Front Page Titles (by Subject) 224.: NAPIER'S THE COLONIES EXAMINER, 24 NOV., 1833, PP. 740-1 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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224.: NAPIER’S THE COLONIES EXAMINER, 24 NOV., 1833, PP. 740-1 - 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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NAPIER’S THE COLONIES
Here Mill returns to a work he had recently praised (see No. 217). He asked Carlyle on 25 Nov.—a little early, for Carlyle was in Craigenputtoch—whether he had spotted the review as Mill’s (see No. 222). This lead review, in the “Literary Examiner,” is headed “The Colonies: Treating of their Value generally; of the Ionian Islands in particular; the importance of the latter in War and Commerce, as regards Russian Policy; their Finances; why an expense to Great Britain; detailed proofs that they ought not to be so; Turkish Government; Battle of Navarino; Ali Pacha; Sir Thomas Maitland; Strictures on the Administration of Sir Frederick Adam. By Colonel Charles James Napier, C.B. [London: Boone, 1833.]” It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Colonel Napier’s Work on the Ionian Isles, in the Examiner of 24th Nov. 1833” (MacMinn, p. 36). In the Somerville College set of the Examiner, the article is listed as “Review of Colonel Napier’s Work on the Ionian Isles,” and enclosed in square brackets, with one correction: at 649.35 “as bad” is altered to “as loud”.
Motto.—“And a more accomplished old woman never drank cat-lap,” said Maxwell, as he shut the door: “the last word has him, speak it who will; and yet, because he is a whilly-whaw body, and has a plausible tongue of his own, and is well enough connected, and especially because nobody could ever find out whether he is Whig or Tory, this is the third time they have made him Provost.”— Redgauntlet.1
we have incidentally, in a former article, called attention to this book, but we cannot let it pass without more particular notice. If we could, we would cause it to be in the hands of every reader of our Paper. It is as instructive as if it were the dullest book ever written, and as amusing as if it had no pretensions to be instructive.
The author, Colonel Napier, is brother to the celebrated historian of the Peninsular War,2 and a remarkable member of a remarkable family. He was Resident (Lieutenant-Governor) of Cefalonia, the largest of the islands which compose the Septinsular Republic, as this curious specimen of a Government is called.3 Though not a philosopher, (of his general speculations we do not think by any means highly,) Colonel Napier is evidently the shrewdest and most sagacious of practical men; one of the most high-spirited of officers, and, from the style and character of his book, we are quite certain, one of the liveliest and pleasantest of companions.
Colonel Napier has done three things in the present work; which we shall enumerate in the ascending order of their importance. To have done any one of the three was worth writing twice as large a book.
He has presented, quite incidentally, and seemingly without having such a purpose in his thoughts, a most lively and interesting picture of a curious and little known state of society; a rude, scarcely so much as half civilized, state; blending curiously the general features of European society five hundred years ago, with influences derived from the connection and neighbourhood of more civilized nations.
He has supplied to all who may hereafter be called upon to govern, or to superintend the government of the Ionian Isles, or of any other colony in the same stage of improvement, an admirable manual; a collection of precepts and examples, perfectly inestimable. He has shown how these islands may be governed at no expense to Great Britain, and so that the Government shall be a blessing to the inhabitants, who, but for our protection, would lie prostrate at the feet of their own wealthier classes. He has made it clear, both by reasoning and actual experiment, that to render our occupation of that country quite invaluable to its people, nothing whatever is necessary but that the men we send thither shall be men of good sense and discernment, capable of understanding the state of society they are set to preside over, and the nature of the social evils which they have to contend against. On the other hand, he has shown but too plainly how for want of understanding these things, our government there may be made a burden on our own treasury; and with respect to the islands themselves, merely an additional instrument in the hands of the rich to pillage and trample upon the poor.
The last, and greatest, because most far-reaching benefit which Colonel Napier has conferred upon his country by this volume, is to anatomize and exhibit, in the person of Sir Frederick Adam,4 a specimen of a class of public men, the sort of men described in his motto; the most numerous class of all; the men who have no character, no will of their own; whom, consequently, nobody is jealous of, or afraid of; and whom, therefore, if aristocratically connected, everybody is ready to thrust into situations for which they are totally unfit; and who then become mere instruments in the hands of those who will take greatest pains to talk them over, (a familiar phrase, exactly expressive of the process,) that is, of those who have a private interest to serve; the men, in short, who answer to the description in Hudibras—
This sort of men, when placed in situations of important trust, are precisely the most dangerous of all; the mischief they do is quite incalculable. To such men, any man of an active and strong understanding, let him be even a knave, is far preferable. A maxim, strikingly exemplified by the contrast between the administration of Sir Frederick Adam, and that of Sir Thomas Maitland, his predecessor.6 Sir Thomas was the corruptest of Tories, and, unless he is greatly wronged, one of the most unscrupulous of Governors; and, as appears from many anecdotes in this book, rough and coarse-minded almost to brutality. But he had a sound and vigorous understanding and a strong will; and that love of the right, when not under great temptation to do wrong, which a clear-headed and determined man always has. He understood his position, and the sphere in which he moved. He saw that the great business of a Governor in a state of society like that of the Ionian Isles, is to protect the weak against the strong. He saw, that if the poor were to be protected at all, the executive government must be their protector; because the courts of justice, to which, in a more advanced state of society, the repression and punishment of injuries may safely be left, cannot in that semi-barbarous state be so constituted as not to be habitually bribed or intimidated by the rich and powerful. Accordingly Sir Thomas made himself the patron of the poor man, and governed the Seven Islands, in spite of many defects, with a more vigorous and a more beneficent rule, than they have probably ever known since they first were inhabited.
