The first opinion held by both that I found occasion to controvert, in those early conversations, was the Helvetius doctrine of the natural equality of human beings in regard of capacity. I believe I induced Grote at last to relax very considerably on the point; but Mill never accommodated his views, as I thought, to the facts. With all his wide knowledge of the human constitution and of human beings, this region of observation must have been to him an utter blank.
This summer (1845) produced the article on Guizot, the last of his series on the French historians (apart from Comte). It seems to have been a great success, even in the point of view of the old "Edinburgh Review" connection, to which it was often an effort to accommodate himself. Jeffrey ("Napier Correspondence," p. 492) is unusually elated with it: "a very remarkable paper," "passages worthy of Macaulay," "the traces of a vigorous and discursive intellect." He did not then know the author; when made aware of the fact, he adds, "Though I have long thought highly of his powers as a reasoner, I scarcely gave him credit for such large and sound views of realities and practical results," The reader will remember that the most prominent topic is the Feudal System.
We are now at the commencement of the "Political Economy," which dates from the autumn of this year. The failure of the "Ethology" as a portal to a complete sociology left the way clear for this other project, at a time when his energy was still up to great things. Indoctrinated as he was from babyhood in the subject, and having written on it in articles and discussed it, both in private and in the Political Economy Club, with all the experts of the time, it seemed to offer a fine field for his expository powers. Add to which, he found he could attach to it his views as to the great social questions; although, it must be allowed, the bond of connection was somewhat loose, and the larger sociology would have been a more fitting occasion for such wide-reaching topics.
In a letter dated February, 1846, he announces that the third part of the "Political Economy" is written. He says, in the "Autobiography," that it was the most rapidly written of any of his books; which showed that the subject had been well matured. He turned aside to write an article for the "Edinburgh" on French politics, the text being a series of political papers by Charles Duveyrier. Louis Philippe was now at the height of his prosperity; but the political system was very unsatisfactory: and Mill returned for a little to his old interest in France, and discussed in his usual style the workings of the constitutional system, its weakness and its remedies. His author — a calm, clear-sighted reasoner — put much stress upon a second Chamber made up of old officials, and Mill sympathizes with his object in desiring a counterpoise to democracy; but remarks, with his usual acuteness, "It is not the uncontrolled ascendancy of popular power, but of any power, which is formidable." The article came out in