Memorials of dinners with the well-known collector Camille Groult were preserved in the shape of some sketches, one of a cavalier in peruke and cravat, another an excellent crayon head of the host, by Domingo, the Spanish artist, drawn on the back of a torn menu and given by him to Lady Dilke.
The Groults' admiration of the beauty of Dockett Eddy was testified in the gift of a little reflecting mirror, a 'camera obscura,' which, held to the light, made exquisite vignettes of river, clematis, and syringa; and a dinner at 76, Sloane Street was marked by the gift of little copies of M. Groult's famous lately acquired Fragonard, in which Cupid levels his arrows at the dainty feet of a well-known dancer of the time.
The sculptor Rodin was an acquaintance of late years, and a Christmas card sent to 76, Sloane Street, in the form of a framed and signed pencil sketch of a female head, was that master's tribute to Sir Charles's heresy that Rodin drew much better than he sculptured.
'For old Francais,' says Sir Charles, 'Lady Dilke had the veneration she felt for Christophe among sculptors,' and for a few women, such as Mme. Renan. To both the Renans they were bound by ties of familiar friendship, and some of their pleasantest hours were spent at the College de France. On November 11th, 1880, there is a note of Sir Charles's of a talk with Gambetta: 'They discussed Renan's "Souvenirs," which were appearing in the Revue for November, wonderfully entertaining, and perfectly beautiful in style.' It was Renan who had presented Lady Dilke's two volumes on the French Renaissance, in 1880, to the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, with an admiring report, and Sir Charles's admiration for Renan's writing was great. Of Mme. Renan he says: 'This homely-looking old dame was not only a good wife, but a woman of the soundest sense and the most upright judgment.'
The same feeling of attachment and respect bound them to Mme. de Franqueville, [Footnote: Mlle. Erard.] the first wife of Sir Charles's old friend M. de Franqueville, whom he saw often both in Paris and London. They visited them at La Muette, famous for its memories of Marie Antoinette, where in the early years of her prosperity she would take her companions to play at dairying with dainty emblazoned milkpails.
One whose friendship dated far back was Emile Ollivier, and with him Sir Charles often discussed, both in Paris and at St. Tropez, a vanished era in France's history, that of the 'Liberal Empire.' To these talks the Prime Minister of Napoleon III. would bring such wealth of oratory and such fertility of gesticulation that his hearers felt themselves transported to a crowded chamber, of which he occupied the rostrum, and woke with bewilderment to find themselves in the tranquil calm of his sun-flooded Southern home. There were those who said that the point of view urged with such conviction varied, and Sir Charles retains a mot of M. Jusserand: 'Emile Ollivier change souvent d'idee fixe.' Mme. Emile Ollivier, his devoted second wife and helper, was also a great friend, and her photograph was one of those which Lady Dilke kept near her.
'Relations of the pleasantest kind,' says Sir Charles, were formed with the Due d'Aumale, in Mr. Bodley's phrase 'last of the grands seigneurs of France.' On September 25th, 1895, the Duke wrote asking them 'to spend a whole day going through the books at Chantilly.' 'The charm of these books, however, and of these repeated visits of 1895 and 1896, lay in the fact that books and drawings alike excited historic memory.'
'In October, 1895, we were in Paris, and took Went [Footnote: Sir Charles Dilke's son, the present Sir C. Wentworth Dilke.] to stay at Vaux, that he might see the finest of the chateaux, and also the room where, according to Dumas, Aramis and Porthos carried off Louis XIV., though d'Artagnan saved him again. We also went ourselves to lunch at Chantilly with the Due d'Aumale, who told us how Mme. Adelaide, his aunt, used to slap his brother, the Prince de Joinville, already a distinguished naval officer, and stop his talking politics with, "Tais-toi, mechant morveux, qui oses critiquer la politique de ton pere." Comtesse Berthe de Clinchamp has looked after the house since the days of the Duchesse d'Aumale, though she lives in another house. This distinguished old dame was also there. A daughter of the Due de Chartres was once slapped by her aunt, the Comtesse de Paris, in public, for asking to be taken to stay at Chantilly with "tante de Clinchamp." In 1896 to 1897 we were a great deal at Chantilly, finding the Duke interesting with his reminiscences of his father's account of the Court of Louis XVI. With the ex-King of Westphalia, and Bismarck, the Duc d'Aumale was in old age the most interesting companion that I have known. It was the projecting of his stories into a newer generation that made them good. Sir S. Smith ("Long Acre") was a bore at the Congress of Vienna, but would have been delightful to us could we have known him.' [Footnote: Sir Sidney Smith must have been prolix over his achievements at the siege of Acre and elsewhere. It is certain that a reputation for bombast injured his career and caused his remarkable achievements to be underrated.]
When in May, 1897, the Duke suddenly died, Lady Dilke wrote a little article which, in spite of the sadness of the circumstances of his death and the consequent deep note of pathos, in certain parts of the obituary recalled very happily the brightness of their talks. Letters of the time speak of the losses which the Dilkes and their friends had sustained by the fire at the charity bazaar which had indirectly caused the Duke's death, through that of the Duchesse d'Alencon, his favourite niece. One of Lady Dilke's dearest friends in France, the Marquise de Sassenaye, had escaped, but several of her relations who were with her had died a dreadful death. The tie with these friends was very close, and the daughter of the Marquise de Sassenaye, the Baronne de Laumont, and her granddaughter, the Comtesse Marquiset, were among Sir Charles's last guests at the House of Commons. But he did not live to know that his friend the Baron de Laumont and his only son laid down their lives for France in 1915.
Colonel Picquart Sir Charles had met in 1891 during the 'belles journees de ces manoeuvres de l'Est,' chronicled by M. Joseph Reinach. He deeply admired the character of this noble and chivalrous gentleman, who, convinced that wrong had been done to an innocent man, sacrificed his fine career to save him, and suffered for his Dreyfusism by imprisonment and military degradation. Sir Charles met Picquart often at the table of M. Labori and elsewhere, and at one dinner when Emile Zola was present in 1899 there were also two English friends, the genial Sir Campbell Clarke, Paris correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, and his kind wife, at whose house in Paris the Dilkes dined almost every Christmas Day. He touched in this way the struggle over the Dreyfus affair, and his attitude is summed up in a letter conveying through M. Reinach to Colonel Picquart 'that intense sympathy which I do not express publicly only because all we English say does more harm than good.' [Footnote: 'At Christmas, 1900, in Paris we met Labori and Colonel Picquart two nights running, and heard fully the reasons of their quarrel with the Dreyfus family, which will probably all come out. Labori with great eloquence, and Picquart quietly, developed the view that Dreyfus, by virtually accepting the amnesty along with his own freedom, has taken up the position of a guilty man and sacrificed all those who have sacrificed everything for him. When, during the season of 1901, Labori came to London, and we saw much of him, he had toned down this view, or did not think it wise to express it. But it came out in November, 1901.']
His friendship with M. Joseph Reinach, so often mentioned, dates back to the days when the latter was Gambetta's secretary. 'C'est par Gambetta que j'ai connu Dilke,' says M. Reinach. 'Gambetta avait pour lui une vive affection.' In London and in Paris they met and talked and fenced, and kept in touch by close political correspondence. 'Dilke was a great friend of mine, and I thought him a true and intrepid patriot and citizen,' said M. Reinach; and perhaps of all M. Reinach's great qualities it was his courage which most provoked the admiration of Sir Charles and of his wife. They knew all the three brothers, and M. Salomon Reinach, asking Sir Charles to come and discuss manuscripts, signs himself 'in admiration of your enormous knowledge'—a happy tribute from one of whom it was said 'il sait tout.' 'Salomon Reinach, the outgoing President of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres,' writes Sir Charles in 1908 to Lord Fitzmaurice, 'is what Arthur Strong (Librarian of House of Lords) was, and Acton tried to be, "universal." He asked me to listen to him for two whole evenings, till we became a nuisance to our hosts—on the way in which, despite our Historical Manuscripts Commission, we still lock up papers. His strongest examples were Horace Mann's letters to Horace Walpole, and the letters received by the Duke of Wellington (the loss of nearly all the letters written by J. S. Mill moves me more).'
M. Pallain, Regent of the Bank of France, was another friend whose acquaintance with Sir Charles dated back to the days when he was Gambetta's secretary. His book on Talleyrand, the 'fameux livre de Pallain,' as Sir Charles calls it in a letter to M. Jusserand, was hardly less interesting to him than his mastership of French finance.
