On June 12th 1913, sixty years before the UK joined the EEC, and 103 years before it voted to leave it, The New Age, a well-known Socialist weekly, published a prescient article by one of its frequent contributors, Joseph Finn (1865 – 1945), a former tailor who, according to one source, became ‘one of the first Jewish labour leaders in Britain.’ In it Finn put forward a radical economic alternative to the political vision of a ‘United States of Europe’ that Sir Max Waechter had outlined in a recent issue of The Fortnightly Review.
On the eve of a possible war between Britain and Germany Waechter had argued that there were no political, racial or dynastic reasons why the two nations should not join as the prime movers of a larger European Union. Finn, however suggested that the basis for any such federation should not be political, but economic. Germany and Britain were in direct economic competition with one another and therefore were unlikely to cooperate within a proposed political union, but might even go to war in furtherance of their own economic ambitions. Finn continued:
‘If nations were not afraid of competition they would not surround themselves with tariff walls. England is no exception, though she is a Free Trade country. English free trade originated in a period when England was the workshop of the world. On the one hand, she had no rivals; on the other hand, she stood in need of cheap food for her factory hands. Such economic conditions were the natural mother of the political institution of Free Trade. Now, having lost her monopoly in manufacture, and she being compelled to face formidable rivals, we see growing up a political tendency towards Protection. Thus we see clearly the truth of the sociological law, that the political structure of society is the outcome of the economic structure.’Continue reading →
Leon Gambetta—‘ the grand orateur et homme d’Etat’.
So reads the printed label stuck on the back of this carte de visite by a French dealer sometime early in the twentieth century. It is indeed a ‘ curieuse piece ‘, as the dealer avers. Gambetta has addressed in pencil, above his printed name, the following remark to an unidentified friend or colleague:
‘Le crise dures toujours, impossible de mettre le nez dehors…’
(The crisis is lasting for ages, impossible to stick ones nose outside…)
Historians might debate what crisis Gambetta is referring to. There were doubtless several in the tempestuous political career of one of France’s greatest heroes. But the date of 12th December that Gambetta adds at the end of his message might offer a clue. In Paris from 23rd November to 15th December 1877 the improbably named President McMahon presided over a ministry that excluded all ‘parliamentary hands‘ like Gambetta and his democratic colleagues. During this period it was felt that MacMahon was planning a coup d’etat and this crisis came to a head around December 10th and 11th. The idea was to deny power to Gambetta, who may have felt that his life was in danger during this time. Excluding Gambetta worked for a few years, but eventually, in 1881, he was asked to form a ministry. This lasted for just 66 days.
Around late November 1882 Gambetta was shot in the stomach, but this was an accident. However, it may have contributed to the stomach cancer that eventually claimed his life, on 31st December 1882.
Here is a signed photo of that amazing woman, Frances Willard ( no relation of Dolf !!), an icon of American feminism, who almost single – handedly organised the suffragist movement in the States from the mid nineteenth century until her comparatively early death (probably partly from sheer hard work) in 1898 aged 58. As a committed proto-Socialist and president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) for 19 years she lobbied on an enormous range of progressive social issues, including the voting rights of all women over the age of 21, federal aid for education, free school lunches, unions for workers, an eight-hour working day, municipal sanitation, national transportation, anti-rape laws and protections against child abuse. On the issue of female suffrage she argued that women could only be safe from male violence in their own homes if they were seen as ‘companions and counsellors of men’ rather than their playthings.
Willard made several tours of the UK to promote her ideals and it was probably on one of these appearances in October 1895 that she signed as ‘your affectionate sister’ this mass-produced photo of herself. Three years later she was dead. [R.R.]
From the papers of L.R. Reeve*. His account of a major figure, much chronicled elsewhere, but with some unique insights as Reeve saw him speak many times, even in parliament.
