Wilmington Parish Council
Sir Randolph Churchill - Dartford Speech
Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, more generally known as Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John, Seventh Duke of Marlborough, was born on 13th February 1849 at Blenheim Palace. In 1874 he was elected to Parliament for Woodstock as a Conservative Member, becoming Secretary of State for India in Lord Salisbury’s Cabinet of 1885. He became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons in Lord Salisbury’s second Government in 1886 - this at the age of 37. It is little wonder then, that when he visited Dartford on 2nd October 1886,and made his famous speech in Oakfield Park, he was received with tremendous enthusiasm and had an audience reputed to number nearly 20,000 people.
As his carriage proceeded from the railway station to the Park, there were crowds of people assembled in the streets to greet him, with much cheering and flags everywhere. The sky that night was alight with fireworks.
Standing on an improvised platform amongst the picturesque glades of Oakfield Park and backed by 19 Conservative Members, which Kent had returned to Parliament, the Chancellor of the Exchequer unfolded the future legislative programme of the Government.
He extolled the loyalty of the Unionist Liberals. He reiterated the declarations upon Ireland and urged the complete reform of the House of Commons procedures including the institution of the closure by a simple majority. He announced that the Government would introduce a Bill, through the co-operation of the Local Authorities, for the acquisition by the Agriculture of freehold plots and allotments of land.
He held out the promise of an alteration in the Law of Tithe and a threat to remedy railway rates so that the home producers should not be undercut by the foreigner. He mentioned a Land Bill for making the transfer of land easy and cheap, a broad re-organisation of Local Government with a new assessment and application of local taxation and finally he said –
‘I will not conceal from you my own special object, to which I hope to devote whatever energy and strength of influence I may possess, is to endeavour to obtain some genuine and considerable reduction of Public Expenditure and consequent reduction in taxation’.
Nearly all these statements have since been passed by Administrations into Law.
Then Randolph Churchill turned to Foreign Affairs and he continued to support faithfully and effectively in its general tenor, Lord Salisbury’s Policy. He said –
‘The sympathy of England with liberty and with freedom and independence of communities and Nationalities, is of course of ancient origin and had become the traditional direction of our foreign policy ….. to England, Europe owes much of her modern popular freedom’ and further he stated ‘It is the duty of any British Government to exhaust itself in efforts to maintain the best and the most friendly relations with all foreign States …… but should circumstances arise, which from their grave and dangerous natue, should force the Government of the Queen (Victoria) to make a choice, it cannot be doubted that the sympathy and, if necessary, even support, of England will be given to those Powers who seek the peace of Europe and the liberty of peoples, and in whose favour our timely adhesion would probably and without the use of force, decide the issue’.
This speech was quoted throughout the whole of the English speaking world as well as in every foreign country – it was known everywhere as ‘THE DARTFORD SPEECH’.
This historic speech should be regarded as part of the history of Wilmington and not political.
It still makes such interesting reading, especially his reference to the reduction of the National Expenditure, which was felt to be far more than the Country could afford........ Today it is ten times larger!!