Mill, John Stuart (DNB00)
MILL, JOHN STUART (1806–1873), philosopher, eldest son of James Mill [q. v.], was born on 20 May 1806 at his father's house, 13 Rodney Street, Pentonville, London. He was a singularly precocious child, and was entirely educated by his father, who from the first carried out unflinchingly a severe system of training. The child was set when three years old to learn ‘vocables,’ or lists of Greek words with the English meanings. By his eighth year he had read many Greek authors, starting with ‘Æsop's Fables’ and Xenophon's ‘Anabasis,’ including Herodotus, parts of Lucian, Diogenes Laertius, and six dialogues of Plato. His only other lessons were in arithmetic, but he also read books by himself. From 1810 till 1813 the Mills lived at Newington Green, and the father used to walk before breakfast in the then green lanes round Hornsey. During these walks the child gave accounts of his reading in Gibbon, Robertson, Hume, and (his especial favourite) Watson's ‘Philip II’ and ‘Philip III.’ He read Langhorne's ‘Plutarch,’ Millar's ‘English Government,’ Mosheim's ‘Ecclesiastical History,’ Sewel's ‘Quakers,’ and many voyages, besides a few children's books. In his eighth year he began Latin, and was also employed by his father to teach the younger children, a plan probably suggested by the Lancasterian system then in great favour with the utilitarians. By his twelfth year he had read in Latin much of Virgil, Horace, Livy, Ovid, Terence, and Cicero, and had added to his Greek Homer, Thucydides (read in his eighth, and again in his eleventh year), and parts of the dramatists, orators, and historians, besides Aristotle's ‘Rhetoric.’ He continued to read English histories, and during his eleventh and twelfth years began to write a history of the Roman government in imitation of Hooke. He had already written some fragmentary ‘histories,’ and Professor Bain (p. 3) gives a scrap composed when he was six and a half. Between the ages of eight and thirteen he had acquired elementary geometry and algebra ‘thoroughly,’ and had begun the differential calculus. His father was unable to guide him in the higher mathematics, or in the niceties of classical scholarship. He never practised composition in Greek, and little in Latin (see a Latin letter to his sisters of 1820, given in Bain, p. 21 n.) He was pleased with Pope's ‘Homer,’ Scott's ‘Lays,’ and Campbell's ‘Lyrics,’ but did not take to Shakespeare or Spenser. His father made him write English verses as a practice in composition, but he was not destined to be a poet. He was much interested by popular books upon science, though he had no opportunity of experimental inquiry. About twelve he began a serious study of logic, including some of Aristotle, some scholastic treatises, and especially Hobbes's ‘Computatio sive Logica,’ a book of great authority with his father. He began also to study classical literature for the thoughts as well as for the language. Demosthenes and Plato received especial attention. During 1817 he read the proofs of his father's ‘History of India,’ and was greatly impressed by the doctrines with which it is ‘saturated.’ In 1819 he went through a ‘complete course of political economy.’ His father made him write out a summary of the instructions given during their walks. The notes so made served for the father's treatise. The two afterwards carefully went through Adam Smith and Ricardo (see letter of 30 July 1819 in Bain, pp. 6–9). Before his fourteenth birthday Mill had thus read much classical literature, had seriously studied logic and political economy, had read much history and general literature, and made a good start in mathematics. He records his own achievements as a proof that the years of childhood may be employed to better purpose than usual, and while admitting that his father was a stern and impatient teacher, declares also that the education was never mere ‘cram,’ but invariably directed to stimulate his powers of thought. Francis Place [q. v.], when staying at Ford Abbey in 1814, reports that John, with his two sisters, were kept at lessons from six to nine, and again from ten to one, and that on one occasion their dinner hour had been put off from one till six because the sisters had made a mistake in a single word, and John had passed their exercise. He says that John is a ‘prodigy,’ but expects that he will grow up ‘morose and selfish’ (PLACE, Letters, communicated by Mr. Graham Wallas). Mill was brought up as a thorough agnostic, and says (ungrammatically) that he was one of the very few examples in this country of one who has ‘not thrown off religious belief, but never had it’ (Autobiography, p. 43). It appears, however, that the boy went to church in his infancy, and called Homer and the Bible the ‘two greatest books’ (Bain, James Mill, p. 90).
