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Chapter 6 - John Stuart Mill and the Victorian Theory of Parliament

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2019

William Selinger
Affiliation:
University College London
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Summary

This chapter examines theories of parliament and parliamentarism in Victorian Britain. The first part of the chapter offers a general survey of Victorian constitutional theory. I demonstrate that while Constant’s conception of parliamentarism was defeated in France, it triumphed in Britain, where Victoria was widely viewed as a monarch who reigned but did not govern, and a range of authors argued that ministers must hold power through persuasion rather than patronage. I then consider Walter Bagehot, the most famous Victorian theorist of parliamentarism, who developed the argument that parliamentarism was intrinsically superior to the American constitutional model. Finally, I turn to John Stuart Mill. I demonstrate that Mill shared the widespread Victorian belief in parliamentarism, and I argue that his true project in Considerations on Representative Government was to discover a way to harmonize Victorian parliamentarism and electoral democracy.

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Chapter
Information
Parliamentarism
From Burke to Weber
, pp. 164 - 193
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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