Front Page Titles (by Subject) 15.: Representation of the People  12 APRIL, 1866 - 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
Return to Title Page for 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 Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
15.: Representation of the People  12 APRIL, 1866 - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Representation of the People 
Daily Telegraph, 13 April, 1866, p. 6. Headed: “Reform Meeting in Westminster.” Reported also on the same day in the Daily News (in the third person), the Morning Star, and (in brief summary) in The Times. (Clippings of all the reports but the last are in the Mill-Taylor Collection.) The evening meeting of Westminster electors, in St. James’s Hall, Piccadilly, was in support of the Government’s “Bill to Extend the Right of Voting at Elections of Members of Parliament in England and Wales,” 29 Victoria (13 Mar., 1866), PP, 1866, V, 87–100, which was under discussion in Parliament (see Nos. 16 and 23). Charles Westerton, who chaired the meeting, explained that it could not be held earlier because such a large crowd could not be accommodated anywhere but in St. James’s Hall, which had not been available. He said that Mill and Grosvenor were both in the House of Commons, but would appear later. W.T. Mallinson proposed a motion in favour of the Bill; during his speech, Grosvenor arrived, and made a speech in seconding the motion. During that speech, Mill arrived, and after Probyn had spoken in favour of the motion, he rose. Mill, “who upon presenting himself was received with enthusiastic applause,” then spoke to the resolution.
i sincerely congratulate my honourable colleague on having been beforehand, and not for the first time. I have had the satisfaction of hearing the excellent speech which he made on the first reading of the Reform Bill.1 My attendance in the House of Commons this evening prevented me from hearing more than a part of his speech now, but what I did hear was equally excellent to that which he made in the House of Commons. I think that those who foretold and who calculated that the people of England no longer cared about reform, or if they did that they do not care about this measure, would cease so to think if they could see this present meeting—they would be convinced of their mistake. But, indeed, I think they must be pretty well convinced of that already if the demonstrations that have taken place over the country, and the multitude and quality of the petitions which I have seen this evening presented to the House of Commons—(cheers)—can convince them. It must have shown the most incredulous of them that they have made a great mistake. (Cheers.) It has been said that the electors don’t wish reform—that they don’t wish to extend the privilege to other people. Then of the non-electors it was said that they had grown indifferent to politics—that the only questions which occupied their attention were those of wages and co-operation—that they had grown quite Conservative—(a laugh)—and that those who did care about reform wanted so much more reform than this bill gave them, and that they would not stop to pick it up. Again, he believed that some members of Parliament thought they would lose their seats if they supported reform, whereas he hoped now that they would lose their seats if they did not support reform. a(Cheers.) This was a very crafty calculation, but there were many things overlooked in it.a It was overlooked that in all those constituencies in which the electors were the most numerous, there had been, and always would be, a strong feeling for further reform; secondly, it had been overlooked that there existed such persons as sincere reformers—(hear, hear)—reformers in principle, who had faith in a popular Government. Again, some people were foolish and fanatic enough to believe that nothing could be safe which differed from their opinions. It was forgotten that the £10 electors had not been long enough a privileged class to acquire the odious feelings of one. (Cheers.) The ten-pounders, as they were fond of calling them, had not grown into an oligarchy just yet, nor did he think they would. (Hear, hear.) There was another consideration, and that was that the ten-pounders knew they had but a small portion of power. Land and money now, as always heretofore, were the leading powers in this country. In order to make head against these influences—which are not always salutary—they must be glad to take in you and I to share it with them. (Hear, hear.) Now, respecting the non-electors, if there ever was a delusion on the face of the earth I think it is this, because people—the mass of the people—had acquired a degree of education, a degree of cultivation and of