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I.: As to analogous changes of opinion in different spheres and also in the lives of individuals. - Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (LF ed.) 
Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century, edited and with an Introduction by Richard VandeWetering (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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As to analogous changes of opinion in different spheres and also in the lives of individuals.
Let us here consider rather more fully a matter several times touched upon in the foregoing lectures, namely, the relation between legislative and theological opinion.
The partial coincidence in point of time between the reign of Benthamism in the field of legislation and of Evangelicalism in the religious world is obvious. The influence of each was on the increase from the beginning of the nineteenth century, and reached its height about 1834–35. From that date until about 1860 utilitarian philosophy and Evangelical theology were each dominant in England. By 1870, however, it was manifest that Benthamism and Evangelicalism had each lost much of their hold upon Englishmen. This decline of authority, when once it became noticeable, was rapid. In the England of to-day the very names of Benthamites and of Evangelicals are forgotten. Their watchwords are out of date. Many ideas, it is true, which we really owe to Bentham and his followers, or to Simeon and his predecessors, exert more power than would be suspected from the current language of the time. But as living movements Benthamism and Evangelicalism are things of the past. Have they no real inter-connection or similarity? To this question many critics will reply with a decided negative. It appears at first sight a hopeless paradox to contend that the doctrines of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill had any affinity with the faith of Simeon, of Wilberforce, and of Zachary Macaulay. The political reformers were Radicals, or, in the language of their day, democrats; they were certainly freethinkers, and must sometimes in the eyes of Evangelicals have appeared infidels, if not atheists; they assuredly attached no value to any theological creed whatever; their only conception of church reform1 was to make the Church of England a fit instrument for the propagation of utilitarian morality. The Evangelical leaders, on the other hand, were Tories; they were men of ardent personal piety; to Bentham and his followers they must have seemed bigots; their efforts were directed to the revival, throughout the nation, of religious fervour. The only kind of church reform which enlisted their sympathy was the removal of all abuses, such as pluralism, which hindered the Church of England from being the effective preacher of what they held to be saving truth. Evangelicalism, in short, with its gaze constantly directed towards the happiness or terrors of a future life, might well be considered the direct antithesis of utilitarianism, which looked exclusively to the promotion in this world of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The difference is nothing else than the gulf which severs religion from secularism. Yet as we can now see, Benthamism and Evangelicalism represented the development in widely different spheres of the same fundamental principle, namely, the principle of individualism.2
The appeal of the Evangelicals to personal religion corresponds with the appeal of Benthamite Liberals to individual energy. Indifference to the authority of the Church is the counterpart of indifference to the authoritative teaching or guidance of the State or of society. A low estimate of ecclesiastical tradition, aversion to, and incapacity for inquiries into the growth or development of religion, the stern condemnation of even the slightest endeavour to apply to the Bible the principles of historical criticism, bear a close resemblance to Bentham’s contempt for legal antiquarianism, and to James Mill’s absolute blindness to the force of the historical objections brought by Macaulay against the logical dogmatism embodied in Mill’s essay on government. Evangelicals and Benthamites alike were incapable of applying the historical method, and neither recognised its value nor foresaw its influence.3 The theology, again, which insisted upon personal responsibility, and treated each man as himself bound to work out his own salvation,4 had an obvious affinity to the political philosophy which regards men almost exclusively as separate individuals, and made it the aim of law to secure for every person freedom to work out his own happiness.
Nor from one point of view was Evangelical teaching opposed to the fundamental dogma of Benthamism. Paley’s Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, of which the publication5 preceded by four years the appearance of Bentham’s treatise on the Principles of Morals and Legislation,6 was the extension of the greatest-happiness principle to the sphere of religion, and Paley was accepted by the religious world of England as the philosophic theologian of the age. Nor need this excite surprise. The preachers who, whether within or without the limits of the Church of England, aroused the consciences of Englishmen to a sense of religious and moral duty by appeals to the dread of hell-fire in the next world, and the thinkers who pressed upon Englishmen the necessity and wisdom of promoting in this world, in so far as law could accomplish the end, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, relied alike, in theory at least, upon the principle of utility, which bade every man to strive for the attainment, whether in this world or in any other, of the greatest possible happiness. Practically both the preachers and the philosophers appealed to much nobler feelings than the mere desire to avoid pain or to enjoy pleasure. Evangelical teachers and philosophic Radicals urged their disciples, though in very different ways, to lead better and nobler lives; they appealed, as regards matters of national concern, to the public spirit and to the humanity of Englishmen; they excited among all whom they could influence the hatred of palpable injustice, and felt themselves, and kindled among others, a special abhorrence for that kind of oppression which manifestly increased human suffering. Wesley on his death-bed wrote to encourage Wilberforce in his “glorious enterprise, in opposing that execrable villany [the slave trade] which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature,”7 whilst Bentham in a later year wrote to express his sympathy with the exertions of Wilberforce “in behalf of the race of innocents, whose lot it has hitherto been to be made the subject-matter of depredation, for the purpose of being treated worse than the authors of such crimes are treated for those crimes in other places.”8 It is indeed a coincidence that one can thus link together the names of Wesley and Bentham; but it is no mere coincidence.
