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1901.]

Political Lull.

[193

CHAPTER V.

Political Lull-The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in South Africa-International

Congresses at Glasgow-Pan-Celtic Congress in Dublin-Trade Union Congress at Swansea : Anxieties Caused by the House of Lords’ Decision in the Taff Vale Case - Labour Department Report - Dispute in the Grimsby Fishing Trade - Riotous Proceedings — British Sorrow at the Murder of President McKinley - Dissatisfaction at the Slow Progress of the WarNewspaper Criticisms on the Appointment of Sir R. Buller to command the First Army Corps—War Office Explanatory Communiqué—Sir R. Buller's Westminster Speech-His Dismissal from his Command-Public Opinion thereon-Mr. Long's Defence of Mr. Brodrick–N.E. Lanarkshire ElectionMr. Asquith at Ladybank—Mr. Redmond's Reply-Renewed Boer Activity -Lord Halsbury's Sort of Warfare" - Mr. Brodrick's Letter to Sir Hi. Vincent-Sir M. Hicks-Beach at Oldham-Mr. Chamberlain on Temperance Reform-Public-house Trust Companies—Mr. Asquith on the Liberal and Nationalist Parties—Mr. Chamberlain at Edinburgh-Sir H. CampbellBannerman's Autumn Campaign-Church Resolutions on the Education Question—The Concentration Camps—Mr. Brodrick's Letter to the Bishop of Rochester—The Bishop's Speech_Lord Salisbury at the Guildhall-Mr. Brodrick in the City-Favourable Effect on Public Opinion-War Office Reforms-German Agitation about Mr. Chamberlain's Edinburgh SpeechIsthmian Canal Treaty and Good Relations with United States—The Duke of Cornwall's Welcome Home; Created Prince of Wales; Successful Speech in the City-Liberal Differences about the War-Derby Meeting of National Liberal Federation-Conflicting Comments by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and Sir E. Grey-Lord Rosebery's Chesterfield Speech-Its ReceptionClose of the Year.

For some five or six weeks after the prorogation of Parliament there was a deep calm in the political world, which was not sensibly fluttered by the result of the Andover election (Aug. 26). The vacancy caused by the sad death, through a cab accident, of Mr. W. W. B. Beach (C.), the “Father of the House of Commons," was filled by the return of Mr. E. B. Faber (C.) by 3,696 against 3,473 votes. This majority of 223, however, compared unfavourably with the unopposed return of Mr. Beach at three previous general elections, and his majority of 1,451 on a poll of 7,667 in 1885, and gave the Opposition exceptionally good ground for claiming a "moral victory. ”

Their candidate, Mr. Judd, it should be said, had the advantage of being a Hampshire man (which Mr. Faber had not, though he had a brother living in the Andover Division), and disclaimed any pro-Boer sympathies. This election, however, created but little general interest. There might not have been, and indeed there was not, very much to show in the way of legislative output for the session of 1901, but its labours appeared to have produced a general sense of exhaustion on the part of those who had engaged in them, and by common consent there was a marked abstinence on both sides from the political platform during the latter part of August and the whole of September. In regard to the war this silence was doubtless aided during the first few weeks of the recess by the hope, for which, however, the telegrams sent by Lord Kitchener as to replies he had received from the Boer leaders in the field gave little encouragement,

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that his Proclamation of August 6 might result in a general submission on or before September 15. Even in South Africa, however, there was a pleasant, if transient, variation from the grim record of military operations in the accounts of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Their Royal Highnesses were peculiarly happy in the expression of their appreciation of the gallantry and devotion so freely displayed by the colonists during the war, their sympathy for the manifold sufferings it had entailed, and their hope for the early restoration of peace, and the infusion “ of a spirit of mutual forbearance and reconciliation ” into the hearts of the people. Many of the Dutch inhabitants of Cape Colony took a loyal share in the reception of the Duke and Duchess, and their visit was also signalised by a great gathering of native chiefs from all parts of South Africa, who presented their fealty.

