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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71

Speech delivered ... on the occasion of an address being presented to the Hon. Wm. Jennings, in commemoration of his being called to the Legislative Council of New Zealand. Printed for distribution at the request of the friends of the Labour Party of New Zealand

Front Cover

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Auckland: Printed by W. McCullough, General Printer, High Street. 1893.

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To the Hon. WM. Jennings, M.L.C.

"We, your friends and admirers, avail ourselves of this opportunity of expressing to you our hearty appreciation of your many sterling qualities. In giving effect to the new policy of Labour Representation in our Legislative Council, we are firmly convinced that the Ballance Government, in appointing you, has chosen one who will ever reflect credit upon them and on the body you represent. With pleasurable feelings we have noted your energetic and untiring action at all times in the interests of the industrial classes of this Colony, and in the cause of Liberalism generally, and we now wish you a long and successful career in your new sphere of public usefulness."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It may be said, and with some degree of truth perhaps, that it is difficult to honour one who is already honourable, but notwithstanding this, our purpose here on this occasion is to offer our most sincere congratulations to Mr. Wm. Jennings on his elevation to the Legislative Council of New Zealand. We are also here to, in a measure, celebrate the political recognition of labour; an event, the most important, perhaps, that has over occurred in the history of labour representation; on event full of promise and pregnant with joyous hope for the toiling masses of mankind in the future.

This undisguised effort to elevate labour to its proper sphere of usefulness in the world stands forth like a bright beacon of hope amidst an ocean of sorrow and anguish to invite the tempest-tossed mariner to a harbour of safety and rest. Indeed, it is almost the first ray of sunshine that has penetrated the hitherto abyssmal gloom that has for centuries surrounded labour's hopes and aspirations.

Who can contemplate this auspicious change in the relations of men without feelings of thanksgiving and gratitude to Almighty God, and without expressing a fervent prayer for its success and continuance? None but the mere prejudiced, self-exalted, soulless sycophant, and purse-proud tyrant; a man who would not only absorb all the joys and pleasures of earth, bat the gifts of heaven itself, to the exclusion of his fellow-creature. It is such as he who will deprecate the introduction of these innovations as encroachments upon what he has long conceived page 3 to be hid exclusive prerogatives. It is he who would continue to hold the poisoned chalice of deceit and chicanery to the lips of labour that he might still pursue unmolested his long cherished privileges, unrighteous and unjust though they be. But the day of such men has gone never to return; they have now practically ceased to be the one only factor in the government of the world.

It is most gratifying to be able to say that the mantle of honour could scarcely have descended on more deserving shoulders than upon those of Mr. Jennings, for the reason that there is no man in this community who has more unselfishly dedicated his days and nights to the promotion of labour's cause, and that too without emolument or hope of reward, Mr, Jennings has been, for a number of years past, intimately connected in this community with all movements of a progressive character, or sueh as wore calculated to promote the welfare of the people. But the most pleasing reflection of all is that during the years he has been identified with the labour interests he has not, under the most trying circumstance, permitted himself to be betrayed into the use of an expression that could, even by the most fastidious, be characterised as violent or intemperate language. On the contrary he has ever counselled prudence and moderation in the discussion of subjects affecting the welfare of those whose cause he has so ardently espoused, and enjoying as he did, and still does, the unbounded confidence of his colabourers, his mature judgment and wise counsel has invariably prevailed.

He represents men who believe there is no natural antipathy between capital and labour, and in this respect it is clearly the duty of every man who loves his country and kindred to exercise every lawful and honourable means at his command to dissolve those senseless prejudices that have been so terribly destructive to each contending element in the past. Mr, Jennings has already devoted much time and labour in this direction, and will, I feel certain, persevere in the good work to the end.

It is however, unhappily too true that capital has heretofore shamelessly preyed upon poor, disorganized and disunited labour, and whilst the poor man preyed upon none, he became the prey and dupe of all. The poor man's only wealth is in his hands—his sole reliance, his only productive freehold, his only hope, his all is his labour, and the mercenary creatures who have in the past, and would to-day, heartlessly deprive him of a just and honest remuneration, for his services would, I believe, as readily deny him the privilege of enjoying the kingdom of Heaven. But the page 4 opportunity for such inhumanity and injustice is to-day, thank God, rapidly passing from our gaze. With the changed conditions, which tend to draw the bonds of peace and good-fellowship closer together day by day, have we not reason to hope and to look forward with joy and anxious expectation to the breaking of a brighter dawn in the affairs of men. The advancement in knowledge and enlightenment of the rising generation inspires us with lofty hopes for the future, and that the earnest desire for the betterment of our kind may be abundantly realized should be the daily prayer of all.

