As we mentioned in a post at the start of this year, the Bentham Project was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, to produce the authoritative edition of Bentham’s writings on political economy for the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. Dr Michael Quinn, Senior Research Associate at the Bentham Project, is carrying out this work, and the major task for this year is editing Bentham’s work on the Thames Police Bill. These manuscripts are contained in Box 150 of the Bentham Papers, and volunteers have very generously been transcribing these manuscripts. This transcription is of material benefit to the editing of the economic writings, as Dr Quinn explains below in a note of thanks.
Dear TB volunteers,
I wanted to say a simple thanks to all those who have been beavering away at box 150, containing JB’s efforts to draft (and to explain (at some considerable length!)) legislation on preventive police. My task as editor is hugely facilitated by high quality transcripts, and I’m very happy to say that the material I’ve reviewed so far is of very high quality indeed!
Just in case anyone is becoming weary of repeatedly transcribing ‘be it further enacted’, ‘hereinafter mentioned’, ‘aforesaid’, or even ‘Board of Police Revenue’, I thought I might try and explain the potential significance of this material to Bentham scholars. First, Bentham decided in 1769 that he had a genius for legislation, but, with the notable exception of the first volume of Constitutional Code, and one or two other writings, we don’t actually have that much of Bentham trying to write legislation. Once this volume appears, we will have a first draft of a ‘Thames Police Bill’, a ‘Summary View’ of that Bill, a draft of a ‘Police Revenue Bill’, an entire set of notes of guidance to that Bill, and two sets of ‘Observations’ on the Bill, in which Bentham seeks to explain and justify its provisions. One of Bentham’s mantras was the necessity for an indissoluble link between ‘rule’ on the one hand, and ‘rationale’ on the other; between the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of law. This project shows him trying to live up to his own prescription, in a way which should cast a fascinating light on his approach to the practicalities of making legal rules.
Second, this material is also likely to help with understanding Bentham’s concept of ‘Indirect Legislation’, which encompasses all the tools a legislator can bring to bear beyond simple command (You shall) and prohibition (You shall not). In this connection his deployment of licencing for some eighteen trades, and of ‘recognizances’ (a bit like bail bonds: forfeitable sureties that licence holders must deposit) as guarantors of good behaviour, provide an example of indirect legislation in action.
I know some of this stuff is a little dry, but I think it has a fascination all of its own, especially in watching Bentham try to accommodate utilitarian rules within the terminology and phraseology of eighteenth century English Parliamentary draughtsmanship! Please do keep up the good work! I promise that I’ll offer a monthly update on editing progress, and would be happy to try and answer any questions that you might have (firstname.lastname@example.org). Good luck, and happy transcribing,