The Siegfrieds, representatives of the wealthy and serious Protestant world, were friends who shared Sir Charles' interest in questions of social reform, as was that wisest of permanent officials, M. Fontaine, head of the French Labour Department; and he discussed these matters also with the great representative of Roman Catholic Socialism, Count Albert de Mun. The list of his Diary engagements, ranging over a long period of time, is filled with the names of French writers, from Ludovic Halevy, the novelist and dramatist (passages from whose Belle Helene he would recite and whistle), to Anatole France; and of politicians of every school of thought, from Leon Say, 'a statesman of rare competence,' to M. Delcasse, whom he saw often, Deschanel, Leon Bourgeois, Millerand, Viviani, and that great friend of Greece—M. Denys Cochin; Calmette, the editor of the Figaro, assassinated by Mme. Caillaux; and Lepine, the Prefect of Police; while Jaures was a London as well as a Paris guest.
The excellence of much French acting attracted Sir Charles and his wife to the theatre in Paris, though in London their visits to a play were rare. M. Jules Claretie, the Academician, and for nearly thirty years, till his death in 1913, the distinguished Director of the Theatre Francais, constantly put his box at their disposal, and rarely failed to join them for a talk between the acts.
There is a reply from General de Galliffet, the 'beau sabreur'—that brilliant soldier whom Sir Charles had followed through the French manoeuvres accepting a theatre invitation in 1892: 'J'ai, en principe, l'horreur du theatre; j'en benis le ciel puisque je pourrai ainsi mieux jouir de votre societe et de celle de Lady Dilke.'
In these visits to Paris they went always to the Hotel St. James, in the Rue St. Honore, attracted by the beauty and interest of their rooms there. It is the old Hotel de Noailles, and the staircase and landing, and several of the rooms, are still as they were when three members of the family—grandmother, mother, and daughter—were guillotined at the time of the French Revolution. The guardroom at the head of the stairs, with its great folding doors, and the paved landing with its old dalles, are intact, as are some of the state-rooms. Their sitting-room and the great bedroom opening from it looked out on to the courtyard, where in old days, before it became a courtyard and when the garden stretched away to the Seine, Marie Antoinette walked and talked, the story goes, with La Fayette, with whom her friend Mme. de Noailles had arranged an interview. The windows and balconies here, and part of the garden front, resemble exactly their representations in pictures of the period.
They saw many of their friends during the year both at the House of Commons and at Dockett. Describing them in London, dining in the room decorated by Gambetta's portrait, M. Jules Claretie writes: 'La premiere fois que j'eus l'honneur d'etre l'hote de Sir Charles la charmante Lady Dilke me dit, souriante, "Ici vous etes en France. Savez-vous qui est notre cuisinier? L'ancien brosseur de General Chanzy."' And among Sir Charles's collection of Dockett photographs was one in which the chef, accompanied by the greater artist, the elder Coquelin, was fishing from a punt on the Thames.
'Je me rappelle avec tristesse,' says the same friend in February, 1911, 'les beaux soirs ou, sur la terrasse du Parlement, en regardant, de l'autre cote de la Tamise, les silhouettes des hauts monuments, la-bas, sous les etoiles, dans la nuit, nous causions avec Sir Charles de cet Athenaeum, la revue hebdomadaire ou il accumulait tant de science, et dont j'avais ete un moment, apres Philarete Chasles et Edmond About, le correspondant Parisien; puis de Paris, de la France de Pavenir-du passe aussi.'
When M. Jules Claretie came to London to deliver a lecture in 1899 on the French and English theatre, Sir Charles was asked to preside, and also to assist in welcoming him at the Ambassador's table. The charming and unfailing friendship of that Ambassador, M. Paul Cambon, is worthy of record, and Sir Charles's admiration for him was very marked. He used to say that so long as a great Ambassador, either French or English, represented his nation in Paris or London, the other representative might be a cipher, and M. Cambon's embassy in London sufficed for both countries. 'He is a man,' he wrote to Mr. Morley in 1892, 'who (with his brother Jules) will survive Ribot, and even Freycinet.'
Another close friend was M. Jusserand, whose graceful studies of English literary history adorned the Pyrford bookshelves. While he was counsellor to the Embassy in London he was a frequent guest at 76, Sloane Street, and when he became Ambassador at Washington he still kept in constant touch with Sir Charles.
'Des qu'on nous parle d'un homme d'etat etranger, ministre ou diplomate,' says M. Joseph Reinach, writing of Sir Charles, 'c'est notre premiere question: Aime-t-il la France? C'est une sottise. Un Italien n'aime que l'Italie, un Russe n'aime que la Russie, un Anglais n'aime que l'Angleterre.' It may be so. In 1887 Sir Charles wrote to M. Reinach concerning the possibility that Bismarck would attack France, which, he added, 'everybody thinks likely except your humble servant, Lord Lyons, and Sir E. Malet, our new man at Berlin.' If it did happen, said he, 'whatever use I can be I shall be, either if I can best serve France by writing here, or by coming to be a private of volunteers and by giving all I can to the French ambulances.' Some there are who can recall Sir Charles's face as he turned over the pages of M. Boutet de Monvel's Jeanne d'Arc, and dwelt on that first picture in which the little 'piou-pious' of the modern army advance, under the flag on which are inscribed the battles of the past; while the Old Guard rises from the earth to reinforce their ranks, and the ghostly figure of Jeanne d'Arc, symbolizing the spirit of France, leads on to victory. Listening as he talked, his hearers became infected with Sir Charles's spirit, and thinking of the past, looking to the future, he so kindled them that when he closed the book they all were 'lovers of France.'
'From 1870 to this date one man has stood for all the great causes of industrial progress, whether for the agricultural labourers, or in the textile trades, or in the mining industries, or with the shop assistants. That man is Sir Charles Dilke.' So, in 1910, spoke Dr. Gore, the present Bishop of Oxford, at that time Bishop of Birmingham.
In Sir Charles's early days, economists were still governed by individualist doctrines. The school of laissez faire was the prevailing school of thought, and in its teaching he was trained. "We were all Tory anarchists once," was his own summary of the views which characterized that economic theory. But to "let alone" industrial misery early became for Sir Charles a counsel of despair. Greater Britain, published in 1868, when he was twenty-five, gave indications of a change of view, and his close friendship with John Stuart Mill directly furthered this development. Mill's lapses into heresy from the orthodox economics of the day were notable, and Sir Charles was wont to point to a passage written by Mill in the forties showing that sweated wages depressed all wages, and to claim him as the pioneer of the minimum wage.
It was left for Mill's disciple to become one of the foremost champions of the legislation which now protects the industrial conditions of the worker, and also the guardian of its effective administration.
His policy was distinguished by his determination to act with those for whom the legislation was created, and to induce them to inspire and to demand measures for their own protection. The education of the industrial class, the object of "helping the workers to help themselves," was never absent from his mind. This view went farther than the interest of a class: he held the stability of the State itself to be menaced by the existence of an unorganized and depressed body of workers. An organized and intelligent corporate demand put forward by trained leaders chosen from the workers' own ranks was essential to the development and stability of industrial conditions and to appropriate legislation. Sir Charles was therefore the unwavering advocate of trade-unionism. It is worth while to emphasize his attitude, since views now generally accepted were not popular in the sixties. His first speech to his Chelsea electors in 1867 dealt with his trade-union position, as it did with the need for strengthening the Factory Acts.
Violent utterances on the part of certain sections of Labour did not affect his advocacy of its claims, for he would have endorsed the words of Cardinal Manning written to him on September 13th, 1884: "It is the cause of the people mismanaged by imprudent and rough words and deeds; but a people suffering long and stung by want of sympathy cannot speak like county magistrates." During the later period of his life he tried, at innumerable meetings all over Great Britain, to help trade-unionists to make their claims understood. So he came to fill "a unique position as counsellor, friend, and adviser to the Labour cause." [Footnote: Letter from the Rt. Hon. George Barnes, Labour M.P. for the Blackfriars division of Glasgow, and Minister for Pensions in Mr. Lloyd George's Government of 1916, once general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.]
His belief in trade-unionism was never shaken; for though he did not pretend that in the distant future trade-unionism would be sufficient to redress all social ills, holding it, as Lady Dilke did, to be, not "the gospel of the future, but salvation for the present," he believed that during his lifetime it was far from having perfected its work. He was a strong municipal Socialist, but with regard to State Socialism he would never bind himself to any general theory; he was in favour of large experiments and of noting those made elsewhere; beyond this he "did not see his way."
