Good Titles For History Essays On Ireland



mill the philosopher, the economist, the general essayist and critic appears here in yet another capacity—as a radical journalist and party politician. Most of the articles in this volume were written to define the purpose of, and give direction to, the Radical party in Parliament during the 1830s; and even the articles on Ireland and the early articles on other subjects provide evidence of Mill’s radical inclinations at other times, though, of course, Mill’s discussion of Ireland is also important in the history of English controversy about that island. Most of these essays were written for journals that Mill helped to establish: the Westminster Review, the Parliamentary History and Review, the London Review, and the London and Westminster Review. The only exceptions were the independently published pamphlet England and Ireland, and his contributions to the Monthly Repository, which was edited by his friend, the Radical and Unitarian, William Johnson Fox. His successive contributions to each of these journals is closely related to the history of Benthamite radicalism; and, especially when combined with his correspondence, they show that Mill’s radicalism during the 1820s and 1830s defined a distinct and important episode in his life, and that he participated in events significant in parliamentary history. This introduction, except for the last part on Ireland, describes Mill’s radicalism during this early period, including his rationale for a Radical party, and his activities on behalf of that party during the 1830s. It also, in describing the relation of the mental crisis to his radicalism, shows that his resolution of the crisis allowed him to continue working and writing for the radical cause despite the changes in outlook and political philosophy that accompanied it.

Since most of the articles in this volume deal with party programmes and tactics, they emphatically belong in the realm of practice, and they are markedly different from the theoretical writings on politics that we usually associate with Mill.1 Practically oriented as these articles were, however, they also had a theoretical Edition: current; Page: [viii] dimension, for he promoted a political enterprise with arguments that originated in Benthamite political philosophy. Mill’s radicalism, as an extension of the Benthamite position, is readily distinguished from other radical doctrines. Its principled basis allowed him to claim that it was uniquely philosophic, and thus it justified his invention and use of the phrase “Philosophic Radicalism.”


mill’s career as a radical reformer began with his early education. When he was only six his father thought of him as the one to carry on the work begun by Bentham and himself. James Mill, during a period of illness, told Bentham of his hope that, in the event of his own death, his son would be brought up to be “a successor worthy of both of us.”2 James Mill, however, lived to carry out his educational mission himself, and he accomplished it with great effectiveness. John Stuart Mill later recalls having had “juvenile aspirations to the character of a democratic champion”; and, he continues, “the most transcendant glory I was capable of conceiving, was that of figuring, successful or unsuccessful, as a Girondist in an English Convention.”3

Mill’s wish to be a reformer was given additional impetus in 1821 (at age fifteen) when he read Traités de législation, Dumont’s redaction of Bentham. His education up to this time “had been, in a certain sense, already a course of Benthamism”: but the impact of this book was dramatic—it was “an epoch in my life; one of the turning points in my mental history.” All he had previously learned seemed to fall into place; Mill now felt he had direction and purpose as a reformer. Bentham’s book opened “a clearer and broader conception of what human opinions and institutions ought to be, how they might be made what they ought to be, and how far removed from it they now are.” Consequently Mill “now had opinions; a creed, a doctrine, a philosophy; in one among the best senses of the word, a religion; the inculcation and diffusion of which could be made the principal outward purpose of a life.” This new understanding was the initiation of Mill into radical politics, for he now had a “vista of improvement” which lit up his life and gave “a definite shape” to his aspirations.4

Mill’s early assimilation of radicalism was evident in “Brodie’s History of the British Empire” (3-58 below),5 an article written at age eighteen. He used Bentham’s ideas to analyze seventeenth-century constitutional conflicts and to Edition: current; Page: [ix] criticize Hume’s defence of Charles I. Hume wrote a “romance,” Mill said, which generally “allies itself with the sinister interests of the few” while being indifferent to the “sufferings of the many,” and he failed to consider “the only true end of morality, the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (3-4). Mill savagely criticized Hume as a defender of Stuart despotism, a dissembler, a perjuror (49), who involved himself in a “labyrinth of falsehood” (43). Indulgent to Stuart persecution (17), Hume became “the open and avowed advocate of despotism” (16). When Mill turned his attention to the parliamentary opposition, he tried to cast the Independents as seventeenth-century versions of nineteenth-century Radicals. They were republicans who upheld “the religion of the enlightened, and the enlightened are necessarily enemies to aristocracy” (47).6

Bentham’s views on sinister and universal interests and the need for democratic reforms, and his belief that the most important conflict was between the aristocracy (represented by Whigs and Tories) and the people (represented by Radicals), were passed from Bentham to James Mill and subsequently to John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals. Bentham was critical of all institutions sanctioned by traditional authority, especially the common law and the British constitution. He regarded all law-making and administration of public affairs as disfigured by the aristocratic (and monarchical) monopoly of power. This monopoly created sinister interests which had many undesirable consequences, including unnecessary wars and unjustifiable empire building, but Bentham especially emphasized domestic corruption. The monarch and the aristocracy obtained benefits, such as sinecures and pensions, denied to others. The government, supposedly acting as trustees for the people, instead adopted the principle that “the substance of the people was a fund, out of which . . . fortunes . . . ought to be—made.” Such predatory activity and the improper distribution of “power, money, [and] factitious dignity” were made possible by “separate, and consequently with reference to the public service, . . . sinister interests.”7 This concept of sinister interests was central to Bentham’s radical political analysis.

Bentham’s remedy was “democratic ascendancy.” Under it, office-holders would be restrained from seeking corrupt benefits. Universal suffrage, secret ballot, and annual parliaments would subject office-holders to scrutiny by those who stood to lose from the existence of sinister interests; thus these democratic practices would promote “the universal interest . . . of the whole people.” Democratic ascendancy was recommended as the best means to the desired goal, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.8

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Any persons or groups, whatever their social class or economic condition, could, according to Bentham, have sinister interests, but in the circumstances of the early nineteenth century the aristocracy was the most obvious and compelling example of a class that enjoyed such corrupt interests. His analysis pointed to fundamental conflict, under existing constitutional arrangements, between the aristocracy and the remainder of the populace. In this dispute the aristocracy was represented by the Whigs and the Tories, and the populace by Radicals, whom he also called “People’s-men.”9 This conflict superseded the contest of parties familiar to most observers, and although it was invisible to many, to Bentham it was the more significant contest. Whigs and Tories, far from being enemies, were not significantly different. “Both parties . . . acting under the dominion of the same seductive and corruptive influence—will be seen to possess the same separate and sinister interest:—an interest completely and unchangeably opposite to that of the whole uncorrupt portion of the people.”10 Despite their superficial quarrels, the two aristocratic parties shared a class interest: “That which the Tories have in possession . . . the Whigs have before them in prospect and expectancy.”11