Sir Frederick Adam, a man without Sir Thomas Maitland’s bad qualities, and without one particle of his energy and strong good sense, succeeded to him; and, although during the whole of Sir Thomas’s administration he had been second in command, and had the amplest opportunities of profiting by the example, the history of his administration is that of the gradual undoing of the good work which his predecessor had begun. Sir Thomas Maitland had protected the weak against the strong; the practice of Sir Frederick Adam was to believe the representations of the strong against the weak. It was not that he had any preference for the strong; if there had been any one to talk as long and as loud to him on the other side of the question, the other side was as likely to have prevailed. He was simply in the very common case of having no ideas of his own, nor capacity of acquiring them, and consequently adopting those, whatever they might be, which were most frequently presented to him. The rich and powerful, having most access to his ear, had most opportunities of pouring into it the representations which suited their purposes.
Colonel Napier was able for several years, in spite of perpetual counteraction from the knot of interested advisers by whom the Governor was surrounded, to preserve the administration of the island over which he presided from the rapid degeneracy which the others speedily underwent. Having a mind full of resource, fertile in contrivances, being a thorough man of action in the best sense, knowing the world, and judging skilfully of men, he chose his expedients with admirable skill; was always for a little while countenanced and applauded by Sir Frederick Adam; and, as soon as he had been sufficiently successful to give umbrage to any person with whose corrupt gains, or whose arbitrary powers his plans interfered, he had the mortification of finding them all knocked on the head.
After some time, Colonel Napier came to England on leave of absence, receiving on his passage through Corfu, the strongest demonstrations of friendship and confidence from the Governor. During his absence Sir Frederick Adam made a public declaration in Cefalonia, that on Colonel Napier’s return he should not reappoint him to his office, under pretence that an insurrection which had broken out many months after the Colonel’s departure had been provoked by the arbitrary nature of his administration. On learning this, Colonel Napier immediately demanded an inquiry, and having with some difficulty compelled Sir Frederick to make his accusations specific, addressed to the Colonial Office a reply which absolutely levels the unfortunate man with the dust.7
The conduct of Lord Goderich was most characteristic. A man like Sir Thomas Maitland, in the situation of Colonial Secretary, from the mere inspection of the controversial correspondence, the accusation and the defence, would have seen enough of the two men to have perceived at once which was fittest to be Governor of the Ionian Isles; and if to Sir Thomas Maitland’s abilities he had added honesty, Sir Frederick would speedily have ceased to fill the office, and Colonel Napier would have been his successor. Lord Goderich, on the contrary, seems to have had no object in view but to spare himself the responsibility of deciding. He would neither put Sir Frederick Adam in the right nor say he was in the wrong. Before the inquiry, and for the purpose of saving himself from the trouble of it, he offered to Colonel Napier a superior appointment, the Residency of Zante.8 But as the Colonel refused to pocket the unmerited accusation, and demanded that Sir Frederick Adam should be required either to restore him to his former post or produce charges against him; he obtained the inquiry which he had demanded, made the most triumphant of vindications, and received no redress. Lord Goderich “did not feel authorized to interfere between a Lord High Commissioner and his Resident:”9 it was no part of the duty of a Colonial Secretary to exercise any controul over the Governor of a colony. No decision has ever been pronounced. Colonel Napier, who might have obtained a higher appointment if he would have submitted to be disgraced, has lost the situation he held, and it needs no prophet to predict that he will never obtain that or any other from the present Government. He has appealed to the press:10 the one unpardonable offence. He has shown up the folly and negligence of men in high place. No man who does this need expect public employment. He has written a book which proves him to be the fittest person in the United Kingdom to be Governor of the Seven Islands, and that is the quite sufficient hindrance to his being made either that or anything else.
People of England, how long will these things be?
[1 ]Walter Scott, Redgauntlet: A Tale of the Eighteenth Century, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable, 1824), Vol. II, p. 277 (Chap. xii). This is Napier’s motto.
[2 ]William Francis Patrick Napier (1785-1860), distinguished veteran of the Peninsular War, whose History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France was completed after this date in 6 vols. (London: Murray, and Boone, 1828-40).
[3 ]The islands of Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Cythera, and Paxo were formed into the “Septinsular Republic” in 1800 by Turkey and Russia. Independent only for seven years, the group was declared part of the French empire in 1807, but the British gradually gained the islands. By the Treaty of Paris in 1815 they were declared independent as the United States of Ionian Islands, but were placed under British protection and in effect ruled by Residents on the individual islands, under the Lord High Commissioner.
[4 ]Frederick Adam (1781-1853), another veteran of the Peninsular War, was Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands 1824-31, and became Governor of Madras in 1832.
[5 ]Samuel Butler (1612-80), Hudibras (1663) (Pt. I, Canto 1, ll. 35-6), 2 vols., ed. Zachary Grey (London: Vernor and Hood, et al., 1801), Vol. I, p. 7.
[6 ]Thomas Maitland (1759-1824), M.P. 1794-96 and 1800-06, had served in the army in India, the West Indies, and France; had been Commander-in-Chief in Ceylon in 1806, and Governor-General in Malta 1813, before becoming Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands in 1815. Charles Napier had served under him as well as Adams.
[7 ]Napier’s letter of 23 Mar., 1832, is given in The Colonies, pp. 392-445.
[8 ]For the offer by Frederick John Robinson, Lord Goderich, see ibid., p. 380.
[9 ]These words are Napier’s report (p. 446) of what he was told by James MacDonald, who had been appointed Governor of the Ionian Islands.
[10 ]See The Colonies, p. 456.