Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

was very high in price during the period wages were at their highest point. Clothing generally is much cheaper, but boots are dearer. I will not, as so many do, take the highest average wages and the lowest average price of provisions-as the premises from such deductions are not only misleading, but unfair-but, for argument's sake, will suppose the average wages for the labouring class to be 35s. per week; and a very little reflection will show you how far this sum will go in providing home, food, clothing, and other necessaries of life. By this means alone can we fairly judge as to what is left to be spent in indulgences by the improvident on the one hand, or the margin left for saving and investment by the thrifty. As a rule, the working class marry, and we may take, as an average, the family as five-viz., man, wife, and three children: five to be fed, clothed, housed, warmed, and three to be educated. In or out of work, in sickness and in health, day by day, all the year round, there is no cessation in these demands let us see how far 35s. per week will go in satisfying the same. Rent, at the very lowest, will be 5s. a-week; coal, 1s. 6d. ; schooling, say, 6d. ; club, 1s.; and we have 27s. with which to feed and clothe five persons, and provide all the little but needful household expenses, however humble that home may be. I assume it to be impossible for the bread-winner, the man, to be fed at a less cost than 10s. per week. The Sunday dinner, &c., when the family are all at home together, cannot be put at less than 3s. We have now left 14s. to clothe the man, and feed and clothe the wife and three children. I would ask those who are so fond of decrying the working class for their extravagances and indulgences, where are the funds to come. from? And I maintain, to properly understand this question, however tedious details may be, they are essential, if we really desire to understand fully the position and requirements of those whose conduct and habits are under review. And to me it is simply wonderful how the class, as a body, manage to live, and save, let the sum be but trifling. We must remember, in this case it is real self-denial, from a manly desire to keep themselves out of the pauper class, or from becoming inmates of the workhouse in their old age. I think you will agree with me, that we must cease to consider the whole of the working class as improvident and extravagant; but that there is a large and increasing number of thrifty, saving people amongst them; that, instead of condemning all, as we do, it is our duty to sympathize with them in their difficulties, and by judiciously bringing before them the benefits of thought and thrift, appeal to their self-interest to make the most of their time and skill; show them the value of economy for their own comfort of saving, let it be ever so little, for their own independence. As regards their frugality as a class, we cannot ignore the fact

that there are 26,087 registered societies, with a total of 3,404,187 members, whose aggregate funds amount to £9,336,949. The members of unregistered societies may be put down as numbering nearly 1,000,000, with funds amounting in the aggregate to £2,000,000 sterling. The Loan Societies are 373, with members, 30,048; accumulated funds, £155,065. The number of Building Societies is 396, and their total funds amount to £12,580,013. The Provident Societies number 1,163, with 420,024 members, and accumulated funds of £6,199,266. (There are many other Building and Provident Societies registered under the Limited Liability Companies' Acts.)

The number of Trades' Unions registered under the Act is 215; the total number of members is 277,115; and the funds amount to £391,595. But a great number of the largest societies are unregistered. The total of such societies cannot be less than 2,000, members 1,000,000, and the funds at least £2,000,000. The Savings' Banks' returns are equally interesting and suggestive. The number of Trustee Savings Banks is 463; the number of depositors, 1,493,401; the total of deposits, £43,283,700. There are 5,488 Post-office Savings' Banks, 3,166,136 depositors; the total amount of deposits, including interest, £26,996,550 10s. 3d. There are nine Railway Savings' Banks, confined strictly to railway employés, with 7,898 depositors, and an accumulated fund of £153,572. The grand total of the preceding figures shows that there are about 10,121,694 depositors, of one kind and another, either in societies or provident banks, and that the accumulated funds amount to no less a sum than £100,705,055. And although it may be argued that the middle class are largely represented, it must be admitted that a large proportion of this vast sum belongs to the working classes, and affords evidence of provident habits among great numbers of them. Another point that must not be overlooked, as it will exercise considerable influence for future good, is the vast improvement in the character of the homes of the working classes during the last twenty or thirty years. I anticipate much beneficial influence, and regard this as the only sure foundation for future good-viz., the improved air and comfort in and about the homes, to which formerly they could lay no pretensions. Again, their food, on the whole, is superior, their clothing better and warmer; the tone of the family generally is elevated; so that, if the spare money has not always been put into the savings' bank, it has at least been used. to advantage in the purchase of furniture and other necessaries for the home. Twenty-five years ago, the men were paid late on Saturday night, and butchers, bakers, greengrocers, &c., were open on the Sunday to sell them the Sunday dinner; and bakehouses were allowed to be open during specified hours on Sunday, for the purpose of baking

[ocr errors]

the dinners of the labouring classes, whose houses afforded no such convenience. The people might be seen flocking to the bakehouse before eleven o'clock with their dinners, and after one to fetch them; but increased accommodation for cooking purposes has supplanted the bakery, and dispensed with the services of the overworked bakers on Sunday. Every one will admit that all this tends to exert a salutary and beneficial influence on the minds of the rising generation, which cannot fail to be productive of future good.