Bentham laid the foundation of the Mills’ radicalism, but James Mill generated most of the argument and rhetoric that John Stuart Mill adopted in his early years. Young Mill read his father’s works, usually if not always in manuscript, conversed about them at length with him, and proof-read some as well. Among these works was the History of British India, which, James Mill said, “will make no bad introduction to the study of civil society in general. The subject afforded an opportunity of laying open the principles and laws of the social order. . . .”12 There were also James Mill’s Encyclopaedia Britannica articles, which diagnosed problems and outlined remedies on such matters as government, colonies, education, law, the press, prisons, and poor relief.13 And a few years later there were his articles in the Westminster Review on the main Whig and Tory quarterlies and the parties they represented.14

Parliamentary reform was regarded by Bentham and James Mill as supremely important, for they assumed that all other reforms, those of tariffs, education, and law, for example, would be achieved without difficulty once the popular or universal interest was represented in Parliament. An early statement of James Mill’s arguments for radical reform of Parliament may be found in his essay “Government,” although John Stuart Mill probably was familiar with them from Edition: current; Page: [xi] his father’s unpublished dialogue on government composed on the Platonic model.15 Written in an austere style for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Government” in fact was a polemical statement, as both Ricardo and John Stuart Mill recognized.16

The essay, far more extreme than was apparent, was influential in shaping the political thought of Philosophic Radicalism. Frequently it has been suggested that because it was a defence of the middle class, it was not an argument for complete democracy. This interpretation, however, ignores the fact that it was in its main features consistent with Bentham’s Plan of Parliamentary Reform, a fully democratic work. Certainly John Stuart Mill regarded his father as a democrat. James Mill, he said, “thought that when the legislature no longer represented a class interest, it would aim at the general interest,” and therefore “a democratic suffrage [was] the principal article of his political creed.”17 James Mill’s severest and most discerning critic, Thomas Babington Macaulay, also recognized that Mill was “in favour of pure democracy.”18

James Mill’s rationale for a democratic suffrage was an important link between Bentham’s advocacy of universal suffrage and John Stuart Mill’s radicalism during the 1830s. “Government,” which was more widely read than any of his other political writings, had a powerful impact on the young Radicals, becoming Edition: current; Page: [xii] “almost a text-book to many of those who may be termed the Philosophic Radicals.”19 James Mill’s influence was greatly reinforced by his conversation with the notable, even if not large, group of disciples that gathered around him during the 1820s and early 1830s, including some that John Stuart Mill brought into the fold: Charles Austin, Edward Strutt, John Romilly, William Ellis, and John Arthur Roebuck. James Mill’s impact was enhanced by the distance between these disciples and the aging Bentham (now in his seventies), who at this time was more interested in law reform and codification than in parliamentary politics. Bentham’s distance from the Radicals close to the Mills was accentuated by his intimacy with John Bowring, who was disliked and distrusted by James Mill. In 1825 some of these tensions surfaced when the Mills and their followers reduced their contributions to the Westminster Review and began publication of the Parliamentary History and Review, a journal in which they proclaimed Bentham’s principles without Bowring’s editorial interference.

Many, in addition to his son, have testified to James Mill’s strengths as a political teacher. George Grote, who began his parliamentary career as a Radical in 1833, recalled James Mill’s “powerful intellectual ascendency over younger minds.”20 Roebuck, despite an early quarrel with James Mill, called him his political and philosophical teacher and said, “To him I owe greater obligations than to any other man. If I know any thing, from him I learned it.”21 Another of John Stuart Mill’s young friends, William Ellis, said of his early encounter with James Mill, “‘he worked a complete change in me. He taught me how to think and what to live for.’” Indeed, Mill supplied him “with all those emotions and impulses which deserve the name of religious.”22 Harriet Grote, the historian’s wife, also observed that under James Mill’s influence “the young disciples, becoming fired with patriotic ardour on the one hand and with bitter antipathies on the other, respectively braced themselves up, prepared to wage battle when the day should come, in behalf of ‘the true faith,’ according to Mill’s ‘programme’ and preaching.”23 Such strong influence allowed John Stuart Mill to say that his father “was quite as much the head and leader of the intellectual radicals in England, as Voltaire was of the philosophes of France.”24

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This comparison with the philosophes, made by John Stuart Mill more than once, identifies the spirit in which he and the other Philosophic Radicals approached politics. His father’s opinions, he said,

were seized on with youthful fanaticism by the little knot of young men of whom I was one: and we put into them a sectarian spirit, from which, in intention at least, my father was wholly free. What we (or rather a phantom substituted in the place of us) were sometimes, by a ridiculous exaggeration, called by others, namely a “school,” some of us for a time really hoped and aspired to be. The French philosophes of the eighteenth century were the example we sought to imitate, and we hoped to accomplish no less results.25

The Philosophic Radicals’ sectarian spirit was evident in their use of a distinctive jargon irritating to others. John Stuart Mill’s adopting the utilitarian label as a “sectarian appellation,”26 for example, led Macaulay to ridicule “the project of mending a bad world by teaching people to give new names to old things.” The utilitarians, Macaulay added, invented “a new sleight of tongue.”27 Mill also confessed that “to outrer whatever was by anybody considered offensive in the doctrines and maxims of Benthamism, became at one time the badge of a small coterie of youths.”28

Mill and others in his coterie displayed this sectarian spirit in the London Debating Society where they preferred to engage in political debate with ideological opposites whose principles were as clear and explicit as their own. Mill’s group, not the liberal moderates or trimming Whigs (such as Macaulay), provided the opposition to the Tories in the Society, and almost every debate, Mill recalled, “was a bataille rangée between the ‘philosophic radicals’ and the Tory lawyers.” The debates, he said, were unusual for being philosophically extreme, so that the opponents were “thrown often into close and serré confutations of one another.”29 In noting that the Society was the only arena in which such conflict was to be found, Mill was making an allusion to the defects of Parliament itself as well as giving a hint of the worldly ambitions which were linked to his and the other Philosophic Radicals’ political speculations.

Their conduct and opinions did not go uncriticized. Henry Taylor, an official in the Colonial Office and later author of The Statesman, regarded John Stuart Mill’s views in the 1820s as being “at heart something in the nature of political fanaticism,” and in the London Debating Society Taylor spoke against the same Edition: current; Page: [xiv] facet of radicalism that provoked Macaulay’s famous critique of James Mill.30 William Empson also complained about “the most peremptory and proselytizing seminary of ipse dixitists, (to use one of their own beautiful words,) which has ever existed.” The Benthamite Radicals reminded Empson of “those abstract and dogmatical times when men were principally distinguished by the theory of morals that they might happen to profess.”31 Macaulay, at this time a prolific publicist but not yet in the House of Commons, suggested that the disciples of James Mill (whom he called a “zealot of a sect”)32 were potentially dangerous.