In May 1820 Mill left London for France, and stayed there until July 1821. He lived with Sir Samuel Bentham [q. v.], partly at the Château Pompignon, between Toulouse and Montauban, and partly in Toulouse, besides making an excursion to the Pyrenees, and ascending the Pic du Midi, Bigorre. From a diary published by Professor Bain, it appears that he studied nine hours a day. He became a thorough French scholar, and acquired an interest in French society and politics which never failed. He continued his studies in mathematics, chemistry, and political economy, learnt some music, and took lessons with less success in dancing, fencing, and riding. He was devoted to walking, and an enthusiastic lover of scenery, but he was never athletic. He took up botany as an amusement while in France, under the influence doubtless of George Bentham [q. v.], Sir Samuel's son, and was always an enthusiastic collector, though not a scientific botanist. Upon returning to England Mill again, became tutor of the younger children. He began to study for the bar, and read Roman law during the winter with John Austin (1790–1859) [q. v.] He gave up any thoughts of the profession upon being appointed (21 May 1823) to a junior clerkship in the examiner's office of the India House under his father. He had 30l. a year for the first three years, and afterwards 100l. In 1828 he was promoted over the other clerks and made an assistant, with 600l. a year. He rose to be third in the office, upon his father's death in 1836, with 1,200l. a year. In 1854 an addition of 200l. was made to his salary, and on the retirement of his seniors in 1856 he became chief of the office, with 2,000l. a year. His position enabled him to devote much time to study and to the composition of laborious works, and he found few drawbacks, except the exclusion from parliament and the confinement to London. He spent his month's holiday at his father's house in the country, and afterwards in excursions, the earlier of which were made on foot.
While reading with Austin, Mill for the first time studied Bentham's doctrines in Dumont's redaction. Reading the ‘Traité de Législation,’ he says, was a turning-point in his mental history. He afterwards, under the direction of his father, then employed upon his ‘Analysis,’ studied Condillac, Helvetius, Hartley, and the chief English psychologists. He became known to his father's disciples, especially Grote and Charles Austin [q. v.] In the winter of 1822–3 he formed a society, to which he gave the name ‘Utilitarian.’ He says (Autobiography, p. 79) that he found the name in Galt's ‘Annals of the Parish.’ The word had been used by Bentham many years before (Bentham, Works, x. 92, 390), but the name came into popular use as designating the party now gathering round the Mills. The society, which read essays and discussed questions, lasted till 1826, and Mill was active in enlisting recruits, although the number of members never reached ten. Charles Austin had introduced some of his college friends to the Mills, and John, during a brief visit to Cambridge in 1822, had made a great impression by his abilities. His father was vainly urged in 1823 to enter him at the university. Mill soon began to write in the papers, his first publication being a letter to the ‘Traveller,’ belonging to Colonel Torrens, in defence of one of his father's economical theories. He contributed soon afterwards a series of letters, signed ‘Wickliffe,’ to the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ denouncing the prosecution of Richard Carlile [q. v.] When the ‘Westminster Review’ was started in April 1824, Mill helped his father in assailing the old Quarterlies, and afterwards wrote frequently until 1828. The most remarkable of these writings was a review of Whately's ‘Logic’ in January 1828, which shows some interesting anticipations of his later theories. During 1825 Mill's chief employment was editing Bentham's ‘Treatise upon Evidence.’ Besides reducing to unity three masses of manuscripts written independently, Mill had to correct the style, fill up gaps, insert some replies to critics of Dumont's earlier abstract of the treatise, and add dissertations upon speculative questions. The labour, he says, took up his leisure for a year, and he had afterwards to see the five large volumes through the press. The book occupies two volumes in Bentham's collected ‘Works,’ and it is not only one of the richest in matter of Bentham's books, but one of the best edited. It would be difficult to mention a youth of twenty who ever completed such a task in the intervals of official work. Mill thinks that his editorial labour had a marked effect in improving his own style. During the next three years he contributed to the ‘Parliamentary History and Review,’ writing articles upon some of the chief political and economical questions of the day. Meanwhile he learnt German, though he never seems to have become a thorough German scholar. He collected ‘about a dozen’ friends, who met at Grote's house in Threadneedle Street on two mornings in the week from half-past eight till ten. They went steadily through various treatises, including Ricardo, Du Trieu's ‘Manuductio ad Logicam,’ Hartley, and Mill's ‘Analysis,’ thoroughly discussing every difficulty raised until each disputant had finally made up his mind. These discussions, which lasted ‘some years,’ made Mill (as he thought) an independent thinker, and were an admirable exercise in thorough analysis of difficulties. Mill's ‘Essays upon Unsettled Questions of Political Economy’ were one result. He wrote them about 1830, but could not obtain a publisher till after the success of his ‘Logic.’ They contain his most original work upon abstract political economy. Among the young men who then cultivated and propagated utilitarian principles, and became afterwards known as the ‘philosophical radicals,’ were Charles Austin, (Lord) Romilly, William Eyton Tooke (son of the economist), William Ellis (1800–1881) [q. v.], George John Graham (afterwards official assignee of the bankruptcy court, who helped Mill in working out his economical doctrines), J. A. Roebuck [q. v.], and Charles Buller [q. v.] Although sympathising with Bentham and James Mill, they disagreed upon various points both with their leaders and each other, but they appeared to outsiders as a clique. Mill admits that their contempt for ‘sentimentalities’ and ‘vague generalities,’ and for poetic culture generally, was excessive, as it naturally made them offensive to others. They came into contact with other young men at a debating society named after the famous Speculative Society at Edinburgh. Some of the utilitarians, led by Charles Austin, had attended the meetings of the Co-operative Society of Owenites in Chancery Lane. They fought a pitched battle, which lasted for three months, in defence of their conflicting opinions. This suggested the formation of the Speculative Society, which was joined by many of the most promising men of the day, including Macaulay, Thirlwall, Praed, Sam Wilberforce, and the Bulwers. The first session was a failure, but in 1826–7 they gained recruits, and sharp debates took place, A. Hayward [q. v.] and Shee (afterwards judge) representing the tories, while Mill and Roebuck, helped by Charles Buller and Cockburn, defended the radical cause. In the seasons of 1828 and 1829 they were joined by Maurice and Sterling, representing the Coleridgean influence. Mill became a friend of both, and in spite of profound differences of opinion was influenced by them in his mental development. He dropped the society in 1829, having abandoned the ‘Westminster’ in the previous year.
