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Mill on India: Collected Works vol. XXX

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Source: Editor's introduction to The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, XXX - Writings on India - November 1868, ed. John M. Robson, Martin Moir, and Zawahir Moir (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1990).

Copyright Statement: 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.

Introduction by MARTIN MOIR

in may 1823, my professional occupation and status for the next thirty-five years of my life, were decided by my father’s obtaining for me an appointment from the East India Company, in the office of the Examiner of India Correspondence, immediately under himself. I was appointed in the usual manner, at the bottom of the list of clerks, to rise, at least in the first instance, by seniority; but with the understanding, that I should be employed from the beginning in preparing drafts of despatches, and be thus trained up as a successor to those who then filled the higher departments of the office. My drafts of course required, for some time, much revision from my immediate superiors, but I soon became well acquainted with the business, and by my father’s instructions and the general growth of my own powers, I was in a few years qualified to be, and practically was, the chief conductor of the correspondence with India in one of the leading departments, that of the Native States. This continued to be my official duty until I was appointed Examiner, only two years before the time when the abolition of the East India Company as a political body determined my retirement.1

Thus in his Autobiography John Stuart Mill tersely and modestly sums up his long period of employment in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company. To this factual resumé he later adds a few remarks on the increase in his official responsibilities that took place towards the end of his career.2 More tantalizingly, he also includes some brief observations on the benefits and occasional limitations of his employment. For example, as a “theoretical reformer of the opinions and the institutions of his time,” he appreciated the useful insight into “the practical conduct of public affairs” which his Company experience brought him. On a more personal level, he noted that the experience also taught him how best to present his own views to “persons unlike” himself, how to compromise on non-essential matters, and—perhaps most significant for his personal happiness—how to accept with equanimity occasional defeats at the hands of his superiors.3

As for the interest and demands of his Company work, and its general place in his life, he concluded that his duties “were sufficiently intellectual not to be a distasteful drudgery, without being such as to cause any strain upon the mental powers of a person used to abstract thought, or to the labour of careful literary composition.”4 And in a passage omitted from the published text of his Autobiography at the instance of his wife, Harriet, he pointed more frankly to the real advantages of his official duties: “While they precluded all uneasiness about the means of subsistence, they occupied fewer hours of the day than almost any business or profession, they had nothing in them to produce anxiety, or to keep the mind intent on them at any time but when directly engaged in them.”5 No doubt he regretted certain limitations attached to his position—his short period of annual leave (only four weeks) and the fact that he was virtually prevented from playing a part in public life. But these restrictions were acceptable when set against the advantages of an employment which guaranteed his financial security and left him with sufficient time and energy for his “private intellectual pursuits.”6

The fact that Mill offers this short and low-key account of his East India Company activities, apparently relegating them to the level of a useful but essentially subordinate part of his intellectual life, has presented his modern interpreters with a whole range of problems. Most immediately, how could someone so deeply committed to the understanding and betterment of human society, apparently fail to appreciate the importance and interest of his own central position in the formulation and review of the East India Company’s policies in South Asia? Was he really comparatively detached from his official duties, as his Autobiography suggests, or was he more committed than he chose to admit? Alternatively, was his position in the Examiner’s Office perhaps less influential than might at first sight appear, placing him primarily in the position of a servant of the Company charged with the preparation of its despatches? Moreover, any exploration of the problem of Mill’s East India Company role leads imperceptibly to the more basic and, to the post-colonial sensibility, more puzzling issues of how to connect Mill the administrator with Mill the political philosopher. How, for instance, did the author of On Liberty and Representative Government view the rights and best interests of the Indian subjects of the East India Company?

Though definitive answers to all such enquiries and conundrums are unlikely to be found, one can at least reduce some of the mystery by reviewing and assessing the surviving evidence for Mill’s Company career in considerably more detail than his Autobiography provides.

THE HOME GOVERNMENT OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY7

the east india company that Mill joined in 1823 occupied a central position in the rather elaborate system for the home government of British India. Certain features of this system were later much admired and defended by Mill as conducive to the good government of India. But in 1823 it is likely that he was more struck by its administrative complications than by its latent political virtues. The principal features of the Company’s organization within the wider administrative framework, as Mill first experienced them, can best be represented by a diagram (Table 1).

lf0223-30_figure_002.jpg

TABLE 1

The East India Company was immediately responsible for the administration of British territories in India and elsewhere but was itself subject to close government supervision through the Board of Control. The executive part of the Company, the Court of Directors, consisted of twenty-four directors elected by the Company’s larger share-holders or proprietors and broadly representative of the main sectional interests in the Company’s affairs (e.g., the City of London, “ex-Indian” administrators, etc.). Every year the Company’s directors appointed a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman (the “Chairs”) as their leading spokesmen; they also assigned themselves to a number of standing committees, each responsible to the Court as a whole for the management of a distinct aspect of the Company’s activities. When the young Mill first joined the Company there were thirteen main committees (the most important of which were concerned with correspondence, buying and warehouses, and shipping) apart from the special statutory Secret Committee, discussed below. The Court and its committees were also assisted in their transaction of business by a large number of officials and departments led by the Company’s Secretary and the Examiner of Indian Correspondence. Most of the Company’s formal decision-making took place at the meetings of the Court of Directors, usually held about twice a week. The Court of Proprietors’ policy role was by this period somewhat circumscribed, being largely confined in its expression to the quarterly general meetings and occasional specially convened meetings.

During this period the Company still traded extensively with India and China, etc., but it had already lost its monopoly rights over the Indian trade in 1813 and was soon to be stripped of all its commercial functions through the Charter Act of 1833. However, while the Company’s trading operations gradually decreased, the importance of its political and administrative responsibilities for the government of vast territories in South Asia continued to expand and develop. Essentially, the Company’s control of these territories was maintained through an immensely detailed and regular correspondence with the leading administrative bodies established in the Indian Sub-continent—the Governor-General and Council at Calcutta and the Governors and Councils at Bombay and Madras.

In the exercise of its growing political responsibilities the East India Company was, as has already been indicated, subject to close government scrutiny and direction through the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, usually known simply as the Board of Control, which had been established under Pitt’s India Act of 1784. Though technically still composed of a group of paid and unpaid official commissioners, the Board was in practice dominated by its President—the first named of its commissioners. Supported by a staff of secretaries and departmental clerks, the President upheld the Board’s statutory powers of control over the Company by means of a well-established bureaucratic system. According to this system, the Company was obliged to supply the Board with copies of all its incoming Indian letters and to submit all its drafts of outgoing despatches for the Board’s approval and possible alteration before issue. The Board was further empowered to prepare and send its own secret instructions to India on matters of war, peace, and diplomacy through the medium of the special Secret Committee of the Court of Directors (consisting of the two Chairs plus a senior director); and also to call upon the Court to prepare and submit for approval despatches on any subjects connected with the civil and military government of the Indian territories.

Within this complex system of dual government it will be evident that the Office of the Examiner of Indian Correspondence, in which so many of the Company’s despatches were prepared, necessarily occupied a position of central importance. Not only had the despatches drafted by the Examiner and his Assistants to satisfy the critical scrutiny of the Board of Control; they also had ultimately to constitute authoritative statements of policy and principles for the guidance of the governing bodies in India. Given the exceptional nature of these duties, it is not surprising that the Company’s directors began to keep a fairly close watch over the working of the Office during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Two particular aspects were perceived as requiring attention. In the first place there was the need to ensure that the department had enough staff to keep pace with the ever-increasing size of the Indian correspondence and also to see that the correspondence itself was clearly and efficiently divided up among the available staff. Secondly, both the Court of Directors and the Board of Control became gradually more aware of the importance of selecting and retaining men of sufficient ability to maintain the quality of the Indian correspondence as its character inevitably became more complex and demanding.8

In so far as the staffing aspect was concerned, the directors were initially rather slow in recognizing the manpower needs of the Examiner’s Office. In fact until 1804 the Examiner had to cope with virtually the whole of the correspondence single-handedly, drafting despatches in most of the Office’s departmental branches, viz., Public, Revenue, Military, Judicial, and Political, besides acting as Clerk to the Company’s Secret Committee (see above). Thereafter, during the next five years, a measure of relief was afforded by transferring the Military correspondence to the Auditor (and later to a new Military Secretary) and by appointing two or three Assistants to the Examiner to take charge of drafting the Judicial, Public, and Revenue despatches. Thus in the years immediately preceding Mill’s appointment much of the basic structure of the department had gradually been reshaped to include the Examiner, two or three Assistants, plus a staff of about a dozen clerks to perform the more routine duties.

More radical than this modest expansion of the Examiner’s immediate staff were the directors’ new arrangements for appointing outsiders to the Assistants’ posts. These experiments involved official recognition that the traditional Company practice of filling vacancies by promoting clerks in strict order of seniority could not always be counted on to produce a man of the right calibre to perform the intellectual activities required. The more perceptive directors gradually persuaded their colleagues that in such circumstances it was better to disappoint the clerks by looking outside the Company for more suitable candidates, “sooner than submit to so serious an evil as that of having momentous business imperfectly performed.”9 In this way, from 1809 onwards, several talented outsiders were brought in to fill senior vacancies in the Office, including William McCulloch who, having been recruited in 1809 as an Assistant, was promoted to the position of Examiner in 1817—a post which he continued to hold when John Stuart Mill entered the Office in 1823.10

However, undoubtedly the most spectacular experiment in this form of recruitment—and one that sets the scene for the younger Mill’s arrival—took place in May 1819 when, to fill a number of vacancies that had arisen, the Court of Directors selected three outsiders as Assistants to the Examiner: James Mill, Thomas Love Peacock, and Edward Strachey. As to the mode of selection, it appears that the directors were sufficiently impressed by the elder Mill’s recently published History of British India to waive further scrutiny of his qualifications. Indeed, Mill himself believed that he owed his appointment principally to his book. Somewhat similarly, Edward Strachey, with his considerable experience of judicial administration in India, was deemed well qualified for the work. Peacock, on the other hand, despite his literary reputation, was seen as more of an unknown quantity. He was therefore called upon to furnish evidence of his capacities to understand Indian administration, emerging triumphantly from this trial with a lucid survey of revenue policies entitled “Ryotwar and Zemindarry Settlements.”

Once established in the Office, the three distinguished “outside examiners” were each allotted responsibility for the correspondence of a particular department, Strachey being placed first with the Judicial, followed by Mill with the Revenue, and Peacock with more miscellaneous duties—all the Assistants working under the supervision of the Examiner, William McCulloch. The more delicate question of determining their final order of seniority was left open for several years, and it was not until April 1823 that the Court of Directors finally grasped the nettle by appointing James Mill as Assistant Examiner, ranking immediately after McCulloch with an annual salary of £1200, leaving Strachey (with £1000) and Peacock (with £800) still classed as Assistants to the Examiner.11 Clearly the elder Mill was now regarded as the most likely successor to the headship of the office (he eventually succeeded McCulloch in 1830), and his growing ascendancy was further reflected in the appointment of his son as an additional junior clerk in the Examiner’s Office on 21 May, 1823.

MILL’S APPOINTMENT AND APPRENTICESHIP WITH THE EAST INDIA COMPANY (1823-28)

before exploring the wider significance and consequences of the appointment of John Stuart Mill as junior clerk in 1823—for Mill’s father, for the East India Company, and for Mill himself—it is necessary to summarize the available documentary evidence concerning the nature and terms of the appointment itself. In the Company archives, the main outlines of the story as given in the Minutes and Reports of the Committee of Correspondence and the Minutes of the Court of Directors are simple enough. On 9 April, 1823, the Correspondence Committee briefly concluded that the business of the Examiner’s Office “requires an additional Clerk,” and accordingly proposed the appointment of such a clerk with the further recommendation that the right to nominate to the new post should be given to the Chairman, James Pattison.12 The Court agreed to these proposals on the same day, and it then appears that, with Pattison’s support, the younger Mill formally petitioned the Court for the post (following the usual Company practice) and was duly appointed on 21 May, 1823.13

As regards the actual terms of his employment, Mill’s own account in the Autobiography, quoted earlier, is fully borne out by the Company records and other sources. That is to say, his appointment as junior clerk was made subject to the “usual terms and conditions,” and he took his place at the lowest level in the clerical establishment of the Examiner’s Office, with twelve clerks above him in seniority, above whom in turn stood the small élite group of Assistants to the Examiner now led by his father.14 Equally, his appointment was subject to the normal Company regulations for junior clerks, which obliged him to serve for three years without salary, though modestly encouraged by a small annual gratuity of £30.15 More interestingly, the Company records also precisely confirm the classic account given in his Autobiography of the unusual nature of his work during his first few years, i.e., that he was employed “from the beginning in preparing drafts of despatches” under the supervision of his father and his immediate superiors, and on the understanding that he would be “thus trained up as a successor to those who then filled the higher departments of the office.” Indeed, the Court Minutes for 2 March, 1825, almost exactly foreshadow his own later account of this process, explaining that it had proved possible to employ him “in preparing drafts of Despatches, instead of performing the duties usually assigned to persons of his standing” because of “the great pains bestowed on his education” as well as his own “acquirements which are far in advance of his age” (he was only seventeen—the minimum age for appointment—when he joined).16 Thus the celebrated educational regime instituted by his father was acknowledged and endorsed by his employers.

