Monday, August 25, 2014

Speech to the Cleveland Ironstone Miners Union Skelton 1875 by George Markham Tweddell

Contributed by Councillor Dave Walsh - a verbatim report of the Cleveland Ironstone Miners union Political demonstration , Skelton in Cleveland, August 1875

In this article, George Markham Tweddell pays his first visit to address the Ironstone Miners of East Middlesbrough Daily Gazette -
George Markham Tweddell
Cleveland. Some of his offspring were ironstone miners and George follows on from the previous years meeting, led by Samuel Plimsoll (in the post below this one). By 1875 Plimsoll's Merchant Shipping Bill had been rejected by Disraeli's Government for no good reason, leading Plimsoll to use 'unparliamentary language' in response. The miners stood behind Plimsoll because he was one of the few MP's at the time champion the interests of the working classes and in particular the sailors who were being sent to sea in unseaworthy vessels so that the ship owners could realise the insurance at the expense of lives. In the article we also witness the early fielding of potential union candidates to the Liberal Party to represent the interests of the working class some decades before the formation of the Independent Labour Party.  Here is the article from the Middlesbrough Daily Gazette -

Middlesbrough Daily Gazette August 1875

The Merchant Shipping Bill -
The Government Condemned
(By Our Own Reporter)

Skelton High Street
On Saturday evening, a large meeting of miners connected with the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Miners Association was held in a spacious field belonging to Mr Stephen Emmerson, of Holly Farm, Skelton for the purpose of discussing the action of the Government in regard to Mr Plimsoll's Merchant Shipping Bill. Mr Joseph Toyne, President of the Cleveland Miners Association, occupied the chair - 

The Chairman said the meeting had been called to appreciate the efforts put forth by Mr Plimsoll MP for Derby, on behalf of our seamen, whose interest he had at heart for many years, having spent time and money and strength in order to benefit the sailors' condition. When they read what the sailors had to pass through and the way they were used, it was a good thing to have someone like Mr Plimsoll to stand up and fight for their glorious cause. The hon gentleman had been accused of using unparliamentary language in the house of Commons, but were there many present who would believe such was the fact. However, he had gone too Merchant Shipping Bill had been shelved and Sir Chas. Adderley, president of the Board of Trade, had introduced another Bill, as the Government were obliged to agree to some measure of the kind to appease the mind of the people. However a blow had been struck at the Tory Government, Mr Plimsoll was the man who had struck the blow, and nothing better could have helped the Liberal cause. The Government knew that thousands of countrymen might loose their lives next winter and thousands made widows and orphans, and yet they threw up Mr Plimsoll's Bill. This proceeding cause the hon gentleman to say what he would never have said had they acted otherwise. The Cleveland miners had hitherto shown a warm heart for Mr Plimsoll; when help was required for suffering humanity they had always shown a willing hand and a ready heart. He was glad to see so many present who sympathised with the cause of the poor sailor.
far, he made an apology. As they were aware Mr Plimsoll's

Mr Geo. Markham Tweddell, of Stokesley, F.R.S.N.A. (Fellow of the Royal School of Naval Architecture.)..copen etc., then moved the first resolution, as follows - 
"That in the opinion of this meeting , the withdrawal by the Government of the Merchant Shipping
Bill, the most important measure on the Ministerial programme, is a blunder which calls for the condemnation of the country and fully justified the outburst of honest indignation with which the announcement was received by Mr Plimsoll in the House of Commons." -
He did not think it worth while wasting time in trying to convince one of the justice and the importance of the bill as that of Mr Plimsoll's. The very fact that so many were then present who approved of the cause they were met to advocate, showed that they, like him, approved of Mr Plimsoll's conduct and regarded the withdrawal of his bill as at least a blunder - if that were a proper expression, though he felt they must use a much stronger one, as with regard to to the use of language opinions differ. Politicians told us that a blunder was worst than a crime but he confessed he could scarcely see that, though they could plainly say the withdrawal of Mr Plimsoll's bill for the protection of of the seamen was both a blunder and a crime. (Cheers.). That it was the most important measure on the Ministerial programme he thought any cool observer of Parliamentary business must at once admit , because there was no other bill that might not have been deferred for twelve months without any loss beyond that of pounds, shillings and pence. No one of common sense would say that the lives of British or any other seamen were of less value than money. Perhaps, however, some people thought so; as if they looked at legislature of this and every other country they would find that the laws had protected property more than persons. A man might be guilty of of great outrages against the person, and yet suffer less penalty than if he had injured property. But he maintained that the first element of civilisation was to protect life and property, but the protection of property should not come before that of life. He felt delighted when he read of the outburst of honest indignation exhibited by Mr Plimsoll. He had remarked that of course the hon gentleman have to say he was sorry if he used unparliamentary language, but it had gone forth and done its work, and Mr Plimsoll would not withdraw the principal part of what of what he had said. he was glad to see that public meetings were held throughout the country in support of the Merchant Shipping Bill, and was delighted to find that the first meeting of the Cleveland miners on the question would support such a resolution as the one he had moved. He remembered reading many years ago some old Roman translations in the name of Terence, who spoke to the effect 
 "that he was a man, and anything that regards humanity could be handed to him"

