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And his brethren.

Mr. Chamberlain having obtained such distinction in public life, it was perhaps only natural that some of his brothers should be tempted or induced to follow his shining star. Possibly they had no strong inclination to distinguish themselves in public, and were rather pressed to come forward on account of the influential name they bore. Anyway, some of them did appear in various offices and capacities, but without meaning any disrespect to them or any reflection upon their abilities, it may perhaps be said that they found their fires so pale and ineffectual compared with the brilliant light of their eldest brother or it may be that they found public work comparatively uncongenial to them that, most of them soon preferred to efface themselves and leave one of their family and his son to take all the honours and have all the court cards.

Mr. Richard Chamberlain took the most prominent position, and made the highest mark of all Mr. Chamberlain’s brothers. He was Mayor of Birmingham in the years 1879 and 1880. During his years of office he was public-spirited and popular, and in the way of civic hospitality he made things lively and gay. He kept the Council House warm with his entertainments, and lavished so much money in hospitalities of one kind or another that he made it difficult for his immediate successors to follow in his wake, and none of them tried to do so. So far as I could judge of his character, Mr. Richard Chamberlain did not spend his money so freely for the sake of purchasing popularity, and certainly not for the sake of making ostentatious displays of his wealth. He was naturally generous and genial, and as Mayor of a large and important town he found many ways of humouring his bent, and he did not mind paying the piper pretty handsomely for his pleasure. As is well known, he was afterwards M.P. for one of the Islington divisions for some years. Ill-health however overtook him, and he died much regretted on the 2nd of April, 1899.

Another brother, Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, was a town councillor of Birmingham for a limited period, and owing to his business capacity he became a useful member of the Corporation. He did not apparently go into the Council to make a long stay, or if he did he changed his mind, and soon retired from municipal work. He has since spent his time in minding his own business; in strengthening, mending, and making certain public companies; in giving fatherly advice to company shareholders; and in dispensing justice, sometimes with pertinent observations, on the local magisterial bench.

Two other brothers, Mr. Herbert and Mr. Walter Chamberlain, have at times been induced to take a little hand in public work, but their efforts have been of a mild, modest, innocent character. Now, however, they have retired into that privacy from which they so timidly emerged. For many reasons Mr. Chamberlain’s brothers were, perhaps, wise not to bid high for public place and position in Birmingham. People are apt to be needlessly suspicious of too much family influence in public concerns. There is always a tendency and a readiness to inveigh against cliques, especially family cliques. And at one time there was certainly a disposition in some quarters to keep a jealous eye upon Joseph and his brethren, lest they should acquire an undue amount of influence and power. One blunt, outspoken Scotchman, I remember, expressed this feeling in his own characteristic way by saying, “If we don’t mind we shall be having too much dom’d Chamberlain.”

The Chamberlain family, however, being more or less smart, spry men, were doubtless sharp enough to detect some inkling of this sort of feeling, and consequently they thought it better to silence any such cavillings by eschewing as far as they could public life, and contenting themselves with being brothers of a big man and sharing a little reflected glory.

Whilst mentioning Mr. Chamberlain’s family I must say a word of his brother-in-law, Mr. William Kenrick, for some years M.P. for the Northern Division of Birmingham. Mr. Kenrick was Mayor of Birmingham in 1877, and a worthy and modest chief magistrate he made. A generous, intelligent, public-spirited man, he has always been liberal with his purse and his time, and has done much to further educational and philanthropic schemes. Mr. Kenrick belongs to a class some cynical people consider very “cliquey.” It is, however, to be wished there were more such “cliquey” people in our midst, for they are always conspicuously at the fore in supporting by their influence and their money every good cause which has for its object the alleviation of suffering and the improvement of the people.

It is true that there was one important project inaugurated some few years ago that did not enlist their sympathy. This was the Birmingham Bishopric Scheme. But, seeing that most of the “clique” are Unitarians, they could hardly be expected to support a proposal for the benefit of the Established Church. It was a misfortune for that Church that the Chamberlain party and their friends were aliens in religious matters. Had it been otherwise the results of the proposed scheme might have been very different. The “clique,” when they do support a cause, do it with no niggardly hand, and if it had so chanced that they had been Churchmen instead of Unitarians, the probabilities are that by this time Birmingham would have been in possession of a full-sized Bishop all its own, and possibly a fine, bran-new, costly cathedral to boot.

Owing to the lack of monetary support the Birmingham Bishopric Scheme is dead, or in such a very sound trance that it is hardly likely to revive. At its birth it was not very strong, and its early existence was jeopardised by conflicting ideas among its sponsors, chiefly caused by the difficulties in the way of raising all the money required. Birmingham, therefore, had to settle itself down and be content with a Suffragan Bishop, at least for a time, and this, it is thought, may prove to be a good long time.

In connection with the Birmingham Unitarians I may here, perhaps, appropriately allude to a matter connected with the growth of our modern city. The New Meeting House of the Unitarians in which Dr. Priestley ministered was situated on the east side of the town, and as the congregation was migrating westward they desired to have their place I won’t say of worship, but their place of meeting, nearer to their homes. Moreover, moved by the advancing spirit of the age, they wished for a more important and ornamental looking edifice than the extremely plain, I might say ugly, structure which their fathers had attended. Unitarians may appear to be rather rigid and frigid, but they have an intelligent appreciation of art and beauty.

Accordingly some forty years ago they selected a site on the west side of the town, and erected what was then considered a handsome place of meeting, which they called the Church of the Messiah, and which was opened in 1862. The architect of this Church did not seem to be unduly weighed down with Unitarian ideas. By accident or design he marked the edifice with emblems of the Trinity, for at the very entrance there is a large opening encircling three arches, which are suggestively emblematical of the Three in One.

The building of this somewhat florid structure, and the move of the Unitarian church from east to west, provoked a considerable amount of caustic comment and humorous criticism at the time. These advanced Unitarians were scoffed and sneered at for deserting the simple tabernacle of their ancestors, and one which was associated with the revered name of Dr. Priestley. They were also mocked for their greater iniquity in selling their tabernacle to the Papists. Yes, the New Meeting House of the Unitarians became a chapel of the Roman Catholics. They rendered to the priests the things that were Priestley’s, as they were reminded by a facetious paper published at the time. But, however much the Unitarians may have been chaffed and sneered at for abandoning their old conventicle, they have lived it all down, and, if I mistake not, Joseph and his brethren, the Kenricks, the Oslers, the Beales, and others, now congregate in peace in their un-Unitarian-looking Church of the Messiah.