Hide Articles List

10 articles on this Page




-___------___-JOHN BRIGHT…


JOHN BRIGHT AND THE AGRICU LI TURAL LABOURER. THE veteran reformer, sound politician, and lover of his country, JOHN BKIGUT, lia.s ar;ain come to the front. Nobie, too, is the task which he has undertaken. For years. and during that period of his life when life is love and when love is life, he devoted lilti life and gave his iove for his country's good. Old men are thoroughly familiar with the work he so abi" performed in the efforts which he successfully made to repeal the in- iquitous Corn Laws, which were neither more nor less than a tax on the bread of the people. There are indeed young men amongst us who can remember the stirring incidents of that time, when the names of CBDEX and of BRIGHT were watchwords for a working man to swear bv. An interval of half a y century will hardly cover the space which has intervened since these two great men commenced their grand and noble work. Wolverhampton only last week celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. VILLIERH' repre- sentation of that borough in Parliament, and proudly did it do it. The three great names of VILLIERS, CODDEN, and BRIGHT are iu- separably associated with the great and national question of cheap bread, free trade, and iLuced of freedom in everything. A noble bititie wiis then fought, and a glorious victory wasjwon; but once again,and in ull; r own times has tho demon of protectiolt reared its baneful head and east. abroad its baleful look. This, however j it form. It does not sta.lk -abroad"" hi 'tbe full strength of its aristocratic associations and under the shield of purses full of the rent rolls of millions of broad acres. No, the time has gone by for such a selfish doctrine to win approval and to gain a listening aud- ience. Nevertheless/under the specious guise and under the false name of Fair Tra-le, the ghost of Protection is abroad and is attempt- ing to disturb men's minds by the delusive utterances of a few ignorant and selfish men, who have acquired an importance in the political world which only the ownership of broad acres could have given. To oppose the teachings of these men Mr. BRIGHT has again advanced to the front. He had been asked to give expression to his thoughts in writing, which might be of service to the new class of voters whom the Franchise Bill will call into existence, and he has done this in the form."of a letter addressed to a gentle- man in Rochdale. In this letter Mr BRIGHT sets forth in the clearest of terms the work which the Liberal party has effected during the last fifty years. There is not only a frankness in the language which iho makes use of, but there is a real vein of eloquence running through the entire letter. Read this piece of information to the agricultural labourers u I should tell them that there is a great difference between the two parties which will ask for their votes in the spring of 1886—a difference which they may see in all things during the last 50 years. The Reform Bill of 1832 was carried by the Liberal party against the violent opposition of the Tories. It was the first step, in our time, towards a better representation of the people in Parliament. In the year 18G7, now 17 years since, the suffrage was first given to working men, when household suffrage was granted in our cities and towns. This was gained by the agitation promoted by the Liberal party in the country, and was pressed upon the Tory Government during the discussion in the House of Commons in the session of 1867." We fully believe that tho new voter already knows the good which Liberalism has bestowed on his class &nd that he will apply that knowledge to a practical purpose when he deposits his first vote in the ballot-box. Were he then to vote for a Tory he would be false to himself and a traitor to his children's prospects. Listen again to what he says on the secrecy of the ballot and the power which it places in the hands of the voter The Liberal party gave to all voters the protection of the ballot, which, the Tory party strongly opposed. Every voter is now able to vote as he wishes. No landlord, or farmer, or employer of any kind caa know how any vote is given, and now the poorest man is as safe in giving his vote as the rich- est. This is a great safeguard for the voter. The bill for the re-arraugement of ee-ats now before Parliament is the work of the Liberal party. The Tory I arty when In office did not propose it, and it is only under a Govern- ment of Liberals that so great and wise a measure could have been passed into law." These are encouraging words, and wo trust that they will be read by every one vf th& newly enfranchised class. One of the most dastardly and meon actions of Toryism has been, since the passing of the Ballot Act, to endeaviur to generate a belief that the so- called secrecy of the ballot-box was a sham; and a delusion. In vords, thoy; have over and over again, and. in a thousand places, declared that there were means of ascertaining hoiv any man hid votc. Iu the following few lines there is matter for the poor mnn with a large family to ponder over. Let him read, mark, and learn, for In is all interested party in the cheapness or dearness of the bread which his children eat: "We owe to it fthe Liberal party) the repeal of the crael Corn Law, and the removal of the hindrances to trade caused by monstrüns. taxes on almost everything brought from foreign countries. The Corn Law, by shut-! ting ort foreign corn, was intended to keep the price of wheat at or near 80s. the quarter; its natural price without Corn Lfw is probably about JOs. the quarter. Not satisfied with throwing light on the question of cheap bread, the veteran re- former gives a lesson on the cheapening of other important articles, such as sugar and tea The new voters who are not young will remember the price of bread in former days; they will know that sugar is about one third of the price it once was, and that they now can buy three pounds for the price they formerly paid for one pound and thoy know that tea costs less now than the tax alone which was imposed upon it before the free-traders began the reform in our tariff and the repeal of duties on imports from foreign countries. And dunng these years there has been a gencal and latge rise in the wages of working men and labourers in ail parts of the country. Farm labourers' wages have risen one-half or more, and in some counties they have nearly doubled since the days of protection and the Corn Law." From this exhibition of substantial benefits which the Liberal party has conferred upon the labouring class, Mr BRIGHT by an easy transition, passes to the intellectual boons) which it ha j likewise given. A free and a cheap press, and a free and a cheap education for his children, are not the lowest of the advantages which the agricultural labourer now possesses, and there can be no doubt I that both have been means of fitting Hodge for the cxercise of his new rights. We give Mr BRIGHT'S own words The Liberal party has given them the vast advantage of a free press, and to their children the not less vast advantage of cheap and good schools. Now almost every labourer can have au mirable newspaper weekly for a penny, ot every day one somewhat smaller in size, but not less admirable in quality, for a halfpenny. Newspapers not so large and not so good as these cost 7d. when tho Liberal party began to deal with this question. The texes on paper and on the printed newspaper strang- led the Press, and j he tax on advertisements was its great when a gardener sought a situation and employment as when a rich man advertised a mansion or an estate," True to his ancient tactics and not forgetful of what he has so often spoken against, Mr. BRIGHT brings before his readers those barriers to agricultural production—entails, settlements, and the whole doctrine involved in the law of primogeniture. He predicts their abolition, and the repeal of Game Laws. There is hope in his utterances, and if he has been gifted with a prophet's voice there is a glorioas future for the Liberal party loom- ing in the distance. That future he seems to have penetrated, for the sunset of life gives to such a man that mystical lore whnlr in its utterances is akin to prophecy and which clothes the speaker with a prophet's mantle.



Family Notices