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M. de Tocqueville sees the principal source and security of American freedom, not so much in the election of President and Congress by popular suffrage, as in the administration of nearly all the business of society by the people themselves. This it is which, according to him, keeps up the habit of attending to the public interest, not in the gross merely, or on a few momentous occasions, but in its dry and troublesome details. This, too, it is which enlightens the people; which teaches them by experience how public affairs must be carried on. The dissemination of public business as widely as possible among the people, is, in his opinion, the only means by which they can be fitted for the exercise of any share of power over the legislature; and generally also the only means by which they can be led to desire it.
The Hypocrisy of Teaching American History Essay
It is not solely on the private virtues, that this growing insignificance of the individual in the mass is productive of mischief. It corrupts the very fountain of the improvement of public opinion itself; it corrupts public teaching; it weakens the influence of the more cultivated few over the many. Literature has suffered more than any other human production by the common disease. When there were few books, and when few read at all save those who had been accustomed to read the best authors, books were written with the well-grounded expectation that they would be read carefully, and if they deserved it, would be read often. A book of sterling merit, when it came out, was sure to be heard of, and might hope to be read, by the whole reading class; it might succeed by its real not got up to strike at once; and even if so got up, unless it had the support of genuine merit, it fell into oblivion. The rewards were then for him who wrote not for the laborious and learned, not the crude and ill-informed writer. But now the case is reversed.
In the concluding pages of his chapter on dependencies Mill presents his mature opinions on governing India. In his last years as a high official of the East India Company he had taken a significant part in the struggle against the company’s extinction by the British parliament, and in the preparation of several papers, two being of major importance: and He saw India as an immense tradition-bound land with many and vast disparities, acute problems, widely conflicting cultures and religions, and hence as unfit for immediate self-rule. Nowhere does he suggest a willingness to apply the full teachings of and to the India of his day. Instead he believed that it needed for a prolonged period enlightened governance by those with high administrative competence and a profound grasp of its special difficulties. In his opinion the best available vehicle under the Crown for applying sound utilitarian principles was the East India Company, with its large and unique stock of knowledge and experience. More effectively than any other institution the Company could act as a trustee and guardian for the Indian people.
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Here, then, is a circumstance of immense influence on the civilization of any country; an influence on which in our article on M. de Tocqueville’s America we have enlarged, and which is further dwelt upon in the first article of our present Number. That important portion of a people, who are its natural leaders in the higher paths of social improvement—a leisured class, a class educated for leisure—is wanting in America. It is not necessary, it is not even desirable, that this class should possess enormous incomes. The class exists largely in France and Germany, where the standard of incomes is very low. But in America there is no class exempted from the necessity of bestowing the best years of life on the acquisition of a subsistence. To say nothing of the refinements and elegancies of social life—all distinguished eminence in philosophy, and in the nobler kinds of literature, is in a manner denied to America by this single circumstance. There may, indeed, be writers by profession, and these may drive a thriving trade; but, in no state of society ever known, could the writings which were addressed to the highest order of minds, and which were in advance of their age, have afforded a subsistence to their authors. These have been produced by persons who had at least the means of supporting life, independently of their literary labours; and even the few works of a high order, which have been written in the intervals of a life devoted to other business, have commonly been addressed to a leisured class.