His faith in the maintenance of all safeguards for trade-unions was well demonstrated by his action on the occasion of the Taff Vale judgment and its sequel. [Footnote: Taff Vale Judgment.—As trade-unions were not incorporated, it was generally assumed that they could not be sued, but in 1900 Mr. Justice Farwell decided that a trade-union registered under the Trade-Union Acts, 1871 and 1876, might be sued in its registered name; and this decision, after being reversed in the Court of Appeal, was restored by the House of Lords in 1901. The result of this case (the Taff Vale Railway Company v. the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants) was that damages could be obtained against a trade-union for the acts of their officials in "picketing" during a strike; and by making the trustees in whom the funds were vested defendants, an order could be obtained for the payment of damages and costs out of the accumulated funds of the trade-union.] He wished to keep for them the inviolability of corporate funds which formed their strength and staying power. While he admitted that theoretically a good case could be made out against such inviolability, he was clear that in practice it was essential to the continued existence of Labour as an organized force, capable of self-defensive action. The conference on the effect of the Taff Vale decision held in October, 1901, was arranged by him after consultation with Mr. Asquith, who suggested Sir Robert Reid and Mr. Haldane as legal assessors. How grave was the position which the judgment had created may be gathered from the declaration of Mr. Asquith in a letter to Sir Charles written on December 5th, 1901: "How to conduct a strike legally now, I do not know." He advised the introduction of two Bills, one to deal with the question of trade-union funds, the other with picketing, etc. In April, 1902, Sir Charles Dilke introduced the deputation, organized to ask for special facilities for discussion, to Lord James of Hereford, who received it on behalf of the Cabinet, and to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Leader of the Opposition.
In an article contributed by him to the Independent Review of June, 1904, he notes a private offer of the Government for dealing with the matter by a small Royal Commission of experts, whose recommendations should be immediately followed by legislation. This was refused by the Labour leaders, and he thought it a lost opportunity for what might have been a favourable settlement. [Footnote: Mr. D. J. Shackleton, an Insurance Commissioner, and appointed Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour in December, 1916, was in 1906 M.P. for Clitheroe, and a prominent member of the Labour party. He writes of the passing of the Trade Disputes Act, which reversed the Taff Vale judgment: "It was my privilege to be the spokesman for the Labour party and Joint Board on the Trade Disputes Bill in the House of Commons. On the evening when the Bill was read a third time in the House of Lords, the three National Committees gave me a complimentary dinner at the House of Commons. In the course of my speech in reply to the toast, I expressed, on behalf of the Labour movement and myself, our sincere and grateful thanks to Sir Charles for the very valuable help he had given us through all our Parliamentary fights. My consultations with him whilst the Bill was before the House were almost daily. On many occasions he crossed the floor to give me points in answer to speeches that were made in opposition to the Labour position."] But at the same time 'the Taff Vale judgment virtually brought the separate Labour party into existence, and the difficulty of upsetting the judgment and of amending the law of conspiracy will,' he said, 'nurture, develop, and fortify it in the future.' To him this was matter for satisfaction. [Footnote: A full account of the action taken by Sir Charles on the Taff Vale judgment and the Trade Disputes Act which reversed its decision will be found in Appendix II. to this chapter, furnished by Miss Mary Macarthur (now Mrs. W. C. Anderson). Miss Macarthur, secretary of the Women's Trade-Union League from 1903, worked with Sir Charles on many questions.]
His absence from the House of Commons from 1886 to 1892 gave him leisure for deep study of industrial questions, and he drew much of illustration and advice from his knowledge of colonial enterprise in social reform. Thus, in his advocacy of a general eight-hour day, observation of colonial politics largely guided his suggestions. In his first speech in the Forest of Dean in 1889, he said: "Australia has tried experiments for us, and we have the advantage of being able to note their success or failure before we imitate or vary them at home." The experiments in regard to regulation of hours and wages which colonial analogy justified should, he urged, be carried out by Government and by the municipalities as employers and in their contracts. His visits to our Colonies were followed by constant correspondence with Colonial statesmen, especially with Mr. Deakin, and the introduction here of minimum-wage legislation may be traced to Sir Charles's close study of Colonial experiment.
But he never narrowed his policy to developments which would confine the leaders of Labour to the management of the internal affairs of their trade-unions; he early urged the representation of Labour by Labour in Parliament, where its influence on legislation affecting its interests would be direct, and there is a note in his Diary in 1906, when the "Labour party" in Parliament came into existence, chronicling the "triumph of the principles" to which during his life that part of his activities devoted to Labour had been given.
In 1894, when the Independent Labour party was emerging into light, he had advocated in talks with Labour friends its development into the Labour party of later days. But he noted the limits which bounded his own co-operation except as an adviser: "My willingness to sink home questions and join the Tories in the event of a war, and my wish to increase the white army in India and the fleet—even as matters stand—are a bar."
There were those who prophesied that the Labour party's appearance had no permanent interest; that it owed its existence to political crises, and would soon fade out of the life of Parliament. Sir Charles, on the contrary, was clear that it constituted a definite and permanent feature in Parliamentary life. It might vary in number and in efficiency; it might, like other parties, have periods of depression; but it was henceforth a factor to be reckoned with in politics. Its power, however, must largely depend upon its independence. The point to which an independent party can carry its support of the Government in power must not be overstepped, and when, as in 1910, in the case of the "Osborne judgment" [Footnote: Mr. Osborne was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. He brought an action against them for a declaration that the rule providing contribution for Parliamentary representation is invalid, and for an injunction to restrain the funds being used in this way. He was successful in the Court of Appeal and in the House of Lords (A.S. of R.S. v. Osborne, 1910, A.C., 87). This practically made it impossible for trade-unions to support the Labour party.] or the Unemployed Bill, he thought that he detected weakening in the ranks of the Labour party in their fight for these Bills, he noted it gravely.
His view that Labour should find its leaders in its own ranks was not shared by Chamberlain and others who initiated Labour legislation; [Footnote: April, 1893, letter to Dilke from Chamberlain: "A political leader having genuine sympathy with the working classes and a political programme could, in my opinion, afford to set them [Labour leaders] aside." Reference to this letter has been made also in Chapter XLIX., p. 288.] but Dilke's principle was to act as spokesman for Labour only so long as it stood in need of an interpreter; when the movement had attained stability and become articulate, his work as the advocate who had expressed its aspirations and compelled public attention for them was done.
His policy did not involve his silence on points in which he differed from the Labour party. In his first speech in the House of Commons in 1893, on the question of the destitute alien, he did not agree with some trade representatives, who would in those days have excluded aliens, in fear of their competition. His dissection of the figures on which the plea of exclusion was based showed that they were misleading, since emigration and immigration were not accurately compared. He maintained that protective legislation with regard to conditions and wages would deal with the danger from competition which the trades feared, and he pointed out that anti-alien legislation must strike at the root of that right of asylum which had always been a distinguishing feature of British policy.
He met the contention of those who wished for a Labour Ministry by pointing out that co-ordination and readjustment, not addition to the number of Ministers, was needed. The size of our Cabinets was responsible for many governmental weaknesses in a country where Ministers were already far more numerous than was the case in other great European countries; too numerous to be accommodated on the Treasury Bench, and with salaries which would almost have met the cost of payment of members.
From Labour developments everything was to be hoped, and nothing to be feared, in the interests of the State or community. The only danger which menaced the gradual and wise evolution of Labour was "an unsuccessful war." The danger to peaceful evolution from such a war would be great indeed. He warned those who advocated the settlement of international difficulties by arbitration, that this result could only be obtained when the workers of the different countries were in a position to arrive at settlement by this means. Till then we could not neglect any precaution for Imperial Defence.
Complete data are needed to carry out efficient work, and to Sir Charles's orderly mind the confusion of our Labour and other statistics, and the absence of correlation arising from their production by different departments, were a source of constant irritation. Both by question and speech in the House of Commons and as President of the Statistical Society he laboured to obtain inquiry into "this overlapping, to obtain co-ordination of statistics and the possibility of combining enforcement with economy under one department," instead of under three or four. [Footnote: Sir Bernard Mallet, Registrar-General, gives an account of Sir Charles's work in this direction. See Appendix I. to this chapter.]
