Front Page Titles (by Subject) A CONSTITUTIONAL VIEW OF THE INDIA QUESTION 1858 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXX - Writings on India
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A CONSTITUTIONAL VIEW OF THE INDIA QUESTION 1858 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXX - Writings on India 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXX - Writings on India, ed. John M. Robson, Martin Moir, and Zawahir Moir (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1990).
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A CONSTITUTIONAL VIEW OF THE INDIA QUESTION
London: Penny, 1858. No running titles. Unsigned. Not republished. There are no emendations in the Somerville College copy. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A Constitutional View of the India Question,” the first item under the heading: “The following short pamphlets on the India Bills and Resolutions of the Session of 1858 viz:” (MacMinn, 91).
A Constitutional View of the India Question
the proposal to extinguish the East-India Company,1 and to place the whole administration of India in the hands of a Minister and a Council, without any substantial power, is an ominous advance in that centralisation of all the functions of Government in the hands of the Cabinet, so justly deprecated by the soundest thinkers, whether of Liberal or Conservative opinions.
Next to a national representation, the most important of all political principles is, that the only affairs directly administered by the Imperial Government should be the general affairs of the nation; and that all local affairs, whether they be those of any particular part of the United Kingdom or of any foreign dependency, should, if possible, be administered by some intermediate body, constituted expressly for the purpose.
The general concerns of the empire are sufficient to occupy the whole time and thoughts of her Majesty’s Ministers. They cannot possibly make themselves properly acquainted with the affairs of every separate locality or dependency of the empire. They are not, and cannot be, appointed to office on account of their knowledge of the affairs of localities or dependencies.
Besides, it is admitted that the only security for the good conduct of any portion of the national affairs which is entrusted to Ministers, lies in the control of Parliament. And with regard to the general affairs of the empire, this control is efficacious. But Parliament, no more than Ministers, has time either to study or to deliberate on local affairs; and it is not in the nature of things that more than a few members of Parliament should be well acquainted with, or feel any strong interest in, the affairs of any particular locality. Local affairs, therefore, unless when private interests were concerned, would generally be left entirely to Ministers; and not only would they be almost sure to be mismanaged, but the power and patronage which their management would confer, and the habit engendered of looking entirely to the Ministers of the Crown as the source of all authority, would be dangerous to the liberty and safety of the nation.
These are not new doctrines, but the acknowledged principles of the Constitution. All sound thinkers in other countries are sensible of their value, and declare with one accord that the power which the central Governments of the Continent exercise in local affairs, and the dependence upon the Government of every intermediate body which discharges important administrative functions, are the great cause why the principal nations of the Continent, among all their revolutions, have never yet succeeded in acquiring liberty.2
In England this evil has hitherto been avoided. The English people have always managed their local affairs for themselves, without the interference of the Government. Almost all the British Colonies have, from their first foundation or acquisition, enjoyed in a great degree the same advantage. They have had local Parliaments for their domestic administration; and though a Minister in London long continued to control and thwart the action of those local bodies, each colony as it advanced in prosperity showed such a determination to emancipate itself from the interference of the Imperial Government in affairs not of Imperial interest, that they at last succeeded in attaining their object.
The greatest dependency of the Crown, India, is, by general admission, not capable of administering its own affairs by a representative system. This, however, does not diminish, but increases, the mischief and danger of its administration by the unchecked power of a Cabinet Minister. There is far more danger in India than in any Colony, of the ignorant or corrupt misuse of Ministerial power; because India is less understood than any Colony, because its people are less capable of making their voice heard, and because it is more difficult for Parliament to interfere in its administration with adequate knowledge, than in the affairs of any Colony.
India has hitherto been administered, under the general control of Parliament, by a body, who holding aloof from the party conflicts of English politics, devoted their whole time and energies to Indian affairs. The great Corporation, which gained India for this country, has hitherto been considered the best qualified to conduct its administration, under the authority of the Crown, subject, when necessary, to the veto of the Board of Control.
It is now proposed to abolish this intermediate body, and to impose upon India the exclusive government of a Cabinet Minister, which every important Colony has found it impossible to bear. The yoke of the old Colonial Office, which the Colonies, one after another, have rejected and thrown off, is to be laid upon India.
The reason assigned is, the supposed evil of double government and divided responsibility.
Without discussing what is the value of these objections in the case of India, it is sufficient to observe that they are applicable to every British institution, under which any of the affairs of the public are administered by an authority independent of the Cabinet.
