Political Tactics

Political Tactics

Political Tactics

Political Tactics


Political Tactics, composed for the Estates General in the months just prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution, is one of Bentham's most original works. It contains the earliest and perhaps most important theoretical analysis of parliamentary procedure ever written. It was subsequently translated into many languages and has had a far-reaching influence -- for instance, it provided the basis for the regulations adopted in the 1820s governing the procedures of the Buenos Aires assembly, and as recently as the early 1990s it was reprinted by the Spanish Cortes. With typical thoroughness and insight, Bentham discusses such central themes as the publicity of procedings, the rules of debate, the conduct of deputies, and the proper steps to be taken in composing, proposing, and voting on a motion. Even such relatively minor points as the size of the assembly-room and the costume of the deputies are not overlooked. All along Bentham illustrates his points by reference to the actual practice of both the British Houses of Parliament and the French provincial assemblies.


The Bentham Committee wishes to thank the Economic and Social Research Council, whose generous grant has made possible the completion of this volume. The Committee is also indebted to the British Academy and University College London for their continuing support, and to the Australian Research Grants Committee and La Trobe University for support for research visits by Dr James to the Bentham Project.

The editors wish to thank the following repositories for permission to quote from manuscripts held in their collections and for assistance in tracing rare volumes: the Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire, Geneva; the British Library; the Bodleian Library; the London Library; and Cambridge University Library. Special thanks are due to the staff of University College London Library, and in particular to Ms Gill Furlong for her co-operation and assistance.

Many people have contributed to the production of this volume. In particular we would like to thank Mrs Katharine Barber, Professor J.H. Burns, Dr Stephen Conway, Mrs Claire Daunton, Dr Rosalind Davies, the late Professor John Dinwiddy, Dr Jane Haville, Professor Douglas Johnson, Dr Martin Smith, Dr Colin Tyler, and Mr Timothy Venning. For elucidation of particular references in the text we are grateful to Mr Andrew Lewis, Dr Alan Pitt, and Professor R.W. Sharples. Mrs Irena Nicoll has done sterling work at the final stages of checking the volume and preparing it for the press, and for this we are especially grateful. Other colleagues at the Bentham Project, Dr Tony Draper, Ms Catherine Fuller, Dr Jonathan Harris, Dr Luke O'Sullivan, and Dr Michael Quinn, with a characteristic spirit of collaboration have shared their knowledge and insight on countless occasions.

The General Editors, Professor Fred Rosen and Dr Philip Schofield, have read the whole of the text and have made numerous suggestions for improvement. The editors are particularly grateful to Dr Schofield for his invaluable criticism in the preparation of the Editorial Introduction, and his guidance in all other aspects of the volume.

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