Chapter 5
An Empire of Reform


At some point in the early 1840s J. S. Mill began to withdraw from some of the more extreme positions that he had taken at the height of his intellectual rebellion. In his Autobiography, Mill characterized this development in the following way: "I had now completely turned back from what there had been of excess in my reaction against Benthamism."1 This retreat was noticeable in both personal and intellectual matters. Mill's friendship with Thomas Carlyle withered in the 1840s, in large part because he increasingly found intolerable the Scot's social and political views, especially regarding colonial policy in the West Indies 2 The list of books that he published after 1840 is also revealing. Works on logic, political economy, liberty, representative government, religious belief, and other subjects indicate that he was again of one mind with his father when it came to topics chosen for analysis. Furthermore, Mill Autobiography paid homage to James Mill as the first great intellectual and moral influence in his life.

Mill's mature thought, however, was not characterized by a simple return to utilitarianism. He did not abandon altogether the romantic perspective in favor of his father's Enlightenment weltanschauung. Instead, he was more willing late in life to find important truths in those ideas about reform and social progress that were inculcated in him when he was his father's special pupil. The ideas of his youth took precedence again, but Mill tempered them with some of the opinions he learned to respect during his rebellious period. One example of this synthesis was his mature conviction that improved ideas must be carefully cultivated because, as


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John Stuart Mill and India


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