THE STAR OF GWENT
AND SOUTH WALES TIMES
FRIDAY JUNE 10TH 1887
MR GLADSTONE AT NEWPORT.
WELCOME AT THE RAILWAY STATION.
SCENES IN THE STREETS.
ADDRESS AT THE ALBERT HALL.
When it became known on Monday that Mr Gladstone consented to break his journey at Newport for the purpose of delivering an address, much activity was immediately displayed in Radical circles. Hurried orders were given to Mr Alfred Morgan for the supply of carriages to meet the Gladstonian party at the railway station and convey them to the Albert Hall. The town was freely placarded with posters announcing the time of the address and calling upon all working men to “give the Grand Old Man a welcome,” whilst sandwich boys carried these posters through the streets. The time was too short to allow of even zealous partisans making any display at their residences or places of business. On Monday evening a meeting of the Liberal Association was held, at which was decided to present Mr Gladstone with an address, (this task being entrusted to Mr J.R. Jacob) and it was decided that Mr Jacob should present Mrs Gladstone with a bouquet of flowers. Several persons came down from the Western Valleys by the early morning trains on Tuesday, and at ten o’clock people began to assemble outside the Albert Hall so as to make sure of obtaining admission.
By half-past eleven the streets presented an animated appearance, hundreds of persons wending their way towards the Albert Hall and railway station. The greatest block appeared likely to be experienced on Stow Hill, which was at this hour lined with spectators from the Baptist Chapel to the Savings Bank Chambers. A large number of persons were outside the Albert Hall clamouring for admission, but preference was given to the holder of tickets. Four hundred tickets had been issued for the platform and balconies, the price of these being one shilling each. The only display in High Street was the hoisting of two flags at the Old Ship Inn, the landlord of which also exhibited a portrait of Mr Gladstone in the window. Mr J. Andrews Jones, draper, cleared one of his windows and seated it for the accommodation of a dozen ladies. Scarlet and crimson flowers were freely worn, and at many large works the men adjourned operations for a time so as to catch a glimpse of Mr Gladstone. In view of a probable crush Supt. Sinclair caused notices to be posted in High Street, requesting persons remain where they were until Mr Gladstone’s return to the railway station. At the corner of Market Street a fight was narrowly prevented. A drunken man sported a piece of red ribbon, which was snatched by a passer-by from his coat. This infuriated the fellow, and but for the interference of the police a melee would have followed.
At twelve o’clock the upper windows of business establishments in High Street were crowded with lady spectators, and strings of flags had been placed across the streets at the shops of Mr George Fothergill and Mr Enoch Griffiths, also at the licensed house of Mr John Hyndman. Half a dozen mounted members of the borough police guarded the entrance to the railways station, and the determination not to issue platform tickets was rigorously enforced, even members of the Press experienced difficulty in obtaining admission. Several enthusiastic persons, however, got over this difficulty by purchasing railway tickets for Caerleon, which of course were not used by them. The number of persons actually inside the station was about 100, and at 12.20 the reception committee (Messers Jacob, Parnall, Vaughan, and T. J. Beyne) put in an appearance. Five minutes later the train steamed in, and the profile of Mr Gladstone was easily recognised. A cheer, although somewhat faint, was raised by the occupants of the platform, and Mr Gladstone then stepped out of the carriage. He looked somewhat fagged, and walked with halting gait to the steps by which he crossed the footbridge. Mrs Gladstone accepted the arm of Mr Theophilus J. Beynon. Outside the railway station a mass of spectators had assembled, and ringing cheers were raised as Mr Gladstone stepped into one of the three carriages in waiting. He was accompanied by Mrs Gladstone in the same carriage, also by Mr H. J Parnall. The mounted police guarded his carriage, and considerable enthusiasm was manifested during the tour through High Street to the Albert Hall, although the cheering was by no means so loud or prolonged as might have been expected from such a concourse. At two or three places along the route loud groans were distinctly heard in the midst of the cheering. The Albert Hall was reached at 12.35.
Between eleven and twelve o’clock crowds of persons began to pour into the spacious hall, and at the latter hour the building was crowded almost to its utmost capacity. The interval of waiting was wiled away with speeches from local members of the party, among others Messrs J.G. Ellis, J. Lethby, C.L. Barfoot, Revs. H Abraham, D. Roberts, and C. H. Poppleton. Snatches of popular songs were also sung.
The Rev. C. H. Poppleton, in addressing the meeting, before the arrival of Mr Gladstone, remarked that when he saw Mr Gladstone, at Swansea, he appeared to be the medium of uttering God’s words that day, and to be influenced by the Holy Ghost. He urged all to listen attentively to Mr Gladstone’s words that day, and act upon them. He intended when the report was published to cut them out (a voice: from the “Star”). Yes from the “Star” (laughter.) The “Star” was a good paper after all. He would paste the reports in a book, and take them as a text for his after life.
