HIS INFLUENCE AS A PRACTICAL POLITICIAN.
Every one must be familiar with the often expressed opinion, that, as a practical politician, Mr. Mill’s career was essentially a failure. It has been said a thousand times that the principal result of his brief representation of Westminster was to furnish an additional proof, if one were wanted, that a philosopher is totally incapable of exercising any useful influence in the direction of practical politics. It is proposed briefly to examine this opinion, though it may, indeed, with truth be urged that the present time is not calculated to make the examination an impartial one. The inquiry involves an almost constant reference, either expressed or implied, to Mr. Mill’s personal character and influence, and it is hardly possible for those who are mourning him as a friend to speak of these dispassionately. It is perhaps hardly necessary at such a time as this to ask the indulgence of the reader if this unworthy tribute to the memory of a great man is colored by personal reverence and gratitude.
When, it is said that Mr. Mill failed as a practical politician, there are two questions to be asked: “Who says he has failed?” And “What is it said that he failed in?” Now, it seems that the persons who are loudest in the assertion of his failure are precisely those to whom the reforms advocated by Mr. Mill in his writings are distasteful. They are those who pronounce all schemes of electoral reform embodying the principle of proportional representation to be the result of a conspiracy of fools and rogues; they are those who sneer at the “fanciful rights of women;” they are those who think our present land tenure eminently calculated to make the rich contented, and keep the poor in their proper places; they are those who believe that republicans and atheists ought to be treated like vermin, and exterminated accordingly; they are those who think that all must be well with England if her imports and exports are increasing, and that we are justified in repudiating our foreign engagements, if to maintain them would have an injurious effect upon trade. The assertion of failure coming from such persons does not mean that Mr. Mill failed