Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII.: 1787—1789. Æt. 39—41. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER VIII.: 1787—1789. Æt. 39—41. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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1787—1789. Æt. 39—41.
Return from Crichoff.—Journey through Poland, Germany, and Holland.—Klaproth the Chemist.—Pursuits on his Return.—Notices of the Fordyces, Hoole, Lord St Helens, Fitzherbert, Stone.—Intercourse with Romilly and Dumont.—Hastings’ Trial.—Sir Eardley Wilmot.—Opinion of Lord Lansdowne.—Correspondence with France.—Brissot.—Work on Penal Law.—Tactics of Political Assemblies.—The Abbé Morellet.—Letters of Anti-Machiavel: Controversy with George III.
Bentham reached Crichoff in February, 1786, and left it in October or November, 1787. He says, “I stole out of the Russian dominions. There was no harm in my stealing out; but there was considerable harm in my stealing out with me a Swede, who represented himself to be of noble blood. He wrote an admirable hand, and spoke seven or eight languages: having been two years in the English service, he was perfectly master of English. He had presented himself to me in my brother’s absence, soliciting employment. He had married a Polish lady of rank; but how they lived I know not.” He was, however, delighted to be taken into service, and Bentham employed him in copying. Seeing his capacity, Sir Samuel, on his return, made the Swede a sergeant, and, of course, enrolled him, and gave him a uniform. When Bentham got weary of his exile and wished to get away—distant 1500 miles from any port—he could not accomplish it, ignorant as he was of the languages of the countries through which he had to pass; so he determined, at all risks, to take the polyglot Swede with him as a servant,—and that without leave, as leave could not be obtained. Bentham consulted General Bander, who warned him of the perils to which he would expose the Swede and himself, and of the heavy character of the offence, should it be discovered. But Bentham had other perplexities,—and among them, not the least, was the want of money,—so he sold off a second-hand chariot which he had sent from England to his brother, and his brother never used; and engaged the Swede, who, though he was undoubtedly a great linguist, was a still greater liar: however, he was most anxious to escape from barbarous Russia to civilized Europe, and to avail himself of the occasion Bentham’s departure offered him. At Crichoff money was not among obtainable things; and the resources which Bentham had spent in coming, and which had been provided principally by his uncle, were not to be replenished.
The Swedish sergeant wore, of course, a serjeant’s uniform; but when Bentham had to ask a passport for his Liudi, (or follower,) the business was to destroy the serjeant’s identity; and a coat was found with a broad edging—finery which both the Benthams had worn in turn. They started from Zadobras in a kibitka made for the journey. It had a mattress, covered with leather prepared at the tannery, but very offensive from the strong odour of the birchwood bark. However, in this lay Bentham, covered with a couple of Turkish shawls, which he had bought at Constantinople. The tanner-in-chief was an English Quaker; and his wife (a Quakeress) kindly prepared the only food the travellers had for their journey, except when they reached a town. Part of the supply Bentham found so delicious, that, instead of consuming it, he brought it as presents to his friends in England. It was a compound of honey and apples, of the consistency of a rusk,—the apples of which it was made having been brought from Kiev. The apprehension of being stopped was constantly haunting Bentham; and the journey was performed with perpetual trepidation, until they passed the Polish frontier; and divers discoveries of the mendacious propensities of his Swedish companion did not add to his comforts. Bentham was both cheated and robbed in his progress.
Bentham stopped at Warsaw, intending to pay his respects to King Stanislaus, whose correspondent he had been, through Lind, the king’s agent in England. But bashfulness and gloominess interfered. He stayed a week at Warsaw, and saw nobody. He called on the British minister, and not finding him at home, did not repeat his visit.
At Berlin he was in somewhat better spirits, and made the acquaintance of Dr Brown, the king’s physician. Brown was an idolater of Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon, whom Bentham hated as much as it was possible to his benevolent nature to hate—considering him the mightiest and most mischievous of all the opponents of law reform.
Chemistry, as the reader will have had occasion to notice, was a favourite study of Bentham’s. In 1783 he had translated “Bergman’s Essay on the Usefulness of Chemistry;”* and he mustered up courage enough to call on Klaproth, who was then living there in very handsome style. So little was Bentham’s name or writings known at this time, that he was introduced as Mr Bentham, a gentleman of considerable fortune. He had something to recommend him to Klaproth, for he brought a specimen of asbestos of remarkable beauty—of a green colour, divided into filaments of inconceivable fineness.
“At the Hague,” he says, “I dined with Sir James Harris, where I went with the son of the lickspittle to the Duke of New castle, who was the dirtiest fellow I ever heard of, and when at school we used to shut the doors against him. Sir James wanted to introduce me to the Stadtholder; but he was a foolish fellow, and I should only have stared at one who would only have stared at me.
“At Hanover,” said Bentham, “I was amused by the picture of the Duke of York (apt illustration of royalty!) pulling his fool’s nose before the whole Court.”
The want of acquaintances, which in early life was felt by Bentham as so great a grievance, was gradually supplied. Desirous of instruction, few had been the means of instruction which were allowed to him beyond those which school and university afforded; and the narrow and monkish system of education which then prevailed, was not very favourable to the development of the mental faculties. Bentham too had strong affections, to which he would willingly have found a response from the breasts of others,—but in his youth this happiness was denied him. Mr Foster, who has been before mentioned, was an instrument through whom Bentham obtained some knowledge of the world.
Mr Foster’s friendship, his brother’s long residence in White Russia and connexion with the court, and his own travels in Russia, had naturally established connexions in that country. He used to speak of two brothers of the name of Tatischev, whose fraternal fondness for each other created in his mind a strong affection for both. There was also a Ronzov, (a natural son of Woronzov, for in Russia illegitimate children lose the first syllable of their father’s name.) The Tatischevs were idolators of the Empress Catherine—to them a sort of a goddess divine, and they so landed her esprit de legislation, that Bentham longed to be engaged in her service, and would willingly have gone “to codify” on the banks of the Neva.
In a letter to Colonel Bentham, dated 2d May, 1788, he gives the following particulars of his homeward journey from Russia, and of his way of life after his return:—
Bentham to his Brother.
“How to begin a letter, even to you, after so long an interruption of intercourse? Well, the pen, by a prodigious effort, has been set a-going, and now let it run on.
“At Berlin, I arrived 16-27th December, lounged there rather more than a fortnight, waiting, the greatest part of the time, for the cursed Opera, put off from day to day by the indisposition of a cursed actress, the woman (Foote, I think her name is) you have heard at Petersburg. Dr Brown is doing there very well. A great part of my time was, of course, passed with him. I saw Mrs Brown a few days ago here on her way to Berlin, with their five children, by Hamburg; for which place, I imagine, they are already sailed. He had written to Benson a letter, full of indignation, for his rascality to you; and I found Mrs B. in the same sentiments. I was about a fortnight crawling post from Berlin to Holland through vile roads. I passed through Potsdam, Magdeburg, Brunswick, and Osnaburg. The finest situation by far, in so much of Germany as I travelled through, is Bentheim. I don’t know whether I ever showed you an old MS. I have, which pretends we are descended from the Counts of that country. I did not expect to have found the pretension confirmed by the identity of the arms. Of three or four coats which I observed in stone, on one side of the romantic castle, which is the family residence pertaining to the several counties which, it seems, centre in that family, one is composed of the thingumbobs called Cinq-foils, which you will find in your seal. The county is likely to be extinct, it seems, for want of heirs, and the Elector of Hanover has a large mortage upon it. When the count dies, you may give my compliments to the empress, and desire she would lend us a body of troops to assert our claim. I lounged about ten days in Holland, seeing Sir James, and as much as could well be seen of the Dutch towns in that time. I reached London a few days before my birth-day; that is to say, (for you remember neither day, month, nor time of the year,) February 4-15. Q. S. P., of course, in great joy, of which he has given you, no doubt, abundant particulars. His memory and bodily strength begin to fail him; but, in other respects, he is in mighty good health, humour, and spirits. His circumstances are, upon the whole, rather improved, I think, than impaired, since I left England, and his disposition towards us is certainly rather grown better, if there were room for it, than worse. Farr and I are upon as sociable terms as it is in his nature to be with anybody, besides his mother and brothers. He has just migrated for the summer to his country-house. During the winter, I received frequent particular in vitations, though no general one. The principal cement is his wife, who plays prettily on the harpsichord, and is a mighty good creature, but timid to an excess. His behaviour is as respectful as ever. Charles I see but little of; his business increases considerably, and he is said to deserve it. Lord Lansdowne vastly civil. Upon occasion of Hastings’ trial, has put himself to school to me about evidence. He has accused himself repeatedly, and sans ménagement, for not offering me a place when he was in; and commissioned me to consider what would suit me in case of his coming in again. He supposes I should prefer a place at one of the Boards, to engaging in what is called politics, viz., coming into parliament with a precarious place. Whether he meant all this, or whether the use of it was to make me contribute to make people think he was to come in, I cannot take upon me to say. Perhaps partly one and partly t’other; but my notion is, he never will come in, in any efficient place. As for me, my real thoughts being upon that, as upon all other occasions, as you know, the easiest for me to give, I gave them him, viz., that I was not fit for a place, and that if I were, I should not wish to have one—that I hoped always to be happy enough to preserve his good opinion, and so forth, and that was enough for me. P.C. [Colquhoun] is as zealous a friend of yours as ever. He has been showing Vermicular to George Melville, who is a very busy amateur in everything that is in any way connected with mechanics; and to Davis’s friend. Lord H. Melville, he says, is much pleased with it. On the cover, as returned by P. C., I see ‘Lord H. to return particular thanks for the inspection of the enclosed papers.’ Whether that betokens approbation, I cannot pretend to say, P. C. not having seen his lordship when I saw him last. He is certainly of my way of thinking about usury. He brought Owen Cambridge to me t’other day to acknowledge himself a proselyte; but you don’t know who Owen Cambridge* is, and it would take up too much room to tell you. I shall endeavour to send you a copy of the Defence with this, as likewise another to Pleschegoff. I choose rather to take for granted he has sent you a letter I wrote him about a month ago, in which I said something of the success of the book, than to be at the pains to write it over again. Since then, it has had some little sale in Ireland, and I hope may do something towards preventing the success of the measure of reducing the rate of interest there—a measure which, after having been thrown out of the House of Lords there this winter, is to be brought on by administration the next it is said.
“Since my arrival in England, I have, of course, been very idle, doing very little to Code, and of course feeling like a fish out of water the whole time; but by God’s assistance, I have found out a country-lodging which promises to suit me very well, and I shall migrate to it before the week is out. It is at a farm-house at Hendon, eight miles only from town—the man rents £150 a-year, and £50 of it of Mr Brown; and his wife has the reputation of a good cook, having lived in that capacity with a good family. It is decently furnished with tapestry hangings, large carpets, and immense tables. The great inconvenience is, terrible low ceilings. I shall live on the Zadobras plan, saving and excepting fleas, gnats, mice, dirt, and interruptions. It is a very pleasant country, and being all in grass, the delights of hay-making will continue five or six weeks. The Q. S. P.’s took me down, when I saw and agreed for it, and they spontaneously promised that I should not meet with any disturbance from them so long as I staid there. I have now upon trial at my lodgings (for my chambers were let during my absence, and I am in no great hurry to get back to them) a superb harpsichord of Merlin’s, which I think to buy and send into the country. It has four strings to every note, viz., besides two unisons and the octave above and octave below, and a set of hammers to produce the effect of a pianoforte. The tone is a very sweet one, but the inconvenience is, that the complexity renders it proportionably liable to be out of order, and diminishes the loudness. It is an elegant piece of furniture, very beautifully inlaid. I can have it for sixty guineas. I shall buy it, and then immediately I shall regret that I did not buy instead of it, a simple grand pianforte; the tone of which would be louder, and is to be had for the same money. The harpsichord was made in 1781, and cost then a hundred or a hundred and ten guineas. I have got a present from Anderson of a good stock of orange marmalade, with a receipt for making it. I shall set up a marmalade fabrique when needful, and shall then be very happy to have the honour of your company at Hendon, at the old hour, after you have dined at Crichoff.
“As soon as I have finished such parts of Code as cannot be published one without the other, I go to Paris to get it corrected, and advise about the printing of it.
“I met Randal t’other day in the street, who stopt me to inquire after you. Charles was telling me of his having met Shairp. I forget where,—S. made very particular inquiries after me, desired his compliments to me, and added, that if he had known before of my arrival, he would have waited on me.”
A letter of Lord Lansdowne, of 16th June, 1788, is a confession of that tædium vitæ which spares not the most elevated of our race:—
Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.
“Dear Mr Bentham,—
I solemnly assure you, that it has been not only on my mind, but upon my heart, to find out this parson’s house at Hendon, and to pay my court to you, not to thank you for your magnificent present of not only a most magnificent, but very useful map in the present situation, because I know your nature makes you above accepting acknowledgments; but to tell you how much we wish to see you at Bowood. I am so tired of the whole human race, that we propose to bury ourselves for some time; but as happily all desires return after a certain abstinence, you will find me very happy to make peace with my fellow-creatures through you, and to begin my return to society in London, by profiting of yours for some time in the country. I need not say anything for the ladies. Though I am just now tired to death, and quite asleep, I must tell you the news of the day—which is, that Prussia, Sweden, and Denmark, have made an alliance against Russia; and are, at least Sweden, immediately proceeding to action. You know the consequences of all this better than I do. The accounts from France are wonderfully serious. Sanguine people imagine a civil war must ensue. I cannot myself imagine that any other consequence can be expected, than a more speedy assemblage of the States, and a better constitution of the Cour Pleniere, or IIabeas Corpus, restricted to particular descriptions and bodies. Lord Wycombe sets out to-morrow, and goes with me as far as Bowood. He sleeps only one night at Bowood, and sails in the packet on Sunday for Lisbon. This affects me, as you know, but things must go their natural course.
“P. S. You must not be surprised if my news turns out to have no foundation, for I have it from no authority. I will take care of your letter, and instructions about it, for Lord W.”
I extract what follows, from Bentham’s reminiscences of persons of celebrity with whom he came in contact at about this period:—
“Baron Massares* was an honest fellow, who resisted Lord Mansfield’s projects for establishing despotism in Canada. He occupied himself in mathematical calculations to pay the national debt, and a good deal about Canadian affairs. There was a sort of simplicity about him, which I once quizzed and then repented. I had not studied the Deontological principle as I have studied it since.
