Thoughts at Fourscore (1)
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- I.-

THE CHANGES OF LIFE.


A MAN who lives forty years sees many changes in life, if he looks observantly about him; but the man sees a great deal more who lives twice as long, and thus reaches "the days whose strength is but labour and sorrow."  I never imagined that I should live till the Year of Grace, 1885; but here I am, at fourscore; and it is but natural that I should think about the changes I have witnessed, or experienced, in this dear Old England, during my life-time.

    England itself is not changed, that I can tell.  It is still the land 'where the sun gilds the weathercocks some thrice a-year,' as poor Byron sung.  We have fair weather and foul, now, as we had when I was young.  Yet, I do not remember, in my early time, the occurrence of so many summers of 'rain and ruin,' like the many summers immediately preceding our last summer.  'Twenty thousand acres of land rendered uncultivable in the Isle of Ely alone.'  So I was told, in the old city of Ely itself, by one of its most intelligent inhabitants.  Our last summer, however, was so remarkably fine, that I could not help saying to myself—'The dear old land is not changed after all: though sunshine often leaves us, it is sure to return.'

    Not the dear old land, but its people, and the changes in their condition, socially and otherwise, I am thinking about, chiefly.  I am also thinking about the changes in myself: the changes of my inner man, during these fourscore years.  That man would be the author of a grand philosophical treatise who could give us a true account and interpretation of the causes of change in men's convictions and opinions.  What remarkable changes some of the most eminent men of this century have undergone!  Nay, what changes they are undergoing and manifesting, even at this day.  And yet, it may be that their changes would be seen to be less strange than the crowd judge them to be, if their life-course were thoroughly studied: belike, it would be clearly seen that 'the child was father to the man': that they were the same men, in reality, all along.

    But I am thinking more about social changes than any other: the changes in the condition of the People of England—and more especially those called 'the Working-classes'—during this nineteenth century.  The scattered thoughts I contributed to my friend's little periodical—which I have mentioned in the Preface—are so similar to the thoughts which are running through my mind, now, that I judge it better to repeat them—with some slight alteration.

    I was but a child when the first decade of the nineteenth century was spent.  Yet my remembrance of what I saw around me, and of the conversations of upgrown and elderly persons, about the lot of the poor, and their experiences, are very clear.  One proud assertion may be made without fear of contradiction: that, at the beginning of the present century, although England was in the very heart of her great death-struggle with France, she was striding on towards an increase of wealth.  The bosoms of men throbbed everywhere with earnestness in carrying on great enterprizes of industry.  That stubborn energy which impelled the men of the West Riding to lay down miles of rough paving, as bridle-roads, over the wild moors, for carriage of their woollen cloths to distant markets, on heavily laden pack-horses, had resulted in the amassing of riches by the manufacturers and dyers of Leeds, and smaller Yorkshire towns.

    And, soon, the genius of Brindley, by the formation and extension of canals, opened the way to wealth for almost every kind of industry and manufacture in the kingdom.  Nor could all the arrogant power of Napoleon—all his attempts to close the ports of Europe against us, by the famous "Continental blockade," check the onward march of our trade.  His own necessities often thwarted him.  Just at the very juncture when our bold sailors had succeeded in smuggling forty thousand pairs of boots and shoes into Holland, and the eager Dutch merchants had bought them, and his spies had informed him of it, one of his armies was barefoot; and, not knowing what else to do in his strait, the imperial despot felt himself compelled to give secret orders to one of his marshals to buy the smuggled goods!

    In spite of that huge, prolonged war, which hung the millstone of eight hundred millions of national debt round the sturdy neck of John Bull—John grew rich.  The war itself was the fertile source of fortunes to contractors for ropes and sails and hammocks and anchors and cannon and all other supplies for our fleet; and for clothing and all the panoply of war for our army.  And thus, employment of one kind or other, was so plentiful, in all the populous parts of the country, that, if a regular workman at one particular trade was thrown out of work for a few weeks, he could readily find employment of some kind, whereby to earn bread for himself and family.  Wages were good and employment constant all over the agricultural districts—for it was the great time of prosperity for farmers: they and their landlords often grew wanton while the war prevented our obtaining foreign corn, and they could obtain almost any price they willed for their wheat.  And wages were good in almost every branch and kind of work, in the beginning of the present century: except where labourers by hand had begun to experience that cruel struggle against the more cheaply and rapidly productive power of machinery.

    And, because wages were good, working men found no difficulty in turning their hands to other employment, when temporarily thrown out of their regular labour.  They could get good food, although corn was dear, and were strong and vigorous, and did not complain, if they had to leave their workshops for out-of-door labour, and try their skill with spade or pickaxe, for a few weeks.  Nay, an exchange of labour was looked for as a treat, by all handicrafts in the small towns scattered over the great agricultural districts.  As regularly as summer and autumn returned, shoemakers, tailors, saddlers, joiners and carpenters, wheel-wrights, bricklayers and stone-masons, blacksmiths—all who could possibly leave their shops—hastened to the fields to help their customers, the farmers of the neighbourhood, in the gathering in of their hay and corn.  And one often heard a shoemaker or tailor, when he was off the stall or the shop-board, and had grown pot-valiant, boast that he could mow as much grass in one long summer's day, or reap and bind as many sheaves of wheat, as any husbandman in the field!

    There was want—pinching want—among the feeble-bodied poor, and among the aged, often, as there is now.  But many of the prosperous merchants and gentry took a pride in being kindly to the poor; and the grateful respect in which such benefactors of the needy were held was unlike any grudging observance of thanks that we ever witness now-a-days.  The old poor law of Elizabeth—which her great minister, the large-souled and large-hearted Cecil, devised to prevent the poor from perishing—for they were perishing, by hundreds, when the monasteries were dissolved, and no more "dole" could be dealt out to them at the doors there,—the old poor law of Elizabeth was in force; and, when I was a child, I often heard the aged poor express thankfulness for the real comfort they experienced in the workhouse.  The great evils which were developed by that old law had scarcely any existence then: they grew out of the root-evils of bad new laws, as well as bad manners, in the after-times.

    The manners and morals of the working classes—I affirm it on my conscience, and in the teeth of all the boast of our advanced civilization,—were better, in England, in the early part of this century, than they are now.  The hearty regard of man towards man was greater: there was greater frankness and openness of dealing, one with another: far less selfishness and less forgetfulness that all men are brothers: a more spontaneous readiness to help one another in difficulty: a more complete and entire forgiveness of one another, if they happened to quarrel—as they often did—in their drink.  A child of the poor, and living among them always, my impressible nature received the stamp of all that was said and done around me, so unerringly that I am sure I am not mistaken.  "They were ruder in manners," some critic will suggest.  But he that says so, like many other critics, has not read the book.  How many working men cultivate manners now-a-days?  Ask them, and you will receive a smile of derision for your answer.  I must confess I would much rather witness the shy and simple courtesies of the poor in the old times, than the impudence that often takes the name of independence, among them, now.

