Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 7: January 1802 to December 1808

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Editor’s Note1771To Spencer Perceval30 December 1802 (Aet 54)

Queens Square Place Westmr.

30th Decr. 1802.


By a letter from the Speaker,2 I learn that by him, and at your desire, my second printed Letter to Lord Pelham has been put into your hands. I certainly could not have wished it in any better.

pg 180I was and am duly sensible to the honour done me by the intentions you had the goodness to express in favour of the first:3 the intelligence of their having been carried into effect was what I waited for before I sent the second. I forbore to distribute it till it had undergone the scrutiny of four confidential friends, of whom Mr Abbot, Sir Charles Bunbury and Mr Romilly were three. To Lord Pelham himself I do not propose sending a copy till Monday: in that time, should any reason occurr to you for suspending the distribution, it would be in my power to profit by it.

From a situation like your's, it would be to little purpose, I doubt, to express a wish, to know what, if any, are the impressions that have been made.

You have been been putting a patch upon a pimple. You will have a foul ulcer to practise upon, ere long: ask Mr Romilly else:— already you must have descried some symptoms of it. I am truly sorry to be thus troublesome: better employment, I should have thought, might have been found for both of us. The powers of Mr Percival surely might find worthier occupation in the removal of oppressions, than in helping to load or fasten on the yoke.

I had however neither part nor privity in the trouble given you in the House.4 I knew not so much as of the design, till I saw it executed: but I have reason to think it will not be the last.

  •             I have the honour to be with great respect
  •                  Sir,
  •                       Your most obedient and humble Servant
  •                           Jeremy Bentham

Mr Attorney General.

P.S. It shall be my care to replace the copy, which Mr. A. handed over to you. More copies, in any number, are always at your command.5

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1771. 1 Colchester MSS, PRO 30/9/33 unpaginated. Autograph. No address or docket. Copy at BL VII. 691–2, docketed in pencil; '1802 Decr 30 / Panopt / J.B. Q.S.P. / to / Atty Genl.'
Editor’s Note
2 Missing.
Editor’s Note
3 See letter 1750.
Editor’s Note
4 Presumably a reference to the debate of 17 December on the Convicts Transportation Bill: see letter 1777 n. 4.
Editor’s Note
5 This letter of Bentham to Perceval was forwarded by the latter to Abbot, with an undated covering letter (PRO 30/9/33) as follows:
'My dear Mr Speaker
I thank you for your Letter and its enclosure which I return, together with another which I have received from the same hand—In my answer of Course I shall take no notice of having heard from you—You may commit to the flames that which was sent to me, as I have nofurther occasion for it. I agree with you in wishing the subject a full and dispassionate and attentive Consideration, and therefore I regret much in the Style of your Friends Compostion, which I think his friends must allow, is not the best formed to secure dispassionate attention—however it is a leading maxim with me to try to overlook those alloys of merit which more or less you are sure to meet with in all Characters— and possibly in the greatest degree where the merit is the greatest. I should therefore have great pleasure in seeing Mr Bentham's Scheme, (if really to be deemed practically useful under all the Circumstances which roust be considered) flourishing thro' him and him thro' it—But I foresee great difficulties, many which it is peculiarly hard, he should find as obstacles, because had his advice been followed they would never have existed—In this Class I number those which arise out of the Consideration of leaving the Botany Bay Colony in the state to which we have brought it—He himself would be sorry that the hand of this Country should be withdrawn from it, and yet it cannot be supported from hence without a great portion of that Expence which continuing it as the scene of future transportations would occasion. At home the Effect most to be apprehended is I think the Check to be given to the Spirit of improvement in our County Gaols etc. I cannot nor is it necessary I should enlarge upon these—But whatever may be the difficulty of thoroughly adopting Mr B's ideas—I think it within the reach of practical regulation to remove some at least of the striking objections to the present plan, and that at least I trust may be effected—
The best Compts and Wishes of the Season attend you and Mrs. A. from this House
  • I am
  • Very truly Yrs
  • Sp Perceval.'
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