Trade-unionism had by no means achieved "its perfected work," and outside the highly organized trades there was a vast unorganized mass of labour, largely that of women. The existence of such a body of workers undermined the Labour position, and of all Sir Charles's efforts to improve industrial conditions none is more noteworthy than that which was done by himself and Lady Dilke for women and children. His wife's work for the Women's Trade-Union League, to which are affiliated women's trade-unions (the League increased its membership from ten to seventy thousand during her lifetime), brought him increasingly in touch with women's work; and, from his return to Parliament in 1892 to the end, scarcely a month in any Session passed without many questions being put by him in the House of Commons on points dealing with their needs. These questions tell in themselves a history of a long campaign; sometimes dealing with isolated cases of suffering, such as accident or death from ill-guarded machinery, or a miscarriage of justice through the hide- bound conservatism of some country bench; sometimes forming part of a long series of interrogatories, representing persistent pressure extending over many years, directed to increased inspection, to the enforcement of already existing legislation, or to the promotion of new. The results were shown not only by redress of individual hardships and by the general strengthening of administration, but by the higher standard reached in the various measures of protective legislation which were passed during his lifetime. Nearly every Bill for improving Labour conditions, for dealing with fines and deductions, for procuring compensation for accident, bore the stamp of his work. [Footnote: As Minister he helped in measures far outside his department. Mr. W. J. Davis, father of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade-Union Congress, tells how once, at Dilke's own suggestion, he and Mr. Broadhurst came to see Sir Charles, then Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, about the Employers' Liability Bill and the Contracting-out Clause. "We spent an hour with him in the smoking-room," says Mr. Davis, "and left, Sir Charles having agreed to see the full Committee at 9.30 next morning. The House did not rise until 3 a.m., but Sir Charles was at our offices in Buckingham Street prompt to time. In the afternoon he met a few of us again, to consider an amendment for extending the time for the commencement of an action to six months instead of six weeks. This desirable alteration he succeeded in obtaining. When the Bill was passed—which, with all its faults, restored the workers' rights to compensation for life and limb—there was no member of the Government, even including the Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt), from whom the Parliamentary Committee had received such valuable help as from the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs."]
Characteristically he mustered for use every scrap of information available on a subject. Thus, he detected in the Employment of Children Act (1903) powers which neither the framers nor the promoters of the Act had foreseen, and, by speech and question, pressed their use till these previously unknown powers of protection for children were exercised by the officials to the full. Equally characteristic was his fashion of utilizing his specialized knowledge of regulations in one department in order to drive home his point in another. Thus, having cited the case of a stunted child told off to carry loads amounting to 107 pounds, he was able to add the information that, "in regulating the weight to be lifted by blue-jackets in working quick-firing guns, the limit was put at 100 pounds."
His care for women workers was not confined to public advocacy; it showed itself in unostentatious and unremitting help to those who worked with him or came to him for advice. Such advice was not confined to large questions of policy: he spent himself as faithfully on the smallest points of detail which made for the efficiency of the work. His knowledge furnished "briefs" for that group of workers which his wife's care for the Women's Trade-Union League drew round them both, and it guided and inspired their campaign. He watched every publication of the League. However busy, he would find time to correct the proofs of articles brought to him, to dissect Blue-books and suggest new points; each quarter he read the review which was issued of the League's work.
The man who knows, and is ready to help, is early surrounded by clients. Tributes from the organizers and leaders of the great trades are as frequent as the testimony to his help which came from workers in unorganized and sweated trades. The representative of a mining constituency in later years, his work for the miners was great, and repaid by their trust and support. [Footnote: "During the whole of his Parliamentary life he was always ready and willing to help the miners, assist in preparing and drafting Mines Bills, regulations for increased safety in mines, and the eight hours. He was in charge of the Mines Regulation Amendment Bill, bringing it before the House every Session until the Government appointed a Royal Commission, and ultimately brought in a Bill which became an Act of Parliament. By his tact and influence he managed some years ago to get a short Bill passed raising the working age underground from twelve to thirteen," writes Mr. T. Ashton, secretary of the Miners' Federation.] From a standpoint which gives an estimate of all his Labour work come these words from Mr. Sidney Webb:
"He was an unfailing resource in every emergency. No one will ever know how much the Progressive Movement, in all its manifestations, owed to his counsel, his great knowledge, and his unsparing helpfulness. Trade-unionism among women as well as men; the movement for amending and extending factory legislation; the organization of the Labour forces in the House of Commons, are only some of the causes in which I have myself witnessed the extraordinary effectiveness which his participation added. There has probably been no other instance in which the workmen alike in the difficulties of trade-union organization and amid the complications of Parliamentary tactics have had constantly at their service the services of a man of so much knowledge and such extensive experience of men and affairs. But the quality that more than any other impressed me in Sir Charles Dilke as I knew him was his self-effacement. He seemed to have freed himself, not only from personal ambitions, but also from personal resentments and personal vanity. What was remarkable was that this 'selflessness' had in it no element of 'quietism.' He retained all the keenness of desire for reform, all the zest of intellectual striving, and all the optimism, of the enthusiast."
That "true Imperialism" which Sir Charles advocated was never more clearly shown than in matters of Social Reform. His demand that we should learn from the example of our Colonies was dictated by his desire to promote the homogeneity of the Empire. He believed in developing our institutions according to the national genius, and he viewed, for example, with distrust the tendency to import into this country such schemes as that of contributory National Sickness Insurance on a German pattern. His attitude during the early debates on Old-Age Pensions helped to secure a non-contributory scheme. He laid, then as always, special stress on the position of those workers who never receive a living wage and already suffer from heavy indirect taxation, holding that to take from such as these is to reduce still further their vitality and efficiency. During the debates on the Workmen's Compensation Act he urged the extension of the principle to out-workers and to all trades. The protection should be universal and compulsory.
In a speech of April 27th, 1907, he promised to "fight to the death any scheme of Old-Age Pensions based on thrift or on the workers' contributions." Later, when the proposals as to workmen's insurance were nebulous, but nevertheless pointed to a contributory scheme, he, criticizing some words of Mr. Haldane's, spoke his anxiety lest "to have a system for all labour, including the underpaid labour of unskilled women, based on contributions by the individual, might involve the difficulty expressly avoided by the Government in the case of pensions— namely, the use of public money to benefit the better-paid class of labour, inapplicable to the worst-paid class, but largely based on taxation which the latter paid." One of his last pencillings on the margin of an article reviewing the Government's forecast of the scheme for sickness insurance includes a note of regret and indignation at the apparent omission to make any special provision for the lowest-paid classes of workers.
One neglected class of Labour whose grievances he sought to remedy by a measure which has not yet reached fulfilment was that of the shop assistants. Year after year, from 1896, he spoke at their meetings, introduced their Bill in the House of Commons, urged its points, inspired its introduction in the Lords, till at last the Liberal Government, in 1909, introduced proposals embodying its main features. The question of the representation of the shop assistants on the Grand Committee when the Bill should reach that stage was discussed by him just five days before his death, and many attributed very largely to his absence the fact that the Government were obliged to permit mutilation of their proposals before they became law in 1911. The National Union of Shop Assistants have commemorated his work for them by giving his name to their new headquarter offices in London.
An amusing tribute to his legislative activities and the effect they produced on reactionaries is to be found in a speech by that famous "die-hard" of the individualist school, the late Lord Wemyss, who warned the House of Lords that their lordships should always scrutinize the measures that came from "another place," and "beware of Bills which bear on their backs the name of that great municipal Socialist, Sir Charles Dilke."
A minor but important characteristic of Sir Charles's views as an administrator was his conviction that wherever the interests of women and children are concerned the inspectorate should include an effective women's staff. The appointment of women inspectors for the Local Government Board made by him in 1883 was a pioneer experiment, which he vainly urged Sir William Harcourt to follow in the Home Department—a reform delayed till twelve years later, when Mr. Asquith as Home Secretary carried it out.
