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WAS IT A MIRACLE? -A PRAYER…

. MONTGOMERYSHIRE (LOWER END)…

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MR. COTES, M.P., AND MR. ROBERTSON,…

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MR. COTES, M.P., AND MR. ROBERTSON, M.P., ON PUBLIC AFFAIRS. On Thursday evening, the members for Shrewsbury addressed their coi.stitaents in the Music Hall, which was well filled. The chair was taken by Mr. T. Pidduck. After a short speech by the CHAIRMAN, Mr. COTES, who was received with loud cheers, ad- dressed the meeting. In his opening remarks he replied to the charge which had been brought against him and his colleague that they had neglected their Parliamentary duties. He said --I will not complain of the language used, but I think the indictment is hardly sustained by the facts. Quotations were made from the Buff-book, which is intended to record the attendance of members at divisions, and to a certain extent it is a valuable test, but I think myself that most people, who have any acquaintance with the inner life of the House of Commons, would hesitate before they accepted that as evidence of the attendance of representatives, or of their neglect of their duties. Lord Bradford, the lord-lieutenant of the county, a gentleman who for three and twenty years re- presented the southern, and whose son, now and for the last eleven years has represented the northern division, spontaneously gave his testimony to the way in which we discharged our duties, and I think this testimony is all the more grateful to my colleague and myself when we consider that it came from a nobleman who occupies a distinguished position about the person of the Sovereign, and who is opposed to us, conscientiously, in politics. (Applause). I take this opportunity of thanking him for the kind manner in which he stuck up for the way in which-however humbly-we have discharged our duties and defended us from the attacks made upon us by anonymous correspondents in a public journal. (Applause). Now as to this test of the Buff-book. When I look to this book I see that, although my attendance has not been so good last year as in previous years, 300 members have attended oftener than I have, but that 350 members have attended, less often, so that I am at least better than half. Then my colleague is attacked, and I look again to the Buff-book to see what he has been about, and I find that he has attended a certain number of divisions, but I see others who have attended the same number. 1 look to see who they are, and I tiiid tirst the Marquis of Hartington, and next are Sir W. Harcourt, Mr. Samuel Lang and Lord Arthur Hill Trevor. (Applause). If you accept the at- tendance at divisions as a test, you must come to the conclu- sion that Lord Hartington, a leader of whom I am proud, has neglected his duties, and that his neglect has been shared by Sir W. Harcourt; but anyone who has watched the conduct of those two men, must come to the conclusion that such a charge is as absurd as any that has ever been made in the columns of any newspaper. I have alluded to the way in which Lord Bradford came forward to vindicate our public character, and I find too that Lord Newport himself has only attended one division more than Mr. Robertson. The hon. gentleman afterwards proceeded to defend his votes upon the Eastern Question. In regard to the calling out of the-Reserves he said: Upon the understand- ing from the Government that the case was urgent, and that the Reserves were necessary to prevent a war with Russia, I, with other members, voted for their being called out. (Hisses and applause.) In doing so, I wish it to be understood that I passed no opinion as to the pre- vious conduct of the Government which had led to the alleged necessity for such a step, but I believed that in the emergency it would do more than anything else to pre- vent us being engaged in war. ("No, no," and applause.) The next thing was the movement of the Ir.dian troops to Malta. This step was most important from a constitu- tional point of view, and in the next place it was import- ant as indicating the policy which I shall have further to allude hereafterâthe policy of secrecy and surprise on the part of the Government. (Hear, hear.) I say this rad- visedly, for when just before we went down for our holidays, Mr. Forster asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether anything fresh had happened as to the Eastern Question, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's answer was-" Nothing has occurred which in any way increases the gravity^of the position or which tends to diminish the hopes of an ultimate" satisfactory arange- ment." Mr. Fawcett proposed to shorten the holidays, but hearing this he withdrew his motion, and the House adjourned. Difectly they adjourned, however, they found that the Government had decided, and that previous to the adjournment, to move the Indian troops to Malta. When we met again, Lord Hartington asked why we were not < told of this, and the answer was that it was according to precedent, that such a decision should be communicated to Parliament. Lord Hartington then gave notice of a motion, but it was, I am sorry to say, defeated by a large 1 majority. Against the Anglo-Turkish convention, which, as you know provided under