At the meeting Mr T. J. Beynon presided, and among those on the platform were Alderman J. R. Jacob, Messrs D.A. Vaughan, H. J. Parneall, and C. M. Bailhache, (the deputation which met Mr Gladstone at the station. …
When Mr Gladstone arrived, accompanied by Mrs Gladstone, the Rev. Stephen Gladstone, Lord Aberdare, Sir Hussey Vivian, M.P., and Mr Stuart Rendell, M.P. he received a perfect ovation, a large number of hats and handkerchiefs being waved.
MR PARNALL announced that Mr Beynon would take the chair, and Mr Gladstone would speak at once.
MR BEYNON, on taking the chair, said that Mr Gladstone had been in Swansea for days, in Cardiff for hours, but they only had him a few minutes, and he asked them under the circumstances for a quiet hearing.
MR J. R. JACOB in presenting the address, which was not read, said he considered it the greatest honour in his life to present the address to Mr Gladstone, who had been three times Premier of England and liberator of Ireland. (cheers).
When Mr Gladstone rose to address the meeting he appeared to be trembling with emotion, and in a pause of several seconds, during which time tremendous applause continued, he wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
On quietude being restored,
MR GLADSTONE remarked that he was afraid the atmosphere of that hall was such, as no doubt it was to others who had reached this time of life, that he was hardly physically capable of addressing those present, as he wished or as he had intended to do under circumstances that enabled him to make those small exertions of which he was sometimes capable. At the same time he assured them that it was to him a matter of extreme interest to meet them and he knew that the very circumstances which had created the difficulty had been the earnestness and depth of their political convictions. He believed that the district through which he had been passing since he quitted Glamorganshire was a district that legally belonged to England, but that it was a district the population of which on that side of the Usk felt itself to be morally a Welsh population with a predominance of Welsh ideas and traditions and a good deal of Welsh language. He referred to that fact because it was the exact converse of the case as it stood between England and Ireland. In England and Ireland there was a total want of moral union. The moral union which so many Monmouthshire men thought and felt existed between themselves and Welshmen, notwithstanding the friendly legal union with England, was exactly that which was wanting in the case of the Irishmen, who, though they had a legal union with England, felt that there was no moral union. That was a very serious state of things and the consequence of it was that Parliament was paralysed for any purposes of English, Scotch, or Welsh legislation. Indeed it might as well not exist as have the existence which of late had been dragging through and would have to drag through this present session. And why was this? It was because the Government and the majority which was returned to Parliament in June or July last were endeavouring to supply the want of moral union already in painful with the strict legal and Parliamentary union, by a Coercion Bill (“shame”). Those present would doubtless understand what kind of union a Coercion Bill was likely to produce. When people told them it was not a Coercion Bill but a bill against crime, he advised them to laugh in their faces (hear hear and cheers). No, if it was a bill against crime it would have passed long ago. He did not say the Opposition would have assented to it, because he thought the Liberal party and the Irish Nationalists – for whom, however, he had no right to speak – would have contended that in Ireland, where there was less crime than in England – let them mark that – it was absurd for England to pass new laws for the repression of crime which it did not think fit itself to undergo. If it were a Crimes Bill therefore, Liberals would have protested against it. A few points would have to be debated, these would have been duly settled by the majority – which in this country very properly settled everything for the time being – and the bill would have been passed and done with. But it was a totally different bill – a bill which he called wanton, insidious, and insulting, and this for good reasons. These were not the words of mere declamation. It was wanton because Ireland required no Crimes Bill; the state of crime in the country did not justify anything of the kind and no Crimes Bill had ever passed under similar circumstances. Still as he said before, that was a limited question and would have been got rid of long ago. It was an insidious bill because it was directed not merely against crime, but against combinations. If combination led to crime and anything in the nature of a trades union, engaged to do this or to do that by a bond of mutual understanding, by which bond members of such union endeavoured by fair reasoning to extend their views to others – if a combination of that kind was set down as a crime, then it must be said that there was a special crime existing in Sheffield at one time. It was against combinations of this kind that the new law was directed and declared should be stamped out. Whilst the bill was insidious in that respect it was also insulting because for the first time it was proposed to make coercion perpetual. Such a thing had not occurred in any Tory Government down to that day. Even the Government of which Lord Sidmouth was Home Secretary, under Lord Liverpool, which was responsible for passing no less than six such acts, did not make them perpetual. Yet the present people who had charge of British affairs, and who called themselves the patriotic and law abiding party, and he knew not what else, had introduced a bill to treat with exceptional crime – although this did not exist, and let them remember what had always heretofore been done was to treat exceptional crime, when, it did exist, with an exceptional and temporary remedy – the Government had brought in a bill to brand Ireland with deep and long-standing disgrace. Briefly, therefore, he declared that the bill was wanton because crime did not exist in Ireland to require it; it was insidious because it really aimed at combination on the part of the people; and it was insulting because it proposed to make perpetual that which even if necessary, should only be a temporary necessity. People were apt to talk and complain of the time taken up in the obsession over the Coercion Bill, but in his opinion the …. speeches of the Irish Secretary, who introduced the bill, had done as much as anything to … that debate.
