Front Page Titles (by Subject) PRELIMINARY EXPLANATIONS NECESSARY TO BE FIRST READ. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 5 (Scotch Reform, Real Property, Codification Petitions)
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PRELIMINARY EXPLANATIONS NECESSARY TO BE FIRST READ. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 5 (Scotch Reform, Real Property, Codification Petitions) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 5.
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PRELIMINARY EXPLANATIONS NECESSARY TO BE FIRST READ.
1.In the introductory advertisement will have been seen, the consideration which gave birth to the proposed abridged petition for justice, in addition to the full-length petition.
2. When that advertisement went to the press, the drawing up of the abridged petition had proceeded about half way: and, from the progress at that time made had been deduced an assurance, delusive as it has proved, of completing it within the desired compass: the compass, both as to time and space.
3. From that time, the further this part of the work went on, the less apposite was perceived to be the appellative abridged, by which it had been originally designated: till, at length, instead of the one operation abridgment, four distinguishable ones—subtraction, addition, repetition, substitution,—were the operations found to have been performed.
4. Of this variety of operations,—imperfection, in respect of clearness, conciseness, and methodical order, on the part of the draft, considered as a literary composition, has been the indispensable consequence. But, should it be seen, as the author trusts it will be, that without detriment to the practical purpose, no different course could have been pursued,—no material dissatisfaction on the part of the reader will, it is hoped, have place.
5. Practical end or purpose,—change for the better: means employed,—maximizing the number of the persons known to entertain the desire of seeing such change take place: mode of making this desire known,—attachment of each one’s signature to some copy of a petition praying for such change.
6. Now, then, for maximizing the number of signatures, one means is—the maximizing the number of copies, offered for the reception of those same signatures. But, by the bulkiness of the aggregate mass of the matter by which the reasons for the change stand expressed, will the end and purpose be obstructed? No: it will be promoted. How so? Answer: Because the instrument may be cut into smaller instruments, in any number, to each of which, signatures may be found obtainable, from persons from whom this expression of concurrence would not have been obtainable for any one other of these same component parts, much less for the whole.
7. Now, then, as to the particular use and purpose of the two here proposed instruments—full-length and abridged petitions—taken together. This was—the maximizing the number of the arrangements in the existing system, seen by the several readers to be adverse to the ends of justice; to which end, a means manifestly conducive was—the tying up, as it were, of those same arrangements into bundles, characterized and distinguished from each other by appropriate names. This, accordingly, is what has been done by the list of devices.
8. Considerations, showing the course actually pursued to have been the most conducive that could have been pursued, the following:—
9. In proportion as the operation went on,—matters of detail, deemed, all of them, contributory to the common ends, but which had not, all of them, presented themselves at the time of drawing up the first-drawn petition,—came into view. By exclusion put upon any of these additional grounds and inducements, would the chance for the attainment of the common end have been increased? No, surely.
10. True it is—that, in the ordinary case of an abridgment,—between clearness and conciseness, a mutual repugnancy has place: as conciseness is increased, clearness is diminished. But, in the present case, happily no such repugnancy has place: no mutual counteraction but what is capable of being effectually got rid of. Decomposition, as above, is the operation by which this reconciliation is capable of being effected; and is accordingly here proposed to be effected.
11. Now as to the course which may be seen actually taken, as above, in pursuance of the design of abbreviation. First came condensation; as in the ordinary case of an abridgment: then, simple elimination, or say subtraction, applied to certain paragraphs belonging to the device in question: lastly, elimination applied to the whole of the matters contained under the head of a Device. In this last way may be seen dealt with three devices: namely, Device XI. Decision on grounds avowedly foreign to the merits; Device XII. Juries subdued and subjugated; and Device XIV. Result of the fissure (in Device XIII. mentioned) groundless arrestation for debt. As the pressure produced by the influx of additional matter increased, these more and more efficient modes of reduction may be seen successively employed.
12. The two drafts taken together being in this state, comes now the question—of the compound mass—any and what portion is there, that can with truth be pronounced useless? Answer, Yes: namely, the aggregate of the paragraphs reprinted without variation.
After this deduction, every other assignable portion of the matter may be stated as having its use.
13. The case in which, if at all, the correctness of this proposition will be most questionable, is that in which, of two paragraphs, the one is, as above, but a condensation of the other: but, even in this case, so it may be, that the one of them may be the most apt in the eyes of one set of proposed subscribers; the other, in the eyes of another such set.
14. In the disposition made of the matter of the original draft,—and thereafter of that of the abridged draft,—a method, as serviceable as it was in the author’s power to give, has been given to it. But now—take the worst case that can have place. Suppose nothing to have place that can have any claim to the appellation of method:—the whole matter—is it useless, and the labour thrown away? By no means.
15. For, the purpose being to prevail upon the constituted anthorities to take the whole of the mass of existing law in question for the subject matter of consideration—and this for the purpose of reform and amendment,—of no blemish in any shape, can any indication, in any language or form, be given, that will not be more or less contributory and conducive to the purpose.
