Page images
PDF
EPUB

nary warfare, the assailants had recourse to the most extraordinary means. From the first origin of this society Mr. Bentham, it seems, closely watched their nefarious' proceedings. From the first, several strange circumstances excited in his mind a suspicion

that all was not right, and that there was some concealed fraud at the bottom. Sometimes the dates of its meetings were not advertized, sometimes the place was omitted, the members present were not named, and, what is worst of all, the secretary most corruptly suppressed all but the initial letters of his Christian names, and signed himself T. T. Walmsley. This was strong evidence of guilt, and by a lengthened and minute examination of the various artifices, Mr. Bentham found that they who constitute this Society have all along been deceiving the public with a tissue of imposture, if not of absolute forgery ;' that in order to magnify their inportance, they have been in the habit of announcing fictitious meetings, held by imaginary persons, committees without any "tokens of existence, and resolutions that were never passed except in nubibus: it is, in fact, a society of invisibles.'

Our author, however, carries his scepticism a little too far. Notwithstanding his doubts of the existence of this excellent association, it is certainly not altogether invisible. "Its good effects are both seen and felt, and are widely diffused and every where acknowledged. We can assure Mr. Bentham of these facts, and to satisfy some of his other scruples we will tell him, we have been credibly informed that Mr. Walmsley is a person in and that (whatever may have been his reasons for concealing them) he actually has two Christian names.

This Society is, we are told, intended as a job for the bishops,' and the intolerant part of the bishops and their adherents, being but too probably the major part of them, contrive in this way to enjoy the benefit of their wickedness, without standing exposed to the disgrace so justly due to it.' This disgrace they will now no longer escape ; their wicked design of teaching religion, that

sanctified and so well elaborated production of the modern den of Cacus,' is detected; they must now blush, if they can, at the exposure of their self-conscious improbity,' and submit to the due humiliation' with which they are here threatened.

Having disposed of the subordinate and less important subjects of the Catechism and the National Society, our author enters at large on the consideration of the church, its various abominations' and antichristian practices. We cannot follow him through all his lamentations over the many virtues that are sacrificed to the · Moloch of the Church of England,' and the divisions and subdivisions of the twenty-five vices (for that is the exact number) which render

it

esse,

it' adverse to the joint interests of piety, morality, and economy.' Many of the faults here attributed to it are such, as have often before been laid to its charge by its enemies; but Mr. Bentham must certainly be allowed the merit of having enlarged the catalogue: He is clearly original when he says that neglect of duty, wilful, constant, predetermined neglect of duty, and with it obtainment of money on false pretences, is sanctioned and established by the legislature. We have often heard complaints of 'extravagantly paid benefices,' but our author is the first who has pointed out the very alarning consequences of those occasional dues which he emphatically terms the fornication-compelling, and birth and death embittering surplice-fees.' He has wandered a good way, even from his own former notions, in quest of accusations against our Rome-begotten and Rome-resembling church. He used to think that the many crimes committed in this country were owing to the ill construction of our laws, and at the time when he offered to convert rogues into honest men by contract, he flattered himself that with a system of laws framed according to his own views, and a panopticon of proper dimensions, the national morals might have been regenerated. But even attachment to his own speculations has yielded to enmity to the establishment, and we now learn that it is to the crime-producing virtue' of Church-of-Englandism that we are indebted for every moral disorder. • Where would penal colonies, hulks or jails, find inhabitants, but for the Church of England?' Thus the good that is done by the prisons is undone by the churches, and unless the latter be abolished the former will always overflow. Even the errors and superstitions of a rival creed the clergy are to answer for. What interest they can have in the support of popery is not very obvious; but according to Mr. Bentham they degrade the understandings of the lower Irish to render them incapable of perceiving the abuses of the protestant establishment, and on this subtle calculation of remote advantage they perversely assist in keeping up the authority of his holiness. 'Yes; it is for Church-of-Englandism, as well as' by Church-of-Englandism, that Catholicism and Popery are kept on foot in Ireland.

Under the system here delineated, the unfortunate laity are, it seems, excellently well fleeced and squeezed, and no less excellently gulled and duped. He rather grieves at the patience with which they submit to such exactions. But so long as people will continue to lie with their heads in a bush, to be thus vexed and pillaged, where is the imposture, where even the violence that will be grudged ?'

The spectacle of his unhappy countrymen, suffering under this load of misery does not oppress the spirits of Mr. Bentham; on

the

the contrary he seems rather to enjoy it, and cries out io sportive triumph

• There stands Excellent Church. Behold her in puris naturalibus. These are among her rices. More, at any time, it' wanted. Enquire, as above, of the Diocesan Secretary. Who shall make up the per contrà side of her account? Who shall make out the list of her Excellencies?Come forward, Dean Kipling ;-Come forward, Dean Andrews ;-Come forward, Bishop Burgess ;--Come forward, Bishop Marsh ;-Come forward, Bishop Howley ;-Come forward, Archbishop Sutton ;-—“ Defenders of the Faith and so forth.”—Come forward, Legion,-Saints of all sorts and sizes, buttoned up into unity in the waistcoat of the Quarterly Review.'--Pp. 377.

Such is the classic wit with which our author can enliven a dreary prospect! and this is not the only instance in which he has deigned to make merry with his opponents, and to employ the weapons

of gay irony and delicate sarcasm. To ourselves he bas been throughout particularly attentive, and besides the bonourable mention made of us in the above passage, he proposes to diguify us (perhaps rather prematurely) with the honour of canonization, and jocularly designates us by the title of St. Quarterly Review. It is gratifying to observe that profound philosophical reflection is not incompatible with sprightly elegance, and that our author's application to severer studies has not dimmed the brilliancy of his fancy.

