Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI.: 1807—1810. Æt. 59—62. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER XVI.: 1807—1810. Æt. 59—62. - 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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1807—1810. Æt. 59—62.
Correspondence: Dumont, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord St Helens.—Mr Whishaw.—Romilly.—Anecdotes of Colonel Burr.—Projects for Reforming the Spanish Cortes.—Colonel Burr’s Letters.—Correspondence with Lord Holland, and Project of settling in Mexico.—Mulford.—Francis Horner.—Notices of Mill.—Cobbett, Romilly, and Libel Law.—Dumont on Translation.—Mill, Brougham, Jeffrey, and the Edinburgh Review.
Dumont to Bentham.
“3d November, 1807.
“It is true, my dear friend, that I have taken means to be perfectly happy during the last three months—passed without care, but crowded with enjoyment in a fine climate and agreeable society. But you cannot reproach me with having forgotten you; for a portion of my felicity belonged to you, and came from you. I have laboured hard. I have revised the whole Penal Code, which stood in great need of it. A part translated—a part abridged, before I was completely master of my Benthamic system. Romilly read a good deal of it in the Isle of Wight, and is very much pleased. His approbation has given me spirit. He deems the publication most important, and says it will awaken public attention.
* * * *
“Horner speaks of the book with admiration;—but is it finished? or are you engaged with something else? Poor evidence! poor procedure! Your turn may come by and by,—but courage,—I submit, but not without a protest—in the name of the human race I protest against Scotland.
“But, Seignior, you owe me authentic reparation! You sold me, though I have not lost a day, to the common cause. I know it is a ruse of yours to intimidate me, feeling in your conscience that you are a deserter, and that you have sold yourself to the service of ‘Demon pamphlet,’ which will always be an ingrate; but I want to know when your bail with this demon expires.”
On the 12th November, Dumont writes:—
“I have received your third sheet in small octavo, and in characters suited to the size; and I must tell you that, if you took Dr Parr for your model, you are not yet quite arrived at his perfection; but you are near it—in short, with one or two hours’ hard labour, I did understand, or guess, your meaning.
* * * *
“I have just glanced over your plan of Appellate Judicature, which you sent to Romilly. It seems very good; but bodies seldom consent to lessen their own authority, even though they rarely use it.
* * * *
“I do not willingly undertake the revision of Montagu’s translations.* Romilly thinks that if the MSS. were all sent to him, it would be a labyrinth for him, and only create new difficulties. And yet for the definitions, the original phraseology should be employed. What better could be found? There is most visible the hand of the great master. This, I must tell you, and I feel as you do, all that must be lost in the translation of a translation. But to confront the work with the MSS. is no small labour, especially when the MSS. are not familiar to the confronter.
“Farewell, then, to the second deluge, as you say; but for myself, I will be satisfied with Methusalem’s age. I will not answer your wicked and jealous jokes. No! you will be for exposing me as no better than a Socinian.”
Bentham to Sir Jas. Mackintosh, (1808.)
The conclusion of this letter will present you with the name of a correspondent whom you had no apprehension of being troubled with.
“In consideration of the intercourse I was known to have had with Dr Parr, your apologetical letter of 26th December, 1806, to Mr [Granville] Sharp, was put into my hands.† It called forth all my sympathy. Alas! while the propitiatory incense was lighting up, the idol [Fox] was no more. Peace be to his ashes!—My expectations of him were never sanguine. He was a consummate party leader: greedy of power, like my old friend Lord Lansdowne,—but, unlike him, destitute of any fixed intellectual principles, such as would have been necessary to enable him to make, to any considerable extent, a beneficial use of it. He opposed the Grenville Act; he opposed the Irish Union: Pitt, or anybody else in power, might have made him oppose anything by adopting it. I knew not where to find him,—and if I understand right, no more did anybody else.—He magnified Jurisprudential Law in preference to Statute; (this is a private anecdote that fell within my own knowledge;) an imaginary rule of action in preference to a real one,—the profligacy of a hireling lawyer, without the excuse;—the power of the lawyer is in the uncertainty of the law. Like that of the lawyer, his wish was to see all waters troubled:—why? as feeling himself, in so superior a degree, a master of the art of fishing in them.
“Since your leaving England, three opportunities of being made known to him presented themselves to me: two by relatives of his when he was in the zenith of his power, were often expressed, or implied;—I closed with neither. Had he had anything to say to me, I would have heard it, with the respect due to his character:—having, on my part, nothing to say to him, I should have considered the time spent in his company, as so much time thrown away.* Dr Parr, in his kindness, under the notion, I suppose, of doing me a service, took pains to throw me in his way, or draw down upon me the light of his countenance. He seemed disappointed at observing me as indifferent to his living idols as Shadrach and Meshech were to the golden one of Nebuchadnezzar. Had I seen any opening for entertaining any such expectations from him in respect of the cleansing the Augean Stable, as I should from you, if you were in his place, I would have cried, Lord! Lord! till he had been tired of hearing me.
“When I saw you enlisted in the defence of a castle of straw, which I had turned my back upon as fit for nothing but the fire, I beheld with regret what appeared to me a waste of talents so unprofitably employed.
“When I heard of your being occupied in teaching the anatomy and physiology of two chimeras, the same sensation was again repeated. A crowd of admiring auditors of all ranks,—and what was it they wished for or expected? Each of them, some addition to the stock of sophisms which each of them had been able to mount by his own genius, or pick up by his own industry, in readiness to be employed in the service of right or wrong, whichever happened to be the first to present the retaining fee.
“ ‘There he is,’ said George Wilson to me, one day, pointing out to me the Lecturer; (pulchrum est digito monstraria.)
“To Wilson I said nothing;—to myself I said—‘There or anywhere he may be—what is he to me? What he does—if anything, is mischief? What if he be Jupiter? So much the worse:—νεφεληγεϱέτα Ζεὺς; the cloud-compelling Jupiter, heaping clouds on clouds. When I pray, it is with Ajax, for clear daylight: smoke I abhor, and not the less for its being illuminated with flashes.’
“Wilson gave it once as his opinion, that I ought to be acquainted with the lecturer: I did not contradict him, but my opinion was not the same. Thus stood matters, as between the man with a name, and the man without a name, when two connected reports happened to reach the ears of anonymous at the same time: viz., that Cicero had got a provision which, for the first time in his life, would enable him to do real service to mankind, and that he had always manifested dispositions to apply his talents to that use. Then, for the first time, began the hermit of Queen Square Place to think of the man of eloquence with pleasure. You remember what ensued.”
Bentham to Lord St Helens.
“Q. S. P., 4th January, 1808.
On speaking, t’other day, with a common friend of your lordship’s and mine, on the subject of an as yet unpublished tract, on the subject of the Scotch Judicature Reform—‘I was mentioning it, (says he,) to Lord St Helens, who thereupon took notice that you had not sent him one.’ Ambitious of construing the remark in my own favour, I herewith take the liberty of supplying the omission, if such it was.
“Before the week is at an end, I hope to be able to take the further liberty of submitting to your Lordship, as well as to every other lord of parliament, a closely-printed sheet, containing a summary view of a Plan of a Judicatory, under the name of the Court of Lords’ Delegates,* for making that branch of the legislature, in imitation of the king, to administer by other hands, (parts of its own not excluded,) that justice which, for such a length of time it has been confessedly unable to render by its own. The plan has had the benefit of a revisal from the friends whom you may imagine.
“All this, even this all, might, without loss, have been spared. But the fact is, that I stood in need of a quid pro quo: and that the article herewith sent, how small soever may be its value, is consigned to your lordship upon a commercial adventure. Your lordship used, in former days at least, to be a frequent attendant on Privy Councils. I remember your speaking of some occurrences that had passed on some of those occasions. For the purpose of a table that I am constructing—a Table of Scales of Jurisdiction—I stand in need of a fact known to everybody but myself, in relation to the actual (in contradistinction to the formal) composition of those Judicatories.
“I understand from an intelligent friend, that however it may be in point of right, in point of fact it is not usual for any member of the Privy Council to attend on any judicial occasion on which he has not received a special summons. This, of course, places the judicatory of the Privy Council pro tanto upon a footing with the Court of King’s Delegates: the members of the judicatory nominated on each occasion pro hac vice. If so, then comes the question—by whom nominated? The King’s Delegates are nominated by the Lord Chancellor, viz. under two statutes of the 24th and 25th of Henry VIII.: here, then, there can be no secret. By parity of reason, there should be as little of a secret about the actual nomination of the King’s Delegates in the case where they are taken exclusively out of that Privy Council.
“The summonses that are sent round—are they signed by the President? If so, he may then be fairly considered as Chancellor in that behalf, sitting before the curtain. Are they signed only by a clerk, by order of the Board? Then the Chancellor, who sits ad hoc, sits behind the curtain.
“One of these summonses, if your lordship happens to have any one of those papers unburnt, and that any servant could lay his hands on, would, in this case, if transmitted to this your petitioner, render unnecessary any further trouble; if not, then it is that he is reduced to the necessity of begging the favour of a line in answer, presuming that the communication of a matter of fact known to everybody but the hermit of the hermitage above-mentioned, would not be a breach of a Privy Councillor’s oath.—Believe me to be, with great respect,” &c., &c.
Lord St Helens to Bentham.
“Windsor, 5th January, 1808.
“My dear Sir,—
I have just had the pleasure of receiving your note of yesterday; and though your accompanying Tract on Scotch Judicature has not yet been forwarded to me, I can safely acknowledge myself as highly obliged to you for it, as well as for your promised plan for remedying the no less lamentable deficiencies of our own Supreme Court of Appeal.
“I am afraid that what I can communicate respecting the formation and proceedings of the judicial committees of council, will be of little worth. However, I will set down all I can state from my own knowledge. Whatever the right may be, certain it is, that in point of practice, no Privy Councillor attends those committees without a special invitation; the form of which is a printed slip of paper, without any signature, specifying that a committee of council will be held at the Cock-pit council-chamber on such a day, for such a purpose, at which your attendance is requested; and on the back of this paper, is written the name of the person at whose house it is to be left. These summonses are sent by the clerk of the council in waiting, under the direction of the Lord President, through whose means the office is furnished with a list of the very few councillors whom he has been able to engage to undertake, occasionally, this tiresome duty. These committees are of two sorts: one for deciding appeals from the plantations, and the other for appeals from the Admiralty and Vice-admiralty courts; and both ought, in strictness, to consist of five members; but, from the difficulty of procuring a sufficient number, it has been held of late that three are sufficient. Of these, one is always an eminent law-officer; and, during the period of my attendance, this duty used to be undertaken, in the committees of appeal from the plantations, by the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; and in those of prize appeal, by the Master of the Rolls, assisted by Sir William Wynne: but the attendance of none of these legal men was ever considered as obligatory, or in any other light than as an accommodation to Government; and accordingly I recollect that, not very long since, a Master of the Rolls withdrew himself entirely from the courts of prize appeal, in consequence of his being politically at variance with the minister of the day. From this description of the said committees, I think you will clearly infer, 1st. That they stand in need of much the same sort of alteration as you would wish to suggest for the judicature of the House of Lords; and 2nd, that the members composing them, can fairly claim no higher title than that of occasional make-shifts: since the above-described summonses cannot certainly be supposed to constitute any special delegation; and, indeed, it frequently happens, that they are sent half over the town, without any direction on the back, in quest of any Privy Councillor whom the messenger may chance to find at home and disengaged.* It is observable, too, that the form of these summonses is precisely the same (with the omission of the word committee) as those which are used for assembling those councils at which the king himself usually presides.
