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Panopticon Bill. Introductory Observations

With regard to the Chapter, either no means are given of distinguishing it from other Chapters
of the same Session, or if the distinction is made, it is by a recital of the Title. In the
first case, the reader is sent a hunting after the Statute he wants among a hundred or two
that he has nothing to do with: in the other case, his attention is bewildered by a heap of
extraneous and useless matter crammed into the belly of a sentence, which would be quite long
enough without any such parenthesis.#

Should any of these little particularities be deemed conducive in any degree to the purpose which
suggested them, they will, it must be confessed, stand proportionably exposed to the charge of
innovation. For one of the most striking and appropriate characteristics that distinguishes an Act
of Parliament, is its being so effectually weeded of all those little intellectual assistances which are
never omitted in any species of composition but that in which they are most wanted: and it
might be made a question whether if an express commission were given to a set of men, to make
the logical structure of the laws as difficult of access as possible, to those who are called upon to
square their conduct by it at their peril, it were possible to discover a plan better adapted to such
a purpose than that as yet in use.

If on the other hand this incomprehensibility be a defect, and if this defect is ever to have a
remedy, it seems impossible to point out a quieter mode of applying any such remedy, than
the introducing it in the way of precedent and silent experiment as here proposed. Great in
its possible effects, nothing can be safer than such an experiment in its operation: it committs
nobody: it binds nobody: it gives trouble to nobody: I mean, to nobody worth thinking about:
it is the experimentum in animâ vili, and in animâ volente, that will not shrink from it.

I say, in animâ vili: conceiving it out of doubt, that in all these minute respects
responsibility would rest on the evident author and penner of the Bill, and not on the Patrons
of it either in the Cabinet or in the House: and it is under that persuasion only, that I


#Instances might be found where the title alone would be enough to fill a small page,
while all that the Statute itself does is to turn an or into an and in some preceding Statute.

The Codes of Sweden, Denmark, and Sardinia are, each of them, comprised in a
very small volume. In the British Code the names only of the component Laws
of it, including the instances in which they are respectively repeated in the bodies of other Laws
would of themselves be enough to fill a volume not much inferior in bulk perhaps to any of those
three foreign Codes.

In the Mock-Tragedy of Chrononhothontologos the length of the name forms no
inconsiderable part of the ridicule of the piece. But a score of Chrononhothontologos's added to as
many Aldiberontiphoscophornio's would not come up the name of many an Act of Parliament.
Give a good set of names to the subjects of an art or science, the art or science is found
to have taken a sudden shoot. This, is already the case in Chemistry, in Botany, in every other
branch of Natural History. This might be, (but when will it be?) the case in Legislation.

Identifier: | JB/119/315/001
"JB/" can not be assigned to a declared number type with value 119.


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panopticon bill





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