Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Daniel O'Connell. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 10 (Memoirs Part I and Correspondence)
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Bentham to Daniel O’Connell. - 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 Daniel O’Connell.
“Queen’s Square Place,
“Here is the 31st of August come, date of your letter the 3d of the month, and no reply yet sent, nor so much as the little cargo of books, which my first letter spoke of as sent already. Misconceptions and disappointments, not worth mentioning, have been the causes.
“Parliamentary Reform, Law Reform, Codification—all these agenda crowned with your approbation—nothing can be more satisfactory, nothing more glorious to me—nothing more beneficial to the so unhappily United Kingdom, from thence to the rest of the civilized world, and from thence, in God Almighty’s good time, to the uncivilized. One thing only missing—your sojourn at the Hermitage,—I say your sojourn,—for your visit, at any rate, is promised.
“Now for matter—a rather untoward effect, to speak in the official naval style, has been produced upon your friends and allies here, by the transformation—degeneration they call it, of Radical into Constitutional—Constitutional, as it has been observed by many, Mr Peel himself would have no objection to. If Constitutional is synonymous to Radical—if it means all that Radical does—what the need, and where the use in changing it? If it means not so much as Radical, here then is departure—here is backing out, and so soon after the advance. If, after so many years of consideration, this is relinquished, what security can the two other innovations—projects but of yesterday—promise themselves for their being adhered to and preserved.
“So far as regards Parliamentary Reform, something to this effect, mixed as usual with his bitter, violent, and coarse vituperation, you cannot but have seen in roasted-wheat-seller Hunt’s letter in the Herald, which, I take for granted, you and yours regularly see. The paper in which that speech of yours is, is not before me; but, according to my recollection, though to accommodate somebody else, you consented to the substitution of ‘Constitutional’ to Radical in some papers proposed for general acceptance: Radical was the reform you, in your individual capacity, declared your adherence to. This recollection, flattering myself with its being a correct one, I adhere to—Facile credimus id quod volumus—but others contradict me.
“Now, then, of all who join with you, what could have been any one’s inducement to adopt anything that is not Radical Reform, to the exclusion of that which is? A reform which is not Radical, is moderate reform; and a reform which is moderate reform, is Whig reform. What then can have been the inducement to adopt Whig Reform to the exclusion of Radical Reform, but the prospect of gaining over, or steadying, in some proportion or other, the Whigs?
“Now, according to my conception of the matter, in any proportion that could give probability of success to your cause, as well might you look for assistance from Mr Peel and his coadjutors as from the Whigs. If the present system of representation by intimidation is necessary to the Tories, it is still more so to the Whigs. The Tories, in addition to such quantity of the matter of corruption as they possess in the shape of means of intimidation, are in possession of all that exists in the shape of means of allurement,—money, power, factitious reputation, factitious dignity—compound of power and dignity in the shape of peerage—compound of power, dignity, and vast opulence in the shape of bishopricks and archbishopricks—not to speak of deaneries, canonries, and prebends—all of them so many avowed sinecures, in addition to those others, which, being so many little-to-does about nothing, are so many effective sinecures. Now, of all these good things, what is it that is in possession of the Whigs? Nothing but an always varying number of seats out of the 658—always varying, but at the utmost not more than what constitute a comparatively small minority, at no time sufficient to carry so much as a single measure. Now, then, this being all that they have to trust to for whatever share of importance they may possess, is it in the nature of man that they should fail to cling to it with the most determined pertinacity? Is it in the nature of man that they should, any one of them, join in the procurement of the ballot?
“For any one to join in promoting the ballot, what would it be but to commit suicide? In fact, joining in promoting the ballot, would be being a Radical and not a Whig; for, let but the ballot but be established, away slip all the seats from under them. Some will be filled by Tories, some by Radicals, in proportions which, as things stand at present, it will not be possible to determine. Now, then, without the ballot, think what would become of you and your cause? True it is, at a spurt, at a time of extraordinary excitement, by a political miracle such as was never yet exemplified, and perhaps may never be so again—a miracle such as no country but Ireland was ever capable of exemplifying, one seat has been filled, and so perhaps, in I cannot pretend to say what quantity, some others. But if, by continuance of the same miracles, all the seats in Ireland were thus filled, how much would you be the nearer to the accomplishment of your wishes? Obtain the ballot for Ireland, you will obtain it for England and Scotland likewise. This done, you obtain a good government with the faculty of framing a real constitution, instead of on every occasion dreaming of an imaginary one, and with the opposite fact staring you in the face, pretending to believe it and talking of it as if it really were a real one.
“Here, among Englishmen, some few members there are, I am well assured, one of whom will, in the course of the next Session, move for the ballot, and by speech as well as votes, be supported by others. This, then, is what you should be prepared to join in, or rather to be beforehand with, and prepare for. Petitions from all Ireland, either for Radical Reform, or, if you are not strong enough for that, for the Ballot by itself. Ballot alone would be slower, whether surer, it is for you, not for me, to judge.
