M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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The Locrian Law Code (about 660 B.C.) was extremely severe, apparently in order to combat the lawlessness of that young community and to give it a political order. Locri was founded by the Eastern or Opuntian Locrus about 683 B.C. This law code, incidentally, was the first written code among the Greeks and in Europe and many of its principles remained in

.A theory which maintains that truth may justifiably be persecuted because persecution cannot possibly do it any harm, can't be charged with being intentionally hostile to the reception of new truths ; but we cannot commend the generosity of its dealing with the persons to whom mankind are indebted for them. To discover to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it was previously ignorant, to prove to it that it had been mistaken on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is "as important a service as a human being can render to his fellow creatures,! land in certain cases, as in those cf early Christians, and of the Reformers, those who think with Dr. Johnson believe it to have been the most precious gift which could be bestowed on mankind."7 That the authors of such splendid benefits should be required by martyrdom, that their reward should be to be dealt with as the vilest of criminals, is not, upon this theory, a deplorable error and misfortune for which humanity should mourn in sackcloth and ashes, but the normal and justifiable state of things. The propounder of a new truth, according to Mill, should stand as stood, in the legislation of the Locrians,8 the



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  1. proposer of a new law, with a halter round his ruck, to be instantly tightened if the public assembly did not; on hearing his reasons, then and there adopt his proposition. People who defend this mode of treating benefactors cannot be supposed to set much value on the benefit ; and he believed that "this view of the subject is mostly con­fined to the sort of persons who think that new truths may have been desirable once, but that we. have had enough of them now."

  2. Self-regarding and Other-rtgurcir.g Actions

  3. Mill divided all actions into two categories. There are those actions which concern only the individual perforating them, or self-regarding actions. There are those actions which affect others, or other-regarding actions. And he concluded that tr.ere should be no interference with self-regarding actions, but only with such other-regarding actions as produce positive, demonstrable harm to others. Mill here frankly admitted, as a natural development of this position, that it is legitimate to oblige a man to bear his share in maintaining society—conscription is not to be regarded as an unwarranted in­fringement of liberty. He must not make himself a nuisance to ether people. But if he refrains from molesting others in what con­cerns them, and merely acts according to his own inclination and judgment in things which concern himself, the same reasons which show that opinion should be free, prove also that he should be allowed, without molestation, to carry his opinions into practice, at his own cost. This is what individuality means : the individual's own nature and its development, and not traditions or customs of the people, must be the determining factor. If this is not permitted, if a man is not to be allowed to develop his own character at his own risk, then there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.


    1. force for many centuries thereafter. Apart from the principle the author refers to, it also sanctioned in Greek social life the principle of retaliation {Lex Talionis).

    Mill includes in the region of human liberty the inward domain of consciousness, demanding liberty of conscience in the most com­prehensive sense, liberty of thought and feeling, absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment and all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific, moral, or theological. The liberty of expressing and pub­lishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle, since it belongs to that part of the conduct of an individual which concerns other people, but, being almost cf is much importance as the liberty of thought itself and resting iii ^roat part on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from 'a. Secondly, the principle requires, he further argued, liberty ov' tastes and pursuits, of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character, of doing as we like, subject to such



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  1. consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures so long as what we do "does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, pcrvcise, or wrong." Thirdly, from this iiberty of each individual follows the liberty within the same limits, "of combination among individuals ; freedom to unite for any purpose not involving harm to others : the persons com­bining being supposed to be of full age and not forced or deceived."0

  2. Mill wanted to promote the development of individual men and women, for he was convinced that all wise and noble things come, and must come, from individuals. According to him. there can be no self-development without liberty. It is this connection between liberty an i self-development which interests him most, and he went on to argue that liberty is necessary for the happiness of society. He writes in On Liberty :

  3. "No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, res­pected, is free, whatever may be its form of government ; and none is completely free in which they do not exist absolute and unqualified. The only freedom which deserves the Dame is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive ethers cf theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own heait;, whether bodily or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rcst."3c

