« PreviousContinue »
There is this excuse to be urged for the past conduct of manufacturers--that at one time trade was to some extent despised, and to partake in it, or to have risen from the trading class, was considered derogatory. The natural effort of the successful trader or manufacturer was therefore to have as little connection as possible with his business, and to show that in elegance of taste and in power to promote public objects he was no inferior to the great landlord who affected to despise him. Happily the necessity of vindicating the respect due to honest industry, not the less honourable because successful exists no longer, and with it should cease the habits which the manufacturers have acquired of spending their profits away from the place where they make them. You will even see a great factory owner, who pinches his workmen's wages to the lowest figure, pass his evenings and holidays on some country estate, where he acts the charitable and peasant-relieving land-owner. But let him turn his benevolence and liberality upon his factory, and then we should hear less of socialism, and the demoralisation of money-making, and the hard-heartedness of capitalists. Instead of the great employer subscribing his hundreds to some huge charitable institution, where the money is distributed by grudging and unfeeling officials, who make their living by dispensing charity, let him take his factory people down to his country estate for a week's holiday at a time, or establish at least a few cottages for those who are sick and need change of air, or are too old to work, or are thrown out of employment by a temporary slackness of work, and then our hospitals would be less full, our population more happy, our moneyedmen more respected, and the hated governmental interference less necessary to be invoked.
There is no country in the world where this relation between employer and employed could be so easily introduced as in England, because already we have the combination, unknown elsewhere, of the characters of seigneur and man of business in the same men ; we want but one step further, that these same men should not show themselves different in the factory and in their country estates. Is it too sanguine to hope that that step may soon be taken, and that the factory owner, who neglects the happiness of his work-people, will become in public estimation even more contemptible than an absentee Irish landlord of the last generation ?
The objector may say, that this plan would destroy the independence of the work-people, and that to their independence their happiness is necessary.
But what is meant by this word independence? We are not proposing that workmen should enter into a contract with their employer to serve him for evermore, and in return that the master should be bound, like the old feudal noble, to provide a home for the workman, aid for his sickness, a pension for his old age, and provision for his widow and infant children ; though it may be doubted whether such reciprocity of duties were likely to produce more or so much unhappiness as what arises from the present system *; but our proposition is, that as matter of spontaneous kindness, the master should do all those things for men who have served him well, and have responded to his former acts of kindness. The dependence of the factory man at the present day is greater
* “So far from considering their condition of leibeigenschaft (serfdom) very miserable, there was great repugnance and opposition, rising almost to revolt among them (the German proletaries), to its abolition in the territories in which it was most rigorous — in Holstein and Schleswig, and other parts of the north of Germany. Labour is a kind of money in the hands of the labouring man, and they saw no advantage, but the contrary, in changing this money into coin to be paid to their masters for rent, and to make provision themselves for sickness, old age, their widows and infants in case of death, and against bad crops and the like; when they had the same land, and subsistence, and a provision made for them against future wants and casualties, much more certain by paying their labour direct to their masters. They were not perhaps so very wrong in their reasoning.”—Laing, Notes on the German Catholic Church, p. 125.
than ever was the dependence of the serf; the difference is, that the latter was dependent on a particular noble, from whom, however, he could escape by fleeing to towns, or enlisting in the king's service; while the former is dependent on a class, a dependence from which there is no escape. The man who can do nothing but make a sixth portion of a pin, may change service from one pinmaker to another; but he cannot without capital, youth, and more than common intelligence learn a new manufacture. He cannot make a single object of his own proper work, he can only work in concert with others, when employed by a capitalist who can pay the gang ; just as a horse trained to double harness only, and incapable of being taught to go in single harness, or be ridden, could never be used unless some one provided him a fellow. As for enlistment, the great resource of adventurous peasants, that is not open to the meagre, illdeveloped, siekly artisan, whom the recruiting serjeant always rejects, if he can find a peasant instead ; and as for emigration, the healthy bodies and stout muscles of agriculturists, not the soft hands and bent frames of the weaver and the spinner, are the necessities for success as colonists. This dependence upon a class of manufacturers who regulate the number they employ according to the changing prosperity of trade, leads to those alternations between comparative wealth and poverty that are found to be in all countries the most fertile sources of unhappiness and crime It is established that the districts in which the alternations between poverty and wealth are greatest, and not the districts of settled poverty, are the districts of most crime *; and in this case crime and unhappiness are joint effects of a common cause. If the rich manufacturer would in his charity, if not as a duty, relieve against these alternations, unhappiness would be diminished and crime checked.
• Quetelet, Sur l'Homme, ii. 199, 877
Now, if without reducing a workman's power to change his master, these inducements of kindness tempted him to remain in the same service, and a relationship, other than that of mere hire, were established, there would be
perhaps more dependence on an individual, but a less grating dependence on a class, or on markets; and who will say that the former is not the more happy kind of dependence than the latter? In affection and respect, they might soon lose the idea of dependence, - an idea, which we have little reason to suppose was very present to the mind of the peasant of the middle ages. *
But I may not talk further of an endless theme. My definition of happiness explains how it is that there are so many different definitions of abstract happiness, and all of them true in the concrete. One man will tell you happiness consists in pleasure, another in work, a third in health, a fourth in domestic affections. Each believing it to consist in that in which he is most deficient, and therefore knows would be most conducive to his tranquillity, and thus unconsciously bearing his tribute of testimony to the abstract proposition, that perfect happiness consists in the tranquillity produced by an equal development and equal exercise of the functions of the mind and body. And so in nations, happiness is never to be provided for two nations in the same manner; for as the equilibrium is differently distributed, so it requires to be righted in a different manner. But let the statesman first embrace the idea that happiness is thus produced, and then he will hardly fail to find out in his own nation where and how
*“N'ayant point conçu l'idée d'un autre état social que le sien, n'imaginant pas qu'il&ut j'amais s'égaler à ses chefs, le peuple recevait leurs bienfaits, et ne discutait point leurs droits. Il les aimait lorsqu'ils étaient clémens et justes, et se soumettait sans peine et sans bassesse à leurs rigueurs, comme à des maux inévitables que lui envoyait le bras de Dieu. L'usage et les meurs avaient d'ailleurs établi des bornes à la tyrannie, et fondé une sorte de droit au milieu même de la force."De Tocqueville, Dém. en Amér. i. 13.
the equilibrium is disturbed ; and above all, let English statesmen study well the causes of English unhappiness and alleviate them without changing the forms of English society. If they cannot or will not do so in time, the matter will be taken out of their hands, and after troubles and sorrows innumerable, will be established among the English that form of society which is found on the continent of Europe the most useful for populations not destitute of arts and ingenuity. Many thousands of our fellow-countrymen would find that a happy day which divided the soil of England among peasant-proprietors. Each man living upon the produce of his field, and the fruit of his varied industry, would look back with no regret to the days when he toiled by the furnaces, or bent over his master's loom from the rising to the setting sun; and I cannot doubt that under such a régime a greater number of persons would enjoy a rational happiness than under the present; but the commerce, the wealth, the intellectual activity of the country, and its position among the nations would no longer be maintained. We should resemble, as to the distribution of property, the Belgians, the Swiss, the Norwegians, and still more the French. If this is not a consummation which people desire, let them take heed and bestir themselves, not by noisy meetings and demonstrations, but by each working quietly and unostentatiously in his own sphere.