BY SAMUEL SMILES,
"Be thrifty, but not covetous; therefore give Thy need, thine honour, and thy friend his due, Never was scraper brave man. Get to live, Then live, and use it; else it is not true That thou hast gotten. Surely use alone Make money not a contemptible stone." GEORGE HERBERT.
"To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile, Assiduous wait upon her; And gather gear by ev'ry wile That's justify'd by Honour: Not for to hide it in a hedge, Not for a train attendant; But for the glorious privilege Of being Independent." ROBERT BURNS.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET. 1892.
Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
This book is intended as a sequel to "Self-Help," and "Character." It might, indeed, have appeared as an introduction to these volumes; for Thrift is the basis of Self-Help, and the foundation of much that is excellent in Character.
The author has already referred to the Use and Abuse of Money; but the lesson is worthy of being repeated and enforced. As he has already observed,—Some of the finest qualities of human nature are intimately related to the right use of money; such as generosity, honesty, justice, and self-denial; as well as the practical virtues of economy and providence. On the other hand, there are their counterparts of avarice, fraud, injustice, and selfishness, as displayed by the inordinate lovers of gain; and the vices of thoughtlessness, extravagance, and improvidence, on the part of those who misuse and abuse the means entrusted to them.
Sir Henry Taylor has observed that "industry must take an interest in its own fruits, and God has appointed that the mass of mankind shall be moved by this interest, and have their daily labour sweetened by it." The earnings and savings of industry should be intelligent for a purpose beyond mere earnings and savings. We do not work and strive for ourselves alone, but for the benefit of those who dependent upon us. Industry must know how to earn, how to spend, and how to save. The man who knows, like St. Paul, how to spare and how to abound, has a great knowledge.
Every man is bound to do what he can to elevate his social state, and to secure his independence. For this purpose he must spare from his means in order to be independent in his condition. Industry enables men to earn their living; it should also enable them to learn to live. Independence can only be established by the exercise of forethought, prudence, frugality, and self-denial. To be just as well as generous, men must deny themselves. The essence of generosity is self-sacrifice.
The object of this book is to induce men to employ their means for worthy purposes, and not to waste them upon selfish indulgences. Many enemies have to be encountered in accomplishing this object. There are idleness, thoughtlessness, vanity, vice, intemperance. The last is the worst enemy of all. Numerous cases are cited in the course of the following book, which show that one of the best methods of abating the Curse of Drink, is to induce old and young to practise the virtue of Thrift.
Much of this book was written, and some of it published, years ago; but an attack of paralysis, which compelled the author to give up writing for some time, has delayed its appearance until now. For much of the information recently received, he is indebted to Edward Crossley, Esq., Mayor of Halifax; Edward Akroyd, Esq., Halifax; George Chetwynd, Esq., General Post Office; S.A. Nichols, Esq., Over Darwen; Jeremiah Head, Esq., Middlesborough; Charles W. Sikes, Esq., Huddersfield: and numerous other correspondents in Durham, Renfrewshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire, and South Wales.
The author trusts that the book will prove useful and helpful towards the purpose for which it is intended.
London, November, 1875.
Private economy—Useful labours—Our birthright—Results of labour—Necessity for labour—Industry and intellect—Thrift and civilization—Thrifty industry—Thrifty economy. Pages 1—10
HABITS OF THRIFT.
Workmen and capital—Habits of economy—Self-indulgence—Results of thriftlessness—Uses of saved money—Extravagant living—Bargain-buying—Thrift and unthrift—Johnson on economy—Self-respect—Self-help—Uncertainty of life—Laws of mortality—Will nobody help us?—Prosperous times the least prosperous—National prosperity—Moral independence. Pages 11—29
Misery and wealth—The uncivilized—The East End—Edward Denison—Thrift in Guernsey—Improvidence and misery—Social Degradation—Fatalism of improvidence—Self-taxation—Slowness of progress. Pages 30—40
MEANS OF SAVING.
Earnings of operatives—Colliers and iron-workers—Earnings of colliers—The revellers—Lord Elcho and the colliers—High wages and heavy losses—High wages and drink—Sensual indulgence—Indifference to well-being—Hugh Miller's experience—Mr. Roebuck's advice—Survival of slavery—Extinction of slavery—Power unexercised—Earnings and character—Ignorance is power—Results of ignorance—Increase of knowledge—Education not enough—Words of Sir Arthur Helps—Divine uses of knowledge—Public school education—Words of William Felkin. Pages 41—64
EXAMPLES OF THRIFT.
Spirit of order—Examples of economy—David Hume—Rev. Robert Walker—Self-application—Distinguished miners—Geo. Stephenson—James Watt—Working for independence—Working for higher things—Work and culture—Richardson and Gregory—Results of application—Distinguished artists—Canova and Lough—John Lough—Lough's success—Words of Lord Derby—James Nasmyth—Bridgewater foundry—Advice to young men. Pages 65—88
METHODS OF ECONOMY.
Keeping regular account—Generosity and forethought—Prudent economy—A dignity in saving—Self-improvement—Causes of failure—The price of success—Power of combining—Principle of association—Savings of capital—Loss by strikes—Money thrown away—Industrial societies—Co-operative companies—Equitable pioneers—Darwen co-operatives—Spread of co-operation—Thrift conservative—Uses of investments in building societies. Pages 89—109
ECONOMY IN LIFE ASSURANCE.
Co-operation in assurance—Improvidence cruel—Compensation of assurance—Benefit societies—French and Belgian thrift—Workmen's societies—Manchester Unity—Duty and Dinners—Low rates of contribution—Failure of friendly societies—Improvement by experience—Defects will disappear. Pages 110—122
Direct saving—Uses of saved money—Beginnings of savings banks—Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell—Establishment of savings banks—Classes of Depositors—Magic of drill—Military savings banks—Savings of soldiers—Soldiers abroad—Deposits in savings banks—Savings at Bilston—Savings of working men—Penny banks—Charles W. Sikes—Mechanics' institute banks—The poor man's purse—Depositors in penny banks—They cultivate prudent habits—Influence of women—Early lessons in thrift—Belgian Schools—Facilities for saving—Extension of savings banks—Money order offices—Post office savings banks—Charles W. Sikes—Lessons of thrift—Mechanics' savings banks—Savings of artizans—Savings in Preston. Pages 123—158
Luck and labour—Neglect of little things—"It will do!"—Spending of pennies—The thrifty woman—A helpful wife—A man's daily life—The two workmen—Rights and habits—Influence of the wife—A penny a day—The power of a penny—Joseph Baxendale—Pickford and Co.—Roads and Railways—Business maxims. Pages 159—178
MASTERS AND MEN.
Want of sympathy—Masters and servants—Christian sympathy—Competition—What capital represents—Workmen and employers—The Ashworths—New Eagley Mills—Improved workpeople—Public spirit of manufacturers—Mr. Lister of Bradford—Mr. Foster's speech—Great men wise savers—Sir Titus Salt—Saltaire—Its institutions—Music and sobriety—Mr. Akroyd, Halifax—Yorkshire penny bank—Origin of the bank—How to help the poor—Saving helps sobriety—Drunkenness put down—"Childish work"—Penny banks. Pages 179—204
THE CROSSLEYS—MASTERS AND MEN (CONTINUED).
John Crossley—Martha Crossley—A courtship begun—A courtship concluded—John Crossley begins business—Dean Clough Mill—The Crossley family—Sir Francis Crossley—Martha Crossley's vow—Halifax People's Park—Martha's vow fulfilled—Co-operation of colliers—Partnership of industry—Other co-operative schemes—Jeremiah Head—Newport rolling mills—Bonuses to workmen—Mr. Carlyle's letter—A contrast—A hundred years ago—Popular amusements—Improvement of manners—English mechanics and workmen—English engineers and miners—Swiftness of machinery—Foreign workmen—Provident habits of foreigners. Pages 205—232
LIVING BEYOND THE MEANS.
