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J. Keir Hardie
Chapter 3. Mid-Lanark — The Scottish Labour Party — The Socialist Movement


IN the spring of 1888 came the opportunity for which he had been waiting and preparing, but it arose, not, as he had hoped, in Ayrshire, but in Lanarkshire. The resignation of Mr. Stephen Mason from the representation of Mid-Lanark made a by-election necessary.

The constituency was pre-eminently mining and there was a natural expectation that the Liberal Party would give preference to a miner as candidate. Almost as a matter of course Hardie’s name was suggested and a requisition numerously signed by electors in the Division was presented to him, requesting him to stand as Labour candidate. In “The Miner” he made known his attitude. “For the first time, so far as Scotland is concerned, a serious attempt is to be made to run a genuine Labour candidate for the constituency, and my own name has been put forward in that connection. I desire to define my position clearly. I earnestly desire to see Labour represented in Parliament by working men. Should the choice of the electors fall on me, I am prepared to fight their battle. Should another be selected by them, I will give that other as hearty and ungrudging support as one man can give another. The constituency is essentially one for returning a Labour candidate. Much depends on the position taken up by the Liberal Association. It may or may not select a Labour candidate. In either case my advice would be that the Labour candidate should be put forward. Better split the party now, if there is to be a split, than at a general election, and if the Labour Party only make their power felt now, terms will not be wanting when the general election comes.”

The prospect of the contest aroused widespread interest. It was recognised that, not only the Liberal professions in favour of Labour representation, but the workers themselves, were to be tested, and that, in the result, it would be shown whether in a typical working-class constituency the workers were yet ready to use their newly-acquired political power in the interest of their own class and irrespective of old party traditions. The press immediately got busy. The Scottish Liberal papers, “The Glasgow Daily Mail” and the “Scottish Leader,” began to confuse the issues, to put forward the names of various middle-class candidates, to besmirch and misrepresent Hardie, and to talk about “Tory gold.” On the other hand the London “Star” wrote as follows :—“Mr. Hardie is certainly the best man for the constituency. One or two of his stamp are greatly needed to look after Scottish Labour interests in Parliament, especially as those interests are about to lose the advocacy of Mr. Stephen Mason.”

The Tory “Ayrshire Post” said: “Among the candidates brought forward for the expected vacancy in Mid-Lanark, through the retirement of Mr. Stephen Mason, is Mr. J. Keir Hardie, Cumnock. A correspondent interested in the election asks us whether there is any truth in the rumour that Mr. Hardie was a Unionist in 1886. The rumour is an absurd one. Mr. Hardie has been a consistent and pronounced Home Ruler since the beginning of the controversy. Whatever faults he may have, sitting on the hedge is not one of them. Right or wrong, you know what he means.” So began the campaign of lies and innuendo of which he was to have a plentiful experience in future years, and the very fact that the Tory press was inclined to speak of him respectfully was adduced as proof that he was in league with the Tories.

