Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page

Liberal Meetings 1881 & 1882

Wellingborough & Kettering News, October 22nd, 1881, transcribed by Kay Collins

Meeting at RushdenOn Friday, the 14th inst., Mr. Spencer visited Rushden, the arrangements being carried out by the local Liberal Association. The proceedings commenced with a knife and fork tea in the Temperance Hall, to which about 100 sat down. Mr. W. Wilkins (president of the Association), and Messrs. E. Knight, F. Knight, and W. Coulson acted as carvers, and the tea, and the substantial viands by which it was accompanied, were admirably served by Mrs. Wood, of the Wagon and Horses Inn. The Hon. C. R. Spencer was the guest during his visit of Mr. W. H. Currie, J.P., and shortly before five o'clock the Rushden Temperance Brass Band, conducted by Mr. W. Skinner, proceeded to that gentleman's residence, and having given a selection of music in front of the house played Mr. Spencer down to the hall, where he took tea with the assembled guests. After tea the hall was speedily arranged for the evening meeting, and in the interval the Temperance Band again played in admirable style. The following was the programme of their performances:—Grand selection, "Honoria;" overture, "Tancredi;" quick march, "The Reveller;" quick step, "Many happy returns of the day;" overture, "The drum major's daughter;" valse, "Dorinda."

The public meeting commenced at 7.30, at which hour there was a crowded attendance. On the motion of Mr. G. Denton, seconded by Mr. Packwood, the chair was occupied by Mr. W. H. Carrie, J.P., and amongst those present were the Revs. W. H. Davis and G. Pung (Rushden), and Messrs. N. P. Sharman, C. J. K. Woolston, and J. Heygate (Wellingborough), J. R. Wilkinson (Great Addington), W. Wilkins (Rushden), R. G. Roe (Oundle), &c.

The Chairman, who was cordially received, said though he was not at all well, he had returned home to be present—(applause)—and he trusted they would excuse him giving only a short address. He congratulated them on having so large and influential a meeting to hear his friend Mr. Spencer give an account of his stewardship. (Applause) He could not forget the enthusiastic reception accorded to Mr. Spencer 18 months ago, when he addressed a public meeting and solicited their votes. What struck him (the chairman) most was the orderly behaviour of the people, and he had no doubt, in making the request, that they would be quite as orderly to-night. (Hear, hear) No doubt they were aware that the Government were pledged to bring in a Bill for the extension of the franchise, which would be coupled with one for the redistribution of seats. If he remembered rightly, Lord Russell proposed that a £6 rental should be the limit. Since Johnny Russell's time we had been going ahead, and now what the limit should be in the counties it would be presumptuous for him (the chairman) to say. (A Voice: "Universal suffrage") Well, he trusted that, at any rate, every substantial householder would before long share the right to exercise the franchise. (Applause) He wished for one moment to allude to a local topic in which they were interested. There had been a report afloat for some time that the Conservatives were going to bring out a dark horse to run for the Parliamentary Stakes at the next election. Well, the secret was now out, and the horse is named. But in case any individual should ask for his authority for such a statement, he held in his hand the Standard, in which there was a paragraph stating, in respect to the Conservative candidate for North Northamptonshire, that at a meeting of the Conservative party, held at Kettering, the Hon. William Henry Leopold Powys, brother to Lord Lilford, had been chosen in conjunction with Lord Burghley, M.P., and in opposition to the Hon. C. Robert Spencer, who defeated Mr. Stanford Sackville at the late general election. (A Voice: "He'll get in." (Laughter and ironical cheers) Poor Mr. Sackviile! One wondered what he had to say to it. (Laughter) It was very hard to be treated like that, especially after he had been made deputy-chairman of Quarter Sessions by his brother magistrates. There was a great Conservative demonstration at Lamport, and some of the officials of the late Government patted Mr. Sackviile on the back and said, ''Never mind! You are out now, but you'll be in again before long." The result of the meetings at Wellingborough and Kettering was that poor Mr. Sackville, a personal friend of his (the chairman's), an honourable gentleman, and, as Mr. Spencer could tell them, an honourable opponent—(hear, hear)—had been quietly shunted in favour of Mr. Powys. He (the Chairman) would like to know whether anybody here had seen Mr. Powys; if so, let him kindly hold up his hand. (No response was made to this request.) His only recommendation was that he is a brother of Lord Lilford's, who has a place eight or ten miles from here, and who had a certain peculiarity in keeping a number of birds and wild animals. Perhaps he had an empty cage into which he could put his brother a little while. (Laughter) At any rate it was to be hoped he would kindly send his portrait, because otherwise the gentlemen who took such a prominent part in inviting Mr. Powys might pass him in the street and not know him. (Laughter) The Chairman then referred in eulogistic terms to the great services rendered to the country by Mr. Gladstone, and quoted a passage from one of the Premier's speeches at Leeds, in which the right hon. gentleman expressed his conviction that the Liberal party was in a healthy condition, and only needed to avoid the divisions of 1874 to retain its present majority. He (the Chairman) trusted that in their own county they would remain united, for if they were only united he believed they would have the satisfaction of returning Mr. Spencer again and again as one of the knights of the shire; to represent the division in the Imperial Parliament. (Loud cheers)