Even now [1827], it is impossible to disguise, that there is arising in the bosom of [the middle class] a Republican sect, as audacious, as paradoxical, as little inclined to respect antiquity, as enthusiastically attached to its ends, as unscrupulous in the choice of its means, as the French Jacobins themselves,—but far superior to the French Jacobins in acuteness and information—in caution, in patience, and in resolution. They are men whose minds have been put into training for violent exertion. . . . They profess to derive their opinions from demonstrations alone. . . . Metaphysical and political science engage their whole attention. Philosophical pride has done for them what spiritual pride did for the Puritans in a former age; it has generated in them an aversion for the fine arts, for elegant literature, and for the sentiments of chivalry. It has made them arrogant, intolerant, and impatient of all superiority. These qualities will, in spite of their real claims to respect, render them unpopular, as long as the people are satisfied with their rulers. But under an ignorant and tyrannical ministry, obstinately opposed to the most moderate and judicious innovations, their principles would spread as rapidly as those of the Puritans formerly spread, in spite of their offensive peculiarities. The public, disgusted with the blind adherence of its rulers to ancient abuses, would be reconciled to the most startling novelties. A strong democratic party would be formed in the educated class.33

Such criticism was not likely to undermine the confidence of John Stuart Mill and his fellow enthusiasts. The Philosophic Radicals were distinguished, Mill said, for writing with an “air of strong conviction . . . when scarcely any one else seemed to have an equally strong faith in as definite a creed. . . .” Thus the public eye was attracted by “the regular appearance in controversy of what seemed a new school of writers, claiming to be the legislators and theorists of this new [reformist] tendency.”34

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during the middle and late 1820s John Stuart Mill might have felt confidence in his future as a leading member of an influential coterie, but his commitment to radicalism was shaken by his mental crisis and related events, particularly, at the end of the decade, by Macaulay’s critique of James Mill’s “Government,” John Austin’s arguments in his course of lectures on jurisprudence at the University of London in 1829-30, and the early writings of Auguste Comte and the St. Simonians.

The mental crisis, which beset him in the autumn of 1826, made Mill indifferent to reform. Having been converted, as he reported, to a political creed with religious dimensions, and having seen himself as “a reformer of the world,” he now asked himself if the complete reform of the world would bring him happiness and, realizing it would not, he felt that the foundations of his life had collapsed. “I was thus, as I said to myself, left stranded at the commencement of my voyage, with a well equipped ship and a rudder, but no sail; . . . ambition seemed to have dried up within me. . . .”35 Mill for a time lost his political calling.

This crisis was responsible, as Mill acknowledged, for an “important transformation” in his “opinions and character.”36 So far as opinions were concerned, the change came, not directly from the crisis, but from certain subsequent events. These events occurred after the period of his greatest dejection had ended but before his recovery of purpose and confidence. In fact, by undermining his old beliefs, the crisis opened the way for a commitment to new ideas. Part of the process was the undercurrent of negative feelings about James Mill that are evident in his record of the crisis.

The first of these events, the publication in 1829 of Macaulay’s critiques of James Mill’s “Government,” did much to shake John Mill’s beliefs. Macaulay charged James Mill with using a priori reasoning inappropriate to political analysis, and argued that Mill compounded this error by making deductions from inadequate premises. James Mill’s democratic prescription, Macaulay argued, would not necessarily promote policies reflecting the universal interest.37 This attack, John Stuart Mill confessed, “gave me much to think about.” Though, he says,

the tone was unbecoming . . . there was truth in several of his strictures on my father’s treatment of the subject; that my father’s premises were really too narrow, and included but a small number of the general truths, on which, in politics, the important consequences depend. Identity of interest between the governing body and the community at large, is not, Edition: current; Page: [xvi] in any practical sense which can be attached to it, the only thing on which good government depends; neither can this identity of interest be secured by the mere conditions of election. I was not at all satisfied with the mode in which my father met the criticisms of Macaulay.38

Mill now thought there was something “fundamentally erroneous” in his father’s “conception of philosophical Method.”39

Also contributing to the change in Mill’s beliefs were John Austin’s lectures (which Mill attended during the session that began in November, 1829) and his exposure to St. Simonianism. Whereas Macaulay’s attack undermined his confidence in the soundness of “Government,” and by extension much else, without providing anything to put in its place, John Austin and the St. Simonians suggested to Mill political principles that were alternatives to his old radicalism and that, at least to their authors, seemed incompatible with Benthamite radicalism. Mill’s adoption of several ideas from Austin and the St. Simonians for a while prevented him from resuming his former role as a champion of the older radicalism. Only after an intellectual struggle was he able to accommodate the new ideas to the old.

The most important of these new ideas concerned political authority. In 1829 he began to develop the view that it ought to be exercised by those with special knowledge of public matters, and began speaking about the “authority of the instructed.”40 Since this notion circumscribed the political role of ordinary citizens, he also advocated the multitude’s deference to knowledgeable authority. These opinions, markedly alien to Benthamite radicalism and his father’s political principles, had their origin in writings of the St. Simonians and in John Austin’s lectures on jurisprudence (which is not to say that Austin’s political thought and St. Simonianism were the same).41

Austin’s advocacy of vesting authority in those with knowledge was closely tied to his complete confidence that the method of science could be applied to most fields of knowledge. He was so impressed by the achievements of natural science and the progress of political economy that he looked forward to a parallel emergence of political and moral science. By using the principle of utility, these sciences would discover the sources of improvement, and the result would be a science of ethics, including the sciences of law, morality, and political science. Edition: current; Page: [xvii] Since such scientific knowledge was accessible only to comparatively few, however, authority could be properly exercised only by them, and most persons were expected to accept their conclusions “on authority, testimony, or trust.”42

These ideas made Austin anything but a radical. He had been an orthodox Benthamite until, in 1827, he began a year-and-a-half stay in Germany, but his new attitudes to authority and trust were incompatible with the democratic arrangements proposed by Bentham. Austin unmistakably rejected radicalism in his denying that “the power of the sovereign flows from the people, or [that] the people is the fountain of sovereign power.”43 He also complained about “the stupid and infuriate majority,” and condemned Radical leaders, saying that “the guides of the multitude [were] moved by sinister interests, or by prejudices which are the offspring of such interests.”44 John Mill noted Austin’s move away from radicalism, reporting that in Germany Austin “acquired an indifference, bordering on contempt, for the progress of popular institutions. . . .”45 Austin’s relations with Bentham became somewhat strained at this time, and Sarah Austin (whose views were very close to her husband’s) said she “excite[d] horror among [her] Radical friends for not believing that all salvation comes of certain organic forms of government.”46

