Page images
PDF
EPUB

soon sick of it. When all was distributed, the lamentations and regrets were so loud, that Jupiter permitted each man to resume his own burden; which each gladly did, and so marched off infinitely more satisfied than when he came.

Now, we need not in these enlightened days pass through such an unpleasant ordeal, but we may derire a good lesson not to repine at our misfortunes or tv envy the happiness of others.

“The swelling of an outward fortune can
Create a prosperous--not a happy-man;
A peaceful conscience is the true content,

And wealth is but her golden ornament.” Having partially considered the quality and duty of labour, let us consider the quality and duty of wealth, and inquire what its possessors, the richer classes, give to the working classes in exchange for their labour. Now, whence and what is wealth ? It is the aggregate surplus of labour realised. We receive the raw commodity; we work it up

into form and shape; and we dispose of it to the consumer, whose payment in excess of the total cost of the material and the labour expended thereon, forms the wealth of the community, or, in other words, the profit of our labour economised by our skill and industry; and which in this country is computed by Lord Overstone to considerably exceed fifty millions per annum, after payment of all taxes. Such is the reward of educated industry. Contrast it with ignorant labour. The poor Indian has his cotton growing abundantly about his dwelling; but such are his ignorance and apathy, that although a little rice satisfies his daily wants,-although a penny or twopence per day will cover all his expenses, --still, he cannot compete with you in the markets of the world; and therefore, subsisting upon his own actual work ouly, and making no profit, his one talent remains without increase; that is, he consumes the value or squivalent of his labour, and therefore does not accu

mulate capital or wealth; and he thus remains poor because he has not learnt the way to acquire wealth. His poverty may be imputed to ignorance or misfortune; but in this country, where industry meets with so much encouragement, a man's abject poverty may, in far too many instances, be traced to improvidence, to extravagance, idleness, dissipation, or to some depravity.

To illustrate my assertion that “wealth is the aggregate surplus of labour realised," I will ask you to picture to yourselves a man saving some little of the value of his own labour. In time he employs & fellow-labourer, and saves a little from that; then a third, and a fourth, and so on. He soon economises manual labour, by employing some machinery, which represents the united labour of 100 or 1000 men: and thus the man who perhaps the first year saved only £1, the second £2, the third £4, may,

if he retains the same ratio, realise in twenty years—how much do you suppose? Why, £500,000 at least. And this has actually been accomplished by many men once as poor as any in this room.

I know one such, who in early life worked for 15s. a-week: he managed to lay by a little in the Savings Bank, which he so increased yearly that as the result of his industry and good conduct, he became an exceedingly wealthy man, and well deserving the fruits of his

labour, for he is generous and charitable in proportion to his wealth, and exceedingly beloved and esteemed by all who know him ;-wealth having but enlarged and rendered practical the noble qualities of his nature.

The history of Chess affords another example of multiples of the smallest beginnings. It is said the game was invented by an Eastern philosopher, who claimed from his sovereign in payment a grain of wheat for the first square, two grains for the second, and so on,--doubling the quantity for each square in succession. The monarch, astonished at a request so apparently simple, ordered a sack of wheat to be

brought, and the claim to be discharged. The sack was qnickly exhausted; and soon it became evident that all the corn and wealth of the kingdom would not suffice to meet the engagement entered into with the philosopher.

