Front Page Titles (by Subject) La Fayette to Bentham. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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La Fayette to Bentham. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 11.
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La Fayette to Bentham.
“Lagrange, November 10, 1828.
“My excellent and illustrious Friend,—
Since your last and muchvalued communication, dated end of August, has reached me, I have received neither printed books, manuscripts, narrative, or visit from Monsieur Rey or Felix Bodin. It is true I have remained on my farm at Lagrange, and have devoted only a few, say as many, hours as were requisite to improve my mind by yourenlightened and philanthropic letters, and to cheer my heart with the testimonies of your esteem and friendship. Not that I think my observations might be useful to you. Besides the weight of correspondence, and a series of diversified duties which press upon me in a manner disproportioned with the length of the day, I am too old and rusted a soldier to be so serviceable as any of your more recent military men, excepting, perhaps, in those general ideas when the republican citizen takes the lead of tactics, and at that more lofty point of view you have nobody to consult.
“The baneful emulation for standing armies had, from the reign of Louis XIV., prevailed in Europe, small powers striving, like the frog in the fable, to imitate their betters. When the Revolution of ′89 roused and armed a great nation, to the institution of the National Guard of France, upon which Mr Comte has lately published an interesting book, were owing the first successes against the counter-revolutionary coalition, and after the imperial despotism, neglecting, or rather fearing, the principle of an armed organization of the people, depended upon its own genius and the powers of a numerous and admirable regular army, whose superiority was confessed by Britain, and attested by victories. You have seen the almost invincible host and omnipotent Napoleon repelled by a popular insurrection of Germans; the fate of your gallant troops, inured to the trials and dangers of the Spanish war, in their attack upon the hasty lines of New Orleans, defended by an American militia, has been a matter of European wonder. Yet, when in the Chamber of Deputies we ask, not for the dissolution of the standing army, but its reduction within proper bounds, so as to form a regimental nucleus for larger importations in time of war, when we insist upon limiting the conscription time to three years, under the colours, and a Lancastrian primary education, and three years on furlough—so that young men, when they are taught the use of arms to repel an invasion, do not lose the destination of their future life; when we consider standing troops as the vanguard of an armed nation, and call for a general system of national guards, naming their own officers,—which, in countries where the government is not, like in the United States, the people itself, appears to us a necessary condition, even for the maintenance of discipline,—we are opposed not only by the prejudices, remembrances, and counter-revolutionary hopes of the ancien régime, but by imperialism, militarism, and wilful forgetfulness of men, many of whom, had they not found in the National Guards a source of glory and advancement, might have remained in the inferior ranks of society and regular armies. To the federation of 1790, fourteen thousand deputies, duly elected, were sent by upwards of 3,000,000 of National Guards. The militia of the United States amounts to 1,100,000 men, equal to defend independence, liberty, equality, territory, and legal order, against a coalition of the rest of the world.
“I thank you, my dear Sir, for your observations on the impeachment of ministers. Let me be allowed, as a disciple of the American School, to adopt the principles which limit the judgment of public men to dismissal from office and future incapacity, leaving it with the courts of justice to try them, as other offenders, by common law. In Europe it is not the case. On the greater part of the continent, a minister is responsible to his own master, and often to the master and mistress, wherever there is what is called a Constitution, (not a written Constitutional act, originating with the sovereignty of the people, framed by their special representatives, accepted by them, as it is practised in the United States, as we had introduced at the beginning of the French Revolution, but a series of precedents, chartered grants, the acknowledgment of rights made by royalty, on the presentation of privilege, as you have it in England; or a written Charter, acknowledging some rights, abridging others, denying many, among which, the first of them, the National right to make it:) under this mock Constitution, I say, the mode of impeachment of ministers includes the whole proceeding of the law. What is called popular representation accuses. Hereditary legislators become hereditary judges. The French charter has specified two offences, treason and concussion, which, indeed, extends far, if misadvising the king, or oppressing the king, is treason, and the misappropriation of public money is concussion: the sense of the Chamber of Deputies, after better elections, has secured their dismissal, the object being less their being brought to punishment, than of such men obtaining a farther removal of chances for the return to office. It is wished to effect the dismissal of administrative agents still supported by the court, which would be the result if a committee of inquiry were named by the house, an advantage which your Parliament has over our Chambers. This may, in some measure, explain the hesitation, embroglio and minorities for energetic resolutions, which you have justly remarked in the management of that affair. Your communications of English precedents cannot but be very welcome.
