Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Mar/1895) - The Carlilian Reformer and the Labourites

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

There is, therefore, no wonder that they are advocates of the payment of members of Parliament. The payment of delegates is their chief aim, and the multiplication of prying inspectors their happy dream. Yet, if they fight for office now, what will they do when that office means £300 a year out of the taxes? They would also pay out of the rates county, town, district, and pariah councillors, members of Boards of Guardians and School Boards, jurors, and all and sundry, competent, indifferent, and incompetent, honest, roguish, or foolish, bad or good, the adventurous and the most cunning of the rag-tag-and-bobtail of the great unwashed and unwashable, and let all of this incongruous conglomeration live in the lap of luxury— all out of the rates. They would pay magistrates well to induce them to temper justice with mercy, and expect a great deal of the latter for their money. They would limit and regulate all trades and professions, from the highest to the lowest, from the towering intellect to the monosyllablic peasant, or bird scarer. They applaud to the echo a resolution that would imprison all who wheeled a barrow or finished an intricate calculation after the eight hours’ bell had rung. The men who do not like work like a resolution of this kind. They only live now, and say they would only live then. The men who delight in work and take a pride in being perfect artizans and skilled in everything they do, and who put their hearts and consciences into their work, with a view to rise superior to the past; mechanics, lawyers, artists, authors, statesmen, who are most happy when busily pursuing some noble object, and who forget that there is such a thing as time, long or short, in their engrossing occupations; these, even these, are to be gagged, manacled, have their lights put out at a stated time, or be imprisoned for disobedience. If the influence or inducement to write comes to a man of letters, who has been waiting and possibly praying for inspiration, he is to put down his pen, take up his pipe, and adjourn to the nearest club or public-house, and there enjoy himself until the time for work comes round again. When that time arrives he may be befogged on account of his over-night’s libations and smoke. But what of that? If ideas will not come to his brain during the prescribed hours he must scribble something, or blankly wait until his inspiration conforms to that portion of the day when it is legal for him to work, but at no other time. There are men who scorn delights and live laborious days, yet such men are to be taught to love delights and scorn laborious days. I should not be surprised to hear that at the next Labour Conference a proposal had been made that all waters should run uphill, that the cold of winter should be changed to summer sunshine, or autumn’s balmy breeze, that the very hills should be levelled and made into garden plots, which, of course, would be tilled and cultivated in the masters’ time, that is, within the legal eight hours, or the axis of the earth should be balanced and regulated, indeed, that the men of Norwich will adapt it as they want it by resolution. There is luxury in labour when pride is taken in one’s work. Some men will make a pleasure of their business, while others have to be urged and watched, their employers fully knowing that such men’s service is but eye-service, and that the hour for ceasing work is the only hour they care about or interest themselves in. Leisure to the perverted mind, the morally depraved, and to the indolent, but lends itself to animal indulgence; to spiritual demoralisation, and to moral and physical death; but the love of industry, agreeable, wholesome work, does not kill, but rather invigorates the moral and physical fibres of mankind, and begets an independent and manly appreciation that tends to the welfare of the individual and the nation. Such men court competition, delight in rivalry, and scorn the cravens who miserably decry enterprise and who fold their arms or shake their heads when competition is mentioned. The former are the salt of the earth, the latter its dead-weight and miasmic breath. The former delight to measure their strength with their fellows, the latter slumber and idle in the sunshine. The former are joyous and are buoyed by the faith and hope that accompany industry and savour it with plenteousness and satisfaction, that beget self-mastery, self-help, and self-reliance, which combine to develop habits of self-denial and physical and moral health, and tend to the uplifting of all who come in contact with them, while the latter are the lepers of the earth, the moral foetid embodiments of sloth and evil, and the deadening influence of the world. Fancy the work of the world being done on the eight hours’ principle. Imagine a farmer in harvest time knocking off when the whistle sounds or the sun points to the termination of the legal eight hours. What a delightful thing it would be if a doctor, in the midst of a choleraic plague, were to jump into his trap at the termination of the stipulated time ! It would also be humourously grotesque if sailors in the midst of a raging storm were to let go the ropes, take a plug of tobacco, quaff their grog, and let the ship and wind fight for the supremacy, while they “lit up” and danced to the music of the tempest. If a war should break out, what a nice thing it would be for an enemy to know that our contractors, shipbuilders, gunmakers, and ammunition providers would take a 16 hours’ rest at a stated time. If the advocates of this remarkable restraint of adult labour had occasion to call in a doctor or midwife, they might appreciate the folly of a hard and fast legal limit of employment, if, when the interesting event was about to occur, the time to cease work was proclaimed. It would be a grand time for the undertakers and a wonderful means of keeping down the population. Again, suppose a fire should break out and the firemen had just mastered the flames, they would not, of course, be permitted to work overtime for fear of being locked up by themselves or those just coming on duty. The owners of such property at the commencement of such conflagration would at once conclude, before the old mill had ceased burning, to go to the contractors and order a new block, while the reporters, who now have to rush from their beds, from meals, and from stolen pleasures would be able to stand at a distance, take in the bearings, note the firemen’s time-limit, and then tell the world in the following morning’s paper that the buildings were gutted, partly or fully insured, and that the owners had ordered a new mill. There are cases, however, where less than eight hours would more than suffice, to wit, where talking, vapid or fiery, is the trade affected, such as the British House of Commons, Norwich Trades’ Congress, &c., &c., &c. I have a train to catch, but I hope the next time we meet I may have the opportunity to prove that I can not only criticise but formulate and promulgate what would be safe for both employer and employed, for both capital and labour to act up to, and clearly point out what would tend to evolve such industrial peace as is consistent with wholesome competition and the uncertainties and changes of life, and elucidate an assuaging remedy for the present unequal and unjust distribution of wealth.