LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
iTo THE EDITOR 07 TER " EIVECIATOR."1 Si ii ,—In the person of Mr. Lloyd Jones, a remarkable man has passed away, whose name was probably more familiar among the working class than that of any other among those who had risen from its ranks, and whose influence, in spite of occasional errors of judgment, had for many years been exercised with unfailing energy towards the moral as well as the social eleva- tion of that class. "I think I have fought a good fight for the working men," were his words to me a few days before his death. And he did fight that fight.
His history was a singular one. Born of an old Welsh family, one branch of which obtained the Ranelagh Peerage early in the seventeenth century, his own ancestors emigrated under Cromwell to the town of Bandon, the Protestant stronghold of the South, whose gates in his own childhood were closed at sundown to all outside "Papists." And staunch Protestants his own ancestors continued till the generation before his, when his father, after going out with the Volunteers, and seeing the horrors of Protestant repression after the rebel- lion, renounced the triumphant faith for the conquered one, and became a Roman Catholic, submitting voluntarily to all the disabilities which such a conversion entailed. Yet his father's own mother, who lived with him, remained faithful to the creed of her ancestors, and her favourite seat towards the end of her days was among their graves in the churchyard.
The family seems to have gone down in circumstances, the elder Jones being a fustian-cutter, a trade, however, which then commanded very high wages, and was commonly called "the gentleman's trade." Lloyd Jones was brought up to it also, and earned the highest wages at it, both in Dublin, I believe, and in Manchester, to which city he migrated. He had, indeed, been intended for the Roman Catholic priesthood, and took part as a chorister in the services of the Church ; but he was early led to doubt, and on meeting with some of Mr. Owen's publica- tions, a new world of thought was opened to him, which led him to throw off Romaniam, and with it for a time Christianity, thereby causing a breach with his family which was not closed for many years. He threw himself with ardour into Mr. Owen's schemes of social improvement, became a speaker and a writer, was stoned at Bristol (I think) by a so-called Christian mob, and put in prison for his own pro- tection. Later on, in 1848, he came in contact with Mr. Maurice and his fellow-workers in the Christian Socialist move- ment. It was at one of the open conferences with the working class at Cranbourn Tavern that he first made his appearance. He was then at the fullest of his powers. I thought at the time, and I think still, that for strength of lucid exposition and argument as a business speaker, he was only, and scarcely, excelled among his contemporaries by Peel and Cobden. He joined the Council of Promoters of Working-Men's Associations, and later on took part in the work of that pioneer for the great Cooperative Wholesale Societies of the present day, the Central Co-operative Agency. When Mr. Maurice's labours reverted to an educational channel in the foundation of the Working- Men's College, Lloyd Jones returned to journalism (he was already editor of a weekly paper when he joined Mr. Maurice and his friends), and founded the Leeds Express, now a valuable property, but which he had to give up before his labours upon it had borne sufficient fruit. He never owned another paper, but took part as leading-article writer or sub- editor in the Glasgow Mail—(a lucrative engagement, and which he threw up sooner than disguise his feelings during the American War of Secession),—the Reader, the Beehive, the Co-operative News, and various other journals, the last being the Newcastle Chronicle, besides his joint authorship (with my- self) of a little work called the "Progress of the Working Class," and later on his sole authorship of a "Life of Robert Owen." His style was, however, best fitted for periodical writing; and, indeed, his talent as a journalist has, perhaps, never been fully recognised in this country, although two French journalists— the French are good judges in such things—have expressed to me the highest admiration of his powers.
But Lloyd Jones was never a mere writer, always a worker. Two great movements, the Co-operative movement and the Trade Union movement, always commanded the best of his powers. Among the miners of the North especially, his name was a household word, and he was repeatedly chosen as the men's arbitrator for the settlement of trade disputes. During the last year of his life, the fittest recognition of his past labours was granted to him in his Presidentship of the Co-operative Congress at Oldham, one of the most suc- cessful of the series. A subscription was also started to raise a fend for him, which has not met with as much success— especially, I hear, at the hands of the Trade Unionists—as it deserved to do, but which reached some £1,200. Had the last Reform Act been carried twenty, or even ten years sooner, and had Lloyd Jones been able when in the fullness of his po yers to enter the House of Commons, he would assuredly have won for himself an important and popular place there. But the attempt to enter it at seventy-five years of age as a free-lance, against the organisations both of employers and employed, cost him his life. His arduous canvass last autumn for one of the divisions of Durham, when be had to attend over thirty evening meetings, often in the open air, among the hills, in all sorts of weather, seems to have brought into life the latent germs of an internal affection, which the bitter moral pain of finding himself at last opposed both by Trade Unionists and co-operators fostered into growth. He was defeated, and virtually returned to his house to die, though his "gigantic constitution," to use his doctor's expression, enabled him to keep on the struggle for nearly six months. He met his end very patiently. A few days before his death, he had himself carried into his library, and sent for an old friend, as he told him on arrival, to see him once more, and "say a prayer with him." His mind was perfectly lucid throughout the interview, though his voice could scarcely be heard, except by putting the ear close to his mouth. He spoke but little after that.
Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of Lloyd Jones was his youthfulness. The medical man who examined him on his deathbed declared that all his organs were as sound as those of a young man, and that he might have lived to one hundred. Till within the last few weeks, rather than months, of his life, his complexion beneath his silky white hair was as rosy as that of a youth. And young he was essentially at heart, firing up into youthful wrath against all oppression and wrong, kindling up into youthful enthusiasm for all that is good and true. Behind the powerful speaker and writer, the vigorous politician, there was a loving, charming man, gay and humorous, beloved alike of family and friends, an enthusiastic book lover and book- collector, deeply read in English literature, especially of the seventeenth century (George Wither was, perhaps, his favourite old author). A more delightful companion could not be found.
Whatever opposition to Christianity had been at one time engendered in him by his revolt from Romanism, and the in- fluence of Robert Owen, had long since passed away. He had many friends amongst clergymen ; and though they did not often meet, I believe there was a strong mutual attraction between him and Bishop Fraser, of Manchester. With his old friends of the Christian Socialist movement he always kept up intimate relations, and till the last few months of his life was a constant attendant and frequent speaker at the meetings of the F. D. M. Club.
He is gone, and there is absolutely no one to fill his place, as one who was at once in heart a thorough working man and a thorough gentleman, whose long and wide and peculiar experience was at the service of the noblest aspirations, who was, I take it, in his own peculiar line, one of God's truest soldiers in his generation. In the life of those who knew and. loved him, his death leaves a void which nothing can fill.—I am,