Jeremy Bentham

Michael Quinn (ed.), The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: Writings on the Poor Laws, Vol. 2

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§ [III.]3 Appropriate Comforts:—or Comforts exclusively or particularly applicable to particular classesa

The extension4 thus given to the benefit of Divine service constitutes a very striking feature not only in the proposed system, taken altogether, but in that part of it more particularly which depends upon the Inspection principle of Architecture. It distinguishes the proposed plan of provision. It extends and renders universal a consolation which not only is not afforded in general in those Districts [where]5 the plan of Community Maintenance is adopted, but which can not by possibility be afforded in those cases where Home maintenance is in force: home maintenance, that system which, in despite of its incompatibility with Industry, is espoused by some with a degree of warmth excited by an exclusive attention to pg 261the advantage which this mode of maintenance presents in point of comfort with reference to the interests of the individual already reduced to a state of indigence—an advantage which would be well entitled to turn the scale were all other considerations out of the question.

Under the existing order of things, except in the instance of the very few Poor Houses (viz: some of those which distinguish themselves by the name of Industry Houses) that have Chapels, whether an infirm person shall be a partaker of this benefit, or stand perpetually precluded from it, depends upon the degree of his or her infirmity compared with the distance of the place of his abode from the nearest Church: and even where there is a Chapel, it being a separate apartment more or less distant from the lodging rooms, a bedridden person will scarcely have access to it.1

Under the existing system, the difference between those in whom the demand for spiritual comfort is the least, and those in whose instance it is the greatest, is, in respect of the possession of the faculty in question, wide indeed: in an Industry House, constructed on the Inspection Architecture principle, neither can be wanting to any individual in the House. The text will be found to wear the virtue of a prophecy: the Poor—the Poor, and now for the first time without exception, will have the Gospel preached to the⟨m⟩.2

To those who, regarding the salvation of souls as an object, regard the habit of devotion as a means, this single feature in the plan, were it in all other respects even below the level of the existing order of things, ought to ensure to it the assistance of their endeavours.

Of the Poor, it is said on a certain occasion in the Gospel—as an equivalent, and more than an equivalent, for all other comforts—that they have the Gospel preached unto them.3 Of the Poor nourished in the proposed Inspection Houses, this will be true without exception: not excepting those cases who are at the point of death: the period at which that comfort would possess its highest value. But excepting our Poor, in this as yet ideal state of things, by what other class of Poor is it possessed?

pg 262Of the Circuit plan in Jurisprudence it is the well-known praise that it brings Justice to a man's home1—that is to within the distance of ten, twenty or thirty miles of it, or some such matter. Of this plan, it may be said with a degree of truth rather more literal, that it brings Religion really and truly to a man's own home.2


a By the particular classes in question I mean such Classes as are distinguished from the bulk of the Pauper community by some particular infirmity or affliction. And if the Comforts in question can be spoken of as peculiar with reference to these classes, it is not that by this means individuals belonging to the classes in question are possessed of comforts of which others are not possessed at all, but that, in virtue of the means here provided, they may become partakers more or less of certain comforts of which, whether paupers not labouring under the infirmities are or are not partakers, persons labouring under those infirmities are, under the existing order of things, at any rate excluded. Compared with the general community of paupers under the proposed order of things, it is not the comfort itself, so much as the efficient cause of it, that is peculiar to the particular classes in question: compared with the same classes under the existing order of things, it is not only the efficient cause of comfort that is peculiar, but the very comfort itself.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3 MS 'II.' The marginal subheading is '§ 3 Appropriate.'
Editor’s Note
4 The pagination indicates that a folio which precedes this paragraph is missing.
Editor’s Note
5 MS 'were[?]'.
Editor’s Note
1 In the margin, Bentham has noted at this point: 'Note in proof from St Giles's &c.' There was no chapel in the workhouse of the united parishes of St Giles in the Fields and St George, Bloomsbury, but the Master was directed to 'cause every person in the House, who is able, to come down into the hall every morning and evening at six of the clock, and hear prayers read', and the children in the house were, moreover, expected to attend divine service at the parish church every Sunday. See Hints and Cautions, for the information of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Of the Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields and St. George, Bloomsbury, In the County of Middlesex: and, Rules, Orders, and Regulations for Maintaining, Governing, Employing, and Regulating the said Poor, [London], 1797, re-printed from the edition of 1781, pp. 24–5,46. Bentham's copy of the pamphlet is in the British Library, shelf-mark C.T. 106. (1*).
Editor’s Note
2 See Matthew 11: 5; Luke 7: 22.
Editor’s Note
1 See Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, iv. 417: 'With regard to the administration of justice: besides prohibiting all denials or delays of it, [Magna Carta] fixed the court of common pleas at Westminster, that the suitors might no longer be harrassed with following the king's person in all his progresses; and at the same time brought the trial of issues home to the very doors of the freeholders, by directing assises to be taken in the proper counties, and establishing annual circuits.'
Editor’s Note
2 In the margin, Bentham has noted at this point: 'That which is every man's most important business, it brings home to his very bosom.'
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