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Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 76, Number 3, July 2015, pp.
417-439 (Article)
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http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jhi/summary/v076/76.3.elazar.html

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Liberty as a Caricature: Bentham’s Antidote
to Republicanism1

Yiftah Elazar

In 1776, Jeremy Bentham claimed title to ‘‘a kind of discovery’’ that he
thought he had made: that the idea of liberty was ‘‘merely a negative one,’’
and that it should be defined as ‘‘the absence of coercion.’’2 Bentham’s
definition was not quite as original as he suggested. Thomas Hobbes had
already defined liberty as the absence of external impediments to motion or
action, and the early utilitarian Abraham Tucker had already argued that
liberty was a negative term.3 But Bentham’s formulation exerted considerable influence on the career of the concept of liberty in the nineteenth and
1
I would like to thank David Armitage, Melissa Lane, Douglas Long, Michael Quinn,
Jan-Werner Mu¨ller, Philip Pettit, and Philip Schofield for suggestions made at different
stages of work on this article, as well as two referees for this journal, whose excellent
comments have led me to significantly revise and improve my argument. I am grateful to
the staff of the Bentham Project at University College London for hosting me while I was
working on the manuscripts, and to Douglas Long for generously sharing his transcripts
of some of the early manuscripts. Abbreviations used in the article: UCL—Bentham
Papers at University College London; Correspondence—The Correspondence of Jeremy
Bentham (London: Athlone Press and Oxford University Press, 1968– ); Bowring—The
Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the superintendence of his executor, John
Bowring, 11 vols. (Edinburgh & London: William Tait, 1838–43).
2
Correspondence, 1:301–11.
3
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Edwin Curley (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), chap. 14:
2, chap. 21; Thomas Hobbes and John Bramhall, Hobbes and Bramhall on Liberty and
Necessity, ed. V. C. Chappell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 34; Abraham Tucker, Freewill, Foreknowledge, and Fate: A Fragment. By Edward Search, Esq
(London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1763), 7–12. Cf. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human

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158. and newspaper sources. 1969). in particular.’’ The Roy Porter Lecture (University College London. Peter H. H.. A. 1975).. In particular.... on the other. ‘‘Bentham and the United States of America. Long. His definitions were intended to ‘‘cut the throat’’ of what he believed to be a false and dangerous popular rhetoric of liberty and rights. 7 UCL. L. Rosen. This article argues that Bentham forged and employed innovative and subversive definitions of individual and political liberty as ideological weapons. Bentham’s role in this discussion was that of a political moderate.8 Drawing on manuscript. Hart (Oxford: Clarendon Press. and Greece: Constitutionalism. Byron. Bentham changed his views and became a radical and a democrat.. Nationalism. ‘‘Political Liberty: The Enlightenment Debate. 2010). Bentham....6 but in the period discussed in this article. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:19 PS PAGE 418 . this article studies some previously unexamined texts and Understanding. ed.. Hart. Paola Rudan. Utility and Democracy: The Political Thought of Jeremy Bentham (Oxford Oxford University Press. ‘‘Securing the Future: 418 . on one hand. L. It laid the ground for Isaiah Berlin’s argument. The Comment on the Commentaries and a Fragment on Government. Burns and H.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 twentieth centuries. David Hume. chaps. ‘‘Bentham’s Democracy.’’ in Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 28 (2008): 605–26. 4 Isaiah Berlin.. Bentham on Liberty: Jeremy Bentham’s Idea of Liberty in Relation to His Utilitarianism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. in the shadow of the Cold War. Quentin Skinner. he was critical of the protodemocratic discourse generated by supporters of the American Revolution on both sides of the Atlantic.. F. J. LXIX.. A.7 Bentham’s involvement in the American controversy was discussed in several important studies.. 8 See. ed. 8n. 8 and 17. and political self-government.. Two Concepts of Liberty: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Oxford on 31 October 1958 (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1958). negative freedom against interference. 1977). that the liberal tradition espouses an idea of individual. much like that of one of his primary sources of inspiration. Isaiah Berlin. and Early Liberal Political Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press.5 Later on in his career. the 1770s and 1780s. Douglas G.. The core question in this debate is whether and to what extent individuals in civil society can and should possess the power of selfgovernment through participation in government or resistance to it. May 26. David Lieberman. 25–39. Book II. poised between Whiggism and Toryism. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press. epistolary. 439–41. H. Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press..’’ Journal of Law and Economics 19 (1976): 547–67. 5 Jeremy Bentham.4 This article revisits Bentham’s theory of liberty and reconsiders it in relation to republican and democratic ideas in the Age of Revolution. 123n. it situates Bentham’s jurisprudential definitions of personal and constitutional liberty in the context of an ideological debate on the relation between liberty and happiness. 1992). 6 Philip Schofield. 2006). 1977). 51–62.

depends on Jeremy Bentham’s Fragment on Government and the American Revolution. It also examines different ways in which Bentham and his close associate John Lind employed the negative definition of liberty during their involvement in a debate on liberty and self-government provoked by the Dissenting minister.. The jurisprudence/ideology dilemma is whether we should interpret Bentham’s concept of liberty as part of a political/ideological conversation. constructing caricatures of the republican ideal of democratic and international self-government.. this article engages with two secondary dilemmas: the jurisprudence/ideology dilemma. 419 .. Alongside its primary aim of studying Bentham’s theory of liberty in an ideological context.. I distinguish between two phases in Bentham’s writings on this topic. irreducible to ideological concerns. Bentham was the ‘‘great architect’’ of a system of jurisprudence.. one leading. and political economist Richard Price in 1776–80. he extends his reductio ad absurdum strategy from individual to political liberty. and the other leading.. in perfection.. he stresses the distinction between liberty and security. 9 Bowring. but also inseparable from them. In a later phase... The ideological issues of the period inspired and influenced Bentham’s thought on fundamental questions of jurisprudence. See Long. Part I argues that Bentham’s formulation of the negative definition of liberty should be understood in the context of questions of submission and resistance arising out of the American controversy. and the republican/liberal dilemma.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism reconsiders previously examined ones. he writes... ideological context without failing to appreciate its internal role as part of his system of jurisprudence? I argue that Bentham’s jurisprudence in this period should be understood as a coherent and independently meaningful system of ideas. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:19 PS PAGE 419 . and he believed himself to be forging jurisprudential tools that would facilitate the resolution of ideologically contentious matters.9 and he describes his ‘‘Definition of Liberty’’ as an integral part of this system: ‘‘one of the corner stones of my system: and one that I know not how to do without. Bentham on Liberty.’’ History of Political Thought 34 (2013): 479–506. henceforth: the Price Debate.. Part II considers Bentham’s understanding of the relation between liberty and security. to order and happiness. 5. and sets them on two different courses. moral philosopher.’’10 Can we interpret his theory of liberty in an external. in perfection. 10 Correspondence.. 1:x–xi.... 1:311. to anarchy and misery. In an earlier phase. The resolution of the ‘‘present unfortunate disputes’’ between Britain and the American colonies. or whether it should be understood primarily as a jurisprudential concept.

