Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury. - 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 Sir Charles Bunbury.
“Q. S. P., 21st August, 1802—sent 23d.
“My dear Sir,—
I have this moment to thank you for your kind letter, enclosing that of Lord Pelham. And has this passed upon Sir Charles Bunbury for ‘satisfaction’? My dear Sir, you have not been at the fair lately. This is the old lay, over and over, for the hundredth time. This is Sanchoniathon and the Cosmogony, again and again, with Ephraim Jenkins, Pitt, Rose, Long, King, Portland, Addington, Robertson, Lathrop Murray at the bottom of it.
“To be serious. In your situation, stranger as you happily are to the incidents with which my memory is stocked, in such minute detail and such unhappy abundance, his letter appears to have produced (as it was but natural it should produce) the effect it was intended to produce—viz., that of appearing to ‘imply approbation.’ But what approbation? that very approbation which was somewhat more than implied almost a twelvemonth ago, but without producing the smallest particle of that ‘satisfaction,’ the hope of which (such is your good opinion of your friend) continues notwithstanding to be produced by it. For my own part, I wish it were possible to me to see anything better in it than a qualis ab incepto—a perseverance in the same system of complicity and evasion, that he and his colleagues adopted at their entrance into the Ministry, with the materials for decision passing through their hands, and staring them in the face. Till the meeting of Parliament he has obtained a respite from you, (so he thinks at least,) by his talk about ‘endeavours:’ when Parliament meets, he shirks you (as before) as long as he can; and when you have caught him at last, and forced him to speak out, then it is that you will learn, that he is sorry for it, but his ‘endeavours’ have been fruitless.
“The amusement it affords me, to see what turn evasion takes in such a mind, in such a situation, and in such circumstances, is the only satisfaction I have derived from his epistle. The two characters in which he affects to view me, are—that of a patient labouring under a sort of mental derangement, (though, the hope is, but a temporary one,) and that of a suitor—an unfledged suitor—prone to embrace phantoms for realities, and panting for the felicity of falling at his feet. As to ‘the present state of’ my ‘mind,’ you may venture to assure his lordship, that it is precisely the same as it was above a twelvemonth ago, as he has seen in my papers (if he has been pleased to look at them)—in my papers of that date—as it has been ever since, and as it will continue to be, so long as the like impressions continue to be made upon it by the action of the like causes. He may see the same mind, in the same state, in my printed evidence, as laid, in June, 1798, before the Committee of Finance: and, if such things were worth preserving, you yourself, my good Sir, could furnish him with some copies of it, written four years earlier, at a time when perfidy and corruption were in the bud, and when Lord Spencer, after seating himself for the first time at the same table with Mr Pitt, stood up and said, I am now above the law—Mr Pitt answering and saying, So you are. For his lordship’s determination not to ‘give’ me any of those ‘false hopes’ which, in a state of mind less compassionable, another man in my place might have been treated with, and which I have been saved from being plied with, in consideration of the tremendous effects (these indescribable ‘worst effects’) of which an application of that sort might, in my place, have been productive, he is certainly not to be blamed: not indeed in respect of any such bad effects, or any effects, that any machinery in use for the raising of such phantoms could have produced, (for all the powers of mechanism could not add anything to the exhibitions of that sort that have been so familiar to me for these eight years,) but because no attempt in that way can be of any use to him and his associates, whereas the abstaining from it leaves a load the less on their character and their conscience.
“Throughout the whole of the business, from the time when the finger of corrupt and clandestine opposition was held up by the first in the train of successive lords, the general rule has been to give nothing but ‘hopes,’ and those hopes ‘false’ ones. Witness one sample instead of a thousand:—orders—official orders—(24th March, 1800,) to make preparations for 2000 convicts—these orders, in a letter, concerted, between the two floors of the Treasury, for the express (and afterwards even avowed!) purpose of making a pretence for giving none. All this (you say) is old and stale. The new incident then is, that for once—pro hâc vice—this rule is now (it seems) to be departed from: departed from, not dejure, but ex gratiâ, in consideration of the particular circumstances of this very particular case. Understand always, provided his lordship continues to the end in the sentiments now professed: an expectation, in which this very letter forbids me to indulge myself.
