Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 5: January 1794 to December 1797

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Editor’s Note1144To Earl Spencer23 June 1796 (Aet 48)

Q.S.P. Thursday June 23 1796

My Lord

As, upon your Lordship's return, Mr. Harrison may probably lay before your Lordship a letter2 of mine to him, as a ground work for the observations he has to make upon the subject of it, I take the liberty in the present stage of the business to state to your Lordship a matter which is become an object of sollicitude with me that the necessity of troubling your Lordship on the subject may be as little repeated as possible.

The Timber Docks, which I, in my ignorance, was afraid of, and which your Lordship, as if by way of easing me of my apprehensions, seemed to hold cheap—turn out to be an object of the most serious importance. Not to your Lordship, I should hope, any more than so much rent from any other part of the land:—not even to the occupiers, I should likewise hope: for on the whole together the quantity of timber now lying is very inconsiderable, and in the pg 220larger (consisting of 4 acres) there is not a single stick:—not to myself, for any use that it occurs to me to make of them:—But to the establishment in question, in respect of the health of the inhabitants, of the highest importance imaginable. Upon consulting with the learned, I find everybody of opinion that the fitness of the neighbourhood to afford human habitation to such a set of inhabitants and in such numbers depends absolutely upon the taking of those parts of the shore out of the state of perpetual putridity to which their present destination condemns them—an operation which would require the property of them to be vested in the establishment. Most, if not all of them, I believe, and the 4-acre dock in particular (equal for ought I know to all the others put together) turn out to be your Lordship's property. The line I took the liberty of pointing out at a venture, and which Mr. Harrison speaks of himself as having at first assented to, included, I believe that large Dock, which is the farthest to the West, (that is towards the Bridge) as well as the others: though as I was not, at that time, so fully apprized of the importance of that part of the property in the point of view above mentioned, it is more than I can be certain of. I pointed to that part pretty much at a venture: not prepared to form any opinion of my own, and expecting to find on Mr Harrisons part, what at that time I accordingly thought I did find, a degree of facility corresponding to that /the indulgence/ which your Lordship had been pleased to express.

Mr Harrison seems as if he took the blame on himself for his former facility in regard to the particulars of the land: a little farther consideration will, I hope, satisfy him on the score. It is only in as far as the particulars of this or that portion of it are known that it can be presented to the Treasury as an object more or less suitable to the purpose. More information than is necessary in this view I have no motive for wishing for:—any that is necessary, Mr. Harrison, I flatter myself, will not be instructed to refuse. The including of this or that acre in the communication of the particulars, sketch included, determines nothing with regard to the including it in the purchase: but the excluding it from the communication, excludes it from the purchase in the first instance.

The difficulty Mr Harrison alludes to relative to the future probable inclosure, might admitt I should think of either of two solutions: one is, the taking that contingency into account in the adjustment of the purchase money: the other is, the reserving the benefit of it (I mean of the annexation expected from it) in the conveyance: the latter expedient strikes me at the moment as the pg 221more eligible. By what I have heard of that gentleman, I am inclined to think I should have stood a better chance with him, had the land instead of being your Lordship's been his own. But, on that supposition, I flatter myself than when he has taken your Lordship's further commands on the subject, he will have learnt to consider it as his own for the present purpose.

I have the honor to be, with all respect,

My Lord, your Lordships most obed. and humble servant


Earl Spencer

P.S. Lest for want of Mr Harrisons letter, the present one should in any part fail of being intelligible, I inclose a copy of his, which that I may not draw upon your Lordship for more time than the case may eventually appear to call for, I send closed.

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Editor’s Note
1144. 1 B.L. VI: 207–8. Autograph draft, much corrected. Docketed: '1796 June 23 / Panopt / J.B. Q.S.P. / to / Earl Spencer Admiralty / Observations on Harrison's Letter / Timber Docks.'
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