Front Page Titles (by Subject) December 1822 to December 1824 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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December 1822 to December 1824 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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December 1822 to December 1824
EXCHANGEABLE VALUE 
This and the next letter, Mill’s first published writings, were occasioned by “Political Economy Club,” Traveller, 2 Dec., p. 3, by Robert Torrens (1780-1864), co-proprietor of the newspaper and a founding member of the Political Economy Club; the subject of Torrens’s article was the meeting of that Club to be held later that day. Mill’s reply brought forth a retort from Torrens in “Exchangeable Value,” Traveller, 7 Dec., p. 3, and the series terminated with a note by Torrens appended to Mill’s second letter. The exchange centred on the theory of value advanced in Elements of Political Economy (London: Baldwin, et al., 1821) by James Mill (1773-1836), J.S. Mill’s father; in his Autobiography Mill says his reply to Torrens was at his father’s “instigation” (CW, Vol. I, p. 89). Headed as title, with the subhead “To the Editor of the Traveller,” the items are described in Mill’s bibliography as “Two letters in the Traveller of [6th Dec.] and [13th Dec.] 1822 containing a controversy with Col. Torrens on the question whether value depends on quantity of labour. Signed S.”
(MacMinn, p. 1.)
In your notice of the late Meeting of the Political Economy Club, you have inserted a disquisition, which professes to be a refutation of Mr. Mill’s theory of value. I take the liberty of submitting to you several remarks which occurred to me on reading your article.
In the first place, if I rightly understand Mr. Mill’s chapter on Exchangeable Value,1 he cannot be said with propriety to have any theory of value—at least, in that sense in which the word theory is applied to Mr. Ricardo’s doctrines on this subject. Mr. R. renders the word value, as synonymous with productive cost2 —thus introducing a new, and as it appears to me, a needless ambiguity of language. Mr. Mill, on the other hand, never uses the word value in any other than its vulgar acceptation. I am not aware that there is any passage in the Elements of Political Economy, in which the words power of purchasing may not be substituted for the word value, without in any degree affecting the truth of Mr. Mill’s positions.
But though the word value is never employed by Mr. Mill, in any other sense than purchasing power, it is nevertheless true that he endeavours to ascertain what are the circumstances which regulate the purchasing power of commodities.3 He agrees with the distinguished political economist whom we have cited, in considering the regulating circumstance to be cost of production. This cost he considers as resolvable into quantity of labour, and it is to this part of his doctrine that your strictures refer. As your arguments on this subject do not appear to me to be conclusive, I beg leave to offer my objections to their validity.
You say, “Let the rate of profit be 20 per cent.; let a manufacturer in silver and a manufacturer in iron each advance a capital of a thousand pounds, and let the advance of the former consist of ninety days’ hoarded labour, in the form of material, and ten days’ hoarded labour in the form of subsistence, while the advance of the latter consists of ten days’ hoarded labour in the form of material, and ninety in the form of subsistence.” [P. 3.]
You observe that the manufacturer in silver, with ten days’ labour of subsistence, must employ twelve days of immediate labour, in order to realize a profit of 20 per cent.; and that the manufacturer in iron, with his 90 days’ labour of subsistence, will employ 108 days of immediate labour: that therefore the silver goods, when completed, will be the produce of twelve days of immediate labour, and 90 of hoarded labour, in the form of material; while the iron goods will be the produce of 108 days of immediate labour, and 120 of hoarded labour, also in the form of material; forming the two different sums total of 102 and 118 days’ labour.
This being the case, you assert that the silver and the iron goods will exchange for one another. To this I cannot assent. You appear to have forgotten, that if profits are taken into the account at all, we must suppose the two manufacturers to make a profit, not merely on that portion of their capital which they expend in maintaining labour, but also on that portion which they expend in furnishing the raw material. By supposition, the capital of each producer consisted of one hundred days’ labour. You assert that when the production is completed, the silver manufacturer has only the produce of 102 days’ labour, while the iron manufacturer has the produce of 118 days’ labour, in remuneration for their capital. The former then has only a profit of 2 per cent. on his whole capital, the latter has a profit of 18 per cent. on the whole. It is evident that, under these circumstances, the two commodities will not exchange for one another: their values will be in the proportion of 102 to 118—that is, of the quantities of labour by which they were produced. This, at least, will be the case, if profits are to be considered as forming one ingredient in cost of production, the position on which your whole argument is founded.
If profits are equal in the two cases, as the principle of competition will render them, it is unnecessary to take them into the calculation of exchangeable value, which is, by the force of the term, not something absolute, but something relative. If the whole produce of the one capital exchanges for the whole produce of the other, those parts of them which remain when profits are deducted, will also exchange for one another. But if we exclude profits, your objection falls to the ground. Mr. Mill’s argument must, therefore, be considered as resting on the same foundation as before.
You have also started an objection against another of Mr. Mill’s arguments. The value of commodities (says Mr. M.) cannot depend upon capital, since capital is commodities, and if the value of commodities depends on the value of capital, it depends on the value of commodities—that is, on itself.4 You observe, that this argument cuts both ways. If the value of commodities depends upon labour, as the value of labour can only be estimated in commodities, this (say you) is to assert that the value of labour depends on the value of labour. This would be true if Mr. M. had asserted that the value of commodities depends on the value of labour. But he says, that it depends, not on the value but on the quantity of labour:5 there is here no inconsistency. The value of commodities depends upon the quantity of labour employed in producing them. The value of labour, which is not itself produced by labour, cannot be subject to the same laws. Mr. M. in his Chapter on Wages, has expounded the laws which regulate the value of labour.6
EXCHANGEABLE VALUE 
For the context, heading, and bibliographical information, see No. 1.
In your Paper of Saturday you inserted an article professing to be a refutation of that which you did me the honour of inserting on Friday. Permit me, however, to say, that if I was before convinced of the truth of Mr. Mill’s conclusions, my conviction is strengthened by the weakness of the arguments which are brought against them by the ablest of their opponents.
You accuse me of having misunderstood your arguments. I am at a loss to conceive what interpretation can be put upon them, different from that which I have given. In the argument of your first article I can see only two things: first, an elaborate attempt to prove what no one ever thought of disputing—namely, that labour produces more than is necessary for the maintenance of the labourers: and secondly, an inference drawn from this—namely, that labour does not regulate exchangeable value. Your reasoning amounts to this—labour is productive, therefore labour does not regulate value. I hope you will excuse me if I confess that I do not see the connection between these two propositions. One man by one day’s labour may possibly produce food which will maintain him for ten days; but it does not follow from this, that one day’s labour of food will not exchange for one day’s labour of any other commodity.
In your last article, you put a different case. You suppose A to have wine, the produce of 100 days’ labour, and B to have food, the produce of equal labour. A keeps his wine in his cellar to improve by age; B employs his capital in maintaining 120 days of labour in the production of a commodity. These commodities, you say, will exchange for one another; and you conceive that here labour does not regulate value. It seems to me, however, that this is not an exception to Mr. Mill’s doctrine. You virtually admit that the value of B’s commodity is regulated by the quantity of labour expended in its production. But if the wine produced by equal capital, and deposited in the cellar of the merchant, did not command the same price, no wine would ever be kept. The value, therefore, of A’s wine is regulated by that of B’s commodity. But the value of B’s commodity depends on quantity of labour. Is it not, therefore, evident that the value of A’s wine also depends on quantity of labour?
This letter was occasioned by a series of prosecutions for blasphemous libel that received considerable attention in the press (see, e.g., in the last part of 1822, Examiner, 27 Oct., pp. 685-6, 3 Nov., pp. 709-10, 17 Nov., pp. 721-4, 726, 734, 24 Nov., pp. 748-9, 764-5, 15 Dec., pp. 788ff.). Headed as title, with the subhead “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter was the first of Mill’s many contributions to the Morning Chronicle. The item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter in the Morning Chronicle of 1st January 1823 on Free Discussion, signed, An Enemy to Religious Persecution”
(MacMinn, p. 1).
I beg leave to submit to you some observations, which may, perhaps, appear too obvious to be deserving of insertion. The importance, however, of the subject, and the state of vagueness in which every thing connected with it has been hitherto suffered to remain, must plead my apology for intruding upon your notice.
The late persecutions for matters of opinion have frequently been defended, on the ground that “Christianity is part and parcel of the law of England.”1 This sentence, put together by a Judge, passed from Judge to Judge with solemn and appalling gravity, will be found, on examination, to be, like the many other high-sounding maxims with which our law abounds, utterly unmeaning and absurd. This is so evident, that nothing but the extreme vagueness of the language in which this doctrine is conveyed could have protected it from detection and exposure.
A law is a precept, to the non-observance of which, pains and penalties are attached by the Government. Against this definition, I apprehend, no objection can be brought. And the law of England, collectively considered, is a collection of the precepts, thus sanctioned by legal authority.
Having thus settled the meaning of one of the words employed, let us pass to the other. Christianity then consists of two parts—a collection of precepts and a collection of opinions. When we speak of the spirit of christianity, of its morality, &c., we allude more particularly to the precepts. When we speak of the doctrines, the dogmas, the truths of christianity, this is with reference to the opinions which it inculcates. This division appears to me to be complete. No one can mention any thing connected with christianity, which is not either matter of precept, or matter of opinion.
Now when it is asserted by Judges that christianity is part and parcel of the law, is this meant of the precepts of christianity?—No, certainly: for if so, it would mean that every moral duty is enforced by the law of England; of the impossibility of this, it is scarcely necessary to produce any illustration. Not to notice the frequent admonitions which we find in the Gospel for preserving purity of heart,2 it will not be denied that sobriety and chastity are among the first of moral duties. But what would be the consequence of erecting them into a law? It is enough to say that it would be necessary to place a spy in every house.
But if not the precepts, perhaps the opinions which christianity inculcates, may be said with propriety to be “part and parcel of the law.” And how? The law is a collection of precepts. In what sense can an opinion be part of a collection of precepts?—Surely this maxim, which has been made the foundation of proceedings such as we have lately witnessed, is either palpably false, or wholly without a meaning. Unfortunately the protection, as it is sacrilegiously termed, of the christian doctrines, by the persecution of those who hold contrary opinions, is part and parcel of the law. But this, the only intelligible sense in which the maxim can be taken, ought not thus to be made a foundation for itself.—The Judge argues as follows:—I punish infidelity, because christianity is part and parcel of the law. This is as much as to say, I punish infidelity, because such punishment is part of the law.—This may be a very good defence for the particular Judge who pronounces the sentence, but is it not absurd to give it as a justification of the persecuting law?
An Enemy to Religious Persecution
THE WORD “NATURE”
This letter, which reflects Mill’s contemporaneous study of law with John Austin, is addressed to Richard Carlile (1790-1843), the free-thinker, who was editing the Republican from Dorchester Gaol, where he had been imprisoned for publishing the works of Thomas Paine and other writings held to be seditious. Mill seems to have been mistaken in attributing to Carlile the view expressed in his opening paragraph; Carlile appended to the letter a signed note: “My Atheistical friend is, I think, wrong in supposing that I wrote such an assertion as that, there must be a cause to be attributed. I may have said the phenomena of the material world: or that the constant charges [sic] which we behold in materials argue the existence of a cause or active power that pervades them. But I have again and again renounced the notion of that power being intelligent or designing.” The letter, Mill’s only one to the Republican, is headed “To Mr. R. Carlile, Dorchester Gaol,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter in the Republican of [3 Jan., 1823,] on the word Nature”
(MacMinn, p. 1).
Admiring as I do the firmness with which you maintain, and the astonishing candour with which you defend your principles, sympathising in your opinions and feelings both on the subject of politics and on that of religion; I deeply regret, in common with your correspondent Gallus,1 that you should ever have given currency to doctrines in direct opposition to your other opinions. From among many such doctrines, I select one, which appears to me to be the stumbling block of a great number of Infidels. This is to be gathered from the use which you frequently make of the word Nature as denoting some positive, active, if not intelligent being. In a former No. of The Republican, in allusion to the application which has been made to you of the word Atheist, you observe that although you do not reject this appellation, you consider it as a very absurd one, as you conceive that every man must acknowledge, under the name either of God, or of nature some cause to which the material world is to be attributed. Your exact words I do not remember, but I am certain that this was the import of what you said.
Now as I do not myself acknowledge any such cause, I would if it were necessary, endeavour to convince you that there is no foundation for any such belief. But I rejoice to see that this labour is spared me by the admirable letter of Gallus. I will therefore confine myself to a brief examination of the import and application of the word Nature.
All human knowledge consists in facts, or phenomena, observed by the senses and recorded by means of language. The study of these phenomena is what is called the study of Nature: the aggregate of the phenomena, or human knowledge as it stands, is called Nature in the abstract. If this be true, you must at once see the absurdity of supposing any thing to be caused by Nature. Nature is that for which the cause is to be sought; or rather, it is that for which it is needless to seek any cause, as if it has any, this must remain for ever unknown.
The phenomena which we observe are found to follow one another in a certain order; the same event is invariably observed to be preceded by the same event. When a sufficient number of these sequences has been observed, it becomes possible to express them by a certain number of general propositions, which have been metaphorically termed Laws of Nature, but which have in reality no resemblance to laws. A law is a general command laid down by a superior, most commonly by the governors of a nation. The analogy is very distant between this and a verbal expression for a series of phenomena; which is absurdly called a law of Nature.
When once this phraseology was introduced, the poets and mythologists soon took hold of it, and made it subservient to their purposes. Nature was personified: the phrase law of Nature, which originally meant no more than a law for the regulation of Nature, or of the natural world, became a law laid down by the goddess Nature to be obeyed by her creatures. From the poets, this fictitious personage speedily penetrated into the closets of the philosopher, and hence arose the error of attributing a creative power to nature. To make any use of this word, in the explanation of the material phenomena, is only substituting for rational scepticism, a mystical and poetical kind of Theism. Of course, the arguments which serve to explode the belief in an ante-material and intelligent Being, will also suffice to destroy the unmeaning word Nature.
Yours, with the greatest respect,
|Rate of profits||Quantity of labour required to produce the wages of ten men||Quantity of profits on the advances of labour||Invariable value of the wages of a given number of men|
|25 per cent.||8||2||10|
From these elaborate computations he proves that the wages of ten men are in value always equal to ten. To ten quarters of corn, or ten suits of clothing? No.—To ten of what? This we shall see. The number 8 in the second column represents a certain quantity of labour, the labour, namely, of eight men; the number 2 in the next column represents the labour of two men; the number 10, therefore, which is obtained by adding the 8 and the 2, represents the labour of ten men; and Mr. Malthus informs us that the wages of ten men are invariable in value, because they are always equal in value to the labour of ten men! In other words, the wages of a day’s labour are always of the same value, because they are the wages of a day’s labour!
It is therefore evident that the whole of Mr. Malthus’s argument is a begging of the question. His object is to prove that labour is an accurate measure of value, because the value of wages is invariable. But in order to prove this, he covertly assumes labour as the standard; and then, of course, he can easily prove that the wages of ten men, as compared with labour, are always of the same value, because they can always purchase the labour of ten men. But although wages are invariable in value with respect to labour, they are not invariable with respect to commodities in general.
If Mr. Malthus had stated his premises and his conclusion, in the simple form in which we have now stated them, no one could have been misled by so palpable a petitio principii.—But many who can see through a fallacy, in a concise and clear piece of argument, are not able to resist a long succession of obscure paragraphs, and a numerical table of no less than nine columns.
To us, therefore, Mr. M. appears to have entirely failed in proving that labour, as a measure of value, is preferable to any other commodity.
The principle itself being erroneous, we shall give no more than a hasty view of the applications.
“1. On the subject of rents,” says he, “such a standard would determine, among other things, that as the increase in the value of corn is only measured by a decrease in the corn wages of labour, such increase of value is a very inconsiderable source of the increase of rents compared with improvements in agriculture.” (P. 54.) It is difficult to trace the connexion between the premises and the conclusion of this argument. However, the whole must fall to the ground, as the premises themselves are erroneous. There may be an increase in the value of corn, without any decrease in corn wages. When corn rises permanently in exchangeable value, the wages of labour almost uniformly rise along with it. The rise of wages is indeed less than that of corn, but it bears a very considerable proportion to it. The most important practical errors must therefore be the consequence of estimating the rise in corn by a comparison with labour, a commodity which always rises along with it.
“2. If tithes do not fall mainly on the labourer, the acknowledged diminution in the corn rents of the landlord, occasioned by tithes, cannot be balanced by an increase of their value, and consequently tithes must fall mainly on the landlord.” (Pp. 54-5.)—Another most important practical mistake. Corn rents, indeed, are diminished by tithes. But if the exchangeable value of corn is raised, the landlord is indemnified. And although corn may not rise as compared with labour—and therefore, by Mr. Malthus, may be said not to have risen at all—there can be no doubt that, with reference to commodities in general, it has risen, and the landlord, consequently, is indemnified.
The next paragraph we transcribe, as a specimen of the obscure and disjointed mode of reasoning which Mr. Malthus has adopted.
