Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

3 articles on this Page




GREAT MEETING OF THE NATIONAL L BEFOR311 UNION. A great meeting of this association was held at St. J James's-hall, London, on the 16th inst, Amongst those present were Mr. Bright, M.P., Mr. Mill, M.P., Mr. W. E. Foster. M.P., Mr. Isaac Holden, M.P., Mr. Barnes, M.P., Mr. Edward Baines, M.P., Mr. T. B. Potter, M.P., Sir Henry Hoare, Bart. (late M.P. for Windsor), The Hon. Lyul-ph Stanley, Serjeant Parry, Mr. Edmond Beales (President of the Reform League), Colonel Dickson (Member of the Executive Council of the Reform League), Mr. Vernon Harcourt, Q.C., Mr. S. Pope (Manchester), Colonel Onvoy, J. Gorrie, E. Hill, G. Mumble (Executive Council of Reform League), Pass- more Edwards, Joseph Gueclalla (Executive Council of Reform League), W. Cremer (Executive Council of the Reform League), D. Morgan Thomas, J. Noble, Gregory Foster, B. T. Williams, J. Haslam, Charles Keymer, J. Blanks, J. Mogford, —"Warburton (Man- chester), —Torr (Manchester), Rev. H. Battiscombe (Biackheath), Rev. Samuel Green (President Rawdon College), Rev. N. Thomas, Rev. A. King, Mason Jones, Rev. Newman Hall, J. Richardson, G. J. Holyoake, J. Cunnington (Executive Council of Reform League), Captain E. Dresser Rogers (Executive Council of Reform League), Rev. W. Thomas, Rev. J. M. Murphy, J. Malthouse, W. Westerton, M. Wolfsky, A. H. Dymond, J. Francis,. M. Rusden, J. A. Partridge, Josias Alexander, Jas. Bile, R. Moore, Baxter Langley, &c. &c. THE CHAIRMAN'S SPEECH. Mr. Samuel Morley being unanimously voted to the chair, rose amid much cheering, and said Gentlemen, I venture to say on behalf of nine-tenths of those who are on this platform that we are not here because we have any love of agitation for itself. We are men for the most part full of engagements which makes mere agita- tion nexpedient. I am a thorough believer in agitation in a righteous cause (cheers). I am here to say that I feel myself in the position of a man who is just waking up to the conviction that he is about to be cheated (loud cheers). In common I suppose with large numbers of earnest men, I received impressions which led me to the conviction that the ReSwrn question was about to be settled on terms that reasonable and earnest men could thoroughly accept. I felt, in common also with large numbers of the best friends of the people, that it was most desirable that this question of Reform should be shelved probably for the remainder of our lives by the adoption of a measure that was honest and straightforward-(cheers)-becanse, in common also with friends whom I am thankful to regard as leaders in connection with what is a large, important, and prac- tical question in which the people are deeply interested, we wanted to enter upon practical legislation apart from the excitement of Reform meetings and Reform demands (applause). But the event of Thursday last has satisfied me that the old game is about to be played out (loud cheers). I, see in the measure of the Government the very essence of Toryism—distrust of the people governed by fear (cheers). Now, the measure of the Government spoke the word of promise to our ears, but woefully disappointed us, because I believe hundreds of thousands of men, living under the Compound House- holder's Act, are about to be handed over to two parties, in neither of whom I have the slightest coniiclence- parish officers and landlords (loud cheers). And I want to know why a man- who has for years, under an arrangement with his landlord, been paying an amount of rent which, by calculation, not only the expenses of his house, but his share of the taxes, is to be considered a better man, or better fitted to exercise the franchise, if he should be made to be the tax gatherer himself, and pay his rates (cheers). I hold in the one case as in the other he is the same man, and this provision is a mere exposure of the man to what is dangerous to his independence, and calculated in many instances to deprive him of his vote (cheers). I am here to-night to protest against the further progress of this bill, unless it is made a.satisfactory bill (cheers). We have heard a great deal of rating and rental fran- chisee, and of compound householders, and of other forms by means of which the vote can be secured. The question is, how can a man be added to the franchise roll? There are, no doubt, five or six millions of men above 21 in England and. Wales, who might have the vote (cheers). Well, I hold that we ought never to rest satisfied until we have such a substantial number added to the list of voters as ought effectually to shelve the question for some years to come at all events (loud cheers). I believe that Mr. Disraeli was never more faithful to his party than he has been in the arrange- Z, ments of this bill (cheers), and lie knows he is handing over the boroughs of England and Wales to rich-men and to election agents (loud cheers). It is because I desire to protest against such a thing—it is because I believe the whole measure is conceived in fraud (loud cheers) it is because I believe there is a thoroughly hearty disposition to cheat the people—that I join most heartily with the friends who are on this platform, prepared to take my share in future efforts, whatever time may be involved (loud and prolonged cheers). Allow me to say it is not a question of National Reform Union or of Reform League (hear, hear). We are all involved in this matter, and I pray you to scorn the man who may introduce division amongst us (cheers). Let us be united (cheers). I say to working men, What earthly motive can I have except to help working men ?" I hope we shall show such a front to the enemy—for it is an enemy we have to deal with—as will secure to us-it may not be for some time—an honest bill, if we are to have a bill at all (cheers). I have only to express my deep astonish- ment at the course taken by not a few of the Liberal party (hisses). I am neither ashamed nor afraid to state the fact that the Liberal party seems at present to be disorganised, and it is time earnest men should come for- ward and acknowledge the noble leader who is prepared to sijxnd by the cause (lpud cheers, and a voice Three cheers for Gladstone." Great cheering.) I will detain you no longer than to express a hope that we are deter- mined to show a hearty confidence in, and hearty sym- pathy with Mr. Gladstone (cheers). I hppe he will be- lieve that the people are able to compensate' him for all the cabals whether in the tea-room or elsewhere (cheer). MR. HARCOURT AND THE FIRST RESOLUTION. W. Vernon Harcourt, Esq., Q.C., having been called upon by the chairman, said I will only say one or two words respecting the resolution I have the honour to be entrusted with, which runs as follows —" That this meeting desires to express its heartfelt thanks to Messrs. Gladstone, Bright, Mill, and the other members of Parliament who have acted with them, in their en- deavours to secure a satisfactory bill of Reform during the present session, and assures them of entire confidence in their efforts to obtain full, just, and equal recognition of the people's rights" (cheers). Gentlemen, it would ill become me in the presence of two of the most illustrious men of whom the Liberal party has ever boasted, to enlarge upon their eminent services and their title to your gratitude and consideration. I cannot, however, forbear to make this \one observation, when I mention the name of Mr. Mill, my honoured friend, that he is a man who above all other men in this or any other country of this age has taught mankind how to live, and in that brief period for which he has devoted himself to the practical business of political life, there is no man to whom we can better look up for an example as to how we are to act (cheers). Sir, I come to the second name on this paper, the name of John Bright (immense cheering). And what shall I say of M, r. Bright. Why, this magnificent meeting has already said more than 1,000 times as much as I could endeavour to express (cheers). Sir, I remember hearing- the late Sir Robert Peel, when he made his last speech in carrying the repeal of" the corn laws, with a candour and propriety of feeling that did credit to that great man, acknowledge that the honour of the success of that great measure was due, not to himself, though he suffered so much in the cause, but to the un- adorned eloquence of Richard Cobden. I will venture to say that when the work on which the English nation is now engaged of re-casting its constitution is complete, when the edifice of liberty is achieved, and when the great column of liberty is crowned, there will be no more conspicuous and noble name inscribed upon its pedestal than the name of John Bright (tremendous cheering, and waving of handkerchiefs). SIR H. HOARE. The hon. baronet, late M.P. for Windsor, in the early part of his speech, addressed himself in defence of Mr. Gladstone and his party, who were not" spouters of state sedition," as Mr. Disraeli called them, but honour- able men, and true. His objections to the present bill were founded upon two special reasons—First, that it gives with one hand what it takes away with another (cheers) and, secondly, that it is eminently calculated to raise a conflict between landlord and tenant (hear, hear). I will cite one little instance which came to my knowledge on last Friday at a meeting of the National Reform Union. A tenant-landlord, a man who was a good Liberal, and who belonged to one of the great cities of the North—Manchester, I think it was—said, I am a landlord, holding many small houses, and these houses are in one particular block. They are rated at £ 4 5s., and the difference between the real rate and the com- pound rate amounts to 12s. 6d. Now, as that bonus of 12s. 6d. is awarded, to me in consequence of having to put up with losses on empty houses and tenants who do not pay as regularly as they ought, is it to be supposed for one minute that I can allow a tenant who. claims to be placed on the register to pay this 12s. 6d., and to deduct it from me ? It is self-evident I must raise my rents' (hear, hear). That is the position in which the working men will be placed (cheers). We know that trouble takes time, and that time is money to the working man (hear, hear). Now, can a working man take the trouble, spend the time, and lose the money to obtain that which the nation, and which the Conserva- tives, through the pressure of the nation, have determined not to do, but to pretend to do—-(hear, hear)—namely, to admit a large portion of the cultivated, educated and industrious working classes to an exercise of the- fran- chise (hear, hear). Well, if this bill cheats you of your just demands, what ought you to do at the present moment ? I say, agitate (loud cheers). But can you agitate sueces?fully agains.: tlia present bill? I do not -r.ct.