Decorated initial M

n 1865 a group of citizens of Westminster asked Mill to become a candidate for Parliament. He was disinclined to seek office (he had refused before), but agreed to stand on condition that he not incur expense, or canvass, during the campaign, that he answer no questions concerning his religious convictions, and that if elected he be free to disregard the special interests of Westminster. Despite the opinion of a local wit “that the Almighty himself could not be elected on such a programme,” Mill was returned. In Parliament he spoke for extension of the suffrage to the working class, and in the agitation following the defeat of Gladstone’s Reform Bill he bravely faced a working-class mob and quieted what might have developed into another Peterloo Massacre. He exploited the debate on Disraeli’s Reform Bill to press his own views on Personal (or Proportional) Representation, and on Female Suffrage. Although his proposal to amend the bill by substituting the word “person” for the word “man” was at first treated as hilarious, he finally secured seventy-three votes for the amendment. Mill’s advanced positions on the Irish question won him little English popularity, and he created great enmity for himself with those who took what was called the “damned nigger” view by his implacable attempt to bring Governor Eyre to justice for his brutal conduct in the suppression of the mutiny of Jamaican negroes. His sublime performances were not, however, wholly unappreciated. Gladstone, who had earlier baptized Mill “the Saint of Rationalism,” wrote of his parliamentary activity that “what his conduct there principally disclosed, at least to me, was his singular moral elevation. ... I rejoiced in his advent, and deplored his disappearance. He did us all good. In whatever party, whatever form of opinion, I sorrowfully confess such men rare” [xxxii/xxxiii].


Mill, John Stuart. The Philosophy of John Stuart Mill: Ethical, Political and Religious. Marshall Cohen, ed. New York: Modern Library, 1961.

Last modified 16 June 2019