As one consequence of his doctrine concerning the measure of value, he states,
that the increasing value of the funds destined for the maintenance of labour can alone occasion an increase in the demand for it, or the will and power to employ a greater number of labourers; and that it is consistent with theory, as well as general experience, that high corn wages, in proportion to the work done, should frequently occur with a very slack demand for labour; or, in other words, that when the value of the whole produce falls from excess of supply compared with the demand, it cannot have the power of setting the same number of labourers to work.
This is Mr. M.’s favourite doctrine of over-production.2 A more mischievous doctrine, we think, has scarcely ever been broached in political economy: since, if we are liable to have too large a produce, a Government must be highly praiseworthy, which in its loving kindness steps forward to relieve us of one part of this insupportable burden. On other occasions, Mr. M. has adduced, in proof of this doctrine, arguments which have at least the merit of being intelligible. That, however, which is couched in the above paragraph, would require the exercise of no small sagacity in its interpretation, were not this task happily rendered unnecessary by the utter unmeaningness of the phrase upon which the whole argument, such as it is, appears to turn. “The value of the whole produce falls.” What does this mean? The exchangeable value? No: for the whole produce can have no exchangeable value, as it is never, at least collectively, exchanged. Any other kind of value? But with no other kind have we any thing to do. By value, we uniformly mean exchangeable value. This is the only legitimate use of the term.
There is another paragraph in proof of the same position.
If the increase of capital be measured by the increase of its materials, such as corn, clothing, &c. then it is obvious that the supply of these materials may, by saving, increase so rapidly, compared with labour and the wants of the effective demanders, that with a greater quantity of materials, the capitalist will neither have the power nor the will to set in motion the same quantity of labour, and that consequently the progress of wealth will be checked, but that if the increase of capital be measured as it ought to be, by the increase of its power to command labour, then accumulation so limited, cannot possibly go on too fast.
The above assertion, for there is no attempt at argument, may easily be disproved; but this is not the place for it. The difficulty is, to see why Mr. M. should have given this as a consequence of his doctrine concerning the measure of value, between which and this paragraph we can see no sort of connexion. If, however, it be such a consequence, it must fall with the doctrine which supports it.
Soon after, he continues, “If commodities and the materials of capital increase faster than the effectual demand for them [faster than labour, we presume, he means], profits fall prematurely, and capitalists are ruined, without a proportionate benefit to the labouring classes, because an increasing demand for labour cannot go on under such circumstances.” (P. 59.) Again, we ask, what has this to do with the measure of value? As, however, it can be refuted in few words, we will not grudge the necessary space.
Why do profits fall prematurely? Because, from the increase of capital faster than labour, wages rise. There is no other cause which can lower profits. And yet, in the same breath, Mr. M. tells us, that there is no proportionate benefit to the labouring classes!
If this case were to happen, the only consequence would be, that accumulation would cease to go on at this enormous rate, and would be continued only at the same rate with the increase of population. If Mr. M. confines to this case his doctrine of over-production, we may make the concession with perfect safety.
On the subject of foreign trade, it [the doctrine of the measure] would shew that its universally acknowledged effect in giving a stimulus to production, generally, is mainly owing to its increasing the value of the produce of a country’s labour, by the extension of demand, before the value of its labour is increased by the increase of its quantity; and that the effect of every extension of demand, whether foreign or domestic, is always, as far as it goes, to increase the average rate of profits till this increase is counteracted by a further accumulation of capital.
Many and important are the errors contained in this short paragraph. But it would be loss of time to point them out, as all the proof which Mr. M. has given falls to the ground with his doctrine of the measure. All which he himself asserts is, that if that doctrine is true, these applications are also true.
In another paragraph, Mr. M. says, that value does not depend upon cost of production, because value is proportioned, not to the advances merely, but to the advances, together with variable profits. That allowance is to be made for all cases of difference in the amount of profits, as compared with immediate expenditure, is allowed on all hands; but the necessity of this modification does not authorize our rejecting the general expression, unless Mr. Malthus can point out a better one, which he has not even attempted to do, but has contented himself with saying that, “we must have recourse to demand and supply.” [P. 58.] But this is to stop short at the surface of the science. What regulates supply? Surely it is the cost of production, and if we cannot find an accurate expression in one word, or in two, we are not for that reason to content ourselves with a superficial view of the subject.
There are two or three other paragraphs of too little importance to require a refutation. The last and most elaborate of Mr. M.’s applications relates to the variations in the currency. He dissents from those who think that paper was depreciated no more than to the extent of the difference between its value and that of bullion; because, he says, when compared with labour, it had fallen to a greater extent. [P. 67.] Those, therefore, who think that Mr. Malthus has failed in proving that the value of labour is constant, will not be prevented, by any thing which is here stated (though here too there are tables [p. 75]) from attributing to labour, and not to the currency, the whole of the depreciation with respect to labour, over and above the difference between the market and mint prices of gold.
TECHNICALITIES OF ENGLISH LAW
MORNING CHRONICLE, 18 SEPT. 1823, P. 2
Arguing one of Bentham’s central tenets, the absurdity of some English legal practices, Mill in this letter comments on the quashing of cases on technical grounds. He refers to two accounts in the Morning Chronicle, “Police News. Hatton-Garden,” 9 Sept., p. 4, and “Police. Hatton-Garden,” 16 Sept., p. 4. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the Technicalities of English Law, wch. appeared in the Chronicle of 18th September 1823. Not signed.” (MacMinn, p. 3.)
In your Paper of Tuesday, the 9th of September, I observed a new instance of legal quashing. A number of bakers were brought up, on the charge of selling bread otherwise than by weight. It was discovered that the Magistrate’s name had not been inserted in the indictment, and in consequence of this omission, the charge fell to the ground. I also found in your Paper of Tuesday the 16th, a similar instance of quashing, because an illiterate informer, instead of writing the word afternoon, had written after-forenoon.1
If English law were really “the perfection of human reason,”2 no one would be acquitted, but because he was innocent—no one condemned, but because he was guilty. To praise a system under which men are acquitted on any ground, except the insufficiency of the evidence of guilt, implies either the grossest insincerity, or the most depraved understanding. All formalities which do not facilitate the attainment of truth, are utterly useless, and as they almost always enhance the trouble and expence, they amount to a tax upon justice, and frequently to the utter denial of it. To this we must add the complicated evils which ensue, if it be discovered that a formality has been omitted. The previous proceedings are invalidated, the chance of impunity to the guilty is increased, and additional trouble and expence are occasioned to the innocent, by the recommencement of proceedings which may already have cost them far more than they can bear.
Will any one assert that the omission of the Magistrate’s name in the indictment, renders it a whit more difficult to determine whether the parties are guilty or innocent? And if it does not, on what principle can the quashing of the indictment be justified?
But quashing is the favourite pastime of lawyers; nor is the motive difficult to divine. Every new indictment brings new fees into the pockets of Learned Gentlemen. Who can wonder, that a circumstance of such importance should outweigh in their minds the ruin of a thousand families.
Quashing is not confined to the prosecution of bakers for selling bread in an illegal manner. A law suit which has lasted for years may be rendered useless by the discovery that an insignificant formality has been omitted at the commencement. And so numerous are these formalities, that no inconsiderable proportion of the law proceedings which are instituted in this country terminate in that way. A gentleman may be deprived of his estate by the discovery of a technical flaw in his title; so frequently does this occur, that there are few estates, in Great Britain, the title to which is not liable to dispute, and Mr. Canning, in Parliament, spoke of an inquiry into the title deeds of estates as being one of the grossest iniquities which can be perpetrated.3
When it is proposed to substitute for the present confused and heterogeneous mass of statutes and cases, a Code constructed, not on a view of what has been done heretofore, but of what ought to be done hereafter—a cry is usually raised that such a reform would annihilate existing rights. Never was accusation more ill-founded, nor does any thing prove more conclusively than the currency which it has obtained, how readily mankind consent to take the opinions of the “constituted authorities” for gospel, on subjects upon which they may and ought to judge for themselves. The fact is, that the first step of an efficient reform of the law would be to pass an Act confirming and establishing all titles in which no flaw could be detected on a retrospect of a very limited number of years.
But now the omission of an unmeaning formality at a distance of forty or fifty years, may cast opulent families into the depth of poverty; and so far is the English law from securing rights, that every owner of land pays, at an average, 5 per cent. on his annual rent into the hands of lawyers, on account of the badness of the law. All this happens under a system which is, notwithstanding, “the perfection of human reason,” although its rules were all framed six or seven centuries ago, and although there is not one of them which, in accuracy, precision, or, if rigidly enforced, even in justice, rises one step above the level of the age in which it was composed.
SECURITIES FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT
MORNING CHRONICLE, 25 SEPT., 1823, P. 2
This letter, like No. 19, employs a particular instance in support of an idea of Bentham’s, in this case the popular removal of judges (see his Draught of a New Plan for the Organization of the Judicial Establishment in France , in Works, Vol. IV, p. 359). The case was that of Richard Battlebar, a tradesman, and Jane Ashwood, “a perfectly respectable woman” (Examiner, 14 Sept., 1823, p. 605), who were sentenced on 12 Sept. to one month’s imprisonment at the treadmill, on suspicion of indecent exposure, by Maurice Swabey (1785-1864), magistrate at Union Hall, Southwark. Mill picks up the argument of a letter to the Editor, “Revision of the Magistracy,” Morning Chronicle, 22 Sept., 1823, p. 4, signed “A True Friend of Morality and Social Order” (not “to Morality,” as Mill says). The case had occasioned much earlier comment in the Morning Chronicle: see 13 Sept., p. 4, 15 Sept., p. 3, and 16 Sept., p. 3 (a letter and a satirical poem, “Love and Justice”). Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the advantages of a judicial establishment consisting of judges removeable by the people, in the Chronicle of 24th [sic] September [1823.] Signed a Friend to Responsible Governments.” (MacMinn, p. 3.)
I perused with great satisfaction the Letter inserted in your Paper of Monday, the 22d, on Police Abuses, signed “A True Friend to Morality and Social Order.” One passage, however, in that very able Letter, appears to me objectionable. The writer recommends as a remedy for police abuses, that several of the individuals at present in the Magistracy should be removed.
Now, Sir, I am one of those who look at measures rather than men,1 and who reprobate the former when I conceive them to merit reprobation, without feeling any peculiar animosity against the latter. My appetite for change would be satisfied, if the welfare of the community were exclusively consulted, no matter whether by one man or another. I know that although some men will yield to a small temptation, while others cannot be moved but by a great one, yet upon the whole there are few exceptions, or rather none at all, to the principle that all men who have power will infallibly abuse it; a principle the truth of which every one admits with regard to other men, although each considers himself to be an exception. My object, therefore, is, to obtain securities for the good conduct of Legislators, Judges, and Ministers; not to substitute one set of men for another set, leaving to those whom you nominate the same facilities for abuse of power which were enjoyed by those whom you remove.
Unless the abuses of the judicial power are such as indicate a radically unsound and depraved intellect, there is no reason for removing the individual, although there is great reason for subjecting him to such responsibility as will effectually prevent the recurrence either of the same or of other abuses. And if there is no particular reason for removing him, there is always this reason against it, that the experience which he has acquired in the exercise of his office, gives him (ceteris paribus) an advantage over any unpractised candidate.
Now in the recent instances of police abuses, no greater weakness of intellect appears, than that which is evinced by sacrificing the public good to the desire of gratifying the whole, or some particular section of the Aristocracy. When Mr. White dismissed the complaint of Lady Caroline Lamb’s waiting-woman, on the word of her Ladyship’s husband, and expelled the Reporters from the Police Office because they had reported the woman’s story,2 it is easy to see that the feeling uppermost in the mind of the Worthy Magistrate was a desire of gratifying such Honourables and Right Honourables as may hereafter be pleased to quarrel with their servants. In like manner when Mr. Swabey consigned two low vulgar people to a month’s torture at the tread mill for indulging in gratifications which their superiors are suffered to enjoy without restraint, a discerning eye might detect in this specimen of Magisterial delicacy, a disposition to curry favour with a certain Society,3 and with the numerous and powerful portion of the Aristocracy by which that Society is patronized. And I am persuaded that this puerile ambition is at the bottom of almost every instance of injustice which is perpetrated in this country by what are called Courts of Justice as well as of Law, but which should only be termed Courts of Law.
Far be it from me to object the desire of pleasing great people to these Magistrates as a crime. It is the unavoidable result of their situation. In a country where there is an aristocracy interested in injustice, and where the judges are dependent upon the aristocracy, the judges will be unjust. Alter the circumstances, and they will be unjust no longer. Place the judicial office on such a footing that it shall not be necessary for them to conciliate the favour of the aristocracy, and that it shall be necessary for them to obtain that of the people; and then it will be no longer the interest of the aristocracy, but that of the people, which will be consulted. For the attainment of this object, I see no other expedient, than that of giving to the people, either immediately or through their representatives, the power of removing judges of all descriptions from their offices. Let the power be given, and the necessity for the exercise of it will rarely occur. If it be not given, then even if the popular voice made itself heard so strongly as to effect the removal of one or a few obnoxious magistrates, there would be no permanent good, for there would be no securities for good judicature, and as soon as the violent excitement of the public mind subsided, misgovernment would return with undiminished vigour.
A Friend to Responsible Governments
MORNING CHRONICLE, 3 OCT., 1823, P. 4
This letter may be read as a Radical corollary of James Mill’s “Government.” Many of its arguments appeared in J.S. Mill’s writings in this period (e.g., the assertion of an unlimited desire for power is also in No. 20). The signature “Quesnai” presumably alludes to François Quesnay (1694-1774), the French economist, who argued that the principle of general interest should govern the economic life of nations, and looked to liberty, security, and justice as the means to prosperity for all classes of society. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter signed Quesnai, on the consequences of denying the capacity of the people, in the Chronicle of 3d October 1823”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
The difference between the Reformers and the Anti-Reformers of this country is, that the former are friends to a popular government, and the latter to an aristocracy.
The only ground on which Reform can stand, is the assumption that if the people had the power of choosing their representatives, they would make, if not the best, at least a good choice. This accordingly is the doctrine of the Reformers; and if this be true, it is evident that the question as to reform admits of no farther debate. The Anti-Reformers on the other hand, allege that the people are factious, turbulent, inimical to social order, and to the existence of property. On this ground they maintain that the existing form of Government, over which the people exercise no controul, and which is in the strictest sense of the word Aristocratical, should be preserved.
Let us grant to the Anti-Reformers, the full benefit of the assumption upon which their resistance to the Reformers is grounded. Let us admit that the people, if they had the choice of their Rulers, would infallibly make a bad choice, and so bad a choice, as to render the attainment of good Government in this mode utterly hopeless. That this would silence the claims of the Reformers is unquestionable. Let us examine, however, whether it is not equally unfavourable to the pretensions of their opponents.
It is indisputable, that if any person has the power of pillaging the people for his own benefit, and of forcing them to act in entire subservience to his interests, he will do so. This is implied in the common outcry against despotism. And if this be admitted of one man, it cannot be denied of any set of men less than the majority of the whole population. Against this propensity to pillage the people, and to reduce them to subservience, no check can be opposed, because the people alone have an interest in establishing a check; and the people, by supposition, are not to be trusted. All which can be done, is to vest unrestrained power in such hands, that the motive to abuse it shall be reduced within the narrowest possible limits.
Now it is evident, that as far as pillage is concerned, far less will suffice to satiate the rapacity of one man than of a thousand; and then, as to personal subservience, it is a smaller evil to serve one master than a great number. In so far, therefore, as the personal desires of the Sovereign are concerned, less mischief is likely to arise from the rule of one, than of an irresponsible few.
This appears at first sight inconsistent with history. But if we look back to the annals of despotism, we shall find that the oppressions which they exhibit have been severe exactly in proportion as the Monarch has been insecure. The tyrants in Greece were so sanguinary, only because they were in continual danger of being overthrown. The Pachas in Turkey plunder the people with such grinding extortion, only because they do not hold their office on a week’s tenure. In fact, it is evident, that if the Monarch were perfectly secure, perfectly certain of never being molested in the exercise of his power, he would be satisfied with extracting from the people such a portion of the annual produce of land and labour as would abundantly supply all his appetites and passions; and when there is but one man to satiate, this is but a small portion. Despotism would be very moderately oppressive, if the despot were perfectly secure, but not being so, he is under the necessity of purchasing support by the plunder of the people. He must maintain a large military force to compel passive obedience—a large ecclesiastical establishment to inculcate it.
But as this Army and this Priesthood will employ their power, not for him, but against him, unless he can make it their interest to do otherwise, he cannot support his dominion unless he satiates, not himself alone, but them, with the spoil of the people. Despotism, therefore, owes by far the greatest part of its mischievousness to the insecurity of the Monarch. If he could be made perfectly secure—if he were released, not only from all legal, but from all moral responsibility—if men could be persuaded, that to oppose the behest of their Sovereign, or even to speak of him or of his acts with any thing short of the most unbounded and submissive veneration, was a most important violation of morality—then the Monarchs would be to them nearly as a shepherd to his flock. He would oppress them no farther than by extorting from them the means of satiating every possible desire, and in every other respect, it would be decidedly his interest to leave them perfect freedom of action.
It appears then, that if the people are not to be trusted, the least bad of all possible Governments must be, that in which all the powers of Government are concentrated in the hands of one man, and when that man is entirely exempt from all controul, either from the laws of from public opinion, a more unlimited despotism than has ever yet existed in the world.
