Page images
PDF
EPUB

JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN 561

In 1858 Mr. Bright told us that one-sixth of the electors returned half the House of Commons. At this moment, in 1883, one-fifth of the electors do the same. A population of 6,000,000 in the United Kingdom in 85 counties returns 136 members, and a similar population of exactly the same number in 217 boroughs returns 290 members, and a third popu1ation, also of 6,000,ooo, but residing in 16 great constituencies, only returns 36 members. The last of these 6,000,000 has only one-eighth of the political power which is conferred upon the 6,000,000 in the other boroughs; it has only about one-fourth of the political power which is conferred upon the 6,000,000 in the counties. And why is this last population singled out and its representation 1minimized in this way ? You know that it is the most active, the most intelligent part of the whole population of the Kingdom. The people who live in these great centres of the population enjoy an active political 1ife which is not known elsewhere. They manage their own affairs with singular aptitude, discretion and fairness. Why should not they be allowed to have their proportionate share in managing the affairs of the nation ? Well, do you not think that the time has come when we should strive to substitute a real and honest representation of the people for this fraudulent thing which is called representation now 2 I will give you only one more illustration, and I will sit down ; I will not go out of our own county. Warwick is an interesting place. It is generally in rather a dead-alive condition ; but, twice a year, when Birmingham and its vast population is at great expense and inconvenience to carry on its legal business, it awakens into a delusive animation. Warwick has a population of under 12,000 souls, less than the population of any one of the wards of this great borough. Warwick returns two members to Parliament, and if strict proportion were observed there are enough people in this hall to return six members to Parliament. As for Birmingham, our population is 400,000, and the annual increment of that population is so great that every two years we add another Warwick to our number. We return three members, and, lest you should be surfeited with this generous distribution of political power, you are only permitted to give two votes apiece, and so it happens that an elector of Warwick has thirty-four times the political power of every elector of Birmingham. I have a great respect for the electors of Warwick; they seem to me to be modest and humble-minded men. They appear to feel they cannot lay claim to being six times as good, as virtuous, as intelligent as the electors of Birmingham, and consequently they return one Liberal and one Conservative, and so they deprive themselves of political power. Well, that is very public-spirited, and very self-denying ; but why should they be

562 JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN

forced to this alternative, which is very creditable to their good feeling, but very prejudicial to their political interests 2 I need not dwell further upon these anomalies. If they were only anomalies I should not much care, but they are real obstacles to the legislation that is required in the interests of the people. Now, just let me sum up the situation. What does our Constitution do for us? First, it excludes from all political rights more than half the adult male population ; and remember, the class which is excluded is the most numerous class; but it is all one class, and every other class is represented in its last man. Well, then, in the next place, of the remainder four-fifths are outvoted by one-fifth, and so it happens that one-twelfth of what ought to be the whole constituency of the Kingdom returns a majority of the House of Commons. If the one-twelfth really represented the free voice of the people, it would not be of so much consequence; but you know, in many cases at all events, it only represents the influences of some great territorial family, or some local magnate. Among the numerous discoveries which we owe to science, I was much interested some time ago in reading of one which I think was called the megaphone. Its province was to expand and develop the sounds which were intrusted to it. By its means a whisper becomes a roar. Well, at every general election you hear the roar of the parliamentary representative system, and some people are deceived; they think it the thunderous voice of the people to which they are listening. But if they would only trace it to its source they would find it was the whisper of some few privileged individuals swollen and expanded by the ingenious political megaphones which I have described to you.

BOOK VI. The Pulpit Orators of Great Britain

ing from Augustine and Chrysostom, of the

early Church, down to the famous preachers of the reign of Louis XIV., none of British birth were included. Yet the island of Great Britain has been by no means lacking in pulpit orators of fame. Among those of the earlier age, for example, may be included the stern and inflexible leader of the Scottish Reformation, John Knox, who did not hesitate to speak the unvarnished truth to Queen Mary in her palace halls, and Hugh Latimer, the ardent and eloquent Protestant preacher, who died heroically for his faith at the stake. In the eighteenth century we meet with Wesley, the founder of Methodism, whose principles he eloquently disseminated for many years, speaking in the open air to audiences of vast proportions and intent interest; and Whitefield, the originator of Calvinistic Methodism, a man of equal eloquence. The oratory of these men was not classic in form. It represented the unpolished outpourings of their minds to uncultured hearers. But it was eloquent with earnestness and zeal, and reached the hearts of those to whom they spoke. In the nineteenth century the pulpits of England were filled by many orators of fine powers of thought and eloquent rendering. If we should attempt to give all those of graceful oratory, we should run far beyond our limits, and it is necessary to confine our selections to a few of the more famous of these recent preachers.

563

| our series of European pulpit orators, extend

HUGH LATIMER (1472–1555)
A MARTYR TO CONSCIENCE

HE persecution against the Protestants of England by “Bloody T Queen Mary” found its most distinguished victims in Bishops Latimer, of Worcester, and Ridley, of London, and Archbishop Cranmer, of Canterbury. Of these eminent sufferers Latimer showed the highest courage. When bound to the stake, side by side with Bishop Ridley, to be burned to death for conscience sake, he said: “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man ; for we shall this day kindle such a torch, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” In less than a century his word was made good in the great Puritan Revolution. Hugh Latimer was throughout his life distinguished for courage, zeal and piety, and early gained distinction as an eloquent preacher of the Reformed faith.

THE SERMON OF THE PLOW

[Latimer ranks among the earliest of pulpit orators who won fame in England, where his eloquence was long unsurpassed. Of his existing sermons, the most favor. able example of his powers is that in which he neatly compares the labors of the preacher and the plowman, and draws a salutary lesson from the comparison.]

Preaching of the Gospel is one of God's plow-works, and the preacher is one of God's plowmen. Ye may not be offended with my similitude, in that I compare preaching to the labor and work of plowing, and the preacher to a plowman. Ye may not be offended with this my similitude, for I have been slandered of some persons for such things. But as preachers must be wary and circumspect, that they give not any just occasion to be slandered and ill-spoken of by the hearers, so must not the auditors be offended without cause. For Heaven is in the Gospel likened to a mustard seed ; it is compared also to a piece of leaven; and Christ saith that at the last day he will come like a thief. And what dishonor is this to

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic]
« PreviousContinue »