This community of feeling9 points to the humanitarianism which, during the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, was in England the noblest trait alike of religious and of philosophic reformers. In minor, though significant, characteristics the moral tone of Benthamism is akin to Evangelicalism. Bentham, says J. S. Mill,
both wrote and felt as if the moral standard ought not only to be paramount (which it ought), but to be alone; as if it ought to be the sole master of all our actions, and even of all our sentiments; as if either to admire or like, or despise or dislike a person for any action which neither does good nor harm, or which does not do a good or a harm proportioned to the sentiment entertained, were an injustice and a prejudice. He carried this so far, that there were certain phrases which, being expressive of what he considered to be this groundless liking or aversion, he could not bear to hear pronounced in his presence. Among these phrases were those of good and bad taste. He thought it an insolent piece of dogmatism in one person to praise or condemn another in a matter of taste: as if men’s likings and dislikings, on things in themselves indifferent, were not full of the most important inferences as to every point of their character; as if a person’s tastes did not show him to be wise or a fool, cultivated or ignorant, gentle or rough, sensitive or callous, generous or sordid, benevolent or selfish, conscientious or depraved.10
May not this failing of Bentham, with some plausibility at least, be charged against the religious world of which Simeon was the hero and the saint?11 Evangelicals assuredly did not exaggerate the value of the aesthetic side of human nature, and the High Church movement, looked at from one side, was a revolt against that underestimate of taste which was common to the philanthropy and to the religion of 1834. Nor is the abhorrence of ardent utilitarians for declamation, sentiment, or vague generalities12 altogether unlike the distaste which may be observed in some of the ablest and best of Evangelical teachers for anything indefinite, vague, or mystical.13 However this may be, it can hardly be doubted that Benthamism and Evangelicalism each represent different forms of individualism, and to this owe much of their power.14
Hence the Church movements, which from one side or another have attacked and undermined the power of Evangelicalism have, as the assailants of individualism, been in the social or political sphere the conscious or unconscious allies of collectivism. Any movement which emphasises the importance of the Church as a society of Christians must, in the long run, direct men’s thoughts towards the importance of the State as the great political and moral organism of which individual citizens are members. This is true of teachers whom no one would dream of placing among High Churchmen.
Dr. Arnold and F. D. Maurice each brought into prominence the idea of a Christian’s position as a member of the Church. Dr. Arnold carried this idea so far as to advocate a fusion between Church and State which should exclude from citizenship any man avowedly not a Christian, and Arnold, as we have seen, stood apart from the Liberals of his day by his denunciation of laissez faire and his opposition to the whole view of life and society represented by Benthamism. Maurice was so profoundly impressed with the evils of unrestricted competition that, at a time when socialists were decried throughout England, he and his disciples preached the doctrine, if they did not create the name, of Christian socialism.
The High Church movement of 1834 was at its origin guided by Tories who supported authority in the State as well as in the Church. These leaders were occupied almost exclusively with questions of dogma or of church discipline. They took little interest in, and showed small sympathy with, the humanitarianism which commanded the ardent support of Evangelicals.15 Between 1830 and 1840 it might well seem that the Oxford movement would not tell upon the course of social reforms, but, as the century wore on, it became apparent that the new prominence given to the idea of churchmanship would directly, and still more indirectly, affect the course of philanthropic efforts. It may without unfairness be asserted, that partly under the influence of the High Church movement, zeal for the promotion of that personal humanitarianism—if the expression may be allowed—which meant so much to the reformers (whether Benthamites or Evangelicals) of an earlier generation has declined, but, on the other hand, men and especially ecclesiastics, anxious to promote the physical, as well as the moral welfare of the people, have of recent years exhibited towards the socialism of the wage-earners a sympathy as unknown to Bentham as to Wilberforce. This difference is one easier to perceive than to define. It is a change of moral attitude which is very closely connected with the reaction against individualism, and if stimulated by the High Church movement, is not confined to teachers of any one school or creed. Westcott,16 an Anglican bishop, and Manning, an English cardinal,17 have each composed, or attempted to compose, conflicts between the parties to a strike, and have been actuated therein by admitted sympathy with wage-earners. Nor is it a far-fetched idea that in certain circles, at least, the attacks made by Professor T. H. Green and other impressive teachers on the assumptions of utilitarianism and individualism may have facilitated the combination, not unnatural in itself, of church doctrine with socialistic sympathies.18 The attack on individualism, then, in any sphere means the promotion of a state of public feeling which fosters the growth of collectivism in the province of law.
Politics are not the same thing as law, but in modern England any revolution in political ideas is certain to correspond with alterations in legislative opinion. If then we take care not to confound the accidental division of parties with essential differences of political faith,19 we discover a change in the world of politics which closely resembles, if it be not rather a part of, the transition, with which these lectures have been occupied, from individualism to collectivism. One example of this change in political opinion is to be found in the altered attitude of the public towards peace and economy. During the era of Benthamism “peace and retrenchment” were the watchwords of all serious statesmen.20 This formula has now fallen out of remembrance. The point to be noted is that this fact is significant of a very profound revolution in political belief. The demand for peace abroad and economy at home stood in very close connection with the passion for individual freedom of action which was a leading characteristic of Benthamite liberalism. Peace ought to mean light, and war certainly does mean heavy taxation, but heavy taxation whether justifiable, as it often is, or not, always must be a curtailment of each citizen’s power to employ his property in the way he himself chooses. It is an interference, though in many cases a quite justifiable interference, with his liberty. The augmentation, moreover, of the public revenue by means of taxation is not only a diminution of each taxpayer’s private income and of his power within a certain sphere to do as he likes, but also an increase in the resources and the power of the State; but to curtail the free action of individuals, and to increase the authority of the Government, was to pursue a policy opposed to the doctrine, and still more to the sentiment of Benthamite Liberals. Indifference to the mere lightening of taxation, as an end absolutely desirable in itself, is assuredly characteristic of a state of opinion under which men expect far more benefit for the mass of the people from the extension of the power of the State than from the energy of individual action. No doubt collectivists may hold that the proceeds of heavy taxes are wasted or are spent on the effort to attain objects in themselves undesirable; but the mere transference of the wealth of individuals to the coffers of the State cannot appear to a collectivist,21 as it did to the individualistic Radicals of 1830, to be in itself a gigantic evil. We may put side by side with the decline of the economic radicalism represented in the last generation by Joseph Hume,22 both the growth of imperialism, and the discredit which has fallen upon the colonial policy of laissez faire connected with the name of Cobden. For imperialism, whatever its merits and demerits, bears witness to a new-born sense among Englishmen of their membership in a great imperial State. From whichever side the matter be looked at, the changes of political show a close correspondence with the alterations of legislative opinion.
