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British empiricism started from Francis Bacon's inductive method based on sense certainty, all of which was taken directly from such Venetians as Paul Paruta and Pietro Sarpi. With Bacon is Thomas Hobbes, who wrote of human society as a war of all against all, necessarily dominated by a tyrannical leviathan state. Then came John Locke, for whom the human mind was a blank slate destined to be filled by sense perceptions. Locke's hedonism led him to the conclusion that human freedom was an absurd contradiction in terms. Locke was followed by the solipsist George Berkeley, who denied any basis in reality to our sense impressions: They are a kind of videotape played in each one of our heads by some unknown supernatural agency. Perception was the only existence there was.
Then came the Scots lawyer and diplomat David Hume. For Hume also, there is really no human self, but merely a bundle of changing perceptions. In his ``Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding'' and other earlier works, Hume attacks the idea of cause and effect. For Hume, there is no necessary connection between a cause and an effect that the human mind can know with certainty; we only have a vague association or habit of thought that one phenomenon has been usually followed by another. But in these same earlier works, Hume had at least accepted the importance of filling the tabula rasa of each new human mind with a stock of received ideas of conduct which can be lumped under the heading of morals or custom, including religion.
During Hume's later years, the power of the Shelburne faction became dominant in Britain, and Hume's skepticism became bolder and more radical. The later Hume, as in his ``Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion,'' totally repudiated the notion of custom and morality in favor of an unbridled hedonism that points toward the depths of pederasty and degradation inhabited by Jeremy Bentham.
Immanuel Kant, during his long teaching career in Königsberg, Prussia, had been a retailer of Hume's ideas. The two liberals Kant and Hume had a broad common ground in their determination to eradicate the influence of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. But when Hume repudiated all notion of custom and traditional morality, even Kant could not follow. Kant responded with the Critique of Pure Reason to defend the notion of cause and effect as one of Aristotle's categories, against Hume, who had reached a sub-Aristotelian level. On this basis, Kant was able to defend customary ideas of religion and morality, das Sittengesetz.
The Kant-Hume split illustrates why British liberal empiricism tends to be several degrees more rotten than its continental European counterparts.
In October 1776, a 28-year-old English barrister named Jeremy Bentham wrote contemptuously of the American Declaration of Independence, which had been signed as an Act of the Continental Congress on July 4th of that year: ``This,'' he spewed, ``they `hold to be' a `truth self-evident.' At the same time, to secure these rights they are satisfied that government should be instituted. They see not ... that nothing that was ever called government ever was or ever could be exercised but at the expense of one or another of those rights, that ... some one or other of those pretended unalienable rights is alienated.... In these tenets they have outdone the extravagance of all former fanatics.''
Shortly after penning this venom, Bentham made his philosophical breach with the American republicans all the more clear in a lengthy tract titled An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1780). That manuscript would not only prescribe the founding principles of British philosophical radicalism; it would propel Bentham into the very center of a then-emerging new British Foreign Office and British Foreign Intelligence Service, consolidated under the guiding hand of William Petty, Lord Shelburne, a man who at the time was the de facto, if not de jure doge of Britain.
Bentham categorically rejected any distinction between man and the lower beasts, defining man instead as a creature driven purely by hedonistic impulses. To wit: ``Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.... Every effort we make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it. The principle of utility--the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle--recognizes this subjection, and assumes it for the foundation.... Systems which attempt to question it deal ... in caprice instead of reason, in darkness instead of light.''
Lord Shelburne was so taken with Bentham that he installed the writer, who fancied himself alternately as the reincarnation of Sir Francis Bacon and as the ``Sir Isaac Newton of the moral sciences,'' in an apartment at his Bowood estate. Shelburne assigned to Bentham an English and Swiss editor in order to ensure the widest dissemination of Bentham's works in both the English- and French-speaking worlds. Later, Bentham's works would be even more widely circulated throughout Latin America during his years of intimate collaboration with the American traitor Aaron Burr, and with revolutionists Gen. Francisco de Miranda--a Venezuelan by birth who played a leading role as a paid agent of the British East India Company in the Jacobin Terror in France--and Simón Bolívar. Burr, fleeing the United States, took up residence at the home of Bentham, and the two men conspired to establish an empire, first in Mexico, and later in Venezuela.