But his most important service to Labour in the direction of administration is connected with the Home Office Vote. Though Bills were closely followed by him in Committee, he refused to take part in any obstruction upon them, holding that "all obstruction is opposed to the interests of Radicalism, in the long-run." Acting on this view, he with others helped the Government to get votes in Supply. The true policy was, in his view, to obtain "ample opportunity for the discussion of important votes at those times of the Session when we desire to discuss them." So he dealt with Home Office administration on its industrial side. Some more marked and centralized criticism of the workings of this great department was necessary than that supplied by questions in Parliament, correspondence, and private interviews. The administration of the War Office, the conduct of Foreign Affairs, or of the Admiralty, claimed the attention of the House of Commons as the annual vote on the Estimates came round. It was not so with the "Ministry of the Interior," and it was practically left to Sir Charles to create that annual debate on the Home Office Vote, which dealt with the industrial side of that department's administration. Year after year he reviewed its work, forcing into prominence the Chief Inspector's Report on Factories and Workshops; examining the orders, exemptions, exceptions, and regulations, by which the Home Office legislates under the head of administration, always with a view to the levelling up of industrial conditions and the promotion of a universal incidence of protection for the workers. "We can trust no one but Sir Charles Dilke in Parliament to understand the principles of factory legislation," wrote Mr. Sidney Webb in comment on some destructive Government proposals as to industrial law. This appreciation of the fundamental ideal underlying our legislative patchwork of eccentricities went hand in hand with a half- humorous and half-lenient understanding of his countrymen's attitude to such questions. "We passed Acts in advance of other nations," he said, "before we began to look for the doctrines that underlay our action, and long before we possessed the knowledge on which it was said to have been based." But for one afternoon in the year the attention of the House of Commons was intelligently focussed on the details of the suffering of those, the weakest workers of all, on whose shoulders the fabric of our industrial system rests. Matters left previously to the agitation of some voluntary society or to the pages of the "novel with a purpose" were marshalled according to their bearing on different administrative points, and discussed in orderly detail. The overwork of women and girls in factory or workshop; the injury to health and the risks that spring from employment in dangerous trades; poor wages further reduced by fines and deductions; the employment of children often sent to work at too early an age, to stagger under loads too heavy for them to bear; the liability to accident consequent on long hours of labour—these were the themes brought forward on the Home Office Vote, not for rhetorical display, but as arguments tending to a practical conclusion, such as the inadequacy of inspection or the insufficient numbers of the available staff.
In the atmosphere thus created much progress was possible. Take, for example, one dangerous trade, that of the manufacture of china and earthenware, in which during the early nineties suffering which caused paralysis, blindness, and death, was frequent and acute. Speaking as late as 1898 on the Home Office Vote, and quoting from the official reports, Sir Charles showed that the cases for the whole country amounted to between four and five hundred out of the five to six thousand persons exposed to danger. Under his persistent pressure Committee after Committee inquired into this question and promulgated special rules; attention was focussed on the suffering, and this evil, though still unfortunately existing, abated both in numbers and acuteness, till at his death the cases had fallen to about a fifth of those notified in 1898.
His standpoint was one which raised industrial matters out of the arena of party fight, and on both sides of the House he found willing co-operators.
Help came not from the House of Commons alone. Lord James of Hereford, Lord Beauchamp, Lord Milner, lent their aid on different occasions, and Lord Lytton paid generous tribute to one "who was always ready to place his vast knowledge and experience, his energy and industry, at the service of any cause which has for its object the social well-being of the people of this country."
In Sir Charles's crowded day, the early luncheon at half-past twelve which allowed time for talk before the House met was often set aside for interviews. During the meal itself conversation for the greater part ranged wide, but towards the end he would turn to his guest with a demand for information on the point at issue, or, if his advice were needed, with an appeal for questions. The mass of information which he elicited was due to the simplicity of his talk with all who came to him. "He asked me my views as if I were of his own standing," said the young secretary of the Anti-Sweating League after his first interview.
[Footnote: Apart from these scattered conversations, Sir Charles met the united representatives of trade-unionism once a year at the opening of Parliament, for then the Trade-Union Congress Parliamentary Committee lunched with him and talked over Labour questions at the House of Commons. This custom, which began in 1880 and lasted through Mr. Broadhurst's secretaryship, was resumed in 1898, and was continued to the end, and the meeting was fruitful of results. "These annual conversations," says Mr. Davis, "had much more to do with the policy of the legislative Labour party than could be understood by the party as a whole, but always the object was to aid the main aspirations of the Trade-Union Congress; indeed, from 1901 to 1906 the luncheons were followed by a conference of Labour and Radical members in one of the conference-rooms, where arrangements were made to support Labour Bills or to oppose reactionary proposals made by a reactionary Government. This would have continued, but in 1906 the larger Labour party returned to Parliament made it unnecessary."
The advent of the "larger Labour party," though it affected the conferences, did not affect the social meetings, which ceased only with Sir Charles Dilke's death. The last of these dinners was one at which the Parliamentary Committee in their turn entertained him, paying warm tribute to the years of help he had given to the trade-union movement. It was in the vacation, but there was a full attendance, all the provincial members of the Parliamentary Committee without exception coming up or staying in London for the dinner. One of his prized possessions in the after-months was the gold matchbox they gave him, inscribed with the badge of the Trade-Union Congress and the word "Labour." Round it were engraved his name and the date of the Parliamentary Committee's presentation.]
The reformer does not generally count on the aid of representatives of the great Government departments, yet the independent and non-party attitude of Sir Charles and the friends who worked with him for Social Reform secured not only the attention of successive Ministers, but also the help of those permanent officials who finally came to do him honour at the dinner which commemorated the passing of the Trade Boards Act in 1910.
Conspicuous among the friends who worked with him in the House of Commons for the promotion of Social Reform in different directions were Mr. H. J. Tennant (afterwards Secretary for Scotland in Mr. Asquith's Coalition Government), Captain Norton (now Lord Rathcreedan), Mr. Masterman, and Mr. J. W. Hills, member for Durham, a leader of the Social Reform group among the Conservatives. Mr. Hills's estimate of this side of Sir Charles's Parliamentary achievements may fitly be given here:
"Dilke's interest in Labour questions sprang not only from his sense of justice and sympathy with the unfortunate, but also from his clear and logical mind, which recognized that starvation, underpayment, and servile conditions are the negation of that democracy in which he believed for the United Kingdom and the Empire. For this reason he was the admitted champion of the coloured races; and he was the originator of a growing school of reformers of all countries, who realize that the nations of the world must advance together, for if one lags behind all suffer. He therefore took a most active interest in the International Association for Labour Legislation; he was the mainstay of the English branch, and he kept closely in touch with men like Dr. Bauer of Switzerland, M. Fontaine of France, and M. Vandervelde of Brussels, who were working on the same lines in other countries. Of the earlier and more difficult part of the work I saw nothing, for when I joined the association it had an assured position, and had behind it two great outstanding successes—the abolition of white phosphorus in the making of matches, and the regulation of nightwork for women. His knowledge of foreign countries, his familiarity with their industrial questions and modes of thought, and his facility in their languages, gave him, by common consent, a position such as no one holds now. The work has been little recognized in England; our Government, unlike foreign Governments, was slow to give help to the association, and it was only Dilke's unbounded energy that compelled them to support this important and hopeful movement.
"What struck me about his position in domestic Labour questions was that his support or opposition was always the dominating fact of the situation. What his relations were with Labour I do not know—he never talked about it; but I have no doubt that he was their counsellor and adviser throughout their history.
"Dilke had a deeper hold on Labour than his knowledge and ability alone would have given him. He held their hearts and affection as well. They looked upon him as the one man who had always stood up for the workers, through bad and good report, whether they had votes or had not. He had championed their cause when they were voiceless, when it had little support in Parliament and gave little advantage at elections. Nowadays such championship is both easy and profitable, but that was by no means the case in the sixties and seventies. It was exceedingly unpopular, and out of touch with the political philosophy of all except a few. I was greatly struck with this at the dinner given to Dilke in 1910 to celebrate the passing of the Trade Boards Act. I realized that many had come there to do honour to the one man who had always fought for them. They knew that so long as he was alive there was someone who would support them, regardless of consequences.
* * * * *
"Of his activities in Parliament, I remember most vividly those in which I was personally concerned. In two such cases I was on the opposite side; in two I worked with him. The Trade Disputes Act of 1906 was in reality carried by Dilke and Shackleton, for the Government were hopelessly compromised by the two voices with which nearly all their leaders had spoken. Again in 1907, when I was trying to plead for Preferential Trade, he marshalled against it all the force of his wide knowledge and ripe experience.
