Front Page Titles (by Subject) 287.: MOLESWORTH'S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF LEEDS SPECTATOR, 2 DEC., 1837, P. 1149, and MORNING CHRONICLE, 4 DEC., 1837, P. 1 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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287.: MOLESWORTH’S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF LEEDS SPECTATOR, 2 DEC., 1837, P. 1149, and MORNING CHRONICLE, 4 DEC., 1837, P. 1 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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MOLESWORTH’S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF LEEDS
At the opening of Parliament on 20 Nov., 1837, the Radicals had tried to amend the Address to the Throne to include franchise extension, the ballot, and shorter parliaments. Russell had, for the ministry, replied that such legislation would undermine the stability of British institutions. Mill hoped for effective Radical cohesion in response, as he indicates in a letter to J.P. Nichol of 21 Dec., saying that he had “raved and stormed with no effect, but that of being thought an impracticable enthusiast.” Mill’s Radical friend Molesworth had been M.P. for Leeds since July. Mill’s letter continues: “M.’s address to the Leeds people was put forward on the failure of our attempt to obtain a collective demonstration” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 365). In fact, the address was Mill’s, as his bibliographic entry indicates: “The whole (except a few words at the beginning and end) of Sir W. Molesworth’s address to the Electors of Leeds reprinted in the Spectator of 3d December 1837 and in the Morning Chronicle of the following day” (MacMinn, p. 49). (Mill is wrong as to the date: the Spectator, a Saturday paper, appeared on the 2nd, and the Morning Chronicle, a daily, on Monday the 4th.) It seems likely that the first and the concluding paragraphs are Molesworth’s. The text below is that of the Spectator, where it is headed “To the Electors of Leeds / 79, Eaton Square / 29th Nov. 1837”; in the Morning Chronicle the Eaton Square address is at the bottom. The variant readings derive from the Morning Chronicle (identified in the notes as MC).
fellow-citizens,—As it appears to me most desirable that the body of Electors should on all important occasions clearly understand the conduct of their Representative, in order that, if they approve of that conduct, they may give to his voice the weight and sanction of their approbation, and he may not appear to express in the House of Commons only his own individual opinions, but those of his constituents; and as the present is an occasion on which those Members of the House of Commons who were elected to promote Reform, stand peculiarly in need not only of the tacit approbation but of the active and energetic support of all throughout the country who share their principles; I now address you, my constituents, and inhabitants of one of the first among the great manufacturing and trading communities of the empire, to claim from you that support.
For the last three years the Reformers of Great Britain and Ireland have, with signal moderation and forbearance, abstained from forcing upon the consideration of the Legislature their opinions on the extensive failure of the Reform Act, and the necessity of further measures to protect the People in the exercise of the rights which that enactment professed to give. I am persuaded that I am interpreting the motives of this forbearance rightly, when I say that it did not arise from any notion that such measures of protection could possibly be much longer dispensed with. You knew that when the party who have the great properties in their hands could recover from the shock of the first great defeat which they have ever sustained since the Revolution of 1688, they would find that the means of corruption and intimidation which they still possess, and which they can never cease to possess under any system of open voting, are much more than sufficient to give them as sure a majority in the Reformed House of Commons as they had in the Rotten Borough Parliament. You knew this; but the danger was not yet imminent; the Tories were still in a minority, though a large one; the language of the Whig Ministers was continually giving you hopes that if bribery and intimidation continued, and could not be arrested by other means, they would become converts, however unwillingly, to the Ballot.1 You imagined these professions to be sincere; and as the progress of events was producing every day more and more the evidences which Ministers professed to be still in want of,—as moreover, you believed what was frequently insinuated by their friends, that their hands were tied up by engagements with the late King, from which a new reign would set them free,2 —you continued to bear, with what patience you could, the disappointment of your hopes and the tyranny of your Tory taskmasters, rather than be called by the Whig Ministers impatient, violent, and unreasonable.
By this conduct you at least showed that you did not deserve any such imputation: so much so, indeed, that it has subjected you to a directly contrary one—that of being apathetic, of being indifferent to Reform, and even of having undergone a reaction in favour of Toryism; and this, as I can inform you, and as you must have learnt from the recent speech of Lord John Russell,3 is the language currently held concerning you at the present time, not only by Tories but by Whigs.
That the conduct which has subjected the People of England to this disgraceful accusation was wrong, it is not for me, nor have I any inclination, to assert. I address you for a different purpose,—to proclaim to you, if any such proclamation be necessary, that the season afora this quiet, deferential, and submissive course of proceeding, has now ended. The Ministers have declared that they were not prevented from supporting the Ballot by any engagements with the Sovereign, but by their own rooted hostility to it. Lord John Russell has chosen the very time when his supporters were smarting under the persecutions they have suffered to keep him in office—he has chosen that very time to declare that they shall never, with his consent, be shielded from those persecutions. At the very opening of the last Parliament in which, unless the Ballot be made a Cabinet question, his party will ever have the majority,—and while it is still uncertain whether they will continue to have it even in this,—he has declared the fact, which for the last three years has been sedulously disguised, that the Reform Act is to him a final measure; and that if the Tories cannot be kept out without a measure to give effect to that act according to the declared intentions of its supporters, the Tories must come in.