Mill had meanwhile gone through a spiritual crisis, which he compares to the conversion of methodists. It was connected, as he says, with ‘a dull state of nerves.’ Although he dwells chiefly upon the mental state, it seems to be clear that the pressure to which he had been subjected from his infancy, and the extraordinary labours of his early manhood, in which the work upon Bentham in the previous year was a mere interlude, must have tried his nervous system. In 1836 he had an illness due to ‘an obstinate derangement of the brain’ (Bain, p. 42), which produced involuntary nervous movements, and to the end of his life there was ‘an almost ceaseless spasmodic twitching over one eye.’ From this and other attacks it is clear that he had suffered from excessive intellectual strain. The mental crisis, whether the effect, or, as he apparently fancied, the cause of the nervous mental derangement, greatly affected his later development. He suddenly felt that even the full attainment of his political and social aims would fail to give happiness. He concluded that the systematic analysis of his school tended to ‘wear away the feelings’ by destroying the associations which, in their view, were the cause of all happiness. The ‘first ray of light’ came from a passage in Marmontel's ‘Memoirs.’ Marmontel there describes how, upon his father's death, he was inspired by the resolution to make up the loss to his family. Mill learnt that happiness was to be found not in directly pursuing it, but in the pursuit of other ends; and learnt, also, the importance of a steady cultivation of the feelings. In this state of mind he was profoundly attracted by Wordsworth, whose merits he defended against Roebuck at the Speculative Society. He learnt something, too, from Maurice, who introduced him to Coleridge and Goethe. He began to diverge from the stern utilitarianism of his father, who also repelled him by a denial of the rights of women. Macaulay's attack upon James Mill's essay on ‘Government’ suggested to him the necessity of a more philosophical treatment of politics. In 1829–30 he became acquainted with the St.-Simonians, and was especially impressed by an early work of Auguste Comte, then an avowed follower of St.-Simon. In 1830 he went to Paris upon the revolution, was introduced to Lafayette and to some of the popular leaders, and saw the chiefs of the St.-Simonians. He was thus led to widen and humanise his traditional utilitarianism, and he convinced himself that he could retain all that was ennobling in the ‘Freewill’ doctrine—the belief, namely, that we can mould our own characters—without abandoning the philosophical theory of determinism. He wrote much in newspapers after his visit to France in 1830, especially in the ‘Examiner,’ to which he contributed a series of papers on the ‘Spirit of the Age’ in 1831. Carlyle was attracted by them, and upon coming to London soon afterwards made Mill's acquaintance. They were for some time friends, although Carlyle soon discovered that Mill was not, as he had fancied, a ‘new mystic.’ In fact, the absence of ‘mysticism’ in Mill's intellect made the relationship uncongenial, and they gradually drifted apart. Mill had made collections for a history of the French revolution, which were very useful to Carlyle.
Mill now began to put together materials for his most important works. The discussions at Grote's house had suggested to him the composition of a logical treatise. After finishing the economist essays, he again took up the question, was able to frame his theory of the syllogism, and wrote a sketch of his first book. Difficulties, however, stopped him as to the theory of induction, and he put the subject aside for five years. He wrote in 1832 for ‘Tait's Magazine’ and contributed to the ‘Jurist’ the article upon ‘Endowments,’ reprinted in his ‘Dissertations.’
