Front Page Titles (by Subject) George Wilson to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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George Wilson to Bentham. - 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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George Wilson to Bentham.
“You have now made a reasonable visit to your brother, and on your own account you are doing nothing there which may not be done at least as well here. I have, therefore, some hope that you will be induced to return by a shorter and more certain mode than that of your intended ship. It is not because Trail and I disapproved, that you abandoned your Introduction, your Code, your Punishments, &c. The cause lies in your constitution. With one-tenth part of your genius, and a common degree of steadiness, both Sam and you would long since have risen to great eminence. But your history, since I have known you, has been to be always running from a good scheme to a better. In the meantime, life passes away and nothing is completed. I don’t know why I talk thus, unless, because at this distance I may do it with safety; for, except the satisfaction of discharging so much spleen, I expect no good effect from it. I do very much wish, for many reasons, that you would come home; and am sincerely of opinion that your worldly interest absolutely requires it. If your father should not be wrought on to alter his will, there is great danger of his squandering his fortune.* I understand, that not long ago he purchased a house for Mrs B. to live in, after his death, which house they are now tired of, and want to sell. He is just now beginning a great building in his court, to look into the park, everything being down except the screen. In short, there are new whims every day, and all of them expensive.”
Trail adds to the letter:—
“I join most sincerely in Wilson’s entreaties, that you would return soon to this country; and for other reasons besides the very weighty ones which he has mentioned. Our ministers, as they have little to do abroad, seem to be full of schemes for domestic improvement. Pitt has just introduced a plan for consolidating the customs, and which he is to extend to the excise and stamp duties. The state of the poor laws has excited a good deal of attention. Gilbert, who has undertaken to reform them, is utterly incapable; but the information he has been enabled by the legislature to collect, may be useful to wiser heads. The Protestant dissenters are at work to get the Test Act repealed, and they entertain good hopes of success. Fox, and other leading men, have promised their assistance. Pitt owes so much to the dissenters, that he cannot oppose the measure. The people are certainly become more enlightened in their notions on commercial subjects. The French treaty is not only popular among those classes of manufacturers who expect to derive immediate benefit from it; but it is generally approved of throughout the nation. Lord Lansdowne sometimes says it is a pimping imitation of one of his great schemes—at others, that it is a very good treaty—and then, again, that it is a ruinous measure. I have heard nothing of late about reducing the interest of money. Soon after the conclusion of the war, it was a subject of conversation; and the landed gentry, who had found great difficulty in borrowing even at five per cent, were said to be very anxious to have the rate reduced. But since it has fallen of itself, and may be expected to sink still more, I think the subject has died away.”
Another letter of Wilson’s of 24th April, contains the following passages:—
“I have received your two letters of the 9-20, February and March. Why the first was enclosed to your father, you best know. The consequence of it was, that after keeping it a week, he sent me, not the letter, but information that he had it, for the purpose of obliging me to open it in his presence. I was accordingly obliged to read great part of it to him, and had much difficulty to conceal the rest. But reading it is not enough. I have been forced to promise to copy for him all I have read; and the copy he will put in a book which he has entitled Epistolæ Benthamianæ, consisting of your letters and Sam’s, mixed up with his to Lord Lansdowne, Alderman Clark, Dr Brown, &c., and their answers. He was much offended at having himself no letter in that packet of a later date than December, which should, indeed, have been a reason with you for not enclosing mine to him. But his anger as to this point, seems to have subsided since the receipt of your letter of March. He has at last given me a reading of the collection of your letters, which are entertaining, and in many parts interesting; but I think in other parts, it appears that you were working hard to make out a letter which you had no pleasure in writing. With respect to your inspection pamphlet, he seems inclined, since your last letter, to publish it, but with his own corrections and alterations, which are to be communicated to me to-morrow. I shall endeavour to delay the publication till the arrival of your answer to my letter of 27th February. I hope you have since received one from Trail and me, of about the 12th March. We are so well convinced from this experiment, of the difficulty of publishing for an author at such a distance, on account of the alterations which even the lapse of time may make necessary, to say nothing of other circumstances, that we are resolved, I mean Trail and myself, to have no concern in the publication of any other work which you may think proper to send over. We have another reason for this resolution, and that is, that being fully convinced of the necessity of your return, for the reasons mentioned in our two last letters, and which still subsist, we think it fair to use this species of distress which accident has put into our hands. It gives us great pleasure to learn that you have so many things in forwardness; and we think the subjects are such as will do you credit, but we are not quite reconciled to the French language, or the form of letters. As to the rate of interest, no proposal has been made in Parliament to reduce it, nor have we been able to learn that any such intention has been entertained by Mr Pitt, or any other great man; so that whatever applies to the alteration, as to this time particularly, you will have to alter. This circumstance alone, might satisfy you of the advantage of being on the spot, if you write on subjects relating to this country. I think you had your intelligence from Sir R. W—. The subject of interest, is, however, of great importance at all times; and you can say a great deal about it which has never yet been said. It is at all times sufficiently in people’s minds to make it interesting; and perhaps new doctrines concerning it, will have more weight that they do not appear to be published on the spur of the occasion. We are, therefore, very desirous that you should publish, but not till after your return.
