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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I [1822]

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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).

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About this Title:

Vol. 22 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains Mill’s newspaper articles from 1822-1831, including many on the French Revolution of 1830 and the series called The Spirit of the Age.

Copyright information:

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.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
volume xxii
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Collected Edition of the Works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.

Editorial Committee

j. m. robson, General Editor

harald bohne, j. c. cairns, j. b. conacher,

d. p. dryer, marion filipiuk, francess halpenny,

samuel hollander, r. f. mcrae, ian montagnes,

margaret parker, f. e. l. priestley, ann p. robson,

f. e. sparshott

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Newspaper Writings
December 1822 - July 1831
Edited by ANN P. ROBSON Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto and JOHN M. ROBSON University Professor and Professor of English, University of Toronto
Introduction by ANN P. ROBSON Textual Introduction by JOHN M. ROBSON
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

© University of Toronto Press 1986

Toronto and Buffalo

Printed in Canada

isbn 0-8020-2602-8

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

isbn 0-7102-0983-5

Printed on acid-free paper

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873.


Collected works of John Stuart Mill

Includes bibliographies and indexes.

Partial contents: v. 22-25. Newspaper writings / edited by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson.

ISBN 0-8020-2602-8 (v. 22-25).

1. Philosophy - Collected works.

2. Political science - Collected works.

3. Economics - Collected works.

I. Robson, John M., 1927-

II. Title.

B1602.A2 1963 192 C64-188-2 rev.

This volume has been published with the assistance of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Edition: current; Page: [v]



Edition: current; Page: [vi] Edition: current; Page: [vii]


  • introduction, by Ann P. Robson xix
  • textual introduction, by John M. Robson cv
  • December 1822 to December 1824 3
    • 1. Exchangeable Value [1] 3
    • 2. Exchangeable Value [2] 5
    • 3. Religious Persecution 6
    • 4. The Word “Nature” 8
    • 5. Free Discussion, Letter I 9
    • 6. Free Discussion, Letter II 12
    • 7. Free Discussion, Letter III 15
    • 8. Tooke’s Thoughts on High and Low Prices [1] 18
    • 9. The Debate on the Petition of Mary Ann Carlile 21
    • 10. The Debate on East and West India Sugars 25
    • 11. Judicial Oaths 30
    • 12. Tooke’s Thoughts on High and Low Prices [2] 34
    • 13. Errors of the Spanish Government 39
    • 14. The Mischievousness of an Oath 42
    • 15. Blessings of Equal Justice 43
    • 16. Persecution for Religious Scruples 46
    • 17. Resurrection-Men 48
    • 18. Malthus’s Measure of Value 51
    • 19. Technicalities of English Law 60
    • 20. Securities for Good Government 62
    • 21. Parliamentary Reform 64
    • 22. Atrocities of the Tread Wheel 67
    • 23. Practicability of Reform in the Law 70
    • 24. Old and New Institutions 72
    • 25. Reputed Thieves 75
    • 26. Effects of Gambling 77
    • 27. Question of Population [1] 80
    • 28. Question of Population [2] 85
    • 29. Place’s On the Law of Libel 91 Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • 30. Pleadings 95
    • 31. Question of Population [3] 95
    • 32. James Mill on the Question of Population 97
    • 33. Effects of Periodical Literature 100
  • September 1825 to October 1828 103
    • 34. Absenteeism 103
    • 35. Blunders of The Times 106
    • 36. The Inhabitants of Queenborough 108
    • 37. New Ministerial Publications 109
    • 38. Advertisements Free of Duty 111
    • 39. Dr. Croker’s Opinion 113
    • 40. Another Opinion of Dr. Croker’s 113
    • 41. Compensation to the Shopkeepers on the Approaches to London Bridge 114
    • 42. The Brunswick Clubs 116
  • July 1830 to July 1831 121
    • 43. The French Elections 121
    • 44. Prospects of France, I 128
    • 45. Prospects of France, II 134
    • 46. Mr. Huskisson and the Jacobin Club 140
    • 47. The Recent Combination of Journeymen Printers at Paris 141
    • 48. Prospects of France, III 142
    • 49. Answer to Bowring’s Criticism of Prospects of France, II 147
    • 50. Prospects of France, IV 149
    • 51. Prospects of France, V 158
    • 52. Attempt to Save the Ex-Ministers 163
    • 53. The Quarterly Review versus France 168
    • 54. France and the Quarterly Review 172
    • 55. French News [1] 180
    • 56. Ignorance of French Affairs by the English Press 182
    • 57. Prospects of France, VI 184
    • 58. French News [2] 190
    • 59. French News [3] 191
    • 60. Use and Abuse of the Ballot 193
    • 61. Prospects of France, VII 196
    • 62. French News [4] 203
    • 63. The Ballot 204
    • 64. French News [5] 207
    • 65. Controversy on the Ballot 209
    • 66. French News [6] 211 Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • 67. The Truck System [1] 212
    • 68. French News [7] 214
    • 69. The Labouring Agriculturists 216
    • 70. The Truck System [2] 218
    • 71. French News [8] 222
    • 72. French News [9] 224
    • 73. The Spirit of the Age, I 227
    • 74. French News [10] 235
    • 75. Conduct of the United States towards the Indian Tribes 235
    • 76. French News [11] 237
    • 77. The Spirit of the Age, II 238
    • 78. France 246
    • 79. French News [12] 247
    • 80. The Quarterly Review on the Political Economists 248
    • 81. French News [13] 250
    • 82. The Spirit of the Age, III [Part 1] 252
    • 83. French News [14] 258
    • 84. The Municipal Institutions of France 259
    • 85. French News [15] 262
    • 86. The Budget 263
    • 87. French News [16] 269
    • 88. The Emigration Bill 270
    • 89. French News [17] 273
    • 90. The Parliamentary Reform Bill 276
    • 91. French News [18] 278
    • 92. The Spirit of the Age, III [Part 2] 278
    • 93. French News [19] 283
    • 94. Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse 284
    • 95. French News [20] 287
    • 96. French News [21] 288
    • 97. The Spirit of the Age, IV 289
    • 98. The Prospects of France 295
    • 99. Paragraph on France 301
    • 100. French News [22] 301
    • 101. Cavaignac’s Defence 303
    • 102. French News [23] 303
    • 103. The Spirit of the Age, V [Part 1] 304
    • 104. Mlle Léontine Fay [1] 307
    • 105. The Croix de Juillet 308
    • 106. Mlle Léontine Fay [2] 310
    • 107. The Spirit of the Age, V [Part 2] 312
    • 108. Death of the Abbé Grégoire 317
    • 109. Attack on Literature 318 Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • 110. Whately’s Introductory Lectures on Political Economy 327
    • 111. Reply of the Brighton Guardian to the Examiner 329
    • 112. Flower’s Musical Illustrations of the Waverley Novels 331
  • August 1831 to July 1832 335
    • 113. French News [24] 335
    • 114. State of Parties in France 336
    • 115. The Peerage Question in France 341
    • 116. French News [25] 346
    • 117. French News [26] 346
    • 118. The Sugar Refinery Bill and the Slave Trade 347
    • 119. French News [27] 351
    • 120. French News [28] 351
    • 121. Dr. Whately’s Elevation to an Archbishopric 356
    • 122. French News [29] 356
    • 123. French News [30] 357
    • 124. French News [31] 357
    • 125. French News [32] 359
    • 126. French News [33] 359
    • 127. French News [34] 363
    • 128. French News [35] 364
    • 129. French News [36] 364
    • 130. French News [37] 367
    • 131. French News [38] 372
    • 132. French News [39] 373
    • 133. French News [40] 377
    • 134. French News [41] 381
    • 135. French News [42] 387
    • 136. French News [43] 392
    • 137. French News [44] 395
    • 138. The Irish Character 397
    • 139. Employment of Children in Manufactories 398
    • 140. French News [45] 401
    • 141. Hickson’s The New Charter 404
    • 142. French News [46] 405
    • 143. French News [47] 407
    • 144. Todd’s Book of Analysis 411
    • 145. French News [48] 417
    • 146. Female Emigrants 419
    • 147. French News [49] 421 Edition: current; Page: [xi]
    • 148. French News [50] 422
    • 149. French News [51] 423
    • 150. French News [52] 424
    • 151. Smart’s Outline of Sematology [1] 425
    • 152. French News [53] 427
    • 153. Smart’s Outline of Sematology [2] 429
    • 154. French News [54] 435
    • 155. Flower’s Songs of the Seasons 436
    • 156. French News [55] 438
    • 157. French News [56] 440
    • 158. Comparison of the Tendencies of French and English Intellect 442
    • 159. Lewis’s Remarks on the Use and Abuse of Political Terms 447
    • 160. French News [57] 452
    • 161. French News [58] 453
    • 162. The Close of the Session in France 453
    • 163. Property in Land 459
    • 164. French News [59] 460
    • 165. French News [60] 461
    • 166. Deaths of Casimir Périer and Georges Cuvier 462
    • 167. French News [61] 464
    • 168. Pemberton’s Lectures on Shakespeare 464
    • 169. French News [62] 466
    • 170. Death of Jeremy Bentham 467
    • 171. French News [63] 473
    • 172. French News [64] 474
    • 173. French News [65] 485
    • 174. Pledges [1] 487
    • 175. Lewin’s The Fisherman of Flamborough Head 494
    • 176. French News [66] 495
    • 177. Pledges [2] 496
    • 178. French News [67] 504
  • September 1832 to August 1833 507
    • 179. Recommendations of Candidates to Parliament 507
    • 180. French News [68] 509
    • 181. French News [69] 511
    • 182. French News [70] 517
    • 183. French News [71] 519
    • 184. The Corn Laws 522
    • 185. French News [72] 523
    • 186. French and English Journals 525 Edition: current; Page: [xii]
    • 187. French News [73] 530
    • 188. French News [74] 532
    • 189. Death of Hyde Villiers 533
    • 190. French News [75] 533
    • 191. On the Necessity of Uniting the Question of Corn Laws with That of Tithes 534
    • 192. French News [76] 540
    • 193. Death of Charles Lameth 541
    • 194. The President’s Message 543
    • 195. Necessity of Revising the Present System of Taxation 545
    • 196. Errors and Truths on a Property Tax 549
    • 197. Flower’s Hymn of the Polish Exiles 554
    • 198. The Monthly Repository for March 1833 555
    • 199. French News [77] 560
    • 200. The Monthly Repository for April 1833 561
    • 201. Flower’s Mignon’s Song and When Thou Wert Here 562
    • 202. The Budget 563
    • 203. Confiscation Scheme of The Times 566
    • 204. French News [78] 568
    • 205. French News [79] 572
    • 206. Beolchi’s Saggio di poesie italiane 573
    • 207. The Monthly Repository for June 1833 574
    • 208. The Bank Charter Bill [1] 575
    • 209. The Ministerial Measure Respecting the Bank 576
    • 210. French News [80] 583
    • 211. Municipal Institutions 585
    • 212. The Bank Charter Bill [2] 590
  • September 1833 to October 1834 593
    • 213. The Quarterly Review on France 593
    • 214. The Monthly Repository for September 1833 595
    • 215. Note on Benefactors of Mankind 596
    • 216. The Ministerial Manifesto 596
    • 217. The Marvellous Ministry 608
    • 218. The Review of the Session Continued 618
    • 219. Lord Brougham’s Law Reforms 622
    • 220. The Corporation Bill 628
    • 221. Conduct of the Ministry with Respect to the Poor Laws 634
    • 222. Martineau’s A Tale of the Tyne 638
    • 223. Conduct of the Ministry with Respect to the Post-Office Department, and the Payment of Officers by Fees 643
    • 224. Napier’s The Colonies 647
    • 225. The Monthly Repository for December 1833 651 Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
    • 226. French News [81] 656
    • 227. French News [82] 658
    • 228. War with Russia 658
    • 229. The Monthly Repository for January 1834 659
    • 230. French News [83] 661
    • 231. Wilson’s History of Rome 663
    • 232. French News [84] 664
    • 233. French News [85] 670
    • 234. Fontana and Prati’s St. Simonism in London 674
    • 235. French News [86] 680
    • 236. French News [87] 682
    • 237. French News [88] 684
    • 238. French News [89] 685
    • 239. The Poor Law Report 685
    • 240. The Poor Laws 686
    • 241. French News [90] 688
    • 242. French News [91] 689
    • 243. Reply to Dr. Prati 689
    • 244. State of Opinion in France 691
    • 245. French News [92] 698
    • 246. French News [93] 699
    • 247. French News [94] 700
    • 248. Flower’s Songs of the Months [1] 702
    • 249. French News [95] 703
    • 250. French News [96] 706
    • 251. French News [97] 706
    • 252. Walter on the Poor Law Amendment Bill 707
    • 253. The Poor Law Amendment Bill 713
    • 254. Death of Lafayette 716
    • 255. The English National Character 717
    • 256. Sarah Austin’s Translation of Cousin 727
    • 257. French News [98] 732
    • 258. French News [99] 733
    • 259. The New Colony [1] 733
    • 260. French News [100] 735
    • 261. The New Colony [2] 735
    • 262. French News [101] 737
    • 263. Wakefield’s The New British Province of South Australia 738
    • 264. French News [102] 743
    • 265. The Poor Law Bill 743
    • 266. French News [103] 745
    • 267. Garnier’s Deutsches Leben, Kunst, und Poesie [1] 746 Edition: current; Page: [xiv]
    • 268. French News [104] 746
    • 269. French News [105] 747
    • 270. Garnier’s Deutsches Leben, Kunst, und Poesie [2] 748
    • 271. New Australian Colony 749
  • January 1835 to June 1846 753
    • 272. Senior’s On National Property [1] 753
    • 273. Flower’s Songs of the Months [2] 759
    • 274. The Word “Destructive” 760
    • 275. Senior’s On National Property [2] 763
    • 276. Bribery and Intimidation at Elections 767
    • 277. The London Review on Municipal Corporation Reform 769
    • 278. Senior’s Preface to the Foreign Communications in the Poor Law Report 774
    • 279. First Report of the Poor Law Commissioners 776
    • 280. The House of Lords [1] 779
    • 281. The House of Lords [2] 781
    • 282. Grant’s Arithmetic for Young Children and Exercises for the Improvement of the Senses 785
    • 283. Wakefield’s Popular Politics 787
    • 284. The Sale of Colonial Land 791
    • 285. Commercial Crisis in the United States of America 793
    • 286. Nichol’s Views of the Architecture of the Heavens 794
    • 287. Molesworth’s Address to the Electors of Leeds 797
    • 288. Exception to the Objections to Nominal Punishments 801
    • 289. Petition for Free Trade 803
    • 290. Sterling’s The Election 806
    • 291. Puseyism [1] 811
    • 292. Puseyism [2] 815
    • 293. Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain 822
    • 294. Lord Ashburton’s Treaty 830
    • 295. Torrens’s Letter to Sir Robert Peel 836
    • 296. Lord Brougham and M. de Tocqueville 841
    • 297. The Bank Charter Question [1] 844
    • 298. The Bank Charter Question [2] 848
    • 299. The Bank Charter Question [3] 852
    • 300. The Bank Charter Question [4] 856
    • 301. The Malt Tax 859
    • 302. The Poor Rates as a Burden on Agriculture 862
    • 303. The Acquittal of Captain Johnstone 865 Edition: current; Page: [xv]
    • 304. Grote’s History of Greece [1] 867
    • 305. Dr. Ellis’s Conviction 875
  • October 1846 to June 1847 879
    • 306. The Condition of Ireland [1] 879
    • 307. The Case of Private Matthewson 882
    • 308. The Condition of Ireland [2] 885
    • 309. The Condition of Ireland [3] 889
    • 310. The Condition of Ireland [4] 892
    • 311. The Condition of Ireland [5] 895
    • 312. The Condition of Ireland [6] 898
    • 313. The Condition of Ireland [7] 901
    • 314. The Condition of Ireland [8] 904
    • 315. The Condition of Ireland [9] 908
    • 316. The Condition of Ireland [10] 910
    • 317. The Condition of Ireland [11] 913
    • 318. The Suicide of Sarah Brown 916
    • 319. The Condition of Ireland [12] 919
    • 320. Poulett Scrope on the Poor Laws 923
    • 321. The Condition of Ireland [13] 927
    • 322. The Condition of Ireland [14] 930
    • 323. The Condition of Ireland [15] 932
    • 324. The Condition of Ireland [16] 935
    • 325. The Condition of Ireland [17] 938
    • 326. The Condition of Ireland [18] 942
    • 327. The Appointment of Judges under the New Local Courts Act 945
    • 328. The Condition of Ireland [19] 949
    • 329. The Case of William Burn 952
    • 330. The Condition of Ireland [20] 955
    • 331. The Condition of Ireland [21] 958
    • 332. The Condition of Ireland [22] 962
    • 333. The Condition of Ireland [23] 965
    • 334. The Condition of Ireland [24] 968
    • 335. The Condition of Ireland [25] 972
    • 336. The Condition of Ireland [26] 975
    • 337. The Condition of Ireland [27] 978
    • 338. The Condition of Ireland [28] 980
    • 339. The Condition of Ireland [29] 984
    • 340. The Condition of Ireland [30] 988
    • 341. The Condition of Ireland [31] 991
    • 342. The Condition of Ireland [32] 994
    • 343. The Condition of Ireland [33] 997 Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
    • 344. The Condition of Ireland [34] 1001
    • 345. The Condition of Ireland [35] 1004
    • 346. The Condition of Ireland [36] 1008
    • 347. The Condition of Ireland [37] 1011
    • 348. The Condition of Ireland [38] 1015
    • 349. The Condition of Ireland [39] 1017
    • 350. The Case of the North Family 1020
    • 351. The Condition of Ireland [40] 1024
    • 352. The Condition of Ireland [41] 1026
    • 353. The Condition of Ireland [42] 1030
    • 354. The Condition of Ireland [43] 1033
    • 355. The Quarterly Review on French Agriculture [1] 1035
    • 356. The Quarterly Review on French Agriculture [2] 1040
    • 357. The Quarterly Review on French Agriculture [3] 1046
    • 358. The Quarterly Review on French Agriculture [4] 1051
    • 359. The Irish Debates in the House of Commons 1058
    • 360. Austin on Centralization 1062
    • 361. The Proposed Irish Poor Law [1] 1066
    • 362. The Proposed Irish Poor Law [2] 1069
    • 363. The General Fast 1073
    • 364. Emigration from Ireland 1075
    • 365. “Sanitary” v. “Sanatory” 1078
    • 366. The Opening of the Prussian Diet 1079
    • 367. Enlightened Infidelity 1082
    • 368. Grote’s History of Greece [2] 1084
  • December 1847 to July 1858 1089
    • 369. Eugène Sue 1089
    • 370. The Provisional Government in France 1091
    • 371. George Sand 1094
    • 372. England and Ireland 1095
    • 373. The Reform Debate 1101
    • 374. On Reform 1104
    • 375. Electoral Districts 1107
    • 376. French Affairs 1110
    • 377. Landed Tenure in Ireland 1112
    • 378. The French Law against the Press 1115
    • 379. Bain’s On the Applications of Science to Human Health and Well-Being 1118
    • 380. Grote’s History of Greece [3] 1121
    • 381. Grote’s History of Greece [4] 1128 Edition: current; Page: [xvii]
    • 382. The Attempt to Exclude Unbelievers from Parliament 1135
    • 383. Corporal Punishment 1138
    • 384. The Czar and the Hungarian Refugees in Turkey [1] 1141
    • 385. The Czar and the Hungarian Refugees in Turkey [2] 1143
    • 386. M. Cabet 1144
    • 387. Lechevalier’s Declaration 1146
    • 388. The Californian Constitution 1147
    • 389. The Case of Mary Ann Parsons [1] 1151
    • 390. The Case of Anne Bird 1153
    • 391. Grote’s History of Greece [5] 1157
    • 392. The Case of Mary Ann Parsons [2] 1164
    • 393. The Case of Susan Moir 1167
    • 394. Questionable Charity 1170
    • 395. The Law of Assault 1172
    • 396. Punishment of Children 1176
    • 397. Constraints of Communism 1179
    • 398. Stability of Society 1180
    • 399. Religious Sceptics 1182
    • 400. Wife Murder 1183
    • 401. Street Organs 1187
    • 402. The Rules of the Booksellers’ Association [1] 1188
    • 403. The Rules of the Booksellers’ Association [2] 1189
    • 404. The India Bill, I 1189
    • 405. The India Bill, II 1194
    • 406. A Recent Magisterial Decision 1196
    • 407. The Law of Lunacy 1198
  • March 1863 to July 1873 1201
    • 408. Poland 1201
    • 409. The Civil War in the United States 1204
    • 410. England and Europe 1205
    • 411. On Hare’s Plan 1208
    • 412. The Westminster Election [1] 1210
    • 413. Romilly’s Public Responsibility and the Ballot 1212
    • 414. The Westminster Election [2] 1217
    • 415. The Ballot 1218
    • 416. Gladstone for Greenwich 1219
    • 417. Bouverie versus Chadwick 1220
    • 418. New England Woman’s Suffrage Association 1220
    • 419. The Case of William Smith 1221
    • 420. The Education Bill 1222
    • 421. The Treaty of 1856 [1] 1223
    • 422. The Treaty of 1856 [2] 1224 Edition: current; Page: [xviii]
    • 423. De Laveleye on the Eastern Question 1226
    • 424. The Society of Arts 1226
    • 425. Advice to Land Reformers 1227
    • 426. Should Public Bodies Be Required to Sell Their Lands? 1232
    • 427. The Right of Property in Land 1235
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A. Cavaignac’s Defence (1831) 1247
  • Appendix B. Lettre à Charles Duveyrier (1832) 1251
  • Appendix C. Enfantin’s Farewell Address (1832) 1256
  • Appendix D. George Sand (1848) 1260
  • Appendix E. Death of Francis Place (1854) 1262
  • Appendix F. Textual Emendations 1266
  • Appendix G. Corrections to Mill’s List of His Published Articles 1277
  • Appendix H. Signatures 1280
  • Appendix I. Newspapers for Which Mill Wrote 1282
  • Appendix J. Index of Persons and Works Cited, with Variants and Notes 1284
  • Index 1509
  • Facsimiles
    • Exchangeable Value [1] Traveller, 6 December, 1822, p. 3 XXII, cxix
    • The Spirit of the Age, V [Part 1] Examiner, 15 May, 1831, p. 307 XXII, cxx
    • Mill’s MS list of his articles bound with his copy of the Examiner, 1833 XXIII, xi
    • French News [78] Examiner, 5 May, 1833, p. 281 XXIII, xii
    • The Condition of Ireland [1] Morning Chronicle, 5 October, 1846, p. 4 XXIV, ix
    • MS, Principles of Political Economy Appendix incorporating No. 356 XXIV, x
    • The Case of William Smith Draft letter to the Daily News [late 1869 to early 1870] XXV, ix
Edition: current; Page: [xix]


this introduction does not attempt to analyze the thought of John Stuart Mill; it attempts to provide the context of his contribution to newspapers. The limited task is quite sufficient. Mill wrote in the papers for more than fifty of his sixty-seven years, twice on a sustained basis, in the 1830s on France and in 1846 on Ireland. From the chaotic early years of the nineteenth century to the more organized life of Victoria’s heyday, he contributed practical and theoretical advice, sometimes hopefully, sometimes irately, frequently despairingly, to his stolid countrymen.

Newspapers were not his major medium—periodicals and books were the media he chose for his important writings—but he knew their impact and their value. Their impact was immediate and widespread. The Morning Chronicle under John Black in his prime was read over more cups of coffee than The Times. Albany Fonblanque’s Examiner informed radical opinion. There was no other forum but the press influencing the minds of the politically important men and women with an immediacy made all the more potent because in Mill’s youth the numbers who proposed and disposed were so small. As the years went by and as numbers grew, individual influence lessened, Mill’s not so much as others, but the influence of the press, still unchallenged, increased with its readership.

Influence upon policy was not the most that Mill obtained by his journalism. Of more value to him was the necessity, forced upon him by the political involvement his journalism entailed, of bringing his hypotheses to the bar of actual events. Perhaps opportunity would be the better word because Mill was aware of, and took advantage of, the laboratory provided by “common experience respecting human nature.”1 It is the testing of his theories concerning human behaviour and the progress of human civilization which gives his newspaper writings weight in the development of his thought and interest to its students.

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The London into which John Stuart Mill was born had a population of under one million; by the time he was twenty-five, it had doubled; when he died there were over three million. The changes taking place in England had produced by the beginning of the nineteenth century a turbulence in society rarely experienced before and a radical political press unique in English history. James Mill may have protected his son from the rough and tumble of boys his own age but he brought him up in the centre of the riots, assassinations, treasonous plots, and mass meetings that were the political manifestation of the social upheaval of early industrial England. The world around the young boy—and he lived his boyhood in London in its very vortex, precocious, his father’s intellectual shadow, listening to radical arguments and plans—was violent, brutal, anarchic, insecure, filthy, and noisy. His youthful mind was shaped in this environment—he always stressed the influence of circumstances—as was also his vision as a mature Radical.

Mill was born on 20 May, 1806, in a small house in Pentonville. His father was establishing himself amongst the Radicals of London. The times were desperate for radicalism and yet equally desperate for the condition of England; there was little time for reform but never greater need. Insecurity and violence, and the repression and hatred they bred, were everywhere. The rapidly changing basis of wealth brought increased insecurity for rich and poor. It would be fifty years before the technological and administrative knowledge would be developed to make town life secure, and the same was true for the new financial world. Insecurity haunted all levels of society. Consequently, while Mill was growing up, riots were a way of life, in peace or in war.

There were nearly always riots of more or less seriousness at elections; there were food riots; there were riots amongst the prisoners in Dartmoor and Porchester Castle in 1810; there were riots among the theatre-goers, not only the Old Price riots at Drury Lane in 1809, but at Plymouth in 1810 and Peterborough and Liverpool in 1811; that year the East India College students rioted in Hertford and the next year rioters wrecked the newsroom at the Manchester Exchange; there were riots against high food prices, in favour of a minimum wage, against press gangs; handloom weavers, Tyneside keelmen, Suffolk labourers, Bilston colliers, London shipwrights, all rioted in 1814. From 1811 to 1816 the Luddites broke machinery throughout Yorkshire and the Midlands; in Nottinghamshire in 1812 to make their feelings perfectly clear they rioted in celebration of the assassination of Lord Perceval. The Prime Minister was shot, the King was insane, a profligate Prince was regent, and the country was at war. There was reason for violent dissatisfaction and fear, and both continued to increase. The outbreaks fed into the post-war violence.

In 1815 James Mill moved his family to 1 Queen Square Place, to live beside Bentham. A stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament, this was the very heart Edition: current; Page: [xxi] of political London, so the young Mill was right in the thick of things, not only for the splendid celebrations as the Prince Regent fêted European royalty at the marriage of Princess Charlotte, but also for the activity leading up to the Spa Fields meeting when the Spenceans, led by the two Watsons and joined by some sailors, broke into several gunsmiths’ shops, killing one gunsmith, and attempted to seize the Tower and the Bank of England. Unrest is the word most frequently used to describe the outbreaks from 1815 to 1820, but the word does not indicate the tension or explain Government response. In the atmosphere of the times, any outbreak seemed a possible revolutionary spark to both participants and observers. The year 1817 saw the Manchester Blanketeers, the activities of Oliver the Spy, and the Derbyshire insurrection, for which three were executed and many transported. The popularity of the monarchy reached new depths as public sorrow over the death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth turned to anger over the spectacle of the unprepossessing children of George III without a legitimate heir among them. No one was surprised when a missile was hurled at the Prince’s carriage along with the boos and jeers. Rumours of an assassination attempt were readily believed. The years 1819 and 1820—the years of John Stuart’s thirteenth and fourteenth birthdays—saw Peterloo, the Six Acts, the death of the beloved old mad king, the Cato Street conspiracy, and Queen Caroline’s trial. These events may be played down with hindsight, but at the time rumour fed violence and no one was sure when the revolution might ignite. The year 1789, seen through the glare of 1792, was in everyone’s mind. How far could repression and prosecution go? Might the suspension of habeas corpus lead a mob to storm the Tower?

No child living in the heart of Westminster in a house that was the centre of a passionately radical group could be unaware of the violence out of doors. So much has been made of the seclusion and concentration of Mill’s upbringing and education that it is necessary to give some emphasis to the other side. The image of the child prodigy screened from friends of his own age is dear to a society which holds the untrained mind to be proof of a happy childhood and which delights in the crisis of the trained mind. But Mill’s childhood was not unhappy—he is to be believed on this point, his Autobiography being painfully honest and happiness being estimable only by the possessor—nor did his crisis necessarily come from the concentration of the education. Indeed a more likely cause is the gap between his father’s solutions and the coarse world he grew up in.

James Mill’s house was not a place of total seclusion except from children not of his own making; and of those who were, it should be remembered, there were nine. The young boy also had the society of his father’s friends.

During this first period of my life [up to the age of fourteen], the habitual frequenters of my father’s house were limited to a very few persons, most of them little known to the Edition: current; Page: [xxii] world, but whom personal worth, and more or less of congeniality with at least his political opinions (not so frequently to be met with then as since) inclined him to cultivate; and his conversations with them I listened to with interest and instruction.

He also mentions being “disputatious” “from having been encouraged in an unusual degree to talk on matters beyond [his] age, and with grown persons.”2 Mill mentions only David Ricardo, Joseph Hume, and Jeremy Bentham (A, 55), but there were others.

And if the number who came to the house was small, the much larger world of violent political activity entered with them. The turmoil of England, its causes and its remedies, was the urgent question during John Stuart Mill’s formative years and it was the paramount, if not the only topic of conversation amongst his father’s friends. They were an extraordinary group of men. They argued the facts and the principles passionately. It was not the talk of abstract philosophers but of men committed to the society, a society on the brink of revolution or dissolution, of which they felt themselves the proper leaders.3 The young Mill’s world was exciting; all about him was radicalism verging on revolution, not necessarily violent but violent if necessary. He dreamt of being a Girondist.4 The impression Mill gives in the Autobiography that life in Queen Square Place was regulated and commonplace is frequently accepted without question because the work is so obviously intellectually honest. But what was commonplace to the young Mill would have been commonplace to few others. (It is doubtful if Mill ever had much idea how uncommonplace he was.) All around him were unconforming, if not eccentric.

The central figure was Jeremy Bentham who, however much his eccentricity stemmed from his rationality, was also a passionate, at times incoherent, denouncer of abuses. History has often made him quaint, concentrating on his foibles and universal constitutions and prisons, giving others the credit for Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] realizing his law reforms in particular and his social reforms in general. History has made Francis Place respectable, but he had at one time been a co-worker of Colonel Despard, hanged for treason in 1803. And it was he who, through his writings on birth control, was, if indirectly, responsible for the young Mill’s being arrested for distributing “anti-social” pamphlets. Frequently on Sundays, John Black, a man who as editor of the Morning Chronicle was to be long an associate of John Mill’s, visited James Mill. They talked politics, but some of the flavour of Black’s unconventional personality must have been noticed by the listening and disputatious son. Black’s quarrelsome nature had led to twelve challenges to duels before he was thirty. Having failed to win a divorce suit, he was now living with his housekeeper and being blackmailed by his wife. Brougham, Ricardo, Romilly, and Hume, each of marked character and ability, also provided contrast and interest. And of equal interest but possibly more charm, after 1819 there were the neighbours Sarah and John Austin with, two years later, their lovely baby daughter Lucie. Despite the long hours of study, life could not have been dull for the young boy and, even without the rough-and-tumble of his peers (siblings are never peers), he was better fitted than most to go at age fourteen to stay for a week with J.B. Say in Paris, meeting many of the French liberal circle, on his way for an extended visit in the south of France with the eccentric Samuel Benthams, where, however, the turmoil and chaos were domestic.

It may have been somewhat of a relief to leave London in the spring of 1820. Within a week of the death of the Duke of Kent, the old King had died. Arthur Thistlewood, a long-time friend of the Watsons of Spa Fields, advanced his plans and was surprised in Cato Street on the night of 23 February. The opening scenes of the drama of Queen Caroline, an emotional extravaganza orchestrated by Brougham, were drawing large London audiences.5 But France was in truth not much calmer, although less noisy and, for the moment, seemingly less volatile. The Duke of Berry had been assassinated the week before the Cato Street conspiracy (the Cato Street conspirators now seem farcically inept; but so would Louvel had he missed), and the royalist reaction was benefiting. Under the Ministry of Villèle, Louis XVIII was following his autocratic inclinations fully supported by the old aristocracy. The law of the double vote passed, increasing the influence of the small rich minority which had already seemed impregnable. The talk at the home of J.B. Say would have been of the kind the boy was used to, only in French. Say’s household was radical; he was a political economist—in 1822 he became an honorary member of the Political Economy Club in London—a long-time friend of Lafayette’s and a befriender of the Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] Carbonari. Mill met many of the leaders of the French left, “among whom [he had] pleasure in the recollection of having once seen Saint-Simon, not yet the founder either of a philosophy or a religion, and considered only as a clever original” (A, 63). He also recorded that he benefited little; this is hardly surprising since he was only fourteen and spoke only English. But although he may have benefited little immediately, the friendship with that family and the acquaintance of the political group to which it belonged were of immense importance to both his thinking and his actions a decade later. And Mill would have benefited more than any other lad his age.

His radical training also stood him in good stead as he started off on his own to the Garonne to join the Samuel Benthams. As a true Radical and a disputatious youngster he knew his rights, and asserted them against a female claimant to an inside seat that was his by seniority in the coach if not in the world.6 He arrived without mishap and spent an exceedingly happy year in a household that was normal only by Benthamite standards. The success of this year was of immense importance in Mill’s intellectual growth; he developed an enduring affection for France and an unwavering belief that she was in the van of European civilization and that all, including England, must follow the path she took. These thoughts were not matured in 1821, but the ground had been prepared and sown. The influence on his political thought was to be crucial. He later said: “the greatest, perhaps, of the many advantages which I owed to this episode in my education, was that of having breathed for a whole year the free and genial atmosphere of Continental life.” In England it is taken for granted “that conduct is of course always directed towards low and petty objects” (James Mill’s teaching can be heard here); amongst the French elevated sentiments are “the current coin of human intercourse” (A, 59-61). That Mill could feel these sentiments unchanged after the French events of 1851 and 1870 shows how powerful were his early impressions. One may also see here feelings which would contribute to the promptings of the “irrepressible self-consciousness” to answer “No!” and trigger his depression in 1826 (A, 139). Certainly one can see here the seeds of his later emphasis on the possibility of the improvement of mankind through the cultivation of their higher natures. The method of his thinking was to be altered in another direction also—one which was to be crucial to his youthful journalism. Mill concluded the account of his sojourn in France:

The chief fruit which I carried away from the society I saw, was a strong and permanent interest in Continental Liberalism, of which I ever afterwards kept myself au courant, as much as of English politics: a thing not at all usual in those days with Englishmen, and which had a very salutary influence on my development, keeping me free from the error always prevalent in England, and from which even my father with all his superiority to prejudice was not exempt, of judging universal questions by a merely English standard (A, 63).

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The England to which the fifteen-year-old Mill returned in June 1821 was a little calmer than the one he had left. Queen Caroline’s trial was over and the illuminations extinguished. The royal Dukes’ hasty marriages had produced more than one promising successor to the throne. It was hoped that, God and the Duke of Clarence willing, a regency could be avoided; George IV was unlikely to last long enough—certainly everybody hoped that too. England had largely separated herself from the repressive ideas of the great Continental powers and was associating herself with the liberal aspirations asserting themselves in Europe. There were many insurrections, the precise aims of which were not always clear, but it was clear that Europe was far from calm. Greece, Spain, the Spanish colonies, the Two Sicilies, Northern Italy, Portugal, all were providing alternating hope and despair for the Radicals. At home the mood was easier. The pitch of excitement reached by the summer of 1820 could not be maintained, partly because Burdett, Cochrane, and Cobbett had all in their several ways pulled back from the monster demonstrations in London. A brief period of prosperity in both town and country had lowered tempers and reduced the mob.

John Stuart Mill spent two busy years after his return from France, enjoying a wider acquaintance, including many much nearer his own age with whom to match wits. His father’s plans for him at that time included as a distinct possibility a career at the bar. Consequently Mill read law to his great benefit with John Austin, a man whose incisive understanding of the subject was best communicated by tutoring, not lecturing. Mill gained more than legal knowledge from the Austin connection. He went to stay with Sarah Austin’s family, the Taylors of Norwich. There he met John Austin’s brother Charles, a brilliant Cambridge undergraduate, who, Mill says, “attached me among others to his car. Through him I became acquainted with Macaulay, Hyde and Charles Villiers, Strutt (now Lord Belper), Romilly (now Lord Romilly and Master of the Rolls), and various others. . . . It was through him that I first felt myself, not a pupil under teachers, but a man among men.” (A, 79.) It is small wonder that Mill’s writing shows an unusual blend of modesty, certainty, and arrogance when one looks at the contemporaries against whom he measured himself. And they all assumed it their right and their duty to point England the way.

Mill received another benefit from his father’s arranging for him to read under Austin. As part of his preparation for law, Mill was given Bentham’s principal speculations, as interpreted to the Continent, and indeed to all the world, by Pierre Etienne Louis Dumont, in the Traités de législation (1802).

The reading of this book was an epoch in my life; one of the turning points in my mental history. . . . The feeling rushed upon me, that all previous moralists were superseded, and that here indeed was the commencement of a new era in thought. . . . As I proceeded farther, there seemed to be added to this intellectual clearness, the most inspiring prospects of practical improvement in human affairs. . . . Bentham’s subject was Legislation . . . and at every page he seemed to open a clearer and broader conception of what human opinions and institutions ought to be, how they might be made what they Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] ought to be, and how far removed from it they now are. When I laid down the last volume of the Traité I had become a different being. . . . I now had opinions; a creed, a doctrine, a philosophy; in one among the best senses of the word, a religion; the inculcation and diffusion of which could be made the principal outward purpose of a life. And I had a grand conception laid before me of changes to be effected in the condition of mankind through that doctrine. The Traité de Legislation wound up with what was to me a most impressive picture of human life as it would be made by such opinions and such laws as were recommended in the treatise. . . . And the vista of improvement which he did open was sufficiently large and brilliant to light up my life, as well as to give a definite shape to my aspirations.

(A, 67-71.)

The euphoria of the moment of grace shines through the calculated wording of thirty years later. Not the least of the emotions was relief at now at last understanding what his father had been teaching him. But the paramount effect was the vision; for the young lad of fifteen the feelings he had experienced in his Girondist dreams were now his in reality. For the rest of his life Mill was to be a visionary, at times a very depressed visionary when the future became blurred or the present seemingly regressing, but always beneath the calm, measured analytical philosopher or economist or political scientist, the saint of rationalism would be following the yellow brick road.

The immediate effects of the vision were to inspire Mill to write his first “argumentative essay” (A, 73) and to form debating clubs and discussion societies in order to prove and spread the gospel. He was also ready to take his message to the wider public; he was finally confident of what he had been taught and, truly comprehending it for the first time, was not only able “to converse, on general subjects, with the instructed men with whom [he] came in contact” (A, 75) but also desirous of instructing the uninstructed. In December of 1822 appeared the first of his newspaper writings.7

Journalism was never intended by James Mill to be his son’s career. Some time during the winter of 1822-23, he decided that the India House was a more utilitarian career for his son than the bar. Certainly in retrospect John Mill expressed few regrets about the bar and an acute awareness of the drawbacks of journalism, especially when contrasted with the advantages of following in his father’s footsteps.

I do not know any one of the occupations by which a subsistence can now be gained, more suitable than such as this to any one who, not being in independent circumstances, desires to devote a part of the twenty-four hours to private intellectual pursuits. Writing for the press, cannot be recommended as a permanent resource to any one qualified to accomplish anything in the higher departments of literature or thought. . . . Those who have to support themselves by their pen must depend on literary drudgery . . . and can employ in the pursuits of their own choice . . . less than the leisure allowed by office occupations, while the effect on the mind is far more enervating and fatiguing.

(A, 85.)
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So John Mill started work, the day after his seventeenth birthday, 21 May, 1823, in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company, and the newspaper was to become for him throughout his life a means of putting his solutions for immediate problems before the public and of educating that public on the broader philosophical and political issues that lay behind the great events of the day.8

Journalism also educated Mill; it played an important part in his development by keeping his feet firmly on the ground. He himself was not unaware of the importance of active involvement to prove philosophical speculation. “But the man to lead his age is he who has been familiar with thought directed to the accomplishment of immediate objects, and who has been accustomed to see his theories brought early and promptly to the test of experiment . . . and to make an estimate of means and of obstacles habitually a part of all his theories that have for their object practice, either at the present or at a more distant period.”9 In his newspaper writings, Mill can be watched applying the principles he had acquired to the practical problems of everyday administration and politics: “My practice (learnt from Hobbes and my father) [was] to study abstract principles by means of the best concrete instances I could find . . .” (A, 167). The political scientist needed, like every other scientist, to see if the laws or the hypotheses were verified by the facts.10 Especially in his earlier years the world was Mill’s laboratory and the newspapers his daily notebook. There are interesting times in his journalism, in the early 1820s, the early 1830s, the late 1840s, and the early 1850s, when Mill is quite evidently applying a strongly held belief, quite recently worked out, to contemporary events: in the ’20s, Bentham’s laws; in the ’30s, the laws of historical development and social progress; in the ’40s, the consequences of systems of land tenure; and in the ’50s, the social consequences of sexual inequality. It is his observation of the actual instances around him (and here his work in the India Office greatly added to his journalist’s experience) that lies behind his conviction, so often expressed, that all reforms must be chosen for Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] their present practicality, as well as their furthering of the eventual goal. It was not only his early mental training that led him, in spite of his great sympathy, to reject Saint-Simonism in his time.

The radical world of journalism that he now entered was a small world, peopled by figures long familiar to the sixteen-year-old Mill.11 Radical politics were led by a select, dedicated few, all of whom turned their hands to whatever task needed doing. The persecution of the press had strengthened the bonds of brotherhood, and freedom of the press became a sine qua non, if not the sine qua non, of the intellectual radical movement. Between 1808 and 1821, there had been 101 prosecutions for seditious libel, many of them unsuccessful thanks to Charles James Fox’s amendment of the law in 1792, which gave juries the power to decide if the words in question were libellous. That amendment itself may have spared England revolution. As it was, the trials provided soapboxes, and if sometimes imprisonment followed, Lord Ellenborough found himself thwarted as often as not. But the continuing struggle against repression, the shared prison experiences, the rallying point provided by people like the Carliles, all created an exciting world, not less so for its danger, which the young boy was now to share. His father and his father’s allies welcomed the new torch bearer, but journalism was more a rite of passage than a new land.

Small though the world of journalism was, it had a power quite out of proportion to its size. A great deal of influence was wielded by those whose reasoned argument or memorable invective was read over breakfast or coffee. Westminster with its eleven thousand voters could be swayed by a Black or a Barnes, and most constituencies had less than a tenth that number. But even Edition: current; Page: [xxix] more important, if also more intangible, was the amount of pressure that could be exerted on the Government by the political temperature in London. Certainly a succession of ministries thought it worth the risk of increasing their unpopularity by attempting to silence, or keep within bounds, a Leigh Hunt or a Cobbett. It was said that “an epigram in the Examiner went off like a great gun, echoing all over the country.”12 In 1835, when the Chronicle, which had fallen behind The Times, suddenly acquired many readers lost by its rival through a change in policy, Black exclaimed, “Now our readers will follow me anywhere I like to lead them!”13 A government that ruled in the final analysis by the tolerance of the people could be forced to alter its course by the strong expression of feeling out of doors. Lord Brougham’s triumph in the withdrawal of the Bill relating to Queen Caroline was a triumph of the press and the people, certainly not of justice.

John Mill was fully aware of the power of the press. When he pours scorn on the state of the press in England (No. 57) it is just because he was aware of how much good journalists could do and how much evil in his eyes many of them—The Times was often in his mind—were doing. Mill’s diatribes against the press must be seen in the context of his frustration with England and Englishmen for their “low moral tone” and “absence of high feelings” (A, 61). Certainly only a handful of men in England, including himself, employed daily or weekly journalism with the honesty, respect, knowledge, and integrity that would make it an instrument for the advancement of mankind. To Mill’s mind one of that handful was John Black, his father’s old friend and, to a certain extent, disciple; when considering Mill’s own journalism his estimate of Black should be set beside his condemnations of the press.

I have always considered Black as the first journalist who carried criticism & the spirit of reform into the details of English institutions. . . . [He] introduced Bentham’s opinions on legal & judicial reform into newspaper discussion. And by doing this he broke the spell. Very early in his editorship he fought a great battle for the freedom of reporting the preliminary investigations in the Police Courts in which Fonblanque . . . occasionally helped him, but he had little other help. . . . Another subject on which his writings were of the greatest service was the freedom of the press in matters of religion. His first years as editor of the Chronicle coincided with the prosecutions of Carlile & his shopmen & Black kept up the fight against those prosecutions with great spirit & power. All these subjects were Black’s own. Parl. Reform, Catholic emancipation, free trade, &c, were the liberal topics of the day & on all of these he wrote frequently, as you will see by any file of the Chronicle.14

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The Mills’ only worry was that Black might not maintain his influence over the regular purchasers of his paper:15 “in their weekly talks with their editor, both the Mills insisted as a condescension necessary to the temper of the time” on a lightness of touch. It was feared “that Black and his contributors were habitually writing above the heads of the public.”16

The readers, it must be kept in mind, were in the dining room or the coffee house at the beginning or end of a busy day. They had the normal physical disadvantages to contend with: dull weather, smoke, poor window glass, flickering candlelight, more-or-less helpful spectacles, and small bad print on fawn paper. To modern eyes it appears (somewhat dimly) strange that so little effort was made to ease the task of the reader. In the first half of the century the leading dailies usually had only four pages of small print in six columns, the first and fourth pages being devoted to advertisements. (Advertisements were integral to a newspaper then as now, bringing in the crucial portion of their revenue; indeed most, like the Morning Chronicle, were originally established as advertising media for a trade.) The second page would contain extracts from foreign papers in two columns, with the other four columns containing theatre and current happenings, chiefly domestic politics. A leading article, if there was one, would usually be on page two. Foreign news, society news, sporting news, and the ever-popular detailed description of the seamy side of life from the law courts filled page three. The Examiner was a weekly, with more pages but smaller format than the dailies, and appeared every Sunday; it had sixteen pages with only two columns but of equally miserable type-face.

The reader the Mills had in mind, though interested in politics, had other activities to occupy the greater part of his day. He would have intellectual pretensions but not necessarily a profession; most probably he would be to a large extent self-educated after the age of fourteen. He would like to consider himself an independent thinker, keeping abreast of what went on at home and abroad, especially the former and especially politically, standing on his own intellectual feet, and voicing opinions which he could support on intelligible principles. He would consider himself anti-Tory and, although certainly not of the labouring classes himself, was frequently sympathetic to their plight. But he was not a deep thinker and he was a busy man; his attention must be caught and held and his opinion influenced by blunt arguments. For the most part, John Mill keeps the temporary nature of his reader’s attention in mind; the largest exception would be the series of articles on the “Spirit of the Age,” their length being Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] unusual even for the Examiner—but on Sunday perhaps the reader could be expected to sit somewhat longer over his coffee. (I say “his” coffee, because it is my impression—and I have no hard facts—that newspapers then for the most part addressed themselves consciously or unconsciously to a male audience.)17

There are advantages to the student of Mill’s thought in the demands that this audience made on him. In a newspaper, the ideas cannot be hedged around with qualifications and elaborations. What a journalist feels, he must say in a limited number of words, in a straightforward manner immediately intelligible to a man of intelligence but lacking learning and sophistication. For the most part, Mill was very successful (although he thought he lacked the light touch [A, 181]) in adapting his writing to this level. In addition, journalism most frequently demands hasty execution and topicality. The hasty execution was not a problem for Mill; from the beginning of his career, he wrote enviably well under pressure. The topicality can occasionally be a barrier for the reader many generations later, because the ambience of an incident is very difficult, if not impossible, to recapture; one cannot live in the past. But this difficulty is more than compensated for by the opportunity to watch Mill’s ideas, unequivocally expressed, shape and reshape themselves as they are proved against the facts and the events.


john stuart mill began to write for the press in December of 1822. It was not a propitious time, or not seemingly so. The European powers generally were looking for a return to the status quo ante; the experience of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars with their economic and political turbulence was much too recent to admit of broad proposals for change. But the time had rays of hope. Although France had invaded Spain to re-establish the autocratic rule of Ferdinand VII, the Spanish constitutionalists were showing considerable strength. The Greeks had risen against Turkey and liberal fervour was wholly on their side. At home, Lord Liverpool was still stolidly sitting in the saddle, but the worst of the post-war economic disruption was over. Prosperity was returning and tension was lessening. The Cabinet now contained considerable liberal talent: Castlereagh’s suicide and Liverpool’s resistance to the King had brought Canning back to the Foreign Office; Peel, who had endorsed in 1819 a return to cash payments, had replaced Sidmouth at the Home Office; Huskisson was supporting freer trade at the Board of Trade; and Lord John Russell had been successful in disenfranchising the quite rotten borough of Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] Grampound, thus setting the precedent of eliminating a parliamentary borough. But at the end of 1822 these were little more than straws in the wind; Peterloo and the Six Acts, Cato Street, and Queen Caroline were only yesterday and still fresh in the mind. The unpopularity of George IV, which was if possible increasing with his girth, assured popular dislike of his Ministry. Peel might contemplate reforms in the Home Office but they would have to be accompanied by a watchful eye and a firm hand, especially on the radical press. The stamp duty had been extended after Peterloo and there were continual prosecutions as the war of the unstamped press raged. For most Radicals a cheap press and a free one continued to be the rallying ground in the defence of Englishmen’s liberties, for it was still a radicalism largely in the eighteenth-century tradition of John Wilkes. Radicals stood against encroachment by the King and his Ministers upon the constitutional rights of free men; and generally speaking the reforms they proposed were within the system rather than of the system.

Mill was sixteen and a half, a brilliant, gauche, likely lad, the product of one of the best-known educations of any nineteenth-century figure. He was ready to write, having found a message, and his father was nothing loath, perhaps wanting his son to have experience before Bentham’s projected radical periodical was started.18 During the next fifteen months, until the plans for the Westminster Review were realized, the young boy wrote thirty-two newspaper pieces, some quite short, but some more than a full column in length. His taking up his post in the East India Office caused only a slight and momentary lessening of his output; the pattern of life that was to prevail until his retirement in 1858 was set in the first months. The pattern of thought was not.

These early attempts are what might be expected, even from a prodigy, of a youth in his seventeenth and eighteenth years. They are clever but not profound or original, giving ample proof of his own assessment:

The first intellectual operation in which I arrived at any proficiency, was dissecting a bad argument, and finding in what part the fallacy lay. . . . It is also a study peculiarly adapted to an early stage in the education of philosophical students, since it does not presuppose the slow process of acquiring, by experience and reflection, valuable thoughts of their own.

(A, 23.)

Mill’s youthful journalism shows as much the thought of the Queen Square Place circle as of the youngest member of it. In these years the young Mill accepted his mentors’ view of a mechanistic world whose parts could not be redesigned, but could be realigned by the adjusting of a legal problem here and the promoting of a political economy reform there. The first principle on which their reforms were based was that men, because they put their own interests before the public’s, Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] abuse a public trust if left unchecked. Mill’s articles all assume a dog-eat-dog world wherein every top dog must be prevented from dining off those lower in the hierarchy. The nature of the beast could not be much improved, but the beast’s behaviour could be bettered through the judicious provision of punishments and rewards. A second principle was that there are laws of political economy, the correct understanding of which would vastly improve the lot of the greatest number. It was appropriate that Mill, whose name has become inseparable from his Principles of Political Economy, should have written publicly first in that field.

The first writings of mine which got into print were two letters published towards the end of 1822, in the Traveller evening newspaper. The Traveller (which afterwards grew into the Globe and Traveller by the purchase and incorporation of the Globe) was then the property of the well known political economist Colonel Torrens. Under the editorship of an able man, Mr. Walter Coulson (who after being an amanuensis of Mr. Bentham, became a reporter, then an editor . . . ), it had become one of the most important newspaper organs of liberal politics. Col. Torrens wrote much of the political economy of his paper; and had at this time made an attack upon some opinion of Ricardo and my father, to which at my father’s instigation I attempted an answer, and Coulson out of consideration for my father and good will to me, inserted it. There was a reply by Torrens, to which I again rejoined.

(A, 89.)

Thus his career started off on ground he knew well; he had been educated on and by Ricardo, and was well aware of the controversy over the theory of value which had frequently exercised them all. It is twentieth-century opinion expressed by Lord Robbins that in these first two essays in public controversy, the newcomer received a “thorough trouncing from Torrens, evoked by . . . [the] effort to sustain his father’s preposterous view that differences in the period of investment might all be reduced to labour.”19

The controversy over the causes of price fluctuations—related to that over value—was equally undecided. This controversy had been stimulated rather than settled by the passing of the Corn Law of 1815 and Peel’s Currency Act of 1819. Mill’s favourable reviews of Thomas Tooke’s Thoughts on High and Low Prices (Nos. 8 and 12) consist largely of expository, approving synopses of Tooke’s influential book. (He was to use Tooke’s arguments again in the following year in his Westminster Review article, “War Expenditure.”)20 Young Mill next took on the Rev. Thomas Malthus in a review (No. 18) of The Measure of Value, which demonstrated the adolescent neophyte’s proficiency at dissecting bad logic. Having dismissed one of the established economist’s arguments “as a specimen of the obscure and disjointed mode of reasoning which Mr. Malthus has adopted,” and referring to “two or three other paragraphs of too little Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] importance to require a refutation,” the youngster concludes with a triumphant reassertion of the orthodox position on the currency question.21

Another economic piece, written in June 1823, “The Debate on East and West Indian Sugars” (No. 10), has additional interest as an example of the way Mill’s daily articles not infrequently originated. James Mill was Zachary Macaulay’s ally in the anti-slavery movement (Macaulay had supported James Mill for the position in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company); in December of 1821 he had been applied to as the natural authority by Macaulay, who was seeking help in the preparation for a debate, scheduled for May 1822, on the West Indian Monopoly.22 Macaulay then contributed to the pamphlet war,23 showing a detailed knowledge of India, its manufactures, and its trade. At this distance we cannot know whether John worked to gather information for his father and Macaulay, but certainly James Mill and his radical allies with their constant discussion and planning provided the motivation and put the needed knowledge at John Mill’s fingertips for an article on the parliamentary debate in 1823.

Another example is Mill’s article on Spanish affairs (No. 13). His easy familiarity with the recent very complicated events came quite naturally. Radical eyes had been watching the revolutionary events in Spain since 1820. Jeremy Bentham had written a pamphlet to impress upon the Cortes the importance of a free press.24 In April 1823 the French invasion of Spain had outraged radical opinion; Major Cartwright “entreats” (in Alexander Bain’s words) James Mill’s “intervention,” and a meeting was held on 13 June at the London Tavern “for aiding the Spaniards to maintain their independence against France.”25 Consequently, when on 4 August the news came of the capitulation of the constitutionalist general, Ballasteros, heralding the restoration of Ferdinand, the young boy could write a remarkably sure and percipient article without delay.

The young Mill’s main interest in 1823, however, was not political economy or foreign affairs but the issues that Bentham’s Traités had inspired him to fight for. In Mill’s account of the thought of the radical writers—he included Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] himself—associated with the Westminster Review founded in 1824 he says, “Their mode of thinking was not characterized by Benthamism in any sense which has relation to Bentham as a chief or guide . . .” (A, 107), but his own journalism of 1823 would lead to a qualification of this estimate. Recollecting thirty years later his “considerably more ambitious” articles in the Morning Chronicle on freedom of the press, prompted by the prosecution of the Carliles, Mill dismisses his other contributions: “during the whole of this year, 1823, a considerable number of my contributions were printed in the Chronicle and Traveller: sometimes notices of books, but oftener letters, commenting on some nonsense talked in Parliament, or some defect of the law, or misdoings of the magistracy or the courts of justice” (A, 91); however, it is these writings, especially those on “some defect or misdoings” that show the strength of Bentham’s influence, be it from his writings or his lips.

A far greater number than Mill implies of his early articles appeared in the Morning Chronicle exposing the “defects of the law, and of the administration of justice.” “I do not go beyond the mark in saying,” Mill comments, “that after Bentham, who supplied the principal materials, the greatest share of the merit of breaking down this wretched superstition belongs to Black, as editor of the Morning Chronicle” (A, 91).26 In 1823 seventeen of his twenty-five contributions, at a conservative estimate, are applications of principles enunciated by Bentham, and by James Mill in his articles in Napier’s Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In his castigation of religious persecution in January of 1823 (No. 3), Mill applied the fundamental lesson learnt from the Traités: “What thus impressed me was the chapter in which Bentham passed judgment on the common modes of reasoning in morals and legislation, deduced from phrases like ‘law of nature,’ ‘right reason,’ ‘the moral sense,’ ‘natural rectitude,’ and the like, and characterized them as dogmatism in disguise . . .” (A, 67). The exposure of such fallacious language had become the trademark of a true practising Benthamite.27 Such a maxim as “Christianity is part and parcel of the law of England,” declares Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] Mill to the editor of the Morning Chronicle, is “utterly unmeaning and absurd,” and no grounds for religious persecution.28

As he pursued the argument in the “Letters on Free Discussion” (Nos. 5, 6, and 7) the young disciple laid about him with his master’s sword. Bentham’s arguments on efficacious causes and truthfulness in witnesses,29 Quaker honesty,30 atheists’ reliability,31 and foresworn jurymen when the punishment is too large for the crime,32 all appear quite recognizably in these letters to the editor. The argument that Christianity is not needed for the basis of a good judicature, since non-Christians keep their word and many Christians ignore their oaths, bolstered by examples of custom-house oaths and university students’ oaths, can be found repeatedly in Bentham.33 Perhaps even in his reusing of examples, Bentham’s influence can be seen. When the evidence of a Quaker is refused in July 1823, custom-house oaths and university regulations are called into service again (No. 11). Mill in August applies Bentham’s expostulations on the perniciousness of oath-taking as weakening the sin of lying in “The Mischievousness of an Oath” (No. 14). And the following week in yet another letter on oath-taking (No. 16), custom houses and universities bear witness one more time.34

The move from oaths to judges (No. 15) gives the young Benthamite many texts to choose from, all vituperative and all based on the axiom so movingly put by George Grote in his letter to Fanny Lewin on her discovery of the true faith, “I Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] truly rejoice that you have satisfied yourself as to the fact of amour de soi being the universal mover, variously modified, of the human race. There is no possibility of correctly appreciating men or motives until this has become a faultless truth.”35 Mill argues, “A Judge must always have much to gain by injustice: and if due securities are not provided, he will do injustice” (No. 15). Bentham said the same thing at greater length in the Rationale of Judicial Evidence, especially in Vol. IV, Book viii, culminating in Chapter xxix, “Apology for the Above Exposure,” which for sheer spluttering indignant abuse cannot be outdone. Mill’s solution is Bentham’s—publicity.36 Mill goes so far as to propose “giving to the people, either immediately or through their representatives, the power of removing judges of all descriptions from their offices” (No. 20)—a position he later qualifies.

When Mill objects to the use of the treadmill (No. 26) and reviews a book by Hippisley deploring its use (No. 22), it is Bentham’s views of punishment, found also in James Mill’s “Prison and Prison Discipline,” that he puts forward. The son includes a puff for his father’s work, and well he might, since his piece is little more than a rewording of his father’s argument that “People of industry, people who love labour, seldom become the criminal inmates of a prison,”37 and, therefore, to use labour of any kind, even the treadmill, as an instrument of punishment is exceptionable. But he might equally well have acknowledged his erstwhile guardian in whose Rationale of Punishment the distinction between reformation and punishment was argued: reformation would be achieved by bringing the slothful to an appreciation of labour.38

In September of 1823 (No. 19) Mill took as his text Bentham’s expostulation that it is hardly conceivable that a people could be found so stupid as to be persuaded that to serve justice “Nothing more was in any case necessary, than to pronounce one or other of three or four words, such as null, void, bad, quash, irregularity”;39 the legal student holds up two cases, one dismissed for the misspelling of a magistrate’s name and the other for using “after-forenoon” for “afternoon.”

In January of 1824 two more articles (Nos. 29 and 30) echo Bentham. In his review of Francis Place’s pamphlet on special juries, which was itself largely based on Bentham,40 Mill paraphrases Bentham’s defence of his personal Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] criticism of judges, that he meant no slur on any individual. Bentham wrote: “The fault lies not in the individual, not in any particular taint of improbity seated in the bosom of the individual, but in the system itself”;41 Mill writes: “We cannot sufficiently reprobate the principle itself, of endeavouring to deter men from exposing a bad system, lest their strictures should be construed into imputations upon the character of individuals” (No. 29). Mill pointed out “the absurdity of a system of law which forces the Grand Jury to say one thing when they mean another; and not only to say it, but to swear it. This is innocent perjury, but it is perjury, and though the Jurors do not deserve blame, the law evidently does,” and signed himself, “An Enemy to Legal Fictions” (No. 30): in doing so, he must have had Bentham’s voice in his ear, the voice that had filled vitriolic pages on “Legal Mendacity” in the Rationale of Judicial Evidence.42

The echoes of James Mill’s voice in these articles, though not as resonant as those of Bentham’s, are better known, so a few examples will make the point. There is no embarrassment, indeed there is pride, at being the son of his father when Mill writes that this “subject is developed in the most satisfactory manner in Mr. Mill’s invaluable Essay on the Liberty of the Press, forming an article in Napier’s Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica” (No. 5). No thought then of renouncing “sectarian follies” (A, 117). The father’s essays and the son’s articles show a remarkable similarity in word and idea. James Mill: “As the surface of history affords, therefore, no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond the surface, and penetrate to the springs within.”43 John Mill: “Against theories founded upon universal experience, the enemies of improvement hold out—what? Theories founded upon history; that is, upon partial and incomplete experience.” (No. 13.) James Mill: “Government is founded upon this, as a law of human nature, that a man, if able, will take from others any thing which they have and he desires. . . .”44 John Mill: “unless securities are provided, men will neglect the public interest, whenever it interferes with their own” (No. 13). These were the commonplaces of the Philosophic Radicals at the time, be they seventeen-year-old boys or nineteen-year-old girls or fifty-year-old mentors.

Mill’s article on parliamentary reform (No. 21) relies heavily on his father’s essay on “Government” but with an interesting twist, one of the early examples of the rhetoric that John Mill was frequently to use against wrong thinkers. James Mill dismissed the argument that a king or aristocracy is ever satiated as “an opinion founded upon a partial and incomplete view of the laws of human Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] nature.”45 The son, more subtle than the father, did not use his father’s hatred of the aristocracy. He preferred to defeat his opponents by allowing their original premise: that a people would infallibly make so bad a choice “as to render the attainment of good government in this mode utterly hopeless” (No. 21), and to prove that the logical alternative is not an aristocratic government but an absolute monarchy. Mill’s consciousness of his potential opponents, undoubtedly heightened by his debating experience, typifies his lifelong rhetorical style. But the clever scoring of points, though undoubtedly a rewarding game, with a serious purpose for the recently unleashed reformer, was still a game, still “dissecting a bad argument, and finding in what part the fallacy lay,” rather than examining the principles of good government and “acquiring, by experience and reflection, valuable thoughts” of one’s own. In a short while, this game was to prove unsatisfactory, and the young man would be seeking the principles upon which to base the refutation of his opponents’ argument.

There may even be an early warning sign of this dissatisfaction in “Old and New Institutions” (No. 24). Mill attacks an innocent Colonel Hughes who, although advocating reform, does so on the grounds of restoring the old, not introducing the new. Mill’s views are quite orthodox, but there is rather an abundance of fervour in his Benthamite deluging of “the wisdom of our ancestors” with scorn. “Happily we are much wiser than our ancestors; it were a shame if we were not, seeing that we have all their experience, and much more in addition to it” (No. 24). The words of a cocky young whippersnapper. Does half a century between birth dates make one an ancestor and another an heir? Bentham and his father were essentially improving the springs of the stagecoach rather than designing the steam engine.

Another element in the philosophical radical synthesis, Hartleian metaphysics, lies behind the curious piece that Mill wrote for the newly founded Lancet; the uncompromising nature of his assertion is quite startling:

as it is generally admitted that circumstances often overcome the effect of natural predisposition, while no proof has ever been given that natural disposition can overcome external circumstances: we are at liberty to conclude, that in ascribing to any person a natural and original disposition to vice, men are following the very common practice of representing as natural that which is only habitual, merely because they do not recollect its beginning, and will not take the trouble to inquire into its cause

(No. 26).

Although both Bentham and James Mill were Hartleians, John Mill’s analysis in this article on the making of a murderer is more than a derivative attempt to argue Edition: current; Page: [xl] a problem. This question of human nature bothered him all his life (in the Subjection of Women he skirted around it),46 though he was to find a position he could live with: “I saw that though our character is formed by circumstances, our own desires can do much to shape those circumstances . . .” (A, 177). Interwoven with his argument was the depressing prospect of reforming a world for people who are of clay, not only their feet but their souls, clay that must be shaped in Benthamite moulds for every generation. No wonder the promptings of the small voice that wanted to believe in the improvement of mankind, not just circumstances, were gathering force.

The teen-age Mill’s regular writing for the newspapers ended with the unfurling of the Malthusian banner in combat against the Black Dwarf (Nos. 27, 28, 31, and 32). It is still clever debating: Wooler has only to be forced to concede one point—“such matters will always regulate themselves”—and Mill exults in triumph: “This, Sir, is all that I want” (No. 31). But the central issue of the article is powerfully felt and continues to be felt throughout his life; diminution of family size would bring about other and permanent improvement. Many of the principles learnt from Bentham and James Mill are mustered for this debate, and it is fitting that their influence on him should be so clearly illustrated as the first phase of Mill’s journalism draws to a close. What makes a government bad is the amount of discomfort it produces. “Until they [the people] are well fed, they cannot be well instructed: and until they are well instructed, they cannot emancipate themselves from the double yoke of priestcraft and of reverence for superiors” (No. 27). Overpopulation, he argues, is in the interest of landowner and manufacturer who will, therefore, oppose any remedy. To the argument that the plan was against the law of nature, Mill rejoined, “To check population is not more unnatural than to make use of an umbrella” (No. 27), an analogy perhaps prompted by Joseph Hanway’s being the introducer into London of both brollies and foundling hospitals. And there is a happy echo of Bentham’s style in the concluding sentence of his next article, where he protests the application of the word “heartless” to the promoters of limitation, “unless, indeed, the word heartless, be one of the engines of a sentimental cant, invented to discourage all steady pursuit of the general happiness of mankind” (No. 28).

His technique of argument has developed over the last twelve months; he has become cleverer in ticking off one by one the possible objections of probable opponents; he turns their arguments upon them. Neat turns of invective come from his pen (“you have made a much more free use, in this paper, of that easy figure of speech called assertion, than of that more intractable one called proof” [No. 31]—a use at this age he was well qualified to recognize); but some techniques seem to have been instilled with his training. For example, he sets the Edition: current; Page: [xli] onus of an argument upon his opponents (“it is incumbent upon those who declare against toleration to point out some reason which prevents the general rule from being applicable to this particular case” [No. 5])—he uses nearly the same words forty years later when writing The Subjection of Women.47 But the great value of these early writings is their unique witness to the mind created by James Mill’s education. It is almost uncomfortably apposite that this period of his apprenticeship should conclude with two letters to the editor, one (No. 33) defending his father’s views, and one which reads:

The accompanying paragraphs are destined for insertion in your Dwarf. They are extracted from the article “Colonies,” in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; a discourse composed by an eminent friend of the people. They contain, I think, a most conclusive answer to your last article on population; and if you insert them, you will be very well able to dispense with the reply which you would otherwise have received from Sir, your most obedient Servant.

(No. 32.)


parliamentary events were the centre of interest in England in the latter half of the decade. The rioting common after the Napoleonic Wars was less so now, though not unknown. There were strikes in 1824 and after the repeal of the Combination Acts that year, engineered by Place and executed by Hume, there were even more strikes in 1825. The middle classes, too, had their griefs. That year saw wild speculation in “bubble” companies, and county banks joined the Bank of England in over-issuing paper money to fuel the dreams. In December the end came; Pole and Company failed and between sixty and seventy banks were sucked under with it. The Bank Act of 1826 authorizing joint-stock banks and providing controls for currency issue was Peel’s response. There followed coincidentally a period of prosperity, quickly terminated by a poor harvest. Corn Law agitation revived amongst the manufacturing classes, and the labouring classes again vented their despair by attacks on mills, especially those with power looms. To the economic uncertainty and discontent at all levels was suddenly added political uncertainty and discontent. On 18 February, 1827, Lord Liverpool had a stroke; the hand that had for fifteen years provided a semblance of stability was gone. The Whigs raised their hopes. After six weeks, Canning formed a Government including some Whigs and thus embittered both Tories and the Whigs who were not included. In August he died. For five months the ship of state was guided by Viscount Goderich, “as firm as a bullrush.” He was succeeded in January of 1828 by the Duke of Wellington, with the support, until May, of William Huskisson and other Canningites, to whom Canning’s widow Edition: current; Page: [xlii] referred publicly as her husband’s murderers. It was in this spirit of public animosity that Parliament and the country debated the Corn Law, Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, Catholic Emancipation, and electoral reform.

During all the uproar, Mill contributed only a few pieces to the daily press. His newspaper career was in virtual abeyance between 1824 and 1828; during those five years he wrote mostly for the Westminster Review, thirteen articles in all, with another four in the Parliamentary Review. He also edited the Rationale of Judicial Evidence, a formidable task despite his demonstrated familiarity with Bentham’s ideas, and contributed to McCulloch’s edition of the Wealth of Nations an appendix on Adam Smith’s views on rent, territory also familiar to him. There is little new in the topics of Mill’s articles in the Westminster on free trade and the laws of libel,48 but, significantly, there were three on France, its great revolution, and its historians.49 And Mill felt that those written in the Parliamentary History and Review50 were also markedly different: “These writings were no longer mere reproductions and applications of the doctrines I had been taught; they were original thinking, as far as that name can be applied to old ideas in new forms and connexions” (A, 121-3). Although this impressive output, especially in the light of his other activities, would easily explain the paucity of his newspaper contributions, inclination undoubtedly played a role. He was depressed during 1826; duty occasionally led him to contribute though he was not inspirited—except in his political satire on Wellington’s Ministry—but by 1828 the gloom was lifting.

After his hasty closing of the debate with Thomas Wooler over population, he wrote nothing more until the end of 1824, when he wrote one piece (No. 33) correcting Black’s misinterpretation in the Morning Chronicle of what James Mill had said in the Westminster Review. He wrote another piece in September 1825; two others in June and December 1827; and six in 1828. In themselves they are of only minor significance. His defence of McCulloch’s views (No. 34) was off the top of a well-stocked head; he had been writing in the Westminster on both economics and Ireland, and showed once again that warmed-up leftovers make a palatable enough snack. Ireland was also the topic of “The Brunswick Clubs” (No. 42). He contributed to the New Times (No. 35), probably because he could score off The Times and help Eugenius Roche, an editor known to his father from the earlier days of persecution of the press, who had just become its editor (again). Both the inhabitants of Queenborough (No. 36) and the Edition: current; Page: [xliii] shopkeepers on the approaches to London Bridge (No. 41) were small people being hurt by sinister interests, but there seems to be no special motivation for the articles. These are desultory pieces. More interesting are the satirical political squibs in 1828 prompted by the resignation of the Canningite faction from Wellington’s cabinet (Nos. 37, 38, 39, and 40); perhaps he was cheering up, for they exhibit publicly the clever wit for which John Mill was enjoyed by his intimates but which, one must regret, appeared in his writings usually only as a very neat, sharp turn of phrase.

Gaiety had been certainly missing from the adolescent mind. There have been many analyses of the mental crisis since 1873; the light thrown on it by his early journalism (and vice versa) is all that need be seen here. John Stuart Mill, the teen-age romantic dreaming of the French Revolution (A, 65-7), himself playing the lead as the noblest of the Girondists, had spent his days writing letters and leaders. In them he applied the sectarian doctrines of the Utilitarians to a creaking eighteenth-century mechanical model in an attempt to make it run smoothly in the nineteenth. The world of Jeremy Bentham and James Mill was by definition made up of eternally self-seeking, pre-programmed abusers of power, all carefully set to watch over each other so that their selfish desires were controlled and directed towards the greatest happiness of the greatest number, who “will always prefer themselves to their neighbours . . . will indulge their indolence and satiate their rapacity whenever they can do it without fear of detection” (No. 15). Bentham said, “Amend the system, you amend the man.” The idealistic teenager wanted more than to prevent a man from abusing his power; he wanted to reform the man and the system would take care of itself. It is no wonder that the small voice of his self-consciousness whispered “No” clearly, distinctly, and brooking no argument. It is no wonder that the brilliance of “the vista of improvement” that Bentham’s Traités opened, originally sufficient “to light up my life, as well as to give a definite shape to my aspirations” (A, 71), began to dim after several years of applying principles to actual cases and evaluating the effects.

