Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Philip Metcalf. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Philip Metcalf. - 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 Philip Metcalf.
Many thanks for your kind remembrance and attentive zeal. I have but just received your favour of 29th here, and have already written to Sir Charles, tendering my services, but recommending as amicus curiæ, the waiting to see the experiment tried on the great scale.
“I am at present occupied in drawing a bill, at the recommendation of authority, for Mr Pitt to bring in upon the opening of the session. Lord Spencer and I parted, as we met, good friends; but nothing was to be done with him. He said, what parliament enacted, he must submit to; but it would be a prejudice to him, as it might throw a damp on his plan of letting land in the neighbourhood on building leases,—under which circumstance, it was not his business to volunteer (as he called it) a concurrence, and that it would be deserving ill of the neighbourhood, by whom his father had been blamed for the facility of his acquiescence. For all this, I am afraid I must have his land, for when circumstances come to be considered, it seems to be inevitable.
“It is some time since I received intimation of the Lord Chancellor’s [Longhborough] approbation, which I hope will carry me safe through the House of Lords. This relieved me from some anxiety; since his lordship had not only conceived ideas upon the subject, but published them—ergo, was somewhat of a rival; and I am not sure whether he may not have a gulp or two to take before he can relish mine. Dundas was to have brought him to Q.S.P., and a day was fixed for it; but they never came. I have, however, a note from him, promising to come.
“Ministry and I go on smoothly; the only contests we have had, have been of an opposite nature to what are usual in bargains. They put a negative on the Life Insuring article, as inconsistent with some rules of theirs, as likewise upon the engagement to pay indemnification-money in case of subsequent delinquencies, as unnecessary and not calculated to answer the purpose. But I stood stanch, and made them knock under, as to both articles, with the colonel’s zealous approbation, who has not yet had the knout to my knowledge, whatever he may deserve, though he is as much afraid of Woronzoff as if there were one in Harley Street in pickle for him. All turned upon character, forsooth; it was upon that they depended; had not my character, which was perfectly known to them, been what it is, they would, as I was told over and over again, have had nothing to say to any such proposal. A damnable doctrine, for which they ought to be impeached; but I did not tell them so, there being no time for quarrelling about collaterals. I have dealt fairly by them at any rate; for I sent Dundas, long ago, the whole cargo of my reforming pamphlets; some of which were too Jacobinical to be trusted with so orthodox a man as you.
“Apropos of Jacobinism, I begin to fear with you it has taken too strong root in France to be exterminated. Could the extermination be effected, I should think no price we could pay for such a security too dear; but whether war or peace would give the best chance for it, may be the matter of very honest difference. My concern is to see the men and money that might be employed in driving at the heart of the monster, diverted to the purpose of making distant conquests, which, according to my notions, could they be had for nothing, would be worse than useless. You know that every island we take costs money to govern and to defend, without bringing in a farthing of revenue, or of benefit in any other shape. This is the thesis of one of my Jacobinisms, which one of these days I hope for the honour of laying at your feet. But just now it seems as if the pressure of the exigency nearer home, were acting on my side, and that Grey and Jervis may have employment enough nearer home, without going to the West Indies to look for it. As to the colonel, he goes on very well with his gimcracks. Such of the trade as have seen his wheels, are in raptures with them, and declare that when once they make their appearance, no others will be made. But now is the season for experiment; for ’till it can be done in Panopticon, it will be hardly worth while to open shop. The paper is full,—adieu my dear Metcalf, believe me, with all affection and thankfulness, yours ever.”
