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Leighton Buzzard Observer & Linslade Gazette
Tuesday, 14th January 1868

Brief background

Article published in the local newspaper after the end of the exhibition. The article covers the closing ceremony of the exhibition. Note: any text enclosed in square bracket are comments by the transcriber relating to possible typos or errors in the original article.

The Article




THIS exhibition was formally closed on Thursday evening last, after having been kept open, in consequence of the large number of visitors, two days longer than the time first announced.

Theodore Harris, Esq., the president of the institution, ascended the platform at about six o'clock, and stated that their time that evening was exceedingly limited, as they were bound, as honourable men, to be out of the room as much as possible before seven o'clock, and he hoped they might have entirely cleared out by seven o'clock. The concluding proceedings had, therefore, been condensed as far as possible, consistent with propriety; the speeches that were delivered would have to be very short, and they should have no time for any extra votes of thanks. He had to say that most of the articles exhibited would be sent home to the persons who had kindly lent them, but those who preferred fetching their goods could do so. With regard to the takings at the exhibition, he said, the season tickets sold were twenty-seven and a-half at 5s., making £6 17s. 6d.' and eighteen at 3s., which equalled £2 14s.; fifty members' season tickets, at 2s., £5. The amount taken at the doors was - first day, £5 10s. 1d.; second, £8 12s.; third, £17 13s. 10d.; fourth, £6 2s. 10d.; fifth, £11 4s. 3d.; sixth £14 0s. 1d.; seventh, £4 1s. 11d.; and eighth, £3 10s., making the total receipts £85 6s. 6d., to which should be added donations of £10 from Hastings Russell Esq., M.P., and £1 1s. from Messrs. Horn, of Dunstable, thus bringing the total to £96 7s. 6d. They could not reckon the outlay, Mr. Harris said, at less than £50 of £55 - it might be more - so that it was not likely that there would remain an available balance of more than £40. The number of persons who had passed through the exhibition since it had been open, including 600 children was 4,100. The president concluded by calling upon Mr. W. S. Page to move the first resolution.

Mr. Page rose and said: One of the fabulists of old introduces a waggoner ["wagoner"] with his wheels fast in the ruts and mire. The poor fellow, frightened out of his wits, falls down on his knees and beseeches Hercules to come to his aid. He was going to do nothing himself, and hoped that an instant miracle would rescue him out of his difficulty. But the tale goes on to relate that the god thundered out of heaven, and said "Thou fool, first whip thy horses, try thyself at the wheels, and then Hercules, being invoked, will be present to aid thee." Now, we cannot compare the men who were present at the memorable Parson's Close meeting, where I may say the society was first formed, to the man in the fable, for they first put their shoulders to the wheel before they asked help from anyone, and they have proved to us that, if they have got a better education, they have tried to do something themselves, and, further, that any one can better his condition if he will, Now, if there is any one present who has not received an education, and wishes to do so, all I can say is, "Come with us, and we will do thee good;" we do not care what your age or condition is, for we have men in our classes who are nearly seventy years of age. We have fathers and sons sitting side by side, receiving instruction at our hands, and I may say here that the society, agreeing with the words of Solomon, that "the soul without knowledge is not good," knows of no sects or parties by which the religious world is governed, but we have the Churchman and the Dissenter sitting side by side, forgetting their religious differences, and coming on Tuesday to receive instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic; and on Friday to a lecture, or readings, or discussions. And now permit me to thank those ladies and gentlemen who so kindly became honorary members of this society. Most of our members being of the labouring class, many with large families, cannot find sufficient funds to carry out the purposes of the society, and had it not been for those who, like Hercules, came forward and helped them when they had their shoulders to the wheel, the great car of ignorance would never have been removed from many of them. I see that the time allotted to me has nearly expired, and I must therefore come at once to the subject for which I have got upon the platform, namely, to thank those ladies and gentlemen who have lent us their goods to exhibit. We had a debt of £23 for books which were purchased of the late Literary and Scientific Institute, and which will have to be paid for this month, so the committee, thinking it would be better to do something in this way than ask contributions of friends, resolved that a Working Men's Exhibition should be opened. No sooner was this movement set on foot, than we had kind friends who offered their curiosities, and mechanics their work; and the consequence of it all was this grand display from every quarter of the globe that you see around you. I am sure you agree with me that our best thanks are due to our friends, for, had it not been for them, this exhibition would have had no existence, so I have great pleasure in proposing -

"That the grateful and hearty thanks of the Leighton Buzzard Working Men's Mutual Improvement Society are due and are hereby accorded to the exhibitors resident in the counties of Bedford and Buckingham; to the Science and Art Department, South Kensington; to the exhibitors in Birmingham and other places; and to the inhabitants of the town of Leighton Buzzard and its vicinity for their kind and liberal contributions to this exhibition."

