The conclusion, then, follows that so much legislation is not only justifiable but necessary as will provide for the following objects:—the firm establishment of our power; the recognition and enforcement of the principles which it represents; and the vigorous administration of the government. Such legislation should be earned out, however much opposed either to European or to native principles. But all legislation, not required for these purposes, is mischievous and dangerous. The limits thus defined in general terms can only be precisely marked out by experience. But 'no law should be made till it is distinctly perceived and felt to be necessary. No one can admit more fully or feel more strongly than I do the evils and dangers of mere speculative legislation in India.'
Fitzjames proceeds to argue that these principles have in fact guided our Indian legislation. No Government was 'ever less justly chargeable with enacting laws merely for the sake of legislation.' The faults have arisen from defects of style and from the peculiar conditions of Indian administration. The unwritten law of India is mainly personal; and many difficulties have arisen from the mixture of English law with the Mohammedan and Hindoo laws and other native customs. All cases not otherwise provided for were to be decided by justice, equity, and good conscience. Much latitude of decision was thus left to the Indian judges upon matters not included in the written law. The practical result of thus 'throwing the reins on the neck of judges,' the first body of whom had no professional training, was to produce a vague uncertain feeble system,' combining the defects of 'a weak grasp of principle with a great deal of occasional subservience to technicality.' English professional lawyers occasionally seem to acquire a specially vigorous grasp of principles, to which they have had to force their way through a mass of confused precedent and detail. But the 'unprofessional judge seldom gets beyond a certain number of illustrations and rules, more or less imperfectly understood.' Hence the special necessity in India of reducing the laws to the clearest and most explicit shape possible, or, in other words, for the codifying process in which he had played his part. Sir W. W. Hunter remarks in a note that the evils indicated here have been remedied to some extent, 'partly through the influence which his (Fitzjames's) views have exercised' in India, by a greater separation between the judicial and the executive branches of the service.
One of Fitzjames's most remarkable pieces of work is a 'Minute on the Administration of Justice in British India,' containing his remarks upon the subject mentioned by Sir W. W. Hunter. It was originally written in the summer of 1870, as a comment upon a large mass of opinions obtained from the local governments. It was revised in 1871, and published just before he left India in 1872. The desirability of separating the judicial from the executive functions of the civilians had been long under discussion, and very various opinions had been held. In this minute Fitzjames summarises these, and gives his own view of the points on which he considered himself able to form an opinion. Many of the questions raised could only be answered to any purpose by men who had had long practical experience of administration. Fitzjames, however, gives a careful account of the actual systems of the various provinces: discusses how far it is possible or desirable to separate the functions; whether a 'special judicial branch of the civil service' should be created; whether any modification would be desirable in the systems of civil or criminal procedure; and what practical suggestions should be followed, having regard to economy and to an increased employment of natives. I cannot even attempt to describe his arguments. I will only say that the minute appears to me to be a very remarkable production, not only as indicating the amount of labour bestowed, amid so many other occupations, upon the important questions discussed; but as one of his best performances as a very clear and terse account of a complicated system with a brief but exceedingly vigorous exposition of what he thought should be the governing principles of any reforms. He held, I may say, in a general way that there were some evils which required a remedy; especially those resulting from the frequency of appeals in the Indian system and the elaborate supervision of the magistrates by the High Courts. He recognises imperfections inherent and excusable in the attempt to administer justice to so vast a population by a small body of foreigners with very imperfect legal training; though he shows his usual admiration for the general results of British government, and thinks that the efficiency of the service may be secured by moderate reforms. Incidentally he goes over many of the points already noticed as touched in his speeches. I have, however, said as much as is desirable in regard to his general principles as expounded in the minute and in the 'Life of Lord Mayo.' Every one of the legislative measures in which he was concerned might be regarded as an illustration of one or more of these propositions. To me it seems that they represent at least a definite policy, worthy of his common sense and general vigour of mind. A generalisation from these principles came to constitute his political creed in later years.
IV. LAST MONTHS IN INDIA
I must now speak of an event which made a very strong impression upon him. He concludes the chapter from which I have been quoting by declaring that of the many public men whom he had met in England and India, there was none to whom he 'felt disposed to give such heartfelt affection and honour' as to Lord Mayo. Lord Mayo, he says, though occupied in many other ways, had shown the 'deepest personal interest' in the work of the legislative department, and, when difficulties arose, had given to it the warmest, most ardent, and most effective support. It was chiefly due to Lord Mayo that the Government was able to pass the important acts of the beginning of 1872, especially the three great measures: the 'Civil Procedure Code,' the 'Contract Act,' and the 'Evidence Code.' I hope, says Fitzjames to Sir W. W. Hunter, that you will be able to make people understand 'how wise and honest and brave he was, and what freshness, vigour, and flexibility of mind he brought to bear upon a vast number of new and difficult subjects.' On January 24, 1870, Lord Mayo left Calcutta in H.M.S. 'Glasgow' to visit, among other places, the convict settlement at the Andaman Islands. He landed there on February 8, and while getting into his boat to return was murdered by a convict. The body was brought back to Calcutta on February 19, where it lay in state for two days at Government House, before being sent for burial to his native country. In one of his last letters to his mother, Fitzjames gives an account of the ceremonies at Calcutta, which incidentally illustrates, I think, more forcibly than anything else, the impression produced upon him by India generally. I shall therefore give most of it, omitting a few comparatively irrelevant details. I will only observe that nobody had less taste for public performances of this kind in general—a fact which shows the strength of his feelings on this particular occasion.
'I never expected,' he writes (February 23, 1872), 'to be impressed by a mere ceremonial; but there were some things almost oppressive from their reality and solemnity.... The coffin was brought up on a gun-carriage. It was of enormous size and weight, (near two tons, I believe). The gun-carriage, drawn by twelve artillery horses, made a strangely impressive hearse. It looked so solid, so businesslike, so simple, and so free from all the plumes and staves and rubbish of undertakers. About thirty picked sailors from the "Daphne" and "Glasgow" walked behind and by the side; all dressed in clean white trousers and jerseys, and looking like giants, as indeed they were. They were intensely fond of Lord Mayo, who had won their hearts by the interest he took in them and in the little things they got up to amuse him.... He passed the last evening of his life sitting with Lady Mayo on the bridge of the "Glasgow," and laughing at their entertainment with the greatest cordiality. They wanted to be allowed to carry the coffin on their own shoulders; they said they were ready and willing to do it, and I believe they would have been able, ready, and willing to do anything that strength and skill and pluck could do. Behind them walked the procession, which was nearly three-quarters of a mile long, and contained every Englishman of any importance in Calcutta and a considerable number of natives. The whole road was lined with troops on both sides: but they stood at intervals of several yards, and there was an immense crowd close behind and, in some places in between them.... If there had been any other fanatics in the crowd, there was nothing to prevent them from making a rush and giving a stab.... If there had been any attempt of the kind, I cannot say what might not have happened. People were in such an excited and half-electric state that there might have been a general riot, which would soon have become very like a massacre. One man told me that on his way home, he felt possessed by such fury against anyone who might be connected with the murder, that he walked with a kind of charge through a group of people, who looked as if they enjoyed "the show," and gave a shove to a big Mohammedan who looked insolent, at which, he said, "the man went down like a bag of feathers." I saw some suspicious-looking fellows grinning and sneering and showing their teeth myself, and I felt as if I could have killed them. No one who has not felt it can imagine how we all feel out here in regard to such matters. When Lord Mayo was stabbed, I think every man in the country felt as if he had been more or less stabbed himself.
'The procession went on with the most overwhelming solemnity (nothing short of these words can describe it), till we got to Government House. There was a dead silence nearly all the way; the natives standing or squatting in their apathetic way, and the Europeans as grim as death. All that was to be heard was the rattle of the gun-carriage, and the tramping of the horses, and the minute-guns from the fort and ships. The housetops, the windows, the fort were all crowded with people, but all as still as death. I think the ships looked as sad as anything. There were two miles of noble ships in the Hooghly. Their flags were all flying half-mast high, and they had all "tossed their yards."' (He draws a rough diagram to explain the phrase). 'The yards are all in disorder, and the effect is forlorn and dishevelled to a degree you would not imagine. When we got to Government House, the coffin had to be lifted off the gun-carriage and pulled up a long flight of wide stone steps.... The sailors and a few artillerymen did it all in perfect silence, and with an amount of strength that looked almost marvellous.' The coffin was placed on a truck, to which the sailors harnessed themselves, and dragged it up an inclined plane (formed over the steps) with no apparent effort in spite of the enormous weight. It was taken along a suite of rooms, 'hung with black, and lighted with a curious simplicity and grandeur.' Here, again, the coffin had to be lifted, and 'it was most striking to see the absolute silence with which the men moved the monstrous weight at a sign from the captain's hand.' The only sound was when a spar snapped in the hands of a 'giant of a fellow, who was lifting with it. There was a respectful delicacy in every motion of these men which combined beautifully with their immense, quiet, controlled strength, and impressed me very much. After a few prayers we left.'
