Patrick Edward Dove:
Theory of Human Progression (1850)
Abridged by Julia A. Kellogg
The Theory of Man’s Intellectual Progression
THERE are only so many possible sciences, although each science, in its own department, may be pursued indefinitely.
The sciences are capable of being classed on a system, which is not arbitrary.
Classification is a mere process of the intellect whereby the sciences are arranged in a certain order, according to a principle. The discovery of the sciences is a historical fact extending over many centuries. We assert that the order of discovery has been correlative with the order of classification. There is, therefore, the strongest ground for believing that the future sciences will be discovered and reduced to ordination in the same order that they stand in the scheme of classification.
Correlative with the sciences are the arts.
The sciences are knowledge, the arts are action.
With the discovery of the sciences, there follows invariably a new and amended order of action. The word art we use as signifying the systematic products of human activity. The fine arts are, to a great extent, the gift of the individual, and consequently are so far independent of science.
The sciences are classed on their complexity.
Let it be remembered that science is not a reality, but only a form of thought. Science exists in the mind, and in the mind alone; it is the mind’s mode of viewing reality.
The realities are matter and mind.
Reasoning is subsequent to a propositional knowledge, and is the process whereby a new proposition is made to evolve from two anterior propositions.
The syllogism is the complete expression, in language, for reasoning; and both are correlative with all the active functions of real nature.
Were man incapable of reasoning, he might apprehend all the realities of nature, and classify all on the most perfect system of ordination; but never, by any possibility, could he explain and calculate the functions of realities. Every function is active, and every action involves an agent (or cause); and were man not endowed with the intuitive principle of causation, all motions, combinations, functions, in a word, all changes, would immediately become inexplicable, and the universe would forever remain a vast enigma.
The actual constitution of the human intellect is as absolutely necessary to all science, as is the existence of the realities of which the sciences respectively treat.
This is the necessary order of the mathematical sciences.
Logic; which really includes two sciences.
Arithmetic; algebra; geometry; statics.
In this order, the mathematical sciences must necessarily be classed, and in this order the mathematical science must necessarily be discovered. Ten thousand men originating the mathematical sciences by a process of independent investigation, would necessarily discover them in this order; and were ten thousand worlds peopled with human beings to go through the process of making anew the mathematical sciences, every one of those human races would pass through the same intellectual course, and evolve the abstract sciences exactly in the same necessary order. The constitution of human reason forbids that it should be otherwise; one science being impossible until its antecedent is so well known as to be capable of subjective operation. Thus, unless the laws of identity are known, there can be no investigation of the laws of equality; and until the laws of equality are known, there can be no investigation of the laws of numbers; and until arithmetic is known, there can be no investigation of the laws of quantity; and until the laws of quantity are known, there can be no investigation into the relations of spaces; and until geometry is known, there can be no statics.
Without the mathematical sciences there can be no physical science—there may be classifications, facts, propositions innumerable; but science, which involves the syllogism, there never can be till the abstract sciences are so far advanced as to be capable of subjective application to the real facts of nature.
Logic is the universal form of all science. The mathematical sciences are only logic, with numbers, quantities, spaces, or forces for the terms; and the physical sciences are only logic, with physical realities for the terms. The form remains universally the same.
It is evident that all the physical sciences must be based on the observation of the existence, condition, and function of the real matter with which man is acquainted.
The physical sciences may be termed; nature seen by the reason, and not merely by the senses.
Between the syllogism, the intellectual reason of mankind, and the operations of external nature, there is the most perfect parallelism; and this parallelism afords a most undoubted proof of the objective veracity of the subjective convictions of the human mind.
Were the general convictions of the human reason (its axioms) not true objectively, as well as necessarily true subjectively, the prediction of physical phenomena would be absolutely impossible. And although the philosophic sceptic may by ingenious ambiguities involve that question in doubts and sophisms, surely we may rest satisfied that the same hand that made the heavens and the earth in so wonderful a harmony of order, has not made the human reason only a mockery and a delusion.
All the phenomena of nature are operations—things done. Now, science consists of knowledge, and knowledge exists in the mind. How, then, are we to view the real operations of nature, considered as external to the mind?