Another alternative to Benthamism was St. Simonianism. Mill became acquainted with the sect in 1829 and 1830, and he claimed to have read everything they wrote, though, of course, he did not share all their beliefs.47 Among other things, he found in St. Simonian writings a theory of history that asserted that society progressed through alternating stages, called organic and critical. Organic epochs are characterized by widely shared beliefs and clearly defined, shared goals. In such periods society is arranged hierarchically, with the truly superior having the power to direct moral, scientific, and industrial activity. Although there is gross inequality, there is no discontent and no conflict. For the St. Simonians, organic eras existed when Greek and Roman polytheism were in full vigour (ending, respectively, with Pericles and Augustus), and when Catholicism and feudalism were at their height.48 Critical epochs, in contrast, are characterized by deep scepticism about the values and beliefs of the preceding organic era and finally by rejection of them. All forces join to destroy the values and institutions of the preceding era, and when this destruction is accomplished, one finds irreligion, lack of morality, and egoism, as particular interests prevail over the general Edition: current; Page: [xviii] interest. In the resultant anarchy, there is conflict between ruler and ruled, and men of ability are ignored. The St. Simonians found examples in the periods between polytheism and Christianity and from Luther to the present.49

St. Simonian ideas, like Austin’s, were far removed from Benthamite radicalism, implying, as they did, that organic were superior to critical periods, and approving cultural and religious unity and hierarchy. All that Benthamite radicalism aimed to achieve assumed the continued existence of a critical epoch, and radicalism’s highest achievement would have involved the most extreme development of the distinguishing characteristics of critical eras. The Radicals’ blindness to the necessary supercession of critical periods by organic ones was, for the St. Simonians, a disqualifying limitation.

These ideas—both Austin’s and the St. Simonians’—had a powerful impact on Mill. He came to believe that those most instructed in moral and political subjects might “carry the multitude with them by their united authority.”50 His assumption that most persons “must and do believe on authority” was an implicit rejection of Benthamite views on the role of a sceptical electorate always alert to the operation of sinister interests.51 The full extent of his commitment to these new ideas was evident in his “The Spirit of the Age,” which appeared in 1831, but even earlier his changed ideas were reflected in changed activities. Unlike his father, Mill for a few years thought there was little point in stimulating public opinion; he dropped out of the London Debating Society in 1829 and wrote little for publication.52 Although he claimed to have “entered warmly”53 into the political discussions of the time when he returned from Paris in September, 1830, his manuscript bibliography records few publications on domestic politics during the reform period, and during the height of the Reform Bill agitation he was “often surprised, how little” he really cared about extra-parliamentary politics. “The time is not yet come,” he wrote, “when a calm and impartial person can intermeddle with advantage in the questions and contests of the day.”54

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Mill recovered his sense of calling as a reformer and his radical beliefs, but only after he accommodated his new ideas about the authority of the instructed to Benthamite radicalism. He felt compelled to make the accommodation:

I found the fabric of my old and taught opinions giving way in many fresh places, and I never allowed it to fall to pieces, but was incessantly occupied in weaving it anew. I never, in the course of my transition, was content to remain, for ever so short a time, confused and unsettled. When I had taken in any new idea, I could not rest till I had adjusted its relation to my old opinions, and ascertained exactly how far its effect ought to extend in modifying or superseding them.55

The process of weaving anew, which involved influences coming from Coleridge, Carlyle, and Harriet Taylor, as well as from John Austin and the St. Simonians, continued for much of his life, but it was a major occupation for him during the 1830s.

If Mill’s metaphor of weaving suggests a harmonious intertwining, it is somewhat misleading, for initially his old and new ideas were not so much woven together as simply combined. Rather than choose between them, Mill now regarded both the old ideas, which emphasized popular control, and the new, which emphasized instructed leadership, as equally necessary: “the grand difficulty in politics will for a long time be, how best to conciliate the two great elements on which good government depends; to combine the greatest amount of the advantage derived from the independent judgment of a specially instructed Few, with the greatest degree of the security for rectitude of pupose derived from rendering those Few responsible to the Many.”56 This combination was necessary because each of its main ingredients was by itself insufficient. Benthamite radicalism provided a popular check on authority but made no provision for instructed authority. By attempting to combine these two approaches, Mill was hoping to provide for “the two great elements on which good government depends.”57

This wish to combine two diverse outlooks led Mill to use the language of eclecticism. He described the truth as “many sided,”58 and advocated “a catholic Edition: current; Page: [xx] spirit in philosophy.”59 Trying to combine fragments of the truth and to reconcile persons who represented different “half truths,”60 he sought “practical eclecticism,”61 and he tried to keep “as firm hold of one side of the truth as [he] took of the other.”62

At this time Mill thought of his political speculations as taking place on a higher plane than they had occupied earlier. Whereas previously he (like Bentham and his father) had regarded certain model institutions as the end result of speculation, now, without rejecting his old conclusions about model (i.e., democratic) institutions, he went further. In his words, “If I am asked what system of political philosophy I substituted for that which, as a philosophy, I had abandoned, I answer, no system: only a conviction, that the true system was something much more complex and many sided than I had previously had any idea of, and that its office was to supply, not a set of model institutions, but principles from which the institutions suitable to any given circumstances might be deduced.”63 Of course, viewed from this higher plane, James Mill’s contribution to political philosophy was greatly diminished. Thus John Mill became “aware of many things which [his father’s] doctrine, professing to be a theory of government in general, ought to have made room for, and did not.”64 He no longer accepted “Government” as embodying scientific theory, and thought his father should have answered Macaulay by acknowledging that the essay was not a scientific treatise but only a tract in support of parliamentary reform.65 Although he did not use the phrase in reference to his father, clearly he thought James Mill had grasped only a “half-truth.”