Political economy and jurisprudence were between 1830 and 1850 little more than branches of utilitarianism.
The dismal science denounced by Carlyle seemed to him and his disciples simply the extreme expression of a philosophy which in their eyes was based on selfishness. The notion, indeed, that enthusiastic philanthropists were guided by nothing but the dictates of self-interest, now needs no confutation. What is worth attention is that Malthus, Senior, and McCulloch, and the so-called orthodox economists, were in popular imagination, and not without reason, identified with the philosophic Radicals; whilst the dogmas of political economy were considered to be articles of the utilitarian creed. The economists were in truth strenuous individualists. A statement somewhere to be found in Bagehot’s works, that every treatise on political economy which he read in his youth began with the supposition that two men were cast on an uninhabited island, means, in reality, that economical doctrines were then inferences drawn from the way in which the supposed “economical man” would act, if he and others were left each of them free to pursue his own interest. Economics were based on individualism. Whatever may be the soundness of deductions drawn from the possible conduct of imagined human beings placed, for the sake of argument, in an imaginary state of freedom, two things are pretty clear: the one (which has already been dwelt upon), that the habit of regarding men as isolated individuals was characteristic of the period of Benthamism; the other, that this mode of considering human beings apart from their relation to society has, in economics as elsewhere, gone more or less out of fashion. In economics, as in other spheres of thought, our tendency now is to regard human beings as members of society or persons who are by nature citizens.
Jurisprudence was in the hands of Austin, as of James Mill and of Bentham, the application to existing legal conceptions of that analysis of current ideas to which Benthamites devoted their powers. The object of Austin’s Province of Jurisprudence Determined is simply to analyse with accuracy “law,” “sovereignty,” “obligation,” and other legal expressions, which ordinary Englishmen in a vague way understand, but to which until aided by careful definition they attach no very precise meaning.23 This analytical method, which was pursued by the Benthamites in every department of thought, and which characterises their ethical and economical speculations no less than their jurisprudence, has no connection with historical inquiry or research, which it practically discourages or excludes. Austin’s Province of Jurisprudence Determined was published in 1832. It belongs in its whole tendency to the era of the Reform Act. It is a work of rare power, but when first published did not obtain any wide notice. The second edition appeared, after the author’s death, in 1861,24 and then assuredly affected the thoughts of many readers. But by one of the curious paradoxes of which history is full, Austin’s work produced its greatest effect just at the time when the power of the school to which he belonged was passing away. The second edition of his Jurisprudence was, by the date of its publication, placed in curious juxtaposition with another celebrated book which also appeared in 1861, and brought into fashion among Englishmen a new spirit of legal speculation. In Maine’s Ancient Law: its Connectionwith the Early History of Society and its Relation to Modern Ideas—the full title of the book is very significant—you can still indeed trace the deep respect felt by him and his generation for Bentham. We may even doubt whether he distinctly realised the breach between his own theories and Benthamite doctrine.25 But though Maine may have looked from a legislative point of view with favour on the principle of utility, his Ancient Law and his other works have no more to do with utilitarianism than with any other ethical theory. Under his guidance we pass from the analysis to the history of legal ideas. We are introduced to the historical method.
Let us now turn from alterations of view in different departments of thought to similar revolutions of beliefs recorded in the lives of known leaders of public opinion.
This mode of looking at our subject has one great advantage: it affords protection against that fallacy of abstraction which consists in the delusion that abstract terms, such as optimism, individualism, Benthamism, collectivism, and the like, afford the explanation of facts, of which they are no more than the summary, and therefore always imperfect statement. Public opinion itself is, after all, a mere abstraction; it is not a power which has any independent existence; it is simply a general term for the beliefs held by a number of individual human beings. If we are not to become the dupes of abstract conceptions, we must individualise them and fix our attention upon the thoughts and beliefs of men who have lived and worked, and whose ideas are known to us through their conduct, their writings, or their biographies. We had far better think about Blackstone than about Blackstonianism, about Bentham or the two Mills than about Benthamism, about Sadler and Lord Shaftesbury than about the undeveloped socialism of the factory movement. The change, at any rate, from individualism to collectivism is best exemplified and explained by the lives of such leaders of thought or action. My meaning is well illustrated by the careers of Harriet Martineau, of Charles Dickens, and of John Mill. They all of them began life well imbued with the liberalism of their day. Before their lives came to an end, they had each of them deviated, more than they themselves probably perceived, from the creed of their youth, and had gone a good way along the path which led from the individualism of their early years towards the socialism of 1900.
Harriet Martineau (1802–1876) was not in a technical sense a disciple of Bentham, but when she first came before the public she was the incarnation of the liberalism of 1832–1834. To her the Reform Act was the new birth of the nation; she belonged to the generation of Liberals who, to use her own words, “saw in the parliamentary reform of Lord Grey a noble beginning of a great work which it might take centuries to perfect, and in every stage of which the national mind would renew its strength and gain fresh virtue and wisdom.” The Municipal Corporations Act, the reform of the Poor Law, the founding of Mechanics’ Institutes, the cheapening of books and newspapers, the diffusion of useful knowledge, and, above all, the education of the common people in the tenets of sound political economy and Malthusianism, would, she firmly believed, regenerate the world. When all but daunted by the difficulty of finding, in 1831, a publisher for her Stories in Illustration of Political Economy, she kept up her courage by repeating to herself, “the people wanted the book, and they should have it.” For to her and to the Liberals of the day these tales were no mere stories; they were the popularisation of a saving faith.