For James Mill there was thus the dual satisfaction of securing his son’s rather special employment at the same time as his own promotion to the level of Assistant Examiner, over and above Strachey and Peacock. Did he owe these successes solely to the good opinion of his own conspicuous ability, industry, and eloquence which the Company’s directors had by then formed? According to a rather strange tradition passed down through the family of Edward Strachey, which surfaced in a review of Alexander Bain’s life of James Mill published in the Spectator in April 1882, there were indeed more sinister influences at work. Faced with the prospect that Edward Strachey would be recognized as his official superior on the completion of the agreed period of probation for the three new Assistants to the Examiner, James Mill, so the Stracheys darkly believed, had deliberately and successfully sought to undermine the position of his rival by insinuating to the Chairman that Strachey was insufficiently conciliatory in his dealings with the Board of Control. The Strachey family further suspected that, having secured by these means his own appointment as Assistant Examiner, the elder Mill went on—this time unsuccessfully—to try to secure Peacock’s post for his son, whom he had brought into the Office “with singular adroitness.”17

It is difficult to determine whether there was any factual basis at all for these suspicions. Certainly Mill’s sister Harriet firmly denied the story in a letter to the Spectator which appeared some two months after the original review of Bain’s book, though she admitted that by then it was very hard to find any reliable first-hand evidence about the issue.18 Alexander Bain also concluded that there was no truth in the Strachey story. It may be added that the Company records have nothing concrete to say on the matter beyond confirming that Edward Strachey did indeed temporarily resign his post in 1823 in protest against what he considered his unfair supersession by Mill.19

Whatever the truth of the Strachey allegations, there can be no doubt that John Stuart Mill’s work in the Examiner’s Office soon won the support and approval of the Company directors. By March 1825—some eighteen months after he had taken up his new appointment—the Court not only recorded their special appreciation of his ability to draft despatches, in the terms quoted above, but also awarded him a gratuity of £100 in recognition of his past services, and arranged for his transfer into the newly formed Correspondence Branch of the Examiner’s Office (see below).20 In the following March he was again rewarded with another special gratuity, this time of £200,21 and soon afterwards, in May 1826, after completing the usual three years’ service without salary, he was formally appointed a salaried clerk of the Company with an initial remuneration of £100 per year.22 A further special gratuity of £200 was granted to him in March 1827 for his “zeal and assiduity,” in addition to his basic salary.23 Finally, in February 1828, after noting that Mill had by then successfully completed nearly five years’ experience in drafting despatches in the Political and Public Departments of the correspondence, the Court of Directors decided to bring his period of apprenticeship as a clerk to a conclusion, and with the full support of the Examiner, William McCulloch, promoted him to the position of Fourth Assistant to the Examiner, with the starting salary of £310 per annum, exclusive of any gratuities.24

Apart from its many other points of interest, the story of Mill’s apprenticeship at East India House illustrates certain general features in the development of the East India Company’s home administration during this period. In particular, it is already evident, from the earlier discussion of the underlying issues involved in the Company’s new-found willingness to recruit talented outsiders to perform the more demanding intellectual duties of the Examiner’s Office, that the younger Mill was fortunate in arriving at a time when the traditional bureaucratic norms that had previously governed the prospects of the Company’s clerks were being modified in favour of more dynamic and meritocratic criteria. Indeed, in the context of these developments, Mill’s period of training for higher responsibility between 1823 and 1828 provides a special case-study of the Company’s readiness to extend its new, quasi-meritocratic recruitment policy into the internal structure of the Examiner’s Office.

This point emerges most clearly in the general reorganization of the Examiner’s Office that took place in March 1825. In this fairly radical operation the directors for the first time decided to split the whole department into two divisions, one the Correspondence Branch (immediately consisting of the various Assistant Examiners) and the other that of the ordinary clerks, thus in effect drawing a stronger line between the intellectual duties of the former and the more routine or mechanical functions of the latter. More significantly, the Court declared that in future the higher posts in the Correspondence Branch were to be fully “open to talent,” so that although clerks of long standing continued to be eligible for promotion, “mere length of service in the absence of the necessary qualifications gives no claim whatever.” In return for losing their automatic claim on the higher posts the ordinary clerks were given a certain compensation in the form of increased allowances for the senior clerical positions, but essentially the Court had come down more firmly in favour of the more flexible meritocratic approach to the choice of Examiners and their assistants. On the same occasion, as if to give immediate expression to the new principles, John Stuart Mill was, as already noted, formally transferred to the new Correspondence Branch. Although he was still classed as clerk, it must by then have become obvious to his clerical colleagues that the young man’s promotion over their heads to the Examiner class in the Correspondence Branch was now only a matter of time—three years in the event. How far these administrative reforms, which clearly prepared the way for his son’s elevation, may have had their origin in the ideas and ambitions of James Mill is impossible to determine; the Court Minutes state only that they were introduced for the future better management of the Examiner’s Office, and with the backing of Mill’s superior, William McCulloch.25

Finally, in considering the wider significance of his first few years of employment at East India House, it is necessary to enquire, at least briefly and speculatively, what that experience may have meant to Mill himself. Did it, for instance, contribute in any way to that deeply felt sense of his own mental development that increasingly provides a connecting link between his personal psychology and his philosophical and social ideas? In this speculation we may begin by looking again at the passage in his Autobiography, quoted earlier. Two contending ideas seem to emerge from these later reflections on his East India House initiation. On the one hand, he is concerned to emphasize his father’s decisive role in securing the appointment “immediately under himself,” and thereby determining his “professional occupation and status for the next thirty-five years.” This strong notion of James Mill’s determining influence over the future course of his life is enhanced by the younger Mill’s passing reference to the instructions he received from his father while learning to prepare despatches in the Examiner’s Office. In fact, viewed from these paternalist perspectives, the first few years of J.S. Mill’s East India Company employment look more like prolongation of his father’s celebrated tutelage than the first moves towards personal independence. However, Mill’s autobiographical account also conveys a contrary and increasingly dominant sense of the eventual significance of his own work. Thus, having acknowledged his debt to his father’s instructions, he goes on to show that with “the general growth of [his] own powers,” he was able to master the art of drafting despatches to the extent that he was soon officially recognized as competent to take independent charge of “one of the leading departments” of the Indian correspondence.

This idea of Mill’s first five years at East India House as involving a progression from youthful dependence to mature self-direction—as a true professional apprenticeship in fact—seems to contribute positively to a wider understanding of his intellectual and emotional development during this crucial period. On this reading, for example, the small group of Political and Public despatches which he prepared between 1824 and 1826 under the eyes of his father and the Examiner may be set alongside the early articles for the Westminster Review and newspapers, and the editorial work on Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence, which he also prepared during these years. Taken together these writings represent both the culmination of his youthful capacity to absorb and structure new knowledge under his father’s guidance, and the beginnings of a special personal ability to synthesize that knowledge and put forward his own original ideas with confidence and fluency. Arguably, of course, it was this latter development that, turned round against itself in the “mental crisis” of 1826-27, eventually propelled Mill forward to break free from the exclusive culture of rational analysis associated with his father’s dominance.26 It is perhaps unlikely that his East India House experiences played any direct part in this personal crisis. Nonetheless, as he emerges from it in 1827-28, with a new sense of purpose and his own developing conception of the nature of human culture, it is curiously appropriate that his period of clerical apprenticeship should also have been ended and official maturity recognized in his promotion to the level of Assistant to the Examiner.

MILL AS ASSISTANT TO THE EXAMINER (1828-56) AND THE DRAFTING OF DESPATCHES

mill’s promotion in 1828 marks the beginning of the very long central part of his official career with the East India Company, which continued until his appointment as Examiner in March 1856. During this period the basic character of his role as an Assistant to the Examiner, responsible mainly for the drafting of Political, Foreign, as well as some Public despatches, seems to have changed very little. But before considering the exact nature of this work, it is important to look more carefully at the question of his general standing within the Examiner’s Office during these, years. How far is it right to conceive of his position as essentially static? Was there perhaps more movement beneath the surface than may at first appear?

Part of the answer to these questions may be found in the records concerning Mill’s financial position, particularly during the 1830s. The years between 1834 and 1836 saw a rapid improvement in his personal fortunes. The process began in April 1834 when the Court of Directors decided to incorporate the annual gratuity of £200—which had been granted to him regularly since 1825—into his annual salary in the form of a special allowance. This, together with the usual small annual increments he had received since his appointment as Assistant in 1828, brought his salary up to £600.27 In February 1836, as the result of the retirement of one of his senior colleagues, Mill moved up to Second Assistant to the Examiner (just below David Hill and Thomas Love Peacock), while his salary was also increased to £800.28 Finally, a few months later, in July 1836—as part of a general reorganization following the death of his father—Mill moved forward once again into the place of First Assistant to the new Examiner, Thomas Love Peacock, ranking next to David Hill (who had succeeded to the position of Assistant Examiner). Along with this move came a further salary increase for Mill, bringing his annual remuneration to £1200.29 However, with Peacock and Hill then firmly established above him, Mill’s period of rapid upward mobility came to a halt and he continued in the position of First Assistant for the next twenty years. Only near the end of this long period, in August 1854, did the directors decide to award him a further salary increase, this time of £200 (see xxix below), apparently in connection with his defence of the Company during the Parliamentary investigations leading to the Charter Act of 1853 (16 & 17 Victoria, c. 95).30

The picture of Mill’s career emerging from this personal data is of a short initial phase of rapid advancement followed by a long, rather static period and a final upturn; it gains definition, however, when other elements in his professional situation are considered.

Among the more powerful but imponderable influences must be reckoned the effects of his father’s death in June 1836. Mill’s reaction to that event, and the stress that preceded it, appears to have taken the form of another bout of sickness and depression, for which in July 1836 he obtained over three months’ official leave which he spent in travelling abroad with his brothers. It is clear from his private correspondence that this period of personal unhappiness continued into 1837 when he returned to his arrears of work at East India House with the feeling that for the first time he had become “a thorough mechanical drudge.”31 But in the long run it is reasonable to suppose that the removal of his father’s stern and dominating presence gradually had a positive and even a creative effect upon Mill’s outlook and attitude to his Company work and the opportunities it afforded, as well as on his more general development as an independent thinker.32

One particular episode which seems to bring out the growing underlying strengths of his position during the long middle period of his career was his success in obtaining a junior clerkship in the Examiner’s Office for his younger brother, George Grote Mill, in April 1844. On this occasion, following the usual Company practice, Mill was required to provide a testimonial on his brother’s behalf in which he certified that the latter’s education “has been under my exclusive superintendence during the last seven years with the exception of short intervals; that his conduct and character have always been excellent and his acquirements considerably surpass the average of well educated youths.”33 George Mill was duly installed in the Office, and after a short period of probation was transferred into the Correspondence Branch to gain experience in the drafting of Indian despatches under his brother’s tutelage. He there seems to have shown considerable promise, to the extent that it was soon the declared intention of the Examiner, Thomas Love Peacock, to recommend him for one of the specially remunerated posts of “Clerk of Correspondence.”34 Unfortunately, further advancement was prevented by his increasing ill health—he had contracted lung disease—and in the autumn of 1848 he was obliged to take a long period of sick leave and eventually to retire altogether in March 1850. He died three years later in Madeira.35

The most striking feature of this episode lies in its close resemblance to J.S. Mill’s own early career with the Company and again, as with that more celebrated apprenticeship, George Mill’s experience can be interpreted in several different ways. On one level the episode seems to indicate a curiously strong readiness on J.S. Mill’s part to assume a paternal position towards his younger brother, even to the extent of employing phrases of recommendation in his testimonial which almost seem to mimic what James Mill had told the Company directors about his own qualities and attainments some twenty years before. There are obvious pitfalls in seeking too specific a psychological explanation for these curious resonances, but the record of the occasion may at least be tentatively added to the other evidence that exists for the ever-intriguing story of Mill’s paternal problems.36

On a more mundane level, George Mill’s appointment and short career reflect the high status and influence by then enjoyed by J.S. Mill within the Company’s home establishment. They also reinforce the picture already formed of the rather special influence which the representatives of the Mill family had directly or indirectly come to exert on the way in which the Examiner’s Office had developed and functioned. The point here is not that the Mill’s influence was in any way improper or unusual (such dynasties of family employees were quite common in the Company’s history) but rather that J.S. Mill’s experimental apprenticeship in the 1820s provided the Company with the kind of model it later used in training other potential despatch writers in the Correspondence Branch of the Examiner’s Office, including, for a short while at least, George Grote Mill.37

Finally, in trying to identify the less obvious but positive features of Mill’s long middle period of Company employment, we must also recognize the importance of the opportunities for personal friendship and freedom that his official career offered. Rather sadly, there is little to suggest that his personal relations with Peacock, his immediate superior, were at all close.38 On the other hand, there is ample proof that Mill did enjoy close and stimulating friendships with several other Company colleagues during the 1830s and 1840s, most notably with Horace Grant (who held one of the special Correspondence Branch clerkships between 1837 and 1845) and William Thornton (who, after a short spell in the Examiner’s Office, worked in the Marine Branch of the Secretary’s Office from 1837 to 1856).39 Such contacts grew out of shared intellectual interests, connected, for example, with Grant’s educational studies and Thornton’s economic and literary works. But the records also clearly show that Mill’s friendship warmly extended into acts of personal kindness and support for both Grant and Thornton.40

There is also evidence that, in so far as the pressures of his official business allowed, Mill was able to use his room in East India House as a place where he could informally invite various friends and acquaintances.41 This amenity may have been of considerable value to him during the years when his external social contacts tended to diminish as a result of the delicacy and difficulty of his longstanding relationship with Harriet Taylor. In the same way, as his Autobiography suggests, he was able to use whatever free time came to him during his rather gentlemanly official working day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to get on with his personal correspondence and writings. Although Mill himself sometimes complained to his personal correspondents of the extent to which his freedom was restricted by his Company duties,42 the hundreds of private letters which he wrote from East India House during the 1830s and 1840s testify to a not inconsiderable degree of official latitude. And both his System of Logic and Principles of Political Economy were written on East India Company stationery, almost certainly during office hours.

The general opportunities which Mill’s position normally gave him are brought out most illuminatingly in a letter which he wrote to Thomas Carlyle from India House on 30 June, 1837, with which he forwarded a copy of his review of Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution. “I have,” he writes,

very little to do here at present. I have worked off my arrear of business at this office, and the work does not now come in nearly so fast as I can do it. It is the way of my work to go in that sort of manner—in fits—and I like that well enough, as it gives me intervals of leisure. I am using this interval to get on with my book—a book I have done little to since the review began, and which you will think very little worth doing—a treatise on Logic.43

The extent to which Mill was able during these years to combine his official duties with his other intellectual interests during the “intervals” in his working day naturally raises the whole question of the character and scope of his Company work. How demanding were his duties, and—more interesting perhaps—how far was he in a position to formulate and control the Company’s Indian policies through the despatches which he drafted?

