Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

12 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



OPEN LETTERS TO WELSH LEADERS OF OPINION. No. XI. STUART REXDEL, M.P. DEAR STUART,—You and I are such old friends, we can afford to disperse with the idle compliments I have paid to other leaders in my previous letters. And as you have always appeared to me exceedingly anxious that the bald-headed truth should be spoken and written about your colleagues, I cannot but think that you would like the same dose measured out to yourself. You are one of the mild-mannered, old-fashioned sort who died long ago because there was no further use for them in this earnest, stern age. But here you are, still alive and kicking, and as anxious to be in the front as the youngest of them. Indeed, despite your quiet, humble-looking demeanour, there is no man in the House of Commons more vigorously tormented with raging ambition. And though nature has not destined you for a hustings or Parliamentary orator, you are unconvinced of the fact, and believe that the public neglect is due, not to your lack of oratorical gifts, but to incapacity of appreciation. Well, I like a man who holds an average opinion of himself. Self- esteem is denounced from every pulpit and by every moral philosopher in the land yet it abounds notwithstanding and it seems to me 41 z;1 that, in these unregenerate days, we should get on very badly without it. To esteem our neighbour better than one s self is all very well when the preference does not involve much risk, but when it comes to a question of who shall display on the floor of the House, it is a matter bred of another bone. I think it was Dean Ramsay who told the story of an old woman who. when giving a retrospect of her long life, said:—"I have lived 70 years in Glasgow, and, the Lord be thanked, I have always had a good opinion of myself." So you also, Stuart, during the years that have thinned your locks and brought you to the venerable verge of 60, have, without a single flinch, done likewise. An 1 you have cause to be thankful that, amid the heartaches of humbler men, you have ralliei against the cupidity of a sneering public, and comforted yourself with a soothing reflection. Ah things are, after all, wisely regulated in this stern old world. If it we-c otherwise, you and I might be miserable men. But here we are, as self-satisfied as it is possible for half-realised ambition to be. For we are both disappointed so far-I. because I am not a bishop, and you because you are not an ex- Cabinet Minister. But nil (hsperamlum. You are well-connected, and that may serve you in gooi stead. Though Sam Evans, gloating over his single success, declares that you haven't the capacity for a Cabinet Minister, I would have you to look around, as, no doubt, you have often done before, and see the calibre of the Minis- ters and ex-Ministera of the Crown. There are, it is true, a few men like John Morley and Arthur Balfour. who, impartially told up, are perhaps somewhat better equipped legislators than you and 1. But the great majority, like fusty old Chiklers and musty old Fergusson, have only our self-esteem, without our talent. At least, that is our opinion and if we had the silver-tongued oratory of Lloyd G-eorge, we would soon convince the public of the fact. But you and I are poor tools at public talking, though Cicero himself could not take the shine out of us at the fireside or in our own imagina- tion. It is a long time for nn to look back to the first great event in your history. It is just thirty years since you were called to the bar, and for a brief moment you had a yearning glance at the Woolsack. That exalted position fascinated you. and rankled in your youthful bosom, but you early discovered that the path to that proud height lay through a ragged and uncertain country, and not being endowed with that perfervid species of talking that prevails at the bar, you transferred your undoubted tatents to fresh woods and pastures new," and there you have done well. How much the name of Armstrong owes to your energy and wide-awake en- terprise we may- never fully know but I am inclined to believe that Lord Armstrong might have been only Sir William still had" it not been for your co-opera- tion. I know you aspire to an advanced rung on the aristocratic ladder yourself. It is your dream to be Lord something or another before long. And why not ? There are many worse looking lords than you; and many of them are much less able to main- tain its paraphernalia. You are a man of means and substance, and however much you may, on suitable occasions, prate about the blessings of peace, you cannot obliterate the fact that wars and rumours of wars have made you a rich man. The roar of the Armstrong gun is music to your ear and coin to your purse. Some poet has told us, in phraseology I cannot exactly recall, of men who thrive on the means of death. That is quite applicable to you, though I daresay you can justify your- self very plausibly. And as it is not about the manufacture of Armstrong guns that I wish to write to you, I shall not enter the lists against you. It is as a representative of the Welsh people It is as a representative of the Welsh people that I regard you though my intimate ac- quaintance with you leads me to look at you all round, so that the barnacles may be re- moved and you may be trimmed up to appear as well as it is possible to appear, considering the stuff you are made of. I have already told you that you are old-fashioned. I don't think you will be able to get over that fact and as we have fallen on an age when the ways of the past are held in poor esteem, you suffer accordingly. Like monied men of a past gene- ration, you are very fond of the House of Commons as a stepping-stone to the House of Lords. It is a fine club- -the most select in the land; the entrance fee still being, on an aver- age, something like a thousand pounds. And you have studied the ways of the House and have made yourself agreeable there, II must say that you have the gift of making yourself agreeable. I suppose you would call it a gift of diplomacy. Granville, as everybody knows, chose you to serve on