Hypocrisy and debt—Conventionalism—Keeping up appearances—Exclusive circles—Women and exclusiveness—Women and extravagance—Running into debt—The temptation of shopkeepers—Temptations to crime—How crime is committed—Love of dress—Gents—Reckless expenditure—Knowledge of Arithmetic—Marriage—Happy tempers—Responsibilities of marriage—Marriage not a lottery—The man who couldn't say "No"—The courage to say "No"—"Respectable" funerals—Funeral extravagance—John Wesley's will—Funeral reform. Pages 233—258
Greatness and debt—Seedy side of debt—Running up bills—Loan clubs—Genius and debt—Fox and Sheridan—Sheridan's debts—Lamartine—Webster—Debts of men of science—Debts of artists—Italian artists—Haydon—The old poets—Savage and Johnson—Steele and Goldsmith—Goldsmith's debts—Goldsmith's advice—Byron's debts—The burden of debt—Burns and Sydney Smith—De Foe and Southey—Southey and Scott—Scott's debts and labours—Great poor men—Johnson's advice—Genius and debt—Literary men. Pages 259—285
RICHES AND CHARITY.
Helping the helpless—Dr. Donne—Rich people—Love of gold—Eagerness to be rich—Riches and poverty—Riches in old age—Riches no claim to distinction—Democrats and riches—Saladin the great—Don Jose de Salamanca—Compensations of poverty—Honest poverty—Poverty and happiness—Charity—Evils of money-giving—Philanthropy and charity—Rich people's wills—Stephen Girard—Thomas Guy—Educational charities—Peabody's benefaction—Benefactors of the poor—The Navvy's Home. Pages 286—314
Healthy existence—Necessity for pure air—The fever tax—The Arcadians—The rural poor—Influence of the home—Unhealthy homes—Health and drunkenness—Wholesome dwellings—Edwin Chadwick—Expectancy of life—The poor laws—The sanitary idea—The sanitary inquiry—Sanitary commission—Sanitary science—Results of uncleanness—Losses by ill-health—That terrible Nobody!—Home reform—Domestic improvement—Cleanliness—Dirt and immorality—Worship in washing—Knowledge of physiology—Domestic economy—English cookery—Morals and cookery—Work for ladies—Joseph Corbet's story. Pages 315—353
THE ART OF LIVING.
Art of living exemplified—Taste an economist—Contrasts in cottage life—Difference in workmen—Living at home—Home and comfort—Comfortable people—Beneficence of house thrift—Organization and method—Industry and punctuality—Management of temper—Good manners—Habitual politeness—French manners—Happiness in good manners—Amusement—Relaxation—Influence of music—Household elegance—Elegance of flowers—Common enjoyments—Portraits of great men—Art at home—Final art of living. Pages 358—378
A grasshopper, half starved with cold and hunger, came to a well-stored beehive at the approach of winter, and humbly begged the bees to relieve his wants with a few drops of honey.
One of the bees asked him how he had spent his time all the summer, and why he had not laid up a store of food like them.
"Truly." said he, "I spent my time very merrily, in drinking, dancing, and singing, and never once thought of winter."
"Our plan is very different," said the bee; "we work hard in the summer, to lay by a store of food against the season when we foresee we shall want it; but those who do nothing but drink, and dance, and sing in the summer, must expect to starve in the winter."
"Not what I have, but what I do, is my kingdom."—Carlyle.
"Productive industry is the only capital which enriches a people, and spreads national prosperity and well-being. In all labour there is profit, says Solomon. What is the science of Political Economy, but a dull sermon on this text?"—Samuel Laing.
"God provides the good things of the world to serve the needs of nature, by the labours of the ploughman, the skill and pains of the artizan, and the dangers and traffic of the merchant.... The idle person is like one that is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth: like a vermin or a wolf, when their time comes they die and perish, and in the meantime do no good."—Jeremy Taylor.
"For the structure that we raise, Time is with materials filled; Our to-days and yesterdays Are the blocks with which we build."—Longfellow.
* * * * *
Thrift began with civilization. It began when men found it necessary to provide for to-morrow, as well as for to-day. It began long before money was invented.
Thrift means private economy. It includes domestic economy, as well as the order and management of a family.
While it is the object of Private Economy to create and promote the well-being of individuals, it is the object of Political Economy to create and increase the wealth of nations.
Private and public wealth have the same origin. Wealth is obtained by labour; it is preserved by savings and accumulations; and it is increased by diligence and perseverance.
It is the savings of individuals which compose the wealth—in other words, the well-being—of every nation. On the other hand, it is the wastefulness of individuals which occasions the impoverishment of states. So that every thrifty person may be regarded as a public benefactor, and every thriftless person as a public enemy.
There is no dispute as to the necessity for Private Economy. Everybody admits it, and recommends it. But with respect to Political Economy, there are numerous discussions,—for instance, as to the distribution of capital, the accumulations of property, the incidence of taxation, the Poor Laws, and other subjects,—into which we do not propose to enter. The subject of Private Economy, of Thrift, is quite sufficient by itself to occupy the pages of this book.
Economy is not a natural instinct, but the growth of experience, example, and forethought. It is also the result of education and intelligence. It is only when men become wise and thoughtful that they become frugal. Hence the best means of making men and women provident is to make them wise.
Prodigality is much more natural to man than thrift. The savage is the greatest of spendthrifts, for he has no forethought, no to-morrow. The prehistoric man saved nothing. He lived in caves, or in hollows of the ground covered with branches. He subsisted on shellfish which he picked up on the seashore, or upon hips and haws which he gathered in the woods. He killed animals with stones. He lay in wait for them, or ran them down on foot. Then he learnt to use stones as tools; making stone arrow-heads and spear-points, thereby utilizing his labour, and killing birds and animals more quickly.
The original savage knew nothing of agriculture. It was only in comparatively recent times that men gathered seeds for food, and saved a portion of them for next year's crop. When minerals were discovered, and fire was applied to them, and the minerals were smelted into metal, man made an immense stride. He could then fabricate hard tools, chisel stone, build houses, and proceed by unwearying industry to devise the manifold means and agencies of civilization.
The dweller by the ocean burnt a hollow in a felled tree, launched it, went to sea in it, and fished for food. The hollowed tree became a boat, held together with iron nails. The boat became a galley, a ship, a paddle-boat, a screw steamer, and the world was opened up for colonization and civilization.
Man would have continued uncivilized, but for the results of the useful labours of those who preceded him. The soil was reclaimed by his predecessors, and made to grow food for human uses. They invented tools and fabrics, and we reap the useful results. They discovered art and science, and we succeed to the useful effects of their labours.
All nature teaches that no good thing which has once been done passes utterly away. The living are ever reminded of the buried millions who have worked and won before them. The handicraft and skill displayed in the buildings and sculptures of the long-lost cities of Nineveh, Babylon, and Troy, have descended to the present time. In nature's economy, no human labour is altogether lost. Some remnant of useful effect continues to reward the race, if not the individual.
The mere material wealth bequeathed to us by our forefathers forms but an insignificant item in the sum of our inheritance. Our birthright is made up of something far more imperishable. It consists of the sum of the useful effects of human skill and labour. These effects were not transmitted by learning, but by teaching and example. One generation taught another, and thus art and handicraft, the knowledge of mechanical appliances and materials, continued to be preserved. The labours and efforts of former generations were thus transmitted by father to son; and they continue to form the natural heritage of the human race—one of the most important instruments of civilization.
Our birthright, therefore, consists in the useful effects of the labours of our forefathers; but we cannot enjoy them unless we ourselves take part in the work. All must labour, either with hand or head. Without work, life is worthless; it becomes a mere state of moral coma. We do not mean merely physical work. There is a great deal of higher work—the work of action and endurance, of trial and patience, of enterprise and philanthropy, of spreading truth and civilization, of diminishing suffering and relieving the poor, of helping the weak, and enabling them to help themselves.
"A noble heart," says Barrow, "will disdain to subsist, like a drone, upon others' labours; like a vermin to filch its food out of the public granary; or, like a shark, to prey upon the lesser fry; but it will rather outdo his private obligations to other men's care and toil, by considerable service and beneficence to the public; for there is no calling of any sort, from the sceptre to the spade, the management whereof, with any good success, any credit, any satisfaction, doth not demand much work of the head, or of the hands, or of both."
Labour is not only a necessity, but it is also a pleasure. What would otherwise be a curse, by the constitution of our physical system becomes a blessing. Our life is a conflict with nature in some respects, but it is also a co-operation with nature in others. The sun, the air, and the earth are constantly abstracting from us our vital forces. Hence we eat and drink for nourishment, and clothe ourselves for warmth.
Nature works with us. She provides the earth which we furrow; she grows and ripens the seeds that we sow and gather. She furnishes, with the help of human labour, the wool that we spin and the food that we eat. And it ought never to be forgotten, that however rich or poor we may be, all that we eat, all that we are clothed with, all that shelters us, from the palace to the cottage, is the result of labour.
Men co-operate with each other for the mutual sustenance of all. The husbandman tills the ground and provides food; the manufacturer weaves tissues, which the tailor and seamstress make into clothes; the mason and the bricklayer build the houses in which we enjoy household life. Numbers of workmen thus contribute and help to create the general result.
Labour and skill applied to the vulgarest things invest them at once with precious value. Labour is indeed the life of humanity; take it away, banish it, and the race of Adam were at once stricken with death. "He that will not work," said St. Paul, "neither shall he eat;" and the apostle glorified himself in that he had laboured with his own hands, and had not been chargeable to any man.
There is a well-known story of an old farmer calling his three idle sons around him when on his deathbed, to impart to them an important secret. "My sons," said he, "a great treasure lies hid in the estate which I am about to leave to you." The old man gasped. "Where is it hid?" exclaimed the sons in a breath. "I am about to tell you," said the old man; "you will have to dig for it——" but his breath failed him before he could impart the weighty secret; and he died. Forthwith the sons set to work with spade and mattock upon the long neglected fields, and they turned up every sod and clod upon the estate. They discovered no treasure, but they learnt to work; and when fields were sown, and the harvests came, lo! the yield was prodigious, in consequence of the thorough tillage which they had undergone. Then it was that they discovered the treasure concealed in the estate, of which their wise old father had advised them.
Labour is at once a burden, a chastisement, an honour, and a pleasure. It may be identified with poverty, but there is also glory in it. It bears witness, at the same time, to our natural wants and to our manifold needs. What were man, what were life, what were civilization, without labour? All that is great in man comes of labour;—greatness in art, in literature, in science. Knowledge—"the wing wherewith we fly to heaven"—is only acquired through labour. Genius is but a capability of labouring intensely: it is the power of making great and sustained efforts. Labour may be a chastisement, but it is indeed a glorious one. It is worship, duty, praise, and immortality,—for those who labour with the highest aims, and for the purest purposes.
There are many who murmur and complain at the law of labour under which we live, without reflecting that obedience to it is not only in conformity with the Divine will, but also necessary for the development of intelligence, and for the thorough enjoyment of our common nature. Of all wretched men, surely the idle are the most so;—those whose life is barren of utility, who have nothing to do except to gratify their senses. Are not such men the most querulous, miserable, and dissatisfied of all, constantly in a state of ennui, alike useless to themselves and to others—mere cumberers of the earth, who when removed are missed by none, and whom none regret? Most wretched and ignoble lot, indeed, is the lot of the idlers.
Who have helped the world onward so much as the workers; men who have had to work for necessity or from choice? All that we call progress—civilization, well-being, and prosperity—depends upon industry, diligently applied,—from the culture of a barley-stalk, to the construction of a steamship,—from the stitching of a collar, to the sculpturing of "the statue that enchants the world."
All useful and beautiful thoughts, in like manner, are the issue of labour, of study, of observation, of research, of diligent elaboration. The noblest poem cannot be elaborated, and send down its undying strains into the future, without steady and painstaking labour. No great work has ever been done "at a heat." It is the result of repeated efforts, and often of many failures. One generation begins, and another continues—the present co-operating with the past. Thus, the Parthenon began with a mud-hut; the Last Judgment with a few scratches on the sand. It is the same with individuals of the race; they begin with abortive efforts, which, by means of perseverance, lead to successful issues.
The history of industry is uniform in the character of its illustrations. Industry enables the poorest man to achieve honour, if not distinction. The greatest names in the history of art, literature, and science, are those of labouring men. A working instrument-maker gave us the steam-engine; a barber, the spinning-machine; a weaver, the mule; a pitman perfected the locomotive;—and working men of all grades have, one after another, added to the triumphs of mechanical skill.
By the working man, we do not mean merely the man who labours with his muscles and sinews. A horse can do this. But he is pre-eminently the working man who works with his brain also, and whose whole physical system is under the influence of his higher faculties. The man who paints a picture, who writes a book, who makes a law, who creates a poem, is a working man of the highest order,—not so necessary to the physical sustainment of the community as the ploughman or the shepherd; but not less important as providing for society its highest intellectual nourishment.
Having said so much of the importance and the necessity of industry, let us see what uses are made of the advantages derivable from it. It is clear that man would have continued uncivilized but for the accumulations of savings made by his forefathers,—the savings of skill, of art, of invention, and of intellectual culture.
It is the savings of the world that have made the civilization of the world. Savings are the result of labour; and it is only when labourers begin to save, that the results of civilization accumulate. We have said that thrift began with civilization: we might almost have said that thrift produced civilization. Thrift produces capital; and capital is the conserved result of labour. The capitalist is merely a man who does not spend all that is earned by work.
But thrift is not a natural instinct. It is an acquired principle of conduct. It involves self-denial—the denial of present enjoyment for future, good—the subordination of animal appetite to reason, forethought, and prudence. It works for to-day, but also provides for to-morrow. It invests the capital it has saved, and makes provision for the future.
"Man's right of seeing the future," says Mr. Edward Denison, "which is conferred on him by reason, has attached to it the duty of providing for that future; and our language bears witness to this truth by using, as expressive of active precaution against future want, a word which in its radical meaning implies only a passive foreknowledge of the same. Whenever we speak of the virtue of providence, we assume that forewarned is fore-armed, To know the future is no virtue, but it is the greatest of virtues to prepare for it."
[Footnote 1: Letters of the late Edward Denison. p. 240.]
But a large proportion of men do not provide for the future. They do not remember the past. They think only of the present. They preserve nothing. They spend all that they earn. They do not provide for themselves: they do not provide for their families. They may make high wages, but eat and drink the whole of what they earn. Such people are constantly poor, and hanging on the verge of destitution.
It is the same with nations. The nations which consume all that they produce, without leaving a store for future production, have no capital. Like thriftless individuals, they live from hand to mouth, and are always poor and miserable. Nations that have no capital, have no commerce. They have no accumulations to dispose of; hence they have no ships, no sailors, no docks, no harbours, no canals, and no railways. Thrifty industry lies at the root of the civilization of the world.
Look at Spain. There, the richest soil is the least productive. Along the banks of the Guadalquiver, where once twelve thousand villages existed, there are now not eight hundred; and they are full of beggars. A Spanish proverb says, "El cielo y suelo es bueno, el entresuelo malo"—The sky is good, the earth is good; that only is bad which lies between the sky and the earth. Continuous effort, or patient labour, is for the Spaniard an insupportable thing. Half through indolence, half through pride, he cannot bend to work. A Spaniard will blush to work; he will not blush to beg!
[Footnote 2: EUGENE POITOU—Spain and its People. pp. 184—188.]
It is in this way that society mainly consists of two classes—the savers and the wasters, the provident and the improvident, the thrifty and the thriftless, the Haves and the Have-nots. The men who economize by means of labour become the owners of capital which sets other labour in motion. Capital accumulates in their hands, and they employ other labourers to work for them. Thus trade and commerce begin.
The thrifty build houses, warehouses, and mills. They fit manufactories with tools and machines. They build ships, and send them to various parts of the world. They put their capital together, and build railroads, harbours, and docks. They open up mines of coal, iron, and copper; and erect pumping engines to keep them clear of water. They employ labourers to work the mines, and thus give rise to an immense amount of employment.
All this is the result of thrift. It is the result of economizing money, and employing it for beneficial purposes. The thriftless man has no share in the progress of the world. He spends all that he gets, and can give no help to anybody. No matter how much money he makes, his position is not in any respect raised. He husbands none of his resources. He is always calling for help. He is, in fact, the born thrall and slave of the thrifty.
HABITS OF THRIFT.
"Die Hauptsache ist dass man lerne sich selbst zu beherrschen." [The great matter is to learn to rule oneself.]—Goethe.
"Most men work for the present, a few for the future. The wise work for both—for the future in the present, and for the present in the future."—Guesses at Truth.
"The secret of all success is to know how to deny yourself.... If you once learn to get the whip-hand of yourself, that is the best educator. Prove to me that you can control yourself, and I'll say you're an educated man; and without this, all other education is good for next to nothing."—Mrs. Oliphant.
"All the world cries, 'Where is the man who will save us? We want a man! Don't look so far for this man. You have him at hand. This man—it is you, it is I, it is each one of us! ... How to constitute oneself a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it."—Alexandre Dumas.
Competence and comfort lie within the reach of most people, were they to take the adequate means to secure and enjoy them. Men who are paid good wages might also become capitalists, and take their fair share in the improvement and well-being of the world. But it is only by the exercise of labour, energy, honesty, and thrift, that they can advance their own position or that of their class.
Society at present suffers far more from waste of money than from want of money. It is easier to make money than to know how to spend it. It is not what a man gets that constitutes his wealth, but his manner of spending and economizing. And when a man obtains by his labour more than enough for his personal and family wants, and can lay by a little store of savings besides, he unquestionably possesses the elements of social well-being. The savings may amount to little, but they may be sufficient to make him independent.
There is no reason why the highly-paid workman of to-day may not save a store of capital. It is merely a matter of self-denial and private economy. Indeed, the principal industrial leaders of to-day consist, for the most part, of men who have sprung directly from the ranks. It is the accumulation of experience and skill that makes the difference between the workman and the no-workman; and it depends upon the workman himself whether he will save his capital or waste it. If he save it, he will always find that he has sufficient opportunities for employing it profitably and usefully.
"When I was down in Lancashire the other day," said Mr. Cobden to his fellow-townsmen at Midhurst, "I visited a mill, in company with some other gentlemen, and that mill belonged to a person whose real name I will not mention, but whom for the present purpose I will call Mr. Smith. There could not have been less than three or four thousand persons engaged in this mill when it was at work, and there were seven hundred power-looms under one roof. As we were coming away, one of the friends who accompanied me patted the owner of the mill on the shoulder, and with that frank and manly familiarity which rather distinguishes the Lancashire race, he said, 'Mr. Smith was a working man himself twenty-five years ago, and he owes all this entirely to his own industry and frugality.' To which Mr. Smith immediately replied, in the same frank and good-humoured manner, 'Nay, I do not owe it all to myself; I married a wife with a fortune; for she was earning 9s 6d. a week as a weaver at the power-loom, when she married me.'"
Thrift of Time is equal to thrift of money. Franklin said, "Time is gold." If one wishes to earn money, it may be done by the proper use of time. But time may also be spent in doing many good and noble actions. It may be spent in learning, in study, in art, in science, in literature. Time can be economized by system. System is an arrangement to secure certain ends, so that no time may be lost in accomplishing them. Every business man must be systematic and orderly. So must every housewife. There must be a place for everything, and everything in its place. There must also be a time for everything, and everything must be done in time.
It is not necessary to show that economy is useful. Nobody denies that thrift may be practised. We see numerous examples of it. What many men have already done, all other men may do. Nor is thrift a painful virtue. On the contrary, it enables us to avoid much contempt and many indignities. It requires us to deny ourselves, but not to abstain from any proper enjoyment. It provides many honest pleasures, of which thriftlessness and extravagance deprive us.
Let no man say that he cannot economize. There are few persons who could not contrive to save a few shillings weekly. In twenty years, three shillings saved weekly would amount to two hundred and forty pounds; and in ten years more, by addition of interest, to four hundred and twenty pounds. Some may say that they cannot save nearly so much. Well! begin with two shillings, one shilling, or even sixpence. Begin somewhere; but, at all events, make a beginning. Sixpence a week, deposited in the savings bank, will amount to forty pounds in twenty years, and seventy pounds in thirty years. It is the habit of economizing and denying oneself that needs to be formed.
Thrift does not require superior courage, nor superior intellect, nor any superhuman virtue. It merely requires common sense, and the power of resisting selfish enjoyments. In fact, thrift is merely common sense in every-day working action. It needs no fervent resolution, but only a little patient self-denial. BEGIN is its device! The more the habit of thrift is practised, the easier it becomes; and the sooner it compensates the self-denier for the sacrifices which it has imposed.
The question may be asked,—Is it possible for a man working for small wages to save anything, and lay it by in a savings bank, when he requires every penny for the maintenance of his family? But the fact remains, that it is done by many industrious and sober men; that they do deny themselves, and put their spare earnings into savings banks, and the other receptacles provided for poor men's savings. And if some can do this, all may do it under similar circumstances,—without depriving themselves of any genuine pleasure, or any real enjoyment.
How intensely selfish is it for a person in the receipt of good pay to spend everything upon himself,—or, if he has a family, to spend his whole earnings from week to week, and lay nothing by. When we hear that a man, who has been in the receipt of a good salary, has died and left nothing behind him—that he has left his wife and family destitute—left them to chance—to live or perish anywhere,—we cannot but regard it as the most selfish thriftlessness. And yet, comparatively little is thought of such cases. Perhaps the hat goes round. Subscriptions may produce something—perhaps nothing; and the ruined remnants of the unhappy family sink into poverty and destitution.
Yet the merest prudence would, to a great extent, have obviated this result. The curtailment of any sensual and selfish enjoyment—of a glass of beer or a screw of tobacco—would enable a man, in the course of years, to save at least something for others, instead of wasting it on himself. It is, in fact, the absolute duty of the poorest man to provide, in however slight a degree, for the support of himself and his family in the season of sickness and helplessness which often comes upon men when they least expect such a visitation.
Comparatively few people can be rich; but most have it in their power to acquire, by industry and economy, sufficient to meet their personal wants. They may even become the possessors of savings sufficient to secure them against penury and poverty in their old age. It is not, however, the want of opportunity, but the want of will, that stands in the way of economy. Men may labour unceasingly with hand or head; but they cannot abstain from spending too freely, and living too highly.
The majority prefer the enjoyment of pleasure to the practice of self-denial. With the mass of men, the animal is paramount. They often spend all that they earn. But it is not merely the working people who are spendthrifts. We hear of men who for years have been earning and spending hundreds a year, who suddenly die,—leaving their children penniless. Everybody knows of such cases. At their death, the very furniture of the house they have lived in belongs to others. It is sold to pay their funeral expenses and debts which they have incurred during their thriftless lifetime.
Money represents a multitude of objects without value, or without real utility; but it also represents something much more precious,—and that is independence. In this light it is of great moral importance.
As a guarantee of independence, the modest and plebeian quality of economy is at once ennobled and raised to the rank of one of the most meritorious of virtues. "Never treat money affairs with levity," said Bulwer; "Money is Character." Some of man's best qualities depend upon the right use of money,—such as his generosity, benevolence, justice, honesty, and forethought. Many of his worst qualities also originate in the bad use of money,—such as greed, miserliness, injustice, extravagance, and improvidence.
No class ever accomplished anything that lived from hand to mouth. People who spend all that they earn, are ever hanging on the brink of destitution. They must necessarily be weak and impotent—the slaves of time and circumstance. They keep themselves poor. They lose self-respect, as well as the respect of others. It is impossible that they can be free and independent. To be thriftless, is enough to deprive one of all manly spirit and virtue.
But a man with something saved, no matter how little, is in a different position. The little capital he has stored up, is always a source of power. He is no longer the sport of time and fate. He can boldly look the world in the face. He is, in a manner, his own master. He can dictate his own terms. He can neither be bought nor sold. He can look forward with cheerfulness to an old age of comfort and happiness.
As men become wise and thoughtful, they generally become provident and frugal. A thoughtless man, like a savage, spends as he gets, thinking nothing of to-morrow, of the time of adversity, or of the claims of those whom he has made dependent on him. But a wise man thinks of the future; he prepares in good time for the evil day that may come upon him and his family; and he provides carefully for those who are near and dear to him.
What a serious responsibility does the man incur who marries! Not many seriously think, of this responsibility. Perhaps this is wisely ordered. For, much serious thinking might end in the avoidance of married life and its responsibilities. But, once married, a man ought forthwith to determine that, so far as his own efforts are concerned, want shall never enter his household; and that his children shall not, in the event of his being removed from the scene of life and labour, be left a burthen upon society.
Economy with this object is an important duty. Without economy, no man can be just—no man can be honest. Improvidence is cruelty to women and children; though the cruelty is born of ignorance. A father spends his surplus means in drink, providing little, and saving nothing; and then he dies, leaving his destitute family his lifelong victims. Can any form of cruelty surpass this? Yet this reckless course is pursued to a large extent among every class. The middle and upper classes are equally guilty with the lower class. They live beyond their means. They live extravagantly. They are ambitious of glare and glitter—frivolity and pleasure. They struggle to be rich, that they may have the means of spending,—of drinking rich wines, and giving good dinners.
When Mr. Hume said in the House of Commons, some years ago, that the tone of living in England was altogether too high, his observation was followed with "loud laughter." Yet his remark was perfectly true. It is far more true now than it was then. Thinking people believe that life is now too fast, and that we are living at high-pressure. In short, we live extravagantly. We live beyond our means. We throw away oar earnings, and often throw our lives after them.
Many persons are diligent enough in making money, but do not know how to economize it,—or how to spend it. They have sufficient skill and industry to do the one, but they want the necessary wisdom to do the other. The temporary passion for enjoyment seizes us, and we give way to it without regard to consequences. And yet it may be merely the result of forgetfulness, and might be easily controlled by firmness of will, and by energetic resolution to avoid the occasional causes of expenditure for the future. The habit of saving arises, for the most part, in the desire to ameliorate our social condition, as well as to ameliorate the condition of those who are dependent upon us. It dispenses with everything which is not essential, and avoids all methods of living that are wasteful and extravagant. A purchase made at the lowest price will be dear, if it be a superfluity. Little expenses lead to great. Buying things that are not wanted, soon accustoms us to prodigality in other respects.
Cicero said, "Not to have a mania for buying, is to possess a revenue." Many are carried away by the habit of bargain-buying. "Here is something wonderfully cheap: let us buy it." "Have you any use for it?" "No, not at present; but it is sure to come in useful, some time." Fashion runs in this habit of buying. Some buy old china—as much as will furnish a china-shop. Others buy old pictures—old furniture—old wines,—all great bargains! There would be little harm in buying these old things, if they were not so often bought at the expense of the connoisseur's creditors. Horace Walpole once said, "I hope that there will not be another sale, for I have not an inch of room nor a farthing left."
Men must prepare in youth and in middle age the means of enjoying old age pleasantly and happily. There can be nothing more distressing than to see an old man who has spent the greater part of his life in well-paid-for-labour, reduced to the necessity of begging for bread, and relying entirely on the commiseration of his neighbours, or upon the bounty of strangers. Such a consideration as this should inspire men in early life with a determination to work and to save, for the benefit of themselves and their families in later years.
It is, in fact, in youth that economy should be practised, and in old age that men should dispense liberally, provided they do not exceed their income. The young man has a long future before him, during which he may exercise the principles of economy; whilst the other is reaching the end of his career, and can carry nothing out of the world with him.
This, however, is not the usual practice. The young man now spends, or desires to spend, quite as liberally, and often much more liberally, than his father, who is about to end his career. He begins life where his father left off. He spends more than his father did at his age, and soon finds himself up to his ears in debt. To satisfy his incessant wants, he resorts to unscrupulous means, and to illicit gains. He tries to make money rapidly; he speculates, over-trades, and is speedily wound up. Thus he obtains experience; but it is the result, not of well-doing, but of ill-doing.
Socrates recommends fathers of families to observe the practice of their thrifty neighbours—of those who spend their means to the best advantage,—and to profit by their example. Thrift is essentially practical, and can best be taught by facts. Two men earn, say, five shillings a day. They are in precisely the same condition as respects family living, and expenditure Yet the one says he cannot save, and does not; while the other says he can save, and regularly deposits part of his savings in a savings bank, and eventually becomes a capitalist.
Samuel Johnson fully knew the straits of poverty. He once signed his name Impransus, or Dinnerless. He had walked the streets with Savage, not knowing where to lay his head at night. Johnson never forgot the poverty through which he passed in his early life, and he was always counselling his friends and readers to avoid it. Like Cicero, he averred that the best source of wealth or well-being was economy. He called it the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the mother of Liberty. his mind, his character. Self-respect, originating in self-love, instigates the first step of improvement. It stimulates a man to rise, to look upward, to develop his intelligence, to improve his condition. Self-respect is the root of most of the virtues—of cleanliness, chastity, reverence, honesty, sobriety. To think meanly of one's self is to sink; sometimes to descend a precipice at the bottom of which is infamy.
Every man can help himself to some extent. We are not mere straws thrown upon the current to mark its course; but possessed of freedom of action, endowed with power to stem the waves and rise above them, each marking out a course for himself. We can each elevate ourselves in the scale of moral being. We can cherish pure thoughts. We can perform good actions. We can live soberly and frugally. We can provide against the evil day. We can read good books, listen to wise teachers, and place ourselves under the divinest influences on earth. We can live for the highest purposes, and with the highest aims in view.
"Self-love and social are the same," says one of our poets. The man who improves himself, improves the world. He adds one more true man to the mass. And the mass being made up of individuals, it is clear that were each to improve himself, the result would be the improvement of the whole. Social advancement is the consequence of individual advancement. The whole cannot be pure, unless the individuals composing it are pure. Society at large is but the reflex of individual conditions. All this is but the repetition of a truism, but truisms have often to be repeated to make their full impression.
Then again, a man, when he has improved himself, is better able to improve those who are brought into contact with him. He has more power. His sphere of vision is enlarged. He sees more clearly the defects in the condition of others that might be remedied. He can lend a more active helping hand to raise them. He has done his duty by himself, and can with more authority urge upon others the necessity of doing the like duty to themselves. How can a man be a social elevator, who is himself walking in the mire of self-indulgence? How can he teach sobriety or cleanliness, if he be himself drunken or foul? "Physician, heal thyself," is the answer of his neighbours.
The sum and substance of our remarks is this: In all the individual reforms or improvements that we desire, we must begin with ourselves. We must exhibit our gospel in our own life. We must teach by our own example. If we would have others elevated, we must elevate ourselves. Each man can exhibit the results in his own person. He can begin with self-respect.
The uncertainty of life is a strong inducement to provide against the evil day. To do this is a moral and social, as well as a religious duty. "He that provideth not for his own, and especially for those of his own household, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
The uncertainty of life is proverbially true. The strongest and healthiest man may be stricken down in a moment, by accident or disease. If we take human life in the mass, we cannot fail to recognize the uncertainty of life as much as we do the certainty of death.
There is a striking passage in Addison's "Vision of Mirza," in which life is pictured as a passage over a bridge of about a hundred arches. A black cloud hangs over each end of the bridge. At the entrance to it there are hidden pitfalls very thickly set, through which throngs disappear, so soon as they have placed their feet upon the bridge. They grow thinner towards the centre; they gradually disappear; until at length only a few persons reach the further side, and these also having dropped through the pitfalls, the bridge at its further extremity becomes entirely clear. The description of Addison corresponds with the results of the observations made as to the duration of human life.
Thus, of a hundred thousand persons born in this country, it has been ascertained that a fourth of them die before they have reached their fifth year; and one-half before they have reached their fiftieth year. One thousand one hundred will reach their ninetieth year. Sixteen will live to a hundred. And only two persons out of the hundred thousand—like the last barks of an innumerable convoy, will reach the advanced and helpless age of a hundred and five years.
Two things are very obvious,—the uncertainty as to the hour of death in individuals, but the regularity and constancy of the circumstances which influence the duration of human life in the aggregate. It is a matter of certainty that the average life of all persons born in this country extends to about forty-five years. This has been proved by a very large number of observations of human life and its duration.
Equally extensive observations have been made as to the average number of persons of various ages who die yearly. It is always the number of the experiments which gives the law of the probability. It is on such observations that the actuary founds his estimates of the mortality that exists at any given period of life. The actuary tells you that he has been guided by the Laws of Mortality. Now the results must be very regular, to justify the actuary in speaking of Mortality as governed by Laws. And yet it is so.
