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PEOPLE'S EDITION OF THE WORKS OF MR. JOHN
MR. JOHN STUART MILL's works are far too well known to require anything that could be properly called a review in these pages.
They have long ago taken their place among the standard works which, it may truly be said, no educated Englishman's library ought to be without. There are very few books which are regarded with anything approaching to the respect with which Mr. Mill's books are always and most justly treated. It is quite impossible for him henceforth to express an opinion, on any subject whatever, without a perfect assurance that he will be reverently listened to by those very men who are themselves the leaders of public thought, and the originators of every great movement in our owu country, and it may almost be said, over the whole world. It is of the utmost importance that really standard works of all kinds should be placed within the reach of those who are not able to purchase them in the costly form in which they at first appear. But there are certain characteristics of Mr. John Stuart Mill's writings, which render a people's edition of them a peculiarly significant experiment.
How far the experiment may be pecuniarily successful it would be difficult for anyone entirely unacquainted with the mysteries of the book trade to guess; but “the people”are by no means what they are often supposed to be by those other people who simply talk about them, or make speeches about them, or even produce little pamphlets for their use; but who never mix with them, so as to find out what they really are, what they really want, and what they really need. The upper and middle classes, with, of course, some brilliant exceptions, have not yet emerged from those social superstitions which are wholly incompatible with the actual facts of society ; and which, notwithstanding their appearance of obstinate Conservatism, are really far more revolutionary than the most extravagant Radicalism. They are more revolutionary-more likely, that is to say, to turn society upside down and produce a war of classes—because, while they are extremely irritating, they afford the utmost facility for concealing those fires which are smouldering about the very foundations of society. Nothing is plainer to the judgment of every thoughtful observer--nothing can be plainer, at any rate, to anybody who believes that the Epistles of St. Paul were given by inspiration of God—than that every class, and indeed every individual, is in the strictest, and even in the most selfish sense, interested in the real prosperity and well-being of every other. Classes have really no opposing interests. It is not the interest of a master that his servants and workpeople should be ill-fed and ill-educated, ill-mannered and immoral. It is not even the interest of a country baronet to permit thirty or forty of his labourers—men, women, boys, and girls—to inbabit some four or five dilapidated cottages, very considerably worse than model pigsties, and then to turn them all out to get shelter as best they may, because one of them has become the mother of an illegitimate child. There is scarcely any labour which is not rendered enormously more profitable by being changed into skilled labour. It is exceedingly difficult to estimate what we all have to pay for being protected against a dishonesty which society has never done its genuine best to remove or prevent. It would be very ridiculous to attempt to compare the services rendered by the cultivated few to the great mass of the population, with the services rendered by the working many to the cultivated few ; but it is perfectly certain that each is necessary to the other, and that each is happiest when the other is wisest and best.
When the people read Mr. John Stuart Mill's works, they will find that he has expressed for them, in the purest and most intelligible English, some of those difficulties and suspicions to which they have for a long time been striving to give utterance. There are great numbers of the upper and middle classes who regard the working many with aversion and dread. Often enough, this aversion is the mere fastidiousness of effeminacy or affectation. "There are not a few persons who seem to think it utterly impossible that there should be anything bright or noble in the intellect or heart of any man who eats fresh young onions for breakfast, and who perspires freely when working in the hot sun. But there is a yet greater number of people who regard the workers as their natural enemies, as men and women who would certainly rise if you gave them the chance; but who could only rise by pulling their betters down. They are painfully con:scious that if their own position in life had depended upon their merits, instead of depending upon the mere accidents of their birth, it is extremely doubtful whether they could have earned as much wages as their cooks or gardeners; they are perfectly certain that they can neither garden nor cook, and they are very far from being perfectly certain what they can do. They not unnaturally regard the members of the working class as their nearest rivals ; rivals whom the slightest turn in the wheel of fortune would place above instead of under them. And such people
almost always believe that that great majority of mankind which constitutes the lower class is so completely selfish, and so utterly: unprincipled, that if its members had as much power as has been conceded to the class above them, they would certainly steal, and. would probably murder. Persons who think in this manner are: naturally enough opposed to every movement that has for its object the improvement and elevation of the working class. They can see nothing but danger and harm in popular education; and they assure us that the lower orders knew their proper place much better than they do now, when they were totally without it. Occasionally even these admirers of the good old times are compelled to make slight concessions; and on such rare occasions they fling some little scrap of education or political privilege to the people they dread, just as one might fling a crust or a bone to a savage dog, in the hope of getting by without being bitten. It may be very safely predicted, that anything like a wide circulation and a genuine use of Mr. John Stuart Mill's works will wholly annihilate this class of old-world politicians, and render their poor and cowardly devices impossible for ever.