Attempts to throw light on these issues may usefully start with the factual, especially the quantitative, aspects of Mill’s work, and fortunately it is here possible to construct a kind of base-line for determining the sheer scale of his official activities by using his own list of despatches supplemented by other archival data.44 The significance of this evidence was in fact perceived very early on by his friend William Thornton when contributing his account of Mill’s Company career for the obituary notices published in the Examiner in May 1873.45 After describing his former colleague’s own list of despatches, “a small quarto volume of between 300 and 400 pages, in their author’s handwriting,” Thornton went on to recall that at East India House the Court of Directors’ despatches used to occupy on average for each year “about ten huge vellum bound volumes, foolscap size, and five or six inches thick, and that of these volumes, two a-year, for more than twenty years running, were exclusively of Mill’s composition.”46 Rather less vividly but more exactly, Table 2 shows the variations in Mill’s annual output of despatches for the whole of his Company career (1823-58). In interpreting this data it is also, of course, necessary to have an idea of the average length of these despatches. For this purpose it may suffice to note that in 1837 (when Mill found time during his office hours to write part of his Logic) his output of 34 despatches occupy some 1200 pages of the generously spaced copyist’s handwriting, giving an average of 35 pages per despatch. These figures may be contrasted with those for 1844 (the year of George Mill’s appointment) when Mill’s output rose to 88

TABLE 2
Despatches drafted by John Stuart Mill (1824-58)47
47This table is based on the data contained in Appendix A.
Year Political Foreign Public Public Works Ecclesiastical Marine Law Commercial Prince of Wales Island TOTAL
1824 3 6 1 10
1825 3 6 1 10
1826 5 11 3 1 2 22
1827 4 1 13 3 1 1 23
1828 10 15 1 4 2 32
1829 10 1 2 2 15
1830 20 1 6 1 28
1831 11 9 20
1832 16 5 21
1833 14 3 17
1834 21 2 23
1835 67 3 3 73
1836 20 2 22
1837 32 2 34
1838 74 2 1 77
1839 29 2 31
1840 46 2 48
1841 63 2 1 66
1842 57 2 59
1843 56 1 57
1844 86 1 1 88
1845 56 1 4 1 62
1846 61 2 1 64
1847 48 1 1 50
1848 57 57
1849 72 72
1850 66 66
1851 65 1 66
1852 73 73
1853 96 96
1854 83 83
1855 36 36
1856 56 56
1857 51 1 26 78
1858 56 22 78
1523 24 95 48 8 5 1 2 8 1713

despatches, occupying about 2120 pages, giving an average of 24 pages per despatch. Table 2 shows that thereafter his annual quota of despatches averages 66 for the remaining period of his employment.

The administrative and subject range of Mill’s despatches can to some extent be deduced from the departmental headings shown in the table. Clearly, his principal responsibility throughout his official career was for drafting the Political despatches (amounting to 1522). Broadly speaking, these despatches are concerned with the Company’s non-secret relations with independent and protected princely states throughout the Indian Sub-continent, as well as with the frontier regions and territories bordering on British India, such as Afghanistan, Iran and the Gulf, Burma, etc. Very closely connected with the despatches of the Political Department—and eventually absorbed by them—are those of the Foreign Department (1827-47), which mainly deal with the affairs of other European powers in South Asia, notably the French, Dutch, and Portuguese. The remaining 190 or so despatches drafted by Mill may be roughly grouped into four categories: Public Department despatches (1824-57) which range widely over many aspects of the civil government of British India but are particularly concerned with education and the press;48 Prince of Wales Island despatches (1826-30) covering the general administration of the Prince of Wales Island (or Penang) Presidency; miscellaneous despatches (1824-45) including Ecclesiastical, Marine, Law, and Commercial despatches; and Public Works Department despatches (1857-58) relating principally to roads and canals in British India.

This extensive information makes it possible to gauge the descriptive and quantitative range of Mill’s despatches in considerable detail and with a fair degree of precision. What, however, poses more difficulty is the evaluation of the qualitative aspects of his contribution and, in particular, the assessment of his personal and official influence over the Company’s policies in India. To begin to sketch out part of an answer, it is necessary, first, to understand the peculiar function of the Company’s Indian despatches, and second, to look more closely at the elaborate procedure by which the despatches were prepared and approved—a procedure in which, as Mill himself admitted, he was “merely one wheel in a machine, the whole of which had to work together.”49

As regards the essential function of the Company’s despatches, Mill provides some enlightening observations in the course of his own evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee in 1852:

The home Government at this moment exercise an absolute control over the Government in India. Within what limits do you think that control should be exercised? There are very few acts of the Government of India which it is possible for the authorities here to set aside when they are once done. Some very important things they can do: they can put a stop to pecuniary jobbing when they detect it; they can cancel improper appointments, and control salaries and establishments; and they can, and often do, redress the grievances of individuals. But in most of the political measures of a general character, they have very little power of interfering with effect or advantage, after the thing is done. They have, however, a great power of making useful comments, which may serve as instructions for subsequent cases of the same kind; and it seems to me the greatest good that the home authorities can do is to comment freely on the proceedings of the local authorities, to criticise them well, and lay down general principles for the guidance of the Government on subsequent occasions.

 

(69-70.)

 

In other words, Mill is here indicating the reactive and ex post facto character of most of the home government’s despatches, including, of course, his own. Even with the improvements in the speed of communications between London and India, it was clearly not feasible for the Court of Directors (and behind them the Board of Control) to try to regulate the actions of the “men on the spot” in Calcutta, Madras, or Bombay in detail or in advance.50 The most that could usually be aimed for, as Mill shows, was to comment critically on what had already been done in India, to lay down general principles for future guidance, and to correct any specific abuses that had been brought to light in the official letters from India. Thus Company despatch writers were more often critically reviewing Indian policies than actually controlling them. However, as Mill makes clear elsewhere in his evidence before the Select Committee, there were also differences in the amount of prior consultation that was possible between the Government of India and the Company in London, depending on the area of administration concerned. For example, while in the ever-shifting field of political and foreign relations the opportunity for such prior discussions was inevitably limited, it was possible for more substantive policy consultations to take place in the correspondence concerned with the introduction of new policies in “internal government” (e.g., over land revenue, judicial and educational reforms, or public works expenditure) (43-4).

The effects of these general limitations on the scope and character of the Company’s Indian correspondence are at once apparent in many of the despatches which Mill himself drafted. Thus, typically, the successive paragraphs of his Political Department despatches add up to a careful critical review of the events and decisions reported earlier in great detail in the Indian government’s own letters to London. In many or most instances, the despatch gives the Court of Directors’ retrospective approval for particular measures already taken, including here and there a piece of advice and criticism, and occasionally some enunciation of broader principles or policy to be followed more carefully in future when appropriate. In general, in Mill’s Political despatches, the more significant broad expressions of policy or principle occur in the context of comments on the degree of intervention that is proper or politic in the internal affairs of particular princely states. For example, the whole question of how far the Company should actively interfere in the internal government of Oudh in the light of its existing treaty relations with that state is a recurrent theme in the twenty or so Political despatches concerning Oudh which Mill drafted between 1828 and 1856. Many less known comments on the advisability or otherwise of British intervention in the internal affairs of other states occur throughout Mill’s enormous output of Political despatches. It hardly needs to be added that such general comments on the theme of intervention and internal sovereignty are not included because Mill himself was interested in such subjects, but rather because they were part of the larger, more contentious issues attached to British rule in South Asia during that period—issues that regularly dominated the minds of all officials concerned with the expansion and security of the Company Raj. Why, in such circumstances, Mill himself, from his position in London, decided to take one particular line rather than another, remains of course a distinct and often very difficult area for exploration (see l-liv below).

Another, perhaps less important field in which Mill, as the representative of the Court of Directors, often felt obliged to take a more active critical line in his Political despatches was that concerned with the financial and other personal claims of individual officials in the employ of the Indian Political Department, and in the control of the whole Political Department establishments. Here he is specially concerned with redressing the genuine grievances of individuals and regulating government expenditure, even if doing so meant giving instructions to the British Indian authorities to countermand their earlier decisions.

In the case of the non-Political despatches for which he was responsible—which, it must be stressed, constitute a minority within his total output—Mill’s comments to the Select Committee, quoted earlier, are also pertinent. Thus, although his despatches in these departments conform to the general pattern of those issued in the Political Department (i.e., a systematic review of the relevant transactions reported earlier by the governments in India), they also from time to time contain more positive statements of the policy or principle to be followed in particular aspects of “internal government.” Among the best known of such statements are those included in a succession of Public Department despatches devoted to educational matters. Between 1825 and 1836 Mill was responsible for about seventeen such despatches, and there is sufficient evidence to show that the central questions thrown up in the course of this correspondence—most notably, how far it was proper to encourage indigenous Indian learning and culture, and what were the best ways of spreading Western knowledge in Indian society—were matters on which he was ready to take a strong personal stand. The nature of that stand, along with his other “personal views” on British Indian policy, will be considered more closely in the last part of this Introduction (xxxix-liv below).

In addition to being somewhat restricted by the generally retrospective character of the Company’s despatches, Mill and his colleagues in the Examiner’s Office and elsewhere were of course obliged to submit their drafts for approval and possible alteration by a variety of authorities within the Company and the Board. To this extent, as was earlier noticed, Mill realized that he was “merely one wheel in a machine.” To appreciate the force of what he meant it is necessary to describe the main bureaucratic hoops through which his drafts had to pass before they finally emerged from East India House in the form of despatches signed by the necessary quorum of directors. One of the fullest contemporary accounts of how the correspondence system worked is that given by Mill’s colleague, James Cosmo Melvill, the Company’s Secretary, to the Select Committee in 1852. This account may be taken as a basis for a further clarification of the extent to which Mill’s drafts were influenced and altered by others.

Each despatch from India is laid before the Court of Directors. When a despatch comes from India it is accompanied by a collection of papers bearing upon the subject, and of course that collection contains the former correspondence relating to it, and the present proceedings of the Government upon it. This despatch comes to the secretary’s office, and from it, is immediately transferred to the department to which it relates. In that department an abstract of the contents of the despatch is made; this is lithographed, and copies of it are sent to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, and the members of the committee having the superintendence of the department to which the despatch relates. The officer in charge of that department then communicates with the Chairman and Deputy upon the despatch, and, in cases in which the subjects are not mere routine, receives instructions as to the tenor of the reply. A draft answer is then prepared, and submitted with the collections to the Chairman and the Deputy; they confer together, and with the officer, upon the subject: and when the draft conforms to their views, they place their initials upon it as the authority for its being sent to the President of the Board, in what is technically called “P.C.”; that is to say, previous communication. In due time the draft is returned either unaltered, or with alterations made in it by the President of the Board. If unaltered, the draft is immediately submitted to the committee of the Court having superintendence of the department in which it is. If altered, the officer communicates with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, who either allow wholly or partially, or reject entirely, the alterations. The draft is finally arranged by the Chairman and Deputy, and is then in like manner submitted to the committee. Drafts generally lie on the table of the committee for a week, during which time both the draft, and any papers bearing upon the case, are perused by the members of the committee. The committee then discuss the draft, and adopt or alter it as they think fit, after which it is submitted to the Court, who usually take a week for consideration, and then the draft comes on for discussion. Every director has an opportunity of expressing his sentiments, and if he differs from the majority, of recording a dissent. When the draft is approved by the Court, the secretary sends it officially, with all the papers, including the dissents, if any, to the Board of Commissioners, and the Board return it quickly, and always within two months, the period limited by law, approved or altered; and if altered, with a statement of their reasons for making the alteration. The unaltered drafts are immediately transcribed, and fair copies, signed by at least 13 members of the Court, are despatched to India. The altered drafts are referred to the proper committee, upon whose report the Court decide, either that the alterations shall be acquiesced in, in which case the draft is signed and despatched to India, or that a remonstrance shall be addressed to the Board against the alterations, in which case the draft is sent back until the final decision of the Board is communicated, and then the despatch is forwarded. Such is the ordinary course of proceeding, but it frequently happens that important questions are raised by the Government of India requiring prompt attention, and those are, both by the Court and the Board, taken out of the usual course and quickly disposed of; so that replies to references from India are often, now that the communication is so accelerated, received there within six months from the date of the reference, and in some cases earlier than that.51

This account of the operation of the procedure, though lengthy and complex, effectively identifies the key stages at which the drafts, initially prepared in the Examiner’s Office and other departments, were then subject to approval or alteration by (1) the Chairmen, (2) the President of the Board in “Previous Communication,” (3) the Chairmen again, (4) the appropriate committee of the Court of Directors, (5) the Court of Directors, and (6) the Board of Control. In the face of such a complicated system, involving reference to so many different individuals and interests, it may be reasonably conjectured that the chances of the author’s original document emerging unaltered were not high, particularly in the case of drafts dealing with controversial subjects.

The archival evidence for the passage of Mill’s drafts through the above stages is remarkably detailed and extensive but by no means comprehensive. In particular, there is hardly any surviving documentation for the preliminary stages in the drafting process—no record, for instance, of any instructions received by Mill from the Company Chairmen or of the rough sketches for the Previous Communications which drafting officers such as Mill would appear to have produced prior to the preparation of the formal PC (Previous Communication) documents (i.e., stage 1 of the process outlined above). However, for the remaining stages in the process, the regular archive series in the India Office Records (the Company’s E/4 Despatches and the Board’s L/P&S/6 Previous Communications and Drafts), provide a very ample picture of any alterations or revisions that were made to Mill’s Political and Foreign drafts, from the Board’s unofficial scrutiny at the PC stage to the final official approval of the despatch by Court and Board (i.e., stages 2 to 6 inclusive). Unfortunately, in the case of the drafts which he prepared in other departments, there is for the most part no record of the scrutiny and alterations at the PC stage, and it is only the later stages, involving the submission of the official drafts to the Committee, Court, and Board (i.e., stages 3 to 6), that are fully documented.52

It would clearly be necessary to investigate, sift, and assess the surviving archival evidence in detail before hazarding any comprehensive conclusions as to the extent to which Mill’s own drafts were subject to alteration by others—the Chairs, the committees, and especially the Board of Control.53 Several spot-checks suggest that the majority of his Political PCs were in fact subject to some, if slight, alteration by the Board. Any more thorough investigations of the Board’s reviews, in particular, would also need to distinguish carefully between minor verbal alterations and more drastic changes involving the substitution or insertion of whole new paragraphs designed to convey a different view of the matter from that contained in Mill’s original draft. When asked by the Select Committee in 1852 whether it was untrue to say that the real direction of the Government of India resided in the Court of Directors (as distinct from the Board), Mill replied: “It is practically by no means a fiction, since it does not happen once in a hundred times that a despatch, prepared by the Court of Directors, undergoes alteration in principle and substance by the Board of Control” (54). It is perhaps more likely than not that this general estimate would prove to be generally correct in relation to the Board’s treatment of his own drafts. After all, he himself evidently thought of his despatches as being sufficiently “his” to prepare a special list of them, as well as including those which were printed for Parliament in the record he kept of his own publications.54 At the same time it is important to keep in mind that Mill also qualified his positive reply to the Select Committee about the successful passage of the Court’s despatches, by admitting that the Chairs “seldom send up a proposed despatch which they know is contrary to the President’s opinion,” thus acknowledging those rather shadowy occasions when drafts prepared in the Examiner’s Office may have been directly or indirectly moulded by the Chairs so as to pass safely through the Board (54).55 No doubt (as Mill told the Select Committee) the readiness of the Chairs to accept the drafts put up for them also depended on their own degree of interest in the Indian correspondence. For instance, writing to his wife on 6 March, 1854, Mill referred to the difficulties he had experienced in getting his drafts accepted by Sir James Weir Hogg, “explaining, defending, and altering so as to spoil it as little as I could,” and contrasted Hogg’s interrogations with the easier responses of his successors, Russell Ellice and John Oliphant.56 On the whole, in the face of the uncertainties, it is perhaps best to reserve judgment on the difficult issue of the survival and integrity of Mill’s original drafts, at least until more detailed studies of particularly significant and representative drafts have been carried out.

