Politics and the
1892 General Election
Thomas Parker was always interested in politics and
had been an active member of the Liberal Party since his days at
Coalbrookdale. He was an ex-president of the Wellington Liberal and
||He agreed to be the Liberal Party's
candidate in the 1892 general election, for the Kingswinford
constituency. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful, and came second to
Staveley Hill, the only other candidate. Thomas's nickname was
"Honest Tom Parker", which he acquired through his electioneering.
The photograph opposite shows one of Thomas's election posters.
The election poster states the following:
Division of Staffordshire
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION, 1892
Having been unexpectedly invited by a large and representative
Meeting of Electors to become the Liberal Candidate for his
Division at the approaching General Election, I take this early
opportunity of recognising the confidence such a request
indicates, and of making known the great pleasure which I have
in accepting so cordial and so honorable an invitation.
In specifying to you the principles and
measures which I shall support, should you do me the honour of
returning me to Parliament for the division in which I reside,
and in which I have a large commercial interest, I place
foremost a properly safeguarded but thorough measure of Home
Rule for Ireland, which should give to the Irish people complete
control of exclusively Irish affairs.
My knowledge of the conditions under which
miners pursue their daily calling, and of their wishes upon the
question, will enable me to give hearty approval to a measure
which shall limit their daily work to a statutory day of Eight
Hours; a similar reform I would extend, as far as practicable,
to all who are engaged in dangerous and exacting occupations.
Although a churchman, I concede the justice
of the demand for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales,
and will vote for it.
Believing that the constitution of County
Councils is only an initial step in the reform and healthy
extension of Local Government, I am in favour of proceeding
further on the same lines by the establishment of Parish
Councils, such Councils to have jurisdiction over Common Lands,
Charitable Bequests, Public Elementary Schools, Sanitary
Arrangements, Highways, and all other local matters; to possess
powers of compulsory purchase of land for allotments, religious
and educational purposes, public halls and building societies,
and in whose hands should be placed the control of the
I am also in favour of giving to the people
free and untrammelled Control of the Liquor Traffic, and thus
would leave to the popular voice the settlement of all questions
I am also in favour of the equitable Taxation
of Mining Royalties, Way-leaves, and Ground Rents; and of a more
just division of the burden of Rates between owners and
occupiers of rateable hereditaments.
I am in favour of Cheapening the Transfer of
Land and of the Abolition of the Laws of Primogeniture and
I desire to see the abolition of Plural
Voting, the Shortening of the Residential Qualification, the
appointment of a Public Registration Officer, an increase in the
number of Polling Places, and in other facilities for recording
votes; the Shorter duration of Parliaments, the Payment of
Members, the Revision of the Poor, Burial and Game Laws, and the
general appointment of Stipendiary Magistrates.
I am in hearty sympathy with most of those
recent proposals which aim at the amelioration of the condition
of the working classes, such as the provision of Better Houses,
Public Parks, and Recreation Grounds, improved sanitary
conditions, and other means for brightening the homes and
elevating the lives of the Poor.
I shall also vote for any measure calculated
to improve the official Inspection of Mines by the appointment
of inspectors from the ranks of the miners.
So many questions appear to me to be ripe for
settlement that I cannot do more than give the above outline of
my principles and aims, but I shall take an early opportunity of
having such personal intercourse with the electors as will
enable me more fully to explain my views.
Finally, whilst I am for extending to every
part of the Empire the fullest and most effective system of
Local Government, I desire to state that my vote and influence
shall always be exercised for the uninjured preservation of' the
British Empire in all its territorial and commercial integrity.
I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen, yours
Thomas Parker, Newbridge House,
[Printed and Published by
Whitehead Bros. King Street, Wolverhampton.]
