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Philosophic Radicals

John Stuart Mill once said of Jeremy Bentham that he “has been in this age and country the great questioner of things established.” To Bentham more than to any other source “might be traced the questioning spirit, the disposition to demand the why of everything.” It was largely owning to Bentham's influence that “the yoke of authority has been broken” among thinking people, and “innumerable opinions, formerly received on tradition, as incontestable, are put upon their defense, and required to give an account of themselves.”

In a polemical flourish that overlooked Thomas Paine (among others), Mill went on to ask: “Who, before Bentham…, dared to speak disrespectfully, in express terms, of the British Constitution or the English law? He did so; and his arguments and ...

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