In London, Lord Rosebery, then in Gladstone’s Cabinet and a rising statesman, was good enough to invite me to dine with him to meet Mr. Gladstone, and I am indebted to him for meeting the world’s first citizen. This was, I think, in 1885, for my „Triumphant Democracy” appeared in 1886, and I remember giving Mr. Gladstone, upon that occasion, some startling figures which I had prepared for it.
[Footnote 63: Triumphant Democracy, or Fifty Years’ March of the Republic. London and New York, 1886.]
I never did what I thought right in a social matter with greater self-denial, than when later the first invitation came from Mr. Gladstone to dine with him. I was engaged to dine elsewhere and sorely tempted to plead that an invitation from the real ruler of Great Britain should be considered as much of a command as that of the ornamental dignitary. But I kept my engagement and missed the man I most wished to meet. The privilege came later, fortunately, when subsequent visits to him at Hawarden were made.
Lord Rosebery opened the first library I ever gave, that of Dunfermline, and he has recently (1905) opened the latest given by me – one away over in Stornoway. When he last visited New York I drove him along the Riverside Drive, and he declared that no city in the world possessed such an attraction. He was a man of brilliant parts, but his resolutions were
„Sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”
Had he been born to labor and entered the House of Commons in youth, instead of being dropped without effort into the gilded upper chamber, he might have acquired in the rough-and-tumble of life the tougher skin, for he was highly sensitive and lacked tenacity of purpose essential to command in political life. He was a charming speaker – a eulogist with the lightest touch and the most graceful style upon certain themes of any speaker of his day. [Since these lines were written he has become, perhaps, the foremost eulogist of our race. He has achieved a high place. All honor to him!]
One morning I called by appointment upon him. After greetings he took up an envelope which I saw as I entered had been carefully laid on his desk, and handed it to me, saying:
„I wish you to dismiss your secretary.”
„That is a big order, Your Lordship. He is indispensable, and a Scotsman,” I replied. „What is the matter with him?”
„This isn’t your handwriting; it is his. What do you think of a man who spells Rosebery with two r’s?”
I said if I were sensitive on that point life would not be endurable for me. „I receive many letters daily when at home and I am sure that twenty to thirty per cent of them mis-spell my name, ranging from ‚Karnaghie’ to ‚Carnagay.'”
But he was in earnest. Just such little matters gave him great annoyance. Men of action should learn to laugh at and enjoy these small things, or they themselves may become „small.” A charming personality withal, but shy, sensitive, capricious, and reserved, qualities which a few years in the Commons would probably have modified.
When he was, as a Liberal, surprising the House of Lords and creating some stir, I ventured to let off a little of my own democracy upon him.
„Stand for Parliament boldly. Throw off your hereditary rank, declaring you scorn to accept a privilege which is not the right of every citizen. Thus make yourself the real leader of the people, which you never can be while a peer. You are young, brilliant, captivating, with the gift of charming speech. No question of your being Prime Minister if you take the plunge.”
To my surprise, although apparently interested, he said very quietly:
„But the House of Commons couldn’t admit me as a peer.”
„That’s what I should hope. If I were in your place, and rejected, I would stand again for the next vacancy and force the issue. Insist that one having renounced his hereditary privileges becomes elevated to citizenship and is eligible for any position to which he is elected. Victory is certain. That’s playing the part of a Cromwell. Democracy worships a precedent-breaker or a precedent-maker.”
We dropped the subject. Telling Morley of this afterward, I shall never forget his comment:
„My friend, Cromwell doesn’t reside at Number 38 Berkeley Square.” Slowly, solemnly spoken, but conclusive.
Fine fellow, Rosebery, only he was handicapped by being born a peer. On the other hand, Morley, rising from the ranks, his father a surgeon hard-pressed to keep his son at college, is still „Honest John,” unaffected in the slightest degree by the so-called elevation to the peerage and the Legion of Honor, both given for merit. The same with „Bob” Reid, M.P., who became Earl Loreburn and Lord High Chancellor, Lord Haldane, his successor as Chancellor; Asquith, Prime Minister, Lloyd George, and others. Not even the rulers of our Republic to-day are more democratic or more thorough men of the people.
When the world’s foremost citizen passed away, the question was, Who is to succeed Gladstone; who can succeed him? The younger members of the Cabinet agreed to leave the decision to Morley. Harcourt or Campbell-Bannerman? There was only one impediment in the path of the former, but that was fatal – inability to control his temper. The issue had unfortunately aroused him to such outbursts as really unfitted him for leadership, and so the man of calm, sober, unclouded judgment was considered indispensable.
I was warmly attached to Harcourt, who in turn was a devoted admirer of our Republic, as became the husband of Motley’s daughter. Our census and our printed reports, which I took care that he should receive, interested him deeply. Of course, the elevation of the representative of my native town of Dunfermline (Campbell-Bannerman) gave me unalloyed pleasure, the more so since in returning thanks from the Town House to the people assembled he used these words:
„I owe my election to my Chairman, Bailie Morrison.”
[Footnote 64: Campbell-Bannerman was chosen leader of the Liberal Party in December, 1898.]
The Bailie, Dunfermline’s leading radical, was my uncle. We were radical families in those days and are so still, both Carnegies and Morrisons, and intense admirers of the Great Republic, like that one who extolled Washington and his colleagues as „men who knew and dared proclaim the royalty of man” – a proclamation worth while. There is nothing more certain than that the English-speaking race in orderly, lawful development will soon establish the golden rule of citizenship through evolution, never revolution:
„The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”
This feeling already prevails in all the British colonies. The dear old Motherland hen has ducks for chickens which give her much anxiety breasting the waves, while she, alarmed, screams wildly from the shore; but she will learn to swim also by and by.
