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Leader's speech, Scarborough 1903

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal)

Location: Scarborough


Campbell-Bannerman addressed his party at the Prince of Wales Circus at Scarborough on May 15th 1903. The key issue at the time of this conference, as is clear from the speech, was the Conservative government’s decision to repeal the Corn Tax only a year after its introduction. Criticising the government’s inconsistency and division he has some sport with Balfour’s reputation for being too much the philosopher (although Campbell-Bannerman welcomed the reversal of a policy he had feared was a forerunner to a system of preferential tariffs for the colonies). The style of the speech is somewhat dry and wordy. As seems to be typical of him, Campbell-Bannerman makes extensive use of quotations, referring us to the words of his opponents, their supporters and various others. However, there are some sharp phrases such as his contrasting of the government’s “airy opportunism’ over the corn tax to their ‘evil persistency’ with the education bill. Here Campbell-Bannerman seeks to expose yet more hesitancy and inconsistency in the government position, presenting the contradiction in their opposing ‘ad-hoc’ bodies in the school system yet creating them elsewhere. He continues with this theme when discussing Irish policy – but it is perhaps not as cogently sustained across the speech as it might have been. The extent to which his line of attack is diluted by Campbell-Bannermans’ liking of forensic discussion of others’ remarks is for present readers to judge for themselves. Two further issues arise at the end of the speech: Trade Union law (the Taff-Vale decision was the previous year), and licensing reform. Also worth noting is the reference to ‘foolish electors’ at the end of speech. It is hard to imagine a contemporary politician saying such a thing in public.

We are met tonight at a period which marks high noontide in the Parliamentary session, and although we may not know what the future of that session may bring forth, or what new wonders may be presented to us before we glide into the calm haven of the autumnal recess - if autumnal recess there is to be - we have at least seen enough to pronounce what the character of this Parliamentary year will be. Whatever new aspects it may yet ultimately present, there is no doubt it will be distinguished as having exhibited more surprising instances of vacillation and tergiversation in the policy of a great party than have been recorded since Catholic Emancipation was given and since the Corn Laws were repealed.

The Government and the Corn Tax

And yet - can you believe it? - the Prime Minister the other day went to the annual meeting of the Primrose League in the Albert Hall, in London, and plumed himself especially and above all upon the fact that he and his friends were not as certain other men are, in that their opinions and principles are fixed, ascertained, and immutable. He said - these are his own words: ‘We at all events are agreed upon the main lines of our policy, on what it is we want to maintain and what it is we want to do.’ One of my own countrymen, not unknown to you - Robert Burns - who in his unlearned and unscholastic way had a marvellous insight into human nature, breaks out with the words:

Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!

If we wanted proof of the wholesomeness of this aspiration Mr. Balfour affords it when he shows himself unable to see himself, even as ‘in a glass darkly,’ and when he proceeded on the occasion to which I refer to illustrate his devotion to continuity of policy and fixity of opinion by discoursing, of all things in the world, upon the story of the Corn Tax, which has been imposed one year and is to be removed the next by this Ministry of the clear eye and the firm hand and the resolute purpose. We were told last year that it was above all things necessary to ‘broaden the basis of taxation’ - a blessed phrase, and very convenient on occasion. We were told that that wretched shilling of ‘registration’ duty had been recklessly abandoned a generation ago by an ill-informed Minister - he was a Liberal Minister, of course - and that it would not be paid by anyone in this country at least, but would be subjected to a course of trituration, like the commodity with which it is concerned, and would disappear on its way from the hand of the man who planted the seed in some distant part of the world to the mouth of the man who eats the loaf in Scarborough.

