Jeremy Bentham

Stephen Conway (ed.), The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 8: January 1809 to December 1816

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Editor’s Note2150To Richard Wharton21 January 1812 (Aet 63)


Understanding that, on the 24th of this Month in pursuance of an Order of the House of Commons at the instance of the Company formed for the building of the intended Vaux Hall or Princes Bridge, a Bill is to be brought in, having for its object (inter alia) the procuring powers for making some alteration in respect of the spot to be occupied for the purpose of the said Bridge, on and near the Bank, Milbank it is called, on the Middlesex side,2—in virtue of which powers if obtained, appropriation will be made of a part more or less considerable of the ground at Milbank aforesaid (53 Acres orpg 219 thereabouts) purchased Octobr 1799 by the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury, for the purpose of the then intended Penitentiary Establishment—purchased viz: in my name and put in my possession in the character of Feoffee,—it appears to me to belong to my duty in that character to do what depends upon myself towards calling the attention of the present Lord Commissioners to the subject, for the purpose of humbly representing to their Lordships the opportunity, which is thus put into their hands of preserving that spot of ground from a dismemberment, by which its fitness, in relation to its intended purpose as above, could not but be subjected to very considerable diminution.

Under the powers already possessed by that Company in virtue of an already existing Act,3 I understand it to be their intention, to carry the road, from the foot of the intended Bridge, in a direction, in which the effect of it would be to cut off from the above mentioned 53 acres at least 13: of which 13 a considerable part, being converted into the intended public road and that a very broad one, would leave the remainder in the state of a narrow slip, so compleatly separated and thrown to a distance from the 40 acres which on the other side of such road would thus be left, as to render it— though I should suppose not deteriorated in value with reference to any other use, yet very much so with reference to the use to which by the authority of their Lordships' predecessors in office and by virtue of an Act of Parliament (7 July 1794) it stands appropriated.4

What in relation to that spot is at present the intention of their Lordships does not lie within my knowledge: whether it be at present their determination to institute any such establishment, and if yes, whether the ground in question is meant to be appropriated to it, or some other ground obtained for it: in which latter case a natural consequence will be the making by authority of Parliament, some other disposition of the spot actually in hand.

But, even in this latter case, on the supposition that, perhaps, in their Lordships' view it might not seem proper so far to prejudge the pleasure of Parliament, as, for want of any lawful and proper exercise of their authority, to suffer the spot to be rendered comparatively unit for the purpose, to which it stands as yet appropriated by Parliament, it seems to me matter of duty, to submitt to their Lordships' consideration, the information which the relation I bear to the land puts me in possession of; that by having it thus before them, they may be the better enabled to take any such measures as, to the purpose above-mentioned, the occasion may be considered as calling for at their hands.

pg 220If carried from the foot of the Bridge, for a short distance, in a direction parallel, instead of perpendicular, to the course of the river, the road, when it came to take the perpendicular direction, would be carried on the other side of the spot in question, in which case the abovementioned dismemberment would be avoided. In that case I know of no need there would be to take from the establishment any part of the spot, over and above what would be necessary to form the piece of road, running in a direction parallel to the river as above.—But even if, in addition to this, any part were taken from it, in a direction perpendicular to the course of the river as above, still so it might perhaps be, that only the extremity would thus be pared off (viz. not exceeding the amount of the breadth given to the road) and no part separated and dismembered from the main body, as according to the design now on foot.—

For preserving—not only from such division and dismemberment, but from all defalcation whatsoever, an establishment altogether private, viz. the pleasure-ground occupied by Mr Elliot with his Brewhouse,5 a clause may be seen in the existing Vauxhall-Bridge Act:—and whether, to a spot of ground appropriated to an establishment of the public nature in question, equal protection at the hands of Parliament may not be due, is a question on which it rests with their Lordships to determine.

Having had the honour in April or May last to attend Mr Holford, then Chairman of the late Committee on Penitentiary Houses, and conduct him to the spot (Sir Evan Nepean, another Member of that Committee, being also in company) and having in my hand on that occasion (if I do not misrecollect) a sketch shewing in what place, for the purpose of the above-mentioned Bridge, the dismemberment was, as I understood, intended to be made, I at time took the liberty of calling their attention to the subject; and, both Gentlemen having at that time the matter in full view; and Mr Holford as I learn from the Votes of the House,6 being one of the Members by whom the Bill now depending in Parliament in relation to the Penitentiary establishment, has been, or is to be, brought in,7 I pg 221would beg leave humbly to refer their Lordships to those Gentlemen, and in particular to Mr Holford, for any such account of the matter as, in their Lordships view, it may seem to require.

Considering how adequate the information is which is so compleatly not only at their Lordships command but at every moment within their reach, I should hardly have thought it incumbent on me, thus to attempt giving their Lordships any such trouble, but for the circumstance which in the hurry of more important business, might I thought, perhaps escape the attention not only of their Lordships but of Mr Holford: I mean that which, if I do not misconceive the matter, puts it in their Lordships power, if in their judgment the spot in question ought to be preserved from the intended dismemberment, to preserve it accordingly, viz. by refusing their concurrence, or if necessary and proper, by announcing their opposition, to the Bill about to be brought in as above by the Vauxhall Bridge Company, if the change requisite to save the spot from such dismemberment be not consented to on their part.

A map of the land in question lies at their Lordships command in the Office of Woods etc at Whitehall, and from that Office was, by order of the aforesaid Committee on Penitentiary Houses, produced, and submitted to the inspection of that Committee,

At the conclusion of this long address, I can not but beg leave to express my regrets, at the thoughts of the trouble which it seemed necessary for me thus to attempt giving to their Lordships and on their behalf, Sir, to yourself, being with all respect,


                                    Your most obedient Servant,

                                        Jeremy Bentham.

R. Wharton Esqr.

etc. etc. etc.


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2150. 1 BL VIII. 568–73. Pressed copy, in the hand of a copyist, except for the signature.
Editor’s Note
2 On 24 January a petition from the Vauxhall Bridge Company was read in the Commons. The petition asked that the site of the road across Tothill Fields from the proposed bridge to Eaton Street should be moved about 100 yards to the east, through some buildings called the Pest Houses. See Commons Journals, lxvii. 71.
Editor’s Note
3 49 Geo. III, c. cxlii (3 June 1809).
Editor’s Note
4 Written in the margin: '34.G.3.c.84'.
Editor’s Note
5 Elliot and Co., brewers, of Pimlico.
Editor’s Note
6 Written in the margin: '11 Jany. 1812'. The 'Votes' were issued daily. They constituted a record of the previous day's business in the House of Commons. Until 1817 they were as full as the account in the Commons Journals.
Editor’s Note
7 The Penitentiary House Bill was ordered to be brought in by Holford, Francis Burton, and the home secretary, Richard Ryder. See Commons Journals, lxvii. 47. In essence the Mil was the legislative enactment of the Penitentiary Committee Report. It formed the basis of 52 Geo. III, c.44, the Penitentiary Act, which authorized the construction of a penitentiary for convicts from London and Middlesex (but not on the Panopticon design) and provided for Bentham to be compensated.
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