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Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 11: January 1822 to June 1824

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Editor’s NoteEditor’s Note3076To John Bowring20 March 1824 (Aet 76)

Saty. 20th March 1824

J. Be to J. Bo.

To the admission of one from each of the two rival parties your objection was that they would unite in a scheme of depredation for mutual benefit.

  1. 1. I do not see any probability of such a result,

  2. 2. If produced at all it would be produced by a state of things such that the persons of those Commissioners were they all English would not suffice for a remedy.

When thinking of the sinister coalition the existence of the two Englishmen seems for the moment to have escaped you: a single one would suffice for denouncing the plan to the Greek nation by which the reputation and power of evil doing on the part of the Confederates would be utterly destroyed. But that which is plainly improbable or scarcely thought of, much less attempted: and what seems to me is—that neither of pg 404the supposed Confederates seeing any prospect of being able to bring about any such result neither would venture to make any stich proposition to the other. Neither could without putting himself into the power of the other: into the power thus given to the other of destroying his reputation.

Now if one English Commissioner suffices to divest such a plan of all probability of a successful issue a fortiori so would two: and if you take away the probability of such a coalition there remains the rivalry: in which case a single Englishman would suffice to turn the balance, and command on every occasion the result.

Now by next post.

P.S. ¼ before 12. Just received yours of yesterday.2 It contains no argument against any thing I have said in this or my former letter of this morning.3 It was not I that advised the nomination of the first Greek, what I advised was the giving him a Commission. I shall avoid most carefully any thing that can embitter matters: and to that end shall avoid explanations with them. But if they ask me why you would not enter into the plan of the fourth Commissioner, not finding any thing to say, I can not say any thing.

J. Be. to J. Bo. in continuation.

I hope I caught the ten o'clock post: if not this and the former will come together: and both perhaps too late.

  1. 2. If there [be] in the state of the public mind4 a disposition sufficient to produce the bad result of such a coalition, neither your three Commissioners whereof two English, nor any thing else in your power could suffice to prevent it.

As soon as an instalment is out of the hands of the Commissioners, their controul over it is at an end: then commences the supposed depredation, and that altogether an unpreventible one.

  1. 1. To return to the first point. So long as there are the two English commissioners, the most perfect reconciliation5 between the two rival partisans would not suffice for the supposed sinister purpose, nor so much as do any thing towards it: the Englishmen by this supposition would not come into the scheme, but it could not be carried into effect without their signature: the result would be that if the two confederate Greeks insisted upon such a disposition of the money as the Englishmen would not come into, the money would remain in their joint hands and no use, bad or good, would be made of it: the country would be altogether pg 405deprived of the benefit of it: whereby the confederates themselves could not but be more or less sufferers.

To produce the degree of assurance dependent on the circumstances of two Englishmen and not one only, (though as above it seems to me that even one ought to be sufficient) it would indeed be necessary that the two should always be in existence: and that for this purpose, they should each of them have the perpetual power of filling up their number, and so their successors to the end of the business. Now for this, I recollect no provision in the Agreement: a deficiency which it seems to me ought by all means to be remedied. This it could not be without the consent of the Deputies (O. & L.) which it seems probable they will not give, unless the plan which they have some expectation of, be adopted; mind I do not see how consistently with my view of the matter I could advise them so to do.

This deficiency in or even total extinction of the number of the Englishmen (unless power of deputation be given as above), I can not regard as very improbable: too improbable to be worthy providing against. Stanhope's stay were he reinstated (whereas at present he has been at your instance quietly expunged) hangs by a thread, which Holy Alliance may cut at any time. Gordon is not yet there; and having been driven away by disgust once, so he may be again at any time. Of Byron I know scarcely so much as what every body else knows. But as often as he was on the carpet between Mill and me—and thus he has several times, Mill has launched forth in declaration of his being a prodigy of inconsistency and caprice: always insisting upon it that he could not be depended upon for two moments together. I have never stayed (not seeing any use in it) to examine him upon the grounds of this action: but I have never found to my recollection a man to advance any position so determinately without considerable specific grounds: and by his connections he is in a way to have political fruits in abundance.

For the future good disposition of the money under the two Englishmen and one Greek you mention, I think two objects of reliance—an Audit Board—and the expected good composition of the Legislative Assembly. But the Audit Board does not exist: nor can I see what the Greek materials are of which you could make it, if there are any that are incorruptible or not easily corruptible they should be the Commissioners at once!

As to the Legislature suppose it ever so popular and ever so pure, it can not have the disposal of the money in detail; it must turn it over to the Executive: and for the probable members of the Executive, where can you find any probably better or even other than those men on whose being divested of the power the success of your plan depends?

