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HIS BREADTH OF VIEW. Such a speech delivered at the time when party spirit was running extremely high, and when it was almost regarded as a particular mark of sound Liberalism to impute all manner of evil to Mr. Balfour and his colleagues, was significant of the man. While he was a hard hitter, Mr. Fowler never hit below the belt, and has always expressed the greatest distaste for all personal attacks. No cause is gained, in his opinion, by attributing unfair or untrue motives to those who are opposing them. This attitude of mind is the political counterpart of his religious standpoint. Although Mr. Fowler is a devout Methodist, he has always been on sympathetic terms with men of the most diverse religious creeds. There is nothing of the narrowness of the old Methodism about him. He has counted amongst his friends men of so diverse a character as Canon Liddon, Cardinal Manning, Archdeacon Farrar, John Morley, Dr. Dale, and Bishop Fraser. Like few other men in politics, he has refused to join in the cry against “ base, bloody and brutal Balfour," and has constantly recognised, both publicly and privately, the fact that his own party can lay no claim to the monopoly of all the virtues that exist in public life. This spirit of toleration and of sympathetic appreciation of the differences of standpoint of his opponents has led some to declare that he was a Mr. Facing-both-Ways, who could always be relied upon to compromise a principle or evacuate a position which had become inconvenient to hold. Such are the accusations which intemperate ignorance always finds ready to hand to hurl against practical men who are more concerned about attaining their end than upon securing triumph for the particular organisation or tactics by which they have sought to attain it.
to the Treasury, serving an apprenticeship, in which he distinguished himself so much, that people began to think he was certain to be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the next Liberal administration. When the Home Rulo Bill fell, and Mr. Fowler with the rest of his colleagues went into exile in the wilderness of Opposition, he kept up his spirits and kept on fighting with the best of them, his equable spirit and stalwart resolution being as a pillar of strength to his colleagues. The chief service which he rendered to the party in the House during the years of tribulation were his criticisms on Mr. Goschen's finance, Sir William Harcourt was for the most part too indolent to follow up the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the assiduity and perseverance which the case demanded, and the task fell to Mr. Fowler, who applied himself to it con amore. Mr. Fowler is an oldfashioned financier, and he disapproved of the financial arrangements of the Free Education Bill and of the Naval Defence Bill. Mr. Fowler's criticisms on the Naval Defence Bill were exclusively financial, but he refused the post Mr. Gladstone had offered him in the Admiralty on the ground that he knew nothing about the Navy, and he has never set himself up as an authority on subjects of Imperial defence. His manly, straightforward, effective eloquence was in great request at all demonstrations, and many of the speeches which he delivered between 1886 and 1890 were among the most powerful and cogent attacks that were made on the policy of the coercionist Government.
A TYPICAL SPEECH. Among his speeches, one which deserves special notice is that which he addressed to the Eighty Club in March, 1890. He attacked the Parliament of 1886 on the ground that it was the Anti-House-of-Commons Parliament. It was the Parliament which had at every point and every turn of its history, and in all the details of its procedure, uniformly done its utmost to impair the dignity and paralyse the power of the nation. He maintained it was the duty of the Liberal party to uphold the power and prerogatives of the supreme and unique position of the House of Commons in our Constitution, and to defend the right of minorities and individual members. He held that when the Liberals came in, it was their duty to maintain the parliamentary traditions, and restore the old traditions of fair play, equal rights, and equal justice to all sections of the House, and to recognise a community of membership and good feeling. Speaking as to the future programme of the Liberal party, he said “ that without believing in finality, he thought that the political machine was a good instrument which could do a good deal of work, and that the epoch of construction had arrived. It would not do to put the new wine of a vigorous democracy into the old bottles of political economy of the early Radicals.” He suggested to the Liberal party the wisdom of accepting the lead of the London County Council, which had indicated the rudiments of municipal statesmanship, which would be a very valuable factor in the history of English politics. The aim and ideal of the Liberal party was to improve the daily life of the people of this country, to adjust the relations between class and class, and to alleviate as far as possible the miseries of poverty. The true glory of the nation was in the physical and moral well-being and well-doing of the masses of the people. In achieving this work he protested against the action of those who refused to recognise in their opponents the same loftiness of principle which actuated themselves.”