“You will be glad to hear that his Majesty is in perfect health, saving the dimness of his eye-sight, which, however, has not impaired his cheerfulness, nor incapacitated him from taking his usual exercise.
“Repeating my sincerest thanks for your very kind remembrances, I am, my dear Sir, most faithfully yours.”
The following is an answer to an inquiry as to reversals of decisions in the House of Lords:—
Mr Whishaw to Bentham.
“January 8, 1808.
“One of the reversals in 1806 was the order of Lord Eldon, by which he confirmed Master Ord’s report, appointing Lord Henry Seymour and Lord Easton, guardians of Miss Seymour, the amiable infant in whose welfare the Prince of Wales took so lively an interest. The attendance in the House of Lords on this occasion was greater than was ever known—greater even than upon the discussion, some years ago, relative to the first day of partridge-shooting. It deserves also to be recollected, in discussing the judicial merits of this great tribunal, that the reversal in question, the acquittal of Lord Melville, and the overruling of their own decision on the case of Judge Fox—all of them took place in the course of a few weeks.
“Of the other reversals in 1806 and 1807, I have no recollection, but I do not apprehend they were in appeals from the Court of Chancery,—such reversals being so rare, that one would hardly have failed to hear of them.
“The reversals in 1797 and 1798 were, I am pretty sure, upon appeals from the Exchequer—one of them relating to an issue in a tithe cause, the other in a cause of Jones v. Martin, concerning which, see 3, Anstruther, 882, and 5, Vesey, junior, 266, note.”
A letter from Romilly (January 24) has this passage:—
“I overheard Lord Grenville yesterday speaking in praise of your projected Court of Appeal, which, he said, he thought very ingenious: he asked Erskine if you had sent it him, as, it seems, from his answer, that you have not; I think you certainly should send it him.”
In answer to a letter of Bentham, (of which I find no copy,) addressed to Romilly, requesting him to lay before the House of Commons a proposal, on the part of Bentham, to prepare gratuitously a Code of Law for Scotland—Romilly writes:—
Sir Samuel Romilly to Bentham.
“You will, I hope, think me excusable, knowing what I have to do, that I have been so long in answering your letter, which, though in 12mo, is a volume of 26 pages. You have not convinced me. You are greatly mistaken, however, when you suppose that I may fear that my power of being useful will in any degree be diminished by having my name coupled with yours. I have no such apprehension; but I do apprehend, that both your and my power of doing any good, will be very much lessened by taking a step totally different from the usual course of parliamentary proceedings, and which will afford a pretext for that ridicule with which many persons would be glad to cover us both. You seem to think that it is no uncommon thing that any good citizen who has a project which, in his judgment, will be beneficial to the public, should desire that his project may be laid on the table of either House of Parliament. That is exactly what I believe was never done yet. Petitions complaining of grievances are laid on the table of the House, but as to plans for the public advantage, they must be the subject of some specific motion—they may be referred to committees, but it must be by some member proposing that they should be the subject of a law, or of some public proceeding.
“That the measure is not a job—that you are willing to sacrifice your time and labour for the good of the public, which ought to be the strongest recommendation of what would be proposed, would (such is the temper, and such the principles of the House of Commons) afford a strong objection to it, and give an opening to much ridicule. The thing would, in itself, be absolutely incredible.
“You suppose that I wish to discourage your design altogether—that is really not exactly the case, though I own I have doubts whether your time would not be much more usefully employed on your book on Evidence.
“If anybody can execute such an enterprise as you project, (being ignorant, when he sets out, of Scotch Law,) I believe it is you; but I do doubt whether even you can execute it.”
“I was brought acquainted,” said Bentham, “with Colonel Aaron Burr thus: He had given a general order to a bookseller to forward whatever works I should publish. I was then very little known. This was good evidence of analogy between his ideas and mine. He came here expecting this government to assist his endeavours in Mexico; but the government had just then made up their quarrel with Spain. We met: he was pregnant with interesting facts. He gave me hundreds of particulars respecting Washington. In those days, I used to go to Oxstead, where there is a handsome gentleman’s house called Barrow Green, which was occupied by Koe’s eldest brother. Burr went there with me; and once when I went to Barrow Green, I lent him my house in Queen Square Place. He meant really to make himself Emperor of Mexico. He told me, I should be the legislator, and he would send a ship of war for me. He gave me an account of his duel with Hamilton. He was sure of being able to kill him: so I thought it little better than a murder. He seemed to be a man of prodigious intrepidity; and if his project had failed in Mexico, he meant to set up for a monarch in the United States. He said, the Mexicans would all follow, like a flock of sheep.”
Dumont thus speaks of Colonel Burr:—
Dumont to Bentham.
“I have met with a person in London enjoying a celebrity which is somewhat embarrassing to him, and from which he has retreated into a capital, two thousand leagues from his home. This is Mr Edward in England; in America, it was Mr Burr. We met at dinner,—acquaintance was soon established between us; and as soon as he heard me named, he inquired with an air of surprise and of satisfaction, if I were the person to whom he was indebted for his acquaintance with the writings of Bentham. He had read ‘Principles’ and ‘Usury;’ and as soon as he saw the announcement at Paris, had sent for sundry copies. He spoke of them with the strongest admiration,—said they were the only works on legislation where there was philosophical method: that compared to these, Montesquieu’s writings were trifling, &c. He added, that, in spite of his recommendations, they were little read in America, where anything requiring studious application is neglected. Nobody but Gallatin had felt all their merit, and Gallatin was the best head in the United States. Mr Burr was anxiously desirous of knowing the author,—of passing a day with him: this, said he, would be a satisfaction for the rest of his life. He passes all the autumn in England, but does not know how long beyond. If you are disposed to receive him, whether in town or country, let me give him the happy news, and I think you will not be sorry you have seen him. You may tell me, his duel with Hamilton was a savage affair; but he has no desire whatever to break your head.
* * * *
“I hope you are as much a Spaniard as I am. Lord Grenville is not a Spaniard at all: he has no hopes whatever of success.”
On the receipt of this letter, Burr was invited to Barrow Green, where Bentham was then staying; and great was his joy on receiving the invitation. Bentham desired a horse to be sent for his accommodation; but Burr had provided a horse of his own.
Lord Holland and Dumont, took no small trouble, in 1808, to give to the Spanish Cortes the benefit of Bentham’s counsels for the direction of their debates. Lord Henry Petty had sent to them the pamphlet on the practice of the British Parliament, which Romilly had prepared for the use of the Committee of the National Assembly of France;* but as it did not contain a rationale, it was thought less likely to be useful than the Political Tactics which presented reasons for the arrangements proposed. Lord H. Petty suggested the republication of Bentham’s Tactique in Cadiz; but Dumont was unwilling to risk the innumerable errata to which it would be exposed there. But the fair prospects of Spain, and the hopes of contributing to the establishment of freedom and good government in that country, had almost decided Bentham to depart without delay for the seat of the Spanish government.
Dumont writes to him (29th August, 1808):—
Dumont to Bentham.
“I was thinking—yes! I was thinking about it—but the idea was not ripe. I wanted to talk it over with Lord Holland, who is expected here to-morrow, and who may suggest something either with regard to the fond or to the forme, or to the means; and his recommendation may go far with the Spanish Deputies, or the literary men of Spain. Since the Principes are known and circulated there—the plank is made—and the younger may walk on it under the protection of the elder. I spoke to Lord H. about it; and as a great part of the work was done in Holland House, and especially the Introduction, in which I have recorded some facts connected with the National Assembly, I proposed, with his permission, to date it from the place where it was created—that circumstance would not be without utility in Spain; but I must revise the MS. Eight years have passed since it was written. We must ascertain if it could not be made more directly applicable to the Cortes—whether the preface should not be Spaniardized—the Spaniards somewhat caressed—or whether it should not be made altogether a work of philosophic abstraction, without regard to any particular country, or any particular form of government. I must bring to it the impartiality which belongs to a forgotten work.
* * * * *
“I remember, that in a special chapter you attack the system of two deliberative chambers. My observations in France have not brought me to the same conclusion. I added a chapter in favour of the division of the Legislative body, and I think the balance was on the side of two Chambers; but for the Cortes, the question is of less importance. They make but one Assembly, where all the Deputies vote together.”
There are multitudes of Colonel Burr’s letters to Bentham. From them I will give a few extracts, characteristic of his style and character:—
Col. Aaron Burr to Bentham.
“22d August, 1808.
“It has been my misfortune to attract the notice of Lord Hawkesbury. On my arrival in town last evening, a note from that department was found at my lodgings, dated on Thursday last, requesting my attendance on the day then following at the office of the Secretary of State. I shall, therefore, as in duty bound, advise his lordship, or his man Beckett, of my arrival, and of my readiness to lend a gracious ear to their future requests. This business, whatever it may be, (and I have a presentiment that it is for no good, having no business with that department, nor desiring ever to have any,) will unavoidably detain me to-morrow, and very likely the next day, of which I hasten to give you this notice.
“I called last evening at the Bird Cage, (a most beautiful cage, and from which one would never wish to escape,) and handed your note to Mrs S., the housekeeper. Her reception gave me the most flattering testimony of the very friendly tenor of your instructions to her.
“The Hawkesbury affair turned out to be—just nothing. If no other dignified personage should honour me with his notice, I shall dine with you on Wednesday.”
“2d September, 1808.
“I found, readily, the letters to Lord Pelham, and the Plea for the Constitution, and have read them with very great interest: but it gave me a fever to see by what sort of reasons the ‘project’ was defeated—the particular items, indeed, do not appear, yet the nature of those reasons is sufficiently manifest. These letters are a gross libel on the Government; and if you had developed the details, I think it probable you would have made a practical experiment on the doctrines of Pitt and Portland, by a voyage to New South Wales. I am resolved that the Panopticon shall be known in America.”
“12th September, 1808.
“New cause of delay! Gods, how weary I am of delays! My soul is with you at Barrow Green, and the mortal part of me would follow it, if not kept back by violence—but can I, ought I to disappoint poor Swartwout? On my return from Hampstead, I found here a letter from him written at Liverpool, whither I had sent him to do something for himself, seeing no prospect that I should be able to do anything for him. This is that Swartwout who was seized, robbed, transported two thousand miles, immured in a solitary prison, denied the use of pen, ink, and paper—denied a Hab. Corp.—not allowed to speak with a human being,—and all on suspicion of being connected with one who was suspected of an intention to commit a crime; this he bore with something more dignified than mere passive firmness. This Swartwout writes—but here is the letter—read, and pronounce—(my apotheosis is now put off, till Thursday, certain,) the influence of your name! He too must be mad—but then, as I am the leading cause of it, he has claims to my indulgence.”
“Q. S. P., 1st October, 1808.
“The history of my late visit to Hertford must be reserved till we meet. It will afford you some moments of amusement; the stock will be greatly increased by the experience of the approaching week, for Lord Barrington has proposed various objects of amusement; yet, shall I confess to you? these very recreations, to me, are labour. I participate with coldness—all I say is weighed, and generally forced. There is, indeed, some gratification of curiosity, and a slight hope that new channels of communication and of influence may be discovered.”
