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1874 the country had had no liberal measures. They had had extravagance such as had been unknown for many years, they had had increasing debt and increasing taxes; and if they had not yet paid for all that had been done, the cost of this retrograde policy would have to be borne by some one at a future day. Instead of doing something that was calculated to promote the interests of the people at home, the Government had been marauding over half the world. England, the mother of free nations, and herself the origin of free Parliaments, had, at the instigation of Lord Beaconsfield, been supporting oppression in Turkey, and carrying fire and sword to the furthest extremities of the earth. He asked them whether they would still trust power to these men in the future, or whether they would not give it to men who would be generous at home, and just and moral, and, so far as it was in their power, peaceful abroad. Mr. Bright said he would not further criticize that wonderful production, the Prime Minister's manifesto, than by saying that it was not likely to add to the number of Conservative representatives from Ireland; and in closing he said he believed there was a voice sounding and a feeling stirring throughout the people of the United Kingdom that would hurl from power the men who had abused it, and that would place in their seats, and in the counsels of the Crown, men whose policy was dictated by a love for the nation, —not a love for gunpowder and glory, but a love for the true and lasting interests of the great people who might entrust them with the authority of government.
A vote of confidence, on the motion of Mr. R. W. Dale, was carried in the three members.
The vote of those who were engaged in the liquor trade throughout the country was of course much discussed at the general election. This interest was a very important element in every borough, and in numerous instances the publicans, alarmed by the proposal in favour of local option, threw in their lot with the Conservatives. A deputation, representing the licensed victuallers of Birmingham, waited upon Mr. Bright and Mr. Chamberlain on the 20th, when a lengthy conversation ensued upon the objects of the deputation. Mr. Bright expressed himself in favour of transferring the licensing authority to town councils, and warned the licensed victuallers against throwing themselves into the hands of one political party, and thus creating a widespread feeling of hostility in another political party, which, after all, was the strongest, and which might come into office again before two months had expired. Speaking of the attitude of the Liberal party on this question, Mr. Bright said: 'I do not suppose that it will deal with any severity in any way with you ; whenever it does deal with the liquor question-if it ever does deal with it—you may depend upon it, it is the last party in the country that will ever do anything that will be in a pecuniary sense unjust to your interests. What it deprives you of in the public interest, it will at any rate compensate you for, and endeavour to do justice, as it does to the whole country and to every interest. You may depend upon it, it will not be unjust to the licensed victuallers and those who are concerned in the sale of those things which, unfortunately, here it appears necessary in some degree to control. I hope as years go on, and you consider this question more, and it is more and more discussed, you will find out that the violent, and I think irrational and passionate action which you now tåke, is not wise for sensible men, and that it is not of any advantage whatever to the interests you are trying to defend. In the House of Commons, as one of your representatives—if I am again a representative for Birmingham-I shall take care that whatever is done for the public interests shall not be done at the expense of injustice to your trade.' Mr. Bright added that he did not expect to alter their opinions one bit, and being assured by a member of the deputation that their very existence was at stake, he remarked that they were 'more frightened than hurt.' Mr. Chamberlain said that, speaking generally, he quite concurred in what had fallen from his colleague.
Meetings now followed each other in rapid succession. On the 23rd Mr. Bright spoke twice. The meetings took place in the evening, and Mr. Bright was accompanied on his route by bands of music and about 250 torchbearers. The scene was most interesting and picturesque. As the torchlight procession marched through the streets, the band struck up alternately 'Johnnie comes marching home again,' and 'See, the conquering hero comes. At the first meeting Mr. Bright spoke of the necessity for a reform of the county franchise as the one thing indispensable to a carrying out of various reforms, such as an improvement of the game and land laws; and he advised the working men of the towns, who themselves possessed the franchise, to vote for no candidate who was not willing to confer the same privilege on householders in the counties. At the second meeting the right hon. gentleman said, alluding to his opponents, that he should have thought the Conservatives might have found some persons as well acquainted with political affairs as Conservatives usually are. He then severely criticized the policy of the Government, and with regard to the Treaty of Berlin, by which 'Peace with Honour' had been secured, he observed that it was the people of England who kept out of war with Russia, and not the gentlemen who went to Berlin with a secret arrangement in their pocket which they had previously made with Russia. He did ask, whatsoever form of Government they might have, for men who would be honest and truthful.
On the 24th Mr. Bright made a speech at Cave's Auction Mart, the chief topic dealt with being the pressing necessity for a reform in the land laws. Mr. Cobden used to say that whoever freed the land would render as great a service to his country as the Anti-Corn-Law League had done by freeing the
produce of the land. The necessities of the population would enforce this, and the growing competition from abroad would make it impossible to evade it before long. Referring to certain slanders which had been uttered against him by his opponents, and their falsification of some of his Irish addresses, Mr. Bright showed their groundlessness, and added that Jon Martin, the strong Nationalist, once came up to him at the door of the House of Commons and said, “I have watched your public conduct, and I have seen that you have never said one single word that was offensive, or unkind, or unjust to my country; and I wish to shake you by the hand and to tell you so.'
The three Liberal candidates made a last appeal to the electors on the 29th, the nomination being fixed for the following day. In order to ensure the return of their three candidates-each elector having only two votes—the leaders of the Liberal party in the borough divided the support of the Liberal electors in the various wards, directing electors in each ward only to vote for two candidates, and naming the two candidates to whom their votes must be given. This plan was known as the 'Vote-as-you’re-told scheme.' The five candidates were duly nominated, and the poll ordered to be taken on the 31st, at 139 polling statious.
The Conservatives professed to be very sanguine of success, asserting up to the very last that victory was within their grasp; but the result showed a great