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to the nature of the subject which he has chosen, in which unity of design is almost impossible, and which, from the vast extent, and remarkable independence of its several members on one another, becomes more naturally the work of a chronicler, than of that connecting and pervading glance which is the privilege of those who write the history of a single nation, a single hero, a single war. While, indeed, we recollect the life of Nelson, a small, but brilliant specimen of what, in history properly so called, Mr. Southey might accomplish, we have hardly been able to repress a murmur at the predilections which have detained him so long, amid the woods and wastes of Paraguay and Pernambuco, from the theme to which, of all men now living, he is best qualified to do justice—the deliverance of Spain by Wellington, and the hurried and eventful scenes of that Great Drama whose curtain fell at Waterloo.
ART. V. Plan of Parliamentary Reform, in the form of a Catechism, with reasons for each Article; with an Introduction, shewing the necessity of radical, and the inadequacy of moderate Reform. By Jeremy Bentham, Esq. pp. 400. London.
E congratulate the public on the production of what has long been a desideratum in political science, a scientific and detailed plan of radical reform, conceived in contempt of all projects of a moderate kind, by one to whom the moderate reformers have decreed the palm of superior acuteness and comprehension of mind. It comes fresh and unadulterated from the author's own pen; an advantage which it is supposed his former productions did not possess. They are said to have passed through the hands of M. M. Dumont, a French writer, and must, if we may judge from this undiluted performance, have been very much weakened in the process.
Nothing can be more commendable than the modesty of Mr. Bentham, who, whilst professing but one kind of reform, does, in reality, present us with two; the latter recommended by his own example. This is no less than a reform in the English language which is practically illustrated in this book, with an effect which we despair of conveying properly to the comprehension of our readers. No detached quotations will give an adequate sample of the merits of Mr. Bentham in this new and peculiar branch of the great art of regeneration.
A well-known precursor of Mr. Bentham in the paths of reform, Mr. Horne Tooke, followed an opposite course to that which Mr. Bentham has so judiciously struck out. Horne Tooke, in a book professedly upon philology, most pertinently introduced
his principles of parliamentary reform. Mr. Bentham, in a work of which the professed object is parliamentary reform, has availed himself of the occasion to introduce, incidentally, and without notice or alarm, the most extensive and salutary innovations in philological science. The Roman emperor of old, though absolute in the disposal of the lives and fortunes of the Roman citizens, could not naturalize a new word into the Latin language. Mr. Bentham is alike absolute in both provinces; and while he scatters all existing civil rights, and franchises, and institutions of Englishmen with one hand, with the other he implants into the English tongue, annuality, trienniality, beneficialness, interest-comprehension, pleasurably-operating, potential-impermanence, competitionexcluding, undangerousness, deceptiously-evidential, knowable, non-spuriousness, maximization, and minimization, and various other simples and compounds of equal significance, which it may require no ordinary degree of appropriate intellectual aptitude' to understand. It is delightful to think what an accession of strength is thus furnished to every patriotic writer or orator who has occasion to exercise his pen or his lungs in addressing the sovereign people.
To come to the professed object of Mr. Bentham's book—a reform in the Commons House of Parliament; for, as to the other two branches of our constitution, as the corruptionists call it, they are unworthy any other notice than a sneer. The idea of a mixed government, with powers counteracting each other when proceeding to excess, which our vulgar politicians call a balance of powers, is most happily ridiculed in the following passage. (p. 51.)
Talk of mixture; yes, this may serve, and must serve: but then, the intrinsically noxious ingredient-the ingredients which must be kept in, though for no better reason than we are used to them, and being so used to them could not bear-(for who is there that could bear?) to part with them-these ingredients-of which the greater praise would be that they were inoperative-must not be in any such propor tion of force as to destroy, or materially to impair, the efficiency of the only essentially useful one.
Talk of balance, never will it do: leave that to Mother Goose and Mother Blackstone. Balance-balance-politicians upon roses-to whom, to save the toil of thinking on questions most wide in extent, and most high in importance-an allusion-an emblem-an any thing so as it has been accepted by others, is accepted as conclusive evidence: what mean ye by this your balance? Know ye not, that in a machine of any kind, when forces balance each other, the machine is at a stand? Well, and in the machine of government, immobility-the perpetual absence of all motion-is that the thing which is wanted ?' Having destroyed the vulgar prejudices in favour of those antiquated institutions, monarchy and nobility, the next step is to the sole remedy in principle, democratic ascendancy;' owing to the want of which, our present most prominent grievances' are in existence,
VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXV.
existence, especially the quartering a military force on the frontiers of France. (p. 4.)
The plains, or heights, or whatsoever they are, of Waterloo, will one day be pointed to by the historian as the grave-not only as the grave of French, but of English liberties. Not of France alone, but of Britain with her, was the conquest consummated in the Netherlands. Whatsoever has been done, and is doing in France, will be done in Britain. Reader, would you wish to know the lot designed for you, look to France, there you may behold it.
The same causes will produce the same effects; the same great characters by which the monster of anarchy has so happily been crushed in France-by these same exalted persons will the same monster be crushed in Britain.
There they are, our fifty thousand men, with the conqueror of French and English liberties, the protector of the Bourbons, the worthy vanquisher and successor of Buonaparte at the head of them. There they are; and, until every idea of good government, every idea of any thing better than the most absolute despotism, has been weeded out--once more as thoroughly weeded out by the Bourbons, as ever it was by Buonaparte-there it is that the whole of them, or whatsoever part may be deemed sufficient for the purpose, are destined to remain.'
