December 22, 1879
A meeting of the Conservative party was held last evening, in the schoolroom attached to St. Peter’s Church, Sackville Street, Everton, for the purpose of establishing a branch of the Working Men’s Conservative Association in the district. Mr. Griffith Thomas presided, an amongst those present upon the platform were Dr. Lodge, Alderman Livingston, Messrs. Edward Whitley, A.B. Forwood, J.B. Smith, John Houlding, E. Neep, W. King and Shaw.
The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, stated the object of the meeting, and said that early last week they numbered above 100 members, so that he considered they made a fair start. Their friends would no doubt think that the Conservative party had gone dead, because they happened to have been so thoroughly trashed, as he must admit they were, last November. But, though defeated, they were not down-hearted. (Applause.) There was an old saying “There is life in the old dog yet;” and he believed there was life still in the Conservative party, more especially in Everton. (Applause.) They did not admit that the Liberal party gained a victory in that ward. It could not be called a victory, it was simply a fluke, and was entirely owing to the apathy of the Conservatives, and to their not working as they had done in the past (Hear, hear.) He hoped it would be a lesson to them in future not to slacken their hands, but whatever they found to do, to do it with all their might. (Hear, hear.) He was perfectly satisfied that in that particular locality they had plenty of the sinews of war, and he believed they had a majority of votes in that neighbourhood. They must not get disheartened by their defeat, nor by the great strides the Liberal party seemed to be making. That party made a great noise, thinking, perhaps, that by shouting and going on they might frighten the Conservatives out of this field; but it was not by shouting, but by steadily working that the victory must be gained, and he hoped that in future the Conservatives would work as they did formerly, and then victory was assured to them. (Applause.)
Mr. John Carr moved, and Mr. Carrington seconded, a resolution approving of the formation of the branch.
Mr. E. Whitley supported the resolution, and in doing so condemned the strong speaking of the Liberal party, and their endeavours to “blindfold” the electors of Everton ward. He confessed he was very disappointed indeed at the result of the last election, and he felt, and still felt, that if the Conservative party had been thoroughly united, if they had felt that they were fighting not for men, but for principles, and if there had not been a feeling of apathy on the part of many, they would again have achieved the victories of former year (Applause.) He asked them to gather the lesson which defeat taught, to form a better organisation, to put feelings of jealousy under their feet, in their endeavour to rescue the war from Liberal thraldom. (Applause).
Having alluded to the wars in Afghanistan and Africa, and justified the action of the Government, Mr. Whitley appealed to the patriotism of the Conservative party, and remarked that whenever the general election might come – and he was not afraid of it – (applause) – if they were true to themselves and true to the antecedents of the party they would support what they believed to be the interests of their common country. (Applause.) Alluding to the tour of Mr. Gladstone through Midlothian, Mr. Whitley quote from the remarks of the right honourable gentleman with regard to Irish matters, and said the only logical conclusion that could be formed, as Mr. Parnell had formed, was that to redress Irish grievances was to blow up a prison and shoot a policeman. That a great statesman like Mr. Gladstone should have uttered such words was greatly to be deplored and very much to be regretted. (Applause.) All he had to say with regard to these things was that, whether he referred to the foreign policy of the Government or to those higher interests connected with our home government, he believed the Conservative Government at the present time were thoroughly worthy of the confidence and support of the country (Applause.) The great principal of the Conservative party was to act with equal justice between man and man; and he should regret very much if politics were to drift into mere personal attacks. Public men’s characters to the days were very precious indeed; and he regretted exceedingly that locally their political opponents at present seemed to have entered upon a course of personal abuse and personal attack. (Hear, hear.) He was grieved ever to speak about himself, ever to bring his own case before any boy of the electors or people of his native town; but he deeply regretted that a man in the position of Mr. John Patterson – a justice of the peace of Liverpool, one whose acquaintance he had, and who he thought at all events would have treated one with some degree of generosity – should on a recent occasion have said that “Mr. Whitley carried in his hands a flag of uncertain character; that on the one side was the flag of Our Lord, and on the other the flag of Belial.” That such language should have been addressed Mr Patterson to any audience was to his mind a subject of deep regret and of deep pain – pain on Mr. Patterson’s account mere than on his own, for his public character was before them and before is native town. (Applause). The only ground Mr. Patterson could have advanced for such an argument was that he wished them to suppose that he (Mr. Whitley) was in some way or other bound to the publican interest. (Laughter.) In his public life he had always kept himself apart from every interest, had forgotten all private and personal associations, and had done that which he believed would be conducive to the interests of the great bulk of his fellow-townsmen. (Loud applause). He had sought to selfish interests, and he had feared no man’s frown – (hear, hear) – and if Mr. Patterson, or those acted with him, thought that by such language as this they were going to drive him from his beaten track, if they thought that to carry out some measure of their own they were going to terrify or to alarm him, he for his part should stand upon the old ground which he had ever stood. (Applause.) He should continue to advocate to the best of his ability, and to the best of his power, those social measures with which so large a part of his life had been identified – the cause of education, both in day and evening school’s – and he would never degrade himself by any unworthy compromise. (Applause.) A thousand times over would he rather retire into private life and there do his best in his station to serve his town and his country. (Applause.) When he heard such language as this – when he heard Mr. Jackson saying at a recent meeting that, if they did not bring out Mr. Vining again to fight Mr. Hughes, the Conservative party, with which he was connected, were an act of scoundrels; and when, as the result of this, another gentleman wrote to him anonymously “You are the biggest scoundrel in the whole town of Liverpool – (laughter) – you are a sneak of the deepest dye, and everybody knows it – (renewed laughter) – you will be cast out to unmanly despair, and kicked out by the electors” – (laughter) – his reply was simply that he should continue honestly, faithfully, and to the best of his ability to discharge his duties, that if he was to part company with the ward, the action must be that of the electors, for he should never forget, and never could forget, the confidence they had placed in him and the support they had given to him. (Applause) He was not afraid of the coming contest. (Loud applause) The Liberals might talk of their thousand majority in Everton ward; but he ventured to tell them that, whoever the candidate might be, the Conservative would be able to give a good account of themselves. (Applause.) He thought – to say the least, he hoped – that in a very short time Mr. Vining would be again one of their representatives, for Mr. Smith and himself believed that in that gentleman they had not only a colleague of the same principles, but one who in fidelity and zeal in the interests of his constituents was certainly not over-matches by any other member of the council. (Applause.) In that case, he had some faint hope that he himself might meet Mr. Hughes on the field of battle, for a few evenings ago that gentleman said that if he were returned he would by more than one or two thousand and then he would be “glorified.” (Laughter.) He (Mr. Whitley) hoped that that glorification would not be realised, but that the electors of Everton and Kirkdale would again return him as one of their representatives. (Laughter and applause.)
