Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIX.: 1817—1819. Æt. 69—71. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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CHAPTER XIX.: 1817—1819. Æt. 69—71. - 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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1817—1819. Æt. 69—71.
Reform Catechism.—Dumont and Law Reform in Geneva.—Burdett, and Parliamentary Reform.—The Ballot.—Bickersteth.—Anarchical Fallacies.—Ricardo.—T. W. Gilmer and Codification for the United States.—Vote of Thanks from the Householders of Westminster.—Say on French Politics.—Cambronero.—Improvement of Irish Labourers in New York.—Death of Romilly.—Major Cartwright.—Extracts from Note Book.
An application to Bentham to be allowed to publish an analysis of the Reform Catechism, and his answer thereto, follow:—
“London,August 12, 1817.
The object of this letter is to beg your consent to my making a concise analysis of your invaluable work on Reform, which I do not feel quite authorized in doing without the author’s concurrence. That work particularly, I regard as a revelation; and till it appeared, I always mistook the effect for the cause; and, till corrupted by it, was one of those useless beings generally denominated a moderate Whig,—ignorant of the necessity or principles of reform, and advocating trienniality.
“My whole publication will be an octavo, principally on the finance and paper system,—a system which, if many years longer persevered in, will, I am quite confident, produce an explosion, the fatal consequences of which few have the most distant conception of, because few have ever reflected on them. I believe it is near at hand, and am also convinced the corruption of the House of Commons is the cause; and the only remedy, or means of averting the impending danger, annual election of representatives of a most extended suffrage—in short, the ascendancy of the people.
“The analysis would, I think, occupy thirty printed pages, and I should shortly notice it in the title-page. In the course of two months, I hope to send you a copy of the whole. Should you, however, be desirous of seeing the plagiarisms from your own work, previous to the publication, it shall of course be sent to you in loose sheets.
“A common cause, and the emancipating an enslaved and immoralized country, will, I hope, be a sufficient apology for the great liberty I have taken in making this request. As I have written more strongly and treasonably than even yourself, I am desirous of withholding my name, unless you should desire to know to whom you have allowed such a liberty, when it will be most certainly communicated.—With the highest respect, I remain, Sir, (intending to be commonly called or known by the name of)
“Stet nomen in umbrâ.
“Ford Abbey, 19th August, 1817.
I am much flattered by the effect declared to have been produced by my work, on the mind of an author, whose letter affords so strong a prepossession in favour of his intended publication. As to the proposed analysis, I know not of any right I should have to prevent it; and I am sure, I have no such desire. As to the plagiarisms you speak of, they may be as numerous and extensive as you please. I have therefore no need of troubling you to send any of them to me beforehand. Desirous as you declare yourself to be of withholding your name, and for the important reasons which you mention, I will not willingly, without special reason, expose myself to the eventual suspicion of having, through design or neglect, given you cause to repent the confidence you do me the honour to offer to repose in me.
“For a work ‘stronger and more treasonable’ than mine, have you secured a publisher? If yes, I should be obliged to you for the information. Although some weeks ago, Hunter had sold all but about 100 of an edition of 750, above a fortnight ago he declined either publishing a second edition, or so much as putting in any more advertisements of the first; and this declaredly through fear of prosecution, though for almost these nine months it has been circulating unprosecuted.
“P.S.—Though for some time my residence will be as above, the most commodious direction will always be to my town house, in Queen’s Square Place.”
The consent thus obtained seems not to have been acted on by the party who requested it; but the ensuing year, Mr Wooler, the editor of the Black Dwarf, to whom the project was probably suggested by an acquaintance with the substance of this correspondence, requested permission to publish the work in a cheap form, in numbers, “making such alterations on the style as might render it more easy of comprehension to the general reader.” This application was also acceded to, and the work was published in 1818.
A long letter from Dumont, of February, 1818, gives an interesting account of his struggles for Law Reform at Geneva, and of the resistance of the men of routine. For example:—
“I have been standing out for brevity and simplicity. I wanted this phrase to be adopted. ‘Punishment—1st, Imprisonment; 2d, Fine.’ They would have the old phraseology. ‘He who shall be guilty of such and such crime, shall be punished by,’ &c. I show the advantage of compression—the prominency given to the punishment—that its effect is drowned, in long phrases. They repeat—they reply—eleven persons are heard. I am beaten. The phrase gains the suit against the word. Again: They want, in the chapters of offences, to begin by the greatest (murder,) and descend to the least. I want to take the lower offences, because they are most common, because they concern everybody—and proceed, step by step, towards aggravations as connected with all offences. I wish to make punishment for some offences peremptory and certain,—they won’t hear of this. I have said that the criminal must be taught that a given penalty is inevitable for a given offence, that the Judges ought to be armed against their own weaknesses, and their severity be justified in the eyes of the world: but reasoning fails—the innate love of something arbitrary triumphs.
“For political news, I shall only tell you, that I am in disgrace with my sovereign—not that I am banished to my lands, or exiled from his royal presence. The truth is, that I have, but I know not how, horridly wounded one aristocratic party, in a discourse I uttered, (being a little heated by my abode in Paris,) on the subject of a riot for pretended regrating of potatoes. This brought us a letter from Berne, the directing canton, which promised prompt help to the Government against the malcontents; and recommended that no change should be made in the constitution, unless to strengthen the executive; that a turbulent minority ought not to be listened to; and that no views of improvement could come from below (d’en bas.) I had been advised to say nothing about this delicate point; but in speaking of the riot, I said it was the fruit of a popular error on the subject of regrating—an error which the Government itself had sanctioned, by stating, in a proclamation, that ‘it watched the regraters,’—and I added, that if the riot had among its causes some disaffection to the Government, it was not by foreign intervention that this disaffection was to be subdued. * * * They are coming round after their ill-humour: but I am getting ill-humoured in my turn; and, were it not for the interests of the Penal Code, I should have sent in my resignation, and renounced this oppressing (hargueuse) aristocracy. I have ceased to interest myself in political struggles. I must have repose, and kindness. I shall find them in England—and the prospect of my journey thither is the balm I apply to all my wounds.”
In 1818, Burdett applied to Bentham, with a very urgent request that he would draw up a bill for Parliamentary Reform. To that request Bentham wrote this answer:—
Bentham to Sir Francis Burdett.
“Queen’s Square Place,Westminster,
Just opened your packet; and dismissed your messenger. He called for an answer. I begged a little breathing time. Yes. I am quite terrified at the thoughts of the task your partiality is seeking to impose upon me; nor less astounded by that tone of self-abasement and flattery, for which, were it not for the so explicitly declared object, and eventual engagement, I should be unable to find any other account to place it to, than that of pleasantry. Patience, dear Sir! patience! The zeal of friends on both sides has given rather too great quickness to their pace; dispositions have been taken for engagements. As to disposition, nothing on my part was ever more sincere: but, before I convert it, if ever I should convert it, into an engagement, I must look round me—I must, in some sort, take measure of the field. In regard to any subject to which I have supposed myself competent, diffidence of my own strength never has been reported, nor really is, I must confess, in the number of my weaknesses. But in the present instance, I assure you, with the utmost sincerity, that sensation in me is extreme. For entering into the details requisite in a bill, never have I regarded myself as sufficiently prepared; nor can I find any present assurance of being able to render myself so. To this subject, in relation to which I feel nothing but incompetence—to this subject I could not apply myself without tearing myself away from others of no mean importance—subjects, in relation to which I feel no such diffidence, and which, if not by me, will not, as far as I can see, be so much as taken in hand by any one.
“At present, considering the labours which I have upon my hands, and of which the fruit will, I hope, be public in less than a fortnight, I cannot, for some days, allow myself so much as a thought upon the subject. Supposing the thing got up in the course of a month or two, before that time Parliament may have been dissolved. I see not at present—perhaps that is not the case with you—what considerable inconvenience could result from the deferring it till after the next Parliament has met. In the course of that time—indeed considerably before that time—I should have had it in my power to take the survey in question, and to say whether I felt the task within my grasp.
“What you see above is written on the sight of a few lines only of each of the interesting papers by which I find myself so highly honoured. Before I conclude the reading of them, one thing occurs to me as necessary to be said at any rate.
“This is—that I never can bring myself to put my name to any plan of Parliamentary Reform, under which suffrages would not be free; nor do I see it possible how they ever can be free, otherwise than by being placed under the safeguard of secrecy. My reasons, which agree entirely with those which had already been so ably stated by the venerable father of reform, are upon record: and I have never been able to discern anything in the shape of a reason on the other side.
“Deeply impressed with the sense of the honour done me by this application of yours, and of the partial kindness with which it is expressed, I remain, dear Sir, yours,” &c.
This proposed union of Bentham and Burdett, was the result of the following document, written by a distinguished friend of both—Henry Bickersteth, now Lord Langdale:—
“February 25, 1818.
