« PreviousContinue »
there is not a sufficient stipend allowed to any American public officer, whether executive, or judicial, or ministerial, or naval, or military, to enable him to support the decent exterior of a gentleman.' And a very sensible writer, The Federalist,' in his answer to a scurrilous publication by an Irishman of the name of Carey, justly observes that 'when the government of a country falls into the hands of demagogues and partizans, and men of low habits, loose principles and depraved understandings, as well as hearts, gain influence and ascendency; the public taste becomes vitiated, the public morals contaminated, the public welfare entirely disregarded, and individual interest, and individual agrandizement, the only objects of the governmental solicitude.'
We more than suspect that this cheap government of the United States is, after all, of as little advantage to the individuals of the community, as to the national honor and national welfare: where indeed is the national advantage of a cheap government, the members of which can help themselves to what they please? or the individual benefit where every thing else is dear? If (as Mr. Fearon assures us) 150 per cent. is paid for lodging more than in England, and nearly as much for all the necessaries of life-if a coat costs eight guineas, a great coat eleven, a pair of indifferent boots from forty to fifty shillings, a pair of shoes half as much, and a hat forty shillings, what is saved by a cheap government,' and 'moderate taxation'? May we not conclude that Mr. Fearon was correctly told that the Americans, in proportion to their means, were more heavily taxed than the people of England'? -p. 64. And might he not have discovered this, without being told, from his own experience? I was astonished,' (he says) ́ at the numerous lots of land, which are sold at auction in all the States for non-payment of taxes. I have seen lists in the newspapers, and at the taverns, which could not contain less in each, than fourteen hundred names of defaulters, whose property was to be transferred to the highest bidder:'-and the last published lists of insolvents in New York alone contained upwards of four hundred names.'-p. 209.
We here close our strictures. Before, however, we dismiss the subject, we must beg our readers to recollect that the views of America which have been presented to them in the present Number, were not taken by unfriendly hands, or by persons prejudiced, however lightly, in favour of this country. Mr. Bristed, whose work we first examined, is an Englishman, it is true, but, one that has neither part nor portion among us; he is, in fact, an enthusiast for the glory of the United States, which he founds on the ruin of Great Britain, an event that he appears to contemplate with sufficient
sufficient complacency. Mr. Fearon, the author before us, is possessed with a kind of patriophobia, an instinctive dread of all the institutions, civil and religious, of his native land, and fierce and vehement against his sovereign, and all who are put in authority under him.' It is evident, therefore, that whatever deductions may be called for on the score of partiality, will take nothing from the hideousness of the picture.
We could have wished to part with Mr. Fearon on better terms. Cobbett calls him a young chap;'-(this, by the way, ill agrees with his old friendship for his Majesty,')—there might, therefore, be some chance of his improvement, were it not that his prejudices, which all point one way, are rooted in the profoundest ignorance. One valuable quality, indeed, Mr. Fearon possesses, and it is this which, in despite of numerous defects, renders his book one of the most interesting and amusing that ever came before us. He is a lover of truth, and, so far as he discerns it, is ready to set it forth. We cannot recollect an instance, during the whole of our progress through his voluminous work, in which a suspicion of his veracity as to what he saw and heard crossed our minds.
Amusement, however, is not all that these 'Sketches' supply; they are pregnant with information of the most valuable kind to every one who meditates a removal to America. The author wished, he says he even laboured to force himself to speak favourably' of what he saw in that country; but his sincerity over, powered his prejudices, and he perpetually bewails the ungrateful truths which the monitions of conscience will not allow him to suppress. Our readers have seen children anxiously watching the successive extinction of sparks in a sheet of burnt paper, This infant play is the serious employment of Mr. Fearon: he has placed before his fancy the plane of the United States more thickly studded with moral and political virtues than the galaxy with stars; and the fretful disquietude, the terror with which he witnesses the disappearance of every luminary, in succession, as his eye is directed to it, forms not the least entertaining part of his adventures.
He is evidently a man of very limited faculties. He cannot compare, nor reason from what he sees to what is immediately connected with it. To enable him to judge, every object must pass, individually, before him. When one ridiculous prejudice has been subdued by personal conviction, he never appears to entertain the slightest suspicion that he can possibly be the dupe of another; nor to abate one jot of confidence in his own sagacity. Hence he is in a state of perpetual childhood. His total want of knowledge is sufficiently apparent; and his principles
(which, as we have already said, are those of the Black Dwarf and the Examiner) are elucidated by every line of his correspondence. If he were not too vain for advice, a salutary lesson might be pointed out to him in the effects of his own excursion. His violent prejudices in favour of America, he confesses, have been shaken or removed. May it not be worth his while to consider, whether those more violent ones which he entertains against his own Country have a more sure foundation than the former ?Whether, if he would look for information from other sources than those to which he has so unhappily for his credit confined his studies, there might not be a chance of his discovering that neither civil nor religious liberty was so abridged in this country as to force a conscientious person to flee for a fuller enjoyment of them to a land of misrule and impiety? Truth is mighty, and will force a way through stronger obstacles than Mr. Fearon is ever likely to oppose to it. We cannot give a more striking proof of our assertion than the following passage, which, while it appositely closes our remarks, will come doubly recommended to our author when he hears that it is extracted from the last work of that 'celebrated man' to whose political wisdom he bows with admiration.