29 November 1990 (London: University College London. ‘‘A sober and accurate apprehension of the import of these fundamental words. Theory. 245–50. Rosen. 1990).. ‘‘States and the Freedom of Citizens. Douglas G. 2003). ‘‘Political Liberty: The Enlightenment Debate’’. Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill (London and New York: Routledge. Each has called our attention to a different aspect of Bentham’s work and enhanced our understanding of it: the neo-republican account has focused on the negative definition of liberty (discussed in Part I of the article).’’ Enlightenment and Dissent 6 (1987): 59–76. Kelly. is not only ‘‘a true key to Jurisprudence. Liberty before Liberalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 71–103. Bentham. Rosen. I argue that the different aspects of Bentham’s theory of liberty gain greater coherence when we look at what he was doing with his words in this period: developing jurisprudential strategies that would serve as an antidote against the UCL... Richard Bellamy (London and New York: Routledge. Rosen. Skinner. Rosen. 1998).13 This article aims to reconcile the neo-republican and the liberal accounts. J. 39–47. P. Kelly. While Douglas Long’s Bentham on Liberty remains the most comprehensive and nuanced treatment of Bentham’s theory of liberty. 1977).JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 the interpretation of concepts such as liberty. 18–19.’’ in Legal Republicanism: National and International Perspectives.’’ in Victorian Liberalism: Nineteenth-Century Political Thought and Practice.. and it is the product of strikingly divergent readings of Bentham’s theory of liberty. ‘‘Elie Hale´vy and Bentham’s Authoritarian Liberalism.. 68–75. Philip Pettit. 1997). 2009)... Philip Pettit. Quentin Skinner.’’ Journal of Political Ideolo11 12 420 . Byron. ‘‘The Origin of Liberal Utilitarianism: Jeremy Bentham and Liberty. ‘‘Classical Utilitarianism and the Concept of Freedom: A Response to the Republican Critique.’’ in States and Citizens: History. Thinking About Liberty: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at University College London. 41–50. Quentin Skinner. ‘‘Law and Liberty..’’11 The second dilemma is the republican/liberal one. 2003).. Prospects. Jeremy Bentham and Representative Democracy: A Study of the Constitutional Code (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1983). Utilitarianism and Distributive Justice: Jeremy Bentham and the Civil Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press.. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:19 PS PAGE 420 . Long. 25–39.. Samantha Besson and Jose´ Luis Martı´ (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Quentin Skinner and Bo Stra˚th (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. and the liberal account has focused on Bentham’s definitions of personal and constitutional liberty in terms of security (Part II)... LXIX.’’ but also ‘‘the only effectual antidote against the fascinations of political enthusiasm. 60. Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press. ed. Bentham on Liberty: Jeremy Bentham’s Idea of Liberty in Relation to His Utilitarianism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ed. 96–98. 62. 13 Frederick Rosen.12 while liberal scholars have built on Long’s work in insisting on the continuity of Bentham’s theory of liberty with the republican tradition... Rosen.’’ he adds in discussing the idea of liberty. neo-republican scholars have built on his account to portray Bentham as an archrival of the republican understanding of liberty. ed. and Greece. 1990). 1990)..

SUBMISSION. 159. LIBERTY.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism republican account of the free state as internally and externally selfgoverning. 45–46. esp. 3rd ed... See also Doug Long. particularly by composing with Lind the pro-government pamphlet Remarks on the Principal Acts of the 13th Parliament of Great Britain (1775).. This leads. 1:235. 1:310. J. How to Do Things with Words. see Lloyd’s Evening Post (January 30. 15 Correspondence. Austin.15 During this period. probably dating from 1775.. He was amassing a body of preparatory materials for his projected treatise of universal jurisprudence. 421 . It addresses Bentham’s formulation of the negative definition of liberty and his subsequent employment of it as an antidote to the ideal of liberty as self-government.’’ gies 6 (2001): 13–31... 14 Quentin Skinner. ed. Urmson (London: Clarendon Press. ‘‘Review of Liberty before Liberalism. LXIX. 17 UCL... ‘‘Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas. 16 Correspondence. in Part II..16 In Bentham’s preparatory notes for the Elements of Critical Jurisprudence. British Superiority and American Liberty According to Bentham’s own account. 1962).14 I. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:20 PS PAGE 421 .. he discovered the negative definition of liberty in 1774–75.’’ Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique 32 (1999): 615.’’ History and Theory 8 (1969): 3–53. we find his earliest written comments on liberty.. reference to Burke’s Speech on American Taxation. particularly in the group of manuscripts headed ‘‘PPI’’ (‘‘Preparatory Principles—Inserenda’’).. provisionally entitled Elements of Critical Jurisprudence. L. James O. published in early 1775. He was working on his unpublished Comment on the Commentaries and on A Fragment on Government (1776). to a consideration of the ideological dimensions of Bentham’s reflections on the relation between liberty and security and on the nature of political liberty. 1775–February 1. he was engaged in several interrelated projects.. And he was involved in the propaganda war against the American Revolution. 1775).... AND SELF-GOVERNMENT The first part of this article examines the ideological dimension of Bentham’s negative definition of liberty.17 This is the only text in which he uses his initial formulation of the negative definition as ‘‘the absence of restraint..

