John Stuart Mill.

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of social and educational influences. Whether he retained all these
opinions to the end of life I know not. Certainly the modes of thinking
of his later years, and especially of his last publication, were much
more Tory in their general character than those which he held at
this time.

My father's tone of thought and feeling, I now felt myself at a great
distance from: greater, indeed, than a full and calm explanation and
reconsideration on both sides, might have shown to exist in reality. But
my father was not one with whom calm and full explanations on
fundamental points of doctrine could be expected, at least with one whom
he might consider as, in some sort, a deserter from his standard.
Fortunately we were almost always in strong agreement on the political
questions of the day, which engrossed a large part of his interest and
of his conversation. On those matters of opinion on which we differed,
we talked little. He knew that the habit of thinking for myself, which
his mode of education had fostered, sometimes led me to opinions
different from his, and he perceived from time to time that I did not
always tell him _how_ different. I expected no good, but only pain to
both of us, from discussing our differences: and I never expressed them
but when he gave utterance to some opinion or feeling repugnant to mine,
in a manner which would have made it disingenuousness on my part to
remain silent.

It remains to speak of what I wrote during these years, which,
independently of my contributions to newspapers, was considerable. In
1830 and 1831 I wrote the five Essays since published under the title of
_Essays on some Unsettled Questions of political Economy_, almost as
they now stand, except that in 1833 I partially rewrote the fifth Essay.
They were written with no immediate purpose of publication; and when,
some years later, I offered them to a publisher, he declined them. They
were only printed in 1844, after the success of the _System of Logic_. I
also resumed my speculations on this last subject, and puzzled myself,
like others before me, with the great paradox of the discovery of new
truths by general reasoning. As to the fact, there could be no doubt. As
little could it be doubted, that all reasoning is resolvable into
syllogisms, and that in every syllogism the conclusion is actually
contained and implied in the premises. How, being so contained and
implied, it could be new truth, and how the theorems of geometry, so
different in appearance from the definitions and axioms, could be all
contained in these, was a difficulty which no, one, I thought, had
sufficiently felt, and which, at all events, no one had succeeded in
clearing up. The explanations offered by Whately and others, though they
might give a temporary satisfaction, always, in my mind, left a mist
still hanging over the subject. At last, when reading a second or third
time the chapters on Reasoning in the second volume of Dugald Stewart,
interrogating myself on every point, and following out, as far as I knew
how, every topic of thought which the book suggested, I came upon an
idea of his respecting the use of axioms in ratiocination, which I did
not remember to have before noticed, but which now, in meditating on it,
seemed to me not only true of axioms, but of all general propositions
whatever, and to be the key of the whole perplexity. From this germ grew
the theory of the Syllogism propounded in the Second Book of the
_Logic_; which I immediately fixed by writing it out. And now, with
greatly increased hope of being able to produce a work on Logic, of some
originality and value, I proceeded to write the First Book, from the
rough and imperfect draft I had already made. What I now wrote became
the basis of that part of the subsequent Treatise; except that it did
not contain the Theory of Kinds, which was a later addition, suggested
by otherwise inextricable difficulties which met me in my first attempt
to work out the subject of some of the concluding chapters of the Third
Book. At the point which I had now reached I made a halt, which lasted
five years. I had come to the end of my tether; I could make nothing
satisfactory of Induction, at this time. I continued to read any book
which seemed to promise light on the subject, and appropriated, as well
as I could, the results; but for a long time I found nothing which
seemed to open to me any very important vein of meditation.

In 1832 I wrote several papers for the first series of _Tait's
Magazine_, and one for a quarterly periodical called the _Jurist_, which
had been founded, and for a short time carried on, by a set of friends,
all lawyers and law reformers, with several of whom I was acquainted.
The paper in question is the one on the rights and duties of the State
respecting Corporation and Church Property, now standing first among the
collected _Dissertations and Discussions_; where one of my articles in
_Tait_, "The Currency Juggle," also appears. In the whole mass of what
I wrote previous to these, there is nothing of sufficient permanent
value to justify reprinting. The paper in the _Jurist_, which I still
think a very complete discussion of the rights of the State over
Foundations, showed both sides of my opinions, asserting as firmly as I
should have done at any time, the doctrine that all endowments are
national property, which the government may and ought to control; but
not, as I should once have done, condemning endowments in themselves,
and proposing that they should be taken to pay off the national debt. On
the contrary, I urged strenuously the importance of a provision for
education, not dependent on the mere demand of the market, that is, on
the knowledge and discernment of average parents, but calculated to
establish and keep up a higher standard of instruction than is likely to
be spontaneously demanded by the buyers of the article. All these
opinions have been confirmed and strengthened by the whole of my
subsequent reflections.



