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Publication Detail
Writings on Australia, III. Letter to Lord Pelham
  • Publication Type:
    Internet publication
  • Authors:
    Bentham J, Causer T, Schofield P
  • Publisher:
    Bentham Project
  • Publication date:
  • Status:
    Published online
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Jeremy Bentham, New South Wales, Australian history, convict transportation, history of punishment, theory of punishment
  • Notes:
    This work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution are clearly stated. Attribution should include the following information: Jeremy Bentham, Writings on Australia, III. Letter to Lord Pelham, ed. T. Causer and P. Schofield, pre-publication version, The Bentham Project, 2018. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at http://creativecommoms.org/licenses/ This text is a preliminary version, in that the authoritative version will appear as part of Bentham’s Writings on Australia for The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, with a full Editorial Introduction, name and subject indexes, finalized annotation, and working cross-references. The volume is due to be published in 2020 by the Clarendon Press.
Bentham’s ‘Letter to Lord Pelham’ constitutes perhaps the earliest detailed critique of transportation to New South Wales by a major philosopher of punishment. Bentham arranged the work around what he identified as the ‘five ends of penal justice’, namely (i) example, (ii) reformation, (iii) incapacitation, (iv) compensation, and (v) economy. Drawing extensively on the recently published Account of the English Colony in New South Wales by David Collins, the colony’s first Judge Advocate, Bentham sought to demonstrate both that New South Wales fell short against each of the ‘five ends’, while his panopticon penitentiary would achieve them. ‘Letter to Lord Pelham’ also had a practical purpose. Along with ‘Second Letter to Lord Pelham’ and ‘A Plea for the Constitution’, it was one of the tools with which Bentham hoped to cajole the administration during 1802–3 into proceeding with the establishment of his panopticon penitentiary. In Bentham’s view, from 1791 when he offered the panopticon to the Pitt administration to June 1803 when it was effectively killed-off by the Addington administration, his attempts to bring it to fruition had been beset by wilful delay and obstruction on the part of the administration, despite the panopticon offering potentially unrivalled benefit to the public, and despite its construction having been twice sanctioned by statute. The delays and obstructions he had experienced had by 1803 led Bentham to conclude that the government had acted in the interests of the nobility rather than in the interests of the wider community, and to more or less accept that the panopticon would never be built. One of Bentham’s responses was to begin drafting ‘A Picture of the Treasury’, which was addressed to Pelham and contained a detailed account of his dealings with the Treasury in relation to the panopticon between 1798 and 1801. ‘A Picture of the Treasury’ was a catalogue, as Bentham saw it, of the machinations and deliberate non-functioning of government at the dawn of the nineteenth century, and it was in this work that the ‘Letter to Lord Pelham’ originated, and subsequently enlarged upon.
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