Nonsense upon Stilts
Although Bentham changed in his political opinions as his thought and life developed, he maintained a consistent opposition to such talk of natural rights. Their use to justify the American side when the Americans declared their independence from Britain came at the time at which Bentham was writing the criticisms of Blackstone discussed in Chapter II. Bentham was at this time a close friend of another lawyer, John Lind, who was a pamphleteer in the government interest. Lind had provided Bentham with the original idea of writing the Comment, and Bentham co-operated with him in two pamphlets Lind wrote in defence of Lord North against such opponents as Americans. In one of these, An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress, Bentham supplied detailed criticism of the American declaration of rights which was inserted verbatim by Lind. He criticises their use of particular supposed natural rights, liberty (a concept on which he worked a lot at this time) and equality (CORR I 341-3). Bentham does not here enter into general criticism of the concept of a natural right, even though he had just completed two extended criticisms of
the concept of natural law for use in the Comment (10-21; 288-95). Perhaps the pamphlet was an inappropriate vehicle for such a fundamental treatment; however, the same is the case with the few brief comments which he makes about one of the new American state’s declaration of rights at the end of the Introduction, where again he concentrates on the particular case of liberty (309-11).