"On the other hand, in 1909 the luck of the ballot enabled me to bring in a private member's Bill, and I introduced Dilke's Sweated Industries Bill. Dilke was to second it. When the Bill came on I was laid up with influenza, but I was determined to go to the House, and got out of bed to do so, though when I got there I was only capable of a few sentences and had to return to bed. But the effect of the introduction of Dilke's Bill was to stir up the Government, so much so that a few days later Winston Churchill introduced his Bill, which, being a Government Bill, took precedence of ours and became law as the Trade Boards Act. In 1910 again, on the Home Office Vote, an occasion on which Dilke always made a masterly review of the industrial history of the year, he asked me to second him, and to deal particularly with lead-poisoning in the Potteries. He always tried to detach Labour questions from party. It was entirely owing to him that I took an interest in the subject.
"I never actually worked with him, but I should imagine that he worked at a pace that few could follow. He was wonderful at mastering facts, and he had the instinct of knowing what facts were important. His method must have been somewhat unconventional, for not only did he tear the heart out of a book, but he frequently tore pages out as well. He had got what he wanted, and the rest was waste paper."
The testimony of Mr. Hills has touched on several objects for which Sir Charles worked till his death, but of these one upon which he struggled to establish an international understanding—that of the minimum wage— claims a fuller consideration. The interdependence of Labour was always apparent to him, and under the sympathy for suffering which inspired his action on such questions as the native races or the treatment of the alien Jew, there lay the sense that the degradation of any class of labour in one country affected its status in all, and that to be insular on industrial questions was to undermine everything that the pioneers of English Labour had fought for and achieved.
The wages of many workers were left untouched by the imperfect development of trade-unionism. Sweating was the result. To check this evil, machinery must be created by legislation to deal with low wages, while international understanding was essential here, as in other questions of Social Reform, to enable the democracies of the various countries to keep abreast.
The question of the minimum wage had occupied Sir Charles Dilke's attention from the days of his discipleship to John Stuart Mill. He had been much impressed by the debates which took place during his presidency in 1885 at the Conference on Industrial Remuneration. A few years later he had been present at a meeting convened by the Women's Trade-Union League during the Trade-Union Congress at Glasgow, and the impression made on him by that meeting he thus described:
"I had long been used to Labour meetings, but was then brought face to face with hopeless difficulties, heartbreaking to the organizer, because of a rooted disbelief among the workers in the possibility of improvement. There is a stage in which there is hope—hope for the improvement of wages and of conditions, possibly to be won by combined effort. There is a stage, familiar in the East End of London, when there is no hope for anything, except, perhaps, a hired feather and the off-chance of an outing. Yet even the roughest trades employing women and children in factories or large workshops, to be found in the East End or in the outskirts of Glasgow, have in them the remote possibility of organization. Home industries in many cases have not even that bare chance. There is in them a misery which depresses both the workers and those who would help them. The home life of the poorest class of factory workers is not much, but it means, nevertheless, a great deal to them. The home life of the home worker is often nothing. The home becomes the grinding shop. Factory slavery finds a refuge even in a hard home. 'Home' slavery has none.... It is in this class, utterly incapable of fixing a minimum wage for itself, that the evil of its absence stands revealed in its worst form."
Turning, as was his custom, to our colonies for successful experiment and example, he discussed with Mr. Deakin (the Victorian Minister of whom he prophesied in 1887 that he would be the First Prime Minister of that federated Australia which was then called "Deakin's Dream") the example of a Wages Board which was being introduced in Victoria. An Anti-Sweating League had been formed in 1893 in Victoria, and had adopted this scheme, carrying it into law in 1895. The vital part of the scheme was the creation of Conciliation Boards on which representatives of employers and employed were represented—Boards which should discuss wages and fix a minimum rate in the trade concerned.
As opposed to any larger scheme of conciliation for all trades, this plan had to Sir Charles's mind certain marked advantages: it would not interfere with the activities of the great trade-unions which already stood possessed of similar voluntary machinery, while its application only to those whose depressed and miserable condition invoked public sympathy would create an atmosphere likely to induce successful and harmonious development.
In 1898 he introduced his Wages Boards Bill, from that time annually laid before Parliament; but it made no progress, and there were moments when even his optimism almost failed. It was not till 1906, when a Sweated Industries Exhibition was organized by the Daily News, that a step forward was made. The sight of the workers, engaged in their ill-remunerated toil, brought home to the public an evil till then too little realized. The movement was international. A similar exhibition in Berlin had already been held, and others now followed in America, in Continental countries, in Scotland, and in various parts of England. In this country a National Anti-Sweating League came into existence. A great meeting of trade-unionists and Labour representatives was held at the Guildhall, Sir Charles Dilke presiding on the first day, and the question of the minimum wage was debated by Labour; Sir George Askwith, Mr. Sidney Webb, and Mr. W. P. Reeves, with other Colonial representatives, speaking from the platform. Many conferences followed, and M. Vandervelde came from Belgium, M. Arthur Fontaine from France, to combat insular and Tariff Reform arguments, and to point out that the movement was not confined to our own shores. A great deputation representative of every shade of political opinion, introduced by Sir Charles Dilke and the Archbishop of Canterbury, waited on the Prime Minister on December 4th, 1908, and laid their views before him. Sir Charles put the Bill into the hands of the Labour party in Parliament. A Committee of the House was appointed to consider the question of home work and the proposed measure, and, after the stages which Mr. Hills has described, it became law as the Trade Boards Act in 1909. The Act at first applied to only four trades, but there have been several additions. Of the first extension made after Sir Charles's death, and of the probability of the adoption of the scheme by other countries, Sir George Askwith wrote: "It will be the first stone on Sir Charles's cairn. I can see them all coming up the hill, nation by nation."
[Footnote: France, the first nation to reach the hill-top, passed her Minimum Wage Act for home workers in 1915.
Minimum rates of wages under the Trade Boards Act were in operation in Great Britain (February, 1915) as follows:
Female Persons over 18 per Week of 52 Hours. Per Hour. Per Week.
Ready-made and wholesale bespoke tailoring, and shirt-making 3-1/2d. 15s. 2d. Chain-making 2-3/4d. 11s. 11d. Paper-box-making 3-1/4d. 14s. 1d. Lace-finishing 2-3/4d. 11s. 11d. Sugar confectionery and food-preserving 3d. 13s. 0d. Tin-box-making 3-1/4d. 14s. 1d. Metal hollow-ware 3d. 13s. 0d.
It is to be noted that these rates of wages, which are in every case much higher than those they supplanted, were fixed before or in the early part of the War, and owe nothing to the general inflation of earnings which took place at a later stage. From the figures of the Board of Trade Enquiry into Earnings and Hours of Labour, published in 1909, it appears that about one-third of the women employed in factories and workshops were at the time of the Enquiry in receipt of wages of less than 10s. per week, and the minimum rates above mentioned must be considered in relation to these, and not to later figures.
In the various trades, shirt-making and lace-finishing excepted, minimum rates of wages have also been fixed for adult male persons. These rates before the War were, save in one case, 6d. per hour or upwards, and probably one-quarter of the adult male workers in the trades benefited by them.
The relief given by the Boards to groups of particularly ill-paid women, such as the chain-makers, the matchbox-makers in East London, and the lace-finishers, has been the subject of many articles in the Press.
In the chain-making trade, where the Board affected both wives and husbands, the family income increased, in many cases, by 15s. and upwards per week. The bearing of these higher rates of wages on the food and clothing of those who received them, the physical condition of the school-children, and personal and social habits, forms part of the story which Mr. R. H. Tawney tells in Minimum Rates in the Chain-making Trade.]
On April 14th, 1910, there followed the dinner to celebrate the passing into law of his favourite project, and at that dinner, under the presidency of Dr. Gore, then Bishop of Birmingham, representatives of Liberalism, Labour, and Conservatism met to do Sir Charles honour. There were many tributes paid to one whom Mr. Will Crooks dubbed "the greatest of anti-sweaters," and of them the happiest was, probably, that of Dr. Gore:
"Sir Charles has played a great part publicly. In finding out, however, what has been going on behind the scenes, I am led to know that, great as has been the public part, there is a greater part Sir Charles has played in that region which the newspapers do not penetrate—the region where important decisions are hatched and matured, and differences made up, before appearances are made in public. His zeal has been unquenchable and consistent."
After Sir Charles's death, the same friend described his knowledge as "supreme and incomparable in all matters relating to industries and industrial law, transcending that of any of his contemporaries."