    "But they indulged in brutal sports, sir."  Ay, the bull-running at Stamford, occurred once a year; and, now and then, a wandering foreigner was coaxed to let his bear be baited by bull-dogs; and there was cock-fighting, here and there; and badger-baiting—but that was seldom; while Staffordshire and Lancashire bred savage bull-dogs and set them to fight.  But let not the poor of old times be falsely charged with all the brutality of the old sports.  Let it be remembered that not only the middle classes of the past, but the gentry and squirearchy and many of the privileged classes—not excepting even the clergy—were undisguised patrons and encouragers of these brutal sports.  So that the working classes of old were no worse than their betters.

    The commoner sports of labourers and handicrafts, seventy years ago, were of a less boisterous description.  They sought merriment chiefly.  At feasts and fairs, at weddings and "house-warmings," at christenings, and, on every occasion when they could compass it, the young sought the dance.  Nay, I have some memories of the aged "footing it featly," much to the admiration and mirth of lookers-on.  Maypoles were yet in existence.  But five miles from the little Lincolnshire town where I passed my boyhood and youth, the maypole was lowered and re-adorned with garlands every Mayday; and the festival was kept up till the time of my manhood.  And dancing on the green, where the maypole had stood in the memories of their grandfathers and grandmothers, was still practised by the lads and lasses in hundreds of villages.  The fiddler—often a blind one—was in almost universal request at that time of day.  You might have heard the sound of the fiddle—unless you stopped your ears with your fingers to escape a sensation of horror at the murder of music—every night, in the ale-houses of almost every town in the kingdom.  The singing of ballads, recording our sea fights, or the loves of sailors and swains, was also a nightly practice in public-houses in those times of war and public excitement.  You heard, now and then, of a prize-fight, but it was a deed of the professionals, and under the patronage of aristocracy.  Wrestling was the great delight among strong husbandmen, and the talk about their prowess often lasted for weeks.

    The sight of a little lad running in the snow without his shoes, for sport, has suddenly sent me back to the time when I was a shoeless little lad, and the street afforded me great plenty of companions in the same condition.  Shoeless children, ragged children, hatless children: how numerous they were in the streets of our towns, large and small, in the early part of the present century!  Except in such very severe periods of poverty as that experienced by some of our towns in the North of England during the winter which has just passed, we scarcely ever see a shoeless child, in the street, now-a-days.  Many causes have contributed to this change.

    There was a worse sight than that of shoeless children, in the times that I am thinking of.  What were called 'Pock-marked' children, I mean faces pitted with the small-pox, were so numerous, both of upgrown persons and children—ay, both of 'gentle and simple'—that, I am sure, they were more numerous seventy years ago, than any other faces seen in the street.  The drains were all open in the streets, and the cess-pools were all open in the alleys and yards.  Who can wonder at the spread of disease, in those years?  Leaving these unpleasant memories, I return to my thinking about the habits and customs of the people.

    "And what were the habits of the working classes," asks some one, "as regards thrift and economy?"  I am sure they were far superior to the habits of the working classes now.  And I feel sure that they had derived their habits from their forefathers—for they lacked good instructors in the times I am thinking of.  Some who have been taught to regard Will Cobbett as an exemplar of all the virtues will be startled when I tell them that his teaching of the poor was often pernicious.  Over and over again he insisted that it was not at all advisable that the working classes of this country should save money.  It was much more desirable, he urged, that they should spend all their wages: it was better for trade, and better every way.  This was very self-contradictory in the man who saved that purse of guineas, when he was a sergeant in the army, and gave it into the confidential keeping of the woman he intended to marry, when she left America for old England.  But Will Cobbett, like the rest of us, was often inconsistent with himself.  He did not advise working men to save money—but to keep a pig!  And his description of the feast in a poor man's family at the "pig-killing"—his laudation of the luxuries of spareribs and sausages, and pork pies and delicious devourings of gristles and other "offals"—and his artistic representation of the glorious pictures hung up in the poor man's kitchen and sitting-room, in the shape of salted hams and flitches—are among the choicest bits of his writing, in his lively little book "Cottage Economy."

    He did not advise the working classes to economise and save money; but many of them did save, in spite of his mis-teaching.  Their forefathers, it was their frequent custom to relate, were a prudent and careful race: in old times, they said, it was a rule among farmers' servants for a man to save a score or two of good "spade-aces" at least—and for a woman to have purchased an outfit of good "menseful" sheets and blankets, and other household necessaries, before lovers thought of marrying.  To plunge into a married life in sheer poverty was an act of madness, they said, and the couple that did it deserved to be set in the stocks and pelted with rotten eggs—or, as some severe people said, to be whipped through the streets.

    Good lack! when I think of the stern way in which the improvidence of "beggars' marriages," as they were called, were denounced by the poor when I was young, and of the reckless way in which I have seen hundreds of penniless boys and girls rush to church or chapel, to be tied together for life—in after years—I almost wonder whether this old earth has not suffered some inexplicable shock, and taken to revolving the wrong way on her axis!

    One word on the most serious of all subjects—Religion.  Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" was eagerly read by some working men, more especially in the manufacturing districts; and some professed themselves to be Deists openly, but these were few, and Atheism was scarcely named: even the working men inclined to Deism seemed to regard it with horror.  Of all England, the West Riding of Yorkshire was, perhaps, the region where "freethinking" was most common among working men, and there the evil met a powerful counteraction in Methodism.  Yorkshire Methodism was, at that time of day, the heartiest and happiest form of piety that was ever experienced in this kingdom.  The high standard of holiness maintained by William Bramwell, David Stoner, and others; the healthy tone of spiritual instruction from William Dawson and many more; the exhilarating and inspiring music of Leach, whose tunes were felt to be such soul-touching interpretations of Charles Wesley's hymns, together, fed the flame of Christian faith and feeling till it thawed the ice of unbelief, and prevented it from spreading far over the land.


 
- II.-

POLITICS OF THE PAST.


POLITICS—and politics so largely involving the fate of the working classes—inevitably crowd upon one's memory, when thinking of the second and third decades of the present century.  "Peace and plenty!  God save the King!" cried poor men as well as rich men when the "Great Peace" was proclaimed, in 1814.  The Peace, however, did not really come till Waterloo was fought, in 1815.  But, even before Waterloo was thought of, not only working men but tradesmen and manufacturers began to discover that all their fond expectation of some wonderful prosperity and plenty that Peace would bring, had been only a foolish dream.