The “tales” are now an unreadable mixture of fiction, founded on rapid cramming, with raw masses of the dismal science. They certainly show the true journalist’s talent of turning hasty acquisitions to account. But they are chiefly remarkable as illustrations of the contemporary state of mind, when the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge testified to a sudden desire for popularising knowledge, and when the political economists of the school of Malthus, Ricardo, and James Mill were beginning to have an influence upon legislation. A revelation of their doctrine in the shape of fiction instead of dry treatises just met the popular mood. The “stern Benthamites,” she says, thanked her as a faithful expositor of their doctrines.26
Thus writes in 1893 the not unfriendly and the ablest critic of utilitarianism: he describes with admirable clearness the way in which students of to-day must of necessity regard the didactic fiction of our authoress, and brings at the same time into the most vivid light the difference or the opposition between the sentiment of 1832 and the sentiment prevalent towards the end of the nineteenth century. He reminds us that Harriet Martineau began her career as the expositor and prophetess of the sternest Benthamism, and especially of its economic creed. She was, moreover, by nature a person of singular intellectual tenacity. To her mind has been applied the description, “wax to receive, and marble to retain.” If ever there lived a teacher of whom we might have expected unswerving faith in the creed of her youth, by the preaching whereof she had gained her fame, it was Harriet Martineau. Yet her History of the Thirty Years’ Peace, published in 1849, shows that, before the nineteenth century was half over, conceptions had intruded themselves upon her thoughts which were hardly reconcilable with the Benthamite individualism and the political economy of 1832. Whilst, for example, she on the whole still condemns the principles of the Factory Acts, she recognises with mixed sadness and perplexity that
the tremendous labour question remains absolutely untouched—the question whether the toil of a life is not to provide a sufficiency of bread. No thoughtful man can for a moment suppose that this question can be put aside. No man with a head and a heart can suppose that any considerable class of a nation will submit for ever to toil incessantly for bare necessaries—without comfort, ease, or luxury, now—without prospect for their children, and without a hope for their own old age. A social idea or system which compels such a state of things as this, must be, in so far, worn out. In ours, it is clear that some renovation is wanted, and must be found.27
Have we not here a confession that, whilst old toryism was dead, philosophic radicalism had proved in her judgment inadequate to ensure the welfare of the nation? One fact points with even more certainty towards a subtle and noteworthy change of fundamental feeling or conviction. The writer whose fictitious but faithful and pragmatical exposition of economical truth had in 1832 delighted the most rigid of the Benthamites, published in 1853 an English rendering of Comte’s Philosophie Positive; but Auguste Comte was assuredly a severe critic28 or formidable assailant of the economical doctrine whereof Harriet Martineau had been the preacher.
Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was not, and hardly affected to be, a systematic thinker. Happily for his own reputation and for his effect on the world, he placed his trust not in any scheme of doctrine, but in his sense of humour, in his amazing power of observation, and in his insight into character. But, just because he was no systematiser, he reflected with the greater rapidity and truth the varying sentiment of the age in which he lived. The ideas with which Dickens started in life have been traced by an acute critic to Bentham. “It does not seem to me,” writes Maine,
a fantastic assertion that the ideas of one of the great novelists of the last generation may be traced to Bentham. . . .
Dickens, who spent his early manhood among the politicians of 1832 trained in Bentham’s school, hardly ever wrote a novel without attacking an abuse. The procedure of the Court of Chancery and of the Ecclesiastical Courts, the delays of the Public Offices, the costliness of divorce, the state of the dwellings of the poor, and the condition of the cheap schools in the North of England, furnished him with what he seemed to consider, in all sincerity, the true moral of a series of fictions.29
And if in this estimate there is to be found a touch of paradox, it contains a far greater amount of substantial and important truth. Dickens, in 1846, seemed to himself and his friends a Radical of the Radicals; he was in that year appointed the first editor of the Daily News, and the Daily News was established to advocate radicalism, and radicalism as understood by Cobden and Bright; yet in 1854 Dickens published Hard Times. This tale is from beginning to end a crude satire on what Dickens supposed to be the doctrines of the political economists. Consider the opening words of the novel:
“Now, what I want,” says Mr. Gradgrind,
is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!30
And Gradgrind is the honest though narrow-minded disciple of Malthus and McCulloch. This gross caricature of an economist’s confession of faith strikes the key-note of the whole book. Dickens in 1846 was the editor of the organ of the Manchester school. In 1854 he has become the satirist and the censor of political economy and utilitarianism, and by this conversion earned for himself the vehement eulogy of John Ruskin.
