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Mill professes to prove only that absolute monarchy and aristocracy are pernicious without checks, if he allows that there are checks which produce good government even under absolute monarchs and aristocracies, and if he omits to tell us what those checks are, and what effects they produce under different circumstances, he surely gives us no information which can be of real utility.
But the fact is, and it is most extraordinary that the Westminster Reviewer should not have perceived it, that, if once the existence of checks on the abuse of power in monarchies and aristocracies be admitted, the whole of Mr. Mill's theory falls to the ground at once. This is so palpable, that, in spite of the opinion of the Westminster Reviewer, we must acquit Mr. Mill of having intended to make such an admission. We still think that the words, "where power over a community is attained, and nothing checks," must not be understood to mean that under a monarchical or aristocratical form of government there can really be any check which can in any degree mitigate the wretchedness of the people.
For all possible checks may be classed under two general heads, want of will, and want of power. Now, if a king or an aristocracy, having the power to plunder and oppress the people, can want the will, all Mr. Mill's principles of human nature must be pronounced unsound. He tells us, "that the desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting pain upon others, is an inseparable part of human nature;" and that "a chain of inference, close and strong to a most unusual degree," leads to the conclusion that those who possess this power will always desire to use it. It is plain, therefore, that, if Mr. Mill's principles be sound, the
check on a monarchical or an aristocratical will not be the want of will to oppress.
If a king or an aristocracy, having, as Mr. Mill tells us that they always must have, the will to oppress the people with the utmost severity, want the power, then the government, by whatever name it may be called, must be virtually a mixed government or a pure democracy for it is quite clear that the people possess some power in the state some means of influencing
the nominal rulers. But Mr. Mill has demonstrated that no mixed government can possibly exist, or at least that such a government must come to a very speedy end; therefore, every country in which people not in the service of the government have, for any length of time, been permitted to accumulate more than the bare means of subsistence must be a pure democracy. That is to say, France before the revolution, and Ireland during the last century, were pure democracies. Prussia, Austria, Russia, all the governments of the civilised world, are pure democracies. If this be not a reductio ad absurdum, we do not know what is.
The errors of Mr. Mill proceed principally from that radical vice in his reasoning which, in our last number, we described in the words of Lord Bacon. The Westminster Reviewer is unable to discover the meaning of our extracts from the Novum Organum, and expresses himself as follows:
"The quotations from Lord Bacon are misapplications, such as anybody may make to any thing he dislikes. There is no more resemblance between pain, pleasure, motives, &c., and substantia, generatio, corruptio, elementum, materia, — than between lines, angles, magnitudes, &c., and the same."
It would perhaps be unreasonable to expect that a
writer who cannot understand his own English should understand Lord Bacon's Latin. We will therefore attempt to make our meaning clearer.
What Lord Bacon blames in the schoolmen of his time is this, that they reasoned syllogistically on words which had not been defined with precision ; such as moist, dry, generation, corruption, and so forth. Mr. Mill's error is exactly of the same kind. He reasons syllogistically about power, pleasure, and pain, without attaching any definite notion to any one of those words. There is no more resemblance, says the Westminster Reviewer, between pain and substantia than between pain and a line or an angle. By his permission, in the very point to which Lord Bacon's observation applies, Mr. Mill's subjects do resemble the substantia and elementum of the schoolmen and differ from the lines and magnitudes of Euclid. We can reason a priori on mathematics, because we can define with an exactitude which precludes all possibility of confusion. If a mathematician were to admit the least laxity into his notions, if he were to allow himself to be deluded by the vague sense which words bear in popular use, or by the aspect of an ill-drawn diagram, if he were to forget in his reasonings that a point was indivisible, or that the definition of a line excluded breadth, there would be no end to his blunders. The schoolmen tried to reason mathematically about things which had not been, and perhaps could not be, defined with mathematical accuracy. We know the result. Mr. Mill has in our time attempted to do the He talks of power, for example, as if the meaning of the word power were as determinate as the meaning of the word circle. But, when we analyse his speculations, we find that his notion of power is,
in the words of Bacon, "phantastica et male terminata."
There are two senses in which we may use the word power, and those words which denote the various distributions of power, as, for example, monarchy;— the one sense popular and superficial, the other more scientific and accurate. Mr. Mill, since he chose to reason a priori, ought to have clearly pointed out in which sense he intended to use words of this kind, and to have adhered inflexibly to the sense on which he fixed. Instead of doing this, he flies backwards and forwards from the one sense to the other, and brings out conclusions at last which suit neither.
The state of those two communities to which he has himself referred the kingdom of Denmark and the empire of Rome may serve to illustrate our meaning. Looking merely at the surface of things, we should call Denmark a despotic monarchy, and the Roman world, in the first century after Christ, an aristocratical republic. Caligula was, in theory, nothing more than a magistrate elected by the senate, and subject to the senate. That irresponsible dignity which, in the most limited monarchies of our time, is ascribed to the person of the sovereign never belonged to the earlier Cæsars. The sentence of death which the great council of the commonwealth passed on Nero was strictly according to the theory of the constitution. Yet, in fact, the power of the Roman emperors approached nearer to absolute dominion than that of any prince in modern Europe. On the other hand, the King of Denmark, in theory the most despotic of princes, would in practice find it most perilous to indulge in cruelty and licentiousness. Nor is there, we believe, at the present moment a single sovereign in our
part of the world who has so much real power over the lives of his subjects as Robespierre, while he lodged at a chandler's and dined at a restaurateur's, exercised over the lives of those whom he called his fellow-citizens.
Mr. Mill and the Westminster Reviewer seem to agree that there cannot long exist in any society a division of power between a monarch, an aristocracy, and the people, or between any two of them. However the power be distributed, one of the three parties. will, according to them, inevitably monopolise the whole. Now, what is here meant by power? If Mr. Mill speaks of the external semblance of power, of power recognised by the theory of the constitution, he is palpably wrong. In England, for example, we have had for ages the name and form of a mixed government, if nothing more. Indeed, Mr. Mill himself owns that there are appearances which have given colour to the theory of the balance, though he maintains that these appearances are delusive. But, if he uses the word power in a deeper and philosophical sense, he is, if possible, still more in the wrong than on the former supposition. For, if he had considered in what the power of one human being over other human beings must ultimately consist, he would have perceived, not only that there are mixed governments in the world, but that all the governments in the world, and all the governments which can even be conceived as existing in the world, are virtually mixed.
If a king possessed the lamp of Aladdin, — if he governed by the help of a genius who carried away the daughters and wives of his subjects through the air to the royal Parc-aux-cerfs, and turned into stone every man who wagged a finger against his majesty's government, there would indeed be an unmixed des