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J. Keir Hardie
Chapter 8. Parliament Once More—“The White Herald”—Serious Illness


WHEN the new Parliament met, Hardie was the only^ one of the six hundred and seventy Members who put in an appearance without being summoned to attend. All the others had, according to usage, been summoned by their respective party leaders, Conservative, Liberal and Nationalist. The Liberals even claimed Richard Bell, the other L.R.C. representative. Hardie had no leader, and only nominally had he a colleague. Yet he was not unwilling to have one, as the following utterance shows : “I am told there is a publication called the ‘Gazette’ in which notices concerning Parliament appear, but never having seen the publication I cannot vouch for the truth of the statement. Leaders of parties, it seems, send out notices to their followers concerning when Parliament is to meet, and the fact that John Burns has not yet taken to fulfilling this part of his duties accounts for my having been unsummoned. It may be further noticed that as the Labour Party has not yet appointed its Whip, I am an unwhipped Member of Parliament. Does the House contain another ?”

There is here more than a hint that he would have been willing to recognise John Burns as his leader, and also a suggestion that the time was opportune for the Trade Union Members of Parliament to cut themselves adrift from the Liberal Party and form a distinct

Labour group. The hint was not taken, and all through his second Parliament, as in his first, Hardie was condemned to “plough a lonely furrow.” He did, indeed, continue for some months hoping that the working-class members would group themselves together at least for the purpose of taking common action on industrial questions, and it was certainly no blame of his that this did not take place. Again and again, at this time, he went out of his way to make public his appreciation of Burns’s high debating powers, and his belief in the possibility of forming a parliamentary party under his leadership. But the hour had not come, and even if it had come, John Burns was not the man. Hardie himself was the man, but he had to await the hour—and the followers. In this House of Commons he was still an Ishmael. It was well for him that, in addition to his faith in the movement, he possessed what many persons did not credit him with, a lively sense of humour. The whimsicality of the whole situation gave him food for much quiet laughter.

A general election had just been held. The whole public life of the nation had been convulsed, and the result was a House of Commons in which the only new feature was Keir Hardie. The Salisbury-Chamberlain Government was in power as before. The Liberal Party was in opposition, and, $s before, impotent and practically leaderless. The Nationalists were, as before, at the tail of the Liberal Party. It seemed as if the general election had been held for the sole and express purpose of getting Hardie back into Parliament. That, at least, was all it had achieved. In his present mood, Parliament and all its appurtenances seemed to him like a grotesque joke. Reference has already been made to his faculty for literary expression. If ever, as a supplement to this memoir, there should be published a selection of his fugitive writings, there will surely be included his impression of the opening of this Parliament. It is replete with genial, yet caustic sarcasm, of which a mere extract cannot possibly convey the full flavour. After explaining the preliminary mummeries and their Cromwellian origin, he says, “new members in the lobby are astonished at the procession they now behold approaching. First comes a police official, a fine, burly, competent-looking man; behind him follows a most melancholy-looking old gentleman who would make the fortune of an undertaker by going out as a mute to funerals. He wears black cotton gloves, his hands are crossed in front of his paunch, and he moves sadly and solemnly behind the police officer. It might be a procession to the scaffold so serious does everyone look. Behind the mute comes ‘Black Rod.’ He is gorgeously arrayed, not exactly in ‘purple and fine linen,’ but in scarlet and gold lace. He moves for all the world like an automaton worked by some machinery which is out of gear. If ever you have seen a cat, daintily picking its way across a roadway on a wet day, you have some idea how General Sir M. Biddulph approaches the House of Commons.” And so on, through all the proceedings down to the final exit of the Lord Chancellor from the House of Lords, “a squat little man, with a pug nose, trying to look dignified.” Finally, we have Hardie’s serious comment on the whole ridiculous tomfoolery, which, as he sees it, is “quaint without being impressive.” “Times and circumstances have changed during the last thousand years, but the forms of these institutions remain practically as they then were, which is typical of much that goes on inside these walls.”

A week or two later he was writing in a very different mood, describing the naval and military pageantry, attendant upon the funeral of Queen Victoria. The Queen died on January 21st, and it is significant that in the “Labour Leader” the following week, his reference was not to that event, but to the death of another—a comparatively obscure woman—Mrs. Edwards, of Liverpool, the wife of John Edwards, the founder of the “Reformers’ Year Book.” She had been one of the many intimate friends he had made during his travelling to and fro among the comrades. Of her he wrote : “She was the most kindly and unselfish creature that ever trod the earth. Her tact and her cleverness, her energetic spirit, and, above all else, the great soul, big enough, noble enough to forgive and sweep aside the faults of everybody and search out the kernel of goodness that is so often hidden by the hard covering of one’s defects.” Yet the omission of any reference to Queen Victoria’s death was probably not deliberate. He was at the time in the North of Scotland, addressing anti-war meetings in Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, and in the midst of this work the news of the passing of his friend would affect him more nearly than the passing of the monarch.

Next week, he paid his tribute to the departed Queen. “It is as the pattern wife and mother, the embodiment of the virtues upon which the middle-class matron bases her claim to be considered the prop and mainstay of the race, that Queen Victoria was known and respected. The pomps and ceremonies of her station do not seem to have had any charm for her, whilst her manner of dressing was plain, almost to dowdiness. The quiet retreat of Balmoral, far removed from the turmoil and intrigue of fashionable society, had for her a charm which few can appreciate. The pomp and panoply of martial life was as far removed from such a life as anything well could be.

“There are tens of thousands of loyal British subjects who loved to honour the Queen, who in their hearts resent the association of her memory with the military life of the nation, and in their name, as well as in my own, I enter my protest against the barbarous display of the bloodthirsty implements of war, amidst which the remains of a peace-loving woman will to-day be laid to rest.”

