« PreviousContinue »
lies the fu not only the food of out the examples of gran
continue a settled intercourse with all the true examples of grandeur. Their inventions are not only the food of our infancy, but the substance which supplies the fullest maturity of our vigour.
The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted, and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter.
When we have had continually before us the great works of Art to impregnate our minds with kindred ideas, we are then, and not till then, fit to produce something of the same species. We behold all about us with the eyes of those penetrating observers whose works we contemplate; and our minds, accustomed to think the thoughts of the noblest and brightest intellects, are prepared for the discovery and selection of all that is great and noble in nature. The greatest natural genius cannot subsist on its own stock: he who resolves never to ransack any mind but his own will be soon reduced, from mere barrenness, to the poorest of all imitations; he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what he has before often repeated. When we know the subject designed by such men, it will never be difficult to guess what kind of work is to be produced.
It is vain for painters or poets to endeavour to invent without materials on which the mind may work, and from which invention must originate. Nothing can come of nothing.
Homer is supposed to be possessed of all the learning of his time; and we are certain that Michael Angelo and Raffaelle were equally possessed of all the knowledge in the art which had been discovered in the works of their predecessors.
A mind enriched by an assemblage of all the treasures of ancient and modern art will be more elevated and fruitful in resources, in proportion to the number of ideas which have been carefully collected and thoroughly digested. There can be no doubt but that he who has the most materials has the greatest means of invention; and, if he has not the power of using them, it must proceed from a feebleness of intellect, or from the confused manner in which those collections have been laid up in his mind.
The addition of other men's judgment is so far from weakening our own, as is the opinion of many, that it will fashion and consolidate those ideas of excellence which lay in embryo, feeble, ill-shaped, and confused, but which are finished and put in order by the authority and practice of those, whose works may be said to have been consecrated by having stood the test of ages.
JEREMY BENTHAM. (JEREMY BENTHAM, in many respects one of the most distinguished men of the reign of George III., was born in 1747. He died in 1832. His first publication was a · Fragment on Government, which appeared in 1776. Of Mr. Bentham's labours as a philosophical writer, it would be impossible to give any notion, without minute details. His later style was remarkable for many peculiarities, which in some degree injured the value of his thoughts; but his early writings are forcible and elegant-admirable specimens of pure English. His works have been collected under the superintendence of his executor, Dr. Bowring. The following is from The Principles of the Civil Code.']
This inestimable good is the distinctive mark of civilization; it is entirely the work of the laws. Without law there is no security; consequently no abundance, nor even certain subsistence. And the only equality which can exist in such a condition is the equality of misery.
In order rightly to estimate this great benefit of the laws, it is only necessary to consider the condition of savages. They struggle, without ceasing, against famine, which sometimes cuts off, in a few days, whole nations. Rivalry with respect to the means of subsistence produces among them the most cruel wars; and, like the most ferocious beasts, men pursue men, that they may feed on one another. The dread of this horrible calamity destroys amongst them the gentlest sentiments of nature : pity connects itself with insensibility in putting the old persons to death, because they can no longer follow their prey. .
Examine, also, what passes at those periods during which civilized societies almost return into the savage state; I refer to a time of war, when the laws which give security are, in part, suspended. Every instant of its duration is fruitful in calamity : at every step which it imprints upon the globe, at every movement which it makes, the
existing mass of riches-the foundation of abundance and subsistence
-is decreased, and disappears: the lowly cottage and the lofty palace are alike subject to its ravages; and often the anger or caprice of a moment consigns to destruction the slow productions of an age of labour.
Law, alone, has accomplished what all the natural feelings were not able to do; Law, alone, has been able to create a fixed and durable possession, which deserves the name of Property. The law, alone, could accustom men to submit to the yoke of foresight, at first painful to be borne, but, afterwards, agreeable and mild; it alone could encourage them in labour-superfluous at present, and which they are not to enjoy till the future. Economy has as many enemies as there are spendthrifts, or men who would enjoy without taking the trouble to produce. Labour is too painful for idleness; it is too slow for impatience: Cunning and Injustice underhandedly conspire to appropriate its fruits ; Insolence and Audacity plot to seize them by open force. Hence Society, always tottering, always threatened, never at rest, lives in the midst of snares. It requires, in the legislator, vigilance continually sustained, and power always in action, to defend it against his constantly reviving crowd of adversaries.
