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John Stuart Mill
by [?]

Mr. Mill was, in many respects, one of the most singular men ever produced by English society. His father was a prominent member of the small sect or coterie of Benthamites, whose attempts to reform the world, during the whole of the earlier part of the present century, furnished abundant matter for ridicule to the common run of politicians and social philosophers; and this ridicule was heightened, as the years rolled on, by the extraordinary jargon which their master adopted for the communication of his discoveries to the world. The author of the “Defence of Usury,” of the “Fragment on Government,” and of the “Book of Fallacies,” had, however, secured a reputation very early in his career which his subsequent eccentricities could not shake, but the first attempts of his disciples to catch the public ear were not fortunate. Macaulay’s smart review of James Mill’s book on “Government” gives a very fair expression to the common feeling about them in English literary and political circles during John Stuart’s boyhood. About the value of the father’s labors as a mental philosopher there are of course a variety of opinions, but he gave two proofs of capacity for the practical work of life which there was no gainsaying. He came to London an obscure man of humble origin, but managed, without ever having been in India, and at a period when authors were held in much less esteem by politicians than they were at a later period, to produce such an impression of his knowledge of Indian affairs, by his elaborate history of that country, on the minds of the Directors of the Company, that they gave him an important office in the India House, and this, too, in spite of the fact that he lived in a circle generally considered visionary–answering, in fact, in some degree to what we call the “long-haired people.” Besides this, he himself personally gave his son an education which made him, perhaps, all things considered, the most accomplished man of his age, and without help from the universities or any other institution of learning. The son grew up with a profound reverence for his father as a scholar and thinker, and rarely lost an opportunity of expressing it, though, curiously enough, he began very early to look on Bentham, the head of the school, with a critical eye. The young man’s course was, however, still more remarkable than the father’s.

Although brought up in a narrow coterie holding peculiar and somewhat unpopular opinions, and displaying, from his first entrance in life, as intense hostility as it was in his nature to feel against anything, against the English universities as then organized and conducted, though they were the centre of English culture and indeed one might say of intellectual activity, he saw himself, before he reached middle life, the most potent influence known to educated Englishmen, and perhaps that which has most contributed to the late grave changes in English public opinion on several of the leading social and political problems. Indeed, it is not too much to say that his writings produced a veritable debacle in the English mind. The younger generation were a good deal stirred by Carlyle; but Carlyle, after all, only woke people up, and made them look out of the window to see what was the matter, after which most of them went to bed again and slept comfortably. His cries were rather too inarticulate to furnish anything like a new gospel, and he never took hold of the intellectual class. But Mill did. The “Logic” and “Political Economy,” as reinforced and expounded by his earlier essays, were generally accepted by the younger men as the teachings of a real master, and even those who fully accepted neither his mental philosophy nor his social economy, acknowledged that the day of old things was passing away under his preaching. His method, however, as applied to politics, was not original–in fact, it was Bentham’s.