The ‘Broad Basis of Taxation’ Dropped 

But now this year the Finance Minister drops the ‘broad basis of taxation’ altogether. He declares it ‘quite impossible, if there has been no actual rise, that the tax has had no effect on the price,’ and he goes on ‘Undoubtedly the price of flour has increased to the amount of the tax, and a good deal more, and as a good many people make their own bread the cost of the latter must have been increased.’ This is the Chancellor of the Exchequer - a sensible man, the Chancellor of the Exchequer - who presents to us the very arguments that we employed last year when we resisted the imposition of the tax. He recognises facts and discards fallacies, and he sees, if I may say so, as far as most people into a millstone.

Fiscal ‘Philosophy’

But next arises the Prime Minister among those dames of the Primrose League, and he argues, in his most philosophic and therefore most convincing manner, that this tax neither hurts the consumer nor benefits the farmer. Therefore he says - although you and I may not be able to follow him to the conclusion - but something must be allowed to philosophy - it may safely be taken off, and with advantage to the people. So here we have it, all within twelve months. The first Finance Minister says, ‘The tax will hurt nobody; put it on.’ The second Finance Minister says, ‘The tax will hurt a whole lot of people; take it off.’ What, I ask you, is a distracted Prime Minister to say when his Finance Ministers contradict each other? How is he to reconcile the irreconcilable? Happy thought! Philosophy comes to the rescue. He takes the premiss of the one and the conclusion of the other, and he joins them together and tells us, ‘The tax hurt no one, it could do no harm at all; therefore take it off at once.’

A Historic Event

It occurs to me, however, that perhaps I do wrong to dwell on this aspect of the matter, however attractive the picture may be. It may be a mistake to accuse a man of inconsistency when he is in the very act of coming round to your side, and to make sport of the reasons he gives for his conversion. I am disposed to admit it. But if the prodigal son comes home with his head in the air, and vowing that whatever you may have done, he, for his part, has never strayed a hair’s breadth from the path of virtue, what are you to do? What you must do is this. You have got to take his word for it, and look as if you believed his story, to kill the fatted calf all the same, and press him to draw in his chair and partake. This incident easily lends itself to comical treatment, but it is nothing less than a historic event.

A Forerunner and a Signal

The shilling duty was intended - not, I presume, by all its authors, but by some of them, and certainly by those who urged it and applauded it and danced a saraband of joy over its birth - to be the forerunner of a great revolution in fiscal policy. The duty would not have stopped at this modest shilling on a single article. It was an era of Protection that was to set in. Now the generation to which we belong - I am not sure that I don’t hover about the past generation myself, but at all events let us say the present generation - has had no experience of the working of a system of Protection, has never seen the pinch of poverty, of distress, and the lawlessness and disorder which accompanied it when it existed before. But it is well that we should renew acquaintance with the facts, and I have some words here to quote which I find appearing in the latest number of a most unimpeach­able Conservative journal, the Quarterly Review - not in one of your Radical subversive magazines. This is what an article in that Review says: ‘The era of Protection, as we read the history of those times, is inseparably associated with violent fluctuations in prices, widespread suffering, agrarian outrages and discontent, high rents for landlords, huge profits for farmers, starvation wages and pauperism for the labourers. Its record is the praise of hundreds and the curse of millions.’ It is well for us to remember that when we hear Protection glibly talked about. But it was something more. This tax was not merely a bread tax or a subvention to the farmer or the miller; it was a signal held out to the whole Empire to send in its claims for pre­ferential treatment.

