Guide to the Papers of Jeremy Bentham (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Bentham, Jeremy
Papers of Jeremy Bentham (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1790 - 1820
Collection Number
5 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Selections from papers mainly relating to Bentham's interest in penal reform, his opposition to the transportation of convicts to Botany Bay, and his unsuccessful attempts over many years to persuade the Government to adopt his scheme of penitentiary houses (panopticons).

Correspondents include Sir John Parnell, Sir Charles Bunbury, Capt. J. Hunter, Spencer Perceval, Sir Frederick Eden and David Collins.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the British Library. For more information visit: How I use the images I order?-The British Library [].

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1981 (AJCP Reel: M1684). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

British Library, 96 Euston Road, London. Collection reference: Add MSS 33537-33564. For further information, see Jeremy Bentham at the British Library (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-Aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Bentham, Jeremy; Bunbury, Sir Charles, 6th Baronet; Collins, David; Crime and criminals; Eden, Sir Frederick; Hunter, John, Capt.; Parnell, Sir John; Penal reform; Perceval, Spencer; Philosophers; Transportation of convicts


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 34, p.12.

Biographical / Historical

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Educated at Westminster School, Queen's. College, Oxford, and Lincoln's Inn. In 1776 began to write on jurisprudence and government and for the rest of his life he was a prolific writer of books, pamphlets and articles on jurisprudence, criminal law, political theory, ethics and economics. Originally a Tory, he became a democrat, an advicate of parliamentary reform, and one of the founders of the radical Westminster Review in 1823. In 1785-1789 Bentham lived in Russia with his brother and while there he developed his interest in the 'Panopticon' or inspection-house, which he considered would be of great value for prison discipline. His book Panopticon was published in 1791. In 1794 an Act was passed to enable the Government to acquire sites for penitentiary houses, and land at Millbank was conveyed to Bentham as trustee. But the scheme met with opposition, eventually the contract was broken off, and Bentham was awarded compensation in 1813.

Sir Samuel Bentham (1757-1831), brother of Jeremy Bentham. Shipwright's apprentice at Woolwich Dockyard. From 1780 to 1791 he lived in Russia, managing the construction of a shipyard at Kritchev and commanding a Russian flotilla against the Turks at Liman in 1788, for which he was rewarded with the rank of brigadier-general. From 1795 to 1812 he worked for the Admiralty and achieved many reforms in the organization of the dockyards and the equipping of ships. Bentham moved to France in 1814 and remained there until 1827.

Item Descriptions

Volume V, August 1790 - 25 September 1794 (File Add MS 33541)

31 items

Filmed selectively.

Lord Lansdown (?) to Bentham, August 1790 (Item ff. 141-42)

Encloses letter of Sir John Parnell.

Sir John Parnell to Lord Lansdown, 6 August 1790 (Item f. 143)

Praises Bentham essay on penitentiary houses.

Sir John Parnell to Bentham, 16 August 1790 (Item f. 145)

Intends to publish Bentham's essay in Ireland.

Sir John Parnell to Bentham, 19 August 1790 (Item f. 146)

Seeks Bentham's advice on aspects of penitentiary system.

Bentham to Sir John Parnell, 2 September 1790 (Item ff. 160-61)

Publication of essay; seeks publications; advantages of penitentiary over transportation.

Sir John Parnell to Major Hobart (Dublin), 3 September 1790 (Item f. 162)

Sends Bentham's essay on penitentiaries; scheme would be less expensive than transportation to Botany Bay; suggests essay be given to Lord Lieutenant.

Sir John Parnell to Bentham, 3 September 1790 (Item ff. 164-65)

Adoption of penitentiary scheme in Ireland.

Bentham to [unknown], 23 January 1791 (Item ff. 201-7)

Sends proposal for construction of penitentiary house (panoptic); superiority of scheme to convict hulks.

J. Jekyll to Bentham, 12 February 1791 (Item f. 217)

Thanks for plan; will send copies to W. Wilberforce and others.

Sir Charles Bunbury to Bentham, 19 February 1791 (Item f. 223)

Thanks for plan.

Bentham to E. Nepean, 22 February 1791 (Item ff. 225-27)

Appeals against sentence of transportation for Chapman; requests engravings of panopticon be sent to Ireland.

E. Nepean to Bentham, 28 February 1791 (Item f. 229)

Parcels for Ireland; removal of Chapman from hulks.

R.P. Carew to Bentham, 9 May 1791 (Item f. 249)

Bentham's proposals mentioned to W. Pitt; construction of penitentiary in Edinburgh by R. Adam.

R. Adam to Bentham, 7 June 1791 (Item ff. 264-65)

Adoption of Bentham's plan at Edinburgh.

Bentham to W. Pitt, 26 November 1791 (Item f. 298)

Sends book on panopticon; economy of proposal.

Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury, 10 February 1792 (Item f. 315)

Modification of penitentiary proposal; cheapness compared with convict hulks.

Bentham to Lord Auckland, 14 February 1792 (Item f. 318)

Modification of penitentiary proposal.

Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury, 30 May 1792 (Item f. 325)

Use of Bentham's name in connection with penitentiary proposal.

Bentham to G. Rose, 30 May 1792 (Item ff. 327-28)

Sir Charles Bunbury; consideration given to Bentham's proposal by Government.

Bentham to F. Burton, 2 July 1792 (Item ff. 332-33)

Government's silence on scheme; alleged connection between H. Dundas and Duncan Campbell.

G. Rose to Bentham, 2 July 1792 (Item f. 334)

H. Dundas will discuss proposal.

F. Burton to Bentham, 4 July 1792 (Item f. 336)

Has suggested to Dundas that W. Pitt might consider proposal.

Bentham to G. Rose, 16 July 1792 (Item ff. 347-48)

Dundas' indifference to scheme; Duncan Campbell's corruption.

Bentham to [unknown], 28 September 1792 (Item ff. 365-66)

Dundas' reaction to panopticon proposal; powers of supervisors.

Bentham to Lord Loughborough, 2 February 1793 (Item ff. 381-82)

Panopticon; inactivity of W. Pitt and H. Dundas.

Bentham to E. Nepean, 14 February 1793 (Item ff. 383-84)

Request by convict Chapman to serve in Navy.

Bentham to C. Abbott, 15 April 1794 (Item ff. 510-11)

Difficulties in putting panopticon proposal in statutory form.

Sir Charles Bunbury to Bentham, 24 April 1794 (Item f. 516)

Approval of H. Dundas for Bill.

Bentham to Samuel Bentham, 17 June 1794 (Item ff. 539-40)

Passing of Bill.

Sir Charles Bunbury to Bentham, 17 June 1794 (Item f. 541)

Concessions made by Dundas to opponents of Bill.

C. Long to Bentham, 25 September 1794 (Item ff. 586-87)

Difficulties in finding site for penitentiary.

Volume VI, 10 April 1795 - 24 February 1798 (File Add MS 33542)

7 items

Filmed selectively.

Sir John Parnell (Dublin) to Bentham, 10 April 1795 (Item f. 41)

Suggestion Lord Camden consult Bentham about employment of convicts sentenced to transportation.

Sir John Parnell to Bentham, 16 April 1795 (Item ff. 45-46)

Bill to be drafted to apply money allocated for transporting convicts to employing them at labour in Ireland.

Sir Charles Bunbury to Bentham, 10 July 1795 (Item f. 82)

Suggests Bentham requisition services of carpenter R. Coates, about to be moved to convict hulks.

Sir Charles Bunbury to Bentham, 12 July 1795 (Item f. 86)

Arrangements to detain Coates when convict party passes through London.

Sir Patrick Colquhoun to Bentham, 16 December 1796 (Item ff. 397-98)

Suggests Bentham speak to W. Baldwin at Home Office on employment of less depraved convicts at present sent to Botany Bay.

W. Baldwin to Bentham, 14 January 1797 (Item f. 442)

Thanks for publications; system of convict hulks destroys every hope of reformation.

G. Rose to Bentham, 24 February 1798 (Item f. 525)

Finance Committee to consider expense of convicts; believes they should consider panopticon proposal as alternative to hulk system.

Volume VII, 20 May 1799 - 30 December 1802 (File Add MS 33543)

19 items

Filmed selectively.

Capt. J. Hunter (Sydney) to Samuel Bentham, 20 May 1799 (Item ff. 36-37)

Congratulations on appointment; Hunter's irksome command; N.S.W. overstocked with worst description of men.

Bentham to [E. Nepean], 17 August 1799 (Item ff. 93-94)

Number of prisoners to be housed in penitentiary compared with number of transportable convicts; believes hulks are to be abandoned.

E. Nepean to Bentham, 24 September 1799 (Item f. 127)

Number of convicts to be housed.

Duke of Portland to Commissioners of Treasury, 14 October 1799 (Item ff. 143-44)

Penitentiary to be responsible for transportable convicts until embarkation.

C. Long to Bentham, 25 March 1800 (Item f. 290)

Number of convicts to be housed in penitentiary.

Bentham to E. Nepean, 2 July 1800 (Item f. 381)

Conversations with Home Office on N.S.W. and number of convicts to be housed in penitentiary.

Bentham to E. Nepean, 10 September 1800 (Item ff. 411-12)

Possibility of reduction in number of convicts to be housed; complaints by Ordnance Dept. of loss of labour from hulks.

Mrs. Paterson (Sydney) to Mrs. Bentham, 7 October 1800 (Item ff. 423-24)

Fear of Irish uprising in N.S.W.

Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury, 10 August 1802 (Item ff. 580-81)

D. Collins' account of N.S.W. confirms Bentham's predictions, with promising settlements abandoned, and famine, profligacy, native hostility.

