Colonies, Commerce, and Constitutional Law is a major theoretical analysis of the harmful effects of colonies on commerce and constitiutional democracy, and is one of the most important studies of colonialism written in the nineteenth century. Of the four essays collected in this voloume, three have been edited directly from the original manuscript sources. The only essay to have appeared in print, 'Observations on the Restrictive and Prohibitory Commercial System', is generally regarded as an early classic statement of the beneficial effects of freedom of trade. In the these pioneering essays written in 1820-2, Bentham provided a penetrating critique of colonialism from within the liberal utilitarian tradition. Applying his general principles to the case of Spain and Spanish America, he argued that any attempt by Spain to maintain dominion over her Empire, or even to maintain a claim to the dominion was fundamentally misguided. Colonies were not a source of wealth to the colonizing country, but rather led to the imposition of increased taxation.
Moreover, the existence of colonies increased the amount of patronage at the disposal of Spain's rulers, and thus would facilitate the corruption of the members of the new legislative assembly and eventually lead to the restoration of the ancient despotism. Colonies were not only wasteful and expensive, but posed a threat to constitutional government itself. The should therefore be granted unconditional independence, as a prererequisite to the establishment of unrestricted commercial relations, which would produce mutual benefit to both Spain and Spanish Amarica.
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Publisher: Oxford University Press
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