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tion lay in the deliberate intention and the system-
atic patience with which he brought it to the con-
sideration of moral and religious and social subjects.
In this region hitherto, for reasons that are not diffi-
cult to seek, the empire of prejudice and passion has
been so much stronger, so much harder to resist, than
in the field of physical science.



GO MR. mill's autobiography.

Sect is so ready to succeed sect, and school comes
after school, with constant replacement of one sort of
orthodoxy by another sort, until even the principle
of relativity becomes the base of a set of absolute and
final dogmas, and the very doctrine of uncertainty
itself becomes fixed in a kind of authoritative nihil-
ism. It is, therefore, a signal gain that we now
have a new type, with the old wise device, /^e/^ivTyo-o
aTTto-Teiv — be sure that you distrust. Distrust your
own bias ; distrust your supposed knowledge ; con-
stantly try, prove, fortify your firmest convictions.
And all this, throughout the whole domain where
the intelligence rules. It was characteristic of a man
of this type that he should have been seized by that
memorable passage in Condorcet's Life of Turgot to
which Mr. Mill refers (p. 114), and which every man
with an active interest in serious affairs should bind
about his neck and write on the tablets of his heart.

' Turgot,' says his wise biographer, ' always looked
upon anything like a sect as mischievous. , . . From
the moment that a sect comes into existence, all the
individuals composing it become answerable for the
faults and errors of each one of them. The obliga-
tion to remain united leads them to suppress or dis-
semble all truths that might wound anybody whose
adhesion is useful to the sect. They are forced to
establish in some form a body of doctrine, and the
opinions which make a part of it, being adopted
without inquiry, become in due time pure prejudices.
Friendship stojDS with the individuals ; but the hatred



MR. mill's autobiography. 61

and envy that any of them may arouse extends to the
whole sect. If this sect be formed by the most
enlightened men of the nation, if the defence of
truths of the greatest importance to the common
happiness be the object of its zeal, the mischief is
still worse. Everything true or useful which they
propose is rejected without examination. Abuses and
errors of every Idnd always have for their defenders
that herd of presumptuous and mediocre mortals, who
are the bitterest enemies of all celebrity and renown.
Scarcely is a truth made clear, before those to whom
it would be prejudicial crush it under the name of a
sect that is sure to have already become odious, and
are certain to keep it from obtaining so much as a
hearing. Turgot, then, was persuaded that perhaps
the greatest ill you can do to truth is to drive those
who love it to form themselves into a sect, and that
these in turn can commit no more fatal mistake than
to have the vanity or the weakness to fall into the
trap.'

Yet we know that with Mr. Mill as with Turgot
this deep distrust of sect was no hindrance to the
most careful systematisation of opinion and conduct.
He did not interpret many-sidedness in the flaccid
watery sense which flatters the indolence of so many
of our contemporaries, who like to have their ears
amused with a new doctrine each morning, to be held
for a day, and dropped in the evening, and who have
little more seriousness in their intellectual life than
the busy insects of a summer noon. He says that



62 MR. mill's autobiography.

he looked forward ' to a future which sliall unite the
best qualities of the critical with the best qualities
of the organic periods ; unchecked liberty of thought,
unbounded freedom of individual action in all modes
not hurtful to others ; but also convictions as to what
is right and wrong, useful and pernicious, deeply en-
graven on the feelings by early education and general
unanimity of sentiment, and so firmly groimded in
reason and the true exigencies of life, that they shall
not, like all former and present creeds, religious,
ethical, and political, require to be periodically thrown
off and replaced by others' (p. 166). This was in
some sort the type at which he aimed in the forma-
tion of his own character — a type that should com-
bine organic -with critical quality, the strength of an
ordered set of convictions, with that pliability and
that receptiveness in face of new truth, which are
indispensable to these very convictions being held
intelligently and in their best attainable form. We
can understand the force of the eulogy on John
Austin (p. 154), that he manifested 'an equal devo-
tion to the two cardinal points of Liberty and Duty.'
These are the correlatives in the sphere of action to
the two cardinal points of Criticism and Belief in the
sphere of thought.

