THE COBDEN CIUB.j|1883-07-07|The Cardiff Times - Welsh Newspapers Online
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---__----------M Li BRIGHT…











THE COBDEN CIUB. j SPEECHES BY MR CHAMBER- LAIN. THE FUTURE OF THE RADICALS. The annual dinner of theCobden Club was held on Saturday at the Ship Hotel, Greenwich, under the presidency of Mr Chamberlain, The party proceeded, as usual, by special steamer from the Speaker's stairs of the House, and, on arriving at Greenwich, at once sat down to table, the pre- sident being- supported at the cross table by Mr Thomas G. Shearman, Viscount Powers- court, Mr Horace White, the Right Hon. Sir C. W. Bart., M.P. Mr Allen Thorndyke Rice, Mr Daniel C. Gilman, Mr G. W. Lane, Lord Thuriow, Mr W. Hay, M. E. A. Leatham, M.P. Mr Mahlon Sands, Mr James Howard, M.P. Mr W. Leatham Bright, Mr J. W. MacBain, Sir E. W. Watkin, Bart, M.P. Sir Saul Samuel, Lord Houghton, Professor C. F, Dunbar, Mr J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. Mr W, Markby, L.L.D. Sir W. Wedderbmn, Mr P. Rylands, M.P. the Hon. P. J. Locke King, Mr Isaac Holden, M.P. Mr G. W. Garrett, xVlr G. M. Crawford, Mr J. Cowen, M.P. Mr llling- worth, M.P. Mr A. Mougredien, Mr W. Wood- all, M.P.: Don Arturo de Marcoartu, and Mr G. W. Medley. The vice-chairmen were Mr T. B. Potter, M.P., Mr Herbert Gladstone, M.P., Mr Sydney C. Buxton, M.P., Mr Borlase, M.P., Mr Summers, M.P., Mr Briggs, M.P., Mr W. Leatham Bright, Mr Win. Woodall, M.P., and Mr Arthur B. Pot- ter. Over three hundred other hon. gentlemen and visitors crowded the room, every available spot in which was occupied. The CHAIRMAN, who was warmly received, said My Lords and Gentlemen,—I have the honour to propose to you the first toast of the evening, "The health of her Majesty the Queen." (Cheers.) The long reign of the Queen has been distinguished more than that of any of her predecessors by the great and beneficent reforms which have been ac- complished during its course—(cheers)—and which has added so much to the prosperity and the happiness of her people. (Hear, hear.) Those reforms have all been strenuously resisted in their time. (Hear, hear.) Each ia turn lias been de- clared to be subversive of existing order and destructive of the rights of property. (Cheers and laughter.) Their results, I think, encourage us in a generous confidence in the wisdom, the intel- ligence, and the patriotism of the people at large —(cheers)—and they justify the belief that their full and free participation in the work of govern- ment will be the best security for the order of the State and for the rights of all its citizens. (Cheers.) Our English loyalty is largely founded on our admiration of the personal qualities of our present ruler, We honour in the Queen all that is most honourable in every rank of life—her domestic virtues, her kindly sympathies for all classes of her subjects—but it is also founded on a belief that her Majesty has always been strictly observant of her part in the unwritten compact which binds together all orders in the State, and which assigns to each its separate duties and obli- gations—(hear, hear)—and the respect which we tender to the occupant of the throne is only equalled, I feel assured, by the respect which the Government has always paid to the true spirit of the constitution under which we live. (Cheers,) I give you "The Health of the Queen." The toast was drunk with all the usual mani- festations of loyalty. The health of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the other members of the Royal Family having been given and responded to, The CHAIRMAN said It is now my duty to pro- pose to you the toast of the evening, "The Memory of Mr Cobden, and Prosperity to the Cobden Club." (Cheers.) I daresay there are many here present who enjoyed personal acquain- tance with Mr Cobden. (Hear, hear.) For my- self I never had that privilege. I never met Mr Cobden either in public or in private. But this disadvantage has been minimised in the case of all who are in my position by the recent publi- cation of the admirable life which we owe to the labours of Mr John Morley. (Hear, hear.) That is a book which invests with all the charm of a singularly graceful style a sagacious and sympa- thetic appreciation of the merits of its subject. (Hear, hear.) 1 think the test of a. good biography is that it leaves on the mind of its reader a clear perception of the personality which it describes, and I do not think anyone can rise from the pprusal of Mr Morley's volume without having a definite notion of what were Mr Cobden's aims in his public life, what were the methods by which he sought to enforce them, and what were the moral and intellectual qualities of which both aims and methods were the natural outcome. it is said that Mr Cobden predicted the early acceptance of free trade doctrines by the nations of the world. I am not aware that he ever fixed a date for the fulfilment of that prophecy. (Hear, hear.) I think it is a little premature to assume that it will never be realised. (Hear, hear.) But I should be ready to allow that, like all reformers, who have sacrificed time and labour to the promo- tion