In June 1780, weary of the failed prosecution of the war in North America, and convinced that the ministry of Lord George North would bring eternal ruin to his dreams of permanent empire, Lord Shelburne, through the East India Company and its allied Baring Bank, bankrolled a Jacobin mob to descend upon London, ostensibly in protest over the granting of Irish reforms. The so-called Irish reforms amounted to little more than forced conscription of Irishmen into the British Army to fight in North America--a move Shelburne hoped would also defeat the pro-American republican movement inside Ireland that had nearly launched its own revolt against Britain in 1779.
Led by Lord George Gordon, the Protestant rabble stormed Westminster, sending parliamentarians and lords alike down flights of stairs, out windows, and to the hospitals. For eight days, London was ransacked, culminating in the storming of the Newgate Prison and the freeing of all the prisoners, who joined in the assault on the Parliament building.
Lord Shelburne, as head of the interior committee of the House of Lords, personally ensured the maximum terror by delaying the reading of the Riot Act (which would have called out the Home Guard) until violence had spread to every corner of the city. When the flames subsided, the ministry of Lord North was in ashes as well. North resigned as prime minister, and within months, Shelburne was himself in the new Rockingham cabinet as foreign secretary for the Northern District, subsuming the North American colonies. From that post, he would be the principal negotiator in Paris across the table from Benjamin Franklin.
By this time also, King George III had declared himself wholly subservient to the Shelburne-led East India Company faction--the Venetian Party.
As the result of these events, the shadow government formally took charge of the official state apparatus. The intelligence operations formerly housed at the East India Company were henceforth run out of the Foreign Ministry and the British Secret Intelligence Services (SIS).
A postscript on Lord Gordon, Shelburne's agent provocateur: After a brief stay in the Tower of London, foreshortened by Shelburne's personal intervention with the crown, Lord Gordon made off to friendlier ground in the Netherlands, where, to the astonishment of his Scottish Presbyterian cronies, he became a convert to Jewish cabbalism, taking the name Israel Bar Abraham. He shortly thereafter surfaced in Paris as an occult adviser to Marie Antoinette, and from that position participated in Shelburne's intrigues against the French Bourbons.
The Jacobin insurrection in Paris during 1791-93 was a replay on grander scale of the earlier Shelburne-instigated Gordon Riots, down to the storming of the Bastille prison and the unleashing of the criminals.
As early as 1763, in a famous carriage ride from Edinburgh to London, Shelburne had commissioned two works from one of his East India Company scribblers, Adam Smith. First, he had commissioned Smith to prepare the research outlines for the study that would be later completed by another India House propagandist, Edward Gibbon, on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire--a study critical to Shelburne's commitment to establish a new third Roman Empire headquartered in London. In addition, he ordered the preparation of an apologia for free trade, which Smith completed in 1776 under the title The Wealth of Nations.
In 1787, Shelburne's leading intelligence agent Jeremy Bentham went one better than Smith by publishing a series of letters from Russia that were assembled in a pamphlet titled In Defense of Usury. The final letter, addressed to Smith, chastized the India House economist for not going far enough in his embrace of unbridled monetary dictatorship. Bentham demanded an end to all restrictions on usurious interest rates, employing the liberal argument that suppression of usury stifles invention. Smith immediately wrote of Bentham's In Defense of Usury, ``The work is one of a superior man.''
Shelburne's own most eloquent plea for unbridled free trade and usury came during his brief tenure as prime minister from 1782 to 1783. Although he had formerly preferred to steer British politics from behind the scenes in his capacity as chairman of the three-man ``Secret Committee'' of the East India Company, Shelburne felt compelled to briefly take the formal reins of government in order to ensure the launching of his new British imperium.
Shelburne's policy of unbridled free trade between Britain and the United States nearly destroyed the American republic in its cradle. Some of the American Founding Fathers clearly understood the danger in Shelburne's free trade ruse. They launched a crucial debate over the need for a strong federal constitution. But for the Federalist debate and the resulting United States Constitution of 1787, Shelburne's scheme for rapidly bankrupting and re-absorbing North America into the British imperial domain, would have probably succeeded.