We can in the light of this double way of viewing
the right balance of the mind, the better understand
the combination of earnestness with tolerance which
inconsiderate persons are apt to find so awkward a
stumbling-block in the scheme of philosophic liberal-



Mil. mill's autobiography. 63

ism. Many people in our time have so ill understood
the doctrine of liberty, that in some of the most
active circles in society they now count you a bigot
if you hold any proposition to be decidedly and
unmistakably more true than any other. They pro-
nounce you intemperate if you show anger and stem
disappointment because men follow the wrong course
instead of the right one. Mr. Mill's explanation of the
vehemence and decision of his father's disapproval,
when he did disapprove, and his refusal to allow
honesty of purpose in the doer to soften his dis-
approbation of the deed, gives the reader a worthy
and masculine notion of true tolerance. James Mill's
'aversion to many intellectual errors, or what he
regarded as such, partook in a certain sense of the
character of a moral feeling. . . . None but those
who do not care about opinions will confound this
with intolerance. Those, who having opinions which
they hold to be immensely important, and their
contraries to be prodigiously hurtful, have any deep
regard for the general good, will necessarily dislike,
as a class and in the abstract, those who think wrong
what they think right, and right what they think
wrong : though they need not be, nor was my father,
insensible to good qualities in an opponent, nor
governed in their estimation of individuals by one
general presumption, instead of by the whole of their
character. I grant that an earnest person, being no
more infallible than other men, is liable to dislike
people on account of opinions which do not merit



64 MR. mill's autobiography.

dislike ; but if he neither himself does them any ill
office, nor connives at its being done by others, he is
not intolerant : and the forbearance which flows from
a conscientious sense of the importance to mankind
of the equal freedom of all opinions is the only toler-
ance which is commendable, or to the highest moral
order of minds, possible' (p. 51). This is another
side of the co-ordination of Criticism and Belief, of
Liberty and Duty, which attained in Mr. Mill him-
self a completeness that other men, less favoured in
education and with less active power of self-control,
are not likely to reach, but to reach it ought to be
one of the prime objects of their mental discipline.
The inculcation of this peculiar morality of the intel-
ligence is one of the most urgently needed processes
of our time. For the circumstance of our being in
the very depths of a period of transition from one
spiritual basis of thought to another, leads men not
only to be content with holding a quantity of vague,
confused, and contradictory opinions, but also to
invest with the honourable name of candour a weak
reluctance to hold any one of them earnestly.

Mr. Mill experienced in the four or five last years
of his life the disadvantage of trying to unite fairness
towards the opinions from which he difi"ered, with
loyalty to the positive opinions which he accepted.
' As I had showed in my political writings,' he says,
' that I was aware of the weak points in democratic
opinions, some Conservatives, it seems, had not been
without hopes of finding me an opponent of demo-



MR. mill's autobiography. 65

cracy : as I was able to see the Conservative side of
the question, they presumed that like them I could
not see any other side. Yet if they had really read
my writings, they would have known that after giving
full weight to all that appeared to me well grounded
in the arguments against democracy, I unhesitatingly
decided in its favour, while recommending that it
should be accompanied by such institutions as were
consistent with its principle and calculated to ward
off its inconveniences ' (p. 309). This was only one
illustration of what constantly happened, until at
length, it is hardly too much to say, a man who had
hitherto enjoyed a singular measure of general rever-
ence because he was supposed to see truth in every
doctrine, became downright unpopular among many
classes in the community, because he saw more truth
in one doctrine than another, and brought the pro-
positions for whose acceptance he was most in earnest
eagerly before the public.

