Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Archibald Prentice. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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Bentham to Archibald Prentice. - 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 Archibald Prentice.
“Besides giving acquittal to an innocent and calumniated man, though it is not in their power to save you altogether from punishment under the name of costs, it is in the power of the jury, on this occasion, to give a great lesson to all Englishmen, and, through Englishmen, to all mankind. Yes, it is in their power to drive the first pile for the erection of the fabric—the august fabric—of Law Reform. After finding you Not Guilty, let them make it known by the mouth of their foreman, that though it is on the account of the merits that they thus acquit you, yet, had they ever thought you guilty of an offence, and that a serious one, they could not have found you guilty of the facts charged in and by a written instrument of accusation thus crammed with known and notorious untruths; and that wheresoever an instrument of accusation, thus filled with these and other lies, is stated as the ground of accusation, no verdict will any one of them ever concur in, but that which has the words Not Guilty for the expression of it.
“Let them make this declaration, or anything to this effect, and they will give a lesson to the ‘good men and true,’ as jurymen are styled, of the whole community, and the lesson will spread like wildfire. The lawyers, seeing by lies like these and other kinds, that their purposes, instead of being fulfilled as they have been hitherto, will be frustrated, will, with whatsoever reluctance, cease to utter them, and confine their steps to the paths of simple truth, or, at any rate, what has the appearance of it.”
On receiving the announcement of the result of the trial, Bentham wrote to Mr Prentice:—
“Queen’s Square Place,Westminster,July 21st, 1831.
Yes: I do felicitate you, I felicitate the honest and intelligent jurymen, I felicitate the country in general, I felicitate myself, on this your virtual acquittal. I say the country in general: for, further, much further than to the deliverance of one innocent man from the persecution under which he was suffering, do I look for the benefit capable of resulting from this event. It not only always has been, but will now be very extensively seen to be, in the power—not merely of any jury, but of any one man in any jury, to effect no inconsiderable progress in the career of Law Reform. For producing an effect so eminently desirable, a very few juries, and thence a very few individuals, one in each jury, will suffice. Choosing for the experiment those cases in which the acquittal, though of a person by whom the offence has really been committed, will be productive of least evil to the public, (and many are the cases in which it would not be productive of any evil at all,) making this choice, and declaring that the acquittal had no other cause than their determination not to join with the judges and their partners in iniquity, in the contamination of the public morals, by the utterance of such a tissue of solemn and pernicious falsehoods, it will be in the power of this small number of individuals to compel those on whom it depends, to clear all instruments of accusation from the greater part of that mass of pickpocket lies and absurdities with which they have hitherto been loaded. This may a small number of the lovers of justice do; and thus doing, they will thus pave the way for the establishment of that all-comprehensive plan of Law Reform, to the organization of which, nearer three-quarters than half a century of my life has been devoted. And here, Sir, you have before you, my ground for self-felicitation.
“The course which I am thus using my endeavours to recommend to jurymen, is no other than that which I myself would take, were I in their place. In former days, it happened to me to be summoned to serve upon juries of both kinds—grand and special. Having received from nature the experienced faculty of remaining without food for several days, without considerable inconvenience, it would have been in my power in the situation of juryman to command the verdict; and if so disposed, in the situation of member of a petty jury, special or common, to give or sell impunity for any crime at pleasure, not to speak of the giving to one man the property, to any amount, of any other. With what feelings and what views I figured to myself this power in some hands, I leave you to imagine. On the particular occasions then in question, I saw no prospect of rendering to my country in a jury-box, service to so great an amount, as it seemed to me I could render, and was actually rendering in my closet, and thence it was that the invitation never experienced my acceptance.
“ ‘Of a bad bargain make the best,’ says one of our old saws, nor that the least instructive one. Under the rotten and antipopular constitution, for the change of which into a sound and popular one all eyes are looking with such intense anxiety, the main use of juries as at present constituted, is, in my view of the matter, the veto which the institution gives to the people, upon laws; upon bad laws in general, and in particular, upon all those in which the oligarchy, by whom we are plundered and oppressed, have a special sinister interest.
“On a cursory glance, it does not seem to me that you had reason to complain either of the learned gentleman who led as counsel against you, or of the other learned gentleman who, on this occasion, officiated as judge. Thus the law is, says the judge; and in saying it, says what is but too true. Thus the law is—that is the spurious, the judge-made law, substituted to legislature-made law and to parliament-made law; and in this consists the grievance.
“As to the learned counsel—Mischief is capable of being done, says he, by taunting men with offences which they have really committed. In this (though it would not come up to his purpose, by warranting the jury in telling the lies in question) there is unquestionable truth; and it presents a real demand for regulation. Such regulation my Penal Code would accordingly give; but of judge-made law (if to the tissue of irregularities which have no words belonging to them, the name of law must be misapplied) one of the evil properties is, that by it no regulation of anything can be made.
“It is with no small satisfaction and admiration that I have observed the ability with which you turned to account the materials with which I had the pleasure of furnishing you, and the important additions which you made to them.
—Dear Sir, yours sincerely.
“P. S.—My advice to jurymen is plain and unmisunderstandable, and nothing can be easier than to follow it. Examine the indictment, and if in any part there be any assertion that is either notoriously false or not proved to be true, do not join in declaring it to be true, but say, Not Guilty.”