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Jeremy Bentham

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

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Editor’s Notepg 88Editor’s Note1718To Samuel Benthamc.21 August 1802 (Aet 54)

By way of explanation of the above epistle, please Your Inspectorship2 to know, that this was written a week after having received, through the medium of Sir C. Bunbury, a packet of papers, containing inter alia letters of mine to him, as full of scorn, contempt and menace as towards his Lordship and Mr Addington, as well as the old gang, as I could heap them: and that pour abreger, I made Bunbury instead of sending his Lordship his own remonstrances upon the ground of these letters, send the letters themselves—they not being a direct insult to his Lordship because not addressed to his Lordship, and therefore not supposed to be destined to meet his Lordship's noble eye. I do not look upon this as a symptom of compleat conversion—but I do look upon it as a symptom of salutory terror, which I shall not fail to improve.

I have told you at different times I believe, though in general terms, of discoveries of impeachable offences, bearing principally upon the D. of Portland. The impeachable offence however is a discovery comparatively of no great value: it is a plant that can not be reared without a Hot-house—and that Hot-house, Parliament. The offence truly useful is an offence that may be prosecuted any where—a plant that may be raised in the open field.—You have heard of a pretty little Act, called the Habeas Corpus Act—read it, I will be bound for you you never did: any more than your humble pg 89servant till t'other day. Under this pretty Act, your friend the Duke of Portland certainly, together with his learned movers Mr King and Mr Baldwin3—probably also the whole of the late and present Council Boards, are liable to be punished with a pretty little collection of punishments called a Premunire: inter alia imprisonment for life with forfeiture of all their property—at the suit of as many Blackguards as have been detained by them in N. S. Wales after the expiration of their terms: and as to pardon, the King's power of pardon is expressly taken away by this charming Statute. A Bill of indemnity they would obtain of course: but not without being most miserably mauled and kept in hot water by the Opposition by the way: for N. S. Wales as I shall take care to have it known in every ginshop is the True Bastile and the oppressions exercised in it some hundred times as great as those exercised in the Cold Bath Fields Bastile had they been all true.4 With the exception of what has been done by a criminal Court, erected in consequence of powers obtained for that purpose in 1786 or 1787 from Parliament,5 added to a few other exceptions which do not above half cover the general proposition, every thing that has been done in their 'improved Colony' since the foundation of it—and for example every thing that has been either in the way of legislation—of which abundance has been done—or in the way of preventing the return of Expirees (those convicts whose terms have expired) is as illegal, as if your Inspectorship alone had done it. This is not only my opinion, but that of Romilly, after studying a fine law argument of mine with which he agrees in every the minutest point—and there are abundance. Moreover he will give me his opinion in form to make what use I please of. The facts come from the History of the Colony by the then Judge Advocate Captain Collins—now Lieutenant Colonel Collins of the Marines, dedicated to Ld Sydney6 in 1798: and now just after I had prophesied and demonstrated a priori the utter impossibility of its ever being in any thing less than diametrical repugnance to every one of the 5 ends of penal justice, comes a second part—a continuation of the history written by said Collins pg 90from documents furnished to him from thence, dedicated to Ld Hobart7 as the new patron of the Colony, confirming the prophecy in the minutest particular and under every head. This (about the Premunire) the gang do not know of as yet: nothing beyond intimations of impeachable matter in general in great quantities with Counsel's opinion, and a phantasmagoric view of an indefined something worse.

Of the publication of these discoveries a natural consequence would be the setting of the whole Colony in a flame: and though ships were to be kept from going thither from hence direct, yet from Ameri⟨ca⟩ and other places they would keep going, notwithstanding in unknown numbers. Of cour⟨se⟩ I shall do no such thing till Parliament is in a condition to apply the remedy: and the remedy I mean to try at, is the evacuation of that scene of wickedness and wretchedness.

Did I tell you? (I believe I did not) of my dining with Abbot about five weeks ago. I went in consequence of his writing a note8 (cordial for him) telling me there would be nobody but his own folks, and so it was. I said nothing to him about Panopticon (matters were not then ripe) nor he any thing to me. But I think to try to make use of him now as a mediator, and to work upon Addington's fears. Soon after I dined with him he went to East Bourne, and they say Addington is there.

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Editor’s Note
1718. 1 BL VII. 587–8. Autograph. Docketed: '1802 Aug / JB-SB.'
At the head of this letter there is a copy, in the hand of an amanuensis, of Lord Pelham's letter to Sir Charles Bunbury, 19 August 1802 (see letter 1715 n. 2).
Editor’s Note
2 Samuel Bentham was inspector-general of naval works 1795–1807.
Editor’s Note
3 William Baldwin (1737?—1813), counsel for criminal and colonial business at the home office 1796–1813.
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5 The measure referred to was 27 Geo. III, c. 2, 'An Act to enable his Majesty to establish a court of criminal judicature on the eastern coast of New South Wales, and the parts adjacent'.
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6 Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney (1733–1800), secretary of state for the home department 1782–3 and 1783–9.
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7 Robert Hobart (1760–1816), Baron Hobart, later 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, secretary of state for war and the colonies 1801–4.
Editor’s Note
8 Missing.
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