While the first purpose of the division into small local units was the establishment and care of popular elementary schools, the full aim was to make the wards "little republics, with a warden at the head of each, for all those concerns, which being under their eyes, they would better manage than the larger republics of the country or states." They were to have the "care of the poor, roads, police, elections, nomination of jurors, administration of justice in small cases,
elementary exercises of militia'." In short, they were to exercise directly with respect to their own affairs all the functions of government, civil and military. In addition, when any important wider matter came up for decision, all wards would be called into meetings on the same day, so that the collective sense of the whole people would be produced. Although the plan was not adopted, it formed an essential part of Jefferson's political philosophy. The significance of the doctrine of 'states' right' as he held it is incomplete both theoretically and practically until this plan is taken into consideration. "The elementary republics of the Republic of the Union would form a gradation of authorities." Every man would then share in the administration of affairs not merely on election day but every day. In fact, the heart of his philosophy of politics is found in his effort to institute the small administrative and legislative unit as the keystone of the arch.
The Natural Right of Self-Government
"The natural right of self-government"18 could, thus, be made applicable all the way from the individual citizen managing his own affairs to a democratic international organization embodying the modern notion of 'world government', a notion implicit in Jefferson's own principle of 'gradation' and not unfamiliar to Jeffersonian political thinkers, such as Richard Price and Joel Barlow. "Every man, and everybody of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government. They receive it with their being from the hand of nature."1*
The value of governmental institutions, in Jefferson's view, was measured by their effectiveness as a means of expressing the popular will. As a Secretary of State, he instructed the American minister to France that: "It accords with our principles to acknowledge any government to be rightful which is formed by the will of the nation substantially declared."10 And the excellence of every government is its adaptation to the state of those who are governed by it. Likewise, all political institutions, he was of the view, must keep pace with the progress of events and develop as science and enlightenment advance. As such, the policies of a rightful government and the political life of a country should change with the fast-changing needs of the people.
To John Pleasants, April 19, 1824. Works, XII, 353.
Works, VI, 98. In his Summary View Jefferson wrote: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time ; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." Works, II, 39. This sentiment is voiced in the Latin motto : Ab eo libertas a quo spiritus.
To Gouverneur Morris, November 7, 1792. Works, VII, 175. See also Ibid., 198, 284 f.
Jefferson was a firm believer in the rights of man, which he regarded as inalienable and unchangeable, because they express the
will of the righteous Creator of man embodied in the very structure of society and conscience. He was not an individualist in the sense of the British laissez-faire liberal school. He believed that individual human beings receive the right of self-government "with their being from the hand of nature." As an eighteenth-century deist and believer in natural religion, Jefferson connected nature and nature's God inseparably in his thought. He expressed that he had "no fear but that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master. Could the contrary of this be proved, I should conclude either that there is no God, or that he is a malevolent being." We have to interpret these words literally and not rhetorically, if we wish to understand Jefferson's democratic faith. The connection of justice or equity with equality of rights and duties was a commonplace of the moral tradition of Christendom. He took the tradition very seriously. His statements about the origin of the Declaration of Independence are confined in what he wrote shortly before his death : "We had no occasion to search into musty records, to hunt up royal parchments, or to investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved on our hearts."
In the hurricane of revolutions which have swept the world since the Great War, men. struggling with the wreckage and poverty of that great catastrophe and the complications of the machine age, have in despair surrendered their freedom for false promises of security and glory. Whether it be Fascism, Nazism, Communism, or their followers, the result is the same. Every day they repudiate every principle of the Bill of Rights. And where they have triumphed the first security of men has been lost. Theirs is a form of servitude, of slavery— a slipping back towards the Middle Ages. Whatever these ideologies are, they have one common denominator—the citizen has no inalienable rights. He is submerged into the state. Here is the most fundamental clash known to mankind—that is, free men and women, co-operating under orderly liberty, as contrasted with human beings made pawn of government, men who are slaves of despotism, as against free men who are the masters of the state. Hence Jefferson was eternally right when he held that liberty comes only and lives only where the hard-won rights of men are held inalienable, where governments themselves may not infringe, where governments are indeed but the mechanisms to protect and sustain these principles.
