Front Page Titles (by Subject) 8.: The Westminster Election of 1865  8 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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8.: The Westminster Election of 1865  8 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 Telegraph, 10 July, 1865, p. 2. Headed: “Election Intelligence. / Westminster.” Reported fully on the same day in the Morning Star; brief summaries appeared also in the Daily News and The Times. The meeting of electors and non-electors on Saturday evening in the Pimlico Rooms, Winchester Street, was chaired by Charles Westerton. “The room was densely crowded by a most enthusiastic audience” (Daily Telegraph).
mr. j.s. mill,who upon rising to speak was received with loud cheers, again and again repeated, said that, as the electors of Westminster must all pretty well know what were the principles upon which he rested his candidature, it was not necessary that he should occupy their time by recapitulating them. But he should like to say a few words upon a most important principle, which was involved in this contest—that this was a protest against the “money power” employed in elections. (Cheers.) He was not going to say anything which could possibly offend any party or anybody—nothing about the misuse of money—about using it for the purposes of corruption, giving it to electors to return any particular candidate. If it were stated to candidates that before going to the poll they must spend £2,000, £3,000, £4,000, or any other sum of money, “for the good of the public,” things would be pretty much as they now stood, with the important difference, that then the candidate who had to pay this money, as most had, would know that it was used for some other purpose than it was now, viz., the demoralisation of the electors. (Cheers.) Did they think it was the right and best thing that the House of Commons should be composed exclusively of rich men, or men with rich connections? (No.) There were a good many reasons why this was not desirable, and one was that the rich naturally sympathised with the rich. (Hear, hear.) The rich had sympathies enough for the poor when the poor came before them as objects of pity. Their feelings of charity were often highly creditable to their dispositions; and, besides, they had almost universally a kind of patronising and protective sympathy for the poor, such as shepherds had for their flocks—(laughter and cheers)—only that was conditional upon the flock always behaving like sheep. (Renewed laughter, and Hear, hear.) But if the sheep tried to have a voice in their own affairs, he was afraid that a good many shepherds would be willing to call in the wolves. (Cheers.) Now this sympathy of the rich for the rich had manifested itself in a very decided way during the last two or three years, by the extraordinary good wishes of the higher classes of this country for the success of the American slaveholders. He did not make this a matter of reproach against the rich and higher classes of this country, for he was quite ready to let bygones be bygones; but they were not at liberty to renounce the privilege, nay, the duty, of drawing lessons from the very things before their eyes—(hear, hear)—and he should like to make a few remarks upon the cause and meaning of the sympathy of the rich for these slaveholders. It was not that they loved slavery; he acquitted them of that. (Hear, hear.) But he could not acquit them of not having realised to their own minds by experience or reflection what a dreadful thing slavery really is, and what are the results it produces and gives rise to. It gives a power—whether those who have it use it or not—of torturing human beings to death at their caprice. (Hear, hear.) The government which the slaveholders endeavoured to establish, has fortunately been frustrated, or there would have been a kind of reign of evil on the earth. It is this which has given rise to the Bowie knife and the revolver—not the pure government of democracy. (Hear, hear.) Our privileged classes did not consider this, or he believed that they would have acted in a different manner from that which they did. They merely saw one thing—a privileged class opposed by those who they thought wanted to take the privilege away; and when they saw that, they said “These (the Southerners) must be gentlemen, with whom gentlemen ought to sympathise.” He believed that to be exaggerated. (Hear, hear.) The man who nearly murdered Mr. Sumner on the floor of the House of Congress—that man was a gentleman!1 and the wives and daughters of slaveholders, who raised subscriptions to mark their approval of his conduct—they were gentlewomen! but the refined and polished, the highly intellectual society of Massachusetts, the poets, orators, philosophers, the popular preachers, the brightest and best, those who took a lead against these enormities—men such as Channing, Emerson, Theodore Parker, Palfrey, Lowell, Bancroft, Motley, etc.