  4. The Problem of Social Efhics

  5. The problem of social ethics for Mill was to separate the legiti­mate sphere of individual liberty from that of collective authority. The key to Mill's solution is social progress'. He did not value the freedom of other-regarding conduct as an end in itself. He stressed the value of liberty and urged its recognition, but he made no claim that any liberty is absolute. Individual freedom is justified, accord­ing to Mill, by a contribution to the general interest. Liberty is a valuable means to the more highly valued end of progress, in which every member of society has an interest. Mill believed that his prin­ciple supplied a practical criterion for distinguishing those actions which advance progress from those who hamper it. The former actions should be encouraged in practice, while the latter could be restrained. Thus, Mill believed, he solved the problem of the rela­tion between liberty and authority.


    1. 9 On Liberty, Chap. I. 10 Ibid.

    In his belief about the practicability of his 'very simple principle,' Mill was plainly mistaken. Implicit in his formulation of the problem is a practical question : Who should decide which actions are contrary to the general interest and should be restrained ? This



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  1. question, Mill never really answered. He said that the individual has jurisdiction over his 'self-regarding' conduct, while society has juris­diction over 'other-regarding' conduct. But this is no answer, because the problem in practice is to determine which actions adversely affect other people. When persons disagree about this, who should make the binding decision ? The individual ? Or society ? Mill gave no forthright answer to this question ; he shrank from the two logical alternatives his theory implies. Mill could not accept the view that the individual should decide because he believed that few people are capable of making reasoned decisions. The alternative, that society should decide, Mill found unpalatable, too ; after all, part of his message is to caution against the tyranny of common opinion. What Mill tacitly assumed, apparently, is that 'reason' can reveal to an exceptional few the correct answer. But doubts about this assumption are suggested by the inability of the 'saint of rationalism' himself to decide whether or not certain individual actions should be restrained in the general interest. As a practical matter, Mill's principle offers no guidance whatsoever in determining the morality of 'other-regarding' conduct.

  2. Mill's Doctrine of Individual's Liberty of Conduct

  3. Mill's doctrine of the individual's liberty of conduct may be summarized under three heads : (1) the advocacy of the due recogni­tion of the place and importance of impulse and desire in man, as distinguished from intellect, though in close connection with it—the "supreme need of amply acknowledging the active and energetic side of the individual's nature" ; (2) insistence on the view that spontaneity or individuality is a necessary ingredient in happiness or human welfare ; and (3) revolt against the conventionalities of society that hinder, or seem to hinder, the development and expression of individuality—against the despotism of social custom. His own conduct not infrequently exemplified this revolt, and, in consequence, he suffered in the public estimation. The independence that he claimed for himself, he demanded for every individual. Mill identified individual's energy with 'genius' or 'originality', and forgot that energy, in certain cases, might be mere eccentricity. It may appear not as strength, but as the weakness of character. He also did not sufficiently recognize that although a man's desires and impulses were indispensable to the development of his nature, they were not a sure guide to the proper outlet for this activity.

  4. Representative Government

  5. In his Representative Government (1861), Mill proceeded to discuss the form of government that would best apply the basic principles of liberty as he conceived them. Ideally he considered that form of government to be the best in which "the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate



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  1. of the community," every citizen not only having a voice in the ex­pression of the sovereign will, but also, at least occasionally, an actual part in the discharge of some public function. The excellence of such a government is to be deduced from two principles : first, "that any task is done best by those whose rights and interests are immediately involved" ; and second, "that the faculties of men—moral, intellectual and practical—are most developed and improved when they are in active exercise.11

  2. This description is in fact, of a form of state rather than of government, although Mill igt^red such a distinction. He named it 'representative government', and made it conform strictly to its name by ascribing to it as its essential characteristic thus :