. ed. G. . of the Right Honourable Francis Bacon. wise.. physical and legal. Hitherto Sleeping. is the more fundamental challenge of reconciling the liberty of the subject with the authority of government. 57–68. Dodsley. De L’homme. Philosophical & Theological. Legal possession.’’ as he would later put it. 1:310–11. Resuscitatio. and Cyprian Blamires. 97–98. J. 398–400. Jeremy Bentham. 1992). and necessary constitutional superiority of Great-Britain . See also the ‘‘Multiplicity of Laws’’ in Francis Bacon. 210–11.19 Ostensibly.. Utility and Democracy. ed. The first is the role of the law in establishing property rights. Payne. Bentham opposes liberty to restraint. related context is Bentham’s reformist argument against ‘‘the multiplicity of the Laws. the rhetorician. ed. and see also 94–95. Mr.’’ or excessive legislation. the critique of ‘‘multiplicite´ de Loix’’ in Helve´tius. James Harrington. ‘‘The Design. burthensome’’ restrictions. His point is that legal right.. in his October 1774 speech to the electors of Bristol. The Commonwealth of Oceana and a System of Politics. while others are ‘‘being at the same time restrained from using it by fear of punishment appointed by the Law..’’ which includes both restraint and constraint..JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 By March 1776. 2nd ed. 20 UCL.. Yet he believes that Burke. Bringing into Publick Light Severall Pieces of the Works. Historical. Remarks on the Principal Acts of the Thirteenth Parliament of Great Britain (London: T. .’’ In this context. the negative definition is formulated in two jurisprudential contexts. 1657). Schofield. 235. 147. Catherine Pease-Watkin.. 1773).. 1775). Civil. 288. A.21 Underlying these two jurisprudential contexts. as distinguished from mere opinion of right. is consistent with all the liberties a sober and spirited American ought to desire. 148. argues Bentham. or not being restrained from using it. 349–51.’’22 This is a response to Burke’s argument. 92–93. LXIX. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:20 PS PAGE 422 . Edmund Burke’s Speeches at His Arrival at Bristol and at the Conclusion of the Poll.18 reasoning that being constrained to do something abridges liberty no less than being restrained from doing something. Representation. 140. Rights. 18 19 422 .. at the latest. The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham (Oxford: Clarendon Press. and Reform: Nonsense Upon Stilts and Other Writings on the French Revolution. that ‘‘the just. 153. Philip Schofield. LXIX. is the product of legal restraint. I argue. Pocock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. De Ses Faculte´s Intellectuelles Et De Son E´ducation (Londres [The Hague]: chez la Socie´te´ Typographique. 21 UCL. 101–2. (London: J. xi. 116–17. 13–14. 22 Jeremy Bentham. William Rawley (London: W. which imposes on individuals ‘‘unnecessary.. 23 Edmund Burke.. is unequal to the task of Correspondence.’’ in John Lind. 108–9.’’23 Bentham agrees with Burke’s assertion: the superiority of Great Britain is consistent with American liberty. 145. 70. is the liberty to use an object. 2002).... UCL.20 The second. he replaces ‘‘restraint’’ with ‘‘coercion. 169–70. Lee. LXIX. or. 1775). Cf. Bentham poses this challenge to Edmund Burke in the Remarks: ‘‘teach us to reconcile British superiority with American liberty.. it is ‘‘the child of law.

18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:21 PS PAGE 423 . of loyalty as much as any.. during his law-studentship.. legislation.. 3. ‘‘Securing the Future. 27 Rudan.’’ 479–506. grant. Sect. ed... was the dispute between Great Britain and her colonies. representation. Paula Rudan has recently offered an unorthodox interpretation of the Fragment as a systematic intervention in the American controversy.’’26 Notice his emphasis on the question of loyalty to the government. 102. was the universal topic of conversation.10.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism demonstrating how the two can be combined. Comment and Fragment. the Remarks. note. The jurisprudential concepts discussed in these manuscripts.. 24 25 423 . consent. can be read along similar lines.. David Fate Norton and Mary J. 2000). 439–41.. composed around the same time. 28 Lind..’’25 Bentham’s own account of his intellectual development implies that he discovered the principle of utility while searching for satisfactory grounds for the authority of government. See David Hume. esp. consent. Bowring. Part I. Remarks.. and representation are the same concepts discussed in Lind’s and Bentham’s political pamphlet. 29 UCL. property.29 Incredibly sanguine about the power of his conceptual analysis.’’ he writes.28 Bentham is explicit on the political import of his jurisprudential definitions in the manuscripts: ‘‘A great part of the merits of the American controversy as far as concerns the matter of right. and that only a metaphysician such as himself can ‘‘teach the difference between slavery and that equally unconditional submission which is the necessary foundation of all Government. 26 Bentham. III. which addresses constitutional questions underlying the imperial relationship. taxation. he adds: ‘‘If I explain these matters clearly I may be a means of giving perpetuity to the constitution of my country. Norton (Oxford: Oxford University Press.. Bentham found these grounds in the third book of David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature. a question heatedly debated in the American context. A Treatise of Human Nature. particularly the question of sovereignty and obedience. where he ‘‘learnt to see that utility was the test and measure of all virtue. LXIX.’’24 The challenge of reconciling the authority of the British government with the liberty of its subjects stood at the core of Bentham’s early work. centers on the signification of the words Give. taxation. His friend and literary executor. including the powers of government.2. XXVII.27 The preparatory manuscripts. 177. recounts that the ‘‘circumstance that seems to have given the first impulse to the inquiries which engrossed his future life.. John Bowring. 10:vii... constitution... in which Bentham first formulates the negative definition of liberty. which. I may UCL.

Bentham offers an innovative definition of the state. stimulates and inflames the passions. but also against the immoderate and irrational pursuit of liberty at the expense of law and government. The state is described as the collection of individuals accustomed to obey the supreme power.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 stifle in embryo or rather intercept the conception of all manner of political disputes.. .’’30 In his attempt to redefine the fundamental concepts related to the American controversy.’’31 In other words. the fundamental antagonism between law and liberty underscores the need to institute ‘‘the debate . and save the lives of millions. 63. These doctrines could not be ‘‘more favourable to the enterprizes of fanatics.... . 86. Bentham suggests that the liberty of the subjects is consistent with obedience to the supreme power of the state. inexpedient legislation.. 480. XCVI..’’ may consider his definition of the state in terms of obedience as ‘‘a definition of a slavish state.. 32 Bentham. fix the peace of empires.32 Applied to the American controversy... Bentham comments that those ‘‘whose affections are warm on the side of liberty. LXIX... 33 Ibid. 156. In a footnote. It encourages us to employ a utilitarian calculus in ‘‘adjusting the claims of those two jealous antagonists. which draws on the negative definition of liberty.34 Famously.. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:21 PS PAGE 424 . does not depend upon any circumstance that will take it out of this definition.’’ Bentham’s utilitarian calculus of authority and resistance. UCL.’’ His own view. How is Bentham’s negative definition of liberty consistent with his definition of the state in terms of obedience? Understanding liberty as the absence of legal coercion cuts both ways: it creates a presumption against excessive. 30 31 424 . he goes on to develop this line of UCL. Liberty and Government. Comment and Fragment. however... 491–92.. prevent civil wars.33 Bentham’s concern with radical claims against the authority of government is a likely basis for his rejection of the associated doctrines of natural law and natural rights. LXIX.’’ as Bentham writes in the Fragment.. 110. on the footing of utility.’’ he says. . which ‘‘distracts and eludes the apprehension. is meant to pave the ‘‘plain and open road . is ‘‘that what is called Liberty in a state. 34 UCL.. . to present reconcilement’’ between Great Britain and its colonies.’’ rather than on the ‘‘ambiguous and sophistical discourse’’ of natural rights.’’ including ‘‘the clamorous menaces of democratic fanaticism. This is where the concept of liberty is first mentioned in the preparatory manuscripts.