knowledge of politics, a degree of familiarity with newspapers and public events, that they never had before, nor anything approaching to it; and because with these things they had acquired powers of intelligence and combination—which excited the admiration even of Conservatives—in the promotion of their own interests, such as co-operation; because these changes and improvements had taken place, was it true that they had grown less interested in politics—(No, no)—less desirous of the good of their country, and less desiring that they themselves should share in its destiny? I think such a delusion is one of the densest that was ever entertained by human beings. (Cheers.) Do they wish for more than this? No doubt they do. I do myself. What is more, I believe Mr. Gladstone does. (Cheers.) I heard him say this evening that he did not think there would have been any danger in extending the franchise further than this bill; but he said, and said justly, it is the way of this country, a prudent and just way, not to attempt to do everything at once.2 And I do not think any of us—not even those who desire a much greater change than this bill promises—ever thought that we should step into all that we want at a single stride. But there is one thing that I may remark, and that is that I am very glad to see from all the demonstrations of the unenfranchised classes on this question, that they take this extremely rational view of the matter. We are told continually that the working classes desire this bill only as a stepping-stone to something else.3 We think it will give us a better Legislature, and it is because we think that it is good in itself that we think it will give us a better Legislature—a Legislature more likely to give us further reform when the time is come for it. Our opponents have thought it best for their interests not to meet the question by a direct negative, but to meet it by what is called a sidewind—by an amendment which merely turned on the order of proceeding, in the expectation that they will be able to add to their minority a certain number of those who habitually vote with the Government.4 They will—I believe they will—succeed in getting some votes, though not many I think. But it would be a mistake to suppose that all who vote with them on this occasion are insincere reformers, or that they will ultimately vote against the bill. (Hear, hear.) I am not speaking of Mr. Horsman5 or Mr. Lowe. (Hisses and laughter.) They are not insincere. There is no duplicity about them. They tell us they want no reform; that they bwere afraid of it, that they would resist it to the last. (Loud hisses.)b At least, I know that Mr. Lowe says it, and I believe Mr. Horsman says it.6 I think we ought to be obliged to them for telling us the worst at once that is in them. (A laugh.) Still, I have no doubt that some who will vote for the amendment will ultimately vote for the future stages of the bill. I do not think that this amendment need discourage us in the least. Nobody doubts that the amendment will be defeated, and we shall see the bill carried by increasing instead of diminishing majorities. (Great cheering.) I never formed any decided opinion as to which part of reform it would be best to begin with. I could not judge of it so well as those whose duty it is to judge of it; and what is the use of leaders unless we can trust them on a mere matter of tactics? (Hear, hear.) This is the first time since 1832 that a Government has pledged itself to stand or fall by a Reform Bill. (Cheers.) I confide in the Ministry. cRumours have been current in the back slums of the Tory encampment that some members of the Government are not sincere, and—though I hope it is not for that reason—(laughter)—that they will vote and co-operate with the Tory party. They calculate on a possible combination between some members of the Government and themselves. Well, all know how often the wish is father to the thought—(laughter)—and how very difficult it is to get some people to believe in the political sincerity and honesty of others. But I shall requirecdsomething better than the gossip of the Tadpoles and Tapers (as Mr. Disraeli would term it)d7ebefore I shall believe there is any member of the Government who is not sincere in this question. (Loud cheers.) There are two members of the Government, however—Earl Russell and Mr. Gladstone—whose sincerity no one ventures to suspect, and that is the reason the Tories are so inveterate against them.e Their sincerity and earnestness on this subject is so obvious, so transparent, and so indisputable, that no one for a moment can doubt them. (Cheers.) fThey all know from past history that Earl Russell had the greatest share in giving the people the greatest improvement