IN THE CABINET.
There was no mistake among his own colleagues as to the nature of the apparent disposition to compromise, and it was nevertheless recognised in 1892, when the general election once more placed the Liberals in office, that Mr. Fowler would occupy a seat in the Cabinet. Mr. Gladstone promptly verified this expectation by placing Mr. Fowler at the head of the Local Government Board, with instructions to take in hand the passing of the Parish Councils Bill through Parliament. For this task Mr. Fowler's previous training and equable and wellbalanced mind were peculiarly qualified; he set to work at once with a will, and soon made himself master of the subject. As President of the Local Government Board he was at the head of one of the most important administrative bodies in the United Kingdom.
AT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD. Of his work at the head of the great administrative machine, I cannot do better than quote the following extracts from an interview with Mr. Fowler, which Mr. Blathwayt contributed some time since to Cassell's Family Mugazine :
“I am the Local Government Board," said Mr. Fowler. “I wield all the powers and duties of what was formerly known as the Poor Law Board. I have power over all sanitary matters; the questions concerning contagious discases-except as regards animals, which still remains as before--and epidemies, which came once within the sphere of the Privy Council, are now in my special province. All the powers and duties concerning the public health and public improvements, concerning, for instance, artisans' dwellings and the like, local government, local taxation, etc., which once were in the hands of the Home Secretary, are now placed in my hands. You will therefore understand something of my responsibilities.
“ I need scarcely add that I am assisted by an admirable staff of workers, for it would be impossible for the work to be done without a competent staff. I have in my charge such legislative work as that which is involved in the Bills for the Registration of Electors, and Parish Councils. All Bills, moreover, before the House relating to the London County ('ouncil are in my charge. For instance, I am just about to introduce a Bill with reference to their powers and rates. The number of statistical reports of every sort and kind that are returned to us long ago exceeded ten millions. We have to advise and report on private Bills relating to private matters. The public has no idea how many of these Bills come before
We have the advising of Local Authorities in matters of hospital construction, and on sanitary matters in general. I have just refused the Tooting Authorities permission to build the fever hospital in that district. Careless vaccination cases
people to sing hymns in the street; that was strictly forbidden at one time. Strangers under our rule may bring dogs into the. town, and we do not regard lounging' on Sunday afternoons as an offence against the law. The rates have received our especial attention, and I can assure you it was full time they did so. In 1879, when the highway accounts were first brought under the audit, some very curious applications of these rates came to light. In one parish a sparrow-shooting club for the farmers had been supported by the highway rate. In another parish the mole catchers' bills were paid out of the same source. Rewards for killing foxes were paid out of the rates in several cases. Then, again, the Board had to disallow champagne and plovers' eggs, visits to the theatres, journeying expenses when no journey was taken, presentation portraits, “suitable demonstrations on the chairman of some local board's wedding day, memorial keys, and the like. To such purposes
come before us, outbreaks of fever; all these things are under my control. I need scarcely say I have inspeetors everywhere, some of whom at the present moment are inquiring into the management of the Lynton workhouse, and the necessity for a hospital at Tottenham. Our administrative control varies considerably. In Poor Law matters it is complete. I have power to create, dissolve, and amalgamate unions, and to regulate the proceedings of the guardians in the minutest particulars. Over municipalities proper I have no direct control; it is only when the borough wants to borrow money that the Board can step in and impose conditions. For instance, I am at this moment responsible for the rearrangement of the Liverpool Finance, and I have just refused Manchester permission to buy an estate in Notts for sewage purposes.