From the end of 1828 until the middle of 1830 he wrote very little (both John and James Mill withdrew from the Westminster Review) and nothing in the papers, “and great were the advantages which I derived from the intermission. It was of no common importance to me, at this period, to be able to digest and mature my thoughts. . . .” (A, 137.) The ideas which he needed to digest had come from a bewildering number of sources, all tending to loosen the moorings of the basically stationary world his father had explained to him. In England, many other influences came upon him: the ideas of people as different as Robert Owen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Carlyle, Thomas Macaulay, John Sterling, William Thompson. Most important were the young men with whom he associated. Change was in the atmosphere for the young—and for some not so young. For there was not one of Mill’s thoughtful cotemporaries (as he would say) who did not acknowledge that some change must come. There was vast Edition: current; Page: [xliv] disagreement about the route to be taken and how far should be travelled, but there was no disagreement that travel one must. There is an enormous sense of the temporary in the first half of the century, especially after about 1820. Mill may have taken up from the French the phrase “age of transition” in his “Spirit of the Age,” but it labelled what many in England felt. Everybody was passing through. Be they currency reformers or Corn Law repealers, Cambridge apostles or utilitarians, ten-hours men or socialists, Chartists or trade unionists, muscular Christians or Popish ones, Poor Law bashaws or angels of charity, conservatives or radicals, they were all working for a better tomorrow. One person’s tomorrow might look like another person’s yesterday, but they would both agree that today could not be the pattern for the future.

The young men who had developed this sense of change into a philosophy were French youths who breathed “the free and genial atmosphere of Continental life” (A, 59) so much admired by Mill. He read Auguste Comte’s early Système de politique positive (1824) and learnt the stages of historical development, the characteristics of an age of transition, and, most importantly, the significance in historical progress of the French Revolution (A, 173); he started his lifelong friendship with Gustave d’Eichthal. The Saint-Simonians had a fundamental influence on him. Through their eyes, Mill had seen the promised land, and that vision, indeed obsession (but perhaps all visions are obsessions), he never lost.51 The writings of the mature man were sustained by the passionate vision vouchsafed to the young man in his late teens. Not the less passionate by its expression being moderate,52 this vision was dramatically given immediate reality by the French Revolution of 1830. Experience was to make the expected realization of the vision fade into the future, but the vision itself did not fade. The cards of history revealed movement. Mankind would improve; infinite improvement was possible.

JULY 1830 TO JULY 1831

if life in london had been less violent for the last decade than in the 1810s, violence was about to threaten once again. In the summer of 1830 the elections in England on the death of George IV were fought on reform and under the excitement of the July Revolution in France. It was thought the Tories had lost, and in November, when Parliament resumed, the issues became absolutely clear. Edition: current; Page: [xlv] Earl Grey raised the question of reform; the Duke of Wellington replied that England was perfect. London was so roused that King William’s safety was feared for were he to attend the Lord Mayor’s dinner accompanied by the Duke. The Duke resigned. Earl Grey formed a government and everybody went home for Christmas and the foxhunting. When Parliament resumed, Lord John Russell introduced the Reform Bill on 1 March, 1831. On 23 March, it passed its second reading by one vote, with the support of the Irish members. In April the Tories defeated the Government. A general election returned a majority for Grey and reform, and in June a second version of the Reform Bill was introduced into the Commons. Throughout the spring and summer of 1831, tension in England mounted. Crowds gathered in the streets; guns were being bought; political unions were formed and their members attended military drills. All watched as the Reform Bill, carried along by the parliamentary process, moved slowly and inexorably towards the House of Lords.

The tension was heightened by events in France.53 The Polignac Ministry, with Charles X’s full encouragement, had attempted to tamper with the elections in July of 1830. When, nevertheless, it became clear that the tiny electorate had defied their King and returned a majority opposed to the present Government, including the 221 recalcitrant Deputies who had signed a protest to the King against Polignac, Charles X issued the fatal ordinances, annulling the elections, constricting the electorate even more, and gagging the press. Paris rose, and for three glorious days, 27, 28, and 29 July, manned the barricades. During an exhilarating, frenetic week, those who had opposed Charles gathered and argued under a Provisional Government. Charles X abdicated, and Lafayette, the republican idol of France, embraced the Duke of Orleans before an immense crowd saying, “Voilà ce que nous avons pu faire de plus républicain.”54 The Duke, son of Philippe Egalité, became Louis Philippe I on 9 August; Lafayette’s embrace had established “un trône populaire entouré d’institutions tout à fait républicaines.”55 From that day began the struggle between, as Mill saw it, the party of movement, led in the National Assembly by the old revolutionists and outside it by the young republicans especially the journalists, and the stationary party, led in the Assembly by Guizot and the Doctrinaires—broadly speaking the Edition: current; Page: [xlvi] 221 Deputies who had been the phalanx of the opposition to Charles X—and outside it by Louis Philippe, his Ministry, and the thousands of government place-men throughout the bureaucracy of France. By the summer of 1831, Louis Philippe and the Ministry under Casimir Périer, through relentless persecution of the republican press and brutal repression of insurrections, had established the bourgeois monarchy modelled, to Mill’s infinite disgust, on the Whig example in England.

In the spring of 1830 Mill was well on the way to recovery of his equilibrium, although periods of depression would return. The frame of mind in which the French Revolution of July found him (A, 163ff.) still showed many of the effects of his depression, but three things elated him: his introduction to Harriet Taylor, whose effect on him, whatever one may think of her, cannot be overestimated; the prorogation of the French Parliament; and the death of George IV, which effectually prorogued the English Parliament. All three events portended for the young man a much brighter future. The mouvement of history that he had learnt from his French acquaintances to hold as a faith was clearly about to advance noticeably.

Mill was quite confident that the death of George IV would mean reform in England. He himself took little part directly in advancing the movement of history in England, not even with his pen. But indirectly he did. His articles on France, contributed to the Examiner regularly after August 1830, are written with an acute awareness of the happenings and the attitudes around him. Here Mill’s new ideas can be seen being put to the test. “The only actual revolution which has ever taken place in my modes of thinking, was already complete. My new tendencies had to be confirmed in some respects, moderated in others: but the only substantial changes of opinion that were yet to come, related to politics. . . .” (A, 199.)

Mill’s return to journalism (No. 43) was fired by his desire to ensure that the English public were correctly informed about the issues involved in the French elections; misunderstanding of France must not lead to a weakening of resolve at home. Ignorance could mean destruction and bloodshed in England.56 It is noteworthy that Mill wrote his articles on France for Fonblanque’s Examiner.57 Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] The Examiner was a weekly and therefore occasionally allowed longer articles while demanding a summary of the week’s news rather than daily reports. Fonblanque’s ardour was more suitable in spirit than Black’s heavier touch for the new (born again?) Mill, and his father’s shadow over his shoulder was less sensed.

When the French elections turned into confrontation which developed into revolution, “it roused [his] utmost enthusiasm, and gave [him], as it were, a new existence” (A, 179). Mill ecstatically travelled to Paris for two weeks, to the very heart of the intellectual excitement he so much admired. He wrote a hagiographic description of the popular uprising to his father in three letters, two of which were printed in the Examiner.58 When Mill returned to London, he was on tenterhooks as France established herself after the Glorious Days. He at first took advantage of the greater space allowed to discuss the Prospects of France, in a series of articles which he wrote from September to November 1830 (Nos. 44, 45, 48, 50, 51, 57, and 61). His philosophy of history, with its belief in progress through alternating transitional and organic stages, was being tested; before his very eyes was passing in fast-forward a transitional stage. Here was a chance not only to explain progress in history but also to further it by providing the broader background needed for a true appreciation of the forces of movement and stagnation that underlay events both in France and in England. Any party that is on the side of movement is on the side of history and must be on the side of the people. It cannot be otherwise. Any party which opposes movement must be against the interests of France, of her people, and therefore of mankind. “The design of these papers was to prepare the English public . . . for the struggle which we knew was approaching between the new oligarchy and the people; to arm them against the misapprehensions . . .; to supply facts . . . without which we are aware that that they could not possibly understand the true character of the events which were coming” (No. 61).

At the beginning of the series, Mill’s hopes were high. The French people had behaved in exemplary fashion, showing that they were the unselfish force of the future, willing at present to leave their interests in the hands of their natural leaders, the educated men. As early as 19 September, however, he was aware that there were those who “in every step which it [the Revolution] takes towards the achievement of its destiny . . . are more keenly alive to the dangers which beset it, than to the glory and the happiness towards which it is irresistibly advancing” (No. 44). Two things worried Mill right from the start: one was the Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] apparent jobbing which immediately took place on a grand scale after the change of government. Place hunters poured into the Elysée Palace by the thousands. The power of self-interest was evident, and Mill realized that France was still ruled by an oligarchy, self-interest being the result of oligarchical rule. A second worry was much more serious. Even in an oligarchy, there can be a division between movement and stagnation. But many Frenchmen and nearly all Englishmen mistook the Doctrinaires under Guizot for the party of reform and gave them their support (No. 49); it could even be enough support for the Doctrinaires to dominate in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Government. But Guizot and his constitutionalists were backward looking. The “221” looked to the preservation of the Charter for which they had laudably fought against the encroachments of Charles X. Since the Glorious Days such an attitude was folly, was the result of a misunderstanding of the shift in the balance of power that had taken place when the people realized their strength, was a denial of the movement. Mill heaped abuse on the “fund of stupidity and vulgar prejudice in our principal journalists” (No. 56); especially the Quarterly Review and The Times constantly misinformed their readers about the true nature of the parties in France (Nos. 44, 49, 54, and 56 in particular).

In the early days, Mill could not believe in spite of his worries that he had misread the effects of revolution and the timing of history. The French would, he believed, “effect their parliamentary reform in two years, perhaps sooner,—not with muskets, but with newspapers and petitions: after which there will be ‘tranquility,’ if that name can be given to the intense activity of a people which, freed from its shackles, will speedily outstrip all the rest of the world in the career of civilization” (No. 44). His belief in the importance of newspapers was strengthened by his increasing hesitation about the anachronistic Chamber of Deputies; it was in the newspapers edited by young men that one heard the voice of the movement. A new Chamber chosen by an enlarged electorate was an essential first step, to be followed by elected municipal governments and a reformed peerage; these modest planks constituted the republican platform (No. 51).

When Laffitte, whom Mill saw as a liberal and (in spite of his age) more forward-looking than the constitutionalists, left the presidency of the Chamber to join the cabinet at the end of October, Mill was delighted at this sign that Louis Philippe was turning away from the stationary party (No. 55). It may be only a coincidence that Mill started at this time to contribute regular detailed reports on French politics and brought to a close his discursive series on the “Prospects of France.” He argued for the domination of the Chamber by the Ministry—not a position English readers would expect a Radical to adopt; he thought Laffitte’s Ministry (in which he included Louis Philippe) ought to control the Chamber because its members were more advanced than the majority of the Deputies. It was certainly more than a coincidence that Mill was putting forward these ideas in November when in England the debate on the speech from the throne, the first Edition: current; Page: [xlix] test of Lord Grey’s support, was taking place. In Mill’s analysis of the political developments, the popularity that would allow Laffitte to dominate the Government could only come from the popular press. (Mill used “popular” not to mean representing majority opinion among the people, but being on the side of the people, on the side of history.) Most of the popular press was republican—Le National, of which Armand Carrel was one of the editors, was his ideal; these young journalists alone dared to question institutions hallowed by time. This was not like the licentious press of England and America where people pursued journalism as a trade, “as they would gin-making,” for it was written by the “highly cultivated portion of la jeune France” out of the most noble principle (No. 54). Mill is quite carried away by the prospect afforded by the brilliant young men leading “this noble people [who] afford every day some new and splendid example of its progress in humane feelings and enlightened views” (No. 52), even when they were rioting in favour of the death penalty for Polignac and his ministers.

Mill was very disturbed when the rejection at the end of November of Benjamin Constant’s Bill to exempt printers from obtaining licences showed that the Chamber was prepared to see the press curbed (No. 62). The rejection led him to question and then qualify the use of the ballot. The Deputies voted on separate clauses openly and every clause passed, but the Bill as a whole failed to pass on the final vote by ballot. The ballot, he concluded, was not suitable for use in a representative assembly where a man’s vote should be known to his constituents, but was for the constituents themselves who needed its protection. His position drew him briefly into a debate with the Standard (Nos. 63 and 65).

By December the young enthusiast’s growing doubts were given a particular issue to cluster around. Because “a revolution carries society farther on its course, and makes greater changes in the popular mind, than half a century of untroubled tranquillity” (No. 48), Louis Philippe and the Ministry must not be content to tinker with the system but must reconstitute it in accordance with the new society. Laffitte’s proposed reform of the election law—at least what it was rumoured to include—was far too narrow to satisfy Mill, especially a Mill with one eye on events in England (No. 64).59 Earl Grey should realize that a far-reaching reform bill was the only way to bring English institutions into harmony with the new society. Mill’s growing disillusionment spills over in his reporting of the death of Benjamin Constant: “We are assured that this lamented patriot, almost with his last breath, expressed to the friends who encircled his death-bed, the regret which he felt, while dying, that the revolution of July was manquée, and had fallen into the hands of intrigans” (No. 68). The champion of Edition: current; Page: [l] a free press was dead, and the intrigans were persecuting and silencing the young men who stood for the movement.

The King’s dismissal of Lafayette at the end of December was followed by Laffitte’s replacement in March by the less acceptable—to Mill—Casimir Périer. Mill now set his hopes (as he was to do in English politics after the Reform Bill passed and Parliament changed not) on a radical opposition. Indirectly warning the Whigs at home, he poured vitriol on the head of Guizot, who was attempting to form a middle party between the popular party, led by Lafayette, and the oligarchy, for his “bigotted and coxcombical devotion” (No. 74) to his own ways instead of joining the popular party which had the backing of all under thirty-five and was thus “a power which no one dares despise; and, by earnest and well-directed exertions, is sure of ultimate victory” (No. 72).

There were small improvements, but little to feed Mill’s hopes or catch his imagination. The number of judges was to be reduced; the Commissioner who introduced the Bill delighted the heart of the editor of Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence by showing a sense “of the immense importance of the principle of undivided responsibility” of judges (No. 76),60 but the fact that he was the only one in the debate who did so somewhat lessened the delight. There was to be Government retrenchment of salaries. And then there was the municipal bill by which the local bodies were to be elected “by a suffrage tolerably extensive,” though “all the good which would otherwise result from the law is neutralised” by their being elected for six years. The amount of moral improvement engendered amongst the people would presumably therefore be minimal. Mill went so far as to argue that it might be better if the municipal officers continued as Crown appointees, because then they could be removed if the popular outcry was strong enough. He was upset but understanding when the people threw the Archbishop’s furniture into the Seine. The people, Mill explained, though they loved religion, could not abide political religion—possibly a timely word to the English bishops (No. 87). Again with the reform crisis at home very much in mind—the Bill was to be introduced on 1 March—Mill chastised The Times and the Quarterly Review for their failure to realize that the Doctrinaires under Guizot were the stationary party: “If the English and the new French government are destined severally to give another lesson to the world on the incapacity of oligarchies, howsoever constituted, to learn wisdom from experience, the trial must be submitted to: but at least those who shall provoke it shall do so knowingly, and must hold themselves prepared to suffer the natural consequences of their own folly” (No. 89).

On 6 March, 1831, Mill wrote on both Lord John Russell’s Reform Bill (No. 90) and French electoral reform (No. 91). Mill’s reaction to Russell’s Bill was Edition: current; Page: [li] surprisingly cool, since it was surely more thorough than he had expected: it should be supported, although limited, because either the new Parliament under it would represent the wishes of the people or the people would force the ballot. (Mill, like his allies and most others at this time, makes no distinction between the middle class to be enfranchised and the lower classes who are not.) When the new French electoral law was introduced, Mill should have been delighted that it was more generous than he had expected, but instead he was depressed as the parties in the Chamber manoeuvred to secure an election date to serve their selfish interests: “The destinies of France are in the hands of men more than nine-tenths of whom are not fit to have any part in the government of a parish” (No. 91).

With such men in power, throughout the spring of 1831 Mill understandably continued in low spirits.61 The revolution seemed to have stagnated, to have declined into piecemeal reforms extracted from a grudging Ministry, passed by a petty, selfish, factionalized Chamber of Deputies. Even the middle classes were not satisfied “either in respect to men or measures”; consequently there was no feeling of security. Until there was security, “the labouring population will be without work, will be dissatisfied, a prey to agitators, and ready for continual tumults: which tumults, so long as they do not endanger human life or private property, the National Guard [some of whose companies, Mill does not mention, were commanded by young republicans] will give themselves as little trouble as possible to suppress” (No. 89). It was thus the Government’s fault that mobs and rioting were once more commonplace. Mill’s enthusiasm for the republican youth was not diminished.

Mill never ceased to defend the right of the youth of Paris to speak and write their thoughts, even in extreme cases when the results of their behaviour were dangerous by ordinary standards. At twenty-four, Mill felt he had much in common with the gallant band of young men who had placed themselves in the van of history. As their influence waned and power became established in the hands of the older liberals, Mill became profoundly disturbed. He hardly mentioned the republicans’ part in fuelling the December riots during the trial of the ex-Ministers—the reports of which he had at first dismissed as exaggerated rumour (Nos. 72 and 89)—for which they had been arrested, tried, and acquitted. He referred to the “pretended republican conspirators” (No. 100) “who, it has been supposed by good-natured, timid friends of freedom, both in this country and in France, must needs be firebrands and sowers of sedition” (No. 101). Mill translated Cavaignac’s speech in his own defence; the appeal to him was obvious: “it is inevitable; . . . all things are moving in that direction; the course of events, the human mind, and outward things. I have perceived, that it Edition: current; Page: [lii] is impossible for the movement which now rules the world to end in any thing but a republic.” (App. A.)

It is this spirit, this understanding of the forward movement of history to progressively more democratic institutions, the shift in power to greater numbers, that Mill is trying to inculcate in his readers. It is this spirit that is the spirit of the age. In early 1831, to develop these ideas more elaborately, he wrote five long articles under that title.62 His belief explains his lack of interest—the words are not too strong—in the details of Grey’s Reform Bill. The historical process will bring reform to England; with or without revolution is the choice before Englishmen. He wanted to persuade Englishmen to vote on the side of history; the alternative for England was revolution.

The price had been worth paying in France. Mill is so convinced that revolution is always a great leap forward, an advancing of the historical process, that his vision at times must have made his thought a little obscure to his readers. It triumphed over any disappointment, and he assured Englishmen that despite appearances the French Revolution was a good. If at times the young enthusiast felt that history moved in mysterious ways, his prose revealed no hint of irony.

It is not to be denied that, up to this moment, the Revolution of 1830 has brought forth none but bitter fruits;—the ruin of hundreds of opulent families; thousands of industrious workmen thrown out of employment; perpetual apprehension of internal tumults or foreign war; the most grievous disappointments; the most violent political dissensions; and, finally, a Government not more democratic in its constitution—not more popular in its spirit—and, by the necessity of its false position, not less oppressive and anti-national in its acts, than that of Charles X. . . .

To all this, the answer is, that the circumstances of France and the character of the French nation are grievously mistaken, if it is imagined that the people of France made their Revolution under the conception that it was a thing to gain by.

(No. 98.)

Such sentiments were a far cry from “amour de soi being the universal mover.”63

The universal mover had become the historical process whose agent was the people. Leaders on both sides of the Channel must understand that power was inevitably moving to the people; political democracy would come. The young Edition: current; Page: [liii] men of France knew this truth and were actually striving to prevent the stationary party from perpetuating unrest in France. In a time of transition, it is the young who question the received ideas and who will eventually develop the new ideas that will bring stability. It is essential, therefore, that they be permitted freedom of speech and action.

The men of the present day rather incline to an opinion than embrace it; few, except the very penetrating, or the very presumptuous, have full confidence in their own convictions. This is not a state of health, but, at the best, of convalescence. It is a necessary stage in the progress of civilization, but it is attended with numerous evils; as one part of a road may be rougher or more dangerous than another, although every step brings the traveller nearer to his desired end.

(No. 73.)

It was absolutely essential to keep stepping. If the leaders refused to help the historical process, there would be a long period of disruption, perhaps much bloodshed; the period of transition would be prolonged in all its uncertainty. This was the message Mill delivered in the spring of 1831 as both Louis Philippe and William IV dissolved their parliaments, the former with dignity after the new electoral law had been passed, and the latter in some haste to forestall the Lords after the proposed electoral reform had been thwarted: “in the two greatest nations in the world, general elections will simultaneously take place, and the new legislative bodies will be simultaneously called upon to determine the future constitution of their country” (No. 102). Mill had two elections of great interest to watch.

But he also had to plan a trip to the Lake District for July, an exciting journey involving four days of conversation with Wordsworth, which, along with Harriet Taylor’s safe delivery of a daughter, Helen, may have done something to lift his spirits. For the next few years, Mill’s annual summer trips coincided naturally with the summer political recess and with, equally naturally, a gap in his political reporting, and they form for editors convenient chapter breaks. Before he went on his trip, he took time to fulfil a few occasional obligations such as an obituary and a review (Nos. 108 and 110), a response to an attack, if oblique, on a principle (Nos. 109 and 111), and puffs for friends or friends of friends (Nos. 104, 106, and 112). These last remind one that Mill was now, as was Harriet, a frequenter of the Monthly Repository circle and a close friend of W.J. Fox and Eliza Flower.

AUGUST 1831 TO JULY 1832

back from his holiday in the Lake District, Mill returned to his France-watching in a somewhat better frame of mind. But he returned to an England that was to come to the brink of revolution in the next nine months. Grey’s increased support from that summer’s elections meant the reintroduced Edition: current; Page: [liv] Reform Bill easily passed its third reading in the Commons in September; in October the Lords threw it out; the Bristol riots the same month showed how little protection property had against the mob. Throughout the winter, while cholera raged, the country waited to see which way the King would lean: towards the creation of peers, Grey, and reform, or towards the House of Lords, Wellington, and repression. Then in May 1832 came the ten days without a Government, when Wellington tried and failed to form one; this was the turning point. Grey returned to power with William IV’s promise to create peers if need be. In June of 1832, the first Reform Bill received Royal Assent. With considerable excitement the country prepared to elect a reformed Parliament.

Mill’s curiously detached attitude towards English politics is explained in a long, very personal letter he wrote to John Sterling:

If the ministers flinch or the Peers remain obstinate, I am firmly convinced that in six months a national convention chosen by universal suffrage, will be sitting in London. Should this happen, I have not made up my mind what would be best to do: I incline to think it would be best to lie by and let the tempest blow over, if one could but get a shilling a day to live upon meanwhile: for until the whole of the existing institutions of society are levelled with the ground, there will be nothing for a wise man to do which the most pig-headed fool cannot do much better than he. A Turgot, even, could not do in the present state of England what Turgot himself failed of doing in France—mend the old system. If it goes all at once, let us wait till it is gone: if it goes piece by piece, why, let the blockheads who will compose the first Parliament after the bill passes, do what a blockhead can do, viz. overthrow, & the ground will be cleared, & the passion of destruction sated, & a coalition prepared between the wisest radicals & the wisest anti-radicals, between all the wiser men who agree in their general views & differ only in their estimate of the present condition of this country.—You will perhaps think from this long prosing rambling talk about politics, that they occupy much of my attention: but in fact I am myself often surprised, how little I really care about them. The time is not yet come when a calm & impartial person can intermeddle with advantage in the questions & contests of the day. I never write in the Examiner now except on France, which nobody else that I know of seems to know any thing about; & now & then on some insulated question of political economy. The only thing which I can usefully do at present, & which I am doing more & more every day, is to work out principles: which are of use for all times, though to be applied cautiously & circumspectly to any: principles of morals, government, law, education, above all self-education. I am here much more in my element: the only thing that I believe I am really fit for, is the investigation of abstract truth, & the more abstract the better.64

Mill’s reporting of French affairs could not help but be increasingly coloured by events in England and his attitude to them. During the next twelve months, Mill seems in his articles to be analyzing the political process more than reporting it. He claimed he was only good for the “investigation of abstract truth,” but his newspaper articles qualify that claim, because it was from watching the French argue principle and fail to achieve the needed reforms that he began to realize the Edition: current; Page: [lv] truths of practical politics. As soon as he returned in August he wrote two pieces on the French elections, which had also resulted in gains for “the popular party.” More than ever he thought the Ministerial Party under Casimir Périer was that of resistance and the opposition the party of movement—the Bonapartists and Republicans being insignificant in the Chamber—but he now thought the balance of power would allow reason to prevail and slow change would result. The French should now rest content until “the great step which their institutions have now made, shall have had leisure to produce its fruits” (No. 114). He recommended calm to allow the new French electoral law, although very inadequate, to make its effect felt; Mill did not want a revolution in England, and continuing ferment and further demands in France might stiffen the resistance, especially of the Lords, at home.

The main issue in the French Chamber during the autumn was the abolition of the hereditary peerage, one of the issues that helped Mill to work out principles and their use. In the article he wrote Mill seemed to be thinking out loud, not just about the peerage in England or France, but about leaders in a time of transition in whatever country.65 “The will of the majority is not to be obeyed as a law, but it is to be attended to as a fact: the opinions and feelings of the nation are entitled to consideration, not for their own sake, but as one of the circumstances of the times . . . which produces effects not to be overlooked; a power, which so largely modifies and interferes with all you do, that unless it is allowed for in your calculations, you can predict nothing” (No. 115). The experience of these years had only confirmed his dislike of those liberal thinkers who were “for making every man his own guide & sovereign master, & letting him think for himself & do exactly as he judges best for himself. . . . It is difficult to conceive a more thorough ignorance of man’s nature, & of what is necessary for his happiness or what degree of happiness & virtue he is capable of attaining than this system implies.”66

He had moved a long way from his earlier radicalism; his observation of the immediate result of the French Revolution made him adjust his theories to fit the actual rather than the abstract consequences of a revolution. He had watched, and reported on, the devolution of an heroic struggle into a depressing battle between stationary liberals and conservatives, with only the people unthinkingly on the side of movement—and their thinking leaders, the young republicans.

The events in France during the months from October 1831 to May 1832 are of less interest than Mill’s reaction to them. The temporary excitement he had felt at the uprising in Lyons in December had been quickly evaporated by its Edition: current; Page: [lvi] suppression. Debates on the Civil List and the budget dragged on. The Bill for national education was delayed. Corruption seemed everywhere. All feeling, except disgust, had been dissipated by the rumours of poisoning that had accompanied the devastating outbreak of cholera in Paris in the spring of 1832. Riots had taken place and Paris was placed under martial law; warrants were issued for the arrest of men as different as Armand Carrel and Chateaubriand; Louis Philippe had handed the Government over to the stationary party, that of the Doctrinaires (nominally under Marshal Soult). Mill did not try to hide his contempt:

The French Chambers were prorogued on the 21st of April, after a session of nine months, in which but little that is of any real use has been even talked about; and of that little, nothing but the most paltry and insignificant fraction has been accomplished. The first session of the first Parliament elected under the Citizen King and the charte-vérité, has demonstrated nothing but the vices of the institutions of France, and the backwardness of her national mind.

(No. 161.)

The fruits which leisure had produced while the French rested content were unpalatable. How could England save herself from a similar fate? By understanding and avoiding the conditions which caused it.

France’s failure could be accounted for by the disastrous effect the concentration on the Charter had had, especially on the young men; the majority were mesmerized by its defence throughout the 1820s, so that when

the Revolution of July [came]: the greatest advance which any nation perhaps ever made by a single step—an advance which no one expected, and for which no one’s habits and ideas were prepared—a change which gave the French nation a clear field to build on, . . . they had [not] possessed themselves of the materials to build withal; a leap, which cleared in an instant a space of many years journey; and transported France through mid-air, away from the scenes with which she was familiar, into regions unvisited and unknown.

(No. 162.)

Tragically for France, power was in the hands of Guizot and the Doctrinaires, who were trying to suppress the only group, the young republicans, who were capable of charting those regions. Particularly, Mill cited the Saint-Simonians, who were “just now, the only association of public writers existing in the world who systematically stir up from the foundation all the great social questions” (No. 158). Mill continued to support those who shared with him the vision of those unknown lands even if he disagreed about how they should be settled.

In his comparison of the French and English intellects (No. 158),67 Mill was not only lending his support to his fellow travellers but he was also pursuing his work as a political scientist. He needed to learn so that he could help the English Radicals to avoid suffering the same disastrous aftermath when England had Edition: current; Page: [lvii] achieved her radical reform as the French had.68 From this perspective, the differences between the two nations, viewed

in any way in which it can be looked at by an enlarged intellect, and a soul aspiring to indefinite improvement, . . . is a subject of rejoicing; for it furnishes the philosopher with varied experiments on the education of the human race; and affords the only mode by which all the parts of our nature are enabled to move forward at once, none of them being choked (as some must be in every attempt to reduce all characters to a single invariable type) by the disproportionate growth of the remainder

(No. 158).

He still felt in 1831, or so he told his French friends, that when he wished

to carry discussion into the field of science and philosophy, to state any general principles of politics, or propound doubts tending to put other people upon stating general principles for my instruction, I must go where I find readers capable of understanding and relishing such inquiries, and writers capable of taking part in them. . . . I conceive that, in political philosophy, the initiative belongs to France at this moment; not so much from the number of truths which have yet been practically arrived at, but rather from the far more elevated terrain on which the discussion is engaged; a terrain from which England is still separated by the whole interval which lies between 1789 and 1832.

(No. 158.)69

Some English friends, such as Sterling and Carlyle, were capable of understanding and relishing such enquiries, but for the most part

In writing to persuade the English, one must tell them only of the next step they have to take, keeping back all mention of any subsequent step. Whatever we may have to propose, we must contract our reasoning into the most confined limits; we must place the expediency of the particular measure upon the narrowest grounds on which it can rest; and endeavour to let out no more of general truth, than exactly as much as is absolutely indispensable to make out our particular conclusion.

(No. 158.)

His lack of active participation in the reform struggle in England can be at least partly attributed to the lack of lofty feelings involved:

The English people have never had their political feelings called out by abstractions. They have fought for particular laws, but never for a principle of legislation. The doctrines of the sovereignty of the people, and the rights of man, never had any root in this country. The cry was always for a particular change in the mode of electing members of the House of Commons. . . .

(No. 158.)70
Edition: current; Page: [lviii]

But once passed, the Reform Act, although limited in its immediate provisions, could effect a bursting of the fetters on the spirit of the English people. By May of 1832 the task of persuading them of the next step had come to seem more attractive—at least more than watching the French politicians. In France there had been “only public discontent and irritation, and a voice perpetually crying out ‘Do something,’ but not telling what to do, not having any thing to tell” (No. 162). In the Chamber were “scenes of confusion and disturbance” and outside there was no public opinion to pressure the Deputies (No. 164). The riots continued; the Duchess of Berry invaded (No. 171). At the end of the session Mill exclaimed: “The nature and amount of the doings of the French Chambers, during the session which has just expired, raise a serious doubt of the capacity of those assemblies as at present constituted, we will not say to legislate tolerably, but to legislate at all” (No. 172). So when the passage of the English Reform Bill was assured, he writes that it is small wonder that “The interest of foreign politics now fades before that of our own. The theatre of political excitement has changed. The current of the mouvement has now shifted to Great Britain: how rapidly to proceed, or in what latitudes to terminate, he must be a bold man who deems that he can foreknow: nor needs he: it is not now the time to hope but to do.” (No. 165.)

The immediate “doing” was the election precipitated by the new franchise. Mill’s limited contribution was two articles (Nos. 174 and 177) on a question which divided the Radicals: whether candidates should be required to pledge themselves to certain courses of action in return for support. The articles show the influence of Mill’s French experience on the development of his ideas, ideas that were later to be incorporated into Representative Government. Only a general pledge should “be tendered to a candidate, his acceptance or refusal of which would decide whether he is with us or against us,—whether he is for the Movement or the Resistance,—whether he voted for the Reform Bill as a prop to all our remaining institutions, or as a means of beating down such of them as are bad, and repairing such as are decaying . . .” (No. 177). Mill’s ideal electorate would be chosen from among the superior men trained to govern: “Government must be performed by the few, for the benefit of the many: and the security of the many consists in being governed by those who possess the largest share of their confidence, and no longer than while that confidence lasts” (No. 174). To govern well, the legislators must remember that “the test of what is right in Edition: current; Page: [lix] politics is not the will of the people, but the good of the people” (No. 177)—a view he had espoused the previous September during the debate over the French peerage.

There is a hint in these articles that he saw himself as a possible candidate. Though it was not until thirty-three years later that he was to fulfil that ambition, when he did, he lived up to the youthful principles:

When all other things are equal, give your votes to him who refuses to degrade himself and you by personal solicitation. To entrust a man with a burthensome duty (unless he means to betray it) is a compliment indeed, but no favour. The man who manifests the highest opinion of the electors, is not he who tries to gain them over individually by civil speeches, but he who assumes that their only object is to choose the fittest man, and abstains from all canvassing, except by laying his pretensions before them collectively, on the hustings, at public meetings, or through the press.

(No. 174.)

Although English politics had been neglected by Mill the journalist—of his sixty-five contributions, all to the Examiner, between August 1831 and August 1832, all but some fifteen had been on France—he found time for his English friends. The affectionate and loyal side of the young man showed as he again inserted favourable notices of his friends in the Monthly Repository circle, Eliza Flower (No. 155), William Pemberton (No. 168), and also two other acquaintances, Charlotte Lewin (another of George Grote’s sisters-in-law) (No. 175) and William Hickson (No. 141). He also praised Whately on his promotion (No. 121) and, as was sadly inevitable, Jeremy Bentham on his death (No. 170). His interest in logic dictated lengthy book reviews of Todd (No. 144), Smart (Nos. 151 and 153), and Lewis (No. 159).71 The other items in this period are disparate, but many of them reveal the shifting sands of Mill’s ideas: the Sugar Refinery Bill and the Slave Trade (No. 118) showed that some things changed very little; the one on the Irish character (No. 138), a very nineteenth-century piece, is of interest in light of his later thoughts on national character; the ideas behind “Property in Land” (No. 163) came from his French friends and would underlie the later Irish articles, the Political Economy, and his eventual membership in the Land Tenure Reform Association; and some short pieces were perhaps simply the product of Fonblanque’s having passed on to Mill items well within his known competence.

Mill had begun the two articles on pledges with a grand flourish suitable for the new era ushered in by the royal signature on the Reform Act: “The steed is at the door, saddled and bridled, and it is time to mount and journey onward” (No. 174). But for the moment, with both the French and English parliaments adjourned, he was content to go on foot for a tour of the New Forest, Hampshire, West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight.

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mill returned to london but did not settle down to his journalism immediately. Presumably he had some India Office correspondence to catch up with, and he was also planning to go to Cornwall for a couple of weeks with the Bullers. He took time before he left to write recommendations for some of those anxious for election under the new dispensation (No. 179). Many of those he recommended were known to him; all of them, as he made a point of saying, were young.

On his return in October his writings for the Examiner were once more resumed, and once more on France. On English affairs there are only two quite predictable pieces on the Corn Laws. After what he had said, such an allotment of his time may seem strange, but in England there was the inevitable delay in Parliamentary activity: the necessity of registering the enlarged electorate postponed the elections into the fall.72 Earl Grey’s Ministry was unchanged by the election: the Radicals’ old champion, Lord Brougham, was Lord Chancellor, Russell and Durham were Paymaster-General and Lord Privy Seal, and the stalwart Viscount Althorp continued as Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the Commons. Parliament did not meet until 29 January, 1833, and when it did the House appeared little altered overall although, importantly for Mill, it contained a small but recognizable group of Radicals, among whom stood out Mill’s old friends, George Grote, J.A. Roebuck, and Sir William Molesworth. For his own part, having appreciated the vital part the young French journalists played in forwarding the movement, and acknowledging that his position at India House prevented his entering Parliament himself, he started orchestrating the radical programme. Such plans as were to mature with the appearance of the London Review in April 1835 might have crossed his mind as early as 1832; such a supposition is given substance by his criticism of the English journalists and praise of the French, especially Armand Carrel, in the article addressed to the latter, written in December of 1832 (No. 186).

In the glare of the illuminations for the Reform victory, Mill might well have seen a role for himself as the ginger journalist if his friends were elected73 and exuberantly forgotten about the necessary political hiatus. This speculation also Edition: current; Page: [lxi] provides perhaps a key to his continued reporting on the French riots, insurrections, and prosecutions of the press.74 It was important that his English readers know about the ruthless but inevitably futile attempts to bring stability to France. The continuous unedifying prosecutions for libel that attempted to silence the youth of France and the uncivilized behaviour of all parties both in the courtroom and in the streets75 were instructive as Mill prepared the way for the radical reforms that were vital if England was to reap the benefits of her revolution and avoid France’s failure.76 The Government of the Doctrinaires, he says, “is an instructive experiment upon what is to be expected from those who affect to found their political wisdom principally on history, instead of looking to history merely for suggestions, to be brought to the test of a larger and surer experience” (No. 181).77

The Guizot party were not, he argued, to be confused with the Whigs, in spite of their own claims. They thought they were modelling themselves on the English Whigs but that was because they thought 1688 and 1830 were comparable and because they thought the Whigs had principles. The first thought was the result of their being

a kind of people for whom history has no lessons, because they bring to its study no real knowledge of the human mind, or of the character of their own age,—[and, therefore they] could hit upon nothing better than erecting into universal maxims the conditions of the compromise which they fancied had been made at our Revolution of 1688, between the monarchical and the popular principle

(No. 181).

If Mill’s readers had read his “Spirit of the Age,” they would have known that the knowledge one got from history was that the character of an age was peculiar Edition: current; Page: [lxii] to that age, always changing, evolving into the next stage, and that therefore no such things as universal maxims could be found; especially short-lived were all maxims in an age of transition.

The second thought was the result of confounding the French and the English: “in England few, except the very greatest thinkers, think systematically, or aim at connecting their scattered opinions into a consistent scheme of general principles. . . . ‘Whig principles’ simply meant, feeling and acting with the men called Whigs. . . . The Doctrinaires have not the wisdom of the beaver; they will never yield a part to save the remainder. . . . They are the most inflexible and impracticable of politicians.” (No. 181.) The inevitable disaster for France under Louis Philippe and his Doctrinaires Mill now sat back to watch, knowing it would come and in coming would prove his analysis of the spirit of the age correct. England should watch and note well the fatal outcome of stationary government.

The ideas he had put forward in the “Spirit of the Age” were being tested against events in France; his hypotheses were being proved correct; his analyses accurately predicted outcomes. Stability could only be restored to a society in transition by completing the revolution. Mill’s articles on France were the windows through which Englishmen could see the fate awaiting them if they too arrested the revolution before it was completed. Thus Mill continued until the end of 1832 to report, with an air almost of satisfaction, the signs of deterioration: the corruption in the courts (No. 182), the attempt to shoot Louis Philippe on his way to open the new session (according to Mill all a farce enacted by the Government to gain public support) (Nos. 185 and 188), the manipulation of the election of the President of the Chamber of Deputies (No. 185). He noticed with commendation the re-establishment of the Department of Moral and Political Science in the Institute (No. 183) and also the move towards freer trade (No. 190). But the only times when strong feelings appeared were in a moving obituary of his old friend Say (No. 185) and a biting denunciation of the British press which, he assured Carrel, did not represent British feelings. “The popular party in England think as ill of the present French Government as M. Carrel himself, and are as anxious as he can be that republican institutions, whether with an elective or hereditary chief, should be firmly established in France” (No. 186).78 Throughout 1833 Mill reported very infrequently on French politics; his reasons are adumbrated in his earlier remark that “we almost doubt whether the scenes that are unfolded took place in a civilized country” (No. 182), and now made plain: “We have discontinued of late our usual notices of French affairs, Edition: current; Page: [lxiii] because all which has been doing in that country is so paltry . . . ” (No. 199);79 “What then has the Session produced? Produced! It has produced money. Its results are the vote of an enormous budget, and an endless series of extraordinary votes of credit.” (No. 204.)80 Throughout these months perhaps only the establishment of national education and municipal institutions gave him concrete grounds for hope for France.

In January of 1833 the first session of the British Parliament since the Reform Act opened. The English political scene seemed promising; Mill had remarked in December:

we see reason to congratulate the friends of improvement upon the definiteness of their objects, and the zeal and unanimity of their exertions. Scarcely a voice has been raised for any causeless or fantastic change, nor has any captiousness been exhibited about mere forms and phrases. This, indeed, would have been inconsistent with the positive, practical, matter-of-fact character of the English mind.

(No. 191.)

Mill had had enough for the moment of Frenchmen in debate. His mind, in any case, was distracted,81 and even on English politics his writing in 1833 lacks the concentration of the past year.82 There were a number of favourable pieces in the Examiner on the Monthly Repository (Nos. 198, 200, and 207); the first of these contained a revealing review of the life of Mehetabel Wesley and the tragedy of her indissoluble marriage.83 The two studious reviews of Eliza Flower’s songs (Nos. 197 and 201) and the praise of Beolchi’s poetry anthology (No. 206) were also the products of his friendship with W.J. Fox and his circle.

None of these pieces was demanding.84 During the whole of the session, which lasted until the end of August, only one or two political matters received his attention; his Parliamentary friends were left largely unaided and unguided while the House discussed factory legislation, the Irish Church, education, law reform, and the emancipation of the slaves.

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The proposed budget raised his ire in the spring (No. 202) and in the summer he roundly attacked the Government over that old chestnut the Bank Charter Bill (Nos. 208, 209, and 212). His criticisms were not very different from what he might have written ten years earlier, although his skill in vituperation is more assured. And, in spite of his dismay at the French opposition floundering in a sea of principles, he can still be almost equally dismayed at the British lack of them:

no power of grasping any principle; no attempt to ground their proceedings upon any comprehensive, even though false, views; no appearance of understanding the subject, or even of thinking they understand it; nothing contemplated which rises to the dignity of even a half-measure—only quarter and half-quarter measures; a little scratching on the surface of one or two existing evils, but no courage to attempt their excision, because there has been no vigour or skill to probe them to the bottom

(No. 209).

In his piece on the commission to make recommendations about municipal institutions (on which sat some of his friends), Mill again stressed that England needed reform but even more needed principles to elevate the tone of public discourse:

A solemn declaration of opinion from an authoritative quarter, going the full length of a great principle, is worth ten paltry practical measures of nibbling amendment. The good which any mere enactment can do, is trifling compared with the effect of whatever helps to mature the public mind . . . and we always find that gradual reform proceeds by larger and more rapid steps, when the doctrines of radical reform are most uncompromisingly and intrepidly proclaimed.

(No. 211.)

At the end of the parliamentary session, Mill did not go for his usual summer ramble but stayed in town. Not parliamentary affairs but his own affairs determined his movements, and his own affairs had reached a crisis. Harriet and John Taylor had come to an understanding, the precise nature of which cannot be known, but Harriet Taylor was preparing in the spring of 1833 to go to France.85 The situation was unclear, and John Stuart Mill, an infatuated twenty-six year old, was uncertain of her plans and, therefore, of his. Throughout the spring and summer he hung uncertainly around town.86


mill’s dithering in london continued throughout September; he finally left for Paris on 10 October. After nearly six weeks in Mrs. Taylor’s company, he returned alone to London on 18 November. Despite the unsatisfactory state of his Edition: current; Page: [lxv] heart, Mill’s health improved, and he threw himself into his writing, perhaps easing his feelings by producing some acidic articles.

There could be no quarter given. The Radicals must not be associated with the Whigs either in Parliament or in the Examiner.87 The party of movement must not be embraced and disarmed by the stationary party, as had happened in France. But Mill and his father were to be disappointed by the radical group, partly because their row was particularly difficult to hoe without helping the Whig garden to grow. The truth was that, in spite of Mill’s acidulous tone, this first reform Ministry was a reforming Ministry; it did not emulate its French counterpart. Many reforms had been introduced dealing with factory children, slaves, the Irish Church, and much else. Frequently, therefore, the Radicals had found themselves voting with the Ministers even if they had not spoken with them. And for Mill such collusion spelled disaster. Grey’s Ministry was after all Whig—Melbourne was Grey’s successor in July 1834 when, deserted by Stanley and Graham over Ireland, Grey retired. Mill had seen the French Doctrinaires triumph from the confusion in the Chamber of Deputies when the Radicals had failed to coalesce and many had been co-opted by the Ministry. It was his role and that of the Parliamentary Radicals to keep their own principles flying and to prevent the Whigs from stagnating.

Mill’s series attacking the Whig Ministry, elicited by the pamphlet he refers to as the Ministerial Manifesto,88 was as much a rallying cry to the Radicals as a criticism of Grey’s Ministry (or Althorp’s Ministry, as Mill persists in calling it, Grey possibly being too much the popular hero). In this fight against the English counterpart of the Doctrinaires, nothing was to be praised; Mill pours vitriolic criticism indiscriminately on all the Ministry’s achievements: “Ten years, or even five years ago, some of these things might have been matter of praise; but now! to hear a Ministry deified for the Irish Church Bill! for the Slave Bill! for the East India Bill! for the Bank Bill! for the Factory Bill!”89 This Ministry could not

once find in their hearts to commit themselves to a principle, fairly embark themselves with a principle, wed it for better or worse! But no—they are afraid of principles. . . . They are men of shifts and expedients. What they are from the necessity of their own want Edition: current; Page: [lxvi] of knowledge and judgment, they fancy they are from the necessity of the case. It is their notion of statesmanship.

(No. 216.)

Here lay the crucial difference between the stationary Whigs and the advanced Radicals who had the capacity of “in the first place choosing right [principles] . . . [and] in the second, of discerning where the dominion of one principle is limited by the conflicting operation of another” (No. 216).

In one cause, however, Mill’s praise could not be withheld—well, not altogether; there was too much Bentham in Lord Brougham’s law reforms even be he now a Whig Lord Chancellor. “These things, if accomplished, are the greater part of all which is to be desired. Codify the law, common and statute together, and establish Local Courts with unlimited jurisdiction, and all that will remain to complete a systematic reform of the law, is to simplify the procedure, and establish good courts of appeal.” (No. 218.) Maybe Fonblanque gave a jab; maybe Mill recalled his role of “keeping up the fight for radicalism.” The next week, he wrote of Brougham in terms he applied also to Bentham: “He is great as a destroyer; not great as a rebuilder. All that he has overthrown well deserved to fall; nothing that he has established, in the opinion of the most thorough law reformers in the profession, deserves to stand. Not only his reforms are partial and narrow, but they are such as cannot fit into any more comprehensive plan of reform.” (No. 219.) But on the whole Mill’s article did not bear out such an opening condemnation, although the proposal for more than one judge to hear a case brought a sharp rebuke. The subject had been Mill’s for so long that Bentham’s voice rang through, perhaps the louder for his French experience:90

to set three or four judges on a bench to hear one cause, is not only paying three or four persons to do the work of one, but it renders absolutely certain their doing it ill. One judge feels the public eye upon him; he is ashamed to be corrupt, or partial, or inattentive; but when there are several, each dares perpetrate under the sanction of the others, wickedness the undivided obloquy of which he would have shrunk from; each trusts that others have been listening though he has not, that others have given their minds to the cause though he has not; and instead of the services of several judges, the public has something considerably less than the best services of one.

(No. 219.)

Neither had his French experience given him cause to qualify his father’s teaching about the present: the members of Parliament were, “when strong public clamour does not compel some regard to the public interest, still as stupidly and as blindly selfish as in the worst times” (No. 219).

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Mill found his row almost as difficult to hoe as did his Parliamentary friends. He again went after Brougham for his Corporation Bill (No. 220), but it was a half-hearted attack and the interest lies more in his advocacy of government by experts, a position that Tocqueville was to reinforce. He could not condemn the Factory Act (drawn up by Chadwick on the recommendations of the commission managed by him) except for the inclusion—not recommended by Chadwick—of certain classes of adults (No. 220). Neither could he condemn the proposed Poor Law reforms based also, he knew, on Chadwick’s work. But he could take a column or two to denounce the Labour Rate Bill defeated by the efforts of the Radicals though supported by Althorp. Althorp was a frequent target, unmistakably Whig, unquestionably honest but not fast on his intellectual feet. But it was with some difficulty and a scathing tone91 that Mill upheld the distinction in a reforming House between the good (the Radical and not in power) and the bad (the Whig and in power).

As always he had time for his radical friends, Harriet Martineau for her Tale of the Tyne exposing the evils of impressment (No. 222), Charles Napier for his book on the government proper to colonies, all of which ought to pay for themselves—in this particular case the Ionian Islands (No. 224)—and W.J. Fox for the December 1833 issue of the Monthly Repository. The approval of this last was slightly, but significantly, qualified:

In every word . . . we concur; but with the qualification, that not only the more vigorous minds in the poorer class, but persons also with the superior opportunities of instruction afforded by a higher station, may be, (and of this the writer himself is an example) most efficient instructors of the poorer classes, provided they have sufficient freedom from the littleness of mind which caste-distinctions engender. . . .

One must speak to the working man in Mill’s best of all possible worlds as “equals . . . less informed than himself on the particular subject, but with minds quite as capable of understanding it” (No. 225).

At the beginning of 1834, however, Mill had little intention of speaking to the working man. When he and Harriet were in Paris on a dry run as lovers, Mill had visited Armand Carrel, one of the much persecuted editors of the republican journal Le National, whom he had long admired and defended in the Examiner. Carrel had much to recommend him in Mill’s eyes (including a mistress).92 Carrel’s example had inspired Mill; he was the embodiment of the youthful Girondist dream. The meeting with Carrel, the stay in Paris amongst all the elevated youth, the most perfect of beings as his companion, had given a great Edition: current; Page: [lxviii] impetus to the side of Mill which had brought about the stimulating friendship with Carlyle.93 If it had not been for Harriet Taylor and Armand Carrel perhaps the events in France would have dimmed Mill’s vision. The reality of Mill’s return to England alone and Harriet’s return to John Taylor would, on the surface of it, have dimmed most visions. But Harriet loved him, Armand Carrel led “formidable looking champions,”94 and, most excitingly, a role similar to Carrel’s was being suggested for him at home: the possibility of organizing and inspiring the English equivalent of the French left through the establishment of an English counterpart to Le National. Plans were being mooted for a journal to replace the Westminster Review, which in the eyes of the Mills had not under Bowring been fulfilling its original purpose.

This possibility was the more important because there was danger of the Examiner, or at least of the Examiner as guided by Fonblanque, having to fold. Even working with the excellent Fonblanque, Mill, now he was in the thick of it, desperately anxious to play a role, had become increasingly dissatisfied with his part in the enterprise. When Mill had briefly considered purchasing the Examiner (he had decided that doing so was totally impracticable) he discussed with Carlyle at some length Fonblanque’s problems and the policy of the paper. It is hard not to apply his description of the paper in general to his own particular recent articles on the Ministerial Manifesto:

such as do not take a daily paper, require in a weekly one a better abstract of news. . . . Then the more moderate radicals are revolted by the tone of hatred in which the paper is written. This feeling extends to many who would have no objection to, but would applaud, the utterance of the bitterest truths, but do not like a perpetual carping at little things, honestly indeed, yet often unfairly & making no personal allowances, sometimes misstating altogether the kind of blame which is deserved, & meting it out in unequal measures to different people, so as to give an appearance of spleen & personal antipathy to individuals—especially to some of the Ministers, & among them, most perhaps to some of those who deserve it rather less than the others. . . . At the very time . . . he [Fonblanque] was offending the moderate radicals by the nature of his attacks on the ministry. . . .95

Carping is the word that certainly springs to mind when reading Mill’s attacks on the Ministry, and equally Althorp could certainly be thought to “deserve it rather less than the others.” These feelings must have made the prospect of a new outlet for his writing, over which he would have more control, excitingly inviting. The solution to both the Bowring and Fonblanque situations would be a new radical Edition: current; Page: [lxix] review: “Roebuck, Strutt, Buller, and other radical members of Parliament have a scheme to start a radical review as their organ, with individual signatures like J.R., in which we should all of us write—the thing looks possible, and everybody seems so eager about it that I really think it will come to pass.”96 And indeed it did, although not quite after the fashion he had expected and not until the spring of 1835.

Meanwhile, Mill’s dissatisfaction was by no means great enough in January of 1834 to cause him to cease writing for Fonblanque, although he again concentrated on French affairs that spring, writing little on contemporary English politics after 1833 in the Examiner.97 Many a man watching French politics in 1834 would have thrown up his hands in despair (were that not too Gallic a gesture) and railed against the French and their preference for the thought over the deed. Mill certainly expressed disgust at times. But he was consciously testing his hypotheses and in the process was learning a good deal about representative bodies, their nature, the difficulties of operating within them and through them to achieve reforms. Undoubtedly his visit with Carrel had given him a deeper awareness of the frustrations and hazards of French political life, and the persistent line that Mill took on French affairs during the first eight months of 1834 can be understood only in the light of this experience. His analysis in 1834 of the French Government was soberer and more perceptive than it had been three years earlier: “The Chamber is no place for advocating doctrines in advance of the existing charter; for such the press is the proper organ; in the Chamber an orator, even of the most commanding talents, could not obtain a hearing for such opinions as are held by the ablest opponents of the present French Government” (No. 230). Mill no longer gave vent to feelings of exasperation at the failure of a popular opposition to emerge in the Chamber; he accepted the conservatism of those who actually wielded power. He had said as much in the autumn, more in the English context than the French, but certainly influenced by the “varied experiments” in which he had been participating:

There is a third kind of Minister whom we could allow to take to himself, to whom we could cheerfully give, a large share of credit for his administration. This would be a man who, taking the reins of office in a period of transition, a period which is called, according to the opinions of the speaker, an age of reform, of destruction, or of renovation, should deem it his chief duty and his chief wisdom to moderate the shock: to mediate between adverse interests; to make no compromise of opinions, except by avoiding any ill-timed declaration of them, but to negociate the most advantageous compromises possible in actual measures: to reform bit-by-bit, when more rapid progress is impracticable, but always with a comprehensive and well-digested plan of thorough reform placed before him as a guide. . . .

(No. 216.)98
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But just because a body of elected governors did not and could not represent advanced opinion in an age of transition, it was absolutely essential that the young men outside the Government be allowed to speak out. The reports of French affairs that Mill continued to provide for the Examiner throughout the first half of 1834 have these young men as their focus. The Government persecutions of the young journalists drew his wrath, especially those of Armand Carrel’s Le National (Nos. 232, 237, 238, 241, 247, 249, 266, and 269). Mill was prepared to defend the opposition outside the Chambers even when it went beyond mere words and even when it went beyond Armand Carrel (Nos. 226, 249, 250, and 251). The behaviour of these young men in court or in the streets might seem to some irresponsible and indefensible, but to Mill they had acted in the only way left to them as Louis Philippe and his Ministers tried to muzzle France and thwart the forward march of history. The misrepresentation by “Tory publications” (No. 244) must not delude England into similar disastrous repressions. The extreme activists of the Société des Droits de l’Homme were not to be feared. On the contrary, “The evil we are apprehensive of is stagnation,” and therefore those who put forward anti-property doctrines, although Mill could not “give such doctrines any encouragement,” performed a needed service: “unless the ruling few can be made and kept ‘uneasy,’ the many need expect no good” (No. 233). These men were the forces of history itself in an age of transition.

One important force was the Saint-Simonians. Mill’s courageous defence, after they had disbanded, of their doctrines, which again he made clear he did not share—or did he?—is very moving. They had dared to develop bold philosophical speculations that led them to “the most hostile scrutiny of the first principles of the social union” (No. 233) and had arrived at a

scheme, impracticable indeed but . . . only in degree, not in kind . . . of a perfect human society; the spirit of which will more and more pervade even the existing social institutions, as human beings become wiser and better; and which, like any other model of unattainable perfection, everybody is the better for aspiring to, although it be impossible to reach it. We may never get to the north star, but there is much use in turning our faces towards it if we are journeying northward. . . . We have only to imagine the same progression indefinitely continued, and a time would come when St. Simonism would be practicable; and if practicable, desirable.

(No. 234.)

He could not deny the vision three times, and he never ceased to defend those Edition: current; Page: [lxxi] who, like him, had the vision of a different and brighter future.99 In spite of the immediate outcome of the Revolution of 1830, Mill continued to believe in the promised land; he had seen it. And for Mill it was French intellectual speculation that would reveal the path out of the desert. However reactionary the surface of French life might appear, the Revolutions of 1789 and 1830 had broken the bond that had enchained the French spirit and still fettered all others. The movement was, however, temporarily halted in France, and in the summer of 1834 Mill ceased to write regularly both on France and for the Examiner. It was fitting that his last article on France reported the acquittal of Armand Carrel on charges of libelling Louis Philippe (No. 269).

Apart from the articles on France, most of what he had contributed since the end of 1833, even possibly his earlier attacks on the Grey Ministry, could come under the heading of helping one’s friends, not that such help excludes in the least furthering one’s principles. His reviews of Wilson (No. 231) and Sarah Austin (No. 256),100 of Eliza Flower’s new songs (No. 248), and his mention of the German periodical begun by Garnier, a refugee friend of Carrel’s (Nos. 267 and 270), are interspersed with defences of the Poor Law proposals of Edwin Chadwick (Nos. 252 and 253) and the colonization scheme of Wakefield and Torrens (Nos. 259, 261, and 263). In his zeal for his friends, Mill broadened his audience by contributing to the Morning Chronicle in August an article on the Poor Law (No. 265) and in September one on Australian colonization (No. 271).

The articles on colonization throw very clear light on Mill’s view of the best planned society possible in his own time; it is a far cry from the Saint-Simonians’ Ménilmontant. He is most concerned, and quotes Wakefield approvingly at length in this cause, that the proper balance between land, labour, and capital be maintained. No country can be civilized and prosperous that does not possess various groups: some who own land; some who employ capital; and some who labour for the first two groups. There was no question here of anti-property doctrines; what was needed for present-day Englishmen at home or overseas was not the north star. But it was nevertheless the north star toward which Mill strove for the rest of his life to turn the faces of his countrymen.


it was not only the state of the revolution in France in the summer of 1834 that led Mill virtually to stop writing for Fonblanque. That summer Sir William Edition: current; Page: [lxxii] Molesworth, a wealthy, young, devoted Radical, had offered the money for the longed-for periodical if his hero, John Stuart Mill, would edit it. Mill, who had just turned twenty-eight, was still a young man, one who knew his capabilities but had not yet found the proper field for their exertion. Excluded from direct politics, he eagerly took on the task of editing and writing for the London Review. His articles in dailies and weeklies became very occasional. In any case, for him England’s politics were quite humdrum in the mid-1830s. The fervour surrounding the reform crisis had dissipated. Some good legislation was passed. Ireland was an habitual problem—much the same as always—with Daniel O’Connell providing fireworks in the House but no dangerous blaze in the country. Lord Melbourne had replaced Grey, who gratefully retired back to the north, and was then himself briefly replaced in December by Sir Robert Peel, on the King’s initiative.101 There was a stir over such a royal indiscretion but no one really thought that Silly Billy was plotting to become a despot. An election was held but Peel failed to win a majority despite his Tamworth Manifesto, and in April of 1835 Melbourne was again Prime Minister. The country was enjoying another of its periods of prosperity. Both the Chartists and the Anti-Corn Law Leaguers were no more than gleams in their future leaders’ eyes. There was some rioting, of course, but by and large Melbourne was considered to have overreacted to the Tolpuddle labourers (the Government pardoned the marytrs in 1836 and brought them home again). The Poor Law of 1834 was decidedly unpopular throughout the country, and it was fortunate that for the moment the meetings on the Yorkshire moors where Richard Oastler and James Raynor Stephens led thousands of men and women to demand the Ten Hours Bill had temporarily ceased after the Factory Act of 1833.

By the end of the decade, however, the country was stirring, but Mill did not turn back to newspapers even after he gave up the Review in 1840. In 1841 Sir Robert Peel succeeded Melbourne as Prime Minister, having failed to do so in 1839 thanks to the Bedchamber Crisis. Compared with 1819, the times were peaceful. But only in comparison. Mill knew the country could not yet be stable. And quite right he was; in 1842 the Plug Plot gave a taste of the violence the Oastlerites and the Chartists were threatening and the Anti-Corn Law League was predicting. This period of Mill’s journalism ends with the outbreak of the Irish famine and the repeal of the Corn Laws. By that time Mill had tried and failed to shape a radical party to complete the revolution—a completion undoubtedly appearing somewhat different to a man in his forties than it had to one in his twenties—and had instead established an unassailable reputation with his Logic (1843).

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Understandably Mill did not write regularly for the newspapers during the frantic years of writing and editing the London Review.102 The tale of Mill’s hopes and hardships with the London and London and Westminster has been told elsewhere.103 He expended an enormous amount of effort and the last of his youthful ambitions as well as hard cash and five years of his life on the London Review. He wrote twenty-seven articles and part of eleven others until he withdrew from the editorship in 1840. But in spite of the excitement and work involved in preparing the first number, rather than neglect his friends he found time at the beginning of 1835 for a few newspaper notices. Eliza Flower’s Songs of the Months were mentioned as usual in the Examiner (No. 273); Nassau Senior’s pamphlet on National Property was reviewed twice—of course, favourably—in the Sun and in the Morning Chronicle (Nos. 272 and 275). As was not uncommon, long excerpts made up most of these articles. Senior criticized William IV’s independent action, and promoted the reduction of church endowments, municipal reform, and the admission of Dissenters to Oxford and Cambridge. He also advocated, calling forth Mill’s great approval, making peers eligible to sit in the House of Commons.

Mill stayed within the circle of his acquaintance when he contributed to the Globe; the Globe was still the Globe and Traveller and was still owned by Colonel Torrens. Walter Coulson had gone, and in 1834 it had come under the editorship of another of Mill’s friends, John Wilson (who had just finished working on the factory commission with Edwin Chadwick). Mill wrote eight articles for the Globe from February to October 1835—the only paper he wrote for at that time. (Perhaps these articles were a quid pro quo for Wilson’s contributions to the London and Westminster Review.)104 Being longer leaders than most of those he had written for the Examiner, they gave him an opportunity to press his views before a wider and different, in fact, a Whig audience; at least it was widely believed that the Globe was used by Melbourne. Occupied as he was, however, he wrote only occasional pieces supporting particular persons or Edition: current; Page: [lxxiv] proposals. However, his article defending the “destructives,” a label bestowed on the Radicals by Mill’s arch-enemy, The Times, contained an illuminating catalogue of what Radicals were made of at the beginning of 1835; Mill was first quoting and then amplifying the list in The Times: they were

for the ballot, for the separation of church and state, for the repeal of the union, and, it has the modesty to add, for an “equitable adjustment” with the fundholder . . . , corporation reform . . . , [and] repeal of the corn laws. . . . All who wish the reform bill to be made effectual by the improvement of the registration clauses, by disfranchising the corrupt freemen of such places as Norwich and Liverpool, and by getting rid of such of the smaller constituencies as have already become, beyond hope of redemption, close or rotten boroughs—all who wish that taxes should be taken off the necessaries of the poor instead of the luxuries of the rich—all who wish for local courts, or any other substitute for the irresponsible and incapable jurisdiction of the country magistracy—all who wish to see any measures introduced for the relief of the Dissenters but such as the Dissenters will indignantly reject—all who wish to see the Universities reformed . . . all who wish to see the church of England reformed, and all rational persons who do not wish to see it destroyed—all who wish to see the church of Ireland reduced to reasonable dimensions, and the national property . . . employed for the benefit of the unhappy oppressed Irish people . . . and, finally, all who will not endure that a dignitary of something calling itself a Protestant and English church shall go forth with armed men and assassinate the children and neighbours of a poor widow because she will not any longer give to him of her scanty substance the wages of a degrading tyranny.

(No. 274.)

Although his style was less vituperative than formerly, his ideas were not moderated as he continued to lend his support to radical friends such as Charles Buller. In one article (No. 277), Mill was to help a very close friend indeed, himself. With his now customary practice of having one stone hit a flock of birds, his article promoted the first number of the new London Review; the author of one of the articles, J.A. Roebuck; one of his favourite subjects, corporation reform; one of his abiding interests, Ireland; and first and foremost, the Radicals in Parliament, with special mention for the proprietor of the Review, Sir William Molesworth, and a hint as to the line he should adopt in the House. All this he did in a long leader, only the first paragraph of which he had to compose; the rest he copied from Roebuck’s article in the London Review. His skill, acquired in youth, of getting the most for his time and effort was standing him in good stead in these incredibly busy months.

In 1835 he also gave support to two old allies in two articles on the Poor Law (Nos. 278 and 279). The first of these particularly praised Nassau Senior’s careful analysis of the differences amongst countries that accounted for the varied success of the systems of relief. Mill stressed that most countries, like England, granted people a legal right to relief, but there was no such thing as a natural right. In October he lent support to the Radicals’ proposal for reform of the House of Lords. He drew on the French experience to refute the possibility of the Government’s making good appointments and to argue the necessity of those forming the Upper Chamber having the respect of the country. Mill wanted the Edition: current; Page: [lxxv] House of Commons to choose the members of the House of Lords to ensure complete identity of interest: “But they would be a wiser, a more instructed and discreet body” (No. 281). Mill had been reading Tocqueville—his review in the London Review came out in the same month—and was here putting forward one solution to the problem about which he had become increasingly worried by Tocqueville’s discussion of democracy (A, 199-201). In these letters he waxed eloquent over the virtues of an Upper House which in theory would be chosen by a House of Commons for whose judgment in practice Mill rarely showed much respect. They would choose men “whom they believed the most fitted in point of talents and acquirements,” men “in whose intentions and in whose judgment they have full confidence” (No. 281). Such a conclusion seems born of the a priori reasoning of the earlier, much younger, Mill. He had not had a social laboratory in which to test this hypothesis.

The last piece of daily journalism Mill wrote that year was also about a friend’s work—a laudatory review of two books for teaching young children arithmetic and perception, both published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and both by Horace Grant, a debating and walking-tour companion who worked beside Mill in the India Office. Mill’s praise of Grant’s system sounds very like his later description of his own education.

It has, for instance, been long felt that there are two methods of what is called instruction, which are as remote from each other as light from darkness. One of these is the system of cram; the other is the system of cultivating mental power. One proposes to stuff a child’s memory with the results which have been got at by other people; [by] the other . . . the child acquires . . . ideas, and with those ideas the habit of really discovering truths for himself. . . . [H]e should be accustomed not to get by rote without understanding, but to understand, and not merely to understand, but whenever possible to find out for himself.

(No. 282.)

Such strong praise from the young man of nearly thirty for a system obviously close to that he had himself experienced adds support to the words of the Autobiography and the positive feelings there expressed about the benefits he had received from his father’s training (A, 33-5).

The son may have been consciously acknowledging a debt of which at that time he must have been acutely aware, for this was the last piece Mill wrote in the newspapers while his father was alive. He did not write for them again until the desolate year, 1836, was passed. James Mill’s health had been deteriorating during 1835 and a rapid worsening of his tuberculosis brought his death on 23 June, 1836, one of the few dates Mill specified in the Autobiography. The illness and death of his father increased not only the emotional and familial burden on him but also the editorial and literary one imposed by the London and Westminster Review.105 Another shock was sustained the month after his father’s Edition: current; Page: [lxxvi] death when Armand Carrel, the man who had provided much of the inspiration for assuming his present labours, was killed in a duel.106 It is hardly surprising that Mill had to take three months’ leave of absence to travel.107 He took his two younger brothers with him as far as Lausanne; they stayed there while he continued to Italy, where Harriet Taylor joined him.

When he had returned, somewhat recovered, he began work on the Logic, a book for which he had long been planning. There is something awesome about a man who spends part of each twenty-four hours helping to direct the governing of India, part trying to direct the governing of England, and part analyzing the method of arriving at the principles that direct his directing, while fulfilling family obligations with devotion and sustaining a relationship with a demanding lady. The little that he contributed to the press at this time was written for personal reasons, either his person or a friend’s.108

Gibbon Wakefield was given a long review (No. 283) in the Examiner and a second article (No. 284) in the True Sun, now edited by his old friend from the Monthly Repository, W.J. Fox, and owned by the long-time radical publisher Daniel Whittle Harvey, Member of Parliament for Southwark and one of Mill’s hopes for his radical parliamentary party. Mill had long supported Wakefield’s schemes; in addition, he may possibly have had shares in the new colony in South Australia. In return for his article in the True Sun, Mill got a long review from Fox for the London and Westminster—a brilliant example of multiple cuts with two strokes of the pen. Certainly friendship was the main reason for the placing of his piece on American banks (No. 285); Henry Cole, another old friend, had, under Mill’s urging, undertaken a rival to the Examiner called the Guide. (It survived for only nine issues.)109 His friends, J.P. Nichol, “who has carried into physical science a sounder philosophy than most mathematicians” (No. 286), William Molesworth, who had given a speech written by Mill at the end of 1834 (No. 287), and Lord Durham, who returned from Canada at the end of 1838 (the Examiner had noticed Mill’s London and Westminster Review article, “Lord Durham and His Assailants,” and then printed a long letter, signed Edition: current; Page: [lxxvii] “A.,” in which Mill continued the discussion [No. 288]), completed the list of people for whom Mill wrote to the papers. Nothing more appeared until the summer of 1841.

Looking back and reassuming the feelings of defeat of the years 1836 to 1840 when he was running the Review and trying to forge a radical ginger group in Parliament,110 Mill forgot how very much he had accomplished both within and without his own head.

I had, at the height of that reaction [against Benthamism], certainly become much more indulgent to the common opinions of society and the world, and more willing to be content with seconding the superficial improvement which had begun to take place in those common opinions, than became one whose convictions, on so many points, differed fundamentally from them. I was much more inclined, than I can now approve, to put in abeyance the more decidedly heretical part of my opinions, which I now look upon as almost the only ones, the assertion of which tends in any way to regenerate society.

(A, 237-9.)

Mill perhaps did less than justice to himself (as is frequently the case when he is seating himself in the shadow of Harriet). The lesson he had learnt from French politics by 1833 he had applied to English politics: “to make no compromise of opinions, except by avoiding any ill-timed declaration of them, but to negotiate the most advantageous compromises possible in actual measures” (No. 216).111 Although in his more direct political commentary he had expressed approval for practical and somewhat limited reforms without presenting the wider philosophical context, and although in forwarding the reforms of his friends (who were fewer than they had been before he began preaching his new radicalism in the London and Westminster Review in 1837) he was sometimes less than incisive, he had nonetheless taken many opportunities to express, sometimes obliquely, his vision of the future to which the historical process would bring mankind. To combine an understanding of the art of the possible with a vision is an unusual accomplishment, and it was the basis for Mill’s extraordinary attraction and influence over many decades. He had acquired the gift from his father’s teaching, reinforced by political participation through journals and periodicals during the crucial revolutionary years.

Between 1841 and 1846 Mill prepared the Logic for the press, and then his Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, and began the Edition: current; Page: [lxxviii] Principles of Political Economy. Understandably he was still writing very little for the press—what he did write was in the less radical Morning Chronicle (both Melbourne and Palmerston were now reputed to be using it). John Black had retired in 1841 but the new editor, Andrew Doyle, was well known to Mill. Quite predictably he wrote on behalf of his friends: his praise of Sterling’s poem, The Election (No. 290), and his enjoyment of its wit show genuine warmth; the particularity of his defence of Tocqueville and the warmongering of the French against Brougham is skilful if idiosyncratic (No. 296); a strong article (No. 293) drew attention to the Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain by Edwin Chadwick.112 More significant and puzzling, for those—and there must have been many—who still did not fully grasp the Radicals’ historical point of view, would have been his praise, albeit somewhat backhanded, of Puseyism (Nos. 291 and 292); it would have been even more so had they known it came from the son of James Mill. He praised Newman and the Puseyites for “embracing not only a complete body of theology and philosophy, but a consistent theory of universal history” and he praised the mediaeval Catholic Church. There was more to this particular case than free speech. The fruitfulness of institutions for their own time was an essential part of his philosophy of history, and his friendship with d’Eichthal had recently encouraged more reading in this interest;113 his review of Michelet114 and his recently commenced correspondence with Auguste Comte show that the philosophy of history and within it the historical role of religion were occupying more and more of his attention.115 His heart and mind were not in his journalism.

At the end of 1842, Mill wrote a despondent letter to Robert Barclay Fox:

But these things [public affairs, especially the Corn Laws], important as they are, do not occupy so much of my thoughts as they once did; it is becoming more & more clearly evident to me that the mental regeneration of Europe must precede its social regeneration & also that none of the ways in which that mental regeneration is sought, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Puseyism, Socialism, Chartism, Benthamism &c. will do, though doubtless they have all some elements of truth & good in them. I find quite enough to do in trying to make up my own mind as to the course which must be taken by the present Edition: current; Page: [lxxix] great transitional movement of opinion & society. The little which I can dimly see, this country even less than several other European nations is as yet ripe for promulgating.116

The lack of enthusiasm can be felt. In a review of Torrens, Mill explained how Continental workmen could compete with the British:

Before a Continental operative can be as steady a workman as an Englishman, his whole nature must be changed: he must acquire both the virtues and the defects of the English labourer; he must become as patient, as conscientious, but also as careworn, as anxious, as joyless, as dull, as exclusively intent upon the main chance, as his British compeer. He will long be of inferior value as a mere machine, because, happily for him, he cares for pleasure as well as gain.

(No. 295.)

Mill might not have known what constituted happiness but he knew who had it not, and very depressing it was if prosperity could only be bought through joylessness. Nothing seemed advancing; nothing seemed certain, even in banking: “There is a fashion in mercantile, as well as in medical opinions. There is generally a favourite disease and a favourite remedy; and to know what these are we have seldom so much to consider the nature of the case as the date of the year, whether it is 1814 or 1844.” (No. 299.)