Jefferson's experience in Europe confirmed his conviction that American conditions were fai preferable to those in other countries and should be preserved from contamination by foreign influence and example. In Europe he observed "governments of force" that were governments "of wolves over sheep". The comparison of American political institutions with those of Europe was "like a comparison of heaven and heli. England, like the earth, may be allowed to take the intermediate station." To George Washington he wrote*: "I was
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
much an enemy to monarchies before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so, since I have seen what they are." Describing the policy he pursued as President, he remarked : "Having seen the people of other nations bowed down to the earth under the prodigalities of their rulers, I have cherished their opposites, peace, economy and riddance of public debt, believing that these were the high-roads to public as well as to private prosperity and happiness."11
Republicanism and Americanism
Jefferson regarded "Republicanism and Americanism" as synonymous sentiments. The American system was a civilization based upon peace and productivity. Of the European countries he said : "They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labour, property, and lives of their people. On our part, never had a people so favourable a chance of trying the opposite system, of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of improvement instead of destruction.He never forgets to declare that "the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government." And to maintain this spirit of good government for the welfare of the people, it is necessary, according to Jefferson, to devise a comprehensive system of public education with a view to enabling the people to participate in every department of the government. Because he felt, in every government on earth there is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be essentially necessary. An amendment in the constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe, because the corrupting of the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth, and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price.
Jefferson's Faith in the Rationality of Man
21 Dumbauld, Edward : Thomas Jefferson ; American Tourist, p. 211 f. 21To James Monroe, June 11, 1823. Works, XII, 292.
On the experimental side, we must note that the triumph of Jefferson's party in the election of 1800 meant that the constitution of 1787 was to be used as a vehicle for popular self-government as an instrument of democracy. That document, viewed simply as a piece
of political machinery, could be operated either in the Hamilton manner to pattern a government on the British monarchy, or in the Jeffersonian fashion as a means of effectuating the ideals of freedom. The nation's polity was fluid and uncertain until Jefferson's presidency. The conservative, anti-democratic sentiment which grew in strength during the period of the Confederation and which was influential at the Philadelphia Convention88 could have used the constitution as a basis for "administering the government into a monarchy," as the Jeffersonians feared might happen. But with Jefferson's victory at the polls the situation was different. The spirit of the government changed. He infused into the constitution the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, it was no longer merely a piece of ambivalent political machinery but an object of popular reverence, a cherished part of the American way of life.
The essential spirit of Jeffersonian political theory was faith in the people. "I have so much confidence in the good sense of man, and his qualification for self-government, that I am never afraid of the issue where reason is left free to exert her force."24
A new civilization, based on "cherishment of the people", Jefferson believed, was destined to arise in America. The doctrine of Europe was that the people was "a great beast" and must be restrained by brute force. The Jeffersonian doctrine was "that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights," and could be trusted to maintain law and order by means of a government of limited powers, responsible to the people, and permitting citizens "to think for themselves, and to follow reason as their guide."*5 T«e philosophy of human brotherhood and enlightenment for which Jefferson stoc>' (as did Gandhi m India), the confident faith that America was a virgin land of hope and opportunity, became the dominant and distinctive national tradition. Since then Americans are essentially life-affirmers rather than life-deniers ; "they believe in tomorrow.""
JEREMY BENTHAM (I 748-1 832)
Bentham's Scientific Mind
Jeremy Bentham, the real founder of utilitarian school of political philosophy, represented a type of mind in England that had revolutionized industry through application of steam to it. He was an intellectual prodigy. He entertained a poor opinion of education, while at Oxford, and went to Lincoln's Inn in England for legal training. His father had wished him to become an ornament of the legal profession and had guided his education with that end in view.