On Wednesday, the 21st, the coffin was again removed to the ship. The imprudence of the former procession had struck everyone. The streets were cleared and no one admitted to the jetty except the procession. 'You cannot imagine the awful solemnity which all this precaution gave the whole thing. It was like marching through a city half-dead and half-besieged.' Nothing was to be seen but troops; and, 'when we got into Dalhousie Square, there was a battery of artillery firing minute-guns, and drawn up on the road just as if they were going to fight. Two or three bands played the Dead March the whole way, till I felt as if it would never get out of my ears. At the end of the jetty lay the "Daphne." ... The sailors, with infinite delicacy and quiet, draped the coffin carefully with its flags ... and it was raised and lowered by a steam-crane, which, somehow or other, they managed to work without any sound at all. When the ship steamed off down the river, and the minute-guns stopped, and I drove home with Henry Cunningham, I really felt as I suppose people feel when an operation is over. There was a stern look of reality about the whole affair, quite unlike what one has seen elsewhere. Troops and cannon and gun-carriages seem out of place in England, ... but it is a very different matter here, where everything rests upon military force. The guns and the troops are not only the outward and visible marks of power, but they are the power itself to a great extent, and it is very impressive to see them.
'It gives a sort of relief to one,' he adds, 'that after all Lord Mayo was, in a sense, going home: that he (so far as one can speak of his dead body) was leaving this country with all its various miseries, to return to his own native place. If one is to have fancies on such a matter, it is pleasant to think that he is not to lie here in a country where we can govern and where we can work and make money and lead laborious lives; but for which no Englishman ever did, or ever will, or can feel one tender or genial feeling. The work that is done here is great and wonderful; but the country is hateful.'
One singular incident was connected with this event. The murderer had been tried on the spot and sentenced to death. The sentence had to be confirmed by the High Court at Calcutta. It was there discovered that the judge had by some mistake recorded that the European witnesses had 'affirmed' according to the form used for native religions, instead of being sworn according to the Christian formula. Fitzjames was startled to hear of this intrusion of technicality upon such an occasion; and held, I think, that in case of need, the Government of India should manage to cut the knot. Ultimately, however, some of the witnesses who were at Calcutta made affidavits to the effect that they had really been sworn, and the sentence was confirmed and executed. Otherwise, said Fitzjames in one of his last Indian speeches (upon the Oaths and Declaration Act) a grievous crime might have escaped punishment, because five English gentlemen had made statements 'in the presence of Almighty God,' instead of kissing the Bible and saying 'So help me God.'
I must mention one other incident which occurred at the end of Fitzjames's stay in India. One Ram Singh was the spiritual and political chief of a sect called the Kookas. His disciples showed their zeal by murdering butchers as a protest against cow-killing. They were animated by prophecies of a coming kingdom of heaven, broke into rioting and were suppressed, and, as the Indian Government held, punished with an excess of severity. Although Fitzjames was not officially responsible in this business, he was consulted on the occasion; and his opinions are represented by an official despatch. I need only say that, as in the case of Governor Eyre, he insisted that, while the most energetic measures were allowable to suppress actual resistance, this was no excuse for excessive punishment after the danger was over. The ordinary law should then be allowed to take its course. Meanwhile, Ram Singh was shown to be more or less implicated in the disorders and was deported to Burmah. Fitzjames was greatly impressed by the analogy between English rulers in India and Roman governors in Syria some eighteen centuries ago, when religious sects were suspected of political designs. To this I shall refer presently.
Fitzjames attended the Legislative Council for the last time on April 17, 1872. He left Calcutta the next day on his return to England. He had thus been in office for only half the usual period of five years. His reasons for thus cutting short his time were simple. He felt very strongly that he was exacting a sacrifice on the part of his wife and his family which could only be justified by a very distinct advantage. The expenses were more than he had anticipated, and he saw at an early period that he would be in any case compelled to return to his profession. Gaps at the bar are soon filled up. The more prolonged his absence, the greater would be the difficulty of regaining the position which he had slowly reached. I have some reason to think that the authorities at the India Office were not altogether pleased at what they considered to be a premature relinquishment of his post. He could, however, reply that if he had been only half the usual time in India, he had done fully twice the average amount of work. He left India without regrets for the country itself; for to him the climate and surroundings of English life seemed to be perfection. But he left with a profound impression of the greatness of the work done by Englishmen in India; and with a warm admiration for the system of government, which he was eager to impart to his countrymen at home. How he endeavoured to utter himself upon that and kindred subjects shall be told in the next chapter.
[Footnote 102: His first letter to Miss Thackeray, I notice, is written upon the back of a quaint broadsheet, bought at Boulogne. On the other side is a woodcut of the gallant 'Tulipe' parting from his mistress, and beneath them is the song 'Tiens, voici ma pipe, voila mon briquet!' which Montcontour used to sing at the 'Haunt' to the admiration of Pendennis and Warrington. See the Newcomes, vol. i. chap. xxxvi.]
[Footnote 103: I depend chiefly upon the official reports of the debates in the Legislative Council; my brother's own summary of Indian legislation in a chapter contributed to Sir W. W. Hunter's Life of the Earl of Mayo (1875), ii. pp. 143-226; and a full account of Indian criminal legislation in chap, xxxiii. of his History of Criminal Law. He gave a short summary of his work in an address to the Social Science Association on November 11, 1872, published in the Fortnightly Review for December 1872. I may also refer to an article upon 'Sir James Stephen as a Legislator' in the Law Quarterly Review for July 1894, by Sir C. P. Ilbert, one of his successors.]
[Footnote 104: I may say that he especially acknowledges the share of the work done in his own time by Mr. Whitley Stokes, secretary to the Council, by Sir H. S. Cunningham, for some time acting secretary, and by Mr. Cockerell, a member of the Council.]
[Footnote 105: History of Criminal Law, iii. 299.]
[Footnote 106: Life of Lord Mayo, ii. 199.]
[Footnote 107: History of Criminal Law, ii. 300-303.]
[Footnote 108: 'Obsolete Enactments Bill,' February 25, 1870.]
[Footnote 109: Mayo, ii. 220.]
[Footnote 110: The parties had also to be of certain ages, not already married, and not within certain degrees of relationship.]
[Footnote 111: See the account of this in History of Criminal Law, iii. 324-346.]
[Footnote 112: History of Criminal Law, iii. 345.]
[Footnote 113: Digest of the Law of Evidence. Fourth edition, 1893, pp. 156-9.]
[Footnote 114: An edition of the Evidence Code, with notes by Sir H. S. Cunningham, reached a ninth edition in 1894. It gives the changes subsequently made, which are not numerous or important.]
[Footnote 115: Sir C. P. Ilbert, however, is mistaken in supposing that Fitzjames wrote his Liberty, Equality, Fraternity during his official labours.]
[Footnote 116: Life of Mayo, ii. 163.]
[Footnote 117: In Selections from the Records of the Government of India, No. lxxxix., published by authority. Calcutta, 1872.]
[Footnote 118: I do not feel that it would be right to omit this remark, although I am certain that, taken by itself, it would convey a totally inaccurate impression of my brother's sentiments about India. I have, I hope, said enough to indicate his sympathetic interest in Indian matters and the work of Indian officials. I must trust my readers to understand that the phrase expresses a mood of intense excitement and must be taken only as indicating the strength of the passing emotion.]
LAST YEARS AT THE BAR
I. FIRST OCCUPATIONS IN ENGLAND
Fitzjames had passed the winter of 1871-2 in Calcutta with Henry Cunningham; his wife having returned to England in November. He followed her in the spring, sailing from Bombay on April 22, 1872. To most people a voyage following two years and a half of unremitting labour would have been an occasion for a holiday. With him, however, to end one task was the same thing as to begin another, and he was taking up various bits of work before India was well out of sight. He had laid in a supply of literature suitable both for instruction and amusement. The day after leaving Bombay he got through the best part of a volume of Sainte-Beuve. He had also brought a 'Faust' and Auerbach's 'Auf der Hoehe,' as he was anxious to improve himself in German, and he filled up odd spaces of time with the help of an Italian grammar. He was writing long letters to friends in India, although letter-writing in the other direction would be a waste of time. With this provision for employment he found that the time which remained might be adequately filled by a return to his beloved journalism. He proposes at starting to write an article a day till he gets to Suez. He was a little put out for the first twenty-four hours because in the place which he had selected for writing his iron chair was too near the ship's compasses. He got a safe position assigned to him before long and immediately set to work. He takes his first text from the May meetings for an article which will give everybody some of his reflections upon missionaries in India. Our true position in India, he thinks, is that of teachers, if only we knew what to teach. Hitherto we have not got beyond an emphatic assertion of the necessity of law and order. He writes his article while the decks are being washed, and afterwards writes a 'bit of a letter,' takes his German and Italian lessons, and then turns to his travelling library. This included Mill's 'Utilitarianism' and 'Liberty'; which presently provide him with material not only for reflection, but for exposition. On April 27 he reports that he has been 'firing broadsides into John Mill for about three hours.' He is a little distracted by the heat, and by talks with some of his fellow-travellers; but as he goes up the Red Sea he is again assailing Mill. It has now occurred to him that the criticisms may be formed into a series of letters to the 'Pall Mall Gazette,' which will enable him to express a good many of his favourite doctrines. 'It is curious,' he says, 'that after being, so to speak, a devoted disciple and partisan (of Mill) up to a certain point I should have found it impossible to go on with him. His politics and morals are not mine at all, though I believe in and admire his logic and his general notions of philosophy.'