    The extensive works were closed which had furnished the materiel of war; and thousands were thus thrown out of employment.  And when more idlers—sailors from the fleet and soldiers from the army—began to mingle with these constrained idlers, their mutterings of discontent soon swelled into groans.  With indescribable selfishness, the landlords of England, backed by the clamour of their farmer-tenantry, demanded that they should not suffer, let others suffer what they might.  It had been considered certain and sure that foreign corn would be brought in plentifully when war ended, and bread would be cheap.  But as farmers could not pay high rents if they had to sell cheap corn, and landlords would not endure any lowering of their rents—the infamous Corn Law of 1815 was enacted!

    There was no power in the country that could confront the power of the landlords.  The administration of that day was composed of the veriest tools of tyranny and oppression that ever held office in this country.  The curses of the suffering poor, as they mentioned the names of Castlereagh, and Sidmouth, and Eldon, and Liverpool, seem to ring in my ears yet!  Bad harvests added to the misery and sufferings of the poor; and manufacturers began to feel themselves well-nigh driven to despair.  Enterprise had been all expectant upon the Peace; but landlord-power smote it on the forehead.  Enterprise staggered; and well it might.  For the maddened and starving poor threw themselves also as antagonists in its path.  They denounced machinery, and wildly strove to destroy it.

    This unreasonable discontent with their employers was mingled with a just discontent with their political rulers, and they expressed their just discontent loudly.  And, now, the wicked government sent Oliver, and Castles, and Edwards, their spies, among the poor miserable men, to push them on to overt acts of treason; and Jeremiah Brandreth and other working men were hung at Derby,—and Thistlewood and his associates were hung in London,—and there would have been more hangings had not the strong common-sense of Wellington put a stop to these atrocities.

    "Sidmouth has discovered another plot," said one of the peers to him one day as they were leaving the House of Lords.

    "I am tired of their plots," was the stern reply; and the Duke set himself to oppose the infamous spy-system, and soon brought it to an end—although he continued to support that long, bad Tory administration of Lord Liverpool.

    Lancashire men need not be reminded of "Peterloo," and the many other horrors of that time.  Imprisonments of the most severe and afflictive nature were endured by many.  Hunt was thrown into Ilchester gaol, and Cobbett into Newgate.  But, when Cobbett got out again, he fled to America; and he refused ever to set foot again in England till that bad government was ended.  At length Castlereagh cut his own throat; and, soon after, the Liverpool administration expired of sheer helplessness and incapacity.  Canning was placed in power by George the Fourth, through the influence, it was believed, of the king's mistress, the Marchioness of Conyngham.  But neither Wellington nor Peel would join the new and more enlightened minister.  The perpetual worry of office, and the mortifications he had to endure from a powerful opposition, soon killed Canning.  The third decade of the nineteenth century closed soon after the death of him who had been a bad ruler, both as regent and king, and with Wellington in full political power, but with such a cry for "Reform" around him as would have frightened any other prime minister.

    The history of the Regency and of the Liverpool Administration would form one of the blackest chapters in the History of England, if it were written with truth and fearlessness.  The mean, unclean character of George the Fourth, and his cruelty to his wife, would only form subordinate parts of the severe chronicle: accessories to the dark picture, as one may say.  "Such a ministry ought never to have existed," Disraeli himself has said of that vile Tory government.  The reckless way in which they sacrificed the interests of England, at the peace, seems almost incredible, if we were not sure that it is fact.

    "What a blockhead was that Lord Castlereagh of yours," said Napoleon at St. Helena, to one of his English visitors, "to sit sprawling his legs under the table, at the Congress of Vienna, smirking at the stars and ribbons on his breast—the toys with which the allies had bamboozled him—instead of standing up boldly, and demanding Egypt.  It is the real key of your Indian possessions, and you could have had it, or aught else you had asked for, at the end of the war: Antwerp, for instance, and other continental ports, as depots for your commerce.  You had not only given all the strength of your navy and your army to the cause of the allied Sovereigns—but you had subsidized Austria, and Prussia, and other States with millions upon millions, to enable them to carry on the war against me and the French people; and nothing would have been denied you."

    But that blockheaded and corrupt ministry asked for nothing, and got nothing, as a recompense for all our prodigal expenditure of money and human lives.  Their only pride seemed to consist in fawning on the allied Sovereigns, and in trying to destroy freedom and to assimilate English rule to that of the despotisms which were now become triumphant on the Continent.

    The faulty provisions of the old poor law began to be fearfully felt, now taxation, scarcity of work, and scarcity of bread, together with misrule, afflicted the land.  Thousands who had to pay heavy poor-taxes experienced as much real want as paupers in workhouses, or those who clamoured for out-door relief.

    The taxes upon knowledge formed a dense barrier against popular enlightenment.  A few daring men—Cobbett, with his "Register," and Wooler, with his "Black Dwarf," and Hetherington, with his radical publications of many names—fought the battle against power, in spite of imprisonment and loss.  No thought about the education of the people ever entered the minds of rulers in those days.  Education! it was the influence they dreaded above all others.

    The Augean stable of bad laws and bad government, at the close of the third decade of this century, needed more than one political Hercules to wield the besom of Reform, in order to cleanse it.  "Reform!" cried the Whigs, with the mass of the middle and working classes behind them.  "There needs no Reform, and there shall be none!" asserted the Iron Duke—who, with the "Sailor King," William the Fourth, began now to fill the shop windows in caricature.  One of these pictures represented the king in his state-coach, with the well-known owner of the hooked nose sitting on the box and wielding the whip, with the legend beneath—"The man wot drives the Sovereign."

    The storm soon swelled till even the iron resolve of Wellington quailed, and he gave up office.  But, when Earl Grey, and Brougham, and Durham, and Lord John Russell, and Sir James Graham, and the rest took the reins of government, what a stout battle did the Tory Peers fight!  Nobody dreamt that they could be so eloquent, even in defence of their privileges.  Their speeches were a wonder, and the debates in the Commons were mighty, and the agitation outside for "The Bill,—the whole Bill,—and nothing but the Bill!" was tempestuous.  No political agitation of this nineteenth century has been so great and so general as that which ended in carrying the Reform Bill of 1832.

    The generous part which the working classes took in that struggle was too soon forgotten by the middle classes.  Although they knew that the Reform Bill would not enfranchise them, working men assisted largely to win the triumph by throwing all their energy into the contest.  Attwood of Birmingham, and other leading agitators, assured them that their turn should come next—and come soon.  But the promises were all broken.

