[The title for these unpublished notes on the government of India was assigned by Mill's editors.] In this article, he had highlighted the potential for abuse of the office of the Minister of India in the absence of the East-India Company (EIC).

The episode involving the censure of Lord Canning, Governor-General of India by Lord Ellenborough (the incumbent Minister of India then) is as related by Mill below:

In writing his despatch, Lord Ellenborough was in the position, in which the Minister of India will always be, under the proposed new constitutions. He was without a Council: or rather, he passed over his Council. [Mill, 1990, p. 195]

While his distaste for unchecked authority here was consistent with his ideas what was inconsistent was his support for the violent treatment by Lord Canning of the mutineers. On this matter he reasoned:

Our own enemies in Europe have been supplied with a fresh stock of calumnies against us from our own lips; while all Indian malcontents have had arguments put into their mouths which they themselves would never have dreamt of, and may have been encouraged to hope that they may make or find a party in Parliament. All respect and fear of England as a nation will be materially weakened in the East; for, that there may be firm action notwithstanding divided councils, or that the government can be really formidable which allows itself to be bearded and its acts railed at to its face, is a truth which it requires a much higher civilisation than the Orientals to understand or credit. [p. 198]

In this argument, not only did Mill acknowledged a belief that the Indian populace were at a stage in civilisation that was inferior to that of Britain and therefore incapable of a representative system of government practised in Britain. In so doing, he seemed to be espousing the ideas of Thomas Hobbes which view the state as The Leviathan; its unquestionable authority without which there would be a State of Nature with endless chaos. Juxtaposing these two views, it seems that Mill believed that individual freedom should only come at a stage of civilisation high enough to justify granting it.

Bibliography

Mill, John Stuart. Writings on India. Edited by John M. Robson, Martin Moir and Zawahir Moir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; London: Routledge, c1990.


Victorian Overview J S Mill Political History Victorian India

Last modified October 2000