. Cadell. and Reform. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Rights. On the contrary. are ‘‘all Bigots and listed partizans. the declarations of rights adopted by North Carolina and proposed by Virginia in 1788. 10:viii. Comment and Fragment. This reading of his work does not assume that he understood himself to be a partisan writer. H. ‘‘Nonsense upon Stilts. all Sophists and Rhetoricians.’’ due to ‘‘the badness of the arguments used on behalf of the Americans.’’37 While he may have believed himself at the time to be forging an impartial and anti-partisan science of jurisprudence. and T.35 We see. ‘‘Short Review of the Declaration. 317–401. A. Price’s pamphlet ‘‘made a great sensation’’ Bentham. 36 UCL.’’ in John Lind. 37 Bowring. J.’’ The ‘‘mortal foes’’ of his metaphysics. the American Declaration of Independence.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism argument in his comments on the American Revolutionary War. ... . 308–10. 35 425 . ‘‘through artifice or through passion should seek by sophistry and the abuse of words to carry a point at the expense of truth . L. Hart (London: The Athlone Press. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:22 PS PAGE 425 .. that Bentham’s critical jurisprudence in the 1770s. 1776). he states.. 155.. he believed himself to be an anti-partisan writer.. (London: printed for T.. can be understood as an intervention in ideological questions arising out of the American controversy... ... The Liberty of Robinson Crusoe About a year after Bentham formulated the negative definition of liberty in his ‘‘PPI’’ manuscripts. Bentham admits in retrospect that his ‘‘judgment . 158. and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.’’ in Bentham.. LXIX. the perfect opportunity came for employing it in a public debate. This was the controversy following the publication of Richard Price’s Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty in February 1776. ed. 52–58.. 491–92. J.’’ both ‘‘the man warm on the popular side’’ and the ‘‘men of the ruling party.. Though largely forgotten today. 1970). 3rd ed. including the negative definition of liberty. He expected his critical jurisprudence to ‘‘incur the displeasure of all parties that divide the state. his definitions of liberty were primarily intended to ‘‘cut the throat’’ of pro-American and proto-democratic political discourse. then. Sewell. however. Walter.’’ Whenever a member of either party. he writes. he will ever find in genuine metaphysics that sharpness that shall cut the throat of his designs. Burns and H. . was ranked on the government-side.. Jeremy Bentham. Representation. An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress. 177.’’36 Notwithstanding his anti-partisan aspirations in this period.

1–5. Sewell. Book VIII.. The American Controversy: A Bibliographical Study of the British Pamphlets About the American Disputes. Speech of Edmund Burke. 2:909–34. 152..’’43 Price’s approach was the opposite of Burke’s. 155.’’42 Such mortal foes of metaphysics. which assumes the ability of all free agents to choose and control their representatives.45 Despite Price’s philosophical approach.’’40 Bentham repeatedly refers in his manuscripts to Burke’s statement that he hates ‘‘the very sound’’ of metaphysical distinctions of right. he declared his intention to judge the dispute ‘‘by the general principles of Civil Liberty. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:22 PS PAGE 426 . (Providence: Brown University Press. Bibliographical Society of America. LXIX. Price. Journal of the Reign of King George the Third. (London: J.. Dodsley. 44 John Lind. 1980). or the power of agents to exercise their own will without being subject to an alien power. 161. LXIX.. Esq.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 upon its publication. 43 UCL.44 An accomplished moral philosopher. John Doran (London: William Clowes and Sons. 155. and provoked the most extensive exchange of pamphlets inspired by any single work during the years of the American controversy. ed... as Lind astutely observed. Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty. J. ‘‘love darkness better than light. He goes on to develop this premise into a proto-democratic theory of civil liberty and free government. and P.. 1774. 45 Richard Price. 137. 39 Thomas Randolph Adams. 1764–1783. 1776). 2:22. Containing Remarks on His Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty... They hate the light. On American Taxation.. according to Price. most enchanting rhetorician perhaps the world ever has yet seen. 2 vols. LXIX. the champion of the American cause who attracted Bentham’s criticism was Edmund Burke. says Bentham. who ‘‘hated day-light. Edmund Burke. and tremble as they hate. from the Year 1771 to 1783.’’ The first part of his Observations offers ‘‘correct ideas of Liberty in general. verses 184–305. 89. Payne.41 describing him as one of those who ‘‘choose rather to chatter like parrots. or because their deeds are evil. 42 UCL. the Principles of Government.. 159. and principles of Civil Liberty in particular. Three Letters to Dr. limits. whom he described as the ‘‘most consummate.. 3rd ed. is self-government. Bentham argues that the Dissenting minister failed ‘‘the cause of metaphysics’’ by offering metaphorical 38 Horace Walpole.... 159. and of the nature. because their mind’s eye is weak.. Price approached the American controversy as a metaphysician. 137. 41 UCL.39 Prior to the Price Debate. April 19. Virgil. the Principles of Govern- 426 . and the Justice and Policy of the War with America (London: T.’’ The principle of liberty.’’ and comparing him to the mythological cave-dwelling monster Cacus. The Aeneid. 40 UCL. 176–77. than to discourse like men.38 became an international seller. 1859). LXIX. 1775). Elmsly.

46 UCL. the intensity of Bentham’s antagonistic reaction to Price’s theory of liberty as self-government..52 The next Attilius letter attributes the definitions to an unnamed friend.’’47 In a later manuscript.’’ Price considered the uncivil style of these letters to be ‘‘inexcusable. Price’s ‘‘capital mistake... and suited only to the vitiated palate of a party.’’ The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser. Price.53 By July 1776. March 27. 50 Richard Price. tossed up for quick consumption. Lind employed Bentham’s definitions of liberty and right without proper credit.. doomed to precipitate decay.. Cadell... since Bentham was already assisting Lind’s pamphleteering before the publication of the Observations.46 He describes the Observations as ‘‘not written to be understood. Lind does not object to Price’s definition of liberty as self-government in itself. a hash of nonsense and contradictions. 51 ‘‘Attilius.’’49 In March and April of 1776.. 42–43. 427 . 1777). 52 Correspondence. Observations. 55 Ibid..’’ The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser... 49 Price. 175. Cadell. is to suppose liberty and self-government ‘‘to be any thing positive. 1776. and the Justice and Policy of the War with America (London: T.51 provoking Bentham to write to him and claim credit for both definitions.’’ Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism phrases instead of genuine metaphysical distinctions. 48 UCL. A long footnote attributes the negative definition of liberty to Lind’s ‘‘very worthy and ingenious friend. he goes as far as claiming: ‘‘Dr Price with his self-government made me an anti-American. describing their principles of government as ‘‘mortifying. Lind’s letters were revised and printed in a pamphlet entitled Three Letters to Dr.. 47 ‘‘Hermes. 1776).’’ according to his view. not worthy to be detested. It illustrates.. 1–34.’’48 The statement appears to be hyperbolic.’’ yet regarded Lind as ‘‘the ablest’’ of all the writers who published ‘‘virulent invectives’’ against him. March 29. Additional Observations on the Nature and Value of Civil Liberty and the War with America (London: T. XXVII. 1776. 16–17. xiv–xv. Three Letters.. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:22 PS PAGE 427 . 102. 1776. 1:310–11. 1776. written under the pseudonym ‘‘Attilius. July 26. however. seasoned by spleen. Bentham and Lind had a more prosaic reason to engage with Price: he criticized their Remarks.’’55 He argues that ‘‘the terms ment. Lind published an attack on Price in a series of letters to the newspaper. CLXX. 14.. 53 ‘‘Attilius.50 In the letter published on March 27. 54 Lind...’’54 Lind’s well-articulated and published critique of Price is helpful in reconstructing Bentham’s arguments in his fragmentary manuscripts.

