The Claims of Labour - an essay on the duties of the employers to the employed
by Arthur Helps
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Transcribed from the 1845 William Pickering edition by David Price, email

The Claims of Labour.


The Second Edition.


* * * * *


"There is formed in every thing a double nature of good; the one, as every thing is a total or substantive in itself; the other, as it is a part or member of a greater body; whereof the latter is in degree the greater and the worthier, because it tendeth to the conservation of a more general form. Therefore we see the iron in particular sympathy moveth to the loadstone; but yet if it exceed a certain quantity, it forsaketh the affection to the loadstone, and like a good patriot moveth to the earth, which is the region and country of massy bodies. This double nature of good, and the comparative thereof, is much more engraven upon man, if he degenerate not; unto whom the conservation of duty to the public ought to be much more precious than the conservation of life and being: according to that memorable speech of Pompeius Magnus, when being in commission of purveyance for a famine at Rome, and being dissuaded with great vehemency and instance by his friends about him, that he should not hazard himself to sea in an extremity of weather, he said only to them, 'Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam.' But it may be truly affirmed that there was never any philosophy, religion, or other discipline, which did so plainly and highly exalt the good which is communicative, and depress the good which is private and particular, as the Holy Faith; well declaring, that it was the same God that gave the Christian law to men, who gave those laws of nature to inanimate creatures that we spoke of before."

Bacon's Advancement of Learning.

"And well may masters consider how easie a transposition it had been for God, to have made him to mount into the saddle that holds the stirrup; and him to sit down at the table, who stands by with a trencher."

Fuller's Holy State.



I have great pleasure in dedicating this book to you, as I know of no one who, both in his life and writings, has shown a more profound and delicate care for the duties of the Employer to the Employed. Pardon me, if following the practice of the world, I see the author in his hero, and think I hear you speaking, when Van Artevelde exclaims—

"A serviceable, faithful, thoughtful friend, Is old Van Ryk, and of a humble nature, And yet with faculties and gifts of sense, Which place him justly on no lowly level— Why should I say a lowlier than my own, Or otherwise than as an equal use him? That with familiarity respect Doth slacken, is a word of common use. I never found it so."

I have had some peculiar advantages in writing upon this subject. I should have been unobservant indeed, if, with such masters as I have served under, I had not learnt something, in regard to the duties of a great employer of labour, from witnessing their ever-flowing courtesy; their care for those who came within their sphere; their anxiety, as the heads of departments, to recognize every exertion on the part of their subordinates; and their ready sympathy with the poor and the friendless, a sympathy which the vexations and harassments of office, and all those things that tend to turn a man's thoughts in upon himself, could never subdue.

But, happily, it is not only amongst the high in office that such examples are to be found. The spirit, and even some of the very modes of benevolent exertion which I have endeavoured to recommend, have already been carried into practice, and I trust may be frequently seen, in the conduct towards their dependents, both of manufacturers and landed proprietors.

I must also say how much I owe to the excellent Reports which of late years have been presented to Parliament on subjects connected with the welfare of the labouring classes. It is to be regretted that these reports are not better known. I have made frequent use of them, and hope that the quotations I have given may induce my readers to turn to the original sources.

With regard to the subject generally, it appears to me that knowledge of the duties of an employer is every day becoming more important. The tendency of modern society is to draw the family circle within narrower and narrower limits. Those amusements which used to be shared by all classes are becoming less frequent: the great lord has put away his crowd of retainers: the farmer, in most cases, does not live with his labouring men: and the master has less sympathy and social intercourse with his domestics. If this be so, if the family circle is thus becoming narrower, the conduct of those in domestic authority, having a more intense influence, has the more need of being regulated by the highest sense of duty: and, with respect to society in general, if the old bonds are loosened, other ties must be fostered in their place.

You will not be likely to mistake my meaning, and to suppose that I look back with any fond regret at the departure of the feudal system, or that I should wish to bring the present generation under its influence. Mankind does not so retrace its steps. But still, though the course of our race is onwards, the nature of man does not change. There is the same need for protection and countenance on the one side, and for reverence and attachment on the other, that there ever has been; and the fact that society is in many respects more disconnected than it used to be, renders it the more necessary to cultivate in the most watchful manner every mode of strengthening the social intercourse between rich and poor, between master and servant, between the employers and the employed, in whatever rank they may be.

I am afraid it may be said with justice, that both this letter and the following Essay are "sermoni propiora," according to Charles Lamb's translation, "properer for a sermon:" but it is impossible to dwell long on any such subject as the one which I have chosen, without having to appeal to the best motives of human endeavour; and the shortest way even to the good which is of a purely physical character lies often, I believe, through the highest moral considerations.

Believe me, My dear Taylor, Most truly yours, THE AUTHOR.

London, July 1, 1844.



It is a thing so common, as almost to be ridiculous, for a man to express self-distrust at the commencement of any attempt in speech or writing. And yet, trite as this mode of beginning is, its appropriateness makes each one use it as heartily as if it were new and true for him, though it might have been a common-place for others. When he glances hurriedly across the wide extent of his subject, when he feels how inadequate his expression will be even to his conception, and, at the same time, has a yearning desire to bring his audience into the same mind with himself, it is no wonder if he begins with a few, hesitating, oft repeated, words about his own insufficiency compared with the greatness of his subject.

Happily, I have not occasion to dwell much upon the importance of the subject to which I am anxious to engage attention. For a long time it has been gradually emerging from the darkness in which it had been left. The claims of labour and the rights of the humble and the poor have necessarily gained more of the attention of mankind, as Christianity has developed itself. That power was sure, in its gradual encroachments upon the evil nature of man, to make its voice heard in this matter. It is a voice which may come out of strange bodies, such as systems of ethics, or of politics; but men may call it what they please, it goes on doing its appointed work, "conquering and to conquer."

* * * * *

Persons of a thoughtful mind seeing closely the falsehood, the folly, and the arrogance, of the age in which they live, are apt, occasionally, to have a great contempt for it: and I doubt not that many a man looks upon the present time as one of feebleness and degeneracy. There are, however, signs of an increased solicitude for the claims of labour, which of itself is a thing of the highest promise, and more to be rejoiced over than all the mechanical triumphs which both those who would magnify, and those who would depreciate, the present age, would be apt to point to as containing its especial significance and merit.

But what do all these mechanical triumphs come to? It is in vain that you have learned to move with double or treble the velocity of your immediate predecessors: it is in vain that you can show new modes of luxury, or new resources in art. The inquiring historian will give these things their weight, but will, nevertheless, persevere in asking how the great mass of the people were fed, and clothed, and taught: and whether the improvement in their condition corresponded at all with the improvement of the condition of the middle and upper classes. What a sorry answer any one, replying for this age, would have to give him. Nor would it be enough, indeed, if we could make a satisfactory reply to his questions about the physical state of the people. We ought to be able to say that the different orders of society were bound together by links of gratitude and regard: that they were not like layers of various coloured sand, but that they formed one solid whole of masonry, each part having its relation of use and beauty to all the others.

Certainly, if we look at the matter, we have not much to say for ourselves, unless it be in that dawning of good intentions which I have alluded to before. There is to be found in our metropolis, in our great towns, and even in our rural districts, an extent of squalid misery such as we are almost afraid to give heed to, and which we are glad to forget as soon as we have read or heard of it. It may be that our ancestors endured, it may be that many savage tribes still endure, far more privation than is to be found in the sufferings of our lowest class. But the mind refuses to consider the two states as analogous, and insists upon thinking that the state of physical and moral degradation often found amongst our working classes, with the arabesque of splendour and luxury which surrounds it, is a more shocking thing to contemplate than a pressing scarcity of provisions endured by a wandering horde of savage men sunk in equal barbarism. When we follow men home, who have been cooperating with other civilized men in continuous labour throughout the livelong day, we should not, without experience, expect to find their homes dreary, comfortless, deformed with filth, such homes as poverty alone could not make. Still less, when we gaze upon some pleasant looking village, fair enough in outward seeming for poets' songs to celebrate, should we expect to find scarcity of fuel, scantiness of food, prevalence of fever, the healthy huddled together with the sick, decency outraged, and self-respect all gone. And yet such sights, both in town and country, if not of habitual occurrence, are at any rate sadly too numerous for us to pass them by as rare and exceptional cases.

Is this then the inevitable nature of things? Has the boasted civilization of the world led only to this? Do we master the powers of nature only to let forth a new and fierce torrent of social miseries upon us? Let not such thoughts be ours. Pagans, the slaves of destiny, might well have held them. But we cannot doubt that the conditions of labour, under which man holds the earth, express the mercy and the goodness, no less than the judgment, of God.