The “barbarous display” took place in due course, and Hardie, in a very powerful description of it, which cannot be reproduced here, laid bare what seemed to him to be the sinister meaning and purport of it all; the militarisation of the very spirit of the nation, and the subordination of the true idea of citizenship. “In a constitutionally governed country, Parliament, not the monarch, is the real seat of authority. The soldier is the servant of the State. On this occasion the soldier was everything, the civilian nothing. The Members of Parliament, the chosen of the people, the real rulers of the nation—they came not to take part in the funeral, but stood upon the purple cloth-covered seats, and gazed like so many school-children upon the military thirty yards away. The administrative councils of the nation were totally ignored. The cadets of the Duke of York’s Military Training College had a stand; the servants at Buckingham Palace had one; but there was no room in all the streets of London, nor in the public parks through which the procession passed, for a stand for the members of the London County Council.

“As for the seats of learning, the Christian Church, Science, Art and Commerce—they were all ignored. Having joyfully placed their necks under the heel of the soldier, they are each receiving their meet reward.” Thus, bitterly and prophetically did Hardie read the lesson of Queen Victoria’s military funeral, the precursor of many a similar pageant, deliberately planned, as he believed, to overrule the naturally peaceful tendencies of the common people. Hardie was a Republican, but never obtrusively so, and on this occasion it was not so much the monarchy that was the object of his attack, as the aggressive militarism which sought to pervert the national respect for the departed monarch to its own sinister ends.

A few months later his views on the monarchical institution itself found an opportunity for expression when the revised Civil List, consequent upon the succession of King Edward to the throne, came up for discussion in Parliament. He had previously, on the King’s Speech, endeavoured to add an amendment, which after thanking the King for his speech, expressed regret that the monarchy had not been abolished, which the Speaker had gravely, and without any apparent perception of the covert humour of the proposal, ruled out of order. He had also intervened in the debate on the expenses of the late Queen’s funeral in a manner not pleasing to some of the Tory members whose unmannerly interruptions drew from him the remark that “honourable members sitting opposite are evidently not in a condition to behave themselves,” a reference to the after-dinner boisterousness of the said honourable Members which the Speaker declared to be “offensive.”

On the question of the Civil List he was not to be turned aside. Under the new proposals the provision for the Royal Family was increased from 553,000 to 620,000, but although, as a matter of course, Hardie objected to this increase and challenged every detail, it was on the ground of his “objections to monarchical principles” that he opposed the entire Civil List and divided the House, taking fifty-eight members into the Lobby along with him, John Burns acting as his fellow-teller in the division. Of the fifty-eight, only four were working-class Members. The other fifty-four were of the Irish Party. The “Leeds Mercury’s” description of Hardie’s deportment on this occasion may be quoted as an aid to our general conception of the kind of man he was, and also as a corrective to the widespread misrepresentation of him as a mere self-advertising demagogue. “Mr. Keir Hardie,” said the “Mercury,” “delivered a speech on frankly Republican lines. He drew cheers from the Tories by admitting that the working class were now favourable to .Royalty, and provoked their laughter by adding that this was because the working man did not know what Royalty meant. But he quietly stuck to his point. The hereditary principle whether in the Legislature or on the Throne, was, he maintained, degrading to the manhood of the nation, and it was the clear duty of men like himself to try to get the nation to recognise the fact. This, and many other things, he uttered in smooth, dispassionate, faultlessly fashioned phraseology. He is, in fact, one of the most cultured speakers the present House of Commons can boast. His doctrines are anathematised by some, contemptuously • laughed at by others, but he has a Parliamentary style and diction that may put the bulk of our legislators to shame.”

These events and discussions extended over several months, with much else in between, but are here grouped consecutively, as the most effective means of setting forth Hardie’s views and attitude towards Royalty. He never at any time went out of his way to attack the Monarchy, but simply availed himself of the opportunities to do so, as they arose. His aim, of which he never lost sight, was the building up of a Labour Party for the realisation of Socialism. To this purpose, all other questions were subsidiary or contributory. He recognised very clearly that in his present situation, without the support of an organised party in the House, the only use he could make of Parliament was as a propaganda platform, and even that was determined, to some extent, by his power of arresting the attention of the capitalist press. And this he certainly succeeded in doing. The British people were never allowed to forget that there was a man in Parliament called Keir Hardie, or that he belonged to the dangerous fraternity of Socialists.

Right in the middle of this discussion about Royalty he found an opportunity for putting Socialism in the centre of the stage, so to speak, though only for a brief moment. April 23rd, 1901, is an historic date for the British Socialist movement. Hardie, in the private members’ ballot, had been lucky enough to secure a place for that particular date, but unlucky enough to be last on the list. He put down the following resolution, which, as it is the first complete Socialist declaration ever made in the British House of Commons, must have a place in this account of the life of its author: “That considering the increasing burden which the private ownership of land and capital is imposing upon the industrious and useful classes of the community, the poverty and destitution and general moral and physical deterioration resulting from a competitive system of wealth production which aims primarily at profit-making, the alarming growth of trusts and syndicates, able by reason of their great wealth to influence governments and plunge peaceful nations into war to serve their own interests, this House is of opinion that such a state of matters is a menace to the well-being of the Realm and calls for legislation designed to remedy the same by inaugurating a Socialist Commonwealth founded upon the common ownership of land and capital, production for use and not for profit, and equality of opportunity for every citizen.”

His presentation of this resolution was certainly a most remarkable parliamentary performance. It was half - past eleven before the preceding business was disposed of. At twelve o’clock the House must stand adjourned. At twenty-five minutes to twelve Hardie rose to put the case for Socialism to an audience mostly comprised of its enemies. Arthur Balfour was there, drawn, as one writer said, “by the metaphysical curiosity of the Scot, to amuse himself hearing what a brother Scot had to say on Socialism.” John Morley was there, the parliamentary embodiment of individualist philosophy. The young Tory bloods were there, their hostility, for the moment, submerged in their curiosity. The Liberal commercialists were there, interested, but critical and incredulous. The Irish members were there, sympathetic and encouraging in their demeanour.

