[Text of Speech], in Russia Free: The Authorized Report of Speeches Made on 21 March 1917 at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
By Maude Royden.
London: Pelican Press, 1917.
Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, Anglican Church of Melanesia
I stand here to greet the principle of universal suffrage in the great Russian charter of freedom, and I gather, from what some of the speakers have said, that I should be the last person in this long row of speakers to dare to send a message to Russia because she has set her women free; but I do not feel like that. The spirits in prison may send a message to the spirits who are free. Universal freedom, universal suffrage—that means something much more than just a political privilege; it means the recognition by Russia that every human being counts for one, and no human being counts for more than one, and that is the foundational principle of their great charter of freedom. Russia has made this great step forward, and those who do not know Russia have been surprised at the swiftness with which she went forward. We think of our long slow advance, from one class to another, and from one sex to another, and it seems a kind of dream that Russia should in one step have passed from bondage into freedom. But those who have sat at the feet of Russia during the past few years, or longer, know that if there is one thing that is characteristic of Russian prophets and of Russian people it is a deep reverence for other human beings, not only the unfortunate but even the vile, not only those who are poor and suffering, but those who are evil and degraded. The Russian never loses sight, as we do, that every human being is redeemable, has somewhere in him something that is noble, something to which you can appeal. We are idealists in another way. We put on one side our dreams and on the other reality, but Russia has passed in one leap from the dream to the realisation. While we are still consulting with one another, at conferences and in the House of Commons, whether every man is really one man or whether, perhaps, some of them are twins, whether women are really grown up at thirty or thirty-five, whether we argue and haggle as to whether a female being is quite human unless she is a municipal voter, whether this or that barrier should be put up between this or that part of the people and the expression of their will, while we do this so fraternally, so fumblingly, we yet may send a message to those brave and gallant spirits who dare the great deeds of the world in one stride; those who have done what we have haggled over, those Russians with their visionary prophetic logic based on the belief in the great heritage of every human being. We shall follow in the distant or the near future that heroic example which to-night we only celebrate, and I believe that, like Russia, we must learn that people of all classes and all ways of thought can help if they care about freedom and are willing to suffer [16/17] for it. I do not desire to set one heroism against another. I will not compare of contrast the heroism of Clifford Allen—(cheers)—with the heroism of those who are here in khaki to-night—(cheers)—and with all those who are not with us because they are in Hell somewhere in France. I cannot understand how anyone could for a moment forget that the soldier and the conscientious objector alike are risking everything for freedom. (Cheers.)
Russia’s Revolution has lifted us all into the light, and those of us to whom the gradual loss of freedom in our own country was bringing a sense of almost intolerable tragedy, can now take heart and believe that where Russia has led the way Germany is going to follow—for I see stated in the “Times” that the vote of the Social Democrats in the Reichstag was only a sham revolt, and so we know it must be a real one! (Laughter and applause.) Russia has started and Germany is following. Shall England be too far behind? (Cries of “No!”) To-night we know that everything is possible. (Cheers.)