* * * * *

Many benevolent persons feel, doubtless, very sensitively for the sad condition of the labouring classes, and are anxiously looking about for remedies to meet it. I would not speak slightingly of any attempt in that direction. There are problems in political economy, in government, and, perhaps, even in the adaptation of machinery, which may be worked out with signal service to the great cause of suffering humanity. It is not my intention, however, to dwell upon such topics. My object is to show what can be done with the means that are at the present moment in every body's power. Many a man, who is looking about for some specific, has in his hands the immediate means of doing great good, which he would be ready enough to employ, if he had but imagination to perceive that he possessed them. My endeavour then will simply be to show what can be done by the employers of labour in their individual and private capacity.

* * * * *

What an important relation is that of Master and Man! How it pervades the world; ascending from the lowest gradation of planter and slave through the states of master and servant, landlord and labourer, manufacturer and artisan, till it comes to the higher degrees of rule which one cultivated man has to exercise over another in the performance of the greatest functions. See, throughout, what difficulties and temptations encumber this relation. How boundless is the field of thought which it opens to us, how infinite the duties which it contains, how complete an exercise it is for the whole faculties of man. Observe what wretchedness is caused by a misunderstanding of this relation in domestic matters. See the selfish carelessness about the happiness of those around them of men not ill-intentioned, nor unkind, perhaps, in their dealings with the world in general, but lamentably unfit for the management of a home. Then observe the effects of similar mismanagement in dealing with a country. Look at the listless loiterers about an Irish town: you would naturally say to yourself, "Surely this people have done all that there can be for them to do." You walk out of the town, and find the adjacent fields as listless-looking, and neglected, as the men themselves. Think what a want there must be of masters of labour, that those hands and these weeds are not brought into closer contact.

* * * * *

It may be said that the distressed condition of the labouring classes is owing to temporary causes, and that good times, by which is meant good wages, would remove a large part of the evil. I confess it does not appear to me that a good harvest or two, or ready customers on the other side of the Atlantic, or the home demand that may arise from exhausted stocks, or any other cause of that nature which is simply to end in better wages, would of itself do all, or even any considerable part, of what we should desire. I do not, for a moment, mean to depreciate the good effects that would flow from an increase of employment and better wages. But still I imagine that there are many cases in which, if you were, in ordinary times, to double the amount of wages, a very inadequate proportion of good would follow. You have to teach these poor people how to spend money: you have to give them the opportunities of doing so to advantage: you have to provide a system of education which shall not vary with every fluctuation of trade: and to adopt such methods of working as shall make the least possible disturbance of domestic ties. No sudden influx of money will do all these things. In fact, whatever part of this subject one takes up, one is perpetually brought back to the conviction of the necessity which exists for an earnest and practical application, on the part of the employing class, of thought and labour for the welfare of those whom they employ.

* * * * *

Some of my readers may think that I have spoken of the distress of the labouring population in exaggerated terms. Let them only read the details of it in the Report of 1842, on the Sanitary Condition of the labouring population, or in the Report of last year, on the condition of the children and young persons employed in mines and manufactures. I scarcely know what extracts to give of these direful reports, that may briefly convey the state of things to those who have not studied the subject. Shall I tell them of children ignorant who Jesus Christ was; or of others who know no more of the Lord's Prayer than the first words, "Our Father:" and whose nightly prayers begin and end with those two words? Shall I tell them of great towns in which one half at least of the juvenile population is growing up without education of any kind whatever? Shall I show that working people are often permitted to pass their labour time, the half of their lives, in mines, workshops, and manufactories, where an atmosphere of a deleterious kind prevails: and this, too, not from any invincible evil in the nature of the employment, but from a careless or penurious neglect on the part of their employers? Shall I go into a lengthened description of the habitations of the poor which will show that they are often worse housed than beasts of burden? Or need I depict at large the dark stream of profligacy which overflows and burns into those parts of the land where such Want and Ignorance prevail?

How many of these evils might have been mitigated, if not fully removed, had each generation of masters done but a small part of its duty in the way of amelioration. But it was not of such things that they were thinking. The thoughtless cruelty in the world almost outweighs the rest.

"Why vex me with these things?" exclaims the general reader. "Have we not enough of dismal stories? It oppresses us to hear them. Let us hope that something will occur to prevent such things in future. But I am not a redresser of grievances. Let those who live by the manufacturing system cure the evils incident to it. Oh that there had never been such a thing as a manufacturing system!" With thoughts vague, recriminatory, and despondent, as the foregoing, does many a man push from him all consideration on the subject. It is so easy to despair: and the largeness of a calamity is so ready a shelter for those who have not heart enough to adventure any opposition to it.

Thus, by dwelling upon the magnitude of the evils we long to lessen, we are frightened and soothed into letting our benevolent wishes remain as wishes only. But surely a man may find a sphere small enough, as well as large enough, for him to act in. In all other pursuits, we are obliged to limit the number and extent of our objects, in order to give full effect to our endeavours: and so it should be with benevolence. The foolish sluggard stares hopelessly into the intricacies of the forest, and thinks that it can never be reclaimed. The wiser man, the labourer, begins at his corner of the wood, and makes out a task for himself for each day. Let not our imaginations be employed on one side only. Think, that large as may appear the work to be done—so too the result of any endeavour, however small in itself, may be of infinite extent in the future. Nothing is lost.

* * * * *

And why should we despair? A great nation is never in extreme peril until it has lost its hopeful spirit. If, at this moment, a foreign enemy were on the point of invading us, how strenuous we should be: what moral energy would instantly pervade us. Faster than the beacon lights could give the intelligence from headland to headland; from city to city would spread the national enthusiasm of a people that would never admit the thought of being conquered. Trust me, these domestic evils are foes not less worthy of our attention than any foreign invaders. It seems to me, I must confess, a thing far more to be dreaded, that any considerable part of our population should be growing up in a state of absolute ignorance, than would be the danger, not new to us, of the combined hostility of the civilized world. Our trials, as a nation, like our individual ones, are perpetually varied as the world progresses.

"The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils himself in many ways."

We have not the same evils to contend with as our ancestors had; but we need the same stoutness of heart that bore them through the contest. The sudden growth of things, excellent in themselves, entangles the feet of that generation amongst whom they spring up. There may be something, too, in the progress of human affairs like the coming in of the tide, which, for each succeeding wave; often seems as much of a retreat as an advance: but still the tide comes on.

* * * * *

The settled state of things attendant upon peace, and an unquestioned dynasty, is good, as it enables men to look more to civil affairs; but it has, perhaps, a drawback in a certain apathy which is wont to accompany it. The ordinary arrangements of social life, for a long time uninterrupted by any large calamity, appear to become hardened into certainties. A similar course of argument would, on a large scale, apply not only to this country, but to the world in general. Security is the chief end of civilization, and as it progresses, the fortunes of individuals are, upon the whole, made less liable to derangement. This very security may tend to make men careless of the welfare of others, and, as Bacon would express it, may be noted as an impediment to benevolence. I have often thought, whether in former times, when men looked to those immediately around them as their body guard against sudden and violent attacks, they ventured to show as much ill-temper to those they lived with as you sometimes see them do now, when assistance of all kinds is a purchasable commodity. Considerations of this nature are particularly applicable when addressed to persons living in a great capital like London. All things that concern the nation, its joys, its sorrows, and its successes, are transacted in this metropolis; or, as one might more properly say, are represented in transactions in this metropolis. But still this often happens in such a manner as would be imperceptible even to people of vast experience and observation. The countless impulses which travel up from various directions to this absorbing centre sometimes neutralize each other, and leave a comparative calm; or they create so complex an agitation, that it may be next to impossible for us to discern and estimate the component forces. Hence the metropolis may not at times be sufficiently susceptible in the case either of manufacturing or agricultural distress, or of any colonial perturbation. This metropolitan insensibility has some great advantages, but it is well for us to observe the corresponding evil, and, as far as may be, to guard our own hearts from being rendered apathetic by its influence.

I do not seek to terrify any one into a care for the labouring classes, by representing the danger to society of neglecting them. It is certainly a fearful thing to think of large masses of men being in that state of want and misery which leaves them nothing to hazard; and who are likely to be without the slightest reverence or love for the institutions around them. Still it is not to any fear, grounded on such considerations, that I would appeal. The flood-gates may be strong enough to keep out the torrent for our time. These things are not in our reckonings. Occasionally the upheaving of the waves may frighten timid, selfish, men into concessions which they would not otherwise have made; but those whom I would seek to influence, are likely to court danger and difficulty rather than to shun it. Nor would I even care to disturb the purely selfish man by dwelling studiously on any social dangers around us, or labouring to discern in present disturbance or distress the seeds of inevitable revolution. No, I would say to him, if it all ends here,

"But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,"

you may have chosen wisely. It is true, there are sources of happiness which you now know nothing of, and which may be far beyond any selfish gratification you have ever experienced. Indeed, it may be, that you cannot enjoy the highest delights without sharing them, that they are not things to be given out to each of us as individuals, now to this man, then to that, but that they require a community of love. But, at any rate, I do not wish to scare you into active and useful exertion by indicating that you are, otherwise, in danger of losing any of the good things of this world.

