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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

I. Introductory

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I. Introductory.

The Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., left Liverpool on the morning of Monday, November 24th, on his way to Scotland, and at the various points of the route through Lancashire, such as St. Helens, Wigan, and Preston, he was greeted with hearty cheers by the large crowds who had assembled to do him honour. On the arrival of the train at Carlisle, Mr. Gladstone was received on the platform by a number of leading Liberals, including Mr. George Howard, M.P. for East Cumberland; Sir Wilfrid Lawson, M.P.; Mr. W. H. James, M.P. Gateshead; Major Thomson, Melton Hall; Mr. Allison, Scaleby Hall; Mr Jardine of Castlemilk, Liberal candidate for Dumfriesshire; and Mr. John M'Laren, advocate, Edinburgh, Vice-President of and representing the East and North of Scotland Liberal Association. The right hon. gentleman proceeded to the County Hotel, in the hall of which a representative gathering of Liberals, numbering some 500 or 600, had assembled, all of whom 011 his appearance, with one accord, rose and cheered with unmistakable enthusiasm.

The addresses were then presented in the following order: Langholm, Dumfriesshire, with a gift of cloth, introduced by Mr. Jardine of Castlemilk; Carlisle Liberal Association, introduced by Sir Wilfrid Lawson, M.P.; Newcastle-on-Tyne Liberal Association, with Newcastle Liberal Club and Gateshead Liberal Association, all introduced by Mr. James, M.P. Mr. Gladstone replied:—

I am afraid the circumstances under which we meet here to-day will scarcely enable me to give even the briefest acknowledgment of the extraordinary kindness with which I have been received. But I will say, in the first place, this, that the sentiment which is evidently bursting forth from every heart among those of our own political opinions in Carlisle is in my opinion a good omen of that which we shall find elsewhere, not, I trust, in Scotland only, or in Cumberland only—for if the whole country be like Scotland and like Cumberland, the whole matter is safe enough—but also in every portion of the country. I accept with the greatest pleasure this gift of the working men who have been so good as to send a deputation for the purpose of presenting it. I shall wear it with a sense that a great honour has been conferred upon me. I believe that if I were to cause it to be immediately made up, and were beginning to wear it every day, Sundays included, the probability is that before this dress was worn out the Government under which we at present live would be worn out. When it has been said from Newcastle that the address presented to me expresses the sentiments of the Liberals of Newcastle generally, I trust and believe that the meaning of that is, that it expresses the sentiments of the large majority of the inhabitants of the town.

This is an occasion, gentlemen, of an extraordinary character. I have had an opportunity of reading the address from Newcastle, and likewise the address from Carlisle, though I have not had yet the opportunity of reading the other addresses; and I observe that in both of those addresses a capital point, a salient point, if I may so speak, on which those who have signed them fix is this, that the crisis is one of an extraordinary character. It is, gentlemen, a crisis of an extraordinary character which brings you together

This is a crisis of an extraordinary character.

necessarily at much inconvenience, many of you coming from considerable distances, to greet me for a moment on my way northwards; it is a crisis of an extraordinary character, and no other that would induce me at my time of life, when every sentiment would dictate a page 6 desire for rest, to undertake what may be called an arduous contest. It is, I believe, because every circumstance marks this occasion that is now approaching—whether it be a little nearer or a little further we do not know—but every circumstance marks it as one of unequalled interest and importance. I say, gentlemen, of unequalled interest and importance, because already in eleven former dissolutions and elections it has been my fortune to take an active part, but in no one of those eleven, although they have extended over very nearly half a century, have I known the interests of the country to be so deeply and so vitally at stake as they are upon the dissolution that is now approaching. You are good enough to say in these addresses much that I cannot honestly appropriate to myself. Nevertheless I accept them with gratitude, because I know that many of the expressions that you have applied to me, and which perhaps, if rigidly examined, would not bear criticism as applied to me, are expressions which are symbols of your feeling upon the character of this crisis generally, and upon the interests that are engaged. And, gentlemen, let me say this before I close—because I feel sure that the few minutes which are kindly allowed to us must by this time have reached their expiration—depend upon it, though the leaders of the Liberal party may do all they can, and I am satisfied they will do all they can; though I in my distinct position may do everything that depends upon me, and on me you may depend for that, it is not upon what they can do, much less upon what I can do, that the final issue must ultimately hang; it is upon the individual exertions of you, as true Britons and true patriots, each in his own separate place, every man in his own office and function, to contribute that which he can contribute to the settlement of the great and tremendous question, and to place anew the fortunes of this country in hands more competent to guide them with honour and with safety than those to which they are now intrusted.