“In 1788, I belonged to a Club, where we had a frugal supper together, the guests consisting of Fordyce,† John Hunter, Sir Joseph Banks, Solander, Lovell Edgeworth, Mill the architect, Ramsden the instrument-maker, Cummin the watchmaker,—and we talked over the news: there was nothing of form. It was rather uncomfortable for me, as I could add nothing to the interest of the Club. Fordyce, when he introduced me, communicated to nobody his opinion of me, which was high. He fancied he should see me Master of the Rolls. When my brother sent me a quantity of stuffed birds from Russia, Hunter fell in love with a huge box, and when he had performed some operation, he took the box as his fee. Mrs Ramsden was a clever woman, the sister of Dolland.”
Of the Fordyces, Bentham said on another occasion,—“I think George Fordyce had twenty uncles by the father’s side. The head of the family had some great place under Government. He was too grand a personage to look at Dr George Fordyce. It was an unfortunate time when I knew him first. His laboratory took fire, and he had nothing to exhibit with, but a small portable furnace, with a few vials and common things. He had acquired a certain celebrity. He was a member of a chess club with C. J. Fox. He had no conversation. What he said, he said in a paradoxical shape, with a silly expression. There was generally a good deal that was true, with a little bit that was false. He acquired about £10,000, got by books, lecturing, and practice. He left it between his two daughters. My brother married one of them.—(Who married the other daughter? said I)—Nobody! That’s a captious, interrupting question! His plan was, that the youngest should marry, and the eldest remain with him; but just the reverse took place. His wife was clever at all sorts of handiworks, botany, &c.: latterly she amused herself by making coverlets for beds. She made acres of them. He had one son, whose loss at the age of fourteen, made a deep impression on him. He was, on the whole, the coldest of the cold Scotch. He approved, he said, of every atom of the Introduction to Morals and Legislation. He had originality, and valued it in others. In my love of chemistry, it would have been a privilege for me, had Fordyce possessed a chemical apparatus. I should have been supremely happy to have known anybody who possessed one. My chamber was spacious. There was a grate, and over the grate a chimneypiece; and in one corner a closet apart to hold chemical things. I broke a hole through the wall, (it was not perceived,) and putin a pane of glass to light my closet.
“Among the members of the St Paul’s Churchyard club, to which I belonged, with Dr Johnson, was Tasso Hoole. He was one of Dr Johnson’s lickspittles. He had, I think, a place at the East India House; and got money by plays and translations, which he got people to subscribe for. He even asked me for subscriptions, though he lived in style—asked me who lived in beggary! He got me to subscribe; and Chamberlain Clark forced him to give back the money again. I went once to the rehearsal of one of his plays.
“I knew Lord St Helens through my brother,—he was ambassador at Petersburg. My chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, were opposite chambers occupied by Lord St Helens’ elder brother Fitzherbert, who had been member for Derbyshire, but had overspent himself, and was rather in bad plight. He married a lady of the name of Purvis, respecting which marriage there was a famous suit. Fitzherbert and I had been schoolfellows at Westminster, which he had remembered, but I had forgotten; but as I was a dwarfish phenomenon, this was not unnatural, for he was no phenomenon; and there was some inter-course between us. Lord St Helens was extremely intelligent. He frequently attended the Privy-council, and he showed me an account of the assassination of Paul of Russia.
“Fitzherbert had travelled with the Duke of Devonshire, and through him, I believe, he got his baronetcy. I was once asked to a formal dinner. There came in a Mr Stone, who had been secretary to the English ambassador in Paris. He sat down to the harpsichord, and played Marlbrook, the first time, I believe, it had been played in England. He was a son or nephew of Edmund Stone [the mathematician] whom we read of—for he was a personage. We had excellent punch, made of fine spirits which had come from his estate in Barbadoes. Lord St Helens was sent for by the king immediately after dinner, and left us. There was also a French refugee bishop.”
In 1788, I find the first notice of Dumont, to whom Romilly had sent some of Bentham’s writings. He was struck with their originality and their power; and said the author was worthy to serve the cause of liberty. The MSS. were in French, and Dumont offered to rewrite portions, and to superintend the publication of the whole. He calls himself the “unknown friend” (Ami inconnu.)
He devoted a great part of what remained of his life, to translating the works, and giving legislative effect to the opinions of Bentham, in Switzerland, and, as far as he was able, in France, through Mirabeau his friend, and, in some sort, his pupil. It was through Lord Lansdowne the acquaintance was cemented; and I find the strongest re-commendation of Dumont’s aptitude in Lord L.’s letters. But of Mirabeau, Lord L. had a very mean opinion. He says of him—“As to Count Mirabeau,—I always looked upon our friend Romilly as a man of great honour and discretion; but I have been always astonished at his courage in risking a connexion with such a man. In short, I am not at all afraid of you, should you be engaged in a controversy with him; but it’s madness to hazard any communication with him.” Mirabeau seems, however, to have been very inattentive to Romilly’s correspondence; for Romilly says in a letter to Bentham, “He (Mirabeau) never writes to me, nor answers my letters.”
On one occasion, Dumont called on Talleyrand; and while a number of German princes, covered with orders and decorations, were kept waiting, he was admitted. “It might be supposed,” said Dumont, “we talked about matters of state. Not a word. We only talked over the stories of our youth, when we were in London together.” Dumont had then a disorder, under which he was pining away, and not expected to live. They frequently met when he visited Chauvet.
“Lord Sidmouth once stopped Dumont in the street, to thank him for his works. The English government gave him a pension of five hundred pounds a-year.”
In the latter part of Bentham’s life, Dumont and he were much alienated. Bentham felt offended by some remarks made by Dumont on the shabbiness of his dinners, (the observation was offensive, uncalled for, and groundless,) which he contrasted with those of Lansdowne House. In April 1827, Dumont called on Bentham, who would not see him. I took the message. “How he is changed!” said Dumont; “he won’t listen to a word from me.” Bentham refused to come down. He loudly called out, it was hard that Dumont’s intrusion should prevent his taking a walk in his own library, he said. “He does not understand a word of my meaning,” he repeated more than once.
Dumont first communicated extracts from Bentham’s writings to the “Courrier de Provence,” and writes to Bentham “that the papers were thought sound and useful, and had been well received.” “Continue your course,” he says, “and march courageously, for the goal is in view. The suffrages of the few who think, will repay you for the indifference of the many—the reputation of one book prepares the way for another.” In another letter Dumont says,—“In the name of your own honour, finish what you have begun, and be not diverted from your object. You are young enough for a kingdom of this world. Write and bridle my wandering opinions.”
Dumont, it is well known, furnished to Mirabeau the materials for some of his most splendid speeches; and these materials were mostly provided by Bentham.
“Dumont,” said Bentham “got intimate with Mirabeau, for whom he wrote many of his addresses to his comettans. He talked to me on various subjects, and I mentioned my papers on legislation. He expressed a desire to see them, and, having read them, asked me to allow him to use them, to which I consented. I gave him the Introduction, [to the Principles of Morals and Legislation,] which was written 1781, and published in 1789. It stuck for eight years, in consequence of the coldness of Lord Camden and Dunning; the former of whom said to Lord Lansdowne that he found a difficulty in understanding it, and therefore others would. Afterwards, however, something I wrote made a strong impression in my favour. Lord Lansdowne was intimately connected with Sir Eardley Wilmot, who had been Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas. During Warren Hastings’ trial, there was a curious question of evidence: it was referred to me, and there was a great notion raised by this communication of my sagacity on this particular matter.* My views were not favourable to Lord Lansdowne’s views; for on this occasion they bore against Hastings, and he took the side of Hastings because King George the Third had taken his side. Lord Lansdowne referred the paper to Sir Eardley Wilmot, who lauded it. I did not like Sir Eardley, on account of his conduct in a case of negro slavery, when he gave damages of only one shilling in favour of the negro, and wanted to reserve the point of law. I thought the case was one where so much injury had been inflicted, that the award of one shilling excited my indignation;—one shilling for a man torn away from his family, and perhaps ruined by the law process!”
The intimacy with Romilly just alluded to, which had commenced before Bentham left England, became more active on his return. He had been engoué with the “Fragment.” “George Wilson brought about our acquaintance. I knew him before I went abroad, and we dined together, in 1784, in Chancery Lane. Our acquaintance had not then ripened into an intimacy; but on my return in 1788, I met him one day at Lord Lansdowne’s, where I also met Dumont, who had been introduced there during my absence. Great was my surprise, and a most agreeable surprise it was, to meet Romilly at Lord Lansdowne’s table.
“Romilly’s father was a jeweller. He was of a refugee family, no better than a Huguenot. There was a preacher of the name, I think. He had a brother and a sister. The sister is the mother of Dr Roget. The brother failed in business. When I first knew Romilly, he was in Gray’s Inn. I remember calling on him, and seeing there another man’s puss, which excited my concupiscence. I was very amorous of the puss, for the puss was singularly virtuous, and as interesting to me as a two-legged creature. Our love for pusses—our mutual respect for animals—was a bond of union. For pusses and mouses we had both of us great kindness. George Wilson had a disorder which kept him two months to his couch. The mouses used to run up his back and eat the powder and pomatum from his hair. They used also to run up my knees when I went to see him. I remember they did so to Lord Glenbervie, who thought it odd.”
Speaking of Romilly on another occasion, he said, “He was a man of great modesty,—of few words,—of no conversation. Dumont used often to dine there, and after dinner they would sit together for half an hour without either uttering a word. He had a way of quashing conversation, by saying, for instance, ‘O, that man is such a fool!’ but he got violent on one topic, and so laid the foundation of his fame and fortune. He did not bear his faculties meekly, nor was he heard very patiently in the House of Commons. In the Court of Chancery great oppression is exercised by the seniors towards the juniors. Many attempts had been made to set the matter right; but Romilly adhered to the aristocrats. Romilly had the ear of the chancellor, and trusted to his influence over the chancellor, and so he got some of his little miniature reforms adopted. Had they been considerable, they would have been resisted with all Lord Eldon’s might.”
I have exhibited some of the early impressions of Bentham respecting Lord Lansdowne. His later opinions were these:—
“Lord Lansdowne had a way of talking in fits and starts. His mind seemed always in a state of agitation with the passion of ambition and the desire of splendour. He was never much at ease, for he always outran the constable, and involved himself monstrously in debt. He showed me his rent roll. There was an enormous sum which I did not understand: it was so much due to his creditors. He had had a most wretched education, and a foolish father and mother, of whose management of him he always talked with horror. When I once spoke to him of the family mausoleum, he refused to show it to me; for he said it was associated with such disgraceful recollections. His father gave all the property he could to a younger brother, Fitzmaurice, amounting to £10,000 a-year. The Pettys had been Barons of some place (whose name I forget) for four and twenty generations. They were among the first conquerors of Ireland. He did not, however, talk in the pride of ancestry. What endears his memory to me is, that, though ambitious of rising, he was desirous of rising by means of the people. He was really radically disposed; and he witnessed the French Revolution with sincere delight. He had quarrelled with the Whig aristocracy, who did not do him justice; so he had a horror of the clan, and looked towards them with great bitterness of feeling. That bitterness did not break out in words, though of him they spoke most bitterly. There was artifice in him, but also genuine good feelings. His head was not clear. He felt the want of clearness. He spoke in the house with grace and dignity, yet he uttered nothing but vague generalities. He took much pains to consult particular men. I remember going with him to Warwick castle for a week. There came a man from Birmingham,—a man of great eminence, whom he had sent for, to get all manner of details in relation to some branch of political economy. His name, I think, was Gabbett, and he was a manufacturer of oil of vitriol; and was, I believe, the grandfather of Lady Romilly, with whom Romilly became acquainted at Bowood, and carried on the courtship there. I heard her spoken slightingly of in the Bowood family, as if not strong in understanding; but I thought her understanding both strong and sound.”
An amusing epistle of Bentham to one of the ladies of Bowood has these passages:—
“My plan was, after having written what you have by this time received, to go to town to pay my respects to Lord W—, with my letter in my pocket, time enough for the post. The Fates decreed otherwise. I had scarce put the seal to it, when my seven tables, together with your old acquaintance the harpsichord, and the chairs that make up the society, set up a kind of a saraband; moving circularly round the centre of the room, but without changing their relative positions. They composed themselves, however, after a short dance, nor have they had any such vagaries since. I set out, notwithstanding, and reached London that evening, but not till the post was gone. This makes another day’s retardation of that important letter more than I thought for when I put the last hand to that immortal work. What was the object of this extraordinary, and by me never-before-experienced interposition, I submit to your omniscience. What momentary consequence may be the result of the retardation above-mentioned, remains yet to be revealed; in all other respects, the world, as far as I can see, goes on as if nothing at all had happened.
“Stung to the quick by your reproaches, I have ever since been hard at work upon Ovid, in hopes of fetching up my lost time, and picking up some little gleanings of that art which I am so much a stranger to; but it is so long since I learnt Latin, I can’t make head or tail of it, for want of Lord Henry to consult, who has it by this time at his fingers’ ends, having mastered the Tristibus when I had the honour of seeing him this time twelvemonth. Was it in the original that you read it, or what translation would you recommend? Could not you spare me your own copy for a little while, putting a few marks in it to guide me to the instructive passages; distinguishing for example by a dagger † the honest arts, and by a star *, or constellation of stars, those, if you can find any, that would enable me to succeed beyond expression? Then there might be some hopes for me; for, alas! I feel but too plainly it is impossible for me to make anything out without your assistance. Well, now, a thought has come across me that makes my heart sink, and almost sets the chairs and tables a-swimming again. This beautiful Italian that has scarce been out of my hands, and never out of my thoughts, since it arrived, is but a translation from the Runic! the hand, indeed, is angelic; but the apparition of a cloven foot behind the curtain haunts me so, you can’t imagine. Come, now, I will tell you what you should do: The honest and the handsome thing would be to steal half an hour when you know nobody knows anything of the matter, and tell me of the violences that were practised upon you to make you write this; and which part, if any, you adhere to, and which part you disavow. Tell me how long you were kept without food before you would comply, and whether it was in your own apartment in the Harem that you were confined, or in the one formerly occupied by my friend the Tiger.
“It is not a small matter, as I have occasion to know, that will subdue you: witness the persecution you underwent at Worcester, rather than read a page or two of a language which is the same to you as English. But be sure disavow, at any rate, the superlative about Mr R., and above all things if it was genuine. I called at his chamber-door as soon as I had sent to Lord W., in order to look him through and through, and measure the degree of his success by the firmness of his tread, the loftiness of his head, and the self-complacent security of his countenance. But his recollections and his prospects were too delicious to be exchanged for any sort of company; for though the porter told me he had just let him in, his door was shut, and all the poundings and kickings were in vain.”