There would, it is true, be grave inconveniences attending on this form of government. First, pillage even by one man is an evil, but this is not the worst. An absolute King, having little or no motive to acquire distinguished intellect, weak Monarchs would frequently fill the throne; and although they would not oppress the people more than Monarchs of vigorous intellect, they would be less capable of protecting them from the aggressions of one another. But although the folly and weakness of the Monarch would prove highly mischievous, it could not produce such lamentable effects as infallibly arise from an aristocratic government, whose interest it is to extract from the people as much in every way as they can be prevailed on to part with, and who, in proportion as they are wiser and better instructed, will only pursue that interest with more unerring certainty.
Thus, then, it appears that, to a man who reasons consistently, there is no medium between advocating a popular government, and standing up for absolute despotism. If the people are capable of making a good choice, with them the choice ought to rest. If they are not capable, he with whom the general happiness is the regulating principle of his judgments, will stop no where short of the completest conceivable despotism. But, he who, while he professes a horror of absolute power, opposes all propositions tending to vest an effective checking power in the people—such a man leaves no inference to be drawn, save either that his reasoning faculty is in a deplorable state of depravation, or that he is blinded by being himself a member of the governing aristocracy, whose rule is far more inimical to happiness than a secure and unlimited despotism. Hobbes, who is branded by all Englishmen as the advocate of despotism, had this advantage over the anti-reformers of the present day, that he reasoned consistently from the principle of the incapacity of the people,1 which they equally with him adopt, but from which they reason only so far as suits the particular end which they have in view.
ATROCITIES OF THE TREAD WHEEL
GLOBE AND TRAVELLER, 3 OCT., 1823, P. 3
This article is based on Bentham’s ideas as developed in James Mill’s “Prisons and Prison Discipline” (1823), written for the Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. VI, pp. 385-95. Both the quotation from and reference to the ideas in Prison Labour, Etc.: Correspondence and Communications Addressed to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, Concerning the Introduction of Tread-Mills into Prisons (London: Nicol, 1823) by John Coxe Hippisley (1748-1825), M.P. for Sudbury, magistrate, actually derive from a letter to Hippisley of 7 June, 1823 (on pp. 23-66 of the work) from Dr. John Mason Good (1764-1867), physician and medical writer. The tread wheel (or treadmill) had been introduced to prisons only five years earlier, in 1818. Headed “Tread Wheel. [From a Correspondent.],” the unsigned article is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the atrocities of the Tread Wheel which appeared in the Globe & Traveller of 4th [sic] October 1823”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
by the publication of Sir J.C. Hippisley’s work on Prison Discipline, the public attention has been called to the mischievous effects of a punishment which has been hailed as the great modern improvement in penal legislation—the Tread Wheel.
There are strong objections to the employment of labour, in any case, as a punishment. If we consider from what causes men are induced to commit that species of crimes which are most common—petty violations of property—it will be found that in the great majority of cases, it is aversion to labour which has been the operating motive. To prevent crime, means ought to be taken to counteract the painful associations which give rise to this aversion. For such a purpose no contrivance can be worse chosen than that of forcing labour, and that of the severest kind, upon the offender as a punishment.
When a poor man is at large, earning his bread by his exertions, unless his labour be excessive, there are many circumstances which tend to make it agreeable to him. It is to labour that he owes all the comforts and enjoyments of existence. By labour alone can he hope to advance himself in life and raise the prospects of his family. All this has not been sufficient to counteract his habits of indolence, for those habits have prevailed, and instead of labouring he has turned thief; and yet in order to cure him of his aversion to labour, he is placed in a situation where, instead of being the source of his enjoyments, it becomes an engine of unrequited misery to him, and of misery of the most intense description.
This objection applies strongly to all kinds of labour, when considered merely as a punishment; but most of all, to the tread-mill, the horrors of which, as described by Sir John Cox Hippisley, appear unequalled in the modern annals of legalized torture.
I inspected the men as they descended in rotation from the wheel, at the end of the quarter of an hour’s task-work, and made room for fresh relays. Every one of them was perspiring—some in a dripping sweat. On asking them separately, and at a distance from each other, where was the chief stress of labour, they stated, in succession, and without the least variation, that they suffered great pain in the calf of the leg and in the ham; while most of them, though not all, complained of distress also in the instep. On examining the bottom of their shoes, it was manifest that the line of tread had not extended farther than from the extremity of the toes to about one-third of the bottom of the foot; for in several instances the shoes were new, and between this line and the heel altogether unsoiled—a fact, however, that was as obvious from the position of the foot while at work, as from the appearance of the shoe at rest. Several of the workers seemed to aim at supporting their weight by bringing the heel into action, the feet being twisted outwards; and on inquiring why this was not oftener accomplished, the reply was, that though they could gain a little in this way, it was with so painful a stress of the knees that they could only try it occasionally. The palms of their hands, in consequence of holding tight to the rail, were in every instance hardened, in many horny, in some blistered, and discharging water. The keeper, who accompanied us, admitted the truth of all these statements, and added that it was the ordinary result of the labour; and that use did not seem to render it less severe; for those who had been confined long appeared to suffer nearly or altogether as much as those who were new to the work.
Sir J.C. Hippisley also states on good medical authority, that this kind of labour has a strong tendency to produce varicose tumours and ruptures, also, that the tortuous attitude and uneasy motion totally deprive the prisoner of the healthful advantage of athletic exercise.
On the female prisoners the effects are of a still more serious and distressing nature, in as much, that in the greater number of counties where tread-wheel labour exists, it has not been deemed safe to extend it to females. Nor are these evils chimerical. Sir J. C. Hippisley mentions the particular prisons in which they have been experienced, and gives various details concerning the Cold-bath Fields House of Correction, for which we refer our readers to the work itself. [Pp. 33-7.]
It is true that the communications received from the Governors of the various prisons in which the tread-wheel is in use, in answer to the official circular of Mr. Peel, have not been in any great degree unfavourable to the tread-mill.1 The admissions, however, which they have made, and which are stated by Sir J.C. Hippisley, are fully sufficient to justify the inferences which Sir J. has drawn from them. And were it otherwise, Ilchester gaol has taught us not to judge of prison arrangements on the word of the prison authorities2 —more especially of arrangements so well calculated as the tread-mill to be instruments of oppression in the hands of those authorities themselves.
Among other circumstances which essentially unfit the tread-mill to be a good engine of punishment is the extreme inequality of the labour; which, it is plain, does not admit of being proportioned with any exactness to the constitution and previous habits of the prisoner, nor can it be proportioned at all, without leaving much to the discretion of the gaoler. “A man who has been accustomed to running up stairs all his life, with good lungs and muscular legs, will scarcely suffer by it, while an asthmatic tailor, weaver, or other sedentary artisan, will be half killed by the exercise.”*
As if it had been endeavoured to devise a mode of punishment which should unite the fewest possible advantages, the tread-mill discipline, besides its cruelty, its inequality, and its injurious effects upon health, has not even the advantage of being an efficient kind of labour. There are many ways of turning a mill more advantageously than by human labour. Moreover, it does not, like the hand crank-mill, exercise the muscles which are of use in ordinary labour. It does not give those bodily habits which will render labour less irksome after release, while, as we have shown, it strongly tends to give such habits of mind as will render it more so. Nor is the tread-wheel labour efficient in the way of example. To be so, it should be visible to every eye. But it is unavoidably shut up within the walls of a prison, and can operate directly upon the minds of none but the prisoners.
Let it not be inferred, however, that we are adverse to the employment of labour in prison discipline. Labour, not tread-wheel labour, but mild, and at the same time efficient and productive labour, though highly unfit for purposes of punishment, is the best of all engines of reformation. But these two kinds of discipline must be kept entirely separate. The object of punishment is to inflict pain—pain sufficient to counteract the motives to vice. The object of reformatory discipline is to break pernicious habits, and to substitute useful ones. If, as has been observed, the habit which brings criminals to gaol is usually an aversion to labour, the grand object of reformatory discipline should be to destroy that aversion. The mode of destroying it is not by making labour an engine of torture. It is by making it a source of pleasure; by suffering the labourer to partake of the fruits of his labour, and that in sufficient quantity to make him think of labour with some degree of pleasure. It is evident, then, that if punishment, which is intended merely as an infliction of pain, be mixed up with reformatory discipline, which can be made effectual only by rendering the condition of the prisoner a state of pleasure, either the one of these two objects must be entirely sacrificed to the other, or the ends of both must be incompletely and inefficiently attained. In fact, we think that nearly all the failures which have taken place in the organization of prison arrangements, may be attributed to an ignorance of this fundamental rule, that punishment and reformation are two different objects, and as such, should be kept distinct: a position which appears to have occurred to no writer antecedent to the publication of the article “Prisons” in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which, for farther illustrations we beg to refer our readers.
PRACTICABILITY OF REFORM IN THE LAW
MORNING CHRONICLE, 8 OCT., 1823, P. 4
This letter, reflecting Mill’s continuing interest in Benthamite law reform and his tutoring in the preceding year by John Austin (1790-1859), Benthamite disciple and close acquaintance of the Mills, appears to have no occasional cause. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” it is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the practicability of reform in the law, which appeared in the Chronicle of 8th October 1823. Not signed.” (MacMinn, p. 4.)
That numerous and powerful body, the practising Lawyers, whose opinions the public adopt far too implicitly on the subject of Legislation, have an evident interest in the permanence of the confused and unintelligible mass which now bears the name of law in this country. In proportion as the law is complicated, the influence of the only class who can interpret it must increase; and it is as little to be expected that Lawyers should advocate the adoption of an intelligible system of law, as it was in the time of the Reformation, that the Priests should consent to suffer the Laity to peruse the sacred volume.
We need not therefore be surprised that lawyers should have a number of fallacies at command, with which they combat all attempts at reform in the law. Of these dicta, one of the most frequent is, that it is impossible to devise general rules which shall include all particular cases.
This notion originates in a confusion between questions of law and questions of fact. The latter are innumerable: there is no one case which in all its circumstances exactly resembles another case. It is therefore impracticable to make rules for the decision of all questions of fact. But the questions of law which arise may easily be reduced under a very small number of heads.
Let us consider on what questions every law-suit must necessarily turn. In civil cases the subject of the dispute is, to which of two persons a particular right belongs. Each of them, in order to prove the justice of his claim, affirms that one of those events has happened which give commencement to the right; in the case of an article of property, for instance, that he has bought it, inherited it, and the like. His adversary either denies this event, or affirms that another event has occurred, which gives termination to the right, that he has sold the property, or forfeited it by some subsequent transaction. The question of fact, therefore, is, whether the alleged events have happened, which of course must be determined by the evidence. The questions of law are, in the first place, what the right is; and next, whether the alleged events, supposing them to have happened, are of the number of those which commence, or which terminate the right?
The problem, therefore, of making a Civil Code, consists of two parts. It must be determined what rights it is expedient to create; and it must be determined what events shall give commencement, and what shall give termination to a man’s enjoyment of the rights.
Neither of these is surely an impossible task. A right is the permission, granted by the law, to make a particular use of a person or of a thing. Now it may surely be determined what uses a man shall be suffered to make of his property, what rights he shall be allowed to exercise over his servants, his family, &c.; and reciprocally, what services they shall have the power of exacting from him. The events also, on the occurrence of which these rights shall begin or terminate, may surely be defined. These are, the modes of acquiring and of losing property, and the like.
To determine all these questions is to make a civil code, which will apply to every individual case that can be conceived; since there is no case in which, when the state of the facts is ascertained, the dispute can turn on any question, except the extent of a right, the facts which confer the right, or the facts which take it away.
Nor is it more difficult to construct a body of penal legislation which shall extend to all cases whatever. All rights having been defined, it only remains to assign an appropriate punishment to every violation of those rights.
It appears, then, that there is not that inherent impossibility in devising general rules to fit particular cases, which is affirmed by lawyers to exist. Moreover, it is evident that in all cases which are not left absolutely to the discretion of the Judge, whenever any rule is consulted, even if one decision is made a rule for another, this is applying a general rule to a particular case. The Judge says, A shall enjoy a certain right, in consequence of a certain event; because, Sir Matthew Hale says,1 that this event is sufficient to confer the right; or because Lord Chief Justice somebody declared in the case B versus C, that B became entitled to enjoy the same right, in consequence of the same event. Is it not evident that in both these cases, the Judge is deciding according to a general rule laid down by his predecessors, that the event in question shall always confer the right in question? So that the dispute between the Lawyers and the Reformers of the Law, is not whether it is possible to devise general rules, for this is done by both parties alike; but whether these general rules shall be fixed or variable; and whether they shall be formed upon the universal experience of mankind,—in other words, upon philosophic principles, or upon an induction of one or two instances only,—in other words upon precedents and cases.
OLD AND NEW INSTITUTIONS
MORNING CHRONICLE, 17 OCT., 1823, P. 2
This letter is in response to the speech on 9 Oct. to the Chester Whig Club by Colonel William Lewis Hughes (1767-1852), M.P. for Wallingford (1806-31), reported in the Morning Chronicle, 13 Oct., 1823, p. 2, in which Hughes was at pains to put distance between the terms “Whig” and “Radical, and Rebel.” In the passage referred to by Mill, Hughes said, “We seek no new institutions—we claim only for the people their inalienable rights,” a remark galling to the Philosophic Radicals. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on Old and New Institutions signed ‘No Worshipper of Antiquity,’ which appeared in the Chronicle of 17th October 1823”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
In Colonel Hughes’s late speech at the Chester Whig Meeting, most of the principles of which meet with my warmest approbation, I however find one passage to which I cannot agree. The Colonel disclaims a wish to introduce new institutions, and only wishes to restore the Constitution to its pristine purity.
I am well aware that this is the ordinary language of those with whom Reform is only the watchword of a party—of those who wish for the removal only of trifling abuses, leaving untouched those great ones in which all the others originate. But that such a man as Colonel Hughes should give in to this cant is what, certainly, I did not expect.
I am one of those, Sir, who are friends, and not enemies to innovation; for I wish to see the human race well governed—which would certainly be the greatest of innovations. All history proves, that in every nation of the earth, the powers of Government have uniformly been monopolized in the hands of a privileged few, who, accordingly, never failed to abuse those powers for the benefit of themselves and of their connections, with only one difference, that of old, when the public were far more ignorant and prejudiced than they now are, misgovernment was proportionally more flagrant.
We are told of the wisdom of our ancestors. Let us look back to what by an abuse of terms is called venerable antiquity, and which in fact was the nonage of the world; let us consider for a moment who and of what use were these ancestors, whom it is incumbent on us in the nineteenth century to reverence and worship. Those sages who firmly believed, that St. Dunstan tweaked the evil spirit by the nose,1 that Aves and Credos, holy water, and the relics of saints were infallible safeguards in the hour of danger, and that a comet or an eclipse portended the ruin of an Empire—those worthies, whose brutality and licentiousness mastered every good feeling, and yielded only to slavish reverence for ascetic and bigotted Priests. Such “ancestors” as these are indeed worthy of being held up as patterns for us their degenerate “sons.” Why are we not also required, in imitation of them, to put thousands to death by the most excruciating torments, for heresy, magic, witchcraft and sorcery?
Let us consider for one moment what would have been the consequence, if reverence for our ancestors had prevented us from adopting improvements in the physical, as it has in the moral sciences. We should never then have been initiated into the wonders of chemistry and of natural philosophy. We should never have seen the air pump, the spinning jenny, or the steam engine. No canals, no bridges, should we have had; and our roads would have remained inferior to the worst lanes of the present day. The press, and all the wonders which it has produced, would never have had existence.
It were indeed strange, if at that period of our history, when all the other arts and sciences were in their infancy—when the earth was believed to be a flat surface in the centre of the universe, and the sea to flow round its outer circumference—when the philosopher’s stone and the universal medicine were the only objects of chemistry, and to foretel events by the stars, the sole purpose of astronomy; when wool, the only material of clothing, was carded and spun by hand, and when navigators rarely trusted themselves out of sight of the shore. It were strange, I say, if a people among whom these things were, should, amid all their ignorance, superstition, and barbarism, have taken enlarged views of human nature and of human society—should have foreseen all possible modes of oppression, and have provided efficient securities against all—should, in a word, have established a Constitution which could secure in perpetuity the blessings of good government to mankind.
Happily we are much wiser than our ancestors; it were a shame if we were not, seeing that we have all their experience, and much more in addition to it. We look back with contempt upon all which they did in the field of physical and mechanical knowledge. It is only in moral and political science that we are not ashamed to bow submission to their authority.
This will not appear strange, if it be considered what influence the ruling few must necessarily exercise over the opinions and feelings of the subject many. The few profit by the existing Government; if a better were substituted, they would cease to receive more than their due share of the benefit.