“Q. S. P., 4th October, 1808.
“This day (yesterday, Monday meaning) meeting your friend, Reeves, (in whose holy keeping I am, by appointment of the Right Honourable Lord Hawkesbury, &c.,) he gave me a most friendly and affectionate reception—prayed me to dine, which was accepted—met there Mr and Mrs Brown, who have been much in Russia, and Chalmers—(do you hear me?)—all very social—very happy to know Mr B—!
“It is nevertheless, my dear friend, but too obvious that I am a mere encumbrance here, and ought to be gone; yet the attempt proposed shall be made, humiliating and hopeless as it is. Thus I shall, at least, escape the reproaches of my friends, and what is of more moment, my own.—God preserve you.
An amusing account of his adventures, in a journey to several towns in England, I give entire:—
“21st December, 1808.
“The adventures of Gilblass Mohsagungk de Manhattan. Wednesday evening, 21st December, ad 1808.—In a garret at the Black Lion, Water Lane, London. Having made half a dinner at Q. S. P., drove off furiously to the White Horse, Piccadilly, to be in time for the Oxford stage. Having waited half hour, and coach not come, the weather cool, went in to warm—having warmed half hour, awondering at the delay, went out to see—the coach had been gone twenty minutes. My honest coachman, as well to be sheltered from the storm, as for repose, had got inside, and was sound asleep. Drove to the Gloucester Coffee-house to take the mail—was advised to go the Golden something, Charing Cross—thither went, the mail was full inside and out—thence to the Saracen’s Head—thence back to the Ship—same report—to Fetter Lane—coach full—to the Black Lion, Water Lane, Fleet—full inside and out—to the Old Crown, Holborn—no coach there till Friday—to the Bolt-in-Tun—where found seat in a coach to go at seven to-morrow—but no bed to be had. Went to the nearest inn, being the same Black Lion, where I am occupant of a garret room up four pair of stairs, and a very dirty bed. In the public room, however, I have been amused for an hour with a very handsome young Dane—don’t smile—it is a mule—a merchant. I would have slept on the porch, or walked the street all night, sooner than have returned to Q. S. P.—coach hire, nine shillings.
“Oxford, Thursday evening, 22d December.—Was called at six to be ready for the coach at seven—gave my baggage to a porter, but having stopt a minute to make change, he got out of my sight. I missed the way, and when I got to the Bolt-in-Tun, the coach had gone—my passage, 21s. having been paid in the evening, there was no inducement to wait for me—pursued, and had the good fortune to overtake the coach—found in it one man. Having preserved perfect silence for a few minutes, by way of experiment, I remarked that the day was very mild, which he denied flatly, and in a tone and manner as if he would have bit me. I laughed out heartily, and very kindly inquired into his morning’s adventures. He was old, gouty, very fat. No hack being to be had at that early hour, or, what is more probable, choosing to save the shilling, he had walked from his house to the inn—had fallen twice—got wet and bruised, and was very sure that he should be laid up with the gout for six months. I sympathized with his misfortunes, wondered at the complacency with which he bore them, and joined him in cursing the weather, the streets, and the hackney coachmen. He became complacent and talkative—such is John Bull. We took in another fat man, a woman still fatter, and a boy—afterwards a very pretty, graceful, arch-looking girl about eighteen, going on a visit to her aunt Lady W—. But Mademoiselle was reserved and distant. At the first change of horses, she agreed to take breakfast, which we did tête-à-tête—was charmed to find her all animation, gaiety, ease, badinage. By the aid of drink to the coachman, our companions were kept three-quarters of an hour cooling in the coach—they had breakfasted when we joined them; the reserve of my little Syren returned—after various fruitless essays, and at first without suspecting the cause, finding it impossible to provoke anything beyond a cold monosyllable. I composed myself to sleep, and slept soundly about eight hours between London and this place, where we arrived at eight this evening: (there must be something narcotic in the air of this island,—I have slept more during my six months’ residence in Great Britain than in any preceding three years of my life, since the age of 14); took leave of my little Spartana.—Mem: To write an essay, historical and critical, on the education and treatment of women in England—its influence on morals and happiness.
“Thinking it too late to call on Mr Provvust, (your instructions are not lost on me,) I wrote him a polite note, enclosing the letter, and proposing to see him in the morning, to which a polite answer was received.
“Oxford, 23d December (Friday.)
“I was received with the distinction due to such a letter. His manner is mild, cheerful, and courteous. He engaged me to dine, and sent for a young ‘fellow’ who went with me through all the great buildings, and showed me all the strange things. Many of those for which I inquired he had never before heard of. Everything here is for ostentation, and nothing for use. A manuscript of Horne’s Mirror was shown me, but evidently modern—a hand-writing much like our K.’s. The librarian acknowledged it was but a copy, and professed no knowledge of the original. The bust of Aristotle has a forehead very like yours. We were more than three hours traversing the various buildings—I was much gratified—my poor conductor nearly frozen.
“Two plump, hale ‘Fellows’ joined us at dinner. Study and abstinence had not yet impaired their rosy complexions; all in canonicals. The dinner was excellent, and well served. The details of the conversation shall amuse you at another time, and they cannot be written. A few hints may serve as memoranda—‘I would rather our friend B. should write on Legislation than on Morals! Holy father! if ever one of thy creatures was endowed with benevolence without alloy,’ &c. All this was admitted; and the expression was qualified, and qualified, till finally it settled on the single point of divorce, and Hume was quoted.
“By mutual consent, Divine authority was laid aside, and I made a speech, which was very silly, for I ought to have turned it off with levity.
“ ‘The innate sense of religion.’—‘The most barbarous nations have some religion.’—Has it not a great influence on your Indians?!—We then got on American politics,—statistics, geography, laws, &c.,—and on all which a most profound and learned ignorance was displayed.—The evening wound up pleasantly, and we parted with many expressions of courtesy.—He appears to be of cheerful temper and amiable disposition.—Yet, though he speaks of you with reverence, and probably prays for you, I presume that he thinks you will be eternally damned; and I have no doubt he expects to be lolling in Abraham’s bosom, with great complacency hearing you sing out for a drop of water.—Such is the mild genius of our holy religion!
“Brummiggem, (though, indeed, I have several times heard it called Birmingham,) Saturday evening, 24th December. Left Oxford at seven this morning.—We were four inside,—the only article of any interest was a smart little comely brunette, who had been through Blenheim castle, and all the other places of note within twenty miles,—could describe all the pictures and statues, had read all the fashionable novels and poetry, and seemed to know everybody and everything.—I was never more at a loss in which rank of beings to class her, but was very much amused.—At twenty miles, we put her down at a very respectable farm-house,—I handed her in,—was introduced to her aunt,—‘My dear aunt, this gentleman has been extremely polite to me, on the road.’—I received from aunt and niece a very warm invitation to call on my return, which I very faithfully promised to do, whensoever, &c.—If, &c.—At Stratford, where lie the bones of Shakspeare, the bar-maid gave me a very detailed account of the jubilee in honour of his memory. At about twenty miles further, was pointed out a very handsome establishment of Sir — Smith, dit frère de Me Fitzherbert. For the last forty or fifty miles, we had on board, a strange, vulgar-looking fellow, who had been all over the world,—spoke Latin, French, and Spanish,—and in the course of three hours told me more than a hundred lies, probably some itinerant Irish school-master.
“The market-place and the principal street adjoining to which I am set down, is full of people, tents, booths, camps, candles, fiddlers, pipers, horns. Having nothing to amuse me within, I shall sally forth to see what is going forward without. But, first, I have taken passage for Liverpool, to set off at half-past eleven, being advised that there is no other way to get on,—very much against my will, therefore, I go to Liverpool. We shall, from appearances, make a lively party. At this hour to-morrow I may have something more amusing to say. Now I go.
“Twelve o’clock—Still at Birmingham—full of contrition and remorse—lost my passage—lost (or spent) 28s. and a pair of gloves—every bed in the house engaged—no hope of getting on but by the mail at seven to-morrow morning. The office shut, and no passage to be taken to-night. What business had I to go sauntering about the streets of a strange place alone and unarmed on Christmas Eve? Truly I want a guardian more than at fifteen. It was K.’s fault that I left my dirk, and I could choke him for it. I have often heard that great sinners have relieved their consciences by full confession—let me try:—I sallied forth—there were hundreds of smartly dressed folks of all sexes and ages in little groups, and very gay; I joined one party, and then another and another,—at length I got so well suited with a couple, that we agreed to walk and see the town, and there repose a little out of the street. You know that I have always had a passion for certain branches of natural history,—these appeared to me to be very fit subjects for examination; and even now, under all the horrors of remorse, I must acknowledge that it was a most instructive, and, bating one cursed rencontre which had nearly ended in a riot, a most amusing lesson. Hence it would seem that all this penitence is for the four 7s., and not for the folly—on which a very good theological discourse might be written. The subject shall be recommended to our friend the provost. Indeed, I was very much amused; I heard many amusing anecdotes of the grandees of the town, and fine, strange, and pretty things. At this moment it comes into my head how to redeem this 28s.: it shall be done, and then peace of conscience will be restored.
“I will take passage outside—half price only, I am resolved, and you shall see how I execute.
“Mem.—Lo! the value of repentance: for another 7s. I have got a bed—a thing not wanted for me.”
Burr sketched briefly the character of his three principal friends in the State of New York, thus:—
“William P. Van Ness, Kinderhook, aristocrat, aged 30—austere, not eloquent.
“John Duer, Goshen, Orange County, 26—classical, good writer, mild, will be eloquent.
“John V. N. Yates, Albany, 28—managing man, eloquent, firm, active, bold, generous.”
The Dean and Chapter of Litchfield, supposing that Bishop Bentham* was an ancestor of Bentham, applied to him for ten guineas to enable them to blazon the Bishop’s arms on the stained glass window of their cathedral; but I believe the letter was never answered. Bentham cared little about ancestry, and less (if possible) about his own ancestors.
Burr seems to have undertaken to attempt bringing round some leading Spaniard (probably Urejo,) to advocate the introduction of a good system of debating in the Cortes,—but he failed, and writes thus (Sept. 1, 1808):—
Colonel Burr to Bentham.
“There is no longer a hope of the patronage, nor even of the good will of the Don, for any improvement in political tactics,—the horrors of innovation have invaded him. ‘The Cortes must, and ought to, and will, proceed in its own way, and according to its ancient usages,—the attempt to instruct it by the example of foreign assemblies, especially of any so highly tainted with democratic infection as those of France at one time, and of England at all times, would be odious and alarming, &c., &c., &c.’
“It is a task (one would think) of no great difficulty, to discriminate between the forms which preserve decorum, add dignity, and facilitate the attainment of an end, and those changes in principle which may either impair or extend the power, or vary the objects of an institution,—if similar apprehensions should, in like manner, obstruct their improvement in Military Tactics, (and they would be equally well-founded,) God help the patriots of Spain.—The truth is, my friend has an interest, a deep, imperious, personal interest in the perpetuation of abuses.—How would you reason against fifty thousand dollars per annum?—Only by holding out the prospect of 100M.,—which I believe neither you nor I can do just now. Les Commissaires will, nevertheless, it is hoped, be free from the influence, if not wholly from the prejudices which encumber this new patriot.”
Dumont to Bentham.
