William Morris. Commonweal 1886

Mr. Jawkins at the Mansion House

Source: “Mr Jawkins at the Mansion House” Commonweal, Vol 2, No. 45, 20 November 1886, p.268-269;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Lord Salisbury, in his speech at the Mansion House, did in some respects only strengthen somewhat the words of his colleague, Lord Randolph Churchill. Like him he tried to bury dangerous jingoism decently. It was pretty much the old story: ‘Sir, you have called me a liar, you have pulled my nose, you have kicked me downstairs, now beware, lest you rouse the sleeping lion!’

As to Ireland again, he, like the other, declared for stiff support to landlordism, and hinted at coercion; and his only contribution to the stock of news of Government intentions, was his assertion that no discretionary powers had been given in the matter of eviction to his bum-bailiff Buller. It is hardly worth while criticizing his speech on these points therefore; it was, of course, only natural that he should praise the valour of the Bulgarian people, whose independence he had done his best to prevent; nor did any one for a moment expect he would have anything to say on the subject of Ireland; but, perhaps, some persons curious to see how far he would endorse the Tory Democracy of Lord Randolph Churchill; on that side their minds may now be at rest, he has taken the position of Mr. Jawkins, of the firm of Spenlow and Jawkins in Dickens ‘David Copperfield’. Mr Spenlow can now show his good-will by making any amount of promises dependent on Jawkins consent, which privately he knows will be withheld. Three acres and a cow, embraces to Jesse Collins, free education, local self-government, railway reforms, besides many another blessing dim in the distance all these you shall have for the asking, my friends, if only Mr. Jawkins will consent. Well, and what says Jawkins to all this fine flower of reform? Hear him: ‘But, in truth, as far as domestic affairs are concerned, the whole interest of home politics is absorbed in the consideration of that one Irish question.’ (Hear, hear.) Thus does Jawkins put down his foot, and crush mercilessly the fairy fabric of Radical hope tinged even with a slight suspicion of Socialism, raised by the kindly Spenlow. The firm is certainly a convenient one; and, moreover, it is likely to last as long as such conspiracies usually do, because, in fact, the Salisbury-Jawkins woodenness is really and truly the thing which all respectable people are asking for. Do not let us forget that not only are the Hartington-Whigs and the Chamberlainite Radicals supporting this man, but that practically the Gladstonian Radicals have come to the same conclusion, as was shown by the Leeds Conference, whose dullness on every question except the Irish one, which had got to be their party war-horse, was pointed out in this journal so lately. Strange to say (since Lord Salisbury said it) it is true that ‘as far as domestic affairs are concerned, the whole interest of home politics is absorbed in the consideration of that one Irish question’. That is, it is true of the Constitutional machine which we have made a god to rule over us; that is about the measure of its capacity for managing the affairs which we, fools that we are, have handed over to its management; whatever there is which is dealing with the real problems of life is outside that machine, which is absolutely helpless for ‘considering’ them even; and when it has considered them will find it can get no further.

Surely on that day, if never before, that wooden Tory-Whig might have ‘considered’ something besides the Irish question: or even in his dim mind might have ‘considered’ that that question owed its absorbing interest to its being at bottom half of the great question now being thrust into the faces of all governments by the workers: ‘What do you want sitting there, while we who made you are miserable and degraded?’ There sat that dull man, that party politician amongst the City magnates, who found their wine tasted better because they were drinking it in their joy of having escaped being rolled in the mud by the half-starved population of London; amongst the shops barricaded against ‘domestic affairs’. Why, the ball cartridges were scarcely out of the pouches of the soldiers who had come to take a part in a ‘domestic affair'; and yet he had nothing to say about it, and the servile mob of respectabilities had the baseness to cheer him for his evasion. Yet, indeed, no one expected him to say anything about the condition of this frightful centre of our empire of force and fraud, and all the misery of which, after all, its misery is but a sample. Any why did they not expect him to do so? Because he is the leader of a Parliamentary party; and really, when one thinks of the absurdity of his position, which, once again, necessitates his ignoring the real questions of the day, one has to restrain one’s indignation against the cruel stupidity of the man by steady determination to do one’s best to abolish the system. Besides that, there is a danger that one’s readers might think that he who attacks one party leader is condoning the others for their blindness and evasion. Lord Salisbury is only doing after his kind; and even the Jawkin’s business will most certainly be repeated by the Government which will supplant him, though it may not take quite such a grotesque form as the present one. That, after all, is mostly due to the other member of the Tory-Whig firm of Spenlow and Jawkins.