The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism

By Elie Halévy; Mary Morris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
CONCLUSION

BENTHAM died on June 6, 1832, two days after the third reading of the Reform Bill, and one day before it had received the Royal assent. He left his body to science; and before his corpse on the dissecting table, his friend, Southwood Smith, pronounced the funeral oration of the man whom all those present held to be the precursor of a new era.1 Bentham, in fact, was no longer famous only in Paris, where his reputation had been consecrated in 1825 by a triumphal reception, in the whole of Europe and in the two Americas; in his own country he had finally collected round him the supporters of Utilitarianism. He himself, at the head of the group, was the patriarch, set apart from the others by age and glory. John Bowring, a city merchant, a great traveller, a preacher of English free trade on the continent, a polyglot and polygraph, an economist and a poet, the friend of everybody, had assumed the rôle of favourite at Bentham's side; he had not been sorry to see Bentham breakwith Dumont of Geneva; 2 he helped to loosen the ties of friendship which bound him to James Mill. James Mill was too exclusive and too personal, and became too much absorbed in the ever more important functions which he fulfilled at the India Company to be able to be the factotum whom Bentham required.3 Bentham was less sectarian than many of his disciples, and it probably did not displease him to be honoured as a philanthropist by many who detested his doctrine; he accepted the homage of Daniel O'Connell, the Irish agitator, who though no doubt a Radical, was a fervent Catholic, and whose democratic opinions bore no more than a remote likeness to the theories which the Benthamites had borrowed from the secular philosophy of the eighteenth century;4 he opened a correspondence with the Tory reformer, Robert

____________________
1
Examiner, June 10th, 1832: The last Act of Jeremy Bentham. See article in West. Rev., July 1832.
2
Bowring, vol. x. p. 185. Ed. Rev. No. clviii, Oct. 1843, art., viii.
3
Bain, pp. 13-4
4
Bowring, vol. x. pp. 594-5.

-479-

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