Almost all great results have had humble origin. Whence do we derive our extensive manufacturing knowledge-our great skill which produces the vast wealth of this kingdom ? and from what class of society? Why, from your own;—from such men as I have referred to. Stephenson, Watt, Arkwright, Dalton, Franklin, and many such contributors to England's greatness and glory, were essentially working men; men who laboured with their own hands; men who thoroughly understood their occupation, and having always an end in view, steadily, patiently, and perseveringly worked it out; men who profited by their labour, and laid by the profits of their industry for the benefit of their posterity. The descendants of such men having the advantage of superior education, enter upon another sphere of usefulness, and attain a higher rank in the social scale. The son of the cotton spinner became Prime Minister of England. The relative of the tea dealer and then banker, became the most wealthy Commoner and Peer of the Realm. And whether you look to the prond Peerage, the reverend Bishops, the learned Judges, the valiant officers of our armies, or to the front rank of any eminence,-you will find among the most notable of each, a near descendant of a working man. And such are not ungrateful to, or forgetful of, the class whence they sprung. For example: Sir R. Peel-a Tory by profession and by party-did not hesitate, even at a sacrifice of friends and supporters, to follow that course of duty which experience, and consideration towards the working classes, suggested to his conscience was the right one: I allude to his noble and successful endeavours in the Repeal of the Corn Laws. Such men return tenfold the value of the labour accumulated by their ancestors. Practically, in such cases, the talents entrusted to the father yield other ten talents in the blessings diffused by his heirs. Labour, therefore, economised, produces seed, the return and the fruits of which for future generations are incalculable.

What is the origin of our benevolent institutionsour richly-endowed hospitals for the sick-our comfortable almshouses for the old and infirm-our refuges for the destitute and the outcast-our happy homes for the fatherless and the widows-our quiet asylums for the unhappy in mind, body, or estateour public parks for the enjoyment and recreation of all classes ? Why, these noble institutions are founded with the grateful offerings of wealth, and are endowed and maintained by the employers or consumers of labour, or its equivalent;--they are blessings established for those who benefit by them, in return for the benefits derived from the labour of their ancestors. Thus have I endeavoured to shew that each class of society contributes to the welfare of the others; strengthening and consolidating the fabric of which you form the broad base and the corner stone, and of which our beloved Sovereign is the head,

As further reason for contentment, let us take another view of your condition, as compared with that of the working classes in other countries. We will rapidly travel over Europe, and proceed first to France--the most refined and the most polished of all nations; and yet, what a sad history she presents! But about half-a-century ago, the streets of her capital ran with the blood of her best citizens; the horrid engines of death could not satiate the monsters who ruled that lovely country; and her rivers were therefore polluted with the wholesale massacre of her people ;-and of so revolting and so barbarous a character, that the wild Indian with his scalping knife never committed such atrocities: and even now,

what is her condition? Why, one of mental slavery. The people are governed by a despotism so arbitrary and so oppressive, that no one dare openly express his opinions to his neighbour; and liberty is nearly crushed by the arrogant and usurping power which now rides triumphant over all puny efforts towards the recovery of its freedom. Wealth and dominion revel in their selfish gratifications; but the working classes are so over-burdened by the weight of taxes and impositions, that they are becoming demoralised and degenerate,-their energies paralysed, their industry stagnate. While we have increased in population-notwithstanding the extraordinary extent of emigration-during the last ten years, about 25 per cent.,-France has excepting to a very slight extent in some five or six large towns) decreased. While in England you see in every manufacturing village the sabstantial evidence of progressive wealth and comfort,-in France you would (with some few exceptions, as Paris and the chief cities) behold decaying habitations, grass growing in the streets of even important towns, absence of all sewerage, filth of every description running down the open channels of the streets; no symptoms of cleanliness, and no active boards of health benevolently forcing away the pestilential matters and vapours injurious to life. All presents an unprogressive aspect, as if improvement was arrested, energy departed, and apathy predominant. And then look to Spain, Portugal, and Italy -countries swarming with beggars and banditti. In Russia, the working classes are slaves to the nobles. In Germany, liberty is gradually unfolding her banner. Austria still rules with the iron hand the fair plains of Lombardy, but so oppressively and so exactingly, that at this moment Freedom is awakening, and will soon shake off the chains which bind her. Sardinia is aroused from her lethargy, and, as you are aware, lately sent 10,000 of her sons to support the noble cause in the Crimea ; and although there

« EelmineJätka »