The great motive to appeal to, is not a man's apprehension of personal loss or suffering, but his fear of neglecting a sacred duty. And it will be found here, I believe, as elsewhere, that the highest motives are those of the most sustained efficiency.

But little as I would counsel despair, or encourage apathy, or seek to influence by terror, it is not that I look to the "course of events," or any other rounded collection of words, to do anything for us. What is this "course of events" but the continuity of human endeavour? And giving all due weight to the influence of those general currents which attend the progress of opinions and institutions, we must still allow largely for the effect of individual character, and individual exertions. The main direction that the stream will take is manifest enough perhaps; but it may come down upon long tracts of level ground which it will overspread quietly, or it may enter into some rocky channel which will control it; or it may meet with some ineffectual mud embankment which it will overthrow with devastation.

* * * * *

Putting aside then such phrases as "course of events," and the like, let us look to men. And whom shall we look to first but the Masters of Thought? Surely the true poet will do something to lift the burden of his own age. What is the use of wondrous gifts of language, if they are employed to enervate, and not to ennoble, their hearers? What avails it to trim the lights of history, if they are made to throw no brightness on the present, or open no track into the future? And to employ Imagination only in the service of Vanity, or Gain, is as if an astronomer were to use his telescope to magnify the potherbs in his kitchen garden.

Think what a glorious power is that of expression: and what responsibility follows the man who possesses it. That grace of language which can make even commonplace things beautiful, throwing robes of the poorest texture into forms of all-attractive loveliness: why does it not expend its genius on materials that would be worthy of the artist? The great interests of Man are before it, are crying for it, can absorb all its endeavour, are, indeed, the noblest field for it. Think of this—then think what a waste of high intellectual endowments there has been in all ages from the meanest of motives. But what wise man would not rather have the harmless fame, which youths, on a holiday, scratch for themselves upon the leaden roof of some cathedral tower, than enjoy the undeniable renown of those who, with whatever power, have written from slight or unworthy motives what may prove a hindrance, rather than an aid, to the well-being of their fellow-men?

* * * * *

But, passing from those who are often the real, though unrecognized, rulers of their own age, and the despots of the succeeding generation, let us turn to the ostensible and immediate ruling powers. Assuredly the government may do something towards removing part of the evils we have been considering as connected with the system of labour. It seems as if there were a want of more departments; and certainly of many more able men. The progress of any social improvement appears to depend too much on chance and clamour. I do not suppose, for a moment, that we can have the cut-and-dried executive, or legislative, arrangements that belong to despotic governments; and it is, in some respects, a wholesome fear that we have of the interference of government. Still, we may recollect that England is not a small state, nor an inactive one, where the public energies are likely to be deadened, or overridden, by activity on the part of the government, which might, perhaps, with much safety undertake more than it has been wont to do. One thing is certain, that it may do great good, if it would but look out for men of ability to fill the offices at present in its gift. No government need fear such a course as destructive to its party interests. In appointing and promoting the fittest men, you are likely to ensure more gratitude than if you selected those, who being the creatures of your kindness, could never, you imagine, be otherwise than most grateful for it. Weak people are seldom much given to gratitude: and even if they were, it is dearly that you purchase their allegiance; for there are few things which, on the long run, displease the public more than bad appointments. But, putting aside the political expediency either way, it is really a sacred duty in a statesman to choose fit agents. Observe the whirlpool of folly that a weak man contrives to create round him: and see, on the other hand, with what small means, a wise man manages to have influence and respect, and force, in whatever may be his sphere.

I have thought, for example, with regard to the Suppression of the Slave Trade, that amongst all the devices that can be suggested, one of the first things would be to tempt very superior men, by large inducements, to take the judicial situations in the Mixed Commissions, or any other appointments, in slave-trading parts of the world. We may expect great results whenever real ability is brought into personal contact with the evils we wish it to overcome.

There is a matter connected with the functions of government which seems to be worthy of notice; and that is, the distribution of honours. These honours are part of the resources of the state; and it is a most spendthrift thing to bestow them as they frequently are bestowed. It is not merely that government gives them unworthily: it absolutely plays with them; gives them, as one might say, for the drollery of the thing, when it adds a title to some foolish person, whose merits not even the Public Orator at a university could discover. It is idle to talk of such things being customary. A great minister would not recommend his sovereign to confer honours on such people; and sensible men would be glad to see that the resources of the state, in all ways, were dealt with considerately.

The above reflections are not foreign to the main subject of this essay; for a government, having at heart the improvement of the labouring population, or any other social matter, might direct the stream of honours towards those who were of service to the state in this matter, and so might make the civic crown what it was in ancient days. Not, however, that I mean to say that the best men are to be swayed by these baubles. The hope of reward is not the source of the highest endeavour.

* * * * *

There is a class of persons who interest themselves so far in the condition of the labouring population, as to bring forward sad instances of suffering, and then to say, "Our rich men should look to these things." This kind of benevolence delights to bring together, in startling contrast, the condition of different classes, and then to indulge in much moral reflection. Now riches are very potent in their way; but a great heart is often more wanted than a full purse. I speak it not in any disparagement of the rich or great, when I say that we must not trust to them alone. Amongst them are many who use their riches as God's stewards; but the evils which we have to contend against are to be met by a general impulse in the right direction of people of all classes. There are instances where a man's wealth enables him to set forth more distinctly to the world's eye some work of benevolence, even to be the pioneer in improvements, which persons of smaller fortunes could scarcely have effected. In such a case great indeed is the advantage of riches. But do not let us accustom our minds to throw the burden of good works on the shoulders of any particular class. God has not given a monopoly of benevolence to the rich.

What I have just said about individual rich men, applies in some measure to associations for benevolent purposes. They are to be looked upon as accessories—sometimes very useful ones—but they are not to be expected to supersede private enterprise. A man should neither wait for them; nor, when they exist, should he try to throw his duties upon them, and indolently expect that they are to think and act in all cases for him. Wherever a strong feeling on any subject exists, societies will naturally spring up in connexion with it. What such bodies have to do, is to direct their energies to those parts of the matter in which it is especially difficult for private enterprise to succeed. And private individuals should be cautious of slackening their endeavours in any good cause, merely because they are aware that some society exists which has the same object in view.

* * * * *

I come now to some member of that large class of persons who are not rich, nor great employers of labour, nor in any station of peculiar influence. He shudders as he reads those startling instances of suffering or crime in which the distress and ignorance of the labouring population will, occasionally, break out into the notice of the world. "What can I do?" he exclaims. "I feel with intensity the horrors I read of: but what can one man do?" I only ask him to study what he feels. He is a citizen. He cannot be such an isolated being as to have no influence. The conclusions which he comes to, after mature reflection, will not be without their weight. If individual citizens were anxious to form their opinions with care, on those questions respecting which they will have to vote and to act, there would be little need of organized bodies of men to carry great measures into effect. The main current of public opinion is made up of innumerable rills, so small, perhaps, that a child might with its foot divert the course of any one of them: but collected together they rush down with a force that is irresistible. If those who have actively to distribute the labour of the world knew that you, the great mass of private men, regarded them not for their money, but for their conduct to those in their employ, not for the portion which they may contrive to get for themselves, but for the well-being which they may give rise to, and regulate amongst others; why then your thoughts would be motives to them, urging them on in the right path. Besides, you would not stop at thinking. The man who gives time and thought to the welfare of others will seldom be found to grudge them anything else.

Again, have not you, though not manufacturers, or master-workmen, or owners of land, have not you dependents, in whose behalf you may find exercise for the principles to which I am convinced that study in this matter will lead you? Your regard for servants is a case in point. And, moreover, you may show in your ordinary, every day, dealings with the employers of labour a considerateness for those under them, which may awaken the employers to a more lively care themselves. Only reflect on the duty: opportunities of testing the strength of your resolves will not be wanting.

We sometimes feel thoroughly impressed by some good thought, or just example, that we meet with in study or real life, but as if we had no means of applying it. We cannot at once shape for ourselves a course that shall embrace this newly acquired wisdom. Often it seems too grand for the occasions of ordinary life; and we fear that we must keep it laid up for some eventful day, as nice housewives their stateliest furniture. However, if we keep it close to the heart, and make but the least beginning with it, our infant practice leads to something better, or grows into something ampler. In real life there are no isolated points.

