Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Bentham Jeremy

Bentham, Jeremy, the son of a prosperous attorney, was born in Red Lion Street, Houndsditch, in 1748. He was educated at Westminster and Queen's College, Oxford, being called to the bar in 1772. He heard Blackstone lecture at the university, and listened with delight to Mansfield's judgments in the Court of Queen's Bench, but so far from being stirred to seek forensic distinction, he felt a burning zeal to rebuild on a rational basis the whole edifice of jurisprudence. From Beccaria he adopted as the keystone of his philosophy the doctrine that human society has for its aim "the greatest happiness of the greatest number." Applied to ethics this formula became the principle of the school of moralists, afterwards called Utilitarian. His first essay, entitled A Fragment on Government, appeared anonymously in 1776, and at once met with attention. In 1780 he published his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, a more elaborate exposition of his theories and aims. He then spent some time with his brother in Russia or travelling on the Continent, where he wrote A Defence of Usury. In 1792 he was made a French citizen, a proof that his ideas were exercising widespread influence. Settling down in Queen Square he devoted the rest of his long and laborious life, amid the congenial society of such men as the Mills, the Austins, Samuel Romilly, Brougham, and Bowring, to elaborate criticisms of laws and institutions, and to the still more arduous task of reconstruction. Every principle and every application of it was subjected to rigorous logical tests, and Bentham's mind, unwarped by professional training and pecuniary need, was especially suited to the work. The dream of his life is still far from being realised, and there is a tendency of late to treat him as a dry doctrinaire, but it is hardly too much to say that all the reforms that the last century has witnessed in our judicial system and most of our advances in social legislation were indicated with precision by Bentham many years before their adoption, whilst his exertions have borne fruit all over the world. No doubt the style and phraseology of his later writings marred his fame. He lived until 1832, and before his death gave instructions that his body should be dissected, embalmed, dressed in his usual clothes, and preserved in the museum at University College, London, where it still remains.