of convictions which have become part of their very being, Mr Cobden was, perhaps, too sanguine in anticipating an early conversion of other persons to his opinions. (Hear, hear.) In judging Mr Cobden we ha\e to consider not whether the world has been wise enough to adopt his views, but whether anything has occurred since his death which has weakened the force of the arguments which he used, or which Ims thrown the slightest doubt upon the conclusions at which he arrived. (Hea.r, hear.) I think, tried by these tests, free trade will successfully stand the experiment. (Hear, hear.) It is quite true that the organised interests by which protection is supported, have been in many instances too strong for its assailants. In the United States the condition of the country, the extraordinary development of its internal trade, the marveilous opportunities which have been offered by its vast expanse of unoccupied territory, have favoured the advocates of protec- tion. (Hear, hear.) On the Continent of Europe Governments committed to an exce8"i V(; military expenditure have naturally enough leut their aid to tariffs which concealed while they increased the burdens of taxation. But the argument against this system by which the few are enabled to enrich themselves at the expense of the many, remains absolutely unshaken, and I do not doubt that in the long run truth and reason will prevail. (Cheers.) For myself, and speaking only as an Englishman, I will say frankly that I do not regret the slow process of conviction. (Cheers.) I look forward with anxiety, not unmiugled with alarm, to the time when our merchants and manufacturers will have to face the free and unrestricted competition of the Great Republic of the West, when the en- terprise of the citizens and the unparalleled re- sources of its soil will no longer be shackled and handicapped by the artificial restrictions which have hitherto impeded the full develop- ment of its external commence. (Hear, hear.) I pass on to consider the general drift of Mr Cobden's political opinions. The Cobden Club was not founded merely to indulge in sterile con- gratulations upon the abolition of the corn laws, not only to keep green the memory of a man whose remembrance we all desire to cherish gratefully and affectionately; but it was established also to promote the economical and political doctrines with which Cobden's name is generally associated. (Loud cheers). Well, but that is an object which seems to have been overlooked by the gentlemen, six or seven in number, who have recently retired from tile membership of this club-r- (laugher and hear, hear)—and who have been followed by a flourish of trumpets from certain parties in the press, which I think was as little desired, as it was expected by the gentlemen in question. (Hear, hear.) on all know how M. Jourdain in his Houvffeot-s Gentilhwnme was astonished to find how ail his life he had been speaking prose without knowing it. Now, these gentlemen appear to have felt equal surprise when they learnt that in joining the Cobden Club they had actually been for years assisting in the dissemmination of Radical doctrines. (Cheers and laughter.) Well, but why did they not discover it a little earlier? (Laughter.) Mr Cobden's views were made sufficiently evident during his lifetime—(hear, hear)—and unless we are to suppose that when a Radical has been very good in this world he is sent as a reward to join the glorious company of Whigs in the next, we are jl16titicd in assuming tLat, could he return to us, Mr Cobden would be iu much greater sympa- thy with the majority which remain to cany out the struggle in W!IlC)¡ he was engaged thHn with the small minority who have fallen out of the ranks al; the first ,-uslJiciulI of a forward move, ment. (Loud and continuous cheering.) Why, it would be very difficult to go much further in political reform than did Mr Cobden. (Hear, hear.) He was strongly convinced of the necessity and expediency of the full confidence in the people which is the distinguishing characteristic of Radicalism,—(cheers)—and which is the only sure foundation upon which any Liberalism can be based. He anticipated without the slightest alarm the widest possible suffrage which human ingenuity could devise. He was in favour of electoral districts arrange-1 as nearly as may be to give value to every vote. (Cheers.) He even favoured the payment of member., which I am free to admit is not up to the present time a generally-accepted article in the creed of any political party. (Laughter, auel a voiec, II It will lie,") It is rather in the nature of "a pious opinion"—(laughter) — and I desire especially to commend it to Mr James Lowther, and to other Tories who are anxious to see the preservation of the funda- mental bases of the Constitution—(laughter) because this was a system which prevailed 111 the time of Edward III., and which has only fallen into desuetude in our later and degenerate day, (Hear, hear.) Well, then, again, Mr Cobden ad- vocated a redistribution of landed property, and supported the French sysfenii which requires compulsory sub-division after death, He sup- ported free schools with