Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Dr Anderson. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Dr Anderson. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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Bentham to Dr Anderson.
“Wednesday,May 28th, 1783.
I am sincerely sorry you do not seem to acquiesce in Mr Wilson’s opinion, which is entirely mine. I will own myself anxious that this pamphlet may never see the light, and that much more on account of your reputation than your purse. There is really a combination among your friends—who are indeed very much your friends, or they would never undertake so invidious a task—to strangle this unhappy bantling in its cradle. Without pretending to assign all their reasons, to which I might not be able to do justice, I will take the liberty of giving you a few of mine. I say a few, for you will not expect that I should write a pamphlet, in order to prove that you ought not to publish another pamphlet. Why it is you should be so much attached to it, I cannot conceive; for I really do not see a syllable in it that is new. Whether the observations relative to the difficulty of collecting a revenue in thinly-peopled countries, are originally yours or not, I will not pretend to say, though I confess I suspect the negative; but sure I am they are yours already: witness your last pamphlet. Those relative to the inefficacy of bounties, and the injudicious, or supposed injudicious, conditions annexed to them, I thought ingenious when I read them, and well worth more attention than it suited me to bestow; but they, too, are yours already: witness your Observations on National Industry, in which this very subject is treated more satisfactorily, as far as I can speak upon recollection, than in the very pamphlet which professes to treat of nothing else. What you say of the difficulties attending infant manufactures, is there also anticipated. What is there in all this that you should be so anxious to “discover” and to “preserve?” Look back to your own works, and you will find it discovered and preserved already, as far as printing and publishing can discover and preserve it. Is it the idea of getting towns built on the spot in question? This has been suggested, and, you will excuse me for saying, suggested, I think, in a more instructive manner, almost these twenty years, by Sir J. Stewart, in the concluding passage of book ii. chap. 30, which I have before me; and, I am told, over and over again, in Campbell’s Political Survey, which I have not seen. Is it the idea of engaging people at large to build, by grants of land? America, a country in much better repute, justly or unjustly, than the Scottish Isles, gives land without stint, without such conditions, and with timber on it that cries, “come cut me,” as plain as ever a herring cried “come catch me.” Is it the idea of giving the son of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, a place to rest his head on? America is large enough for him, and as open to him as to any disciple of Christ. I question whether you are aware that Jews, native Jews, are already, and have been for hundreds of years, upon just as good a footing, as to the acquiring of land, as native Christians; and that the object of the act (are you aware of that act?) which was so soon repealed, in consequence of a temporary and party clamour, was only to hold out naturalisation to foreign Jews. I speak from Blackstone, and from the act itself. Is it the idea of getting Parliament to venture the sum required, because that sum would not exceed, as you suppose without any calculation, the amount of onemonth’s expense of the war, as you have written it in huge letters? My dear sir, do you consider that one month’s expense of the war is about a million of money, more or less?—that a work not of supererogation, but of pressing necessity, long ago begun, and far advanced in the building,—I mean a penitentiary house for the home circuit,—stands still for the want of a tenth or a twentieth of that sum?—that a house somewhat upon that plan is wanted for Edinburgh, that £6000 would do the business, and that this trifle, as it may seem to you, is more than Mr Stewart, late Provost of Edinburgh, the patron of the scheme, a most intelligent and public-spirited man, has any hopes of getting?—so he told me himself within these three weeks.
