‘Clodpole on Reform’ (16 April, 1859)

“The hyaena is said to laugh when devoorin’ its victim, an in like manner oor legislators never laugh looder than when they are betrayin’ an’ victimizin’ the people.”

The following is a early, Scots, satirical column written by W.D. Latto. Before he became editor of ‘The People’s Journal’ and began his series of columns by the character Tammas Bodkin, Latto used the pseudonym Jock Clodpole.

Ayont the Ingle, April 7, 1859.

Mr Editur,—Though I haena fashed ye wi’ ony o’ my lucubrations for a gude while, yet ye manna suppose that, frae my rural retreat, I’ve been a’ thegither as indifferent spectator o’ the ongaens, baith at hame an’ abroad, durin’ the last month or twa. The storm-clud o’ war that threatened some weeks syne to burst ower Europe an’ deluge it wi’ blude, has cleared aff for the present, an’ we can meanwhile breath freely, an’ fix oor attention on hame-politics. We country bodies are sometimes accused o’ bein’ an’ ignorant pack o’ mortals, an’ ance on a time that was true enough—ower true in fact; but thanks to the extensive circulation o’ newspapers, we are fast comin’ upsides wi’ oor neebors in toons. As eery body has been takin’ notes o’ the late discussion in Parliament anent reform, an’ as we too hae oor ain ideas aboot it, as weel as you toon’s folks, I hope ye’ll no objeck to alloo me a corner o’ yer paper in order that a’ kinds o’ opinions may be fairly an’ fully represented. I wad say in the ootset that the rural population canna be ower meikle obleeged to Mr Disraeli for his gude intentions, for ane o’ the francheese in coonties frae a fifty to a ten poind occupancy, thus puttin’ us on a par wi’ the burghs. I’ve observed that this was ane o’ the grand objections that Lord John an’, indeed, almost every body, Whig, Tory, an’ Radical, had to urge against the measure. They said that it wasna constitutional to hae the francheese the same in coonties as in burghs. Noo that may be sae for ought that I ken to the contrary, for I’m no weel acquainted ava wi’ that impalpable thing ca’d the constitution; but, speakin’ i’ the meantime as a plain country man, an’ lookin’ nae farther than my ain interests i’ the matter, I wad say that Disraeli’s plan o’ reform was joost the verra thing for me. Gin his scheme could hae been carried oot, I wad hae been a greater man than ony o’ yer toon’s folk o’ a similar station wi’ mysel’, notwithstandin’ a’ their windy pride an’ sovereign contempt for country Johnnies. Joost suppose Disraeli’s bill the law o’ the land. Verra weel, then, I come into Dundee on a market-day, clothed in hodden-grey an stawpin on my ploughman shanks—my appearance is onything but elegant or fashionable; nae matter for that, I can haud up my head wi’ the best in the market, for I’m a voter; an’, instead o’ jeerin’ at my awkward manners an’ despisin’ my ignorance, every body ‘ll be constrained to look up to me wi’ due reverence an’ respeck. Plenty o’ them may hae three or four times mair siller than I hae, but that wad be neither here nor there, for my vote wad amply compensate for my povery an’ want o’ proper breedin’. The rental o’ my bit farm o’ Scouriebrae is joost £10 per annum —its an auld lease, an’ when it expires the laird will tak’ gude care to screw me up to £30 or £40, or turn me adrift a’ thegither gin I dinna sing unco sma’—but nae matter, £10 is the figure i’ the noo; an’ takin’ it a’ ower head, an ae year wi’ anither, it may be worth to me £30 mair, sae that this latter soom is a’ that I hae to live upon an’ bring up a sma’ family wi’ forbye. An unco humble way o’ doin’ ye’ll be apt to say; but nae matter, only gie Mr Disraeli his will an’ I’ll be a voter, nae doot o’ that. Gin everybody in Parliament had only thocht like Mr Disraeli, I, Jock Clodpole, wi’ an income o’ £30 a-year, wad hae had a vote, while the man livin’ in a burgh, an’ carnin’ a similar soom wad hae had nane ava, unless he flang awa a third o’ his income in the shape o’ hoose rent, and gin he sid do sae what wad he eat, an’ wherewithal wad he be clothed? I canna see ony principle o’ justice or no justice, we wha were to reap the benefits o’t wad hae been great fules had we no gien it a hearty welcome an’ warm support. Continue reading “‘Clodpole on Reform’ (16 April, 1859)”