James Mill, considered one of the best philosophical minds of the Regency era, was born on 6 April 1773. He was one of the founders and most ardent proponents of philosophic radicalism and was one of the key writers that helped steer Regency liberal politicians towards fighting to guarantee the freedom of the press and the rights of white, Protestant, British men to have more of a say in their own government, eventually leading to the Reform Bill and the enfranchisement of more voters than ever before. A dedicated atheist, he also fought against abuses by the church authorities.
He was also a racist asshat who wrote a book, The History of British India, that is almost awe-inspiring in its unrelenting bigoted drivel. This book allowed every ethnocentric and greedy Brit, liberal or conservative, to justify the colonization of India and the rapine of its resources and the exploitation of Indians, as well as the plunder of China, under the umbrella arguments that the “savages” were being “helped” and “civilized” by their overlords. By providing a ready-made excuse for even the most heinous crimes of profiteering and predation by the British in India, it “effected a complete change in the whole system of governance in the country” for the worse.
According to Thomas Trautmann, “James Mill’s highly influential History of British India (1817) – most particularly the long essay ‘Of the Hindus’ comprising ten chapters – is the single most important source of British Indophobia and hostility to Orientalism”. In the chapter titled General Reflections in “Of the Hindus”, Mill wrote “under the glosing exterior of the Hindu, lies a general disposition to deceit and perfidy”. According to Mill, “the same insincerity, mendacity, and perfidy; the same indifference to the feelings of others; the same prostitution and venality” were the conspicuous characteristics of both the Hindoos and the Muslims. The Muslims, however, were perfuse, when possessed of wealth, and devoted to pleasure; the Hindoos almost always penurious and ascetic; and “in truth, the Hindoo like the eunuch, excels in the qualities of a slave”. Furthermore, similar to the Chinese, the Hindoos were “dissembling, treacherous, mendacious, to an excess which surpasses even the usual measure of uncultivated society”. Both the Chinese and the Hindoos were “disposed to excessive exaggeration with regard to everything relating to themselves”. Both were “cowardly and unfeeling”. Both were “in the highest degree conceited of themselves, and full of affected contempt for others”. And, above all, both were “in physical sense, disgustingly unclean in their persons and houses”.
As a final piece of undigested corn in the poo-pile that is Mill’s book of crap opinions regarding the “Oriental”, the twatwaffle never even visited India or China himself. He wrote his book, “relying solely on documentary material and archival records”.
Needless to say, my heroine in Mansfield Parsonage, Mary Crawford, is a liberal of a different stripe.
Mary sees the need for universal emancipation and HUMAN rights, rather than (like most liberals of her era) trying to achieve the narrower goal of liberating and enfranchising the white man. Her point of view is not anachronistic tho – there were several reformers during the Regency who wanted equality for all, regardless of gender or ethnicity. The one distinction between those hard-core liberals and today’s social justice advocates is the lack of concern for the right to have any other sexual orientation other than straight … preferably straight vanilla. Anything other than heterosexuality was a deviance to be helped or cured, rather than condoned or championed.