Mill’s long middle years as Assistant to the Examiner thus present many facets and episodes of considerable biographical interest, ranging from his more personal reactions concerning his position to the peculiar demands of his drafting responsibilities. Indeed, the evidence for his official activities during this period leaves the impression of Mill’s steadily impressive buildup of knowledge about Indian government and of his growing intellectual authority within the Company. Appropriately enough, this impression of his development finds concrete expression towards the end of this period when in 1852 he was required to appear as a representative of the Examiner’s Office before the House of Lords Select Committee on Indian Territories—as a senior Company spokesman in effect (see 31-74 below). On the basis of his wide knowledge and long experience of the Company’s Indian affairs and his own unique philosophical training, he was then able to present his critical interlocutors with a clear, balanced, and subtly impressive picture of the overall advantages of Company rule. The directors were evidently well pleased with the effectiveness of his performance in their defence, even though the Company failed to deflect the legislature from effecting fresh inroads into its independence through the Charter Act of 1853.57 In August 1854, as noted above, the directors expressed their appreciation in the time-honoured Company fashion by adding another £200 to his salary in recognition of “the high sense which the Court entertained of the admirable manner in which he conducts his duties.”58

MILL AS EXAMINER (1856-58) AND THE END OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY

there was nothing unexpected or radical about the Company’s appointment of John Stuart Mill as Examiner of Indian Correspondence on 28 March, 1856.59 Indeed, given that Thomas Love Peacock, the Examiner, and David Hill, the Assistant Examiner, had both tendered their resignations after lengthy and distinguished service, Mill as First Assistant was next in line to succeed to the headship of the office. At the same time it seems almost more than fortuitous that, with Parliament about to embark on its final legislative attack on the Company’s position—and with Peacock past seventy and Hill in his seventieth year—both men should have chosen this moment to resign, leaving the way clear for Mill, who had already proved his capacities to defend the Company’s interests vigorously during the Parliamentary investigations that preceded the enactment of the Charter Act of 1853. The appointment of Mill thus secured for the directors their preferred candidate for the Examinership at a particularly crucial time, while also being strictly in keeping with traditional bureaucratic norms for promotion.

For Mill himself the promotion brought both a substantial rise in salary—from £1400 to £2000—and a considerably wider range of responsibility. As Examiner, he now technically ranked after the Secretary as the second most important officer in the Company’s home establishment, and in real terms, considering his national reputation, he must have appeared to his colleagues as a striking and uniquely distinguished figure in their midst. For the next two or more years it is also clear that the pressure of his new official duties left him with fewer of those “intervals” and opportunities for personal reflection and composition of the sort he had been able to enjoy while working in the office during the 1830s and 1840s.

Mill’s overall responsibilities as Examiner may be roughly divided into three main aspects: (1) supervising the work of his Office, especially that of his immediate assistants, and continuing to draft certain despatches himself;60 (2) acting as Clerk to the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors;61 and (3) advising the Chairs on key aspects of the Company’s Indian Government, especially in their dealings with the Board of Control and with Parliament.

As regards the first aspect, the scale and nature of his supervisory duties can be broadly gauged from an organization chart (Table 3).

To appreciate Mill’s role in more detail, it also needs to be borne in mind that as Examiner his particular responsibilities varied according to the status and autonomy of the principal staff groupings within the Office. For example, the two Assistant Examiners, John Hawkins and Francis Prideaux, stood immediately after Mill himself in the hierarchy, and might be occasionally called on to deputize for him.62 They were normally expected to take full responsibility for their own draft despatches, discussing them with the Chairs, and piloting them through the Previous Communication negotiations with the Board (as Mill himself had done in the earlier stages of his own career). This pattern is confirmed by the fact that Mill’s own list of despatches during this period (1856-58) does not include any drafts in the Revenue, Judicial, and Legislative Departments—drafts for which Hawkins and Prideaux were primarily responsible.

lf0223-30_figure_003.jpg

TABLE 3

The position of the three Assistants to the Examiner, Edmund Bourdillon, John Kaye, and William Thornton, seems in theory at any rate to have been similar to that of Hawkins and Prideaux, in that they too were expected to manage most of their departmental drafts, leaving Mill to exercise only general supervision, and to advise or take on the more difficult or important policy issues raised by the correspondence. In practice, however, it appears that only Bourdillon, the most experienced of his Assistants, was able to operate with this degree of autonomy in his control of Public Department drafts.63 In the case of Kaye, who had only joined the Office in 1856, Mill probably considered that it was necessary to lend more support while the newcomer found his feet among the complex issues of the Political Department. Certainly Mill’s list of despatches shows that he personally continued to prepare over fifty Political drafts per year from 1856 to 1858, leaving Kaye to deal with the remainder.64 Perhaps also Mill may have been a trifle reluctant to relinquish the reins in the Political Department which he had after all held for so long.

By contrast, William Thornton, who took over the Public Works Department in March 1856, presented Mill with another kind of problem. Thornton had been recommended for the new Assistant’s post by Mill himself, on the basis of his personal knowledge of Thornton’s intellectual attainments and commitment to the spread of public works. Unfortunately, some months after his appointment, Thornton succumbed to a form of nervous depression that, he said; “for nearly a year absolutely incapacitated me from mental labour.” Faced with this critical situation, which might normally have led to Thornton’s retirement, Mill came to his friend’s rescue, “quietly taking upon himself and for the space of twelve months discharging the whole of my official duties, in addition to his own.” In practical terms this involved Mill in preparing some forty-eight Public Works drafts between May 1857 and April 1858, after which Thornton recovered his health and was gradually able to resume his regular duties.65

Detailed documentary evidence is somewhat lacking for Mill’s official relationships with the other members of his department, viz. the two clerks in the Correspondence Branch and the sixteen or so established clerks who performed the more routine office duties. There is, however, some slight evidence to suggest that he may have exercised supervision over the early drafts of John Melville, one of the Correspondence clerks, but in general it is likely that Melville and Peacock’s work on the Revenue, Judicial, and Public drafts was more closely linked with that of Prideaux, Hawkins, and Bourdillon.66 For the remaining established clerks, Mill’s position was essentially that of a bureaucratic head of the department responsible for the effectiveness of his overall establishment and for taking up as necessary the periodic pecuniary and other personal claims and cases of individual clerks with the Company’s directors.

The role of Clerk to the Secret Committee, which Mill also assumed as part of his general duties as Examiner, was by this time somewhat less significant and onerous than might at first be supposed. The members of the Secret Committee, it will be recalled (see x above), consisted of the two Chairs and one of the senior directors. Together they were primarily responsible for transmitting to India secret instructions prepared at the Board of Control on important matters of war, peace, and foreign relations. When Mill first joined the Company in 1823 the Secret Committee had been a considerably more powerful body, able to put forward its own secret drafts to the Board and to enter into confidential discussions with the President concerning the general affairs of the Secret Department. By 1856, however, much of the earlier authority of the Committee had been lost as a result of the Board’s growing insistence on controlling the higher-level aspects of the British Indian foreign policy. Very occasionally the Committee was still able to issue isolated despatches concerning the more routine or fringe aspects of Secret Department business, but by and large it had been reduced to something of a cypher. To John Kaye, for instance, who joined the office in 1856, it was soon apparent that “The President of the Board was in reality the Secret Committee.”67

As Clerk to the Committee, Mill’s position was accordingly rather more formal and administrative than substantial or executive in character. Apart from having final responsibility for the transmission and despatch of the Secret correspondence and its occasional declassification (i.e., laying it before the Court as a whole), the most significant part of his work was preparing or approving the replies to various Secret Department enquiries sent to the Company by the Board, often at the request of the Foreign Office. For the most part the subjects dealt with were not of major diplomatic or military importance. Typically, they covered issues arising from current diplomatic exchanges, e.g. the status of French possessions in India, postal communications in the Gulf, and the recent history of the Kuria Muria Islands, etc. In such cases Mill was usually expected to provide relevant factual data and to represent the Company’s views of its own interests in these issues.68

More important than his specific work for the Secret Committee was Mill’s general position as one of the principal policy advisers to the Chairmen and the Court of Directors between 1856 and 1858. Much of the normal administrative character of this role was obviously connected with the Examiner’s general responsibility for the conduct of correspondence—a responsibility which regularly involved him in dealings with the Chairs, the relevant committees of the Directors, and the Court as a whole. Over and above these normal contacts, however, it is clear that Mill was increasingly called upon to advise the Company on some of the key issues then affecting its relations with the government. Central among these problems was the very future of the Company itself, now that the Parliament had determined, through the Charter Act of 1853 (16 & 17 Victoria, c. 95), that the Company’s responsibility for India should be held in trust for the Crown (instead of being renewed for a further term of years as earlier Charter Acts had provided). Much as they may have wished to persuade themselves to the contrary, the directors, as well as Mill himself, must have realized that this enactment represented a very real threat to their future corporate existence—that indeed it amounted to a hanging sword whose descent would almost certainly be precipitated by any false move or perceived failure on their part. Unfortunately for the Company, the Mutiny or Great Indian Revolt of 1857, with its traumatic tales of death, disaster, and apparent political mismanagement, was inevitably viewed by government and opposition as just such a failure, requiring a radical legislative remedy.69

By the end of 1857 the directors knew that Lord Palmerston’s ministry was preparing a comprehensive measure to end the Company’s responsibility for the government of India, and they had evidently instructed Mill and other advisers to begin to prepare a defence. However, they still had no exact knowledge of the government’s proposed new constitutional arrangements. On 31 December the Chairs accordingly sent a brief general defence of their position to Palmerston and asked him for details of the proposed India Bill.70 Palmerston replied on 18 January that while his government would certainly accord due attention to their observations, he could not provide any more information concerning the new legislation prior to its formal presentation to Parliament.71 Though still left in the dark but fully aware that time was running out, the Chairs swung the Company into action, and, in this bold counter-attack, Mill played a vital role. By 20 January, 1858, his draft defence of Company rule had been approved by both the directors and proprietors. Embodied in the form of a Petition from the Company to Parliament, it was then formally presented to the Commons on 9 February and to the Lords on the 11th (75-89).72 The Petition was closely followed by a more extensive historical defence of the Company’s record, also largely prepared by Mill, and entitled Memorandum on the Improvements in the Administration of India during the Last Thirty Years (91-160). A few days later, on 13 February, Palmerston introduced his bill for transferring the government of India from Company to Crown. Under his scheme, the home administration was in future to be entrusted to a President assisted by a Council of eight members, each holding office for eight years, and nominated by the Crown either on the basis of previous experience as directors of the Company or by virtue of service/residence in India. It was not a particularly radical scheme, but of course it meant the end of the Company.

The Company’s Petition to Parliament as drafted by Mill had the initial disadvantage of having been prepared before the full details of Palmerston’s measure were known. Nonetheless it was to prove a remarkably potent and flexible defence. In a finely structured and eloquent sequence of propositions, the Petition gradually succeeded in casting serious doubts on the government’s case for withdrawing the Company’s Indian responsibilities. The Company, it argued, had on the whole been notably successful in building up a great empire, progressively administered at little cost to the Exchequer. The government had offered no advance justification for its proposed intervention—soon after the 1853 Parliamentary investigation—beyond implying that the Company was to blame for the “calamitous events which have recently occurred in India” (78). Such a charge was quite untenable given that the government itself, through the Board of Control, had long carried ultimate responsibility for the Company’s Indian policies. If mistakes had been made, the government should accept a major share of the blame. Meanwhile the timing of the proposed measure could hardly have been worse—precipitated by reactive emotion, it was also likely to be interpreted by the Indian people as heralding a wholesale British attack on their traditional beliefs and customs. On the other hand, the Petition reasonably continued, the Company was certainly not opposed to introducing changes in the present form of government, provided these could be shown to be improvements on the existing system. Thus, if the government was still determined to transfer the home administration of India to a minister of the Crown, it would surely be recognized by all that a minister would require a special body of advisers to discharge his immense duties responsibly. To be at all effective, such a council would need to be composed of an adequate number of persons experienced in Indian government and with a majority holding their appointments independent of the minister; they would also need to play a full and independent part in the formation of British Indian policies—to prepare despatches, for instance, even if what they proposed was ultimately subject to the minister’s approval. Finally, the Petition drily pointed out, if a council of this type was deemed essential for the home administration of India, the government did not need to look further than the existing Court of Directors. In fact—and here the Petition grasped the full irony of its logic—if all the basic conditions for the general good government of India were present in the existing pattern of administration represented by the Court and the Board, why bother to change the system?