Indeed, there would seem to be no such thing as chance in the world. Man lives and dies in conformity to a law. A sparrow falls to the ground in obedience to a law. Nay, there are matters in the ordinary transactions of life, such as one might suppose were the mere result of chance, which are ascertained to be of remarkable accuracy when taken in the mass. For instance, the number of letters put in the post-office without an address; the number of letters wrongly directed; the number containing money; the number unstamped; continue nearly the same, in relation to the number of letters posted, from one year to another.
Now it is the business of man to understand the laws of health, and to provide against their consequences,—as, for instance, in the matter of sickness, accident, and premature death. We cannot escape the consequences of transgression of the natural laws, though we may have meant well. We must have done well. The Creator does not alter His laws to accommodate them to our ignorance. He has furnished us with intelligence, so that we may understand them and act upon them: otherwise we must suffer the consequences in inevitable pain and sorrow.
We often hear the cry raised, "Will nobody help us?" It is a spiritless, hopeless cry. It is sometimes a cry of revolting meanness, especially when it issues from those who with a little self-denial, sobriety, and thrift, might easily help themselves.
Many people have yet to learn, that virtue, knowledge, freedom, and prosperity must spring from themselves. Legislation can do very little for them: it cannot make them sober, intelligent, and well-doing. The prime miseries of most men have their origin in causes far removed from Acts of Parliament.
The spendthrift laughs at legislation. The drunkard defies it, and arrogates the right of dispensing with forethought and self-denial,—throwing upon others the blame of his ultimate wretchedness. The mob orators, who gather "the millions" about them, are very wide of the mark, when, instead of seeking to train their crowd of hearers to habits of frugality, temperance, and self-culture, they encourage them to keep up the cry, "Will nobody help us?"
The cry sickens the soul. It shows gross ignorance of the first elements of personal welfare. Help is in men themselves. They were born to help and to elevate themselves. They must work out their own salvation. The poorest men have done it; why should not every man do it? The brave, upward spirit ever conquers.
The number of well-paid workmen in this country has become very large, who might easily save and economize, to the improvement of their moral well-being, of their respectability and independence, and of their status in society as men and citizens. They are improvident and thriftless to an extent which proves not less hurtful to their personal happiness and domestic comfort, than it is injurious to the society of which they form so important a part.
In "prosperous times" they spend their gains recklessly, and when adverse times come, they are at once plunged in misery. Money is not used, but abused; and when wage-earning people should be providing against old age, or for the wants of a growing family, they are, in too many cases, feeding folly, dissipation, and vice. Let no one say that this is an exaggerated picture. It is enough to look round in any neighbourhood, and see how much is spent and how little is saved; what a large proportion of earnings goes to the beershop, and how little to the savings bank or the benefit society.
"Prosperous times" are very often the least prosperous of all times. In prosperous times, mills are working full time; men, women, and children are paid high wages; warehouses are emptied and filled; goods are manufactured and exported; wherries full of produce pass along the streets; immense luggage trains run along the railways, and heavily-laden ships leave our shores daily for foreign ports, full of the products of our industry. Everybody seems to be becoming richer and more prosperous. But we do not think of whether men and women are becoming wiser, better trained, less self-indulgent, more religiously disposed, or living for any higher purpose than the satisfaction of the animal appetite.
If this apparent prosperity be closely examined, it will be found that expenditure is increasing in all directions. There are demands for higher wages; and the higher wages, when obtained, are spent as soon as earned. Intemperate habits are formed, and, once formed, the habit of intemperance continues. Increased wages, instead of being saved, are for the most part spent in drink.
Thus, when a population is thoughtless and improvident, no kind of material prosperity will benefit them. Unless they exercise forethought and economy, they will alternately be in a state of "hunger and burst." When trade falls off, as it usually does after exceptional prosperity, they will not be comforted by the thought of what they might have saved, had it ever occurred to them that the "prosperous times" might not have proved permanent.
During prosperous times, Saint Monday is regularly observed. The Bank Holiday is repeated weekly. "Where are all the workmen?" said a master to his foreman on going the rounds among his builders,—this work must be pushed on and covered in while the fine weather lasts." "Why, sir," said the foreman, "this is Monday; and they have not spent all their money yet." Dean Boyd, preaching at Exeter on behalf of the Devonshire hospitals, expressed his belief that the annual loss to the workpeople engaged in the woollen manufacture, the cotton trade, the bricklaying and building trade, by Idle Monday, amounted to over seven millions sterling. If man's chief end were to manufacture cloth, silk, cotton, hardware, toys, and china; to buy in the cheapest market, and to sell in the dearest; to cultivate land, grow corn, and graze cattle; to live for mere money profit, and hoard or spend, as the case might be, we might then congratulate ourselves upon our National Prosperity. But is this the chief end of man? Has he not faculties, affections, and sympathies, besides muscular organs? Has not his mind and heart certain claims, as well as his mouth and his back? Has he not a soul as well as a stomach? And ought not "prosperity" to include the improvement and well-being of his morals and intellect as well as of his bones and muscles?
Mere money is no indication of prosperity. A man's nature may remain the same. It may even grow more stunted and deformed, while he is doubling his expenditure, or adding cent, per cent, to his hoards yearly. It is the same with the mass. The increase of their gains may merely furnish them with increased means for gratifying animal indulgences, unless their moral character keeps pace with their physical advancement. Double the gains of an uneducated, overworked man, in a time of prosperity, and what is the result? Simply that you have furnished him with the means of eating and drinking more! Thus, not even the material well-being of the population is secured by that condition of things which is defined by political economists as "National Prosperity." And so long as the moral elements of the question are ignored, this kind of "prosperity" is, we believe, calculated to produce far more mischievous results than good. It is knowledge and virtue alone that can confer dignity on a man's life; and the growth of such qualities in a nation are the only true marks of its real prosperity; not the infinite manufacture and sale of cotton prints, toys, hardware, and crockery. The Bishop of Manchester, when preaching at a harvest thanksgiving near Preston, referred to a letter which he had received from a clergyman in the south of England, who, after expressing his pleasure at the fact that the agricultural labourers were receiving higher wages, lamented "that at present the only result he could discover from their higher wages was that a great deal more beer was consumed. If this was the use we were making of this prosperity, we could hardly call it a blessing for which we had a right or ground to thank God. The true prosperity of the nation consisted not so much in the fact that the nation was growing in wealth—though wealth was a necessary attribute of prosperity—but that it was growing in virtue; and that there was a more equable distribution of comfort, contentment, and the things of this lower world."
In making the preceding observations we do not in the least advocate the formation of miserly, penurious habits; for we hate the scrub, the screw, the miser. All that we contend for is, that man should provide for the future,—that they should provide during good times for the bad times which almost invariably follow them,—that they should lay by a store of savings as a breakwater against want, and make sure of a little fund which may maintain them in old age, secure their self-respect, and add to their personal comfort and social well-being. Thrift is not in any way connected with avarice, usury, greed, or selfishness. It is, in fact, the very reverse of these disgusting dispositions.
It means economy for the purpose of securing independence. Thrift requires that money should be used and not abused—that it should be honestly earned and economically employed—
"Not for to put it in a hedge, Not for a train attendent,— But for the glorious privilege Of being Independent."
"The man who has a wife and children has given hostages to fortune."—Lord Bacon.
"In all conditions and circumstances, well-being is in the power of those who have power over themselves."—J.J. Gurney.
"Where is their common sense? Alas, what imprudence! Early marriages; many children; poor-rates, and the workhouse.... They are born; they are wretched; they die.... In no foreign country of far less civilization than England, is there the same improvidence."—Lord Lytton.
"No man oppresses thee, O free and independent franchiser; but does not this stupid pewter pot oppress thee? No son of Adam can bid thee come or go, but this absurd pot of heavy-wet can and does, Thou art the thrall, not of Cedric the Saxon, but of thy own brutal appetites, and this accursed dish of liquor. And thou pratest of thy 'liberty,' thou entire blockhead!"—Carlyle.
"Never did any publike misery Rise of it selfe; God's plagues still grounded are On common staines of our Humanity: And to the flame, which ruineth Mankind, Man gives the matter, or at least gives winde."—Daniell.
