By Tim Causer, on 19 March 2015
Dear TB Special Constables,
Here’s an update, as promised, on developments in relation to the Preventive Police Writings. First, continued thanks for the transcription efforts! As of today, you have transcribed almost 400 update box 150 folios in little over two months. Of the 564 folios which I think will form the core of the volume, almost half are done. This figure is I know already obsolete, since Tim tells me there are another hundred or so waiting for me to get to them.
As is the way in producing Collected Works volumes, my attention has been in part diverted recently by the final stages of preparing the first volume of Writings on Political Economy for the press. However, I can add a bit more about the shape of the Preventive Police Volume. Bentham first met Patrick Colquhoun in December 1796, when Colquhoun visited Queens Square Place to offer his support for Bentham’s panopticon prison scheme. Colquhoun had recently published his Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis, and the book was to go through six editions by 1800. In 1798 both men gave evidence to the House of Commons Finance Committee which was investigating penal methods. The first work in the new volume, Bentham’s first draft of a Thames Police Bill, for which a an almost complete text has been located, can be traced back to Colquhoun’s refinement of ideas originally floated by John Harriott and John Staples for reducing loss by theft from ships and warehouses on the river Thames. Colquhoun and Bentham seem to have agreed that Bentham should put Colquhoun’s plan into ‘Statute-ese’, and this is what he was doing in May 1798. In November of that year, he returned to the text in order to draft a précis of the Bill, presumably for circulation and/or publication as a pamphlet, to be released in support of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.
In terms of further progress so far, the bulk of the text of Bentham’s ‘Summary View of a Bill For the more effectual prevention of Depredations on the Thames’, which is at UC cl. 118-24, and has been edited. So far, the text is incomplete, and we’re looking for one or two additional folios, the first paginated 6 or 7, and beginning with the word ‘but’. This is the only text in this volume which has previously been published, and that version, at Bowring x. 331-3, features an additional six-and-a-bit paragraphs which have yet to turn up.
Bentham and Colquhoun expanded their project into an interconnected set of Bills, chief amongst which was that which Bentham referred to indifferently as simply the ‘Police Bill’, and as the ‘Police Revenue Bill’. The fairly complete and fairly continuous text of the Bill is at UC cl. 179-289, and the next editing job will be to assemble a preliminary text thereof. In support of the Bill, Bentham began drafting another précis, ‘Heads of the Police Bill’, at UC cl. 126-70; a set of notes; and an elucidatory commentary on the Bill. This commentary may well prove the trickiest part of the text to organize, since he seems to had in mind three different arrangements, and three different titles, namely ‘Preliminary Observations on the Police Bill’, ‘Observations on the Police Bill’, and ‘Introductory Observations on the Police Bill’. In typically Benthamic style, he also thought about inserting some of this material either into the Bill itself, or into some another part of his observations, as is indicated by his oft-repeated instruction/suggestion/question ‘Inserenda?’ This mass of material appears at UC cl. 428-776. So far, I have checked only about 85 of these 350 or so folios, but with your help I’m sure, or at least hopeful, that all will become clear! More in a month … Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated!