Edinburgh Music Hall Meeting.
On Tuesday, November 25, Mr. Gladstone addressed a meeting of Midlothian electors and non-electors in the Music Hall, Edinburgh. The gallery was occupied by 300 ladies. On the platform there were, amongst other gentlemen, Viscount Dalrymple, Hon. Henry J. Moncreiff, Hon. J. W. Moncreiff, Sir Walter Simpson, Bart.; Sir George Campbell, M.P.; Sir George Balfour, M.P.; Sir W. H. Gibson Carmichael, Bart.; Sir David Wedderburn, Bart., M.P.; Messrs. James Cowan, M.P.; Andrew Grant, M.P.; W. Holms, M.P.; J. W. Barclay, M.P.; Charles Tennant, M.P.; Fortescue Harrison, M.P.; P. M'Lagan, M.P.; J. Ramsay, M.P.; Sir C. Farquhar Shand; Donald Currie, Liberal candidate for Perthshire; Edmund F. Davis, Liberal candidate for East Kent, etc. etc.
On the motion of Mr. Charles Cowan, seconded by Sir W. Miller, Bart., the chair was taken by Sir David Wedderburn, Bart., M.P., an elector and a member of the Executive Committee of the Midlothian Liberal Association. After apologizing for the absence from illness of Mr. John Cowan of Beeslack, Chairman of the Executive, Sir David introduced Mr. Gladstone, who was received with enthusiastic and prolonged cheering, the whole audience rising to their feet. After the applause had terminated, Mr. Gladstone spoke as follows:—
My Lord and Gentlemen,—All will feel who are present, and all who, being absent, give any heed to the proceedings of to-day will
The occasion no ordinary one.
feel that this is not an ordinary occasion. It is not an ordinary occasion which brings you and me together—me as a candidate for your Parliamentary suffrages, and you, I will not say as solicited by me, for by me you have not been solicited—but you as the spontaneous and gracious offerers to me of a trust which I deem it a high duty under these circumstances to seek, and which I shall deem it the highest honour to receive. It is not an ordinary occasion, gentlemen, because, as we all know, the ordinary rule is that in county representation, it is customary, though
not invariably the rule, it is customary to choose some one who, by residence, by property, by constant intercourse, is identified with the county that he is asked to represent. In these respects I come among you as a stranger. It is not the first time that such a combination has been known. On the contrary, it has been, I may say, not unfrequent for important counties, and especially for metropolitan counties, to select those who, in that sense, are strangers to their immediate locality to be their candidates or to be their representatives in Parliament, but always with a special purpose in view, and that purpose has been the rendering of some emphatic testimony to some important public principle. It is not, gentlemen, for the purpose of gratuitously disturbing your county that I am come among you, for before I could think it my duty to entertain the wishes so kindly pressed upon me, I used the very best exertions in my own power, and called in the very best and most experienced advice at my command, in order that I might be assured that I was not guilty of creating that wanton disturbance—in truth, that I was to come among you not as an intruder, not as a voluntary provoker of unnecessary strife, but as the person who, according to every reasonable principle of evidence, was designated by the desires of the decided majority of electors as their future representative.
Then, my Lord and gentlemen, neither am I here, as I can truly and
A tribute to the personal worth of his opponents.
cheerfully say, for the purpose of any personal conflict. I will begin this campaign, if so it is to be called—and a campaign, and an earnest campaign I trust it will be—I will begin by avowing my personal respect for my noble opponent, and for the distinguished family to which he belongs. Gentlemen, I have had the honour—for an honour I consider it—to sit as a colleague with the Duke of Buccleuch in the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel. That is now nearly forty years ago. Since that time I frankly avow that I have changed various opinions; I should say that I have learned various lessons. But I must say, and express it as my distinct and decided conviction, that that noble Duke, who was then my colleague under Sir Robert Peel, has changed like myself, but in an opposite direction, and I believe that on this great occasion he is farther from his old position than I am. Let me, gentlemen, in the face of you who are Liberals, and determined Liberals, let me render this tribute to the memory of Sir Robert Peel. I never knew a more conscientious public man; I never knew—in far the greater portion of questions that concerned the public interest—a more enlightened statesman. And this opinion I give with confidence, in the face of the world, founded upon many years of intimate communication with him upon every subject of public interest; that, could his valuable life have been prolonged to this moment, could he have been called upon to take part as we are now called upon to take part in the great struggle which is commencing in this country, Sir Robert Peel would have been found contending along with you against the principles which now specially place you in determined opposition to the Government of the day. I render to the Duke of Buccleuch as freely as to Lord Dalkeith this tribute, that he—given and presupposed the misfortune of his false political opinions—is in all respects what a British nobleman ought to be, and sets to us all an example in the active and conscientious discharge of duty, such as he believes duty to be, which we shall do well, from our very different point of view, to follow.
And now I hope I have spoken intelligibly upon that subject, and I will
The manufacturo of faggot votes.
pass on to another which is far less agreeable. I thought when the invitation of the electors of Midlothian was sent to me, that the matter in controversy was one of sufficient breadth and complication, and I then was not aware that it would become still more enhanced and still more entangled by a question which, in its first aspect, was local, but which, in its ulterior aspect, is of the deepest importance, embraces in its scope the whole country, and descends to the very roots of our institutions.
I thought that in one thing at least my noble opponent and myself were agreed—that is to say, that we were agreed in making a common appeal to the true and legitimate electors of Midlothian. I am grieved to find that that is not to be the case; that mistrusting the body to whom the constitution and the law had given the power of choice between candidates for Midlothian, an attempt has been made to import into the county a body of strangers, having no natural interest in the county, gifted with colourable qualifications invented by the chicanery of law, and that it is on this body that reliance is placed, in order, perchance, to realize some faint hope of overbearing the true majority of the constituency. I will not dilate, gentlemen, upon that subject—I will not now expatiate upon it—but this I must say, that if anything was wanting to make me feel it more than ever a duty to endeavour to fight the battle with energy and determination, this most unfortunate act was the very thing destined for that purpose. Why, gentlemen, quite apart from every question of principle,
nothing, I venture to say, can be so grossly imprudent as that which is familiarly known in homely but most accurate phrase as the manufacture of faggot votes. Those who manufacture faggot votes provoke investigation into the whole state of the law, and of those provisions of the law which at the present moment are framed with such liberality towards the possessors of property. Why, sir, is it not enough that the man who happens to have property in six or ten counties can give a vote in respect of that property, in conformity with the rules of the constitution, in every one of those
Multiplication of qualifications.
counties? Is it not enough that he who, after all, has only the interests of a citizen in the wellbeing of the country, shall be permitted, by the free assent of all parties, without dishonour, without evasion, to multiply his own individual existence, and to contribute to the issue of six or ten electioneering contests, instead of one? Is not this enough? Is not this sufficiently liberal to the rich man as compared with the poor man, who hardly ever, though he may be a voter, can by possibility have more than a single vote? Ought not the Duke of Buccleuch and his friends to be satisfied with that state of law? Is it not the fact that in this country, although the law refuses to give a double vote in respect of a larger qualification, yet is it not the fact that it is the rarest thing in the world to meet a poor voter who has more than one vote, whereas it is the rarest thing in the world to meet a gentleman voter, as he is called, who has not got more than one vote? Why are they not content with that state of things? Why do they determine upon adding to that lawful multiplication of power, which, I must say, is based upon a remarkable liberality towards the possessors of property; why, in addition to that, are they determined to aim at an unlawful multiplication of power, and to bring in upon you, the genuine voters of Midlothian, those guests, those foreigners—for foreigners they are—foreigners they are in respect of the concerns of this county—its political concerns—for the purpose of overbearing the genuine and true sense of the constituency. Gentlemen, my anticipation is that this extraordinary manœuvre will utterly, certainly, and miserably fail of its purpose. I have not been surprised to be assured by those among you who have interested themselves specially in the affairs of the coming election, that we stand quite as well as we did, or better than we did, before the introduction of these faggot votes. We are divided into parties in this country, and the division is a healthy one. But there is always, at the same time, a certain margin of gentlemen who will have regard to other than party considerations, where they think that some great public principle is at stake; and my belief is that there will be, and must be, many in Midlothian who will not consent to compromise a principle more sacred and more important than any of the ordinary differences of party, namely this, that the representative of each county shall be chosen by the county itself, and shall not be chosen by importations of gentlemen from abroad, brought in to overbear its true and native sense.
Well, gentlemen, I pass on from that subject, which you are very capable of
Is a dissolution imminent?
handling, and which, I daresay, you will find a good deal to say upon before we have brought this business to a conclusion—I pass on to other matters, and I wish to say a word upon the subject—having thus far spoken of my own personal appearance and its grounds—upon the subject of the time at which I appear before you. Why do I come here to trouble you at this time? Are we going to have a dissolution? There is a question of great interest. I will not pretend, gentlemen, to answer it. My belief is that there has been a good deal of consultation in high quarters upon that
The invariable practice is not to transact the business of more than six sessions.
subject; and observe the reason why there should be, and why there must have been, consultation. The reason is plain. It is this: we have arrived at the time wherein, according to the fixed and invariable practice, I think, of the entire century, nay, even of more than the entire century, there ought to be a dissolution. The rule, and the wise rule, of our governors in other times has been, that although the law allows a duration of seven years to Parliament, it should not sit to transact more than the regular business of six sessions. And you will see,
The good sense of this practice.
gentlemen, the good sense, I think, of such a rule. It appears to be founded upon this, that the operations of the seventh session would be likely to descend as to their moral level below the standard of the earlier portions of a Parliament; that the interests of the country would be more liable to be compromised by personal inducements, and personal inducements not in relation to the country at large, but in relation to particular groups and cliques of persons—in relation to what are sometimes called harassed interests. And matters of that kind would be likely to bring about a bartering and trafficking in public interests for personal ends if it were made absolutely
A departure from it justified only by national reasons.
certain that in so many weeks, or in two or three months, the Parliament must be dissolved. Now, out of this has grown a rule; I am far from saying that rule is a rule mathematical or inflexible; for some great public or national reason it is perfectly justifiable to depart from it—but what is the public or national reason for departing from it now? None at all. I defy the most ingenious man to suggest to me any reason whatever for departing from this rule, which has been in use through the whole of our lifetime—I believe even through the lifetime of your fathers and grandfathers. I do not believe the wit of man can give a reason for departing from it except this, that it is thought to be upon the whole for the interests of her Majesty's Government. That, I say at once, is not a legitimate reason for departing from the constitutional rule. They have no right to take into view the interests of the Government in respect to a question whether a Parliament shall be prolonged beyond the period fixed by long and unbroken usage. They are bound to decide that question upon national and imperial considerations, and if no national or imperial consideration dictates a departure from the rule, they are bound to adhere to the rule. Well, now we are told they mean to break the rule. I cannot say I shall be surprised at their breaking the rule of usage, for this Government, which delights in the title of Conservative, or rather which was not satisfied with the title of Conservative, but has always fallen back upon the title of Tory—this Tory Government, from which we have the right to expect—I would almost say to exact—an extraordinary reverence for everything that was fixed—reverence which has been paid in many instances whether it is good or bad—yet this Tory Government has undoubtedly created a greater number of innovations, broken away from a greater number of precedents, set a greater number of new-fangled examples to mislead and bewilder future generations than any Government which has existed in my time. Therefore I am not at all surprised that they should have broken away from a rule of this kind so far as regards the respect due to an established and, on the whole, a reasonable and a useful custom; but at the same time
they would not break away without some reason—an illegitimate reason, because one connected with their interests; a strange reason, because one would have thought that a Government whose proceedings, as will be admitted on all hands, have been of so marked a character, ought to have been anxious at the earliest period permitted by usage to obtain the judgment of the country. And why, gentlemen, are they not anxious to obtain the judgment
Reasons why the Government are not anxious to dissolve.
of the country? It is surely plain that they are not anxious. If they were anxious they would follow the rule and dissolve the Parliament. It is plain, therefore, that they are not anxious. Why are they not anxious? Have they not told us all along that they possess the confidence of the people? Have they not boasted right and left that vast majorities of the nation are in the same sense with themselves? Oh, gentlemen, these are idle pretexts! It is an instinct lying far deeper than those professions that teaches them that the country is against them. And it is because they know that the country is against them that they are unwilling to appeal to the country. Why, gentlemen, a dissolution, an appeal to the public judgment, when there is a knowledge beforehand on the part of those who make the appeal that the answer will be favourable, gives additional strength to those who make the appeal. If it be true, as they will say, that the country is in their favour, I say that after the favourable reply that they would receive to their appeal they would come back to Parliament far stronger for the purpose of giving effect to the principles that they hold to be true than they are at this moment. They know that as well as you do. They know perfectly well that a favourable appeal would strengthen their hands; they know perfectly well that an unfavourable answer will be the end of their Ministerial existence; and it therefore requires no great wit on our part to judge why, when they have reached the usual and what I may almost call constitutional period, they do not choose to
A promise to discuss finance.
make an appeal at all. There are some reasons, gentlemen, why they ought to make that appeal which bear on their own party interests. They will not have a very pleasant operation to perform when they produce their next Budget. I am not going to enter into that subject now. You must excuse me if I do not attempt on this occasion to cover the whole of the enormously wide field that is open before me; but I promise, especially as the Chancellor of the Exchequer says it is most agreeable to him that the question of finance should be discussed, and, in fact, he has chosen the most extraordinary opportunity, for the first time that I can recollect, for discussing it—namely, at the Lord Mayor's dinner—but as he is so desirous it should be discussed, I, having every disposition to comply with his wishes as far as I can, will certainly endeavour to enter into that matter, and set out the main facts of the case as well as I am able. I do not think there is a great anxiety to produce that Budget: and this of itself would recommend a dissolution.
I tell you, gentlemen, what I think, and that is what has led me to dwell at length on the subject of dissolution. It is because it is not a theoretical but a practical consideration. It is this: we are told by "whippers-in," and gentlemen who probably have an inspiration that sometimes flows from the higher quarters into those peculiar and favoured channels—we are told that
Reliance on the chapter of accidents.
they think there will not be a dissolution for twelve months. Twelve months, gentlemen! There is what is called a "chapter of accidents" and by postponing the dissolution for twelve months you get your twelve months of the exercise of power. Now, I am not going to impute to this Government, or any Government, sordid motives for the desire to retain power. In my opinion, imputations of that kind, which are incessantly made upon me, and incessantly made upon the Liberal party generally, and especially upon the leaders of the Liberal party—in my opinion, imputations of that kind are disgraceful only to those who make them. I pass on. The love of power is
something much higher. It is the love, of course, of doing what they think good
"Some new theatrical stroke."
by means of power. Twelve months would be secured in that sense—something more would be secured. There would be the chance of striking some new theatrical stroke. There would be the chance of sending up some new rocket into the sky—the chance of taking some measure which again would carry misgiving and dismay to the hearts of the sober-minded portion of the nation—as I believe, at this time the great majority of the nation—but which, appealing to pride and passion, would always in this, as in every country, find some loud-voiced minority ready to echo back its ill-omened sounds, and again to disturb the world, to destroy confidence, to unsettle business and the employments of life, to hold out false promises of greatness, but really to alienate from this country the sympathies of the civilized world, and to prepare for us the day of misfortune and of dishonour. Now, gentlemen, I am not saying that which is peculiar to persons of my
Peace assurances of the Premier.
political creed. It was only upon the 10th of November that the Prime Minister gave to the world the assurance that he thought peace might be maintained. I thought that matter had been settled eighteen months ago, when he came back from Berlin and said he had got "peace with honour." Now he says, "I think peace may be maintained, and I think it is much more likely now than it was twelve months ago"—more likely than it was five months or four months after he had come back from Berlin and announced "peace with honour." That is what he says—he thinks it may be maintained. But on the very next morning I read what I consider by far the cleverest of all the journals that have been used to support the foreign policy of the Ministry in the metropolis—viz. the Pall Mall Gazette
. In it I read a passage to this effect: "We have before us ample evidence, in
Uneasiness abroad as to our supposed projects.
the tone of the foreign press, of the alarm which is felt upon the Continent at the supposed projects of the English Government." Rely upon it, gentlemen, there are more of these projects in the air. For the last two years their whole existence has been a succession of these projects. As long as Lord Derby and Lord Carnarvon were among them there was an important obstacle placed in their way in the character of these men. But since that time we have had nothing but new projects, one more
Causes for alarm among foreign Powers.
alarming and more dangerous than another. They began with sending their fleet to the Dardanelles without the consent of the Sultan, and in violation of the Treaty of Paris, which gave them no right to send it. After that they went on by bringing their Indian troops into Europe against the law of the country. After that they proceeded to make their Anglo-Turkish Convention, without the knowledge of Europe, when for six months they had been contending, I may say, at the point of the sword, that it was Europe, and Europe alone, that had a right to manage the concerns of the Turkish Empire. It is difficult, gentlemen, human memory will hardly avail, to bring up all these cases. I have got now as far as the Anglo-Turkish Convention. What is the next? The next is Afghanistan. A war was made in Afghanistan, to the surprise and astonishment—I might almost say to the horror—of this country, upon which I shall have occasion, either to-day or on another day, to enlarge more than I can do at the present moment. I am now only illustrating to you the manner in which a series of surprises, a series of theatrical expedients, calculated to excite, calculated to alarm, calculated to stir pride and passion, and calculated to divide the world, have been the daily employment and subsistence, the established dietary of the present Government. Afghanistan, gentlemen, was not the last. Having had a diversion of that kind in Asia, the next turn was to be in Africa. But there a different course was adopted. The practice which in other circles is well known by the name of "hedging" was brought into play, and Sir Bartle Frere was exhorted and instructed as to affairs in Africa with infinite skill, and in terms most
accurately constructed in such a way that if they turned out well, the honour and the glory would redound to this patriotic Government; but if they turned out ill, the responsibility and the burden would fall on the shoulders of Sir Bartle Frere. Well, these came one after another, gentlemen, and now we have not done. We end where we began, and again it is a question of sending the fleet to the Dardanelles. Whether it is on its way there we
Movement of the Mediterranean Fleet.
do not know at this moment. We know that the officers—at least that is the last account I have seen—that the officers are only allowed to be within call at two hours' notice. When the catalogue of expedients is exhausted, it is just like a manager with his stock of theatrical pieces—after he has presented them all he must begin again—and so we are again excited, and I must say alarmed, and I believe that Europe is greatly disquieted and disturbed, by not knowing what is to be the next quasi-military operation of the Government. These are not subjects, gentlemen, upon which I will dilate at the present moment, but this I will say that in my opinion, and in the opinion which I have derived from the great statesmen of the period of my youth, without any distinction of party, but if there was any distinction of party which I have learned more from Conservative statesmen than from Liberal statesmen, the great duty of a Government, especially in foreign affairs, is to soothe and tranquillize the minds of the people, not to set up false phantoms of glory which are to delude
"False phantoms of glory which delude into calamity."
them into calamity, not to flatter their infirmities by leading them to believe that they are better than the rest of the world, and so to encourage the baleful spirit of domination; but to proceed upon a principle that recognises the sisterhood and equality of nations the absolute equality of public right among them-above all, to endeavour to produce and to maintain a temper so calm and so deliberate in the public opinion of the country that none shall be able to disturb it. The maxim of a Government ought, gentlemen, to be that which was known in ancient history as the appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober. But the conduct of the present Government and their resort one after another to these needless, alarming and too frequently most discreditable measures, has been exactly the reverse Their business has been to appeal to pride and to passion, to stir up those very feelings which every wise man ought to endeavour to allay, and, in fact, constantly to appeal from Philip sober to Philip drunk.