The real operations of nature are to be viewed as arts—as divine arts—and their comprehension alone can he called science. The universe is God’s great workshop, and man is the rational spectator whose office it is to comprehend the processes that are there carried on. The motions of the planets do not constitute science; it is the rational apprehension of those motions in the human mind that constitutes science. But the principles of mechanics are for more general than all the facts of astronomy; they apply not only to the real sun and the real planets, but to all possible suns, and to all possible matter constituted in a manner similar to the matter with which we are acquainted.
Consequently astronomy, vast as it is, must be viewed only as a real illustration of the principles of mechanics, as an exemplification of dynamics.
We have said that the classification of the sciences, and their chronological discovery, must follow the order of their complexity. After the inorganic sciences, therefore, come the sciences of organization, of vegetable and animal physiology, showing a continual increase of complexity until we arrive at man, the most complex and most highly organized of all the earth’s inhabitants.
But still, though physiology be the highest and most complex of all the physical sciences, there is something beyond it, something that comes after it in the logical order of classification. Man himself has his functions; and when we have considered what man is, we may turn to what man does.
Man is by nature a social being, made to live in society, and his social acts have their laws, which when understood give us a new order of knowledge altogether distinct from the knowledge contained in the previous sciences. And again, men may trespass on each other—may inflict pain on each other—may do evil to each other. Men therefore must legislate.
And here an evident distinction presents itself, which enables us to classify human action. We may ask, “What means will lead to a certain end?” and “What is the end that ought to be produced?”
We have here two social sciences, in each of which there is the same stable truth that prevails in all the other sciences, if man can only discover it and reduce it to scientific ordination. It must be within the reach of man, or else we must admit that all rules of social action are purely arbitrary; that is, in fact, that there are no rules. Such a supposition, however, is perfectly absurd, and can never be consistently maintained.
On the above distinction is grounded the division of social science into non-moral and moral; the one treating exclusively on the relation of means to an end, and the other exclusively on the end that ought to be the object of pursuit.
In these new sciences human action is the element with which we have to reason; and the conditions of men are the phenomena that result directly from that action.
The first of these sciences is political economy, which is purely inductive, and treats of the physical effects of human action so far as those effects are to be discovered in the condition of societies. The second is politics, the science of equity, which is purely abstract, and treats of the universal principles that ought to regulate human action, so far as men can affect each other by their actions.
The fundamental noun-substantive of political economy is utility, of which value is the measure. The fundamental noun-substantive of politics is equity, which, having its abstract laws in the very constitution of the human mind, gives us the moral measure of human action.
The principles of this equity are abstract and universal convictions of the reason.
We maintain, then,
First, That the sciences, classed on their complexity, must be classed in the following order:
1st, The mathematical and force sciences.
2nd, The inorganic physical sciences, beginning with the most general, and terminating with the most specific.
3rd, The organic physical sciences, composed of vegetable and animal physiology.
4th, The sciences that relate exclusively to man, and that treat of human action. These are (1) nonmoral, political economy, which treats of the beneficial or prejudicial effects of human action; (2) moral, politics, which treats of the moral character of human action, whether that action be the action of a single individual towards another individual, or whether it be the action of a whole society, or portion of a society. Politics is, in fact, nothing more than the moral law which ought to regulate the actions of the individual, extended to the actions of men when associated as apolitical society, the same moral law being obligatory on multitudes that is Obligatory on tile individual.
This is the essence of human welfare,—truth discovered and carried into practical operation.
Let it be remembered that the progress of mankind in the evolution of civilization, is a progress from superstition and error towards knowledge. Superstition and error present themselves under the form of diversity of credence; knowledge presents itself under the form of unity of credence.
Wherever there is knowledge, that knowledge is the same in all parts of the earth, and the same in substance whatever language it may use as the instrument of expression. The progress of mankind, therefore, is a progress from diversity of credence to unity of credence. There is but one truth, on scheme of knowledge; and consequently, wherever knowledge is really attained, diversity of credence is impossible. Where men differ in credence, they differ because one or all have not knowledge.
We have then to ask, into what branches is knowledge divided? Into the facts of sensational and psychological observation, rational science, and history.