How skilfully Hardie performed his difficult task, let the capitalist press again bear witness. Said the parliamentary writer for the “Daily News”: “Mr. Keir Hardie had about twenty minutes in which to sketch the outlines of a co-operative commonwealth. He seemed to me to perform this record feat of constructive idealism with remarkable skill, and indeed it would be difficult to imagine a creation of human fancy that would produce more deplorable results than the society from which Mr. Hardie in his vivid way deduced the China Expedition, the South African War, and the London slums. Mr. Balfour, coming back from dinner, smiled pleasantly on the speaker, doubtless calculating that things as they were would last his time.”

The closing sentences of Hardie’s speech are worth preserving because of the prophetic note in them, which indeed was seldom absent from any of his utterances.

“Socialism, by placing the land and the instruments of production in the hands of the community, will eliminate only the idle and useless classes at both ends of the scale. The millions of toilers and of business men do not benefit from the present system. We are called upon to decide the question propounded in the Sermon on the Mount, as to whether we will worship God or Mammon. The last has not been heard of this movement either in the House or in the country, for as surely as Radicalism democratised the system of government politically in the last century, so will Socialism democratise the industrialism of the country in the coming century/’

And as he said, so it is coming to pass. The new century to which he pointed is still young, but the democratising of industry proceeds apace. Shop stewards, workshop committees, Industrial Councils, Socialist Guilds, and in Russia, the Soviet system as a method of government, are all re-creating society on Socialist models. Many of the elements making towards the democratic control and direction of industry are now in operation, and so Hardie’s prediction is in course of being fulfilled. Truly, it was not without reason that many of his associates ascribed to him the qualities of a seer.

Meantime, outside Parliament, the movement continued to move. The Labour Representation Committee had held its first Annual Conference, and was able to report an^ affiliated membership of 470,000 workers. All the Socialist bodies, I.L.P., S.D.F., and Fabian Society, were represented, and although the Conference rejected a resolution moved by Bruce Glasier on behalf of the I.L.P. declaring for an “Industrial Commonwealth founded upon the common ownership of land and capital,” it adopted one brought forward by the Dockers, demanding “the passing of such laws as will put an end to a system under which the producer of wealth has to bear an enormous burden in the shape of rents and profits, which go to the non-producers."

The I.L.P. also, at its Annual Conference, held this year at Leicester, was able to report considerable progress, but naturally found its chief cause for self-congratulation in the fact that Hardie was once more in Parliament, his election being, in the opinion of the Executive, “a signal of battle, not only for the I.L.P., but for the entire Labour and Socialist movement of the nation.55 A proposal by the N.A.C. for the establishment of a “Payment of Members5 Fund,55 having for its object to pay him 150 a year as “a compensation for the extra expenses and loss of time entailed upon him as a working Member of Parliament," was endorsed by acclamation, and on this modest allowance, raised by voluntary subscription, Hardie became, for the first time, a paid Member of Parliament. It is very doubtful if this sum ever covered his expenses. It certainly made provision for no more than very “plain living55 to which happily he was well inured.

In the industrial world, also, events were shaping in a way calculated to impress even the most conservative sections of the workers with a sense of the need for parliamentary action. The Taff Vale decision, which rendered trade unions legally responsible for the actions of their lfeast responsible officials, together with other decisions making peaceful picketing a criminal offence while leaving employers free to organise blackleg labour under police protection, struck at the very life of the industrial labour movement and converted to the policy of the I.L.P. thousands who could not be reached by street corner or platform agitation. Naturally, Hardie, MacDonald, Snowden, and the other Labour

Party advocates did not fail to exploit the situation to the advantage of their cause.

In the midst of all this work he contributed to the Co-operative Annual for 1901 an article, informative and suggestive, on Municipal Socialism, in which he summarised comprehensively the results achieved up to that time. The facts and figures have, of course, been superseded by new facts and figures, but his argument, based alike upon historical continuity and upon common sense, has not been superseded.

“The battle now being waged around Municipal trading is but the renewal of a struggle carried on for two hundred years against king, cleric, and lordling ere yet there was a Parliament in being. The issues remain the same, however much the methods may have changed. As the burghers triumphed then, so will they now. Already property of the estimated value of 500,000,000 has passed from private to public ownership. The citizens of our time are beginning to realise the benefits which follow in the train of common ownership. On every side can be seen the dawning of the idea that were the means of producing the fundamental necessaries of life—food, clothing, shelter—owned communally, as many of the conveniences already are, the problem of poverty would be solved.

In this way he sought to make it plain that Municipal Socialism was simply through Local Government administration an application of the co-operative principle.

About this time, and in all the following years, he was much in request as a lecturer by the Co-operative Educational Committees which were being formed throughout the country, largely as the result of permeation work by Socialist members of the various societies. To these requests he responded as often as his other duties would allow. His name invariably drew audiences composed not of co-operators only, but of the general public, brought by curiosity to see and hear the notorious agitator under non-political and therefore non-committal auspices. On these occasions he usually put party politics aside and devoted himself to co-operative propaganda.

Frequently, in illustration of the practical value of co-operative effort, he recalled how, in the early days of the Miners’ Trade Union movement the establishment of the Co-operative shop in a district had enabled the miners to free themselves from the grip of the “Company’s Stores,” and had thereby given that self-reliance upon which their fight for better working conditions depended; a practical illustration which was easily understood, and paved the way for an exposition of the more far-reaching possibilities of co-operation.

He believed that the co-operative movement must in course of time, and of necessity, join hands with the Trade Union movement for the attainment of political power, but refrained from urging this too strenuously, lest premature action should be hurtful rather than beneficial to both movements. The co-operative movement has seldom had a more judicious or a more sincere advocate than Keir Hardie.

In July of this year, while Parliament was still in session, Hardie had his first touch of illness, and had to remain in bed for upwards of a week, a new experience to which he did not take at all kindly. The surprising thing to his friends was that he had not broken down sooner. He had, as one of them said, “been doing the work of several ordinary mortals.” His correspondence itself was enormous, and he had no private secretary. His advice was sought by all sections of the Labour movement. Every day brought its committees, deputations, interviews and visitors from far and near; while every week-end found him on the propaganda platform in some part of the country, sometimes far distant from London. This entailed long, wearying train journeys. He recovered quickly, but it might have been better if he had taken warning from this first indication that his powers of endurance were being overstrained. He was immediately as busy as ever, both inside and outside of Parliament, but especially outside amongst the I.L.P. branches and trade unions, stimulating them to get ready with their candidates and organisation for the next general election which he was convinced would see a Labour Party very strongly entrenched at Westminster.

