‘Home Rule and the Land Laws’ by A Christian Democrat (31 January, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. The issue of Home Rule for Ireland was key ahead of the 1880 general election. Charles Stewart Parnell had just assumed leadership of the Home Rule League which would consolidate its dominant position in Ireland that year at the polls. I believe this editorial demonstrates that the issue was a confusing one for Scottish Liberals at this relatively early stage in the movement. A tentative support for the Irish right to self-governance was tempered by an axiomatic belief that a united ‘British’ state was a force for good domestically and internationally. This can be clearly seen in the overt ‘British’ exceptionalism of the final paragraph.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—In this letter I propose to discuss what we ought to do for Ireland, and what we ought not to do. First of all, we ought not to do anything to raise false hopes nor awaken false fears. The integrity of Britain must remain, property in Ireland must be protected, and order must be preserved. We must do nothing to cause capital to leave Ireland nor to awaken hopes doomed to bitter disappointment. All this being clearly understood, I do think we should hear what Irishmen really wish to be done. Mr Gladstone, it is true, has done more for Ireland than all the statesmen who ever loved her. I am constantly feeling anger rising in my heart towards Irishmen when I see their want of gratitude to the truest, greatest friend they ever had. But sir, when I remember the cruel wrongs of Ireland, the generations who have suffered grossest injustice, I check this rising anger and feel that if I were an Irishman as I am a Scotchman I should probably retain too keen a sense of the past to be as grateful as I ought to e to even Mr Gladstone. It is because we forget the past, which is more than most Irishmen can do, that we are so impatient of Irish unrest and dissatisfaction. Sir, let us try to shut our ears to all foolish clamour. Neither intimidated by threats, nor careful to gain temporary popularity, let us look at the Irish questions fairly in the face, and while clearly stating what cannot be conceded to any clamour, let us see what can be fairly and justly done. Sir, I appeal to Scotchmen. We know what English oppression means. Scotland felt it over and again, and we can sympathise with Irishmen. I rejoice to know that a noble and gallant young Scotchman is likely to represent Liverpool [Referring to John Ramsay, the future 13th Earl of Dalhousie, then styled Lord Ramsay]. Irishmen, if they were wise, would vote for him to a man, and ask no questions.

The first thing I would give to Irishmen is a fair hearing. Even Mr Bright, generous as he is, and just as he ever wishes to be, is not an Irishman. I wish to hear Irishmen state their own case. What do they mean by “Home Rule?” Do not let us be frightened by a bogey. I wish to approach this fearful thing, to hear it speak, and to know what it has to say for itself.

We in Scotland are about to raise a loud clamour for “Home Rule.” We wish the counties put under “Home Rule;” we wish the liquor traffic put under “Home Rule;” we wish more “Home Rule” at our Parochial Boards, and less dictation by a central government. Our educational and borough affairs are already under “Home Rule.” Let us quietly hear what Ireland really does mean by “Home Rule” before we refuse it.

Students of history know that when Ireland had a Parliament of her own it was neither a blessing nor an honour to her. But, sir, we are not all students of history. The people who are about to elect a new Parliament need to be informed. The knowledge may exist in the brains of students or in dusty blue-books. I wish living Irishmen to state what they know, and what they propose, for the information of the present electors. If the Parliament of Ireland was a curse and not a blessing, this is a most important fact, which an honest inquiry would make plain to Irishmen themselves, and is a strong argument in favour of inquiry. Let us hear Irishmen state their own case in their own way. What are the real wishes, their genuine aspirations? What do they, “in the heart of them,” as Carlyle would say, mean by “Home Rule?” Then, sir, I do earnestly wish to know what Mr Parnell wants. Is there a real injustice yet left in the Land Laws in Ireland? I fear there must be, else he would be powerless. What is wrong? What is wanting? In what is Mr Gladstone’s great measure defective? Continue reading “‘Home Rule and the Land Laws’ by A Christian Democrat (31 January, 1880)”

‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. This powerful attack on the undemocratic actions of Conservative parliamentary candidates and the established church’s failure to mobilise voters appeared in the buildup to the 1880 general election. Readers were urged to go to the polls, high turnout was the way to defeat the Conservative government of Disraeli. Perhaps the most interesting passage is the attack on the government’s wars in Southern Africa and Afghanistan (the infamous battle of Isandlwana would still have been in the minds of many).

“How will our missionaries look the people of India in the face as messengers of peace on earth and goodwill to men now? How will they go to Zululand with the Gospel? We have ravaged the homes of the people, sent fire and sword into peaceful valleys, and trampled every principle of righteousness under foot, and then we send missionaries to convert the countries we have made desolate with most cruel and unjust war. The voters of Scotland must take this responsibility. If they wish an end put to this kind of policy they must come as Christian men to the poll, and send men to Parliament who will demand with authority that all this shall be changed.”