After having given so melancholy a view of the present system, we hasten to reverse the picture, and to show how complete is the alteration proposed by the author. He does not approve of halfmeasures, and accordingly the catalogue of what is to be abolished is tolerably extensive. It includes, besides all recorded declarations of belief concerning doctrine, all dignities and all offices in the church, (except that of parish clerk,) and all without exception in the universities. College fellowships are to be given to balf-pay officers, and the colleges themselves to be converted into invalid barracks. The performance of divine service, which for some reason or other is still to be continued, is to be committed to the clerk, or to a parish boy, to be taught reading for the purpose, and to receive a small stipend out of the poors-rates. The advantages which this plan offers in point of economy are obvious, and the improvement in discipline will probably be equal; for if the young preacher should be guilty of any irregularity, his congregation are to correct his negligence, or' boyish malice,' by proper rebuke, or if necessary a proportionate application of the rod.

These are Mr. Bentham's views of the dignity of the clerical profession, aud the remarks which he has incidentally let fall on that of the law, indicate it to be no better, and to stand in need of

some

some similar reform. He seems to think that the man of law,' the veteran and wily lawyer, is a character as detrimental to society as the lawyer-tutored priest,' and that it is a generous rivalry in the arts of fiction that endears these two professions to one another.

* Fraud, under the name of fiction, being the grand instrument of his power-fraud upon the legislature—fraud upon the people-fraud on every occasion-is dear to the man of law ; dear to him-primarily for the sake of that same power, secondarily, and by force of habit, for its own sake. Fraud, in every licensed shape in which he has a part in the management of it-(and in what licensed shape has he not a part in the management of it?) it is his interest that to the eye of the public it should be as familiar as possible Familiar?- Why? even that by familiarity the deformity of it may, as nearly as possible, be rendered imperceptible. Never without fraud will the man of law do any thing which he can contrive to do by or with fraud. Bad things he does by fraud, because he could not do them otherwise : good things, when they must be done, he chooses to do by fraud, -that by the goodness of the effect the blindness of the public may be deluded into a belief of the goodness of the instrument. And whether he is or is not conscious of them (for--no fees being to be got by the perusal of it-his own mind is an object too frightful for the man of law to be fond of looking into) whether he is or is not conscious of them—in the fictions, alias the frauds, with which the Catechism will be seen to swarm, may be seen the cause of the fondness with which it is hugged, not only by the established priest, but by his confederate, the man of law. The Liturgy, with its Catechism and its Altar, have they not become stepping.stones: not only to spiritual but to temporal benches. From interpreting, in the Church-of-England mode, according to the rules that will be seen, the Oracles of God, the half-bigot, half-hypocrite comes to interpret, according to the same rules, the oracles of the grim Idol, to' which, day by day, under the name of Common Law, so many lives and fortunes are sacrificed : the Idol manufactured by his predecessors on the same Bench, with the instrument with which Samson slew the Philistines.'--pp. 229, 230,

We commonly feel most warmly on those subjects that come most nearly home to us, and it is therefore not surprizing that, amidst a general hatred of the institutions of his country, Mr. Bentham's bitterest animosity should be directed against the university at which he was educated, and the profession of which he is a member. The object of the universities is, he tells 118, to inculcate ' babits of insincerity,' and to teach' perjury in perfection;' the end of law is uncognoscibility.' As Mr. Bentham does not deal in facts, we cannot speak 10 bis veracity, and do not know how far he may have profited by the mendacious instructions of his college tutors; but his work certainly exhibits symptoms of uncognoscibility as strong, at least, as those in any legal composition. The art of protecting his ideas from penetration by involving them in obscurity, he possesses to an unusual extent. This, and his taste for quibbling, Mr. Bentham may perhaps have learnt from his former professional pursuits, and if such be the case his anger against the law is not disproportionate to the injury it has done him.

It is in tracing human actions to their motives, and to the hidden feelings which give rise to them, that the power and discernment of a moral philosopher display themselves the most. Mr. Bentham very adequately performs this part of the character. He points out the objects with a view to which every measure has been taken, and leaves nothing uncertain as to the secret or open designs of his opponents. His ideas, as we have already seen, are by no means favourable to their moral integrity. To the Bishop of London he is indeed more charitable than to any other person who has the ill-luck to be mentioned in this volume. The conduct of that Right Reverend prelate arises, it is hinted, from the misfortune of insanity, if that can be called a misfortune which shelters him from accountability for the guilt here laid to his charge. This instance of exemption is however solitary, and almost all the other persons and classes of persons mentioned or alluded to, are accused of the worst of actions, and those actions are traced to some low and degrading origin; to cool calculating selfishness, or to interest-begotten prejudice.'

Mr. Bentham's laudatory' remarks are very rare, and he seldom uses terms of approbation, except to apply them ironically to his enemies. But in the language of vulgar scurrility, his vocabulary is copious and original, and all the terms of abuse that he can find or invent are profusely distributed on whatever is within his reach. In his indiscriminate railing, it is impossible to recognize any marks of the conviction of a liberal philosophy, or the warmth of a generous enthusiasm for theoretical perfection. If he were led away by too high a conception of the dignity ofour nature, or by an overstrained zeal for the happiness of mankind, we might escuse indignation flowing from such a source, and pardon intemperate expressions of it; but his invective evidently arises from wounded vanity, and from the hatred which he nourishes against all whom he looks upon as obstacles to any of his plans: It probably never occurred to him to doubt the infallibility of his reasonings, or the certainty of his conclusions; and not being charitable enough to make allowances for the weaker understandings of others, he thinks that, but for their own selfish views, all would acknowledge the truth of his doctrines. He therefore denounces as hypocrites all who are not his converts, and apparently feels towards them as if they were his enemies. No accusation is too improba

ble,

« PreviousContinue »