England is one of the richest countries in the world. Our merchants are enterprising, our manufacturers are industrious, our labourers are hard-working. There is an accumulation of wealth in the country to which past times can offer no parallel. The Bank is gorged with gold. There never was more food in the empire; there never was more money. There is no end to our manufacturing productions, for the steam-engine never tires. And yet notwithstanding all this wealth, there is an enormous mass of poverty. Close alongside the Wealth of Nations, there gloomily stalks the Misery of Nations,—luxurious ease resting upon a dark background of wretchedness.
Parliamentary reports have again and again revealed to us the miseries endured by certain portions of our working population. They have described the people employed in factories, workshops, mines, and brickfields, as well as in the pursuits of country life. We have tried to grapple with the evils of their condition by legislation, but it seems to mock us. Those who sink into poverty are fed, but they remain paupers. Those who feed them, feel no compassion; and those who are fed, return no gratitude. There is no bond of sympathy between the givers and the receivers. Thus the Haves and the Have-nots, the opulent and the indigent, stand at the two extremes of the social scale, and a wide gulf is fixed between them.
Among rude and savage people, the condition of poverty is uniform. Provided the bare appetites are satisfied, suffering is scarcely felt. Where slavery exists, indigence is little known; for it is the master's interest to keep the slave in a condition fit for labour, and the employer generally takes care to supply the animal wants of the employed. It is only when society becomes civilized and free, and man enters into competition with his fellows, that he becomes exposed to indigence, and experiences social misery. Where civilization, as in this country, has reached its highest point, and where large accumulations of wealth have been made, the misery of the indigent classes is only rendered more acute by the comfort and luxury with which it is placed in immediate contrast.
Much of the existing misery is caused by selfishness—by the greed to accumulate wealth on the one hand, and by improvidence on the other. Accumulation of money has become the great desire and passion of the age. The wealth of nations, and not the happiness of nations, is the principal aim. We study political economy, and let social economy shift for itself. Regard for "Number One" is the prevailing maxim.
High profits are regarded as the summum bonum,—no matter how obtained, or at what sacrifice. Money is our god: "Devil take the hindmost" our motto. The spirits of darkness rule supreme—
"Mammon has led them on, Mammon, the least erect of all the spirits That fell from Heaven."
With respect to the poorer classes,—what has become of them in the midst of our so-called civilization? An immense proportion of them remain entirely uncivilized. Though living in a Christian country, Christianity has never reached them. They are as uncivilized and unchristianized as the Trinobantes were at the landing of Julius Caesar, about nineteen hundred years ago. Yet these uncivilized people live in our midst. St. James's and St. Giles's lie close together. In the Parks of London, you may see how gold is worshipped; in the East End of London, you may see to what depths human misery may fall.
They work, eat, drink, and sleep: that constitutes their life. They think nothing of providing for to-morrow, or for next week, or for next year. They abandon themselves to their sensual appetites; and make no provision whatever for the future. The thought of adversity, or of coming sorrow, or of the helplessness that comes with years and sickness, never crosses their minds. In these respects, they resemble the savage tribes, who know no better, and do no worse. Like the North American Indians, they debase themselves by the vices which accompany civilization, but make no use whatever of its benefits and advantages.
Captain Parry found the Esquimaux near the North Pole as uncivilized as the miserable creatures who inhabit the dens of our great cities. They were, of course, improvident; for, like savages generally, they never save. They were always either feasting or famished.
When they found a quantity of whale's blubber, they would eat as much of it as they could, and hide the rest. Yet their improvidence gave them no concern. Even when they had been without food or fuel for days together, they would be as gay and good-humoured as usual. They never thought of how they should be provided for to-morrow. Saving for the future forms no part of the savage economy.
Amongst civilized peoples, cold is said to be the parent of frugality. Thus the northern nations of Europe owe a portion of their prosperity to the rigour of their climate. Cold makes them save during summer, to provide food, coal, and clothing during winter. It encourages house-building and housekeeping. Hence Germany is more industrious than Sicily; Holland and Belgium than Andalusia; North America and Canada than Mexico.
When the late Edward Denison, M.P. for Newark, with unexampled self-denial, gave up a large portion of his time and labour to reclaim the comparatively uncivilized population of the East End of London, the first thing he did was to erect an iron church of two stories, the lower part of which was used as a school and lecture room, and also as a club where men and boys might read, play games, and do anything else that might keep them out of the drinking-houses. "What is so bad in this quarter," said Mr. Denison, "is the habitual condition of this mass of humanity—its uniform mean level, the absence of anything more civilizing than a grinding organ to raise the ideas beyond the daily bread and beer, the utter want of education, the complete indifference to religion, with the fruits of all this—improvidence, dirt, and their secondaries, crime and disease.... There is no one to give a push to struggling energy, to guide aspiring intelligence, or to break the fall of unavoidable misfortune.... The Mission Clergyman," he goes on to say, "is a sensible, energetic man, in whose hands the work of civilizing the people is making as much progress as can be expected. But most of his energy is taken up in serving tables, nor can any great advance be made while every nerve has to be strained to keep the people from absolute starvation. And this is what happens every winter.... What a monstrous thing it is that in the richest country in the world, large masses of the population should be condemned annually, by a natural operation of nature, to starvation and death. It is all very well to say, how can it be helped? Why, it was not so in our grandfathers' time. Behind us they were in many ways, but they were not met every winter with the spectacle of starving thousands. The fact is, we have accepted the marvellous prosperity which has in the last twenty years been granted us, without reflecting on the conditions attached to it, and without nerving ourselves to the exertion and the sacrifices which their fulfilment demands."
And yet Mr. Denison clearly saw that if the people were sufficiently educated, and taught to practise the virtue of Thrift, much of this misery might be prevented. "The people," he elsewhere says, "create their destitution and their disease. Probably there are hardly any of the most needy who, if they had been only moderately frugal and provident, could not have placed themselves in a position to tide over the occasional months of want of work, or of sickness, which there always must be.... I do not underrate the difficulty of laying by out of weekly earnings, but I say it can be done. A dock-labourer, while a young, strong, unmarried man, could lay by half his weekly wages, and such men are almost sure of constant employment."
After showing how married men might also save, Mr. Denison goes on to say, "Saving is within the reach of nearly every man, even if quite at the bottom of the tree; but if it were of anything like common occurrence, the destitution and disease of this city would be kept within quite manageable limits. And this will take place. I may not live to see it, but it will be within two generations. For, unfortunately, this amount of change may be effected without the least improvement in the spiritual condition of the people. Good laws, energetically enforced, with compulsory education, supplemented by gratuitous individual exertion (which will then have a much reduced field and much fairer prospects), will certainly succeed in giving the mass of the people so much light as will generally guide them into so much industry and morality as is clearly conducive to their bodily ease and advancement in life."
The difference in thriftiness between the English workpeople and the inhabitants of Guernsey is thus referred to by Mr. Denison: "The difference between poverty and pauperism is brought home to us very strongly by what I see here. In England, we have people faring sumptuously while they are getting good wages, and coming on the parish paupers the moment those wages are suspended. Here, people are never dependent upon any support but their own; but they live, of their own free will, in a style of frugality which a landlord would be hooted at for suggesting to his cottagers. We pity Hodge, reduced to bacon and greens, and to meat only once a week. The principal meal of a Guernsey farmer consists of soupe a la graisse, which is, being interpreted, cabbage and peas stewed with a little dripping. This is the daily dinner of men who own perhaps three or four cows, a pig or two, and poultry. But the produce and the flesh of these creatures they sell in the market, investing their gains in extension of land, or stock, or in "quarters," that is, rent-charges on land, certificates of which are readily bought and sold in the market."
[Footnote 1: Letters and other writings of the late Edward Denison, M.P., pp. 141, 142.]
Mr. Dension died before he could accomplish much. He was only able to make a beginning. The misery, arising from improvidence, which he so deeply deplored, still exists, and is even more widely spread. It is not merely the artizan who spends all that he earns, but the classes above him, who cannot plead the same excuse of ignorance. Many of what are called the "upper" classes are no more excusable than the "lower." They waste their means on keeping up appearances, and in feeding folly, dissipation, and vice.
