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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 NoteEditor’s Note1211To George Rose16 November 1796 (Aet 48)

Queen's Square Place Westmr 16 Novr 1796


Upon attending the Dean and Chapter of Westminster this pg 302day I found a disposition to treat, on some such conditions as the following—

1. That a part of Tothill Fields be allotted to the Parish or United Parishes, whereon to build a Poor House—

2. That another part be allotted to the Dean and Chapter, for a Cricket Ground for the Westminster Scholars—

3. That another part be allotted to the Dean and Chapter and Parish or Parishes, jointly or severally, to be improved for their mutual benefit by building or otherwise.

4. That the remainder only, and that as small as possible, might be leased out to the Crown, suppose for 1000 years, for the purpose of the Penitentiary House. A wish pretty generally expressed was to confine the grant to the very site of the Building itself, with no greater quantity of ground than would be contained between that and the surrounding wall (Diameter of the principal Building 180 feet—Space occupied by Building and Yard, a square of 500 foot a side—Content 6 Acres).

Whether this or any thing like this allowance can be accepted of as sufficient may appear from the following particulars.

1. The least number of convicts I can be charged with is 1000: and I stand bound to receive them, in any number. In New South Wales they have already accumulated to several thousands.

2. My Prison being at the same time a Manufactory, and one in which the goods are of the bulkiest kind, will call for room proportionable.

3. There is nothing to hinder my being called upon to receive Females: and that in a separate House.

Call, for argument sake, the greatest number of Prisoners (male and female) I can ever be called upon to make provision for … 2,7002

pg 303Eighty Acres (the quantity of Land at Battersea Rise) was the quantum allotted under the old system for 900 Prisoners. This was the quantity I was to have had for the 2700 persons above spoken of: being ⅓ part only of the quantum of Land per head under the old system.

The Quantum proposed by the Dean and Chapter amounts, instead of the whole 80 Acres, to a part and that but a small part, ⅙ or so, of a spot of 38 Acres, as the following account will show—


Gross quantity of the Waste called Tothill Fields


Amount of the line of Road necessary for the preserving the existing communications (breadth of the Road supposed 33 feet) according to a measurement taken from the plan—upwards of


Proposed to be allotted for a Cricket Ground for the Westminster Scholars, being an amount equal to that of the largest existing Cricket Ground


Remains as above applicable to the purposes of the Establishment


Amount of what the Dean and Chapter are perfectly willing to give up for a pecuniary compensation


Consent to a sacrifice of a few acres more might not improbably be obtained: but where the whole is so far from sufficient, whether a consent, extending at any rate to no more than a part, and that probably a small part, be an object worth labouring for, is a question to be considered.

When the whole, and more than the whole is wanted, a satisfaction in the shape of a portion of the thing itself would be a species of satisfaction, adapted indeed to the purpose of a common Inclosing Act, but directly repugnant to the object of the proposed Bill.

The share that could be claimed by the Dean and Chapter as Lord, is, according to the received principle of division for Wastes, and according to what appears to be the conception of the Parish Governments, no more than 1 15 or 1 16 of what would be allotted to the Commoners: and accession on the part of the Dean and Chapter seems according to all appearances, more likely to obstruct than to facilitate accession on the part of those Governments, the representatives of the Commoners. An antipathy, preventive of all consent, has subsisted between the parties, time out of mind. pg 304Instances that occurred 15 or 16 years ago have been mentioned to me: and recent occurrences have inflamed it.

The value of the actual profit made by the Dean and Chapter from the Waste for so many hundred years is admitted by them to be absolutely nothing. Projects of improvement once attempted to be realized, by the concurrence of the Parish, were by the repugnance of the Parish long ago rendered abortive: and that repugnancy is stronger now than ever.

Out of the 80 Acres requisite, whatever is not given out of their Waste, must be given, if given at all, out of cultivated lands. Whether the inconvenience to individuals be considered, or the expense to Government, the option does not seem difficult to make.

Upon the whole, the course I would take the liberty of proposing, as the clearest and shortest, is as follows—

1. Bill to explain and amend the Act of 7 July 1794, by extending the powers from Lands in severalty to Wastes and Commons.

2. Clause reciting Tothill Fields as being a Waste within the four Counties therein mentioned, but as being incumbered with a ruinous Poor House in the middle, with no more than 8 or 9 families in it—Should the Treasury pitch upon Tothill Fields, powers to pull down this Poor House.

3. Pecuniary compensation mutatis mutandis, as under the existing Act.—

4. Occupation immediate: compensation money in case of disagreement Lodged pendente lite upon the principle of the existing Act, in the hands of Trustees.

Whether the nature of the parties (unweildly corporate bodies) or the temper they are in be considered, it will appear evident enough that, although there were a certainty of their coming some time or other to an agreement, it would be impossible for an individual, circumstanced as I am, to wait the issue of it. Fourteen or fifteen years, no very immoderate duration for a Chancery Suit, especially on such a ground would be more than the value of my Life—

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1211. 1 B.L. VI: 344–6. Fair copy. Docketed: '1796 Nov. 16 / Panopt. Toth. Fields / J.B. Q.S.P. to Rose Treasury / Chapter Conference.' Another fair copy (fos. 347–9) contains passages inserted as footnotes but crossed out in pencil.
Editor’s Note
2 At this point in the second fair copy (fo. 347 v.) there are additions to sections 2 and 3, but these are pencilled through and a copy of them in Bentham's hand in B.L. VI: 344 has a separate docket: '1796 Nov 16 / Panopt T.F. / J.B. Q.S.P. / to / Rose Treasury / Subsidy. Establishment.' This copy reads:
'Passage proposed to be omitted
2. In the Subsidiary Establishment I stand engaged to make provision for as many of the discharged prisoners as may choose to accept of it. These must not be crowded as in a prison: with their wives and families, they will by degrees increase to a little town. As a Prisoner, a man will not remain generally speaking, above 7 years. In the Subsidiary Establishment the succession will not be so quick: a man will have a right to remain there for the remainder of his days.

3. My prison being etc.

Then again after 'make provision for'


2. The greatest number of persons in the Subsidiary Establishment, Wives and Families Included





The reasons for the omission are explained in letters 1212 and 1213.
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