Front Page Titles (by Subject) 128.: The Westminster Election of 1868  24 JULY, 1868 - 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:
128.: The Westminster Election of 1868  24 JULY, 1868 - 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.
The Westminster Election of 1868 
Daily Telegraph, 25 July, 1868, p. 5. Headed: “Election Intelligence. / Westminster.” The report of Mill’s speech in the Daily News agrees so closely with that in the Daily Telegraph as to suggest that they were taken from a single report, or that Mill supplied copy to both papers. The Times has only a brief summary of the proceedings; its account, however, provides an introductory topic linking Mill’s speech to the conclusion of Grosvenor’s, and gives more of the substance of the question period than does the Daily Telegraph. The Morning Star gives only Gladstone’s letter. This election speech, like No. 124, was delivered while Parliament was still in session. Mill and Grosvenor addressed their constituents in an evening public meeting, chaired by Dr. Brewer, in the Pimlico Rooms, Warwick Street. Brewer opened the proceedings by reading a letter from Gladstone which lightly touched on the undesirability of W.H. Smith’s representing Westminster, and then briefly praised Grosvenor before saying: “Of Mr. Mill, who has obtained a world-wide fame, it would almost be impertinent in me to speak the language of eulogy. Yet I will venture on two assertions, both having exclusive reference to his Parliamentary career. Firm in the maintenance of his own opinions, Mr. Mill has ever exhibited the largest indulgence for those of others; and with this liberal tolerance of differences he has shown, in the most remarkable manner, how to reconcile on the one hand a thorough independence, and on the other an enlightened sense of the value and power of that kind of union which is designated by the name of political party. More than this, Mr. Mill has set us all a rare example of forgiving temper, of forgetfulness of self, of absolute devotion to public duty; and I do not hesitate to express my deliberate opinion that his presence in the House of Commons has materially helped to raise and sustain its moral tone.” Grosvenor as usual spoke before Mill, alluding to Smith’s candidature (and thereby provoking an interruption that led, against Mill’s and the Chair’s wishes, to an ejection), and reviewing the Government’s record. He closed with an attack on the Metropolitan Cattle Market measure, and then Mill, who “met with an enthusiastic reception,” rose.
amr. mill then addressed the meeting. He spoke in strong terms against the Metropolitan Cattle Markets Bill, which he said would have his most strenuous opposition.a1 He said that during the last two or three weeks he and his colleague had been engaged several days in each week, and latterly two or three days in succession, in endeavouring to prevent the electors of Westminster and throughout the country being given over into the hands of millionaires, and they had failed. (A Voice: More’s the pity.) He said, more was the shame. (Hear, hear.) When the present Government introduced the Bribery Bill,2 he really was in hopes that there was something like an intention to suppress, if possible, the bad practices prevailing at our elections. The Government took one rather bold step—they asked the House of Commons, tenacious as that assembly was of its privileges, to give up the power of judging as to the extent to which corruption might have prevailed at elections. That power had hitherto been in the hands of the committees of the House of Commons, and the Government asked Parliament to transfer it to the judges of the land. They thought, and he thought, those judges were not so likely to sympathise with the offenders as the very class from which the offenders were drawn, and who were therefore placed in the same circumstances of temptation as themselves; and besides the change of tribunal, the Government proposed to increase the penalties upon the offenders. This gave him hopes. He thought there was coming from the Tories something substantial for the prevention of corruption. The meeting were not to think him credulous. It was very possible for Tories to be sincere in what might favour their cause at elections. (Laughter.) In the terrible struggle which had been going on for some weeks, almost from day to day, to endeavour to introduce into the bill precautions against corruption at elections, and to prevent that improper expense which made it impossible for any but rich men to gain a seat in Parliament, no persons stood more consistently by those who promoted the effort, and more honourably, than ten or a dozen Tories—high-minded honourable men, who would not owe a seat in Parliament to corruption. (Cheers.) That very day he had listened to a speech which had done his heart good—he meant the speech of Mr. Corrance, the Tory member for Suffolk.3 Mr. Corrance complained of the great increase of rates, and the disproportionate degree in which, in his opinion, those rates would fall upon landed property; but notwithstanding, when he was told that purity of election, inexpensiveness of election, would be secured by so much as even a farthing or half a farthing increase of rates, he scorned the circumstance, and said that he and all the best agriculturists would much rather pay higher rates, if by that they could obtain better and more capable members of Parliament. (Cheers.) This was said in the language and tone which was irresistibly and unmistakeably characteristic of an honest man. He could name several other Tories who, not only by their votes, but by motions and speeches did what they could. But it was all in vain. After the Ministers had carried their own original proposition for a change of jurisdiction, not one single improvement would they allow to be made in the bill. One after another, Liberal and honest Tory members moved resolution after resolution, and amendment after amendment, and pressed these to a division, every one of which had for its object to make elections purer and cheaper. But not one of them would the Government suffer to be carried. Many Liberal members had gone into the country, to which they generally rushed at this period of the session—and he was sorry to say it was the period at which all tricks were perpetrated—(hear, hear)—and by this combination of causes those who promoted improvement had been defeated. As far as concerned the present Government, electors were now delivered into the hands of millionaires. Two instances he would mention as peculiarly remarkable in this way. He then referred to the result of Professor Fawcett’s amendment and that of Mr. Schreiber.4 Continuing, he said he gave credit to the Government for a slight preference for honesty when they introduced the bill, but he had no doubt bthatb Mr. Spofforth, who managed the elections for the Tory party, who knew all that was going on everywhere, and in every constituency in the Tory camp as well as any man living—he had no doubt this individual told his friends in the Cabinet they must not, at this election at least, put these practices at an end; if they acted too rigidly it was very much to be feared some of their members would not get in. (Laughter.)