The Petition, as drafted by Mill, combined with the detailed Memorandum on the Company’s Indian administration, were soon recognized in Parliament as something of a tour de force. More particularly, while basically denying the need for radical legislation, the Petition had pointed the way towards a possible compromise with the government in which some of the essential features of the old Company regime might be perpetuated, especially through the creation of an active and independent council for the proposed minister. However, in the short time available neither Mill nor the Company’s defenders inside Parliament could prevent the Commons from approving, in the course of February 1858, the basic principles of intervention contained in Palmerston’s India Bill. In fact, the Company escaped further action on the basis of this bill only because Palmerston himself was turned out of office on another issue shortly afterwards.

Palmerston’s departure provided only a brief respite for the Company, as the new ministry, led by Lord Derby, with Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Ellenborough as President of the Board of Control, was equally determined for various reasons to bring an end to the Company’s rule. However, while Derby’s new India Bill resembled Palmerston’s in its basic objectives, including the need for a council to advise the new Secretary of State, it failed to provide a generally acceptable constitution for the proposed council. According to the new scheme, the council was to consist of eighteen members, nine of whom were to be Crown nominees, while the remainder were to be elected, partly by persons who had served in India or held Company stock, and partly by the Parliamentary electors of the leading commercial cities, e.g., London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc. It soon became apparent that such an elaborate system would not gain Parliamentary approval. By April 1858 the government therefore agreed to drop the main provisions of the bill and to proceed more flexibly on the basis of a series of resolutions which could be more easily discussed and amended, and eventually formed into a new measure.73

By April 1858 the debates on the future constitution of the home government of India had reached a crucial stage. That two measures designed to bring about the change to Crown rule had had to be abandoned was not much comfort to the Company, since it was clear that the government still intended to push ahead with its basic plans. At the same time, the Parliamentary debates as a whole had begun to display a more sympathetic attitude to the Company than had previously been the case, and a greater willingness to consider some of the fundamental arguments in favour of a more independent body of councillors for the new Secretary of State, which Mill’s Petition had originally articulated back in February. At this critical juncture the Court of Directors felt the necessity of acquainting the Company’s proprietors with their views of the legislative threat that hung over them, and of planning their future defensive strategy. To accomplish this important stock-taking with realism and rationality they again turned to Mill. The resultant Report to the General Court of Proprietors, Drawing Attention to the Two Bills Now before Parliament Relating to the Government of India, largely drafted by Mill, was approved by the Court on 6 April (161-71). While noting the more favourable view of the Company’s government now taken in the Parliamentary debates, the new Report actively criticized the provisions of both bills and concluded that neither had succeeded in putting forward a form of administration better than the existing Company/Board system. Only that system, with its built-in official checks and balances, was properly suited to the general good government of India. However, the Report acknowledged that there was now little prospect of deflecting the government from its intention to bring an end to Company rule. Instead, building realistically on the earlier arguments contained in the Petition, the Report urged that “every exertion should be used in its passage through committee to divest it of the mischievous features by which both Bills are now deformed, and to maintain, as at present, a really independent Council, having the initiative of all business, discharging all the duties, and possessing all the essential powers of the Court of Directors” (171).

Mill’s ingenious strategy for maintaining a balanced and informed home government for India through a kind of covert survival of the Court of Directors in the form of the newly envisaged Council for India was effectively pursued by the Company’s supporters inside and outside Parliament between April and June 1858. And beyond all earlier expectations they succeeded in putting forward or modifying many of the key proposals that dominated the constitutional debate during the final crucial phases of the legislative process. Mill himself was especially active during the period in writing pamphlets stressing the dangers inherent in the government’s policy and the importance of implanting an active and independent council in the proposed new institutional framework (A Constitutional View of the India Question, 173-8; Observations on the Proposed Council of India, 179-83; Practical Observations on the First Two of the Proposed Resolutions on the Government of India, 185-92; The Moral of the India Debate, 193-8; and A President in Council the Best Government for India, 199-204).

In seeking an audience for their case, Mill and his allies were no doubt considerably helped by the government’s growing readiness “to deal tenderly with the Company.”74 In the series of government resolutions put forward and debated during May and June 1858, which eventually formed the basis of the new India Bill introduced by Lord Stanley on 24 June, there was on the whole more awareness of the importance of giving a measure of independence to the new council, more willingness to recognize the need for some continuity with the Court of Directors, and more appreciation of the need to protect Indian governments and revenues from the negative aspects of British party politics and overt exploitation. These various trends were strikingly illustrated in the final important exchanges that took place between the Chairs and Lord Stanley towards the end of June 1858. These exchanges opened with a letter of 23 June from the Chairs to Stanley, again drafted by Mill (205-12). In this letter the Chairs welcomed those elements in the new bill that gave more independence to the council, but went on to make a last-ditch effort to convince the government of the need to strengthen the council’s powers in general policy-making, especially by giving it a right of veto over the Secretary of State’s proposals to dispose of the Indian revenues. Somewhat surprisingly, the government then agreed to incorporate new clauses in the bill to give expression to at least those parts of the Chairs’ recommendations which related to the security of the Indian revenues.

The “Act for the Better Government of India,” which finally emerged from these debates and discussions, was successfully piloted through Parliament by Stanley and given royal assent on 2 August, 1858.75 Although the Act brought no retreat on the central issue of the transfer of the Company’s government of India to the Crown, many of its provisions represented a real compromise between the government and the Company. A Secretary of State for India was to take over all the powers of the Company and the Board of Control, but most of his powers were to be exercised in conjunction with a specially constituted Council of India consisting of fifteen members, the majority of whom had to have a substantial Indian qualification. Eight of the members were to be nominated by the Crown and seven elected by the retiring Court of Directors, with subsequent vacancies in each group to be filled by the Crown and the Council respectively. All members were also to hold office for life or during good behaviour. The Secretary of State was directed to submit all proposed orders and despatches to the Council before issue except those of a secret or urgent character. In general, the Secretary of State was empowered to overrule his Council if the need arose, except in cases involving expenditure from Indian revenues or affecting patronage and appointments in India, for which it was necessary to obtain the agreement of a majority of members present at a Council meeting.

The final India Act of 1858 must be reckoned in certain respects to be a rather equivocal measure. It was true that the Company was finally extinguished, but its directors were given at least some prospect of an after-life through the newly created Council of India. Was there really so much structural difference, some may have reflected, between a President of the Board of Control working in conjunction with a Court of Directors, and a Secretary of State assisted by a Council? For Mill, in particular, who had intellectually masterminded so much of the Company’s defence, there was at least the considerable satisfaction of seeing many of the essential checks and balances contained in the Company system—which he considered vital for the good government of India—appropriately incorporated into the new dispensation through the Secretary of State’s Council. And, in describing the end of the affair to his friend Henry Chapman on 8 July, 1858, he could not resist a note of personal triumph.

The East India Company has fought its last battle, and I have been in the thick of the fight. The Company is to be abolished, but we have succeeded in getting nearly all the principles which we contended for, adopted in constituting the new government, and our original assailants feel themselves much more beaten than we do. The change though not so bad as at first seemed probable, is still, in my opinion, much for the worse.76

There is then no doubt that between January and June 1858, when the Company’s future hung in the balance, Mill identified himself totally with its defence and with the furtherance of the ideals of government for which he believed it stood. But once the Company’s fate was sealed by Stanley’s India Act, he was understandably not inclined to join the new Office of the Secretary of State for India, the creation of which he had opposed, even though it also incorporated some of those positive features of Company administration which he had fought so hard to perpetuate.77 On 18 August, 1858, the Company directors recorded their last appreciation of “the valuable services” which he had rendered for so many years, “especially of the distinguished ability and unwearied zeal with which he had assisted the Court of Directors during the recent Parliamentary discussions”; and they accordingly awarded him a special gift of five hundred guineas.78 At the same time he made clear his intention to resign and was granted an annual pension of £1500.79 Finally, on 2 September, 1858, when the Company’s responsibility for India was withdrawn and its home establishment formally wound up, Mill took his leave from East India House. He refused offers of a seat on the new Council of India, almost refused to accept the silver inkstand which his Company colleagues had presented to him, and never again sought or occupied an official position in the home government of British India.80

MILL’S INDIAN WRITINGS

mill’s writings about India and the East India Company that provide the subject matter of this volume81 comprise (1) a huge corpus of official or quasi-official material, only a small proportion of which was ever published, and (2) a very small group of non-official published articles which may be judged to reflect his more personal interests.

The bulk of the official corpus is made up of the archival copies of Mill’s draft despatches to India—over 1700 documents surviving in various forms in the India Office Records, only a small minority of which were printed for the use of Parliament—together with some related official correspondence and minuting.82 The remaining part of Mill’s official writings consists of eleven items, all of which are included in the present volume. These may be roughly classified as follows:

(a) one manuscript memorandum, the so-called Minute on the Black Act (1838), which forms part of the Broughton Papers held by the British Library (11-15);

(b) five items officially printed by the East India Company and/or Parliament during the 1852-53 and 1858 Parliamentary enquiries into the future of the Company: “The East India Company’s Charter” (1852), 31-74; The Petition of the East India Company (1858), 75-89; Memorandum of the Improvements in the Administration of India during the Last Thirty Years (1858), 91-160; Report to the General Court of Proprietors (1858), 161-71; Letter from the East India Company to the President of the Board of Control (1858), 205-12;

(c) five items published as anonymous pamphlets designed to influence public opinion during the crucial Parliamentary debates of 1858: A Constitutional View of the India Question, 173-8; Observations on the Proposed Council of India, 179-83; Practical Observations on the First Two of the Proposed Resolutions on the Government of India, 185-92; The Moral of the India Debate, 193-8; and A President in Council the Best Government for India, 199-204.

The very small group of non-official Indian writings, also reproduced in this volume, consists of three articles, each dealing with a subject in which Mill seems to have had some personal interest. However, only one of these articles, the review of Maine’s work on village communities (213-28), can be reckoned as a fairly solid contribution to the contemporary controversies concerning the historical development of private property rights and common ownership in Europe and Asia. The remaining two items are of minor Indian interest, the first being a youthful and rather technical comment on the application of free trade principles to British imperial commerce, “Trade with India” (1827), 1-9, while the second article, “Penal Code for India” (1838), 17-30, was intended to draw public attention to the significance of what had been recently achieved in the codification of Indian penal law.

The striking contrast between Mill’s enormous official corpus of Indian writings and his tiny output of voluntary non-official writings about India raises again the teasing conundrum of what exactly India meant for him personally (see also vii-viii above). Thus, on one reading of this evidence, it is certainly true that he took his East India Company responsibilities very seriously, writing copiously in the course of their discharge, and receiving regular commendations from the Company’s directors. The fact that during his thirty-five years of Company employment he chose to write very little in a personal capacity about Indian affairs may be partly accounted for by the constraints and demands of his official position. Yet, as his Autobiography and private letters indicate, it is also evident that for much of this time he thought of his Indian duties as essentially belonging to his official employment rather than to the sphere of his more personal interests. He was not, after all, a professional orientalist, and so, once freed from his official position in 1858, it is understandable that he should have decided to write very little about India and henceforward to devote himself almost entirely to his more consuming interests in philosophy, sociology, and political reform. In the face of these somewhat conflicting lines of interpretation, we may perhaps turn to Mill himself, not so much for a clear-cut answer on one side or the other but, more characteristically, for a clue to their possible reconciliation. In describing in his Autobiography the circumstances that led to his decision to retire in 1858, he mentions among other factors the conclusion that he had “given enough” of his life “to India.”83 In other words, he appears to have felt that having committed himself wholeheartedly to his Company duties for so long, and especially during the last few years, he now felt justified in bringing that period of his life to a close.

To recognize that Mill’s Indian writings resulted primarily from his strong commitment to his official duties rather than reflecting his personal concerns does not either lessen the importance of these writings or suggest that they were written in a special compartment of his mind closed off from his wider speculative thought. On the contrary, what we know of Mill, especially of his intellectual integrity, would presuppose certain connections between what he wrote officially about Indian government and society and his more general philosophical standpoint.84 In his essay on Coleridge (1840) Mill explicitly rejected the idea that in the sphere of political and social action it is possible to proceed effectively without specific theoretical presuppositions and first principles: in such activities mere pragmatism or trial and error processes do not provide a sufficient modus operandi.

They [Coleridge and Bentham] agreed in recognising that sound theory is the only foundation for sound practice, and that whoever despises theory, let him give himself what airs of wisdom he may, is self-convicted of being a quack. If a book were to be compiled containing all the best things ever said on the rule-of-thumb school of political craftsmanship, and on the insufficiency for practical purposes of what the mere practical man calls experience, it is difficult to say whether the collection would be more indebted to the writings of Bentham or of Coleridge.85

At the same time, in view of the range and complexity of Mill’s speculative thought, it would be unrealistic to expect all the links between his official and personal writings to be easy or straightforward. Mill’s characteristic intellectual posture was that of attempted synthesis—a constant effort to reconcile the conflicting parts of his intellectual heritage. His East India Company role must have placed further strains on his reconciling powers, and one would expect signs of the associated tussles to be apparent in at least some of his official Indian writings.

Mill’s principal ideas about Indian government should be approached in the light of the preceding general consideration. And in the following brief resumé of these ideas some attempt is made, where relevant, to show the ways in which his Indian writings need to be set within the wider pattern of his thought.