On this subject he should have something to say in his place in the House of Commons. There was something more wanted to be done beside this miserable Coercion Bill, which instead of making progress only marked … for when they had finished dealing with it they would find themselves no nearer the end in view than when they began the session. He would tell them how the business could be shortened, and it was the duty of the Government to shorten it. Let them give to combinations in Ireland the same protection as in England . When combinations in England produced crime they punished them. Let them do the same in Ireland. But that is what the majority of the House of Commons refused to do. Sir Charles Russell, the late Attorney-General, proposed an amendment to the bill, in the very words of the Trade Union Act, but the large majority of the House of Commons refused to accept it. There was another clause in the bill which provided that if the Irish law officers or the Lord-Lieutenant were not satisfied under certain circumstances that they could obtain such a jury as they required they might remove the trial to England, and bring over from Ireland the prisoner, counsel, witnesses, and in fact the whole squad (laughter). What could people expect? He regarded the clause as one of the most insulting and worst provisions of the bill. It was at the same time not the most obnoxious, for it was saved from being obnoxious by being impracticable and ridiculous. Fancy what a state of things: a special train of the London and North Western Railway from Liverpool, or a train of the Great Western from Milford, to bring up to London prisoners, witnesses, and the whole lot, and at the public expense. They may be sure they would be well handled on the way. Prisoners generally were. They would have such a time of it as they had never had before in their lives. They would get to London and see all the wonders and curiosities, and they would not be anxious to shorten the time. But he would not further picture the state of things to them, as he felt sure it would never take place (applause). He would suggest that if they came by the Great Western Railway they should return by the other route, so that they might have their minds educated and instructed. At this point the right hon. Gentleman concluded by observing that he should press his views upon the Cabinet when in London, and he hoped he should do so with the full sanction of the people of Newport (applause which lasted for some time). Mr Gladstone again added that what he desired was a moral union with the people of Ireland, a union of heart and mind, and not a union of chains (applause).
As the right hon. Gentleman finished a working man climbed over the reporters’ table and held out his hand to Mr Gladstone. The invitation was declined, and Mr Gladstone withdrawing stated that he had no time. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends immediately left the hall amid general cheering.
After Mr Gladstone had proceeded to he Albert Hall the crowds in the street perceptibly thinned, little heed being paid by the public to the police notices requesting them to remain in their places. The meeting being over the carriages containing Mr Gladstone and his party proceeded down Stow Hill, and much disappointment was occasioned to the persons who had taken up positions in High Street, in consequence of the party returning to the railway station by way of Bridge Street and Devon Place. In consequence of this a crowd of 400 or 500 forced their way into the station, and as Mr Gladstone made his way to the carriage it was with great difficulty he maintained his feet. By dint of great exertions on the part of railway officials, Mrs Gladstone safely found her way through the throng, leaning upon the arm of Mr Parnall, and at once took a seat by the side of her husband. The cheering was more pronounced than on the arrival of the ex Prime Minister, but the enthusiasm, after all, was not such as the Liberal leaders anticipated. Precisely at 1.12 the train steamed out of the station, Mr Gladstone bowing from the carriage window until the train was out of sight. It was apparent to all that Mr Gladstone was much fagged at the close of his visit, his legs appearing almost incapable of bearing the weight of his body. The Radical leaders appeared fully satisfied with the reception accorded their chief, one of the reception committee banteringly informing our representative that not even the STAR could describe it as a Radical disappointment. At two o’clock the crowd had entirely disappeared, the streets presenting their normal appearance.
At half-past two the streets were far quieter than on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and a stranger just arriving in the town would have positively disbelieved that a distinguished statesman like Mr Gladstone had visited it, paraded the streets, delivered a public address, and left by train. The arrangements of the police and railway authorities were so complete that no accident whatever has been reported. The only approach to this was due to an enthusiastic Radical, who had climbed over the bridge leading to Pentonville, and stationed himself on the glass roof of the platform. As the train steamed out he commenced to mark his approval of Mr Gladstone by stamping his foot. The result was that he smashed two feet of glass and narrowly escaped falling through the aperture. A railway inspector took the man into custody, but Mr Parnall, whose attention had been called to the matter, collected sufficient money to repair the breakage, and the man was thereupon released.