He who would sow the foul seeds of discord, or attempt to destroy the foundations of tranquility and industrial peace already established, and upon which a noble edifice that is now to-day being so happily consecrated to the promotion of good will, mutual regard, and a better understanding among men, or by arraying class against class, the rich against the poor; he who would be guilty of conceiving such infamous wickedness proves himself the reckless enemy of all; an enemy to his country, to every man in it, to all classes, and to all interests; he deserves the odium and execration of this and the ages to come—but especially should such an one be for ever branded as the poor man's curse. Nor do I here hesitate to say that I believe those who are making such an outery against what they are pleased to term "the aggressions of labour,"—but in reality it is only labour demanding justice—are actuated by any higher or more honourable motives than those who have always tried to stem the tide of human progress, and a [unclear: baer], more inhuman, or more cruel instinct than the continued oppression and degradation of the masses for the more sake of power could scarcely find an abiding place in the human breast.

Nothing so imperils or renders the legitimate functions of Government so abortive as extreme ignorance among the masses. Ignorance among the people renders them an easy prey to the vicious seductions of the depraved demagogue, who, with falsehoods, fill their souls with incontrollable passions and prejudices to the extreme alarm and serious concern of all. Therefore, the only safeguard to the State and to society generally lies in the education of the whole people, that they may more readily recognise their inalienable rights, founded upon the principles of justice and equality, together with co-equal participation in the responsibilities and management of the affairs of the State. To my mind, herein lies the only real and permanent security to either the State or society.

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It is only within recent years that the great masses of men have begun to realize how shamefully they have been misgoverned in the past. How their most sacred rights and privileges have been set aside by an arrogant domineering class, long accustomed to power, yet utterly heedless of their trusts and responsibilities, they have mercilessly and unscrupulously violated every principle of honour, justice and integrity, and ground down those whom they governed. But to-day education is tearing the mask from their faces, whilst the genial rays of the sun of liberty and enlightenment are penetrating into the darkest and deepest recesses of their most impregnable fortresses and unveiling their impostures and holding up their vicious enormities to the world.

There was a time, no doubt, when the "lower" classes, owing to the want of education and other causes, were debarred from the privilege of law making, but those days too, thank Providence, are now numbered with the past, never to return. In former times it was seriously objected to give the working classes even partial instruction, upon the utterly defenseless ground that doing so would elevate them beyond their sphere and make them dissatisfied with their station in life—a condition which might engender sentiments of resentment, hostility and insubordination toward existing laws, thereby endangering the tranquility of the State. The light of experience has, however, taught how groundless and devoid of merit, or even the semblance of justification, these objections were, and the real obstacle to the enlightenment of the masses was conceived in a spirit of pure and unalloyed selfishness, founded on a fearful dread of the loss of power on the part of the "ruling" classes.

But now, in many countries, the mantle of iniquity has already been torn from the shoulders of unlicensed power, and the monster of selfishness revealed to the world in all its hideous deformity—au unclean and impure thing!

But the work is done, the masses are triumphant, their voices can no longer be stifled, they must be heard!

Unlicensed arbitrary power, that monster ol selfishness that has corrupted the world in every age of its history, and has trampled the sacred liberties of men beneath its iron paw, is now shorn of it strength. To-day it lies prostrate on the ground at the feet of long-delayed violated justice, a victim to its own folly and misrule.

Happily for us the mural and intellectual improvement of the masses has not been heralded in by any physical or mental page 6 convulsion, but by the more humane and Christian process of education, and a more genuine dissemination of general knowledge among all classes of men May the good work of education go on for ever until every man is enabled to intelligently read and write and reason for himself, then only will the spirit of justice and universal equality possess the souls of men and guide the destinies of the State, bring happiness and contentment and good laws in place of those which have been so destructive of human happiness, human hopes and aspirations.