Mill’s search for ways of combining the diverse understandings of Bentham and his father, on the one hand, and of Austin and the St. Simonians, on the other, was revealed most clearly in his articles on Bailey, Tocqueville, Bentham, and Coleridge (and much later, of course, in Considerations on Representative Government). Whereas he castigated as false democracy the simple majoritarianism which he associated with the recommendations of Bentham and James Mill, he saw true or rational democracy as the kind that, in allowing for representation of minorities, including the minority of the educated, facilitated leadership by the instructed few in combination with a democratic suffrage that provided popular control. This line of thinking was also evident in his belief that the main thrust of eighteenth-century political philosophy, represented by the philosophes on the Continent and in England by Bentham (and, by implication, his father), had to be combined with the main theme of nineteenth-century thought as represented by the Edition: current; Page: [xxi] German romantics and in England by Coleridge. Whereas Bentham taught the need for popular control, Coleridge, with his notion of a clerisy, promoted the idea of enlightened authority that commanded deference from the populace. “Whoever could master the premises and combine the methods of both [Bentham and Coleridge], would possess the entire English philosophy of their age,”66 Mill said, and described his wish to synthesize Bentham and Coleridge as a “scheme of conciliation between the old and the new ‘philosophic radicalism.’”67

In combining the new ideas with the old radicalism, Mill was greatly helped by a theory of history that allowed him to visualize the progressive development of society. He was exposed to such a theory in St. Simonianism, which provided him with a “connected view . . . of the natural order of human progress.”68 This permitted him to assume that the combination of enlightened leadership and democratic control would be viable; that is, true democracy as he understood it could come to exist.

After Mill had persuaded himself that the old radicalism was reconcilable with his new ideas, he could co-operate with the other Radicals in practical politics. While he had some goals that were not theirs, he shared their wish for an extended suffrage, shorter parliaments, and the secret ballot. The “change in the premises of my political philosophy,” he says, “did not alter my practical political creed as to the requirements of my own time and country. I was as much as ever a radical and democrat, for Europe, and especially for England.”69 Democracy, however, would have put into practice only some of Mill’s political principles, whereas for the other Radicals it would have been closer to complete fulfilment of their hopes.

In the absence of complete agreement, relations between Mill and the other Philosophic Radicals were somewhat strained. Since they were willing to apply only some of his political principles, he regarded them as narrow. They saw “clearly what they did see, though it was but little.” As they were narrow, he regarded them as incomplete, “half-men.”70 All the same, he was “able to cooperate with them in their own field of usefulness, though perhaps they would not always join [him] in [his].”71 Mill also subjected his father to two standards of judgment, approving his ideas at one level but not the other. There was oblique criticism of him in an appendix to Edward Lytton Bulwer’s England and the English (London, 1833) and in references to spokesmen for the philosophy of the eighteenth century in the essay on Bentham; also in the Autobiography Mill confessed to feeling quite distant from James Mill’s “tone of thought and feeling,” and said his father probably considered him “a deserter from his standard,” Edition: current; Page: [xxii] although at the same time “we were almost always in strong agreement on the political questions of the day.”72

Although Mill was willing to co-operate with the other Philosophic Radicals, their feelings about him were affected by suspicions that his new ideas undermined his status as a Radical. Roebuck complained about Mill’s belief “in the advantages to be derived from an Aristocracy of intellect.”73 Mrs. Grote referred to that “wayward intellectual deity John Mill,”74 and after the publication of the article on Bentham, Francis Place expressed the view “that [since] John Mill has made great progress in becoming a German Metaphysical Mystic, excentricity [sic] and absurdity must occasionally be the result.”75

During the 1830s Mill advocated both parts of his political philosophy. On some occasions he explained the need for allowing the “instructed few” a large measure of authority; at other times he emphasized the more restricted vision of Benthamite radicalism, and sought to be the guide and tactician for the parliamentary Radicals. In the latter mood, he looked for fairly quick results, whereas in the former he was trying to prepare the ground for the acceptance of new principles to be realized in the more distant future. Although his explanations of the new ideas mainly appeared in essays published in other volumes of the Collected Works, occasionally these ideas are found in articles in this volume. A notable example is his anticipation of his proposal in Considerations on Representative Government (1861) for a Legislative Commission in an article of 1834 in the Monthly Repository (160).76


mill became a political journalist to implement his radical creed. He often wished to be in Parliament with other Philosophic Radicals, and only his official Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] position at India House prevented his going to the hustings.77 Consequently he turned to journalism with the belief—or the hope—that “words are deeds, and the cause of deeds.”78 He looked enviously at France where “editors of daily journals may be considered as individually the head, or at lowest the right hand, of a political party.”79 There was the example of Armand Carrel, who “made himself, without a seat in the legislature or any public station beyond the editorship of his journal, the most powerful political leader of his age and country” (380). With ambition to play such a role, Mill, in co-operation with his father and Sir William Molesworth, set up a new quarterly journal in 1835 (initially the London Review and, after a merger in 1836, the London and Westminster). It was to be “a periodical organ of philosophic radicalism, to take the place which the Westminster Review had been intended to fill.” One of its principal purposes “was to stir up the educated Radicals, in and out of Parliament, to exertion, and induce them to make themselves, what I thought by using the proper means they might become—a powerful party capable of taking the government of the country, or at least of dictating the terms on which they should share it with the Whigs.”80 Mill was the real though not the nominal editor, and after Molesworth withdrew in 1837 he became the proprietor as well.

Mill in his journalism frequently discussed Radical party goals, explaining that constitutional change, that is, organic reform, was essential, but that it was only a means to the real end, improvement. Thus he said that Radicals wanted codification of the laws, cheap legal procedures, access to the courts for the poor, abolition of the corn laws and of restrictions on industry, elimination of useless expenditures, improvement of conditions in Ireland, and a rational administration (348, 397). Thinking the Reform Act of 1832 “wholly insufficient” (186), he did not expect much improvement from the post-Reform Bill parliaments, and therefore advocated organic reform, that is, a more democratic constitution. Of course, if improvements could have been achieved without such fundamental changes, Mill would have been satisfied, but he assumed that the aristocratic classes were unwilling to make more than trivial concessions to liberal opinion. Thus, although constitutional changes were only the means to general improvement, Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] Mill said, “necessary means we believe them to be” (348).81 Consequently, the demand for organic reforms became the hallmark of Philosophic Radicalism.

Although Radicals might differ about how far to go in shifting power away from the aristocracy, they agreed about the kind of change required: “it must be by diminishing the power of those who are unjustly favoured, and giving more to those who are unjustly depressed: it must be by adding weight in the scale to the two elements of Numbers and Intelligence, and taking it from that of Privilege” (479). The traditional Radical programme for achieving this change emphasized universal suffrage, secret ballot, and frequent elections. Mill said little about annual parliaments but appears to have wanted shorter, perhaps triennial, ones. He was outspoken in calling for the ballot, not only because it would reduce bribery and intimidation of electors, but because it would help shift the balance of power: once it became a cabinet measure, “reform will have finally triumphed: the aristocratical principle will be completely annihilated, and we shall enter into a new era of government.”82 As to the franchise, he wanted to see it greatly extended at this time, but he did not press for universal suffrage, although he regarded it as ultimately necessary and desirable. By arguing that it could be put off for a time, he was not doubting its importance and value but was recognizing that it was unlikely that a broadly based radical movement could be formed if extremists within it insisted on universal suffrage. He therefore called for its gradual introduction and was evidently pleased when its not being a pressing issue allowed him to avoid an unequivocal statement of his opinion (482, 488-9).83 When he could not avoid stating his view, however, Mill, although hesitantly, showed his hand, as when he said of the parliamentary Radicals:

They are the only party who do not in their hearts condemn the whole of their operative fellow-citizens to perpetual helotage, to a state of exclusion from all direct influence on national affairs. . . . They look forward to a time, most of them think it is not yet come, when the whole adult population shall be qualified to give an equal voice in the election of members of Parliament. Others believe this and tremble; they believe it, and rejoice; and instead of wishing to retard, they anxiously desire . . . to hasten this progress. (397.)