“March,—march,—full gallop,—à bride abutte, ventre à terre. Quit everything,—abandon friends,—business,—engagements,—pleasures.—What! Not yet set out! Talk,—selfish,—unworthy disciple of such a master!
“Instead of putting pepper into your tail, it has put poppies into your cup,—There is your phrase, my dear philosopher! and mine is but the commentary.—How happy to be so young, with the brightest hopes,—to conceive, to execute a project in an instant. Alas! Frenchmen have added four score to my years. My hopes are so feeble that they will not let me move one step an hour.
“But here is a rarity. A book written by an Englishman; edited, abridged, lengthened by a Genevese; invested with notes by a Vice-president of the United States; translated and commented on by a noble Spaniard, ex-minister, &c. What a sensation such a book must make. What a goodly company! In Spain everybody has a long kyrielle of godfathers and patrons,—so should books. Four are not enough. We will have, then, more. One with a commendatory preface,—another with an apologetical postscript,—a third with a commentary on the commentaries.
“I have observed,—it is an old observation of mine,—that no political assembly adopts a printed project,—or adopts ideas to which publicity has been given,—I mean textually and in mass. They nominate a committee.—Will that committee adopt a work already written,—a foreign work?—Will they commit a suicide?—a suicide of reputation.—Will they declare themselves null,—inept,—incapable?—O, no! Individual self-love,—national self-love, forbid it.
“To succeed, it would be necessary to know some distinguished member of the Cortes, to deliver the Tactique to him, and say, ‘Here are regulations all ready,—and the reasons too. Do with them what you can.—Take the honour,—give the glory to your committee. It is your affairs. Assemblies are proud beggars, on whom our alms must be forced. The evangelical precept of secrecy, is more necessary towards the poor in mind, than the indigent in fortune: the hands that aid them must be hidden.”
* * * * *
“A translation which should bear the name of the author only, would be of great importance. There is a resistance to the domination of authority. If a Spanish translator had celebrity, he would have enemies. His name would create prejudices. Mirabeau presented the MS. on Parliamentary Proceedings, which Romilly furnished to the committee of the National Assembly,—and I do not doubt that the prejudices against Mirabeau were the cause of its cold reception.”
“Urejo makes the same objection as I did, on the danger of celebrated names. You are too eager,—all of you.—I have lead in my brains,—poking will not make me go faster. Scamper on, if you like,—only do not expect me to be scampering with you.—I shall move on in my peaceful way.—Do not let me be blamed,—I travel en solo, or, if you will, en Desobligeante.”
Bentham, in consequence of his communications with Colonel Burr, seemed seriously resolved on taking up his abode for some years on the Table Land of Mexico. This letter to Lord Holland gives a curious account of his motives and his projects:—
Bentham to Lord Holland.
“Queen Square Place,Westminster, 31st October, 1808.
Your lordship little expected to be intruded upon by a letter from the undersigned, still less on the subject which gives occasion to it. He flatters himself with the idea of being not altogether unknown in your lordship’s circle, in his character of a quiet, pains-taking, inoffensive recluse, in whom though no man has a companion, every man has a friend, and who, though an Englishman by birth, is a citizen of the world by naturalization. The Defence of Usury was planned and conducted at a sequestered villa in the neighbourhood of Crichoff, a town on the river Soje, in the Government of Moghilev, in White Russia. A fancy has taken him for defending something else as bad, or doing something else as whimsical, and with equal privacy, and to as little purpose, in some equally sequestered situation in the neighbourhood, if it be practicable, of the city of Mexico. And now, my lord, your lordship sees, by anticipation, the substance of what it remains for me to write. The case is, that, though upon the whole, considering my time of life, I have no great reason to complain on the score of health, I have some little infirmities against which Providence seems to have pointed out the table-land of that country as a place of refuge. For upwards of half a year, I feel myself so pinched by the cold of our English winters, that a great part of the time that would otherwise be employed in driving the quill, is consumed in thinking of the cold, and endeavouring, but in vain, to keep off that unpleasant sensation without bringing on worse. But is there no heat in fire? Yes: but as it comes from our English fire-places, such is the heat, as neither my eyes, nor other parts about me, are able to endure. Between eyes and feet, perpetual quarrel about heat: feet never can have enough, eyes never little enough—a new edition of the old parable of the members. Mexico, from a variety of authorities, private as well as public, I have learnt to consider as affording a climate, by which all such differences would be kept at rest. Temperature just what anybody pleases. If you want it warmer, you go down a few hundred yards: if cooler, you go up. In the capital itself, never higher than 84: average duration of human life one-third longer, compared with a healthy situation (I do not remember exactly what) in Europe. Such is said to be the power of the two antagonizing, but harmonizing, and mutually regulating circumstances, altitude of the sun above the horizon, and ditto of the earth’s surface above the sea.
“Explicit, Sect. 1, concerning the end in view: incipit, Sect. 2, concerning means for the accomplishment thereof.
“Upon my brother’s return from Russia, he brought me as a present from Admiral Mordvinoff, a copy of a French translation, that had been made and printed at Petersburg, of the far-famed work of Don G. M. Jovellanos, (‘cidevant Ministre de Grace et Justice’—as per title-page) ‘Identité de l’interêt géneral avec l’interêt individuel,’ &c.—anno 1806. Traducteur, as per dedication, a M. Rouvier. Patron—Count Kotchubey, the Minister of the Interior, by whose order the translation appears to have been performed: the same by whose order one of the two Russian translations that have been made of Dumont’s book, was also made.
“Mordvinoff must have been more or less known to your lordship, as having been the immediate predecessor of the present minister Tchichagoff, in the direction of the Marine. After his relinquishment of that post, he became the head of a sort of opposition, such as Russian government admits of, and in that quality was elected commander of the noblesse at Moscow, that volunteered on the occasion of the war with Buonaparte.
“Amongst his oddities, is that of being a sort of sectator of the old hermit of Queen Square Place: the future effusions of whose dotage, be they what they may, he has offered to get translated into Russ: and observing the principle of laissez nous faire, applied, in the Defence of Usury, to the case of contracts concerning money, it occurred to him that the author could not be displeased to see the same principle applied, and so well applied, and by such high and influential authority, to the case of contracts concerning land. Since the reascension of this thinking, as well as signing minister, and the mention made of him in the newspapers as the object of the warmest hopes of Spain, my brother having also a copy of his own, great court has, in my absence, been paid to him, by Romilly, George Wilson, and a few other liberal or semi-liberal lawyers, for a sight of it.
“The basis of my project upon Mexico has now, my lord, for some time been visible to you. Considering that a year or two ago, (if Dumont’s intelligence is to be believed,) about 750 copies of his book had already found their way into Spain and Portugal, it occurred to me that, of one or other of the two translations published in Paris of the ‘Defence of Usury,’ a copy might perhaps have found its way into the hands of Senor Jovellanos: possibly also a copy of Dumont’s book, immediately or intermediately, under favour of the protection given to it by Lady Holland, if what her ladyship was pleased to say to me on that head was anything more than persiflage. At present the minister’s reading days must be over, more completely so than the hermit’s, though not, I hope, from the same cause. As far as depends on actual reading, my chance of favour in that quarter must therefore rest on past impressions, if any such have been received, circumstances not admitting of any future ones from the same source.
“Whether the road to the Mexican capital is, or is about to be open to Englishmen in general, is, by this time, perhaps known to those who know anything, but is altogether unknown to me. If yes, a recommendation to the powers that be, in that quarter of the empire, would be a matter not indeed of necessity, but of grace, and of a sort of grace without which, at my time of life, I should not be disposed to go in quest of adventures: if not, besides a recommendation, an authority or license would, if I were to attempt going there, be matter of indispensable necessity. Before Buonaparte had made himself to such a degree master of Spain, Humboldt, at any rate, (whether any other Frenchman I know not,) was admitted into Mexico, with the known design of writing what he could learn, and of publishing what he should write.
“The favour thus granted at that time to a Frenchman,* would it at this time be refused to an Englishman? When he went, it was with the known, and, I believe, professed design of writing and publishing the state of the country. Even now, if a man had any such design, it does not strike me that there would be any great harm in it: nor, in the present state of things, should I expect to find it an object of apprehension, either on this side of the Atlantic or on the other. But the fact is, that my ambition has never pointed that way, and therefore, if any obligation of that sort were to be made a condition, it would cost me nothing to submit to it. In the year and three quarters that I staid in Russia, I wrote nothing of the kind. What I wrote was ‘Defence of Usury,’ the leading part of ‘Panopticon,’ other parts of Dumont’s book, and I know not what other visions, such as nobody cares a straw about. In the same way I should go on scribbling so long as I had a hand to scribble with, (eyes not serving me for reading,) wherever my hermitage happens to be situated—in Queen’s Square Place, or in Mexico.
“Hereupon, my dear lord, besides laying hold of your lordship’s patronage, in quality of a ladder of ascent, whereby to climb up to the grace and favour of his highness, Señor Jovellanos, permit me to avail myself of your lordship’s trustworthiness in the character of a witness, beseeching you to sign in my favour a sort of certificate, which may be termed a certificate of harmlessness. Nobody can have known anything of me without knowing how completely disqualified I have ever been in all points for everything that, in French, is called intrigue, or, in English, politics. The late Lord Lansdowne would, to the last, have signed a certificate to that effect, I am certain, in the most ample terms. — and —, who cannot but have heard what Lord Lansdowne has so often said, would not refuse to me, on this occasion, the benefit of the best evidence that is to be had, now that our noble friend is no more.
“In the only other Cabinet in which I ever conceived myself to have a friend, and from one member of which, if Dumont did not deceive either me or himself, I received a message as kind and gracious as it was unexpected, there was not one, as your lordship can also attest, that, had he conceived himself to stand in need of any political assistance, would not as soon have thought of addressing himself to my housekeeper as to me.
“I have dwelt the longer, and the more emphatically, on the desired certificate—the certificate of nothingness—in the presumption of its being the very best recommendation that, on a visit to Mexico, a man could carry in his pocket; and, if the form of the allegation is not absolutely of the very gravest kind, in substance, your lordship knows, it is not the less true.
“That plunder is of the number of my objects, I cannot but confess. But the matter of plunder will not, in my instance, as in Dupont’s and Junot’s, be composed of crucifixes and candlesticks, but of other and prettier things, such as are treasured up at St Anne’s Hill, and valued at Little Holland House.
“Lady Holland I stand so much in awe of, and am to such a degree agitated with apprehensions of having fallen into disgrace with her about Dahlia, that I feel altogether unable to determine with myself what sort of a nuzzeer to approach her with. A feather or two from the crown of Montezums, if there should happen to be such a thing left? In short, here it is that I feel myself a distressed man, not knowing what to say for myself.
“To Señor Jovellanos I consider myself as giving a suitable and sufficient bribe, in promising to persevere in support of the principle of Laissez nous faire, so long as I have the stump of a pen left; and if aller be included in faire, and aller au Mexique in aller, (which, unless my notions of logic be altogether incorrect, must actually be the case,) speaking with respect, I don’t see very well how he can consistently avoid supporting my request.
