Page images

the question arose among them who should present the petition on the part of the body. I believe there were about forty of these gentlemen; there was only one of them who was a lord, and these gentlemen determined that the lord should present the petition. (Cheers and laughter. Well now, gentlemen, we have had another instance-an amusing instance-within the last few days. You have all heard of the seven points. (Laughter.) I am not going to enter into the mysterious and mystical part of that transaction, which, I have no doubt, is destined, under the action of time, which brings all things to light, to undergo further elucidation. But there is one gentleman there is no doubt about at all, for he is in the thick of it. I believe he is a very distinguished man. Mr. Scott Russell seems to have cast his eyes around, and after surveying the whole circuit of the community, he thought he had got a secret whereby the discords of classes could be removed. So he proceeded to organize a body of working men whom he considered in some degree-great or small, I don't say-to represent the working men on the one side, and he also organized a body to represent the other classes on the other side. Here was one body on one side, another body on the other side, and in the middle Mr. Scott Russell. (Laughter.) Mr. Scott Russell comes in communication with both of these bodies. He speaks first to the one and then to the other. (Laughter.) You have seen a clergyman in a large church when he gives out his text; he first of all looks to the people in one part of the church, and says, 'You will find it written so-and-so,' and then to the other side of the congregation, 'You will find it so-andso.' (A laugh.) This is exactly, or almost exactly, what seems to have been done by Mr. Scott Russell. The only difference is this that, unfortunately, Mr. Scott Russell gives a text out of one Testament to the people on this side, and a text out of the other Testament to the people on the other side. (Much laughter.) But the point to which I wish to call your attention is this,--the description -it is a very narrow and a very clear one-which Mr. Scott Russell gives to the working men of the nature and composition of the body he had organized. He might have said, I have organized a body of educated, intelligent, and independent men, and, perhaps, that would have occurred in another country. But what is the language he used? He said, I have organized this body, and what does it contain ? It contains peers, lords, baronets, and one commoner (laughter)-one solitary commoner among peers, lords, and baronets. Continued laughter.) Mr. Scott Russell must have known the dispositions of those whom he was addressing. No doubt when he leant to this side of the congregation he used the language which would be agreeable to their sympathies and feelings, and yet so it fell out that there was but one commoner in this illustrious bodylike a solitary non-commissioned officer preferred from the ranks to the mess-table. (Laughter.) That is the description-it is by describing men as peers, lords, and baronets that he finds he will make his prescription most acceptable to those for whom it was

intended. Now this is all very well-I know there cannot be much force in any particular illustration with respect to a matter that can only be judged by a long course of observation; but this I do say is my own conviction—the general sentiment of the mass of the population of this country is,

they think in some way or other that the people who compose the House of Lords in a very large proportion are either themselves men or the descendants of men who were put into the House of Lords for public services (cheers); and where men have been put into the House of Lords for public services they are disposed to look with considerable favour upon the descendants of such men until they have proved themselves unworthy. (Cheers.) They know, too, that in fact and not by compulsion, but by the free will of the people, this body of gentlemen called the House of Lords exercise throughout the country a vast social and political influence; and, lastly, they know, although the good ones have to carry upon their backs the responsibility of the bad, that many of them perform their duties in an admirable and exemplary manner. (Cheers.) Well, under these circumstances and I hope while I remain in public life I shall be able to act zealously and cheerfully with you for the promotion of Liberal opinions—I for one never understood by Liberal opinions either precipitate conclusions or subversive conclusions, and I trust we shall well consider before we commit ourselves to vast changes and the introduction of new principles, and that we shall know before we commit ourselves something of what the results are likely to be." (Cheers.)