Another letter to the same lady:—
“I am smitten with remorse at the thought of having, in one of them, brought back to your recollection something that passed at Worcester, not considering, simpleton as I was! that however delightful the recollection was to me, it might be otherwise with you. You would remember only the being teazed, while I thought only of the unwonted kindness with which you contrived to soften its refusal.
“I beg, with folded hands, you would not let another post go out without telling me, either that I have not offended, or that, if I have, I am forgiven.”
“I beg pardon.—I had quite forgot the papers you had the goodness to send me; you never told me how they fell into your hands. Did you pick them up from the ground anywhere?—or did — bring them to you? She has a real kindness for me, poor creature, whenever she dares show it, notwithstanding some insinuations that have been circulated to the contrary in very shocking terms. Last Autumn, when Bowood was turned into a desert, and we were left almost alone together, we grew very fond of one another, and came to a thorough explanation,—nothing more conciliating than sympathy in sorrow. But do not let it go any further, for poor Timon’s sake.
“I am growing more and more savage every day. I begin to moralise, and talk about the sparks flying upwards. I have known dogs that, if you spoke to them and offered them a bit of the breast of a chicken, would turn and growl at you.—I am exactly in this case. It was but t’other day I spoke to puss, the only person I ever see, in so civil a manner; she went into hysterics. I feel my forefeet drawing nearer and nearer to the ground,—as soon as the grass is got up a little, I shall take to eating it. Does Lord H. propose to have a menagerie when he goes to —; I forget the name of his place,—I believe it’s Winterton? If so, and the dens are not all engaged, put in a word for me, pray, and bespeak one of them for me, to keep me in. He need not put himself to the expense of a chain, I have had one by me these ten years. I won’t bite you; indeed I won’t, though you should put in a hand, and give me a pat now and then through the grate. If anything could keep me upon my hind legs a little longer, it would be the sight of a few lines now and then, such as those that were written to the jewel-man; but put me in the inside of the letter, so that nobody may see them but myself.
“Hands which were made never to be kissed, were made to be snapped and snarled at. What is on the other side was delayed in the hourly expectation of being able to fulfil the promise to Miss F.; the interval has given room to a sort of half repentance. The sarcastic disdainfulness which drew forth so snarling a reply, was a just punishment for bragging. I have accordingly struck out, beyond all power of deciphering, the three or four most snarling lines. Thorough prudence would have condemned the whole to the flames. The half prudence, which is all I am as yet able to rise to, comforts itself under the consciousness of saying and doing foolish things, by the thought of the penetration displayed in the discovery of their folly. If ever the time should come, when one J. B. is able to write, or speak, or behave to a Miss F. or a Miss V., as he does to others, or as others do to them, it will be a sign that the reign of attractions and fascinations is at an end, and that F. and V. are become no more than A. B. or C. The task is rather a severe one; but as endeavours are not wanting, success may at last attend them.”
An answer to an invitation to Bowood, is thus given:—
“In humble imitation of the fair objects of my adoration, I will try for once whether I cannot write a letter, discreet, guarded, and short as theirs is: dropping in, too, on my part, the word gratitude, which in my dictionary has a little more, and a little warmer meaning. I hope to kiss the fair hands, and take the gouty ones between mine, with due regard to their respective sensibilities, on Saturday or Sunday.”
The following letter is an agreeable satire upon our libel law. It was sent to Lord Lansdowne, professing to be intended for the editor of The World—and a second letter, written to Lord Lansdowne, pretending that the epistle “To the Conductor” had glided by mistake into the former envelope:—
“To the Conductor—
“In page 3 of my letter, line 5, political Foxical, dele Foxical, I doubt it is hardly safe; or blank it thus, F—ical. You can insist upon it to the jury, that it is as likely to have been intended for farcical; and Lord Kenyon, as well as Lord Mansfield, leaves it to them to determine upon the innuendos. See what Eitherside says to it, the next time he comes to you for a dinner: give him a bottle extra, and he will be satisfied; considering the obligations he is under to you, he can’t insist upon a fee for a question like this, that lies in a nutshell. If he thinks this won’t do, turn to your Priestley’s chart, and take the name of any dead politician you find there: or suppose you put it Shelburnical, it will be more piquant; and there can be no danger in it, either in the way of action or indictment: there being no such person now in rerum naturâ; such at least is my opinion; but it is your concern, not mine, and I suppose you will be ruled by Eitherside.
“Don’t forget to send me back Miss F.’s as soon as you have done with it; but don’t print it till you hear further from me. As to the additions you propose, put as much Birmingham in it as you will, that’s your affair, provided you make me the same acknowledgment as for the sterling; let me tell you, sir, these are things that don’t turn up every day, and I expect to be considered accordingly. The more additions, the more violently I can protest in general terms against the genuineness of it: then you produce scraps of the original, in proper time, in the state they were found, to any gentleman that knows the hand, and will call at the office, &c. As to Lord L.’s, you may have a hamper full of them if you please: but they are a drug in comparison of this. I really cannot bate a farthing of twenty, which, with the additions, will make forty. The V.’s are yours upon the same terms: genuine original V.’s, you rogue, you. I allow these are not quite so political; but then, you know, there are so many of the same name, it will set all the world in an uproar. The first you will have upon your back is the Maid of Honour; then there will be such confusion and explanations:—take my word for it, the Munro and Stackpoole affair won’t last half the time. You know how low it is with you; nothing less than a stroke like this can save you. Mind that the advertisement about the loss of the trunk appears in proper time; if you bungle this, all the fat will be in the fire. In other respects, times and seasons I leave to you: perhaps, as you say, it may answer better to wait till the public are grown cool about the Munro business; but that’s no reason why I should wait for a compliment I am so well entitled to. When a gentleman risks his character to serve such dogs as you, he ought to be considered accordingly.
“P.S.—If you take the V.’s, as good a way as any of marking the persons, when the time comes, without committing yourself, would be to print Horace Walpole’s verses on them, out of the Annual Register, for the next paragraph.”
Some of Bentham’s correspondence of this period with France, throwslight upon the passions which so soon broke out in such ungoverned fury. One letter from Paris, of the 12th November, 1788, says:—“Our great men are exasperating the nation by language which cannot but make them unpopular. One Grand Seigneur,—and what is worse, one of the notables,—said the troops did not fire on the people, but only on the populace,—a distinction with which people and populace are sufficiently exasperated. Our debates are carried on as barbarously as in the time of Charlemagne,—our national character seems opposed to sedate deliberation. We have little moderation in our expressions, and less logic in our reasonings. We are too impetuous and too vain. Every one seeks to display his talent (esprit,)—nobody seems to think about enforcing conviction. As if we had not enough to do with a few great and grave matters, only think of Necker’s submitting to the Assembly from fifty to eighty questions, any one of which would require an age of time, and a legislature of Solons to solve,—and he says, ‘Answer them all in a few weeks.’ You are celebrating the centenary of your public liberties. Noblest of Te Deums! Would we had such to celebrate,—but we dare not even to announce the celebration of yours! The censors struck out the notice from the Mercure. There seems no bound to our wanderings. It is indeed but the French history of the past. Brittany is amusing herself with a riot,—the nobility and the tiers état with mutual recriminations of abuse. The court is appealed to for troops to enable one province to come to blows with another. Béarn is loudly clamouring for separation. Paris is full of pamphlets and pamphleteers, who and which only entangle more the too much entangled question. Some demand the pure democracy of Appenzell,—others a tyrant king and a free people. Everything tends to detach and to alienate,—nothing to unite. M. Delacretelle announces that, ‘France is about to give the noblest lessons to other nations.’ So be it,—but let me shroud myself in silence.”
Bentham was originally introduced to Brissot by Dr Swediaur.
“Brissot,” he said, “was a little weak man, ignorant of the world. He would establish a Lyceum, and that Lyceum consisted of M. Brissot, Madame Brissot, and your humble servant. He married, having nothing to maintain a wife with. She was a pretty Frenchwoman. His influence was due to a great fluency in writing. He kept up a daily newspaper himself. It was a mighty small thing, but he could be depended on; and he became the organ of a party that could depend upon him, and depend upon nobody else. He really erected a public-opinion tribunal of his own which raised him to be the head of his party. His conversation was not remarkable. Poor fellow! I had occasion to mortify him more than once, by opposing his plans. He brought me a literary project, in which one Mirza, a Persian gentleman, was to shine. I did not know it was his, and laughed at it—but he took it in good part. Once I was sitting in a chair at one end of the room, and I said to him, ‘Ayez la bonté de—’ He said, ‘You are not a Frenchman, and may be forgiven; but a Frenchman would have said, ‘Voulez vous avoir la bonté’—but withal he was a good-natured, gentle creature. We used to talk of terms of locution. I suggested to say the word champ for field of thought and action, but he would not listen to it—it was not Français.
Brissot was guillotined in 1793. He was undoubtedly one of the most disinterested of men: distinguished among a generous and enthusiastic band, who were as pure as they were poor, and who, possessing all the resources of a state, turned none of them aside for any sinister or selfish purpose. Their devotion to the cause of liberty was as impassioned as their affection for one another. Who can forget the trait of the young republican, Girey Duprey—who, knowing that to confess his connexions with Brissot, would bring with it the punishment of death, boldly declared before his judges, that he honoured the character of his martyred friend, and shared his opinions; and added, “He lived like Aristides—and died like Sydney!” It was of Brissot that Madame Roland said that, “Under despotism he advocated freedom—amidst tyranny he fought for humanity. The best of mortals, an excellent husband, a tender father, a faithful friend, a virtuous citizen, gentle and easy, confiding even to imprudence; gay, frank, ingenuous as a child of fifteen years; fit companion for the wise, fit dupe for the wicked.” This, however, is a far more flattering character than is drawn of him by Dumont, who knew him well, and who asserts that though neither the thirst for riches, the struggle for office, or the love of pleasure, had power to corrupt him—he was under the degrading influence of personal vanity and insincerity; and that to the claim of party, he sacrificed the claims of integrity.
I have extracted from Brissot’s letters to Bentham, a few passages which appear to me the only ones worth preserving. Most of the correspondence refers merely to the interchange of mutual services, such as the sending of books, newspapers, &c. They are here brought together, instead of being dispersed in conformity with the chronological arrangement of the work, as they rather illustrate the feeling which these two great men entertained towards each other, than bear on any particular events in Bentham’s life.
Brissot to Bentham.
“Will you forgive me for breaking my word?—I was tied and chained by duty,—and sorely regretted that I could not fly to the rendezvous. I felt more than ever the disadvantage of living so far away from you, and from all the literary helps that London would furnish—and hence I must change my abode within a month. But I must finish a work I have undertaken, and it will be finished in a week. Accept my excuses, and make them acceptable to Dr Swediaur, whom I am ashamed and desolé not to have seen. The weather is frightful. It is impossible to get out.”
“July 8, 1783.
“I will not conceal from you the motive of my journey to Dover. I am married; but to this hour, and for many reasons, my marriage is a secret. Mon amis comes to meet me in London. I was to have met her at Dover; but other reasons keep me here. I expect her daily—momently.”
“14th July, 1783.
“There is, my dear colleague, in your letter, a tone of dryness and drollery which grieves me. I have been separated from mon amie for fifteen months, and you do not forgive me for setting aside, for a few moments, books and commissions. You have, then, never loved me,—me whose sensibilities mingle with legislation itself. I am less severe.”
“Boulogne, 12th November, 1784.
“For the services done to you, I shall, from time to time, have to ask others from you. In consequence of the new arrangements which I have been obliged to make with the government, I shall only be able to pass three or four months of every year in London. I am, therefore, obliged to abandon my London house. I shall tell you all this when I have the pleasure of seeing you. I thank you, beforehand, for all the interest you have shown towards me, and my misfortunes. Answer me here.”
Project for the Translation into French of the best English Books on Constitutions and Legislation; and for the Translation of that of Mr Howard on Prisons.
“Some individuals, either opulent or instructed, but all desirous of promoting public instruction, are about to associate for the translation, printing, and circulation of the best books on Constitutions and Legislation. Some will give their labour, others their money. Mr Howard’s book on Prisons will be the first. Any individual undertaking it alone, and paying the expenses, would undoubtedly be a loser. The reasons why good books are not translated in France is, that a Romance or a Journey has more attraction, and is more profitable. Two individuals, tolerably rich, are willing to subscribe a certain sum. Will Mr Howard himself contribute, if their names, and the name of the translator, are communicated to him? I should have written to him; but from your intimacy, I hope you will propose the plan to him, especially for his own work.”
Endorsed, “Copied and sent to J. Howard, Friday, November 26, 1784.”
“Boulogne, 30th November, 1784.
“Your regrets on my future absence have much touched me. They prove your friendship. Mine is not less than yours; and sorry I am not to have better profited by your knowledge, during my stay in London. Next year I shall repay myself, for I shall spend three or four months in London, and see you often. If what you say is true when you quote Scripture, I may flatter myself to be much loved, for I have been cruelly persecuted. I read a part of your letter to my wife, who was enchanted with it, and who entreats to be recalled to your regards. Our child does well. These are my two consolations; for I have had many sorrows. Adieu, my friend—continue your friendship to me—write to me—employ me.—I am—I shall always be—entirely yours.”
Brissot’s opinion of Bentham is thus given:—*
“There are two men whom I would except from the proscription pronounced by Magellan against the English—these are Jeremy Bentham and David Williams. Reader! has your imagination ever attempted to trace the portraits of those rare beings, whom Heaven sometimes sends down upon earth as a consolation for woes, who, in the form of imperfect man, possess a heavenly spirit. Have you ever pictured to yourself, for instance, Howard or Benezet, whose traits were, candour in their countenances, mildness in their expression, unruffled brows, calmness in speech, quiet in their motions—impassibility and sensibility united,—all these belong also to my friend, Bentham. He one day gave me a description of himself whilst describing Howard. Howard had devoted himself to the reform of prisons; Bentham to that of the laws which peopled these prisons. Howard only thought of prisons, and occupied himself about them alone: for that he renounced all pleasures, and all other sights. Bentham followed this noble example; yet there was one blessing which, in Howard, soothed the agonizing feelings of his soul, caused by the horrors of dungeons, which Bentham did not enjoy—he was married; but this circumstance ought only to raise in our estimation the sacrifices made by this Angel of Peace. Howard tenderly loved his family, and, when on the point of quitting it for any length of time, in order to familiarize himself with the loss, he separated himself from it a fortnight beforehand, a week of which he spent in solitude, when, just before his departure, he returned home to enjoy some hours with his family.