The most enthusiastic piece Mill wrote in the first half of 1846 and the last in this desultory period of journalism—a review in the Spectator of the first volumes of Grote’s History of Greece—combined his interest in history and in friends.117 His task was pleasant. His friendship with George and Harriet Grote, going back to his boyhood, had been strained in more recent years and now was under repair.118 Friendship was strengthened by his genuine admiration of Grote’s attempt at a philosophical history. Mill’s praise of Grote is based on two virtues of the historian in particular. Grote has an “unbiased opinion,” in contrast to Thirlwall, whose “impartiality seems rather that of a person who has no opinion”:

We do not say that an author is to write history with a purpose of bringing out illustrations of his own moral and political doctrines, however correct they may be. He cannot too carefully guard himself against any such temptation. . . . But we do say, that the mere facts, even of the most interesting history, are of little value without some attempt to show Edition: current; Page: [lxxx] how and why they came to pass; . . . a history of Greece, which does not put in evidence the influences of Grecian institutions and of Grecian opinions and feelings—may be a useful work, but is not the history which we look for. . . .

(No. 304.)

This unbiased opinion goes hand in glove with Grote’s “sympathy with the Greek mind,” his ability to recognize historical periods and the concomitant historical differentiation of men’s ideas. For instance, Mill praises Grote for not separating legend and history, for recognizing that both are inextricably blended and “formed together the body of belief in the mind of a Greek” (No. 304). The Greeks lived in the infancy of the human race, and their minds are not to be seen simply as Victorian ones in Greek dress.


the potato crop failed in Ireland in the summer of 1845; the people avoided starvation that winter by eating the seed potatoes. The full extent of the disaster became apparent only at the beginning of the following winter and precipitated the repeal of the Corn Laws in June 1846. The next month Lord John Russell’s Whigs replaced Peel’s bitterly divided Tories. But repeal could not save a potato-less Irish peasantry, and schemes for more direct relief were under consideration by Russell’s Government.

Mill’s newspaper writing, except for the occasional review, might well have ceased altogether by the mid-1840s. His professional career had prospered; he was now third in rank at the India Office with a handsome salary of £1200, very ample for a bachelor of mild tastes living at home with his mother and sisters. He continued to find the work congenial, leaving him time for his writing. The Logic had established his reputation as a serious thinker, and he was working now on the Principles of Political Economy. But two pressures acted on him to prevent his abandoning journalism: Ireland and Harriet Taylor.119

Mill turned his concentrated attention to influencing the Government’s Irish poor-relief policy. Putting aside the Political Economy (though he later used in it much of what he now wrote), Mill, between 5 October, 1846, and 7 January, 1847, a period of only ninety-four days, published forty-three articles

in the Morning Chronicle (which unexpectedly entered warmly into my purpose) urging the formation of peasant properties on the waste lands of Ireland. This was during the period of the famine, the winter of 1846/47, when the stern necessities of the time seemed to afford a chance of gaining attention for what appeared to me the only mode of Edition: current; Page: [lxxxi] combining relief to immediate destitution with permanent improvement of the social and economical condition of the Irish people.

(A, 243.)

Mill shows himself in these articles very much aware that he is arguing a particular case for a particular time in history. The level of civilization which the Irish have reached—a very low one—is constantly before him. His solution is for the Irish as they actually behave in 1846, not as he or anyone else might think they ought to behave; but the more distant goal of the eventual improvement of their character is also constantly before him. Perhaps immediate charity was essential, at least “the whole English people are rushing frantically to expend any number of millions upon the present exigency,”120 but, as Mill so happily puts it, “Anybody may have a fixed idea, on which he is inaccessible to reason, but it does not follow that he is never to add a second idea to it” (No. 322). This second idea was that any reform, as opposed to a temporary expediency, “must be something operating upon the minds of the people, and not merely upon their stomachs” (No. 316). He rejected the principle of outdoor relief; it had once pauperized the English peasantry and it would be no remedy now in Ireland. He discussed fixity of tenure but saw it as not only unjust to the landlord but also devoid of the beneficial effects of ownership of land. A large emigration of Irish was undesirable: “. . . Ireland must be an altered country at home before we can wish to create an Ireland in every quarter of the globe, and it is not well to select as missionaries of civilization a people who, in so great a degree, yet remain to be civilized” (No. 317).

There remained public works. If these were on roads, the result would be that the Irish labourer would prefer to work for the Government, which paid well, rather than for a landlord or for himself. Neither should these be on a landlord’s land at the expense of the Government because such a profit to the landlord was totally unjust (No. 331), nor through loans to the landlord for the same reason—the profit from this tragedy would be all on the one side. “It would be an actual crime to bestow all this wealth upon the landlords, without exacting an equivalent” (No. 324). In addition rents would increase, thus augmenting the injustice to the peasant. Finally Mill argued that the immediate effect of large-scale improvement of agriculture by the landlord was to diminish the number of people employed on the land.121

No, what Ireland needed was

something which will stir the minds of the peasantry from one end of Ireland to the other, and cause a rush of all the active spirits to take advantage of the boon for the first time proffered to them. We want something which may be regarded as a great act of national justice—healing the wounds of centuries by giving, not selling, to the worthiest and most Edition: current; Page: [lxxxii] aspiring sons of the soil, the unused portion of the inheritance of their conquered ancestors.

(No. 321.)

This unused portion was the waste lands of Ireland. Those needing relief should be set to work and provided with tools to reclaim the uncultivated land, much of it bog; drainage projects should be supervised. The advantages of Mill’s scheme were manifold, and he pressed them home. The spirit of the Irish would be restored: “Trust to the feeling of proprietorship, that never-failing source of local attachments. When the cottage is theirs—when the land which surrounds it is theirs—there will be a pleasure in enlarging, and improving, and adorning the one and the other.” (No. 316.) Mill then outlined the benefits produced by small peasant properties (and at the same time praised his beloved France and his old friend Sismondi). It was at one time predicted that France would be a “pauper-warren,” but, quite to the contrary, it has been proved statistically that “the state of her rural population, who are four-fifths of the whole, has improved in every particular; that they are better housed, better clothed, better and more abundantly fed; that their agriculture has improved in quality; that all the productions of the soil have multiplied beyond precedent; that the wealth of the country has advanced, and advances with increasing rapidity, and the population with increasing slowness” (No. 328). It was absolutely vital that the opportunity should not be misused or lost:

We must give over telling the Irish that it is our business to find food for them. We must tell them, now and for ever, that it is their business. . . . They have a right, not to support at the public cost, but to aid and furtherance in finding support for themselves. They have a right to a repeal of all laws and a reform of all social systems which improperly impede them in finding it, and they have a right to their fair share of the raw material of the earth.

(No. 337.)

At the end of the year Mill thought he had triumphed and that it was now certain that the reclaiming of waste lands and the resettling of the peasantry would form at least part of any Government plan (Nos. 348 and 351). When Mill heard in January that the Treasury was suggesting further loans to landlords, just when he understood the Government to be preparing “a general plan for the reclamation of waste lands, in which the claims of the peasantry to receive some share in the common inheritance of the whole nation are not overlooked,” he was appalled (No. 352). The cup of victory was to be dashed from his lips by administrative fiat. On 7 January Mill brought his series to a close; he had done all he could during the parliamentary recess to influence policy.

When Mill ceased to write the leaders on Ireland for the Morning Chronicle, he did not give up entirely trying to stay the madness. He wrote four leaders controverting John Wilson Croker, another on the debates in the House of Commons, three condemning the proposed Irish Poor Law, a scathing one on the proposed National Fast, and a melancholy one on emigration from Ireland. On balance, Mill was on the losing side, and the bitterness of the defeat provoked Edition: current; Page: [lxxxiii] some of his more brilliant displays of verbal acidity. He was not prepared for one minute to admit that peasant proprietors in France or anywhere else in Europe farmed badly. The principal cause of poor agriculture in France, contrary to Croker’s view, was “the exclusive taste of the wealthy and middle classes for town life and town pursuits, combined with the general want of enterprise of the French nation with respect to industrial improvements. . . . The thing would be soon done if the love of industrial progress should ever supplant in the French mind the love of national glory, or if the desire of national glorification should take that direction.” (No. 357.) France was still beloved, but the years since 1830 had left their mark.

On the proposed National Fast (No. 363), Mill cut loose with controlled satiric venom. He almost found delight in the depths of hypocrisy of a people who, professing to believe that God’s wrath had descended upon them for their “manifold sins and provocations,” and who, praying with penitent hearts to Him to “withdraw his afflicting hand,” could, in order thus to profess and pray, move the Queen’s drawing-room from Wednesday to Saturday. Even his friends got the back of his tongue—but only in private. “Roebuck . . . is enlisting his talents in support of the madness. . . . Molesworth, except that he has only made one speech instead of fifty, is just as bad.”122 By the end of March his despair was complete.

The people are all mad, and nothing will bring them to their senses but the terrible consequences they are certain to bring on themselves. . . . Fontenelle said that mankind must pass through all forms of error before arriving at truth. The form of error we are now possessed by is that of making all take care of each, instead of stimulating and helping each to take care of himself; and now this is going to be put to a terrible trial, which will bring it to a crisis and a termination sooner than could otherwise have been hoped for.123

However close Mill was to come to a “qualified Socialism” (A, 199), the Irish Edition: current; Page: [lxxxiv] experience when incorporated in the Political Economy suggested no more than that property in land was a legitimate area for government intervention. The Saint-Simonian hypothesis might be said to have been tested against the reality of County Clare and the time found far from ripe. Mill’s historical sense was reinforced; time determined measures. Whatever the future might hold, whatever form of socialism was to evolve, his view of the Irish peasantry had strengthened his belief that “the object to be principally aimed at in the present stage of human improvement, is not the subversion of the system of individual property, but the improvement of it, and the full participation of every member of the community in its benefits.”124

Mill’s socialism was an integral part of his sense of historical progression, the approaching stage in the human development; that belief had not altered since he had first met Saint-Simonian ideas. But if Bentham has to be watched for his shift in mood from “is” to “ought,” a keen eye has to be kept on Mill’s tenses. He does not always make clear what is an “actual measure” and what a “plan of thorough reform”; although they are in the same line of progression, the multiplication of peasant proprietors and the nationalization of the land belong to different levels of civilization.

During that spring, Mill wrote for the Morning Chronicle only two pieces not on Ireland:125 a review (No. 360) of the article on “Centralisation” in the Edinburgh Review by his old tutor and friend John Austin126 and a report (No. 366) on the opening of the Prussian Diet. Both are fine examples of Mill’s historical relativism, which his less historically-minded friends, and more particularly his enemies, sometimes found puzzling and smacking of inconsistency and radical opportunism.127 He wrote to Austin, discussing his review: “I have necessarily thought a good deal about it lately for the purposes of a practical treatise on Pol. Economy & I have felt the same difficulty which you feel about the axiomata media. I suspect there are none which do not vary with time, place & circumstance.”128 A good example was Austin’s discussion of the reform of local government which should have both an immediate end, the provision of “a good administration of local affairs,” the means for which might vary between time and place—between, say, France in 1831 and England in 1835, to provide Mill with an example from his own past advocacy—and “its ulterior and Edition: current; Page: [lxxxv] paramount object,” the “social education of the country at large” (No. 360). In the article on the opening of the Prussian Diet he praised both an enlightened despot and a democratic diet; each benefited the country at the appropriate stage of its development.

This last piece marked the end of an era for Mill; the Morning Chronicle, for which he had written from his youth, was to become an organ for the Conservatives under the new ownership of Lord Cardwell and Beresford Hope. Although Mill would still have access to its pages, they were no longer the pages wherein he joined with like-minded men who had “carried criticism & the spirit of reform” into English institutions; the sense of belonging was gone.129

Another of Mill’s long-time friends and mentors claimed his attention before the summer break. George Grote had published volumes three and four of his History of Greece and Mill gave them a long, careful review in the Spectator (No. 368), underlining again the historical relativism which informed his understanding and analysis of his own times. He praised once more Grote’s understanding of the Greek mind and his ability to communicate that understanding. But above all he lauded Grote’s achievement in ascribing the enlightenment in the first place “to her unlimited Democracy” (qualified by a footnote noting the omission of women, aliens, and slaves); “and secondly, to the wise precautions, unknown to the other free states of Greece, by which the sagacity of Solon and of Cleisthenes had guarded the workings of Athenian institutions against the dangers to which they were most liable [from unlimited Democracy],—precautions which insensibly moulded the mind of the Demos itself, and made it capable of its heritage of freedom” (No. 368). Reading the History, Mill said, strengthened the arguments that had already led him to complete agreement with the author’s conclusions. Grote’s History no doubt lent added force to some of the passages in On Liberty and increased Mill’s delight in Hare’s proportional representation; but Tocqueville needed little support. For by the summer of 1847 Mill’s mind was set in most of its ways. Grote was not altering but confirming Mill’s own conclusions by providing more of the necessary “verification and correction” which come “from the general remarks afforded . . . by history respecting times gone by.”130


during the next eleven years—years that began with the collapse of the Chartists and ended, after the Indian Mutiny, with the Crown taking over the Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvi] East India Company—John Stuart Mill is to the outside eye a rather curious, almost a pathetic, figure. Alexander Bain said bluntly of the forty-one-year-old Mill, “His work, as a great originator, in my opinion, was done.”131 He lived almost in seclusion and was frequently in a low state. Although he had received great respect (as well as money) for his Logic and his Political Economy and had now an established public reputation, that to which he had devoted his life had not been achieved. The moral elevation of Europe, never mind England, seemed no nearer. Despite his position as a public sage and his vast, almost semi-official, correspondence, he had not been able to inspire the people, or their leaders (or the one leader), with the great principles needed to propel civilization onward. Mill seemed little impressed with the practical reforms that had been achieved. They appear, with hindsight, to have been vast: repeal of the Combination Acts, reform of Parliament, effective factory legislation, the abolition of slavery, an education grant, the new Poor Law (of which indeed he approved at length), rationalized municipal institutions, and repeal of the Corn Laws, none of these—not all of them combined—seemed to bring lasting satisfaction to Mill. The country was better off; prosecutions of the press and of the individual were far less frequent; the labouring classes were of national concern. But to Mill the country was still mean.132 The practical reforms for which he had once striven in the belief that their effects would be the moral education of mankind had proved ineffectual.

For a considerable time after this [the publication of the Political Economy], I published no work of magnitude; though I still occasionally wrote in periodicals. . . . During these years I wrote or commenced various Essays, for eventual publication, on some of the fundamental questions of human and social life. . . . I continued to watch with keen interest the progress of public events. But it was not, on the whole, very encouraging to me. The European reaction after 1848, and the success of an unprincipled usurper in December 1851, put an end, as it seemed, to all present hope for freedom or social improvement in France and the Continent. In England, I had seen and continued to see many of the opinions of my youth obtain general recognition, and many of the reforms in institutions, for which I had through life contended, either effected or in course of being so. But these changes had been attended with much less benefit to human well being than I should formerly have anticipated, because they had produced very little improvement in that which all real amelioration in the lot of mankind depends on, their intellectual and moral state: and it might even be questioned if the various causes of deterioration which had been at work in the meanwhile, had not more than counterbalanced the tendencies to improvement. I had learnt from experience that many false opinions may be exchanged Edition: current; Page: [lxxxvii] for true ones, without in the least altering the habits of mind of which false opinions are the result. The English public . . . have thrown off certain errors [but] the general discipline of their minds, intellectually and morally, is not altered. I am now convinced, that no great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.

(A, 245.)

In this intellectual frame of mind the political events in England during the next eleven years affected him little—at least publicly. The climax, or anti-climax, of the Chartist demonstration rained out on Kennington Common drew no more public comment from him than the political manoeuvrings of the Peelites.133 He did not comment in the newspapers on the Crimean War with all its mismanagement, even when Roebuck’s motion for an inquiry toppled the Government, nor on the Indian Mutiny.

Political events in France in 1848, however, roused him to write three items; Carlyle’s views on Ireland prompted two articles; Joseph Hume’s motion for Parliamentary reform elicited three articles; and Alexander Bain got a review. Those nine items were all he wrote for the papers in 1848. Although the establishment of a Provisional Government in France in February 1848 had not the effect on Mill of the one eighteen years earlier, he was briefly exhilarated: “I am hardly yet out of breath from reading and thinking about it” was how he put it. “If France succeeds in establishing a republic and reasonable republican government, all the rest of Europe, except England and Russia, will be republicanised in ten years, and England itself probably before we die. There never was a time when so great a drama was being played out in one generation.”134 Perhaps not bliss to be alive but very stirring. However, Mill was prompted initially to no more in the newspapers than a letter to the editor of the Spectator (No. 370). In August after the street fighting in June and the suppression of the insurrectionists by General Louis Cavaignac—a name that must have stirred memories for Mill—he denied the Tory press’s claim “that the insurrection was something unheard-of for its horrible barbarity” (No. 376). No barbarous actions had taken place and France was advancing rapidly but calmly. Ten days later, France had ceased advancing and Mill was not calm; his tone was one of outrage verging on disbelief as he expostulated against the gagging of the press by the executive commission supported by a democracy which had proved to be conservative. He had seen it all before: “It is the very law of Louis Philippe . . . ” (No. 378). Once again, as he had more than a decade earlier, Mill defended the young men who were forced to take up arms against their repressors. But it was a disillusioned voice that asked, “How much longer must we wait for an example, anywhere in Europe, of a ruler or a ruling party who really desire fair Edition: current; Page: [lxxxviii] play for any opinions contrary to their own?” (No. 378) without which the spark of progress cannot be struck.135

Mill’s equilibrium was further upset that spring by Carlyle’s response to the disturbances in Ireland. The prophet was now prophesying for the wrong tribe, calling for force, preaching false doctrines about Ireland and England and also throwing in a few heresies on France and on the Chartist demonstration. The crowning touch was that his ravings appeared in the Examiner—a sad result of Fonblanque’s retirement and replacement by John Forster. Just when Mill was feeling that the future direction of Europe hung in the balance—wondering whether in England and in all Europe “faith in improvement, and determination to effect it, will become general, and the watchword of improvement will once more be, as it was of old, the emancipation of the oppressed classes” (No. 376)—Carlyle wrote prophesying anarchy and doom and citing France as proof. Mill trumpeted back, his sarcasm reaching sublime heights as he fought against this political incarnation of intuitionism. Carlyle said it was England’s mission to pacify Ireland. Mill first pointed slyly to the example of Cromwell; he who had had the authority and “courage and capacity of the highest order” had not succeeded. “But at present the individual in whom England is personified, and who is to regard himself as the chosen instrument of heaven for making Ireland what it ought to be, and is encouraged to carry fire and sword through Ireland if that assumption should be disputed, is—Lord John Russell!” (No. 372.) And how had England proved herself after four-and-a-half centuries of rule over Ireland fitted to fulfil her mission? “They spent ten millions in effecting what seemed impossible—in making Ireland worse than before. They demoralized and disorganized what little of rational industry the country contained; and the only permanent thing with which they endowed Ireland, was the only curse which her evil destiny seemed previously to have spared her—a bad poor law.” (No. 372.) The prophet of rationalism could also thunder from the mountain tops when roused. In his letter to the Examiner Mill quoted the Bible three times and Homer once.

A much sunnier note is struck in the three leaders Mill wrote in July 1848 (Nos. 373, 374, and 375) for the Daily News, supporting the motion of his father’s old friend, Joseph Hume, for Parliamentary reform. The move to the Daily News was entirely natural, both the Morning Chronicle and the Examiner having fallen into less congenial hands. The Daily News, whose first leader had been written by W.J. Fox, was the foremost liberal London paper.136 Its present editor was Eyre Evans Crowe, who had been a resident in France in 1830 and an enthusiastic witness to the street fighting, later Paris correspondent for the Edition: current; Page: [lxxxix] Morning Chronicle, and writer of a history of France for Lardner’s Cabinet Cyclopaedia. A congenial editor, obviously, of a paper under the equally congenial ownership of the Dilke family. The Morning Chronicle under Black and then Doyle had been serious; the Daily News was determined to be popular. It succeeded admirably, and, with a circulation briefly of over ten thousand a day, rivalled the influence of The Times and far surpassed that of the Morning Chronicle. Mill’s style was bright and clever, proving that he was quite master of his pen, able to write to an editor’s direction.

Mill’s message was the same in 1848 as in 1830: there was nothing to fear from reform; the natural order would not be turned upside down; from historical progress all would benefit. Mill used the example of France, which now had “universal” suffrage (Mill did not stop this time to qualify his use of the term), and yet not twenty members in an assembly of nine hundred were working class.

Then what has France gained, it may be asked, or what would England gain by the admission of the working classes to the franchise? A gain beyond all price, the effects of which may not show themselves in a day, or in a year, but are calculated to spread over and elevate the future. . . .

Grant but a democratic suffrage, and all the conditions of government are changed. . . . The discussions of parliament and of the press would be, what they ought to be, a continued course of political instruction for the working classes.

(No. 374.)

Here again speaks the spirit of the age. “The present age . . . is an age of struggle between conflicting principles [“between the instincts and immediate interests of the propertied classes and those of the unpropertied”] which it is the work of this time, and perhaps of many generations more, to bring into a just relation one with another” (No. 374). The peroration also could have been written any time in the last two decades: “The world will rally round a truly great principle, and be as much the better for the contest as for the attainment; but the petty objects by the pursuit of which no principle is asserted, are fruitless even when attained” (No. 375).

Mill’s occasional journalism in 1848 ended abruptly in the summer (although in September he managed a promotion of Bain’s first of four lectures for a course “On the Application of Physics to Common Life” [No. 379]), when his health, already weak from the labour involved in writing the Principles, was further aggravated by a nasty fall. According to Bain,

In treating the hurt, a belladonna plaster was applied. An affection of his eyes soon followed, which he had knowledge enough at once to attribute to the belladonna, and disused the plaster forthwith. For some weeks, however, he was both lame and unable to use his eyes. I never saw him in such a state of despair. Prostration of the nervous system may have aggravated his condition. His elasticity of constitution brought him through once more; but in the following year, 1849, he was still in an invalid condition.137

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The year 1849 was not a good one for Mill. The first six months were full of disaster, both public and private. Louis Napoleon had beaten Cavaignac by some four million votes to become President of France. England’s reforming spirit was buried beneath relief and satisfaction at having withstood unscathed the European upheavals. Mill’s health was still very poor: although his leg healed slowly and his eyes gradually improved, his overall depression remained. His friendship with the Austins, which went back to the time when he played with little Lueie in the garden at Queen Square Place, had not survived the disagreements over the Revolution of 1848 in France, and now they were planning to remove with the Guizots to the neighbourhood of Walton-on-Thames, where Harriet Taylor had kept a country home since 1839. Their presence would necessitate her moving, she claimed. To return permanently to Kent Terrace was out of the question; the dedication of the Political Economy to her had elicited very sharp words from John Taylor.138 Her health was poor; her own family upset her beyond enduring; her father was seriously ill (in fact, terminally); her lover was hobbling, partially blind and depressed. She fled to the Continent. Only the prospect of joining her there in April lightened Mill’s gloom. That and reading volumes five and six of Grote’s History. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that no new ideas were developed in the three newspaper articles he wrote in the first six months of 1849. All appeared in March, two in the Spectator favourably reviewing Grote (Nos. 380 and 381)—there was far more quotation than review—and one, with Harriet’s encouragement, in the Daily News on the admission of Jews to Parliament (No. 382).139

The year which had begun so badly went steadily downhill. By the summer, Mill’s emotional frame of mind was, if anything, worse. Harriet Taylor had refused to accede to her husband’s implied request in a letter telling of his increasing ill health that she come home at the end of March.140 She had replied that she had a duty to Mill and could not consider her own wishes; it was her duty to follow through with the arrangements to meet him at Bagnères in the Pyrenees in April. She arrived home in the middle of May to find her husband in the last stages of cancer. She nursed him hysterically until his death on 18 July, 1849. Edition: current; Page: [xci] For the rest of the year, Mill himself published alone141 just four short pieces, keeping faith with people who had striven for their ideals and been crushed by a philistine world. He added the prestige of his voice to the plea for the Hungarian refugees who had fled to Turkey and were in danger of being handed back to the Czar (Nos. 384 and 385), and with a touch of his old economy got in a slap at France who, “in a moment of insanity, has given herself up for four years to the discretion of the relative (by marriage), and servile tool of the Emperor of Russia, by whose help he hopes to be made Emperor of France” (No. 384), and at the British public who could not be trusted “for support in any energetic and generous course of action in foreign affairs” (No. 385). As always loyal to, and admiring of, any followers of Saint-Simonism, he drew the public’s attention to the persecution of Etienne Cabet on trial for fraud in the United States and of Jules Lechevalier prosecuted in France (Nos. 386 and 387). They were men of noble character, dedicated, in the words of Cabet’s followers living with him in his utopian community, “to the moral education of mankind” (No. 386). Such dedication was a flame to be cherished in a dark world.

John Taylor’s death had done nothing to lighten it, as some might callously have expected. There is no question that it was a dreadful blow to them. It was a sad and very unsettling event; while he was alive, the Mill-Taylor relationship, if far from ideal, had been stable, and custom had made it familiar. Now all was open once more to public speculation, and their small circle of acquaintance and family could not help but be turning on them those prying eyes they both so loathed. They withdrew into even deeper seclusion, and perhaps not surprisingly in 1850 they resumed their joint productions,142 initiated in 1846 just before the series on Ireland. These articles, mostly on domestic brutality, have been largely overlooked by modern critics. The understandable prejudice against Harriet Taylor, certainly not lessened by Mill’s indiscreet praises of her; the instinctive dislike of accepting his reversal of the most obviously reasonable view of their intellectual relationship; the diffuse, if not scattered, composition of parts of the articles; and the offensively Punch and Judy nature of the subject matter—all these factors have led to a somewhat embarrassed ignoring of the roughly twenty articles of their joint production. They are cited very rarely and then mostly only for evidence either of the deleterious influence Harriet Taylor had on John Mill or of his besotted state. These joint productions ought not, however, to be passed over.

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The passage in the Autobiography quoted at the beginning of this section makes clear that in his mid-forties Mill was looking for an explanation of the failure of Europe and England to produce any real improvement in the lot of mankind. Europe had had revolutions; England had had reforms; and yet the expected, eagerly awaited leap forward had not taken place. Why was there so little improvement in the “intellectual and moral state”? How could it be that “the general discipline” of people’s minds, “intellectually and morally, [was] not altered”? All the reforms had brought no satisfaction because no “great change” had taken place “in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” Mill’s convictions would incline him to the conclusion that there must exist an anachronistic social institution—or institutions—that was damming up the historical process, and that he and his fellow Radicals had so far not exposed. Radical analysis had failed to reveal the next step for the improvement of mankind. By intuition Harriet Taylor succeeded.

Mill’s disclaimer of having learnt from Harriet Taylor to recognize the claims of women is well known. His acknowledgment of that which he did come to understand through her is almost equally unknown.

Undoubtedly however this conviction was at that time, in my mind, little more than an abstract principle: it was through her teaching that I first perceived and understood its practical bearings; her rare knowledge of human nature, and perception and comprehension of moral and social influences, shewed me (what I should never have found out in more than a very vague way for myself) the mode in which the consequences of the inferior position of women intertwine themselves with all the evils of existing society and with the difficulties of human improvement. Without her I should probably always have held my present opinions on the question, but it would never have become to me as, with the deepest conviction, it now is, the great question of the coming time: the most urgent interest of human progress, involving the removal of a barrier which now stops the way, and renders all the improvements which can be effected while it remains, slight and superficial.

(A, 252.)

The vast “practical bearings” and “the consequences of the inferior position of women” were illuminated for Mill by the reports of legal proceedings, frequently concerning brutality, to which Harriet Taylor drew his attention. Together they tested the new hypothesis “by common experience respecting human nature in our own age.”143 He became convinced that injustice and tyranny were perpetuated in society by the familial arrangements between the sexes. When these were changed, only then would come about the fundamental reconstitution of modes of thought.144

This belief was a natural enough development in Mill’s thought. He had been Edition: current; Page: [xciii] first stirred by the possibilities of reshaping society through law reform; he accepted unreservedly associationist psychology; he lived in a society that believed fervently in the moral superiority of women and their irreplaceable civilizing role in the family. The belief in phases of history and the seeking of causes for the characteristics of each age were essential to his way of thinking; his interest in ethology led him to contemplate a book on the subject; and his faith for the future had always been reliant on the working class. In the most basic of all social relationships, that between man and woman, was to be found the explanation of working-class brutishness and the fundamental cause, and therefore the remedy, of “one of the chief hindrances to human improvement.”145 Equality for women was to become “a badge of advanced liberalism”;146 his having raised the question of women’s suffrage, was, he said, “by far the most important, perhaps the only really important public service I performed in the capacity of a Member of Parliament” (A, 285).

Their joint productions began to appear, very infrequently, at the beginning of 1846 in a manner quite reminiscent of the youthful Mill’s articles in the Morning Chronicle. Specific cases were used as springboards to the larger questions lying behind certain legal practices. The acquittal of the brutal Captain Johnstone (No. 303) on a charge of murder led to a discussion of “temporary insanity” as a legal fiction; the conviction by twelve Surrey tradesmen of Dr. Ellis (No. 305) for professional incompetence raised the questions whether medical practitioners ought to be held responsible for the results of treatment sought by the patient and whether a jury picked at random was competent to judge such treatment; and the case of Private Matthewson (No. 307) brought forth once again Mill’s theme of the need for disinterested judges. By the end of 1846 the Mill-Taylor interest had become more focused. The three cases of Sarah Brown (No. 318), William Burn (No. 329), and the North family (No. 350) all had to do with family relationships and the iniquitous consequences of the subordinate position of wives and children. Contemplation of these inequalities before the law led to strong conclusions about the married state, the brutality of some husbands, and the helplessness of all wives. Mill had known since he was a boy that the second-class position of women could not be upheld by a priori reasoning; through Harriet Taylor he learnt to feel it insupportable, and to understand its consequences. When Mill sent Eugène Sue a copy of his Political Economy in 1848 he wrote, “sur le mariage et sur l’entière égalité de droits entre les hommes et les femmes les opinions de l’auteur de ‘Martin’ et du ‘Juif Errant’ sont non seulement les miennes mais j’ai la conviction profonde que la liberté, la démocratie, la fraternité, ne sont nulle part si ce n’est dans ces opinions, et que l’avenir du progrès social et moral ne se trouve que là.”147

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By 1850 the principle had been more fully developed and was more clearly applied. The persistence in society, especially among the lower classes, of coarseness—a combination of brutality and tyranny—was the result of the formative years being spent in domestic relations where the law recognized the rights of men only, refusing any to wives and children, and where, consequently, mistreatment of those weaker, either because of age or sex, was commonplace, physical chastisement being, if not encouraged, certainly not discouraged by society. In Mill’s youth self-interest had been the root cause of evil, circumstances being seen as capable of redirecting it to good. Then political institutions had been blamed for society’s lack of progress in civilization. Reform had come but not progress. In these articles, guided by Harriet Taylor’s “rare knowledge of human nature, and perception and comprehension of moral and social influences,” Mill the scientist traced the flaws in society to the nurturing of its citizens in an atmosphere of brutality, tyranny, and injustice.

The series of letters in 1850148 starts out with one on the Californian constitution (No. 388); nearly half of the letter is devoted to the granting of married women’s property rights. Harriet Taylor herself had suffered greatly in spirit if not in body from the law’s most universal injustice to women—the deprivation of all civil rights upon marriage.149 Women legally disappeared sous couverture. The law then had to assume, and it did, that all members of the family were subsumed under the male head. In society generally, but particularly among the lower classes, this fiction was reflected in a common attitude that inflicted degradation and hardship on wives and children:

The baser part of the populace think that when a legal power is given to them over a living creature—when a person, like a thing, is suffered to be spoken of as their own—as their wife, or their child, or their dog—they are allowed to do what they please with it; and in the eye of the law—if such judgments as the preceding are to be taken as its true interpretation—they are justified in supposing that the worst they can do will be accounted but as a case of slight assault.

(No. 400; cf. No. 395.)

The law positively encouraged brutality in the family (No. 389). Wife or child beating should be regarded with greater revulsion than common assaults outside the home. Those most affected, tragically, are “the wives and children of the Edition: current; Page: [xcv] brutal part of the population,” and on their torturers the law should be harshest (No. 400).

The law’s callous sufferance of wife beating was all the more deplorable because it deprived a woman of any alternative to dependence on her husband. Thanks to the law she could not leave him to escape his brutality because legally all her earnings belonged to him. In these circumstances could there be a greater injustice than that inflicted by a law which fined a husband for a barbarous cruelty but did not protect the wife from future torture? Mill cited the case of a man acquitted on charges of attempted murder on the evidence of his terrified wife, who said he had hanged her only in jest, “for what would have been the consequence to her of having given strong evidence against him, in the event of his acquittal?” (No. 400.)150 Husbands could beat their wives and, if they chanced to kill them, they would be tried for manslaughter. “Is it because juries are composed of husbands in a low rank of life, that men who kill their wives almost invariably escape—wives who kill their husbands, never? How long will such a state of things be permitted to continue?” (No. 393.) Insidiously destructive was the habitual violence, the daily brutality, that never came to court.

Let any one consider the degrading moral effect, in the midst of these crowded dwellings, of scenes of physical violence, repeated day after day—the debased, spirit-broken, down-trodden condition of the unfortunate woman, the most constant sufferer from domestic brutality in the poorer classes, unaffectedly believing herself to be out of the protection of the law—the children born and bred in this moral atmosphere—with the unchecked indulgence of the most odious passions, the tyranny of physical force in its coarsest manifestations, constantly exhibited as the most familiar facts of their daily life—can it be wondered if they grow up without any of the ideas and feelings which it is the purpose of moral education to infuse, without any sense of justice or affection, any conception of self-restraint. . . .

(No. 390.)

Brutal treatment in childhood prepared the victim “for being a bully and a tyrant. He will feel none of that respect for the personality of other human beings which has not been shown towards his own. The object of his respect will be power.” (No. 396.)151 Domestic tyranny and the brutality that accompanied it, encouraged as they were in society by the courts’ tolerance, had a profound, an historically crucial, effect on society.

The great majority of the inhabitants of this and of every country—including nearly the whole of one sex, and all the young of both—are, either by law or by circumstances Edition: current; Page: [xcvi] stronger than the law, subject to some one man’s arbitrary will [and] it would show a profound ignorance of the effect of moral agencies on the character not to perceive how deeply depraving must be the influence of such a lesson given from the seat of justice. It cannot be doubted that to this more than to any other single cause is to be attributed the frightful brutality which marks a very large proportion of the poorest class, and no small portion of a class much above the poorest.

(No. 390.)

Seen in the light of their belief in its vast social ramifications, Harriet Taylor’s plea “that her Majesty would take in hand this vast and vital question of the extinction of personal violence by the best and surest means—the illegalising of corporal punishment, domestic as well as judicial, at any age” (No. 383) was foolish only from its impracticability. Failing the Queen, two acts were needed immediately to reform the law to prevent its continuing inculcation of domestic brutality and tyranny.152 “There should be a declaratory Act, distinctly setting forth that it is not lawful for a man to strike his wife, any more than to strike his brother or his father. . . . It seems almost inconceivable that the smallest blow from a man to a man should be by law a criminal offence, and yet that it should not be—or should not be known to be—unlawful for a man to strike a woman.” And there should be “a short Act of Parliament, providing that judicial conviction of gross maltreatment should free the victim from the obligation of living with the oppressor, and from all compulsory subjection to his power—leaving him under the same legal obligation as before of affording the sufferer the means of support, if the circumstances of the case require it” (No. 395). Given the state of the unreformed law, Mill’s renunciation of his rights in 1851 seems a little less quixotic.

Harriet Taylor’s interest in cases of domestic brutality, whatever its origins, profoundly influenced John Stuart Mill’s understanding of the present condition of society and its historical development. It had provided an environmental cause—and hence a remediable one—of the condition of the working classes to refute the anti-democratic assumption of the innate brutishness of the lower orders. In the laboratory of the courts the hypothesis that men and women were not irredeemable brutes by nature but depraved by and, therefore, salvageable by nurture, had been tested and proved (though there remained some question as to the extent of man’s redemption). The importance of these ideas for Mill’s future thought and actions should not be ignored. The joint productions themselves are not major works, but they should be taken seriously as the exploration of a significant new element that Mill was adding to his basic beliefs about the necessary steps towards the improvement of mankind.

The parallels with the Subjection of Women are too obvious to need Edition: current; Page: [xcvii] elaboration.153 The very tones were recaptured, although Mill now worked alone: “the wife is the actual bondservant of her husband: no less so, as far as legal obligation goes, than slaves commonly so called”; “the full power of tyranny with which the man is legally invested”; “however brutal a tyrant she may unfortunately be chained to—though she may know that he hates her, though it may be his daily pleasure to torture her, and though she may feel it impossible not to loathe him—he can claim from her and enforce the lowest degradation of a human being. . . . While she is held in this worst description of slavery as to her own person, what is her position in regard to the children in whom she and her master have a joint interest? They are by law his children. . . . Not one act can she do towards . . . them, except by delegation from him. Even after he is dead she is not their legal guardian. . . .”154 “The family is a school of despotism, in which the virtues of despotism, but also its vices, are largely nourished.”155 The book was written to show that “the legal subordination of one sex to the other . . . is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement. . . .”156 It was from working with Harriet that this truth had been borne in upon him.

Denial of the suffrage was the political side of the legal subordination. Although Mill did not designate as a joint production his letter to the Leader (No. 398)157 of 17 August, 1850, on the stability of society, it certainly dealt with a subject they had talked over together. Harriet Taylor was already working on her article on the enfranchisement of women,158 and there is no doubt that Mill expressed their mutual views in this early public advocacy of women’s suffrage. The letter started as a reply to a gentleman who had written that society without strict divorce laws to guide it would run aground. There was a humorously presented analysis of what society’s being on a sandbank could possibly mean: understanding what it meant for a ship to come upon a sandbank, Mill wanted “to have it made equally clear to me what would happen if, in consequence of permitting facility of divorce, ‘society’ should . . . come upon a sandbank.” Mill went on in more serious vein to point out that in two other letters, one in favour of divorce and one in favour of extended suffrage, “the writer shows the most unaffected unconsciousness that anybody has an interest in the matter except the Edition: current; Page: [xcviii] man,” whereas women have more need of facility for divorce, and every argument for men’s voting applies equally to women’s voting.

But this entire ignoring of women, as if their claim to the same rights as the other half of mankind were not even worth mentioning, stares one in the face from every report of a speech, every column of a newspaper. In your paper of the 27th ultimo, there is a long letter signed Homo, claiming the “right of the suffrage” as justly belonging to every man, while there is not one line of his argument which would not be exactly as applicable if “woman” were read instead of “man;” yet the thought never appears to occur to him. In a Conservative this would be intelligible—monopoly, exclusion, privilege, is his general rule; but in one who demands the suffrage on the ground of abstract right, it is an odious dereliction of principle, or an evidence of intellectual incompetence. While the majority of men are excluded, the insult to women of their exclusion as a class is less obvious. But even the present capricious distribution of the franchise has more semblance of justice and rationality than a rule admitting all men to the suffrage and denying it to all women.

(No. 398.)

It is little wonder, with the memories of what they had once talked over together, that Mill had noticeably to pause to control his emotions after he began to speak in the House of Commons on 20 May, 1867, moving to substitute “person” for “man” in the Representation of the People Bill.

After their marriage in April 1851 until Harriet’s death in November 1858 Mill wrote for the papers hardly at all: eight pieces in as many years; in 1851 he wrote only one piece. The question of street organs would perhaps be deemed an odd choice for the solitary contribution to the newspapers in over a year by the author of the Logic and the Principles of Political Economy, but that was the subject upon which Mill contributed an article—to the Morning Chronicle—in 1851 (No. 401). Miscarriages of justice and the limited understandings of magistrates had been the subject of their joint letters, and perhaps this was a sequel drafted or suggested by his wife. In 1852 he took time for only two letters (Nos. 402 and 403), very short, supporting free trade in the book trade and opposing the control exercised by the Booksellers’ Association. The following year, 1853, plagued by ill health, but intensely loyal to the East India Company through which he genuinely believed India was getting as good a government as was humanly available, he published two articles (Nos. 404 and 405) during the debate on the India Bill to defend the Company against the meddling fingers of a harassed Government. In the spring of 1854 he was told his life was in danger from consumption, and from then on he and Harriet tried to put on paper for posterity their best thoughts, and only twice were their thoughts sent to the newspapers for their contemporaries. Time, they felt, was running out. Harriet’s health was weak; she nearly died of a lung haemorrhage at Nice in 1853 and now John was threatened. His father and one brother had already died of tuberculosis, and another brother was living abroad but with no hope of curing the disease, only delaying its progress. Mill’s health remained unreliable even after the consumption was arrested (seemingly by 1856); splitting headaches continued to Edition: current; Page: [xcix] make his India Office duties more onerous than normal. There was less time for writing: he was frequently travelling for his health and when he was not, she was. The newlyweds worked hard outlining the ideas they wished to leave to the future—even on their separate trips.159

When they were together, they lived very private lives. In November 1854 in the Morning Post they published one more joint effort (No. 406). It was a short letter expressing distress and disgust that even after the passing of the new Act to protect battered wives, magistrates would not hand down hard sentences. Mill did not write again for the daily press until, somewhat unexpectedly after three-and-a-half years of silence, on 31 July, 1858, he sent a letter to the Daily News on the Laws of Lunacy (No. 407). The surprise results from the sudden break in the silence, not from the topic; recent incidents in which “refractory wives” had been declared insane prompted the letter. Criticism of the Lunacy Laws was not uncommon at this time but it was rarely presented from the women’s point of view. This was the last piece in the papers published with his wife’s encouragement.

In October they left for a long, warm winter in southern Europe; at Avignon, Harriet Mill collapsed and on 3 November she died.

MARCH 1863 TO MAY 1873

when john stuart mill returned to public life, he had beside him his stepdaughter, Helen Taylor. She had been born in 1831 and, still in her twenties when her mother died, had already developed great strength of character. (She had abandoned an apprenticeship as an actress to join Mill in his despair.) Mill referred to her somewhat inappropriately as a “prize in the lottery of life” (A, 264). For the next six and a half years, the grieving pair lived quiet lives, half the year in Blackheath and half in Avignon. They travelled together and on one occasion, in 1862, took a genuinely daring trip through the Greek interior. She helped him in many ways after her mother’s death, one of which was with his correspondence; the echo of Taylor phrasing can still be heard, therefore, in some of his later public letters, though less in those concerning international affairs. After he recovered from the shock of his loss, Mill devoted himself to Edition: current; Page: [c] making ready for publication works he and Harriet had planned.160 He was only fifty-two, but Harriet’s death halted his mental development—at least he felt so—and those developments in his thought which took place are not best seen in his sporadic journalism. The general set of his thinking was established. He was a highly respected philosopher and Radical. Commentary on contemporary events was no longer of value to his own development, nor was daily journalism the medium most effective for the exercise of his influence, especially when he was in Parliament. Mill’s concern was less to influence immediate actions than to complete mankind’s guides to the future. His final pieces, then, have interest but little cohesion, being disparate and few. Events in England seem not to provide the occasion; Europe, friends, and ideas are the stimulants.161

The year 1865 saw the realization of an ambition he had first dreamt of thirty years earlier; he was asked to stand for Parliament. His candidacy gave him an excellent chance to express his views on matters for which the occasion might not otherwise have presented itself. He had been promoting Thomas Hare’s system of proportional representation ever since, in the spring of 1859, he had first received and read Hare’s book, which had, “for the first time, solved the difficulty of popular representation; and by doing so, [had] raised up the cloud of gloom and uncertainty which hung over the futurity of representative government and therefore of civilization.”162 In contradiction to a writer in the Spectator, he affirmed that Hare’s system “is equally suitable to the state of things under which we now live, since it would at once assure to that minority in the constituencies which consists of the operative classes, the share in the representation which you demand for them,” as it will be to that state when the operatives far outnumber those likely to support the eminent men (No. 411).

He attacked the ballot when reviewing Henry Romilly’s pamphlet favouring it (No. 413).163 His arguments are very similar in one way to the arguments he had put forward on the opposite side under his father’s tutelage forty years earlier. In the old days the good of the country was served by diminishing the power of the aristocracy through giving a man a ballot and thus removing influence and bribery at one stroke. But now Mill saw man’s actions as not determined solely by his selfish interests but—in keeping, in fact, with Bentham’s list of influences that make a judge a good judge too—people were influenced by the desire to stand well with their fellows. This social motive would be weakened “when the Edition: current; Page: [ci] act is done in secret, and he can neither be admired for disinterested, nor blamed for mean and selfish conduct” (No. 413). He repeated his unequivocal denial whenever asked (No. 425).

But the real, the great reward of his candidacy was his election on 12 July, 1865. His letter thanking the Liberal electors of Westminster is warming to read over a century later. All Mill had feared about democracy had been (at least temporarily) assuaged and all he had claimed about Radicals and workers had been triumphantly vindicated—and by a personal triumph. It must have been a sweet moment when, after a long stationary period, the historical process, with him as its agent, seemed to be visibly advancing. “I should join . . . in hearty and grateful acknowledgments to the Liberal electors generally, and especially to the great number who, by their strenuous and disinterested personal exertions, renewed the lesson so often forgotten, of the power of a high and generous purpose over bodies of citizens accustomed to free political action. . . . That I may not fall so far below your hopes as to make you regret your choice, will be my constant and earnest endeavour.” (No. 414.) The knight’s armour was slightly loose, the limbs not so lithe, but he rose to do battle against the “personal and pecuniary influences” who had won a majority in the House with the same conviction and sense of righteousness with which he had wielded his pen for the last forty years.

While Mill was a sitting member of Parliament, he does not appear to have written for or to the newspapers. During the election of 1868, he published two letters.164 In September he wrote a letter to the borough of Greenwich which had emulated Westminster and further rekindled Mill’s hope for the future by “electing a public man, without any solicitation on his part” (No. 416). The only other public letter from this time published in England was an attempt to mop up the hot water boiled over by his support of Chadwick for a riding in which there was a sitting Liberal member, albeit an Adullamite (also a leader in the anti-feminist forces). The letter, published in The Times, had some fine hits by the Avignon team; the tone of Helen Taylor is evident in the sharp riposte to Bouverie: “For my part I never presumed to give you any advice, nor did I ‘invite’ you to retire in Mr. Chadwick’s favour, because I had no idea that you were in the least likely to do so; I merely, in reply to a communication from yourself, shewed how very public spirited a proceeding I should consider it if you did.”165

The memories evoked by Mill’s active role promoting women’s right to vote, Edition: current; Page: [cii] especially his preparation of the Subjection of Women, surely must relate to a letter intended for the Daily News in January of 1870 (No. 419), which seems to put the calendar back twenty years. The attention of the readers was drawn to the case of William Smith, a policeman, sentenced for (according to the magistrate) an “unprovoked, brutal, and unjustifiable” assault upon a man who had knocked his wife down in the street. Though now Mill could write also to the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, and the Recorder of the City of London, he could not secure the unfortunate policeman’s reinstatement in the force when he came out of prison.

Now a distinguished philosopher in his sixties, Mill had no need and no desire to put his ideas before the public through the newspapers. He preferred to develop his thoughts in longer form and published, apart from books,166 lengthy essays in the Fortnightly Review edited by his disciple John Morley.167 In 1870 he commented on the Education Bill (No. 420) and Russia’s threatened abrogation of the Treaty of 1856 (Nos. 421 and 422).168

Mill did not speak out again in newspapers until the last year of his life.169 It was a singularly appropriate ending to his long association with the newspapers: he wrote for the Examiner, and on a subject that was part of his vision, land tenure. Since his youth many advances in public thinking had been made on the question, promoted in part by the state of Ireland and Mill’s writings on it; it had been possible for Gladstone to introduce an Irish Land Act. To advance the public attitude further, Mill now actively promoted a Land Tenure Reform Association, for which he had drawn up and published the programme.170 The justification for restricting the rights in land already in private hands is vintage Mill:

The land not having been made by the owner, nor by any one to whose rights he has succeeded, and the justification of private ownership in land being the interest it gives to the owner in the good cultivation of the land, the rights of the owner ought not to be stretched farther than this purpose requires. No rights to the land should be recognised which do not act as a motive to the person who has power over it, to make it as productive, or otherwise as useful to mankind, as possible. Anything beyond this exceeds the reason of the case, and is an injustice to the remainder of the community.

(No. 427.)
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All his life he had pitted reason against injustice.

Mill died quite unexpectedly on 7 May, 1873, after a long walk botanizing. He died while still enjoying the full vigour of a mind that analyzed with logical precision each next step forward for mankind’s betterment. His advocacy had been extraordinarily influential, because his dreams of the future had been tempered by his knowledge of present possibilities. This commonsensical approach to the millenium was the reward he reaped from all his arduous efforts to instruct his countrymen through the newspapers, because awareness of his readers never allowed him to forget that reforms had to be designed for, and accepted by, his fallible contemporaries. His career as a journalist ensured that he kept his feet firmly on the ground while he urged mankind forward towards his hoped-for heaven.

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Textual Introduction

the articles in these volumes span more than fifty years, from Mill’s first published letter in 1822 when he was sixteen years old, until his last leading article in 1873, the year of his death. The subjects range from abstract economics (with which he began) and practical economics (with which he ended), through French and British politics, reviews of music and theatre, and Irish land reform, to domestic cruelty, with glances at a multitude of events and ideas important to the nineteenth century. They therefore provide a needed perspective on his life and thought, giving a record of his ideas and of the development of his argumentative skills, as well as revealing his attitude to public persuasion through the newspaper press, a medium of increasing importance in his lifetime.

Identification of most of these articles as Mill’s would be impossible had he not kept a list of his published writings.1 This list is markedly reliable, but it presents a few problems in identifying newspaper writings. For example, some of the very early entries lack dates, and a few have wrong dates or lack other elements. Inference and other bits of evidence, however, make it possible to make corrections and to identify with confidence all the items except two.

One of these two has defied identification: “An article on wages and profits, capital and prices, which appeared in the Edinburgh Times of May 1825.” The problem is not the missing date; we have not been able to locate any Edition: current; Page: [cvi] issue of a paper of that name, though it appeared for at least a few weeks early in 1825.2

The other problem concerns Nos. 53 and 54. The entry in Mill’s list gives the title “The Quarterly Review and France,” with the date of No. 53 (24 Oct., 1830). In the Examiner No. 53 is actually entitled “The Quarterly Review versus France,” whereas an article in the next week’s issue (our No. 54) is entitled “France and the Quarterly Review.” One would be tempted to accept Mill’s date, ignore the slight difference in the title, and so to include No. 53 and exclude No. 54, were it not that in Mill’s own bound set of the Examiner (discussed below) he has made an inked correction in No. 54 (and there are elsewhere no such corrections in articles not by him). No. 54 begins with a reference back to No. 53, using the journalistic “we,” but such evidence of continued authorship is weak. On stylistic grounds, both are possibly Mill’s, though it might be held that No. 53 shows some signs of Albany Fonblanque’s lighter tone (he was then the editor of and principal writer for the Examiner). Faced with this conflicting evidence, and recognizing the possibility that the scribe who copied Mill’s list made an error of omission (there are many easily identifiable errors throughout), we have included both as probably Mill’s.

Most of Mill’s entries in his list identify single items, but occasionally, and particularly in the case of four series of his news reports on French political life, he groups articles in a general statement. For example, as the headnote to No. 55 indicates, the first such entry reads: “The summary of French affairs in the Examiner from 7th November 1830 to 17th April 1831, inclusive: comprising several long articles.” We have gone through the Examiner (as did MacMinn) to locate the items in these series, and have, in the absence of confirming or disconfirming evidence, accepted all the articles between the bracketing dates as Mill’s. In a few cases, we have had to conclude that there are errors in Mill’s entries: first, there is no account of French politics in the Examiner for 3 April, 1831 (the news report is concerned with other European matters, including one sentence signalling a French response to Belgian events). Second, the entry quoted in the headnote to No. 113 says that between 4 September, 1831, and 15 July, 1832, Mill wrote on all Sundays but one (1 July, 1832); however, there is no article on France in the number for 13 November, 1831. Finally, the articles for 11 and 18 November, 1832, which would be covered by the entry quoted in the headnote to No. 181, are not included because they are not marked by Mill as his in his set of the Examiner.

Confirmation of Mill’s list so far as the important early writings in the Examiner are concerned is possible because of markings in that set, which is in Edition: current; Page: [cvii] the collection of materials from his library housed in Somerville College, Oxford.3 On the front flyleaves of all but the 1830 volume Mill listed his own articles, and (for the volumes for 1831-33) enclosed the parts of the text by him in inked square brackets. Also he made some inked corrections in the texts themselves. For the most part these three sets of information confirm the other, independent list, but the Somerville material enabled us to add seven items to that list.

Other evidence enabled us to add twenty more. Signatures contributed ten of these: “J.S. Mill” adds nine late items (Nos. 414-18, 420, 423-4, and 427), all but the last, an article, being letters to the editor; and, in conjunction with internal evidence, a common signature (“S.”) led us to another (No. 32). (Also, identification of No. 33, vaguely described in Mill’s list, was possible because of a combination of signature and internal evidence.) Identifications of part of one (the addendum to No. 34) and all of another (No. 49) were made through comments by the editors of the newspapers in which they appeared, and one more (No. 285) was made through the editor’s entry in his own file copy. Mill’s correspondence led to identification of No. 101 as his (and also Appendices A and C, not included in this count). One further, a review (No. 379), is said to be Mill’s by Alexander Bain, the author reviewed. Finally, Mill’s list gives only published writings; we have included the five unpublished letters intended for newspapers that remain in manuscript (Nos. 367, 371, 399, 412, and 419, as well as Appendix D).4

These successes have not made us blind to the possibility that some newspaper items remain unidentified, particularly in the final years of Mill’s life. Indeed, Mill’s list contains a disturbing entry: “From this time no memorandum has been made of my letters which have appeared in print: numbers of my public or private letters having found their way into newspapers, of all of which (I believe) the original drafts have remained in my possession.”5 Unfortunately, Mill does not specify exactly what “this time” means; the comment comes in a section evidently added longer after the fact than usual, between the listing for his Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (published on 13 Apr., 1865) and the entry which, as he says, is misplaced, of his “Austin on Jurisprudence” (Oct. 1863). The two items that bracket these are for 29 April, 1865 (No. 413) and April 1866 (“Grote’s Plato”; in CW, XI, 375-440). What Mill actually had in his possession when he wrote the entry we of course do not know; still Edition: current; Page: [cviii] surviving are many drafts and some clippings from newspapers, most of which, as originally private letters, are in the final volumes of Later Letters. We have therefore scanned newspapers most thoroughly for the period from April 1865 to May 1873 (when Mill died); the result is a disappointingly small number, but Mill seems not to have used the periodical press very much in his years in Parliament or subsequently.

In his bibliographic list, Mill carefully designates fifteen of these items, like other of his writings, as “joint productions” with Harriet Taylor, who married him in 1851 after twenty years of close friendship.6 He actually uses three formulations, saying just a “joint production” in three cases (Nos. 318, 393, and 394), commenting “very little of this [article] was mine” in eight (Nos. 305, 329, 350, 389, 390, 392, 395, and 396), and combining these two descriptions in three (Nos. 303, 307, and 383); No. 400, the last one to which such a comment is attached, has a comment that has defied particular analysis: “This, like all my newspaper articles on similar subjects, and most of my articles on all subjects, was a joint production with my wife.” On that basis, however, one may speculate that nine others (Nos. 367, 369, 371, 397, 398, 399, 401, 406, and 407) were at least influenced by her, and that two more (Nos. 363 and 386) might also be included, as well as Appendix D, which, as unpublished, is not in his list. Furthermore, external evidence of the share that her daughter, Helen Taylor, had in his work after her mother’s death, and the similar tone of the letters in question to letters known to be hers, make it reasonable to think of Nos. 417 and 424 as “joint productions” with her.7

There are in total 427 items in the text proper: these are taken from twenty-seven newspapers, seventeen of them daily and ten weekly. The greater number, 261, appeared in weeklies, most the result of Mill’s dedication to the Examiner, especially from 1830 through 1834, which resulted in 235 contributions to that paper over his lifetime. In fact, after Mill’s first few years of writing for newspapers (much of it consisting of letters to the editor of the Morning Chronicle), contributions to weeklies dominate the record through the 1830s, Mill’s busiest period as a journalist. Beginning in the 1840s, he contributed more commonly to dailies, with leading articles for the Morning Chronicle and a variety of letters to editors making up the bulk. Among the dailies the Morning Chronicle, which provides 114 items in all, is as dominant as the Examiner is among the weeklies. The only other weekly with a significant number of items is the Spectator with 12; among the dailies important to this record are the Daily News with 16 items, the Globe and Traveller with 11, and The Times with 8.8

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The distribution over time is significant: 42 of the items appeared in the 1820s, 246 in the 1830s, 99 in the 1840s, 20 in the 1850s, 11 in the 1860s, and 9 in the 1870s. Equally significant is the distribution of genres: 182 are leading articles, 106 news reports, 72 letters, 47 reviews, and 6 obituaries; 14 may be called miscellaneous. These two distributions are combined in Table 1.

Table 1
1820s 1830s 1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s Total
Leaders 5 86 78 10 0 3 182
News Reports 0 106 0 0 0 0 106
Letters 29 6 13 9 9 6 72
Reviews 4 34 7 1 1 0 47
Obituaries 0 6 0 0 0 0 6
Miscellaneous 4 8 1 0 1 0 14
Total 42 246 99 20 11 9 427

Referring to the contents of the volumes simply as “newspaper writings” disguises some problems. The basic definition, “those of Mill’s writings that appeared in daily or weekly newspapers,” needs refinement. First, we have included letters that, in view of their intended audience, can be called “public,” even though they were initially directed to private individuals, and even if they exist only in draft form.9 Similarly, we have included letters to editors that failed to be published, because, though some of them are obviously drafts, they were intended for newspaper publication. Another problem arises concerning articles or parts of articles that were reprinted in newspapers from other of Mill’s writings. If one were to see these volumes as gathering together the total materials that revealed Mill to newspaper readers, it would be regretted that some very telling pieces are excluded as extracted reprints. But actually no one reader would have been able to see Mill the journalist whole, for most of his writings were anonymous, and they were scattered over such a period of time and in so many papers that the likelihood of anyone’s reading them all is so small as to be Edition: current; Page: [cx] negligible. Furthermore, we cannot pretend that we have found all examples of such reprints: the newspapers of the day commonly made extracts of this kind (often with the intention of puffing), and Mill was a popular author.10 Finally, we have been reluctant to reprint anything that appears elsewhere in the Collected Works, even though it could be argued that some items should have been saved for this volume. We have, therefore, excluded letters that might be judged to be “public” if they are in the correspondence volumes of this edition, Volumes XII to XVII. But in a few cases we have included material also in other volumes of the Collected Works: for instance, Mill used some of his leading articles on French agriculture in an appendix to his Principles of Political Economy; these were collated for Volumes II and III of the Collected Works, where the substantive variants are given. But it is appropriate to give the original versions here, because they are part of a series, not all of which was used in the Principles, and because the rewriting altered the form of the argument, though not its substance.11

Mill reprinted very few of his newspaper writings, undoubtedly judging them to fall within the area of proscription he defines for his periodical essays in Dissertations and Discussions. Those excluded from the volumes, he says, “were either of too little value at any time, or what value they might have was too exclusively temporary, or the thoughts they contained were inextricably mixed up with comments, now totally uninteresting, on passing events, or on some book not generally known; or lastly, any utility they may have possessed has since been superseded by other and more mature writings of the author.”12 While recognizing Mill’s wisdom in many matters, we are not disposed to heed him here. At the very least, the bulk of these materials gives them very considerable significance, and we trust that Mill refutes his own vivid indictment of reprinted journalism: “The Spartan in the story, who, for the crime of using two words where one would have sufficed, was sentenced to read from beginning to end the history of Guicciardini, and at the end of a few pages begged to commute his punishment for the galleys, would have prayed to exchange it for death if he had been condemned to read a file of English newspapers five years old.”13 He exempts Albany Fonblanque’s writings, and we here dogmatically assert that in his case too any commutation would be a punishment in itself.

That the items are arranged chronologically needs little explanation: such Edition: current; Page: [cxi] heterogeneous materials resist division into themes or subjects, though two major subjects dominate, French politics in the early 1830s and Irish land in the late 1840s. However, these two themes are so densely grouped in time that they cohere even within a chronological ordering. Furthermore, some other groupings would be quite arbitrary, and there would be a ragtail remnant for a miscellaneous category that would be more irritating than helpful. More determining is the positive benefit of reading the items in the order of their appearance, for their cumulative value lies in their recording Mill’s development and emphases; interesting as many of them are in their own right, the total effect in this arrangement is much more than the sum of the individual effects.

This arrangement makes separation into “chapters” somewhat arbitrary. The divisions we have made serve only to suggest relatively important phases in this aspect of Mill’s life, reflecting, as the Introduction makes clear, changes and influences of various sorts in his behaviour and thought that reveal thematic and cross-generic affinities.

The titles of the items are taken, when possible, from the copy-text (or from another version of the text that Mill oversaw), even though there is a strong likelihood that a large number of the headings were not chosen by him. The guides to identification mentioned above, Mill’s bibliography of his writings and the copy of the Examiner in Somerville College, are the authorities for many titles that exactly or closely follow his own wording. Some modifications are easily justified: for example, in his bibliographic list Mill uses two wordings for his news reports on French politics: “summary of French affairs” and (usually after No. 116) “summary of French news”; in the Examiner he normally lists each of these same items as “article on France”: we have for convenience adopted “French News” with a bracketed serial number for all of them. In the case of the series on Ireland, which he lists in his bibliography as being on “Irish affairs,” we have chosen a more descriptive title drawn from the contents of the articles, “Condition of Ireland,” again with serial numbers to distinguish them one from another. In both these cases the serial numbers are editorially added; in a few cases (“The Spirit of the Age” for instance) Mill or the newspaper provided numbers for series: to indicate the difference in origin of the numbers, we use roman numerals for those in the copy-text and arabic for those editorially supplied.14 To distinguish it from the seven-part series “Prospects of France,” which begins with No. 44, we have entitled No. 98, which does not belong with the series, “The Prospects of France.” A few titles derive from references to the articles by Mill in letters, and finally some are editorially chosen as appropriate to the contents and genre. The reviews, for example, which are normally headed in the copy-text by bibliographical identifications, are here given titles Edition: current; Page: [cxii] combining the author’s name and the short title of the work under review. The obituary notices are (in conformity to Mill’s occasional usage) headed “Death of” the deceased.

Beneath the title appear the provenance and date of publication of the item, while the headnotes indicate briefly the place of the item in relation to others in these volumes and give the minimal historical information needed as background (a broader view is given in the Introduction, and more detail in the footnotes). Each headnote also gives the evidence that the item is by Mill and justifies (usually implicitly) the choice of title. The context in the newspaper from which it is extracted is sketched (location within a section and headings, for instance) and, when appropriate, mention is made of the choice and treatment of the text.

Two kinds of footnote are appended to the items. Those from the copy-text, that is, Mill’s own notes or those by the editors of the newspapers, are signalled by the series*, , etc., beginning anew in each item. When necessary, the source of such notes is added in square brackets (e.g., “[Editor’s note.]”). While there are far more quotations in Mill’s newspaper writings than one would expect in such a genre, he does not give references to many of them; in a few cases his references need correction.15 When he is quoting only or mainly from one source (as in the reviews), page references are given in the text to reduce the number of footnotes.

The footnotes that are editorially supplied are signalled by a separate series of arabic numbers in each item. In accordance with the practice throughout the edition, we attempt to identify in these notes all Mill’s allusions to people and references to and quotations from written works and speeches, trying to specify where possible the edition he used or may be presumed to have used; to his notes we add (in square brackets) missing identifications and correct mistaken ones. In the interest of economy, when Mill quotes from newspaper leading articles and letters to the editor, the references (which are almost invariably to only one page) are given in the headnotes. In the footnotes only the primary place of publication is given, and publishers’ names are limited to the first two in a longer series; full information is given in Appendix J. Also the full titles of statutes are given only in Appendix J.

In these volumes we have followed the practice, established in the correspondence volumes, of giving additional contextual information of an historical and biographical (as well as bibliographic) kind, in an attempt, necessarily falling short of perfection, to give the reader the perspective of a nineteenth-century newspaper reader. We have restricted our enthusiasm by giving only information (including biographical detail) up to the time of the Edition: current; Page: [cxiii] article in cases when Mill continues the story later, but have tried to intimate the conclusion when there is no further allusion. After long contemplation, we decided not to translate foreign words and phrases; it is easier to annoy than to please in such matters, and all the terms Mill uses may be quickly located in dictionaries. We are aware that in falling short of the ideal we shall frustrate some legitimate expectations, but we have aimed a little higher than did James Mill, whose confidence in his readers was as astonishing as was his bland insouciance; in one not untypical note he says: “See the writings of Kant and his followers, passim; see also Degerando, and others of his school, in various parts of their works.”16

Cross-reference within the text and the Introductions is by item number rather than page; to make such reference easier, the running titles include the item numbers and the dates.

As indicated above, there is little problem in choosing copy-text for these items: there is normally only one version. In only nineteen cases are there competing texts:17 ten appeared in part in other writings of Mill’s (three of these in the posthumous fourth volume of Dissertations and Discussions; one of them also in a pamphlet and a printed version of a lost manuscript), five appeared in more than one newspaper, two have surviving manuscript versions, and two exist in both English and French versions. These last are given in both versions (in text and appendices); the others, almost all different in kind, are printed with variant notes.

Our practice is to indicate only substantive variants, defined as all changes of text except spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, demonstrable typographical errors, and such printing-house concerns as type size, etc. Paragraphing is considered substantive, as are changes in italicization for emphasis. The variants are indicated in the following ways:

Later addition of a word or words: see 356d. In the text, the passage appears as “20 per cent; d”; the variant note reads “dMS [footnote:]” followed by a footnote Mill added to the manuscript used in the preparation of his Principles of Political Economy (here signalled by “MS”). As the footnote is not in the copy-text, the implication is that it was added to the later version.

Deletion of a word or words: see 356i-i. Here the passage reads “cause iamplyi sufficient”; the variant note reads “i-i-MS”. The interpretation is that in the manuscript used for the Principles Mill altered the passage by deleting “amply”.

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Substitution of a word or words: see 356J-J. In the text, the passage appears as “a Jmuch largerJ increase”; the variant note reads “J-JMS considerable portion of this”. Placing the example in context, the interpretation is that the reading between the variant indicators was altered to that of the variant note in the manuscript used in the Principles.

In these volumes, exceptionally, there are no places where there are additions (requiring a plus sign) resulting from rewritings of an earlier version for the copy-text version.

The benefit of having normally no choice of copy-text is balanced by the need to intervene editorially. While the spelling and punctuation of the copy-texts are generally followed (without the use of sic), there is no point in ignoring the fact that Mill’s newspaper writings are flawed in all the ways typical of their genre: characters are dropped or broken, sorts are mixed or lacking, compositors (one may legitimately infer) were inexperienced or careless, and Mill’s hand (again one may infer) has been misread. Also, newspapers differed in their treatment of some conventions of the genre and the period, and even within one paper they vary inexplicably and over time; in addition, some non-substantive practices are annoying to readers not habituated to nineteenth-century newspapers. Many of the emendations permit of general description and are made silently, except when a correction was indicated by Mill, or when there is a possible ambiguity, or when one such correction is contained within a more significant one; in these cases they are listed with others in Appendix F. Unnoted common trivial corrections are:

1. Dropped and misplaced characters, and misplaced or absent word spaces (e.g., “discharge sthe” to “discharges the”; “o fchildren” to “of children”; or “allthose” to “all those”).

2. Missing or misplaced French accents, including those on proper names. Mill’s French was very good, and undoubtedly better than that of most compositors, who, moreover, seem often not to have had the types (or enough of them) to hand. (In this context, it may be mentioned that the habit of setting names in small capitals meant that accents usually could not be indicated.) Also, there is inconsistency in nineteenth-century accentuation, which also differs in unpredictable but disturbing ways from later usage.

3. French proper names. Once more it seems probable that most of the variant spellings were introduced by compositors, and occasionally more than one spelling was acceptable. To avoid annoyance, we always give, for instance, Jean Paul Courier (never Courrier), Casimir Périer (not Casimer or Perrier), Jacques Laffitte (not Lafitte), and (to illustrate what are more clearly compositors’ errors) Cormenin (not Cormerin) and Cauchois-Lemaire (not Cauchors-Lemaire).

4. Majuscule / minuscule changes of initial letter. These have been made sparingly and only to make individual passages (not the volumes as a whole) consistent, on the grounds that Mill’s hand is not infrequently ambiguous in this Edition: current; Page: [cxv] regard for some letters, and that the change in these specific words cannot be seen as emphatic.

Other emendations not signalled in the apparatus result only from the desire for easy reading, without any implication of error in the copy-text. For example, the titles of works are italicized; definite articles are not treated as part of the titles of newspapers, except for The Times and for those French newspapers whose titles are visually English homographs (for the same reason the English Globe is given its full title, Globe and Traveller); monarchs are identified in the form “Louis XVI” rather than “Louis the Sixteenth”; names appearing in small capitals in the copy-text are given in upper and lower case; italics are substituted for small capitals indicating emphasis except when the small capitals are themselves italicized (in which case they are retained in roman); in transcribing manuscripts, “&” has been rendered as “and” and superscripts in abbreviations have been lowered to the line; indications of ellipsis have been normalized to three dots plus, when necessary, terminal punctuation; double quotation marks are used where single appear in the copy-text (except, of course, for quotations within quotations); long quotations are set in reduced type and the quotation marks are removed (in consequence, occasionally Mill’s words have to be enclosed in square brackets, but there is no likelihood that these will be mistaken for editorial intrusions, as we have added only volume and page references); terminal punctuation in italic type has been given in roman except when the punctuation functions as part of the italic passage; abbreviations for monetary units are always italicized (“50l.” becomes “50l.”); and long quoted passages (which are set down, with square brackets around Mill’s inserted comments) are introduced by a colon only, rather than a colon and dash. The styling done by different newspapers is also not preserved; so, for instance, the salutations in letters to the editor are always given as “sir,—”; and the publishing information in the headnotes is regularized.

Appendices. The appended materials are of two kinds, texts (given in chronological order) and lists. Appendices A and C are translations by Mill from the French of Cavaignac’s and Enfantin’s speeches; Appendix B is the French version of an item by Mill; Appendix D (properly seen as a “joint production” with Harriet Taylor) is the English version of an item also extant in French; while Appendix E is an item attributed to Mill by George Holyoake without any cited evidence of authorship. The other appendices are guides of various kinds to the text: Appendix F gives the textual emendations not covered by the general rules cited above; Appendix G lists the editorial corrections to Mill’s bibliography of his published writings; Appendix H is a guide to the signatures Mill used in newspapers; Appendix I lists all the newspapers for which Mill wrote; and Appendix J provides (as in all our volumes) an index of the persons and works cited in the newspaper writings. Finally, there is an analytic Index, prepared by Dr. Jean O’Grady with her habitual diligent equanimity.

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for permission to publish manuscript material we thank the National Provincial Bank (residual legatees of Mary Taylor, Mill’s step-granddaughter), the British Library of Political and Economic Science (London School of Economics), the Library of University College London, the Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Brotherton Collection of the University of Leeds, and Yale University Library. We have been as ever blessed by superb co-operation from not only these libraries but also from many other institutions and their staffs, including, in Britain: the British Library, the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Somerville College Library, the University of London Library; in Canada: the Robarts Library of the University of Toronto, the St. Michael’s College Library, the Trinity College Library, the Victoria University Library; in France: the Archives du Ministère de l’Economie; the Archives de l’Ordre des Avocats à la Cour de Paris; the Archives Départementales de la Gironde, du Jura, de la Loire-Atlantique, de Meurthe et Moselle, du Puy-de-Dôme, and du Rhône; the Archives Municipales de Grenoble; the Bibliothèque Nationale; the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg; and the Service d’Archives de Paris; in Germany: the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität (Freiburg), the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, and the Universitätsbibliothek and the Staatsund Stadtbibliothek (Augsburg). For the illustrations, we express our gratitude to the British Library Newspaper Library, the Principal and Fellows of Somerville College, Oxford, the Pierpont Morgan Library, and the Yale University Library. Never have the research and editorial assistants on this edition deserved more credit than for these testing volumes: without the dedicated and inventive labours of Marion Filipiuk, Jean O’Grady, and Rea Wilmshurst publication would never have occurred. The student assistants have also contributed greatly, not least by their easy and cheerful accommodation to what must have sometimes seemed unreasonable requests: Allison Taylor, Jonathan Cutmore, Margaret Paternek, Mary-Elizabeth Shaw, Marion Halmos, and Jannifer Smith-Rubenzahl; we thank them now as we have during their labours. Other scholars and friends who have answered requests promptly and unselfishly include the gifted members of the Editorial Committee, especially Margaret Parker, copy-editor of these volumes, and others: Frank Baker, T.D. Barnes, R.D. Collison Black, the Rev. Leonard Boyle, O.P., Maureen Clarke, G.M. Craig, John Cronin, Eileen Curran, the Rev. J.L. Dewan, Robert Fenn, William Filipiuk, F.T. Flahiff, Joseph Hamburger, Helen Hatton, Eleanor Higa, Dwight Lindley, Muriel Mineka, Albert C. Outler, A.C.W. Robson, J.S.P. Robson, Catherine Sharrock, and Cecelia Sieverts.

When plans for these volumes were made, Francis E. Mineka was asked to share the editing with us. With the dedicated help of Cecelia Sieverts, he worked Edition: current; Page: [cxvii] on the annotation for some time, until his health failed and he was obliged to retire from the project. Their labours lie behind much of these volumes, all their notes having been made available to us, and their generosity of spirit having inspired us. The death of Francis Mineka early in October 1985 was a serious loss to Victorian scholarship generally, and to us a sad deprivation, only partially balanced by the widespread recognition of the high quality of his scholarly legacy. To him we dedicate these volumes.