Mr. J. R. Wilkinson proposed the first resolution, "That in the opinion of this meeting Her Majesty's Government has so far fulfilled its promises as to deserve the support of all Liberals." He said that he had read the recent speeches of Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote, and wanted to refer briefly to the latter. Sir Stafford Northcote was a man of exemplary character and moderate views, a man who never used virulent language, but he supposed his greatest admirer would hesitate to say that he was able to bear the sword wielded for so many years by Lord Beaconsfield. Sir Stafford had said in a recent speech that it was sometimes complained of him that he had no "go," and in this opinion he (the speaker) agreed. He thought, if they mixed Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford together, go of the one and the discretion of the other would make a very good compound. (Laughter) He proposed to give them a picture of the foreign policy of the late Government, and to contrast it with the foreign policy of the present Cabinet, and he would then ask them which policy they preferred and in which party they would place their confidence. Sir Stafford Northcote had said that everything was prepared for the present Government by their predecessors, and that the European scene was exceedingly advantageous for them. He quoted, however, in opposition to Sir Northcote the opinion of Lord Beaconsfield who upon the eve of the election last year said that rarely in this century had there been an occasion more critical, and that the power of England and the peace of Europe depended largely on the verdict the country then gave. He did not often agree with Lord Beaconsfield, but he thoroughly agreed with what his lordship said upon that occasion, for he believed that the power of England and the peace of Europe had depended on the advent of a Liberal Government to power. The speaker then referred in trenchant terms to the foreign policy of the late Ministry, and showed that upon Mr. Gladstone accepting office the present Government had restored the concert of Europe, and disposed of the Montenegrin and Greek difficulties. England had taken the lead in all the negotiations with Turkey, her moral power had been acknowledged by the nations of Europe, and the latest evidence that the power of England had not declined in the estimation of Europe was the reply given by the French Minister to Lord Granville's despatch respecting Tripoli. When a Liberal Minister spoke he meant it, and all the other Powers of Europe knew it. (Cheers) There were two policies before them; which did they approve of? The speaker concluded by a warm eulogy upon Mr. Gladstone. His popularity was not the homage paid to intellectual greatness only to moral uprightness and purity of character. (Cheers) Long might he live, and long might the principles live which had been the foundation of his greatness. (Loud cheers)

The Hon. C. R. Spencer, who was received with prolonged cheering, thanked them for the enthusiastic manner in which they had received him, and briefly apologised for not having paid them an earlier visit. The Rushden men set a good example at the general election, which some places in the North would do well to follow. Private differences had been laid aside, and 80 of the electors had marched together to the poll. Organisation was the soul of success, and when he was told in 1880 what the Rushden electors had done, he thought it was a great pity that the example had not been generally followed. Sir Stafford Northcote attributed the defeat of the Conservatives at the last general election to a want of organisation among the party. Well, that was his opinion, and he had a right to it. But he (the hon. member) thought Sir Stafford was ignorant of the real cause, or, if not, that he had found it like a rather hot potato, and could not swallow it. (Laughter) The real cause was that which was connected with the glorious success of the Premier in Midlothian. He had no immediate connection with Midlothian, but it was one of the last strongholds of the Tories, and with that lion-like courage and fortitude characteristic of him, he determined to attack it. He did attack it, and carried it. (Applause) He (the hon. member) had forgotten the day, but when the news came he remembered his friend the hon. member for Stamford jumping on a chair and reading out that Mr. Gladstone had got in for Midlothian by 211 votes.

A feeling then came over them all that the defeat of Imperialism, of Jingoism, and land-grabbing was at an end, and so it proved. The owls and the bats had gone out into the darkness, fleeing from a light which they could not face. (Cheers) Lord Macaulay, in one of his finest essays, said that Lord Somers was hated by his foes for his magnificent genius, but for the purity of his character and the majesty of his virtue much more; and that would apply equally to Mr. Gladstone, who was hated for his genius, but detested by his foes for his power of organisation and his ability as a financier, while his pure and straightforward character had endeared him to the hearts of the English people. (Applause) There was, however, one matter in connection with our foreign policy which had led to much obloquy being heaped on Mr. Gladstone and Liberal politicians, and that was for the course which had been taken in respect to the Transvaal. It was said that because we preferred to do what was right, rather than pander to the desire for what he might call meretricious glory, we were doing that which was injurious to the spirit of the English troops. Look what we did in the case of the Zulus! We went to war with them, destroyed their constitution, and took away their king, and now they were called the saviours of the nation. And why should Mr. Gladstone, who was of all others so fond of liberty, be called the saviour of the Transvaal? He had given the Boers their liberty, and so far from censuring him for the unfortunate circumstances under which it was given, he (the hon. member) was proud to follow under his leadership. (Applause) Because he had done that, the Liberals were accused of being unpatriotic and disloyal, but the mere fact that they were told so did not make it so. Mr. Gladstone had said that he shared in common with all other classes in England, devout loyalty to the throne and the institutions of the country. That ought to be answer enough to the Tories, who said the Liberals were unpatriotic because they did not wish to have Cyprus, or even a vaguely defined but strenuously supported scientific frontier in India, He (the Hon. C. R. Spencer) did not know what advantage it was to have Cyprus, though probably some of those gentlemen at Newcastle and elsewhere did. North Northamptonshire, lived in the darkness of Radicalism, and he supposed could not know. However, he happened to have a friend in the navy who had been at Cyprus, and he told him that it would cost millions to make the ports useful. Still it had a magnificent sound to hear the Queen styled "Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, the Isle of Man, and Cyprus." (Laughter) The true reason why Liberals were called disloyal was because they were trying to live peacefully, and on terms of amity with all other nations. (Applause) Mr. Spencer then proceeded to touch on the Irish question, remarking that land there was held under an entirely different system from what, it is in England, and that was a sufficient answer to the Tory jibes and jeers and the assertion that a Bill on similar lines would be introduced for England. Having alluded to Mr. Parnell as probably eating his supper now peacefully in Kilmainham gaol, the hon. member amusingly compared Mr. ParneJl and his followers to Jacobins in the Reign of Terror, and those who wished the Land Act to have a fair trial to the Girondists, with this difference, that in France there was the danger of having your head cut off, so that you would not need anything more to eat, and in Ireland you had your head, but there was the danger of not getting anything to put in. Now that the ringleader was arrested-(applause)-he thought the Irish people who wanted peace and quietness would wish for the test of the Land Act. (Applause) He (Mr. Spencer) was prepared to give the Land Act a very fair trial, and he thought the Irish—who were, he believed, a law-abiding, only an easily excited people—would, after reading Mr. Gladstone's speeches, be willing to give it a fair trial. (Applause) Mr. Spencer next alluded to the obstruction in the House of Commons, and said it was important that freedom of speech should not grow into license of speech. (Applause) Sir Stafford Northcote had recently stated that he tried to cope with the difficulty when he was in power. All he (Mr. Spencer) could say to that was that if Sir Stafford Northcote did try to cope with it he was very unsuccessful, as in 1880, when the Liberals went into office, no one had any chance of speaking at all except the Fourth Party and the Irish members. (Laughter) Sir Stafford Northcote went on to say that he would not submit to any restrictions being put on free speech, but the Liberals and Conservatives had different ideas of what was free speech. (Hear, hear) It was free speech according to Conservative ideas for Lord Randolph Churchill and Lord Percy to take up 11 out of 12 hours— (Laughter)—but it was license if Mr. Charles Russell occupied ten minutes. What Sir Stafford Northcote would like would be to hear Lord R. Churchill and Earl Percy always jawing—to use a vulgar expression—and not hear any Liberal. (Laughter) Coming to the question of the County Franchise, Spencer said it must come, and he owned that was pleased it must. (Applause) He did not fear it, as he had been told he should be supported if such a measure was passed, and, therefore, personally, he had a great longing for it to come. (Applause) The Tories would not like it, but they would have to accept it. (Applause) In conclusion, Mr. Spencer observed that the present Government had passed through two long and weary Sessions, but still they had been exceedingly grand ones. (Applause) Last year they passed the Burials Bill and this year the Land Act, and therefore he claimed that they had helped those who wanted help, and he had the utmost confidence that when lie again wanted their support they would give it to him. (Cheers) Since he had been their member he had endeavoured on all occasions to carry out the glorious evangel of Liberalism which was embodied in the phrase "Peace, retrenchment, and reform" (Prolonged cheers)

The resolution was then put to the vote and carried with enthusiasm.

