Front Page Titles (by Subject) 137.: Fawcett for Brighton 10 NOVEMBER, 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
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137.: Fawcett for Brighton 10 NOVEMBER, 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).
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Fawcett for Brighton
Brighton Guardian, 11 November, 1868, p. 8. Headed: “Great Meeting of Liberals,—Last Night.” The Brighton Examiner, a weekly, also covered the meeting at length on 17 November, while The Times gave a shorter report, including only Mill’s speech in abbreviated form, on 13 November. James White (1809–83) and Henry Fawcett, the two sitting Liberal members for Brighton, met their constituents in an evening public meeting at the Corn Exchange, Brighton. In opening the meeting the Chair called special attention to Mill’s presence. White spoke first, followed by Fawcett, and then Mill was called upon.
he said that some advanced Liberals who live in other parts of the kingdom and who either have no contested election of their own or are not completely absorbed in it, so as to prevent them from looking round and watching with the deepest interest the prospects of the general election at this crisis of our history, had been startled from their propriety by hearing that there is an opposition made here to the re-election of his friend, Professor Fawcett. (Hear, hear.) Not by the Tories only. It is nothing new for the Tories to court defeat; they are now courting it in several hundred constituencies throughout the country; and the electors of Brighton might have been safely left to deal with them at this juncture. But what had astonished the advanced Liberals of whom he spoke was that the opposition to Mr. Fawcett’s re-election was made by a gentleman of the very same political opinions, speaking in a general way, and who can only recommend himself by the same opinions to the electors who had hitherto preferred, and it was to be hoped would still prefer, Mr. Fawcett.1 (Cheers.) If there was any member of the late Parliament who should not have been opposed by any man who calls himself an advanced Liberal it is Mr. Fawcett. (Cheers.) They were accustomed in the House of Commons to consider Mr. Fawcett as about the most rising man on the whole Liberal side of the house. Entering the house under disadvantages which to many men would have been insuperable,2 —and which must have been so to any one of less courage, consistency, and energy than Mr. Fawcett possessed,—he had succeeded not only in gaining the ear of the House, whether of his political friends or of his political opponents, but he had established a position in the House such as had rarely been acquired by a young man in so short a space of time after his election. (Loud cheers.) Mr. Fawcett had been found on all occasions ready not only to give his vote and his attendance, but also his speech in support of any cause which needed his help. He had also had the gift of not pressing himself forward when he was not wanted. (Cheers.) Mr. Fawcett had to overcome difficulties of a moral kind, greater than any physical one,—the difficulty of the moral atmosphere of the House of Commons. (Applause.) Many a young man enters that House with all good intention, but, when there, comes under the influence of that atmosphere which, stifling to the moral feeling as an atmosphere is stifling to the physical senses, takes all the fealty out of a man. He comes among a number of persons of Lord Palmerston’s school of Liberalism, who have no particular intentions. What little intention they do have is good, but the only thing that affrights them is whether people should do it. Whenever anything is proposed they are always afraid that it will make mischief; or disturb the party; or prevent things from going on smoothly; or make somebody or other vote against them; or, perhaps, make the Liberals go out, or, perhaps, prevent them from coming in. (Laughter.) Mr. Fawcett had been as much exposed to their influence as anybody else. He (Mr. Mill) knew there had been people going round Mr. Fawcett and saying “For God’s sake don’t do this;” or, “For heaven’s sake don’t do that. You will offend this man and that, and you won’t do any good.” There never is any good to be done in the opinion of those men. (Laughter and cheers.) Mr. Fawcett had been assailed in that way, but he just told them in all boldness that he thought it right and therefore must do it. That would not be a safe course to take if a man was wrong-headed or obstinate; but he (Mr. Mill) had watched Mr. Fawcett from his first entrance into Parliament (which exactly coincided with his own); he had watched Mr. Fawcett with the deep interest inspired by a knowledge of him and with the great hope he entertained of him, he had watched Mr. Fawcett with the anxiety he felt for a young man in his position, and he had deliberately formed the opinion that Mr. Fawcett’s parliamentary conduct had been as much distinguished by judgment as by courage. (Loud cheers.) When Mr. Fawcett speaks it is always on something he has studied and which he understands; and when he does, what he has done oftener than any man of his standing in Parliament,—when he has come forward and taken up a question for himself, he has not only done so as well but better than most other people. (Loud cheers.) He touched upon three instances,—the reform of the Universities;3 the cost of elections;4 thirdly, the subject on which