Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to O'Connell. - 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.
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.
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.
Bentham to O’Connell.
“31st Jan. 1831.
“Once more. The proceeding by way of attachment in the case of the two Dublin printers brings to my mind a state of things which had place about sixty-five years ago, and does not seem to have attracted attention on the present occasion: it may, peradventure, by the mention of it, be rendered, under your management, serviceable to the cause of the people. Lord Mansfield, in those days Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in England, was notorious for his absolutism. A project of his was, in cases which, by the constituted authorities, were regarded, or professed to be regarded, as abuses of the liberty of the press, to substitute to the trial by jury, trial by the Court of King’s Bench alone, viz. by motion for attachment, followed by a quantity of affidavit work by writ of attachment accordingly; whereupon the defendant, having been taken up and committed to prison, had tendered to him, in the same prison, a paper of interrogatories, to which, whether by written instrument, or vivâ voce, I forget which, he was commanded to give answer. In this way a printer of the name of Bingley was dealt with: and while in prison, one of these interrogatory papers was tendered to him, and he was commanded to give answers, which answers he refused to give; and for this contempt, as it was called, he continued in prison for I forget how many years; nor do I recollect in what way his imprisonment terminated, whether by death or by disincarceration. On account of this proceeding, and others of a similar tendency, my Lord Mansfield became the object of a very extensive and well-merited odium, insomuch that he became an object of attack to a man in so singular a situation for a libel-writer, as that of a Master in Chancery: the title of the libel was, ‘A Letter concerning Libels, Warrants, Seizure of Papers, and Security for the Peace,’ &c., 6th edition, 1766; followed by another, entitled, ‘A Second Letter on Libels, 1770.’* The form in which expression was given to the imputations was, I remember, the hypothetical;—if any Lord Chief Justice should do so and so, and so on with a train of ifs, and, I believe, a pretty long one. In Clark’s Law Catalogue, the sixth is an edition, and the only edition, of this pamphlet mentioned. From this you may imagine the run it had, and the sensation it made. The other enormities alluded to were acts of the secretaries of George the Third, whose abominable misgovernment, and endeavours to introduce absolutism, have been sufficiently brought to view. This case of Bingley I should expect to find in Burrowes’ Reports; but neither time nor eyes admit my making search for it. Between the application of the power of the judges without the jury, to the purpose of inflicting punishment for alleged offences committed by abuse of the liberty of the press, and its application to the purpose of punishing offences committed by physical resistance to, or non-compliance with, the mandates of these same judges, there is a very broad and clearly visible line of distinction. If punishment for such resistance or non-compliance were made to depend on the will of a jury, or of any other authority, other than that of the judges themselves, theirs would be a state of impotence, and the whole fabric of the judicial establishment would fall to pieces; whereas, in the case where the offence consists in alleged abuse of the liberty of the press, not any the least danger is there that any such consequence should follow; whatsoever be the attacks made upon them in this way, neither motives nor means can be wanting for engaging defenders, in any number that can be desired; whereupon a suit is thus carried on in the court of public opinion,—a court of dernier resort, which never acts under that corrupted and corruptive influence, under which the highest of the soi-disant courts of justice always act. The pamphlet is anonymous, nor is there in print, that I know of, this man’s name as its author; but I had a slight acquaintance with the man, having been in his company, and to him it was ascribed by everybody. I cannot suppose that you will be under any great difficulty in finding out the ‘materiel et personnel’ of this war, in your libraries, public or private. My notion is, or say what I should expect to find is, that owing to the odium excited on that occasion, by this mode of proceeding, in the case of alleged abuses of the liberty of the press, it fell into disuse, and has never since been revived.
“I remember being present, in the capacity of a student, at the time of the discussions in that case of Bingley. Here are facts, meaning indications, of supposed facts: to you it belongs to find logic and rhetoric grounded on these facts.
“Written what is above, from dictation, made between sleeping and waking, by one who was once your correspondent, and even host, and will ever be your admirer and sincere well-wisher, though not always and without exception your approver.”
[* ] Said to have been written by Lord Ashburton, and corrected by Lord Camden.