“I have little news to write; and if I had, perhaps I should withhold it, by way of an additional distress. But, to use the words of a great author—‘it is a busy age, and everything teems with improvement.’ Our Customs are consolidated, and in three weeks our ports will be open to the French. The crown-lands are in a way of being sold. Great materials have been collected for a revision of the Poor Laws, which, in other hands than Mr Gilbert’s, might be turned to profit. The House of Commons have given a great blow to the ecclesiastical courts; and I think people begin to be more and more convinced of the mischief of tithes. Indeed, on all points of political economy, there is an evident change in the public opinion within these ten years, which may be in some degree owing to the circulation of Smith’s book, but still more to the events which have happened in our political and commercial connexion with America, to the utter disgrace of all the old thrones. In Ireland, there are great schemes of police going on, and a new system of education just announced in a long speech by Mr Orde; and all this time you are living in a cottage in White Russia, ignorant of everything that is passing in the world, unless when Sir R. W— gives you some misinformation. The dissenters have failed in their attempt to get the Test Act repealed, but the division was respectable, and they are not discouraged. They are very angry with Pitt, whom they will probably no longer support as they did at the general election. Priestley has written him a letter, a printed one, I mean, full of rage against Pitt, the Trinity, and the Church Establishment—clever enough, and very bold, but very indiscreet, and certainly prejudicial to the cause. They are founding a college at Hackney, which is to rival and overthrow Oxford, and Cambridge; but I fear they have not heads to effect that good work. They are violent zealots in their way; and one article in the constitution of the new college, is, that all the professors shall be dissenting parsons. Several eminent men among them have refused to subscribe on account of that clause. I know nothing of the history of the late transactions in France; but we are told that their land-tax is to be given up, and that at present, all credit, public and private, is at a stand. Not being a citizen of the world, I hear the miscarriage of improvements in France with great philosophy. There is a navy officer, whose name I forget, who has invented a pump which works by the motion of the ship, without men, and he is now gone out in a frigate to try it. Notice is given by Mr Minchin, of a motion with respect to the criminal law. Our fleet for Botany Bay, is, I hope, sailed to-day—they waited for a wind, and it is fair. Your father has heard of an Atlas de Commerce, by Le Clerc, Père and Fils, and a book of maps of Russia, &c., published last year in France, which are said to have great merit, and he is trying to get you a copy.”
Wilson writes again, 14th July, 1787:—
“Dr Smith has been very ill here, of an inflammation in the neck of the bladder, which was increased by very bad piles. He has been cut for the piles, and the other complaint is since much mended. The physicians say he may do some time longer. He is much with the ministry; and the clerks at the public offices have orders to furnish him with all papers, and to employ additional hands, if necessary, to copy for him. I am vexed that Pitt should have done so right a thing as to consult Smith; but if any of his schemes are effectuated, I shall be comforted.”
[*] This turned out to be a misconception of Mr Wilson’s, as will be seen on reference to a letter from Bentham to his brother, dated 2d May, 1788, p. 181.