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BENTHAM, Jeremy.

Plan of Parliamentary Reform in the Form of a Catechism, with Reasons for each Article, with an Introduction, shewing the Necessity of Radical, and the Inadequacy of moderate, Reform.

London: R. Hunter, 1817 Stock Code: 101515
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First edition of Bentham's important work, advocating parliamentary reform. Although Bentham came from a Tory family, his ideas underwent a change: "He became convinced that under a democratic government 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number' was likely to be most advanced" (DNB). This tract (but not the introduction) was written in 1809 under the title A Catechism of parliamentary reform, or Outline of a Plan for Parliamentary Reform in the form of question and answer. In it, Bentham recommended the exclusion from the House of Commons of place men, annual elections, uniform electoral districts, the granting of suffrage to all who paid a certain amount of taxes, and secret ballots. An attack made on the Prince Regent at the opening of Parliament in January 1817 led to an inquiry, which revealed the existence of an organisation to overthrow Parliament. The repressive measures of 1795 and 1799 were now revived and extended, and a bill suspending the Habeas Corpus Act for a year was passed through both Houses by a large majority. These events led to the first publication of the work in 1817, with an introduction, "in which he pointed out that the sole remedy was democratic ascendency, and to bring about this parliamentary reform - that is, the establishment of virtual universal suffrage and vote by ballot - was necessary. At the instance of Sir Francis Burdett, he drafted a series of resolutions on the subject, which was moved in the House of Commons in 1818." (DNB).

Bentham offered the paper, anonymously, to William Cobbett for inclusion in the latter's Political Register. Insertion was declined and Bentham never forgave Cobbett: the references to him in subsequent writings are usually abusive.

"By 1817 Bentham had become a much firmer believer in reform and he now prefaced his original tract of fifty-two pages with a new introduction of 337 pages showing The Necessity of Radical, and the Inadequacy of Moderate Reform. He also reprinted at the end, without permission, a sixteen-page sketch by Mr. Meadley On Various Proposals for a Constitutional Reform in the Representation of the People introduced into the Parliament of Great Britain from 1770 to 1812." (Muirhead).

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Octavo (230 x 135 mm). Near contemporary blue boards, grey paper spine, original printed paper spine label preserved.


Contemporary ownership inscription to title. Corners a little bruised; an excellent, uncut copy in fine condition.


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