Front Page Titles (by Subject) 158.: COMPARISON OF THE TENDENCIES OF FRENCH AND ENGLISH INTELLECT MONTHLY REPOSITORY, N.S. VII (NOV. 1833), PP. 800-4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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158.: COMPARISON OF THE TENDENCIES OF FRENCH AND ENGLISH INTELLECT MONTHLY REPOSITORY, N.S. VII (NOV. 1833), PP. 800-4 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, 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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COMPARISON OF THE TENDENCIES OF FRENCH AND ENGLISH INTELLECT
This letter was sent to Charles Duveyrier for insertion in the Saint-Simonian newspaper Le Globe, where it appeared on 18 Apr., 1832, two days before Le Globe ceased publication. The letter witnesses to Mill’s continued friendship with the Saint-Simonians, who shared his interest in the formation of character and the influence of circumstance on national traits. That Mill’s letter was originally written in English is made clear in a letter to D’Eichthal and Duveyrier: “It was very well translated, though with some omissions & abbreviations which made it rather more St Simonian than I intended” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 109). Since the translation is not by Mill, it is given here as App. B. This English version of the letter, published in the Monthly Repository a year and a half later, is there headed as title. The added introductory paragraph (probably by Mill), explains the circumstances, as do the two entries in his bibliography. The first reads: “A letter to Charles Duveyrier, intended as introductory to a series of letters to the Editor of Le Globe, the S. Simonian paper at Paris. This was translated garbled in some passages and published in ‘Le Globe’ of 18th April 1832. The stoppage of the paper prevented any continuation. The English original of this letter with an introductory paragraph appeared in the Monthly Repository for November 1833, headed Comparison of the Tendencies of French and English intellect.” (MacMinn, p. 20.) The second reads: “An article headed ‘Comparison of the Tendencies of French and English intellect’ in the Monthly Repository for November 1833, being the [original] of my letter to [Duveyrier] published in the Globe with a new heading” (MacMinn, p. 35). The English version contains four passages (one of them the introductory paragraph) not included in the French; these are identified in the variant notes, where “32” stands for Le Globe of 18 Apr., 1832.
athe following letter appeared in a French dress, with some omissions and alterations, about a year and a half ago, in Le Globe, the journal of the political and religious sect of Saint-Simonians. It was intended to be the introduction to a series of letters, principally relating to the moral and social condition of Great Britain. In consequence of the discontinuance of the journal to which it was addressed, the design was never prosecuted. The original of the only letter which appeared has been communicated to us, and as it contains remarks which, though addressed to Frenchmen, concern Englishmen, and draws a parallel between the intellectual biasses of the two nations, which is at least not common-place, and is drawn (as we can certify) from nearly equal familiarity with the literature and politics of both, we offer it to our readers. In doing so we are requested to state, by way of apology for its somewhat egotistical style, that (although the observation may sound epigrammatic) the tone of French composition is naturally egotistical, and it is hardly possible not, after much mixing with Frenchmen, to assume the externals of egotism in discussing with them, whether orally or in writing.a
you ask me to correspond occasionally with the editor of the Globe on those subjects on which an Englishman, well acquainted with your doctrines, has more to tell of what you would desire to know than is attainable by any Frenchman. I accept your proposal. The idea had already occurred to myself; and the honour which you have spontaneously tendered to me, I should probably sooner or later have solicited as a favour to myself.
But before I commence, it is due both to myself and to those for whom this correspondence is intended, that I should state somewhat more fully than I have yet done, even to yourself individually, the motives and views with which I undertake it. I do so the more readily, as this is in itself no unimportant element of that knowledge which you have done me the honour to suppose that the readers of the Globe may be able to derive from my letters. To a St. Simonian who desires to know England, it cannot be indifferent to learn what are the inducements which may lead an Englishman, himself no St. Simonian, and agreeing with the St. Simonians though partially on almost all points, entirely perhaps on none, to place himself in communication with the St. Simonian Society.
You will imagine, perhaps, that the motive is a desire to do my part towards what you are labouring for with so much success, namely, to enable two nations, each of which possesses so many of the elements of greatness and goodness, but developed in an unequal degree, to understand each other; to make them do justice mutually to each other’s merits, and acquiesce in the necessary results of those laws of human and of external nature which have made the characters of the two nations different, and in so doing have marked out to each of them a different vocation, and commanded each to pursue the end of our common existence by separate, yet not by opposite, roads. An arrangement which, viewing it as St. Simonians, you cannot but regard as providential. Viewed in any way in which it can be looked at by an enlarged intellect, and a soul aspiring to indefinite improvement, it is a subject of rejoicing; for it furnishes the philosopher with varied experiments on the education of the human race; and affords the only mode by which all the parts of our nature are enabled to move forward at once, none of them being choked (as some must be in every attempt to reduce all characters to a single invariable type) by the disproportionate growth of the remainder.
