Front Page Titles (by Subject) 139.: The Westminster Election of 1868  13 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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139.: The Westminster Election of 1868  13 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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The Westminster Election of 1868 
Daily Telegraph, 14 November, 1868, p. 4. Headed: “The General Election. / Westminster.” Also reported fully in the Daily News; Mill’s speech appeared in less full form on 16 November in The Times and the Morning Star. The Friday evening meeting of Mill and Grosvenor with the electors was held in St. James’s Hall. The huge room was overflowing long before the hour of the meeting. Thomas Hughes, who had intended to take the Chair, was detained by the contest in his own constituency, Frome, and Serjeant Parry was elected to his place. Grosvenor spoke first, quoting a version of Mill’s remark in No. 138: “the people, while accepting a household bill from Mr. Disraeli, seemed to say mechanically ‘Thank you, Mr. Gladstone.’ (Cheers and laughter.)” Mill’s “reception was enthusiastic, the audience rising en masse . . . waving hats and handkerchiefs for several minutes” (Daily Telegraph), and “cheering at the top of their voices”
silencehaving been with some difficulty restored, the honourable gentleman said every person he was addressing must be aware of the issue which was going to be decided by the constituencies of the country. What they had to decide was whether the Reform Bill should have any consequences. Every one who voted to return a Tory must mean that the Reform Bill should have no consequences. (Hear, hear.) If the Tories had intended that the people should have the consequences of Reform, they would not have opposed Reform as long as possible, and then only have granted it on compulsion—the compulsion being that they would not have been allowed to remain in office if they had not. The very best thing that could be said in their excuse—no one believing in the sudden conversion of a whole party—was that they thought, as they saw that the poison would be sure to be administered to the patient whether they did it or not, they might as well administer it in a double dose, and so preserve for a short time longer the advantage of being the patient’s physician. (Cheers.) As sensible men they would not entrust particular work to people who disliked it, and who would rather it should miscarry than succeed. They were told that the Conservatives were the fittest people to be Reformers, because they would hold the people back when they were going too fast. Though horses did, now and then, need to be held back, it was not usual to choose those to be harnessed which were the best hands at pulling back. (Hear, hear.) When people wished to be held back they applied a drag, and that was what the Tories were good for. (Cheers.) Their place was not in harness, but to be a drag on the wheel, or to hang on behind and pull back the carriage when it was going down hill. (Hear, hear.) If that was their proper function it was now known that it was not a function that they would perform unless they were out of office; for when they were in office they were ready and eager to gallop down hill twice as fast as the others. The Tories were too fond of the old era to be fit to inaugurate the new. A different kind of Parliament and a different kind of Government were wanted from what the country had been used to heretofore. They did not want either a Tory Government or a Palmerstonian Government. It had often been said that Lord Palmerston had demoralised the House of Commons. He did not think Lord Palmerston was responsible for the demoralisation, if it was to be so called, into which the House of Commons had fallen, but he had proved an extremely suitable leader for the House of Commons which had fallen into that state; for, instead of meeting earnestness with earnestness, Lord Palmerston knew how, with serene good humour, to laugh and joke earnestness away. Men often failed to fulfil the hopes of those who returned them; but sufficient allowance was not made for the atmosphere they entered and the company they found themselves in in the House of Commons. They found themselves amongst hundreds of gentlemen who did not belong to the classes who suffered by the evils which at present afflicted society. (Hear, hear.) They were comfortable, and did not like to have their comfort interfered with; accordingly they very much disliked those who disturbed them, by meddling with great questions; because such questions were difficult, and required a great deal of thinking, which was very troublesome to men who did not always feel confident that they should think to much purpose, and who did not know whom they could trust to think for them. aComfortable people did not much like those who would not let a sleeping dog lie. (Laughter and cheers.) He had observed throughout life that when a man has made up his mind not to do any good, he soon persuaded himself that there was no good to be done.a If a young man came into Parliament with high hopes, and really wished to do something, he was btold, “For God’s sake don’t meddle with this or that, the party would not be so safe in office, or would not get into office so soon;” and what was worse, if anyone raised new questions and voted on them, they were sure to offend some of their constituents. In the old Palmerstonian days there had grown up a general feeling in favour of letting thingsb alone. To that system of letting things alone there was one remarkable exception in Mr. Gladstone—(loud cheers)—who, in his department, over which he alone had control, constantly busied himself to do something good for the nation, which the nation had not the wit to ask him for. (Cheers.) Nobody had forced Mr. Gladstone to give the Post-office Savings’ Banks and Life Assurance,1 to take off taxes year after year by means of retrenchment, or to repeal the paper duties.2 (Hear, hear.) Mr. Gladstone, however, had done something more, for in 1864 he had broken out of harness, and