The first is a manuscript entitled ‘‘Hey. 2) reductio ad absurdum—using the negative definition to draw to absurdity the ideal of liberty as selfgovernment. 20–65. fit for savages.. he elaborates on the metaphorical and Ibid. Self-determination. 6–10.’’ all we mean is that ‘‘no other agent whatever has. Price’s failure to pay heed to the negative meaning of self-government leads to a second.. 23–24. 1776. Self-direction. Merrill. 60 The Daily Advertiser.59 Lind’s refutation involves caricaturing Price’s constitutional self-government as the absence of government. He argues that Price is ‘‘inflaming the passions of the multitude’’ by railing against ‘‘malades imaginaires’’ and promoting his impossible scheme of ‘‘ideal democracy. 56 57 428 . 58 Lind. esp. and the Principles of Government (London and Cambridge: T. and identifies ‘‘complete and perfect’’ political liberty with fair and adequate representation in a free constitutional state... Cadell and T...’’ which was addressed to Lind and originally intended for publication as an appendix to the Three Letters. The General Evening Post. 63. Price meant no such thing: he distinguishes his idea of liberty from licentiousness. that he enjoys the power of Self-direction or Self-government. arguably more dangerous mistake: assuming the existence of a ‘‘natural and unalienable right’’ to ‘‘full and perfect’’ liberty. 1776.. June 8. June 8. and wild animals. In the course of doing so... in a pamphlet that the latter published in response to Price in June 1776.. 61 Richard Hey. 20. or to forbear that act.. and mathematician Richard Hey.60 Hey defines liberty in negative terms. barbarians.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 Liberty. Three Letters. & J. Price. 1. Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty.. not for civilized nations.61 Bentham defends his own definition of liberty as the absence of coercion.’’ and that in saying that ‘‘a man is free. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:23 PS PAGE 428 .. or means to exercise the power of constraining him to do..’’56 According to Lind. Self-government. Bentham addressed the Price Debate at some length on two separate occasions. Bentham employs two strategies against Price: 1) unmasking—demonstrating the love of liberty to be an irrational and immoderate passion for a fictitious entity. 65. essayist. 59 Price.57 Lind portrays Price’s ideal of perfect liberty as a maximalist ideal of complete absence of coercion. Observations. 1776). Similarly to Lind. Observations. 1.’’58 In fact. convey only negative ideas... The ‘‘Hey’’ manuscript is a comment on the negative definition of liberty formulated by the lawyer. 14–16.. 26–27. but opposes it to restraint and not to coercion.

esp...... Answer to the Declaration.’’ 481. 317–401. ‘‘Securing the Future.’’ in Lind. published in July–August 1776 under the pseudonym ‘‘Hermes. LXIX. 323–25.’’ in Bentham. Rights..63 Bentham is suggesting here that Price’s idea of liberty as selfgovernment is subversive of any government. ’Tis from a particular construction put upon the word liberty and a few others that the popular divine whom you combat with so much force has inferred the impropriety of waging the war against America: with a degree of justice equal to that with which as it seems to you he might have inferred the propriety of a war of the governed of every other country that is or has been upon their governors. 62–63. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:23 PS PAGE 429 .. and surprisingly.’’ and formulated principles ‘‘subversive of every actual or imaginable kind of Government..’’ constitute Bentham’s only published intervention in the Price Debate. 1:335–36. he wrote the letters after Lind begged him to reply to an anonymous critic of Lind’s UCL.’’65 In addition to the ‘‘Hey’’ manuscript. UCL. Bentham addressed the Price Debate in two letters printed in the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser. 66 Correspondence.’’ contrasting it with that of the ‘‘the moderate man’’ and ‘‘the good subject. apart from brief mention. and Reform. Rudan.’’ who serves as ‘‘the rational censor of the laws. where he says that by adding liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the list of inalienable rights.62 In addition.. he identifies this position with that of ‘‘the anarchist’’ and ‘‘the man of violence.’’ 64 In his critique of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.. This is the line of argument that he goes on to develop in his critique of the American Declaration of Independence. 62 63 429 . they have not been discussed in the scholarly literature. 65 ‘‘Nonsense upon Stilts.. These letters.. Representation. 64 ‘‘Short Review of the Declaration. LXIX.. This is what in particular may be seen in the instance of the present unfortunate disputes.66 According to Bentham. 60. the Americans have ‘‘outdone the utmost extravagance of all former fanatics.... he fleshes out the subversive political implications of Price’s ‘‘particular construction’’ of the concept of liberty: it is not uncommon for questions of the first practical importance to depend for their decision upon questions concerning the import of these words. 119–22.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism fictitious nature of liberty.