Sir James Mackintosh, in his Vindiciae Gallicae ([2nd ed.,] p. 120n), makes the following observations:
Mechanics, because no passion or interest is concerned in the perpetuity of abuse, always yield to scientific improvement. Politics, for the contrary reason, always resist it. It was the remark of Hobbes, that if any interest or passion were concerned in disputing the theorems of geometry, different opinions would be maintained regarding them. It has actually happened (as if to justify the remark of that great man), that under the administration of Turgot, a financial reform, grounded on a mathematical demonstration, was derided as visionary nonsense. So much for the sage preference of practice to theory.2
One word more on innovation. They who do not fall into the egregious absurdity of throwing indiscriminate censure upon innovation, as if it were a necessary inference—because a thing is new, therefore it is bad; but who, nevertheless, wish to keep some measures with those who raise the cry against improvement; these half-and-half-men frequently repel the charge of loving innovation, by giving us to understand that they do not love it for its own sake. A most extraordinary merit, in truth! I will venture to affirm, that I have never yet either seen or heard of any one who loved innovation for its own sake. I have seen men who desired to effect pernicious innovations; but it was always from a view of some real or imaginary good, either to society, or to themselves individually.
To conclude, whenever I hear the cry against innovation, I always presume that the cause, in defence of which it is raised, is a bad one. For I am sure, that if it were a good one, its advocates could find some more substantial reason in its defence than merely the antiquity of the opinions which favour it, and the novelty of contrary opinions. And I cannot but consider, that he who, like Colonel Hughes, has a good cause to defend, calculates very ill if he avails himself of an argument which will serve a bad cause with as much success as a good one, when so many cogent arguments may be drawn from the real merits of the case.
No Worshipper of Antiquity
MORNING CHRONICLE, 30 OCT., 1823, P. 2
This letter glosses “Liberty of the Subject,” a letter by “Vindex” (of St. John’s Square), dated 20 Oct., that appeared in the Morning Chronicle of 23 Oct., p. 4. (In that letter Vindex, the employer of the boy sent to the treadmill, refers to his earlier letter, “Unjustifiable Conduct of a Constable,” which was sent to the Morning Chronicle, but not published.) Rogers, the magistrate, is linked by Mill with Maurice Swabey (see No. 20), the quashing of whose convictions is reported in “The Late Convictions under the Vagrant Act,” The Times, 20 Oct., 1823, p. 3. The apprehension of “reputed thieves” by a constable was provided for by 3 George IV, c. 55, Sect. 21 (1822), an addition to the Temporary Vagrancy Act, 3 George IV, c. 40 (1822). Mill’s letter, signed “The Censor of the Judges” as is No. 16, is headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the practice of sending reputed thieves to the treadmill, signed the Censor of the Judges, which appeared in the Chronicle of 29th [sic] October 1823”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
The case which was communicated to you by your correspondent Vindex, on Thursday the 23d instant, is worthy of attention, as a specimen of the paternal solicitude of Magistrates for the safety of our property. A boy was seen by a petty constable in the street looking at a game at marbles. For this heinous offence, he was carried before the sitting magistrate, Mr. Rogers; and on the oath of the constable that he was a reputed thief (although his master was so entirely ignorant of his true character, as to speak highly in his praise), he was sent by Mr. Rogers to solace himself at the Tread Mill.
This vigilant Magistrate probably took example from one of the Swabey convictions, recently quashed at the Kingston Sessions. On a public occasion, an individual was seen in a crowd by a police officer. He was not, indeed, attempting to commit any criminal act, by the confession of the officer he was merely standing in the crowd like any one else. But then the officer knew him to be a reputed thief, or, at least, to keep company with reputed thieves: besides, on searching his pockets, he discovered a pair of scissors, inclosed in a sheath, whereupon he carried him before that active guardian of public morals, Mr. Swabey, by whom he was sent to the Tread-mill, under the Vagrant Act.
Some incredulous critics, indeed, have presumed to insinuate that a reputed thief means a person thought or said to be a thief, and that it is somewhat hard to punish a man for being so unfortunate as to fall under suspicion; they have farther ventured to hint that a man may have an enemy, sufficiently unprincipled to affirm, in the hearing of an officer, that he is a thief; or that, in a moment of irritation, any one may apply to him that name; and that, in all these cases, an officer of little discernment might, with a safe conscience, swear him to be a reputed thief. Nay, these sceptical reasoners have carried their audacity so far, as to doubt whether the veracity of a police officer always deserves implicit confidence; seeing that he has a strong interest in perjury, as a means of acquiring (not to speak of bribes), a character for zeal and activity, without the trouble of hunting out real offenders; seeing, moreover, that he may perjure himself with perfect safety, since it is utterly impossible for any one to prove that he is not a reputed thief.
But Mr. Swabey and Mr. Rogers are well aware that scepticism is an infallible sign of a narrow understanding. Superior to vulgar prejudices, they know how to place a proper degree of confidence in the virtue of mankind: and indeed it were strange, if that perfect veracity which so eminently distinguishes watchmen, did not extend to their fellow labourers in the cause of social order, the police officers.
With all due deference, however, to such high authorities, I cannot help thinking that this anxiety to punish reputed thieves implies an incapability of detecting real ones. If the perpetrators of every offence were duly brought to trial and punished, is it not clear that every one who is convicted as a reputed thief would, if innocent, be punished for no crime at all, and, if guilty, be punished twice for the same offence? One of two things, therefore, is the case—either the punishing of reputed thieves is utterly absurd and wicked; or the state of the law is such, that crimes frequently escape detection and punishment.
The case is, that the laws against theft are so disproportionately severe, that out of ten who are robbed, nine are unwilling to prosecute; that the expences of the law are so enormous, that out of a hundred who are willing to prosecute, ninety-nine have it not in their power; and, lastly, that be the fact as clear as the sun at noon-day, it is much more than an even chance that the thief escapes by a quibble.
To remove these obstacles, the wise framers of the Vagrant Act permit summary convictions, not for actual, but for reputed theft. There is ingenuity in the contrivance; but I venture to submit as a sort of insinuation, whether it would not be better to remove the obstacles to the detection of criminals, by mitigating the Penal Code, by abolishing law taxes,1 by simplifying the law so that hired advocates shall not be needed, and by abolishing all the absurd fictions, all the quirks and quibbles, by which justice is so often eluded in the English Courts of Law.
They will not do this; it would hurt the interest of Learned Gentlemen. But to see men of unblemished character treading at the mill for being reputed by a Police officer to be thieves, neither hurts their interests nor their feelings. When will the public learn to think for themselves, instead of trusting to those who are interested in deceiving them?
The Censor of the Judges
EFFECTS OF GAMBLING
LANCET, 9 NOV., 1823, PP. 214-16
This article gives early indication of Mill’s participation in the nature vs. nurture debate, in which he enlisted on the side of education and environment, without endorsing the views of the necessitarians or Owenites. The case here referred to is that of John Thurtell (1794-1824), who murdered a fellow-swindler, William Weare, on 24 Oct., 1823, and was hanged on 9 Jan., 1824. Mill’s reference to “students of our profession” is surely a guise intended to associate his argument with the concerns of medicine (or it may have been added by the editor); he had no medical training, and his brief legal training is not specially germane. The article, Mill’s only contribution to the Lancet, the (initially) weekly radical medical journal, is headed “[From a Correspondent] / The Late Murder / Effects of Gambling,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the evil consequences of gaming which appeared in the Lancet of 9th November 1823”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
when human nature exhibits, as she occasionally does, an example of all kinds of wickedness concentrated in one man, we feel a melancholy interest in looking back upon the events of his life, and tracing the various circumstances which, by their conspiring influence, formed his mind to guilt, and eradicated all those associations, or prevented them from being formed, which cause an ordinary character to shudder at the thought of shedding the blood of a fellow creature.
Indolent and superficial reasoners would willingly arrest the inquiring mind in the search after those hidden causes by which the human character is formed. If a shocking instance of depravity presents itself to their notice, they do not say. That man was an idler, a drunkard, or a gamester; but That man was naturally of a bad disposition: as if men were robbers and murderers by constitution, and gave proof in the cradle of the atrocities which they were destined to commit.
With what face can a man who believes in innate depravity, hold up the fate of a murderer as an example, and warn all who are witnesses of it, to beware of the vices which conduct men to such an end? As consistently might a believer in fatality enlarge upon the necessity of obeying the dictates of prudence. The person to whom the admonition is addressed, might well reply, that it is unnecessary, since, if his nature is corrupt, it is in vain to struggle against it; but if he has a natural disposition to virtue, all exhortation to follow that disposition is superfluous. This doctrine, therefore, must raise up a blind confidence in the minds of the innocent, and must prevent them from taking the necessary precautions against those baneful habits which lead to vice: while they, who have already entered into the downhill path of wickedness, are prevented from a timely reform, by the thought that all their efforts would be unavailing.
Nor is the doctrine which we are combating less unfounded than mischievous. It is truly astonishing upon how little evidence this opinion has obtained currency in the world—such currency that the phraseology to which it has given rise, is, perhaps, equally universal with the use of language. It remains yet to be proved, that men are born either virtuous or wicked—either predisposed to morality or to vice. The only proof which it has ever been attempted to assign, is the enormous difference which exists between the most virtuous and the most vicious of men. The differences of character are indeed great; but so are the differences of external circumstances. And as it is generally admitted that circumstances often overcome the effect of natural predisposition, while no proof has ever been given that natural predisposition can overcome external circumstances: we are at liberty to conclude, that in ascribing to any person a natural and original disposition to vice, men are following the very common practice of representing as natural that which is only habitual, merely because they do not recollect its beginning, and will not take the trouble to inquire into its cause.
If, then, wickedness is not the effect of nature, but of external circumstances, that inquiry cannot fail to be interesting, which traces up that complicated and lamentable effect to the several causes which produced it. But most of all will such an inquiry be valuable, if it points out to us as the original root of all the evil, not some circumstances peculiar to the guilty individual, but habits and practices common to him with a great number; and which, although they do not conduct their votaries either to equal depravity or to equal punishment, infallibly bring about a radical corruption of character, and lead them continually to the brink of the most atrocious crimes.
Our readers will have long ago anticipated the subject of our present observations. The principal perpetrator of the late murder, John Thurtell, was a murderer only after he had been a gamester, and only, as it appears, because he had been a gamester.
The process by which gaming effects so complete a corruption of the character is two-fold. First, It reduces the gamester, not gradually, but suddenly, to that necessitous state where the temptation to crime is the strongest. Secondly, There is no practice capable of being pointed out, which so entirely roots out all good habits, and implants in their stead so many bad ones.
We are satisfied that if the unfortunate men who are executed for theft, or forgery, were interrogated concerning the original and primary cause of the distress which occasioned the crime, it would be found, in a great proportion of instances, that this distress was brought on by gaming. But it is not even by the distress which it creates, and the temptation which it frequently holds out to crime, that this destructive vice produces its worst effects. A mind which experiences the agonizing vicissitudes of the gaming table, soon becomes so habituated to strong excitement, that, like the body of the habitual drunkard, it is insensible to every stimulus of a gentler kind. It is totally and for ever unfitted to resume habits of diligence and industry; and the habits which it has acquired are in themselves, such as, above all others, tend to produce crime. Continually liable to perish by starvation, the gamester does not consider his perils much enhanced when, to be released from that danger, he exposes himself to the terrors of the law. And the habit of relying upon chance makes him trust to the chance of escape, even when the possibility is next to nothing. In no other way can the apparent coolness and indifference of Thurtell be accounted for, where it must be evident that the chance of escaping detection scarcely deserved the name of a possibility.
It is a question well deserving of consideration, how far Government or its officers are justified in any direct interference to prevent these practices. It would be a chimerical expectation, that the vice of gaming could be eradicated by positive enactment. But there can be no doubt, that public gaming-houses contribute greatly to the encouragement of this vice. Unwary persons, perhaps, recently arrived in London, (and we particularly address our observations to students of our profession,) and not yet aware of the dangers to which they are exposed, are frequently entrapped, and carried into one of these houses, where they are made drunk, cheated of their money, and, perhaps, by frequent repetition, reduced to poverty, while they contract, at the same time, inveterate habits of gaming. We think that the exertions used for the suppression of these houses are not by any means so active as they ought to be. Many notorious hot-beds of vice are still permitted to exist; and we are convinced, that upon diligent inquiry, their existence would be found to be connived at by the police officers, who have no interest in diminishing the number of offences, though they have in obtaining possession of the persons of the offenders. We think that Mr. Dyer, Mr. Swabey, and Mr. Rogers, would be better employed in extirpating this nuisance, than by sending respectable men to the tread-mill for having the misfortune to be taken ill in Hyde Park,1 or for being considered by police officers “reputed thieves.”2
QUESTION OF POPULATION 
BLACK DWARF, 27 NOV., 1823, PP. 748-56
This letter is the first of four by Mill to Thomas Jonathan Wooler (1786?-1853), editor and publisher of the populist weekly Black Dwarf, an opponent of the Malthusian principles and practices that Mill had adopted to the point of being arrested for distribution of birth-control literature (probably in May 1823). Mill takes exception to the second part of Wooler’s “Inquiry into the Principles of Population,” printed in two instalments: the first (including a letter by Francis Place, who was responsible for the printing of the Neo-Malthusian literature Mill had distributed) in Black Dwarf, 12 Nov., 1823, pp. 661-3, and the second ibid., 19 Nov., pp. 693-706. The page references in the text are to this second part. For further stages in the controversy, see Nos. 28, 31, and 32. The letter, headed as title, is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the necessity of checking population, which appeared in the Black Dwarf of November 20th [sic] 1823, signed A.M.”
(MacMinn, p. 4).
Although I do not agree in the view which you take of the important subject of population, I cannot sufficiently applaud your liberality in leaving your pages open to the discussion of the question; a degree of toleration, which, I am sorry to say, few persons who take your side of this question, can be prevailed on to allow. I hasten to avail myself of this liberty of discussion, for the purpose of combating the objections which you stated in your last number against the plan of checking population [pp. 695-9]; objections which appear to me founded on a mistaken view of the circumstances upon which the condition of the labouring classes depends.
It is unnecessary for me to prove, that the working people are in a state of miserable poverty, since you admit this, and have long been exerting yourself for the benevolent purpose of improving their condition. We differ only as to the cause of the distress; which I maintain to be, excess of population, as compared with the means of subsistence. You, on the contrary, affirm, that population has no tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence; and that misgovernment is the only cause of the distressed condition of the working classes.
I should be very sorry to extenuate the miseries of misgovernment. I am, equally with yourself, a friend to a Radical Reform in the Commons House of Parliament;—and if I could believe, as you appear to do, that such a Reform can only be effected by keeping the people in poverty, I should perhaps hesitate to urge the plan of checking population, until after a Reform should have been obtained. But I cannot agree with you, that the working classes will not reform the government unless they are miserable. On the contrary, I think that so long as they are in poverty, Reform may be delayed for an unlimited period; but if they were in the receipt of high wages, they would have leisure to turn their attention to the abuses of government; and those abuses could not fail of being speedily reformed.
I.—You maintain that population has no tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence. [Pp. 694-6.] I feel convinced that you are entirely mistaken; but this is a question of some complication; and although I shall be ready to discuss it whenever you please, the practical conclusion, as far as regards the poor man may be shown without making it depend on this question; and to this point attention is now requested.
You admit the fact of the distress; but you ascribe it to misgovernment [pp. 697-8, 703, 705]; meaning, I presume, over-taxation. Now over-taxation cannot lower wages. It may, indeed, you will say, raise the prices of the necessaries of life. It will thus injure the working classes as much as if it operated directly to reduce wages. I shall not enter into this question at present. I shall concede the point. But I hope to convince you that it does not affect the question. I admit, for argument’s sake, that the present rate of wages is such as would enable the labourer to live in comfort and happiness, but for the pressure of taxation.
My argument remains the same:—the labourer is now in distress. If he had double his present wages, with only the same amount of taxation, he would be in distress no longer. Now each man would have double his present wages, if the numbers of the people had not been too rapidly increased.
Does not every working man know, that his employer would give him higher wages, if he were not sure of obtaining as many men as he wants at the present rates? And is it not clear that he could not obtain men, if men in sufficient quantity and out of employment, were not to be had?
There is now a certain quantity of employment. There are as many men as can be employed, and more; for there is a great number of men out of work. These men, who are out of work, must either starve, or agree to take lower wages than their neighbours. The consequence is, that wages are low, and employment being regarded as a favor, the working man is often compelled to submit to incivility and insolence from his employer.
Suppose that, instead of excess, there was a deficiency of labourers. At present a capitalist can always obtain workmen, but a workman cannot always find an employer. Suppose this order of things reversed: suppose that there were fewer men than are wanted for the purpose of production. All the labourers would then be fully employed, and as more would be wanted than it would be possible to procure, some capitalists, in order to allure the men from their former employers, would offer high wages; this would compel the former employers to do the same. Wages would therefore be high, and employment would no longer be considered as a favor, but on the contrary, a labourer would be doing a favor to a capitalist, by working for him, and the capitalists would be compelled to treat their workmen well.
I infer that it is always wise in the labourers, to keep down their numbers a little below the means of employment. No men would then be ever out of work; the difficulty of procuring workmen would compel the capitalists to offer high wages, and this they would do in spite of any law to the contrary, however severe that law might be.
If then so much good is to be done by keeping down the numbers of the working people, the only question is, between one mode of keeping them down, and another. It is for the people themselves to decide. For my own part, I consider the plan of checking population, to be that which unites the most advantages with the fewest disadvantages.
All this, you see, does not depend in any degree upon the tendency of population to increase beyond the means of subsistence. It depends upon nothing but what every working man must know: that if there were fewer men, there would not be any men out of work; and that if there were no men out of employment, the men who are in employment could make their own terms with the capitalists.
