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of different passions, ideas, and aims, varying in different ages
and countries, and with different classes and different individuals;
and each having its own peculiar effects on the nature, produc-
tion, and distribution of wealth.

The ' principle of population,' again, so far from being an
ultimate fact in human nature from which general conclusions
can be drawn, is a highly artificial and widely varying principle,
inseparably interwoven with religious and moral ideas and
historical causes. Its force in Bengal is the result mainly of a
particular superstition ; and, owing to causes which have never
been probed to the bottom, its force varies greatly, not only in
neighbouring countries like England and France, but in
different parts of the same country, Normandy and Britanny
for example.

Our limits prevent our even alluding to many special ques-
tions of great interest raised by Mr. Cairnes, but we will take
two or three examples from the chapter ' On some Derivative
Laws of Yalue.' In the early stages of a nation's growth,
tillage for the production of corn steadily gains ground on
pasture ; but Mr. Cairnes treats it as a ' law of industrial
progress ' that in the later stages this process is reversed, and
pasture constantly encroaches on tillage. We think we find
here an instance of the economic error resulting from inattention
to both continental phenomena and continental literature. Save
in exceptional situations, the increasing supply of meat in

E 2

52 Cairnes' ' Leading Principles of

Europe is obtained by stall-feeding and tillage, not by the
extension of pasture. As Professor Nasse states, the aridity of
the climate and the character of the soil preclude pasture
throughout the greater part of Germany. M. de Laveleye main-
tains that, by means of stall-feeding, Flanders, in spite of the
poverty of its soil, supports more cattle to the acre than Eng-
land. It is noticeable that both these distinguished economists
point to one condition unnoticed by Mr. Cairnes, which may in
future, to some extent, counteract the causes hitherto operating
so decisively in favour of tillage for the production of meat over-
most of the Continent — namely, the rise in the price of labour.
How far mechanical art, on the other hand, may neutralize this
condition it is useless here to inquire ; but M. de Laveleye
makes the important observation, that even where a country
like England, with exceptional advantages for pasture, imports
a great part of its corn, the importing and exporting countries
become virtually one economic region in which tillage is
constantly advancing. Hence an enormous extension of tillage
in the United States, for the supply both of its own population
and that of Europe, is as certain as any fact in the economic
future can be. Connected with the foregoing question is one
respecting the price of corn, which, according to Mr. Cairnes,
'at length, in the progress of society, reaches a point beyond
which (unless so far as it is affected by changes in the value of
money) it manifests no tendency to advance further.' This point,
in Mr. Cairnes' judgment, was already reached in England
three centuries ago, if not, as he has no doubt, some centuries
earlier ; the reason he assigns being that, after a certain point,
an advance in the price of corn reacts on population and checks
the demand. There are, however, several methods by which a
nation may meet an advancing cost of corn — by a diminished
consumption of animal food, for instance, or a diminished cost of
manufactures. As a matter of fact, the labouring population of
England has much diminished its use of animal food since the
fifteenth century, while it clothes itself cheaper. The enormous
prices of corn towards the close of the last, and during the
early part of the present century, again, show how an advance

Political Economy Neiohj Expounded^ 53

in the price of bread may be met by privation. The whole
population of the United States is now a meat-consuming one ;
but if Macaulay's prediction should be fulfilled, at no very
distant future an increased cost of corn would be met by relin-
quishing meat ; and a part of ^the nation might possibly even
fall back on potatoes, or some other cheap vegetable; so that
the future price of corn can only be matter of speculation. The
price of timber, it may be observed, has followed a different
course on the Continent from that which Mr. Cairnes lays down
for it. Its value, he says, * rises in general slowly, but never
attains a very great elevation, reckoning from its height at
starting.' Professor Rau, however, has given the following
prices of a given measure of the same wood in Wiirtemberg, in
florins and kreuzers :— 1690-1730, 57 kr. ; 1748-1780, 2 fl.
14 kr. ; 1790-1830, 8 fl. 22 kr. And Dr. Engel's statistics
show that the price of wood in another part of Germany nearly
quadrupled itself between 1830 and 1865.

