If we are endeavouring after more riches, our very first rule should be not to squander uselessly our existing means. The exclusion is probably a remnant of the feudal law, and is not in harmony with the other civil institutions of the country. There is a mischievous and growing tendency in the House of Commons to encroach upon the functions of the Executive Government. These are principally when the people, in order to advance in civilisation, have some lesson to learn, some habit not yet acquired, to the acquisition of which representative government is likely to be an impediment. The first condition, that of breaking in upon the existing system at its worst point, will be in a considerable degree fulfilled by any measure which clears away the small constituencies. Does Mill think that all men are entitled to vote? The principle of an educational qualification being thus established, more might hereafter be required when more had been given; but household, or even universal suffrage, with this small amount of educational requirement, would probably be safer than a much more restricted suffrage without it.
Prudence and foresight, therefore, combine with principle in recommending that the present favourable opportunity be made use of for placing our representative system on a footing which can be defended on intelligible principles of justice, and such that the greatest number of persons, consistent with safety, shall have evident cause to be well affected towards it. A government strictly limited in its powers and attributions, required to hold its hands from over-meddling, and to let most things go on without its assuming the part of guardian or director, is not to the taste of such a people. The motive determining them must appeal not to their interests, but to their instincts; immediate hope or immediate terror. To enable minorities to be represented without placing them on an equality with majorities, it would be necessary that every constituency should return at least three members; and I venture to suggest that this is a sufficient number, and that no electoral body ought to return more. Those who demand equal electoral districts should strenuously support Mr. If we except the few families or connections of whom official employment lies directly in the way, Englishmen's views of advancement in life take an altogether different direction — that of success in business, or in a profession. The motive determining them must appeal not to their interests, but to their instincts; immediate hope or immediate terror.
But there are different degrees of obedience, and it is not every degree that is commendable. He treated Macaulay's argument as simply irrational; an attack upon the reasoning faculty; an example of the saying of Hobbes, that when reason is against a man, a man will be against reason J. Through the joint influence of these two principles, all free communities have both been more exempt from social injustice and crime, and have attained more brilliant prosperity, than any others, or than they themselves after they lost their freedom. The serfs in Russia owe their emancipation, if not to a sentiment of duty, at least to the growth of a more enlightened opinion respecting the true interest of the State. The state of different communities, in point of culture and development, ranges downwards to a condition very little above the highest of the beasts. But to surmount it completely, required the press, and even the newspaper press, the real equivalent, though not in all respects an adequate one, of the Pnyx and the Forum.
The amount of capacity which a people possess for doing new things, and adapting themselves to new circumstances; is itself one of the elements of the question. Even the ten-pound householders of all the unenfranchised towns with more than 5000 inhabitants, would be a large addition to the numerical amount of the constituency, obtained without lowering the qualification, or introducing any change which could alarm timidity in the conditions for the exercise of the suffrage. In an aristocracy thus constituted, every member felt his personal importance entirely bound up with the dignity and estimation of the commonwealth which he administered, and with the part he was able to play in its councils. The road to the ends of both is the same; but they are liable to wander from it in opposite directions. To the degree that others enjoy the fruits of my labor, my primary incentive for working—namely my own happiness—is diminished if not destroyed.
As well might any one tell us that Europe is a great slave country, meaning by Europe, Russia. But though every approach to this has an independent value, and in many cases more than an approach could not, in the existing state of general improvement, be made, the participation of all in these benefits is the ideally perfect conception of free government. And has not the event proved that they were so? We know what powerful arguments, the more dangerous because there is a portion of truth in them, may be brought against all inheritance, against the power of bequest, against every advantage which one person seems to have over another. This benefit, however, is entirely dependent on the co-existence with the popular body of an hereditary king. What it is important to ascertain is education; and education can be tested directly, or by much stronger presumptive evidence than is afforded by income, or payment of taxes, or the quality of the house which a person inhabits.
Surely a conclusive example how far mere physical and economic power is from being the whole of social power. The person bestirring himself with hopeful prospects to improve his circumstances is the one who feels good-will towards others engaged in, or who have succeeded in, the same pursuit. They must be masters, whenever they please, of all the operations of government. Hare actually realizes, and has not only illuminated it with the light of an advanced political philosophy, but embodied it in a draft of an Act of Parliament, prepared with the hand of a master in the difficult art of practical legislation. But if the situation allows people to reason by themselves and decide to accept it or not, any argument or theology should not be blocked. Those who are unable to make their ordinances obeyed, cannot be said to govern. The elder Mill gave young John daily lessons in Latin, Greek, French, history, philosophy, and political economy.
This last is a much greater power than the former, and those may be ripe for the minor political function who could not as yet be safely trusted with the superior. The greater the amount of these good qualities which the institutions of a country succeed in organizing, and the better the mode of organization, the better will be the government. However little probable it may be, we may imagine a despot observing many of the rules and restraints of constitutional government. Constitutional maxims are adhered to, and are practically operative, so long as they give the predominance in the Constitution to that one of the powers which has the preponderance of active power out of doors. The first three chapters are, perhaps, the most critical in terms of Mill's theoretical position.
A nation, therefore, cannot choose its form of government. In a really equal democracy, every or any section would be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately. On the other hand, it is an exaggeration to elevate these mere aids and facilities into necessary conditions. Why might they not give their suffrage to any one who is a candidate anywhere, their number of votes being added to those which he may obtain elsewhere? At present, too, admission and exclusion are capricious; the same description of persons are admitted in cities and parliamentary boroughs, who are excluded in all other towns and in the rural districts. Supporters of the ballot have argued that the voter might resort to those evasive answers which integrity permits in the case of an impertinent question; but an evasive answer to a first question only succeeds when made to an equal, who does not consider himself at liberty to ask a second: and besides, the majority of electors have neither address nor readiness for such evasions; and when they really feel themselves in the power of the questioner, a downright lie, enforced by asseveration if doubted, would be their only resource.