In a similar way the Autobiography shows us the
picture of a man luiiting profound self-respect with a
singular neutrality where his own claims are concerned,
a singular self-mastery and justice of mind, in matters
where with most men the sense of their own person-
ality is wont to be so exacting and so easily irritated.
The history of intellectual eminence is too often a
history of immoderate egoism. It has perhaps hardly
ever been given to any one who exerted such influence
as Mr. Mill did over his contemporaries, to view his
own share in it with such discrimination and equity

VOL. in. F



66 MR. mill's autobiography.

as marks every page of his book, and as used to mark
every word of his conversation. Knowing as we all
do tlie last infirmity of even noble minds, and how
deep the desire to erect himself Pope and Sir Oracle
lies in the spirit of a man with strong convictions, wc
may value the more highly, as well for its rarity as
for its intrinsic worth, Mr. Mill's quality of self-efface-
ment, and his steadfast care to look anywhere rather
than in his own personal merits, for the source of any
of those excellences which he was never led by false
modesty to dissemble.

Many people seem to find the most interesting
figure in the book that stoical father, whose austere,
energetic, imperious, and relentless character showed
the temperament of the Scotch Covenanter of the
seventeenth century, inspired by the principles and
philosophy of France in the eighteenth. No doubt,
for those in search of strong dramatic effects, the lines
of this strenuous indomitable nature are full of im-
pressiveness.^ But one ought to be able to appreciate

1 111 an interesting volume {The Minor Works of George Grote
edited by Alexander Bain. London : Murray), we find Grote
confirming Mr. Mill's estimate of his father's psychagogic quality.
' His unpremeditated oral exposition,' says Grote of James Mill,
' was hardly less effective than his prepared work with the pen ;
his colloquial fertility in philosophical subjects, his power of
discussing himself, and stimulating others to discuss, his ready
responsive inspirations through all the shifts and windings of a
sort of Platonic dialogue, — all these accomplishments were to
those who knew him, even more impressive than what he com-
posed for the press. Conversation with him was not merely
instructive, but provocative to the observant intelligence. Of



MR. mill's autobiography. 67

the distinction and strength of the father, and yet
also be able to see that the distinction of the son's
strength was in truth more really impressive still.
We encounter a modesty that almost speaks the lan-
guage of fatalism. Pieces of good fortune that most
people would assuredly have either explained as
due to their own penetration, or to the recognition of
their worth by others, or else would have refrained
from dwelling upon, as being no more than events of
secondary importance, are by Mr. Mill invariably
recognised at their full worth or even above it, and
invariably spoken of as fortunate accidents, happy
turns in the lottery of life, or in some other quiet
fatalistic phrase, expressive of his deep feeling how
much we owe to influences over which we have no
control and for which we have no right to take any
credit. His saying that ' it would be a blessing if the
doctrine of necessity could be believed by all quoad
the characters of others, and disbelieved in regard to
their own' (p. 169), went even further than that, for
he teaches us to accept the doctrine of necessity quoad
the most marked felicities of life and character, and

all persons whom we have known, Mr. James ]\lill was the one
who stood least remote from the lofty Platonic ideal of Dialectic
— Tov dibovai Kal S^x^"'^"' X670J' (the giving and receiving of
reasons) — competent alike to examine others or to be examined
by them in philosophy. When to this we add a strenuous
character, earnest convictions, and single-minded devotion to
truth, with an utter disdain of mere paradox, it may be con-
ceived that such a man exercised powerful intellectual ascend-
ancy over youthful minds,' etc. — Minor Works of George Grote,
p. 284.



68 MR. mill's autobiogi;aimiy,

to lean liglitly or not at all upon it in regard to our
demerits. Humility is a rationalistic, no less than a
Christian grace — not humility in face of error or
arrogant pretensions or selfishness, nor a humility that
paralyses energetic effort, but a steadfast consciousness
of all the good gifts which our forerunners have made
ready for us, and of the weight of our responsibility
for transmitting these helpful forces to a new genera-
tion, not diminished but augmented.

