Front Page Titles (by Subject) Examination of Jeremy Bentham, Esquire. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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“ Examination of Jeremy Bentham, Esquire. - 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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“Examination of Jeremy Bentham, Esquire.
“Question.—The draught of an intended contract between the Commissioners of the Treasury and yourself, for the confining, maintaining, and employing convicts in Penitentiary Houses to be erected by you, being before the Committee; and it appearing from documents that have been laid before the Committee, that in the year 1794, a sum of £2000 was advanced to you to enable you to make preparations relative to this business, you are desired to state whether you have made any such preparations, and whether you are now in readiness to sign and carry into execution such intended contract.
“Answer.—I am in perfect readiness to do my part in the business, and have been so little less than five years. In consequence of a proposal submitted by me in March 1792, and approved of, matters were so far advanced, that in July 1793 I was twice called upon, and both times in the same terms, to ‘take my arrangements.’ I had at that time, in conjunction with my brother, Brigadier-general Bentham, expended some thousand pounds in bringing to maturity a system of inventions of his for executing by machinery, and consequently as to the greater part of the business without the aid either of dexterity or good-will, the most considerable branches of wood-work, besides many branches of stone-work and metal-work. Upon the repetition of the above orders, in concert with my brother, I took my arrangements without delay. The system was in such forwardness that we were upon the look-out for a steam-engine. Human labour, to be extracted from a class of persons, on whose part neither dexterity nor good-will were to be reckoned upon, was now substituted to the steam-engine, and the system of contrivance underwent a correspondent change. Being in daily expectation of receiving the sums stipulated for in the intended contract, (the heads of which were settled in what was then the proper office early in August 1793,) and the demand I had made of the spot I had found appropriated to the Penitentiary Establishment, (an appropriation since confirmed by the Statute of the 7th July, 1794,) having been acceded to by a memorandum in my possession in the hand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and being under the necessity of keeping the works going on, under pain of suffering the dispersion of a collection of workmen, who in that event would not for a length of time, if ever, be to be replaced, I made shift to keep up my advances under circumstances of great difficulty and inconvenience; and it was in consequence of representations to the above effect that the imprest in question was made to me. In the meantime, cast-iron work had been ordered by me for the frame of the intended building to the amount of several thousand pounds, of which order as much was executed as came to within a hundred pounds of the neat produce of the nominal £2000 advanced to me as above. My expenditure, over and above the £2000 received, does not now, if I include interest, amount to so little as £9000. Of the fruit of this expenditure, some part would now be lost, although the Penitentiary establishment were at length to be set on foot; and if it were not, almost the whole. It is too late now to revert back to the steam-engine; the capital which was to have set it a-going is gone; my brother’s whole time is engrossed by his official situation; and at my time of life, and after my experiences, it is now too late for me to return to a manufacturing speculation, into which no prospect of ordinary advantage would even then have tempted me.
“Question 2d.—Do the advances you speak of make any and what difference in the terms you expect?—In the event of the contract’s being carried into execution, or in the opposite event, do you expect anything, and what, by way of indemnification on that score?
“Answer.—In circumstances such as mine, it is natural enough, I believe, for the idea of indemnification to present itself: but as often as I have set myself to consider in what shape, by what persons, and in what manner it was to be brought about, the appearance of feasibility has seemed to desert it altogether. There was a time, if my memory does not deceive me, when the idea of eventual indemnification used now and then to be alluded to on the other side as a matter of course: but this was long ago; and the damage, which might at that time present itself as lying within compass, has since received such an increase, that its very magnitude may, by this time, be considered as having formed a bar to indemnification. An issue which I have for some time been training myself to the expectation of is, that dispositions will remain; that difficulties will accumulate; that this will go on till all recollections are at an end; and that thus execution and indemnification for non-execution will glide away together. After the difficulties I have found in obtaining attention for measures which I could speak of boldly as beneficial to the public, it may be imagined whether I can have confidence enough left for coming forward with claims of a tendency such as I could not myself represent as otherwise than purely burthensome: And after having, for such a length of time, been permitted to entertain prospects such as those delineated in the plan which the Committee have before them, it is easier to conceive than express the reluctance with which, were it even in my power, I should see myself fastened as a dead-weight upon the public I had hoped to serve. As to terms, mine is not a situation to make terms. Were I to say, ‘I cannot do so and so upon such terms,’ the answer might be, ‘Then it cannot be done at all.’
“Turning aside from what some in my situation might call ‘Justice;’ considering what, if anything, in the way of compensation, retained a chance of being found practicable, an idea that occurred to me not long ago was, that, in the event of the Penitentiary system’s being proceeded with, there might perhaps be no great objection to the turning over the convicts to me a little earlier than would otherwise be done, to be provided for under the present plan, until the Penitentiary House should be in readiness for their reception. As, since the passing of the act of 7th July, 1794, it was impossible that the persons now occupying the situation in question should not have long ago made up their minds to the parting with it—as they have already retained it so much longer than they could have expected, while I have been kept out of my expected situation so much longer than I had reason to apprehend—as under such circumstances the reputation of the persons in question could not suffer the smallest prejudice, from a transfer made and declared to be made for no other than such a cause—the idea seemed to me to be free from objection on that score. A step would thus be taken, and might be taken immediately, (for no more than three months’ warning is requisite,) which would evidently and declaredly be a step, and that a decisive one, towards the establishment of the Penitentiary system: the opportunity I should have of becoming acquainted with the characters I should have to deal with would be accelerated, and the transition would thus be smoother in many respects, than if persons as well as local situation were at the same time to be comprehended in the change. This idea I have accordingly ventured to suggest, and though it has not yet been complied with, the reception given to it was not altogether a discouraging one.