It is impossible to avoid admiring the penetration which our author has discovered in this passage. Had the remedy in principle, the democratic ascendancy,' existed at the period of Buonaparte's return from Elba, the fatal field of Waterloo would not have been the grave of liberty; nor would Wellington, the successor of that great man, have been able to keep the liberated French from liberating the rest of Europe, in the same manner as they had been doing it for the last twenty preceding years. Thus our 'present most prominent grievance' might have been avoided by the substitution of that simple remedy in principle, democratic ascendancy,' instead of what has been called the English Constitution. Verily, we believe that this is true; nay, we believe further, that as democratic ascendancy in France generated Buonaparte, this same democratic ascendancy in England would have produced characters analogous to that 'vanquisher of liberty' whom the Duke of Wellington subdued and, according to Mr. Bentham, has suc
It is a singular fact that this Mr. Bentham, now decisively a radical, was himself only a moderate reformer till the year 1809. The mental process by which he became emancipated from darkness is described very copiously in page 106; and though the passage is too long for insertion, we recommend it to the perusal of all who wish to study the phenomena of mind;' contenting ourselves with transcribing the result of his reason, or, if that be too assuming, of his ratiocination, as elicited by severe and external pressure:'- ..
Tranquillized,' (he says, p. 107,) by the persuasion-that although, by defalcation after defalcation, very considerable reductions were made in respect of extent, still no very determinate, and distinguishable defalcation might be made from the beneficent influence of the universalinterest-comprehension principle, and by every extension obtained, the way would be smoothed to any such ulterior extension, the demand for which should, in the continued application of that principle, guided by the experience of security, under the experienced degree of extension, have found its due support,---with little regret, considering the subject on a theoretical point of view, and altogether without regret, considering it with a view to conciliation, and in that in a practical point of view-thus it was that, without difficulty, I found I could accede to the extent indicated by the words householders, or direct-taxpaying householders; due regard being at the same time paid to the arrangements prescribed by the simplification principle.'
Thus, though this radical reformer would only equalize down to the householder, it is from deference to those of his associates, who may be less radical, whilst to those who are more so, and who tell him this is not any universal-suffrage plan; this is not even your own virtually-universal-suffrage plan; this is but the householder plan;' he very aptly replies, yes to be sure in name it is but the householder plan; though where a pot constitutes a house, how much narrower soever the ground of the right is, the right itself must be admitted to be a little more extensive.'
The author proceeds to inquire, if it be possible for the government to proceed in its course with the powers it at present possesses; and asks, in his exquisite language, the following precious questions:
Vast as it is, and poisonous as it is vast, will you so much as pledge yourselves to be content with your existing stock of panaceas? with your universal-personal-destroying security acts? with your universal gagging acts? with your liberty-of-the-press-destroying statutes, and judge-made-ex-post-facto laws? with your universal-popular-destroying-communication acts? with your petition-rejecting and hope-extinguishing decisions, and orders, and resolutions ?'&c. &c. &c.
With these terrifying interrogations left to operate upon the fears of the corruptionists, we proceed to a consideration from which, looking only to France, to Robespierre, to Danton, to Marat, and other worthies, we should have drawn conclusions somewhat different from our author; but we defer to his authority and applaud his precedents. If his system of universal-interest-comprehension principle were introduced, he contends that it would increase the interest of the aristocratic body, which he demonstrates by the following striking observations and queries, p. 118:
Look to the most populous of all populous boroughs! Look to Westminster! Number of electors, even many years back, not fewer
than seventeen-thousand; swine not all of them indeed---the Dean and Chapter being of the number---not to speak of the Right Honourables and Honourables ;-swine's flesh, however, predominate-abundantly predominate: swinish the characters of the vast majority of that vast multitude.
Well then, look to Westminster---look first to time present---see now what you have there. See you not Lord Cochrane? What do you see there? See you not blood and property in one? Blood from ancestors--property from the source most prized, the source from whence all your oldest property sprung---enemies' blood, with plunder for the fruit of it? See you not Sir Francis Burdett? Have you not there blood enough and property enough? Look now a little back; before you had either Cochrane or Burdett had you not Charles Fox? Had you not him as long as the country had him?
Even within this twelvemonth, when a vacancy was apprehended, what sort of a man was it that was looked to for the filling of it? Was it a man of and from the people? Was it Cobbett with his penmanship, his sixty thousand purchasers, and his ten times sixty thousand readers? Was it the Henry Hunt with his oratory? Was it not Cartwright of the Cartwrights of Northamptonshire? Was it not' (was it?) Brougham of Brougham?
Look at Bristol, the next most populous city:-when a man was looked for, who should, if possible, stem the tide of corruption, that tide which so naturally flows so strong in maritime and commercial cities-who is it that was looked for? Was it the Spa Fields' orator? Did he not try and fail? Was it not Sir Samuel Romilly ?---And though the blood he had came from the wrong side of the channel, and with a something in it too nearly allied to Puritanism to be relished by legitimacy, yet (not to speak of the swinish elements, which are of no value but in Utopia) blood, such as it was, there was in him-blood? Yes---and property too---though, whether then as now savouring of the reality, let others, who know, say to sanction it.
Look to the most populous among boroughs: look to Liverpool. When the same pestilential tide was hoped to be stemmed at Liverpool, who is it that great commercial port and borough called in to stem it? Was it the Cobbett ?-Was it the Spa Fields' orator? Here too was it not Brougham of Brougham?'
This tendency, however, is far from being grateful to our author's feelings. He reluctantly acquiesces in a propensity which he fears cannot be rooted out of human nature till that nature be transformed: until the transformation, he thinks we shall look wide of the true mark, and accept, in lieu of the only true and direct elements of appropriate aptitude,' those supposed circumstantially but deceptiously evidentiary' ones, blood, property, and, if you please, connexion.'
Our author, we firmly believe, may dismiss these apprehensions. By adopting his plans, this regretted attachment to blood, property and connexion would soon cease; and the desired transformation in