Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

FOURTH CHAPTER
THE GROWTH OF THE CAUCUS

I

HOWEVER great may have been the stir made by the appearance of the Federation on the stage, and imposing as was the ceremony of giving the finishing touch to the work of popular organization, its solidity and its duration were to depend on the broadness of its basis in the country. The Associations of 93 places which sent delegates to the Birmingham function evidently did not present an adequate support. Consequently the leaders of the Federation zealously kept up the propaganda extra muros. Mr. Schnadhorst continued to travel about the country to advertise the model association and recommend the adoption of it, which he did in the most inviting terms: "No subscription. No opinion, creed, or position shut a man out. So long as the minority are content to submit to the majority, no matter what opinion upon any particular question a man held, he was not excluded. Free discussion was granted to all so long as perfect loyalty to each other existed. The object of their meetings was that they should be thoroughly representative in their character. The next business was the election of committees in each ward; every man was qualified, and those who were willing to serve were elected."1 Mr. Gladstone, too, was inexhaustible in praise of the Birmingham system. "I venture to say it is admirable, it is sound, it is just, it is liberal, it is popular.... A man is not bound by the Birmingham plan to subscribe to any list of political articles. That is one of the rocks on which we have split. At Birmingham you know they are tolerably advanced, but they don't attempt to exclude the most moderate.'2

____________________
1
Speech of Mr. Schnadhorst at the Cambridge Reform Club, January, 1878.
2
Speech of the 27th September, 1877, at Nottingham. Cf. his speech at Southwark, of the 20th July, 1878, and his letter of the 10th September, 1878, about the election at Newcastle-under-Lyme.

-183-

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