The Wee Book of Glasgow

Footprint Glasgow

Thomas Graham,
page 6 of 7

specially located for the purpose, and read the principal parts of Lord John Russell’s speech from the London Sun, surrounded by a crowd of gentlemen who repeatedly cheered the announcements made in the speech, particularly the parts referring to Scotland, and especially the portion relating to the extension of the representation of Glasgow. Mr. Alison, the keeper of the Exchange, who counted the assembled throng, found that over nine hundred were present. In the Tontine coffee-room the speech was read by Mr. Peter M’Kenzie.” An idea of the exciting interest in this great political event may be formed from the fact that, when the news of the battle of Waterloo reached Glasgow, on the 26th June, 1815 — eight days after the engagement-there were 2,122 copies of the Glasgow Herald sold, but when the intelligence of the passing of the Reform Bill arrived in the city, the sale of the Reformer’s Gazette reached the enormous number of 30,000 copies, an astounding issue for Glasgow in those days.

On receipt of the news of this great Liberal victory, the enthusiasm of all, both leaders and inhabitants, knew no bounds. Meetings of rejoicing were held everywhere throughout the city, addressed by James Oswald, Sir Daniel Sandford, the great and gifted Professor of Greek in Glasgow University, Robert Dalglish, who afterwards was one of the members of Parliament for the city, and other prominent leaders in the movement. Provost Dalglish, the father of the future member, was asked to permit a general illumination. The city bells were rung, flags were flying from every house, and at night candles were as prominent and plentiful in the windows of the houses as they were in London on the acquittal of the seven bishops! Provost Dalglish’s town house in West George Street was lighted with 3,000 jets, the centre piece being “Let Glasgow Flourish,” surrounded by splendid representations of Trade, Commerce, and Manufactures saluting a figure of Reform. Next in splendour were transparencies at Sir James Lumsden’s house in Queen Street, and Mr. (now Sir Charles) Tennant’s in West George Street. Argyle Street was all ablaze, and variegated lamps were hung from the masts and yards of the ships in the harbour, the effect as seen from the Broomielaw and Stockwell bridges being such as could not be forgotten.

To give us of the present day an idea of the importance of this measure it may be here stated that, before the passing of this Reform Bill, the system of parliamentary representation was in a wretched condition all over the country. Before this great concession to the people Glasgow, Rutherglen, Renfrew, and Dumbarton were joined together for the purpose of returning one member to parliament. But this was not all. Instead of having a direct vote in the election of one member, the so-called electors in those days had only the privilege of appointing magistrates and town councillors, and those individuals, to the number of one hundred and twenty in all the burghs assembled, had in turn the important duty intrusted to them of appointing one delegate for each burgh, and these three delegates had finally the honour of appointing the member for parliament. Thus Glasgow, with its population of 140,000 at that time, was on a parliamentary level with burghs of only 5,000 inhabitants. There was no equity in this.

Another great principle in parliamentary usage was at this time adjusted once for all. The House of Lords, in yielding gracefully to the almost unanimous will of the people, settled a principle without which our parliamentary system could not well work. They settled


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