Mr. Wm. Abraham seconded the motion. He said: As an exhibitor in this exhibition I have some little delicacy in seconding this resolution, as I do not think it seems quite right that I should propose a vote of thanks to myself, but as Secretary to the Working Men's Institution, I have great pleasure in expressing my thanks, and the thanks of the society, to all other exhibitors, especially to those at Birmingham, to the Science and Art Department at Kensington, and to others who sent goods from a distance, for their kind and liberal contributions. In soliciting articles for the exhibition, I never called at any house where I was refused, and at Linslade I was particularly well treated. One gentleman there took me into his drawing-room and dining-room and requested me to select whatever I pleased, and afterwards wished me to sup with himself and his lady, for which attention I felt most highly honoured. We, the members of the Working Men's Mutual Improvement Society, also feel honoured by the confidence which has been placed in us by the exhibitors - Baron de Rothschild especially - who have entrusted us with these thousands of pounds worth of goods. As working men we ought to be proud that such confidence has been placed in us. Our society is essentially a Working Men's Institution, and I think that in it we have represented almost every trade. There are two grocers, six gardeners, four tailors, five clerks, four smiths, fourteen carpenters, one coach-maker, six painters, five shopmen, one baker, three printers, one mason, one cooper, five shoemakers, three basket-makers, one cloth-dresser, one brewer, two plasterers, two school-masters, one currier, and one brickmaker, besides eight lads, seven females, and twenty-four labourers. I have great pleasure in seconding the resolution.

The resolution was put to the meeting by the chairman and unanimously carried.

Mr. Groom moved the following resolution:-

"That this society desires on the present occasion gratefully to recognise the cheerful and sympathetic support which has been afforded by the public generally to this undertaking."

He said: I am sure I need scarcely say anything on this occasion in reference to this resolution. Having been here myself nearly all the time the exhibition has been open, I feel that it is quite true that the public have sympathised with us by their presence On the present occasion, looking round, I see that sympathy is still manifested towards us, and I fell great pleasure in tendering a vote of thanks to the visitors.

Mr. J. Wilson seconded the resolution. He said: When I cast my eyes around me and see what is exhibited here, and consider the spontaneous way in which the public have come forward to help the working men of the town, it somewhat overcomes me; and in reference to the number which has attended this exhibition, I, as one of the committee, return my most humble thanks. When five working men met me in North-street and consulted me, I had not the least idea of such a gathering as this, and I am glad that I was one to throw in my mite and influence in this great undertaking. I most cordially, and from the bottom of my heart, second this resolution, for without the visitors' sixpences we should have done nothing.

The resolution was put to the meeting and carried nem. con.

Mr. C. B. Sell moved the following resolution:-

"That the thanks of the members are due to the Exhibition Committee for their gratuitous and valuable services in the promotion, carrying out, and completion of this work."

He said: As an honorary member of this society I have great pleasure in moving this resolution. We live in eventful times. Mighty changes are being produced upon the public mind. Working men's associations are exciting attention throughout the length and breadth of England, and when well conducted they command respect; and let those gentlemen who take the presidency and secretaryship of such societies remember that the time will come when virtue shall prevail over vice; might shall be on the same side as right, and truth shall prevail over error. Let the working men of England be well instructed in religious, social, and political knowledge. Britain then will find her glory and strength in her working men. Vice will diminish - virtue will increase and spread her beneficial influence over Britannia's Isles of Peace. (Applause.)

The resolution having been seconded by Mr. Samuel,

Mr. E. W. Lewis said: In so far as the resolution refers to myself, I can only say, as I have said before, I am always ready to do my utmost, as far as my time and abilities will admit, to forward the interests of this society; and the Committee, I can also say, have been very desirous to do their best, and, although they have had to labour under a great many difficulties, they, notwithstanding, have worked with a will and endeavoured to please both the society and the public. (Hear, hear.)

The President then rose and delivered the concluding address.