Mr. Roe in proposing the next resolution, expressed his satisfaction that they were now able to meet to congratulate one another that they had a share in carrying out a policy which had been for several years advocated in that room. Nor was their share a mean one, for their young member had given proof of his attachment to the principles and the great leader of the party. (Cheers) At the time of the last election it was said that Mr. Spencer would vote in the same lobby as Lord Burghley, but this had not been the case, though he might observe in passing that Lord Burghley took part in but few divisions, other duties keeping him from the House. Mr. Spencer on the contrary had taken part in nearly all the principal divisions. (Cheers) After paying a feeling tribute to the late Rev. W. Bradfield, who had had so much to do with making Rushden what it is, the speaker continued by expressing his thorough confidence in Mr. Spencer's Liberalism. He preferred an honest Tory any day to a sham Liberal, but he believed that their representative wad true to Liberal principles and true to the great statesman at the head of the Government. (Cheers) To be a Liberal was to be a politician who worked for the benefit of the people, but Conservatives maintained monopolies, and advocated a policy of selfishness. The great leaders of the Liberal party had shown sympathy with the downtrodden and oppressed, and had sought to advance the cause of liberty everywhere. (Cheers) He had seen in a newspaper as he came along in the train that Lord Burghley had stated at Peterborough that the publicans were the best helpers the parsons had got. (Laughter) He wondered what their respected vicar said to that. a playful allusion to a coming Conservative "demonstration" at Higham, over which Esau was to preside, and at which he thought Mr. Saekville's ghost might be expected to appear, he referred to the recent political speeches in the north, comparing Mr. Gladstone's utterances to the real grain, and Sir Stafford Northcote's to a heap of chaff, in which it was difficult to find any grains, and what they found were not worth the finding. Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote were like two prophets of woe and lamentation. They laid the Irish troubles at the door of the Government, although they well knew that the Land League was formed in the days of the late Ministry and that Lord Beaconsfield had predicted what had come to pass, Ireland now had a Land Act equal to any posses by any country in Europe, and he believed that great mass of the people were settling down, being ready to take the benefits the Act conferred them. There was still the struggle between law and lawlessness, but the Government were fully alive to the emergency, and if it was considered necessary to put an end to the organisation of the League altogether, the Government would have the support of all true Englishmen. (Cheers) If the Irish people were wise they would settle down in peace, and if they only got sunshine he believed that Ireland would rise again in prosperity, and become the abode of a contented and happy people. (Loud cheers) The speaker next referred to the creation of faggot votes by Tory squires, and said that the Tories continued to manufacture votes in this fashion they would have to retaliate, and for every Tory faggot vote put on five Liberal votes. He concluded by proposing a vote of confidence in the Hon. C. R. Spencer.

Mr. W. Wilkins seconded the resolution. He said that he always envied the previous speaker his ready mode of address, but he occasionally fell into a mistake, and he thought he had done so upon that occasion. He trusted the Liberal party would never go in for creating faggot votes, believed they would be able to secure a majority without having recourse to the shady practices of the Tories. (Cheers) It was always a surprise to him that there were a thousand gentlemen in the country who desired to be members of Parliament. He had never paid but one visit to the House of Commons, and that was upon the occasion when Sir Stafford Northcote was to propose a vote from the exchequer to frighten the Russians. He was among the earliest to present himself, but as the House objected to the presence of strangers daring prayers—(laughter)—he was not admitted till this preliminary had been disposed of. The six hours he spent in the House were among the dreariest he had ever spent in his life. Directly he tried to use an opera glass he was told in tones which were certainly not the most civil that that was not permitted, and if he reached forward to see what was passing below he was in momentary expectation of a tap on the head or an order to "sit down there" (Laughter) The question to be brought forward by Sir Stafford did not come off and there were only about a dozen members in the House. He suggested as much needed improvements, a little music during voting, somewhat softer seals, and more civil attendants. (Laughter) He had been amazed ever since his visit to the House that a thousand gentlemen can be found who desire to go night after night to listen to dreary speeches from irrepressible Irishmen. When they found, however, gentlemen who were thus willing to go to the House they ought to be thankful to them; and when they were represented by a gentleman who voted as wished ninety-nine times cut of every hundred he was entitled to their unabated confidence. (Cheers) He had watched the division list very narrowly, and he was glad to find the name of Mr. Spencer so often appeared. Only once, indeed, had he missed his name in any important division, and that was upon the question of Local Option. He would have been glad if Mr. Spencer had voted in favour of this resolution,—(cheers)—but as he had not done so he freely forgave him and assured him of his continued confidence. (Cheers) If the hon. member would stay with them a little while at Rushden they would convert him on the question,—(laughter) —and he felt sure, that ultimately Mr. Spencer would give his vote in favour of the principle of Local Option. (Cheers) So far as Rushden was concerned they needed the principle just now in lighting as well as liquoring. (Laughter) He concluded by cordially seconding the motion.