While we dissent altogether from most of the fundamental
propositions of Mr. Cairnes' book, from the economic method
it follows, and from not a few of its inferences and speculations,
we see much to admire in it. It abounds in valuable criticisms,
such as that of Mr. Brassey's proposition that dear labour is
the great obstacle to British trade, and of the argument of
American protectionists that the States with their high-priced
labour cannot compete with the cheap labour of Europe.



The volume which completes the series of Mill's ' Dissertations
and Discussions ' illustrates a passage in his Autobiography, in
which he describes his own as ' a mind which was always pressing
forward, equally ready to learn either from his own thoughts
or from those of others,' History affords scarcely another
example of a philosopher so ready to review his positions, to
abandon them if untenable, and to take lessons from his own
disciples, as the discussion, for instance, of Mr. Thornton's book
' On Labour ' shows Mr. Mill to have been. On the other hand,
the volume adds links to a chain of evidence against another
judgment pronounced by IVIr. Mill on his own intellect, in a
passage of his Autobiography which speaks of his natural powers
as not above par but rather below it, and of his eminence being
due, ' among other fortunate circumstances, to his early training.'
His early training had undoubtedly a remarkable effect on his
intellectual career — though in our judgment a very different oce
from that attributed to it by himself ; and certainly, without
reference to it, neither his system of philosophy nor his mental
calibre can be properly estimated. It ought to be taken into
particular account in connexion with some phases of his
economics exhibited in the volume before us ; but the question
with respect to its influence has a much wider importance. It
is a special instance of the great general question concerning not
only the causes which produce great minds and direct their
energies, but also those which govern the general course of

* The Academy, June 5, 1875.— This Article appeared as a review of Volume IV,
of Mr. Mill's Bissertationsaitd Discussions.

Johi Stuart Mill. 55

philosophy and thought, since ]\Ir, Mill's works had no small
share in determining the ideas held in his time hy a great part
of the civilized world on some of the principal subjects of both
theoretical speculation and practical opinion. For it will not be
disputed that he was looked up to in several countries as the
writer of chief authority on logic, political economy, and politics,
and one of the first on psychology and morals. Latterly, how-
ever — not to speak of the passing influence of a political reac-
tion on his popularity — it has been generally admitted that his
methods in mental and social philosophy were inadequate ; and
his political economy is now censured, especially in Germany,
for inconsistency and insufficient breadth of conception. ' His
ground-plan,' says Dr. Roscher in his " History of German
Political Economy," *is a mere theory of the tendencies of undis-
turbed individual interest, yet he frequently admits the existence
of practical exceptions to the theoretical rules thus arrived at,
and the presence of other forces and motives.' Other writers,
English, Germans, and Americans, have expressed astonishment
that he could ever have adopted the doctrine of the wages-
fund, which two of the dissertations in the present volume show
that he finally discarded. The inquiry follows. Are the de-
fects of his system to be traced to his own mind, or to his
education ?

One thing is plain in the matter. Education can nurture,
develop, and direct the application of great mental powers ; it
can also misdirect, and even cramp and distort, but cannot
create them. And no man without great and varied powers
could have produced such works as Mr. Mill's ' System of Logic,'
* Principles of Political Economy,' ' Examination of Sir W. Ha-
milton's Philosophy,' and the four volumes of ' Dissertations and
Discussions' ; not to speak of minor works, such as his essays on
'Utilitarianism' and 'Liberty.' One of his Dissertations shows
that even a poetical fibre — one rarely found in the logician or the
economist — was not absent from his mental constitution and
more than one of them refutes Dr. Roscher's criticism that * his
was not an historical mind,' if by that is meant that he lacked
the genius for historical inquiry ; though it must be confessed

