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Vol. 18 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains a number of Mill’s essays on politics, including his reviews of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and his book On Liberty.
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The opinion that there is this irresistible tendency to equality of conditions, is, perhaps, of all the leading doctrines of the book, that which most stands in need of confirmation to English readers. M. de Tocqueville devotes but little space to the elucidation of it. To French readers, the historical retrospect upon which it rests is familiar; and facts known to every one establish its truth, so far as relates to that country. But to the English public, who have less faith in irresistible tendencies, and who, while they require for every political theory an historical basis, are far less accustomed to link together the events of history in a connected chain, the proposition will hardly seem to be sufficiently made out. Our author’s historical argument is, however, deserving of their attention.
Whilst the kings were ruining themselves by their great enterprises, and the nobles exhausting their resources by private wars, the lower orders were enriching themselves by commerce. The influence of money began to be perceptible in state affairs. The transactions of business opened a new road to power, and the financier rose to a station of political influence, in which he was at once flattered and despised.
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With these should be joined all those sciences, in which great and certain results are arrived at by mental processes of some length or nicety: not that all persons should study all these sciences, but that some should study all, and all some. These may be divided into sciences of mere ratiocination, as mathematics; and sciences partly of ratiocination, and partly of what is far more difficult, comprehensive observation and analysis. Such are, in their even the sciences to which and such are all those which relate to human nature. The philosophy of morals, of government, of law, of political economy, of poetry and art, should form subjects of systematic instruction, under the most eminent professors who could be found; these being chosen, not for the particular doctrines they might happen to profess, but as being those who were most likely to send forth pupils qualified in point of disposition and attainments to choose doctrines for themselves. And why should not religion be taught in the same manner? Not then will the spirit of English religion become catholic instead of sectarian, favourable instead of hostile to freedom of thought and the progress of the human mind.
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For instance, the author’s first fundamental principle is, that the successive changes which take place in human affairs are no more left to chance “in the moral than in the physical world, but that the progress of society, social, moral, and political, together with the whole train of events which compose the history of the human race, are as much the effect of certain fixed laws as the motions of the planets or the rotation of the seasons.” [P. 2] His second principle is, that the changes in political institutions are the effects of previous changes in the condition of society and of the human mind. It may truly be said, that whoever knows these two principles, possesses more of the science of politics than was known even to eminent thinkers fifty years ago.