It must be said, however, that such opportunities as occurred for testing the grounds for this optimism did not give much encouragement. A three-cornered byelection contest in North-East Lanark found Robert Smillie once more at the bottom of the poll, and at Wakefield, in the spring of the following year, Philip Snowden was defeated by the Conservative candidate in a straight fight. Yet these seeming rebuffs notwithstanding, preparations for the election went on steadily, and the movement continued to grow in strength. These byelections were regarded as merely experimental skirmishes, and not symptomatic of the probable results in a general election fight.

Speaking at Clifford’s Inn under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council of the I.L.P., Hardie said, “There were subtle causes at work which were hastening the movement, and amongst them might be instanced such decisions as that recently given by the House of Lords in the Taff Vale case. The power of the trade unions through the strike had been immense, but their power through the ballot-box was immensely greater, and it was only necessary for their members to learn to vote as they had learned to strike, to secure their victory. There was reason for looking forward with absolute confidence to the future.”

In the midst of all this public activity Hardie was not free from the casual and inevitable cares and difficulties of family life which in some circumstances may be mitigated, but in none can be evaded. In January, 1902, his daughter Agnes, now verging into early womanhood, was taken dangerously ill, and for several weeks hovered between life and death. For the whole of that period the father was absent from Parliament and from the public platform. He was in Cumnock by the bed of sickness, nursing the girl, comforting the mother and hiding his own fears as best he could. In the first week in February, he was able, in the “Labour Leader,” to assure enquiring sympathisers that the invalid was making fair progress towards recovery. “She is still weak, but with care that will pass.” As a matter of fact, this trouble left effects behind from which she could never entirely shake herself free, and caused him to be always more tenderly solicitous for her than for the two boys who had inherited his own sturdy constitution.

In the last week of the following April came another trial, more inevitable, but none the less wrenching because it was inevitable. “On the night when Mr. Balfour gagged discussions regarding the Bread Tax, I found Hardie,” wrote one of his friends, “in the inner lobby watching for a telegram. ‘If I get a wire,’ said he, ‘I must leave for Scotland by the midnight train,’ and at the time when the House was dividing he was going northward.” He had been summoned to the deathbed of his mother and father. The two old people passed away within an hour of each other, and it could be said of them literally that “in death they were not divided.” The now famous son, of whom they were so proud, was in time to bid them good-bye. A strange parting that must have been.

“Fear of death,” wrote Hardie afterwards, “must have been an invention of priestcraft. He is the grim king for those who are left to mourn, but I have not yet seen a deathbed, and I have seen many, where the White Herald has not been welcomed as a friend and deliverer. These two talked about death as if it were an every day incident in their lives. They did so without emotion, or excitement, or interest of any kind. They were dying together, whereat they were glad. Had it been a visit to Glasgow, three miles distant, they could not have been more unconcerned. In fact, such a journey would have been a much greater annoyance to father. They never even referred to any question of the Beyond. As Socialists they had lived for at least twenty-five years, and as such they died and were buried. They had fought life’s battles' together, fought them nobly and well, and it was meet that they should enter the void together.”

At their cremation a few days later, Hardie himself, amidst a gathering of mournful friends and relations, spoke the last parting words in the building where thirteen years later he himself was to be carried. Outwardly he was calm, inwardly he was deeply moved. “Henceforth,” he wrote, “praise or blame will be even less than ever an element in my lifework. Closed for ever are the grey eyes which blazed resentment or shed scalding tears when hard, untrue things were spoken .or written about me or my doings. Silent is the tongue which well knew how to hurl bitter invectives against those who spoke with the tongue of slander, and stilled are the beatings of the warm, impulsive heart which throbbed with pride and joy unspeakable when any little success came her laddie’s gait.” And with this sense of an irreparable void in his life, he turned to work once more.

When he returned to London he found it necessary to make another change in his way of living. The friendly household wherein he had been accustomed to sojourn during the Parliamentary session, had been broken up, also through death’s visitation, and he had to look for a new home in London—a home which, in point of rental, would not be too expensive. He found it, after some weeks’ house-hunting all over London, in Nevill’s Court, Fetter Lane, off Fleet Street, at 6s. 6d. a week. Within a stone’s throw of the “Labour Leader” London office, and twenty minutes’ walk of Westminster, it was certainly quite near his daily work, and yet as remote from the bustle and turmoil of modern city life as if it were a survival of mediaeval times round which the new world had built itself—indeed, it was such a retreat. It was a tumble-down structure of the fifteenth or sixteenth century, built of timber and plaster, and of a most uninviting exterior. Inside, it was better. The floor of the room had been kept clean by honest scrubbing, and a match-board partition had been put up so as to convert the large room into a sitting-room, bedroom and kitchen. There was a garden, “thirty inches wide and fifteen feet long,” wherein he could grow, and actually did grow, Welsh leeks, and primroses and gowans transplanted from Cumnock. In a short time, artist and craftsman friends having come to his aid, “the gnomes were driven out and the fairies took possession and transformed this corner of slumland into a very palace of beauty.” “I would not,” he said quaintly, “exchange residences with his most gracious majesty Edward VII, nor deign to call the King my cousin”; and here he settled down for that part of the remainder of .his life which had to be spent in London, fiither, from all parts of the country, aye, from all parts of the world, came those special and intimate friends who were of the Keir Hardie fellowship. Collier folk from Wales and from Scotland up to see the sights of London; poets and painters; sculptors and literary folk; exiles from Russia; home-returning travellers from Australia or America, came. An Indian prince at one time, a Highland crofter at another, and, of course, his colleagues of the I.L.P. Council and his own family folk from Cumnock and Cambuslang. Never was any notoriety-hunter or newspaper gossip-monger able to break into this sanctuary reserved for himself and his intimates, and sometimes for himself alone. For it was for him one of the attractions of this retreat that he could, when he chose, be alone with himself and his own thoughts. “More than irksome, it is demoralising to live always under the necessity of having to speak and be spoken to, to smile and look pleasant. Companionship is good, but solitude is best.” In this abode, right in the heart of the hurly-burly, he could find solitude.

