Front Page Titles (by Subject) 7.: The Westminster Election of 1865  6 JULY, 1865 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868
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7.: The Westminster Election of 1865  6 JULY, 1865 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXVIII - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part I November 1850 - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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The Westminster Election of 1865 
Daily News, 7 July, 1865, p. 3. Headed: “Westminster.” Reported also in the Daily Telegraph, 7 July. The evening meeting of the Westminster electors was held in the Regent Music Hall, Regent Street, Vincent Square, which “was densely crowded by an enthusiastic audience” (Daily Telegraph). Thomas Hughes took the chair and, alluding to Mill’s great practical qualifications, mentioned his advocacy of cooperation and exhorted the electors to vote on Monday or Tuesday. Hughes being obliged to leave the chair, Westerton took his place. Mill, who was “received with loud cheers, the assemblage rising and waving their hats” (Daily Telegraph), then spoke.
he explainedin almost precisely the same terms as he used at St. James’s-hall1the reasons that had induced him to come forward and to meet the electors personally. He said that he accepted the office of candidate on the condition that he should neither solicit nor buy votes. There was an old saying, not altogether true, perhaps, that he who buys will sell, and it was certainly not fair that a candidate who did not intend to sell the votes should be called upon to buy them. This meeting had been called for the purpose of giving what were termed the working classes an opportunity of seeing him and asking him any questions. He did not like the phrase “working classes,” because it implied the existence of non-working classes, and nobody in this country had any business to be idle. Indeed there was a growing feeling among those who could afford to be idle that they ought to be usefully employed. There was abundant scope for the spread of education among the richer classes as well as among the working men. For his part he never desired to be paid for being idle or for work which he did not do. His sympathies were all with working people. (Cheers.) There was a much greater distinction than there ought to be between those who worked with their head and those who worked with their hands. It would probably be better for the head workers if they worked a little more with their hands; it would be better for their health, it would tend to make them more cheerful, and it would lead to increased human fellow feeling and public spirit. It was, perhaps, not generally known that he was one of the first persons in the kingdom who had suggested the adoption of the principles of co-operation in a practical shape. aFive years before the Rochdale Pioneers society was established he wrote an article in the Westminster Review ,2 the object of which was to show the radical party of the House of Commons, then almost on the eve of dissolution, how it might be reconstructed and rendered more in unison with the radicals out of doors.a At that time the radicals in the house did not go for universal suffrage, while those out of doors demanded nothing less, and his object in writing that article was to show the radical party in the house that the best way of getting out of its difficulty was to redress the practical grievances of the working classes, and he then pointed out the fact that by the operation of the then existing law co-operative societies could not be established; when the law was altered,3 and co-operative societies were established, they went on with surprising rapidity (hear, hear), and a way was soon found by which the working classes could raise themselves without pulling down anybody, but, on the contrary, with advantage, not only to themselves, but the country at large. The principle of co-operative societies went on extending itself, and the conviction of the truth of that principle eventually became so strong that it found an advocate bof all other places in the worldb in the pages of the Quarterly Review (oh).4 That implied an immense change in public opinion; the working men were in fact emancipated, and their cause was in their own hands. With respect to the extension of the suffrage, he went much further in his views of the concessions which he thought ought to be made to working men than did even those who sympathised warmly with working men, although, on the other hand, some might imagine that he had not gone far enough. It could not be a perfect government cin which one class of the community could legislate for another which was not representedc , and he certainly agreed in the opinion that no man who was competent to manage his own affairs ought to be without a vote. He thought the House of Commons ought to be placed in the position of da fair, just, and impartial umpire ord arbitrator between contending interests, and that any mode which would secure the return of one-half of the members who were devoted to the interests of the employed, the other half representing landed property, capital and their sympathisers would be in a position to reason justly on any grievance of the working men. Class distinctions should be abolished were it possible to do so; but so long as they existed they ought to be fairly represented in parliament. He would not permit the employer class to be represented in such a way as to be able to outvote the representatives of the employed, while so far as the suffrage itself went, he thought it ought to be given to all persons of age who could read, write, and cypher. eBut, though he was prepared to give to every man and woman who was of age, and capable of managing his or her affairs, a voice, he was not prepared to give them such an equality that, whether they were right or wrong, they should be able to outvote everybody else. (Hear, hear.)efAlthough he had suggested plans of his own to accomplish this ,5 he was quite ready to consider those of any other person. If he was returned to Parliament, he would give his earnest attention to any reform measure which might be proposed, and anything which would bring them nearer to that which they wanted would receive his support, as a compromise; but he would accept nothing which did not increase the influence of the working classes, and give a great many more representatives in Parliament. (Hear, hear.)f
