Front Page Titles (by Subject) Bentham to Dumont. - 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 Dumont. - 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 Dumont.
“Q. S. P., 19th October, 1802.
“My dear Dumont,—
I got back here (at night) last Saturday fortnight, the 2d instant. On the next day, (Sunday,) understanding from my brother that Sir Evan Nepean had mentioned his having had two interviews on the subject with Mr Addington, I called to hear particulars. What was said, (or at least what was reported to me as said,) was chiefly on Nepean’s part; and consisted principally of testimonies in my favour; added to what he had said, and was ready to say, to Pitt, Long, &c., as to what he thought of their conduct in the business. Addington appears to have said little. He touched upon that article in my ‘Proposal,’ in which I engage to pay a limited sum in the event of a subsequent offence committed by a convict that had been under my care: he was pleased to term it ‘one of my flights.’ In fact, it amounts to no more than a partial, not a total, deduction of a profit that would result to me from the same incident: but this is what few are either able or willing to perceive. In default of all solid objections, it serves people for the shadow of an objection on the score of quackery. In the pamphlet I have sent to the press, (Panopticon versus New South Wales, of which afterwards,) I offer full explanation to the above purport, to any one who will vouchsafe to look at it. He concluded with saying that he had not made up his mind on the business, and that it was his intention to turn it over to Mr Vansittart. I wrote accordingly on that same day to Mr V., telling him of what I had heard as above, and apprizing him of my return, which he might not otherwise have heard of: but I have heard nothing from him as yet.
“In addition to the letters mentioned above, I found one from Sir Charles Bunbury, dated 30th September, in which are these words: ‘I saw Lord Pelham, and desired he would send to you, and inform you what steps he intended to take in the business of the Panopticon prison: he said he would, as soon as he had read through your books, and conversed with the Chancellor and the Judges on the subject.’ Looking upon this as an evasion, I considered it as calling upon me, upon the principle of self-preservation, to tell my story to those same personages. I have accordingly sent to the press ‘Panopticon versus New South Wales,’ &c., in the form of a letter to Lord Pelham, stating the above intimation of his as the occasion of my taking that method of multiplying copies for the edification of the said personages.
“To return to Nepean—as far as he was concerned, nothing could be more satisfactory than the short conference, which was all he could, or at least thought proper to allow me. He gave me to understand, that, for a long time past, he had set down in his own mind as a contingency not very unlikely to happen, the bringing the business before Parliament: that he had kept himself accordingly in preparation, and was ready at any time to give his evidence. In my above-referred-toletter to Mr Addington, written to him very soon after his accession, and commencing with the averment of its being written with the privity of Mr Nepean, I gave him sufficient intimation that Nepean’s evidence, wherever and whenever given, would cover with shame Mr Pitt and his subordinates.
“What made these assurances of Nepean’s the more satisfactory, was—that for one and a half year, I had never set eyes on Sir Evan Nepean. He began with explanations in the form of reproaches for my invisibility, &c.—which produced counter explanations on my part, and were followed with the strongest assurances, that, in respect of affections, as well as of opinion, he remained unchanged. What an opportunity for Opposition if they have but the understanding to improve it! Had they ever anything like it before? A man of Nepean’s impregnable and popular character, having not the least personal quarrel with either the present people or the past, ready to stand up against both for the pure love of justice!
“One thing I had like to have forgotten—a caution on the part of N. to avoid acting through the very channel through which what was done had been done. His hurry, real or affected, prevented me from getting an explanation of the grounds of this caution, on which he appeared to lay a considerable stress. Public situation, or character, and disposition as towards myself—which of these circumstances had he in view?
“On your part, my dear Dumont, you will not fail to feel the extreme delicacy that attends the communication of a correspondence of such a nature with such a personage. No security can be too great that can contribute to ensure the preventing it from coming round. In fact, you will indeed perceive that nothing could be more guarded, on his part as well as mine: armed on both sides cap-a-pied. But, in case of a disclosure of this sort of confidential correspondence, how convenient a pretence to the great man for shaking off, and even openly turning against, the troublesome little one!
