John Stuart Mill on British Rule in India (1861/1868)

Introduction: J. S. Mill (1806- 1873) was a famous liberal philosopher. He had worked in the London office of the East India Company from 1823 to 1858, drafting many dispatches sent to India. As a Member of Parliament (1865- 1868) he introduced legislation for enfranchising women. Among his works are „ Principles of Political Economy“ (1848), „On Liberty“ (1859),“ Considerations on Representative Government“ (1861) and „England and Ireland“ (1868).
(see also AHOI, Ch. 6, section: The Mutiny of 1857)

(on the usefulness of the government of the East India Company)

It has been the destiny of the government of the East India Company, to suggest the true theory of the government of a semi-barbarous dependency by a civilised country , and after having done this, to perish. It would be a singular fortune ... if posterity would say of us, that having stumbled accidentally upon better arrangements than our wisdom would ever have devised, the first use we ever made of our awakened reason was to destroy them, and allow the good which we had been in course of being realized to fall through and be lost, from ignorance of the principles on which it depended  .... But if a fate so disgraceful to England and to civilization can be averted, it must be through a wider political conception than merely English or European practice can supply, and through a much more profound study of Indian experience, and of the conditions of Indian government, than either English politicians, or those who supply the English public with opinions have hitherto shown any willingness to undertake.
(J. S. Mill, Considerations upon Representative Government, Collected Works, Vol. 19, p.577)

(on governing India without English prejudices)
Englishmen are not always incapable  of shaking off insular prejudices, and governing another country according to its wants, and not according to common English habits and notions. It is what they have had to do in India, and those Englishmen who know something of India, are even now those who understand Ireland best.... But, by a fortunate accident, the business of ruling India in the name of England did not rest with the Houses of Parliament or the offices of Westminster; it devolved on men who passed their lives in India, and made Indian interests their professional occupation. There was also the advantage, that the task was laid upon England after nations had begun to have a conscience, and not while they were sunk in the reckless savagery of the middle ages.  The English rulers, accordingly, reconciled themselves to the idea that their business was not to sweep away the rights they found established, or wrench and compress them into the similitude of something English, but to ascertain what they were, having ascertained them, to abolish those only which were absolutely mischievous, otherwise to protect them, and use them as a starting point for further steps in improvement. This work of stripping off their preconceived English ideas was at first done clumsily and imperfectly, and at the cost of many mistakes, but as they honestly meant to do it, they in time succeeded, and India is now governed, if with a large share of the ordinary imperfections of rulers, yet with a full perception and recognition of its differences from England. What has been done for India has now to be done for Ireland; and as we should have deserved to be turned out of the one, had we not proved equal to the need, so shall we to lose the other.
(J. S.Mill, England and Ireland, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 519)

(quoted by Lynn Zastoupil, John Stuart Mill and India (Stanford, Calif., 1994) p. 178 and 185)


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