After enumerating the advantages which the legislation of the last eighteen years had, according to his contention, secured for the working man-such as free trade, the removal of taxation to the extent of twenty millions sterling per annum, an education bill, and a cheap press- S-Mr. Gladstone arrived at his peroration, which he began with one of those strange examples of what, for want of a better name, must be called bad taste, from which in his best moments he seemed never safe—a quotation of some verses from what he himself styled a "questionable book," which turned out to be a collection of blasphemous parodies on the Litany and other religious services, published in the Republican interest, under the auspices of Mr. Bradlaugh. A more effective handle he could scarcely have given to his enemies. At the time, however, his original was not recognized, and his speech concluded very happily, his argument being that whatever legislation might do, it was on Englishmen themselves that their future well-being and improvement must depend. Those who promised Utopian benefits to the working man were "quacks-deluded, and beguiled by a spurious philanthropy. What we have to ask ourselves are questions which depend on ourselves individually, in the main, to answer. How are the ravages of strong drink to be arrested ? (Cheers.). In an age when, from year to year, more and more women are becoming self-dependent members of the community, how, without tampering with the cardinal laws that determine providentially their position in the

[ocr errors]

world, are we to remove the serious social inequalities under which I for one think they labour ? (Cheers.) How, in a country where wealth accumulates with such vast rapidity, are we to check the growth of luxury and selfishness by a sound and healthy opinion ? How are we to secure to labour its due honour; I mean not only to. the labour of the hands, but to the labour of the man with


and all the faculties which God has given him ? (Cheers.) How are we to make ourselves believe, and how are we to bring the country to believe, that in the sight of God and man labour

is honourable and idleness is contemptible ? (Cheers.) Depend upon it, gentlemen, I do but speak the serious and solemn truth when I say that beneath the political questions that are found on the surface lie those deeper and more searching questions that enter into the breast and strike home to the conscience and mind of every man; and it is upon the solution of these questions that the well-being of England must depend. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I use the words of a popular poet when I give vent to this sentiment of hope, with which for one I venture to look forward to the future of this country. He says

“The ancient virtue is not dead, and long may it endure,

May wealth in England—” and I am sure he means by wealth that higher sense of it, prosperity and sound prosperity

* May wealth in England never fail, nor pity for the poor." (Cheers.) May strength and the means of material prosperity never be wanting to us; but it is far more important that there shall not be wanting the disposition to use those means aright. Gentlemen, I shall go from this meeting, having given you the best account of my position in my feeble power, within the time and under the circumstances of the day-I shall go from this meeting strengthened by the comfort of your kindness and your indulgence to resume my humble share in public labours. No motive will more operate upon me in stimulating me to the discharge of duty than the gratitude with which I look back upon the, I believe, unexampled circumstances under which you made me your representative. (Cheers.) But I shall endeavour-I shall make it my hope—to show that gratitude less by words of idle compliment or hollow flattery than by a manful endeavour, according to the measure of my gifts, humble as they may be, to render service to a Queen that lives in the hearts of the people (cheers), and to a nation with respect to which I will say that, through all posterity, whether it be praised or whether it be blamed, whether it be acquitted, or whether it be condemned, it will be acquitted or condemned upon this issue, of having made a good or a bad use of the most splendid opportunities; of having turned to proper account or failed to turn to account the powers, the energies, the faculties which rank the people of this little island as among the few great nations that have stamped their name and secured their fame among the greatest nations of the world.”

The story of the “ seven points," or "new social movement,” to

which the Premier so pleasantly alluded, was a curious mystery which enlivened the dull months of the year. The public were suddenly startled by the appearance of a document said to have been signed by certain Conservative peers on behalf of their order, and certain prominent working men on behalf of theirs. This document was said to result from a laudable desire to unite the upper and the working classes of the community in a legislative scheme for the amelioration of the social and political condition of the people, and embodied the seven following resolutions, which the strange allies had agreed to draw up :

1. To rescue the families of our workmen from the dismal lanes, crowded alleys, and unwholesome dwellings of our towns, and plant them out in the clear, where, in the middle of a garden, in a detached homestead, in wholesome air and sunshine, they may live and grow up, strong, healthy, and pure, under the influences of a well-ordered home.

“2. To enable this to be effectually carried out there must be created a perfect organization for the self-government of counties, towns, and villages, with powers for the acquisition and disposal of land for the common good.

