Jump to Content
Jump to chapter

Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 7: January 1802 to December 1808

Find Location in text

Main Text

Editor’s NoteEditor’s Note1887To Charles James Fox13 May 1800 (Aet 58)

Queen Square Place Westmr.

13th May 1806.


Hearing from my Brother, of the extreme uncertainty he is in, whether the Russian Ministry will, after all, fulfil the engagements on the faith of which he was sent to Petersburgh,2 I hear at the pg 345same time, from his Office at the Admiralty, that Instructions are going from Your's, to His Majesty's Minister there,3 to require a categorical answer on the subject. What Count Woronzoff said to Mr Pitt, he would doubtless repeat, if it has not already fallen in his way to repeat, to yourself:—viz that in his opinion the object would be accomplished by my Brother and would not by any body else.

What at the same time I could not but be apprehensive of, has taken place—viz: that my Brother's health, in its then present state, might not stand the climate and that during his disablement, for want of an appropriate channel of intercourse with the different men in power, every thing would be at a stand, or running backwards. Not long ago, but before any particular facts were known, Lord St Helen's, judging merely from his experience of the Country, from the fickleness of the national character, the indecision and political timidity of the Emperor, and the strength of the anti- English party, observed to me that notwithstanding any assurances that could have been given, he could not help looking upon any definitive assent, or at least any efficient co-operation on the part of Administration there as highly precarious.

The experience they had had of my Brother's services in that Country, procured him, as had been expected, from Ministers there applications for the renewal of his assistance in a variety of shapes: and their apparent eagerness to obtain it was the principal security he looked tofor the fulfilment of the engagements that had been entered intofor his being permitted there to dofor his own Country that business, in the benefit of which that Country would have had so considerable a share. The applications I understand have been strong, and from more departments than one: yet some how or other that anchor seems much in danger of failing, if it has not failed already: so good a prophet was Lord St Helens.

Taking to mind the danger, as above stated, respecting my Brother's health, the intercourse which I knew Mr Dumont to have had with several of the Ministers there, on whom my Brother would be least likely to have had any immediate hold, Mr Dumont's old established and recently renewed connections in that country,4 his acquaintance with the carte du pays, joined to his frequently exemplified address and success in public business elsewhere, fully apprized at the same time of my Brother's wishes as well as per- pg 346suasions on the subject, I took upon me to suggest the question to Sir Evan Nepean, with whom the project, (if I understood him a right) had originated, whether if Mr Dumont could be prevailed upon to go out with my Brother in so undignified a situation as that of Secretary to such a mission, the assistance might not, for the reasons above touched upon, be of considerable use: his official Secretary here5 being in every point incompetent to such a business. On the subject of Mr Dumont I found Sir Evan's conceptions, to say the least, not at all behind my own: he seemed even to have anticipated me yet at the same instant he gave me to understand that it was not to be thought of. Old and groundless prejudices had taken indefeasible possession of I know not what narrow minds: Mr Pitt's, if not, the only one, was I imagine, of the number: to my Brother, in the audience with which he was indulged, his deportment was exactly such as would have been suitable, had his wish been, that the enterprize he was, in his way, setting on foot, should miscarry, for want of support and countenance.

Considering the strength of the ground made under so many disadvantages, I cannot help looking on it as probable, that if Mr Dumont's assistance had been obtained and given at that time (upon my mentioning it to him he seemed not averse) the matter would by this time have been happily advanced. That the same assistance would be effectual now, is more than I would choose to be answerable for: as little am I able to answer at present for his concurring neither directly nor indirectly have I had any communication with him on the subject. But it seemed to me that I should be wanting to all parties, if I did not take the liberty of submitting the idea, with the above facts for its support, to the competent Judge. My Brother's health, after a long and almost desperate struggle, got over one great fever: but, (as I have just heard from his Wife) he has since been harrassed by slighter attacks, such as he was but too subject to even here, and which without threatening life, incapacitate him for business while they last. During any such interruption, the business, though he were on the spot, would be but too liable tofind itself at a stand: the like danger threatening, in the event of his turning his back on Petersburgh for any length of time: and, Petersburgh not being sufficient to the whole of the intended business, his wish and plan was of course, to set it a going elsewhere (Archangel for example and the Crimea) at the same time.

By name and character at least, Mr Dumont cannot but have the pg 347advantage (I think) of being more or less known Sir, to yourself: he is so compleatly known to Lord Henry Petty and Lord Holland that all difficulty is out of the question on that score.

  • I have the honour to be, with all respect,
  •   Sir, Your most obedient and humble Servant
  • Jeremy Bentham.

Eight Honble. C. J. Fox

etc, etc. etc.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1887. 1 BL VIII. 126–7. Autograph. Docketed: '1805 March 3 / JB-SB.' Addressed: 'General Bentham.'
Editor’s Note
1887. 1 D. R. Bentham MSS. In the hand of an amanuensis except for the closing sentence and signature, which are autograph. No address or docket.
Pox was foreign secretary from 7 February 1806 until his death on 13 September.
Editor’s Note
2 Samuel Bentham was finding it impossible to obtain confirmation of the positive response which had been given in 1805 to the British government's request that ships for the British navy should be constructed in Russian dockyards. (See Mary S. Bentham, Life of Sir Samuel Bentham, pp. 236–43.) At BL VIII. 167–8 there is a letter in French from Admiral P. V. Chichagov, the deputy minister for the navy, to Samuel Bentham, 12 April 1806, announcing the Emperor's negative decision on the matter. Chichagov went on to say, however, that if Samuel Bentham could prolong his stay in Russia the authorities would like to engage his services for several projects, including the setting up of a Panopticon, a sail-cloth factory and a rope factory.
Editor’s Note
3 Lord Granville Leveson-Gower.
Editor’s Note
4 Dumont had served as a pastor at St Petersburg in 1784–5.
Editor’s Note
5 The secretary in the naval works department 1796–1807 was John Peake, who was subsequently extra assistant civil architect and engineer under the navy board 1807–12.
logo-footer Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Access is brought to you by Log out