=.=-==-= think you can. There are but two bourses open to you f that is, to support your leader blindly, confidently, and trustfully, in any course which he may suggest (loud cheers). This bill cannot be amended without the abolition of the Small Tenements Act but I am afraid there are so many conflicting interests, such an apathy, and you have been deserted by so many of your representatives, that I think it will be in vain to look for justice to be done to you during the pre- sent session. Well, if that is so, you should re- member those who have failed you when the next general election takes place (cheers). Union is strength, and determination succeeds (cheers). We have heard, and we are told, that the minorities of to-day become the majorities in to-morrow (hear, hear). We were a majority.; more the shame to us, and those who have turned away from us, that- we have now become a minority (cheers). I will conclude with but two lines. The first line is this In 183-2 your forefathers said, The bill, the whole bill, and. nothing but the bill" (cheers). Will you inscribe on your flag and take for your motto, "Aureal bill, an honest bill, or no bill at all (loud cheers). MR. FORSTER. '1\ ivir. W. L..torster, M.P., a member of the late Government, moved the following resolution :—That this meeting utterly repudiates the bill of the Govern- ment in its present form as a settlement of the Reform question, especially of the borough franchise, and re- solves that as the House of Commons by the divisions of the 12th of April and 9th of May refused to remove the partial, capricious, and unjust restrictions by which the Government seeks to prevent large numbers of house- holders from acquiring the franchise, the agitation be at once renewed and continued until these restrictions be abolished, and an honest and straightforward measure be secured." Mr. Forster, after warmly defending;him- self and his colleagues from any factious opposition, and in referring to the quiet gatherings of the Reform League and other meetings of a similar character, said I should say that the real disturbers of the public peace are her Majesty's Government (loud cheers). It is a mere bug- bear to state, that this is done to prevent our course from being dangerous. I can imagine nothing more dangerous than to dangle as they have done house- hold suffrage before the eyes of a large majority of the people of England. It is, indeed, playing with edged tools (hear, hear). Perhaps I have dwelt on these re- marks too much. We who sit in the House of Com- mons are not unaccustomed to see Mr. Disraeli in this vein. We think little of it, because we know in his heart he thinks as little himself—(hear, hear)—but it is meant for the country to pay attention, which un- doubtedly the country will pay. As for myself, no foul words which Mr. Disraeli and his followers may use to me will hurt me, and when I am trying to make the bill a just and straightforward one, I consider such foul words rather as flattery (hear, hear). But it is for you to reply to the charges. It is for you to use every legiti- mate and constitutional effort that it is possible to use within the next three weeks before this bill passes into law. You must demand that England shall be treated no worse than Scotland (cheers)—and the same measure of political right which is meted out to the 29 boroughs must also be meted out to the 170 boroughs (cheers). If you should not succeed then, you must gird your- selves together for a great struggle (hear, hear). Use the present bill as a. measure for reforming itself. Remember that this House of Commons was not elected as a Reforming House of Commons (hear, hear). It was elected to do honour to Lord Palmerston, who disliked Reform (hear, hear). Let us take care that the next House of Commons shall be so elected as it shall so settle this question—hear, hear)—that we may hear no more of it. Do your duty, and if not in this session, certainly in the next, we may see household suffrage given and secured in all parts of England (loud cheers). Mr. BRIGHT. After a short speech from Mr. T. B. Tory, of Man- chester, Mr. Bright, M.P., rose, and was greeted with acclamations and demonstrations of enthusiasm, which lasted for some minutes. He said:: Although I dare say we all feel that a great meeting like this is not generally the fittest assembly for the transaction of business, yet I cannot help thinking that there is some important business before us, and that in the speeches which have just been delivered some of it has been got through. We have before us a work which perhaps I can measure as well as any man, because I have had the opportunity of measuring the work which has been already accomplished. I forget exactly the day when I was on this platform last I think it was in December, on the third or fourth of that month, and looking back only for six months, I think we have a right to say that the great question on which we have set our hearts has made a vast and memorable advance (hear, hear). But notwithstanding that advance, it would be to blind our eyes to the fact not to see and not to acknowledge that the question at this moment is in a critical condition, and in one of no small peril. From the first of the opening of the session we have had the misfortune of seeing this question in the hands of its enemies, and