Hardie pursued his way steadily, unmoved by any calumny. On the 15th March he offered himself as a candidate for selection by. the Mid-Lanark Liberal Association. On the 21st of the same month he withdrew his name from the official list for the following reasons. “The Executive of the Association, without giving the electors a chance of deciding on the merits of the respective candidates, have already, at the instance of outsiders, and without regard to fitness, decided who the candidate is to be.” The Liberal candidate finally adopted was Mr. J. W. Phillips, a young Welsh lawyer, who ultimately made his way to the House of Lords as Lord St. Davids. The Tory candidate was Mr. W. R. Bousfield. Hardie stood therefore as an Independent Labour candidate, the first of the kind in British politics; and for that reason, if for no other, this Mid-Lanark election is historical. As a Labour candidate but, be it noted, not yet as a Socialist, did he stand. In his letter to the Liberal Association, he claimed that he had all his life been a Radical of a somewhat advanced type, and from the first had supported Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule proposals. In his election address he said, “I adopt in its entirety the Liberal programme agreed to at Nottingham, which includes Adult Suffrage; Reform of Registration Laws; Allotments for Labourers; County Government; London Municipal Government; Free Education; Disestablishment. On questions of general politics I would vote with the Liberal Party, to which I have all my life belonged.” His proposals for Labour and Land legislation, though going far beyond the Liberal programme, were not at all comprehensively Socialistic. An Eight Hours’ Day for Miners, an Insurance and Superannuation Fund supported from Royalties, Arbitration Courts, and the creation of a Ministry of Mines were his mining proposals; the reimposition of the four shillings in the pound Land Rent, payable by the landlord to the State, the establishment of a Land Court, compulsory cultivation of waste lands, taxation of land values and nationalisation of royalties were his land programme. On the question of Home Rule he said, “I will support the Irish Party in winning justice for Ireland, and in the event of a difference between them and the Liberal Party, would vote with the Irish”; and to this he added, “I am also strongly in favour of Home Rule for Scotland, being convinced that until we have a Parliament of our own, we cannot obtain the many and great reforms on which I believe the people of Scotland have set their hearts.”

His chief appeal however for differentiation as between himself and the other candidates was on the ground of class representation. He submitted an analysis of all the interests represented in Parliament, showing that out of the 72 members sent from Scotland, not one represented the working people. “Why is it,” he asked, “that in the richest nation in the world those who produce the wealth should alone be poor? What help can you expect from those who believe they can only be kept rich in proportion as you are kept poor?

‘Few save the poor feel for the poor, the rich know not how hard,
It is to be of needful food and needful rest debarred.’

“I ask you therefore to return to Parliament a man of yourselves, who being poor, can feel for the poor, and whose whole interest lies in the direction of securing for you a better and a happier lot?”

Encouragement came from many quarters.

The recently formed Labour Electoral Association, which during this election assumed the title of National Labour Party, sent through its treasurer, Edward Harford, 400 with the assurance: “You can have more if needed.

This body subsequently proved itself unable to stand the strain of divided allegiance to Liberalism and Labour. The secretary, T. R. Threlfall, wrote declaring the election to be “particularly a test question as to how far the professed love of the Liberal Party for Labour representation is a reality.”

The Scottish Home Rule Association, both through its Edinburgh and its London Committees, adopted him as its candidate, the Metropolitan section passing the following resolution, “That this meeting hails with gratitude the appearance of Mr. J. K. Hardie, the tried and trusted champion of the rights of the Scottish Miners, as a Labour candidate for Mid-Lanark, and trusts that the working men in that constituency will rally round him and do themselves the honour of returning the first genuine Labour representative for Scotland.” In transmitting the resolution, the Secretary, J. Ramsay MacDonald, sent the following letter, the terms of which he himself has probably long ago forgotten. As this was the first correspondence between two men who were later to be in close comradeship, it is set down here for preservation. It shows, amongst other things, that MacDonald, like Hardie, had not yet lost hope in the Liberal Party.

“Scottish Home Rule Association.
“23 Kelly Street, Kentish Town, London.

“Mr. J. Keir Hardie,

“Dear Mr. Hardie,—I cannot refrain from wishing you God-speed in your election contest. Had I been able to have gone to Mid-Lanark to help you—to do so both by ‘word and deed’—would have given very great pleasure indeed. The powers of darkness—Scottish newspapers with English editors (as the ‘Leader’), partisan wire-pullers, and the other etceteras of political squabbles—are leagued against us.

“But let the consequences be what they may, do not withdraw. The cause of Labour and of Scottish Nationality will suffer much thereby. Your defeat will awaken Scotland, and your victory will re-construct Scottish Liberalism. All success be yours, and the National cause you champion. There is no miner— and no other one for that matter—who is a Scotsman and not ashamed of it, who will vote against you in favour of an obscure English barrister, absolutely ignorant of Scotland and of Scottish affairs, and who only wants to get to Parliament in order that he may have the tail of M.P. to his name in the law courts.