He reached Suez on May 5, and on the way home resolved at last to knock off work and have a little time for reflection on the past and the future. India, he says, has been 'a sort of second University course' to him. 'There is hardly any subject on which it has not given me a whole crowd of new ideas, which I hope to put into shape,' and communicate to the world. On May 12 he reached Paris, where he met his wife; and on the 14th was again in England, rejoicing in a cordial reception from his family and his old friends. The same evening he sees his cousin Mrs. Russell Gurney and her husband; and his uncle and aunt, John and Emelia Venn. Froude met him next day in the pleasantest way, and Maine and he, as he reports, were 'like two schoolboys.' On the 15th he went to his chambers and called upon Greenwood at the 'Pall Mall Gazette' office. He had written an article on the way from Paris which duly appeared in next day's paper. Not long after his return he attended a dinner of his old Cambridge club, with Maine in the chair. In proposing Maine's health he suggested that the legislation passed in India during the rule of his friend and himself should henceforth be called the 'Acts of the Apostles.'
One of the greatest pleasures upon reaching home was to find that his mother showed less marks of increasing infirmity than he had expected from the accounts in letters. She was still in full possession of her intellectual powers, and though less able than of old to move about, was fully capable of appreciating the delight of welcoming back the son who had filled so much of her thoughts. I may here note that Fitzjames's happiness in reviving the old bonds of filial affection was before long to be clouded. His uncle, Henry Venn, died on January 13, 1873, and he writes on the 30th: 'somehow his life was so bold, so complete, and so successful, that I did not feel the least as if his death was a thing to be sad about,' sad as he confesses it to be in general to see the passing away of the older generation. 'My dear mother,' he adds, 'is getting visibly weaker, and it cannot now be a very long time before she goes too. It is a thought which makes me feel very sad at times, but no one ever had either a happier life or a more cheerful and gallant spirit. She does not care to have us to dinner now; but we all see her continually; I go perhaps every other day, and Mary nearly every day.'
His mother was to survive two years longer. Her strong constitution and the loving care of the daughter who lived with her supported her beyond the anticipation of her doctors. There are constant references to her state in my brother's letters. The old serenity remained unchanged to the last. She suffered no pain and was never made querulous by her infirmities. Slowly and gradually she seemed to pass into a world of dreams as the decay of her physical powers made the actual world more indistinct and shadowy. The only real subject for regret was the strain imposed upon the daughter who was tenderly nursing her, and doing what could be done to soothe her passage through the last troubles she was to suffer. It was as impossible to wish that things should be otherwise as not to feel the profound pathos of the gentle close to long years of a most gentle and beautiful life. Fitzjames felt what such a son should feel for such a mother. It would be idle to try to put into explicit words that under-current of melancholy and not the less elevating thought which saddened and softened the minds of all her children. Her children must be taken to include some who were children not by blood but by reverent affection. She died peacefully and painlessly on February 27, 1875. She was buried by the side of her husband and of two little grandchildren, Fitzjames's infant daughter and son, who had died before her.
I now turn to the work in which Fitzjames was absorbed almost immediately after his return to England. He had again to take up his profession. He was full of accumulated reflections made in India, which he had not been able to discharge through the accustomed channel of journalism during his tenure of office; and besides this he entertained hopes, rather than any confident belief, that he would be able to induce English statesmen to carry on in their own country the work of codification, upon which he had been so energetically labouring in India. Before his departure he had already been well known to many distinguished contemporaries. But he came home with a decidedly higher reputation. In the natural course of things, many of his contemporaries had advanced in their different careers, and were becoming arbiters and distributors of reputation. His Indian career had demonstrated his possession of remarkable energy, capable of being applied to higher functions than the composition of countless leading articles. He was henceforward one of the circle—not distinguished by any definite label but yet recognised among each other by a spontaneous freemasonry—which forms the higher intellectual stratum of London society; and is recruited from all who have made a mark in any department of serious work. He was well known, of course, to the leaders of the legal profession; and to many members of Government and to rising members of Parliament, where his old rival Sir W. Harcourt was now coming to the front. He knew the chief literary celebrities, and was especially intimate with Carlyle and Froude, whom he often joined in Sunday 'constitutionals.' His position was recognised by the pleasant compliment of an election to the 'Athenaeum' 'under Rule II.,' which took place at the first election after his return (1873). He had just before (November 1872) been appointed counsel to the University of Cambridge. Before long he had resumed his place at the bar. His first appearance was at the Old Bailey in June 1872, where he 'prosecuted a couple of rogues for Government.' He had not been there since he had held his first brief at the same place eighteen years before, and spent his guinea upon the purchase of a wedding ring. He was amused to find himself after his dignified position in India regarded as a rather 'promising young man' who might in time be capable of managing an important case. The judge, he says, 'snubbed' him for some supposed irregularity in his examination of a witness, and did not betray the slightest consciousness that the offender had just composed a code of evidence for an empire. He went on circuit in July, and at Warwick found himself in his old lodgings, writing with his old pen, holding almost the same brief as he had held three years before, before the same judge, listening to the same church bells, and taking the walk to Kenilworth Castle which he had taken with Grant Duff in 1854. Although the circuit appears to have been unproductive, business looked 'pretty smiling in various directions.' John Duke Coleridge, afterwards Lord Chief Justice, was at this time Attorney-General. Fitzjames differed from him both in opinions and temperament, and could not refrain from an occasional smile at the trick of rather ostentatious self-depreciation which Coleridge seemed to have inherited from his great-uncle. There was, however, a really friendly feeling between them both now and afterwards; and Coleridge was at this time very serviceable. He is 'behaving like a good fellow,' reports Fitzjames July 5, and is 'sending Government briefs which pay very well.' By the end of the year Fitzjames reports 'a very fair sprinkling of good business.' All his old clients have come back, and some new ones have presented themselves. There were even before this time some rumours of a possible elevation to the bench; but apparently without much solid foundation. Meanwhile, he was also looking forward to employment in the direction of codification. He had offered, when leaving India, to draw another codifying bill (upon 'Torts') for his successor Hobhouse. This apparently came to nothing; but there were chances at home. 'I have considerable hopes,' he says (June 19, 1872), 'of getting set to work again after the manner of Simla or Calcutta.' There is work enough to be done in England to last for many lives; and the Government may perhaps take his advice as to the proper mode of putting it in hand. He was soon actually at work upon two bills, which gave him both labour and worry before he had done with them. One of these was a bill upon homicide, which he undertook in combination with Russell Gurney, then recorder of London. The desirability of such a bill had been suggested to Gurney by John Bright, in consequence of a recent commission upon Capital Punishment. Gurney began to prepare the work, but was glad to accept the help of Fitzjames, whose labours had made him so familiar with the subject. Substantially he had to adapt part of the Penal Code, which he must have known by heart, and he finished the work rapidly. He sent a copy of the bill to Henry Cunningham on August 15, 1872, when it had already been introduced into Parliament by R. Gurney and read a first time. He sees, however, no chance of getting it seriously discussed for the present. One reason is suggested in the same letter. England is a 'centre of indifference' between the two poles, India and the United States. At each pole you get a system vigorously administered and carried to logical results. 'In the centre you get the queerest conceivable hubblebubble, half energy and half impotence, and all scepticism in a great variety of forms.' The homicide bill was delayed by Russell Gurney's departure for America on an important mission in the following winter, but was not yet dead. One absurd little anecdote in regard to it belongs to this time. Fitzjames had gone to stay with Froude in a remote corner of Wales; and wishing to refer to the draft, telegraphed to the Recorder of London: 'Send Homicide Bill.' The official to whom this message had to be sent at some distance from the house declined to receive it. If not a coarse practical joke, he thought it was a request to forward into that peaceful region a wretch whose nickname was too clearly significant of his bloodthirsty propensities.
Fitzjames mentions in the same letter to Cunningham that he has just finished the 'introduction' to his Indian Evidence Act. This subject brought him further occupation. He had more or less succeeded in making a convert of Coleridge. 'If this business with Coleridge turns out right,' he says (October 2), 'I shall have come home in the very nick of time, for there is obviously going to be a chance in the way of codification which there has not been these forty years, and which may never occur again.' Had he remained in India, he might have found the new viceroy less favourable to his schemes than Lord Mayo had been, and would have at any rate missed the chance of impressing the English Government at the right time. On November 29 he writes again to Cunningham, and expresses his disgust at English methods of dealing with legislation. He admits that 'too much association with old Carlyle, with whom I walk most Sundays,' may have made him 'increasingly gloomy.' But 'everything is so loose, so jarring, there is such an utter want of organisation and government in everything, that I feel sure we shall have a great smash some day.' A distinguished official has told him—and he fully believes it—that the Admiralty and the War Office would break down under a week's hard pressure. He observes in one article of the time that his father had made the same prophecy before 1847. He often quotes his father for the saying, 'I am a ministerialist.' Men in office generally try to do their best, whatever their party. But men in opposition aim chiefly at thwarting all action, good or bad, and a parliamentary system gives the advantage to obstruction. Part of his vexation, he admits, is due to his disgust at the treatment of the codification question. Coleridge, it appears, had proposed to him 'months ago' that he should be employed in preparing an Evidence Bill. Difficulties had arisen with Lowe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to the proper fee. Fitzjames was only anxious now to get the thing definitively settled on any terms and put down in black and white. The Government might go out at any moment, and without some agreement he would be left in the lurch. It was 'excessively mortifying, ... and showed what a ramshackle concern our whole system' was. Definite instructions, however, to prepare the bill were soon afterwards given. On December 20 he writes that the English Evidence Bill is getting on famously. He hopes to have it all ready before Parliament meets, and it may probably be read a second time, though hardly passed this year. It was in fact finished, as one of his letters shows, by February 7, 1873.
