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credit, if allowed at all, is short. During this time, the remuneration of labour fluctuates, more frequently to decline than rise. Can the unsparing imputation of waste and improvidence be just ? Can it with any fairness be generally pressed ? It is easy to complain that the poor labourer has funded nothing for the period of scarcity and age. He never could be but on the verge of want. He has hardly commanded the barest necessaries of life. Except for the strictest precaution he must have suffered the loss of roof and the dearth of bread. Accusation of such a kind betrays and destroys itself.
The absence of envy characterises, in a very singular manner, our poorer fellow-countrymen. It can only astonish us that they acquiesce in arrangements of society which do not seem to meditate their good. It might, perhaps, be proved, that their interest is consulted, but the argument would be slow and abstract. They wait not for it, it may be that they could not appreciate it,—they have already bowed to their lot. It was assuredly unjust for the Roman Poet* to
* “ Notante
Qui stupet in titulis, et imaginibus.” “ According to the verdict of the crowd whose fickleness thou well knowest,—who in their folly often confer honours on the unworthy, and in their misjudgment become slaves to a name : who are affected with strange amazement at inscriptions and statues.”---Horat : Satir : lib. i. 6.
asperse the people for those dispositions which generously accorded the honours which their civil superiors had grasped. Similar dispositions may we now witness. Our poor delight in eminence of worth and goodness. They murmur not at the establishment of claims which they could never share. They do reverence to the monuments on which they know their name never can be engraved.
And instead of deploring the independence of our working people, we should deprecate their servility more than the boldest stubbornness of mien. In this there may be an ill-directed spirit. Though it be strong it is controllable. It contains in it a capacity of greatness. But the independence which we would encourage is always properly modest and intelligent. It is the port of rectitude. It is the carriage of principle. It abhors the crooked and the mean. Let the artificer and the husbandman stand in the assurance and erectness of an important constituency. They are the essential strength of society. They are the brawny arms of the political body. They cannot be rent from the great system without its overthrow. Who are the labouring poor? Are they an excrescence, or a surplus, or an evil, of which we might rid ourselves ? Honour to whom honour! They are the bank of our wealth! They are the fulcrum of our power! If we reckon capitalists, money-changers, and land-owners at 1,306,757,—and the non-producing classes at 9,468,661, including women, infants, the sick and the infirm,—we have the great majority of the labouring, that is the producing, order, at no less a sum than 7,751,507. But are they only a mechanical momentum in the great progress of society? Let us not sneer at their mental influence on all. They do think, however penned upon the glebe, or imprisoned in the loom. Their intellectual nature, though feebly developed, cannot be extinguished. It is now, at least, earnestly awake. These deserve our respect. They glorify our country. They are the People! The Folk ! The Nation! Speak of Estates ! This is the Estate for which others merely can be named !
It is often made ground of complaint, that they who earn their bread by labour, are not now what they were. There are those who recall the reminiscences of distant times. They tell us of another state of things. Then the poor showed no desire of improvement. They were as easily driven as the herd. They believed all that was told them. They yielded to every claim which was demanded of them. Their minds were in the hand of a proprietor. Their souls were held by soccage and serfdom. They were virtually the subjects of purchase and transfer. Their cabins were rated as stalls, and their gardens as pastures. Beyond animal wants and appropriations and gambols, they were not to pass. That they no longer can be thus restrained, that higher prerogatives have been asserted by them, that they are not what too recently they were, gladly we concede. We rejoin as gladly that to such debase
ment they can never be reduced. Is it to be deplored? Ought they not to rise in the scale of freedom, thought, and religion ? Were they made for the rich or for themselves ? Are they the instruments of our convenience, or constituted to seek out their own happiness? Where society is just, these things go together : but it is an unworthy view which he must take, who can think that any fellow-man is born to wear his livery,—to cringe at his nod,—and drudge for his pleasure.
If any individual has a perfect title to the recognition and protection of his rights, it is the poor man. Poverty must be always at a disadvantage in every struggle. Let them be declared, nor he be blamed that he demands them. The freedom of labour and the freedom of combination are not more than sufficient equipoise to the weight of counter influences. Surely the manly vindication of his charter is as patriotic as when some tyranny is thrown down. Why may he not stand for his defence ? Is it not great in him to cast around him all the bulwarks of the law ? May he not be forgiven for a jealous, a morbid, intentness upon his rights? Do not their scantiness make them precious ? Is it not his solitary stake? Is it not his country's cause as truly as his own?
There is a benevolent, and there is an abasing, view of this large section of our people. It would not be easy to exculpate some, who have enounced their opinions, from the charge that they regard their poorer brethren as essentially inferior. They deal in cold contempt and lofty arrogance towards them. They look down upon them as a lower variety of the species, -as the vessels formed from a coarser clay. They are loud in their proclamations of destiny. These are born for labour! It is their only design and use ! We are little disposed to meet these opinions as serious. If serious they be, they only excite disgust. The family of the aristocrat acquire a grace of education and a care of fosterage, which the children of the rustic do not obtain : but is there not often deformity in the one contrasting with the beauty of the other ? Have not the most vigorous intellects, those which have distinguished a land and created an æra, sprung from the humbler ranks of life? And is it to be borne that, in this Country and beneath the shadow of its generous Constitution, any of our people shall be marked out as hopelessly, inexorably, doomed to menial toil ? Is it to be borne that some shall speak of others as created for their convenience and ease? Is it not the franchise of every man, if he have the opportunity and the ability, to exchange grosser for intellectual labour, a lower for a higher sphere? Is one of our race to be kept down ? The benevolent view of man is that which anticipates and attempts his mental and moral elevation. It mourns his present condition. It does not believe that he is always to traverse the same cycle of failure and disappointment. It cannot bear to think