“So far as depends on your lordship, I will frankly, however presumptuously, acknowledge I feel myself pretty much at my ease. Everything that, in the shape of poetry, has ever issued from any press in either Mexico, old or new, from the death of Guatamozin to the present day, shall be faithfully collected and transmitted to Holland House, there to be transmuted from Mexican Spanish into elegant English. But, Sir—oh, yes, my lord, I know the difference. Prose is where all the lines but the last go on to the margin—poetry is where some of them fall short of it.
“Being pretty much in the habit of sending out my thoughts upon their travels into the region of future contingencies, I foresee already an eventual need of assistance, in the shape of information, from Mr Allen,* whose acquaintance with the state of things in Spain and Pern can hardly have been so intimate and comprehensive as it appears to be, without embracing some particulars that it might concern me to be informed of relative to Mexico, and the means and mode of getting thither and living there. But everything of this kind is, as yet, but reckoning of chickens before they are hatched.
“Here, too, I feel myself not altogether clear of embarrassment, between the fear of not gaining his assistance and the fear of not hitting his taste: should it happen to me to meet with a good picture of the god Vitzlipultzli—I mean such a one, of which I could be perfectly assured of its being done from the life, and, at the same time, a faithful and striking likeness, I would send it with my compliments for him to Holland House at a venture. To a scrupulous mind, such a proof would be more satisfactory than any explanation of pair-royals, or any argument about sequences.
“If Señor Jovellanos has anything in him in common with other statesmen, or with other authors, he would not be displeased to possess a translation of his work, especially a translation made and published at so out-of-the-way a place as Petersburg. Having, as far as can be judged from its date, been out there two years, during the greater part of which time there has, I believe, been a Russian Minister at Madrid, it can hardly be regarded as in the ordinary course of things, that a copy of the translation should not, in some way or other, in all this time, have reached the author’s hands. Had the contrary seemed probable, much as I prize my copy, my brother having another, I should, without staying to ask the question, have taken some course for getting it transmitted to Spain, consigned to your lordship’s care. I had even projected a visit to Holland House, with the book in my pocket, when, lo! I was stopped by an article in the Times, 19th Oct., 1808, speaking of the noble master thereof, cum totâ sequela sua, as being already on the road to Falmouth. But, contrary to expectation, should it happen that the champion of the liberty of agriculture is possessor of no such copy as supposed, mine shall be transmitted to him by the first opportunity that is to be found, after my hearing to that effect: and this upon principles of the most heroic disinterestedness, and although the Minister should have presented to my petition that deaf ear which he cannot but find himself obliged to turn to so many others.
“Except as above, I do not very well understand how there should be a chance of my being able to render myself of use, in any shape, in Mexico or anywhere else, to Señor Jovellanos, or anybody else. But should it happen to him to think otherwise, any services in my power would, of course, be at his command.
“An incident that has presented itself to my view as possible, is a remark of Señor Jovellanos—‘A recommendation from your lordship does everything that it is in the power of a recommendation to do; but it is too much for me to sign any such paper, still more to apply for its being signed by others, on behalf of a gentleman not personally known to any of us. If it be worth his while to come thus far that we may see him, and ask him a question or two, then will be the time for ayesor anoto be returned.’ So far, Señor Jovellanos. Spain is not the country, of all others, for travelling in at any time: still less in winter, in time of war, and such a war! Neither is it the climate of which I am in search. Nevertheless, were this the condition sine quâ non, still, though there were but a hope of success at the bottom, it should not be shrunk from.
“If there is no access to any Mexican port but from Spain direct, the visit will, on that supposition too, be matter of physical necessity. This, however, I should not expect to find to be the case: under the notion that, in the present posture of affairs, it would neither be in the wish, nor in the power of Spain, to keep shut all Mexican ports against all English vessels. But to be let into a port is one thing—to be admitted to travel to the capital 190 miles up the country, is another: and, in a port situated under the torrid zone, I should have no expectation of remaining many days alive. Vera Cruz in particular, has the reputation of being one of the most letheferous.
“To equip me for the enterprize, there are certain favours, which, in my own view of the matter, present themselves as indispensable, others as desirable.
“1. From some competent authority in Spain, a letter to the Viceroy of Mexico, recommending me to his protection, with an allowance to exist in the capital or its neighbourhood, during good behaviour.
“2. From ditto, a letter to the Governor of La Vera Cruz, for the purpose of engaging him to let me pass on to the capital immediately, without being obliged to stay at Vera Cruz a night, or not at any rate more than one night.
“3. Exemption of search for baggage. I should carry with me a little library; and though perfectly determined not to utter a syllable, whereby the Catholic faith might be assailed, or the purity of it sullied, there are but too many of my books that would be more or less in danger of not being able to abide the severity of its scrutiny:—‘English Statutes at large’—‘Comyn’s Digest’—‘Bacon’s Abridgment’—and an ‘Encyclopedia,’ for example. Is there any one of these publications that would stand the search of a Catholic inquisitorial eye? Examination may be performed at Mexico: not at La Vera Cruz, where, if I am kept during the process, I should die under it.
“Information, for which I cast myself upon two of Mr Allen’s attributes—his urbanity, and his omniscience:—
“1. Packet-boats, or other regular conveyance to Vera Cruz from Spain? whether any, and from what ports, at what times?
“2. Casual conveyances from ditto to ditto?
“3. Index expurgatorius? whether there be any from which it might be seen what books could not be lawfully imported into Mexico? Wicked books, such as ‘Rousseau’—‘Helvetius’—‘Voltaire’—‘Hollis,’ &c.; all such delicta juventutis, if I had any, I should leave on this side of the Atlantic.
“4. Map of Mexico, if with the roads, so much the better.
“5. Book or books serving to show the expense of travelling and living there: for example, by means of indications given of the articles manufactured in, articles imported into, and exported from Mexico, with their respective prices: together with the prices of the other necessaries and conveniences of life—house-rent, servants’ wages, assessed taxes, if any, &c.—anything of this sort, would, I suppose, be hopeless, even were a man in Madrid: a place which, perhaps, your lordship may not now revisit. If, however, anything of that sort should be within reach, and if Mr Allen would have the kindness to transmit it to me, with an account of the cost, it should be faithfully and thankfully repaid, to Mr Buonaiutti or any other person he will be pleased to name. Mr Horner makes my mouth water, with general conceptions of statistic treasures accumulated by Mr Allen, including (as supposed) much relative to Mexico, but supposed not to be now accessible.
“But the humble request is, that the transmission of any information that may have been obtained concerning things indispensable as above, may not be delayed by waiting for ditto in relation to any of the other heads.
“To avoid aggravating, beyond necessity, the burthen thus attempted to be imposed, I have thus far borrowed a less illegible hand, reserving my own for authentication, and for the concurrence of the respectful atttachment with which I have the honour to be, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient servant.
“P.S.—Were I to go to Mexico, I should take with me Mr John Herbert Koe, of Lincoln’s Inn, (known to—, and to everybody else that knows me,) and, perhaps, if permitted, one or two servants. In the permission, if given, this might, perhaps, be necessary to be mentioned.”
From this project, Bentham was ultimately dissuaded by the difficulties of giving effect to it, and by the representations of his friends.
To a gloomy and complaining letter of his cousin Mulford, Bentham replies in this amusing strain:—
Bentham to J. Mulford.
“Q. S. P., 8th November, 1808.
“By way of compliment to me, I observe you make a point, in all your letters, to come out with a grunt or two: but people who are in the secret, and with whom you deal honestly, speak of you, as confessing that nothing is the matter with you, except that you are not quite so young as you were ninety years ago, or thereabouts. I say ninety, for this is the age, I hear from very good authority, that you have begun to talk about. I suppose it is by way of insult to poor old Portal, whom you were for burying, I remember, three or four years ago, at the time that you cheated my undertaker, whom I had been at the pains of engaging in your service. He slipped through your fingers at that time: (I mean Portal,) but, according to Mr Koe’s report, he looked then to be pretty much in the way in which you pretend to be. There is a report about town, though I have not yet seen it in the newspapers, of your being about to commit matrimony. If you do, you must not think of having my consent; for what if you should happen to tip the perch before all the children are grown up? For my part, I am too old to be capable of taking any tolerable care of them; and Sam, were he to have no more, has enough, of all conscience, of them already.
“The sight of your letter brought on the carpet again, a project he has often been harping upon, for getting you to accept a clerk’s place in his office.* This, however, I oppose: for though, to be sure, your hand is good enough for it, and, to do you justice, goes on improving—yet, as long as I have known you, which does not go beyond sixty years, you have had a turn for idleness and dissipation, which, I fear, would be a great obstacle to that punctuality of attendance which his Majesty’s service would require. Then we should have you picking up stones from the gravel walk, and pretending that they came from your own poor body, as Mary Tofts used to do with the rabbits.
“You talk to me about ‘black November and cold December,’ and so they really are to me. Yet I do make shift to weather them out; but perceptibly, for some years past, worse and worse every year. What would I not give you, if it were but possible for me to change eyes with you? Reading I have been forced to give up almost entirely. Writing, my grand occupation, I still perform tolerably well in summer time: that is, about four months in the year; but the other eight months’ fires, though they burn my eyes almost out of my head, yet are unable to prevent my suffering to such a degree from cold, that the cold takes off my thoughts from everything else.
“This is so true, that I am entertaining serious thoughts of trying the effects of some more favourable climate; and the Spanish Revolution presents itself as favourable to my wishes. The city of Mexico in Spanish America, all accounts, private, as well as public, concur in representing as being, in this respect, the sort of earthly paradise that I stand in need of. Thermometer never higher than 84°; and this last summer I bore 93° without any considerable inconvenience. Frost just perceptible, perhaps for a day or two, comes in three or four years: but, to avoid the cold altogether, you have but to go a few miles lower down in the country: for what makes it so cool, though, like the West Indies, situated between the Tropics, is—its being such high land—two or three miles perpendicular height above the sea; and this, in many places at that height, continued for many miles together, with only here and there the ground rising perceptibly into hills and mountains. Another consequence is, that the fruits and flowers of all climates may be seen together at one view, flourishing in the utmost perfection; and another, that human life is one-third as long again there, as with us.
“Though many persons speaking the English language, such as Irish (Catholics,) of whom there are many in the Spanish service, have either been established there, or traversed the country freely, no Englishman, it is believed, was ever yet admitted there. What favours my project, is, that a Frenchman or two, during the alliance of Spain with France, were admitted into the capital; and now already, since that Spain is in alliance with England, and stands so much in need of her assistance, English vessels have been admitted into Vera Cruz, the only sea-port in the Atlantic, through which there is any access to the capital, distant from it up the country about two hundred miles.
“As to my own particular grounds of expectation, my friend, Lord Holland, who lately passed near two years in Spain, is just gone back to that country,—viz. Corunna,—with his family: he is in habits of intimacy with a number of leading men there, and, in particular, with a Don Gaspar Jovellanos, who is an active member of the small body, the Supreme Junta, by whom, under the name of the prisoner-king, the country is governed at present with absolute command. One of my works has had a great run, and made a great impression among the higher, and thinking part of the people in Spain. Jovellanos, who had been a much-esteemed minister there, before the present revolution, not many years ago published a book which is very popular there. This book I have just been reading, through the medium of a French translation, which a member of the late administration in Russia, (Count Kotchubey, Minister of the Interior,) caused to be translated by authority, at the same time with my work on Legislation in General, which he caused to be translated into Russ, and which, though never published by me in English, had been translated and published in French, by my friend Dumont, and was the work that made so much impression in Spain, as above.