In 1830 Mill had been introduced to Mrs. Taylor, his junior by two years. Her husband was a ‘drysalter and wholesale druggist’ in Mark Lane; and his grandfather had been a neighbour and friend of James Mill at Newington Green. Mill rapidly formed an intimacy with Mrs. Taylor, who profoundly affected the rest of his life. She was an invalid, and obliged to live in the country apart from her husband. Mill visited her regularly in the country, dined with her twice a week in London, and occasionally travelled with her alone. Her husband accepted the situation with singular generosity, and dined out when Mill dined at his house. He was, according to Mill, a man of most honourable character, and regarded with steady affection by his wife, although he could not be her intellectual companion. The relationship between Mill and Mrs. Taylor was, as he intimates (Autobiog. p. 229), purely one of friendship. It was, however, inevitable that it should cause some scandal, and it led to difficulties with his family. His father strongly disapproved, and his marriage to her (in 1851) led to a complete estrangement from his mother and sisters. He never spoke of her to his friends or in his family, and the connection was probably the main cause of his complete withdrawal from society in later years. After ceasing to be active in journalism, he was only to be seen by a few intimate friends at the India House, and at monthly meetings of the Political Economy Club. He gives, however, more philosophical and doubtless genuine reasons for his seclusion (ib. p. 227). If his own language is to be trusted (see dedication to ‘Liberty,’ Dissertations, ii. 411, and Autobiography), Mrs. Taylor's influence upon his intellectual and moral development was of the highest importance, and yet not more important than might be expected from her transcendent abilities. He declares that her excellences of mind and heart were ‘unparalleled in any human being he had known or read of.’ His friends naturally did not share this opinion; some of them accounted for it by her excellence in echoing his own views. As Professor Bain observes, this is purely conjectural, and Mill generally liked friends with independent views. His vehement hyperboles, however, seem to betray a sense that he could give no tangible proof of their accuracy. From his account of her share in his writings it would seem that she did not influence his logical and scientific theories, but did a great deal to stimulate his enthusiasm upon such questions as liberty, women's rights, and social progress. The opinions, however, advocated in his later writings upon these topics were natural developments of his earlier thought. The only independent work attributed to her is the essay upon the enfranchisement of women in the second volume of the ‘Dissertations.’ The Reform Bill of 1832 had given power to the whigs, and Mill's great object for some years was to prevent the radicals from becoming a mere left wing of the whig party. From 1832 to 1834 he wrote much in the ‘Examiner,’ in the ‘Monthly Repository,’ edited by W. J. Fox, on political and other subjects, and published abstracts of some of Plato's ‘Dialogues,’ besides adding a short estimate of Bentham to Bulwer's ‘England and the English.’ His publications, he says, independently of the newspaper articles, would fill a large volume. His party had for some time desired to possess an organ of ‘philosophical radicalism’ which might take the place of the ‘Westminster Review.’ The ‘London Review’ was started by Sir William Molesworth [q. v.] for this purpose. The first number appeared in April 1835, and in April 1836 it was amalgamated with the ‘Westminster Review,’ which had been bought by Molesworth. Molesworth in 1837 transferred the proprietorship to Mill, who in 1840 transferred it to Mr. Hickson. There was a loss of about 100l. a number during Molesworth's proprietorship, and Mill, who paid a sub-editor and many contributors, was also a considerable loser. Mill's official position prevented him from being actual editor, but he superintended the review from the first, the ostensible editors being, first, Thomas Falconer (1805–1882) [q. v.], and from about the beginning of 1837 John Robertson, a smart young Scottish journalist. (The dates are not quite clear: see Mill's Autobiog. pp. 199, 207; Bain, pp. 46, 58–9; and Atlantic Monthly for January 1892, where are published some interesting letters from Mill to Robertson.)
Mill was at first hampered by the necessity of publishing his father's articles and others by the utilitarians of the older school. When he became freer, after his father's death in 1836, he could give more scope to his own doctrines. He inserted many articles, however, with which he was not in full agreement, the authorship being indicated by letters and editorial caveats frequently added. Among the writers were Carlyle, Sterling, Bulwer, Charles Buller, Roebuck, Harriet and James Martineau, Mazzini, W. J. Fox, and Henry Cole. Mill contributed some remarkable essays, some of which are republished in his ‘Dissertations.’ Among them were an article upon Tocqueville's ‘Democracy in America,’ a book which greatly affected his political theories; two well-known articles upon Bentham and Coleridge; an article (in the second number, July 1835) which was one of the first to do justice to Tennyson's poetry; and another (July 1837) which gave a warm and, as he thought, a very seasonable welcome to Carlyle's ‘French Revolution.’ Mill was always anxious to help unrecognised genius. Other articles show his interest in French politics and the gradual development of his political theories, in which his old democratic zeal was tempered by a fear of the danger to individualism. His main practical purpose, however, was to stimulate the flagging energies of the ‘philosophical radicals.’ He tried to believe that they only required a leader; and he thought that such a leader might be found in Lord Durham, whose Canadian administration he warmly supported in two articles (January and December 1838). The first of these, according to Robertson (Atlantic Monthly), greatly injured the sale of the number; but Mill in his ‘Autobiography’ congratulates himself upon the effect produced upon colonial policy.
Mill's attempt to influence politics ceased with his abandonment of the review and the complete eclipse for the time of the philosophical radicals. He had again taken up his logical speculations in 1837. Whewell's ‘History of the Inductive Sciences,’ published in that year, gave him needed materials, and he succeeded in elaborating his theory of induction. In spite of his other occupations and a serious illness, which caused six months' leave of absence in 1839, he carried on the work. In the beginning of 1840 he stayed some time at Falmouth, where his favourite brother Henry had gone in consumption (he died 4 April 1840), and saw much of Sterling and the Fox family. In 1841 he finally rewrote the ‘Logic,’ and at the end of the year offered it to Murray. It was rejected by him, but accepted by J. W. Parker, who finally published it in March 1843. The book had a rapid success, beyond the expectations of its author, and was for many years the standard authority with all who took his side in the main philosophical questions. Mill, in fact, was recognised as the great leader of the empirical as opposed to what he called the intuitional school; and few men have had a more marked influence upon the rising intellect of the time. His chief opponents at the moment were Whewell, to whom he replied in a third edition, and W. G. Ward, who reviewed him at great length in the ‘British Critic.’ Though diametrically opposed upon important points, Ward and Mill received each other's criticisms with singular candour and good temper.
