Political Tactics

By Michael James; Cyprian Blamires et al. | Go to book overview

EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION

Jeremy Bentham 'Political Tactics', part of which was printed in 1791, was probably the first attempt ever made to theorize broadly about parliamentary procedure.1 In spite of its title, it is not a treatise on political strategy and manoeuvre. In its strictest, most literal sense, the word 'tactics' means 'the art of setting in order'; thus, 'Political Tactics' is an exploration of the order to be observed in the proceedings of political assemblies. In other words, it is an analysis of parliamentary procedure, conceived in general, theoretical terms. The practice of the British Houses of Parliament is, however, often cited as a model of good procedure. As Bentham said, 'the very rules that suggested themselves as necessary to every assembly, turned out to be the very rules actually observed in both assemblies of the British Legislature.'2

The present text is, with a few small changes, the text of 'An Essay on Political Tactics' which appeared in the Bowring edition of The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published in 1838-43.3


HISTORY OF THE WORK

There are three distinct versions of this work. The first version, printed in 1791, was a fragment, running to 64 pages plus two tables.4 One of the tables was a detailed plan of the whole projected work, which was to bear the title 'Essays on Political Tactics'; ten essays were planned, each subdivided into chapters. The second table was a 'Tabula Ataxiologica' or 'Synoptical Table', which related the ends to be kept in view when framing regulations for a political assembly to the possible inconveniences which could arise from the proceedings of an assembly.5

The fragment was printed and circulated privately, and individual recipients of the printed sheets then had them bound. Thus of five copies

____________________
1
See J. H. Burns, "'Bentham and the French Revolution'", Transactiom of the Royal Historical Society, 5th series, xvi ( 1966), 95-114.
2
See the Preface, p. 1 below.
3
See The Works of Jeremy Bentham, pubbshed under the supenntendence of . . . John Bowrtng, 11 vols., Edinburgh, 1843, ii. 299-373. Sir John Bowring ( 1792-1872), merchant radical MIP, and diplomat was Bentham's literary executor.
4
'Essay on Political Tactics: containing Six of the Principal Rules proper to be observed by a Political Assembly, In the Process of Forming a Decision: with the Reasons on which they are Grounded; And a Comparative Application of them to British and French Practice: Being a Fragment of a larger Work, a Sketch of which is subjoined.'
5
For these tables see pp. 176-7 below.

-xiii-

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