Title: Mr. Gladstone at the American Exhibition

Periodical: Birmingham Daily Post

Date: April 29, 1887

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The visit of Mr. Gladstone to the American Exhibition, yesterday, was of a highly interesting nature. The right hon. gentleman, accompanied by his wife, drove up to the building shortly after one o'clock, and was received at the entrance by the Marquis of Lorne, [1] Lord Ronald Gower, [2] Mr. Waller (Consul-General of the United States), [3] Mr. John R. Whitley (director-general of the Exhibition), Colonel Russell (of America), [4] Mr. Speed, [5] and Mr. Penfield. [6] The Cowboy Band, from Colonel Cody's (Buffalo Bill's) Wild West, all dressed in grey shirts, with slouch hats and moccasins, struck up "Yankee Doodle," directly the ex-Premier's approach was signaled. The party walked through the exhibition, and Mr. Gladstone expressed his astonishment at the rapidity with which this building of 1,200 feet long, and covering six acres, was being completed. It was, however, explained that 1,500 men are employed night and day, and that as the building is now practically completed, and the exhibitors arraigning their exhibits, there will be but little left to be accomplished after the opening day on May 9. From the exhibition itself Mr. Gladstone was conducted to the grounds, and thence to the encampment of Buffalo Bill's followers. The Indians, in full war paint, flocked out, greeting the ex-Premier with cries of "Ugh, Ugh," and readily shaking hands with him. An inspection was made of several Indian wigwams, and an adjournment was made to Buffalo Bill's commodious tents, where the party rested awhile, examining the trophies which had been gathered in many a hunt and fight, and noting particularly the handsome sword which the officers of the United States army had presented to Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) before his departure for this country. Mr. Gladstone was much impressed by Buffalo Bill's manly bearing, his splendid physique, and the shrewd intelligence which he exhibited, not only in dealing with his life in the backwoods, but in the great political questions forever agitating the United States. Red Shirt, the notorious Sioux chief, was next introduced to Mr. Gladstone, it being explained to the savage that the ex-Premier was the great white chief of the country. Red Shirt, possibly jealous of a chief greater than himself, took in Mr. Gladstone's measurements with a quick glance, drew his blanket closely around him, and exhibited a stolid reserve. When questioned presently, he melted in response to his interpreter, and answered more freely. Mr. Gladstone asked him what he thought of the English climate, and Red Shirt, taking a minute or two to consider, said he had not much to complain of in that respect so far. "Well," said Mr. Gladstone," do you see those similarities in Englishmen and Americans which might be expected to exist between kinsmen and brothers?" This time Red Shirt answered without loss of a moment that he didn't "know so much about their being kinsmen and brothers," a reply which created a burst of laughter; but whether the savage appreciated the humor of the situation or not never a muscle of his face relaxed, and he stood like a marble statue. The ex-Premier afterwards explained how little he could realise, looking at the Sioux chief's bright, intelligent face, that this man could have given the United States Government so much trouble, and have scalped so many white men as is recorded of him. Leaving the Indian camp the party took up their seats in the grand stand, when the Indians in their full war paint, riding their speedy ponies, dashed from an ambuscade into the arena, yelling their war cries. The whole body then forming into a line, with Buffalo Bill at their head, galloped in line to the front of the grand stand, the scene being exceedingly picturesque, and delighting Mr. Gladstone in a high degree. Then some instances of skill were shown. An Indian at full gallop was hotly pursued by Buffalo Bill, who threw a lasso over the man's shoulders, bringing him up immediately. Buck Taylor, the Cow Boy King, who stands six feet four high, a splendid specimen of manhood, repeatedly picked small articles off the ground while riding at a hard gallop. But the item which seemed to please Mr. Gladstone most was the conflict between cowboys and bucking horses. The attempts to saddle the animals were productive of some grotesque incidents, the beasts sometimes rolling in the mud, at other times dragging the would-be riders for yards through the mud. Once mounted the horse would jump high into the air, kick, rear, and perform the most astonishing gyrations to get rid of its rider; but the cowboy invariably won the victory. Mr. Gladstone watched the whole scene with boyish delight, cheering sometimes the horse and sometimes the rider, and at the close repeatedly declaring that his mind could never have conceived anything so interesting and amusing. An adjournment was then made to the main building, luncheon being served in the office of the Director-General, which was specially decorated for the occasion. A portrait of Mr. Gladstone was hung at one end of the room, and a portrait of George Washington at the other; while a picturesque representation of Buffalo Bill adorned a side wall, Colonel Cody himself sat at the luncheon beside Mrs. Gladstone, [7] who seemed greatly interested in the renowned Indian fighter, and kept up an animated conversation with him. Colonel Henry S. Russell of Boston, the president of the exhibition, who presided at the luncheon, said that without intending to introduce to England the American custom of after-dinner speaking, they would, perhaps, pardon him for saying that, while they welcomed with pride the world-renowned champion of freedom, they were prouder still to claim him as the advocate of the principles of their own ancestors, the friend of America, and a constant believer in her resources. He gave them the health of Mr. Gladstone. (Cheers.)