I am, Dear Sir,

Yours very truly,

“J. Ramsay MacDonald,
“Hon. Secretary, S.H.R.A.”

The Parliamentary Committee of the Highland Land League, through its Chairman, J. Galloway Weir, also endorsed the candidature. The Glasgow Trades Council did likewise, and the Executive Council of the British Steel Smelters’ Association. Lady Florence Dixie wrote : “If the miners put you in they will know that, at least, they have a representative who will be the slave of no Party, but who will speak fearlessly for Scotland and her people’s interests.” Cunninghame Graham sent a characteristic epistle in which he expressed the hope that all Scotsmen would see the importance of not returning an Englishman, and concluded, “a good coat is useful enough against the weather, but why poor men should bow down and worship one, knowing that it will not warm their backs passes my comprehension.”

Hardie resisted all inducements to retire, including an offer from the Liberal Party, the nature of which had best be disclosed in his own words many years afterwards.

“In 1888 I came out as the Labour candidate for the Mid-Division of Lanarkshire. The whole story of that campaign will be told some day—Bob Smillie could tell it—but for the moment I confine myself to one little incident. Mr. T. R. Threlfall, Secretary to the Labour Electoral Association, came North to take part in the contest. One evening Threlfall did not turn up at the meeting for which he wras advertised, and shortly after I got back from my round he turned up at the hotel bubbling over with excitement. ‘I’ve settled it,’ he cried excitedly. ‘I’ve been in conference with them all the evening, and it’s all fixed up.’ ‘In conference with whom, and settled what?’ I asked. ‘In conference with the Liberals,’ he replied, ‘at the George Hotel, and you’ve to retire.’ I don’t quite know what happened then, but I remember rising to my feet and Threlfall ceased speaking. Next morning he returned home to Southport. On the day of his departure Mr. Schnadhorst, the then chief Caucusmonger of the Liberals, invited me to meet him at the George Hotel.

I replied that I was quite prepared to receive in writing anything he had to say. The following day, Mr. C. A. V. Conybeare, then M.P. for the Camborne Division of Cornwall, induced me to pay a visit to Sir George Trevelyan, also at the George Hotel. Sir George was very polite, and explained the unwisdom of Liberals and Labour fighting each other. They wanted more working men in Parliament, and if only I would stand down in Mid-Lanark he would give me an assurance that at the General Election I would be adopted somewhere, the party paying my expenses, and guaranteeing me a yearly salary—three hundred pounds was the sum hinted at—as they were doing for others (he gave me names). I explained as well as I could why his proposal was offensive, and though he was obviously surprised, he was too much of a gentleman to be anything but courteous. And so the fight went on.” .

The contest was fought with great bitterness, especially on the part of the Liberals, who did not scruple to introduce sectarian and religious animosities, and who were able to make great play with the Irish Home Rule question in a constituency where the Irish electorate bulked largely. The United Irish League seems to have believed implicitly at that time in the willingness and ability of Mr. Gladstone to carry the Liberal Party with him in establishing Home Rule, and although Hardie had the support of Mr. John Ferguson, the leading champion of the Irish cause in the West of Scotland, and himself on the Council of the Liberal Party, the official mandate went against Hardie. He had thus to fight both the Liberal machine and the Nationalist machine, and had only an impromptu organisation wherewith to counter them. When the end came, he got 617 votes, and the Liberal went to the House of Commons—and in due course higher up. Looking back over the years and the events which separate us from this historical contest, how tragic is “the might-have-been.”

But the election had cleared the air, and had settled one thing for ever, the impossibility of a Labour Party within the Liberal Party. That gives it its permanent place in the history of the Labour movement. From that day onward, the coming of the Independent Labour Party was a certainty, and that it should be a Socialist Party was equally certain from the very nature of the political developments arising out of the competitive commercialist system and the growing demands of the workers for a higher standard of life, which it was quite evident could not be realised merely through the industrial organisations then existing.

