Front Page Titles (by Subject) Dumont to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Dumont 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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Dumont to Bentham.
“I have shown your plan of Parliamentary Tactics to M. de Mirabean and the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, and some others, who have admired this truly philosophical conception, and this ensemble which forms the system of a work absolutely new and original. In completing it, you will fill up one of the blanks of political literature, and nobody can do it but you; for you alone have surveyed the whole field, and laid the foundation of the edifice. Not that I promise you a prompt success,—for the French are yet but children stammering in their National Assembly,—no order,—no sequence,—no discussion,—they are driven to and fro by chance,—anybody will be president, and they have all the mania for doing all. Imagine an assembly composed of discordant elements—the commons have incensed the clergy by taking away the tithes,—the nobility are still exasperated by the remembrance of their forced union,—they consider themselves as prisoners of war, and men make no sincere peace with their conquerors. The two parties only agree each to check the other, and to hold the whole assembly in a do-nothing fermentation.”
A speculation of Lord Wycombe’s, in a letter dated from Petersburg, October 17th, 1789, is worth preserving:—
“It may fairly be presumed, that, at no very distant period, the situation of the southern parts of this empire will be materially altered. When the Turks are driven out of Europe, or even when the navigation of the Euxine is opened, commerce will assume a different shape, and the larger portion of that vast produce which is supplied by the interior of this country will seek its way to foreigners, through the channel of the Mediterranean. The consideration which has hitherto been justly given to the Baltic, must then proportionably diminish, and the same circumstances of expediency which occasioned the establishment of the capital in this inhospitable corner of the world, will tempt a future sovereign once more to change the seat of government. The stately palaces, which at present decorate the banks of the Neva, will be left to moulder into ruin; the advantages of trade and population will find their way to districts which must now be considered as inanimate, and resources will quickly develop themselves, which have hitherto been unknown to this, or indeed to any other nation. Such I conceive to be the prospects of the ensuing century: you may perhaps laugh at my predictions, and say that I am neither a politician nor a prophet. I have, however, no small confidence in the persuasion, that a revolution, in some degree resembling that of which I have traced to you the outline, is likely to take place; but of this time must be the test.”
The following piece of pleasantry (in Bentham’s handwriting) professes to be a letter written by Miss F—, to Miss V—, giving an account of Bentham himself:
“Well, was there ever anything so designing as Lord L.? I might well have my suspicions: and the oddest accident in the world has enabled me to convince you of the justice of them, by such proofs as you could little have expected. Just now, Mr B., as he was leaving the room, pulled out his handkerchief, and the enclosed dropt out of his pocket unperceived. As it fell into one of the elbow-chairs, where he was sitting, next mine, the handwriting involuntarily caught my eye: so, as nobody happened to be looking that way, I whipped it up, and here you have it. Send it me back, that I may toss it into his room some day when he is not there: he will think he dropt it there himself. You see Lord L. knew what he was about, and knew how much we were against having Mr B. here; so he writes to him to beg our leave; but as we heard nothing from him, we conclude he was afraid to write to us, and that Lord L., when he saw him, told him some story or other, to make him believe we had forgiven him. I forgot to tell you, he said that he had written the other letters which are escaped: one, a further journal of the society, which he burned on finding that none of us took any further notice of them; another, a penitentiary letter to Lord L., which he wrote in a fit of the gripes, and burned because it was too foolish.
