« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
warriors and statesmen—and even than monarchs themselves, for it is obvious to me that the these heretofore great authorities is waning, and that in every part of the world the power of the great industrial interest is sensibly increasing.' Dealing with the subject of strikes, Mr. Bright said he was not sure that they should be altogether abandoned. “I call the power to strike among workmen a reserve power, which, under certain circumstances, it may be their duty to exercise. At the same time, I think that, in my experience, in nineteen cases out of twenty, at least, the exercise of that power may be fairly questioned; and in many of these cases it has been a merciless curse to those by whom it has been exercised.'
On the 18th of January, Messrs. Scholefield and Bright addressed their constituents in the Town Hall, when there were some five thousand persons present. The Mayor, Mr. H. Wiggin, presided. Mr. Bright, in his lengthy speech, dealt almost exclusively with the Reform question. At the outset, he referred to the escape we had had from a war on account of Denmark, which he had strongly condemned and deprecated a year before. Whether England owed the chances of peace to the Queen, the younger members of the Cabinet as led by Mr. Gladstone, or to the moneyed interests of the country, he was equally grateful. But the time had been one of great danger, seeing that the aged statesmen at the head of the Government-Lords Palmerston and Russell—were the men who had been mainly responsible for the Crimean war. During the past session, when the question was discussed, the Government exhibited its usual feebleness, and the Opposition its usual folly. Mr. Bright observed that only twelve years ago Lord Russell pledged England to defend all weaker nations, and to take care that nobody was molested in any part of the globe; and if they were to take Lord Palmerston's speeches, they would probably find a cartload of rhetorical rubbish of the same character. But notwithstanding that he (Mr. Bright) and Mr. Cobden had been reviled for holding a different view, all this warlike policy had now been entirely abandoned and overturned. The whole thing had gone to that receptacle to which all lies and superstitions would ultimately go.
Taking the events of the last few years, he was not much mistaken in pronouncing the theory of the balance of power to be pretty nearly dead and buried. * This balance of power,' said Mr. Bright, amid loud cheering, rises up before me when I think of it as a ghastly phantom which during one hundred and seventy years, whilst it has been worshipped in this country, has loaded the nation with debt and with taxes, has sacrificed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Englishmen, has desolated the homes of millions of families, and has left us, as the great result of the profligate expenditure which it has caused, a doubled peerage at one end of the social scale, and far more than a doubled pauperism at the other. I am very glad to be here to-night, amongst other things to be able to say that we may rejoice that this foul idolfouler than any heathen tribe ever worshipped—has at last been thrown down, and that there is one superstition less which has its hold upon the minds of English statesmen and of the English people.' This being so, there was no necessity whatever for the constant increase in our military expenditure, which was already double that thought necessary by the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.
Coming to the great question of the day, that of Reform, Mr. Bright observed that it was not dead, and he thus enforced the necessity for dealing with the subject :
* An Englishman, if he goes to the Cape, can vote; if he goes further, to Australia, to the nascent empires of the New World, he can vote; if he goes to the Canadian Confederation, he can vote ; and if he goes to those grandest colonies of England not now dependent upon the English Crown, there, in twenty free, and, in the whole, in thirty-five different States, he can give his free and independent vote. (Cheers.) It is only in his own country, on his own soil, where he was born, the very soil which he has enriched with his labour and with the sweat of his brow, that he is denied this right which in every other community of Englishmen in the world would be freely accorded to him. (Much cheering.)
'I agree very much with the gentlemen of the Torquay dinner, not as to the quality of the dinner-(laughter)—but as to that apparition which seemed to alarm even their formidable and robust digestion. (Laughter.) This apparition is not a pleasant one. This state of things I hold to be dangerous, and one that cannot last. It may happen, as it happened thirty years ago, that the eyes of the five millions all through the United Kingdom may be fixed with an intense glare upon the doors of Parliament; it was so in the years 1831-32. There are men in this room who felt then, and know now, that it required but an accident-but one spark to the train, and this country would have been in the throes of revolution ; and these gentlemen who are so alarmed now lest a man who lives in a £10 house in a county, and a £6 house in a borough, should have a vote,
would have repented in sackcloth and ashes that they had ever said one word or given one vote against Lord Grey's Reform Bill. (Applause.) I
say that accidents always are happening, not to individuals only, but to nations. It was the accident of the French Revolution of 1830 that preceded that great movement in this country. You may have accidents again, but I do not hold that to be statesmanship which allows the security, the tranquillity, the loyalty of a people to be disturbed by any accident which they are able to control. (Cheers.) If the five millions should once unitedly fix their eyes with an intense look upon the door of that House where my hon. friend and I expect so soon to enter, I would ask who shall say them nay? Not the mace upon the table of the House ; not the four hundred easy gentlemen of the House of Lords who lounge in and out of that decorated chamber; not the dozen gentlemen who call themselves statesmen, and who meet in Downing Street—(loud laughter)— perhaps not even those more appalling and more menacing personages who have their lodgment higher up Whitehall. I say there is no power in this country, as opinion now stands, and as combination is now possible, there is no power in this country that can say “Nay” for one single week to the five millions, if they are intent upon making their way within the doors of Parliament. This is the apparition which frightens the gentlemen at Torquay.' (Cheers.)
But the apparition gave trouble in other quarters to which he (the speaker) would pay more respect. He then referred to Mr. Charles Buxton's plan of doubling the votes of a man who lived in a house above £10 rental, and Lord Grey's plan of the cumulative vote-both of which he strongly condemned. Referring to the latter, Mr. Bright excited great laughter by saying that he had heard of donkey-races where the last wins. So in this case, the slowest animal would run off with the prize. Having touched upon some other fancy propositions by Lord Grey, the hon, member observed that he did propose some things which were right. He would extend the suffrage, and he would abolish many, if not all, of the very
After an argument in favour of the rights of majorities, Mr. Bright said he wanted to know whence all this fear of the people came.
It did not exist elsewhere, and he gave illustrations of this in connection with the exercise of the franchise. In the State of New York alone 700,000 men voted at the last Presidential election, and throughout the whole of the Free States not less than 4,000,000 votes were given, and they were all given with the most perfect order and tranquillity throughout the whole of the States. But some feared the legislative results of a wide extension of the franchise, and the hon. member showed the groundlessness of this, citing South Africa, Australia, the British North American provinces, and the States of the American Union, where life and property were just as secure as in this country, and where education was more extended, and the religious and general interests of the population better looked after. There was a great deal of talk about our institutions, which were only regarded as safe so long as they were in the hands of the institutions themselves. If the great patronage of our vast expenditure is to be dispensed perpetually amongst the ruling class, the ruling class as a matter of course will take extreme care of the patronage. There is something very sacred in that patronage.
There are many families in this country with long lines of ancestry, who, if patronage were curtailed, would feel very much as some of us feel in Lancashire when the