Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I.: PURPOSE EXPLAINED. Jeremy Bentham to the honest and afflicted among Equity Suitors. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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SECTION I.: PURPOSE EXPLAINED. Jeremy Bentham to the honest and afflicted among Equity Suitors. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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Fellow Countrymen and Fellow Countrywomen,
1. To convince you of your affliction, words would be thrown away: feelings afford but too sufficient proof. That which you have need of, is relief, and to put you in the way—the only way—of obtaining it, is the object and business of this Address.
2. You the honest—you the afflicted—to you alone is it made:—from you alone can that information and co-operation which are necessary, be looked for. By honest I mean, of course, those who are such in relation to the suits in which they are respectively embarked. To define the two classes, and at the same time to draw the line between them—a line, and that a clear one—a few words may suffice. Honest, and afflicted, those who, to the plan which you will see presently, give their consent: dishonest, and afflicters, those who refuse it. For, by the plan (as you will see,) minutes of continuance are substituted to many years: shillings of expense to hundreds or thousands of pounds: probability of right decision, not lessened but increased by the same system of simplicity by which existence is given to the saving in delay and expense.
3. Instrument of relief, what—course to be taken by you for the obtaining it, what:—these are the heads of the matter, which I have to submit to your consideration; accompanied by the offer, which you will see, of my gratuitous services such as they are, towards the accomplishment of this great purpose.
4. First, As to the instrument of relief. For presenting it to your view—a general idea of it—here too a few words may suffice.
5. Mode of procedure, the summary—substituted to the self-styled regular: with a judicatory, of a species correspondently simple substituted to that complicated, diversified, entangled, extortious and purposely dilatory system of judicature by which your affliction is produced.
6. Regular procedure, otherwise called technical: technical, from the Greek, meaning artificial: originally in a good sense, but in this case, from the employment given to it now in a bad sense; the distinctive character of it being the employment it gives to artifice, in substituting expensiveness to frugality, delay to dispatch, misdecision, or non-decision where decision is due, to right decision—all for the sake of the profit extractible from the extra-expense.
7. Judicatories in which the regular is in use, for example, the Westminster-Hall Courts: and, in particular, those which are the scenes of your torment, the so miscalled Equity Courts, as likewise the no less miscalled courts Christian, alias Spiritual Courts, alias Ecclesiastical Courts.
8. Judicatories in which summary procedure is in use—the small-debt judicatories called Courts of Requests and Courts of Conscience,—those held by Justices of the Peace when acting singly, or otherwise than in General Sessions,—those held by Bankruptcy Commissioners: add to these, Courts Martial, and Committees of either House of Parliament, when employed in the elicitation of evidence.
9. Secondly, As to the course to be taken by you, for the obtainment of this same instrument of relief. For this purpose I must begin with bringing to your view the authorities the co-operation of which will be necessary:—These are—1. Parliament; 2. King, acting separately; 3. House of Commons acting separately. Parliament, by the requisite enactments; King, by his Commissions given to Judge—say the Dispatch Court Judge, and his subordinates; House of Commons—eventually, by the elicitation, as you will see, of some eventually necessary evidence—over and above all which there can be any adequate assurance of your being able to give respectively, for the purpose of enabling the judge to determine, in relation to each one of your several suits, whether it be so circumstanced as that his authority is capable of being employed in it to advantage.
10.—I. First, As to the enactments and the Bill containing them. In the texture of a draught for that purpose, which will presently be brought to your view, you will see, besides the enactments, examples where they presented themselves as necessary or useful for the explanation of them; reasons, for the explanation as well as justification of them; and instructions to the Judge, where, in each individual case,—to enable him to do justice, by the adaptation of his decrees to each individual case,—the liberty allowed by such instructions may be necessary, instead of the obligation imposed by a set of general and indiscriminating enactments, applying alike to mutually different cases, such as require mutually different orders and decrees: for which cases accordingly one and the same enactment could not so well serve. A draught of this texture is one of the subject-matters of the offer which you will see.
II. Next, as to the distinct co-operation necessary on the part of the King. For the obtainment of it, as also for the obtainment of his concurrence in the act of Parliament, a petition from such of you as are repectively desirous of this relief, will, as you will see, be necessary. A draught composed of the proposed tenor of such petition, is another matter of the offer which you will see.
III. Now then, to enable the King and his advisers to judge, whether the change will be beneficial upon the whole, as well as whether you are respectively desirous of it; as also to enable the judge, in relation to the suits in which you are respectively engaged, to satisfy himself before-hand, whether it will be for your advantage that he should take cognizance of it,—information under various heads, from yourselves, and (for the reasons that you will see presently, generally speaking, not from your lawyers,) will be necessary. But, for this last-mentioned purpose, all the information you will be able to give, as to the state of the suit, will not, in the instance of every suit, be sufficient: and, where it is not, to give completeness to it, the authority of the House of Commons, applied to the solicitors in the several suits, and employed in the elicitation of the particulars of them, may, for the information of the judge, be necessary. Of the heads of such information you will presently see a list. The receipt of as much as can be received by me of this body of information, and the making use of it for the purpose of the Bill, is another of the subject-matters of the offer which you will see.
Now, as to some further details respecting the proposed instrument of your deliverance, and the course to be taken by you for the obtainment of it, and the putting it to use. The plan I have formed for this, is as follows:—
1. That, if necessary, to calm the apprehension of those on whom it depends, the duration of the change so to be effected be but temporary: say, for example, for three years, unless at or before the expiration of that time, made perpetual or continued.
2. That instead of being chosen by the recommendation of some person or other, whose emoluments and power, might, by the administration of such relief, be more or less reduced,—the judge be chosen by you—the persons for whom it is intended.
3. That the mode, employed for the manifestation of this choice, be—the ordinary mode in use in elections:—by ballot, to exclude danger of offence.
4. That the title to vote be constituted by a written instrument, presented to the returning officer: that instrument being the duplicate of a petition to the King, which had been delivered in at the proper office, praying his Majesty’s concurrence, as above, in relation to the several suits, in the event of the passing of the act: that is to say, by his commission given to the judge so elected: that petition being signed by parties, one or more, who are desirous of seeing such transference made: so signed, and thereupon exhibited by a party signing, or by some person employed by a party signing, as agent for that purpose.
5. That the petitions, so presented and exhibited, be composed all of them, of a printed paper, of the same tenor, each of them containing in manuscript a description of the circumstances of the individual person, and the individual suit in question, under the hereinafter-mentioned heads.
6. That for the purpose of enabling the judge to determine within himself, in relation to each suit, whether the advantage of the parties,—or of such of them, at the least, whose object is the attainment of the ends of justice, would upon the whole be promoted by the transference of the suit to his cognizance, as well as to perform, as per No. 7, the examination of the solicitors,—you do, each of you, annex to such his petition, information in relation to the suit, under those same heads, in so far as he is able.
7. That for the purpose of completing, as far as may be, relative to each suit, the body of information, under these same heads, for the use of the judge,—a committee, at the motion (for example) of the mover of the Bill, be appointed, with power to examine, as per No. 8, the solicitor or solicitors, one or more, in each of the several suits then in pendency; and in particular, in the suits here in question: as likewise, in relation to any suit in which no party has preferred any such petition, to ascertain what the cause is, why no such petition has been presented.
8. That, in relation to each suit, of which he sees reason to take cognizance, the judge do proceed by calling before him, at the outset, the solicitor or solicitors, for the purpose of learning the state in which the suit is; and the documents, the inspection and possession of which is necessary to the giving due determination to it.
9. That, forasmuch as by every suit thus taken out of their hands, the interest of all the several lawyers, official as well as professional,—professional at least, inasmuch as no indemnity can be awarded to them,—cannot but suffer detriment, on which account opposition to the transference, and resentment towards the suitors, known or suspected to be sharers in the endeavour to obtain it, will, on the part of the generality of them, if they be as other men are, be a natural, not to say necessary consequence; which resentment their relative situation will afford them the means but too ample for carrying into effect, to the injury of the suitors, in all degrees up to that of utter ruin,—all requisite measures be taken, for keeping from all such and other adversaries, in relation to each such petition, all knowledge, and even suspicion, of the fact, that, on the occasion of that same suit, measures have, by the suitors, or any of them, been taken, for the obtainment of the relief contemplated.
10. That, of the saving of loss so severe to you the many, loss to any amount, to that portion of the comparatively few in question, should be an inseparable consequence, is a matter of undeniably just regret: but, such is the condition of human affairs: nor, from this consideration, can any defensible reason for omitting to administer the relief, be deduced.
11. True it is, that, if the obtainment of the relief were a certain consequence of the application for it, no such secrecy would be needful: but, too true it is, no such certainty has place.
12. “Not a man will give his name to such a petition.” This is what was said to me. Said to me, and by whom? By a man, who, to a sincere desire to see the measure take effect, adds as complete an acquaintance with all the circumstances requisite to the formation of a correct opinion on this subject, as the soundest judgment, applied to adequate opportunites, can give. But this was immediately upon the first mention of the proposed petition, and before the provision made for the requisite concealment had been mentioned to him: which mentioned, he joined with me in being satisfied with its adequacy: and the Bill, in the state it was in, had received not only the most cordial good wishes, but the most unreserved approbation.
13. If it were necessary, that the delivery of the petitions at the office should be performed before the passing of the act, your desire to be rescued from the gripe of your tormentors might be known to them, before you had such an assurance as you would be capable of receiving as to the being rescued from it. But, in such delivery there would be no use, unless and until the act were passed; in which case, as you have seen, it would be necessary to the purpose of the election of the judge. In that event, and at that time, true it is, that it could not but be liable to be known to them. And, even in that event, to no one of you could it be matter of perfect certainty, that his case would be of the number of those, of which it would, in the eyes of the judge, be of advantage to justice that he should take cognizance. But, of these same precautions, you will hereafter see such a description, that no such apprehension will have place in more than a small proportion of your whole number: and, by declining to take part in the election, they will have it in their power to exempt themselves from it. Of that case a sufficient description will be seen in the hereinafter account given of the Bill.
14. In the event of the passing of the Act, in such strength will the protecting power of the eye of public opinion be bent upon the whole scene, that, by the most timid-minded suitor, scarcely could any apprehension be felt, capable of deterring him from taking his chance for so unexpected and consolatory a benefit.
15. A state of things that will probably he not unfrequently exemplified, is this:—Though all parties concur in interest and probable wishes, yet no more than one may have seen this address, or be so situated, as to be capable of being made to see it, with the degree of speed desirable and desired: for the concurrence of no person so circumstanced, it should seem, need any petition wait.
16. A state of things, calling indubitably for this result, and frequently exemplified, is this:—Persons there are, one or more, whose names must, in compliance with legal forms, have had place, in some of the proceedings of the suit,—but, in whose case, they having no interest in the event of it, the concern they have with it will not be known, to a party whose desire it is to see applied to it the here proposed change.
17. If, and when, such Dispatch Court shall have been established,—the Judge, instead of the King, will be the person to whom the petition for the cognizance to be taken by him, will be to be presented, by all persons desirous of seeing their suits thus transferred.
1. Now for the offer I have to make to you. Drawing the petition, drawing the bill, finding a member adequate to the task of moving for it, securing for it able supporters in the House—all this is done already.
2. Remains for the secrecy the security which I promise you, and the description of which will presently here follow. The offer, you will, each of you, consider as addressed to himself.
3. By a letter, addressed to me, inserting on the cover the words “On the Dispatch Court,” apply at the Westminster Review Office, No. 2, Wellington Street, for a copy of the petition which immediately follows. Whatsoever be the number of the parties, one and the same copy will suffice for all of them. Of the price, the regulations of the Stamp Office are said to inhibit the mention in this place.
4. This copy, or some other, each party, or set of parties, will return to the private office or shop, with the signature or signatures, of the party or parties, intending to present the petition to the Government Office:—this copy with the answers made to the queries or say heads, which you will see inserted in § 4 of this, for the purpose of eliciting the information hereinbefore spoken of as requisite.
5. Should the Bill pass,—in that case, and in that case only, you will apply again to the above-mentioned private office, and obtain another copy for the purpose of its being delivered at the Government Office, with the manuscript part, as above, transcribed from the first copy, in such manner as to render the second an exact duplicate of it.
6. A third copy, letter-press and manuscript together, will be requisite, for the purpose of serving at the above-mentioned election of the judge, as proof, to the returning officer, of your right to vote.