The 1880 election saw victory for Gladstone’s Liberals, and a reduction in the Tory vote in Scotland (winning just 6 of 58 seats, down from 18 in 1874).

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—I appeal to the people. No abuse, however powerfully defended, can resist the will of the people. A great crime is being done, a cruel wrong, under the protection of the law, is being inflicted, and there is no helper. I invoke the indignation of a people who love justice and hate oppression. In all our counties some proprietors of the soil are forcing the very best men and women to leave their homes or to violate their conscience. In Perthshire, for example, the Earl of Mansfield is inflicting most cruel wrong on a population whose only fault is their liberal opinions. Here are two facts:—In 1843 on the Logie-Almond estate there were 87 cottagers belonging to the Established Church. In 1878 only 23 remained. Of the twenty-one men who voted for Mr Parker in 1868 only four now remain on the estate. Sir, I accuse the noble Earl of a deliberate attempt to violate the Constitution. I denounce him as a setter of class against class, as a destroyer of that happy and cordial relationship which should exist between laird and tenant. I ask for Parliamentary inquiry. The House of Commons is insulted and its privileges and rights violated y this Earl, who uses the rights of property in this unrighteous way. Noble Christian men are banished from the homes of their fathers; families are torn up and flung houseless upon the world; men are forced to abandon their lawful calling—all for purely political honesty. They have committed no crimes; they have only exercised the rights put into their hands by Parliament. Sir, I call on Parliament to defend these honest men, who are punished for doing honestly the work Parliament gave them to do. Nor is the Earl of Mansfield the sole offender. All over our counties, and in Perthshire particularly, is this cruel and unconstitutional policy being pursued. I warn such violators of the spirit of the law that they shall not escape public censure. But, sir, they care for nothing. Public opinion they defy. They know they are abhorred, and that all honourable men despise their conduct. Parliament must instantly assert its power, and punish these violators of the equitable spirit of our law.

A host of little factors and small country bankers infest our counties. They know every man and his circumstances. If there is a bill to be renewed, if in consequence of bad seasons there is an arrear of rent, if there is any little difficulty perplexing a voter, then is the opportunity of these official oppressors. They have no shame, no delicacy. They come to the voter and simply say—“Now, are you to vote for our candidate? Give me your hand and your word that you will!” In vain the poor man tries to evade a direct reply. His wife, his daughters, his sons see his humiliation and burn with shame and rage. They all know the situation; they belong to the Free Church or the United Presbyterian; they are humbled and distressed. The shameless coward presses his advantage and the vote is promised. In hundreds of homes in Scotland this plan is pursued. And when stalwart noble men, like those at Logie-Almond, declare themselves staunch, out of twenty-one in a few years only four are left—the rest driven helpless from their homes. Sir, you as the editor of the People’s Journal have great influence. I call on you to wield it now. Especially I ask the voters in the villages who have feus to vote to a man against a system like this. I ask the Liberal candidates for burghs to raise this question. I call on the House of Commons to defend its privileges. I ask every honest man to stamp the cruel, cowardly conduct of these petty factors and pompous little bankers with their contempt. I ask Boards of Directors of our great banks to see that their influence and wealth are not used in this degrading oppression.

But, sir, I appeal chiefly to Christian men, who hold aloof from politics. I claim their help. Is Christianity only an affair of prayer meetings and religious observances on Sabbath days? No verily. The other side are organised. The licensed spirit trade to a man vote, and try to influence other voters. Their money interest is at stake, and they unite and make a mighty power, not in towns only but in counties. A languid and fitful opposition will not avail against an organisation like this. I wish to press on Christian men their duty as citizens. In municipal elections and in parliamentary voting I ask them to come to the poll. Men of high character are returned indeed by small majorities against men who are a shame to constituencies, but the majorities are too small—they should be overwhelming. The reason is that good, easy-going men do not trouble themselves to vote. A Scottish man with stuff in him should despise even being sent for or conveyed to the poll. To vote is his duty, his principle, he ought to vote frankly and openly too, giving all the influence he possesses to the side his conscience approves. The real weight of the Christian sentiment of the country is never felt in Parliament. A great statesman like Mr Gladstone requires to be insulted and driven from office before the good men of Britain are roused to take an interest in politics. Sir John Lawrence, and Lord Northbrook, and the Duke of Argyle have all entered their solemn protest against this unrighteous war in India. They have protested in vain. Why in vain? Because Christian men stayed away from the poll at the last election, and said that Whig and Tory had nothing to do with their religion. Sir, these men are responsible for this war. They did not support the right men at the right time, and the affairs of the county have fallen into the hands of men who “go in for gunpowder and glory.” Continue reading “‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)”

‘Recollections of a Dundee East-Ender. “’Tis Fifty Years Since.”’ by McR. (26 June, 1880)

This article appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ in June 1880. The title parodies Sir Walter Scott as the author looks back fifty years and observes the huge changes that had taken place in the East End in that time. This map from 1832 gives an insight into how little the city had expanded east on the Forfar and Arbroath Roads. Compare to 1882.

