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Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

Jeremy Bentham, the son of a lawyer, was born in London in 1748. A brilliant scholar, Bentham entered Queen's College, Oxford at twelve and was admitted to Lincoln's Inn at the age of fifteen. Bentham was a shy man who did not enjoy making public speeches. He therefore decided to leave Lincoln Inn and concentrate on writing. Provided with £90 a year by his father, Bentham produced a series of books on philosophy, economics and politics.
Bentham's family had been Tories and for the first period of his life he shared their conservative political views.
In 1798 Bentham wrote "Principles of International Law" where he argued that universal peace could only be obtained by first achieving European Unity. He hoped that some form of European Parliament would be able to enforce the liberty of the press, free trade, the abandonment of all colonies and a reduction in the money being spent on armaments.
In 1824 Bentham joined with James Mill to found the Westminster Review, the journal of the philosophical radicals. Contributors to the journal included Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle.
Bentham's most detailed account of his ideas on political democracy appeared in his book "Constitutional Code" (1830). In the book Bentham argued that political reform should be dictated by the principle that the new system will promote the happiness of the majority of the people affected by it. Bentham argued in favour of universal suffrage, annual parliaments and vote by ballot. According to Bentham there should be no king, no House of Lords, no established church. The book also included Bentham's view that women, as well as men, should be given the vote.
Jeremy Bentham died in 1832.

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