“In the contemplation of any improvement in politics or legislation, it is obvious that the possession of an instrument of amelioration, sufficiently powerful and enlightened, is a condition without which no hope of success can be entertained; and, in the present circumstances of England, it is equally clear, that sufficient power, united with sufficient knowledge and rectitude of intention, can only be found in a radically reformed Parliament, after some further time has been allowed for public instruction. If Parliament were reformed to-day, we should have power and upright intention; but unless we had also a more general and familiar knowledge of the principles of legislation than now exists, it might justly be apprehended that, in many cases, mere ignorance of what was right to be done, would produce the same effects which we now suffer under the influence of vice. It appears, therefore, that two things are to be considered—Parliamentary Reform, without which no general good can be done; and Public Instruction, which is necessary, first, as a means of obtaining reform, and, secondly, as a means of reaping the greatest possible benefit from reform when obtained. Upon the last, it is not necessary to say more on the present occasion.
“Reform can be peaceably obtained only by the pressure of public opinion, acting with continually increasing uniformity and weight in favour of the cause. But on such subjects as this, public opinion is no more than the opinion of an individual, advantageously promulgated and well sustained, and therefore adopted by multitudes. Advantageously promulgated—that is, in such manner as will secure universal notoriety, with general attention and respect: well sustained—that is, by the first statement and continued repetition of reasons, which are in themselves incontrovertible because founded on the common interest; and which are laid down so plainly and distinctly, that the least competent of those who have any perceptible influence ever others may easily understand and remember them. If attention be kept alive, and continually supplied with reasons capable only of being strengthened by reiterated discussion, a sufficient uniformity of public opinion may reasonably be expected.
“Now England possesses two distinguished friends of reform, who, by their joint labours, are able to give the most advantageous promulgation to the best possible plan. The characters of Mr Bentham and Sir Francis Burdett are too well known to each other to make it necessary or proper to say anything on that subject. Of the great work to be done, the one is, more than any other person, capable of performing that part which is least congenial to the habits of the other; and their united exertions could not fail to be eminently beneficial. Conceive a plan of reform drawn up by Mr Bentham—the best possible, because framed by the person best qualified; and promulgated and supported by Sir Francis Burdett—the most advantageously, because by the person whose every word becomes universally notorious, and excites universal interest and attention; and the following are among the advantages to be derived from it:—1. A light held up for the guidance of all friends of reform. 2. An effectual moral shield against all enemies. 3. General confidence that the plan was the best that circumstances would permit. 4. A suppression of minor differences of opinion, in favour of a plan so sanctioned, and consequent approaches to uniformity. 5. Petitions for the adoption of a particular plan, which could not be reasonably controverted.
“Whatever may be proposed, the parliamentary debates afford the most extensive means of publication; and it seems probable that the best mode of stating a plan of reform would be,—to propose a few short and simple resolutions, asserting the principal abuses complained of, and setting forth the more general regulations, constituting the intended remedy,—with an indication that a bill, or a complete system of resolutions or propositions, preliminary to the enactment of a law for the establishment of the entire remedy, was prepared and ready to be proposed on the adoption of the first resolutions. From the proposal, follows a debate, every word of which might be recorded and published, with critical and explanatory notes, and an appendix, containing the bill, or system of propositions, comprehending the details of the plan. If the names of Bentham and Burdett went together in this proceeding, we should not only have universal notoriety, but all the reflection and sagacity, as well as all the active zeal in the kingdom, would be called into immediate action on this subject; and it would be surprising indeed, if every succeeding year did not produce an increasing weight of petitions. The most profound philosophy cannot unite in vain with the greatest popularity of the time.
“It is not anticipated that any serious difficulty will arise from the different plans which have been already proposed. Both Sir Francis Burdett and Mr Bentham have expressed themselves to be willing to support any plan which fairly tends to promote the object they have in view, and each of them has bestowed approbation on the labours of the other. The differences of opinion, if any, are probably on points of inferior importance, and the means of conciliation are open.
“But Mr Bentham, whose time is invaluable, is unwilling to divert his attention from other objects, and engage in the work, unless he has some positive assurance that the labour he may devote to it will not be thrown away; and this assurance can only be given by Sir Francis Burdett.”
Burdett’s answer was immediate:—
Sir Francis Burdett to Bentham.
“St James’s Place,Feb. 25, 1818.
“My dear Sir,—
I am rejoiced to hear of your return to London, in health and spirits, I trust, to forward the great object of your invaluable life—the happiness of mankind. My friend — informs me, you are willing to undertake to draw up resolutions, upon which a bill is to be founded, and afterwards the bill itself, for a reform of Parliament, and that you only want an assurance from me that I shall not be wanting in my exertions, in the House, to set it forth to the public, so that it may not be labour in vain which you undertake. I cannot express, my dear Sir, the pleasure these glad tidings afford me. I shall not only be happy, but proud to use every exertion in my power, to tax all my faculties to the utmost, in order to carry into effect your wishes upon this great and important, and indeed only important, subject. My tongue shall speak as you do prompt mine ear; and I will venture to promise, knowing so well whom I promise, that I will refuse attempting no one thing that you shall say ought to be done. My first reward will be the hope of doing everlasting good to my country: my next, and only inferior to it, that of having my name linked in immortality with that of Jeremy Bentham; and though, to be sure, it is but as a tomtit mounted on an eagle’s wing, the thought delights me. Bentham and Burdett!—the alliteration charms my ear. But I will conclude, for fear your modesty should make you think me a flatterer, though God knows I am none, nor would speak this without thinking it, ‘if heaven would make me such another world, of one entire and perfect chrysolite.’ But, to trespass no longer on your patience, I will conclude, with begging your acceptance of such poor services as I am capable of rendering you, in aiding any of your great projects of general utility; and, if anything so unimportant can merit it, of my sincere esteem, love, and veneration.—I am,” &c.
There is a note of Bentham’s attached to Sir F. Burdett’s letter, to the effect that, as these documents were communicated to public meetings, by Major Cartwright, no apology is necessary for their further circulation.
Bentham consulted a common friend as to this alliance with Burdett, who answered—“You may certainly rely on Burdett, as far as Burdett can rely upon himself—which I hope and believe will, in this case, be more than usual.”
Bentham to Sir Francis Burdett.
“Q. S. P., 10th March, 1818.
Follows a supplement to my answer to yours of this day’s date. Your messenger was then waiting, and my tea and muffin cooling.
“As to Ballot, you yourself (you say, and to my great joy) have no objection to it. Having then your concurrence, I care not for anybody else. But this being the case, where can be the unadvisableness you speak of? In the House itself, is it in the nature of the case that this or anything else can make the smallest difference? Surely by the people, and those alone, can there be any, the faintest hope, of making, in the first instance, any sensible impression: only for the purpose of dissemination, which, however, is a most substantial purpose, can there be any use in saying anything in or to the House. But the people: can you deliberately suppose that, of those who wish for the right of suffrage, there can be any, unless with the view, and for the purpose, of selling it, would wish that it should not be free?—and this to such a degree as to be averse to any plan of reform of which such freedom would form a part?—and that in their breasts this wish is so firmly rooted as that it would be in vain to try, by argument, to remove it? Now, even supposing, for supposition’s sake, that this was really the case, I cannot conceive how it should be within our knowledge: and I am sure, if this were known to me, there would be an end to all wish, and therefore to all endeavour, for anything that is called Reform.
“With the Ballot as a fundamental, this I have the satisfaction of knowing, that the plan in question has made converts of some highly distinguished characters in the country, not only for talents but rank and opulence—some of them in Parliament, others about to be so.
“In relation to this, as well as on the other points, my plan, with the reasons on which it is grounded, lies before you. The reasons may be seen in Introduction, pp. clxxi to clxxxii (not to mention preceding pages, for example, p. cli) and Plan or Catechism, pp. 35 to 38.* If in any of them I have fallen into any material error, especially if it is of such sort as to prescribe a variation in the result—or if I have overlooked any conclusive argument, or set of arguments on the other side, I will most gratefully receive any intimation of it: in the opposite case, my opinion, and consequent determination, is already declared.”
Sir Francis answers:—
“St James’s Place,
I will endeavour to put upon paper, as speedily as I can, the objections to Ballot: for myself I have none. I will give reasons, however, why I think it useless, and if not necessary even mischievous, because of prejudice to be surmounted.
“Please to transmit the resolutions to me.—Yours most sincerely.”
The Resolutions on Parliamentary Reform were moved by Sir Francis Burdett, in the House of Commons, on Tuesday, the 2d of June, 1818, as follows:—
1. That no adequate security for good government can have place, but by means of, and in proportion to, a community of interest between governors and governed; and that the truth of this principle has been unequivocally recognised in speeches delivered from the throne by all the kings of this realm, (except only King Charles the First, and King James the Second,) from the accession of King James the First, down to the present reign, both inclusive.