“I will tell you, my good Sir, what their plan is, and what my chance is under it:—judge whether it can content me.
“In the first place, they fall at the feet of the sack of oats: that gained, (which is impossible,) then, with that in their hand, they fall at the feet (such feet as adders have) of the deaf adder:—I mean the pious lord, who is so well known to take that hero of Scripture history for his model: but lest they should fail in either—(and they will fail in both)—thence come the expeditions of discovery—the expeditions for ‘finding out what steps have been taken at the Treasury,’ and the fears about the ‘giving’ of ‘false hopes.’ Shut against everything that could be said about his land, and about the effect of the Penitentiary establishment upon the value of it, by his land-surveyor and his land-steward, you will judge whether the ears of that personage are likely to open themselves with more facility upon those topics to the representations of a first Lord of his Majesty’s Treasury, or his Majesty’s Secretary of State.
“So long ago as the 10th of September, 1801, Mr Vansittart (as declared by him in a letter, copy of which had been already for a month or two in the hands of Lord Pelham at his lordship’s desire, as signified to you,)—Mr Vansittart, acting Secretary to the Treasury, was labouring in the fruitless endeavour of finding ‘an opportunity of consulting with Lord Pelham.’* Now, on the 19th of August, 1802, Lord Pelham, on his part, is setting out on this his expedition of discovery, bent upon ‘finding out’ (maugre all concealments) ‘what steps have been taken by the Treasury,’—i. e. by Mr Vansittart:—the packet put by you as above into his lordship’s hands, certifying that no steps at all had been taken by the Treasury, other than those exhibited by it, and the motionless state of the business being the declared cause why he was then troubled with it.
“All this while, within a stone’s throw of both these ministers, whose efforts to find one another out, at the distance of the two contiguous floors of the same house, had for a twelvemonth been so unavailing—in sight of them both, sat Mr (now Sir Evan) Nepean, from whom both personages, and above both Mr Addington, were determined with equal resolution never to ‘find out what steps’ to his (Sir Evan’s) knowledge ‘had been taken by the Treasury’ (the former Treasury) in the business—determined by this most coercive of all reasons, that he was the only man in office from whom they could be apprehensive of receiving any true account of it.
“In a copy I sent, of this letter of Mr Vansittart’s, among other papers, in December last, to Mr Wilberforce, I find a comment which accompanied it in pencil, in these words:—‘When Mr Wilberforce spoke on the subject to Lord Pelham, neither Mr Vansittart, nor either of the Mr Addington’s, had had any such opportunity.’ They knew better things. They did not intend to have it: they durst not have it, to any purpose.
“To return to his lordship’s letter. The point I looked to in it, was—whether, amidst so much guilt—by the former people, amidst accusations upon accusations, never yet denied—frequently, though always in the view of adding to it, even confessed—any symptoms were to be found of those regrets, which, in his situation, a man who meant honestly and really intended to turn over a new leaf, would, in my view of the matter, not dissemble. Finding no such indications, my exertions, (I mean in the line spoken of in my former letters,) far from being relaxed, will be quickened by the intended opiate.
“One thing I understand pretty distinctly: dates are to me a sufficient proof of it. It is after taking a week to hear,† and hearing accordingly, and from the Treasury, not only what steps have been taken, but what steps (under Providence) will be taken, that he is setting out upon his expedition, to that unknown and distant clime, for the discovery of the facts that have been in his pocket for these six weeks. In this circumstance my little mind, ‘even in the present state of it,’ reads the present state of two great ones. I see terror enough in both places: not yet enough, indeed, to open either of them like the little one to fearless honesty, but, however, to drive gentlemen upon this fresh and speaking attempt at evasion, instead of their former silence. I see enough to put them upon employing the time they think they have thus gained: upon employing it, and even in good earnest, in holding councils of war about the job, with those from whom they received it; and in those councils considering which of the two repugnant engagements it were best to break definitively, (the original legal engagement, or the last in the succession of illegal ones:) and in the former event, (being the most probable one,) by what kind of botchery the breach may be best cobbled. It is to this that his lordship’s mind is ‘at all events’ to ‘apply’ itself: for if it had any more straightforward, any less crooked object—what should have hindered its applying itself to it near a twelvemonth ago,* upon the spur of those impressions which even then it found its convenience in pretending to have received? What has it been applying itself to all this while?—what is it now applying itself to? What was it put for where it is? What did it take the sceptre for from King Log? Was it to give him a King Stump for successor?