“ ‘Six or seven thousand a-year’ professional profit, to take care of, and push as far as it will go, for the benefit of a family! Well, this is sincere and honest, and I thank you for it. Nor would it be part of my plan, I think, were you even at my disposal, that you should give it up—especially if Parliament were, after all, inaccessible to you. But what it would make me happy to see you agree with me in, and accordingly treat us where you are with a speech or two in consequence, is what I myself am satisfied about, and perfectly persuaded of, viz., that if Law Reform were carried to its utmost length, which is what my system, if proposed and adopted, would effect, you, personally considered—you, such as you are, would not be a sixpence the less rich for it. All the business you could find time to do you would, in every state of things, be altogether sure of; and in respect of all-comprehensiveness and clearness, were the state of the law carried to its utmost possible length, you would not have one brief the less, nor for any brief one sovereign the less. I should think rather the more: for the less the money spent upon attorneys and official lawyers, the more would be left to be spent upon barrister’s eloquence. In common law, in particular, none of the fees for incidental parts of a suit are so large as those which are given when the vital part of the suit comes upon the carpet, i. e. at the trial, the speech, and cross-examination on the question of fact. The shorter each suit, the greater the number of suits with these speeches in them, that would come upon the carpet in a given space of time: for my plan, which is simplicity itself, would dry up the source effectually, of incidental questions. Nor would my plan, I should suppose, be, even in respect of profit, detrimental to the interest of the higher branch of the profession taken as a whole,—for it includes judgeships as many as there are spaces in the country, each, upon an average, being a square—of, say from ten to twelve miles of a side, (analagous, in this respect, to the judgeships in the French system—always understood, that, under my system, on any judicial bench, every judge more than one is a perfect nuisance, destroying responsibility, multiplying the expense by the number of the judges: with other objections too numerous to enumerate;) while, instead of the feeble control, if any, which may be thought to be applied to abuse, by multitude of judges, I apply a perfectly efficient control, by a system of appeals, to which I give a degree of facility, beyond anything of which a conception can even as yet have been entertained. Then, instead of so many barristers with professional profits, varying from naught to hundreds, and here and there a very few, thousands—here would be so many judges with fixed salaries, not exposed to uncertainty; and the power and dignity of the judge, instead of the no power and no dignity of the representative of everybody from the peer down to the half-starved thief. Now, then, as to the glory you would reap from the accomplishment of a second, I should rather say a third task, to which no hand other than yours is equal, and the felicity beyond all example—beyond even conception, which you will give to more than twenty millions of human beings in the two islands, besides et ceteras upon et ceteras. This is not a picture for such an old and blunt pencil as mine to attempt to delineate. An imagination such as yours, will, in the twinkling of an eye, supply every demand which a purpose such as this can ever make on it. Here, then, is your own personal interest in every shape, in perfect harmony and accordance with the public interest, to an extent equal to that of the surface of the globe. Is it possible, that, if there were any such discordance, as, for the reasons above-mentioned, I do not anticipate, between the universal interest and the hair’s-breadth interest of your brethren of the profession, the hair’s-breadth interest should, in your scales, weigh more than the universal interest?
“I have spoken of the thing as being in your power, and that by means of speeches of which you give me hopes. But what are the speeches I have in view?—what the proposed scene of them. Not the House of Commons; for in that place, the most brilliant and even effective speech that man ever made, or ever could make, would be a flash in the pan and nothing more. No, the scene I have in view, lies in the places, wherever they are, in which the effect of a speech might be to engage the people, one and all, to petition Parliament for Law Reform. And leaving speeches altogether to you, in framing petitions apposite to the purpose, I shall not be altogether without hopes of affording such assistance as might be of use.
“Farewell, illustrious friend! comforter of my old age! invigorator of my fondest hopes!
“Somewhat more of this scribble I was threatening you with in my mind; but for one and the same post, this is quite enough.”
Bentham had a great objection to partings. He said, he saw no reason that people should inflict upon themselves or others the pain of saying adieu. “Your welcome,” says Bodin, in a letter to him, “is so cordial, so affectionate, so hospitable, that you are quite right in prohibiting the utterance of a farewell. I love to think of your philanthropic laboratory, where you raised over my head your famous stick, whose beneficent despotism ordered nothing but a most willing obedience.” Bentham had a favourite stick: he called it Dobbin; and often, in his playfulness, he raised it over the shoulders of his visiters. Bodin was one of Bentham’s favourites. His works on the French Revolution had immense popularity in France. He was a coadjutor of Thiers. He became, as his father had been, a member of the Chamber of Deputies; and died in the flower of life, an object of strong affection to all who knew him. He had taken as his motto—his name was Felix—“Maxima Felicitas plurimorum.” He hurried to Dumont to obtain his sanction for its use; and Dumont approved the classical rendering.