56 John Stuart Mill.

that the historical method is rarely applied in his philosophy.
Add to this, that thirty-six of the best years of his life were
spent in a public office, in which he displayed administrative
powers of the first order, and discharged his official duties not
only with efficiency, but such ease and despatch, that he found
time to distinguish himself among the foremost writers in
several departments of intellectual speculation ; and that he
afterwards took a considerable place as a debater in Parliament.
The man who did all these things also exhibited in private society
remarkable conversational powers, quickness of apprehension
and reply, a facility of allusion and anecdote, with a vein of
gentle humour, and such felicity and force of expression, that
even when his conversation was grave, the present writer was
often reminded of Steele's description of Sir Andrew Freeport
that ' the perspicuity of his discourse gave the same pleasure
that wit would in another man.'

If, however, Mr. Mill's ' early training ' does not account for
his intellectual eminence, it assuredly went far to form his
philosophy ; but a great deal more than the peculiar mental
discipline to which his father subjected him must be included in
that early training. We must include the fundamental concep-
tions, and the method of inquiry, of the leading intellects of the
age from which he received his education. It was an age in
which Bentham was justly regarded as the first social philosoplier
— Hicardo, less justly, as the highest authority in political eco-
nomy, in spite of the protest of Malthus against his abstractions
and precipitate generalization ; Mr. Mill's father, James Mill,
as the most eminent political thinker and writer of the time,
and one of its chief lights in psychology ; and John Austin as
facile princeps in jurisprudence. No leaders of thought ever
reposed more unbounded confidence in their own systems than
did this famous band. They seemed to themselves to hold in
their hands the keys to every problem in the science of man.
In psychology the master-key was the association of ideas ; in
morals it was utility ascertained by a balance of pleasures and
pains ; in political philosophy it was utility combined with
representative government ; in political economy it was pecu-

John Stuart 31111. 67

niary self-interest together with the principle of population ; in
jurisprudence it was a particular definition of law and classifica-
tion of rights. All these methods the younger Mill applied
with a power never surpassed, and in addition he in good part
•created a system of logic which may be corrected and improved,
but will ever hold a place among the chief works of the human
mind. It was the fault of his age and of his education if the
doctrine of evolution found no place in his psychology or his
social science ; if the historical method was taken up in his
' Political Economy,' as it was in the preliminary remarks of his
treatise, only to be laid aside ; and if corrections from observa-
tion and fact of the inferences from a priori reasoning appear,
both in that treatise and in the present volume of his ' Disserta-
tions and Discussions,' only in the form of practical exceptions
to abstract theory, or of ' applications ' of economic science, when
the fault really lay in the original conception of the science
itself. It was not possible to weld the abstractions of Eicardo
and the actual forces governing economic phenomena into a
consistent and scientific system ; or to furnish an adequate theory
of the origin and growth of human ideas without investigation
of the entire history of human society. But if any one individual
is especially to be blamed for the shortcomings of his system, it
is not John, but James Mill. No training ever was more care-
fully adapted at once to crush all originality and to inspire
excessive confidence in the methods adopted, than that which
the younger Mill received from his father. It should, too, be
borne in mind that the a j^i'iori political economy had its chief
charm for John Mill, not in the simplicity and symmetry which
recommended it to narrower and shallower minds, but in the
complete individual liberty which it supposes. How far he was
from trusting to individual interest to secure the best economy
in all cases is sufiiciently shown in the remarks in the first
dissertation in the present volume (on Endowments) with
respect to free trade in general, and to the doctrine that educa-
tion should be left to demand and supply, in particular.