But his was a scientific mind given to introspection. He could not succeed as a legal practitioner, because the intellectual in him did not accept the legal practices of England that, in his view, had grown outworn. He found himself confronted with a mass of obscurities, fictions and formalities that were altogether revolting to him. The critical faculty was most conspicuous in his intellectual equipment, while respect for the antique and the historical per se was entirely lacking. Among the venerable principles and practices of conservative England's law and politics he became, therefore, "a veritable bull in a China shop." His demands for the removal of obvious abuses in the substance and administration of the law were met by the usual conservative eulogies of the system. The common law, he was told, was sanctified by its ancient origin and centuries of growth and by the quality impressed upon it by the fine intellects of the jurists who loomed so large in the glories of the national tradition. To meddle with the structure that they had reared and to work for the reform in it was to court disaster to the state.
Bentham had no respect for such views. Neither the antiquity of an institution, nor the reputation of any man past or present who was responsible for it, carried any weight with him in its justification. Historical interpretations of institutions and historical method of study had no use for him. The law and institutions of a country, he held, must respresent the needs of the day. They must be judged, not with reference to past, but from the standpoint of their utility.
Thu? Bentham banished from debate the whole apparatus of historical research and all the implications of sanctity that were in* volved in mere age and mystery. He did not deny that the long prevalence of a law or an institution might suggest that it was useful. There was nothing conclusive, however, about the suggestion.
Bentham's Principle of Utility
His sole insistence was on the principle of utility by which he meant 'the greatest good of the greatest number', when judged from the viewpoint of the end of the state. This meaning he drew mainly from Priestley's Essay on Government. And when in 1776, Bentham wrote his Fragment on Government, he advocated many a change in the government and its laws from the point of view of utility. He worked out a body of principles for the guidance of all those who might be interested in morals and legislation. His conviction that he had deduced from human nature itself the universal motives of men's actions and therefore the certain rules for regulating their social relations, was deep and unwavering. Legislation became in his mind merely the process of shaping these fundamental rules so as to fit with nicety the superficial peculiarities of a particular community ; the substantial requirements for all communities were the same. On the basis of this conviction Bentham not only contributed, sometimes as a volunteer and sometimes on invitation, to the codification and revision of private law in a number of countries, but he even offered to furnish on demand to any people a code that he could guarantee as sound in every particular and certain to promote the true end of every government, the greatest good of the greatest number.
Although Bentham's writings produced little effect during the 18th century because of the British dislike of innovations and British reactions against the excesses committed by the reformers of French Revolution, after 1815 his philosophy became exceedingly popular. He became the recognized leader of the radical philosophers like David Ricardo, James Mill, J. S. Mill, John Austin and George Grote. He legislated not only for England, but also for France, Russia, Mexico and Chile, because he discounted racial differences and had discovered a body of rules which, according to him, could be universally applied. His knowledge of the legal matters was so vast and his confidence in his own deductions from human nature was so deep that he could, when he so desired, write vigorously and well on various subjects regarding the State and the individual, as his demonstration of the impossibility of absolute equality, one of the best in the history of political thought, shows : "If equality ought to prevail today it ought to prevail always. Yet it cannot be preserved except by renewing the violence by which it was established. It will need an army of inquisitors and executioners as deaf to favour as to pity : insensible to the seductions of pleasure, inaccessible to personal interest; endowed with all the virtues, though in a service which destroys them all. The levelling apparatus ought to go incessantly backward and forward, cutting off all that rises above the line prescribed. A ceaseless vigilance would be necessary to give to those who had dissipated their portions, and to take from those who
by labour had augmented theirs. In such an order—that of prodigality, there would be but one foolish course—that of industry. This pretended remedy, seemingly so pleasant, would be a mortal poison, a burning cautery, which would consume till it destroyed the last fibre of life. The hostile sword in its greatest furies is a thousand times less dreadful. It inflicts but partial evils, which time effaces and industry repairs."