The honourable gentleman resumed his seat amid loud applause, excusing himself for not further detaining the meeting by his anxiety to be present at the division on the Foreign Cattle Markets Bill. Both he and Captain Grosvenor were catechised as usual.cIn reply to an Elector, he said that he had been in favour of the ballot, but was not in favour of it now. He thought that it rested with the electors themselves, who, if they were to band together after the manner of trades unions, might check electoral bribery and intimidation.c
dAnother Elector asked what the opinions of the members for Westminster were as to the reform of the House of Lords, and whether Bishops would not be better turned out. [Grosvenor said he had not thought about the matter, but such a change was not imminent.]
Mr. Mill, in reply, said that he had his opinions on the matter, and they could be obtained by any elector for 18d. in the form of a book.5 He thought that the better House of Commons they got the better Bishops they would have.d
An Elector having put a question as to the duration of Parliaments, the Honourable Mr. Grosvenor said that the average duration of Parliaments at present was three, four, and five years, and he thought that quite short enough.
Mr. Mill said that that was also his opinion.
In reply to another Elector, Mr. Mill expressed himself favourable to the Abyssinian war. It had been treated as a necessary evil, and carried out with every sentiment of honour and of justice.7
A resolution was then passed, pledging the meeting to support the two speakers in the forthcoming contest; and a vote of thanks to the chairman brought the proceedings to a close.e
[1 ]“A Bill for the Establishment of a Foreign Cattle Market for the Metropolis,” 31 Victoria (5 Dec., 1867), PP, 1867–68, III, 387–94 (not enacted).
[2 ]See No. 89.
[3 ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 193, cols. 1730–2.
[4 ]For Fawcett’s amendment, see Nos. 120, 123, and 125. Charles Schreiber (1826–84), M.P. for Cheltenham and Poole, on 22 July moved that municipal elections be postponed until after the parliamentary elections (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 193, cols. 1649–50).
[d-d]TT] DT In reply to one question as to the propriety of bishops having seats in the Lords, Mr. Mill said he did not think they were a very valuable element in that assembly. But until we took the whole subject of the proper constitution and proper position of the Church of England into consideration, as he supposed we some day should—laying sarcastic emphasis upon the words—he did not suppose we should get better bishops unless we got better ministers.
[5 ]The People’s Edition of Considerations on Representative Government (London: Longman, et al., 1865), pp. 100–1 (CW, Vol. XIX, pp. 517–19).
[e-e]TT] DT,DN A vote, pledging the meeting to support the honourable candidates, closed the proceedings.
[6 ]The Game Law of 1831 (1 & 2 William IV, c. 32) allowed all to hunt who possessed a licence, but trespass was forbidden; the abiding dispute was over the right to hunt on leased land.
[7 ]In December of 1863, Theodore, King of Abyssinia, unhappy with the refusal of the British government to respond favourably to his diplomatic overtures, took captive the British Consul and a number of missionaries. Non-military efforts to secure their release having failed, an expedition was launched in the summer of 1867 under Robert Cornelis Napier (1810–90); it was quickly successful in freeing the captives, and Theodore committed suicide. When Napier was created Baron Napier of Magdala in recognition of his triumph, Mill submitted a petition in objection from a group in Macclesfield; he explained his action as being simply in accord with his view that citizens’ positions should be known. The questioner here was undoubtedly prompted by Conservative efforts to portray Mill as unpatriotic.