DAVID LLOYD GEORGE
In some ways Lloyd George is a difficult subject, as so many people have heard the same stories from various sources, there is always the possibility that many have been heard on previous occasions. I heard him first, in the House of Commons during the First World War, and unexpectedly the topic under discussion was an increase in the charges for alcoholic drinks. I remember little about the speeches except that prices would be increased for the miner who wanted to wash down the coal-dust with many libations, and that for the purposes of the Act Guinness would be in the same category as beer. Continue reading →
Found among the Reeve* papers this short memoir of Lord Haldane - i.e. Richard Burdon Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane KT, OM, PC, KC, FRS, FBA, FSA (1856 – 1928) an influential British Liberal Imperialist and later Labour politician, lawyer and philosopher. As with many of Reeve's pieces he had never met the man but had seen him give speeches at congresses and describes his speaking style well. He writes '...many have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." For Reeve the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will.'
When one begins to delve into the pages of great books of reference, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, there are times one stops at a certain page and reads with an increasing sense of wonder and respect. I was looking for Haldane, and as I read the wonder grew. So this was the man treated so contemptuously by most of us during the First World War! Continue reading →
If the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells out of Blackadder was a grotesque fiction—the reign , centuries later, of Henry Philpotts, one of whose letters is reproduced here, is something we might associate more with tyrannous Tudor bishops than with their supposedly anodyne Victorian successors.
Philpotts (1778 - 1869 ) was Bishop of Exeter between 1830 and 1869—the longest episcopacy since the 14th century. One of 23 children of an innkeeper, he is said to have been elected a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, at just 13, and graduated five years later. In 1802 he was ordained and by 1809 had held four livings, cementing in that time a lucrative connection with the diocese of Durham, where he became a Canon. Some idea of his aggrandising nature may be gained by the fact that after his election to the bishopric of Exeter in 1830 he asked that he be allowed to retain his former living of Stanhope, Co Durham which, due to the value of church land in such coal-rich territory, was then worth the enormous sum of £4,000 p.a.—amazingly £1,000 more than his new bishopric. This happy arrangement was refused, but Philpotts was permitted to keep a residentiary canonry at Durham, which brought with it a similar sum to that which he had lost, and which he retained until his death. The distance between Durham and Exeter is around 350 miles, which raises the question as to how often he, as Bishop of Exeter, was able to satisfactorily fulfil his obligations as a residentiary canon at Durham.
In the December 1959 issue of the British magazine Prediction is a remarkable attempt by an astrologer named Katina Theodossiou to predict the political careers of the two contenders for the imminent 1960 Presidential election.
By temperament he will be a pacifist, not a war-monger; but he would not be inclined to veto armaments, nuclear or otherwise, because of this. He has a very realistic streak blended with his well-publicized religious principles. Mr Kennedy will believe that the best way to assure peace is to remain strong.
His capacity for compromise (a Libran trait) would lie in his responding, within limits, to any concessions made by the Communist bloc, but he would not go the whole hog, nor would he initiate concessions…For all his instinctive adaptability, Mr Kennedy’s shrewdness would come badly off if any sudden crisis were precipitated upon him. Taken unawares, he would react over-hastily; the façade of strength, of imperturbability, would disintegrate; his decisions under such strain would tend to rashness…
Found - a snapshot of W.E. Gladstone (1809 - 1898) the original 'Grand Old Man' (G.O.M.) at his country seat Hawarden Castle. He was Prime Minister 4 times, resigning finally at the age of 84. At the time of this shot (1877) he was out of office. Written on the back of the photo (found in a book by W.N.P. Barbellion) is 'Gladstone Centenary, December 29th 1909' (crossed out). Unique photo of late Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone taken at Hawarden in 1877.' Under this is a stamp 'E.J. Lavell 115 Bedford Hill, Balham S.W.' This is presumably the shop that processed the photo. An online image search reveals another fuller shot (on flickr) from the same session revealing that the implement to his right is an axe and showing his straw boater on the ground beside him. There is a note stating that he was relaxing after chopping wood.