Gentlemen I have come into this county to repeat, with your permission, the indictment which I have to the best of my ability endeavoured to
The indictment against the Government.
make many times elsewhere against her Majesty's Government It is a very serious indictment. It is well in these things that men should be held to the words that they utter, should be made to feel that they are responsible for them, and therefore you will perhaps allow me to read a sentence which I embodied in the letter written in reply to your most flattering and most obliging invitation. My sentence was this: "The management of finance, the scale of expenditure, the constantly growing arrears of legislation, serious as they are, only lead up to still greater questions. I hold before you, as I have held in the House of Commons, that the faith and honour of the country have been gravely compromised in the foreign policy of the Ministry, that by the disturbance of confidence, and lately even of peace, which they have brought about, they have prolonged and aggravated the public distress; that they have augmented the power and influence of the Russian Empire, even while estranging the feelings of its population; that they have embarked the Crown and people m an unjust war (the Afghan war), full of mischief if not of positive danger to India; and that by their use of the treaty-making and war-making powers of the Crown they have abridged the just rights of Parliament and have presented prerogative to the nation under an unconstitutional aspect which tends to make it insecure. Not from one phrase, not from one syllable of that indictment do
I recede. If, gentlemen, in addressing this constituency there be any part of it upon which at the close I shall not seem to have made good the original statement most glad shall I be to attend to the legitimate appeal of those who may think fit to challenge me upon the point, and to bring forward the matter—alas! only too abundant—by which every one of them can be substantiated before the world
Alleged factious opposition by the Liberal party.
Those, certainly, gentlemen, are charges of the utmost gravity. But we are met with preliminary objections, and we are told, we are incessantly told, that there is no fault in the Government, that this is all a spirit of faction on the part of the Liberal party. I need not quote what you know very well; that that is the stock and standing material of invective against us—it is all our faction. The Government is perfectly innocent, but we are determined to blacken them because of the selfish and unjust motives by which we are prompted. Now that charge, standing as it usually does stand, in the stead of argument, upon the acts of the Government themselves, and being found far more convenient by our opponents than the justification of those acts upon the merits, I wish to try that charge. I will not try it by retorting imputations of evil motive. I have already said what I think of them. And to no man will I, for one, impute a want of patriotism in his public policy. It is a charge continually made against us. So far as I and concerned, it never shall be made against our opponents. But I am going to examine very shortly this charge of a spirit of faction on the part of the Liberal party. I do not condescend to deal with it by a mere counter-assertion, by a mere statement that we are innocent of it, nor will I endeavour to excite you—as probably a Tory speaker would excite you—as a thousand Tory speakers have excited their hearers, by drawing forth their uninformed cheers through assertions of that kind. But I will come to facts, and I will ask whether the facts of the case bear out, or whether they do not absolutely confute that assertion. Now, the great question of dispute between the two parties, and the question out of which almost every other question has grown collaterally, has been what is known as the Eastern Question. And what I want to point out
The commencement of the Government action in the Eastern Question in 1875.
to you is this—the date at which the Eastern Question, and the action of the Government upon the Eastern Question, began, and the date at which the action of the Liberal party, as a party, upon the Eastern Question began. The Eastern Question began, that is, its recent phase and development began, in the summer of 1875 and it immediately assumed great importance. In the winter of 1875 the Powers of Europe endeavoured to arrange for concerted action on the
Eastern Question by what was called the Andrassy Note. They had first endeavoured to arrange for concerted action by their consuls. The British Government stated that they objected on principle to any interference between the Sultan and his subjects. Nevertheless, they were willing to allow their consuls to act, provided it were done in such a way that no interference should be contemplated. Of course this failed. These came the Andrassy Note. The Government objected on principle to the Andrassy Note, but they finally agreed to it, because the Turk wished then to agree to it—that is to say, that the Turk, who has very considerable astuteness, saw that he had better have in the councils of Europe some Power on which he could rely to prevent these councils from coming to practical effect rather than to leave the Continental Powers of Europe to act alone. In
The Berlin Memorandum, 1876.
the spring of 1876 the Andrassy Note having been frustrated of it effect, not owing to the Government, who finally concurred in it, blowing to circumstances in Turkey, the Powers of Europe again endeavoured more seriously to arrange for concerted action, and produced what they called the Berlin Memorandum. The British Government absolutely and flatly refuses to support the Berlin Memorandum. We have now arrived, gentlemen, at the end of the session of 1876. Now, mind, the charge is that the Liberal part
has been cavilling at the foreign policy of the Government in the East from a spirit of faction. What I point out to you is this—that down to the end of the session 1876, although the Government had been adopting measures of the utmost importance in direct contradiction to the spirit and action of the rest of the Powers of Europe, there was not one word of hostile comment from the Liberal party. On the 31st July 1876, at the very end of the
Mr. Gladstone first censured the Government 31st July 1876.
session, there was a debate in the House of Commons. In that debate I took part. I did censure the conduct of the Government in refusing the Berlin Memorandum without suggesting some alternative to maintain the concert of Europe, and Lord Beaconsfield—I am now going to show you the evidence upon which I speak—Lord
Lord Beaconsfield said he was the only assailant of the Ministry.
Beaconsfield, in reply to me on the debate, said that the right honourable gentleman, meaning myself, was the only person who has assailed the policy of the Government. Now I ask you, was it faction in the Liberal party to remain silent during all these important acts and to extend their confidence to the Government in the affairs of the Turkish Empire, even when that Government was acting in contradiction to the whole spirit, I may say, of civilized mankind—certainly in contradiction to the united proposals of the five Great Powers of the continent of Europe? Far more difficult is it to justify the Liberal party upon the other side.
The Liberal party were not factious, rather they were too long silent.
Why did we allow the East to be thrown into confusion? Why did we allow the concert of Europe to be broken up? Why did we allow the Berlin Memorandum to be thrown behind the fire, and no other measure substituted in its place? Why did we allow that fatal progression of events to advance, unchecked by us, so far, even after the fields of Bulgaria had flowed with blood, and the cry of every horror known and unknown had ascended to heaven from that country? Why did we remain silent for such a length of time? Gentlemen, that is not all.
