J.S. Mill in a speech before parliament denounced the suspension of Habeas Corpus and the use of flogging in Ireland, saying that those who ordered this “deserved flogging as much as any of those who were flogged by his orders” (1866)
We continue to explore the great treasures which are hidden away in the 33 volume collection of the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. The key to unlocking this treasure is of course our powerful search engine. Here is an example of what one can find. In 1866 Mill gave a speech in the House of Commons denouncing the English mode of governing Ireland. The occasion was a bill granting the Chief Governor of Ireland the power to suspend habeus corpus, that is "to Apprehend and Detain … Such Persons as He or They Shall Suspect of Conspiring against Her Majesty’s Person and Government.":
The occasion was one for deep grief, not for irritation. He agreed with the honourable Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) that this Bill was a cause for shame and humiliation to this country. We were present at the collapsing of a great delusion. England had for a considerable number of years been flattering itself that the Irish people had come to their senses; that they were now sensible that they had got Catholic Emancipation and the Incumbered Estates Bill, which were the only things they could possibly want; and had become aware that a nation could not have anything to complain of when it was under such beneficent rulers as us, who, if we do but little for them, would so gladly do much if we only knew how… But we had fallen into the mistake of thinking that good intentions were enough… He hardly knew to what to compare the position of England towards Ireland, but some illustration of his meaning might be drawn from the practice of flogging. Flogging in some few cases was probably a necessary abomination, because there were some men and boys whom long persistence in evil had so brutalized and perverted that no other punishment had any chance of doing them good. But when any man in authority– whether he was the captain of a ship or the commander of a regiment, or the master of a school, needed the instrument of flogging to maintain his authority–that man deserved flogging as much as any of those who were flogged by his orders.
Mid-February 2006 was the official launch of the University of Toronto Press edition of the works of J.S. Mill which went live to the public on the OLL website. This is significant for a number of reasons:
- It is the most authoritative scholarly edition of the works of Mill which is available.
- An excellent search engine makes it possible to search across the entire 32 volumes for key words or phrases.
- J.S. Mill is a towering figure in the history of political thought.
Mill stood up in Parliament in February 1866 to denounce the right given to the Chief Governor of Ireland to suspend habeas corpus and to order floggings of the unruly Irish. One might recall Thomas Hodgskin's outrage at the use of flogging in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars which led to his own disciplining and the long intellectual journey he began towards laissez-faire individualism. Mill came to the interesting conclusion that people in positions of authority who resorted to flogging needed to be flogged themselves.