Autobiography HTML version

that the law of England, the judicature of England, the unpaid magistracy of England,
were models of excellence. I do not go beyond the mark in saying, that after Bentham,
who supplied the principal materials, the greatest share of the merit of breaking down this
wretched superstition belongs to Black, as editor of the Morning Chronicle. He kept up
an incessant fire against it, exposing the absurdities and vices of the law and the courts of
justice, paid and unpaid, until he forced some sense of them into people's minds. On
many other questions he became the organ of opinions much in advance of any which
had ever before found regular advocacy in the newspaper press. Black was a frequent
visitor of my father, and Mr. Grote used to say that he always knew by the Monday
morning's article whether Black had been with my father on the Sunday. Black was one
of the most influential of the many channels through which my father's conversation and
personal influence made his opinions tell on the world; cooperating with the effect of his
writings in making him a power in the country such as it has rarely been the lot of an
individual in a private station to be, through the mere force of intellect and character: and
a power which was often acting the most efficiently where it was least seen and
suspected. I have already noticed how much of what was done by Ricardo, Hume, and
Grote was the result, in part, of his prompting and persuasion. He was the good genius by
the side of Brougham in most of what he did for the public, either on education, law
reform, or any other subject. And his influence flowed in minor streams too numerous to
be specified. This influence was now about to receive a great extension by the foundation
of the Westminster Review.
Contrary to what may have been supposed, my father was in no degree a party to setting
up the Westminster Review. The need of a Radical organ to make head against the
Edinburgh and Quarterly (then in the period of their greatest reputation and influence)
had been a topic of conversation between him and Mr. Bentham many years earlier, and
it had been a part of their Château en Espagne that my father should be the editor; but the
idea had never assumed any practical shape. In 1823, however, Mr. Bentham determined
to establish the Review at his own cost, and offered the editorship to my father, who
declined it as incompatible with his India House appointment. It was then entrusted to
Mr. (now Sir John) Bowring, at that time a merchant in the City. Mr. Bowring had been
for two or three years previous an assiduous frequenter of Mr. Bentham, to whom he was
recommended by many personal good qualities, by an ardent admiration for Bentham, a
zealous adoption of many, though not all of his opinions, and, not least, by an extensive
acquaintanceship and correspondence with Liberals of all countries, which seemed to
qualify him for being a powerful agent in spreading Bentham's fame and doctrines
through all quarters of the world. My father had seen little of Bowring, but knew enough
of him to have formed a strong opinion, that he was a man of an entirely different type
from what my father considered suitable for conducting a political and philosophical
Review: and he augured so ill of the enterprise that he regretted it altogether, feeling
persuaded not only that Mr. Bentham would lose his money, but that discredit would
probably be brought upon Radical principles. He could not, however, desert Mr.
Bentham, and he consented to write an article for the first number. As it had been a
favourite portion of the scheme formerly talked of, that part of the work should be
devoted to reviewing the other Reviews, this article of my father's was to be a general
criticism of the Edinburgh Review from its commencement. Before writing it he made me