    1. Representative Government, Chap. III.

    2. Ibid., Chap. V.

    ". . . .that the whole people, or some numerous portion of them, exercise, through deputies periodically elected by them­selves, the ultimate controlling power, which, in every constitu­tion, must reside somewhere. This ultimate power they must possess in all its completeness. They must be masters,- whenever they please, of all the operations of government."18 Although Mill apparently committed himself to the dogma of a determinate and absolute human sovereign combining the peculiarly ill-assorted thought of Austin and Blackstone, and separated himself from the French liberals like Guizot, who insisted that absolute power in any human depositary, even 'society' or the 'people', was incom­patible with rational liberty, he had a definite horror in his mind, of the tyrannical rule either of one person or of the society, working ?.s a collective authority, over the individual. He knew that even this system of government has its weaknesses. The most dangerous of them, he thought, is the exposure to the unjust domination of the numerical majority. An inevitable tendency of popular government toward 'collective mediocrity' enhances the peril from this source, so that power gravitates surely toward the less intelligent classes of the people. To counteract this, Mill supported the system of pro­portional representation, which he regarded as the necessary comple­ment of democratic government. He realized that the value of votes is not always equal. Intelligence, education, and superior virtue count for more than ignorance, stupidity, and indifferent character. Hence he advocated plurality of votes to the higher educated citizens. He even went the length of drawing out a scheme and grouping citi­zens so as to show what classes should and what should not be allowed a plurality of votes, the basis of the classification being mental culture and moral qualities. By introducing this system, he believed, the evils of extending the suffrage would be minimized, and the instructed minority would have a share in the government that



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  1. would make always for progress. Under such a system the able man would be sure of coming to the position where the ability would tell for the common good, instead of remaining submerged beneath the surge of the mediocre and worse."13

  2. The question, which Mill always asked himself, is : How can I make democracy safe for the world, how can I ensure that this inevitable process will be for the good and not the evil of mankind 7 And his answer was well summed up in words which Lord Lothian once used with telling effect to an Indian audience. It runs as: "Democracy is not a gift to be conferred, but a habit to be acquired. It cannot succeed unless it produces a race of aristocrats—and an aristotrat I would define as one who puts more into life than he takes out of it." Mill was certain that democracy can produce aristocrats so defined. His basic assumption is that men are made what they are by their education. By education he did not mean that which is exclusively concerned with books and academic studies. "The main branch of the education of human beings," he said, "is their habitual employment." He was an advocate of industrial as well as of political democracy. He believed, too, in education "in and through the exer­cise of social duties."

  3. Proportional Representation


    1. 13 Ibid., Chap. VII.

    Mill showed a difference between true and false Democracy. The principle, "every man to count for one ; no man for more than one," is, he thought, a principle of false democracy. For it implies the belief that any man is as good as any other, a belief which not only ignores the obvious differences of intelligence and virtue between men but which Mill believed to be "almost as detrimental to morai and intellectual excellence as any effect which most forms of govern­ment can produce." 'Exclusive Government by a Class' is false democracy. True democracy, on the contrary, will give weight and influence to all the different elements of society. It will give plural votes to capable persons. It will insist on proportional representation. It will also abolish the ballot since "people will give dishonest or mean votes from lucre, from malice, from pique, from personal rivalry, even from the interests of prejudices of class or sect, more readily in secret than in public." Mill would grant, in a true democracy, suffrage to all adults (women as well as men) of adequate age, conditioned by the fact that the voter is a tax-payer, not under legal disqualifica­tion. The suffrage that he contemplated, therefore, was to be univer­sal but graduated. The requirement that the voter should be a tax­payer necessitated the lowering of the amount of tax demanded, if the power of voting were to reach the poorer classes. Although he did not discuss the question of Monarchy, he regarded second chamber as necessary for a true and successful democracy, which is not very