The essential value and truth of Dickens’s writings have been unwisely lost sight of by many thoughtful persons, merely because he presents his truth with some colour of caricature. Unwisely, because Dickens’s caricature, though often gross, is never mistaken. Allowing for his manner of telling them, the things he tells us are always true. I wish that he could think it right to limit his brilliant exaggeration to works written only for public amusement; and when he takes up a subject of high national importance, such as that which he handled in Hard Times, that he would use severer and more accurate analysis. The usefulness of that work (to my mind, in several respects, the greatest he has written) is with many persons seriously diminished because Mr. Bounderby is a dramatic monster, instead of a characteristic example of a worldly master; and Stephen Blackpool a dramatic perfection, instead of a characteristic example of an honest workman. But let us not lose the use of Dickens’s wit and insight, because he chooses to speak in a circle of stage fire. He is entirely right in his main drift and purpose in every book he has written; and all of them, but especially Hard Times, should be studied with close and earnest care by persons interested in social questions. They will find much that is partial, and, because partial, apparently unjust; but if they examine all the evidence on the other side, which Dickens seems to overlook, it will appear, after all their trouble, that his view was the finally right one, grossly and sharply told.31
The literary value of the criticism which ranks Hard Times among the greatest of Dickens’s novels may be open to doubt, but Ruskin’s admiration assuredly bears witness to the changed attitude of a novelist who in early life had been indoctrinated with Benthamism. The alteration was, we take it, unconscious. The change thereby gains additional impressiveness as the record and even the anticipation of a revolution in the course of public opinion. Nor is the importance of this record diminished when one observes that in Hard Times an unmeasured attack on the economics and on the morality of individualism is accompanied by a vehement demand for freedom of divorce. Legislation which treats marriage mainly as a contract between husband and wife, and therefore dissolvable if it ceases to conduce to their happiness, harmonises with individualistic ideas; whether it will be found equally in harmony with the conviction that citizens are to be regarded primarily as parts of a social organism admits of discussion. The whole tone of Hard Times at any rate suggests that in 1854 Charles Dickens, with the sensitiveness of genius32 to the changes in the moral atmosphere of his age, combined beliefs which belonged to the still dominant Benthamism of the day, with sentiments appropriate to the approaching collectivism of the then coming time.
John Mill (1806–1873) was at the time of his death the acknowledged representative of utilitarianism. Indeed if we read between the lines of the Autobiography, we may conjecture that James Mill formed the deliberate design of so educating his son John that he might become the adherent, the defender, and the propagator of the philosophical, moral, political, and social creed to which James Mill was himself devoted. The father’s labours were crowned with a success which has rarely fallen to an educationalist. He developed in his son an unrivalled capacity for logical controversy and for the lucid statement of argument;33 he indelibly impressed on John’s mind faith in the fundamentals of the utilitarian creed, whilst inspiring him with the noble conviction that the propagation of truth and the service of mankind were the only worthy objects of ambition. He, lastly, left to his son and disciple a freedom of mind which fitted John Mill to think for himself, and thus to become not only a soldier, but a general, in the army of philosophic Radicals.
In Mill’s early manhood, however, the influences of the reaction of the nineteenth century against the eighteenth came streaming in upon him.34 The more rigid members of the utilitarian sect feared or lamented a defection from the true faith. Place, like Mrs. Grote and the other sectarian Benthamites, was grievously disappointed at a certain tendency in John Mill’s writings. “I think John Mill,” Place wrote in 1838, “has made great progress in becoming a German metaphysical mystic,”35 whilst in 1837 Mrs. Grote called him, in a letter to Place, “that wayward intellectual deity.” Neither the Westminster breeches-maker nor the sharp-tongued wife of George Grote were, it is true, discriminating critics, but Carlyle, with his keen insight into character, conjectured from some of Mill’s writings that he was a mystic. In plain fact Mill was between 1830 and 1840 deeply moved by the changing sentiment of the age. He conceived that the dogmas in which he had been educated represented but half the truth. He would willingly have taken to himself Goethe’s device of many-sidedness—a motto which, whatever its worth, was not applicable either to Bentham or to his followers. But when on his death-bed in 1873 Mill, according to current report, consoled some friend with the reflection, “I have done my work,” he said what was palpably true, and meant, we may conjecture, that he had throughout his career remained the honest and the powerful defender and exponent of the truths handed down to him by his teachers. It is certain that to the end of his life Mill was and would have described himself as a utilitarian. Yet the true peculiarity of John Mill’s position is that while to his dying day he defended principles derived from his father and from Bentham, he had to a great extent imbibed the sentiment, the sympathies, and the ideals of the later nineteenth century. The labour of his life was the reconciliation of inherited beliefs, from which he never departed, with moral and intellectual ideas and sympathies which, belonging to himself and to his time, were foreign, if not opposed, to the doctrines of his school. This double aspect of Mill’s work can be discerned in his writings.
His earliest literary task (1825) was the editing, which meant in fact the re-writing, of Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence.36 Towards the close of his life (1869) he re-edited James Mill’s Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind. In 1843 his System of Logic provided, for more than one generation of Englishmen, the logical foundation of Benthamism. This book, of which the last edition appeared in 1884, carried forward the traditional teaching of English philosophers on the lines originally laid down by Locke, whilst in 1861 the Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy constituted Mill’s final reply to one whom he regarded as the chief representative of the intuitionists. His Principles of Political Economy—first published in 1848, and continually republished till 1865—was built on the foundations of Ricardo and of Malthus. In 1859 appeared his treatise On Liberty; it gives utterance to the essentially individualistic idea of freedom. It is in style the most perfect, as it was in respect of influence the most effective of Mill’s writings. It revived the languishing enthusiasm of utilitarianism. It carried the crusade for liberty a stage farther than it had reached under the guidance of the older philosophic Radicals. They and the generation which followed their teaching had practically enforced the removal of almost all the checks placed by law on freedom of opinion. He went a step beyond this, and proclaimed a moral crusade against the bondage which, as he taught, social conventions imposed not only on freedom of opinion, but on freedom of conduct and on the free development of character.