2. That on any occasion upon which this community of interest fails to be entire, the interest of the few, or of the one, ought to give way to the interest of the many and that the truth of this principle has been recognised in speeches delivered from the throne by the kings of this realm, of every family, from the accession of King James the First, down to the present reign, both inclusive.
3. That under the government of this country, no such community of interest can have place, but in so far as the persons in whose hands the administration of public affairs is vested, are subject to the superintendence and control, or check, of the representatives of the people; such representatives speaking and acting in conformity to the sense of the people.
4. That, according to established usage, as evidenced by speeches from the throne, and other public acts, the members of this House being in their collective capacity styled representatives of the people, and the powers exercised by them, being on no other ground recognised as constitutional; it is only in so far as they are really and substantially representatives of the people, that the powers so exercised by them are constitutionally exercised.
5. That it is only in so far as the members of this House are in fact chosen, and from time to time removable by the free suffrages of the great body of the people, that there can be any adequate assurance, that the acts done by them, are in conformity to the sense and wishes of the people; and, therefore, that they can in truth, and without abuse of words, be styled, or declared to be, representatives of the people.
6. That no member of this House can, otherwise than by a notorious fiction, be styled a representative of any part of the people, other than of the part composed of such individuals, as have, or might have, voted on his election. And that, by the general appellation of representatives of the people, is, and ought to be understood, representatives of the whole body of the people.
7. That the sense of the whole body of the people cannot be adequately conformed to, by their representatives, except in so far as the suffrage of each person in the choice of his representative has a force and effect, as equal as may be, to that of the suffrage of every other person. And that such equality of force and effect cannot have place, except in so far as in the case of each representative, the number of persons possessing the right of voting on his election, is (as far as local circumstances will permit) the same as in the case of every other.
8. That on the occasion of electing a representative of the people, no man’s suffrage can with truth be said to be free, except in so far as in the delivery of it, he stands unexposed to the hope of eventual good, or the fear of eventual evil, to himself and his connexions, from the power or influence of every other individual, on account of his suffrage.
9. That the advantage and necessity of comprehensive, equal, and free suffrages, has been recognised in divers speeches from the throne.
10. That the sense of the people can never be truly represented and conformed to by the representatives, otherwise than in so far as those representatives are dependent upon the wishes of their constituents for their continuance in their situation as representatives; such wishes of the constituents being expressed by their suffrages, freely delivered as above.
11. That though to give this dependence the greatest perfection of which, without regard to other objects, it might be susceptible, would require that at all times it should be in the power of every Electoral body to remove its representative, in the same manner that it is in the power of every individual, who has granted to another a power of attorney, to revoke the same; yet forasmuch as in such a state of things, the people, instead of deputing representatives to manage their public concerns, would be in their own persons engaged in the superintendence or management thereof, to the prejudice of the business of private life; hence it becomes necessary that this same power of removal should not have place otherwise than at certain stated, and more or less distant periods.
12. That forasmuch as the dependence of the representatives upon their constituents will be the greater, the shorter the term is, during which they are exempt from removal; and as no inconvenience can be apprehended from one election, at the least, taking place in every year; and, as it appears by divers statutes, and long-continued practice in obedience thereto, that the principle, at least, of annual elections is conformable to the ancient laws and practice of this realm; it is, therefore, expedient that the people should be enabled to remove their representatives, and, if necessary, repair the misfortune of having made an improper choice, at least once in every year.
13. That the sense of the people, considered as the standard to which the sense of their rulers ought to conform, is not the sense entertained by the people in any past period of time, and which may have undergone subsequent change, but, on the contrary, is the sense of the people taken in its freshest state; and that this truth has been repeatedly recognised in speeches delivered from the throne, by his late majesty, King George the Second, and by his present majesty. [This resolution contained several extracts from speeches, in which their late and present majesties expressed their satisfaction on seeing the most certain information of the sense, disposition, and wishes of the people, by a new choice of their representatives.]
14. That by the words sense, disposition, and wishes of the people, employed in the said speeches, nothing less than the sense, disposition, and wishes of the whole body of the people can with propriety be understood; forasmuch as if it be the interest and duty of his majesty, to collect and attend to the sense, disposition, and wishes of any one part of his people, it cannot be so in any less degree in regard to any other part.
15. That, except by petitions, and even by those means no otherwise than occasionally and partially, and, therefore, inadequately, the sense, disposition, and wishes of the people can be conveyed to his majesty, in no other manner than by the choice made by them of persons to sit and serve in this House in the character of representatives; and that, except in the said inadequate manner by petitions, those who have no part in the choice of representatives, cannot at any time make known to his majesty, the part which their sense, disposition, and wishes, has in the sense, disposition, and wishes of the whole body of the people.
16. That forasmuch as no power lodged in the hands of constituents can create or maintain the due dependence of their representatives, unless the good or evil which may be produced by the exercise of such power be at all times, in the expectation of the representatives, greater than any that can be made to accrue to them by any other person or persons whose interest, or supposed interest, it may be to engage them in a violation of their trust; it is therefore necessary, that, by all practicable means, every representative of the people be rendered as completely exempt as possible from every such external influence.
17. That the offices, commissions, and emoluments, the power, rank, dignities, and other advantages, which are at the disposal of the Crown, constitute so many instruments of temptation, by which the members of this House are exposed to be seduced from their duty, and induced to sacrifice the general interest of the people, to the particular interest, or supposed interest, of the Crown, its servants, and their adherents.
18. That as this House is now constituted, a large proportion of the members thereof obtain their seats by the appointment or favour of particular individuals, without being elected, or at least without being freely elected, by any part of the people; and that such members are continually exposed to be seduced from their duty, and induced to sacrifice the general interest of the people, to the particular interests of their respective patrons.
19. That forasmuch as the influence of the Crown cannot be exercised and made productive of its natural effect, without counteracting and overpowering the influence of the people in the breasts of the members of this House, so as to engage them to make continual sacrifice of the interest of the people, to the separate interests of the servants of the Crown and their adherents; such influence may with truth and propriety be termed a sinister influence.
20. That parliamentary patronage not only prevents or interrupts comprehensive, free, and equal suffrage, whereby alone the sense of the people can be made known, but operates, on the one hand, as a perpetual inducement to the servants of the Crown to favour the individuals who are possessed thereof, at the expense and to the prejudice of the people; and, on the other hand, as a perpetual temptation to those individuals to maintain and increase the influence of the Crown, from which they may expect to derive benefit for themselves and their connexions.
21. That by a resolution passed on the 6th of April, 1780, it was declared by this House, that the influence of the Crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished.
22. That since that time the influence of the Crown has been greatly increased: on the one hand by the increase of the public debt, in respect of the taxes raised for paying the interest thereof, and the profitable patronage and power exercised in relation to the several offices and commissions necessary for the collection of those taxes; and, on the other hand, by the increase of the standing army, in respect of the patronage and power exercised in relation to the offices and commissions thereunto belonging, and the means of employing the same power to stifle the voice and destroy the liberties of the people.
23. That forasmuch as no adequate diminution of the influence of the Crown can now be effected, the only resource which remains, is to correct this influence by a counterforce, consisting of the influence of the people.
24. That this House, taking into consideration the gracious intentions so often expressed by his Majesty, particularly calls to mind the speech delivered on the 5th of December, 1782, in which his Majesty, speaking to both Houses of Parliament, and after declaring it to be the fixed object of his heart to make the general good, and true spirit of the constitution, the invariable rule of his conduct, was pleased to say:—“To insure the full advantage of a Government conducted on such principles, depends on your temper, your wisdom, your disinterestedness, collectively and individually: my people expect those qualifications of you, and I call for them.” And, again, the speech delivered on the 19th May, 1784, in which his Majesty was pleased to say, “You will find me always desirous to concur with you in such measures as may be of lasting benefit to my people: I have no wish but to consult their prosperity.” And, again, the speech delivered on the 25th of January, 1785, in which his Majesty was pleased to say, “You may at all times depend on my hearty concurrence in every measure which can tend to alleviate our national burthens, to secure the true principles of the constitution, and to promote the general welfare of my people.”
25. That this House, taking into consideration the gracious disposition of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, assures itself, with the fullest confidence, that his Royal Highness, acting in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, will be pleased to vouchsafe his sanction to all such measures as may be necessary for placing the influence of his Majesty’s people in this House on a firm and unalterable footing.
26. That therefore this House, proceeding on the principles above declared, is resolved to make one great sacrifice of all separate and particular interests, and to proceed to establish a comprehensive and consistent plan of reform; in virtue whereof, the whole people of the United Kingdom may be fairly and truly represented in this House; and, in order to that end, this House does hereby declare:—
I. That it is expedient and necessary to admit to a participation in the election suffrage, all such persons as, being of the male sex, of mature age, and of sound mind, shall, during a determinate time antecedent to the day of election, have been resident either as householders or inmates, within the district or place in which they are called upon to vote.