Mr. Chamberlain and Preferential Tariffs for the Colonies

I have excellent authority for that. Here is what was said by the Colonial Secretary at Birmingham on the 16th May, 1902, almost a year ago to the day. He said: ‘I must, before sitting down, call your attention to one argument which has been used against this bread tax which I hope this country will note, which I hope the country will remember.’ I hope the country will remember, too - and I will tell you why - because, as you will see in the next line, it is my argume nt. The Colonial Secretary went on: ‘On the last day of the discussion in the House of Commons the leader of the Opposition told us that the tax had another and a most dangerous aspect. It was the thin end of the wedge. It was the beginning of a new policy, of which he spoke with bated breath and in tones of horror. And what do you think is the new policy to which he thinks this tax may lead? It is the policy of preferential relations with our colonies. We are not going to adopt his fears. At the present moment the Empire is being attacked on all sides, and in our isolation we must look to ourselves. We must draw closer our internal relations, the ties of sentiment, the ties of sympathy, yes, and the ties of interest. If by adherence to economic pedantry, to old shibboleths, we are to lose opportunities of closer union which are offered to us by our colonies, if we are to put aside occasions now within our grasp’ - mark that! ‘if we do not take every chance in our power to keep British trade in British hands, I am certain we shall deserve the disasters which will infallibly come upon us.’ First of all there is his prophecy of the dreadful things which will happen if this tax is removed, but also there is the admission of the fact that the tax was imposed in order that it might be taken off again in the case of colonial imports. Canada would expect, no doubt, a tax upon corn, Australia upon wool, New Zealand - I should think we should leave it to Mr. Seddon, but probably it would be mutton. If the self-governing colonies are all to have their claims so listened to, India and the Crown colonies would surely have to be put also on a preferential footing, and we should have a Chinese wall built round the Empire, from the battlements of which we should shout defiance to the world at large. Is this a new doctrine? Is this to be a twentieth-century doctrine? Why, it is as old as the hills. It is the medieval, feudal ideal; it is that old ideal of your border towers and castles on the Rhine, and of each little town having its circumvallation of walls, and at the gate an octroi duty demanded on all that passes in. From this dangerous ideal - dangerous to trade and dangerous to peace and dangerous to the welfare of the people - Mr. Ritchie by his courage has, I hope, saved us.

Our ‘Isolation’

But let us look into this a little closely. ‘In our isolation,’ says Mr. Chamberlain, ‘we must look to ourselves.’ But what is this but to accept and accentuate a position of isolation, which if it ever existed - I doubt if it has, save in the imagination of those who desired it - can be nothing but a misfortune and a curse to us and to the Empire. Our relations with our colonies are excellent. We are tied to them by the closest bonds of friendship and regard and esteem and common blood and common sentiment. In what respect would this great and memorable and unexampled commonwealth of free nations - because that is what our Empire is - be strengthened by leaguing itself against the other nations of the world? The whole spirit of such a policy is false. Its object is unattainable, and I venture to say that if ever it was brought to practical realisation it would contain in itself the inevitable seeds of dismemberment. No, the security and prosperity of the Empire are to be attained not by great military expenditure, not by treating our neighbours with jealousy and defiance, not by interfering with the natural processes and courses of trade, but by opening the channels of industry, by multiplying the means of com­munication, by promoting the exchange of commodities, and by giving new life and new inspiration to the intelligent energy of our people. Let us be thankful then, alike on domestic and Imperial grounds, that this tax - whose ultimate use and purpose have been so candidly mani­fested to us - is to be summarily abandoned.

The King’s Tour

Will it be out of place for me, while I am speaking on our external relations, if I give a passing expression to the universal feeling of satisfaction with which the whole nation has followed the recent visits of the King to some of the countries of Western Europe? His Majesty, by his kindly and sympathetic attitude, has not only done much to gain for himself and for his subjects the goodwill of the governments and populations, but he has also exhibited to the world the friendly spirit which we wish to subsist between ourselves and neighbouring countries. I venture to say that His Majesty has placed his people under a deep obligation, and I hope that he will soon be able to carry out the intention which is attributed to him of extending his visits to others among the nations of Europe.