—these were not gentlemen, they were low Radicals and vulgar demagogues.2 (Cheers.) So blind were these people—these privileged ones—on our side of the water, that they did not know or care that the people whom they were thus attacking were those known to all Americans as lovers of England, lovers of English literature, sympathisers with the English people, admirers of us, and ignorant of much that was bad in our institutions. He did not make this a matter of reproach to any one, because when so many joined in it, it would not be right to apportion a share. Many who were well worthy of their respect had yielded to this general perversion of sentiment: and the moral he drew from it was this, that they had here one of the most signal instances, and so recent that it could not be objected to as belonging to olden times, of how far men could be carried away by their bias, unconscious and unintentional bias he was persuaded, but still one that made the rich sympathise with the rich, the privileged with the privileged; and the practical lesson which he deduced from it was this, that it was a very just and proper thing that there should be rich men in Parliament for the purpose of watching over the interests of the rich, but also, if they wanted a similar care to be taken of the poor, they had better not shut the door of the House of Commons upon the poor man. (Loud cheers.) The only people they would do well to keep clear of were those kind of poor men who would be glad to use a seat in Parliament to get rich—(hear, hear),—or pin themselves to the skirts of those who were rich. They would not suppose that he was one of those. (Loud cries of No, no.) A great writer had said that those who wanted to be well governed should look out for those who did not want to be governors.3 They knew that he had not thrust himself upon them. (True.) If he were as certain of being up to the mark in everything else as he was that he had not sought to force himself upon them, his mind would be quite at ease. Perhaps they might wish him to refer to his general ideas of reform as applied to the Constitution—(hear)—and also whether he would be a supporter or non-supporter of the present Ministry. He could not look forward to any time in the history of this country when he should not think any Liberal Ministry preferable to any Conservative Ministry. (Cheers.) Whatever the shortcomings of a Liberal party or Government might be, they did not bear in their very names the profession of wishing to keep things as they were.4 (Hear, hear.) Their name implied that they wished to improve them; and although between the least liberal of Liberals and the most liberal of Conservatives there might only be a little difference, a short distance, still it should be ever borne in mind, and seriously remembered, that this least liberal of Liberals was surrounded by those who were far better men than himself, politically speaking, while this most liberal of Conservatives was surrounded by men who, politically speaking, were far worse than himself. (Loud applause.) Suppose York was half-way between Edinburgh and London, and two travellers met there from either place, there would be very little, if any, difference in the respective distances they had to go, but that did not decrease in the least the hundreds of miles which London was distant from Edinburgh. (Hear, hear.) If he were returned to Parliament, what he should do, and that which he should recommend others to do, would be to vote for any Liberal Government on questions as between them and the Tory Government, but he should not let himself be muddled under the pretence of keeping a Liberal Government in; therefore he would advise the independent Liberals always to vote as they thought best, and to let the Government or Ministry shift for themselves, and take their chances of whatever might be the result of a full and free discussion. As regarded Reform and improvements of details, he thought they might be pretty sure that they would go on under any Government. One of the admirable effects of the reforms and improvements which had already taken place was that the spirit of improvement had penetrated even into the Tory camp—(hear, hear)—and he thought that in all the subordinate departments of public affairs the Tories and the Whigs would vie and compete with each other in improvements of that sort. The fact was, they had a difficult problem to solve, let alone how to deal with what were called “proved abuses.” There was a general conviction, and one in which he fully shared, that most of the departments of public affairs—almost all the public business—was either badly done or done not nearly so well as it ought to be done. (Cheers.) What they had to do to remedy this—without introducing fresh evils—was to reconcile a skilful management of public affairs by trained and specially qualified people with the preservation and extension of their local liberties and the responsibility of all public functionaries to the people. (Cheers.) In short, they wanted a system of administration which should at once be skilful and popular. This was not an easy matter. It would task the best minds, both in and out of Parliament, for a considerable time. But that was what they had to do. He had no doubt that in this some assistance would be rendered by the Conservatives, because, without speaking of such a brilliant exception as Lord Stanley, there were Sir John Pakington, Sir Stafford Northcote,5 and others, who would be glad to assist in improvements of that sort—(hear, hear)—as far as they saw the way, and they often saw a good way. But still, while good service could be got out of such men, the Tories must be looked to as a body, as a party; and as a party they showed what they were, a long way behind the Liberals. The only way in which the Tories could at all distinguish themselves was by actually showing that they were “a little bit worse” than the Liberals. (Laughter.) This at least was the best excuse that could be found for them, though recently they had showed that they were a good deal worse than the Liberals, in dealing with such subjects as the church rates and the Catholic Oaths Bill.6 (Hear, hear.) In conclusion Mr. Mill expressed his readiness to answer any questions, and resumed his seat amidst considerable applause.
