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Keir Hardie greets the new Royal Baby

June 28, 2013

Keir Hardie

Today in 1894, Keir Hardie made just about the best republican speech ever heard within the halls of Westminster.  He felt he had no small reason to be angry about the mood of obsequious smugness in the House that day.  In South Wales, a truly hideous pit disaster, one of the -worst industrial calamities of the nineteenth century, had just claimed the lives of more than 250 miners.  The House of Commons did not see fit to acknowledge this monumental tragedy but were devoting significant parliamentary time to congratulating the Royal Family on the birth of a new prince.

Talking heroically through the boos and catcalls, Hardie deftly outlined the likely future for this child, his probable character and prospects.  Indeed, he was so eerily prescient in his prediction of the future Edward VIII’s development, that Hardie’s speech has actually been used by at least one religious group to prove that divine prophecy is actually a demonstrable reality.  Rather than resorting to Divine Inspiration as a way of explaining Hardie’s accuracy, I’m inclined to think that he had a very perceptive sense of what the hereditary principle is liable to produce.  The selfish, irresponsible, philandering, destructive prince who ends up with an impossible marriage was predicted by Hardie from the moment of the child’s birth, because he had an uncanny but accurate sense of what happens when a child is always flattered and deferred to.  Here is a prize paragraph:

“We are asked to rejoice because this child has been born, and that one day he will be called upon to rule over this great Empire.  Up to the present time we have no means of knowing what his qualifications or fitness for that task may be.  It certainly strikes me – I do not know how it strikes others – as rather strange that those who have so much to say about the hereditary element in another place should be so willing to endorse it in this particular instance.  It seems to me that if it is a good argument to say that the hereditary element is bad in one case, it is an equally good argument to say that it is bad in the other.  FROM HIS CHILDHOOD ONWARD THIS BOY WILL BE SURROUNDED BY SYCOPHANTS AND FLATTERERS BY THE SCORE (Cries of “Oh! oh!”) and will be taught to believe himself as of a superior creation.  (“Oh!” oh!”)  A line will be drawn between him and the people whom he is to be called upon some day to reign over.  In due course, following the precedent which has already been set, he will be sent on a tour round the world, and probably rumours of a morganatic alliance will follow (Loud cries of “Oh!” “Order!” and “Question!”), and the end of it all will be that the country will be called upon to pay the bill.  (Cries of “Divide!”)”

More of Hardie’s speech is reproduced here:

At some point in the future, the House of Commons will again be full of MPs who will put aside pressing parliamentary business of national importance in order to shower congratulations upon the royal family upon the nativity of a new princess or prince.   The flatterers of 1894 will have many descendents.  There are a handful of MPs, maybe three or four, who are capable of emulating the spirit of Keir Hardie upon this imminent occasion.  At stake is the basic dignity of humanity.  At stake is whether children in general deserve to be celebrated and protected or whether we should prostrate our sense of common humanity upon the hereditary principle.  Whether these three or four MPs decide to speak up or remain silent, remains to be seen.

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  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Blogged this last year – and will on every anniversary of its first delivery

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  1. Ah Happy Abdication Day. Today. | conradbrunstrom

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