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V ILLAGED by all the world, he remains always wealthy,» Talleyin rand said of Bentham; and in quoting the sentence ProfesNuoan sor Holland says that “to trace the results of his teachings in England alone would be to write the history of the legislation of half a century." Taking from Beccaria the maxim that all government should be a mode of securing the greatest possible good to the greatest possible number of people, he became a power in his own generation and, through John Stuart Mill, one of the controlling intellectual forces of the nineteenth century. It is said that “the reading of Dumont's exposition of Bentham's doctrines in the "Traité de la Législation was an epoch in Mill's life, awakening in him an ambition as enthusiastic and impassioned as a young man's first love."
Bentham was born in London, February 15th, 1748. It is said that at “three years old, he read eagerly such works as Rapin's History) and began the study of Latin,” and that a year or two later he learned the violin and French conversation.” This assertion made by Professor Holland, of Oxford, is no more incredible than is the actual achievement of Bentham's mature intellect, illustrated in the results of his attempts to force England away from feudalism. He lived to be eighty-five years old, dying June 6th, 1832.
PUBLICITY THE SOLE REMEDY FOR MISRULE
M ISRULE is bad government; it comprehends whatsoever is M opposite to good government. A government is good in
proportion as it contributes to the greatest happiness of the greatest number; namely, of the members of the community in which it has its place. Rule may therefore come under the denomination of misrule in either of two ways; either by taking for its object the happiness of any other number than the greatest, or by being more or less unsuccessful in its endeavors to contribute to the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
No government having anywhere had place that had for its main object any other than the greatest happiness of those among whom the powers of government have from time to time been shared, all governments that have hitherto had existence have had more or less of bad in them. Of all governments, the worst have uniformly been those in which the powers of government have — all of them — been in the hands of one; because in that case such government has had for its object the greatest happi. ness of that one number; and to that object the happiness of all the other members has of course been made a continual sacri. fice. . . .
Considered in its application to assignable individuals, misrule may be termed vexation; the persons considered as the authors of it being persons clothed with power, the vexation may be termed oppression. In so far as from the burden thus imposed benefit in any shape is received by the authors, or by any whom they are in this way disposed to favor, the oppression is depredation.
As to the authors, though to a boundless degree, and in a conspicuous and avowed manner, the only persons whom oppression and thence depredation can have for its authors are those by whom in the state in question the supreme power is possessed; yet to a great and indeterminate amount, not only their several subordinates,- instruments of, and sharers in, that same power,— but the rich in general possess as such, and to an amount rising in proportion to their riches, in addition to that desire which is in all men, the faculty of giving birth to those same evils.
The shapes in which vexation is here attempted to be combated are not all the shapes in which the evil is capable of showing itself; for against these thus taken in the aggregate, security more or less effectual is already in every country taken, and must, therefore, in the country in question, be on the present occasion supposed provided by the existing laws. Calumnies, for example, or personal injuries to mental or personal rights, are among the subjects not here taken on hand, as being of such a nature that the particular remedies here provided are either needless or inapplicable, with relation to them. The only vexations belonging to the present purpose are those which, on those over whom power is exercised, are in a particular manner liable to be inflicted by those by whom the same power is possessed. Meantime, these being the same persons at whose disposal everything is that bears the name of law, to seek to afford, by means of new laws, security against those persons; to seek to afford, by means of new laws, security against those at whose disposal those laws will be when made, is an enterprise which, to a first view, can scarcely fail to wear the face of absurdity. As well may it be said, seek to obtain security against the attacks of an armed man by means of other arms placed in that same man's hands. Such, it must be confessed, would be the absurdity, if it were necessary that the armor, in the manufacturing of which he will be requested to concur, should be armor of the offensive kind, or even of the effectually defensive kind, and that intended to be in any manner employed against himself. But on his part this conception is not a necessary, nor altogether certain one. Against depredation and oppression, from which he derives not in any shape any benefit, - against depredation and oppression, exercised by, and for the benefit of, the rich in general, or by even his own instruments, and other subordinates in particular, it may happen to him not to have any strong or determinate reluctance to see a tolerably essential security provided; and as against any oppression which it is, or may come to be, his pleasure to exercise, what may happen is — that it will not be very plainly visible to him how it is possible that any supposed security can in reality be efficacious. ..