“Seeing the work of Jovellanos agreeing so well with my notions, and, in particular, with those developed in my Defence of Usury, (of which there are two different translations in French.) Admiral Mordvinoff, who a few years ago was at the head of the admiralty in Russia, and who, being an old acquaintance of my brother’s, is a disciple of mine, thought it would be a pleasure to me to see it, and sent me a copy of it by my brother at his late return from Petersburg. Having these and other reasons for expecting to find Jovellanos favourably disposed to me, I have written to Lord Holland to try, through the medium of Jovellanos, to obtain for me a permission to visit the interior of Mexico, together with a letter of recommendation to the viceroy, whose residence is at the capital, and the governor of the port of Vera Cruz. This latter will be no less necessary than the former; the object being to enable me to get out of his sight as instantly as possible; for as the high table-land of the country is one of the most healthy spots in the world, so Vera Cruz, and all along near the sea-coast, is one of the most deadly.
“[Since writing the above, I have learned, however, that it is only in summer, viz., from May to October inclusive, that it is so highly formidable.] In Peru, which contains likewise abundance of table-land, the climate is in a similar, though, accounts say, not a superior degree healthy. ‘In the small province of Caxamarca, containing hardly 70,000 inhabitants, there were eight persons alive in 1792, whose ages were,—114, 117, 121, 131, 132, 141, and 147; and in the same province, a Spaniard died, in 1765, aged 144 years, 7 months, and 5 days, leaving 800 persons lineally descended from him.’ This is taken from a sort of Magazine printed in the country itself, which a friend of mine got over for me. A gentleman born at Buenos Ayres, (the place that you have read so much about in the papers,) but who, in the year 1801, was, for about a month, at the capital of Mexico, dines with me to-day. His name is Don Castella. Four years ago, he was sent over by the principal people in his country to offer to put it under the protection of this country,—but nothing would satisfy the ruling powers here, short of plunder and unconditional submission; and we have all seen the consequence.
“If I cannot get leave to go to Mexico, I shall probably pay a visit to some of the little south-western islands,—Madeira or Teneriffe for example, where, owing to the same causes, there are spots nearly as delightful and salubrious; nor is English society altogether wanting; but, on account of its wealth, extent, and novelty, Mexico is more inviting. It is very uncertain whether the Mexicans will continue in subjection to Spain, even during the government of the patriots there: but to submit to be governed by them is one thing; to receive a man civilly, who comes with a letter of recommendation from them, is another.
“Eyes are precious,—more so to me than to most people,—I must try some course to save them. Under the plague of fires, notwithstanding everything that can be done by screens, they are growing worse and worse every day. I must make an attempt to save them. I shall not, however, leave this country without giving you full warning: you will the less court me since Sam is returned to take my place. If I go, we may both, perhaps, take a run down to you for a few hours, to talk over matters, if you do not forbid us. His whole family, mistress, children, and servants have, of late, been sadly afflicted with illness: Mrs B. bed-ridden, with a hæmorrhage, for several months; but now she is about again,—children all pretty well, and servants mending or recovered.
“Manuscript road maps and journals of travels, between Vera Cruz and the capital, that never have been published, lie before me.
“If I go to Mexico, and find the climate answers, I will send you a card of invitation: if you come there, the scurvy will be left behind; and as for stones, Portal says you have confessed they are no trouble to you.
“With the truest respect and affection, my dear Doctor, ever yours.”
“Thursday, Nov. 10.
“The law business being adjourned to this evening, so is Koe’s visit to Portal.”
Horner sent to Bentham the following information respecting Mexico:—
Francis Horner to Bentham.
“Lincoln’s Inn, 28th Dec. 1808.
“I do not know what degree of credit is due to M. Thierry, except upon the subject of his popaleries; for he seems to have been but slenderly provided with any other sort of curiosity, and does not always adhere to the same account of what he had actually seen. Thus, he first says, that the houses at Vera Cruz were mostly of wood, and takes occasion thereupon to be eloquent and sentimental about prejudices; and then, in another passage, he corrects the error of former travellers in making this assertion,—says he has seen to the contrary with his own eyes; and that, in fact, there is not a single house built of wood in the whole city. The difference between his geography and that of Arrowsmith’s last map has perplexed me very much; for while he speaks, all his journey through, of travelling in a south-easterly direction, the positions of the places that he mentions in that map trace a route to the north-west for the half of it. However, I have gleaned several facts from the book, which are valuable; and I mean to run through it once more to pick up a few more, if I have left any.
“I was surprised to meet with so much curious information about Mexico in the third volume of Pinkerton’s Geography. It is all taken from a work which I have seen upon the shelves at Holland House.
“Pinkerton has also made a judicious use of Thierry’s book: he has corrected the population which that author assigns to the city of Guaxaca, viz. of 6000 souls,—by supposing him to have been ignorant that the Spanish mode of computing is by families, which is rendered very probable, because 6000 families are assigned as the population of the same city in Alcedos’ Dictionary, which Mr P. refers to. It is surprising that he has not applied the same solution to another passage of M. Thierry’s book, which he rejects as incredible; that in which, upon the authority of Mons. de Fersen, vol. i. p. 194, he states the whole population of the Spanish possessions in North America as so low as one million of souls; if M. de Fersen reckoned by families, this computation would not carry us far from three and half millions, the number which appears to be supported by the best authorities. By Mr Koe’s desire, I have made some inquiries about the attempts of the East India Company to introduce the Cochineal into their settlements. What I have learnt respects Madras only, where a Dr Anderson projected this new article of culture. Insects were procured from America,—I do not know by what expedients,—however, they proved to be of a spurious breed; yet the produce of these was sold in England at a good price. There is a reward still held out to any one who will carry out the true insect to India; and I understand they are not quite confident of possessing the proper opuntia, though every known species was procured. Thierry’s book was known at Madras to those who were interested about this subject, and was considered as very valuable.
“Believe me, my dear Sir, most sincerely yours,
In answer to Bentham’s application for liberty to visit Mexico, Lord Holland wrote from Seville, February 18, 1809:—
Lord Holland to Bentham.
I am much afraid you must have thought me both negligent and rude, in neither promoting the object of your letter, nor answering it for so long a space of time; but the fact is, I have had no intercourse with the persons in government here till I arrived at Seville; and one of my first objects was, to place your petition in the hands of Dn. Gr. M. de Jovellanos, than whom it is impossible to find a man more friendly or liberal, or whose protection and friendship can be more creditable. He espoused your cause most eagerly, as he is not unacquainted with your character, acquirements, and merits. Though he is the leading man of the Junta, there is, unfortunately, so little of a lead in the Government here, that he was unable to give an explicit answer, or to undertake to secure your permission to go to Mexico without any difficulty and hinderance. Indeed, I have taken his advice in the business, and presented a petition in your name to the Government, which Jovellanos was good enough to draw up himself; and if the answer should, unluckily, be delayed till I have left Seville, he will take the trouble of forwarding it to you.
“He conceived that the character of Jurisconsultus, and writer on criminal law, might possibly be considered as a bad recommendation; and has, therefore, mentioned those circumstances as accidental, and ventured to ground your petition on your love of botany, and of antiquities, and on the precarious state of your health. I hope you will excuse me for dwelling so much on those trifles in the petition.—In representing your knowledge on any subject, one is very safe of finding sufficient to justify one’s representations; but I hope that I have no ground for dwelling on your infirmities, but the goodness of the argument which it affords.
Lady Holland and Mr Allen are much flattered by your kind recollection,—and I hope, my dear Sir, you are convinced that it will be a source of lasting gratification to me, if I can contribute on this, or any other occasion, to promote your wishes, and to render the life of a man so useful to the world as yours, either longer or more comfortable than it would otherwise be.—I am, ever sincerely yours.”
On the 27th June, Jovellanos wrote to Bentham as follows:—
Don Gaspar M. de Jovellanos to Bentham.
“The honourable mention you have been good enough to make of me to my distinguished patron and friend, Lord Holland, and the high opinion he has given me of your application, talents, and ardent zeal for the good of humanity, could not fail to inspire me with sincere gratitude and the highest esteem for your person and character, and the most earnest desire to serve you in all things at my disposal. Your design of passing directly from your island to our America may present difficulties: not so, if you were to address your representation from Cadiz, and present, as the object of your journey, something connected with researches or studies in natural history, or the physical sciences. Your detention in Vera Cruz the necessary time for fulfilling the exigencies of our police, is absolutely necessary, though you may reckon on all the recommendations for making it as short as possible. Other formalities will be necessary for the liberty you desire of establishing yourself and living tranquilly in the interior of Mexico; for though the rules established in the New World on this and other matters will occupy the attention of the government here, they cannot at this moment be changed. In conclusion, Sir, without desiring to induce you to change your purpose, I cannot avoid saying, that time and circumstances do not appear to me to promise you that tranquil security you seek. But be your resolution what it may, I hope and pray you to be assured, that I shall do all in my power to further your wishes,” &c. &c.
Jovellanos’ letter was sent by Lord Holland, accompanied by the following:—
Lord Holland to Bentham.
“Holland House, 6th Sept., 1809.
“Don Gaspar M. Jovellanos was so delighted with your letter, and so anxious to give you every assistance and advice, that, though worn out with business, he preferred dictating a letter to you (which I enclose, and which will be a good Spanish lesson to you) to intrusting any verbal message to me—his signature, he said, would sufficiently account for his employing an amanuensis, as he was provided with that assistance, and it was not equally certain that you had a decipherer.
“You might visit Seville, any time after this month, with perfect security from agues; but whether that circumstance does not render a visit from the French more probable also, you will be able to determine for yourself better than I can advise you. You would, if at Seville, find them, I hope, in the midst of the work of legislation and reform, to the object of establishing, or restoring a free constitution, to which your correspondent, Jovellanos, dedicates all his time, and directs all his zeal and eloquence.
“P.S. Did you get my letter from Seville?”
Bentham made to Cobbett (April 8, 1809) the following anonymous communication, to which I do not find any written reply in his papers:—
“A writer, who is preparing for the press, to be published with his name, a work on the subject of Libel Law, in which great use will be made of the cases of the King against Cobbett, and Do. against Johnston,* finds himself in great need of the information which the attorney’s bill in the former case would afford, and this partly in respect of the sum total of the pecuniary burthen—partly in respect of the items of which it was composed. The mode of communication by which the purpose would, beyond comparison, be best answered, is, the printing an exact copy in Mr Cobbett’s Register; because, by this means, the text being in everybody’s hands, the comments that would be made upon it would find, readily laid down for them, an authenticated basis, universally intelligible. But lest the publication of a document of this nature should not be found suitable to the plan of the Register, the writer finds it necessary to indicate a private mode of correspondence for this purpose.
“A Mr Davies, as it may happen to Mr Cobbett to know, has, during Mr Cochrane Johnson’s absence on his expedition to Seville and Mexico for dollars, the direction of the repairs and alterations that are going forward at the house he has lately taken in Queen Square Place, Westminster. To him Mr Cobbett is desired to have the goodness to direct any private communication which, on this occasion, he may be disposed to make. The writer is not personally known to Mr Cobbett; and as Mr Cobbett will understand in the sequel, it may be material to a purpose which Mr Cobbett cannot but approve, that he may have to say, and that with truth, that there has not been any personal intercourse, nor exists any connexion between them. But for a token that the degree of confidence necessary to the purpose in question is not likely to be abused, nor the trouble, that on Mr Cobbett’s part may be necessary, altogether thrown away, he thinks it may be of use to mention that not long ago he partook of a brace of partridges at No. 13, Alsop’s Buildings.
