What does “a stay on” mean in this context?

Unlike Bentham, Mill saw little reason for confidence in democracy as a stay on the oppressive hand of government.

From The Moral Foundations of Politics by Ian Shapiro

I understand the sentence as this: Democracy is a stay. This stay is on oppressive hands of government. Am I wrong about this? Help me please to understand the sentence.

My another question is: Does the oppressive hand of government means the hand of oppressive government or it just means what it says?


Yes, it says that democracy is a “stay”. The noun “stay” has several connected meanings. This seems to be related to the meaning “restraining rope” but used metaphorically. Democracy is said by Mills not to effectively restrain “The oppressive hand of Government”

And that phrase means just that. Whether that is correct or not depends how wise Ian Shapiro about Mill’s politics. I don’t know. But we must assume that “Oppressive hand of Government” means “oppressive hand of government” and not something else (though it is obviously a metaphor, as governments don’t have real hands)

Source : Link , Question Author : Abbas Mübariz , Answer Author : James K

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