“After this Baxter Brothers came to build their first spinning mill, which stood with its end to the “Plantin’.” After that they built their second mill, and so demolished the west side of the “Plantin’.” After this they took up the whole of the east side of the “Plantin’.” Subsequently they swallowed up Carmichael’s Mill and the whole of the den, trees, and all up to Victoria Road and Bridge, and I think beyond it, all of which space is now occupied by their works, which may be splendid enough in their own matter-of-fact way but there was poetry n the den.”

Aye, it is at least three and fifty years now since Macgregor sang on the stage of the Dundee Theatre Royal “Great are the changes in Bonnie Dundee.” It was a song which was then “just out,” of the words of which I only remember the o’erturn. It spoke of the enterprise of the Dundonians in some such way as this—

“Building quays and piers and walls with mercantile ardour,

They’ve made the river narrower by their new harbour.”

And in lamenting the building of some wall or other along the Perth Road, the object of which would appear to have been the protection of pedestrians from the stormy winds, forgetting that by the same means they were shutting out their view of the grand river and its “Christian side,” the piece came to some such conclusion as this—

“But blow me, I’d rather be blowed than blinded,

Sing hey, sing ho, you all must agree

That great are the changes in Bonnie Dundee.”

The song was sung to a tune to which I have heard the song “Kate Dalrymple” sung. I have also heard the song about a Lowland lass and a Hieland laddie sung to the same tune by a gentleman who has since built that ducal castle that overlooks Broughty Ferry and the Firth of Tay. He and I were then “boys together,” although we were not intimate acquaintances, for he and his brothers R. and A. were then at Mr Gilbert’s school and I at Mr Macintosh’s. Besides, he was a “hiller” and I was a “noo rodder,” for the “New Roads,” or “noo rods,” was the name by which what are now called King Street and Princes Street were then known. But there was not a single house then in what is now called Princes Street from Sandy Gordon’s thatched cot at the foot of the Strait Brae till you came to the old gushet public-house of one story called “Athole Brose,” from these words being painted on the stones forming the arch of the door-top, and which house divided the Forfar from the Arbroath Road. Sandy Gordon’s house was, as I have said, a thatched cot that formed the east foot of the Strait Brae, and a coal yard formed the west foot. But thereby the Brae had a short leg and a long. For Sandy’s house projected into what now forms the beginning, or west end, of Princes Street, so that the back, instead of the front, of Sandy’s house formed the line of street. Sandy was a veritable publican, for although he may not have been “licensed to retail spirits, porter, and ale,” and I am not so sure as to be able to say he was not, yet he sat at the receipt of custom on a buffet stool in front of his house from morning to night, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays. For the Magistrates then, not having yet been put up to the principles of free trade, made the country people pay for leave to sell their butter and eggs to the people in the town; and Sandy was the farmer, on that road, of these customs, I think, till they came to be abolished. Perhaps it was so much exposure to the weather that gave the colour to Sandy’s face, which was a deep mixture of red and blue, with little or no white to relive it. Sandy wore a clean white apron, though over a figure decidedly emborpoint, so that, if not so in every sense of the word, he would have made a goo specimen of the ideal Boniface. Continue reading “‘Recollections of a Dundee East-Ender. “’Tis Fifty Years Since.”’ by McR. (26 June, 1880)”

Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 6: ‘The Tay Bridge’ (4 September, 1880)

On the 28 December 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge designed by Thomas Bouch collapsed in a terrible storm. The disaster claimed the lives of all 75 passengers (although only 60 bodies were found). Naturally the tragedy featured heavily in ‘The People’s Journal’ and large features on the inquests were regularly found in the paper throughout 1880. Amongst the reporting there were also letters from readers published about the events.

 

Sir,—I have read all that has been printed in your paper about the unfortunate Tay Bridge, and have paid attention to the different plans proposed and the speeches of others who have no plans, but whose aim seems to be to pull the thing to pieces.

