Abbildungen der Seite

pages which inculcate upon the labouring classes the necessity of the “prudential" check upon population. What! you bid the working man, by disciplining his will, by the severest self-restraint, for the sake of rendering his labour scarce, and, therefore, of gaining & higher price for it; you bid him, I say, bind down those family instincts which are, in one view, the very safety-valves of society; and you would fain discourage him from endeavouring, by every means which the like discipline and self-restraint can afford, to wring by combination the highest price for his labour without stilling those instincts! You insist upon the action of the will as the last and supreme resort in diminishing the supply of labour; yet, when it comes to a question of immediate demand, you afford him scarcely a glimpse of that action! Nay, you go further than this, -you make it almost a crime for him to bring into the world other men made in God's image, lest they should compete for the price of labour with himself and his fellows,—but when do you ever let fall a word of blame upon those who bring into the world to compete with him

-fatally, inexorably to elbow him out, men of iron, and steel, and brass-cheap feeders upon water, and grease, and oil ? They are no brethren of his, and yet you expect him to treat them tenderly when they are dashing the bread from his children's mouths; you punish him if he dare molest them; you lift up eyes and hands in scientific horror because he does not appreciate “the blessings of machinery.” Of all hypocrisies which this century has seen go forth under high heaven, I know none more insolent than that of modern plutonomy, inculcating “ the prudential “check” upon the working man, and advocating the unlimited, unregulated, introduction of machinery. Evidently, the will of the capitalist has at least as much to do with the begetting of the one class of competitors, as the will of the labourer with that of the other. If there is a morality of the one action, there is also of the other; if the one current of production is to

go on unrestrained at the hands of the one class, why not the other too? But, above all, if the capitalist is to be allowed, for the sake of increasing his own profit, and contracting his demand for hu. man labour, to flood the market with iron men in the shape of material machinery, why is not the labourer, for the sake of increasing his own earnings, and contracting the supply of human labour, to narrow the labour-market by any moral machinery which combination can afford to him ?-I need hardly observe that I am not speaking here of the ultimate effects of machinery, which I believe to be beneficial, but simply of its immediate effects, which, with Ricardo and Mill, I believe to be often seriously detrimental to the working classes.

It is often objected, that whilst the endeavour to narrow the labour-market by combination may be successful in a given trade, yet it does not benefit the working-classes at large ; that the limiting the number of competitors in one trade only tends to cause an overflow in others; that the high wages of the few only cause the low wages of the many; and writers and speakers on the subject, who deal in moralities, thereupon proceed to lecture trade societies on their selfishness. The trade society may well retort : Address your lecturing to your own class, first of all. Bid the merchant, the manufacturer, be content with the most moderate profits, lest by taking too much, he should depress the money demand for his neighbours' goods and wares; bid him abstain from enlarging his own establishment, lest by driving weaker men out of his own trade he should only be increasing the number of competitors in another. In your let-alone political economy, in your gospel of buy-cheap-and-selldear,—there is no room for such moralities as you attempt to foist upon us, whilst you never recollect to quote them to our employers.

But apart from such tu quoque argumentation, I venture to say that, even if it were true that trade combinations, to use Mr. Mill's words, are to be “ looked “upon as simply intrenching round a “ particular spot against the inroads of “ over-population,” they would yet be beneficial. For it is not the same thing to the country that the same sum of 151. should be received in wages by ten well-to-do workmen at thirty shillings, or by thirty starvelings, at ten shillings. The higher wants of the former give a stronger impulse to the circulation of capital, secure its healthier and more beneficial employment, than the abject necessities of the latter, which throw them upon inferior and often unwholesome food, inferior and insufficient clothing, and such shelter as can be but a nursery of disease and infirmity. So strongly am I convinced of this fact that, much as I loathe slavery, I consider that there is a worse social state even than that robbery of the many by the few which slavery represents,--a state of absolute universal wretchedness, in which self-sacrifice itself becomes impossible. But indeed it is obvious on a little reflection that the position, that trade combinations merely shift locally the rate of wages without being able to raise it generally, is a mere petition of principle. For it assumes that the circulating capital employed in the purchase of home labour is all that can be so employed ; that the rate of profit has reached its minimum. Our enormous investments of capital in foreign funds, railways, &c. are as sufficient a practical answer to such an assumption, as the speculations of economists “on the tendency of profits to a minimum”-evidently not supposed to have been reached, -are a sufficient theoretical one. So long as there is accumulated capital to spend upon anything beyond labour, so long as there is profit realized in any trade beyond the minimum out of which to renew such accumulations,—the trade society of that trade have the right to repel any accusation of selfishness towards their class at large, for seeking to raise their wages, their condition generally, at the expense of the profit-maker. No doubt the interest of one particular trade may often be opposed to that of another; thus, the interest of the working en

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

gineers, as machine-makers, is prima facie antagonistic to that of most at least of their fellow craftsmen, and it is logically absurd for the Amalgamated Society to make grants, as it has done, for the support of a strike against machinery. But the working men have a full right to say that the question is one that regards themselves, and to claim to meet it simply by a further application of their own machinery of combination. The “National Association of United Trades”—a body now very much dwindled from the importance it once possessed, but which still numbers some 6,000 affiliated members in various trades—represented an important step in this direction; other local ones are indicated by the Trades Committees of Glasgow and Liverpool, formed of delegates from the various trade-societies of their respective towns, from both of which the Committee of the Social Science Association received hearty and intelligent assistance.

