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that, in spite of much irrelevancy, good often results from questions put in good faith to Ministers by responsible members of Parliament. It may be desirable that time should be saved by adopting the method of giving answers as well as questions in writing, but the practice itself should be maintained. For hence it comes that in the quiet recesses of Whitehall it is necessary to put every decision to the test, · Is 'there a good answer if a question is asked in the House ?' In other words, ' How will the case look if presented to a ·lay assembly of average morality and common-sense ?' Much is done in this way to check the insidious beginnings of corruption, torpor, or mandarin routine, diseases incident to bureaucracy, and herein lies much of the value of a Parliamentary constitution. Ministers should remember this, and, when questions are asked as to directorships or investments, preserve a philosophic calm, and not hotly assume, even if the opposing style is blundering or irritating, that they or their colleagues are being charged with personal dishonesty. And if a Minister is wise he will, we think, himself, without being pressed, go far beyond the obvious necessities of the case in the way of care that neither his directorships nor his investments shall be such as may by any chance affect or bias, consciously or unconsciously, his public life, or even expose it to the least degree of suspicion.
ART. V.-1. The English Utilitarians. By LESLIE STEPHEN.
3 Vols. London: Duckworth & Co., 1900. M R. LESLIE STEPHEN combines the faculty of acute and
searching criticism with a style that is singularly clear, incisive, and exact. His wide knowledge of English literature, and the close study which he has given to the history of English opinions and controversies, speculative, political, and economical, have enabled him to survey an extensive field, to trace the lines of origin and developement, to disentangle complicated ideas, and to summarise conclusions in a masterly manner. Nearly twenty-five years have passed since he published his work on · English Thought in the Eighteenth Century,' and his present book on the Utilitarians continues, and indeed brings down to our own time, a similar investigation of the course of certain views, principles, and doctrines which had taken their shape in England and France during the period preceding the French Revolution, and which profoundly influenced political discussion throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. But on this occasion Mr. Stephen's inquiry does not range over the whole area thus laid open, though his subject compels him to make several excursions into the general region of philosophical and political disputation. His main purpose is to relate the history of a creed propagated by a group of remarkable men, who took hold of some prominent theories and doctrines generated by the rationalism of the preceding century, and endeavoured to make them the basis and framework of a system for improving the condition of the English people. Their immediate object was to abolish intolerable abuses of power by the governing classes, and radically to reform on scien. tific principles the haphazard blundering administration which was assumed to be the source of all evil. Mr. Stephen describes and explains, in short, the rise, progress, and decay of Utilitarianism.
Such a system, by its nature and aims, is evidently practical; it is directed towards a change of laws and an alteration of the prevailing methods of government. To the philosophic minds of the eighteenth century reformers in England and France, it seemed evident that any general conclusions upon questions vitally concerning the interests of mankind should be reached by convincing demonstration, should start from axioms, and proceed by a connected chain
of logical argument. During the latter half of that century England and France, so incessantly at war and so different in character and in their governing institutions, were nevertheless in alliance intellectually. They were then (with Holland) the only countries in the world where public opinion had free play, and where discussion of philosophic problems was actively carried on; and between them there was a constant interchange of ideas. Now in all speculations, on things human or divine, there have existed immemorially two schools or tendencies of thought, two ways of approaching the subject, corresponding, we may conjecture, to a radical difference of intellectual predispositions. You may start by the high à priori road, or you may feel your way gradually by induction from verifiable experiences; and of these two main currents of speculative opinion whichever is the stronger at any given period will affect every branch of thought and action. Coleridge appealed to history as proving that all epoch-making revolutions coincide with the rise or fall of metaphysical systems, and he attributed the power of abstract theories over revolutionary movements to the craving of man for higher guidance than sensations. However this may be, it may be affirmed that the rationalism of the eighteenth century in England and France found room by replacing the decaying theologies and substituting reason for the traditional authority. This was the period that produced in France the philosophic conception of abstract humanity, everywhere the same naturally, with a superficial distinction of circumstances, but differentiated in the main by bad laws, artificial inequalities, and social injustice. In France the method of deducing conclusions from abstract principles concerning the rights of man and the social compact gained predominance, until they were shaped by Rousseau and others into the formal indictment of a corrupt society. It was the point and impulse thus given to very real grievances and irritation against privilege, that precipitated the French Revolution. Among the English, on the other hand, their public spirit, the connection of large classes with national affairs, and their habit of compromise, had predisposed the leading minds towards cautious views in philosophy and in politics; and at the century's end their inbred distrust of abstract propositions as a basis for social reconstruction received startling confirmation from the tremendous explosion in France.
