UCL Faculty of Laws


Bentham Seminar: Cheng Li (York) on Bentham and Peel's judicial reform

20 March 2019, 5:30 pm–7:30 pm

image: portrait of jeremy bentham

Event Information

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Bentham Project - Tim Causer


Room G20, UCL Faculty of Laws
Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens

Cheng Li (University of York)

"A perfectly unbiassed arbiter": Robert Peel's judicial reform, Jeremy Bentham and the Newtonian language in the 1820s


Between 1826 and 1830, the Home Secretary Robert Peel started a reform of judicial administration and approached the older radical legal thinker Jeremy Bentham. For the aim of collecting as much as possible guidance and making absolute correct judgement, Peel sent three Bill drafts to Bentham. Bentham did not discuss those drafts but turned attention on the administration of magisterial Duties and the codification of laws. Although Bentham criticized Peel as "Mr Surface" for his measures of consolidation of the penal laws, the nature of their relationship could be constructive. Based on a common recognition of the Newtonian language, Peel was willing to seek advice from Bentham and absorbed utilitarianism to strengthen his administrative capacity. Peel's success in the 1820s stimulated the Whig law reformers and extended the range and depth of future reforms. After 1830, the Whig party replaced Peel's position and organized the 1833 parliamentary selected commission to investigate the penal laws in a more radical manner. Peel's reform provided lessons and experience in both theory and practice for the modernization of the British legal system.


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