While there was a distinct lull in the political world, the latter part of August and the month of September were marked even more than usual by the holding of congresses on a great variety of subjects. Apropos, more or less, of the remarkably successful International Exhibition which was held at Glasgow during the summer and autumn, that city was chosen for the meeting of the International Law Conference and the International Engineering Congress. It would be outside the scope of this work to offer any account of the proceedings at these highly interesting assemblies. Two points may, however, suitably be noted with regard to the first-named gathering. The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Alverstone), who presided in the unavoidable absence of the Lord Chancellor, was at pains in his opening address (Aug. 20) to pay a tribute, from personal knowledge, to the earnestness with which Lord Salisbury laboured in the cause of international arbitration in connection with the Treaty of Arbitration which was agreed upon by the British and American Governments in 1897, but which failed to secure the two-thirds majority of the United States Senate required for its confirmation. The conference passed unanimously, on the motion of Mr. Thomas Barclay, President of the British Chamber of Commerce in Paris, a resolution urging a general arbitration treaty between this country and France-a project which certainly had a somewhat millennial appearance. At the Engineering Congress, which was held, with as many as 3,000 members in attendance, in the first week of September, and which, of course, heard and considered contributions on a great variety of subjects connected with engineering progress, special interest was attracted by a paper by Mr. James Barton on the question of a submarine tunnel between Scotland and Ireland, and a distinctly hopeful tone marked the opinions given by the author and other eminent experts in regard to the practicability of that great project.

Another gathering which, as the first of its kind, attracted & certain amount of half-sympathetic, half-amused interest, was

1901.)
The Trade Union Congress.

[195 that of the Pan-Celtic Congress in Dublin in the first week in September, attended by delegates from Brittany, the Isle of Man, Wales, and the Scottish Highlands, as well as Ireland. Irish peers like Lord Inchiquin and Lord Castletown of Upper Ossory, whose political orthodoxy was as unimpeachable as their high Erse descent, took part in the proceedings, side by side with Mr. W. B. Yeats, who averred that if the "language movement,” which it was one of the chief objects of the congress to foster, went on as it had been doing, it would be *shaking Governments." Much learning was shown in papers read on such subjects as Highland Gaelic music, Celtic art, and kindred topics, but discussion on the national dress, and the occasions suitable for wearing it by whole-hearted Celts, aroused some mirth in Saxon breasts.

The meeting of the Trade Union Congress, which was held at Swansea, also in the first week of September, was noteworthy for the anxiety very naturally manifested with regard to the possible results of a decision given by the House of Lords (July 22), reversing that of the Court of Appeal, and restoring the judgment which the latter court had upset, of Mr. Justice Farwell in the Taff Vale picketing case (see ANNUAL REGISTER for 1900, pp. 193-4). Under the law as thus finally declared, trade unions found themselves liable to be sued for damages on account of injuries sustained through unlawful conduct of persons acting on their behalf. The Law Lords—the Lord Chancellor (Halsbury), and Lords Macnaghten, Lindley, Shand and Brampton--who were parties to this judgment, appeared to hold that the law had never been other than wbat they declared. In face of such authority that view could not well be gainsaid, and among the general public the best opinion was that the principle embodied in the law as thus laid down was a sound and just one. But. undoubtedly, the common understanding as to the effect and intention of the body of legislation passed in the 'seventies, and known collectively as the “Workmen's Charter," had been that unions could neither sue nor be sued, and it was a very severe shock to their members to discover that their collective funds were liable to be drawn upon indefinitely to make good any business injuries caused by, or attributed to, illegal action on the part of individuals representing them. The disagreeable effect of the House of Lords’ judgment in trade unionist circles was the greater in view of the fact that other comparatively recent decisions, and especially one of the Appeal Court in 1896, had seemed to place somewhat severe legal limitations even on "peaceful picketing.” Thus it was felt that if a resort on behalf of the active members of a union to almost any form of pressure, for the dissuasion of workmen from taking the place of those who might be on strike, would expose the union concerned to the risk of being cast in heavy damages, the strength of labour combinations might prove to have been seriously crippled.