Next, “In what chronological order have the various branches been reduced to scientific ordination?” The chronological order in which the sciences have been discovered, or reduced to ordination, is correlative with the logical scheme of classification. One science must precede another in chronological discovery, because it is requisite to render that other science discoverable. The one is the means whereby we attain to the other, just as in a single science one problem must be solved before we can, by any possibility, attain to the solution of another problem. And the law of this dependence of one science on another is, that the truths of the antecedent science which are the objects of research when we study that science, become subjective—that is, means of operation when we study the consequent science.
It is impossible, therefore, that the sciences should be discovered in any other than a certain order; that is, man must acquire knowledge on a scheme which has laws as fixed and definite as the very laws of the sciences themselves.
We may remark, however, that, although the sciences are necessarily antecedent and consequent to each other, they interweave or overlap each other in their chronological evolution; just as father and son may be alive at the same time, yet the father is necessarily older than the son. And in the evolution of the sciences, we may have several generations on foot at a given period; we may have three, four, five, or six sciences all undergoing the process of evolution, but all at different stages of progress.
Let us take chemistry as the most advanced inorganic physical science, and classify the sciences that follow chemistry in the natural scheme of classification. We have then—
The new term acquired in the passage from the inorganic to the organic sciences, is vitality-life.
The maintenance of animal life is the physical ultimatum of the earth, the last final function of matter. When we proceed beyond this, we arrive at a region where the functions are no longer purely physical; for although man in his political economy may partly be viewed as a higher kind of animal, yet his functions, even in that region, are essentially distinguished from those of animals by the introduction of intellectual computation.
When, therefore, we turn to the sustentation of men associated together in society, we have passed from the region of mere organization, and have entered the sphere of rational intelligence.
The science that treats of the production and distribution of food, and the other physical requirements of man, is termed political economy; and the ultimatum of that science is, “How may the greatest physical good be procured for the greatest number?”
This ultimatum is not arbitrary, as some would almost have us suppose; it is the necessary end of the science if that science have any existence. Just as we are necessarily led to view the surface of the earth in its function of sustaining vegetable life, and the vegetable kingdom in its function of sustaining animal life; so are we led by the very laws of our intelligence to posit the physical benefit of mankind as the ultimatum to which all economical arrangements should tend, if they do not depart from the very intention which is the ground and origin of their existence.
But political economy is a mere computation of antecedences and sequences: it tells what results follow certain conditions; and, generalizing its facts, it at last arrives at the laws which regulate the physical condition of man, so far as that condition is the Consequence of human action. The utmost that it can tell is, “what means lead to a certain end;” but being based purely on observation, it can never lay on us a duty, nor deter us from a crime. Even in its ultimatum, it can only say, that if men do not pursue their advantage, they act irrationally, but never can it say that they act criminally. It computes the mechanism of human action, but never can determine the end of human action. Duty and crime are terms with which it has no concern, and to which it can attach no meaning. It is merely observational, and must confine itself as a science to the generalization of facts, while, when taken as a practical rule of action, its sphere extends no further than the physical wellbeing of mankind; and the “benefit of the greatest number” is fixed on, not from any idea of moral duty, but merely because that ultimatum exhibits the greatest quantity. In no sense is this science one iota more moral than astronomy, which furnishes the practical rule of navigation, or geometry, which furnishes the practical rule of mensuration. To confound it with duty is essentially to destroy its character as an inductive science.
Human physiology is the last, the highest, and the most complex of all the physical sciences. It is the termination of man’s intellectual labors, so far as regards the universe of matter. It is the ultimatum of material manifestation, the final type of complex arrangement, the summit beyond which we leave the material world, and enter into a new region of thought. Nor is it merely a metaphor to say, that “man is the epitome of the world.” Every science that precedes human physiology is necessary to the complete understanding of the human frame. But granting that human physiology is the last and most complex of all the physical sciences, has man no further region into which he may push his inquiries, and extend the field of intellectual research?
Man has his functions—What are their laws?
The most simple functions of man, and those which naturally fall to be considered first, are those in which he acts on the external world.
First, Man may act on the physical world that surrounds him.