16. Upon the whole,—proposed for the choice of all persons, disposed to be contributory to the proposed design, by framing drafts for circulation, for the purpose of obtaining signatures, will be—the options, examples of which are the following:—
I. To employ the full-length draft, without alteration, as it stands.
II. To employ the abridged draft, without alteration, as it stands.
III. To employ either draft, with amendments, such as may appear meet: amendments, whether additive, subtractive, or substitutive.
IV. To form drafts of their own; composed of matter—none of it contained under any of the heads employed in the above drafts.
V. To form drafts, composed of matter of their own, with or without use made of those same heads, and with or without insertion, declaredly given to more or less of the matter contained under them.
VI. To frame drafts composed of matters exclusively their own, without reference made to, or use in any way made of, any part of the matter contained in either of these same drafts.
17. Of these several options (to which others might have been added) the one last mentioned (it will of course be supposed) is not of the number of those which the author expects to see embraced. But, even supposing it were,—whatsoever be the number of the drafts, thus framed, and, with attached signatures, presented to the constituted authorities,—correspondent will be the service rendered to the cause of reform and improvement by these pages.
18. A lottery (suppose) set up; and paragraphs of the abridged petition, some or all of them, drawn out of it, and written down on the roll in the order assigned to them by fortune,—even in this case, a petition, so framed and thereupon signed, would not be altogether without its use.
19. So long as that most all-comprehensive, most grinding, and most crying of all grievances—the tyranny of judge-made law—continues unredressed,—the correspondent public service unperformed—so long as the torrent of human misery, flowing from it, keeps running on;—be the number of ages during which it will have continued ever so great, never will the use, whatever it be, which the matter of these proposed petitions is capable of being put to, be at an end.
20. To the care of posterity, should the time not be yet ripe, the author will recommend this matchless service with his dying breath.
21. Hapless individual, whoever you may be, whose lot it is to behold your means of subsistence torn from you, and plunged into the gulph called by a cruel mockery a court of equity, there to be devoured by the appointed sharks,—in these pages you may at all times see samples—samples ready made—of the only sort of instrument, which it is in your power to make application of, in the character of a remedy:—with this in hand, you may go about, and look about, for assistants and coadjutors, in those companions in misery, whom, in such deplorable abundance, you will behold presenting themselves all around.
22. Nor, while for companions in misery you look sideways, forget to look upwards, for the authors—cruel hypocrites, in pretence alleviators—in reality preservers—of all parts of it anxious and industrious preservers, when neither creators nor exacerbators.
23. But (says somebody) is there not one still better course left, which you might have taken, and which is still left open to you to take? From the matter of the original full-length petition and the abridged petition taken together, might not you have drawn up—might not you even now draw up—a new draft, consigning to the flames both the existing ones? Answer: By time and expense taken together, intimation is given of two objections, the first of which might of itself be conclusive: considering that, during the time thus occupied in an operation little better than mechanical, all other works, of greater usefulness in this same time, would be at a stand.
24. But another answer still more conclusive, and it is hoped satisfactory, is this. By no means, by any such ulterior and amended abridgment, would the purpose of it be answered. For, while for the purpose of it, a survey were taken of the field, fresh weeds would be seen springing up, and pressing themselves upon the extirpating hand. In this way, after enlarged as well as abridged editions, in any number—each superseding all former ones,—still the demand for another and another would be presenting itself: nor, for the consumption of labour, time, and money, would the demand cease, till the work, of which an outline, and nothing more, is here professed to be presented, had been brought to a state regarded as a state of completeness.
25. Suppose it now in that state, the following is the form in which it would present itself to view: of the here-proposed system, the part called the prayer, in the very words, or as lawyers say, tenor of it, occupying the foremost places: but, by the side of it, all along, a delineation of the several correspondent features of alleged inaptitude, ascribed to the existing systems: to the principal text would thus be subjoined a sort of perpetual commentary thus composed.
26. In conclusion, a word or two as to the numerical figures, which, in the abridged petition, stand prefixed to the paragraphs: in the abridged petition only; in the original one not; the demand for that help to reference not having as yet presented itself to view.
27. For all but the two first of the above proposed six options, indisputable assuredly is the facility that will be found afforded by this little additament. Witness, sad experience of the result of the non-employment of them. By means of these instruments (than which nothing can be more familiar or indispensably useful,—or even, by the constituted authorities themselves, more universally applied to portions of the matter of law,—except where the production of uncertainty and mistake is among the objects aimed at) reference is, in the concisest manner possible, made to any assemblage of words whatsoever, without danger of mistake:—without them, mistake and uncertainty may, to any amount, be produced.
28. Accordingly, wherever, in relation to a law or a body of laws, to maximize the execution and effect given to it is really an object of desire,—numerical figures, prefixed to the several portions of discourse, are the instruments employed. Witness the practice in every civilized part of the globe; England—lawyer-ridden England—alone excepted.
