Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Lord Lansdowne. * - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Lord Lansdowne. * - 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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Bentham to Lord Lansdowne.*
My return hither brings me to the irksome but necessary task of conclusive explanation. The subject is no secret to you. Since the starting of it, the sound of the word justice has tingled in my ears. Everything turns upon the coincidence or final disagreement of your Lordship’s version and mine. The last time I found you with the gout, and complaining of its effects on your head. This was an effectual bar to any discourse which might run any risk of adding to your uneasiness. It may be as well as it is. Conversation is apt to draw into digressions, to leave things half-explained. I revert to the first morning. Justice, you said, stood in your scale of pretension above principles. The opposition might seem singular, and would require explanation to a third person: but we understood one another; and that is the end of language. Justice, then, was to be preferred to principles. Such then is the maxim; and the application of it is, that those who have been preferred had, and as it should seem always will have, justice on their side; and that justice was not, nor ever will be, on mine. It has been my misfortune to conceive that, as to the future at least, it is I who have justice on my side, and that nobody else has; at least for anything that was said in explanation at the time.
“I admit very freely, and find the most heartfelt satisfaction in being able to acknowledge, that whatever disappointment my past hopes have met with, has nothing in it incompatible with justice: adding, with equal frankness, that that satisfaction would altogether fail me were the remnant of them to meet with the same fate.
“Another satisfaction I have is, that there did not appear the smallest disagreement between your lordship’s recollection and mine of the conversations on which those hopes were founded. You mentioned parliament to me in the precisest terms; asking me whether I should like to have a seat there. My answer was in substance, that it was more than I could possibly assure myself how far I might be able to do anything in such a situation; that, besides the want of fluency, the weakness of my voice might, for aught I knew, be an insuperable bar to my being able to make myself heard, in the literal sense of the word, in the House; but at any rate in Committees, I flattered myself I might do as well as other people. I spoke according to my fears. How could I speak otherwise on the sudden with regard to a situation of which the idea was so new to me? I think it was on that same day your lordship was pleased to say several things about my fitness in other respects for public business, and about the terms of connexion, in such a case, between a nominor and a nominee. Admitting, and not discommending, the strictness of my principles, and my singularities in that and other respects, you took notice with declared satisfaction that you saw in them, however, no reason to apprehend their rendering me, as similar causes had rendered other people whom you had put into such a situation—Lord Stanhope, for instance,—visionary and impracticable. That it was the way of some people, Lord Lonsdale, for instance, to require of his nominees an implicit observance of his will, and that that was not your way: and that though, as to the great lines, a man of course would hardly think of pitching upon one whose notions differed capitally from his own; yet, as to details, you should never think of hampering men or exacting from them any compliances incompatible with their own notions of honour and propriety.
“What was I to think of all this? Could I suppose a thing of this sort was thus thrown out and dwelt upon without reflection or design? Was there any want of time for deliberation on your part? Are these the sort of things which people throw out without a meaning? Was it that sort of thing which it was natural for a veteran statesman, a man who had been Minister so often, and in so many shapes, to toss like a bone to the first animal that came in his way, for want of knowing its value? Was it like an expedition to the play, or a morning’s walk to see pictures; a thing that might be mentioned one moment, and equally out of the memory of both parties the next? Could any man with the most decided intentions have mentioned it in a more decided manner to one of whose inclinations on that head it had not as yet occurred to him to be informed? Was there in the nature of things any other or more deliberate way of mentioning it? If it was not meant, it should be taken as an offer to raise expectations not then determined to be fulfilled, was it not natural to have intermixed something in the way of caution not to look upon it as absolute? Could I suppose that an offer thus made and dwelt upon in a têteà-tête was thrown out as a mere lure; that the only intention of it was to feed me with false hopes, to sport with my sensibility and my gratitude, with my sympathy for your own afflictions, with my honest and, as you well know, not interested ambition, and to rob of his tranquillity the man you were marking out for your bosom friend? What had I done to deserve, if any man could deserve, such treatment at your hands? Could I suppose, that to a man tortured and worried as you had been, a man of a frame of mind surely not naturally hard, and at that time, above all others, worn and softened by a complication of distress, it was a matter of amusement to look out for some obscure and unoffending individual, whom he might bite, on pretence of an embrace, and that all this confidence, and tenderness, and kindness, was only a project for a good joke?
“Could there be a more decided bargain in a transaction which, from the very nature of it, was all grace and kindness on the one hand, all gratitude on the other? Was it not, to every intent and purpose, but the technical form of words, a promise? Was it natural, in such a case, for the one party to superadd, or possible for the other to require, a formal promise; or, consistently with the smallest particle of gratitude or delicacy, to spell for such a thing in the most distant manner, or to conceive that it would superadd anything to his security? Was there anything, on my part, like a declining of the offer? Was it so much as a nolo episcopari? Did not frankness rather outstrip delicacy than otherwise in going even so far as I did to meet it?
“Did the mention of the business come from anybody but yourself? Was there the shadow of a project, or so much as a hope or thought on my part? Did I take you unawares, as designing men used to take Lord Granby? Lord Granby used to look upon himself as bound by such engagements, though stolen from him by artifice. Shall Lord Lansdowne look upon such offers as nothing, because made by him of his own accord to a man whose only reproach is that of simplicity?
