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THE

IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW.

No. XVI-DECEMBER, 1854.

ART. I.-THE FUTURE OF THE WORKING CLASSES. An Essay on the Relations Between Labour and Capital. By C. Morrison. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. 1854.

Although we, of the present day, can hardly compete with those golden ages of literature which have preceded, there is yet one cause of pride and congratulation peculiar to us, sufficient to more than outweigh in true glory all that the distinguished works of our literary predecessors could lay claim to. Within the last few years, the noblest object which could occupy the mind or pen of man, the moral and social reformation of the humbler classes, the elevation of his fellow man, has been the subject of enquiry and discussion, of thought and industry. Even our writers of fiction have, with a singular zeal and earnestness, forced upon the public mind the monstrous anomalies in our social system, and exercised an influence for good, the importance of which it is impossible to estimate. Until but very recently there was an utter absence of information on matters connected with the well being of the great masses. No doubt, individuals amongst those who have preceded us have done much, and in some instances might almost put us to the blush in dispensing charity, in relieving the sick, the destitute and the needy.

Occasionally too the sufferings of the ill-paid and over worked artizan have, incidentally to the developement of their plots, been painted by dramatists and novelists. It has, however, been reserved for the present generation to inaugurate a species of literature, in its fiction systematically aiming at the education of our humbler fellow men, by calling attention with painful accuracy to their privations and mental and physical wretchedness, and in its more serious works upon

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the social frame work discussing, and pointing out the means by which these privations and this wretchedness may be avoided, and a great and natural amelioration of the vast human family may be effected. In offering these observations we do not lose sight of the immense number of tracts and essays, purporting to have this object in view, produced by the French Revolution; we look upon these however, (as all who have considered them with care and as experience has proved them,) as the lucubrations, in most instances, of designing knaves, for political or selfish purposes, and in the few cases, of hot-headed fanatics and visionaries, actuated more by a desire of putting some private scheme into practice and of experimentalizing, than by motives of pure humanity and christian charity.

There is one prejudice in the public mind which must be removed, one general misconception which must be set right— that with regard to what is called Political Economy. It is generally supposed to be one of those abstruse sciences, the difficulties of which are enhanced by the use of peculiar terms with arbitrary meanings, much more difficult and uninteresting and much less important to the public at large, than cubic equations, the differential calculus, or the theory regarding the polarization of light. Not alone the humbler classes know nothing of it, but with the exception of those who have received a University education, but very few of the middle or upper classes are at all acquainted even with its more general principles. That with several of its branches there is some accuracy in these notions, as to its difficulty, is true; but with regard to those great and immutable laws which regulate the prices of human food, and raiment, and all other articles necessary for man's support or comfort, which fix the rate of wages, and the remuneration which the workman shall receive from his employer, whether domestic servant, farm laborer, manufacturing operative, or skilled tradesman and mechanic, those great truths which elucidate the problems as to the causes of want and plenty, of brisk employment and consequent prosperity to the middle class, and comfort to the masses, and of stagnation of trade, and consequent bankruptcy and suffering to one class, and of actual famine to the other, to acquire a general knowledge, nay more to understand the reasons and universality of these rules, is within the grasp of the ordinary intelligence of mankind, and requires for a

foundation no further education than that which the children of the middle class have been receiving for years, and which the children of the lower class are now receiving, or may receive, at the Schools in connection with the Board of National Education. So much is an ignorance on these subjects the result of culpable negligence, or groundless and ignorant prejudice that, in the year 1824, a law prohibitory of combinations amongst workmen was found on our statute book; and even amongst the great mass of our legislators, notions, now admittedly erroneous, upon some of the most important of our social relations, prevailed. We hope much from cheap literature, and we shall look with confidence to it, as a great means of spreading these truths, and imparting a familiar, and popular knowledge of these branches of Political Economy, which more directly effect the masses. Considerable as are the benefits which have already been, and are being conferred upon the human race, by the extensive circulation of inexpensive publications, we are satisfied as great, and as wonderful a change will be brought about by them in the condition of the human race, as the steam-engine and the electric telegraph have effected in the material world, and one as little calculated on by its founders. This very spread of knowledge amongst the lower classes, which is, in substance, an extension of their power, will render it the more necessary that they should rightly understand their own position, the relations between them and their employers, the causes which produce amongst them plenty and want, full and constant wages, and half or no work, and that their minds should be disabused of those erroneous but most popular, and therefore most dangerous notions which they entertain on those points. A knowledge on these subjects cannot be suddenly communicated from the summit to the base of the human pyramid. It must make its way through the middle class, and communicated through them, and so to speak popularized, become uniformly and regularly diffused. Such knowledge, unlike the electric spark in the rapidity of its transit, resembles it in requiring an unbroken and conducting chain of communication.