But while other nations are in a listless and half-hearted manner discussing the problems affecting labour, here, at the uttermost end of the globe, here beneath the stars of the Southern Cross, the subject has been crystallized, has assumed concrete form, and a solution has been arrived at. Here yon have clothed it with life and beauty and sent it forth into the world on its mission of peace; to herald the glad tidings throughout all the nations of the earth, from the rising to the setting sun. Here, far away from the scenes of turmoil and strife that afllict the older world; here, amid the blissful peace of these sunny shores the rights and privileges of the mosses are at last fully recognised, and established let us earnestly hope, upon foundations as enduring as Time itself.

The moral grandeur of labour's triumphs cannot be realized or appreciated in a day. But in the days to come, if the advantages now gained are wisely exercised, their influence will be felt in every land enlightened by the sun.

I cannot but feel that the progress labour has already made will continue, at least in this favoured colony, nurtured as it is in the soil of a free country, caved for by the kindly hands of freemen, and bathed in the cleansing and healing waters of justice and equity, it cannot, it will not, and it must not fail.

Genrlemen, you hold in your hands, for weal or woe, the the happiness of millions of your race. The fierce search light of the civilised world is turned full upon you and your every action and movement watched with fear and trembling. It is not, therefore, in the power of pen or tongue to adequately convey to your minds the deep solemaity of the responsibilities devolving upon you, to use wisely the power in your hands, for with you, and you alone, rests the fate of this experiment.

But I have faith in the spirit of your patriotism, your integrity, and your sense of justice and fair play. Consequently I have no fears for your success if only your public page 7 men and private citizens are inspired with that deep sense of duty which transcends all others, namely, the public weal before private gain. Then will this country go on in its happy career, affording succour and protection to millions of the human race, and by the liberality of its laws, the prosperity and happiness of its people, set an example to the nations of the world.

You are yet young in history, a circumstance which should materially aid you in laying the basis of an ideal Commonwealth. Here, where all men are free and equal before the law, where the traditional inequalities of class, which have ever surrounded the institutions of the Old World, have not yet found an abiding place; here, then, it is possible to found a nation that will unstintingly command the universal admiration of civilized mankind.

I am one of those who believe that the upward and onward march of labour shall never cease until it has rested on the loftiest hilltops of liberty, justice and human equality. Its progress is as irresistible as are the rays of that heavenly orb at high noon—the moment of its greatest splendour, when shedding its lustre and warmth throughout the earth. And here I desire to emphasize my belief that the time is rapidly approaching, if not already within measureable distance, when, under the subtle influence of education and a higher and purer Christian civilization, there shall be no more drones in the human hive; no more oppression of men by men; neither shall there be parasites of whatsoever kind on the body political or industrial. Men will unite their labours and cheerfully contribute thereof for the common good of all. Then shall the days of the tyrant and the cruel, selfish, purse-proud autocrat be numbered, if indeed they are not already, as I believe the are. The handwriting is upon the wall, read it who will.

I believe the great masses of humanity are being drawn close together day by day and imbued with a higher conception of their capabilities for good, a deeper sense of duty toward themselves, their fellowmen and their Creator.

I am further persuaded that we are happily and perceptibly drifting down this peaceful stream only to be carried out on the crest of a smooth and motionless ocean, thence wafted by friendly winds to its more favoured shores, there to enjoy undisturbed that peace and tranquility to which the majority of mankind have so long been strangers, but for which the hearts of men ever yearn.

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God is now, and ever has been, the unfailing friend of the poor and the distressed of every land, nor should it be forgotten by those who are favoured beyond till others in wealth and power and earthly greatness, that the hand that unnerved the proud Belshazzer is the guiding genius of labour's cause. May we not, therefore, rejoice that, with such an unconquerable ally, the storm-tossed, dismantled and misguided ship of labour may be steered to a haven of rest, where the surging, soul-destroying laws of selfishness and debasing avarice shall be displaced by perpetual peace, happiness and Christian charity.

The tendency of the progressive age in which we live amply justify these hopes, and that they should be happily consummated and abundantly realized in this, our own day and generation, should be the highest hope and aspiration of every lover of the human race, and every believer In the immutable laws and unerring justice of an all-wise and merciful God.

And now sir, in presenting you with this slight token of the esteem in which you are held by your fellow-citizens, permit me to express their most earnest hopes, and those of every lover of good government and equitable laws, that your life and conduct in your new sphere of usefulness may afford no reproach to the character you have thus voluutarily assumed.