gA person in the body of the hall put a question, quoting from a placard by the Tories, to this effect: “ ‘The result of observation is borne out by experience in England itself. As soon as any idea of equality enters the mind of an uneducated English working man, his head is turned by it. When he ceases to be servile he becomes insolent.’—Mill’s Principles of Political Economy, People’s Edition, p. 68.”6
Mr. Mill said that he did not want uneducated men voters, and was in favour of an educational test—reading, writing, and simple arithmetic. If the suffrage were not to depend upon that, it would be universal. The honourable candidate then highly praised the conduct of the Lancashire operatives, and expressed his belief that it was owing to their intelligence they knew the cause of their distress.7 This was mainly owing to the cheap press. (Loud applause.) They had seen the discussions respecting the subject, and that they owed to the cheap press. If they had not learnt to read, they could not have benefited by the cheap press, and the press now gave to any man, however humble his circumstances, the means of acquiring the best information respecting political knowledge, written by some of the most able men of the country. (Cheers.) To men, therefore, who had the qualification of reading, writing, and arithmetic, he would entrust a share in the management of the destinies of this country, when they had those excellent means of learning the opinions of the ablest men. (Applause.) Respecting the malt tax, Mr. Mill said a question had been sent up to him, “Will you vote against it?”8 If that meant, would he advocate free trade in intoxicating drinks, without asking leave of any person in opening a public-house, he would say, “No”—(hear, hear)—because public-houses were very often a nuisance, and it was of great importance that nuisances should be out of the way. (Cheers.) There must be such things, but they should be out of the way as much as possible consistent with the public convenience. He would have some public authorities whose duty it should be to see that they were not a nuisance. He thought that it was much better to tax stimulants than necessary articles. He would, in the present state of affairs, vote for the Maynooth grant, and was in favour of opening museums on Sundays. The ballot should be an open question. The shopkeepers were much more in need of it than the working classes.
Other questions having been satisfactorily answered, a vote approving of Mr. Mill as a candidate was carried, and the meeting separated.g
[1 ]See No. 6.
[a-a]DT Five years before 1839, when the Rochdale Pioneers’ Society was established, he wrote an article in the Westminster Review, the object of which was to show that the law ought so to be altered that these co-operative societies might exist, which at that period they could not.
[2 ]“Reorganization of the Reform Party,” London and Westminster Review, XXXII (Apr. 1839), 475–508; in CW, Vol. VI, pp. 465–95. For the comments on co-operation, see pp. 486–7. The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers’ Co-operative store opened in December 1844.
[3 ]By 15 Victoria, c. 31 (1852).
[b-b]DT] DN even
[4 ]“Workmen’s Benefit Societies,” Quarterly Review, CXVI (Oct. 1864), 318–50, by Samuel Smiles (1812–1904), the advocate of self-help.
[c-c]DT which enabled one class to legislate for its own benefit. (Applause.)
[d-d]DT] DN an
[f-f]DT] DN It was not likely that he should be able to bring in a reform bill of his own, but if returned he should give his attention to the plans of others, and he should stand by the principles he had laid down. At the same time he would accept any enlargement of the franchise as a step in the right direction provided they were not called upon to pay the price of a worse distribution. (Cheers.)
[5 ]See Considerations on Representative Government (1861), in CW, Vol. XIX, pp. 371–577, esp. Chaps. vii and viii.
[g-g]DT] DN A great many questions were put to the honourable candidate, most of which have been put and answered before, and the proceedings concluded with a resolution to the effect that the meeting considered Mr. Mill to be a fit person to represent Westminster in parliament, which was carried by acclamation.
[6 ]Principles of Political Economy (1848), Bk. I, Chap. vii, Sect. 5 (in CW, Vol. II, p. 109); the passage, added in the 3rd ed. (1852), is in the People’s Ed. (1865) at p. 68.
[7 ]The cotton industry collapsed because the Union forces in the U.S. Civil War denied access to the Confederate States’ cotton, and great distress resulted in Lancashire, especially in 1862–63. Nonetheless, the operatives expressed support for the North.
[8 ]“A Bill to Allow the Charging of the Excise Duty on Malt According to the Weight of the Grain Used,” 28 Victoria (19 May, 1865), PP, 1865, III, 1–6, had been enacted as 28 & 29 Victoria, c. 66 (1865). It was expected that the matter would be raised again.