The capitalist and the landowning classes both relied upon political force for the maintenance of their privileges. To combat these, Labour political force was necessary. Only a minority of the working class leaders were able to diagnose the disease and apply the remedy. Amongst that minority was the defeated Labour candidate for Mid-Lanark. Henceforth there was to be no temporising so far as he was concerned— no accommodating other interests. The issues and the policy were to be alike clear. A new chapter in Labour politics was opened.

The next step was quickly taken. On May 19th, twenty-seven men met in Glasgow. Mr. John Murdoch, a man well known in connection with the Highland Crofters’ agitation, sturdy in frame as in opinions, presided, and Hardie explained the object for which the meeting had been called, viz., the formation of a bona fide Labour Party for Scotland. A Committee was formed to arrange for a conference to be held without delay to form such a Party. The members of the Committee were Duncan Macpherson, Keir Hardie,

Charles Kennedy, George Mitchell and Robert Hutchison. Two of these at least, Mitchell and Hutchison, were avowed Socialists, the latter an exceedingly able open-air speaker, who, with Bruce Glasier, carried the Socialist message into many far distant corners of Scotland. These two were, in fact, the voices in the wilderness heralding the coming of the great army of propagandists that was to follow. Three months later, on August 25th, the Conference was held in the Waterloo Rooms, Glasgow, and the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party was duly formed and office-bearers elected. The Hon. President was R. B. Cunninghame Graham; Hon. Vice-Presidents, Dr. Clark, M.P., and John Ferguson. The Chairman of Executive was J. Shaw Maxwell, who afterwards became first secretary of the national Independent ' Labour Party. Keir Hardie was Secretary, and George Mitchell, Treasurer. Thus one more office of responsibility was added to Hardie’s already numerous duties. He was now Secretary of the Ayrshire Miners’ Union, of the Scottish Miners’ Federation, of the Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party, and editor of “The Miner.” In the creation of all these enterprises on behalf of labour his was the active mind, and it cannot be said that he shirked in any way his share of the toil which their promotion involved.

Amongst those who took part in this memorable meeting was a delegate from Larkhall named Robert Smillie, who has been heard of in the world since then. Hardie and he were already fairly close friends and fellow workers in the common cause, and remained so till death broke the bond of comradeship. Smillie, though still working in the pits, was, at the period of this meeting, already busy organising the Lanarkshire miners and serving them in a representative capacity on the Larkhall School Board. In such probationary ways and through such manifold experiences do working class leaders evolve. This is the kind of service for which the qualifying degrees do not emanate from any university, though the university might be helpful if it were available.

The newly formed party discussed and adopted a lengthy and detailed programme which need not be reproduced here. The most far-reaching of the proposals, such as the “State acquisition of railways, and all other means of transit,” “A National Banking System and the Issue of State Money only,” remain yet unfulfilled, though now well within the range of practical politics. The formulation of these demands thirty years ago indicates how far these men were in advance of their time, and in what manner they were feeling their way towards a statement of Socalist aims which, by its very practicality, would be acceptable to their fellow workmen. They were not dreamers by any means. They were out for realities. They related the hard road at their feet with the justice they saw on the horizon.

Following close upon this memorable meeting at Glasgow, came the annual Trades Union Congress held that year at Bradford. Hardie was a delegate and much in evidence in the debates, being practically leading spokesman for the advanced section, who made use of the Congress as a propaganda platform in favour of Parliamentary Labour Representation and the Legal Eight Hours’ Day. He also presided at an outside fraternising meeting of French and British delegates for the purpose of mutual enlightenment on the progress of the working-class movement in both countries. Already he was beginning to be recognised by European working-class leaders as representative of the most progressive and the most fearless elements in the British Labour movement, and for his part, he was eager to know and understand the conditions under which they had to carry on the struggle against the forces of capitalism; he was also, perhaps, desirous of, to some extent, taking the measure of the personalities who were in the forefront of that battle. He had an opportunity of extending his knowledge at an International Conference which took place in-London the following November. This was Hardie’s first International, and for that reason it is of importance for this memoir, but also for other reasons. It was not a fully representative Conference, the German Social Democrats having decided not to take part through some misunderstanding, which need not be discussed now after all these years, but which called for an explanatory circular from the “Socialist members of the German Reichstag” addressed to “Our Socialist comrades, and the workers of all countries,” and including amongst its signatures the names of two men who take rank amongst the great ones of the wide-world Socialist movement, William Liebknecht and August Bebel. The Conference was called by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, and was really a Trade Union, rather than a Socialist, International. Naturally, the British delegates were largely in the majority, being seventy-nine in number as compared with eighteen from France which sent the next largest number. Holland sent thirteen, Belgium ten, Denmark two, Italy one.