The Education Question

Now let me for a change turn to a subject on which the Government has shown an evil persistency instead of that airy opportunism which has characterised their course upon the corn duty. What is this subject upon which they have been so steadfast in wrong-doing? It is no other than perhaps the most sacred of all the functions of the State - the education of the young. The people of this country have so fully understood and appreciated the Act of last year that I shall not dwell upon its inherent vices. These are so great, and so alien from our political principles, and they are so repugnant to the con­science of many men, that we can never admit or tolerate the provisions of the Act as embodying a national system of education. The Govern­ment and their friends have laid the flattering unction to their souls that the heat and storm of last autumn will die down. I see no sign of it. On the contrary it is growing, it seems to me, in intensity. The condemnation of the Act, as ignoring popular rights, as excluding from their proper share of influence the parent and the ratepayer, the two classes most concerned, and as writing upon the door of entry to a great and honourable and beneficent profession a sectarian test - that is a standing condemnation which time can never wither. If any man is cut to the quick by such wounds to conscience as the operation of the Act may inflict, and if he refuses to bear his share, the matter is one of individual conscientious conviction, outside the immediate range of political parties; but no politician, whatever his views may be, can fail to take note of such action and of the deep and heartfelt sentiment which it implies. It was England and Wales last year, and it is London this year.

The London Education Bill

I wish here to express the hope that those of our friends who speak for Yorkshire and other constituencies outside of London will remember how their own withers were wrung last year, and will not fail to come to the aid of the few London members and fight not only their battle but their own battle over again. All the evils of last year’s Bill are incorporated in this one. No further back than the day before yesterday I received a resolution from a body which I think you will listen to with respect, and I quote it because of the source from which it comes. It is a resolution of the Council of the Sunday School Union. Nothing political here; nothing extreme; no rabid feeling either religious or political; it comes from a body of men who are devoting themselves to the very hallowed work of teaching the children in the higher things appertaining to their welfare. And this is what they say: ‘The Council of the Sunday School Union have observed with the deepest regret the Bill introduced by his Majesty’s Government to supersede the London School Board and in its place to adopt an organisation which will largely encourage and endow denominational teaching, and revive the discredited and unjust system of excluding fully competent teachers from public employment on sectarian grounds.’ The one outstanding fact is that the London School Board, the pioneer of education, perhaps the highest exemplar of popular local government among us, is to be done to death. It is to be despatched without benefit of clergy. No, no; I am not accurate. I should say it is to be despatched for the benefit of the clergy and of the clerical interest.

The Government and the Municipalities

But this Government of ours have developed an extreme antipathy to what are called ad hoc bodies. Their idea is to municipalise educa­tion, smothering it up with baths and washhouses and streets and sewers. Why have they this objection to ad hoc bodies? The Secretary of the Board of Education carries his objection even to the words themselves, and he finds them linguistically incorrect. But then he is the Head of an Oxford college, and that must be allowed for. Ad hoc is at all events, however incorrect it may be, a convenient phrase, indicating that a person has been appointed, or body created, or course taken, for a special and particular purpose. But allow me to let you into a secret which can hardly be called a secret, for it is evident to us all - that it is not the ad hoc element, it is not the element of a special function that is distasteful to the Government - it is the direct election, it is the democratic constitution of the ad hoc principle to which they cry ‘Avaunt!’

‘Ad Hoc’ Authorities Created

But is it not an odd thing in this very promiscuous, but, we are told by the highest authority, consistent Government, that they themselves have been busy creating ad hoc authorities? Why, the water supply of London was in the hands of great companies, who had a statutory monopoly of the supply of water. The most natural thing would have been to have given the supply of water in London, as it is in all other municipalities, as far as I am aware, throughout the kingdom, to the municipality itself - the County Council. But, no, the County Council is directly elected by the people, and they don’t like it; they thwart it in every way possible. And they create a heterogeneous body not one member of which is elected directly, but the members of which are appointed by other bodies, which may or may not be elected by the will of the people. That is what they have done with regard to water. Again, there is the question of the port of London, about which my friend Mr. John Ellis knows as much as, or more than, most people because he has taken a lion’s share of the work on the Royal Commission that investigated it. There, again, they have not handed that subject over to any municipal authority. They have not municipalised that, but they have created - and I think in that case rightly created - an ad hoc body. Yet these are the opponents of the ad hoc body for education.