“That it was a decided offer, which, when coupled with acceptance, makes a promise, I could not suffer myself to doubt; one thing only prevented me from regarding it as an unconditional and immediate one. The only vacancy apparently in view, was that which seemed the natural result of your breach with Colonel Barré. I could not tell, from anything you had at that time said to me, whether the breach was absolutely irreparable: I could not tell whether, in the event of its being irreparable, some positive engagement or notions of expediency might not induce you to leave him in possession of his seat. Those two points, it seemed natural to suppose, might, one or both of them, still remain undecided in your mind. This consideration was of itself perfectly sufficient to prevent my introducing the subject or saying a syllable more upon it at any time, than what your own communications expresaly called for, Was it for me to take advantage of a recent resentment to do anything that might widen the breach, to endeavour to contribute directly or indirectly to your taking any step which, in your cooler moments, might be productive of regret? The subject was distressing to you: in the nature of things it could not but be so in the highest degree: what you found relief in telling me, I heard with that sort of sympathy which you did not doubt of: what you did not tell me I forbore to ask for. Conscious that nothing in my power could lessen your affliction, all that remained for me was to take care not to say anything that by prying into and probing into it might render it more acute.
“If such as I have mentioned were my grounds for not being able to look upon the offer in any other light than that of a serious one, considering it in itself, and independently of all past discourses and professions—how much stronger those grounds appear when fortified by such a reference! How much had been said, and how frequently, in public as well as in private, indeed in a manner much more public than I wished, in the way of self-accusation, for not having done anything for me at a time when the means of doing so were in hand? When an offer so distinct, so expressly made, of a matter of another kind, which was so perfectly within power, and so much more valuable to me: Could I draw a line and say to myself, all that has gone before had a meaning, but this which is now mentioned has none?
“In this honourable and substantial offer, as it appeared to me, I beheld, as I thought, a rich amends, not for any neglect in not providing for me in another way,—for, God knows, I neither ever had, nor ever conceived myself to have the smallest foundation for complaint on that score,—but for the mode in which that supposed cause of complaint had so frequently been brought upon the carpet.
“The first time of my hearing anything to that effect, was in your powdering room—Lord Wycombe either present, or backwards and forwards during the time. I had furnished you, at your desire, with a short paper on evidence, on the occasion of Hastings’ trial. It was from that slight incident you seemed to take occasion, most perfectly to my surprise, to call to mind your having never done anything for me when in power—to speak of it with regret—to take notice of my never having asked you for anything—to express a sort of sensibility at the thoughts of my not having done so—to remark the difference betwixt me and many, or most others, in that respect, Scotchmen in particular—to recount a conversation that had passed between you and my father, on the occasion of your expressing similar sentiments to him—and, in conclusion, to give me a formal commission to consider what would best suit me in the event of your coming again into office. At the hearing of all this, my surprise was extreme, and my satisfaction, to confess the truth, not extraordinary. Compassion, which was the tone that pervaded the whole, was a sentiment which it was never my ambition to excite; and the prospect it afforded me, however new and unexpected, did not, I must confess, present itself in the shape of an equivalent for a sensation which drew the blood into my face. Neither then, nor ever, was it in my nature to take otherwise than in good part, what appeared to me to have kindness for its principle. It would have been more consistent with that delicacy, of which, on so many other occasions, I have witnessed and experienced such striking and abundant marks, and not inconsistent either with the occasion, with former declarations to myself, or even, if I apprehend it right, with the usual style of civility on such occasions, if the idea of money had been masked under that of a regret of not having sought an opportunity of giving the public the advantage of whatever services the talents of the person in question might have enabled him to render.
“Parliament was then not mentioned, or even hinted at, unless in as far as it might be supposed to be glanced at under the name of politics, which it was supposed, and by no means without grounds, that I should not be very eager to take a part in: but that a place at one of the Boards was what you had in view. Supposing that I should not like it, seemed a civil way of saying that it was not designed for me—that I was not the sort of person to whom it would be offered. I took it for what it was, and was not so weak, with all my simplicity, as to grasp with eagerness at a shadow, which was shown me, only to tell me that I must not grasp at it.
“Having heard thus much, I was in hopes that I had heard it once for all, and that I should hear no more of it. A second surprise, on the same subject, was still reserved for me. The same story of the conversation with my father, was afterwards repeated publicly at dinner, in presence of, I believe, several strangers, and, at any rate, the usual complement of servants. I consoled myself more under the effect by the consideration of the cause: though the cause might, or might not continue, and the effect was permanent. Little ambitious of the fruits of dependence, I was, of course, still less ambitious of the badge. It seemed to me, that, as the one had not been put into my hand, the other ought not, without my consent, to have been forcibly and publicly clapped upon my back. But though mortified, I was not angry. I have never known what it was to be angry with you for a moment; God knows, you have never given me reason for it until now. In my eyes, it was a humiliation, but, in yours, it seemed an elevation. My name was entered in form upon the Preferment-Roll: this was to serve as a sort of public testimony of the degree of favour to which I had risen: this, you thought, and, I suppose, thought truly, would raise me in the eyes of the surrounding audience. Raise me or not in their eyes, it did not raise me in my own. Once more, I flattered myself that there was an end of such honours: could I have foreseen when they would have been repeated, I would have taken sufficient care to have kept out of the way of them. Still, I thanked you for it in my heart: for, once more, it is not in my nature, any more than I believe it to be in yours, to take any otherwise than as a kindness what seemed meant as such.