II. 'LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY'
Meanwhile, however, he had been putting much energy into another task. He had for some time delivered his tale of articles to the 'Pall Mall Gazette' as of old. He was soon to become tired of anonymous journalism; but he now produced a kind of general declaration of principles which, though the authorship was no secret and was soon openly acknowledged, appeared in the old form, and, as it turned out, was his last work of importance in that department. It was in some ways the most characteristic of all his writings. He put together and passed through the 'Pall Mall Gazette' during the last months of 1872 and January 1873 the series of articles already begun during his voyage. They were collected and published with his name in the following spring as 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.' I confess that I wondered a little at the time that the editor of a newspaper should be willing to fill his columns with so elaborate a discourse upon first principles; and I imagine that editors of the present day would be still more determined to think twice before they allowed such latitude even to the most favoured contributor. I do not doubt, however, that Mr. Greenwood judged rightly. The letters were written with as much force and spirit as anything that Fitzjames ever produced. I cannot say how they affected the paper, but the blows told as such things tell. They roused the anger of some, the sympathy of others, and the admiration of all who liked to see hard hitting on any side of a great question. The letters formed a kind of 'Apologia' or a manifesto—the expression, as he frequently said, of his very deepest convictions. I shall therefore dwell upon them at some length, because he had never again the opportunity of stating his doctrines so completely. Those doctrines are far from popular, nor do I personally agree with them. They are, however, characteristic not merely of Fitzjames himself, but of some of the contemporary phases of opinion. I shall therefore say something of their relation to other speculations; although for my purpose the primary interest is the implied autobiography.
The book was perhaps a little injured by the conditions under which it was published. A series of letters in a newspaper, even though, as in this case, thought out some time beforehand, does not lend itself easily to the development of a systematic piece of reasoning. The writer is tempted to emphasise unduly the parts of his argument which are congenial to the journalistic mode of treatment. It is hard to break up an argument into fragments, intended for separate appearance, without somewhat dislocating the general logical framework. The difficulty was increased by the form of the argument. In controverting another man's book, you have to follow the order of his ideas instead of that in which your own are most easily expounded. Fitzjames, indeed, gives a reason for this course. He accepts Mill's 'Liberty' as the best exposition of the popular view. Acknowledging his great indebtedness to Mill, he observes that it is necessary to take some definite statement for a starting point; and that it is 'natural to take the ablest, the most reasonable, and the clearest.' Mill, too, he says, is the only living author with whom he 'agrees sufficiently to argue with him profitably.' He holds that the doctrines of Mill's later books were really inconsistent with the doctrines of the 'Logic' and 'Political Economy.' He is therefore virtually appealing from the new Utilitarians to the old. 'I am falling foul,' he says in a letter, 'of John Mill in his modern and more humane mood—or, rather, I should say, in his sentimental mood—which always makes me feel that he is a deserter from the proper principles of rigidity and ferocity in which he was brought up.' Fitzjames was thus writing as an orthodox adherent of the earlier school. He had sat at the feet of Bentham and Austin, and had found the most congenial philosophy in Hobbes. And yet his utilitarianism was mingled with another strain; and one difficulty for his readers is precisely that his attack seems to combine two lines of argument not obviously harmonious. Still, I think that his main position is abundantly clear.
Fitzjames—as all that I have written may go to prove—was at once a Puritan and a Utilitarian. His strongest sympathies and antipathies were those which had grown up in the atmosphere of the old evangelical circle. On this side, too, he had many sympathies with the teaching of Carlyle, himself a spiritual descendant of the old Covenanters. But his intellect, as I have also remarked, unlike Carlyle's, was of the thoroughly utilitarian type. Respect for hard fact, contempt for the mystical and the dreamy; resolute defiance of the a priori school who propose to override experience by calling their prejudices intuitions, were the qualities of mind which led him to sympathise so unreservedly with Bentham's legislative theories and with Mill's 'Logic.' Let us, before all things, be sure that our feet are planted on the solid earth and our reason guided by verifiable experience. All his studies, his legal speculations, and his application of them to practice, had strengthened and confirmed these tendencies. How were they to be combined with his earlier prepossessions?
The alliance of Puritan with utilitarian is not in itself strange or unusual. Dissenters and freethinkers have found themselves side by side in many struggles. They were allied in the attack upon slavery, in the advocacy of educational reforms, and in many philanthropic movements of the early part of this century. James Mill and Francis Place, for example, were regarded as atheists, and were yet adopted as close philanthropic allies by Zachary Macaulay and by the quaker William Allen. A common antipathy to sacerdotalism brought the two parties together in some directions, and the Protestant theory of the right of private judgment was in substance a narrower version of the rationalist demand for freedom of thought. Protestantism in one aspect is simply rationalism still running about with the shell on its head. This gives no doubt one secret of the decay of the evangelical party. The Protestant demand for a rational basis of faith widened among men of any intellectual force into an inquiry about the authority of the Bible or of Christianity. Fitzjames had moved, reluctantly and almost in spite of himself, very far from the creed of his fathers. He could not take things for granted or suppress doubts by ingenious subterfuges. And yet, he was so thoroughly imbued with the old spirit that he could not go over completely to its antagonists. To destroy the old faith was still for him to destroy the great impulse to a noble life. He held in some shape to the value of his creed, even though he felt logically bound to introduce a 'perhaps.'
This, however, hardly gives the key to his first difference with the utilitarians, though it greatly affects his conclusions. He called himself, as I have said, a Liberal; but there were, according to him, two classes of Liberals, the intellectual Liberals, whom he identified with the old utilitarians, and the Liberals who are generally described as the Manchester school. Which of those was to be the school of the future, and which represented the true utilitarian tradition? Here I must just notice a fact which is not always recognised. The utilitarians are identified by most people with the (so-called) Manchester doctrines. They are regarded as advocates of individualism and the laissez-faire or, as I should prefer to call it, the let-alone principle. There was no doubt a close connection, speaking historically; but a qualification must be made in a logical sense, which is very important for my purpose. The tendency which Fitzjames attacked as especially identified with Mill's teaching—the tendency, namely, to restrict the legitimate sphere of government—is far from being specially utilitarian. It belonged more properly to the adherents of the 'rights of man,' or the believers in abstract reason. It is to be found in Price and Paine, and in the French declaration of the rights of man; and Mr. Herbert Spencer, its chief advocate (in a new form) at the present day remarks himself that he was partly anticipated by Kant. Bentham expressly repudiated this view in his vigorous attack upon the 'anarchical fallacies' embodied in the French declaration. In certain ways, moreover, Bentham and his disciples were in favour of a very vigorous Government action. Bentham invented his Panopticon as a machine for 'grinding rogues honest,' and proposed to pass paupers in general through the same mill. His constitutional code supposes a sort of omnipresent system of government, and suggests a national system of education and even a national church—with a very diluted creed. As thorough-going empiricists, the utilitarians were bound to hold, and did, in fact, generally declare themselves to hold, not that Government interference was wrong in general, but simply that there was no general principle upon the subject. Each particular case must be judged by its own merits.
Historically speaking, the case was different. The political economy of Ricardo and the Mills was undoubtedly what is now called thoroughly 'individualistic.' Its adherents looked with suspicion at everything savouring of Government action. This is in part one illustration of the general truth that philosophies of all kinds are much less the real source of principles than the theories evoked to justify principles. Their course is determined not by pure logic alone, but by the accidents of contemporary politics. The revolutionary movement meant that governments in general were, for the time, the natural enemies of 'reason.' Philosophers who upon any ground sympathised with the movement took for their watchword 'liberty,' which, understood absolutely, is the antithesis to all authority. They then sought to deduce the doctrine of liberty from their own philosophy, whatever that might be. The a priori school discovered that kings and priests and nobles interfered with a supposed 'order of nature,' or with the abstract 'rights of man.' The utilitarian's argument was that all government implies coercion; that coercion implies pain; and therefore that all government implies an evil which ought to be minimised. They admitted that, though 'minimised,' it should not be annihilated. Bentham had protested very forcibly that the 'rights of man' doctrine meant anarchy logically, and asserted that government was necessary, although a necessary evil. But the general tendency of his followers was to lay more stress upon the evil than upon the necessity. The doctrine was expounded with remarkable literary power by Buckle, who saw in all history a conflict between protection and authority on the one hand and liberty and scepticism on the other.