This rant on Harold Wilson's Labour Government came from the Wells (Somerset) Conservative Association. It was a one page flyer printed in blue ink and had first appeared in The Daily Telegraph. Anthony Lejeune, a highly competent journalist and author is not gifted with a Wikipedia page but there are traces of his career from a search on the site. He wrote a history of London clubs and has written about Arthur Machen and Fr. Brocard Sewell. He has written about Ernest Bramah in The Tablet which may mean he is a Catholic and almost certainly a book collector…the piece (very slightly truncated) is very much of its time (circa 1966). Politicians are no longer condemned for wearing the wrong clothes at parties.
The Worst Government for 100 years? by Anthony Lejeune.
Do you remember George Brown on television, flanked by leaders of industry and the trade unions, flourishing his fatuous Declaration of Intent? Do you remember the commentators solemnly telling us that this marked a watershed in the history of British industrial relations? And do you remember any of those commentators apologising to us since for having been taken in by so naive a piece of nonsense? I don't.
Do you remember the National Plan?
I got into trouble with the BBC for treating it, the week it was published, with the disrespect which it soon proved to deserve. I'm still waiting for an apology or even an admission that I was right.
[More from the papers of L.R. Reeve* who writes:] I remember, somewhere around 1907, reading a wrong prognostication in a Manchester newspaper, the 'Daily Despatch', about Lloyd George, Grey, Runciman, McKenna, Birrell, Samuel, Haldane, Morley and Winston Churchill.
Nine names of nine outstanding men who, under Henry Herbert Asquith, formed one of England's strongest cabinets ever known. The cabinet was so powerful, said the prophetic journalist, that Asquith might never be able to control so formidable a group of parliamentarians. We all of course know that he did, and that by 1914 some far -reaching acts of parliament had been passed by the government.
One of the early acts, causing the lengthy, bitter 'ninepence for fourpence' controversy and angry snarls about stamp-licking can never be forgotten by octogenarians, and I cannot believe that widespread antagonism towards individual members of parliament today is as vindictive as that of my young days; and as yet parliament hasn't witnessed the unprecedented scene encountered by Asquith when he rose to speak on the bill abolishing the veto of the House of Lords. For nearly an hour he stood almost unheard against the continuous roar of anger from the opposition. Finally he sat down defeated by the pandemonium. Later the incident was known as 'the Pothouse Brawl'.
Discovered in the library of descendants of geneticist Dr. Redcliffe Salaman, author of The History and Social Influence of the Potato (1949 ) is the final volume of an Elzevier Press edition of Lucan’s Pharsalia, dated 1671.
It’s fitting that the poem treats of the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Senate headed by Pompey the Great, because it was found among the rubble of Arras, blitzed by the Germans in 1916, by a soldier, Major Daniel Hopkin, MC, who on returning home to England presented it to Salaman’s son Raphael (then aged about 10 ), who just happened to be one of his private pupils. On further investigation, the friendship between Salaman senior (b 1874) and Hopkin, his junior by 12 years, becomes even more intriguing.
Ross & Norris McWhiter, founders of Guinness Book of Records
In the 1970s a phalanx of right-leaning protests groups emerged in Britain antagonistic to the trade unions and overwhelmingly drawn from Conservative voters. The Current Affairs Press was set-up by Ross McWhirter in 1974 with the ‘express purpose of fighting the unions.' A flyer by McWhirter entitled Standing up to the Unions, reveals working capital of £100,000 and their ability to print three million newspapers a day in the event of a national printers strike. It also describes operation ‘Roadlift’, designed to take effect in the event of a national rail strike. In an experiment in Brighton, two hundred car owners offered 700 seats for more than one thousand commuters who applied for transport facilities. The Current Affairs Press, though officially non-partisan, pledged its support to the new leader of the Opposition: ‘Mrs Margaret Thatcher deserves, and must be given full support not only of the Conservative party but of anti-socialists everywhere.'
Out of it grew The National Association for Freedom (NAFF) possibly the most successful anti-trade union campaign group, attracting some 20,000 members within a year. The flyer, like much political ephemera, is oddly rare but we were sent one by an offshore jotwatcher (PDJ) who found a perfect example in between the pages of an antiquarian atlas. This was a sort of British Tea Party avant la lettre-- the difference with the later American group being that the Roadlift crowd would have actually drunk tea…