catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Mill and the anti-slavery movement

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It is good to see a blog specialising in the history of economic thought by Sandra Peart who is best known for her work with David Levy on the secret history of the dismal science.

Here she provides a summary of one aspect of that work in an important re-assessment of JS Mill’s role in the anti-slavery movement and classical liberalism. Some excerpts:

On the occasion of Mill’s 200th birthday, we celebrate his now largely-forgotten contribution to the coalition between the “dismal scientists” and “Exeter Hall”.  Exeter Hall was the political wing of 19th century British evangelicalism and the center of the anti-slavery movement …

Later, in the so-called “Governor Eyre Controversy” of Jamaica, violence broke out as former slaves were denied the rule of law. Evangelicals then chose Mill as their spokesperson on the Jamaica Committee, to speak for their common cause of the rule of law for all people as they tried to bring the island’s governor to justice … 

Mill was not seen as a Christian by the evangelicals who elected him to speak for them.  In Utilitarianism, he named the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule as the perfect statements of utilitarianism.  Mill’s utilitarianism focused on the happiness of the many through choices freely made in the context of discussion and experience …
Mill’s role in the classical liberal tradition is less well known than it once was.  His hopeful words regarding voluntary socialism have been well-understood.  His doctrine that the “laws of distribution” differ significantly from the “laws of production,” has been misunderstood.  For Mill never held that social arrangements – institutions – may be altered with no impact on production.


Written by Admin

May 26, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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