II. That for securing the freedom of election, the mode of voting ought to be by ballot.
III. That for more effectually securing the unity of will and opinion, as between the people and their representatives, a fresh election of the members of this House ought to take place, once in every year at the least; saving to the Crown its prerogative of dissolving Parliaments at any time, and thereupon, after the necessary interval, summoning a fresh Parliament.
IV. That the territory of Great Britain and Ireland taken together, ought to be divided into 658 election districts, as nearly equal to each other in population as consistently with local convenience they may be; and that each such election district ought to return one representative, and no more.
V. That for the prevention of unnecessary delay, vexation, and expense, as well as of fraud, violence, disorder, and void elections, the election in each district ought to be begun and ended on the same day; and that for this purpose, not only the proof of title, but also every operation requiring more time than is necessary for the delivery of the vote, ought to be accomplished on some day, or days, antecedent to the day of election, and that the title to a vote should be the same for every elector, and so simple as not to be subject to dispute.
VI. That for the more effectually securing the attainment of the above objects, the election districts ought to be subdivided into sub-districts, for the reception of votes, in such number and situations as local convenience may require.
The “Sophismes Politiques” were translated from the French by a zealous, and then unknown disciple. The MS. was sent to Bentham, being the work, says the writer, of hours stolen from rest. But he expressed much anxiety that his name should never be known as connected with this “labour of love,”—emanating from no vanity,—no desire of distinction, but from a wish of doing some good in his generation. The French translator had considerably modified the original, and moulded it to the state of continental society. The re-translation restored much of the peculiar phraseology of the original, and brought it back, in many respects, though not in all, to the primary intentions of the author. In the present edition of the Works,* it has been edited from the original MSS. of the author; and in this form it may justly be said to vindicate the reputation of his logical powers from the aspect they assume in the feeble version of Dumont. To one who, ignorant of the force of Bentham’s reasoning, and of the clearness and accuracy of the language in which it is presented, should wish to see these qualifications briefly embodied, the “Anarchical Fallacies” may be recommended as an admirable illustration.
Of Ricardo, Bentham used to say: “I was the spiritual father of Mill, and Mill was the spiritual father of Ricardo: so that Ricardo was my spiritual grandson.
“I was often téte-à-téte with Ricardo. He would borrow a sixpenny book instead of buying it. There was an épanchement between us. We used to walk together in Hyde Park, and he reported to me what passed in the House of Commons. He had several times intended to quote the ‘Fragment;’ but his courage failed him, as he told me.
“In Ricardo’s book on Rent, there is a want of logic. I wanted him to correct it in these particulars; but he was not conscious of it, and Mill was not desirous. He confounded cost with value. Considering our intercourse, it was natural he should give me a copy of his book—the devil a bit!”
Bentham to Ricardo.
“14th March, 1818.
“I told Burdett you had got down to trienniality, and were wavering between that and annuality, where I could not help flattering myself you would fix; also, in respect of extent, down to householders, for which, though I should prefer universality on account of its simplicity and unexclusiveness, I myself should be glad to compound.”
Many were the applications which Bentham received from the United States of America, requesting he would codify for that country, and expressing annoyance at the somewhat evasive way in which his offer to President Madison was rejected. A letter from Mr F. W. Gilmer, of Richmond, (Virginia,) March 22, 1818, says:—
Francis W. Gilmer to Bentham.
Let me entreat you not to abandon your design, nor to render useless the labour of so many years. The people of America read, with respectful attention, everything curious or original from England: a taste for the antiquities of your literature is every day growing. Even the Scotch metaphysicians are not without their admirers and disciples. The work which you propose, could not fail to have a sure, but, perhaps, slow effect on the ever increasing and expanding intellect of our country. Would it not be a more glorious distinction for a philosopher, from his closet in London, to control the principles of legislation and jurisprudence on the banks of the Missouri, or the shores of the Chesapeake, than to leave his researches to the casual, capricious, and ineffectual patronage of an executive officer? New territories and states are every year forming in America. They imbibe, in their origin, the principles most approved at the crisis of the formation. You have already converted some of them from their heresies in money-lending—why not in other departments of legislation? It is known to you, that in the United States, not the theoretic and political sovereignty only, but the active and virtual sovereignty is in the people. Reform, then, must begin in turning the stream of popular opinion, as in Russia it must commence with the emperor, and in England with the Parliament.
“Suffer, then, a young man, a lawyer, but still the disciple, as he is the countryman of Washington, of Franklin, and of Jefferson, to entreat you to persevere. For any books or details relative to our institutions, command my services. I will join the banner you have raised, not with the timidity of one afraid of losing an ill-gained popularity,—not as one who looks upon office or power, even in this country, as conferring the most splendid distinctions, but as one who knows that no glory is durable which is not laid on deeper foundations than the frivolous,—the fluctuating,—the transient opinions of mankind. At the same time, prudence requires that we should not rashly defy long-established prejudices. Let us not be ostentations of our spirit of innovation: rather let your genius and philosophy sink in England, that they may emerge like the Alpheus in a clear and tranquil Arethusa in America,—not the roar of the torrent, but the laurels which crown its banks will be your reward.”
A resolution was passed on the 23d March, 1818, by a public meeting of Westminster householders, in these words:—
“Resolved—That the thanks of this meeting are given to that profound reasoner, and preëminent writer on Legislation, Jeremy Bentham, Esq., for the philosophical and unanswerable vindication in his Catechism on Parliamentary Reform, of the right of all the commons of this realm, equally to share, and annually to exercise, the franchise of choosing members to serve in Parliament; as well as their farther right to a sure protection, by the application of the ballot, against injury or oppression, for having freely exercised that sacred franchise.”
“St James’s Street.
We, the undersigned, having been desired to communicate to you the vote of thanks of your fellow-citizens, in general meeting legally assembled, of which the foregoing is a copy, have done ourselves the honour to wait on you with the same; and sincerely wishing you a continuance of life, with health to prosecute your invaluable labours for the benefit of our country and mankind, by inculcating true principles of free government, legislation, and jurisprudence; we subscribe ourselves, dear Sir, your friends and brethren, in the love of truth, freedom, and justice,
The communication was thus answered by Bentham:—
“Q. S. P., 25th March, 1818.
Allow me thus to repair my misfortune in not being at home, when you favoured me with your call.
“When penning the little work in question, little did I expect to receive any such reward, as that which has been thus communicated to me, and which has been so highly enhanced by the venerable character of the hands through which it has been transmitted.
“The honour thus conferred on me, is of that sort—the value of which will be still increasing, when those which are conferred by a single hand, for obsequiousness to a single will, will be as the glory of King Solomon in a puppet-show.
“Believe me to be, with all respect and gratitude, Gentlemen, your sincere friend and servant.
“To John Cartwright, Esq., and Peter Walker, Esq.”
Dumont writes to Bentham, 13th April 1818:—
“I have been reading the gentillesses of the Quarterly: but I hope you do not read such sottisses, worthy of Père Duchêsne. The author has not even the wit to be mischievous, which is easy enough.”
J. B. Say to Bentham.
“3d May, 1818.
“I see with much grief, that the Panopticon constructed at Petersburg, has been the prey of the flames. When you are no more, Panopticons will be built by hundreds. Your bust will be in each; but, in the meantime, the original will be persecuted. This is the order of things; and Chamfort was right in saying, that ‘our moral world is the result of the caprices of a devil run mad.’ But for a few men like you, there would be nothing for it but drowning.”
Of the rule of the elder Bourbons, Say gives a striking picture:—
“The abettors of abuse are alone privileged to speak—to dispose of power and of money. We call them the belly of the nation. Our Civil List, which is called ‘the allowance to the Princes,’ represents only a small portion of the sacrifices which the people make to royalty. There are appanages, (revenues of national lands given to the Princes;) there are salaries for useless places and offices which they possess: the Count d’Artois, is the Colonel-general of the Swiss troops in the French service: the Duke de Berry, Colonel-general of the light troops: the Duke d’Angoulême, Grand Admiral; and large emoluments are attached to these and other titles. One portion of the royal guard is paid not by the Civil List, but by the Treasury. The revenues derived from gaming-houses do not appear in the Budget, but are paid to the Duchess d’Angoulême, on the pretence of serving her for alms-giving. A portion of the Pension List, goes to bribe the creatures of these people. The public authorities, having no real control from the self-called representatives of the nation, pays out of the public purse a host of vampires, who, far from rendering services to the State, are, for the most part, horribly pernicious to it.