But the superstition out of which even the majority of those who, as they believe, sincerely desire to do service to the multitudes who are socially their inferiors, have not yet emerged, is the belief that it is one of the obligations under which they are laid by their superior privileges to patronize the lower orders ; while, on the other hand, they are firmly persuaded that the lower orders ought to be exceedingly grateful for their generous assistance. So undoubtedly they ought; but these well-meaning people are continually doing their best to render their own services worthless, and the gratitude of those whom they try to serve impossible. As they have not ascertained what those general principles are by which popular education and social relationships must be determined, they confer their favours according to no higher rule than the caprices of their own goodnature; and they too often convey the impression, which is almost invariably false, that, after all, they are aiming, not at the good of their neighbours, but at some private advantage for theme selves
This is sometimes apparently indicated, not only by the purpose which the services rendered to the lower class are meant to secure, but still more clearly by the point at which they stop. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent, and are being spent every year, for the purpose of securing to the childen of working people a much better education than without such assistance they could afford to pay for. But why should we trouble ourselves about the education of our poor neighbours? Surely it is either for their sakes or for our own sakes. If it is
for our own sakes—if, for instance, well-meaning old ladies subscribe to day-schools in order that they may have an unlimited supply of well-behaved nursemaids—it would be surely very much better to say so, instead of concealing such extremely silly selfishness under the disguise of benevolence. There are very few ladies in comfortable circumstances who would hesitate to pay a guinea a year to any trustworthy registry office, that would guarantee them a thoroughly good servant whenever they might happen to want one. Again, when committees undertake to decide what the children in a school shall be taught, and when they unanimously determine that they shall learn simply what is fit for their station in life, and nothing more, what does such a determination really amount to ? It amounts to this, though there are very few committees that would like to insert such a resolution in their minute books :-"Resolved unanimously that the children in this school shall be rendered as far as possible handy and useful, and fitted to perform the duties of the station in which they are; but no master or mistress shall presume to communicate to them such a kind or such an amount of knowledge as would tempt or enable them to rise into a higher station." Conimittees do not really know that they are very often acting on this purely selfishi principle, but it is high time that some one told them that they are. At any rate, when the writings of Mr. John Stuart Mill are widely circulated and carefully studied by the people," there can be nothing in the world more obvious and undeniable than the real nature and all but complete worthlessness of many free schools will immediately become. If the wholly or partly gratuitous education of the poor by the rich be a duty of justice, then it is only one of the many indications that that there is a terrible defect somewhere in the distribution of wealth. If the spirit of a man be really nobler than his body, then education is much more necessary than food; and somehow or other the wages of the working classes will have to be so adjusted, that every honest working man will be able to buy education for his children, and will really do it as habitually as he rents a cottage or buys victuals. This adjustment, indeed, can never be brought about by revolutionary measures, by a war of classes, by the destruction of capital, or by the suicidal determination on the part of those who earn wages to prevent its accumulation. But no nation can be said to have arrived at complete prosperity or perfect civilization when large numbers of honest and industrious people are unable to procure for themselves the necessaries of life; and, of social and civilized life, education is one of the necessaries. · But if the gratuitous education of the poor by the rich be simply a gift of generosity, let it be a gift, and let it be generous. Let there be no shabby calculations of the distance from our own heels, within which it will not be safe to suffer our poorer neighbours to come. Let us educate them as human beings, not as members of an inferior race; let us give them what will help them forward in life, not what will keep them where they are; let us furnish them with those mental resources, those hidden springs of happiness and dignity, which may at least help to solace them in their distresses, and to extract the sting even from poverty itself. When they read such books as Mill's Political Economy, and Essays on Liberty and on Representative Government, what will they think of school committees who refuse to sanction the teaching even of the very elements of political economy, and who seem to regard the simple laws of health and the first principles of physiology as a kind of indecency? The children taught in those of our day-schools which are supported wholly or in part by voluntary contributions, belong to the very classes which organize strikes and trades' unions, which are so numerous and powerful, and so ready to combine for all kinds of purposes, that their quarrels with their masters are among the most perplexing of social difficulties; and sometimes, as in the iron trade, threaten the utmost danger, even to our national strength. And yet there is probably not one school in a hundred in which a single word has ever been spoken to teach the children by what laws the rate of wages must be determined, and what are the only modes by which it can be safely and permanently increased. And yet this might be very easily taught; and it is a kind of instruction in which those who really do impart it have always found their children peculiarly interested. It would be well if, somewhat before the general circulation of the People's Edition of the works of Mr. John Stuart Mill, those who consider themselves very much above the people, would read what he has written on the stationary state and on the probable futurity of the working classes, and on kindred subjects.
Moreover, the writings of Mr. J. Stuart Mill are the very best we know for counteracting the dangerous effects of that silly and suicidal patronage of the lower classes, which takes the odious form of flattering and petting them. It is impossible to conceive what can be the object of those institutions for ameliorating the condition of the poor, whose very supporters assure us that the British labourer has attained already to an almost ideal perfection. What can be the use of educating him, for instance, if he is already far superior in sagacity and intelligence to the aristocracy and the middle classes? The fact is, and it is hard to believe that there is anybody who is ignorant of the fact, that the British labourer is often very little, if at all, superior in