In the autumn of 1905 Mrs. Carnegie and I attended the ceremony of giving the Freedom of Dunfermline to our friend, Dr. John Ross, chairman of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, foremost and most zealous worker for the good of the town. Provost Macbeth in his speech informed the audience that the honor was seldom conferred, that there were only three living burgesses – one their member of Parliament, H. Campbell-Bannerman, then Prime Minister; the Earl of Elgin of Dunfermline, ex-Viceroy of India, then Colonial Secretary; and the third myself. This seemed great company for me, so entirely out of the running was I as regards official station.
The Earl of Elgin is the descendant of The Bruce. Their family vault is in Dunfermline Abbey, where his great ancestor lies under the Abbey bell. It has been noted how Secretary Stanton selected General Grant as the one man in the party who could not possibly be the commander. One would be very apt to make a similar mistake about the Earl. When the Scottish Universities were to be reformed the Earl was second on the committee. When the Conservative Government formed its Committee upon the Boer War, the Earl, a Liberal, was appointed chairman. When the decision of the House of Lords brought dire confusion upon the United Free Church of Scotland, Lord Elgin was called upon as the Chairman of Committee to settle the matter. Parliament embodied his report in a bill, and again he was placed at the head to apply it. When trustees for the Universities of Scotland Fund were to be selected, I told Prime Minister Balfour I thought the Earl of Elgin as a Dunfermline magnate could be induced to take the chairmanship. He said I could not get a better man in Great Britain. So it has proved. John Morley said to me one day afterwards, but before he had, as a member of the Dunfermline Trust, experience of the chairman:
„I used to think Elgin about the most problematical public man in high position I had ever met, but I now know him one of the ablest. Deeds, not words; judgment, not talk.”
Such the descendant of The Bruce to-day, the embodiment of modest worth and wisdom combined.
Once started upon a Freedom-getting career, there seemed no end to these honors. With headquarters in London in 1906, I received six Freedoms in six consecutive days, and two the week following, going out by morning train and returning in the evening. It might be thought that the ceremony would become monotonous, but this was not so, the conditions being different in each case. I met remarkable men in the mayors and provosts and the leading citizens connected with municipal affairs, and each community had its own individual stamp and its problems, successes, and failures. There was generally one greatly desired improvement overshadowing all other questions engrossing the attention of the people. Each was a little world in itself. The City Council is a Cabinet in miniature and the Mayor the Prime Minister. Domestic politics keep the people agog. Foreign relations are not wanting. There are inter-city questions with neighboring communities, joint water or gas or electrical undertakings of mighty import, conferences deciding for or against alliances or separations.
[Footnote 65: Mr. Carnegie had received no less than fifty-four Freedoms of cities in Great Britain and Ireland. This was a record – Mr. Gladstone coming second with seventeen.]
In no department is the contrast greater between the old world and the new than in municipal government. In the former the families reside for generations in the place of birth with increasing devotion to the town and all its surroundings. A father achieving the mayorship stimulates the son to aspire to it. That invaluable asset, city pride, is created, culminating in romantic attachment to native places. Councilorships are sought that each in his day and generation may be of some service to the town. To the best citizens this is a creditable object of ambition. Few, indeed, look beyond it – membership in Parliament being practically reserved for men of fortune, involving as it does residence in London without compensation. This latter, however, is soon to be changed and Britain follow the universal practice of paying legislators for service rendered. [In 1908; since realized; four hundred pounds is now paid.]
After this she will probably follow the rest of the world by having Parliament meet in the daytime, its members fresh and ready for the day’s work, instead of giving all day to professional work and then with exhausted brains undertaking the work of governing the country after dinner. Cavendish, the authority on whist, being asked if a man could possibly finesse a knave, second round, third player, replied, after reflecting, „Yes, he might after dinner.”
The best people are on the councils of British towns, incorruptible, public-spirited men, proud of and devoted to their homes. In the United States progress is being made in this direction, but we are here still far behind Britain. Nevertheless, people tend to settle permanently in places as the country becomes thickly populated. We shall develop the local patriot who is anxious to leave the place of his birth a little better than he found it. It is only one generation since the provostship of Scotch towns was generally reserved for one of the local landlords belonging to the upper classes. That „the Briton dearly loves a lord” is still true, but the love is rapidly disappearing.
In Eastbourne, Kings-Lynn, Salisbury, Ilkeston, and many other ancient towns, I found the mayor had risen from the ranks, and had generally worked with his hands. The majority of the council were also of this type. All gave their time gratuitously. It was a source of much pleasure to me to know the provosts and leaders in council of so many towns in Scotland and England, not forgetting Ireland where my Freedom tour was equally attractive. Nothing could excel the reception accorded me in Cork, Waterford, and Limerick. It was surprising to see the welcome on flags expressed in the same Gaelic words, Cead mille failthe (meaning „a hundred thousand welcomes”) as used by the tenants of Skibo.
Nothing could have given me such insight into local public life and patriotism in Britain as Freedom-taking, which otherwise might have become irksome. I felt myself so much at home among the city chiefs that the embarrassment of flags and crowds and people at the windows along our route was easily met as part of the duty of the day, and even the address of the chief magistrate usually furnished new phases of life upon which I could dwell. The lady mayoresses were delightful in all their pride and glory.
My conclusion is that the United Kingdom is better served by the leading citizens of her municipalities, elected by popular vote, than any other country far and away can possibly be; and that all is sound to the core in that important branch of government. Parliament itself could readily be constituted of a delegation of members from the town councils without impairing its efficiency. Perhaps when the sufficient payment of members is established, many of these will be found at Westminster and that to the advantage of the Kingdom.