A card that was possibly produced by Mr. Staveley Hill to
celebrate his victory in the election.
|The card states the following:
AN EVERGREEN MEMENTO OF
MR. THOMAS PARKER’S
REJECTION BY THE ELECTORS OF THE
KINGSWINFORD DIVISION OF STAFFORDSHIRE,
JULY 14, 1892
"Aside for ever! It may
Striking the Electric Chain
wherewith we are darkly bound" – BYRON
Air – "Minstrel Boy."
|Our leading Rads to the dogs have gone,
In defeated rucks you’ll find them,
The Express & Star cajoled them on,
And to Pat’s Home Rule did bind them.
"Fellow Rads," cried Electric Light,
Though ev’ry fad betrays thee,
One arm at least shall use its might,
One puny voice shall praise thee.
|Tom Parker fell, and his foeman’s brain
Had to keep that mad soul under;
The cant he used never spoke again
For the sound of Staveley’s thunder,
Who said: "No M.P. shalt thou be.
Thou mite of Radical bravery;
Thy voice was made for the factory,
And must e’er give way to Staveley."
After Thomas's defeat, the local Liberals held a
meeting in the Agricultural Hall, Wolverhampton, on Wednesday, 16th
November, 1892, to congratulate him on his efforts:
Great Liberal Meeting in Wolverhampton
Presentation to Mr. Thomas Parker
On Wednesday night Mr. Thomas Parker, who
contested the Kingswinford Division of Staffordshire at the General
Election, was presented with an illuminated address and a handsome
brougham in recognition of his gallant fight. The ceremony took
place in the Agricultural Hall, Wolverhampton, where Liberals were
present from all parts of the division.
The hall was filled long before the proceedings
commenced, and the time was pleasantly passed by the singing of
Liberal songs by the audience, and the performance of popular music
on the organ by Mr. T. Clements. The Hon. Philip Stanhope, who
presided, walked on the platform escorting Mrs. Parker, Mr. Parker
himself escorting Miss Amy Mander. Amongst those present were Mr.
C.E. Shaw, M.P. for Stafford; Alderman T. Bantock, Messrs. J.
Addison, C.C. (President of the Dudley Liberal Association), J.
Skidmore (Chairman of the Brierley Hill Liberal Association), G.
Green (Old Hill), G.R. Thorne, Major Walker, G. Armstrong, J.T.
Homer, W. Thomas, T.P. Newbould, C. Boyes, G.M. Morgan, R. Willcock,
B. Hadley, C.C. (Blackheath), S. Wilkes, C.C. (Sedgley), Councillor
Baker, S. Ingram, G. Hodges, T.G. Greensill, S.M. Wright, G.
Woodhall, T. Woodhall, C. Blackshaw, J.F. Bectett, Councillor Price
Lewis, Z. Butler, W. Fithern etc.
The brougham was supplied by Mr. Clarke of Chapel Ash. Letters of
apology were received from the Right Hon. H.H. Fowler, M.P.,
President of the Local Government Board, who said “The Liberal Party
are deeply indebted to Mr. Parker for his gallant attempt to win the
Kingswinford Division, and though he was unsuccessful I trust that
as the representative in Parliament of a Liberal constituency he
will ere long be enabled to render those public services for which
he has so many valuable qualifications”. Apologies were also
received from Mr. B. Hingley, M.P., Mr. G. King Harrison, and Mr. P.
The Chairman said they had hoped to have assembled for the purpose
of congratulating themselves and their friend Mr. Parker on being
elected their representative in Parliament. Before he said anything
on the subject that had called them together however, he must
express his regret, and he was sure their sympathy, with their
friend Mr. Thomas Graham, chairman of Mr. Parker’s election
committee, whose recent sad bereavement was known to them all. He
had received a telegram from that gentleman in which he said: “I am
sorry I cannot be with you tonight to take part in the presentation
to our friend Mr. Parker. He is most deserving of the tangible
acknowledgements of our hearty wishes for his ultimate political
The Illuminated address that was presented to
Thomas Parker, that evening, by Alderman Bantock. Courtesy of Peter
|The constituency was not one of the most promising for
anyone to attack at the last General Election. It had long been
politically neglected, and, if he might venture to characterise it, it
had become a sort of political desert, in which one gentleman of very
strange and archaic views, Mr. Staveley Hill, was allowed to run riot.