J. S. Mill had begun as an unflinching advocate of the stern old utilitarianism of his father and Ricardo. He had become, as Fitzjames observes, 'humane' or 'sentimental' in later years. He tried, as his critics observe, to soften the old economic doctrines and showed a certain leaning to socialism. In regard to this part of his teaching, in which Fitzjames took little interest, I shall only notice that, whatever his concessions, he was still in principle an 'individualist.' He maintained against the Socialists the advantages of competition; and though his theory of the 'unearned increment' looks towards the socialist view of nationalisation of the land, he seems to have been always in favour of peasant proprietorship, and of co-operation as distinguished from State socialism. Individualism, in fact, in one of its senses, for like other popular phrases it tends to gather various shades of meaning, was really the characteristic of the utilitarian school. Thus in philosophy they were 'nominalists,' believing that the ultimate realities are separate things, and that abstract words are mere signs calling up arbitrary groups of things. Politically, they are inclined to regard society as an 'aggregate,' instead of an 'organism.' The ultimate units are the individual men, and a nation or a church a mere name for a multitude combined by some external pressure into a collective mass of separate atoms. This is the foundation of Mill's political theories, and explains the real congeniality of the let-alone doctrines to his philosophy. It gives, too, the key-note of the book upon 'Liberty,' which Fitzjames took for his point of assault. Mill had been profoundly impressed by Tocqueville, and, indeed, by an order of reflections common to many intelligent observers. What are to be the relations between democracy and intellectual culture? Many distinguished writers have expressed their forebodings as to the future. Society is in danger of being vulgarised. We are to be ground down to uniform and insignificant atoms by the social mill. The utilitarians had helped the lower classes to wrest the scourge from the hands of their oppressors. Now the oppressed had the scourge in their own hands; how would they apply it? Coercion looked very ugly in the hands of a small privileged class; but when coercion could be applied by the masses would they see the ugliness of it? Would they not use the same machinery in order to crush the rich and the exalted, and take in the next place to crushing each other? Shall we not have a dead level of commonplace and suffer, to use the popular phrase, from a 'tyranny of the majority,' more universal and more degrading than the old tyranny of the minority? This was the danger upon which Mill dwelt in his later works. In his 'Liberty' he suggests the remedy. It is nothing less than the recognition of a new moral principle. Mankind, he said, individually or collectively, are justified in interference with others only by the need of 'self-protection.' We may rightfully prevent a man from hurting his neighbour, but not from hurting himself. If we carefully observe this precaution the individual will have room to expand, and we shall cease to denounce all deviations from the common type.
Here Fitzjames was in partial sympathy with his antagonist. He reviewed 'Liberty' in the 'Saturday Review' upon its first appearance; and although making certain reservations, reviewed it with warm approbation. Mill and he were agreed upon one point. A great evil, perhaps the one great evil of the day, as Fitzjames constantly said, is the prevalence of a narrow and mean type of character; the decay of energy; the excessive devotion to a petty ideal of personal comfort; and the systematic attempt to turn our eyes away from the dark side of the world. A smug, placid, contemptible optimism is creeping like a blight over the face of society, and suppressing all the grander aspirations of more energetic times. But in proportion to Fitzjames's general agreement upon the nature of the evil was the vehemence of his dissent from the suggested remedy. He thought that, so far from meeting the evil, it tended directly to increase it. To diminish the strength of the social bond would be to enervate not to invigorate society. If Mill's principles could be adopted, everything that has stimulated men to pursue great ends would lose its interest, and we should become a more contemptible set of creatures than we are already.
I have tried to show how these convictions had been strengthened by circumstances. Fitzjames's strong patriotic feeling, his pride in the British race and the British empire, generated a special antipathy to the school which, as he thought, took a purely commercial view of politics; which regarded the empire as a heavy burthen, because it did not pay its expenses, and which looked forward to a millennium of small shopkeepers bothered by no taxes or tariffs. During the 'Pall Mall Gazette' period he had seen such views spreading among the class newly entrusted with power. Statesmen, in spite of a few perfunctory attempts at better things, were mainly engaged in paltry intrigues, and in fishing for votes by flattering fools. The only question was whether the demagogues who were their own dupes were better or worse than the demagogues who knew themselves to be humbugs. Carlyle's denunciations of the imbecility of our system began to be more congenial to his temper, and encouraged him in his heresy. Carlyle's teachings were connected with erroneous theories indeed, and too little guided by practical experience. But the general temper which they showed, the contempt for slovenly, haphazard, hand-to-mouth modes of legislation, the love of vigorous administration on broad, intelligible principles, entirely expressed his own feeling. Finally, in India he had, as he thought, found his ideal realised. There, with whatever shortcomings, there was at least a strong Government; rulers who ruled; capable of doing business; of acting systematically upon their convictions; strenuously employed in working out an effective system; and not trammelled by trimming their sails to catch every temporary gust of sentiment in a half-educated community. His book, he often said, was thus virtually a consideration of the commonplaces of British politics in the light of his Indian experience. He wished, he says in one of his letters, to write about India; but as soon as he began he felt that he would be challenged to give his views upon these preliminary problems: What do you think of liberty, of toleration, of ruling by military force, and so forth? He resolved, therefore, to answer these questions by themselves.
I must add that this feeling was coloured by Fitzjames's personal qualities. He could never, as I have pointed out, like Mill himself; he pronounced him to be 'cold as ice,' a mere 'walking book,' and a man whose reasoning powers were out of all proportion to his 'seeing powers.' If I were writing about Mill I should think it necessary to qualify this judgment of a man who might also be described as sensitive to excess, and who had an even feminine tenderness. But from Fitzjames's point of view the judgment was natural enough. The two men could never come into cordial relations, and the ultimate reason, I think, was what I should call Mill's want of virility. He might be called 'cold,' not as wanting in tenderness or enthusiasm, but as representing a kind of philosophical asceticism. Whether from his early education, his recluse life, or his innate temperament, half the feelings which moved mankind seemed to him simply coarse and brutal. They were altogether detestable—not the perversions which, after all, might show a masculine and powerful nature. Mill's view, for example, seemed to be that all the differences between the sexes were accidental, and that women could be turned into men by trifling changes in the law. To a man of ordinary flesh and blood, who had grounded his opinions, not upon books, but upon actual experience of life, such doctrines appear to be not only erroneous, but indicative of a hopeless thinness of character. And so, again, Fitzjames absolutely refused to test the value of the great patriotic passions which are the mainsprings of history by the mere calculus of abstract concepts which satisfied Mill. Fitzjames, like Henry VIII., 'loved a man,' and the man of Mill's speculations seemed to be a colourless, flaccid creature, who required, before all things, to have some red blood infused into his veins.
Utilitarianism of the pedantic kind—the utilitarianism which substitutes mere lay figures for men and women—or the utilitarianism which refuses to estimate anything that cannot be entered in a ledger, was thus altogether abhorrent to Fitzjames. And yet he was, in his way, a utilitarian in principle; and his reply to Mill must be given in terms of utilitarianism. To do that, it was only necessary to revert to the original principles of the sect, and to study Austin and Bentham with a proper infusion of Hobbes. Then it would be possible to construct a creed which, whatever else might be said of it, was not wanting in vigour or in danger of substituting abstractions for concrete realities. I shall try to indicate the leading points of this doctrine without following the order partly imposed upon Fitzjames by his controversial requirements. Nor shall I inquire into a question not always quite clear, namely, whether his interpretation of Mill's principles was altogether correct.
One fundamental ground is common to Fitzjames and his antagonist. It is assumed in Austin's analysis of 'law,' which is accepted by both. Law properly means a command enforced by a 'sanction.' The command is given by a 'sovereign,' who has power to reward or punish, and is made effectual by annexing consequences, painful or pleasurable, to given lines of conduct. The law says, 'Thou shalt not commit murder'; and 'shalt not' means 'if you commit murder you shall be hanged.' Nothing can be simpler or more obviously in accordance with common sense. Abolish the gaoler and the hangman and your criminal law becomes empty words. Moreover, the congeniality of this statement to the individualist point of view is obvious. Consider men as a multitude of independent units, and the problem occurs, How can they be bound into wholes? What must be the principle of cohesion? Obviously some motive must be supplied which will operate upon all men alike. Practically that means a threat in the last resort of physical punishment. The bond, then, which keeps us together in any tolerable order is ultimately the fear of force. Resist, and you will be crushed. The existence, therefore, of such a sanction is essential to every society; or, as it may be otherwise phrased, society depends upon coercion.
This, moreover, applies in all spheres of action. Morality and religion 'are and always must be essentially coercive systems.' They restrain passion and restrain it by appealing to men's hopes and fears—chiefly to their fears. For one man restrained by the fear of the criminal law, a vast number are restrained by the 'fear of the disapprobation of their neighbours, which is the moral sanction, or by the fear of punishment in a future state of existence, which is the religious sanction, or by the fear of their own disapprobation, which may be called the conscientious sanction, and may be regarded as a compound case of the other 'two.' An objection, therefore, to coercion would be an objection to all the bonds which make association possible; it would dissolve equally states, churches, and families, and make even the peaceful intercourse of individuals impossible. In point of fact, coercion has built up all the great churches and nations. Religions have spread partly by military power, partly by 'threats as to a future state,' and always by the conquest of a small number of ardent believers over the indifferent mass. Men's lives are regulated by customs as streams are guided by dams and embankments. The customs like the dams are essentially restraints, and moreover restraints imposed by a small numerical minority, though they ultimately become so familiar to the majority that the restraint is not felt. All nations have been built up by war, that is, by coercion in its sternest form. The American civil war was the last and most striking example. It could not ultimately be settled by conveyancing subtleties about the interpretation of clauses in the Constitution, but by the strong hand and the most energetic faith. War has determined whether nations are to be and what they are to be. It decides what men shall believe and in what mould their religion, laws, morals, and the whole tone of their lives shall be cast.