In answer to a gentleman who applied to Bentham, requesting his interest at the Admiralty, in favour of his brother, who had been accused of Jacobinism, Bentham says:—
The conflict betwixt the desire of seconding your wishes, and the despair of effecting it, has retarded my answer to your letter, to a degree which I cannot think of without compunction. Had I yielded to the first impulse that it gave me, I should have gone open-mouthed to the Admiralty, saying, O ye generation of vipers! A little reflection informed me that I had no means of impressing any of the lords, much less Lord Chatham, with any idea of any such case. As to Lord Chatham, you may judge of the sort of chance I should have of being listened to by him,—I who have not come across him these dozen years, when you recollect his refusal to listen to a proposal of my brother’s, promising the greatest advantage to the service, without any risk, on the ground of his being a Russian spy. As to any other lord, it is a question with us whether they durst interfere in so invidious a business; it is pretty clear to me that they would not like it, and I have no acquaintance there but what is too recent and too slight to warrant my so much as asking a favour, much less the demanding justice. Your brother, as I am happy to find, has in his favour the recommendations as well as wishes from all that know him, from those in particular whose recommendations on such an occasion have, of all others, the best claim to regard. Supposing all this to be ineffectual, can there be the smallest chance that anything I could say would be of use? I, who cannot so much as pretend ever to have set eyes on him in my life, and who can have no motive to wish well to him, nor reason to think well of him, but what is afforded by a man who is the object of so unfortunate a prepossession as what you speak of. If no such prejudice exists against him, what room can such a body of recommendation allow for fear? If such a prejudice does exist, and that so strong a one as to overpower such a body of recommendation, could the interference of a stranger like myself present any ground for hope?
“I beg you will be assured, that no opportunity that, to my judgment, promises any chance of being of use to you or yours, will be omitted by me, and that I am, with the truest regard, yours ever.”
A letter to Bentham, dated from Dresden, January 15, 1794, gives a sensible and interesting view of the politics of Europe at that period:—
I hope you will not impute my long silence either to indolence or forgetfulness. Neither I assure you is the case. The truth is, that in this melancholy war of opinion, where the passions of individuals enter so much into all political reasonings, I thought it imprudent for one even in my humble diplomatique station, to hazard any observations which might appear unfavourable to the conduct of government, in the measures adopted in the present most arduous and interesting contest which the history of mankind can produce. It is somewhat singular, that in two countries, whose politics are at present so very opposite, the same terms should be made use of, though in a sense very different, in regard to aristocracy and democracy. Moderantisme in England, as well as in France, leads persons to become suspects. If I were not most perfectly convinced of your discretion in not making any improper use of the few observations I may happen to make, I should even now hesitate to write; for the idea of doing anything inconsistent with propriety, with regard to my employ, hurts me very much. Indeed, the present crisis appears so very alarming, that every person, more or less, may be permitted to deliver his sentiments. No events in the course of last year’s campaign, even the most favourable, could be reckoned so decisive as to supersede the necessity of another. To carry on this, the concurrence of the Court of Berlin happens to be absolutely necessary. Notwithstanding his Prussian majesty’s aversion, in common with other sovereigns, to French men and principles, he seems nevertheless fully aware of the advantage of his present situation, and, very prudently for himself, appears desirous to relinquish the very honourable, though very expensive, cause of kings, and to substitute in its place the more lucrative idea of commercial hostility. Hence arises the expedition of Lord Malmesbury and M. de Lehrbach to Berlin, to prevail with his said majesty, by golden arguments, to give, this year at least, the same number of troops as he afforded last year, gratis, according to treaty with Austria. The unfortunate turn which the war has lately taken,—the loss of Toulon, and the total defeat—I might almost say, annihilation of Wurmser’s army on the Rhine, and the consequences that may yet result from these misfortunes, will undoubtedly suspend for the present all negotiations at the Court of Berlin. When to these successes we add the deplorable state of the royalists in Brittany, the increase in value of the French assignats, and the energy which the Convention has now assumed, by making, as they have well said, terror the order of the day—I think everybody must be convinced, that, in regard to another campaign, the resources of the French are increased, while those of the coalized powers are diminished. It is the peculiar misfortune of this war, that if it is difficult to go on, it is no less so to go back; and the present hostilities must terminate, if not in the extinction, at least in extreme humiliation to either of the parties concerned.
“It is, at this awful moment, much to be regretted that the possibility of misfortune has hardly been supposed, which might have been some check to the too free indulgence of the passions, and the reciprocal abuse which has resulted therefrom. God forbid that I should ever attempt to extenuate the criminality of the numberless horrors daily committed in France,—that I should hesitate to say that murder is murder, or that robbery is robbery—to defend confiscation—when to be rich is to be criminal,—or to panegyrize the activity of the guillotine. But I know there are some people who are somewhat uncertain whether these horrors are to be attributed to an original malignity in the French character, or to be considered as the effect of some cause not yet ascertained—the principle of the right of one nation to interfere in the internal affairs of another, is of a most dangerous nature. It was formally announced by the Emperor Leopold’s circular letter from Padua, repeated by the declaration of Pilnitz, and proclaimed aloud by the manifestoes of the Duke of Brunswick. Similar pretensions, on the part of the French, with regard to the Low Countries and to Holland, have been considered by everybody with becoming disapprobation. Whoever wishes to investigate the real origin of this melancholy war, ought particularly to consider, in their chronological order, the different facts and measures which have been adopted, and which imply the assertion of the above right. Without presuming to say what is really the truth, one may readily allow that hostilities are virtually commenced by a coup de plume, equally as by a coup de canon. It would be happy for mankind, if the dignity of courts would permit them, like individuals, to retract an error, and acknowledge, honestly, a mistake. When Leopold received M. de Noailles as French ambassador, after the acceptation of the new constitution by the king, he only acquiesced in the arrangement, but did not renounce the principle he had previously asserted. If this war is singular in its origin, the views in continuing it appear no less extraordinary. There is a negative unanimity indeed agreed on by all parties, viz., that the present individuals who govern France ought to be set aside; but what particular arrangement is then to follow, the legislative armies of the coalized powers have not yet explicitly exhibited. One declaration approves of the late constitution, while another proposes a different form of limited monarchy, only, however, to take place after a provisional restitution of despotism. The late reëstablishment of the old feudal forms and police in Alsace, Condé, Valenciennes, &c., seems highly impolitic, as if no act of common sense had passed any of the three assemblies, and when everybody allows the first carried some dignity along with it. In short, there is, in every public paper on this subject, a degree of contradiction which is unaccountable. In one sentence, a right to internal interference is solemnly renounced, while at the same time a following paragraph issues a congé d’elire. in favour of monarchy: but whatever may have been the origin or the object of the present atrocious hostilities, the manner of conducting the present war is out of the common way. The liberties taken in respect to foreign neutral nations, are great beyond example. Indeed, foreigners are not a little surprised at the arbitrary conduct of some of the agents of a free government at foreign courts; for independence is but an empty title, as soon as any power presumes to pass its opinions for the criterion of truth, in regard to the intercourse of one country with another. Of this there are many examples, from the proposal of erecting something like a Dutch tribunal to condemn the French regicides, to the effrontery at Florence, and the cacade at Genoa, inclusive. I question whether, at some future period, when facts remain, and passions will be evaporated, it will not be thought that, even for the sake of a good cause, we should not have kept such very bad company. Posterity may think it somewhat extraordinary for England, the first government, in point of liberty, in Europe, to coalize with the bigoted Spaniard, the ignorant Austrian, the barbarous Russian, together with the military mechanism of Prussia, in support of social order and legitimate government, and that, too, at the very time when the two last powers commit an act against an innocent and independent nation, which, in point of arrogance and depravity, cannot be equalled in history; I mean the scandalous partition of Poland,—an act equally hostile to social order and legitimate government. If the daily enormities committed in France tend to excite disgust in respect to popular governments, the iniquitous conduct of Russia and Prussia, with regard to Poland, reconcile, again, men’s minds to democracy. The political fiction of considering France as a garrison, in order to starve it, and the counterpart of the tale in converting Toulon into a country for the purpose of legalizing supplies, not permitted by the custom of nations to the towns in a state of siege, are circumstances which further distinguish the manner of carrying on the present war. The idea of starvation, in regard to an extensive country, may be accompanied with such frightful consequences as to shock the common feelings of humanity. The necessities of a garrison starved into capitulation