Laissez faire, under Mill’s treatment, became for the youth of 1860 a war-cry urging on an assault upon a peculiarly insidious and, therefore, a specially dangerous form of oppression, and upon that tyranny of opinion which may exist as easily under the sovereignty of a democracy as under the despotism of a king. The appeal told immediately on the public to whom it was addressed; nor have its results been transient. It anticipated and fostered that absolute freedom of discussion37 as regards matters of politics, of religion, or of morality, which in England has marked the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Mill’s Utilitarianism (1863) afforded a popular apology for the greatest-happiness principle taught by Bentham, whilst his Representative Government (1861) is, from one point of view, a restatement of the arguments in favour of democracy. So far John Mill is the Benthamite apologist. His short parliamentary career is consistent with this position. He never conservatised, as did many of the men who in their youth had been philosophic Radicals. To him Tories always remained the “stupid party.” He told working men of their own faults with a manly freedom which excited the respect and applause of an audience of artisans, but he sympathised with every attempt to open the parliamentary suffrage to wage-earners, and, in rigid consistency with Benthamite doctrine, was specially eager to confer full political rights upon women.
Mill, however, though he always remained the representative of Benthamism, had before the end of his life deviated a great way from the teaching of the earlier utilitarians.
In 1838 he published his article on Bentham, and followed it up in 1840 with an article on Coleridge. They are clearly meant each to be the complement of the other. He placed both philosophers side by side as the two great seminal minds of England in their age.38 This of itself marks an extraordinary departure from the standard of criticism maintained among the school of Bentham. We may be certain that James Mill never wasted a compliment upon Coleridge, or upon Coleridge’s philosophy. It is easy to discover an analogous change in John Mill’s political creed. He remained indeed to his dying day a democrat. But his belief in democracy was very different in spirit from the confident democratic faith of his father. It was limited by the dread, inspired by Tocqueville, of the tyranny of the majority, and also by childlike trust in Hare’s mechanical device for the representation of minorities. The democrat who holds that the majority ought to rule, but that wisdom is to be found mainly in minorities, and that every possible means ought to be adopted to prevent the ignorant majority from abusing its power, has retreated a good way from the clear, the confident, and the dogmatic Radicalism of 1830.
Mill’s Liberty should be read together with his Utilitarianism and his Subjection of Women. It no doubt rekindled enthusiasm for one side of the Benthamite creed, but it emphasised ideas, and still more sentiments, alien to the convictions of John Mill’s teachers.39 An unskilful eulogist sometimes plays the part of a severe censor. Charles Kingsley wrote to Mill that the perusal of his Liberty “affected me in making me a clearer-headed, braver-minded man on the spot.”40 Such praise must, one thinks, have suggested to Mill himself the conviction, or possibly the fear, that he had achieved success by just that kind of appeal to emotion or to moral rhetoric which would have excited derision among the philosophic Radicals of his youth.
This tendency to address himself to the instinctive feelings of his readers is well illustrated by the one passage in the grave Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy which gained the attention and the sympathy of the general public. “I will call,” he wrote, “no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures; and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.”41 These expressions excited the enthusiastic approval of thousands of young men who in 1865 revered Mill as their philosopher and guide. They elicited the sympathy of teachers so much opposed to utilitarianism as Maurice and James Martineau, but are we sure that James Mill might not have read his son’s defiance of an unmoral deity with very dubious approval? Is it certain that he might not, with Mansel, have been amazed “at this extraordinary outburst of rhetoric”?42
With Mill’s theology we need not concern ourselves except to note that the Three Essays on Religion are marked by the same transition from one school of thought or feeling to another which is traceable in his other writings. More to our purpose is the gradual change discoverable in his economical and social opinions. He built his economical views upon the foundations of Ricardo and Malthus, but Malthusian principles appeared to him not as a barrier to progress, but as showing the conditions by which progress could be achieved. “If he appears to the modern socialist as a follower of Ricardo, he would have been regarded by Ricardo’s disciples as a socialist.”43 Mill, it appears, says the same writer, “was [in the latter part of his life] well on the way to State Socialism.”44 “In [Mill’s] case,” writes Henry Sidgwick, whose profound knowledge and absolute impartiality cannot be questioned,
we have the remarkable phenomenon that the author of the book which became, for nearly a generation, by far the most popular and influential text-book of Political Economy in England, was actually—at any rate when he revised the third and later editions—completely Socialistic in his ideal of ultimate social improvement. “I look forward,” he tells us, in his Autobiography, “to a time when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; and when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, in so great a degree as it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice.” Having this ideal, he “regarded all existing institutions and social arrangements as merely provisional, and welcomed with the greatest pleasure and interest all Socialistic experiments by select individuals.” In short, the study planted by Adam Smith and watered by Ricardo had, in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, imbibed a full measure of the spirit of Saint-Simon and Owen,—and that in England, the home of what the Germans call “Manchesterthum.”
I do not mean to suggest that those who learnt Political Economy from Mill’s book during this period went so far as their teacher in the adoption of Socialistic aims. This, no doubt, was far from being the case. Indeed—if I may judge from my own experience—I should say that we were as much surprised as the “general reader” to learn from Mill’s Autobiography that our master, the author of the much-admired treatise “On Liberty,” had been all the while looking forward to a time when the division of the produce of labour should be “made by concert.”45
Note, too, that while Mill remains a utilitarian to the end of his life, utilitarianism itself undergoes in his hands a sort of transformation. The principle of utility, or the greatest-happiness principle, which was taken to be a maxim of self-interest, becomes a precept of self-sacrifice, and the doctrine which teaches that every man must of necessity pursue his own happiness is made to lead to the conclusion that a good man of heroic mould will be willing to serve the happiness of others by the absolute sacrifice of his own.46 Whether this conclusion can be justly drawn from utilitarian premises may be left for the discussion of moralists. Thus much is certain, that the principle of utility, as expounded by Mill, is somewhat difficult to grasp, and is a very different thing from the simple and absolutely comprehensible notion that every man is by his own nature impelled to pursue his own happiness, and that the intelligent pursuit by each man of his well-understood interest will inevitably secure the greatest happiness of the greatest number. One may well wonder whether Bentham would have recognised his own doctrine in the exposition of it provided by the most eminent and faithful of his disciples.