    The political history of the fourth and fifth decades of the present century, is a history of the anger of working men with the classes and political parties who made these promises and broke them; and of their own vain endeavour, amid suffering and disappointment, to win enfranchisement for themselves.  They saw the old municipal corporations broken up, and the middle classes, whom they had helped, rise into local power and importance.  They saw the middle classes chiefly benefited by cheap postage.  But for them there was the new Poor Law with all its severities—severities which were grievously felt even in the happier parts of the country, but which were regarded as real cruelties by the hand-loom weavers of Lancashire, the stockingers of Leicester, the nail makers of the "Black Country," and other poor human instruments of labour, who were living almost in a state of famine.

    The working men in London and Birmingham who had been most active in the agitation for the Reform Bill of 1832, seeing themselves coolly deserted by the Whigs and middle-class leaders, commenced an agitation for their own enfranchisement in 1837; and this movement, under the name of "Chartism," soon grew threatening in many parts of the land.  In Lancashire and the West Riding political leaders such as Oastler and Stephens, who were not Chartists, swelled the popular discontent by denouncing the new Poor Law.  Excesses of feeling were thus raised which issued in violence; and a violent spirit was engendered which lasted for many years.  It was in vain that Frost and his associates were exiled for their foolish Newport riot: it was in vain that four hundred Chartists were imprisoned in different gaols at one time.  Other leaders took their places; and, unless broken down by suffering, the prisoners, when liberated, returned as vigorously as ever to the work of political agitation.  For misery gave them crowds of hearers.  The enterprize of the country was checked on every hand.  The infamous Corn Laws were still preserved by landlord power.  The Reformed Parliament was no match for landlords.  Manchester men commenced the Anti-Corn-Law agitation; but the poor would not join them.  They scoffingly pointed the new agitators to their own deeds.  "What! has your Reform Bill failed?" they cried; "will not the work of your own hands aid you?  Give us the franchise—help us to get it—and we will raise you a Parliament that shall speedily abolish the Corn Laws, and all other bad laws."

    But no!  The leaders of the Anti-Corn-Law League would have nothing to do with "The People's Charter," which proposed to give the franchise to every man of one-and-twenty years of age, to have a new Parliament yearly, to vote by ballot, to have equal electoral districts, to have no property qualification for members of Parliament, and that the said members should be paid for their services.

    That angry resistance against manufacturers who espoused the doctrines of Free Trade, from the operatives in their employ, who demanded "The People's Charter," seems insane now one looks back upon it, at a distance of between thirty and forty years.  But the insanity sprang from poverty in despair—poverty trustless of all help from the better-off classes—and we must think of it as mildly as we can.  The wisdom and the beneficence of Richard Cobden's doctrines have been richly proven by England in the years which have succeeded that mistaken combat of the poor against their own true interests.

    Perhaps manufacturers—or, at least, a powerful section of them—might have been won over to advocate the extension of the franchise to working men, if Chartists had not shown such ill-judged opposition to the Anti-Corn-Law League.  But, when the League had gained its object, working men saw at once, that all hope of getting help from manufacturers for an extension of the franchise was closed.  And unless the political earthquake on the Continent, in 1848, had blown the smouldering embers of Chartism again into flame, they would have died out at once.  O'Connor's mad land scheme could not have kept Chartism alive.  The failure of that scheme served to kill it entirely.  Working men had now better and better employ, since Free Trade was established, and enterprise had full scope to push foreign trade.  And so they fell to getting bread into the cupboard, and clothes on their backs, and bade "good-night" to politics.  They could not be drawn into political agitation during the "Cotton Famine"; their common-sense taught them that no complaints of grievances could relieve them—there could be no remedy till the American War was ended.  They showed no hot desire when Mr. Gladstone timidly proposed his partial extension of the franchise.  They acknowledged no debt of gratitude when Mr. Disraeli startled his own party and the whole country by introducing household suffrage in the boroughs.  They showed still more frigid indifference when the ballot was proposed and carried; and if you spoke of it to them, they declared they did not value it at all.  But, as trade grew and flourished, they showed they were not without a perception of their own interests as it regards the rewards of labour.  They made higher and higher demands—and they obtained them.

    "And what better were they for it?" asks some reader; "working men cannot say they had no share in the prosperity of trade; but, now stagnation is felt, what provision have they made for it?"  "What better," I ask again, "are they for the higher wages and prosperous times they have had?"

    Thank God! many of them are a great deal better for it.  I spend a little time, now and then, in lecturing in various manufacturing towns in Lancashire, and have been deeply gratified by what I have seen and heard.  Many a working man has now a house of his own, and some working men are owners of two or three houses.  They joined building societies during their prosperity, and this is the fruit of it.  Nor are the houses mere hovels.  The local boards, in the localities where building is going on, insist on the houses being built in symmetrical rows and on uniform plans.  Working men are thus living in houses consisting of several rooms, and having separate accommodations out of doors, with supply of water, etc.  Co-operative stores are also spread over almost all the manufacturing districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and their savings in the cost of food enable working men and their families to live, not only without stint of victuals, but on food of better quality.

    Remembering how I saw Lancashire men in rags, and heard their threats of physical force, amid their starvation, forty years ago, what I thus witness is more gratifying to me than I can easily express.  A man in rags is a scarce sight indeed, now, in the manufacturing parts of Lancashire; and as for the women, they are now so gay in dress—but I had better say nothing about them, lest I get into a scrape!

    Be it understood, however, that there is still a degraded class among working men: the depraved devotees of drink, cock-fighting, betting on horses, dog-races, and on pigeon-flying.  I am also sorry to say that the poor colliers do not seem to have risen morally, or to have bettered their physical condition, amid the sunshine of prosperity that visited them, ten years ago.  The fact that so many of the houses in which the colliers live belong to the owners of the coal-pits, necessarily confines them to live amidst dirt and squalor.  It is true that some owners of coal-pits have built better dwellings for the colliers; but many hundreds of the poor workers yet tenant most miserable abodes.  Many a collier has but one room for his whole family, be it ever so numerous.  It is by no means an uncommon sight, in a collier village, to see, in one corner, the wife lying-in, and merely divided from the open room by a screen of sacking, or old clothes—while the husband is eating his meal by the fireside, and his boys and girls are eating their portion, some on stools and some sitting on the floor.

    The degradation to which I have often seen poor colliers reduced, in their mode of living—the thought of the long hours of danger which the poor fellows have to spend in the deep mine—and the hardhearted carelessness for their condition of those who get thousands by their labour—have often made me writhe with indignation, and wonder that the lowly toilers bore their hardships so quietly.  I have mingled a good deal with the colliers in the course of my lecturing life, and have spent many hours in talking with them.  Many of them have fine, generous minds; and I feel sure it would be possible to raise them as a class, by generous efforts.


 
- III. -

MORE CHANGES.


