Sir Edward Carson Visit to Blackburn & Bolton - June 1914Sir Edward Carson in Blackburn and Bolton

In June 1914 Sir Edward Carson addressed meetings in Blackburn and Bolton.  The attendance at the meeting at Blackburn was around 15,000, and the Blackburn Weekly Telegraph wrote that ‘it is some time since a political event aroused so much interest locally’.  The chairman of the local Unionist party claimed that it was ‘one of the largest demonstrations that had been held in that part of Lancashire by any party’.  The first resolution was proposed by Colonel John Rutherford, who was the Unionist MP for the nearby constituency of Darwen.

The following report of the meeting appeared in the press at the time:

For Ulster and the Union
Great Lancashire Demonstrations
Sir E Carson’s Grave Words

War or Peace?

Sir Edward Carson was on Saturday the chief speaker at two great public demonstrations in Lancashire in opposition to Home Rule and the coercion of Ulster, the gatherings having been organised by the local Unionist Association in co-operation with the League of Covenanters.


A large field at Intack, Blackburn, was the scene of the first meeting, which took place in the open air ... The people came from all over East Lancashire.
The Chairman remarked in opening that the vast audience was representative of all shades of political opinion.
Col John Rutherford MP
Colonel Rutherford MP, moved a resolution protesting against Ulstermen being driven out from their full heritage in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and demanding that the grave issue be submitted to the people.
Dr M A Forster, Unionist candidate for Blackburn, seconded the resolution after which Sir Edward Carson, who met with an enthusiastic reception, supported it.  He said that the reception which that magnificent meeting had given him showed that they did not altogether disapprove of the means and methods he had employed during the past three years for resisting the Home Rule policy (cheers).  He was going on to the very end – (cheers) – no matter what the consequences might be either to himself or to those who so loyally followed him in Ireland.  (cheers and a voice – ‘Long may you live, sir)  For three years an attempt had been going on to drive Ulster Unionists out of the United Kingdom, but they would not go.  Their Volunteers were now in such a position that they would be able to keep their Covenant.
Sir Edward Carson Speech in Blackburn
‘Now’, he proceeded, ‘if I speak today with gravity, and if, as I hope, without any bitterness – if I make not so much a political speech, but a speech longing, hoping, and praying for national peace – I know that you will understand that this is because I feel perhaps more than any man in this country, the responsibility that rests upon my shoulders.  I have brave and willing loyal men to guide in Ireland at the present great perilous crisis.  May God give me wisdom to guide them properly.  (Cheers).  We are on the eve of the last offer of the Government for the settlement of this question.  They are on Tuesday to bring in in the much-despised Assembly, the House of Lords, a Bill to amend a Bill that is only still a Bill.  (Laughter and cheers).  Such is the present straits to which we are driven under the recent legislation of the Government.  On Tuesday the Bill, which I venture to say will be fraught with great consequences for you and for me, for your country and my own, will declare whether the policy of the Government is was or whether it is peace.  For my own part I pray that it may be peace, but if they declare was I shall accept the declaration.  (Great cheering) And I shall do my best.  It lies with them – (a voice – ‘With Redmond’) – to make their choice.  One hopes that at least the qualities of statesmanship which have hitherto in the history of our country surmounted all dangers, solved all problems, not only at home but in those colonies who are looking to us as an example in government – one hopes that the statesmanship may even at the eleventh hour be found, and that you may find you have a Prime Minister who is strong enough to say, ‘However I may love my party, I love my country more’.  Our hopes are that this matter may be approached from a national, and not from a party, standpoint.  The setting up of a Government under which you or we in Ireland are to live is not a matter that can or ought to be in the hands of any transient majority.  It is a matter that goes to the whole national life of the people.  No Government can be successful which seeks in its inception for the triumph not of a nation, but the political parity that puts it forward.  (Cheers)