But Liberals were never in favour of leaving constituencies uncontested.
It was an arduous duty, and they were at some pains to find a man who
would unite in his own person that degree of popularity and merit that
would entitle him to the confidence of his constituents. But they found
in Mr. Thomas Parker, a man whom he might call a typical Liberal
candidate, springing as he did from the people, proud as he was to ally
himself with the people, and arriving as he had done by hard work and by
his undoubted ability at a position of trust and confidence and eminence
in the commercial world.
Well, Thomas Parker entered the lists. Some of
them thought perhaps a little too soon, for battles such as that were
not to be won in an hour, and required constant preparation over a long
period of time, and, perhaps, had he had a longer time a different
result might have been achieved.
But it was only fair, to remember that the
Kingswinford Division had in its electorate of 12,000 voters, no
less than 4,800 plural voters; property voters who resided outside,
but pounced down upon the constituency on the day of the election.
That would be remedied by a Bill which they
expected would shortly be presented to Parliament, requiring that a
man should have but the only vote to which he was entitled. If that
salutary change was introduced into their laws he thought the
position in the Kingswinford Division would be modified to that
extent that they would have Mr. Thomas Parker on the platform as
their honourable member, and hear of a testimonial being presented
to the defunct political representative, Mr. Staveley Hill.
Their Tory friends would tell them that the
majority of 1,500 was an enormous one, but to come to a little
question of subtraction, he should imagine that his friend Parker
would not command much sympathy from people of property. Perhaps a
proportion of one in ten, and of the number of plural voters,
probably 500 would support the Liberal candidate, all the remainder
going for the representative of vested interests. Let them take off
those 4,000 votes, and where would Mr. Hill be then?
This evening, at all events, they could present
to their opponents a more interesting object lesson. The last
election was fought upon their present electoral system. If the
Liberal party was true to its pledges, if it were resolute in
Parliament, the next election would be fought upon a Radical system.
And then they would see a very different condition of affairs
throughout the whole of this district.
They all knew Mr. Parker’s defeat was only one of
a long list of reverses which they unfortunately had all sustained
in this district. He was not going to enter into the full
particulars of those reverses. He was going to affirm boldly tonight
as he had said before, and as he should continue to say, and as
events would prove, that Unionism had little to do with it. Were
they as a Liberal party, prepared to accept the position that they
saw the Licensed Victualler’s Association hold, in which, as he read
the account of their meeting at Burton, the chairman, boldly
declared that the licensed victuallers had the fate of the country
in their hands, that they could, if they wished it, transfer the
government of the country from one party to the other, and until
they were satisfied they would continue to hold the roost.
He also said that the Liberals were ready in this
district to fight the battle over again. He did not see many
downcast countenances before him, and for his own part he felt none
of the premonitory symptoms of a dying candidate. They were as
determined as they were before the General Election that the stain;
he could call it nothing else, which rested upon a great portion of
this country, and which attached to a great industrial centre like
this of being represented by a Tory, he could not find a worse word
than that and that discredit should be removed as soon as possible.
Alderman Bantock, to whom the honour of making
the presentation was entrusted, expressed the pleasure it gave him
to be present. After reading the address accompanying the gift, he
remarked that it did not make reference to the recipient’s character
and the claims he had upon the constituency. Wolverhampton had a
great appreciation of Mr. Parker. He might be spoken of as a great
benefactor to the town, and was not only a man of ability, but of
uprightness and honesty. During the election he was even called
“Honest Tom Parker”. The people knew that what he said in one place,
he would not turn his back on in another. And as regarded ability to
represent a constituency, why the chief electrical advisor to the
Government had spoken of Mr. Parker as the Edison of England, and
his works, for excellence of mechanical arrangement, yet simplicity,
were foremost in the country.