The later part of the ‘Logic’ shows the influence of Comte, although Mill is careful to state that his own theory of induction had been independently reached. Mill had been an early student of Comte; he had read every volume of the ‘Philosophie’ as it appeared; and from 1841 to 1846 they carried on a correspondence at first very intimate and affectionate. (The ‘Lettres d'Auguste Comte à John Stuart Mill, 1841–6,’ Paris, 1877, throw more light upon Comte's position than upon Mill's, whose letters have not been published.) Mill took part with Grote and Molesworth in supplying Comte with a sum to make up for his loss of official income in 1844. They declined, however, after a second year, to consider the subsidy. Considerable divergences of opinion had shown themselves; Mill's views of the equality of the sexes had led to a warm dispute, and he, though not so strongly as Grote, objected to Comte's doctrines as destructive of liberty. The intercourse ceased, and Mill in later editions of his ‘Logic’ softened down the high compliments which he had first paid to Comte. Comte's influence, however, upon Mill was clearly very great, especially in his general view of social development.
Mill now contemplated a book to be called ‘Ethology,’ a theory of human character as preparatory to a theory of social statics. This, however, gradually gave place to a treatise upon political economy, upon which he laboured from the autumn of 1845. He contributed some articles to the ‘Edinburgh Review’ at this time, and in the winter of 1846–7 wrote a series of leaders in the ‘Morning Chronicle,’ urging the formation of peasant-proprietorships on waste lands in Ireland. His long familiarity with political economy enabled him to compose his treatise with unusual rapidity; it was finished by the end of 1847 and published early in 1848. While expounding the old doctrines of Ricardo it indicated also the opinions which he shared with Mrs. Taylor, and which entitled them in his view to come ‘under the general designation of socialists’ (Autobiog. p. 231). This, however, must not be understood as including later implications of the word. Mill's theories, to which he gave greater prominence in later editions, are indicated in the chapter upon the ‘Probable Future of the Labouring Classes,’ which was written at the suggestion, and partly by the inspiration, of Mrs. Taylor (ib. p. 245). The ‘Political Economy’ succeeded more rapidly than the ‘Logic;’ and the two combined gave the essence of the social and philosophical system of the more educated radicals of the time.
Mill's correspondence now became considerable. He wrote occasional articles, but he began no important work for a time. Mr. Taylor died in July 1849, and in April 1851 Mrs. Taylor became Mill's wife. A serious illness, causing permanent injury to the lungs, forced him to take eight months' holiday in 1854. He rallied, and in 1856 became head of his department in the India House. He drew up a petition in which the company remonstrated against its own extinction, arguing very vigorously against the probable effect upon the natives of the change of system and the evils to be anticipated from making the government of India a prize to be scrambled for by second-rate English officials. On the dissolution of the company at the end of 1858 he retired with a pension of 1,500l. a year, declining a seat on the new council. He left England intending to spend the winter in the south of Europe. His wife was taken ill on the journey and died at Avignon of congestion of the lungs. Mill was deeply affected, and for the rest of his life spent half the year in a house which he bought at Avignon to be near his wife's grave. In England he lived at Blackheath. He returned, however, to intellectual work. His last occupation with Mrs. Mill had been the revision of his ‘Essay on Liberty’ (first written in 1854), the most carefully prepared of his writings. He now published it without further alteration. In 1860 he wrote his essay upon ‘Representative Government,’ and in the same year revised his ‘Utilitarianism’ (first written in 1854), which appeared as three articles in ‘Fraser's Magazine’ in 1861. These books together contain a full, though condensed, exposition of his characteristic political and social views. In 1861 he returned to his metaphysical investigations, having taken up Sir William Hamilton's works for an intended review which soon expanded into a treatise. He read through Hamilton's works thrice and many subsidiary books. Hamilton was taken by Mill as the chief representative of the intuitionists, and the book, which finally appeared in 1865, included an elaborate survey of all the chief points at issue. It produced a very lively controversy. His best-known antagonist was Hamilton's disciple Mansel, whose ‘Limits of Religious Thought’ he had sharply attacked, and which he pronounced in private to be a ‘loathsome book’ (Bain, p. 124). While writing upon Hamilton he contributed to the ‘Edinburgh’ (October 1863) an article upon John Austin, and to the ‘Westminster Review’ in 1864 two articles upon Comte, subsequently republished in a separate volume.