The sticks, in short, claim the right to be bundled together as they please, without limitas to number, as to the shape of the bundles, or as to the tightness of the ligature. The working man claims to fix for himself by combination, from trade to trade or in any number of trades, the conditions which he shall demand, and, if he can do so, obtain for the sale of his labour. He does so at the bidding of that political economy, which teaches him to look upon wealth as the ground and subject matter of a nation's OLKO-voula or house-law ; to look upon the relation of employer and employed as the mere result of a struggle between hostile interests; to recognize, in his employer's “rate of profit,” the rival force which is always endeavouring to outweigh that of the “cost” of his own “production ;" to recognize the dependence of “price" on the relation of demand and supply ; to study the effects of a scarcity of labour in raising its price'; and in the effects of a combination of labour to note the means of increasing its productiveness. In other words, that political economy teaches him that his class-life is a bat

tle: he accepts that battle, and seeks to discipline his forces, so that there shall be no cross-firing between man and man, or between corps and corps, so that every shot shall tell against that which your science teaches him is the

common enemy-not capital,—but profit. To tell him that he will fight with more success by breaking up his ranks, forgetting his discipline, and dismissing his commissariat, is pure mockery.

To be continued.


Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Yes, to the very end.

Those who have gone before. Will the day's journey take the whole Then must I knock, or call, when just in long day?

sight? From morn to night, my friend.

They will not keep you standing at

that door. But is there for the night a resting-place? Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and . A bed for when the slow dark hours

weak ? begin.

Of labour you shall find the sum. May not the darkness hide it from my Will there be beds for me and all who face?

seek ? You cannot miss that inn.

Yea, beds for all who come.



I was rather disappointed, if the truth But what we wanted were particulars must be told—so indeed we all were at of what had personally befallen him; home-at his scanty flow of words, when for we knew that, though it was hard, he returned to us from that grim Cri- indeed, to be preeminent in discharge of mean campaign.

duty or daring of danger amidst that As for the general story of the war, flower of the world's soldierhood, he had we did not want that from him, as they been noted as noteworthy, even among might have done whose kinsman should such, by those who had the best means have returned to them from so distant a of appreciating his courage and his inscene of warfare in the old days when dustry. In explanation of the latter electric telegraph and express trains and word, I may remark that his arm of the steamers were not, and when the Times service was one of those which our then had not invented its “ Own Correspon- allies designate as “ Armes savantes,” or dent.” We used to send him that general “Scientific Arms." story, in comprehensive chapters on that I have found this modest manly sijournal's broad sheet, and with the pic- lence, touching personal exposure and torial panoramas of the London Illus- achievement, an almost invariable chatrated News. He and his comrades racteristic of our noble fighting men. read it thus, so I have heard him say, My reader will, therefore, kindly bear it with curious, eager, and intense delight. in mind that the detailed and continuous I think his heart must have beat quick narrative I put under his eyes here is of one day upon reading, in one of its very, my writing rather than of his telling, noblest chapters, his own name, scored short as it is. But I have interwoven in under by my pen as I had read it it, so far as I know, nothing but auproudly, before sending him that paper. thentic threads of recollection. I picked

the matter for the spinning of them bit Then there was a moment, one of those by bit out of his conversation, as an of direst confusion, of what other old woman might pick out of a long than such soldiers as fought that fight hedgerow, at great intervals, wool enough would have reckoned a moment of disto furnish worsted for her knittingmay,-a moment wherein regimental needles to work up into a stocking or a order itself was in part broken and conpair of mits.

fused ; guardsmen mingled with linesHe had been under fire continuously, men, linesmen with blue-coated artillery. for seven hours and more, on one of the There had been fearful havoc among most hard-fought days of all that hard- those noble servants of the deep-voiced fought struggle, and, as he rode away cannon, and men were wanted to hand at evening towards the camp, rode bare- out the shells from a cart he had himheaded, in reverent acknowledgment to self brought up, replenished, to a breastHeaven for the marvel that he was work. He called in some of the lines. riding out of that hail of iron himself men. One of them stood by him foot to unhurt.

