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The Christian Examiner.

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MAY, 1862.



Considerations on Representative Government. By JOHN STUART

MILL. London. 1861.

POLITICAL Science in time past has shared the fate of Metaphysic, as described by Kant, - that of being "the arena of endless contests." Neither of these sciences, coupled as they often have been in the love and pursuit of the foremost thinkers of the world, - Plato and Aristotle among the ancients, Bacon, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Hegel, among the moderns, has yielded the remunerating fruit which the learned reap from other studies. Of metaphysical insight, if the world has gained aught since the dawn of European civilization, the gain is due to the practical idealism of the Christian religion, and not to the schools. The schools are still in the dark as to first principles in this province. What is spirit? What is matter? What is an idea? Is substance single or dual? How does the mind communicate with the outer world?these are points of which philosophy before the Olympiads knew as much as Hegel or Sir William Hamilton.

Of political wisdom (exclusive of jurisprudence), from Solon to the present Congress of the United States, - an interval of twenty-four centuries, the growth has been inconsiderable. The first and fundamental problems of social science and civil government are still matters of debate, and very contrary opinions are propounded concerning them. The origin and right of government, the theory of the state, the VOL. LXXII. 5TH S. VOL. X. NO. III.


limits of legislation as applied to social well-being, the question whether private property or community of goods be the true and divine order of society, the question of free or restricted trade, of universal or restricted suffrage, of the right and expediency of chattel slavery, these are topics which have been discussed in our day with equal confidence on both sides, if not with equal constituencies. Experimental "phalansteries" on the basis of a modified Fourierism are still fresh in our recollection. And now, the question of the possibility of federal democracy on a continental scale is the imminent question of the day, of the hour; a question whose vast moment shakes the world, and whose solution millions of anxious hearts are waiting with an agony of expectation such as never before hung on the verdict of war.

From these uncertain and conflicting views, from these empiric gropings, it appears that political science is yet fumbling among the antilegomena, and has its canon still to settle.

The work with whose title we have headed our remarks is the most important aid to this settlement which our time has furnished, and perhaps the most important contribution to political science since the immortal "Spirit of Laws." The distinguishing merit of Mr. Mill's treatise the same which characterizes all his writings- is the union of bold speculation with practical knowledge and practical judgment. While propounding views considerably in advance, in the democratic line, of existing polities, he deals wisely with the practical conditions of society, and makes broad the distinction between the government which is best in itself, provided a people is ripe for its use, and governments which are best for given nations. Jacobi declared all governments to be, in some sense, "a compact with the Devil." Accepting this statement of the indispensable concession to human ignorance and vice, we should say that Mr. Mill had made the best terms with the adversary which the case allows. Political theorists have usually erred in building their systems with ideal subjects and ideal conditions, instead of existing materials. Even so cautious a philosopher as Locke was at fault when he came to construct a civil polity for actual use. It has not been sufficiently considered that, as each clime is furnished with a flora

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