« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
but generally, with the consent and approval of those whom you represent. At the same time, I am deeply touched with the consideration of the circumstances under which, and the time at which, this gift is made. The idea was not formed when I was actively engaged before the public, either as a member of Parliament or a member of an Administration. I had not returned with friends and associates from any fresh political success. On the contrary, I was suffering from a severe and protracted illness. It was at a time when it was not unlikely that I should never again be able to return to public life. I was enfeebled and prostrate to an extent only known to my own family. And at that time your kindness and friendship were awakened, and you conceived the idea of doing me this honour and marking your approbation by this gift. I think, therefore, that, more than on ordinary occasions, I have reason to feel deeply grateful for the kindness you have manifested to me.'
Referring to the subjects mentioned in the address, Mr. Bright showed the beneficial effects which had followed from the abolition of the Corn and Navigation Laws. He also touched upon the enormous change which had taken place with regard to the public press. 'Every one who judges impartially must admit at this time, if we look at the ability, the intelligence, and the general morality with which the press is conducted and written, that it is superior
-largely superior—to that which we observed, those
at least of us who were able to observe, in the condition of the press thirty or forty years ago.' With respect to the extension of the suffrage, the bill of 1867 had enabled Parliament to do what it had been totally incapable of doing in any previous time -to set up in Ireland for ever complete religious equality, and to bestow upon the vast body of the Irish agricultural peasantry and tenantry some real security for their property. The ballot also had been established.
Alluding to questions of foreign policy, Mr. Bright remarked that the most important fact in connection with this policy in our time was the Crimean war. He had opposed that war, and looking back for fifteen years, he felt that he was never more justified in any political course which he had taken than he was on that occasion. Only last year the English Government had consented, wisely and necessarily, to surrender what he believed was considered the principal result of the war with Russia—a surrender which ought not to have been necessary, because that which had been enforced upon Russia was what no independent and powerful country would ever long submit to.* As to his attitude on the American civil war, Mr. Bright said: 'My object was to counsel what at one time I called a generous and not an unfriendly neutrality. I call you to witness, and the whole country to witness, whether, if we had pursued that course of generous neutrality, we should not have escaped embarrassments, negotiations, concessions, and humiliations to which we have been subjected for several years past.' But in this matter he did not pretend to be wiser than many others who had thought with him. In concluding, he observed,
* Mr. Bright referred to the annulment of the clause in the Treaty of Paris which secured the neutralization of the Black Sea-a clause which Russia always protested against, as operating injuriously against her.
•Let us look for a moment, and only for a moment, at the great change which thirty years have made. There are countries which have gone through strange and sanguinary revolutions, and have not been able to make changes so wise and so wholly satisfactory. If those changes had not been made-I will undertake to say that if the Corn Laws had been maintained, if there had been a power which could have maintained them in their unrestricted and cruel character, nothing less than anarchy and insurrection could have followed :
“For men will break in their sublime despair
The bonds which nature can no longer bear." Yet all this has been done in this country with scarcely a single hour's riot, and without, so far as I remember, the sacrifice of a single drop of blood. I suppose there is yet a party in this country which complains of everything that we have said, and nearly everything that we have dore. They have obstructed everything, they have contested every point, and they appear to be so ignorant and incapable of discussing these questions and considering them, that they may be said to be absolutely incurable. That party still appeals, in all its ancient audacity, to the support of the people. I think about the only consolation we have—and it is one dictated by Christian charity-is that they may partake, opponents though they have been partake fully of the good things which we have provided for them; for as the sun shines and the rain descends alike on just and unjust, so the blessings of a wise and beneficent legislation are participated in, not more fully by those who have promoted it than by those who have pertinaciously obstructed it.'
Being unable to address his constituents, as he desired, in January, 1873, Mr. Bright wrote to a friend as follows: There are two questions to which you refer that are probably too large to be undertaken with any degree of completeness in the last years of a Parliament. I allude to the state of the county representation and to the land question. They seem to me the great questions of the immediate future ; and the more they are discussed by the public, the more will Parliament be prepared to deal with them. The question of expenditure is one which demands resolute handling. If the present Government is unable to grapple with it, it should only show us how great are the interests which oppose themselves to economy, and how much an earnest public opinion is wanted to arrest the extravagant and scandalous expenditure which every statesman in turn condemns, and which not one of them seems able to diminish.'
Mr. Gladstone reconstructed his Cabinet in August, 1873, and Mr. Bright accepted the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in succession to Mr. Childers. Early in October the right hon. gentleman issued an address to his constituents, seeking reelection. The office I have accepted,' he wrote, “is not one of heavy departmental duty, or I could not have ventured upon it, but it will enable me to take part in the deliberations of the Cabinet, and to render services to principles which I have often expounded in your hearing, and which you have generally approved,-more important, I believe, than any I could render in the House of Commons unconnected with the Government. I do not write to you a long address, for I am not a stranger to you. I hold the principles when in office that I have constantly pro
fessed since you gave me your confidence sixteen years ago. When I find myself unable to advance those principles, and to serve you honestly as a Minister, I shall abandon a position that demands of me sacrifices which I cannot make.'
The right hon. gentleman was returned without opposition, and on the 22nd he addressed his constituents at Bingley Hall, Birmingham. The occasion was one never to be forgotten. The Hall, which holds between fifteen and twenty thousand persons, was densely crowded.*
When Mr. Bright entered the central gallery from the side, there arose at once a deafening uproar, as the entire mass of people in the galleries and on the
* Amongst those present were Mr. Childers, M.P., Mr. George Dixon, M.P., Mr. Watkin Williams, M.P., Mr. Shaw Lefevre, M.P., Mr. James Howard, M.P., Mr. Duncan Maclaren, M.P., the Hon. C. G. Lyttelton, M.P., Sir Charles Reed, M.P., Mr. E. M. Richards, M.P., Mr. J. J. Colman, M.P., Sir Thos. Bazley, M.P., Mr. Samuelson, M.P., the Hon. and Rev. W. H Lyttelton, the Hon. Chandos Leigh, the Hon. Lyulph Stanley, Mr. J. Albert Bright (Mr. Bright's eldest son), Lady Scott, the Rev. J. Percival, of Clifton College ; Revs. C. Vince, R. W. Dale, H. W. Crosskey, G. T. M'Carthy, Brooke Lambert, W. H. Blamire, and J. J. Brown, and Messrs. Jaffray, Middlemore, Chamberlain, Sturge, Bunce, Manton, Timmins, Pemberton, etc. The following associations were also represented-Blackburn Reform Club, West Cheshire Liberal Association, National Reform Union, Leeds and Salford Liberal Associations, the National Amalgamated Society of Brassworkers, the Birmingham Law Society, East Worcestershire Liberal Registration Association, Leigh Reform Union, Bury, Wolverhampton, Burnley, Ledbury, and Wrexham and Denbigh Liberal Associations, the London, Manchester, and Todmorden Reform Clubs, the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control, the Coventry Liberal Club, Marsden and Huddersfield Liberal Associations, Manchester Liberal Club, Kendal Liberal Reform Association, and the National Agricultural Labourers' Union.