II.—You say, that it would be better to take off the taxes than to diminish the population.1 I too am desirous that the taxes should be taken off: but if there were no taxes upon the working classes at all, there would be as many men out of employment as before: although they who are employed would be better off as long as their present wages continued; but, as there would still be more labourers than could obtain employment, the same process of bidding at lower wages against one another would continue, and wages speedily be reduced again to the lowest possible amount; reduced too, observe, by the competition of the working people themselves. Besides, when a mode of benefiting the working classes, viz. by limiting their numbers, is pointed out, it is no answer to point to another mode of benefiting them, viz. by taking off the taxes: for this, unfortunately, you have not yet in your power, (and yet there is no reason why the people should be kept miserable in the interim:) and besides, if you had, why not do both?
I cannot agree in the sentiments which you express in the following sentence; “We do not wish men to be comfortable, if they could be so for a period under a bad system.” [P. 705.] I do wish men to be comfortable, whether under a bad system or a good one. What is it that constitutes a bad system, if it is not the discomfort which it produces. Good government is not the end of all human actions. Though a highly important means, it is still only a means, to an end: and that end is happiness.
I admit that I should desire for the people something more than merely good clothing and plenty of food. But it remains to be shewn that their chance of obtaining that something more, will be in any degree diminished by their being well fed and clothed. I feel confident that it will be increased. Until they are well fed, they cannot be well instructed: and until they are well instructed, they cannot emancipate themselves from the double yoke of priestcraft and of reverence for superiors.
Placed as is your observation, just quoted, among many others of similar import, I cannot but view it as a sort of acknowledgment, that the people would be made more comfortable by limiting their numbers. If they, too, can be convinced of this, I have no fear of their hesitating to adopt the means from apprehension of its retarding the epoch of a Radical Reform.
A circumstance which appears to weigh with you, is, that you think the plan of checking population a device of the rich to oppress the poor. [P. 705.] So far is this from being the case, that it is entirely contrary to the interests of the rich that any check to population should come into general adoption.
It is the interest of the master manufacturers, that a great number of hands should readily offer themselves at low wages. Now I have shewn, that if the numbers of the people were limited to a sufficient degree, wages would be high, and workmen could not always be readily obtained.
III.—You say, “Wages have decreased in England, in a ratio with the accumulation of capital; not because there are too many labourers, but because capital, being the ruling principle, can compel them to labour upon its own conditions.” [P. 701.] It is true, that when the population is excessive, the capitalist can lose nothing by dismissing him—that another man, of equal bodily powers, will immediately offer himself at the same, or even lower wages,—he is forced to cringe to his master, and submit to any indignity rather than be turned out. If labourers were few in comparison to the demand for them—if labour, and not employment for labour, were the article in request:—if every working man knew that when dismissed he could easily obtain employment, while his master could not so readily obtain another labourer, he would then be as independent as his employer.
Look at North America! Is the labourer there the slave of the capitalist? You will say, this is owing to good government. To prove the contrary, I refer you to the English colonies, to Nova Scotia, for instance; and the English colonies are among the worst governed countries in the universe. Yet in Nova Scotia the labourer is highly paid, and perfectly independent; nor does any rich man dare to oppress or insult him. This is only because there is a deficiency of labourers, below the number which capitalists wish to employ.
In some parts of the south of France, the working people are well paid, and well provided with necessaries and comforts. This I affirm from my own observation.2 There however, population is regulated. Yet there the government is not good. The same is the case is some parts of the Austrian dominions, under one of the most despotic governments upon record. In both these countries the people are kept, through the efforts of bad government, in a state of great mental degradation, and consequently unable to avail themselves of the advantages they might otherwise possess, which in time they will possess, and which the people of this country might almost immediately possess.
Not only the master manufacturer but the landowner also, has an interest in over-population. A large population implies a high state of cultivation, and dear corn. Now a high price of corn is the cause of high rents; an highly cultivated farm will yield an increased rent at the expiration of the lease. Both sections of the rich—the landowners and manufacturers—are thus interested in the excessive population; the former for high rents; the latter for low wages, and high profits.
Nor is this all. Both landlords and manufacturers have an obvious interest in keeping the working classes in a state of abject poverty. These gentlemen know that while the great body of the people are compelled to work fourteen hours a day, they cannot turn their attention to the abuses of the government. They can neither instruct themselves, nor send their children to be instructed. From want of leisure, their thinking powers can never be sufficiently developed, to repel the prejudices which make them the slaves of priests and kings.
So long as excess of population was regarded as an irremediable evil, the doctrine was taken up and patronized by the aristocracy: who wished the people to infer, that misgovernment was but a trivial evil, and that it was idle to oppose it, since the lower classes must always be in poverty, under a good, or under a bad government. But now that remedy is pointed out, for excess of population; a remedy, which, if adopted, would produce high wages, and would enable the people to instruct themselves, and to reform their government; I venture to predict that the rich, but above all, the clergy will do all in their power to prevent the adoption of the plan, so well calculated to elevate the scale of being. As soon as they shall perceive that it is coming into use, they will rail against it in the pulpit, will persecute in every possible way, and without mercy all whom they suspect to have made use of it. But all their efforts will be useless; and if the superstitions of the nursery are discarded, we may hope ere long to see the English people well paid, well instructed, and eventually well governed.
IV.—I have only room to say a few words against the objection that this plan is a violation of the laws of nature. [Pp. 700, 705.] Those laws are no more violated by checking population than by any other mode of turning to useful purposes the properties of matter. It is not in the power of man, a being of limited faculties, to violate the laws of nature. But he can avail himself of one law to counteract another. It is a law of nature that the sexual intercourse, if not artificially prevented, occasions the generation of children. But it is also a law of nature, that man shall seek happiness; and that he shall avail himself, for that purpose, of other laws of nature.
You say, in a former article; “With all due deference to those who wish to keep down the population to the means of subsistence, I think this might be very safely left to Providence which has spread so plentiful a table for all his creatures:”3 and in a later article; “We can trust the Ruler of all things, not only with ‘his sky’ but all the principles which he has called into action, to regulate themselves.”4
You do not trust the Almighty with “his sky.” You do not indeed prevent the rain from falling at unseasonable times: the true reason of which I take to be that you cannot. But you do all in your power to shelter yourself from its fall: you put up an umbrella, and cover your house with a roof, to prevent the rain, which Providence has sent, from injuring your person or your property. The charge of violating the laws of nature may thus be retorted upon yourself. To check population is not more unnatural than to make use of an umbrella. If either of these operations is a counteraction of the designs of Providence, both are equally so. Again, when you speak of leaving to Providence the care of checking population, you seem not to be aware of the length to which this argument may be carried. A man who leaves every thing to Providence, will not succeed in many of his undertakings. “God helps those who help themselves:” and you might as well leave to Providence the care of producing food, as that of preventing either the waste or useless consumption of it.
QUESTION OF POPULATION 
BLACK DWARF, 10 DEC., 1823, PP. 791-8
This is the second of Mill’s responses to the opinions of Thomas Wooler (see No. 27). Wooler had replied to No. 27 in “The Black Dwarf to ‘A.M.’ against the Preventive System,” Black Dwarf, 3 Dec., 1823, pp. 772-83, to which the interpolated page numbers refer. Headed “Question of Population / Arguments of the Anti-Populationists,” the letter is subheaded “To the Editor of the Black Dwarf,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A second letter on the same subject which appeared in the Black Dwarf of December 10th 1823, signed A.M.”
(MacMinn, p. 5).
I have perused with attention your reply to my former letter on the plan of regulating the numbers of the people; and I proceed to state the reasons which induce me, notwithstanding all which you have said, to adhere to my former opinion, that any increase of population beyond the actual increase of the means of subsistence and employment, would be highly injurious to the labouring classes, by whatever circumstances the increase of the subsistence may be promoted or retarded.
Before replying, however, to your objections, I think it necessary to correct two mistakes into which you have fallen in your statement of my views. You observe, that it is not the labourer alone who multiplies the candidates for labour; and you quote the instances of Mr. T. Courtenay, and Mr. Canning.1 You then observe, “It is only those who are poor, who are recommended to abstinence. A class almost as numerous, namely, those who may become so, are never taken into the calculation.” [P. 776.] Now, Sir, I have to remark, that I do take into the calculation not only the poor, but all men; and I think it highly unwise in any person, rich or poor, to have more than a certain number of children. But I certainly think it still more unwise in a poor man to have a family whom he cannot maintain, than in a rich man to have a family which he can.
The other instance of misinterpretation to which I allude, is the following:—You say, “you would be satisfied if the people could be made comfortable under a bad system; and while no discomfort is actually felt, you seem to infer that it ought not to be feared, no matter how certain to result from a bad system.” [Pp. 777-8.] Now, Sir, on turning to my former letter, I do, indeed, find these words: “I wish the people to be comfortable under any system, good or bad;” but I also find the following words: “I admit that I should desire something more for the people than merely good clothing and plenty of food. But it rests with you to prove, that their chance of obtaining that something more will be in any degree diminished by their being well fed and clothed.”2 I also avowed myself,3 and again avow myself, a friend to a Radical Reform in the Commons House of Parliament. So much for my views and your misinterpretations. I now proceed to comment upon your arguments.
You say that I have avoided the discussion of the question whether population has ever pressed against the means of subsistence; and yet you say this is the only ground upon which my arguments in favour of keeping down the numbers of the people can be maintained. [P. 783.]
It may, perhaps, be necessary to inform you, that when population is said to press against the means of subsistence, the meaning is, that it presses against the means of employment; in short, that there are more men in existence than can be employed and maintained, in comfort, by the productive capital of the country. That such is the fact, is sufficiently proved, by the universal prevalence of low wages.—There is no country on the earth, if we except America and other newly cultivated countries, where (if no check is in use) the labourer is not underpaid. Now, I ask, how could this possibly be the case, if the population did not press on the means of employment? If there had been fewer workmen than the capital of the world is able to employ, the capitalists would have found great difficulty in obtaining men; they would have been eager to obtain them almost at any cost, and would have bid against one another until wages were raised very high. This, however, is very far from being the case. In every old country, the lowest class of labourers are barely provided with the necessaries of life. This could never be the case, if there were not more than the capital of the country could employ; in consequence of which they bid against one another, and obtain lower wages: nor can they all be employed, even at a low rate, for many are constantly out of work. If now they would adopt means for regulating their numbers, they would have it in their power to make their own terms with their employers; for they could always keep their number below that which can be employed with the present capital. Labour would then always be in request, and wages high.
But you affirm (if I understand you rightly), that even in this case, the employers could keep down wages. [P. 775.] I feel no such apprehensions. The capitalists have been enabled, hitherto, to keep down wages, only by the mutual competition of the labourers. Slaves are at the mercy of their employers, and will be worked as it may suit the convenience of those employers. They can be forced to work. Free labourers cannot.
When there is no excess of population—no competition among the labourers, they are not at the mercy of their employers. Among many proofs of this fact which our history affords, I shall only quote one. After the great plague, in the reign of Edward III, by which the numbers of the people were greatly reduced, complaints were made of a deficiency of workmen, and it was found that they would no longer work without high wages. On this an Act of Parliament was made to prohibit them from taking higher wages than they took before the plague: this Act being found ineffectual, the penalties were raised higher and higher, until, at last, the offence was made capital; and still it was all in vain.4 A striking proof of the disposition of the higher classes to keep down wages, but an equally striking proof of their inability to do so. It may serve as an answer to your assertion, that if half the population of Ireland were cut off by a pestilence, the remainder would not be benefited. I think it very clear that they would be benefited; as the English people were benefited by the plague in the time of Edward III.
I have your own authority, to corroborate my assertion,5 that it is the competition of the labourers which enables their employers to keep down wages. You say
no labour was ever long profitable to the labourer in this country. All sorts of labour, at the same period, cannot be so, particularly in manufactures; the demand for which is influenced by fashions; and the labourer must eat or starve as fashion pleases. When a trade is supposed to be profitable, a rush is made on the part of the rising population to partake of its advantages. This destroys them. Another is rising and the crowd turns in that direction.
Is it not clear, from your own statement, that if the “rising population” were not so numerous—if the “crowd” were smaller, their “rush” to partake of high wages would not, as at present, have the effect of lowering those high wages? Is it possible to admit more explicitly than you do, that the lowness of wages is owing to the competition among the people, from which it is a necessary inference, that if the people were less numerous, the competition would be much smaller, and wages would not be so much reduced?
I do not think it necessary to reply to any of the arguments which you have adduced to show that this “check to population”6 would not have the effect of checking population. Whatever other objections may be urged against it, this, at least, is a merit which certainly must be allowed to it. I do not see how you can well doubt that if the people could be prevailed upon to use the method of keeping down their numbers, they would infallibly succeed.
You endeavour to shew that I am wrong in asserting that it is the interest of the landowners and manufacturers, that the country should be over-peopled;7 you do not, however, deny, either that low wages are favourable to the manufacturer, or high rents to the landlord: and it is clear that when there are many mouths to feed, a high state of cultivation is required, which implies dear corn, and high rents. Your only argument is, that Dennis Browne says, that Ireland could spare two millions of its inhabitants.8 Now I cannot hold it to be any proof, that some thousands of men will not see and act according to their interest, because one man, and he, not one of the wisest, either does not see it, or seeing it, affects to preach against it. But without pushing this argument farther, I admit that Ireland is rather too much over-peopled, even for the aristocracy; for their own persons and property are endangered by the despair of a starving people.
You still think that the people will not effect reform until they are driven to desperation by poverty; and you quote the apathy and indifference of the middle classes. [P. 773.] I might quote the apathy and indifference of the agricultural labourers, who are by far the poorest of the working people. Notwithstanding all that you have said, I really cannot admit that the middling classes of this country are more indifferent than the working classes to the blessings of good government; and I am sure that in every other country of Europe the middle classes alone feel any desire for a better government than they possess.
As to the condition of the people in the South of France, and in the Austrian States, you do not deny the truth of my statement, that they regulate their numbers, and that they are well paid and comfortable.9 But you say they are in a state of great mental degradation. [P. 779.] This is true. But who ever asserted, that superstition and mis-government will not brutalize a people? They are the slaves of the priests; and, moreover, the Government, which knows what it has to fear from their mental improvement, discourages the introduction of schools and other means of instruction among them. Our working classes are, by no means, equally priest-ridden, and have much greater facilities for instructing themselves.—You say, “it remains to be proved, that until men are well fed they cannot be well instructed.” [P. 778.] In support of which you quote Shakspeare, rather an extraordinary authority in a question of philosophy. I reply, that if fat paunches make lean pates;10 still it is not the less true, that so long as men stand in need of all the money which they can command, to secure a bare subsistence, they are not likely to spend much, either upon books or upon the instruction of their children. Nor is this all. A man who is compelled to work fourteen hours out of the twenty-four to obtain bread, has no time to instruct himself, and is too much harassed and fatigued to turn his attention to important affairs. How can it be otherwise?
A few words more on the specific plan which has been proposed for the regulation of population. You see in it a tendency to moral evils of the most aggravated description; and you insinuate, that it would lead to infanticide, and even to murder. [P. 780.] You might as well say, that to give true evidence before a Court of Justice, might lead to perjury; that to write your name would lead to forgery; or, in fact, that any useful act might terminate in any mischievous one, if some insignificant collateral circumstance is, in both cases, the same. This looks very like a reason made to justify a feeling. Can you discover any but a fantastic resemblance between checking population, and committing murder? Do you think, that what deters people from committing murder, is an aversion to reduce the population of the country? for this is the only deterring motive, which would be removed by checking population. As to infanticide, I leave you to judge, whether a parent, who has a larger family than it is possible to maintain, or a parent who has only a small family, is most likely to be tempted to destroy a child. I thus retort upon yourself your remark, that men should keep as far as possible from the temptation to commit any crime. [P. 780.]
In my last letter, I replied to the objection, that to check population is to violate the laws of nature, by observing that it is equally a violation of the law of nature to hold up an umbrella.11 This you deny; and you say “I am no party to the operation of the law; and I cannot violate it. The law is, that rain should descend; and I only avoid its descending upon my own head.” [P. 782.] The law is, that rain shall descend upon every man’s head, and every where. But if you do not like this illustration, I will give you another. It is a law of nature that man should go naked. He is born naked; like other animals, all of whom go naked. To put on clothes is clearly a counteraction of the designs of Providence, if Providence intended that we should not violate the laws of nature. Accordingly, upon this principle, some self-called philosophers have written in defence of the savage state, and have exclaimed against every step in the progress of civilization as being an infraction of the laws of nature.
You also say that there is “a great difference between the different laws of nature: and that you do not suspect me of asserting that you have an equal right to hold up an umbrella, and to procure abortion, or to kill a fellow creature.” [P. 782.] This is precisely what I want. You have now brought your doctrines to the same test with myself. I too, affirm, that “there is a great difference between different laws of nature.” The difference is this, there are two sets of actions both of which you chuse to call violations of the law of nature. By the one set misery is inflicted, by the other set, no evil whatever is occasioned. Thus by killing a fellow-creature, pain is inflicted on the murdered person and his connexions, and other persons are alarmed for their own safety. By checking population, no pain is inflicted, no alarm excited, no security infringed. It cannot, therefore, on any principles, be termed immoral; and if the above arguments be correct—if it tends to elevate the working people from poverty and ignorance to affluence and instruction, I am compelled to regard it as highly moral and virtuous; nor can I agree with you in treating as “heartless,” [p. 781] the desire of seeing so inestimable a benefit conferred upon mankind; unless, indeed, the word heartless, be one of the engines of a sentimental cant, invented to discourage all steady pursuit of the general happiness of mankind.