Catching fish in the Western Isles might be made a very beneficial business,—a business much more beneficial than it is,—a business more beneficial than any other that could be carried on with an equal capital; but not unless conducted by people, and they in considerable numbers, having fixed habitations in those isles. All this may be true; but what reason have you offered further than your own averment (repeated, and enforced in abundance of declamatory language) for thinking it so? What data have these twenty years’ reflection and experience of yours (experience of what?) furnished, upon which any, even a most superficial judgment of the matter, can be grounded? What are the trades and manufactures, the association of which would be necessary for carrying on this branch of industry? Net-makers, hook-makers, and so forth. This might be known by surveying and analyzing the furniture of a fishing ship, &c., and considering whence it came. What would be the capital necessary for the stocking of those trades and manufactures? How is that capital to be supplied? If too great for one private undertaker, would it be too great for a partnership? If too great for a partnership, would it for an incorporated company? If too great for an incorporated company, who would be working for their own profit, is there any chance of its being carried on by agents appointed by the crown, working for the benefit of I don’t know who? What do the Dutch lose by the disadvantages of distance? Is that disadvantage more than equal to the habitual and inveterate difference between British and Dutch economy? Supposing a greater profit might be made by a given capital employed in this way, than by the same capital employed in any other, (a point necessary to be made out, with at least some general show of probability,) why am I, who am carrying on a flourishing manufacture at Manchester, to be taxed, to have money taken out of my pocket, to be given to you to catch fish with in the isles of Scotland? Certainly I ought not, unless with that money you could bring to market a great many more pounds’ worth of fish than I could of cloth. When you have given something of an answer to these questions, I may perhaps be able to supply you with as many more; and when you have answered those, then perhaps your pamphlet may have some claim to the title it assumes: supposing all the while that I, who am a mere novice in political economy, can, in the course of a most hasty and superficial glance, have gone any part of the way towards exhausting the considerations necessary for founding a judgment upon this complicated question. When you have collected the matter above alluded to, you may then the better afford to leave out all general disquisitions about human nature, especially if they should have nothing either very new in the matter, or pointed in the manner: all histories of the European transactions in the East Indies: all controversies founded on loose expressions of Mr Howlett, or Mr anybody else, relative to abstract propositions on the subject of population: all caveats against Dr Tucker, or Dr anybody else, about the property of supposed new ideas: all invectives against ministers, in or out of place, on the score of measures which have no other connexion with that in question, than in so far as they relate to money: all declamations founded on the supposition that the ruin of a country, which is to be starved this summer, is no otherwise to be prevented than by raising piles of brick and mortar, which may come to be lived in two or three years hence; but of all things, all passages tending to insinuate, in terms more or less explicit, that all political men, if not all men whatever, are equally blind and profligate, and that the whole stock of intelligence, as well as probity in the world, happens, by some odd accident, to centre in a single person, whose censure, without the weight of proof, is to stamp indelible infamy on every head it lights on. It is now past one—I began at past eleven; and these representations, I see but too plainly, are coloured by the impatience which late hours, and multiplied avocations, give to a sensible temperament and feeble constitution: but if you make the requisite abatements, you may profit: and as you know the motive, (for what motive but one could have induced me to give us both this plaguing-bout,) you will forgive.”
He proceeds on a second sheet:—
“In the other sheet you have my opinion on your pamphlet; if, notwithstanding, you persist in printing it, all I have to say to you further is, that your orders will be obeyed. And yet, why in London?—in Edinburgh, printing is not only cheaper, but better done. But that you must doubtless have made up your mind about.”
The answer to this letter is characteristic enough. It occupies nine closely written pages, and is intended to show to Bentham, that if he had studied the subject as thoroughly as the author, he would have formed a higher estimate of the value of his labours. Reputation is less his end than usefulness—glory than truth; yet he had read Bentham’s letter three times over, on three several days, coolly and calmly, but still finds the knowledge it exhibits “extremely crude and undigested, and the tone of the epistle peevish, petulant, sarcastic, fretful:” “exhibiting qualities which self-knowledge would have taught him to avoid exhibiting,” and suggesting that Bentham might “profit by” Anderson’s “lessons.” He calls Bentham’s letter a “humiliating inadvertency,”—“degrading him to an inferior level,” and so forth—yet expresses high admiration for his talents and his virtues. It is to the credit of both, that these sharp discussions did not interfere with friendly intercourse,—but it must not be forgotten, that the criticisms of Bentham were invited—those of Anderson intruded.
To this correspondence Bentham made allusion when he had passed his eightieth year. “I remember a correspondence with Dr Anderson. He was grievously offended with one of my letters. I did not, when young, show that attention to the feelings of others which I have learnt since; and I believe he had some reason for being offended.”
A letter to Mr Stewart of Edinburgh, exhibits the character of Bentham’s inquiries with reference to the effects of Scottish education upon the public morals. It would be interesting to follow the inquiry here reverted to, through the various states of Europe. Compare the cost of religious instruction in different countries, and then compare the state of crime. Let it be seen what effect money, as a means of procuring the discharge of ecclesiastical functions has upon the morals of a community;—whether a richly endowed church is productive of the riches of good works—whether the cheaper Presbyterianism of the north is more or less prolific of Christian excellence than the richer Episcopacy of the south; in a word, whether the money disposed of by our opulent Establishment is well or ill spent, with a view to the end proposed, namely, the increase of virtue and the diminution of crime.