* * * * *

You, who have but few dependents, or, perhaps, but one drudge dependent upon you, whether as servant, apprentice, or hired labourer, do not think that you have not an ample opportunity for exercising the duties of an employer of labour. Do not suppose that these duties belong to the great manufacturer with the population of a small town in his own factory, or to the landlord with vast territorial possessions, and that you have nothing to do with them. The Searcher of all hearts may make as ample a trial of you in your conduct to one poor dependent, as of the man who is appointed to lead armies and administer provinces. Nay, your treatment of some animal entrusted to your care may be a history as significant for you, as the chronicles of kings for them. The moral experiments in the world may be tried with the smallest quantities.

I cannot quit this part of the subject without alluding more directly to the duties of the employers of domestic servants. Of course the principles which should regulate the conduct of masters and mistresses towards their servants, are the same as those which should regulate the employers of labour generally. But there are some peculiar circumstances which need to be noticed in the application of these principles. That, in this case, the employers and the employed are members of one family, is a circumstance which intensifies the relation. It is a sad thing for a man to pass the working part of his day with an exacting, unkind, master: but still, if the workman returns at evening to a home that is his own, there is a sense of coming joy and freedom which may support him throughout the weary hours of labour. But think what it must be to share one's home with one's oppressor; to have no recurring time when one is certain to be free from those harsh words, and unjust censures, which are almost more than blows, aye even to those natures we are apt to fancy so hardened to rebuke. Imagine the deadness of heart that must prevail in that poor wretch who never hears the sweet words of praise or of encouragement. Many masters of families, men living in the rapid current of the world, who are subject to a variety of impressions which, in their busy minds, are made and effaced even in the course of a single day, can with difficulty estimate the force of unkind words upon those whose monotonous life leaves few opportunities of effacing any unwelcome impression. There is nothing in which the aid of imagination, that handmaid of charity, may be more advantageously employed, than in considering the condition of domestic servants. Let a man endeavour to realize it to himself, let him think of its narrow sphere, of its unvarying nature, and he will be careful not to throw in, unnecessarily, the trouble even of a single harsh word, which may make so large a disturbance in the shallow current of a domestic's hopes and joys. How often, on the contrary, do you find that masters seem to have no apprehension of the feelings of those under them, no idea of any duties on their side beyond "cash payment," whereas the good, old, patriarchal feeling towards your household is one which the mere introduction of money wages has not by any means superseded, and which cannot, in fact, be superseded. You would bear with lenity from a child many things, for which, in a servant, you can find nothing but the harshest names. Yet how often are these poor, uneducated, creatures little better than children! You talk, too, of ingratitude from them, when, if you reflected a little, you would see that they do not understand your benefits. It is hard enough sometimes to make benefits sink into men's hearts, even when your good offices are illustrated by much kindness of words and manner; but to expect that servants should at once appreciate your care for them is surely most unreasonable, especially if it is not accompanied by a manifest regard and sympathy. You would not expect it, if you saw the child-like relation in which they stand to you.

Another mode of viewing with charity the conduct of domestic servants, is to imagine what manner of servant you would make yourself, or any one of those whom in your own rank you esteem and love. Do you not perceive, in almost every character, some element which would occasionally make its possessor fail in performing the duties of domestic service? Do you find that faithfulness, accuracy, diligence, and truth pervade the circle of your equals in such abundance that you should be exorbitantly angry, the moment you perceive a deficiency in such qualities amongst those who have been but indifferently brought up, and who, perhaps, have early imbibed those vices of their class, fear and falsehood; vices which their employers can only hope to eradicate by a long course of considerate kindness?

* * * * *

I do not speak of the conduct of masters and mistresses as an easy matter: on the contrary, I believe that it is one of the most difficult functions in life. If, however, men only saw the difficulty, they would see the worthiness of trying to overcome it. You observe a man becoming day by day richer, or advancing in station, or increasing in professional reputation, and you set him down as a successful man in life. But, if his home is an ill-regulated one, where no links of affection extend throughout the family, whose former domestics (and he has had more of them than he can well remember) look back upon their sojourn with him as one unblessed by kind words or deeds, I contend that that man has not been successful. Whatever good fortune he may have in the world, it is to be remembered that he has always left one important fortress untaken behind him. That man's life does not surely read well whose benevolence has found no central home. It may have sent forth rays in various directions, but there should have been a warm focus of love—that home nest which is formed round a good man's heart.

* * * * *

Having spoken of some of the duties of private persons, we come now to the great employers of labour. Would that they all saw the greatness of their position. Strange as it may sound, they are the successors of the feudal barons, they it is who lead thousands to peaceful conquests, and upon whom, in great measure, depends the happiness of large masses of mankind. As Mr. Carlyle says, "The Leaders of Industry, if Industry is ever to be led, are virtually the Captains of the World; if there be no nobleness in them, there will never be an Aristocracy more." Can a man, who has this destiny entrusted to him, imagine that his vocation consists merely in getting together a large lump of gold, and then being off with it, to enjoy it, as he fancies, in some other place: as if that which is but a small part of his business in life, were all in all to him; as if indeed, the parable of the talents were to be taken literally, and that a man should think that he has done his part when he has made much gold and silver out of little? If these men saw their position rightly, what would be their objects, what their pleasures? Their objects would not consist in foolish vyings with each other about the grandeur or the glitter of life. But in directing the employment of labour, they would find room for the exercise of all the powers of their minds, of their best affections, and of whatever was worthy in their ambition. Their occupation, so far from being a limited sphere of action, is one which may give scope to minds of the most various capacity. While one man may undertake those obvious labours of benevolent superintendence which are of immediate and pressing necessity, another may devote himself to more remote and indirect methods of improving the condition of those about him, which are often not the less valuable because of their indirectness. In short, it is evident that to lead the labour of large masses of people, and to do that, not merely with a view to the greatest product of commodities, but to the best interests of the producers, is a matter which will sufficiently and worthily occupy men of the strongest minds aided by all the attainments which cultivation can bestow.

I do not wish to assert a principle larger than the occasion demands: and I am, therefore unwilling to declare that we cannot justly enter into a relation so meagre with our fellow-creatures, as that of employing all their labour, and giving them nothing but money in return. There might, perhaps, be a state of society in which such a relation would not be culpable, a state in which the great mass of the employed were cultivated and considerate men; and where the common interests of master and man were well understood. But we have not to deal with any such imaginary case. So far from working men being the considerate creatures we have just imagined them, it is absolutely requisite to protect, in the most stringent manner, the interests of the children against the parents, who are often anxious to employ their little ones most immaturely. Nay more—it is notorious that working men will frequently omit to take even the slightest precaution in matters connected with the preservation of their own lives. If these poor men do not demand from you as Christians something more than mere money wages, what do the injunctions about charity mean? If those employed by you are not your neighbours, who are?

* * * * *

But, some great employer may exclaim: "It is hard that we the agents between the consumer and the producer should have all the sacrifices to make, should have all the labouring population thrown, as it were, on our hands." In reply, I say that I have laid down no such doctrine. I have urged the consumer to perform his duties, and tried to point out to him what some of those duties are. As a citizen, he may employ himself in understanding this subject, and in directing others rightly; he may, in his capacity of voter, or in his fair influence on voters, urge upon the state its duty, and show, that as an individual, he would gladly bear his share of any increased burdens which that duty might entail upon the state. He may prove in many ways, as a mere purchaser, his concern for the interests of the producer. And there are, doubtless, occasions on which you, the great employers of labour, may call upon him to make large sacrifices of his money, his time, and his thoughts, for the welfare of the labouring classes. His example and his encouragement may cheer you on; and as a citizen, as an instructor, as a neighbour, in all the capacities of life, he may act and speak in a way that may indirectly, if not directly, support your more manifest endeavours in the same good cause. It is to no one class that I speak. We are all bound to do something towards this good work. If, hereafter, I go more into detail as regards the especial methods of improving his work-people that a manufacturer might employ, it is not that I wish to point out manufacturers as a class especially deficient in right feelings towards those under them. Far from it. Much of what I shall venture to suggest has been learnt from what I have seen and heard, amongst the manufacturers themselves.


Supposing, reader, that whether you are manufacturer, master-workman, owner of land, or private individual, you are now thoroughly impressed with the duty of attending to the welfare of your dependants; I proceed to make some general reflections which may aid you in your outset, or sustain you in the progress, of your endeavours.