“Bentham only knew me through an act of injustice on my part. In my Theory of Criminal Law, I made light of a very profound essay he had written on the ‘Punishment of Hard Labour in Houses of Correction:’ having learnt my address, he came to give me his name, and state the grounds of his opinions. His calmness and coolness altogether confounded me: how little I seemed even in my own eyes! He promised me his friendship and counsels, which I had requested. I often went to see him in his obscure retreat in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Here I must state, that those persons who are destined for the English Bar, take chambers in those parts of London, which are specially reserved for lawyers.
“Bentham had applied himself to the study of this profession, not for the sake of the profit or honours, but that he might be made thoroughly acquainted with the defects of English jurisprudence, and penetrate that labyrinth which is inaccessible to those who have not made it a particular study. He wished to reveal its vices and defects, which the legal men of that country shrouded in the greatest mystery, that they might live on these abuses, and the ignorance of the people. After having penetrated the depths of this abyss, before proposing any methods of reform, he wished to study the criminal jurisprudence of all the other European nations; and, however immense the undertaking might be, it could not impede the progress of a man whom love for the public welfare had excited.
“These Codes, for the most part, were only to be found in the languages of the nations to whom they applied. Bentham, therefore, successively acquired the knowledge of all those languages. He spoke French thoroughly, knew Italian, Spanish, and German; and I saw him study Swedish and Russian.
“As soon as he had waded through the rubbish of these Gothic laws, and collected his materials, he attempted to form a systematic plan of criminal law, founded entirely on reason, and the nature of men and things. It was to this great work, that, for ten years of his life, each day was devoted. He was as regular in his habits as Kirwan: as soon as he had risen in the morning, he took a long walk of two or three hours, when he returned to his solitary breakfast; he then applied himself to his favourite work until four in the afternoon, at which hour he always went to dine with his father. Although his father was rich, Bentham lived in a very economical manner, in order that he might have greater means of satisfying his ruling passion—love of books. I cannot but regret that the result of so much labour has not yet been made public; his journey, and lengthened residence in Russia, may perhaps be the causes of this delay. Nevertheless, all enlightened men must have duly appreciated the talents and sentiments of this benefactor of his race by his ‘Panopticon;’ a work which ought to immortalize his name, and which will do so, whenever humanity, fixing its attention on the state of prisons, shall bring into request the only work in which is to be found the secret of reforming men’s dispositions, without the use of pains and tortures, and without abusing them.
“Bentham looked with pleasure on our revolution: he watched its progress, and, wishing himself to participate in it, he more than once took up his pen, with the view of directing our steps.
“All must remember his excellent work on the ‘Organization of Courts of Justice,’ which he addressed to the Constituent Assembly, of which the Marquis of Lansdowne sent one hundred copies in his name. He was barely thanked for it; and when Larochefoucault Liancourt moved that it should be translated, Sieyes (who despotically ruled the Committees of Constitution and Jurisprudence, and who did not share in Bentham’s views, perhaps because he was not the originator of them) was the cause of the motion being lost. Bentham, not at all discouraged, wrote another essay, as clever as it was profound, on the easiest way of learning, without tumult or insurrection, the public opinions. This pamphlet is almost unknown; and no one has profited either by his views or the experience which he had gained from the practice of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, near the close of the session, on the motion of the Extraordinary Commission, of which I was president, the Legislative Assembly gave some mark of its esteem for him, by conferring on him the title of French Citizen. The Convention has since passed another decree as honourable to Bentham as the preceding one: it was on the occasion of his sending his ‘Panopticon.’
“But it was not by rewards such as these that this benefactor of his race was most exquisitely pleased; it was by acting upon his ideas, which it must have been his greatest sorrew to have seen buried in oblivion.”*
Brissot estimated his own “Traité de la Verité” very highly. It was, according to his judgment of it, his master work. He fancied that in it (see his criticism on it, Mém. vol. i. p. 326-29) he had “descended to the foundation of all the sciences,—tested their solidity,—established their relations,—tried them in the crucible of truth.” It is a book which he avows “must make those who read it better men.” “It had created happiness for himself, as it would for others. It had sensibility as well as reason to recommend it.” “It was written under the inspiration of love,—while full of the resolutions of virtue—full of the Divinity, whose kindness I recognised: while under the influence of these varied feelings, I composed my work.”
To an ambition so flattering and far-stretching, the volume on Truth most assuredly does not respond.
Bentham’s “Introduction to the Penal Code”† was at this time communicated to George Wilson. He speaks of it (Nov. 30) with unwonted enthusiasm:—
George Wilson to Bentham.
“My Dear Bentham,—
It has been for many years a subject of great regret to me that you have been spending your time upon subjects on which many people are able to write sufficiently well, while there are so many other subjects of great importance, to which nobody else, that I know of, is at all competent.
“I think all our quarrels, and the constant and intemperate opposition which I have given to your late attempts at publication, are owing to this sole cause. I am led to these reflections by having accidently looked this morning into your Introduction to your Penal Code. It grieves me to think that so much excellent matter should be either lost or forestalled—you are not likely at present to complete that Code; but is it impossible to publish the Introduction by itself? It is not unusual to publish part of a book; and why not this part, which, though called an Introduction, contains a system of morals and general jurisprudence infinitely superior to any extant? I am convinced it would raise your reputation more than anything you have yet published; and that reputation, besides being a gratification in itself, will add greatly to the weight of whatever you may write hereafter on temporary subjects. It can be done without expense, or rather, it is the only way to recover an expense already incurred. I will therefore propose to you three things—1st. To finish the Introduction; 2d. To finish the chapter on the Division of Offences, which in my copy ends at 9—12; 3d. To publish the fifteen chapters ending with [Properties] which contain 200 pages, and would make a reasonable volume. The last proposal would give you no other trouble than writing an advertisement to account for the appearance of part of a work. You may say that other pursuits have prevented, and are likely for some time to prevent your completing it, and therefore you publish this part which is sufficiently detached, and was printed off some years ago.
“I think the best way will be to publish whatever is finished, but not to begin to write anything new; that you can do afterwards if the subject and the success please you. I hinted at the danger of your being forestalled,—by which I do not only mean that other people, by the progress of reason, may make the same discoveries,—you know there are stray copies of your Introduction abroad, particularly that you gave to Lord Ashburton; others, which are now in safe hands, may, by death, get into those which are not safe. I have often been tempted to think that Paley had either seen your Introduction, or conversed with somebody that was intimate with you. There are many things in his book so like you, and so out of the common road, that they cannot be the production of the same person who wrote other things in the same book which are really puerile.*
“Did not you send to Dunning more than I have, and also the titles of the remaining chapters?—if so, publish to the end of the last complete chapter already printed, and add those titles, if you have a copy of them; this will avoid the unpleasant task of requiring to write on a subject which is not at present interesting to you, and which, if you were to begin it, might lead you further than I wish at present. I have really this matter very much at heart, and shall be much mortified if you don’t consent.”
Romilly writes on 3d December—
Romilly to Bentham.
“I have sent the ‘Observations,’ &c., to Mr Dumont with your last letter, and a request that he would return them to me as soon as he conveniently can. When I get them, am I immediately to send them by the post, or are they to be returned to you for your approbation of his proposed alterations? With respect to immutable, permit me to say, I think you triumph without much cause. I ventured to assert that there was no such word in the French language; upon which you observed, that then there ought to be—to which I readily agreed. The arguments you use are very conclusive, and prove the latter of those two propositions; but by no means go to prove the first; and, indeed, a very short transcript from the Dictionary of the Academy, which you hold in so much contempt, from Richelet, Chamband, or even Boyer, would have proved more as to the fact (which alone was in dispute) than the most ingenious arguments. I believe the truth is, that ‘immuable’ is used by the French for immutable, and that immobile means both immoveable and motionless, and that there is no such substantive in the French language as immuabilité, but that immuable is the adjective, or, as you call it, the concrete idea, and immuabilité, the substantive or abstract idea; but I have no good dictionary to refer to, and very possibly am wrong. If I am right, I confess it is an absurdity in the language, which the French will have obligations to you if you correct.—Yours, very faithfully,
“Gray’s Inn, 3d Dec. 1788.”
The following extracts from letters from Lord Lansdowne have considerable interest:—
Lord Lansdowne to Bentham.
“Exeter, 3d January, 1789.
“Dear Mr Bentham,—
As long as you honour me with your friendship, you may treat the house to which I belong with every freedom you think proper. It is a fruitful subject, and I don’t think it is in the power of your ingenuity to hit amiss. I am very glad to hear that you intend taking up the cause of the people in France; nothing can contribute so much to general humanity and civilisation as for the individuals of one country to be interested for the prosperity of another. I have long thought that the people have but one cause throughout the world—it is sovereigns who have different interests: besides, we owe it particularly to the French; for I take it, that the Constitutions of both countries were very much the same till Cardinal Richelieu took the lead in one, and the Stuarts, happily for us, in the other. Was not there a time when the clergy made a third estate with us? I have been surprised that learned men in France have not made a point of examining the progress of this and other questions in our history, more correctly than they have done.”
“Saltram, 20th January, 1789.
“Dear Mr Bentham,—
First, as to your attack upon my hand-writing, it is not my fault. I was very ill educated, and never learned to write. The people I have envied most through life have been those who can write well, and yet write so carelessly, that Lady Lansdowne, Miss V—, and myself are sometimes half-an-hour making out a particular word; but I can’t express how much I am obliged to you, when, though you compare the number of words to a bill in Chancery, you don’t compare the stuff also to one, but, upon the contrary, are so good as to say, that two sheets of mine have half the stuff of one of yours. You have a proof that your ideas are never lost upon me, by producing them at ten years’ distance. If I did not quote you to yourself, you may be sure that I shall be proud to quote so great an authority to everybody else, as I hope to have your sanction upon the other subjects you mention—such as colony-holding, the invasion of Holland, the Swedish Declaration, and the Turkish war, of which I am afraid it is too true that we have the merit of contriving. No wonder that the whole island, from the Land’s End to the Orkneys, should join in lamenting the event which has checked such a progress of glory. I was at a loss where I took up my ideas in opposition to the general sense: but I now find the fountain, and am confirmed in them in consequence. But I cannot help thinking that you do not give a very good reason for turning Republican, when you say that the two Republican parties, the Foxites and the Pittites, join only in what is unjust, unprincipled, and impolitic. Seeing this happen, as I have done upon other questions, viz. the East Indies, where they only joined in covering every villain, and prosecuting the only man of merit from thence, has a very different effect upon me, and exhibits a problem regarding Government, which requires all your acuteness to investigate. In the meantime, if I should venture at any time to attempt to stem this torrent, or to expose these doctrines, will you take the writing part upon you, if I take the speaking part?—that is, though I don’t speak better than I can write, I look upon it as the service of most danger, as times go, and therefore it is fit that the talents least worth should be applied to it.
“As to Monsieur Du Chatelet, I apprehend it must be the same who was ambassador here, in which case you had better avoid the communication you mention; for he is a narrow, peevish, vain man, and not likely to take it properly. What you mention of him is the natural inconsequence of a French character.
“I take it, what lies at the bottom of all our great proceedings, is, that we conceive France to be at our mercy: which is as weak as it is cowardly; for what nation did ever become less capable of military exertion instead of more, after great civil commotions? If we don’t go to Lisbon, I hope you will come and hide yourself here, as soon as you have published, instead of that miserable cottage, which the ladies say cannot be to answer any purpose but that of some low intrigue. I am again at my two sheets, but if they contain as much as half of one of your pages, I shall be quite content.”
Lord Lansdowne wrote several times to Bentham, urging him to accompany him to Lisbon, whither he and his family were bound in search of better health for Lady L.: but as her health improved by the visit to Devonshire, the voyage to Portugal was abandoned. Bentham thus writes to Lord Wycombe:—
Bentham to Lord Wycomber.
“March 1, 1789.
“My dear Lord,—
I owe you many thanks for a pleasure that was not originally designed for me,—your father, partly out of kindness, and partly, as I tell him, out of vanity, having taken me into the Cabinet circle, through which certain letters have gone the round of travelling. I have been praying double tides for Lady L.’s recovery, not on her account, nor your father’s, as you may imagine, but that my constancy and wisdom may not be put to the trial by a repetition of the summons to form one of her escort to Lisbon. At your age I should have jumped mast high at the thought of such a jaunt: but now, what would France and the rest of the world do, if I were to desert them to go and dangle after other men’s petticoats at Lisbon?
“The finding your whereabouts has put into my head a project for appointing his son my ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Madame Necker; and accordingly I do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you, &c. &c., my said ambassador at the court of the said lady, for the purpose of presenting at the toilette of the said lady—not a pincushion, but a project of a pincushion of my invention for sticking motions on, for the entertainment of the Etats Generaux. You are to know that, for these five or six months past, my head and my heart have been altogether in France; our own affairs, I think no more of them than of those of the Georgium Sidus. I am working as hard as possible on a treatise on the conduct and discipline of political assemblies, under the short title of Political Tactics; dissecting the practice of our two Houses, for the instruction of their newly created brethren; having taken out a license from your father for cutting and hacking without mercy. I am labouring might and main to get out some of the most essential parts at least time enough for their meeting. It was in the course of that inquiry that I hit upon the project above-mentioned, too simple and obvious to claim any merit on the score of ingenuity. I accordingly take the liberty of troubling you with some papers, designed to form, with little innovation, so many chapters in the above work, though they would not follow one another in immediate succession there, as here. Which of them shall be presented, and in what order, I beg leave to commit to your discretion.
“I attempted t’other day to let off two squibs for the benefit of the Tiers, but they both hung fire,—one from causes that I am apprized of, what became of the other I don’t know. They were in my own dog-French; one of them was afterwards Frenchified by a reverend gentleman at L—House, without being applied to by the landlord, or knowing who was the author, till after he had given his opinion,—which, in respect of the language, was none of the most encouraging. Poor dear Tiers! I hope they will now do pretty well without me. Considering the nurse they have got, I hope my younger brethren of the—will be able to stand on their legs without me.
“I have got as much soi-disant French as would reach up to my chin, and now I am to be condemned to translate it into English. This is what your father, who has never seen any of it, modestly advises me; and so I believe I shall, notwithstanding, as I have a suspicion he is in the right. Poor man! he has been wearing the ends of his fingers off in writing to me and for me. He puts me into the hands of a quidam, who is to get my English, somehow or other, into French. I send him by this packet my Usury, and by the next, or next but one, a great quarto volume of metaphysics, upon Morals and Legislation, which had been lying imperfect at the printer’s ever since I have had the honour of knowing you, and before, till t’other day that I took it out, and put a patch at the end, and another at the beginning. You may see the outside at the Abbé’s; but I sha’n’t send you a copy, because the edition was very small, and half of that devoured by the rats; and God knows when I shall have time to make the alterations necessary for a second edition, if called for; and I have none to spare for naughty boys who run up and down the country playing, and don’t read.”