Nor does coercion disappear with the growth of civilisation. It is not abolished but transformed. Lincoln and Moltke commanded a force which would have crushed Charlemagne and his paladins and peers like so many eggshells. Scott, in the 'Fair Maid of Perth,' describes the 'Devil's Dick of Hellgarth' who followed the laird of Wamphray, who rode with the lord of Johnstone, who was banded with the Earl of Douglas, and earl, and lord, and laird, and the 'Devil's Dick' rode where they pleased and took what they chose. Does that imply that Scotland was then subject to force, and that now force has disappeared?
No; it means that the force that now stands behind a simple policeman is to the force of Douglas and his followers as the force of a line of battle ship to the force of an individual prize-fighter. It works quietly precisely because it is overwhelming. Force therefore underlies and permeates every human institution. To speak of liberty taken absolutely as good is to condemn all social bonds. The only real question is in what cases liberty is good, and how far it is good. Buckle's denunciation of the 'spirit of protection' is like praising the centrifugal and reviling the centripetal force. One party would be condemning the malignity of the force which was dragging us all into the sun, and the other the malignity of the force which was driving us madly into space. The seminal error of modern speculation is shown in this tendency to speak as advocates of one of different forces, all of which are necessary to the harmonious government of conduct.
This insistence upon the absolute necessity of force or coercion, upon the theory that, do what you will, you alter only the distribution, not the general quantity of force, is the leading principle of the book. Compulsion and persuasion go together, but the 'lion's share' of all the results achieved by civilisation is due to compulsion. Parliamentary government is a mild and disguised form of compulsion and reforms are carried ultimately by the belief that the reformers are the strongest. Law in general is nothing but regulated force, and even liberty is from the very nature of things dependent upon power, upon the protection, that is, of a powerful, well-organised intelligent government. Hobbes's state of war simply threw an unpopular truth 'into a shape likely to be misunderstood.' There must be war, or evils worse than war. 'Struggles there must always be unless men stick like limpets or spin like weathercocks.'
Hence we have our problem: liberty is good, not as opposed to coercion in general, but as opposed to coercion in certain cases. What, then, are the cases? Force is always in the background, the invisible bond which corresponds to the moral framework of society. But we have still to consider what limits may be laid down for its application. The general reply of a Utilitarian must of course be an appeal to 'expediency.' Force is good, says Fitzjames, following Bentham again, when the end to be attained is good, when the means employed are efficient, and when, finally, the cost of employing them is not excessive. In the opposite cases, force of course is bad. Here he comes into conflict with Mill. For Mill tries to lay down certain general rules which may define the rightful limits of coercive power. Now there is a prima facie ground of suspicion to a sound utilitarian about any general rules. Mill's rules were of course regarded by himself as based upon experience. But they savoured of that absolute a priori method which professes to deduce principles from abstract logic. Here, therefore, he had, as his opponent thought, been coquetting with the common adversary and seduced into grievous error. A great part of the argument comes to this: Mill advocates rules to which, if regarded as practical indications of certain obvious limitations to the utility of Government interference, Fitzjames has no objection. But when they are regarded as ultimate truths, which may therefore override even the principle of utility itself, they are to be summarily rejected. Thus, as we shall see, the practical differences are often less than appears. It is rather a question of the proper place and sphere of certain rules than of their value in particular cases. Yet at bottom there is also a profound divergence. I will try to indicate the main points at issue.
Mill's leading tenet has been already stated; the only rightful ground of coercing our neighbours is self-protection. Using the Benthamite terminology, we may say that we ought never to punish self-regarding conduct, or again interpolating the utilitarian meaning of 'ought' that such punishment cannot increase the general happiness. Fitzjames complains that Mill never tries to prove this except by adducing particular cases. Any attempt to prove it generally, would, he thinks, exhibit its fallacy. For, in brief, the position would really amount to a complete exclusion of the moral element from all social action. Men influence each other by public opinion and by law. Now if we take public opinion, Mill admits, though he disputes the inference from the admission, that a man must suffer the 'inconveniences strictly inseparable from the unfavourable opinion of others.' But men are units, not bundles of distinct qualities, some self-regarding, and others 'extra-regarding.' Everyone has the strongest interest in the character of everyone else. A man alone in the world would no more be a man than a hand without a body would be a hand. We cannot therefore be indifferent to character because accidentally manifested in ways which do or do not directly and primarily affect others. Drunkenness, for example, may hurt a man's health or it may make him a brute to his wife or neglectful of his social duties. As moralists we condemn the drunkard, not the results of his conduct, which may be this or that according to circumstances. To regard Mill's principle as a primary moral axiom is, therefore, contradictory. It nullifies all law, moral or other, so far as it extends. But if Mill's admission as to the 'unfavourable opinions' is meant to obviate this conclusion, his theory merely applies to positive law. In that case it follows that the criminal law must be entirely divorced from morality. We shall punish men not as wicked but as nuisances. To Fitzjames this position was specially repulsive. His interest in the criminal law was precisely that it is an application of morality to conduct. Make it a mere machinery for enabling each man to go his own way, virtuous or vicious, and you exclude precisely the element which constituted its real value. Mill, when confronted with some applications of his theory, labours to show that though we have no right to interfere with 'self-regarding' vice, we may find reasons for punishing conspiracies in furtherance of vice. 'I do not think,' replies Fitzjames, 'that the state ought to stand bandying compliments with pimps.' It ought not to say that it can somehow find an excuse for calling upon them to desist from 'an experiment in living' from which it dissents. 'My feeling is that if society gets its grip on the collar of such a fellow, it should say to him, "You dirty fellow, it may be a question whether you should be suffered to remain in your native filth untouched, or whether my opinion should be printed by the lash on your bare back. That question will be determined without the smallest reference to your wishes or feelings, but as to the nature of my opinion about you there can be no doubt."'
Hence the purely 'deterrent' theory of punishment is utterly unsatisfactory. We should punish not simply to prevent crime, but to show our hatred of crime. Criminal law is 'in the nature of a persecution of the grosser forms of vice, and an emphatic assertion of the principle that the feeling of hatred and the desire of vengeance above mentioned, (i.e. the emotion, whatever its proper name, produced by the contemplation of vice on healthily constituted minds) 'are important elements in human nature, which ought in such cases to be satisfied in a regular public and legal manner. This is one of the cases in which Fitzjames fully recognises the importance of some of Mill's practical arguments, though he disputes their position in the theory. The objections to making men moral by legislation are, according to him, sufficiently recognised by the Benthamite criterion condemning inadequate or excessively costly means. The criminal law is necessarily a harsh and rough instrument. To try to regulate the finer relations of life by law, or even by public opinion, is 'like trying to pull an eyelash out of a man's eye with a pair of tongs: they may pull out the eye, but they will never get hold of the eyelash.' But it is not the end, but the means that are objectionable. Fitzjames does not object in principle even to sumptuary laws. He can never, he says, look at a lace machine, and think of all the toil and ingenuity wasted, with patience. But he admits that repressive laws would be impossible now, though in a simpler age they may have been useful. Generally, then, the distinction between 'self-regarding' and 'extra-regarding' conduct is quite relevant, so far as it calls attention to the condition of the probable efficacy of the means at our disposal. But it is quite irrelevant in a definition of the end. The end is to suppress immorality, not to obviate particular inconveniences resulting from immorality; and one great use of the criminal law is that, in spite of its narrow limitations, it supplies a solid framework round which public opinion may consolidate itself. The sovereign is, in brief, a great teacher of the moral law so far as his arm can reach.
The same principles are applied in a part of the book which probably gave more offence than any other to his Liberal opponents. The State cannot be impartial in regard to morals, for morality determines the bonds which hold society together. Can it, then, be indifferent in regard to religions? No; for morality depends upon religion, and the social bond owes its strength to both. The state can be no more an impartial bystander in one case than in the other. The 'free Church in a free State' represents a temporary compromise, not an ultimate ideal. The difference between Church and State is not a difference of provinces, but a difference of 'sanctions.' The spiritual and the secular sanctions apply to the same conduct of the same men. Both claim to rule all life, and are ultimately compelled to answer the fundamental questions. To separate them would be to 'cut human life in two,' an attempt ultimately impossible and always degrading. To answer fundamental questions, says Mill, involves a claim to infallibility. No, replies Fitzjames, it is merely a claim to be right in the particular case, and in a case where the responsibility of deciding is inevitably forced upon us. If the state shrinks from such decisions, it will sink to be a mere police, or, more probably, will at last find itself in a position where force will have to decide what the compromise was meant to evade. Once more, therefore, the limits of state action must be drawn by expediency, not by an absolute principle. The Benthamite formula applies again. Is the end good, and are the means adequate and not excessively costly? Mill's absolute principle would condemn the levy of a shilling for a school, if the ratepayer objected to the religious teaching. Fitzjames's would, he grants, justify the Inquisition, unless its doctrines could be shown to be false or the means of enforcing them excessive or inadequate—issues, he adds, which he would be quite ready to accept. Has, then, a man who believes in God and a future life a moral right to deter others from attacking those doctrines by showing disapproval? Yes, 'if and in so far as his opinions are true.' To attack opinions on which the framework of society depends is, and ought to be, dangerous. It should be done, if done at all, sword in hand. Otherwise the assailant deserves the fate of the Wanderer in Scott's ballad:
Curst be the coward that ever he was born That did not draw the sword before he blew the horn.
