Front Page Titles (by Subject) I. Manuscript Draft of The Westminster Election of 1865  (1865) - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873
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I. Manuscript Draft of The Westminster Election of 1865  (1865) - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIX - Public and Parliamentary Speeches Part II July 1869 - March 1873, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988).
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Manuscript Draft of The Westminster Election of 1865  (1865)
MS, Mill-Taylor Collection, M/T II/1/12, draft of No. 6.
it is probable that many here present would wish me to explain why I have, till now, abstained from all the usual practices of a candidate, and only now for the first time appear at a meeting of the electors. My reasons were stated in the letter in which I consented to be made a candidate; but that need not hinder me from repeating them. When I said in my letter that for myself I do not desire to be in Parliament, I meant what I said. I have no personal objects to promote by it, while it would involve a great sacrifice of my tastes and pursuits, as well as of that freedom which I value the more because I have only recently acquired it, after a life passed in the restraints and confinement of a public office. These private considerations, however, I have waved; but there is something which I could not wave; the strongest repugnance to the means by which the suffrages of the electors are ordinarily sought. To be selected by an important body of one’s fellow citizens as the representative of the higher part of their minds—their understandings and consciences—their sincere opinions and their patriotic feelings—is one of the very highest honours which a citizen of a free country can receive. But to get into Parliament as the representative of that portion of the electors, or that part of the electoral mind, which is to be got at by money—or which is to be reached by trickery—by saying one thing and meaning another—by making professions not meant to be acted upon or which, being contrary to one’s own convictions, it would be even more dishonest to keep than to violate—this I regard as no honour at all, but a disgrace. Therefore, when some members of this great constituency made me the most unexpected and most flattering proposal to present me for your suffrages, I answered that if it were so, it should not be by spending £10,000 in corrupting and debauching (by strictly legal means of course) all among you who are corruptible and debauchable; neither should it be by taking a single pledge, except that of being always open and unreserved with you; neither should it be by soliciting your votes, for I look upon the whole system of personal solicitation as a mistake; though I am far from condemning those who merely conform to a bad custom, provided they do nothing to make the custom worse than they found it. But election to Parliament ought not to be a matter of favour. I have no right to ask such favours, nor you to grant them: you are conferring a solemn trust, and you have no right to bestow it on any but the fittest man. This was my reply: and to the honour of Westminster (I may say that much though I am myself concerned) there was found a body of men who had a sufficiently high sense of public principle and of their own honour and that of the constituency to say, Not the man who does these things, but the man who will not do them, is the right man for Westminster, and we will try if the electors of Westminster do not think so too. That, gentlemen, is the reason why I am a candidate. And it would have been quite inconsistent with a candidature grounded on these principles, to have come among you and sought your votes directly and personally. My principles are, that you ought to elect the fittest man: would it have been decent for me to go about among you and say, I am the fittest man? What would you think of a candidate who said, It is your duty to choose a man of merit, Here am I, a man of merit, choose me? I am not here because I propose myself, but because others propose me: and I hope you do not suppose that I think all the fine things about myself which have been said and written about me, with so much exaggeration but with a strength and depth of kind feeling for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, by numbers of people almost all personally unknown to me. You will, I know, excuse what is excessive in these eulogiums, being aware how natural it is for a man to be overpraised, as well as to be unjustly attacked, at a contested election.
