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The 1870 Education Bill and the Method of J. S. Mill's Later Politics*

  • Bruce L. Kinzer

Extract

The last fourteen years of John Stuart Mill's life (1859-1873), which followed the death of Harriet Taylor, possessed a hefty political content. They saw the publication of his essays on parliamentary reform and Considerations on Representative Government, his impassioned identification with the North in the American Civil War, the eventful parliamentary career sandwiched between the Westminster elections of 1865 and 1868, and a final phase of activity associated with causes such as women's suffrage and land tenure reform. When Mill acted politically he usually did so with strong feeling, but in his search to give deeply held principles practical effect he understood the need for dispassionate adaptation of means to ends. Both the feeling and the adaptation are evident in his treatment of the elementary education question in 1870, a treatment that vividly illustrates how Mill operated during the decade and a half before his death.

Of the host of legislation Gladstone's first administration proposed, only one item, the 1870 Education Bill, elicited a congregation of public responses from Mill. Of course, Mill's political activity in the several years following his defeat at Westminster in autumn 1868 was not confined to the adoption of a stance on ministerial measures. With respect to women's suffrage and land reform Mill was not about to wait on any government, and his conspicuous connections with the National Society for Women's Suffrage and the Land Tenure Reform Association attracted notice at the time and have been the subject of comment since. Moreover, during his last years Mill continued to cultivate his contacts in the world of London working-class radicalism, particularly with George Odger, William Randal Cremer, and George Howell. Whereas Mill's parliamentary career has been explored in some detail, the political character of his post-Westminster years has received less attention.

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An early version of this article was presented to the 1994 Vancouver meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies. I am grateful to Brian Harrison for his robust assault on the worst of my stylistic abominations. I also have benefited from the valuable suggestions of Albion's editor and copyeditor. My debt to the late John M. Robson, Mill scholar sans pareil, is immeasurable.

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1 Mill and Harriet Taylor lived a secluded existence after their marriage in 1851. Both were troubled by ill health, and they were disdainful of “society.” Apart from a pamphlet on civil service reform, a miscellaneous collection of newspaper writings, and his defense in 1858 of the East India Company, Mill published nothing on any subject, political or otherwise, in the five years preceding Taylor's death in November 1858. (The dearth of publications, of course, did not mean his hand was idle—a good deal of writing was done in these years.) His life changed in 1859. Mill's step-daughter, Helen Taylor, took charge of his household, giving him welcome companionship, emotional support, and a residence open to dinner guests of a particular sort. He enjoyed a rejuvenated social life based mainly on new friendships formed with Henry Fawcett, Thomas Hare, and John Eliot Cairnes—men whose political convictions resembled Mill's. And 1859 saw a flurry of publication activity, featuring his essay On Liberty, the appearance of which made Mill a notable public figure for the first time.

2 See Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859), “Recent Writers on Reform” (1859), and Considerations on Representative Government (1861), in Essays on Politics and Society, ed. Robson, John M., 2 vols. (Toronto, 1977), Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, 19: 311–39, 341–70, 371577 (hereafter cited as CW); “The Contest in America” (1862) and The Slave Power” (1862), in Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, ed. Robson, John M. (Toronto, 1984), CW, 21: 125–42, 143–64; for Mill's election and parliamentary speeches, see Public and Parliamentary Speeches, ed. John M. Robson and Bruce L. Kinzer, 2 vols. (Toronto, 1988), CW, 28-29; for Subjection of Women and Mill's post-1868 speeches on women's suffrage, see Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, CW, 21: 259340, and Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 373–81, 386–91, 402–09; for Mill on the land question, see Professor Leslie on the Land Question” (1870), in Essays on Economics and Society, ed. Robson, John M., 2 vols. (Toronto, 1967), CW, 5: 669–85, Maine on Village Communities” (1871), in Writings on India, ed. Robson, John M., Moir, Martin, and Moir, Zawahir (Toronto, 1990), CW, 30: 213-28, the 1871 Programme of the Land Tenure Reform Association, in Essays on Economics and Society, CW, 5: 687–95, the speeches in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 416–24, 425–31, and three 1873 contributions to the Examiner, in Newspaper Writings, ed. Robson, Ann P. and Robson, John M., 4 vols. (Toronto, 1986), CW, 25: 1227–43.

