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to wait for, with anxious and hopeful looking forward, any Reform Bill? And after all these speeches had been made, Lord Derby did his utmost to prevail upon Mr. Lowe to become a member of his Cabinet. If, after all this, they were to attempt to manufacture and introduce a Reform Bill, they would cover themselves and their party with humiliation. I know that in this country politicians change sides ; office has a wonderful effect upon men. I suppose there are men here such as were described by our witty friend, Mr. Hosea Biglow, in painting the character of some politicians in America. He said of them, as we perhaps may say of Lord Derby and his party,
“ A merciful Providence fashioned them hollow,
On purpose that they might their principles swallow." But, notwithstanding that provision, that merciful provision, for statesmen, I confess I do not believe that the Government have determined to bring in a Reform Bill, or that they can by any possibility bring in a bill which the Reformers of this country can accept. They have done everything during the past session by fraudulent statements—by insults to the people—by the most evident baseness of party action—to destroy the moderate and honest attempt of Lord Russell to improve the representation. And I do not believe that in one short year they can turn round ; and, capacious as may be the internal cavity of the Tory Government, I think they cannot in one short year swallow all their Conservative principles.'
He maintained that the enemies of the Bill of 1866 could not become the honest friends of Reform in 1867. He advised his listeners to be on the watch. In the next Reform measure they must see the franchise extended to all householders in boroughs. “I believe that, if it were so extended,' he observed in conclusion, we should arrive at a point at which, so long as any of us are permitted to meddle with the politics of our country, no further change would be demanded. I therefore am entirely in favour of it, because I believe it to be wise in itself, and because it is the ancient borough franchise of this kingdom. I am in accord with our ancient constitution. I
would stand by it; wherever it afforded support for freedom I would march in its track. That track is so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. I would be guided by its lights. They have been kept burning by great men among our forefathers for many generations. Our only safety in this warfare is in adhering to the ancient and noble constitution of our country. And when we have restored it to its bygone strength, and invited the great body of the people to take part in political power, then the House of Commons will be the servant of the nation, and not its master; and it will do the bidding, not of a small, a limited, often an ignorant, necessarily a selfish class, but the bidding of a great and noble people.'
A great demonstration of the Trades Societies in favour of Parliamentary Reform was held on the 3rd of December, in the grounds of Beaufort House, Kensington, lent for the occasion by Lord Ranelagh. The procession was conducted in the most peaceful and orderly manner. The Societies assembled first in St. James's Park, and from thence marched out in pre-arranged order through the gate leading into Pall Mall by Marlborough House. Amongst the trades which appeared in the largest numbers, and maintained the most imposing appearance, were the stonemasons, bricklayers, brickmakers, joiners, carpenters, cabinet-makers, tailors, and shoemakers; many of the trades carried emblems of their particular pursuits, and several branches of the Reform League
carried banners inscribed Manhood Suffrage,' and The Ballot.' The streets were excellently kept in order by ten thousand voluntary keepers of the peace. Scarcely more than one third of the enormous procession got into the grounds of Beaufort House. Resolutions which had been drawn up were put from seven platforms to as many groups of people, and were carried unanimously. The speakers included Messrs. Beales, Potter, Dickson, Lucraft, and Holyoake.
On the following evening a great indoor meeting in connection with the Trades Demonstration was held in St. James's Hall, Mr. G. Potter presiding. On the platform were several members of Parliament and delegates from Reform Associations in Great Britain and Ireland. A resolution in favour of Reform was carried unanimously, and then the Chairman called upon Mr. Bright to address the meeting.
On commencing his speech, Mr. Bright said that the counsel he had given to working men eight years before to organize themselves and press for their rights had been adopted to a large extent, and every man in the kingdom now felt that the aspect of the Reform question had been wholly changed. As to the assertion that it was undesirable for trade societies to co-operate for political objects, he pointed out that some years before nearly all the agricultural societies of the country were converted into political societies, for the purpose of sustaining an Act of Parliament which denied an honest and fair supply of food to the people of this country. The great difficulty of the opponents of Reform now was, that they felt the working men were too numerous to be let in with safety, and too numerous to be kept out without danger. If the Tories were dissatisfied with this movement, what would they have ? Would they like that you should meet in secret societies, that you should administer to each other illegal oaths, that you should undertake the task of midnight drilling, that
you should purchase throughout London and the provinces a supply of arms, that you should in this frightful and terrible manner endeavour to menace the Government, and to wring from them a concession of your rights ? But surely one of two modes must be taken. If there be a deep and wide-spread sentiment that injustice is no longer tolerable, then, judging from all past history of all people, one of two modes will be taken, either that mode so sad and so odious of secret conspiracy, or that mode so grand and so noble which you have adopted.'
Their grievance was, Mr. Bright continued, that the representative system of England was deformed from its natural, beautiful, and just proportions. It was not at all disputed that only sixteen out of every hundred men were on the electoral rolls, and able, all other circumstances favouring, to give their vote at a general election; and it was not disputed that half the House of Commons—that an absolute majority of that House—was elected by a number of electors not exceeding altogether three men out of every hundred in the United Kingdom. He had taken the trouble to make a calculation from Acland's 'Imperial PollBook,' and he had found that the whole number of votes given at the contest in every borough and county was short of the number of 900,000, which was about one in eight of the men in the country. Taking away double votes, there would not be registered more than about 800,000 votes at a general election in the United Kingdom where there was a contest in every county and in every borough. But as a matter of fact the whole number of votes registered at the general election of 1859 was under 370,000, and from this number were to be deducted double votes, etc. After this he undertook to say that the Government of the United Kingdom, in the sense indicated in a quotation he had made from William Penn's preface to his Constitution, was not free to the English people. There was not representation enough to make Parliament truly responsible to the intelligence, and the virtue, and the opinions of the nation. But the opponents of Reform had resisted even the moderate measure of last session : they might still continue to resist, until that which was only a great exhibition of opinion might become, necessarily and inevitably, a great and menacing exhibition of force.