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Jeremy Bentham

The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 8: January 1809 to December 1816

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Editor’s Notepg 288Editor’s Note2195To Sir Samuel Romilly27 November 1812 (Aet 64)

Q.S.P., 27th November, 1812

Dear Romilly,

Nobody can be more fully or feelingly sensible to anything, than I am to the regard for justice manifested by Mr Vansittart throughout the whole course of this business. Justice I call it—favour I will not call it; for that would not be to do justice either to his probity or his discernment. What he I perceive is as fully sensible of as myself is, —that if by a Chancellor of the Exchequer, without concert with the individual, the arbitrator to act in a case such as that in question for the public, were to be chosen, arbitration and compensation might in that case be converted into a mere form, since by an arbitrator of his choice, nothing could be easier than for a minister in his situation, so to order matters, that of the enacted compensation not a half-penny would ever find its way into the individual's pocket.

As to any person to whom the nature and history of the Panopticon plan, from the time when it first found acceptance, and so on through the revolutions it was destined to experience, were not more or less known,—you seemed as fully sensible as myself how ill qualified in comparison of one to whom those things were thus known, a person so circumstanced would be to form any tolerably well-grounded award.

As to Mr Rose, in addition to a great part of the knowledge I had had of the business, he could not have but had knowledge of a great deal of secret history (of some part of it I received from him some obscure intimations at the time) which it was not permitted to me to know. It was this, added to the confidence which, from his political situation, I could not but presume would be reposed in him by the Treasury, and the hope, that, in his dealings by me, he would be so far mindful of former actings and declarations, as well as of the opinion entertained of the plan and its authors by Mr Pitt and Lord Melville, to whose department the business belonged, as to procure for me some small aliquot part, (which was the utmost I could expect or indeed accept of, and which by the breach of the engagement I have been deprived of,)—it was this that gave birth to the idea of casting myself upon his mercy. From what it has happened topg 289 me now and then to hear from A and B, I had reason to presume, that, in respect of general character, his opinion was not unfavourable to me. As to partiality, whether I had anything of that sort to expect from a man, who, when I have met him in the street, as I have every now and then done, has never appeared to know me, may be left to be imagined.

After disappointment about Mr Rose, the same principle, viz., the wish of having for my judge a person who, to a presumable absence of hostility or ill opinion, as towards myself, and some acquaintance with the history of the transaction, might, from his situation, be to any such purpose as that in question expected to add the qualification of being regarded as a proper person by the Treasury,—led me to Lord Glenbervie. But once in my life was I ever in any residence of his, and that was at Lincoln's Inn some thirty or thirty-five years ago, when he had chambers there. Not within these twenty years has he been in any residence of mine, except one morning about eighteen years ago, when he brought some company to see the Panopticon raree-show.2 Since that time, I have never met him in the street but it has been matter of doubt with me, whether I was to know him or no.

Upon your informing me of the disappointment in regard to him, I forget whether I had sufficiently thought of the matter to mention to you any person in particular to mention to Mr Vansittart. What I do remember (if I did not misconceive you) is,—an intimation from you, that you felt a difficulty about suggesting any person to Mr Vansittart without a previous assurance that a proposal from him would find such person already prepared for signifying his willingness to accept it.

Casting my eyes around, with this instruction before them, I have thought of two persons, viz., Sir Charles Bunbury, and Mr Moreton Pitt. Both of them were in its day well acquainted with Panopticon; and it was that circumstance that pointed them out to me. The names of both of them were (by, or with the approbation of, Mr Holford, etc., I presume,) put upon the late Penitentiary Committee. Prom that time to the present, I have not had, with either of them directly or indirectly, any the smallest intercourse. Neither of them on that occasion gave me any signs of life. If there could be any need of it, this circumstance would, I suppose, be regarded as sufficient evidence of the absence of any connexion from which partiality might be to be apprehended, even if in other respects their characters had been such as to admit of any such surmise.

pg 290Should Mr Vansittart approve of either of them, which, it may be, is to me a matter of entire indifference. Should he indulge me with the option, I would have two strings to my bow; and my first application would be made to the first of them I could get the speech of. With his consent, and with the assurance it would enable me to convey that application I could make without difficulty. But, without the power of affording any such assurance, the errand (I make no doubt of your agreeing with me) would be rather an unpromising one; for in that case neither of them could yield to my request without exposing himself to the hazard of knowing himself to be rejected.

Mr Moreton Pitt (I think you informed me) is returned again for Dorsetshire. That being the case, though I suppose he has no house in town, (for I happen to know of his having some time ago parted with the house he had,)3 some time or other I suppose he will be in town to take his seat. Whether he will or no, is, I suppose, perfectly known to Mr Vansittart. For my part I have not set eyes on him, for I know not how many years,—about ten years ago, I think it is,— that for the last time, I saw him in the street by accident for two or three minutes.

As to Sir Charles Bunbury, on sending, about ten days ago, to his house in town, I learned that he was expected in town, but that at that time no day had been fixed. It is, I think, about two and a half years since I saw him for a few minutes.

Oh, how grating—how odious to me is this wretched business of compensation! Forced, after twenty years of oppression—forced to join myself to the Baal-peor4 of blood-suckers, and contribute to the impoverishment of that public, to which, in the way of economy, as well as so many other ways, I had such well-grounded assurance of being permitted to render some signal service. Half-a-year's payment of my permanent compensation-annuity was due last Michaelmas;5 and reduced as I am, I have not yet been able to bring myself to apply for it. Last Sunday fortnight it was that you called on me, and till now I have not been able to drag myself, or to attempt to drag you to this abominable task. If you mention to Mr Vansittart this about the arbitrator, will you have the goodness to ask him about the annuity, whether a payment on it will now be made; and if not, pg 291at once, at what other time, and how I should apply for it? Whether by memorial, or how.

After all, besides the breach of public faith—than which surely there never was a grosser one—can such a man as Lord Sidmouth, can such a man as Mr Vansittart, bring himself to put the public to an extra expense of £200,000 plus my miserable compensation, only to make a job for Mr H.?6 To any such supposition my conception finds itself utterly unable to square itself. Yet, if Lord Castlereagh and Co.7 insist, how can they refuse. What is it that will be done? Nothing. This is what presents itself to my view as the most natural and least improbable result. Panopticon not gone on with, nor the job neither.

Howsoever canine, is it impossible to the appetite of the enemy to be satisfied by any less expensive means? A compensation, would it not be more suitable to his case than to mine?

Dear Romilly, yours ever

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
2195. 1 Bowring, xi. 162–4.
Editor’s Note
2 For Bentham's earlier contact with Glenbervie see Correspondence, ii, iii, iv, and v, as index.
Editor’s Note
3 In the Royal Kalendar for 1810 Moreton Pitt is listed as living at 10 Arlington Street; in the same publication for 1813 at 12 Albermarle Street. In the intervening years he does not appear to have had a London residence.
Editor’s Note
4 See Num. 25: 3; Deut. 4: 3; Pss. 106: 28; Hos. 9: 10.
Editor’s Note
6 Holford.
Editor’s Note
7 Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1789–1822), later 2nd Marquis of Londonderry, foreign secretary and leader of the House of Commons 1812–22.
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