Such opinions seem to justify persecution in principle. Fitzjames discusses at some length the case of Pontius Pilate, to which I may notice he had often applied parallels from Ram Singh and other Indian experiences. Pontius Pilate was in a position analogous to that of the governor of a British province. He decides that if Pilate had acted upon Mill's principles he would have risked 'setting the whole province in a blaze.' He condemns the Roman persecutors as 'clumsy and brutal'; but thinks that they might have succeeded 'in the same miserable sense in which the Spanish Inquisition succeeded,' had they been more systematic, and then would at least not have been self-stultified. Had the Roman Government seen the importance of the question, the strife, if inevitable, might have been noble. It would have been a case of 'generous opponents each working his way to the truth from opposite sides,' not the case of a 'touching though slightly hysterical victim, mauled from time to time by a sleepy tyrant in his intervals of fury.' Still, it will be said, there would have been persecution. I believe that there was no man living who had a more intense aversion than Fitzjames to all oppression of the weak, and, above all, to religious oppression. It is oddly characteristic that his main precedent is drawn from our interference with Indian creeds. We had enforced peace between rival sects; allowed conversion; set up schools teaching sciences inconsistent with Hindoo (and with Christian?) theology; protected missionaries and put down suttee and human sacrifices. In the main, therefore, we had shown 'intolerance' by introducing toleration. Fitzjames had been himself accused, on the occasion of his Native Marriages Bill, with acting upon principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality. His point, indeed, is that a government, even nervously anxious to avoid proselytism, had been compelled to a upon doctrines inconsistent with the religions of its subjects. I will not try to work out this little logical puzzle. In fact, in any case, he would really have agreed with Mill, as he admits, in regard to every actual question of the day. He admitted that the liberal contention had been perfectly right under the special circumstances. Their arguments were quite right so long as they took the lower ground of expediency, though wrong when elevated to the position of ultimate principles, overruling arguments from expediency. Toleration, he thinks, is in its right place as softening and moderating an inevitable conflict. The true ground for moral tolerance is that 'most people have no right to any opinion whatever upon these subjects,' and he thinks that 'the ignorant preacher' who 'calls his betters atheists is not guilty of intolerance, but of rudeness and ignorance.'
I must confess that this makes upon me the impression that Fitzjames was a little at a loss for good arguments to support what he felt to be the right mode of limiting his principles. The difficulty was due, I think, to the views which he shared with Mill. The utilitarian point of view tends to lower the true ground of toleration, because it regards exclusively the coercive elements of law. I should hold that free thought is not merely a right, but a duty, the exercise of which should be therefore encouraged as well as permitted; and that the inability of the coarse methods of coercion to stamp out particular beliefs without crushing thought in general, is an essential part of the argument, not a mere accident of particular cases. Our religious beliefs are not separate germs, spreading disease and capable of being caught and suppressed by the rough machinery of law, but parts of a general process underlying all law, and capable of being suppressed only at the cost of suppressing all mental activity. The utilitarian conception dwells too much upon the 'sanctions,' and too little on the living spirit, of which they are one expression.
Fitzjames's view may so far be summed up by saying that he denies the possibility of making the state a neutral in regard to the moral and religious problems involved. Morality, again, coincides with 'utility '; and the utility of laws and conduct in general is the criterion which we must apply to every case by the help of the appropriate experience. We must therefore reject every general rule in the name of which this criterion may be rejected. This applies to Mill's doctrine of equality, as well as to his doctrine of non-interference. I pass over some comparatively commonplace remarks upon the inconsistency of 'liberty' and 'equality.' The most unequivocal contradiction comes out in regard to Mill's theory of the equality of the sexes. There was no dogma to which Mill was more attached or to which Fitzjames was more decidedly opposed. The essence of the argument, I take it, is this:
A just legislator, says Mill, will treat all men as equals. He must mean, then, that there are no such differences between any two classes of men as would affect the expediency of the applying the same laws to both. What is good for one must therefore be good for another. Now, in the first place, as Fitzjames urges, there is no presumption in favour of this hypothesis; and, in the next place, it is obviously untrue in some cases. Differences of age, for example, must be taken into account unless we accept the most monstrous conclusions. How does this apply to the case of sex? Mill held that the difference in the law was due simply to the superiority of men to women in physical strength. Fitzjames replies that men are stronger throughout, stronger in body, in nerve and muscle, in mind and character. To neglect this fact would be silly; but if we admit it, we must admit its relevance to legislation. Marriage, for example, is one of the cases with which law and morality are both compelled to deal. Now the marriage contract necessarily involves the subordination of the weaker to the stronger. This, says Fitzjames, is as clearly demonstrable as a proposition of Euclid. For, either the contract must be dissoluble at will or the rule must be given to one, and if to one, then, as every one admits, to the husband. We must then choose between entire freedom of divorce and the subordination of the wife. If two people are indissolubly connected and differ in opinions, one must give way. The wife, thinks Fitzjames, should give way as the seaman should give way to his captain; and to regard this as humiliating is a mark not of spirit but of a 'base, unworthy, mutinous disposition.'
If, to avoid this, you made marriage dissoluble, you would really make women the slaves of their husbands. In nine cases out of ten, the man is the most independent, and could therefore tyrannise by the threat of dismissing his wife. By trying to forbid coercion, you do not really suppress it, but make its action arbitrary.
He apologises to a lady in a letter referring to another controversy upon the same subject in which he had used rather strong language about masculine 'superiority.' 'When a beast is stirred up,' he says, 'he roars rather too loud,' and 'this particular beast loves and honours and worships women more than he can express, and owes most of the happiness of his life to them.' By 'superior' he only meant 'stronger'; and he only urges a 'division of labour,' and a correspondence between laws and facts. This was, I think, strictly true, and applies to other parts of his book. Partly from pugnacity and partly from contempt of sentimentalism, he manages to put the harsher side of his opinions in front. This appears as we approach the ultimate base of his theory.
I have spoken more than once of Fitzjames's respect for Hobbes. For Hobbes's theory of sovereignty, and even its application by the ultramontane De Maistre, had always an attraction for him. Hobbes, with his logical thoroughness, seems to carry the foundations of policy down to the solid rock-bed of fact. Life is a battle; it is the conflict of independent atoms; with differing aims and interests. The strongest, in one way or other, will always rule. But the conflict may be decided peacefully. You may show your cards instead of playing out the game; and peace may be finally established though only by the recognition of a supreme authority. The one question is what is to be the supreme authority? With De Maistre it was the Church; with Fitzjames as with Hobbes it was the State. The welfare of the race can only be secured by order; order only by the recognition of a sovereign; and when that order, and the discipline which it implies, are established, force does not cease to exist: on the contrary, it is enormously increased in efficacy; but it works regularly and is distributed harmoniously and systematically instead of appearing in the chaotic clashing of countless discordant fragments. The argument, which is as clear as Euclid in the case of marriage, is valid universally. Society must be indissoluble; and to be indissoluble must recognise a single ultimate authority in all disputes. Peace and order mean subordination and discipline, and the only liberty possible is the liberty which presupposes such 'coercion.' The theory becomes harsh if by 'coercion' we mean simply 'physical force' or the fear of pain. A doctrine which made the hangman the ultimate source of all authority would certainly show brutality. But nothing could be farther from Fitzjames's intention than to sanction such a theory. His 'coercion' really includes an appeal to all the motives which make peace and order preferable to war and anarchy. But it is, I also think, a defect in the book that he does not clearly explain the phrase, and that it slips almost unconsciously into the harsher sense. He tells us, for example, that 'force is dependent upon persuasion and cannot move without it.' Nobody can rule without persuading his fellows to place their force at his disposal; and therefore he infers 'persuasion is a kind of force.' It acts by showing people the consequences of their conduct. He calls controversy, again, an 'intellectual warfare,' which, he adds, is far more searching and effective than legal persecution. It roots out the weaker opinion. And so, when speaking of the part played by coercion in religious developments, he says that 'the sources of religion lie hid from us. All that we know is that now and again in the course of ages someone sets to music the tune which is haunting millions of ears. It is caught up here and there, and repeated till the chorus is thundered out by a body of singers able to drown all discords, and to force the unmusical mass to listen to them.' The word 'force' in the last sentence shows the transition. Undoubtedly force in the sense of physical and military force has had a great influence in the formation both of religions and nations. We may say that such force is 'essential'; as a proof of the energy and often as a condition of the durability of the institutions. But the question remains whether it is a cause or an effect; and whether the ultimate roots of success do not lie in that 'kind of force' which is called 'persuasion'; and to which nobody can object. If coercion be taken to include enlightenment, persuasion, appeals to sympathy and sentiment, and to imagination, it implies an ultimate social groundwork very different from that generally suggested by the word. The utilitarian and individualist point of view tends necessarily to lay stress upon bare force acting by fear and physical pain. The utilitarian 'sanctions' of law must be the hangman and the gaoler. So long as society includes unsocial elements it must apply motives applicable to the most brutal. The hangman uses an argument which everyone can understand. In this sense, therefore, force must be the ultimate sanction, though it is equally true that to get the force you must appeal to motives very different from those wielded by the executioner. The application of this analogy of criminal law to questions of morality and religion affects the final conclusions of the book.
