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JAMES MILL ON THE CONDITIONS OF GOOD GOVERNMENT

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In this article, I take issue with two common misconceptions as regards JamesMill's 'Government' (1820); first, that the essay comprised Mill's whole theory of government; second, that Mill's intended audience were the proponents of moderate reform. The first focuses on the deductive nature ofMill's political argument to the complete exclusion of earlier ideas on good government -- some of which ideas had made it into 'Government'. The second situates the essay in the Radicals-vs-Whigs debate that took place in the 1820s and reached a high pitch just before the Reform Act of 1832. However, a close study of Mill's views on the conditions of good government in pre-1820 works suggests that Mill's focus on one particular condition of good government -- the identification of interests through representation -- was a conscious choice. To uncover the reasons for that choice, I turn from the Whig to the Tory critique of utilitarian radicalism. Shifting the focus in this way seems to account for Mill's emphasis on 'the passions, the wants, and the weaknesses of ordinary humanity' as the basis upon which a scheme of representation ought to be constructed.
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Keywords: Edinburgh Review; Essay on Government; History of British India; James Mill; Jeremy Bentham; John Stuart Mill; Thomas Babington Macaulay; Westminster Review; deductive method; identity of interests; method of geometry; middle ranks; parliamentary reform; philosophical radicals; radicals vs Whigs debate

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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