“Would you have thought it? Wycombe is as bad as B. Here we have got Mr B. again. We said everything you desired us to Lord L.; and as there came no more foolish letters, we were in hopes we should see nothing of the foolish writer for the time at least. Lord L., as you may imagine, said what he could to excuse him; but as he saw it would not do, he gave it up at last, and there was an end, as we thought, of Mr B., for this year at least. Our evil stars had decreed otherwise. T’other day, as we were at L. House, talking about our returning here, as there is room for one, says Lord L., ‘I have thoughts of taking down Mr B. with me, if you have no objection.’ How could we help ourselves? As there were other people in the room, to have said, No, would have seemed particular. We looked at one another, each expecting the other to speak, and, as neither spoke, silence gave consent, and so it was concluded. You may imagine what passed when Miss E. and I found ourselves alone. We vowed we would not suffer it; but who should attack Lord L. about it?—there was the difficulty. Miss E. wanted to put it off upon me, saying, it was more my concern than hers, as I should be plagued with him most. I said it would look very odd for me to speak about such a thing instead of her; and so, as neither of us could pluck up courage to be spokeswoman, there was nothing to be done but patience. Don’t you think it was rather unkind in Lord L. to take us in that manner, at a disadvantage? Miss E. says, it was only thoughtlessness—but I won’t believe any such thing. That’s no foible of Lord L’s, I am sure; as if it were possible he could have so soon forgotten all that we said to him about the letters. That comes of your not being here: if you had, a glance from you would have been sufficient—not that you would have been put to the expense, for he would not have dared mention any such thing. I can’t think, for my part, what Lord L. can see in the man, that he wants always to have him about him, he seems so attached to him; and so says Miss E. But you know he likes to have odd people about him, and always did. Then these political men, it is so difficult to know what to make of them: they may have their reasons for harbouring such fellows, that they won’t let us women hear of. Though he pretends to tell you everything, I have my suspicions to the contrary: and this, amongst other things, is a proof of it. Who can tell but that Mr B. may know of something that Lord L. has done—that my uncle Charles, if he were to hear of it, would impeach him for? Lord L., I do believe, is as honest as any of them; but as I often heard them say it is impossible that a man can have been minister without doing many things which he could not answer for, if he were called to account. If so, he is more to be pitied than blamed; and it may be very necessary for him to keep this man in good humour; besides, though one were sure of getting off, there is nobody that would like to be brought into trouble, you know, if they could help it. To do the man justice, he has not broke out yet, that we know of, in any shape. I don’t recollect anything in particular that he has done or said amiss as yet, either during the journey or since; nor Miss E. neither. He has not offered to knock down Miss E. once, nor me either, though he has had several books within his reach. One thing is, indeed, certain—he is grown mighty humble since his disgrace, and hardly dares to look up or open his mouth. This is worse than before: if you must be troubled with one or t’other, better have a merry fool, say I, than a melancholy madman. He has not dared to tease me yet, at least, about reading; and as to writing, I think he has had enough of that to mortify him for a while. I don’t think he will be soon at that again, after the mortifications he has undergone. Suppose now, you were to give him a line or two to tell him you will endeavour to forgive him, and that one thing, I will venture to say for him, that if ever a creature of his sex had a true respect for one of ours, he has for you. This will set him to rights again: as it now is, he goes moping about the house at such a rate that it is enough to give one the vapours to look at him. Miss E. speaks to him now and then, and so do I, to try to raise his spirits; but all won’t do, while he is in disgrace with you. I don’t mention this as any merit in him, only that it serves to show that there is one thing in which he is like other people. By Miss E.’s advice, I let him accompany me again: you know it would look particular to refuse him; and Miss E. observes, that as you know who seems to like music, I may as well make use of this man as not, to keep my hand in, as I can’t have Mr Schuman here. As Lord L. says, I don’t think he ever means any harm; and when he does, or says anything amiss, it is only through ignorance; then you know how submissive he is, so that one might do what one would with him, if it were worth the while.
“I can’t say but that I thought you rather hard upon him, when you reproached him with not having learnt of you what you had never tried to teach him. Not that he did, or said anything at that time, to call for it; but as Lord II. was by and nobody else, I thought it would have been a good opportunity for him. No lessons, as you have often observed, are so impressive as those which are offered by contrast, and it was in this view that the wise Spartans exposed their slaves to view in a state of intoxication, in order to inculcate sobriety on their children.
“Enough, you will say, and more than enough about such a subject. But what else can one write about? For there is not a creature here but him.
“Miss E. joins with me in love, and so forth: Kiss my dear cousins for me a thousand times, and believe me ever, my dear aunt, &c. &c.
“Excuse the trouble I shall have put you to, to make out this scrawl—the pens here are so bad that I declare I hardly know my own handwriting.
“Don’t let Miss E. know what I say, but the truth is that Lord L. does just what he pleases when you are not here.
“Yesterday, for example, as soon as tea was over, as you were not here to play at cribbage with him, he took himself off to the Land of Nod, where be remained till supper time.
“Perhaps you gave him the meeting, and he got his usual number of games, in spite of distance. I would have asked him whether that was not the case, if Mr B. had not been by. Miss E. was busy at her plans and elevations, and there sat Mr B. like a post, and never said a word to me about music, until it was time almost to have done. I could not help wishing for you, were it only to have given him one of your lectures upon behaviour.”
Bentham visited Oxford in this year with the young Earl of Shelburne. In the chambers of Mr Parker, afterwards Earl of Morley, Canning, then a youth with a freshman’s gown on his shoulders, was pointed out by Lord Lansdowne to Bentham as one likely to become the Prime Minister of England.
