Front Page Titles (by Subject) José del Valle ( the President of Guatemala ) to Bentham. (Translation.) - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
Return to Title Page for The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
José del Valle ( the President of Guatemala ) to Bentham. (Translation.) - 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.
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.
José del Valle (the President of Guatemala) to Bentham.
“Guatemala, the 19th May, 1829.
Want of conveyance, in consequence of the little intercourse between this country and England, has been the cause of my silence during the preceding months. I was not able to send my letters, and I had not the honour to converse through them with Mr Bentham. But your respected voice has reached me, through the medium of the works which you have written for the universal good of mankind. You, Sir, have multiplied yourself in them: you live in all civilized countries: you will live in all ages. A wise man is, of all beings, the one who most approaches the divinity which is omnipresent.
“I avail myself of the opportunity now offering itself in Mr T. Ackerman, by whom, to your metropolis, I have the pleasure of sending you a collection of the gold and silver coins of this Republic.
“Neither the coins of this country, nor those of other nations of the ancient and new world, are as I would wish them to be. In monarchical countries, they exhibit the effigy of the kings and their armorial bearings. In the United States, that of liberty and an eagle, with the device of the federal system—E pluribus unum. In the Mexican Republic, the cap of liberty and an eagle perched on a nopal, (the cactus, or cochineal feeding-tree,) with a serpent in her beak. In Central America, the tree of liberty, and five volcanoes, representatives of the five States which form the Republic. In the Peruvian, a female figure representing Liberty, and the armorial bearings of the city of Lima. In the United Provinces of the River of Plata, the Sun, symbol of the Union, and the cap of liberty. In Chili, a volcano emitting fire, a column supporting a small globe, above this a star, and, higher still, the word Liberty, &c.
“The other symbols of American Republics have the same defect, for there are diverse nations which have eagles, nopales, &c. In the pictures of serpents, suns, eagles, &c., I see a something like relics of ancient barbarism; and the cap of liberty appears to me an affectation, unnecessary where it (liberty) positively exists, and ridiculous, where it is only nominal.
“In all nations, which are not oppressed by tyrants or despots, there ought to exist a legal liberty. The symbol which represents it, might, in this case, be put on the coins of all constitutional governments; in which case, the application made of it, would be coextensive with the distinguishing character of the form of government which it is designed to present to view: and in each political State, to this generally applying, should be added a specially applying symbol peculiar to itself.
“I should like to see that, in monarchies and in Republics, the coins bore on the obverse side, an image representing Congress, Parliament, or Cortes; and on the reverse side, the bust of the king, or of the supreme chief of the Republic: that further, on the first be expressed the name of the Congress, Parliament, or Cortes, and the number of deputies and senators that form it; and that on the second be shown the name of the monarch or respective chief of the nation.
“The coins would then partake of the august character which distinguishes the high powers. They would be precious monuments for the history of the constitutional epochs, and eternal opprobrium to the tyrants who seek to annihilate constitutional government, and to make themselves absolute.
“Another thought which strikes me at this moment: might there not be on the reverse side an image representing the two highest powers—the Legislative and the Executive; and on the other side the map of the Kingdom or Republic—upon a very diminutive scale.
“The map of a nation, would give to its coins the most unequivocal character of nationality. They would be more conformable to the spirit of the age, which is not like former ages—pleased with lions, castles, ladders, and apes; but, on the contrary, with everything that is positively useful, and adapted to the existing civilisation. It would inspire a taste for the study of the geography of the country, even down to the lowest class of the people.
“I do not know whether you, Mr Bentham, have everturned your thoughts to the subject of coins—those thoughts which have been applied with so much utility to legislative science. If mine were worthy of your suffrage, this would afford me real satisfaction. If on the contrary, I shall at least enjoy that of having endeavoured at the improvement of what appears to me to be in want of it.”
The following are extracts from Bentham’s answer:—