Several of those present availed themselves of the opportunity to examine Mr. Mill respecting certain of his political doctrines.
Question: How do you explain your writing that the upper classes are liars, and the lower classes—the working classes—habitual liars?7
Mr. Mill said such was his writing. He thought so, and so did the most intelligent of the working classes themselves, and the passage applied to the natural state of those who were both uneducated and subjected. If they were educated and became free citizens, then he should not be afraid of them. Lying was the vice of slaves, and they would never find slaves who were not liars. It was not a reproach that they were what slavery had made them. But those persons who quoted this passage were not candid enough to read on. (Applause.) He said that he was not speaking of the vices of his countrymen, but of their virtues, and that they were superior to most other countrymen in truthfulness—(cheers)—and that the lower classes, though they did lie, were ashamed of lying, which was more than he could venture to say of the same class in any other nation which he knew. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Mill said he would have no difficulty in answering the question. For one thing he never had said that the working classes had not as much right as the higher classes, but that they had no more right.8 Neither had a right to have more children than they could support and educate. The higher classes had no more right than the lower classes to overstock the labour market. If this was a reproach it was a reproach which attached to almost all the writers on political economy during the last half century. Their views on this subject were dictated by the strongest wish for the best interest of the working classes. They felt that as long as wages were as low as they then were, and as they still were, it was not possible to hope for a great political and moral improvement in the country. The interests of the working classes required that their wages should be higher, not only for the obvious reason that they were not sufficient, but because it was a necessary condition of proper education. They felt that wages, though other causes might have helped, were a great deal kept down by excessive competition for employment, and although that excessive competition had been to some extent relieved by emigration, they saw no hope for altering this state of things except by a moral resolution on the part of the labouring classes not to overstock the labour market. Some people said it was absurd to expect this. He said that, on the contrary, all morality was a triumph over some of their natural propensities. The strongest of their natural propensities had been overcome by the various inducements that had been addressed to mankind—by public opinion, by education, by religion, none of which influences had ever been sufficiently or satisfactorily brought to bear on this particular end. Such was his faith in human nature and in the effect of these influences, that when they were brought to bear on the over-multiplication of mankind they would have an influence on all classes of the community. No class who might be called rich had a right to have more sons and daughters than they could provide for, because if they could not leave them well off they might be quartered on the public. (Cheers.)a
Question (from a person on the platform): How can Mr. Mill reconcile his doctrine with the Scriptural injunction, that we are to increase and multiply?9(Much laughter.)
Mr. Mill: It says we are to eat and drink, but not to over-eat and over-drink ourselves.10 (Cheers and laughter.)
Mr. Mill said he was sure that the opinion which he had expressed on this point was only not shared by reformers generally because it was not understood. His idea of representation was that not a part only, even if it were a majority, but that everybody should be represented. cFor instance, if there was a constituency of 5,000, and it had to elect one member, and there were two candidates, and 3,000 voted for one candidate and 2,000 for the other, the man elected would represent the 3,000 voters; but why were the 2,000 to go unrepresented if there could be found another 1,000 to agree with it in returning some other person? The number to be fixed would of course depend on the proportion between the number of representatives and the number of voters; but he would certainly give a member to every 10,000 or 8,000, whatever the number might be, who could agree in electing a representative.c This was what they had heard of as Mr. Hare’s plan, otherwise the system of personal representation which, instead of being the complicated and unintelligible thing which some people represented, was the simplest thing in the world.11 Mr. Hare’s was the most practical and organising head that he knew, and he believed that they could not carry out the principle of popular representation or democratic government without this plan.b
Question: Will you support a bill for purifying the Church of England from Romanising practices and tendencies?