At Hawick a short stoppage took place, and Mr. Gladstone being pressed by the Provost and other leading Liberals, addressed a few words to a large crowd assembled around the station. After thanking those present for their cordial welcome, Mr. Gladstone proceeded to say:—

We are comrades in a common undertaking; we are fellow-soldiers in a common warfare; we have a very serious labour to perform. The people of this country, and you among them in your place, have to consider what is the system upon which such an Empire ought to be governed. It is a subject on which I for one have a strong opinion, known to you. We should endeavour to bring about a great and fundamental change in regard to those dangerous novelties which have of late been introduced into the policy of this country, which have disturbed the world at large, and which have certainly aggravated the distress of the nation at home. I believe that in our efforts to do away with that system, and to return to the sound, Liberal, and just principles that have commonly distinguished in our time British administration, we have in our charge a cause which is the cause of peace, which is the cause of justice, which is the cause of liberty, which is the cause of honour, and which, in the hands of the people of this country, by the blessing of God, will not fail.

Proceeding by St. Boswells and Melrose, where crowds had gathered to cheer him as he passed, Mr. Gladstone arrived at Galashiels, and was there received by the Provost. An enormous crowd had assembled round the platform prepared for the occasion, and the cheering was loud and hearty. Addresses were presented by Mr. Brown, Chairman of the Galashiels Liberal Committee, and by Mr. Anderson on behalf of the Selkirk Liberal Association. Mr. Frater also presented on behalf of the workpeople gifts of tartan and tweed, the staple manufacture of the town of Galashiels. Mr. Gladstone said in reply:—

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am afraid I can hardly hope to convey to every member of this vast assemblage the few words that may proceed from my lips upon the present occasion, but your kindness and evident interest, and the stillness with which you have gathered in this crowded mass, will give me a better opportunity than I should otherwise have had to assure you of the gratitude, and not only the gratitude, but the very lively pleasure, with which I accept the kind present you have made me. We are all of us, as human beings, apt to be influenced by signs; and you may have observed that I was covetous of getting hold in my hand, ay, and in both hands, of those two parcels. It was not only that I might test the quality, about that I felt perfectly sure, but I wished to speak to you holding them in my grasp. I would do so now, were it not that I am afraid that my powers, my physical powers, of speech would be so affected by the weight that I should be less able to make you hear. However, ladies and gentlemen, I must not dwell upon these particulars. I must beg you to take for granted, and you, sir, likewise, who have been good enough to present to me the Selkirk address, I beg you to take for granted the personal feelings that I entertain upon an occasion like this.

It is not possible for any one to witness such a pouring out of the population of a district; it is not possible for any one to see you here, gathered as you are, and willing to listen to the words that may reach you, without asking himself whether there is or is not a serious cause for this extraordinary liveliness of feeling, and for so remarkable a manifestation from the population of this district. It ought to be understood, gentlemen, better than it is by some of the politicians of this country, that the people do not love to meddle in

The people do not love political demonstrations save for a strong reason.

political demonstrations, except when there is a strong cause. It is all very well for the idle or the leisured part of the community, but you are working men; the great bulk of you are working men who have serious matters to attend to, and I well know that it is not your desire to leave them for any frivolous reason, but only when you think that the interests of your country are at stake. It is that same consideration, gentlemen, that has brought me down among you, and that is carrying me to the county of Midlothian.
Gentlemen, I certainly shall not stay among you. There is nothing to do here in amending the representation of the burghs. That is as satisfactory to me as it is to you, and I beg therefore that my friend Mr. Trevelyan may entertain no fears or apprehensions at all that I am going to run away with your hearts, if, indeed, it were in my power to do so. No, gentlemen, but I am come down here certainly for a most serious purpose—that is to say, for the purpose of doing all in my power to raise effectually before the people of this country the great question in what manner it is that they wish to be governed. Docs the present method of Government please them or does it not? If it

Does the present method of Government please or not?

pleases them, then they have nothing to do but send us about our business and to continue it; but that is not what we believe, not what we expect, any more than it is what we desire. But what I beg to insist upon before you and before all is this—it is not now a question of this or that particular measure. We are all of us, or most of us here, I take it, of Liberal politics, and have a great interest in many particular measures. There are a great many things that we wish to be done, which we are not likely to see done by the present Government. Some of us are very anxious for one thing, and some for another, and some for all. But it is a great deal more than that. It is a system and a method of Government with which we have to deal. Look at the state of the world. Look at the disturbed and troubled condition of Europe, of Asia, in India, in Afghanistan, in Africa, in the remote South. Look at the engagements into which we are forced here, there, and everywhere. Look at the condition of the finances at home, which, depend upon it, is only the first-fruits, not the consummation of page 8 all those strange and most unwise proceedings. It is, gentlemen, a new method of Government to which we are now subjected, and if you, instead of being Liberals, were an assembly of those who call themselves Conservatives, I would appeal to you and say that of all Administrations which have been in power within the last half century, there never has been one which has ventured upon so many measures not only mischievous, but new-fangled, with the effect of vexing and alarming the people of the country, and compromising the interests of the Empire.
I have been reminded here in one address that there is also an important local question deeply interesting to you in Scotland. I am come here not only

The freedom of election.

for the purpose of maintaining what we think a sound general policy, but for another purpose too, which is really not less important—the purpose of vindicating the freedom of election. It is idle to talk of freedom of election if the votes of gentlemen who have nothing whatever to do with particular counties and places are to be brought in by legal chicanery for the purpose of setting aside the verdict given by the independent electors. You know what a faggot vote is? In your part of the country you have had

Faggot votes.

experience of it. In Midlothian a bold, daring attempt has been made to carry the apparent sense of the county by means of the faggot votes of gentlemen who have no moral right or title to appear more than I have, and I have none, upon the electoral list of the county. I am come to assert in opposition to these—what shall I call them?—these phantom voters; but unfortunately the votes when recorded are no phantoms—I am come in contradiction of and in protestation against a system of this kind. According to the law and the constitution of this country the power of returning members is to be given to those who have a genuine, legitimate interest as inhabitants and as possessors of property in each circumscription of the country; and as for those who introduce these sham voters—I do not want to use harder words, but even harder words might be used—introduce these sham voters for the purpose of overbearing and overpowering the real voters—it is idle for them to call themselves friends of the Constitution. They are no friends of the Constitution, they

An attempt to nullify the franchise.

are defying the Constitution, they are trampling the Constitution under foot, for they are endeavouring to nullify those franchises which are the most fundamental and most sacred part of the Constitution.

That is the cause, gentlemen, for which I came here, and I assure you I shall go forward to take the steps that that cause shall require in the county of Midlothian cheered by the encouragement and supported by this extraordinary manifestation with which to-day you have gratified me to the bottom of my heart.

At Edinburgh an immense crowd had assembled at the Railway Station, completely filling the building and its approaches, and extending in dense masses along the whole of Princes Street and Queensferry Street. The right honourable gentleman was received at the Station by the Earl of Rosebery, President of the East and North of Scotland and of the Midlothian Liberal Associations; the Right Hon. W. P. Adam, M.P.; Sir D. Wedderburn, Bart., M.P.; Mr. Cowan, M.P.; Mr. Pender, M.P.; Sir William Miller, Bart.; by nearly all the members of the Midlothian Executive Committee, by a deputation from the Trades Council, and by a considerable number of the members of the Corporation. Mr. Gladstone, meeting with an enthusiastic greeting by the way, proceeded with Lord Rosebery in an open carriage to Dalmeny Park, an address from the Corporation of the ancient burgh of South Oueensferry being presented at the Chapel Gate entrance.