There does not appear to have been any representation from Austria, or Hungary, or Switzerland, or any of the Balkan countries. Hardie’s observations, comparing the British with the foreigners may be quoted, if for no other purpose than to illustrate his opinions concerning the British Trade Union movement of that time. Describing the reception in Westminster Palace Hotel, he says: “How different we are after all from our neighbours. They are gay, light, volatile, ever ready to flare up into a passion at a moment’s notice; we, stolid (stupid, someone called it), heavy, dullish, slow to anger (the chairman excepted), and not at all like men in earnest. Certainly these foreigners know what they are about. They have made up their minds as to what they want, and mean to have it. They are Socialists to a man, and have the fiery zeal which always characterises earnest men who are fighting for a principle. Probably some of the earlier trade unionists of this country exhibited the same characteristics, but now that the leader of a Trade Union is the holder of a fat, snug office, concerned only in maintaining the respectability of the cause, all is changed. Theirs (the foreigners) may be a madness without method, ours is a method without life. A fusion of the two would be beneficial all round.”

Then he goes on to characterise the notables present at the Congress, his reference to some of the home-made ones being rather more caustic than was necessary, but interesting, nevertheless, in view of their subsequent careers.

“The Chairman, Mr. George Shipton, of the London Trades Council, has much to do to keep things in order; next him Mr. Broadhurst, Secretary. On the floor, Mr. Burt, philosophic and gentle-looking as ever, taking no part in the proceedings, but, like the sailor’s parrot, thinking a lot; Mr. Fenwick, too, growing visibly larger, much to his regret; Mr. Abraham, 5ft. by 4ft., correct measurement, so that he is not so broad as he is long, though I should say he soon will be; his voice is scarcely so clear as it once was, but he himself is bright, cheerful and full of bonhomie as ever. There too, was Miss Edith Simcox, with her strong, sympathetic face. ‘Done more for the unskilled workers than all the Parliamentary Committee put together,’ is the remark of one who knows.) Mrs. Besant attends as frequently as she can. She is not tall, and has a slight stoop, probably the result of a too close application at her desk; wears her hair short, and has on a red Tam-o’-Shanter; silver streaks are not wanting among her tresses. Miss Chapman sits wearily through several sittings, wondering what it is all about. She is president of the Match Girls’ Union, and is a tall, good-looking lassie, with dark and clear-cut features, despite Bryant & May and their twenty-two per cent. John Burns keeps running about and appears to know everybody. He is an Ayrshire Scotchman of the third generation. A thick-set, black tyke he is, with a voice of slightly modulated thunder and a nature as buoyant as a schoolboy’s. Among the foreigners is Anseele of Belgium, probably their best man. He has ‘done’ his six months in jail for siding with the workers, but that has not daunted him any. His power of speech is amazing, and, as he closes his lips with a snap at the end of each sentence, he seems to say, ‘There! I have spoken and I mean it.’ He is young, vigorous, and talented, and destined to make his mark. Next in importance is Hoppenheimer of Paris. Tall and good-looking, with a head of hair like a divot. He has seen much life and is greatly trusted by his fellows. Christi-son is a typical Dane with a bullet head and more given to action than talking. Mr. Adolph Smith made a capital interpreter. Lazzari the Italian is easily known. He wears leather leggings, a black cloak thrown over his shoulders and a slouch hat. He has only recently come out of prison, and is quite prepared to be sent back on his return home. His face is long and sallow; his eyes dark and bright, and as he stalks about with a swinging gait, or lounges against a pillar smoking a cigarette, I call to mind the stories of long ago in which just such a picture figured in my mind’s eye as the cruel brigand. Many others might be mentioned, but space is limited.”