certain contingencies for the < annexation of Cyprus and the protectorate of Turkey in < Asia, many objections are to be urged, and I think they 1 were aamiraoiy put in the speech in which Lord Har- tington moved his amendments. Briefly, the substance of his amendments were-first, the unsatisfactory treat- ment of Greece; secondly, the increase of the military liabilities of this country by her becoming the sole guarantor of Turkey in Asia thirdly, the imposition of heavy responsibilities without any indication as to the means of tultilling them and lastly, that Parliament had not been consulted in the matter, which was not the least of the objections. (Applause.) But these amend- ments, were, as you know, negatived by a large majority; and there, I think, so far as I am concerned, ends the history I have to give of my connection with the Eastern Question. Upon this let me ask you whether you think my votes were, as they have been represented to be, un- fair or unpatriotic? I can only say this, that whether it is my privilege to represent this constituency or not, if i had to give those votes over again, there is not one of them that I should wish to change or alter. (Applause.) We all know that the Premier told us upon his return from Berlin that he had brought back" peace with honour." (Hear, hear, applause, and hisses.) He may have done so certainly peace in Europe is at present pre- served, but whether the honour is concomitant with the pehee remains to be proved. I myself have my doubts upon the point; but certainly honours have been abundantly bestowed upon those who have been the pro- moters of peace. The right hon. gentleman, who three years was made an earl, is now a knight of the garter. Lord Salisbury, his coadjutor at Berlin, shares the same honour; Lord Cairns, who is considered the henchman of his party, is elevated to an earldom and I think I may go on mentioning honours down to the gentleman whom we are delighted to acknowledge as a neighbour, and who is the justly-favoured secretary of Lord Beaconsfield. Well, what honour has been brought about besides the personal honours to which I have alluded I do not see. Is there any honour in the acquisition of Cyprus ? Is there any honour in the secret convention with Turkey ? Is it likely to maintain our national prestige, and is it in accordance with the old-fashioned views of English states- manship ? I will not use my own words, but the words of Lord Carnarvon. (Applause.) And what did he say in the debate arising upon the motion of Lord Rosebery last Session ? He says that secret engagements are not congenial to English diplomacy," and 1 fancy that these words will find an echo in many hearts in this room and out of it. (Applause.) But I am not only going to quote these words. I will go back twenty-five years to the late Lord Clarendon. When a similar offer was made, by the Emperor Nicholas, of Crete and Egypt, under a secret treaty he replied, England desires no territorial aggrandisement, and would be no party to any under- standing that was kept secret from the other Powers." Well, the conduct of the Government upon this question is, no doubt, unusual, and if it is to be justified at all, it must be justified by results. But how is this Island of Cyprus to benefit us ? Some people seem to think it will be a most important acquisition. We are told that it will, upon the authority of the Prime Minister, be no burden at all, and further, that it is a strong place for arms. On the ether hand, the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer holds a somewhat less sanguine opinion in regard to it and when you get an independent man like Mr. Brassey stating that instead of it being a good place for arms it would be a convenient coaling station I would rather take his opinion, than the post prandial eloquence of the Prune Minister at the Guild- hall. (Hear, hear.) Well, if we have peace in Europe, I am sorry to say that we cannot congratulate ourselves when we look abroad, for we have got upon our hands two of those nasty troublesome little wars which be<dn like a cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, and end° no one knows where. We have a war at the Cape, about which I will only say that I hope it will soon be ended and we have also the war in Afghanistan. As you know, we were called up to Westminster in order to discuss this question, the war in Afghanistan, or rather to re- ceive the report of the Government upon it, last month â(laughter)âand of course they justified to their own satisfaction and to the satisfaction of a section of the House, the steps which led to that war. But other mem- bers-Mr. Robertson and myself among the number- could not accept it. we objected to the line that the Government had taken, and we voted against themâ(re- newed applause)âand for three main reasons, first, that the attempt to shift the blame upon the shoulders of the previous Liberal Government was unfair; secondly, that there had been a concealment of policy in regard to the frontier question; and thirdly, that the war was unwise and unnecessary. (Applause.) I certainly do not know why we should have forced war upon the Ameer. Even if we had a complaint against the Ameer for receiving the Russians, was that a reason for going to war ? ("No, no.") I think it would have been much better