This article by John Stuart Mill (1806-73) appeared in the Parliamentary Review for the session of 1827. This article concerns itself not mainly to the issue of the Indian trade was but rather with the broader concept of free-trade. In this he commented:

It may true that the merchants, who resort thither, are generally the subjects of Great Britain; but the system exempts them from all share in the expenses incurred specifically for their convenience, is a boon, not to them, but to the consumer of the goods, of which they are only the carriers. Whatever tax might be imposed on them, would ultimately be paid by their customers the savings is purely to the nations of Eastern Asia. (Mill, 1990, p. 8)

As can be observed, Mill seemed to be none too please that the costs incurred on the East-India Company (EIC) for keeping the ports of Singapore, Malacca and Penang free of charges and duties was benefiting the 'nations of East Asia'. This comes as a puzzlement since Mill, as a utilitarian, should be interested in achieving 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'; the happy ones, in this case, being the 'nations of East Asia'. As such a question comes to mind: Was Mill saying this here because it was his duty as a representative of the EIC to protect its financial interests?


Mill, John Stuart. Writings on India. Edited by John M. Robson, Martin Moir and Zawahir Moir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; London: Routledge, c1990.

Last modified 6 November 2000