7. If and when the number of the suits so petitioned for, is, in the opinion of the proposed Mover of the Bill, sufficient to produce the requisite share of attention in the House,—in that case, and in that case alone, will the motion be made.
8. For this purpose, an account of the filled-up petitions received, will be kept at the private office as above; and, each day, will be put up and kept hanging, in a place in which it will be conspicuous to passengers. It will be composed of a paper, printed in placard letters, with manuscript characters, exhibiting the number of such copies received on the foregoing day, and the total number received up to that day. On that same paper, should any occurrence have taken place, of which it might be of use that you should be informed, indication will be made of it.
9. When your determination to take part in the business is taken, the sooner you give effect to it the better. For, the greater the number of you, the greater will be the probability that your wishes will be accomplished: and, the greater the number known to have concurred, the greater the encouragement afforded to all persons who are in the same sad case.
10. Moreover, in the bill will be found a clause, that among those who belong to the same class, in respect to degree of aptitude of their cases for the reception of the relief, the case of each person’s suit shall come on for hearing, antecedently to the cases of all suits, the petitions for which were not received till a day posterior to that on which his was received: and that, in the case in which several petitions have been received on one and the same day, the order of preaudience shall be determined by lot.
11. To each one of the unhappy suitors, who, on the ground of a pretended contempt, are immured by Equity in the Fleet prison, all these copies will be delivered gratis.
12. On the same terms, copies would be delivered to every proposed petitioner, who would give me adequate assurance that his circumstances would not afford the expense,—were it not that I have been assured, by a competently-informed and judicious friend, that in that case, demands would rain in upon me in intolerable number; that is to say—partly from dishonest persons, thus seeking to obtain copies, for the purpose of selling them; partly from dishonest suitors, for the purpose of exhausting the stock, obstructing the plans, and punishing the originator for having originated it.
13. However, if any Member of Parliament, whose name will, of course, as such, afford an adequate security against abuse, will, for this purpose, apply himself to me, as above, mentioning the name of the suit, and the name of the suitor, for whom, and at whose desire he applies, the three copies shall be delivered to him on the same gratuitous terms.
14. When your petition is delivering in at the Government Office, request, of the person to whom it is delivered, proof of the fact of such delivery, by his attestation, written on the copy so delivered in, as likewise on the copy reserved by you for the purpose of the election, as above. Should the making of these entries, or either of them, be declined at the office—(an event, against which, how improbable soever, the requisite provision must not be omitted,) you will do well to enter on both copies, in the same words, a memorandum of such refusal: but, before the making of such memorandum, you will do well to apply at the office, with some trust-worthy person, in quality of witness, to give his attestation to such your unavailing endeavours.
15. As to what depends on myself towards the preservation of the above-mentioned secrecy,—it is not without regret that I consider and acknowledge, that the nature of the case affords not as far as I can see any better assurance than my name promises: if to you any additional security presents itself, state it to me, and the requisite attention shall be paid to it. My way is—if on any occasion, I see reason to regard myself as being an object of suspicion,—if I am even expressly told as much,—no offence do I take, much less do I, as some on an occasion of this sort do, betake myself to blustering (such being the natural and ordinary resource of a person, in whose instance a suspicion is well grounded,) but join cheerfully in contributing what depends on me towards the removal of the suspicion, and quieting the anxiety of which I am the cause. Not but that, were it my desire to do injury, it would be in my power so to do, to individuals in number more or less considerable, without frustrating my plan in regard to the rest. But, being thought to be what I am thought to be, my hope and belief is, that there are not many persons, in whose eyes the danger, such as it is, will be formidable enough to prevent their taking their chance for the relief.
16. To a member of Parliament, as being prepared to move for the Bill, allusion has been made already. A man, of the first rate for talents and influence, stands pledged to me for the rendering you that service. No session, no day, will be wasted; no moving resolutions, or a preparatory committee or committees, for the elicitation of evidence to form a ground for it. A motion for a committee will follow, whether the leave be granted or refused: for the resolutions, if it be refused. No exertion, no effort, which affords, were it ever so slight, a chance for your relief, will be shrunk from, so long as life remains in the hand that moves this pen.
17. Some account of this same bill forms the matter of the third section of these pages.