Comment and Fragment.. Bentham offers an imaginary scenario involving Robinson Crusoe. imagination.. perfect liberty. comes coercion: no savage.’’ The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser. ‘‘Ignoramus.. .70 As an antidote to this dangerous delusion. is ‘‘no Government at all. He relates Crusoe’s ideal of self-government to Bentham’s argument that democracy. July 13. 71 Ibid.’’ Thanks to this creative power. on an uninhabited island.. Robinson Crusoe.. chap. 458–59. in short a jewel.’’ Crusoe would be ‘‘with reference to all mankind (for liberty is a term of reference) at perfect liberty.72 For Bentham and Lind. 1. the metaphor of liberty assumes a life of its own.67 In his reply. Bentham. see Schofield. and it is ‘‘turned . understood as the government of all.’’69 Thus.. once a savage lands on the island and turns Crusoe into his slave.. into a reality . Utility and Democracy. no coercion. He traces the popular passion for liberty to ‘‘the creative power assumed by language. 39. . What makes liberty disappear is ‘‘this savage. August 1. and passion combine to produce the irrational and immoderate desire for liberty.’’ However. . In civil society. It is sacred. . we must settle for imperfect liberty. . .’’68 The Hermes letters offer helpful insight into Bentham’s understanding of the linguistic and psychological errors that he associated with the positive idea of liberty as self-government. 1776.’’ The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:24 PS PAGE 430 . 1:335–36. and makes it visible to us: ‘‘Comes the savage.’’ The rhetoric of political writers makes this fictitious entity appear to be desirable: ‘‘It becomes the object of love and rapturous elogium to impassioned politicians. language. especially where the imagination which sets it to work is prompted and enlivened by the affections. whom (punning apart) you doubtless cannot but allow to have been something positive. but perfect liberty.. Bentham defends the negative definition of liberty against the claim made by the critic that ‘‘the term Liberty conveys positive ideas. 1776. Lind makes the implication explicit by arguing that Price’s ideal of self-legislation is fit only for Crusoe’s island. and democracy all belong to the world of fiction. 67 68 430 . Three Letters. unalienable.’’71 One implication of the Crusoe scenario is that perfect liberty can only exist away from civil society...JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 letters.... inestimable. perfect liberty comes to an end. Correspondence. . On his ‘‘uninhabited and unclaimed island.. 69 ‘‘Hermes. ripened into a tangible substance.’’ The savage embodies the positive coercion that necessarily comes with social relations. It is a treasure.’’ and its members live in a state of nature.. 70 On real and fictitious entities.. 72 Lind.

Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism To summarize the discussion thus far. and which have such frequent & such important occasion to be distinguished and contrasted..73 Bentham opens the Key manuscripts by discussing the coercive nature of the law.. but also as an antidote against republican and protodemocratic discourse. and proper sense’’ of liberty. most exemplarily pernicious to confound under one and the same name things in themselves so different from one another.. not only as a cornerstone of his emerging system of jurisprudence... he argues.’’ manuscripts... The ‘‘genuine. 44. Crim. AND DEMOCRACY Part I of this article reconstructed the ideological context in which Bentham formulated the negative definition of liberty: the context of a moderate political defense against democratic radicalism. xi–xiv.. ‘‘That which under the name of Liberty is so much magnified. is ‘‘not anything that is produced by positive Law.. Bentham’s innovative theory of liberty serves.. and not by means of Law. II. Jurisp. This part also addresses the contentious relation between Bentham’s utilitarianism and the neo-Roman republican understanding of liberty. LXIX. in this way.. he attacks the improper use of the term ‘‘liberty’’ to indicate security under the law. as the invaluable the unrivalled work of law. It exists without Law.. Bentham on Liberty..’’ According to this text.. is not Liberty but Security. THE FREE STATE. UCL. Liberty and Security in Perfection Bentham’s earliest comments on the relation between liberty and security are found in the ‘‘Key’’ and ‘‘Crit. which Long tentatively dates to a period beginning in Autumn 1776.’’74 73 74 Long.. 431 . In this context. In Part II. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:24 PS PAGE 431 .’’ and it is ‘‘pernicious.. I take a broader look at Bentham’s theory of liberty and consider its relation to personal and political security. SECURITY. original. I have been arguing that Bentham’s negative definition of liberty can be understood in the context of his attempt to establish the authority of government on new grounds and to undermine revolutionary and proto-democratic arguments for legitimate resistance and popular self-government. and this leads to his definition of liberty as the absence of coercion.

which is possessed in perfection by Hottentots and Patagonians. 44. points us in this direction. Bentham.’’76 Rosen and Kelly have treated Bentham’s ‘‘Liberty by security’’ as the equivalent of the Whig / republican idea of liberty as security. 55–56. ed. It maintains the conceptual separation between the absence of coercion and its security under the law.’’ 13–31. as to political liberty. Bentham refers his readers to another fragment. Jeremy Bentham. Liberty by security is the security of liberty under the law. 33–37.. Next to Price’s name.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 For an account of security. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:25 PS PAGE 432 . 78–79. 78 UCL. . it is another branch of security—security against the injustice of the members of the Government.. and Greece... 79 UCL.. liberty is ‘‘a branch of security.. . . Byron. 167. 77 Rosen. 44. C. . The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham (Oxford: Clarendon Press. LXIX. is the pride of Englishmen.. LXIX.’’80 But if in his work on the Civil Code. A note prefaced to the Key manuscripts.’’ or else.78 In Bentham’s later work on the civil and constitutional law. however. Bentham emphasizes that liberty can exist without law and security.75 In this context. Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence. ‘‘Classical Utilitarianism. 81 UCL. Kelly.. 156. 76 UCL. ‘‘it is of no value. 153. whilst. Liberty as security suggests that liberty is conceptually inseparable from security. in which he discusses the ‘‘way in which Liberty came to be confounded with Security. Philip Schofield. but rather by imposing restrictions on other individuals. 432 . 2:302..’’79 In the Principles of the Civil Code...’’ and contrasts this ‘‘Liberty by security. and listing Bentham’s objections to different authors. can be produced by the law. he tends to conflate liberty with security under the law. liberty by security is not precisely liberty as security. 75 Cf. 55. just as security can exist without liberty. LXIX.’’ with the ‘‘Liberty without security .77 Arguably.’’ whose ‘‘perfection . or be ‘‘the work of Law. Bentham refers to ‘‘that Liberty that is produced by Law.. Bentham conflates liberty and security.. is at least partly ideological. 2010).’’ Here it turns out that liberty... I argue. the absence of coercion enjoyed by one individual secured by the coercion of other individuals.’’ but only indirectly. The law produces the liberty of one individual not by directly acting on that individual. why does he insist on the distinction in his earlier work? Why does he claim that it is ‘‘most exemplarily pernicious’’ to confound liberty and security?81 The key to understanding Bentham’s varying positions on liberty and security.. in fact. 80 Bowring. ‘‘personal liberty is security against a certain species of injury which affects the person. In his manuscripts on the Civil Code.