* * * * *

And, first, let me implore you not to delay that outset. Make a beginning at once, at least in investigating the matters to which I have striven to draw your attention. It is no curious work of art that you have to take up; it requires no nicety of apprehension; you can hardly begin wrongly, I do not say in action, but in the preparation for action. However little of each day you may be able to call your own for this purpose, it is better to begin with that little than to wait for some signal time of leisure. Routine encumbers us; our days are frittered away by most minute employments that we cannot control; and, when spare moments do occur, we are mostly unprepared with any pursuits of our own to go on with. Hence it is, that the most obvious evils go on, generation after generation, people not having time, as they would say, to interfere. Men are for ever putting off the concerns which should be dearest to them to a "more convenient season," when, as they hope, there may be fewer trifles to distract their attention: but a great work, which is to commence in the heart, requires not to have the first stone laid for it, with pomp, upon some holiday. It. is good to have made a beginning upon it at any time.

The wisdom, or the folly, of delay is in most instances like that of a traveller coming to a stream, and wishing to ford it, yet continuing his journey along its banks: and whether this is wise, or not, depends mainly on the simple fact, of whether he is walking up to the source, or down to the fall. The latter is apt to be the direction in the case of our generous resolves: their difficulty widens as I we delay to act upon them.

* * * * *

Throughout the progress of your work, there is nothing that you will have more frequently to be mindful of than your views with respect to self-advancement. To take one form of it, the acquisition of money. Money, as Charles Lamb, a great despiser of cant, observed, is not dross, but books, pictures, wines, and many pleasant things. Still I suspect that money is more sought after to gratify vanity, than to possess the means of enjoying any of the above named pleasant things. Money is so much desired, because it is a measure of success; so much regretted, because we fancy the loss of it leaves us powerless and contemptible. That kind of satire, therefore, which delights to dwell upon the general subserviency to wealth is not likely to make men less desirous of riches. But a man would be likely to estimate more reasonably the possession of money and of all kinds of self-advancement, if he did but perceive, that even a man's worldly success is not to be measured by his success for himself alone, but by the result of his endeavours for the great family of man.

There is a source of contemplation which nature affords us, one, too, that is open to the dweller in crowded cities as well as to the shepherd on Salisbury plain, and which might sometimes suggest the foolishness of an inordinate love of money. Consider the prospect which each unveiled night affords us, telling of wonders such as we have hardly the units of measurement to estimate; and then think how strange it is that we should ever allow our petty personal possessions of to-day to render us blind to the duties, which, alone, are the great realities of life. There was some excuse, perhaps, for the men of olden time, who looked upon this earth, the birth-place of their gods, as no mean territory. That they should dote upon terrestrial things was not to be wondered at. But what is to be said for us who know that this small planet is but a speck, as it were, from which we look out upon the profusion of immensity. To think that a man, who knows this, should nevertheless not hesitate to soil his soul, lying here, cringing there, pursuing tortuous schemes of most corrupt policy; or that he should ever suffer himself to be immersed, innocently, if it may be so, in selfish, worldly pursuits, forgetful of all else; when, at the best, it is but to win some acres of this transitory earth, or to be noted as one who has been successful for himself. The folly of the gambling savage, who stakes his liberty against a handful of cowrie shells is nothing to it.

* * * * *

Perhaps the next thing that is likely to divert you from useful endeavours for the benefit of others is fear of criticism: you do not know what the world will say: indeed, they may pronounce you an enthusiast, which word, of itself, is an icy blast of ridicule to a timid mind. You shudder at doing anything unusual, and even hear by anticipation the laugh of your particular friends. You are especially ashamed at appearing to care for what those about you do not care for. A laugh at your humanity, or your "theories," would disconcert you. You are fearfully anxious that any project of benevolence you undertake should succeed, not altogether on its own account, but because your sagacity is embarked in it, and plentiful will be the gibes at its failure, if it should fail. Put these fears aside. All that is prominent, all that acts, must lay itself open to shallow criticism. It has been said that in no case of old age, however extreme, has the faculty for giving advice been known to decay; depend upon it, that of criticism flourishes in the most indolent, the most feeble, the most doting minds. Let not the wheels of your endeavour be stayed by accumulated rubbish of this kind. We are afraid of responsibility, afraid of what people may say of us, afraid of being alone in doing right: in short, the courage which is allied to no passion—Christian courage as it may be called—is in all ages and amongst all people, one of the rarest possessions.

The fear of ridicule is the effeminacy of the soul.

Great enterprises—and for you this attempt to make your working men happier is a great enterprise—great enterprises demand an habitual self-sacrifice in little things: and, hard as it may be to keep fully in mind the enterprise itself, it is often harder still to maintain a just sense of the connection between it and these said trifling points of conduct, which, perhaps, in any single instance, seem so slightly and so remotely connected with it. But remember it is not always over great impediments that men are liable to stumble most fatally.

* * * * *

You must not expect immediate and obvious gratitude to crown your exertions. The benevolence that has not duty for its stem, but merely springs from some affectionateness of nature, must often languish, I fear, when it comes to count up its returns in the way of grateful affection from those whom it has toiled for. And yet the fault is often as much in the impatience and unreasonable expectation of the benefactors, as in any ingratitude on the part of the persons benefited. If you must look for gratitude, at any rate consider whether your exertions are likely to be fully understood at present by those whom you have served; and whether it is not a reversion, rather than an immediate return, that you should look for—a reversion, too, in many cases to be realized only on the death of the benefactor. Moreover, it is useless and unreasonable to expect that any motives of gratitude will uniformly modify for you the peculiar tempers and dispositions of those whom you have served. Your benefits did not represent a permanent state of mind: neither will their gratitude. The sense of obligation, even in most faithful hearts, is often dormant; but evil tempers answer quickly to the lightest summons.

* * * * *

In all your projects for the good of others, beware lest your benevolence should have too much of a spirit of interference. Consider what it is you want to produce. Not an outward, passive, conformity to your wishes, but something vital which shall generate the feelings and habits you long to see manifested. You can clip a tree into any form you please, but if you wish it to bear fruit when it has been barren, you must attend to what is beneath the surface, you must feed the roots. You must furnish it with that nutriment, you must supply it with those opportunities of sunshine, which will enable it to use its own energies. See how the general course of the world is governed. How slowly are those great improvements matured which our impatient nature might expect to have been effected at a single stroke. What tyrannies have been under the sun, things which we can hardly read of without longing for some direct divine interference to have taken place. Indeed, if other testimony were wanting, the cruelties permitted on earth present an awful idea of the general freedom of action entrusted to mankind. And can you think that it is left for you to drill men suddenly into your notions, or to produce moral ends by mere mechanical means? You will avoid much of this foolish spirit if you are really unselfish in your purposes; if, in dealing with those whom you would benefit, you refer your operations to them as the centre, and not to yourself, and the successes of your plans. There is a noble passage in the history of the first great Douglas, the "good Lord James," who, just before the battle of Bannockburn, seeing Randolph, his rival in arms, with a small body of men, contending against a much superior English force, rushed to his aid. "The little body of Randolph," says Sir Walter Scott, "was seen emerging like a rock in the waves, from which the English cavalry were retreating on every side with broken ranks, like a repelled tide. 'Hold and halt!' said the Douglas to his followers; 'we are come too late to aid them; let us not lessen the victory they have won by affecting to claim a share in it.'" It is the self-denying nature of this chivalrous deed that I would apply to far other circumstances. The interfering spirit, which I deprecate, would come, not to consummate the victory, but to hinder it.

For similar reasons I would have you take care that you do not adopt mere rules, and seek to impress them rigidly upon others, as if they were general principles, which must at once be suitable to all mankind. Do not imagine that your individual threads of experience form a woven garment of prudence, capable of fitting with exactness any member of the whole human family.

* * * * *

There are several ungenerous motives, of some subtlety, which hide in the dark corners of the heart, and stand in the way of benevolence. For instance, even in good minds, there is apt to lurk some tinge of fear, or of dislike, at the prospect of an undoubted amelioration of the lot of others coming too fast, as these good people would say. Indeed, some persons find it hard to reconcile themselves to the idea of others' burdens being readily removed, even when they themselves are making exertions to remove them.

Another feeling to beware of, is that of envy, which, strange as it seems, may sometimes arise upon the view of that very prosperity, which the person, feeling envy, has helped to create. The truth is, it is comparatively easy to avoid being envious of the good fortune which was established before our time, or which is out of our own sphere: but to be quite pleased with the good fortune of those whom we recollect in other circumstances, and who, perhaps, have been accustomed to ask advice or assistance from us—that is the trial.