There are readers of this book who will be grateful for the following picture of Hardie in his London retreat as limned by himself on one of his nights of solitariness when he had it all to himself. Incidentally, also, it is somewhat self-revealing. “These jottings are made this week” (“Labour Leader,” June 21st, 1902) “in the silence and solitude of my London mansion, which is the envy of all who have seen it. Outside, the barking of a dog is the only sound which disturbs the clammy night air. Despite an eighth of an acre of sloping roof, the Toms and Tabbies keep a respectful silence. Within, a fire burns cheerily, and the kettle sings on the hob. The flickering candlelight throws on to the walls quavering shadows from the tall, white-edged and yellow-breasted marguerites (horse gowans), the red seeding stalks of the common sorrel, the drooping yellow buttercups and the graceful long grasses which fill two graceful gilt measures and a brown mottoed beer jug. Here and there big purple bells and ruby roses lend a touch of needed colour. From the top of the tea caddy in the middle shelf within the deep recesses of the ingle nook, the dual face of Ralph Waldo Emerson, fashioned by the skilful hands of Sydney H. Morse, farmer, philosopher, sculptor, Socialist, looks sternly philosophic from his right eye across at Walt Whitman—a plaque containing a perfect replica of whose features from the same master-hand hangs opposite—whilst with his left eye the genial philosopher winks roguishly at Robert Burns in his solitary corner near the window. Florence Grove lives in the two pictures which adorn the wall, as does Caroline Martyn in the transparency for which I was long ago indebted to our energetic comrade, Swift, of Leeds, whilst big, warm-hearted Lamer Sugden’s presence can be felt in the little oak table with its quaint carvings. Yes, my mansion is perfect. The spirits of the living and the dead whom I revere are here. Let the scoffers and the Dyke Lashmars sneer (referring, of course, to the character of that name in Gissing’s book). To me it is as much a fact that this room was built for me hundreds of years ago as if Robert Williams had drawn the plans to my orders, and A. J. Penty superintended the erection of the building. From which it will be inferred that the primitive instincts of the race are still strong in me. And now, as Big Ben has tolled one, and the dog has ceased to bark, I will smoke one pipe more, and then to bed.” The beginning of June brought the end of the South African War, which had lasted nearly three years instead of the two or three months which it was expected would be sufficient for the subjugation of the Boers.

Hardie, and with him the I.L.P., had never swerved in opposing the British policy, and week by week, both by speech and pen, he had supported the Boers in their resistance to the superior military power of Great Britain. He regarded such resistance not only as patriotic from the Burghers’ point of view, but as a service to humanity in its necessary struggle against capitalist Imperialism, and he was fain to discern in the terms of settlement some guarantee for the development of a united democracy in South Africa. Whether or not his hopes have been justified, or will yet be justified, does not lie within the province of this book to say. That chapter of history is not closed even yet.

With the end of the war there came a marked abatement in the jingo-fostered prejudice which had prevented Hardie and his colleagues from getting, even amongst the working classes, a fair hearing for their advocacy of the principle of Labour representation. They were not now so frequently assailed with the epithet “pro-Boer,” and even that epithet, when applied, had come to have a less malignant interpretation in the minds of men who were beginning to perceive that under the new regime South Africa was not likely to become the paradise for British labour which had been promised. The importation of cheap Central African native labour, and the whisperings already heard of the possible introduction of even cheaper and more servile Chinese labour, helped to confirm the contentions so persistently urged by Hardie and his colleagues on hundreds of platforms, that the war was a capitalists’ war, fought in the interests of mineowners and financiers.

There was, for a time, a decided falling away of patriotic fervour on the part of the working classes, accelerated by a steady increase in the number of unemployed, accompanied, as usual, by an equally steady decrease in wages. To many it seemed as if the employing classes had utilised the war distractions to consolidate and strengthen their own position. New combinations of employers had been formed, alike in the coal trade, the steel trade and the textile trade, which, taken together with the law-court attacks upon the workers’ right of combination, had all the appearance of deliberate and well-conceived class war. In this atmosphere of chronic discontent the argument for the attainment of political power became more and more acceptable to organised labour, while the indifference of both the Liberal and the Tory Parties convinced many that such power could only be achieved through the Independent Labour Party. The unopposed return of David Shackleton, of the textile workers, at the by-election at Clitheroe was the first electoral expression of a change of outlook on the part of trade unionists, the textile workers having been hitherto amongst the most conservative sections of the workers. Shackleton was not a Socialist, but he stood definitely as an independent L.R.C. candidate, and there was significance in the fact that the only opponent whom the Liberals could even venture to suggest was Mr. Philip Stanhope, who had been an out and out opponent of the war. There was good reason for regarding this election, not only as a victory for Labour, but as symptomatic of a reaction from Imperialism.

Hardie continued to be active both with speech and pen, and did not seem to reckon with the effects of the emotional and mental strain which recent events had imposed upon him. Probably economic considerations as much as anything else prevented him from taking the rest which was now due, for the “Labour Leader,” though again increasing in circulation, was not prospering financially, and he had difficulties in making ends meet which were not revealed except to very close confidants whose lips were sealed on these matters. A prize drawing, originated by some friends to aid the funds of the paper, was not very successful, and only served to show that all was not well.

