Bentham Project

"Legislator of the World": Writings on Codification, Law, and Education

eds. Philip Scholfield and Jonathan Harris (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998), pp. lviii, 450.

This volume contains three separate but related works: Papers relative to Codification and Public Instruction, first published in 1817; Codification Proposal, addressed to all Nations Professing Liberal Opinions, first printed in 1822 with supplements in 1827 and 1830; and First Lines of a Proposed Code of Law for any Nation Compleat and rationalized, which has been re-edited from Bentham's manuscripts.

These works reflect Bentham's view that existing law was hopelessly cumbersome and illogical, and that it advanced only the interests of lawyers, rather than 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'. The only remedy was not piecemeal reform but the complete replacement of all law with a complete code of laws, what Bentham termed a 'pannomion'. Moreover, unlike previous attempts at codification, Bentham's code was to be 'rationalized': every law was to be accompanied by a set of reasons, to justify it in the eyes of those who were compelled to obey it.

These arguments are set out in detail in Papers relative to Codification and Codification Proposal. Both works were originally designed to be circulated among foreign governments in a bid to convince them of the validity of Bentham's approach, and to introduce his gratuitous offer of his services to draw up such a Code.

First Lines shows the relationship of the various codes of law - civil, penal, constitutional and procedural, to each other, and their relationship to the 'greatest happiness principle'. The essay contains an important discussion of security and equality.

For more details of the contents of this volume from the publisher's Web site click here.