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floor abandoned themselves to an irrepressible enthusiasm of welcome. It was as if the Liberal party, so torpid of late that its enemies declared it to be expiring, had, recognizing its - long-lost leader, suddenly found its old purpose and its old energy, and had risen to its feet with a bound, eager for battle, and confident of victory. That, at any rate, was the significance of the tempestuous cheering and the frantic waving of hats and handkerchiefs; and the frenzy invaded and subjugated even the ladies in their distant retreat.' The Mayor presided, and called upon Mr. J. S. Wright to move the following resolution: That, in the name of his constituents, and on behalf of the country, this meeting offers to Mr. Bright heartfelt congratulation on his restoration to health; that it rejoices in his ability to resume the labours of statesmanship; and that it regards his entrance into the Ministry as a pledge of distinctly Liberal policy in the future, and as a means of reviving the enthusiasm of the Liberal party, and especially of that section of it which has been alienated by recent legislation. The latter part of the resolution referred to the Nonconformists, and the grievances of which they strongly complained under the Education Acts. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain seconded the resolution, and made a very felicitous allusion at the close of his observations. If, he said, the Ministerial policy had recently struck false notes and jarred with Liberal principles, until these had been 'like sweet bells jangling out of tune and harsh,' now they looked
hopefully forward, expecting a master-hand once more to touch the string, and confident that the first strain of the old harmony would dispel the evil spirits of obstruction and reaction which previous discord had started into life.
Upon Mr. Bright rising to speak, there was another demonstration, which visibly moved the speaker himself. Observing that it was nearly five years since he stood in that hall, Mr. Bright said that his heart was full at this fresh manifestation of the confidence and good opinion of his constituents. If he looked back a little, it would not be with the view of entering into enthusiastic laudation of the Administration; but at the same time the past five years were memorable years, and the measures of the Administration would bear comparison with those of any Government which had ever preceded it. They had lived to see that an Establishment might be removed, and yet that a Church might exist and religion prosper without the support of the State. Another great principle had been established by the Irish Land Act of 1870, for there had since been no diminution of rent, and no insecurity in its payment. Further, by the abolition of purchase in the army the corruption market had been closed for ever in that department of the public service. The ballot had been established; so had also another valuable principle, namely, that the House of Peers should no longer continue to be the highest court of justice in the kingdom.
The manner in which Mr. Bright spoke his opening sentences, said the leading local journal, and the way in which he gratefully testified to the fidelity of his constituency during the four years in which his voice had been silent, bore testimony that in meeting his constituents again the feeling of satisfaction was not all on one side. His declaration that he was speaking, not as a member of the Administration, but as a member for Birmingham, was hailed with loud applause; and his incisive sketch of the disastrous effects of the Education Act-in which he touched the crucial question of all-was recognized as a stroke in the right direction, and an indication that those who had believed he would continue faithful to the traditions of his life had not witnessed his career in vain. With the mention of the Twenty-fifth Clause the interest heightened, and the silence grew deeper still. His condemnation of the evil principle’ inherent in the operation of the clause, and his open expression of opinion that that principle ought not to continue, were greeted with rapturous cheers, and the leaders of local Liberal opinion on the subject exchanged gratified smiles. Mr. Bright spoke to restore confidence, but not to make indiscreet confidences, and he did not explain the mode in which, while he professed a full belief that the grievances of Nonconformists could be redressed, he would propose to deal with them. In regard to his alleged—but falsely alleged -share in the Education Act, he made a completo exculpation of himself. He had nothing to do with the measure at the first; he was not able to take part in the debates; and, further, he was so prostrated that it was not even safe for him to follow the course of the educational legislation. But Mr. Bright condemned the Act on the ground that it extended and confirmed the system which it ought to have superseded. It really encouraged denominational education, and it established Boards only where that system did not exist, whereas it should have attempted to establish Boards everywhere, and to bring the denominational schools under their control. The denominational system, in consequence of the parochial organization of the Church, must be said to be a Church system; hence the Nonconformists were aggrieved, and justly aggrieved.
Referring to the Geneva arbitration and the settlement of the Alabama claims, Mr. Bright replied to those who talked of the treaty of 1872 as though it were a great humiliation to England. The humiliation was not in 1872; it took place between the years 1861 and 1865; and he ventured to say that when the pen of history narrated what had been done with regard to this question, it would say that the treaty, the arbitration, and the conduct of Earl Granville, Mr. Gladstone, and their colleagues, added a nobler chapter to the history of England than if they had filled it with the records of bloody battles.
The right hon. gentleman proceeded to instance matters which were coming to the front and demanding legislation, especially dwelling upon the county franchise and the land question. There were also workmen's questions—the law of conspiracy, molestation, and the Masters and Servants Act. Then there was the Budget, and the question of a free breakfast table—tea, sugar, and coffee. Speaking upon general policy, and referring to Mr. Disraeli's famous Bath letter, which described Liberal policy as 'a career of plundering and blundering,' Mr. Bright said
* The policy of the Liberal party is known. It is before the public; it it is not concealed ; it is no mystery. What is the policy of the Opposition ? (Laughter, and cries of “ None.") We were told the other day that the leader of the Opposition was in “ a state of strict seclusion," and but for that strange and unfortunate epistolary outburst we should have had no idea of the desperate state of mind in which he has been. (Laughter and cheers.) But still, if we ask for the policy of the Opposition, all is impenetrably dark, and all that we know is that nothing can be known. (Laughter.) No, I beg pardon, I am wrong in that,-we know this, that, according to the Opposition, all the past twenty, and, if you like, all the past forty years, is evil; but as to the future, you will see it when it comes. (Cheers.)
* But let me tell you this—that the great statesmanship which consists in silence and scerecy is not original; it is a mere copy. Thirty or forty years ago, I recollect the time very well—there was a great fever and mania for speculation. Everybody went into everything, and they generally came out with nothing. I recollect quite well an advertisement of
Great Sunflower Company-(laughter),--and if anybody had proposed so unsubstantial a speculation as the equinoctial line, people would have taken shares in it. Now at that time there was a very ingenious fellow-if I could remember his name I would try to immortalize him. He put out a prospectus. He was what they call a "promoter " of a great company. It was to have great capital, a great number of shares, and great profits. Everything was great about it. It was to work a great invention. It was a great secret--so profound a secret that, until all the money was paid in, nobody was to know what it was. (Laughter.) Now, that is the Conservative policy at this moment. (Cheers.) They have a policy which they offer for the coming elections. It is a profound secret. When you have all given your votes, and returned a Conservative majority, perhaps then they will tell you what it is.' (Laughter and cheers.)