for us to have tried to conciliate him, and to have come to an understanding with him. If there was an offender at all it was Russia, and not the Ameer, who was Russia's catspaw. Then it was said that we might expect aggres- sion upon the north-west frontier, and that wo must ex- tend, or, as Lord Beaconsfield calls it, rectify our frontier in that direction. But, surely, we should not have adopted the line we did in regard to the Ameer; we should not have treated him in the cavalier way we did, and we should not have forced upon him what we know from past experi- ence-he was not willing to receive. It reminds me of the old lines- It's all very well to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me down stairs. I believe myself that this Afghan war is the logical out- come of that policy which I referred to last year, namely, the creation of the title of the Empress of India. We were told that Russia was threatening war on our Indian frontier, and that Russian aggression was the talk in every bazaar in India, and I believe that it is to vindicate the position that was then assumed by her Majesty's -Govern- ment that we have now got into the Afghan war. (Hear, hear.)# There is only one redeeming feature that I see in the matter, and that is, that so far our troops have proved themselves worthy of the name and the colours that they bear, and that they have vindicated their title to be the finest soldiers in the world. (Hear, hear.) The hon. gentleman then referred to the principal measures of last session, and afterwards instituted a comparison between the expenditure and the financial policy of the past and the present Government. He said that to sum up, the Liberals had remitted- taxation to the amount of £ 12,951,000; they left for the present Government 25,500,000, and they had paid 226,200,000 off the national debt. In comparison with this, the Tories had imposed an increase of taxation to the amount of 25,233,000, and if they went out of office now they would leave a deficit of £ 4,300,000. The Couservativeg had been in office four years, the fifth year was being completed, and during the four years they had been in office they had reduced the national debt by only one and-a-half millions and this after the creation of a new sinking fund which was con- sidered a marvel of financial sagacity, and is hailed as a new and hitherto undiscovered means of discharging national liabilities. (Hear, hear.) This state of things had been brought about by the extravagance and the want of confidence which had been engendered by the domestic and foreign policy of the Government. When an appeal was made to the country they might, therefore, look for a reversal of the verdict which had landed the Conservative party in power. (Cheers.) A want of confidence (continued Mr. Cotes) seems to per- vade all classes of society. Whence does it arise ? I cannot help thinking thatâalthough there are many other causes-it arises mainly from the policy of her Majesty's Government. (No, no, and hear, hear.) Cer- tainly, whether I am right or wrongâ(A voice: Right")âI feel that we have grave reasons for not feeling confidence in the action of her Majesty's Government, and I think that her Majesty's Ministers have famished those reasons. I cannot look back to the last session without noticing several acts in which they were not fair or open as they ought to have been. I recollect the equivocation in regard to the retirement of Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon from the Cabinet. I recollect the equivoea- tory answer given by Lord Salisbury to Lord Grey as to the Marvin documents in the Globe. I recollect also the answer given by Sir Stafford Northcote to Mr. Forster, which allowed Mr. Forster and others to go to the country with erroneous information. I re- collect many other things of this kind. I think we have a strong indictment against the Govern- ment for the way in which they have ignored Parliament and endeavoured to set up personal Government, merely using the House of Commons as a means to ratify their will. I believe that national success and prosperity are based upon national confidence. I believe this is equally true whether it is the confidence of the employed in his employer, or the confidence of the soldier in his general, or of the voter in his representative, or whether it is the confidence of the electors of the kingdom in the honour and good faith of the responsible Ministers of the Crown. (Cheers.) After quoting from Sir William Harcourt's speech at Oxford, Mr. Cotes alluded to Mr. Mellor's Bill for amending the Friendly Societies Act of 1872, by entitling the members of Friendly Societies to poor law relief. In conclusion, the hon. gentleman said:âI do not like to sit down without alluding to the distress that has shown itself and made itself ap- parent, not only in this borough but in all parts of the country, and I assure you that I deeply sympathise with the labouring classes at the present juncture. I deeply sympathise with them in the forced loss of employment, and with those people of Shrewsbury who have been over- taken by the floods in their houses and put to serious in- convenience, and in many cases to serious loss. I trust, however, that the change that has come over the weather will continue and I hope that the year now dawned upon us