may be immediately supplied by the besiegers; but in a country starved into submission, millions must perish before the circulation of provisions can effectually be reëstablished. In every point of view, as a well-wisher to my country, I am frightened at this war, as I think the danger resulting from it to us, increases in the ratio of its duration. I am afraid that our ministers have been hitherto much deceived with false intelligence, and many of our public agents have been rather too time-serving in accommodating their reports to ministerial volition. In this country, I can assure you, peace is much desired, if it could be procured on any kind of decent terms. The five thousand men which the Elector gives as his contingent, cost exactly as much as his whole army of thirty thousand men on the Peace Establishment; and, by all accounts, the resources of Austria are completely exhausted. The only resource remaining is confiscation—not of private property, indeed, but of some independent German States, protected by the laws of the empire, and poor Poland likewise furnishes a further fund. You will hardly believe that another act of the infamous tragedy is likely again to take place. Both the King of Poland and Siewers, have fallen lately under the empress’ displeasure, the latter being recalled. A new Diet is talked of to complete the suicide, and the name of Poland may soon cease to exist. Prussia still covets another Palatinate or two. The Empress of all the Russias has pretensions on Galicia, as formerly bearing that name; and the emperor, perhaps, in spite of himself, may be obliged, in his present state of humiliation, to accept some of the spoils of that unfortunate country in exchange. It is somewhat singular that, notwithstanding the present coalition, the national jealousy between Austria and Prussia exists, perhaps, more than ever. I was at Vienna when the news came of the taking the lines of Weissemburg by Wurmser. As this place had always been opposed by the Duke of Brunswick, the unexpected success elated the Austrians extremely, and even led them, I thought at the time, to make many unguarded and impolitic observations, not very favourable either to Prussian tactics, or Prussian sincerity. The retreat of Wurmser has afforded the Prussians their revenge—and, indeed, the retreat of that army was accompanied with such circumstances, the 26th and 28th of last month, as appears by a letter of General Kalchreuth’s, which I have read, as will remain a lasting reproach to the Austrian arms. In short, the soldiers would fight no longer, and, in running away, not only pillaged the peasants, but their own officers. The retreat of the Duke of Brunswick is variously talked of. By some it is said, that he has conceived too formidable an idea of the French army, to undertake any enterprise of consequence against them; and what may appear ridiculous, he is not exempted from a suspicion of Jacobinism. Whatever be the truth, Mollendorff is certainly to succeed him, but whether he is to have additional troops, or the debris only of the present army, the issue of the present negotiations must determine. But to pass from more general politics to what concerns more particularly ourselves. If you do me the favour to write me, might I request you to give me some account of this late soi disant convention at Edinburgh; and what appears to be the prevailing sentiment of the country in respect to Reform, upon which much may be said on both sides. For he who is really and sincerely attached to the present constitution, may say with truth, the more the elections are popularized, the greater is the tendency to Republicanism;—whereas, on the other hand, the French Revolution, notwithstanding its atrocities, has produced a kind of revolution in the human mind in Europe, and mankind think on many points as they never thought before. Government, therefore, by resisting all reform, may risk to be taken by assault, and the country exposed to all the horrors of a revolution. The society of Dresden is this winter much improved by the arrival of many Polish refugees of the first distinction. We have here at present Marechal Potocky, the principal leader of the party which carried the late revolution into execution. His brother, the General, General Zabiello, Prince Czartoriski, and several other members of the celebrated Patriotic Diet. They are most excellent characters; and in the present extraordinary times, are proscribed and calumniated as criminals, for having dared to sacrifice voluntarily a part of their privileges and property, in order to promote a greater degree of happiness among their fellow-citizens. I have the happiness to be frequently in their society, and, from the anecdotes I hear, I cannot help regretting the favourable moment that we lost, to humble the ambition of that female monster, the success of whose projects is so disgraceful to humanity, and which might have prevented many of the calamities which have since happened. Abbé Piatoli is also here. He had a principal hand in the Polish revolution. He is busy drawing up an account of that affair, from the beginning to its fatal termination; and perhaps on this subject, I may take the liberty at another time to take your opinion with respect to the manner of introducing this detail to English notice.”
In a letter from Trail, dated from Dublin castle, 1st February, 1794, he says:—