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The Congresident of the the subject of conich w
armed men, killed from ten to fifteen of their opponents, wounded an unknown number, and finally drove back their attackers in confusion just as the relief column approached the town.
The Church Congress opened at Sheffield on October 10. The Congress was welcomed to Sheffield by the Lord Mayor and the President of the Free Church Council. An animated discussion took place on the subject of conversion. Dr. Inge, the Dean of St. Paul's, made assertions which were afterwards criticised directly by Dr. Brown of Oxford, and indirectly by the Bishop of Chelmsford and the Archbishop of York. The controversy was vigorous and was followed with close interest by a large gathering whose sympathies in the main seemed to be against the Dean.
Dr. Inge expressed doubts as to whether sudden conversion was a normal experience at all, and said it was certain that suggestion played a very important part in the matter. Sudden conversion as a conscious experience was very rare, he submitted, in the Church of England. He found, however, that the Puritan and Methodist teaching about conversion contained two important truths. The first was the Christian doctrine that we had all to make a choice, and the second was the expectation of a crisis during adolescence which, he said, was psychologically sound. Dr. Brown sharply challenged the Dean's view that conversion was not a necessary and natural constitution of religious experience, and described conversion as a process of acquiring the mystical experience or feeling of the reality of God. Dr. Brown also characterised as hollow psychoanalytical theories which attributed conversion to a regression to childhood. The Archbishop of York took the view that conversion was a natural process.
At the various meetings of the Congress the essential purpose which had been agreed upon was faithfully followed, namely, that of getting back to the fundamentals of the Christian religion, and restating the unchanging truths of the Eternal Gospel. Throughout the Congress there was no deviation from the dominating subject of “The Eternal Gospel," but as the Gospel was considered in its relation to home life, to business, to politics, to the spiritual life, to the Bible, and to the creeds, discussion ranged over a very wide ground. Some of the addresses appealed almost exclusively to the intellectual theologian, but in several of the papers there was a warm outpouring of humanity, and in others there was plain speaking. The last official meeting of the Congress was held on October 13, when a number of speakers dealt in widely contrasted ways with “The Coming of the Kingdom.” Lord Astor attempted an international survey, and traced the progress of new ideas of duty in regard to the position of women, the single moral standard, class distinctions, the relation of capital and labour, and the brotherhood of man. What the world most needed now, he urged, was fearless leadership and honest thinking. His call for an awakening from materialism and thoughtlessness was warmly welcomed. The Congress equally approved the appeal of Mr. Sheppard, the Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, for greater sincerity in the Church. Mr. Sheppard was particularly severe in his condemnation of professional but unreal demonstrations of love by Church workers for their fellow-men. “Official love” was his term for this form of show, and he denounced it as an abomination. The week closed with an important non-official meeting in which the Free Churches joined with the Church of England in a survey of the Congress subject.
Clergy and laymen who had known many previous Congresses were convinced that the Sheffield meetings had been more helpful and had aroused more interest than any gathering of Church people in recent years. The choice of a purely religious subject, that of “The Eternal Gospel,” for discussion was fully justified, and apart from the large attendances at the Congress sessions, the attention and space given by the Press to the proceedings led to grateful comment, and helped to dispel an idea that the interest of newspapers in Church conferences was strictly governed by the extent to which secular topics found admission to the programme.
Towards the middle of October it appeared that there existed among Unionists a growing estrangement from the Coalition, grounded partly in a loss of confidence in the Prime - Minister, and partly in a widening opinion that a Coalition mainly supported by Unionist votes should have a Unionist head. For many months past the discontent among the Unionists had been steadily growing. Although at first it had been confined to a small minority, the growth was so steady that by the middle of October it began to appear that they outnumbered the supporters of the Coalition. Mr. Chamberlain endeavoured to defend the Coalition in a speech at Birmingham on October 13, which caused widespread discussion. In the course of this speech he denied that any question of principle divided the Coalition, or was likely to divide it in the near future. He said that it was their duty to rally all the constitutional and conservative elements in the country to the defence of the social and economic order. If through their differences the Labour Party obtained a majority at the next election, heavy would be the responsibility of those who had failed to take a broad view of their duties at a moment of national danger. Union in face of the common foe should be the first consideration. In the new Parliament no Government could possibly be formed except by a Coalition drawn from more than one of the old Parties. With much earnestness Mr. Chamberlain insisted on the necessity for the continued co-operation of the Unionists with the Lloyd-Georgian Liberals. He was careful to point out that in all he had done as Leader of the
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Party he had acted with the full assent of his Unionist colleagues in the Cabinet, and had spoken their mind. He declared that the harmony of political aim between himself and the Prime Minister was perfect and that no difference of political principle had separated them. He reminded Unionists that no small part of the Party's success in the 1918 election was due to the influence and prestige of the Prime Minister. Since then Mr. Lloyd George had acted with perfect loyalty to his Unionist allies, scrupulously observing the agreement made with Mr. Bonar Law, and apparently going beyond it in strengthening the Unionist influence in the Cabinet.
Having thus dealt with the past working of the Coalition, Mr. Chamberlain turned to the future with the assertion that no question of principle divided the Unionist and Liberal members of the Coalition at the present time, nor was it likely that there would be any such division in the future. On the contrary, he saw in the political issues which more and more clearly were dividing the country a new bond between the Coalition Parties. Perils lay ahead in the possibility of the advent to power of a Labour Government, and it was in this connexion that Mr. Chamberlain spoke of the present as a moment of national danger. This was the argument by which he supported his insistence on continued co-operation with the Coalition Liberals and with Mr. Lloyd George.