It is quite true that there was soon after a refusal of the great human heart of this country, not in Parliament, but outside of Parliament, to acquiesce in what was going on, and to maintain the ignominious silence which we had maintained on the subject of the Bulgarian massacres. In August 1876 and September 1876
The outburst in August 1876 denouncing the massacres.
there was an outburst, an involuntary outburst, for the strain could no longer be borne, from the people of this country, in every quarter of the country, denouncing those massacres. But that, gentlemen, was not by the action of the Liberal party. It was admitted by the Government themselves to be the expression of the country—misled, as they said, but still the expression of the country. It is true that it was said with reference to me that any man who made use of the susceptibilities of the country for the purpose of bringing himself back to office was worse than those who had perpetrated the Bulgarian massacres. But that was only a remark which hit one insignificant individual, nor was he very deeply
This was the action of national feeling
wounded by it. But the Liberal party was not, as a party, in the field. Nay, more. That national feeling produced its effects. It produced the Conference at Constantinople. That was eighteen months after the Eastern Question had been opened. Down to the date of that Conference the Liberal party had taken no step for any purpose prejudicial to the action of the Government; and when Lord Salisbury went to the Conference at Constantinople, he went, I say it without fear of contradiction, carrying with him the goodwill, carrying with him the favourable auspices, carrying with him, I will even say, the confidence of the Liberal party as to the result and the tendency of his exertions. And it was not till after nearly two years—viz. late in the spring or during the spring of 1877—it
The Liberal party began to act in 1877.
was not until nearly two years after the Government had been busy with the Eastern Question that the Liberal party first began somewhat feebly to raise its voice in the House of Commons, and
to protest against the course that had been adopted, which was evidently, as we thought a course tending to bring about war, bloodshed, and disturbance that might very easily have been avoided. Now, gentlemen, I think I have shown you that it requires some audacity to charge with faction in this
Where is the factious spirit?
matter a party which maintained such a silence for nearly two years; which was even willing to acquiesce in the rejection of the Berlin Memorandum, and which heartily accompanied with its goodwill and confidence Lord Salisbury when he went to the Conference at Constantinople. I do not hesitate to say this, gentlemen, that when Lord Salisbury went to Constantinople—I believe with I perfectly upright and honourable intention-he carried with him a great deal more confidence from the Liberal party then he carried with him from some among his own colleagues. But now, gentlemen I can only say that if the Liberal party are governed by a factious spirit they I can only say that if the Liberal party are governed by a factious spirit, they
The alleged desire of the Liberals to get into office.
are great fools for their plans. What means a factious spirit but the action of an ungovernable desire to get into office? And it is alleged that the Liberal party are under the influence of such a desire Well, gentlemen, if they are, all I can say is that there is on disputing about tastes; but men must be men of a very extraordinary taste who desire to take such a succession as will be left by the present Government. I hope the verdict of the country will give to Lord Granville and Lord Hartington the responsible charge of its affairs. But I must say I think them much to be pitied on the day when that charge is committed to their hands.
The inheritance to be left by the Tories.
Never, gentleman, never in the recollection of living man has such an entangled web been given over to any set of men to unravel. Did they receive a similar inheritance from us when we went out of power? Did we give over to them that which will be given over by them to their successors? Gentlemen, I make no boast. We simply gave over to them what every Government has usually given over to its successors. Let us do them justice. Do not let us allow party feelings to lead us to suppose that there never has been prudence and discretion and right principle on the part of a Conservative Government, at least so far as to make sure that any evils for which they were responsible would be tolerable evils and would not greatly disturb the general stability of the country. We did, merely to the best of our ability, what others had done before us.
But still, when we shall have so large to consider the state of things to which the action of the present Government has brought the affairs of this country, it is absolutely necessary that I. should briefly recall to your minds
The financial starting-point of this Government was a surplus.
the nature of the starting-point from which they set out. What was their starting-place, gentlemen, in finance? The starting-point in finance was this, that we handed over to them a surplus which, in our hands, I will venture to say, would have been a surplus closely approaching six millions of money. Now, I have spoken of the manner in which they carry on this warfare, and you will believe that their scribes with a pertinacious activity, feeling the difficulties of their case, have been very very hard driven to know how to deal with this question of the surplus It has been necessary for them to get rid of it in some way or other and some of them have actually had the cool audacity to say—I have read it in various newspapers; I have read it in a Sheffield newspaper which, however, I will not name; it would not be delicate m reference to the feelings of the high-minded gentleman who wrote it—but they have asserted that we left to them £
3,000,000 of Alabama payment, which we ought, to have made but which we handed over to them to pay. The only objection to this is that if you consult the accounts you will find that that £
3,000,000 was paid by us in the year before we left office.
Then it is said this surplus was not a "realized surplus." What is meant by a realized surplus? According to them there never has been such a thing in
this country as a realized surplus. The law of this country provides, and most wisely provides, that when for the current year there is a certain
What is a "realized surplus"?
surplus of revenue over expenditure, the money shall, in fixed proportions, be then and there applied to the reduction of debt. That, of course, was done in the last year of our Government. But what we left was the prospect of the incoming revenue for the following year. That was the prospect, which distinctly showed that there would be a surplus of £
5,000,000 to £
6,000,000, and that was the prospect we handed over to them; and if they choose to say it was not a realized surplus—undoubtedly it was no more realized than the Duke of Buccleuch's rents for next year are realized, but if, as is not likely, the Duke of Buccleuch has occasion to borrow on the security of his rents for next year, I suspect he will find many people quite ready to lend to him. Well, gentlemen, that is the only explanation I need give you. But I do assure you that such has been the amount of Tory assertion on this subject of the surplus, that I have been pestered for the last two or three years of my life with letters from puzzled Liberals, who wrote to say they had believed there was a surplus of £
5,000,000 or £
6,000,000, but the Tories would not admit it, and they begged me, for their own individual enlightenment, to explain to them how it was. Our surplus was like every other real and bona-fide
surplus, which the law of this country contemplates or permits, and the effect of it was that the Tories, who have since done nothing but add to the burdens of the people, were able to commence their career with a large remission of taxation.
The state of the army when the Liberals left office.
That was the case with finance. How did we leave the army? because one of the favourite assertions of their scribes is that we ruined the army. Well, gentlemen, undoubtedly we put the country to very heavy expense on account of the army; but we put them to heavy expense for objects which we thought important. We found that the army, through the system of purchase, was the property of the rich. We abolished purchase, and we tried to make it, and in some degree,
I hope, have made it, the property of the nation. But we have been told that we weakened and reduced the army. Weakened and reduced the army! Why, we for the first time founded a real military
reserve—that reserve under which, in 1878, there happened an event previously quite unknown to our history—namely that, upon the stroke of a pen sent forth by the Minister to the country, almost in a day five-and-thirty thousand trained men were added to the ranks of the army. That was the result of the system of reserve, and the system of reserve, along with many other great and valuable reforms, the country owes to Lord Cardwell, the Secretary of War under the late Government.
Well, gentlemen, you know—I need not enter into details—what was the general state of our foreign relations. The topic of our foreign relations can be disposed of in one minute. It is constantly said, indeed, by the scribes of the Government, and it was intimated by Lord Salisbury—to whom I will return in greater detail at a future time—that the foreign policy of the late Government was discreditable. Well, but here I have got a witness on the other side.
State of our foreign relations in 1874.
