John Stuart Mill
Batoche Books Limited
52 Eby Street South
email: [email protected]
Chapter 1: Introductory ……………………………………………………………. 6
Chapter 2: Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion. ……………….. 18
Chapter 3: Of Individuality, as one of the Elements of Well-being. . 52
Chapter 4: Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual.
Chapter 5: Applications. ………………………………………………………… 86
Notes …………………………………………………………………………………. 106
The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded
in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance
of human development in its richest diversity.
Wilhelm von Humboldt: Sphere and Duties of Government.
To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in
part the author, of all that is best in my writings- the friend and wife
whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest incitement, and
whose approbation was my chief reward—I dedicate this volume. Like
all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much to her as to
me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very insufficient degree, the
inestimable advantage of her revision; some of the most important portions
having been reserved for a more careful re-examination, which
they are now never destined to receive. Were I but capable of interpreting
to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are
buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it,
than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted
and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom.
6/John Stuart Mill
The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so
unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity;
but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power
which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A
question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but
which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its
latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital
question of the future. It is so far from being new, that, in a certain
sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the
stage of progress into which the more civilised portions of the species
have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a
different and more fundamental treatment.
The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous
feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar,
particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this
contest was between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the Government.
By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the
political rulers. The rulers were conceived (except in some of the popular
governments of Greece) as in a necessarily antagonistic position to
the people whom they ruled. They consisted of a governing One, or a
governing tribe or caste, who derived their authority from inheritance or
conquest, who, at all events, did not hold it at the pleasure of the governed,
and whose supremacy men did not venture, perhaps did not desire,
to contest, whatever precautions might be taken against its oppressive
exercise. Their power was regarded as necessary, but also as highly
dangerous; as a weapon which they would attempt to use against their
subjects, no less than against external enemies. To prevent the weaker
members of the community from being preyed upon by innumerable
vultures, it was needful that there should be an animal of prey stronger
than the rest, commissioned to keep them down. But as the king of the
vultures would be no less bent upon preying on the flock than any of the
minor harpies, it was indispensable to be in a perpetual attitude of defence
against his beak and claws. The aim, therefore, of patriots was to
set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise
over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty.
It was attempted in two ways. First, by obtaining a recognition of certain
immunities, called political liberties or rights, which it was to be
regarded as a breach of duty in the ruler to infringe, and which if he did
infringe, specific resistance, or general rebellion, was held to be justifiable.
A second, and generally a later expedient, was the establishment
of constitutional checks, by which the consent of the community, or of a
body of some sort, supposed to represent its interests, was made a necessary
condition to some of the more important acts of the governing
power. To the first of these modes of limitation, the ruling power, in
most European countries, was compelled, more or less, to submit. It
was not so with the second; and, to attain this, or when already in some
degree possessed, to attain it more completely, became everywhere the
principal object of the lovers of liberty. And so long as mankind were
content to combat one enemy by another, and to be ruled by a master, on
condition of being guaranteed more or less efficaciously against his tyranny,
they did not carry their aspirations beyond this point.
A time, however, came, in the progress of human affairs, when men
ceased to think it a necessity of nature that their governors should be an
independent power, opposed in interest to themselves. It appeared to
them much better that the various magistrates of the State should be
their tenants or delegates, revocable at their pleasure. In that way alone,
it seemed, could they have complete security that the powers of government
would never be abused to their disadvantage. By degrees this new
demand for elective and temporary rulers became the prominent object
of the exertions of the popular party, wherever any such party existed;
and superseded, to a considerable extent, the previous efforts to limit
the power of rulers. As the struggle proceeded for making the ruling
power emanate from the periodical choice of the ruled, some persons
began to think that too much importance had been attached to the limitation
of the power itself. That (it might seem) was a resource against
rulers whose interests were habitually opposed to those of the people.
What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the
people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the
nation. The nation did not need to be protected against its own will.
There was no fear of its tyrannising over itself. Let the rulers be effectually
responsible to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to
trust them with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made.
Their power was but the nation’s own power, concentrated, and in a
form convenient for exercise. This mode of thought, or rather perhaps
of feeling, was common among the last generation of European liberalism,
in the Continental section of which it still apparently predominates.
8/John Stuart Mill
Those who admit any limit to what a government may do, except in the
case of such governments as they think ought not to exist, stand out as
brilliant exceptions among the political thinkers of the Continent. A
similar tone of sentiment might by this time have been prevalent in our
own country, if the circumstances which for a time encouraged it, had
But, in political and philosophical theories, as well as in persons,
success discloses faults and infirmities which failure might have concealed
from observation. The notion, that the people have no need to
limit their power over themselves, might seem axiomatic, when popular
government was a thing only dreamed about, or read of as having existed
at some distant period of the past. Neither was that notion necessarily
disturbed by such temporary aberrations as those of the French
Revolution, the worst of which were the work of a usurping few, and
which, in any case, belonged, not to the permanent working of popular
institutions, but to a sudden and convulsive outbreak against monarchical
and aristocratic despotism. In time, however, a democratic republic
came to occupy a large portion of the earth’s surface, and made itself
felt as one of the most powerful members of the community of nations;
and elective and responsible government became subject to the observations
and criticisms which wait upon a great existing fact. It was now
perceived that such phrases as “self-government,” and “the power of
the people over themselves,” do not express the true state of the case.
The “people” who exercise the power are not always the same people
with those over whom it is exercised; and the “self-government” spoken
of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest.
The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most
numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those
who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; the people,
consequently may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions
are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of
power. The limitation, therefore, of the power of government over individuals
loses none of its importance when the holders of power are regularly
accountable to the community, that is, to the strongest party therein.
This view of things, recommending itself equally to the intelligence of
thinkers and to the inclination of those important classes in European
society to whose real or supposed interests democracy is adverse, has
had no difficulty in establishing itself; and in political speculations “the
tyranny of the majority” is now generally included among the evils against
which society requires to be on its guard.
Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is
still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the
public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is
itself the tyrant—society collectively over the separate individuals who
compose it—its means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which
it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and
does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead
of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to
meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds
of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme
penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more
deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection,
therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs
protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling;
against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil
penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who
dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent
the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and
compels all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.
There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with
individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against
encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs,
as protection against political despotism.
But though this proposition is not likely to be contested in general
terms, the practical question, where to place the limit—how to make the
fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control—
is a subject on which nearly everything remains to be done. All that
makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of
restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore,
must be imposed, by law in the first place, and by opinion on many
things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law. What these
rules should be is the principal question in human affairs; but if we
except a few of the most obvious cases, it is one of those which least
progress has been made in resolving. No
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.
You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.Read more
Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.Read more
Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.Read more
Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.Read more
By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.Read more