Our final acknowledgment is of our mutual debt; this, like most of our other writings, is, as someone has said, “a joint production, very little of which is mine.”

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Exchangeable Value [1]

Traveller, 6 December, 1822, p. 3

The British Library Newspaper Library

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The Spirit of the Age, V [Part 1]

Examiner, 15 May, 1831, p. 307

Somerville College Library

Edition: current; Page: [1]

December 1822 to July 1831

Edition: current; Page: [2] Edition: current; Page: [3]

December 1822 to December 1824

TRAVELLER, 6 DEC., 1822, P. 3

This and the next letter, Mill’s first published writings, were occasioned by “Political Economy Club,” Traveller, 2 Dec., p. 3, by Robert Torrens (1780-1864), co-proprietor of the newspaper and a founding member of the Political Economy Club; the subject of Torrens’s article was the meeting of that Club to be held later that day. Mill’s reply brought forth a retort from Torrens in “Exchangeable Value,” Traveller, 7 Dec., p. 3, and the series terminated with a note by Torrens appended to Mill’s second letter. The exchange centred on the theory of value advanced in Elements of Political Economy (London: Baldwin, et al., 1821) by James Mill (1773-1836), J.S. Mill’s father; in his Autobiography Mill says his reply to Torrens was at his father’s “instigation” (CW, Vol. I, p. 89). Headed as title, with the subhead “To the Editor of the Traveller,” the items are described in Mill’s bibliography as “Two letters in the Traveller of [6th Dec.] and [13th Dec.] 1822 containing a controversy with Col. Torrens on the question whether value depends on quantity of labour. Signed S.”

(MacMinn, p. 1.)

In your notice of the late Meeting of the Political Economy Club, you have inserted a disquisition, which professes to be a refutation of Mr. Mill’s theory of value. I take the liberty of submitting to you several remarks which occurred to me on reading your article.

In the first place, if I rightly understand Mr. Mill’s chapter on Exchangeable Value,1 he cannot be said with propriety to have any theory of value—at least, in that sense in which the word theory is applied to Mr. Ricardo’s doctrines on this subject. Mr. R. renders the word value, as synonymous with productive cost2—thus introducing a new, and as it appears to me, a needless ambiguity of language. Mr. Mill, on the other hand, never uses the word value in any other than its vulgar acceptation. I am not aware that there is any passage in the Elements of Political Economy, in which the words power of purchasing may not be substituted for the word value, without in any degree affecting the truth of Mr. Mill’s positions.

But though the word value is never employed by Mr. Mill, in any other sense Edition: current; Page: [4] than purchasing power, it is nevertheless true that he endeavours to ascertain what are the circumstances which regulate the purchasing power of commodities.3 He agrees with the distinguished political economist whom we have cited, in considering the regulating circumstance to be cost of production. This cost he considers as resolvable into quantity of labour, and it is to this part of his doctrine that your strictures refer. As your arguments on this subject do not appear to me to be conclusive, I beg leave to offer my objections to their validity.

You say, “Let the rate of profit be 20 per cent.; let a manufacturer in silver and a manufacturer in iron each advance a capital of a thousand pounds, and let the advance of the former consist of ninety days’ hoarded labour, in the form of material, and ten days’ hoarded labour in the form of subsistence, while the advance of the latter consists of ten days’ hoarded labour in the form of material, and ninety in the form of subsistence.” [P. 3.]

You observe that the manufacturer in silver, with ten days’ labour of subsistence, must employ twelve days of immediate labour, in order to realize a profit of 20 per cent.; and that the manufacturer in iron, with his 90 days’ labour of subsistence, will employ 108 days of immediate labour: that therefore the silver goods, when completed, will be the produce of twelve days of immediate labour, and 90 of hoarded labour, in the form of material; while the iron goods will be the produce of 108 days of immediate labour, and 120 of hoarded labour, also in the form of material; forming the two different sums total of 102 and 118 days’ labour.

This being the case, you assert that the silver and the iron goods will exchange for one another. To this I cannot assent. You appear to have forgotten, that if profits are taken into the account at all, we must suppose the two manufacturers to make a profit, not merely on that portion of their capital which they expend in maintaining labour, but also on that portion which they expend in furnishing the raw material. By supposition, the capital of each producer consisted of one hundred days’ labour. You assert that when the production is completed, the silver manufacturer has only the produce of 102 days’ labour, while the iron manufacturer has the produce of 118 days’ labour, in remuneration for their capital. The former then has only a profit of 2 per cent. on his whole capital, the latter has a profit of 18 per cent. on the whole. It is evident that, under these circumstances, the two commodities will not exchange for one another: their values will be in the proportion of 102 to 118—that is, of the quantities of labour by which they were produced. This, at least, will be the case, if profits are to be considered as forming one ingredient in cost of production, the position on which your whole argument is founded.

If profits are equal in the two cases, as the principle of competition will render them, it is unnecessary to take them into the calculation of exchangeable value, Edition: current; Page: [5] which is, by the force of the term, not something absolute, but something relative. If the whole produce of the one capital exchanges for the whole produce of the other, those parts of them which remain when profits are deducted, will also exchange for one another. But if we exclude profits, your objection falls to the ground. Mr. Mill’s argument must, therefore, be considered as resting on the same foundation as before.

You have also started an objection against another of Mr. Mill’s arguments. The value of commodities (says Mr. M.) cannot depend upon capital, since capital is commodities, and if the value of commodities depends on the value of capital, it depends on the value of commodities—that is, on itself.4 You observe, that this argument cuts both ways. If the value of commodities depends upon labour, as the value of labour can only be estimated in commodities, this (say you) is to assert that the value of labour depends on the value of labour. This would be true if Mr. M. had asserted that the value of commodities depends on the value of labour. But he says, that it depends, not on the value but on the quantity of labour:5 there is here no inconsistency. The value of commodities depends upon the quantity of labour employed in producing them. The value of labour, which is not itself produced by labour, cannot be subject to the same laws. Mr. M. in his Chapter on Wages, has expounded the laws which regulate the value of labour.6


TRAVELLER, 13 DEC., 1822, P. 2

For the context, heading, and bibliographical information, see No. 1.


In your Paper of Saturday you inserted an article professing to be a refutation of that which you did me the honour of inserting on Friday. Permit me, however, to say, that if I was before convinced of the truth of Mr. Mill’s conclusions, my conviction is strengthened by the weakness of the arguments which are brought against them by the ablest of their opponents.

You accuse me of having misunderstood your arguments. I am at a loss to conceive what interpretation can be put upon them, different from that which I have given. In the argument of your first article I can see only two things: first, an elaborate attempt to prove what no one ever thought of disputing—namely, that labour produces more than is necessary for the maintenance of the labourers: Edition: current; Page: [6] and secondly, an inference drawn from this—namely, that labour does not regulate exchangeable value. Your reasoning amounts to this—labour is productive, therefore labour does not regulate value. I hope you will excuse me if I confess that I do not see the connection between these two propositions. One man by one day’s labour may possibly produce food which will maintain him for ten days; but it does not follow from this, that one day’s labour of food will not exchange for one day’s labour of any other commodity.

In your last article, you put a different case. You suppose A to have wine, the produce of 100 days’ labour, and B to have food, the produce of equal labour. A keeps his wine in his cellar to improve by age; B employs his capital in maintaining 120 days of labour in the production of a commodity. These commodities, you say, will exchange for one another; and you conceive that here labour does not regulate value. It seems to me, however, that this is not an exception to Mr. Mill’s doctrine. You virtually admit that the value of B’s commodity is regulated by the quantity of labour expended in its production. But if the wine produced by equal capital, and deposited in the cellar of the merchant, did not command the same price, no wine would ever be kept. The value, therefore, of A’s wine is regulated by that of B’s commodity. But the value of B’s commodity depends on quantity of labour. Is it not, therefore, evident that the value of A’s wine also depends on quantity of labour?



This letter was occasioned by a series of prosecutions for blasphemous libel that received considerable attention in the press (see, e.g., in the last part of 1822, Examiner, 27 Oct., pp. 685-6, 3 Nov., pp. 709-10, 17 Nov., pp. 721-4, 726, 734, 24 Nov., pp. 748-9, 764-5, 15 Dec., pp. 788ff.). Headed as title, with the subhead “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter was the first of Mill’s many contributions to the Morning Chronicle. The item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter in the Morning Chronicle of 1st January 1823 on Free Discussion, signed, An Enemy to Religious Persecution”

(MacMinn, p. 1).

I beg leave to submit to you some observations, which may, perhaps, appear too obvious to be deserving of insertion. The importance, however, of the subject, and the state of vagueness in which every thing connected with it has been hitherto suffered to remain, must plead my apology for intruding upon your notice.

The late persecutions for matters of opinion have frequently been defended, on Edition: current; Page: [7] the ground that “Christianity is part and parcel of the law of England.”1 This sentence, put together by a Judge, passed from Judge to Judge with solemn and appalling gravity, will be found, on examination, to be, like the many other high-sounding maxims with which our law abounds, utterly unmeaning and absurd. This is so evident, that nothing but the extreme vagueness of the language in which this doctrine is conveyed could have protected it from detection and exposure.

A law is a precept, to the non-observance of which, pains and penalties are attached by the Government. Against this definition, I apprehend, no objection can be brought. And the law of England, collectively considered, is a collection of the precepts, thus sanctioned by legal authority.

Having thus settled the meaning of one of the words employed, let us pass to the other. Christianity then consists of two parts—a collection of precepts and a collection of opinions. When we speak of the spirit of christianity, of its morality, &c., we allude more particularly to the precepts. When we speak of the doctrines, the dogmas, the truths of christianity, this is with reference to the opinions which it inculcates. This division appears to me to be complete. No one can mention any thing connected with christianity, which is not either matter of precept, or matter of opinion.

Now when it is asserted by Judges that christianity is part and parcel of the law, is this meant of the precepts of christianity?—No, certainly: for if so, it would mean that every moral duty is enforced by the law of England; of the impossibility of this, it is scarcely necessary to produce any illustration. Not to notice the frequent admonitions which we find in the Gospel for preserving purity of heart,2 it will not be denied that sobriety and chastity are among the first of moral duties. But what would be the consequence of erecting them into a law? It is enough to say that it would be necessary to place a spy in every house.

But if not the precepts, perhaps the opinions which christianity inculcates, may be said with propriety to be “part and parcel of the law.” And how? The law is a collection of precepts. In what sense can an opinion be part of a collection of precepts?—Surely this maxim, which has been made the foundation of proceedings such as we have lately witnessed, is either palpably false, or wholly without a meaning. Unfortunately the protection, as it is sacrilegiously termed, of the christian doctrines, by the persecution of those who hold contrary opinions, is part and parcel of the law. But this, the only intelligible sense in which the maxim can be taken, ought not thus to be made a foundation for itself.—The Judge argues as follows:—I punish infidelity, because christianity Edition: current; Page: [8] is part and parcel of the law. This is as much as to say, I punish infidelity, because such punishment is part of the law.—This may be a very good defence for the particular Judge who pronounces the sentence, but is it not absurd to give it as a justification of the persecuting law?

An Enemy to Religious Persecution

REPUBLICAN, 3 JAN., 1823, PP. 25-6

This letter, which reflects Mill’s contemporaneous study of law with John Austin, is addressed to Richard Carlile (1790-1843), the free-thinker, who was editing the Republican from Dorchester Gaol, where he had been imprisoned for publishing the works of Thomas Paine and other writings held to be seditious. Mill seems to have been mistaken in attributing to Carlile the view expressed in his opening paragraph; Carlile appended to the letter a signed note: “My Atheistical friend is, I think, wrong in supposing that I wrote such an assertion as that, there must be a cause to be attributed. I may have said the phenomena of the material world: or that the constant charges [sic] which we behold in materials argue the existence of a cause or active power that pervades them. But I have again and again renounced the notion of that power being intelligent or designing.” The letter, Mill’s only one to the Republican, is headed “To Mr. R. Carlile, Dorchester Gaol,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter in the Republican of [3 Jan., 1823,] on the word Nature”

(MacMinn, p. 1).

Admiring as I do the firmness with which you maintain, and the astonishing candour with which you defend your principles, sympathising in your opinions and feelings both on the subject of politics and on that of religion; I deeply regret, in common with your correspondent Gallus,1 that you should ever have given currency to doctrines in direct opposition to your other opinions. From among many such doctrines, I select one, which appears to me to be the stumbling block of a great number of Infidels. This is to be gathered from the use which you frequently make of the word Nature as denoting some positive, active, if not intelligent being. In a former No. of The Republican, in allusion to the application which has been made to you of the word Atheist, you observe that although you do not reject this appellation, you consider it as a very absurd one, as you conceive that every man must acknowledge, under the name either of God, or of nature some cause to which the material world is to be attributed. Your exact words I do not remember, but I am certain that this was the import of what you said.

Now as I do not myself acknowledge any such cause, I would if it were necessary, endeavour to convince you that there is no foundation for any such belief. But I rejoice to see that this labour is spared me by the admirable letter of Edition: current; Page: [9] Gallus. I will therefore confine myself to a brief examination of the import and application of the word Nature.

All human knowledge consists in facts, or phenomena, observed by the senses and recorded by means of language. The study of these phenomena is what is called the study of Nature: the aggregate of the phenomena, or human knowledge as it stands, is called Nature in the abstract. If this be true, you must at once see the absurdity of supposing any thing to be caused by Nature. Nature is that for which the cause is to be sought; or rather, it is that for which it is needless to seek any cause, as if it has any, this must remain for ever unknown.

The phenomena which we observe are found to follow one another in a certain order; the same event is invariably observed to be preceded by the same event. When a sufficient number of these sequences has been observed, it becomes possible to express them by a certain number of general propositions, which have been metaphorically termed Laws of Nature, but which have in reality no resemblance to laws. A law is a general command laid down by a superior, most commonly by the governors of a nation. The analogy is very distant between this and a verbal expression for a series of phenomena; which is absurdly called a law of Nature.

When once this phraseology was introduced, the poets and mythologists soon took hold of it, and made it subservient to their purposes. Nature was personified: the phrase law of Nature, which originally meant no more than a law for the regulation of Nature, or of the natural world, became a law laid down by the goddess Nature to be obeyed by her creatures. From the poets, this fictitious personage speedily penetrated into the closets of the philosopher, and hence arose the error of attributing a creative power to nature. To make any use of this word, in the explanation of the material phenomena, is only substituting for rational scepticism, a mystical and poetical kind of Theism. Of course, the arguments which serve to explode the belief in an ante-material and intelligent Being, will also suffice to destroy the unmeaning word Nature.

Yours, with the greatest respect,
An Atheist


The series made up of this and the next two letters is referred to in Mill’s Autobiography after his mention of his first publications, Nos. 1 and 2: “I soon after attempted something considerably more ambitious. The prosecutions of Richard Carlile and his wife and sister for publications hostile to Christianity, were then exciting much attention, and nowhere more than among the people I frequented. Freedom of discussion, even in politics, much more in religion, was at that time far from being, even in theory, the conceded point Edition: current; Page: [10] which it at least seems to be now; and the holders of noxious opinions had to be always ready to argue and reargue for the liberty of expressing them. I wrote a series of five letters, under the signature of Wickliffe [sic], going over the whole length and breadth of the question of free publication of all opinions on religion, and offered them to the Morning Chronicle. Three of them were published in January and February 1823; the other two containing things too outspoken for that journal, never appeared at all.” (CW, Vol. I, pp. 89-91.) The two final letters seem not to have survived. All headed as title and subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letters are described in Mill’s bibliography as “Three letters, signed Wickliff, on the same subject [as that of No. 3, i.e., freedom of religious discussion], inserted in the Morning Chronicle of 28th January [, 8th February and 12th February,] 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 1).

At a time when the question of free discussion on religious subjects is agitated with unusual perseverance, and is therefore peculiarly interesting, I think it highly useful to call the public attention to the nothingness of the arguments which have been brought against unlimited toleration; arguments which, though they have been refuted many times already, are daily repeated, and by a very common artifice represented as never having been answered.

I shall first observe, that as it is generally allowed that free discussion contributes to the propagation of truth, and as this assertion is never controverted on the great majority of subjects, it is incumbent on those who declare against toleration to point out some reason which prevents the general rule from being applicable to this particular case; to shew that free discussion, which on almost every other subject is confessedly advantageous to truth, in this particular case unfortunately contributes to the progress of error. If they cannot produce any satisfactory reason, the general rule ought unquestionably to be observed; and that, even if it were not necessary to employ fine and imprisonment in support of the exception; much more when so great a mass of evil is produced by it.

The puerility of the reasons which have hitherto been brought against religious toleration, is perfectly surprising, and proves most satisfactorily that the cause in support of which they are brought is a bad one. The most common of all is the worn-out fallacy, that there is greater danger of mistake on these subjects than on others.

This assertion, it is to be observed, is wholly destitute of proof. In a subsequent letter I will endeavour to prove, not only that the danger of mistake is not greater, but that it is much less in the case of religion than in any other.1 Admitting, however, for the present, that there is greater danger of mistake, I shall proceed to shew, that if free discussion be excluded, the danger is greatly increased.

For if you determine before-hand that opinions shall be promulgated only on one side of the question, in whom will you rest the power of determining which side shall be chosen? The answer is, in those who are most enlightened and best Edition: current; Page: [11] qualified to judge. But there are no determinable and universal marks by which wisdom is to be known. To whom will you give the power of determining what men are the most enlightened?

What is meant, though it is not openly avowed, by the assertion that the wisest men shall chuse opinions for the people, is that the Government shall chuse them. But if the Government is allowed to chuse opinions for the people, the Government is despotic. To say that there is no danger in permitting the Government to chuse religious opinions for the people, is to assert what is notoriously untrue: since there is no conceivable opinion, true or false, which may not, at some time or other, be made a religious doctrine. There is scarcely a single improvement, either in physical or in political science, which has not at one time or another been opposed by religion. The Ptolemaean astronomy was at one time a part of religion.2 A professor was imprisoned within these last two years at Rome for maintaining the truth of the Newtonian system, which is still condemned by the Papal Court.3 The doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance was generally a religious doctrine, and is still that of the prevailing party of the Church of England.4

But if you exclude discussion on any one doctrine of religion, you must, by parity of reason, exclude it on all. It is in vain to say that Atheistical opinions shall alone be excluded. What reason is there why this more than any other subject should be prevented from undergoing a thorough examination? There is, if not a reason, at least a cause, why Atheism now undergoes that persecution to which other less obnoxious doctrines were formerly subjected. But this cause is merely that the persuasion of its falsehood is more general than in the case of any other obnoxious opinion. To bring this as a reason for preventing discussion, is to say that the people are better qualified to judge before discussion than after it: which is absurd, since before discussion, if their opinions are true it is only by accident, whereas after it they hold them with a complete conviction, and perfect knowledge of the proofs on which they are grounded.

That the evils incurred by permitting any person or persons to chuse opinions Edition: current; Page: [12] for the people are evils of the greatest magnitude, is evident from the arguments which I have adduced. This subject is developed in the most satisfactory manner in Mr. Mill’s invaluable Essay on the Liberty of the Press, forming an article in Napier’s Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.5

The only other argument of any plausibility which the anti-tolerationists adduce in favour of the present persecutions, is the incalculable mischievousness of the doctrines persecuted, which they conceive to outweigh the evil we have proved to arise from allowing the Government to chuse opinions for the people.

I, therefore, propose to examine whether the mischievous effects of these doctrines are so great as to justify persecution; secondly, whether there are not many other doctrines attended with mischiefs infinitely greater, and which, nevertheless, it would be reckoned, and with justice, highly improper to persecute; thirdly, to prove that there is scarcely any kind of mischievous opinion, be it what it may, which the ignorant are not more likely to adopt, if it be tolerated, than atheism and deism; and lastly, to refute some of the minor fallacies which have been brought in defence of persecution.

These four objects I shall endeavour to attain in as many letters, if they should be thought worthy of insertion in your admirable paper, which, in addition to the other benefits it is continually rendering to mankind, has uniformly stood forward in a most manly and most Christian manner in defence of free discussion.



This letter, centring on the utility of oaths, draws heavily on “Swear not at all”: Containing an Exposure of the Inutility and Mischievousness, as Well as Anti-Christianity, of the Ceremony of an Oath (London: Hunter, 1817), by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832); in his Works, ed. John Bowring, 11 vols. (Edinburgh: Tait, 1843), Vol. V, pp. 187-229. (This work was printed in 1813, and a copy given to the Head of an Oxford College in that year, almost certainly during the tour on which Bentham took Mill and his father; see CW, Vol. I, pp. 55-7.) In the tract Bentham refers to all the issues cited by Mill: jurymen’s oaths, pp. 204-5, custom-house oaths, p. 195, university oaths, pp. 195-7, 209-12, 213-19, and 224-9 (all dealing with Oxford, Bentham’s university, except pp. 213-19, on Cambridge), and Quakers’ affirmations, p. 201. For the context, heading, and entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 5.

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In my first letter I endeavoured to give a general conception of the plan which I intend to pursue in advocating the cause of free discussion. This plan I will now endeavour to carry into execution.

Persecutors do not usually attempt to justify their intolerance under pretence of avenging the cause of God. The absurdity of this pretension would be too obvious, since it would imply that God is unable to avenge his own cause; and since it is also evident, that Christianity rejects this method of defence. If there was any reason which could justify persecution in the eyes of a man of sense, that reason must be its utility to man; and it is upon this circumstance accordingly, that the greatest stress has been laid. By permitting the propagation of infidel doctrines, you destroy, it is said, the principal security for good judicature, and for the practice of private morality.

How far this assertion is true it shall be our business to inquire; and first as to judicature—among those requisites without which good judicature cannot exist, the principal is true and complete evidence. A great part of the evidence delivered in a Court of Justice consists in the testimony of witnesses. To secure veracity on the part of witnesses is therefore one of the most important ends to which the Legislator can direct his endeavours.

For insuring the veracity of witnesses, among other securities the ceremony of an oath has been resorted to. That the desired effect is attained in a very considerable degree is certain—that this beneficial result is to be attributed to the ceremony of swearing, is by no means a legitimate conclusion. There are several motives which tend to produce veracity on the part of witnesses. Even those who attribute the effect principally to the ceremony of swearing will admit, that the fear of punishment and the fear of shame in this instance co-operate with the religious inducement.—Since, then, it is allowed on all hands, that the veracity of witnesses is the joint result of several causes, it is for them to shew why it is to be attributed to one of these more than to another.

When a number of different causes co-operate in the production of a given effect, it is often a matter of some difficulty to determine which of the causes is principally instrumental in bringing it about. This difficulty, however, is removed, if an opportunity presents itself of examining the effects produced by each of the causes, taken separately. If we find that one of the causes, when unsupported by the others, is not followed by any degree of the effect in question, we shall be intitled to conclude, that in all those cases in which the effect really takes place, it is to the other causes, and not to this one, that it ought to be attributed.

This opportunity fortunately presents itself in the case we are considering. There are several instances in which, although the ceremony of an oath is employed, neither the laws nor the popular voice enforce observance of it. If it should appear that in all these cases truth is uniformly and openly violated, then Edition: current; Page: [14] we ought to conclude, that whenever judicial mendacity is prevented, we owe this benefit to the laws and to popular opinion, not to the ceremony of swearing.

I. It is notorious, that from motives of humanity, but in defiance of the strongest evidence, Juries frequently condemn a criminal to a milder punishment than the laws have appropriated to his offence, by finding him guilty of stealing under the value of 40s. Here the oath of the Jurymen is flagrantly violated. They have sworn to judge according to the evidence; but humanity, which dictates the perjury, also prevents public opinion from censuring the perjured Jurymen. This instance, therefore, makes it apparent, how slender is the security which an oath affords, when unsupported by, or at variance with, public opinion.

II. Another most striking instance of the inefficacy of oaths is, the abuse which is made of them at the Custom House. So notoriously does every merchant, who imports or exports goods, swear falsely to their quality and amount, that Custom House oaths have almost passed into a proverb.1 This perjury, indeed, has for its object to evade certain laws, which are so admirably contrived for the purpose of fettering commerce, that if they were rigidly enforced, certain commodities could not possibly be exported or imported. From the acknowledged absurdity of the laws, this perjurious evasion of them is not reprobated by public opinion.

III. Every young man, at his admission into the University of Oxford, swears to obey certain statutes, drawn up by Archbishop Laud for the government of the University.2 Now it is well known that no one of these students ever bestows a single thought upon the observance of these statutes. The cause of this non-observance is, that from the uselessness and absurdity of the statutes, public opinion does not enforce obedience to them. If, however, the ceremony of an oath was of any efficacy in preventing mendacity, this efficacy would shew itself even in a case where the obligation is not sanctioned by public opinion. The violation of the University oath, in every case where its observance interferes in the slightest degree with the convenience of the swearer, is a complete proof that the ceremony of swearing affords no security whatever for veracity in any other case, and that whenever witnesses speak the truth, it is not because they have sworn, but because they fear punishment and shame.

The inefficiency of an oath is practically recognized by English Legislators, and by English Judges, when they admit persons of all religious denominations to give evidence, after taking an oath according to the form prescribed by their own religion. For there are some religions which are acknowledged to have little or no efficacy in preventing mendacity. Yet we do not find that, ceteris paribus, Edition: current; Page: [15] less reliance is to be placed on the oaths of one set of religionists, than of another.

But the law is not even applicable to all Christians, which amounts to an admission of the inefficacy of oaths to secure good evidence. The respectable sect of Quakers is freed from the necessity of swearing,3 and yet it is always understood that there is proportionably less false evidence on the part of the members of that body, than on the part of the members of any of the swearing sects.

Having thus made it appear that it is not to the influence of religious motives that good evidence is to be attributed, we might conclude from analogy that the security we have for useful actions is chiefly referrable to other sources. This conclusion is farther supported by the frequency with which duelling and fornication are practised, notwithstanding the positive manner in which they are forbidden by Christianity. They are practised merely because public opinion does not, in these instances, support the dictates of religion. The drinking of wine in Mahometan countries is another equally striking instance.

From the considerations which we have adduced, all of them notorious results of experience, it is evident how ill-founded is the argument of those who defend persecution on the ground which we have combated.

In my next I will endeavour to shew that persecution is not necessary for the support of Christianity.



For the context, heading, and entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 5.


I shall now endeavour to prove that persecution is not necessary for the preservation of Christianity.

The Christian Religion may be contemplated in two points of view. We may direct our attention to those peculiar characteristics which distinguish it from all other doctrines, true or false; or we may consider it with reference to those properties which it has in common with all true doctrines, as contradistinguished from false ones.

Not one, but many, arguments might be adduced to prove that Christianity, considered merely as a true doctrine, could not, under the influence of free discussion, fail of prevailing over falsehood. This ground, however, has already been gone over by far abler pens than mine; and a truth which has been Edition: current; Page: [16] maintained (not to speak of other writers) by Divines so eminent as Tillotson, Taylor, Chillingworth, Campbell, Lardner, Lowth, Warburton, Paley, Watson, and more recently by Hall, cannot stand in need of such feeble support as I can afford.1

In the present Letter I shall therefore confine myself to the consideration of those qualities peculiar to Christianity, which render persecution even less necessary for its support than for that of any other true doctrine.

And first, let me observe, that the only supposition on which persecution can be defended—by such of its advocates, I mean, as are Christians—is that of the utter incapacity and incorrigible imbecility of the people. That infidels should think persecution essential to the being of Christianity, can be matter of no surprise; but one who believes in the truth of the doctrine he supports, can not for a moment entertain any such opinion, unless he believes what no man, whose judgment is not biassed by interest, can believe, that the people are incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood.

The fact, that the utility of persecution rests on such a basis, would alone induce every reasonable man to scout the idea of it; but, even though we were to allow the incapacity of the people, to admit the truth of all which their worst calumniators have ever imputed to them; it would not be less true that Christianity can support itself without persecution, nor, consequently, would the arguments in favour of toleration be a whit less conclusive.

If a true proposition, and the false one which is opposed to it, are presented at the same time to the mind of a man who is utterly incapable of distinguishing truth from error, which of the two is he most likely to embrace? This question will be found to admit of an easy answer. If he was before prepossessed in favour of either opinion, that one he will still continue to hold. If both were equally new to him, he will choose that which is most flattering to his prevailing passion.

All the prepossessions of those whom it is wished to protect by persecution from the danger of becoming infidels are uniformly and confessedly favourable to religion. No where is education, even partially, in the hands of infidels. There is no place where religion does not form one of the most essential parts of education. It is not, therefore, upon this ground, that persecution can be justified.

To counteract the effect of early impressions, it will, no doubt, be affirmed that infidelity is peculiarly flattering to the passions, and that those who wish to throw off the shackles of morality will be glad, in the first instance, to emancipate themselves from the salutary restraint which religion imposes.

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It was partly with the intention of obviating this objection that my last letter was penned. There is no use in representing the evils of infidelity as greater than they really are: nor does a disposition to do so evince, on the part of him who shews it, any very great anxiety to vindicate either himself or his religion from the imputation of want of candour. That infidelity excludes us from the blessings of a future life, would surely be a sufficient reason to induce every reasonable man to reject it. I have endeavoured to shew that even if (which God forbid) all sense of religion were to die away among men, there would still remain abundant motives to ensure good conduct in this life. The passions, therefore, are not interested in throwing off religious belief, or all our ethical writers have been employing their labour to very little purpose.

Nor is this all. Infidel doctrines are peculiarly ill fitted for making converts among that portion of mankind who are most in danger of mistaking falsehood for truth. They bear a greater analogy to general abstract propositions in metaphysics than to any thing which can immediately affect the sensitive faculties. Besides, they superinduce what, to all men not convinced of the necessity of it by the habit of scientific disquisitions, is the most painful of all states of mind, a state of doubt. On the other hand, one of the strongest feelings in every uneducated mind is the appetite for wonder, the love of the marvellous. Witness the rapid progress of so many religious, which we now think so unutterably absurd that we wonder how any human being can ever have given credit to them. This passion is gratified in the most eminent degree by the Christian religion; for what is there in Christianity which is not in the highest degree sublime and mysterious?

Against so general and so powerful a feeling, what has scepticism to oppose? It is not peculiarly fitted to take hold of the imagination; on the contrary, it is eminently and almost universally repelled by it. If, then, it had not been evident before, I trust that the considerations I have adduced will suffice to make it so, that of all the doctrines which the invention of man ever devised, none is so little likely to prevail over the contrary doctrine as religious infidelity.

Doctrines which, if left to themselves, have no chance of prevailing, may be saved from oblivion by persecution. The advocates of infidelity are active and fearless: no persecution can daunt, no ignominy can restrain them. By persecution they are raised to an importance which they could never otherwise have attained: by ignominy they are only advertised that it is impossible for them to retreat. To prevent them from diffusing infidelity through the whole kingdom, what has been done by our well-paid divines? I am not aware that they have yet employed any other weapon than vague and declamatory abuse. Books indeed there are; but, alas! what avails a mass of ponderous volumes, written in a style as little suited to the capacity, as the price at which they are sold is to the purses, of those for whose use they are principally required? It is true abuse is far easier, and requires less time and application than argument. But unless my knowledge Edition: current; Page: [18] of the duties of Christian Clergymen is very imperfect, they do not receive one-tenth of the produce of the soil in order that they may attack infidels by coarse and disgusting abuse, but that they may bring them back by gentle persuasion within the pale of the Church.



Thomas Tooke (1774-1858), another founding member of the Political Economy Club, became best known for his History of Prices, 6 vols. (1838-57). His Thoughts and Details on the High and Low Prices of the Last Thirty Years was published in London by Murray in 1823, with the Parts separately issued and paginated. This, Mill’s first published review, appeared in two parts, both headed “Thoughts and Details on the High and Low Prices of the Last Thirty Years,” with subheadings for the first, “Part 1.—On the Alterations in the Currency. By Thomas Tooke, F.R.S.,” and for the second (No. 12), “In Four Parts. Parts II, III, and IV. By Thomas Tooke, F.R.S.” The first part was his first contribution to the newly amalgamated Globe and Traveller. The two-part unsigned review is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A Notice of Part I of Mr. Tooke’s work on High and Low Prices, which appeared in the Traveller of 4th March 1823” and “A notice of Part II of Mr. Tooke’s work on High and Low Prices, which appeared in the Chronicle of 9th August 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 2).

mr. tooke’s new work on the High and Low Prices of the last Thirty Years, promises to be of so great utility in furnishing answers to many of the usual fallacies, on what is called “the Agricultural Question,” that we cannot devote our columns to a better purpose than that of giving a short outline of its contents. The questions, it is true, which regarded the operation of the Bank Restriction, and subsequently of Mr. Peel’s Bill,1 were settled long ago by general reasoning to the satisfaction of every thinking man. As, however, several well-intentioned, but mistaken individuals, have brought forward in opposition to conclusions borne out by the most convincing arguments, certain facts which they assert to be inconsistent with them, we think that Mr. Tooke has rendered a great service to the British public, in proving that of these facts, a great proportion are incorrect, and the remainder perfectly reconcileable to the results of general reasoning.

On the fluctuations of prices during the last thirty years, there are, says Mr. Tooke, two prevailing opinions. The one attributes the high prices wholly to the excess of paper, and the present low ones to the resumption of cash payments. The other ascribes the high prices wholly to the war, and the low ones to the transition from war to peace. The advocates of both opinions agree in attributing very little to the varieties of the seasons.

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These opinions Mr. T. considers as erroneous. He enumerates three principal causes of the variations in prices:—

1. Alterations in the currency; 2. War, and the return to peace; 3. Varieties of the seasons. [Pt. I, p. 4.] In the present volume, however, he confines himself to the first of these causes.

It is allowed on all hands that the Bank Restriction, by producing over-issues of paper, raised prices to the extent at least of the difference between the market and Mint prices of gold—that is, to the degree in which more paper was required to buy an ounce of gold than was equal to it in nominal amount. This difference, during the whole period from 1797 to 1814, never exceeded 20 per cent. on the average of three years, and during the first twelve years after the suspension of cash payments, averaged no more than about 4 per cent.

But it is a common opinion that the Bank Restriction was the cause, not only of a rise of prices to this extent, but of a much greater rise. There is no doubt that many commodities rose in price, not twenty per cent. merely, but as much as cent. per cent. To prove that this rise was owing to the Bank Restriction, and consequently the present low prices to the resumption of cash payments, three arguments are employed:—

1. That the value of the precious metals, in the commercial world, was lowered by the exportation of gold from England, in consequence of the Bank Restriction, and raised again by the re-importation produced by a return to a metallic currency. The value, therefore, of the currency varied more than is indicated by its fall relatively to gold, since gold itself had fallen in value.

2. That the compulsory paper system lowered the value of money by introducing expedients to economise the use of it, which was equivalent to an increase of its quantity.

3. That a progressive rise of prices accompanied a progressive increase of paper, which affords a strong presumption that the latter was the cause of the former.2

Mr. Tooke proceeds to examine these arguments.

The first he answers by showing that the quantity of gold set at liberty by the Bank Restriction was not sufficient to lower the value of gold above one per cent.; that this was compensated by the great demand for gold, for the use of the Continental armies, &c. That in like manner the drain of gold on the Continent, for re-importation into England, was compensated by the cessation of the extraordinary demand. These conclusions he further confirms by an adduction of facts relative to the value of precious metals in France. [Pt. I, pp. 21-42, and 212-15.]

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As to the second alleged effect, that of heightening the expedients for economising the circulating medium, Mr. T. admits that it took place; but he proves by conclusive arguments that it did not arise from the Bank Restriction; that, moreover, at the time when it occurred, and for some years after, the amount of currency was not increased, but diminished, while, from the increased money transactions of the country, the demand for currency was increased—two circumstances which fully compensated for the virtual increase of the circulating medium. The expedients for economising the currency are still in operation as before. If they had raised prices, they ought to have prevented them from falling. [Pt. I, pp. 43-50.]

The Bank Restriction is supposed to have further contributed to lower the value of money by increasing the issue of country paper, and thus substituting credit for currency. Mr. T. however, proves, that except to the degree indicated by the price of gold, the increase and diminution of country paper, which took place at various periods during the Restriction, were not simultaneous with the increase and diminution of Bank of England paper, and depended upon causes entirely different. [Pt. I, pp. 50-62.]

Mr. T. next considers the alleged connection between the Bank Restriction and a progressive rise of prices. In order to meet this assertion, he passes in review all the variations of prices which have taken place during the last 30 years: he shows that during the first seven years after the Bank Restriction, instead of a progressive rise, there was a decided fall in the price of corn: that the subsequent fluctuations were in no way dependent on the Bank Restriction, except to the degree indicated by the price of gold; but were referable to other causes. These are, the variations of the seasons, and the variations in the amount of private paper and credit, arising from speculation and over-trading; which Mr. Tooke also analyses, and refers to their real sources. [Pt. I, pp. 63-168.]

He then anticipates an objection, viz. that were it not for the Bank Restriction, these variations of private paper and credit would either not have taken place, or not to so great a degree.—Mr. T. however, proves, from the examples of Hamburg, the United States of America, and this country before the Bank Restriction, that great variations in private credit are by no means peculiar to a system of unconvertible paper money. [Pt. I, pp. 169-76.]

Finally, he inquires into the immediate cause of the present low prices, and shows that they are by no means lower than the excess of supply over demand, which is well ascertained to exist, will account for. [Pt. I, pp. 184-98.]

We must now take our leave of Mr. Tooke for the present; we shall take an early opportunity to resume the consideration of this important subject.3 In the mean time, we earnestly recommend to such of our readers as desire to understand thoroughly the Agricultural and Currency questions, to peruse with attention this well-timed and highly-useful production.

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Mill’s article is associated by him in the Autobiography with his letters on Free Discussion (Nos. 5-7): “a paper which I wrote soon after [them] on the same subject, à propos of a debate in the House of Commons, was inserted as a leading article” (CW, Vol. I, p. 91). The occasion was the debate, initiated by Joseph Hume (1777-1855), Radical M.P. and lifelong friend of James Mill, in speeches of 26 Mar., presenting the Petition of Mary Ann Carlile for Release from Imprisonment (PD, n.s., Vol. 8, cols. 709-16), and of 8 May, presenting the Petition of Richard Carlile Complaining of the Seizure of His Property (ibid., Vol. 9, cols. 114-15). Richard Carlile complained that, as a result of the seizure of his goods, he was unable to pay his fine and was subject to perpetual imprisonment. Mary Ann Carlile (b. 1794), his sister, on the instigation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, had been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of £500 for selling, in her brother’s shop, a pamphlet, An Appendix to the Theological Works of Thomas Paine. Mill’s first leading article, unheaded and anonymous as they are in all such journals, is described in his bibliography as “Observations on the debate concerning the petition of Mary Ann Carlile, which appeared as a leading article in the Chronicle of [9th May] 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 2).

we are not of the number of those who have no praise but for the times that are past. We think, on the contrary, the present time, on the whole, better than any former time. There are, for instance, unquestionably a much greater number of intelligent and enlightened men in this country now than it has ever contained at any former period. But while we willingly admit the general superiority of the age, we are not blind to its defects. There is, in particular, one feature belonging to it which we cannot contemplate with satisfaction. We allude to the mental cowardice which prevents men from giving expression to their conviction, and the insincerity which leads them to express what they do not think. A certain assembly has fully its share of this want of singleness of heart and pusillanimity. No man who knows any thing of the world can listen for any length of time to the language used in the assembly in question, without perceiving that the fear of offending in this quarter, and the desire to please in that, rather than conscientious conviction, too often actuates the speakers. There are certainly some distinguished exceptions, who scorn to sacrifice on the altar of timidity or machiavelism, and of these we think Mr. Hume unquestionably one. The unshrinking firmness with which he grapples with the subjects that come before him, without turning to the right hand or the left, has indeed not been lost, either on the country or on the House. We doubt, for instance, whether another Member of any standing in the House could have been found to present and enforce the Petition from Mary Ann Carlile which he brought forward some weeks ago, though the grounds on which he supported that Petition were such as to make a strong impression on the House, and a still stronger on the country. But taking counsel only from his own conscience, being actuated by a sincere Edition: current; Page: [22] desire to rescue that religion of which we deem him a sincere believer and friend, from the odium which false or less judicious friends were throwing on it, and listening to the counsel of the most eminent advocates of Christianity, the most illustrious ornaments of the Church of England, when its higher places were not deemed the almost exclusive portion of the Nobility, he hesitated not to raise his voice in favour of equal law and free discussion, which were wounded in the case of this individual. The result proved, that it was a mere phantom, at which others had taken fright, and the advocates of persecution and of partiality were found unequal to a contest which only exposed them to ridicule.

Last night he presented a Petition from Richard Carlile, an individual whom an injudicious activity has of late brought so much into notice. Alluding to the prejudices against this man, he stated as the result of his inquiries respecting him, that “he was one of the best moral characters in England,” that “his religious opinion might differ from that of some other persons, but that that did not affect his moral character; and he would dare any one to contradict him, when he said that as a husband, as a father, as head of a family, and as a neighbour, Mr. Carlile might challenge calumny itself.”1 This was cheered by the Ministerial Benches, not probably because they who cheered knew whether Carlile was a moral or immoral man, but because they thought Mr. Hume had got on ticklish ground, by allowing the probability of a notorious infidel being moral. But we are not to hold religion in less esteem, when we find that faith does not uniformly produce good works, any more than we are to deem it unnecessary to the support of morality, because we find occasionally moral individuals without a due sense of religion. “An unbeliever [says Bishop Sanderson], awed sometimes by the law of natural conscience, may manifest much simplicity and integrity of heart; and the true child of God, swayed sometimes with the law of sinful concupiscence, may bewray much foul hypocrisie and infidelity.”2 It is only injuring the cause of religion to attribute more either to it, or to the absence of it, than is consistent with the truth; and the most respectable Christian writers, though they justly observe that religion and honesty are most frequently found together, are ready at the same time to allow that they are sometimes found separate. We never for instance heard it questioned that Mr. Owen of New Lanark is a very moral man.3 On the other hand, we have doubts whether M. de Chateaubriand was a much more honest man when he brought water from the River Jordan for the baptism of the King of Rome, or is so even now, than when “shocked at the abuse of some of the Institutions of Christianity and at the vices Edition: current; Page: [23] of some of its professors, he suffered himself to be misled by sophistry and gave way to declamation.”4

It is curious to see what very different notions have prevailed on this subject within a comparatively short period. Addison thought Catholicism worse than infidelity, because the former was incompatible with morality, while the latter was not.5 Bishop Sanderson seemed to think the Atheists, whom he supposed to be more numerous than either Papists or Sectaries, principally dangerous from the possibility of their joining the Catholics.

Neither, [says he,] will the supposed (and I fear truly supposed) greater number of Atheists, than either Papists or Sectaries, be any hinderance to the Papists for finally prevailing. Because it is not for the interest of the Atheist and his religion (pardon the boldness of the catachresis) to engage either for or against any side farther than a jeer, but to let them fight it out, keep himself quiet till they have done, and then clap in with him that getteth the day. He that is of no religion can make a shift to be of any rather than suffer. And the Atheist, though he be in truth and in heart neither Protestant nor Papist, nor any thing else; yet can he be in face and outward comportment either Protestant or Papist, or any thing else (Jew or Turk, if need be) as will best serve his present turn.6

If Catholicism were incompatible with morality, we should be rather in an awkward plight in the present day, for notwithstanding the aid which infidelity has received of late by the publicity given to it at the expence of the Constitutional Association,7 we suspect (so much has Atheism gone down since the worthy Bishop’s time), that the Atheists are now less numerous than even the Priests of the Catholics, leaving out of the account the flocks. We say nothing of the number of the other sectaries, as this is a much sorer point than that of the number of Atheists, from which we believe no Church Establishment will ever be in much danger.

The question of last night, however, was not so much free discussion itself, as the injustice which had been committed under a sentence levelled against it. On the subject of the severity which had been displayed, Mr. Lennard forcibly Edition: current; Page: [24] observed “that the supporters of the Six Acts, having failed in their efforts to procure the punishment of perpetual banishment, as was contemplated, had still continued through the agency of the Judges to supply that deficiency by sentences which amounted to perpetual imprisonment.”8 Mr. Denman, indeed, offered an apology for the Judges that “had they been aware of the inability of Mr. Carlile to pay the fine at the time judgment was passed, he was sure they never would have passed it.”9 But this apology does not, at all events, apply to the case of Mary Ann Carlile, with respect to whose means to pay the fine imposed on her there never could be the smallest doubt.

Religion disclaims those who would advance her cause by the mean expedients to which Mr. Hume alluded last night. Let good ends be promoted by fair and upright means. The equal administration of law is due to the Infidel as well as to the Christian. Give not to the Infidel any advantage from your disgracing a good cause by disreputable means. In the words of Bishop Warburton, “Can any but an enthusiast believe that he may use guile to promote the glory of God—the wisdom from above is without partiality and without hypocrisy. Partiality consists in dispensing an unequal measure in our transactions with others: hypocrisy in attempting to cover that unequal measure by prevarication and false pretences.10 And in the words of a man less learned, perhaps, but not less upright than Bishop Warburton, we mean the worthy John Wesley, “no man living is authorised to break or dispensed with in breaking any law of morality.”11

The discussions have done, and will do, good, and we trust Mr. Hume will return to the subject. The Courts of Law must profit by them. “Shame, albeit the daughter of sinne, becomes sometimes the mother of conversion; and when all good motions else seem mere strangers, this one is admitted as a profitable, though unwelcome guest.”12

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This article was preceded by an editorial comment: “The following article on this question, from our Correspondent, has long been omitted for want of room. Though our Correspondent treats the interests of the West Indians rather cavalierly, the power of his arguments entitle [sic] him to attention.” The delay was not very long, for the debate in the House of Commons took place on 22 May (PD, n.s., Vol. 9, cols. 444-67), just two days after Mill’s seventeenth birthday, on which day he joined his father in the Examiner’s Office of the East India Company (which was interested in East India sugar). The leading article, headed “East and West India Sugars,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “Strictures on the Debate concerning East and West India sugars, which appeared in the Globe and Traveller of [7th June] 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 2).

the debate in the house of commons, on Thursday the 22d ult., upon Mr. Whitmore’s proposal for equalizing the duties on East and West India Sugar, is remarkable, not only for the able and argumentative speeches of Mr. Ricardo and Mr. Whitmore, but for the unprecedented exposure which their opponents made of the weakness of their cause.1

There are two arguments against the monopoly, either of which would be conclusive, but when combined, they are irresistible. One of these applies to this in common with all other monopolies, that they enhance the price to the consumer. The other argument applies peculiarly to the West India monopoly, that it perpetuates Negro Slavery.

To these arguments, no answer was or could be made. A cry, however, could be raised against them; and this has been done. The great objection of the West India Gentlemen to the abrogation of the monopoly is this: “It would ruin us.” Supposing this to be true, it accounts perfectly for their disapprobation of the measure; but it may not, perhaps, be so all-important a consideration in the eyes of the philosopher as it is in theirs. When a Government has made laws for the protection of a particular class—that is, laws to enable them to pillage the rest of the community for their own benefit, it can never happen that no expectations will be founded on those laws, no calculations bottomed upon their stability. This may be a reason for making the abrogation a gradual one; but it can never be a reason for allowing the nuisance to be perpetual, inasmuch as the interest of the Edition: current; Page: [26] many is preferable to that of the few. No great reform can ever be effected without producing distress somewhere; and the greater the benefit the greater will be the distress. If the public has been robbed of a great advantage, to retard the ruin of the West India Planters, this advantage cannot be restored to the public without deeply affecting the interest of those Gentlemen. But if this were a reason for allowing the abuse which perpetuates Slavery to exist, there are few abuses for which as good an argument might not be found.

In point of fact, however, it is not by the rejection of Mr. Whitmore’s motion, that the ruin can be averted which has so long been impending over our Sugar Colonies. It is not many years since the whole continent of Europe was supplied with Sugar from the West Indies. Our Colonies not only possessed a monopoly of the English market, but furnished a large supply for re-exportation. These were the days of West Indian prosperity. But for some time past, the Continent of Europe has derived by far the greater part of its supply from other sources; and the price of Sugar on the Continent has fallen below the lowest rate at which the West Indies could supply it. Excluded thus from the Continental market, colonial Sugar experienced an unexampled depression of price, which was further enhanced by the influx from Demerara and the other newly-acquired Colonies.

This depression must be permanent, or can be remedied only by the removal of a large capital from the production of Sugar to other employments: for at present our Colonies produce and send annually to market a far greater quantity than the consumption of England requires. Hence it is that Mr. Marryatt had to present a petition from a body of Planters in Trinidad, “who did not derive one shilling of profit from four hundred thousand pounds of capital which they had invested, but, on the contrary, sustained considerable losses from the depression in the price of Colonial produce.”2 At present, therefore, as Mr. Ricardo has justly observed, the admission of East India produce would not enhance the distress, for the price is already as low as it would be if the competition were open.3 But it would do what is of equal importance; it would prevent Sugar from ever rising again to a monopoly price. To reject a measure from its tendency to lower the price of Sugar, when Sugar is at a losing price, and cannot for many years be expected to rise again, might only tend to delude the West India Planters by false hopes, and aggravate their distress by disappointment.

The minor objections of the West India Gentlemen are to the last degree futile. It is scarcely necessary to give more than a bare statement of them.

As for instance—Mr. Ellis says that by acquiring new colonies we pledged Edition: current; Page: [27] ourselves to support the colonial system.4 This is to say, that if we ever were ignorant enough to think Colonies an advantage, and to act upon that persuasion, we thereby pledge ourselves never to correct our errors.

For another specimen of this Gentleman’s mode of arguing, he tells us that it is unjust to deprive the Colonies of their peculiar advantages, unless, at the same time, we take off the peculiar restrictions under which they labour.5 This is not a reason for leaving both evils, but for taking them both away. The monopoly is an evil; the restrictions are another, and a very great evil. There is nothing which we more ardently desire than to get rid of both. But, according to Mr. Ellis, we are to retain the one evil on its own account, and the other because it would be unjust to take it away and leave the former alone.

Another argument of a similar stamp was used by Mr. Marryatt—namely, that the East India Company is a monopoly: “Gentlemen who deprecated monopoly, with the profits of monopoly in their pockets, would be much better employed in declaiming against it in Leadenhall-street than in that House.”6 And why not in both? Should the existence of one evil secure another from attack? Nay, more—if we can obtain the co-operation in destroying one evil, even of those who profit by the other, why should we not gratefully accept of it? Evils would seldom be removed if those who attack them were to refuse all aid but from persons who agree in all their opinions.

It is worthy of remark, that while Mr. Ellis opposes the admission of East India Sugar, because too much would come, Mr. Robertson opposes it because no Sugar would come at all. If we may believe him, the East Indies are not only incapable of exporting Sugar—they are even under the necessity of importing it.7 Be it so. Mr. Ellis’s alarm, then, is ill-founded; and there is no danger of ruining the Colonies by granting a permission of which no use can be made. We desire no more than a fair trial. But Mr. Robertson, in his wisdom, has discovered, that “the consumers of this country would be materially injured.”8 How injured? By purchasing their Sugar too cheap? But they desire no better than to be injured in this way. By being forced to pay too high a price for it? But how can this be, when, at the worst, they can obtain it from the West Indies at the same price as before!

It would appear that the West India Gentlemen differ in every thing else, and agree only in condemning the proposed measure. While Mr. Robertson contends Edition: current; Page: [28] that do what we will we can never get an ounce of Sugar from the East Indies, Mr. Marryatt thinks that the admission of East India Sugars would “lead to so general a growth of Sugars, as must prove highly injurious, by glutting the markets both here and on the Continent.”9 It is the ruined West India Planters, we suppose, who are thus all on a sudden to extend their cultivation. Or if the glut is to come from the East Indies, this proves that—in the opinion, at least, of Mr. Marryatt—Sugar can be grown cheaper in the East Indies than in the West.—We would recommend to this Gentleman the propriety of imposing restrictions upon the trade of making shoes, with a view to prevent a glut of that article. To whom is this glut, as it is called, injurious? To the consumer? No; to him it is a benefit. To the producer? But it is quite evident that the East India cultivator can never permanently sell his Sugar below the price which will repay the cost of production with the ordinary profit. And the consumer would be greatly injured if he could sell it higher. If, indeed, a merchant has a stock of Sugar on sale, the proposed measure may be injurious to him. But why? Simply because it lowers the price, and benefits the consumer. Mr. Marryatt’s reasoning would go to prevent all improvements in agriculture or manufactures. There is none of these which does not cause a “glut”—that is, lower the price to the consumer.

Mr. K. Douglas treats the subject as if it were a question of charity. The Sugar Trade can be “no object” either to the Hindoos or the British residents. Mr. Whitmore has proved conclusively, that, far from being no object, it is among the greatest of objects to the East Indies.10 Suppose, however, that it really were “no object” to the natives or British residents, unfortunately for the argument of Mr. Douglas, there is a third class of persons—namely, the consumers. What should we think if we were compelled to buy hats or shoes, not where we could get them best or cheapest, but where it is the greatest “object” to the seller?

We are informed by Mr. Ellis and Mr. Marryatt, that the “mercantile marine of the West Indies, contributed to support the naval power of Great Britain.”11 We had thought that the day for this sort of cant was gone by; that even in the House of Commons, at this time of day, the mention of the Navigation Laws12 would excite a laugh. Surely no one can now be deceived by it. Can any one seriously think it possible, that a country rich and commercial like Great Britain, can labour under so great a deficiency of ships and seamen, that it should be Edition: current; Page: [29] necessary for her to continue a branch of commerce where there is not only no gain, but an actual loss, merely for the purpose of having a nursery for seamen! Who can doubt that even if the West India commerce were to cease altogether, the ships and seamen now employed by it would speedily find employment in bringing from the East Indies what they formerly brought from the West! For the longer voyage, indeed, more ships and seamen would be required; and if they be Lascars, what then?—Are not Lascars as good as any other seamen?

Mr. Ellis, moreover, tells us that the proposed measure would deprive the negroes of employment.13 Can any thing more effectually deprive them of employment, than the present unexampled, but permanent, depression of price? Waiving, however, this consideration, the calamity with which we are menaced by Mr. Ellis is no calamity, but one of the greatest of blessings. We desire nothing more than that the negroes should be without employment. It is the prelude to their final emancipation. What was impracticable when the labour of negroes produced an abundant profit, will be easy when they are a dead weight about the necks of their employers. This alone would be far more than a counterpoise to the most terrific evil which could befal a few West India Planters. They could scarcely be put in a worse condition than their own slaves.

That Mr. Ellis, or any of his supporters, should talk rather unwisely, can be matter of surprise to no one; but we confess we did not expect to hear such a sentence as the following from the mouth of Mr. Huskisson: “If it was true that the production of slavery was more costly than that of free labour, that would be an additional reason for not depriving him [the slave holder] of the advantage of his protecting duty.”14 That is, the greater the mischief the greater the reward. What! is it not enough that we should be compelled to fee the planter for employing slaves? Must the fee be even greater because that kind of labour is not only cruel but unproductive? Is he to be rewarded not only for doing evil, but for going out of his way to do it?

To crown all, Mr. Douglas thinks, that “a great deal of mischief is likely to result from the frequent agitation of this question.”15 What a speech for a legislator! We remember that when a cry was first raised against the abominations of the Slave Trade—when benevolent Philanthropists, both in and out of Parliament, lifted up their voices, for a long time unsuccessfully, in earnest reprobation of that atrocious traffic—then too we were warned of the “mischief which was likely to result from the frequent agitation of this Edition: current; Page: [30] question.”16 The slave-owners, indeed, felt, very deservedly, the mischief which resulted to them from it. But we have learned to be suspicious of those questions from the agitation of which mischief ensues.

To conclude—this debate is a striking exemplification of the evils arising from the present constitution of the House of Commons. On one side are liberal principles—the interest of the consumer, and above all, the interest of the slave, for which so many Members express unbounded zeal, and which all affect to consider of supreme importance—on the other side is the personal interest of a few West India Planters and Merchants—personal interest and nothing more. There are few evils at all comparable in magnitude to this, and the removal of which, at the present moment, would produce so little suffering; yet personal interest carries the day by a majority of 161 to 34.

It has been urged as an objection against plans for giving the people a control over their Representatives, that the people would certainly be in error on certain questions of political economy. On some, perhaps, they might, though even this is doubtful; but in a case like the present, where the contest is between liberal principles and the interest of a small number of individuals, the worst enemies of the people cannot affirm that they would be in error. Yet, on such questions, the House of Commons almost uniformly goes wrong; and there can be no doubt that personal interest, if it does not immediately dictate the vote, at least prevents the voter from applying his mind so as to understand the subject, and leaves him, even when well-intentioned, to the artful guidance of an interested Minister.


This letter was occasioned by the assize report in the Morning Chronicle, 22 July, p. 4, under the heading “Worcester, July 18th (Last Day.) / Before Mr. Justice Park. / Forgery,” of the trial of Thomas Pidgeon, a cattle dealer, for forgery, before James Alan Park (1763-1838). Headed as title and subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on Judicial Oaths, signed No Lawyer, which appeared in the Chronicle of 23d [sic] July 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 2).

In your paper of Tuesday, 22d July, I see a new instance of the mode in which the ends of justice are frustrated by the useless and demoralising, not to say unchristian, ceremony of an oath.

Edition: current; Page: [31]

An individual who was capitally indicted for presenting a forged check to a Quaker clerk in the banking-house of Whitehead and Co. at Shipston-upon-Stour, was acquitted from the insufficiency of evidence; the Judge, however, appearing convinced that if the scruples of the Quakers had permitted them to give evidence upon oath, the prisoner would in all probability have been convicted.

The express prohibition of oaths, which we find in the Gospel, couched in the emphatic words “Swear not at all,”1 has been disregarded, on the ground of expediency, under the supposition that our Saviour could never have intended to prohibit oaths, in any case where they could be proved to be expedient.

To the general principle of this assumption I cannot object, as it would be impiety to ascribe to our Saviour any injunction, the observance of which is not consistent with that greatest of blessings, a good administration of justice. I have noticed the assumption merely to shew, that if oaths can be justified, it must be on the ground of expediency, and if they cannot be supported on this ground, they ought to be abolished altogether.

Now it has long been recognised by all men of understanding, that an honest man’s word is as good as his oath. And the same may be said of a rogue. But it has been supposed that between these extremes there is a middle point; that some who are sunk low enough in guilt to have lost all compunction at simple mendacity, still retain a degree of reverence for the ceremony of an oath.

It is well known that public opinion sets more strongly against the violation of an oath, than against that of a simple affirmation; and what if this circumstance should be adequate to account for the difference in the binding force of the two engagements?

When several motives co-operate in producing a given line of action, and when it is desired to ascertain which of the given causes contributes most to their joint effect, there is, I apprehend, only one course to be pursued. The several motives are to be observed when acting separately, and the effects are to be compared which each of them produces, when divested of the co-operating inducements.

When I apply this analytic process to the two sanctions, that of an oath, and that of public opinion, I find the latter continually producing effects of the most tremendous magnitude—I find men readily marching up to the cannon’s mouth in the pursuit of public esteem and applause; but if I consider the ceremony of an oath when disjoined from the co-operating force of public opinion, I find it utterly disregarded, without the hesitation of a moment.

Of this, one of the most remarkable examples is that of Custom-house oaths. It is well known that the individuals who are sent with goods to the Custom-house, swear readily to their nature and amount, without having ever opened the chests Edition: current; Page: [32] in which they are contained. In Scotland, a country where the religious spirit certainly is not deficient, a law once existed, which imposed higher duties upon French than upon Spanish wine. The inconveniences of this law were soon felt; public opinion ceased to enforce its observation, and we are told by Lord Kaimes that it was constantly evaded by all who were interested in doing so, through the simple expedient of swearing the French wine to be Spanish.2 The statutes of the University of Oxford, which were drawn up by Archbishop Laud, contain a variety of regulations of a frivolous and harassing nature.3 These statutes, all the students swear to observe; but from their absurdity, they are not supported by public opinion; accordingly they are openly violated, not on some occasions merely, but whenever their observance involves the most trifling sacrifice either of ease or of pleasure. Who, then, will venture to assert that the binding force of oaths can be ascribed to the religious obligation? The religious part of the ceremony is not more binding in a judicial, than in a Custom-house oath. But in the former case the obligation is enforced by public opinion; in the latter it is not: accordingly, in the one case it is openly violated; in the other it is observed.

Since then the ceremony does not contribute in any degree to secure the veracity of witnesses, it may be, and ought to be, abolished. Nor is this profanation of the name of God frivolous only and nugatory, it is productive of many very serious mischiefs. Of these I shall instance only one, but that one is of unspeakable importance; whenever an oath is part of the formalities of a judicial affirmation, people soon learn to consider it as the binding part. When Judges charge the jury, or address the prisoner in cases of perjury, they take no notice of the misery which he has in all probability occasioned, the ruin possibly of many individuals—they do not remind him that he has done all which depended upon him to poison the fountain of security and happiness to the people, by frustrating the ends of judicature, by causing the acquittal of a guilty, or the punishment of an innocent individual. It is not from these circumstances that they draw the aggravation, or even the original criminality of the offence. No; it is because he has forsworn himself before the Deity—it is because he has disregarded the awful name of God, that he is guilty and deserving of punishment; a reason equally applicable to the blasphemous exclamations of dustmen and coalheavers in the streets, and tending to place these trivial indiscretions on a level with the most pernicious, without exception, of all crimes—judicial perjury.

Such being the style in which the obligation of judicial veracity is spoken of by the Judges themselves—the people soon learn to consider the profanation of the religious ceremony as the principal part of the crime. This cannot increase their Edition: current; Page: [33] detestation of mendacity, when aggravated by perjury: but it greatly diminishes their abhorrence of the same offence, whenever the ceremony of an oath has been omitted. Examine the cases in which judicial evidence is taken, without the aid of an oath; and if you find mendacity, in those instances, more frequent, you cannot ascribe it to the absence of the religious ceremony, which the Custom-house and University oaths prove to be wholly void of influence; but you must necessarily attribute this lamentable effect to the demoralizing influence of judicial oaths, which, by diverting the minds of men from the real to the nominal guilt, greatly diminish the horror with which false evidence, as such, would otherwise be regarded.

Mr. Justice Park, with his accustomed liberality, took occasion from the trial in question to inveigh against the prejudices of the Quakers. I myself, Sir, am no Quaker; but I think that a man to whom justice is thus denied, because he will not violate what he considers to be his duty, deserves more tender treatment, at the hands at least of Mr. Justice Park, and might fairly retort the accusation of prejudice upon his Lordship, who is willing thus openly to frustrate the ends of justice, for the preservation of a frivolous, nugatory, and demoralizing ceremony.

The absurdity of the exclusion is recognised by the law itself, since Quakers are admitted, in civil cases, to give evidence by simple affirmation.4 The law does not presume that on a civil action, a Quaker will give false evidence, because he will not profane the name of God; why should it set up a contrary presumption in criminal cases, where the accused party having more at stake, a conscientious man (and the Quakers are generally speaking the most conscientious of all religious sects) would be, if possible, more cautious than ever in giving his evidence? It is absurd to suppose that criminal cases are either of more importance, or more exposed to the danger of perjury, than civil ones. A cause where the whole earthly resources, perhaps, of innumerable families concerned may well compete in importance with a prosecution for stealing a cow or a sheep. And where the interests at stake are equal, the motives to perjury are the same.

In the instance of Quakers, and in all similar instances, it has been well remarked by Mr. Ricardo, in his able speech in favour of free discussion, that the presumption of veracity is not weaker, but stronger, from the very circumstance of their not consenting to violate what they conceive to be a sacred duty of the highest order.5

I am, Sir, yours, with the greatest respect,
No Lawyer.
Edition: current; Page: [34]


For the context, heading, and entry in Mill’s bibliography for this second half of a two-part review, see No. 8.

it will be remembered that we have already noticed the First Part of this well-timed and highly useful production.1 The remaining Three Parts are now before the public.

Three opinions prevail concerning the circumstances which occasioned the prosperity of the Agricultural Classes during the interval from 1792 to 1812, and their distress during the greater part of the ten years which followed that period.

By Mr. Western, Mr. Attwood, and their followers, the prosperity of the agriculturists is attributed to the depreciation of the currency, and their distress to the resumption of cash payments.2 By another class of reasoners, the high prices are attributed to the operation of the war—the low prices to the transition from war to peace. There is still another opinion, that the variations of prices were owing to circumstances of temporary operation, principally to the vicissitudes of the seasons.

In Part I of his work, published a few months since, Mr. Tooke gave a detailed examination of the opinion which attributes the high and low prices to the variations in the amount of the currency. He undertook to prove that these variations could not affect prices to any greater extent than was indicated by the difference in value between paper and gold. In support of this assertion, he first adduced general reasoning, which alone sufficed to prove the absurdity of attributing to depreciation any greater effect: but as there are many, who, not being capable of comprehending general reasoning, are inclined to regard it with distrust, Mr. Tooke fortified his position by a statement of facts, proving conclusively that during the last 30 years enhancement of prices was seldom, if ever, coincident with increase in the issues of Bank paper, but was sometimes coincident with a diminution. To attribute, therefore, any considerable part of the Edition: current; Page: [35] enhancement to depreciation, is inconsistent not only with principle, but with facts—not only with general, but with specific experience.

In Part II just published, Mr. T. proceeds to the examination of the doctrine which attributes the high prices to the effect of war, and the subsequent fall to the transition from war to peace.

Two questions here arise. First—Whether the taxation attending a state of war is calculated to raise prices? Next—How far prices can be affected by war, through the medium of supply and demand?

First, as to taxation. [Pt. II, pp. 1-6.] Direct taxes, such as an income tax, if equally levied upon all classes, are never supposed to affect prices. Taxes levied upon particular commodities will usually raise the prices of those commodities, but there is never any reason why they should raise general prices, while, under some circumstances, they may lower them. If the commodities taxed be the instruments of production, the effect upon prices will vary according to circumstances. If, for instance, the taxes apply equally, or nearly equally, to all branches of industry, they cannot raise prices; but, if they are laid on the instruments of production of some particular article, and not of others, that article must advance in price.

From this analysis of the influence of taxation upon prices, it appears that the high range of general prices during the war cannot be attributed to taxation. To this argument Mr. T. adds a further confirmation, by the fact, that with the exception of the Income Tax, the amount of taxation (including Land Tax, Tithe and Poor-rate,) down to last summer was as great as during the war. [P. 4.] If therefore taxation had raised prices, taxation must have prevented them from falling.

Independently of taxation war could have raised prices only by creating demand, or by obstructing supply.

Those who affirm that war increased demand, think that the whole of the extra government expenditure creates a new source of demand; that not only the prices of naval and military stores are raised, but that the additional consumption of fleets and armies must raise the price of food; that the demand for soldiers and sailors must raise wages; also the increased demand for manufactures to supply fleets and armies must farther raise wages, and thus increase the consumption by the labouring classes, &c.

This would be true if the extra government expenditure consisted of new funds; but these reasoners forget that what is consumed by government comes out of the pockets of the people, and would by them have been expended in the purchase of labour and commodities. In this way, therefore, war cannot raise prices. It can only raise those commodities which are the objects of sudden demand, such as naval and military stores, and these only until the supply has accommodated itself to the demand.

Accordingly, it appears that for 100 years previous to 1793, exclusively of Edition: current; Page: [36] taxed or imported commodities, and naval or military stores, there was as low a range of prices during war as during peace. This Mr. T. proves by a table of prices. [Pp. 14-20.]—Wheat, indeed, was at a lower price during the expensive war preceding the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle3 than during any other part of the whole period from 1688 to 1792.

Besides, it is notorious that the consumption of food has been considerably increased during the low prices since the peace. It is not, therefore, extra consumption which raised prices during the war, since in that case it would have prevented them from falling during the peace.

It has also been contended, that prices were greatly affected by the monopoly which, from our ascendancy at sea, the war conferred on our trade. But the very articles which were the subject of that monopoly were more depressed in 1810 and 1812, than they have been either before or since. An ordinary monopoly raises prices by limiting the supply; but the supply of Colonial produce, and the other commodities which were the objects of our exclusive trade, was greatly increased during the war, while it was only the export of them which was restricted. The price therefore fell.

Mr. Tooke next considers to what extent war may have operated in raising prices by limiting the supply. [Pp. 47-61.]

This it may have done, either by a diminution of reproduction or by impeding commerce. Now although the tendency of war is to diminish production, no one asserts that the country has retrograded during the war: production cannot, therefore, have been actually diminished. The only mode in which the war can have affected supply must have been by impeding commerce. And it is certain that by enhancing greatly the cost of importation, it did operate to raise the prices of imported commodities. In ordinary years, however, we never imported agricultural produce. War, therefore, could raise agricultural prices only by preventing relief from abroad, to that scarcity which was produced by other causes at home.

Mr. T. therefore concludes that war could affect prices only in as far as it obstructed importation, and created a demand for naval and military stores. [Pp. 58-60.] It is therefore wholly inadequate to account for the high range of prices during the 20 years following 1793.

Part III is devoted to the examination of that opinion which attributes principally to the vicissitudes of the season the great variations in prices during the last ten years. [Pt. III, pp. 9-48.] This opinion Mr. T. has, we think, proved to be perfectly correct, and adequate to the explanation of all the phenomena of prices.

He furnishes a concise character of every season from 1688 to 1792 inclusive, from which it appears, that during that time good and bad seasons occurred as it Edition: current; Page: [37] were in clusters, thus producing ranges of high and low prices, which lasted not a few years merely, but for considerable periods.

From 1686 to 1691, prices gradually declined, producing considerable agricultural distress. But in 1692 began a series of seven very bad seasons, which raised prices to an unusually high level. On the whole, from 1692 to 1713 there were no fewer than twelve years of bad or indifferent produce, and consequent high prices. From 1730 to 1739, on the contrary, there was not one decidedly bad season. Accordingly wheat was low. The winter of 1739-1740 was very severe; and the following harvest was bad, which produced a considerable rise, but from 1741 to 1751, were ten abundant seasons. Again, from 1765 to 1776, bad seasons frequently recurred, both in this country and on the continent. From 1776 to 1782, the seasons appear to have been favourable, because with an increased and increasing population, the produce was sufficient for the consumption.—From 1782 to 1792 inclusive, there was a large proportion of severe winters and backward springs, and with the exception of 1791, not one very abundant season. Now, it appears, that during these 105 years, in all the periods when bad seasons were comparatively frequent, Corn was permanently at a high price, and during the periods when they were rare, it was uniformly low.

The analogy of this long period affords reason to conjecture that the high and low prices from 1792 to 1822, may be attributed to similar causes. This is what Mr. Tooke proceeds to establish by a minute character of the seasons during the last thirty years. [Pp. 49-86.]4

The harvest of 1793 was barely an average, and that of 1794 was deficient, which combined with unfavourable prospects for the following year, raised prices very high; but the Government sent agents to buy corn in the Baltic, and the harvest of 1795 turning out better than had been expected, prices declined. They followed the variations of the seasons until 1799, when two very bad harvests raised them to an enormous height. On the whole, from 1793 to 1800 inclusive, there were four very bad, and only two good crops, with four very severe winters, producing increased consumption. This surely accounts for a permanence of high prices during all this period.

Three tolerable harvests, with a small importation, lowered prices, and produced agricultural distress. But the six seasons from 1807 to 1812 were all deficient, at a time when the difficulties of importation were very great. On a general review of the whole period of twenty years from 1793 to 1812, there were eleven more or less deficient, six of average produce, and three only of abundant crops. Surely it does not require the supposition of an extra war demand, or a depreciation of the currency beyond the difference between paper and gold, to account for high prices during these 20 years.

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If prices had risen only in proportion to the deficiency of produce, then the farmer and the landlord, while they would have suffered as consumers, would not have gained as agriculturists by the rise. But when the necessaries of life are concerned, prices always rise more than in proportion to the deficiency. The Agricultural classes, therefore, gained by the high prices, and concluding their gains to be permanent, they applied much new capital to the land, thereby increasing the quantity of produce, and aggravating their distress when low prices returned.

Of the nine seasons, from 1813 to 1821 inclusive, one only, that of 1816, was bad, while three were very abundant, and five of fair average produce. Comparing these with the nine years preceding, the difference of produce is abundantly sufficient to account for a great difference of price. As, when the produce was scanty, the price rose; so, when it was abundant, the price fell in a greater proportion than was indicated by the variation in the amount of produce. The Agriculturists, who before gained, now lost by the state of prices. There can, therefore, be no difficulty in accounting for the prosperity of Agriculture during the first twenty years, and for its depression during the last ten of the period from 1792 to 1822, from the vicissitudes of the seasons.

It may be objected that the lowest prices sometimes coincide with the smallest stock for sale, and the highest prices with the largest stocks. This may occasionally happen, but Mr. T. has shewn that it is perfectly reconcilable with the principles which he has laid down. [Pt. III, pp. 87-112; Pt. IV, pp. 4-10.] Demand and supply, as affecting prices, are either actual or prospective. If the supply on hand has been under-rated, more especially if one or more seasons of increased supply should follow, they who have bought before the fall of price, find that they would have done better to postpone their demand, and fearing a still greater fall, they think it their interest not to buy more than they can help in advance.

Thus [says Mr. T.] although the supply may, in consequence of long protracted discouragement, be falling off, that part of the demand which consists in the anticipation of future want, falls off in a still greater degree, till both reach their minimum; the consumption all the time going on at its wonted rate, or more probably increasing in consequence of cheapness; and in such cases it may be only when the stock is at length discovered to be below the immediate want for actual consumption, while fresh supplies are remote or uncertain, that any decided improvement takes place.

