Front Page Titles (by Subject) 275.: SENIOR'S ON NATIONAL PROPERTY  MORNING CHRONICLE, 6 FEB., 1835, P. 2 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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275.: SENIOR’S ON NATIONAL PROPERTY  MORNING CHRONICLE, 6 FEB., 1835, P. 2 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, 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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SENIOR’S ON NATIONAL PROPERTY 
See No. 272 (3 Jan., 1835) for Mill’s review in the Sun of the 1st ed. of Senior’s pamphlet; the 2nd ed. (London: Fellowes, 1835), from which Mill here quotes, had quickly followed on its heels, and there were two further editions in 1835. The unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article in the Morning Chronicle of 6th (?) [sic] February 1835, on the 2nd ed. of Senior’s pamphlet”
(MacMinn, p. 43).
in our paper of the 2d January1 we gave several extracts from an able pamphlet recently published, On National Property, and on the Prospects of the Present Administration, and of their Successors. The second edition of this important tract has just appeared. It contains much additional matter, in no way inferior either in thought or style to what preceded; and we recommend the whole pamphlet as a text-book to the liberal Members of Parliament—a compendious statement of many of the principles and arguments which will be their strongest weapons, both of offence and of defence, in the approaching conflict with all the remaining strength of the Tory party.
The right of the State to employ what is called Church and Corporation Property for whatever purposes of public utility it deems most expedient—that principle, involved in Mr. Ward’s famous resolution,2 and the dread of which, in high quarters, has raised the present Ministry to its “little brief authority”3 —is stated and enforced in the pamphlet, calmly, philosophically, and uncompromisingly, as a deduction from the very nature and tenure of property itself. The utter incompatibility, both with the principles of the Constitution and with all good Government, of the strange proceedings which we have lately witnessed, the dismissal of one Ministry, and the appointment of another, ex mero motu regis,4 is powerfully shown; and the hack sophisms of the Conservatives to justify this stretch of authority are triumphantly demolished.
We quote from the new matter of the present edition, the following notice of an article in The Standard,5 in which our Contemporary takes off the mask, and avows the intention of its party to take back in one form those powers of misgovernment which, by the passing of the Reform Bill, they have lost in another:
If the present attempt is acquiesced in, it will be a precedent, and a precedent of more than even its apparent force. It will be a precedent which will at least begin by bringing us back to the times of the Stuarts. The organs of the present Ministry have been forced to speak out on this subject; they have been forced to declare, that “although before the Reform Bill, the House of Commons did in practice apparently exercise a veto upon the appointment of the Ministers of the Crown, the Reform Bill,” (by diminishing the influence of the Crown and the aristocracy in the House of Commons) “has brought us back to the theory of the constitution, the power of the King in choosing his advisers as unrestrained as that of the House of Commons in arranging the order of its proceedings6 —the reciprocal independence of the three branches of the Legislature.”
This, then, is the manner in which the Tories propose to work the Reform Bill. This is Sir Robert Peel’s “final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question.”7 The influence given to the people in the House of Commons is to be neutralized, indeed, much more than neutralized, by depriving that house of all control over the other branches of the Legislature. The King is to have the same unrestrained, unquestioned power of appointing, dismissing, and changing the whole body of public functionaries which the House of Commons has of deciding whether it will take motions or petitions for its twelve o’clock sittings. We are to return to the reign of prerogative. The King is, of course (for that is equally within the forms of the constitution), to refuse his assent to any Bill which may displease him. The Commons (for that is also the theory of the constitution) are to commence the session by a statement of their grievances, and postpone the grant of supplies until his Majesty has been pleased to redress those grievances. The three branches are to act independently. The great edifice of parliamentary government, which it has taken centuries to build up, and which we fondly thought that the Reform Bill had rendered complete, but which even without that bill, was supposed to be, at least, secure, is to be destroyed, because that bill has diminished the influence of the Crown and the aristocracy in the House of Commons. When the anti-reform majority of the House of Lords allowed, by their secession, that bill to pass, the country little thought what was their mental reservation. Without relying much on their prudence, it still did not suspect them of so insane a scheme as that of making amends for the Reform Bill by setting up prerogative against the people, and throwing us back, by a recurrence to what they choose to call the theory of the constitution to the state of things which preceded the events of 1643.
In justice to our adversaries, we must admit that this desperate defence is forced upon them. They would have much preferred that, instead of addressing the King “on the exercise of his undoubted prerogative,” they had had no such congratulations to offer. They felt the danger of assuming such a position, and evaded it, as long as evasion was possible, by every sort of artifice and falsehood. First, they declared that Lord Melbourne resigned; then that he admitted the impossibility of going on; then that, at least, he confessed that his administration was falling to pieces through internal dissensions. And it is only when these pretences have been swept away, that they take refuge in the Gothic citadel of prerogative, and turn against the country, and in the nineteenth century, the weapons forged by the Tudors and the Plantagenets.
The following passage on the theory of “political inconsistency” is also new:
When a statesman supports a measure which he formerly opposed, his conduct may be accounted for on any one of the three following suppositions:—1. An intervening change in public affairs. 2. Error. 3. Interest. It may happen, and indeed must happen frequently, that such a change has occurred in public affairs, since the period of his opposition, as to render beneficial what would previously have been injurious. When no such change in the circumstances of the case has occurred, the supposed alteration of conduct must necessarily be attributed to more personal causes. It must be attributed either to Error, or to Interest. He may admit that his former opposition was a mistake, and that he has been subsequently convinced, by facts of which he was not then aware, or by arguments which he had not then sufficiently considered. But if this explanation be not offered, or be not accepted, the only remaining solution is, that interest (using that word as comprehending not only pecuniary interest, but the acquisition or retention of power, or fame, or popularity, or the gratification of party friendship, or of party enmity), was the motive, either of the former opposition or of the present advocacy.