3 The 1871 Army Bill prompted one public speech, see Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 411–15. Mill's speech on the Army Bill was not complimentary: “The bill … considered as a whole, is a step in the wrong direction. It does not appreciably strengthen us for national defence, and it contains no germs of a better system for the future” (p. 415).

4 For work on Mill and the women's suffrage movement, see Robson, Ann P., “Helen Taylor and the Founding of the National Society for Women's Suffrage,” Canadian Journal of History, 8 (1973): 122 (Robson also has written a valuable paper, as yet unpublished, on “John Stuart Mill and the Women's Suffrage Movement 1868–1873,” which she presented at the 1994 North American Conference on British Studies in Vancouver); for Mill and the land question, see Martin, David, John Stuart Mill and the Land Question (Hull, 1981); Hollander, Samuel, The Economics of John Stuart Mill, 2 vols. (Toronto, 1985), 2: 833–55, and Wolfe, Willard, From Radicalism to Socialism: Men and Ideas in the Formation of Fabian Socialist Doctrines, 1881–1889 (New Haven, 1975), pp. 5265 (an insightful paper on the topic by John M. Robson, titled “Mill and Land Tenure Reform,” was read at the 1994 North American Conference on British Studies in Vancouver).

5 For Mill's Westminster years, see Kinzer, Bruce L., Robson, Ann P.,, and Robson, John M., A Moralist in and out of Parliament: John Stuart Mill at Westminster, 1865–1868 (Toronto, 1992). By far the most valuable treatment of Mill's post-Westminster politics is Lipkes, Jeff, “Politics, Religion, and the Fate of Classical Political Economy: John Stuart Mill and His Followers, 1860–1875” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1995). Owing to its emphasis on issues related to political economy, however, this fine dissertation does not take up Mill's participation in the debate on the 1870 Education Bill.

6 A Moralist in and out of Parliament, esp. ch. 3. See also my “Introduction” to Public and Parliamentary Speeches.

7 Such matters include the 1866 bills on parliamentary reform and Irish land. It was not that Mill failed to voice his preferences, but rather that sometimes those preferences had little in common with the content of the measures to which he lent his support. Also noteworthy is Mill's restraint on the Jamaica question in the two months prior to the fall of the Russell-Gladstone administration, a period during which the substance of the “Report of the Royal Commission on Jamaica” (Parliamentary Papers [1866], 30: 489–531) was already known.

8 W. E. Gladstone” (14 November 1868), in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 28: 364.

9 “Representation of the People [2]” (13 April 1866), in ibid., pp. 58–68.

10 “Westminster Election of 1865 [2]” (5 July 1865), in ibid., p. 23.

11 For the university liberals, see Harvie, Christopher, The Lights of Liberalism: University Liberals and the Challenge of Democracy (London, 1976), and Kent, Christopher, Brains and Numbers: Elitism, Comtism, and Democracy in Mid-Victorian England (Toronto, 1978).

12 Later Letters of John Stuart Mill, eds. Mineka, Francis E. and Lindley, Dwight N., 4 vols. (Toronto, 1972), CW, 16: 1493.

13 Passage deleted from letter to William T. Thornton, ibid., 17: 1547n–8n.

14 Ibid., p. 1697.

15 See note 7.

16 Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, in Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, CW, 21: 217. Two studies by Francis W. Garforth offer the most thorough treatment of Mill's ideas concerning education: Educative Democracy: John Stuart Mill on Education and Society (Oxford, 1980) and John Stuart Mill's Theory of Education (Oxford, 1979).

17 Principles of Political Economy, ed. Robson, John M., 2 vols. (Toronto, 1965), CW, 3: 947.

18 Ibid., pp. 947–48.

19 ibid., pp. 948–49.