'ENGLAND has been very happy and free; her greatness and renown have been surpassed by those of no nation in the world; her wise, just, and merciful laws form the basis of that freedom which we here enjoy; she has been fertile beyond all rivalship in men of learning, and men devoted to the cause of freedom and humanity; her people, though proud and domineering, yield to no people in the world in frankness, good faith, sincerity and benevolence and I cannot but know, that this state of things has existed, and that this people has been formed, under a government of KING, LORDS, and COMMONS!'
ART. VIII. Church-of-Englandism and its Catechism examined : preceded by Strictures on the Exclusionary System, as pursued in the National Society's Schools; interspersed with parallel views of the English and Scottish Established and Non-established Churches and concluding with Remedies Proposed for Abuses Indicated: and an Examination of the Parliamentary System of Church Reform lately pursued, and still pursuing: including the proposed New Churches. By Jeremy Bentham, Esq. Bencher of Lincoln's-inn, and late of Queen's-college, Oxford, M. A.
FEW persons have derived more advantage from the choice of an almost open subject than Mr. Bentham. Before him scarcely
any one had aspired to write methodically on legislation, and by treating it systematically to raise it to the rank of a science. The works of Montesquieu and Beccaria, replete as they are with the profoundest original thinking, and deep insight into the frame of human society, are, in fact, only collections of discursive and unconnected essays; and though they furnish a rich mine of materials for such an undertaking, yet they do not aim at a complete elucidation of those principles on which political institutions are founded, and on which all legislative enactments should proceed. Mr. Bentham, however, made this attempt, and being possessed of unwearied industry, considerable ingenuity, and no small confidence in his own powers, he erected a system which was to comprize within its limits the whole of human nature, and to be applicable to every case that could arise upon the surface of the earth. There was something imposing in the vastness of the design, as well as in the bold pretensions of the redacteur; and as there existed no acknowledged standard with which to compare his principles, many of those who shunned the fatigue of thinking for themselves have been in the habit of looking to the Traités de Législation, and the Théorie des Peines et des Récompenses as the only depositories of the principles of human government.
But if these boasted works be examined, they will be found to contain very little to justify the opinion entertained of them by the author and his admirers. They are encumbered throughout with many tedious classifications, which, even when they are correct, are utterly unimportant, with mere verbal distinctions, and truisms laboriously demonstrated. Mr. Bentham's fondness for system, and his taste for subtle disputation, often decoy him from matters of real importance to frivolous refinements; and when a good thought occurs, he generally renders it ridiculous by overstretching it, and injudiciously applying it where it is not suitable.
Mr. Bentham has also some other defects, which preclude him from being very useful in the department which he has chosen. He has not that knowledge of human nature, or that sympathy with it, on which moral philosophy must be founded. He is, as he tells us, 'a recluse, who forms no part of society,' one who lives as if he were immured in a cell;' and thus separated from his fellow-creatures, he is not conscious of, and cannot comprehend many of the feelings that reside in the human heart. Judging of mankind only from books, and from his own systems, he has formed a very low, and a very erroneous opinion of it. He seems to have hardly any conception of disinterested virtue, but refers every action to sordid self-interest, or to some other equally gross and palpable motive, and rejecting all those that are less obvious, and more difficult to
be weighed, he fancies that the conduct of a man may be reduced to calculation like the movement of a machine. Measuring morality by utility, and the utility of every thing by the quantity of pleasure, which, according to his own estimate, it produces, he thinks he can discriminate to a nicety the shades of right and wrong. And when he is thus led to results directly contrary to universal feeling, he is not induced to entertain any doubts of the perfection of the process by which he has arrived at them, but without hesitation announces that he alone is right, and that the moral feelings of the rest of mankind are perverted.
The restless ambition of Mr. Bentham has prompted him to attempt, in succession, to become the governor of a prison, the enlightener of the world, the legislator of despotic Russia, of republican America, and lastly the head of a chrestomathic school. In these very various pursuits he has met with several repulses. No nation has yet trusted its guidance to him; and though he has been most liberal of his offers, and hawked his wares about wherever there was any chance of a market, he has not yet had an order for a single code of laws. The English government has not persevered in his prison-scheme; and the pecuniary recompense, which he received for his services in that department, was but scanty compared to the golden hopes in which he once indulged. These mortifications, particularly the last, have apparently thrown a misanthropical gloom over his temper, and hurried him from general speculations to smaller matters, and to attacks on individual persons and institutions. He has found that to teach abstract principles alone, has not been sufficient to remove all the evil that unfortunately exists in the world. It is necessary to furnish also a practical comment; he has therefore descended to particulars, and has lately employed himself in the publication of works having for their immediate object the thorough reform of the civil and religious establishments of his own country. Its government and its systems of education he has already treated of, and in the present volume he gives us his ideas of its national church.
The work opens with a short correspondence commenced by our author with Mr. W. Smith, on the subject of a bill, which that gentleman brought into Parliament a few years ago, to relieve Unitarian dissenters from some antiquated and unexecuted penal statutes. This useless though harmless measure, it will be remembered, ultimately passed into a law: but, it seems, from Mr. Smith's statement that, during the discussion of it in the Upper House, some objections were taken by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice to the form in which it was first introduced. At their suggestion it was negatived, and a new bill to the same effect with