To be more fully intelligible, Mill’s mature views on the best form of government for India—a central topic in the majority of his published Indian writings—have to be understood as a part of his general conception of the nature and purpose of government and its role in historical development as described in his non-Indian writings.86 In general, Mill held that a system of representative government, based on universal suffrage and the greatest possible freedom of thought and expression, was the best form of government, as most conducive to the furtherance of human happiness and the development of virtues and intelligence in individuals and society as a whole. There was no doubt in his mind that such a system was very well suited to the needs of the more progressive nations of Western Europe. However, influenced by a combination of his father’s pessimistic views of Indian culture, together with Comtian and Saint-Simonian notions about the main stages in the progress of human thought, Mill concluded that representative government could not as yet be introduced into the less advanced and traditional societies of Asia, including India.87 The people of these societies were, he contended, too passive, and too crushed by centuries of despotism, to take an active stand in defence of their individual legal and political rights. On a broader plane, he conceded that Asian countries such as India and China had in earlier ages achieved high levels of civilization, but he considered they were now too dominated by custom as the “final appeal,” and insufficiently alive to the stimulating power of individualism and the claims of contrary opinions, sincerely and rationally held. As a result, in comparison with the advanced states of Europe, eastern societies such as India had become stationary, unable to progress on their own volition.88

What then was to be done about the government of such peoples? And how was India in particular to be awakened from its state of “semi-barbarism” and brought up to a higher level of intellectual and social progress? Mill did not believe that there were any simple answers to such questions. There was no “sweeping rule” which could be applied; India was viewed by him as “a peculiar country,” its peoples “most difficult to be understood, and still more difficult to be improved” (155).89 In general, however, he inclined to think that the best government for India and similar societies was some form of benevolent despotism. In theory such a government might be initiated by an unusually gifted indigenous ruler, such as Akbar, but such figures, Mill thought, were very rare. A more effective way forward would be through the benevolently inspired rule of a “superior people” belonging to “a more advanced state of society.” This would have the very positive advantage of conveying the subject people “rapidly through several stages of progress.”90 On the other hand, Mill had reservations about the capacity of a foreign government to act in the interests of its subjects, especially where—as was the case between Britain and India—the rulers had very little understanding of the ruled and little sympathy for them. In these circumstances, he concluded the best solution was for the rulers to “govern through a delegated body, of a comparatively permanent character,” well informed, and able to give priority to the best interests of the subject people.91 In the context of this kind of reasoning it is hardly surprising that Mill came to regard the English East India Company as almost providentially designed to bring good government to India.92

At this point, Mill’s more theoretical reasonings about the government of dependencies like India, as mainly set out in Representative Government, begin to merge with the more specific polemical arguments in defence of the Company contained in his various official writings about Indian government between 1852 and 1858. In these latter (cf. xxxiv-xxxix above), Mill is primarily concerned to define and defend the special advantages of Company government in India against those who sought to replace it by direct Crown rule. To some extent, the range and nature of the arguments he uses in these writings vary with the changing political circumstances (i.e., as between the situation facing the Company in 1852 and that which confronted it six years later). But in general he finds two or three main grounds for advocating the maintenance of Company rule. In the first place, he contends that the Company’s delegated responsibility for India had enabled it to develop a whole tradition of disinterested and informed Indian administration in which officials were able to serve free from the negative influences of British party politics and other sectional interests.93 Secondly, he argues that under the dual government of the Company and the Board of Control, the Company had become institutionally committed to the needs of Indian government, its success being measured by the extent to which it was able to convince the Board of the soundness of the policies and the views contained in its draft despatches to India. The same system thus ensured that every significant proposal or enactment affecting Indian government was subject to the closest possible scrutiny by the two branches of the home government, as well as in India itself. Short of the benefits of a more open system of representative government—ruled out by Mill’s theoretical reasoning—there could hardly be a better guarantee of good government for India (42, 45, 59, 52-5; 87-8). Conversely, Mill believed that if the dual government were replaced by the single authority of a Secretary of State, all these advantages would be lost and Indian interests made subject to erratic, uninformed, and Anglo-centric policies.

Mill continued to deploy basic arguments of this type until it became clear in the course of the Parliamentary debates of 1858 that there was little hope of saving the Company. The emphasis in his writings then shifted from a direct defence of the Company to trying to make sure the new India Office would at least retain some of the vital checks and balances and informed commitment that characterized the Company system, through the medium of the proposed Council for the Secretary of State (163-9; 181-3; 201-4; 207-12; see also xxxvi-xxxvii above). These last efforts are of special interest for students of Mill’s style and psychology because they illustrate the peculiar way in which he succeeded in waging a skilful “political” campaign on the Company’s behalf without losing his character as a high-minded political thinker.

Although Mill always firmly denied that India was then fitted for any real form of representative government, at least some of his writings show that he also believed that Indians would eventually progress to the stage where they could take over responsibility for their own government. Indeed, in a general sense, he was committed, by his belief that the moral legitimacy of British rule in India ultimately depended on its progressive and benevolent character, to supporting policies designed to bring eventual self-government to the country.94 In his evidence to the Select Committee in 1852, it is clear that Mill expected this progress to be directly reflected in a gradual increase in the number of Indians appointed to the more senior positions in the Indian administration. They were, he noted, already taking over as junior judges and deputy collectors in Bengal and the North-Western Provinces, adding that “there is a great and growing desire to admit them to all offices for which they are considered sufficiently qualified in point of trustworthiness” (64). This process would, he envisaged, gradually continue until “the time arises when the natives shall be qualified to carry on the same system of Government without our assistance” (65).

Mill’s evidence here presents a rather sedate and academic picture of the likely road to Indian self-government, in which “trustworthy” Indian bureaucrats gradually prove themselves able to take over the system which their British superiors had in their wisdom installed. There is no sense of the likely effects of wider Indian political pressures and mass movements, no time-span is even roughly implied, and there is apparently no awareness of the ambiguity of “trustworthiness” as a criterion for Indian advancement. And yet for all its narrowness and vagueness—and we must remember that Mill was on this occasion severely restricted by the need to respond cautiously and closely to the specific enquiries of his interrogators—his general prediction of the way in which the British Indian bureaucracy would adapt itself to a gradual process of “Indianization” and a measure of “responsible government” was not all that far from what eventually happened.95

So far only Mill’s principal ideas about the historical and philosophical raison d’être of British or, rather, Company rule in India, and its likely dénouement, have been briefly considered. What may be called the middle ground of his overall conceptions, i.e., the sort of broad policies, social, political, and economic, which he believed should be pursued during the high-tide of British ascendancy, has hardly been entered. It is this middle region that still poses the greatest difficulties for students of Mill’s Indian ideas, since his more accessible published writings for the most part provide only general indications of his views, while the vast corpus of his official draft despatches—in some respects the most promising source of fresh insights—still lies largely unexplored.96 What follows is thus necessarily scarcely more than a series of introductory comments on the broad character of his ideas on social and political policies in India.

In approaching these issues of policy, it is important to begin by referring back to Mill’s broad theoretical guidelines concerning the objectives and methods to be followed by a Western-style government in a colonial and (in his view) “semi-barbarous” society. These guidelines are again set out more clearly in his general writings on government than in those that specifically deal with India. The following passage from his Representative Government offers perhaps the most illuminating starting point:

To determine the form of government most suited to any particular people, we must be able, among the defects and shortcomings which belong to that people, to distinguish those that are the immediate impediment to progress; to discover what it is which (as it were) stops the way. The best government for them is the one which tends most to give them that for want of which they cannot advance, or advance only in a lame and lopsided manner. We must not, however, forget the reservation necessary in all things which have for their object improvement, or Progress; namely, that in seeking the good which is needed, no damage, or as little as possible, be done to that already possessed.97

In other words, Mill is here articulating in the context of his examination of good government a characteristically personal synthesis of the conflicting political philosophies of Utilitarianism, organic conservatism, and, it appears, his own form of “administrative realism,” learnt perhaps partly at his desk in East India House. One would therefore expect to see something of the same rather complex balance of differing political criteria in his approaches to more specific aspects of British Indian policy and administration.

Mill’s approach to the particular issue of how far indigenous Indian religions and customs should be interfered with by the British Raj is in some ways the easiest of his “policy views” to identify from his published writings. Here, following the mainstream of Company policy, he strongly opposed “all interference with any of the religious practices of the people of India, except such as are abhorrent to humanity” (81)—by which he appears to have meant practices such as Sati and Thagi. He was especially hostile to any official attempts to “force English ideas down the throats of the natives; for instance, by measures of proselytism, or acts intentionally or unintentionally offensive to the religious feelings of the people.”98 The precise ground for his opinions on these matters is, however, somewhat more difficult to locate. Principally, it would seem that his stand was related to his strong belief in the virtues of toleration and freedom of conscience, to his equally strong aversion to any official support for the prejudices and privileges of British settlers in India, and to his overall idealistic conceptions of the Company’s government as the ultimate guardian and protector of the Indian people, able to respect their deeper feelings. It is clear too that, with the lessons of the 1857 Revolt very much in mind, he believed that any official backing for a policy of proselytism was likely to trigger widespread disaffection and even “a general rising throughout India” (81), thus endangering the successful outcome of the government’s overriding obligation to bring peace and progress to the Sub-continent. On the other hand—as part of the same civilizing duty—Mill, like most contemporary English liberals, was strongly in favour of all government measures aimed at eradicating what he regarded as cruel and barbarous practices like infanticide and slavery, as well as discouraging certain retrograde indigenous prejudices, such as that against the remarriage of Hindu widows (122-5).

The development and reform of judicial systems in British India constituted another area of contemporary controversy on which Mill had very decided opinions which to some extent parallel his attitudes towards Indian religions and customs. With the lessons of his early Benthamite education still dominant, he was particularly interested in the progress of legal reform in India, and vigorously supported the efforts and achievements of the Indian Law Commission from the 1830s onwards in preparing a penal code for India and the later codes of civil and criminal procedure. “These codes,” he noted, “when enacted, will constitute the most thorough reform probably ever yet made in the judicial administration of a country” (114; see also 19-30, 69). And there is little doubt that he conceived of measures of this type as representing the kind of wholesale improvements that it was the Company’s special moral duty to deploy for the benefit of Indian society. At the same time, he was notably sensitive during the 1830s to the importance of ensuring that British settlers in India, especially traders, planters, and fortune seekers, should be made to abide by Indian laws, administered through the Company’s courts, in regulating their dealings with Indians outside the Presidency towns. “An Englishman has no right to go up the country and say to the natives, I will regulate my transactions with you by the laws of my own country, and if you think I have injured you, you shall not have the redress your own laws would give you, but shall be satisfied with that given by laws you know nothing about” (i.e., those administered by the Supreme Court at Calcutta) (13). In this whole area of equality before indigenous laws, Mill consistently took the side of Indians against the settlers who “are naturally inclined to despise the natives and to seek to make themselves a privileged caste” (15). But again, as in his defence of religion and custom, there was also what sounds like a prudential and non-moral element in his position. For instance, he argues that Indians needed to be protected against oppression by the English settlers because the future security of the British Empire in India depended on maintaining the British reputation for “superior moral worth and justice” in their dealings, and of “being more just and disinterested than the native rulers” (15). If pressed about the moral dubiety of this particular justification, it is uncertain how Mill would have responded. Perhaps he would have explained his reasoning in Utilitarian terms by invoking the importance of the ultimate good to be brought to India by disinterested and responsible British rule.

Mill’s views about educational policy in some ways constituted the most developed and original of his several efforts to postulate and explore the fundamental aims of British social policy in India. Not surprisingly, these ideas have already attracted considerable scholarly interest, even though they find their fullest expression not in his published writings but in a smallish group of his draft despatches to India.99 Mill was responsible for preparing some seventeen drafts on the subject of Indian educational policy between 1825 and 1836. Of these documents, the most detailed exposition of his mature ideas is contained in Public Department PC 1828 of 1836, the contents of which were, somewhat ironically, totally rejected by Sir John Hobhouse, the President of the Board of Control, in December 1836, so that Mill’s draft was never actually issued as a despatch.100

Mill’s document was primarily intended as a detailed rebuttal of the new educational policy adopted in March 1835 by the Government of India led by Lord Bentinck and Lord Macaulay. Convinced of the immense superiority of Western scientific knowledge and literature over traditional Indian learning, and faced with a growing need for more Indian government employees with a knowledge of English, Bentinck decided that official funds should in future be entirely “employed in imparting to the native population a knowledge of English literature and science through the medium of the English language.”101 Previous government funding for oriental learning (e.g., stipends for professors and students, and grants for translation work) was accordingly to be withdrawn. Mill’s critique of this policy took the form of a complex and interlocking argument. He begins in a characteristically prudential vein by warning against the “alarm and disaffection on the part of the people” likely to result from the new policy of withdrawing funds from oriental learning, with its implied rejection of Indian culture and religion.102 However, more importantly, he then proceeds to take issue with the whole underlying logic of the Bentinck-Macaulay thesis. Essentially, he does this by drawing a clear distinction between (a) the limited plan of funding colleges to teach English to potential government employees, and (b) the more fundamental policy of spreading Western ideas and knowledge through the country, given that “the object of our measures” is “the intellectual and moral improvement of the people of India.” Mill is ready to approve expenditure on the new English-language colleges, but argues that in pursuit of the larger project it would be quite “chimerical” to try to diffuse Western ideas to the people at large through the medium of a foreign language, and through the agency of men seeking only enough knowledge of English to enter government employ. Such an immense project, Mill maintains, could be accomplished only through the medium of the vernacular languages used by the mass of the population. Consequently, the government should try to enlist the active cooperation of the Indian learned classes—pandits, maulvis, and others able to interpret complex Western ideas by adapting “the requisite words and terms of expression” from Arabic and Sanskrit for use in the vernacular languages. Only such scholars could be reasonably expected to prepare the necessary textbooks for use in Indian schools, and themselves act as teachers. Instead of alienating the scholarly class by withdrawing funds from oriental learning, the government should do as much as possible to secure their support and assistance by restoring the funds for their professors and students and the grants for translations, as well as encouraging the more promising of such scholars to pursue their own studies of English language and literature to a high level.

Mill’s vision of a gradual modernization of Indian thought and society achieved through the active involvement of the Indian scholarly class may have struck his opponents as too idealistic, much as their contrary ideas appeared “chimerical” to him. But with the benefit of historical hindsight, it may be reasonably conjectured that at least some of the more negative processes of social alienation and polarization associated with less thoughtful promotions of Westernization might have been lessened had his ideas been accorded a more positive official reception and a more sustained programme of support.

Mill’s general ideas about socio-economic development in India seem in certain respects to be complementary to his views about the best way to achieve intellectual and educational progress in the Sub-continent. They are not, however, as fully developed or sustained as his educational policies and, indeed, they have to be extracted and even partly deduced from several of his brief general accounts of British Indian land-revenue policy, principally those contained in the Memorandum of the Improvements in the Administration of India and the Principles of Political Economy, plus other less formal writings, such as his review of Maine’s book on village communities.103 The lack of a more detailed treatment of these issues is perhaps understandable given that Mill himself had no special or direct responsibility in the Examiner’s Office for the preparation of despatches in the Revenue Department. Incidentally, the reasons why Mill’s ideas about economic and social development occur within his scattered writings about Indian revenue policy have to do with the central importance of the subject—especially of settlement policy—in the economy of nineteenth-century British India. Upon this policy much else depended, including the financial resources available to the government, the prosperity of the rural economy, and legal rights of landlords and peasant cultivators.