You are not wrong in supposing that I have this object deeply at heart, and that the earnestness with which you on your part pursue it, is not the weakest of the ties of sympathy which connect me and you. I am sensible, moreover, that at the point of view at which you are placed, this must be the principal source of any expectation of good which you can entertain from my correspondence. But such is not the only, nor even the principal, of the motives which induce me to choose the Globe as a vehicle (so far as your permission extends) of many of my feelings and opinions. There is a stronger still; it is, that among the readers of that journal I find a public capable of understanding those opinions, of entering into those feelings; and in the members of your society, a body of thinkers and writers with whom I think it may be of use publicly to discuss them.
It is not necessary for any one to remind you, that the St. Simonians are, just now, the only association of public writers existing in the world who systematically stir up from the foundation all the great social questions; even those which have been settled long ago upon a footing which revolution has not yet completely carried away; even those on which the ancient doctrines, howsoever they may have declined in their practical efficacy, have not yet ceased to be speculatively acknowledged by every one. You declare that all social questions must receive a new solution; and while you propound with that view the best ideas you have, you call upon all who are capable to do the same, and are yourselves willing to hear and desirous to understand all men.
If even in France to have done this has exposed you to the misinterpretation and the odium of which you are the objects, it is more utterly impossible than you yourselves are as yet able fully to understand, that any set of public writers should for a long time to come stand up openly in England and do the like. In England there is no scope at present for general theories; unless, indeed, they be generalizations of such narrow views as make no call even upon the most uncultivated mind to look beyond its own miserably contracted horizon.
M. Michel Chevalier has frequently propounded in the Globe, the doctrine that Germany excels all nations in science and intellect, England in industry, France (as having the most widely-spread sympathies) in morality.1bThis was doubtless intended merely as a general indication, not to be taken literally, but with many explanations and modifications; some of which you are, I know, aware of, and I may have opportunity of suggesting others in the course of this correspondence. What I am now going to mention is, however, literally true, and is, I think, the principal truth contained in M. Chevalier’s remark.b It is, that the German nation is eminently speculative, the English essentially practical, and the French endeavour to unite both qualities, having an equal turn for framing general theories and for reducing them into cpractice. As far as this goes, the palm of intellectual superiority, you see, belongs to France, and not to Germany. Considered in other points of view, I could prove that it belongs to England. In short, I conceive it might be shown that every one of the three nations possesses some intellectual and some moral qualities in a higher state of development than either of the two other nations; and that each excels in some department, even of industry; witness the woollens of Saxony, and the well-known superiority of your country in almost all fancy articles.
But this is not the point I intended to enlarge upon just at present. What I meant to say was, that ifc any person has ideas which he thinks important to propound to the public of Germany, it is a positive recommendation to them that they are brought forward as part of a systematic theory, founded on a combined view of history, and on a general conception of philosophy, literature, and the arts. This would perfectly chime in with the tendency of the German mind. Views very extensive, and therefore, of necessity, promising only a gradual and distant realization, have a better chance of being listened to in that country, than those of a narrower kind. Even in France, though the general and systematic character of any opinions are no recommendation to the public attention, neither are they a positive hinderance. But in England they are so.
The extremely practical character of the English people, that which makes them, as men of business and industriels excel all the nations of Europe, has also the effect of making them very inattentive to any thing that cannot be carried instantly into practice. The English people have never had their political feelings called out by abstractions. They have fought for particular laws, but never for a principle of legislation. The doctrines of the sovereignty of the people, and the rights of man, never had any root in this country. The cry was always for a particular change in the mode of electing members of the House of Commons; for making an act of parliament to meet some immediate exigency; or for taking off some particular tax. The English public think nobody worth listening to, except in so far as he tells them of something to be done, and not only that, but of something which can be done immediately. What is more, the only reasons they will generally attend to, are those founded on the specific good consequences to be expected from the adoption of the specific proposition.