I do not say these things for the purpose of complaint; nor do I seek to excite you to that indignation which I do not affect to deny that I think you might justly feel. My object is to impress upon you that the time is come when all temporizing—all delicacy towards the Whigs—all fear of disuniting Reformers, or of embarrassing Ministers by pressing forward reforms, must be at an end. If you wish for the Ballot,—if you wish for Triennial Parliaments,—if you wish for the Extension of the Suffrage, or its distribution so as to diminish the exorbitant and uncontrollable power of the great landholders, of the men who tax your bread and fetter your industry,—byoub must say it in the teeth of both the Aristocratic Factions, now avowedly united to resist cthesec just and necessary improvements. You must be prepared steadily to look in the face the unfortunate but nowise astonishing fact, that not only from the House of Lords, but from a large majority of the House of Commons, you never will obtain either the Ballot or any of the other measures to which I have referred, but by such a demonstration of your will as those bodies shall not dare to resist. You must be prepared for a struggle as arduous as that which carried the Reform Bill, to extort these measures from both the parties of the Aristocracy and from both Houses of Parliament. Nothing can now be done for you within the walls of the House: your faithful Representatives have no power there but that which you give them: it is for you, by a great and simultaneous demonstration throughout the country, to enable your Representatives to speak, not with their own single voices, but with the voices of assembled millions.
If the hangers-on of the Ministry should seek, as they inevitably will, to dissuade you from this declaration of your sentiments, on pretence that it will damage the Ministry, tell them that the Ministry is already doomed. The Ministry themselves know that, without the Ballot, the Tories cannot be kept out of office longer, at the utmost, than till the next General Election. They have made their late declaration in the full knowledge of this; and would never have made it, if they had not fully determined to rest their chance of remaining in office upon being able to persuade the Tories that Tory objects can be better promoted by them than by a Tory Ministry. And, truly, I know not what objects, but Tory objects, they are likely to promote; or what those great prospects of amelioration are, which it is supposed would be injured, if we were to “embarrass the Government”4 by standing forth in the face of the world and declaring our opinions. All the reforms which they propose, are the merest trifles compared with the evils to be removed; and even those they can only propose, but cannot carry. If they ever carry them, it will be only by the terror of your voices, demanding things infinitely greater. All experience proves that unwilling rulers can be more easily induced to concede great reforms than small ones; that so long as the people are satisfied with demanding little, even that little is refused; but when they have raised their demands to something considerable, much more than the little they at first asked is eagerly thrown to them, in the hope of allaying the storm of dissatisfaction which then, for the first time, their masters are willing to consider formidable.
If the People are tired of the pursuit of good government,—if the fruits of seven years of painful struggle are now to be thrown away, and they are willing to bend their necks once more under the yokes of their former masters,—if the cry of Reform never meant any thing with them, or was raised only to please the Whigs, and is to be abandoned because the Whig placemen abandon it,—if the name only and not the substance of Popular Representation was all that the People sought,—then indeed, sincere Reformers will feel bitterly disappointed—will confess they have been mistaken in the character of their fellow countrymen—and though they may not slacken their efforts in behalf of the principles which they profess, their hopes must then be limited to keeping those principles alive for better times and for a new generation.
But if in their exertions and sacrifices for the Reform Bill, the People were contending not for a mere word, but for a reality,—if they were then, and still are, for the principle proclaimed by Lord Grey, “Representation, not Nomination,”5 —if in demanding the Reform of the House of Commons, and in fighting and conquering under its banner, they were not the puppets of a faction, but really meant what they said—really believed they had a right to what they claimed, and are still willing to stand by their first purpose, against the Whigs if need be, with the same determination with which, at the call of the Whigs, they stood against the Tories,—then every town, every district, if possible every parish in the kingdom, ought to hold its meeting and send its petition to Parliament for the Ballot, with or without an extension dandd equalization of the Suffrage. The People, not the Whigs, carried the Reform Bill; the People, by their demonstrations throughout the country, compelled the one party to propose and the other to pass it. What they then did, they may do again. They conquered once, they can conquer a second time. They have only to speak, and the sound of their voice will scatter the hosts of their enemies.
eNowe let them make that voice heard. Now do you, citizens of Leeds, set the example. Now raise again the standard of Reform; and you will merit the eternal gratitude of your countrymen.
Your faithful Representative,
[1 ]See, e.g., Henry George Grey, Speech on the Ballot (2 June, 1835), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 28, cols. 425-9.
[2 ]On 20 June, 1837, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) succeeded to the throne on the death of her uncle, William IV.
[3 ]On 20 Nov., following the Queen’s first Address from the Throne, Russell set himself against further reforms (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 39, cols. 65-73), thus earning the nickname “Finality Jack.”
[4 ]For the notion, see Anon., Domestic Prospects of the Country under the New Parliament (London: Ridgway, 1837), p. 41, quoted by Mill in “Parties and the Ministry” (Oct. 1837), CW, Vol. VI, p. 388; the notion was attacked in “Tory Facts,” Examiner, 3 Sept., 1837, p. 563.
[5 ]Cf. Grey’s speech of 3 Oct., 1831, col. 936.