Front Page Titles (by Subject) Extracts of a Letter from Bentham to the Greeks. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Extracts of a Letter from Bentham to the Greeks. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Extracts of a Letter from Bentham to the Greeks.
“November 24, 1823.
Some there are among you who say,—Give yourselves to a king! Give yourselves to a king? Know that, if you do so, you give yourselves to an enemy—to an enemy, and that an irresistible and perpetual, an irresistible and implacable one. Yes—diametrically opposite in everything is his interest to yours: and what worse can be said of the worst enemy? It is your interest to keep, every one of you, the fruits of his own industry for his own use. It would be your king’s interest to get from each of you the last penny, to lavish upon his own lusts, his instruments, and his favourites, to satiate what is insatiable—his own rapacity, and that of his instruments and favourites.
“Be the object what it may, when the will and the power are both in the same hand, the effect takes place. The will, to engross to itself all the objects of human desire, is in every human breast: to the will, a king adds the power: can the consequence be doubtful? He will not take everything from you to-day, seeing that, if he did, when that was gone, there would be nothing for him to take to-morrow. No slave-holder starves his slaves, seeing, that to work, a slave must live. Your king would not take everything from you; but what he would leave to you would be, at all times, as little as possible. It is so everywhere: under the Turks, you were, in no small proportion, free from the presence of an enemy; you paid tribute;—your condition could not be bettered—but it was not made worse. Not a family in which he (a king) will not have a spy. For where the archplunderer is a king, where is the family in which there will not be some one looking for a share in the plunder?
“Nay, but, say the Royalists, your betrayers,—our monarch shall be a limited one. Grecians, believe them not. Limited? yes, for a moment; and till the chains, which from the very first moment will be intolerable to him, can be thrown off. Would you see how easily all such chains can be thrown off? Look to Spain: look to Portugal. All monarchs are ready to lend all their hands. Chains imposed in these times on monarchs, are snapped asunder in a moment. Look at Mexico. There started up a new emperor. There, too, there were a few chains for show,—like those which are worn by the hero of a tragedy, light and polished as art can make them: he snapped them as if they had been piecrust: and this comes by oppression and depredation without a bridle and without stint.
“And these securities in the shape of chains, who are they that are to keep them on? A set of expectants, whom he will have, with so many mouths to feed, and all at your expense. To keep them in subserviency your burden will be doubled: and this is the sort of security you will get,—with your nominal limitations.
“Look to France: look to the great charter: eight years have not elapsed since it was granted, and what is the value of it now?
“In Spain, the fourth part of what the people were made to pay in taxes for the expense of government, was every year devoured by the monarch: thus much was known and avowed: what was secretly added by debts contracted, and secret pillage, was incalculable. Thus stood the matter in 1787: and from that time to that of the hapless Revolution, it grew worse and worse.
“The worst will not come at first. To lull you into acquiescence there must be the outside of security. But though the day cannot be calculated, the worst will come one day, so sure as the bad is submitted to the first day. Power, money, mischievous lustre, vengeance, nothing can a monarch ever get, that does not serve him as an instrument for getting more. The more he wastes, the more thoroughly are all under him corrupted and deluded.
“Waste, corruption, and delusion, go on hand in hand, and increase together, till every thing absorbable is absorbed.
“Now, for what is it that any man can propose to you to put yourselves under an irresistible plunderer, but for the assurance of sharing in the plunder,—but that the plunder may be shared in by himself?
“In England, one lawyer has £23,000 a-year, which he keeps; besides several times as much which he must give, indeed, but which he gives to whom he pleases: and there is a bishop who has as much again. Not long ago, there was a parish priest who, for doing nothing, received £12,000 a-year, and his delight was in driving stage-coaches.
“In a republic, they will tell you, there is no security. No security in a republic? say, rather, no security anywhere else. Look to the Anglo-American republic: what security, what prosperity, what constantly-increasing prosperity, was ever comparable to theirs? so it has been these forty years; and every year brings a vast increase.
“Of all other governments, the least bad is that of England. Yet, under England, six millions and a half of Irishmen groan in irremediable distress, under unrelenting tyranny. They are kept hungry and naked by priests, and other creatures of monarchy, who fatten on their spoils.