In more than one remarkable place the Autobio-
graphy shows us distinctly what all careful students
of Mr. Mill's books supposed, that with him the social
aim, the repayment of the services of the past by
devotion to the services of present and future, was
predominant over any merely speculative curiosity or
abstract interest. His preference for deeply reserved
ways of expressing even his strongest feelings pre-
vented him from making any expansive show of this
governing sentiment. Though no man was ever more
free from any taint of that bad habit of us English,
of denying or palliating an abuse or a wi'ong, unless
we are prepared with an instant remedy for it, yet he
had a strong aversion to mere socialistic declamation.
Perhaps, if one may say so without presumption, he
was not indulgent enough in this respect. I remember
once pressing him with some enthusiasm for Victor
Hugo, — an enthusiasm, one is glad to think, which
time does nothing to weaken. Mr. Mill, admitting,
though not too lavishly, the superb imaginative power



ME. mill's autobiogkaphy. 69

of this poetic master of our time, still counted it a
fatal drawback to Hugo's worth and claim to recog-
nition that 'he has not brought forward one single
practical proposal for the improvement of the society
against which he is incessantly thundering.' I ven-
tured to lU'ge that it is unreasonable to ask a poet to
draft acts of parliament ; and that by bringing all the
strength of his imagination and all the majestic fulness
of his sympathy to bear on the social horrors and
injustices which still lie so thick about us, he Idndled
an inextinguishable fire in the hearts of men of weaker
initiative and less imperial gifts alike of imagination
and sympathy, and so prepared the forces out of
which practical proposals and specific improvements
may be expected to issue. That so obvious a kind of
reflection should not have previously interested Mr.
Mill's judgment in favour of the writer of the Outcasts,
the Legend of the Ages, the Contemplations, only shows
how strong was his dislike to all that savoured of the
grandiose, and how afraid he always was of everything
that seemed to dissociate emotion from rationally
directed effort. That he was himself inspired by this
emotion of pity for the common people, of divine rage
against the injustice of the strong to the weak, in a
degree not inferior to Victor Hugo himself, his whole
career most eff'ectually demonstrates.

It is this devotion to the sul)stantial good of the
many, though practised without the noisy or ostenta-
tious professions of more egoistic thinkers, which binds
together all the parts of his work, from the System oj



70 MIL mill's autobiography.

Logic down to his last speech on the Land Questioa
One of the most striking pages in the Autobiography
is that in which he gives his reasons for composing the
refutation of Hamilton, and as some of these especially
valuable passages in the book seem to be running the
risk of neglect in favour of those which happen to
furnish material for the idle, pitiful gossip of London
society, it may be well to reproduce it.

'The difference,' he says, 'between these two
schools of philosophy, that of Intuition and that of
Experience and Association, is not a mere matter of
abstract speculation; it is full of practical consequences,
and lies at the foundation of all the greatest differences
of practical opinion in an age of progress. The prac-
tical reformer has continually to demand that changes
be made in things which are supported by powerful
and widely spread feelings, or to question the apparent
necessity and indefeasibleness of established facts ;
and it is often an indispensable part of his argument
to show how those powerful feelings had their origin,
and how those facts came to seem necessary and
indefeasible. There is therefore a natural hostility
between him and a philosophy which discourages the
explanation of feelings and moral facts by circumstances
and association, and prefers to treat them as ultimate
elements of human nature; a philosophy which is
addicted to holding up favourite doctrines as intuitive
truths, and deems intuition to be the voice of Nature
and of God, speaking with an authority higher than
that of our reason. In particular, I have long felt



MK. mill's autobiography. 71

that the prevailing tendency to regard all the marked
distinctions of human character as innate, and in the
main indelible, and to ignore the irresistible proofs
that by far the greater part of those differences,
whether between individuals, races, or sexes, are such
as not only might but naturally would be produced
by difterences in circumstances, is one of the chief
hindrances to the rational treatment of great social
questions, and one of the greatest stumbling-blocks to
human improvement. This tendency has its source
in the intuitional metaphysics which characterised
the reaction of the nineteenth century against the
eighteenth, and it is a tendency so agreeable to human
indolence, as well as to conservative interests generally,
that unless attacked at the very root, it is sure to be
carried to even a greater length than is really justified
by the more moderate forms of the intuitional
philosophy. . . . Considering then the writings and
fame of Sir AV. Hamilton as the great fortress of the
intuitional philosophy in this country, a fortress the
more formidable from the imposing character, and the,
in many respects, great personal merits and mental
endowments of the man, I thought it might be a real
service to philosophy to attempt a thorough examina-
tion of all his most important doctrines, and an
estimate of his general claims to eminence as a
philosopher ; and I was confirmed in this resolution
by observing that in the writings of at least one, and
him one of the ablest, of Sir W. Hamilton's followers,
his peculiar doctrines were made the justification of a



72 MK. mill's AUTOBIOGli.VrilY

view of religion which I hold to be profoundly immoral
— that it is our duty to bow down and worship before
a Being whose moral attributes are affirmed to be
unknowable by us, and to be perhaps extremely
different from those Avhich, when speaking of our
fellow -creatures, we call by the same name' (pp.
273-275).

