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EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON


[Speech delivered in St. Andrew's Hall, Glasgow, on September 11, 1914.]


My Lord Provost and Gentlemen:—This is the fourth night in succession that I have been on a platform. Why is it that some of us, myself included, have embarked upon this tour of platform speaking? Not, for a moment, because we think that the spirit of our fellow-countrymen is weak, or that their courage is low, but because at a time of great international crisis like this it is good for all of us to meet and take counsel together, to try to grasp the principles for which we are fighting, to measure the forces against which we have to contend, and perhaps, most of all, to be convinced of the integrity of our cause. [Applause.] For, let us depend upon it, unless our cause is righteous, unless our faith is pure, unless we consecrate ourselves each in his own capacity, body and soul—and soul quite as much as body—to the cause for which we are fighting, and which we believe to be the highest cause for which humanity can contend—[applause]—we have no right, unless we do that, to ask the God above us with His right hand and His holy arm to give us the victory. [Applause.]

This is not the first time, as you may know, that I have spoken in St. Andrew's Hall. [Applause.] I have addressed political and quasi-political meetings here, but we do not think anything about any of those subjects now. [Hear, hear, and applause.] The breath of this war has blown politics out of our life, blown them over the cliffs of Dover into the sea, and as long as this war lasts I believe the old party spirit to be extinct, the old party issues it would be impossible to revive, that we are acting as a nation with one voice, and it may be even when all is over and we resume the ordinary business of life we shall find it a little difficult to accommodate ourselves—[laughter and applause]—to the altered situation, and perhaps some of us may entertain a more charitable vision of our neighbours than we hitherto have been supposed to do. [Laughter and applause,] For my own part, I appear with the
Earl Curzon of Kedleston

Earl Curzon of Kedleston

greatest pleasure on a platform with a member of His Majesty's Government. [Applause.] In the circumstances with which this nation has been confronted they have acted as the trustees of the national honour ought to act. [Loud applause.] They exhausted every effort in the pursuit of peace. [Applause.] It is impossible to read that famous speech of Sir Edward Grey—[applause]—without realizing that we have a Government and a Foreign Minister imbued with the desire for peace, straining every effort to maintain it, and only referring the matter reluctantly in the last resort to the dread arbitrament of war. In a time of crisis such as this it is the duty of the Government to lead, and it is the duty of the rest of us to follow. [Applause.]

When the war broke out some people said to me that I should go to the North of England and to Scotland, and particularly to Scotland, because though very shrewd and very pertinacious and very patriotic, they were somewhat slow of mental movement. [Laughter.] Well, I did not believe for a moment that that was true. My experience of Scotsmen is rather the reverse. Now that I have come to Scotland I can see no signs of slowness and no signs of any reluctance to rouse to a full measure of civic responsibility. [Applause.]

You have contributed 25,000 recruits, which is a noble contribution to the Army that is now being raised. [Applause.] The Corporation are recruiting two battalions, and a third battalion is being raised by the Chamber of Commerce. The various political associations in Glasgow have rendered invaluable services. I see on the platform the Principal of the University, The last time I was here the Principal was defending me from the too affectionate embraces of his students. [Laughter.] The Officers' Training Corps have been doing splendidly in this contribution to the sum-total that is going up from Glasgow, and to the Principal I offer my heartiest congratulations. [Applause.]

I am very glad to hear that the employers of labour in Glasgow have shown an unselfish and a patriotic spirit. I am glad for two reasons, first, because it shows that they are disposed to play their part in the national crisis, and secondly—and this is the more important point—because any generous attitude by private employers of labour in providing for the families of those who are in their employ and of which the breadwinners have gone to the war only acts as a stimulus to the Government to do likewise. [Applause.] I am one of those who think that the burden of this provision ought not to rest exclusively upon private shoulders, and I am hopeful that the Government will regard it as its duty not merely to provide for the families of those who have lost their lives or are wounded, but that they will endeavour to reinstate them in the positions which they occupied before the war began. [Applause.]

I would have liked very much to have been in the Houses of Parliament yesterday, because there was made there a statement which will ring down the ages as one of the most remarkable pronouncements that has ever been made in Parliament. [Applause.] I allude to the telegram from the Viceroy of India. [Loud applause.] No human being could listen to or read that telegram without a thrill of elation and of pride. [Applause.] For what is the tale that it told? There are coming from India as many as 70,000 of the pick of our forces, British and Indian. [Applause.] With them are coming six Rajahs or Maharajahs, ruling chiefs in their own States—men of ancient lineage, of high authority, of distinguished influence—who have volunteered their services to the Empire which calls them its own. [Applause.] Just contrast these 70,000 with the 7,000 whom Lord Beaconsfield brought as far as Malta nearly forty years ago. Lord Beaconsfield was the first to show to Europe the existence of this potential force in our great Indian Empire. [Applause.] I remember the attacks to which Lord Beaconsfield was subjected for what was considered a theatrical display and an alleged unconstitutional action. But now not a word of criticism, nothing but applause, for this immensely large force. There have also been immense offers of gifts by these great potentates and these States. [Hear, hear.] Tibet has also offered to send troops to our aid. [Applause.] Why are these men coming? What has induced them to volunteer to take part in our battles? They are thousands of miles away. Is it not perfectly clear that they are coming because of the principles for which the Empire stands, which in their eyes are much more than power? [Hear, hear.] The Empire stands for justice, for righteousness, for good government, for mercy, for truth. [Applause.] They have no desire to change that rule for the Prussian sabre or the jack-boot of the German infantry. [Hear, hear.] They have no desire to change that rule for any other. If any testimony ever has been required of the feelings by which they were actuated and of the success of the fundamental principles by which we have endeavoured to rule them, surely it is to be found in this convincing and overwhelming demonstration. [Applause.]

I think sometimes if those men who have given their services, often without recognition, during the last century in India could, as they lay in their graves, hear the march of these 70,000 men across the battlefields of Europe, could hear the sound of the trumpet as it called them to charge, it would indeed be recompense worth living for, worth dying for, worth all the sacrifices that they made. [Applause.] For my own part, I venture to hope that these Indian troops when they come to Europe will be in at the death. [Applause.] I should like to see the lances of the Bengal Lancers—[applause]—fluttering down the streets of Berlin. [Loud and continued applause.] I should like to see the little dark-skinned Gurkha—[loud applause]—making himself at ease in the gardens of Potsdam. [Applause.] Of course I must not ignore the equally spontaneous, equally effective offers of our own kith and kin across the seas—[applause]—and if I have laid stress upon India it is only due to the special circumstances of my own connection with that country. All these people I know. I have reviewed these troops scores of times. These Indian chiefs I know, these Indian officers who are coming and who will conduct themselves in a manner that will give shame to the Huns of Europe. [Loud applause.] These Indian officers have come before me and have held out the hilts of their swords and asked me as the representative of the Sovereign to touch them. I thrill at the memory of these incidents. I glory in the friendship of these men, and I look forward with pride and confidence to the services they will render to their country. [Applause.] The Colonies are doing likewise splendidly. From all parts of the world expeditionary forces are coming, from Canada and Australia, from New Zealand and South Africa. [Applause.] From all parts of the earth we see this great march of the armies, white, yellow, brown, no longer any distinction of colour, all marching to the common centre, all inspired by the same cause, all bent on doing service on the same battlefield. Never before in history has there been anything to compare with this glorious symbol of Empire.