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James Mill (1773–1836) was a Scots-born political philosopher, historian, psychologist, educational theorist, economist, and legal, political and penal reformer. Well-known and highly regarded in his day, he is now all but forgotten. Mill’s reputation now rests mainly on two biographical facts. The first is that his first-born son was John Stuart Mill, who became even more eminent than his father. The second is that the elder Mill was the collaborator and ally of Jeremy Bentham, whose subsequent reputation also eclipsed the elder Mill’s. Our aim here is to try, insofar as possible, to remove Mill from these two large shadows and to reconsider him as a formidable thinker in his own right
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Mill’s range of interests was remarkably wide, extending from education and psychology in his two-volume Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829a), to political economy (he persuaded his friend David Ricardo to write on that subject, as Mill himself did in his Elements of Political Economy, 1821), to penology and prison reform, to the law and history, and, not least, to political philosophy. On these and other subjects he wrote five books and more than a thousand essays and reviews. It is with Mill the political philosopher and educational theorist that the present article is principally concerned
Unlike his famous first-born son, James Mill never wrote an autobiography or even a sketch of his early life, the details of which remained unknown even to his children. What we do know is this. James Mill was born on 6 April 1773 at Northwater Bridge in the county of Forfarshire in the parish of Logie Pert in Scotland. His father, James Milne, was a shoemaker and small farmer of modest means who was quiet, mild-mannered, and devout. His mother, Isabel Fenton Milne, was a more forceful figure. Determined that her first-born son should get ahead in the world, she changed the family name from the Scottish “Milne” to the more English-sounding “Mill,” and kept young James away from other children, demanding that he spend most of his waking hours immersed in study. His “sole occupation,” as his biographer Alexander Bain remarks, “was study” (Bain 1882, 7). (A regimen rather like that imposed by his mother upon her eldest son was later to be imposed upon his first-born son, John Stuart Mill.) In this occupation young James clearly excelled. Before the age of seven he had shown a talent for elocution, composition, and arithmetic, as well as Latin and Greek. The local minister saw to it that James received special attention at the parish school. At age ten or eleven, he was sent to Montrose Academy, where his teachers “were always overflowing with the praises of Mill’s cleverness and perseverance” (Bain 1882, 8). Before leaving Montrose Academy at the age of seventeen, Mill was persuaded by the parish minister and his mother to study for the ministry. Mill’s decision evidently pleased Lady Jane Stuart, wife of Sir John Stuart of Fettercairn, who headed a local charity founded for the purpose of educating poor but bright boys for the Presbyterian ministry. Mill, eminently qualified in both respects, became the recipient of Lady Jane’s largesse. As it happened, she and Sir John were just then looking for a tutor for their fourteen-year old daughter Wilhelmina. They offered the job to James Mill; he accepted; and when the Stuart family moved to Edinburgh, he accompanied them
In 1790, Mill enrolled in the University of Edinburgh, where by day he pursued a full course of studies and in the evenings tutored young Wilhelmina. Each experience left its mark. The Scottish universities at Edinburgh and Glasgow (and to a lesser extent Aberdeen and St. Andrews) had earlier been the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment and were still the premier universities in Britain. They had numbered among their faculty such luminaries as Francis Hutcheson, Thomas Reid, John Millar, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, and—had the orthodox town council of Edinburgh not forbade his admission—would have included David Hume as well. At Edinburgh Mill took particular delight in the tutelage of Dugald Stewart, who carried on the tradition of Scottish moral philosophy. In addition to moral philosophy, Mill’s course of studies included history, political economy, and the classics, including Mill’s favorite philosopher, Plato (Loizides 2013a, ch. 3; Loizides 2013b). Mill’s mind never lost the stamp of his Scottish education (Cumming 1962). As his eldest son was later to remark, James Mill was “the last survivor of this great school” (J.S. Mill 1843, 566)
