In 1865 Mill was invited to stand for parliament for the Westminster constituency, which had a radical pedigree and which had been Liberal since 1832, with the sole exception of 1841 when one of its two seats had gone Conservative. Mill accepted, pleased at the prospect of a ‘taller pulpit’ for the propagation of his ideas (CW, vol. XVI, p. 1165). His terms were unusual and principled. He would not be a spokesman for local interests; he would not canvass; he would not bribe or treat and would not spend any of his own money on the campaign; and when in parliament he would propose votes for women. It was said at the time that God himself could not be elected on such a programme. Mill was elected, after a brief campaign of public meetings in one of which he admitted, before a working-class audience and to a burst of applause, that he had written that the working classes were generally liars. Both Mill and his Whig running mate Grosvenor received over 4,500 votes: the ‘Liberal-Conservative’ W.H. Smith, received 700 fewer. Mill’s first three speeches to the house were failures; Disraeli wickedly remarked, ‘Ah, I see, the finishing governess’. But his fourth speech, on the Liberal Reform Bill of 1866, was a triumph, and thereafter he was a prominent parliamentarian who raised the tone of debate (Stephen, L, 1912, p. 64).
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number