Mr. Mill had often thought that one of the most important uses of a representative constitution was that it caused great questions to be discussed. He was never more sensible of this truth than just now, and this question had given him an opportunity of saying something which he had not been able to do before. The question meant, would he chase out of the Church of England the Tractarian party?12 That he would not do, because he thought the greatest argument against an Established Church was that it tied up the minds of its clergy. He wanted, within certain bounds, that the clergyman should not have to sign away his mental liberty; that he should have the power, as far as was consistent with an Established Church, of forming his own sincere convictions as to what Christianity was; and although many of the clergy might come to different, and perhaps some to wrong perceptions, he would not turn them out for that, so long as they thought their opinions ought not to turn them out—which some of the Tractarians had done. But if they asked him whether he would leave it in the power of any single clergyman to suppress any of the customary services, or introduce others, he would not give them such power. (Applause.) If any body of persons wanted any particular sort of worship, let them have it at their own expense. He did not admit that the clergy had a right to determine what the ceremonials of the Church should be. That ought to rest, if any one had to determine it, with the majority of the parishioners. In short, although in the Church he would have the utmost mental liberty, yet with respect to the ceremonial part, of whatever kind, that ought to rest with the laity, and not with the clergy. For it was not the collective clergy, much more one clergyman, who were the Church, but the clergy and laity. No clergyman, or collective clergy, therefore, ought to have the power of introducing ceremonials into the services against the wishes of the parishioners. (Hear, hear.)
Question: How do you reconcile this—to open the museums on Sundays and obey the Divine command to keep the Sabbath day holy?13(Hear, hear.)
Mr. Mill said that those who were of opinion that this injunction was intended for the Christians, and not for the Jews exclusively, were quite right in not being able to reconcile it. But his opinion was that the Sabbatical institution was an institution for the Jews alone. (Hear, hear.) The Christian Sunday appeared to him to be an institution of quite a different character. (Hear, hear.)
Question: Has Mr. Mill any confidence in and sympathy with the religion taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles; and does he believe that a State Church is a benefit to this nation or otherwise? (Cries of Don’t answer.)
Mr. Mill: He had already declared that he could not consent to answer any questions about his religious creed. (Loud applause, and “Quite right.”) The question about the State Church was very different, and his opinion was this, that in principle there ought to be no such thing, but he did not think the time had yet arrived when it would be any use to try and abolish it. The thing was not pressing, and at all events the State was more Liberal than the Church, and now the best men in the Church had an opportunity of getting the highest places in it. At present he thought it would be much better to try and improve the Church itself through the State, than to abolish the connection which in principle he objected to; and he had no hesitation in saying that they ought not to be combined.
dQuestion: What are the disadvantages we labour under in not having a vote, and the advantages we should possess in having one? (Oh.)d
Mr. Mill: The gentleman who had asked that question had asked him in effect to make a speech which would last the rest of the evening. The difference would be this—the man would be a citizen—(loud cheers)—and he would feel that he was a citizen. Let them look at America now. Look at the grand display of patriotism; was it not the wonder of the world? Did anybody dream it would be so? Did anybody think that all those millions would be ready to give the blood of their families, and incur a national debt equal to ours—putting it at the lowest—for the nationality of their country? He did not suppose there was a family in New England which had not lost a member. Was it not something to have such a feeling in the whole body of the people? Did they not think that that had something to do with everybody having a vote? (Hear, hear.) eIt seemed to him that the interests of citizenship—an equal right to be heard—to have a share in influencing the affairs of the country—to be consulted, to be spoken to, and to have agreements and considerations turning upon politics addressed to one—tended to elevate and educate the self-respect of the man, and to strengthen his feelings of regard for his fellow-men. (Cheers.) These made all the difference between a selfish man and a patriot. (Hear, hear.) To give people an interest in politics and in the management of their own affairs was the grand cultivator of mankind. (Cheers.)e That was one of the reasons why he wanted women to have votes; they needed cultivation as well as men. He could not conceive that a country was what it ought to be without an extension of a share of political right to all. (Cheers.) Those left without it seemed a sort of pariahs. Independently of this, there were plenty of practical considerations. There were many, many questions before Parliament in which it was of the greatest consequence that those who had so large an interest in them should be heard on their own behalf, and that in the very place where the questions had to be decided. It was as necessary that they should be heard when they were wrong as when they were right. When such was the case, if a man asked more than he ought, then he had the chance of either being enlightened or shamed out of it. (Cheers.)
Question: What are your principles of non-intervention?
Mr. Mill: He did not understand what was meant by “principle” of non-intervention, because that would be a principle of utter selfishness. His opinion was that every nation was much more capable of settling its own affairs than another Power for it. (Hear, hear.) But if a Power in trying to establish its own affairs was threatened by a foreign despot, that was another thing, and then it was perfectly legitimate to interfere—not to prevent the first Power from doing that which they thought best for themselves, but to protect them from being persecuted by the despot. (Cheers.)
