THE BISHOP OF PETERBOROUGH ON CRUELTY.
Tif E Bishop of Peterborough has earned some right to be thought a thoroughly manly Bishop. He was not ashamed to say that if, between the two frightful evils of drunkenness freely chosen, and a grave interference with free- dom made in the interests of sobriety, he had to make a choice, he would choose the former ; that he thought it a worse thing for Englishmen, and more likely to lead to a future deteriora- tion of character, to put them in leading-strings, in order to keep them sober, than to leave them free to err, and to feel the full responsibility of their own error. For that remark, the Bishop incurred much odium ; but we believe that, in the highest sense of the word, it was a Christian judgment for which he incurred that odium, and that it was worthy of him as a Bishop, as well as a politician. Now he appears to be intending to vindi- cate the same right again by his Tuesday's speech in the House of Lords on cruelty, in relation to Lord Truro's Bill for absolutely abolishing Vivisection in every form. But here, though we think that his vote, and. that possibly portions of his speech, were sound as well as manly, we differ so widely from him in rela- tion to his very unmeaning, and therefore very dangerous, defi- nition of cruelty, that we fear he is, in his just aspiration to be a manly Bishop, overshooting his mark, and likely to become a great authority on the side of the abettors of some of the worst cruelty of modern times. We are, indeed, very much surprised to find so able a thinker as Bishop Magee suggesting so thoroughly undefining a definition of cruelty as this,—that cruelty is the infliction of unnecessary pain. He might just as well define intemperance as the taking of unnecessary stim- ulus. The whole stress of either question lies not in the word "unnecessary," but in the limitation of the objects for the sake of which it is unnecessary to inflict pain or to take the stimulus. In one sense, nobody inflicts unnecessary pain. The child who, half in ignorance, half in cruelty, tears a fly to pieces, or throws stones at a bird, does not inflict unnecessary pain for his own object. He could not gain his object, whether it be the gratification of an idle and morbid curiosity, or the testing of his own skill as a marksman at the bird's expense, without doing what he does. The reason why these acts are cruel is not that the pain: inflicted is unneces- sary for the child's purposes, but that those purposes are so utterly inferior in worth to the purpose of general bene- volence with which they are inconsistent, that the preference of them to that purpose is simply a sin. And that is pre- cisely the crux of the whole question of cruelty. For what class of purposes is it justifiable to inflict pain on sensitive creatures P Cruelty consists in wilfully inflicting even " neces- sary " pain on any sensitive creature, if the pain be necessary only for a, purpose which, at that cost, is not justifi- able. Nor is it by any means easy to determine for others than ourselves how much pain it is justifiable to inflict for one purpose, and how much for another. We may say, indeed, that we are all willing to bear a good deal of pain ourselves for a sufficient purpose, and that in the case of creatures whose life is in our hands, to regulate it as we think most just, we may fairly require from them the same sort of participation in our sufferings and troubles as we are not un- willing to exact from ourselves,—having due regard, of course, to the respective scope and purpose of our own and our animal fellow-crentures' existence. But may we say that it is right or fair to inflict for our own benefit on any fellow-creature that is entirely in our power, a kind and degree of suffering which we would neither bear ourselves, nor permit another to inflict on one of our own race, for the purpose in question P We should reply most strongly in the negative. And we should assert that it is cruelty to be willing to inflict for any pur- pose whatever on any creature which is helpless to resist it, —whether human or otherwise—a kind and degree of suffer- ing which, if it were inflicted on human beings able to make their voice heard, we should regard as an intolerable wrong. This is, indeed, the only practical test of true humanity worth a farthing,—that, so far as a man can judge of the posi- tion and susceptibility of another creature, he should in- flict on him no pain which he would not, mittatie inutandis, consent to bear in its place. Any disposition is cruel which avails itself of the practical helplessness of a victim to make light of the amount or quality of the suffering in-
flicted on it, for the inflictor's own ends. In the case of really equal pangs, the pang is probably more to the less nature than to the greater, for it fills up a greater part of the horizon, and is less liable to be overridden by the power of fortitude, hope, and imagination. And the measure of true humanity is, we are satisfied, to weigh the sufferings inflicted on others as much as possible,—and with all the rectifications, of course, that true reason suggests,—by our own, to perceive in the limits which.
we should indignantly refuse to pass in relation to inflicting pain on man, the right limit which, making all due allowances for difference of position, it is sheer cruelty to pass in in- flicting pain on animals. Of course, this does not imply
any such nonsense as that the lila of an animal is as sacred as the life of a man. The life of a man is sacred for the moral
purposes it answers, and not for the mere satisfactions of desire it involves. A man when doomed to torturing disease for the rest of his life, is still unfaithful to his higher self if he puts an end to that life. In the case of one of the lower animals, it is not simply right, but a duty, to terminate its life, so soon as it seems certain that that life is and must continue to be pure pain. But so far as mere pain is concerned, it is clearly quite as cruel to inflict it for an inadequate purpose on a brute, as to inflict it on a human being, and the only measure of adequacy we can get must be got by extending, so far as we reasonably can, by the aid of analogy and observation, the sympathy which human speech and intercourse have at last taught us to feel for each other, to the sensitive world from all direct communication with which we are shut out.