Fitzjames's whole position, if I have rightly interpreted him, depends essentially upon his moral convictions. The fault which he finds with Mill is precisely that Mill's theory would unmoralise the state. The state, that is, would be a mere association for mutual insurance against injury instead of an organ of the moral sense of the community. What, then, is morality? How are we to know what is right and wrong, and what are our motives for approving and disapproving the good and the bad? Fitzjames uses phrases, especially in his letters, where he is not arguing against an adversary, which appear to be inconsistent, if not with utilitarianism, at least with the morality of mere expediency. Lord Lytton, some time after this, wrote to him about his book, and he replies to the question, 'What is a good man?'—'a man so constituted that the pleasure of doing a noble thing and the pain of doing a base thing are to him the greatest of pleasures and pains.' He was fond, too, of quoting, with admiration, Kant's famous saying about the sublimity of the moral law and the starry heavens. The doctrine of the 'categorical imperative' would express his feelings more accurately than Bentham's formulae. But his reasoning was different. He declares himself to be a utilitarian in the sense that, according to him, morality must be built upon experience. 'The rightness of an action,' he concludes, 'depends ultimately upon the conclusions at which men may arrive as to matters of fact.' This, again, means that the criterion is the effect of conduct upon happiness. Here, however, we have the old difficulty that the estimate of happiness varies widely. Fitzjames accepts this view to some extent. Happiness has no one definite meaning, although he admits, in point of fact, there is sufficient resemblance between men to enable them to form such morality as actually exists.
But is such morality satisfactory? Can it, for example, give sufficient reasons for self-sacrifice—that is, neglect of my own happiness? Self-sacrifice, he replies, in a strict sense, is impossible; for it could only mean acting in opposition to our own motives of whatever kind—which is an absurdity. But among real motives he admits benevolence, public spirit, and so forth, and fully agrees that they are constantly strong enough to overpower purely self-regarding motives. So far, it follows, the action of such motives may be legitimately assumed by utilitarians. He is, therefore, not an 'egoistic' utilitarian. He thinks, as he says in a letter referring to his book, that he is 'as humane and public-spirited as his neighbours.' A man must be a wretched being who does not care more for many things outside his household than for his own immediate pains and pleasures. Had he been called upon to risk health or life for any public object in India, and failed to respond, he would never have had a moment's peace afterwards. This was no more than the truth, and yet he would sometimes call himself 'selfish' in what I hold to be a non-natural sense. He frequently complains of the use of such words as 'selfishness' and 'altruism' at all. Selfishness, according to him, could merely mean that a man acts from his own motives, and altruism would mean that he acted from somebody else's motives. One phrase, therefore, would be superfluous, and the other absurd. He insists, however, that, as he puts it, 'self is each man's centre, from which he can no more displace himself than he can leap off his own shadow.' Since estimates of happiness differ, the morality based upon them will also differ. And from selfishness in this sense two things follow. First, I have to act upon my own individual conception of morality.
If, then, I meet a person whose morality is different from mine, and who justifies what I hold to be vices, I must behave according to my own view. If I am his ruler, I must not treat him as a person making a possibly useful experiment in living, but as a vicious brute, to be restrained or suppressed by all available means. And secondly, since self is the centre, since a 'man works from himself outwards,' it is idle to propose a love of humanity as the guiding motive to morality. 'Humanity is only "I" writ large, and zeal for humanity generally means zeal for My Notions as to what men should be and how they should live.'
This, therefore, leads to the ultimate question: What, in the utilitarian phrase, is the 'sanction' of morality? Here his answer is, on one side at least, emphatic and unequivocal. Mill and the positivists, according to him, propose an utterly unsatisfactory motive for morality. The love of 'humanity' is the love of a mere shadowy abstraction. We can love our family and our neighbours; we cannot really care much about the distant relations whom we shall never see. Nay, he holds that a love of humanity is often a mask for a dislike of concrete human beings. He accuses Mill of having at once too high and too low an opinion of mankind. Mill, he thinks, had too low an estimate of the actual average Englishman, and too high an estimate of the ideal man who would be perfectly good when all restraints were removed. He excused himself for contempt of his fellows by professing love for an abstraction. To set up the love of 'humanity,' in fact, as a governing principle is not only impracticable, but often mischievous. A man does more good, as a rule, by working for himself and his family, than by acting like a 'moral Don Quixote, who is capable of making love for men in general the ground of all sorts of violence against men in particular.' Indeed, there are many men whom we ought not to love. It is hypocrisy to pretend to love the thoroughly vicious. 'I do not love such people, but hate them,' says Fitzjames; and I do not want to make them happy, because I could only do so by 'pampering their vices.'
Here, therefore, he reaches the point at which his utilitarian and his Puritanical prepossessions coincide. All law, says the utilitarian, implies 'sanctions'—motives equally operative upon all members of society; and, as the last resort, so far as criminal law is concerned, the sanction of physical suffering. What is the corresponding element in the moral law? To this, says Fitzjames, no positivist can give a fair answer. He has no reply to anyone who says boldly, 'I am bad and selfish, and I mean to be bad and selfish.' The positivists can only reply, 'Our tastes differ.' The great religions have answered differently. We all know the Christian answer, and 'even the Buddhists had, after a time, to set up a hell.' The reason is simple. You can never persuade the mass of men till you can threaten them. Religions which cannot threaten the selfish have no power at all; and till the positivists can threaten, they will remain a mere 'Ritualistic Social Science Association.' Briefly, the utilitarian asks, What is the sanction of morality? And the Puritan gives the answer, Hell. Here, then, apparently, we have the keystone of the arch. What is the good of government in general? To maintain the law? And what is the end of the law? To maintain morality. And why should we maintain morality? To escape hell. This, according to some of his critics, was Fitzjames's own conclusion. It represents, perhaps in a coarse form, an argument which Fitzjames was never tired of putting since the days when he worked out the theory of hell at school.
It would, however, be the grossest injustice to him if I left it to be supposed for a moment that he accepted this version of his doctrine. He repudiated it emphatically; and, in fact, he modifies the doctrine so much that the real question is, whether he does not deprive it of all force. No one was more sensible of the moral objections to the hell of popular belief. He thought that it represented the Creator as a cruel and arbitrary tyrant, whose vengeance was to be evaded by legal fictions. Still, the absolute necessity of some 'sanction' of a spiritual kind seemed clear to him. Without it, every religion would fall to pieces, as every system of government would be dissolved without 'coercion.' And this is the final conclusion of his book in chapters with which he was, as I find from his letters, not altogether satisfied. He explains in the preface to his second edition that the question was too wide for complete treatment in the limits. Briefly the doctrine seems to be this. The Utilitarian or Positivist can frame a kind of commonplace morality, which is good as far as it goes. It includes benevolence and sympathy; but hardly gets beyond ordering men to love their friends and hate their enemies. To raise morality to a higher strain, to justify what it generally called self-sacrifice, to make men capable of elevated action, they require something more. That something is the belief in God and a future world. 'I entirely agree,' he says, 'with the commonplaces about the importance of these doctrines.' 'If they be mere dreams life is a much poorer and pettier thing, and mere physical comfort far more important than has hitherto been supposed. Morality, he says, depends on religion. If it be asked whether we ought to rise beyond the average utilitarian morality, he replies, 'Yes, if there is a God and a future state. No, if there is no God and no future state.' And what is to be said of those doctrines, the ultimate foundation, if not of an average morality, yet of all morality above the current commonplaces? Here we have substantially the religious theory upon which I have already dwelt. He illustrates it here by quotations from Mill, who admits the 'thread of consciousness' to be an ultimate inexplicability, and by a passage from Carlyle, 'the greatest poet of the age,' setting forth the mystery of the 'Me.' He believes in a Being who, though not purely benevolent, has so arranged the universe, that virtue is the law prescribed to his creatures. The law is stern and inflexible, and excites a feeling less of love than of 'awful respect.' The facts of life are the same upon any theory; but atheism makes the case utterly hopeless. A belief in God is inextricably connected with a belief in morality, and if one decays the other will decay with it. Still it is idle to deny that the doctrines are insusceptible of proof. 'Faith says, I will, though I am not sure; Doubt says, I will not, because I am not sure; but they both agree in not being sure.' He utterly repudiates all the attempts made by Newman and others to get out of the dilemma by some logical device for transmuting a mere estimate of probabilities into a conclusion of demonstrable certitude. We cannot get beyond probabilities. But we have to make a choice and to make it at our peril. We are on a pass, blinded by mist and whirling snow. If we stand still, 'we shall be frozen to death. If we take the wrong road, we shall be dashed to pieces. We do not certainly know whether there is any right one. What must we do? "Be strong and of a good courage." Act for the best, hope for the best, and take what comes. Above all let us dream no dreams and tell no lies, but go our way, wherever we may land, with our eyes open and our heads erect. If death ends all, we cannot meet it better. If not, let us enter the next scene with no sophistry in our mouths and no masks on our faces.'