapsed, before we were on better terms. The Penitentiary System had for its first patrons Mr. Eden (the Mr. Eden above spoken of) and Sir William Blackstone. They framed in conjunction—and without exposure to sale, circulated—the draught of a Bill for that purpose. A copy (I do not remember how) found its way into my hands. Some friend of mine (I think) gave it me, without saying how he had come by it. It gave rise on my part to my second work, entitled, A View of the Hard Labour Bill, written and published in 1778. A copy of it, communicated, as far as I remember, in the same way, went to Mr. Eden, and another to Mr. Justice Blackstone. In the mode of communication, I followed the example that had been set me. The tone of this second comment, though free, and holding up to view numerous imperfections, was upon the whole laudatory: for my delight at seeing symptoms of ever so little a disposition to improvement, where none at all was to be expected, was sincere, and warmly expressed. From Mr. Eden, the communication produced an answer of some length; cold, formal, distant, and guarded; written, as a man writes, when he feels what he is not willing to acknowledge: no desire expressed of any verbal communication. He was then on the eve of his departure for the now United States, with Governor Johnstone, and I forget who else, with proper chains in their hands:—chains which the refractory Americans were to be invited to put upon their necks. Between twenty and thirty years after, the earliest of the works edited by M. Dumont having come out, I had the pleasure of numbering a nephew of his Lordship’s, Sir Frederick Eden, among my declared disciples, and not many years ago the pain of losing in him a highly valued friend.
From the Judge I received a note, which still exists, I believe, somewhere: of every thing that is material in the terms of it, I have preserved the memory. After thanks, and so forth, in the third person,—“some of the observations,” said he, “he believed had already occurred to the framers of the Bill” (not mentioning himself as one of them), “and many others were well deserving of their attention.” To any reader of this work, if any such there be by whom that other of mine has been perused, the frigid caution with which the acknowledgment is thus guarded—the frigid caution so characteristic of the person as well as the situation, will not have been unexpected.
That the Fragment was not unknown to either of them, may readily be imagined: if so, to no man who has read it, will there be any thing wonderful in their reserve.
To all this correspondence, George Wilson was of course privy; “Bentham,” said he to me one day, “don’t you feel now and then some compunction, at the thought of the treatment your Fragment gives to Blackstone? Of all the men that ever sat on a Westminster Hall Bench, he is perhaps the only one that ever attempted any thing that had the good of the people, or the improvement of the law, for its object, independently of professional interest and party politics: think of the treatment he has received from you.” I did think of it:—and, had any good come from it in this instance, the more I had thought of it, with the greater satisfaction should I have thought of it. Little did I think—little, I am persuaded, did even he think—that, after the improvements made afterwards in the system—and by the universal opinion of that time they were no slight ones—it would have terminated in an hermetically-sealed Bastile, in which, at an expense to the public of £1000 a-head for lodging alone, no more than six hundred will be provided for when the number is completed, instead of two thousand at no more than £15 a-head; annual expense between £30 and £40 a-year per head, instead of £12, which, upon the death of the first contractor, would have ceased. Such at least has been the computation made by an intelligent and honest hand.
Be this as it may, was it for the Author of the Fragment to see cause of compunction in the effect thus produced in the case of Blackstone? No: unless it be for Bell and Lancaster to feel compunction for whatever good has been done by “Excellent Church” and her associates, towards the instruction of the people. In what instance, by any supporters of “Matchless Constitution,” has this or any thing else been done, with any the least tinge of good in it, but with the feelings with which ancient Pistol ate the leek, and the hope of defeating or obstructing something better?
XVIII. “Such being the tendency, such even the effects of the work, what became of it? how happened it, that, till now, not so much as a second edition had been made of it?” Questions natural enough; and satisfaction, such as can be, shall accordingly be given: words as few as possible.
Advertisements, none. Bookseller did not, Author could not, afford any. Ireland pirated. Concealment had been the plan:—how advantageous, has been already visible. Promise of secresy had accordingly been exacted: parental weakness broke it. No longer a great man, the Author was now a nobody. In catalogues, the name of Lind has been seen given to him. On the part of the men of politics, and in particular the men of law on all sides, whether endeavour was wanting to suppression, may be imagined.
*∗* Attached to my copy of the work, I see a newspaper attack and defence of it. The bookseller desires it: he shall have it. The assailant was never known to me: defender, John Lind: his intention not known to me till executed.
[* ]This Preface was first printed in 1828, during Mr. Bentham’s lifetime.
[* ]See Codification, Proposal, Appendix xi. Acceptance given by the Portuguese Cortes to the offer of an all-comprehensive code.
[* ]Sir Evan Nepean, successively Under-Secretary of State, and Secretary to the Admiralty. Since this sheet was sent to press, his decease has been announced in the newspapers.