I am not aware of any one proposing to sink a new pier outside of each of the old ones, if the old ones are faulty, which I don’t believe. I think when those girders fell with the train in them the piers got such a test as I hope they never will again. The leverage was something awful. When they stood that I think it was proof enough, but by sinking a new pier outside of each old one they may go any depth they please and make sure of the outside being right. If there should be anything wrong let them sheet-pile it where the dotted lines are and fill with concrete. I don’t think many will want it. The foundations, I believe, are a good job, but the columns and girders have been shameful. They talked of an unholy alliance. What gentleman builds an addition to his house by first pulling down the old one? Who mends an old coat with an old rag? Such trash carried weight before the Committee.—I am, &c.,

Torbain, Kirkcaldy. W. Johnstone.

Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 5: ‘The Tay Bridge Report—Mr Rothery and his Colleagues’ (17 July, 1880)

On the 28 December 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge designed by Thomas Bouch collapsed in a terrible storm. The disaster claimed the lives of all 75 passengers (although only 60 bodies were found). Naturally the tragedy featured heavily in ‘The People’s Journal’ and large features on the inquests were regularly found in the paper throughout 1880. Amongst the reporting there were also letters from readers published about the events. This collection of letters sent by the solicitors of Bouch to ‘The People’s Journal’ throw doubt on the operation of the inquiry surrounding their client. Thomas Bouch’s reputation as one of the worlds leading engineers was ruined by Tay Rail Bridge. He would die on 30 October 1880, less than a year after the disaster.

 

Sir,—We beg to send you copy of a correspondence which we, as solicitors for Sir Thomas Bouch, have had with Colonel Yolland and Mr Barlow, two of the members of the Court of Inquiry on the Tay Bridge disaster, in reference to the separate Report made by their colleague, Mr Rothery, to the Board of Trade. We shall feel obliged by your giving publicity to this correspondence, on which it is unnecessary for us to comment, as it speaks for itself.—We are, &c.,

A.J. & J. Dickson.

2 Queen Street, Edinburgh,

14th July 1880.

 

1. Letter—Messrs A.J. & J. Dickson, W.S., Edinburgh, to Colonel Yolland, R.E., Board of Trade.

Edinburgh, 9th July 1880.

Sir,—On perusing Mr Rothery’s Report, we find that it contains several most injurious (and, as we think, unjust) statements and charges reflecting on Sir Thomas Bouch, which appear to us to be inconsistent with the opinions and findings contained in the Joint Report of yourself and Mr Barlow, and which certainly are not countenanced by anything therein contained. Had these statements and charges been put forward simply as the opinions of Mr Rothery alone we should have said nothing, but Mr Rothery, at §137 of his Report, makes the following statement:—“The points on which we are not agreed are as to whether some facts which have come out in the course of the inquiry ought or ought not to be mentioned,” thereby implying, that you agree with him as to the truth of the facts. Again, at §142 Mr Rothery implies that you concur in the justice of his censures, although not thinking it your duty to say so. And in the closing words of his Report Mr Rothery states explicitly—“Although my colleagues have not thought fit to join in this Report they do not differ, except perhaps on very minor points, from the conclusions at which I have arrived.”

It is manifest that Mr Rothery has thereby represented that all the findings and censures of his Report, with some very minor exceptions, are concurred in by yourself and Mr Barlow, and entitled to the great additional weight which such concurrence would necessarily give. Continue reading “Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 5: ‘The Tay Bridge Report—Mr Rothery and his Colleagues’ (17 July, 1880)”

Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 4: ‘Proposed Reconstruction of the Tay Bridge’ (20 March, 1880)

On the 28 December 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge designed by Thomas Bouch collapsed in a terrible storm. The disaster claimed the lives of all 75 passengers (although only 60 bodies were found). Naturally the tragedy featured heavily in ‘The People’s Journal’ and large features on the inquests were regularly found in the paper throughout 1880. Amongst the reporting there were also letters from readers published about the events. In this letter John Roy, an engineer and architect in the United States gives his view on the reasons behind the bridge’s failure, and how it should be rebuilt.

 

Sir,—Pardon me for intruding upon you in the hour of your calamity. A friend sent me copies of your valuable Journal of the 10th, 17th, and 24th of January 1880, giving an account of the loss of life and destruction of the Tay Bridge at 7.16 P.M., December 28th, 1879.

The evidence shows the gale was unprecedented in that part of the world. Capt. Scott says, “In the gusts it came as high as 11, and at the time the wind was almost due west, directly at right angles to the high girders.” Eleven inches of water is equal to a pressure upon a square foot of 57 1/4 pounds, under which the wind travels 107 miles per hour. In this country the wind often blows so as a man cannot stand before it. On Mount Washington, in the State of New Hampshire, January 1878, the velocity of the wind was over 100 miles an hour during nine different days, but the highest registered is:—

November 29th, 1875 6 P.M. velocity, 170 miles per hour
December 13th, 1875 do. do. 108 do.
January — 1876 do. do. 132 do.
February 24th, 1876 do. do. 163 do.
March 22d, 1876 do. do. 100 do.
May 1st, 1876 do. do. 108 do.