Of course, this description of the parliamentary Radicals was a description of Mill himself.

Mill’s wish to promote a Radical party with a programme of organic reform rested on the assumption that a fundamental conflict was taking place between the aristocratic and non-aristocratic classes over control of government. This notion was adopted from Bentham and his father, but the language Mill used to describe Edition: current; Page: [xxv] the conflict was more varied than theirs: the Disqualified vs. the Privileged; Natural Radicals vs. Natural Opponents of Radicalism; Numbers and Intelligence vs. Privilege; the Aggrieved vs. the Satisfied; the Many vs. the Few. Whatever the labels, Mill, like Bentham and his father, had in mind a conflict between Radicals, as spokesmen for the universal or general interest and representing the “People,” and Conservatives, as spokesmen for particular or sinister interests and representing the Aristocracy. Mill’s analysis was evident in much of what he wrote during the 1830s, but it was presented most elaborately in the remarkable essay, “Reorganization of the Reform Party,” where he described the conflict as arising out of social structure. Political views, he explained, were a matter of social position, interest, and class (465-95 passim, esp. 469).84

Mill’s view of the aristocratic classes was not very different from his father’s. They were, generally, the landed and monied classes, especially the former, and they controlled the legislature, the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords (101-2 and 184). They made laws in their own interest, most notably the monopolistic Corn Laws which made bread unnecessarily expensive for the poor (170, 470), and also in defence of their amusements, as Mill explained in his early article on the Game Laws, which had important consequences for a great part of the agricultural population (101-3, 107). They also biassed justice by administering the laws in their own class interest (471, 483). Furthermore, they administered the Poor Laws; and the army, navy, and civil patronage belonged to them exclusively (170). Altogether the government was “a selfish oligarchy, carried on for the personal benefit of the ruling classes” (479). The Church, too, was but a branch of the aristocracy (471).85 In short, the aristocracy had vast unjust power; it was exploitive, selfish, and indifferent to the interests of others. Clearly its members, the bulwark of what Mill called the Privileged, Conservative, Satisfied Classes, exploited their sinister interest at the expense of the people (469-70).

In opposition to the aristocratic classes, Mill portrayed the combination of groups that made up the Numbers and Intelligence and who, in their struggle against Privilege, became “natural Radicals” (468, 470). All who suffered deprivation as a result of aristocratic exclusions—whether through legislation or custom—were the Disqualified, and therefore by definition opposed to the Privileged.

All who feel oppressed, or unjustly dealt with, by any of the institutions of the country; who are taxed more heavily than other people, or for other people’s benefit; who have, or consider themselves to have, the field of employment for their pecuniary means or their bodily or mental faculties unjustly narrowed; who are denied the importance in society, or the influence in public affairs, which they consider due to them as a class, or who feel debarred as individuals from a fair chance of rising in the world; especially if others, in whom they do not recognize any superiority of merit, are artificially exalted above their Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] heads: these compose the natural Radicals; to whom must be added a large proportion of those who, from whatever cause, are habitually ill at ease in their pecuniary circumstances; the sufferers from low wages, low profits, or want of employment. . . . (470.)

Such was Mill’s attempt to define the comprehensive coalition of the discontented.

Turning to the sources of such discontents, Mill looked to amount of property and to occupational and financial circumstances—in other words, to class. First, there were the middle classes, the majority of whom, including the bulk of the manufacturing and mercantile classes (except those in protected trades), were on the side of change. In addition, there were the ten-pound electors in the towns, who belonged to the “uneasy classes,” for they lived a life of struggle and had no sense of fellow feeling with the aristocracy (476). In part these were Dissenters, who had their own grievances against the Church to supplement those they experienced as members of the middle class. “Between them and the aristocracy, there is a deeper gulph fixed than can be said of any other portion of the middle class; and when men’s consciences, and their interests, draw in the same direction, no wonder that they are irresistible” (476).86

There was another aspect of middle-class discontent about which Mill was perceptive, perhaps because he personally experienced it. It arose less from inequities leading to material deprivation than from resentments about social status, and it was experienced by “the men of active and aspiring talent” who had skilled employments “which require talent and education but confer no rank,—what may be called the non-aristocratic professions. . . . ” Such persons were natural Radicals, for, Mill asked, “what is Radicalism, but the claim of pre-eminence for personal qualities above conventional or accidental advantages” (477)? As examples Mill mentioned stewards and attorneys, but one recalls his claims for “the most virtuous and best-instructed” in “The Spirit of the Age,”87 and his observation that journalists and editors, who were influential but regarded as ungentlemanly, did not enjoy public recognition of their real power (163-4). All such persons together might be called the intelligentsia. Of course, the word was not used in England in Mill’s time, but there can be little doubt that he had in mind the phenomenon to which it refers when he discussed the political outlook of such persons.88

There is a class, now greatly multiplying in this country, and generally overlooked by politicians in their calculations; those men of talent and instruction, who are just below the rank in society which would of itself entitle them to associate with gentlemen. Persons of Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] this class have the activity and energy which the higher classes in our state of civilization and education almost universally want. . . . They are, as it is natural they should be, Radicals to a man, and Radicals generally of a deep shade. They are the natural enemies of an order of things in which they are not in their proper place. (402-3.)

In this statement, which suggests his resentment at exclusion from a deserved political station in society, Mill (despite his position in the East India Company) identified with the class of which he said, “We are felt to be the growing power . . . ” (403). His identification with such persons may explain the bitterness that is evident in some of his observations about the aristocracy (162).

Mill gave equal prominence to the working class as the other main constituent part of the opposition to the aristocracy. This was not only a matter of taking note of Chartism during the late 1830s, for before then Mill complained about the injuries done to “the people of no property, viz. those whose principal property consists in their bodily faculties.” Like the middle class and those with small property, “the most numerous and poorest class has also an interest in reducing the exorbitant power which is conferred by large property” (218, 219). So Mill included in the large, naturally radical body “the whole effective political strength of the working classes: classes deeply and increasingly discontented, and whose discontent now [1839] speaks out in a voice which will not be unheard” (478).

In discussing both middle and working classes as the opposition to the aristocracy, Mill was not unaware of conflicts of interest that divided the working from the middle classes. He took note of disagreements about universal suffrage; of quarrels between supporters of the Church and Dissenters; and above all, of “an opposition of interest, which gives birth, it would seem, to the most deep-rooted distrusts and aversions which exist in society—the opposition between capitalists and labourers” (479). When the Chartists were providing evidence of class conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie, Mill proposed that such antagonism be subordinated to the other kind of class conflict—between the aristocracy and the non-aristocratic classes—that was required by his political position. He appealed to the middle and working classes to co-operate in taking the next step, which was opposition to the aristocracy by a parliamentary Radical party (480-1). Since many middle-class radicals would not agree to universal suffrage, such co-operation required postponement of that demand, which was what the Chartists most wanted. The wish to postpone universal suffrage was also supported by Mill’s belief that education ought to precede full democracy. Meanwhile it was necessary to redress the practical grievances of the working classes without yet allowing them full participation. “The motto of a Radical politician should be, Government by means of the middle for the working classes” (483).89 Despite this concession to middle-class fear of the working class, Mill went far in asking that there should be “some members returned chiefly by the working classes. We think it of importance Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] that Mr. Lovett and Mr. Vincent [both Chartists] should make themselves heard in St. Stephen’s as well as in Palace yard [i.e., in the House of Commons as well as in public meetings], and that the legislature should not have to learn the sentiments of the working classes at second-hand.” (489.)

Mill’s supportive words for the middle class, like his father’s, were not intended to promote the interest of that class to the exclusion of the working class, nor was he particularly sympathetic to the middle class. He criticized the shopocracy (162) and, in urging that the working classes have some representation, said, “We would give [them] power, but not all power. We wish them to be strong enough to keep the middle classes in that salutary awe, without which, no doubt, those classes would be just like any other oligarchy. . . . ” (489.) It is evident that Mill was far from being comfortable with middle-class rule:

The people of property are the stronger now, and will be for many years. All the danger of injustice lies from them, and not towards them. Nothing but the progressive increase of the power of the working classes, and a progressive conviction of that increase on the part of their superiors, can be a sufficient inducement to the proprietary class to cultivate a good understanding with the working people; to take them more and more into their councils; to treat them more and more as people who deserve to be listened to, whose condition and feelings must be considered, and are best learned from their own mouths; finally, to fit them for a share in their own government, by accustoming them to be governed, not like brute animals, but beings capable of rationality, and accessible to social feelings. (219-20.)

Mill’s view of party politics during the 1830s was shaped by his belief that party conflict ought to reflect the class conflict between the aristocracy and its opponents. A Radical party should represent the anti-aristocratic interest of the diverse groups which Bentham and James Mill called the numerous classes or the People. Their party was to rest “on the whole body of radical opinion, from the whig-radicals at one extreme, to the more reasonable and practical of the working classes, and the Benthamites, on the other.”90 Far from excluding the working classes, Mill said, “A Radical party which does not rest upon the masses, is no better than a nonentity” (396). The labels he used for this party varied—it was the Radical party, popular party, Reform party, liberal party, Movement party—but whatever the label, “the small knot of philosophic radicals,” as he called them, to whom Mill offered guidance throughout the decade, was to be the most advanced part of it, and he hoped it would provide the party with leadership.

On the other side of the great conflict Mill looked for an aristocratic party made up of both Whigs and Tories. The Whigs were included despite their use of a liberal and reformist rhetoric that superficially distinguished them from the Tories. They were attached to the existing distribution of power as much as the Tories and Edition: current; Page: [xxix] were equally “terrified at the remedies” (297). In response to popular pressure the Whigs occasionally made concessions, and at these times Mill allowed a place for the most liberal of them in a comprehensively defined Radical or Reform party, but his wish and expectation was that they would combine with the Tories in an aristocratic party. This would be the party of “the English oligarchy, Whig and Tory,” and its organ (Mill said in 1834) was Lord Grey (262).

Since Radicals and Conservatives had clearly defined views on the large issue of democracy and aristocracy, they deserved to survive, but the Whigs, because of their half-hearted equivocations, did not. Thus he regarded the Whigs as “a coterie, not a party” (342), and rather optimistically noted that Conservatives and Radicals were gaining strength “at the expense not of each other, but of the Indifferents and the juste milieu,” and, he added, “there will soon be no middle party, as indeed what seemed such had long been rather an appearance than a reality” (341).91 The realignment of parties Mill wanted would remove the equivocating Whigs and make political conflict an accurate representation of the underlying class conflict. He did not use the word “realignment,” but the phenomenon to which it refers was in his mind, as it was in Bentham’s and James Mill’s. Forcing the Whigs (other than the most liberal of them) to acknowledge their shared aristocratic interest with the Tories would create a place for a Radical party that was not a subordinate partner in an uneasy alliance with the Whigs. The proper alignment would come, he said, “when the present equivocal position of parties is ended, and the question is distinctly put between Radicalism and Conservatism” (477).92

Mill’s view on party realignment illuminates his use of the phrase “Philosophic Radical.” His fairly precise notion of the meaning of the term—which he himself coined—sharply contrasts with the loose usage among historians, for whom it has referred to such things as Benthamism, utilitarianism, liberalism, laissez-faire doctrine, and radicalism so loosely defined as to include the mixture of economic and political ideas of Adam Smith, Bentham, the Mills, Nassau Senior, and Cobden.93 Mill invented the phrase to identify a small group among the many radicals who existed during the 1820s and 1830s. This group was deeply influenced by James Mill and most had associated with John Stuart Mill in the London Debating Society and in the production of the Parliamentary History and Review. Among them were George Grote, who later distinguished himself as an historian of Greece and of Greek philosophy; John Roebuck, who had a long and prominent career as a member of Parliament; and Charles Austin, who had a Edition: current; Page: [xxx] dazzling success at the bar. Older than most of the others, Joseph Parkes, a successful attorney and political agent, played a part in their deliberations; although less an enthusiast than the others, he shared some of their convictions. Francis Place, the legendary Radical tailor, must be included, although his age and his participation in the Radical movement from the 1790s gave him a special position. It also would be difficult to exclude Harriet Grote, whose lively political interests and aggressive temperament made her an active participant. Others became associated with the Philosophic Radicals during the 1830s—Henry Warburton, Charles Buller, and Sir William Molesworth being most noteworthy. What characterized the group was their association with the Mills and a belief—held by some with greater enthusiasm than by others—that by means of party realignment the Radicals could replace the Whigs. This belief was promoted by several of these Philosophic Radicals in their journalism and their parliamentary careers.

