Bentham Project


Church-of-Englandism and its Catechism Examined

Church-of Englandism and its Catechism Examined (1818) was the first of three volumes on religion published either by Bentham or by him with the assistance of an editor. It was followed by An Analysis of the Influence of Natural Religion on the Temporal Happiness of Mankind (1822) and Not Paul, but Jesus (1823). All three texts were omitted from the Bowring edition. Neither of the two later texts carries Bentham's name on the title-page, and the degree to which he was assisted in their production is still to be determined. There is no room for speculation about the authorship of Church-of-Englandism. It was written, arranged, and seen through the press by Bentham himself, and the title-page (in the full knowledge that he risked a prosecution for 'blasphemy') bears his name.

Church-of-Englandism is the most explicitly political of the three volumes on religion, revealing a close correlation between the development and publication of Bentham's views on organized religion in the second decade of the nineteenth century, and his political views during the same period. He began writing a work on the Church in 1810 and, after several aborted starts, completed it in 1817 when the bulk of Church-of-Englandism was printed. The completed version published in 1818 is a synthesis of two distinct lines of investigation, into: (1) the institutions and practices of the Church, and (2) its role in education via the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. The gradual development of the work is evident in the disorganized format of the book. Following the 'Preface' and the 'Preface on Publication', is a detailed 'Plan of the Work', and three separate parts to the main text: first, an Introduction in five parts on the 'exclusionary system' operated by the National Society; second, 'The Church of England Catechism Examined'; and third, five appendices devoted to critical analyses of various features of the Anglican establishment, including a series of radical recommendations for Church reform.

Work is well advanced on the new edition, which will contain two editorial appendices: (1) the preface Bentham wrote to accompany The Book of Church Reform (1831), ie. a reprint of § 9-10 of Appendix No. IV; and (2) a digression added to the same reprint concerning a parliamentary petition on the use of Church lands in Canada. The new edition will be completed by seven sets of collations: for the 1817 printing, and six published extracts (1823, 1824, 1825, 1831, 1868, and 1890).

James E. Crimmins, Huron University College and Catherine Fuller.

The research is funded by the AHRC. It also recieved support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.