Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to O'Connell. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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Bentham to O’Connell. - 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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Bentham to O’Connell.
“Q. S. P., 18th Dec., 1829.
“My dear O’Connell.—
This moment comes yours of the 15th: heavy on my mind was the pressure from which it has relieved me. In comparison of former letters, however, there comes here a sort of coldness that prevents the relief from being quite complete: ‘respect?’ yes:—‘affection,’ mention or intimation of it?—none. O’Connell! I love you with a father’s love. A man at my age is old enough to be grandfather to a man of yours.
“I had taken measures for causing inquiry—personal inquiry—to be made of you, whether the two successive letters of mine to you had come to hand: the book I take for granted has; for had it not, you, in this letter of yours, would have said as much. I have taken measures which, I hope, will be time enough to be successful to stop the inquiry.”
1829—30. Æt. 81—2.
Law Reform Association.—Apprehension of Blindness.—Sale of Offices.—O’Connell.—Mordvinoff.—Jabez Henry.—Livingston.—Codification.—Brougham.—Peel.—O’Connell.—J. Smith, M. P.—Letter to President Jackson; Law Reform in America; French Politics.—Humann of Brussels.—Rev. Humphrey Price.
Bentham was desirous of organizing an association of influential persons, for expediting, cheapening, and popularizing the administration of justice, and for advancing Law Reforms in their various shapes. He thought, that many who would hesitate about lending their aid to the obtainment of Constitutional Reform, might not be unwilling to cooperate for the purpose of making justice more accessible to the whole community. For this purpose, he obtained the promised coöperation of many distinguished men: but the purpose never ripened into an efficient vitality. Names to ornament—reputations to attract, were easily found; but not so hands and heads to work. So the plan was abandoned, or deferred sine die; and justice remains as it was, a luxury purchasable by the opulent, but wholly beyond the reach of the poor: its pursuit vexatious—the results of that pursuit unascertainable—wearisome from delay—burthensome from cost—and oppressive from uncertainty.
The apprehension of blindness gave Mr Bentham, at this time, no little anxiety; yet he talked of the probable calamity with great composure. “I shall be cheerful,” he said; “blind people are cheerful: and I shall escape many annoyances.” It was thus that, in his own case, he applied his maxim to look on the bright—on the brightest side of things. “The public may lose something by my blindness,—so I want to get my generalia and my generalissima despatched. If I come to dictate, my style will change. Look at that table, ‘(a board covered with a green curtain, on which Bentham was accustomed to pin the fragments which represented the leading principles of his writings.)’ There are the texts for my sermons.”
But his sleep was often disturbed by gloomy dreams. These are the words in which he described one of them, no doubt the consequence of indigestion, from which he sometimes suffered severely: “I have been dreaming that I lived near the Thames—I walked through streets more and more gloomy. I saw lugubrious houses inhabited by lugubrious people, and heard lugubrious discourses. I tried to escape, and found all the streets into which I entered had no outlet. It was always a cul de sac.”
In 1830, Bentham wrote some letters on the sale of public offices, which he deemed a valuable means for maximizing aptitude and minimizing expense. In answer to the objection that their sale would open the door to abuse, he says, with particular reference to the election of a Secondary by the Common Council of London:—
Accident having put the documents out of my reach, I must cast myself upon your indulgence for any little unintended misrepresentation or repetition it may happen to me to fall into.
“What I am ready to admit is—that, suppose the office to be sold, and nothing done for the purpose of obviating abuse,—abuse in all possible shapes, and to the highest possible amount, will be a more or less probable consequence: what, in that view, I would propose should be done, I will mention presently.
“On the other hand, I am a plain man, and nothing I have seen has been able to extinguish my conception that, under the patronage system abuse in all its shapes would be still more abundant, to a certainty, than under the sale system.
“How it should happen that any man, who proposed to purchase the office, should place any serious reliance on the plea in question, as if it were capable of lessening the probability of his suffering in any way in the event of his misconduct in the office,—in any shape whatsoever, extortion, oppression, peculation, or negligence—passes my comprehension.