Thus we see that even where the distance between
the object of his inquiry and the practical wellbeing
of mankind seemed farthest, still the latter was his
starting point, and the doing ' a real service to philo-
sophy ' only occurred to him in connection with a
still greater and more real service to those social
causes for which, and which only, philosophy is worth
cultivating. In the System of Logic the inspiration
had been the same.

' The notion that truths external to the mind," he
writes, ' may be known by intuition or consciousness,
independently of observation and experience, is, I am
persuaded, in these times, the great intellectual
support of false doctrines and bad institutions. By
the aid of this theory every inveterate belief and
every intense feeling of which the origin is not
remembered, is enabled to dispense with the obliga-
tion of justifying itself by reason, and is erected into
its own all-sufficient voucher and justification. There
never was an instrument better devised for consecrat-
ing all deep-seated prejudices. And the chief strength
of this false philosophy in morals, politics, and religion,
lies in the appeal which it is accustomed to make to



ME. mill's autobiography. 73

the evidence of mathematics aucl of the cognate
branches of physical science. To expel it from these
is to drive it from its stronghold. ... In attempting
to clear up the real nature of the evidence of mathe-
matical and physical truth, the System of Logic met
the intuitive philosophers on ground on which they
had previously been deemed unassailable ; and gave
its own explanation from experience and association
of that peculiar character of what are called necessary
truths, which is adduced as proof that their evidence
must come from a deeper source than experience.
Whether this has been done effectually is still sub
judice ; and even then, to deprive a mode of thought
so strongly rooted in human prejudices and partialities
of its mere speculative support, goes but a very little
way towards overcoming it ; but though onlj'^ a step,
it is a quite indispensable one ; for since, after all,
prejudice can only be successfully combated by
philosophy, no way can really be made against it
permanently, until it has been shown not to have
philosophy on its side ' (pp. 225-227).

This was to lay the basis of a true positivism by
the only means through which it can be laid firmly.
It was to establish at the bottom of men's minds the
habit of seeking explanations of all phenomena in
experience, and building up from the beginning the
great positive principle that we can only know
phenomena, and can only know them experientially.
Wo see, from such passages as the two that have
been quoted, that with Mr. Mill, no less than with



74 MK. mill's AUTOinOGRArilY.

Comte, the ultimate object was to bring people tc
extend positive modes of thinking to the master
subjects of morals, politics, and religion. Mr. Mill,
however, with a wisdom which Comte unfortunately
did not share, refrained from any rash and premature
attempt to decide what would be tlie results of this
much-needed extension. He knew that we were as
yet only just coming in sight of the stage where these
most complex of all phenomena can be fruitfully
studied on positive methods, and he was content with
doing as much as he could to expel other methods
from men's minds, and to engender the positive spirit
and temper. Comte, on the other hand, presumed at
once to draw up a minute plan of social reconstruction,
which contains some ideas of great beauty and power,
some of extreme absurdity, and some which would be
very mischievous if there were the smallest chance of
their ever being realised. ' His book stands,' Mr.
Mill truly says of the System of Positive Polity, 'a
monumental warning to thinkers on society and
politics of what happens when once men lose sight in
their speculations of the value of Liberty and Indi-
viduahty' (p. 213).

It was his own sense of the value of Liberty which
led to the production of the little tractate which Mr.
Mill himself thought likely to survive longer than
anything else that he had written, ' with the possible
exception of the Logic,' as being ' a kind of philosophic
text-book of a single truth, which the changes pro-



ME. mill's autobiography. 75



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