PLACE’S ON THE LAW OF LIBEL
MORNING CHRONICLE, 1 JAN., 1824, P. 2
This review deals with a subject that occupied much of James Mill’s attention. The anonymous pamphlet (by Francis Place, as Mill certainly knew) is made up of eight parts published in the British Luminary and Weekly Intelligencer in weekly first-page, unsigned instalments from 3 Nov. to 22 Dec., 1822, under the title “Constitutional Association. Practice of the Courts.—Trial by Jury in Libel Cases,” plus an article added for the pamphlet publication. Francis Place (1771-1854), “the Radical tailor of Charing Cross,” was a loyal associate of Bentham and James Mill, and championed popular causes throughout his life. Mill again reviewed Place’s pamphlet (with Richard Mence’s The Law of Libel) in “Law of Libel and Liberty of the Press,” Westminster Review, III (Apr. 1825), 285-321 (CW, Vol. XXI, pp. 1-34). The unsigned review in the Morning Chronicle is headed “On the Law of Libel, with Strictures on the Self-Styled Constitutional Association, pp. 73. London, John Hunt, 1823” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Place’s pamphlet on the Law of Libel which appeared in the Chronicle of January 1st 1824”
(MacMinn, p. 5).
this pamphlet consists of a series of Essays, all of which, except the last, appeared some months ago in a periodical publication. We recommend it strongly to the attentive perusal of every one who desires to know the extent of that boasted liberty of the press, which, we are taught to believe, is the birthright of Englishmen. He will learn from this pamphlet, that the rulers of this country possess as great a power of suppressing obnoxious publications by fine and imprisonment as they can desire: that the comparative free discussion which we enjoy exists only by connivance, and would not exist at all, were it not forced upon the Government by an enlightened public opinion.
A short abstract will convey a better idea, than any general remarks, of the view taken of the subject in this very able production.
There is no statute law on the subject of libel. There is nothing but common or unwritten law. Where the law is unwritten, definition is evidently impossible; much more, accurate and precise definition. What is to be gathered from precedents and cases can be known only to lawyers. Jurymen are not lawyers. They cannot therefore judge for themselves whether a publication is or is not libellous, but are compelled to decide the one way or the other, according to the directions of the Judge. Now, the Judge, in giving these directions, not only is not restrained by any definition of libel, but is not even restrained by precedents and cases; since there is scarcely a single point of law, on both sides of which many decisions are not to be found. Whether then the Judge shall direct the Jury to decide according to the precedents on one side, or according to the precedents on the other, depends almost entirely upon his own good will and pleasure. The law of libel, therefore, is actually and in fact made by the Judge.
When a person is tried for publishing a libel, some one swears that he has purchased a book, and the Judge tells the Jury that he considers it to be a libel. But does the Judge tell the Jury what a libel is? No; for there is no definition of it. If, therefore, the Jury find the prisoner guilty, it is not upon the testimony of witnesses, but upon the authority of the Judge. The witness swears that the prisoner sold the book; but to sell a book is not punishable, unless that book is a libel. For the fact of its being so, the Jury have nothing but the word of the Judge. The latitude which Judges allow themselves in declaring publications to be libellous, may be judged of by the example of the late Lord Ellenborough, who said that a libel was any thing which hurts the feelings of any body.1 Under this definition, if it be one, it is easy to see that all publications disagreeable to the Government may be included. The only legal check, then, upon the Judge, is the disposition of the Jury to set aside his opinion, and refuse to consign a man to imprisonment and fine, merely upon the faith of the Judge’s opinion. But there is a mode of rendering this check equally nugatory with all others, and this mode is constantly resorted to in cases of libel. It is by employing a packed Special Jury. The pamphlet before us contains the most complete exposure in the smallest compass which we have yet seen, of the packing system.2 It investigates the origin of the practice, demonstrates that it was originally an abuse, that the grounds on which it was professedly introduced, have long since ceased to exist, and that Special Jurymen, far from being, as in theory they ought to be, superior in education and respectability to the Common Juries, are for the most part greatly deficient in both. It also explains the mode in which the system is acted upon at present. The Special Jury list is composed in counties, of freeholders; and in Middlesex, of some descriptions of leaseholders also; in London, it consists of all whom it is thought proper to term merchants. From this list, the Jury is selected; in Middlesex and London, by the Master of the Crown Office, who names forty-eight persons, twelve of whom form the Special Jury. It is proved in this pamphlet, from indisputable authority, that the Juries are constantly selected out of a certain very small number of persons known to the selector, who make it a regular trade; and as each receives a guinea for every cause he decides, we leave it to the reader to judge how often he will return a verdict contrary to the will of his employers, knowing well that if he does so, he will be summoned no more.
Since the publication of the bulk of these Essays in The British Luminary, the subject of Special Juries has been brought before the House of Commons; and the facts stated above were met by protestations of the unblemished integrity of Mr. Lushington, the present Master of the Crown Office.3 This, it is to be observed, is the constant practice of all the defenders of abuses; they always endeavour to turn a public into a personal question; to confound attacks upon a system, with attacks upon the character of individuals. We will not merely say that the administration of justice ought not only to be pure, but unsuspected, and that suspicion of injustice is an evil, second only in magnitude to injustice itself: we will not content ourselves with saying, that if Mr. Lushington be a man of honour, future Masters of the Crown Office may be otherwise. We will not confine ourselves to these arguments, though these, were there no others, would be conclusive. We cannot sufficiently reprobate the principle itself, of endeavouring to deter men from exposing a bad system, lest their strictures should be construed into imputations upon the character of individuals.
We assert, that, if a public officer is placed in a situation where his employers will expect him to serve them at the expence of the public—where he must content them or forfeit his subsistence, evil cannot fail to ensue. We are told, in reply, that Mr. Lushington is a pure, a virtuous, an honourable man, and the upshot of the whole is, that we are to surrender up our liberty and our property into the hands of this honourable man; that we are to trust him with a power over us, which no man could, consistently with prudence, confide to his own brother. We give Mr. Lushington full credit for as much virtue as falls to the share of any other man.—But we confess, we think it rather too much for Mr. Lushington’s friends, in his behalf, to lay claim to more, and to think him insulted if the public does not acquiesce in this modest claim. Really, one would think, to hear this language, that a preference of their private interest to that of the community, were something totally unheard of in public men; and that there were no instances of persons who have acquitted themselves admirably well of the ordinary duties of life, but who, nevertheless, when their subsistence depended upon their becoming instruments of misgovernment, have easily persuaded themselves that it was their duty to do so. We do not blame Mr. Lushington for doing what every man in his situation would do: but we cannot help reminding his overwarm supporters, that for men to strain every nerve for the attainment and preservation of power, which never can be desired for any good purpose, is not the conduct of all others best calculated to raise an expectation, that if allowed to retain it they will not make a bad use of it.
If they could prove that Mr. Lushington cannot abuse his power, they would not take so much pains to prove that he will not. But we are to believe that the situation holds out temptations against which no virtue would be proof, save his who actually holds the situation. Another succeeds him; that other is equally immaculate. By this argument, if such it can be called, no abuse would ever be reformed: for there must always be some one in a situation to profit by it; and if the honour of one man is a sufficient guarantee against abuse, it were an affront to suppose that the honour of another was inferior. What tyranny, what oppression, might not be justified in this way? You dare not accuse the man; and if you accuse the system, you are met with protestations that the man is perfectly immaculate.
Where has Mr. Lushington given proofs of such exalted heroism? It is easy to ascertain whether he prefers the public interest to his own, for if so, his salary still remains untouched in the Exchequer. But there is no need of surmises, when facts are before us. Let us look to the list of those who have served on Special Juries for the last ten years:—Let us ask ourselves how it happens that the same small number of men have been always summoned?4 What Judge would listen to attestations of character, when he has positive evidence before him? Nay, the very circumstance of Mr. Lushington’s still remaining Master of the Crown Office, is in itself a sufficient proof that his conduct has been conformable to the interests of his employers: unless Ministers also lay claim to the same super-human virtue for which we are to give credit to Mr. Lushington?
It is probable that this gentleman sincerely believes the custom of packing juries to be right; at all events, we are sure, that he never would set up for himself the same lofty pretensions which are set up for him by his over officious friends; that he desires to be judged by his actions, not by the allegations of his friends as to his character; and that, if he is wise, he wishes for nothing more strongly than to be relieved from a duty which it is scarcely possible to execute without incurring a degree of odium, which, we have no reason to believe, that he personally deserves.
MORNING CHRONICLE, 5 JAN., 1824, P. 3
This letter, using one of Bentham’s catch-phrases as signature, is in response to a letter, headed “Pleadings” and signed “Hibernicus,” Morning Chronicle, 3 Jan., 1824, p. 3, which is a rebuttal of another letter headed “Pleadings,” signed “G.J.G. Gray’s Inn,” ibid., 26 Dec., 1823, p. 4. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A short letter on Indictments, signed an Enemy to Legal Fictions, whch. appeared in the Chronicle of January 5th 1824”
(MacMinn, p. 5).
In answer to the letter which you inserted some days ago on the subject of Pleadings, your Correspondent, Hibernicus, observes, that it is incorrect to affirm the Grand Jury to be perjurers, when they return upon oath that the prisoner is guilty; because, in fact, all which they mean is, not that he is guilty, but that a prima facie case is made out against him. I, too, have read the letter on Pleadings, and I am sure that the writer agrees with Hibernicus on this subject. All which he intended was, to shew the absurdity of a system of law which forces the Grand Jury to say one thing when they mean another; and not only to say it, but to swear it. This is innocent perjury, but it is perjury, and though the Jurors do not deserve blame, the law evidently does.
An Enemy to Legal Fictions
QUESTION OF POPULATION 
BLACK DWARF, 7 JAN., 1824, PP. 21-3
For the context of this third response to Thomas Wooler, see No. 27. Wooler had replied to No. 28 with “The Black Dwarf to A.M.,” Black Dwarf, 31 Dec., 1823, pp. 905-10, to which the interpolated page numbers refer. The letter by another correspondent that Mill refers to in the opening and penultimate paragraphs immediately precedes Mill’s own letter; headed “Question of Population,” and signed “A Friend to the ‘Lower Classes,’ ” it appears on pp. 15-21 of the issue for 7 Jan. How Mill became aware of its existence is not known. Mill’s letter is headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Black Dwarf,” and described in his bibliography as “A third letter on the necessity of checking population whch. appeared in the Black Dwarf of January 9th [sic] 1824, signed A.M.”
(MacMinn, p. 5).
I shall not extend my remarks on your last letter to any great length, as I know that you have on hand another letter on the same subject, which will probably consider the question as you wish it to be considered, with reference to the relative powers of increase possessed by population and subsistence.
I shall only at present remark, that you have made a much more free use, in this paper, of that easy figure of speech called assertion, than of that more intractable one called proof. With reference indeed to the laws of nature, you have, I am pleased to see, given up the point; for although you still dislike the remedy which I propose, you observe, “if it can be proved necessary to check population at all, your means may be the best, and therefore may be tolerated.” [P. 909.] At this also I am well pleased. But you maintain that if three-fourths of the inhabitants of Ireland were to be swept off, and the remainder were sufficient to do all the work required by the rich, the price of labour would not advance. This seems to me rather an extraordinary assertion. First, it supposes a case which can never happen. One-fourth of the Irish population could not possibly do all the work required by the rich, as the whole population does now.* In the next place, I can safely appeal to the experience of every working man (as well as to the reason of the case), whether, if three out of every four of his competitors were removed, he would not feel a very sensible addition to his wages. You admit that if the population is greatly reduced by a plague, wages will rise. [Pp. 907-8.] Surely then, if it is reduced by means less shocking to humanity than a plague, the effect will be the same.
You observe that it is neither wise nor politic to consider “whether a family of two or ten children, were more convenient to the individual, since such matters will always regulate themselves.” [P. 905.] This, Sir, is all that I want. I am far from wishing to regulate population by law, or by compulsion in any shape. I am aware that it will, and I think that it ought, to regulate itself: but you forget that it cannot regulate itself unless the means are known; a man cannot accommodate the numbers of his family to his means of supporting it, unless he knows how to limit those numbers; for I have no belief in the efficacy of Mr. Malthus’s moral check,1 so long as the great mass of the people are so uneducated as they are at present. Therefore I think it highly desirable that the physical check should be known to the people; and I agree with you that each man will then be the best judge of his own convenience.
I consider the question to be practically decided by this admission. If you allow that such things ought to regulate themselves, you cannot consistently object to the diffusion among the people of any information calculated to throw light upon the subject. Nevertheless, if you challenge me to the discussion of the other question, whether population has a tendency to increase faster than subsistence, I am perfectly ready to discuss this question also, when I shall have perused the arguments of your other correspondent, and such remarks as you may think proper to make upon those arguments.
At present I shall trouble you with very few words more, in answer to another of your observations. I consider it a mere play upon words, to say, as you have done, that labour is capital. [P. 907.] Capital is that portion of the annual produce which is set apart for the maintenance of productive labour. Capital, you say, might be made to increase faster than at present. I admit that for a limited time it might; but capital can only be increased from savings. Would you, then, force accumulation? Would you have sumptuary laws? When you shall have answered this question, whether in the negative or in the affirmative, the basis of the discussion will be narrowed, and I shall know what arguments to put forward, among the many which bear upon the case.
JAMES MILL ON THE QUESTION OF POPULATION
BLACK DWARF, 25 FEB., 1824, PP. 238-44
For the context of this final letter in Mill’s series (Nos. 27, 28, and 31) in response to Thomas Wooler, see No. 27. Wooler’s response to No. 31, “Further Inquiry into the Principles of Population,” Black Dwarf, 4 Feb., 1824, pp. 143-9, is here answered by Mill with his strongest weapon, an extensive extract (pp. 260-1) from James Mill’s “Colony” (1818), written for the Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. III, pp. 257-73. Because J.S. Mill says his father’s comment is in effect his own reply to Wooler, the extract is here included, with Wooler’s editorial notes in reply. Headed “Question on [sic] Population Resumed,” with a subhead, “To the Editor,” the letter is not in Mill’s bibliography, but its signature (“A.M.”) and contents leave no doubt that it is Mill’s.
The accompanying paragraphs are destined for insertion in your Dwarf. They are extracted from the article “Colonies,” in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; a discourse composed by an eminent friend of the people. They contain, I think, a most conclusive answer to your last article on population; and if you insert them, you will be very well able to dispense with the reply which you would otherwise have received from
Sir, your most obedient servant,
It should be very distinctly understood what it is we mean, when we say, in regard to such a country as Great Britain, for example, that the supply of food is too small for the population. Because it may be said immediately, that the quantity of food may be increased in Great Britain; a proposition which no man will think of denying.
On this proposition, let us suppose, that in any given year, this year for example, the food in Great Britain is too small for the people, by 10,000 individuals. It is, no doubt, true, that additional food, sufficient to supply 10,000 individuals, might be raised next year; but where would be the amelioration, if 10,000 individuals were, at the same time, added to the numbers to be fed?* Now, the tendency of population is such as to make, in almost all cases, the real state of the facts correspond with this supposition. Population not only rises to the level of the present supply of food; but, if you go on every year increasing the quantity of food, population goes on increasing at the same time, and so fast, that the food is commonly still too small for the people. This is the grand proposition of Mr. Malthus’s book: it is not only quite original, but it is that point of the subject from which all the more important consequences flow,—consequences which, till that point was made known, could not be understood.†
When we say that the quantity of food, in any country, is too small for the quantity of the people, and that, though we may increase the quantity of food, the population will, at the same time, increase so fast, that the food will still be too small for the people; we may be encountered with another proposition. It may be said, that we may increase food still faster than it is possible to increase population. And there are situations in which we must allow that the proposition is true.