Question: Is it legitimate for a voter to be told that he must vote for Mr. Smith, or lose custom; or for a person to order a pair of boots and not demand the “exact” price? (Loud cries of Shame! shame!)
Mr. Mill: I think that the feeling of the meeting has sufficiently answered the question already.
Question: What are your opinions respecting primogeniture?
Mr. Mill: Entirely against it, both politically and privately. He thought that the practice of making the oldest son heir by law was in itself unjust. fHe thought that a man should be allowed to leave what belonged to him to whom he liked, but that in cases of intestacy it should be divided equally among the children.f
Question: The ballot?
Mr. Mill did not think it was now necessary, especially to the working classes, and that if it was necessary it was amongst shopkeepers.
[After other speeches, a resolution was passed by acclamation approving of Mr. Mill as a fit and proper candidate, and pledging the meeting to support his election; the proceedings terminated.]
[1 ]On 22 May, 1856, Preston Smith Brooks (1819–57), a Congressman from South Carolina, angered by a violent speech attacking Senator A.P. Butler of South Carolina by Charles Sumner (1811–74), Senator from Massachusetts and abolitionist, beat Sumner senseless with a gutta percha cane. Though a vote to expel him from the House of Representatives failed, Brooks resigned, but was unanimously re-elected by his constituents.
[2 ]For these supporters of the Union position, see App. H.
[3 ]Plato (427–347 ), Republic (Greek and English), trans. Paul Shorey, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1946), Vol. I, p. 80 (I, i, 19).
[4 ]A radical catchphrase, probably deriving from William Godwin (1756–1836), Things As They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794).
[5 ]John Somerset Pakington (1799–1880), Conservative M.P. for Droitwich, who was a leader in the movement for reform of elementary education, and Stafford Henry Northcote (1818–87), at this time Conservative M.P. for Stamford, who had worked on reorganizing the Board of Trade and the Civil Service.
[6 ]In the debates and votes on “A Bill for the Commutation of Church Rates,” 28 Victoria (21 Feb., 1865), PP, 1865, I, 135–54 (not enacted), and “A Bill to Substitute an Oath for the Oath Required to Be Taken by the Statute Passed in the Tenth Year of the Reign of King George the Fourth, for the Relief of His Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects,” 28 Victoria (21 Mar., 1865), PP, 1865, IV, 375–8 (not enacted).
[7 ]Cf. Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859), in CW, Vol. XIX, p. 338. For Mill’s later comment on this exchange, see Autobiography, CW, Vol. I, pp. 274–5.
[8 ]Cf. Principles of Political Economy, CW, Vol. II, p. 358 (II, xii, 2).
[9 ]Genesis, 1:28.
[10 ]Cf. Ecclesiastes, 2:24.
[c-c]DT Suppose, for instance, and he took the number at random, that a constituency consisted of 5,000 voters, and these 5,000 voters had to elect one member; and suppose that of these 2,000 were Conservatives, and 3,000 were Liberals, or that 2,000 were Liberals, and the 3,000 Conservatives; in either case it was quite right that the 3,000, the majority, should have the member. But why were the other 2,000 voters to be without a member? They were entitled to one. Well, if these 2,000 could go somewhere else, and find another 1,000 who would agree with them, he would so have it, and give them a representative. (Hear, hear.) He would have the number fixed, by simple arithmetic, of those who were entitled to representation, say 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 or any number they liked. Well, if these 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000 agreed upon a representative, he would give them one. If that were so, there would not be a single person unrepresented.
[11 ]See No. 4.
[12 ]A recent move to purge the Church of England of Tractarian (or Puseyite) practices had been made by George Hampden Whalley (1813–78), Liberal M.P., in his Motion on the Church of England, Illegal Usages and Ornaments (23 May, 1865), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 178, cols. 774–5.
[13 ]Exodus, 20:8.
[d-d]MS Another Elector asked what advantages would be gained by giving the working classes a vote. (Oh, oh, and laughter.)
[e-e]MS] DT It elevated the self-dignity of a man; it made all the difference between the selfish man and the patriot. (Cheers.) Only think of the mental culture it implied