Another ungenerous sentiment, similar to the foregoing, and likely at times to prove a hindrance to benevolent exertion, arises from the comparison of our own past lot with that of the persons whose condition is sought to be improved. Most of us have a little tendency to grudge them this amelioration. We should shudder at the brutality of one, who, having attained to power, is more cruel because he has suffered much himself, ("eo immitior quia toleraverat"); but are we not of a like spirit, if any dissatisfaction steals over our minds at seeing others exempt from those sufferings, which in our own career fell heavily upon us. It is difficult to dislodge this kind of selfishness from the heart. Indeed, there can hardly be a surer symptom of sound benevolence in a man, than his taking pleasure in those paths being smoothened which he will never have to traverse again: I do not say in making them smoother—it is much easier to reconcile himself to that—but in their being made so without his interference.

It would be well, indeed, if selfishness came into play on those occasions only where self is really concerned.

* * * * *

There is nothing which a wise employer will have more at heart than to gain the confidence of those under him. The essential requisites on his part are truth and kindness. These qualities may, however, belong in a high degree to persons who fail to gain the confidence of their dependents. In domestic life, confidence may be prevented by fits of capricious passion on the part of the ruling powers; and a man who, in all important matters, acts justly and kindly towards his family, may be deprived of their confidence by his weakness of temper in little things. For instance, you meet with persons who fall into a violent way of talking about all that offends them in their dependents; and who express themselves with as much anger about trivial inadvertencies as about serious moral offences. In the course of the same day that they have given way to some outbreak of temper, they may act with great self-denial and watchful kindness; but they can hardly expect their subordinates to be at ease with them. Another defect which prevents confidence, is a certain sterility of character, which does not allow of sympathy with other people's fancies and pursuits. A man of this character does not understand any likings but his own. He will be kind to you, if you will be happy in his way; but he has nothing but ridicule or coldness for any thing which does not suit him. This imperfection of sympathy, which prevents an equal from becoming a friend, may easily make a superior into a despot. Indeed, I almost doubt whether the head of a family does not do more mischief if he is unsympathetic, than even if he were unjust. The triumph of domestic rule is for the master's presence not to be felt as a restraint.

In a larger sphere than the domestic one, such as amongst the employers of labour and their men, the same elements are required on the part of the masters to produce confidence. Much frankness also and decisiveness are required. The more uneducated people are, the more suspicious they are likely to be: and the best way of meeting this suspiciousness is to have as few concealments as possible; for instance, not to omit stating any motives relating to your own interest as master, which may influence your conduct towards your men.

There is a class of persons brought into contact with the employers of labour and their men, who might often do good service to both, by endeavouring, when it is deserved, to inspire the men with confidence in the kindly intentions of their masters. This is a duty which belongs to the clergy and professional men in manufacturing towns. There are many things which a man cannot say for himself; and, as Bacon has observed, it is one of the advantages of friendship, that it provides some person to say these things for one. So, in this case, it must often have a very good effect, when a bystander, as it were, explains to the men the kind wishes and endeavours of a master manufacturer, which explanation would come with much less force and grace from the master himself.

I now come to a subject bordering on the former, namely, the political confidence of the operatives. I am afraid, that, at present, there is a great distrust amongst them of public men. This is not to be wondered at. Their distrust is much fostered by the practice of imputing bad motives, and calling ill names, so much the fashion in political writing of all kinds. It is not a vice peculiar to this age: indeed, I question whether political writing has ever, upon the whole, been more well-bred and considerate than it is now. But at all times the abusive style is the easiest mode of writing, and the surest of sympathy. The skill to make, and that to cure, a wound are different things; but the former is the one which belongs to most people, and often attracts most attention and encouragement. This, then, is one cause of the distrust of the working classes, which will only be mitigated by a higher tone of moral feeling on the part of the people generally. Another cause is to be found in the unwise, if not dishonest, conduct of public men. Look at the mode of proceeding at elections. I put aside bribery, intimidation, and the like, the wrongfulness of which I hope we are all agreed upon; and I come to the intellectual part of the business. Extreme opinions are put forth by the candidates, often in violent and injurious language. Each strives to keep studiously in the background any points of difference between himself and the electing body. Electors are not treated as rational beings; their prejudices and their antipathies are petted as if they belonged to some despot whom it was treason to contradict. Whereas, if ever there is a time in his life when a man should weigh his words well, and when he should gird himself up to speak with truth and courage, it is when he is soliciting the suffrages of an electoral body. That is the way to anticipate inconsistency; the crime of which is more often in the hastiness of the first-formed opinion, than in the change from it. What is called the inconsistency, may be the redeeming part of the transaction. The candidate is naturally tempted to fall in with the exact opinions that are likely to ensure success, and to express them without modification—in fact, for the sake of his present purpose, to leave as little room for the exercise of his discretion as possible. It is easy for him to make unconditional assertions, when nothing is to be done upon them, but it is another thing when he has to bring them into action. The direction which he may wish to give to public affairs is likely to be met by many other impulses; and then he may have to remain consistent and useless, or to link himself to some friendly impulse which brings him, however, into opposition to some of his former broad and careless declarations. He has left himself no room for using his judgment. Indeed, one does not see very clearly why he takes his seat amongst men who are met to deliberate. The evils that must arise from rash promises at elections are so great, that it is fortunate when the topics mooted on those occasions, form but a small part of those which ultimately come under the consideration of the person elected; and, as often happens, that important public matters come to be discussed, which were not seen on the political horizon at the election time.

In addition to the distrust of individual legislators, which is, probably, frequent amongst the poorer classes, there is also, I suspect, a great distrust amongst them of the leading parties in the state. They perceive the evils of party, and see nothing on the other side. The meaning and intent of party, the way in which by its means social good is often worked out in a manner less harsh and abrupt, perhaps, than by any other means that has hitherto been devised, are considerations probably unknown to them. To address them upon such matters would be thought absurd. It would be said, that philosophical disquisitions on government are for the closet of the studious man, but not for common people coming to perform a plain, practical, duty. Great principles, however, are at the foundation of all good action. Look to the divine teaching. See how the highest things are addressed to all classes. There is no esoteric philosophy there—one thing to the initiated, and another to the outer populace. And so I am persuaded in addressing the great masses of mankind on other subjects, you can hardly be too profound, if you contrive to express yourself without pedantry; you can hardly put motives of too much generosity before them, if you do so with complete sincerity and earnestness. All this is very difficult, but what social remedies are not? They are things to be toiled and bled for; and what is far more, you must run the risk of ridicule, endure want of sympathy, have the courage to utter unpalatable truths, and not unfrequently resist the temptation of saying such things as are sure to elicit immediate and hearty approbation. When a statesman has a craving for present applause, it is an evil spirit always by his side, but which springs up to its utmost height, and overshadows him with its most baneful influence, at some of the most critical periods of his career.

But, in addition to the want of confidence in public men caused by malicious writing, or by their injudicious or dishonest conduct as candidates, or by the ignorance amongst the operatives of the good uses of party; is there not also a just want of confidence arising from the mode in which party warfare has sometimes been carried on in the legislative body? Remember that it is possible to intrigue with "interests," as we call them, as well as with private persons. The nice morality which would shudder at the revelations of petty intrigue disclosed by the diary of a Bubb Doddington, may urge on, and ride triumphantly, some popular cry, the justice of which it has never paused to examine. There are also such things as a factious opposition to the Government, a selfish desertion from it, or a slavish obedience to it; which things, the people in general, are not slow to note, and often prone to attribute, even when there is no sufficient cause for attributing them. But of all the things which tend to separate the operatives from the governing classes, the most effectual, perhaps, is the suspicion (oh, that we could say that it was altogether an unjust one!) that laws are framed, or maintained, which benefit those classes at the expense of their poorer brethren. We think it a marvellous act of malversation in a trustee, to benefit himself unjustly out of the funds entrusted to his care. Wrongs of this kind may appear to be diluted when the national prosperity is the trust-fund, and the legislative body is the trustee. The largeness, however, of the transaction, does not diminish the injustice of it, although it may soothe the conscience, or partially excuse the conduct of any individual member of the governing class. By governing class, I do not merely mean the legislative bodies, but I include the electing body, who are of course equally guilty when they clamour for what they deem their own peculiar interest, instead of calling for just laws. And they may be sure, that when once the great mass of the people are persuaded that the injustice which I have spoken of, is a ruling principle in any government; that government, if it lives, is henceforth based upon fear, and not upon affection.

* * * * *

I shall now put down a few points of practice, which, though they are classed together, have no other link than that they all relate to our conduct in a family and towards dependents.

* * * * *

In social government, no less than in legislating for a state, there should be constant reference to great principles, if only from the exceeding difficulty of foreseeing, or appreciating, the results in detail of any measure.