“One more of these honours, though not quite so heavy a one, was yet in store for me. It was at Bowood, amongst others, Barré and Blankett present, as well as the ladies, and, once more, I believe, servants. Three persons were mentioned as the number of your friends, whom you had done nothing for; and I was pointed to as one. How could I help myself? complaint would have seemed at once ungrateful and ridiculous. This was what I did not like; what I did like, I need not particularize—everything else you ever said to me, or did by me. Thus it was, that without my seeking, and without my liking, your livery was forced upon my back: but a livery, my dear lord, should have wages, at least where they have been promised. The promised wages, the only ones then in hand, and the only ones, were there ever so many in hand, that would suit me, are now refused, as well in present as in future. The Duke of Somerset, upon meeting with I don’t know what disappointment from George II., carted his liveries with great parade to the palace, and shot them down in the court-yard. My livery will not be shot down in the court-yard: it will be laid down silently in the drawer, with a God-bless-him to the master who once chose that I should wear it.
“Once more, it is a great comfort to me to think that in our recollections relative to the matters of fact, there did not seem to be the smallest difference between us. You agreed with me perfectly as to the offer: your only plea was a sort of presumption of non-acceptance, confirmed by a supposition relative to my wishes, entertained on the part of an unnamed common friend, and my subsequent silence.—Collect my wishes from construction,—from implication,—from suppositions formed by a third person?—the wishes of a man who was living with you like one of your family?—of a man whom you had taken under your own roof? By what logic did you arrive at the conclusion of forbearing to ask the only one person in the world who could know anything about the matter? In either of two suppositions, what could be more simple than to put the question to me? If I accepted, you crowned my wishes, while you gratified what, at one time, surely were your own. If I declined, you gave me, at no expense, one of the highest, as well as most substantial demonstrations of affection and esteem one man can give another. Instead of that, you said nothing; turned aside from me, and looked to other people, as if acting forgetfulness could make me forget in reality a thing so impossible to be forgotten, and which you certainly would neither have expected at the time, nor wished to see forgotten, as far as concerned the gratitude that, in a mind not wholly insensible, must have been the certain fruits of it.
“But I had been silent. True it is I had so. To have been otherwise, I must have thrown off two parts of my character. One is, not to beg; another is, not to pry into secrets, and least of all into the secrets of my nearest and dearest friends. Is there anything wrong in either? Is there anything in them for which I deserve to suffer? Lucrative things I never begged of you,—because it has never happened to me to be distressed,—because it is not in my nature to beg, not being distressed,—because it has never happened to me to covet anything of that sort; nor do I know of anything of that sort that I should think it worth while to purchase at that price. The only thing I ever did covet was the opportunity of trying whether I could be of any use to the country and to mankind in the track of legislation, or, not to frighten you with a word which you may suppose to be in my vocabulary, synonymous to wild projects of regeneration, parliamentary business: nor even that could I be said to covet, till you made me; for there is no coveting where there has never been any hope. To what purpose should I have begged? To have reminded you? Such things are not so soon forgotten. What would have been the effect of begging? To have lessened the value of the gift, both to the giver and receiver. Should I have increased my chance by it? I thought more highly of you than to suppose so. If I was mistaken in you,—if I did you more than justice,—if you part with nothing but to purchase homage and supplication, it is fair to tell you, if the experience you have had of me has not sufficiently told you already, I am not your man. Your whole behaviour to me, unless the instances just mentioned be exceptions, has been a perfect model of honour and true dignity, and sincere friendship and generous attention. What reason had I to presume exceptions, and how was I to divine them? One simple course have I always taken to divine what you would do, which was—to consider what would be the noblest and most worthy of you.
“Another reason against mentioning it to you was, my aversion to the idea of prying into your secrets. Accustomed to view things in the great, this virtue, if it be one, costs me less, perhaps, than most people. I do not so much as know the state of my own father’s affairs: he has given it me before now upon paper, and I have returned the paper unopened. Many times has he desired me to hear it, and as often have I stopped his mouth; because at other times I have observed him solicitous to keep this or that part from me. I have my mother’s marriage settlement in my keeping, as executor to her brother; my father, I suppose, thinks I have it by heart, and I have never looked at it. What communications you have made me at different times relative to the state of your affairs, I have as often received with the greatest pleasure. Why?—because it was a gratification to me to know the facts? no: but because they were so many proofs of your friendship and confidence. Whatever you have not told me, I have concluded it was your wish I should not know. So far from asking you, I have forborne, for the same reason, asking anybody else. When anybody asks me for my opinion, I question them directly, and without scruple, with regard to all facts which I want, in order to make up my opinion, so I question them, and there I stop: directly nor indirectly, with regard to any other.