Second, Man may act on man.
The principles involved in man’s action on man are included under the term social science and politics, when those terms are taken in a general signification.
Social science is divided into two embranchments; namely, political economy, the object-noun of which is social utility; and politics proper, the object-noun of which is equity.
The problem of politics is to discover the laws (principles of the reason) which ought to preside over human actions in the matter of interference.
In both sciences human actions are the substantives with which we reason. In endeavoring to determine the present position of man in his knowledge of political economy and politics, we must premise that we here approach the region where superstition and not science prevails.
Knowledge is credence based on sufficient evidence, and superstition is credence without sufficient evidence.
In the very same order, and to the very same extent, and at the same chronological period that the sciences have appeared, has superstition gradually retired, and taken her new stand in those fields of thought where the reason of mankind had not yet beheld the divine light of truth.
The whole realm of political science is as yet little better than a superstition.
To observe the manner in which men legislate (and legislators, be they who they may, are only men), we should naturally be led to the conclusion, that there was no truth and no falsehood in political science.
Truth, in fact, has almost as little to do with legislation as it had with alchemy or astrology; and this is the case whatever may be the real matter of truth. Whenever there is no truth to rest upon, there can only be error or superstition.
Every proper science has an object-noun, and the exclusive end and intention of the science is to discover and reduce to logical order the relations that exist between the substantives of the science in that object-noun. Thus, arithmetic treats of relations in number; geometry, of relations in space (position, direction, and extent); dynamics, of relations in force, etc.
Political economy then treats of relations in social utility, and we ask, “What are the relations of this, that, and the other action, or system of action, in social utility?” The answer to this question belongs exclusively to the science of political economy. The same action may be judged in social utility, or in equity; in the former case we are engaged with a question of political economy; in the latter, with a question of politics. Endless ambiguities and discussions arise from confounding the one science with the other.
2nd. We now ask, “With what do we reason? what are the substantives of the science?”
We reason with human actions in social utility. Social utility is the object-noun of the science, and the forms of human action are the subject-nouns, which are to be named, classed, and reasoned with.
Wherever human action is not involved, there is no political economy. Whatever results from the general action of the laws of the non-human universe, does not belong to political economy except just in so far as they are effected by human action. The fertility of the soil produced by human industry, the production of iron, the cultivation, manufacture, and commerce of cotton, wheat, tea, sugar, sheep, cattle, wool, etc., etc. —all these enter into political economy, because they represent certain forms of human action, which have an appreciable value in social utility.
Political economy, then, is the science that treats of human function. Where human function is not involved, we are not engaged with political economy. But then there is a limitation on the other hand. Political economy is a non-moral science, and in no case can be allowed to pronounce a moral judgement. All that it can ever tell us is, whether certain actions or systems of actions are beneficial, indifferent, or prejudicial; and when the terms right and wrong, ought, etc., are employed they are used to indicate correctness or incorrectness in social utility.
Acts of interference, whether by law, or merely by the individual, belong properly to the science of politics, but they may also be legitimately judged of through the medium of political economy. By treating a question of interference by the rules of equity, we arrive at once at a conclusion; whereas, when it is treated by the rules of utility, it may require many years, many observations, and many disputations as to facts, before a conclusion can be drawn. The equity of the slave trade is a question so simple, that few intelligent men could fail to settle it satisfactorily in a few minutes; but the economy of the trade would require, and did require, many years to settle it, and even now there are not wanting hundreds who, on economical principles, would defend both the trade and the condition of slavery. Although perfect knowledge in both sciences would no doubt lead to exactly the same practical conclusion, the argument of economy is sometimes set up against the argument of equity. The concise reply to such a mode of proceeding is this, “If equity have any existence at all, its rules are necessarily imperative.” Deny the imperative nature of equity and you obliterate all morals.
Now, where there is no interference between man and man, no judgement in equity can possibly be pronounced. Where there is no interference (and nothing that enters religion) economy gives the canon, she holds the balance, and pronounces judgement because the question belongs to the jurisdiction of her court. But where there is interference we can have a judgement in equity; and where we can have a judgement in equity, no economical considerations whatever can ever relieve man from the imperative obligation. The moment it was admitted that economical considerations should outweigh the judgement in equity, that moment is man’s moral nature obliterated, and he becomes an animal a little superior to the ourang-outang.