“Several packets have arrived since I last heard from the noble kind-hearted friend, of whom you have said she had the sweetest and strongest mind that ever was lodged in a female body: [Miss F. Wright] the singular part, suited, as you observed, to her singular character, may be misrepresented by people not well acquainted with the purity of her heart, the candour of her mind, the enthusiasm of her philanthropy, the disinterestedness of her views, and the vivacity of her hopes; her talents, indeed, part of which evaporate in theories, of the certainty and utility of which she has not a doubt, might have been, I think, more efficaciously employed, even to promote her own humane purposes; but to know, to respect, and to love her, will ever be, in my sense, one and the same thing.
* * * *
“I am much obliged for the preference you are pleased to preserve in behalf of my Syrian Rose, although its intrinsic merit has not stood the proof of a more commercial-horticultural examination: sentimental associations are not strange flowers on the soil where she originated. There, they tell love tales: here, it has been consecrated to friendship, a friendship more cordially reciprocated.—Your affectionate friend.”
Bentham, on occasion of Henry Hunt’s attack upon O’Connell, wrote to him this anonymous letter:—
“I am not personally known either to yourself or to Mr O’Connell: but I am, and have long been, a sincere and most zealous friend of Radical Reform,—that cause which you and he espouse. Proportioned to my attachment to that cause, is my regret at the thought of the damage, which it stands exposed to sustain from this personal altercation between two so preëminently powerful supporters of it. In his letter, the vituperative matter (I am persuaded) cannot have damaged you in public opinion, in any the smallest degree. In your letter, likewise, the argumentative matter, I am equally persuaded, would have produced more good effect to the cause, and raised you still higher in the esteem and admiration of the readers, if it had been entirely divested of the matter of the same sort, which, though less in quantity and coarseness, it nevertheless contains. Along with this letter, I am writing one to him with the same object. The proper subject-matter of consideration, with a view to present practice, is, not what he has been, but what he is at present: and that is—the only man perhaps in the world, by whom, for many many years to come, Radical Reform, or any approach to it can be brought upon the carpet, with any the smallest chance of success. His instruments are the vast majority of the people of Ireland—his operations, by means of those same instruments, petitionings for Reform: for Reform in whatever shape, for a commencement, may be deemed to afford the most promising prospect of success. For the prayer of the petition, what I should prefer, is—the ballot: in the first place alone, without any other of the features. Why alone? Because, in Ireland, the forty-shilling freeholders compose the main body of his strength; and the ballot being their sole permanent security, against the option between slavery and starvation, the other features would, in comparison, be as nothing to them: and because, to my knowledge, there are several in the House of Commons, who would vote for the ballot, but would not vote for any adequate, if any, extension of the right of suffrage. If that can not be carried, still less would it be possible to carry Radical Reform in toto: on the other hand, suppose it carried, we should then push on with increase of strength. Now, then—suppose him to have got up a body of petitioners for the ballot? a body strong enough for the purpose of appropriate and necessary intimidation? think of the support it would give you, on the occasion of a speech from you, at a meeting of the Livery in Guildhall: whereas, without such a support, the finest speech that ever was or could be uttered, would be so much sound, and nothing more. And so, again, in meetings of the Common Council, of which it is among my ardent wishes to see you a member. He, in his part of the field, you, in yours—could you but prevail upon yourselves, or be prevailed upon, to forget, on both sides, the irrelevant matter in question, you might, on his arrival in London, act in concert, and with greatly increased effect.
“ ‘No:’ you may say—‘he is insincere,’ or ‘he is fickle, and he will back out again, as he has done already.’ Well, then, for the purpose of the argument—be it so: still, the further he has carried matters on in our track, before he has backed out, so much the better, for, so much the better shall we be able to do without him when he is gone.
“But my opinion of him, is—that at present, in his declared advocacy of Radical Reform, even in its complete extent, he is sincere.
“I cannot stay to give all my reasons. But some of them are these:—
“1. I remember when, several years ago, he brought upon the carpet Radical Reform, in its whole extent: making express reference to Bentham’s Parliamentary Reform Catechism, or Radical Reform Bill, or both, I forget which. At that time he gave the matter up: how could be do otherwise?—no support could he find; to have persevered would have been, thenceforward, to render it impossible to make any part of the great progress he has made. In his place (I remember well) I should have done the same.