In countries newly inhabited, or in which there is a small number of people, there is commonly a quantity of land yielding a large produce for a given portion of labour. So long as the land continues to yield in this liberal manner, how fast soever population increases, food may increase with equal rapidity, and plenty remain. When population, however, has increased to a certain extent, all the best land is occupied; if it increases any farther, land of a worse quality must be taken in hand; when land of the next best quality is all exhausted, land of a still inferior quality must be employed, till at last you come to that which is exceedingly barren. In this progression, it is very evident, that it is always gradually becoming more and more difficult to make food increase, with any given degree of rapidity, and that you must come, at last, to a point, where it is altogether impossible.‡
It may, however, be said, and has been said in substance, though not very clearly, by some of Mr. Malthus’s opponents, that it is improper to speak of food as too small for the population, so long as food can be made to increase at an equal pace with population; and though it is no doubt true, that, in the states of modern Europe, food does not actually increase so fast as the population endeavours to increase, and hence the poverty and wretchedness of that population; yet it would be very possible to make food increase as fast as the tendency of population, and hence to make the people happy without diminishing their numbers by colonization; and that it is owing wholly to unfavourable, to ill-contrived institutions, that such is not the effect universally experienced. As this observation has in it a remarkable combination of truth and error, it is worthy of a little pains to make the separation.§
There can be no doubt that, by employing next year a greater proportion of the people upon the land than this year, we should raise a greater quantity of food; by employing a still greater proportion the year following, we should produce a still greater quantity of food: and, in this way, it would be possible to go on for some time, increasing food as fast as it would be possible for the population to increase. But observe at what cost this would be. As the land, in this course, yields gradually less and less, to every new portion of labour bestowed upon it, it would be necessary to employ gradually not only a greater and greater number, but a greater and greater proportion of the people in raising food. But the greater the proportion of the people which is employed in raising food, the smaller is the proportion which can be employed in producing any thing else. You can only, therefore, increase the quantity of food to meet the demand of an increasing population, by diminishing the supply of those other things which minister to human desires.¶
There can be no doubt, that, by increasing every year the proportion of the population which you employ in raising food, and diminishing every year the proportion employed in everything else, you may go on increasing food as fast as population increases, till the labour of a man, added upon the land, is just sufficient to add as much to the produce, as will maintain himself and raise a family. Suppose, where the principle of population is free from all restriction, the average number of children reared in a family is five; in that case, so long as the man’s labour, added to the labour already employed upon the land, can produce food sufficient for himself and the rearing of five children, food may be made to keep pace with population. But if things were made to go on in such an order, till they arrived at that pass, men would have food, but they would have nothing else. They would have neither clothes, nor houses, nor furniture. There would be nothing for elegance, nothing for ease, nothing for pleasure. There would be no class exempt from the necessity of perpetual labour, by whom knowledge might be cultivated, and discoveries useful to mankind.∥
It is of no use, then, to tell us that we have the physical power of increasing food as fast as population. As soon as we have arrived at that point at which the due distribution of the population is made between those who raise food, and those who are in other ways employed in contributing to the well-being of the members of the community, any increase of the food, faster than is consistent with that distribution, can only be made at the expense of those other things, by the enjoyment of which the life of man is preferable to that of the brutes. At this point the progress of population ought to be restrained. Population may still increase, because the quantity of food may still be capable of being increased, though not beyond a certain slowness of rate, without requiring, to the production of it, a greater than the due proportion of the population.
Suppose, then, when the due proportion of the population is allotted to the raising of food, and the due proportion to other desirable occupations, that the institutions of society were such as to prevent a greater proportion from being withdrawn from these occupations to the raising of food. This it would, surely, be very desirable that they should effect. What now would be the consequence, should population, in that case, go on at its full rate of increase,—in other words, faster than with that distribution of the population, it would be possible for food to be increased? The answer is abundantly plain: all those effects would take place which have already been described as following upon the existence of a redundant population in modern Europe, and in all countries in which the great body of those who have nothing to give for food but labour, are free labourers;—that is to say, wages would fall, poverty would overspread the population, and all those horrid phenomena would exhibit themselves which are the never-failing attendants on a poor population.
It is of no great importance, though the institutions of society may be such as to make the proportion of the population, kept back from the providing of food, rather greater than it might be. All that happens is, that the redundancy of population begins a little earlier. The unrestrained progress of population would soon have added the deficient number to the proportion employed in the raising of food; and, at whatever point the redundancy begins, the effects are always the same.**
What are the best means of checking the progress of population, when it cannot go on unrestrained, without producing one or other of two most undesirable effects; either drawing an undue proportion of the population to the mere raising of food, or producing poverty and wretchedness, it is not now the place to inquire.
It is, indeed, the most important practical problem to which the wisdom of the politician and moralist can be applied. It has, till this time, been miserably evaded by all those who have meddled with the subject, as well as by all those who were called upon, by their situation, to find a remedy for the evils to which it relates. And yet, if the superstitions of the nursery were discarded, and the principle of utility kept steadily in view, a solution might not be very difficult to be found; and the means of drying up one of the most copious sources of human evil, a source which, if all other sources of evil were taken away, would alone suffice to retain the great mass of human beings in misery, might be seen to be neither doubtful nor difficult to be applied.††
EFFECTS OF PERIODICAL LITERATURE
MORNING CHRONICLE, 27 DEC., 1824, P. 3
In this letter Mill quotes from the article “Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review,” by James Mill, Westminster Review, I (Jan. 1824), 206-68, and defends it against a misinterpretation in an unheaded leader in the Morning Chronicle, 16 Dec., 1824, p. 2. The personal tone in the references to the editor are not pro forma, being addressed to John Black (1783-1855), at this time closely allied to James Mill, who constantly advised him on political matters. The letter is headed “Periodical Literature. / To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.” There are several indications that this letter corresponds to the entry in Mill’s bibliography, unidentified by MacMinn, which reads “A short letter on [Blank in MS.] which appeared in the Morning Chronicle of 1824” (MacMinn, p. 6): the signature “A.B.” favoured by Mill, the personal interest, and the use of Benthamite phraseology. The cryptic entry appears in the bibliography between items dated October 1824 and January 1825.
In your paper of this day (Thursday, Dec. 16th), you controvert certain opinions relative to the probable tendency and effects of Periodical Literature, which were propounded in the first number of the Westminster Review. And you bring forward the inestimable service which you have yourself rendered to mankind by criticizing the conduct of the unpaid magistracy, as an instance of the beneficial effects which sometimes arise from periodical literature.
Now, Sir, you must have interpreted the words of the writer in the Westminster Review in a very different sense from that in which I understand them, if you suppose that he meant to affirm that periodical literature can never be productive of good. His object, as it seems to me, was to point out the motives (hitherto little attended to) which tend to draw the periodical writer out of the path of utility; motives so strong that he did not merely go too far in characterizing them as a sort of necessity; an inducement which generally operates as necessity.
That it is possible for a periodical writer to pursue steadily the greatest good of the greatest number, you, Sir, afford a striking example. But this is no more than the Westminster Reviewer has himself acknowledged, in a passage, which, taking the view which you have done of the article, you ought, I think, in fairness to have quoted.
One word of a personal nature seems to be required. We have described the interests which operate to withdraw periodical writers from the line of utility, and we have represented it as nearly impossible for them to keep true to it. What! Are we, it may be asked, superior to seducements to which all other men succumb? If periodical writing is by its nature so imbued with evil, why is it that we propose to add to the supply of a noxious commodity? Do we promise to keep out the poison which all other men yield to the temptation of putting in? If we made such a pretension, our countrymen would do right in laughing it to scorn; and we hope they would not fail to adopt so proper a course. We have no claim to be trusted any more than any one among our contemporaries; but we have a claim to be tried. Men have diversities of taste; and it is not impossible that a man should exist who really has a taste for the establishment of securities for good government, and would derive more pleasure from the success of this pursuit, than of any other pursuit in which he could engage, wealth or power not excepted. All that we desire is, that it may not be reckoned impossible that we may belong to a class of this description.
There is another motive, as selfish as that which we ascribe to any body, by which we may be actuated. We may be sanguine enough, or silly enough, or clear-sighted enough, to believe, that intellectual and moral qualities have made a great progress among the people of this country; and that the class who will really approve endeavours in favour of good government, and of the happiness and intelligence of men, are a class sufficiently numerous to reward our endeavours.
Even had there been no such passage as the foregoing, the very circumstance that the work which thus criticises periodical publications, is itself a periodical publication, might have convinced you, that in ascribing to periodical works a tendency to advocate false and mischievous, rather than true and important opinions, it spoke of the general rule, not of the particular exceptions—of the motives which act upon all mankind, not of those which may govern particular individuals.
I have been induced to trouble you with these few words, because I regretted that two such efficient friends of mankind, as the writer in the Westminster Review and yourself, should appear to be at variance, when I am persuaded that they really agree.
[1 ]Elements, Chap. iii, Sect. 2, pp. 69-74.
[2 ]David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (London: Murray, 1817), Chap. i, “On Value,” esp. pp. 19-21. Ricardo (1772-1823), the great economist, M.P. for Portarlington, was a close friend of James Mill, and, like him, a member of the Political Economy Club.
[3 ]Elements, Chap. iii, Sect. 7, pp. 95-8.
[4 ]Ibid., Chap. iii, Sect. 2, pp. 70-1, 74.
[5 ]Ibid., p. 73.
[6 ]Ibid., Chap. ii, Sect. 2, pp. 24-53.
[1 ]The phrase, frequently used in courts, originated evidently with Matthew Hale (1609-76), in his judgment in the case of K. v. Taylor, 1676 (86 English Reports 189).
[2 ]See, e.g., Matthew, 5:8, I Timothy, 1:5, II Timothy, 2:22, and Titus, 1:15.
[1 ]Republican, 29 Nov., 1822, pp. 835-42.
[1 ]See No. 7.
[2 ]The geocentric astronomy of Claudius Ptolemaeus, 2nd-century Alexandrian mathematician, had been incorporated into traditional Christian cosmology.
[3 ]The reference is presumably to Giuseppe Settele (d. 1841), teacher and astronomer at the University of Rome. In 1820 the Holy Office withheld the imprimatur from his Elementi di Ottica e di Astronomia, 2 vols. (Rome, 1818-19), though he was neither permanently condemned nor imprisoned. For the original ruling, see Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Almagestum novum, 2 vols. (Bologna: Haeredis Victorii Benatii, 1651), Vol. II, p. 497.
[4 ]The High Church party in the Church of England saw itself as the heir of the “non-jurors,” those clergy who refused after the Revolution of 1688 to swear allegiance to William and Mary on the grounds that their oath to James II, whose title was of divine right, was still in effect. Their opposition, however, was passive, according to their reading of Scripture, esp. I Samuel, 15:23, Romans, 13:1-2, and I Peter, 2:13-14.
[5 ]“F.F.” (James Mill), “Liberty of the Press,” in Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. Macvey Napier, 6 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1824), Vol. V, pp. 258-72. The Supplement was first issued in fascicles, this article appearing in that published in July 1821.
[1 ]For the Custom House oaths, see, e.g., 1 George IV, c. 8 (1820).
[2 ]See Statuta selecta e corpore statuorum universitatis Oxoniensis (Oxford: Webb, 1638) for the statutes as codified in 1636 by William Laud (1573-1645), Chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1629; later (1633) Archbishop of Canterbury. Bentham refers to several revisions and forms of the statutes in “Swear not at all”; see esp. pp. 195n and 224-9.
[3 ]Under Sect. 36 of 22 George II, c. 46 (1749).
[1 ]John Tillotson (1630-94), Archbishop of Canterbury (1691); Jeremy Taylor (1613-67); William Chillingworth (1602-44); George Campbell (1719-96); Nathaniel Lardner (1684-1768); Robert Lowth (1710-87), Bishop of Oxford (1766-77) and of London (1777-87); William Warburton (1698-1779), Bishop of Gloucester (1760-79); William Paley (1743-1805), Archdeacon of Carlisle (1782-1805); Richard Watson (1737-1816), Bishop of Llandaff (1782-1816); and Robert Hall (1764-1831).
[1 ]37 George III, cc. 45, 91 (1797), known as the Bank Restriction Acts, and 59 George III, c. 49 (1819), introduced by Robert Peel (1788-1850), and known as Peel’s Act.
[2 ]Pt. I, pp. 18-19; Tooke is expounding, in order to refute, the position of Edward Copleston (1776-1849), Provost of Oriel College and Bishop of Llandaff (one of the “several well-intentioned but mistaken individuals” Mill refers to above), in “State of the Currency,” Quarterly Review, XXVII (July 1822), 239-67.
[3 ]See No. 12.
[1 ]Hume, speech of 8 May, 1823, col. 114.
[2 ]Robert Sanderson (1587-1663), Bishop of Lincoln, “The Sixth Sermon ad Populum” (1627), in Fourteen Sermons Heretofore Preached (London: Seile, 1657), p. 342.
[3 ]Robert Owen (1771-1858), an acquaintance of James Mill’s, socialist and free-thinker, whose experiments in improving the environment and providing incentives for his employees at his mills in New Lanark were increasingly favourably publicized.
[4 ]The source of the quotation has not been identified. François René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), writer and statesman, in 1811 provided baptismal water for the christening of François Charles Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon II), King of Rome (1811-32). As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chateaubriand had recently been under attack in the English press for his defence of the French intervention in Spain. See The Times, 28 Feb., pp. 2-3, and 16 Apr., p. 4; and Morning Chronicle, 1 Mar., p. 3 (where there is reference to the episode of the Jordan water), and 5 May, p. 3.
[5 ]Joseph Addison (1672-1719), essayist and poet; see The Spectator, No. 459 (16 Aug., 1712), pp. 1-2.
[6 ]Sanderson, Fourteen Sermons, Preface, pp. xxxviii-xxxix.
[7 ]The Constitutional Association for Opposing the Progress of Disloyal and Seditious Principles, founded in January 1821, was supported by many aristocrats, including Henry Pelham Clinton, Duke of Newcastle; Sir John Sewell was its President. Operating virtually as a secret society, it instituted proceedings for libel (against Hone and Carlile, for instance); itself accused of illegality, it dissolved before the end of 1821.
[8 ]Thomas Barrett Lennard (1788-1865), M.P. for Ipswich, Speech on the Petition of Richard Carlile (8 May, 1823), PD, n.s., Vol. 9, col. 116. The “Six Acts” are 60 George III & 1 George IV, cc. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 9 (1819).
[9 ]Thomas Denman (1779-1854), M.P. for Nottingham (later Lord Chief Justice), Speech on the Petition of Richard Carlile, PD, n.s., Vol. 9, col. 116.
[10 ]Adapted from William Warburton, The Doctrine of Grace (1762), in Works, 12 vols. (London: Cadell and Davies, 1811), Vol. VIII, pp. 382, 383.
[11 ]John Wesley (1703-91), founder of Methodism, A Letter to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Gloucester (London: n.p., 1763), p. 38.
[12 ]This quotation has not been located.
[1 ]William Wolryche Whitmore (1787-1858), M.P. for Bridgenorth, an advocate of free trade, Speech in Introducing a Motion on East and West India Sugars (22 May, 1823), PD, n.s., Vol. 9, cols. 444-56; David Ricardo, Speech on East and West India Sugars, ibid., cols. 457-9. Mill’s references and quotations are not identical to the reports in PD, but they are cited for ease of reference. The West India monopoly was established by 1 & 2 George IV, c. 106 (1821), and continued by 3 George IV, c. 106 (1822).
[2 ]Joseph Marryatt (1758-1824; referred to in PD as James Marryatt), M.P. for Sandwich, colonial agent for Grenada and Trinidad, Speech on East and West India Sugars, PD, n.s., Vol. 9, cols. 460-1.
[3 ]Ibid., cols. 458-9.
[4 ]Charles Rose Ellis (1771-1845), M.P. for Seaford, head of the West Indian interest, Speech on East and West India Sugars, ibid., cols. 453-4.
[5 ]Ibid., col. 452.
[6 ]Ibid., cols. 459-60. The offices of the East India Co. were in Leadenhall Street.
[7 ]Alexander Robertson (d. 1856), M.P. for Grampound, Speech on East and West India Sugars, ibid., col. 456.
[9 ]These remarks seem to have been made not by Marryatt, but by William Robert Keith Douglas (1783-1859), M.P. for Dumfries Burghs, 1812-32, in his Speech on East and West India Sugars, ibid., col. 455.
[10 ]Ibid., cols. 446-8.
[11 ]See Ellis, ibid., col. 453; Marryatt, ibid., col. 460.
[12 ]See 3 George IV, c. 44 (1822) and, for the earlier navigation laws, 12 Charles II, c. 18 (1660), and 15 Charles II, c. 7 (1663).
[13 ]Ellis, speech of 22 May, col. 453.
[14 ]Speech on East and West India Sugars, ibid., cols. 464-5, by William Huskisson (1770-1830), M.P. for Liverpool, Treasurer of the Navy and President of the Board of Trade (1823-27), advocate of free trade.
[15 ]Cf. Douglas, ibid., col. 456.
[16 ]See James Baillie (ca. 1737-93), M.P. for Horsham and agent for Grenada, Speech on the Slave Trade (2 Apr., 1792), in Parliamentary History of England, ed. William Cobbett and John Wright, 36 vols. (London: Bagshaw, Longmans, 1806-20), Vol. XXIX, col. 1074.
[1 ]Matthew, 5:33-5. Taken by Bentham as the title of his anti-oath tract. “Swear not at all,” from which Mill derived this and other references; see No. 6.
[2 ]Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782), Scottish judge and author, Sketches of the History of Man, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Creech, 1774), Vol. I, pp. 480-1. Kames was Scottish, but the Act (as he himself says) was British: 7 & 8 William III, c. 20 (1696).
[3 ]For background, see No. 6.
[4 ]For background, see No. 6.
[5 ]Ricardo, Speech on Free Discussion (1 July, 1823), PD, n.s., Vol. 9, cols. 1386-91, 1399.
[1 ]Mill’s form of words is odd, since this review is in the Morning Chronicle, while the earlier one (No. 8) was in the Globe and Traveller, and neither was reprinted in the other paper.