a diplomatic mission to the King of Samoa, or the Sultana of Tim- buctoo, or the Grand Duke of Lohenzollstern, or some such important personage. As to how you disported yourself on that occasion history is silent. But. judging from the results of your diplomacy in Montgomery, I should say you exerted a great influence over those primi- tive people. Do you remember how you did the trick in Montgomery ? I confess it was most clever. An Englishman—and still leader of the young Tv ales party a rich man and still a friend of the sturdy Radicalism of Wales: a landlord—and a land reformer a Churchman—and a Disestablisher an aris- tocrat—and the trusted adviser of the de- mocracy. How did yon manage it all ? Few 'know that it was through the preachers that you succeeded that you went straight to the fountain-head of all politico wisdom in Wales, and drained it dry. You asked their opinion they gave it and you acted upon it and suc- ceeded. You have repaid thfcm with liberal donations you have been we'4 dunned and bled. But- remember that a generation is rising which knows not Joseph or. if I may be al- lowed to mix my illustrations, the veneration that now is look to something besides the flesh- pots of Egypt. They want representative Welshmen to speak for them. They \rjH not be content for long with a leader who. while professing the greatest respect for ^Noi^on- formity and dislike of the. Establishment, "Eer meets a preacher on a ground of social equa lly and never forgets to ask a parson—living 01 what you say is not his own—to his parties, and dinners, and social gatherings. With all your diplomacy, you are not greatly liked in the House. Your Welsh colleagues lcok upon you as very small beer and in Montgomery you would not be reckoned much were it not for your money. And as you are drying up in your contributions, do not be alarmed should you hear of a desire that you should show your devotion to Welsh interests by making room for a Welshman who knows the wants of his country as a stranger never can know them. You are in no sense a strong politician. You would be called, by anyone but myself, a weak man. And yet, by your plausible talk and your well-filled purse, you have succeeded in being not only elected a Welsh representative, but also the nominal leader of the Welsh Par- liamentary party. I admire your audacity in asryiriug to such a responsible and exacting position and I also admire the skill with which you have manipulated matters so har- moniously. Of course, circumstances have, as usual, favoured you. They usually do the men who bid boldly. Henry Richard was a man "of a different type from you. He had considerable talent, and he was thoroughly in earnest. But in the art which makes things run smoothly you are quite as successful as he was. Yon also are in earnest. Henry was in earnest about his native land. You are in ear- nest about keeping yourself to the front and securing some ministerial position when the loaves and fishes arc next distributed, by Mr. Gladstone, to the hungry crowd of office- seekers. I do not condemn you on that ac- count you are only doing as has been done since public life was made a selfish game. But I blame you for palavering so much about your Nonconformist principles, while you show all your favours to the parsons. I am well aware that you have contributed pretty freely to the erection of chapels and the support of Non- conformity generally in the county you have the honour to represent in Parliament. But that does not prove your sympathy with Non- conformist principles. It only shows your desire to retain your seat. If you are genuine ion your frequent assertions that you love Non- conformity, show your love in the same way that you show your affection for the Church. Then I will accept your assurances, but not till then. V7 It has often been a wonder to me, Stuart, how you have been able to jockey the Welsh people so long. You have, it is true, disbursed fairly well, but not lavishly, and you are no- toriously ignorant of Welsh affairs. I can tell you something that the public don't know. Your ignorance of Welsh matters is more than equalled by your indifference to them. Those who expect you to be in earnest over the paramount religious and political interests of Wales are simpletons. You are of an alien race. Your customs aud habits of thought are not ours and then you are not an enthusiast. You are a cold-blooded, calculating Saxon, who loves the greatness of England, as we love it, but with this difference. We love the greatness of England because we form part of the empire and have played an honourable part in building up its greatness. You love England because it is greater than Wales and the other nations of the United Kingdom. You never can regard Welsh matters and the aspirations of Wales in the same light and with the same favour as we can. But that is not your fault it is your misfortune. "What is bred in the bone will never come out of the flesh. Where the heart is, says the old Book, there will the treasure be also. But wrhere the treasure is there will the heart be also is Theo- dore Dodd's revised version, and the way you L talk of Italy and all Italian things proves the truth of the latter. For your firm have done a roaring trade with Italy in gunboats and other y implements of dcstructien. You have made a vast amount of money out of Italy, and hence you love to talk of its politics, of its methofls of government, of its statesmen, its poets, its painters of Garabaldi, of Victor Emmannel, L and of its beautiful landscapes and lovely sky. I know it is with an unconscious longing that you dwell on these elements of beauty and characteristics of admiration, but where the treasure is there will the heart be also. I am told that in social converse you always speak of Italy: but no one has ever heard you say one word of Wales. I don't blame you for preferring Italy to Wales, but then why say you love Wales so, if you cannot bring yourself to speak of her except on the political platform ? I am told, too, that you can spin out your Dante, and Boccaccio, and Petrarch, and Alfieri like anything. Who ever heard you quote Dafydd ap Gwilym, or GoronwV Owen, or