In September, with Mrs. Hardie, he took a short holiday in the West Highlands, the rest-value of which he spoilt by addressing a meeting at Ballachulish, where a long drawn out dispute between the quarrymen and their employers was in progress, the details of which had been written up in the “Labour Leader” by the present writer. In November he was medically advised that the only alternative to a serious breakdown was that he should go away for a complete rest. He went for a week or two to the Continent, where he had some experiences which were anything but restful. He was present at a duel in Paris in which M. Gerault Richard, Socialist deputy and editor of “La Petite Republique,” was one of the principals. He found excitement in the ferociously elaborate preparations, and much amusement in the innocuous outcome thereof. He was persuaded to visit the opera, and, to satisfy Parisian etiquette, borrowed a friend’s dress suit, probably his first and last appearance in such apparel. In Brussels, he was arrested on suspicion of being an Anarchist and detained for several hours until he could show that he was a Member of the British Parliament and in no way connected with the underworld individual who had recently exploded some blank cartridges in the vicinity of the King of the Belgians. It was a good holiday with plenty of change of air, scenery and circumstance, but decidedly not restful.

He got back to London just before the Christmas rising of the House, and signalised his return by endeavouring to have the question of the unemployed discussed on the motion for adjournment. He was prevented, however, from doing so by the Speaker’s ruling, a decision which he characterised as an infringement of “the unquestioned right of members of the House of Commons from time immemorial.” Before going to bed he wrote a long letter to the press which appeared in “The Times” and several other London papers the next morning. In this he demonstrated from Board of Trade statistics and trade union returns that the number of unemployed workers in the country was not less than half-a-million, and that the consequent wide-spread distress called for immediate remedial measures by Parliament. And so ended a year which, for him, had been full of stress and distress, but not without hope and encouragement for the cause he had at heart.

With the opening of the New Year there came a change in the staff of the “Labour Leader” which must be noted. David Lowe ceased to be assistant editor, a position which he had held almost ever since the paper was started as a weekly. Hardie said, in a farewell note : “His graceful writings and his business capacity have done much to win for the ‘Leader’ such measure of success as it has attained.” David Lowe, alike by his distinctive quality as a writer and his close connection with the “Leader” in its early years of struggle, has his rank among the personalities of the British Socialist movement. His place on the “Leader” was filled by another Dundee man, Mr. W. F. Black, a journalist of experience, who, having become a convinced Socialist, found it impossible to continue as sub-editor of the Liberal “Dundee Advertiser,” the more especially as he had been recently selected as Labour candidate for Dundee.

As the weeks passed, the unemployed problem assumed more serious dimensions, the discharged soldiers from South Africa helping to swell the already formidable army of workless folk. On Friday and Saturday, February 22nd and 23rd, an Unemployed Conference was held at the Guildhall, London, attended by 587 delegates from town councils, corporations and Labour organisations, testifying to the nation-wide concern created by the existing distress. At the various sessions of the Conference the chairmen were Sir Albert Rollit, M.P., Mr. Wilson, Lord Mayor of Sheffield, and Keir Hardie, no longer standing isolated and alone, as in bygone years. At this Conference, Sir John Gorst first mooted the idea of local labour employment bureaux, with a central clearing house, now so familiar as a part of our administrative mechanism. It should be said, however, that Sir John suggested these only as palliatives, and declared that “though the symptoms of social disorder were periodic, the disorder itself was chronic”—which was equivalent to saying that it was inherent in the capitalist system.

Hardie, as was his custom when there was a chance of getting some practical work done, refrained from much speaking. He moved “that the responsibility for finding work for the unemployed should be undertaken jointly by the Local Authorities and by the Central Government, and that such legislation should be introduced as would empower both central and local authorities to deal adequately with the problem.” Other resolutions along the same line were adopted, including one by George N. Barnes, which, if it had effectively materialised, might have given the Conference some real and lasting value. “That a permanent national organisation be formed to give effect to the decisions of the Conference, and that the Provisional Committee be re-appointed with power to add to its number”—so it ran.

This Conference was important chiefly as a symptom—


Keir Hardie in his Room at Nevill’s Court, London

a sign that the ^condition of the people” question was at last troubling society. Parliament remained wholly unresponsive, and this period of distress, like so many of its predecessors, had to find its only amelioration in soup kitchens, stoneyards, and local relief works, which, as hitherto, provided a minimum of useless work at pauper wages. Such bodies as the Salvation Army and the Church Army found a vocation in distributing charity.

Even in this work Hardie took a hand, and he has related pathetically and with a kind of sad humour, some of his experiences delivering Salvation Army tickets in Fleet Street and on the Embankment. Not infrequently he spent his two hours beyond midnight, after the House had risen, assisting at one or other of the Salvation Army shelters, thus repeating, under more heart-breaking conditions, the kind of work he had performed in his own Lanarkshire village, twenty-four years earlier. The worst thing’ about it was the fatalistic patience of the sufferers. In Lanarkshire, the men and women were at least fighting. These crowds of helpless atoms had no fight in them.

All this time he was toiling like a galley-slave on the propaganda platform. Thus, on one Friday in March, we find him speaking in Browning Hall, London, on Saturday attending a National Council meeting in Manchester, the same night addressing a Labour Church social meeting in Bolton, on the Sunday speaking in the open air at Farnworth (in March, remember) and at night in the Exchange Hall at Blackburn. On the Monday he was present at a joint committee in Westminster on the new Trade Union Bill, and, in the evening, he addressed a meeting in Willesden. And he was not in good health. He was literally giving his life for the cause. Besides, in the “Labour Leader” he was writing more than ever before.

At the I.L.P. conference, held at York, several changes occurred in the National Council. J. Bruce Glasier retired from the chairmanship, having held the position for three years, and Philip Snowden was unanimously elected in his place. Isabella O. Ford found a place on the Council, the Party thus expressing in a practical way its belief in sex equality. John Penny, who was entering into business on his own account, retired from the secretaryship, having given invaluable services to the Party through an exceedingly critical period of its history. His place was filled subsequently by the present secretary, Francis Johnson.