A change of conduct, which is accounted for by the first of these three suppositions, namely, by a change in the circumstances of the case, cannot be called an inconsistency. The real inconsistency would lie in persisting in a course for which the motive had ceased. With respect to the second supposition, the degree in which a public man’s reputation, for knowledge and intelligence, ought to suffer from his defending his present conduct, by acknowledging that he was formerly mistaken, is subject to no general rule. If the matter was not one of such importance as to have required his earnest attention, or the facts or reasonings which now show him to have been in error were not then before the public, he is readily excused. Lord Grenville did not sink in public estimation when he confessed that the support which, during the whole of his political life, he had given to loans for the purpose of supporting a Sinking Fund, was founded in error.8 That it was so founded, has been demonstrated; but it was not suspected by any one, when that most absurd system of finance was first adopted. But if the question at issue was of great importance, and if all the facts and arguments, necessary for its decision, were notorious, a statesman who is forced to acknowledge that he erred from ignorance of those facts, or neglect or incapacity of understanding those reasonings, may make a useful subaltern, but can scarcely maintain the post of a leader. The last of the three supposable cases, namely, that the measure in question was formerly opposed, or is now supported, from interested motives, is one which few men will venture to avow. In a sound state of public morality, such conduct would exclude from confidence and from power every person convicted of it. In the present state of feeling in England such an imputation, though always felt as an objection to the man who is stained by it, is not considered a decisive objection, unless the matter with respect to which it occurred was one of great public importance. So much latitude is allowed to faction, there is so much sympathy with party affection and party hatred, so little of public spirit is hoped for from public men, that in comparatively trifling measures, when introduced by a political adversary, to have knowingly opposed what was right, is considered a venial offence. But, loose as our morality is, we have not yet gone so far as to sanction such conduct with respect to those few questions on the right decision of which the welfare of the community depends; and as public morality is, on the whole, improving, we believe that it never will be sanctioned. If our belief were otherwise, we should indeed despair of the prospects of the country. The conduct which only disgusts in a demagogue would be ruinous in a Minister.
We will now endeavour to apply these principles to the subjects immediately before us. The great questions which we have been considering, are matters of the utmost importance, not only to the welfare, but to the existence of the empire. No event has taken place since they were last before Parliament in the slightest degree affecting them. Nothing new has been discovered respecting either the facts of the case, or the inferences to be deduced from them. If Sir R. Peel should now support those measures which, in the last session, he so resolutely resisted, he cannot plead, in justification, that the circumstances of the case are changed, or, in mitigation of punishment, that he was formerly mistaken. He had before him all the materials for coming to a right decision, and no one imputes to him mental deficiency. It must be admitted, tacitly or expressly, that either his former reluctance, or his subsequent concession, was founded on interest; that he knowingly, and intentionally, and on matters of the utmost importance, sacrificed the country to his party or to himself. And we repeat, that to sanction such conduct would be fatal.
We conclude in the forcible words of the author of the pamphlet:
It appears, therefore, that under any combination of circumstances, the present Administration cannot stand. It can stand only on these suppositions. First, that the present Ministers are willing to sacrifice all the reputation and the self-respect which alone can render the toils of office endurable: secondly, that the country is willing to sanction a degree of political profligacy, which even the tools of a despotism would not venture: and, thirdly, that the monstrous doctrine is to be admitted, that no one is responsible for the most dangerous of all possible exertions of the royal prerogative, the unforeseen and total, and, unless indeed its popular measures were the provocation, the unprovoked, dismissal of a popular Administration. Any one of these objections would be fatal. What then must be the effect of their combination?
[1 ]Leading article on unity among the Reformers, Morning Chronicle, 2 Jan., 1835, p. 2. The reference may be thought to imply that the leader was by Mill, and there are some resemblances (including one long passage quoted from Senior) between it and his review of Senior in the Sun on 3 Jan. (No. 272), but it is not listed in his bibliography.
[2 ]Henry George Ward (1797-1860), advanced liberal politician, M.P. for St. Albans from 1832. His famous resolution, later moved annually, was first presented on 27 May, 1834: “That the protestant episcopal establishment in Ireland exceeds the spiritual wants of the protestant population; and that (it being the right of the State to regulate the distribution of church property in such a manner as parliament may determine), it is the opinion of this House that the temporal possessions of the Church of Ireland, as now established by law, ought to be reduced” (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, col. 1396; quoted by Senior, pp. 34-5).
[3 ]Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, II, ii, 118; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 561.
[4 ]For the origin of the term, see No. 272, n6.
[5 ]Leading article on party names, Standard, 12 Jan., 1835, p. 2.
[6 ]Senior’s italics.
[7 ]Peel, An Address to the Electors of the Borough of Tamworth, p. 8.
[8 ]William Wyndham Grenville (1759-1834), Baron Grenville, long a prominent government official, head of the Ministry of “All the Talents” (1806-07), a supporter of the Sinking Fund from its establishment in 1786, published in 1828 an Essay on the Supposed Advantages of a Sinking Fund, in which he reversed his previous position.