Even anxieties of this kind could not excuse the reference by the president of the Swansea congress, Mr. C. W. Bowerman, to the decision of the Lords as of a semi-political character, and the less so as in the report of the Parliamentary Committee of the congress, of which he was chairman, attention was called to the decisions of the same tribunal as having been uniformly favourable to the interests of the workmen in cases arising out of the Compensation Act passed a few years previously. One or two other speakers at the congress also employed unjustifiable expressions about the Taff Vale decision. On the whole, however, the action and temper of the congress in regard to the new situation created by the judgment were marked by prudence and self-restraint. A resolution was brought forward on behalf of the Parliamentary Committee, which was to the effect that a test case should be taken through the courts to settle how far picketing might be carried without infringing the law, and so rendering the funds of trade unions liable for damages ; and also that the rules of the unions should be amended in order to secure protection against some of the consequences of the Lords' decision. This was amended, with the concurrence of the committee, by the addition of words urging each society to promote such an improvement in the law as would meet with the approval of congress, and, after further debate, was unanimously carried. In supporting the amendment Mr. Bell, M.P., secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, which was involved in the Taff Vale case, said that, in his opinion, it would be hopeless to attempt ever to get back the status quo before the Lords' decision, but that an amendment of the Trade Union Act must be secured to protect all funds raised for benevolent purposes. The resolution just mentioned was supplemented by another, declaring in favour of the establishment of a fund under the control of the Parliamentary Committee, to fight actions involving points of law affecting the general position of trade unions.

The strong Radical colour usually predominating at trade union congresses showed itself at Swansea in the adoption of resolutions condemning recent action of the Government and the Board of Education as imposing hindrances to the development of education, and also condemning the new taxes imposed in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget. But it was significant that when an attempt was made to suspend the standing orders in order to discuss a pro-Boer resolution, demanding the immediate cessation of hostilities in South Africa, the permission was refused by votes representing 724,000 against 333,000 constituents. This was not the same, indeed, as a rejection by the same preponderance of representative votes of the stop-the-war resolution, but at any rate the votes of the congress displayed somewhat more of an aversion than had been shown on some former occasions to the employment of its

1901.] The Relations between Capital and Labour. (197 authority in support of resolutions entirely disconnected with industrial objects. The conservative temper of trade unionism in England within its own sphere was illustrated by the rejection by 676,000 to 366,000 of a resolution in favour of compulsory arbitration in labour disputes. The adverse majority, indeed, was not as heavy as in the previous year, but when the unions furnishing it were taken into account, and also the speeches in the debate, there seemed to be abundant reason for the conclusion that there was a large and influential balance of opinion among the organised working-classes of England against the State regulation of the remuneration of adult labour. Among the other resolutions passed at the Swansea congress were those demanding further legislation on the housing question, and pressure from the Board of Trade upon the railway companies to issue cheap tickets (including third-class season tickets) to all classes of workmen, and a condemnation, opposed as usual by the representatives of the Lancashire cotton industry, of the practice of sending children to work in factories before the age of fifteen.

Attention had been called in the Annual Report of the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, which happened to come out a few days before the meeting of the Trade Union Congress, to the gratifying fact that while there had been a great amount of alteration in wages, almost entirely in an upward direction, during the year 1900, those changes were arranged for the most part without any stoppage of work, only 5 per cent. of the workpeople whose wages were changed being engaged in disputes on that account. This was “ largely due," as the Labour Commissioner (Mr. H. Llewellyn Smith) pointed out, “to the extent to which wages in the coal, iron, and other staple trades were now adjusted by conciliation and wages boards, sliding scales, or similar machinery.”. A like remark, doubtless, applied to the general absence of strife with which in the first six months of 1901 declines in wages of nearly 30,0001. a week, the fall being most marked in the mining and the iron and steel trades, had been arranged.

The only labour dispute which was of sufficient magnitude to excite general attention in the autumn of 1901 was one in the fishing trade of Grimsby, which caused much distress and was attended by somewhat serious disorder. It was mainly, at least on the face of it, a question of wages. These the federated owners of the Grimsby steam trawlers held that it was necessary to reduce, but in the scheme for a reduced scale, which they put forward on August 15, the principle of a share in the profits of the fishing operations, which hitherto had only been enjoyed by the skippers and mates of the vessels, was proposed to be extended to the engineers and all the other members of the ships' companies. To this principle the men had no objection, but they were dissatisfied with the rates actually offered ; other grievances were brought up; and the result was a stoppage of work for

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