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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Hope Deferred

page 24

Hope Deferred.

So keenly did you resent this unjust legislation that, when the time came for electing a new House of Commons, Nonconformist feeling throughout the country was undoubtedly one of the main factors among those which helped to return the present Government to power with a record majority, If anything might have been taken for granted, it was that within a twelve month at most of the General Election the grievance of Nonconformity would be redressed—that was the clear mandate with which you sent your representatives by hundreds to Westminster. If anyone could have prophesied that, after three years of Liberalism in office, the educational position would be still unchanged, that this issue would be as far from settlement as ever, that Passive Resistance would still remain as a thing in being, the forecast would have been dismissed with angry derision. Yet the seemingly impossible has happened in this instance. The Government has brought in Bill after Bill, Yet in each instance only to meet with failure. Mr. McKenna's Bill shared the fate of that of Mr. Birrell, Mr. Runciman's that of Mr. McKenna's, and that in spite of the fact that each of these attempts at a solution of the difficulty went further than its predecessor in the direction of concession to your opponents. "Right of entry" and "contracting out" could hardly be accepted by you without the most serious misgivings; yet they were accepted, not light-heartedly, but in the hope and for the sake of peace. And still the desired end remains unattained, concessions and sacrifices have proved unavailing, and Nonconformity finds itself in the humiliating position of being no nearer a just settlement with a majority than with a minority in Parliament. No doubt you feel sore and indignant at the actual state of affairs; is it too much to hope that on reflection Nonconformists will read the lesson of these three years of disappointment?