We now return to the mode in which political economy is usually presented.
According to some writers, we should imagine that utility was measured according to the wealth produced. Value, labor, capital, wages, profit, rent, etc., are the substantives of their science; and the production of wealth appears to be the end, the sum and substance, the object of their desires.
We deny, from beginning to end, this view of political economy. It has some truth in it—the beginnings of truth; but such, in the general, is no more the end of political economy than the determination of the chances in gambling was the end of the calculation of probabilities.
We assert—and we have no doubt whatever that this view will ultimately obtain the suffrages of all—that the welfare of man is the end of political economy.
To this it may be replied, that the production of wealth is the means; and that all economics intend to include the welfare of man as a matter of course.
We deny the whole theory from beginning to end.
We assert that the production of man, and man in a continually higher condition, is the object, the end, the ultimatum of the science.
Let us suppose that one thousand families were employed in the cultivation of one hundred thousand acres of land; that they lived, maintained themselves in decent plenty, reared their families in health, industry, honesty, and those manly qualities which, among the agricultural population of Great Britain, have assumed a higher character than in any other portion of the earth’s inhabitants. Suppose that this population produce only as much as suffices for the plentiful support of all the individuals. Good. There is not, on the average of twenty years, any superabundance that can be called accumulated profit.
This population, according to some political economists, would be a most unproductive, most useless portion of society.
We deny the fact. This population has reared and produced men.
Suppose, again, the great body of this population should be set to spin cotton, smelt iron, grind cutlery, and weave stockings. That at these occupations, by incessant toil, they should produce not only as much as support them, but one-half more. According to political economists, these occupations would be incomparably more profitable than the agricultural occupations, and consequently much better for society.
We deny the fact, and scout the inference. The production of man, and of man in his best condition, is the physical ultimatum of the earth; and any system whatever that sacrifices the workman to the work—the man who produces the wealth to the wealth produced—is a monstrous system of misdirected intention, based on a blasphemy against man’s spiritual nature.
The whole system of modern manufacture, with its factory slavery; its gaunt and sallow faces; its halfclad hunger; its female degradation; its abortions and rickety children; its dens of pestilence and abomination; its ignorance, brutality, and drunkenness; its vice, in all the hideous forms of infidelity, hopeless poverty, and mad despair,—these, and, if it were possible, worse than these, are the sure fruits of making man the workman of mammon, instead of making wealth the servant of humanity for the relief of man’s estate.
The day is not far distant when the Labor of England will hold her court of justice; let those who may await the sentence of the tribunal.
That system of political economy which makes wealth and not man, the ultimatum, is based on a monstrous fallacy—on a fallacy so slavish and so detestable, that the wonder is how accomplished and personally amiable men can be found as its abettors.
The fallacy is, in taking the rents of the landlords, and the profits of the capitalists, as the measures of good and evil, instead of taking the condition of the cultivators, and the condition of the laborers (the many), as the sure index of the character of a system.
Whatever tends to debase man, to make him physically, intellectually, or morally a lower being, is bad, however much or however little the wealth produced may be.The wealth is not the stable element; it is an accidental, and by no means the most important adjunct. Man is the stable element. His condition is the standard; his improvement is a good; his deterioration is an evil. And this, independently of all other considerations. All other considerations are secondary, dependent, subsidiary to the great intention. Man is not useful as he produces wealth, but wealth is useful as it sustains man, ameliorates his condition, improves his capacities, gives opportunities for his further cultivation, and aids his progress in the great scheme of human regeneration.
Such views, then, of political economy as make wealth the ultimatum (and this wealth, be it always remembered, is the wealth of the land-owner, the mill-owner, the iron-master, etc., and not the wealth of the multitude of human laborers), are merely, the beginnings of the science of political economy. This science, like every other, must pass through its stages; it must have its errors, its superstitions, its partial truths, its truths misunderstood, before it comes forth as a system over which man has no power of control, but which he must contemplate as a system of truth designed by the Creator of the world for the instruction of his intellect, and the improvement of his condition.