“This was a subject, of all others, on which it was impossible for me to think of putting questions, or entering into it a jot further than where you thought fit of your own accord to lead me. It was your breach with Col. B. that presented the only probability of a vacancy, I could observe. It was upon his going out, that my coming in seemed, according to my hypothesis, to depend. Asking you to put me in, would have been urging you to turn him out. I saw reasons upon reasons, for not choosing to do anything that might stand the smallest chance of rendering me accessary to any such step. Whether he deserved it at your hands was more than I could possibly be assured, having heard so very little of the particulars, and that only on one side. The breach might not be irreparable. I could not tell what danger there might be to yourself in carrying it to such a height, after so long and confidential a connexion. What little I knew of the man, I had never liked,—another reason for not combating him in an oblique way. It was a subject that, for some time, could not but give you pain, as often as it was brought to your recollection; and which, therefore, unless when you yourself introduced it, I am pretty sure of having never mentioned to you.
“So much for the sort of justice which my unfortunate expectations had been built upon for their support. It certainly did not amount to either Westminster Hall or Smithfield justice. No action could have been brought upon it. No valuable consideration, no quid pro quo, in the case, most certainly.
“God knows, it has never fallen in my way to render you the smallest particle of service; the nature of our respective situations scarce admits of it.
“But what was the sort of justice that was opposed to me? The whole extent of it I cannot pretend to fathom. Two of its rules, however, were sufficiently announced. Two classes of men have an indefeasible right to seats from you: every man who has ever given you a vote, and every man of your acquaintance who has ever tried to get in elsewhere. This is the justice that is to drive ‘principles’ out of doors, and with them, not me only, but all that you love or esteem. Justice is an imposing word: and the sound of it, added to the singularity of the explanations that followed it, left me no other choice than that of attention. I listened, therefore, while the explanations ran their length, picking up facts as far as they were to be picked up by listening; thinking it better to leave them in the obscurity that surrounded them, than to attempt clearing it up by questioning where the right was wanting, and choosing rather to submit to embarrassment, than to cause it to no purpose. The one thing material, the want of the disposition, I had been unfortunate enough to depend upon, was sufficiently legible: the weaker the reasons alleged for refusal, the stronger the determination they served to indicate. Having got thus much, I had got enough to meditate upon, as much as I had any right to ask, and as much as it concerned me to obtain. All my regret is, that these laws of justice, such as they are, were not promulgated at the time that parliament was so distinctly mentioned to me. I should not then have had to complain of a departure from a sort of justice, according to my apprehension, rather more simple and intelligible. It would then have passed as a compliment; and as such, I should have been flattered with it. Willingly as I would have been excused the honour of being pointed at in public as a fit object of charity, which happily I have no occasion for—neither in public nor in private should I have had any objection to have been mentioned as often as you had pleased, as a fit object of choice for parliament.
“Here, then, if it were in my power to thoroughly comprehend your decided inclination, and reconcile it with itself, I should take my leave of you: inclination, if I saw it clearly and definitively against me, would leave no room for reasoning: arguing is apt enough to stifle inclination, but it is very ill calculated to produce intention where there is none.
“But what perplexes me, is, that to this phantom of justice not only my expectations have been sacrificed, and our common principles, but other persons, for whom it was impossible for me to doubt of your affection, whatever may be the case as towards myself.
“You bring to view two sets of persons for your three spare seats—the set now sitting, and another of which I am one. The latter united in principles and affections with you and with each other; all of these honoured by your esteem, and more or less of your regard: two in particular, affectionate in their nature, and having every reason to be so in a more particular manner towards you, distinguished by such marks of your affection and intimacy as do not appear to be possessed by anybody else. The other set composed of three men, who, amongst them all, neither possess, nor pretend to possess, a grain either of affection or of what we mean by principle: men who neither live so much with you, nor, to appearance, in a style of equal intimacy, and whose principles, if they had any, would be as opposite to your own, as any you could meet with. Such, in brief, is the description of your two sets: what is to be their fate? The men after your own heart are to have heaven’s gates everlastingly shut against them. The men you care nothing about, are the men to enter for ever into the joy of their Lord. All this you tell me in the plainest terms: and to explain a conduct otherwise so inexplicable, you give me the sound of the word justice.