From the testimony of Captain Scott I infer that no long, high, and light iron bridge with a single track ought to be built at right angles to the prevailing winds and sea in an exposed position like that of the Tay Bridge. Had the Tay Bridge been built on a curve to the west, the girders forming a polygon, only one girder would be exposed at right angles to any wind, and the two adjoining girders would form a strut or tie to the strained girder; this would form an arch against the west wind and sea, and a suspension bridge to resist eastern storms. The strength of such a bridge would be in proportion to the length of the versed sign of the segment, the tensile and compressive force of the iron would be brought into action in a more favourable manner, and much of the cross or transverse strain avoided. A long train would add to its lateral strength as a brace and poise The train itself forming part of a curve, the leverage of its wheel base would be increased in proportion to the length of the versed sign of the segment. Continue reading “Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 4: ‘Proposed Reconstruction of the Tay Bridge’ (20 March, 1880)”

Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 3: ‘The Tay Bridge of the Past and Future’ (31 January, 1880)

On the 28 December 1879, the Tay Rail Bridge designed by Thomas Bouch collapsed in a terrible storm. The disaster claimed the lives of all 75 passengers (although only 60 bodies were found). Naturally the tragedy featured heavily in ‘The People’s Journal’ and large features on the inquests were regularly found in the paper throughout 1880. Amongst the reporting there were also letters from readers published about the events. In this letter William Leslie from Alyth dismisses some of the previous letters to the paper about the bridge’s faults. There is also a note from a correspondent from Derbyshire who decries the cheapness of the materials used.

 

Sir,—I have read with much interest all the various letters on the above subject which have lately appeared in your paper, some of these written by more indignant than experienced persons. One correspondent writes—”No doubt the weakness of the Bridge was its length.” There, I may say, he is decidedly under a mistake, for the Bridge was designed so as to be equally strong between any two of the highest pillars as between the first pillar and the land, and if these pillars were to blame the error lay in the calculation of their strength and not in the length of the Bridge. Another says that, “seeing the iron pillars were tubular and filled with cement, perhaps water had got into them, and when the frosty weather came the water expanded and the iron contracted, so damaging the pillars.” This is right so far, although no water could have got into these pillars. Nevertheless, seeing firmed cement has no yield, the contraction of these pillars should have been provided against. This could easily have been done by putting between the cement and the pillars oneply of ordinary pipe bagging. Another condemns the Bridge at once as “a wind trap,” and tries to make out that the lattice girders strain the supporting piers greater than the plates. In support of his theory he says—”Had the side of the Bridge presented a solid body to the wind the current would have divided before it reached the Bridge, and passed above and underneath it.” Now, if this was the case, bridges built on the solid or plated design (such as tubular bridges) would require no extra support to provide against oscillation, and would be recommended above all others. But such is not the case. Although the Bridge had presented a solid body to the wind, and divided the current into two parts, the space between the currents was not a vacuum, but compressed air equal in strength to the passing currents, and the stronger these currents grew the lesser grew this space, and the greater the pressure against the side of the Bridge. The lattice girder prevented this pressure, was equal to any other pattern in strength, superior in beauty, and I believe inferior in price. Yet, for one fault, I would condemn the bare lattice girder, that fault being the want of protection to the passing train from the wind. I believe this will be one of the most difficult points to settle in the reconstruction of the Bridge. Although no carriage was ever proved to be overturned by the wind, yet it would be well to provide against it, seeing the wind once before blew one of these girders—far heavier than any carriage—from the top of the Bridge into the river. As to the question of rebuilt, continuing the levels where the Bridge is broken. This would only lower the shipping height some twelve or fifteen feet, to which the town of Perth could not reasonably object, as it would not lessen their shipping interest nor diminish their traffic. Yet it would not be commendable to allow the North British Railway Company to run passenger trains across the Bridge until another line of rails was added, b a new Bridge built alongside the present one and firmly connected with it, both having supports slanting out into the river as far as the fallen engine lies from the base of the upright piers, thus forming a bridge that would meet the demands of the public, and on which the most timid passengers could safely venture.—I am &c.,

Cumno, Alyth. Wm. Leslie. Continue reading “Tay Bridge Disaster Letters 3: ‘The Tay Bridge of the Past and Future’ (31 January, 1880)”