“Garnier, made a Count by Buonaparte, has been made a Marquis by the Bourbons. So has Laplace—so has Fontanes; and they have deserved them, for they are obtained by baseness. The public interests have no bitterer enemies, than such corrupted and corrupting men. In fourteen years, Buonaparte managed to set aside all that was pure and honourable; and when the Allies came, there was not a public man to plead for the public. The Bourbons had the matter of corruption ripe and ready at their hands. Beware of French reputations. You would be astonished at the stuff out of which they are made.
“Persecutions are raging against the press. Our judges would decree that the sun rises at noon, if the court wished them to do so. Dunoyer is put into prison at La Force, to be transferred to the Chouans at Rennes, for his ‘libel.’ The said Chouans being judges and parties. Comte* has concealed himself—a dozen of the first houses of Paris offered him an asylum. It was, who should have him.”
Among the exiles of the Spanish Revolution, and one of the most distinguished of the supporters of Joseph, was Cambronero. He was brought to the notice of Bentham by Lady Bentham, in a very interesting account of their acquaintance at Toulouse, where Sir Samuel was then staying, on which Bentham immediately wrote to M. Rivadavia, the Minister and former President of Buenos Ayres, entreating him to engage Cambronero in the service of that Republic. Rivadavia promised to do everything that depended on him. Of the representatives of South America in this country, Rivadavia was the man of whom Bentham thought the most highly. He professed Utilitarian principles, and was occupied for some time in translating the works of Bentham into Spanish, but the translation has never seen the light. Cambronero rejected the proposals made to him. He thought there would be no forgiveness for a Spaniard who should attach himself to the American Independents.
In that active spirit of benevolence which distinguished Bentham—which was limited to no locality, nor to any particular class of men, but which rather embraced all countries, and all mankind, he addressed the following Proposal to De Witt Clinton, dated 29th September, 1818:—
“For the Instruction and Improvement of the Moral Character of the Irish Labourers in New York.
The testimony borne by common fame to the spirit of your administration, has afforded me the requisite assurance of the attention which may be expected at your hands, for a proposal, the object of which stands above designated.
“It was but the other day that, in a conversation with Mr Henry Melchior Francis, citizen of your State, it happened to me to hear from him, that the number of persons, natives of Ireland, who, having emigrated to your capital, are deriving their subsistence from the wages of their daily labour, is supposed to be not less than 10,000, out of a total number of 100,000: that, in a proportion much to be regretted, their conduct is disorderly; that drunkenness, with its attendant quarrelsomeness, are prevalent among them, and that in such sort as to afford no inconsiderable degree of annoyance to the rest of the community; and that, in addition to the vacancy of mind and consequent restlessness produced by ignorance, the cheapness of the instrument of intoxication in the place of their abode is the cause to which the evil is generally ascribed. To this political disorder a happy concurrence of circumstances presents a remedy, such as, if I do not overflatter myself, affords a promise of being more or less effective. The healing hand which I have in view is that of Mr Thaddeus Connellan.
“As his name would lead you to conjecture, he is a native of Ireland. The fame of his beneficence, and of the judgment, as well as active talent, by which his exertions had been marked, together with the magnitude of the scale in which they had operated with success, led me, not long ago, to an acquaintance with him.
“The number and respectability of the persons who, I am well informed, have, in various parts of Great Britain and Ireland, been witnesses to his conduct during these operations, is such, as, coupled with the promptitude, frankness, and consistency displayed in the course of his answers to the questions which, at different times, I have put to him, have sufficiently cleared my mind of those suspicions which the extraordinariness of the facts could not but have excited to the prejudice of the sincerity or the correctness of his statements.
“Time will not admit of any such enterprise on my part, as that of giving, in detail, the particulars which, at different times, I collected from his mouth, and which are, in part, in black and white.
“The nature of the proposal considered, together with the extreme smallness of the sum requisite to be hazarded, compared with the good in prospect, the following particulars will, I am inclined to think, be found sufficient:—
“The account thus given of those results will present to view several gaps which his absence prevents my being able to fill in.
“From large bundles of letters which he carries about with him, and all of which I might have seen, I have seen as well as heard (the weakness of my eyes referring me mostly to my ears) several; and in all that I have seen, not only was the handwriting good, but the language unexceptionably proper and correct, and the state of mind evidenced by it highly meritorious.
Course and Plan of Instruction, in the cases of Adults.
“His course is, in the first instance, to teach them to read in Irish; for which purpose he has caused to be printed Lesson Books.
“Those who are taught thus to read, are many, if not most of them, taught to write. A higher stage of instruction, to which not so large a number have been admitted, is that by which they learn to read and write English.
“The plan by which so prodigious a spread has been given to the quantity of instruction, all of it having for its original source the labour of one man, has been thus:—He began with teaching at one and the same time, a set as numerous as he could collect at one and the same place; but to this course none were admitted as disciples, but upon condition of their serving, each of them, if required, in the capacity of a teacher, to another such set, administering, in the same mode, the instruction he had received.
“By himself the instruction administered has always been perfectly gratuitous: and by every disciple and disciple’s disciple, and so on for ever, it has been administered on the same generous terms.
“In England, his pupils and disciples being day-labourers, and, as such, not having command of their own time, the hours for receiving the instruction on the one part, and for administering it on the other, could only be for the few hours which, in that condition in life, can be stolen from hard labour and repose—viz. from two to three hours in a working-day. In this state of things he has seldom been able to render the number in any set greater than 24; but in Ireland, where to so great an extent the tillers of the ground work each of them on his own account, this number is commonly much greater.
“The time which, at the above rate of working, has, in the instance of each set, been sufficient for perfecting the scholars in the reading of their own language, has been from two months to three months at the outside. I am not at present able to say, whether, in the course of this time, any have made any advances in the faculty of writing. Of those who are become perfect in their first lesson, some, while learning a second lesson, take a new set, and teach them the first lesson; and so on.
“When the inhabitants of one village have thus been taught by him, his way has been—to stretch at once to some other village, about twenty miles distant from the first; leaving the villages in the interval to be taught by his disciples.
“I have not learnt as yet from whence he has drawn his small resources. His own mode of living is frugal in the extreme. To the extent of my own observation he has refused all pecuniary assistance.
“I had begun concerting with him a plan for the increase of the number of the books which he distributes among his scholars: but, without my having received notice, I know not how it happened, he went off about two months ago for Ireland.
“He gave me the history of his parentage, of his education, and of the incidents by which he was led into this track of beneficence. Interesting as they are, time will not admit of my committing to paper any such details.
“The lessons he employs for instruction are taken out of the Bible; but he avoids all topics characteristic of different sects. For this cause, his life and those of his disciples have been repeatedly put in danger, by persons set on by Catholic priests.
“Amongst his disciples, one particularly remarkable is a man of the name of Ford. Some highly intelligent friends of mine have been, and could at any time be, in communication with him. This man is but a day-labourer; and to his energetic mind, he adds no skill capable of giving an extra value to his bodily labour. At about thirty or forty miles distance from London, during the hours which he could steal from bodily labour, he has for years, under the guidance of Mr Connellan, been another and successful instructor of his countrymen, during their correspondent hours. During our late distresses, being one of the multitude who were unable to find employment, he was in danger of perishing, and his beneficial labours were necessarily suspended. Some friends of the system succeeded in procuring him admittance, always in the quality of day-labourer, into the Government dock-yard at Chatham: his school was then revived, and, by the last accounts I have heard, continues.
“During one of these intervals of distress, his patron, Mr Connellan, on departing for Ireland, left him an order upon somebody for a twopenny loaf, to be delivered to him every day, on being called for. To the patron, on his return, this order was returned unemployed. The disciple had, somehow or other, found means to subsist without it.
“Upon the above grounds, the plan which I take the liberty, Sir, of submitting to your consideration, is this:—
“Assured of the principle upon which this scheme of benevolence has, with so much perseverance, and to so great an extent, been already carried on, I take for granted, that, though the here proposed extension of the scene is so far distant from this country as New York, there exists in the mind of the master-workman, and some of his principal under-workmen, a spirit equal to the attempt, on the supposition that the necessary, though no more than absolutely necessary, means were put into their hands. I write without communicating even with the above-named Ford; the departure of my friend, your above-named fellow-citizen, not admitting of it.
“The terms for which I should expect to find acceptance at their hands, are as follows:—
“1. Disciples of Mr Connellan, to the number of two, three, or more, to have the expense of their freight and subsistence to New York defrayed: the money not to pass through their hands.
“2. On their arrival, labourer’s pay to be insured to them, at a rate which need not exceed the lowest rate, they giving the whole of their bodily labour for it, if required; but, in this case, the hours during which they could administer instruction, could not, of course, be more than such as they could steal from labour and repose.
“3. Each man to be sent back to this country, or to Ireland, whichever country he came from, in the same manner—that is, free from expense—at any time after, and within a certain time to be named, upon his requiring it.
“With the favourers of this proposal, if it should find any, it will be for their consideration whether to add to the above manifestly indispensable assistance, anything to look to in the shape of reward, in case of success, according to such description as might be given of the different degrees of success, of which the undertaking is susceptible.
