THE first part of Mr. Mill's autobiography gives an instructive account of his early education. He had before propounded his general views upon this subject in a celebrated address delivered at the University of St. Andrew's in 1867. Mr. Mill had won the enviable distinction of possessing "the most elaborated mind in Europe," and this, together with the confessed ability of his argument, gave it wide influence with the public. But there were many who thought that Mr. Mill, on that occasion, reasoned too much from his own exceptional experience, and that, as an argument addressed to the times, the performance was misleading and injurious. The record of Mr. Mill's mental history, now published, throws important light upon the view promulgated at St. Andrew's, and, as the question involved is of great practical importance, the present is a fitting occasion to offer some remark upon it.
There has grown up a grave conflict between ancient learning and modern science as means of educating the human mind. It originated in the rise of a new order of knowledge derived from the extensive study of Nature in recent times. The old system was, however, strongly intrenched in the field of education; it was interwoven with the world's literature, and all its venerated traditions; it appealed to the generations of the great that it had trained, and it was in possession of the old institutions of learning, fortified by rich endowments, and backed by state and church. But, as modern knowledge has grown in extent and influence, and institutions have been liberalized, and the idea of general education has become a part of civilization, there has been a growing demand for the right of science to have a more decisive voice in education, and this demand has been partially yielded to by the modification of old methods and the establishment of new. Such changes have only resulted from long and earnest conflict between opposing views, and, whatever may be the merits of this controversy, one thing would seem to be certain, that it has been a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the progress of events.
At the outset of his address, Mr. Mill recognized this struggle as "the great controversy of the present day, with regard to the higher education, the difference which most broadly divides educational reformers; the vexed question between the ancient languages and the modern sciences and arts." But, from Mr. Mill's point of view, the antagonism is unreal, and the controversy futile and groundless. Between the two systems of culture he acknowledged no rivalship, but said, "Why not both?" To the obvious answer that average students have neither capacity nor time for such extensive mental conquests, he indignantly replied: "I am amazed at the limited conception which many educational reformers have formed to themselves of a human being's power of acquisition." Mr. Mill, accordingly, proceeded to outline a system of study more consonant, as he thought, with the powers and possibilities of the human mind. The limitations of capacity assigned by experience and embodied in practical plans of education he gave to the winds, and offered an ideal of scholarship and a range of acquisition of most majestic proportions. But it was so grandly