Already the management of the Light-houses of Great Britain by the Corporation of the Trinity-House, a management which is the admiration of Europe, is assailed as a “double government,” by (among others) a member of the late Administration.3 The Trinity-House is apparently marked out as the next victim.
The management of the poor, and the control of the poor-rates, are shared between a Government Board and the local Boards of the various Poor Law Unions.4 Double government; divided responsibility. Abolish the Boards of Guardians. Concentrate all power in the Central Board. Let the Crown appoint all overseers; and let them, under the Board’s orders, fix the parochial rates, and exclusively control their expenditure.
The sanitary administration of towns is shared between a Government Board, and the Corporations and other local authorities.5 Double government; divided responsibility. Give all the power to the Board of Health; allow the Board to construct works and establish sanitary regulations at its pleasure, and to tax the inhabitants of the towns for defraying the expense.
The popular education of the country is partly administered by the Committee of Council for Education, and partly by private trustees or voluntary associations.6 The schools of the country are mostly supported by the one authority, and inspected by the other. Double government; divided responsibility. Let no trustees or voluntary associations have anything to do with schools. Place the whole responsibility on the Committee of Council: let them maintain schools for the whole country, levy school-rates to pay their expenses, appoint the teachers, and fix the course of instruction.
There was lately a Railway Board; and its powers still exist, though transferred to the Board of Trade.7 The general Government interferes largely in the affairs of railway companies. Parliament sanctions the lines, and fixes a maximum of rates. A Government officer inquires into all accidents, and no line can be opened until declared safe by a Government engineer. Double government; divided responsibility. Let the Government take possession of all the railways; or let it appoint the chairman of every railway company, and let him govern, consulting or not the directors and proprietors, as he pleases.
The highways, the gaols, the county rates, and the administration of justice at sessions, are conducted by intermediate bodies—the Justices of Peace. These are already nominated by the Minister (on the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant), and removable by him; but as it is not usual to remove them except for proved misconduct, they are practically independent, and in the exercise of their functions they are not obliged to be the instruments of a Minister. This, in the opinion of the enemies of double government, must be a great evil. Why should not magistrates be appointed for six years only? Why should not the chairman of sessions be appointed by the Crown, and all county business be transacted by him and a few clerks; the other magistrates being only summoned when he thinks fit, and, when summoned, their opinion being only attended to if he chooses?
The general administration of justice is shared between a judge appointed by the Crown, and a jury of citizens. Double government; divided responsibility. Let the judge alone decide: if he pleases, he may consult a jury; and if he pleases, he may adopt their verdict.
It is superfluous to carry the illustration further. If the cry of Double Government is to prevail, none of the free institutions of this country, except perhaps the House of Commons, are safe; and we may be thankful if the principle is not applied to Parliament too. All government, except the single government of one man, is double government, or treble government, or quadruple government; and if the people of England, in a case of such magnitude as India, allow this plea to be successful, and the intermediate body which administers that country under the Crown to be superseded by the undivided power of a Minister and his subordinates, they will sanction a principle and establish a precedent which they may before long have reason to regret.
[1 ]By the legislation then before Parliament, “A Bill to Transfer the Government of India from the East India Company to Her Majesty the Queen,” 21 Victoria (26 Mar., 1858), PP, 1857-58, II, 287-312.
[2 ]Authorities on this question cited by Mill elsewhere are Joseph Fievée (1767-1839), Correspondance politique et administrative, 3 vols. (Paris: Le Normant, 1815-19), Vol. I, Pt. 2, and Vol. III, Pt. 9; and Alexis Clérel de Tocqueville (1805-59), De la démocratie en Amérique, 2 vols. (Paris: Gosselin, 1835), Vol. I, Chaps. v and xvi.
[3 ]Robert Lowe (1811-92), then M.P. for Kidderminster, who had been Paymaster of the Forces and Vice-President of the Board of Trade in Lord Palmerston’s government, Speech on Lighthouses (15 Apr., 1858), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 149, col. 1130.
[4 ]By Sects. 2 and 28 of 4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834).
[5 ]By Sects. 4 and 12 of 11 & 12 Victoria, c. 63 (1848).
[6 ]The Council was established in 1839 as a Committee of the Privy Council, with government grants to oversee and promote public education; it allowed private agencies to continue to support and administer schools.
[7 ]9 & 10 Victoria, c. 105 (1846), which established the Railway Board, was superseded by 14 & 15 Victoria, c. 64 (1851), which transferred its powers to the Board of Trade.