Bentham lived up to eighty-two, working hard to the end, "codifying like any dragon," as he himself expressed. His ambition had been no small one.—"J. B. the most ambitious of the ambitions," he wrote. And he died happy in the thought that that ambition was well on the way to being realized. In the words of Leslie Stephen : "He is said to have expressed the wish that he could awaken once in a century to contemplate the prospect of a world gradually adopting his principles and so making steady progress in happiness and wisdom." Although it is quite difficult to say as to what extent his wish is going to be fulfilled, it is, however, correct that he had such an enormous influence on law reform that Maine says, "I do not know a single law reform effected since Bentham's day which cannot be traced to his influence."
The undercurrent of Bentham's legal and political writing is his doctrine of utility. He interpreted the word 'utility' as a synonym for our word 'good', or our word 'value'. Everything that brings happiness is good, he tells us, and nothing that does not bring happiness is good. "An adherent to the Principle of Utility," he says, "holds virtue to be a good thing by reason only of the pleasures which result from the practice of it: he esteems vice to be a bad thing by reason only of the pains which follow in its train." Egoistic Hedonism
The doctrine of utility, therefore, is a hedonistic doctrine. When Bentham spoke of the good and bad consequences of an action, he simply meant the happy or painful consequences of tbat action. He accepted whole-heartedly the association principle of Hartley that all ideas are derived from the senses as the result of the operation of sensible objects on these, and he conceived of life as being made up of interesting perceptions. All experience, he believed, is either plea- . surable or painful, or both. Pleasures are simply individual sensations. But happiness, according to him, is not merely a simple individual sensation : it is a state of mind, a bundle of sensations. Every pleasure, he tells, is prima facie good and ought to be pursued. But happiness is not the piling up of all pleasures. It is the net result-that is, it sometimes entails the rejection of some pleasures, indulgence in which would have painful consequences.
Bentham starts with his conception of human nature. He deduced from his analysis of human nature that man is egoistic by nature. He explained : "Nature has placed mankind under the government
of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand, the standard of right or wrong, on the other the chain of cause and effect, are fastened to their thrones." It is on the basis of pain and pleasure that a man performs any action in life. Bentham calls his principle of pain and pleasure the principle of utility.
This doctrine of utility is a doctrine which is concerned with results, and not with motives. It maintains that the motive of an action is irrelevant to its goodness or badness—not, as Dr. Johnson held, that its goodness and morality depends upon the motive with which it is done. Viewed in this way, the doctrine of utility, as held by Bentham, seems to be somewhat unethical. But utilitarians seem to be ready to compromise with the view that motive matters at least to this extent that they will admit that the motive of an action can be considered relative to its goodness or badness where it has an effect upon its results. If men act habitually from good-will they agree, their actions are likely to have better consequences than are the actions of men who act habitually from ill-will. Bentham, further, believes that consequences may be both 'primary' and 'secondary'. The pain which the robbed man feels at the loss of his money is a 'primary' evil. The alarm felt by all other holders of money, the suggestion that robbery is easy which may affect the conduct of others and thus weaken the 'tutelary' motive of respect for property, are 'secondary' evils. These secondary evils may be more important than the primary evil—as the example of a single man refusing to pay his taxes might be infinitely more harmful to the State than the loss to the Treasury of his personal contribution would suggest. A man's intentions or motives, Bentham says, are of the greatest importance in determining these secondary consequences of actions, and must therefore be taken into account by the legislator. In spite, however, of this compromise, it is clear that according to the doctrine of utility we cannot say whether an action is good until its consequences are known.
The doctrine of utility tells us, further, whose happiness or pleasure is to be sought, although there is remarkably little unanimity in the views of the utilitarians on this point. Bentham gives four distinct answers to this question. First, he, being an ardent believer in psychological egoistic hedonism, tells us that a man aims always and only at his own persona! happiness. Secondly, he remarks that man ought to aim at the happiness of everybody in general, since he says that an action is good whenever it results in a balance of happiness to somebody. Thirdly, he says that man should strive to bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number- i slogan which owes some of its success to its ambiguity. Fourthly, in his later writings he tells us that man should seek the "greatest possible happiness". This last view, which was held by J. S. Mill, is, by and large, that which is most characteristic of the utilitarians.