secular State euueation, and was willing to accept the widest possible ap- plication of the doctrine of religiousequaiity. Under these circumstances I ask yun, gentlemen, would not the Cobden Club be unfaithful to the very objects of its foundation if it were to exclude alto- gether from consideration aud discussion such questions as these? (Cheers.) ¡ I do not say that every member of the club is pledged to the adop- tion of each or of any of them, That would be absurd, but I say that it is the height of intoler- ance in a section ot the Liberal party to presume to say that absolute silence shall be observed upon all questions upon which the L beral party as a whole are not at present agieed. (Cheeis.) That is a matter of much greater importance than the secession of a few members—(hear, hear)—from our organisation, who it is quite clear ought never to have joined. I Let lid who remain consider what are the b¡¡s of party union. Party union is based now, as it always has been, upon mutual concession. (Hear, hear.) In accepting the necessity of sacri- fice, I do not conceal from myself that it is the Radical section—^which is the most numerous and the most active, I will not say the most intelli- gent—(laughter)—which will have to make the greatest sacrifices. Whenever action is to be taken, we shall have to subordinate our convictions of what is just to our feelings as to what is and possible, (Hear, hear.) When- ever an advance is ordered, we shall have to slacken our speed in order to suit the pace of the slowest of our travelling companions. (Hear, hear.) Well, for myself, I have always been ready to accept the obligation. Progress in England has been slow but sure. (Hear, hear.) We have made good every foothold before we have taken another step, aud I desire in future to cohere with the party as we have done in the past, and convince the judgment and the intelli- gent opinions of the great majority of the nation. (Cheers.) Then, on the other hand, we have a right to claim reciprocal concession, and especially that there should be free and full tol ration for the expression of our opinions. (Loud cheers.) What we yield is liberty of action in the present. What we claim is freedom of opinion as to the future. Our views and doctrines may not be ripe for acceptance, but they are always ripe for discussion. (Heax, hear.) Radicals are the pioneers of the Liberal party. They are always in advance. It is their business to educate the public mind, to pave the way for future progress but if the right is denied us, I say that union is impossible. (Loud cheers.) Union would be no longer desirable. (Hear, hear.) I believe Mr Cobden always held the opinion that, in his case, at all events, it was undesirable that he should take office. But he urged upon his friend, Mr Bright—(cheers)—that he should work for it and accept it if it were offered. In the practical spirit which has always distinguished English Liberalism, Mr Cobden was always more anxious to get what he could than to stand out till he could get all that he thought he had a right to demand. Well, if Radicals now, for the first time, were to adopt an irreconcilable attitude all progress would be de- layed, perhaps indefinitely. That would not be a good thing, either for English Liberalism or for the country at large. (Hear, hear.) On the other hand, the movement cannot always be arrested. Sooner or later the demand for change will be irresistible- (hear, hear)—but instead of orderly progress you would have a sharp and sudden dis- location of the machinery, and reform might pos- sibly assume the aspect of revolution. (Hear, ] hear.) That is not a contingency which moderate men can contemplate with gratification, and there- fore it is that, in spite of the recent demonstra- tion, I still cherish the hope that every sec- ticn and every shade in the Liberal party will continue to be united by common interest, by common advantage, and that they will together keep the party abreast of the public opinion of the time. But if absolute siience is to be de- manded as the condition upon which alone we shall be permitted to co-operate, then I say it will be impossible for Radicals to share in the work of government till they are strong enough to adopt its policy—that it would be impossible for Radicals to offer their allegiance to a. party which iwrposed such intolerable conditions. (Lúud cheers.) If there are any persons so unreasonable as to sup- pose that Radicals will be bribed by office to be unfaithful to their cherished principles, and that they will purchase place at the price of sacrificing all which should lead honest men to covet it, let that delusion be dispelled. It is as insulting to our common sense as it injurious to our honour. (Loud cheers.) Sir C. DILKE afterwards spoke, and said pro- tectionist principles and protectionist tariffs were gradually being moderated abroad. He referred to the inew treaty with Italy, by which we ob- tained a most favoured nation clause, and also an arbitration clause, which would have delighted the heart of Cobden. In America also there had in recent years been a great movement in favour of tariff reform.