Political economy is now struggling to assume a position among the sciences. It is daily growing, daily assuming a more definite form, and daily shaking off those questions that do not belong to it.
We must also remark, that the natural science of political economy has labored under the immense disadvantage of collecting facts which were not the result of nature’s operations, but which were, in a great measure, the result of human legislation, which varied from time to time, and from country to country.
There is the greatest possible difference between taking advantage of the laws of nature, and originating laws. It is not man’s office to originate laws. God has made the laws, and given man an intellect to discover and apply them. As well may man make laws in the physical sciences, or in theology, as in political economy. It is true he may make laws, and enforce them; but what he never can do is, to make the operation of those laws beneficial to the world. This is beyond his power; and, though the laws may be for the pecuniary advantage of the privileged classes of a country, they are necessarily followed by a concomitant series of evils, which bear on the masses of the population.
The great truth which political economy will ultimately teach is this, “That God has constituted nature aright; that it is man’s interest to take advantage of the arrangements of nature according to the laws which God has established in the world; that all human laws originating in man are prejudicial arrangements, which interfere with the course of nature; that all such laws ought universally to be abolished, so that man may have free scope to extract the maximum of benefit from the earth.” Social arrangements for the benefit of all are not laws—they are adaptations of the laws of nature. These are requisite for society; and to these arrangements, legislation, in its economical aspect, ought to be exclusively confined.
When men make lighthouses for the protection of maritime commerce—public harbors for the safety of ships, seamen, and cargoes—when they make a police to watch—when they pave, light, and clean towns—when they make roads and arrangements for communications—when they support such national defences as are judged requisite at any given time—when they support judges and other officers to administer the laws of justice—when they do these, and many other similar acts, at the common expense, and enforce the payment, they do not make laws. They make only such arrangements, based on the laws of nature or equity, as are deemed fitting at a given period; they take advantage of the world, such as they find it, and endeavor to evolve from it a greater amount of good than they could do, individually were there no such social arrangements. Men may make laws if they will; but what they cannot do is, to make good to follow them.
From political economy we turn to politics. Before doing so, however, we must remark that no science of politics, whatever be its form, or whatever be its matter, can hope to meet with impartial investigation. Whatever may be the real system of truth (and a truth there must be somewhere), that system cannot fail to controvert the opinion of multitudes and to be favorable or unfavorable to the pecuniary interests of multitudes.
Admit the fact of human progression, however (nor can it reasonably be denied), and all the objections, and all the difficulties connected with the habitual credence of a present generation, vanish into air. Let political truth be what it may, it cannot receive general adoption at any period. It must grow; it must be suggested, misunderstood, denied, discussed, adopted in part, rejected in part, re-discussed, further adopted, and so on.
Doubts, disputes, denials, and diversity of opinion, therefore, are of little importance. They are natural; they must come. They are the modes in which man expresses his ignorance, and frequently the means he uses to acquire knowledge and determine truth. Where there is diversity of opinion, there must be ignorance on one side or on both; and bold would be the man who, in politics, should assert that he had so completely mastered all truth, that all other men ought to come over to his side. And yet there must be a truth somewhere; and, as knowledge does not admit of diversity of opinion, if ever man can have a system of politics other than empirical, other than superstitious, diversity of opinion must disappear from politics, just as it has disappeared from the sciences which man has already mastered.
Politics has to do exclusively with the relations between men, and to determine the principles that should regulate their actions towards each other. Where interference is not concerned, there is no question in politics. This, then, is the anterior limitation of the science.
We have, now, to determine the posterior boundary—that which separates it from any science that might lie beyond it.
This posterior limit is likely—from the prevalence of socialist and communist doctrines—to become the great desideratum of political theory. Those doctrines, whatever may be the contempt heaped on them in England, are far more generally diffused than most Englishmen are aware of. They are now revolutionizing Europe; and no one can predict the extent of the changes that must follow them, if once they gain the complete mastery of the public mind. Instead of railing at them, however, it is much more profitable to endeavor to understand them, and to seize the fallacy on which they are based.