It may be well to note the complete personnel of the N.A.C. at this juncture: Chairman, Philip Snowden; Treasurer, T. D. Benson; members of Council, J. Ramsay MacDonald, J. Keir Hardie, J. Bruce Glasier, James Parker, Isabella O. Ford, and Fred Jowett. All, save Hardie and Glasier, are still, at the time of writing, alive, and all except Parker have remained loyal to the I.L.P. T. D. Benson retired from the treasurership only last year. It was due largely to his wise counsel and business-like handling of the Party’s finances that it was able with such limited resources to do so much effective work in the political field. He guided the Party more than once through a veritable sea of financial troubles. The friendship between him and Hardie was something more than a mere political comradeship and seemed to be the outcome of a natural affinity between the two men.

Though Parliament did not respond legislatively to the claims of the unemployed, it would not be true to say that these claims found no reflection in the political world. In March, Will Crooks was returned for Woolwich, and in July, Arthur Henderson was elected for Barnard Castle, and in both contests the unemployed problem was a prominent, if not a determining, factor. Both candidates had signed the L.R.C. declaration, and their success, in the one case against a Tory and in the other against both a Liberal and a Tory, was decidedly disconcerting to the orthodox party politicians, who, with a general election once more in view, had to find some kind of a political programme applicable or adaptable to the social conditions.

The great fiscal controversy re-emerged out of the discontents of the people and the opportunism of the statesmen. Mr. Chamberlain produced his scheme of colonial preference, and in doing so provided both his own party and the Liberals with a cause of quarrel calculated to distract the attention of the electorate from the new Labour Party organisation, and re-establish the old party lines of (division. Before the end of the year there had developed a raging, tearing platform war between Liberals and Unionists on the old “Protection versus Free Trade” issue, by means of which both parties hoped to rally the workers behind them. Mr. Chamberlain urged—we must believe with all sincerity—that in his proposals lay the guarantee against that foreign competition which was supposed to be the main cause of dull trade and therefore of unemployment, and that with this security of employment would come good wages. He suggested further that the Tariff imposts would provide funds for Old Age Pensions. On a question of this kind, the new Labour Party could not by reason alike of its economic principles ancfof its hopes for international goodwill, avoid taking the Free Trade side, and the danger was that by 'dmng so it would lose its identity and become merge dig tKeLiberal Party. Hardie was quick to descry both the Chamberlain fallacy, and the Free Trade tactic as no fetish worshipper of Free Trade in the abstract,” he said, “but I know enough of economics and of history to^convince me that the only outcome of Chamberlain’s proposals would be to add enormously to the cost without, any prospect whatver of wages getting correspondingly advanced..The dislocation of trade that would follow any attempt to set up a reserve would throw large masses of men out of employment, which again would react in the lowering of wages. Protection may protect rent and interest, but for the worker, under a competitive system, there is no protection save that which the law gives him. It is to be hoped, all the same, that organised Labour will not be led into a mere Free Trade campaign at the heels of the Cobden Club. A constructive industrial^policy is demanded, and the opportunity is one that should not be wasted of proving that Labour can be creative in legislation as well as ^destructive in criticism.”

Naturally, it was left to the I.L.P. to formulate and give publicity to Labour’s alternative constructive policy, which, as was to be expected, took the form of a series of definitely Socialist proposals of a practical kind. An extensive platform campaign was arranged and successful demonstrations held in all the large towns and industrial centres, at which were emphasised the ^failure of protection in other countries to relieve oil extenuate the poverty of the "workers, and the equal failure of Free Trade in this country to give security of employment or improve social conditions. The workers were asked “to assist in returning Labour Members to Parliament for the purpose of promoting legislation to nationalise the mines, railways, and other industrial monopolies, in order that the wealth created may be shared by the community, and not be for the advantage of the rich and idle classes.” .

MacDonald (who had written for the Party a book critically examining the Chamberlain proposals for an Imperial Zollverein) Snowden, Jowett, Barnes, Glasier, and most of the leading men and women of the I.L.P. took part in these meetings, but, alas, Hardie was not amongst them. By the time the campaign commenced he was out of the firing-line. Whilst in Wales amongst his constituents, he was taken dangerously ill. The long-threatened, long-evaded collapse had come, and he had to give in.

The trouble was diagnosed as appendicitis, and the doctors decided that an operation was necessary if his life was to be saved. He himself well knew that loss of life might be one of the consequences of the operation, and though he took it quite calmly, the same knowledge sent fear into the hearts of all his friends and right throughout the Socialist movement in this country and in other lands. The highest surgical and medical skill was secured, and there was something like a sigh of relief when it was made known that the operation had been successful. Nor was the expression of sympathy confined to the Socialist movement. People of every shade of political opinion, and in every grade of society, found ways and means of showing their goodwill. The messages of sympathy included one from Major Banes, his former opponent at West Ham, and one from King Edward, who had recently undergone a similar ordeal. For the time being political enmities were—with some few vulgar exceptions—forgotten, and it was generally recognised that this Labour leader was in some respects a national possession whose character and work reflected credit, not only upon the class from which he had sprung, but upon the nation of which he was a citizen. A prominent Liberal official wrote, on the eve of the operation : “Forgive me if I seem to be impertinent in forcing myself upon your notice at a time when you have more than enough of vastly more important matters to fill your mind and time. But I am sincerely anxious that all will go well with you to-morrow. Never was there a moment in the recent history of our country when your great powers were more needed in the field of active strife than now. I heartily pray that the operation may be in every way successful.” John Burns’s letter was characteristic :—

“Dear Hardie,

“I am pleased to hear you have come through the operation successfully. This illness ought to be a warning to you, and to others similarly engaged who do not realise the wear and tear of such a life as ours. Get well, take a rest, and when recovered ‘tak a thocht and mend.’ With best wishes for your speedy recovery, the forcible expropriation of your pipe, a freedom from articles, and an immunity from ‘Marxian’ for three months.

“Yours sincerely,

“John Burns.”

The process of recovery was very slow, and was not accelerated by his own haste to get on his legs again. He spent several seemingly convalescent weeks in a nursing home at Falmouth, and managed to get home to Cumnock for the New Year. “Marxian,” of the “Labour Leader,” who met him in London on Christmas Eve, wrote : “All Keir’s genuine friends should still insist that he should continue his rest from active work until at least the return of spring. He ought really to be banished to the Mediterranean till July next. As it is, he is going on to Scotland and he talks of doing some platforming before the end of January. Anyone who is aiding and abetting this sort of thing might be more eligibly employed stopping rat holes.”