HOW strangely uneven our lot in life is cast!  Forty years ago, I had to undergo two years' imprisonment in Stafford Gaol, for trying to get the franchise for working men.  The attempt was called 'sedition and conspiracy,' at that time of day.  Now, in this year of Grace, 1885, both Whigs and Tories have declared that working men ought to have the franchise, and have given it to all, throughout the land, who are householders!

    'No wonder that you chuckle about it, old fellow,' says some reader; 'but when the Redistribution Bill is agreed to, what do you think will be the result of the first election?'  I do not think it is the first election that is of so much importance.  What will be done when the country has settled down, and accustomed itself to regard the new state of things as what ought to be and must be?  That is the really important question.  No doubt many are casting an eye, often in fear, at the dark future.  'What will be done with the Established Church?'  'What will be done with the Bishops?'  'What will be done with the House of Lords?'  'What will be done about the Land?' and a dozen of other ominous questions will be passing through many minds.

    'But, I suppose,' some will say, 'you have no fears as to what may come about in Old England, when you are gone?'  You are mistaken who think so.  I have great fears.  And, chiefly, because working men, after all that has been done, and is still doing, for the education of the young, have no real teachers in politics.  So long as that Chartist agitation lasted, even with all its faults, it served to indoctrinate the poor, starving toilers into the knowledge that they had political rights, as well as other people.  But when Corn-Law Repeal gave the toilers bread and something to spare—and Feargus O'Connor's mad Land scheme disgraced the Chartist agitation—the workers, as I have already said, gave up politics, and for several years there was agitation for Disestablishment of the National Church, agitation for Atheism, agitation for Anti-Vaccination, agitation for the 'Claimant,' agitation for teetotalism,—agitations many—but there was no agitation for giving an increase of the franchise to working men.  Oh, yes!  There was one agitator, poor Joseph Arch, who urged that half-a-million of agricultural labourers were all without votes, and ought to have them.  But who urged that the franchise should be given to lodgers—to all men of twenty-one years of age, who were not householders?  Yet, who does not see, now, that that will be accomplished, and very shortly?

    The last measure of suffrage given by Parliament—Mr. Disraeli's Household Suffrage in the Boroughs—was the most corrupt suffrage that could be devised—although some foolish people regarded it as a great boon.  Mr. Disraeli knew what he was about when he proposed it.  He knew that it was the suffrage which would include the most ignorant, the most dependent, the most needy, and the most easily bought, of all working men; the men advanced in years, the men who are without education, who have children round them craving every day for bread, who are feeling the approach of helpless old age, and are fearful of losing their employment, and so are ready to do anything for a little money, or to ingratiate themselves into favour with their employers.  Chartists saw all this, and taught all this more than forty years ago.  They always protested against mere household suffrage in the boroughs as the most corrupt suffrage that could be invented, and the surest suffrage to serve the cause of the Tories.  No old Chartist was surprised when Lancashire returned Tories at the first election after the suffrage was given to householders in the boroughs.

    "What use have working men made of the suffrage now they have got it?" ask some people.  "What encouragement is there to enlarge the suffrage, when we see working men crowding to the poll to return Dr. Kenealy?"  They who ask this seem to forget who the working men were who did this.  They were not the unmarried men of one-and-twenty and upwards, who are members of mechanics' institutes, and book clubs, and young men's Christian associations,—for they have no votes.  They were the poor degraded colliers, iron workers, and potters, who bet on pigeon-flying, dog-racing, and dog-fighting, and who loiter away Monday and Tuesday in each week, standing in the market-place, or drinking and smoking in low public-houses.

    When Gladstone, filled with noble and generous impulse, cried out in that famous debate—"Are they not our own flesh and blood?"—if Disraeli had sprung up and said "They are; and therefore let us enfranchise all alike—but above all, do not let us leave out the most intelligent and moral of the working classes"—it would have been more to his credit than all the witty, smart things he ever said in the House of Commons put together.  If we wish to raise men, it cannot be by denying them what we demand for ourselves—to be governed by our own consent.  Nor should we be over keen in marking their blunders when they first begin to exercise the franchise.  Who can wonder at their errors when it is remembered that no Government, for so many years, put forth any effort to educate the people. Nay, that the strongest and direst struggle by men in power was made against enlightenment of the people.

    One often hears the complaint that working men do not attend places of worship.  But it seems to be forgotten that they are only like other people in this respect—that they are no worse than their betters.  Tens of thousands of the middle classes in London and in all our large towns seldom or never enter a place of worship.  Nor are the upper classes remarkable for their strict observance of the Lord's Day.  I always feel the censure with which some people visit the working classes to be so hard and unreasonable, because they are expected to be good—although their betters do not set them the example; and their rulers, in the past, have striven to brutalize them, rather than to exalt them in morals and intelligence.  Instead of complaining of them, let us all make what effort we can to raise them.

    Building of more fine chapels will not attract them.  The Gospel of Christ must be carried to them—to their very doors; and it is time that it was done—for they are still imitating their betters: the Secularists are beginning to call themselves "Darwinians!"  Will Christian young men—I mean such as are born with good common-sense—try to get the real anointing from above, and go out into the lanes and alleys and squares where working men live, and preach Christ to them?  Mere muffs will not do for the work.  The speakers must be able to talk, and must have something to talk about.  The more knowledge they have of God's word the better, the more knowledge they have of human nature the better, and the more readily they can express their meaning in terse, plain English, the better.  Thousands of such teachers are wanted—thousands who are willing to go out into the highways and hedges—or into the very dens of squalor and wretchedness, and proclaim Christ.  They need not wait to be sent by the churches.  Let them take their commission from the compelling sense of duty: that is the best "call" that any man can have.  The churches will not be backward to offer them the right-hand of fellowship, when they are known to be doing good.  Comparing the characters of our working men with others, I have often spoken plainly, and shall do so as long as I live.  I wrote some plain words in 1877, and I think I may as well repeat them now.  I do not think they will do any harm; and I believe they are as much needed now as they were then.


    "Fifty feather beds pawned by the werkies, in two days, to get the means for having their usual July railway-trip!  This has just been enacted in the old cathedral city where I am writing: the old city which has lost its slow-coach character, by the introduction of large iron-works, which employ some thousands of human hands.  The workers threw money away, as if it were dirty water, when they were in full work and had high wages; and, now they are on short work and get little money, comparatively, they pawn their beds, and plunge into debt, to get their revel.  Small shopkeepers know what they have to expect: an account-book filled with the names of many who will not be out of debt for months to come, and of some who will never pay: an increase of their embarrassments: sleepless nights and anxious days, and, perhaps, ruin.  And what do the workers gain by their revel?  Health?  No: but the loss of it, to many.  They return home jaded; and go back to their labour with a feeling of sour discontent that they have to work "on dead horse," as they phrase it—to work merely to pay their debts.   And, if they do not try to pay their debts—but spend their money at a new shop, as they too often do—their violation of conscience leads to a lower sink of immorality: perhaps, to utter recklessness about right and wrong.