disturbed the sleep of many in the House of Commons by proclaiming that Reform had been promised, and that Reform must be granted.3 He cagain had raised the question of the Irish Church in 1864 or ’65 ,4 and again practically last year,5c so suddenly, as the Tories said, though Ireland had only been waiting for it for three centuries. (Cheers.) These were the sort of things which made some people call Mr. Gladstone an unsafe Minister; but he called upon the electors to support Mr. Gladstone for the very reason for which he was called unsafe. They wanted a Minister who would do things merely because they were right, and who would not mind risking a few votes for his party, if by that risk he could do right and effect a great object. (Cheers.) He hoped from the elections that were about to commence there would go forth a sound which would proclaim in thunder to the whole world that the Palmerstonian period was at an end. (Cheers.) Mr. Gladstone, and those who were sent to his support, would have to apply their minds in the next Parliament to great questions. But first they would have to begin with clean hands, by removing from themselves the reproach of oppression. For seven hundred years, up to a very late period, we had been tyrannising over Ireland. We repented it now, even the Tories repented it; but repentance was not worth much without atonement and reparation—(cheers)—and until that atonement and reparation were made the memory of the past would not be extinguished. The Irish required some tangible proof that we felt very differently from our predecessors, and they had a right to expect not only that we should remove that miserable last vestige of our past tyranny which still existed in the shape of a foreign and intrusive Church Establishment, but that for a generation at least Ireland should be the spoilt child of this country. Means also must be found to put an end to the miserable relations now existing in that country between the owners and the cultivators of the land. dThey must put an end to a system of tenure the like of which had not existed in England since the people were serfs. (Cheers.) They would have to consider the same things by and bye with respect to the tenure of land in England. (Hear, hear.) He did not wish to conceal the difficulties of the question . eIt was not very easy to find landlords in the House of Commons without prejudice; but the land question must be put into the hands of people who would not, because there was a seeming resemblance between the systems of the two countries, refuse to apply to Ireland remedies which might appear too strong for England.e With respect to education, all admitted that it was necessary, except a few who said that they hated this question of education, because there would soon be no labourers or servants. Better say that they would soon have no more slaves, because a man who was not educated must necessarily be a slave. Education was opposed by what was termed the church party as long as they could. When the Bell and Lancaster system was first started,6 that party cried down the movement for teaching the people to read; but when they found that the people would be taught in schools in which, though the Bible was read, the church catechism was not, they founded what was termed the national schools. He admitted that the Tories did now make great sacrifices to promote education, both by giving and begging money for it; but the church party always confounded the interest of the establishment with that of religion, and were not fit to have the control of education. fHe then alluded, with caustic sarcasm, to the conduct of the Duke of Beaufort regarding the support of schools on his Grace’s property .7f Clergymen were deplorably ignorant. Kings, great noblemen, great ladies, and clergymen were generally profoundly ignorant of men and the world; and 200 years ago Lord Clarendon said that clergymen understood the least and took the worst views of human affairs of all men who could read and write.8 (Cheers.) He did not mean that there were not numerous admirable exceptions among the clergy, but he felt bound to say that they were not fit to be trusted with education, especially at the present time, when all the bigotry and prejudice had come to the front. (Hear, hear.) They had a vast population and wealth, but with them terrible poverty and enormous taxes. They had a right to expect that government should try to alleviate that poverty. First of all, the health of great cities, towns, and dwellings should be considered. There was no objection on the part of the Tories to make improvements of this kind, but it wanted bolder men to form large plans to benefit the peopled—men who would have bold, well-considered plans, and carry them partially into operation at every opportunity, and into complete operation as soon as possible. (Cheers.) With regard to the two tremendous subjects of crime and pauperism, any Parliament and Government that was fit to exist in this country would place before itself no less grand an object than gtheir extinction. He did not suppose they would succeed; but Christ had said, “Be ye perfect as your Father is perfect .”9 Christ did not suppose that we could be perfect, but His words implied that we should endeavour to attain that perfection which humanity was capable of. Education would do something, and improvements of all sorts would effect moreg. hThese great evils should be grappled with by the great minds of the country—minds accustomed to look on public affairs in a comprehensive light. Mr. Gladstone was eminently distinguished for his broad and enlightened views. That gentleman was inspired by a spirit that would not brook the existence of an evil if he found that he had the power to redress it. Let Mr. Gladstone obtain the support of the country, and a Government animated by his sentiments would inaugurate a policy which would redound to the prosperity of the nation.h Mr. Gladstone was the one statesman in his recollection whom he could follow as a leader, and he believed he was the leader for the English people. (Loud cheers.)