The resolution was then put to the vote and unanimously adopted amid hearty cheering.

Hon. C. R. Spencer, in acknowledging the vote, said that as the two magic words had been uttered, he might say that if he had practical Local Option he should stay in Rushden for ever—(great laughter)—but as he could not do so it only remained for him to leave with them his deepest thanks for the kind way in which they had given him that vote of confidence. It had given him great pleasure to come and visit Mr. Currie (A voice: "You've got a good shop," and roars of laughter), and he hoped to repeat his visit upon some future occasion. He begged to propose a vote of thanks to the Chairman.

The vote was carried by acclamation.

Mr. Currie, in briefly responding, said he was glad to welcome Mr. Spencer, and hoped when he next came to Rushden the larger hall now in process of erection would be complete, so that a larger assembly might be accommodated.

The meeting then broke up.

Wellingborough News, 14th October 1882, transcribed by Kay Collins

LIBERAL ASSOCIATION —This Association commenced the winter session on Tuesday evening with, a lecture on Liberalism v. Toryism, in the New Hall. The lecture was given by Mr. Dowse, of Nottingham. The chair was taken by the president, Mr. W. Wilkins, and considering the unfavourable weather there was a good attendance. In opening the proceedings the Chairman said they would not expect a long speech from him, but he thought the subject of the lecture was one of special interest to them as working men at the present time, as the next election would probably be fought under an extended franchise, and they as Liberals should be prepared to meet the altered condition of affairs. He recommended those present to study politics and see which of the two parties had done the most for the working and middle class during the last fifty years. If there were any present who held opposite views he hoped the lecturer would turn them, while he would, no doubt, confirm those who held Liberal principles.—Mr. Dowse, on rising, said he must congratulate them on having such a good room in which to hold their meetings. He endorsed the Chairman's advice that they should be in readiness for the extension of the franchise, and said he hoped to show during his lecture that the policy of the Liberal party entitled them to the continued support of the people. The lecturer then gave an excellent historical sketch of the defence and growth of Liberalism in bygone times. Incidentally he referred to the origin of the large landowners, showing that in the first instance they were merely landholders, but that they had ultimately obtained the ownership of the land on terms entirely opposed to the welfare of the people. Coming down to the time of the American revolt, the lecturer claimed that the history of the young republic showed conclusively that a nation could progress without an established church. He next dealt with the great reform struggle, giving a graphic description of some of the incidents of that memorable chapter in modern history. The lecturer also referred to Catholic Emancipation, and other measures passed by the Liberal party during the present century. Personally be believed in the republican form of government, but he was not sure if the matter were put to the vote that he should not vote far a monarchy, as he did not think at present the people were prepared for a republic. The reign of the present queen had been the best ever known, but this he attributed mainly to the men who had been sent to the House of Commons. The lecturer subsequently referred to the Chartist movement and the repeal of the Corn Laws, paying a high tribute in passing to some of the leaders of the Chartist movement, such men as Vincent, Ernest Jones, and Feargus O'Conner. Coming to later times, the lecturer dismissed Lord Palmerston in a few words as a Whig, but passed a high eulogy upon Mr. Gladstone as a great Liberal statesman. He enumerated the measures due to the efforts of the present premier, and showed that the Liberal party between 1868-74 had remitted £12,000,000 of taxation, against £1,200,000 by the Tory Government between 1874-80. The five years of Tory rule had also cost the country £44,000,000 more than the same period under Mr. Gladstone, notwithstanding that in the latter period the national debt had been greatly reduced. At the close of the lecture discussion was invited, but there being no response, the usual vote of thanks terminated the proceedings.

Wellingborough News, 2nd December 1882, transcribed by Kay Collins

Church Disestablishment

Rushden Liberal Association.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6th, 1882,


Of the Liberation Society, will Lecture in the New Hall, Rushden, subject:


Doors open at 7.30.

Chair to be taken at 8 by


of Addington.

Admission FREE.

Friends are, kindly advised to be punctual in presenting themselves at the doors, as no seats can be reserved on this occasion.

Wellingborough News, 6th January 1883, transcribed by Kay Collins


On Wednesday, Jan. 10,


President of the National Agricultural Labourers Union, Will Lecture in the


Chair to be taken at 8 p.m., by the Rev. G. PUNG

Collection in aid of the funds of the Association

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the History index
Click here to e-mail us