29. On the other hand, wherever the design entertained is—the giving increase to such uncertainty, with its attendant miseries,—objects in view the benefit of the lawyer class, and those connected with it by any community of sinister interest,—the use of this, together with so many other instruments of certainty, is pertinaciously and inexorably abstained from: imitated thus the fabled barbarity of Mezentius: kept bound up in the closest contact with carcases in an ambiguous state between life and death, is the whole stock of those statutes, which are still designed, as well as destined, to be employed as living ones. Witness the latest of the string of bills, framed exactly as if they had for their object, on pretence of diminution, the augmentation and perpetuation of depredation and oppression. “Repealed—such an act (thereupon designated by its long and wordy title,) and such an act (designated in the same conception-confounding manner) and so much of such an act—in like manner designated.”—So much? How much? Learned sir! Right honourable sir! whichever be your right name—render it possible for us to know how much: instead of consigning to complete ruin, by alleged mistake as to the how much, on the part of a wretch, who has been half ruined by some petty tyrant, clothed in the authority of a justice of the peace, at whose charge, on the faith of parliament, that compensation has been sought, which would not have been promised, but for the foreknowledge that it would never be granted.—“So much?”—Once more, how much?—Till of late, followed upon the words “so much” the words “as relates to the subject of . . . . :” whereupon came some sort of designation given of it. Now, even this clue is refused, and the passage evaporates in nonsense.
30. To these figures,—when the question was as to the mode of preparing drafts for receiving signatures,—an objection was made on the ground of unusualness. To the quarter from whence the objection came, nothing short of the most respectful attention could be paid. But the use, to which on that occasion it was destined, was no other than that of being applied to an instrument which was then actually in a state for receiving signatures: and to which accordingly, references, for any such purpose as the one then in question, were not intended to be made. Of these instruments of clarification, the use and purpose here in question is—the subjecting to decomposition the supposed too bulky bodies,—that out of them, other bodies in any required number, polype like, might be framed. But, in the case here alluded to, no such decomposition was contemplated.
Comes now another use, of these small but effective instruments of precision: call it, for example, the argumentative, or argument-assisting use: calling, for distinction’s sake, the one first mentioned the simply indicative. Of these same little instruments is constituted a support—and that a matchless one—for close reasoning.
32. Pitiable, in good truth, will be seen to be the condition of the disingenuous opponent, who, casting an eye on a body of argument which he stands engaged to encounter and attack, beholds it armed with them. Thus distributed into so many articulate parts,—for the clear, correct, and complete designation of each of which, a single word is effectually sufficient,—the discourse, be it what it may, presents to him, in each part of it, a determinate and never-misapprehensible object and standard of reference. “Here, sir, is proposition the first. What say you to it? has it your assent? has it your dissent? If your dissent, for what reason or reasons?” Unapprised of the existence of these defences,—he comes (suppose) with his quiver full of devices borrowed from the Book of Fallacies. See, then, the condition in which he finds himself. Instead of doing as he had flattered himself with doing,—instead of shooting fallacies into the middle of the discourse at random,—or enveloping the whole expanse of it, as it were, in a net,—he feels himself pinned down, under the pressure of a most distressing alternative. Taking in hand the chain of discourse,—either he must grapple with the links which it is thus composed of, one after another,—or remain motionless:—remain motionless; and thus, by a token more unequivocal and demonstrative than it is in the power of words to be, acknowledge the object of his hostility to be unassailable.
Nothing can he say—(for such is the supposition, and this is a supposition which may continually be seen verified)—nothing can he say, but what is to be found in this or that chapter, section, and article of the Book of Fallacies: some article, in and by which, before he ever took this device of his in hand, it may be seen ready confuted. Looking at the mark,—nothing can he find to hit it with, but some witticism—some well-worn piece of nothingness—some vague generality—which,—like a cloud,—dark or more or less brilliant,—hanging in the air,—is seen to have no substance—nothing that can be brought to bear upon the object of his warfare.
33. “Well, sir,”—says now to him the master of fair and close reasoning:—“here, sir, is the proposition: what say you to it?”—What! nothing? a man—for ingenuity and promptitude so highly distinguished, kept mute by prudence, because unable to find anything which a man could utter without shame?—What! still silent? Well, then: the demonstration is complete: the proposition uncontrovertible. Yes, altogether uncontrovertible; since you, sir, even you, can find nothing to object to it.
34. Think now, once more, of the condition of the disingenuous and self-condemned would-be assailant,—when, by every fresh proposition, he beholds a fresh triumph over him thus secured.
☞ After writing what is above, came the conception and the hope, that an additional optional petition might have its use: and that,—by the same observations, by which explanation and justification have been given to the two first,—the like service might in a sufficient degree be rendered to this third: by the title of the More Abridged Petition, it is accordingly subjoined.