Front Page Titles (by Subject) Proposal - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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“ Proposal - 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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“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.