* * * * *

It is a foolish thing when a man so guides himself, that it is generally supposed in his family, and among his dependents, that no arguments of theirs are likely to persuade him to alter his views. Such a one may fancy that what he calls his firmness is the main stay of his authority: but the obstinacy, which never listens, is not less fatal than the facility which never listens but to yield. If your rule has the reputation of not being amenable to reason, it is liable to sudden convulsions and headstrong distempers, or to unreasonable cringings, in which your welfare, and that of those whom you rule, are sacrificed to the apprehension of provoking your self-will. Moreover, the fear of irrational opposition on your part, often tempts those about you into taking up courses, which, otherwise, they might have thrown aside upon reflection, or after reasonable converse with you on the subject. You may have, in the end, to oppose yourself sternly to the wishes of those whom you would guide wisely; but at any rate give yourself the chance of having, in the first instance, the full effect of any forces in their own minds which may be on your side. You cannot expect to have these useful allies, if your wont is to be blindly obstinate, and to carry things, on all occasions, by heavy-handed authority. The way in which expected opposition acts in determining the mind, is not always by creating immediate wilfulness: but a man, knowing that there is sure to be objection made, in any particular quarter, to his taking a course, respecting which he has not made up his own mind, sets to work to put aside that contingent obstacle to his freedom of action. In doing this, however, he generates, as it were, a force in the opposite direction: in arguing against contingent opposition, he is led to make assertions which he is ashamed to draw back from; and so, in the end, he fails to exercise an unbiassed judgment. I have gone minutely into this matter; but it cannot be unimportant for those who rule, to consider well the latent sources of human motive.

* * * * *

In addressing persons of inferior station, do not be prone to suppose that there is much occasion for intellectual condescension on your part: at any rate do not be careless in what you say, as if any thing would do for them. Observe the almost infinite fleetness of your own powers of thought, and then consider whether it is likely that education has much to do with this. Use simple language, but do not fear to put substance in it: choose, if you like, common materials, but make the best structure that you can of them: and be assured that method and logical order are not thrown away upon any one. The rudest audience, as well as the most refined, soon grows weary, I suspect, of protracted, driftless, tautology.

* * * * *

Do not dwell more than you can help, upon the differences of nature between yourself and those with whom you live. Consider whether your own vanity is not too requiring. See that others have not the same complaint to make of your uncongeniality, that you are, perhaps, prone to make of theirs. If you are, indeed, superior, reckon it as your constant duty, to try and sympathize with those beneath you; to mix with their pursuits, as far as you can, and thus, insensibly, to elevate them. Perhaps there is no mind that will not yield some return for your labour: it seems the dullest, bleakest, rock, not earth enough to feed a nettle; yet up grows, with culture, the majestic pine.

A want of sympathy leads to the greatest ignorance in the intellect as well as in the heart.

* * * * *

Remember that your dependents have seldom a full power of replying to you; and let the recollection of that make you especially considerate in your dealings with them.

* * * * *

When you find a lack of truth in those about you, consider whether it may not arise from the furiousness of your own temper which scares truth away from you: and reflect how fearful a part the angry man may have in the sin of those falsehoods which immoderate fear of him gives rise to. Such, I am afraid, is the tyrannous nature of the human heart that we not only show, but really feel, more anger at offence given us by those under our power, than at any other cause whatever.

* * * * *

It is a mistake to suppose that we necessarily become indifferent to the faults and foibles of those with whom we live: on the contrary, we sometimes grow more and more alive to them: they seem, as it were, to create a corresponding soreness in ourselves: and, knowing that they exist in the character, we are apt to fancy that we perceive them even on occasions when they are not in the least brought into play.

* * * * *

Do not be fond of the display of authority, or think that there is anything grand in being obeyed with abject fear. One certainly meets with persons who are vain of their ill-temper, and of seeing how it keeps the people about them in order; a species of vanity which they might share with any wild animal at large.

* * * * *

In reasoning with your dependants, do not allow yourself to make broad assertions and careless conclusions, merely because you are addressing inferiors. "The Courts of Reason recognise no difference of persons." And when you wish to disabuse the minds of those entrusted to your guidance of any thing which you are convinced is erroneous, do not attempt to do so by unmeasured condemnation. It is seldom that a secure answer is given to any theory, or system, except by one who exhausts, and lays before you, the good in it.

* * * * *

Let not your forgiveness be of that kind which may almost be set down as forgetfulness.

* * * * *

You must not always expect to hear a good explanation of a man's reason for his conduct. In the first place, he does not carry such things about with him in a producible shape; some of them he has probably forgotten, although their influence may still remain strongly upon his mind; and such as he does give, are likely to be those which he thinks will have most weight with the person to whom he is speaking.

* * * * *

In giving way to selfish persons, remember that you cannot sacrifice yourself alone. Any relation in which you may be placed to them, especially if you are the superior, is not a thing that concerns you only; but is, as it were, a trust for society in general.

* * * * *

It is hard to judge about quarrels, for the points on which they openly break out have often no more to do with the real grounds of difference than the place of a battle with the cause of the war. Many a quarrel, after running for a long time under ground, gushes forth with a vehemence which seems unaccountable; and it is difficult to divine what lands it has passed through in its hidden course. Any particular outbreak cannot safely be taken as an index of the general conduct of the parties towards each other.

* * * * *

Playfulness is a good means of softening social distances. A stiff, grave, man is always in danger of being feared too much. On the other hand, as the self-love of many people is suspicious in the extreme, you must expect that your most innocent playfulness will often be mistaken for ridicule.

* * * * *

It is a duty not to allow yourself to think of any living man, still less to treat him, as if your hopes of his amendment were utterly dead and gone.

* * * * *

You must not be much surprised at the ingratitude of those to whom you have given nothing but money.

* * * * *

Once give your mind to suspicion, and there will be sure to be food enough for it. In the stillest night, the air is filled with sounds for the wakeful ear that is resolved to listen.

* * * * *

A misproud man resolves to abide by the evil words which he has spoken in anger. This freezing of foam is wilfully unnatural; and turns a brief madness into a settled insanity.

* * * * *

A man of any wisdom, in domestic authority, so far from making large claims to the love of those whom he rules, and exacting all manner of observance as his due, will often think with fear how unworthy he is of the affection even of the dullest and least-gifted creature about him.

* * * * *

In commenting on any error of an agent or dependant, beware of making your own vexation, and not the real offence, the measure of your blame. This is a most frequent source of injustice, and one, moreover, which tends to prevent anything like consistent training.

* * * * *

The poor, the humble, and your dependants, will often be afraid to ask their due from you: be the more mindful of it yourself.

* * * * *

With what degree of satisfaction do you feel that you could meet those persons in a future state over whom you have any influence now? Your heart's answer to this question is somewhat of a test of your behaviour towards them.

* * * * *

How ready we should often be to forgive those who are angry with us, if we could only see how much of their anger arises from vexation with themselves for having begun to be angry at all.

* * * * *

I am not sorry to introduce a maxim, like the above, which relates, perhaps, rather more to dependants than to those in authority, and which claims a place among precepts on social government, only as it may tend to promote social harmony and peace. I have not attempted, throughout, to give any account of the duties of dependants, which, however, are easily inferred as supplementary to the duties of masters. It is not to be supposed that any relation in life is one-sided, that kindness is to be met by indifference, or that loyalty to those who lead us is not a duty of the highest order. But, fortunately, the proneness of men to regard with favour those put in authority over them is very strong; and I have but little fear of finding any large body of thoughtful and kind masters suffering from permanent indifference, or ingratitude, on the part of their dependants.

* * * * *

I cannot close the chapter better than by entreating those, who are endeavouring to carry on any system of benevolence, to be very watchful in the management of details, and to strengthen themselves against any feelings of disgust and weariness which may encroach upon them, when their undertaking has lost the attraction of novelty. Details are like the fibres at the root of a tree: without their aid the tree would have but little hold against the wind: they are the channels for its terrestrial nutriment; they are its ties to earth, its home and birth-place; and, insignificant as they seem, it could live almost better without light than without them. Here it is that practical wisdom comes in—that faculty, without which, the greatest gifts may serve to make a noise and a flame, and nothing more. It holds its object neither too near, nor too far off; without exaggerating trifles, it can see that small things may be essential to the successful application of great principles; it is moderate in its expectations; does not imagine that all men must be full of its projects; and holds its course with calmness, with hope, and with humility.