“ ‘I have purchased the place: therefore I have purchased the right of doing whatever wrong I can contrive to do by means of it:’ such is the defence which the supporters of the patronage system put into the mouths of extortioners and peculators, stating it at the same time as being an unanswerable one. Here it stands in all its simplicity: and now, in any company, let any man who has nerve enough, stand up, and after repeating it, declare it to be his belief that any man, by whom extortion or peculation had ever been practised, could have thought that, in the faculty of making an observation to this effect, he really possessed either a justification, or so much as the slightest shadow of an excuse.
“ ‘The pistol I killed the man with I bought:’ exactly as good an apology would this observation be for murder, as that other for extortion or peculation.
“Now, Sir, what is the assumption made by the opponents of sale, when they profess to regard an observation to this effect as rendering it probable that extortion and peculation will have place to a greater extent if the place be sold for the benefit of the public, than if given for the joint benefit of giver and receiver? What is it but that the means of committing a crime, and the right of committing it, are the same thing? And not only that criminals themselves are persuaded of its being so, but that so are people in general likewise: or, at any rate, that by those by whom it is not regarded as a justification, it is at least regarded as an excuse.
“No absurdity so gross, but that when once it has obtained a certain degree of currency, it is capable of passing for argument, nay, even for conclusive argument, and even upon the most intelligent minds, where the leisure or the motive for scrutinizing into it has been wanting. In the present instance, for example, upon minds even of this character, who can say to what extent the delusion here in question may not have had place? But now, it is hoped, the fallacy has been displayed in its genuine colours; and if so, those who, without any particular and sinister interest, have been in the habit of accepting and passing it in the character of an argument in favour of patronage in preference to sale, will have to consider whether they would not do well to separate themselves from bad company; in a word, to declare themselves undeceived, and thus leave the corruptionists to stand by themselves, singing out this their fallacy to deaf ears and scorning countenances.
“But now suppose that, spite of everything that can be said to the contrary, there are people who will think, that the purchaser of the office will rely upon the sort of epigram in question, as a thing that will purchase impunity for him. So far as this notion has place, so much the less probable will be his misbehaviour. Why? Because so many as there are of them, so many spies on his conduct will he have; whereas, under the patronage system, this cause of public suspicion and public vigilance has no place.
“If a man purchases the place of the public, nobody will have any interest in screening him in case of abuse; if he receives it from patronage, he has the patron or patrons, who share with him in the benefit of the abuse, and are little less sure to support him in it, than he is to practise it.
“The owner of an advowson—has he not an interest in the increase of tithes? Oh, but the Church patron is but one, and nobody knows who he is. Here the patrons are many; all known men—all honourable men. True: but were they even Right Honourable, it would make no difference. In a multitude of this sort, on every occasion, some one there must be, or some very few, that take the lead; and, in so far as this is the case, distinguish it if you can from that of the Church patron.
“So much for the anti-venality argument. Now for the anti-guzzling argument. It sticks in my throat, along with the other. I cannot swallow it. The money, if received by the persons in question, will be spent in guzzling; therefore it ought not to be received by them. Such is the argument: please, good Sir, to observe what it is it leads to. It leads to this: namely, that on account of the trust in question, to wit, that exercised by the Common Council, neither by these same persons, nor by any other persons in this same trust, should any money at all be ever received from any source at all—from this, or from any other; such must be the notion, unless it be that money received from this source will be sure to be spent in guzzling, while monies received from other sources will be sure to be applied to their proper purposes, or will at any rate take, all of them, the same chance.
“Now for the proposed Remedies. 1. Let the election to the office be annual. Why not to this office as well as to the office of Common Councilman itself? Why not in the case of the protégé as well as in that of the patron?
“2. Let the bills of costs, in the suits from which the functionary in question—the Secondary—derives his fees or other benefits, be not merely accessible on demand, or accessible to none but a few,—or to none but on payment of a fee, be all of them printed and published, for the inspection of everybody that chooses to look at them. Among the places in which copies would be kept, would of course be that in which the Common Council have their meetings; and in that place at least, to invite attention and facilitate examination, abstracts and indexes, in the tabular form, might be kept hung up.
“One thing more. By the House of Commons, petitions against abuse in all its shapes, on the part of office in all its shapes, are not only received from all hands, but, with admirable universality and promptitude, printed and published. If in all cases by the legislature of the empire, why not in this case by the legislature of the metropolis?