Whether in this instance, and in others, Mill really succeeded in the attempt to reconcile principles, each of which he thought contained half the truth, may be doubtful. To some even of his admirers it may seem that he effected rather a juxtaposition or combination than a fusion or reconciliation of apparently opposed convictions. But however this may be, it is clear that John Mill was a teacher created for, and assured of a welcome in, an age of transition. The lucidity of his style, which may sometimes surpass the clearness of his thought, and the matchless skill in the arrangement of arguments, which occasionally disguises both from himself and from his readers a weakness in the links of his reasoning, his patent honesty, and his zeal for truth, constituted the intellectual foundation of his influence over the youth of 1860–1870. But other qualities of a different order enhanced his authority. His susceptibility to every form of generous emotion, combined, as it almost must be, with intense desire for, and appreciation of sympathy, made an author known to most Englishmen only by his writings something like the personal friend of his readers. His immediate influence is a thing of the past, but for the purpose of these Lectures it possesses a peculiar importance. The changes or fluctuations in Mill’s own convictions, bearing as they do in many points upon legislative opinion, are at once the sign, and were in England, to a great extent, the cause, of the transition from the individualism of 1830–1865 to the collectivism of 1900. His teaching specially affected the men who were just entering on public life towards 1870. It prepared them at any rate to accept, if not to welcome, the collectivism which from that time onwards has gained increasing strength.
[1. ]See pp. 228–229, ante.
[2. ]“The Evangelical movement,” writes Dr. Dale, “had its characteristic ἤθος or spirit, as well as its characteristic creed; and this ἤθος or spirit it is not hard to discover. Its supreme care in the days of its strength was not for any ideal of ecclesiastical polity; it contributed to the extinction among Congregationalists, and, I think, among Baptists and Presbyterians, of that solicitude for an ideal Church organisation which had so large a place in the original revolt of the Nonconformists against the Elizabethan settlement of the English Church. Nor were the Evangelical clergy zealous supporters of Episcopacy; their imagination was not touched by that great—though, as we believe false—conception of the Church which fired the passion of the leaders of the Tractarian Revival—a Church whose living ministers can claim to inherit, by unbroken succession, awful powers and prerogatives attributed to the original apostles. The Evangelical movement encouraged what is called an undenominational temper. It emphasised the vital importance of the Evangelical creed, but it regarded almost with indifference all forms of Church polity that were not in apparent and irreconcilable antagonism to that creed. It demanded as the basis of fellowship a common religious life and common religious beliefs, but was satisfied with fellowship of an accidental and precarious kind. It cared nothing for the idea of the Church as the august society of saints. It was the ally of individualism.”—R. W. Dale, The Old Evangelicalism and the New, pp. 16, 17.
[3. ]Note the account of Thomas Scott’s theology given about the middle of the nineteenth century by a sympathetic critic. It is clear that while Scott’s autobiography, published under the title of The Force of Truth, will retain a permanent place in religious literature as a record of personal experience, his mode of reasoning must be utterly unconvincing to a thinker of to-day. It is as much out of date as the argument of James Mill’s Government. It could not now be written by a man of anything like Scott’s intellectual power. See Sir J. Stephen, Ecclesiastical Biography, ii. p. 121, and following.
[4. ]When Wesley refused, though earnestly requested by his father, to leave Oxford, he wrote: “‘The question is not whether I could do more good to others there, than here; but whether I could do more good to myself, seeing wherever I can be most holy myself, there I can most promote holiness in others’” (cited Lecky, History of England, ii. p. 554, from Tyerman’s Wesley, i. p. 96). “‘My chief motive,’ he wrote, when starting for Georgia, ‘is the hope of saving my own soul. I hope to learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen’” (cited Lecky, History of England, ii. p. 554, from Tyerman’s Wesley, i. p. 115).
[6. ]The first edition of this book was printed in the year 1780, and first published in 1789.
[7. ]Stephen, Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, ii. p. 282.
[8. ]Ibid. p. 283. As to the relation between Wilberforce and Bentham see article by Burton, Westminster Review, xxxvii. (1842).
[9. ]Robert Hall, the most eloquent preacher of his day, was deeply respected and greatly admired by Evangelicals. He condemned the absence of religion in the writings of Miss Edgeworth, and had no sympathy with the theological scepticism of Bentham, but he nevertheless avowed his intense admiration for Bentham as a legislative reformer.
[10. ]J. S. Mill, Dissertations and Discussions, i. p. 388.
[11. ]“This is one of the peculiarities of the English mind; the Puritan and the Benthamite have an immense part of their nature in common; and thus the Christianity of the Puritan is coarse and fanatical;—he cannot relish what there is in it of beautiful, or delicate, or ideal.”—Arnold, Life, ii. p. 53.
[12. ]Mill, Autobiography, p. 111.
[13. ]See Venn Family Annals, p. 74.
[14. ]They both appealed to the strength, though also to the weaknesses, of the middle class. This explains how it happened that they each reached the height of their power at the time when, under the reformed Parliament of 1832, the middle classes guided the public life of England.