when you know how great is the power which every Government wields in the House of Commons, you may form some idea of the disadvantage which we are subjected to in seeing this or any Reform Bill in the hands of Lord Derby's Adminis- tration (hear, hear). The members of that Adminis- tration have not dared altogether to refuse to defer to public opinion, but whilst pretending to do that which the public want, they have in almost every clause of their bill introduced something of a pernicious tendency, that should make the whole bill of very small value to the country (groans). I shall not say much about the basis of the borough franchise, except this, that I think it bad, and that the requirement that all men shall pay a certain rate—the poor rate—will inevi- tably, in the lowest class of voters, afford at least great opportunity of corruption. But as we cannot expect that in the provisions of the bill everything should be as we wish it, I would not even quarrel with the basis of the bill if the basis of the bill had been fairly applied, and, where it could not apply, if some other mode of enfranchising the, people had been adopted, so that through all the broad land of England and Wales the same common justice should have been meted out to all the householders in all the different boroughs (hear, hear). The newspapers tell us—some of them (laughter)-that ,nobody can comprehend what the compound householder is, that the thing has been so much discussed that those who knew nothing know nothing still, and those who thought they knew every- thing find themselves in a state of complete confusion (laughter). But this bill, if passed to-night, and coming into operation under the most favourable circumstances, operating as I believe its promoters intend that it should operate, would offer the elective franchise to 245,000 men throughout the boroughs of England and Wales, on condition that every one of them had resided twelve months in the borough, paid his rates, and taken what- ever steps may be necessary to see that his name is neither left out of the rate-book nor out of the re- gister. Now, it is an admitted fact in the House of Commons, that if you "till take the whole number and divide it by two, you will get as nearly as possible the actual number of persons whose,names will get upon the register. Some have not lived long enough in the same place—not twelve months, and, in point of fact, it comes to nearly two years-some have not paid their rates, some have changed from one town to another, some have forgotten this or that, or somebody else has forgotten something or other, and thus nearly one-half do not find themselves upon the register (hear, hear). If, then, the bill offers the franchise to 245,000 persons, it will really admit about 122,000 names on the borough registers. But what number does it exclude ? It ex- cludes, taking the whole number of those- to whom it does not freely offer the franchise, no less than 476,000 persons, and, dividing that number by two, 238^000 persons who would have votes if the bill applied equally to all the boroughs of the kingdom (loud cries of "hear, hear," and groans). Now, I suppose that-most of you, notwithstanding what some;writers sayybave got some idea of the real state of the case (hear, hear). I have on two occasions—once in Birmingham and once in the House of Commons—.illustrated the- matter by the example, of two great feowns, that of Sheffield, in-York- shire,, twiil the great town of Birmingham, which I am I pernwlftefeil to In She-tlield,. as a rule, the =:===-== '==-C'=: occupiers of the houses pay the rates to the parish officers, In Birmingham, as a rule, under Acts passed, some of them nearly 40 years ago, up to X.12 rating, which is, I. suppose, nearly X15 rental, all the rate- are paid by the owners or landlords of the houses. It the one case, that of Sheffield, the men would com. upon the list; in the other case, that of Birmingham the men are excluded from the list. In Sheffiel, 28,000 men would have the chance of voting, whic is to say, that about 14,000 would actually get vote: In Birmingham there are 36,000 who have not eve the chance offered, and 18,000 are practically pre hibited from obtaining the franchise (hear, hear). I hav asked them in the House of Commons—there are good many rational and intelligent men there, am they sometimes admit an argument or a fact, and yet ii a division they will not vote in accordance with it (i laugh).. I have asked them, there to point out if Jiej could what difference there is:in the condition of the people of Birmingham and Sheffijeld. They are.both, describing them by the trade, qf. their towns, wonderfully ingenious and expert workers, in metals; they obey the laws. as well in Birmingham as they do in Sheffield, and they are as good men in Shef- field as in Birmingham for I claim no preference what- ever for the town that has returned me to Parliament —but I say, if these men are the ,same, and equal in all classes of life-if before the laws of their country they are treated with just equality-it is a monstrous pro- position, and; unheard of till this day in English legislation, that a bill should pass the Imperial Parlia- ment, which opens its doors wide to the people of Shef- field when it closes them absolutely to the people of Birmingham. Mr. Bright, after commenting at length upon the number of persons, excluded under the Tory