3. The next condition of the well-being of the skilled workman is that a day's labour shall consist of eight

hours of honest work. “4. In addition to schools for elementary education, there shall be provided schools for practical knowledge and technical skill in the midst of their homesteads.

“5. For the moral and physical well-being of the people, places of public recreation, knowledge, and refinement shall be organized as parts of the public service.

“6. Public markets shall be erected in every town for the sale of goods in small quantities, of best quality, at wholesale price.

7. There shall be provided a great extension of the organization of the public service, on the model of the Post Office, for the common good."

The signataries to this extraordinary document were given as consisting of:

“ The Marquis of Salisbury, the Marquis of Lorne, the Earl of Lichfield, the Earl of Carnarvon, Lord Henry Lennox, Lord John Manners, Sir John Pakington, Sir Stafford Northcote, and Mr. Gathorne Hardy, for the Conservatives. On behalf of the Council of Skilled Workmen, we have Messrs. Robert Applegarth, joiner; Daniel Guile, iron-founder; George Howell, bricklayer; J. W. Hughes, carpenter; George Potter, joiner; Lloyd Jones, fustian cutter; W. Broadhurst, mason; F. Whetstone, engineer; John Deighton, joiner ; Alfred Barker, shoemaker ; James Squire, painter ; P. Barry, author of Workmen's Rights ;' R. M. Latham, chairman of the Labour Representation League ; Sigismund Englander, telegraphist; T. J. Dunning, bookbinder; W. Allan, (pledged by D. Guile); Joseph Leicester; and Scott Russell, engineer.”

The scheme appeared to have been carried on almost entirely by the mediation of Mr. Scott Russell, who alone had been cognisant of the names of the negotiators on either side. The suggestions came, in the first place, from a body of working men meeting under the chairmanship of Mr. Scott Russell, and the secretaryship of Mr. George Potter, and bearing the title of the Council of Skilled Workmen. On February 3 this Council empowered its chairman to enter into negotiation with some peers who were anxious to know what were the real wishes of the working men, and it was not till August 4 that he was able to make an official statement that a Council of Legislation had been formed by a number of peers and other gentlemen, and had empowered him to communicate to the Council of Skilled Workmen the following resolution :

“The Council of Legislation for the well-being and well-doing of English skilled workmen accept the proposition made to them by Mr. Scott Russell, the President of the Council of Representative Working. Men, constituted in January last. They accept the responsibility of advising with that Council regarding the legislative measures necessary to promote the physical, moral, and intellectual welfare of the working classes. They accept the responsibility of preparing those legislative measures for carrying the objects of the working men into effect, and of bringing in and passing those measures through both Houses of Parliament."

On this extraordinary story being made public, several of the Conservative leaders denied the signing of any such document, and the Social Alliance" became involved in much amusing mystification. Lord Salisbury admitted that the resolutions were shown to him “confidentially” in June, when he expressed a general sympathy with the aim of the resolution as to the artisans' houses, and strong disapproval of many of the others. Sir Stafford Northcote said that all that he had heard was, “that some Peers and Members of Parliament expressed their willingness to consider any suggestion for legislation on questions affecting the well-being of the working class in a friendly spirit. No such suggestions have, however, as yet been made in a form admitting of consideration." Lord Derby said that "he never assented to or in any way expressed approval of the ideas set forth " in the string of resolutions. Lord Carnarvon

never assented to, nor could assent to," the resolutions in question. Mr. Gathorne Hardy was indignant at being “discredited with opinions so unlike my own.” The Marquis of Lorne bad joined no association such as that as to which ” an Argyleshire elector had questioned him. The Duke of Richmond and Lord Henry Lennox had never heard of the matter.

On the other hand, Mr. P. Barry, writing himself "treasurer” (of the Social Alliance), wrote to the papers to say that Mr. Scott Russell was apparently in possession of "the signatures of the Lords," and that he could not furnish further information, the movement being “still in progress.” Whereupon Mr. George Potter made the mystery deeper by stating that “at a meeting of

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »