The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
Cobden Club Dinner
Cobden Club Dinner.
The Cobden Club dinner for 1885 was held on Saturday, June 13th, in the large banquetting room overlooking the Thames, at the Ship Hotel, Greenwich. More than the usual interest attached to this event from the fact that the festival happened in the midst of the Ministerial crisis, the principal speakers—Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain—being distinguished as leaders of the advanced Liberal party in the out-going Government. The company assembled at the Speaker's Private Thames Stairs, in Palace Yard, soon after four o'clock. There was a great crowd of spectators on Westminster Bridge to watch the embarkation of the Chairman (the President of the Board of Trade), the Members of Parliament, and the distinguished guests of the Club on board the steamboat. It was a beautiful midsummer afternoon, and the run down the river to Greenwich was very pleasant. Of the party of about two hundred who were present at the dinner, there were not more than about a dozen who did not make the journey by the steamboat chartered by the Club for the occasion. Political matters of great interest were discussed on board the boat, more particularly in reference to telegraphic rumours to the effect that the Marquis of Salisbury, at Balmoral, had intimated to her Majesty his unwillingness to attempt to form an Administration. The tide was running down, and the trip was made in little more than half an hour. Before six o'clock almost every seat in the dining hall was filled. The room presented a handsome appearance. On the wall opposite the chairman's seat were hung two portraits of Richard Cobden, enlarged to almost life size, from a photograph by M. Adolphe Beau. The enlargement has been well effected by M. Beau himself, who kindly sent the portraits to be hung in the room, and has presented them to the Club. M. Beau gave away in the room some photographic copies of an autograph letter of Mr. Cobden's, dated Midhurst, 7th August, 1863, testifying to M. Beau that the photograph likenesses, of which copies had been sent to him, were considered by his family to be excellent. The dinner was generally pronounced, this year as last, to be one of the best in quality and in service of the public dinners of London during the season. The chair was occupied by the Right Honourable Sir Charles Dilke, Bart., M.P., President of the Local Government Board. On his right and left were his Excellency M. Mijatovich, Minister for Servia at the Court of St. James, and Mr. J. D. Fransen van de Putte, a distinguished politician and Free-Trader of Holland. The principal vice-chair was taken by Mr. Thomas Bay ley Potter, M.P., honorary secretary of the Club; there were also present:—The Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, M.P., president of the Board of Trade; Lord Houghton, Baron Gustavus de Overbeck (Austro-Hungary), Mr. J. D. Fransen van de Putte (Holland), M. Adolphe le Hardy de Beaulieu (Belgium), His Excellency M. Mijatovich (Servian Minister in London), Mr. Cyrus W. Field (U.S. America), the Hon. George A. Lloyd (late Colonial Treasurer, New South Wales), Mr. Lalmohun Ghose (India), Senor Pablo Bosch (Spain), Mr. Mahlon Sands (U.S. America), Mr. Robert B. Minturn (U.S. America), Senor Don Arturo de Marcoartu (Spain), Mr. S. Constantine Burke (Jamaica), the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P., Sir George Campbell, K.C.S.I., M.P., the Hon. George C. Brodrick, Mr. William Agnew, M.P., Mr. David Ainsworth, M.P., Mr. Benjamin Armitage, M.P., Mr. John Brinton, M.P., Mr. Henry Broadhurst, M.P., Mr. Sydney C. Buxton, M.P., Mr. Arthur Cohen, M.P., Mr. Joseph Dodds, M.P., Mr. J. F. B. Firth, M.P., Mr. Frank Henderson, M.P., Mr. E. Johnson, M.P., Mr. Robert Leake, M.P., Mr. Henry Lee, M.P., Mr. R. B. Mackie, M.P., Mr. John Gordon Mc. Minnies, M.P., Mr. C. J. Monk, M.P., Captain W. H. O'Shea, M.P., Mr. John Dick Peddie, M.P., Mr. R.N. Philips, M.P., Mr. Joseph Pulley, M.P., Mr. William Rathbone, M.P., Mr. John Roberts, M.P., Mr. Thomas Roe, M.P., Mr. Thomas Shaw, M P., Mr. W. P. Sinclair, M.P., Mr. Walter J. Stanton, M.P., Mr. William Summers, M.P., Dr. John Webster, M.P., Mr. Benjamin Whitworth, M.P., Mr. William Woodall, M.P., Mr. J. W. Probyn, (hon. treasurer of the club), Sir John Bennett, Mr. Augustus Mongredien, Mr. C. S. Salmon, Mr. George W. Medley, Mr. John Abbott, Mr. J. Alexander, Mr. J. F. Andrews, Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot, Mr. William Baines, Mr. William B. Barbour, Mr. Edgar Barnes, Mr. Edward A. Baxter (son of the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P.), Mr. Moses Bayliss, M. Adolphe Beau, Mr. John Beauchamp, Mr. Henry Coppinger Beeton, Mr. Francis F. Belsey, Mr. Samuel Rowe Bennett, Dr. Karl Blind, Mr. Henry A. Blyth, Mr. James Blyth, Mr. J. E. C. Bodley (private secretary to Sir Charles Dilke), Mr. William Bohm, Mr. H. R. Fox Bourne, Mr. Charles Branch, Mr. Frederick E. Gordon Breton, Mr. L. M. Brousson, Mr. John Tomlinsoa Brunner, Mr. Thomas Bullock (Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme), Mr. N. A. Burt, Mr. Thomas page 3 Catling, Mr. David Chad wick, Mr. Austen Chamberlain (son of the President of the Board of Trade), Mr. W. E. Chapman, Mr. John Chappell, Mr. F. W. Chesson, Mr. Charles G. Clement, Mr. Henry Peyton Cobb, Mr. K. W. Cooke-Taylor, Mr. William Crosfield, Mr. J.P. Crowe, Mr. Leonidas J. Cuppa, Mr. R. H. Curtis, Mr. Cyrus Daniell, Mr. Edmund F. Davis, Mr. Frank Debenham, Mr. E. Maynard Denny, Mr. Wm. Digby, C.I.E., Mr. S. Digby, Mr. W. Pirie Duff, Mr. Richard Eve, Mr. Ernest Foster, Mr. D. Gamble, Lieut.-General A. R. Gloag, Mr. Henry Gold, Mr. F. R. Gossett (Assistant Sergeaut-at-Arms), Mr. Frederick Gould, Mr. Daniel Gow, Mr. Robert Kay Gray, Dr. Robert J. Griffiths, Mr. W. C. Gully, Q.C., Mr. Axel Gustafson, Mr. Hermann Gwinner, Mr. Henry John Hadrill, Mr. John Hamer, Mr. A. H. Hance, Mr. Charles Hancock, Mr. Edward Harris, Mr. J. C. Haslam, Mr. Mervyn L. Hawkes, Mr. Edward Nelson Haxell, Mr. George J. Henderson, Mr. James Henderson, Mr. Alfred G. Henriques, Mr. H. N. Hamilton Hoare, Mr. George J. Holyoake, Mr. William George Hopps, Mr. George Howell, Mr. Joshua Huggett, Mr. Charles W. C. Hutton, Mr. James Jump, Mr. John Jupe, Mr. John Kinnear, Mr. R. M. Knowles, Mr. H. R. Ladell, Mr. J. C. Lanyon, Mr. Harry L. W. Lawson, Mr. Vincent S. Lean, Mr. E. J. Leveson, Mr. B. S. Lloyd, Mr. Henry W. Lucy, Mr. Lewis Maclver, Mr. William S. Mackie, Mr. Alexander Macmillan, Mr. Maurice Makower, Mr. S. Syraons Martyn, Mr. A. W. Massingham, Major William Vaughan Morgan, Mr. Septimus Vaughan Morgan, Mr. Kenric B. Murray, Mr. E. K. Muspratt, Mr. Joshua Old field Nicholson, Mr. Henry Norman (U.S. America), Mr. S. Northcott, Mr. E. Oppenheim, Mr. Henry Page, Mr. Alexander Paul, Mr. Charles Payne, Mr. Joseph Hickman Pearson, Mr. J. T. Perring, Mr. Henry Peto, Mr. H. M. Phillips, Mr. J. Roland Phillips, J.P., Mr. Samuel Pope, Q.C., Mr. Paul Potter (U.S. America), Mr. Hugh P. Powell, Mr. C. Cholmeley Puller, Mr. Edward Rawlings, Mr. Wm. Reed, Mr. A. G. Renshaw, Mr. James Hall Renton, Mr. E. Routledge, Mr. F. A. A. Rowland, Mr. Edward R. Russell, Mr. Leopold Salomons, Mr. Isaac Seligman, Mr. Charles Sharpe, Mr. Alfred Waldron Smithers, Mr. Henry Tate, Mr. W. Tebb, Mr. Charles Thomas, Mr. Thomas Threlfall, Mr. James Todd, Mr. Thomas S. Townend, Mr. Charles Townsend, Mr. Wm. Vivian, Mr. James Walker, Mr. R. W. Wallace, Mr. Edward Warren, Mr. T. P. Warren, Mr. Aaron Watson, Mr. W. L. Watson, Mr. Edward J. Watherston, Mr. E. March Webb, Mr. Joseph D. Weston, Mr. Bailie Westwood, Mr. W. H. Willans, Mr. J. F. Wilson, Mr. W. Martin Wood, Mr. William Woodings (private secretary to Mr. Chamberlain), Mr. Sidney Woolf, Mr. Walter Wren, and Mr. Richard Gowing (secretary).
Besides Mr. T. B. Potter the following gentlemen occupied vice-chairs:—Mr William Agnew, M.P., Mr. Sydney C. Buxton, M.P., Mr. J. F. B. Firth, M.P., Mr. Henry Lee, M.P., Mr. George W. Medley, Mr. William Summers, M.P., Mr. Wm. Woodall, M.P.
The Chairman, who was very heartily received on rising, said: My Lord Houghton and gentlemen, I give you the toast of "The Queen." (Cheers.)
After the toast had been duly honoured,
The Chairman, again rising, said: I propose, gentlemen, the toast of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the remaining members of the Royal Family. During the last year and a half I have myself been brought into rather close association with the Prince of Wales—(cheers)—by presiding over the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, of which his Royal Highness is an active member, and it naturally falls upon me, in proposing such a toast as this, to show you how sincerely desirous of working for the benefit of the country I, and the other members of the Commission, have always found the Prince to be. (Hear, hear.) He certainly has not only been constant in his attendance at the sittings of the Commission but has taken a great interest in the proceedings. I may say that the right hon. gentleman sitting next but one to me (Mr. Chamberlain) has also always found that the Duke of Edinburgh has been most assiduous in the service of the Royal Commission over which my right hon. friend has presided. (Cheers.) Without more ado, I ask you to drink the "Health of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the rest of the Royal Family."
The toast having been heartily drunk,
The Chairman, who was greeted with loud cheering on rising, proposed the toast of the evening, "The Memory of Richard Cobden, and Prosperity to the Cobden Club." After the applause had subsided, he said: Those of us who are original members, or very old members, of the Cobden Club, are able to congratulate ourselves upon this occasion on much advance made during the past year, as compared with previous years, towards the general adoption of Mr. Cobden's principles. In the foreign field we have seen the reference to the friendly judgment of an impartial arbitrator of a grave embarrassment, which in other days would not improbably have led to a lengthy and a bloody war, proposed by England and accepted by another of the great Powers. (Hear.) We have thus avoided by honourable means a war in which, whatever might have been the measure of our success, there would have been involved a third of the earth's surface, and probably more than a third of the human race. (Cheers.) In 1849, when Cobden proposed page 4 in Parliament a scheme of general arbitration, it failed to meet with universal acceptance, but in 1865, no less a master of statesmanship and of caution than Lord Clarendon gave in strong terms his adhesion to the principle as the "most honourable," as well as equitable solution of difficult and important questions. Party motives led the Tories now to cavil at the reference to arbitration; but they are silent as to Lord Clarendon's opinion, though often ready to claim him—as they claim all our great men of the past, and as their descendants will, I have no doubt, one day claim my right hon. friend by my side as having been virtually with them. (Laughter.) It suits the Tories now to represent these past statesmen as their own. and as the forerunners of Lord Beaconsfield, and to attack the patriotism of the Liberal statesmen of the day as compared with that not only of their opponents but of their former colleagues. What sort of words were used, however, by Mr. Disraeli himself even of Lord Palmerston, who, now that he has been long dead, has become the exemplar of the Primrose League, though assailed by repeated votes of censure by the Tories while alive! Why, these: "Our language contains no expression of scorn which has not been exhausted in the celebration of your character, there is no conceivable idea of degradation which has not been at some period or another associated with your career." Language of this kind is generally used by Tory speakers and writers of Liberal Ministers when the latter make application of those principles which unite us here. Such language has been used with regard to the Penjdeh arbitration, and as to Egyptian finance, and it is being hurled in advance against any arrangement on the lines of Earl Granville's circular as to the free navigation of the Suez Canal. In both these latter cases it is not in reality the supposed terms of the arrangement, but the making of any arrangement at all, that our opponents condemn. Yet the necessity of ultimately calling in the Powers to consult with regard to the Suez Canal and the finance of Egypt, and I would add, in the long run even as to the future of Egypt itself, has been constantly proclaimed by us without dissent in the past from the Conservative party. The Constantinople Conference ended with the solemn declaration "that an understanding exists between the European Cabinets that no definitive settlement of the Egyptian question is to take place without consultation with all the Powers." We ourselves soon afterwards declared that we should "invite the aid of the Powers to make provision for the future" of Egypt. On the 10th of August, 1882, we declared that" the result must be arrived at with the intervention, and under the authority of Europe, and cannot be adequately founded upon the simple conclusions of any single Power of Europe." Is it not obvious that this is both right and wise? (Hear.) Our sacrifices entitle us to a voice, an authority, and a consideration which, as a nation, we shall claim, and which will be allowed to us. (Cheers.) But what are our objects? Our mam objects in regard to Egypt are security against foreign aggression, and security against internal trouble. These objects are not retarded but are promoted by consultation of the Powers. It is, in my opinion, worthy of consideration whether that consultation might not go further than it has gone at present, and whether before that evacuation of Egypt by the British troops which I do not believe even the Conservatives will prevent, this country should not obtain a perpetual guarantee of the neutrality of Egypt, to commence from the departure of our troops, similar to the perpetual separate guarantee of the neutrality of Belgium. What better security could we take than this against eventual foreign aggression? As regards security against internal troubles, we have already done much of late towards the formation of a small reliable Egyptian army, and if there were a guarantee the guaranteeing Powers could engage to consult together as the protecting Powers of Greece have done in the case of Greece, and to consult with the sovereign Power as to the need for interference and the measures to be taken. The undisputed and undoubted sovereignty of the Porte in Egypt is no obstacle to a guarantee. The sovereignty of Sardinia over the Chsblais did not prevent a guarantee of the neutrality of the Chablais at Vienna, a neutrality transferred to and recognised by France when the territory was transferred to France after six-and-forty years, and lately shown to be still effective. Is it not possible when the security gained for the accomplishment of our objects allows us to leave Egypt that Cobden's principles could be then applied with the effect of causing its peaceable and orderly development in the future?- (Cheers.) Thus, in my belief, by an application of Cobden's methods, we may see day light, if the guidance of our affairs be wise, through troubles which might otherwise disturb the world. In home affairs we cannot fail to find in the Redistribution Bill of the present year a notable acceptance of Cobden's principles. It is a single member district Bill, and as regards the counties and the larger boroughs of England, and for the whole of Ireland, it is virtually an equal electoral district Bill. It concedes the whole of our principles, and it is capable of easy expansion and improvement at any future time. Even those of us who ardently desired the adoption of the view which has prevailed had some doubts whether it would be accepted, and I may go so far as to reveal a secret, and tell you that while we knew it to be desirable we were astonished to find it also popular. Cobden's detailed scheme, which he described as a scheme for equal electoral districts, went about as far as that which we have page 5 carried. We proposed to keep county boundaries, and we have gone all but as near as possible to equal districts if county boundaries were to be preserved. Read Cobden's Reform Speech of 1848, and you will find that we have done all but exactly what he proposed. Cobden was just thirty-seven years in advance of the Tory party; to judge by recent speeches the Tory party of the future is not likely to toe more than from ten to fifteen years in the rear of the present company. While we have done a vast deal with regard to Redistribution, we have still in my belief a great deal to do before, in franchise matters, we have reached the point at which Air. Cobden would stand were he still with us at the present day. I am one of the fast growing party who are not in favour of resting the franchise upon the actual or constructive possession of property. I suppose that this is done from regard to the interests or feelings of the Tory party and of the Whigs, but the results are singular. The country, the localities, and individuals are involved in immense trouble and expeuse—trouble and expense through the technicality of our system. In the name of Conservatism we exclude from the franchise the most Conservative classes in the country. Why in the name of property should the Conservative party and the Whigs prevent Lord Cranborne from voting for Arlington-street or Hatfield, or Lord Hartington for Devonshire House? Another question concerning home affairs, in which Cobden's principles are making rapid progress, is that of land. (Hear, hear.) We have, I think, shown what Cobden called "a great feeling of surprise that the men who had abolished the Corn Laws had not also abolished the monopoly of land." We hear a good deal from the Tories in defence of huge properties on the ground of the national interest in producing the largest possible return from land. If the facts were as they state, then the argument would have weight with us here, because we are economists and followers of a man with whom such arguments had weight. But I should like to cross-examine some of these advocates of the present system about the effect of game preserving, for example. Look at the artificial keeping up of a splendid herd of field-mice by the destruction of small vermin for game-preserving purposes. Can anyone doubt that the battue system connected with the holding of large estates in various ways decreases the agricultural yield of the country? We must not forget, too, the questions which are above all economies. Can anyone maintain that we ought to rest satisfied with the present lot of the rural labourers of southern England? I would ask you to read for yourselves the evidence given by the agricultural labourers who appeared as witnesses before the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes. I think that Cobden, had he lived to old age, would have found us ready to co-operate with him in destroying the monopoly in laud. (Hear, hear.) Those who are interested in that monopoly will, even though abandoned by certain Democratic Tories, fight hard for its retention, as we may see by the opposition which was aroused by the proposal to apply equal treatment as between land and personalty in the collection of the Death Duties. Another subject, which is now fully before the country, in which we should have Cobden's sympathy, is that of Local Government Reform, especially as regards the application to Ireland of our principles. (Cheers.) How strongly and repeated were his appeals to the people of this country to try and understand what the Irish people want as the first step towards seeing whether we ought or ought not to give them what they ask for. These were some of his words, which he was forever repeating to the English nation:—"The strongest ground of grievance that we ever heard alleged against us by intelligent Irishmen unimbued with party feelings is, the total neglect and ignorance of their country that prevail among the people of England. To the middle classes of this country, as to an impartial tribunal, untainted by the venom of their political and religious factious, a large portion of the Irish people look for the probable regeneration of their unhappy country . . . . . . . . . . This patriotic party, including so much of the intelligence and industry of Ireland, claim from their fellow subjects on this side of the Channel (and they have a right to claim it) such a consideration of their country, its population and resources, its history, institutions, and geography—in fact just such a study of Ireland as shall give them a knowledge of its anomalous physical and moral state." (Cheers.) Cobden laboured hard to remove the ignorance of which he wrote: but it is still, I fear, very great. (Hear, hear.) What policy did he recommend? "Pass your measures for bringing Ireland into closer proximity with this country, for giving her our own institutions and a better representative system, and we shall do more to preserve order than if we were to send a dozen regiments to that country." We have now at last, 35 years later, given her a better representative system, for it was but very slightly tinkered in 1867, so far as imperial matters are concerned. But Ireland is still, to our weakness, a camp of British troops. Let us complete our work by giving her that better representation, too, in local matters, and Irish control of things of Irish concern, and then that standing army thus specially held in Ireland will, in my opinion, with general concurrence, and to the increase of the power of this country, safely be diminished or withdrawn. People in this country do not realise the present page 6 condition of the local government in Ireland. The Corporations of Belfast, and Cork, and Limerick have had repeatedly, by the necessary operation of the present law, to attend, at the cost of the local funds, the obliging Chairman of Ways and Means in London, Sir Arthur Otway, with regard to unopposed private Bills. Do the people of this country understand the working of the grand jury system? Do they understand that the worst governed of the Irish towns, some of which have a death rate nearly three times as high as the average death rate, have an extraordinarily high qualification for members of the Corporation, retained by Parliament against the almost unanimous wish of the Irish people, and that the Corporation are elected by an extraordinarily limited electorate similarly maintained. (Hear, hear.) Waterford is a good example for those who believe in the virtues of the popular franchise. Water-ford has less than 700 burgesses in a population of 30,000; only one in 42½ of the population are municipal voters, an extraordinarily low proportion. The qualification of voters is sadly high, but the qualification for membership of the Corporation is much higher, being a £25 rental, which means in Ireland a rental of £40 to £50 a year. Waterford, happening to have much ancient property, has never had to raise a borough rate: but the Corporation has never seen its way to spend much money in sanitation. The Corporation contains members who are interested in insanitary property. The sanitary accounts are the only accounts which are audited with publicity, but these are so small as not much to matter. As for the audit of the town accounts, so lax is that audit that the auditors a few years ago made a mistake of a thousand pounds, and certified a balance of £500 as due to the treasurer, which, as a fact, was due by the excellent treasurer, our old friend Mr. Delahunty, to the town. In whose interest have abuses of this kind been continued up to the present day? Who gains by them? How do they help the English connection, or the cause of good government or order? (Cheers.) Is it not time to try a new departure, and to see if the householders of Ireland are not as competent to rule themselves as are the householders of Great Britain. (Hear, hear.) So much for the advance which Cobdenic views have made, or are making, in many departments of the State. The one point in which they are supposed not to be making way is that of Free Trade. As regards Free Trade abroad, I pointed out here the last time but one we met that there had been no general retrogression, but, on the whole, advancement, although advancement far smaller and less uniform than had been hoped. In England the opposition to Free Trade, which was becoming serious some three years ago, has declined during the last two years, in part owing to the action of the committee of the Club. (Cheers.) The absolute unity of the Conservative party, of which Lord Randolph Churchill spoke last week at the East End, is, indeed, illustrated, if not demonstrated, by the fact that some of them are in favour of taxing foreign imports all round; while the leader of the Tory party in the Commons protests in the strongest terms against a duty upon foreign wheat, and is in favour, as was Lord Beaconsfield when Prime Minister, of Free Trade. Those Conservatives who advise a course diametrically at variance with that recommended by Lord Beaconsfield are only reviving an agitation which has been attempted and had collapsed for a time before the general election of 1880. Mr. Chaplin, Mr. J. Lowther, and Mr. Cavendish-Bentinck had advocated this policy of having foreign imports all round, and the plan of cutting off our nose to spite our face was before the country at the last election. The country would not have it then, and the country will not have it now. (Hear, hear.) It is not only with regard to Free Trade and taxes upon goods that the Tories have their differences. Being aware that after the next election they will have for a long time no chance of power, they have tried for a few months of office by various votes of censure, and at last they appear to have succeeded. But on what principles are they to form their Government? Free Trade or Protection? Peace or war? Leaseholders' enfranchisement or rights of property? Lord Randolph Churchill and London Government Reform, or Mr. Smith and Vestrydom? (Laughter.) We have seen lists of the names of our successors and the offices they are to hold banded about by one or the other of them. They do not all agree, except that they all exclude or omit certain members of the Cabinet and Government before ours, who have been marked out for proscription. Lord Rockingham, however, once very wisely said, "I must confess that I do not think it an advisable measure first to attempt to form a Ministry by arrangement of office, and afterwards to decide upon what principles they are to act;" and that I think will be the judgment of the people of this country. We must in these days accept differences, both as to questions of the future and as to peace. I should never make it a ground of attack upon the Tory party that it is divided, as the Liberal party is divided, on woman's suffrage, for example, on which it is notorious that Lord Salisbury is as strong one way as Lord Randolph Churchill is strong the other. I would not even press too hard the fact of their divergence of opinion as to leaseholders' enfranchisement, or as to London government. In the Liberal party there must always be, and in the Tory party there will grow to be as it becomes more democratic, many differences. Especially with ourselves will there be, and ought there to be, honest differences among those who would go faster or page 7 less fast towards the one end. (Hear, hear.) We must in these days accept honest differences, and we may even be thankful for differences which imply thought and independence. But these are hardly of the same nature as the grave differences as to the principles of foreign policy which divide the Tory party, or the difference between Free Trade and a duty upon corn, as to which, before it asks the constituencies to trust it, that party would do well to try and make up its collective mind. I have seen to-night a telegram which states that Lord Salisbury has declined to form a Government. ("Hear, hear," laughter, and cries of "oh.") I cannot believe that statement, and I cannot accept it. (Cheers.) Is it creditable that gentlemen who night after night during the present Session have brought our people to the House by repeated votes of censure upon every article of our policy, upon every portion of our programme; upon our conduct of home, upon our conduct of military affairs, and upon every foreign question that has arisen; upon our financial proposals, and upon everything we did or proposed, or that they thought we intended to do—can it be that these gentlemen, after moving these votes of censure with a rapidity which has never been equalled, and after declaring in their speeches in and out of the House and in their newspapers that we were the worst Government that ever ruled this country, and that there was not a day that we were not in every portion of the globe sacrificing our interests, when they have the chance of ridding the country of our presence that they should not be prepared to accept the responsibility of their acts. (Cheers.) I am bound to say myself that I did not expect that Lord Salisbury would shrink from the consequence of these acts, and after having given, as it was supposed, an impetus to this policy, and after, as it was rumoured, rejecting the policy of Sir Stafford Northcote as not being sufficiently active for them—for in one or two votes of censure the proposal was not considered sufficiently strongly worded—is it possible that he could not form a Government? I cannot and I do not believe it. (Cheers.) But there is one thing I do believe, whether the Conservative Government try to accept the responsibility of power, or whether they try to evade and escape it, in either case their conduct will make no difference to the effect of the general election that is coming upon us. (Cheers.) I am sure that, enormous as are the services of Mr. Gladstone to the country, the next election will not be fought only on his services and his name, but that the people of the country will give judgment, not only upon Mr. Gladstone's name and services, but also upon the principles of the Liberal party and those principles which were held, and in support of which we are gathered here to-night. (Cheers.) I believe that whatever course is taken by Lord Salisbury the judgment of the country will be conclusive in a degree which has never been known before. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) I beg to propose "The Memory of Richard Cobden and Prosperity to the Cobden Club," coupling with the toast the name of Mr. Probyn, our honorary treasurer, an old and honoured member of the Club. (Cheers.)
Mr. Probyn, rising amid general cheering, said: Sir Charles Dilke, my lords and gentlemen. In rising to reply briefly, and it will be very briefly, to the telling and able speech of our honoured chairman, in proposing prosperity to the Cobden Club, I shall avail myself of the opportunity of placing before you one or two simple facts. During the last twelve months we have had the opportunity of distributing no less than a quarter of a million of the very able pamphlets which some of our best writers have written on the question of Free Trade and Protection, and also replies to those arguments, if so they can be called, of our fallacious Fair Trade friends. But this is not the only work in which we have been engaged, thanks to the efforts of the chairman of our committee, Mr. Potter. (Cheers.) We have been enabled to raise a special fund by which we have distributed since last December no less than six millions and a half of leaflets upon great and important questions connected with the name of Cobden. We have done this more especially with the object of enlightening the new electors, who have lately obtained the franchise, in those principles, and endeavouring to guide them aright in the selection of representatives which they will be called upon to make. Amongst the subjects dealt with a prominent place has been given to the ballot, which is so important in the rural districts. (Cheers.) We have endeavoured to emphasise and bring home to the minds of the people the fact that the ballot is a real protection to them, and that under that constitutional mode of procedure they need not fear the farmer, the landlord, or his agents. Those who like myself have been addressing rural constituencies lately will know that it is important to bring this fact home to them. We are receiving continually, from all parts of the country, and especially from the rural districts, assurances that these leaflets are doing very great work and great service in this respect. (Hear, hear.) I earnestly intreat all who are engaged in this work to use every means to spread these leaflets, and not to allow any rest or peace to our excellent secretary, Mr. Richard Gowing. (Cheers and laughter.) There is only one other matter upon which I should like to touch. That is the great satisfaction we feel that the important principle of arbitration has again been recognised. (Cheers.) Not only was Free Trade dear to the heart of Cobden but that great principle of arbitration by which the differences which arise from time to time between the nations of the world are likely to be settled by calm page 8 reason and judgment, by a fair tribunal instead of being determined by what I cannot help calling the insane and barbarous method of setting a large number of men to fight and destroy each other, the result of which proves nothing, but produces the greatest misery in the world. (Hear, hear.) Therefore, as in the case of our serious difficulty with our American cousins some years back, and in the present instance with Russia, so we may look forward in the future to the following of this principle in our dealings with other nations. We may trust that the great blessings of peace may be preserved to us by this means, and that we may be saved from the misery, waste, and wickedness of war. (Cheers.)
Mr. Chamberlain, who met with a very enthusiastic reception, the cheering, which was accompanied by the waving of handkerchiefs, lasting for some time, rose and said: I am sure that you will agree with me in congratulating the committee of this Club upon the selection they have made for the chairman for this evening. (Cheers.) 1 don't refer solely to the admirable and eloquent speech to which we have just listeued—(hear, hear)—but I base my opinion upon considerations arising out of the whole of the public life and work of my right hon. friend. (Cheers.) I venture to say that there is no one who is entitled to be considered a more faithful exponent of Cobden's principles, perhaps, with one exception, than our president this evening. The exception I refer to is this, that I suppose that Mr. Cobden carried the doctrine of non-intervention rather further than my right honourable friend and many other Radicals and Liberals are prepared to go, though in all questions of commercial and domestic policy, and the spirit which ought to enter into our relations with foreign powers, I believe that Mr. Cobden never had a more orthodox disciple. You know that it fell to the lot of Sir Charles Dilke to represent this country in the negotiations which took place for the renewal of the French Treaty, and there are many in this room I believe who can bear testimony to the ability, tact, and knowledge which he brought to bear during the discussion. (Hear, hear.) Well, it is sometimes said that these negotiations were useless; but that is an entire mistake. (Hear, hear.) It is quite true, of course, that the treaty was not formally renewed; but, thanks to the operation of the most favoured nation clause, and the friendly action of the French Government in conceding to this country the benefits of the treaties which it made with the other Powers, at the present moment both nations enjoy more unrestricted intercourse than in any previous period in their commercial relations. At the same time I do not conceal from you that there is much still to be desired in connection with the commercial relations both with France and with other countries. (Hear, hear.) I am not aware that we can congratulate ourselves upon any great or remarkable recent conversions to the principles of Free Trade. But, as I have before said, this is regrettable more in the interests of Protectionist countries themselves, and in reference to the political relations which we may have with them, than it is in the interests of the United Kingdom, because the position of the country whose manufactures, like our own, are perfectly unshackled in competition with those whose industries are fettered with all kinds of restrictions, is an extremely favourable one, and one which we should be most disinterested in exchanging with any other. (Hear, hear.) I should like, as I think it appropriate to the occasion, to be permitted to give you one or two illustrations of this favourable position. We have been suffering, as you know, from a depression altogether exceptional in its duration and its extent, and yet I venture to say that the general trade of this country is now more prosperous than that of any other great country in the world. (Cheers.) Now, let us look for a moment at the condition of our kindred across the water. The United States think Protection to be a remedy for distress. Then, surely the contrast between the United States and this country ought to show at this time a remarkable balance in favour of the former nation. (Hear, hear.) But what is the state of the case? I have here an extract from a recent report by Mr. Mc. Culloch, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, and after dealing with the depression there, and the lack of employment, he says—"The all important question that presses itself upon public attention is—How shall the country be relieved from the plethora of manufactured goods, and how should that plethora hereafter be prevented. It is obvious that our power to produce is much in excess of the present or any probable demand for home consumption. The existing iron, cotton, and woollen mills, if employed at their full capacity, would meet in six months, and perhaps in a shorter time, the home demand for the year. It is certain, therefore, that unless the markets now practically closed against us are opened, unless we share in the trade which is monopolised by European nations, the depression, now so severe, will continue, and may become more disastrous." Then I look for another indication of the state of trade in America, in the list of bankruptcies. (Hear, hear.) While, as you know, the number of failures in this country has recently shown a most remarkable diminution, in the United States, on the contrary, they have reached a figure which they never reached before; and in the last year they were 12 per cent, more in number, and 37 per cent, more in the amount of the liabilities, than in the preceding year of 1883. There has been at the same time a general and extraordinary reduction in wages. In a commercial page 9 economical journal of great importance and abilty, which is known as Bradstreet's Journal, I find that its conductors recently made an inquiry respecting the twenty-two northern States, and they found that the average reduction of wages throughout the district had been from 20 to 25 per cent. The reduction in the number of hands employed had been variously estimated, according to the trade and district, from 12 to 33 per cent. There were 363,000 operatives returned out of work—that is 13 per cent, of the whole of the number employed during the preceding year. I should like to carry this a little further and call your attention to one or two particular cases in which special industries have been practically ruined by the protective tariffs. I will not speak of the shipping trade, which has passed almost wholly into the hands of English shipowners owing to the restriction and trammels which the Americans have placed upon themselves. I will not speak of the iron trade—one of the most heavily protected industries, and in which 80,000 workmen are now out of work. I will call your attention to the case of the boot and shoe trade, which happens to be one of the most prosperous of our industries now, and which is continually increasing both in its production and, above all, in its exportation to foreign markets. This is a trade which has been created by our Free Trade system, and which depends upon the access which the manufacturers have to every market in the world for the supply of the raw material, while, at the same time, their great competitors in America and France load their traders with burdens upon imports, upon hide and leather, so that practically competition has become impossible, and English goods are driving the American and French goods out of all the neutral markets of the world. (Hear, hear.) Then there is the case of clocks. Since the time of Sam Slick, I thought that Yankee clocks were the special production of the American soil, that they were indigenous, and that no foreigner could hope to transplant them. But, in consequence of the difficulties which have been placed in the way of American manufacturers by the tariff, at the present moment the export of clocks and watches from this country to the United States is nearly as great as the importation from that country to Great Britain, while in the colonies, and throughout the markets of the world, American manufactures are being rapidly pushed out by those of their English competitors. But perhaps the most striking of all the illustrations I have to give is that of the woollen trade. Why on earth should not the American people be successful competitors with the English? There is nothing but the tariff to account for it. I find that the number employed in the woollen industries in the United States has decreased by 34,000 since 1882, and the wages have fallen from 25 to 30 per cent., and the exports, which only attained the sum of £72,000 in 1879, have actually fallen in 1884 to £28,000. Now, compare this with the result of a totally unprotected and free industry—compare it with the woollen industry of Bradford. The exports from England to the United States alone of textile woollen fabrics have doubled in the period I have referred to, and now reach the gigantic amount of over £3,100,000. (Hear, hear.) Now, gentlemen, let us turn for a moment to the case of Fiance, another great Protectionist country. We know on the authority—the eminent authority—of Mr. James Lowther and Mr. Chaplin—(laughter)—that all that is wanted in order to restore prosperity to British agriculture is a fixed duty of five shillings per quarter upon corn. But that specific has been tried, and it has failed. There is a duty on corn in France, and the French farmer has also a protective duty upon every other agricultural product. And what is the result? I have seen recently an official report addressed to the French Chamber, which states that the position of the farmer in France is everywhere precarious; that stock-breeding is becoming the only profitable branch of agriculture; that in one single Department there are 840 farms unlet, and in one single arrondissement there are 20,000 acres lying fallow. Would you not think that it was to an English county that these figures related? Meanwhile arable land has fallen 50 per cent, in value, and rents have diminished as much as from 12 to 33 per cent. It is not only, however, in farming that trade is bad in France, for it is universally depressed and has reached every industry. I have in my possession another official report of the Chamber, which was adopted with respect to the state of affairs in the Basin of the Loire, a manufacturing district. The manufactures consist of silk, velvet, ribbons, and also mining industries and metal industries, and the manufacture of glass and of arms, and in every one of those branches of industry there is the greatest possible destitution prevailing, and the population of St. Etienne has fallen off 25,000 in two years. Such a falling off cannot be shown in anyone city in the United Kingdom with anything like that population. Of 66,000 workmen who remain only 6,000 are in full labour. There are 10,000 out of work, and 50,000 are on short time, and meanwhile the wages have fallen until they are no longer able to provide sustenance for their families, and accordingly there are 30,000 persons said now to be dependent upon public or private charity. And why is this? This state of things with regard to one of the most important industries is due, and acknowledged to be due, entirely to the effects of the tariffs. It is a curious result of the mistaken endeavours to protect industries by means of fiscal regulations. (Cheers.) At the present time, what are called silk manufactures are based to page 10 a large extent on the use of silk waste and cotton yarns, and the raw material used is so heavily taxed in France that the manufacturers avow themselves destroyed by the competition of their neighbours in Switzerland and elsewhere; and at the present time the efforts of the French Government on behalf of the cotton spinners of France have resulted almost in the annihilation of one of the special industries of the country. The general conclusion I want you to bear in mind is this—that, although we cannot show any great change of opinion in foreign countries with regard to the extension of Free Trade, vet at least we can find in their experience conclusive evidence and proof of the soundness of Mr. Cobden's doctrines, and a great cause for congratulation to this country. (Hear, hear.) At all events, the depression which has prevailed here as elsewhere throughout the world has not been intensified and accentuated by all kinds of artificial restrictions and by unjust and injurious tariffs. (Cheers.) Now, I have referred to the table speech to which we have all listened, and I would venture to say that its importance lies in the plain perception which it shows of the fact that Mr. Cobden's fame does not rest alone upon the circumstance that he was the greatest and most successful of Free Traders, but more upon this—that he was also the most clear-sighted and the wisest of Liberal politicians. (Cheers.) And, gentlemen, the sanction and confirmation which in recent times have been given to his opinion throughout the whole range of domestic politics is the justification of the regard and reverence in which we hold him, and a great encouragement to all those who are endeavouring, however humbly, to tread in his steps. I agree with Sir Charles Dilke in attributing the utmost importance to the question of local government in the future. (Cheers.) I agree with him in the estimate which he has formed of the high place that question will occupy in the programme of the Liberal party. (Cheers.) Experience justifies us in the hope that the Reformed Parliament will do much in the direction of completing the work which previous Reformed Parliaments have com-menced. What was the main and the material advantage which resulted from the Reform Bill of 1832? It was the concession of municipal government to our country towns—a concession which has been highly appreciated, and which has been widely used, and which has added most materially to the comfort and the happiness of the populations concerned. (Hear, hear.) And what was the greatest result of the Reform of 1867? It was the extension of the functions of local government by the creation of a system of education, national in its scope, but locally administered. (Cheers.) And it remains for the Reformed Parliament which will meet in 1886 to complete this work—(cheers)—and to carry it further. I can conceive of no nobler and no more congenial task for those who represent the whole people than that of extending to the counties and to the metropolis and to the sister kingdom the liberties and the institutions which have conferred so great a benefit upon us in the provinces. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, local government is important altogether beyond its local usefulness. It is the best political education, and I am convinced that the welfare and the contentment of the whole population can only be secured in proportion as the whole population are called in to take a part and a share in the obligations and the responsibilities of government. But, the extension of municipal institutions is not all that we have to do in the way of local government. We have in the future to elevate our conception of the meaning of the word. It is not merely a parochial and municipal, it is not even merely a provincial question, it is a national question also. What are the great problems of the future? We have to deal with obstruction in the House of Commons. We have to deal with the system under which the greatest legislative assemblage in the world has begun to lose its usefulness, and in consequence lose its influence. And that result can never be accomplished so long as the Imperial Parliament is burdened with an ever increasing amount of petty detail with which it is incompetent to deal, and which ought to be referred to other bodies. (Hear, hear.) We have also to recognise and to satisfy the national sentiment, which is in itself a praiseworthy and a patriotic and an inspiring feeling, and which both in Scotland and Ireland has led to a demand for a local control of purely domestic affairs. (Cheers.) And these objects can only be secured, I believe, by some great measure of devolution, by which Imperial Parliament shall maintain its supremacy, but shall nevertheless relegate to subordinate authorities the control and administration of their local business. (Cheers.) I believe, gentlemen, that in this way only is there any chance of our being able to remove the deeply-rooted discontent which follows as a natural consequence from the attempt of one nation to control and interfere with the domestic and the social economy of another, whose genius it does not understand, whose pressing necessities it is not in a position to appreciate, whose business it has not time to attend to, and whose prejudices and whose preferences it is impossible, even with the very best intentions, to avoid sometimes ignoring or offending. I look forward with confidence to the opportunity which will be afforded in the new Parliament for the consideration of this most momentous question, and I believe that in the successful accomplishment of its solution lies the only hope of the pacification of Ireland—(cheers)—and of the maintenance of the strength and integrity of the empire, which are in danger, which are gravely compromised so long as an integral portion of Her page 11 Majesty's dominions can only be governed by exceptional legislation, and so long as it in consequence continues to be discontented and estranged. (Cheers.) I am very glad that there seems a prospect that in the interval which will elapse before the general election we shall have time and occasion to bring this matter to the attention of those whose interest it so deeply concerns, and I think it is a consolation to my right hon. friend as well as to myself for the defeat which we have sustained that our hands are free—(loud and long continued cheering)—that our voices may now be lifted up—(cheers)—in the cause of freedom and of justice. I have seen the extraordinary announcement in the telegram of tonight that Lord Salisbury will not assume the reins of office: but, gentlemen, I have received that statement as you have received it, with incredulous indignation. (Loud cheers.) Lord Salisbury and the Tory party must lie on the bed they have made for themselves; they cannot evade their responsibilities. (Cheers.) No doubt their situation is a very difficult one, but they should have thought of that before. (Cheers.) No doubt they find themselves now face to face with many inconvenient declarations. There are statements which we have been taught to describe as "commercial illustrations"—(cheers and laughter)—which will now have to be explained away. There are pledges which have been given, and the party, as a whole, are committed, if words mean anything, to an entire reversal of almost the whole of the policy of the last few years. (Hear, hear.) But, gentlemen, we are not alarmed. Those pledges were not made to be kept. They have served their purpose, and I look forward with interest to the spectacle which I believe will shortly be presented of a great party with indecent expedition hastening to divest itself of a whole wardrobe of pledges and professions which it has accumulated during the past few years, stripping off every rag of consistency, and standing up naked and not ashamed, in order that it may squeeze itself into office. (Cheers and great laughter.) That is the position, gentlemen. It is only upon those terms that what will be known in history as the "Stop-gap" Government can invite the toleration of its opponents. They must not undo our work. (Loud cheers.) They must not jeopardise the results already accomplished. They must continue on the main lines of the policy that they have so often and so vehemently condemned. But if they are willing to do that, for my part I see no reason why they should not remain as caretakers on the premises—(great laughter and cheering)—until the new tenants are ready in November for a prolonged—and, I hope, permanent—occupation. (Great cheering and laughter.) I feel that I ought to apologise to you for this digression—(cries of "no," and cheers)—but the circumstances under which we meet are so exceptional that I hope they will plead my excuse. It is now my pleasing duty to propose the toast committed to my charge: "Our Foreign and Colonial Members and Guests." I am glad to find that we are honoured by the presence of distinguished visitors in such unusual numbers. From the United States we have Mr. Cyrus Field, whose name is a household word in this country, and whose friendship for England and personal relations with some of our most trusted statesmen will at all times secure him a hearty welcome. We have also Mr. Minturn and Mr. Mahlon Sands, both of them, I believe, convinced and most earnest Free Traders. From our colonies we have a representative in the person of Mr. Lloyd, who was formerly the treasurer of New South Wales, and who will be specially recommended to you by the fact that in 1873 he proposed and carried the Free Trade policy which distinguishes that colony, and which has added so much to its prosperity. (Cheers.) I don't feel that I can pass over the allusion to New South Wales without referring for a moment to the proof that has lately been given to us that the Government of that country feel that blood is thicker than water—(cheers)—for their action has afforded to us an assurance that in any time of danger or emergency the old country can count not merely upon the sympathy but also upon the active assistance of her sons throughout the whole world. (Cheers.) Then, gentlemen, our great dependency of India is represented by Mr. Lalmohun Ghose—(loud cheers)—and I am encouraged by your applause to assure him of our sympathy in the candidature which we know he is conducting for an English constituency. (Renewed cheers.) In your name I am sure we can express to him our hope that he will in the House of Commons contribute by his eloquence and ability to securing a full and instructed attention to Indian affairs. (Hear, hear.) From foreign countries we have Mr. Fransen van de Putte, representing practically, I believe, what is at the present time almost the only Free Trade nation of Europe. We have in him a distinguished visitor, who has already rendered great services to his own country, not the least of them, I believe, being his support of true and sound economic doctrines. From Belgium we have M. de Beaulieu, the late vice-president of the House of Commons for his country, and last I will name to you, his Excellency the Servian Minister, who will, I am sure, interest you greatly by any information he can give as to the progress and prosperity of a kingdom in whose independence and general welfare every Liberal has the deepest interest. Gentlemen, to one and all of these visitors I have named, and to others, whom want of time and not want of will prevents me from mentioning, I am sure this club will give a hearty welcome, and I cordially drink the toast which I have the honour to propose. (Loud cheers, during which Mr. Chamberlain resumed his seat.)page 12
The Chairman: Our guest upon my left, the ex-Colonial Minister of Holland (Mr. Van de Putte), prefers not to address you, but he wishes to thank you for the kind way in which you have received his name, and he says his views will be expressed by the Servian Minister. (Hear, hear.)
M. Adolphe Le Hardy De Beaulieu: Gentlemen—I must ask you to excuse me trying to say a few words in a foreign language. It will be my maiden speech in English. We have for 37 years enjoyed free trade in food, and we had for 30 years before a system of high Protection. The result now is that since we have repealed our corn laws, according to Cobden's principles, property, and the rents on property, have advanced more than a hundred per cent. We have now a reaction, more political than economical. People do not remember the advantages which the adoption of Free Trade gave them. They are evidently not satisfied with plenty and abundance, they are annoyed by cheapness, and appear to be desirous of dearness, scarcity, and poverty. (Laughter and cheers.) But I hope we shall be successful in our endeavours to maintain Free Trade. I beg to thank you for the kind way in which you have received me here as a representative of Free Trade in Belgium. (Cheers.)
M. Chedomille Mijatovich (Servia): Sir Charles Dilke; Gentlemen,—Allow me to say in the first place that I am really very sorry that you are condemned to listen to me, from courtesy—("No," laughter and cheers)—after the wonderful speech we had a few minutes ago from Mr. Chamberlain. I am very sensible of the honour which is conferred upon me by joining my name with those of the distin-guished foreign guests here to-night, and I beg to return my hearty thanks. Among the many excellent gifts with which old England seems to be providentially blest, we foreigners naturally learn quickly to appreciate a special one. It is the gift to make foreigners in your midst cease to feel themselves foreign. Not only we very quickly come to the conclusion that your dinners are admirable, not only do we very soon succumb to the charms of your hospitality, but we, very soon indeed, get deeply interested in your interests. I am inclined to think that this is not only because the present generation exercises in a thorough refined style the traditional hospitality of the English people, but because the greatest interests of England have long ago ceased to be interests of mere local importance and have become the interests of all civilised people, the interests of humanity at large. (Cheers.) From the camp of the Protectionists we often hear the statement that Free Trade is nothing but a clever invention of the Manchester School to secure markets for Manchester goods. But with an impartial study of the facts I believe every enlightened man must come to the conclusion that if Free Trade is an English interest it is only because it is an universal interest, and that the Cobden Club, though carrying the banner of a famous Englishman, a man truly great and good, is fighting for the good of all nations. (Hear, hear.) If I may be allowed to say a few words about my own country—(hear, hear)—I must confess that we Serbs are in a peculiar position. Theoretically Free Trade is losing ground amongst us, practically it is keeping it. With all my writings and lecturing about the soundness of Free Trade principles I have not succeeded to convince the majority of my countrymen. There is a great tendency to follow the example of America, Germany, and Russia, and by the next occasion to adopt a protective tariff. But practically we have had for these last 50 years, and have now, Free Trade—(hear, hear)—our highest import duties not surpassing 8 per cent. And what was the result of that system? Well, gentlemen, I can safely, and in all modesty, state that that result is worthy of study. Fifty years ago our country was very poor indeed and backward in everything, so poor that even the Turks thought it could not pay more than £20,000 yearly tribute. To-day we are capable to apply every year to our public wants nearly £2,000,000! To-day we may claim to be a cultured people, of which civilised Europe has no reason to be ashamed. We are to-day a people jealous of its independency and of its political and civil liberties, anxious to go on on the path of progress, in reality we have no poor, and on the whole and in short we are a happy and contented people. The rapidity of our progress is due in a great measure to the free schools and to Free Trade. Owing to Free Trade the commodities of the civilised life find easy access to the remotest districts of Servia, increasing the desire to enjoy the benefits of civilisation, and stimulating our people to greater production and to greater efforts in general. I hope this will be the case in a still greater measure henceforth, as we are, through railway connection with the seaboard and the continental railway net, bringing our country nearer to the great centres of industry and nearer to the great markets for our own produce. I cannot sit down on this occasion without referring, with the greatest gratitude, to the great interest which Mr. Cobden had felt in the prospects of liberty on the Balkan Peninsula. In the time when we were very little known here, and we had very few friends, he was our great and faithful friend. I regret extremely that I have not been able to obtain in time a copy of a letter which Mr. Cobden wrote to Prince Michael in 1864, a letter full of large-hearted and deep sympathy, full of wisdom, and almost prophetic foresight. In that letter Cobden demonstrated to us that love of earnest work, honesty and liberty, united with respect for law and order, can secure for us greater victories than arms page 13 can ever do. In that letter he preached to us a grand political sermon, having for his text, "Labour, liberty, and goodwill towards all men." I hope that our country will always bear in mind the wise teachings of Mr. Cobden and of this Club. (Cheers.)
The Hon. George A. Lloyd (late Colonial Treasurer, New South Wales): Mr. Chairman, my lords, and gentlemen; after the eloquent speech that we have heard from Sir Charles Dilke, and the equally able and enthusiastic speech that we have had from the right hon. gentleman who has proposed this toast, you can easily imagine that I stand before you with fear and trembling—(laughter)—coming as I do from the Antipodes. But my distinguished friend on my right, Mr. Cyrus Field, has reminded me that the most eloquent speeches on occasions like these are the shortest, and taking a hint from that suggestion you may depend upon it I shall not transgress. I can assure you that I feel very much obliged to Mr. Potter for the invitation he has sent me. I saw Mr. Potter when I was here a quarter of a century ago, and I am very glad indeed to find him in robust health, and still in the enjoyment of the confidence of this Club, which I hope he will retain till the end of this century. (Applause.) Sir, I represent a country, the largest island in the world, 2,500 miles in length by 2,000 miles in breadth. It does a trade with various countries, representing £115,000,000 sterling, and it takes £8 per head of British manufactures per annum, whilst France and the United States, which are Protectionist countries, only take 15s. per head. I have lived more than half a century in the colony of New South Wales, and I am old enough to remember when the whole produce of coal of that colony was 500 tons, when it was sent away in loads of 50 tons, being wheeled up a plank in barrows. I have lived to see the production of coal in that colony 2,000,000 tons per annum, and we can now load 16,000 tons per day. I have indeed to thank the Cobden Club for the education that I have experienced in regard to Free Trade principles. I have studied its publications from year to year, and I have to thank those publications for the information that I have obtained, and for the advantage that I have been able to take of that information. It was my distinguished honour, as a member of the Parkes' Administration in 1873, to introduce, as colonial treasurer, or as you would call it here, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Free Trade tariff which now prevails in New South Wales. (Cheers.) A Protective tariff had been introduced some years before, but our revenue was increasing and I proposed to the Cabinet, of which I was a member, that we should abolish all the ad valorem duties, and a very large number of the specific duties, and that we should go in for Free Trade principles. The Cabinet consented to my proposal, and it was my distinguished honour to introduce the Bill and to carry it through all its stages, and that Bill has become the law of New South Wales and remains the law at the present moment. (Cheers.) As you know, we have close to us, with a very small line dividing, the important colony of Victoria, which is just as essentially Protectionist as New South Wales is Free Trade, and it is amusing sometimes to hear the discussions that go on in these two colonies as to which shall take the pre-eminence. Victoria claims to have the pre-eminence with regard to its Protectionist principles, and New South Wales claims to have the pre-eminence with regard to Free Trade, but facts are far more important than any arguments. Although I don't mean to trouble you with statistics, which I know are a nuisance at a meeting of this kind, yet I should like to give you a few striking facts. In Victoria, during the ten years from 1873 to 1883, the increase of exports was £1,096,409. The increase in New South Wales during the same period was £10,498,145. (Cheers.) The increase in Victoria imports during the ten years was £1,209,990, and the increase in New South Wales was £10,488,674. The increase in the population of Victoria during that period was 159,731, and the increase of population in New South Wales was 309,035. These figures speak more eloquently than anything else I can say on the subject—(hear, hear)—and I will leave them with you as my contribution to the Cobden Club. (Cheers.)
Mr. Lalmohun Ghose (India): I hope you will not be alarmed, for I am not going to make a speech. I need scarcely say that I feel greatly honoured at finding my name associated with this toast. But at the same time it is impossible for me, after the exhaustive and eloquent speeches to which we have just listened from the eminent statesmen who have favoured us to-night with their company, to add anything that may be worthy of your attention. I need not tell you that I am a firm believer in Free Trade—(hear, hear)—and the other principles with which Mr. Cobden's name is associated. I am happy to be able to tell you that this is not the first time that I have had the honour of speaking here at Greenwich. (Hear, hear.) I cannot help thinking that our friends here have reason to be thankful to the Cobden Club for holding their annual dinner in this borough, for the present representatives in Parliament of this constituency are gentlemen whose views on the question of Free Trade are very far from being sound. ("Hear, hear," and laughter.) Though they do not venture openly to range themselves against Free Trade, yet they profess a considerable degree of sympathy with Protection under its new names of Fair Trade and Reciprocity. I believe, gentlemen, that the constituency page 14 of Greenwich is far too intelligent and enlightened to be taken in or to be deluded by any such shallow devices, as I hope and believe both Mr. Boord and Baron de Worms will find to their cost at the coming election. (Hear, hear.) Well, gentlemen, there is only one matter to which I wish to draw your attention to-night. I am as sensible as anybody else of the dangers and the perils of a change of administration at this critical period. But at the same time I cannot say that I am very sorry to find that the particular issue raised between the political parties is in connection with the revenue system of the country, and therefore likely to give a good deal of prominence to those principles of Free Trade in which this Club is so deeply interested. I myself take a special interest in that question, for I cannot help thinking that the alternative proposal of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, to tax tea in preference to beer, is a proposal that very closely affects and concerns the country whose interests I am here to serve. ("Hear, hear," and cheers.) The question that will have to be decided at the coming election by the constituencies, and their judgment upon which will be watched with eager interest by your fellow subjects in India, as well as by those foreign nations whom you are anxious to educate in the principles of Free Trade,—is this—whether you are going to tax an article of general consumption amongst the poorest classes of your people and at the same time to ruin a rising and important industry in India, for the purpose of pleasing and promoting the interests of a special class such as the brewers or licensed victuallers. (Hear, hear.) Well, gentlemen, when you consider the matter in that light you must come to the conclusion that if you wish to get foreign nations and other countries to believe in the sincerity of your faith in Free Trade, you must show that you have the courage of your opinions, and that you are really prepared in your own country to practise the doctrines that you preach. (Hear, hear.) Now, consider what would be the effect in India if they find that, while a five per cent, duty upon Lancashire goods, levied by the Indian Government was strongly denounced in every newspaper and every platform in this country, that at the same time you should apparently see nothing wrong, nothing inconsistent with the principles of Free Trade, in imposing a duty of not less than 50 per cent, upon Indian tea—(hear, hear)—and that some of the most prominent politicians about to take office should be actually advocating a further addition to the duty. Well, gentlemen, this is a question which I have ventured to bring to your notice in the hope that the Cobden Club will earnestly bestow their attention upon it, in order to strengthen the hands of the friends of Free Trade in foreign countries, and the hands of all those who, like myself, in India and in other parts of the British Empire, desire to see the complete triumph of those principles which are connected with the name of the illustrious statesman after whom this Club is named. Gentlemen, I beg to thank you once more for the honour you have done me. (Applause.)
Mr. Thomas Bay Ley Potter (Honorary Secretary of the Club) rose, and was heartily received. He said: I rise, gentlemen, to propose the health of our chairman—(cheers)—to thank him for the eloquent speech which he has made, and to thank his able colleague for the glorious speech which he has made—a speech which inspired this room, and will inspire the people through the country to do their duty in the coming election. (Cheers.) I have known Sir Charles Dilke, now, for many years. I may say I have known him since he was a boy, as I knew his father before him. I am proud to see him here to-night—(hear, hear)—and I hope and trust that the day may come when, if we need leaders in the cause of progress in this country, we may know that our faith in Sir Charles Dilke and in Mr. Chamberlain has been justified. (Cheers.) It is an immense satisfaction for an old Radical like me—(cheers)—whose day is nearly done, to know that there are men—and England never will want them in her time of need—men who will lead that cause after the manner of the chief under whom they have served, and will carry out the principles, not merely of Mr. Gladstone, but of my old friend, Mr. Cobden. (Cheers.) There are some men who think that the Cobden Club was formed alone to carry out Free Trade principles—that it was a purely economical-Club. Now, I was in at the birth of this institution, and I have taken an active part in maintaining it. (Cheers.) If I live for another year, it will have reached twenty years of its life-time, though many thought and prophesied that it would not live half-a-dozen. But on what grounds was this Club formed? They ask me—What have you to do with general politics? I say—Look at the fundamental rules of the Cobden Club: "The Cobden Club was founded in 1866, with the object of encouraging the growth and diffusion of those economical and political—(hear, hear)—principles with which Mr. Cobden's name is associated." (Cheers.) I had the honour of knowing Cobden personally, and of knowing him very well. If ever there was a true Radical it was Richard Cobden—(cheers)—and the more his works are read, and the more his speeches are considered, the more does he appear not merely as a Free Trade advocate but as a great statesman. (Cheers.) I have faith in him—I have faith in the Club. Some think that the work of this Club is soon to be ended. Twenty years hence there will be a necessity for the Cobden Club. (Hear, hear.) I hope that there will be some one page 15 more able than I am—he cannot have more zeal for the cause—who will be enabled to lead it to victory. But what were Cobden's principles? They were the principles of political progress, the advancement of the people—(hear, hear)—the education of the people. (Hear, hear.) And as long as there is one vestige of privilege left, as long as there is anything which can affect the civil and religious equality of all the people of the land, so long will there be need of a Cobden Club. (Loud cheers.) I have great pleasure in proposing Sir Charles Dilke's health, and in thanking him for his speech; and let me thank Mr. Chamberlain for his speech also. (Prolonged applause.)
The Chairman, who was greeted with renewed cheering, said: My task in returning thanks to you for the kind manner in which you have received this toast—in returning thanks not only in my own name but in that of my friend and colleague who has been mentioned by my friend Mr. Potter—is a very light one. I have simply to assure you of the pleasure it has given me, as a very old member of the Club—a member from its first days, as Mr. Potter knows—to have been here to-night in the chair. I think I have never missed more than one of your former meetings in this room; and I was formerly, and as long as I had opportunity, a very active member of the committee. I am sorry that for some years past I have not had that opportunity of attending to the transaction of your business which I hope Lord Salisbury's courageous act may speedily give. (Hear, hear.) I hope, at all events in the short time during which "the Stop-gap Administration" may give the opportunity, that I shall again be able to give attention to your business. (Hear, hear.) For myself I will simply thank you. But there is a still more pleasing portion of the task for which I rose yet to be accomplished. I do not think that, although there is no other toast upon the list of toasts to-nights, you would think our proceedings are really completed and brought to a satisfactory end if we did not drink the health of the Honorary Secretary of the Club. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I am sure that someone would have made that proposal if I had not made it myself. But if I had been in the least likely not to have done so, the excellent speech which Mr. Potter has made just now I think is a special reason for drinking to him tonight. (Hear, hear.) He placed concisely before us the programme of the Cobden Club; and lie showed us how foolish are some remarks which have been made as to the alleged strictly economical character of the Club. I am sure that if Mr. Cobden had ever contemplated the formation of a club to bear his name, he would have been the last man in England to wish that the club should be a merely Free Trade club, composed mainly of economists. Cobden was, as Mr. Potter has said, before all things a general politician, a statesman of the widest stamp, a man who surveyed the whole of the affairs of mankind, and a man who would have been utterly unable to conceive of the possibility of contracting our ideas so as to be able to regard only one question at a time. Mr. Cobden was accustomed to survey the whole field of politics, and Free Trade was only a portion of the great body of questions in which he took interest. Mr. Potter has put that, now, in words so admirably chosen that they ought to form a text for all the future proceedings of the Club. (Hear, hear.) I ask you now to show in drinking this toast, not only your appreciation of the manner in which Mr. Potter has put our objects before us here to-night, but also your appreciation of the immense services which he has rendered to the Club, and to the principles of the Club, during the many years of his past connection with us.
A Voice: Three cheers for Father Tom!
The toast was drunk amidst enthusiastic cheering.
Mr. Potter, responding, said: Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I thank you for the honour you have done me. I am pleased that you should recognise me in this manner; but you have pleased me far more by the meeting to-night. It is the cause that I care for. (Cheers.) It makes no matter whether it is the solitary hard work, the work with the secretary, or the work with two or three others in committee, it is the cause I care for—the progress of the cause. And I never feel disheartened. My faith is such that, as long as I have strength I shall do all in my power to promote the interests of the Club. (Applause.)
Shortly after ten o'clock the party broke up. Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Chamberlain returned to town by rail, but a large number of the members and guests joined Mr. Potter in the voyage back to Westminster by the boat. It was a soft picturesque summer's night on the Thames. From first to last the festival passed off in the most gratifying manner, and the principal speeches were regarded as among the most interesting and memorable on the records of the Club.