    "Thus far about the workies; what about their "betters"?  The Contemporary Review, for this month of August, contains an article on "The Horse as an instrument of gambling" that will make some moral people open their eyes widely.  The writer announces "the public accession of the Prince of Wales to the turf"; and assures us that "the running of horses has become surrounded by all kinds of temptations: the horse is in the hands of gamblers.  Gentlemen (the italics are the writer's, not mine) degrade themselves by dirtying their hands with a betting-book.  Men bribe, and stable-boys become corrupt in consequence of the turf having been selected as one of the places where people make haste to be rich.  The elements of chicanery which now attend the pastime of horseracing have given it a bad odour; and it would be a thousand times better that horse-racing should altogether cease, than that the race courses of Great Britain should continue to be seminaries of swindling."


    The writer also tells us that, last year, "forty-four persons won from £200 to £300 each, forty-five gained sums ranging from £300 to £500 sixty won amounts ranging from £500 to £994, and sixty-three persons won sums of £1,000 and upwards," by betting on horse-races,—while, "the owner of the horse which won the Cesarewitch of last year was able to back it to win him £100,000."  But the most remarkable statement is one which this writer quotes from a popular magazine—"The chief jockey of the period earns in fees as large an income as the Lord High Chancellor of England; and his fees and presents are said to have amounted last year to over £13,000.  In all probability the three principal jockeys of England will earn, or at all events receive, more money in a year than the whole professional staff of a modern university!"

    So their "betters" set but a bad example of morals to the working classes.  And noblemen and gentlemen cannot plead that it is hard, after months of continuous labour, if they cannot have one or two holidays in the year: for noblemen and gentlemen keep holiday all the year round.  Nor can they plead that they are tempted to indulge in a revel which they cannot afford, by the offer of railway directors (who must make a revenue, by hook or by crook, now their receipts are so low) to convey them one hundred miles for a shilling, give them three or four days for enjoyment, and bring them back for another shilling.  Nor can the petty dissipation of the worker's railway trip be likened to the gigantic sin whose enormities are chronicled so partially by the writer in the Contemporary—for it opens the sluices for a deluge of other sins, and drags thousands of the working classes into the foul mire of gambling.

    Horse-racing means gambling; and all who join in it, know it: they know it means vice on a large scale—but they engage in it, nevertheless.  And many of them do it in spite of the dread rebuke of conscience.  My good and kind friend, Dr. Sale, the late Vicar of Sheffield, once gave me an affecting account of a conversation he had in a railway carriage with one of his parishioners, a manufacturer, who was returning from Epsom the day after the Derby, with considerable winnings.  The faithful vicar struck home, and soon discovered that the man, with all his seeming elation, was consciously guilty; and showed it, not only by the changes of his countenance, but by his desperate attempts to "change the subject."  It was in vain, however, that he strove to get out of the Christian preacher's power.  The vicar pressed the charge of guilt, till the sweat started to the gambler's brow, and he cried, "For God's sake, say no more!  I know it is wrong.  I dare not reflect upon it!"  Yet the vicar did not shrink from his duty; but still urged his reproof, till he thought he had reason to believe that the man would give up his sin.

    More changes!  Among them, we have lately had one which does not come often.  We have got a new Archbishop of Canterbury: Dr. Benson.  My thoughts about good, departed Dr. Sale, and his rebuke of horse-race gambling, put into my mind another thought:—Could the new Archbishop be persuaded and encouraged also to do a bit of real conscience work, in higher quarters?

    While we had Dr. Benson in old Lincoln, as canon of our noble cathedral, he won a very high reputation, for what were held to be his great qualities and salutary influence, among young clergymen and aspirants for clerical office. In Cornwall, as Bishop of Truro, he was also regarded as being highly instrumental in the same kind of work.

    Dr. Benson now ranks next to the Royal Family: above the Lord High Chancellor and Archbishop of York, and above all mere Dukes, Marquises, Earls, and so forth, in the land.  If I wished to speak a word in the ear of the Prince of Wales, and were to present my request at the door of Marlborough House, or Sandringham, doubtless, a policeman would tell me, very peremptorily, to "walk off"—or he would take me to the lock-up.  But, Dr. Benson can have an interview with the heir to the Crown, almost at any time that he asks for it.  Will he act like a real Christian minister, and ask for such an interview, and talk to the Prince like a real Christian minister?

Thus:—


    "Your Royal Highness is, doubtless, a little curious, from the tone of my note to you, saying that I wished for a strictly private interview,—to know what it is that I want to say to you.  I must tell you, at once, that I am come to make an appeal to your conscience.  By what I hold to be the Providence of God, I am placed next to your illustrious family, in the order of precedence; and I am placed thus, with the concurrence, at least, if not by the immediate wish of my sovereign, your Most Gracious mother.  Thus doubly compelled, I feel I must perform my conscientious duty, or pronounce myself to be a self-condemned man.

    "I am constituted your spiritual adviser.  You are become the avowed and openly proclaimed patron of horse-racing!  Does not your Royal Highness know that the most current literature of the day declares horse-racing means gambling?  And do you not feel that you have been won over by bad advisers to take a most unworthy position?

    "Gambling?  That is not all.  Horse-racing is become the vice of vices—the curse of the land.  For all ranks are drawn ruinously into the encouragement of it.  And the reports are so current—they are, in fact, in almost everybody's mouth—of the huge SIN which holds high festival at great horse-race times, that I cannot suppose you to be ignorant of it.  Do you not know what goes on in Doncaster, for instance, during the great race-week, in each September?  Importation of scores of prostitutes—immigration of scores of practised thieves, thimble-riggers, pick-pockets, gamblers, and cheats of every description—liquor shops open at night—houses of ill-fame all open—drinking, cursing, swearing, and fighting—in plain words, 'Hell broke loose, in the slums of Doncaster!'

    "Now, I appeal to you, most illustrious prince—I am content on my bended knee to appeal to you—whether you can for one moment continue to hold the infamous and scandalous position report—un-contradicted by yourself and confirmed by your practice—assigns to you.  Will you not yield to me at once, and say, 'I will give it all up, and never more, either go to see a horse-race, or bet upon one'?

    "Never mind the jeers of those who have been so proud of their bad conquest over you—the gamblers and black-legs, titled and untitled!  You will have the gratitude, the faithful attachment and heartfelt love of all Christian men in the land.

     "Do you not feel that that will be an inexpressibly precious exchange for the bad honour rendered you by men with whom you were so lately associated?