Alexander Hamilton was blunt in his Federalist Paper No. 11, published in November 1787: ``The adventurous spirit ... of America has already excited uneasy sensations in several of the maritime powers of Europe.... If we continue united, we may counteract a policy so unfriendly to our prosperity in a variety of ways.... Suppose for instance, we had a government in America, capable of excluding Great Britain from all our ports; what would be the probable operation of this step upon her politics? Would it not enable us to negotiate, with the fairest prospect of success, for commercial privileges of the most valuable and extensive kind in the dominion of that kingdom?''
Jacques Necker, a Geneva-born, Protestant, slavishly pro-British banker, had been installed through the efforts of Shelburne's leading ally in France, Philippe Duke of Orléans, as finance minister. Necker's daughter, the infamous Madame de Staël, would later run one of Shelburne's most important Parisian salons.
Although Necker had failed to block France from allying with the Americans during the American Revolution, he did succeed in presiding over the depletion of the French treasury and the collapse of its credit system.
Economic crisis across France was the precondition for political chaos and insurrection, and Shelburne readied the projected destabilization by creating a ``radical writers' shop'' at Bowood staffed by Bentham, the Genevan Etienne Dumont, and the Englishman Samuel Romilly. Speeches were prepared by Bentham and translated and transported by diplomatic pouch and other means to Paris, where leaders of the Jacobin Terror, Jean-Paul Marat, Georges Jacques Danton, and Maximilien de Robespierre delivered the fiery oratories. Records of East India Company payments to these leading Jacobins are still on file at the British Museum.
At the same time, Bentham was proposing to assume the post of chief jailer of the Jacobin Terror, which sent many of France's greatest scientists and pro-American republicans to the guillotine or to prison. Bentham made no bones about his loyalties: In accepting the honorary title of Citizen of France, Bentham wrote to the Jacobin interior minister in October 1792: ``I should think myself a weak reasoner and a bad citizen, were I not, though a royalist in London, a republican in Paris.''
Bentham's Panopticon scheme was a slave labor camp first designed by him in Russia in 1787 while he was visiting his brother, a Shelburne spy. Asked by Prince Potemkin, the prime minister of Catherine the Great, to help procure a steam engine to build up Russian industry, Bentham argued that human labor--not steam power--ought to be sufficient.
His design, complete with elaborate architectural drawings, called for criminals, the indigent, and the retarded--along with their children--to be placed in jail cells equipped with primitive machinery run by a central power source, which in turn would be fueled by swings, merry-go-rounds, and see-saws in the children's cellblock. The energy expended by the children playing with the toys would drive the factory. A central guardroom equipped with two-way mirrors would permit one guard to oversee the slave labor of hundreds. Above the main door of the Panopticon was to be a sign, reading: ``Had they been industrious when free, they need not have drudged here like slaves.''
During his tour of Russia and the Ottoman Empire, when he devised his Panopticon scheme and wrote In Defense of Usury, Bentham wrote in his diary: ``It is an old maxim of mine that interest, as love, should be free.''
In the wake of the initial success in forcing France to its knees with the Jacobin Terror, Bentham sponsored several generations of philosophical radicals, ranging from his closest protégés, James Mill and John Bowring, to Mill's son John Stuart Mill, Thomas Carlyle, and David Urquhart. Carlyle, under the watchful eye of J.S. Mill, penned the official British history of the French Revolution, needless to say burying the role of the Shelburne-Bentham cabal in that blood-soaked tragedy. Bowring, Bentham's long-suffering personal secretary, would later supervise the publication of Bentham's collected works in an 11-volume series; would serve as Lord Palmerston's agent-handler of the notorious Giuseppe Mazzini; and would instigate the Second Opium War against China from his post as emissary in Canton. Urquhart, one of the youngest of the Benthamites, would later become the agent-handler for Karl Marx.
Upon his death in 1832, Bentham's body was dissected and stuffed; his head was cast in bronze and placed at his feet, with a mask affixed in its place. For years, the mummified Bentham, seated in his favorite chair inside a glass case, was an ever-present participant in meetings of his radical circle. In the 1990s, the mummy would still enjoy a place of prominence at London University.
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