Of the purity even of the Legislature, though it is our only hope, our expectation can not be very sanguine. Before their eyes will continually be these conspicuous men who have borne the greatest part in such pg 406successes as have yet been obtained, and that by great and notorious sacrifices; in these men will there be the reputation; and in these men likewise in all probability the money (for you know of no others!) the money in the shape of patronage by appointment of situations: and to these causes of seduction, in Greece any more than elsewhere until a nearly perfect Constitutional Code shall have been established, where can you find a promise, that can be relied on, of sufficient resistance.

Orlando has made great sacrifices, Mavrocordato has made great sacrifices. These you are quite satisfied of. Yet their obtaining for their sacrifices any the smallest compensation, you seem to consider a public calamity, and determined if possible to prevent it For my part, as above, I see not how it would be possible for you to prevent it; nor if you could, do I see why it should be desirable. Every thing indeed depends upon the quantum; and if they could obtain more than due compensation they naturally enough, though not certainly would. But even supposing them to obtain too much, this with all its bad effects would have one good effect: namely the encouraging them and others to make upon occasion the like sacrifices in future.

Unless you can suppose O. and L. both of them quite certain that the man known to be the chief adviser6 (for at least they say he is) of their great rival Colocotroni will immediately enter into a coalition for a purpose for which I can not see (as above) any prospect of success nor any probability of its being entered into—unless you can suppose this— there seems no small magnanimity on their part in their entering so readily into a proposal of so novel a complection, and therefore necessarily so unexpected. If they have any sympathy in their composition—and with all their defects I see no improbability in their having some—I can not but see that their coming into the proposition in question would excite and strengthen it—and afford a considerable promise of returning harmony.

When our conversation on this subject took place on Thursday7 your immediate avocation could not have allowed you the time necessary for considering the matter particularly and coolly.

It is a notion surely contrary to all ordinary notions that a man will encrease his power by admitting into a share of power equal to his own another man who is his adversary, and if in the ordinary notions on this subject there be a weakness or if there be an exception to the truth of them, the weakness and the exception remains as yet to be assigned.

It seems to me that where nothing is to be gained by marks of distinction, wisdom as well as sympathy consists in bestowing marks of confidence.

pg 407I have fatigued myself less with manual labour than with mental labour, with little hope of success to animate you: and so now perforce regretting the time thus probably wasted. I let you go: and as for looking over what I have scrawled neither time nor eyes admitt of it.

Blaquiere—when will he really go? the responsibility lies with all its weight upon your shoulders. Meantime I want my papers back again to make the requisite amendments and I can not have them back again but through you.

12 o'clock Saty. 20 March

Upon the face of Hume's letter,8 the ultimate delay and that an indefinite one that would be produced by the substitution of the to-be-purchased Ship9 to the now existing ship presents to my view a perfectly natural and the only natural reason for O. and L. declining to come into the scheme.

The other supposition I can not see any the smallest probability in. I have stated some of the elements of the improbability: and to none of them have I received any answer.

Transport—I never supposed them to have been taken up for battle purposes. But I see not how this has any application to the question.

Do not fancy that I am angry at my advice not having been taken: or that I am courting the Greeks at your expence for fear of my Code. I am not in the least angry with you if you ascribe both these things to me: but I am so constantly upon my guard against such self delusion being composed of two beings the one of which is constantly upon the watch over the other, that I can not believe any such thing of myself at least in the present instance. I can not by the fear of any such imputation be made to alter any of the above opinions: such fear would not be arguments.

Whatever I do, or you do, depend upon it I shall do nothing to exasperate matters.

If the idea of a Vessel of 180 tons—is it not constituting or at least beginning to constitute a National navy—appeared to them an extra ordinary one, and the advantage of it as not compensating for the advantage of a new and indefinite delay, in addition to what had been created before and I wish I could say not by the same hands, I can not wonder at it. If it would answer any good purpose I see not now any danger of offending them by asking them why they did not accept the offer: their answer would have been, as above. In their places what any one would suspect is a job in favour of Blaquiere, If I were obliged to opt pg 408between the two seeing what I have seen and experiencing what I have experienced, this I must confess in my position would seem the least natural and improbable of the two. I dare say this behaviour has been sufficiently irritating and amidst the plagues by which you are plagued, it seems to have had an unfortunate effect on your temper, and thence on your discernment.

When I had an ear to the proposition about the new-mentioned ship it was on the supposition of its being an additional one in addition to that which was and I hope is to carry the first money. Had I any suspicion that it was to be a substitute to that ship, the proposition would have received a very different reception from me.

While the new ship was getting ready the Book would have been getting ready at its former pace: the readiness of the vessel would have depended upon the readiness of the commander; and the readiness of the commander would have depended on the readiness of the book; and the readiness of the book would have depended upon the inability of the Book-maker to find as much amusement here as he expected to find elsewhere.

You may shut your eyes against all this, and seem to have done so, I can not mine, and will the public shut theirs?