    "I will not ask your forgiveness.  Your Royal Highness knows that I have only done my bounden duty.  May God help you to receive my request with instant approval, and give you a long life, and a happy reign, over a grateful and happy people."


    Dr. Benson!  Dare you do this?  Latimer would have done it, if he could live again, and fill your place.  Will you do it?


 
- IV. -

SORROWFUL THOUGHTS ABOUT STRIKES.


I HAVE been so bold as to address a word to the Primate of all England; and, I trust, his Grace will think I have addressed him in real courtesy.  I am sure I meant to do so.

    Let me, now, return to my more-accustomed work: that of talking to working men.  I wrote as follows, in 1876:—


"An intelligent Scottish friend tells me in a letter, the other day, that the prolonged strike of the colliers of Fifeshire, and the iron workers of Glasgow, is inflicting suffering upon the strikers which they endeavour in vain to conceal.  The haggard looks of many of the men proclaim their wretchedness.  The deprivation which themselves and their families undergo is so great that weak constitutions are giving way, and some are dying for want of food.  It is the common talk in the collier villages of Fife, when a corpse is carried out to be buried, "There goes another victim of the strike!"


    The seeming heroism there is in all this—the resistance to the death of what they consider to be wrong—would be admirable, if such heroism were not folly.  When furnaces are being blown out, when manufacturers are working their mills on short time, when scarcity of work is the outcry increasingly at home, and trade seems paralysed on the Continent, it seems worse than folly—it seems madness for working men to play the ruinous game of strike.

    No man of common-sense and right reasoning disputes the right to strike, on the part of the working men, when they judge that they are not receiving just wages.  But what it is both just and wise to do at one time, it may be very unjust and very unwise to do at another time.  And, as the New York Tribune observes, "this is a poor season for strikes, since the supply of skilled labour is evidently in excess of demand in almost every department of industry."

    And, then, the writer goes on to say—"Of the many strikes which we have been called upon to chronicle during the past few months, we do not now recall one which has accomplished the purpose, either of raising wages or of preventing their diminution; for, there are certain matters which settle themselves, sooner or later, without argument, and the price of labour happens to be one of them.  Take the whole mass of strikes, since they came into fashion, and it will be found that they have cost the employed much more than the employer."  It is the old lesson, although repeated in America; and working men are still more unwilling to listen to it in America, than they are in our own country.

    The recent railway riots in America furnish a lesson even for English thinkers.  "The most alarming feature of the whole disturbance," says a writer in the Daily News, "was the evidence it gave that there is all over the States a class of working men who believe themselves to have a common cause against employers.  It was not alone railway workers of any kind who kept up the struggle.  In every place where the strike appeared (we may speak of the strike as if it were one homogeneous pest, like a disease) its numbers were reinforced by labourers of all kinds, who ran to bear arms in the cause, as if they and the rioters were bound together by the ties of a common nationality or religion, or some similar bond, which, in times of trial, is supposed to make brothers of all who acknowledge it."  And then the writer tries to solve the mystery of this tendency to band together against employers, in all American labourers.  He affirms that because they are chiefly adventurers who merely left Europe to get better pay, they cannot have any care for the laws and social order of a country in which they are strangers, and were sure when hard times came to be unruly in their discontent; and, not only so, but to be ready to combine in an unruly way to get it.

    I cannot help thinking that this writer's probe does not reach half the depth of the sore.  The state of feeling I witnessed among ill-paid, starving working men in our old Chartist time, and before the abolition of the Corn Laws, was very much like that which seems to prevail in America, in "hard times."  They were nearly all of the "class of working men who believe themselves to have a common cause against employers."  However unreasonable their belief was in many instances, it was their belief.  I discerned little among them of what this writer talks of as "that common devotion to the laws and social order of the country that its own born citizens, how ever poor, might be expected to have."  It was not "devotion to the laws," but fear of the strength of the laws, that withheld starving working men, in 1842, from becoming generally unruly in this country.  And even fear would not have withheld them, if they could have procured arms as easily as the Americans, from displaying their unruliness in a signal fashion; and it would have been towards their employers first, from the unreasoning belief that employers were the chief authors of their suffering.

    That a portion of our working population are growing wiser—that they no longer reason in this unreasoning way—was proved by the sensible conduct of Lancashire working men during the cotton famine.  An old incendiary strove, in one corner, to stir up the old bad feeling against employers, but he could not succeed.  The commonsense of the workies taught them that their own employers were not the cause of the "cotton famine," and they did not listen to him.  I wish I could believe that equal enlightenment is shared by working men generally, throughout Great Britain.  I fear it is not.  Their persistent disposition to strike, at a time when employers find it difficult to keep their foothold in the slippery and downward state of trade, seems to afford no proof of general enlightenment among working men.

    But why is it that they are not enlightened?  If the Board of Arbitration, composed of employers and employed, which Mr. Mundella succeeded in establishing at Nottingham, can preserve the framework knitters from strikes, why should not Boards of Arbitration have the like success elsewhere?  No class of workers were sunk lower than the poor framework knitters at one period, nor had any class of workers a stronger "belief that they had a common cause against employers."  Arbitration peacefully settles all their incipient disputes now, and Nottingham framework knitters see that they have a common cause with employers.  Is there any reason why coal owners and colliers, iron masters and iron workers, should not come to a like sensible and peaceful agreement?  I cannot think that poor colliers are beyond enlightenment, or are viciously disposed as a class.  I have said so before, readers know; and I believe that a hearty manifestation of kindness, on the part of their employers, would prevail with them, as it usually does with other working men.  As for our iron workers, they are on a level for intelligence with any class of workers in the kingdom; and I know no reason why generous dealing should not equally prevail with them.

    No doubt, I shall be told that many colliers and iron workers are so defiant in their attitude towards employers, that no attempt to bring them to reason by employers could succeed.  I should like, however, to see the attempt humanely and earnestly made by employers; and I devoutly wish it may soon be made.  For, if what intelligent and experienced observers are saying be true—that we must not look for a speedy improvement of trade—the condition of working men may become so severely straitened, as to bring back the fearful discontent of 1842.  From my remembrance of what that was, I humbly pray—God forbid it!