“Not the least curious incident in the business, is a correspondence on the subject with Wilberforce. I had been used from time to time to send him reports, under the title of Panopticon Progress: a little before my trip to Paris, I sent him one on the occasion of the intercourse with Lord Pelham, through the medium of Sir Charles Bunbury. Thereupon, on my return, I found a letter of his of four 4to sheets, half of it taken up with apologies about haste and so forth. Agonies of terror about my threatened narrative: counter threats of utter silence, having the effect of abandonment, on the part of all my friends, (Abbot, for example, by name, and himself not excepted,) in the event of my bringing on the matter in any tone of inculpation: recommendation to try this one session, in a quiet way, with nothing but a statement of the bad points of New South Wales, for which he expressly offers materials: consent to my acting hostilely in another session, if nothing comes of quiet proceedings in the next. Short answer—very short—on my part, expressing an intention of profiting by his advice, so far as consists in the making an attack upon New South Wales, and asking him for his documents. Reply from him in a tone of unusual coldness: saying that the communications he meant were verbal ones; and referring me to ‘conversations in the course of the winter’ for the time: we not being, of late years more especially, in the habit of any such conversations. My notion is, that in the meantime some intimation had reached him, (by conversations, for example, either with my other correspondent or with Addington, &c.,) that I did not mean so far to take his advice as to give up my attack upon his dear friends, for whom he had been expressing his regard to me,—even the Rose of Roses not excepted. In the long letter, piety in abundance on the occasion of Lord Belgrave: and, upon the whole, a not unamusing or altogether unedifying contrast might be exhibited, between the ardour of his piety and the icy coldness of his love of public justice. He confesses Pitt’s procrastination to save him on the score of perfidy: for my part, I shall admit the procrastination, but instead of admitting it as a disproof of the perfidy, I state it as the cause.
“This same pious gentleman had broken, on a former occasion, as solemn, and deliberate, and spontaneous a promise, as it was possible for one man to give to another: a promise that ‘he would not desert me,’ and that he would bring on the Panopticon business in Parliament at any time, and in any shape I would point out. I pointed out in due season a shape so quiet and unexceptionable, as that of a mere motion for the continuation of those accounts from New South Wales, the continuation of which had been so strongly recommended in the twenty-eighth Report of the Committee of Finance: he would neither bring it on in that shape, nor in any other; nor his friend Thornton neither, who was present, and by whom it was my plan that the motion should be made: he having been an efficient member of that Committee. I forbore irritating him by any the least allusion to his promise: at the time of his making it he had not yet quite reconciled himself with Pitt; on whose want of good faith he spoke with great freedom, imputing it to his want of faith in the religious sense.
“A capital object of his alarm, was (I return to his long letter) my including in my narrative a letter I had written to him, (about ten months ago, on the occasion of a conversation of his with Lord Pelham,) written to him, (W.,) giving him an account of a visit I had undergone, a year or two before, from the Duke of Portland, with Billy Baldwin to take care of him. It would cover his Grace,—and for life,—with ridicule ineffaceable. Would it so? quoth I,—tant mieux: he shall not catch cold for want of it: though a covering, composed of the four walls in some room in the Tower, would be a further covering not ill suited to his deserts.
λάῖνον ἔσσ ϰιτῶνα, ϰαϰῶν ἑνεχ’, ἕσσ ἔοϱγας.
“You have read Homer since I did, and can conclude or correct the metre and the sense. The pleasant part of the story is,—that in the midst of all this concern for the reputation of his Grace, he himself makes no secret of his considering himself under an obligation of bringing before Parliament something on the part of his said Grace, big with enormity, though unspecified: so that my attack upon his Grace,—an attack he does not dispute the justice of,—is to be given up for his beautiful eyes: while his is to be made, comme de raison: from which I infer that he has contrived, or thinks at least that he has contrived, in this attack to keep the now again dear Pitts, and Roses, and Longs, out of the scrape. In all this sacrifice of public justice to private connexion, there is nothing very miraculous, upon ordinary mundane principles: but on the pure spiritual ones that breathe through every pore of this epistle, what shall we say to it? What a contrast between this man and Nepean, from whom I have never in the course of the whole business heard a syllable about holiness! Poor, dear, religious sanction! what a bump it gives to the beam, when thus weighed against the moral.
“Meantime this crack, ‘in a house divided against itself,’—a sort of a tenement which we are assured from the highest authority cannot stand,—might be not altogether unworthy the ear of Opposition. It is their business to have, or rather to have had, intimation of the cause and particulars of it: and thereupon not to sit still with their arms across, and see it close again.”