“So sure as you have a king, so sure has the Holy Alliance another member. And what is the Holy Alliance, but an alliance of all kings, against all those who are not kings. Were there no such alliance, remedy, under the most grievous tyranny, would be but too difficult: under the Holy Alliance, all remedy would be impossible. When there was no Holy Alliance, in each State, oppression, though under a monarchy, might, for a time, be more or less mitigated by a revolution in that State. It was so in England in 1688. But now, under the Holy Alliance, there can be no mitigation in revolution in any one State, without a revolution in every other.
“In England, the king is not yet what he is in Spain. But from whence is it that he is not? Is it for want of desire to be so? Ask those whose language is the known creature of his will: the journalists who watch his every thought, and whose daily productions accompany his daily bread to his table.”
The President of the Portuguese Cortes wrote to Bentham, in 1823, a letter full of admiration, requesting he would look through all the articles of the Portuguese Constitution, and suggest any amendments for the consideration of the Assembly. These were days of boundless happiness to Bentham, when, from every side, testimonials of respect and affection were flowing towards him, and when all events seemed concurring in advancing the great interest to which he was devoted.
1823—27. Æt. 75-79.
Establishment of the Westminster Review.—Lord Eldon.—Burdett.—Catholic Association.—Extracts from Note-Book.—Rationale of Reward.—Independence of the Judges.—Humanity to Animals.—Bolivar, and Bentham’s Works.—Visit to Paris.—Death of Parr.—President Adams.—Governor Plumer.—Reminiscences.—Del Valle.—American Law.—Sydney Smith.—Conversation, and Notices of Grote, Burke, Junius, North, Fox, Wedderburn, Erakine, Talleyrand, Lansdowne, Dunning, Barré, &c.
In 1823, the Westminster Review was started. The funds were all furnished by Bentham. The editors, for some years, were Mr Southern in the literary, and myself for the political department. It afterwards passed into my hands alone; and next was carried on by me in connexion with Colonel Perronet Thompson. Its appearance excited no small fluttering among the two sections of the aristocracy, which it attacked with equal, though not an undiscriminating ardour. The sale, for some time, was nearly 3000; and as its readers were, to a large extent, among the unopulent and democratic classes, whose access to books is principally by associations of various sorts, the number of its readers was very great. It was the first quarterly organ of the Radical party,—it was, in fact, the first substantial literary proof that there was a Radical party. The Tories hailed it, in a succession of articles in Blackwood and elsewhere, as the harbinger and evidence of schism among the Whigs. It was rather the evidence of hearty union and coöperation among a large section of reformers. The Review was originally intended to be published by Longman and Co.; but they professed to be alarmed at the Radicalism of its politics, and peremptorily refused to proceed, after some of the articles had been printed. Baldwins became the publishers; but no instance of prosecution against the work ever occurred in the course of its career. Of the Westminster Review, Bentham gives this account to one of his correspondents:—
“Now as to the New Review, yclept the Westminster Review, Quarterly, No. 1. to come out the first of next year, 1824. What think you of your old antediluvian having, in as great a degree as he could wish, at his disposal, a rival—a professed rival—to the Edinburgh and Quarterly,—an organ of the Radicals, as the Edinburgh is of the Whigs, and the Quarterly of the Tories? Onehalf consecrated to politics and morals, the other half left to literary insignificancies. Longmans’ house the joint proprietors. Longmans’, the greatest booksellers’ house the world ever yet saw. Prospectus, according to their advice, short; printing, and advertising, and publishing, they bear the expense of; of copies, they print of the prospectus 150,000. Over and over again they have said it would and should find its way into every village in the United Kingdom, not to speak of foreign parts. Bowring, editor of the political part. A Cantab of the name of Southern, who has conducted a weekly or monthly publication with considerable reputation, for the flowery part. Of the political part, one constant sub-part will be the “Reviewers reviewed:” this is, and will be, executed by Mill; he commences with the Edinburgh, as being the first established quarterly. Number to be printed, either 2000 or 3000; but in addition to these, what think you of stereotypage? Yes, stereotypage there is to be: cost, it is said, no more than one-third more; and, in the event of success, thus will be saved the expense the Edinburgh was at in several reprintings. The capital thing is,—the circumstantial evidence this affords of the growth of Radicalism; for with their experience and opportunities of observation, the Longmans would never have launched into any such expenses without good ground for assurance that Radicalism would either promote, or not prevent the accession of a proportionate number of customers. Bowring’s correspondence has produced capital hands from almost every country in Europe, not to speak of America and British India.”