[15. ]Hurrell Froude excited the sympathetic admiration of the early Tractarians; his Remains were published in 1837, under the editorship of James Mozley, and with a preface by Newman; they were not afraid to publish without censure the following report of his feelings: “I have felt it a kind of duty to maintain in my mind an habitual hostility to the niggers, and to chuckle over the failures of the new system, as if these poor wretches concentrated in themselves all the Whiggery, dissent, cant, and abomination that have been ranged on their side.” . . . “I am ashamed I cannot get over my prejudices against the niggers.” . . . “Every one I meet seems to me like an incarnation of the whole Anti-Slavery Society, and Fowell Buxton at their head.”—Sir J. Stephen, Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, ii. pp. 188, 189.
[16. ]Life and Letters of B. Foss Westcott, ii. p. 115.
[17. ]See Dict. National Biography, xxxvi. pp. 66, 67. “On occasion of the strike of the London dock labourers in August 1889 [Manning] warmly espoused their cause, and materially contributed to bring about an adjustment of the dispute.”—Ibid.
[18. ]For the inclination of the Church party in France to favour a certain kind of socialism, see Pic, Traité Élémentaire de Législation Industrielle, ss. 354, 355.
[19. ]See p. 126, ante.
[20. ]Compare for the tone of English public life from 1830–1850, Martineau’s History of the Thirty Years’ Peace, and Walpole’s History of England, published 1878–1886, which embodies the sentiment of the era of reform, though the book is written rather from the Whig than from the Radical point of view.
[21. ]A sagacious collectivist may, indeed, look to some system of taxation as the best means for achieving that gradual transfer to the community of the wealth of individuals which, though it involves an immense inroad on personal freedom, might realise the ideals of socialism.
[22. ]No politician was a more typical representative of his time than Joseph Hume. He was a utilitarian of a narrow type; he devoted the whole of his energy to the keeping down or paring down of public expenditure. Even at the period of his greatest influence (1820–1850) his passion for economy met with as much derision as admiration. Still in his day, though he was never a popular hero, he commanded some real and more nominal support. He has left no successor; no member of Parliament has taken up Hume’s work. Could a politician who avowedly wished to follow in Hume’s steps now obtain a seat in the House of Commons?
[23. ]Jurisprudence was also in the minds of Benthamites most intimately connected with the doctrine of utility. This fact explains a peculiarity which often perplexes readers of Austin’s Jurisprudence. The whole line of his general argument is illogically broken by an interesting but long and irrelevant disquisition on the principle of utility. See Austin, Jurisprudence, Lects. III. and IV.
[24. ]In this edition the greater part of his lectures appeared not for the second but for the first time. [Editor’s note: This footnote was added in the second edition.]
[25. ]See Maine, Early History of Institutions, Lect. xii. p. 342. It is difficult, for example, to say whether Maine does or does not accept Austin’s analysis of sovereignty as sound, if it be taken as an account of the fully developed idea of sovereignty, as it exists in a modern civilised state such as England; but it is quite clear that he attaches an importance to the historical growth of conceptions, such as sovereignty or law, which was unknown to Austin, and to the school of Bentham.
[26. ]Martineau, Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xxxvi. pp. 310, 311, article by Leslie Stephen.
[27. ]Martineau, Thirty Years’ Peace, iv. (ed. 1878), p. 454. This is part of a passage which should be read as a whole.
[28. ]See Comte, Cours de Philosophie Positive, iv. Leçon 47, and pp. 263–286.
[29. ]Maine, Popular Government, p. 153.
[30. ]Dickens, Hard Times, p. 1.
[31. ]Ruskin, Unto This Last (2nd ed. 1877), pp. 14, 15 (n.), published 1860.
[32. ]In 1857 Dickens satirised in Little Dorrit the inefficiency of Government offices, i.e. attacked the action of the State as compared with that of individuals, and rendered his satire memorable by the invention of the term “circumlocution office.”
[33. ]Critics who perceive that this was the one object of James Mill’s educational efforts will regard with comprehension, if not with sympathy, his harsh and also absurd indignation when John, as a mere child, stated that something might be true in theory but not in fact. The least blunder in the boy’s logic threatened James Mill’s design with total failure.
[34. ]Autobiography, p. 161.
[35. ]Wallas, Life of Francis Place, p. 91.
[36. ]Autobiography, pp. 114–116.
[37. ]See p. 307, post.
[38. ]Dissertations, i. p. 331. Both articles were published after the death of James Mill.
[39. ]Sir J. F. Stephen’s Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity is a strenuous assault on the fundamental ideas of the treatise, On Liberty, but this forcible attack is little more than a vehement criticism of Mill from the point of view of the older utilitarians, and certainly shows that Mill had diverged considerably from Bentham. See Leslie Stephen, English Utilitarians, iii. p. 244.
[40. ]Life of Kingsley, ii. p. 88.
[41. ]Examination, p. 129.
[42. ]English Utilitarians, iii. p. 430.
[43. ]John Mill, Dict. of Nat. Biog. xxxvii. p. 398.
[44. ]English Utilitarians, iii. p. 230. “Sir Louis Mallet reports a conversation with him only a few days before his death, in which Cobden said with peculiar earnestness: ‘I believe that the harm which Mill has done to the world by the passage in his book on Political Economy in which he favours the principle of Protection in young communities has outweighed all the good which may have been caused by his other writings.’” “Quoted in a letter of Sir Louis Mallet, given in the Appendix to Mr. Gowing’s admirable Life of Richard Cobden (Cassell & Co.).” See Armitage Smith, The Free Trade Movement and its Results (1898 ed.), p. 153.
[45. ]Sidgwick, Miscellaneous Essays and Addresses, pp. 241, 242. Compare particularly L. Stephen, English Utilitarians, iii. pp. 224–237.
[46. ]Utilitarianism, p. 23.