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was order, symmetry, and force. What men had struggled for and bled, while they saw it but as through a glass Jarkly, was made the object of substantial knowledge and lively apprehension. The bones of sages and of patriots stirred within their tombs, that what they dimly saw and followed had become the world's common heritage. And the great result was wrought by no supernatural means, nor produced by any unparallelable concatenation of events. It was foretold by no oracles, and ushered by no portents; but was brought about by the quiet and reiterated exercise of God's first gift of common sense."
Mr. Bentham's discovery does not, as we think we shall be able to show, approach in importance to that of gravitation, to which he compares it. At all events, Mr. Bentham seems to us to act much as Sir Isaac Newton would have done if he had gone about boasting that he was the first person who taught bricklayers not to jump off scaffolds and break their legs.
Does Mr. Bentham profess to hold out any new motive which may induce men to promote the happiness of the species to which they belong? Not at all. He distinctly admits that, if he is asked why government should attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness, he can give no answer.
"The real answer," says he, " appeared to be, that men at large ought not to allow a government to afflict them with more evil or less good than they can help. What a government ought to do is a mysterious and searching question, which those may answer who know what it means; but what other men ought to do is a question of no mystery at all. The word ought, if it means anything, must have reference to some kind of interest or motives; and what interest a government has in doing right, when it happens to be interested in doing wrong, is a question for the schoolmen. The fact appears to be, that ought is not predicable of governments. The question is not why governments are bound not to do this or that, but why other men should let them if they can help it. The point is not to determine why the lion should
not eat sheep, but why men should not eat their own mutton if they can."
The principle of Mr. Bentham, if we understand it, is this, that mankind ought to act so as to produce their greatest happiness. The word ought, he tells us, has no meaning, unless it be used with reference to some interest. But the interest of a man is synonymous with his greatest happiness:-and therefore to say that a man ought to do a thing, is to say that it is for his greatest happiness to do it. And to say that mankind ought to act so as to produce their greatest happiness, is to say that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness and this is all!
Does Mr. Bentham's principle tend to make any man wish for anything for which he would not have wished, or do any thing which he would not have done, if the principle had never been heard of? If not, it is an utterly useless principle. Now, every man pursues his own happiness or interest — call it which you will. If his happiness coincides with the happiness of the species, then, whether he ever heard of the "greatest happiness principle" or not, he will, to the best of his knowledge and ability, attempt to produce the greatest happiness of the species. But, if what he thinks his happiness. be inconsistent with the greatest happiness of mankind, will this new principle convert him to another frame of mind? Mr. Bentham himself allows, as we have seen, that he can give no reason why a man should promote the greatest happiness of others if their greatest happiness be inconsistent with what he thinks his We should very much like to know how the Utilitarian principle would run when reduced to one plain imperative proposition? Will it run thus -- pur
sue your own happiness? This is superfluous. Every. man pursues it, according to his light, and always has pursued it, and always must pursue it. To say that a man has done any thing, is to say that he thought it for his happiness to do it. Will the principle run thus pursue the greatest happiness of mankind, whether it be your own greatest happiness or not? This is absurd and impossible; and Bentham himself allows it to be So. But, if the principle be not stated in one of these two ways, we cannot imagine how it is to be stated at all. Stated in one of these ways, it is an identical proposition, true, but utterly barren of consequences. Stated in the other way, it is a contradiction in terms. Mr. Bentham has distinctly declined the absurdity. Are we then to suppose that he adopts the truism?
There are thus, it seems, two great truths which the Utilitarian philosophy is to communicate to mankind— two truths which are to produce a revolution in morals, in laws, in governments, in literature, in the whole system of life. The first of these is speculative; the second is practical. The speculative truth is, that the greatest. happiness is the greatest happiness. The practical rule is very simple; for it imports merely that men should never omit, when they wish for any thing, to wish for it, or when they do any thing, to do it! It is a great comfort to us to think that we readily assented to the former of these great doctrines as soon as it was stated to us; and that we have long endeavoured, as far as human frailty would permit, to conform to the latter in our practice. We are, however, inclined to suspect. that the calamities of the human race have been owing, less to their not knowing that happiness was happiness, than to their not knowing how to obtain it — less to their neglecting to do what they did, than to their not
· being able to do what they wished, or not wishing to do what they ought.
Thus frivolous, thus useless is this philosophy, "controversiarum ferax, operum effoeta, ad garriendum prompta, ad generandum invalida." The humble mechanic who discovers some slight improvement in the construction of safety lamps or steam-vessels does more for the happiness of mankind than the "magnificent principle," as Mr. Bentham calls it, will do in ten thousand years. The mechanic teaches us how we may in a small degree be better off than we were. The Utilitarian advises us with great pomp to be as well off as we can.
The doctrine of a moral sense may be very unphilosophical; but we do not think that it can be proved to be pernicious. Men did not entertain certain desires and aversions because they believed in a moral sense, but they gave the name of moral sense to a feeling which they found in their minds, however it came there. If they had given it no name at all it would still have influenced their actions; and it will not be very easy to demonstrate that it has influenced their actions the more because they have called it the moral sense. The theory of the original contract is a fiction, and a very absurd fiction; but in practice it meant, what the "greatest happiness principle," if ever it becomes a watchword of political warfare, will mean- that is to say, whatever served the turn of those who used it. Both the one expression and the other sound very well in debating clubs; but in the real conflicts of life our passions and interests bid them stand aside and know their place. The "greatest happiness principle" has always been latent under the words, social contract, jus
1 Bacon, Novum Organum.
tice, benevolence, patriotism, liberty, and so forth, just as far as it was for the happiness, real or imagined, of those who used these words to promote the greatest happiness of mankind. And of this we may be sure, that the words "greatest happiness greatest happiness" will never, in any man's mouth, mean more than the greatest happiness of others which is consistent with what he thinks his own. The project of mending a bad world by teaching people to give new names to old things reminds us of Walter Shandy's scheme for compensating the loss of his son's nose by christening him Trismegistus. What society wants is a new motive—not a new If Mr. Bentham can find out any argument yet undiscovered which may induce men to pursue the general happiness, he will indeed be a great benefactor to our species. But those whose happiness is identical with the general happiness are even now promoting the general happiness to the very best of their power and knowledge; and Mr. Bentham himself confesses that he has no means of persuading those whose happiness is not identical with the general happiness to act upon his principle. Is not this, then, darkening counsel by words without knowledge? If the only fruit of the magnificent principle" is to be, that the oppressors and pilferers of the next generation are to talk of seeking the greatest happiness of the greatest number, just as the same class of men have talked in our time of seeking to uphold the Protestant constitution just as they talked under Anne of seeking the good of the Church, and under Cromwell of seeking the Lord where is the gain? Is not every great question already enveloped in a sufficiently dark cloud of unmeaning words? Is it so difficult for a man to cant some one or more of the good old English cants which his