(Part IV, pp. 8-9.)

In general, Mr. Tooke remarks, that after a glut has been once fully established, it cannot be carried off without a “period of falling prices and diminishing supplies, till it may so happen, though perhaps rarely, that the lowest prices and the smallest stocks may coincide.” (P. 9.)

Mr. Tooke subjoins a table of the prices of various commodities, from 1782 to 1822, with explanations, from which it appears that the difference in the relative proportions of supply and demand is quite sufficient to account for the Edition: current; Page: [39] fluctuations in price. [Appendix No. 1 to Pt. IV, pp. 1-69.] Mr. T. has thus the merit of having solved a number of the phenomena of prices, which Gentlemen both in and out of Parliament have frequently quoted, to prove the fallaciousness of the doctrines of political economy. Mr. T. has shewn, that far from being inconsistent with those doctrines, they afford still farther illustrations and confirmations of them, and could not be explained upon any principles except those which they are brought to impugn. It becomes no one, but least of all the Agriculturists, who have suffered so recently from their ignorance of Political Economy, to affect contempt for that important science. Had these gentlemen, in the days of their prosperity, been aware that a succession of deficient harvests was the only cause of the high prices, they would have foreseen that a revulsion would finally take place; and they would neither have expended upon the land a quantity of capital which is now irrecoverably gone, nor entered into contracts, and made provisions for their younger children, on the supposition that their rents would always continue at the existing elevation.


This letter was occasioned by the results of the invasion of Spain by France in April 1823, in support of Ferdinand VII (1784-1833). Having been briefly on the throne in 1808, he ruled again from 1814 until he was captured and held prisoner by the revolutionaries of 1820. Attempts at constitutional government from 1820 to 1823 produced meagre results, all of which, as Mill predicts, were erased when Ferdinand was released by the Cortes in October, and took vengeance on the constitutionalists. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the errors of the Spanish Government in the Chronicle of 12th August 1823, signed M”

(MacMinn, p. 2).

The conduct by which the Spanish Government have brought their affairs to so dangerous a crisis, will afford a salutary lesson both to themselves, if they should ultimately succeed in weathering the storm, and to all who may hereafter throw off the shackles of despotism, and establish a Constitutional Government. It will prove to them the danger of trusting to historical evidence, that is, to the narrow and precipitate theories of unenlightened historians, in preference to those general principles of human nature, of which any one may convince himself by his personal experience, unless he looks at human actions and motives through the coloured medium of prejudice.

They whose interest compels them to oppose improvement, and they who, in the emphatic language of Sir J. Mackintosh, “entangled by the habits of detail in which they have been reared, possess not that erect and intrepid spirit, those enlarged and original views, which adapt themselves to new combinations of Edition: current; Page: [40] circumstances, and sway in the great convulsions of human affairs:”* these two classes of individuals are constantly holding up practice in opposition to theory, and descanting on the necessity of following the dictates of experience.—They know not what they say. They think they are combatting theories by experience, while in fact they are combatting good theories by bad ones.

Experience, the most certain and the most extensive which we have, proves to us, that unless securities are provided, men will neglect the public interest, whenever it interferes with their own. The same experience enables us to determine what motives will be sufficient to counteract this propensity. On this experience we build a theory of government. Such a theory is least of all entitled to the epithet so liberally applied to it of Utopianism. A Utopian theory is one which is founded not upon our experience of mankind, but upon something inconsistent with experience—upon the supposition that by some wondrous scheme of education which is to be established, men may be induced to act with a view to the public interest, even when it is inconsistent with their own. The real Utopians are they who recommend to vest all power in the hands of Kings and Aristocracies—to annihilate all securities for their acting conformably to the public good,1 in order to have the satisfaction of seeing them, through patriotism and pure benevolence, sacrifice their dearest interests to the promotion of human welfare.

Against theories founded upon universal experience, the enemies of improvement hold out—what? Theories founded upon history; that is, upon partial and incomplete experience. Has a measure, in any age or nation, appeared to be followed by good effects? they think no farther justification required for adopting it. Has another measure (however conformable to sound and enlarged experience) had the misfortune to be adopted by a nation, the affairs of which, afterwards, took a bad turn? they make no allowance for altered circumstances, but precipitately and peremptorily reject it.

These observations are intended to illustrate the conduct of the Spanish Government since the revolution of 1820, particularly of the Ministry of Count Toreno, and that of Martinez de la Rosa.2 Terrified at the result of the French Edition: current; Page: [41] Revolution, they trembled at every measure which could be made a handle by their opponents for accusing them of violence; as if they could believe, that either the wishes or the designs of those whom they had deprived of their mischievous power, could for a moment be affected by the extension of mercy to a few malefactors, or the silencing of a few Republican Orators in the Fontana d’Oro at Madrid!3

Yet these pusillanimous statesmen, as if they did not already stand committed in the eyes of their former masters, by accepting power under a Revolutionary Government, still appear to have cherished the hope of securing their own persons and property, if despotism should ever be restored. They had heard that the Jacobin Clubs occasioned the excesses of the French Revolution—and in a spirit of compromise, unworthy of the Ministers of a regenerated country, they stopped that freedom of public discussion, which, in a country where the circulation of books is so limited, was the only available means of enlisting a body of public opinion in their behalf.4 Their eyes were opened too late by the conspiracy of the 7th of July;5 and a few months before the moment when they were to feel the want of that popular opinion which timely vigour would have roused, the Ministry of San Miguel re-established the Patriotic Societies.6

It was in the same compromising spirit, and from the same irrational dread of imitating the French, that the ruffian Elio was for three years suffered to disgrace by his existence that country which had streamed with the blood of his fellow-citizens slaughtered by his command.7 This wretch, as much superior in guilt to an assassin as the murder of hundreds is more atrocious than that of one individual—at length, in September, 1822, received the just reward of his Edition: current; Page: [42] crimes. But who can blame a delay of punishment, when the perpetrators of the massacre at Cadiz8 still glory in their atrocious deeds? Had these been visited by the hand of justice, the Spanish Patriots might not now have seen in arms against them so many adventurers, whom experience has taught, that the greatest atrocities may be committed without dread of punishment.

In fact, the idea of a bloodless Revolution is, when rightly considered, visionary and absurd. All great Reforms must injure many private interests, and cannot, therefore, fail to raise many enemies. Nor can those enemies be safely permitted to mature their machinations in security. We do not mean that the people should be excited to massacre. We are not the apologists of the 2d of September, 1792; but, whenever treason against the Constitution can be clearly brought home to any individual, to spare that individual is not mercy but weakness. It cannot alter the hostility of the despots, while it increases their power by evincing an ill-timed indecision. The Spanish Government must now bitterly regret that dread of the accusation of shedding blood, which prevented them from bringing the Duke del Infantado to condign punishment for his notorious complicity in the treason of the 7th of July.9 Enough has been done to exasperate, but nothing to weaken; and if San Miguel and his colleagues should eventually fall into the hands of the traitor whom they so injudiciously spared, they will scarce have the folly to expect, that he will forget from whose hands he received his degradation and banishment, and remember only that those hands left him life, after taking all, which, to a mind habituated like his, to mischievous power, could render that life an object of desire.



Mill here continues the argument of “Judicial Oaths” (No. 11), to which he refers in the opening sentence, by citing a case reported in the Police News of the Morning Chronicle, 14 Aug., 1823, p. 4. The letter, headed “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A short letter signed A Lover of Caution pointing out a case of the mischievousness of an oath in the Chronicle of 15th August 1823” (MacMinn, p. 2). As is evident in the text, the letter is actually signed “A Friend to Caution.”

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In a Letter signed “No Lawyer,” which you inserted in your Paper of the 23d July, among the many ill effects of the ceremony of an oath, considerable stress was laid upon the false estimate which it occasions of the credibility of witnesses. When they speak the truth, it is not because they have sworn (for if that were the reason Custom House and University oaths would be observed), but because they fear the shame and the penalties of perjury.1 It is, however, too commonly believed, that if a man has sworn, no other security is required.

An instance of this appeared in your Paper of August 14. A gentleman who complained of a fraud practised on him at a mock auction in Lime-street, stated that he had neglected to make himself acquainted with the name of the auctioneer, because he presumed, that all auctioneers being sworn, were therefore respectable.2 Yet it must appear to all unprejudiced minds, that if the other circumstances were insufficient to remove the possibility of suspicion, the circumstance of the oath added nothing to the security. If there were motives sufficient for fraud, they were sufficient for fraud and perjury both.

A Friend To Caution


This letter was prompted by the reports (Morning Chronicle, 15 Aug., 1823, p. 4; “Police; Queen Square,” The Times, 11 and 15 Aug., 1823, both p. 3; “Police: Queen-Square,” Examiner, 17 Aug., 1823, p. 543) of the handling by Mr. White, the magistrate, of a complaint on 10 Aug. by Mrs. Lang (alias Miss Drummond), a servant of Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828), that had been rebutted by her husband, William Lamb (1779-1848), later Lord Melbourne. The letter, headed as title and subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on publicity in judicature, and its infraction by a Queen Square magistrate, in the Chronicle of 20 August 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 3).

Among the numberless blessings which we are continually told that we owe to our glorious Constitution, a good administration of justice has always been considered as the most valuable. While the judicature of every other nation is corrupt, profligate and oppressive—a ready tool in the hands of power; it has been our boast that ours alone is pure and undefiled; that it gives ear alike to the rich and to the poor, that neither the interests nor the prejudices of rank and station ever divert our Judges from the straight path of equity and impartiality.

A practical illustration of this inestimable blessing occurred some days since at the Queen-square Police-office; and although several papers, and you, Sir, Edition: current; Page: [44] among the rest, have taken up the subject, far too little stress has, in my opinion, been laid upon it.

A servant of a lady of rank presented herself at the office, to complain of ill-treatment received from her Ladyship. Her statement appeared in the papers. A day or two after the husband of the lady appeared, and denied the story told by the servant.1 So far both parties stood upon the same ground. On one side was the woman’s affirmation; on the other, that of her master. The woman’s story was probably false: that is not the question. It is not sufficient that it should be presumed to be false; there ought to be evidence, and conclusive evidence of its falsehood, before a Magistrate, who sits to act as a Judge, should take upon himself to reject her application. Observe now the conduct of Mr. White: not only does he without farther inquiry pronounce in favour of the gentleman, upon his own affirmation only; he does more—because the newspapers inserted the woman’s story, being equally ready to insert that of her master, he declares that reporters shall be no longer admitted into Court.

That defect of publicity should occasion defect of evidence against criminals, by preventing many persons from hearing of the trial, who would otherwise have come forward as witnesses, is the least of the mischiefs which will arise out of this precedent. The impunity which it will secure to a corrupt Judge, is the greatest.

Although it is the prevailing cry of the English Aristocracy that the Judges are immaculate, and although a deluded people have too long given them credit for any quantity of virtue which they think fit to claim, the public now at length begin to learn that it is absurd to expect from men the qualities of angels. To make a man a Judge, does not change his nature. Judges, like other men, will always prefer themselves to their neighbours. Judges, like other men, will indulge their indolence and satiate their rapacity whenever they can do it without fear of detection. The judicial office offers not fewer, but more numerous, and far more immediate temptations, than one who is not a Judge can easily be subject to. Allow any man to profit by injustice, and it is not the name of Judge which will shield the people from his oppression. When we see how soon almost any virtue yields to continued temptation, there needs little to persuade us, that if every Magistrate were to follow the example of Mr. White, and administer justice with closed doors, Magistrates would ere long be again what they were in the time of Fielding and of Smollett2—leagued with every thief in London.

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To illustrate the tendency of the precedent, I will put a case; and it is one which might easily have occurred. — Suppose that the woman’s story had been correct, and that of her master false; it will not be denied that there are masters who would not scruple to tell a lie, if they knew that, as in this case, their simple affirmation would put an end to the dispute. But it is only a rich man, it is only a member of the aristocracy, whose word is to be taken as conclusive evidence in his own cause. Thus then, whenever a rich individual and a poor one contradict each other on a matter of fact, the poor man is to be disbelieved, and the rich man suffered to carry off (perhaps) the wages of mendacity. And, to crown all, this iniquity is to be covered with the veil of secrecy. Then, perhaps, other motives than aristocratic sympathies may mix themselves in the decision of causes; again, perhaps, we may see a judicial controversy transformed into a competition between the purses of the parties, which can best satisfy the rapacity of the Judge.

Mr. White may derive a precedent, though not an excuse, for the violation of almost the only security we have for the purity of judicature, from the example which has been set by higher authorities, of prohibiting the publication of trials, until the whole of the evidence shall have been given,* for the benevolent purpose, forsooth, of preventing ex parte statements from going forth to the world, and giving a false impression of the state of the case. I am not aware that it is a recognised maxim of jurisprudence, however frequently it may be acted upon in practice, that occasional and partial evil shall preponderate over universal good. There might be some reason indeed, for preventing ex parte statements from going forth, if the Judges could invent any method of hearing both parties at once. Until, however, some such method shall have been discovered, I shall continue to think that if Juries, who are taken from among the public, can hear first one party, and then the other, and yet decide justly, there cannot be much danger in presenting the evidence to the public, in precisely the same order as it comes before the Jury.

A Judge must always have much to gain by injustice: and if due securities are not provided, he will do injustice. The only efficient security which our Constitution provides is publicity: it is the disgrace which a Judge incurs by an unjust decision. This disgrace is greater or less, according as the public attention Edition: current; Page: [46] is more or less drawn to the case. Now it is well known that after a cause is decided, the interest taken in it to a great degree subsides. The prohibition of ex parte statements is, therefore, a contrivance to avert the public attention from abuses of judicial authority: to protect the Judges from that odium which their conduct may deserve. Encouraged by the success of this indirect attack upon the only security for good judicature, Mr. White, more boldly, has cut the Gordian knot, and destroyed that security altogether.

This is not, however, an affair to be passed over in silence. The securities against abuse, which, in the present state of our Government, we possess, are not so numerous that we can afford to lose one, and that one the most important of them. He is not a lover of good judicature, or he is a very blind one, who does not cry shame upon Mr. White, for setting a precedent so destructive of all security for justice; that if he himself were deliberately planning the most flagrant abuses of power, he could not have hit upon an expedient better calculated to serve his purpose.

A Lover of Justice

N.B. Since writing the above, I have had the pleasure to learn that Reporters still continue to attend the Office, notwithstanding the injunction of Mr. White.


Mill’s third discussion of oaths (see esp. No. 6), this letter was occasioned by “Imposition of a Fine for Refusing to Take a Judicial Oath,” Morning Chronicle, 22 Aug., 1823, p. 4. It reported the fining on 16 Aug. of Connell, a pawnbroker, by Richard Pennefather (1773-1859), K.C., Chief Baron of the Irish Court of Exchequer, in the Cork City Criminal Court on 16 Aug., 1823. Headed as title and subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the conduct of an Irish judge in fining a witness for refusing to take an oath, in the Chronicle of 26th August 1823, signed the Censor of the Judges”

(MacMinn, p. 3).

I observed in your Paper of Friday last, a conspicuous instance of the mischiefs of judicial oaths. These mischiefs you have frequently adverted to, but I question whether so glaring an instance of them ever yet presented itself to your notice.

A man was called to give evidence at a Court of Justice in Ireland on a cause of no extraordinary interest. He declined taking an oath on the ground of religious scruples: upon which Mr. Baron Pennyfather fined him 100l.

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Either this man was conscientiously averse to taking an oath, or he wished, under that pretext, to evade the necessity of giving testimony.

On the former supposition, every discerning lover of justice must lament that, by the imposition of a ceremony which (as we see in the case of Custom-house and University oaths)1 adds no security whatever, the testimony of a highly conscientious witness should have been excluded.

This supposition appears the most probable, as persons appeared to certify that the witness was known to have these scruples. But even if he really wished, under this pretence, to frustrate the ends of justice, the consequence is not less deplorable. If he had avowed his determination not to give evidence, he would have incurred the infamy which so pernicious a resolution deserves. By covering the wickedness of his intention under the cloak of religion, he screened himself from well merited disgrace.

If there were nothing more, therefore, than the exclusion of his evidence, this were surely enough: but when to the exclusion we add the fine, it ought to inspire every man with serious reflections. It will stand upon record that in the nineteenth century, a fine of 100l. was imposed upon a man because his religious opinions differed from those of Mr. Baron Pennyfather. I blame not the Judge, but the law, for excluding the witness. The glory, however, of the fine, belongs wholly to the Judge, who, instead of labouring to effect the amendment of a law which excludes the conscientious while it lets in the unprincipled witness, took upon himself to imitate the Court of Ecclesiastical Commission, and punish Heresy with a fine of 100l.2

The lawyers may quibble—they may say that he was fined, not for heresy, but for contempt of Court. Contempt of Court is a mere cant phrase, and, in most instances, a phrase employed for the worst of purposes. On this principle, the Judges under Charles II might be justified, who repeatedly fined the Jury because they would not condemn those whom it suited the “Court” and their employers to oppress.3 All the quirks with which the English law, more than any other, abounds, will not alter the fact, that a man has been fined one hundred pounds for his religious scruples; not for refusing to give evidence—he did not refuse this. He never hesitated to give a solemn affirmation of all which he knew; he scrupled only the oath. The Judge had not power to dispense with the ceremony, but he was under no obligation to impose on a pawnbroker, not likely to be in very Edition: current; Page: [48] opulent circumstances, a fine which may amount to the ruin of all his prospects in life.

When I consider that the class to whom Mr. Baron Pennyfather belongs, are continually holding up the importance of encouraging the spirit of religion among the people, continually lamenting the little influence which religious motives exert over human conduct, I cannot help thinking that they should be the last to impose a ruinous fine upon a man on account of the peculiar strength of his religious principles, and thus hold out encouragement to the disregard of those principles.

In discussing this subject, I have avoided considering the question whether oaths are or are not consistent with Christianity—for even supposing the witness to have been in error, a man is not to be fined 100l. for being in error.

The administration of justice in Ireland has so long been a scene of all which is unjust and oppressive, that an occurrence, which, if performed at our doors, would have excited attention, may, perhaps, be passed over, when happening amid so many others still more atrocious than itself. But the law is the same in England as in Ireland. In both countries the lawyers are equally ignorant and equally prejudiced; and what has happened in the County of Cork, may, ere long, perhaps, be imitated in that of Middlesex.

The Censor of the Judges


This letter was prompted by “Disturbers of the Dead,” Morning Chronicle, 25 Aug., 1823, p. 4, which reported the trial and sentence of Cornelius Bryant and William Millard for opening a grave in the burial ground of the London Hospital. Those who, by disinterment or other means, procured corpses for sale to schools of anatomy, were known as “resurrection-men.” Dissection of non-criminal corpses was an offence under common and ecclesiastical law; under 32 Henry VIII, c. 42 (1540), Sect. 2, four executed felons could be dissected each year; under 25 George II, c. 37 (1752), all executed murderers were to be “dissected and anatomized.” Mill may have known that Jeremy Bentham had made provision in his will that his body be used for medical purposes, as Mill recommends in the letter. The letter, headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the punishment of body-stealers, in the Chronicle of 1st September 1823, signed a Friend to Science”

(MacMinn, p. 3).

In your Paper of Monday last, I observed one among a great number of recent cases, where the description of persons called resurrection-men had been sacrificed to popular prejudice.

If it be admitted, and I do not see how it can be called in question, that a knowledge of medicine and surgery cannot be acquired without an acquaintance Edition: current; Page: [49] with the phenomena which the human organs present, both in health and in disease; if it be allowed, that, in order to become acquainted with these phenomena, it is necessary to have ocular demonstration of them, and that dissection is the only mode in which ocular demonstration can be had; it is obvious that every thing which tends to prevent subjects from being obtained in sufficient quantity for the purposes of anatomy, must tend materially to diminish the facilities of acquiring medical and surgical knowledge, and to throw back those sciences into their pristine barbarism.

If bodies had never been dissected, sentimentalists could not have appealed to our hearts in behalf of the sanctity of the tomb, for whether we have or have not such an organ, would probably to this day have remained a problem.

We should have been equally ignorant that we have a brain, lungs, a stomach, nerves, a venous and arterial system, &c. At all events, the structure and position of those organs must have remained for ever unknown to us. The internal processes of animal life—respiration, digestion, the circulation of the blood, all the various secretions, must have continued among the arcana of nature, and all internal diseases must, from want of the requisite knowledge, have been incurable. A man feels, for instance, an acute pain, and shows symptoms of general ill health, from an obstruction in his liver; how can the surgeon, who has never seen a dissection, discover where the remedy is to be applied? The utmost which he could infer would be that the source of evil is somewhere on the right side; and even of this he could not be assured, for the seat of a disease is frequently at a considerable distance from the place of its external manifestation. He might endeavour to cure a liver complaint by a remedy calculated to act on the urinary glands; or to remove the rheumatism by means of an emetic.

If dissection had never taken place, the art of medicine could scarcely have existed. And if it were now to cease, the evil would not be confined to preventing it from ever improving. If, indeed, the present race of practitioners were immortal, this might be the utmost limit of the evil. But there is another generation rising up, who must receive equal instruction with their predecessors, if it is expected that they shall be equally skilful. If dissection were to cease, the death of the latest survivor among the practitioners now living, would be the date of the extinction of medical skill in the world. Instead of ascertaining by actual examination the structure and positions of the organs, physicians would be reduced to guess at them from the imperfect accounts left to them by their predecessors, and the grossest errors would continually be committed.

That bodies should be dissected, is, therefore, absolutely necessary; and the only question is in what way the interests of science and the feelings of individuals may best be conciliated? For any one to attempt confining dissectors to the dead bodies of criminals, displays a degree of ignorance on the subject, which renders it presumption in a person so ill qualified to give an opinion at all on it. Every Middlesex and Old Bailey Sessions produce perhaps two, perhaps Edition: current; Page: [50] three, executions. Is it expected that these shall supply bodies for all the dissections which are necessary to make the rising generation of medical students acquainted with the structure of the human body?

Subjects must, therefore, be provided, and if so, that way is the best which is least offensive to the relatives of the deceased. It implies, indeed, considerable weakness of mind to transfer the associations of pain, which are connected with wounding a living body, to the cold and insensible organs of the dead; as if to be dissected were more shocking than to be eaten by worms! If an attempt were made to dissect a living human creature, there would then be some cause for raising an outcry. It could scarcely then be louder or more widely propagated than it is. But since the feeling exists, the best mode of obtaining subjects is undoubtedly through the resurrection-men. There is nothing here to hurt the feelings of any one. No one knows that the body of his friend or relative has been taken. He cannot acquire this disagreeable piece of information unless he takes considerable trouble for that purpose. Yet these men, who pursue an occupation so useful to the interests of science, and which can give pain to no one unless by his own fault, are condemned to that place of torments incalculable, the tread mill!

What they would not be were it not for the popular prejudice, that prejudice itself compels them to become. A man who will brave such a mass of odium, a man who will expose himself to be stoned to death by the rabble, cannot have much character to lose. Subjects must be had, and as long as there is a demand for medical-surgical knowledge, they will be had, no matter at what cost. Body-stealing cannot, therefore, be prevented, but the price of subjects may be raised, and while the expence of a medical education is enhanced, temptation is held out to persons in distress to expose themselves to such a degree of odium, as cannot be increased by the most vicious conduct on their part, and which by a natural consequence removes all the inducement to a moral and virtuous life. Hence, if the resurrection-men are for the most part low and vicious characters, it is the absurd prejudice, and that alone, which ought to be blamed.

To conclude, I earnestly recommend, as the only effectual mode of destroying the prejudice, that such as are superior to it adopt the practice of leaving their own bodies to the surgeons. If men known to the world for their exalted qualities would do this the prejudice might in time be removed. Such provisions by will have occasionally been made, but from their rarity they are still considered as eccentricities. When they become more common they may perhaps be recognised as proceeding from no other eccentricity than that which is implied in being exempt from, and in wishing to annihilate one of the most vulgar of all prejudices.

A Friend to Science
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Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was a political economist whose views, especially on population, were often discussed by Mill. This lengthy review is headed “The Measure of Value Stated and Illustrated, with an Application of It to the Alterations in the Value of the English Currency since 1790, by the Rev. T.R. Malthus, M.A. F.R.S. [London:] Murray, 1823.” It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Mr. Malthus’s pamphlet on the ‘Measure of Value’ which appeared in the Chronicle of 5th September 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 3).

when two commodities vary in their relative value, it is often necessary to obtain information of two things. First, the extent of the variation—this may easily be determined, without calling in the assistance of a third commodity. So far, therefore, there is no need of a measure. But it may also be desirable to know whether the cause of the variation is in the one article or in the other, or if in both, to what degree it is in each. And here it is, that a Measure of Value is chiefly useful.

If a commodity can be found exempt from the influence of all causes of variation, such a commodity may safely be taken as a measure. If any article varies in value with respect to it, we shall know that the cause of variation cannot be in the measure, and must, therefore, be wholly in the other commodity.

The received opinion, however, is, that no such commodity is to be found, every article being subject, not only to temporary, but also to permanent causes of variation.

Mr. Malthus is of a different opinion; we shall proceed to give an outline of his argument.

Commodities, he says, will not be produced, unless their value is sufficient to pay the wages, profits, and rents, necessary to their production. Rent, however, is paid only for a certain class of commodities, and of these, the value is regulated by that part of the produce which is almost exclusively resolvable into wages and profits, and pays very little rent.

The natural value, therefore, of commodities, is composed of labour and profits.

If labour were the only requisite to production, and if the interval between the exertion of the labour and its remuneration in the completed commodity were inconsiderable, commodities would, on an average, exchange with each other according to the quantity of labour employed in producing them. [Pp. 3-6.]

But two circumstances, he says, render this rule inaccurate, in all cases different from that which we just supposed.

1. A considerable interval must elapse between the exertion of some sorts of labour, and the completion of the article on which they are employed. If A and B Edition: current; Page: [52] are two commodities produced by equal labour, but requiring different intervals of time; the values of the two commodities must be different in order to yield the same rate of profits.

2. Capital being accumulated labour, it follows that when fixed capital comes to be employed, the immediate labour expended on a commodity, together with the wear and tear which the fixed capital has undergone in its production, may be considered as the amount of labour expended on the commodity. Suppose this amount to be the same for two articles, yet as the profits must be charged upon the whole capital, whether all consumed in the production or not, it follows, that if the amount of fixed capital is unequal for the two commodities, the values must also be different, as there are unequal amounts of profit to pay. [Pp. 8-12.]

Having for these reasons set aside the doctrine, that the values of commodities depend upon the quantities of labour expended in producing them, Mr. Malthus proceeds to state what he considers as the correct expression. Value, he says, depends upon labour and profits. [P. 14.] Two commodities exchange for one another, although the one is produced by less labour than the other, provided the deficiency of labour is compensated by the greater amount of profits.

If this be true, it follows that whatever is capable of measuring labour and profits, is fitted to be an accurate measure of value. Such a measure Mr. Malthus thinks he has found in the quantity of labour which a commodity will purchase in the market. This, he says, is equal to the quantity of labour expended in its production, together with the ordinary profits. This, therefore, is an accurate measure of value. [Pp. 15-16.]

Such is the outline of Mr. Malthus’s argument. The remainder of his work consists of illustrations and applications.

For duly appreciating the merits of this doctrine, it is necessary to have clear conceptions with regard to the nature of profits. Under ordinary circumstances, the labourer and the capitalist being the only persons whose services are requisite for the production of commodities, they alone can have any claim upon the commodities when produced. The joint produce of labour and capital is therefore divided between the labourer and the capitalist, between wages and profits. The whole, indeed, of the produce usually appears to belong to the capitalist; but this is only because he has purchased the labourer’s share. Whatever is paid to the labourer, to obtain his co-operation in the work of production, is to be considered as the labourer’s share of the produce, paid however in advance. What remains is the share of the capitalist, usually called his profits.

After this preliminary explanation we must readily assent to the first position of Mr. Malthus, that value is composed of labour and profits, since, if we may trust his own explanation, he only means that the produce, or what amounts to the same thing, its value, composes wages and profits; in other words, that it is divided between the labourer and the capitalist. Thus understood, the position is self-evident, and has never been disputed by any political economist.

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We cannot so readily admit the second position, that value depends upon labour and profits. The opinion now generally received among political economists is that value depends upon the quantity of labour expended in production. To this expression Mr. Malthus objects, because it does not include a particular fact, namely, the difference of values, which is occasioned by difference in the quickness of the returns, or in the proportion of fixed capital.

The fact itself is indisputable; nor is it less certain, that the expression does not include it. But it may be annexed as a modification; and such must be its fate, unless some expression shall be devised, which shall include this and all other facts, without being liable to any other objection.

Tried by this test, Mr. Malthus’s expression appears to us objectionable. It expresses much more than is intended.

When we say that value depends upon labour, we mean, that according as the quantity of labour expended in producing a commodity is increased or diminished, ceteris paribus, its value rises or falls. In like manner, if we say that value depends, wholly or partially, upon profits, it is implied, that when profits rise values shall rise; when profits fall, values shall fall. But if profits rise or fall, the variation must be, not in some particular profits, but in all profits. This is universally acknowledged. Mr. Malthus’s expression therefore implies, that a rise or fall of profits raises or lowers all values; which is impossible: for values are relative, and the rise of some values imports the fall of others.

Having thus shewn what Mr. M.’s expression really means, let us consider what he intends it to mean; and let us remember that the sole basis of his doctrine is a case of difference in values, arising from a difference in profits. What is meant to be expressed therefore is, that not absolute profits, but differences of profits, and these not in the rate, but in the total amount of profits, as compared with the immediate expenditure, have some influence on values. This is all which Mr. Malthus’s fact can be made to prove; but this is no more than the fact itself, and by no method of reasoning can the fact be made to prove any thing more than itself. It is, therefore, totally inadequate to form the basis of a new theory of value, and can only be admitted as a modification of the old one. But, as a modification, it has been universally received among political economists, and is much more fully stated by Mr. Ricardo, the principal supporter of the old theory, than by Mr. Malthus or any other opponent of that theory.1

For these reasons, Mr. M.’s second position appears to us unsupported by sufficient proof. Other considerations, of equal strength, also present themselves in opposition to it. To say that value depends upon profits, seeing that profits are the capitalist’s share of the produce, is to say that the value of the whole produce depends upon the proportion in which it is divided between the labourer and the capitalist. This doctrine would appear scarcely to merit a serious refutation.

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The doctrine concerning a measure of value, which Mr. Malthus builds upon premises so unsound, it may appear unnecessary, after what has been said, formally to refute. We cannot, however, refrain from offering a few remarks on this part also of Mr. M.’s doctrine.

The measure of value, as proposed by Mr. Malthus, is the quantity of labour which an article commands in the market; because, says he, this includes the labour expended in production, together with ordinary profits.

Mr. M. has indeed shewn, which is not difficult, that labour possesses this property, but he has not shewn that it is peculiar to labour. It would appear, that not labour merely, but cloth, and all other commodities, are on a par in this respect. If the quantity of labour which a commodity will purchase, includes the labour expended in production, together with profits, the quantity of cloth which it will purchase does the like, for, by the very supposition, it is of the same value.

Mr. M. has anticipated this objection, and has provided the following answer:

If the advances of capitalists consisted specifically in cloth, then these advances would always have the effect required in production; and as profits are calculated upon the advances necessary to production, whatever they may be, the quantity of cloth advanced, with the addition of the ordinary profits, estimated also in quantity of cloth, would represent both the natural and relative value of the commodity. But the specific advances of capitalists do not consist of cloth but of labour.

(P. 17.)

In point of fact, however, the advances of capitalists do not consist of labour—they consist of wages; that is, of the food, clothing, and lodging of the labourer, and if capital is called accumulated labour, this only means, that it is the accumulated produce of labour. Any of the necessaries of life must, therefore, if this argument be correct, be equally fitted with labour to be a measure of value.

It is, however, really immaterial whether the advances are in one commodity or in another. Whatever be the nature of the returns—be they in Corn, in Cloth, or in any other commodity, they must always be such as to repay the expences of production, together with the ordinary profits of stock; or, to use Mr. M.’s expression, they must include labour and profits. Labour, therefore, in this respect, possesses no advantage over any other commodity.

If, indeed, Mr. M. could prove that no causes of variation can operate upon labour, his position would be established without farther trouble. But this, we apprehend, is impossible. There are two causes which operate upon the value of labour; first, a variation in the relative amount of population and capital; this tends to alter the real reward of the labourer; and 2dly, a variation in the cost of producing the articles consumed by the labourer; this tends to change its value. So long as labour shall be subject to the influence of these causes, so long will it be liable to variations, and therefore equally unfit with almost any commodity to be an accurate measure of value.

Mr. M. admits that the labourer receives, at different times, very different Edition: current; Page: [55] quantities of produce; but this variable amount of produce, he affirms to be constant in value; an assertion, at least in appearance, contradictory to all our experience. In support of this allegation, he argues as follows. The reward of the labourer has been itself produced by labour, and its value, therefore, is resolvable into labour and profits. But if the quantity of labour employed in producing it be increased, profits must fall; if it be diminished, profits must rise, and so as to leave the sum absolutely constant. The value of wages, therefore, is constant. [Pp. 26-8.]

The remark which obviously suggests itself is that, like some of the former arguments, so also this, if it proves any thing, proves too much. There is no reason here given why labour, rather than any other commodity, should be the measure. If it be true of the produce, which is the labourer’s reward, that its value is composed of labour and profits, it must, we apprehend, be equally true of all other commodities. It may with equal justice be argued, that any amount, constant or variable, of corn, of cloth, or of iron, is always of the same value.

For if the quantity of labour employed in producing it be increased, so that a greater share of the completed commodity must go to wages, there obviously remains a smaller share for profits. Does this prove that the value of the commodity is constant? Certainly not: for value does not depend upon the proportion in which the produce is divided between the labourer and the capitalist; it depends upon the demand and supply of the market, regulated and limited by cost of production.

The whole chain of reasoning depends upon this position, that the value of the labourer’s reward resolves itself into labour and profits. Wages, we have seen to be, that share of the produce which is allotted to the labourer, purchased, however, beforehand by the capitalist. What, therefore, is true of the labourer’s share, when purchased by the capitalist, would also be true of it, if the commodity were actually divided between them. Let us make this supposition. The value of the labourer’s share cannot then be said to be made up of labour and profits, since profits do not enter into it, being wholly on the side of the capitalist. Suppose now the labour necessary for producing the commodity to increase, the value of the labourer’s share can no longer remain constant, since the increase of labour cannot be balanced by a fall of profits. But if the labourer’s share is not constant in value, when he waits to receive it until the production is completed; neither can it be constant, when he receives it beforehand in the shape of wages.

Mr. Malthus, however, subjoins a numerical table, by which he thinks he has proved the value of wages to be constant. This table he prefaces by the following obscure paragraph:

If, instead of referring to commodities generally, we refer to the variable quantity of produce which under different circumstances forms the wages of a given number of labourers, we shall find that the variable quantity of labour required to obtain this Edition: current; Page: [56] produce, will always exactly agree with the proportion of the whole produce which goes to labour; because, however variable may be the amount of this produce, it will be divided into a number of parts equal to the number of labourers which it will command; and as the first set of labourers who produced these wages may be considered as having been paid at the same rate as the second set, whose labour the produce commands, it is obvious that if to obtain the produce which commands ten labourers, 6, 7, 8, or 9 labourers be required, the proportion of the produce which goes to labour, in these different cases, will be 6/10, 7/10, 8/10, or 9/10, leaving 4/10, 3/10, 2/10, or 1/10 for profits.

(Pp. 30-1.)

As far as the above paragraph has any meaning, it appears to be this:—If the labour of six men is required to produce the wages of ten, what remains for profits must be equal to the wages of four: if the labour of seven men is required to produce the wages of ten, profits will be equal to the wages of three; and so on. But this, one would imagine, scarcely needs a long paragraph, and a table which fills a whole page to prove it. Let us see, however, the inference which he builds upon it. If the labour required to obtain the produce be increased, then, says he, profits will fall, so as to leave the value of the whole produce constant. Why is it constant? Because, if wages are 6/10ths, profits are 4/10ths: if wages are 7/10ths, profits are 3/10ths; if wages are 8/10ths, profits are 2/10ths; and so on. Now the sum of 6/10ths and 4/10ths, the sum of 7/10ths and 3/10ths, and the sum of 8/10ths and 2/10ths, are all equal. Equal to what? to 10/10ths. The value, therefore, of the produce is constant, because it is always equal to 10/10ths of the produce, that is, to itself!

The same identical proposition, and nothing more, results from Mr. Malthus’s redoubtable table, from which we extract part of several of the columns. [P. 38.]

Rate of profits Quantity of labour required to produce the wages of ten men Quantity of profits on the advances of labour Invariable value of the wages of a given number of men
25 per cent. 8 2 10
15.38 8.66 1.34 10
50 6.6 3.4 10
16.66 8.6 1.4 10
27.2 7.85 2.15 10

From these elaborate computations he proves that the wages of ten men are in value always equal to ten. To ten quarters of corn, or ten suits of clothing? No.—To ten of what? This we shall see. The number 8 in the second column represents a certain quantity of labour, the labour, namely, of eight men; the number 2 in the next column represents the labour of two men; the number 10, Edition: current; Page: [57] therefore, which is obtained by adding the 8 and the 2, represents the labour of ten men; and Mr. Malthus informs us that the wages of ten men are invariable in value, because they are always equal in value to the labour of ten men! In other words, the wages of a day’s labour are always of the same value, because they are the wages of a day’s labour!

It is therefore evident that the whole of Mr. Malthus’s argument is a begging of the question. His object is to prove that labour is an accurate measure of value, because the value of wages is invariable. But in order to prove this, he covertly assumes labour as the standard; and then, of course, he can easily prove that the wages of ten men, as compared with labour, are always of the same value, because they can always purchase the labour of ten men. But although wages are invariable in value with respect to labour, they are not invariable with respect to commodities in general.

If Mr. Malthus had stated his premises and his conclusion, in the simple form in which we have now stated them, no one could have been misled by so palpable a petitio principii.—But many who can see through a fallacy, in a concise and clear piece of argument, are not able to resist a long succession of obscure paragraphs, and a numerical table of no less than nine columns.

To us, therefore, Mr. M. appears to have entirely failed in proving that labour, as a measure of value, is preferable to any other commodity.

The principle itself being erroneous, we shall give no more than a hasty view of the applications.

“1. On the subject of rents,” says he, “such a standard would determine, among other things, that as the increase in the value of corn is only measured by a decrease in the corn wages of labour, such increase of value is a very inconsiderable source of the increase of rents compared with improvements in agriculture.” (P. 54.) It is difficult to trace the connexion between the premises and the conclusion of this argument. However, the whole must fall to the ground, as the premises themselves are erroneous. There may be an increase in the value of corn, without any decrease in corn wages. When corn rises permanently in exchangeable value, the wages of labour almost uniformly rise along with it. The rise of wages is indeed less than that of corn, but it bears a very considerable proportion to it. The most important practical errors must therefore be the consequence of estimating the rise in corn by a comparison with labour, a commodity which always rises along with it.

“2. If tithes do not fall mainly on the labourer, the acknowledged diminution in the corn rents of the landlord, occasioned by tithes, cannot be balanced by an increase of their value, and consequently tithes must fall mainly on the landlord.” (Pp. 54-5.)—Another most important practical mistake. Corn rents, indeed, are diminished by tithes. But if the exchangeable value of corn is raised, the landlord is indemnified. And although corn may not rise as compared with labour—and therefore, by Mr. Malthus, may be said not to have risen at Edition: current; Page: [58] all—there can be no doubt that, with reference to commodities in general, it has risen, and the landlord, consequently, is indemnified.

The next paragraph we transcribe, as a specimen of the obscure and disjointed mode of reasoning which Mr. Malthus has adopted.

As one consequence of his doctrine concerning the measure of value, he states,

that the increasing value of the funds destined for the maintenance of labour can alone occasion an increase in the demand for it, or the will and power to employ a greater number of labourers; and that it is consistent with theory, as well as general experience, that high corn wages, in proportion to the work done, should frequently occur with a very slack demand for labour; or, in other words, that when the value of the whole produce falls from excess of supply compared with the demand, it cannot have the power of setting the same number of labourers to work.

(P. 55.)

This is Mr. M.’s favourite doctrine of over-production.2 A more mischievous doctrine, we think, has scarcely ever been broached in political economy: since, if we are liable to have too large a produce, a Government must be highly praiseworthy, which in its loving kindness steps forward to relieve us of one part of this insupportable burden. On other occasions, Mr. M. has adduced, in proof of this doctrine, arguments which have at least the merit of being intelligible. That, however, which is couched in the above paragraph, would require the exercise of no small sagacity in its interpretation, were not this task happily rendered unnecessary by the utter unmeaningness of the phrase upon which the whole argument, such as it is, appears to turn. “The value of the whole produce falls.” What does this mean? The exchangeable value? No: for the whole produce can have no exchangeable value, as it is never, at least collectively, exchanged. Any other kind of value? But with no other kind have we any thing to do. By value, we uniformly mean exchangeable value. This is the only legitimate use of the term.

There is another paragraph in proof of the same position.

If the increase of capital be measured by the increase of its materials, such as corn, clothing, &c. then it is obvious that the supply of these materials may, by saving, increase so rapidly, compared with labour and the wants of the effective demanders, that with a greater quantity of materials, the capitalist will neither have the power nor the will to set in motion the same quantity of labour, and that consequently the progress of wealth will be checked, but that if the increase of capital be measured as it ought to be, by the increase of its power to command labour, then accumulation so limited, cannot possibly go on too fast.

(P. 57.)

The above assertion, for there is no attempt at argument, may easily be Edition: current; Page: [59] disproved; but this is not the place for it. The difficulty is, to see why Mr. M. should have given this as a consequence of his doctrine concerning the measure of value, between which and this paragraph we can see no sort of connexion. If, however, it be such a consequence, it must fall with the doctrine which supports it.

Soon after, he continues, “If commodities and the materials of capital increase faster than the effectual demand for them [faster than labour, we presume, he means], profits fall prematurely, and capitalists are ruined, without a proportionate benefit to the labouring classes, because an increasing demand for labour cannot go on under such circumstances.” (P. 59.) Again, we ask, what has this to do with the measure of value? As, however, it can be refuted in few words, we will not grudge the necessary space.

Why do profits fall prematurely? Because, from the increase of capital faster than labour, wages rise. There is no other cause which can lower profits. And yet, in the same breath, Mr. M. tells us, that there is no proportionate benefit to the labouring classes!

If this case were to happen, the only consequence would be, that accumulation would cease to go on at this enormous rate, and would be continued only at the same rate with the increase of population. If Mr. M. confines to this case his doctrine of over-production, we may make the concession with perfect safety.

Another application.

On the subject of foreign trade, it [the doctrine of the measure] would shew that its universally acknowledged effect in giving a stimulus to production, generally, is mainly owing to its increasing the value of the produce of a country’s labour, by the extension of demand, before the value of its labour is increased by the increase of its quantity; and that the effect of every extension of demand, whether foreign or domestic, is always, as far as it goes, to increase the average rate of profits till this increase is counteracted by a further accumulation of capital.

(Pp. 56-7.)

Many and important are the errors contained in this short paragraph. But it would be loss of time to point them out, as all the proof which Mr. M. has given falls to the ground with his doctrine of the measure. All which he himself asserts is, that if that doctrine is true, these applications are also true.

In another paragraph, Mr. M. says, that value does not depend upon cost of production, because value is proportioned, not to the advances merely, but to the advances, together with variable profits. That allowance is to be made for all cases of difference in the amount of profits, as compared with immediate expenditure, is allowed on all hands; but the necessity of this modification does not authorize our rejecting the general expression, unless Mr. Malthus can point out a better one, which he has not even attempted to do, but has contented himself with saying that, “we must have recourse to demand and supply.” [P. 58.] But this is to stop short at the surface of the science. What regulates supply? Surely it is the cost of production, and if we cannot find an accurate expression in Edition: current; Page: [60] one word, or in two, we are not for that reason to content ourselves with a superficial view of the subject.

There are two or three other paragraphs of too little importance to require a refutation. The last and most elaborate of Mr. M.’s applications relates to the variations in the currency. He dissents from those who think that paper was depreciated no more than to the extent of the difference between its value and that of bullion; because, he says, when compared with labour, it had fallen to a greater extent. [P. 67.] Those, therefore, who think that Mr. Malthus has failed in proving that the value of labour is constant, will not be prevented, by any thing which is here stated (though here too there are tables [p. 75]) from attributing to labour, and not to the currency, the whole of the depreciation with respect to labour, over and above the difference between the market and mint prices of gold.


Arguing one of Bentham’s central tenets, the absurdity of some English legal practices, Mill in this letter comments on the quashing of cases on technical grounds. He refers to two accounts in the Morning Chronicle, “Police News. Hatton-Garden,” 9 Sept., p. 4, and “Police. Hatton-Garden,” 16 Sept., p. 4. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the Technicalities of English Law, wch. appeared in the Chronicle of 18th September 1823. Not signed.” (MacMinn, p. 3.)


In your Paper of Tuesday, the 9th of September, I observed a new instance of legal quashing. A number of bakers were brought up, on the charge of selling bread otherwise than by weight. It was discovered that the Magistrate’s name had not been inserted in the indictment, and in consequence of this omission, the charge fell to the ground. I also found in your Paper of Tuesday the 16th, a similar instance of quashing, because an illiterate informer, instead of writing the word afternoon, had written after-forenoon.1

If English law were really “the perfection of human reason,”2 no one would be acquitted, but because he was innocent—no one condemned, but because he was Edition: current; Page: [61] guilty. To praise a system under which men are acquitted on any ground, except the insufficiency of the evidence of guilt, implies either the grossest insincerity, or the most depraved understanding. All formalities which do not facilitate the attainment of truth, are utterly useless, and as they almost always enhance the trouble and expence, they amount to a tax upon justice, and frequently to the utter denial of it. To this we must add the complicated evils which ensue, if it be discovered that a formality has been omitted. The previous proceedings are invalidated, the chance of impunity to the guilty is increased, and additional trouble and expence are occasioned to the innocent, by the recommencement of proceedings which may already have cost them far more than they can bear.

Will any one assert that the omission of the Magistrate’s name in the indictment, renders it a whit more difficult to determine whether the parties are guilty or innocent? And if it does not, on what principle can the quashing of the indictment be justified?

But quashing is the favourite pastime of lawyers; nor is the motive difficult to divine. Every new indictment brings new fees into the pockets of Learned Gentlemen. Who can wonder, that a circumstance of such importance should outweigh in their minds the ruin of a thousand families.

Quashing is not confined to the prosecution of bakers for selling bread in an illegal manner. A law suit which has lasted for years may be rendered useless by the discovery that an insignificant formality has been omitted at the commencement. And so numerous are these formalities, that no inconsiderable proportion of the law proceedings which are instituted in this country terminate in that way. A gentleman may be deprived of his estate by the discovery of a technical flaw in his title; so frequently does this occur, that there are few estates, in Great Britain, the title to which is not liable to dispute, and Mr. Canning, in Parliament, spoke of an inquiry into the title deeds of estates as being one of the grossest iniquities which can be perpetrated.3

When it is proposed to substitute for the present confused and heterogeneous mass of statutes and cases, a Code constructed, not on a view of what has been done heretofore, but of what ought to be done hereafter—a cry is usually raised that such a reform would annihilate existing rights. Never was accusation more ill-founded, nor does any thing prove more conclusively than the currency which it has obtained, how readily mankind consent to take the opinions of the “constituted authorities” for gospel, on subjects upon which they may and ought to judge for themselves. The fact is, that the first step of an efficient reform of the law would be to pass an Act confirming and establishing all titles in which no flaw could be detected on a retrospect of a very limited number of years.

But now the omission of an unmeaning formality at a distance of forty or fifty Edition: current; Page: [62] years, may cast opulent families into the depth of poverty; and so far is the English law from securing rights, that every owner of land pays, at an average, 5 per cent. on his annual rent into the hands of lawyers, on account of the badness of the law. All this happens under a system which is, notwithstanding, “the perfection of human reason,” although its rules were all framed six or seven centuries ago, and although there is not one of them which, in accuracy, precision, or, if rigidly enforced, even in justice, rises one step above the level of the age in which it was composed.


This letter, like No. 19, employs a particular instance in support of an idea of Bentham’s, in this case the popular removal of judges (see his Draught of a New Plan for the Organization of the Judicial Establishment in France [1790], in Works, Vol. IV, p. 359). The case was that of Richard Battlebar, a tradesman, and Jane Ashwood, “a perfectly respectable woman” (Examiner, 14 Sept., 1823, p. 605), who were sentenced on 12 Sept. to one month’s imprisonment at the treadmill, on suspicion of indecent exposure, by Maurice Swabey (1785-1864), magistrate at Union Hall, Southwark. Mill picks up the argument of a letter to the Editor, “Revision of the Magistracy,” Morning Chronicle, 22 Sept., 1823, p. 4, signed “A True Friend of Morality and Social Order” (not “to Morality,” as Mill says). The case had occasioned much earlier comment in the Morning Chronicle: see 13 Sept., p. 4, 15 Sept., p. 3, and 16 Sept., p. 3 (a letter and a satirical poem, “Love and Justice”). Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the advantages of a judicial establishment consisting of judges removeable by the people, in the Chronicle of 24th [sic] September [1823.] Signed a Friend to Responsible Governments.” (MacMinn, p. 3.)


I perused with great satisfaction the Letter inserted in your Paper of Monday, the 22d, on Police Abuses, signed “A True Friend to Morality and Social Order.” One passage, however, in that very able Letter, appears to me objectionable. The writer recommends as a remedy for police abuses, that several of the individuals at present in the Magistracy should be removed.

Now, Sir, I am one of those who look at measures rather than men,1 and who reprobate the former when I conceive them to merit reprobation, without feeling any peculiar animosity against the latter. My appetite for change would be Edition: current; Page: [63] satisfied, if the welfare of the community were exclusively consulted, no matter whether by one man or another. I know that although some men will yield to a small temptation, while others cannot be moved but by a great one, yet upon the whole there are few exceptions, or rather none at all, to the principle that all men who have power will infallibly abuse it; a principle the truth of which every one admits with regard to other men, although each considers himself to be an exception. My object, therefore, is, to obtain securities for the good conduct of Legislators, Judges, and Ministers; not to substitute one set of men for another set, leaving to those whom you nominate the same facilities for abuse of power which were enjoyed by those whom you remove.

Unless the abuses of the judicial power are such as indicate a radically unsound and depraved intellect, there is no reason for removing the individual, although there is great reason for subjecting him to such responsibility as will effectually prevent the recurrence either of the same or of other abuses. And if there is no particular reason for removing him, there is always this reason against it, that the experience which he has acquired in the exercise of his office, gives him (ceteris paribus) an advantage over any unpractised candidate.

Now in the recent instances of police abuses, no greater weakness of intellect appears, than that which is evinced by sacrificing the public good to the desire of gratifying the whole, or some particular section of the Aristocracy. When Mr. White dismissed the complaint of Lady Caroline Lamb’s waiting-woman, on the word of her Ladyship’s husband, and expelled the Reporters from the Police Office because they had reported the woman’s story,2 it is easy to see that the feeling uppermost in the mind of the Worthy Magistrate was a desire of gratifying such Honourables and Right Honourables as may hereafter be pleased to quarrel with their servants. In like manner when Mr. Swabey consigned two low vulgar people to a month’s torture at the tread mill for indulging in gratifications which their superiors are suffered to enjoy without restraint, a discerning eye might detect in this specimen of Magisterial delicacy, a disposition to curry favour with a certain Society,3 and with the numerous and powerful portion of the Aristocracy by which that Society is patronized. And I am persuaded that this puerile ambition is at the bottom of almost every instance of injustice which is perpetrated in this country by what are called Courts of Justice as well as of Law, but which should only be termed Courts of Law.

Far be it from me to object the desire of pleasing great people to these Magistrates as a crime. It is the unavoidable result of their situation. In a country Edition: current; Page: [64] where there is an aristocracy interested in injustice, and where the judges are dependent upon the aristocracy, the judges will be unjust. Alter the circumstances, and they will be unjust no longer. Place the judicial office on such a footing that it shall not be necessary for them to conciliate the favour of the aristocracy, and that it shall be necessary for them to obtain that of the people; and then it will be no longer the interest of the aristocracy, but that of the people, which will be consulted. For the attainment of this object, I see no other expedient, than that of giving to the people, either immediately or through their representatives, the power of removing judges of all descriptions from their offices. Let the power be given, and the necessity for the exercise of it will rarely occur. If it be not given, then even if the popular voice made itself heard so strongly as to effect the removal of one or a few obnoxious magistrates, there would be no permanent good, for there would be no securities for good judicature, and as soon as the violent excitement of the public mind subsided, misgovernment would return with undiminished vigour.

A Friend to Responsible Governments


This letter may be read as a Radical corollary of James Mill’s “Government.” Many of its arguments appeared in J.S. Mill’s writings in this period (e.g., the assertion of an unlimited desire for power is also in No. 20). The signature “Quesnai” presumably alludes to François Quesnay (1694-1774), the French economist, who argued that the principle of general interest should govern the economic life of nations, and looked to liberty, security, and justice as the means to prosperity for all classes of society. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter signed Quesnai, on the consequences of denying the capacity of the people, in the Chronicle of 3d October 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

The difference between the Reformers and the Anti-Reformers of this country is, that the former are friends to a popular government, and the latter to an aristocracy.

The only ground on which Reform can stand, is the assumption that if the people had the power of choosing their representatives, they would make, if not the best, at least a good choice. This accordingly is the doctrine of the Reformers; and if this be true, it is evident that the question as to reform admits of no farther debate. The Anti-Reformers on the other hand, allege that the people are factious, turbulent, inimical to social order, and to the existence of property. On this ground they maintain that the existing form of Government, over which the people exercise no controul, and which is in the strictest sense of the word Aristocratical, should be preserved.

Let us grant to the Anti-Reformers, the full benefit of the assumption upon Edition: current; Page: [65] which their resistance to the Reformers is grounded. Let us admit that the people, if they had the choice of their Rulers, would infallibly make a bad choice, and so bad a choice, as to render the attainment of good Government in this mode utterly hopeless. That this would silence the claims of the Reformers is unquestionable. Let us examine, however, whether it is not equally unfavourable to the pretensions of their opponents.

It is indisputable, that if any person has the power of pillaging the people for his own benefit, and of forcing them to act in entire subservience to his interests, he will do so. This is implied in the common outcry against despotism. And if this be admitted of one man, it cannot be denied of any set of men less than the majority of the whole population. Against this propensity to pillage the people, and to reduce them to subservience, no check can be opposed, because the people alone have an interest in establishing a check; and the people, by supposition, are not to be trusted. All which can be done, is to vest unrestrained power in such hands, that the motive to abuse it shall be reduced within the narrowest possible limits.

Now it is evident, that as far as pillage is concerned, far less will suffice to satiate the rapacity of one man than of a thousand; and then, as to personal subservience, it is a smaller evil to serve one master than a great number. In so far, therefore, as the personal desires of the Sovereign are concerned, less mischief is likely to arise from the rule of one, than of an irresponsible few.

This appears at first sight inconsistent with history. But if we look back to the annals of despotism, we shall find that the oppressions which they exhibit have been severe exactly in proportion as the Monarch has been insecure. The tyrants in Greece were so sanguinary, only because they were in continual danger of being overthrown. The Pachas in Turkey plunder the people with such grinding extortion, only because they do not hold their office on a week’s tenure. In fact, it is evident, that if the Monarch were perfectly secure, perfectly certain of never being molested in the exercise of his power, he would be satisfied with extracting from the people such a portion of the annual produce of land and labour as would abundantly supply all his appetites and passions; and when there is but one man to satiate, this is but a small portion. Despotism would be very moderately oppressive, if the despot were perfectly secure, but not being so, he is under the necessity of purchasing support by the plunder of the people. He must maintain a large military force to compel passive obedience—a large ecclesiastical establishment to inculcate it.

But as this Army and this Priesthood will employ their power, not for him, but against him, unless he can make it their interest to do otherwise, he cannot support his dominion unless he satiates, not himself alone, but them, with the spoil of the people. Despotism, therefore, owes by far the greatest part of its mischievousness to the insecurity of the Monarch. If he could be made perfectly secure—if he were released, not only from all legal, but from all moral Edition: current; Page: [66] responsibility—if men could be persuaded, that to oppose the behest of their Sovereign, or even to speak of him or of his acts with any thing short of the most unbounded and submissive veneration, was a most important violation of morality—then the Monarchs would be to them nearly as a shepherd to his flock. He would oppress them no farther than by extorting from them the means of satiating every possible desire, and in every other respect, it would be decidedly his interest to leave them perfect freedom of action.

It appears then, that if the people are not to be trusted, the least bad of all possible Governments must be, that in which all the powers of Government are concentrated in the hands of one man, and when that man is entirely exempt from all controul, either from the laws of from public opinion, a more unlimited despotism than has ever yet existed in the world.

There would, it is true, be grave inconveniences attending on this form of government. First, pillage even by one man is an evil, but this is not the worst. An absolute King, having little or no motive to acquire distinguished intellect, weak Monarchs would frequently fill the throne; and although they would not oppress the people more than Monarchs of vigorous intellect, they would be less capable of protecting them from the aggressions of one another. But although the folly and weakness of the Monarch would prove highly mischievous, it could not produce such lamentable effects as infallibly arise from an aristocratic government, whose interest it is to extract from the people as much in every way as they can be prevailed on to part with, and who, in proportion as they are wiser and better instructed, will only pursue that interest with more unerring certainty.

Thus, then, it appears that, to a man who reasons consistently, there is no medium between advocating a popular government, and standing up for absolute despotism. If the people are capable of making a good choice, with them the choice ought to rest. If they are not capable, he with whom the general happiness is the regulating principle of his judgments, will stop no where short of the completest conceivable despotism. But, he who, while he professes a horror of absolute power, opposes all propositions tending to vest an effective checking power in the people—such a man leaves no inference to be drawn, save either that his reasoning faculty is in a deplorable state of depravation, or that he is blinded by being himself a member of the governing aristocracy, whose rule is far more inimical to happiness than a secure and unlimited despotism. Hobbes, who is branded by all Englishmen as the advocate of despotism, had this advantage over the anti-reformers of the present day, that he reasoned consistently from the principle of the incapacity of the people,1 which they equally with him adopt, but from which they reason only so far as suits the particular end which they have in view.

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This article is based on Bentham’s ideas as developed in James Mill’s “Prisons and Prison Discipline” (1823), written for the Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. VI, pp. 385-95. Both the quotation from and reference to the ideas in Prison Labour, Etc.: Correspondence and Communications Addressed to His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, Concerning the Introduction of Tread-Mills into Prisons (London: Nicol, 1823) by John Coxe Hippisley (1748-1825), M.P. for Sudbury, magistrate, actually derive from a letter to Hippisley of 7 June, 1823 (on pp. 23-66 of the work) from Dr. John Mason Good (1764-1867), physician and medical writer. The tread wheel (or treadmill) had been introduced to prisons only five years earlier, in 1818. Headed “Tread Wheel. [From a Correspondent.],” the unsigned article is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the atrocities of the Tread Wheel which appeared in the Globe & Traveller of 4th [sic] October 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

by the publication of Sir J.C. Hippisley’s work on Prison Discipline, the public attention has been called to the mischievous effects of a punishment which has been hailed as the great modern improvement in penal legislation—the Tread Wheel.

There are strong objections to the employment of labour, in any case, as a punishment. If we consider from what causes men are induced to commit that species of crimes which are most common—petty violations of property—it will be found that in the great majority of cases, it is aversion to labour which has been the operating motive. To prevent crime, means ought to be taken to counteract the painful associations which give rise to this aversion. For such a purpose no contrivance can be worse chosen than that of forcing labour, and that of the severest kind, upon the offender as a punishment.

When a poor man is at large, earning his bread by his exertions, unless his labour be excessive, there are many circumstances which tend to make it agreeable to him. It is to labour that he owes all the comforts and enjoyments of existence. By labour alone can he hope to advance himself in life and raise the prospects of his family. All this has not been sufficient to counteract his habits of indolence, for those habits have prevailed, and instead of labouring he has turned thief; and yet in order to cure him of his aversion to labour, he is placed in a situation where, instead of being the source of his enjoyments, it becomes an engine of unrequited misery to him, and of misery of the most intense description.

This objection applies strongly to all kinds of labour, when considered merely as a punishment; but most of all, to the tread-mill, the horrors of which, as described by Sir John Cox Hippisley, appear unequalled in the modern annals of legalized torture.

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I inspected the men as they descended in rotation from the wheel, at the end of the quarter of an hour’s task-work, and made room for fresh relays. Every one of them was perspiring—some in a dripping sweat. On asking them separately, and at a distance from each other, where was the chief stress of labour, they stated, in succession, and without the least variation, that they suffered great pain in the calf of the leg and in the ham; while most of them, though not all, complained of distress also in the instep. On examining the bottom of their shoes, it was manifest that the line of tread had not extended farther than from the extremity of the toes to about one-third of the bottom of the foot; for in several instances the shoes were new, and between this line and the heel altogether unsoiled—a fact, however, that was as obvious from the position of the foot while at work, as from the appearance of the shoe at rest. Several of the workers seemed to aim at supporting their weight by bringing the heel into action, the feet being twisted outwards; and on inquiring why this was not oftener accomplished, the reply was, that though they could gain a little in this way, it was with so painful a stress of the knees that they could only try it occasionally. The palms of their hands, in consequence of holding tight to the rail, were in every instance hardened, in many horny, in some blistered, and discharging water. The keeper, who accompanied us, admitted the truth of all these statements, and added that it was the ordinary result of the labour; and that use did not seem to render it less severe; for those who had been confined long appeared to suffer nearly or altogether as much as those who were new to the work.

[Pp. 31-2.]

Sir J.C. Hippisley also states on good medical authority, that this kind of labour has a strong tendency to produce varicose tumours and ruptures, also, that the tortuous attitude and uneasy motion totally deprive the prisoner of the healthful advantage of athletic exercise.

On the female prisoners the effects are of a still more serious and distressing nature, in as much, that in the greater number of counties where tread-wheel labour exists, it has not been deemed safe to extend it to females. Nor are these evils chimerical. Sir J. C. Hippisley mentions the particular prisons in which they have been experienced, and gives various details concerning the Cold-bath Fields House of Correction, for which we refer our readers to the work itself. [Pp. 33-7.]

It is true that the communications received from the Governors of the various prisons in which the tread-wheel is in use, in answer to the official circular of Mr. Peel, have not been in any great degree unfavourable to the tread-mill.1 The admissions, however, which they have made, and which are stated by Sir J.C. Hippisley, are fully sufficient to justify the inferences which Sir J. has drawn from them. And were it otherwise, Ilchester gaol has taught us not to judge of prison arrangements on the word of the prison authorities2—more especially of Edition: current; Page: [69] arrangements so well calculated as the tread-mill to be instruments of oppression in the hands of those authorities themselves.

Among other circumstances which essentially unfit the tread-mill to be a good engine of punishment is the extreme inequality of the labour; which, it is plain, does not admit of being proportioned with any exactness to the constitution and previous habits of the prisoner, nor can it be proportioned at all, without leaving much to the discretion of the gaoler. “A man who has been accustomed to running up stairs all his life, with good lungs and muscular legs, will scarcely suffer by it, while an asthmatic tailor, weaver, or other sedentary artisan, will be half killed by the exercise.”*

As if it had been endeavoured to devise a mode of punishment which should unite the fewest possible advantages, the tread-mill discipline, besides its cruelty, its inequality, and its injurious effects upon health, has not even the advantage of being an efficient kind of labour. There are many ways of turning a mill more advantageously than by human labour. Moreover, it does not, like the hand crank-mill, exercise the muscles which are of use in ordinary labour. It does not give those bodily habits which will render labour less irksome after release, while, as we have shown, it strongly tends to give such habits of mind as will render it more so. Nor is the tread-wheel labour efficient in the way of example. To be so, it should be visible to every eye. But it is unavoidably shut up within the walls of a prison, and can operate directly upon the minds of none but the prisoners.

Let it not be inferred, however, that we are adverse to the employment of labour in prison discipline. Labour, not tread-wheel labour, but mild, and at the same time efficient and productive labour, though highly unfit for purposes of punishment, is the best of all engines of reformation. But these two kinds of discipline must be kept entirely separate. The object of punishment is to inflict pain—pain sufficient to counteract the motives to vice. The object of reformatory discipline is to break pernicious habits, and to substitute useful ones. If, as has been observed, the habit which brings criminals to gaol is usually an aversion to labour, the grand object of reformatory discipline should be to destroy that aversion. The mode of destroying it is not by making labour an engine of torture. It is by making it a source of pleasure; by suffering the labourer to partake of the fruits of his labour, and that in sufficient quantity to make him think of labour with some degree of pleasure. It is evident, then, that if punishment, which is intended merely as an infliction of pain, be mixed up with reformatory discipline, which can be made effectual only by rendering the condition of the prisoner a state of pleasure, either the one of these two objects must be entirely sacrificed to the other, or the ends of both must be incompletely Edition: current; Page: [70] and inefficiently attained. In fact, we think that nearly all the failures which have taken place in the organization of prison arrangements, may be attributed to an ignorance of this fundamental rule, that punishment and reformation are two different objects, and as such, should be kept distinct: a position which appears to have occurred to no writer antecedent to the publication of the article “Prisons” in the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which, for farther illustrations we beg to refer our readers.


This letter, reflecting Mill’s continuing interest in Benthamite law reform and his tutoring in the preceding year by John Austin (1790-1859), Benthamite disciple and close acquaintance of the Mills, appears to have no occasional cause. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” it is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the practicability of reform in the law, which appeared in the Chronicle of 8th October 1823. Not signed.” (MacMinn, p. 4.)


That numerous and powerful body, the practising Lawyers, whose opinions the public adopt far too implicitly on the subject of Legislation, have an evident interest in the permanence of the confused and unintelligible mass which now bears the name of law in this country. In proportion as the law is complicated, the influence of the only class who can interpret it must increase; and it is as little to be expected that Lawyers should advocate the adoption of an intelligible system of law, as it was in the time of the Reformation, that the Priests should consent to suffer the Laity to peruse the sacred volume.

We need not therefore be surprised that lawyers should have a number of fallacies at command, with which they combat all attempts at reform in the law. Of these dicta, one of the most frequent is, that it is impossible to devise general rules which shall include all particular cases.

This notion originates in a confusion between questions of law and questions of fact. The latter are innumerable: there is no one case which in all its circumstances exactly resembles another case. It is therefore impracticable to make rules for the decision of all questions of fact. But the questions of law which arise may easily be reduced under a very small number of heads.

Let us consider on what questions every law-suit must necessarily turn. In civil cases the subject of the dispute is, to which of two persons a particular right belongs. Each of them, in order to prove the justice of his claim, affirms that one of those events has happened which give commencement to the right; in the case of an article of property, for instance, that he has bought it, inherited it, and the like. His adversary either denies this event, or affirms that another event has Edition: current; Page: [71] occurred, which gives termination to the right, that he has sold the property, or forfeited it by some subsequent transaction. The question of fact, therefore, is, whether the alleged events have happened, which of course must be determined by the evidence. The questions of law are, in the first place, what the right is; and next, whether the alleged events, supposing them to have happened, are of the number of those which commence, or which terminate the right?

The problem, therefore, of making a Civil Code, consists of two parts. It must be determined what rights it is expedient to create; and it must be determined what events shall give commencement, and what shall give termination to a man’s enjoyment of the rights.

Neither of these is surely an impossible task. A right is the permission, granted by the law, to make a particular use of a person or of a thing. Now it may surely be determined what uses a man shall be suffered to make of his property, what rights he shall be allowed to exercise over his servants, his family, &c.; and reciprocally, what services they shall have the power of exacting from him. The events also, on the occurrence of which these rights shall begin or terminate, may surely be defined. These are, the modes of acquiring and of losing property, and the like.

To determine all these questions is to make a civil code, which will apply to every individual case that can be conceived; since there is no case in which, when the state of the facts is ascertained, the dispute can turn on any question, except the extent of a right, the facts which confer the right, or the facts which take it away.

Nor is it more difficult to construct a body of penal legislation which shall extend to all cases whatever. All rights having been defined, it only remains to assign an appropriate punishment to every violation of those rights.

It appears, then, that there is not that inherent impossibility in devising general rules to fit particular cases, which is affirmed by lawyers to exist. Moreover, it is evident that in all cases which are not left absolutely to the discretion of the Judge, whenever any rule is consulted, even if one decision is made a rule for another, this is applying a general rule to a particular case. The Judge says, A shall enjoy a certain right, in consequence of a certain event; because, Sir Matthew Hale says,1 that this event is sufficient to confer the right; or because Lord Chief Justice somebody declared in the case B versus C, that B became entitled to enjoy the same right, in consequence of the same event. Is it not evident that in both these cases, the Judge is deciding according to a general rule laid down by his predecessors, that the event in question shall always confer the right in question? So that the dispute between the Lawyers and the Reformers of the Law, is not whether it is possible to devise general rules, for this is done by Edition: current; Page: [72] both parties alike; but whether these general rules shall be fixed or variable; and whether they shall be formed upon the universal experience of mankind,—in other words, upon philosophic principles, or upon an induction of one or two instances only,—in other words upon precedents and cases.


This letter is in response to the speech on 9 Oct. to the Chester Whig Club by Colonel William Lewis Hughes (1767-1852), M.P. for Wallingford (1806-31), reported in the Morning Chronicle, 13 Oct., 1823, p. 2, in which Hughes was at pains to put distance between the terms “Whig” and “Radical, and Rebel.” In the passage referred to by Mill, Hughes said, “We seek no new institutions—we claim only for the people their inalienable rights,” a remark galling to the Philosophic Radicals. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on Old and New Institutions signed ‘No Worshipper of Antiquity,’ which appeared in the Chronicle of 17th October 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

In Colonel Hughes’s late speech at the Chester Whig Meeting, most of the principles of which meet with my warmest approbation, I however find one passage to which I cannot agree. The Colonel disclaims a wish to introduce new institutions, and only wishes to restore the Constitution to its pristine purity.

I am well aware that this is the ordinary language of those with whom Reform is only the watchword of a party—of those who wish for the removal only of trifling abuses, leaving untouched those great ones in which all the others originate. But that such a man as Colonel Hughes should give in to this cant is what, certainly, I did not expect.

I am one of those, Sir, who are friends, and not enemies to innovation; for I wish to see the human race well governed—which would certainly be the greatest of innovations. All history proves, that in every nation of the earth, the powers of Government have uniformly been monopolized in the hands of a privileged few, who, accordingly, never failed to abuse those powers for the benefit of themselves and of their connections, with only one difference, that of old, when the public were far more ignorant and prejudiced than they now are, misgovernment was proportionally more flagrant.

We are told of the wisdom of our ancestors. Let us look back to what by an abuse of terms is called venerable antiquity, and which in fact was the nonage of the world; let us consider for a moment who and of what use were these ancestors, whom it is incumbent on us in the nineteenth century to reverence and worship. Those sages who firmly believed, that St. Dunstan tweaked the evil Edition: current; Page: [73] spirit by the nose,1 that Aves and Credos, holy water, and the relics of saints were infallible safeguards in the hour of danger, and that a comet or an eclipse portended the ruin of an Empire—those worthies, whose brutality and licentiousness mastered every good feeling, and yielded only to slavish reverence for ascetic and bigotted Priests. Such “ancestors” as these are indeed worthy of being held up as patterns for us their degenerate “sons.” Why are we not also required, in imitation of them, to put thousands to death by the most excruciating torments, for heresy, magic, witchcraft and sorcery?

Let us consider for one moment what would have been the consequence, if reverence for our ancestors had prevented us from adopting improvements in the physical, as it has in the moral sciences. We should never then have been initiated into the wonders of chemistry and of natural philosophy. We should never have seen the air pump, the spinning jenny, or the steam engine. No canals, no bridges, should we have had; and our roads would have remained inferior to the worst lanes of the present day. The press, and all the wonders which it has produced, would never have had existence.

It were indeed strange, if at that period of our history, when all the other arts and sciences were in their infancy—when the earth was believed to be a flat surface in the centre of the universe, and the sea to flow round its outer circumference—when the philosopher’s stone and the universal medicine were the only objects of chemistry, and to foretel events by the stars, the sole purpose of astronomy; when wool, the only material of clothing, was carded and spun by hand, and when navigators rarely trusted themselves out of sight of the shore. It were strange, I say, if a people among whom these things were, should, amid all their ignorance, superstition, and barbarism, have taken enlarged views of human nature and of human society—should have foreseen all possible modes of oppression, and have provided efficient securities against all—should, in a word, have established a Constitution which could secure in perpetuity the blessings of good government to mankind.

Happily we are much wiser than our ancestors; it were a shame if we were not, seeing that we have all their experience, and much more in addition to it. We look back with contempt upon all which they did in the field of physical and mechanical knowledge. It is only in moral and political science that we are not ashamed to bow submission to their authority.

This will not appear strange, if it be considered what influence the ruling few Edition: current; Page: [74] must necessarily exercise over the opinions and feelings of the subject many. The few profit by the existing Government; if a better were substituted, they would cease to receive more than their due share of the benefit.

