William Morris

The Hackney Election

The Hackney Liberals have returned Professor Stuart by a sufficiently large majority, and the Liberal press has been engaged in singing the praises of the new member; who it seems is the very pattern of a useful politician and much advanced thinker; this may be, but if a man is to be judged by his utterances we take the liberty of thinking all this jubilant praise a little overdone. If Professor Stuart has very advanced opinions he at least did not venture to put them forward even before such a very Radical constituency as Hackney; in point of fact so-called "fair-trade" and so-called free-trade seem to have been the issues joined at Hackney; and, ably as this subject was treated in JUSTICE in a late number, we may in passing once more call attention to the fact that for the workers this is just a battle of the Kites and Crows. They may be sure that whether the landlords tax their victuals in order to gain higher rents by means of protection, or the capitalists lower their wages, and land them in such terribly bad times as the present by means of free trade, they will be fleeced all the same until they make up their minds to take matters into their own hands.

We cannot help lamenting that, the Hackney Radicals, who have lately issued so Democratic a programme, should have been so blinded by the excitement of an electoral contest as not to see this fact. Nothing could have been more commonplace and unsatisfactory than Professor Stuart's election speeches; he is obviously taking his place in the House of Commons as an advocate (one might hope the last new one henceforward) of laissez-faire, and if the Hackney Radicals interpret Radicalism thus, we can only say that they have been converted to Whiggery with strange swiftness and completeness. It must be supposed however that this is not quite the case, but that in the first place they were terrified at the idea of their being represented by such an extinct monster as a protectionist Tory; and that in the second place they were a little doubtful as to whither their Radicalism would lead, them in the long run. Now as to the first fear, we must say that even supposing the said queer monster had been returned, it would not have damaged Radicalism so much as the watering down of the present very feeble Radical party in the House by such a man as Professor Stuart, whose laissez faire principles (?) are rapidly becoming as extinct as landlord Protection itself; and it is disappointing indeed that the Hackney Radicals could see no other course open to them than voting for a man who does not hold their views. If they had no candidate whom they could vote for with a clear conscience, why should they have voted at all? Abstention from the poll accompanied by a protest so distinct as to make it obvious that the abstention was organised, and was the result, not of political languor, but of political insight, would have read a sharp lesson to those politicians, so called Radicals, who are hanging about waiting to see how the cat will jump.

As to that last matter we must once again assure our Radical friends that there is no doubt about it, and that if Radical is to mean anything else than Whig "writ large," it must mean some one who claims full political power for the people, in order that it may be used by them for dealing with the social questions which really concern them.

Amongst other signs of the times we may draw our Radical friend's attention to the fact that the Pall Mail Gazette has turned towards this view the half eye which it could spare from overlooking its grand jingo enterprise, and even quoted with approval Henry George's statement that the late election in America had destroyed the two old parties there, and that a new party was springing up in their place whose business it would be to solve the social questions of the day.

Yes, that is it; it takes no prophet to see that Society will presently wake up and find the Whigs extinct, the Liberals extinct, the true Radicals rapidly becoming Socialists and facing a party which will have been forced to drop its mask; which may be called Tory or what you will, but which proclaims at last without hypocrisy its real maxim, "Keep them Down."


Justice, 29th November 1884, p. 4.