. 43.. and more precisely.83 By contrast. Bentham develops this line of argument by distinguishing between political liberty ‘‘entire’’ and political liberty ‘‘in perfection.’’ Political liberty entire is the complete absence of coercion ‘‘whether by the Laws or institutions of any society whatever. lies both in the existence of a rule of law. 33–35. the first leading..Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism Bentham writes: ‘‘Liberty not the Child of Law.’’86 The difference between freedom and oppression.’’84 This account of liberty and security is strikingly similar to Hey’s account of civil liberty... 55.. and the second leading. manuscripts. in Hey’s view. under the appellation of a power.’’ just as when liberty is used to attack coercion. Jurisp..’’ It is the perfection of self-government caricatured as the complete absence of coercion.87 UCL. in perfection.’’82 The note invites us to consider the discussion of liberty and security in the context of the Price Debate. 82 83 433 . to anarchy and misery... ‘‘the Absence of Civil Restraints. 87 Ibid. and in the law expressing the ‘‘happy medium’’ between individual liberty and restraint in the name of the public good. 41–45. According to his reductionist account of civil liberty. In the Crit. ‘‘liberty in general is in great danger. 32–34.’’ It is the state of appropriate balance between the absence of coercion and the rule of law. Crim. Security not destroy’d by unlimited Supremacy. 25. Bentham credits Hey with exposing in his ‘‘ingenious’’ work the ‘‘confusion and impropriety that results from speaking of liberty. 84 UCL.. in his discussion of the perfection of liberty.’’85 Hey criticizes Montesquieu for confusing liberty with security.. August 1. Bentham’s insistence that liberty is ‘‘not the Child of Law’’ and must not be confounded with security has implications for his discussion of liberty as a political ideal. UCL. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:25 PS PAGE 433 . in perfection. By distinguishing between liberty and security. When the greatest extent is given to legal coercion. it is merely a special case of negative liberty. 86 Ibid. See Hey. 55–56.. and it resembles Bentham’s idea of liberty in perfection. he sets these two political ideals on two different courses. LXIX... 1776.. based on utilitarian considerations. This is ‘‘the point of Perfection in Civil Liberty’’ that legislators should seek. LXIX. to order and happiness. 85 Letter from ‘‘Hermes’’ to the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser. LXIX. 25. 19. Observations... ‘‘government is almost elbow’d off the stage.. political liberty in perfection is the state in which the laws and institutions subject the individual ‘‘to no other coercion than the good of the society required him to be subjected to.

and the liberty of association for the purpose of opposing the Rosen. 152. LXIX.. They both offer an account of the ideal of perfect liberty as a utilitarian balance between liberty and legal restraint. 93 UCL.90 This is the only sense of the classical idea of the free commonwealth that Hobbes was willing to acknowledge. 92 UCL. 91 Hobbes. we find several alternative interpretations of political liberty and free government. Utility and the Definition of Liberty as a Negative Idea: Richard Hey and the Benthamite Conception of Liberty. the terms ‘‘a Free government. nor even with the distribution of power in society and its being ‘‘lodged in proper or improper hands... and the degree of freedom from civil restraints..92 In this prevalent. 31–37.. 148. 41–45.. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:25 PS PAGE 434 . and Greece. 139–42.8.. The difference between them lies in the fact that liberty.. 153... however. Byron. the responsibility of government to publicize the reasons for its actions. Leviathan. has nothing to do with the form of government. and develops a richer account of the modern free state. 89 Hey. political liberty and free government also refer..’’89 Bentham.. G. Bentham. the liberty of the press. as established by constitutional law. to the security of the governed against the governors. so that their condition is secure.’’ whose powers are fixed and clearly known to the subjects. should be determined by the principle of utility. 158. arguing that the latter confused civil liberty with social utility. improperly and metonymically. ‘‘A Right. both Bentham and Hey distinguish between the nature of liberty. I.93 The institutions of free government include the appropriate distribution of political power. 32–34. grapples with different ideas of political liberty. LXIX. Rosen. whose perfection.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 Some scholars have contrasted Bentham’s utilitarianism with the crude maximizing position they attribute to Hey. In one sense.. understood as the absence of restraint or coercion. a Free constitution’’ could refer to the freedom of the political body from external restraint or coercion. for Hey. 158.. Democracy as a Caricature In Bentham’s early writings. LXIX.’’ History of European Ideas 25 (1999): 75–92. 153.. 88 434 . Classical Utilitarianism.91 According to Bentham. they think. XXI. 90 UCL. Observations..88 On my reading. on the other hand. improper sense. Bentham identifies free government with ‘‘a Government to some degree popular. Molivas.

153–54.. and Bentham. political liberty as self-government assumes two forms. ..... 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:26 PS PAGE 435 . C. In its internal.. esp. and as constitutional security against misrule—we find in Bentham’s work a third idea of political liberty. In these manuscripts. In addition to these two definitions of political liberty—as absence of restraints on the political body.. democratic form. coupled with rational censorship of the laws. 14–16... implies. we see the continuity that Kelly and Rosen have pointed out between Bentham’s constitutionalism and the neo-Roman republican idea of liberty. Bentham believed that minors.. 97 UCL. male and female. the proposal to enfranchise every member of the community without exception is meant to be satirical. Comment and Fragment. political liberty becomes more strongly identified with constitutional security. as internal and external self-government.. for Bentham. Three Letters. 96 UCL.97 On my reading.. C. or form of government. 168.. 167.. Lind.’’ According to Bentham’s account: I am deprived of constitutional liberty in as far as the government of the state under which I live deviates from one [/the sort of government] in which every act of government is exercised by an assembly into which every member of the community [/individual in the country] without exception. 69–72. UCL LXIX. convicts and unconvicted.’’96 In this account of liberty as the absence of danger from the abuse of power. Price.94 As already discussed. has a vote. 474–92. 94 95 435 . Observations. political liberty is ‘‘the absence of all government other than democratical according to the purest that is the most thorough sense of democratical government conceivable. Price’s argument that liberty is inconsistent with the omnipotence of Parliament provokes Bentham’s protest that ‘‘Security is not destroy’d by unlimited Supremacy. criminals. Constitutional security comprehends ‘‘security in all its branches in as far as the security of the individual depends upon the texture of the constitution . 43. 484–85.’’ It signifies ‘‘the absence of danger to individuals from abuse of power on the part of persons exercising the powers of government. sane and insane. . free government. unconditional submission to the government.. Cf. adult. This sense can be found particularly in his manuscripts on the Civil Code from 1780.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism government.’’95 In Bentham’s work on the Civil Code. and the insane were incapable of political judgment. under all normal circumstances.. and minor.