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  1. satisfactory from a practical viewpoint. In the second chamber will be especially represented those factors in the national life which will never be adequately represented in an assembly popularly elected, so composed as to "incline it to oppose itself to the class interests of the majority, and qualify it to raise its voice with authority against their errors and weaknesses." True democracy will insist that representa­tives are true representatives and not mere delegates. Its will not ignore the "radical distinction between controlling the business of government and actually doing it," but will realize that the true func­tion of a parliament is not to administer but to watch and supervise the administration. And, lastly, it will be alive to the danger of majo­rity tyranny, for it will know that "the silent sympathy of the majority may support on the scaffold the martyr of one man's tyranny ; but if we would imagine the situation of a victim of the majority itself we must look to the annals of religious persecution for a parallel."11

  2. These discussions illustrate the practical bearing of Mill's theory. The Reform Act of 1867 was already in debate and it furnished the basis of his argument. On the practical issues of the times he was a liberal rather than a radical. His speculative doctrine remained immovably, however, that of his early training. Truth and righteous­ness in society and government were discoverable through the process of logical deduction from the utilitarian dogmas as to the nature and end of man. He inherited a Benthamite system of thought which he found too confining for his inquiring nature, yet he was unable to break away from utilitarianism entirely and start afresh to build a system more congenial to his wide-ranging intellect. His bent of mind was for analysis instead of synthesis. But this surely can be only a part of the explanation. The fact is that Mill was disposed to entertain conflicting views on issues. The question is why he was so disposed. The answer is suggested by the peculiar role, it was Mill's destiny to play in modern thought-


    1. 14 Ibid.

    John Stuart Mill is a pathetically symbolic figure in the develop­ment of British political thought. In his writings we find reflected the intellectual cross-currents of the mid-nineteenth century, contra­dictory though they were. For Mill stood midway in a transition in British thought, not completed in his lifetime. Mill, born into the utilitarian movement, was in his youth a radical reformer. He and his set agitated for the repeal of legislation which imposed restraints on the many members of British society for the benefit of the landed aristocracy. Their agitations bore fruit. Then in his later years Mill's enthusiasm for popular government declined, finally to the point of frank hostiliiy toward democratic rule. Mill accounted for this shift in his thinking largely by the impression that Alexis de



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  1. Tocqueville's 'remarkable work' made on him.ls In this report on the American experiment in democracy, what impressed him most, Mill said, was the description of the 'weaknesses' and 'dangers' of popular rule. The basic problem in a system of popular government. Mill came to feel, is to prevent the tyranny by a majority of the com­mon people—"the uncultivated herd who now compose the labouring masses"—over a minority of exceptional individuals. This feeling Mill shared with other middle-class Liberals of the nineteenth century.

  2. His Middle-Class Liberalism

  3. Mill's theory, in fact, represents the best and the worst in liberal­ism. Out of utilitarianism there emerged two contrary traditions : in the fertile intellectual soil cultivated by the Benthamites, the middle-class liberalism and the working-class socialism of the nine­teenth-century Britain took seed. Both the individualist Herbert Spencer and the collectivist Robert Owen could look for inspiration to the utilitarian creed. But middle-class liberalism was a half-way house between the Radical reform of the Benthamites and the Fabian reform of the socialists. This house John Stuart Mill occupied, but not with ease and comfort. Mill recognized in his Principles of Political Economy that distribution was a matter of artificial arrange­ment which might be regulated by the state, and advocated taxation of the unearned increment of land. Here he laid the foundations which the Fabian party was destined to build. The essay On Liberty was, it is true, a fine indication of spiritual liberty and originality against restraints whether of legislation or of social opinion, but the trend towards something like State Socialism still remained : and in his Autobiography Mill tells us that he looked forward to a time when "the division of the produce of labour. . . .will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice." In his essay On Utilitarianism he so far abandoned the principle of self-interest as to adopt the principle of self-sacrifice. "To serve the happiness of others by the absolute sacrifice of his own," was, he felt, in the present very imper­fect state of the world's arrangements, "the highest virtue that can be found in man."

  4. His Estimate

  5. As such, Mill was neither an authentic individualist nor a genuine collectivist. In fact, he was not a doctrinaire thinker at all. He was a liberal who wanted both to eat and keep his political cake. But Mill's uncommon commonsense told him he could do neither.

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