The French Revolution provided Bentham with what appeared to him to be an exciting opportunity to influence the reconstruction of the French state. Drawing on his knowledge of English political and constitutional practice, as well as the theoretical resources he had developed in his own work, he suggested imaginative and innovative measures to achieve the peaceful and constitutional reform in France. In discussing the nature of representation, he produced the earliest utilitarian justification of political equality and representative democracy, even recommending women's suffrage. Moreover, he provided a major critique of the dominant constitutional theory of the division of power, including both the doctrine of the balance of powers and that of the separation of powers.
Turning his attention to Britain, for a time he advocated measures of parliamentary reform, but becoming disenchanted with the course of the Revolution, he produced the celebrated "Nonsense upon Stilts" (hitherto known as "Anarchical Fallacies"), the most devastating attack on the theory of natural rights ever written, in which he argued that natural rights provided an unsuitable basis for stable legal and political arrangements. All the essays published in this volume, with the exception of "Emancipate your Colonies!", an important early critique of colony-holding, are based on the original manuscript sources, many of which have not been previously published in any form.