The action of demand and supply in another economic

58 John Stuart Mill.

aspect, namely on value, is discussed witli conspicuous ability in
tlie second dissertation on Mr. Thornton's book. The theory
of a wages-fund, the proportion of which to the number of
labourers in the country determines the price of labour, is there
rejected ; and it should be observed that this doctrine was not
originated by Mill, but appeared in its most uncompromising
and fallacious forms in the works of his predecessors, Mac CuUoch
and Senior. It is, in fact, a corollary to the doctrines of an
average rate of profit and an average rate of wages. If profits-
could not be higher, nor wages lower, in one employment or
place than in another, there would really be such a mobility of
capital and such a connexion between the funds out of which
wages are everywhere paid, that it would not be very inaccurate
to speak of them as forming a general fund on which the price
of labour depends ; though even in that case the combination of
labourers might produce a higher general rate of wages and a
lower general rate .of profit than competition had done. What
neither Mr. Mill nor Mr. Thornton seems to us sufficiently to
bring out, is that the main power of trades unions to raise wages
in particular cases has arisen from the actual inequalities of both
profits and wages. Where extraordinary gains have been made
in a business, the labourers have been enabled by concerted
action to extort a share which competition would not have
assigned to them ; and again, where wages have been abnormally
low, they have been able in like manner to compel a rise. The
dissertation on the land question, and the papers on land reform
in this volume, show that Mr. Mill, like most people of all
political parties when they were written, underrated the strength
of the forces on the side of the existing land systems ; and the
same remark is applicable to some passages in a review of
Sir H. Maine's * Village Communities,' which deserves particular
notice for the generous interest and admiration which it shows
that Mr. Mill felt for works of genius and learning, even when
aUied to far more conservative tendencies than his own. The
essay on Bishop Berkeley's works, besides its great intrinsic
merits as a piece of psychological criticism, is remarkable like-

John Stuart Mill. 59

wise for the sympathy it evinces with genius allied to religious
opinions widely opposed to Mr. Mill's.

The volume contains, besides other instructive essays, a re-
view of Grrote's Aristotle by one to whom few will deny th(^
highest claim to be listened to as a critic on such a subject, and
to whom many will assign a place beside Bacon among the most
illustrious successors of the original founder of logic.



Professor Cairnes has been laid to rest with extraordinary

honour. No other author's death in our time, save Mr. Mill's,

has called forth so strong and general an expression of feeling ;

and Mr. Mill had been a leader of a philosophical school for a

generation, and for several years a distinguished and active

member of Parliament, while Mr. Cairnes had resided in England

only for a few years, during the greater number of which he was

the victim of a cruel malady which secluded him from the world

and deprived him latterly even of the use of his pen. It is but

thirteen years since Professor Cairnes, then holding a chair of

Political Economy in Ireland, and known only to a few of the

more studious economists in England, suddenly attained a wide

celebrity by the publication, at the most critical moment in the

American civil War, of ' The Slave Power ;' one of the most

masterly essays in the literature of political controversy, and,

even now that American slavery is extinct, one of the most

instructive and interesting treatises which students either of

politics or of economics can find in the English language. The

progress of economic science, and the changes in the views of

economists, of which there are indications all over Europe, may

disturb some of the conclusions of Mr. Cairnes' other works, but

' The Slave Power' will ever defy criticism ; and no serious answer

was attempted to be made to it, even when the war was at its

height, and when the Southern States had the sympathy and

-support of some of the most powerful organs of the English press.

* The Academy, July 17, 1875.— This Article appeared as an obituary notice
immediately after the death of Mr. Cairnes.

Professor Cairnes. 61

The practical object for whicli ' The Slave Power' was published
lias been triumphantly accomplished, but it had also a philoso-
phical purpose which gives it a permanent value as an economic
classic, for its subject was originally selected by Mr. Cairnes for
a course of lectures ' to show that the course of history is largely
determined by economic causes.' The skill and ability with
which this purpose was carried into effect will, we believe, make
future economists regret more and more as their science advances
that Mr. Cairnes did not in his subsequent works develop another
side of the relation between history and political economy,
namely, the connexion between the whole social history of a
country and its economic condition as one of the phases of the
entire movement, and not as the result of a single principle or