I, of course, am fully aware that there is a dark side to the picture, and a sad one. There is a large number who seem to resist every effort to uplift them in the social scale. They neither read nor think; they are content to grovel and drink, utterly regardless of the consequences either to themselves or their families. They appear to be devoid of all sense of shame, dead to all the finer feelings and instincts of manhood; having no ambition and no hope, they are selfish and brutish in the present, and heedless of the future. But the one bright spot on this sombre picture is, that the class above described is surely and steadily, if slowly, decreasing; and, looking to the results of primary education, the influence of school discipline, and the improved tone of social life, we may reasonably think this progress will be accelerated. It is the duty of all men, but especially of every workman, to raise the self-respect of his fellow-workmen, and particularly to assist in stamping out the demon of intemperance-the source of so much misery. The elevation of their class should be clearly shown to them to be the surest means of their own elevation; as in proportion to the extent to which the man is improved, so will the power, influence, and moral and material weight of the whole working population be augmented and enlarged. The advancement of individual workmen is good so far as it goes, but it is not the highest good; the aim of all thoughtful men should be to develop the noblest qualities of the humblest workman, and to carry reform into the hovels of the lowest strata of the community, for here it is that it is most needed.

[blocks in formation]

The above too truly represents "human life." Prudence does not warn the young life; and when shattered and broken-a wreck-the men are few and far between who willingly lend a hand to repair the damaged bark. The human soul is more difficult to handle than a ship, yet we trust its training to men who, as a body, know nothing of it, or the human vessel would be set afloat better prepared for encountering the storms it has to meet. Our teaching lacks "practicality." It is based on the idea of divine interposition and miracles; whereas the mind should be fortified and strengthened for its life's work by the belief in God's laws; and "the one universal miracle ever present to their mind should be the remembrance of their Creator, and their lives regulated, directed, elevated, by the thought of the stupendous multitude and greatness of His mighty works."

Life, to the majority, runs on in the same monotonous way; day after day, year after year, work! work! work! And to the majority, stern poverty ever present; and to many debt and difficulty are inseparable companions-often caused by, or accompanied with, sickness and sorrow. How many walk the streets of London and other large towns, and know not where to get a meal! I do not allude to the so-called "poor" people (as a rule, they are up to all the moves by which a meal can be had), but the reduced genteel people— the young man or woman up here without a friend, and whose self-respect prevents their begging a meal, which the poor waif does as a matter of course. Life is a harder problem than any proposition of Euclid, yet we are taught to solve the one, but not the other. The true object of all training, all teaching, all appeals to man, is "to rouse the intellect out of its slumber by questions of vast importance, to clear the atmosphere breathed at school, shaking the mind to its very roots, as a storm shakes the young oaks, not to throw them down, but to make them grasp the more firmly the hard soil of fact and truth" (MAX MULLER). The sign of progress is, when a man learns to work, not to please others, but from sheer love of work in and for the highest of all purposes-conquest of truth. We are too much under the tyranny of the past. Custom, "heavy as frost, and deep almost as life," weighs on us; tradition fetters us; and we, the heirs of all the ages, find that our inheritance hampers us with a bondage very difficult to undo. The essential point to insure the progress of mankind is to imbue them with a deep scorn for an objectless life, and an honest contempt for chicanery, mere formal conventionalities, hypocrisy, and veneer of all kinds. They must, one and all, be resolved to lead a life worthy of their manhood," sans peur et sans reproche;" with an innate conviction that "a man never climbs so high as when he does not see where he is going" (ELIHU BURRITT).

DIVINE ECONOMY.

"It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him; for the one is unbelief, the other is contumely.”—BACON. MANY Will think me presumptuous in treating of a subject they think beyond a layman's grasp; but, looked at thoughtfully, the daily life, the outward world, that which we know of creation in its various phases, the causes of misery and happiness, success and failure, all teach us something of the Creator; and the punishment of ignorance is so great that we are justified in inferring that it is God's wish and man's duty to use his powers in learning the ways of the Ruler of the universe, as man's happiness depends upon his obeying nature's laws. In the "Balance-sheet of the World" (pp. 51, 52) it is stated: "Hygiene has also made remarkable progress, except in Ireland, where it is so shamefully neglected that Dublin and Belfast have the heaviest death-rates in the United Kingdom, being almost on a par with Tunis or Naples. The mortality of England and Scotland has declined during the last ten years nearly 10 per cent., whereas in Ireland the rate for 1879 was almost 20 per cent. higher than in 1870 (the mortality from insufficient food not exceeding 5 per cent. of such increase) :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The saving of life, from this reduction of 1.3 per 1,000 in the deathrate, is equal to 45,500 persons annually, representing a money value. of £10,900,000 sterling at the ordinary capital worth (£210) of each inhabitant of the United Kingdom, or four times the actual yearly product of his or her labour (Table 2)-a startling proof of the "economical" advantage of ascertaining and obeying the Creator's laws. It is imperative that mankind shall know all that man has ascertained of the "Divine Economy." Teach all men what we

« PředchozíPokračovat »