Bentham Project


Political Tactics

eds. Michael James, Cyprian Blamires and Catherine Pease-Watkin (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999) pp. xl, 267.

'An Essay on Political Tactics' was published in the edition of Bentham's works brought out by John Bowring in 1843. The essay as Bowring published it was an amalgam of two works. The centrepiece of Bowring's version was the 'Essay on Political Tactics', written by Bentham and printed, but not published, in 1791. The 1791 essay was intended by Bentham to form part of a series of essays on the same subject; the series, however, remained unfinished. The remainder of Bowring's text consisted of a translation of parts of Etienne Dumont's 'Tactique des assemblees politiques deliberantes', published in 1816. Dumont's essay was itself based upon manuscripts of Bentham's but it is unclear as yet how much editorial latitude Dumont permitted himself.

'Political Tactics' as published in the Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham is essentially Bowring's text. The work is a blueprint of parliamentary procedure in the abstract - that is, it does not outline the procedure of a particular parliament but is rather intended as a general guide to be used by any fledgling assembly in need of rules of procedure. Nonetheless, the British House of Commons is often cited as an example of good practice. The initial impetus for the work was the summoning of the French Estates-General in 1789. This body had not met for 175 years, and therefore had no rules, established either by constitution or practice, for its procedure. It was this deficiency which Bentham was attempting to supply.

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