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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

Speech at the Railway Station, Aberfeldy

Speech at the Railway Station, Aberfeldy.

At Dunkeld, during a stoppage of a few minutes, Mr. Barry, merchant, in the name of the assembled inhabitants, gave Mr. Gladstone a hearty welcome to the Highlands, and received a few words of thanks in reply.

On the arrival of the special train at Aberfeldy at about 4.30, Lord Breadalbane, with Lord Colin Campbell, M.P., Mr. C. S. Parker, M.P., and Mr. Donald Currie, Liberal Candidate for Perthshire, were ready to receive the distinguishes guest. An address from the inhabitants of Aberfeldy and district having been presented by Mr. Rankin, banker, Mr. Gladstone, who on coming forward to acknowledge the presentation was loudly cheered, said:—

Mr. Rankin, Lord Breadalbane, Ladies and Gentlemen, Inhabitants of Aberfeldy and the district,—I accept with very great pleasure an address which has been as spontaneous in its character as it is warm and earnest in its language. I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that it is to me an unexpected pleasure. I had no idea, when I accepted the courteous and kindly hospitality of Lord and Lady Breadalbane, that I should give you an occasion to meet together in public for the purpose of expressing your sentiments on what is now going on, and has been going on, in Midlothian. But I am the more gratified in proportion as I feel that this movement was unexpected—in proportion as I feel it has come entirely from yourselves. Gentlemen, I have not now received for the first time an expression of similar sentiments from the people of Scotland. I am bound—I will not say in modesty—but I am bound in truth to state that I regard many of the kind words that you are pleased to use with respect to myself and with respect to my past public life, as proceeding from your indulgence rather than from my own deserts, and, at any rate, as being used towards myself not merely with reference to the past, not merely on personal grounds, but because you are aware that, as a member of the Liberal party, I have undertaken an arduous contest in the metropolitan county of Scotland; and as you not unnaturally regard this contest as an occasion on which you may well and suitably express sentiments that you conscientiously entertain.

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot find words to express to you my feelings of

The serious nature of the occasion.

the serious nature of the occasion. I do not use the language of exaggeration; I do not act under the impulses of party. Those impulses would not lead me, advanced in years, to undertake [unclear: a] labour of this kind were it not that I feel that the issues are so grave. They so deeply involve the character as well as the happiness of the country, that, in my opinion, it is the duty of every man to use his utmost exertions, to contributed all that he can, towards causing it to be rightly understood and rightly decided and I, who have preached this doctrine indefatigably to others, am bound no to shrink from acting upon it myself. Ladies and gentlemen, I must frankly tell you as regards the issue of that contest in Midlothian that unless 1 am deceived in the grossest manner, there can be no doubt. There is even reason to believe that some of the shrewdest among our opponents are perfectly well page 87 aware that they cannot win; and let me tell you, gentlemen, that our opponents in electioneering matters are frequently very shrewd indeed. We have much to learn from them in that respect; and, ladies and gentlemen, I trust we shall learn from them many useful and valuable lessons, not as to the ends exactly that they have in view, but as to the judicious and careful use they make of the means of obtaining these ends. The mind of this country, ladies and gentlemen, has been led abroad and over the whole earth. It really seems as if under the present sway our business was not to regulate the concerns of our own land and of our own firesides, but the concerns of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world. That is not my view of the matter at all. My view of the matter is, that the promotion of good government among and for a people is a great, and noble, and arduous work, that taxes all their energies. I wish to get rid of a great deal of the nonsense—the mischievous nonsense—that has been introduced into our politics. None of us can forget the enormous responsibilities, the extended duties, that attach to such an empire as this country has erected, stretching forth into every quarter of the world, and having relations with the whole of its inhabitants far and near. But while we duly estimate these relations, while we will never shrink from those duties, let us avoid that system of meddling—those theatrical displays and tricks, which are aimed,

The "theatrical policy."

apparently, at drawing off the minds of the people of this country from their own interests, and from their own necessities, and at blinding them to the fact that, while they are inflamed and flattered by high-sounding discourses about the great position of England, and the necessity that England should become the teacher and the instructor of every nation in the world, we are in danger of falling into a condition in which we shall be conspicuous for the neglect of our own affairs, and in which all the reasonable wants and wishes we entertain for the improvement of our laws and institutions will remain entirely unfulfilled.

Gentlemen, I will not further detain you at this time. I assure you I rejoice to think that so lively a sympathy exists among you for the cause in which we are engaged; and, gentlemen, I hope when the county election in Perthshire comes you will show that you are aware that Scotland, as well as England, "expects every man to do his duty;" you will contribute your part towards the constitution of a Parliament sounder and wiser than that which now exists; and rely upon it, we shall see, in the course, I hope, of a very limited time, some progress made towards undoing the many mischiefs that have been brought upon us in recent years, and towards giving some satisfaction to the reasonable wants and wishes of the people.

Hearty cheers for Mr. Gladstone and for Lord and Lady Breadalbane concluded the proceedings, after which the party drove through the illuminated village of Aberfeldy, past bonfires blazing on the adjoining hills, and on between rows of torch-bearers towards Taymouth Castle, where fireworks and rejoicings closed the eventful day.