It was the period of my mental progress which I have now reached that I
formed the friendship which has been the honour and chief blessing of my
existence, as well as the source of a great part of all that I have
attempted to do, or hope to effect hereafter, for human improvement. My
first introduction to the lady who, after a friendship of twenty years,
consented to become my wife, was in 1830, when I was in my twenty-fifth
and she in her twenty-third year. With her husband's family it was the
renewal of an old acquaintanceship. His grandfather lived in the next
house to my father's in Newington Green, and I had sometimes when a boy
been invited to play in the old gentleman's garden. He was a fine
specimen of the old Scotch puritan; stern, severe, and powerful, but
very kind to children, on whom such men make a lasting impression.
Although it was years after my introduction to Mrs. Taylor before my
acquaintance with her became at all intimate or confidential, I very
soon felt her to be the most admirable person I had ever known. It is
not to be supposed that she was, or that any one, at the age at which I
first saw her, could be, all that she afterwards became. Least of all
could this be true of her, with whom self-improvement, progress in the
highest and in all senses, was a law of her nature; a necessity equally
from the ardour with which she sought it, and from the spontaneous
tendency of faculties which could not receive an impression or an
experience without making it the source or the occasion of an accession
of wisdom. Up to the time when I first saw her, her rich and powerful
nature had chiefly unfolded itself according to the received type of
feminine genius. To her outer circle she was a beauty and a wit, with an
air of natural distinction, felt by all who approached her: to the
inner, a woman of deep and strong feeling, of penetrating and intuitive
intelligence, and of an eminently meditative and poetic nature. Married
at an early age to a most upright, brave, and honourable man, of liberal
opinions and good education, but without the intellectual or artistic
tastes which would have made him a companion for her, though a steady
and affectionate friend, for whom she had true esteem and the strongest
affection through life, and whom she most deeply lamented when dead;
shut out by the social disabilities of women from any adequate exercise
of her highest faculties in action on the world without; her life was
one of inward meditation, varied by familiar intercourse with a small
circle of friends, of whom one only (long since deceased) was a person
of genius, or of capacities of feeling or intellect kindred with her
own, but all had more or less of alliance with her in sentiments and
opinions. Into this circle I had the good fortune to be admitted, and I
soon perceived that she possessed in combination, the qualities which in
all other persons whom I had known I had been only too happy to find
singly. In her, complete emancipation from every kind of superstition
(including that which attributes a pretended perfection to the order of
nature and the universe), and an earnest protest against many things
which are still part of the established constitution of society,
resulted not from the hard intellect, but from strength of noble and
elevated feeling, and co-existed with a highly reverential nature. In
general spiritual characteristics, as well as in temperament and
organisation, I have often compared her, as she was at this time, to
Shelley: but in thought and intellect, Shelley, so far as his powers
were developed in his short life, was but a child compared with what she
ultimately became. Alike in the highest regions of speculation and in
the smaller practical concerns of daily life, her mind was the same
perfect instrument, piercing to the very heart and marrow of the matter;
always seizing the essential idea or principle. The same exactness and
rapidity of operation, pervading as it did her sensitive as well as her
mental faculties, would, with her gifts of feeling and imagination, have
fitted her to be a consummate artist, as her fiery and tender soul and
her vigorous eloquence would certainly have made her a great orator, and
her profound knowledge of human nature and discernment and sagacity in
practical life, would, in the times when such a _carrière_ was open to
women, have made her eminent among the rulers of mankind. Her
intellectual gifts did but minister to a moral character at once the
noblest and the best balanced which I have ever met with in life. Her
unselfishness was not that of a taught system of duties, but of a heart
which thoroughly identified itself with the feelings of others, and
often went to excess in consideration for them by imaginatively
investing their feelings with the intensity of its own. The passion of
justice might have been thought to be her strongest feeling, but for her
boundless generosity, and a lovingness ever ready to pour itself forth
upon any or all human beings who were capable of giving the smallest
feeling in return. The rest of her moral characteristics were such as
naturally accompany these qualities of mind and heart: the most genuine
modesty combined with the loftiest pride; a simplicity and sincerity
which were absolute, towards all who were fit to receive them; the
utmost scorn of whatever was mean and cowardly, and a burning
indignation at everything brutal or tyrannical, faithless or
dishonourable in conduct and character, while making the broadest
distinction between _mala in se_ and mere _mala prohibita_ - between acts
giving evidence of intrinsic badness in feeling and character, and those
which are only violations of conventions either good or bad, violations
which, whether in themselves right or wrong, are capable of being
committed by persons in every other respect lovable or admirable.