(Actual quote 
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." This appeared in his play Heauton Timorumenos.") Ed

Louis Kossuth 
He (the speaker) wished everyman were actuated by the noble - great, if they liked - principle of of the good old Latin writer. Public opinion now ruled the country, and it was by a well educated and noble expression of this opinion that, whatever the form of Government, the people would be rulers.. 

It was Louis Kossuth (See this link) who thanked the people for the interest they felt in in the cause of the down-trodden nations, and said that everyman possessed some influence for good, whereby many an evil deed might be prevented. Every man should act upon this sentiment. The mighty ocean was made up of drops of water from the clouds. Humanity was made up of units. By everyman and woman knowing their rights, and daring to maintain them, the liberties of the country were preserved. he did not think that the resolution he had moved required much pleading for. he should feel thoroughly ashamed of any persons who would not hold up their hands in support. He complimented the Cleveland miners for coming forward to support Mr Plimsoll in his glorious cause. The bread winners who risk their lives in the mines acted nobly in supporting those who risked their lives at sea. It was only by the working classes of one craft being true to the classes of other crafts that their positions could become greater than in the past. If they looked at the
history of the past in every country, even the most civilised, they would see that the position of the working
classes had been but one of slavery. But he believed that the working classes of the present day occupy much higher positions than the working classes ever occupied in bygone ages ; that the working classes of England fill higher positions than those of any country - unless it be the United States where the people were sovereigns. When we spoke of our liberties we were in the habit of calling them privileges instead of rights. In America they speak of them as rights and not as privileges. Let them them do away with the notion of privileges, which could only pertain to the privileged classes, and go in for that of rights, and one of the greatest rights was to see that rotten ships were not sent to sea, to risk the lives of honest men for the sake of dishonest traders. he respected the labour, whether of mind or body, which was useful but could not see how a man who sends rotten ships to sea in order to put money in his pocket was a useful member of society. he thanked them for the patient hearing they had given him. It was the first time he had spoken but he hoped it would not be the last time he would have the pleasure of addressing the Cleveland miners. (Cheers).

Mr W.M. Snow (Lofthouse) seconded the resolution. he said that every man should feel its his duty to
The article as it appears in Daily Gazette
sympathise with Mr Plimsoll, and to support the resolution. It had been truly said that the merchant Shipping Bill was the greatest measure on the Ministerial programme. By the passing of it perhaps 500 or 1000 lives would be saved during the coming winter, but by the withdrawal of it, the same number might be lost. Why should the Government throw out a bill whose object was to save human life, and keep on the programme bills which were to protect wealth and property? They had thrown out the Merchant Shipping Bill to keep up the Agricultural Holdings Bill? There was no comparison between the two measures . What was the Agricultural Holdings Bill? What use was it? Did it leave the tenant farmers in a better state than before? If it did so it was very slightly. Good landlords would make good bargains with their tenants before and by this bill they had the same privilege. Mr Plimsoll had the right to show indignation and the wrath which he did when he was told by Mr Disraeli that there was no time to deal with the Merchant Shipping Bill this session. After Mr Plimsoll had spent years and years in toil and search, pound on pound of his wealth and broken down his health to obtain facts and figures to prove that many ships went to sea in a very unseaworthy condition ; that they were only insured and sent to sea in a rotten state so that they might sooner go to the bottom and the owner make more money on them, knowing many how many widows and orphans were left destitute in this highly privileged land by the greed of shipowners; and that by, by this bill being thrown out , many more would before winter was over, be added to the number - it was enough to raise his temper, and make him use the language he did use in House of Commons.