We have power also to amend or to abrogate the by-laws passed by the Sanitary Authorities, under the Public Ilealth Act in 1875. In one instance, we have disallowed a by-law prohibiting all boys from throwing stones in the town. We allow
was the public money of old too frequently devoted. But the Local Government Board has altered all that, and those halcyon days are now strictly of the past.”
OUR FUTURE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER. As one of the financial illuminati of the Cabinet, Mr. Fowler was attached to Sir W. Harcourt as one of the inner circle charged with the preparation of the Budget of the Session. He rendered good service to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and confirmed his title to be regarded as the next keeper of the purse of John Bull.
Another measure for which he was chiefly responsible was the Equalisation of Rates (Metropolis) Bill. The measure conferring this important instalment of justice was drafted so fairly as to receive the support of Lord Salisbury, and passed amid the general applause of all political sections.
HIS REGISTRATION BILL.
Mr. Fowler was less successful as a legislator-through no fault of his own-in the attempt which he made to deal with the difficulties of registration. His Bill as he introduced it in 1893 was condemned by many Radicals as too moderate. There are probably few who do not heartily wish it had passed into law. The present absurd state of things, by which seven out of every seventeen adult males, or 4,800,000 out of 11,000,000 adult Englishmen are disfranchised, seems likely to continue till after another election. Mr. Fowler's proposals were follows:
(1) The appointment of district and superintendent registrars, appointed and paid by the local authorities, whoso duty it will be to see that every qualified householder is duly inscribed on the register; (2) the reduction of the qualifying period from twelve months to three; (3) the facilitation of the transfer of voters from the register of one district to another; (t) the simplification of the lodger franchise; and (5) the abolition of the rating qualification.
The Bill never got through, and now Mr. Fowler has something else to do.
AT THE INDIA OFFICE. When the great change took place and Mr. Gladstone handed over the reins to Lord Rosebery, Mr. Fowler took no part in the brief but somewhat fierce intrigues which followed. All that he did was to insist that at whatever cost, under whatever leader, the party must hold together. As a contribution to this indispensable demonstration that the Liberal party was not a mere concatenation of Gladstonian items, Mr. Fowler placed his portfolio unreservedly at the disposal of his colleagues. “Make of me what you please, put me where you choose. I am ready to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, if so be that thereby I can more usefully serve my party.” As a result of the shuffling of offices that followed the change in the premiership, Mr. Shaw Lefevre was made President of the Local Government Board and Mr. Fowler became Secretary for India. At first he demurred, doubting whether the training of a municipal administrator in the Midlands was sufficient qualification for the office which holds the gorgeous East in fee. But his scruples were overcome, and Mr. H. H. Fowler went to the India Office, where he remains at this moment.
A GREAT MIDDLE-CLASS MAN. Such in brief and hurried outline is the story of the career of one of the most universally respected members of the new school of Liberal middle-class statesmen. His life story is not so romantic, nor is his personal character as full of light and shadow as that of some brilliant adventurers who have climbed from the lowest rung in the social ladder to where they were able to swagger in the foretop of the State. Mr. Fowler was never quite at the bottom. He may never be quite at the top. Whether near the bottom or the top, he was never a swaggerer, and never could be accused of any conduct inconsistent with the character of a shrewd, cautious, solid, conscientious Englishman, with a passion for work, inexhaustible, quiet, good-humoured, and quite a genius for getting his own way.
