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Although he is primarily remembered today as the author of On Liberty and other works of political philosophy, John Stuart Mill also worked his way up from junior clerk to examiner of Indian correspondence in London’s India House on Leadenhall Street from 1823 to 1858, during which time he penned over 1,700 dispatches to British India. Writing these dispatches may have been the type of work that only a “mechanical drudge” would love, as Mill himself observed, but he nevertheless put together several dispatches on the suppression of thagi that make for fascinating insights into his political thought.

Thagi (also Thuggee, from which the English word “thuggery” is derived; from the Hindi verb meaning to cheat or to deceive) is the crime of highway murder. Its suppression involved approximately 4,000 total criminal convictions up to 1840. Convicting, trying, and punishing murderers is important in a civil society, but the way that it was done

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  • CHRIS BARKER is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwestern College. He recently completed his first manuscript on John Stuart Mill’s liberalism.
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