Political Tactics

By Michael James; Cyprian Blamires et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.1 OF THE PRESIDENTS AND VICE-PRESIDENTS BELONGING TO POLITICAL ASSEMBLIES.

+§1. Of the office of President. aPublished4 1791.

Rules.

Rule 1. IN every political assembly, there ought at all times to be some one person to preside.

aThe word President, I employ in preference to any other term which the English or any other European language offers as capable of being made to express the function I have in view.

To an Englishman, whose view was confined to his own island, and to the chief governing bodies in that island, Speaker is the word which would naturally first present itself. But the term Speaker exhibits the office of president no otherwise than as an appendage to a very different, and now frivolous function, of which hereafter, and of which latter only an intimation is given by this name;--and in relation to the business of debate, it has an incorrigible tendency to produce confusion: it confounds the president with any member whom there is occasion to mention as speaking. In the instance in which it is most used, viz. to denote the president in ordinary of the House of Commons, it involves a contradiction; the original propriety of the appellation having in this instance slipped away, and left absurdity in its place. In that House the Speaker, while he officiates as such, is the only person present who neither makes those speeches which all the other members make, nor has any right to do so. In this point of view, it lends countenance to a principle of etymology, generally cited as a whimsical one: Speaker, from not speaking; ut lucus a non lucendo.2

Orator (orateur) is the word by which the English word speaker has been usually rendered in the general language of Europe. It is by the same word that the presidency of the three inferior orders of the Swedish diet is rendered in the same language. To the innocent improprieties chargeable on the word speaker, this adds a dangerous one. Oration means supplication;--supplication implies pliancy as towards the person to be addressed: the pliancy of the Swedish presidents as towards the person they had to address, has justa consummated the ruin of everything that ought to be dear to Sweden.3

The word Chairman is free from the inconvenience attached to the use of the words

____________________
1
In the Bowring edition, this chapter is based on two sources: the fragment of Essay V included in at least one copy of Bentham "'Essay on Political Tactics'", printed in 1791 (see the Editorial Introduction, p. xiv above); and Chapter VI of Dumont's 'ractique des assemblées politiques délibérates'. Editorial footnotes indicate those passages derived solely from Dumont while the endnotes, pp. 179-98 below, marked with the symbol+ in the text, reproduce material from Dumont which is not incorporated into Bowring. Significant differences between the Bowring edition and the 1791 fragment are indicated in editorial footnotes. A complete account of the differences between the two editions is given in the Collation, pp. 199-215 below.
2
i.e. 'as a grove from not being light'. Bentham is referring to the naming of objects by qualities they do not possess. See Quintiliam, Institutio Oratoria I.vi.34: 'lucus, quia umbra opacus parum luceat'.
3
Gustavus III ( 1746-92), King of Sweden from 1771, declared war on Russia in 1788, in contravention of the Swedish Constitution which stated that the king could not attack a foreign power without the consent of the Estates. A new constitution, the Act of Union and Security, drawn up by the King in 1789, led to an unprecedented degree of royal absolutism which allowed the King to continue the war unchecked. Cf. "'A Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace'", Bowring, ii. 554, written in 1789.
4
Note added in Bowring. In fact the Chapter was privately printed but not published.

-65-

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