Now, what we find fault with in the Bishop of Peterborough's very slovenly definition of cruelty, is that it immediately sug- gests, what he, no doubt, intended to suggest,—that so long as your object is good enough, and distinctly enough perceived,— say, the discovery of a physiological law, or the alleviation of human anguish for all time,—the infliction of any amount of torture which is " necessary " for that object is not cruelty, but a, refined kind of benevolence. If that be the Bishop's real drift we denounce it, as a mere disguise for the most dangerous kind of cruelty,—the cruelty of sanguine curiosity, or even speculative benevolence. Would it be anything but cruelty for a great psychologist, however 'sure his thirst for know- ledge and sanguine his hope of discovery, in his desire to remove the worst sources of childish terror, to experi- ment on the minds of his own or any other man's children by trying them with one terror after another, and then applying experimental sedatives P If it would,—if no excuse that great discoveries and beneficial discoveries were reasonably hoped for from such experiments, could justify this sacrifice of the peace and happiness of the individual child to whom you have defi- nite duties, to the chance of discovering laws and remedies which would augment the peace and happiness of the race, —then we say that in the physical region, the same is true of cruel experimental tortures inflicted on the lower animals,—that no excuse of physiological research and bene- ficial result to the race, can justify acts which place man in a thoroughly unnatural and tyrannical relation to any one creature that is committed, in some sense, to his charge. Torturing one creature for the good of others, is simply committing evil that good may come of it ; and to try and get out of this by asking what is torture, and what is allowable pain, though a very plausible, is by no means a sufficient escape. For the same question may be and is constantly put in relation to our own race. And the anwer simply ie that anything is torture which renders the existence of a moral relation between the inflictor and the victim impossible,—which turns the inflictor into a mere instrument of anguish, and the victim into a mere recipient of that anguish. And the same answer is good even for man's relation to the lower races. There may be no moral relation, on their part, towards him. But undoubtedly he has amoral re- lation to them. And he violates that moral relation whenever he renders the life of any of them one of intolerable anguish, voluntarily inflicted by himself, with whatever view of discovery or of ultimate beneficence he may inflict it. Our principle is very simple,—that justice and mercy to the helpless in this matter, should always be measured as far as possible by what we deem justice and mercy to those who can help themselves. There are certain more or less disagreeable experiments which many men would suffer, and some have inflicted on themselves, in the interests of science. There are others which no one would suffer, or inflict on himself, in that interest, and which, if inflicted on helpless human beings, would excite a storm of just indignation. Well, let us deal with the helpless sensitive creatures which cannot plead their own cause, on the same principles on which we deal with those who can. No principle can be simpler than this. The Bishop's dangerous, and we think almost culpable, laxity in defining cruelty as tlie mere infliction of " unnecessary " pain, gives some- thing very like Episcopal sanction to the notion that there is no moral limit on the torture which, for a sufficiently hopeful human end, man may not inflict on the lower animals ; in other words, that not only is their life completely subordinate to ours, which it is, but so utterly subordinate that there is no cost of anguish, however ghastly,—however much it may appeal to our own sympathies as sensitive creatures,—which we may not demand of them, for our good.
- That is precisely the cruel doctrine which Lord Shaftesbury first illustrated, and then traversed, in his masterly and eloquent speech. We confess we think it one of the most hideous doctrines which the so-called Scientific culture of the day has endorsed. We are asked to admiro,—nay, to revere,—the genius of men who, like the late Claude Bernard, and like Paul Bert, and some even of our own physiologists, have no hesitation in dealing with individual creatures, within our power, often warmly attached to our race,— certainly capable of exciting in us both affection and pity,—as if they were mere units of physiological experiment, towards which a sin would be impossible so long as the ultimate result of the experiment might possibly or probably be useful. We call that demand on our admiration of scientific talent, one which is degrading to the nature of man. And we deeply grieve to see so manly and vigorous a speaker as the Bishop of Peterborough encouraging, by his advisedly loose definition, the tenets of a school which will go far to demoralise scientific investigation, and to stamp with cruelty the ethics of modern thought.