“To come to something that shall be intelligible at least, give me leave to dispose of the word justice, and translate it into ambition, which is what it means, if it means anything. In the name of God, my lord, what are these shadows for which you are sacrificing everything and everybody? What in the scale of politics can be the weight of a parliamentary interest, as far as mere members are concerned, of which the sole constituent elements are as many votes, neither more nor less, as three seats can purchase: for Lord Wycombe’s is not yet at market; he is not yet called up nor chosen for a county? But let all possibilities of every kind, and even impossibilities, be taken for realities, and you have four seats. Four seats are four votes: and let the prospect of these four seats give you four votes more to retreat to in case of a repulse from others; though, as often as a repulse actually happens to take place, for instance Mr Baring’s, the number is diminished, as the same seat will not hold two men at the same time. Call them eight: if you please, multiply them by ten, and call them eighty: what, upon the face of God’s earth, are you to do with these eighty votes? What one single point can you hope to gain by it? Is it in the power of eight or of eighty votes to make you minister, or to keep you minister, when the gods have made you so; or so much as keep your head from the block, were they to give their own instead of it? There are, I take it, two plans for carrying things in parliament; per capita and per stirpes—doing it by numbers, or doing it by weight. The plan per capita, though rather a difficult one, has been said, I think, to have once been pursued by I forget which minister, to keep himself in; but for a man who is not minister to get himself in by pursuing the plan per capita, and that upon the strength of four actual votes, and as many possible ones, is what, I must confess, I should not have thought of. Two things, and two things only, can either put or keep you in: king’s favour, and weight of reputation. For the king’s favour, if it depend upon such conditions, you have full license from me to make every sacrifice. I require of flesh and blood no more than flesh and blood are equal to. Lay all your principles at his feet. Send both sets of us packing, the ins and the outs, with Lord Wycombe into the bargain. Surrender your boroughs to Lord Hawkesbury. But will the king’s favour be governed in any shape by your four or your eight votes; or rather by the difference between your four votes, which you are sure of, and your eight, which is the utmost your four can give? Are your four or your eight votes, then, any better security for the requisite quantum of reputation? As to mere personal reputation, that is equally out of the question in any case. The plan for weight of reputation in parliament is the plan per stirpes. This was the plan you appeared formerly to pursue: and personal inclination and politics went at that time hand in hand. Dunning, I think I have understood from you, you had an affection for: Townshend at any rate; and I suppose Barré at one time. Dunning, though a narrow-minded man, and a mere lawyer, was a most able advocate; and, I daresay, drew a considerable stirps after him. Townshend was of use to you in the city. I believe at one time he governed it. Barré, though he knew nothing, was a good party bull-dog, barked well, and with great imposition and effect, where nothing was necessary to be known. This was acting per stripes; and having a party, and having a piece at least of a great state engine, though, if you had got a whole one, there was not a man of them all that had any idea of any use it was to be put to, or of any good that was to be done with it. To the herd of statesmen power is its own end: by the dignified few it is regarded only as a means to an end. There have been times when I have had the pleasure of seeing your lordship ranking yourself among those few: I wish I could say always. You had then at that time of day a Shelburne party, and which, whatever were the subjects, was the more honourable to the head of it, as he reigned alone. A party which, by mere weight of reputation, told in the balance against the great aristocracy of the country. It was then, as they say at cricket, Shelburne against all England. In comparison, upon the present plan, or rather no plan, what is the party come to now? In the House of Commons there is not a grain of reputation belonging to any one member of it below the head. It is the old story of the Colossus, with the head of gold and legs of clay. It is all head and no body: the figure we see at the puppet show; below the head, there is not a grain of reputation to be found; what the Rump Parliament was in comparison with the Long Parliament in its glory. I beg pardon of the Rump; at that time of day, wherever it was not admired, it had at least the honour of being hated to a degree which it could not have been if it had not been feared. Here it is pure derision and contempt. I speak feelingly—I have a right to do so; its humiliation is mine—is still worse humiliation to me.
“As to the present rump of the ci-devant Shelburne party, the curious thing is, that there is nothing I could say to you of their insignificance in which you have not gone before me. It is not my opinion of them I am giving you, but your own opinion, repeatedly and most explicitly declared, and that to me. In the ordinary course of things, it is a satisfaction to a man where he finds his own judgment of men or things confirmed by the public voice. This satisfaction, if such it were in your case, nobody need wish to possess in a higher degree than you do. It is singular enough, but no less singular than strictly true, that from the time your choice was known, to the present, I have not been in a single company, your own particular friends excepted, (for none of us confer even with one another about such matters, or sit in judgment together over you) not a single person have I seen, who has not obtruded upon me his wonder at your choice. A few, whose degree of familiarity admitted of such discourse, went so far as to express their wonder at not finding me in the number; but whether I, who am out, was alluded to or no, there was but one voice with regard to those who are in. ‘How came Jarvis to be pitched upon, of all people in the world? a very good man on board of ship; but what is he to do, or what did he ever do, in Parliament?’ ‘What? of all men in the world, could he find nobody but Jekyll? How could he think of such a man as that for Parliament!’ ‘Put Jekyll into Parliament! it is quite a burlesque upon Parliament the very idea of it,’ said another man, in so many words, with abundance of details to the same effect. With others, the last choice was matter of particular surprise; for I found he was understood to be a dull man, and that even by dull men,—by men who neither had, nor ever pretended to have, an opinion of their own; and only spoke, as they could only speak, from his general character in the profession. Nor, in all, was there anything of party or personal dislike; among people of all sorts and characters and parties, I found but one and the same language. Such has been the gauntlet I have had to run. What could I say? I who, as being supposed to be in the secret, was examined, as it were, upon interrogatories? I put on airs of significance, and said what little I could, as shortly as I could: of one, an old connexion; of another, a legacy; of another, he was in before. I suffered in all manners of ways: I suffered for you; I suffered for myself;—for if these men are so low, whereabouts am I who have been put under their feet? All this I have had fermenting within me, without vent; for since you first began to open to me, and since I have learned to fancy myself entitled to call you friend, in no one instance have I ever thought of putting any creature breathing between you and me.