Sir James Mackintosh, in his Vindiciae Gallicae ([2nd ed.,] p. 120n), makes the following observations:

Mechanics, because no passion or interest is concerned in the perpetuity of abuse, always yield to scientific improvement. Politics, for the contrary reason, always resist it. It was the remark of Hobbes, that if any interest or passion were concerned in disputing the theorems of geometry, different opinions would be maintained regarding them. It has actually happened (as if to justify the remark of that great man), that under the administration of Turgot, a financial reform, grounded on a mathematical demonstration, was derided as visionary nonsense. So much for the sage preference of practice to theory.2

One word more on innovation. They who do not fall into the egregious absurdity of throwing indiscriminate censure upon innovation, as if it were a necessary inference—because a thing is new, therefore it is bad; but who, nevertheless, wish to keep some measures with those who raise the cry against improvement; these half-and-half-men frequently repel the charge of loving innovation, by giving us to understand that they do not love it for its own sake. A most extraordinary merit, in truth! I will venture to affirm, that I have never yet either seen or heard of any one who loved innovation for its own sake. I have seen men who desired to effect pernicious innovations; but it was always from a view of some real or imaginary good, either to society, or to themselves individually.

To conclude, whenever I hear the cry against innovation, I always presume that the cause, in defence of which it is raised, is a bad one. For I am sure, that if it were a good one, its advocates could find some more substantial reason in its defence than merely the antiquity of the opinions which favour it, and the novelty of contrary opinions. And I cannot but consider, that he who, like Colonel Hughes, has a good cause to defend, calculates very ill if he avails himself of an argument which will serve a bad cause with as much success as a good one, when so many cogent arguments may be drawn from the real merits of the case.

No Worshipper of Antiquity
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This letter glosses “Liberty of the Subject,” a letter by “Vindex” (of St. John’s Square), dated 20 Oct., that appeared in the Morning Chronicle of 23 Oct., p. 4. (In that letter Vindex, the employer of the boy sent to the treadmill, refers to his earlier letter, “Unjustifiable Conduct of a Constable,” which was sent to the Morning Chronicle, but not published.) Rogers, the magistrate, is linked by Mill with Maurice Swabey (see No. 20), the quashing of whose convictions is reported in “The Late Convictions under the Vagrant Act,” The Times, 20 Oct., 1823, p. 3. The apprehension of “reputed thieves” by a constable was provided for by 3 George IV, c. 55, Sect. 21 (1822), an addition to the Temporary Vagrancy Act, 3 George IV, c. 40 (1822). Mill’s letter, signed “The Censor of the Judges” as is No. 16, is headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the practice of sending reputed thieves to the treadmill, signed the Censor of the Judges, which appeared in the Chronicle of 29th [sic] October 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

The case which was communicated to you by your correspondent Vindex, on Thursday the 23d instant, is worthy of attention, as a specimen of the paternal solicitude of Magistrates for the safety of our property. A boy was seen by a petty constable in the street looking at a game at marbles. For this heinous offence, he was carried before the sitting magistrate, Mr. Rogers; and on the oath of the constable that he was a reputed thief (although his master was so entirely ignorant of his true character, as to speak highly in his praise), he was sent by Mr. Rogers to solace himself at the Tread Mill.

This vigilant Magistrate probably took example from one of the Swabey convictions, recently quashed at the Kingston Sessions. On a public occasion, an individual was seen in a crowd by a police officer. He was not, indeed, attempting to commit any criminal act, by the confession of the officer he was merely standing in the crowd like any one else. But then the officer knew him to be a reputed thief, or, at least, to keep company with reputed thieves: besides, on searching his pockets, he discovered a pair of scissors, inclosed in a sheath, whereupon he carried him before that active guardian of public morals, Mr. Swabey, by whom he was sent to the Tread-mill, under the Vagrant Act.

Some incredulous critics, indeed, have presumed to insinuate that a reputed thief means a person thought or said to be a thief, and that it is somewhat hard to punish a man for being so unfortunate as to fall under suspicion; they have farther ventured to hint that a man may have an enemy, sufficiently unprincipled to affirm, in the hearing of an officer, that he is a thief; or that, in a moment of irritation, any one may apply to him that name; and that, in all these cases, an officer of little discernment might, with a safe conscience, swear him to be a reputed thief. Nay, these sceptical reasoners have carried their audacity so far, as Edition: current; Page: [76] to doubt whether the veracity of a police officer always deserves implicit confidence; seeing that he has a strong interest in perjury, as a means of acquiring (not to speak of bribes), a character for zeal and activity, without the trouble of hunting out real offenders; seeing, moreover, that he may perjure himself with perfect safety, since it is utterly impossible for any one to prove that he is not a reputed thief.

But Mr. Swabey and Mr. Rogers are well aware that scepticism is an infallible sign of a narrow understanding. Superior to vulgar prejudices, they know how to place a proper degree of confidence in the virtue of mankind: and indeed it were strange, if that perfect veracity which so eminently distinguishes watchmen, did not extend to their fellow labourers in the cause of social order, the police officers.

With all due deference, however, to such high authorities, I cannot help thinking that this anxiety to punish reputed thieves implies an incapability of detecting real ones. If the perpetrators of every offence were duly brought to trial and punished, is it not clear that every one who is convicted as a reputed thief would, if innocent, be punished for no crime at all, and, if guilty, be punished twice for the same offence? One of two things, therefore, is the case—either the punishing of reputed thieves is utterly absurd and wicked; or the state of the law is such, that crimes frequently escape detection and punishment.

The case is, that the laws against theft are so disproportionately severe, that out of ten who are robbed, nine are unwilling to prosecute; that the expences of the law are so enormous, that out of a hundred who are willing to prosecute, ninety-nine have it not in their power; and, lastly, that be the fact as clear as the sun at noon-day, it is much more than an even chance that the thief escapes by a quibble.

To remove these obstacles, the wise framers of the Vagrant Act permit summary convictions, not for actual, but for reputed theft. There is ingenuity in the contrivance; but I venture to submit as a sort of insinuation, whether it would not be better to remove the obstacles to the detection of criminals, by mitigating the Penal Code, by abolishing law taxes,1 by simplifying the law so that hired advocates shall not be needed, and by abolishing all the absurd fictions, all the quirks and quibbles, by which justice is so often eluded in the English Courts of Law.

They will not do this; it would hurt the interest of Learned Gentlemen. But to see men of unblemished character treading at the mill for being reputed by a Police officer to be thieves, neither hurts their interests nor their feelings. When Edition: current; Page: [77] will the public learn to think for themselves, instead of trusting to those who are interested in deceiving them?

The Censor of the Judges

LANCET, 9 NOV., 1823, PP. 214-16

This article gives early indication of Mill’s participation in the nature vs. nurture debate, in which he enlisted on the side of education and environment, without endorsing the views of the necessitarians or Owenites. The case here referred to is that of John Thurtell (1794-1824), who murdered a fellow-swindler, William Weare, on 24 Oct., 1823, and was hanged on 9 Jan., 1824. Mill’s reference to “students of our profession” is surely a guise intended to associate his argument with the concerns of medicine (or it may have been added by the editor); he had no medical training, and his brief legal training is not specially germane. The article, Mill’s only contribution to the Lancet, the (initially) weekly radical medical journal, is headed “[From a Correspondent] / The Late Murder / Effects of Gambling,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the evil consequences of gaming which appeared in the Lancet of 9th November 1823”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

when human nature exhibits, as she occasionally does, an example of all kinds of wickedness concentrated in one man, we feel a melancholy interest in looking back upon the events of his life, and tracing the various circumstances which, by their conspiring influence, formed his mind to guilt, and eradicated all those associations, or prevented them from being formed, which cause an ordinary character to shudder at the thought of shedding the blood of a fellow creature.

Indolent and superficial reasoners would willingly arrest the inquiring mind in the search after those hidden causes by which the human character is formed. If a shocking instance of depravity presents itself to their notice, they do not say. That man was an idler, a drunkard, or a gamester; but That man was naturally of a bad disposition: as if men were robbers and murderers by constitution, and gave proof in the cradle of the atrocities which they were destined to commit.

With what face can a man who believes in innate depravity, hold up the fate of a murderer as an example, and warn all who are witnesses of it, to beware of the vices which conduct men to such an end? As consistently might a believer in fatality enlarge upon the necessity of obeying the dictates of prudence. The person to whom the admonition is addressed, might well reply, that it is unnecessary, since, if his nature is corrupt, it is in vain to struggle against it; but if he has a natural disposition to virtue, all exhortation to follow that disposition is superfluous. This doctrine, therefore, must raise up a blind confidence in the minds of the innocent, and must prevent them from taking the necessary Edition: current; Page: [78] precautions against those baneful habits which lead to vice: while they, who have already entered into the downhill path of wickedness, are prevented from a timely reform, by the thought that all their efforts would be unavailing.

Nor is the doctrine which we are combating less unfounded than mischievous. It is truly astonishing upon how little evidence this opinion has obtained currency in the world—such currency that the phraseology to which it has given rise, is, perhaps, equally universal with the use of language. It remains yet to be proved, that men are born either virtuous or wicked—either predisposed to morality or to vice. The only proof which it has ever been attempted to assign, is the enormous difference which exists between the most virtuous and the most vicious of men. The differences of character are indeed great; but so are the differences of external circumstances. And as it is generally admitted that circumstances often overcome the effect of natural predisposition, while no proof has ever been given that natural predisposition can overcome external circumstances: we are at liberty to conclude, that in ascribing to any person a natural and original disposition to vice, men are following the very common practice of representing as natural that which is only habitual, merely because they do not recollect its beginning, and will not take the trouble to inquire into its cause.

If, then, wickedness is not the effect of nature, but of external circumstances, that inquiry cannot fail to be interesting, which traces up that complicated and lamentable effect to the several causes which produced it. But most of all will such an inquiry be valuable, if it points out to us as the original root of all the evil, not some circumstances peculiar to the guilty individual, but habits and practices common to him with a great number; and which, although they do not conduct their votaries either to equal depravity or to equal punishment, infallibly bring about a radical corruption of character, and lead them continually to the brink of the most atrocious crimes.

Our readers will have long ago anticipated the subject of our present observations. The principal perpetrator of the late murder, John Thurtell, was a murderer only after he had been a gamester, and only, as it appears, because he had been a gamester.

The process by which gaming effects so complete a corruption of the character is two-fold. First, It reduces the gamester, not gradually, but suddenly, to that necessitous state where the temptation to crime is the strongest. Secondly, There is no practice capable of being pointed out, which so entirely roots out all good habits, and implants in their stead so many bad ones.

We are satisfied that if the unfortunate men who are executed for theft, or forgery, were interrogated concerning the original and primary cause of the distress which occasioned the crime, it would be found, in a great proportion of instances, that this distress was brought on by gaming. But it is not even by the distress which it creates, and the temptation which it frequently holds out to Edition: current; Page: [79] crime, that this destructive vice produces its worst effects. A mind which experiences the agonizing vicissitudes of the gaming table, soon becomes so habituated to strong excitement, that, like the body of the habitual drunkard, it is insensible to every stimulus of a gentler kind. It is totally and for ever unfitted to resume habits of diligence and industry; and the habits which it has acquired are in themselves, such as, above all others, tend to produce crime. Continually liable to perish by starvation, the gamester does not consider his perils much enhanced when, to be released from that danger, he exposes himself to the terrors of the law. And the habit of relying upon chance makes him trust to the chance of escape, even when the possibility is next to nothing. In no other way can the apparent coolness and indifference of Thurtell be accounted for, where it must be evident that the chance of escaping detection scarcely deserved the name of a possibility.

It is a question well deserving of consideration, how far Government or its officers are justified in any direct interference to prevent these practices. It would be a chimerical expectation, that the vice of gaming could be eradicated by positive enactment. But there can be no doubt, that public gaming-houses contribute greatly to the encouragement of this vice. Unwary persons, perhaps, recently arrived in London, (and we particularly address our observations to students of our profession,) and not yet aware of the dangers to which they are exposed, are frequently entrapped, and carried into one of these houses, where they are made drunk, cheated of their money, and, perhaps, by frequent repetition, reduced to poverty, while they contract, at the same time, inveterate habits of gaming. We think that the exertions used for the suppression of these houses are not by any means so active as they ought to be. Many notorious hot-beds of vice are still permitted to exist; and we are convinced, that upon diligent inquiry, their existence would be found to be connived at by the police officers, who have no interest in diminishing the number of offences, though they have in obtaining possession of the persons of the offenders. We think that Mr. Dyer, Mr. Swabey, and Mr. Rogers, would be better employed in extirpating this nuisance, than by sending respectable men to the tread-mill for having the misfortune to be taken ill in Hyde Park,1 or for being considered by police officers “reputed thieves.”2

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BLACK DWARF, 27 NOV., 1823, PP. 748-56

This letter is the first of four by Mill to Thomas Jonathan Wooler (1786?-1853), editor and publisher of the populist weekly Black Dwarf, an opponent of the Malthusian principles and practices that Mill had adopted to the point of being arrested for distribution of birth-control literature (probably in May 1823). Mill takes exception to the second part of Wooler’s “Inquiry into the Principles of Population,” printed in two instalments: the first (including a letter by Francis Place, who was responsible for the printing of the Neo-Malthusian literature Mill had distributed) in Black Dwarf, 12 Nov., 1823, pp. 661-3, and the second ibid., 19 Nov., pp. 693-706. The page references in the text are to this second part. For further stages in the controversy, see Nos. 28, 31, and 32. The letter, headed as title, is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on the necessity of checking population, which appeared in the Black Dwarf of November 20th [sic] 1823, signed A.M.”

(MacMinn, p. 4).

Although I do not agree in the view which you take of the important subject of population, I cannot sufficiently applaud your liberality in leaving your pages open to the discussion of the question; a degree of toleration, which, I am sorry to say, few persons who take your side of this question, can be prevailed on to allow. I hasten to avail myself of this liberty of discussion, for the purpose of combating the objections which you stated in your last number against the plan of checking population [pp. 695-9]; objections which appear to me founded on a mistaken view of the circumstances upon which the condition of the labouring classes depends.

It is unnecessary for me to prove, that the working people are in a state of miserable poverty, since you admit this, and have long been exerting yourself for the benevolent purpose of improving their condition. We differ only as to the cause of the distress; which I maintain to be, excess of population, as compared with the means of subsistence. You, on the contrary, affirm, that population has no tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence; and that misgovernment is the only cause of the distressed condition of the working classes.

I should be very sorry to extenuate the miseries of misgovernment. I am, equally with yourself, a friend to a Radical Reform in the Commons House of Parliament;—and if I could believe, as you appear to do, that such a Reform can only be effected by keeping the people in poverty, I should perhaps hesitate to urge the plan of checking population, until after a Reform should have been obtained. But I cannot agree with you, that the working classes will not reform the government unless they are miserable. On the contrary, I think that so long as they are in poverty, Reform may be delayed for an unlimited period; but if they were in the receipt of high wages, they would have leisure to turn their attention to the abuses of government; and those abuses could not fail of being speedily reformed.

Edition: current; Page: [81]

I.—You maintain that population has no tendency to increase beyond the means of subsistence. [Pp. 694-6.] I feel convinced that you are entirely mistaken; but this is a question of some complication; and although I shall be ready to discuss it whenever you please, the practical conclusion, as far as regards the poor man may be shown without making it depend on this question; and to this point attention is now requested.

You admit the fact of the distress; but you ascribe it to misgovernment [pp. 697-8, 703, 705]; meaning, I presume, over-taxation. Now over-taxation cannot lower wages. It may, indeed, you will say, raise the prices of the necessaries of life. It will thus injure the working classes as much as if it operated directly to reduce wages. I shall not enter into this question at present. I shall concede the point. But I hope to convince you that it does not affect the question. I admit, for argument’s sake, that the present rate of wages is such as would enable the labourer to live in comfort and happiness, but for the pressure of taxation.

My argument remains the same:—the labourer is now in distress. If he had double his present wages, with only the same amount of taxation, he would be in distress no longer. Now each man would have double his present wages, if the numbers of the people had not been too rapidly increased.

Does not every working man know, that his employer would give him higher wages, if he were not sure of obtaining as many men as he wants at the present rates? And is it not clear that he could not obtain men, if men in sufficient quantity and out of employment, were not to be had?

There is now a certain quantity of employment. There are as many men as can be employed, and more; for there is a great number of men out of work. These men, who are out of work, must either starve, or agree to take lower wages than their neighbours. The consequence is, that wages are low, and employment being regarded as a favor, the working man is often compelled to submit to incivility and insolence from his employer.

Suppose that, instead of excess, there was a deficiency of labourers. At present a capitalist can always obtain workmen, but a workman cannot always find an employer. Suppose this order of things reversed: suppose that there were fewer men than are wanted for the purpose of production. All the labourers would then be fully employed, and as more would be wanted than it would be possible to procure, some capitalists, in order to allure the men from their former employers, would offer high wages; this would compel the former employers to do the same. Wages would therefore be high, and employment would no longer be considered as a favor, but on the contrary, a labourer would be doing a favor to a capitalist, by working for him, and the capitalists would be compelled to treat their workmen well.

I infer that it is always wise in the labourers, to keep down their numbers a little below the means of employment. No men would then be ever out of work; the difficulty of procuring workmen would compel the capitalists to offer high Edition: current; Page: [82] wages, and this they would do in spite of any law to the contrary, however severe that law might be.

If then so much good is to be done by keeping down the numbers of the working people, the only question is, between one mode of keeping them down, and another. It is for the people themselves to decide. For my own part, I consider the plan of checking population, to be that which unites the most advantages with the fewest disadvantages.

All this, you see, does not depend in any degree upon the tendency of population to increase beyond the means of subsistence. It depends upon nothing but what every working man must know: that if there were fewer men, there would not be any men out of work; and that if there were no men out of employment, the men who are in employment could make their own terms with the capitalists.

II.—You say, that it would be better to take off the taxes than to diminish the population.1 I too am desirous that the taxes should be taken off: but if there were no taxes upon the working classes at all, there would be as many men out of employment as before: although they who are employed would be better off as long as their present wages continued; but, as there would still be more labourers than could obtain employment, the same process of bidding at lower wages against one another would continue, and wages speedily be reduced again to the lowest possible amount; reduced too, observe, by the competition of the working people themselves. Besides, when a mode of benefiting the working classes, viz. by limiting their numbers, is pointed out, it is no answer to point to another mode of benefiting them, viz. by taking off the taxes: for this, unfortunately, you have not yet in your power, (and yet there is no reason why the people should be kept miserable in the interim:) and besides, if you had, why not do both?

I cannot agree in the sentiments which you express in the following sentence; “We do not wish men to be comfortable, if they could be so for a period under a bad system.” [P. 705.] I do wish men to be comfortable, whether under a bad system or a good one. What is it that constitutes a bad system, if it is not the discomfort which it produces. Good government is not the end of all human actions. Though a highly important means, it is still only a means, to an end: and that end is happiness.

I admit that I should desire for the people something more than merely good clothing and plenty of food. But it remains to be shewn that their chance of obtaining that something more, will be in any degree diminished by their being well fed and clothed. I feel confident that it will be increased. Until they are well fed, they cannot be well instructed: and until they are well instructed, they cannot emancipate themselves from the double yoke of priestcraft and of reverence for superiors.

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Placed as is your observation, just quoted, among many others of similar import, I cannot but view it as a sort of acknowledgment, that the people would be made more comfortable by limiting their numbers. If they, too, can be convinced of this, I have no fear of their hesitating to adopt the means from apprehension of its retarding the epoch of a Radical Reform.

A circumstance which appears to weigh with you, is, that you think the plan of checking population a device of the rich to oppress the poor. [P. 705.] So far is this from being the case, that it is entirely contrary to the interests of the rich that any check to population should come into general adoption.

It is the interest of the master manufacturers, that a great number of hands should readily offer themselves at low wages. Now I have shewn, that if the numbers of the people were limited to a sufficient degree, wages would be high, and workmen could not always be readily obtained.

III.—You say, “Wages have decreased in England, in a ratio with the accumulation of capital; not because there are too many labourers, but because capital, being the ruling principle, can compel them to labour upon its own conditions.” [P. 701.] It is true, that when the population is excessive, the capitalist can lose nothing by dismissing him—that another man, of equal bodily powers, will immediately offer himself at the same, or even lower wages,—he is forced to cringe to his master, and submit to any indignity rather than be turned out. If labourers were few in comparison to the demand for them—if labour, and not employment for labour, were the article in request:—if every working man knew that when dismissed he could easily obtain employment, while his master could not so readily obtain another labourer, he would then be as independent as his employer.

Look at North America! Is the labourer there the slave of the capitalist? You will say, this is owing to good government. To prove the contrary, I refer you to the English colonies, to Nova Scotia, for instance; and the English colonies are among the worst governed countries in the universe. Yet in Nova Scotia the labourer is highly paid, and perfectly independent; nor does any rich man dare to oppress or insult him. This is only because there is a deficiency of labourers, below the number which capitalists wish to employ.

In some parts of the south of France, the working people are well paid, and well provided with necessaries and comforts. This I affirm from my own observation.2 There however, population is regulated. Yet there the government is not good. The same is the case is some parts of the Austrian dominions, under one of the most despotic governments upon record. In both these countries the people are kept, through the efforts of bad government, in a state of great mental degradation, and consequently unable to avail themselves of the advantages they Edition: current; Page: [84] might otherwise possess, which in time they will possess, and which the people of this country might almost immediately possess.

Not only the master manufacturer but the landowner also, has an interest in over-population. A large population implies a high state of cultivation, and dear corn. Now a high price of corn is the cause of high rents; an highly cultivated farm will yield an increased rent at the expiration of the lease. Both sections of the rich—the landowners and manufacturers—are thus interested in the excessive population; the former for high rents; the latter for low wages, and high profits.

Nor is this all. Both landlords and manufacturers have an obvious interest in keeping the working classes in a state of abject poverty. These gentlemen know that while the great body of the people are compelled to work fourteen hours a day, they cannot turn their attention to the abuses of the government. They can neither instruct themselves, nor send their children to be instructed. From want of leisure, their thinking powers can never be sufficiently developed, to repel the prejudices which make them the slaves of priests and kings.

So long as excess of population was regarded as an irremediable evil, the doctrine was taken up and patronized by the aristocracy: who wished the people to infer, that misgovernment was but a trivial evil, and that it was idle to oppose it, since the lower classes must always be in poverty, under a good, or under a bad government. But now that remedy is pointed out, for excess of population; a remedy, which, if adopted, would produce high wages, and would enable the people to instruct themselves, and to reform their government; I venture to predict that the rich, but above all, the clergy will do all in their power to prevent the adoption of the plan, so well calculated to elevate the scale of being. As soon as they shall perceive that it is coming into use, they will rail against it in the pulpit, will persecute in every possible way, and without mercy all whom they suspect to have made use of it. But all their efforts will be useless; and if the superstitions of the nursery are discarded, we may hope ere long to see the English people well paid, well instructed, and eventually well governed.

IV.—I have only room to say a few words against the objection that this plan is a violation of the laws of nature. [Pp. 700, 705.] Those laws are no more violated by checking population than by any other mode of turning to useful purposes the properties of matter. It is not in the power of man, a being of limited faculties, to violate the laws of nature. But he can avail himself of one law to counteract another. It is a law of nature that the sexual intercourse, if not artificially prevented, occasions the generation of children. But it is also a law of nature, that man shall seek happiness; and that he shall avail himself, for that purpose, of other laws of nature.

You say, in a former article; “With all due deference to those who wish to keep down the population to the means of subsistence, I think this might be very safely left to Providence which has spread so plentiful a table for all his Edition: current; Page: [85] creatures:”3 and in a later article; “We can trust the Ruler of all things, not only with ‘his sky’ but all the principles which he has called into action, to regulate themselves.”4

You do not trust the Almighty with “his sky.” You do not indeed prevent the rain from falling at unseasonable times: the true reason of which I take to be that you cannot. But you do all in your power to shelter yourself from its fall: you put up an umbrella, and cover your house with a roof, to prevent the rain, which Providence has sent, from injuring your person or your property. The charge of violating the laws of nature may thus be retorted upon yourself. To check population is not more unnatural than to make use of an umbrella. If either of these operations is a counteraction of the designs of Providence, both are equally so. Again, when you speak of leaving to Providence the care of checking population, you seem not to be aware of the length to which this argument may be carried. A man who leaves every thing to Providence, will not succeed in many of his undertakings. “God helps those who help themselves:” and you might as well leave to Providence the care of producing food, as that of preventing either the waste or useless consumption of it.


BLACK DWARF, 10 DEC., 1823, PP. 791-8

This is the second of Mill’s responses to the opinions of Thomas Wooler (see No. 27). Wooler had replied to No. 27 in “The Black Dwarf to ‘A.M.’ against the Preventive System,” Black Dwarf, 3 Dec., 1823, pp. 772-83, to which the interpolated page numbers refer. Headed “Question of Population / Arguments of the Anti-Populationists,” the letter is subheaded “To the Editor of the Black Dwarf,” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A second letter on the same subject which appeared in the Black Dwarf of December 10th 1823, signed A.M.”

(MacMinn, p. 5).

I have perused with attention your reply to my former letter on the plan of regulating the numbers of the people; and I proceed to state the reasons which induce me, notwithstanding all which you have said, to adhere to my former opinion, that any increase of population beyond the actual increase of the means of subsistence and employment, would be highly injurious to the labouring classes, by whatever circumstances the increase of the subsistence may be promoted or retarded.

Before replying, however, to your objections, I think it necessary to correct Edition: current; Page: [86] two mistakes into which you have fallen in your statement of my views. You observe, that it is not the labourer alone who multiplies the candidates for labour; and you quote the instances of Mr. T. Courtenay, and Mr. Canning.1 You then observe, “It is only those who are poor, who are recommended to abstinence. A class almost as numerous, namely, those who may become so, are never taken into the calculation.” [P. 776.] Now, Sir, I have to remark, that I do take into the calculation not only the poor, but all men; and I think it highly unwise in any person, rich or poor, to have more than a certain number of children. But I certainly think it still more unwise in a poor man to have a family whom he cannot maintain, than in a rich man to have a family which he can.

The other instance of misinterpretation to which I allude, is the following:—You say, “you would be satisfied if the people could be made comfortable under a bad system; and while no discomfort is actually felt, you seem to infer that it ought not to be feared, no matter how certain to result from a bad system.” [Pp. 777-8.] Now, Sir, on turning to my former letter, I do, indeed, find these words: “I wish the people to be comfortable under any system, good or bad;” but I also find the following words: “I admit that I should desire something more for the people than merely good clothing and plenty of food. But it rests with you to prove, that their chance of obtaining that something more will be in any degree diminished by their being well fed and clothed.”2 I also avowed myself,3 and again avow myself, a friend to a Radical Reform in the Commons House of Parliament. So much for my views and your misinterpretations. I now proceed to comment upon your arguments.

You say that I have avoided the discussion of the question whether population has ever pressed against the means of subsistence; and yet you say this is the only ground upon which my arguments in favour of keeping down the numbers of the people can be maintained. [P. 783.]

It may, perhaps, be necessary to inform you, that when population is said to press against the means of subsistence, the meaning is, that it presses against the means of employment; in short, that there are more men in existence than can be employed and maintained, in comfort, by the productive capital of the country. That such is the fact, is sufficiently proved, by the universal prevalence of low wages.—There is no country on the earth, if we except America and other newly cultivated countries, where (if no check is in use) the labourer is not underpaid. Now, I ask, how could this possibly be the case, if the population did not press on the means of employment? If there had been fewer workmen than the capital of the world is able to employ, the capitalists would have found great difficulty in obtaining men; they would have been eager to obtain them almost at any cost, Edition: current; Page: [87] and would have bid against one another until wages were raised very high. This, however, is very far from being the case. In every old country, the lowest class of labourers are barely provided with the necessaries of life. This could never be the case, if there were not more than the capital of the country could employ; in consequence of which they bid against one another, and obtain lower wages: nor can they all be employed, even at a low rate, for many are constantly out of work. If now they would adopt means for regulating their numbers, they would have it in their power to make their own terms with their employers; for they could always keep their number below that which can be employed with the present capital. Labour would then always be in request, and wages high.

But you affirm (if I understand you rightly), that even in this case, the employers could keep down wages. [P. 775.] I feel no such apprehensions. The capitalists have been enabled, hitherto, to keep down wages, only by the mutual competition of the labourers. Slaves are at the mercy of their employers, and will be worked as it may suit the convenience of those employers. They can be forced to work. Free labourers cannot.

When there is no excess of population—no competition among the labourers, they are not at the mercy of their employers. Among many proofs of this fact which our history affords, I shall only quote one. After the great plague, in the reign of Edward III, by which the numbers of the people were greatly reduced, complaints were made of a deficiency of workmen, and it was found that they would no longer work without high wages. On this an Act of Parliament was made to prohibit them from taking higher wages than they took before the plague: this Act being found ineffectual, the penalties were raised higher and higher, until, at last, the offence was made capital; and still it was all in vain.4 A Edition: current; Page: [88] striking proof of the disposition of the higher classes to keep down wages, but an equally striking proof of their inability to do so. It may serve as an answer to your assertion, that if half the population of Ireland were cut off by a pestilence, the remainder would not be benefited. I think it very clear that they would be benefited; as the English people were benefited by the plague in the time of Edward III.

I have your own authority, to corroborate my assertion,5 that it is the competition of the labourers which enables their employers to keep down wages. You say

no labour was ever long profitable to the labourer in this country. All sorts of labour, at the same period, cannot be so, particularly in manufactures; the demand for which is influenced by fashions; and the labourer must eat or starve as fashion pleases. When a trade is supposed to be profitable, a rush is made on the part of the rising population to partake of its advantages. This destroys them. Another is rising and the crowd turns in that direction.

[P. 782.]

Is it not clear, from your own statement, that if the “rising population” were not so numerous—if the “crowd” were smaller, their “rush” to partake of high wages would not, as at present, have the effect of lowering those high wages? Is it possible to admit more explicitly than you do, that the lowness of wages is owing to the competition among the people, from which it is a necessary inference, that if the people were less numerous, the competition would be much smaller, and wages would not be so much reduced?

I do not think it necessary to reply to any of the arguments which you have adduced to show that this “check to population”6 would not have the effect of checking population. Whatever other objections may be urged against it, this, at least, is a merit which certainly must be allowed to it. I do not see how you can well doubt that if the people could be prevailed upon to use the method of keeping down their numbers, they would infallibly succeed.

You endeavour to shew that I am wrong in asserting that it is the interest of the landowners and manufacturers, that the country should be over-peopled;7 you do not, however, deny, either that low wages are favourable to the manufacturer, or high rents to the landlord: and it is clear that when there are many mouths to feed, a high state of cultivation is required, which implies dear corn, and high rents. Edition: current; Page: [89] Your only argument is, that Dennis Browne says, that Ireland could spare two millions of its inhabitants.8 Now I cannot hold it to be any proof, that some thousands of men will not see and act according to their interest, because one man, and he, not one of the wisest, either does not see it, or seeing it, affects to preach against it. But without pushing this argument farther, I admit that Ireland is rather too much over-peopled, even for the aristocracy; for their own persons and property are endangered by the despair of a starving people.

You still think that the people will not effect reform until they are driven to desperation by poverty; and you quote the apathy and indifference of the middle classes. [P. 773.] I might quote the apathy and indifference of the agricultural labourers, who are by far the poorest of the working people. Notwithstanding all that you have said, I really cannot admit that the middling classes of this country are more indifferent than the working classes to the blessings of good government; and I am sure that in every other country of Europe the middle classes alone feel any desire for a better government than they possess.

As to the condition of the people in the South of France, and in the Austrian States, you do not deny the truth of my statement, that they regulate their numbers, and that they are well paid and comfortable.9 But you say they are in a state of great mental degradation. [P. 779.] This is true. But who ever asserted, that superstition and mis-government will not brutalize a people? They are the slaves of the priests; and, moreover, the Government, which knows what it has to fear from their mental improvement, discourages the introduction of schools and other means of instruction among them. Our working classes are, by no means, equally priest-ridden, and have much greater facilities for instructing themselves.—You say, “it remains to be proved, that until men are well fed they cannot be well instructed.” [P. 778.] In support of which you quote Shakspeare, rather an extraordinary authority in a question of philosophy. I reply, that if fat paunches make lean pates;10 still it is not the less true, that so long as men stand in need of all the money which they can command, to secure a bare subsistence, they are not likely to spend much, either upon books or upon the instruction of their children. Nor is this all. A man who is compelled to work fourteen hours out of the twenty-four to obtain bread, has no time to instruct himself, and is too much harassed and fatigued to turn his attention to important affairs. How can it be otherwise?

A few words more on the specific plan which has been proposed for the regulation of population. You see in it a tendency to moral evils of the most aggravated description; and you insinuate, that it would lead to infanticide, and Edition: current; Page: [90] even to murder. [P. 780.] You might as well say, that to give true evidence before a Court of Justice, might lead to perjury; that to write your name would lead to forgery; or, in fact, that any useful act might terminate in any mischievous one, if some insignificant collateral circumstance is, in both cases, the same. This looks very like a reason made to justify a feeling. Can you discover any but a fantastic resemblance between checking population, and committing murder? Do you think, that what deters people from committing murder, is an aversion to reduce the population of the country? for this is the only deterring motive, which would be removed by checking population. As to infanticide, I leave you to judge, whether a parent, who has a larger family than it is possible to maintain, or a parent who has only a small family, is most likely to be tempted to destroy a child. I thus retort upon yourself your remark, that men should keep as far as possible from the temptation to commit any crime. [P. 780.]

In my last letter, I replied to the objection, that to check population is to violate the laws of nature, by observing that it is equally a violation of the law of nature to hold up an umbrella.11 This you deny; and you say “I am no party to the operation of the law; and I cannot violate it. The law is, that rain should descend; and I only avoid its descending upon my own head.” [P. 782.] The law is, that rain shall descend upon every man’s head, and every where. But if you do not like this illustration, I will give you another. It is a law of nature that man should go naked. He is born naked; like other animals, all of whom go naked. To put on clothes is clearly a counteraction of the designs of Providence, if Providence intended that we should not violate the laws of nature. Accordingly, upon this principle, some self-called philosophers have written in defence of the savage state, and have exclaimed against every step in the progress of civilization as being an infraction of the laws of nature.

You also say that there is “a great difference between the different laws of nature: and that you do not suspect me of asserting that you have an equal right to hold up an umbrella, and to procure abortion, or to kill a fellow creature.” [P. 782.] This is precisely what I want. You have now brought your doctrines to the same test with myself. I too, affirm, that “there is a great difference between different laws of nature.” The difference is this, there are two sets of actions both of which you chuse to call violations of the law of nature. By the one set misery is inflicted, by the other set, no evil whatever is occasioned. Thus by killing a fellow-creature, pain is inflicted on the murdered person and his connexions, and other persons are alarmed for their own safety. By checking population, no pain is inflicted, no alarm excited, no security infringed. It cannot, therefore, on any principles, be termed immoral; and if the above arguments be correct—if it tends to elevate the working people from poverty and ignorance to affluence and Edition: current; Page: [91] instruction, I am compelled to regard it as highly moral and virtuous; nor can I agree with you in treating as “heartless,” [p. 781] the desire of seeing so inestimable a benefit conferred upon mankind; unless, indeed, the word heartless, be one of the engines of a sentimental cant, invented to discourage all steady pursuit of the general happiness of mankind.



This review deals with a subject that occupied much of James Mill’s attention. The anonymous pamphlet (by Francis Place, as Mill certainly knew) is made up of eight parts published in the British Luminary and Weekly Intelligencer in weekly first-page, unsigned instalments from 3 Nov. to 22 Dec., 1822, under the title “Constitutional Association. Practice of the Courts.—Trial by Jury in Libel Cases,” plus an article added for the pamphlet publication. Francis Place (1771-1854), “the Radical tailor of Charing Cross,” was a loyal associate of Bentham and James Mill, and championed popular causes throughout his life. Mill again reviewed Place’s pamphlet (with Richard Mence’s The Law of Libel) in “Law of Libel and Liberty of the Press,” Westminster Review, III (Apr. 1825), 285-321 (CW, Vol. XXI, pp. 1-34). The unsigned review in the Morning Chronicle is headed “On the Law of Libel, with Strictures on the Self-Styled Constitutional Association, pp. 73. London, John Hunt, 1823” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Place’s pamphlet on the Law of Libel which appeared in the Chronicle of January 1st 1824”

(MacMinn, p. 5).

this pamphlet consists of a series of Essays, all of which, except the last, appeared some months ago in a periodical publication. We recommend it strongly to the attentive perusal of every one who desires to know the extent of that boasted liberty of the press, which, we are taught to believe, is the birthright of Englishmen. He will learn from this pamphlet, that the rulers of this country possess as great a power of suppressing obnoxious publications by fine and imprisonment as they can desire: that the comparative free discussion which we enjoy exists only by connivance, and would not exist at all, were it not forced upon the Government by an enlightened public opinion.

A short abstract will convey a better idea, than any general remarks, of the view taken of the subject in this very able production.

There is no statute law on the subject of libel. There is nothing but common or unwritten law. Where the law is unwritten, definition is evidently impossible; much more, accurate and precise definition. What is to be gathered from precedents and cases can be known only to lawyers. Jurymen are not lawyers. They cannot therefore judge for themselves whether a publication is or is not libellous, but are compelled to decide the one way or the other, according to the directions of the Judge. Now, the Judge, in giving these directions, not only is Edition: current; Page: [92] not restrained by any definition of libel, but is not even restrained by precedents and cases; since there is scarcely a single point of law, on both sides of which many decisions are not to be found. Whether then the Judge shall direct the Jury to decide according to the precedents on one side, or according to the precedents on the other, depends almost entirely upon his own good will and pleasure. The law of libel, therefore, is actually and in fact made by the Judge.

When a person is tried for publishing a libel, some one swears that he has purchased a book, and the Judge tells the Jury that he considers it to be a libel. But does the Judge tell the Jury what a libel is? No; for there is no definition of it. If, therefore, the Jury find the prisoner guilty, it is not upon the testimony of witnesses, but upon the authority of the Judge. The witness swears that the prisoner sold the book; but to sell a book is not punishable, unless that book is a libel. For the fact of its being so, the Jury have nothing but the word of the Judge. The latitude which Judges allow themselves in declaring publications to be libellous, may be judged of by the example of the late Lord Ellenborough, who said that a libel was any thing which hurts the feelings of any body.1 Under this definition, if it be one, it is easy to see that all publications disagreeable to the Government may be included. The only legal check, then, upon the Judge, is the disposition of the Jury to set aside his opinion, and refuse to consign a man to imprisonment and fine, merely upon the faith of the Judge’s opinion. But there is a mode of rendering this check equally nugatory with all others, and this mode is constantly resorted to in cases of libel. It is by employing a packed Special Jury. The pamphlet before us contains the most complete exposure in the smallest compass which we have yet seen, of the packing system.2 It investigates the origin of the practice, demonstrates that it was originally an abuse, that the grounds on which it was professedly introduced, have long since ceased to exist, and that Special Jurymen, far from being, as in theory they ought to be, superior in education and respectability to the Common Juries, are for the most part greatly deficient in both. It also explains the mode in which the system is acted upon at present. The Special Jury list is composed in counties, of freeholders; and in Middlesex, of some descriptions of leaseholders also; in London, it consists of all whom it is thought proper to term merchants. From this list, the Jury is selected; in Middlesex and London, by the Master of the Crown Office, who names forty-eight persons, twelve of whom form the Special Jury. It is Edition: current; Page: [93] proved in this pamphlet, from indisputable authority, that the Juries are constantly selected out of a certain very small number of persons known to the selector, who make it a regular trade; and as each receives a guinea for every cause he decides, we leave it to the reader to judge how often he will return a verdict contrary to the will of his employers, knowing well that if he does so, he will be summoned no more.

Since the publication of the bulk of these Essays in The British Luminary, the subject of Special Juries has been brought before the House of Commons; and the facts stated above were met by protestations of the unblemished integrity of Mr. Lushington, the present Master of the Crown Office.3 This, it is to be observed, is the constant practice of all the defenders of abuses; they always endeavour to turn a public into a personal question; to confound attacks upon a system, with attacks upon the character of individuals. We will not merely say that the administration of justice ought not only to be pure, but unsuspected, and that suspicion of injustice is an evil, second only in magnitude to injustice itself: we will not content ourselves with saying, that if Mr. Lushington be a man of honour, future Masters of the Crown Office may be otherwise. We will not confine ourselves to these arguments, though these, were there no others, would be conclusive. We cannot sufficiently reprobate the principle itself, of endeavouring to deter men from exposing a bad system, lest their strictures should be construed into imputations upon the character of individuals.

We assert, that, if a public officer is placed in a situation where his employers will expect him to serve them at the expence of the public—where he must content them or forfeit his subsistence, evil cannot fail to ensue. We are told, in reply, that Mr. Lushington is a pure, a virtuous, an honourable man, and the upshot of the whole is, that we are to surrender up our liberty and our property into the hands of this honourable man; that we are to trust him with a power over us, which no man could, consistently with prudence, confide to his own brother. We give Mr. Lushington full credit for as much virtue as falls to the share of any other man.—But we confess, we think it rather too much for Mr. Lushington’s friends, in his behalf, to lay claim to more, and to think him insulted if the public does not acquiesce in this modest claim. Really, one would think, to hear this language, that a preference of their private interest to that of the community, were something totally unheard of in public men; and that there were no instances of persons who have acquitted themselves admirably well of the ordinary duties of life, but who, nevertheless, when their subsistence depended upon their becoming instruments of misgovernment, have easily persuaded Edition: current; Page: [94] themselves that it was their duty to do so. We do not blame Mr. Lushington for doing what every man in his situation would do: but we cannot help reminding his overwarm supporters, that for men to strain every nerve for the attainment and preservation of power, which never can be desired for any good purpose, is not the conduct of all others best calculated to raise an expectation, that if allowed to retain it they will not make a bad use of it.

If they could prove that Mr. Lushington cannot abuse his power, they would not take so much pains to prove that he will not. But we are to believe that the situation holds out temptations against which no virtue would be proof, save his who actually holds the situation. Another succeeds him; that other is equally immaculate. By this argument, if such it can be called, no abuse would ever be reformed: for there must always be some one in a situation to profit by it; and if the honour of one man is a sufficient guarantee against abuse, it were an affront to suppose that the honour of another was inferior. What tyranny, what oppression, might not be justified in this way? You dare not accuse the man; and if you accuse the system, you are met with protestations that the man is perfectly immaculate.

Where has Mr. Lushington given proofs of such exalted heroism? It is easy to ascertain whether he prefers the public interest to his own, for if so, his salary still remains untouched in the Exchequer. But there is no need of surmises, when facts are before us. Let us look to the list of those who have served on Special Juries for the last ten years:—Let us ask ourselves how it happens that the same small number of men have been always summoned?4 What Judge would listen to attestations of character, when he has positive evidence before him? Nay, the very circumstance of Mr. Lushington’s still remaining Master of the Crown Office, is in itself a sufficient proof that his conduct has been conformable to the interests of his employers: unless Ministers also lay claim to the same super-human virtue for which we are to give credit to Mr. Lushington?

It is probable that this gentleman sincerely believes the custom of packing juries to be right; at all events, we are sure, that he never would set up for himself the same lofty pretensions which are set up for him by his over officious friends; that he desires to be judged by his actions, not by the allegations of his friends as to his character; and that, if he is wise, he wishes for nothing more strongly than to be relieved from a duty which it is scarcely possible to execute without incurring a degree of odium, which, we have no reason to believe, that he personally deserves.

Edition: current; Page: [95]


This letter, using one of Bentham’s catch-phrases as signature, is in response to a letter, headed “Pleadings” and signed “Hibernicus,” Morning Chronicle, 3 Jan., 1824, p. 3, which is a rebuttal of another letter headed “Pleadings,” signed “G.J.G. Gray’s Inn,” ibid., 26 Dec., 1823, p. 4. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the item is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A short letter on Indictments, signed an Enemy to Legal Fictions, whch. appeared in the Chronicle of January 5th 1824”

(MacMinn, p. 5).

In answer to the letter which you inserted some days ago on the subject of Pleadings, your Correspondent, Hibernicus, observes, that it is incorrect to affirm the Grand Jury to be perjurers, when they return upon oath that the prisoner is guilty; because, in fact, all which they mean is, not that he is guilty, but that a prima facie case is made out against him. I, too, have read the letter on Pleadings, and I am sure that the writer agrees with Hibernicus on this subject. All which he intended was, to shew the absurdity of a system of law which forces the Grand Jury to say one thing when they mean another; and not only to say it, but to swear it. This is innocent perjury, but it is perjury, and though the Jurors do not deserve blame, the law evidently does.

An Enemy to Legal Fictions

BLACK DWARF, 7 JAN., 1824, PP. 21-3

For the context of this third response to Thomas Wooler, see No. 27. Wooler had replied to No. 28 with “The Black Dwarf to A.M.,” Black Dwarf, 31 Dec., 1823, pp. 905-10, to which the interpolated page numbers refer. The letter by another correspondent that Mill refers to in the opening and penultimate paragraphs immediately precedes Mill’s own letter; headed “Question of Population,” and signed “A Friend to the ‘Lower Classes,’ ” it appears on pp. 15-21 of the issue for 7 Jan. How Mill became aware of its existence is not known. Mill’s letter is headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Black Dwarf,” and described in his bibliography as “A third letter on the necessity of checking population whch. appeared in the Black Dwarf of January 9th [sic] 1824, signed A.M.”

(MacMinn, p. 5).

I shall not extend my remarks on your last letter to any great length, as I know that you have on hand another letter on the same subject, which will probably consider the question as you wish it to be considered, with reference to the relative powers of increase possessed by population and subsistence.

Edition: current; Page: [96]

I shall only at present remark, that you have made a much more free use, in this paper, of that easy figure of speech called assertion, than of that more intractable one called proof. With reference indeed to the laws of nature, you have, I am pleased to see, given up the point; for although you still dislike the remedy which I propose, you observe, “if it can be proved necessary to check population at all, your means may be the best, and therefore may be tolerated.” [P. 909.] At this also I am well pleased. But you maintain that if three-fourths of the inhabitants of Ireland were to be swept off, and the remainder were sufficient to do all the work required by the rich, the price of labour would not advance. This seems to me rather an extraordinary assertion. First, it supposes a case which can never happen. One-fourth of the Irish population could not possibly do all the work required by the rich, as the whole population does now.* In the next place, I can safely appeal to the experience of every working man (as well as to the reason of the case), whether, if three out of every four of his competitors were removed, he would not feel a very sensible addition to his wages. You admit that if the population is greatly reduced by a plague, wages will rise. [Pp. 907-8.] Surely then, if it is reduced by means less shocking to humanity than a plague, the effect will be the same.

You observe that it is neither wise nor politic to consider “whether a family of two or ten children, were more convenient to the individual, since such matters will always regulate themselves.” [P. 905.] This, Sir, is all that I want. I am far from wishing to regulate population by law, or by compulsion in any shape. I am aware that it will, and I think that it ought, to regulate itself: but you forget that it cannot regulate itself unless the means are known; a man cannot accommodate the numbers of his family to his means of supporting it, unless he knows how to limit those numbers; for I have no belief in the efficacy of Mr. Malthus’s moral check,1 so long as the great mass of the people are so uneducated as they are at present. Therefore I think it highly desirable that the physical check should be known to the people; and I agree with you that each man will then be the best judge of his own convenience.

I consider the question to be practically decided by this admission. If you allow that such things ought to regulate themselves, you cannot consistently object to the diffusion among the people of any information calculated to throw light upon the subject. Nevertheless, if you challenge me to the discussion of the other question, whether population has a tendency to increase faster than subsistence, I am perfectly ready to discuss this question also, when I shall have Edition: current; Page: [97] perused the arguments of your other correspondent, and such remarks as you may think proper to make upon those arguments.

At present I shall trouble you with very few words more, in answer to another of your observations. I consider it a mere play upon words, to say, as you have done, that labour is capital. [P. 907.] Capital is that portion of the annual produce which is set apart for the maintenance of productive labour. Capital, you say, might be made to increase faster than at present. I admit that for a limited time it might; but capital can only be increased from savings. Would you, then, force accumulation? Would you have sumptuary laws? When you shall have answered this question, whether in the negative or in the affirmative, the basis of the discussion will be narrowed, and I shall know what arguments to put forward, among the many which bear upon the case.


BLACK DWARF, 25 FEB., 1824, PP. 238-44

For the context of this final letter in Mill’s series (Nos. 27, 28, and 31) in response to Thomas Wooler, see No. 27. Wooler’s response to No. 31, “Further Inquiry into the Principles of Population,” Black Dwarf, 4 Feb., 1824, pp. 143-9, is here answered by Mill with his strongest weapon, an extensive extract (pp. 260-1) from James Mill’s “Colony” (1818), written for the Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. III, pp. 257-73. Because J.S. Mill says his father’s comment is in effect his own reply to Wooler, the extract is here included, with Wooler’s editorial notes in reply. Headed “Question on [sic] Population Resumed,” with a subhead, “To the Editor,” the letter is not in Mill’s bibliography, but its signature (“A.M.”) and contents leave no doubt that it is Mill’s.


The accompanying paragraphs are destined for insertion in your Dwarf. They are extracted from the article “Colonies,” in the supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; a discourse composed by an eminent friend of the people. They contain, I think, a most conclusive answer to your last article on population; and if you insert them, you will be very well able to dispense with the reply which you would otherwise have received from

Sir, your most obedient servant,

It should be very distinctly understood what it is we mean, when we say, in regard to such a country as Great Britain, for example, that the supply of food is too small for the population. Because it may be said immediately, that the quantity of food may be increased in Great Britain; a proposition which no man will think of denying.

On this proposition, let us suppose, that in any given year, this year for example, the food in Great Britain is too small for the people, by 10,000 individuals. It is, no doubt, true, that additional food, sufficient to supply 10,000 individuals, might be raised next Edition: current; Page: [98] year; but where would be the amelioration, if 10,000 individuals were, at the same time, added to the numbers to be fed?* Now, the tendency of population is such as to make, in almost all cases, the real state of the facts correspond with this supposition. Population not only rises to the level of the present supply of food; but, if you go on every year increasing the quantity of food, population goes on increasing at the same time, and so fast, that the food is commonly still too small for the people. This is the grand proposition of Mr. Malthus’s book: it is not only quite original, but it is that point of the subject from which all the more important consequences flow,—consequences which, till that point was made known, could not be understood.

When we say that the quantity of food, in any country, is too small for the quantity of the people, and that, though we may increase the quantity of food, the population will, at the same time, increase so fast, that the food will still be too small for the people; we may be encountered with another proposition. It may be said, that we may increase food still faster than it is possible to increase population. And there are situations in which we must allow that the proposition is true.

In countries newly inhabited, or in which there is a small number of people, there is commonly a quantity of land yielding a large produce for a given portion of labour. So long as the land continues to yield in this liberal manner, how fast soever population increases, food may increase with equal rapidity, and plenty remain. When population, however, has increased to a certain extent, all the best land is occupied; if it increases any farther, land of a worse quality must be taken in hand; when land of the next best quality is all exhausted, land of a still inferior quality must be employed, till at last you come to that which is exceedingly barren. In this progression, it is very evident, that it is always gradually becoming more and more difficult to make food increase, with any given degree of rapidity, and that you must come, at last, to a point, where it is altogether impossible.

It may, however, be said, and has been said in substance, though not very clearly, by some of Mr. Malthus’s opponents, that it is improper to speak of food as too small for the population, so long as food can be made to increase at an equal pace with population; and though it is no doubt true, that, in the states of modern Europe, food does not actually increase so fast as the population endeavours to increase, and hence the poverty and wretchedness of that population; yet it would be very possible to make food increase as fast as the tendency of population, and hence to make the people happy without diminishing their numbers by colonization; and that it is owing wholly to unfavourable, to ill-contrived institutions, that such is not the effect universally experienced. As this Edition: current; Page: [99] observation has in it a remarkable combination of truth and error, it is worthy of a little pains to make the separation.§

There can be no doubt that, by employing next year a greater proportion of the people upon the land than this year, we should raise a greater quantity of food; by employing a still greater proportion the year following, we should produce a still greater quantity of food: and, in this way, it would be possible to go on for some time, increasing food as fast as it would be possible for the population to increase. But observe at what cost this would be. As the land, in this course, yields gradually less and less, to every new portion of labour bestowed upon it, it would be necessary to employ gradually not only a greater and greater number, but a greater and greater proportion of the people in raising food. But the greater the proportion of the people which is employed in raising food, the smaller is the proportion which can be employed in producing any thing else. You can only, therefore, increase the quantity of food to meet the demand of an increasing population, by diminishing the supply of those other things which minister to human desires.

There can be no doubt, that, by increasing every year the proportion of the population which you employ in raising food, and diminishing every year the proportion employed in everything else, you may go on increasing food as fast as population increases, till the labour of a man, added upon the land, is just sufficient to add as much to the produce, as will maintain himself and raise a family. Suppose, where the principle of population is free from all restriction, the average number of children reared in a family is five; in that case, so long as the man’s labour, added to the labour already employed upon the land, can produce food sufficient for himself and the rearing of five children, food may be made to keep pace with population. But if things were made to go on in such an order, till they arrived at that pass, men would have food, but they would have nothing else. They would have neither clothes, nor houses, nor furniture. There would be nothing for elegance, nothing for ease, nothing for pleasure. There would be no class exempt from the necessity of perpetual labour, by whom knowledge might be cultivated, and discoveries useful to mankind.

It is of no use, then, to tell us that we have the physical power of increasing food as fast as population. As soon as we have arrived at that point at which the due distribution of the population is made between those who raise food, and those who are in other ways employed in contributing to the well-being of the members of the community, any increase of the food, faster than is consistent with that distribution, can only be made at the expense of those other things, by the enjoyment of which the life of man is preferable to that of the brutes. At this point the progress of population ought to be restrained. Population may still increase, because the quantity of food may still be capable of being Edition: current; Page: [100] increased, though not beyond a certain slowness of rate, without requiring, to the production of it, a greater than the due proportion of the population.

Suppose, then, when the due proportion of the population is allotted to the raising of food, and the due proportion to other desirable occupations, that the institutions of society were such as to prevent a greater proportion from being withdrawn from these occupations to the raising of food. This it would, surely, be very desirable that they should effect. What now would be the consequence, should population, in that case, go on at its full rate of increase,—in other words, faster than with that distribution of the population, it would be possible for food to be increased? The answer is abundantly plain: all those effects would take place which have already been described as following upon the existence of a redundant population in modern Europe, and in all countries in which the great body of those who have nothing to give for food but labour, are free labourers;—that is to say, wages would fall, poverty would overspread the population, and all those horrid phenomena would exhibit themselves which are the never-failing attendants on a poor population.

It is of no great importance, though the institutions of society may be such as to make the proportion of the population, kept back from the providing of food, rather greater than it might be. All that happens is, that the redundancy of population begins a little earlier. The unrestrained progress of population would soon have added the deficient number to the proportion employed in the raising of food; and, at whatever point the redundancy begins, the effects are always the same.**

What are the best means of checking the progress of population, when it cannot go on unrestrained, without producing one or other of two most undesirable effects; either drawing an undue proportion of the population to the mere raising of food, or producing poverty and wretchedness, it is not now the place to inquire.

It is, indeed, the most important practical problem to which the wisdom of the politician and moralist can be applied. It has, till this time, been miserably evaded by all those who have meddled with the subject, as well as by all those who were called upon, by their situation, to find a remedy for the evils to which it relates. And yet, if the superstitions of the nursery were discarded, and the principle of utility kept steadily in view, a solution might not be very difficult to be found; and the means of drying up one of the most copious sources of human evil, a source which, if all other sources of evil were taken away, would alone suffice to retain the great mass of human beings in misery, might be seen to be neither doubtful nor difficult to be applied.††


In this letter Mill quotes from the article “Periodical Literature: Edinburgh Review,” by James Mill, Westminster Review, I (Jan. 1824), 206-68, and defends it against a misinterpretation in an unheaded leader in the Morning Chronicle, 16 Dec., 1824, p. 2. Edition: current; Page: [101] The personal tone in the references to the editor are not pro forma, being addressed to John Black (1783-1855), at this time closely allied to James Mill, who constantly advised him on political matters. The letter is headed “Periodical Literature. / To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.” There are several indications that this letter corresponds to the entry in Mill’s bibliography, unidentified by MacMinn, which reads “A short letter on [] which appeared in the Morning Chronicle of 1824” (MacMinn, p. 6): the signature “A.B.” favoured by Mill, the personal interest, and the use of Benthamite phraseology. The cryptic entry appears in the bibliography between items dated October 1824 and January 1825.


In your paper of this day (Thursday, Dec. 16th), you controvert certain opinions relative to the probable tendency and effects of Periodical Literature, which were propounded in the first number of the Westminster Review. And you bring forward the inestimable service which you have yourself rendered to mankind by criticizing the conduct of the unpaid magistracy, as an instance of the beneficial effects which sometimes arise from periodical literature.

Now, Sir, you must have interpreted the words of the writer in the Westminster Review in a very different sense from that in which I understand them, if you suppose that he meant to affirm that periodical literature can never be productive of good. His object, as it seems to me, was to point out the motives (hitherto little attended to) which tend to draw the periodical writer out of the path of utility; motives so strong that he did not merely go too far in characterizing them as a sort of necessity; an inducement which generally operates as necessity.

That it is possible for a periodical writer to pursue steadily the greatest good of the greatest number, you, Sir, afford a striking example. But this is no more than the Westminster Reviewer has himself acknowledged, in a passage, which, taking the view which you have done of the article, you ought, I think, in fairness to have quoted.

One word of a personal nature seems to be required. We have described the interests which operate to withdraw periodical writers from the line of utility, and we have represented it as nearly impossible for them to keep true to it. What! Are we, it may be asked, superior to seducements to which all other men succumb? If periodical writing is by its nature so imbued with evil, why is it that we propose to add to the supply of a noxious commodity? Do we promise to keep out the poison which all other men yield to the temptation of putting in? If we made such a pretension, our countrymen would do right in laughing it to scorn; and we hope they would not fail to adopt so proper a course. We have no claim to be trusted any more than any one among our contemporaries; but we have a claim to be tried. Men have diversities of taste; and it is not impossible that a man should exist who really has a taste for the establishment of securities for good government, and would derive more pleasure from the success of this pursuit, than of any other pursuit in which he could engage, wealth or power not excepted. All that we desire is, that it may not be reckoned impossible that we may belong to a class of this description.

There is another motive, as selfish as that which we ascribe to any body, by which we may be actuated. We may be sanguine enough, or silly enough, or clear-sighted enough, Edition: current; Page: [102] to believe, that intellectual and moral qualities have made a great progress among the people of this country; and that the class who will really approve endeavours in favour of good government, and of the happiness and intelligence of men, are a class sufficiently numerous to reward our endeavours.

[P. 222.]

Even had there been no such passage as the foregoing, the very circumstance that the work which thus criticises periodical publications, is itself a periodical publication, might have convinced you, that in ascribing to periodical works a tendency to advocate false and mischievous, rather than true and important opinions, it spoke of the general rule, not of the particular exceptions—of the motives which act upon all mankind, not of those which may govern particular individuals.

I have been induced to trouble you with these few words, because I regretted that two such efficient friends of mankind, as the writer in the Westminster Review and yourself, should appear to be at variance, when I am persuaded that they really agree.

Edition: current; Page: [103]

September 1825 to October 1828


The letter, dated 15 Sept. (with an additional paragraph oddly inserted in a leading article, Morning Chronicle, 22 Sept., 1825, p. 2), responds to two leading articles in the Morning Chronicle, 7 Sept., p. 2, and 14 Sept., p. 2 (and probably also to “Absenteeism,” a letter signed “A,” that appeared in the Morning Chronicle, 12 Sept., p. 4), all critical of John Ramsay McCulloch’s evidence in “Fourth Report from the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the State of Ireland,” PP, 1825, VIII, 807-38. McCulloch (1789-1864), the Scottish economist and statistician, was closely allied to the Philosophic Radicals at this time. Headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle,” the letter is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter on Absenteeism, signed J.S. which appeared in the Chronicle of 16 September 1825” (MacMinn, p. 7); the additional paragraph is not there mentioned.


In several of your recent Papers you have combated the opinion expressed by Mr. M’Culloch in his evidence, concerning the effect of the expenditure of Irish absentees on the prosperity of that country from which their incomes are drawn.1 As I agree almost in every particular with Mr. M’Culloch, and think that the arguments which you have urged against him are fallacious, and that the notions which they inculcate are as pernicious as they are, unhappily, common, I submit to your well-known candour the following statement of my reasons for dissenting from your conclusion.

The income of a landlord, like any other income, may be expended in two ways; in the hiring of labourers, or, in the purchase of commodities. In point of fact, it is expended partly in the former way, and partly in the latter; but in one or other of these ways it must be expended, if it be expended at all, unless, indeed, it were given away.

Now I admit that in so far as the income of the landlord is expended in the hiring of labourers, whether these are employed in building a house, in digging a garden, in making or keeping a park, in shooting Catholics or poachers, in washing dishes, or in blacking shoes; to that extent it does give employment to a certain number of persons who would be thrown out of employment if the landlord were to go abroad, and consequently tends to keep wages somewhat higher, or to enable a somewhat larger population to be maintained at the same Edition: current; Page: [104] wages, than would be the case if he were to live in London or Paris, and employ English or French labourers for the above purposes, instead of Irish.

What I do not admit is, that (in so far as his income is expended, not in the hiring of labourers, but in the purchase of commodities,) it has the slightest tendency to keep wages higher, or to give employment to as much as one labourer more, than if he were living at the antipodes: nor do I believe that (in so far as this part of his expenditure is concerned) as much as one man would be thrown out of employment, if every resident landlord in the island were to go abroad, or to send abroad for every article which he had a mind to consume.

If the landlord remained in Ireland, he would (we shall suppose) eat Irish bread and beef, wear Irish shirts and breeches, sit on Irish chairs, and drink his wine off an Irish table. Now, then, I will put a case:—Suppose that he goes to London, leaving directions behind him that all the bread and beef which he would have eaten, all the shirts and breeches which he would have worn, all the chairs which he would have sat upon, and all the tables off which he would have drank his wine, should be regularly sent to him in London. You will not deny, I suppose, that he would give just as much employment to Irish labour as if he had consumed all these articles in the true orthodox way, close to the doors of the very people who produced them.

It would puzzle you, I think, to discover any error in this proposition, or to shew any difference which it can make to the Irish producers, provided they supply the commodities, whether they are consumed on the spot, or at a thousand miles distance. I would advise you to ponder well, however, before you admit this; since you will find, if you do admit it, that you have conceded the whole question.

In fact, this case, which I have put as an imaginary one, exactly corresponds in every thing that is material to the purpose, with the actual state of the facts. The Irish do not, indeed, always send the identical bread, beef, chairs, tables, &c. which the landlord would have consumed on the spot, to be consumed by him in the foreign country; but they either send those very articles, or, what comes to the same thing, they send other articles of exactly the same value. Some readers will say (I do not impute to yourself such a degree of ignorance) that they do not send goods, but money; to which my answer is short—if they sent any money, they could not send much, because Ireland has no gold and silver mines, and, therefore, cannot continue to export money to one place, without getting it back again from another. Every body knows that if a quantity of the precious metals is exported, unless its place is supplied by paper, it always comes back again. In point of fact, however, every body who knows any thing about the way in which the matter is actually managed, knows that no money whatever is sent. The landlord’s steward sends over to him a Bill of Exchange, drawn upon a mercantile house; and the drawer of the bill sends over a quantity of goods to the drawee, to meet the bill when it becomes due.

It appears, therefore, conclusively, that the only difference between the Edition: current; Page: [105] expenditure of the resident landlord, and that of the absentee, is this: the one buys, let us say, a thousand pounds worth of Irish goods, every year on the spot; the other has a thousand pounds worth of Irish goods every year sent to him. Perhaps you may be able to discover some great difference which this makes to the capitalists and labourers in Ireland. Perhaps you may—but if you can, you can do more than I can.

This error (for unless the above argument be incorrect, you must give me leave so to denominate your opinion) appears to me to be a relic of the now exploded mercantile system; of that system, from which emanated those wise prohibitions of the importation of foreign commodities, which might have remained to this day monuments of ancestorial wisdom upon our statute-book, had not Mr. Huskisson been somewhat wiser than that Hibernian genius, whose lucubrations you honoured yesterday by a place in your columns.2 The theory on which these sage regulations were founded, was exactly the same with that which this declaimer and yourself maintain in opposition to Mr. M’Culloch. By consuming foreign commodities, you employ foreign labour; by consuming British commodities, you employ British labour. What Englishman, then, it was triumphantly asked, can be so lost to patriotism as to lay out that money upon foreigners, which might have helped to enrich his native country? Admirably argued, truly; one thing, however, which these sagacious reasoners did not advert to, was, that, in buying foreign commodities, you are giving just the same employment to British labour as if you laid out your whole income in commodities of home growth; you are giving employment, namely, to that labourer which was employed in making the British commodities, with which the foreign commodities, that you consume, were bought.

The case of the man who has French goods sent to him in Ireland, and that of the man who goes himself and consumes them at Paris, are precisely similar. If the one be criminal, so must the other be. If the absentee landlord be an enemy to his country, so is every resident landlord who expends a shilling upon any article that is not produced—I was going to say in Ireland—but even on his own estate; and just in proportion to the number of shillings which he so spends, in that same proportion is the mischief which he does. We ought, therefore, if this notion be correct, not only to reimpose upon commerce all the shackles which Ministers have earned such high and such deserved praise for taking off, but we ought to do, what I suppose no Government ever did, prohibit absolutely all foreign, not to say all internal trade. Such is, perhaps, the wise course that we should pursue, Edition: current; Page: [106] if the councils of the nations were taken out of the hands of his Majesty’s Ministers, and placed in those of a set of declaimers, who either are desirous to mislead, or whose incurable ignorance renders them just as mischievous as if they were.

I am not so unjust, Sir, as to confound you with such as these; and I regret the more that you should have given your powerful support to an opinion so utterly inconsistent with those principles of political economy which you habitually maintain; an opinion which has had, as I believe, so great a share in blinding the public to the real causes of the evils by which Ireland is afflicted.

I remain, Sir, your’s, with the greatest respect,


What feeds the journeyman tailors, who make the landlord’s coat, is not the rent of the landlord, but the capital of the master tailor; and if the landlord’s rent were all thrown into the sea, the capital of the tailor would remain, and would employ, if not as many tailors, as many labourers of some sort as it did before.—What employs labourers is capital. More income, unless saved, and added to capital, employs nobody; except menial servants. Ireland has just the same capital when her landlords live in Paris as when they live in Dublin. She, therefore, employs as many labourers, except menial servants, as above.

NEW TIMES, 6 JUNE, 1827, P. 3

This letter, Mill’s only one to the New Times (which he calls “a Tory paper” in No. 41), is also his first to a newspaper editor for almost two years. The New Times frequently criticized The Times (which it often called “The Old Times”); see, e.g., 24 May, 1827, p. 2, and 31 May, p. 3. Mill’s letter, headed “To the Editor of the New Times,” is described in his bibliography as “A letter on the blunders of the ‘Times’ newspaper which app. in the New Times of 6th June 1827, signed A.B.”

(MacMinn, p. 8).

Having frequently admired the happy irony with which you expose the profound ignorance and ludicrous self-importance of the Times, I address to you a few lines on the new specimen which it has recently afforded of these qualities.

In one of its late articles, it is pleased to place under the ban of its censure, persons, whom it designates, with characteristic elegance of language, as “those louts and coxcombs united, the landlords, and political economists.”

Edition: current; Page: [107]

The poor farmers, [it adds,] have been dragooned into all these petitions against the new Corn Bill, for the mere purpose of keeping up rents, by those two factions of men, whom we above cited; the one, duller than the earth they tread; and the other, a mere batch of fantastical coxcombs, incapable of attaining literature, or fathoming science; and, therefore, distorting and sophisticating common sense, by every kind of paradox and extravagance.1

Leaving, Sir, the defence of the landlords in your hands, which are much more capable of doing it justice than mine, I request your attention to the following sentence, extracted from the very next paragraph to that of which I have already quoted the conclusion:

We are well assured, that there is no resting place for our feet; there is no firm principle upon which our commercial pre-eminence can be based, or even the landed community rest free from shocks, but the unrestricted and untaxed circulation of all the necessaries of life, both for man and beast, throughout the world; and to this point we hope our steps are tending.

I now submit two questions, not to the Editor of the Times, but to every man, who is capable of being disgusted by insolent and ignorant charlatanerie.

1. Here is the Times, professing itself a determined partisan of the most extreme of all the extreme opinions, which were ever maintained by ultra-political economists on the Corn Laws, and, in the same breath, declaring, that the political economists are “fantastical coxcombs,” “louts and coxcombs united,” for professing the same opinion on the same subject. I ask, then, is not that Journal admirably qualified for the office of a public instructor, which ridicules men for their opinions without knowing that their opinions are the same with its own?

My other question is, whether the accusation of being “incapable of fathoming science” does not come with an admirable grace from the Journal, which, only a few months ago, expressed the utmost surprise that the expectation of a war should have depressed the Funds?2 That the expected creation of an immense quantity of new Stock, by new Loans, should lower the price of the Stock already in existence, was too recondite a truth for this sage, who, nevertheless, thinks himself entitled to trancher du maître, and denounce others as ignorant of science!

Your Constant Reader,
Edition: current; Page: [108]

THE TIMES, 28 DEC., 1827, P. 3

This letter and its enclosed £1 were elicited by “Meeting of the Inhabitants of Queenborough,” The Times, 26 Dec., 1827, p. 3, in which a subscription was suggested. On 27 Dec., p. 3, The Times printed three letters with subscriptions, with an editorial note saying a responsible gentleman would distribute the money. The Times’ account of the long-lasting distress of the fishing town in the Isle of Sheppy, Kent, emphasized the restrictions on the trade enacted by the ruling “select body,” the kind of closed corporation to which the Philosophic Radicals strongly objected. The letter, Mill’s first to The Times, is headed as title, subheaded “To the Editor of The Times,” and described in his bibliography as “A letter on the Queenborough case, inclosing a subscription for the inhabitants of Queenborough, signed Ph., in the Times of 28th December 1827”

(MacMinn, p. 8).

I shall feel obliged by your consenting to be the depositary of the enclosed subscription, towards an object which a nation, which makes greater pretension to humanity than any other will not, I trust, disgrace itself by neglecting—the relief of the ruined and destitute inhabitants of Queenborough, whose misery is so affectingly depicted in your paper of Wednesday.

But if it be a duty to relieve the miserable, the punishment of those who have rendered them so is a still more imperative one. And the 1l. herewith transmitted shall cheerfully be increased to 10l., so soon as any practicable course shall be entered upon to effect that righteous purpose.

Can it be endured that proprietary rights, on which thousands depended as their sole means of support, should be seized by a self-elected body of seven persons, under pretence that the common property of the corporation is their property—that they, the trustees, the depositaries, the executive officers, the servants of the burgesses, have a right to say to their masters, “Go and starve”? Is it to be borne, that when those whom a court of law has declared to have a right to employment in the fisheries, are compelled by starvation to sue for it as a favour, they should be told, with an oath, by one of their magistrates, that he would never give them any employment while breath was in his body, or tauntingly exhorted to go and ask employment of him for whom they had voted? Can Englishmen suffer this, and listen without a blush to the congratulations of foreigners on the felicity with which our Constitution has reconciled the apparently conflicting advantages of freedom and law? No, Sir, I cannot persuade myself that the means of enforcing their right will be withheld from these unfortunate people by a nation which maintains more charitable institutions than all the rest of the world taken together. Our countrymen, whatever may be their faults, have rarely forgotten their reverence for the two great blessings of human life—liberty and property. And will they tamely suffer the whole Edition: current; Page: [109] population of a considerable town to be illegally deprived of the one as a punishment for their inflexible constancy in adhering to the other?


Received a pound [Editor].


These satirical comments (see also Nos. 38, 39, and 40) were prompted by the actions of the Tory ministry formed in January 1828 by Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), the 1st Duke of Wellington, a target of Radical criticism. The unsigned article is Mill’s first contribution to the Morning Chronicle since September 1825. It is headed as title and described in his bibliography as “A squib on the Wellington ministry, headed New Publications—and two following paragraphs in the Morning Chronicle of 31st May 1828” (MacMinn, p. 9). A printer’s rule (here reproduced) appears in the Morning Chronicle after the 9th paragraph; it is followed by three further paragraphs. Assuming that the entry in the bibliography is accurate, we have excluded the final paragraph from the text, but included it in a footnote.

it is currently reported, that the Duke of Wellington, having become sensible of the detriment which his new Ministry is likely to sustain in public estimation, from the vulgar prejudice, that none except men of talents and information are qualified to administer the affairs of the State, has resolved to establish an office for the publication and distribution of works of a practical character, suited to the composition of the Ministry, and to the exigencies of the times. Doctor Croker being the only Member of the New Administration who can write,1 has undertaken the office of correcting the press; and the following works are confidently announced as shortly about to appear:—

The Dunce’s Manual, or Politics made level with the meanest Capacity: For the use of elderly Gentlemen appointed Cabinet Ministers at a short notice.

Bob Short’s Rules for Governing a State, whereby the whole Science of Government may be learned in a quarter of an hour, without hindrance of amusements, or knowledge of a bookseller.2

The Inutility of Ideas to Public Men, Stated and Exemplified: being an attempt to prove that none but persons totally ignorant of public affairs are competent to Edition: current; Page: [110] administer them. Under the immediate patronage of the Lords of the Treasury, and the three Secretaries of State.

A new edition of Erasmus’s Moriae Encomium, or Praise of Folly:3 with portraits of the New Ministers, beautifully engraven on brass, by George Cruikshank,4 and an Appendix, shewing the peculiar applicability of the author’s Principles to the Government of the British Empire.

