Rights, representation, and reform : nonsense upon stilts and other writings on the French Revolution


Rights, representation, and reform : nonsense upon stilts and other writings on the French Revolution

edited by Philip Schofield, Catherine Pease-Watkin and Cyprian Blamires

(The collected works of Jeremy Bentham, . Political writings)

Clarendon Press , Oxford University Press, 2002

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Includes bibliographical references and indexes

Texts in English or French



The French Revolution provided Bentham with what appeared to him to be an exciting opportunity to influence the reconstruction of the French state. Drawing on his knowledge of English political and constitutional practice, as well as the theoretical resources he had developed in his own work, he suggested imaginative and innovative measures to achieve the peaceful and constitutional reform in France. In discussing the nature of representation he produced the earliest utilitarian justification of political equality and representative democracy, even recommending women's suffrage. Moreover, he provided a major critique of the dominant constitutional theory of the division of power, including both the doctrine of the balance of powers and that of the separation of powers. Turning his attention to Britain, for a time he advocated measures of parlimentary reform, but becoming disenchanted with the course of the Revolution he produced the celebrated 'Nonsense upon Stilts' (hitherto known as 'Anarchical Fallacies'), the most devastating attack on the theory of natural rights ever written, in which he argued that natural rights provided an unsuitable basis for stable legal and political arrangements. All the essays published in this volume, with the exception of Emancipate your Colonies!, an important early critique of colony-holding, are based on the original manuscript sources, many of which have not been previously published in any form.


  • Editorial Introduction
  • Considerations d'un Anglois sur la composition des Etats-Generaux
  • Observations d'un Anglois sur un ecrit intitule Arrete de la noblesse de Bretagne
  • Observations sur resultat de depouillement des cahiers
  • Observations on the Draughts of Declarations-of-Rights Presented to the Committee of the Constitution of the National Assembly of France
  • short Vies of Economy for the Use of the French Nation
  • Supply - New Species Proposed
  • Projet of a Constitutional Code for France
  • Necessity of an Omnipotent Legislature
  • Emancipate Your Colonies! Addressed to the National Convention of France
  • Nonsense upon Stilts, or Pandora's Box Opened, or the French Declaration of Rights Prefixed to the Constitution of 1791 Laid Open and Exposed
  • Appendices
  • Collation
  • Indexes

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