[2 ]See, e.g., Observations on the Speech of the Right Hon. W. Huskisson (London: Ridgway, et al., 1823), by Charles Callis Western (1767-1844), M.P. for Essex, writing in reply to Huskisson, Speech on Resumption of Cash Payments (11 June, 1822), PD, n.s., Vol. 7, cols. 897-925; and A Letter to the Right Honourable Nicholas Vansittart, on the Creation of Money, and on Its Action upon National Prosperity (Birmingham: Wrightson, 1817), and Prosperity Restored; or, Reflections on the Cause of the Public Distresses, and on the Only Means of Relieving Them (London: Baldwin, et al., 1817), by Thomas Attwood (1783-1856), banker, economic and political reformer.
[3 ]The peace, established 18 Oct., 1748, ended the War of the Austrian Succession.
[4 ]Tooke actually covers 1783-1821.
[* ]Vindiciae Gallicae [: Defence of the French Revolution and Its English Admirers against the Accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1791), 2nd ed. (London: Robinson, 1791)], p. 30 [by James Mackintosh (1765-1832), Whig writer, whose initial enthusiasm for the French Revolution faded, but who favoured the Spanish constitutionalists].
[1 ]“Securities” used in this sense is a hallmark of the Philosophic Radicals: see, for example, James Mill, “Government” (1820), in Essays (London: Innes, 1825), and Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code (1827, 1841), in Works, Vol. IX, p. 9. Further uses of the term in these volumes (see, e.g., the title of No. 20) are not noted, but are listed in App. G s.v. these titles.
[2 ]José María Queipo de Llano Ruiz de Saravia, conde de Toreno (1786-1843), politician and historian, one of Bentham’s correspondents, who had been exiled 1814-20, returned in the Revolution of 1820 and joined the Cortes; Francisco de Paula Martínez de la Rosa (1789-1862), statesman and dramatist, also exiled 1814-20, was Prime Minister from February to August 1822, when he followed a course unpopular with both conservatives and liberals.
[3 ]La Fontana de Oro (also known as La Sociedad de los Amigos del Orden), one of the Patriotic Societies established in March 1820, in imitation of the French Jacobin clubs, was ordered closed on 18 Sept., 1821.
[4 ]Freedom had been granted by Decreto LV (22 Oct., 1820), Reglamento acerca de la libertad de imprenta (Colección de los decretos y órdenes generales espedidos por las Cortes, 10 vols. [Madrid, 1820-23]), Vol. VI, pp. 234-46; on 12 Feb., 1822, the Cortes passed Decretos LXVII, LXVIII, and LXIX, limiting freedom of the press and of petitioning (ibid., Vol. VIII, pp. 262, 263, 265).
[5 ]The Royal Guard, probably at the instigation of Ferdinand VII, attempted an uprising on 7 July, 1822.
[6 ]Evaristo de San Miguel (1785-1862), Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary (August 1822-February 1823), brought forward Decreto VII (1 Nov., 1822), Lay que prescribe las formalidades con que las personas pueden reunirse en público para discutir materias politicas (Colección, Vol. X, pp. 19-20).
[7 ]Francisco Javier Elio (1767-1822), Royalist general responsible for many atrocities, was executed on 7 Sept., 1822.
[8 ]After a successful revolt at Cadiz, a crowd gathered in the Plaza de San Antonio to celebrate the Constitution of 1812; troops suddenly opened fire on them, and over 400 citizens were killed. Those responsible were Manuel Freire (1765-1834), Captain General of Andalusia, and Cayetano Valdés y Flórez (1767-1835), ad interim Governor of Cadiz.
[9 ]Don Pedro Alcántara de Toledo, duque del Infantado (1773-1841), was reported to have incited peasants in support of absolutism and religion during the abortive rebellion (The Times, 16 July, 1822, p. 3).
[1 ]For background, see No. 6.
[2 ]For auctioneers’ oaths, see 19 George III, c. 56, sect. 7 (1779).
[1 ]For the complaint by Mrs. Lang, see, e.g., “Police. Queen-Square. Lady Caroline Lamb,” British Press, 11 Aug., 1823, p. 4, an account that William Lamb cited as libellous in his complaint, which is given in “Police. Queen Square,” Morning Chronicle, 15 Aug., p. 4.
[2 ]Henry Fielding (1707-54), novelist and magistrate, whose portrait of Justice Thrasher as a “Trading Justice” in Amelia, Bk. I, Chap. ii (Works, 12 vols. [London: Richards, 1824], Vol. X, pp. 9-15), is cited by James Mill in his Commonplace Book, Vol. I, f. 137v (London Library); Tobias George Smollett (1721-71), novelist, who like Fielding wrote of criminal life, comments on the failings of judges in his History of England (1757), 5 vols. (London: Cadell and Baldwin, 1790), Vol. III, pp. 330-1.
[* ]The proprietor of The Observer Newspaper was reprimanded by the Court, for publishing one part of the trial of Thistlewood and others, before the trial was closed. [William Innell Clement (d. 1852) was reprimanded by Charles Abbott (1762-1832) on 17 Apr., 1820; a fine was levied by the Court of High Commission. (See “Old Bailey,” Examiner, 23 Apr., 1820, p. 270.) Arthur Thistlewood (1770-1820), the leader of the Cato St. conspiracy to murder Lord Liverpool’s cabinet, was executed for high treason and murder.]
[† ]That they may be themselves bonâ fide, and may not think they deserve odium, does not affect the question. The consequences to the public are the only thing which deserves attention.
[1 ]See No. 6.
[2 ]The Court of High Commission, created by 1 Elizabeth I, c. 1 (1558), was given this power in ecclesiastical matters; it had been abolished by 16 Charles I, c. 11 (1640).
[3 ]The practice of judges’ fining juries developed under the Star Chamber and spread to other courts; it was stopped in 1670 in the case of Bushell (see A Complete Collection of State Trials, ed. Thomas Bayly Howell, 34 vols. [London: Longman, et al., 1809-28], Vol. VI, cols. 999-1026).
[1 ]David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Chap. i, “On Value,” passim.
[2 ]See, e.g., Malthus, An Inquiry into the Nature and Progress of Rent (London: Murray, and Johnson, 1815), pp. 8-17, and Principles of Political Economy (London: Murray, 1820), pp. 63-72.
[1 ]It would appear that only one baker, Joseph Rose, was brought up (the account on 9 Sept. was, however, entitled “Bakers Must Not Sell Quartern Loaves”), though he had three informations laid against him; he was released because the magistrate had not signed two of the informations. Rose was also the baker brought up in the second case (reported on 16 Sept.); in both cases William Johnson was the informer.
[2 ]Edward Coke (1552-1634), The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England; or, A Commentarie upon Littleton (London: Society of Stationers, 1628), p. 97 (Lib. II, Cap. vi, Sect. 138).
[3 ]Cf. George Canning (1770-1827), Speech on the Freehold Estates Bill (28 Jan., 1807), PD, 1st ser., Vol. 8, cols. 857-8.
[1 ]The catch-phrase, “not men but measures,” seems to have originated in “Stentor Telltruth,” The Herald; or, Patriot-Proclaimer, 2 vols. (London: Wilkie, 1758), Vol. II, p. 247, but was much used in the later eighteenth century, for instance by Edmund Burke (1729-97), the political philosopher, who refers to it as cant in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), in Works, 8 vols. (London: Dodsley, Rivington, 1792-1827), Vol. I, p. 499.
[2 ]For details, see No. 15.
[3 ]The Society for the Suppression of Vice was founded in 1802 as an auxiliary of Samuel Wilberforce’s Proclamation Society (which it soon superseded). Originally much concerned with blasphemy and obscene publications, it later, using vigilante methods, pressed for greater control over prostitution. It had support from aristocrats and, it was said, from the government.
[1 ]Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan (1651), in English Works, ed. William Molesworth, 11 vols. (London: Bohn, 1839), Vol. III, pp. 153-70 (Pt. II, Chaps. xvii-xviii).
[1 ]“Copy of a Letter, Addressed, by Mr. Secretary Peel’s Directions, to the Visiting Magistrates of the Several Gaols and Houses of Correction, Where Tread Wheels Have Been Established” (18 Jan., 1823), PP, 1823, XV, 308.
[2 ]See “Report from the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the State of Ilchester Gaol” (8 Feb., 1822), PP, 1822, XI, 277-311, for an account of the abuses and misrepresentations by William Bridle, the Governor from 1808 to 1821.
[* ]Medical Jurisprudence, by Dr. [John Ayrton] Paris and Mr. [John Samuel Martin de Grenier] Fonblanque, [3 vols. (London: Phillips, 1823),] Vol. III, p. 131.
[1 ]Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer (1660) and Lord Chief Justice (1671), a major legal authority.
[1 ]Mill probably got the story about St. Dunstan (ca. 924-88), Archbishop of Canterbury, from The History of England (1754-62), 8 vols. (London: Cadell, Rivington, et al., 1823), Vol. I, p. 112, by David Hume (1711-76), whose source was Osbern, “Vita Sancti Dunstani,” in Anglia sacra, ed. Henry Wharton, 2 vols. (London: Chiswell, 1691), Vol. II, p. 97.
[2 ]Mackintosh’s references are to Hobbes, Leviathan, in English Works, Vol. III, p. 91 (Pt. I, Chap. xi); and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, baron de l’Aulne (1727-81), French statesman and economist, Controller General (1774-76) under Louis XVI. For the derision of Turgot’s proposals for taxation based on mathematics, see Vie de M. Turgot (London: n.p., 1786), pp. 112-14, by Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, marquis de Condorcet (1743-94).
[1 ]As was done by 5 George IV, c. 41 (1824). In a note to Jeremy Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence, 5 vols. (London: Hunt and Clarke, 1827), which he edited in the next few years, Mill comments that Bentham had written a passage “before the late repeal of the stamp duties on law proceedings, . . . one of the most meritorious acts of the present enlightened administration” (Vol. IV, p. 624).
[1 ]John Watts (in his 77th year), “a most respectable individual,” being “taken with a violent pain in the bowels” while in Hyde Park on 20 Aug., “was constrained . . . to obey the imperative call of nature.” Taken up by a police officer, he was committed by Dyer, the magistrate in the Marylebone Street office, to a month’s hard labour in Coldbath Fields prison. He was not allowed even to notify his family of his whereabouts for more than twenty-four hours and was released only on 31 Aug., without, however, having endured the treadmill. See “Liberty of the Subject,” Globe and Traveller, 30 Sept., 1823, p. 2.
[2 ]See No. 25.
[1 ]Wooler, “Inquiry into the Principles of Population, No. 1,” Black Dwarf, 12 Nov., 1823, p. 662.
[2 ]Mill is referring to his stay in the South of France with Samuel Bentham’s family in 1820-21. The journal and notebook recording that period will be found in CW, in the first volume of Journals and Speeches.
[3 ]Wooler, “Practical Endeavours to Apply the System of Mr. Malthus, in Checking Population,” Black Dwarf, 17 Sept., 1823, p. 405.
[4 ]Wooler, “Inquiry . . ., No. 1,” p. 661.
[1 ]Thomas Peregrine Courtenay (1782-1841), politician and author, M.P. for Totnes, had thirteen children; George Canning had four.
[2 ]Mill, “Question of Population ,” p. 752 (No. 27).
[3 ]Ibid., p. 749 (No. 27).
[4 ]After the Great Plague of 1349 had reduced the English population by almost half, the Statutes of Labourers of 1349 (23 Edward III, Stat. 1, cc. 1, 2, 3, 5, 8) and 1350 (25 Edward III, Stat. 1, cc. 1-5) were enacted to prevent the remaining labouring population from demanding exorbitant wages. Both wages and prices were fixed, and work became compulsory. In 1388 (12 Richard II, cc. 3, 4, 7), these laws were enlarged; punishments were increased in severity, and restrictions on the movement of labourers imposed, to prevent desertion of the land through the seeking of higher wages elsewhere. Begging was limited to the aged and infirm. These efforts were largely unsuccessful, and legislation was enacted throughout the fifteenth century to broaden the applicability of the laws, and increase the punishments for breaking them. By 1530 (22 Henry VIII, c. 12) it became necessary to license beggars, and to punish vagabonds who left their homes and work by whipping and setting in the stocks. Refusal to work for reasonable wages led to punishment as a vagabond. Vagabondage resulting from a third escape from service became punishable by death in 1547 (1 Edward VI. c. 3), and though this Act was repealed in 1549 (3 & 4 Edward VI, c. 16), it was restored in 1572 (14 Elizabeth I, c. 5) and remained in force until 1593 (35 Elizabeth I, c. 7). Thereafter the punishments of 22 Henry VIII, c. 12 (1530) were restored. When Mill refers to the capital offence of taking higher wages, he appears to mean these Acts which punished by death a third refusal to work wherever required for whatever wages were offered.
[5 ]Mill, “Question of Population ,” p. 750 (No. 27).
[6 ]Wooler uses cognates of this term throughout “The Black Dwarf to ‘A.M.,’ ” e.g., in his conclusion on p. 783. Malthus introduced the term in the 1st ed. of his Essay on the Principle of Population (London: Johnson, 1798), where he refers in the heading to Chap. iv to the “two principal checks to population” (p. 53), i.e., the “preventive check” (associated with vice) and the “positive check” (associated with misery). Five years later in the much enlarged new ed. of the Essay, divided into four Books (ibid., 1803), he introduced “moral restraint” as an additional check (of a preventive but non-vicious kind); see, e.g., p. 11 (Bk. I, Chap. ii), and pp. 483-93 (Bk. IV, Chap. i).
[7 ]“Question of Population ,” p. 754 (No. 27).
[8 ]Denis Browne (1763-1828), M.P. for Kilkenny, alluded to by Wooler, p. 779. The source of the remark has not been located.
[9 ]“Question of Population ,” pp. 754 and 752 (No. 27).
[10 ]William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost, I, i, 26; in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 179.
[11 ]“Question of Population ,” pp. 755-6 (No. 27).
[1 ]See the Charge to the Jury in the Trial of William Cobbett, 1804, by Edward Law (1750-1818), Lord Ellenborough, Lord Chief Justice, in State Trials, ed. Howell, Vol. XXIX, col. 49. Mill is taking the quotation from Place, p. 9.
[2 ]Place, pp. 36-50. The practice of having specially qualified jurors began in the seventeenth century, with the particular procedures Mill mentions being laid down in a declaration by the Court of King’s Bench in 1670. The practice was given statutory sanction by 3 George II, c. 25 (1730). Both Place and Mill are indebted to Bentham’s The Elements of the Art of Packing, as Applied to Special Juries, Particularly in Cases of Libel Law (1821), in Works, Vol. V, pp. 61-186.
[3 ]In a speech of 28 May, 1823 (PD, n.s., Vol. 9, cols. 563-7), on special juries (introducing a petition from John Hunt), Joseph Hume was thought to have impugned the integrity of Edmund Henry Lushington (1766-1839); Lushington was defended by his friends, George Richard Philips (1789-1883), then M.P. for Steyning (ibid., cols. 567-8), and Thomas Creevey (1768-1838), then M.P. for Appleby (ibid., col. 568).
[4 ]For information about the revelations of abuses found by the inquiry by the Court of Common Council of London referred to by Place, see “Special Juries,” The Times, 12 Dec., 1817, p. 3.
[* ]It can be proved that the great majority of the agricultural population of Ireland have not one quarter as much employment as could be performed by them. Three-fourths of the number of this class, then, could be dispensed with, without any injury to the rich, but to their great benefit. [Wooler’s note.]
[1 ]See No. 28, n6.
[* ]Nothing is easier than supposition: but it is here necessary to shew that not more than food for 10,000 additional mouths could be raised. As one man can raise food for ten, with scope for his labour, the more rational supposition would be, that for every one thousand added to the population, enough food for 10,000 could be provided, with sufficient scope for labour. It is calculated that every labouring agriculturist has fifteen persons to carry on his shoulders; or in other words, that he labours one day for himself, and fifteen for other people.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[† ]It is not now understood, because it is not true that population, on the average of European states, outruns the supply of food. There is a tendency to an enormous encrease; but this tendency is held in check by so many other tendencies, that population in some instances actually decreases, though there be food in plenty.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[‡ ]That is, when you can exhaust the surface of the globe; when the time shall arrive in which there shall at least be a hundred times as many human beings as there exist at present.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[§ ]I have not met with any persons who deny that emigration and colonization are not useful; and, in particular cases, absolutely necessary. It is necessary to the defence of Mr. Malthus’s proposition to say that colonization would not remedy the evil; for if it would, why have recourse to a worse remedy.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[¶ ]This seems begging the question. The original wants of man, are food, clothes, and fire. I shall not discuss what luxuries may be deemed necessary by a few. I look to the mass.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[∥ ]Why not? it is not time, so much as space, that is required for the production of food. With the aid of modern improvements in science, it would not be difficult for one to raise food for a hundred. What, then, should hinder the building of houses, and the cultivation of the arts?—Ed. [Wooler.]
[** ]When this point can be reached, then emigration and colonization become necessary; as the bees swarm when the hive is too full.—Ed. [Wooler.]
[†† ]My argument is, first do justice to the labourer, by reforming the institutions that oppress him, and then deal with the population as imperious circumstances shall dictate.—Ed. [Wooler.]