The foregoing appeared in “The Miner,” and it justifies the belief that if Hardie had not been so absorbed in the cause of Labour, he might have been a prince of journalists. .

Hardie was very much to the front at this Conference, which for a whole day discussed “the best means for removing the obstacles to free combination amongst the workers in continental countries,” and the following morning on Hardie’s recommendation carried the following resolution : “The Labour parties in the different countries are requested to put on their programme, and work for, by agitation, the abolition of all laws prohibiting or hampering the free right of association and combination, national and international, of the workers.”

On the question of methods he put forward the following proposals, a perusal of which by our modern industrial unionists may indicate to them that the idea underlying their policy is not so very novel after all.

“First. That all unions of one trade in one country combine in electing an Executive Central body for that trade in that country.

“Second. That the Central bodies of the various trades in the different countries elect a General Council for all trades.

“Third. That the Central bodies of the various trades in the different countries shall meet in Conference annually and an International Conference shall be held at intervals of not less than three years.”

There was here the conception of an international industrial power capable of being called into action at any given moment of great crisis, which, if it could have materialised in the form, say, of a general strike, might long ago have completely shattered militarism and made impossible the 1914 European calamity, while it would also have undermined the very foundations of capitalism. That it did not materialise is no fault of Keir Hardie. That he was capable of formulating it is proof of his greatness of vision, even if it implied a faith in organised mass intelligence for which working-class environment and tradition gave little justification. To have dreamed the dream was worth while, even if the realisation thereof may be for other generations.

Hardie’s resolutions were not carried, but in their stead a long resolution from the foreigners, to which Hardie had no objections and which, according to his summary of it, “provided for the organisation of all workers, the appointment of National Committees, the formation of a distinct political Labour Party, and the holding, if possible, of a yearly International Congress, the next one to meet in Paris the following year.” The Conference also decided in favour of a maximum eight hours’ day, and, on the motion of Mr. Burt, it resolved : “That arbitration should be substituted for war in the settlement of disputes between nations. ” Hardie’s concluding comments are noteworthy. “The Conference is over. We know each other better. Socialism is in the ascendant and everybody knows it. The marching order has been given, and it is ‘Forward !’ Henceforth there can be no alienation between British and Continental workers. The Broadhurst school have now Hobson’s choice facing them—accept the new gospel or go down before those who will.”

Thus ended the activities of the year 1888 with a declaration of Socialism. It had been a tremendous year for Hardie. Packed full of striving from beginning to end, and marking the beginnings of new endeavours which were to engross him henceforth all the days of his life. He had fought his first parliamentary contest. He had thrown down the gauntlet to the existing political parties, and to those working-class leaders who adhered to them. He had joined hands with the overseas fighters for freedom. He had become international. He had embraced Socialism. He had raised up against him in his own country hosts of enemies, but he had also secured troops of friends. ’The battle was drawn and he took joy in it. Let us have a square look at him, as he appeared at this time to one who was fairly closely associated with him in some of these public events. Mr. Cunninghame Graham, shortly after Keir Hardie’s death, and for the purpose of this memoir, supplied the following vivid impression :—