will bring to each and all of us an improvement in trade, an improvement in our position, and happier and pleasanter auspices for the future. (Applause.) I do hope that, notwithstanding all that we read of as to the depression of trade in other parts of the country, that the blow has not fallen more heavilyâI hope not as heavily âon Shrewsbury as on other towns, and I would fain hope that there is a good future for the old town yet. I do hope to see around you indications of increasing prosperity, and that the Shrewsbury of the future will add lustre and dignity to the Shrewsbury of the past. Whatever may be my connection with it, Parliamentary or other- wise, I shall always look upon it with gratitude for the kindness I have recived from its inhabitants. I trust that by your favour our political connection may once more, and possibly oftener, be renewedâ(applause)âand not- withstanding all hostile comment, so long as you are willing no accept my humble services, and so long as God gives me health and strength adequately to perform my duties in Parliament according to my conscience, and not one moment longer will I represent you, so long will I come here and give an account of my stewardship, and I shall look forward to you to assist me only so long as I remain true to the principles of my election, only so long as I remain your faithful representative. (Cheers.) Mr. ROBERTSON, M.P., who was loudly cheered, referred, after some prefatory remarks, to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, and said that the effect of the Bill in its original form would have been to impose onerous restrictions on the importation of foreign cattle; and in respect to certain parts of the Bill, he was glad to think that the opposition of the Liberal or Free Trade party was such as to obtain those concessions as regards Spain and Portu- gal and other countries which took them out of the list of prohibited places, and removed the chief objections to the measure as it was introduced. Still the measure had a strong flavour of protection, and its application by the orders of Council would require to be carefully watched. The Act for the Prohibition of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors in Ireland on Sundays was one which occupied a good deal of the time of the House, and its effects and working would be worthy of great attention, as the extension of a similar measure to England would deserve and require the careful attention of the constituency. (Loud cheers.) With regard to the Burials Question the Tories had already been de- feated in the House of Lords, but in the House of Com- mons a majority still stood firm to this last shred of intol- erance, and defeated the friends of religious liberty and equality by the attenuated majority of 15 in a house of Hi9 members. In the previous session the majority was 31. [n another session it was to be hoped that that last remnant )f religious inequality would not be allowed to pass without being wiped out of the statute book. (Cheers.) The hon. gentleman afterwards said that he was one of ;he minority who divided against the vote of six millions, :or beginning the policy of bluster and swagger which lad since been pursued by the Government. The majority which supported the Government in that policy had suffered a marked decrease. On the vote of the six millions, the majority for Government was 204; on the resolutions of the Marquis of Hartington, in August, it was 143; and with regard to the motion of Mr. Whit- bread, it was 101. For his own part he regarded the fear of Russia and of Russian progress as a vain and baseless scare, unworthy of the rulers of a great country. In the curtailment of Turkey which had been the result of the war and of the Berlin Conference, and in the setting up of independent principalities he saw no cause of apprehension of danger from Russia to England, and no reason why we should not view the state of Eastern Europe with calmness and security. This does not, however, appear to be the view of her Majesty's Government, and, while in concert with the other European Powers the Berlin Treaty was being signed, by a secret agreement with Turkey alone, known as the Anglo-Turkish Convention, our Government had bound this country to a protectorate of the Asiastic Dominions of Turkey against Russia. These obligations we had undertaken for the defence of an effete and decay- ing Government whose policy and conduct we were un- able to control. We had become the tenants under Turkey of the island of Cyprus, at an annual rent without the powers of sovereignty, the alleged object being to establish a place of arms, the harbours, arsenals, and fortifications of which would have to be provided, which, whatever else they miht do would certainly serve as an unlimited sink for the taxes of the British ratepayer. He maintained that the strength and power of Great Britain was not served by such a policy, but that even in the event of the dire necessity of war being forced upon us, the acquisition of the Island of Cyprus could be of no real assistance, and that the protectorate of Asiatic Turkey was an unwise and unstatesmanlike obligation. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member then adverted to the other division of his subject, viz., The fear of a Russian invasion of India, and the power of Russia to disturb and injure our Empire in the East." (Hear, hear). This was no new scare. It involved us in the first Afghan war. (Hear, hear). After quoting from Sir John W. Kaye, Mr. Robertson said he did not think that Russia had made any great progress towards our Indian frontier since 1842. She had brought within her frontier more tribes of the nomadic Turcomans, she had added to the drain on her available financial resources, but there were the same distances from her resources, the same deserts, and the same inhospitable countries to be traversed. After quoting from an article by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Norman, K.C.B., entitled "The Scientific Frontier," in Fort- nightly Review, and a letter of Sir Herbert Edwardes, in support of his argument, the hon. gentleman said that they had also on their side the opinion of Lord Lawrenceâa man with forty years' experience, man who had devoted a life of energy and high talent to the country's good, and to whom we owed, in the hour of its greatest peril, the safety of India. (Loud applause.) Such were the utterances of great men and experienced soldiers, and the policy they re- commended, and were we to place against them the rash and inconsiderate views of Lord Salisbury and Lord Lytton in changing the established and successful policy of thirty years before they had had thirty months' experience of the Government of India ? I have hitherto, continued the hon. gentleman, treated this question of the war in Afghanistan as a matter of expediency and policy. But there is another and a higher, though a darker, phase in which to view the war. It is a war of injustice and aggression, and an un- necessary war. I affirm that no one of an impartial and unbiassed mind can read the papers which have been pub. lished without arriving at the conclusion that the Ameer has been made the victim of a pre-determined policy of aggression the advance to Quettah in 1856 the insisting by Lord Lytton that British officers should be admitted as residents at the important cities of his kingdom in de- fiance of the previous promises of Lord Lawrence, Lord Mayo, and Lord Northbrook; the disregard of the recorded opinion of the Viceroy and his Council by Lord Salisbury, aid the abrupt breaking up of the last Con- ference at Peshawur on the death of Syad Mahommed before another envoy could be sent, although Lord Lytton knew that he was on his wayâall indicate the predeter- mined policy of aggression, Is this a policy and conduct which will recommend itself to the calm judgment of the constituencies and their sense of justice and of right ? (Cheers.) Non-intervention was formerly considered a wise policy in the differences that arise between nations. Must it give place to a policy of interference, bluster, and aggression? Must we bow down to a policy of British interests, expediency, and injustice? I trust not. (Cheers.) Have justice, peace, retrenchment, and reform no claims on the hearts and minds of an intelligent and thinking people ? Ought not the cry of distress which has gone up from all the indus- trial classes of the community-agricultural, manufac- turing, and commercial-to make our Government pause before drawing on the financial resources of England or of India for the wasteful expenditure of war. (Hear, hear.) This distress may be ignored for a time, but it will soon speak with a voice that will not be silenced by the sug- gestion of a Minister that it has been exaggerated for party purposes. (Cheers.) I am not going to attribute to the present Government the whole of the stag- nation and depression which now oppress the indus- trial classes of this country, but the distress is deepened and aggravated by the unproductive waste of war. Enter- prise and commerce are checked by its uncertainty and suspense. Taxation is increased; new taxes are required, and^ the old taxes are less productive; and in many a family the employment of the bread-winner has ceased to be productive, and it is a hard and difficult matter to keep the wolf from the door. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) What is the remedy? That is a question difficult to answer. The distress has arisen not from one cause, but from many causes, and it will take more than one remedy, and it will take time. But there is one remedy which rests with you and the constituency of Shrewsbury, and with every other constituency of the country to apply. Choose for your representatives men who will protest against this extrava- gant waste of war, and will support a policy of peace, re- trenchment and reform who will prefer justice and truth to Jingoism and the maintenance of false British interests^ men who will bear in mind the memorable saying of the Earl of Derby, "The greatest of all British interests is peace." Choose men who will observe and give effect to the precept, "Still ia thy right hand carry gentle peace Be just and fear not." (Loud cheers.) A vote of thanks to, and of confidence in, the hon. mem- bers for the borough was proposed by Alderman BRATTON, and seconded by Mr. A. G. BROOKES, and was carried without a dissentient voice amidst loud cheers. After a vote of thanks to the Chairman, proposed by Mr. COTES, and seconded by Mr. ROBERTSON, the pro- ceedings terminated.

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