20 For the nature of this change, see Hurt, John, Education in Evolution: Church, State, Society, and Popular Education, 1800–1870 (London, 1971); the most recent major treatment is Smelser, Neil J., Social Paralysis and Social Change: British Working-Class Education in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley, 1991).

21 Notes on the Newspapers,” in Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, ed. Robson, John M. (Toronto, 1982), CW, 6: 199.

22 Principles of Political Economy, CW, 3: 949–50.

23 Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, in Essays on Politics and Society, CW, 19: 327.

24 Later Letters, CW, 17: 1549.

25 On Liberty, in Essays on Politics and Society, CW, 18: 302.

26 Ibid.

27 The most comprehensive study of the framing, passage, and implementation of the Education Act is Roland, David, “The Struggle for the Elementary Education Act and Its Implementation, 1870–73” (B. Litt thesis, Oxford University, 1957).

28 Important recent works that provide illuminating commentary on the murky politics of the education question include: Biagini, Eugenio F., Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880 (Cambridge, 1992); Parry, J. P., Democracy and Religion: Gladstone and the Liberal Party, 1867–1875 (Cambridge, 1986); Searle, G. R., Entrepreneurial Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain (Oxford, 1993).

29 Searle, , Entrepreneurial Politics, p. 270.

30 For the National Education League, see Hamer, D. A., The Politics of Electoral Pressure: A Study in the History of Victorian Reform Agitations (Hassocks, 1977), pp. 122–38.

31 See clause 7 of A Bill to Provide for Public Elementary Education in England and Wales,” 33 Victoria (17 February 1870), Parliamentary Papers (1870), CW, 1: 505–42.

32 Later Letters, CW, 17: 1699.

33 Ibid., pp. 1702–03.

34 Ibid., p. 1658.

35 Ibid., p. 1666.

36 See Marsh, Peter T., Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics (New Haven, 1994), p 39.

37 Later Letters CW, 14: 39.

38 Secular Education,” in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 28: 3.

39 Ibid., p. 4.

40 Autobiography, in Autobiography and Literary Essays, ed. Robson, John M. and Stillinger, Jack (Toronto, 1981), CW, 1: 45.

41 Later Letters, CW, 16: 1235–36.

42 Ibid., CW, 17: 1699.

43 See Akenson, Donald H., The Irish Education Experiment: The National System of Education in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1970), pp. 310–15, and Parry, , Democracy and Religion, pp. 326—27.

44 This worry was by no means peculiar to Mill, as Parry points out: “Concern about the consequences of the measure in Ireland was expressed by men as dissimilar as Mill, Bryce, Fawcett and Froude” (Democracy and Religion, p. 296).

45 See Kinzer, Bruce L., “John Stuart Mill and the Irish University Question,” Victorian Studies, 30 (1987): 5977.

46 University Education in Ireland,” Theological Review, 3 (1866): 116–49; reprinted as Thoughts on University Reform,” in Cairnes, John E., Political Essays (London, 1873), pp. 256314.

47 Later Letters, CW, 16: 1133.

48 England and Ireland, in Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, CW, 6: 531.

45 Later Letters, CW, 16: 1133.

50 Ibid., CW, 17: 1703.

51 See Education Bill [1]” (25 March 1870), in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 381.

52 Ibid., p. 382.

53 Ibid., p. 384.

54 Ibid., p. 382.

55 Ibid., pp. 382, 383.

56 Ibid., p. 384.

57 Ibid., p. 385.

58 For Cowper-Temple, see 3 Hansard 202: 1276–77 (30 June 1870), and 203: 739 (22 July 1870); for Gladstone, see 202: 1256 (30 June 1870), and 203: 748 (22 July 1870).

59 Principles of Political Economy, CW, 3: 807.

60 Secularists in Full Cry,” Spectator, 2 April 1870, pp. 425–26.

61 Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 383.

62 Education Bill” (9 April 1870), in Newspaper Writings, CW, 25: 1222–23.

63 Dilke to Mill, 4 June 1870, John Stuart Mill Letters, Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University, Ms HUT 4, folder 59.

64 Later Letters, CW, 17: 1732.

65 Ibid.

66 Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 383.