In a letter of Lord Lansdowne, dated 29th March, 1789, he says,—
“The King of Sweden is going on at a rare rate, without making the least account of your indignation or mine. I don’t believe he knows it. I wish you would make him sensible of it, for which there is but one way—that of appealing to the public opinion of Europe. If the people of different countries could once understand each other, and be brought to adopt half-a-dozen general principles, their servants would not venture to play such tricks. I hope, when you have given France a legislature, you will suffer nothing to interfere, and prevent your pen from enforcing these principles.”
Among his adventures of this period, he mentioned that he was once robbed on Turnham-green. “A man stopped the carriage, and dashed his pistol through the window of the carriage, and, with a volley of oaths and imprecations, demanded our money. One lady fainted, and saved her money. We were playing at cards. There were some halfpence which were put into his hand. He flung them down, saying—‘D— the halfpence.’ He took from me 3s. 6d., and no more; so I purchased the adventure at a cheap rate.”
Bentham sent his work on the Tactics of Political Assemblies* to the Abbé Morellet, to be published in Paris, accompanied by this characteristic Letter.
Bentham to the Abbé Morellet.
“Hendon,Middlesex, “February, 1789.
I am the Bentham mentioned by Lord Lansdowne. He bids me send you all my children. I send you the last; but only to look at, not to dress in a French jacket. It’s elder brethren waited on you of their own accord many years ago. A much larger I hope will follow, (by the next weekly packet but one,) for the which, and other particulars, I beg leave to refer you to a letter that goes by this packet to Lord Wycombe. What Lord Lansdowne attempts to trouble you with, is a Treatise on Political Tactics, containing principles relative to the conduct and discipline of Political Assemblies. It will be impossible for me to complete it time enough to be published before the meeting of the Etats Generaux, for whose use it is principally designed: but I hope to be able to despatch, by that time, such parts as seem to be of most immediate and essential importance. The favour I am a suitor for at your hands, is that you will get some disciple of yours to translate it into French, and publish it: the more you put into it of your own, either by correcting his translation, or subjoining a note to correct any mistakes the author may have fallen into, or, in short, in any other way, the more, of course, I shall feel myself honoured and obliged.
“As something must be understood relative to terms, what think you of the following? The author to provide for the expense, either by eventual engagement, or, if required, by previous remittance, and the real profits, if any, to be equally shared between him and the translator. As I have been, and shall be at the expense of near £100 sterling, in books bought to be consulted for this purpose, I think there would be no harm in my getting back a part of the money if it should so happen; but for this, as well as everything else, I beg leave to commit myself entirely to you. Would a small edition in the original English be likely to find readers? I should be very glad if it would, for I never saw an English translation that I could bear to read: and it was that consideration that set me upon writing such piles of barbarous French, as I have written to my great sorrow. In this event, the author’s having three-fourths of the net profits, upon the English (he standing as before to the expense) seems as reasonable as that he should have one-half upon the French. The greatest part is already in my dog-French, and now I have the pleasure of translating it, or rather rewriting it into English.
“Lord Lansdowne has sent me your two pamphlete—the King’s Answer to the Prince’s, and the Strictures on the Composition of 1614. But I hope not to be beholden for any more of them to a third person. If you send them out in quest of an estime sentie, you can send them nowhere to so good a market, as by sending them to me. Few people, I flatter myself, think more together than you and I do. I made two attempts to get a push at the wheel on the same side with you; but I fell down both times, and could not reach it; for which, see, once more, my letter to Lord Wycombe. I have almost written an essay on Representation, and the subjects are so connected, that there are parts which I hardly know where to put, whether in that, or in the Tactics. For instance—On the conjunction, or separation of the right of proposing, debating, and voting. On the division of a political body, into divers independent bodies. On inequalities in the relative force of votes. On the manner of voting—when it should be public, and when secret. The two first, and the fourth of these heads are already written in French, and the third nearly so.
“After laying down my principles, and deducing rules from them, and giving the reasons for each rule, I apply the standards, thus laid down, to the English practice. This I hope will help to make the book readable with you, and may possibly make some little sensation here, by a side wind. If I can manage matters so as to send you to the amount of about 100 8vo pages or so, by the end of March, I should hope they might be got out a few days before the meeting of the States.
“If you want British Spirits to put into Madame H.’s wine, instead of water, you may have some, if you can get the cargo from the person to whom it was consigned, for which purpose I enclose a letter to the C. de Mirabeau. But if he gives it up, you will be sensible of the propriety of his not knowing into what hands it passes; and for that purpose, you will instruct your messenger not to know who it was that sent him. Understand that I know nothing of him, nor he of me. It is a libel on the people of France for their attempt to saddle the nation with the Composition of 1614. Understand also that nobody revised the copy but the author, nor he beyond the 8th page, such was his fear of not being in time: on which consideration he gave carte blanche to his intended editor, whose experience in the metier de four-bisseur is well known. The other, which is a dissection of the Noblesse of Brittany, you might get, without difficulty, from the bookseller, if it were worth while. He refused to publish it, even at the author’s expense; because, after the corrections it had undergone by a third hand, it was not sufficiently legible, and because it was too strong to pass the Censor, &c. &c. It is now, like the first, entirely out of date.
“I am, with the truest respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant.”
The Abbé Morellet says in answer:—“Light-minded and unreflecting persons cannot estimate the importance of the subject you have treated in your Parliamentary Tactics. It is an instrument by which the great victory will be won by reason and by freedom, over ignorance and the tyranny of bad laws and vicious constitutions.” He says he had visited both Necker and his wife to talk over the better arrangement of public discussions,—but they were so occupied with other cares, that they had no time to give the needful attention to so weighty a matter. He speaks of the violent animosity existing between Necker and Mirabeau: “Mirabeau has created against Necker a storm of indignation, by publishing letters meant to be secret, in which the Duchess of Wurtemberg, Prince Henry, and, what is still worse, many private individuals are so cruelly compromised, that in future nobody can trust him.” The Abbé urges Bentham in the strongest terms to write on the Theory of Representation—a subject, as he says, so much discussed and so little understood—but on whose solution depends the peace and happiness of society.
The letter which follows may be considered as the joint criticisms of Wilson, Trail, and Romilly on Parliamentary Tactics. It is wise and kind—much frankness and friendliness, allied with sound and solid judgment.
George Wilson to Bentham.
You will think our criticisms pretty numerous, severe, and perhaps sometimes a little impertinent. But the good parts require no observation, and civility is not always compatible with conciseness. There is much excellent matter in these sheets, and often great happiness of expression. The separation of the debate from the vote, and the speaking without order, are so important, that it seems impossible for a popular assembly to get on at all without them; and the omission of them is alone sufficient to account for the inutility of all former States in France.
“Everything relating to this subject you have stated extremely well. We had no idea before how much depended on the mode of proceeding in public assemblies. It is a part of our constitution, equal in importance to any, and, hitherto, unobserved. It is a great satisfaction to find that it comes out so well on investigation. The French seem to be much embarrassed, not only by their rage for instructions, but also by the mode in which they are given; for the election is complicated with the reduction of the cahier, and it seems to be that which has retarded the elections at Paris, of which we have got no account, though the States have met. If they will instruct, let them at least do it afterwards. I hope when you have disciplined these States, you will tell them how to elect the next, and how far their instructions ought to be carried and obeyed. But this part of your task is not so pressing. By the by, don’t you think the terms Discipline and Justice as dangerous to the liberties of the Assembly as the word Marshal, which, in your first note, you are so afraid of? that note, and one or two other passages which we have remarked upon, are not equal in importance to the rest, and might, perhaps, have been shortened. There are occasionally great faults in the style—a fondness for parentheses, which tend much to intricacy and obscurity, and generally only seem to introduce some idea which would naturally occur to the reader; and if it did not, might be spared—and a passion for metaphor, which does not suit with a didactic work—and haste, too, has sometimes prevented you from attending to the consistency of your figures. There is nothing after all like plain language, and simple unqualified propositions delivered in short sentences. We think there is too much arrangement, and that the reasons might as well have been put below the rule, as in a separate chapter. The present mode occasions repetition, and, we think, distracts the attention. The addition of the English and French practice is very entertaining and highly useful.
“In many places we have found fault without suggesting a remedy. To have done both would certainly have been better, but it is not altogether so easy; and to do half one’s task is better than to do nothing.
The following is Bentham’s answer:
“Saturday,May 16, —89, Hendon.
Many thanks to you for your criticisms: the more you abuse me, the more you oblige me. Most of them I feel the force of, some of them my own conscience had anticipated. All the things you say should be done are done; but all things cannot be done at the same time, nor in the same place. That, for the learning of which you wish I had attended the House more frequently, I possess as fully as if I had been born and lived there. Do not suppose I ever lose sight of the softening which rules receive by practice. The importance of the want of order in sitting, I have seen in the same light that you do: but that head belongs to a preceding Essay.
“I accuse myself that I did not think to ask you to get me a sight of Dumont’s letter, giving an account of the French Assemblies: think of it I did; but I forgot it again, and left you without doing it. I accuse you, that you did not put in a word for me immediately without asking; to revenge myself, and show that I am not like you, I send you one I have just received from the same place. You will suspect with me, that it is not quite so entertaining to my friend the Abbé to see the practice of his country abused as it seems to be to you. You will grieve with me at the foolish and inconsistent step taken by Necker, in confuting his enemies, by stopping their mouths.
“You will see in the Abbé’s letter an allusion to what I had said to him of the work of the Triumvirate. I had told him of the credit I conceived it entitled to, the use I hoped it would be of in France; the obligations I was under to it, adding that mine might serve as a supplement and key to it, as that did not enter into the why nor wherefore. Names I took care not to mention.
“The apparent inconsistency between my use of the words tactics and discipline, and my censure of the word marshal, struck me at first, as it was what had not occurred to me; but think again: you will find that the difference between an authoritave and an unauthoritative expression exculpates me. I might call him a drill-serjeant, or any thing; he would not be the more so for that: it would make no difference in his powers or pretensions; but whatever the law called him, such he would be.
“When you and Trail have read Morellet’s letter, put it up in the cover in which I enclose it, sealing it with a common seal, and send it to Lansdowne House: for which place I take the opportunity of sending a packet.
“I have got a copy of Calonne’s last Lettre au Roi, which is not sold. Have you, or Trail, or Romilly, a mind to see it?”
Romilly, writing to Bentham on the subject of his Political Tactics, says—
“I have read your Tactics with the greatest pleasure. All that is said about voting and debating at the same time, and about a right of pro-audience, is admirable. On ne peut pas mieux.”
In the year 1789, an attempt was made by Great Britain, or by the King of Great Britain, to break up the alliance between Russia and Denmark. The pretext was the restoration of the balance of the power, and the retention by Russia of Oczakow, which had been taken from the Turks by the Russians. In the Gazette de Leyde, letters were written under a feigned name by George the Third himself, urging upon the King of Denmark the propriety of his breaking his engagements with Russia, and associating himself with the policy then pursued. A private communication of Mr Elliott our minister, at Copenhagen, to the Danish court, obtained publicity, and upon that communication, Bentham sent the following remarks to the Editor of the Public Advertiser:—
LETTERS OF ANTI-MACHIAVEL TO THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
Observations on the Declaration presented to the Court of Denmark by Mr Elliott, British Minister at that Court, April 23d, 1789, showing the causes of the unjust and useless war into which the ministry are endeavouring to plunge us.
Text of the Declaration.
“I willingly acquiesce to (in) the desire your Excellency has expressed of receiving, in writing, the summary of those representations I had the honour to make you by word of mouth, by the order of the (my) court.”
Observations on Par. 1.
Verbal discourses being capable of being avowed in one moment, and denied the next, avowed to one person, and denied to another, it was equally natural and prudent in the Danish Minister to desire to receive, in a form unsusceptible of falsification, a menace which exposes its own injustice to the eyes of Europe, particularly of the British nation, who may now see themselves upon the point of being plunged into a war, without object or pretence, for the purpose of carrying the menace into effect. The injustice and violence stamped upon the face of the composition of the British Court, are features which the minister of the insulted nation was sure to find in it, as being inseparable from the measure. The hypocritical grimace and affectation of gratuitous falsehood, with which it is so unnecessarily adorned, is so much more than he could have promised himself.
Text. Par. 2.
“Your Excellency will be pleased to remember, that at the instant that the King of Denmark yielded up a great part of his land and sea forces, as auxiliaries to Russia, his Danish Majesty applied for the intervention of his Britannic Majesty, to reëstablish tranquillity between Sweden and Russia.”
Observations on Par. 2.
The King of Denmark yielded up for that purpose not a man nor a ship more than he was bound to yield up, by an already subsisting and strictly defensive treaty; our great and good ally having attacked Russia, for the avowed purpose of compelling her to make a present of a few of her provinces to him, and a few more to the Porte.* Denmark, after employing entreaties and remonstrances without effect, unwillingly, and without any interest but that of peace, granted the stipulated succours. Those who had set him on, could, if they thought proper, take him off. Decency required that they should be applied to for that purpose, manifest as it was that the application would have been ineffectual. This application not having been made public, the purport and design of it can be spoken of only by conjecture. It was made not to Britain only, but to Prussia. The intrigues of the Court of London at that of Berlin not having been as yet consummated, justice from the lesser quarter seemed at first not altogether hopeless. The known connexion between Prussia and Great Britain, furnished an ostensible reason for extending to the latter, communications that had been made to the former; and frankness and publicity were suitable accompaniments to the upright and generous conduct of the Prince of Denmark.
Text. Par. 3.
“It is also with the liveliest sorrow, that I must recall to your Excellency’s memory, that the Empress of Russia thought proper to avoid the mediation of the king and his allies; and that this refusal was the only cause of the continuation of hostilities, since his Majesty the King of Sweden had accepted, in the freest and most amicable manner, that offer from the three Courts, which were animated with the only desire of stopping the shedding of blood, and maintaining the northern balance.”
Observations on Par. 3.
If two or more incendiaries were to enter into a conspiracy, and set a man’s house on fire, it is natural enough that the owner of the house would not think proper to employ any of them to put out the fire, or to sit as judges, for the purpose of assessing the damages; and it is equally natural, that any of them should be ready to accept that office in the fairest and most amioable manner.