Mr. Gladstone, in response to the toast, said it was impossible for him not to express his very great interest in the spectacle which had that day been presented to him. They had done themselves no more than justice in saying that the institutions of America, and the progress of America, had always been to him a subject of very great interest. Ever since—many years ago—he had studied the life of Washington, he had become aware of two things—firstly, of the magnitude of the density reserved for the people of America; secondly, that the period of the birth of the American State was of more interest than any other that it was possible to study. When any young man desirous of studying political life consulted him as to the course of study he should pursue in the field of history, it had been his invariable practice to refer the enquirer to the early history of America. Now their destinies were assuming such great dimensions that the prospect of what was contained in their future became an almost overwhelming thought. But with progress came responsibilities, and the stronger and greater they became as a people the more it would be incumbent upon them to set to the world an example to be followed. He could not in justice to them lay before them his impression of all he had seen that day. They had surpassed Englishmen in feats of horsemanship, although Englishmen believed they had surpassed all other nations. He hoped the exhibition would stir up British emulation, and lead to further development of what he might call a noble art. He understood that the main purpose of the exhibition was to bring American life and industries before the English people. If that were so, he could only say that there was no purpose he valued more. He believed the exhibition was a commercial speculation, and he hoped it would be a good speculation. But it was more than that. There was nothing more desirable on this side of the Atlantic than a true fac-similie representation of the American world. He did not know whether sixty years ago there existed in America a prejudice against England, but at that time there certainly existed a prejudice against America in this country. He believed those prejudices had disappeared. The very workmen engaged on that site rejoiced, he thought, in being employed on a task the execution of which would bring England and America more closely together. God Almighty had made Englishmen and Americans kinsmen, and they ought to have affection for one another. If they had not, humanity would cry out shame upon them. He rejoiced that the clouds which had for a time obscured their common vision had almost disappeared from the political sky, and that the future was as bright and as promising as the warmest-hearted among them could wish it to be. Half a century ago some admirable works on America were published by French writers. Since then we had learned but little of America, although she had during that time developed to an extent almost incredible. In truth the America of to-day was as different from the America of sixty years ago as the America of to-day was from prairie life. America had not been idle since the period of which he had been speaking. She had gone through one of the greatest struggles known in the history of man, and he believed that the result of that struggle was what the mass of the people of England had wished it to be. If America had to go through another similar trial—although that was scarcely possible—he thought the result would be the same. In conclusion, the right hon. gentleman said he must once more express his earnest appreciation of the international character of the exhibition, and he had, therefore, great pleasure in asking them to drink to its success.

The toast having been acknowledged, Governor Waller, United States Consul-General, said the exhibition was from the first intended to be a private enterprise, not dependent in the least upon Government patronage or support. He was delighted to be with them, and to have had the privilege of hearing the great English statesman, their honoured guest, speak of the institutions of their country, and express his good wishes for the success of the American Exhibition. The exhibition was opportune. The relations between the United States and the United Kingdom were becoming more intimate and more important. In the year 1886 the United States was the greatest foreign market England had. On the other hand, the United States sent to England in value four times as much as they received from her; and, what was quite as significant, notwithstanding all the inducements held out by the British colonies, 65 per cent of the people who left the United Kingdom seeking new homes went to and settled in the United States.

Note 1: John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland Campbell (1845-1914), 9th Duke of Argyll, held the title Marquis of Lorne from 1847 to 1900. [back]

Note 2: Lord Ronald Charles Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (1845-1916) was a Scottish aristocrat with liberal political views, a sculptor, and a writer. [back]

Note 3: Thomas MacDonald Waller (1840-1924), Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1876, was United States Consul-General to London from 1885 to 1889. [back]

Note 4: Henry Sturgis Russell (1838-1905), a Civil War general who became president of the American Exhibition. [back]

Note 5: Mr. Speed is unidentified. [back]

Note 6: Frederic C. Penfield (1855-1922) of Hartford, Connecticut, was Chief of General Staff for the American Exhibition. [back]

Note 7: Prime Minister Gladstone's wife, Catherine Glynne Gladstone (1812-1900). [back]