They were, indeed under great obligation to such
a gentleman, who came and brought his industry among them. At no
time, continued Alderman Bantock, had he more confidence in the
success of Liberalism and in that connection they must remember what
had happened in their kindred nation across the water. Liberalism
and then principals of fair trade and free trade had had a splendid
victory in America, and such a victory as would cement the English
speaking races more and more together, and all the high protection
notions of Tories and American citizens, who ought never to have
held such views, would be thrown to the winds. They would stand
happy and united, loving one another, and setting the rest of the
world an excellent example.
Alderman Bantock then moved the following
resolution: “That this meeting of Liberals desire to express their
gratitude to Mr. Thomas Parker for his services to Liberalism in the
The illuminated address read as follows:
Kingswinford Division of the County of
To Thomas Parker, Esq., of Wolverhampton
On behalf of the Liberals of the Kingswinford
Division, we desire to acknowledge the great services you have
rendered to the Liberal cause by your vigorous candidature at the
General Election of 1892.
Although your candidature was unsuccessful,
your example and efforts will have an abiding influence throughout
the constituency, and will more firmly establish the spirit and
teachings of Liberalism in the minds of its people.
We therefore ask you to accept this address,
and the accompanying gift, as some slight token of our appreciation
and gratitude, and of our undiminished faith in those Liberal
principals which you have striven to maintain.
Thomas Graham, Chairman
John T. Homer, Vice-Chairman
November 16th, 1892.
Mr. J. Addison seconded and was followed by a
speech of thanks given by Mr. Parker.
Mr. Parker, whose rising to receive the
presentation was the signal for a renewed outburst of enthusiasm,
returned thanks. It was a difficult thing he said to return thanks
comfortably. The fight, he said, had been undertaken simply so that
the people should have a champion for their cause, and as a feeling
of duty not influenced by any other considerations. He knew the
difficulties and was fully rewarded by the assurance that the people
thought he had done all that it could reasonably expected of a man
to do. The effects of that contrast, would be, he hoped, the
education of the people of the constituency, many of whom, unless
that election had been fought, would have remained strangers to
political education. By that means, above all others, the great
cause of the people was to be helped.
For years the people had been kept in that
ignorance which the capitalists thought so necessary for their
condition, and he looked forward to the time when the people should
be educated, and so demand their fair share in the country’s
prosperity, and fight for the privileges so selfishly held from them
during their period of ignorance. It was the power of the vote which
could set the people free from that tyranny.
He had felt rather sore during the election, that he should have had the Church so antagonistic to
him, believing himself that he was on the side of righteousness and
justice. He had felt that here was something about the Church that
he could not exactly understand, but since then he had made careful
investigation, and he thought, on future occasions, he would be able
to tell the reason.
Mr. Parker, alluding to commercial subjects, said
the electrical industry in the town was but a growing one, and he
hoped that unlike the bicycle industry, it would continue growing
there. In conclusion he paid a high compliment to the energetic work
done during the election by Mr. Homer, than whom he never wished to
have a better or more cheerful friend.
Further speeches were given by Mr. C.E. Shaw,
M.P., Mr. G.R. Thorne, Mr. S. Wilkes and Mr. Green.
The Chairman closed the proceedings and the new
brougham was wheeled out, and Mr. and Mrs. Parker drove home in it
amid the hearty cheers of the crowd.
Mrs. Parker and one of the children in
the brougham, outside the Manor House.
Courtesy of the library
and archives of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, at Coalbrookdale.
Mr. Thomas Parker said that he knew something of
the pinch of a poor home. His father had never earned more than £1 a
week in his life, and during the last twelve years he had had to
keep him. Speaking of the House of Lords he said that they could
excuse them as they were an accident and their accidents had been
most carefully arranged and had been fenced round by every force
that law could bring to bear. It was a peg upon which the
aristocracy of the country could stand.
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