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solid foundation for a system of philosophical jurisprudence which has ever yet been accomplished by the perseverance of human genius. We admire the uncommon union of intellectual talents and habits, the comprehensive power of generalization, and the patient accuracy of detail, which they evince. As the production of an Englishman, our national pride may also glory in the superiority of this original work. Montesquieu's "Spirit of Laws," and Beccaria's "Essay on Crimes and Punishments," have obtained a just share of admiration and of celebrity. Their authors first attracted and fixed the attention of the public on these subjects, by the persuasive charms of eloquence and the irresistible force of truth.
Our countryman Bentham, disdaining the graces of style, applied himself sternly to the examination of facts and data, till by rejecting all that could not stand the test of evidence and reason, he established one just and universal principle. By pursuing and demonstrating the application of this principle to every known case, he has enlarged beyond previous conception the bounds of the practical as well as the theoretic science of jurisprudence.
Former writers have talked of the perfect good, the perfect fair, the fitness of things, the innate sense of truth or of virtue; natural law, individual conscience, duty, the rights of man, and equality. But we see the impossibility of establishing any of these as the basis of a code of legislation; since the moment we inquire what is duty or conscience, what are their dictates, where is this innate sense of truth or virtue, the answers are contradictory, inaccurate, or unintelligible. If an innate sense of moral beauty or virtue be part of the constitution of man's nature, or if there exist an à priori rule of right, incontrovertible by human reason, these must every where and at all times be the same. They should at least be similar in the general opinion of the majority of mankind, or in the unanimous coincidence of judgement and feeling among the most enlight ened of all ages and countries. Yet, on the contrary, we find that the idea of virtue has so varied in different countries, and at different æras in the same country, that conscience, the moral sense of individuals, and we may say of nations, has been so influenced and altered by different circumstances, of institution, government, and education; that it is impossible by any appeal to the general feeling, belief, or practice of mankind, to obtain an unalterable standard of virtue and vice. The virtue and vice of a savage, of a Spartan, of a Chinese, of a Hindoo, and of an European, differ essentially. Revenge is the virtue of the savage. Theft was not vice with the Spartans. The Chinese think it no crime to murder their infants. The Hindoo thinks it no crime to stop the mouth and nostrils of his aged parent with mud, and to leave him to perish by famine. We recoil at the bare mention of such actions.
VOL. I. NO. I.
Before we go a step further, it is necessary here to premise that we are speaking of the ideas of virtue and vice, as they are found in human beings, independent of our own religious principles. The laws of God, as far as they are revealed to man, must form an immutable standard of right and wrong. To the will of God, whereever we have sufficient evidence of its revelation, every rational creature must submit: and as the most enlightened will ever be the most conscious of their ignorance of the limits assigned by their nature to human knowledge, they will submit with the most profound humility and devotion.-This explicitly declared, we can proceed with confidence, free from the apprehension of being misunderstood or misinterpreted.
may observe, that though what is called the moral sense or moral sentiment may differ in various times and places as to certain actions, yet there is one circumstance in which all nations agree-in endeavouring to promote what they believe to be useful to their society. From ignorance, passion, prejudice, they may err in their means; but their universal aim is utility. Here is a fixed principle, to which the legislator can refer in deciding upon the nature or tendency of any given action or of any proposed law. It is, or it should be, his object to prevent by wise laws those actions, to repress those dispositions, which are injurious, and to encourage those which are beneficial, to the general interests of mankind. Utility then becomes at once his test for human actions and for human virtue. Referring to this principle, he can make out one common standard of "moral weight and measure." It is on the solid basis of utility that Mr. Bentham rests his system. It is by this principle he has made out his scale of good and evil, of rewards and punishments. To obtain the measure of universal utility, he examines what constitutes the sum of human happiness and . misery.
Whatever serves to increase the sum of happiness must be considered as useful-whatever tends to diminish that sum must be accounted injurious to mankind. Human happiness and misery are found to consist of various pleasures and pains :-into the nature and comparative value of these Mr. Bentham next inquires; and by a careful analysis he reduces them to their primary elements, enumerates, appreciates, and classes them. He has recourse for his data to the average opinions and feelings of mankind, as these have been shown by their actions and recorded in their history. This table of the elements of happiness, this catalogue raisonné of human pleasures and pains, is not confined, as some who misunderstand or misrepresent Bentham assert or insinuate, to the sensual, or what are commonly stigmatized as the selfish pleasures; but it comprehends every intellectual, refined, exalted
pleasure of benevolence, patriotism, sympathy, sentiment, honour, generosity, and laudable enthusiasm. The term selfish cannot with any show of reason or justice be affixed to a system which requires that we should comprise in our estimate of happiness all that is most generous and noble; which requires from those who profess to think or act according to its principles, an enlargement of mind that shall comprehend what is best for the whole of society, a strength and fortitude of soul which shall keep the passions in just subjection, which shall on every trial be ready to sacrifice the immediate and inferior selfish gratifications to that which is for the permanent advantage of the great whole, of which individual happiness forms but a small part.
