[Letter of John James Taylor to Francis William Newman.]
July 3rd, 1848
Have you found time to read the two vols. which Mr. J. S. Mill has just put forth on the "Principles of Political Economy"? If you have not, I really think you have a great pleasure to come,—the more so, as in many of his views, especially respecting the size of landed properties and the prospects of the labouring classes, you will find much coincidence with those which you have yourself repeatedly expressed. The author forwarded a copy to the Editors of the Prospective; and I have hence enjoyed the opportunity of looking through, and reading a part of, his volumes.—We think we have secured a very able young writer to give us a notice of the work for November.—Delightful is rather a strange epithet to apply to a Treatise on Political Economy; yet this is the very term by which I should most naturally express the impression left on my mind by those parts of it which I have read. What charms me in the book is the spirit of calm and wise philanthropy with which it is imbued—its luminous statement of general views, sustained and illustrated by such an admirable selection of facts from history and observation—and the unaffected simplicity and quiet earnestness of its style, so worthy of a philosophical mind. I really feel better and happier for the perusal of some of its chapters. His defence of what he calls the stationary condition of society, so opposed to the doctrine of most Economists, quite enraptured me—not the less for its contrast with the tendencies which are most powerfully in operation in this neighbourhood. You will see that he attaches immense importance, in all his views of social regeneration, to the moral check on population. With him it is the sine qua non of progress. What think you? I do not see how he can be answered. But then what need is there of higher refinement of mind and manners, and of stronger conviction of duty? And this must be a slow process.
This vacation I am going to throw my mind into a new channel, by reading through the same writer's "Ratiocinative and Inductive Logic." One becomes tired and deadened by constant application to studies of one kind. In History particularly one is overwhelmed with small facts; and the recurrence to principles is very refreshing. Moreover, before I attack the period of the Reformation, I want carefully to review the grounds and principles of all religious belief, and of the spiritual authority of Christianity for minds of the present day. I want something fixed and positive in my own mind, to which to refer the phenomena of History, which from this point of my Course—the centuries immediate preceding the Reformation—are constantly becoming more significant and important. I mean to take the next twelve months for this purpose. I shall perhaps trouble you every now and then with a few queries and observations.—You have heard of the legal decision about our College. We cannot move without Act of Parliament. I have been, and still am, decidedly in favour of removal on general grounds: but there is so much prejudice, and such conflict of opinion, that I do not see the possibility of effecting any desirable junction under present circumstances. The result therefore is perhaps the best that could have happened for the present. In the course of the next decennium, opinion will probably undergo considerable modification; and continued experience of the mischiefs of divided operation in so small a body as ours, may bring the Trustees to unanimity. Then will be the time to apply for an Act. Meanwhile, Manchester College and University Hall must work apart. I deplore the necessity, but fear it is inevitable.—Upon Wicksteed and myself will devolve the necessity of providing for the Nov. No. of the Prospective; as Martineau and Thom will be out of the country, or the latter only just returned. Do not forget us, dear friend, in our destitution. You know how acceptable your contributions are. I would express our gratitude more strongly, did I not know that you hate even a semblance of the language of flattery.—We hear very good accounts of John. He is studying the Roman Law with diligence. This is of course only for the exercise and instruction of his mind. If all be well, we talk of going to see him at Bonn in September.