The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
The Story of My Dictatorship. — Chapter I. — A Political Outing, and What Came of it
The Story of My Dictatorship.
A Political Outing, and What Came of it.
The legend about Mahomet visiting the celestial regions, wandering all over the seven heavens, encountering countless vicissitudes on his way, and returning to earth in time to pick up a pitcher he had accidently upset on leaving, and that before a single drop of its contents had time to escape, does not now seem to me so incredible a feat as when I first read the story. My own adventure may not be quite so marvelous as that of the great prophet, but at any rate it would come in as a good second. To be "wafted by a fav'ring gale" from the humble station of a retiring taxpayer to the exalted office of Lord Protector; to hold that office for a full twelve months; to crowd into this short span of time the work of a whole and possibly of several generations; and to accomplish all this between sunset and sunrise is a performance unparalleled by anything in history, and is comparable only to the miraculous journey of Islam's renowned prophet.
But I had better tell my tale from the beginning.
Fine weather, good company, and the prospect of a much-needed rest enticed me away from my work to join the members of the local Democratic Club on a pleasure excursion. As a means of recreation the outing was, as far as myself was concerned, a complete failure. There can be no mental rest, as I have discovered to my cost, among a crowd of earnest, enthusiastic politicians, especially at a time when the industries of a country are paralyzed by a great strike, and a great constitutional measure is being the subject of animated debate both in and out of Parliament. I might have known as much. Yet now, after the event, I am not quite sure but that the prospect of being able to listen to a discussion of the politics of the day may have been—unconsciously—one of the motives page 4 which made me respond to the invitation. Be this as it ma[unclear: y], went; and it was not long before we were in the very thick of the social problem, and the pleasure party soon constituted itself into a kind of debating society.
There was no lack of speakers. Everyone present had something important to say, and almost everybody wanted to speak at the same time. This, however, proved impracticable, inasmuch as it is somewhat difficult to follow a dozen or so speeches if dilivered "concurrently." So the necessity for parliamentary methods soon made itself felt. We abandoned our original project of a tramp over the moors, and settled down under a group of trees, with myself as Chairman of our impromtu Parliament. Needless to say that every conceivable phrase of the social problem was discussed, and that there were as many remedies proposed as there were speakers. My task as chairman was not always an easy one; at times I had great difficulty in curbing the impatience of those whose dissent from the views propounded manifested itself in a manner not strictly parliamentary. But on the whole, things passed off very well; and an animated, though not altogether profitless discussion was carried on, until we were reminded by the setting sun that it was time to return.
By the time I returned home that evening my head was whirling. Although I had not joined in the discussion itself, I was an attentive listener to the several views that had been propounded, some of them with great ability. There was plenty to stimulate thought notwithstanding, and I should rather say because of, the irreconcilable inferences drawn by several speakers, and with equal skill and plausibility, from the same group of facts.
Against my will, I could not but try to harmonize in my mind these conflicting statements, and to separate facts from inferences. But the more I thought, the greater became my confusion. One thing, however, struck me very forcibly, and that was that each of the various schools of political though had a certain substratum of truth not to be ignored. I recognized that each of them saw the same truth, but saw part of it only, and that from this partial recognition arose all the confusion. As is usual in such discussions, they all paid more attention to their points of disagreement than to those on which they agreed, and so the latter were overlooked, while the former were accentuated. And I could not but feel how detrimental this was to their common aim, and how far better it would be for the cause of humanity if, instead of uncompromisingly opposing one another, the members of all the different schools would seek to ascertain how far they could honestly support each other's plans.
As I sat in my easy-chair that evening, reflecting over the page 5 day's proceedings, my thoughts became more and more confused. Time and space seemed annihilated. Scene after scene passed before my vision in rapid succession, until at last I found myself in Trafalgar Square, in the midst of a surging, noisy crowd, and then all became again clear and natural.
I knew what had happened. There had been a General Election, Democracy had been triumphant, and the people had assembled here to determine the kind of reform that was needed to secure equal rights and duties to all. All kinds of proposals were being made, but none met with universal approval; and the people began in despair to exclaim that Democracy was a failure, since its leaders could not agree on a workable plan. I trembled, for I saw that unless some agreement between the different factions could be brought about, the cause of Democracy might be discredited for all future time. With the intention of bringing about such a reconciliation, I forced myself on to the platform, and spoke as follows;
"Friends, do not despair; your differences are not so great as you seem to think, for are not your aims identical? Your only differences are as to the means to be adopted for carrying them into effect."
Here I was interrupted by shouts—" That's just the trouble. and if we don't know what means to adopt, how can we govern the country?"
"Thats very simple," I said.
"Do it, then!" they all shouted at once.
"But I have not the power. I only intended to make suggestions." The latter part of my remark was drowned in the noise.
"Let's give him the power!"
"If he says he can do it, let him do it!"
"Let us elect him Lord Protector!" and other such cries reached my ears.
I waved my hands, trying to restore silence, and to explain that I did not intend to be Lord Protector; that such a course would be contrary to the spirit of Democracy; that, instead of Democracy, it would be establishing a Dictatorship, which would be undesirable. But I could not make myself heard by the crowd, while the leaders on the platform, as if glad to be relieved of a responsibility, said, in a menacing manner, "You are not going to back out of this." And the Chairman, telling me to sit down, rose and read from a paper in his hand as follows:
"Be it enacted by the Democracy of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, that Citizen "—here there were shouts of joy, and I only caught the concluding sentence, "be Lord Protector—"
I interrupted indignantly—" Say, rather, Dictator."
But the Chairman took no notice of my remark, and repeated, page 6 "Be Lord Protector of the Realm." And he then added, "All those in favor of same, please signify in the usual manner."
A forest of hands, such as I have seen on one or two occasions in Trafalgar Square, went up.
Thus I was unexpectedly, and against my wish, made absolute Dictator of the United Kingdom.