I have got the witness of Lord Beaconsfield's Foreign Secretary at the time when he took office. At the time when he took office in the House of Lords, Lord Derby, then enjoying the full undivided confidence of the Conservative party, used these words on the 19th March 1874: "At the present moment the condition of the country in regard to our foreign relations is most satisfactory. There is no State whatever with which our relations are not most cordial." Now, our unfortunate friends and fellow-citizens, the Tories, are constantly called upon to believe that at the time they took, office the state of the country, in regard to foreign relations, was most unsatisfactory, and that with no State were our relations most cordial, because by every State we were undervalued and despised. Gentlemen, there was
not a cloud upon the horizon at the time when the charge of foreign affairs was handed over to her Majesty's present Government. Does that imply that there was nothing serious to be done? Oh no, gentlemen, depend upon it, and you will find it to your cost before you are five years older, you will know it better than you do to-day; depend upon it that this Empire is an Empire, the daily calls of whose immense responsibilities, the daily inevitable calls of whose responsibilities task and overtask the energies of the best and ablest of her sons. Why, gentlemen, there is not a country in the history of the world that has undertaken what we have undertaken; and when I say "what we have undertaken," I do not mean what the present Government have undertaken
Our true strength is within the United Kingdom.
—that I will come to by-and-by—but what England in its traditional established policy and position has undertaken. There is no precedent in human history for a formation like the British Empire. A small island at one extremity of the globe peoples the whole earth with its colonies. Not satisfied with that, it goes among the ancient races of Asia and subjects two hundred and forty millions of men to its rule. Along with all this it disseminates over the world a commerce such
The anomalous constitution of the British Empire.
as no imagination ever conceived in former times, and such as no poet ever painted. And all this it has to do with the strength that lies within the narrow limits of these shores. Not a strength that I disparage; on the contrary, I wish to dissipate, if I can, the idle dreams of those who are always telling you that the strength of England depends, sometimes they say upon its prestige, sometimes they say upon its extending its Empire, or upon what it possesses beyond these shores. Rely upon it the strength of Great Britain and Ireland is within the United Kingdom. Whatever is to be done in defending and governing these vast colonies with their teeming millions; in protecting that unmeasured commerce; in relation to the enormous responsibilities of India—whatever is to be done, must be done by the force derived from you and from your children derived from you and from your fellow-electors, throughout the land, and from you and from the citizens and people of this country. And who are they? They are, perhaps, some three-and-thirty millions of persons, a population less han the population of France; less than the population of Austria; less than the population of Germany; and much less than the population of Russia. But the populations of Austria, of Russia, of Germany, and of France find it: quite hard enough to settle their own matters within their own limits. We have undertaken to settle the affairs of about a fourth of the entire human race scattered over all the world. Is not that enough for the ambition of Lord Beaconsfield? It satisfied the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Canning, Lord Grey nd Sir Robert Peel; it satisfied Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, ay, and the te Lord Derby. And why cannot it satisfy—I do not want to draw any nvidious distinction between Lord Beaconsfield and his colleagues; it seems to me that they are all now very much of one mind, that they all move with harmony amongst themselves; but I say, why is it not to satisfy the ambition of the members of the present Government? I affirm that, on the contrary, strive and abour as you will in office—I speak after the experience of a lifetime, of which a fair portion has been spent in office—I say that, strive and labour as you will in Parliament and in office, human strength and human thought are not equal to the ordinary discharge of the calls and duties appertaining to Government in this great, wonderful, and world-wide Empire. And therefore, gentlemen, I say it is indeed deplorable that in addition to these calls, of which we have evidence in a thousand forms, and of our insufficiency to meet which we have evidence in a thousand forms—when, in addition to these calls, all manner of gratuitous, dangerous, ambiguous, impracticable, and impossible engagements are conracted for us in all parts of the world.
And that is what has lately been happening. I am not now going to discuss this question upon the highest grounds. I assail the policy
Prudential considerations ag ins the Government's policy abroad.
of the Government on the highest grounds of principle. But I am now for a few moments only about to test it on the grounds of prudence. I appeal to you as practical men, I appeal to you as agriculturists, I appeal to you as tradesmen—I appeal to you in whatever class or profession you may be, and ask whether it is not wise to have some regard to the relation between means and ends, some regard to the relation between the work to be done and the strength you possess in order to perform it. I point to the state of our legislation, our accumulated and accumulating arrears constantly growing upon us; I point to the multitude of unsolved problems of our Government, to the multitude of unsolved problems connected with the administration of our Indian Empire, enough, God knows, to call forth the deepest and most anxious reflection of the most sober-minded; and even the most sanguine man, I
Our annexations of territory since 1874.
say, might be satisfied with those tasks. But what has been the course of things for the last three years? I will run them over almost in as many words. We have got an annexation of territory—I put it down merely that I might not be incomplete—an annexation
of territory in the Fiji Islands, of which I will not speak, because I do not consider the Government is censurable for that act, whether it were a wise act or not. Nobody could say that that was their spontaneous act. But now let us look at what have been their spontaneous acts. They
have annexed in Africa the Transvaal territory, inhabited by a free European, Christian, republican community, which they have thought proper to bring within the limits of a monarchy, although out of 8000 persons in that republic qualified to vote upon the subject, we are told, and I have never seen the statement officially contradicted, that 6500 protested against it. These are the circumstances under which we undertake to transform republicans into subjects of a monarchy. We have made war upon the Zulus.
We have thereby become responsible for their territory, and not only this, but we are now, as it appears from the latest advices, about to make war upon a chief lying to the northward of the Zulus; and Sir Bartle Frere, who was the great authority for the proceedings of the Government in Afghanistan, has announced in South Africa that it will be necessary for us to extend our dominions until we reach the Portuguese frontier to the north. So much for Africa. I come to Europe. In Europe we have annexed the
island of Cyprus, of which I will say more at another time. We have assumed jointly with France the virtual government of Egypt;
The protectorate of Egypt.
and possibly, as we are to extend, says Sir Bartle Frere, our southern dominions in Africa till we meet the southern frontier of the Portuguese—possibly one of these days we may extend our northern dominions in Africa till we meet the northern frontier of the Portuguese. We then, gentlemen, have undertaken to make ourselves responsible for the good government
The protectorate of Asia Minor.
of Turkey in Asia—not of Asia Minor, as you are sometimes told, exclusively, but of the whole of that great space upon the map including the principal part of Arabia, which is known geographically as Turkey in Asia. Besides governing it well, we have undertaken to defend the Armenian frontier of Turkey against Russia, a country which we cannot possibly get at except either by travelling over several hundreds of miles by land, including mountain-chains never adapted to be traversed by armies, or else some thousands of miles of sea, ending at the extremity of the Black Sea, and then having to effect a landing. That is another of our engagements. Well, and as if all that were not enough, we have, by the most wanton
invasion of Afghanistan, broken that country into pieces, made it a miserable ruin, destroyed whatever there was in it of peace and order, caused it
to be added to the anarchies of the Eastern world, and we have become responsible for the management of the millions of warlike, but very partially civilized people whom it contains, under circumstances where the application of military power, and we have nothing but military power to go by, is attended at every foot with enormous difficulties.