Essentially Mill believed that India’s economic and social progress substantially depended upon government support for the ryots (peasant cultivators) and the panchayats (village councils). He thus approved both the earlier ryotwari settlements in Madras and Bombay and the later settlements with the panchayats of the North-Western Provinces and Punjab. He likewise argued for the strengthening of the proprietary rights of the ryots in Bengal and Oudh over and against the zamindars and taluqdars, whom he viewed as non-productive landlord classes.

In adopting this general position, Mill was characteristically drawing upon the different strands of his inherited and acquired philosophies. His championing of the ryots very much recalls his father’s earlier Benthamite stand in their favour. On the other hand, as a liberal individualist, Mill also evidently conceived of the ryots as potential agents of agrarian progress to be freed from the oppressions of their landlords and encouraged to improve the value of their lands. At the same time there are also signs of Mill’s attachment to historicist values in his approach to these issues. He is, for instance, very pleased to discover historical and other evidence to support the contention that both ryots and panchayats had originally held a stronger position in Indian society. To that extent they could be seen by him as representing part of the good already possessed within Indian society which it was the government’s moral duty to foster and revivify. The panchayats in particular he regarded as part of the real framework of Indian society, fascinating for their apparent evocation of an earlier tradition of the common ownership of land—a favourite theme of Mill’s—and encouraging for their evidence of constructive cooperation among local Indian communities.

Mill’s ideas and writings about the protected Indian states are of a somewhat different character from what he thought and wrote about major social questions affecting British India. Not only was his official involvement in the affairs of Indian states—the most important part of Political Department business—more intensive and prolonged than his concern with social issues such as law, but the states’ affairs themselves were of a peculiarly complex legal and historical nature, not easily reducible to broad policy statements for one who understood their intricacies. In fact, to appreciate Mill’s views on the states more clearly, it is first necessary to understand something of their overall political position vis-à-vis the British Indian government during the first half of the nineteenth century.

In general, British relations with the Indian states during this period were largely based upon a system of subsidiary alliance-cum-suzerainty, in which the Government of India normally recognized and even guaranteed the internal sovereignty of the states, while assuming responsibility for their external affairs and power to depute political agents to reside within their borders.104 However, in practice this system covered a wide variety of political relations based on particular conventions and practices affecting particular states or groups of states. These ranged from the Company’s treaties with Oudh, which made British political and military support dependent on the Nawab’s achieving some improvement in the state’s internal government, to the complex arrangements with the numerous minor rulers of Kathiawar, which gave the Government of India a special residuary power to ensure effective judicial administration within their territories. Moreover, during the later part of Mill’s administrative involvement, the overall position of the Indian states was further complicated by the Government of India’s tendency to intervene more drastically in their internal affairs, using, for example, the doctrine of lapse (the refusal to allow rulers to adopt heirs when their natural lines had failed) to justify direct annexations. Faced with the need to comment regularly upon particular instances of this complex and evolving system of suzerainty, there was perhaps a natural tendency for someone in Mill’s position to limit his views to the particular circumstances of the case, rather than to elaborate grand theories or strategies. Nonetheless, there were also certain fundamental and recurrent issues of policy, such as the pros and cons of the general system of indirect rule and the circumstances under which intervention was deemed to be politically or socially justified, about which Mill was certainly expected to hold views of a general kind.

In so far as his official writings are concerned, there is an embarrassment of riches awaiting the attention of students of Mill’s ideas about the states in the form of hundreds of Political Department PCs and Drafts held by the India Office Records in London. So far only a few scholars have ventured to investigate in detail parts of this vast archive, most recently Robin Moore and Lynn Zastoupil.105 Their first findings are of considerable interest, revealing certain similarities in Mill’s working approach to the problems posed in different areas, as well as offering different interpretations of his more general attitudes towards the states. By contrast, there is comparatively little about the Indian states to be found among Mill’s published writings, partly perhaps because of a certain official reticence on his part and partly because, as suggested earlier, the piecemeal complexity of the subject did not lend itself to the formation of a satisfactory overall synthesis. Certain brief indications of his attitudes to the civilizing benefits of indirect rule may, however, be gleaned from portions of his 1858 Memorandum of the Improvements in the Administration of India. Somewhat similarly, the Indian states did not figure much in his private corresondence, though, as will be noticed below, a few of his personal letters throw some interesting light on the general principles that lay behind his approach.

With these important reservations, we may now tentatively enquire whether it is possible to discern any general shape for Mill’s views about the states. As already mentioned, the recent researches of Moore and Zastoupil have already yielded some important insights on the way Mill approached the thorny question of intervention in states where the Company judged the subsidiary-alliance system was failing to induce the necessary improvements in their internal administration. According to Moore’s analysis of Mill’s draft despatches concerning relations with Oudh, Mill was converted to an acceptance of the need for direct annexation only during the 1850s, despite the long history of failure in the Company’s attempts to bring about some kind of reform and improvement in the Nawab’s government. For almost thirty years before the final annexation in 1856 Mill consistently preferred to try every possible intermediate course, ranging from encouragement and cajolery to temporary assumptions of power, to try to secure improvements in the state. On the basis of this and other evidence, Moore concludes that Mill preferred on the whole to work for improvement “by the engraftment of British advice upon princely administration.”106

Zastoupil’s findings about Mill’s approach to the problem of lawlessness in the territories of the petty rulers of Kathiawar are not inconsistent with Moore’s findings about Mill’s Oudh policy, although Zastoupil’s general interpretation of Mill’s approach differs significantly from Moore’s. Zastoupil shows that between 1830 and 1856 Mill abandoned his earlier more punitive approach to the Kathiawar rulers in favour of a constructive and conciliatory policy that encouraged the local rulers to play an active role alongside British officials in settling their subjects’ internecine disputes peacefully through local tribunals. Whereas in Oudh the Company’s longstanding attempts to induce the Nawab to improve local administration—attempts supported by Mill—ultimately ended in failure and British annexation, the more limited operation of reducing lawlessness in Kathiawar through the agency of the rulers and the courts—also strongly backed by Mill—eventually met with some success.

This view of Mill as substantially committed to a policy of seeking gradual improvements in the internal conditions of the Indian states through advice and influence is also partly confirmed by his own account of what he saw as the more significant achievements of the Company in its relations with the states.

In the more considerable native states, our influence is exerted on the side of good, in every mode permitted by positive engagement. Not only have the British representatives incessantly, and to a great degree successfully, incited native princes to prohibit and suppress the barbarous usages which we have ceased to tolerate in our own territories; but defects have been pointed out, and improvements suggested, in their revenue and judicial administrations. Financial disorder and general misgovernment have been the subject of grave remonstrance, followed up by such positive marks of displeasure as were consistent with the respective treaties.

 

(152.)

 

Ever an optimistic educator, Mill then goes on to describe the benefits that had accrued from the Company’s policy of instructing young rulers during their minorities “in European knowledge,” and initiating them “into public business under the eye of a British officer” (152).

While there is thus some agreement that Mill generally inclined towards a policy of guiding states towards social and administrative improvements, there is also substantial disagreement about the reasons that led him to follow this policy, and uncertainty about the circumstances in which he was ready to abandon it for more radical schemes of intervention and annexation. For example, Moore finally tends to see Mill as a penetrating, non-doctrinaire political analyst, whose more general theories play little part in his practical approach to the problems of the states and of Indian government generally. In particular, Moore concludes that he lacked “any special regard for existing institutions or traditions, except that they formed the given, the datum line in any particular case.”107 Zastoupil, however, sees a significant growing readiness on Mill’s part to work with, and respect, existing Indian agencies and practices and even a willingness to empathize with Indian customs, in the interests of achieving overall social progress. He then interprets this approach in terms of the gradual breakaway from his father’s more narrow Benthamite principles which Mill achieved during the 1830s, partly under the influence of romantic conservative writers like Coleridge, but also through exposure to the ideas of British Indian administrators, such as Munro, Elphinstone, and Malcolm, who favoured the more sympathetic and positive use of indigenous Indian structures, social groups, and traditions.108

Mill himself has provided an interesting retrospective account of the basic grounds upon which he was prepared to abandon indirect rule in favour of direct intervention. In a private letter to John Morley on 26 September, 1866, in which he discusses the justification for the use made by Lord Dalhousie (Governor-General 1848-56) of the doctrine of lapse in annexing different states, he comments:

I approved of all Lord Dalhousie’s annexations, except that of Kerouli which never took effect, having been at once disallowed from home & indeed Lord D. himself gave it up before he knew of its having been negatived. My principle was this. Wherever there are really native states, with a nationality, & historical traditions & feelings, which is emphatically the case (for example) with the Rajpoot states, there I would on no account take advantage of any failure of heirs to put an end to them. But all the Mahomedan (Rampore excepted which descends from Fyzoola Khan the Rohilla chief) & most of the Mahratta kingdoms are not of home growth, but created by conquest not a century ago & the military chiefs & office holders who carry on the government & form the ruling class are almost as much foreigners to the mass of the people as we ourselves are. The Scindia & Holkar families in Central India are foreign dynasties, & of low caste too, Mahrattas who have usurped provinces from their native dynasties of Jats, Goojars, Boondelas &c. The home of the Mahrattas is in the South, & there is no really native Mahratta kingdom now standing except Kolapore. In these modern states created by conquest I would make the continuance of the dynasty by adoption not a right nor a general rule, but a reward to be earned by good government & as such I would grant it freely.109

Mill’s account offers a number of points of interest, particularly (1) the distinction he tries to draw between “really native states, with a nationality, & historical traditions & feelings,” and states more recently created by foreign conquest and usurpation, and (2) his readiness to deploy the threat of annexation by lapse in the case of states belonging to the latter category. In the first place there is something rather unrealistic and subjective about this attempt to draw a clear line between “really native states” and the rest, and to construct a viable policy on the supposed distinction. Indeed, the implied picture of Mill himself weighing the destinies of assorted Indian dynasties from his office in London has a certain cartoon quality about it. One can perhaps see the position he is reaching for as a characteristic blend of utilitarian and historicist values, but the actual formulation given here does not seem easily applicable to the complexities of contemporary Indian polity. It should, of course, also be borne in mind that Mill was writing informally about complex events long after they had happened, and perhaps also wishing to simplify for Morley’s benefit.

On another level, Mill’s “principle,” as described in this letter, is not entirely compatible with either Moore’s or Zastoupil’s initial conceptions of his fundamental political posture—a little too historicist for the portrait of a non-doctrinaire analyst and a shade too interventionist and utilitarian for the picture of a conciliatory respecter of Indian institutions. Mill, who enjoyed the processes of classification, is not himself easily classified.

These continuing uncertainties and differences of interpretation again underline the importance of carrying out further detailed investigations of Mill’s original draft despatches to India in order to arrive at more broadly based conclusions about his policies concerning Indian states. That such an undertaking would also involve making fine judgments on matters of documentary evidence, as well as setting the new data within the wider context of Mill’s development as a political philosopher and social theorist, only serves to confirm the substantial challenges that Mill’s work still throws out to modern interpreters.

[1 ]Autobiography [A], Collected Works [CW], I (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981), 83-5. References to material in this volume are given in parentheses in the text.

[2 ]Ibid., 247, 249.

[3 ]Ibid., 87.

[4 ]Ibid., 85.

[5 ]Ibid., 84n.

[6 ]Ibid., 85.

[7 ]For more detailed accounts of the East India Company and the Board of Control, see “Minutes of Evidence Taken before the (House of Commons) Select Committee on the Affairs of the East India Company; I, Public,” PP, 1831-32, IX; “Report from the (House of Commons) Select Committee on Indian Territories: Minutes of Evidence,” PP, 1852, X; C.H. Philips, The East India Company, 1784-1834 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1961); Martin Moir, A General Guide to the India Office Records (London: British Library, 1988).

[8 ]See Martin Moir, “The Examiner’s Office: The Emergence of an Administrative Elite in East India House (1804-58),” India Office Library and Records Report (1977), 25-42.

[9 ]Quoted ibid., 32.

[10 ]For William McCulloch, see Martin Moir, “The Examiner’s Office and the Drafting of East India Company Despatches,” in East India Company Studies Papers Presented to Professor Sir Cyril Philips, ed. Kenneth Ballhatchet and John Harrison (Hong Kong: Asian Research Service, 1986), 135.

[11 ]India Office Records [IOR]: Court Minutes (9 Apr., 1823), B/175, 1077; Correspondence Committee Minutes (9 Apr., 1823), D/8, 1131-2.

[12 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Minutes (9 Apr., 1823), D/8, 1132.

[13 ]IOR: Court Minutes (21 May, 1823), B/176, 134.

[14 ]IOR: Accountant General’s Records: Salary Warrants (Dec. 1823), L/AG/9/4/15.

[15 ]See entries for Mill in Quarterly Salary Warrants in IOR: Accountant General’s Records: Salary Warrants (1824), L/AG/9/4/16.

[16 ]IOR: Court Minutes (2 Mar., 1825), B/177, 666.

[17 ]Review by Sir Edward Strachey of Alexander Bain’s James Mill: A Biography, Spectator, 15 Apr., 1882, 499-500. See also IOR: Sir William Foster’s Notebooks, L/R/5/225, 40-1.

[18 ]Spectator, 24 June, 1882, 828.

[19 ]IOR: Miscellaneous Letters Received (6 May 1823), E/1/151, 37-45; Court Minutes (23 Apr., 21 May, and 10 June, 1823), B/176, 25, 138, and 192.

[20 ]IOR: Court Minutes (2 Mar., 1825), B/177, 666-7.

[21 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Reports (19 Feb., 1828), D/77, 294.

[22 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Reports (31 May, 1826), D/74, 77-8.

[23 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Reports (3 Mar., 1827), D/75, 362.

[24 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Reports (19 Feb., 1828), D/77, 293-4; Court Minutes (20 Feb., 1828), B/180.

[25 ]IOR: Court Minutes (2 Mar., 1825), B/177, 666-7.

[26 ]A, CW, I, 137-91.