The foregoing remarks give in bare outline the conditions and circumstances, very carefully examined and skilfully analysed by Mr. Leslie Stephen, that prepared and cleared the ground for the Utilitarians. Their object was not to reconstruct, hardly to remodel, existing forms of government; it was to remove abuses, and to devise remedies for the evils of an unwieldy and complicated administrative machine, clogged by stupidity and selfishness. And the plan of Mr. Stephen's first volume is to describe the state of society at this period, the condition of agriculture and the industries, the position of the Church and the Universities, of the Army and Navy, the intellectual tendencies indicated by the philosophic doctrines, and generally to sketch the political and social aspects of England rather more than a hundred years ago. He is writing, as he says, the history of a sect; and in dealing with the tenets of that sect he lays prominent stress upon what may be called the environment, upon the various circumstances which may influence forms of belief, and particularly upon the idiosyncrasies of the men who held and propagated them. It is for this latter reason that he has given us brief and interesting biographies of those whose influence was greatest in shaping and directing the movement, illustrating his narrative by portraits of them as they lived and acted. All these things help us towards understanding how it comes to pass that conclusions which seem clear as daylight to earnest thinkers in one generation may be abandoned by succeeding generations as manifestly erroneous. The inquiry also shows why, and to what extent, some of the doctrines that were scientifically propounded by the Utilitarians did initiate and lead up to an important reformation in the methods of English government.
It might be stated as a paradox' (Mr. Stephen observes) that, whereas in France the most palpable evils arose from the excessive power of the central government, and in England the most palpable evils arose from the feebleness of the central government, the French reformers demanded more government, and the English reformers less government. ... The solution seems to be easy. In France, reformers such as Turgot and the economists were in favour of an enlightened despotism, because ... it would suppress the exclusive privileges of a class which, doing nothing in return, had become a mere burthen, encumbering all social developement. But in England the privileged class was identical with the governing class.'
The English aristocracy, in fact, were actually doing the country's business, though they were doing it badly, and paid themselves much too highly for very indifferent adminis
tration. Yet the English nation acquiesced in the system, because the middle classes were growing rich and prosperous, and the State interfered very little with their private affairs. To this general statement of the case we agree ; but we may point out that in terming our aristocracy a privileged class one material distinction has been passed over. For whereas the French noblesse constituted a caste partly exempted by birthright from the general taxation, and 'vested with certain vexatious rights to which no duties corresponded, the English aristocracy possessed legally no privileges at all. It was not an exclusive order, but an upper class that was constantly recruited, being open to all successful men; and such a governing body is naturally indifferent to reforms, because it is very little affected by administrative imperfections or abuses. Pauperism and ignorance may fester long among the masses before wealthy and prosperous rulers discover that the interests of their own class are imperilled; the state of prisons does not concern them personally; and so long as life and property are fairly secure, they care little about an efficient police. The Englishman of whom a Frenchman reported with amazement that he consoled himself for having been robbed by the reflection that there were no policemen in his country, must have belonged to this comfortable class. And the inveterate conservation of abuses in the Church, the Law, and the Army may be partially explained in a similar way. In France the Church and the army were really privileged bodies : the vast ecclesiastical revenues were protected from taxation, and the commissioned ranks of the army were reserved for the noblesse; the French parliaments were close magisterial corporations. In England these were all open professions, with no special fiscal rights or social limitations; the prizes were available for general competition, and as everyone had a chance of winning them by interest or even merit, there was no formidable outcry against the system.
In politics, therefore, as well as in philosophy, the prevailing habit of the English mind was more moderate, less thoroughgoing and subversive, than in France. Mr. Stephen makes a keen and rapid analysis of the common sense psychology, as expounded by Reid and Dugald Stewart, to show the correspondence at this period between abstract reasoning and concrete political views, and to illustrate the limitations which cautious Scotch professors endeavoured to place upon the inexorable scepticism of Hume. The general