Ceiriog, poets not less worthy, as Welshmen think ? Again I don't blame you for preferring Italian poets to ours but why pretend such anxiety for a language you don't understand, and whose literature you are ignorant of ? You have only been known to endeavour to say one Welsh word. Once you puzzled your audience by talking of "Simree Yeed." and it was only one phenomenally sharp reporter that discovered you meant to say "Cymru Fydd." What, after all, my clear Stuart, are Wales and the Welsh people to you ? You respect Montgomery because that county had, in your opinion, the good sense to select you for its representative in Parliament. Of course the chapels, for which you don't care a snuff, have since bled you a good deal and other Noncon- formist institutions have to you been a costly luxury. But we have to take the good with the bad in this age of the world's history, and were it not for the Nonconformists of Montgomery you would very probably still have been a carpetbagger, instead of being a fairly well- known M.P., and the recognised leader of a loyal party. I don't mean that the party is loyal to yon. To say that would be a solecism. The party is loyal to the great principles of Liberalism but the members thereof look askance at you. They are not to be blamed on that account. They are, as a rule, and as they ought to be, Welshmen. And also, as a rule, they are men of known political instinct and superior ability to yourself. Therefore it would be strange were they to regard your leadership with trust, and affection. You simply occupy your exalted political position from the exigency and contingency of things. Don't be deluded you are not leader of the Welsh party because of your special fitness for the position you were selected because you are a mild-mannered, plausible gentleman, with a good stock of cash, and a kind of natural, patriarchal bearing. And, as the Western Mail never tires of pointing out, d d Ie> you have succeeded fairly well though my own individal opinion is that it is an undertaker you should have been. You seem as if to the manner born. There are two friends of mine who always appear to me to be singularly gifted for the undertaking profession." You are one, Stewart, and Oily Dan is the other. When you speak ;n the House your dismal tones and your funereal gestures forcibly remind that callous assembly, or the few who remain to listen to you, of this latter end. When the late Mr. Bradlauph was amongst us he told me that your rising in the House always gave him the shivers. It made him think of a coffin and cross-bones. I always think that as a respect- able undertaker with hearses, mourning coaches, and coffins all your own you would have been a valued merchant, and distinguished yourself greater than you will ever do in politics. You are not a great legislator. That is a fact not to be argued away. Though you are flattered by being the nominal leader of the Welsh party, the position, if you could only see it, is unfair to yourself. It is humiliating, you are not really the leader, you are in name only. It is the tail that moves the dog. If you cast your blinkers around you will see that instead of furthering Welsh interests you hinderthem. You z, do your level best to make things go smoothly, but it is not smooth things and smooth speech that we want in our day. We want reform, and the spirit of freedom is in the air only you and such as you, looking to happy arrange- ments, wave it back. And, much as I esteem your qualities that are admirable, I should be untrue to dear old Wales were I not to tell you what I regard to be the unvarnished truth. As an M.P. for an English constituency I should offer you the respect due to your deserving character and average talents but as a Welsh M.P., and especially the leader of the Welsh party, I am compelled, from patriotic sentiment and national demands, to expose the weak- ness of the arrangement. R. N. Hall and Hawkins Tilston, the English organisers of Welsh politics and federations, have, for reasons of their own, which may be kiessed at, beslavered you with flattery and thjy have done what they could to foist you into all manner of coveted positions, frequently with an utter disregard either of courtesy or the claims of your colleagues but I do not blame you for that, and you have not bene- fitted by ii. That sort of thing has consider- ably weakened any hold you had on the regard of the Welsh people, and may hasten the day when you may both on grounds of principle and expediency receive notice to quit. We bear Englishmen no ill-will, but the time has arrived when our own people must furnish our leaders. Wales will never take her true place as a nation until that comes to pass. You are useful because you have abundant wealth but you are only a mild politician with small capacity for important political work, and vod are not in sufficient touch with young Wales. You have no sympathy with the practical aspira ions of the toiling multitudes. Low wages and long hours are in your line, and you have thriven upon the application of these principles. But the doom of the sweater is sealed the herald of the democracy has been sounded, and unless you change your method and your manner you will steadly be swept away by the stream that is rapidly gathering force. I have a great respect for you, but I should .like you better were you a little bit more manly in your bearing—if you would show a little more grit, and if you would move with the times and sympathise with the masses. An orator you will never be, and a leader you were not designed for but despite these disadvantages you are capable of good work if you would show yourself in earnest. And this you will have to attempt if you intend to continue the representation of Montgomery, for your con- stituents are beginning to dwell lingeringly over your defects. That is ominous, and ought to put you on your guard. Old Samuel Smith says you are purse-proud, but we would even "forgive that if you would helo things forward instead of acting the part of a buffer.—I am, dear Stuart, very cordially yours, THEODORE DODD. Next week "Theodore Dodd will address an Open Letter to DAVin K, ANDELL, M.P.