He said: Fellow members: Your presence is animating and cheering. Ladies and gentlemen, visitors to the exhibition: We heartily bid you welcome. We have now gone through that part of our programme for this evening which gratitude and courtesy alike dictated, and we have heard the sentiments of those who have been active in this undertaking. You who now favour us with your company have been witnesses of our happy success, and you can testify, if you will, to the hearty goodwill and genuine harmony which has been an animating principle observable throughout this - I was going to say, eight days' wonder, for, as there were once seven wonders in the world, and as a nine days' wonder is regarded as something ephemeral and passing, so our eight days' wonder may claim to rank between the two, since while indeed it passes away, it is not unconnected with the wonders and the triumphs of science and art, of discovery, of invention, and of human progress. (Cheers.) My friends, we of this Leighton Working Men's Mutual Improvement Society do not solicit attention or desire publicity as the exponents of any one section of religious opinion, nor do we wish to be regarded as an organisation for selfish or political ends, nor can we be charged as giving expression to the views or feelings of a party. No: we desire to stand before our towns-people and our county as untrammeled ["untrammelled"] by ay such ligatures; the religion we profess to be here bound by is the common faith of Christians as exhibited in the Bible; the only organisation we desire to maintain is one for mutual help and mutual improvement; and the party we seek to uphold is the party of progress and of order. We are, I trust, too much in earnest to seek for discrepancies which could do us no good, and which would only land us in confusion. I will not dwell - there is not time if I would - upon the variety and the many-sided teachings of what surrounds you. But I will not, therefore, dismiss one topic which has rested much with me since it was started by our excellent friend Lord Charles Russell in his inaugural address. I allude to the subject of primary education. I am treading on delicate, but, I trust, not unsuitable ground for an occasion like this. My friends, it has been asserted - and the assertion will be reiterated before you are much older, over and over again - that primary education is a right, and that it is a duty incumbent on the State, and on the State alone, to see that it is enjoyed. (Applause). I am aware that some start back at this word "right," and if those who do so start are allowed to put upon the word their own and not your interpretation, they may well start back, and, indeed, will startle you; but it becomes us - nay, it behoves us - to look at this matter steadily, and with unblinkered eyes. I say, then, that primary education is a right which you should secure for your children and your country. No man here probably requires to be taught that it is the bounden duty of the State to provide for its necessitous poor; and if pity and charity demand that the perishable body shall be cared for, who is so bold as to assert, in this year of grace 1868, that the mind is of less value? (Cheers). I know, as his lordship said, we shall be met by the religious difficulty; but, whilst I would not flinch from the consideration and discussion of that difficulty, and the questions connected with it, I say this, that I pass it by, and assert that the mind, regarded as mere intellect, has a claim upon the regard of society. If you desire a proof of it, look for one moment at the hazards which arise to society from mere ignorance; look for a moment at the loss to the community, both in labour, in time, and in money, from mere ignorance; and tell me whether, because A and B are unable to reconcile their religious differences, C and D are to be left in the ditch because, forsooth, the first-named gentlemen cannot agree as to how they are to be got out. But there is another factor in the problem - till now almost unknown power X; I mean the power of the State - that is, the will of you and of me, and all who are of our party of "progress and order" brought to bear upon our constitutional representatives, so that our governors (who, mark you, are not unwilling - they are only waiting for the word from you) may so legislate that every child in England may have secured to it the advantages at least of primary instruction. I must be brief. I sum up in this - that primary instruction is a moral obligation which the community at large owes to its component members; therefore, if a moral obligation lies upon us, we are to see that our duty is performed, and that the thing that is our duty is done. Now I must not conclude without one word to qualify all this; and I remember the line of our laureate poet, apt to the point -

"Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers."

Yes, knowledge may come, but wisdom - true wisdom - may linger; therefore, whilst we advocate that the inequality which the difference of personal estate has made in the advantages which are open to the rich man but closed to the poor should, so far as primary instruction is concerned, be alleviated, we advocate no levelling principle, nor seek to eradicate by any violence the lines which are marked on the face of society; but what we advocate is this - that the community shall do its duty to itself; that it shall act in sheer and mere self-preservation; and that, whilst it literally gives the staff of life to the perishing body, it shall not refuse that which to the imperishable mind may be compared to eyes, and ears, and feet, and hands. And now, my friends, all being said and done, we want wisdom; we want understanding; we want the good hand, and power, and grace of God to lead us into right paths, for without this all is vanity and all vexation of spirit. Let us now pause for a few moments; let us preserve stillness; let us lift up our hearts to God; and then let us sing, with united voice, and try to sing with united hearts, a hymn of praise for the goodness with which we have been favoured:-

  " Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host -
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

The Doxology having been sung by the company present,

The President said: My duty is now to exercise that authority which you first placed in the hands of Lord Charles James Fox Russell in the inauguration of this exhibition, and in the same I now declare it closed. Oblige us by leaving the building now, quickly and quietly.

A vote of thanks was passed to the president.

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