What purpose, but that of a wanton insult, could it answer to the contrivers or abettors of a plan of assassination, to profess themselves animated by the sole desire of stopping bloodshed in the face of those who knew them to be the authors of it?
Setting one power to conquer provinces from another without pretence of title, at the time that other is labouring under the pressure of an unprovoked and unexpected war,† and then fettering the hands of those who owe her assistance; such, it seems, is to be the British mode of maintaining the political balance. If this is the way to maintain it, what would be the way to disturb it?
Text. Par. 4.
“Your Excellency has afterwards been witness that the king and his allies have acted with energy, to give the most undoubted proofs that they thought the preservation of Sweden was of the utmost importance, and that these courts mutually endeavoured to maintain a cessation of hostilities from the land and sea forces of his Swedish Majesty, which had acted in the military operations of the last campaign, and their endeavours had the most salutary effects.”
Observation on Par. 4.
An Englishman who knows the facts alluded to, beholds the insolence, sees himself made a party to it, and does not burn with generous indignation against the authors of it, deserves to bear the impending consequence of it. Yes—with energy enough they did act: proofs, the most undoubted, of their thinking the preservation of Sweden of importance, they undoubtedly did give. The King of Sweden plunges his poor and thinly-peopled nation into a war, the most notoriously void of pretence of any upon record, in the teeth of the plain and positive letter of a constitutional law of his own framing, and to which he had sworn observance. His own army, faithful to the constitution, refused to be made the tools of tyranny and injustice. A memorable example, and may it never be forgotten in any country, and least of all in Britain! At this crisis, the Danish body of auxiliaries enters Sweden in a defenceless quarter, taking nothing, damaging nothing, hurting nobody, friends to the country, adverse only to its oppressors, and that only during the continuance of the oppression. The Swedish monarch, thinly accompanied, shuts himself up in Gottenburg, which the Danish auxiliaries prepare to invest. A few days more would have brought him to reason, and the peace of the north would have been restored. Alarmed at the danger, Prussia threatens with her armies, Britain with her fleets, and Mr Elliott, running backward and forward between the fugitive tyrant and the deliverers of his country, interposes what, in the language of Mr Elliott’s court, is called a mediation. The hands of the Prince of Denmark, the common friend of Sweden and Russia, are tied up from keeping the peace; and the hands of the pensioner of the Turks are let loose to prosecute his plan of unprovoked hostility and conquest.
As to the preservation of Sweden, had that been an object, no great exertion would have been necessary:—not to have destroyed her liberty;—not to have plunged her into a pretenceless war against a superior enemy. If such be preservation, Heaven grant that Britain may never be preserved!
As to cessation of hostilities, a sovereign, whose only fleet has been disabled in an engagement, will readily enough cease from hostilities at sea; a sovereign, whose only army has mutinied, and made peace for itself, will readily enough cease from hostilities by land. Such were the cessations on which the British mediator blushes not to found his pretenxions to neutrality and impartial justice. After the Turk had been spirited up to attack Russia in the south, the Swede was spirited up to attack her in the north, to prevent her sending a flest to the Mediterranean to retaliate on the aggressor. For accomplishing this object, the bare show of hostility on the part of Sweden was sufficient: and Britain, long before she pretended mediation, had consummated her injustice.
Everywhere, out of England, these facts are as notorious as the existence of the powers to which they relate; and would be so in England, if the only sources of information, accessible to the bulk of readers, were not poisoned by ignorance or corruption, or national partiality, or party prejudice.
Text. Par. 5.
“The King, my master, still sees with sorrow that, since that epoch, the offers of mediation and services from the King and his allies, have not produced the desired effect: nor could they incline the Empress to agree to a mediation for restoring peace to the east, nor to the north of Europe.”
Observations on Par. 5.
The sorrow may be admitted, as it is not pretended to be accompanied by surprise.
Text. Par. 6.
“Under these circumstances, when Russia refuses to accept every mediation, and the continuation of hostilities proceeds from this refusal only, his Britannic Majesty and his allies think, they should strongly represent to the Court of Denmark, that this Court appears to them entirely freed from every stipulation of a treaty merely defensive; and even add, that, in the present case, the joining the Danish forces, either by land or sea, to those of Russia, would even cause Denmark to be considered as one of the powers at war, and could (not) but justify the King of Sweden in asking for a speedy and efficacious assistance from his Britannic Majesty, and his allies, from which his Swedish Majesty has accepted a pure and unlimited mediation.”
Observations on Par. 6.
In this paragraph we see promulgated an article of a new complexion in the law of nations:—That if two powers engage in a defensive treaty, and the oasus fœderis occurs, it depends upon any third power whatever to dissolve the engagement at pleasure. Upon nonsense like this, argument would be thrown away. But surely, if this country is not irrecoverably fasoinated by the charms of war and taxation, as well as of wanton oppression and injustice, such pretensions on the part of its servants has some claim to notice. Pope of Denmark, master of dispensing power, Defender not of Faith, but of the breach of it; such are the titles which the head of the British church has been advised to arrogate, and of which British blood and treasure are to be poured forth in the defence.
As to his Swedish Majesty’s being justified in asking for a speedy and efficacious assistance from Britain, it is well enough known, that he is not a man to lose anything for want of asking, nor wait for justifications. The material question is, whether his Britannic Majesty means to gratify him in such a request? And to this, we shall immediately see an answer in the affirmative, in terms sufficiently explicit.
Text. Par. 7.
“From the principles of sincerity which I have ever observed towards a Court in alliance, and a friend to Great Britain, I must assure you, sir, that neither the King of England, nor his allies, can give up the system they have adopted, with the design only of maintaining the equal balance of the north; (a) balance no less necessary to Denmark, than to all maritime and trading nations.”
Observations on Par. 7.
What is curious in this business is, to see the ease and unconcern with which the minister undertakes, not only for the King of Prussia, but for the Dutch, whose task it is to make a perpetual sacrifice of their country’s welfare to the capricious and mischievous politics of a British Ministry. Such is the degraded state to which a people, once so highspirited and free, have seen themselves reduced by a confederacy of tyrants.
As to political balances, how clear and how just the notions entertained, or pretended to be entertained, of such matters by this negotiator and his employers are, has been already seen.
Text. Par. 8.
“I doubt not your Excellency perceives how little the most favourable interpretation of your treaty could assist the Empress, if it occarioned a vigorous coöperation, by land and by sea, of the three Powers in defence of Sweden; nor that the Council of Copenhagen is too wise and too moderate to expose either Russia or Denmark to an increase of hostilities from Courts which, in other respects, wish but for peace, and who desire to establish it on the most solid foundation, and on conditions the most advantageous to every party concerned.”
Observations on Par. 8.
If the form of this paragraph is hypothetical, the spirit of it is as categorical as any one could desire. We now see, then, what we, for our part, have to expect. If the Danes are true to their engagements, our Ministry is to throw off the mask, abet unprovoked aggression with a high hand, and plunge the nation into a causeless and useless war. Perceiving what he is here desired to perceive, it is to be hoped that his Excellency will also perceive, on the other hand, how little the good-will of the British Ministry could affect their virtuous ally, if Parliament, when applied to, should hesitate to throw away t’other fifty or hundred millions of the nation’s money for their amusement, and to saddle it with two or three millions a-year more, in taxes, for the pleasure of cutting the throats of a people who never offered them the smallest injury. Such hesitation is not altogether out of the sphere of possibility. Fond as the people of this country are of war and insolence, prone as they have shown themselves, of late years, to make sudden starts from well-grounded and deep-rooted jealousy, to implicit confidence and foolish fondness towards George the Third, it is too much to suppose them capable of being wrought up to such a pitch of infatuation.
I hope the Danish Minister is not the only one who will consider, that neither threats nor promises like these, are quite so soon performed as made; and that, when the trustee of a free people takes upon him, thus smoothly, to offer their lives and fortunes in support of a war not less foolish than flagitious, he may find, to his shame, that he has reckoned without his host.
The pride of dictation, the pomp of arbitrage, the glory and renown of unretaliated injustice, form at a distance a captivating spectacle. But, when the pageant is brought near, and war and taxation are spied in the background, reflection begins to operate, and prudence whispers, that even the transports of senseless ambition may be bought too dear.
Text. Par. 9.
“Therefore, sir, I must expressly entreat you, from the king and his allies, to induce the Court of Denmark not to grant any part of their forces, either by land or sea, to act offensively against Sweden, under pretence of a Defensive Treaty; but, on the contrary, to support a perfect neutrality, in every province, and in all the seas belonging to the King of Denmark.”
Observations on Par. 9.
Under what pretence trespass upon the patience of the Danish Minister with this insolence? Is, then, a Defensive Treaty between Denmark and Russia but a pretence? Was it not the King of Sweden that attacked Russia, and that for the avowed purpose of making conquests at her expense? Are aggressors to choose how the aggrieved country shall be defended? And can Russia be defended without offending the King of Sweden?
Text. Par. 10.
“Depend on it, sir, that as soon as Denmark will have taken a resolution so conformable to the wishes of his (its) true friends, the concurrence of the King of Denmark towards the reestablishment of a general peace would be infinitely agreeable to the king, my master, and I dare add that your Excellency has too long been acquainted with the true interests of Russia, and with the sentiments of England, not to be sensible that the Empress of Russia cannot better confide to effect a peace than to his Britannic Majesty and his allies. My instructions are to ask of your Excellency a clear and decisive answer on the intentions of his Danish Majesty, with regard to a junction of part of his forces, either by land or sea, to the forces of her Imperial Majesty of Russia, and to propose the neutrality of the Danish States, and of the Danish seas, under the most efficacious promise of security from the King of England and his allies.”
Observations on Par. 10.
Another proposition for the truth of which Mr Elliott is entitled to full credit, viz. that supposing a resolution, on the part of the King of Denmark, to break his treaty with Russia, and refuse her all assistance, the concurrence of that king, towards the reëstablishment of a general peace, would be infinitely agreeable to Mr Elliott’s royal master; as a peace, good or bad, is not to be made, nor any other political effect to be produced, by sitting still and doing nothing; if Denmark, without helping Russia, is to act towards the production of a peace, it must be by helping the enemies of Russia. At this price, she may be sure enough of the temporary smiles of this “true friend,” this adept in the true interests of Russia, who in return for his indefatigable labours in her service for these two years, now demands her “confidence.”
A declaration in which this country is not less concerned than Denmark, is, “the most efficacious promise of security from the King of England,” so generously offered to Denmark, in case of her deserting her allies, coupled with the assurance which we saw given of speedy and efficacious assistance to be afforded to the King of Sweden, in case such desertion does not take place. Punishment on one hand, protection on the other, are thus held out to this injured and insulted people, all for the amusement of this their “true friend,” all at the expense of Britain. If after all these efforts this true friend of peace, and his virtuous seconds, fail of compassing the felicity of a war, they are the most unfortunate of men. War with somebody they will have at any rate. Now in one event—hereafter in another. War with Denmark, if Denmark will not be bullied into a breach of faith. War with Russia if Denmark crouches, and Russia at some future period, when recovered out of her present difficulties, should bethink her of her wrongs, and call a faithless ally to account for his infidelity.
Text. Par. 11 and last.
“This desire of avoiding every kind of useless animosities has caused me to address myself to your Excellency by a private letter rather than deliver a formal declaration, the contents of which might have been made more public than the actual circumstances of affairs require; and I am bold enough to flatter myself that, whatever may be the event of my negotiations, your Excellency will do me the justice of acknowledging that I have laboured to prevent the miseries of war. May our united endeavours revive in the hearts of the sovereigns the true love of their subjects, too unhappily victims of that chimerical love of glory which has so frequently and so unnecessarily stained Europe with blood!”
Observations on Par. 11 and last.
Secrecy is the known companion of guilt: publicity of probity and innocence. The first endeavour was to confine the matter to verbal insinuations: that defeated, the business was pursued by letter, which it is desired might be considered as a private one. This letter, whether by policy or accident, has been made public; and the reproach of meanness added to that of insolence and tyranny, is what the authors of the proposition have got by their endeavours to hide it. Had the Danish Minister yielded to private insinuations, not only would Russia have been deprived of the assistance due from Denmark, but the seeds of jealousy and dissension would have been sown between the two courts. The extorted neutrality would have been published as a voluntary one, and the breach of alliance would have been imputed either to disaffection or to the unjust desire of reaping the benefit of it without sharing in the burthens. The disavowal of the threats, after they had produced their effect, would thus have effected a double purpose: the reproach of injustice would have been transferred from the authors to the victims of it. Interrogated concerning the cause of the infidelity of Denmark to Russia, the British Minister at Copenhagen would have known no more of it than the British Cabinet did of the causes of the Turkish war. Pride, too, by disposing the Danish Court to attribute their defection to any other principle rather than fear, might have disposed them to join in throwing a veil of secrecy over the business.
The plan was not ill laid for a plan of knavery; but it is the property of knavery that its successes hang upon a hair; and when exposed to the public eye the breath of one honest man is enough to break it.
That there is a species of “coldness” in the “self-flattery” here professed by Mr Elliott will not be disputed with him; but what purpose it can answer to a man, in the act of setting fire to a train, to boast of the pains he is taking to prevent the conflagration, is a question not easy to resolve.
Actions are the test of words. A wish, which would have been the language of virtue in the mouth of a guardian of peace, corrupts into hypocritical violence in the impure lips of a Minister of violence. Such is the response of an honest man to this concluding prayer.
The plan of aggression in the north I find pursues an uninterrupted course. Opportunities are sought, and none are suffered to pass unimproved. To evince the partiality of his Majesty’s proffered mediation, Sir Roger Curtis is sent to perform the office of Drill Serjeant to the Swedish Navy. This is old news in Europe. I have looked for it in vain in our own prints. Should occasion require, Gibraltar’s other hero may be despatched perhaps for the defence of Gottenburg. Once already has that port been saved by us; Sweden rescued from the miseries of ancient liberty, and the nations of the Baltic from the calamities of peace. At that time the pen of an Elliott was sufficient to the task. A second time the sword of another Elliott may be nothing less than necessary. Terrified or deceived, Christian for once submitted to our mandate. Catherine may not be quite so tractable: a Russian Admiral may have scruples about recognising a British Envoy for his commanding officer.