It is true that men are brethren, the children of one Father; it is true that universal benevolence is a virtue; it is true that man ought not to seek his own advantage at the expense of his fellow; it is true that in the present system of society there are stupendous abuses which cannot be justified. And it is also true that socialism and communism are based on fallacies, although the above truths are ostensibly at the bottom of those systems; no dogmas that have ever been uttered are more communist than some precepts of the New Testament.
All that we have here to do with communism, is to point out the fallacy on which it rests, when advanced, as it is, into the region of politics. This fallacy will be found the moment we can determine the posterior limitation of the science of politics. We cannot turn the torrent of credence that has set in; but it may be possible to give it a right direction.
Political relations are not relations of fraternity. Love, charity, benevolence, and generosity have nothing whatever to do with politics. These substantives, and the principles of action to which they give rise, lie beyond the region of politics. This they do necessarily, just as necessarily as light and sound, optics and acoustics, lie necessarily beyond the region of geometry. Unless this truth is fairly apprehended, and unless the line of demarcation between politics and the regions that lie beyond it is logically determined and clearly perceived, there is a continual danger of sliding imperceptibly into socialism. Whatever may be true, or whatever may be false, in socialism (using. that term in the most unobjectionable sense—Christian socialism, for instance), the principles of equity must first be taken into consideration before we can, by any possibility, proceed to the consideration of those higher principles of action which may come into play, when once the principles of justice are acknowledged and carried into general operation.
This question is perhaps, practically, the most important in modern politics. Insurged millions let loose on the world, with vague ideas of fraternity in their heads, with the courage of enthusiasm in their hearts, and with bayonets in their hands, are, at all events, formidable expositors of doctrine. Their energy is exactly what the continent of Europe has so long required; but their ignorance may transform what would otherwise have been a most useful reformation, into a terrible hurricane of vengeance, and a blind exercise of destructive power. Now that the theorist and the orator can raise armed millions, the game of politics has assumed a new character. Theories are no longer barren speculations, nor is oratory mere declamation. It is, therefore, of the first importance that the most cheerful, impartial, and honest endeavor should be made to perfect the theory of politics—to base first on the immutable foundations of justice—to satisfy the reason before setting the passions in a flame to evolve principles which can be calmly and soberly maintained by the intellect, before they are given as rules of action to enthusiastic populations, ready to march in any direction that is plausibly pointed out as the right one.
We have no intention, however, to attempt the correction of wrong theories. Wrong theories may be supplanted, but it is questionable whether they are ever corrected. The development of the right theory is the great object. It will do the work if once it can be finally cleared of all logical objection. Men want political truth, and they are making desperate efforts to obtain it; and obtain it they will ultimately, there can be no possible doubt.
Political relations, so far from being relations of fraternity, or of love, or of any of those sentiments that teach us to bear or to forbear, to give or to forgive, are relations of equity. They are relations of justice, which gives nothing, and forgives nothing. They are jural relations, and political society is a jural society.
The moment this truth is forgotten, the door is opened for the wildest and most impracticable schemes. We have, in fact, broken down the barriers of reason, and admitted a flood of wild imagination. We must carefully deny admission to any propositions whatever which cannot show a rational foundation, because they pretend to derive from the higher and more expansive sentiments of the heart. Nothing can be more delusive, nothing more certainly dangerous. Justice is stable, permanent, and strictly regulative. Its rules must determine the form of society, a form which may at all times be enforced. And if, as is the case in all known countries, that form shall have been departed from, then force may be legitimately used for its restoration.
The moment, however, that we attempt to substitute the relations of benevolence for those of justice, both the scales and the sword fall from the hands of the image. Benevolence can regulate nothing, and enforce nothing. First let me know what is mine, and then inculcate the duties and the pleasures of benevolence. But if nothing is mine, then is there not only no justice, but no possibility of benevolence. The moment property is abolished that moment is the practice of benevolence (such, at all events, as involves the objects of property) abolished also. The foundation, therefore, of political society on benevolence is suicidal; the only possibility of benevolence being the admission that something is mine (service or property) which I may lawfully give, lawfully withhold, but which I may choose to give if I please, when actuated by benevolence.