Perhaps you will ask, if for these reasons I did not for such a length of time appear before you, why I do so now? I do it for two reasons. In the first place, I was told, by those who had good means of judging, that many of you wished to know more of me than they could learn from what I have written. Now you have a right to an opportunity of judging for yourselves of the man you are asked to vote for. Whatever you want to know about my political opinions, I am bound to tell you—and I pledged myself—it was the only pledge I gave—to tell it you with perfect openness. It would have been as easy for me as for others to have put forth a plausible profession of political faith—not like those colourless and meaningless addresses the newspapers are filled with, which Tory, Whig and Radical might equally sign—which bind them to nothing, and are consistent with almost any vote. I might have made out a long bona fide list of important subjects on which I have the satisfaction of believing that I agree with you—I might have glided gently over all points of difference and kept a discreet silence on every opinion that could startle anybody. Did I do this? I did the very opposite—I issued no address, but engaged to answer any question you chose to ask about my political opinions—and those you did ask, I answered with an unreserve which has been a kind of scandal to the electioneering world. What obliged me to say anything to you about women’s voting or about representation of minorities? Would any of you have thought of questioning me on those points? Not one: but you asked me what were my opinions on reform: and being asked it did not suit with my idea of plain dealing to keep any of them back. By this I lowered myself immensely in the opinion of those who think that the sensible thing for a candidate is to dissemble and finesse, and commit himself as little as possible. How injudicious! cried one. How unpractical! said another. “How can he expect to be elected on such a programme?” was the thought even of sincere friends. In answer to all which, I beg them to consider—First, that perhaps I would rather, if I had to choose, be honest, than be elected. Secondly, that perhaps the electors of Westminster may also have a taste for honesty, and may think that the man who deals honestly with them before he is elected, will be likely to deal honestly by them if elected. One thing I am sure of—that, even though a man may now and then lose an election by it, in the long run there is nothing so practical as honesty; and that this is a lesson politicians will have to learn.
You will scarcely expect me to go through the catalogue of the political topics of the day, and tire you with things which you all know as well as myself. It is better that I should confine myself to giving explanations on any points on which you think that they are needed. All I will attempt now is to give you an idea of the general tendency of my opinions. I am here as the candidate of advanced Liberalism, and I should like to tell you what, to my understanding, that expression means. Mr. Gladstone, in one of those memorable speeches which have taught all sincere reformers in the country to look to him as their future leader, has given us his idea of the difference between Liberalism and Toryism. Liberalism, he says, is trust in the people, limited only by prudence; Toryism is distrust of the people, limited only by fear. This is a true and apt statement of the distinction in one of its practical aspects; but there is a still larger mode of conceiving it. The Liberal is he who looks forward for his principles of government: the Tory looks backward for his. The Tory thinks that the really best model of society and government lies behind us—from which we are departing more and more; consisting in the subjection and dependence of the mass of the community, in temporal matters, to the hereditary possessors of property, in spiritual, to the Church. He accordingly opposes, up to the last moment, whatever carries us further from this model. When beaten, he may sincerely accept his defeat, as a necessity of the age; but he still hankers after the past: he still thinks that good government means the restoration of the feudal principle in some shape, perhaps a shape better adapted to the time; and he continues to resist all further progress in the new direction. The Liberal thinks and does the reverse of this. He thinks that we have not yet arrived at a perfect model of government—but that it is before us, not behind: that we are still too far from it to be even able to see exactly what it is—but that we can clearly see in what direction it lies; not in some new form of dependence but in the emancipation of the dependent classes—more freedom, more equality, more responsibility of each person for himself. That is the first article of my political creed. And this is the second. Believing as I do that society and institutions are and ought to be in a state of progressive improvement—that it is the very nature of progress to lead us to see truths which are not yet seen to be truths—but that by a diligent study of the past, and application of thought to great questions, it is possible to see for a certain distance before us, to perceive some of these truths, and help other people to see them—I therefore think that both in politics and in other matters there are truths which it is already time to proclaim, though in the existing state of opinion the time has not come when they can be carried into practice. That, gentlemen, is what I mean by advanced liberalism. But does it follow, because a person has something to say about the future, that he must be incapable of judging of the present? That if he thinks for tomorrow, he can know nothing about today? The dunces tell you so: but I venture to reverse the proposition. The only person qualified to judge rightly or safely for today, is the one who includes tomorrow in his deliberations: who can see what things we are tending to; which of the tendencies we should favour and which resist; and who will take care that his policy of the moment shall fit us instead unfitting us for the greater good of the future.
I have mentioned one of the reasons why having at first abstained from attending public meetings, I appear before you now. But there is another reason. The contest has changed its character. It is no longer personal to myself. You have not now merely to decide whether you will choose me rather than another man. The question now is, whether the representation of Westminster, hitherto the most honourable seat in the House of Commons, is to be obtained by the honest choice of the electors or by money. That the answer to this should be even doubtful is enough to rouse the strongest feeling of shame in every inhabitant of Westminster who remembers the ancient reputation of his city. We Reformers profess to desire, that the great landed nobility and gentry should no longer be able to hoist their sons and protégés into Parliament over the heads of the constituencies—passing over the minds of the electors, and working through their private interests or their hereditary subserviency. This we object to, and with reason: but what better shall we be, or what will it profit us to weaken the aristocratic influences, if all we gain is that seats in Parliament are put up to auction? What is it but putting them up to auction when they are knocked down to the man who has the longest purse, and is willing to open it widest? Of all existing political nuisances, this is the one which it most concerns all of us to resist; for it is the single one which is increasing, while almost every other is diminishing. The great facilities for moneymaking which arise from the unexampled commercial prosperity of the country, are raising up crowds of persons who have made large fortunes, or whose fathers have made fortunes for them, and whose strongest desire is to make those fortunes the means of purchasing what is called position—in other words, admission into the society of persons higher in rank than themselves. Now there is only one way in which this can be effected by money; namely, through a seat in Parliament. I am the last man to think disparagingly of such persons, or to pretend that they have no business to be in Parliament: many of them have a strong claim, by their knowledge and abilities, to a seat in the House, and are such men as it can ill spare. But the mischief is, that it is precisely those among them who are least capable of getting elected on their merits—who have no chance of making their way into what is called good society by their talents, their education, or their breeding—it is exactly those who are tempted to employ the only other means open to them of obtaining their end, the lavish expenditure of money in corrupting electors. For there is corruption which is not technically bribery. To gain a seat by giving money to the electors is not less corruption because the elector does not receive the money for his vote, but for ostensible services; it makes no moral difference whether a working man is paid for voting, or for putting, for instance, a placard in his window. A candidate who succeeds by these means, like one who opens the public houses, goes to Parliament as the representative of the vices of the constituency. There is no hope that people will be shamed out of these things until they are cut by society for doing them. You cannot prevent such things from being attempted; but you may perhaps prevent them from succeeding. An experiment is being tried on you, the electors of Westminster. An effort is made to bring in a Tory candidate by an expenditure of money more profuse than any Tory ever ventured upon before in this city. Since it is very well known that the majority of the electors of Westminster are not Tories, it is not uncharitable to say that the supporters of the Tory candidate rely chiefly on money. Had they really thought that the electors have turned Conservative; that you have had enough of Reform; that in your opinion enough has been done in the way of constitutional improvement, and you are now anxious to prevent further change, they would have selected for the distinction of this seat one of their foremost men—one of those who are an honour to their party—such a one, let us say, as Lord Stanley. When instead of the man of greatest merit, they offer you the one who is willing to spend most lavishly, they shew plainly in what they put their trust.
Will you suffer this to succeed? The eyes of all England are on you; all lovers of freedom and purity of election are looking to you with anxious hope. And there is another, a very different sort of persons who have their eyes on you too: those (they are very numerous) who cultivate a contempt for the people. All such persons are watching you, hoping to find you worthy of their contempt. They are already chuckling over what they think the probable success of the extraordinary efforts making to debauch you. They are saying that you have it not in you to elect any person but the man who will spend most money among you—that you have not public virtue for it; that public virtue is not to be expected from such people as you are; and they are eagerly waiting to see you justify their opinion of you. I trust you will disappoint them. If you elect me, and I turn out a total failure—if I disappoint every expectation which has been formed of me—you will have nothing to be ashamed of; you will have acted an honest part, and done, at all events, what seemed best for the country. Can the same thing be said if you return the candidate of a party against which Westminster has consistently protested for nearly a century, and if his victory is due to his money? If this constituency should so degrade itself, it will be a deep mortification to all who put faith in popular representation; Westminster will have fallen from her glory, and can no longer hold her head as high as she has done; and the progress of popular principles, which cannot be stopped, will have to go forward for the present without Westminster.