“Other articles of information wanted, are—
“1st. Defendant’s sentence in King v. Cobbett.—Imprisonment, if any.—If fine, amount of the fine.
“2d. Bill of costs in King v. Johnson; but as to this, there does not seem any probability of its lying within Mr Cobbett’s reach.
“The writer wishes, if possible, to get out his work before any of the twenty-six prosecutions on the ground of Major Hogan’s pamphlet* come on for trial; or will before Lord Ellenborough’s death, which, he understands from good authority, is expected to be not far distant. Should the information in question, viz. the bill of costs, be destined for a place in the Register, the earlier the better,—in the next number if possible; meantime, should my notice of this be destined for a place in the Register, the writer may be designated by the letters A Z.”
In sending to Bentham the Annual Review, Dumont writes:—
“This is excellent—I like the man. He speaks boldly, loudly, intelligibly. He is not like some of the lukewarm whom I know—shamefaced admirers—who will say twenty pretty things in a chamber, but not one—no, not one in writing.”
Bentham writes to Mr Mulford:—
“I am hard at work, trying whether I cannot get the public, or some part of it, to turn its attention to the corruptions in the law department; in comparison of which, the commander-in-chief’s office, make the worst of it, was purity itself. It is perfectly astonishing to see how, by comparatively trifling instances of misgovernment, the current of public opinion has been turned against the Ministry, or rather against all Ministries, and in favour of Parliamentary Reform as the only remedy.”
At this period of Bentham’s life, his intimacy with James Mill was great; and intercourse, both epistolary and personal, was constant. Next to Dumont, he must be considered as the most influential of Bentham’s followers and admirers. He brought a vigorous intellect to grasp and to develop the doctrines of his master. To a great extent he popularized them. He has been reproached with having habitually neglected to acknowledge the source from whence he derived his inspirations, and to have given to the world as his own, the valuable matter which he drew from his great instructor. But the accusation has been exaggerated—for, though the “Utilitarian Philosophy” is the ground-work of all the writings of Mill—these writings are full of original views, and occupy many portions of the field of thought which had not so specially engaged the attention of Bentham.
Of Mill, Bentham used to say:—
“Mill will be the living executive—I shall be the dead legislative of British India. Twenty years after I am dead, I shall be a despot, sitting in my chair with Dapple in my hand, and wearing one of the coats I wear now. It was Mill who induced Ricardo to get into Parliament, and I took some trouble to get him a seat.”
Mill, however, had his heresies—among others—what Bentham called “an abominable opinion” with respect to the inaptitude of women, and one “scarcely less abominable,” that men should not hold office till they are forty years of age.
Though an exceedingly able, Mill was by no means an amiable man. Bentham said of him that his willingness to do good to others depended too much on his power of making the good done to them subservient to good done to himself. “His creed of politics results less from love for the many, than from hatred of the few. It is too much under the influence of selfish and dissocial affection.
“He will never willingly enter into discourse with me. When he differs, he is silent. He is a character. He expects to subdue everybody by his domineering tone—to convince everybody by his positiveness. His manner of speaking is oppressive and overbearing. He comes to me as if he wore a mask upon his face. His interests he deems to be closely connected with mine, as he has a prospect of introducing a better system of judicial procedure in British India. His book on British India abounds with bad English, which made it to me a disagreeable book. His account of the superstitions of the Hindoos made me melancholy.”
Mill writes (Sept. 27, 1809):—
James Mill to Bentham.
“I offer up my devotions to heaven every morning for the prosperity of Libel Law. After the feeble and timid talk on the subject of the freedom of the press in the House of Commons on Monday night, I am more impatient than ever. Pure fear of the lawyers seemed to tie up the tongues even of Sir F. Burdett and of Whitbread, who otherwise appeared willing to speak. They were afraid they should commit some blunder in regard to the requisite provisions of law, and, therefore, eat in their words. Oh! if they but knew what law is, and ought to be, as well as you can tell them, on this most interesting of all points, we should find the boldness, I trust, on the other side, equal to that of the lawyers.”
When the “Elements of Packing” were passing through the press, the bookseller halted in alarm, and refused to proceed. The horrors of the Libel Law were upon him,—and he was afraid of being the victim of the very system which the book denounced. He had suggested a title, something less offensive, for the book,—viz., “Perils of the Press.” The opinion of Romilly was afterwards taken, and he gives that opinion in these words:—
Sir Samuel Romilly to Bentham.
“January 31, 1810.
“I have read a good deal of ‘Elements of Packing,’ and I do most sincerely and anxiously entreat you not to publish it,—I have not the least doubt that Gibbs would prosecute both the author and the printer. An attorney-general, the most friendly to you, would probably find himself under a necessity of prosecuting, from the representations which would be made to him by the Judges,—but Gibbs would want no such representations, and would say, that not to prosecute such an attack upon the whole administration of justice, would be a dereliction of his duty.
“Recollect what you say yourself,—that it is much easier to attack King George, than King Ellenboro’ &c.; and, with all the heroism and disregard of changing your own comfortable climate for that of Gloucester or Dorchester, which, whatever you may feel, you will hardly, I think, reconcile to yourself the involving your printer in the same calamity.”
But the printing was proceeded with, and though the book was not openly sold for many years afterwards, copies were circulated by Bentham among his friends. The only persons who secured them in the first instance, were,—Mill, Colonel Burr, Brougham, Whishaw, Miss F—, Dumont, Horner, and Burdett. Mill had, however, been anxious for its appearance: he says:—
James Mill to Bentham.
“12, Rodney Street,Pentonville,
“As to ‘Elements,’ for the outcoming of which I appear to be far more impatient than you, I have been to give the man a lesson in reading Benthamic copy, and he is far less frightened than he formerly was, or pretended to be;—and I expect that his experience will soon prepare some other bold-hearted man to take your stuff in hand. I have told Baldwin, that it must be, through thick or through thin, published in six weeks. My motive for naming this time, was, that then it will be ready, time enough for the Edinburgh Review, No. after the next,—and I do not want it out much sooner, that no law boa may lick it over, and cover it with his slime, that it may glide the easier into his serpent’s maw, and afterwards offer the excrement to Jeffrey, to the frustration and exclusion of an offering of my own.
“What is to be, will be; what is not to be, will not be:—I hope I have here provided myself ground enough to stand upon. You see I have not turned my eye to the pastoral office so long for nothing: had it been ever turned, like your own, to the equally reverend and pious office, the dispensation of law, the field of generalities would hardly have been more familiar to it.”
Of the difficulties Dumont had in his translations, he thus speaks:—
Dumont to Bentham.
“31st July, 1809.
“Think of the torments of a translator, to whom the most essential words are wanting, in a language the most beggarly in philosophical elements. I have hazarded some without scruple where I could find analogy, as infirmatif, inculpatif, exculpatif, initiatif, confessorial, jactantieùx; but what am I to do with self-inculpative, deportment, disprove, trustworthiness, concealment, misrepresentation, inference, latentcy, latitancy, avoidance of justiciability, conclusiveness, veracious, mendacity, extraneous evidence, authorship, to purport, responsion, forthcoming, incompleteness, and multitudes besides? I have hazarded inference, (in the meanwhile,) for it seemed to me that consequence did not represent the English idea; but I have not yet fixed the terminology. In language, unexpected discoveries are sometimes made.
“I am not bold enough to judge le fonds. I am a disciple—I learn. I must look at the whole; but the manner in which you oppose informative to inculpative facts, appears to me wonderfully simple and luminous.
“With respect to form, I have found some obscurity from too much precision. But looking at the immensity of the work, I can see you could never have got through it had you delivered yourself up to developments. There are chapters which, emanating from an ordinary mind, would have been volumes. Here is the mine. Labour in it who will, not a hundred years will suffice for exploring and circulating its riches.”
Colonel Burr to Bentham.
“Gottenburg, 13th Sept., 1809.
“To-morrow I go to Copenhagen, where I shall see the father of the Comités Conciliateurs,* —the communication is quite open,—pray afford me a few lines; but do not scold too much,—I could not bear it just now.—Tell me of your health, and what you are about.—Have you finished the ‘Essay on Libels, and Liberty of the Press?’—It is wanted here,—for they are willing to do, on this head, what is right, but are quite in a quandary as to the ‘how.’ It is wanted in the U. S.—It is wanted everywhere, except in England, where no improvement will be tolerated.—Innovation! But I see that one of your great friends is likely to come into the ministry: I am glad, for your sake,—not that he can do you any good,—but that it will gratify you.
“My new sovereign treats me with civility; that is, he lets me alone.—One of his ministers, however, D’Engerström, has been constant and assiduous in active civilities towards me.”
James Mill to Bentham.
“31st October, 1809.
“The thick mist of this morning,—which some treacherous appearances of last night led me not to expect, and drew me on to continue in my design of being with you this evening,—sets before my eyes, in such horrible array, the terrors of my walk, of the other evening, from Hampstead,—a walk of Stygian darkness, ‘with perils and with tremblings vironed round,’—(a night in a watchman’s box by the side of the road being the least of the evils with which it threatened,) that my ‘stomach stout,’ however, I smite upon it like Hudibras and Ulysses, and however I cry with the latter, τιτλαθι δη χςαδη χ. τ. λ. gives way, and bids me, with imperious voice, wait for clearer weather. Then comes your spirit, and cries, a bed,—a bed.—Hall,—oak,—there is such a kind of a place, in which there is such a kind of a thing as a bed.—But then, again, there comes the spirit of a doctor,—who was it? Boerhaave,—was it not? and it cries, ‘Vita brevis, ars longa.’—And then there is an internal spirit that whispers to self, ‘What a devilish deal, master of mine, you have yet to do before you are good for much,’—and all this raises such a tumult, that I am puzzled what to do. Virtue, however, asserts, that she cannot sanction the bed,—because that interferes with, not one day, but two,—and that so many are the little teazing interruptions I meet with, while in this London, that I do not get on as I ought to do.
“The Edinburgh Review was sent me yesterday morning,—Bexon* sadly mangled.—The mention of you struck out, in all but one place,—and there, my words, every one of them, removed, and those of Mr Jeffrey put in their place: the passage is still complimentary, but with a qualifying clause. What is to be done with this concern?—I am, indeed, seriously at a loss.”
Bentham to James Mill.
“Hampstead, 5th December, 1809.
“From the enclosed letter of Mr Dumont, you will see the sensation made by the Bexon while at Holland House.
“To preserve the person most immediately injured, it seemed to me that nothing better could be done than to send to Mr Dumont a copy of so much of your letter of the 27th November as related to that subject. Under so serious a charge as that of a ‘most impudent plagiarism,’ it was no small satisfaction for me to have in my possession an anticipated exculpation, and that so complete a one for your defence; and it was an additionally fortunate circumstance that I was enabled to add the existence of at least one witness, (meaning, though not mentioning,) Mr K. [Koe,] by whom the groundlessness of the charge, in so far as you were concerned, could be attested. For my own part, not a single syllable of the attack having either been seen or heard, read or reported to me, it seemed to me that I could do no less than say as much: viz. in answer to which it said of the personnes qui pretendent savoir, ou du moins qui soup-çonnent très fortement, que cet article a eté fait sous votre direction; with the observation—‘si celà est, il faut qu’il y ait en celà quelque vice très profond qui m’echappa.’