Murray’s First Book for Statesmen: Being a Compendious Treatise on the Cavalry Exercise, for the use of Young Members of Parliament, and Candidates for Public Employment. By Lieutentant-General Sir George Murray, K.G.H. and T.S., Col. of the 42d Foot, and Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.5

Shoulder Arms! A Tyrtaean Poem,6 addressed to the Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy of Great Britain and Ireland. By Field-Marshal his Grace the Duke of Wellington, Drill-Serjeant to the Bench of Bishops, and to both Houses of Parliament.

Moderate Talents best fitted for Affairs of State: an Essay, shewing, from practical Experience, the Dangerousness of confiding political Employments to clever Men. Addressed to the moderately-informed. With Remarks on the unexceptionable Character of the present Administration, in this respect.—Also, by the same Author,

The Vanity of Human Learning; or, The Wonderful Worldly Wisdom of Knowing Nothing:7 wherein are set forth the manifold Advantages, in a practical Point of View, of Ignorance over Knowledge, and the Sufficiency of Reading, Writing, and the Manual Exercise, for the Education of a Cabinet Minister. With a comparative View of Mr. Canning, and the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Huskisson, and Sir George Murray, Turgot, and Sir Thomas Gooch:8 shewing Edition: current; Page: [111] the extreme Ignorance of the latter Statesmen, and calling upon all Persons of moderate Intellect to support them.

On the occasion of a recent schism in the Ministry,9 the Duke of Wellington is reported to have said, “There shall be but one head to my Administration.” Dr. Croker, who was accidentally present, was heard to mutter, “Fait, and sure now, that won’t be your Grace’s own, Duke dear.”

Another on dit of the day is, that in the course of the late Cabinet disputes, Mr. Huskisson formally accused Messrs. Dawson and Goulburn10 of a conspiracy to set the Thames on fire—which those Gentlemen indignantly denied, protesting that all their friends could avouch them to be altogether incapable of such a proceeding.11


The second of Mill’s short satiric attacks on the Wellington ministers (see Nos. 37, 39, and 40), this item is described in his bibliography as “Another squib on the same subject, headed Advertisements Free of Duty, in the Morning Chronicle of 3d June 1828”

(MacMinn, p. 9).

wanted immediately, a person qualified to teach Arithmetic with rapidity. The advertiser is desirous to proceed as far as Long Division. Expedition is Edition: current; Page: [112] indispensable, the Budget being positively fixed for this month.—Apply to H. Goulburn, at the Treasury, Whitehall.

Just Published

To the Right About Face; or, Decision. A Farce, in one act, recently performed with unqualified success at the Theatre Royal, Downing-street; the principal characters by the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Huskisson; with the words of the original Laughing Cantata, executed at the conclusion of the performance by Mr. Peel, accompanied by Messrs. Goulburn, Herries,1 Dawson, and the remainder of the Commander-in-Chief’s band.—N.B. It is expected that on the next representation, this piece of music will be repeated by the same performer, on the other side of his mouth.

one guinea reward.—Lost or stolen, from a Cabinet of Curiosities near the Treasury, a Skull. It is extremely thick, and the eyes are so fixed in it, as to be unable to see beyond the length of the nose. It is also remarkably soft to the touch, and the organ of place is very strongly developed. It is entirely empty, and of no use to any person, except the owner. The reward offered, greatly exceeds the value of the article, as the owner having recently been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, cannot conveniently do without it.

[Advertisement.]2—In consequence of the repeated complaints against divided Cabinets, Wellington, Cabinet-maker to his Majesty, has the honour to inform the Nobility and Gentry, that after several unsuccessful experiments, he has at length succeeded in constructing one which is all of a piece. This excellent article of furniture is entirely cut out of the old block, and is composed of pure logwood, without the slightest mixture of any other material, except in the facing, which is of brass. One trial will prove the fact.—Exhibited daily at St. Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster.3 Doors open at Three in the afternoon, begin at Four. Seats may be procured at Gatton and Old Sarum, or of Messrs. Hertford and Lonsdale, House Agents, next door to the premises.4

Edition: current; Page: [113]


This brief satire on the Wellington ministry (see Nos. 37, 38, and 40), headed “Doctor Croker’s Opinion on the Cause of the Late Ministerial Dispute,” is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A third short squib on the same subject in the same paper of 4th June consisting of two paragraphs, beginning, Dr. Croker’s opinion on the cause of the late ministerial dispute”

(MacMinn, p. 9).

doctor croker’s opinion on the Cause of the Late Ministerial Dispute.—Sorrow a bit could he understand how the payple could so desayve themselves, as to fancy that his Grace, dare cratur, was no arithmetician. Sure it was himself that was mad with Mr. Huskisson, about nothing in life, barring that he couldn’t tache him a lesson of cyphering, by Jasus!

Report says, that Sir George Murray, the new Colonial Secretary, yesterday presented the Duke of Wellington with a handsome copy of his English Spelling Book,1 accompanied by a note, recommending to the Duke’s particular attention that part which treats of letters, it appearing, from recent transactions, that his Grace cannot at present understand them.2


The final satire in this series on the Wellington ministry (see Nos. 37, 38, and 39) is an unheaded paragraph described in Mill’s bibliography as “A fourth short squib, on the same subject in the same paper of 5th June, only one paragraph concerning Dr. Croker”

(MacMinn, p. 10).

some person having expressed his surprise that any Minister should have thought of placing the finances of the State under the charge of Mr. George Dawson and of Mr. Goulburn, it being extremely problematical whether those gentlemen had been sufficiently successful in their arithmetical studies, to admit Edition: current; Page: [114] of their being pronounced well-grounded in the multiplication table, Dr. Croker replied, that “He couldn’t spake, any how, consarning that same; but it was themselves that were nate lads at a division, by St. Patrick.”


This article is Mill’s contribution to the public controversy (see, e.g., The Times, 10 Sept., p. 3, 11 Sept., p. 3, 17 Sept., pp. 3-4, 23 Sept., p. 3, 2 Oct., p. 3) over a proposal that was enacted as 10 George IV, Private Acts, c. 136 (1829). The expensive and potentially litigious proposal was opposed by the small tradesmen of the area, which included Fish Street Hill; Mill contrasts their position with that of the wealthy of Grosvenor Square in the West End, remote from this governmental interference with the rights of property. The unsigned, unheaded leading article is Mill’s only contribution to the British Traveller. It is described in his bibliography as “A leading article in the British Traveller of 27th September [sic] 1828 on the question of compensation to the shopkeepers on the approaches to London Bridge”

(MacMinn, p. 10).

the approaches to the new london bridge are every day becoming the subject of increased discussion. Perhaps if in deciding upon this point, nothing were requisite to be taken into the account except public convenience, it would have been disposed of in a more summary manner. But it seems that in this, as in so many other projects of improvement, a consideration has intruded itself, which, under our national institutions, and with our national modes of thinking, is apt to be esteemed far more important than public convenience, and this is, the convenience of particular individuals.

Nobody, in this or in any other country, is so impudent as to say, that his individual interest ought to be attended to first, and the public interest afterwards. But instead of one man, put the case that there are two or three score, much more if there be two or three hundred, and what no one of them would have the face to claim for himself, every man among them will boldly demand for himself and company.

If nobody felt and acted in this manner, except the grocers and cheesemongers of Fish street hill, no doubt it would be very justly considered a flagrant enormity. If, however, these shopkeepers are only following the admired and applauded example of their betters, it might be expected that what is thought very proper and patriotic in those betters, would hardly be stigmatized as unjust and selfish in them. We were therefore surprised to find an attempt made, in a recent number of a Tory paper, to hold up these respectable persons to public disapprobation, because they, too, thought it proper to stand up for the interests of their “order.”1

Edition: current; Page: [115]

But there is a distinction running through the whole frame of English society, which, when it is fully seized, explains no small quantity of what would otherwise appear altogether enigmatical in the workings of that society. Fielding describes Bridewell as “that house where the inferior sort of people may learn one good lesson, viz.—respect and deference to their superiors, since it must show them the wide distinction fortune intends between those persons who are to be corrected for their faults, and those who are not.”2 The New Times, in its animadversions upon the Fish street hill shopkeepers, intends, no doubt, to read them a similar lesson; to put them in mind of the wide distinction which our institutions intend between those who are to have their interest preferred to the general interest, and those who are not.

There is no other country in the world, says the New Times, in which the best avenues to such a structure as London Bridge would be rejected, for fear of affecting the paltry interests of a few shopkeepers. We hope not; and we hope, likewise, that there is no other country in the world in which the public would be taxed ten or twelve millions in the price of their bread, and exposed to incessant vicissitudes of glut and famine, for fear of affecting the paltry interests of a few landlords.3 We are sure that there is no other country in which a bill, such as the County Courts’ Bill, for extending the benefits of an administration of justice to the largest portion of the people, to whom at present it may be said, with scarcely any exaggeration, to be altogether inaccessible, would be rejected year after year by the legislature on the avowed ground, that it would affect the paltry interests of Lord Ellenborough, and two or three other holders of law sinecures.4

It was doubtless a great piece of presumption in the persons whom the New Times reprehends, to imagine that what might be proper and commendable in so exalted a personage as Lord Ellenborough, was allowable in persons who were no better than shopkeepers, and who lived in no other street than Fish street hill. If the proposed approaches had encroached upon a Nobleman’s park, or had passed so much as within a quarter of a mile of his game preserves, it is probable Edition: current; Page: [116] that we should have heard another story about paltry interests. But it is a mistake, to suppose that cheesemongers can have vested rights. Cheesemongers are only virtually represented. Lords and Landlords not only are actually represented, but virtually represent the Cheesemongers themselves. They may, therefore, possess vested rights: if they possess any thing which they do not like to give up, it is a vested right: and having received this name, however little they may be entitled to it, or however imperatively the public interest may require the sacrifice of it, to demand it would be to infringe upon the sacred rights of property. All this, to the New Times, is gospel: but that journal is far too acute not to seize the distinction between Fish street hill, and Grosvenor square, and to perceive, that with lawgivers as well as other men, there is all the difference in the world between doing a dishonest thing for their own interest, and doing exactly the same thing for the interest of other people.


This letter is in response to the agitations promoted by the Brunswick Clubs in opposition to Catholic Emancipation (which was enacted, to the outrage of a large section of his party, by the Duke of Wellington in 1829, 10 George IV, c. 7). The Brunswick Clubs, founded in Ireland in 1827 as an offshoot of the Orange Society, and named for the German House of Brunswick, were spreading rapidly in England in the autumn of 1828 under the active patronage of the Duke of Cumberland (1771-1851), fifth son of George III. The agitation reached a head with a large meeting on Penenden Heath, Kent, on 24 Oct., 1828, at which the attendance was variously estimated between 25,000 and 60,000. The analogy with military “musters” is in “Brunswick Agitation in the Country of Kent,” Spectator, 16 Oct., p. 247. Mill’s signature, “Lamoignon,” probably refers to Nicolas de Lamoignon (1648-1724), Intendant of Montauban, whose administration was marked by vigorous measures against the Camisards, extreme Protestants who took up arms after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The letter is headed “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle” and is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A letter signed Lamoignon in the Morning Chronicle of 30th October 1828 on the Brunswick Clubs” (MacMinn, p. 10). For nearly two years following this letter, Mill published nothing

(see No. 43).

The “Brunswick muster,” as it is aptly denominated by your contemporary, The Spectator, has at length taken place. The party not having, as they are well aware, any great strength to boast of on the score of heads, are at least determined to let the country see how great a number of hands they can put in requisition on an emergency. Their first exploit has given, it appears, great satisfaction to their own minds. They are as elate with their triumph, as if any part of it had been due to the force of their logic, or to the brilliancy of their oratory. They hug themselves on their majority, as if the number of their votes were a proof of any thing whatever but the number of their acres. Had the Freeholders of Kent been free agents, these personages could not have raised a Edition: current; Page: [117] greater din of self-gratulation. They talk as magnificently of public opinion as if every child did not know, that all the opinion in the matter is their own opinion reflected back from their tenantry. The boast of the moment is, that the nation is with them; and the nation is every thing that is excellent and respectable, till it suits their purpose that it should be directly the reverse.

This signal respect for popular opinion, considering from what quarter it comes, is at least new. We were not always accustomed to so much deference, in certain personages, for the will of the people. Expressions of popular feeling were not deemed worthy of so much obedience when the feeling expressed was a reluctance to be starved by a bread-tax for the benefit of rent, and buried in a gaol “on suspicion of being suspected” of an encroachment upon the landlord’s monopoly of game.1 It was not respect which was felt for the voice of the nation, when it complained that the life-blood of the nation was drained from it in exorbitant taxation, to be profligately expended in affording a patrimony to the younger branches of certain families.2 There was a time when public opinion was only named to be insulted; only interfered with to be bound down and gagged. I congratulate these Lords and Gentlemen on their conversion. It is somewhat tardy; but it still is welcome. Some slight shew of external respect towards a people whose bread so many of their relations eat, is at least decent. Pity that they did not see at a somewhat earlier period the error of their ways. The country might have been spared the recollection of more than one act, which will not redound to the honour of the British Aristocracy in future ages, nor perhaps of the nation, which an Aristocracy of such a stamp could so quietly rule.

What strange destiny! By what marvellous overturning and reversing of the established relations of things have English Borough Lords given in their adhesion to the “sovereignty of the people;” and the men who cheered the declaration of the Duke of Wellington, that county meetings were a farce,3 appealed from the Duke of Wellington to a county meeting? I am not one of those who profess a sort of instinctive horror of “new lights;”4 I think little of the Edition: current; Page: [118] wisdom, and not much of the sincerity, of such horrors. But the new lights which break in upon the professed enemies of new lights appear to me an object of very well-grounded distrust. I am suspicious of those, who then first discover the value of a nation’s support, when for some immediate and momentary purpose they happen to need it. A lesson so conveniently learned, may no doubt be as conveniently forgotten, when need requires. I shall give credit to these Lords and Gentlemen for their popular principles when I behold them calling forth the people to join with them in any exalted and generous scheme of philanthropy and benevolence. But, as one of the multitude, I give these Noble Personages no thanks that I am summoned to aid them, not in giving freedom to the oppressed, or relief to the afflicted, but in silencing groans with bayonets, and wading up to the knees in the blood of six millions of my countrymen. I complain that, by these new candidates for my favour, no appeal is ever made to any but the mere grovelling and brutish part of my natural Constitution. I am little flattered when I perceive that I am never thought capable of being used for any services but those to which a wild beast would be perfectly adequate—and that my voice is never deemed worthy to be listened to in affairs of State, but when it is hoped, that swelled into rage by savage and malignant passions, it will emit sounds of hatred and ferocity against those over whom, for purposes in which I have no concern, it has been resolved to tyrannize.

But there is one consolatory assurance which may be gathered from the appeal of the Brunswick faction to the British people. The support for which they condescend to stoop so low, they assuredly need. It is unquestionably from no common necessity that they fly for help to those for whom, in the days of their pride, they have so little made a secret of their utter aversion and contempt. Perhaps, like other scornful persons before them, they have learned by experience, that very high people may need that assistance which very low people can give. They have little hope of other support, when they will throw themselves upon ours. They feel their weakness, and they feel it with mortification and rage. The feeling is excusable. It is new and strange to them as yet to find any difficulty in keeping their foot on any neck upon which it has once been planted. The loss of power is not familiar to them; it is what they have not yet learned to bear. Every sentence of the famous letter of the Duke of Newcastle betrays a deep and painful sense of humiliation.5 Ill does he brook to renounce that tone of lofty authority so natural to the Lord of five Boroughs, and descend Edition: current; Page: [119] to the unaccustomed language of complaint and solicitation. His Grace does not easily use himself to the lachrymose tone. It does not sit gracefully upon him. His first efforts in the comédie larmoyante have all the inexperienced awkwardness of a beginner.—Amidst the most piteous of his complaints, it is easy to discern how much more to his taste the Aristocratic sic volo sic jubeo would be.6 He probably would not be flattered by being told that he excites the commiseration of others; but he evidently is perfectly sincere in pitying himself.

The Ultra faction7 are driven to their last resource. It was pleasanter, it was easier to govern the country by the strong arm of power, wielded by an obedient Ministry. For twenty years this scheme of Government had succeeded to their wish; and great was their surprise when they discovered, on a sudden, that it would endure no longer. They laid the blame of this disappointment at first upon those at the helm, who, they thought, having been formerly overpraised for being useful tools, had been puffed up by self-conceit to aspire above their station, and imagine that they might venture to be tools no longer. The new and unexpected difficulty which the Ultras found in governing the country being thus satisfactorily accounted for, they cast their eyes round the circle of the trading politicians of the day, and explored who among the hacks in office, or the hacks who wished to be in office, were the most narrow-minded and illiberal, the most ignorant and inept, and the most destitute of all moral dignity and decent self-respect. Having found that which they sought—having ascertained, as they conceived, which were the individuals who, in a field where such commodities abound, united in the greatest degree all these requisites; being satisfied with the result of their search, they resolved that of these individuals, thus pricked out, their next Ministry should be composed. Accident rather than their own strength gave them the Ministry of their choice; and if jobbing for them, and truckling to them, in any ordinary mode of truckling and jobbing, would have contented them, few Administrations ever did so much, in so short a time, to justify the selection. But no Ministry dares do all, which, at the present crisis, the interests of these men require, and their tongues do not scruple to demand. They wanted a Tory Ministry; they have had their wish, and they cannot find men who do not shrink from the responsibility of a bellum internecinum8 between the soldiers on one side, and one-third part of the people on the other. Men in conspicuous stations, exposed to the public eye, who know that the opinion of mankind at Edition: current; Page: [120] least will render them personally answerable for the evils which come upon their country through their means, are not hastily or easily brought to the perpetration of a great crime, to uphold a domination which to them is of no advantage, and satiate passions which they do not share. Since, then, the Ultras can find no other instruments to do their work, they hope at least to make instruments of the people. Their last desperate shift is to terrify their own Minister with that popular voice which they had themselves taught him to despise. What portion of the people fair or foul means will procure to back them in their unhallowed enterprise, a few weeks, or at farthest a few months, will disclose. But it is at least the duty of those who detest it as it deserves not to indulge a sleepy inactivity, nor flatter themselves with the idea that, when wicked men are preparing wicked deeds, it is enough for the good to sit still and silently disapprove. What, in all nations and in all ages, has caused the successes of interested villainy, is the indifference of the well-intentioned. The remark has been often repeated,9 but it is little attended to; why? apparently because it has not been repeated enough.

I shall, perhaps, continue to address to you a few occasional remarks, as this great drama unfolds itself.

Edition: current; Page: [121]

July 1830 to July 1831

EXAMINER, 18 JULY, 1830, PP. 449-50

In his Autobiography, after mentioning his ceasing to contribute to the Westminster Review after “Scott’s Life of Napoleon” appeared in April 1828 (CW, Vol. XX, pp. 53-110), Mill says that for “some years after this time” he “wrote very little, and nothing regularly, for publication” (CW, Vol. I, p. 136), and his bibliography lists only Nos. 37-42 between “Scott’s Life of Napoleon” and this leading article on the French Elections of July 1830. In fact he wrote a “treatise” or “tract” on an economic subject, which he submitted to the Library of Useful Knowledge on 23 Jan., 1829 (EL, CW, Vol. XIII, p. 742), about which nothing else is known. The silence ended when the July Revolution in France, following on the elections, “roused [his] utmost enthusiasm, and gave [him], as it were, a new existence” (CW, Vol. I, p. 179). The published result is seen in the flood of articles on France that he wrote in the next four years for the Examiner. During this time, Mill says, he “wrote nearly all the articles on French subjects [for the Examiner] . . . together with many leading articles on general politics, commercial and financial legislation, and any miscellaneous subjects in which I felt interested, and which were suitable to the paper, including occasional reviews of books” (ibid., pp. 179-81). By October 1832 he was, he told Thomas Carlyle, writing “nothing regularly for the Examiner except the articles on French affairs” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 125).

In this leading article Mill, in accordance with his belief that the English are ignorant of French affairs (and Continental affairs generally), explains the background of the shift to the left in the recent elections in France and the growing opposition in the country to the regime of Charles X (1757-1836). The previous elections, held in November 1827, had greatly increased the strength of the liberals in the Chamber of Deputies, giving them about two-fifths of the seats, approximately the same number going to the royalist supporters of Charles, and the remainder to the right opposition. This result ended the conservative ministry of comte Jean Baptiste Séraphin Joseph de Villèle (1773-1854), and there followed a period of moderate leadership by the vicomte de Martignac (see No. 45). Displeased by the liberal measures adopted, the King succeeded in 1829 in appointing an ultra-royalist ministry with prince Jules Auguste Armand Marie de Polignac (1780-1847) at its head. Liberal opposition continued to grow, and reached its height in the reply to the King’s address at the opening of the session in March 1830, a protest by 221 Deputies, demanding ministers responsible to a majority in the chambers. Charles dissolved the Deputies on 16 May, and announced new elections.

The Charter to which Mill repeatedly refers is the Charte constitutionnelle, Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, Bull. 17, No. 133 (4 June, 1814). Granted by Louis XVIII (1755-1824) on his accession, and modified in 1815 after the Hundred Days, it established a new constitution for France that, while guaranteeing political liberties and imposing some limits on the monarch, nevertheless left the direction of the government in his hands. On 20 May, 1830, Charles X had intimated indirectly that he was prepared to Edition: current; Page: [122] use the powers he claimed were granted him by Article 14 of the Charter to govern by ordinance if the Chamber of Deputies failed to support his policies.

When Mill writes, the first stage of the French elections—that of the arrondissement electoral colleges, which elected 258 deputies and were made up of all male residents paying 300 francs a year in direct taxes—had taken place on 23 June; the second stage—that of the departmental colleges, which elected 172 deputies and were made up of the top 25 per cent of the taxpayers, who thus had a double vote—had occurred on 3 July, except in twenty departments (not nineteen as Mill thought).

The death of George IV on 25 June necessitated elections in England at this same time, elections which would replace the government of the Duke of Wellington with that of the 2nd Earl Grey and lead directly into the crisis over the Reform Bill.

This item, which begins the “Political Examiner,” headed as title and unsigned, is not in the Somerville College set of the Examiner, which begins with 15 Aug., 1830. It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article on the French Elections in the Examiner of 18th July 1830”

(MacMinn, p. 10).

the departmental, or grand colleges, have now completed their operations throughout all France, except 19 departments. In those departments the elections were postponed by the Government, to afford time for the Court of Cassation to disfranchise a considerable number of electors who had been declared by the inferior Courts entitled to vote.

Exclusive of these nineteen departments, which include Paris, Rouen, and their vicinity, and in which the ministry are sure of a complete defeat, the departmental elections have afforded results as auspicious to the liberal cause as the elections for the arrondissemens. The royalists, indeed, still retain a majority, but that majority is greatly diminished. At no election previous to the last had a single liberal candidate been returned by a departmental college. At the last elections in 1827, about one third of the deputies elected by these colleges were liberal. In the present elections the proportion will be much greater. Without reckoning the deputies for the nineteen departments, of which the elections have been adjourned, the opposition had in the late Chamber 34 departmental members; it has now 46.

As the departmental colleges may be said to be composed of the twenty thousand richest men in a population of 30 millions, the great and rapid increase of the strength of the liberal party in these colleges is a still more striking indication of the progress of the public mind, than the liberal majority in the colleges of arrondissemens. The most bigotted English Tory cannot affect to see in such a struggle as the present any tincture of Jacobinism, if Jacobinism be, as Burke defined it, “an insurrection of the talents of a country against its property.”1 The insurrection, if such it can be called, is an insurrection of the intelligence and property of the country against an attempt to impose on them a Edition: current; Page: [123] ministry who are not only declared enemies to the reform of whatever is bad in the present laws or administration of France, but likewise, as the nation from long experience universally believes, irreclaimably hostile to the existing constitution of their country.

The French nation has been most absurdly reproached, particularly by the Times newspaper, for having condemned the Polignac ministry without trial.2 If Mr. Cobbett were placed at the head of an English ministry, would the Times scruple to declare its hostility to his administration, because Mr. Cobbett had never been First Lord of the Treasury before?3 Men whose whole political life has condemned them, as statesmen and as citizens, are not entitled to be tried over again in the situation of ministers, all measures of national improvement being stopped while the trial proceeds.

The opposition to the Polignac ministry is both of a reforming and of a conservative character. It is a conservative opposition as respects the political constitution of France, established by the Charter, which it defends against the Ministry, and the emigrants and their friends. It is a reforming opposition, as respects the multitude of gross abuses, which the representative system, established by the Charter, has not been able to prevent or extirpate.—The object of the Ministry, on the contrary, is to guard these abuses, to introduce others, and to overthrow either entirely or partially the representative system, which renders the introduction of new abuses extremely difficult, and which now at length seriously menaces the old ones.

The great and leading abuse which exists in France, and from which all the others flow, is the inordinate power of the government,—of the administration, in the common sense,—the crown, and its officers. In England, the ministry are the mere servants of an oligarchy, composed of borough-holders and owners of large masses of property: the abuses of which we complain, exist for the benefit of that oligarchy, not for the private interest or importance of men in office; and any one who should complain of the undue power of the Ministers as such, would be justly ridiculous. But in France, the oligarchy which engrosses all power, and manages and mismanages all public affairs from the greatest to the least, is what has been expressively termed a bureaucratie—it is the aggregate body of the functionaries of Government with the Ministry at their head. The power which in Great Britain is shared in Local Corporations, Parish Vestries, Churchwardens, Commissioners of Roads, Sheriffs, Justices of Peace, acting separately and in Quarter Sessions,* and numerous other local officers or bodies, Edition: current; Page: [124] is in France exclusively exercised by the Government, and by officers appointed and removable at its pleasure. All establishments for education are under the direct superintendance of the Government. Almost all the public works, which in England are executed by voluntary associations of individuals, with all the power and patronage annexed to them, devolve in France upon the Government, partly from the scarcity of capital in France as compared with England, partly from the obstacles which the French laws oppose to all combinations of individuals for public purposes—the extent of which obstacles, and the degree in which the immense natural advantages of France are rendered useless by them, would utterly astonish our readers if we were to lay before them the requisite particulars. The French police has powers over individual security and freedom of action, which are utterly irreconcileable with good government.

The proximate object of the present opposition, so far as it is a reforming opposition, is to limit and curb this all-pervading influence of the Government, by destroying the system of centralization (this most expressive word has no synonym in English) from which it takes its rise. There are now many able and influential persons in France, who have studied England and the English Government, not as it is represented in books, but in its actual working and practical effects. They have seen at home the necessity that local affairs should be managed by local bodies; they have seen in England that when a local body is so constituted as to be an oligarchy, it far surpasses in jobbing and mismanagement even the great Oligarchy itself. They consequently desire the same securities for the integrity of the local bodies, which the Charter has provided for that of the general government. The executive officer, the prefect or mayor, they purpose should continue as at present, to be appointed and removable by the King. But their aim is—that the deliberative body, the council of the town, or of the department, should be chosen by the same electoral body which chuses the members of the representative branch of the general government, namely, the 80,000 persons or thereabouts, who pay 300 francs, or 12l. per annum of direct taxes.

The avowed purpose for which the Polignac Ministry was formed was, to resist this and all similar improvements. The manifesto which they issued the very day after their election, treated elective municipalities as a relic of Jacobinism. In the same document they announced as the principle of their administration, point de concessions, point de réaction,—no further concessions to the public voice, no retractation of the concessions already made.4 The French nation did not believe them when they said, point de réaction: but even on their own showing, they were determined to refuse all concessions. The 80,000 electors and the nation deem concessions indispensable, and the electors would therefore have been guilty of cowardly truckling, if they had not re-elected the Edition: current; Page: [125] 221 deputies who declared to the King that they had not confidence in his ministers.5

If even the professed designs of the ministry warranted the general burst of indignation with which their appointment was received, how much more so the designs which the nation, and even their own party, ascribes to them, and which, though not directly avowed, can scarcely be said to be disguised.

The present ministers, to a man, belong to that section of the party calling themselves Royalists, who from the first dissuaded Louis XVIII from granting the Charter, and who have ever been its declared enemies. All the measures of that party, when in power, have been so many encroachments, or attempts to encroach, upon the constitution established by the Charter, and upon the liberties and privileges which it guaranteed. According to the Charter, all the members of the Chamber of Deputies were elected by the 80,000 electors who form the colleges of arrondissement.6 The Royalists added a fourth to the number of the deputies, and that fourth is elected exclusively by the 20,000 richest.7 By the Charter, one fifth of the Chamber went out by rotation every year.8 The Royalists passed a Septennial Act.9 By a law which still subsists, no community of Jesuits can exist on French soil: the Royalist ministry not only connived at the existence of such communities, but threw the education of the greater part of the French youth, and the nomination to the subordinate public offices, almost exclusively into the hands of the Jesuits.10 This first disgusted with the measures of the court all the most honest and intelligent part of the Royalist party; this it was which threw such men as Montlosier, the ablest literary champion of the royal power, into the ranks of the liberals.11 A Royalist minister abolished the militia, or national guard, because they refused to turn Manuel out of the Chamber of Deputies, for exercising what in England would be considered a moderate and Edition: current; Page: [126] constitutional freedom of speech.12 A Royalist Ministry and a Royalist Chamber restored Ferdinand of Spain to absolute power, by the men and money of a people said to be under a constitutional government.13 A Royalist Ministry and a Royalist Chamber passed the famous law of sacrilege, for punishing the profanation of the sacred elements in the Eucharist,—a law worthy of the days of Calas and La Barre, and which persuaded the civilized world that the reign of despotism was assured for another century, and that France was relapsing into the servitude and superstition of the middle ages.14

A Royalist Chamber of Deputies passed the law of primogeniture,15 which, for the avowed purpose of creating a hereditary aristocracy, offered violence to the strongest and most deeply-rooted sentiment of the most united public mind in Europe. A Royalist Chamber of Deputies passed the law for restraining the press, nick-named by its author, M. de Peyronnet, “une loi d’amour,” by which not only all newspapers but all pamphlets and small books were placed under the almost absolute control of the ministry.16 The hereditary Chamber of Peers rejected both these laws; and a Royalist Ministry attempted to overpower the Edition: current; Page: [127] voice of the majority, by creating from among their hacks in the Lower Chamber seventy-six new Peers at one stroke,17 among all whom there was only one name* not odious or contemptible to all France.

Such is the political history of the party which has raised the Polignac Ministry to power, and by which alone that Ministry is supported. Let us now speak of the individuals. M. de Polignac was one of that portion of the emigrants who, after their return to France, refused to swear to the Charter. M. de la Bourdonnaye proposed that all who had accepted office under Napoleon, after his return from Elba, should be put to death.18 His successor, M. de Peyronnet, is of ill repute, even in his private character, and the most violent and unbending member of the Villèle Ministry. M. de Montbel is the habitual apologist of that Ministry in the late Chamber. M. de Bourmont is odious to the army, for having gone over to the enemy on the field of battle; and finally, M. de Guernon-Ranville was only known, before his elevation to the Ministry, for having publicly declared that he gloried in being a counter-revolutionist, that is, in being an enemy to all benefits which France has purchased by the sacrifice of an entire generation.19

If the intentions of the Ministry are to be judged by the ostentatious declarations of their partizans, they are disposed to carry matters with a higher hand than the most audacious of their predecessors. There is not a royalist journal, including those known to be connected with the Ministry, which does not openly declare that the King will not yield, and that if the Chamber refuses to vote the taxes, they will be levied from the people by a Royal Ordonnance. Edition: current; Page: [128] According to a mode of interpretation by which any thing may be made to mean any thing, they affirm that one of the articles of the Charter authorizes the King, when he sees urgent necessity, to make laws and levy taxes by his own authority,—that is, that one article of the Charter nullifies all the others. By virtue of this article, according to the ministerial papers, the King is determined, if the Chamber refuses the budget, to reassume absolute power, either definitively, or for the purpose of altering the law of election, and obtaining a Chamber which will be a passive instrument of his will. The liberal papers say that this is mere bravado; that the King will not be so imprudent as to attempt the entire subversion of the established constitution; that if he does attempt to levy taxes, either by proclamation or by the vote of a Chamber not constituted according to law, the people will refuse to pay them; that the courts of justice will support the people in their resistance; that if the King abolishes the courts of justice, establishes others, and endeavours to levy the taxes by force, the army will not support him; and that the struggle which will then take place will be dangerous to no one except the Royalists and the King. The strength and unanimity with which public opinion has declared itself, renders the fulfilment of these predictions, in case the King should endeavour to govern without a Chamber, by no means improbable.

Whether, therefore, the Ministers are to be judged by their avowed intentions, by their personal history, by the great acts of their party, or by its present professions, the renitency of the French nation against their yoke is just and expedient, and their success in putting down the manifestations of public displeasure would be one of the greatest, but fortunately also, one of the most unlikely calamities which could befal France and Europe.

EXAMINER, 19 SEPT., 1830, PP. 594-5

Between the preceding item (No. 43) and this, the July Revolution had taken place. On 26 July, urged by Peyronnet and with the agreement of Polignac and other ministers, Charles X had issued four ordinances curtailing drastically the liberty of the press, dissolving the newly elected Chamber of Deputies, restricting the number of electors and the number of Deputies, and calling for new elections (Bull. 367, Nos. 15135-8 [25 July, 1830]). He referred to the powers granted by Art. 14 of the Charter of 1814, thus confirming fears that he would use those powers to establish personal government. Three days of riots followed; Charles X revoked the ordinances on 30 July, but it was too late; on 31 July, Louis Philippe, duc d’Orléans, accepted the offer to become Lieutenant-General of the realm; on 2 Aug. Charles X abdicated in favour of his grandson; on 7 Aug. the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of proposals for a revised Charter, and offered the crown to Louis Philippe on his acceptance of the new version of the Charter (Charte constitutionnelle, Bull. 5, No. 59 [14 Aug., 1830]); and on 9 Aug., in a simple ceremony in Edition: current; Page: [129] the presence of the Deputies and Peers, Louis Philippe, duc d’Orléans, became Louis Philippe, King of the French.

Mill had gone with John Arthur Roebuck (1801-79), a close friend, and others to Paris in the week of 8 Aug., where he “laid the groundwork of the intercourse” he was to keep up “with several of the active chiefs of the extreme popular party” (Autobiography, CW, Vol. I, p. 179); he returned to London in the first week of September. For his exuberant letters from Paris extolling the Revolution and the exemplary behaviour of the working class, which he wrote to his father (in large part published in the Examiner) giving his impressions of the state of France immediately after the Revolution and the first proceedings of Louis Philippe’s government, see EL, CW, Vol. XII, pp. 54-63.

This article, headed “Prospects of France. / No. I,” is the first of a series of seven under that title in the “Political Examiner” (see Nos. 45, 48, 50, 51, 57, and 61; No. 98 is also related). The articles are described in Mill’s bibliography as “A series of essays entitled the Prospects of France and signed S— in the Examiner of 19th Sept., 26th Sept., 3d Oct., 10th Oct., 17th Oct., 14th Nov., and 28th November, 1830, in all seven numbers”

(MacMinn, p. 11).

how will the revolution terminate? This is the question, which every person in England who reads a newspaper has asked, and still continues to ask himself every day. But all do not ask this question in the same spirit, nor with the same hopes and fears.

Those who feel interested in an event which changes the face of the world, chiefly as the security of their own commercial speculations may happen to be affected by it; and those, an equally large class, whose sympathies with their species are of such a character, that in every step which it takes towards the achievement of its destiny, they are more keenly alive to the dangers which beset it, than to the glory and the happiness towards which it is irresistibly advancing; these classes anxiously enquire, whether there will be tranquillity?

Those who feel that tranquillity, though of great importance, is not all in all; that a nation may suffer worse evils than excessive political excitement; that if the French people had not valued something else more highly than tranquillity, they would now have been the abject slaves of a priest-ridden despot; and that when tranquillity has once been disturbed, the best way to prevent a second disturbance is to prevent a second disturbance from being necessary; with these persons the subject of principal anxiety is this, Will the French establish a good government? And grievous will be their disappointment if, when every thing has been put to hazard, little or nothing shall prove to have been gained.

We will endeavour to contribute such materials as are afforded by a tolerably familiar acquaintance with the history of France for the last forty years,1 and by Edition: current; Page: [130] recent personal observation on the spot, towards the solution of both these questions.

We believe, then, that there will be tranquillity; that there will not be another insurrection; and that there will be no outrages on property, or resistance to the operations of Government in detail, but such as will with the utmost facility be put down, and that, too, by the people themselves, if necessary. But we are also convinced that France is threatened at present even with a greater evil than a second insurrection; and that if the people were to follow the advice of some of our contemporaries, by abstaining from all political agitation, and leaving their destinies to the quiet disposal of their present Ministers and Chambers, they would speedily find that all they had gained by the revolution was, to exchange a feeble despotism for a strong and durable oligarchy.

We believe, however, that the people are becoming aware of this; that they are beginning to understand what are the really important securities for good government; that before long they will make their demands heard in so loud a voice as will compel attention to them; and that they will obtain, gradually perhaps, but certainly, the best form of government which could continue to exist, in the present state of society in France, and with the feelings and ideas at present diffused among the French people.

Concurring as we do most heartily in all the demands of the popular party in France; holding those demands, and the tone in which they are preferred, to be not only unexceptionable but signally and laudably moderate; we of course see no ground for the tone of alarm which a highly influential journal suddenly assumed at the beginning of the present week.2 The writer in the Times cannot possibly be unaware that he is most imperfectly acquainted with the past and present state of France, and the fact is that he hardly ever touches on the subject without betraying gross ignorance of it. He should not therefore be in so great a hurry to decide magisterially, that people of whom he seems to know nothing except that they desire the dissolution of the present Chamber, are a criminal faction. It is a besetting sin of the journal to which we allude, that whether its opinion be founded on knowledge or not, it fancies every man a rogue or a fool who ventures to entertain a different one.

We can assure the writer in the Times, without hesitation, that the dissolution of the Chamber is not desired (as he surmises) for the purpose of abolishing the peerage and still further curtailing the functions of the executive. There probably is not a man, certainly there is not a party, in France, whose desire it is that the power of the executive should be further curtailed. On the contrary, it is to the King, Louis-Philippe, that the popular party look, with a confidence not assumed for show, but felt in their hearts, to rid them in proper season of a body which has shewn readiness enough to take power from the Crown, but the greatest Edition: current; Page: [131] reluctance to give to the people any additional securities which it can possibly withhold from them. It is not desired that the Chamber should be immediately dissolved. What is sought is that they should first pass a new election law; that they should then dissolve, and give place to successors chosen under a system of election more favourable to good government than the present.

The whole number of persons having a right to vote at the election of Deputies, does not exceed 88,000. We have seen it asserted that the number of paid places in the gift of the Crown, and to which an elector is admissible, amounts to nearly 50,000. This may be an exaggeration; but when every proper abatement is made, the fact is indisputable that the Government disposes of a sufficient amount of public money to secure, without much difficulty, a majority of the electors; or, what comes to the same thing, the electors, who, in time to come, will have in their own hands the making or unmaking of ministries, have it in their power to distribute the public money, in considerable shares, among themselves and their connexions.

If it be said that, by the retrenchments about to be effected, the means of corruption will be diminished, we answer, that by those very retrenchments, and the accompanying remissions of taxes (the electoral qualification being founded on the amount of taxes paid) the number of voters will be reduced even below what it is at present. The remissions of taxes which have taken place since 1815,3 have already diminished the number of electors to about four-fifths of what it was when Louis XVIII granted the Charter.

It is obvious, primâ facie, that 88,000 electors, in a population of 32 millions, constitute far too narrow a basis for a national representation. But the strenuous and energetic resistance which this body of electors offered to the usurpations of the late Government, appears to have induced many persons, both in this country and in France, to repose almost unlimited confidence in their disinterestedness and public spirit, notwithstanding the contrary presumption founded on their limited number.

To correct this mistake, it is only necessary to repeat an observation, in which the English Globe, to its great honour, preceded not only the other English, but even the French journalists. Under the late Government the electors were not yet the governing body. The powers of Government were substantially in the hands of the King; or at least it was yet a question whether the King or the Chambers should be the real sovereign. The King had not yet, like our own King, submitted himself to the necessity of governing in concert with the body who nominate the Chamber, and of dividing with them the produce of the taxes. Nevertheless a king cannot reign alone. Others besides himself must participate in his power, Edition: current; Page: [132] and in the benefits which result from it. But the Bourbons had never had the cunning to ally themselves with the monied class; the only portion of the nation possessing, by the Constitution, any political rights, by the exercise of which they could endanger the power of the sovereign. That stupid race, who, as Bonaparte said of them, had learned nothing and forgotten nothing,4 were incapable of conceiving one single idea save that of returning to the old regime. Instead of uniting with the new Aristocracy, they had the inconceivable folly to rely for support upon an Aristocracy which had fallen into decay—which had lost all that ever gave it either physical force or moral influence—the titled noblesse and the Catholic hierarchy. These classes, reinforced by all whom they could personally influence, formed but an insignificant minority of the 88,000 electors, and the whole weight of the royal power being thrown into the scale, did not suffice to give it the preponderance. The electors would not tolerate a Government in which they had no share, and the King, persisting in his frantic scheme, appealed to the sword, and was defeated.

The case is now altered. The monied class has stepped into the place both of the King and of his allies, the emigrants and clergy. When itself excluded from the Government, this class made common cause with the people. Now, however, it composes the Government: and being a narrow Oligarchy, it has the same interests with any other Oligarchy. The people, when they made the Revolution, certainly did not intend that it should be a mere change of masters; but those whom they have permitted to assume the Government, have already evinced, in a variety of ways, their desire and intention that it should be little more.

Both in France and in England, the late French revolution has been frequently compared to the English revolution in 1688;5 and there has in fact been up to the present time a striking similitude between the two events. We earnestly hope that they will not resemble each other in their final result.

The English House of Commons, under the Stuarts, was not a much more perfect representation of the people than it is at present. Yet it resisted the Stuarts with the utmost vigour and determination; the most genuine representative assembly could not have evinced more. And why? Because the House of Commons at that time had no separate interest from the people; because it had not yet possessed itself of the powers of government. It fought its own battle against a rival power, the people fought theirs against a tyrannical one. The House and the people marched together in uninterrupted harmony until the common enemy was overthrown. Thus far the conduct of the House of Commons resembled that of the Chamber of Deputies; yet if it had been inferred from their Edition: current; Page: [133] intrepid conduct in opposition to tyranny, that they were incapable of abusing the power of Government when placed in their own hands, we have long since been taught by lamentable experience how little foundation there would have been for such an inference.

The revolution of 1688 occurred. The changes which it produced, the new laws which were made to limit the royal power,6 and the opinions which, for a long time, it was the interest of the new Government to disseminate, have practically had the effect, now acknowledged by every body, of vesting the governing power of this country substantially in the House of Commons. So, in France, it now substantially resides in the Chamber of Deputies: that assembly having, in the first fortnight after the revolution, most expeditiously abolished all those articles of the Charter which imposed any restrictions on their power in favour of the King;7 while they left to be decided hereafter the great questions which relate to the securities in favour of the people against the misconduct of the Chamber itself.

If the composition of the Chamber be retained nearly as it is, without any material modification in the law of election, the French constitution bids fair to be an exact copy of the English, in all except the fraudulent pretexts and the private immorality by means of which the latter habitually works. It will accomplish its ends without the instrumentality of a Gatton or an East Retford,8 but the practical results will be much the same, saving the difference in the play of the machinery.

Where 32 millions are governed by the 88 thousand richest, the Government is of necessity a monied oligarchy; and our own Government is substantially of the same character. We have indeed great families who, by the boroughs which they influence, can secure to themselves a greater share of power and of the profits of misrule, than in proportion to their comparative wealth. Of this blessing the French are destitute. But even among ourselves every wealthy man is virtually a sharer in the Government. Every man who can afford to buy land, may obtain more or less influence in a county election; and every man who desires to have a seat in Parliament, can always obtain one by paying the price. The power which every rich man has thus within his reach, is equivalent to power in possession. Though the vices of our Government are as we see them, there is very little actual difference between the situation of a rich man who has a vote, or the means of influencing votes, and of a rich man who has neither one nor the other.

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The French have therefore a genuine example in our Government of the spirit of an aristocracy of wealth, and the fruits which it bears. Let them beware how they suffer such a Government to become consolidated among themselves. It is because we, at our revolution, committed this grand mistake, that we are still, after 150 years, fruitlessly demanding parliamentary reform. The French will not be guilty of a similar error. They will effect their parliamentary reform in two years, perhaps sooner,—not with muskets, but with newspapers and petitions: after which there will be “tranquillity,” if that name can be given to the intense activity of a people which, freed from its shackles, will speedily outstrip all the rest of the world in the career of civilization.

The organs of the English Oligarchy, the Post and the John Bull,9 never fell into so grand a mistake as when they commenced flinging dirt against the new Government of France. For the interest of their employers, they should have upheld that Government by every means in their power. They are committing the same blunder as if they were to declaim in favour of the Jacobites, and against the present Constitution of England and the present settlement of the Crown. The two exiled families, and their respective supporters, are exact models of one another, and the men now in power in France are as exact a copy as could exist in the present day of our own politicians of 1688.

We have unavoidably contented ourselves with generalities in the present article. In the next we shall enter into greater detail.


EXAMINER, 26 SEPT., 1830, PP. 609-10

For the context and the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.

the chamber of 1830 was the result of a compromise.1

A glance at the history of the last fifteen years will show what was the nature of the compromise, and what were the motives which led to it.

From 1815 to 1830, the Government of the restored Bourbons had proceeded in almost uninterrupted progression from bad to worse: the eighteen months of the Martignac Ministry, a short-lived experiment on the public forbearance, being the only intermission.2

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At every step in this downward movement, the Bourbons lost a portion of their adherents. Recent events have made it sufficiently visible how miserable a remnant finally remained. The very soldiers who fought against the people, fought reluctantly, and against their private conviction. Leave out the foreign mercenaries, leave out all whose sole inducement was a mistaken idea of military honour, and Charles X could not perhaps have mustered a hundred men, not priests nor emigrants, who would voluntarily have fired a musket to save his throne.

Thus unanimous were the French, when tyranny was pushed to extremity; when the reign of the Bourbons became incompatible with a government of law, with the security of men’s persons against the worst excesses of enraged and terrified power; when, if they had not been overthrown, blood must have flowed in torrents on the scaffold, civil war would have raged in every corner of France, and that wretched family would have been ejected after all, or could have been maintained solely by a despotism worse (if worse be possible) than that of the arch-despot, Napoleon.

So striking a unanimity could not have been generated by a less potent cause. The opposition to the Polignac Ministry was composed of the most heterogeneous materials.

Before the feud between the restored dynasty and the people could come to the issue which we have just witnessed—before the dynasty could have the folly to declare war upon the people with a force insufficient to hold out against them for three days—the dynasty had been, and must have been, deserted, not only by all the friends of good government, but by all the prudent and moderate supporters of bad. The Bourbons had parted with the wisdom of the serpent as well as with the innocence of the dove;3 and all who had not made a similar renunciation were in the opposite ranks.

The opponents of the Polignac Ministry, though consisting, as we have already observed, of several different shades of opinion and inclination, may be ranged with sufficient accuracy under two great divisions: the old opposition and the new.

At the head of the former was the ancient côté gauche: the peers, deputies, and writers, who, in bad times as in good, in a minority of 16 as in a majority of 221,4 in the sanguinary reaction of 1815 as in the heroic revolution of 1830, were still true to the cause of good government and social improvement: who faithfully and unremittingly watched over the securities, imperfect as they were, which the Charter of Louis XVIII rather promised than afforded; who were ever at their post to resist the jesuitical evasions of the Charter, long before Royal audacity Edition: current; Page: [136] ventured on its open violation; whose integrity and self-respect excluded them, as well under a Decazes5 as a Polignac, from holding office in a Government, the sole object of which was to wield a constitutional monarchy to the ends and in the spirit of a despotism. Such were the leaders of the old opposition. Its followers were all the incorruptible adherents of the good old cause, re-inforced by the thousands of high-spirited and well-educated young men whom every year brought forward into active life, and by numbers who, duped at first, had their eyes opened as the Bourbon Government and the spirit of the age became more and more irreconcileable.

The leaders of the new opposition consisted, first, of the several knots or bands of ejected placemen, who had been successively dismissed from the councils of the restored dynasty, as the game which it was playing came to require more skilful tricksters, or instruments of greater daring and more devoted subserviency. Secondly, of men who, either from personal attachment to the Bourbon family, or from a constitutional or habitual partiality to the strongest side, adhered to the restored Government in all its successful undertakings, and quitted it only when its projects became such as the state of society and opinion rendered impracticable except by force. A third class of the leaders of the new opposition, and one which circumstances have now elevated into unusual consequence, consisted of a school of philosophical and political writers, pure, we believe, for the most part, from any dishonourable ambition, and comprising in their ranks several able littérateurs and highly accomplished men, but whose metaphysical doctrines were too closely imitated from Scotland or Germany, and their political opinions from those which are current among genteel people in our own island. Like Madame de Staël,6 many of whose opinions they inherit, and with whom their most prominent leader, the present Prime Minister of France, is nearly connected,7 they are ardent sticklers for a representative and constitutional government, but constitutional on the English model. They either supported, or scarcely opposed, the Bourbon Government, when, by the introduction of the double vote, it rendered a national representation, already resting on too narrow a basis, still less popular and more aristocratic than before.8 But when, by making Edition: current; Page: [137] war to restore absolute power in Spain, by an immoral and fraudulent management of the elections, by repeated attempts to stifle the press, by putting down almost all places of general education except those of the Jesuits,9—we might say by all the acts of the Villèle Administration, the Bourbons showed themselves openly hostile to every kind of representative government, and to every kind of mental instruction by which men could be fitted for such a government, or led to desire it; then the persons of whom we are speaking, being sincere and strong enemies to the despotism of one, joined the popular cause, to which they have rendered, on not a few important occasions, signal service. This portion of the leaders of the new opposition have, as forming a philosophical party or school, received the name of doctrinaires; and, as politicians, bear no remote affinity to the English Whigs, though not stained, like so many of that party, by political duplicity, trick, or charlatanerie.

The above picture of the new and old opposition is probably new to most of our countrymen; but this is merely because it is the peculiar character of English nationality, not, like the French, to court the admiration of foreigners, but to treat them and their concerns with something like indifference and neglect. All who have watched the course of French affairs for the last ten years, have witnessed the gradual rise of the new opposition, and know that its constituent elements are such as we have just described.

These, then, are the two great divisions of the seemingly compact and united body which resisted the Polignac ministry, and by that resistance brought on the great events by which the Government of the restored dynasty has been abruptly terminated.

Of these, the old opposition predominates in the nation; but the new opposition predominates in the Chamber of Deputies, and has had the formation of the present ministry. This happened in consequence of the compromise to which, as we observed in the commencement of this article, the present Chamber owes its existence, and which we now proceed to explain.

At the general election in 1827, and at that in 1830, the one and only purpose of the patriotic electors was the overthrow of an administration, whose very existence precluded the slightest hope of a single step in social improvement, and placed in continual danger all the institutions, and all the liberties, to which the French people were most ardently attached. Among those who were united to Edition: current; Page: [138] attain this paramount object, all other differences of opinion, however important, were sunk. It was far from certain that by any union of efforts a majority could be obtained: and to risk the defeat of the common end for any object which admitted of postponement, and which was impracticable if the other failed, would have been egregious folly.

In the populous towns, where the number of voters was considerable, and the predominance of the popular party admitted of no doubt, members belonging to the côté gauche were returned. But in the poor, remote, and backward provinces of France, where the voters were few in number, composed in great part of functionaries in the pay of Government; and in the great or departmental colleges throughout the country,—it was uncertain whether a majority hostile to the ministry could be obtained. To ensure such a majority, the Liberals almost always endeavoured to select as the popular candidate an individual differing by the slightest possible shade from the obnoxious ministers, provided he would consent to vote against them. By any other selection they would have lost some part of the votes which a candidate of such a character might probably obtain; and have risked the total failure of the paramount object, the exclusion of the ministerial candidate.

In many instances, also, the narrow limits within which the choice of the electors was confined by the conditions of eligibility, did not admit of their making any choice but one which very imperfectly represented their opinion. By the terms of the Charter, half the Deputies of a department must be chosen among the inhabitants of the department, and the whole among persons paying at least 1000 francs (40l.) of direct taxes to the state.10 This, in France, implies no inconsiderable fortune, especially in the poorer departments. And when we mention that there are no less than eight departments in which the totality of the electors, that is, of the inhabitants paying 300 francs or more of direct taxes, falls short of 400, it may be imagined within what narrow bounds the electors were often restricted, in the selection at least of that half of the deputies, whom they were compelled by law to choose from among the inhabitants of the department.

The first which we mentioned of the causes which prevented the popular electors from choosing the men whom the majority of them would have preferred, did not exist in so great a degree in 1830 as in 1827. The popular party were more completely aware of their strength, and could reckon with confidence on a large majority in places where on the former occasion success had been at least doubtful. A considerable proportion of the Deputies who owed their seats to the compromise, would consequently have been ejected from them by men of more decidedly liberal opinions as well as of greater abilities, had not circumstances of which it can only be necessary to remind our readers, rendered it expedient to adopt as a universal rule, the re-election of the 221 who had voted Edition: current; Page: [139] for the address condemning the Polignac ministry.11 Not a few who had lost the confidence of their constituents by their manifest incompetence as legislators, as well as by their inadequacy as representatives of electors sympathising far more than themselves in the feelings and wishes of a vast majority of the French people, are indebted solely to the principle of re-electing the 221, for the advantage which they now possess of assisting in the formation of a new Government: an advantage by no means trifling, as the new Red Book, if the revolutionary era have as yet produced so useful a document,12 bears ample and unequivocal testimony.

The Chamber of 1830, then, was the result of a compromise; in which, as in all such compromises, the timid and hesitating dictated to the bold and decisive; those least in earnest gave the law to those who were most so. A large proportion, therefore, of the present Deputies, represent the opinion but of a minute and impotent fraction of their constituents. They are far from being the men whom even the present electors would again elect, even under the existing conditions of eligibility; and still further from being such as would be re-elected by the present electors, if those intolerable conditions were abrogated, or so far lowered as to leave any sufficient latitude of choice.

Can it be supposed, for example, that the centre droit, a party whose benches in the Chamber are at present only less crowded than those of the ministerial section, the centre gauche,—a body composed, in a great measure, of royalists, a little, and only a little more scrupulous or less audacious than the late ministers themselves, and many of whom adhered to the Ministry of Villèle to a later period than the Spanish war—can it be believed that such men would now be pitched upon by electors freed from the usurpation of the double vote13 (which most of those very men had a hand in fastening upon them), as fit persons to legislate for regenerated France,—for France under a roi citoyen in lieu of a roi cagot,14 and demanding good institutions—not a mere mitigation of bad ones?

The present Deputies were elected for the single purpose of overthrowing the Polignac Ministry. For that end they were admirably adapted. They were not chosen to make laws for a regenerated nation; and fitness to make such laws was not at all considered in the nomination of the greater part of them. A large Edition: current; Page: [140] proportion were re-elected for qualities the very reverse of those which the fulfilment of such a duty would require. They were chosen because they could not be accused of being patriots; because they did not sympathise in the feelings of the French people; because their lives had been spent in serving and in worshipping the Bourbons; and because they were known to be capable of abiding by that family in all save the last extremity.

It is not wonderful that men should be in no hurry to resign their seats, who know that this is the last time they will ever fill them. Least of all is this wonderful, when by losing their seats they lose the whole patronage of their department. But it would be wonderful, if any degree of ignorance and presumption in an average English newspaper could surprise us, that the body of the intelligent classes in France should be treated as something approaching to rebels and traitors, because they are eager to get rid of such a Chamber.


EXAMINER, 26 SEPT., 1830, PP. 611-12

This article comments on rumours (see Morning Chronicle, 18 Sept., 1830, p. 2, and 23 Sept., p. 3) about the radical background of William Huskisson, who had died on 15 Sept., after being run over by a train. Headed as title, this leading article in the “Political Examiner” is identified in Mill’s bibliography, with No. 47, as “Two short leading articles in the Examiner of 26th Sept. 1830 headed ‘Mr. Huskisson and the Jacobin Club’ and ‘The recent Combination of the [Journeymen] Printers in Paris’ ”

(MacMinn, p. 11).

in a discussion which has gone the round of the daily papers respecting the very unimportant fact, whether Mr. Huskisson was or was not a member of the Jacobin club,1 the Times remarks that a speech professing to be delivered by him at that club, was published at Paris in 1790.2 “In the title of the speech,” continues the Times, “Mr. Huskisson is described as an Englishman, and a member of the société from 1789. The Right Honorable Gentleman had most probably abandoned the society long before it became formidable under the name of the Jacobin club, and hence he is justified in saying that he never attended the sittings of that club but once.”3

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“A member of the société from 1789.” This looks very much like a translation of “membre de la société de 1789.” If so, the editor of the Times, or his informant, is ignorant both of French and of history. Of French, because “a member of the société from 1789,” if expressed in that language, would stand thus, “membre de la société depuis 1789,” not de 1789. Of history, because he apparently is not aware that there existed a society under the name of “La Société de 1789,” more shortly “le club de quatre-vingt-neuf,” which was established by seceders from the Jacobin club, and in opposition to it;4 to defend the original principles of the revolution of 1789, principles which the Jacobin club had by its founders been intended to promote, in opposition to the more democratic views which that club subsequently adopted.

Without pretending to peculiar sources of information, we have always understood that Mr. Huskisson was in fact a member, not of the Jacobin Club, but of the Club of 1789. Our belief is now confirmed, both by his own disavowal of having ever belonged to the former society,5 and by the apparently ill-translated and ill-understood title-page of his speech, as referred to by the Times.

EXAMINER, 26 SEPT., 1830, P. 612

This leader is in response to articles such as those in The Times, 8 Sept., p. 4, 10 Sept., p. 2, 11 Sept., p. 2, and 18 Sept., p. 2. The printers of Paris had petitioned the Chamber of Deputies against mechanical printing presses, and when the printers at the Imprimerie Nationale were asked on 1 Sept. to print the order for money to repair the mechanical presses of the Royal Printing House smashed on 29 July, they refused. At a meeting of printers on 3 Sept. a resolution was taken not to work on mechanized presses and consequently some newspapers failed to appear on 3 and 4 Sept. On 4 Sept. Lafayette told the committee of the printers that such combinations of workmen were illegal, and they issued instructions to return to work. Nonetheless fifteen were arrested. On 14 Sept. they appeared before the Tribunal of Correction and were all acquitted. This leading article, following No. 46 in the “Political Examiner,” is headed as title. For the entry in Mill’s bibliography see No. 46.

the alarms which have been propagated in England on the subject of this combination were almost entirely groundless.—The workmen, indeed, like many persons of far higher rank and greater acquirements than themselves, fell Edition: current; Page: [142] into the mistake of supposing that machinery, in certain cases at least, was injurious to the general interest, and should be prohibited by law. They accordingly refused to work for those newspaper proprietors who persisted in the employment of steam presses. The strike was an offence under the iniquitous combination laws, which still subsist in France, though abolished in England.1 With this exception, the workmen violated no law. The committee which they appointed, immediately issued a placard, formally disavowing all intention of compassing their end by violence or intimidation. No force was employed against the proprietors of newspapers; and if, for one or at most two days, several newspapers did not appear, it was merely because they had not yet procured workmen, to replace those who had left off work. In three days, at the utmost, affairs resumed their accustomed course, and from that time the newspapers have ceased even to allude to the subject.

We subjoin in confirmation of the above facts, the verdict of the Tribunal of Correctional Police, acquitting the members of the committee:

Considering that,—if it is proved that the committee of the journeymen printers who met at the Barrière du Maine entered into an engagement, by which the journeymen bound themselves not to work in work-shops where there are mechanical presses, and that the meeting therefore assumed the character of an illegal combination, such as is contemplated and prohibited in articles 415 and 416 of the penal code,—it is at the same time proved by the speeches of counsel, and in particular by the explanations given at the trial by the civil and military authorities present at the deliberation, that the committee acted only with a view to preserve order, and in the immediate presence of the authorities;

That, if additions appear to have been made to the resolution subsequently to the moment at which it was carried, this seems to have been the effect of a mistake made by the members of the meeting respecting the extent of their rights;

That the men returned to their work almost immediately, and that the members of the committee, when properly informed on the nature of their rights, recommended to their companions to resume their occupations;

That, if these various circumstances, taken together, do not destroy the fact of the commission of the offence, they at least preclude the supposition of any criminal intention, which intention is the basis of the offences designated by the law;

The Court discharges the accused parties, without costs.2

EXAMINER, 3 OCT., 1830, PP. 626-7

For the background, heading, and bibliographical entry, see No. 44. This article is the first in Mill’s Somerville College set in which he has inked in corrections in the margin. Edition: current; Page: [143] At 145.39-40 “authority in power” is changed to “persons in authority”; in the next number of the Examiner, 10 Oct., p. 644, this correction appears in an Erratum note.

a contest is commencing—and if it be a prolonged, it will doubtless be an acrimonious one—between the majority of the Chamber of Deputies and the majority of the French nation.

By the majority of the nation we do not here mean the absolute majority, but the most numerous portion of those who as yet take any part or concern in the struggle. A numerical majority of the entire population are undoubtedly quiescent. The agitation has not yet penetrated so deep. Among the working, (we may call them also the fighting) classes, there is, or was very lately, but one feeling; satisfaction at having achieved the overthrow of a bad government, and confidence, that without their intervention, and by persons more instructed, and having better means of judging than themselves, the constitution will be resettled—in a manner the precise nature of which they do not attempt to predict, but which they feel no doubt will be duly considered, and against which if they should see any reasonable objections, they will be at liberty to propound them. We do not believe that the anticipations or reflections of the great mass of the people of Paris go farther. Any deliberate disregard of their interests, to a degree which would call upon them for further armed resistance, we do not imagine to have once entered into their conceptions. For years past they have been accustomed to hear their sentiments proclaimed, and expression given to their political wants, by the almost unanimous voice of the instructed class. They have not lost their feeling of reliance upon that class: to it the present Ministry, and the adversaries of the present Ministry, alike belong; and in its hands they are willing to leave the decision of the dispute, believing, with a conviction in which we participate, that no government which is, or can be, established in France, will have power to resist the deliberate opinion of the educated part of the public, strongly expressed.

The struggle which is commencing is between the majority of the Chambers and the majority of the educated class; the majority in numbers, in talents, in activity, we believe even in property; and including almost all among the class in easy circumstances, who, in the three memorable days, made any exertions or exposed themselves to any danger in the common cause.

Such being the disputants, it remains to be shewn what is the point at issue. Let no one dream that it is a mere question of who shall be in or out. In our late remarks on the composition of the Chamber of 1830,1 we sufficiently settled the question of the unfitness of the present men, but unfitness of men is an evil only in proportion to the unfitness of their probable acts. There is a fundamental difference, pregnant with important consequences, between the practical principles of the persons now in power, and those of their opponents.

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The doctrine of the present Chamber and of the Ministry of its choice is, that, the Revolution having been a defensive act, provoked by an attempt to destroy the established Constitution; the existing Charter having been its rallying word, and the maintenance of that Charter its direct object, the people have now obtained this, and ought to be satisfied. Those modifications in the Charter (they add) which the meditations of enlightened men had prepared, and which public opinion had sanctioned, were made by the Chamber, in the first week of its existence, and were assented to by Louis Philippe as the condition of his elevation to the throne. This doctrine respecting the late alterations in the Charter has been several times proclaimed (on one memorable occasion in words of which ours are almost a translation) by Deputies belonging to the majority, and in particular by the two Ministers who take the lead in the Cabinet, and who have the most completely identified themselves with the party predominant in the Chamber.2

The first part of their case, as presented by themselves, they have saved their opponents the trouble of refuting, by making an assertion which is inconsistent with it. For if there were alterations in the Charter, respecting the propriety of which the public mind was so maturely made up as to admit of their being carried into effect after a deliberation of two days, without even the forms which are never departed from in the enactment of an ordinary law, it is a proof that, although the Charter was the war cry, and its violation the immediate incentive to resistance, it was not to the Charter, as such, that the people were attached, nor was its maintenance all that they desired. What the people wanted was, securities for good government. If those which the Charter affords, as at present modified, are sufficient, they are in the wrong in wishing for others; but let not this question be got rid of by a side-wind. The whole matter turns upon this. Any argument which does not go to this single point is foreign to the dispute.

But before we state what are the securities for good government which the people would prefer to those afforded by the modified Charter, it is hardly possible to avoid taking some notice of an argument, which, although it would be just as available in behalf of one set of institutions as of another, is yet well adapted to make an impression on certain minds, as it consists of a phrase. The current phrase in the mouths of the partisans of the Chamber is, that it is desirable the revolution should stop. This maxim finds favour in the eyes both of those to whom the word revolution is synonymous with insecurity, and of those who, without considering the radical distinction between the two periods, remember that in the days of their fathers the first revolution was succeeded by a second, and the second by a third, until, wearied and without hope, the French people surrendered themselves willing slaves to a military despotism.

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In answer to the profession of a desire to terminate the revolution, the majority of the nation reply, that if by the revolution be meant the fighting in the streets, it is already terminated, and no circumstances but such as are greatly to be deprecated ought, or are likely, to lead to its renewal. Such means, it is to be hoped, will never again be necessary, either for the attainment or for the maintenance of good government: and unless indispensable for that end, nothing that could possibly occur would warrant so hazardous an expedient. But to join heartily in the wish that the revolution may stop, is not quite the same thing as to admit that the political institutions which existed before the revolution are to remain without any material improvement, or that those, whose sole object is that the defects still remaining in the Constitution may be corrected in the mode prescribed by the Constitution itself, are to be deemed sufficiently answered by having it thrown in their teeth that they wish to continue the revolution, when it is time the revolution should terminate.

It is speciously urged that the present moment is a moment of excitement, and that such times are improper for discussing and maturing great constitutional changes. The popular party do not deny this. They allow that a state of violent excitement is one which no rational and well-intentioned person would voluntarily choose for a work requiring slow and calm deliberation. It is for this very reason that they implore the Government not to delay the deliberation until the excitement is such as to be incompatible with slowness and clamness. That it has yet become so, they deny, and deny truly. That it will become so in a few months, if the demands of the reasonable part of the public be not complied with, one must be blind not to see. When justice and the public interest demand the concession of a foot, it is wretched policy to refuse the people an inch lest they should take an ell. Give the entire foot with a good grace: if you withhold what you yourselves think reasonable till it is torn from you by main force, where are you to find moral strength for resisting pretensions of questionable expediency? The people may have confidence in those who obviously intend their good. But they must be idiots if they placed reliance in men who refuse them justice, for fear lest injustice should come of it.

To return, however, to the doctrine that times of political excitement are unfit times for constitutional reforms; we ask, is it possible to cite one single example of constitutional reforms effected in times which are not times of excitement? Reforms in the Government are not what the Government itself is apt spontaneously to originate. When the public are quiet and satisfied, it is not, we may be sure, the persons in possession of power, who will voluntarily come forward to point out faults in the political arrangements which have placed the power in their hands. Popular excitement is the natural indication to persons in authority, that a general wish exists for something which is conceived to be an improvement. It is their duty to defer to that wish by a solemn deliberation, which shall testify that the cause of the people was not prejudged in advance, and Edition: current; Page: [146] shall give hopes that what is now withheld will, if reasonable, be granted, when experience and discussion shall have overcome the scruples of its opponents. It is the duty of the Government to do this, before excitement has grown into passion, wishes into demands, and friendly remonstrance into clamorous hostility.

Those who accuse the popular party of wishing for another revolution, are accused in their turn by that party of not understanding the meaning nor entering into the spirit of the revolution which has already taken place. It is insisted on by the popular newspapers, and re-echoed by thousands in conversation, that the Chamber mistakes the grande semaine for a mere change of ministry, and fancies it does enough if it gives to France in 1830, all that France called for in 1829;3 forgetting that a revolution carries society farther on its course, and makes greater changes in the popular mind, than half a century of untroubled tranquillity. Why were the demands of the people in 1829 so much more moderate than at present? Because what is now past was then to come, and might have been avoided. They asked for as much as they thought could be obtained without a revolution; and with this, rather than draw the sword, they would have been satisfied. What, however, they were content rather to forego, than to purchase at so terrible a price, it does not follow that they are not disposed to claim now when the price has been paid. The bonds of law and government have been broken, and all the perils incurred, to avert which mankind are content to sacrifice their most cherished wishes. France is entitled to require, that one such convulsion, one such dissolution and reconstruction of the machine of society, shall suffice. Proportioned to the fearful dangers of a violent revolution, would be the moral responsibility of those, by whose fault they who have braved those dangers should have braved them in vain. It is of the utmost importance that what is done now should be done once for all. The field is now open; wait but a little while, and it will again be hedged in by the barrier of an established constitution. The questions, on the solution of which by the French people their future good government will depend, must be now agitated, must be now decided. Let it be attempted so to decide them that it shall not be necessary again to unsettle them in a year to come. To have turned out one bad government would be a poor equivalent for all the blood which has been shed, if the same operation, in one, or two, or fifty years, should have to be performed again upon another. For the sake even of tranquillity itself, the present is the time so to settle the constitution, that the bad government now happily got rid of shall be the last.

How little there is to inspire terror or mistrust, in the means by which the popular party proposes to accomplish this end, will be seen in the ensuing paper.4

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EXAMINER, 3 OCT., 1830, P. 627

Immediately following “Prospects of France, III” (No. 48) in the Examiner of 3 Oct., p. 627, is a letter from John Bowring (1792-1872), a disciple of Bentham who had been chosen by him to edit the Westminster Review; his relations with the two Mills had become difficult in the late 1820s, and they had both withdrawn from the Westminster. Bowring’s letter, commenting on No. 45, is dated from 5, Millman Street, 27 Sept., 1830, and headed “To the Editor of the Examiner”:

The grounds of the unpopularity of the French Chamber of Deputies are obvious. It does not represent the Revolution. The Revolution was the work of the young—of the unopulent. The Chamber has no individual of either of these classes among its members—nor was there one among the electors of the Deputies.

I am greatly surprised that so intelligent a writer as S. should denominate the Chamber of 1830 “the result of a compromise.” Nothing can be farther from the fact. The Chamber of 1830 consisted of the best men that could be found in the narrow circle of the qualified candidates, wherever popular opinion had any—the slightest—preponderance. The electors did all they could in these circumstances; and in no case, that I know of, did they take a worse where they could have returned a better man. The honor that belongs to them they should be allowed to bear; and it cannot, I think, be denied, that, considering the numerous limitations on the expression of the will of the electors, the Chamber of 1830 was a tolerably fair representation of the elective body.

But the ground of complaint, of just and reasonable complaint, lies far deeper. Not more than one individual in three hundred exercises any proportion of the elective franchise, in France. Deduct two-thirds for women, children, &c., and still not one in a hundred has a voice in the constitutive power of the country. That is, indeed, a grievance, severely and widely felt; and, till some steps are taken for its redress, it is desirable that discontent should find expression. I do not mean that a universal, or even a very extended, suffrage is demanded by the men of the revolution. The beautiful machinery of the ballot will extract public opinion from a comparatively small portion of society. If the number of electors were quadrupled, I think that would for the present satisfy the French people.

I never have heard from well-informed electors that their “sole object,” in the late election, was to upset an “obnoxious ministry:” such narrowness of purpose would have done little credit to their sagacity. Still less that the “liberal electors” sought the candidate who “differed the slightest shade possible from the obnoxious ministers.” There were—and I speak from pretty extensive intercourse with the electors of France—no such delicately spun refinements. The electors did the best they could; and I doubt the possibility of your intelligent correspondent’s producing a single instance where the liberals—for it is they who are accused of “compromise”—returned a member because he “differed the slightest shade possible from the obnoxious ministers.”

That the Chamber is unworthy to represent, and unwilling to develope, the Revolution is, to me, perfectly obvious; that the opinion of a hundred new representatives, many of whom will be chosen from among the young, will greatly improve its character, and liberalize its proceedings, is also clear; that the removal of the corrupt influence of the Polignac administration would tend to the rejection of an immense number of the present Deputies, I hold to be indisputable. The king, whose pride it is to be the king of the people, ought not to delay that appeal to the people which is loudly called for. Among the Doctrinaires, the Whigs, and the Aristocracy of France, there are, for him, many pitfalls and precipices; his strength and his security can only be established by his most intimate alliance with the nation. The reluctance of the Deputies to return to their constitutents, grows out of their knowledge that their constituents will now find better servants: and it is truly a grief and a grievance that the “triumphant nation” is not allowed to choose them.

This letter is in turn followed by an editorial comment, “We have communicated the above letter to our correspondent S—, who has furnished us with the following Edition: current; Page: [148] observations in reply:”, which introduces Mill’s unheaded reply on the same page. Mill’s English quotations are from Bowring’s letter. This item is not found in Mill’s bibliography, but the circumstances mark it as certainly his.

it rests with those who know the fact, to pronounce whether it accords with the statement of your other correspondent or with mine. The expression I made use of is not of my own invention, it is a literal translation from the express words of the French popular newspapers. Which of them has not reiterated, again and again, the expression, “La Chambre de 1830, fut le résultat d’une transaction”; and sometimes, “Le résultat d’une foule de transactions.”1 The assertion that the Chamber was elected for the sole purpose of overthrowing the Polignac Ministry, has been repeated by the same newspapers almost to tiresomeness. Nor does such narrowness of purpose, when fairly considered, reflect any discredit on the electors. The overthrow of the Ministry being the condition on which every thing depended, no sacrifice could have been too great which helped to render it more sure. The people universally felt the importance of re-electing the 221, who, it is notorious, were preferred in cases where even the “narrow circle of the qualified candidates” would have afforded persons in all other respects more acceptable to the majority of the electors.

