Front Page Titles (by Subject) 7.: Population: Proaemium 1825 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part I
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7.: Population: Proaemium 1825 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVI - Journals and Debating Speeches Part I, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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MS, Mill-Taylor Collection, II/1/2. Inscribed in pencil in Mill’s hand, “Proaemium / of a speech / on population.” Typescript, Fabian Society. On internal evidence, prepared for the first of the debates between the Utilitarians and the Owenites at the latter’s Co-operative Society in 1825; judging by No. 8, however, Mill did not speak during the first session, so this “proaemium” probably was not delivered. As not published in Mill’s lifetime, not listed in his bibliography.
mr. chairman, If among those whom I now attempt to address there be any one who has ever been placed in the situation in which I stand, he is capable of appreciating the difficulties under which I labour. When a question is proposed, in comparison with which the questions which have hitherto been deemed the most important, are but as a feather in the scale—a question of such magnitude that if mankind were right on every other subject, and wrong on this, there would need no more to ensure their perpetual misery and degradation; he who undertakes to bring such a question before you, had he the logic of an Aristotle and the eloquence of a Demosthenes, would at all times have a difficult task to perform. But I who am not more conscious of the inexpressible importance of the question, than I am of my utter inability to do it justice; I who am so little habituated to public speaking, that even my thoughts and my reasonings, feeble as they may be, will appear still feebler by my manner of expressing them;—and who to all my personal disadvantages, add the farther disadvantage of not even being a member of the Society, upon whose indulgence I venture to throw myself,—I must indeed be presumptuous, indeed vainly and arrogantly confident, if I did not feel considerable embarrassment in entering upon the task which I have proposed to myself,—and you will readily believe that my embarrassment is not diminished, by the unpopularity of the opinions, which I have undertaken to advocate. They are indeed opinions of which it has been little the fashion in this country to speak well. Men of the most opposite principles have united in reprobating them: Tory, Whig, and Radical, however they may differ in other respects, agree in heaping opprobrium upon the opinions which I hold, and which I am about to express: and to crown all, though these opinions owe their chief celebrity to their having been promulgated by a parson,1 other parsons have not hesitated to stigmatize them as unchristian and impious. There is no evil however without its good: and the very unpopularity of my cause is in some respects a circumstance in my favour. It may convince you of one thing: that as there is no credit to be gained by advocating such a cause it is not for the sake of gaining credit, that I have espoused it: that as there is no faction or party by which it is not condemned, it is not devotion to any faction or party which numbers me among its supporters; in short, that nothing but sincerity in my opinion, and a deep conviction of its importance, can be in any way concerned in bringing me here: and if sincerity and conviction give any claim upon your attention, if you value them as I do, far beyond the brilliant talents of the advocate,—I venture to hold myself assured of a favourable hearing.
To me, Sir, who have so many causes to fear it may be allowed at least to deprecate one of them: to hope that those who hear me will not be alarmed at the supposed dryness of the subject, nor fear to be wearied if they apply their attention to it. I am well aware that the most interesting subject may be made dry by being unskilfully treated, and if through a defect in power of thinking, energy of language, or skill in illustration, I should fail of exciting that attention which I have ventured to request, the fault is in me, and not in my hearers. All I ask is, that they will not confound the defects of the speaker with those of his cause, nor believe that the subject is devoid of interest and importance, because I may fail to shew that it possesses the one or the other. It is not indeed such a subject as is commonly selected for a debating society. It gives little scope to panegyric on the one hand, or invective on the other. It leaves little room for vivid painting, for glowing and poetical description. It affords no place for elegant metaphor, or florid declamation. If a subject in which the happiness of the mass of mankind is involved in a degree far surpassing almost any other question which can be named—if such a subject can be a dry one, this subject is dry indeed. But if in the estimation of this Society, a question is dry, in proportion as it is frivolous and useless, interesting in proportion as it is great, comprehensive, and important, then, Sir, a more interesting question than the present never was proposed in this Society.
[1 ]Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), 5th ed. with additions, 3 vols. (London: Murray, 1817).