To be admitted into any degree of mental intercourse with a being of
these qualities, could not but have a most beneficial influence on my
development; though the effect was only gradual, and many years elapsed
before her mental progress and mine went forward in the complete
companionship they at last attained. The benefit I received was far
greater than any which I could hope to give; though to her, who had at
first reached her opinions by the moral intuition of a character of
strong feeling, there was doubtless help as well as encouragement to be
derived from one who had arrived at many of the same results by study
and reasoning: and in the rapidity of her intellectual growth, her
mental activity, which converted everything into knowledge, doubtless
drew from me, as it did from other sources, many of its materials. What
I owe, even intellectually, to her, is in its detail, almost infinite;
of its general character a few words will give some, though a very
imperfect, idea.

With those who, like all the best and wisest of mankind, are
dissatisfied with human life as it is, and whose feelings are wholly
identified with its radical amendment, there are two main regions of
thought. One is the region of ultimate aims; the constituent elements of
the highest realizable ideal of human life. The other is that of the
immediately useful and practically attainable. In both these departments,
I have acquired more from her teaching, than from all other sources
taken together. And, to say truth, it is in these two extremes
principally, that real certainty lies. My own strength lay wholly in the
uncertain and slippery intermediate region, that of theory, or moral and
political science: respecting the conclusions of which, in any of the
forms in which I have received or originated them, whether as political
economy, analytic psychology, logic, philosophy of history, or anything
else, it is not the least of my intellectual obligations to her that I
have derived from her a wise scepticism, which, while it has not
hindered me from following out the honest exercise of my thinking
faculties to whatever conclusions might result from it, has put me on my
guard against holding or announcing these conclusions with a degree of
confidence which the nature of such speculations does not warrant, and
has kept my mind not only open to admit, but prompt to welcome and eager
to seek, even on the questions on which I have most meditated, any
prospect of clearer perceptions and better evidence. I have often
received praise, which in my own right I only partially deserve, for the
greater practicality which is supposed to be found in my writings,
compared with those of most thinkers who have been equally addicted to
large generalizations. The writings in which this quality has been
observed, were not the work of one mind, but of the fusion of two, one
of them as pre-eminently practical in its judgments and perceptions of
things present, as it was high and bold in its anticipations for a
remote futurity. At the present period, however, this influence was only
one among many which were helping to shape the character of my future
development: and even after it became, I may truly say, the presiding
principle of my mental progress, it did not alter the path, but only
made me move forward more boldly, and, at the same time, more
cautiously, in the same course. 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, and consisted, on one hand, in a greater
approximation, so far as regards the ultimate prospects of humanity, to
a qualified Socialism, and on the other, a shifting of my political
ideal from pure democracy, as commonly understood by its partisans, to
the modified form of it, which is set forth in my _Considerations on
Representative Government_.

This last change, which took place very gradually, dates its
commencement from my reading, or rather study, of M. de Tocqueville's
_Democracy in America_, which fell into my hands immediately after its
first appearance. In that remarkable work, the excellences of democracy
were pointed out in a more conclusive, because a more specific manner
than I had ever known them to be, even by the most enthusiastic
democrats; while the specific dangers which beset democracy, considered
as the government of the numerical majority, were brought into equally
strong light, and subjected to a masterly analysis, not as reasons for
resisting what the author considered as an inevitable result of human
progress, but as indications of the weak points of popular government,
the defences by which it needs to be guarded, and the correctives which
must be added to it in order that while full play is given to its
beneficial tendencies, those which are of a different nature may be
neutralized or mitigated. I was now well prepared for speculations of
this character, and from this time onward my own thoughts moved more and
more in the same channel, though the consequent modifications in my
practical political creed were spread over many years, as would be shown
by comparing my first review of _Democracy in America_, written and
published in 1835, with the one in 1840 (reprinted in the _Dissertations_),
and this last, with the _Considerations on Representative Government_.