. democratic aspect. 155. in Bentham’s eyes. 169–70. he mocks Cicero for presumably preferring the perfect political liberty of a prisoner in Paris over the personal liberty of an Irish Lord. is adopting the language of republican liberty only in order to draw it to absurdity. C.. but also to individuals. His caricatures of democratic and international liberty are intended to undermine the fusion of personal and political liberty characteristic of the republican tradition.’’ according to Bentham.. or a Russian or Danish Senator.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 he was unprepared.. at that point. subversive critique Schofield. The argument suggests that the principles of pro-Americans and constitutional reformers. 168.’’ even if their own government was ‘‘allowed to be competent to all or many purposes of government.. to admit women into the vote. 98 99 436 ..101 The upshot of this satirical. 101 UCL. The ‘‘connection between the two senses of liberty. but ‘‘Every woman too is her own legislatrix. C... in my reading.. In a clear critique of Roman republicanism. he suggests that international liberty refers not only to the political body. The republican idea of international liberty is absurd.’’ Moreover. 40. is ‘‘the same thing as individual liberty but on the part of a nation in relation to another national [nation]. Lind.’’ or ‘‘the absence of dependence on the government of a foreign nation.. and they can suffer from the absence of personal liberty under a democratic and independent government.’’99 Bentham constructs a satirical model of political liberty not only in its internal.98 His democratic definition of political liberty follows the outline of a reductio ad absurdum argument made by several critics of the American demand for representation and the English campaign for parliamentary reform. Utility and Democracy. 100 UCL. international one. but Bentham adopts the language of republicanism and defines it as ‘‘national independence.’’ he argues.. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:26 PS PAGE 436 . whose international or constitutional liberty may not be as perfect..’’100 Bentham..’’ nor even ‘‘so close. Lind employs this argument against Price. would lead to the absurd enfranchisement of individuals who were manifestly incapable of exercising political power. but also in its external..’’ personal and political.. consistently applied. 85–91. mockingly suggesting that according to the logic of the Observations. Three Letters. for roughly the same reason as the idea of democratic liberty: individuals can enjoy personal liberty under a monarchic and dependent government. who would be deprived of their international liberty when their government was ‘‘under the controuling agency of another government. not only every man is his own legislator.. The concept of ‘‘international liberty.’’ We might expect international liberty to be defined as the absence of coercion by another nation. is not ‘‘a necessary one.

.... primarily developed by Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner.’’ in Annual Review of Political Science 12 (2009): 11–29.. he incorporated individual liberty into his system of security. including popular participation in government and a constitutional balance of power. Mass. See also Lea Campos Boralevi.. ‘‘Neorepublicanism: A Normative and Institutional Research Program..: Blackwell. whose institutional forms.’’ in Republicanism and Political Theory. ed. 2008).. ‘‘A Third Concept of Liberty.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism is that personal and constitutional security should be distinguished and distanced from the republican impulse to maximize the power and independence of the people.. Pettit.102 Skinner and Pettit have portrayed Bentham as an opponent of republican liberty on conceptual and historical grounds. 2012). 1984). Ce´cile Laborde and John Maynor (Malden. Bentham on Liberty. (2) the associated idea of the free state. 169. Quentin Skinner. Quentin Skinner. Skinner. On the People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. esp.. (3) the idea of civic virtue as an essential condition for the constitution and preservation of the free state. Bentham’s ‘‘neo-Hobbesian’’ analysis of the concept of liberty contributed to the ‘‘decline and fall’’ of the neo-Roman theory of liberty and the corresponding ‘‘triumph of freedom as non-interference. Long argues that in an earlier phase. 83–101. 102 437 . They argue that Bentham did not allow for the role of the law in creating freedom... identifies neo-Roman republicanism with three core ideas: (1) the conception of individual liberty as the status of the free citizen. or arbitrary power. chap. Liberty before Liberalism. Frank Lovett and Philip Pettit. One influential account. Bentham and the Oppressed (New York: W. 182–83. Bentham vitiated the idea of liberty. secure the individual against domination. who lives in a condition of freedom from mastery. but in his subsequent work on liberty as an object of the civil law.. Bentham and Republican Liberty There is no consensus on the idea of liberty associated with the classical republican tradition. p. According to their narrative... Republicanism.’’103 Several Bentham scholars have proposed a different interpretation. 104 Long. 103 See the references in footnote 12 above. Philip Pettit. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:26 PS PAGE 437 . dependence. 10.104 Frederick Rosen and Paul Kelly have built on See.. and that he rejected the neoclassical conviction that freedom could be lost to a dominating power without coercive interference.’’ Proceedings of the British Academy 117 (2002): 237–68. de Gruyter. ‘‘Freedom as the Absence of Arbitrary Power. in particular. corresponding to his work on the penal law.

and Kelly about Bentham’s incorporation of individual liberty into his system of security. 5.. in the Form of a Catechism (London: R. they argue that Bentham reconstructed the ideal of liberty within his utilitarian system... but also as political arguments undermining the ideal of self-government. 150–76. and Jean-Louis de Lolme in trying to separate the free state from the legacy of classical republicanism..106 The relation between the modern free state and the power of the people to govern themselves became highly contentious in the Age of Revolution. or the security of non-interference under a free government.JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS ✦ JULY 2015 this insight in developing a revisionist. it is precisely on the issue of popular government that Bentham came to make a significant shift in his later years.. ‘‘Republican Liberty and Resilience... 108 See footnote 6 above. Bentham on Liberty. Geoffrey Brennan and Alan Hamlin.. The article interprets Bentham as a subversive critic of the republican tradition.109 See the references in footnote 13 above. §§ 4–9.. 109 See Jeremy Bentham. In this context.105 The interpretation developed here has benefitted from the important insights of Long. I agree with Skinner and Pettit in seeing Bentham as a critic of republicanism. Hunter. Bentham follows Montesquieu. who adopts its characteristic concern with the security of rights under the rule of law. His comments on the relation between liberty and security should be understood not only as part of his broadening field of vision and shift from working on penal law to working on civil and constitutional law.108 The irony deepens when we consider that his democratic ideal in the nineteenth century is not far apart from the caricature of democratic liberty that he constructed in the 1780s..107 Ironically. 105 106 438 . This interpretation differs from Pettit’s account in identifying the core issue for republican writers and their critics in this period as the issue of political self-government. esp. turning from a critic of democracy into its radical advocate. and not as the issue of non-domination. Pettit... 24–25. Plan of Parliamentary Reform. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:27 PS PAGE 438 . which vindicates the value of individual liberty in his utilitarianism. while simultaneously developing strategies for challenging the republican account of the free state as internally and externally selfgoverning. tracking the substantive concerns of the neoRoman republicans. Republicanism.... 107 Long. At the same time. Blackstone. 1817). liberal interpretation of Bentham’s work. Rosen.’’ The Monist 84 (2001): 45–59. and particularly their concern with personal and constitutional security..

. if my physician did not order me: both cloud the understanding and inflame the passions. 18753$ $CH5 06-23-15 15:35:27 PS PAGE 439 . 439 . even in his later years..... I would no more use the word liberty in my conversation when I could get another that would answer the purpose..110 Hebrew University of Jerusalem... and notwithstanding his democratic conversion. his growing frustration with subversive uses of the term led him in the 1780s to formulate a conclusion that he never seems to have reversed: Liberty therefore not being more fit than other words in some of the instances in which it has been used.Elazar ✦ Bentham’s Antidote to Republicanism And yet.. Bentham remained suspicious of the language of liberty..... 110 UCL. the less the use is made of it the better... than I would Brandy in my diet. While his analysis of the concept of liberty arguably remained a cornerstone of his system. C.. 170. and not so fit in others.