The resolution having been carried.
Mr. Woodward proposed, and Mr. Dickenson seconded, a resolution appointing the officers of the association, which was also carried.
Mr. Carr (first name Ibeland or Ireland) moved, “That this meeting desires to express its unabated confidence in the home and foreign policy of her Majesty’s Government, and regrets that statesmen of eminence should have so far forgotten their duty as Englishmen as to throw every obstacle in the way o the just settlement of the affairs of this empire.”
Mr. A.B. Forwood, in seconding the resolution, said he could not forget than on the 1st of November Everton came rather under a disgrace in returning to the town council a man who had attended Home Rule meetings, and who, he believed, by the Home Rule vote had been mainly returned. He (Mr. Forwood), however, had every confidence that their old representative, Mr. Vining, would be again placed in his proper position in the town council, and that Mr. Hughes only held his seat temporarily until the court could go through the votes. (Applause.) Still, that was not a satisfactory way of winning a seat; and he urged the Conservatives, therefore, to bestir themselves and to regain their ol-fashioned majority. (Applause.) He hoped they would not be caught napping next November, but that they would go to work and put an end to the hopes of the Liberal party of ruling Liverpool through the town hall. (Applause.)
Mr. John Houlding moved “That this meeting desires to return the warmest thanks to the Conservative members of the town council for the unite front they had represented against the combined attacks of Radicals and Home Rulers.”
Having referred to the especial claims of Mr. A.B. Forwood, Alderman Livingston, and other members of the town council, Mr. Houlding gave his personal views on the question of reciprocity, advocating that while our home ports should be thrown open to the raw material free of duty, manufactured articles should be subjected to an import, because, he argued, the importation of flour and prepared timber damaged the interests of the working classes. As to the petition against the sitting member for Everton, Mr. Hughes, he said they all new that he had signed a petition, and he had received a letter threatening him that he would e turned out of the guardians, that he would suffer for what he had done, and this letter was signed “Nemesis” – (laughter) – which he supposed meant retribution; but he believed he was only doing his duty as a ratepayer in what he had done, for it gave him the power to demand a better scrutiny of the votes recorded for Mr. Hughes than could be obtained on the day of the election, and especially considering the smallness of Mr. Hughes’s majority. Since Mr. Hughes had been in the town council he (Mr. Houlding) had not read of his having made any long speeches – (laughter) – but he could vote, an when a proposition was brought forward to extend the borough boundaries and to redistribute the seats he voted against it. He (Mr. Houlding) could not see how Mr. Hughes could reconcile his conscience to this course, considering that Everton and Kirkdale ward numbered some 21,000 electors, and Pitt-street and other wards only some 1,000 or 2,000. Again, Mr. McDougall – (hisses) – in his position of chairman of the watch committee.
Alderman Livingston – Nay, nay; thank God, not that yet. (Laughter and applause.)
Mr. Houlding – Mr. Alderman, I beg you a thousand pardons for connecting with him with such an important committee as that over which you presided. (Laughter.) Mr. McDougall, as chairman of the markets committee, brought forward a motion by which it was sought to give the corporation the right to tax every load of produce brought into the town, whether it went into the market or not. This would have been a great injustice to the shopkeepers, and Mr. Hughes supported the resolution. (Hear, hear.)
Dr. Lodge seconded the resolution, which was supported by Mr. J.B. Smith, who accused the Liberals of having one policy outside an another inside the council chamber. He discussed the question of the extension of the boundaries of the borough and the redistribution of seats at some length, and said with regard to the alderman he though they were a very valuable institution. They wanted two classes of representatives in the council – those who represented the wards, and those who represented the interests of the whole town, as the aldermen did; and, therefore, he did not agree with Mr. Yates or anybody else who wished to abolish the aldermen.
Alderman Livingston, in moving a vote of thanks to the chairman for presiding, claimed for the aldermen that they were as intelligent as those gentlemen selected by the ratepayers. (Hear, hear.) But they held their position under the act of Parliament, and were elected by a certain representation.
The resolution was seconded by Mr. Shaw, and the proceedings then terminated.
(Liverpool Mercury: December 23, 1879)