    In the month of September 1877 (in the small periodical conducted by my friend, Rev. Hugh Stowell Brown—which I mentioned in the Preface), I wrote as follows:—


    The Working Men's Question has not decreased, but grown in interest ominously of late.  The old barbarity of evictions from their cottages of the colliers in the county of Durham, has been renewed amidst the yells and execrations of the women, surrounded by several bands of police.  Weather, such as we have had in this country for some time, will render camping out in the open air a terrible ordeal for the poor women and children; and must soon put an end to the strikes at the Ryhope and Beaupark collieries.  A riot, on a small scale, is reported, by some of the cotton hands at Burnley; while ten thousand hands, it is affirmed, have turned out on strike at Bolton, resolved not to submit to a reduction of 5 per cent. in their wages.  Several thousands of colliers and other workmen are on strike in various parts of the country; and the "lock-out" on the Clyde of shipwrights, engineers, and other hands is not ended, although there seems to be a good prospect of both men and masters agreeing to an arbitration.  This 'lock-out' has lasted since May, and must have entailed an incalculable amount of suffering on the workmen and their families.  Must it not, also, have been a time of great sacrifice on the part of the employers?  Where the fault has been, it is not easy to decide, but the whole affair involves a great blunder—and a guilty blunder, somewhere.

    Meantime, the poor, starved colliers of Fife, after a 'lock-out' of fourteen weeks, have been permitted to resume work at a reduction of 10 instead of 20 per cent. in their wages.  One naturally asks—Why did not the coal owners say 10 per cent. at first?   It is impossible to decide, without a great deal of information which is never given in the newspapers, who was really at fault, in the beginning, in this case.  But, knowing that starvation has ended the lives of some members of the colliers' families in Fife and Clackmannan, it may again be affirmed that this 'lock-out' also has been a great blunder, and a guilty blunder likewise—let the guilt rest where it may.

    With the colliers of South Staffordshire, a struggle of a somewhat different kind has been attempted by the coal owners.  The men were asked to work nine-and-a-half hours a day, instead of eight.  The words in which the men expressed their refusal prove that intelligence is growing, even in the 'Black Country.'  They said "they were determined not to return to a condition of labour that has stunted the minds and bodies of the mining population.  They would not shorten their lives by the means by which they have to live.  Masters had taught them it was unwise to exhaust capital when the interest should yield sufficient to live upon; and their labour was their capital.  Labour should be counted by the exhaustive efforts put forth, and not by minutes and hours merely."  The men also offered to work on the double-shift system—by which the coal owners would be able to work their mines sixteen hours a day, and thus save nearly half their general business expenses.  The reasonableness of the men was fully shown by a meeting of their delegates with some of the leading owners; they consented to accept a reduction of sixpence a day in working thick coal, and threepence a day in working thin coal—and the quarrel was put an end to, and work resumed.

    The proposal of the employers, and the sensible and temperate resistance of the men, in this last case, is a proof that the poor colliers are not always wrong-headed, even in the Black Country; and that they are sometimes more reasonable than their employers, is proved in Northumberland also—if the decision given by Mr. Herschell, M.P., be correct.  He was appointed umpire in arbitration between the coal owners and miners in that county; and gave it as his award that the employers had failed to make out a case for reduction of wages.

    The fact that the London Building Trades are not only continuing their demand for higher wages, but that they are gradually winning their demand—by firm after firm yielding it—seems, at first sight, an anomaly in the present increasingly bad trade.  Yet there is no mystery in it.  Many people who made a good deal of money when trade was so good, and who find they can make no money by trade now, are putting their savings into the erection of new houses, with the belief that trade will again be prosperous, and the houses be wanted.  And, although hundreds of houses are empty in London and the suburbs, and scores are becoming empty daily, this rage for building continues.  The working men know that masters are making new contracts to build daily, and thus confidently urge their demand for tenpence the hour for their labour.

    Whether all the Building Firms will yield, or how long the struggle will continue, depends not entirely on the continuance of the rage for building—which must cease when people know that houses are deserted by thousands; but on another most fearful fact not only for the working builders, but for all working men—the return by shoals of working men from America, with disappointed hopes, and, in some cases, in destitution.  These men are sure to be clamorous for employment; and in bitterness of feeling will be likely to snatch at work wherever they can get it, without caring for the interests of other working men.

    One does not covet the sorry reputation of a gloomy prophet; but I must avow my fear that the approaching winter will be a very troublous one.  Generation after generation has been permitted to pass away without the institution of a great system of arbitration, or united council between employers and employed: ignorance and selfishness are still left to fight out every petty battle between them; and when the dread pressure of a bad harvest and bad trade united, comes to be felt by increased numbers of working men and their families, and insolvency begins to prevail among employers, my heart forebodes that we shall enter on a period of such difficulty as the population of this country have not experienced for many years bygone.

    What is to prevent the impending misery?  Neither strikes on the part of the workmen, nor lock-outs on the part of employers, can form a remedy.  It is an old proverb that common misery makes men friends.  I have often seen the truth of the saying fulfilled.  My poor friend, Willie Thom, the poet, had a remarkable saying:  "If it were not for the Poor, the Poorer would perish."  And he was right.  The rich and well-to-do know nothing of the very poor.  It is only the poor that know of their existence; and from my childhood, as a child of the poor, how often have I seen the poor combine to help and relieve cases of extreme wretchedness.  They ran to do it, I remember well, with eagerness and tears of sympathy.  When employers multiply who are really in as great a strait as working men, will the sense of common misery enlarge their sympathy with suffering working men?

    Hitherto, wherever, and to whomsoever, among employers, I make mention of working men, the reply is—"They should have taken care of their money while they were so well paid for their labour: they are always improvident."  And I always reply—What you say is too true; but they are as good as their betters.  Were not coal owners avaricious when trade was at its height of thrift?  Did they not set the evil example to the colliers who were clamorous for higher wages and shorter hours of work?—and are all who belong to the upper and middle classes provident?

    Working men are likely to pay a heavy penalty for their folly.  Their greedy demand for higher and higher wages sent up the price of eatables and wearables, the price of fuel and the rents of houses; but they cannot bring down prices and rents, now they have to live on low wages.  This seems never to be remembered in the time of prosperity; and the counsellors to whom working men give ear, seem utterly unaware of the consequences of a reckless demand for higher and higher wages.  One of these Oracles—a very favourite one with many workies—was present at a great meeting of colliers at Rotherham the other day; and a local paper says, "He also spoke of the right of workmen to combine, and asked what would have been the position of the colliers if they had all united as one man?  If the masters had wanted a reduction, the men might have stopped their output, the price of the commodity would have risen, and then they would have got their fair remuneration for raising it."

    The speaker seemed to forget that many trades besides colliers might play at the same game: stinting production, in order to send up prices.  What a state of things we should soon have, if such a game were played by all the trades in Britain!  Houses would be let at a rack-rent, eatables and wearables would be priced like jewellery.  But such counsellors of the poor man seem blind to the fact that we cannot live by ourselves, but have other countries to compete with.  Their counsel would soon come to naught, if they could persuade working men to adopt it, and put it in practice.  They have never been able to do that, hitherto; and they have but a sorry prospect of being able to do it in the coming winter—when thousands, and hundreds of thousands of the working classes of this country may be brought face to face with the gaunt demon of Starvation.



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