Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Sir Francis Burdett. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Sir Francis Burdett. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 10.
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Bentham to 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!”
[* ] See Works, vol. iii. p. 487-490, and p. 547-8.
[* ] Vol. ii. p. 491.