I have often been criticised as the embodiment of the physical force party.  I have been told I have been preaching resistance to any Bill that I don’t like.  Well, I do not think I am as big a fool as that.  What I have done I have not done hastily.  I was brought up in the law.  I live by the law and under the law, and I hope I have always obeyed the law. (Cheers).  I am teaching no doctrine that is not to be found in the pages of history.  Whenever the civil and religious liberty of the subjects is attacked – whether by kings, autocrats, or the democracy – if you are men enough you ought to fight for it, and that is why we are going to fight.  (Cheers).   I am merely following out in practice the advice given by men like Lord Randolph Churchill, the late Duke of Devonshire, and by many others.  I have never laid it down that you have any right to resist the law so long as you are in a community and allowed to remain under the Government of that community; but I say the moment you tell me that I am no longer to have the benefits of the Constitution and that you are going to place me under a Government I detest, then I say my right to resistance is clear.  (Cheers).  The Irish Loyalists, he went on, were no indentured labourers who could be transferred from one employer to another.  English people would fight just as Ulstermen were going to do if they were told that they were going to be put from under the protection of the Imperial Parliament.  What was proposed had never been done in history.  Wars had been waged to keep people in, but never to drive them out, and Ulster would not become a precedent in this way.  (Cheers).  He denied that Ulster Unionists desired any ascendency in Ireland and proceeded – ‘Just look for a moment at the circumstances under which this message of peace is to go over to Ireland.  Everywhere, all around the coast of Ireland, at the present time  you will find his Majesty’s fleet, or what Mr Winston Churchill calls ‘My fleet’ – (Laughter and cheers) – in every nook and corner of the coast.  What are they doing? Looking for guns.  (Laughter) What does this mean?  It means this – somebody or other in Ireland is wanting guns for something or other.  It means this.  ‘Ireland’ the Government say, ‘is quite fit to have a Parliament for herself and an Executive responsible to her, but we must not let her have guns.  No, we won’t allow them to have arms.  We won’t allow them to have any military force’.  But how are we to prevent it?  Why, they are not able to put them down now even before the Dublin Parliament has come into existence.  Why did the Government never interfere with our Volunteers?  They were afraid that if they interfered with them or with my humble self the English people would have been awakened on this question (Cheers).
For two and a half years we were jeered at.  I was called a general and that and many other complimentary epithets were applied to me.  I did not mind it.  They talked of our wooden guns.  I did not mind that either.  I knew where others were to be got from.  But all this is changed.  Look at those quick-change artists.  It is no longer jeering: it is all flattery now.  ‘We are going to have exactly the same kind of Volunteers as you are, Sir Edward’ (Laughter).  And there is Colonel Devlin – (Laughter)- and General John Redmond – (more laughter) – and the rest of them making themselves look as like myself as possible (Laughter).  I am not going to say a word against the Nationalist Volunteers.  I know very well there is fine material among all classes of my fellow-countrymen for making soldiers.  Only I wish they would give up trying to prevent them enlisting in the army when they want to.  I am not going to make the mistake they did.  I am not going to jeer at them or underrate them; but I say what a picture is brought about by this legislation when you have two sets of Volunteers, what a drama of peace for Ireland after these years of Radical Government, what administration and what an absolute failure of the Government to solve this question.  What a beginning for a new Government.  Two hostile armies, one standing out against the other, and the British Government not sure whether they can move their own army or not. (Cheers).  He urged that neither England nor Ireland would benefit from Home Rule, and went on – ‘The whole policy from beginning to end is rotten from top to bottom.  We stand at the parting of the ways.  My duty and that of those under whom I am acting is perfectly clear to me.  I am going on at all risks and hazards.  How far away that climax may be I cannot tell.  It cannot be very far away.  It may only be only be weeks, it may be days, but I undertake here that we in the North of Ireland, with whatever disaster to ourselves, will carry out to the end the pledge we have given.  (Cheers).  I feel perfectly certain that if I could ask you what you advised me to do in the present circumstances – whether I was to surrender or fight – you would say fight’. (Great Cheers).
The resolution was then put and carried with acclamation, after which Sir Edward Carson was escorted to his motor car, and set out for his supporters in Bolton, about fourteen miles distant, where  he had another engagement.






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