Once more, if the endeavours of the Ministry are not crowned with war, they are the most unfortunate of men. A Swedish frigate is captured by a Russian off the coast of Norway. Restitution is demanded by the British envoy.—On what pretence? That the vessel was British? That it had British subjects, or British goods in it? No: but it was taken too near the Danish coast. The King of Great Britain is become King of Norway: Great Britain is therefore injured by a violation of the territory of Norway. The nominal King of Denmark has no interest in the peace of his own country, no feeling for his own honour: it is therefore become necessary for his brother of Great Britain to take the sceptre out of his hands. Such is the logic of St James’s. If the consequents only of these syllogisms are expressed, it is only to save words; the antecedents are implied.
One of the glories of the first Pitt was the destroying of a French fleet, not near but upon the coast of Portugal. What would have been his language, if a neutral court—Denmark for instance—addressing itself to Portugal or to him, had taken France by the hand, and called for satisfaction? In the present instance, conceive Denmark to have recalled the precedent.—“We will talk about the Swedish frigate, when, in satisfaction to the violated peace of Portugal, you have put France into the same plight she would have been in had the coast of Lagos never felt the flame of British firebrands.” If such had been the answer of Denmark, what would, what could have been the reply?
The fair and open reply is, that justice and humanity have no place in cabinets. It is for weak states to suffer injuries: it is for strong ones to inflict them. Do as you would be done by, a rule of gold for individuals, is a rule of glass for nations. The duty of a king to his subjects and to the world, is to compass war, by any means, and at any price; and the less the profit or pretence, the greater is the glory. To do mischief is honour: to do it slily, darkly, and securely, is policy. The number of troops a nation is able to bring into the field, gives the measure of its power: the number of unprovoked and unrequited injuries it has been able to inflict, gives the measure of its virtue. The true contest among kings is, who with least smart to himself shall give the hardest blow. The King of England, is he not the King of Humphreys and Mendoza? The prowess of Humphreys and Mendoza, is it not the object of envy and imitation to the Ministers of the King of Great Britain?
Soon after the publication of the foregoing, the following Ministerial apology appeared. Bentham attributed it, on what he thought good authority, to the king himself:—
To the Printer of the Public Advertiser.
June 4, 1789.
—In several of the public papers, but particularly in those called Opposition papers, great pains, I observe, have lately been taken to blame his Majesty’s Ministers for having concluded the late Treaty of Defensive Alliance with the King of Prussia. The manner in which most of the authors of these remarks have treated the subject, proves, that the ardour of serving their party has led them far beyond the sphere of their knowledge, and that they are very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe, of whose respective political situations an exact statement appeared in one of your papers some time in the beginning of May.* The necessity of a continental ally being allowed on all sides, the enemies of the treaty in question could do no less than point out another power, as preferable to the King of Prussia; and they have very wisely fixed upon Russia. But whilst, in order to prove the advantages of an alliance with that empire, they represent its power by sea and by land in its utmost magnitude, they seem not to be aware, that what they allege as an inducement to an alliance, might partly be looked upon as a sufficient reason for declining it. The power of Russia has lately grown to such a pitch, that, in the opinion of the best informed statesmen, it threatens to overthrow the political balance of Europe. But by the present judicious combination of England, Prumia, Sweden, and perhaps Denmark, it is likely to receive a seasonable check; and, in proportion as Russia will thereby be reduced, Sweden will rise in importance, and become firmly attached to this country, by whose assistance it has been raised from its late insignificance, and rescued from the power of Russia, which has long meditated its destruction. The great abilities of the present King of Sweden and his brothers, seem to point out the present period of time as expressly calculated for restoring the balance of power in the north, destroyed by the preponderance of Russia.
Independent of these considerations, would it become the spirit of the British nation to court the alliance of the haughty and imperious Czarina, who, when England was involved in a war with numbers of enemies, assumed the air of a Dictatrix on the seas, and promoted every measure which could tend to the reduction of the power of Great Britain? The armed neutrality was chiefly the work of the Court of Petersburg, whereby England was deprived of the great advantages which her numerous armed vessels would have given her over her enemies, by intercepting their supplies of warlike stores. It is true, the late King of Prussia gave likewise into that measure; but he had at least some cause to complain of the conduct of England towards him in the year 1762, whilst Russia was plainly actuated only by a jealousy of the great power of the British navy, which she has ever since shown a disposition to diminish. The commercial advantages which this country might derive from a treaty with Russia, the other powers in the Baltic, together with Poland, will be able in a great measure to afford; whilst, from the wisdom of the present administration, we may expect that such encouragement will be given to the cultivation, in the British dominions, of the important articles of hemp and timber, that the immense sums which are paid for them to foreign nations, will, in time, be considerably lessened. The system adopted by the present administration tends likewise manifestly to lemen, if not entirely to annihilate, the influence of France in Turkey and Sweden, which may very probably be attended with such commercial advantages to England, with regard to the former power, that the British trade to the Levant, at present almost entirely superseded by the French, may regain its pristine importance.—I am, sir, your humble servant,
To Partizan’s letter Bentham thus replied:—
The Public Advertiser, June 15th, 1789.
Observations on a Ministerial Defence of the Prussian Treaty, signed “A Partizan,” and inserted in the Public Advertiser of June 4th.
Text. Par. 1.
“In several of the public papers, but particularly in those called Opposition papers, great pains, I observe, have lately been taken to blame his Majesty’s Ministers for having concluded the late treaty of Defensive Alliance with the King of Prussia.”
Observations on Par. 1.
I am heartily glad to find there is one party amongst us whose eyes begin to open to the folly of the plan of continental politics we have been so long pursuing;—better half open than perfectly closed. I hope, ere I have done, to open them a little wider. “Defensive Treaty,”—so pretends the title. The whole tenor of our foreign politics for two years past, and the very terms of Mr Elliott’s declaration, so lately delivered to Denmark, show it to be offensive.
Text. Par. 2.
“The manner in which most of the authors of these remarks have treated the subject, proves, that the ardour of serving their party has led them far beyond the sphere of their knowledge, and that they are very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe, of whose respective political situations, an exact statement appeared in one of your papers some time in the beginning of May.”
Observations on Par. 2.
For this statement, I suppose we are obliged to the author of this argument. I have not met with it, nor should I think of looking for it, but in the persuasion of finding it as erroneous as these deductions are inconclusive. True, or false, it is equally incapable of throwing any other than a false light on the present question. According to this pretender to superior “knowledge,” the writers on the other side show themselves “very little acquainted with the different interests of the several powers of Europe.” Without the pains of studying that exact statement, it shall be seen whether he possesses any tolerable conception of the interests of any one.
Text. Par. 3.
“The necessity of a continental ally being allowed on all sides, the enemies of the treaty in question could do no less than point out another power, as preferable to the King of Prussia; and they have very wisely fixed upon Russia.”
Observations on Par. 3.
Somewhat less unwisely than those who fixed on Prussia. An impregnable Empress, with twenty-five or thirty millions of subjects, is a less ineligible ally than a collection of disjointed scraps and fragments, made up into a nominal kingdom, with less than six millions. See the vulnerability of this tottering power extremely well stated by Sir J. Dalrymple, in the Public Advertiser of April. See the same truth fully developed by the masterly and impartial hand of the Comte de Mirabeau, in his great work, Sur la Monarchie Prussienne. The necessity of a “continental ally allowed on all sides:” assuredly not on mine. Of the non-necessity of all alliances to this country; of the inutility and mischievousness of all such engagements, my conviction is as strong as of my own existence. The fewer allies, the more friends. Neither Prussia nor Russia would I have for an ally, nor any other power whatsoever, would they pay us for our alliance the half of their revenue. An alliance which is not necessary, is much worse than useless. No ally will engage to go to war for you, without your engaging to go to war for him. The first power in Europe, a nation that for more than thirty years, and in two successive wars, has shown herself more than a match for the two greatest next to herself, cannot stand in need of alliances for her defence. Other powers may join with one another to guard themselves against her attacks; prudence may enjoin them; justice cannot but authorize them;—both forbid her to take umbrage. But that three or more powers should join in offensive war, in the view of plundering one which is more than a match for any two of them, is out of all probability and all example. To engage her in alliance, is to shake her peace for nothing. Such measures, instead of increasing her security, diminish it. Being unnecessary for defence, they announce aggression, if they do not, as, unhappily in our own case, follow it. Exciting well-grounded jealousy, they beget counter-alliances; and, by the boundless terror they inspire, create many sincere enemies, in return for one false friend.
There is a point in the scale of national security, beyond which the nature of things will not suffer man to soar. We stand—we have long stood—upon that pinnacle. No step we can take can raise us above it: no effort we can make, but must endanger our sinking below it.
Text. Par. 4.
“But whilst, in order to prove the advantages of an alliance with that empire, they represent its power by sea and by land in its utmost magnitude, they seem not to be aware, that what they allege as an inducement to an alliance, might partly be looked upon as a sufficient reason for declining it.”
Observations on Par. 4.
The argument which this introduction ushers in, might be partly deserving of that name, if the alliance, which it is employed to represent as ineligible, could be partly made, and partly not made. Here it follows:—
Text. Par. 5.
“The power of Russia has lately grown to such a pitch, that, in the opinion of the best informed statesmen, it threatens to overthrow the political balance of Europe.”
Observations on Par. 5.
A comment on this passage is no further of use, than as it serves to show the badness of the cause, by the necessary distress betrayed by those who stand up in its defence. Is Russia, or is she not, so strong as the opposition writers, it seems, have been representing her? Is the alliance of a strong power, or is it not, better than that of a weak one? No one reply, nor any two consistent replies, will answer the purpose of this advocate. The statements of the opposition must be true and false, Russia strong and weak, an eligible ally, and an ineligible one at the same time. Weak, for the purpose of assisting us, so long as the alliance lasts: Strong, for the purpose of injuring us, when, in order to get at us, she has made a sudden spring, broke the alliance, and overthrown the political balance of Europe: Ineligible, so long as a chain of aggressions, as unexampled as they were unprovoked, have failed of winning her to our side. Eligible, as soon as these extraordinary favours shall have purchased her unnecessary assistance. Her thirty ships of the line, after having been less useful to us for I don’t know what length of time, than the King of Prussia’s none, are to swell in the compass of a night to sea serpents, and swallow up our 120, and so on.
Text. Par. 6.
“But by the present judicious combination of England, Prussia, Sweden, and perhaps Denmark, it is likely to receive a seasonable check; and, in proportion as Russia will thereby be reduced, Sweden will rise in importance, and become firmly attached to this country, by whose assistance it has been raised from its late insignificance, and rescued from the power of Russia, which has long meditated its destruction.”
Observations on Par. 6.
In this hodge-podge paragraph, there is such a combination of ignorance, absurdity, false statement, and cool wickedness, as should effectually protect it against discussion, were it not too faithful a specimen of the vulgar commonplace mode of arguing on these subjects. That powers, without any assignable cause, take sudden shoots, while others, equally without any assignable cause, are at a stand, or on the decline, and in a state of insignificance:—that a nation is at any time, and for no reason but that of its being in a state of prosperity, and because it is possible it may some time or other, turn assailant, be assaulted, and checked, in order to be reduced:—and thereby that at all times when there is one nation more powerful than another, that is to say, at all times whatsoever, some one nation is to be laid waste, and as many of her subjects as can be come at be put to the sword by a parcel of other nations who, at the expense of the same miseries, are to confederate for that purpose:—that a nation, consisting like Sweden of scarce three millions of the poorest subjects in Europe, is to rise in importance, by being driven, without the smallest provocation received, and against the avowed inclination of its own armies, into a war with an Empire, containing from 25 to 30 millions; that the having thus pushed such a nation into the jaws of destruction, under favour of the venal baseness of its rulers, is such a benefit conferred on it, as to create on its part “a firm attachment” to this country;—that an assistance which consists in nothing more than the keeping off of other remedies, is to “raise” a nation so assisted “from insignificance,” and rescue it from the power of the enemy, into whose jaws it is thus plunged:—that Russia, with the complete power of destroying Sweden, but without any motive, has been long meditating its destruction, though without taking any one step (for I defy him to produce any) for that purpose:—that a “combination” entered into for such purposes is a “judicious combination:”—that Denmark, to whose capital city and shipping, an officer of the King of Sweden has been convicted of setting fire, in revenge for the assistance she was bound to render to Russia, in obedience to the strict letter of a defensive treaty, is “perhaps” about entering into this combination against Russia: that it would be judicious on her part so to do: such are the absurdities and atrocities which this man of “superior knowledge” and “exact statement” has contrived to crowd into the compass of a sentence—which this man of a temper superior to “the ardour of serving a party,” has attempted to impose upon his readers.
In the nomenclature of politics there are certain established phrases, by which innocence and wisdom are branded with contempt, guilt and folly recommended to admiration and to practice. In this dictionary, peace and tranquillity are represented by sloth, obscurity, and insignificance: bloodshed and destruction by vigour, spirit, activity, a sense of national glory, and so on. In the faculty of ringing the changes upon these phrases, consists the skill by which writers of the complexion of this ministerial advocate prove their title to the appellation of adepts in politics.
For these five and twenty years last past, Sweden has enjoyed the benefits of peace; her scanty population, and as slender substance, have been undergoing a slow but regular increase, to the great mortification of her active and spirited sovereign, who, ever since incorruption, and her companion liberty, have been expelled the Constitution by armed force, has been labouring to “rescue her from insignificance.” British protection, and Turkish—I hope not British, gold, have at length crowned his efforts with success; the small remains of liberty have been completely crushed; the power of the purse seized, new and heavy taxes imposed, the country exposed to the inroads of a superior and justly exasperated enemy, and now the nation is “rising in importance.” The profound and virtuous politicians, of whom the composition I am reviewing is intended as a defence, have for about these two years been labouring to rescue this country from insignificance, to raise it in importance in the same way, and these efforts seem to be on the point of being crowned in the same manner. The nation, constantly and laudably vigilant against domestic mismanagement, has been too inattentive to the mischiefs which may befall her from ill-grounded plans of foreign politics, and the misbehaviour of her servants towards foreign powers. Pushed on by injustice and false policy to the brink of war and unfathomable taxation, it is time, if it be not too late, to open her eyes. With impatience, mingled with surprise, I have long been waiting for a less incompetent historian to step forward and undertake the thankless office. Sad necessity alone could have dragged me from more smiling prospects to this gloomy scene; but the same necessity, if it continue, will ensure my perseverance.
Text. Par. 7.
“The great abilities of the present King of Sweden and his brothers, seem to point out the present period of time as expressly calculated for restoring the balance of power in the North, destroyed by the preponderance of Russia.”
Observations on Par. 7.