“Insignificant as they are, it would be something if they were yours: obsequiousness might make some amends for ignorance and inefficiency: but another curious thing is, that they are no more yours than they are the king’s, or Pitt’s, or Fox’s. Your men? Could you find three men in the House that were less so, or less solicitous to appear so? They your men? You are their man, if you please: but in what sense any one of them is your man, except by vouchsafing to sit now and then in the seat you have given him, I should be curious to know. So much as to principles. Whether they are yours or no, for the purpose of being let out to private jobs, such as the Duchess of Rutland’s, for instance, I cannot pretend to say. But if they are, what is that worth to you? What satisfaction or advantage did you get, for example, in that very instance?
“The use of a practising lawyer is the having a man who, besides whatever knowledge he may have in his profession, has studied speaking,—a man who, having no opinion of his own, is ready to say, upon all occasions, whatever is put into his mouth. His business should be to catch your opinions, and argue from them, in and out of the House, as he would from his brief. The seat you give him is his retaining fee; if he is not your âme damnée, he is a rebel and a traitor. A man who is ready to prove black white for anybody for a guinea,—is it for a man like that to have a will or an opinion of his own, against that of a man who gives him what is worth £4000?
“In the House, members are supposed to speak the sentiments of their electors: everywhere else they are supposed to speak the sentiments of the boroughmaster who puts them in. Your members, if ever they open their mouths, whose are the sentiments they will speak? Yours?—no more than they will those of the people of Calne or Wycombe. They speak your sentiments? They neither would be able if they wished it, nor would if they were able. They speak your sentiments? You will scarce venture to speak your own sentiments when these men are by. When the beginnings of the French revolution were on the carpet at Bowood, you scarce durst own your good wishes on its behalf; while Jekyll, who has, in general, so many good jokes, was exhausting himself in bad ones to endeavour to make it look ridiculous.
“What would be the D. de la Rochefoucauld’s thoughts, were he to know of this affair? Could he have imagined that the man whom you were so eager to get him to make a legislator for France, was the very man whom, having it in your power to make a Member of Parliament in England, you had resolved not to put into that station, even after having given him so much reason to expect it? Would it have been his conclusion, that a man who would not have shrunk from the task of muttering his broken French in a French assembly, was determined, through mere sense of inability, not to attempt talking his own language in an English one?
“What a pity (if Lord Lansdowne had happened to be at the same time in his thoughts)—what a pity he might naturally have thought that such a man has not been able to get an introduction to such a man, for example, as Lord Lansdowne—a man whose passion for merit in all its shapes, not only fills up his own great and liberal mind in private life, but breaks all bounds when he is Minister, and overflows into the King’s speech.
“ ‘The Newton of legislation,’ was the epithet given by Fitzherbert to the author of a certain unreadable quarto volume in the presence of Charles Abbot, in a circle of foreign ambassadors at the Hague; by which it should seem that Lord Lansdowne is perhaps not the only man who looks upon the same obscure person as ‘understanding the subject a hundred times beyond any man in England.’
“Reserving to yourself whatever lies within the province of judgment, might not a use be found now and then, if it were only in the way of saving trouble, for an invention, fertile in expedients of all sorts, and capable of presenting in all manner of shapes, not only what is best to be done, but all possible contrivances for bringing about whatever is determined to be done?
“A man does not choose his children, he must take them such as God gives them to him, with such opinions as they have. But members for his boroughs surely he might choose, and with them the sentiments by which his are to be represented. There are two ways of providing for the exactness of such a representation.
“To answer my purpose, if that were all, one remove at the next General Election would be sufficient, and the demands of what I look upon as justice, at least all that I know of them, would be satisfied. But to answer your Lordship’s purpose, the purpose of your consistency, your own better judgment and your own fame, nothing would completely serve short of a general clearance, a complete triumph of your better judgment over your worse. Worse off you cannot be; and what chance can you give yourself for being better off without trial? You will then be represented as much as you choose to be so; you will have the commencement of a little party, whose spirit will be willing, howsoever their flesh may be weak. ‘New principles will, they must—in time—prevail.’ How often have you said so to me for my consolation? When will you say so? How is it they are to prevail if nobody is to begin to preach them? Is it by your means you could wish to see them prevail, or in spite of you?
“Whether one only went out, or whether they all went out, what would you lose, or what reason would any one of them have to complain?
