Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 3: January 1781 to October 1788

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Editor’s Note473To Reginald Pole Carew10 October 1783 (Aet 35)

Dear Sir

I cannot reconcile myself to this idea of confirming by my silence an error to which, however unimportant and however easily rectified by other means, I have myself given occasion. It was not you that had been misinformed, but I that was inexplicit. The Bill has indeed existed in the shape of an Act for years: but were the business to stop where it stands at present, and where it seems not very unlikely to stop, that Act will have been worse than ineffectual. Supervisors have /been/ appointed for the future receptacle: first, Sr. T. C. Bunbury,2 Dr. Fotliergill3 and Mr. Howard:4 then, upon the death of Dr. F. and resignation of Mr. H., Sir Gilbert Elliot5 and a Dr. Bowdler.6 A plan has been made choice of by the present Supervisors upon the most liberal principle: premiums offer'd to the public at large, and which produced between GO and 70 candidates. Ground has even been bought (near Wandsworth) at a vast expence: but, without any blame upon the Supervisors, pg 218that ground, I believe, remains as yet unbroken. You may observe that I speak only of one building instead of the eight that were at first designed: for when the 'Draught of a Bill' ripen'd into a Bill, the noble was not improperly, I think, reduced to nine pence. It would be to little purpose for me to trouble you with a detail of particulars which are public and which could be much better stated to you by hundreds of your friends: but if it were worth your looking at, I could shew you when I have the pleasure of seeing you in town, a correspondence I had with Mr. (now I believe Sir W.) Eden, upon the occasion of a part of my Preface which in compliment to him I left out: at least I could shew you Mr. Eden's notes, for I don't recollect whether I kept copies of my own.7

If my child, whom I am certainly not the less disposed to be proud of by the regard you are kind enough to express for him, should be settled at Olonitz, which at present seems highly probable, I shall certainly contrive if possible, to pay him a visit in the spring. Olonitz you know is but a stone's throw from Petersburgh; not above 350 versts. Were you ever there? and if you were can you tell me whether the salt-works or the iron mines in the neighbourhood afford any thing of a house for him to live in? In short any thing you could tell me about the place I should be much obliged to you for: not meaning that if you can tell me nothing you should be at the trouble of writing to me to say so.8

  • I am, My Dear Sir, with the sincerest respect         
  • Your most obedient humble           
  • Servant                            
  • Jeremy Bentham               

Linstead near Sittingbourn

   Oct. 10. 1783.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
473. 1 Pole Carew Mss. Autograph. Docketed: 'r — 11 October 1783 / a — 23—.'
Addressed: 'R. Pole Carew Esqr.'
Carew misunderstood Bentham's letter of 3 October (letter 470), and in his reply, dated 7 October (B.M. XXI: 257–8, copy), wrote: 'I … had conceived that the Bill did really pass … but you speak of it as a thing yet in uncertainty.' The Bill had been enacted as 19 Geo. III, c. 74, 'An Act to explain and amend the laws relating to the Transportation, Imprisonment, and other Punishment, of certain offenders.' Since convicts could no longer be sent to the American colonies, by then in revolt and on the way to independence, the Act provided, among other things, for the appointment of three supervisors, who were to buy land—the value, if necessary, being ascertained by a jury as a preliminary to compulsory purchase—and there build one penitentiary for men and another for women (see letter 238, n. 1).
Editor’s Note
2 Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury, 6th bart. (1740–1821), m.p. for Suffolk, 1761–84, 1790–1812, had concerned himself with reforms of the criminal law at least from 1771. This preoccupation was to bring him later into direct relationship with Bentham.
Editor’s Note
3 John Fotliergill (1712–80), a physician and botanist, and also a philanthropist.
Editor’s Note
4 I.e., John Howard, the prison reformer.
Editor’s Note
5 Sir Gilbert Elliot (1751–1814), m.p., later first Earl of Minto.
Editor’s Note
6 Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), physician, philanthropist, and literary editor.
Editor’s Note
7 For these exchanges between Bentham and William Eden, see letters 238–41 and notes. Eden had not become 'sir'.
Editor’s Note
8 When Samuel Bentham, on making application to enter the service of Catherine II, had expressed interest in imperial manufactories in Siberia, the empress's comment had been that he might prefer to be at Olonetz (a place just to the east of Lake Ladoga), because, he suspected, she thought this conveniently near to St Petersburg so that he could pursue his love affair with Countess Matyushkina. 'I have been informing myself about Olonitz', he wrote to his brother, 'and find that the mines there are so indifferent that although they furnish cast iron pretty good for Cannon and Shot yet of this cast iron none but very bad wrought iron can be made. From any cast iron whatever there seems to be no doubt but what wrought iron (forged iron) may be made: but to know without a number of previous experiments by what process this may be done with respect to the particular cast iron in question, and at the same time how far the expence of such process can be born according to the usual price of Siberian iron, is not to be expected. The Siberian mines seem to be the only ones where I could be certain of making very striking improvements. As to Saltworks there are some near Novgorod, but they are very trifling compared to the Siberian ones.' As with all Samuel's letters from Russia, this may have been written in the knowledge that it would be intercepted, to create a misleading impression about his views. In fact he was kept at St Petersburg. On 6/17 October 1783 he wrote to Bentham: 'I expect every hour to receive my orders which are already written, by which I am destined for the present at least to a part in the direction of the principal canal that is making here in the town. It is called the Fontanka canal. I believe I have already made it known to you that the instant the Empress had put her hand to the order for me to be in her service, I became omniscient … I have … some reason to believe it was done with a view to finding me any kind of employment whatever here at Petersburg and that because it was thought I would wish to be here for the present at least to finish in one way or other my matrimonial connection'
(B.M. III: 357–60 and 425).
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