Mr. Fawcett has distinguished himself as much as any member of Parliament, and that he had made his own during the greater part of his parliamentary life, the condition, the lamentable, deplorable condition—a condition which cries out to the whole people of England for remedy,—the condition of the agricultural labourer.5 (Cheers.) These were some of the reasons which make all lovers of improvement who have attended to what Mr. Fawcett has done, anxious that he should be re-elected. And it was very natural that those friends of improvement, when they found such a man going to be opposed, should wonder very much and should be desirous of knowing the reason for such opposition. He (Mr. Mill) tried to find out by reading all the accounts he could get of what was said; but he had entirely failed to find any other reason than that a gentleman who lives in this place, and who is very much respected by his fellow-townsmen, and who once represented Brighton (Voices: Never any more), would like to represent it again.6 Well, that is a legitimate object of ambition when a man can show he deserves it; but unfortunately it was only to be gratified in this instance by turning out one of the honourable members who now sit for the Borough. He (Mr. Mill) had not yet mentioned his worthy and honourable friend the senior member for the Borough, for the opposition had not been expressly directed against him, and he was almost tempted, after what we read in Scripture,7 to condole with his friend Mr. White, for nobody speaks any harm of that honourable gentleman. (Cheers and laughter.) He supposed the fact was Mr. White was thought to be so deeply rooted in the affections of the people of Brighton that it is no use attempting to dislodge him. (Cheers.) But Mr. Fawcett, being a more recent acquaintance, not residing amongst us,—they say that is very invidious,—they think they have a chance of decreasing the good opinion formed of Mr. Fawcett; but that good opinion having been formed would be found much harder to snake than some people imagine. (Cheers.) With respect to the gentleman who is endeavouring, at the expense of Mr. Fawcett, to regain the seat he once held for Brighton, he (Mr. Mill) was tempted to ask, “If he wishes you to elect him in preference to Mr. Fawcett, what does he offer you as his inducement to do so?” (Cheers.) During the time that gentleman served Brighton in parliament he conducted himself as a good and faithful Radical; but what did he do during that time for the advancement of the Radical cause, or any other great cause, that could be compared with what Mr. Fawcett, although a young man, had already done during the three years,—for it was no longer,—he had represented this borough in Parliament? (Loud cheers.) If it was said that Lord Palmerston’s parliament was not a good place for such exertions, or that the time was not favourable,—granting this candidate such allowance,—what did he say for the future? (Cheers.) What good things did the gentleman opposing Mr. Fawcett say he would do that would not be equally well done by Mr. Fawcett if re-elected? (Cheers.) Indeed, he could not yet find out that Mr. Fawcett had been attacked for anything which was not amongst his merits, and he could prove that if he went through the list of them. He would not say anything of the Tories who would split with that gentleman; though he thought they would not give him a vote because they thought him a surer, a better, a more determined Radical than Mr. Fawcett (cheers); but he might give one piece of advice to Liberal electors. If there is any Liberal candidate that the Tories split their votes with, don’t let the Liberals split their votes with him, and if there is any Liberal candidate that the Tories are particularly anxious to get out of the way, that is the man for the Liberals and let them vote for him. Mr. Mill then most elaborately and at great length defended Mr. Fawcett from the charges made against him by his opponents. Mr. Coningham was reported to have blamed Mr. Fawcett because he desired that persons who took a bribe for their votes should be severely punished. Was the condemnation of that sentiment Radicalism, Liberalism, public morality, or even common honesty? (Cheers.) He thought the William Coningham he once knew could never have said so. It must be a misreport. One of Mr. Coningham’s supporters said Mr. Fawcett never came here to confer a favour; only to ask one. As to asking for favours that was simple nonsense. What Mr. Fawcett asked was to do the work of this constituency—to devote days of study and nights of expression for the interest of this borough; to expose himself to all sorts of obloquy; and to do so with nothing whatever to gain by it. As to conferring favours—what favours was he to confer? He (Mr. Mill) did not think this constituency wanted favours from their representatives. (Cheers.) The gentleman could hardly mean bribes. Did he mean that it was a shame Mr. Fawcett did not job for them; or did he mean that he should hold out that very slight inducement of subscribing to the local charities? Mr. Fawcett was opposed, too, because he was the friend of co-operation. He (Mr. Mill) did not believe the tradesmen of Brighton would refuse to vote for Mr. Fawcett on that ground, for co-operation was simply a movement that would greatly benefit the working classes without injuring the tradesmen, or, if at all, in a very slight degree. Besides, even if it did injure the tradesmen a little they must be told