“The proofs of success might be rendered the subject of public exhibition: reading in public—writing in public.
“To the instructors, with or without the addition of a select number of the instructed pupils, could grants of land, for example, be made on terms more favourable in this or that particular, than ordinary terms? Such grants confined of course to such, if any, so circumstanced as to be found capable of occupying the lands in person to their advantage; for as to grants made with no other expectation than that of the lands being sold, half of this sort would manifestly be but so much waste.
“In the midst of their poverty, the Irish of the labouring classes, I understand from Mr Connellan, are at least pretty extensively addicted to gaming—to wit, in the shape of card-playing. As to his pupils, as they learnt to read, they very generally, so he informed me, left off gaming. If thus by reading, men in that condition have been weaned from vice in that shape, why not from vice in the shape of drunkenness?
“The small pecuniary means, which on these terms would be necessary, with what prospect of success can they be looked for? Any public fund? or beneficence purely private exercised in the way of subscription? On this subject, all conjecture is, of course, beyond the competence of any such stranger as myself.
“The person to receive and supply the money would, I suppose, be some citizen of New York, whose station, whether in or not in office, happens to be in this country. That for any such purpose, the person to whose lot it has fallen to be giving you this trouble, is altogether out of the question, is sufficiently evident.
“P.S.—To make provision against accidents, I propose sending a duplicate, or the equivalent, through some other channel.
“To the Honourable De Witt Clinton, Governor of the State ofNew York.
Governor Plumer to Bentham.
“United States, New Hampshire,
Agreeably to my intimation to you in my letter of the 2d of October 1817, I communicated to the Legislature of New Hampshire, at their last Session, the papers that you had previously transmitted to me. They referred them to a committee, who reported that the farther consideration of them should be postponed to their next Session, which report the Legislature accepted. What course the Legislature will eventually adopt, in relation to the principles you so ably recommend, is not certain; but ’tis a fact that your writings, where they are read and candidly examined, produce an effect favourable to the rights and interests of the people.
“Under other envelopes, I have sent you a letter from my eldest son, who is a member of the Legislature; and also a copy of my last public message to the Legislature.—The ill state of my health, and my advanced years, have induced me to withdraw my name from the list of candidates for the gubernatorial chair for the next year. My term of office will therefore expire on the first Wednesday of June next. But whether in public or private life, permit me to assure you that I am, and ever shall remain, with much respect and esteem, &c.
J. B. Say to Bentham.
“October 7, 1818.
“Our revolution had created a tabula rasa. Buonaparte covered the field with despotic institutions, and that deliberately, introducing more encumbrances than existed before. This is the evil still pressing on us. Must we again set fire to the whole edifice? It is a cruel, perhaps a dangerous, experiment.
“Our administrators of communes and of departments are but pachas, who, in doing the work of their masters, do their own,—but never the work of those who are subjected to them.
“But opinion speaks out,—and this is something,—for our government is weak and foolish,—led under the worst auspices, and badly supported. The state of parties is curious. The ministry is Buonapartist, and persuades the legitimate family that the nation must be governed and bridled, as it was governed and bridled by Napoleon. But the ministry has few supporters, except among the salaried, or those who expect to be salaried.
“The ultra-royalists represent your Opposition. They have no other grief than that they are out of place, and want their doctrines to prevail that they may turn them to personal account. But they have for leaders the whole family of the Bourbons,—though the Bourbons think more of themselves than of their followers. Money, however, and favours are distributed among them,—but no power. In the nation, this faction has no support, except among a few prolétaires and fanatics; and these diminish daily.
“The Independents or Liberals constitute the great mass of the nation,—and what is strange, the march of other nations is like our own. Our people read not, heed not what yours are doing: yours seem as careless—and so it is everywhere.—A change must take place,—the difficult question is, the when and the how.”
Romilly died in November, 1818. His death affected Bentham much,—for though in many points they differed, Romilly and his wife were most loveable beings, and among the few who could ever induce Bentham to quit his Hermitage and mingle with the world. They met so frequently, that though multitudes of communications passed between them, they consisted principally of short notes, making appointments at each other’s houses,—or arrangements, almost always terminating in personal interviews. Romilly’s attachment to Bentham was most affectionate,—his reverence for his opinions and character great,—and their mutual intercourse was to each a source of varied and virtuous enjoyment.
In answer to a request from the Mutual Improvement Society, that Bentham would be their chairman at an anniversary dinner, he sent this reply:—
“Queen’s Square Place,Westminster,
I have to acknowledge the favour of your letter of the 10th inst. It is with sincere regret that I must confess my misfortune, in not being able to avail myself of an invitation, which is so honourable to me, and so kindly announced to me.
“Not to speak of other infirmities, a weakness I have in my eyes would be sufficient to prevent my existing, in a room such as that in question, otherwise than in such a state of sufferance as, by their view of it, would suffice to cloud with sympathetic concern the festivity of the social board.
“Even setting aside so insuperable a bar, you will be disposed (I think) to regard with indulgence, my wish to stand excused from accepting the intended honour, when you reflect upon my time of life, coupled with those parts of my character which appear to have recommended me to your notice. For these many years, so exclusively have I devoted my applicable hours to my endeavours toward the service of mankind, upon the largest scale within my power, that I have turned an inexorable ear to all dinner invitations: for, of the quantity of time which might otherwise be employed at my desk, any such visits would unavoidably consume a portion, the waste of which I could not endure the thoughts of. The last house I continued visiting at dinner-time was Romilly’s, and that not more than once in a twelvemonth.
“You see, Sir, that I choose to call forth your smiles, not to say your laughter, by that garrulity which is apt to be the concomitant of old age, rather than my sensibility to your kindness, and the regret which I really feel at not having it in my power to take my patrons by the hand, should be exposed to doubt. I say my patrons: for mine you are more properly than I yours.
“As it is to your opinion of my pursuits, and my perseverance in them, that I stand indebted for all the tokens I have received of your regard, it has occurred to me to transmit to you, Sir, if the state of my eyes will allow me to get them up, a few papers, which, if the reading of any of them should be thought conducive to the entertainment of any of the company, may serve to convey some idea of the prospects, and even of some effects of a more substantial nature, of which those pursuits have been productive. I say it with perfect sincerity,—the apprehension lest a society which stands so high in my estimation should suffer in its prosperity, from having given the appellation of its patron, to a man so destitute of all those objects of admiration, the possession of which is so commonly regarded as an indispensable requisite to every man on whom any such title is bestowed,—it is by this apprehension, I say, rather than by anything else, that the idea of sending to you these same papers was suggested to me. ‘I see not,’ I said to myself, ‘in what way I can be of use to them; let me, at any rate, do whatever may be in my power, towards lessening whatever injury they may have done themselves by the sort of notice they have taken of me.’ ‘Theoretical, visionary, Utopian, Jacobinical, impracticable:’ in terms of reproach such as these, is constituted the sort of return, which from the first I was prepared to receive, in large proportion, for all my labours, and which I have accordingly been in the habit of receiving in the expected abundance. What, however, the papers in question may help to show, is, that from foreign countries, at any rate, this is not the only sort of return that I have received; and if in any degree they should be found to relieve my own name from any of these reproaches, the contents of the same papers may, I hope, in a correspondent degree help to save from the like imputations the views and occupations of my worthy friends, whose endeavours and affections are so congenial to my own.*
“Though it has been necessary for me to make allusion to my infirmities, let not the general hilarity be damped by any such feelings of sympathy as, if unexplained, a word like this might be apt to excite. That these infirmities, too unquestionable as they are, are by no means incompatible with cheerfulness, nor even with gaiety, some individuals of your number may, perhaps, have had occasion to observe; that though I go nowhere except on a walk for fresh air, as a substitute for physic, I have the good fortune of not being altogether destitute of friends, by whose favour I can hold occasional communication, at my humble distance, with the world at large.
“Without you troubling yourself, Sir, to inform me, I shall have no difficulty in hearing the exact day of your festive meeting; and while, in full assembly, you are giving expression to your kind wishes for my health over some more luxurious liquor, I shall be doing the like, on my part, for the prosperity of your society, in company with one or two friends, over my small-beer, which, with that fountain of faculties, tea, has for many years composed my only beverage.—Believe me now as ever, Sir, yours and the Society’s faithful friend and servant,
“To Mr Thomas Tucker, Secretary for the Society for Mutual Improvement.”
In a letter to Mr W. Thompson, of Cork, who had consulted him on the subject of establishing a Chrestomathic school in that place, Bentham says:—
Bentham to Mr Thompson.
“7th April, 1819.
