Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards



Picture of Passmore Edwards in St Ives Free Library In 1881 I was President of the Transvaal Independent Commmittee, which did much to prevent, at the time, a war between this country and the South African Republic. John Bright one day said to me: "You do what you can outside, and I will do what I can inside the Cabinet, to prevent a war. About twenty years after, I was elected President of the Transvaal Committee, which endeavoured, in the first place, to prevent such a war, and, failing to do so, to mitigate the miseries and shorten the duration of the war waged.
That war, on account of the comparative insignificance of its causes, the prodigious inequality of the combatants, with thousands of men and money on the one side, and as many millions of men and money on the other side; and in consequence of the boundless losses, sufferings, devastations, and anxieties produced, will remain a lasting monument of human error.
When Lord Rosebery became Prime Minister in 1894, he resigned the presidentship of the London Reform Union, and I was appointed his successor. The Union has done, and continues to do, conspicuous service in the interests of progressive municipal London. It has largely assisted to vitalise and direct collective action on Liberal lines, and to encourage and strengthen the London County Council to make London cleaner, brighter, healthier, and more prosperous. I was also President, for two or three years, of the Anti-Gambling League. Nothing is more certain, and few things more regrettable, than the increase of gambling in our midst. It is seen and felt in most kinds of sport. -in the stable-yard, on the racecourse, in the maneuvering conflicts between bulls and bears on 'Change, in schools, in streets, in the homes of the poor, and at after-dinner card-parties in the homes of the rich and well-to-do; and, wherever seen or felt, it morally enfeebles its votaries, whether they be "bookmakers," financial company-promoters, peers, or schoolboys. The gambler is not particular the quality of his means to secure his ends. He is ever ready to "make the worse appear the better reason," and to reduce deception to a fine art. The gambler's progress will have to be checked, or he will check the progress of civilisation. Many years before I parted with the Echo I decided to sweep betting news out of its columns. I did so in the full expectation that I should thereby sacrifice a portion of its circulation; and so I did of its first midday edition. But what I lost in one way I gained, if not more than gained, in other ways. Soon after I found that the other and bigger editions sold more rather than less in consequence of the change. The change, in fact, raised the character of the paper and conciliated more than it alienated. In similar circumstances I should now, from commercial as well as moral motives, imitate my own example.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003