Now, gentlemen, these are proceedings which I present to you at the present moment in the view of political prudence only. I really have but one great
This is not a question of party, but of a system of government.
anxiety. This is a self-governing country. Let us bring home to the minds of the people the state of the facts they have to deal with, and in Heaven's name let them determine whether or not this is the way in which they like to be governed. Do not let us suppose this is like the old question between Whig and Tory. It is nothing of the kind. It is not now as if we were disputing about some secondary matter; it is not even as if we were disputing about the Irish Church, which no doubt was a very important affair. What we are disputing about is a whole system of government, and to make good that proposition that it is a whole system of government will be my great object in any addresses that I may deliver in this county. If it is acceptable, if it is liked by the people—they are the masters—it is for them to have it. It is not particularly pleasant for any man, I suppose, to spend the closing years of his life in vain and unavailing protest; but as long as he thinks his protest may avail, as long as he feels that the people have not yet had their fair chance and opportunity, it is his duty to protest, and it is to perform that duty, gentlemen, that I come here.
I have spoken, gentlemen, of the inheritance given over to the present Government
Why did the Liberals quarrel with the Government about Turkey?
by their predecessors, and of the inheritance that they will give over to those who succeed them. Now, our condition is not only, in my judgment, a condition of embarrassment, but it is one of embarrassment we have made for ourselves; and before I close, although I have already detained you too long, I must give a single illustration of the manner in which we have been making our own embarrassments. Why did we quarrel with the present Government about Turkey? I have shown that we were extremely slow in doing it. I believe we were too slow, and that, perhaps, if we had begun sooner our exertions might have availed more; but it was from a good motive. Why did we quarrel? What was the point upon which we quarrelled? The point upon which we quarrelled was this: Whether coercion was under any circumstances to be applied to Turkey to bring about the better government of that country. Now that will not be disputed, or if it is disputed, and in order that it may not be disputed, for it is very difficult to say
The foundation of their Turkish policy was no coercion.
what will not be disputed—in order that it may not be disputed I will read from two conclusive authorities. That is my point. The foundation of the policy of the present Government was that coercion was not to be applied to Turkey. Here is what Lord Cranbrook, who stated the case of the Government in the House of Commons, said, "We have proclaimed, and I proclaim again, in the strongest language, that we should be wrong in every sense of the word if we were to endeavour to apply material coercion against Turkey"—that was what Lord Cranbrook said on the 15th February 1877, nor had he repented in April, for in April he said, "Above all, we feel that we, who have engaged ourselves by treaty, at least in former times, who have had no personal wrong done to us, have no right and no commission, either as a country, or, as I may say, from Heaven, to take upon ourselves the vindication by violence of the rights of the Christian subjects of the Porte, however much we may feel for them." Higher authority, of course, still than Lord Cranbrook, but in perfect conformity with him, was Lord Beaconsfield himself, who, on the 20th February 1877, after a speech of Lord Granville's, said this, "The noble Lord and his friends are of opinion that we should have
coerced the Porte into the acceptation of the policy which we recommended. That is not a course which we can conscientiously profess or promote, and I think, therefore, when an issue so broad is brought before the House, it really is the duty of noble Lords to give us an opportunity to clear the mind of the country by letting it know what is the opinion of Parliament upon policies so distinct, and which in their consequences must be so different." Now you see plainly that coercion in the extreme case that had arisen was recommended by the Liberal party. Coercion was objected to on the highest grounds by the Tory party; and Lord Beaconsfield virtually said, "Such is the profound difference between these policies that I challenge you to make a motion in Parliament, and to take the opinion of Parliament in order that we may know which way we are to move." That was not all, for after the English Government had disclaimed coercion, and after that terribly calamitous Russo-Turkish war had been begun and ended, Lord Beaconsfield declared that if the Government had been entirely consistent they would not have rested satisfied with protesting against the action of Russia, so sacred was this principle of non-coercion in their eyes, but that they ought to have warned Russia that if she acted she must be prepared to encounter the opposition of England. I will read a very short passage from a letter of Sir Henry Layard which refers to that declaration. Sir Henry Layard, on the 18th April 1879, wrote or spoke as follows, I am not quite sure which; I quote it from an unexceptionable authority, the Daily Telegraph
of April 19: "I agree with the remark of Lord Beaconsfield when he returned from the Berlin Congress, that if England had shown firmness in the first instance the late war might have been avoided. That is my conviction, and everything I have seen tends to confirm it." If England had shown firmness, that is to say, if she had threatened Russia. There is no other meaning applicable to the words. I have shown you, therefore, gentlemen, what it is upon which we went to issue—whether Turkey should be coerced, or whether she should not. But there is an important limitation. We had never given countenance to single-handed attempts to coerce Turkey. We felt that single-handed attempts to coerce Turkey would probably lead to immediate bloodshed and calamity, with great uncertainty
The Liberal party desired coercion by united Europe.
as to the issue. The coercion we recommended was coercion by the united authority of Europe, and we always contended that in the case where the united authority of Europe was brought into action there was no fear of having to proceed to actual coercion. The Turk knew very well how to measure strength on one side and the other, and he would have yielded to that authority. But no, there must be no coercion under any circumstances. Such was the issue, gentlemen. Well, where do we stand now? We know what has taken place in the interval. We know that a great work of liberation has been done; in which we have had no part whatever. With the traditions of liberty which we think we cherish, with the recollection that you Scotchmen entertain of the struggles in which you have engaged to establish your own liberties here, a great work of emancipation has been going on in the world, and you have been prevented by your Government from any share in it whatever. But bitter as is the mortification with which I for one reflect upon that exclusion, I thank God that the work has been done. It has been done in one sense, perhaps, by the most inappropriate of instruments; but I rejoice in the result, that six or seven millions of people who were in partial subjection have been brought into total independence, and many millions more who were in absolute subjection to the Ottoman rule have been brought into a state which, if not one of total independence, yet is one of practical liberation actually attained, or very shortly to be realized, practical liberation from the worst of the evils which they suffered. But what happens now? Why, it appears
The sudden change by the Government to a coercion policy.
the Turk is going to be coerced after all. But is not it a most astounding fact that the Government, who said they would on no consideration coerce the Turk, and who said that if Europe
attempted to coerce the Turk nothing but misery could result, now expects to coerce the Turk by sending an order to Admiral Hornby at Malta, and desiring him to sail with his fleet into the east of the Mediterranean? Now, gentlemen, neither you nor I are acquainted with the whole of the circumstances attendant upon these measures. We do not know the reasons of State that have brought about this extraordinary result. But what I have pointed out to you is this, that her Majesty's Government have in matter of fact come round to the very principle upon which they compelled the Liberals to join issue with them two or three years ago—the very principle which they then declared to be totally inadmissible, and for urging which upon them their agents and organs through the country have been incessantly maintaining that nothing but the spirit of faction could have induced us to do anything so monstrous. That which nothing but the spirit of faction could have induced us to do is embraced in principle by
It is an attempt at single-handed coercion.
