‘Importance of this Election’ by A Christian Democrat (27 March, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The newspaper endorsed the Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election.

Sir,—Never in the history of Scotland was there so important an election as this. The question to be decided is not whether this or that candidate is a better speaker, a more popular man, or personally to be preferred to some other candidate. Electors should dismiss such considerations from their minds. Important and far-reaching principles are before the country.

I ask electors to say whether we are to pursue a domineering, overbearing policy towards Ireland. Are we to send more gunpowder, more police, more penal laws, or are we to send to our sister isle a message of peace and “goodwill?” A great country like ours can afford to be magnanimous. We can forget the veiled rebellion, we can overlook the unreasoning and unwise cry for separation, and for Home Rule in its foolish sense. I ask Scotchmen to remember the crimes, the insults, the centuries of cruelty under which poor Ireland has suffered, and to be large-hearted enough to forgive her impatience, Even when the cruel barb is torn out of the festering wound, time, the great healer, has to do its work. It requires slow gliding years to cover with grassy green the red scars of war, and long summer days to cover with flowers the graves of ancient feuds. Ireland will yet do justice to Mr Gladstone. Her heart is generous, although it still trembles with sad and cruel memories. Scottish men, it is for you to say whether you will follow Mr Gladstone in dispensing to Ireland kindly justice, in extending to her the hand of a loving sister, asking her on equal terms to share alike our glory and our cares, or to mock her with continued insults, and, instead of kindness, sympathy, and righteousness, to confront her with reproaches and continued indignities.

Again, I ask what good cause abroad has this Government ever sympathised with? Where has she spoken out for freedom, as Lord Russell did for Italy, as Lord Granville did for Belgium? How shall our missionaries go to Zululand with the Christian watchwords of “Peace on earth and goodwill to men?” Alexander Duff and Norman M’Leod spent their lives for India. How shall their followers tell the people in Afghanistan of the mercy and justice, of the truth and love of the religion of Britain? Men of Scotland, if you go to the poll and vote for Tory candidates, however excellent in private life you may know them to be, you become not only directly responsible for the cruel and unrighteous policy of the past six years, but you bid Lord Beaconsfield God speed. You bid him persevere in fighting all the little nations who can be destroyed without immediate danger, and go on alienating the sympathy of the great Powers, who, depend upon it, will one day rejoice when disaster overtakes us.

I accept the letter of the Prime Minister. I peril the election upon the issues he himself has raised. Whoever is for Tory rule in Ireland, whoever is for Tory foreign policy, vote for the men who in years by-gone have supported the Government. But whoever approves of Mr Gladstone’s policy towards Ireland, whoever approves of his foreign policy, let them vote for Gladstonian Liberals. Sir, I am as zealous for the honour of my country as any Tory that breathes. They impose with brazen-faced audacity upon electors when they claim a monopoly of patriotism. I desire to see my country great and glorious; loved at home for order, liberty, justice; revered abroad for respect to public law, for regard to the rights of the weak; showing sympathy with freedom, fearless of the scowl of the masters of millions of bayonets. It is because these are my aspirations, my ardent desires, that I so love the greatest statesman England ever saw—a man who in his living eye, in his uplifted hand, in his tongue of fire, is the impersonation of expression of all that is true and noble in English history; the exponent of a policy wise, conservative, and worthy of the genius of Edmund Burke, of the sagacity of Sir Robert Peel; a man whose monument the children of those who now vilify and reproach him shall build in purest marble, and crown with wreaths of laurel.

A Christian Democrat.

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