The personal character of the King, of this Royal Champion of Justice and Equality, is a theme of which I shall leave this, his British second, in undisturbed possession. Kings have long arms; and, however well you may be insured, Mr Printer, against fire, I fear you would not find yourself so against the severity of those laws by which Kings have thought fit to protect one another’s characters from scrutiny. Respect, and a propensity to imitation, are kindred sentiments. I hope they are not inseparable. For the abilities that could carry through a national assembly a question of supply, by the imprisonment of the Opposition—for such abilities our own most gracious sovereign feels all that respect, which is evidenced by the support his Ministers are giving to them. But let us hope the precedent will not be imported from Stockholm into Westminster.
Text. Par. 8.
“Independent of these considerations, would it become the spirit of the British nation to court the alliance of the haughty and imperious Czarina, who, when England was involved in a war with a number of enemies, assumed the air of a dictatrix of the seas, and promoted every measure that could tend to the reduction of the power of Great Britain.”
Observations on Par. 8.
My task would have been shorter if this jargon about the spirit of a nation,—courting alliances,—haughty and imperious Czarina,—air of a dictatrix,—had been left undisturbed in the school-boy’s satchel, from which it was purloined. And so we are to set Europe on fire on both ends, spread slaughter and destruction over three empires, and four or five kingdoms, to show our spirit, and that we are not courting an alliance? In return for this declamation, let me put a question to this candid “Partizan,” so superior to the ardour of serving a party: which of the two powers stands most in need of being “checked and reduced?” The power against which such methods are employed, or the power which employs them?
Text. Par. 9.
“The armed neutrality was chiefly the work of the Court of Petersburg, whereby England was deprived of the great advantages which her numerous armed vessels would have given her over her enemies, by interrupting their supplies of warlike stores.
Observations on Par. 9.
The accusation contains within itself a complete demonstration of its own injustice. This greater disadvantage, which Great Britain, it is said, experienced by the check given to her intercepting the supplies of her enemies, could have no other cause, but her superiority over those enemies; she could have no other motive for wishing that check removed. The greater the disadvantage, the greater her superiority. The armed neutrality was, therefore, a measure of self-defence, of equality, of peace. Of self-defence, as its object was, merely to protect all those northern nations against the being cut off from the disposal of almost the only articles of their produce. Of equality, because it operated either equally for and against both parties in the war, or most against the one whose overbearing power had given it the “advantage.” Of peace, because by throwing obstacles in the way of oppressive power, it tended to make the success of projects of conquest or encroachment more tedious and uncertain; and because the peaceful enterprise was pursued by no other than pacific means. One of two things, then, he has made out to demonstration: either this measure of the empress did us no harm, or it did us harm which we deserved, and which, according to his own principles, she was bound to do to us.
Text. Par. 10.
“It is true, the late King of Prussia gave likewise into that measure; but he had at least some cause to complain of the conduct of England towards him in the year 1762, while Russia was plainly actuated only by a jealousy of the great power of the British navy, which she has ever since shown a disposition to diminish.”
Observations on Par. 10.
Another cluster of absurdities, partly expressed, partly implied. That in order to know whether it be proper or no to engage in a measure hostile to another nation, the way is,—not to ask ourselves whether it would be consistent with justice, humanity, or a regard for our own interests so to do,—but in what state the temper and affections of the sovereign of that nation were upon a certain oceasion nine or ten years back. That it is possible to ascertain, or worth while to inquire, from which, out of half-a-dozen motives, any one of them capable of producing the effect, an act not in itself a hostile one, took its rise: That in point of fact, the motive which produced the effect in question was, on the part of the Empress of Russia, jealousy: on the part of the King of Prussia, resentment: That, in consideration that sixteen or seventeen years before that period, and twenty-six or twenty-seven years before the present, the angry sovereign might have conceived he had a cause for his anger, it is fit and proper now to enter into an alliance with that angry power, and against the jealous one. If considerations like these are to be sufficient grounds for war, I wonder when, and with whom, we are to be at peace. A nation with thirty ships is never to be capable of being supposed jealous of a power with a hundred and twenty, on pain of seeing its subjects’ throats cut for it at ten years’ distance, while the nation that has the hundred and twenty ships, is to be eternally jealous of the one that has thirty, and in consequence to raise up enemies to attack her as often as an opportunity presents itself.
This disposition to reduce the naval power of Great Britain, this hostile disposition which is so coolly assumed, I should be curious to know how it is to be proved? Is there any one instance where the means of keeping up that species of force have been permitted to other nations, and refused to Britain? Even since the expiration of the treaty of commerce is there any one advantage in the trade of naval stores, or in any other branch of trade, in respect of which we have been put upon worse terms than any other nation? A disposition on her part to reduce our power? How? By what acts evidenced? Surely some errata must have crept into the official documents with which this “exact stater” has been supplied. That it was Sir R. Ainslie that was olapped up in the Seven Towers, and that Mr Bulgakoff was the adviser. That it was the English fleet that was attempted, in time of peace, to be burnt at Copenhagen, and that they were Russians that seconded the patriotism of the Swedish colonel in that generous enterprise.
A circumstance, too, which this champion of equality seems to forget, is, that it was not only the jealous sovereign of Russia, and the angry sovereign of Prussia, that engaged in this supposed conspiracy against our power, but our great and good ally, the King of Sweden: All these joined in the same obnoxious measure: One is to be crushed for it; the other encouraged and supported. Such are the lessons of equity which this instructed advocate is employed to teach us.
I will not inquire what other powers joined with the foregoing. I would rather ask which did not? The documents are not before me: but I believe not one. The world we are fallen into is not only a very wicked one, but a very unaccountable one. It joins in a universal conspiracy against us. It finds us pressed by enemies; and when the junction is formed, it behaves to us and our enemies alike, without offering us the smallest injury. It is for this offence that we have embarked in the enterprise of punishing such parts of the world as are within our reach, in pious expectation of the time when it shall please God to deliver the rest of it into our hands. It is for the sovereign dispenser of unerring justice to choose his own time and his own instruments; and if, in truth, it hath pleased him to give commission to our most gracious sovereign, as successor to Attila, to scourge the world, it is for us to kiss the rod, and for the world to crouch to it. Of the existence of such a commission, I, for one, shall be satisfied when I see it produced; but the rhetoric of this declaimer, I hope, is not to pass in lieu of it.
Text. Par. 11.
“The commercial advantages which this country might derive from a treaty with Russia, the other powers in the Baltic, together with Poland, will be able in great measure to afford; whilst, from the wisdom of the present Administration, we may expect that such encouragement will be given to the cultivation, in the British dominions, of the important articles of hemp and timber, that the immense sums which are paid for them to foreign nations will in time be considerably lessened.”
Observations on Par. 11.
The political economy of this ministerial advocate is of a piece with his foreign politics. For the credit of office, I hope here at least he is not speaking from his brief. Sure I am he has not got his instructions from Dr Smith.
To prevent us from raising the important articles in question there are no legal obstacles, nor ever have been. The obstacle is, that the quantity of them that can be produced upon a given spot of ground, at a given expense, is of not so much value as the production on the same spot, at the same expense, of some other commodity. The good management, we are bid to expect from the “wisdom of Administration,” consists in the taxing the one part of the community, in order to make a purse to pay another part, for raising a less profitable crop, instead of a more profitable one. The amount of the bounty thus bestowed, of the tax thus wisely imposed and applied, constitutes pretty nearly what, according to my calculation, would be the loss by this wise measure. “No,” says this harbinger of wisdom, “it is only the deduction from the gain: For the saving of the immense sums which we now pay for hemp, and so forth, would be so much dear gain.” And true he says, if the corn, and other productions which, by the supposition, would otherwise have been raised on the same land to a greater value, would sell for nothing.
Text. Par. 12, and last.
“The system adopted by the present administration tends likewise manifestly to lessen, if not entirely to annihilate, the influence of France in Turkey and Sweden, which may probably be attended with such commercial advantages to England, with regard to the former power, that the British trade to the Levant, at present almost superseded by the French, may regain its pristine importance.”
Observations on Par. 12.
Why attempt to “annihilate,” or by violence even to “lessen,” the influence of France in Sweden, in Turkey, or anywhere else? With what hope? with what justice? with what reason? to what use? In what instance, and in what country, has France been attempting to abuse it? Do we feel, have we lately felt, in the Levant or elsewhere, any want of influence? Have we met with any hinderance there, from selling what we had to sell, from buying what we wanted to buy, except in the way of fair and peaceable competition? Are the French never to be permitted to buy anything but of us? How are they to buy anything of us, without being allowed to get anything to pay for it with? Is it so sure a thing that the French will never have hereafter any troops in their armies, any money in their treasures, any resentment of injuries in their bosoms, aud that they will always lie still to be trampled upon by the present Administration, and the present Administration’s Trumpeter? If to keep them from starving, we can prevail upon our generosity to indulge them in a small pittance of trade anywhere, can we find a more proper field for indulgence than one to which they are twice as near as we are? Is not that superior vicinity sufficient to account for whatever superiority their trade has over ours, without recurring to the unsupported supposition of superiority of influence? Can the sum total of our own trade, at any period, be extended beyond the limits which the quantity of our capital at that period has set to it? Can the sum total of the trade of France be prevented from assuming the extension which the quantity of her capital allows of? Is it to be taken for granted without proof, and against manifest probability, that a trade for which we have farther to go than the French have, must be more profitable than others for which we have not so far to go as they have? Can the wisdom of grasping at any particular branch of trade be shown any otherwise, than by showing that in that trade the gains are greater, or the expense less, than in any other branch?—and is there not in the breasts, and in the heads of merchants, a principle that will lead them to find out the most lucrative, without their being whipped to it, or whistled to it, by the “wisdom of the present administration?”
If the principles I have been reviewing were to be pursued by all who have as good a right to pursue them as we have, a war of all against all would be the consequence, and the race of man would be swept from off the earth.
There might be wisdom in blind and malignant selfishness, if, by shutting our own eyes against our own injustice, we could shut the eyes of our fellow-men; the misfortune is, that we open them but the wider.
Sir, it is not my ambition to crush insects: but better arguments than these the cause does not supply. Sir, I wage no war with harmless ignorance: but when ignorance, under the mask of superiority, steps forth to abet guilt, and a great nation is egged on to run a muck against the world, severity becomes a duty, and compassion for one gives way to sympathy for millions.—I am, Sir, yours, &c.,
These Anti-Machiavel Letters excited the resentment of George the Third. He discovered their author, and never ceased to regard Bentham in the light of a personal enemy. Bentham always attributed the Veto he put upon the Panopticon Bill, after it had passed both Houses of Parliament, to the vindictive feelings created by this correspondence.
Bentham had not mentioned to any one that he had written the first two Letters, signed Anti-Machiavel; but on the day, or the day after the Letter appeared, (so sharply attacking the policy of his unknown royal opponent,) Bentham called at Lansdowne House, and he thus relates what passed:—“ ‘You are found out,’ cried Lord L., laying hold of me, ‘Lady Lansdowne it was that detected you,’ and he told me by what mark. He was in a perfect ecstasy. His fame had been grounded, in no small degree, on his knowledge of foreign politics. Guess my astonishment, when I found the whole story new to him. Never shall I forget the rapidity with which we vibrated, arm in arm, talking over the matter in the great dining-room. A day or two after, came out, in the same paper, an answer, under the signature of a Partizan. ‘So,’ says he, ‘here’s an antagonist you have got. Do you know who he is?’ ‘Not I, indeed.’ ‘Well, I will tell you: it is the King.’ That he had means of knowing this, was no secret to me. For a considerable length of time, a regular journal of what passed at the Queen’s house, had been received by him: he had mentioned to me the persons from whom it came. The answer was, of course, a trumpery one. The word check, applied to the power of Russia, formed the whole substance of it. The communication produced on me the sort of effect that could not but have been intended. Junius had set the writings of the day to the tune of asperity. I fell upon the best of kings with redoubled vehemence. I sent the two Anti-Machiavels to Pitt the second. The war was given up.”
“Who Anti-Machiavel was, became soon known to this same ‘best of kings,’ for that was the title which the prolific virtues of his wife had conferred upon him. Imagine how he hated me. Millions wasted were among the results of his vengeance. In a way too long to state, he broke the faith of the Admiralty Board pledged to my brother. After keeping me in hot water more years than the siege of Troy lasted, he broke the faith of Parliament to me. But for him all the paupers in the country, as well as all the prisoners in the country, would have been in my hands. A penal code drawn by me would have become law. Of the Panopticon establishment, the character to which it owed its chief value in my eye, was that of a means leading to that end.”
[* ] Essay on the Usefulness of Chemistry, and its Application to the Various Concerns of Life. Murray, 1783. 8vo.
[* ] Richard Owen Cambridge, author of the “Scribleriad,” and well known in his time as a mechanical inventor.
[* ] Francis Massares, appointed a cursitor baron of the Exchequer in 1773.
[† ] Dr George Fortlyce, the celebrated physician and chemist.
[* ] See above, p. 181.
[* ] Mémoires de Brissot, publiés par son fils, avec des notes par M. F. de Montrol. 4 vols. in 8vo, Paris, 1830. Vol. ii. p. 253-557.
[* ] “A few years ago Jeremy Bentham was at Paris, and we had, therefore, the means of judging that the above description, by Brissot, is in nowise exaggerated. The highest virtue and grandeur of soul were never more openly depicted by a more noble countenance or venerable head; nor the greatest reputation ever more justly merited. Bentham must not only be considered as the most profound jurist of any age, but also as a philosopher whose writings have most enlightened humanity, and assisted the cause of liberty in our own time. For an acquaintance with the most important of Bentham’s works, France and Europe are indebted to Etienne Dumont, who is recently dead; for, however remarkable it may be, Bentham’s ‘Tactics of Popular Assemblies,’ and even his ‘Theory of Rewards and Punishments,’ published in French by Dumont, have not hitherto appeared in the language in which they were originally written. It would appear as though it were sufficient for him to see the increase of intelligence and general good by his writings, whilst he disclaimed to attach to himself all the glory of it.”—Mémoires de Brissot.—Ed.
[† ] The work formed what was afterwards published under the name of “Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.” See vol. i. of the works.
[* ] Compare Ch. xii. of Bentham’s Principles of Morals and Legislation (works, vol. i. p. 69) with Paley’s Moral and Political Philosophy, book ii. Ch. 6 and Ch. 8.
[* ] Essay on Political Tactics. See Works, vol. ii. p. 299.
[* ] See these demands, as exhibited in the official note of the Swedish minister at Petersburg, in the Gaz. de Leyd. of Aug. 12, 1783.
[† ] Viz. with Turkey.
[* ] Mr Elliott’s declaration to Count Bernstoff (May 10.)