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it will greatly help the positive spirit to make its way into political discussions." 1
Then followed a curious interchange of letters. Comte replied politely that he was glad to learn of Mill's project, and that he did not doubt that it would be very useful, by contributing to the spread of the positive spirit.
"Although an economic analysis, properly so called, ought not, in my opinion, to be finally conceived of or undertaken apart from the general body of sociological analysis, both static and dynamic, yet I have never refused to recognise the provisional efficacy of this kind of present-day metaphysics." .2 Mill wrote in return that he was pleased to get Comte's approbation, since he was afraid Comte might have thought his project "essentially anti-scientific ";
"and so it would really be if I did not take the greatest possible care to establish the purely provisional character of any doctrine on industrial phenomena which leaves out of sight the general movement of humanity." 3
Cornte once more replied that he thought Mill's project a happy one.
"When regarded as having the purely preliminary purpose and provisional office that are assigned to it by a general historical view, political economy loses its principal dangers and may become very useful." A
It is sufficiently apparent that the correspondents are at cross purposes. By " provisional " Comte means until a positive Sociology can be created; Mill means so long as the present system of private property lasts. Until the present social system should be fundamentally changed, Mill clearly regarded the Ricardian economics as so far applicable to existing conditions as to call for no substantial revision in method or conclusions. And by this attitude,—by deferring any breach with Ricardian political economy to a time comparable in the minds of men less ardent than himself to the Greek Kalends,—he certainly strengthened its hold over many of his readers.
Since Mill's time there has been a vast amount of economic
1 April 3, 1844. Translated from the French text in Levy-Bruhl, p. 309.
2 May 1, 1844. Ibid. p. 314. The original French should be consulted. It is impossible in a free rendering to give all the nuances of the original.
:i June 6, 1844. Ibid. p. 322. 4 July 22, 1844. Ibid. p. 338.
writing. The German Historical School has come into existence, and has reached a high point of achievement in the treatise of Gustav Schmoller. On the other hand, other bodies of theory have made their appearance, quite as abstract as the Bicardian which they reject: and here the names of Jevonsand Menger stand out above the rest. An equally abstract Socialist doctrine, the creation largely of Marx, has meantime waxed and waned. But Mill's Principles will long continue to be read and will deserve to be read. It represents an interesting phase in the intellectual history of the nineteenth century. But its merit is more than historical. It is still one of the most stimulating books that can be put into the hands of students, if they are cautioned at the outset against regarding it as necessarily final in all its parts. On some topics there is still, in my opinion, nothing better in the English language; on others Mill's treatment is still the best point of departure for further enquiry. Whatever its faults, few or many, it is a great treatise, conceived and executed on a lofty plane, and breathing a noble spirit. Mill—especially when we penetrate beneath the magisterial flow of his final text, as we are now enabled to do by the record in this edition of his varying moods—is a very human personality. The reader of to-day is not likely to come to him in too receptive a spirit; and for a long time there will be much that even those who most differ from him will still be able to learn from his pages.
It remains now to describe the character of the present edition. The text is that of the seventh edition (1871), the last revised by Mill; and it is hoped that the occasional but misleading misprints which had crept into it have now all been corrected. It has not seemed desirable to add anything in the way of editorial comment. But in the one case where Mill himself publicly abandoned an important doctrine of his Principles,—that of the Wages Fund —it has seemed proper to give an excerpt from his later writings in the Appendix. And the same plan has been pursued with regard to Mill's latest views on Socialism. I have also appended a series of references to the chief writers who have dealt with the main topics of Mill's treatise, especially those of a controversial nature, since his time. That I have altogether escaped the influence of personal bias in this selection I can hardly hope. If the references under any head should seem scanty or one-sided, it should be borne
in mind that they are intended to include only those outstanding works whose value is generally recognised by all serious economists, and that the choice is limited in the main to the books that are easily accessible to the English-reading public.
The characteristic feature, however, of this edition is the indication in the notes of all the significant changes or additions made by Mill in the course of the six editions revised by himself. The dates of these editions, after the first in 1848, were 1849, 1852, 1857, 1862, 1865, and 1871. In every one of these Mill made noteworthy alterations. Rewriting, or the addition of whole sections or paragraphs, takes place chiefly in the earlier editions; but even in the last, that of 1871, the "few verbal corrections" of which Mill speaks in his Preface were sufficient, in more passages than one, to give a different complexion to the argument. My attention was called to this interesting feature in the history of the Principles by Miss M. A. Ellis' article in the Economic Journal for June, 1906; and it seemed to me that the interest of students would be aroused by a record of the variations. Accordingly I have compared the first and the seventh edition page by page and paragraph by paragraph; and where any striking divergence has shown itself, I have looked up the earlier editions and ascertained the date of its first appearance. This has proved an unexpectedly toilsome business, even with the assistance of the notes that Miss Ellis has been good enough to put at my disposal; and I cannot feel quite sure that nothing has escaped my eye that ought to be noted. Mere changes of language for the sake of improving the style I have disregarded, though I have erred rather in the direction of including than of excluding every apparent indication of change of opinion or even of mood. All editorial notes are placed within square brackets; and I have added, and marked in the same way, the dates of all Mill's own foot-notes subsequent to the first edition. As Mill's revision of the text, though considerable, was rather fragmentary, his timereferences are occasionally a little bewildering: a "now" in his text may mean any time between 1848 and 1871. In every case where it seemed necessary to ascertain and to remind the reader of the time when a particular sentence was written, I have inserted the date in the text in square brackets.
Mill's punctuation is not quite so preponderatingly grammatical as punctuation has since become. As in all the books of the middle of last century, it is also largely rhetorical. The printers had already, during the course of six editions, occasionally used their discretion and dropt out a misleading comma. I have ventured to carry the process just a little further, and to strike out a few rhetorical commas that seemed to interfere with the easy understanding of the text. The Index has been prepared by Miss M. A. Ellis.
I must express my thanks to the proprietors of the Fortnightly Review for allowing me to make use of Mill's posthumous articles, and to the Hon. Hugh Elliot for permitting me to refer to the Letters of Mill which he is now editing.
The appearance of a treatise like the present, on a subject on which so many works of merit already exist, may be thought to require some explanation.
It might, perhaps, be sufficient to say, that no existing treatise on Political Economy contains the latest improvements which have been made in the theory of the subject. Many new ideas, and new applications of ideas, have been elicited by the discussions of the last few years, especially those on Currency, on Foreign Trade, and on the important topics connected more or less intimately with Colonization: and there seems reason that the field of Political Economy should be re-surveyed in its whole extent, if only for the purpose of incorporating the results of these speculations, and bringing them into harmony with the principles previously laid down by the best thinkers on the subject.
To supply, however, these deficiencies in former treatises bearing a similar title, is not the sole, or even the principal object which the author has in view. The design of the book is different from that of any treatise on Political Economy which has been produced in England since the work of Adam Smith.
The most characteristic quality of that work, and the one in which it most differs from some others which have equalled or even surpassed it as mere expositions of the general principles of the subject, is that it invariably associates the principles with their applications. This of itself implies a much wider range of ideas and of topics than are included in Political Economy, considered as a branch of abstract speculation. For practical purposes, Political Economy is inseparably intertwined with many other branches of Social Philosophy. Except on matters of mere detail, there are perhaps no practical questions, even among those which