Mr. Lloyd George himself replied to his critics in a long speech delivered at the Manchester Reform Club on October 14. He denied that the Government had been warmongers; he said that they had been peacemakers. With regard to the Near East, they had taken the only road to peace, and they had reached it. Their objects in this matter had been threefold: (1) to secure the freedom of the Straits for the commerce of all nations; (2) to prevent war from spreading into Europe ; (3) to prevent the repetition in Constantinople and in Greece of the scenes of horror enacted in Asia Minor in recent years. We could not have the Straits barred without giving away the biggest prize we had won by our victory over Turkey in the
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Mr. Lloyd George said that Liberals had been pleading that it was not the business of Great Britain to interfere between the Turks and their victims. That was not the old Liberal doctrine. Lord Gladstone had denounced the Government because they were trying to protect Christian minorities against the Turks. He had given himself airs such as his great father never took upon himself. It was because the Government not merely threatened but meant it, and the Turks knew that they meant it, that there was peace now. The Prime Minister insisted that he did not improvise the policy of securing the freedom of the Straits and removing Christian populations from Turkish rule; he came into it. It was the policy of Mr. Asquith and Lord Grey, approved by Liberal and Conservative
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Leaders. As a Minister he approved of it, but it was not his policy Turkey had been almost completely partitioned by agreements with the various powers before he became Prime Minister. The policy failed owing to the collapse of Russia and other events abroad over which the Government had no control. If there was to be a change of Government, said Mr. Lloyd George, no man would welcome it more than he. He had never sought his present position, but had begged Lord Balfour or Mr. Bonar Law to become Prime Minister. Three years ago he had begged Mr. Bonar Law to take charge. Early in the present year he had asked Mr. Chamberlain to take the position. In spite of those who dissociated themselves from him, he had many friends, Conservatives, Liberals and multitudes attached to no Party. He cast himself on the people, whose cause he had never betrayed. He would support with all his might any Government, neither revolutionary nor reactionary, that devoted itself with energy, single-mindedness, fearlessness and resolution to the pacification of the nations. He would play no personal or party game; he placed the national interests above the interests of any Party.
This speech failed to achieve the end aimed at, for it did not turn the tide of Conservative independence. A meeting of the Unionist Party was arranged to take place at the Carlton Club on October 19, at which a decision should be taken as to whether the Party would continue to support the Coalition Government. The meeting was summoned by Mr. Chamberlain and was restricted to Unionist members of the House of Commons. The division of opinion had now become so acute that, whatever decision was taken, resignations were certain to be involved on one side or the other. The leader of the new Conservative and Unionist movement was Lord Salisbury, and on October 16 he defined the attitude of the organisation towards the present crisis. He said that the Coalition, which the Prime Minister and Mr. Chamberlain advised Unionists to support, was profoundly and increasingly unpopular in the country. It was perfectly clear that, in many respects, the policy of the Coalition Government had not been in accord with the wishes of the Party. A new method of Cabinet government had been introduced into the country which seemed to him and his friends to have shown itself to be disastrous. There was, apparently, an interference with the freedom of the Departments and the Departmental Ministers, an exaltation of one-man rule in Government which had produced very deplorable results. He said that repeated crises were not a credit to a foreign policy but a discredit. So far as he could make out there was only one ground put forward for continuing the Coalition, and that was what was known as the Bolshevist bogey. To say that the mass of the working classes, our fellow-countrymen, were Bolshevist was absurd ; such an argument was inconsistent when it came from a Government which
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had utterly failed to restore what was admitted to be the great bulwark against Bolshevism, viz., the effective action of the House of Lords. Lord Salisbury denied that his friends had any hostility whatever to Labour. They trusted Labour, they believed in the good sense of the working classes, and intended to appeal to them to give the country not a worse Government nor a bad Government, but to give the country a good Government. He demanded the freedom of the Unionist Party. The whole standard of public life had been lowered and he attributed it to the Coalition. He said respectfully to Mr. Chamberlain that it was no use trying to force an artificial system upon a great democracy. When once it was clear that the people, the electors, Mr. Chamberlain's own friends, his own supporters, the Conservatives and Unionists of the country, desired to stand upon their own principles, and to fight for all that they believed in, then it was to undertake a most grave responsibility to oppose them.
Two or three days before the meeting at the Carlton Club it had been a doubtful question whether the Conservatives would carry their resolution and succeed in breaking up the Coalition, but opinion hardened rapidly as the time of the meeting drew near, and the movement for independence derived much encouragement from the declaration of the result of a by-election at Newport, where a Conservative was elected by a majority of 2,090 for a seat that had been won by a CoalitionLiberal by a large majority in 1918. From the first it was anticipated that the decision would be in great part determined by the attitude of Mr. Bonar Law, who had for some time past withdrawn himself from politics on medical grounds.
The meeting on October 19 was opened by Mr. Chamberlain, who recapitulated those parts of his speech already reported which bore upon the maintenance of the Coalition. When he asserted that there was no divergence of policy between the two wings of the Government there were protesting cries in which Ireland, Egypt, India, and Newport were included, and which showed that the speaker had not the assent of the meeting. Mr. Chamberlain was followed by Mr. Stanley Baldwin, who dissented from his chief, and pointed out that there could be no enthusiasm in the Conservative Party if it were to go to the country without an honest resolve to win. He said that the Prime Minister had destroyed the Liberal Party and was in the course of destroying the Conservative Party. Mr. Pretyman followed with the main resolution of the day, namely: “That this meeting of Conservative members of the House of Commons declares its opinion that the Conservative Party, whilst willing to co-operate with the Liberals, should fight the election as an independent party, with its own leader and with its own programme.” The resolution was seconded by Mr. George Lane-Fox, and then Mr. Bonar Law set forth the issues and appealed to his audience not to disunite the Party,
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