“In November last, at the latest, (how much earlier I know not,) Lord Pelham thought New South Wales a bad thing; he thought the Penitentiary plan a good thing. At that same time he knew (for all his industry could not prevent him from knowing) that it was his duty to see to the carrying of that good thing into effect, without a moment’s further delay; and that every day lost to it was not only a day of fraud, corruption, and injustice, but a day of contempt and disobedience to Parliament. And now it is, that at the end of nine months from that time, after promise upon promise, and neglect upon neglect, and after receiving papers upon papers, the object of which was to render it no longer practicable for him not to know what he could not but know already,—now when the post of neglect and ignorance is no longer tenable,—now it is at last, that he is to ‘apply his mind’ to the subject, under the declared apprehension, that any hopes that might be entertained of seeing his Majesty’s Secretary of State, and the First Lord of his Majesty’s Treasury do their duty, might prove ‘false’ ones!
“One thing I should be glad to know, as to the ‘present state’ of that same noble mind. Is it out of doubt with him, or is it not yet out of doubt, that there is no such virtue in New South Wales, as to quash an imperative law of Parliament, and to rescind the engagements taken in regard to Panopticon in consequence? In the former case, why does be not come forward with his declared support immediately? In the other case, why did he not call upon me for the proffered papers, the object of which was to put an end to all such doubts? I mean always to all pretences of such doubts? My calculation was—that, for appearance sake, at least, his lordship might wish to have it supposed, that it was by considerations relative to the merits that his suffrage, if favourable to Panopticon, had been gained: that accordingly he would either read or make as if he had read, those papers: but in this you see already one article in my apprehended budget of ‘false hopes.’
“If, instead of wavering between corruption and incorruption, and to hide his indecision, pretending to be going upon sham errands, while he was sounding the ground, and looking out for loopholes—if, instead of this, he had decided manfully, and taken at once the post of duty, a letter still shorter than even this short one might have sufficed. There lies the engagement of his predecessor for the 2000 prisoners: there lies the memorial, (I mean the suppressed one you put into his hands,) expressive of the terms grounded on that engagement: those very terms, to which the approbation of Mr Long had been whispered over and over again to Mr Nepean, under the determination of not granting either those terms or any other. To send this memorial to the Treasury, with a letter urging compliance with the prayer of it, was, and is, the one thing needful on his lordship’s part. I mean officially, and in black and white: verbal explanations might have been sufficient for the rest. This was exactly the course taken in 1794 by Mr Dundas, to wash his hands of the corruption he saw even then going on, between Mr Pitt and the first of the titled subscribers to his statue. Think not, however, that I mean this as a judgment, altogether peremptory, upon his lordship’s honesty: but you see, that if the badness of these ‘very worst effects’ depends upon the sanguineness of my ‘hopes,’ nothing very serious is to be apprehended. I shall be upon the look-out for you, at the time you have the goodness to mention. By that time, sincerity will have been manifested or disproved. More could not be done by man than you have done: you see I have scarce left myself room to thank you for it, or to stamp upon my gratitude the mark of
“Jeremy + Bentham.”
[* ] See Correspondence with Vansittart in chap. xiii. of the Memoirs.
[† ] “My letter was sent to him to his house in town, 12th August, 1802. His letter to Sir C. Bunbury is dated 19th August.”
[* ] “December or November 1801, Mr Wilberforce, as he told me in December, had been speaking to Lord Pelham, by whom the sentiments expressed were favourable.”