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Chapter XVI Of Nationality As Connected With Representative Government John Stuart Mill
―A PORTION of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others — which make them co-operate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively.‖1 It is with this definition of ―nationality‖ that John Stuart Mill opens his chapter dedicated to the issue of nationalism, linking it closely to his study on representative government. He is considered to be the central figure concerning discussions of nationhood that ―attempt to reconcile some kind of national attachment with liberal values.‖2 The usage of the phrase ‗nationality‖ by Mill is explained by David Miller, who also borrows this term, arguing that it proposes an alternative, that is meant to be different from unpleasant versions of nationalism, rejecting earlier classification which attempt to identify a sanitized version of nationalism by distinguishing between two kinds of nationalism (a ―Western‖ and ―Eastern‖ form). Miller opts for Mill‘s term as he considers it to be less ―tainted than nationalism‖3 Hence, Mill argues that a sentiment of nationality is create as an effect of various causes, which are not ―indispensable or necessarily sufficient by themselves‖. Among them he names: ‖identity of race and descent‖, ―community of language‖, ―community of religion‖, geographical factors. Amongst all, Mill considers the most important and relevant, concerning the issue of nationality, to be ―identity of political antecedents‖, the individuals should own common national history, ―community of recollections‖, ―collective pride and humiliation‖, pleasure and regret all sourcing to the same events in the past. In order to offer an example of their shortcomings, and dispensability he brings into discussion the cases of Switzerland (different races, languages and religion, although having strong feelings of nationality), Sicily (although sharing religion, language and considerable history with Naples, felt distinct in nationality from it) and the Flemish and Walloon provinces of Belgium (even though having diversity of language and race, they shared a great sentiment of nationality).


. John Stuart Mill, ―Considerations on Representative Government‖, Prometheus Books, New York, 1991,

pp.308. . Georgios Varouxakis, ―Mill on Nationality‖, Volume 3 of Political Studies Associatin/Political Studies Series, Routledge, London, 2002 , pp 3. 3 . David Miller, ―On Nationality‖, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995, pp.10


John Stuart Mill. Each nationality fears the other. the bonds that tie them together are their officers and the government which they serve.4 Once again he proves his liberal allegiance.pp. therefore their only viable option was ―to make virtue of necessity‖ and adjust to living together under equal rights and laws. Informational sources differ. op cit. The last resort in matters of security against an oppressive regime becomes the army. ―Considerations on Representative Government‖. 312-313 4 2 . which was cut off from Germany by a part of Poland. and its willingness to side.John Stuart Mill infers that if a group had acquired strong nationalist feelings. Prometheus Books. Trust among the groups is inexistent. or religion the soldier‘s loyalty lies in the flag. pp. ―Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. New York.‖ Language barriers impede the existence of a united public opinion that is part of the mechanisms of representative government. arguing that it is by the right of the individuals to be free in deciding with whom they could associate. namely France. and a government to themselves apart.Mill. and even German. there is a prima facie case for uniting all the members of the nationality under the same government. as viewed by the individuals. and not having the necessary strength to maintain separate independence. providing that they unite under the same government. become ―the enemy‖ for the soldier. 1991. Croats. making joint resistance towards an abusive government impossible. Romanians. Mill offers as an example one of the most united countries in Europe.310 5 . Another example given by Mill is the case of East Prussia. of their choosing. Burgundian and other Teutonic races. ―Where the sentiment of nationality exists in any force. had two options: either to live under non-German government or the Polish territory must be under the German state. John Stuart Mill feared that a multi-ethnic state would lead a government to endorse authoritarian divide and rule policies. . Here we have the example of Hungary. Thus.‖ Mill proposed that ―it is in general a necessary condition of free institutions that the boundaries of governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities‖ 5 . No matter his race. Serbs. However in practice this theory encounters several difficulties. namely that there are parts of Europe in which the different nationalities are so intertwined that it is not accessible for them to be under separate government. as do their perception of events. which had an array of different nationalities embedded within its populations: Magyars. and his only law is that of force. out of sympathy with the people. One is them is the geographical dimensions. which was. incidents or government action.S. to the point that they loathed living in a state that they didn‘t regard as their own. Political action is obstructed as opinions and political actors differ in preference from one part of the country to the next. and Frankish.‖ As found in J. this was of great danger and needed to be addressed quickly and from a rational stance. rather than having ―any of the peoples artificially tied together. more than they fear the common authority that is the state. Foreigners. Slovaks‘. guided by the submission to command. nationality wise was split between GalloRoman population.

