London Society of Compositors.
IMPORTANT DEMONSTRATION OF THE TRADES IN FAVOUR
OF THE REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE BILL.
You are doubtless fully aware that one of the questions which has year by year occupied the attention of the Trades' Union Congress has been that of an Extension of the County Franchise. In 1875, when our Society was first represented, a unanimous resolution was passed in favour of this act of justice being accorded more particularly to the agricultural labourers, who had recently embraced the principles of Trade Unionism, and the question has since formed a portion of the programme submitted to the Delegates who have been called upon annually to consider the propriety of sending representatives to the Congress. That our Society has at all times taken a warm interest in the elevation of the agricultural labourer is evidenced by the fact that in 1874 the handsome sum of £260 was voted them, and it is well known that they look forward to the exercise of political power as their only chance of still further bettering a condition that is even now far from what it should be in a country like ours. Although, originally, an assimilation of the County to the Borough Franchise was all that was asked of the Government, the present Bill will, if carried into law, add to the register no less than two millions of voters, nearly all of whom are Workmen; and looking to the distance many of our own members are compelled to live from where they are employed, there can be little doubt that some of them, at least, will be enfranchised by the measure now before Parliament. Be that as it may, the fact remains, that an enormous number of our fellow-workmen in the villages and urban places are at the present time unenfranchised, and this being so, your Committee are strongly of opinion that they would be failing in their duty were they not to call upon you to say whether or no you will follow up the work that has been done at the Congresses, more especially now that it bids fair to take practical shape.
Strongly opposed as we are to our Society taking part in purely abstract political questions, we should not have thought of ascertaining your opinion upon this matter had we not felt satisfied that the right to an Extension of the Franchise is now practically admitted by both political parties in the State, differences only existing upon points of detail. We therefore feel that whatever political views may be held by any of our members, they can nevertheless, conscientiously, as Workmen and Trade Unionists, readily agree to aid so important a movement on behalf of men of their own order. It should also be borne in mind that because the present Bill happens to have been introduced into Parliament by a Liberal Administration, it does not at all follow that any action the Trades take will necessarily be in support of the Government, for signs are not wanting that if a Conservative Administration were in office, they