Thus much as to the disease. Now as to the remedy; of the two only accessible remedies that the nature of the case admits of, only one belongs to the present purpose. For conveying a general idea of the remedy, a single word — publicity — may for the moment serve; but before the nature and operation of it can be conceived with any tolerable degree of distinctness and clearness, considerable explanations will unavoidably be necessary.
Publicity! but to what acts applied ? In the first place to the acts of rulers; in the next place to the opinions formed in relation to them by subjects; publicity to the acts,- knowledge of the acts being necessary to the existence of the opinions.
The existence of such publicity being supposed, and the de. gree of it perfect, in what way does it contribute to the object in question, - namely, the affording security against misrule ? Be the acts of the government ever so arbitrary, the subjects may, in proportion as they form and make public their respective opinions, in relation to them, act in so far, in the character of judges; judges sitting in judgment over the conduct of, and in this way exercising rule over, the rulers themselves.
Exercising in any way rule over their rulers; how then is it that they can remain subjects? In the way of direct mandate and coercive powers; — no; in no such way can they give direction to the conduct of these same rulers. Yes, in the way of indirect and gentle power, or in one word, influence; for in this way do our children, at an age in which nature places them under the absolute dominion of their parents, operate on the conduct of those same parents. But the particular way in which the effect is brought about may call for further explanation.
Operating thus as judges, the members of this same community may, in their aggregate capacity, be considered as constituting a sort of judiciary or tribunal; call it, for example, the PublicOpinion Tribunal. ..
Those who desire to see any check whatsoever to the power of the government under which they live, or any limit to their sufferings under it, must look for such check and limit to the source of the Public-Opinion Tribunal, irregular though it be, and, to the degree in which it has been seen, fictitious; to this place of refuge, or to none; for no other has the nature of things afforded. To this tribunal they must, on every occasion, make appeal. To this tribunal they must, on every occasion, give what contribution it is in their power to give; for to do what they can, never can they give to it too much praise; never can they give to it enough; never can they give to it so much as, for the greatest happiness of the greatest number, it would be desirable that it should have.
THE laws in creating property have created wealth; but, with I respect to poverty, it is not the work of the laws,- it is the
primitive condition of the human race. The man who lives only from day to day is precisely the man in a state of nature. The savage, the poor in society, I acknowledge, obtain nothing but by painful labor; but in a state of nature what could he obtain but at the price of his toil? Has not hunting its fatigues, fishing its dangers, war its uncertainties? And if man appear to love this adventurous life — if he have an instinct greedy of these kinds of peril — if the savage rejoice in the delights of an idleness so dearly purchased - ought it to be concluded that he is more happy than our day laborers ? No, the labor of these is more uniform, but the reward is more certain; the lot of woman is more gentle; infancy and old age have more resources; the species multiplies in a proportion a thousand times greater, and this alone would suffice to show on which side is the superiority of happiness. Hence the laws, in creating property, have been benefactors to those who remain in their original poverty. They participate more or less in the pleasures, advantages, and resources of civilized society; their industry and labor place them among the candidates for fortune; they enjoy the pleasures of acquisition; hope mingles with their labors. The security which the law gives them, is this of little importance ? Those who look from above at the inferior ranks see all objects less than they really are; but, at the base of the pyramid, it is the summit which disappears in its turn. So far from making these comparisons, they dream not of them; they are not tormented with impossibilities; so that, all things considered, the protection of the laws contributes as much to the happiness of the cottage as to the security of the palace. It is surprising that so judicious a writer as Beccaria should have inserted, in a work dictated by the soundest philosophy, a doubt subversive of the social order. “The right of property," says he, “is a terrible right, and may not, perhaps, be necessary.” Upon this right tyrannical and sangui. nary laws have been founded. It has been most frightfully abused; but the right itself presents only ideas of pleasure, of abundance, and of security. It is this right which has overcome the natural aversion to labor—which has bestowed on man the empire of the earth - which has led nations to give up their wandering habits — which has created a love of country and posterity. To enjoy quickly — to enjoy without punishment - this is the universal desire of man; this is the desire which is terrible, since it arms all those who possess nothing against those who possess anything. But the law which restrains this desire is the most splendid triumph of humanity over itself.