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tion of individual character may change, it will never permanently diminish or degenerate.
To our mind, the exhibitions which we see every hour of the lack of individuality in the society of the day indicate no retrogression on the part of the race, and no conditions less conducive to its free development than have ever existed. ' That type of it, for instance, which shows itself in the concession which each man makes, not only on matters of taste, but on matters of thought and opinion, to the feelings or principles, or the pretended feelings or principles, of his neighbor or his community, so that, in perhaps nine cases out of ten, if a man in conversation with another says a mean thing, the other, whether from politeness or indolence or interest, acquiesces, — a concession so common that Mr. Emerson, in the simple tribute of respect and affection which he paid to the memory of Mr. Parker, at the Memorial Service which was held shortly after his death, could find nothing more worthy to put on record than that moral integrity * which placed him above the possibility of it in his own life; — that type, perhaps the most melancholy and the most hopeless of all the blemishes on the face of modern society, is only the natural consequence of the imperfection of human life in all its tastes and aims. No completeness of liberty would lessen the evil, no severity of repression materially increase it. It is a matter of simple integrity or want of integrity, - a test of personal character certainly, but hardly of any more general influence. And though it is probably in large measure the product of modern civilization, yet it is certain that the causes which have made us abandon the plainer speech of ruder times have made us also abandon other characteristics of those times which we could better afford to lose, and that the gain in the long run rests with us.
In the chapter on the “ Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual,” and more minutely in the closing chap
* “For every sound heart loves a responsible person, - one who does not in generous company say generous things, and in mean company base things, but says one thing, now cheerfully, now indignanıly, but always because he must, and because he sees that, whether he speak or refrain from speech, this is said over him, and history, nature, and all souls testify to the same.”
ter of “ Applications,” Mr. Mill follows out the principles which have been discussed in previous chapters into their practical bearings, showing how surely the attempt at exercising our own judgment in regulating the conduct of other men (any further than is necessary for the prevention of specific harm to others) leads to persecution. The distinction between what are called the “ self-regarding” faults, and those which regard and affect the rights of others, is drawn with much thought and minuteness; – a difficult distinction to fix, owing to the natural objection, that, as no man liveth to himself, no faults can be altogether self-regarding, but that all must, through the sympathy and affection of friends, or through the influence of example, affect in some degree the happiness and welfare of others. Nevertheless, Mr. Mill insists on preserving, as clearly as it can be defined, the distinction between those faults, those vices even, which concern properly a man's self, — as “rashness, obstinacy, self-conceit, the inability to live within moderate means or to restrain himself from hurtful indulgences, the pursuit of animal pleasures at the expense of those of feeling and intellect," — and those acts which are manifestly and directly injurious to others, — "encroachments on their rights, falsehood and duplicity in dealing with them, unfair or ungenerous use of advantages over them, even selfish abstinence from defending them against injury; – these are fit objects of moral reprobation, and, in grave cases, of moral retribution and punishment.” The difficulty of drawing the line between the two classes Mr. Mill states with his usual candor and fulness, and meets as follows:
“I fully admit that the mischief which a person does to himself may seriously affect, both through their sympathies and their interests, those nearly connected with them, and in a minor degree society at large. When by conduct of this sort a person is led to violate a distinct and definable obligation to any other person or persons, the case is taken out of the self-regarding class, and becomes amenable to moral disapprobation, in the proper sense of the term. If, for example, a man through intemperance or extravagance becomes unable to pay his debts, or, having undertaken the moral responsibility of a family, becomes, from the same cause, incapable of supporting or educating them, he is deservedly reprobated, and might be justly punished; but it is for the breach of duty to his family or creditors, not for his extravagance. If the resources which ought to be devoted to them had been diverted from them for the most prudent investment, the moral culpability would have been the same. George Barnwell murdered his uncle to get money for his mistress; but if he had done it to set himself up in business, he would equally have been hanged. Again, in the frequent case of a man who causes grief to his family by addiction to bad habits, he deserves reproach for his unkindness or ingratitude ; but so he may for cultivating habits not in themselves vicious, if they are painful to those with whom he passes his life, or who from personal ties are dependent upon him for comfort. Whoever fails in the consideration generally due to the interests and feelings of others, not being compelled by some more imperative duty, or justified by allowable self-preference, is a subject of moral disapprobation for that failure, but not for the cause of it, nor for the errors merely personal to himself which have remotely led to it. In like manner, when a person disables himself, by conduct purely self-regarding, from the performance of some definite duty, incumbent on him, to the public, he is guilty of a social offence. No person ought to be punished simply for being drunk, but a soldier or a policeman should be punished for being drunk on duty. Whenever, in short, there is a definite damage or a definite risk of damage either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty, and placed in that of morality or law.” — pp. 145 – 147.