bill, which they were about to have forced down their throats, con- cluded thus Now, there has been reference made to certain men- bers of Parliament by whose defection the present momentary cloud has come over this question (cries of Shame "). I shall not speak of them with any feelings of anger. I shall speak of them only with a deep, 1 might say with an insuperable sorrow. They have, by their feebleness, by their combination with the real opponents of Reform, transferred the management and the completion of this bill to the hands of a statesman who during 20 years has led a great party in opposition to every proposal from our side of the House, or to any improvement in our legislation or administration. And they have done this, further they have, by so greatly elating him, and by weakening the Parliamentary powei of Mr. Gladstone, given to the Chancellor of the Exche- I quer that spirit which he has manifested for some weeks past, which does not allow him to lose one single oppor tunity of venting a sneer or passing an insult upon the leader of the Liberal party (hisses, and cries of Shame "). This I know well was not intended to be the result of the action of those members, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a man who does not change countenance very much, as you know who have seen him (laughter) but, like most other men, and like most horses (loud laughter) he can't stand above a certain quantity of corn (prolonged laughter). And, elated as he now is by a temporary success, he is not judicious enough to restrain himself, and he treats some men who are his opponents in this matter, and eminently Mr. Glad- stone, in a manner which I have never before seen, since I have been in Parliament, on the Treasury benches (cries of "Shame"). Now, then, I admii we are under a momentary disappointment. If I coult get from my soul the grief that I have seen men, wh up to this time have been so just, so firm, depart, as; believe, from the policy of their past lives-if I coul get that from me, I don't think I should feel very è1;- mayefi or grieved at the present aspect of the question. There can be no manner of doubt the great cause or Reform has marched on with stately and rapid strides during the last year and a half. At the moment when Lord Russell came into power, with Mr. Gladstone as his leader in the House of Commons, at that moment this question took another start. We found ourselves surrounded with a host of friends. From that hour till now, whatever may be the changes, whatever may Lave been the temporary calamities of the struggle, still we see the march is continued-the great question grows, and no man believes that any- thing but a just and generous settlement will ultimately be arrived at. Oh, let us bear in mind-let us not forget any more than we did in past years, what a great and noble cause it is for which we strive. You. see how it thrives beyond the Atlantic (loud cheers1. You see how it thrives in the great countries of Europe (cheers). You see how it has grown here even in the time I have referred to,. Let us not only not despair, but let us take courage to go on. It is a great cause for which we fight. It is for the enfranchisement of a great people and the tribunal to which we have to appeal, and which must finally decide this question, is the incorruptible conscience of the British nation Uoud and prolonged cheers). I MR. BEALES AND OTHERS. The President of the Reform League on rising was: greeted with immense cheers. He said, in supporting tath resolution, he hoped to promote and advance the union of the Reformers out of the House, in order to shame, if possible, the disunited Reformers within the House, and concluded thus I wish to place no obstruction in the way of those who have convened this meeting, but I feel- convince'' that the great body of my fellow-countrymen must da see more and more reason for rallying in all their com- bination of power and numbers round the standard which the League has unfurled, and which it has carried victoriously at some of the largest meetings ever held in this country. This being my conviction, and tb^» question now being what is to be done as regards th £ present bill before the House, I am willing, whilst pressing my paramount allegiance to the principle of man- hood suffrage, to support any movement that has for its object to render that bill a pure and simple household, and lodger suffrage bill—an occupation suffrage bill, free from all rating fotters-or to effect its rejection bu.: 0 observe, only on the understanding that if that bill should. be rejected, those who succeed in rejecting it must come under the obligation of bringing in a broader and more iust and equal bill-a bill better calculated to carry out the principle of the Reform League of giving the vote to every occupier of sound mind and full age, whether owner, tenant, or lodger. There must be no more fenc- ing with this matter. We must clearly understand that there are to be no more hard lines or limits of enfran- chisement. Upon that understanding I am willling to support the resolution that has been proposed (cheers). 1 here were loud cries for Mr. Mill, who refused to speak upon this oeeasion. speak upon this occasion. The various resolutions having been put and carried unanimously, the meeting terminated, having lasted nearly three hours, and the vast mass of people quietly dispersed.

[No title]