[27 ]IOR: Correspondence Committee Reports (27 Mar., 1834), D/90, 200-1; Court Minutes (8 Apr., 1834), B/187, 663-4.

[28 ]IOR: Court Minutes (17 Feb., 1836), B/191, 421.

[29 ]IOR: Court Minutes (22 July, 1836), B/192, 444.

[30 ]IOR: Court Minutes (30 Aug., 1854), B/228, 928-9; Finance and Home Committee Reports, No. 227 (23 Aug., 1854), L/F/1/90.

[31 ]Mill to Nichol (29 Jan., 1837), in Earlier Letters, 1812-1848, ed. Francis E. Mineka, Vols. XII-XIII of CW (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963), XII, 322. See also IOR: Court Minutes (29 June, 1836), B/192, 283; and Mill to Henry Taylor ([1837]), in Later Letters, 1848-1873, ed. Francis E. Mineka and Dwight N. Lindley, Vols. XIV-XVII of CW (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), XVII, 1969-70.

[32 ]For the differences between the Indian “policies” of James and John Stuart Mill, see Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), 47-50, 240-2, etc.; Lynn Zastoupil, “J.S. Mill and India,” Victorian Studies, XXXII (Autumn, 1988), 31-54. See also below, 1.

[33 ]IOR: Finance and Home Committee Papers, No. 31 (Apr. 1844), L/F/2/82; Court Minutes (9 Apr., 1844), B/207, 653.

[34 ]IOR: Finance and Home Committee Papers, No. 22 (Mar. 1850), L/F/2/132; Mill to Sterling (29 May, 1844), CW, XIII, 629; Mill to Chapman (9 Mar., 1847), CW, XIII, 708.

[35 ]IOR: Court Minutes (13 Mar., 1850), B/219, 851-2.

[36 ]In this connection it is interesting to recall the emotional effect that reading a passage in Marmontel’s Memoirs had on Mill during his mental crisis of 1826-27 (A, CW, I, 145).

[37 ]Moir, “The Examiner’s Office: An Administrative Elite,” 37-8, 41-2.

[38 ]William Foster, The East India House. Its History and Associations (London: Lane, Bodley Head, 1924), 211; Mill to Harriet Mill (6 Jan., 1854), CW, XIV, 122-3.

[39 ]Foster, East India House, 224-5, 238-9; Moir, “The Examiner’s Office and the Drafting of Despatches,” 132, 139.

[40 ]IOR: Finance and Home Committee Reports (2 July, 1845), L/F/1/22, 429-31; Finance and Home Committee Papers, No. 43 (July 1845), L/F/2/93; see also below, xxxi-xxxii. In Mill’s will, Grant and Thornton were named as executors, though in the event they were superseded by Helen Taylor; see CW, Vol. XXXI, App. A.

[41 ]Foster, East India House, 215-18; IOR: Sir William Foster’s Notebooks, L/R/5/226, 106.

[42 ]See, for example, Mill’s letter to Carlyle of 22 December, 1833, in which he complains that his position at East India House “hampers [his] freedom of action in a thousand ways” (CW, XII, 200).

[43 ]CW, XII, 340.

[44 ]For Mill’s list of despatches, see Appendix A.

[45 ]Examiner, 17 May, 1873, 506-8.

[46 ]Ibid., 506-7. Mill’s list of despatches, to which Thornton refers, apparently passed from the custody of the East India Company to that of the India Office in 1858 when the Company was dissolved and Mill himself retired. The volume was subsequently put away in the office and forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1916 among the miscellaneous records of the Political Department, transferred to the India Office Record Department, and added to the Home Miscellaneous Series as Volume 832. It is now included among the European Manuscripts of the India Office Library and Records (MSS Eur B 405). See IOR: Sir William Foster’s Notebooks, L/R/5/225, 253; and also Appendix A.

[48 ]It also seems that Mill was responsible for overseeing the Public and Ecclesiastical drafts prepared by his younger brother, George Grote Mill, between 1844 and 1848 (Moir, “The Examiner’s Office and the Drafting of Despatches,” 136; see also above, xviii-xix).

[49 ]A, CW, I, 87.

[50 ]In 1828, when Mill became an Assistant to the Examiner, it usually took about six months for letters from the Bengal Government to reach the Company in London. During the 1830s and 1840s the communication system improved considerably as the Company began to employ steamships and to make more use of the Red Sea route. By 1852, when Mill gave his evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee, letters from Bengal usually took about two months to reach London. See also Philips, East India Company, 264.

[51 ]PP, 1852, X, 16-17.

[52 ]Moir, “The Examiner’s Office and the Drafting of Despatches,” 140-52.

[53 ]In the evidence he gave to the Parliamentary Select Committee in 1852, Mill stressed the extent to which the directors who then sat on the three committees of the Court of Directors took an active interest in the drafts submitted to them. However, any alterations made by the committees can usually be clearly identified from the records, whereas the earlier part played by the Chairs in the preparation of the PCs is not normally documented. For the functions of the three committees—Finance and Home, Political and Military, and Revenue, Judicial, and Legislative—which were established in 1834 following the decision to end the Company’s commercial activities, see Moir, General Guide, 28-9.

[54 ]In considering the question of how far Mill’s despatches were altered by the Board, etc., it is important to note that Mill himself omitted over twenty items from his own list of despatches (MSS Eur B405) apparently on the grounds that, though originally prepared by him, they were then so substantially altered by the Board at the PC stage as to cause him to disown them. See those marked with X in Appendix A.

[55 ]There is some evidence in the L/P&S/6 series of Previous Communications and Drafts that, when faced with particularly difficult or delicate drafts, the Chairs occasionally decided to sound out the President of the Board privately with a “Pre-PC,” i.e., an official draft sent ahead of the more formal PC in order to elicit his first reactions. See, for example, Political PC 9097, concerning Jagirs in the Punjab, sent to the President as a “Pre-PC” in November 1854 (Item 721X in the List of Despatches in Appendix A).

[56 ]CW, XIV, 178; see also 42-3 below for Mill’s comments on the role of the Chairs.

[57 ]The Charter Act of 1853 (16 & 17 Victoria, c. 95) reduced the number of directors from twenty-four to eighteen, six of whom were to be appointed by the Crown. The Act also abolished the Company’s patronage over Indian civil and military appointments.

[58 ]IOR: Court Minutes (30 Aug., 1854), B/228, 928-9.

[59 ]IOR: Court Minutes (28 Mar., 1856), B/231, 1306-7.

[60 ]A, CW, I, 247-9. It should be noted that the Examiner’s Office at this time was responsible for the preparation of despatches to India in the Political, Public, Judicial, Legislative, Revenue, Separate Revenue, and Public Works Departments. It was not concerned with Financial or Marine despatches, which were dealt with in the Secretary’s Department, or with Military despatches, which were handled by the Military Secretary. See also Moir, General Guide, 31-2.

[61 ]M.I. Moir, “A Study of the History and Organization of the Political and Secret Departments of the East India Company, the Board of Control and the India Office, 1784-1919” (thesis for London University Diploma in Archive Administration, 1966), 50-2.

[62 ]For the official careers of John Hawkins and Francis Prideaux, see Moir, “The Examiner’s Office and the Drafting of Despatches,” 133, 138.

[63 ]Ibid., 131.

[64 ]Ibid., 134-5.

[65 ]Examiner, 17 May, 1873, 507. See also Appendix A, pp. 293-4.

[66 ]Despatches to India and Bengal, Judicial No. 47 (12 Nov., 1856), E/4/840, 229.

[67 ]Moir, “A Study of the Political and Secret Departments,” 106.

[68 ]Ibid., 101-2. Examples of Mill’s correspondence with the Board of Control on Secret Department business (1856-58) are in Secret Miscellany Book L/P&S/3/1, 440-2, 482-5.

[69 ]The account given here of the successive Government of India bills between January and August 1858 is mainly based on Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates [PD], 3rd ser., 1857-58, Vols. 148-51; The Cambridge History of India, Vol. VI: The Indian Empire, 1858-1919, ed. H.H. Dodwell (Delhi: Chand, 1964), 206-12; Sir Courtenay Ilbert, The Government of India (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), 94-7; and Donovan Williams, The India Office, 1858-1869 (Hoshiarpur: Vishveshvaranand Vedic Research Institute, 1983), 1-19.

[70 ]“Correspondence between the First Lord of the Treasury and the Directors of the East India Company Respecting Legislative Measures to be Proposed for the Future Government of Her Majesty’s Dominions in India,” Sessional Papers of the House of Lords, 1857-58, XI, 445-7.

[71 ]Ibid., 448.

[72 ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 148, col. 970.

[73 ]Ibid. (12 Apr., 1858), Vol. 149, col. 877; for the Resolutions, see ibid., Appendix.

[74 ]Cambridge History of India, VI, 211.

[75 ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 151, col. 2369.

[76 ]CW, XV, 560.

[77 ]A, CW, I, 249.

[78 ]IOR: Court Minutes (18 Aug., 1858), B/236, 1345-6.

[79 ]IOR: Accountant General’s Records: Organization of Home Establishment, Entry for J.S. Mill, L/AG/30/12; Accountant General’s Records: General Establishment Book, L/AG/21/6/23, 541.

[80 ]Foster, East India House, 222-5.

[81 ]There are, of course, also scattered Indian “writings” and references included in other volumes of CW, especially in Vols. XII-XIX, and XXII-XXV.

[82 ]Mill’s despatches are listed in Appendix A. Other letters and notes written by Mill in the course of his official duties at East India House will be found in several archive series in the India Office Library and Records, most notably in Secret Home Correspondence, 1856-58, L/P&S/3/1, 47-61. These will be found in Additional Letters, Vol. XXXII of CW.

[83 ]A, CW, I, 249.

[84 ]See Zastoupil, “J.S. Mill and India,” 31-54.

[85 ]“Coleridge,” in Essays on Ethics, Religion, and Society, CW (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), X, 121.

[86 ]Principally in Considerations on Representative Government [CRG], in Essays on Politics and Society, Vols. XVIII-XIX of CW (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), XIX, 371-577; and On Liberty, CW, XVIII, 213-310.

[87 ]A, CW, I, 26-9, 171-3; George D. Bearce, British Attitudes towards India, 1784-1858 (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), 69-78; Stokes, The English Utilitarians, 53-6; Alan Ryan, The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill (1970; 2nd ed., London: Macmillan, 1987), 177-81.

[88 ]On Liberty, CW, XVIII, 224, 272; CRG, CW, XIX, 377-8, 393-4, 396-7, 401, 406, 413-14.

[89 ]Cf. CRG, CW, XIX, 377-8, 567-8.

[90 ]Ibid., 418-19; cf. ibid., 567.

[91 ]Ibid., 573.

[92 ]Ibid., 577.

[93 ]CRG, CW, XIX, 573-5; and 36-8, 39, 41, 49-51, 79-80, 84-5, 169-70, and 176 below. However, although Mill believed that the delegated responsibility exercised by the Company had enabled it to develop a tradition of disinterested administration in India, he was largely in favour of recruiting Company civil servants through competitive examinations (see 60, 73).

[94 ]51; CRG, CW, XIX, 567-73.

[95 ]Mill’s gradualist attitude towards Indian self-government, combining a firm view that Indian society was then insufficiently advanced for representative institutions with a cautiously optimistic estimate of its likely future progress towards that goal, needs to be studied further within the wider context of his own position and the contemporary political scene in Britain and India. Not only was Mill’s approach conditioned by his a priori views of the backwardness of oriental societies, but he may also have been constrained by the circumstances of his own Company employment. For example, within Britain itself, the minority of politicians who were then prepared to take a more radical view of the possibilities of British withdrawal or a measure of constitutional advance for Indians—e.g., Richard Cobden, John Bright, T.C. Anstey, etc.—were also often highly critical of Mill’s East India Company employers. The situation for Mill was further complicated by the somewhat separate issue of how far the remaining independent and protected princely states in the Sub-continent should be preserved. See also l-liv below; Bearce, British Attitudes towards India, 231-3, 237; Stokes, English Utilitarians, 287, 298-9.

[96 ]But see the pioneer research of Joseph Hamburger, “The Writings of John Stuart Mill and His Father James Mill in the Archives of the India Office,” American Philosophical Society Yearbook, 1957, 324-6; Abram L. Harris, “John Stuart Mill: Servant of the East India Company,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, XXX (1964), 185-202. See also li and liv below.

[97 ]CRG, CW, XIX, 396.

[98 ]Ibid., 570.

[99 ]See, for instance, Bearce, British Attitudes towards India, 282-6; K.A. Ballhatchet, “The Home Government and Bentinck’s Educational Policy,” Cambridge Historical Journal, X (1951), 224-9; R.J. Moore, “John Stuart Mill at East India House,” Historical Studies, XX (Oct. 1983), 497-519; Mitsuo Takashima, “John Stuart Mill and Indian Education: A Phase of His Work at East India House,” Economia, No. 99 (Dec. 1988), 7-24.

[100 ]IOR: Revenue, Judicial, and Legislative Committee Miscellaneous Papers: PC 1828, Recent changes in native education, L/P&J/1/92; Mill to Henry Taylor ([1837]), CW, XVII, 1969-70. See also Appendix A, No. 1578X.

[101 ]Selections from Educational Records, Pt. I, ed. H. Sharp (Calcutta: Superintendent of Government Printing, 1920), 131.

[102 ]IOR: Revenue, Judicial, and Legislative Committee Miscellaneous Papers: PC 1828, L/P&J/1/92. The quotations in this paragraph are from this document.

[103 ]Principles of Political Economy, Vols. II-III of CW (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965), II, 121-2, 237, 240-1, 319-23; and 93-111 and 213-28 below. For a full account of Mill’s economic ideas in relation to India, and their influence on British Indian administrators, see S. Ambirajan, Classical Political Economy and British Policy in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).

[104 ]The Imperial Gazetteer of India: The Indian Empire, new ed., 26 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907-09), IV, 77-82.

[105 ]Moore, “John Stuart Mill at East India House”; Zastoupil, “J.S. Mill and India.”

[106 ]Moore, “John Stuart Mill,” 508.

[107 ]Ibid., 518.

[108 ]Zastoupil, “J.S. Mill and India,” 54.

[109 ]CW, XVI, 1202-3.

Last modified April 10, 2014