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It is not in the matter of education only, that misplaced notions of liberty prevent moral obligations on the part of parents from being recognised, and legal obligations from being imposed, where there are the strongest grounds for the former always, and in many cases for the latter also. The fact itself, of causing the existence of a human being, is one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life. To undertake this responsibility—to bestow a life which may be either a curse or a blessing—unless the being on whom it is to be bestowed will have at least the ordinary chances of a desirable existence, is a crime against that being. And in a country either overpeopled, or threatened with being so, to produce children, beyond a very small number, with the effect of reducing the reward of labour by their competition, is a serious offence against all who live by the remuneration of their labour. The laws which, in many countries on the Continent, forbid marriage unless the parties can show that they have the means of supporting a family, do not exceed the legitimate powers of the : and whether such laws be expedient or not (a question mainly dependent on local circumstances and feelings), they are not objectionable as violations of liberty. Such laws are interferences of the to prohibit a mischievous act—an act injurious to others, which ought to be a subject of reprobation, and social stigma, even when it is not deemed expedient to superadd legal punishment. Yet the current ideas of liberty, which bend so easily to real infringements of the freedom of the individual in things which concern only himself, would repel the attempt to put any restraint upon his inclinations when the consequence of their indulgence is a life or lives of wretchedness and depravity to the offspring, with manifold evils to those sufficiently within reach to be in any way affected by their actions. When we compare the strange respect of mankind for liberty, with their strange want of respect for it, we might imagine that a man had an indispensable right to do harm to others, and no right at all to please himself without giving pain to any one.

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In the introduction Mill remarks that his object

Placing this example in context, the interpretation is that when first published (1840) the reading was “will longest hesitate”; this reading was retained in 1859 (the 1st edition of Volumes I and II of ); but in 1867 the reading became “will, in general, longest hesitate”.

Mill comments on the gravity of the issues:

see 164n. Here the practice is to place immediately after the footnote indicator, in square brackets, the figures indicating the edition in which Mill’s footnote first appeared. In the example cited, “[59]” signifies that the note was added in 1859 (and retained in 1867). If no such indication appears, the note is in all versions.

This volume has been published with the assistance of a grant from the Canada Council
This book has been published during the Sesquicentennial year of the University of Toronto

We answer both questions in the negative.

In what manner is harmony maintained among these jarring elements? How is so minute a division of the governing power rendered compatible with the existence of government? Since the concurrence of so many wills is necessary to the working of the machine, by what means is that concurrence obtained? The town-officers, for instance, are often the sole agency provided for executing the laws made or orders issued by the federal or by the state government; but those authorities can neither dismiss them if they disobey, nor promote them to a higher post in their department, for zealous service. How, then, is their obedience secured?

We return to the volume before us, from which we shall not again permit ourselves to stray so far.

What could the flatterers of Louis XIV do more?

This check, however, cannot suffice for all cases; for, in the first place, the authorities may be accountable to different constituencies. In a dispute, for instance, between the officers of a township and the state government, or between the federal government and a state, the constituents of each party may support their representatives in the quarrel. Moreover, the check often operates too slowly, and is not of a sufficiently energetic character for the graver delinquencies.

There are two methods of diminishing the force of the government in any country:—

[Trans. Joseph Coulthard (London: Chapman, 1854), p. 65.]

In his first review Mill also questioned Tocqueville’s assertion that aristocracy had qualities of prudence and steadiness absent in democracy. The steadiness of an aristocracy, he said, was commonly expressed in a tenacious grip on its own cherished privileges. Its strength of will, as English history illustrated, was shaped by its class interests, and its opinions tended to fluctuate with its immediate impulses and needs (77-9).