Tuesday, May 12, 2009

13Apr1866, J.S. Mill and the Claims of the People

LONDON, April 13th, 1866.
—This is my never-to-be-forgotten day. Auntie P. and I did St. G. in the E., taking flowers there. I read to a roomful of oakum-picking women. We went to the House afterwards, quite on the chance ; and had the immense luck of hearing the famous Mr. J. S. Mill make a most perfect speech in favour of the Franchise Bill. In spite of the cry-down humour the Tories are in, it was striking to have this small-voiced philosopher listened to with the greatest possible attention and respect ; and indeed the speech was irresistibly fair, profound, and trenchant. Three or 4 times he made a dead pause of more than a minute, but only to produce some new, cogent argument armed at all points and perfectly expressed ; though he was keenly satirical once or twice, the whole tone of his speech was gentle and temperate to a degree. The Opposition held their tongues as if bewitched ! He followed Sir Bulwer Lytton, who made a slashing, clever speech. I found myself a good deal struck and moved, coming straight out of one of the depths of misery and pauperism, to hear the claims of the people so grandly brought forward : those "dumb" thousands, as Bright called them, among whom there must be so many feeling, as none of us can feel, for all this degradation ; and voiceless in the nation whom they might help to rouse to the most noble of battles.

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