Love, benevolence, charity, fraternity, therefore, cannot enter a system of politics. No human society could be founded on them that attempts to regulate the distribution of natural property, and the allocation of that increased value which is created by the labor of individuals. Love may, to a certain extent, reign in a family; but in a state composed of a multitude of independent (although social) individuals, each producing according to his skill, energy, perseverance, and accidental opportunities, justice must be the regulative principle, without which the society falls either under the hand of tyranny, or falls into the equally destructive condition of anarchy and confusion.
We posit, therefore, that political society is a society whose essence, end, and intention is to exhibit, in realization, the principles of equity or justice.
Although, however, benevolence has nothing to do with politics, it has much to do with man. And as it does lie beyond politics, its laws, whatever they are, or wherever they may be derived from, will fall to be considered at some period or other. Towards them the world is progressing, and after a reign of justice there will fall, in necessary order, a reign of benevolence.
But if politics be the science of justice, and justice does not admit the idea of benevolence, that idea being necessarily posterior to justice, what is the radical distinction between justice and benevolence, and where is the line of demarcation that separates them?
That line of demarcation is found in the distinction between the negative and the positive.
A very simple consideration will place in a clear enough light the difference between the negative character of justice, and the positive character of benevolence.
If all men were socially passive, and did not in anywise interfere with each other, there would be the perfection of justice, while there might be the total absence of benevolence.
No rule of justice can ever originate an interference. All interference based on justice is consequential; that is, the consequence of a prior act of interference, which requires to be corrected. All primary interference, contrary to the will of the person interfered with (he being of sound mind, sober, etc.), is an injustice. The essential character of injustice consists in the forcible interference of one man with another; nor is any man justified, in constraining another to receive even a benefit (or what nine hundred and ninety men out of a thousand would pronounce a benefit) against his will. The essential character of injustice is, the overbearing of one man’s will by another man’s force or fraud. And no rule or principle of equity can ever originate such an interference.
The whole scheme of justice, therefore, is essentially and radically restrictive, and all its positive rules, or rules which justify ‘or command interference, will be found to consist of those which justify the restoration of things to that condition in which they would have been had there been no interference. That is, whenever the negative state of non-interference has been departed from, and the equilibrium of equity destroyed, justice furnishes rules for positive interference, whereby the negative state may be restored, and the equilibrium of equity re-established. But this in nowise affects the assertion, that the principles of justice, and the scheme of the science, are entirely restrictive; because, let all society be in the negative state of non-interference, and it would remain so forever were the rules of justice attended to.
Benevolence, on the contrary, supposes that men shall be socially active; not that they shall interfere with each other without consent, but that they shall take a constant interest in each other’s welfare, and be ready to offer the helping hand of sympathy when sorrows fall upon their brethren. Benevolence cannot infringe justice, it only superadds more than justice could require.
Such a condition of society, then, as would be compatible with the perfection of justice, might exclude benevolence altogether. Consequently, justice and benevolence are radically distinguished from each other; and politics, which is the science of justice, is independent of benevolence.
Here, then, we learn the posterior limit of the science of politics.
Where there is no question of interference between man and man, there is no question of politics. This is the anterior limit, that which separates it from all that comes before it; from political economy, the physical sciences, and the mathematical sciences.
And the posterior limit is found in the fact, that the science is confined exclusively to the exhibition of the laws relating to such interference as is consequent on a departure from the state of non-interference, and to the exhibition of the laws (intuitions of the reason) which prohibit all primary interference. [The latter, of course, come logically first in the exposition of the science.]
Having, then, determined the limits of the science of politics, we affirm (from the preceding data) that its position is immediately after the science of political economy, and that it is followed by the laws of benevolence, wherever these may be derived from.
It Is true, however, that the argument of economy has a far more powerful influence on the world than the argument of equity.
The distribution of wealth is a question of incomparably more importance than even its production. This appears a paradox. It is not so, however. The strong individual appropriates more than his equitable share at the expense of the weak individual; and all privileged classes are merely classes of individuals who have obtained more land, or more power, or more license than equitably could have been assigned to them. The laws of distribution are of incomparably more practical importance than the laws of production, and the public mind will not allow many years to elapse without bringing them to vehement discussion.