II.-THE MEASURE. The Parish Councils Act is the work of Mr. Fowler. He was aided no doubt by Sir W. Foster and his permanent staff, but he lias as much right to have his name associated with the great reform of our local government as Mr. Forster with the Education Act, or Sir Robert Peel with the Repeal of the Corn Laws. For good or for evil it marks an era in the development of self-government in England. It is in some senses the crowning of the edifice of democratic reconstruction. It introduces everywhere the principle of election, it ignores the distinctions of sect and station, and covers the whole land with a network of local representative institutions.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AS IT WAS. Mr. Fowler's speech on introducing the Bill was an ideal presentation of a great and complex subject. How great and how complex it was we can form some slight idea from the following passage, in which in a few succinct sentences he described the administrative chaos with which he had to deal :
Some years ago a high authority, now sitting in this House, said there was no labyrinth so intricate as the chaos of our local administration. I will tell the House in a few sentences the extreme anonialies under which we live, so far as our local administration is concerned. An inhabitant of a borough in this country lives in a fourfold area for the purpose of local government-in a borough, in a parish, in a union, in a county. None of these areas are coterminous unless by accident. Different parts of a borough may be in different parishes, unions, and counties, and an inhabitant is often governed by five authorities--the council, the vestry, the burial board, the board of guardians, and the quarter sessions. The inhabitants of a local board district live under precisely the same number of areas and governing bodies, except that the local board and its district may be different for different inhabitants. The inhabitant of a rural parish lives in a parish, a union, a highway district, and a county, and may be governed by a vestry, a school board, a burial board, and by justices-in fact, my hon. friend the member for Carnarvonshire once stated in the House that where he lived he was subject to no fewer than 35 different local authorities. Some statistics will show the state of things at the present day. Irrespective of the 52 counties of England and Wales, we have 302 municipal boroughs, 31 Improvement Act districts, 688 local board districts, 574 rural sanitary authorities, 58 other sanitary authorities, 2,302 school boards, 362 highway districts, comprising upwards of 8,000 parishes and 6,477 highway parishes not included in the highway districts, 1,052 burial boards, 618 poor-law unions, 13,775 ecclesiastical parishes, and nearly 15,000 civil parishes. The total number of authorities who tax the English ratepayers is between 28,000 and 29,000. Not only are we exposed to this multiplicity of authority and confusion of rating power, but the qualification tenure, mode of election, and other incidents of all these parishes differ from each other.
A hard worker in the House and in his office, Mr. Fowler has always found his best recreation in the change of work, and such relaxation as he needs in reading in the bosom of his family. One who knows him well says that Mr. Fowler understands most thoroughly how to work, but unfortunately for him he is utterly ignorant how to play. His devotion to his study is so great that he is apt to forget the necessity for physical exercise and the need for occasional relaxation. He is as domestic as Mr. Gladstone. He married a daughter of Mr. Thornycroft, a Midland ironmaster, and his wife and children have always been his favourite companions. His son has acted as his private secretary, and both his daughters have shown that they possess distinct literary gifts. His eldest daughter has published a book of poems, “ Grave and Gay,” while his second daughter, confining herself to prose, has contributed many charming papers to periodical literature, dealing chiefly with child life. Her article on “Glimpses of Child Life,” in Longman's Magazine, attracted much favourable notice from the public, and she is now preparing for press a volume dealing with a similar subject.
AND AS IT IS TO BE.
times on the Parish Councils Bill. The great Poor Law Out of this chaos Mr. Fowler proposed to create cosmos Bill occupied only 14 sittings of the Commons; the by dealing with the whole question in accordance with Municipal Corporations Bill, 15; the Irish Church Disthe simple practical democratic fashion that had been establishment Bill, 18; Irish Land Bill of 1870, 23; followed by the far-seeing statesmen who framed the
Mr. Ritchie's Bill of 1888, 35 sittings (counting both Municipal Corporation Act more than half a century Houses); the Parish Councils Bill occupied 57 sittings. since. Every parish henceforth was to have either its own municipal parliament, or if the population was too The delay was aggravating. The multiplication of sparse its own general assembly of all qualified electors. amendments was hardly disguised obstruction. But Mr. Every householder, male or female, was to have a vote. Fowler never lost his temper, and continued to meet Nothing could be more simple, nothing more obvious.
obstructions and critics from first to last with the But sixty years had to pass after the first Reform Act urbanity and courtesy which has always distinguished before such an obvious, simple, and inevitable corollary him. Most Ministers in his place would have found the to the overthrow of feudalism was to obtain acceptance. temptation to say
almost irresistible. lf Mr. WHY THE CHANGE WAS MADE.
