Abbildungen der Seite

a year at a time at the end of the next ten cenituries, to see the effect of his writings on social institutions, though posterity will know no more than his contemporaries that so great a man ever existed. So little does he know of himself or the world! Persons of his class, indeed, cautiously shut themselves up from society, and take no more notice of men than of animals ; and from their ignorance of what mankind are, can tell exactly what they will be.

" What can we reason but from what we know ?"-is not their maxim. Reason with them is a mathematical

a force that acts with most certainty in the absence of experience, in the vacuum of pure speculation. These secure alarmists and dreaming guardians of the state are like superannuated watchmen enclosed in a sentry-box, that never hear “when thieves break through and steal.” They put an oil-skin over their heads, that the dust raised by the passions and interests of the countless, ever-moving multitude, may not annoy

disturb the clearness of their vision. They build a Penitentiary, and are satisfied that Dyot. street, Bloomsbury-square, will no longer send forth its hordes of young delinquents, "an aerie of children,” the embryo performers on locks and pockets for the next generation. They put men into a Panopticon, like a glass-hive, to carry on

[ocr errors]

all sorts of handicrafts (“—-So work the honey-bees”) under the omnipresent eye of the inventor, and want and idleness are banished from the world. They propose to erect a Chrestomathic school, by cutting down some fine old trees on the classic ground where Milton thought and wrote, to introduce a rabble of chil. dren, who for the Greek and Latin languages, poetry, and history, that fine pabulum of useful enthusiasm, that breath of immortality infused into our youthful blood, that balm and cordial of our future years, are to be drugged with chemistry and apothecaries' receipts, are to be taught to do every thing, and to see and feel nothing; that the grubbing up of elegant arts and polite literature may be followed by the systematic introduction of accomplished barbarism and mechanical quackery. Such enlightened geniuses would pull down Stonehenge to build pig-sties, and would convert Westminster Abbey into a central House of Correction. It would be in vain to point to the arched windows,

“Shedding a dim, religious light," to touch the deep, solemn organ-stop in their ears, to turn to the statue of Newton, to gaze upon the sculptured marble on the walls, to call back the hopes and fears that lie buried there, to cast a wistful look at Poet's Corner (they scorn the Muse!-all this would not stand one moment in the way of any of the schemes of these retrograde reformers; who, instead of being legislators for the world, and stewards to the intellectual inheritance of nations, are hardly fit to be parishbeadles, or pettifogging attorneys to a litigated estate! “ Their speech bewrayeth them.” The leader of this class of reasoners does not write to be understood, because he would make fewer converts, if he did. The language he adopts is his own-a word to the wise-a technical and conventional jargon, unintelligible to others, and conveying no idea to himself in common with the rest of mankind, purposely cut off from human sympathy and ordinary apprehension. Mr. Bentham's writings require to be translated into a foreign tongue or his own, before they can be read at all, except by the adepts. This is not a very fair or very wise proceeding.

wise proceeding. No man who invents words arbitrarily, can be sure that he uses them conscientiously. There is no check upon him in the popular criticism exercised by the mass of readers — there is no clue to propriety in the habitual associations of his own mind. He who pretends to fit words to things, will much oftener accommodate things to words, to answer a theory. Words are a measure of truth. They ascertain (intuitively) the degrees, inflections, and powers of things in a wonderful manner; and he who voluntarily deprives himself of their assistance, does not go the way to arrive at any very nice or sure results. Language is the medium of our communication with the thoughts of others. But whoever becomes wise, becomes wise by sympathy; whoever is powerful, becomes so by making others sympathize with him. To think justly, we must understand what others mean: to know the value of our thoughts, we must try their effect on other minds. There is this privilege in the use of a conventional style, as there was in that of the learned languages-a man may be as absurd as he pleases without being ridiculous. His folly and his wisdom are alike a secret to the generality. If it were possible to contrive a perfect language, consistent with itself, and answering to the complexity of human affairs, there would be some excuse for the attempt; but he who knows any thing of the nature of language, or of the complexity of human thought, knows that this is impossible. What is gained in formality, is more than lost in force, ease, and perspicuity. Mr. Bentham's language, in short, is like his reasoning, a logical apparatus, which will work infallibly and perform wonders, taking


it for granted that his principles and definitions are universally true and intelligible; but as this is not exactly the case, neither the one nor the other is of much use or authority. Thus, the maxim that « mankind act from calculation" may be, in a general sense, true: but the moment you apply this maxim to subject all their actions systematically and demonstrably to reason, and to exclude passion both in common and in extreme cases, you give it a sense in which the principle is false, and in which all the inferences built upon it (many and mighty, no doubt,) fall to the ground. “ Madmen reason.” But in what proportion does this hold good ? How far does reason guide them, or their madness err? There is a difference between reason and madness in this respect; but according to Mr. Bentham, there can be none; for all men act from calculation, and equally so. the bond.” Passion is liable to be restrained by reason, as drunkenness may be changed to sobriety by some strong motive: but passion is not reason, i. e. does not act by the same rule or law; and therefore all that follows is, that men act (according to the common-sense of the thing) either from passion or reason, from impulse or calculation, more or less, as circumstances lead. But no sweeping, metaphysical



66 So runs

« ZurückWeiter »