No one can reproach the English workman with want of industry. He works harder and more skilfully than the workman of any other country; and he might be more comfortable and independent in his circumstances, were he as prudent as he is laborious. But improvidence is unhappily the defect of the class. Even the best-paid English workmen, though earning more money than the average of professional men, still for the most part belong to the poorer classes because of their thoughtlessness. In prosperous times they are not accustomed to make provision for adverse times; and when a period of social pressure occurs, they are rarely found more than a few weeks ahead of positive want.
Hence, the skilled workman, unless trained in good habits, may exhibit no higher a life than that of the mere animal; and the earning of increased wages will only furnish him with increased means for indulging in the gratification of his grosser appetites. Mr. Chadwick says, that during the Cotton Famine, "families trooped into the relief rooms in the most abject condition, whose previous aggregate wages exceeded the income of many curates,—as had the wages of many of the individual workmen." In a time of prosperity, working-people feast, and in a time of adversity they "clem." Their earnings, to use their own phrase, "come in at the spigot and go out at the bunghole." When prosperity comes to an end, and they are paid off, they rely upon chance and providence—the providence of the Improvident!
[Footnote 1: Address on Economy and Trade. By EDWIN CHADWICK, C.B., p. 22.]
Though trade has invariably its cycles of good and bad years, like the lean and fat kine in Pharaoh's dream—its bursts of prosperity, followed by glut, panic, and distress—the thoughtless and spendthrift take no heed of experience, and make no better provision for the future. Improvidence seems to be one of the most incorrigible of faults. "There are whole neighbourhoods in the manufacturing districts," says Mr. Baker in a recent Report, "where not only are there no savings worth mentioning, but where, within a fortnight of being out of work, the workers themselves are starving for want of the merest necessaries." Not a strike takes place, but immediately the workmen are plunged in destitution; their furniture and watches are sent to the pawnshop, whilst deplorable appeals are made to the charitable, and numerous families are cast upon the poor-rates.
This habitual improvidence—though of course there are many admirable exceptions—is the real cause of the social degradation of the artizan. This too is the prolific source of social misery. But the misery is entirely the result of human ignorance and self-indulgence. For though the Creator has ordained poverty, the poor are not necessarily, nor as a matter of fact, the miserable. Misery is the result of moral causes,—most commonly of individual vice and improvidence.
The Rev. Mr. Norris, in speaking of the habits of the highly paid miners and iron-workers of South Staffordshire, says, "Improvidence is too tame a word for it—it is recklessness; here young and old, married and unmarried, are uniformly and almost avowedly self-indulgent spendthrifts. One sees this reckless character marring and vitiating the nobler traits of their nature. Their gallantry in the face of danger is akin to foolhardiness; their power of intense labour is seldom exerted except to compensate for time lost in idleness and revelry; their readiness to make 'gatherings' for their sick and married comrades seems only to obviate the necessity of previous saving; their very creed—and, after their sort, they are a curiously devotional people, holding frequent prayer-meetings in the pits—often degenerates into fanatical fatalism. But it is seen far more painfully and unmistakably in the alternate plethora and destitution between which, from year's end to year's end, the whole population seems to oscillate. The prodigal revelry of the reckoning night, the drunkenness of Sunday, the refusal to work on Monday and perhaps Tuesday, and then the untidiness of their home towards the latter part of the two or three weeks which intervene before the next pay-day; their children kept from school, their wives and daughters on the pit-bank, their furniture in the pawnshop; the crowded and miry lanes in which they live, their houses often cracked from top to bottom by the 'crowning in' of the ground, without drainage, or ventilation, or due supply of water;—such a state of things as this, co-existing with earnings which might ensure comfort and even prosperity, seems to prove that no legislation can cure the evil."
We have certainly had numerous "Reforms." We have had household suffrage, and vote by ballot. We have relieved the working classes of the taxes on corn, cattle, coffee, sugar, and provisions generally; and imposed a considerable proportion of the taxes from which they have been relieved on the middle and upper ranks. Yet these measures have produced but little improvement in the condition of the working people. They have not applied the principle of Reform to themselves. They have not begun at home. Yet the end of all Reform is the improvement of the individual. Everything that is wrong in Society results from that which is wrong in the Individual. When men are bad, society is bad.
Franklin, with his shrewd common sense, observed, "The taxes are indeed very heavy; and if those laid on by the Government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed quite as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the Commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement."
Lord John Russell once made a similar statement to a body of working men who waited upon him for the purpose of asking relief from taxation. "You complain of the taxes," he said; "but think of how you tax yourselves. You consume about fifty millions yearly in drink. Is there any Government that would dare to tax you to that extent? You have it in your own power greatly to reduce the taxes, and that without in any way appealing to us."
Complaining that the laws are bad, and that the taxes are heavy, will not mend matters. Aristocratic government, and the tyranny of masters, are nothing like so injurious as the tyranny of vicious appetites. Men are easily led away by the parade of their miseries, which are for the most part voluntary and self-imposed,—the results of idleness, thriftlessness, intemperance, and misconduct. To blame others for what we suffer, is always more agreeable to our self-pride, than to blame ourselves. But it is perfectly clear that people who live from day to day without plan, without rule, without forethought—who spend all their earnings, without saving anything for the future—are preparing beforehand for inevitable distress. To provide only for the present, is the sure means to sacrificing the future. What hope can there be for a people whose only maxim seems to be, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die"?
All this may seem very hopeless; yet it is not entirely so. The large earnings of the working classes is an important point to start with. The gradual diffusion of education will help them to use, and not abuse, their means of comfortable living. The more extended knowledge of the uses of economy, frugality, and thrift, will help them to spend their lives more soberly, virtuously, and religiously. Mr. Denison was of opinion that much of this might be accomplished "within two generations." Social improvement is always very slow. How extremely tardy has been the progress of civilization! How gradually have its humanizing influences operated in elevating the mass of the people! It requires the lapse of generations before its effects can be so much as discerned: for a generation is but as a day in the history of civilization. It has cost most nations ages of wars, before they could conquer their right of existence as nations. It took four centuries of persecutions and martyrdoms to establish Christianity, and two centuries of civil wars to establish the Reformation. The emancipation of the bondsmen from feudal slavery was only reached through long ages of misery. From the days in which our British progenitors rushed to battle in their war-paint,—or those more recent times when the whole of the labouring people were villeins and serfs, bought and sold with the soil which they tilled,—to the times in which we now live,—how wide the difference, how gratifying the contrast. Surely it ought not to be so difficult to put an end to the Satanic influences of thriftlessness, drunkenness, and improvidence!
MEANS OF SAVING.
"Self-reliance and self-denial will teach a man to drink out of his own cistern, and eat his own sweet bread, and to learn and labour truly to get his own living, and carefully to save and expend the good things committed to his trust."—Lord Bacon.
"Love, therefore, labour: if thou should'st not want it for food, thou may'st for physic. It is wholesome for the body, and good for the mind; it prevents the fruit of idleness."—William Penn.
"The parent who does not teach his child a trade, teaches him to be a thief."—Brahminical Scriptures.
Those who say that "It can't be done," are probably not aware that many of the working classes are in the receipt of incomes considerably larger than those of professional men.
That this is the case, is not, by any means, a secret. It is published in blue-books, it is given in evidence before parliamentary committees, it is reported in newspapers. Any coal-owner, or iron-master, or cotton-spinner, will tell you of the high wages that he pays to his workpeople.
Families employed in the cotton manufacture are able to earn over three pounds a week, according to the number of the children employed. Their annual incomes will thus amount to about a hundred and fifty pounds a year,—which is considerably larger than the incomes of many professional men—higher than the average of country surgeons, higher than the average of the clergy and ministers of all denominations, higher than the average of the teachers of common schools, and probably higher than the average income of the middle classes of the United Kingdom generally.
[Footnote 1: A return of seven families employed by Henry Ashworth, New Cayley Mills, Lancashire, is given in the Blue Book, entitled, "Report of the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867, containing the Returns relative to the New Order of Reward," p. 163. Of the seven families, the lowest earnings per family amounted to L2 14s. 6d.; and the highest to L3 19s. a week.]
An employer at Blackburn informs us that many persons earn upwards of five pounds a week,—or equal to an average income of two hundred and sixty pounds a year. Such families, he says, "ought not to expend more than three pounds weekly. The rest should be saved. But most of them, after feeding and clothing themselves, spend the rest in drink and dissipation."