The same principle is briefly applied, in the closing chapter, to the question of restrictions on trade in general (with special reference to the sale of poisons); to the question of the punishment of persons guilty of drunkenness, gambling, licentiousness, or the instigation of others to those vices; to the question of the binding force of agreements involving personal relations or services; the question of state education; of the prohibition by law of marriage between persons who have not the means of supporting a family (a prohibition which the author declares a state has an undoubted right to establish and enforce); and lastly to the class of questions involving the interference of the central government in the direction and conduct of local business. The small space given to these important considerations gives them the air rather of condensed memoranda intended as a basis for subsequent elaboration, than as a finished and revised portion of a
complete essay. They contain much thought, and suggest much in a thoughtful reader. The field which they cover is nothing less than the universal field of human action in its relations to society and the individual, and we hope in due time to see the closing chapters of this remarkable book expanded into a treatise on some or all of the great divisions of the subject which the author has here suggested.
This task of elaboration, indeed, Mr. Mill has already commenced. We have already stated, in brief, what is the drift and object of his “ Considerations on Representative Government.” * We have not now the space to speak of this treatise in detail. It may be said to be the application to the special topic of Representative Government of the theories of the essay on Liberty. Its subject is as interesting as it is important, and is made especially so to Americans by the frequent illustrations of its positions which are drawn from the political experience of the United States. Some of these positions are striking from their novelty and the boldness with which they are defended ; others which have been advanced by former writers are here adopted and held with the same completeness of conviction and vigor of argument. The opinions as to the advisability of “ universal but graduated suffrage,” combined with the present English system of open voting; the extension of the suffrage to women; the representation of minorities; the abdication of the law-making power by the legislature; the appointment of the executive by the legislative body ; — these and others of less note are as new in this country, for the most part, as in Europe, and perhaps more so. On all these points the reasoning is marked by the strongest and clearest good-sense, and by a fairness, a mental honesty towards the opposite side, which is among the rarest of literary virtues. Whatever may be thought of the practicability of carrying out all the improvements which are suggested in this work, it will be admitted that the discussion of them, and of all the important questions concerning the theory of free government, by such minds as that of Mr. Mill, is one of the greatest benefits which literature can bestow on
* Christian Examiner, Vol. LXXII. p. 313.
a people. It is certain that a people which learns from such teachers cannot go backward.
Mr. Mill, while proving in the clearest manner that the ideal form of government – the form most eligible in itself — is the representative form, is careful as usual to recognize the practical limitations to the application of that ideal system. The form of government must be adapted to the capacities of the people to be governed, and to the state of society among them; and a thousand causes may, even after a community has advanced far in civilization and culture, render them either indisposed to adopt, or incapable of maintaining, that system which in itself is most perfect.
" It is to be borne in mind, that political machinery does not act of itself. As it is first made, so it has to be worked, by men, and even by ordinary men. It needs not their simple acquiescence, but their active participation, and must be adapted to the capacities and qualities of such men as are available. This implies three conditions. The people for whom the form of government is intended must be willing to accept it, or at least not so unwilling as to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to its establishment. They must be willing and able to do what is necessary to keep it standing. And they must be willing and able to do what it requires of them to enable it to fulfil its purposes. The word do must be understood as including forbearances as well as acts. They must be capable of the conditions of action, and the conditions of self-restraint, which are necessary either for keeping the established polity in existence, or for enabling it to achieve the ends its conduciveness to which forms its recommendation.” — pp. 4, 5.
This covers the whole ground of question in regard to the failure of the many attempts which have been made to establish free government in France, Italy, Hungary. In all these unsuccessful attempts, the people, while fulfilling the first of Mr. Mill's conditions, have failed in the other two, and so, in the first trial of strength between them and the old rulers, the people succumbed, and their system of self-government went to ruin. It is impossible on any other ground than this to account for the long-continued existence and firm establishment of these absolute and oppressive tyrannies, since it is difficult to understand the exact process by which the energies, mental and physical, of a whole people remain subjugated
VOL. LXXIV. - 5TH S. VOL. XII. NO. I.