S. Romilly to Bentham, 28 August 1802 (Item f. 601)

Surprise at Bentham's statements on Botany Bay.

Bentham to E. Dumont, 29 August 1802 (Item ff. 603-6)

Villainy of W. Pitt and Duke of Portland; illegal confinement of convicts in N.S.W.; D. Collins' account and Bentham's pamphlet on N.S.W.; obstructions to Panopticon.

Bentham to C. Abbott, 3 September 1802 (Item ff. 611-18)

Illegalities of N.S.W. Government; Government's long policy of obstructing construction of panopticon.

W. Wilberforce to Bentham, 2 October 1802 (Item f. 631)

Undertakes to pass on information about N.S.W.

[unknown] to B. Ball, 11 October 1802 (Item ff. 644-45)

Conditions on convict ship Glatton.

Bentham to Sir Charles Bunbury, 3 December 1802 (Item ff. 661-62)

New pamphlet compares panopticon with N.S.W.

S. Perceval to Bentham, [13 December 1802] (Item f. 665)

Bentham's pamphlet on transportation and penitentiary systems; Bill introduced to enable Royal Navy ships to transport convicts.

Lord Auckland to Bentham, 26 December 1802 (Item f. 684)

Doubts wisdom of continuing system of convict hulks.

Sir Frederick Eden to Bentham, 27 December 1802 (Item ff. 685-86)

Thanks for pamphlet; shared views on N.S.W.; inaccuracies in pamphlet.

Bentham to S. Perceval, 30 December 1802 (Item f. 691)

Futility of trying to improve transportation system.

Volume VIII, 10 January 1803 - 17 September 1812 (File Add MS 33544)

20 items

Filmed selectively.

S. Perceval to Bentham, 10 January 1803 (Item f. 4)

Bentham's second letter to Lord Pelham on N.S.W.

D. Collins to Bentham, 11 January 1803 (Item f. 8)

Acknowledges pamphlets.

G. Lee to Sir Henry Mildmay, 24 January 1803 (Item ff. 14-15)

Conditions on convict hulk. (extract).

Bentham to D. Collins, 27 January 1803 (Item ff. 20-21)

Invitation to dinner.

Sir Frederick Eden to Bentham, 27 January 1803 (Item f. 22)

Acknowledges second letter to Lord Pelham; refers to import of timber from N.S.W. in exchange for export of immorality; suggests Bentham read accounts of deportations to Cayman.

B. Hobhouse to Bentham, 2 February 1803 (Item f. 25)

Acknowledges second letter, to Lord Pelham.

Bentham to E. Dumont, 9 February 1803 (Item ff. 30-31)

Conversation with Dr. Parr concerning letters to Lord Pelham; copies of pamphlets to be given to C.J. Fox.

Sir John Carter to Sir Henry Mildmay, 13 February 1803 (Item f. 32)

Conditions on convict hulks.

J. Neild to Bentham, 17 February 1803 (Item f. 38)

Sends letter from Carter.

Bentham to Samuel Bentham, 22 February 1803 (Item ff. 41-42)

Meetings with D. Collins; his plans to erect prison in N.S.W.

Bentham to S. Romilly, 7 March 1803 (Item ff. 44-45)

Evidence of sodomy on convict ships.

D. Collins to Bentham, 4 April 1803 (Item f. 57)

Departure from England.

S. Wilberforce to Bentham, 8 March 1811 (Item f. 498)

Requests copies of Bentham's letters to Lord Pelham.

J. Abercromby to Bentham, 31 March 1811 (Item ff. 501-2)

Meeting of Select Committee on Transportation.

T. Beeby to Bentham, 3 May 1811 (Item f. 515)

Bentham's evidence to Select Committee.

Bentham to Sir Evan Nepean, 21 May 1811 (Item ff. 519-21)

Committee's consideration of convict hulks.

J. Abercromby to Bentham, 25 May 1811 (Item ff. 525-26)

Work of Select Committee.

Bentham to J. Abercromby, 27 May 1811 (Item ff. 535-36)

Proceedings of Committee; Sir Charles Bunbury; Sir Evan Nepean.

T. Beeby to Bentham, 24 January 1812 (Item f. 578)

Requests copies of Panopticon and other works for Select Committee.

Bentham to Lord Sidmouth, 17 September 1812 (Item ff. 634-39)

History of Panopticon project.

Volume IX, 21 July 1817 - September 1820 (File Add MS 33545)

2 items

Filmed selectively.

Lord Colchester to Sir Samuel Bentham, 21 July 1817 (Item ff. 253-54)

Refers to wreck of Alceste near Batavia.

Bentham to Sir Samuel Bentham, September 1820 (Item ff. 443-46)

Refers to departure of Lawrence for Van Diemen's Land; will collect botanical specimens for Kew.