You must not enter upon a career of usefulness without expecting innumerable vexations and crosses to affect the details of any project or system you may undertake. And when the novelty of your purpose has somewhat worn off, and you have to meet with the honest opposition of other minds, as well as to contend against their vanity, their selfishness, and their unreasonableness, it requires a high and full source for your benevolence to flow from, if it would bear down these annoyances. Even when they cannot dry up the stream, or change its current, if you are not watchful over yourself, they may make it flow more feebly. The very prospect of success is to some minds a great temptation to make them slacken their efforts. Throughout the course of our pursuit, we are never, perhaps, so prone to be weary and to repine, as when we begin to feel sure of ultimate success, but at the same time to perceive, that a long and definite period must elapse before the completion of our undertaking.

Against the many temptations that beset a man in such a career, I do not believe that any good feeling, which stands upon no other than mere human relations, will be found a sufficient support. No sentimental benevolence will do; nor even, at all times, a warm and earnest philanthropy: there must be the inexorable sense of duty arising from a man's apprehension, if but in a feeble degree, of his relation towards God, as well as to his fellow man.


The two former chapters have been given to the consideration of the relation between the employer of labour and the labouring man, and to general reflections upon the duties arising from that relation. Let us now take a particular instance, the employment of labour in manufactures for example, and go through some of the more obvious points to which the master might in that case direct his attention beneficially.


It would seem an obvious thing enough, that when a man collects a number of his fellow-men together to work for him, it would be right to provide a sufficient supply of air for them. But this does not appear to have been considered as an axiom; and, in truth, we cannot much wonder at this neglect, when we find that those who have to provide for the amusement of men, and who would be likely, therefore to consult the health and convenience of those whom they bring together, should sedulously shut out the pure air, as if they disliked letting anything in that did not pay for admission. In most grievances, the people aggrieved are very sensible at the time of the evil they are undergoing; which is not, however, the case with those who suffer from an impure atmosphere. They are, in general, almost unconscious of what they are enduring. This makes it the more desirable, in the case we are considering, that the manufacturer himself, or the government, or the community at large, should be alive to the mischief arising from want of ventilation in these crowded assemblages of men, and to the absolute necessity of providing remedies for it.

This will not be an inappropriate place for saying something about the non-interference principle. There is no doubt that interference has often been most tyrannous and absurd, that our ancestors, for instance, sometimes interfered only to insist upon impossibilities, and that we may occasionally do the same. But, on the other hand, the let-alone principle proceeds upon the supposition, not only that every body knows his own interest best, or if not, that his freedom of action is of more importance than his acting wisely, which is often true; but it also goes on to assume that every body knows and will take just care of the welfare of others. Push either principle to any great length; and you will find yourself in the land of confusion and absurdity. In truth, I should seldom like to say anything about the wisdom, or the folly, of interference, until I knew exactly what it was about, and how far you intended to interfere. It is one of those matters in which it is especially desirable to keep in mind those maxims of prudence, respecting the application of general rules to moral questions, which Burke has handled so admirably. "Nothing universal," he observes, "can be rationally affirmed on any moral, or any political subject. Pure metaphysical abstraction does not belong to these matters. The lines of morality are not like ideal lines of mathematicks. They are broad and deep as well as long. They admit of exceptions; they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are not made by the process of logic, but by the rules of prudence. Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director, the regulator, the standard of them all." To take a particular instance of legislative interference, namely, the enactments about building party-walls, can any one doubt that this interference has been most beneficial? Does any one suppose that, without it, the same good results would have been gained? Would the prudence of private individuals ever have accomplished it? Besides, I think it can hardly be denied that a state should have a degree of providence for the general body, not to be expected from private individuals, and which might compel them to do things that would not consort with their interest even upon the most enlarged views which they could take of it. The financial affairs of the nation are conducted with no slight apparatus of intrusion and vexation. We endure this patiently: indeed, in many cases, it is difficult to see how it could be obviated. Surely we may submit to some simple sanitary regulations, especially of that kind which may be compared to indirect taxation, requiring to be attended to only by a certain class of persons of daily experience in the matter. Such are regulations with respect to building, which need to be looked to in the first instance; and then the results of them remain for ever afterwards a great gain to public health and morals. I am speaking now rather of the question of annoyance, than of loss, from legislative interference. Of course, in this matter of building, it is easy to perceive that limits must carefully be put to the extent of interference with a view to keeping down the expense. If this is not done, the whole purpose of the regulations may be defeated. But even in this, it is possible to be too nice with respect to interfering with what are called the rights of property, or too much afraid of creating an artificial dearness by regulations, many of which will in the end be found to be a great saving.

But to resume the subject of the Mill. Each branch of manufactures has its peculiar dangers and disadvantages; and it behoves the master to be frequently directing his attention to remedy the peculiar evils of his manufacture. He is to be the pioneer to find out for his men ways of avoiding these evils. It cannot be his duty to study only how to make his fabric cheaper, and not to take any pains to see how it can be made to cost less of human life. However, if a man has once got a just view of his position as an employer of labour, he will not need to be urged in this matter, but must see at once that the health of his men is one of the first things for him to look to. What would you think of a commander who was careless of the health of his army, merely because he had an indefinite power of recruiting? In a thickly-peopled country like this, an employer of labour, if his work does not require much skill, can generally get any number of men to serve him, which would be a strange reason, however, for making the health of anyone amongst those whom he does employ less precious in his eyes. Human labour may be ever so abundant, but human life cannot be cheap.

While we are talking of the Mill, it may be well to observe that the system of piecework, when it is done by a man with children under him, is likely to be made too severe work for them. It is a hard fate, indeed, for children to be always under the eye of one whose interest it is to get as much work out of them as possible. The above remarks, however, apply even more to piece-work done at home than at the mill.

The next thing to be mentioned in connexion with the Mill is the time of labour. This is a great question, embracing many considerations which it would be quite foreign to my purpose to enter upon here. But I may observe that there is much in this matter which might be done by the masters, individually, and collectively. They have to consider how the time that they may get for the recreation of their men is to be apportioned. For instance, whether it is better to give it in whole days, or by half-days, or to spread it over the ordinary days of work. These are questions that cannot be answered without much thought and knowledge respecting the social habits of the labouring people.

All that we have addressed to the manufacturer on the subject of his Mill, applies even more cogently to the minor superintendent of labour and his workshop. There, the evils complained of are often far greater. Ventilation is less attended to; less pains are taken to diminish the peculiar dangers of the craft; the hours of labour are more numerous; and the children sometimes exposed to cruelties utterly unheard of in factories. Read the evidence respecting the employment of milliners, and you will wish that dresses could be made up, as well as the materials made for them, in factories. Alas! what a striking instance the treatment of these poor milliner girls is of the neglect of duty on the part of employers: I mean of those who immediately superintend this branch of labour, and of those who cause it. Had the former been the least aware of their responsibility, would they have hesitated to remonstrate against the unreasonable orders of their customers? And, as for the latter, for the ladies who expect such orders to be complied with, how sublimely inconsiderate of the comfort of those beneath them they must have become. I repeat it again: the careless cruelty in the world almost outweighs the rest.


Some manufacturer may think that this branch of the matter does not belong to him, as he does not employ children of the age which makes it incumbent upon him by law to have anything to do with their schooling. But I would venture to suggest that it is a matter which belongs to all of us, and, especially, to those who are able to pay attention to the habits of large masses of people, put, as it were, under their care. Suppose that there had been no such thing in the world's history as a decline and fall of the Roman Empire. In the course of time, though we should probably have had our Domitians and our Neros, we might have delighted in a modern Trajan or an Antonine. Under such a man, the progress of letters, having proceeded in any thing like the manner that it has done, we should have had some general system of national education, which, after the Roman fashion of completeness, would have traversed the state, with iron step, doubtless even to the remote ends of barbarian Britain. To say that this would not have been a signal benefit to mankind would be idle: what we have to say against the despotic system is, that it absorbs private virtue, and suppresses private endeavour; that though it may create better machines, it certainly makes worse men. Now then to bring these imaginings home; for they do concern us closely. My readers are, to a certain extent, educated; they will have gained by living in a free state; but if they continue to neglect the welfare of the great mass, in respect of education, can they say that this, the first layer of the nation, the "turba Remi," might not almost wish, if they could comprehend the question, to live under a despot who would educate them, rather than with free men who do not? Are we to enjoy the singular freedom of speech and action, which we do enjoy in this country, and to expect to have no sacrifice to make for it? Is liberty, the first of possessions, to have no duties corresponding to its invaluable rights? And, in fine, ought it not to be some drawback on the enjoyment of our own freedom, if a doubt can come across our minds whether a vast mass of our fellow citizens might not be the better for living under a despotic government? These are very serious questions; and the sooner we are able, with a good conscience, to give a satisfactory answer to them, the better. Till that time, let no man in this country say that the education of the people is nothing to him.

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