of modern times—the Reform Bill8 —f to which we owe the next greatest improvement—the repeal of the Corn Laws.9gWhat the Tories now reproach Earl Russell with is, after having resisted any further alteration in the representative system ,10 all at once to reopen the question of Reform, which is the highest misdemeanour possible in the eyes of the Tories. (Laughter.) But the people know that the question of Reform was never closed. (Hear, hear.)g Respecting Mr. Gladstone. (Cheers.) What was the use to speak of him on a question of sincerity? (Cheers.) Every year of his official life had been marked by a succession of measures—no year being without them—some great, some small, but all aiming at the public good—to the good of the people of this country, and especially of the poorer classes. These measures were not even suggested to him; they were the offspring of his own mind, will, and purpose—the free gift from him to his countrymen, unprompted, unsuggested. (Loud cheers.) And his countrymen would reward him as they had done already. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) Mr. Gladstone seems to be the first statesman who has come up to the idea of a great modern statesman: a Minister should be the leader of a free people—not employing his mind only to do that which the people wished, but pointing out to them that which was for their benefit—offering it to them without even being asked—leaving it to them to accept or refuse it—not thinking that it was his business to act only as he was acted upon, and yielding to pressure. What constituted a great statesman was to take the initiative for the good of his fellow-countrymen. Was it not Mr. Gladstone who first broke silence on the subject of reform after the ridiculous failure of 1860?11hand he was the man who made that celebrated declaration that every human being, inasmuch as he had an interest in good government, had a primâ facie cause for admission to the suffrage.h12 If we do not stand by him as he is doing by our work—if he fails from any defect of ours, from the want of encouragement to go on—the consequence will be that we shall richly deserve to suffer, for we shall not easily find another to serve us in the same way. (Loud cheers.)
[The resolution was carried unanimously. A petition was moved calling for the Commons to pass the Bill without delay, and, after other speeches and demonstrations, the meeting ended.]
[1 ]Grosvenor, Speech on the Representation of the People Bill (12 Mar., 1866), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 182, cols. 87–90.
[2 ]Gladstone, speech of 12 April, ibid., col. 1139.
[3 ]E.g., by Lowe, ibid. (13 Mar.), col. 149, and by Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne Cecil (1830–1903), then M.P. for Stamford, ibid., col. 234.
[4 ]Hugh Lupus Grosvenor (1825–99), then M.P. for Chester, Motion on the Representation of the People Bill (12 Apr.), ibid., cols. 1152–63.
[5 ]Edward Horsman (1807–76), then M.P. for Stroud, a nominal Liberal who, like Lowe, was opposed to the reform of parliament proposed by the party’s leaders.
[b-b]DN] DT detest it.] MS disliked it, and would resist it to the last.
[6 ]See Lowe, Speech on the Representation of the People Bill (13 Mar.), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 182, cols. 141–64; Horsman, ibid. (12 Mar.), cols. 90–114.
[c-c]+MS[in third person, past tense DN as MS . . . sincere upon reform, and that they were consequently fit company for them. The wish was often father to the thought, and it was difficult for some people to believe in the political honesty of other people. But . . . as MS]]
[d-d]+DN] MS very great proof
[7 ]Tadpole and Taper are political hacks in Disraeli’s Coningsby, where they first appear at the end of Chap. i.
[e-e]+MS] DN before he believed these rumours. At any rate Mr. Gladstone and Earl Russell were sincere.
[f-f]MS] DT We know the past history of Earl Russell, and the great share which he had in giving us the greatest improvement we have yet had—the Reform Bill
[8 ]Lord John Russell (1792–1878), a perennial Whig leader, had been instrumental in formulating and securing the passage of the First Reform Act, 2 & 3 William IV, c. 45 (1832).
[9 ]9 & 10 Victoria, c. 22 (1846), repealed 5 & 6 Victoria, Sess. 2, c. 14 (1842).
[10 ]See Russell, Speech on the Address in Answer to the Queen’s Speech (20 Nov., 1837), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 39, col. 70.
[11 ]“A Bill Further to Amend the Laws Relating to the Representation of the People in England and Wales,” 23 Victoria (1 Mar., 1860), PP, 1860, V, 597–608 (not enacted).
[12 ]See Gladstone, Speech on the Borough Franchise Bill (11 May, 1864), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 175, col. 324.