what the working men had often been told in relation to the introduction of machinery, that they must suffer a little for a time in order to further the general well-being in the end. If a shopkeeper supplies goods as pure, as unadulterated, as honestly measured, and of as good quality as the co-operative stores, his custom would not be injured; and if he could not do that, did he deserve to keep his custom? (Hear, hear.) Then there was the lucrative custom of the rich which they were always sure to have. In fact, shopkeepers need not suffer much from the most extended and rapid advance of the co-operative principle. (Cheers.) Another thing Mr. Fawcett was opposed for was because he had said that the necessary expenses of elections, which should in fairness be borne by the constituencies, ought to be placed on the constituencies. His clause to carry out that opinion8 was supported by Mr. Gladstone9 and all the best Liberals in the house. That would, if carried out, give the constituencies a greater choice of candidates, and would prevent the representation being monopolised by rich men, who often went into Parliament with the hope of getting back their money with great interest. What did they think of those capable of selling their birthright for such a miserable mess of pottage as these expenses would amount to?10 He hoped the electors of Brighton would fling it back in their faces. (Cheers.) Another one of Mr. Fawcett’s alleged demerits,—in his (Mr. Mill’s) eyes they were great merits,—was that he had voted for compulsory education.11 He would just ask those who condemned him for that if they thought that any man had a right to exclude his own children from the benefit of the education they could get. That was all compulsory education amounted to,—the making parents recognise the duty incumbent upon them to educate their children. If parents could not exclude their children from the advantages of education, then the state had the right to compel all parents to allow their children to be educated. Even parents would not lose anything in the long run. Their children would work better while at work, and in future years they would be able to take advantage of their position and improve themselves and help their parents all the more. (Cheers.) He had now gone through all the allegations made against Mr. Fawcett which were worthy of being touched upon, and he thought he had shown that the so-called demerits were really conspicuous merits. He supposed that, as Mr. Fawcett was opposed for doing those things, the candidate who opposed him would not do them, but would strive to do exactly the opposite. The candidate would, therefore, be against co-operation; he would be for expensive elections; and he would be against compulsory education. He (Mr. Mill) wanted the electors to realise what they were doing, and, as one means of their doing so, he would suppose that these things were put on a placard. How would Coningham like to see these things,—“Coningham and Jobbery!” “Coningham and Expensive Elections!” “Coningham and Ignorance!”—for that would be the result if nobody wanted compulsory education. “Coningham and No Co-operation!” or perhaps as one of the very greatest and surest effects of co-operation would be to do away with the system of credit and substitute a system of paying ready money, he would put it “Coningham and Tick!” (Great laughter.) If Mr. Coningham would like a placard so drawn up well and good. In any case, he thought he might now commend Mr. Coningham to the consideration of the Tories and leave him in the hands of the Liberal Electors. (Mr. Mill sat down amid vehement and continued cheering.)
[The usual motion of support of the candidates was made, questions were put and answered, a special motion of thanks to Mill was passed, and the meeting concluded with thanks to the Chair.]
[1 ]William Coningham (1815–84), a Liberal who had represented Brighton 1857–64 (and had unsuccessfully stood for Westminster in 1852).
[2 ]He had been blinded in a shooting accident.
[3 ]See, e.g., PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 186, cols. 1431–2 (10 Apr., 1867); Vol. 187, cols. 1630–2 (5 June, 1867); Vol. 188, cols. 55–8 (18 June, 1867); and Vol. 193, cols. 1054–8 (10 July, 1868).
[4 ]See No. 120.
[5 ]See, e.g., PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 186, cols. 1011–14 (2 Apr., 1867); Vol. 187, cols. 559–61 (14 May, 1867); and Fawcett, “What Can Be Done for the Agricultural Labourers?” Macmillan’s Magazine, XVIII (Oct. 1868), 515–25.
[6 ]I.e., Coningham.
[7 ]Though the phrasing of the final clause echoes Acts, 28:21, Mill appears to allude to the Beatitudes: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew, 5:11–12; cf. Luke, 6:22–3.)
[8 ]Moved on 18 July, 1868; see No. 120.
[9 ]Gladstone, Speech on Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill (18 July, 1868), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 193, cols. 1447–8.
[10 ]Cf. Genesis, 25: 29–34.
[11 ]On 29 March, 1867, Fawcett had asked the Home Secretary, Walpole, whether it was the Government’s intention to introduce compulsory education clauses into “A Bill for Regulating the Hours of Labour for Children, Young Persons, and Women Employed in Workshops”; the provisions appeared in Clauses B, C, and D of the Bill as amended by the Select Committee on which Fawcett served (16 July, 1867; PP, 1867, III, 133–47). It was accepted on 14 August without debate, and enacted as 30 & 31 Victoria, c. 146 (1867).