Fragment on Government

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Fragment on Government (1776) was Jeremy Bentham's first book, written to refute Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England. Bentham rejected Blackstone's celebrated treatise which set out the legal basis of the British constitution, because it perpetuated myths such as the doctrines of ‘mixed’ government and ‘separation’ and ‘balance’ of powers. Moreover, Blackstone confused fact with value, lending spurious legitimacy to whatever laws were in place. Bentham sought to flush out these errors, and ‘break loose from the trammels of authority and ancestor-wisdom on the field of law’, substituting the rational principle of utility for the irrational practice of tradition.

Tim S. Gray