J. Be to J. Bo10

You may have been perfectly in the right for aught I can pretend to know (with the exception of the delaying Blaquiere's departure for his accommodation) and if I thought you ever so much in the wrong, it would make no difference in my conduct on the present occasion. What I want to know, is what course you would wish me to take on the present occasion— what you would wish me to say to the Greeks? Unless I have this before it is necessary for me to see them or write to them, it may happen to me to make bad worse: perhaps in reality, & still more probably in your eyes. I hope they will not force me to give them an answer before I have had time to hear from you after your having had time to give a quiet consideration to my reasons, for in the few minutes of my jack's11 stay with you, that was not possible. I will certainly hear what you refer me to in the MS. Book12 you send me and perhaps endeavour to see Hamilton Browne: but I do not very well see how any thing he could have to tell me of what fell under his observation could have much influence on the state of the question.13

In my position, it belongs not to me to attempt to exercise any thing like pg 409will: and were I ever so much pressed to it, I would not do any such thing, being as thoroughly convinced of my own incompetence as any body could wish me to be: having given my reasons, such as they are, I have clone all in my power, and there I shall leave the matter to rest.

What I think of saying to them if not forbidden, is—that my proposition has not been relished, and that all that I have said in support of it has failed: that it does not follow that because there is difference of opinion, there is blame every where; and that supposing ever so much blame on your part, all anger on their part would be useless, and turn against themselves: that it is for them to consider whether it would be best for them to do without the money, or to yield to such terms as may be necessary to obtain it: or also if they were to return to their country without the means, whether they would not be still worse received there than in the event of their obtaining it upon the terms mentioned whatever they were: that if they could obtain the money on better terms from any other quarter, they would of course be altogether right in doing so: but that I could see no probability of their doing so: and unless they were sure of their mark, the endeavor might put it out of their power to obtain it on any terms from the present quarter: and in which case, by pursuing the shadow, they would let drop the substance.

That, as to behaviour at large, how ill soever other people may have behaved to them, they themselves would be the only persons hurt by any attempt of theirs to retaliate, or even (what is a species of retaliation) by any thing of accusation, or complaint to others: for that here & there and every where if according to their own account so many people were against them, a question that would naturally be put to them, is where there is such a multitude against two, is it not more likely that the two should be in the wrong than the multitude? We hear your story: but the distance puts it altogether out of your power to hear theirs: Under these circumstances, how upon your own showing comes it to any other conclusion [than] that it is you who have been most to blame?

But if concessions must be made, the better the grace with which they are made, the better it will be for those who make them, as well as every body else: I know how easy it is to give such advice—how great the difficulty of taking it: but the greater the difficulty, the greater the merit: and the more, having the approbation which, to a man who can display such merit, will be given him by his own conscience. Any fool is equal to the giving of such advice as I have been giving; but wise indeed is every man who is capable of making due profit by it.

J.B. to J.B. There ends my rigmarole just as it comes into my head this moment: But should I have to do it into Dog French, the powers above will, it is hoped, give me the grace to shorten it.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3076. 1 London Greek Committee Papers, National Library, Athens, vol x, fo. G. Autograph. Endorsed by Colls: 'To be returned when occasion offers.' Bentham wrote this letter at different times on Saturday 20 March 1824, and dispatched at least the first section, and possibly later sections, separately to Bowring. Apart from the final section (see n. 10 below) all earlier sections of the letter are bound together in the London Greek Committee Papers.
Editor’s Note
2 Missing.
Editor’s Note
3 i.e. the earlier part of this letter.
Editor’s Note
4 MS orig. 'the country a'.
Editor’s Note
5 MS orig. 'understanding'.
Editor’s Note
6 Anagnostis Deliyannis: see Letter 3074 n. 2.
Editor’s Note
7 Thursday 18 March 1824.
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8 Missing.
Editor’s Note
9 On the same date as this letter, Hobhouse, on behalf of the London Greek Committee, wrote to Orlandos and Louriottis strongly recommending that the deputies purchase the Lion, a cutter of 132 tons, to be fitted out as a vessel, of war and to convey the second instalment, not the first as Bentham supposed, of the Loan to Greece: see Louriottis Papers, Centre for Neohellenic Research, Athens, ΣΤ΄‎, fo. 74.
Editor’s Note
10 The remainder of this letter is at. UC xii. 246–8. Copy in the hand of Colls, headed: '1824. March 20. Greece. J.Be. to J.Bo. Extract. Concluding part.'
Editor’s Note
11 i.e. Colls.
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12 Perhaps a volume of correspondence concerning the affairs of the London Greek Committee; see Letter 3077 n. 10.
Editor’s Note
13 Browne, who had travelled from Greece to London with Orlandos and Louriottis, visited Bentham on 22 March 1824, and his visit prompted Bentham to write the postscript to Letter 3077.
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