Mill used the adjective “philosophic” in describing the Radicals with whom he felt a close affinity because they took a principled—a philosophic—position on politics. Mill’s political philosophy—or perhaps one should say half of it, the part derived from Bentham and James Mill—was mainly occupied with justifying democracy against aristocratic government. He contrasted the Philosophic Radicals with historical Radicals who demanded popular institutions as an inheritance from the distant past; with metaphysical Radicals whose belief in democracy was based on a notion of abstract natural rights; with Radicals marked by irritation with a particular policy of government; and with “radicals of position, who are radicals . . . because they are not lords” (353).94 Mill’s favoured Radicals deserved to be called philosophic because they traced practical evils back to their cause, which was the aristocratic principle. Thus their motto was “enmity to the Aristocratical principle” (353).95

This justification for the adjective “philosophic” makes the label appropriate not only for Radicals, for there was an opposing position which was also philosophic. There was a type of Tory “who gives to Toryism (what can be given to it, though not to Whiggism) something like a philosophic basis; who finds for [his] opinions the soundest, the most ingenious, or the most moral arguments by which they can be supported” (335). This was “speculative Toryism,” such as Coleridge’s:

As whatever is noble or disinterested in Toryism is founded upon a recognition of the moral duty of submission to rightful authority, so the moral basis of Radicalism is the refusal to pay that submission to an authority which is usurped, or to which the accidents of birth or Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] fortune are the only title. The Tory acknowledges, along with the right to obedience, a correlative obligation to govern for the good of the ruled. . . . (478-9.)96

In the House of Commons, however, Toryism was quite different; it acted on behalf of the aristocratic “selfish oligarchy” (479); it was the Toryism for which Sir John Walsh “gets up and vents . . . shattered and worn-out absurdities,” including a defence of Tory policy in Ireland (335). Even Peel was disdained by Mill (403-4). Yet because Toryism could address the large question of aristocracy and democracy it was capable of having philosophic status. The Whigs, in contrast, although “a portion of the privileged class,” and “hostile to any thorough reform,” pretended to favour reform on behalf of the people, and consequently could be seen to be unprincipled. “Since the questions arising out of the Hanoverian succession had been set at rest, the term Whig had never been the symbol of any principles” (342).

A consequence of Mill’s “philosophic” approach to politics was a preference for conflict between extreme parties, a preference which placed the highest priority on the issue of aristocracy versus democracy. Mill, in describing how the Philosophic Radicals and the Tories gained domination of the London Debating Society, said, “our doctrines were fairly pitted against their opposites,” and with evident pride he reported that these debates “habitually consisted of the strongest arguments and most philosophic principles which either side was able to produce.”97 Later he encouraged such conflict in the House of Commons because it would be a contest “between the representatives of the two great principles,—not between two men whose policies differ from one another only by the shadow of a shade” (495). In such a contest the Whigs would be set aside and “the question [would be] distinctly put between Radicalism and Conservatism” (477).

Mill’s confidence that the Whigs could be set aside, to be replaced by a Radical party led by the Philosophic Radicals, may seem surprising in retrospect. Yet he clearly believed that if the Philosophic Radicals played their cards correctly, that is, aggressively, the Radicals would become an independent party and might ultimately gain office. As unrealistic as this view appeared to many contemporaries,98Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] it did not seem impossible to Mill (or to his father or to the other Philosophic Radicals).99 That he seriously entertained this possibility is an indication of his doctrinairism and his high political ambition during the 1830s. Sophisticated and careful as Mill was, his words show that he thought the Philosophic Radicals eligible for the highest offices. There were Radicals in and out of Parliament, he said, with the talent and energy which in time would qualify them to play a distinguished part in either a government or an opposition (386).100 He also spoke about the prospective party of moderate radicals as “our party,”101 and discussed what would happen “the moment a Ministry of Moderate Radicals comes into power.” “All things,” he said, “are ripe for it,” and its leader “is sure of everything, to the Premiership inclusive” (494, 495).102 A similar speculation in the Spectator did not exclude Mill; in describing a possible Radical cabinet, in addition to Durham (as Prime Minister), Grote (Exchequer), Hume (Home Secretary), Buller (Colonies), Warburton (Board of Trade), Molesworth (Board of Control), John Romilly (Solicitor General), it mentioned, without suggesting offices, Roebuck, Charles Austin, and Mr. John Mill.103

Since Mill denied the Whigs their usual position as a major party, they regarded his views on parliamentary politics as doctrinaire. His arguments indeed had many doctrinaire features (which were present despite his reaction against his own early Benthamite sectarianism): he looked for large-scale change, and he depreciated reforms that did not contribute to the redistribution of power;104 he was uncomfortable with compromise, and he criticized compromisers and trimmers as Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] unprincipled;105 he assumed that considerable changes could be achieved easily;106 and, as mentioned, he regarded conflict with an ideological opposite as the worthiest kind, and so was critical of moderates who stood for gradual change. This last feature of the Philosophic Radicals’ approach was identified by the Whig publicist Francis Jeffrey as early as 1826, when he responded to James Mill’s castigation of Whigs as insincere reformers and moderates: “The real reason of the animosity with which we [Whigs] are honoured by the more eager of the two extreme parties, is, that we . . . impede the assault they are impatient mutually to make on each other, and take away from them the means of that direct onset, by which the sanguine in both hosts imagine they might at once achieve a decisive victory.”107 Although other moderate critics of the Philosophic Radicals did not match Jeffrey’s incisive rhetoric, they recognized the doctrinairism. Fonblanque, once a Radical himself, late in the 1830s called them (and especially John Mill) Ultras, fanatical Radicals, pseudo-Liberals, Detrimentals, Wrongheads, and, since their tactics would have led to a Tory government, Tory Radicals.108

Leaving cert History is a challenging course and requires essay style answers. Good English skills, the ability to do research and an interest in History are all important if you do this subject. Up to 20% of your final result will be based on your research project done before the exam. 

History (Late Modern) Course Content

Irish History (1815-1993) 

  • Ireland the Union,
  • Movements for political and social reform
  • The pursuit of sovereignty
  • The Irish Diaspora
  • Politics and society in Northern Ireland
  • Government society and the economy in Ireland (1949-1989) 

History of Europe and the Wider World 1815-1993 

  • Nationalism and State Formation
  • Nation states and international tensions
  • Dictatorship and democracy
  • Division and realignment in Europe
  • European retreat from Empire and the aftermath
  • The US and the World.

The Exam

A written examination paper (80%) and a research study report (20%)

At both levels, the examination paper features a documents-based question (linked to the documents-based study) and three general questions. All four questions carry equal marks.

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