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Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham

by | Friday, 11th February 2011
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) the English utilitarian and philosopher was ‘present but not voting’ for more than a century after his death at meetings of the worthies of the University of London. His embalmed body known as the ‘Auto-Icon’ still resides in a glass case at UCL. Its head is of wax but the real one is brought out for ceremonial dinners.

Child prodigy Bentham was a pupil of Blackstone at Oxford. Historian GM Trevelyan wrote that Bentham, the father of English law reform, regarded Blackstone as the arch-enemy, ‘who stood in the way of change by teaching people to make a fetish of the laws of England in the form they actually bore at the moment, a form dictated by the needs not of the present age but of ages past’. Bentham advocated a centralising legal positivism. The evolution of this was described in Lord Hewart’s 1929 book ’The New Despotism’. Lord Hewart revealed the nature of the Fabians influence in government:

A mass of evidence establishes the fact that there is in existence a persistent and well-contrived system, intending to produce, and in practice producing, a despotic power which at one and the same time places Government departments beyond the sovereignty of Parliament and beyond the jurisdiction of the Courts.

Because our Constitutional Monarchy recognises the higher power of God, Fabians contrive to attack and destroy it little by little. 

Bentham demanded no restrictions on interest rates stating that that suppression of usury stifles invention. He held that all human life was regulated by pain and pleasure, and rejected harsh penalties against homosexuality as the result of irrational religious fears born of the Biblical destruction of Sodom. As in the Soviet Union, Christian morality and expressions of natural law had no place in Bentham's world of pleasure and pain. Bentham is now a posthumous gay icon.

Bentham attacked the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. “This, they 'hold to be' a 'truth self-evident.' At the same time, to secure these rights they are satisfied that government should be instituted. They see not ... that nothing that was ever called government ever was or ever could be exercised but at the expense of one or another of those rights, that ... some one or other of those pretended unalienable rights is alienated.... In these tenets they have outdone the extravagance of all former fanatics”.

Bentham was an employee of the British East India Company whose tea was destroyed at the Boston Tea Party. Not reacting officially to the American Declaration of Independence, the British government secretly produced a pamphlet for distribution in America containing an essay by Bentham attacking the Americans' political philosophy". Bentham’s centralising legal positivism is the antithesis of the spirit of the American Constitution.

Lord Shelburne, principal of the BEIC facilitated the economic and political destabilization of France from Bowood, Wiltshire assisted by Bentham, Etienne Dumont, and Samuel Romilly. Speeches prepared by Bentham were sent to Paris, where Marat, Danton, and Robespierre delivered them. Records of BEIC payments to these revolutionaries exist at the British Museum. Bentham was declared an honorary citizen of revolutionary France and offered his services to their penal system. His ‘Panopticon’ scheme of prison management might be considered a precursor of the surveillance society of Orwell’s ‘1984’ and millions of surveillance cameras now operating in Britain.

The British East India Company was the de facto British Empire. Senior employees included Adam Smith, David Ricardo and eugenicist Revd. Thomas Malthus. The Company’s monopoly was finally ended in 1813. The BEIC traded tea, silk, cotton and saltpetre and was accused of participating in the slave trade. As now drugs were hugely profitable. Opium grown in India was exported to China which decades later culminated in the Opium Wars with China. When the BEIC was wound up in 1873, many shareholders were major financiers. The elitist and centralising philosophy of the BEIC was adopted by the Fabian Society.

A process akin to Gunter von Hagen’s ‘Plastination’ process for preserving human tissues permanently was imagined by Bentham. He wrote that a man might ‘have rows of trees leading to his dwelling, the auto-icons of his family might alternate with the trees; copal varnish would protect the face from the effects of rain — caoutchouc the habiliments.'

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Editor's note: Bentham has become a gay icon because of his book, "In Defence of Pederasty". His "Panopticon", called for criminals, the indigent, and the retarded - along with their children - to be placed in jail cells equipped with machinery run by a central power source, which in turn would be fueled by the children playing on swings, merry-go-rounds, and see-saws in the cellblock. Above the main door of the Panopticon was to be a sign, reading: "Had they been industrious when free, they need not have drudged here like slaves." Bentham is considered by the Liberal Democrat Party to be a primary source of Liberal thought. 

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