The Hamilton book had hardly appeared when Mill was invited to stand for Westminster. He had taken some part in contemporary political discussions by a pamphlet on parliamentary reform (written some years before), and by articles strongly supporting the cause of the union in the American civil war; and in the beginning of 1865 he published popular editions of his ‘Political Economy,’ ‘Liberty,’ and ‘Representative Government.’ He had declined previous requests to become a candidate, but felt bound to accede to a proposal which met his views of independence. It was understood that he should not canvass or spend money, and he had frankly stated his opinions, especially as to the extension of the franchise to women. He took no part in the contest till the last week, when he attended some public meetings and answered questions. He declined to say anything of his religious opinions, but was perfectly frank upon all other topics. When asked whether he had written a passage stating that the English working classes were ‘generally liars,’ he excited vehement applause by replying simply ‘I did.’ He was elected in 1865. Mill's immense reputation and his previous seclusion made his parliamentary performance the object of very general curiosity. His first speech was upon the bill for prevention of the cattle diseases (14 Feb. 1866), and gave some offence to the country gentlemen. A speech in favour of the second reading of Mr. Gladstone's Reform Bill (12 April 1866) was highly successful. A weak voice, great rapidity of utterance, and a nervous manner—occasionally producing a prolonged full stop—were unfavourable to oratorical success. But his command of copious and precise language was remarkable, and the general effect was that of reading a highly finished and felicitous essay. Bright and Mr. Gladstone welcomed him with especial cordiality, and he had much influence with both. When the first curiosity had been satiated and some of his utterances (especially that upon Hare's scheme) had provoked conservative antipathies, he showed some irritability, but on the whole retained the ear of the house. His speeches, as the speaker is reported to have said, raised the tone of debate, and his general reputation spread through a wider area. He attended to his duties with singular assiduity, and even provoked the remonstrances of his friends for wasting energy upon mere routine drudgery. Mill chiefly followed Mr. Gladstone in the various parliamentary contests which led finally to the passage of the Reform Bill of 1867. He spoke upon his own favourite schemes, the extension of the franchise to women and the introduction of some system of cumulative voting. After the Hyde Park riots of 1866 he had some influence in persuading the leaders to give up their intention of holding a second meeting in defiance of the government. He helped afterwards to talk out a measure, introduced by the conservative government, for preventing meetings in the parks. He took a strong part in Irish questions, giving offence by denouncing English methods of government upon the suspension of the habeas corpus on 17 Feb. 1866. In 1868 he published a pamphlet upon 'England and Ireland,' and afterwards spoke in the house upon the same topic. While holding a separation to be undesirable for both countries, he proposed to settle the land question by giving a permanent tenure to the tenants, and allowing as an alternative the sale of the landlords' estates to the government. He endeavoured also to procure the establishment of a municipal government for London, and served on a committee which considered the question in 1866. A speech (17 April 1866) in which he urged the duty of paying off the national debt before our coal was exhausted (suggested by a pamphlet of William Stanley Jevons [q. v.]) also made a favourable impression. Another movement in which he took a considerable share during 1866 and 1867 was the attempted prosecution of Governor Eyre for his action in suppressing the Jamaica insurrection. Mill was for a time chairman of the 'Jamaica Committee,' formed to promote the prosecution; he spoke in the house on its behalf, and received a good deal of personal abuse in consequence.
After the dissolution of 1868 Mill lost his seat. The Eyre business had given offence to some of his own party; the feeling against 'theoretical' politicians had been revived by his advocacy of Hare's scheme and other doctrines; and he shocked some supporters by subscribing to the election expenses of Bradlaugh, among other working-class candidates.
His parliamentary duties had not absorbed Mill's whole attention. At the end of 1866 he had written a long address to the students of St. Andrews, by whom he had been elected rector. He brought out a third edition of his 'Hamilton,' with replies to critics. He then edited his father's 'Analysis' in cooperation with Dr. Findlater and his old friend Professor Bain, who had first made his acquaintance in 1839, and who had helped him in the various editions of the 'Logic' both by criticisms and by supplying him with illustrations. Upon losing his seat he returned to his literary pursuits, intending to divide his time between Avignon and Blackheath. His parliamentary career had greatly increased his correspondence, and brought Jrim into contact with many rising young men. Among his chief friends in later life were Thomas Hare, whose scheme he had adopted, W. T. Thornton, his colleague in the India House, Professor Cairnes, Henry Fawcett, and Mr. John Morley. He wrote for the 'Fortnightly,' then edited by Mr. Morley, various articles, which formed the fourth volume of his 'Dissertations.' He published in 1869 his last book, the 'Subjection of Women,' written in 1861. His step-daughter co-operated in this book, which was partly also the product of conversations with her mother. He speaks of his singular good fortune in drawing such 'another prize in the lottery of life' after the loss of his wife. He had 'several prostrating attacks' after this, but showed great power of recovery. He died 8 May 1873, of a 'local endemic disease.' Three days before his death he had walked fifteen miles on a botanical excursion. Three posthumous 'Essays on Religion' were published by Miss Taylor in 1874: the first two, upon 'Nature' and the 'Utility of Religion,' were written between 1850 and 1858; the last, upon 'Theism,' was written between 1868 and 1870. The fact that he intended to publish the last in 1873 shows that he would not have persevered in the singular reticence upon religious topics which had been the systematic practice of his early associates. It was remarkable that in spite of the obvious bearing of his philosophical treatises, the only sentence which his political antagonists could find to produce odium was the really very orthodox remark (from the 'Examination' of Hamilton), 'To hell I will go' rather than obey an immoral deity. The essay itself betrays an insufficient acquaintance with the philosophy of the subject. Professor Bain thinks that he had never read a book upon theology.
The best impression of Mill's personal appearance is given by the portrait painted by Mr. Watts, of which an etching by Rajon has been published. A bronze statue was erected to his memory upon the Thames Embankment. He was rather tall, slight, ruddy and fair-haired, with a sweet and thoughtful expression. He was always in black, and till his later years wore a dress suit. He had a good constitution, overstrained by his labours. He loved walking and natural scenery. He protested in 1836, as Mr. Ruskin might have done later, against the passage of a railway through the beautiful valley of Mickleham; and it was through his influence that the line of trees, still on the south side of Piccadilly, was saved when the street was widened. He was a founder and active member of the Commons Preservation Society. His astonishing powers of work, shown by his early edition of Bentham's ‘Evidence,’ enabled him, in spite of a daily six hours at his office (of which Mr. Bain thinks only half were spent upon his necessary duties), to get through immense intellectual labours. He was very temperate, and took nothing between an early breakfast and a plain dinner at six o'clock. His animal appetites were probably below the average intensity, and he underestimated their force in others.
Although Mill's intellect was essentially of the logical order, his emotions were extremely tender and vivid. The severe training of his father directed them mainly into the channel of public spirit. His whole life was devoted to the propagation of principles which he held to be essential to human happiness; and his metaphysical doctrines were valued by him not so much upon purely logical grounds, as by their application to the well-being of his fellows. The affectionate nature shown in his idolatry of his wife appeared in his friendships; though unfortunately his absorption in this passion and his seclusion from society led to difficulties with his family, and checked his sympathies with even so old a friend as Grote. His appreciation of such friends as Hare and Thornton was expressed in terms of even excessive generosity. He was always eager to recognise the merits of an antagonist, or of a still obscure genius. He was liberal in money matters, and offered to guarantee the cost of early writings of Professor Bain and Mr. Herbert Spencer. He could speak sharply at times, especially upon such questions as woman's rights, and was both sensitive and irritable. Yet in published controversy his candour and calmness were conspicuous. When W. T. Thornton was disabled by illness from performing his duties in the India House, and thought of resigning his post, Mill obviated the necessity by doing all Thornton's work in addition to his own for a year. He was the author, as Thornton adds, of nearly all the ‘political’ despatches from the India House for twenty-three years, and his official writings would fill two large volumes annually. The same qualities mark his intellectual career. Brought up after the strictest sect of the utilitarians, the history of his development is mainly a history of his attempts to widen and humanise their teaching. He adhered, indeed, to the philosophical groundwork of his predecessors, and much of his thought is best understood as an elaboration of his father's principles, intended to supply gaps and correct crudities. Mill thus carried on the traditional teaching of English philosophers on the lines originally laid down by Locke; and for the quarter of a century after the publication was regarded as the leading exponent of its principles. His influence has diminished with the rise of the evolutionist doctrine on his own side and the appearance on the other side of men familiar with Kant and his German successors. Mill's superficial acquaintance with the German writers prevented him from perceiving some weaknesses of his teaching; and his contemporary antagonists, though rather better informed, scarcely recognised defects which have been since pointed out by Thomas Hill Green [q. v.] and others. Whatever the result to his system, he at least did more than any one of his time to stimulate English thought upon such topics.
In political economy Mill built upon the foundations of Ricardo and Malthus. He came to regard the Malthusian principles not as a barrier to progress, but as showing the conditions by which progress could be achieved. His book is throughout governed by a belief in the possibility of great social improvements, combined with a resolution to expose quack remedies and utter unpalatable truths. If he appears to the modern socialist as a follower of Ricardo, he would have been regarded by Ricardo's disciples as a socialist. The purely scientific part of his doctrine retains much value. When his exposition of the ‘wage fund’ theory was assailed by his friend Thornton, Mill not only made concessions, but, according to Professor Marshall, allowed himself to have fallen into confusions of which he was not really guilty. The same high authority observes that most of Mill's exposition of the theory in the last book of his treatise will stand later inquiry. Mill's political and social doctrines show a similar transition. While ardently sympathising with the aspirations of radicals, he had learnt to regard as the great danger of modern society the tendency of democracies to crush individual development and tyrannise over minorities. No one had a more rooted hatred for all oppression, and his advocacy of the equality of the sexes—whatever the value of the particular measures advocated—showed his chivalrous devotion to the weaker side. The general disparagement of so-called ‘individualism’ has led for the time to a lower estimate of Mill's services to liberal principles. The final decision as to the soundness of his teaching will not yet be reached. But no historian of the social and political movement in his time can fail to note the extraordinary influence which he exercised for a generation; the purity and energy of his purpose; and his immense services in the encouragement of active speculation, and of the most important movements of his time. It is equally noticeable that no one ever did less to court favour by the slightest compromise of principle.
Among reviews of Mill's writings may be mentioned T. R. Birks's ‘Modern Utilitarianism,’ 1874; W. L. Courtney's ‘Metaphysics of J. S. Mill,’ 1879; J. Grote's ‘Exploratio Philosophica,’ 1865, and ‘Examination of the Utilitarian Philosophy,’ 1870; Guyau's ‘Morale Anglaise Contemporaine,’ 1879; Jodl's ‘Geschichte der Ethik in der neueren Philosophie,’ 1889; F. A. Lange's ‘J. S. Mill's Ansichten über die sociale Frage,’ &c., 1866; Littré's ‘A. Comte et J. S. Mill’ ; J. MacCosh's ‘Examination of J. S. Mill's Philosophy,’ 1866; H. L. Mansel's ‘Philosophy of the Conditioned,’ 1866; Ribot's ‘Psychologie Anglaise Contemporaine,’ 1870; Taine's ‘Mill et le Positivisme Anglaise,’ 1870 (separately, and in ‘History of English Literature’); Whewell's ‘Of Induction, with special reference to J. S. Mill,’ 1889. Mill's ‘Wage-fund theory’ was criticised by Mr. F. D. Longe in ‘Refutation of the Wage-fund,’ 1866, and by W. T. Thornton ‘On Labour,’ 1869. Mill's reply to Thornton, containing a withdrawal of his theory, was originally published in the ‘Fortnightly Review’ for May 1869, and is given in the ‘Dissertations,’ vol. iv.
Mill's works are: 1. ‘A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, being a connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation,’ 1843, 2 vols. 8vo. The third edition (1851), the sixth (1866), and the eighth (1872) were carefully revised. A ninth appeared in 1875, and a ‘people's edition’ in 1884. 2. ‘Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy,’ 1844; 2nd edit. 1874. 3. ‘Principles of Political Economy,’ 2 vols. 8vo, 1848, 1849, 1852, 1857, 1862, 1865. 4. ‘On Liberty,’ 1859. 5. ‘Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform,’ 1859 (reprinted in ‘Dissertations,’ vol. iii.) 6. ‘Dissertations and Discussions,’ vols i. and ii. in 1859; vol. iii. in 1867; vol. iv. in 1876. 7. ‘Considerations on Representative Government,’ 1861; 3rd edit. 1865. 8. ‘Utilitarianism,’ 1863 (reprinted from ‘Fraser's Magazine’ of 1861). 9. ‘Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy,’ 1865 (3rd edit.). 10. ‘Auguste Comte and Positivism,’ 1865 (from the ‘Westminster Review’). 11. ‘Inaugural Address at the University of St. Andrews’ (delivered 1 Feb. 1867), 1867. 12. ‘England and Ireland,’ 1868. 13. ‘The Subjection of Women,’ 1869. 14. ‘Chapters and Speeches on the Irish Land Question,’ 1870 (reprinted from ‘Political Economy’ and ‘Hansard's Debates’). 15. ‘Autobiography,’ 1873. 16. ‘Three Essays on Religion: Nature, the Utility of Religion, Theism,’ 1874. The abstracts of some of Plato's ‘Dialogues,’ to which Mill refers in his ‘Autobiography,’ p. 168, appeared in W. J. Fox's ‘Monthly Repository’ for 1834. The dialogues were the ‘Protagoras,’ ‘Phædrus,’ and ‘Gorgias.’ ‘Memorandum on the Improvements in the Administration of India during the last Thirty Years, and the Petition of the East India Company to Parliament’ (1858) is by Mill. Mill edited Bentham's ‘Rationale of Judicial Evidence,’ which first appeared in 1827; and from vols. vi. and vii. in the collective edition of Bentham's ‘Works;’ and James Mill's ‘Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind’ in 1869.
[Autobiography, 1867; John Stuart Mill, a Criticism, with Personal Recollections, by Professor Bain, 1882; John Morley's Miscellanies (1877), ii. 239–327 (reminiscences and review of posthumous works); Memories of Old Friends, by Caroline Fox (2nd edit.), 1882, i. 132–68, 173, 177–8, 188–90, 197–206, 291, 300, 309, 333, ii. 27, 56, 97, 313–42 (some excellent descriptions of Mill's conversations in 1840, &c.); Lettres de J. S. Mill (1885) of no great interest, originally published by M. de Laveleye in the Revue Belgique; Memoirs of A. Fonblanque, 1874, ii. 29–33; Life of Blanco White, 1845, ii. 121, 126, 143, 182, 188, 208, 242, 341, 354 (letters to Mill as editor of the London and Westminster Review); Life of J. S. Mill by W. L. Courtney (in Great Writers Series), 1889. The Examiner of 17 May 1873 contained a series of articles, including the personal recollections and estimates of Mill's work by W. T. Thornton (on his official labours), Mr. Herbert Spencer (on his moral qualities), J. E. Cairnes (on his economical speculations), Professor and Mrs. Fawcett (on his influence upon the younger generation, and his political career), Professor Minto (on his literary work), Mr. Fox Bourne, and others.]