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 Note1017From James Trail23 October 1794

Lincoln's Inn.

Dear Bentham,

I have a thousand apologies to make for not having sooner pg 96thanked you for the perusal of your paper on Escheat.2 I have been scarcely an hour at home, except for sleep, since I received it. I ran it over very hastily, and having no prospect of more leisure for some time, I sent it to Wilson with all the cautions and injunctions you prescribed.3

The plan appears much more reasonable on your development of it, than I had conceived it possible to have made it. I feel still startled at the proposal to vest in a public officer all property of which the state will, by your plan, be entitled to any share; and I doubt if the example of an executor or administrator will reconcile people's feelings, or even their reason, to this part of the scheme. However, I am very glad you have written it, and sent it to Long, as it must impress every person that reads it, with a very favourable opinion of the faculties of the author. You labour, and with much ingenuity, but I doubt if with complete success, to prove that this mode of raising supplies will appear less burthensome or oppressive than a slight tax on collateral succession. After it has been established some time, that may really happen; but although you may convince a minister that it will happen, he cannot venture, on his own conviction, to make the experiment. You must convince the public, also, which, I fear, is impossible. The reluctance with which tithes, compared to rent, are paid, is a very strong illustration of your point. If the Church could occasionally be put into the actual possession of the tenth part of every field or farm, as the landlord occasionally is of the whole, the property in the Church would neither be disputed nor repined at.

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Editor’s Note
1017. 1 Bowring, x, 305.
Editor’s Note
2 Supply without Burthen, or Escheat vice Taxation was not published in England until 1795, when it appeared together with the other pamphlet, A Protest against Law Taxes, which had been previously published in Ireland in 1793. Bentham says in the preface to this new edition that the Protest 'received from the Minister on whose plans it hazarded a comment, all the attention that candour could bestow; and if I do not misrecollect, the taxes complained against did not afterwards appear. The publication of it in this country was kept back, till a proposal for a substitute to the tax complained of should be brought into shape: upon the principle of the parliamentary notion, which forbids the producing an objection to a tax, without a proposal for a better on the back of it'.
In the preface to Supply without Burthen, Bentham states that his suggestion of escheat instead of a new tax 'was submitted to the proper authority in the month of September 1794, but was not fortunate enough to be deemed worth further notice'.
Editor’s Note
3 A missing letter to Trail is indicated.
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