Conservative Party Manifestos
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1900 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto

The manifesto of the Marquess of Salisbury

On the eve of the dissolution I take the liberty of recalling to your minds the considerations which, in my judgement, should weigh with you in the exercise of your rights as voters during the next few weeks.

The one object you should have in view is to bring about, to the utmost of your power, by the exercise of your vote, the result you desire to attain. This counsel seems a truism; but it is nevertheless tolerably evident that, if the elections fail to produce a Parliament fitted to deal with the emergency of the time, it can only be because the truism is neglected.

In the forecast of competent prophets we are threatened with many abstentions. These abstentions will be due to one or two causes. Either the candidate whom the voter prefers upon broad issues of policy differs from him as to some subordinate question on which he has set his heart, or the voter is convinced that his friend will succeed without his troubling himself to give a vote.

It is obvious that if these causes of abstention operate in a sufficient number of instances they will imperil a considerable number of seats; and no man can know how many of his fellow-electors are disposed, by imitating it, to give to his conduct its natural result.

If they are many the majority of the winning party will be reduced; and it will be so far crippled in carrying out the policy on which the nation has decided. Whose purpose will this result have served?

It is certainly not the result the abstaining voter desires. He will not be one whit nearer his ideals in respect to various sectional objects in regard to which independent electoral combinations have been proposed. On the fate of these questions the election that is pending will have left no trace; and the abstention of the abstaining elector will have been without effect. But on the broad questions of policy the electors abstaining from whatever cause, whether from resentment on a subordinate question or from indolent over-confidence, will have a formidable influence. They will have contributed within the limits of their ability to weaken the Parlimentary force of the Unionist party, and of the Unionist Government to whom power may be entrusted.

The gravest questions must be dealt with. The Imperial Power over the territories of the two South African Republics, which, as events have proved, was unwisely relinquished, must be rebuilt upon durable foundations.

In due time those territories will doubtless enjoy the benignant colonial policy which this country has pursued for half a century, and whose brilliant fruit may be discerned in the affection that so many of our colonies have displayed to the mother country during the recent war.

How long an interval must elapse before the full position of a British colony can be attained by these South African territories will naturally depend on the disposition and conduct of the inhabitants. But we cannot expect to secure the steady submission of those whom we have overcome in the field, unless they see that the Government of the Queen has so much Parliamentary strength that there is no hope of driving it from its policy of persistent resisteance or agitation. All the recent troubles of South Africa have come from a shift of Parliamentary opinion at a crucial moment.

The brilliant success of Lord Roberts and his Army must not blind us to the fact that the war has disclosed imperfrections in our own armour of defence which, but for it, might have remained unnoticed. It will be among the most urgent duties of Parliament and the Government, now that peace is apparently restored, to investigate and remove the defects our military system in the light of scientific progress and the experience of other Powers. But for such a task a Government will need strong Parliamentary support. Some may think, though I should not agree with them, that the task might be as effectively performed by our opponents, if any possessed an adequate majority and a party organisation capable of sustaining the burden of government. But it certainly could not be discharged by a nearly divided House of Commons and a Ministry depending upon a broken party.

To the difficulties which will occupy a future Government China will furnish an abundant contribution. We will fully shared with other Powers that calamities by which the disturbances in that Empire have been commenced; and we are probably more interested than any other nation in the preservation of the treaty rights which protect our commerce. The fact that we are acting with other Powers forbids me from entering without reserve upon questions of Chinese policy. But in maintaining our own rights, and joining in the efforts of our allies to restore and secure tranquillity, we shall be approaching a task of which it is difficult to overrate the complexity.

I earnestly trust that the electors, in confiding the solution of this and the other problems I have mentioned to the party which is victorious at the polls, will remember that, unless the party is armed with a strong majority in the House of Commons, it will lack the authority at home and abroad which is essential to the performance of its task.

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Conservative Party Manifestos

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