“2. Next, as to the matter which you have so powerfully brought in charge against him: and, in particular, the giving up the forty-shilling freeholders. At that time, I was witness to great difference of opinion between a number of intelligent men, all zealous Radical well-wishers to Reform—all of them completely—either unexposed to, or superior to, sinister interest in any shape. If I misrecollect not, I myself was for the giving up the votes of the men so circumstanced. Why? because, their condition considered, I could not, at that time, see any, the smallest probability of their doing as they have done. Nowhere but in Ireland could any self-sacrifice, in point of numbers, so extensive, or a thousandth part so extensive, have been produced: nor even there, without a sort of miracle: or even by miracles, for more than a time of precarious duration—a time of preternatural excitation.
“Abominable as the other conditions are, every one of them, to my mind—considering him as an Irish Catholic, (I myself am neither Irishman nor Catholic,) I know not how to regard him (I must confess) as blameable, either on the score of honesty or judgment, for being desirous of making these concessions, rather than lose emancipation altogether: emancipation in the other remaining shapes.
“Now, then, with this opinion, with what justice can I think ill of a man for taking the course which, without any personal interest in the matter, I myself took, or should have taken? Now, as to the late occasion:—On that occasion, he gave up the motion for Radical Reform, and submitted to the substitution of the word Constitutional, which, as you think, and as I think, means nothing at all. This submission he made. But why? for the same irresistible reason for which he made the former one, as above; because, either the motion of which the word Radical stood part, would have been carried against him, or, if carried by him, would have produced such a schism as might have left him in a state of comparative impotence. So much for the motion: but, as to his own opinion, he then declared, and has since repeatedly declared, that, by Constitutional Reform, he meant Radical—nothing short of it.
“Other passages in his political conduct there are, for which I cannot find any such justification: such was his adulation and prostration in regard to the king. But the failing belongs partly to his nation, and partly to his profession. The Irish are in extremes naturally; and lawyers, being paid for being so, are so habitually. But, since that time, he has had a most instructive course of political experience: and, according to my view of the matter, he has profited by it. He seems to me much improved.
“As to you, Sir, forgive the liberty implied in bestowing upon yourself that same commendation. Of late, I have had the pleasure of hearing it bestowed upon you, and without a dissenting voice, by many flowers of our Radical flock, whose sentiments and opinions in relation to you were, till of late, very far from favourable: and, amongst them even rivals: but such rivals, whom no opposition, on the ground either of interest or sentiment, could ever draw aside out of the path of sincerity and justice.
“To you, it is no unexampled course, to unite with men with whom you have had differences. Witness Mr Cobbett.
“I have never seen either yourself or Mr O’Connell. He knows not of my writing this: nor of my having any such thing in my thoughts: he cannot: for it has not been in them longer than this day or two.
“But I have some reason for thinking that I have some influence with him: and if, by an answer to this, you will express a disposition to come to an accommodation, and enter into an union with him, as above,—whatsoever influence I may have with him, shall for that purpose be employed. If you lay on me your injunctions not to let him know that any such disposition on your part has been manifested, those injunctions shall most punctually be complied with: but it seems to me it would afford a better promise, if you would not: for, at any rate, it is not with you that the proposal for an accommodation would, in this case, have originated: and here would be so much proof of sincere affection to the cause, and of good temper, of which you would have set the example: to him, all that would remain would be, to follow it: to follow the example set by you.
“I forbear giving you my name: it is not necessary to the production of the effect desired: and it might have the effect of loading with irrelevant matter, a business of such transcendent importance, which is already but too much encumbered with it. I flatter myself that, without discovering the name of the individual, your discernment will discover in the sort of person, one in whom, at any rate, for a purpose such as the present, the requisite confidence may be placed, without any such risk as need oppose a bar to it. A letter, directed to A. Z., at Mr Byfield’s, stationer, Charing Cross, will come to hand.
“P.S.—I dread the appearance of another hasty and hot letter from O’Connell, before that which I am writing can reach him. Suppose any such letter to arrive, would it not be better to put it aside unread: at any rate, till you have seen what, if anything, the letter I am writing to him has produced?