An ‘Ad Hoc’ Government

But let us look a little closer still. Are you sure that it is not an ad hoc Government? They were elected in 1900, as we all know, not, indeed, to finish the war, because that was finished, but for the express purpose of bringing about a settlement in South Africa and to reform the army, and nothing else. That was the one purpose, because whoever gave a vote against them gave a vote to the enemies of their country; and if they are thus an ad hoc Government they have the very principle and quality which they object to in a public body. But, dear me, I do not know where I shall stop, because if I look at the party which supports them it is itself an ad hoc party, because it is a mixture of men of multifarious views - at least they express their multifarious views in private, and sometimes in speeches, but I never see much multifariousness about their votes - but at any rate, that party was created, and has existed since 1886, for the sole purpose of saving the Empire from the mad incursions of the Irish and all the evils which would follow from trusting those dreadful people. They will often tell you, ‘We may disband the union of the two parties, but not till the danger from this Irish party is removed.’ So here they are - ad hoc all along the line. Yet these are the men who loudly reject that method. But, as I have already told you, the truth of the matter is, it is not the ad hoc element they object to - it is the direct election which they distrust and avoid. But give them time; they may come round.

The Irish Question

Look what we are seeing with regard to their Irish policy. What are we to say to the extraordinary volte face made by the Government in their relations with Ireland? Their inconsistency over the Corn Tax of which I have spoken is like a puff of vapour compared to the impenetrable fog of inconsistency which hangs over their Irish policy. Six months ago, having suspended the ordinary guarantees of civil liberty, they were busy haling to prison and to hard labour Irish members of Parliament and others, the advocates of the tenants to whom they are now handing over the land of Ireland. The repre­sentatives of Ireland were then rebels and traitors, and even to rub shoulders with them in a Parliamentary lobby was a slur upon the character of any patriotic Englishman.

The Blenheim Speeches

We shall not soon forget the speeches made at Blenheim in August, 1891, again to the Primrose League. It seems to me that the Primrose League dames and harbingers - I hope I am right in my titles - have the effect no one else can have of inspiring the courage and unlocking the heart of the Prime Minister. For what does he say at Blenheim? He is scornful of the Irish. He says that they mean to torment and worry the House of Commons into yielding to their wishes. He exclaims, ‘They have mistaken their men!’ Then the Colonial Secretary, not to be outdone - he does not say so much about his own courage - is full of regret for the conduct of other people. He says he is distressed ‘that those who profess to carry forward the traditions of one of the great honourable parties in British life should be mixed up with these men,’ and he goes on, ‘We still believe that they’ - that is you and I – ‘are as willing as before to sell the interests of their country for eighty Irish votes. What is the Irish party? It consists of eighty persons more or less, who have all taken the oath of allegiance, and who openly avow themselves to be enemies of this country. Pretty allies for an English party.’ But these ‘pretty allies’ have not had their help on an English Education Bill repudiated that I have seen; and now these ‘pretty allies’ are states­men to be conferred with and to be deferred to. But the violence of last year and all the bad language of Blenheim may have been a mere temporary aberration.

Pestilent and Pernicious Prejudices

What are we to say, then, if we go further back, deeper down? In 1886 two Bills, which I shall do no more than mention, were intro­duced by Mr. Gladstone. They were both denounced and derided, and this wonderful coalition of two parties was created in order to defeat them, and prevent their ever appearing again. Why? Because the Irish people could not be trusted to be given such powers as were contained in those Bills, which would be fatal to the security of the Empire. I am not going to dwell upon this, because it cannot be denied that it was on the ground that the Irish people could not be trusted that the whole of the opposition was based. But what are we told now? Their present Purchase Bill, devoid of the safeguards of the Purchase Bill of 1886, rests mainly on the ‘chivalry’ of the Irish people. The Chief Secretary proclaims that his reliance is placed on their self-respect, their probity, and their goodwill. They prove their change of opinion towards the Irish people by handing over the land of Ireland, as they would have said a year or two ago, or even half a year ago, to the men who made the Land League and worked the Plan of Campaign. Well, better a late repentance than never. I rejoice for my part that this party - we can hardly now call it the Unionist party - let us take a convenient phrase - this ad hoc party - has at last purged itself from the pestilent and pernicious prejudices which have for the last few years poisoned its relations with Ireland.

