On Liberty Questions and Answers
by John Stuart Mill

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Why did John Stuart Mill feel the need to write On Liberty?

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On Liberty by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill was originally published in 1859. Mill started writing the essay in 1854 with the help of his wife, Harriet Taylor, and published it in the form to which she had contributed as, in part, a monument to her after her death. The essay responded to changes in how England was governed and especially to the Reform Act of 1832 and the debates (eventually leading to the additional acts of 1867 and 1884) concerning extending the franchise to a wider proportion of English society.

Mill worked as a colonial administrator for the British East India Company from 1823 until 1858 and thus was inspired by practical issues stemming from colonial administration as well as more general philosophical ones. He was concerned with how to balance authority and freedom and how to protect the rights of minorities under democratic systems of government.

Mill's Autobiography addresses the circumstances of the essay's composition in detail.

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On Liberty is essentially a...

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