her Majesty's Government. But is it embraced in the same form? No. We said, Let coercion be applied by the united authority of. Europe—that is to say, for it is not an exaggeration so to put it, by the united authority of the civilized world applicable to this case. Our American friends have too remote an interest in it to take part. God forbid I should exclude them from the civilized world; but it was by the united authority; of Europe that we demanded it. It is now attempted by the single authority
and by the single hand of England. Will it succeed? All I can say is this, if it be directed to good and honest ends, to practical improvement, with all my heart I hope it may; but it may not, and then where is the responsibility? Where is the responsibility of those who refused to allow all Europe to act in unison, and who then took upon themselves this single-handed action? If it fails, they incur an immense responsibility. If it succeeds, it only becomes the more plain that had they but acceded to the advice which was at first so humbly tendered by the Liberal party, and which only after a long time was vigorously pressed—had they then acceded to the view of the Liberal party, and allowed Turkey to be dealt with as she ought to have been dealt with at the close of the Constantinople Conference, Turkey would have given way at once. The Power which yields to one State would still more readily have yielded to the united voice of the six great States. The concessions to be made by her would then have been made, and the horrors and the bloodshed, the loss of life and treasure, the heartburnings, the difficulties, the confusion and the anarchy that have followed would all of them have been saved. Therefore, gentlemen, I say that our present embarrassments are of our own
The present Government is responsible for the interruption of concerted action.
creation. It would be a very cruel thing to hold the present Government responsible for the existence of an Eastern Question that from time to time troubles Europe. I have not held them so responsible. I hold them responsible for having interrupted that concerted action, which—it is as evident as considerations of sense and policy can make it—which could not have failed to attain its effect; and for now being driven to make the same effort, with diminished resources, in greater difficulties, and after the terrible penalties of an almost immeasurable bloodshed had been paid.
Now, gentlemen, all this, and a great deal more than this, has to be said, which cannot be said now. Neither your patience nor my strength could enable me to say it. I have detained you at great length. I have only
The majority in the House of Commons
opened, as it were, these questions. I have not even touched the great number of important subjects in which you naturally, as men of Scotland and men of Midlothian, feel very special interest I will however, gentlemen, for this day bid you farewell. But I shall say one word in closing, and it is this. It is constantly said by the Government, and it is a fair claim on their part, that they have been supported by large majorities in the House of Commons. It is a very fair claim, indeed, for a certain purpose.
I should, indeed, have something to say upon the other side—viz. this, that you will find in no instance that I am aware of in history, neither in the American War nor in the great Revolutionary War, nor at any period known to me, has objection been taken, persistently and increasingly taken, by such large fractions of the House of Commons—not less, at any rate, than two-fifths of the House, sometimes more—to the foreign policy of the Government, as during this great controversy. The fact is, gentlemen, that in matters of foreign policy it does require, and it ought to require, very great errors and very great misdeeds on the part of the Government to drive a large portion of Parliament into opposition. It is most important to maintain our national unity in the face of the world. I, for my part, have always admitted, and admit now, that our responsibility in opposing the Government has been immense, but their responsibility in refusing to do right has been still greater. Still they are right in alleging that they have been supported by large majorities. Pray, consider what that means. That is a most important proposition; it is a proposition that ought to come home to the mind of every one here. It means this, that though I have been obliged all through this discourse to attack the Government, I am really attacking the majority of the House of Commons. Please to consider that you might, if you like, strike out of my speech all reference to the Government, all reference to any name, all reference to the body.
It is no longer the Government with which you have to deal. You have to deal with the majority of
has always steadily supported the Government.
the House of Commons. The majority of the House of Commons has completely acquitted the Government. Upon every occasion when the Government has appealed to it, the majority of the House of Commons has been ready to answer to the call. Hardly a man has ever hesitated to grant the confidence that was desired, however outrageous in our view the nature of the demand might be. Completely and bodily, the majority of the House of Commons has taken on itself the responsibility of the Government—and not only the collective majority of the House of Commons, gentlemen. If you had got to deal with them by a vote of censure on that majority in the lump, that would be a very ineffective method of dealing. They must be dealt with individually. That
"They must be dealt with individually."
majority is made up of units. It is the unit with which you have got to deal. And let me tell you that the occasion is a solemn one, for as I am the first to aver that now fully and bodily the majority of the House of Commons has, in the face of the country, by a multitude of repeated and deliberate acts, made itself wholly and absolutely responsible in the whole of these transactions that I have been commenting upon, and in many more; and as the House of Commons has done that, so upon the coming general election will it have to be determined whether that responsibility so shifted from an Administration to a Parliament, shall again be shifted from a Parliament to a nation. As yet the nation has had no opportunity, nay, as I pointed out early in these remarks, the Government do not seem disposed to give them the opportunity. To the last moment, so far as we are informed by the best authorities, they intend to withhold it. The nation, therefore, is
The nation is not yet responsible.
not yet responsible. If faith has been broken, if blood has been needlessly shed, if the name of England has been discredited and lowered from that lofty standard which it ought to exhibit to the whole world, if the country has been needlessly distressed, if finance has been thrown into confusion, if the foundations of the Indian Empire have been impaired, all these things as yet are the work of an Administration and a Parliament; but the day is coming, and is near at hand, when that event will take place
The issue we have to try.
which will lead the historian to declare whether or not they are the work, not of an Administration and not of a Parliament, but the work of a great and a free people. If this great and free and powerful people is disposed to associate itself with such transactions, if it is disposed to assume upon itself
what some of us would call the guilt, and many of us must declare to be the heavy burden of all those events that have been passing before our eyes, it rests with them to do it. But, gentlemen, let every one of us resolve in his inner conscience, before God and before man, let him resolve that he at least will have no share in such a proceeding; that he will do his best to exempt himself, ay, that he will exempt himself, from every participation in what hi believes to be mischievous and ruinous misdeeds; that, so far as his exertion can avail, no trifling, no secondary consideration shall stand in the way of them, or abate them; that he will do what in him lies to dissuade his countrymen from arriving at a resolution so full of mischief, of peril, and of shame.
Gentlemen, this is the issue which the people of this country will have to try. Our minds are made up. You and they have got to speak. I for my part have done and will do the little that rests with me to make clear the nature of the great controversy that is to be decided; and I say from the bottom of my soul, "God speed the right."
On the motion of Mr. John M'Laren, advocate, seconded by Mr. John Usher of Woodhall, a vote of thanks was enthusiastically accorded to Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Nicolson of Parson's Green moved a vote of thanks to the Chairman.
After the meeting Mr. Gladstone was presented with an address from the Corporation of Edinburgh.