“An undertaking such as yours should, if I mistake not, be preceded by all the appropriate lights which the circumstances of the time can be made to afford. Those I have in view are,—1. Mr Matheson’s Institution. 2. The great orthodox school, called the National Society School, carried on, on Dr Bell’s plan. 3. The great Schismatic school, carried on, on Lancaster’s plan, called the British and Foreign School Society. 4. The great school, or schools, at Edinburgh; of which last, if you have a copy of my Chrestomathia, you see an account in the Appendix. Of the Bell school and Lancaster school, a general idea cannot but be more or less familiar to you. Within the field of reading, writing, and common arithmetic, all the instruction they afford is comprehended. To these, Mr Matheson’s Institution adds a further acquaintance with arithmetic, book-keeping, Latin and French. Of the rapidity with which the arithmetical operations are there performed, as likewise the grammatical, so far as regards the parsing, construing, and the rules of prosody, I, as well as several very intelligent friends of mine, have been eye-witnesses,—it is only not miraculous. With regard to French, it may serve for understanding and silent reading; but for speaking, it is anything rather than French. Mr Matheson’s dialect, so Scotsmen say, is of the broadest of broad Scotch. But to the purpose in question this matters nothing. By all this, you will say, much exercise and strength may be, and doubtless is, given to the memory; but, perhaps, little to the judgment, and not a great deal more to the conception, except as to the mere signs. This I should expect to find the case. But according to my notion of the matter, confirmed by that of others, you must either lose a great many years of time, or be content with a very weak association between the signs and the ideas. But when once the signs are lodged in the memory, and the corresponding ideas by ever so weak a string hooked on to them, the association becomes gradually stronger and stronger, and the ideas clearer and more expanded.
“What you seem to require as indispensable from the beginning, I acknowledge to be necessary to perfect intellection; but it is what I should be content to find at the conclusion of the course, and I have very little expectation of finding anything like it at the commencement. Be this as it may, promptitude seems to me to be a habit of prime importance; and when acquired with relation to any one subject, it seems applicable, with more or less advantage, and with a greater or less degree of facility, to every other. What you have probably heard of the alacrity inspired by the new mode of instruction, is realized in Mr Matheson’s, I am informed, in a very extraordinary degree. The great difficulty is, I am told, to tear the boys from the work, not to set them to it.”
On inviting Mr Thompson to his house, he gives this account of his domestic habits:—
“29th Sept. 1819.
“During your stay in London, my hermitage, such as it is, is at your service, and you will be expected in it. I am a single man, turned of seventy; but as far from melancholy as a man need be. Hour of dinner, six; tea, between nine and ten; bed, a quarter before eleven. Dinner and tea in society; breakfast, my guests, whoever they are, have at their own hour, and by themselves; my breakfast, of which a newspaper, read to me to save my weak eyes, forms an indispensable part, I take by myself. Wine I drink none, being, in that particular, of the persuasion of Jonadab the son of Rechab. At dinner, soup as constantly as if I were a Frenchman, an article of my religion learnt in France: meat, one or two sorts, as it may happen; ditto sweet things, of which, with the soup, the principal part of my dinner is composed. Of the dessert, the frugality matching with that of the dinner. Coffee for any one that chooses it.”
Major Cartwright to Bentham.
“37, Burton Crescent,
“My dear Friend,—
The letter of Sir Francis Burdett is above all praise. I rejoice that Westminster is so prompt in meeting on this great occasion. She, I trust, will set an example worthy of the whole kingdom. But the occasion demands that even the bloody atrocity at Manchester, while written in words of fire that shall cause the hearts of Englishmen to burn within them, ought still to be treated as a mere illustration of the necessity of restoring the constitution, civil and military; for hath not that atrocity been a direct consequence of the actual subversion of that constitution?
“If this moment be rightly improved, a great light shall burst forth, and our country shall be saved. The baronet’s letter, in unison with the general feeling, will have prepared the public mind for a welcome reception of constitutional truth. But the crisis requires the pen, not only of patriot virtue, but of enlightened statesmanship and of profound philosophy. Let England and mankind have the benefit of yours!
“Most sincerely do I now wish, that the task of preparing two bills, for restoring the constitution in both its branches, had been undertaken by some one more competent to the work, than the volunteer whose zeal in the cause prompted the attempt. It would, at this crisis, have been an incalculable advantage, had the undertaker of the work stood on the loftiest height of reputation for talent and learning, that so the nation might willingly have followed the banner of such a leader to their salvation.
“But as Providence sometimes works by inferior agents, and, as on the present occasion, where not invention, but restoration,—where not original planning by a legislative architect, but repairing by a pupil, (provided fidelity to the original were but secured,) was all that was immediately indispensable, nothing more as to the work itself was perhaps wanting; although a great name might have commanded the aid that is necessary for a full accomplishment of the ultimate design and object in view.
“But if great names shall now sanction the work, such as it is; if those whose approbation can stamp on it the necessary value for currency, shall confer on it that value; all may yet be well.
“The late Lord Liverpool remarked, that ‘Our Saxon ancestors, as much as they are ridiculed for their ignorance and barbarity, were possessed of one piece of knowledge, superior in real use to many modern refinements,—I mean that of wisely constituting civil societies: their military establishments were, however, the distinguishing parts of their Government.’
“The two bills alluded to, would, as I presume, completely restore the plain Saxon fabric of our freedom: which done; then, taught by our experience the fatal consequence of wanting a written delineation of our constitution, with a correspondent code of ascertained and unpervertiblelaw, these might, and I presume they would, be early supplied.
“I send for your perusal a letter to E. B. Wilbraham, towards the end of which you will see what is said of one of the two bills above spoken of, as a rallying standard to the Reformers. As such, that bill was expressly pointed out at Birmingham; and the extensive and still increasing call for its principles and provisions, seem to manifest the policy of holding it up as such a standard.
“I would to God it had been, as it might have been, the bill of him for whom it was originally framed, and lay for more than a year for his adoption! or I would it had been that of a still higher authority in the science of legislation, and who has, in fact, given its principles a foundation of adamant!
“But what might have been most desirable is not now the question; but what, with the materials in our hands, is practicable? If the existing bill, for restoring the civil branch of the constitution, be but competent to the end in view, is it not the best policy of the crisis to hold it up as a rallying standard?
“It has been well observed, that resolutions expressive of mere opinions, are at the best unembodied abstractions, not calculated to take such hold of the human mind, as practicable systems of conduct for public salvation; since the one leads only to thought, the other to profitable action.
“And if the bill for restoring the military branch of the constitution, which is ready in manuscript, would perfect the foundation of our freedom, is not the crisis peculiarly favourable for a call to introduce it?
“I am well aware of the narrow views too often taken of extraordinary events, and of the cobbling expedients usually adopted by uncomprehensive minds; but I hope that the work of master spirits only, will be visible on this occasion in Westminster.
“The first meeting on this business, in the Strand on the 21st of this instant, was a mere hasty preliminary—a mere incitement. It was without any prospect of a patronage calculated to render it a national example.
“The whole country, after Sir Francis Burdett’s letter, will look to Westminster for a right line of conduct. Let it be such as an occasion of such infinite importance demands, for calling forth energies to save the state! Let the bravest hearts and ablest heads be brought together without delay!
“If aught in nature would afford evidence that nothing short of radical reform can produce a power able to avert from our country complete slavery, we have, and in abundance, that evidence.
“And, in that evidence, we have the proof, that radical reform is in strict accordance with the eternal law of Nature, which is the law of the Deity for individual and national self-preservation; and that it is the only complete guarantee of internal right, justice, order, and tranquillity; as it likewise is, for a perfect invulnerability from external hostility or annoyance.—Yours truly.”
Bentham to Sir Francis Burdett.
“Much esteemed Disciple,—
Man proposes: God disposes. In the event of a removal, I have all along had it fully in contemplation to profit by thy kind invitation last year signified; but Providence has ordained it otherwise. The cold weather is now come: to my weak eyes the heat and light of an ordinary fire are altogether unsupportable. I have here, as thou mayest perhaps remember, an apparatus for keeping the seat of my meditations in a state of moderate warmth, without visible fire. At Ford Abbey I had an apparatus for that same purpose: otherwise I could not, as in winter I did, have sojourned there.
“The produce of thy fields arrived here in safety: it hath assisted me in the support of my mortifications.
“Forget not the children of men: wicked and ungrateful as they are, keep thyself for their sake. For this cause, understanding that thy health is concerned therein, I hereby grant thee my dispensation; permitting thee to run after Foxes; yea, also after hares and Partridges.
“Ce qui est differé n’est pas perdu, sayeth a French proverb.—Receive the blessing of
“The Hermit of Queen’s Square Place.
“Given at this my hermitage, this 5th October, 1819.”
Notes made by Bentham in his Memorandum-book, 1818-19.