If Mr Plimsoll had good grounds for using such words as 'Villains' and 'scoundrels' - if it were true - then
they could not blame the hon. gentleman so much. But he had withdrawn a portion of the language he used, and yet not the protest which he laid on the table of the commons. he hoped Mr Plimsoll would show the country he could bear out his facts and figures, so that the Government should be forced to pass such a measure as would prevent any unseaworthy ships being sent to sea and thus the lives of our gallant seamen would be better protected in future. Why should a man be allowed to so overload a ship that she will scarcely float above the water? They would see by the pamphlet issued by Mr Plimsoll, which had been distributed amongst the miners in the district that many cases had come under the hon gentleman's own observation and that of his friends, where ships had been loaded to such an extent that men, after having signed articles, were afraid to go to sea in them, feeling that they would never reach their destination. Shame on the man who would sacrifice human life to gain wealth. It was the duty of every man to sympathise with and support Mr Plimsoll in his endeavours to force the Government to pass such a bill as that which they had withdrawn. (Cheers)

Mr G. Cox (Lingdale) supported the resolution. Mr Plimsoll could not say too hard things against the Mr Freeman who had been fined and imprisoned for sending an unseaworthy ship to Cardiff (Cheers).
conduct of the Government in not taking up the cause of the widows and orphans. For years he had worked hard to put all his power in force to bring things to a point. He hoped they would live to see a time when the hon gentleman's bill would be passed. If ever a man was worthy of a lasting monument and of testimonies, he was, and in years to come he would be looked upon as an honour to the nation. Whatever should be the loss in a particular sense, life should have a free course, and humanity enjoy free thought. he hoped they would hear of few such cases as that of

The Chairman said that if Mr Plimsoll should never have a monument, he had carved his name and it would be handed down from one generation to another, and never be forgotten. On putting the resolution it was unanimously carried.

Mr Joseph Bourne (Brotton) moved the next resolution as follows ; "That in the opinion of this meeting, the present Government has forfeited the confidence of the country, and ought to immediately resign." (Laughter) Mr Disraeli and his Government deserve the "sack" for their conduct during the present session. They had been a 'stop-gap' to all progress. The Tories had put a stopper on every that might be of benefit to the masses or the country at large. When Mr Trevelyan introduced the Household Suffrages Bill it was squashed by an overwhelming majority. ; and when Mr Plimsoll introduced his measure for the protection of those at sea, it was treated in like manner. This was sufficient to upset a man like the member for Derby, and half a dozen such men. There was no reason in the way he had been treated. How were they to guard against such a state of things? let the trade unionists throughout the country, if they were properly federated, select a candidate, and when a vacancy occurred in either borough or county, run him in. They had Mr Lloyd Jones, Mr Thos Halliday, Mr Arch and others who might be brought forward as Liberal candidates and who would represent the working men's interest fairly in the house of commons. Looking at the majority of the members in the House of Commons, there were not much more than 16 or 20 who said anything on behalf of the working classes. This was very wrong. He did not think they could be fairly represented with less than a hundred members in the House of Commons. Referring to the recent Hartlepool election, the speaker said that the candidature of young Kenealy was only a trap by the London Tory Clubs to secure as many votes as possible in order to prevent Mr Lowthian Bell getting a seat in parliament. They (the working men) did not did not want a man like Mr Bell ; he represented capital and they might depend upon it he would represent it fairly too. He had nothing to say against Mr Bell as a gentleman or private individual, but if he said one word for them as a class, he would be like a clown in the pantomime and say “ One for you, Joey and two for me (Laughter) one for you Billy, and one for you old man, and three for me.” (Renewed laughter). Working men should direct all their attention to being fairly represented. Look at the vast sums that were expended by these men in getting into the House of Commons. Certainly the monies which came before the public eye were never fathomed. No one but the candidate himself could tell what the cost was. Money was spent on in all directions but it should not be so. He did not think it would have cost Mr Spark any canvassing or bribery or scarcely any money to have got in for Darlington during the contest last year. At the Birmingham election of 1872 it cost John Bright £29. This seemed only a small sum, and it was within reach of the working classes to pay it. The election of Mr Elliot, the Conservative member for North Durham, cost tens of thousands. Unless they were united and sent a Liberal to Parliament wherever a vacancy occurred, they would never get their rights, nor sailors either. There were some gentlemen in the House of Commons just as absent minded as the men who had left home, and imagining he had left his watch on the piano, went back to fetch it, and looked at his watch on the way to see if he had time to go or not. (Laughter) When a measure of was brought forward by an hon. Member who is the real friend of the working classes, it met with the greatest opposition at once. The course was planned in club house at Pall Mall what a man was to say and do and who was to pay him. They required to give the matter their earnest and sincere attention. When their secretary sent petitions to be filled up, they should work earnestly to fill them up in a correct manner ; it was only by petitioning that they might hope speedily to make their influences felt in the Houses of Commons. In 1866 when John Bright was agitating for reform measures, petition sheets were carried into the House of Commons which weighed 25cwt, and two men were occupied one night carrying out of the street into the House. The measures were passed ; and if they aroused themselves, they would be successful also. Mr Trevelyan intended to bring in a Bill next session, which, if it were passed, would justly benefit them and the working classes at large. They must give their earnest attention to the matter in the coming winter and endeavour to get the measure through Parliament. If they did not work and watch they would never get a step in advance of their present condition. If they were all as unanimous as he was, Mr Disraeli would be removed at once. There were clever men who would gladly handle the reins of Government, if the working class would only work together. If Mr Gladstone were backed, he would take command next week. They would never have a finer Statesman, politician or leader of the nation, than they had in Mr Gladstone. (Cheers).

