Liberalism and Liberty

February 16, 2010

These are my basic lecture notes, but i thought they could help with revision at the end of the semister :)

John Wilkes:

Wilkes was notoriously known for his horrifying appearance; however, he believed if you gave him 10 minuets his wit and shinning personality could charm any lady. His private life was extremely colourful -he was a member of the Hellfire club and had a rebellious character.

Wilkes was the co-writer of the ‘Essay on women’, which was described as the dirtiest poem in the English language. It was his laid back and rebellious character what made him so popular with the lower classes and Americans. Because of his popularity, he was elected mayor of London.

Wilkes is important to us today as he created laws which now apply to all journalists. He created the law to allow journalists to report on parliament, giving journalists more freedom and more power over society. He put forward the first bill proposing universal male suffrage in 1775, yet again making him more popular to the lower classes (and, of course, making his chances of being elected as prime minister higher).

However, in 1762 King George III appointed John Stuart as Prime Minister, which Wilkes resented. John Stuart set up a newspaper straight away called the Britain to promote himself. This was rather ironic however, as he was in fact a Scot.

Wilkes bit back by setting up the North Britain newspaper, which was written anonymously. The population loved the paper, it was written as if it was from Scotland, and constantly made jokes about John Stuart’s relationship with the Kings mother.

The King constantly tried to get rid of Wilkes, through bribery, threats and even an assassination attempt!

In issue 45 of the North Britain the King was referred to as a lair. A general warrant was issued, arresting Wilkes along with 45 other men. Wilkes the sued the government for invasion of privacy and false arrest (this was unheard of at the time and a very controversial event). Wilkes then won, and established those rights.

Wilkes was then expelled from parliament before changing blasphemous liable.

Lord Sandwich, a previous friend to Wilkes, then read the Essay on women in Parliament. Because of this, Wilkes was forced to flee to France. However, on his way back to Britain he was caught and arrested. He was reallocated for parliament whilst in prison but the house voted he was incapable of being elected. To the house, he was a liability and defiant.

City officers elected him alderman and mayor of London soon after.

Mary Wollstonecraft:

Wollstonecraft’s childhood was not an enjoyable one. She had a drunk, violent father who was obsessed with social standing -he yearned over owning land. They soon slipped into the lower classes, which made her Father more aggressive towards her Mother. Wollstonecraft protected her Mother from her Father by sleeping outside her room at night, and soon become the head of the family. She was very critical of her mother for not being more forceful.

She was forced to work as a governess to a wealthy family in Ireland, which she hated. She spent her free time reading as much as she could, and become obsessed with the idea that you can educate yourself to access freedom.

Wollstonecraft argued the education women were given was all about superficial obsession. No independent thought or judgement was included within the curriculum, which Wollstonecraft resented.

Some underpinning to Wollstonecraft’s thoughts was from Locke. She agreed with Locke that everyone starts off with a blank slate, and that women were taught to be submissive due to their poor education. She believed it was not our nature to be submissive, which also ties in with the nature verses nurture theory.

Wollstonecraft returned to London to set up a school called Stock Newington. She become a rational dissenter, which apply rationality to religion, and also become a utilitarian (she was also fascinated with Rousseau and the French Revelation).

Wollstonecraft attacked modern manners, her book ‘vindication on the rights of man’ included her thoughts on female manners and hereditary power, but seems to not be concerned about voting, civil rights or land.

Her idea was that men and women should just be human, asexual or non-sexual beings, until they fall in love and then assume a general identity –She was trying to limit the areas in life where men are men, and women are women.

She experience a failed affair with an artist Imlay in Paris in 1792, and had many suicide attempts. Her vindication was then published, and given a warm response. Goodwin, her husband, the published and unfinished biography called the wrongs of woman, which exposed Wollstonecraft’s affairs, suicide attempts and the ugly truths of her life.

She was then very unpopular until the end of the 19th centaury.

John Stuart Mill:

John Stuart Mill was obsessed with liberty.

Mills experienced a strange education as a child. At age three he was fluent in Greek, by 16 he was probably the most educated man in Europe. However, at 20, he suffered a nervous breakdown, but was saved by reading poetry.

Mill was thrown into jail at 17 for distribution lectures on contraception. Whilst in Jail, he introduced the first bill to give women the vote. He believed n freedom of speech, and that you should never silence opinion. Because the majority may be right, it doesn’t mean we can ignore someone else’s opposing opinion, even f you do believe it to be wrong –we could in fact find that the opposing opinion is correct. He believed that by questioning everything with opposing ideas we therefore strengthen and prove theories.

Mills dismissed the social contract, but admits individuals must follow society’s rules. He believed that opinions can be held freely, as long as they do not indicate violence. He believed the state should not interfere with peoples personal pleasures as long as you don’t harm people. He gives the example of a policeman. A policeman can be drunk, but not on duty.

However, he did agree the state does have a right to interfere in certain situations, such as the education of a child. He thought it was a ‘moral crime’ if a child was not educated, and that a parent does not have the right to withhold education from a child.

Mill stated it is better to be a discontented human than being a content pig.

Mill was committed to producing the best outcome, a created a hierarchy of pleasures. Mill disagreed with Bentham on the subject of pleasure; Mills believed in the higher pleasures. But because of his education, it did not include sport, poetry etc. He was later described as a ‘cold logic machine’.

He then became an MP and believed the educated voted were worth more then others.

Mill argues that if it was natural for women to be submissive, then why were there so many rules to keep women in subjection? –He had similar views to Wollstonecraft in this area.


Liberty began as an attempt to limit the powers of government through bills of rights. It located authority in the individual (Locke).

Liberals believe in free trade (Adam Smith) and prize freedom over equality. They also believe religion and morality are private matters.

Socialists equality of opportunity is like saying the Ritz is open to everyone.

Plurism- Ones belief and actions are private unless you harm others.


Utilitarian’s avoid the problems of dealing with religion or morals.

Bentham had the idea that ethics could be turned into a science where you could calculate what was right, and that happiness s measured.

They believe everyone’s happiness matters; however, they also believe in the greatest good for the greatest number. They judge actions by their consequences (consequencalist theory).


  1. Good work Char, very helpful :)

  2. Thanks Jake!
    Free advertising much?? ;)

  3. Trying to raise my alexa traffic rank ;)

  4. Ahh, good plan!
    What else have you done for it?
    Link within and submitt it to related articles on wiki!


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