“Morris, I think, had two merits. He had tried at Bath, and he was to help settle Calne. Yes: try at Bath he did, and you see what came of it. Three votes out of—what was the number—forty, fifty, or sixty? This was his proof of importance. In Westminster Hall, in his own profession,—that sordid and narrow-minded profession, which you would be glad to despise, and which I, your humble dependant, despise, give me leave to say so, a little more at my ease,—he is nobody. In the country, as something between the country gentleman and the country lawyer, he was supposed to be somebody; and you see what it amounts to. He has done conveyancing business for you as for others: Did you not pay him for it as others have done, and at least as well as others have done? Is a seat in Parliament to be given as a fee to a conveyancer, and as a make-weight too, after another fee, which certainly was not an insufficient one? This parliamentary fee, however, since such has been your pleasure, he has actually had: is he to have another, and another too, to the end of his life? But he had been spending his money, I think you said, or something like it, in Bath. He spend money? How? What did he spend it in? in buying votes? What! Those votes! would any man in his senses go to give one farthing for three out of forty votes? And for whom would he have been spending his money if he had spent any? for you? for anybody that belonged to you? If he had got into Bath, would this have made Bath your borough? would it have made Bath your borough any more than mine? not but that it would have been as much your borough as Calne is, if it is to be filled by people who neither think with you, nor live with you, nor care for you, nor are, in any sense, related to you, except by sitting there. But he was to settle Calne; and his settling Calne was to be an advantage to Lord Wycombe. Morris settle Calne? Let him settle Bath first, where he has connexions, viz.: three votes; it will then be time enough for him to think of settling Calne where he has none. And if he had had Bath to settle, what would have become of Calne? Calne wants settling? how long has that been? How long is it since you told me it was in such good order, that even the feasts, which were so necessary when I first knew the place, had been given up? But suppose it to want settling, and that he were capable of settling it, and had settled it: who would he have settled it for but himself? So long as he was in it, it remained settled. When he was gone, who was to settle it then? Is a borough thus circumstanced, your borough? No: so long as Mr Morris is in it, it is Mr Morris’s borough; as soon as he is out of it, it is anybody’s or nobody’s. However, he has had his fee for settling it,—a seven year’s seat in it. Is not this fee sufficient? Is the seat to be his for life? Were it to be intimated to him in civil terms, that sitting in it seven years was fee sufficient for settling it during that time, would he think himself underfee’d or ill used? Would he turn upon you, and endeavour to unsettle it, by way of payment for his seat? Was it not you that gave him his silk gown? and what has he ever done for his silk gown, either for the public or for you? Was not his silk gown a sufficient fee for doing nothing, and for the credit you have derived from the countenance this great man has vouchsafed to show you? As for living with you much, I do not find that this has ever been the case. Why should he have lived with you? What one idea have you and he in common? Now then, my Lord, to speak explicitly as between me and Mr Morris. What is past was previous to explanation,—it is past: but as to the future, now that you know pretty distinctly that parliament is not indifferent to me, if I am to understand that for such a place as parliament, such a man as Mr Morris is stands above me, my doom is sealed. It is for you to take which of us you please: take him, and I make my bow.
Mr Jekyll’s merits stand upon very different grounds. Weight of any kind he is not so much as supposed to have anywhere,—in parliament or anywhere else. Nor have his claims the support even of the new-invented laws of justice. But they have a much stronger. These laws are of the same cobweb texture as so many other laws. They stop small flies like me: great hornets like Mr Jekyll laugh at them. His post in the household is that of tale-bearer, and in that station he has been pronounced absolutely necessary; I am sure I do not mistake,—in that quality he has been repeatedly mentioned to me, and never in any other. Nothing can be more explicit: nothing can be more of a piece with that frankness which in simple truth, and without anything of sarcasm, has so often charmed me. Frankness like this on one part, calls for equal frankness on the other. You may propese to me a place in your household, below that of tale-bearer: below that of scullion, if you please: when I accept of it, I shall deserve it. Things were not then explained; now they are. What is past is past: but as to the future, if a tale-bearer is to be preferred to me for parliament, the same household does not hold the tale-bearer and me. The character I should have given him, without pretending to much affection for him, were anybody to ask me for his character, would have been such an one as he would probably have been less unwilling to own: a very pretty poet; a man without an equal, perhaps, for small-talk, and ready wit, and repartee, and powers of entertainment adapted to the taste of fashionable circles,—a man qualified to shine, in short, in almost all sorts of circles; that commanding one excepted, in which the public spirited Lord Lansdowne, in compliment to the company, and to show his sense of the importance of the trust, has thought good to place him, or any other in which there may occasionally be a demand for serious knowledge. But such has never been the character in which he has been mentioned, pronounced necessary, and as such preferred to me. I, for my part, know neither of that nor any other quality in myself that can render me anything like necessary to anybody: especially to one to whom a tale-bearer is also necessary. Upon this ground, therefore, once more, there remains nothing for me but to make my bow.
“But admitting the tale-bearer to be necessary to a great minister, is a seat in parliament, and that from your Lordship, and that a perpetual one, equally necessary to the tale-bearer? Three or four years in parliament he has had already: seven years more he will have at any rate. Is not a ten years spent in parliament a fee considerable enough for ten or even twenty years spent in tale-bearing? That is, for the value of three weeks or four every year so employed, at the outside. Would the tale-bearer, if given to understand that his interest in the borough was not a freehold, turn tail upon his patron, and turn his tales into lampoons? Would he so much as cease his tales for want of a perpetual succession of refreshers to the first retaining fee, and sing the song of ‘No Pay, no Swiss?’ I should not presume so badly either of his gratitude or his discretion. Is a seat in parliament the only sort of fee which a practising lawyer, and he not very rich, nor as yet much abounding in fees of the more substantial kind, will vouchsafe to take? Is your lordship’s countenance, and business, and recommendation in his profession, a matter of indifference to a man so circumstanced? Will nothing pay him but a seat in a place where he is nobody—where he does nothing, nor has any notion of anything that is to be done? Would visions of Welch judgeships and solicitor-generalships, and silk gowns to be put on at the second coming of our Lord, be of no value in his eyes? Or are such contingencies baits for none but simple men like me? If nothing but serving in parliament will serve him, would not seven years warning be time enough for him to look out for another service? Could he be at a loss to meet with one, now that your lordship has given him a lift, and put him in the track? Or is it really the case, that, of all his numerous acquaintance, Lord Lansdowne is the only proprietor of a borough that would not be ashamed to make this use of it? Would not those qualities which have rendered him so necessary to a great statesman and a veteran minister, be expected to render him at least equally so to many and many a patron of more ordinary mould? Many are the strings he cannot but have to his bow: I have,—or, by this time, perhaps, I may say I had—but one string to my bow, and that (must I now add?) a rotten one.