Whoever, therefore, wishes to produce much immediate effect upon the English public, must bring forward every idea upon its own independent grounds, and must, I was going to say, take pains to conceal that it is connected with any ulterior views. If his readers or his audience suspected that it was part of a system, they would conclude that his support even of the specific proposition, was not founded on any opinion he had that it was good in itself, but solely on its being connected with Utopian schemes, or at any rate with principles which they are “not prepared” (a truly English expression) to give their assent to.
To you, who know that politics are an essentially progressive science, and that none of the great questions of social organization can receive their true answer, except by being considered in connexion with views which ascend high into the past, and stretch far into the future; it is scarcely necessary to point out that any person, who thinks as you do on this point, must have much to say, which cannot with advantage be said, just at present, to the people of England. In writing to persuade the English, one must tell them only of the next step they have to take, keeping back all mention of any subsequent step. Whatever we may have to propose, we must contract our reasoning into the most confined limits; we must place the expediency of the particular measure upon the narrowest grounds on which it can rest; and endeavour to let out no more of general truth, than exactly as much as is absolutely indispensable to make out our particular conclusion.
Now, as the people of England will be treated in this manner, they must: and those who write for them, must write in the manner best calculated to make an impression upon their minds. When, therefore, I see, that parliament ought to enact a certain law to-day or to-morrow, and that it is my duty to exert myself for that purpose, I will state to the English people such immediate advantages as appear to me likely to result from the measure:—but when I wish to carry discussion into the field of science and philosophy, to state any general principles of politics, or propound doubts tending to put other people upon stating general principles for my instruction, I must go where I find readers capable of understanding and relishing such inquiries, and writers capable of taking part in them.
I come to you as littérateurs and artists come to Europe from that country of pure industrialism, the United States of America; because there is no call in their own country for the kind of labour which is their vocation. I conceive that, in political philosophy, the initiative belongs to France at this moment; not so much from the number of truths which have yet been practically arrived at, but rather from the far more elevated terrain on which the discussion is engaged; a terrain from which England is still separated by the whole interval which lies between 1789 and 1832. Every one, therefore, who can contribute any thing towards the elaboration of political principles, should carry his ideas, such as they are, to France, and if to France, to none rather than to you, who are in so many respects the furthest advanced of all persons in France at the present moment.
I have yet another reason for placing myself in communication with the readers of the Globe. Englishman as I am, I understand them better than I do almost any class of my own countrymen. The cause is, that you have determinate views on all the subjects most interesting to mankind; and you keep none of these back, but state them to the public on every fitting occasion. In England, on the contrary, whatever may be a man’s opinions, he never brings any of them before the general public, except those which are naturally suggested by the topics of the day; the rest he keeps to himself, or reserves for philosophical works. You can never tell what sort of persons those are who read the Times, or the Morning Chronicle, or the Edinburgh Review, or the Quarterly Review; except that you can in some measure guess whether they are Tories, Whigs, or radicals; even in this, your guess is often wrong, and at the best, how little this discloses of all that constitutes a man’s real belief (if he have any) or the real furniture of his mind, no one knows better than yourselves. But whoever reads Le Globe, tells you by that alone, an immense deal of his character and modes of thinking. And I, who have long read it assiduously, as well as almost every other publication which has proceeded from your society, may say that I now know the opinions of the St. Simonians, understand their language, desire to hear more of it on all subjects, and know in what manner my own ideas must be expressed, to find readiest access to their minds. I cannot say so much of any body of English readers, to whom I could address myself.
To these reasons for corresponding with you, permit me to add one, which needed not to be backed by any others in order to render it sufficient;—the high admiration which it is impossible for me not to entertain for you, your purposes, and your proceedings. When I see men doing all that the St. Simonians do, and sacrificing all that they sacrifice, for a doctrine which has as much truth in it as theirs has, and which, though I am unable to adopt it, must, in my opinion, do infinitely more good by its good, than it can do evil by its evil; when I see this, it is enough for me that such men think I can be of any use to them, to induce me eagerly to obey their call, as far as is consistent with what I owe to my own views of truth, and to the superior claims of my own country upon my labours and sacrifices.
[1 ]See, e.g., Chevalier, “Direction nouvelle à donner à la politique extérieure,” Le Globe, 3 June, 1831, p. 1; cf. other articles by Chevalier, ibid., 20 May, 1831, p. 1, 5 Feb., 1832, pp. 1-2, and 12 Feb., 1832, pp. 1-2.
[c-c]32 pratique. Si