The Representation of Portsmouth

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Representation of Portsmouth is an article published in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle on 3 may 1890.

Report of a lecture about Hon. Evelyn Ashley as Liberal Unionist Candidate of the Portsmouth Liberal Unionist Committee held at the Esplanade Hotel, Southsea, on 3 may 1890, attended by Arthur Conan Doyle where he spoke.

The Representation of Portsmouth

Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (3 may 1890)


On Tuesday night there was a large gathering of members of the Portsmouth Liberal Unionist Committee and their Conservative allies at the Esplanade Hotel, Southsea, to perform a double ceremony — viz.: To take leave of General Sir William Crossman, K.C.M.G., M.P., who has announced his intention not to re-contest the borough, and to give a welcome to a probable candidate in the owner of Broadlands — the Hon. Evelyn Ashley. The proceedings took the form of a smoking conversazione, and between speeches, tobacco, and liquid refreshments, the evening was very pleasantly spent.

Mr. A. W. White presided, and among those present were the Mayor (Ald. Sir W. D. King), Lord Wolmer, M.P., Sir William Crossman, M.P., the Hon. Evelyn Ashley, Admiral Grieve, Captain R. Sturgess, R.N., General Ritchie, Ald. G. E. Kent, Ald. Cudlipp, Mr. W. P. Snell, J.P., Major W. C. James, Dr. Conan Doyle (Hon. Sec.), and many others.


The CHAIRMAN'S remarks were brief and to the point. He regretted the split in the Liberal camp which made it necessary for the Liberal Unionists to form a separate party, and he regretted above all that their old friend Sir William Crossman had told them he would not contest Portsmouth again. Sir William, he said, came forward as a Liberal candidate, when it was thought there was not much chance of success, but in conjunction with Mr. Vanderbyl he managed to secure the election of both. (Applause.) Sir William, he contended, had been one of the most consistent of men, and no member had worked harder on any matter he had taken in hand. Politically they regretted his loss very much, and socially he knew of no man who had ever been in the borough who would carry away with him more general respect of Liberals and Conservatives alike.


Lord WOLMER, who was introduced as the whip of Lord Hartington, but who preferred to describe himself in Portsmouth as the noble lord's aide-de-camp, informed his hearers that there Was no Liberal Unionist who would be more warmly welcomed than Mr. Evelyn Ashley. He then went on to inform his audience that the Liberal Unionists were growing in strength, and only needed thorough organisation to be a powerful party.


Sir William CROSSMAN on rising to explain the reasons for his withdrawal from the political light, met with an enthusiastic reception. The Liberal cause, he announced, was, in Portsmouth, stronger that ever it had been. Living, as he did; in the extreme North of England, he felt that he could not keep himself in touch with the constituency, nor could he be so often amongst them as he ought to be, or as any Member of Parliament ought to be. The time and money he spent on his Parliamentary duties he felt, too, could be better expended among his neighbours. After nearly five years of Parliamentary life he had come to the conclusion that he entered Parliament at too late an age to adapt himself to Parliamentary ways, nor did he, now that he found out those Parliamentary ways, discover that he was exactly suited to Parliamentary life. Still, he proceeded, amid cheers, there were yet two years of good Parliamentary work left. He did not think it necessary to put the constituency to the trouble of a bye-election. He had told them the decision he had come to with so much regret because he wished to give them plenty of time to choose another candidate. Whether they chose Mr. Evelyn Ashley or someone else holding the same politics, he (Sir William) would do the best he could to advance his interests. With this promise, and a proud reference to the growth of Portsmouth since he first knew it in 1856, the hon. member concluded his brief address.


The Hon. EVELYN ASHLEY met with a cordial reception. He took his audience into his confidence so far as to tell them that he had attained a most unenviable reputation. He was considered a very unlucky politician, and to be unlucky in politics was a great deal worse than to be wicked. (Laughter.) He hoped, however, if he found favour in their sight, that they would turn his run of luck at the next election. Home Rule would not settle the Irish question, for Irish questions would come forward in a novel shape, and would be more difficult to deal with. Theirs was a party superior to power and place, preferring principle, but he urged that until the Irish question was settled their alliance with the Conservatives must be thorough and hearty. He was there that night, he said, not to make a political speech, but to place before them in broad colours his opinions. To secure quiet and finality for the agrarian question in Ireland he considered it absolutely necessary that there should be a new departure in land tenure. The old history of confiscation still remained in the bosoms of the Irish peasantry. Dating back for 200 or 250 years, it had been handed down from father to son, and they could not get a new departure without a change in the tenure of land, making the peasant more or less a proprietor of the soil. The blot in the Ashbourne Act was that the great bulk of the money had gone to large farms. The soil in Ireland was among the smaller tenants, and he would like to see a clause in the Land Purchase Bill restricting the operations of the Act to small farms. It might be said that the scheme involved risk, but it so, it was a risk which it was right for them to undertake, to heal the wound of centuries. He could only promise — first, consistency; secondly, work; and thirdly, that he would always honestly say what he thought, and would not say what he did not think, and above all, that with his fourteen years of Parliamentary experience he was demoralisation proof. (Laughter.) It would be a matter of extreme satisfaction and interest to him to represent a great working class constituency like Portsmouth. If great constituencies like Portsmouth would only adhere to their principles and return men, not because of their wealth, or for this or that but because they represented their real feelings and convictions, then he thought the future of representative Government was safe in this country. If they found a representative of their opinions, if they were Unionists, if they were Liberals really and neither demagogues nor revolutionists, anxious that freedom should slowly broaden down from precedent to precedent, and did not wish, like the French, to upset everything in a hurry and start everything on a new basis on the whim of the moment then, he said, return to Parliament whoever represented those sentiments. (Applause.) Those were his sentiments. He began public life under a well-known man, who was Prime Minister of this country and a Hampshire man — Lord Palmerston. (Applause.) From his knowledge of both men he considered that there was no better representative of Lord Palmerston's views, feelings, and general characteristics, in all its fundamentals, than Lord Hartington. (Applause.)


The speeches that followed from Admiral Grieve and Dr. Conan Doyle were in the moving and seconding of a resolution of confidence in the Hon. Evelyn. Ashley. This resolution was supported by Mr. W. J. Boyce and Mr. G. L. Green, the former remarking that the adoption of the Hon. Evelyn Ashley had struck consternation akin to despair in the Gladstonian camp. (Laughter.) — Mr. G. S. Löhr put a question on Local Option, to which Mr. Ashley replied that he was in favour of giving the inhabitants the right to limit the number of public-houses, and of transferring time licensing from the Magistrates to some representative body. — The resolution was carried with cheers, and Mr. Ashley briefly replied.


Vote of thanks were then accorded to Lord Wolmer for his presence, on the motion of the Chairman, seconded by Mr. Gibb, and, in reply, the noble lord explained that in going to contest Edinburgh he considered he was obeying a call of duty. The thanks of the meeting were awarded to the Chairman, and the proceedings terminated.