Your correspondent appears not perfectly to have seized the nature of the “compromise” which was stated to have taken place. He denies that the “Liberals” made any compromise; but who, permit me to ask, are the Liberals? If he accounts all such who were enemies of the late Ministry, undoubtedly they made no compromise with its friends. But the majority of them made—and it is matter of praise, not of blame to them—a compromise with the minority. They elected, not the best man who could be got, but the best who could be sure of uniting all their suffrages; throwing thus the nomination into the hands of that portion of the opposition which differed least from the obnoxious Ministry, wherever there was any chance that the votes of that section of the electors might have it in their power to decide the majority. In the large towns, where the really popular party could afford to dispense with the assistance of semi-liberals, and to which places the enquiries of your correspondent have probably been confined, there was no compromise, because none was necessary. The electors did choose the best men who could be found among the persons legally eligible. But this is no more than I had previously asserted, in the paper to which that of your correspondent is a reply.

It is scarcely necessary to add that I fully concur in your correspondent’s estimate of the importance of extending the elective franchise; and I can most Edition: current; Page: [149] confidently add my testimony to his, concerning the very moderate extension which would at present content even the most dissatisfied of the French people.

EXAMINER, 10 OCT., 1830, PP. 641-4

The significance of this article for Mill is seen in his recalling in a letter to Tocqueville of 11 Dec., 1835, the argument here and in Nos. 174 and 177 for the representative rather than the delegative responsibility of elected Deputies (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 288). For the context and entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.

to complete the design with which this series of papers was undertaken, it remains to explain to our readers the demands of the popular party, with some statement of the grounds on which they are founded.

Perhaps it will rather be expected of us that we should commence by stating what these demands are not, than what they are.

The popular party does not demand a republican government. Every one who is au courant of the present state of opinion in France, will affirm that not only there is no party, but possibly not a single individual, who indulges even a wish to disturb the settlement of the crown. Those of our contemporaries in whose daily and weekly columns a republican party figures as the prime mover in all the opposition to the present ministry and chamber, have contrived with singular infelicity to miss the matter.1 Are they so ignorant, both of France and of common sense, as not to know that the sovereignty of the people does not mean republicanism? Since they are so ill informed of its meaning, we will tell them what it does mean. So far as kingship is concerned, it means simply this—that kings shall be first magistrates, and nothing more: which being the admitted doctrine of the British constitution, and literally realized, as it would be easy to shew, in the practice of the British government, stands sufficiently exculpated, we may be permitted to assume, from the imputation of being a republican principle. It is true that the king, with us, is the chief magistrate of an oligarchy; a form of government which, we must needs admit, the partisans of the “sovereignty of the people” cannot abide. But what offends them is the oligarchy, not the king; the monopoly by a few, exempt from all responsibility, of the substantial powers of the government; not the titles or privileges of the functionary who is its nominal head.

The phrase, sovereignty of the people, is, in our opinion, by no means free from objections; though it expresses, we are aware, just as much, and no more, as the maxim transmitted from generation to generation in Whig toasts, that the Edition: current; Page: [150] people are the source of all legitimate power.2 We regret as much as it is possible for any one to do, the habit which still prevails in France of founding political philosophy on this and similar abstractions; of which the cause of popular governments stands in no need, and from the misapplications of which that cause sustains great injury. The demonstrable impossibility of practical good government without the control of the people, is all the reason which we require to convince us that the people ought to have the control. When, under the name of divine right, an original title, independent of all considerations of public good, was set up in behalf of monarchs, the friends of liberty naturally reverted to the origin of political society, for the purpose of exposing the imposture. Just opinions on such a subject have this use, that they prevent the mischievous influence of erroneous ones. But the question, in what manner governments may have originated, is henceforth an idle one: the sole business of ourselves is to adapt them to the exigencies of society as at present constituted.

Considered as a practical principle, the sovereignty of the people is moreover susceptible of a mischievous interpretation, though a different one from that which is put upon it by our sapient journalists. It countenances the notion, that the representatives of the people are to the people in the relation of servants to a master, and that their duty is merely to ascertain and execute the popular will: whereas the proper object of comparison is the office of a guardian, who manages the affairs of his ward, subject only to his own discretion, but is bound by a severe responsibility to exercise that discretion for the interest of his ward, and not for that of himself individually. The true idea of a representative government is undoubtedly this, that the deputy is to legislate according to the best of his own judgment, and not according to the instructions of his constituents, or even to the opinion of the whole community. The people are entitled to be secured against the abuse of his trust. This they can not be, unless he is subject to re-election by them, or by a numerous committee of them, at short intervals. But inasmuch as they have chosen him, it is an allowable presumption that they judged him to be a wiser man than themselves, and that therefore it is at least as likely, when there is a difference of opinion, that he should be in the right, as that they should. The elector who declares by his vote that he deems A.B. the fittest man to make laws for his country, and who presumes at the same time to give instructions to A.B., lays claim for himself to a superiority of knowledge and intellect which it is not very likely should be possessed by him so often as once in a hundred times; and to entitle every elector to make the same assumption, the man whom they have chosen their representative must be not the wisest, but the most ignorant and incapable of Edition: current; Page: [151] them all. Now this misapprehension of the true character of popular governments is manifestly promoted, by applying to those governments, or to the principle on which they are founded, the designation “sovereignty of the people.”

But the phrase, though it disguises the real foundation of good government, and admits of the practical misapplication which we have just pointed out, admits, so far as we can perceive, of no other; and we do not believe that it is thus misapplied by the French of the present day, though it was by their predecessors, the Jacobins. The truth is, that the phrase itself, though it would probably be placed by most Frenchmen at the head of a treatise on the foundation of government, is little used in the actual strife of parties, except as an equivalent expression to the negation of divine right. Thus, they say that the Revolution of 1830 has firmly established as the basis of the French constitution, the sovereignty of the people; meaning that it has rooted out the principle of legitimacy or divine right, since the king, not owing his throne to a hereditary title, but having been called to it by the people themselves, is precluded for ever from setting up any other claim to the powers which he possesses or may possess, than their expediency. A similar boast was made at our Revolution of 1688, and continued to be repeated until our aristocracy became more afraid of the people than they were of the king.

When the Times newspaper expressed its apprehensions, that the party which sought the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies aimed at a more extensive application of the “sovereignty of the people,” by abolishing the Peers, and curtailing the powers of the executive, it displayed great ignorance. The sovereignty of the people—even according to the mistaken application above noticed, which makes the people the judges of every individual measure—does not mean that the people should not have Peers, and a strong executive, but merely that they should not have them unless they like: which, we beg to assure the Times, is not exactly the same thing.

We are firmly convinced, that not merely the greater part, but the whole, of the French nation, do wish to have Peers, and an executive strong enough to compel obedience to the laws. Their peerage would not indeed be a hereditary peerage, but one which, as we shall shew, would be more powerful, and more independent even of public opinion, than the present House of Peers, or any hereditary body which could be created in France. As for the throne, we are persuaded that, except the few partisans of the exiled family, there is not a man in France, who, if he could overturn it by a wish, would not leave it where it stands. We speak from considerable opportunities of observation, both among the more active and influential of the young men who now head the popular party, and among the patriots of more established character and more mature years. From the latter, and especially from those who had opportunities of intercourse with the King, we heard nothing but eulogiums on the personal Edition: current; Page: [152] character and public inclinations both of himself and of his heir apparent.3 The younger men, even those in active hostility to the present ministry, declared that if it had depended solely upon them, they would have raised Louis Philippe to the throne, not before, indeed, but after, the reform of the constitution. Yet these men had no partiality to a monarchy. Almost all Frenchmen resemble republicans in their habits and feelings, but these are republicans in their opinions. They think,—how should they help thinking?—that the progress of events, and of the human mind, is leading irresistibly towards republicanism. They would rejoice, if they thought their country sufficiently advanced to be capable of such a government. But they are convinced that republican institutions would neither be understood nor relished by the mass of the French people. The transition would be too sudden, and would find their minds unprepared. The habits of obedience, formed under a kingly government, could not be all at once transferred to a republican one. They would have no clear conception either of the rights which it conferred, or of the obligations which it imposed. Former reminiscences, instead of guiding, would serve only to alarm them. We are well assured that most of the addresses from the departments,4 signifying their adherence to the new other of things, testify a kind of horror at the very idea of a republic: and what wonder, when in the minds of the writers it is solely associated with the régime of the proconsuls of the Convention? For these reasons, the speculative republicans, though numerous among the educated class at Paris, and especially among the young men who bore arms in the Revolution, made a complete sacrifice of their republican opinions, and joined heartily in giving effect to the wish of the majority. The conduct of Lafayette was worthy of his previous life. Already, in the former Revolution, he had in like manner renounced his individual inclinations, and though a republican, made sacrifices, greater than which never were made by man, to prevent the establishment of a republic. Nor do we believe that any one of these pure-minded men repents of his acquiescence. We are sure that, even if such a one there be, he would consider the disturbance of the settlement, now when it is definitively made, to be among the highest of crimes.

But the republicans, even such as we have described, form a very small fraction of the party opposed to the ministry. Of the fifteen or sixteen daily newspapers published in Paris, all except four are in the interest of the popular party: the ministerial party has only two; the remaining two belong to the old royalists.5 The two ministerial papers are the Journal des Débats, which Edition: current; Page: [153] supported even Villèle until M. de Chateaubriand was turned out of place, and the Messager des Chambres, which was set up by the Martignac ministry, and was its organ. The same disproportion in numbers between the opposition and the supporters of the ministry, which is seen in the newspapers, is seen every where else; except in the chambers, and perhaps in the timid portion of the monied class. The opposition, however, may be stiled “His Majesty’s opposition.” It does not include the King in its disapprobation of the ministry. We have heard it affirmed in mixed society, oftener than we can venture to state, that the King is in advance both of the ministers and of the chamber; and we once heard the assertion, that the King, Lafayette, and Dupont de l’Eure,6 were the only real liberals in France. Why then, it may be asked, does not the King dismiss his ministry? The public feel confidence that he will do so, whenever he shall become convinced that such is their deliberate wish: and it would be scarcely reasonable to require that he should do it sooner.

Having stated what the popular party do not demand, we have to state as briefly as is compatible with the degree of explanation necessary for making the statement intelligible, what their demands really are.—They are comprised under the four following heads:—

  • 1. The conditions of eligibility.
  • 2. Those of the elective franchise.
  • 3. Municipal institutions.
  • 4. The peerage.

In the first place, the popular party demand the entire abrogation of all restrictions on eligibility.

The nation, they say, must be wonderfully backward in civilization, or you, its legislators, must be singularly unacquainted with the nation, if you cannot find in all France a body of electors whom you yourselves dare trust with the right of choosing whatever deputies they please. A law to confine the selection of legislators to a narrow class, when not only you cannot be sure that the fittest men will always form part of that class, but when you may be sure that they generally will not, is a clumsy attempt to create an aristocracy in spite of electors who you suppose would not make themselves the instruments of such an attempt if they could help it. There ought to be no conditions of eligiblity except the confidence of the electors: if your electors are not fit to be trusted, it is your business to find others who are. Bad electors will find the means of electing bad deputies, under any restrictions which you will dare to impose upon their choice. But good electors will not always be able to choose good deputies, if you compel them to select from a small number of the richest men. Is it so easy a matter to Edition: current; Page: [154] find men qualified for legislation? Are the ablest and most instructed men usually to be met with among the richest? Is it the natural tendency of riches, and of the habits which they engender, to produce vigorous intellects, stored with knowledge and inured to laborious thought? We say nothing of sinister interest; we assume that in the class of qualified candidates the electors will always be able to find the requisite number of individuals, sufficiently accessible to motives of a more generous kind, to prefer the good of the whole above the separate interest of the rich. Yet this is assuming far too much, considering within what narrow limits the choice is confined, by the high pecuniary qualification, coupled with the condition that one half the deputies must be residents in the department where they are chosen.

To pass from these general considerations, to others more specially applicable to the present situation of France:—the adjustment of the qualification of candidates involves the entire question between the gerontocracy and the young men.

The youngest of the present deputies must have been in his twenty-fifth year, at the first return of the Bourbons. There probably is not another example in history of so marked and memorable a disparity between one generation and that immediately succeeding it, as exists between the generation to which the deputies belong, and that which has risen to manhood during the last sixteen years.

The government under which a large majority of the deputies received their early impressions, was not merely a despotism; no other despotism which we have known applied so great a power, or applied it so systematically, to the purpose of degrading the human mind. Not only was the press and every other channel of public discussion inexorably closed, but even in private society, to converse with any freedom on public affairs, was to incur imminent danger of being denounced to the police. All scientific pursuits, but such as had a direct bearing upon the military art, or as contributed to procure the sinews of war, were treated with the most marked discouragement. In particular, all enquiries into the first principles of the moral sciences, as well as all preference of political opinion to personal interest, were, under the name of idéologie, the object of avowed contempt and aversion to the low-minded adventurer to whom circumstances had given unlimited power over the French people; and the elimination from the Institute of the department “Sciences Morales et Politiques,” was but one specimen among a thousand of the spirit of his government.7 The very infants were taught to lisp passive obedience, and such was the purpose which dictated the only innovations made by Bonaparte in the catechisms of the priests,8 in whose hands, with a keen perception of the fitness Edition: current; Page: [155] of such instruments for his end, he replaced the management of education.9 So acutely, indeed, was he alive to the dangers to which governments such as his are liable from the virtues of mankind, that he is well known to have looked with an evil eye on public functionaries who saved money in his service, because it rendered them less dependant on their places, and less fearful of risking his displeasure. A man who was always in want of money, suited him above all others: of such men he might always be sure.

Putting aside the selfishness, the paltry ambition, the rage of place-hunting, the pliability of conscience, which were the natural out-growth of such a government; it is not very surprising that men who were trained, and passed the best years of their lives, at a time when the human intellect was chained up, should be a puny race. To read their debates is all that is required in order to be satisfied of the prodigious inferiority of their best men to the best men of the generation which preceded them. Where are now the Adrien Duports, the Thourets, the Alexandre Lameths, the Lepelletier Saint-Fargeaus, of the Constitutent Assembly?10 Need we go farther back, and ask, where are the Gournays and the Turgots?11 M. de Talleyrand, a venerable name, had his political honesty been on a par with his intellect, is all that survives of that constellation of remarkable men, by which the early period of the first French Revolution was rendered illustrious.12 Would these men have been taken Edition: current; Page: [156] unprepared, and found without a single fixed idea, by events which laid open before them a wider field for legislative improvement than they had expected? Read the discussions in the Constituent Assembly on questions of detailed legislation, and you will learn the difference between the men of the Revolution and those of the Restoration. What other men has the present assembly to be compared even with those of its own members who already figured in the latter period of the first Revolution, with Benjamin Constant and Daunou?13

But if the men of forty and upwards, speaking of them as a class, are as poor in intellect and attainments as fifteen years of training under the despotism of Bonaparte could make them, the case is far different with that jeune France, of which, as long ago as 1820, Benjamin Constant and other orators of the côté gauche boasted as of a generation who would far surpass their fathers.14 The men who are now between twenty and thirty-five years of age, have received the strongest and most durable of their early impressions under comparatively free institutions. During the period in which they were educated, political discussion has been free, and books have multiplied to an extent and with a rapidity which surprised the French themselves when the particulars were brought before them by Count Daru.15 The young men have also enjoyed the advantage (it is no trifling one) of living under a government from which they could not, without becoming infamous, accept of place. Being excluded, therefore, from all means of obtaining distinction without the trouble of deserving it, they devoted themselves to serious studies; and (to say nothing of their immense superiority in the higher virtues, above the generation which preceded them), it is among them alone that fit successors will be found in point of intellect, to the best men whom France has produced in the former periods of its history.

By the existing conditions of eligibility, these men are excluded from the Edition: current; Page: [157] chamber. It is true that the limit in respect of age has been lowered from forty to thirty:16 but the pecuniary qualification operates as effectually in excluding the young, as in excluding the poor. In a country like France, where fortunes are generally small, and where the law of equal partibility17 commonly prevents them from descending undiminished to posterity, it is seldom that a man has attained the prescribed degree of wealth before he attains what was originally the necessary age.

In this point of view, therefore, it is even of greater importance than it at first appears, that the qualification for eligibility, if not abrogated, should be greatly reduced. There is another reason of no less moment, which we proceed to mention.

During the last ten years, England has been occupied, with laudable, though not with consistent, good sense, in liberalizing her commercial policy. The conduct of France has been so different from this, that within the same period her commercial legislation, already bad, has been rendered immeasurably worse.18 In addition to the evils common to all restrictive systems, of rendering commodities scarce and dear by forcing the labour and capital of the community to employ themselves in a less instead of a more beneficial employment, the tariff of 182219 is justly chargeable with all the inconvenience and injustice which among ourselves has been imputed to free trade—that of violently altering the channels of industry, and ruining particular classes of producers for the benefit of others. France, thanks to its restrictive laws, has scarcely any external trade; and the vine-growers have been reduced to penury, in order that M. Roy, M. Hyde de Neuville, and a few others having the monopoly of the home market secured to the produce of their vines and of their forests, might accumulate immense fortunes.20 Now, in a great number of departments, such men as M. Edition: current; Page: [158] Roy and M. Hyde de Neuville are the only men who pay a sufficient amount of direct taxes to be eligible to the chamber. In France there are very few large territorial properties which do not consist of vines or of forests. The vine-growers and the consumers together, have never been a match in the Chamber of Deputies, as at present constituted, for the parties interested in a restricted trade. There will never be a free and abundant interchange of commodities between England and France, until the conditions of eligibility are lowered.

The statement and justification of the remaining constitutional changes which the popular party contend for, must be postponed to a succeeding paper.


EXAMINER, 17 OCT., 1830, PP. 660-1

For the context and entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.

we shall now pass to the demands of the popular party on the three remaining points—the elective franchise, municipal institutions, and the peerage.

We suppose it is scarcely necessary to prove that the destinies of thirty-two millions ought not to be under the absolute control of eighty-eight thousand, or rather of about thirty thousand; for as the poorest and least populous departments are those which return, in proportion to the number of their electors, the greatest number of deputies, a majority of the deputies is returned by a minority of the electors.

We suppose it will be conceded, that it is not very difficult to convert such a representative system as this into a jobbing oligarchy.

Homer required ten voices and ten tongues to enumerate the vessels of the Grecian fleet.1 We should stand in need of a far greater multiplication of our vocal organs, if we had to enumerate the places which have been filled up, or are to be filled up, by the French ministry. The disposable revenue of France, not mortgaged to the national creditor, is probably the largest in Europe, compared with the average of individual incomes, and maintains, be it said without offence to other governments, the largest and most thriving bureaucratie which the world has ever yet seen. Conceive all this turned out of office at one stroke! and the places to be scrambled for: you will have some notion of what the antichamber of a French minister resembles, at eight in the morning, for his levee, a levee in the original sense of the word, is held at that primitive hour. Place, in France, is at Edition: current; Page: [159] all times in great request, because it is the only kind of unearned distinction which is procurable. In England a man becomes important by wealth, or birth, or fashion, or twenty other adventitious advantages, none of which confer one-tenth of the influence in France, that they do here. But place is a possession of that solid substantial kind, which will ensure consideration to the person who has it, in all states whatever of society; and the fewer his rivals, the greater is his consequence. In England the influence of a placeman is comparatively little, because no mere placeman is so great a man as the Duke of Devonshire, or Mr. Baring, or even Brummell, while his reign lasted;2 but in France the placeman has no rivals in importance, except those who are so by personal qualities, by integrity, intellect, and acquirements. For consideration of this latter kind, there is no where any great multitude of competitors. The other, a shorter and more commodious road to the same end, is far more trodden by the herd. The French accordingly, although, God knows, not a more worldly-minded people than ourselves, but the reverse, are eminently a place-hunting people. Their own admirable Paul-Louis Courier has made this national characteristic the object of some of his most poignant sarcasms.3 “Tant qu’il y aura deux hommes vivans,” says the clever and spirituel Fiévée, “il y en aura un qui sollicitera l’autre pour avoir une place.”4

On the late occasion, moreover, tax-eating was a pleasure which came recommended to the French electors by all the freshness of novelty. Under the late Government the places were given either to the Faubourg St. Germain, or to those who were affiliated to the Congregation.5 Now there are some things which men will not do, even to get what they most desire; and one of these things in France is, to go to mass. When these were the terms on which place was offered, he must have been a bold man who would have accepted them; though it must be admitted that M. Dupin, who is not a very bold man, paid the price without even Edition: current; Page: [160] being so fortunate as to receive any thing in return.6 Others, however, though they might be more courageous men in other respects, were not quite so courageous as M. Dupin in defying contempt, and were fain, whatever might be their secret longings, to remain out of place, until the people of Paris were so good as to take up arms in order to turn out another set of placemen and bring these in.

Imagine, now, if you can, the feelings of an elector, who, never having taken a bribe in his life, or known, otherwise than by rumour and conjecture, the pleasure of living upon the earnings of others, beholds for the first time the treasury doors thrown wide open to receive him, and the public purse exhibited to his enraptured gaze, with the strings hanging temptingly loose, and full liberty to thrust in both his hands. Is it likely that this man will send deputies to the Chamber, to vote for retrenchment? In the enthusiasm which succeeds a revolution, perhaps he might. But give him time to acquire the feelings of a placeholder, and make the experiment then. It is not always safe to judge what will be a man’s conduct in his own case, by the virtue he shews in the case of other people. Things may be exceedingly improper when done by a bad government, which are very fit to be done by a good one; and what government can be so good, as that which puts ourselves into place?

The virtue of the electors will be put to a hard trial even at the next general election. Having five-and-twenty millions sterling a year, or thereabouts, to dispose of in the lump, the ministers had for once their hands loaded with more gifts than they knew what to do with. After providing handsomely for their brothers and cousins, and the frequenters of their drawing-rooms, and making, it is but fair to add, a considerable number of excellent appointments, they were still able to place a large surplus at the disposal of the deputies. The deputies also had brothers and cousins, and many of them had drawing-rooms, though none, it is probable, had so numerous a côterie as Monsieur and Madame Guizot.7 But after the wants of all expectants down to the fortieth cousin had been amply supplied, a considerable amount of patronage remained on hand, which, unless report has greatly belied the deputies, they have unsparingly employed in making friends in their departments, with a view to their own re-election.

The necessity therefore is evident, of increasing the number of electors, by lowering the electoral qualification. In what degree, is the only question upon which there can be a doubt: and as the solution of this question depends in some degree upon facts which we cannot authenticate, we shall content ourselves with relating what, so far as we could collect, appeared to be the prevalent opinion.

The same kind of persons who, when they hear the sovereignty of the people Edition: current; Page: [161] spoken of, make themselves uneasy on the subject of republicanism, are also apt, when there is any mention made of extending the elective franchise, to be disturbed in their minds by the idea of universal suffrage. We shall not here enter into the question, whether it be desirable or not that the suffrage should be universal, which is not quite so simple a question as they imagine; although we should not risk much in undertaking to defend universal suffrage against any arguments likely to be brought against it by persons whom it frightens into fits. With respect to France, however, they may calm their apprehensions. Most thinking persons in France believe indeed that one day the suffrage will be universal; for in France most thinking persons, strange as it may appear, have faith in human improvement. But they reflect that at present no more than a third of the French people can read and write, and they are of opinion that vigorous exertions, continued during a long period, for the improvement and diffusion of education, must precede the extension to the mass of the people of the right of choosing their representatives. If the suffrage were to be universal, they would prefer admitting two stages of election; since it requires less knowledge and discernment to fix on the person who is fittest to elect, than on the one who is fittest to be elected. They affirm, however, that though the people of Paris and a few other large towns may be qualified for such an extension of their political rights, the working classes throughout France are by no means sufficiently advanced even for this step, and they urge the government to take measures for educating the people, with the express view of fitting them for receiving and properly exercising so important a privilege.

With respect to the degree of extension to be given to the suffrage immediately,8 public opinion does not seem to be completely made up. Much will probably depend on the result of the 130 elections on the point of taking place, to supply the vacancies created by resignations, annullation of elections, refusals to take the constitutional oath, and acceptance of paid offices under the Crown. If the present electors, now called upon for the first time since the revolution to exercise their privilege, exercise it in favour of popular candidates, the public will probably be tolerably well satisfied with the electoral qualification as it is, and will not insist upon any great amount of alteration. If, on the contrary, the electors, either influenced by the alarm which has been industriously spread with respect to the progress of the revolutionary spirit, or by an incipient feeling of a separate interest from the people, should return members who will reinforce the centre, or ministerial party, the doom of the present election law is sealed, and public opinion will require a much greater reduction of the qualification, and multiplication of the number of electors, than would content a large majority at the present moment.

From such information as we possess, we are inclined to expect that the Edition: current; Page: [162] popular party will be greatly strengthened by the approaching elections. If so, the hopes of that party will be so great from a dissolution of the Chamber, that we expect to see their efforts directed mainly to that end, and the majority permitted to limit the enlargement of the suffrage almost as much as they please, if on that condition they will compromise the dispute, and consent to a new general election.

It is certain that but a short time ago, a large proportion of the popular party thought that the present electoral qualification, with the suppression of the conditions of eligibility and of the double vote, would form a very tolerable government. We think that they were in the wrong; and we have reason to believe that most of them have since changed their opinion. What misled them was the spirited resistance of the present electors to the Polignac ministry. But this at least shows, how little there is of either faction or fanaticism in their wishes for change. We are firmly persuaded, that the great error which the bulk of the popular party are likely to commit, and the error which they are almost sure to commit, unless their minds become heated by the conflict, is that of resting satisfied with too little concession, with too little security to the people against the abuse of the powers of the government.

The prevailing opinion at present seems to be in favour of extending the suffrage to all who pay 200 francs a year of direct taxes. The qualification is at present 300 francs.9 M. Mauguin advocated this proposal on the ground that the same incomes which paid 300 francs in 1814, pay only 200 at present, owing not only to the diminution of taxation on the whole, but the substitution, to a considerable extent, of indirect for direct taxes, a policy always favoured by the late government for the purpose of narrowing the electoral class.10 It does not, however, appear to be known with any approach to accuracy, what number of additional electors would be created by this reduction of the qualification. Of course this point can be ascertained, and means will be taken to ascertain it before any measure is introduced into the Chamber. It is known that the number of cotes, or separate accounts with the tax-gatherer, from one hundred francs per annum up to 300, amounts to about six or seven times the number of the present electors. As the same individual, however, often pays taxes in several departments, the multiplication of the electors themselves would be in a smaller proportion.

Many persons object, with considerable appearance of reason, to adopting taxation in any shape as the basis of representation. They object to making the Edition: current; Page: [163] constitution of a country dependent upon its financial system, and consequently upon the fluctuating policy or interested views of an existing government. They see no reason that every time the budget is diminished, the rights of the people should be curtailed. They would adopt some other and more direct means of establishing a property qualification.

But whatever may be the pecuniary conditions which should confer the elective franchise, there is one change which all parties are agreed in demanding, and which we do not believe would be withheld even by the present Chamber. This is the extension of the right of suffrage to the members of the intellectual professions, free from all pecuniary conditions whatever.11 A qualification by profession, concurrent with a qualification by property, is not new in French law. It already exists in another important case, that of a juryman.12 A list is annually made out in each department, of the inhabitants of the department qualified to serve on juries. The first part of this list comprises the electors of the department; the second, all judges, advocates, attorneys, surgeons, physicians, professors, and various other classes whose means of livelihood are deemed a sufficient guarantee of their education. The reformers wish that the second part of the list should be included in the first, and perhaps several other professions added to it. You require, say they, in your electors, a certain measure of property, because it is a presumption of a certain measure of education. We cannot suppose you so absurd, as to admit a mere presumption and reject the certainty. You know, that all who practise certain professions must by law have gone through a certain course of education. If the standard of mental cultivation which is sufficient for a judge, an advocate, a physician, or a public teacher, is not sufficient to render a man fit for electing a member of parliament, whom, in the name of common sense, do you expect to find fit for it?

These arguments are so obviously unanswerable, that we do not believe it will even be attempted to attenuate their force. We are convinced that whatever in other respects may be the character of the new election law, one of its provisions will be the admission of all who are qualified to serve on juries, to the elective franchise.


EXAMINER, 24 OCT., 1830, PP. 673-4

This article comments on the attempts of the Chamber of Deputies to avoid the consequences of having, on 13 Aug., 1830, unanimously approved a resolution (Moniteur, 1830, p. 902) accusing of treason the ex-ministers responsible for Charles X’s Edition: current; Page: [164] July ordinances: Polignac, Peyronnet, Guernon-Ranville, and Jean Claude Balthazar Victor de Chantelauze (1787-1859), who had become Minister of Justice in May 1830. On 17 Aug. it had accepted for consideration a motion to abolish the death penalty introduced by comte Alexandre César Victor Charles Destutt de Tracy (1781-1864), defender of liberal causes (ibid., pp. 918-19). On 8 Oct., 1830, it adopted, by a vote of 246 to 21, the Projet d’adresse au roi, proposing a major reduction in the number of capital offences (ibid., pp. 1274-6 and 1278-82), which was enthusiastically received by Louis Philippe on 9 Oct. (ibid., p. 1277). This article, the first in the “Political Examiner,” is headed as title. It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article in the Examiner of 24th October 1830, headed ‘Attempt to save the ex-ministers’ ” (MacMinn, p. 12). See also Nos. 68 and 71.

the french chamber of deputies has voted an address to the King, requesting him to propose a law, for the abolition of capital punishment in all cases of political crime, and in all other cases, except those of a few specified offences, the most dangerous to the safety of society and implying the greatest measure of depravity in the criminal.

Before we give utterance to the doubts and apprehensions which this precipitate, and, we fear, ill-timed resolution, has excited in us, we must request indulgence while we dwell for a few moments on thoughts of a more exhilarating tendency. We cannot restrain our delight and admiration on seeing this noble people afford every day some new and splendid example of its progress in humane feelings and enlightened views. When we recal the pitiable exhibition of our ministry and parliament, on a fragment of this very subject, a few months ago,1 and contrast it with what we now behold in France, with the leading statesmen of all parties uniting almost as one man to effect this grand legislative improvement, and its principle approved even by the journalists who lament, and the placarders who inveigh against, its retrospective application—it becomes painfully evident how greatly the educated classes in France, on all questions of social improvement to which their attention has been directed, are in advance of the majority of the same classes in England, and how eminently their practising lawyers, whose opinion must have peculiar weight on such a subject, are distinguished in expansion of ideas and elevation of soul from our narrow-minded technicalists.

The comments, which we cannot help making upon the occasion chosen for beginning the mitigation of the French penal law, are made with the most heartfelt wish that the event may prove them misplaced and inapplicable. No Edition: current; Page: [165] reverence can exceed that which we feel for the constancy of purpose, the unwearied and single-minded philanthropy of such men as Victor de Tracy and Lafayette. They may be better judges of the maturity of the public mind than ourselves, or than the ablest and most enlightened of their own journalists. May they prove so. No one, at least, can mistake the impulses by which their course has been determined. As they were in the beginning, so are they now, and will be to the close of their pure and noble career.2 But it is something new to find the majority of the Chamber marching under their banner. Who compose this majority? The very men who two years ago scouted the same proposition when brought forward by the same individuals. A taste for precipitate reforms is not the failing, of which the rest of the conduct held by these persons since the revolution permits us to accuse them. And wherein consisted the peculiar urgency of the present case? In the circumstance that four men are about to be put upon trial for their lives, by whose guilt more citizens have lost theirs, than usually perish by all other crimes taken together in the course of a century. It is true that these men were ministers. We may be permitted to ask, would as much have been done for four criminals of any other kind? But the fate of a minister concerns all who hope to be ministers. It is well that the zeal which might else, peradventure, have slumbered for some time longer, has been warmed into activity on one subject at least, by motives of a potency so irresistible. Let us hope that this enthusiasm, this generous reliance on the civilization and intelligence of France, will not exhaust itself in one single manifestation. Something of the same spirit will not displease us, when the conditions of eligibility, and the qualification for the elective franchise come to be decided on. Alas! that so great a measure should be presented to a people, so ill prepared, we fear, to receive it, under the auspices of men every one of whose acts is viewed with just suspicion, and on an occasion so well suited to give colour to the worst interpretation.

What becomes of the miserable criminals themselves, whether they die on the scaffold, in gaol, or in dishonoured exile and obscurity, appears to us a matter of consummate indifference. We do not desire their death; though we cannot affect to feel for them any compassion. Our sympathy is with the maimed, the widows and orphans whom they have made. But with the past, punishment has nothing to do. Punishment cannot make that which was, to have never been. The death of the assassin will not bring back to life the victim whom he has slain. Punishment regards the future alone. Safety, not vengeance, is its object, and all thinking men have long been persuaded, that death is far from being the punishment which operates with greatest force upon the minds of delinquents, far even from being the most severe.

The only fit end of punishment is the prevention of crime: but is this truth Edition: current; Page: [166] commonly felt and understood? Are there many, besides persons of cultivated intellects, who have wrought it thoroughly into their convictions, or impressed it deeply upon their feelings? In most minds the idea of punishment has not ceased to be at bottom that of expiation, or the principle of so much pain for so much guilt; the argument most frequently insisted upon even for the alleviation of a penalty, is this, that it is disproportioned to the crime. Why is it that murder is almost invariably excepted from the propositions even of philanthropists, for the abolition of capital punishment? Murder is not the crime which it is most difficult to prevent. The feeling which gave birth to the lex talionis3 has not yet died away. The doctrine of blood for blood has sunk deep into the hearts of the vast majority of every people who have been accustomed to see it put in practice. We should not wonder, if there were some persons here who are so foolish as to suppose, that it is thirst for vengeance which makes the Parisian populace cry out, “Death to the ministers.”4 The supposition is too absurd to be worth reasoning upon. If the people desired vengeance, what opportunities of gratification did they not forego during the three days? The very men who had been firing upon them the moment before, were treated as soon as they were disarmed, with the kindness of brothers. Except those of their own number whom they executed for pillaging, it is not known that they put to death a single person, after he had ceased to resist. The officers who gave the orders to fire, remain unmolested to this day. Marmont himself was allowed to retire in quietness, not a voice being raised for his punishment, not a sign given that the idea of his liability to it had entered into any mind.5 If they cry “death to the ministers,” it is because they do not think it vengeance, but justice. Their sons, their brothers, their comrades, have been slain—the ministers, in their eyes, are the murderers. For death, death in their opinion is the proper return. They cannot seize nice distinctions between political murder and common murder. Numbers have suffered death for state crimes while Peyronnet was minister, and they well knew on what multitudes more it would have been inflicted if their enemies had prevailed. It appears to them right, to try the prisoner by his own law. Their feeling, howsoever we may consider it, is a moral one. It is their conscience Edition: current; Page: [167] which speaks. It is a sentiment of justice, unenlightened, indeed, and misplaced, but in short it is justice, such as they conceive it.

You owe every thing to their sense of justice. It is by their love of justice that your lives and properties are yours at this instant. Never since the beginning of the world was there seen in a people such a heroic, such an unconquerable attachment to justice. The poorest of the populace, with arms in their hands, were absolute masters of Paris and all that it contains; not a man went richer to his home that night. What an instrument, what a safeguard for all that is virtuous have you in such a people! but it is in their moral convictions that you must find your strength. Once forfeit the right of appealing to their justice, and what is there between you and the most enormous evils? Refuse a man favour, and he respects you the more; refuse him what he deems justice, and you excite his indignation. If what the people demand is in itself unjust, withhold it. Real justice is not to be sacrificed to opinion. But it is never unjust to execute upon a real criminal, what was the acknowledged law when he committed the offence. It is only postponing a reform, until it can be effected safely: and this reform, was it for the sake of the criminal that you desired it? No, certainly; but for the sake of the public. And when did a premature and brusque attempt to make men better, ever fail of making them worse? It is dangerous in a revolution to trifle with the moral feelings of a people. If you will not give to the people what they think justice, tremble lest they should take it.

We do not express this apprehension lightly. We hope better things from the Parisian people. Indeed, the moment of greatest danger is perhaps past; though there are appearances which, we confess, alarm us. But if, when Polignac was arrested, and brought from Granville to Paris, it had been known that when convicted he would not be put to death, who can answer that an indignant people might not have rendered a trial unnecessary? Spare the lives of political offenders when you can—spare them always, if that be practicable, and we will gladly give you our applause. But before you enact a law interdicting yourselves from inflicting capital punishment, make yourselves sure that no cases will arise, where what you have said you will not do, will be done for you by the avenging hand of the people themselves, preferring, in the fury excited by some outrage against their liberties or lives, what they deem the substance of justice, to the forms.

Do we, then, attempt to set up the rude, undisciplined feelings of untaught minds, as a rule of conduct for men of more enlightened consciences and more exercised understandings? Is the penal legislation of a country to remain for ever a literal copy of the barbarous conceptions of its least civilized inhabitants? Far from it. We only ask, that a purpose, of which we acknowledge the dignity and excellence, should be pursued by the employment of such means as a rational person would adopt in any other case of equal delicacy and difficulty. We cannot conceive any graver or more solemn occasion, than that of a deliberation which Edition: current; Page: [168] is to change the moral sentiments of a whole people. What zeal and perseverance will not be required, to place the objects and principles of punishment in their true light before the people, and to make them familiar with the right grounds of preference, presented in every possible aspect! What an insight into the human heart, to probe to the bottom the seat of the erroneous moral feeling which lies so deeply fixed in it; and what skill in guiding and working upon men for their good, to find the means of loosing the wrong association of ideas, which has wound itself round and round the mind till it has eaten into the substance itself. Nor can the abolition of capital punishment be considered as an insulated question; it involves the revision of your whole penal code. No nation in Europe is provided with unobjectionable secondary punishments. Your most accomplished jurists have enough to do, in fixing, if not their own ideas on the matter, at least those of the public, and you are to recollect, that this last is a condition which, for persons desiring to be the rulers of a free people, is not to be dispensed with. A despot, indeed, has no need of so much trouble. He gives his fiat, and the law is altered; the people, being accustomed to be so treated, acquiesce in the alteration, however disagreeable to them, and in time the new law gives birth to a new state of feeling. But the legislators of France know full well, that the French people are neither children nor slaves, and that they must henceforth be governed with the assent of their reason and of their conscience, or not at all. And was men’s reason or their conscience ever yet taken by storm?

By postponing the question of capital punishment, you would have prevented, perhaps, an insurrection; a few months or years later you would have carried your point, and retained, and even strengthened, the hold which it is of so much importance that you should not renounce, upon the moral sentiments of the people. All this you would have gained; but you would not have saved the lives of the ex-ministers. Were their lives, then, of sufficient value, to be saved from the course of law at such a price?

EXAMINER, 24 OCT., 1830, PP. 674-5

The stimulus for this leading article came from an unheaded article on the fall of the Bourbons in the Morning Chronicle, 14 Oct., 1830, p. 3, which criticized “Political History of France since the Restoration,” Quarterly Review, XLIII (Oct. 1830), 564-96, by Charles Ross (1799-1860), Conservative M.P. for St. Germains, 1826-32. Both the Morning Chronicle and Mill get the title of the article wrong, and mistakenly assume that it was by Basil Hall (1788-1844), a retired naval officer with both scientific and political interests, known for his travel books as well as his articles in the Quarterly Review. Among the latter was “Political Condition and Prospects of France” (XLIII [May 1830], 215-42), which probably caused the mistaken attribution and increased the abuse by the Morning Chronicle and Mill. Mill’s unsigned article, headed as title, immediately follows Edition: current; Page: [169] No. 52 in the “Political Examiner.” The description in Mill’s bibliography is of “A leading article in the Examiner of 24 Oct. 1830, headed ‘The Quarterly Review and France’ ” (MacMinn, p. 12), which is identified by MacMinn as this article; however, the title in the Examiner of No. 54 is “France and the Quarterly Review,” which might imply that the bibliography refers to No. 54 only. For the evidence supporting our conclusion that Mill wrote both, see the Textual Introduction, cvi. The epigraph, which may have been supplied by the editor, Fonblanque, has not been identified.

“We’re all a nodding.”


the chronicle has some masterly comments on an article in the Quarterly Review, entitled “The Political History of France, since the Revolution.” This is a subject with regard to which the Quarterly is in a false position. Captain Basil Hall served in the quality of evil spirit to Charles X; he marshalled him the way that he should go; he placed the bloody dagger before his eyes,1 and pointed the road to crime. Charles was hurled from his throne, the sceptre with which he had bruised his people was wrenched from his grasp, but Captain Basil Hall still sits at his desk; the pen with which he outrages reason and disgusts humanity remains in his hand, and he yet asserts his disgraced opinions in the Quarterly.

If we rejoiced in the fall of inimical organs, we should certainly observe with complacency the operations of the Charles X of the High Tory Journal; his magnificence is dealing in ordinances so fatal in recoil.

The writer [says the Chronicle] honestly avows that it would have afforded him great satisfaction had Charles X succeeded in establishing a despotism. “We certainly wished (he says) that in the struggle, which we had long foreseen, the immediate result might be the establishment of something like despotic power in the Throne of France; and we did so because we considered a despotism, in the present condition of the world, as likely to turn out a lesser evil in that mighty country than the other alternative. The past had satisfied us that if Charles X desired the influence of a dictator, he was incapable of using that influence for any unpatriotic purpose; that no fretfulness of idle vanity, no fervor of selfish ambition, had tormented his ‘chair days;’ and that whatever extraordinary power he might obtain, would be held conscientiously, as his only for an extraordinary and temporary purpose—that of endeavouring to lay the foundations of a national aristocracy.”2

Thus the good intentions of Charles were manifested in his breach of faith and violation of the laws. Innocent love! Amiable forsworn! Benevolent man of violence who attempted to upset the rights of his people all for their good, and was himself upset instead! Good-lack! We trust no kindred soul will steal his Edition: current; Page: [170] purse at Lulworth, with the intention of making an excellent use of the money.3 When power is reserved from magistrates, it is meant to place it beyond subserviency to their intentions, good or bad; but what exquisite simplicity in not recognising this design, and seizing unlawfully by virtue of good purposes! The Standard remarks upon the above text:

We must remark that this King, in reliance upon whose good dispositions the writer wishes for the establishment of a despotic power, is seventy-five years old—has passed the allotted period of man’s life by five years; but, non obstante the probability of his death or dotage, the reviewer would establish a permanent despotism, in reliance upon his good disposition.4

The Chronicle observes,

The principle which runs through this “Political History of France since the Revolution” is, that the only legitimate object of a Government is to create and preserve a powerful Aristocracy, and the various Ministries since the Restoration are praised or blamed in proportion as they pursued that object. A Church richly endowed, as subsidiary to the maintenance of a rich Aristocracy, is, of course, also an object of the writer’s admiration. The more important point—the happiness and prosperity of 30 millions of Frenchmen, and how far such happiness and prosperity are reconcileable with a rich and powerful Aristocracy and a richly-endowed Church—is not deemed deserving of his notice. He admits that the country never was more prosperous than during the period when things were advancing to a crisis which justified the establishment of a despotism:—“Beset as the exiled House was (he says), from the hour of its restoration, with jealousies bitterly conflicting, and perpetually threatening an explosion, it will not be denied that France enjoyed under their rule 15 years of greater prosperity than had ever before fallen to her lot. Such is the fact, ‘even their enemies themselves being judges;’5 never since the foundation of the Monarchy were personal liberty and property so safe. . . . Excluding certain political evils from our view, that fine country presented, on the whole, a picture of prosperity, which fixed the admiration of Europe.” But if France, since the foundation of the Monarchy, never exhibited such a picture of prosperity, does not this almost amount to a demonstration, that France was not indebted for that prosperity to the Bourbons, but to the circumstances wherein, during those 15 years, she differed from what she was during the rest of the Monarchy? During the rest of the Monarchy she had a richly-endowed Church and a rich Aristocracy; and during the 15 years she had a comparatively poor Aristocracy and a poor Church; and are we not, therefore, justified in inferring, it was precisely because she had a poor Aristocracy and a poor Church she was so prosperous as to attract the admiration of Europe, notwithstanding she had also foolish Monarchs, who created constant jealousies and heartburnings by their incessant endeavours to bring about the state of things from which the Revolution had liberated her? The Bourbons could not prevent the prosperity which the Institutions, growing out of the Revolution, produced in spite of their endeavours. The country prospered because they were impotent.

“They saw (says the Quarterly Reviewer) that the faction (by faction is meant all but the Aristocracy) which had never ceased to labour for the ruin of the Monarchy, were Edition: current; Page: [171] rapidly attaining the utmost height of rebellious audacity—and that the only question was, who should strike the first blow. They saw, that to go on with the Charter of Louis XVIII as it stood, was inevitably to shipwreck the vessel of the State, and they thought to give it a chance by cutting away the masts. The evolution was not successful, and the Monarchy went down.” It is questionable how far it may be prudent to accustom people to such phrases as Monarchy going down; for after the first shock which such portentous words are calculated to produce is over, men naturally ask themselves what the words really mean, and they find that the going down of a Monarchy is not such a bad thing. They see, notwithstanding the going down of the Monarchy, thirty millions of people exciting the admiration and respect of Europe by their gallant bearing and their magnanimity—they see them busied in improving their laws and institutions, encouraging education, removing the obstacles in the way of industry—and they see a weak and priest-ridden old man, who could not enjoy in quiet the wealth which this people heaped upon him and his family, but would persist in thwarting those to whose industry he was so deeply indebted, notwithstanding his crime, peaceably conducted out of the country he had outraged, and richly pensioned off. Truly there are worse things in the world, at this rate, than the going down of a Monarchy.6

They see, too, that the going down of the monarchy has been the rising up of a magistracy; that the going down of one king has led to the setting up of a better.

France is prosperous and moral, without a rich church or an aristocracy of boroughmongering capacity; this is the sum of the quarrel with her condition. She wants the main-spring of misrule, but she is deficient in no feature of happiness, wisdom, or virtue, nor is it pretended that she is deficient. She has every production but Lords and Squires, and the magistracy of the brambles. From an article on the decline of science in England, in the same number of the Quarterly which contains the pestilent trash quoted, the Chronicle extracts this admirable passage:

“Of all the kingdoms of Europe (says the Reviewer) France is undoubtedly the one in which the scientific establishments have been regulated by the most enlightened and liberal principles, and in which science is most successfully cultivated.” For scientific and literary establishments, 103,791l. is annually voted by the Government. “Nor (says the Reviewer) in her generous care for the respectability and comfort of her scientific men, has France overlooked the most powerful stimulus of genius and industry. All the honours of the State have been thrown open to her philosophers and literary characters. The sage and the hero deliberate in the same Cabinet; they are associated among the Privy Councillors of the King; they sit together in her House of Peers, and in her Chamber of Deputies; they bear the same titles; they are decorated with the same orders; and the arm and the mind of the nation are thus indissolubly united for its glory, or for its defence.” Let us turn to Aristocratical, Oligarchical England. “While (says the Reviewer) the mere possession of animal courage (which, of course, a well-fed Aristocracy, in a temperate country like this, can hardly fail to possess), one of the most common qualities of the species, has been loaded with every variety of honour, the possessor of the highest endowments of the mind—he to whom the Almighty has chosen to make known the laws and mysteries of his works—he who has devoted his life, and sacrificed his health and the interests of his family, in the most profound and ennobling pursuits,—is allowed to live in Edition: current; Page: [172] poverty and obscurity, and to sink into the grave without one mark of the affection and gratitude of his country. And why does England thus persecute the votaries of her science? Why does she depress them to the level of her hewers of wood and her drawers of water?7 It is because science flatters no courtier, mingles in no political strife, and brings up no reserve to the Minister, to swell his triumph or break his fall. She is persecuted because she is virtuous; dishonoured because she is weak.” “England’s liberality to Newton (he elsewhere observes) is the only striking instance which we have been able to record, because it is the only one in which the honour of a title was combined with an adequate pecuniary reward.”8

We prepare to treat Captain Basil Hall more at length in our next number.

EXAMINER, 31 OCT., 1830, PP. 689-91

This item is a first leader in the “Political Examiner,” headed as title. For the context and bibliographical entry, see No. 53. For the attribution of this and No. 53 to Mill, see the Textual Introduction, cvi. In Mill’s Somerville College set, the word “insult” has been blotted out from the phrase “to insult the illustrious patriot” at 178.20.

in our last paper we made an extract from the comments of the Morning Chronicle, upon the article on the late French Revolution in the Quarterly Review. The reviewer makes a sufficiently pitiful figure in the Chronicle’s hands; and there, perhaps, we might have left him, had he not called down upon his own head a still more signal exposure and castigation, by presuming to insult and calumniate the people of England. The reviewer says, that the people of England have not sympathized in the triumph of the French nation over the attempt to abrogate its constitution, and to govern it by open force. He says, that they have regarded the recent changes in France with “stern suspicion,” and by so doing, have entitled themselves to as much laudation as he can bestow upon them.1 Now this assertion, going forth among many other marks of the worst feelings towards the French people, and amidst an immense heap of blunders and misrepresentations respecting French affairs, in a publication known to have a considerable circulation in England, may be productive of very lamentable effects. It is not impossible that the reviewer’s confident affirmation that the mass of the English nation are of his opinion, may become known to the leading statesmen and to the journalists of France, and may induce them to believe that Edition: current; Page: [173] such is really the fact. If this should take place, the prodigious increase of strength which the expressions of honorable sympathy from the English in the late achievement have given to the disposition to think well of this country, and to keep well with it, might not be permanent, and might be succeeded by a reaction which would be violent in proportion as the previous burst of affection and gratitude (we speak from observation) was cordial, generous, and sincere.

It therefore becomes highly necessary to apprise the French, that the Quarterly Review represents the feelings of nobody except the church and the aristocracy: that with the exception of these peculiar and narrow classes, and their hangers-on and retainers, the readers even of the Quarterly Review do not read it for the sake of its political opinions: that when the reviewer affirms, that the Revolution has met with no sympathy from the English people, all he really means is this, that it has met with no sympathy from the church and the aristocracy: that the great bulk even of the readers of the review, utterly repudiate and disavow the sentiments of this article, and that it is generally felt that the editor,2 by inserting it, has committed, with respect to the pecuniary interests of the concern under his management, one of the greatest blunders which he ever made.

It is not our intention, however, to dismiss this creditable effusion with barely the degree of notice rigorously necessary for the purpose for which we adverted to it. We think it may be instructive to exhibit rather minutely what manner of man this is who thus takes upon himself the character of spokesman for the English people. It is true that we have not been gratified by the discovery of one single endowment in the writer qualifying him to have an opinion. But the more scanty his stock of ideas, the apter an illustration is he of the tendency of such as he happens to be master of. These amount to two; Church, and Aristocracy. He can think nothing but church and aristocracy, he can feel nothing but church and aristocracy. These two ideas compose the entire furniture of his skull.

With an intellectual matériel of this extent, he turns his attention to France; where he speedily discovers that neither of the idols of his homage exists. This nakedness of the land fills him with dismay. Seeing neither “a powerful church establishment,” nor a “wealthy hereditary aristocracy,” he sees nothing but a “monarch” and a “mob.”3 Yes, he scruples not to aver, that whatever is not either church or aristocracy, is “mob.” He accordingly proclaims his wish that Charles X had succeeded in overpowering the French nation. He regrets that the result of the struggle was not “the re-establishment of something like despotic power in the throne of France:”4 feeling certain that it would have been used “conscientiously” for one only purpose, that of endeavouring to create a rich landed aristocracy. This, and a powerful church establishment, are the two Edition: current; Page: [174] “great absent elements,” without which no country is capable of freedom.5 This maxim in politics is assumed throughout, as one which neither needs, nor is susceptible of, proof; and it is easy to perceive, such is the texture of the writer’s mind, that the doctrine really appears to him to be one of those to which the human understanding necessarily and spontaneously assents.

We are thus given to understand that in the opinion of the church and the aristocracy, a church and an aristocracy, each of them the richest and most powerful of its kind, are necessary conditions of what they are pleased to term freedom: and that despotism, naked unmasked despotism, is not only preferable to the want of both or either of these requisites, but is positively the best form of government which can exist in a country not provided with these costly, but indispensable appendages.

It is not, perhaps, very surprising, that the church and the aristocracy should imagine all this. But it does, we confess, somewhat surprise us that in the times we live in, they should expect to find any persons who will receive it on their authority. They may have heard of an opinion which has gone forth rather extensively, that instead of being the causes of freedom, a powerful church and aristocracy are the main obstacles to it, in the present state of society. They may have heard it whispered that from the days of Themistocles to those of Thomas Jefferson,6 every nation which has been conspicuous for good government, or eminence in intellect, arts, or arms, (not excepting England itself) has been one in which either a powerful church and aristocracy did not exist, or in which their power was irresistibly controlled by opposing circumstances. They may have been told, that the nations to which at the present moment, the twofold blessing which they brag of, belongs in the most peculiar degree, are those which have passed into a proverb throughout all Europe as the favourite abodes of barbarism and superstition.7 They may have perceived that in England so far are the merits of the church and the aristocracy as guarantees of freedom from being appreciated, that what the people are seeking is freedom from these very bodies, from their engrossing and irresponsible domination. We can assure them, that they will find few persons besides themselves, who are not very willing just now to listen without either impatience or aversion, to what can be said in behalf of these and similar opinions. Now, if the case be as we state it, we may just submit, whether it might not have been as advisable for such writers as the Edition: current; Page: [175] Quarterly reviewer to make themselves a very little less sure, that their panegyrics upon despotism, in comparison with any other government except that of a church and an aristocracy, would produce exactly the kind of effect which they wish for, upon the public mind.

Thus much with respect to the principles of this performance: what else it consists of is history. We invite attention to its history. The history of the late events comprises, as our readers know, some rather remarkable circumstances. They will, no doubt, feel curious to learn in what manner the reviewer can contrive to turn these to his purposes.

It might have been expected, that a mind of any generosity, though it might be so unfortunate as to see nothing but gloom and desolation in a prospect so full of brightness and joy, would somewhere have exhibited a gleam of human sympathy for a noble people, whose bravery and self-control throw every example of previous heroism into the shade, and exalt, as has been many times exclaimed in our hearing, the dignity of our common nature. The whole population of a vast city, without leaders and without concert, rushing to arms simultaneously with a divinus furor,8 at the first announcement that brute force had usurped the place of law—storming building after building against regular troops—advancing, numbers of them, to certain death, without either ostentation or regret—putting bread into the mouths of their conquered enemies the moment they had thrown down their arms—watching over the safety of every monument of art or taste, with the solicitude of virtuosi—executing summary justice upon every one who sullied their cause by appropriating either private or public property—and returning empty-handed and in rags to their humble homes, without once suspecting that they have done any thing extraordinary—this was a spectacle which might have warmed the heart even of a high-churchman. Even the authors of Blackwood’s Magazine, who, however destitute of principle, are not without occasional touches of generous feeling, could not help paying, at least in their number immediately following the events, a just tribute of admiration to the heroic populace of Paris.9 Some traces of corresponding sensibility in the Quarterly reviewer, might have induced a candid opponent to have looked with less severity upon errors which could then have been attributed to no worse cause than a circumscribed and perverted understanding. But no; the same contraction of soul, which can see no freedom but under the protecting hug of a wealthy church and a powerful aristocracy, can feel for no virtue beyond the same narrow pale. It belongs not to a mind constituted like the reviewer’s, to Edition: current; Page: [176] believe in the possibility of such virtue. He would not credit his senses, if they testified in its favour. He is in the condition sometimes treated of by the Catholic divines, and termed invincible hardness of heart; a state, in which the sinner is not precluded from a chance of ultimate salvation, being scarcely responsible for disobedience to a summons which his nature does not qualify him to hear.10

“Of the transactions of last July,” says the reviewer, “we will say nothing, as they are too recent and too much enveloped in mystery, which time alone can unravel, to form the subject of steady contemplation.”11 We are not at all surprised, that he should be anxious to pass over unnoticed the events of July. He is, however, much mistaken, if he imagines that his readers will pass them over. He will find them capable not only of admiring the conduct of the Parisians, but also of reflecting upon it. He and his fraternity have used the former revolution as an argument against the people long enough, the present one will be used by the people as an argument against them: and the greater has been the success of the well-paid industry which they have employed in heightening and colouring for effect, the excesses of the first revolution, the more eagerly will men enquire and speculate upon the cause which has rendered the present revolution such as it is impossible to calumniate. They will have no help from the reviewer in this investigation. No cause, capable of accounting for such a phenomenon, is to be found in his philosophy.12 Yet it has a cause, though it be one which it was not very likely that such a person as he, should discover:—The people had in the interval shaken off their church and their aristocracy. Such was the blessed effect of this riddance, that all the horrors we are constantly told of, have not been a counterpoise. Those horrors, followed by 25 years of merciless war, which would have been sufficient to brutalize the people of any other country, have been to this people but as a fiery furnace,13 out of which it has issued in a brighter and purer state of being. And has the catastrophe which was to blot out France from the map of Europe, and extinguish the sun of morality from the universe, come to this? Even so: and to this must the worst revolution come, so it only deliver the nation from the curse of a wealthy church establishment and a powerful aristocracy. A revolution may be bungled, it may be misdirected, the wisest and best of the citizens may perish in its storms, all that is generous, all that is aspiring, all that is enlightened, may seem to be destroyed; yet shall not the hopes even of its most sanguine supporters be ultimately frustrated, if it have Edition: current; Page: [177] achieved this deliverance. The first revolution has rendered the French common people the finest in Europe, and the second revolution has found them so.

We pass to another particular of the reviewer’s display.

The events of July are too recent and too mysterious “to form the subject of steady contemplation,” or, peradventure, they are too recent and too indisputable to admit of misrepresentation. But he, to whom the events of July appear “enveloped in mystery,” is perfectly versed in the most secret acts and inmost designs of every conspicuous person in France for the last fifteen years. Nothing is mysterious to him, except what is plain and intelligible to every one else. The incredulity which cannot swallow, perhaps the best attested facts in history, stands open-mouthed to take in every old woman’s tale of treason and conspiracy, which has been got up since 1815 to serve the momentary purpose of a minister, or perhaps only to gratify the readers of the Quotidienne by the excitement of a little gentle apprehension. If the reviewer believes half what he says, he believes, we will take upon ourselves to assert, at least twice as much as his informants. If the ex-ministers had but known, when they penned their Rapport au Roi, half as much as the reviewer knows, of their own case!14 But there are certain things, which would scarcely occur to any one, who is at a less distance than two hundred miles from what he is talking about.

The liberals, as they used to be called, in the Chamber of Deputies, formed, according to the reviewer, an organized body, unintermittedly occupied in conspiring to dethrone the Bourbons. If the assertion should meet the eye of any one who knows them, we envy his amusement. We think we can figure to ourselves the consternation of the 221, if it had entered into their wildest dreams that any act of theirs could bring on a revolution in France. They have scarcely ceased trembling at it, three months after the event. Their object, it seems, “has been, and is,” at once to “delude the nation by the cant of equality,” (a word from which they shrink as a pious man avoids the utterance of a blasphemy,) and to “defy it by such an organization of National Guards as invests them virtually with the whole power of the sword.”15 At the same moment appears the projet de loi for the “organization” of the National Guard, of which the first article declares, that it consists of all males from 20 to 60 not forming part of the regular army. Need we say a word more?16

When men like this reviewer take upon themselves to give their opinion upon a subject, with the facts of which they are wholly unacquainted, and are thrown Edition: current; Page: [178] upon such presumptions and conjectures as are suggested à priori by the old saws which compose the sum total of their little philosophy, this is the pitiable predicament in which they place themselves.

When we find such a man as this, a man possessing not one of the elements which go towards making up a rational conviction, a man in whose head there is nothing but a besotted terror of the people, and a childish admiration of the privileged classes,—when we find this man setting himself up as a judge not only of actions but of motives, and distributing infamy, as if the execrations of mankind belonged to him to dispose of; we feel ourselves absolved on our side, as he has thought proper to absolve himself, from the conventions which prescribe that whatever may be our secret opinion, our language at least shall express no feeling incompatible with respect for our opponent. This man, who would not venture to call his soul his own, if the church or the aristocracy needed it, dares to stile Lafayette a “wretched traitor.”17 If the man to whom we are replying is sufficiently insensible of the place which he himself holds in the creation, to be unaware of the immeasurable distance which exists in point of virtue between such men as him and such a man as Lafayette, let the contempt of Europe apprise him of it. The gulph is far too wide, for eyes like his to reach across; nor will the dirt flung by hands like his, fall near enough to be even perceptible to the illustrious patriot against whom it is aimed.

It may perhaps be supposed from all this, that the reviewer vows eternal enmity to popular governments, and to the government of France in particular. No such thing. He tells us on the contrary in plain terms, that if they succeed in establishing themselves, he will be in their favour. This we readily believe. We do not question in the least, that he will always be found on the side of power, let it be where it may. The following are his words:

If they go on well—if they do establish a government at once free and firm—if they can in practice enjoy a free press, without its running into licentiousness—and all this, without erecting among themselves a wealthy hereditary aristocracy and a powerful church establishment,—we shall freely admit ourselves to have been grievously mistaken; that we have been accustomed to do the French people gross injustice;—nay, that our whole system of political faith has been wrong, and that the age of miracles is come again.18

“A government at once free and firm,” is, it appears, the condition, on which the Quarterly reviewer will give, to the new order of things in France, his valuable adhesion. In the mean time, does he tell us of any thing, which is to prevent the government from being at once free and firm? Nothing whatever; except that it has no wealthy church, or powerful aristocracy; and that neither of the two is very likely to be created, under the government which has now been Edition: current; Page: [179] established. We concede to him both these points, and consent, as he desires, to await the result of the experiment, well assured of the ultimate suffrages of such men as he, who are always found on the successful side.

But what demon, in what evil hour, suggested to him to name a licentious press, as the peculiar evil from which the possession of a church and an aristocracy can alone render a nation exempt? Audacity of assertion does much, but did he imagine that it could do every thing, when he described the French newspapers as “the most basely libellous press that ever disgraced a civilized age and country”?19 When a man does not shrink from asserting, because it suits his purpose, that of which the direct contrary is known to be the fact by every one who can even pretend that he has the means of knowledge, there is scarcely any word but one, and that an extremely short one, which expresses without ambiguity the real character of the affirmation. The French periodical press is probably the most decorous in Europe; the most licentious is unquestionably our own. Foreigners are struck with amazement at the malignity and profligacy of the English periodical press. And of what part of it in particular? Of that part which is peculiarly addressed to, and depends entirely upon the support of, the church and the aristocracy. We have observed and we well remember, that every periodical publication in our time, which has systematically attempted to recommend itself to low-minded readers by scandal and detraction, has shewn by its high-church politics among what class it thought it likely that the greatest number of such readers would be found. Attacks on private character or individual peculiarities, are utterly unexampled in a French newspaper; and it never entered into a Frenchman’s imagination to conceive the possibility of such publications as the fashionable prints of our time. But the meaning of a “basely libellous press” we suppose to be, one which is not favourable to “a wealthy hereditary aristocracy” nor to “a powerful church establishment.”

It has been asserted that the press of the United States of America is licentious. We know not to what degree such is the fact; and the probability is, that the majority of those who parrot the assertion known as little. But the testimony of Jefferson, the head of the democratic party, than whom no one ever underwent in a greater degree the unscrupulous virulence of newspaper opponents, inclines us to believe that the accusation against the press of America is true to a certain extent.20 Allowing this, it surely is probable that the cause is co-extensive with the effect, and is one of the circumstances common to England with the United States, not one of those which are common to the United States and to France. Edition: current; Page: [180] Nor need we search long to discover a perfectly adequate cause. In America as in England, periodical authorship is in the hands of writers who make literature their trade, and pursue it as they would gin-making, in the same sordid spirit, and with the same object, the greatest possible sale of their commodity. In France, on the contrary, it is in the hands of men who labour principally for the respect of their fellow-citizens; who know that their chance of obtaining this, does not depend upon their success in scraping together a greater or a less quantity of money: who belong to the most high-minded and the most highly-cultivated portion of la jeune France,21 and who, if they have any interested motive in their labours, have that of shewing themselves to be fit for those high functions in the State, which are as accessible to them, if properly qualified, as to any other candidate, and which their youth has commonly been spent, as far as in a private station it could, in rendering themselves competent to fill.

But of this on another occasion, and in another manner. It goes too deep into the structure of society, and is connected with too many of the most elevated considerations, to allow of its being mixed up with the exposure which we have thought it useful to perform, of one of the most impotent attempts ever made to palliate a fallen tyranny. That exposure we now consider sufficient. And as the reviewer concludes by congratulating his countrymen that the testimonials of sympathy with France “have been countenanced by hardly one name which any human being will dare to call respectable,”22 we will give utterance, in return, to our feelings of joy and exultation, that even in a periodical press which so ill represents the better part of the national mind, the writers who have thought they could find their account in exciting odium against the new government of France, form a feeble and insignificant minority. And it is due even to that minority to declare, that so far as we have observed, not one of them has exhibited so grotesque a contrast between the presumption of the design and the miserable poverty of the execution, as the writer of whom we now finally take our leave.

55.: FRENCH NEWS [1]
EXAMINER, 7 NOV., 1830, P. 715

This article was prompted by the appointment on 2 Nov. of a new ministry under Jacques Laffitte (1767-1844), the former ministry having fallen as a result of its efforts to save the ex-ministers (see No. 52). It is the first of 107 articles on French politics Mill supplied to the Examiner from this date until 31 Aug., 1834, usually on a weekly basis. We have given serial numbers to these; Mill wrote other articles on France (as well as other subjects) for the Examiner during this period, to which different titles are appropriate. This article is headed “London, Nov. 6” but, like the others in the series, is untitled and Edition: current; Page: [181] unsigned and does not appear in a named section of the Examiner. In his bibliography Mill usually groups several of these articles in one entry as here: “The summary of French affairs in the Examiner from 7th November 1830 to 17th April 1831 inclusive: comprising several long articles” (MacMinn, p. 12). These are Nos. 58-9, 62, 64, 66, 68, 71-2, 74, 76, 79, 81, 83, 85, 87, 89, 91, 93, 95-6, and 100. This article continues with paragraphs on German, Dutch, and Belgian affairs that are here omitted because there is no evidence connecting them with Mill other than their presence in the foreign news section. The Examiner of 14 Nov., p. 729, indicates an erratum: “supposed” should replace “suffered”

(here corrected at 181.27).

the expected change in the French ministry has at length taken place. The fraction of the old administration, which was opposed to popular measures, has given way; and after an ineffectual attempt by M. Casimir Périer,1 to form a ministry of compromise, the vacancies in the Cabinet have been filled by new appointments, said to be made under the auspices of M. Laffitte and M. Dupont de l’Eure.2

In this list, which we have given with our foreign intelligence,3 it will be perceived that M. Odilon-Barrot is not included.4 It is reported that he was passed over at his own request. Whatever be the cause, we regret it; as he enjoys a far larger share of the public confidence than the young peer who has been preferred to him,5 and it is of great importance that those who are raised to power by the popular voice, should be men of sufficient weight of character, to retain popularity without the necessity of constantly courting it and sacrificing to it. We fear that this cannot be affirmed of M. de Montalivet. His devotion, however, to the cause of the revolution was proved by his acting a distinguished part in the glorious three days; and it may be hoped, that the high character of M. Laffitte, and especially of M. Dupont de l’Eure, will give weight to any administration in which they are supposed to be the ruling spirits.

M. Mérilhou is an advocate of great reputation and well-known popular principles.6

Edition: current; Page: [182]

M. Maison is the officer who commanded the French expedition to the Morea. His appointment is said by some to be merely a temporary arrangement.7

EXAMINER, 14 NOV., 1830, PP. 723-4

This article is in response to what Mill considered the ignorant and misleading reporting of French affairs and of English attitudes, particularly by The Times. A leading article in the “Political Examiner,” headed as title, it is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article in the Examiner of 14th Nov. 1830 headed Ignorance of French affairs by the English press” (MacMinn, p. 13). Two errata are listed in the Examiner of 21 Nov., p. 740: “mere” should read “more” and “set of people to find acts that” should read “sort of people to find out what”

(these corrections are made at 183.22 and 183.24-5).

the crazy outcries of our newspapers against the changes in the French ministry, are not calculated to do much honour to England in foreign countries. They will not, however, make so unfavourable an impression upon the French, with regard to our national mind, as might be imagined, since that people, with their usual misapprehension of every thing English, will probably conclude that our daily press is in the pay of the Duke of Wellington. They are by no means aware of the true state of the case, namely, that there is a fund of stupidity and vulgar prejudice in our principal journalists, which needs no extraneous inducements to call it forth; and that our journals, speaking of them generally, are faithful representatives of the ignorance of the country, but do not represent, in any degree, its knowledge or its good sense. One would imagine that, among journalists, a moderately accurate acquaintance with France for the last fifteen years, ought not to be a very rare endowment: if a writer in the newspapers does not know the history of his own times, what, in the name of heaven, does he know? Yet, during the recent struggle in France between the men who made the revolution and the men who were seeking to profit by it, the small number among our journalists who dreaded giving a false and mischievous opinion, dared not to give one at all; while the larger number, who were utterly reckless of the consequences of what they wrote, have made a display of ignorance such as all who knew them would naturally expect. At the head of these was the blundering newspaper which recently asserted that Charles de Lameth, a man who was with Edition: current; Page: [183] difficulty saved from the September massacres, was a conventionalist:1 we need scarcely say that we allude to the Times, a paper which seldom lets a week pass without affording satisfactory evidence that for it to have any opinion at all on French affairs, is a piece of presumption which nothing can excuse. This paper announces, that the popular party in France, among various other bad qualities, breathes nothing but war against other states, and hatred of England;2 which assertion it makes with as little diffidence or hesitation as if it really knew any thing about the matter, and enforces the accusation with as much truth and discernment as were displayed in its eulogies on Polignac, in August, 1829,3 and with a refinement and delicacy of expression which reminds us of its abuse of the same person in August, 1830, when “vagabonds” was the most correct and appropriate term which it could invent to characterize his delinquency and that of his master.4

At a time when hundreds of the most influential of our countrymen knew, by personal observation, that there is a kind of furor among the French youth for rejecting territorial aggrandizement, and respecting the rights of other nations, and that it is almost enough to be an Englishman in order to be received every where by them with open arms, we shall not dwell upon the peculiar propriety and good sense of the above denunciations. We have no doubt that, so soon as public opinion shall have declared itself in opposition to them, the Times will, according to its customary practice, back out of them. In the mean time, it is consoling to recollect, that what is now affirmed of the more popular section of the libéraux, is no more than what was laid to the charge of the whole body until a very recent period. It is incredible how long it takes a certain sort of people to find out what they cannot see with their eyes. The Times, in its knowledge of history, is just twenty years behind the facts. It is living, not in 1830, but in 1810.

Periodical writers, however, entitled to far greater respect, have adopted, though in an inferior degree, the same tone of alarm; particularly a writer in the Scotsman, and one in the Foreign Quarterly Review.5 We do not so much blame these writers, as lament these habits of mind in the English public, of which the Edition: current; Page: [184] raw speculations of those two publications on the state of France, are a remarkable exemplification. There is no creature in Europe so timid, politically speaking, as your Englishman of the higher or middle ranks, because he is more sensitive than any other specimen of humanity yet known, on the score of insecurity to property. But it appears to us, that his fears are hardly ever in the right place. Formerly, an Englishman used to pride himself on being a friend of liberty, but now his first impulse always is, to take part with power. It never needs any evidence to satisfy him that men are disaffected without cause. If there arise a dispute between a people and an established government, and he (as is usually the case) does not happen to know what it is about, it would be amusing, if an exhibition of imbecility in the most momentous of earthly concerns could excite any but feelings of the deepest seriousness, to see how instantly and undoubtingly it is taken for granted that the people are in the wrong. Of this, the tone of public feeling respecting Belgium is a pregnant example. Most fortunate it is that Charles X was so imprudent as openly to abrogate the constitution of his kingdom, instead of continuing to evade it, and fritter away its provisions in detail. We have been convinced, from the outset, that if that monarch had not taken as much pains as he did to reduce the question to its simplest terms, despotism or not, in such sort that it did not require any knowledge of France to see that he meditated a different kind of bad government from that which we have been accustomed to;—the English, good easy people, would have continued to believe, that none but enemies of England, and zealots for war and conquest, none, moreover but a faction, contemptible in numbers and abilities, doubted the excellence of the Bourbon government, or were dissatisfied with the share of constitutional freedom which that family was willing that France should enjoy.

The purposes of the popular party have been very fully stated at different times in our own pages. The character of those who have held power for the last three months, but who have now been happily ejected from it, we shall take an early opportunity of delineating. Want of space compels us to defer this work for the present.

EXAMINER, 14 NOV., 1830, PP. 724-5

For the context and the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 44.

we have treated of the demands of the popular party with respect to the conditions of eligibility, and of the elective franchise. We shall next advert to the subject of internal administration.

It is allowed by all philosophers, and felt by all freemen, that securities for the Edition: current; Page: [185] goodness of the Government are not enough; it is also requisite to have as little of it as possible: the Government ought to do nothing for the people, which the people can, with any sort of convenience, do for themselves, either singly or in smaller associations.

The very reverse of this maxim has directed the legislation and administration of France, from the reign of Napoleon to the present time. The principle of the imperial regime, faithfully adhered to by restored legitimacy, was, that the people never should be permitted to do any thing f