67 Later Letters, CW, 16: 1313.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid., p. 1133.

70 For Chadwick's paper, see On the New Education Bill,” in Sessional Proceedings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 3 (18691870): 261–84.

71 Education Bill [2]” (4 April 1870), in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 391.

72 Ibid., p. 393.

73 ibid., pp. 391–92.

74 See “Election to School Boards [1]” and Election to School Boards [2]” (22 October and 9 November), in Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 396–97 and 398401.

75 Ibid., p. 396.

76 Ibid., p. 398.

77 Biagini, , Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform, pp. 203, 204.

78 For Mill on the cumulative vote, see Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, in Essays on Politics and Society, CW, 19: 330–31.

79 Public and Parliamentary Speeches, CW, 29: 401.

80 Ibid., p. 397.

81 Later Letters, CW, 17: 1799.

82 Henry Fawcett: The Plain Man's Political Economist,” in The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism, ed. Goldman, Lawrence (Cambridge, 1989), p. 96.

83 “Introduction: ‘An Advanced Liberal,’ Henry Fawcett, 1833–1884,” in ibid., p. 9.

84 Life of Gladstone, 2 vols. (London, 1905), 1: 936.

85 For a lucid and illuminating discussion of the personal dynamics of the Mill “circle,” see Lipkes, “Politics, Religion, and the Fate of Classical Political Economy.”

86 These Fortnightly Review essays include: “Endowments,” n.s., 5 (April 1869): 377–90; “Thornton on Labour and Its Claims,” n.s., 5 (May and June 1869): 505–18 and 680-700; “Leslie on the Land Question,” n.s., 7 (June 1870): 641–54; “Taine's De I'Intelligence,” n.s., 8 (July 1870): 121–24; “Treaty Obligations,” n.s., 8 (December 1870): 715–20; “Maine on Village Communities,” n.s., 9 (May 1871): 543–56; “Berkeley's Life and Writings,” n.s., 10 (November 1871): 505-24; and “Grote's Aristotle,” n.s., 13 (January 1873): 27–50. For a study of the Fortnightly Review, see Everett, Edwin M., The Party of Humanity: The Fortnightly Review and Its Contributors (Chapel Hill, 1939).

87 Hirst, Francis W., Early Life and Letters of John Morley, 2 vols. (London, 1927), 1: 237. This comment on Mill appears in a letter Morley wrote to his sister Grace in April 1873.

88 Recollections, 2 vols. (London, 1917), 1: 3667, of which pp. 52–67 focus on Mill. See also D. A. Hamer's treatment of Mill's influence on Morley in his book, John Morley: Liberal Intellectual in Politics (Oxford, 1968), pp. 2031.

89 Morley, , Struggle for National Education, pp. 133—55; Stephen, Leslie, Life of Henry Fawcett, (London, 1886), p. 256.

90 The Birmingham League and the Education Act, 1873,” in Fawcett's, Speeches on Some Current Political Questions (London, 1873), pp. 109–11.

91 Principles of Political Economy, CW, 3: 948–49; citing this section of Mill's Principles, Morley claimed Mill as a champion of “free” education (see Struggle for National Education, pp. 134–36).

92 Struggle for National Education, pp. 9, 49, 74.

93 Present Position of the Government,” Fortnightly Review, n.s., 10 (Nov. 1871): 554.

94 Ibid., pp. 553–54; “The Birmingham League,” in Speeches, pp. 120–22.

95 See Harvie, , Lights of Liberalism, pp. 7496.

96 Ibid., p. 190.

97 “The Birmingham League,” pp. 111–13.

98 An Irish dimension of this political orientation is found in Mill's plea for fixity of tenure for Irish tenants; see England and Ireland, in Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, CW, 6: 505–32.

* An early version of this article was presented to the 1994 Vancouver meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies. I am grateful to Brian Harrison for his robust assault on the worst of my stylistic abominations. I also have benefited from the valuable suggestions of Albion's editor and copyeditor. My debt to the late John M. Robson, Mill scholar sans pareil, is immeasurable.

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