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theless still discontented with the Poor Laws, and we are seemingly as far as ever from satisfactory settlement of them.
But why cite individual cases ? Does not the experience of all nations testify to the futility of these empirical attempts at the acquisition of happiness? What is the statute-book but a record of such unhappy guesses ? or history but a narrative of their unsuccessful issues? And what forwarder are we now? Is not our Government as busy still as though the work of law-making commenced but yesterday? Nearly every parliamentary proceeding is a tacit confession of incompetence. There is scarcely a bill introduced but is entitled “ An Act to amend an Act.” The “ Whereas” of almost every preamble heralds an account of the miscarriage of previous legislation.
The expediency-philosophy, however, ignores this world full of facts. Though men have so constantly been balked in their attempts to secure, by legislation, any desired constituent of that complex whole, “ greatest happiness," it continues to place confidence in the unaided judgments of statesmen. It asks no guide; it possesses no eclectic principle; but it assumes that after an inspection of the aggregate phenomena of national life, governments are qualified to devise such measures as shall be "expedient.” It considers the interpretation of human nature so easy, the constitution of the social organism so simple, the causes of a people's conduct so obvious, that a general inspection can give to “collective wisdom" the insight requisite for law-making.
, If, without any previous investigation of the properties of terrestrial matter, Newton had proceeded at once to study the dynamics of the solar system, and after years spent in contemplation of it and in setting down the distances, sizes, times of revolution, inclinations of axes, forms of orbits, perturbations, &c., of its component bodies, had set himself to digest this accumulated mass of observations, and to educe a physical interpretation of planetary motions, he might have cogitated to all eternity without arriving at the truth.
But futile as such a method of research would have been, it would have been less futile than the attempt to find out the principles of public polity, by an unguided examination of that intricate combination-society. Considering that men as yet so imperfectly understand man—the instrument by which, and the material on which, laws are to actand that a knowledge of the unit—man, is but a first step to the comprehension of the mass— society, it seems obvious that to educe from the complicated phenomena presented by humanity at large, a true philosophy of social life, and to found thereon a code of rules for the obtainment of “greatest happiness" is a task beyond the ability of any finite mind.
THE MORAL-SENSE DOCTRINE.
Had we no other inducement to eat than that arising from the prospect of certain advantages to be thereby obtained, it is scarcely probable that our bodies would be so well cared for as now. One can quite imagine that were we deprived of that punctual monitor-appetite, and left to the guidance of some reasoned code of rules, such rules, were they never so philosophical, and the benefits of obeying them never so obvious, would form but a very inefficient substitute. Or, instead of that powerful affection by which men are led to nourish and protect their offspring, did there exist merely an abstract opinion that it is proper or necessary to maintain the population of the globe, it is questionable whether the annoyance, anxiety, and expense, of providing for a posterity,
, would not so far exceed the anticipated good, as to involve a rapid extinction of the species. And if, in addition to these needs of the body and of the race, all other requirements of our nature were similarly consigned to the sole care of the intellect—were knowledge, property, freedom, reputation, friends, sought only at its dictation—then would our investigations be so perpetual, our estimates so complex, our decisions so difficult, that life would be wholly occupied in the collection of evidence and the balancing of probabilities. Under such an arrangement the utilitarian philosophy would indeed have strong argument in nature; for it would be simply applying to society, that system of governance by appeal to calculated final results, which already ruled the individual.
Quite different, however, is the method of nature. Answering to each of the actions which it is requisite for us to perform, we find in ourselves some prompter called a desire; and the more essential the action, the more powerful is the impulse to its performance, and the more intense the gratification derived therefrom. Thus, the longings for food, for sleep, for warmth, are irresistible; and quite independent of foreseen advantages. The continuance of the race is secured by others equally strong, whose dictates are followed, not in obedience to reason, but often in defiance of it. That men are not impelled to accumulate the means of subsistence solely by a view to consequences, is proved by the existence of misers, in whom the love of acquirement is gratified to the neglect of the ends to be subserved.
May we not then reasonably expect to find kindred instrumentalities prompting the conduct called moral ? All must admit that we are guided to our bodily welfare by instincts; that from instincts also, spring those domestic relationships by which other important objects are compassed; and that certain prompters called sentiments secure our indirect benefit, by regulating social intercourse Is it not then probable that a like mental mechanism is at work throughout; and that upright conduct in each being necessary to the happiness of all, there exists in us an impulse towards such conduct; or, in other words, that we possess a "Moral Sense"?
In bar of this conclusion it is urged, that did there exist such an agency, men would exhibit a more manifest obedience to its supposed dictates than they do. There would be a greater uniformity of opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of actions; and we should not, as now, find one man, or nation, considering as a virtue, what another regards as a vice-a Thug regarding as a religious act, that assassination at which a European shudders—an Egyptian piqning himself on his successful lying—a red Indian on his undying revenge.
Overwhelming as this objection appears, it may be met thus :—None deny the universal existence of that instinct already adverted to, which urges us to take the food needful to support life; and none deny that such instinct is highly beneficial, and in all likelihood essential to being. Nevertheless there are not wanting infinite evils and incongruities, arising out of its rule. All know that appetite does not invariably guide men aright in the choice of food, either as to quality or quantity. Neither can any maintain that its dictates are uniform in different persons and peoples. Like irregularities may be found in the working of parental affection. Among ourselves, its beneficial sway is tolerably regular. In many places, however, infanticide is practised now as it ever has been. During early European times, it was common to expose babes to the tender mercies of wild beasts. And it was the Spartan practice to cast all the newly-born who were not approved by a committee of old men, into a public pit provided for the purpose. If, then, it be argued that the want of uniformity in men's moral codes, together with the weakness and partiality of their influence, prove the non-existence of a sentiment prompting right actions, it must be inferred from analogous irregularities in men’s conduct as to food and offspring, that there are no such feelings as appetite and parental affection. As, however, we do not draw this inference in the one case, we cannot do so in the other.
That we possess something which may not improperly be called a moral sense, may be best proved by evidence drawn from the lips of those who assert that we have it not. Bentham unwittingly derives his initial proposition from an oracle whose existence he denies. “One man," he remarks,
” speaking of Shaftesbury, “says he has a thing made on purpose to tell him what is right and what is wrong; and that it is called a moral sense : and then he goes to work at his ease, and says such and such a thing is right, and such and such