From 1790 to 1794 Mill served young Wilhelmina Stuart not only as a teacher but as a companion and confidant. Her admiration for her tutor quite likely turned to love, and the feeling was apparently reciprocated. But, however promising his prospects, Mill was no aristocrat, a social fact which he was not allowed to forget. In 1797 Wilhelmina married a member of her own class, Sir William Forbes (to the disappointment of Walter Scott, not least). Wilhelmina died in 1810, soon after the birth of her second son. She was said to have called out Mill’s name “with her last breath.” Mill never forgot her; he spoke of her always with wistful affection and named his first-born daughter after her in 1809. But this was not the only incident worthy of note in the Mill-Forbes family affair. In July 1806, soon after the birth of John Stuart Mill (named in honor of Mill’s Scottish patron), the first of nine children, Mill challenged Forbes to “a fair race … in the education of a son.” The “contest” would be decided “twenty years hence.” Should Mill’s be "the most accomplished & virtuous young man" of the two first-born sons, the proud father confessed, “I shall not envy you that you can have yours the richest” (Mill to Forbes, 1806). Ironically, twenty years later, the virtuous son would fall in a state of dejection, forcing him to question the efficacy of the father’s scheme of education
After completing his first degree in 1794, Mill began studying for the ministry. For the next four years he supported himself by tutoring the sons and daughters of several noble families. One such family even set up a small pension which complemented Mill’s income for years (Lazenby 1972, 309). Yet, the experience was not a happy one. For repeatedly forgetting his “place” in “polite society” he suffered one insult after another. He harbored ever after an abiding hatred for an hereditary aristocracy
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John O. Arnold House, ca. 1847, Post Hill Historic District, 5 Granite Street, New London, CT. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Photo by user:Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD, 2008, (own work) creatice commons [cc-4.0], via wikipedia commons, accessed February, 2021
Post Hill Historic District is located approximately one-quarter mile west of New London's historic commercial and civic center along the Thames River. The district is the site of the city's first European settlement, c.1645. By the mid-18th century, the city center had shifted to the riverfront; the Antientest Burial Place cemetery (c.1650), oldest in New London and in the county, is the sole 17th-century resource surviving in the historic district. The centerpiece of the Post Hill Historic District both visually and historically is Williams Park (1858), whose establishment helped spur the area's growth and appeal. Most Post Hill Historic District buildings were erected between 1845 and 1920 during the area's development as a prime residential neighborhood. On the edges of the Post Hill Historic District are many resources already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Jonathan Harris House (1859-60) and Williams Memorial Institute (1891) on Broad Street, and Bulkeley School (1871) on Hempstead Street; nearby are the Williams Memorial Park Historic District and Prospect Street Historic District. The Post Hill Historic District also includes one property, the Nathan A. Woodworth House (1890) at 28 Channing Street, already listed in the National Register
The Post Hill Historic District occupies the first high ground west of downtown New London, with fine views overlooking the harbor. On the upward slope is the Antientest Burial Place, marked with the outcroppings of granite ledge that are a significant visual feature throughout the district. Post Hill's rolling terrain rises to a high point on Addison Street, which is among the highest elevations in the city, with views to Long Island Sound, a fact which contributed to its residential appeal. Many dwellings have hilly yards, and retaining walls of quarry-dressed granite are widespread. The terrain drops sharply to the north, partly as a result of excavation for Interstate 95 just beyond; to the west and south the slope downward is gradual
Post Hill Historic District contains 228 resources, of which 216 (95%) contribute to its significance. The Antientest Burial Place, by far the oldest resource, contains markers dating from first settlement until approximately 1793, when the city's Second Burial Ground was established. District streets were opened for residential development over a 45-year period beginning c.1845, and the other built resources were virtually all built as single-family residences between 1845 and 1925
The architectural styles represented include the Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. Despite this variety, within individual blocks most buildings are similar in size, proportion, and street setback, creating visual unity. Scattered throughout the district are several houses of more imposing dimensions and grounds. While most dwellings are generous in size and stylistic elaboration, there are also examples of smaller, more vernacular building forms, both in residences and outbuildings
Williams Park, a rectangle bordered by Broad, Williams, Granite, and Channing streets, is amply shaded by mature deciduous shade trees, as are most district streets. The park has received an assortment of improvements over time, the most ambitious and extant being the statue of Nathan Hale (dedicated 1935), a copy of Frederick MacMonnies' work in City Hall Park, New York City. Near the park borders on Williams and Broad streets are modern memorials to veterans of armed conflicts
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