Sir Charles Dilke's nature led him to discount personal tributes, and his verdict on the triumph of the minimum-wage principle is best summed up in the words of Renan which he sent to one who worked with him: "C'est ainsi qu'il se fait que le vrai, quoique n'etant compris que d'un tres petit nombre, surnage toujours, et finit par l'emporter."
There is no part of his work which brings out more the quality of "self-effacement" to which Mr. Sidney Webb alludes. The cause of Labour is not even yet a popular one, and there are many who held and hold that his interest in it was not calculated to strengthen the political position of one to whom men looked as a military expert, or an authority on foreign affairs. But to him a grasp of social questions and a full recognition of the place which Labour should hold in the modern State were essential parts of a statesman's equipment, and appeals on the ground of a weakening of his position by his unremitting care for Labour interests could not have a feather's weight in the balance for one in whom the chord of self had long since been struck and passed in music out of sight.
Statistics by Sir Bernard Mallet, Registrar-General
In 1907 Sir Charles Dilke, who had been a member of the Royal Statistical Society since 1866, accepted an invitation to become its President, in which capacity he served for two years, with notable advantage to the society. As the writer of the notice which appeared in the journal on the occasion of his death observed:
"While Sir Charles Dilke would have declined the title of statistician, and, indeed, frequently referred to himself as a 'mere user' of statistics, he possessed in a high degree what may be termed the statistical instinct. His genius for marshalling facts in orderly sequence, his passion for precision of statement even in minute detail, his accurate recollection of figures, as, indeed, of everything which he stored in the chamber of his encyclopaedic memory, are all primary attributes of the ideal statistician, though in his case the wide range and magnitude of the subjects in which he was interested led far beyond the field of statistical investigation." [Footnote: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, February, 1911 p. 320]
His assumption of this office was thus specially appropriate on general grounds; but it was connected in his mind, as he more than once explained, with certain definite and practical objects. He had been impressed, during his chairmanship of the Income Tax Committee, with the inadequacy of the published statistics on finance, and he hoped to signalize his period of office by the promotion of the better organization of Government statistics. He chose this subject, accordingly, for the presidential address which he delivered before the society in December, 1907, [Footnote: Ibid., December, 1907, pp. 553-582.] and which Mr. Arthur Bowley, in his address to the society in furtherance of the same crusade a few months later, described as a "terrible indictment" of the existing system, or want of system. To a large extent this address consisted of illustrations of the lack of co-ordination in the collection and issue of these statistics, and the difficulties which confronted the student who desired to make use of them. But he did not confine himself to criticism. Although no definite scheme for dealing with this large and difficult matter could be usefully put forward without a searching official inquiry, Sir Charles was willing to support any proposal which would assist the object in view, from the institution of an advisory or consultative committee of expert statisticians, to that of a central statistical bureau on the Continental model. He induced the council to enlarge the scope of the society's Census Committee, then sitting to advise on measures to improve the census to be taken in 1911, so as to include official statistics generally; and he persuaded the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Publications to hear evidence on the subject. [Footnote: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, September, 1908, p. 459] He secured the consideration of his suggestions in several official quarters, and his criticisms undoubtedly led to some improvements in detail. It would have been a miracle if Sir Charles Dilke's vigorous campaign had attained a more obvious measure of success, and he himself was well aware of the extreme difficulty of securing attention in this country to a mere question of administrative reform as distinguished from one of political or party interest—a question, moreover, which aroused many departmental susceptibilities. But it would be a mistake to ignore the utility of such efforts as his in stimulating interest in the subject and assisting those whose labours have resulted in material improvements in recent years.
Never had the society enjoyed the advantage of a President who took so much interest in its proceedings. He regularly attended the meetings of the committees. He was almost invariably in the chair at the society's meetings, and rarely failed to add to the interest of the discussion by some illuminating comment, and he was the life and soul of the dinners of the Statistical Club which followed the meetings.
It is difficult to exaggerate the encouragement which a President of Sir Charles Dilke's distinction can give in these various ways to workers in the unpopular and unattractive paths of statistical science.
* * * * *
By Miss Mary Macarthur
The Taff Vale decision struck a vital blow at trade-union organization, and while the case was still finally undecided the leaders of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants called on Sir Charles for advice. Afterwards, when the judgment was upheld, his services were unreservedly at the command of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade-Union Congress.
He assisted the committee in 1901 at a conference in which Mr. Asquith, Sir Robert Reid, and Mr. Haldane, committed the Liberal party to the initiation of legislation to reverse the Taff Vale decision, and shortly afterwards played a similar part in an interview with Lord James of Hereford and the late Lord Ritchie, who spoke as representing the then Government. The second conference was also satisfactory, since it drew from Lord James the emphatic opinion that workmen on strike were entitled in their own interest to use moral suasion to prevent their places being taken by others.
The Tory party did not, however, take Lord James's view, and a resolution proposing the restoration of the status quo before the Taff Vale judgment was defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of 29. In May, 1903, a Bill introduced by Mr. D. J. Shackleton to legalize picketing shared the same fate; while an even more ominous event was the appointment by the Government of a Royal Commission on which Labour was unrepresented, and before which the leaders of the trade-union movement refused to appear.
Arguments in favour of compromise were put forward at the Trade-Union Congress of 1903, which followed closely on the rejection of Mr. Shackleton's Bill, and during the next three years the position of the unions became continuously more precarious. It looked as though trade- unions were beginning, in the phrase of Mr. Bell, to "exist very much on sufferance."
In this crisis Sir Charles was an inexhaustible source of strength. On everyone he could reach and influence he pressed the policy of standing firm, and the continuing reverses of the Tory party at by-elections played into his hands.
The Tories accepted the decision of their constituents to the extent that Mr. Shackleton's Bill, rejected in 1903, obtained second reading by 39 votes in 1904, and by 122 in 1905. But dislike of the measure had not abated; so many vexatious amendments were embodied in the Bill in Committee as to render it worse than useless; and at last all but the Tory members retired from the Grand Committee in disgust, and the Bill was discharged from the House. But in 1906 came the General Election, by which the Labour party found itself abruptly in the enjoyment of prominence and power.
Faced with responsibility for legislation, the Liberal Government abated something of their pre-election zeal, and introduced a measure which would have given only conditional immunity to the trade-unions; but an indignant Labour party, having secured a majority of 300 for a thoroughgoing measure of their own, were prepared to oppose the Bill of the Government, and this Bill was remodelled on Labour party lines.
The result was seen by everyone, but very few people understood how at every stage the member for the Forest of Dean had intervened, using to the utmost his powerful influence in the one camp to fix the trade- unionists in their demand for complete reversal of the Taff Vale judgment and the prevention of its recurrence, and in the other to bring about an unequivocal acceptance of the demand.
[Footnote: The Trade Disputes Act, 1906, got rid of the Taff Vale decision by Section 4. It also legalized peaceful picketing (Section 2), and made certain acts done in furtherance of a trade dispute not actionable on the ground merely that they interfered with business (Section 4). Its sections dealt with the following subjects:
Section 1 amended the law of conspiracy.
Section 2 made peaceful picketing legal.
Section 3: "An act done by a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute shall not be actionable on the ground only that it is an interference with the trade, business, or employment, of some other person, or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labour as he wills."
Section 4: "An action against a trade-union, whether of workmen or masters, or against any members or officials thereof, on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade-union, in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade-union, shall not be entertained by any court."]
Nor after this major issue was settled triumphantly did his anxiety and watchfulness abate. He scrutinized the provisions of the Bill with jealous care. He desired to exclude every ambiguous word. "Too easily satisfied," he scribbled to me after Labour members had neglected to press an amendment he considered of importance, and as the Bill slowly moved forward several such criticisms came into my hands.
His own work in Committee on the Bill is indicated by his summary of the risks confronting those who took part in trade disputes:
1. The liability to be hit in respect of molestation.
2. Under the word "reasonable."
3. Under the Law of Nuisance.
The first danger he diminished in an amendment accepted by the Government. The second he tried to lessen by moving the omission of the words "peaceably and in a reasonable manner." Unsuccessfully, for his Labour colleagues inclined to think him extreme, and intimated their consent to retain "peaceably."