His Christmas message in the “Labour Leader” was of the nature of an official farewell as editor and proprietor. In the first week of the New Year the paper passed into the control of the I.L.P. and became the official Party organ, thus fulfilling the original intention of its founder, though the date of the transference was doubtless determined by his illness. “From the first,” he wrote, "it has been my intention that the paper should one day become the property of the Independent Labour Party. That, however, I thought would be when I was no more. The thought of parting with it is like consenting to the loss of a dearly loved child. But circumstances are always bigger than personal feelings. I have no longer the spring and elasticity of a few years ago, and that means that the pressure of work and worry must be somewhat relaxed. But, and this is really the deciding factor, the interests of the Party require that it should possess its own paper. The events of the past twelve months have borne this fact in upon me with irresistible force. And so, subject to the fixing of a few unimportant details, the ‘Labour Leader* will pass with this issue into the ownership and control of the I.L.P. Time was when this would have been a risky experiment. Now. with the Party organised and consolidated as it is, the risk is reduced to a minimum. For the I.L.P. is no longer a mixed assortment of iob lots. It is an organisation in the truest sense of that much* misused word.” Running through this good-bye note there is a discern-able a note of regret that the good-bye should have been necessary. The “Labour Leader” was one of his tangible achievements. Something concrete, something he could lay his hands upon and say, “this is of my creation.” He had put the stamp of his own character upon it, and his whole soul into it. “What it has cost me to keep it going no one will ever know, and few be able even to remotely guess. But it has kept going, and now the Party takes it over as a self-supporting, going concern. I am proud of the fact.” He paid full tribute to those who had helped. So numerous were they that only a few could be singled out—“Marxian,” “who has never quailed, and even now would like to see the thing go on on personal lines”; W. F. Black, “who, before he joined the staff, gave much valuable voluntary help, and came on to the paper at considerable pecuniary sacrifice”; his brother David, “who has been literally a pillar and a mainstay. Had he not been there, the main actors would long ago have had to succumb”; David Lowe, “whose services and talents were freely given at a time when they were much needed”; William Stewart (Gavroche), “who has made his sign manual a passport to the close attention of every thoughtful reader.”

Of course, the change did not, by any means, involve his complete severance from the direction of the affairs of the paper. As a member of the N.A.C., he had his share with the others in the control of its policy, and his counsel had, naturally, much weight. He still continued to be its most valued contributor, and through all his remaining years he found in the “Labour Leader” his chief medium for the expression of his convictions on all public questions. At this particular juncture, relief from editorial and financial responsibility was the best thing for him that could have happened. His recovery was slow and rest was imperative. During the early months of 1904, he spent most of his time at home in Cumnock, with occasional visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh. On these occasions he was to be found either amongst the second-hand bookshops adding to his collection of Scottish Ballad literature, or in companionship with congenial friends whose doors and whose hearts were always open to him. William Martin Haddow and Alexander Gilchrist in Glasgow, the Rev. John Glasse and Mr. John Young in Edinburgh, and many others besides, had each their fireside corner ready for “Keir,” and he, on his part, had never any difficulty in making himself as one of the family.

At home in Cumnock he had his family around him as he and they had never been before. He had his books, and his garden, and his dog, and, of course, his pipe, and when the weather favoured his strolls through the collier “raws,” he could fight the early battles over again amongst old comrades. Occasionally there was a day’s tramp across the moors towards Glenbuck, or over the hills towards Dalmellington. But, withal, he rallied back to health very, very slowly. He had been too near death’s door, and the winter weather in Scotland is not favourable to convalescence.

So, as the spring advanced, he, with some reluctance, agreed that a complete change of air and scene was essential. Thus it came about that early in March he was en route for the Riviera, via France and Switzerland, with J. R. MacDonald as his companion on the first stages of his journey.

It was his first holiday free from political or propagandist objective, and he enjoyed it thoroughly, especially the last month, spent entirely at Bordighera, which he described as “the most charming spot in the Riviera,” an impression due perhaps in some degree to the human companionship which he found there.

“At Bordighera I was met by the Gentle Prince of the Golden Locks, and conducted to his marble-pillared palace, with its beautiful arched and vaulted ceilings and tiled floors. There I met the Boy Corsair of the Kaurie Hand—a stalwart viking, a true son of the sea—and the Bold Brigand of the Mountains, to all of whom I owe much. In plain language, they are two young artists and a poet, all striving after the real and true in life and living. There also came Africanus Brown, the Good Physician, who literally brought healing in his presence. The memory of Bordighera and its warm hearts will long remain fresh and green with me.”

Week by week during these three months he contributed to the “Labour Leader” descriptive sketches of his experiences and impressions which, of course, cannot even be summarised here. They would still bear reproduction in book form. There are “men of letters” whose literary fame is built upon foundations almost as slender.

At Mentone he had an interview with the exiled ex-President Kruger and “was impressed with the stately dignity of the man, an exile from the land he loves so well and from the people whom he has welded into a nation.”

June had begun when he returned home, much the better for his holiday, but even then not fully restored to health. “Keir Hardie,” one parliamentary correspondent wrote, on June 24th, “is back again this week, but though he looks well, we are all sorry to hear that he is not so well as he looks ”

Nevertheless, he had come back to work, though for the next two years more outside of the House than inside.

For the first time since the I.L.P. was formed, he was absent from its annual conference, held this year at Cardiff. There was universal and sincere regret for his absence, but also general agreement that in the circumstances the Riviera was a better place for him than South Wales. He was, as a matter of course, reelected to the N.A.C. Mrs. Pankhurst was also amongst the successful candidates, thus adding one more forceful personality to a body already fairly well equipped with such. Mrs. Pankhurst, who had been a member of the Party since its formation, was now beginning her special activities in the Women’s Suffrage movement and made no secret of her intention to subordinate all other aims to its furtherance. Subsequent developments make it necessary to note this fact.


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