The Land Purchase Bill

Let me say just a word or two upon this Irish Land Purchase Bill, to point out to you, if I can, those matters with regard to it which are most important to you as taxpayers. The first thing I would say is that you cannot remain as you are in this matter. You have entered, under Conservative auspices, on a course of ousting the landlord and installing the tenant, and you cannot stop where you are. Already 80,000 are so installed, scattered over Ireland. You are on an inclined plane: you cannot maintain your equilibrium: you must extend similar advantage to the hundreds of thousands who remain, or you can never secure rest or peace. That is the governing consideration in this matter. It is this which makes us bound to pass some Bill or other having the professed object, and aiming at the promised effect, of the measure now before Parliament. But, accepting such a Bill as inevit­able, what are the main points to be secured I will only mention two.

Points to be Secured

The first is this: For more than two generations in future annual instalments will be paid by the purchasing tenants to the British Treasury, and if we wish to have any chance of avoiding friction and conflict and danger and difficulty we are bound to see that the terms are easy and reasonable, and such as will bear the stress of circumstances. Now remember this. By Mr. Gladstone’s Bill of 1886 the instalments to be paid were to be collected by the Irish State Authority, which secured punctuality in payments, which enforced the payments when they were due, and which was allowed to make a profit. If the whole amount of fifty millions was taken up, then no less a sum than £400,000 a year was left to ease the progress of the transaction. But here is the difficulty. With what face could the present Government set up in Ireland a State authority? Their very reason of existence, as I have said, the vital fluid of the Government, comes from their hostility to any Irish authority. Therefore what stands between you, the taxpayers, for the next seventy years and the danger of losses and difficulties is nothing but the chivalry and the probity and the good feeling of the Irish tenants, so lately discovered by the gentlemen now in power. I don’t underrate the security, although I think it is rather a flaccid and almost fluid security for so mighty a transaction. But I don’t underrate the honesty of the security. Only mark the fact that that is all you have, and on that ground it is peculiarly and super­latively necessary to see that the conditions which underlie the instalments to be paid are generous and easy. One other point only I will allude to. We are going to abolish under this measure estates in Ireland great and small, and set up a number of small individual holdings. But a vast number of holdings in Ireland, as we know - sometimes conglomerated in one locality, but others scattered over the country - are what are called uneconomic; that is to say, they cannot support a man, still less his family. He has to get contributions from his relatives who have gone abroad, or he has to come to this country to work to make a little money. Surely the very worst thing we can do is to stereotype for all time such a condition of things, which would not only be a danger in itself, but probably be the parent of new evils. I hope, therefore, you will support us if in the House of Commons we give our aid to any provision calculated to meet the danger.