“Antiquation—terminative or abrogative; Do. confirmative, terminative, or abrogative,—is the operation performed by the statute called of Limitations, and other such laws. In the case of the parties in whose favour the termination or abrogation is effected, is in the possession of a real entity, as a piece of land or a receivable article,—by the same operation of law by which the right of the party not in possession is terminated or abrogated, that of the party in possession is confirmed.
“The term limitation in use in English law, is not specific enough. The other term in use in Roman law, prescription, is shockingly inapt: in English law not less so. In each case it requires a long explanation to afford the glimpse of a meaning.
“In both cases, the act really done, it is the law and the law alone that does it—or causes one party to have the right in question, the other not to have it. What, by the term prescription, is the act said to be done, is the act of the party: a party by whose act, without the law, no effect can be produced. The act of writing, says the portion ‘script’ or ‘scription:’ bearing some relation to some object, says the proposition ‘prœ’: what the relation is, what the object, to neither of these questions does it afford the least glimpse of an answer.
“By something which he is to write, or cause to be written, the party is to call upon the constituted authorities to concur in the production of the effect in question in respect of the right; which done, the law commands them to act accordingly. This, such as it is, is the intimation conveyed, or endeavoured to be conveyed, by the legislator, or in the case of judge-made law, the judge, by the use thus made of the words, prescription.”
“Murder upon a small scale—no: that is not good. Why? Because we are used to see men hanged for it. Murder on the largest scale. Oh, that is most excellent! Why? Because we are used to see men crowned for it.”
“Evil, to which it is quite sure that it is impossible for you to apply any the least remedy, think as little of as possible: the more you think of it the more you increase it.”
“Oppression well exemplified by anticombination and anti-emigration laws. Anti-combination acts prevent men from earning subsistence at home; Anti-emigration acts from earning it abroad: both join in driving men into the poor-house and suborning suicide.”
“For reputation, considered as one of the shapes of good, say estimation—it may include esteem and respect.”
“Relation of emotion, affection, passion, and humour, to pleasure and pain, and thereby to one another:—
“An act is said to be the result or effect of an emotion, when the motive by which it is regarded as produced is a pleasure or pain considered as transient:—of an affection, when it is regarded as the result of a permanent, or say, an habitual, state of mind in which sympathy or antipathy towards the object in question, and consequently the pleasures and pains corresponding to them, are regarded as frequently having place:—of a passion—of a state of mind transient or permanent, in which the emotion or affection is regarded as being in a high degree of intensity:—of a man’s humour, when the emotion, or affection, or passion, is regarded as being produced by an incident, or sort of incident by which it is seldom or never produced in any other, or in more than a few other minds, in any degree, or in a degree equal to that in which it is produced in the mind in question.”
“Motives—Purity of Motives.—The sources of the indefatigable pretensions on this head.—1. Strength of self-regarding affection on the part of the speaker or writer. 2. Perception of the prodigious strength of authority—of authority-begotten prejudice—of the magnitude of the part which derivative judgment has—of the smallness of the parts which self-formed judgment has—in the determination of human conduct upon the whole.”
“Ordo for Deontology (private.)—1. Prudence (self-regarding.) 2. Justice. 3. Beneficence and benevolence. Prudence first: because, 1. Self-regarding affection is more necessary than sympathetic is to man, with relation to existence, and thence to happiness; to man in general, therefore to every man. 2. The subject is more simple: to wit, one human being alone—in the first instance. But prudence will be to be divided into, 1. Purely self-regarding; 2. Extra-regarding: self-regarding, as exercised when the welfare of no other person is at stake.”
“Logic, alias Metaphysics, is the art and science whereby clearness, correctness, completeness, and connexity are given to ideas: its usefulness is in the joint ratio of the importance of the ideas to which it applies itself—to the ideas themselves—and hence to the expressions whereby they are designated—since it is only by means of this sign that these qualities, or any qualities, can for any length of time be given to the ideas.
“By Logic, alias Metaphysics, reason is applied to these several purposes.—‘I hate metaphysics,’ quoth Edmund Burke, in his pamphlet on the French Revolution. He may safely be believed. He had good cause to hate it. The power he trusted to was oratory—rhetoric—the art of misrepresentation—the art of misdirecting the judgment by agitating and inflaming the passions.”
“Defence against Edinburgh Review.—Men’s minds are known, not from professions but from circumstances. When a man has read, first the Reviewer’s expressed or insinuated opinions, then my real ones, then let him say to himself whether there is a shade of difference.
“To J. B. no small advantage to have the real opinion of such authority on his side.”
“Constitutional Law.—When a business is to be done, to do which in perfection may, in respect of local knowledge, require the operation of subordinate bodies, the legislature should do the business itself in the first instance, by arrangements not to take effect till a more or less distant day assigned, giving intimation to the subordinates to suggest amendments in the meantime:—instance, making or amending territorial divisions—counties and sub-counties—parishes and sub-parishes.”
“If Christianity be the law of the land, disobedience to the precepts in the sermon on the Mount is an indictable offence.”
“Associated Suppressors of Free Inquiry.—They are paid for supporting what? The truth? No! but that which is given them to support, whether it be true or no—like the hirelings of the law, purchasable male prostitutes.”
“In Britain, the ruling few are in a constant state of alarm. Why? Because the government is a continued system of oppression and injustice.
“In the United States, they know not what alarm is. Why? Because, not having power to oppress, they never do oppress.”
“By assuming extra-sapience, despots, instead of warranting despotism, warrant it by adding insult to it.
“The security of the people is as the strength of the people: the strength of a people (in every constitution but a democratical) is as the weakness of the government.”
“Use of the Rules of Deontology.—Being at times free from excitation, stored up in the mind, afterwards under excitation, viz.—by imprudence or maleficence—they may become useful, by checking the bad passion at its commencement.
“By being put into verse, their usefulness might be much increased.”
“Character—cast of mind,—better than turn or frame.”
“To each man the court of public opinion is that which sits in the circle in which he moves.”
“J. B.’s knowledge of the World, Whig Lords, &c.—Those who live with them, and, by describing their doings and looking at their titles, pretend to know what they are,—know only what they say. I, who might have lived with them, and would not live with them,—and who neither know nor care what they say,—know, and without living with them, what they think.”
“Similes, however fantastic, supposing them not inapposite, are of real use, viz. to conception. By adding to a generically, specifically, individually, designative conception, they give to it a determinateness and clearness which otherwise it might not have. Dead as a nit—as a door-nail, &c.”
“For diet, nothing but self-regarding affection will serve: but for a dessert, benevolence,—even universal benevolence is, make the least of it, a very valuable addition. Universal beneficence is within the power of very few,—benevolence, in its conceivable extent, is within the power of all.”
“All reading pro forma is non-reading.”
“Interest appeals to the will, argument to the understanding. What can argument do against interest? The understanding is but the servant—the very slave to the will. What can be done against the master by application to the slave?”
“Deontology private.—Beneficence, self-regarding motives conducing to the exercise of it.—
“N.B.—Justice is but beneficence—positive or negative—considered in respect of certain occasions on which it is exercised.
“Beneficence may be considered as exercised,—
“1. Towards all persons, without distinction.
“2. Towards persons standing, with reference to the agent, in the relation of equals, superiors, and inferiors.
“Self-regarding motives for exercising beneficence towards all, without distinction:—
“1. By the services in question, probability created for the receipt of other services to an indefinite extent.
“2. Present exercise of power: thence enjoyment of the pleasure of power. Without sacrifice of self-regarding interest in any shape, almost every man in these ways advances it. Every man has more or less of time during which he has nothing particular to do. Let him employ it in beneficence.
“Justice is beneficence: in the cases in which the non-performance of it is considered as punished, or punishable by the force of one or other of the several sanctions: principally the political, including the legal, and the moral or popular sanction.
“In the above distinction, no reference is made to the occasion.
“The occasion is either permanent or transient. The permanent are those which are afforded by permanent situations.
“Permanent situations are those which are created by the several relations in life.
“These are either, 1. Private, or 2. Public. To the class of private belong domestic or family relations: to the public, those belonging to the official establishment.”
“Precedent.—The habit of taking it for a rule in the practice of the legislature, is an expedient employed for supporting abuse against utility and reason: precedent being an avowed substitute for reason, and all precedents the results of the predominance of the sinister interests of the ruling few.”
“For a share of power, a man will do many a bad thing which he would scarcely do for any sum of money. Why? Because in what he does for the power, there are so many to give him countenance and support.”
“The physical world is kept in the state we see it in, by the result of the contest between the principles of attraction, and those of repulsion. So likewise in the moral world.
[* ] See Works, vol. iii. p. 487-490, and p. 547-8.
[* ] Vol. ii. p. 491.
[* ] Charles Comte, who married Say’s daughter. A well-known political writer. He and Dunoyer were prosecuted in the same indictment for seditious writings.
[* ] The papers sent were probably the Codification Proposal, with its Appendix of Testimonials from foreign countries. See works, vol. iv. p. 537.