“I first met Keir Hardie about the year 1887 or 1888. He was at that time, in conjunction with Chisholm Robertson, one of the chief miners’ leaders in the West of Scotland. I first saw him at his home in Cumnock. I spoke to him for the first time in the office of a paper he was connected with, I think ‘The Miner’ or ‘Cumnock News.’ He was then about thirty years of age I should judge, but old for his age. His hair was already becoming thin at the top of the head, and receding from the temples. His eyes were not very strong. At first sight he struck you as a remarkable man. There was an air of great benevolence about him, but. his face showed the kind of appearance of one who has worked and and suffered, possibly from inadequate nourishment, alert though not athletic. Still, he appeared to be full of energy, and as subsequent events proved, he had an enormous power of resistance against long, hard and continual work. I should judge him to have been of a very nervous and high-strung temperament. At that time, and I believe up to the end of his life, he was an almost ceaseless smoker, what is called in the United States ea chain smoker. He was a very strict teetotaller and remained so to the end, but he was not a bigot on the subject and was tolerant of faults in the weaker brethren. Nothing in his address or speech showed his want of education in his youth. His accent was of Ayrshire. I think he took pride in it in his ordinary conversation. He could, however, to a great extent throw this accent aside, but not entirely. When roused or excited in public or private speech it was always perceptible. His voice was high-pitched but sonorous and very far-carrying at that time. He never used notes at that time, and I think never prepared a speech, leaving all to the inspiration of the moment. This suited his natural, unforced method of speaking admirably. He had all the charm and some of the defects of his system. Thus, though he rose higher than I think it is possible to rise when a speech is prepared or committed to memory, he was also subject to very flat passages when he was not, so to speak, inspired. His chief merits as a speaker were, in my opinion, his homeliness, directness and sincerity^ and his demerits were a tendency to redundancy and length, and a total lack of humour, very rare in an Ayrshire Scot. This was to me curious, as he had a considerable vein of pathos. He always opened his speeches in those days with ‘Men,’ and finished with ‘Now, men.’- This habit, which he also followed in his private speech—when two or three were gathered together— used to give great offence to numbers of paternal capitalists, baillies, councillors, and other worthy men who had not much mental culture and failed to detect Hardie’s sincerity, and took the familiar ‘men’ as something too familiar for their conversing. Hardie’s dress at this time was almost always a navy blue serge suit with a hard bowler hat. His hair was never worn long and his beard was well-trimmed and curly. Later on, to the regret of the ‘judicious,’ he affected a different style of dressing entirely foreign to his custom when a little-known man. He was then, and I believe always, an extremely abstemious eater, and in the long peregrinations about the mining villages of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, when I was a young, unknown M.P. and he an equally unknown miners’ leader, in rain and wind, and now and then in snow, an oatcake, a scone, a bit of a kebbuck of cheese always contented him. He would then sit down by the fireside in the cottage in the mining row, and light up his corn-cob pipe and talk of the future of the Labour Party, which in those days seemed to the miners a mere fairy tale. Now and then I have seen him take the baby from the miner’s wife, and dandle it on his knee whilst she prepared tea.

“He had the faculty of attracting children to him, and most certainly he ‘forbade them not.’ They would come round him in the miners’ cottages and lean against him for the first few minutes. One felt he was a ‘family man’ and so, I suppose, did the children.”

Allowing for one or two inaccuracies such as that he was an Ayrshire Scot and “totally lacking in humour,” the foregoing may be taken as a tolerably faithful pen-portrait of Keir Hardie in his prime, and presents characteristic features recognisable by his later associates, though deepened and strengthened by the stress of conflict in the wider field upon which he was now entering. It is the portrait of a very earnest, sincere man; resolute and strong, yet tender and kindly, and making the most of his opportunities and his gifts in the interest of his “ain folk,” the working class. It would be helpful if some graphic pen could re-envisage for us the wider environment, beyond Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, which together with these local conditions and these local struggles, was moulding the character and determining the purpose of Hardie and many ather ardent spirits at that time.

