Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards



I have more than once been asked: "What has been the secret of your success?" I have had no particular secret, or any special business ability. I have only taken ordinary care and used common sense. I have, I admit, generally "scorned delights and lived laborious days." I have tried to grasp the skirts of happy chance, And breast the blows of circumstance.
True commercial success consists in getting means fairly and using them wisely. True political economy is in reality true moral economy. I hate waste anywhere and everywhere. What is wasted by one person is wanted by some other person. The unnecessary luxuries consumed by the few are as detrimental to the consuming few as the judicious use of such means would be beneficial to the few and the many. I would write the words, "Waste not, want not," over the doors of Parliament Houses, palaces, cottages, workshops, and kitchens ; and if the spirit and meaning of the motto were put into practice, the world would spin through space with double joy. While a member of Parliament I always, when opportunity offered, lowered the gas within reach that was burning to waste. I did so for a double reason-to prevent waste and to preserve the purity of the air of the House; but I never saw or heard of any other member or servant of the House doing a similar thing. I would try to be as careful in the use of public property as if it were my own, and I have been as thoughtful in the use of means for public advantage as in expending means for personal or domestic use.
Domestic extravagance is not the only foe to be feared and guarded against. Empire ambition, attended as it generally is with additional expenditure, anxiety, and dilution of national energy, should be well bridled and saddled, or it may lead to Empire disaster. A particle of matter cannot be in two places at the same time; as with matter so with men, communities of men, and the spirit that animates them. If individual or national force be expended in one way, it cannot exist to be utilised in any other way. The more a piece of gold is beaten, the wider the area it covers and the flimsier it becomes. As with gold so with national power. That which grows most rapidly is subject to most rapid decay. It is the same with men, mushrooms, oak-trees, and empires. The larger an ambitious and fighting empire is extended, the greater the necessity to protect every part of its frontier as well as its central heart. Certain great nations having entered on an era of industrial competition, the most industrious, economic, and enlightened nation will make the most solid progress, and probably live the longest. What is most wanted at the present time is not a more expanded, but a consolidated empire, and the best way to consolidate the British Empire is not to fan Imperial ambition, as so many are prone to do and never tire of doing, but to build up at home healthful, educated, and prosperous citizens. By so doing, and only by so doing, can we broaden, deepen, and strengthen the foundations of our commonwealth, make it "four-square to all the winds that blow," and advance human interests by the force of our example. We cannot do this by constantly multiplying Imperial responsibilities and anxieties, and at the same time increasing taxation by leaps and bounds, with a large proportion of our people in great towns undergoing physical deterioration. But we can maintain our position and earn national and international fame by a wise use of the industrial and moral resources within reach and under control; by cultivating and applying the arts of peace, and acting towards other nations, great and small, as we would they should act towards us.
I must at last bring this hop, skip, and jump record to a conclusion. I could have said much more about my journalistic experiences; the other papers I have owned and edited; House of Commons life; people I have met; correspondence I have had complimentary freedoms of boroughs I have received; the associations of which I have been president; the many interesting foundation-stone laying and opening ceremonies in which so many distinguished men and women took part; and the success which has attended the several institutions I have provided; but I have already occupied much more space than I intended, and conclude by repeating what I said in the introductory paragraph, that I have jotted down these reminiscences in the interest of facts and for self-protection, and to prevent, if possible, the publication of inaccuracies in future. On some other and suitable occasion I may supply additional reminiscences to those given, and thereby render the record less scrappy and more complete.
London, August, 1905
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003