‘Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.’ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations.
I am contemplating, in the Walker Art Gallery,
Liverpool, the statue of William Huskisson, once
the city’s Tory MP and sometime President of the Board of Trade
but much better known as the world’s first railway fatality
at the opening of the line to fetch cotton quickly and cheaply
from the Mersey’s docks to the mills of South East Lancashire.
(He died at Eccles, where the cakes come from).
His widow paid for the sculpture. He holds a scroll
and is dressed as a Roman senator. He is a tad
more lithe than in later life – or death – and his thinning hair
has been carved to indicate maturity rather than age.
(The vandalised statue was removed from his mausoleum
in St James’ Cemetery). He was hit by Stevenson’s Rocket,
while ingratiating himself with Wellington, the Iron Duke
and old Etonian, famous for the observation
that Waterloo ‘was won on the playing fields of Eton’.
The gallery is part of a vast piazza-type space
of splendidly grandiose late Victorian constructs –
civic society made manifest in stone – Museum,
Library, Assizes, St John’s Gardens, St Georges’ Hall,
St George’s Plateau, Lime Street Station, inspired by local,
civic pride, funded by the Atlantic slave trade’s proceeds.
More or less round the corner is Scotland Road – the centre
once of working class migrant diversity: Irish, Welsh,
Scottish, Italian, German, Polish, English – its MP
until 1929, an Irish Nationalist –
its male workforce pre-dominantly dockers. Post war
the river began to empty. Citizens of Liverpool’s slums
were scattered through Cheshire to places where
manual labour was needed – for a time. There their off-spring languish.
On St George’s Plateau, in 1911, was announced
a national seamen’s strike, which became a national transport strike.
Churchill telegrammed the King that the end of Empire was nigh.
The Hussars entered stage right, opened fire.
Two strikers died, both Catholics: John Sutcliffe, a carter,
shot twice in the head, Michael Prendergast, a docker, twice in the chest.
Working class men killing working class men so public school boys
could play in safety and nouveau riche tycoons
make dynastic fortunes for their children.