“As to the annual allowance per head, since the approbation given to my demand of £12, (which was in July 1793,) the allowance to the present contractors on the Hulk plan has throughout been raised a penny a-day per head, amounting by the year to £1, 10s. 5d.; the rise in the price of provisions having been the evident ground of this allowance, the same indemnification would not, I suppose, be thought unreasonable in my case.
“Question 3.—Do you think you should now be able to exhibit vouchers for, or distinct statements of, the expenditure of the £9000 you speak of?
“Answer.—I have taken care to preserve vouchers for the money expended in materials for the building itself, to an amount more than equal to what I have received as above; and for the rest, I should think that satisfactory vouchers might be collected, although, the money being my own, and no conception entertained of any occasion for accounting to or with any body on the subject, I had no reason for keeping vouchers as such. In March 1793, on my applying for the £2000, which I did through Mr Nepean, (then Under Secretary in the Home Department,) my brother delivered or produced to that gentleman a hasty sketch of an account, drawn up in obedience to a suggestion made at the moment for that purpose. At that early stage of the concern it contained (I remember) articles to the amount of above £4600, after which it was needless to look out for more. Upwards of £500 of it was for patents, which are become of so old a date, that before I could now make any advantage of the inventions in the proposed Penitentiary house, more than half the terms would be expired.
“After a variety of unsuccessful attempts, in which no inconsiderable part of the money was expended, we had already succeeded in executing by machinery, planing-work; sawing-work, from large timber down to veneers of an unexampled fineness; wheel-work, in the small and in the great; window-sashes (the greater part of the workmanship, and the remainder nearly finished;) sawing and polishing of stone; besides a variety of branches of inferior account; and the number was increasing every day.
“Question 4.—What ground is it now proposed should be purchased for the purpose of the establishment?
“Answer.—A part of Tothill Fields, together with such addition from the grounds adjacent (and which may be purchased under the existing Act) as shall be necessary to make up the quantity allotted to the establishment by that act.
“Question 5.—The Committee have understood that certain difficulties have attended the choice of the spot;—should these difficulties prove unsurmountable in the instance of Tothill Fields, is there any other spot in contemplation that you think would answer the purpose?
“Answer.—I know of no other spot whatever that would answer the purpose in any tolerable degree, and at the same time afford anything near an equal prospect of seeing the choice finally approved. This is the last of four places, each of which at the outset afforded me prospects, which in the three preceding instances proved delusive.
“Nothing could be more decided than the approbation bestowed upon this spot upon the very first mention of it. Legal obstacles, with the existence of which nobody is chargeable, have been unavoidably productive of a part of the delays. As far as I may be permitted to judge, the great aversion entertained to the employing in the present case, or applying for, the compulsive powers regularly granted, as often as land is to be purchased for a public purpose, is, and has been throughout, the only source of difficulty, at least at the fountain-head. I am satisfied in my own mind, that the business would have been despatched near five years ago, if land could have been found that belonged to nobody, and was in no neighbourhood. My own aversion to such powers is not inferior, and would be productive of the same effects, if I saw by what possible means the business could be done upon less unpleasant terms.
“My great comfort as well as my great encouragement at the outset of this business was, the observation of a spot, in the instance of which, as it seemed to me, these difficulties had already been overcome. It was upon the ground of an Act of Parliament, and of a decision that had been given upon it by a tribunal, of which the twelve judges formed a part—it was upon this ground, coupled with other assurances, that I proceeded at the outset of the business; it was upon the faith of another Act of Parliament, which the Committee have before them, (I mean that of the 7th July, 1794,) that I persevered in it. Had it been said to me in those days, these powers are employed in other cases, but they will not be in yours, my property would have remained undissipated, and the Committee would not have had this trouble.
“Tothill Fields possesses two properties essentially necessary to the execution of my plan; vicinity to the metropolis, and vicinity to water-carriage: In my manufactory, raw materials and finished work are both of the bulkiest kind; and a prompt communication with the market is indispensable. Vicinity to the metropolis is a condition much insisted upon by the original planners of the penitentiary system, (and most of all by Howard,) for the purposes of example and inspection. If a place could exist, of which it could be said that it was in no neighbourhood, it would be Tothill Fields. Two prisons, and four or five poor-houses of different sorts already in existence, will surely be sufficient to shut the door against objections on the score of neighbourhood. I can say from measurement, that no house of an account superior to a tradesman’s or a public-house stands within a quarter of a mile of the intended building.
“The persons principally interested in the character of proprietors have been applied to with that respect and reverence which is their due: a formal or decided consent is more than I have to boast of; but symptoms of acquiescence were manifested, and none of opposition: the opinion of professional advisers was declaredly in favour of the measure.
“To speak with confidence of the disposition of several thousand inhabitants, possessing rather a nominal than a real interest in the character of commoners, will not be expected of an individual by whom they have not been canvassed; but, as far as assurances can be depended upon, from a quarter the best qualified of any for affording such assurances, assistance much more likely than opposition would be to be expected from that source. They had authentic notice long ago, (though from another quarter,) and not the smallest symptom of opposition was then manifested, nor has been since.