Mr James Philbrick (Brotton) seconded the resolution. It was openly confessed that the occupation of miners was of a dangerous character and they confessed that the frequent hearing of sudden deaths and accidents in mines confirmed the truth of the statement, yet he considered that the sailor who has to cross the ocean in a rotten tub or vessel was more in danger than the miner. There were only a few inches between him and a watery grave and why should that space not be composed of good material. Things in Cleveland were not now as they were formerly, and they would ask the Government to resign office as early as convenient (laughter) – and not allow them to sit another session upon any consideration. (Renewed laughter).

Mr Thomas Green (Boosebeck) supported the resolution. It seemed a great mystery however, the present Government ever got in power. He was confident that if the country had had its rights they never would have and if the Tory government had not been in power they would have received the benefit of the legislation of Mr Gladstone and his colleagues, which, as things were that had yet to fight for. It was time we had more such heroes as Mr Plimsoll, when it was seen that hundreds of lives were annually lost through the greed of the capitalists. Mr Plimsoll had not expressed himself so warmly as he might have done under the circumstances. At the Mansion House banquet the other day, Mr Disraeli had said the working classes were satisfied, but it was untrue, as they never would be so long as he was at the head of the government. The power of the Tory Government was dated from the time they rejected the Merchant Shipping Bill. He believed that the country, both Tory and Liberal had protested against the action of the House of Commons in rejecting the bill. Referring to the substitute bill to Mr Plimsoll's, that had been introduced, the speaker said that the Government had been compelled to legislate on the matter because the country demanded legislation. They should combine together as working men and never rest satisfied until they obtain a franchise ; then they could send to Parliament whom they liked., and need not be in fear of a Tory Government. He had been told that whenever a Tory Government was in power, wages were always lower. If they passed the resolution, he had no doubt it would pass through its proper course, and be landed at headquarters.

Mr Joseph Shepherd also supported the resolution. He knew Mr Plimsoll personally, and could state that he had worked on behalf of the sailors and other working people besides. In benefiting more directly the sailors he must benefit the miners also, as, when shortly old ships would be broken up, the plate iron trade would improve both in Middlesbrough and elsewhere. If Mr Plimsoll needed support similar to that what was afforded him in 1873, he ws satisfied they would be ready again to give it. (Hear hear). Mr Plimsoll supported every measure which pertained to benefit the working classes ; and the day was not far distant when he, along with other hon. Gentlemen, would go in for assimilation of of the country and borough franchise, and they would then be able to tell Mr Disraeli what they meant. But let them mind he did not thwart them like he did in 1867. he said then the people should have a vote, but should pay for it, and those in the boroughs have had to pay for it to the tune which they did not like.

The Chairman put the resolution to the meeting and it was carried unanimously. Mr Plimsoll was a hero of the 19th Century, and he hoped the House of Commons would shortly be filled with such men. There were few self-sacrificing men men in parliament and by the labours of the country to become franchised the day would come when they would be able to send what men they liked – men like Mr Plimsoll, who could look any obstacle in the face, and never mind being kicked and called in a good cause. (Cheers).

Mr Joseph Bourne (Brotten), moved a vote of thanks to Mr Emmerson for the use of his field and to Mr Tweddell for the trouble he had taken to be present to interest himself in the meeting. He remarked that the moaners of Cleveland were betaking themselves to reading &c and in time they would have more thoughtful and better educated men in the district.

Mr Joseph Shepherd moved a vote of thanks to the Chairman, and those who had been instrumental in calling the meeting together, and the proceedings were terminated.

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