foot, almost or actually in contact. They As for the unobserved incidents of were handing ammunition, from one to that day's danger, from which so merci- other, as men do fire-buckets when fires ful a preservation had been vouchsafed, are blazing in a street. He leant in one they would be hard to reckon ; but direction to pass on the load he had just upon three several occasions during those taken from the soldier's hand; the sol. seven exposed hours, it really seemed dier was bending towards the next man that the messengers of death avoided in the chain ; a Russian shell came him, as in some legend they turn aside bounding with a whirr, then burst and from the man who bears a charmed life. scattered its deadly fragments with There was a six-pound shot, which he terrific force. One of its great iron saw distinctly coming, as a cricketer eyes shreds passed—there was just room for the projectile which threatens his middle it-between his leg and the soldier's wicket. It pitched right in front of that stood next him. They looked each him, and rose as a cricket-ball when the other in the face. turf is parched and baked, bounding “A near shave that, sir!” said the clean up into the air, and so passing man, “Nearer than you think for, perright over his untouched head. It fell haps,” he answered ; for he had felt the behind him, and he looked at it more rounder surface of the fragment actually than once that day, and, but for its in- bruise him as it passed, whereas its convenient bulk, thought of carrying it ragged edge had shaven, with a marvelaway for a memento. There was a four- lous neatness, from his trouser, part of and-twenty-pound shot next, a sort of the broad red stripe upon the outer twin-brother to that which, some three seam. weeks before, had actually torn his I venture to give these minute details, forage-cap from off his head; but it because they may help other civilians, came too quick for sight. He was at as they helped me,'to “realise," as they that moment backing towards the shafts call it now-a-days, more vividly the of an ammunition eart a horse, whose risks of a day of battle, and the large reins he held close to its jaw, as he drafts they draw upon a man's fund 01 spurred on his own to make it give way nerve and composure, just as he stands, in the right direction. Smash ! came the without coming into any close engreat globe of iron, and as the bones counter. and blood and brains bespattered him, ' But at last the firing was done ; and, he almost himself fell forward ; for bareheaded, as I have said, he turned the poor brute was restive no longer : and rode back towards the camp.. headless horses don't strain against the It was before the famine period there, bit, although 'tis just as hard as ever to and though there was no superfluity of back them into the shafts.

food, there was food to be had, and that long day's fighting-men were in sore portant crisis of decision. If apparitions need of it.

and visions of things unearthy be indeed It was dusk, and he was lighting a mere fictions of men's brain, such aftercandle to sit down to his meal, when the hours are just those wherein the mind is voice of a French soldier called some- readiest to yield to the power of illusion. thing like his name from the outside. Illusion or reality more startling, more He was himself a perfect master of that unaccountable by far than it? Whether language, as the “Soldat-du-train” who of the two was this? stood outside found to his great relief There entered at the curtain of his upon his first utterance of inquiry. tent the dead man, towards whom, in

The Frenchman held a mule by the some few minutes more, he should have bridle, and across the creature's back been showing the last sad kindnesses. lay something which looked like a The light fell full and clear upon his heavily filled parti-coloured sack. It was face. He took off his forage-cap as he a far otherwise ghastly burden. The came in. The broad white forehead body of an officer, stripped bare all but showed no longer any trace of the murthe trousers, the dark clothed legs hang- derous incrash of the ball which had ing one way, the fair skinned naked slain him. Into the poor dull glazed shoulders and arms the other, the face eyes the gleam had returned—could it towards the ground.

indeed be the gleam of returned life? “I was directed, mon officier, to bring Or do the eyes of ghosts gleam life-like this poor gentleman's corpse to you. so ? They say you were a friend of his-his “What made you send that Frenchname is Captain X- "

man with my corpse to me? At least, Even at that early stage of the cam he would insist that it was mine." ; paign such shocks had lost the startling “X- ! Good heaven! Can it be effect of novelty ; nevertheless, there you, indeed ?”. were few names among those of his “Who should it be? What ails you, friends and comrades which it could man? Why do you stare at me so ?” shock and grieve him more to hear pro- “I cannot say what ails me; but I nounced under such circumstances. The am surely under some strange delusion. light was fetched. He raised the poor It is not half an hour surely, since I body; then, with a sigh, let it once more saw you stretched lifeless across a mule's gently down. There was a small round back, with a rifle bullet between your hole in the very centre of the forehead, eyes. What can this mean? You are wbereat the rifle ball had darted into the not even wounded.” brain of his hapless friend.

“No, thank God ! nothing has touched He called an orderly, ånd directed me for this once ; but that French him to accompany the Frenchman soldier-did you then send him up, to the dead man's tent. He would indeed ?” himself soon follow and see to his “Indeed I did.” receiving a soldier's obsequies. His Hideous comico-tragic episode in the weariness and exhaustion were such as awful drama of war! They discovered byto render it imperatively necessary that and-by that their slain brother soldier he should first take his food, to which was no comrade of their own corps, but he returned, with what increased weight a brave officer of another arm. Neither at heart, who shall rightly tell ? It needs of them had known him personally, nor not that the tension of a man's nerves had they heard before that between him should have been strung tight by the and X- existed, in his lifetime, the hand of battle, for him to know, from most remarkable and close resemblancehis own experience, what is the strange, such an identity of feature as is rarely and awful, and weird feeling of the first seen save in twin brothers. Now, it has relaxation of them in the early after- struck me sometimes as I have turned hours of responsibility, danger, or im- over in my mind this strange but true

« ZurückWeiter »