“On account of what is said about Panopticon, as soon as you have given Mr Dumont’s letter a sufficient perusal, I will beg the favour of the return of it by post.”
James Mill to Bentham.
“December 6, 1809.
“Your communication to me of Mr Dumont’s letter, though the intelligence imparted by it was not of the most agreeable sort, found it difficult to add to my anger, which was near its maximum before. Under this oddly generated surmise, I feel gratitude to Mr Koe for his very lucky expression of his desire to read the article in MS. before it was sent off, and the very moment before it was sent off; for it came out of his hands, and was sealed up that very instant under his eye. The contradiction of this—not very measured accusation—would otherwise have rested on my self-serving testimony; for it was not my intention to have troubled Mr K. with the reading of it, as I thought he would so much more easily satisfy himself with it when he could see it in print.
“It is no less satisfactory to me in respect to another of the said wisely conceived surmises, viz. that of the article’s being drawn up under your direction, &c., that you neither saw it, nor heard it,—a circumstance owing entirely to the same cause, viz. a reluctance to encroach with it upon your time, and the reflection that all you might desire to know about it, you would know, with most pleasure, when it should come to be read to you in print.
“Notwithstanding, however, the passage in which I endeavoured, not only to do justice to your merits, but to point you out, in as distinct a manner as I could, to the public, as the only man from whom light was to be got on legislative matters, I own that I, after knowing the dislike which Mr Jeffrey had to praise, studiously made use of your doctrines, at the same time sinking your name; and in more places than one, as I dare say Mr Koe remembers, I had originally named you as the author of what I was saying, and afterwards struck it out. This was done upon the exhortation of Mr Lowe, who said, that from what he knew of Jeffrey,—from what Mr Jeffrey had said to him about what he called my propensity to admire, and in particular to admire you, as also what he said about his own (Jeffrey’s) propensity not to admire, that he would not admit the mention of you in such terms to stand in so many places, and that it would be best to retain it in two or three of the places where I thought it of most importance, and strike it out in the rest, when the probability was, he would not meddle with it. As there appeared to be reason in this, I allowed myself to be governed by it,—and after all this caution, we still see what has come of it.
“To come, however, to a more agreeable subject,—after thanking you, as I most heartily do, for your zeal to exculpate me,—I have this day got to the end of Exclusion.*Impossibility then is all that remains; and I am at the end of the principal stage of my labours, viz. my operations upon your text,—i. e. among your various lections, the making choice of one—the completing of an expression, when, in the hurry of penmanship, it had been left incomplete, &c. Editorial notes, of which we have so often talked, are only thus far advanced, that a variety of rudiments are set down, with references to the places of the work where they should be introduced. But it has often happened to me to find, what I had thought might be added as a note in one place, was given admirably by yourself in another place, and a better place. And in truth, having surveyed the whole, the ground appears to me so completely trod, that I can hardly conceive anything wanting. It is not easy, coming after you, to find anything to pick up behind you. My memory, too, is so overmatched by the vast multiplicity of objects which the work involves, that I am afraid to trust myself in any kind of notes, save suggestions of cases, illustration by instances,—lest what I say should be an idea brought forward in some other part of the work. All this, however, is not intended to operate as an apology or pretext for indolence. Notes there shall be written, and very full ones,—whether these notes shall be printed, is another question. My feet are still lumber—still of no use. They seem slowly bringing themselves back to that state in which use may again be made of them. When they will accomplish that desirable object, it is not yet for me to say.”
On the subject of the article on Bexon, Brougham writes to Mill:—
“Temple, Sunday, 10th Dec., 1909.
. . . “My observations on Bexon can easily keep till we meet. The principal objection is to the pains you have bestowed, or, I think I may say, thrown away, on the exposition of a man’s blunders, who is obscure, and, apparently, only magnified into consideration for the sake of his mistakes. I also object to some attacks on Ellenborough, of which, perhaps, you are not aware. There are certain inverted commas which, in fact, mask quotations from his own words. The praise of Bentham seems to me excessive, and not very consistent with the tone of the former article, though perhaps less extravagant than a passage in your first South American article. The adoption of his neology, I must enter my decided protest against. It is possible you might not be aware that forthcomingness and non-forthcomingness are unknown in all writings on law, except his own; but such words as semi-public you must be convinced are of his mint.
“How a non-feasance can be the object of punishment I do not perceive; unless, perhaps, in the instance of misprison—when, however, the refraining from an act is clearly an act of assistance, and part of the criminal deed being the contribution of a conspirator.”
Mill, on sending some strictures on Bentham, written by a common friend, in a tone of bitterness so severe and unexpected, that he doubted whether he could, with propriety, communicate them, justifies himself by the conviction that their communication would do little harm to the parties, and much good to the public, and to the world—and concludes his letter:—
James Mill to Bentham.
“Forcibly did the reading of that last letter strike me with the truth of an observation, which you yourself have somewhere made,—that the man who has anything of great importance for the good of mankind to propose, must be dead before his beneficent proposals have any tolerable chance for a favourable reception, or so much as a fair consideration. The man who gets the start too much of his contemporaries, I see must be an object of jealousy; and while he lives, must have eyes and ears purposely shut against him. I own, in the present quarter, I am disappointed and grieved. One of the most liberal-minded, and enlightened, and one of the most amiable men I know,—and yet, such is the letter he writes to me! Let us not, however, be discouraged—let us go on cheering one another; and as I shall find nobody when you are gone: why you must, just for that reason, live for ever.
“When you have sufficiently perused the said notes, have the goodness to let me have them again.
“I have made a sort of discovery. In a piece of Voltaire’s, the title of which caught my eye the other day, ‘Essai sur les probabilités en fait de justice,’ he makes use of figures (numerals) for expressing the different degrees of probative force in different articles of evidence. He applies it merely as an instrument for a particular purpose, and in a particular case; and seems to have had no idea of a scale for general use. But it may be useful for you to see it, and to say when and how you have seen it; as the fashion seems to be to impute plagiarisms where the imputation is not shut out by bolts and bars, and a guard of soldiers. The vol. is the 30th in my edition, and it is the second of those entitled Politique et Legislation. If you have it not, I will send it you per first conveyance.”
Bentham to J. Mulford.
“24th April, 1810.
“As to Lord Holland, saving your presence, Doctor, you misconceived me—Oh, no! that is not polite. I am glad I did not say so—I mean—I must have misexpressed myself. Lord Holland never has been in Mexico; in Spain, indeed, he was till lately, and from thence sent me those letters which you saw. The man who has been in Mexico, is not a lord, only an honourable; Cochrane Johnson, my next door neighbour and tenant; one of the uncles of the Lord Cochrane, Member for Westminster, whom, if you ever read papers, you are so continually reading of in the papers. Twitting me with what you acknowledge to be but a half promise, you call upon me for stories;—after Lord H., I should not be afraid of telling stories; but after my tenant, I am, a little. What say you to a shrub or tree, about the stature of a lilac, covered from top to toe with flowers, in form like a Canterbury bell, in size as big as a quart bottle, (he would not bate a hair’s breadth,) in odour strong and delicious, in colour of the purest white, giving to the whole tree, when in blossom, the appearance (to an eye at a certain distance) of a mount of snow? This (he says) is among the weeds that grow there, and floripundia is its name. If circumstances would not admit of bringing growing plants or cuttings, why not bring seeds at least? whys, more might be put in plenty. Plants or cuttings, he indeed professes to expect—but with other expected things in abundance, what those who know him, fear much will never come. A plant, with flowers about the size of those of a honeysuckle, and growing in a manner not unlike to one, but in each stalk, exactly in number and shape, like a thumb and four fingers. This I myself saw, he having imported a specimen, preserved in a bottle with spirits. Also, besides snakes, lizards, and other such vermin, specimens of the stones, and the woods of the country, cut in squares. Item, a sort of painting in oil, say, about fifteen inches by ten, and not ill executed, exhibiting the inhabitants, as they exhibit themselves, in all the varieties that result from the intercopulation of European Spaniards, American Indians, and African negroes. Moreover, a most magnificent, recently published, map of Mexico the capital—number of inhabitants about 200,000—the first that ever came to Britain; another copy I have a promise of, but I will sell it you at a cheap rate.
“But alas! the paper will hold no more.”
Dumont to Bentham.
“3d September, 1810.
“I do not know of your having been informed that I have been carried away, (enlevé,) suddenly carried away—that I had been conveyed, half in the air, in a certain machine—that I had seen a multitude of lakes and a multitude of mountains—that one day I found myself in the capital of metaphysics—that I dined there with the literary people of the country—that I colloquized in all good humour with our enemies—that afterwards I went from castle to castle—that I have now a firm faith in enchanters, and still more in enchantresses. Alas, that in the midst of that world, and of its attractions and its illusions, I should have abandoned my faith and denied my master! But my good genius—my good genius has saved me—and—I will dine with you to-morrow. Your silence says Yes!
[* ] Basil Montagu had been engaged in translating back into English, Dumont’s translations of Bentham.
[† ] The letter is dated—Bombay, 9th Dec. 1806,—and is as follows:—
“If Dr Parr prevails, I will never return to Great Britain. I have too much respect for myself, and too much love and reverence for my country, ever to endure life in England on sufferance, or as the subject of suspicion to those who ought to esteem me. I cannot indeed remain in this odious place; but the asylum of America will continue open, and perhaps the Emperor of Russia might be led, from our former intercourse, (if I may so call it,) to place me in a situation where I might be of some use, which I have been constantly, but in vain, trying to be here.
“Farewell, my dear Sharp,—Whether I die on the banks of the Volga or the Mississippi, my gloomy moments will be cheered with the recollection that I have been honoured with so much kindness from one of the purest, as well as [most] reasonable and elegant of human minds. I should not venture upon such language if it were not obvious that I am in no mood for compliments.”
[* ] See above, p. 62.
[* ] Vide Works, vol. v. p. 55.
[* ] The state of matters here described, has been considerably amended by the Act 3 & 4 William IV. c. 41, which appointed certain members of the council, holding, or who have held judicial offices, to form a court, called the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
[* ] See above, p. 212.
[* ] Thomas Bentham, of Magdalene College, Oxford, Bishop of Litchfield from 1559 to 1578.
[* ] Bonpland might have been properly quoted as a Frenchman, but not Humboldt.
[* ] Author of the “Inquiry into the Rise and Growth of the Royal Prerogative in England,” &c.
[* ] Sir S. Bentham was employed to conduct several operations in the Portsmouth Dock-yards.
[* ] In the art of Packing Special Juries, (Works, vol. v.,) these cases are frequently alluded to. In that work (p. 65) the author mentions his having projected a work on the special subject of Libel Law; but he does not appear to have followed up the design.
[* ] On the State of the Army, under the Duke of York.
[* ] The founder of the Reconciliation Courts in Denmark.
[* ] “Application de la Theorie de la Legislation, Penale, ou Code de la sureté Publique et Particulière,” &c. Par S. Scipion Bexon, &c.—Reviewed in Ed. Rev. XV., 88.
[* ] In allusion to the Works on Evidence.