Fowler felt it-for the old Adam is not entirely extinct Mr. Fowler tersely explained why this drastic reform
even in a Methodist class-leader-he resisted the tempter. was required. It was not because the old system was an
If you cannot make a revolution with rosewater, neither anachronism: it was simply because the old system,
can you bounce a great administrative reform through anachronistic or not anachronistic, had failed to achieve
Parliament. Mr. Fowler was patient, courteous, watchful, the ends for which local government was instituted :
conciliatory. More than once his wild men jeopardised
the success of the measure. But he stood to his guns, The sanitary condition of many of our rural villages is
insisted upon meeting critics fairly even when they sat disgraceful, and we are bound to do what we can to remedy a state of things that the urban authorities have endeavoured
in the House of Lords, and in the end he had his reward. to remedy for years. What is the business of local govern
The Act was placed upon the Statute Book, and in ment in rural districts? You want localities supplied with
December the whole country will be covered from end to pure water, the houses and roads properly drained, food end with the councils constituted by Mr. Fowler's Act. unadulterated and uncontaminated, and the dwellings fit for
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE ACT. human beings. For this purpose I submit there is no authority
The part of the Parish Councils Act which most immebetter than the authority of the people who reside in the locality.
diately appeals to me is that which has nothing to do
with parish councils at all. For years past we have A QUESTION APART FROM PARTY. After explaining in detail how he proposed to vest
been labouring away at the reform of the poor law
administration. The constitution of the old boards of power in the hands of the local residents, Mr. Fowler
guardians was such that, outside of parishes with only one concluded his able and comprehensive exposition of his
member, no one was quite sure who was his representagreat Bill by the following worthy appeal to the patriotism
tive, how many votes he had, when the election took of Parliament:
place, or anything else about the board. Mr. Fowler's We ought to deal with this question apart from party, as a
Act at a stroke revolutionises everything. We do not question in which all citizens of the State are interested. I have the hope, I cherish the belief, that the new authority we
know exactly what the parish councils may do. We for the first time create, purely local in character, the parish
all know what the guardians have to do. They are council, with its district council, the town council, and the
charged with the relief of the poor. They are the county council, and the great council of the realm assembled
executors of the trust-the sacred trust-imposed upon in Parliament, will, by harmonious co-operation, by wise all Christian men of seeing that the hungry are fed, that administration, by constantly advancing efficiency, confirm to drink is given to the thirsty, that the naked are clothed, successive generations of Englishmen, these representative and that the houseless are sheltered. If the words of institutions, which are the surest foundation and the strongest our Lord in describing the Last Judgment are to be interbulwarks of individual freedom and national prosperity, preted according to their obvious and simple meaning,
“We ought to deal with this question apart from our lot in the next world will be decided more by the
THE FUTURE BOARDS OF GUARDIANS.
The new Act achieves this by making a clean sweep The Opposition in the House did not respond to his of every complication, restriction, exceptional privilege, public-spirited appeal with much cordiality. The fight or disqualification. Henceforth' boards of guardians over the disestablishment of the last relics of feudalism will be elected on much the same lines as town councils. in the shape of the squire and the parson was carried on As many of my readers will, I hope, be carefully conweek after weck and month after month with extra
sidering what should be done to raise the character of orlinary vehemence.
the new boards, the following brief but authentic sumThe Parish Councils Bill occupied 47 sittings of the mary of the changes made by Mr. Fowler will be Commons and 10 of the House of Lords. The Opposition useful: gave notice of 1,025 amendments, and actually moved
1. All plural voting is abolished. 102. The Government and the Liberal party moved 217 2. All ex officio guardians disappear. amendments. Mr. Fowler has, since Parliament closed, 3. No woman is disqualified by marriage from serving as made a speech in which he stated that he spoke 803 guardian.