It is curious to note how unobservant of the potential significance of these Labour movements were the contemporary publicists and historians. Justin McCarthy’s “History of Our Own Times,” 'for example, though it comes down to 1897, makes only the most casual five-word reference in recording the death of Cardinal Manning to the London Dock Strike, and makes no mention of the sympathetic strikes all over the country which followed it. It does not record the imprisonment of Cunninghame Graham' and John Burns in maintenance of the right of free speech. It says nothing about the “new Unionism” movement which signalised the entrance into organised industrialism, and thereby into the political field, of the great mass of unskilled workers. It does not chronicle the formation of the Social Democratic Federation, or of the Fabian Society, or of the I.L.P. It passes all these events by unnoticed as if they had nothing whatever to do with the history of our own times, and fails to perceive that they were the beginners of the new social and political forces which were bound, in the very nature of things, to challenge the permanency of the existing order, and become the source of whatever has to be told in the history of the times after our own.

It was a time of turmoil and strife, but also of hope for labouring people, whose most thoughtful representatives were testing and experimenting with new mediums for giving expression and effect to the aspirations of their class. New organisations were born and lived a little while and then died, but always left behind them some foundations and corner stones for future builders. Labour Electoral Associations, National Labour Parties, Sons of Labour—modelled on the American Knights of Labour—Hardie was willing to try them all, and also ready to associate with the pioneers and propagandists whom these organisations called into activity. Very remarkable personalities some of them indeed were, though not all with horny hands or toil-furrowed faces. Keen, intellectual, purposeful, they carried their message alike to the street corners of the great cities and the village greens of remote country districts. They brought Socialism into the market place. They elbowed their way into Radical Associations and into Tory Clubs, nor disdained the rostrum of the Y.M.C.A. or the Mutual Improvement Society. Their purpose was to break through the old habits of thought, to undermine stereotyped party formulas, to prepare the way for the new times.

Greatly varied in origin, in temperament, in character, in talents, were these men of the advanced guard of the modern British Socialist movement—H. H. Champion, ex-army officer, in appearance, patrician to the finger tips, cool as an iceberg, yet emitting red-hot revolution in the placid accents of clubland; Tom Mann, a working engineer, fresh from the “tanner-an-hour” dock strike, with all its honours full upon him, vigorous, eloquent, strong-lunged, rich-toned, speaking as easily in an amphitheatre as Champion could do in a drawing room, the very embodiment, it seemed, of the common people; Bruce Glasier, a designer and architect, somewhat angular in physical outline, pale of face, yet withal picturesquely attractive at a street corner with the breeze dishevelling his hair and carrying his high-pitched, musical tones to the far end of the street, his artistic fusing of poetry, economics and politics compelling even the Philistines to stand and listen; James Connolly, a labourer from the Edinburgh Cleansing Department a most un-Celtic-like personality, slow and difficult of utterance, yet undeterred by any disability either of physique or training from delivering his message, a very encyclopaedia of statistical facts and figures and of Marxian economics, a victimised industrial martyr even then, but with nothing either in his demeanour or in his political views foreshadowing his tragic and heroic end at the head of an Irish rebellion. And with these sometimes, and sometimes alone, there was a burly, thick-set figure of a man, in blue sailor-like garb, yet withal countrified in appearance, a ruddy-complexioned lion-headed man, William Morris, poet, artist, pre-Raphaelite—and because he was all these and humanitarian to boot, a Socialist. There were others too, rough and uncultured, or refined and bookish, men from the mine and from the factory, and the workshops and the dockyard and the smelting furnace, working men with active brains and great hearts, artists, dons, professional men. Harry Quelch, Pete Curran, Bob Hutcheson, Sandy Haddow, Bob Smillie and many others like unto them crowded into this service. These were the men who, with Keir Hardie, were making Socialism in the ’eighties of the last century. He was with them but riot yet entirely of them. He was at close grips with that form of capitalism under whose domination his lot had been cast. Fighting the coalowners and stiffening the men, smoking his pipe in the colliery rows and fondling the bairns, yet all the time, assimilating inspiration from the turmoil beyond, and gradually merging himself in that turmoil. Idealist and enthusiast, yet looking ever to the practical side of things and retaining always his own individuality. The friendless, forlorn errand boy of Glasgow streets has come far in these twenty-two years. He has still much farther to go in the new world of service that is opening out ahead of him.


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