On the third question he was supported by almost half the Committee, and only failed to carry his amendment against the Government through a dictum of the then Attorney-General, that the Law of Nuisance could not be invoked to stop picketing. This law has, however, since been invoked against the pickets of the Hotel, Club, and Restaurant Workers' Union, and under it several members of the union have been fined, and one or two committed to gaol. The instance is a final proof, if one were needed, of Sir Charles's prescience. The fame of Sir Charles Dilke in the realm of industrial legislation will mount high, but to trade- unionists nothing will endear his memory more than the knowledge that, if and in so far as they have now a charter invulnerable alike to the prejudice and the caprice of those who administer the law, it is largely due to the clear vision of Sir Charles Dilke, and to the skill and invincible courage with which he followed his aims.
WORK FOR NATIVE RACES
Perhaps no one of Sir Charles Dilke's eager activities won for him more public and private affection and regard than the part which he took both in and out of Parliament as a defender of the weaker races against European oppression.
At the very outset of his career, John Stuart Mill's admiring sympathy for the youthful author of Greater Britain was specially called forth by chapters which made a natural appeal to the son of the historian of British India. More than twenty years later, Sir Charles, revising his work in the full maturity of his power and knowledge, emphasized again the first precept of his policy, which enjoined not only justice, but courtesy:
"Above all it is essential to the continuation of our rule under the changed conditions that the individual Englishman in India should behave towards the people as the best behave at present."
Into the question whether India would be better or worse off under some other system he never entered; British control was accepted by him as a fact; but, so accepting it, he insisted that justice should be done to the Crown's Asiatic subjects.
"Men who speak better English than most Englishmen; who conduct able newspapers in our tongue; who form the majority on town councils which admirably supervise the affairs of great cities; who, as Native Judges, have reached the highest judicial posts; who occupy seats in the Provincial, the Presidency, and the Viceregal Councils, or as powerful Ministers excellently rule vast Native States, can no longer be treated as hopelessly inferior to ourselves in governmental power. These men look upon the Queen's proclamations as their charters, and point out that, while there is no legal reason against their filling some proportion, at all events, of the highest executive posts, there are as a fact virtually no natives high up in the covenanted Civil Service."
Control of the military power, control of the Budget, must remain with the governing race. But "provided war and finance are in those single hands, autocratic or despotic if you will, which must exist for India as a whole, in the absence of any other authority, the less we interfere in the details of administration, to my mind, the better both for India and for ourselves." [Footnote: East and West, November, 1901.]
Local self-government would give to the leading natives more opportunity for a career, and to the governed a rule more closely in touch with their sympathies and traditions. But there could be no general formula. "Roughly speaking," he said, "my views are hostile to the treating of India as a single State, and favourable to a legislative recognition of the diversity of conditions which undoubtedly exist in India." He contemplated administration in some parts of India by hereditary chiefs and princes, in some cities by elective representatives of the municipalities, in other portions of the country by a mixed system. But, by whatever method, he was for recognizing the fact that in India we were at many points controlling a developed though a different civilization; that trained men were to be had in numbers; and that the educated natives' claim for an increased and increasing part in the task of government must be recognized.
There is a letter from him to Mr. Morley in 1897, when he thought that freedom for the Indian Press was threatened by "blind reaction" after the Poona murder: "The state of things in Poona has grown out of the Committee, under the man who was stabbed but is not dead, employing British privates (instead of employing native troops, as did General Gatacre at Bombay) to search the houses for plague patients." The whole position appeared to him "more dangerous than it has been at any time since the recall of Lytton in 1880."
A policy of repression would set back the progress of liberalizing Indian government. No one insisted more strongly on the maintenance of sufficient force to defend the Indian Empire; but he believed that there was a second "greatest duty" in learning "how to live with the development of that new India which we ourselves have created."
Speaking on July 13th, 1909, when the murder of Mr. A. M. T. Jackson at Nasik was fresh in all minds, he urged continued "measures of amnesty and appeasement," and deprecated the policy of deporting leading members of the National Congress. "If reform was dangerous," he said, "it was less dangerous than leaving things alone." Describing Lord Ripon, whose death had only just taken place, as "the Viceroy who more than any other had touched the imagination of the people of India," he added: "If our rule, excellent in intention, but rather wooden, is to be made acceptable, imagination must play its part."
This lifelong advocacy of generous principles was not unrecognized. In the last autumn of his life he was pressed in flattering terms to attend the twenty-fifth National Congress; and for some time he entertained the idea, which was specially urged on him by his friend and honorary agent for the Forest of Dean, Sir William Wedderburn, who was presiding over the Congress that year.
The project was finally set aside in view of the momentous autumn session of 1910; but he did not feel equal to the journey. When the end came, India mourned for him.
* * * * *
Sir Charles Dilke's concern with the vast network of problems arising throughout Africa and the Pacific Islands from the contact of white men with natives was infinitely detailed; yet more and more it tended to reduce itself to one broad issue. In this relation the coloured man is everywhere the white man's labourer; Dilke's object was to insure that he should not be his slave. Against actual slavery he was always a crusader, and for long years he contended against the recognition of it implied by the practice of restoring runaway slaves in Zanzibar. Under a Liberal Government, he carried his point at last. A letter written on August 17th, 1907, fitly sums up this matter:
"Dear Sir Charles Dilke,
"I have just heard, on arriving here, that the announcement has been made in the House of Commons of the intention of the Government to abolish the legal status of slavery in Mombasa and the Coast District on October 1st. I can hardly say how much pleasure this has given me, nor can I refrain from writing to say how much we out here are indebted to you for the part you have taken in bringing the Government to this decision. I feel that without your assistance the affair would have dragged on, possibly, for years. With many and grateful thanks,
"Believe me, yours very sincerely,
"Alfred R. Tucker,
"Bishop of Uganda"
To Sir Charles men turned if protest had to be made against the illegal flogging of natives, or against those punitive expeditions which under a Liberal Government were often called military patrols.
As early as 1870 he had become a correspondent of the Aborigines' Protection Society; in 1871 he supported their action in defence of the Demerara negroes; and to the end of his life he was in constant communication with their leading men.
His brief tenure of office gave him power to put in force principles for which he had contended as a private member. In 1877 he wrote to Mr. Chesson that since 1868 he had been interested to secure fair treatment for China, [Footnote: In 1869 Sir Charles wrote letters to the Times on Chinese affairs, which, says the Memoir, 'possess a certain interest as showing that I held the same views as to China which I have always continued to have at heart,' and which may be sufficiently illustrated by quotation of a single phrase. He condemned "the old, bad, world-wide party ... which never admits that weak races have rights as against the strong."] but China's friends must bring pressure to bear to limit the use of torture. In 1880, having become Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he was able to inform the same correspondent that he had "succeeded in making it certain that a strong direction would be made on the subject of Chinese torture."
Cases of gross barbarity, cases of actual slave trading, always found him ready to act, but his great object was to check the growth of all systems and institutions which made for industrial servitude—to his mind a graver peril than direct slavery. Thus, in 1878 he was in correspondence with the Aborigines' Protection Society concerning the proposed establishment of a Chartered Company in Borneo, and observed that such arrangements could not be justified by proving the existence of bad government in independent Native States. "The worse the government of these States, the greater the difficulties which crop up when we intermeddle." In 1881 as a Minister he resisted the grant of that charter. All these surrenders of territory and jurisdiction to commercial associations filled him with suspicion. He knew that expedients lay ready to the white man's hand by which the native population could easily be enslaved; and to these even the best representatives of direct colonial government under the Crown were prone to resort. In 1878 he had written anxiously to Mr. Chesson concerning the labour tax in Fiji, which, although instituted by a Governor in whom the society had special trust, seemed "opposed to all the principles for which you have hitherto contended." Nearly twenty years later he was maintaining this vigilance. "I am always uneasy about Fiji," he wrote to Mr. Fox Bourne in August, 1896. "I attacked the labour system when it was instituted, and continue to hold the strongest opinion against it." But by that time the new developments which he had resisted in the seventies had spread fast and far.
"The fashion of the day," he wrote in September, 1895, "sets so strongly towards veiled slavery that there is nothing now to be done by deputation to Ministers. We ought to appeal to the conscience of the electorate, and I am willing greatly to increase my little gifts to your society if that is done."
Part of his concern was engendered by the revelation, then recent, that the Chartered Niger Company imposed by contract a fine of L1,000 on any agent or ex-agent of theirs who should publish any statement respecting the company's methods, even after his employment was ended. "I am convinced," Sir Charles wrote, "that the secrecy which it has been attempted to maintain puts them wholly in the wrong, even if they are angels;" and upon this ground he kept up a steady campaign against the Niger Company by question and debate in Parliament until Government bought the company out and assumed direct responsibility for the country.