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Bentham on Spanish Protectionism*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 January 2009


In 1821, John Bowring published, probably with only his own additions, a manuscript of Bentham's under the title of Observations on the restrictive and prohibitory commercial system: especially with a reference to the Decree of the Spanish Cortes of July 1820. It seems likely that Bentham's text was originally conceived as an appendix to a work that Bentham never published, ‘Rid Yourselves of Ultramaria’, a commentary on Spanish colonization.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1992

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An earlier draft of this article was presented at the Conference of the International Bentham Society, University College London, 1987. We wish to thank the participants for their comments. We are also grateful for the help and suggestions received from F. Rosen, S. Conway and P. Schofield.


1 Observations on the restrictive and prohibitory system: especially with a reference to the decree of the Spanish Cortes of July 1820. ‘Leave us alone’; from the MSS of Bentham, Jeremy by Bowring, John, London, 1821, pp. xi + 44Google Scholar. Also in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, ed. Bowring, John, 11 vols., Edinburgh, 18381843, iii. 85103Google Scholar. We shall use the text as in Jeremy Bentham's Economic Writings, ed. Stark, W., 3 vols., London, 19521954, iii. 383417Google Scholar. Cf. also Atkinson, C. M., Jeremy Bentham. His Life and Work, New York, 1969 edn., p. 195.Google Scholar

2 Stark, , i. 52.Google Scholar

3 Braun, C. Rodriguez, ‘“Libraos de Ultramar”. Bentham frente a España y sus colonias’, Revista de Historia Económica, iii (1985), 497509CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and La cuestión colonial y la economía clásica. De Adam Smith y Jeremy Bentham a Karl Marx, Madrid, 1989.Google Scholar

4 de la Escosura, L. Prados, De imperio a natión. Crecimiento y atraso económico en España (17801930), Madrid, 1988, ch. 2.Google Scholar

5 Farreras, J. Nadal, Comercio exterior y subdesarrollo. España y Gran Bretaña de 1772 a 1914: Político económico. y relaciones comerciales, Madrid, 1978, pp. 77 and 80.Google Scholar

6 Cf. Velarde, J., ‘La evolución de la economía en los últimos 25 años’, in Cuatro rasgos del vivir en España, ed. Zaragoza, F. Mayor et al. , Farmaindustria, Madrid, 1989, pp. 127–30.Google Scholar

7 J. Canga Arguelles, ‘Memoria sobre los presupuestos de los gastos, de los valores de las contribuciones y rentas publicas de la Nación española, y de los medios para cubrir el déficit, que presenta a las Cortes ordinarias de 1820 D. José Canga Argüelles, Secretario de Estado y del Despacho Universal de Hacienda de España y de Ultramar; leida en las sesiones de 13 y 14 de Julio de 1820’, Diario de las Sesiones de Cortes, Appendix to No. 9, 13 07 1820, pp. 79122Google Scholar. See especially pp. 107–8, 110–11 and 120–1. Illuminating debates on duties on pp. 1059–66 and 1873–83. A sample of Spain's protectionist tradition on pp. 1698–9, but an able quotation of Hume and the price-specie-flow mechanism on p. 1874.

8 The wording of Report and Decree is indeed almost identical. Compare Diario de las Sesiones de Cortes, No. 58, 31 08 1820, pp. 746–8Google Scholar and Decree XLVI of 5 October 1820, ‘Se establece un arancel general de aduanas’, in Colección de Reales Decretos, 1820–21, pp. 170–8.Google Scholar

9 The Report was officially read as such on 31 August and enforced as a decree on 5 October 1820. Cf. Diario de las Sesiones de Cortes, Nos. 58 and 93, 31 08 and 5 10 1820, pp. 746–8 and 1416Google Scholar. Ironically, a fortnight after the publication of the decree, the Cortes agreed to concede an ‘honorific mention’ to Bentham in the Diario de Sesiones, appreciating Bentham's ‘warm feelings’ towards Spain. Cf. Stark, , iii. 385nGoogle Scholar and the ‘mención honorifica’ to Bentham in Diario de las Sesiones de Cortes, No. 108, 20 10 1820, p. 1797.Google Scholar

10 UC xxii. 268–74Google Scholar are marginal sheets, in the hand of a copyist, and headed ‘Spanish Anticommercial Decree’ or ‘Spanish Prohibitory Decree’. There are drafts, in Bentham's hand, headed ‘Rid Yourselves. Appendix—Prohibition Decree’, on the verso of the following sheets in UC clx: 252, 253, 255, 260–5, 278, 285, 299, 301, 339, 340, 344, 347–9 and 364–7Google Scholar. In addition, UC clx. 300v is headed ‘Spanish Anticommercial Decree’; clx. 345v and 350v are headed ‘Rid Yourselves’; and clx. 351 is headed ‘Emancipation Spanish’. It can be noted that these sheets appear to contain most of the general economic reasoning of the Observations, but very few particulars on the situation of Spain and nothing on her American colonies.

11 The previous name of the work, ‘Emancipation Spanish’, was changed to ‘Rid Yourselves of Ultramaria’ sometime in 1820. Bentham probably wrote ‘Ultramaria’ inspired by the Ultramar mentioned in the Cádiz Constitution.

12 Consejos que dirige a, las Cortes y al pueblo español Jeremías Bentham (1820)Google Scholar, translated by José Joaquin de Mora.

13 UC lx. 66 and 67.Google Scholar

14 Estelle, M. P., ‘Un proyecto de código para Chile’, Revista Chilena de Darecho, iv (1977), 359–63Google Scholar. It should be noted that O'Higgins's name is not mentioned in this article.

15 Stark, , iii. 390.Google Scholar

16 Ibid., 403.

17 Ibid., 408.