Happily for the national prosperity of England, and her pre-eminence in trade and manufacturers, it never was much the policy of her governments to interfere with the conduct of, or place unmeaning and harassing obstructions on, commercial industry, as was the case in other countries. Although

the great principles of Political Economy were until recently unascertained and unpromulged, a certain wisdom and forethought induced her legislators to interfere but little with private enterprise or the private relations and contracts of individuals, (although there are several instances of interference so trifling, however, as not to interfere materially with trade generally, which show that the laissez faire principle which now in a spirit of enlightened legislation is acted on strictly, was then far from being recognized or even contemplated). Immutable and universal as the laws which govern the motions of the heavenly planets, which cause the tides to ebb and flow, night and rest to succeed day and action, season to succeed season, calm and sunshine, to the thunderstorm and the tornado, like them, the great laws which regulate the support, the order, and the relations of man with man, must excite in the human breast emotions of wonder, and of gratitude to that divine providence which alone was capable of imposing such vast and such accurate rules for the arrangement of the human race.

To the philanthropist of every class,—we need only state, that to effect his favorite object of rescuing the humbler classes from that misery to which they are for the most part exposed, to raise them to comfort, and enable them to look upon those higher in the social scale, with other than that distempered gaze which is now fixed upon them, to improve their moral and social condition, it is necessary to shew them the causes from which their misery and degradation spring, and how, as a class, they may elevate themselves,-to ensure his attention to this science, and his anxiety to render its truths expressed in homely language, and explained by homely and popular illustration universally known. To the mere politician and statesman, we would point to the danger likely to ensue, if the humbler classes and their representatives should become a great, if not a predominant party in the state, as sooner or later they must be, (if we educate them,) imbued with the false doctrines of ignorant, or factious, or visionary men, laboring under the popular delusions with regard to capitalists and workmen, and their relations, as to wages and the causes of their inadequacy. Mr. Morrison thus indicates this cloud which hovers upon the political horizon, and which it is in our power to seasonably dissipate by the diffused beams of accurate knowledge, or permit to gather, and burst upon us in its concentrated fury and intensity:

"The growth of the democratic element, whether directly by the lowering of the qualifications for the suffrage, or indirectly, through the moral influence of the masses, means the preponderance of the interests of labour, over the interests of property. If then the working classes, or that portion of them, whose superior intelligence and activity tend to make them the representatives of the rest, very generally believe, that the rate of wages and other arrangements between themselves and the other classes, are unfair and disadvantageous to themselves, and that a better state of things is attainable, it is natural that they will use both their legal right or their actual, though not legally recognized power to attain it. And as their whole condition, and that of their families, and almost their daily bread are at stake upon the results of such an attempt, as any belief of the injustice of social arrangements which they may entertain, will be constantly irritated into indignation by the contrast which their own general poverty and frequent distress present to the immense masses of wealth amidst which they live, and as agitators will never be wanting to fan their smouldering passions into flame, it is to be expected, that they will bring to the struggle a greater intensity of excitement than is seen in the most animated of merely political contests. If then they should entertain erroneous ideas upon such subjects; if they should attribute to the faults of individuals or of social arrangements, those evils of their condition, which are in fact, the result of inevitable natural laws, or of their own conduct; if they should believe that these evils are to be remedied by measures, which are in truth, unjust, impracticable, and pernicious; it is difficult to over-rate the amount of mischief and confusion which they may produce, by acting upon such views before they shall be finally undeceived on all those points."

Before entering upon some of the principal questions which at present are chiefly in agitation, let it not be supposed that we wish all those bounties and charities, in which the humane delight to relieve suffering and want, should be relinquished, either for writing or publishing tracts on social, political, or any other kind of economics. Far be it from our intention, that people in caring for the masses, should overlook individual misery. What we would impress is, that to effect any permanent improvement in the laboring population as a class, to raise the condition, not of an individual, a family,

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