The Law Affecting Trade Unions

Leaving these Irish questions, there are two subjects which are salient and urgent at the present moment, and on which I should like to say a few words. The first of these is the law affecting labour and the combination of workmen, which is naturally exciting a rather strong feeling throughout the country. Do not mistake me. I have no desire to discuss the niceties of legal language, such as my friend Mr. Birrell and others delight and revel in, or the strange varieties of judicial interpretation of that language. I shall deal only with the broad issue. The other day it was said in the debate in the House of Commons that the workmen were claiming to be in some respects a privileged class. I believe that is an entire misapprehension of their desire. On the contrary, what they ask is that they should not be subjected to restrictions from which others are free; that their freedom of com­bination should not be hampered by such a stretching of the law of conspiracy as to deny to working men rights which belong to any body of citizens taking action for the protection of their legal interests. That being so, I hold this to be a perfectly honest, justifiable, and proper contention on their part. I was in Parliament when the statutes on this subject were passed, and it was certainly then intended that the working man should be freed from the unfair operation of the old conspiracy laws and be placed on a level in this respect with the employers - neither better nor worse, but the same. That I trust and believe is the contention now. If the law does not accomplish this object let it be amended; give us a chance of amending it. The Home Secretary, while he declares that, in his opinion, the law is perfectly clear, is going to institute an inquiry to discover what the law is. It is not an inquiry to discover what the law is; it is to discover a policy on this subject for His Majesty’s Government. Thus a question which is urgent is shelved, and mean while a false situation is stereotyped, to the injury of all those who are concerned.

The Licensing Question 

My second subject, on which I feel bound to say a word or two, is one which has also been before us in the House of Commons, namely, the question of licensing, the most salient point in connection with which at present is the question of the powers of the magistrates and the compensation of the publican. Let us make our position clear. We quite appreciate the hardship which is suffered by a licensee who, through no fault of his own, loses his licence. If this happens it is only in accordance with the conditions under which he holds his licence, and therefore he has no legal claim, and no claim against the public. But I for one should be glad that he should be compensated out of trade funds. That is the first proposition; but the second is that whatever mutual arrangements for in­demnifying themselves or one another the ‘trade,’ as it is called, may come to, they must be such as to leave the magistrates’ decisions absolutely free, so that they may fairly exercise their discretion. The magistrates must not be hobbled, as they would if Mr. Butcher’s Bill passed into law, which would limit their discre­tion to the amount available for compensation in the district. The trade is highly organised, and I should have thought was well able to look after itself. If there is a difficulty about the minority - I believe in many districts only a very small minority - which are not tied houses, then let a bench of magistrates who find a redundance of houses begin with the tied houses, as to which, not so far as the men manag­ing the houses are concerned, but so far as the proprietors and those who profit by the business are concerned, they are very well able to look after themselves.

The Old Liberal Principles 

We have often been reproached - it has become a habit of the Tory press and the nondescript press in this country to reproach us - that our cause, our theories and doctrines, are old and worn out. They say we are ten years behind the times in talking about religious equality, Free Trade, and licensing reform, and fifty years behind the age in talking of such out-of-date objects as peace and economy. We have been invited to forget that which is behind and to attack larger and newer and more attractive topics, which are not al ways defined so exactly as we should like. I am glad to remember that for the last three or four years I have again and again, from time to time, even when these doctrines may have seemed to many to be dead letters, proclaimed the necessity of keeping them constantly before our minds, of keeping our old armour bright, and the old weapons sharp. How is it now? Are these doctrines, these old obfuscated doctrines of ours, and the subjects with which they are concerned, dead, or are they alive? They are very much alive, and who has enlivened them? (A voice: ‘The Tories.’) Quite so. It is not you and I. It is the present Government and the foolish electors who put them in power - it is they who have aroused the sleeping issues. Religious equality is brought into question by the Education Act, Free Trade is brought into question not by us but by the taxation of the Government and the sugar convention. Licensing reform, which I have just spoken of, is in question. Freedom of combination is in question; ay, how long may it be before freedom of labour is in question, if things march on their apparent course in South Africa? Peace is always in question when a Tory Government is in power. As to economy, if it is in question, it is because they have cast it to the winds, and its recovery is almost hopeless. We are unexpectedly forced to fight these rearguard actions against the powers of reaction and on behalf of civil and religious liberty. But out of the bitter comes forth sweet, and our success, which is inevitable, in these rearguard actions, can only serve to give training and fresh inspiration to the progressive forces of our country in the onward march which we are determined to pursue towards the development of the welfare of the people.

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