A collateral subject on which also I derived great benefit from the
study of Tocqueville, was the fundamental question of centralization.
The powerful philosophic analysis which he applied to American and to
French experience, led him to attach the utmost importance to the
performance of as much of the collective business of society, as can
safely be so performed, by the people themselves, without any
intervention of the executive government, either to supersede their
agency, or to dictate the manner of its exercise. He viewed this
practical political activity of the individual citizen, not only as one
of the most effectual means of training the social feelings and
practical intelligence of the people, so important in themselves and so
indispensable to good government, but also as the specific counteractive
to some of the characteristic infirmities of democracy, and a necessary
protection against its degenerating into the only despotism of which, in
the modern world, there is real danger - the absolute rule of the head
of the executive over a congregation of isolated individuals, all equals
but all slaves. There was, indeed, no immediate peril from this source
on the British side of the channel, where nine-tenths of the internal
business which elsewhere devolves on the government, was transacted by
agencies independent of it; where centralization was, and is, the
subject not only of rational disapprobation, but of unreasoning
prejudice; where jealousy of Government interference was a blind feeling
preventing or resisting even the most beneficial exertion of legislative
authority to correct the abuses of what pretends to be local
self-government, but is, too often, selfish mismanagement of local
interests, by a jobbing and _borné_ local oligarchy. But the more
certain the public were to go wrong on the side opposed to
centralization, the greater danger was there lest philosophic reformers
should fall into the contrary error, and overlook the mischiefs of which
they had been spared the painful experience. I was myself, at this very
time, actively engaged in defending important measures, such as the
great Poor Law Reform of 1834, against an irrational clamour grounded on
the anti-centralization prejudice: and had it not been for the lessons
of Tocqueville, I do not know that I might not, like many reformers
before me, have been hurried into the excess opposite to that, which,
being the one prevalent in my own country, it was generally my business
to combat. As it is, I have steered carefully between the two errors,
and whether I have or have not drawn the line between them exactly in
the right place, I have at least insisted with equal emphasis upon the
evils on both sides, and have made the means of reconciling the
advantages of both, a subject of serious study.

In the meanwhile had taken place the election of the first Reformed
Parliament, which included several of the most notable of my Radical
friends and acquaintances - Grote, Roebuck, Buller, Sir William
Molesworth, John and Edward Romilly, and several more; besides
Warburton, Strutt, and others, who were in parliament already. Those who
thought themselves, and were called by their friends, the philosophic
Radicals, had now, it seemed, a fair opportunity, in a more advantageous
position than they had ever before occupied, for showing what was in
them; and I, as well as my father, founded great hopes on them. These
hopes were destined to be disappointed. The men were honest, and
faithful to their opinions, as far as votes were concerned; often in
spite of much discouragement. When measures were proposed, flagrantly at
variance with their principles, such as the Irish Coercion Bill, or the
Canada Coercion in 1837, they came forward manfully, and braved any
amount of hostility and prejudice rather than desert the right. But on
the whole they did very little to promote any opinions; they had little
enterprise, little activity: they left the lead of the Radical portion
of the House to the old hands, to Hume and O'Connell. A partial
exception must be made in favour of one or two of the younger men; and
in the case of Roebuck, it is his title to permanent remembrance, that
in the very first year during which he sat in Parliament, he originated
(or re-originated after the unsuccessful attempt of Mr. Brougham) the
parliamentary movement for National Education; and that he was the first
to commence, and for years carried on almost alone, the contest for the
self-government of the Colonies. Nothing, on the whole equal to these
two things, was done by any other individual, even of those from whom
most was expected. And now, on a calm retrospect, I can perceive that
the men were less in fault than we supposed, and that we had expected
too much from them. They were in unfavourable circumstances. Their lot
was cast in the ten years of inevitable reaction, when, the Reform
excitement being over, and the few legislative improvements which the
public really called for having been rapidly effected, power gravitated
back in its natural direction, to those who were for keeping things as
they were; when the public mind desired rest, and was less disposed than
at any other period since the Peace, to let itself be moved by attempts
to work up the Reform feeling into fresh activity in favour of new
things. It would have required a great political leader, which no one is
to be blamed for not being, to have effected really great things by
parliamentary discussion when the nation was in this mood. My father and
I had hoped that some competent leader might arise; some man of
philosophic attainments and popular talents, who could have put heart
into the many younger or less distinguished men that would have been
ready to join him - could have made them available, to the extent of
their talents, in bringing advanced ideas before the public - could
have used the House of Commons as a rostra or a teacher's chair for
instructing and impelling the public mind; and would either have forced
the Whigs to receive their measures from him, or have taken the lead of
the Reform party out of their hands. Such a leader there would have
been, if my father had been in Parliament. For want of such a man, the
instructed Radicals sank into a mere _Côté Gauche_ of the Whig party.
With a keen, and as I now think, an exaggerated sense of the
possibilities which were open to the Radicals if they made even ordinary
exertion for their opinions, I laboured from this time till 1839, both
by personal influence with some of them, and by writings, to put ideas
into their heads, and purpose into their hearts. I did some good with
Charles Buller, and some with Sir William Molesworth; both of whom did
valuable service, but were unhappily cut off almost in the beginning of
their usefulness. On the whole, however, my attempt was vain. To have
had a chance of succeeding in it, required a different position from
mine. It was a task only for one who, being himself in Parliament, could
have mixed with the Radical members in daily consultation, could himself
have taken the initiative, and instead of urging others to lead, could
have summoned them to follow.

What I could do by writing, I did. During the year 1833 I continued

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Online LibraryJohn Stuart MillAutobiography → online text (page 11 of 18)