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Policing MoralsThe Metropolitan Police and the Home Office 1870–1914$
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Stefan Petrow

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198201656

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198201656.001.0001

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Liberty and Morality

Liberty and Morality

(p.7) 1 Liberty and Morality
Policing Morals

Stefan Petrow

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses differing views on the exercise of liberty and on the exercise of society, and the moralists and the authority to regulate individual morality and the morals of the society as a whole. One of the staunchest critics of the criminal law was John Stuart Mill who wrote On Liberty wherein he contested individual sovereignty and morality and the possible dangers imposed by social interference over the morals and sovereign on an individual. He also questioned the limits of the power and functions of the police which could infringe upon liberty. This call for limited restraint was opposed by James Fitzjames Stephen who rallied for the absence of injurious restrain and argued that only by having an intelligent and organized government could liberty thrive. These two opposing arguments were characteristic of the late Victorian political debate. By the 1870s, the balance of opinion was favouring Stephen's view wherein the government, the bureaucracy, and the police should compel individuals to act in the best interests of the society. The chapter also discusses the pressures for and against greater state interference with individual morality.

Keywords:   liberty, moralists, individual morality, morals, John Stuart Mill, individual sovereignty, interference, state interference

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