Before the publication of ' The Slave Power,' two essays in
* Fraser's Magazine,' * towards the solution of the Gold Question,'
had attracted the attention of economists in this countiy,
especially Mr. Mill, to Mr. Cairnes' remarkable talent for
deductive reasoning and exposition in economics. We think
for our own part, and we have reason to believe that such was
subsequently Mr. Mill's view, that in his practical conclusion
Mr. Cairnes took insufficient account of the influence on prices
of the acquisition by France, Germany, and other continental
countries, of the power of production and communication by
steam, contemporaneously with the diffusion of the new gold ;
but those who dissent from the proposition that prices have risen
more in England since the discovery of the new gold mines than
in any continental country, will nevertheless find nothing to
dispute in the principles which Mr. Cairnes applied with con-
summate skill to the solution of the problem. The causes which
have raised prices on the continent so greatly above their former
low level are causes of the same order with those whose operation
Mr. Cairnes discussed in relation to England.

Although an invalid, impeded in every physical movement
by the malady from which he suffered, Mr. Cairnes took an
active, though sometimes an unseen, part in the discussion of all
the chief political controversies in this country during the last

■62 Professor Cairnes.

ten years, especially the Irish laud question and Irish University
education ; and to him more than to any other single person it
is due that University education in Ireland is not now under
the control of an Ultramontane hierarchy, and that some of
the chief subjects of historical and philosophical study have not
been banished from the University of Dublin and the Queen's

Last year, although then no longer able to write with his
own hand, Mr. Cairnes published his ' Leading Principles of
Political Economy newly Expounded,' a work which ought to
be regarded, even by those who dissent most from some of its
principles, as an important contribution to economic science.
To state with the greatest possible clearness and force the reasons
for espousing one side of a scientific controversy, is to render
one of the best services to those who seek to know all that can
be said on both sides. And if any position which Mr. Cairnes
takes up is imsuccessfully maintained, the student may feel
assured that if literary and dialectical skill could have defended
it, it would be impregnable. The second edition of Mr. Cairnes'
' Logical Method of Political Economy,' which has recently been
published, and which we hope on a future occasion to review,
ought in like manner to be welcomed by those economists who
incline to the inductive or historical method, not only for the
intellectual interest which the reasoning of a powerful mind
must always excite, but also as a masterly exposition of the
■deductive method, and a complete presentation of all that can be
said for it or got out of it.

We have no words to express our admiration of the heroic
fortitude and public spirit without which no amount of intellec-
tual power would have enabled Mr. Cairnes, under sufferings of
the most prostrating kind, to maintain so high a place in the
philosopliical and political history of his time as that which is
assigned to him by imiversal consent. His moral as well as his
intellectual qualities won for him the reputation which has now
become historical.



Mr. Walter Bagehot, the eminent editor, author, and political
•economist, died on Saturday last, at the same early age as the
late Professor Cairnes, having reached only his fifty-second year.
He was educated at University College, and graduated with
distinction in the University of London, in which he was lately
examiner in Political Economy. He was known to the public
ohiefly as editor of the ' Economist,' and by his books and essays ;
but he was also a partner in a bank, and was thus one of four
remarkable men of letters in this century who have also been
English bankers — Samuel Rogers, the poet ; Grrote, the historian ;
and Sir John Lubbock making the other three. As editor of
the ' Economist,' Mr. Bagehot was the successor of its founder, the
late Right Honourable James Wilson, whose son-in-law he was.
He conducted that journal with consummate ability, and raised
it to the first rank, both as a financial and as a political authority.
He might, doubtless, have augmented his fortune by lending
adroit support from time to time to particular financial and
commercial speculations, but no line of the Economist ever
showed the smallest favour of that kind, and it did honour to
the English press under his management, alike by its absolute
integrity and impartiality, and by its intellectual calibre.

As a political economist Mr. Bagehot belonged to the older
deductive school,but his recent essays in the 'Fortnightly Review'
mark an epoch in the history of English political economy, by
abandoning the ground hitherto claimed by the leaders of that
school for their method and doctrines. It is not many years

* The Academy, March, 31, 1877. — This Article appeared as an obituary notice.

Online LibraryT. E. Cliffe (Thomas Edward Cliffe) LeslieEssays in political economy → online text (page 6 of 41)