Another difficulty that needed be surpassed is one of moral and societal dimensions. Georgios Varouxakis. op cit.Mill. and the dignity and prestige of French power — than to sulk on his own rocks. without participation or interest in the general movement of the world. or a possible scenario of Russian absorption of European ―principal countries‖ b) inferior-in this case. pp. a. If they are unequal.considered by the author to be a gain to civilization. pp 9 8 . The smaller nationalities were backward and stagnant. Routledge.8 This groups brought together might be equal in strength and number or they might be unequal. Basques or the French Navarres received as they were brought into the current of ideas and feeling of a highly civilized and cultivated people and of being ―admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship. however in this case the conquerors and the conquered cannot live together under the same free institutions. with their highly centralized political and economic structure. However what he had in mind was ―a kind of heterosis‖.S. pp 314 7 . ―Mill on Nationality‖. as the .1 attain dominance over the other.7 Bear in mind that when conferring about the admixture of national or ethnic groups with one another and contending that ―it is to the benefit of the human race‖.2 it can be brought down by sheer force and subjected. they govern with tolerable justice. admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship. the group smaller in number can be a) superior in civilization –through this it can : a. For both liberals and Marxists in the nineteenth century. revolving in his own little mental orbit. a give and take relation. Routledge. sharing the advantages of French protection. Mill give here the example of Ireland in connection to England. the half-savage relic of past times. and don‘t take advantage of exclusive privileges (as to be later on hated by the conquered) than the smaller nationality will fusion with the larger. Georgios Varouxakis. the great nations. ―Mill on Nationality‖. not the complete fading of all the traits of one group and the adoption of those of the other. were the carriers of historical development. and the dignity and prestige of the French power‖. sharing the advantages of French protection. Mill did not intend to argue in favor of an absolute absorption or disappearance of one group. and could only participate in modernity by abandoning their national character and assimilating to a great nation. however that had changed and he expected that this fusion would take place. to be brought into the current of the ideas and feelings of a highly civilized and cultivated people — to be a member of the French nationality. Volume 3 of Political Studies Associatin/Political Studies Series. and offers the example of the absorption of Greece by Macedonia. or a Basque of French Navarre. if the conquerors are both more numerous and more improved.‖ As found in J. 11. 2002 . 6 3 . where the best qualities of each group need be preserved and enhanced. 2002 . arguing that the fusion between the two hadn‘t happen due to the poor governing. Volume 3 of Political Studies Association/Political Studies Series. Here Mill confers about the possibility of merger and absorption of one nationality into another. This variable is considered by Mill a mishaps to the human race. ―Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial to a Breton. London. London.6 As an example Mill speaks of the gains the Bretons.

then it will never do.‖9 However his main goal in this Chapter is to offer the justification for ―nationality‖ and seek its potential conduciveness to free representative government. Thus each party promotes zealously its ―distinctive peculiarities‖.Irish and the Anglo-Saxon were equals in matters of rights and low. even ―declining languages are revived ―to sharpen the separation. ―Mill on Nationality‖. London. Mill warns that if this fusion does not happen before the aspiration to free government. improving one another through the ―civilization-enhancing diversity that would result. the only complaint remained that of the State Church. . Volume 3 of Political Studies Associatin/Political Studi es Series. especially if geographically the two are separated. Mill argued in favor of the coexistence of various ethnic. However. foreign to both side. the worst case scenario that Mill could have imagined when discussing the merger of two nationalities was the instance when two nationalities tied together are equal in number and in other elements of power. Routledge. In this circumstance. pp. trusting its power and managing to maintain a steady battle of power. However. It is only then that ―fellow -feeling‖ emerge. 7 9 4 . racial and cultural groups in one state. that does not make any discrimination in its abuses towards both nationalities. that is a authoritarian/totalitarian government come to power. each group. will be reluctant to join in this fusion. Harmony can sometimes be reached only when a third actor joins. 2002 . Georgios Varouxakis. Each party considers itself to be a victim of abuse and tyranny. ―obsolete customs‖.

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