The Documents

The Development of the American Character

On Liberty

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill. 19th century Photogravure portrait.

Short Description

On Liberty represents the final stage of growth regarding the Utilitarian doctrine. In it, he rationalizes that the “greatest good” of the community is inseparable from the liberty of the individual. His arguments for freedom of every kind of thought or speech have never been improved.

Remnant Trust Description

First Edition of Mill on Liberty: “One of the classic defenses of freedom in the English language.” “The essay ‘On Liberty’ was probably Mill’s only abiding work on politics...comparable to Milton’s Aeorpagitica...as one of the classical defenses of freedom in the English language...The argument of his legacy went far beyond a merely utilitarian defense of liberty. When he said that all mankind has no right to silence one dissenter...he was claiming the right to think, to investigate, and to know as moral attributes inseparable from the dignity of a rational being.” “Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ remains his most widely read book. It represents the final stage of growth of Utilitarian doctrine...Mill realized that the ‘greatest good’ of the community is inseparable from the liberty of the individual...[declaring that] ‘the sole end for which mankind is justified in interfering with liberty of action is self-protection’...Many of Mill’s ideas are now the commonplaces of democracy. His arguments for freedom of every kind of thought or speech have never been improved on. He was the first to recognize the tendency of a democratically elected majority to tyrannize over a minority.”