Instead of apprehending that such a system could be stigmatized as selfish-instead of dreading that the high-minded and generous should by any sophistry be prejudiced against it as base or below the dignity of human nature-there is indeed more cause to fear those who attack it on opposite grounds; who consider it as above and beyond the common standard of intellect and virtue; who represent it as dangerous in practice, because it requires from individual selfishness, sacrifices that in general are too great to be obtained; because its calculations may prove insufficient in most men to restrain the impetuosity of passion. It is true, that each individual might be apt to err in his estimate of what is for the general good; that which is most advantageous for himself or his friends, he might fancy would in many cases be most useful to society.
Hence the necessity that this estimate, on which the rules of moral conduct are to be founded, should not be trusted to the partiality of individuals or to the prejudices of any particular nation, but should be made after a cool and careful examination of the combined experience and wisdom of mankind. But even when this estimate is correctly made, to expect that the mere perception of abstract truth should act as a motive capable of resisting the force of temptation, would be as absurd as to expect from the operation of any one power, what we practically know can be the result only of the combined influence of many. When the astronomer or the geometrician has demonstrated the principles upon which he discovers truth, still there remains the difficulty of applying these principles to practice; and a variety of circumstances must combine with the abstract perception or demonstration, before truth can be rendered practically useful. The same difficulties await the moralist and the legislator. It is obvious that merely placing before of any person under the actual influence of strong passion or temptation, the demonstration that it is not for the general good of society that he should yield to it, would have but little power to control
control his will or his actions. Precisely for this reason: Because sad experience has taught the wisest and the best to be aware of the infirmity of passion in themselves as well as in others, it is necessary to call in the aid of education, institution, laws, of all that can, against the hour of trial, form the conscience, habits, the disposition, strengthen the whole man in favour of virtue-or, in other words, in favour of that conduct which tends ultimately to the general happiness of society.
Many feel persuaded that abstract principles have little influence over the conduct of mankind, and that men warmly engaged in pursuit of interest or passion, seldom recur to the consideration of speculative truths. Yet all human beings who live in society must be governed by moral rules, by laws, or by education formed on the basis of certain speculative truths;-it is therefore of the utmost consequence that this basis should be securely laid. Even those who believe that men are but little guided in the conduct of life by the conviction of the understanding, will not assert that it has no influence whatever; therefore we contend that the superadding this conviction of the understanding, to the combined practical power of education, conscience, habit, laws, and religion, cannot possibly do any injury to the cause of virtue and religion; but on the contrary may, beyond all other means, strengthen and consolidate the sense of duty, and give fresh vigour to every noble enthusiasm. What can tend more to strengthen the sense of duty, to give energy and permanence to every noble enthusiasm, than the conviction that the conduct, the object we pursue is most beneficial to society and most conducive to our own happiness?
There are, indeed, persons who affect to treat all calculation of moral good and evil, all consideration of what tends to our own happiness, as something incompatible with the purity of virtue, as selfish, base, sordid, and utterly unworthy of exalted human nature. -Fine feelings;-or fine words! But mere assertion without proof or argument is best answered by an appeal to the common sense of mankind, who in high or low degree, in various forms, but with one consent, in prose and poetry proclaim "happiness our being's end and aim."
Some German metaphysicians have lately endeavoured to make themselves a name by reviving in new forms old absurdities, in a strange uncouth dress; by which they hope perhaps so to have disfigured what they have stolen, that the theft shall not be discovered. In a newly invented jargon they reproduce to the world exploded ideas, and would bring again into fashion Plato's visions and the whole system of innate ideas, long since successfully combated and overthrown. These German leaders in philosophy think they immortalize themselves, while they tell us that we must exclude
from pure reasoning all which depends on experience; that from the idea of morality we must subtract all that tends to happiness; that l'empyreisme, which it seems is another name for experience, is only sensation, or materialism; and that eudemonism, another name for happiness, is only egoism. Finally, in some of their systems it is proved, to the satisfaction, we presume, of their disciples, that atheism is not incompatible with religion; because, say they, religion, morality, poetry, beau idéal, and enthusiasm, are only so many different exercises of the same faculty of the soul!-The force of folly can no further go.-Here are metaphysicians not a step advancing, but many steps receding-receding into ancient chaos!
Before any of our young readers, inexperienced in the ways of metaphysicians, engage in the study of these German systems, we recommend it to them to look at Massinger's description of the student who "wasted seven useful springs" in reading of "crossed opinions 'bout the soul of man"-" And still his spaniel slept." The philosophers
Stood banding factions, all so strongly propped,
Seriously,-With whatever art these German systein-vampers may have enveloped that which is old to make it appear new, the penetration of the public will soon detect the deception. The good sense of the English nation will discern the difference between truth and sophistry; and until they are refuted by facts and logical arguments, they will abide by their own philosophers, and their own philosophy. We should scarcely have deemed these Kantians and Fichtites and Schellingites worth turning aside to notice, had not their partisans ventured to speak irreverently of our own Locke, had they not further presumed to scoff at utility. They traduce that which they do not comprehend, and asperse by declamation that which they cannot confute by argument. They represent utility as a selfish and unworthy principle of action, and they would substitute in its stead the impulse of wild enthusiasm.-After all, what should we gain by admitting wild enthusiasm, or sentiment, or sacrifice, or dévouement, to be the first principle, the foundation of virtue and duty? Must we not, before we can proceed a single step in applying it to practice, revert to the questions, What shall we sacrifice? and how can we make these sacrifices desirable to any living creature, unless they are such as to ensure some interest or happiness of the individuals or the society for whom they are