A letter, dated Tobolsk, 3d December, 1789, from Colonel Bentham to his brother, gives some interesting particulars of the state of things in the South Eastern Russian frontier:—
“I wrote to you at my setting off for Siberia, telling you of my having received the command of two battalions, belonging to the corps there: each battalion is similar to the one I commanded at Crichoff, but they are a great distance one from the other, according to my desire. The one, at which I am at present, occupies a space of about 200 versts, on the frontiers towards the Kirgises: you will see, in the map, a line of fortresses, and foreposts, as they are called, (how little soever they deserve that name,) all along the Kirgisian frontiers; all those from Chernovitsh to Semiarsk, besides my battalion, which is quartered within that distance, together with so much of the frontiers are under my immediate command, during my residence here; Yarnischoff, which is likewise a town, should be my quarters, and the house there is larger and something better than the Crichoff one is; but as the commerce or barter with the Kirgise is carried on at Korohoff, 50 versts to the northward, I choose rather to reside there the short time I shall probably remain in one place. My neighbours, the Kirgises, are as peaceable at present as one could wish,—and though they steal a few cattle, or now and then a man or two, upon laying hold of one of the tribe, everything is returned. They assemble every day on the other side of the river Irtish, which marks the boundary, bringing with them skins of different kinds, horses, oxen, and sheep. These they barter for cheap clothes, leather, iron-work, and trumpery ornaments. It is reported that there are some mines of silver and gold, as well as copper; I am, therefore, preparing to set out in two or three days, on an expedition amongst them, not conceiving they are people any ways to be afraid of. My General will not give me leave to go more than 50 versts into their country, but when I get so far, no one can stop me, and I must be doing what no one else has done before me,
“After having spent about five weeks with the Kirgise, and in that time rode about 1200 versts in their country, I returned, well pleased with my journey. As I had an Englishman with me, a lieutenant in one of our battalions, he kept a journal of our tour in English; you shall one day or other have a copy of it. This Englishman, of the name of Newton, is son of a gentleman of property in Newcastle; he served at the taking of Ochakoff, and then, at his desire, was sent to me by Prince Potemkin; he arrived just in time to accompany me to the Kirgise; and, as I have various propositions to make to the prince, I am preparing to despatch this Mr Newton express to Petersburg.
“I am at present at Tobolsk; in the month of June, I was here in my way to my battalion, and I then despatched the Englishman I had brought with me from Cherson, to examine the mouth of the river Ob, and a small part of the coast of the White Sea, with a view of attempting a communication with Archangel. There is no doubt of this passage being, at certain times, practicable; but the object is the ascertaining the degree of danger and delay occasioned by the drifts of ice, which, even in summer, by certain winds are brought upon the coast, so as entirely to interrupt the navigation. Some of the people are come back, having made a chart of the river and part of the Gulf. But a Russian captain, with some of them, will pass the winter in travelling by land about the coast. The last summer they had nothing but an open boat; but, for next year, I hope to find means of building them a vessel in which they may go to sea. An officer, and 50 men I have brought with me from my battalion, are to be employed in preparing a vessel for this expedition.
“Having settled this business, I set off for my other battalion, which is at about 3500 versts = 2600 miles from hence, and about the same distance from the other. Its quarters were on the other side of the lake Baikal, in the neighbourhood of Kiaktha. It was for the purpose of getting more intelligence about the Chinese frontiers, that I chose this battalion before the spring. It is probable I may then go to Petersburg, and I have permission to take a trip to England; but if my projects here are attended to, they may keep me here another year, before I can go even to Petersburg.
“I may truly say, I am pleasantly circumstanced enough,—enjoying a degree of respect from those I associate with, and meeting with none, who, if they were disposed, dare to give me any vexation. Here, at Tobolsk at least, I can associate with people of philosophy, talents, and amiability: moreover, the variety of my projects, and a present good state of health, leave nothing but my attachment to England to cause any regret.
“While I was at Cherson, at the breaking out of the war, Admiral Mordwinoff had orders to give passports to any who would fit out privateers, as well in the Mediterranean and Archipelago, as in the Black Sea; but few people of enterprise presented themselves to obtain such permission. A Greek of the name of Lambro, whom the prince had taken into the service with rank of captain, seemed the fittest of all men for such enterprises; but money, the most essential article, was wanting.
“Lotteries and card-playing I had always avoided; but, in this case, besides the views of gain, the idea of setting an example, and a rising enmity against the Turks, induced Mordwinoff and me to raise a sum for the fitting out of Lambro. Mordwinoff gave 3000 rubles, and I and two others 1000 each; and with this, we sent him off to Leghorn, where he fitted out a vessel, and, prize after prize, became master of twenty-two sail. Of these, some were lost; but before I left Cherson, although we had got no account of him of the profits cleared from his prizes, I should have found no difficulty in selling my share. I chose rather to take my chance of the future success; and, according to the newspapers, our Lambro (called always Major Lambro) has done wonders. Besides so immensely rich prizes, he has taken fortresses and islands, and dares all the Turkish force. It is ten to one that he does not keep his head long on his shoulders; but though I have heard nothing from the parties concerned, I have no doubt but that they will look after their interest, and that mine will necessarily keep pace with theirs.”
I possess a portrait of Bentham, painted in 1789, on the back of which is this inscription:—