On the conclusion of the honourable gentleman’s speech he was greeted with a second most flattering demonstration of respect and admiration.
After a few questions had been put and replied to by the candidates, [Fawcett moved a vote of confidence and support, which was carried unanimously; the “proceedings, which were protracted to an unusually late hour” (The Times), concluded with a vote of thanks to the Chair.]
[b-b]DN] DT assailed in every sort of way to desist from action; so that in the old Palmerstonian state of things there had grown up a general feeling not to meddle with anything which could possibly be left
[1 ]By 24 Victoria, c. 14 (1861) and 27 & 28 Victoria, c. 43 (1864).
[2 ]By 24 Victoria, c. 20 (1861).
[3 ]Speech of 11 May, 1864, cols. 312–27.
[c-c]DN it was who had conceived the propriety of giving justice to Ireland—
[4 ]Speech on the Church Establishment (Ireland) (28 Mar., 1865), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 178, cols. 420–34.
[5 ]Speech on the Established Church (Ireland) (7 May, 1867), ibid., Vol. 187, cols. 121–31.
[d-d]DN] DT They must be prepared to see very different laws enacted for Ireland than would commend themselves to English landlords. That must be done to enable Englishmen to stand erect before the world, and when matters were set right in Ireland they might think of themselves. The honourable member then referred to national education, which he said, emphatically, was not to be trusted to the “Church party,” whom he defined to be those laymen and clergymen who took their stand on being peculiarly for the Church and against the Nonconformists. The great sanitary questions of the health of great cities and towns and the state of the dwellings of the mass of the people required bolder men to deal with them than the Tories
[e-e]TT Inasmuch as Irish landlords and Irish tenants differed widely from the same class in England a different method of legislation should be adopted in their regard.
[6 ]Andrew Bell (1753–1832) had used the monitorial system in the infant school in the Madras Male Orphan Asylum; he became Superintendent of the National Society (Church of England) to promote the system. His ideas were closely paralleled by those of Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838), promoted by the dissenting British and Foreign School Society. Proponents of the two systems were at odds in the early years of the nineteenth century over religious issues.
[7 ]Henry Charles Fitzroy Somerset (1824–99), 8th Duke of Beaufort, had just refused to contribute towards the national school in Winterbourn (where he owned land) because the incumbent had worked against his interest in a by-election for West Gloucester in July 1867. (See The Times, 4 Nov., 1868, p. 4.)
[8 ]Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon (1609–74), The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1759), Vol. I, p. 34.
[g-g]DN] DT the extinction of both; not that such a result could be attained, but because if we placed before ourselves as our aim anything less than perfection, we should fall far short in practice of even the degree of improvement that we were perfectly capable of attaining
[9 ]Matthew, 5:48.
[h-h]TT] DT For such work they wanted men accustomed to look at things on a large scale. Where would they find such men amongst statesmen unless they found it in Mr. Gladstone—(cheers)—who must have plans, and who, if supported, would go on from one thing to another?] DN But there must be minds to direct the state sufficiently powerful to grasp these great things, and he knew of no other man capable of the work than Mr. Gladstone, who would never allow a great evil to exist without attempting to alleviate it. (Cheers.) The more supporters they sent to parliament for Mr. Gladstone the more good he would do; and if they made him sufficiently powerful they would never repent it.