“One Swiss there was you might have had, that would have lived and died with you, and have been as domestic and as faithful to you as your porter, if his evil genius had not whispered to you, that Swisses do not serve without pay, and therefore you must be talking to him about pay. Pay, you accordingly held up to him, the only sort of pay he cared about: he caught at it—you drew it back—and now, he too, like other Swisses, cries—No Swiss, if there is to be no pay.
“When I tell you, that I should never have said anything about pay to you, or hinted to you, directly or indirectly, a syllable about pay of any kind—not even a seat in parliament, if you had not to me, I expect to be believed. Even parliament, you might have talked to me about it as long as you pleased—talked to me about other men, or even asked me whom you should put there, without your so much as hearing of my existence. So long as I was out of the question, and no direct comparisons made, you might have talked of your valet-de-chambre to me, or your butler, without my proposing myself in preference.
“Of my own chance of turning out capable of doing anything in parliament I shall say little here though I could have a good deal to say on that chapter, had I any right to suppose it would be worth your hearing. Faculties depend upon spirits: spirits depend upon situation. They do so in most men: they do so particularly in me. The spirits which you see now are but the dregs of those you might have given me. Neither you nor I can ever know what I might have been, if you had pleased. Thus much only will I add, that were I to be a discredit to you, most certainly you would not be half so anxions to see me out as I should be in haste to go out; and I should consider myself as a discredit to you, if, like your present set, I sat like a chip in porridge, and took no part in business, or none that was to any purpose.
“If it were known that I could speak what I write, and as I write, I am apt to think I should not be held quite so cheap as I now seem to be. Speaking and writing are two very different things. But because a man has been thought to write tolerably, does it follow that he can never be able to speak at all, and that he ought to be set down? Does not writing as well as speaking presuppose thinking, and is a man, merely for the misfortune of being thought to write well, to be pronounced incapable of speaking at all, and to be put below those who can neither speak nor write? Is it not true, that before a man can speak good things, he must have them in his head? Can a man speak good things without having them in his head; or is it to be concluded that he has not them in his head because he writes them?
“Or is it that a man that studies his parliamentary or other business is a pedant, and a pedant is not fit to sit among fine gentlemen; and therefore the fitter a man is for the business of parliament, the less fit it is for you to put him there? This I suspect to be the logic that has overpowered the united force of affection, principles, and justice.
“I set out with acknowledging, my lord, that as no fixed time was mentioned in what you were pleased to say to me [about parliament,] though you have forgot and slighted me, I cannot as yet charge you with having deceived me. What you will now do, if your notions about justice should fortunately correspond to mine, is to give me an absolute and unconditional promise that I shall sit in the next parliament, whosoever does or does not sit there: for as to the possibilities upon possibilities with which you condescended to entertain me, they returned forthwith to the clouds from whence they came. Upon these terms, my heart, if it be worth your acceptance, is still yours. In any other event, I have nothing left but to beg of you and the ladies to forget me, which will take you half an hour; and to study to forget you, which will be the hard task of the remainder of my life.
“One thought hangs particularly heavy upon me: When I was last with you, you wanted me to stay. You pressed me with a degree of earnestness I had never observed before. You were ill: the gout was in your head: and in such a state, such a trifle as even my restiveness might make you worse. It hurt me cruelly to break from you: but it was necessary. I could not look as I felt without being guilty of disrespect to the ladies, drawing attention and spoiling company. I could not attempt to look otherwise without a sort of falsehood I feared I should not be able to support. You and they know I have no liking to last times: and an interview which, besides being a first time, was so likely to be the last of all last times, was more than I had force to venture upon.
“It was my hope to have lived and died with you. There was not a place upon earth to which I would not have followed you: but that must take its chance.
“All this while I have never dared face my father. I have not been able to master up resolution to stand the parallel that, by this time, has so often been drawn between the conduct of a noble duke towards one side of the family, and that of a noble marquis towards the other; nor the strictures that have been made on the difference between apparent and real friendship, between profession and performance. I have not seen him, nor will I see him, until I have it in my power to tell him distinctly, either that the Lord Lansdowne—of whose affection and esteem for me, and passion for serving me, he has heard so much from that same Lord Lansdowne—has stood to his word and bound me to him for ever, or started from it and set me free.”
Lord Lansdowne’s reply does him much honour, and leaves no doubt that Bentham had mistaken his intention:—
[* ] Taken from a scroll.