About Jeremy Bentham
Bentham is named for Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), a famous English philosopher
and reformer. Over 200 years ago he wrote about the need to abolish the ancient
principles of maintenance and champerty, principles that, until recent times, had
created a barrier to the litigation funding industry.
Bentham’s work has profoundly influenced legal and social systems worldwide, including
our own. Bentham’s advocacy for social and legal reform was rooted in his philosophy
of utilitarianism: “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is
the measure of right and wrong.”
In 1787, Bentham wrote his celebrated “In Defense of Usury,” originally a series
of 13 letters to Adam Smith in response to passages in Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” Bentham believed champerty, maintenance and usury skewed the legal system in favor
of the wealthy:
[N]o man of ripe years and of sound mind, acting freely, and with his eyes open,
ought to be hindered, with a view to his advantage, from making such bargain, in
the way of obtaining money, as he thinks fit: nor, (what is a necessary consequence)
anybody hindered from supplying him, upon any terms he thinks proper to accede to.
This proposition, were it to be received, would level, you see, at one stroke, all
the barriers which law, either statute or common, have in their united wisdom set
up, either against the crying sin of Usury, or against the hard-named and little-heard-of
practice of Champerty; to which we must also add a portion of the multifarious,
and as little heard-of offence, of Maintenance.
Thanks to Bentham’s arguments, England repealed these rules. His general philosophy
is now widely incorporated in modern societies around the world.