The law does not say to a man, “ Work, and I will reward you;" but it says to him, “ Work, and, by stopping the hand that would take them from you, I will insure to you the fruits of your labour, its natural and sufficient reward, which, without me, you could not preserve." If industry creates, it is the law which preserves ; if, at the first moment, we owe every thing to labour, at the second, and every succeeding moment, we owe every thing to the law.
In order to form a clear idea of the whole extent which ought to be given to the principle of security, it is necessary to consider, that man is not like the brutes, limited to the present time, either in enjoyment or suffering; but that he is susceptible of pleasure and pain by anticipation, and that it is not enough to guard him against an actual loss, but also to guarantee to him, as much as possible, his possessions against future losses. The idea of his security must be prolonged to him throughout the whole vista that his imagination can measure.
This disposition to look forward, which has so marked an influence upon the condition of man, may be called expectation-expectation of the future. It is by means of this we are enabled to form a general plan of conduct; it is by means of this that the successive moments which compose the duration of life are not like isolated and independent points, but become parts of a continuous whole. Expectation is a chain which unites our present and our future existence, and passes beyond ourselves to the generations which follow us. The sensibility of the individual is prolonged through all the links of this chain.
The principle of security comprehends the maintenance of all these hopes; it directs that events, inasmuch as they are dependent upon the laws, should be conformed to the expectations to which the laws have given birth.
Every injury which happens to this sentiment produces a distinct, a peculiar evil, which may be called pain of disappointed expectation.
The views of jurists must have been extremely confused, since they have paid no particular attention to a sentiment so fundamental in human life; the word expectation is scarcely to be found in their vocabulary; an argument can scarcely be found in their works, founded upon this principle. They have followed it, without doubt, in many instances, but it has been from instinct, and not from reason.
* * * * * * The laws, in creating property, have created wealth ; but, with respect to poverty, it is not the work of the laws, it is the primitive condition of the human race. The man who lives only from day to day is precisely the man in a state of nature. The savage, the poor in society, I acknowledge, obtain nothing but by painful labour; but in a state of nature what could he obtain but at the price of his toil. Has not hunting its fatigues, fishing its dangers, war its uncertainties ? And if man appear to love this adventurous life-if he have an instinct greedy of these kinds of peril—if the savage rejoice in the delights of an idleness so dearly purchased-ought it to be concluded that he is more happy than our day labourers ? No: the labour of these is more uniform, but the reward is more certain ; the lot of the woman is more gentle, infancy and old age have more resources; the species multiplies in a proportion a thousand times greater, and this alone would suffice to show on which side is the superiority of happiness. Hence the laws, in creating property, have been benefactors to those who remain in their original poverty. They participate more or less in the pleasures, advantages, and resources of civilized society; their industry and labour place them among the candidates for fortune; they enjoy
the pleasures of acquisition; hope mingles with their labours. The security which the law gives them, is this of little importance ? Those who look from above at the inferior ranks see all objects less than they really are ; but, at the base of the pyramid, it is the summit which disappears in its turn. So far from making these comparisons, they dream not of them; they are not tormented with impossibilities; so that, all things considered, the protection of the laws contributes as much to the happiness of the cottage as to the security of the palace. It is surprising that so judicious a writer as Beccaria should have insisted, in a work dictated by the soundest philosophy, a doubt subversive of the social order. The right of property, says he, is a terrible right, and may not, perhaps, be necessary. Upon this right, tyrannical and sanguinary laws have been founded. It has been most frightfully. abused; but the right itself presents only ideas of pleasure, of abundance, and of security. It is this right which has overcome the natural aversion to labour-which has bestowed on man the empire of the earth-which has led nations to give up their wandering habitswhich has created a love of country and posterity. To enjoy quickly —to enjoy without punishment—this is the universal desire of man; this is the desire which is terrible, since it arms all those who possess nothing against those who possess any thing. But the law, which restrains this desire, is the most splendid triumph of humanity over itself.
If I despair of enjoying the fruits of my labour, I shall only think of living from day to day: I shall not undertake labours which will only benefit my enemies. But besides this, in order to the existence of labour, the will alone is not sufficient,-instruments are wanting. Whilst these are being provided, subsistence is necessary. A single loss may render me unable to act, without depriving me of the disposition to labour—without having paralyzed my will. · For the development of industry, the union of power and will is required. Will depends upon encouragement-power upon means. These means are called, in the language of political economy, productive capital. With regard to a single individual, his capital may be destroyed, without his industrious disposition being destroyed, or even weakened. With regard to a nation, the destruction of its productive capital is impossible : but, long before this fatal term arrives, the mis