10 Pages

Jeremy Bentham

WithDuncan Wu

Mr Bentham is one of those persons who verify the old adage, that 'A prophet has no honour, except out of his own country.'1 His reputation lies at the circumference; and the lights of his understanding are reflected, with increasing lustre, on the other side of the globe. His name is little known in England, better in Europe, best of all in the plains of Chili and the mines of Mexico.2 He has offered constitutions for the New World, and legislated for future times. The people of Westminster, where he lives,3 hardly know of such a person; but the Siberian savage has received cold comfort from his lunar aspect, and may say to him with Caliban –'I know thee, and thy dog and thy bush!'4 The tawny Indian may hold out the hand of fellowship to him across the Great Pacific. We believe that the Empress / Catherine corresponded with him; and we know that the Emperor Alexander called upon him,5 and presented him with his miniature in a gold snuff-box, which the philosopher, to his eternal honour, returned. Mr Hobhouse is a greater man at the hustings,6 Lord Rolle at Plymouth Dock; but Mr Bentham would carry it hollow, on the score of popularity, at Paris or Pegu. The reason is, that our author's influence is purely intellectual. He has devoted his life to the pursuit of abstract and general truths, and to those studies– That waft a thought from Indus to the Pole –7 and has never mixed himself up with personal intrigues or party politics. He once, indeed, stuck up a hand-bill to say that he (Jeremy Bentham) being of sound mind, was of opinion that Sir Samuel Romilly was the most proper person to represent Westminster; but this was the whim of the moment. Otherwise, his reasonings, if true at all, are true everywhere alike: his speculations concern humanity at large, and are not confined to the hundred or the bills of mortality. It is in moral as in physical magnitude. The litde is seen best near: the great appears in its proper dimensions, only from a more commanding point of / view, and gains strength with time, and elevation from distance!