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to sign such a recommendation, much less in a parish. The mischief which this leads to, and the demoralizing effect which such practices have upon the more ignorant class of labourers, and particularly among the young men, is most deplorable, and a better state of things can only arise by the class immediately above the labourer, as well as the labourer himself, being from education brought to feel that such conduct is discreditable to themselves, and is looked upon as such by the respectable classes immediately above them, and by thus being made to see their own conduct, in somewhat the same light as others see it; in the words of the poet of Scotland —
Oh, wad some power the giftie gie 'em
To see themselves as others see 'em! In general, the rule of conduct in such matters seems to be-if a man can get a living, that he is justified in doing anything which puts a penny into his pocket, no matter how much his doing so may bring into temptation and into mischief those about him. The poor labourers are many of them, in the winter, led to the beer-house by the warmth which it affords, and the result is, a starving wife-ragged and uneducated children - a brutalized peasantry — and many other evils, which might at all events be materially mitigated by a different conduct on the part of their employers, and by their taking a proper interest in the moral well-being and respectability of those around them, and towards whom they are, as beings, responsible to a higher power, and from a duty both to God and man, called upon to act in a very different way from that in which the generality of them do.
The peasantry, in the south of England more particularly, have lost all feeling of self-dependance, and are by no means characterised by those feelings of manly reliance on their own exertions, for the support of themselves and those who are dependent upon them, which belong to the better educated peasantry of Scotland, and in one particular thing the contrast has struck me very forcibly that is, with respect to those of their children, male or female, who may happen to be in any way disabled in body from following what may be called hard work : in the south of England, where this is the case, there is scarcely one parent in ten, nay, one in a hundred (at least I have found it so in my own parish, and hear of it in others), who does not, at the time his child is about sixteen, go to the clergyman of the parish for a certificate of its baptism, to lay before the board of guardians as soon after the child is sixteen as possible, in order to ask relief:- in Scotland, the feeling is, that parent and child, child and parent should mutually assist each other. In England, on neither side does this feeling exist, and in conversing with Scotch people on this subject, there is nothing in which I have found them so much astonished, as in this difference of feeling among the peasantry of the two countries.
As an instance of the very strange notions which the poor have as regards the social relations existing between themselves and the parish, the following, although it may appear somewhat ludicrous, gives a very graphic and a very true idea. Being asked by an old man to send in his name as a claimant of a prize from the Local Agricultural Association, from his having been a number of years a member of what is called a Benefit Society, I did so, stating to him I did not think the case likely to succeed. I happened to see him soon after, and told him that he had not succeeded, and his answer to me was—“Why, sir, there's ne'er a man in the parish desarved it half so well as I did; I have had three wives, and I married them all out of the workhouse." Now, this man was of respectable character - of average intelligence, and well conducted — and his answer was meant in all earnestness; he really thought he had done the parish a service, in relieving it. of the expense, at the time of his marriage, of his respective wives.
This is but one of many cases which I could relate, evidencing the great want of better instruction on economic subjects — not only among the labourers, but among the classes above them in our rural districts, and if any one thoroughly acquainted with them would bring before the public a fair, honest, and, as far as possible, a graphic de
scription of the real social evils of rural life, he would · render great service to the cause of civilization, and would, by laying bare those vices, many of which arise from mere ignorance, advance, at the same time, the cause of that better education among the labouring masses of this coun, try, which all but an unanimous feeling in the public mind seems at the present moment to be in favour of.
That these evils have arisen to the extent to which they now prevail, one reason among others is, I think, the erroneous view, which many of the clergy have taken, that to correct and expose evils of this kind is not within the sphere of their duty-that it is of too secular a nature, and on that account that they ought not to interfere. In answer to this, I would ask, is it a part of the clergyman's duty to try and make men honest, or is it not ?-to make them tell the truth both in speaking and in acting, and not to allow them to imagine themselves to be acting a charitable and a kind part, when in reality they are doing no such thing ? — to see the poor crowded into cottages in such a way as to bid defiance to any possibility of their practising habits of decency, or of being brought up in them? - to see men nominally employed on the parishroads under a plea of humanity, when, in fact, it is to run them on in a sort of straw-yard during the winter at a small expense, until their services may again be wanted ? in short, to allow the most erroneous notions on all subjects of a social kind to prevail without any attempt at amendment, from a fear, perhaps, of being classed among those taking too great care of earthly things, when the doing so might be the means of checking some of the most demoralizing influences which prevail among our labouring poor in the agricultural districts ?
I know parishes where, for a long series of years, at least 75 per cent. of the money spent on their roads has been absolutely thrown away, the value of the work actually done not being 25 per cent. of the expenditure, the road-rate having become a poor-rate for the able-bodied, who are employed at a rate of wages varying with the number of their families, the term roadman being used for, and in every way synonymous with the word pauper-and what is almost unaccountable, is, the rate-payers themselves being perfectly persuaded, or at least appearing to be so, that they are doing what is right, and the surveyor making oath every year before the magistrates that he has expended the parish money in such a way as the statutes relating to the highways direct. The effect of all this where it prevails, and in a greater or less degree it prevails extensively, is bad beyond description ; and it is almost impossible to imagine the mischief to which it leads—in demoralizing the labourers as a classmin unduly keeping down the rate of wages and the proper renumeration of labour, and the in every way low and degraded state to which it leads.
Now if the object of religion be (what I think every one must confess it is) to make men practically good, then I think it must be allowed by all that its teachers are by no means exceeding their duty, in endeavouring to give clearer and better views in those matters nominally of a civil kind having so intimate a relation and so direct an influence on the morals of a people, and in the healthy administration of which, almost all the links in our social chain are equally interested.
There is no subject on which both the labourer and the employer in our rural districts require more to be enlightened, than on their mutual relations with respect to the Remuneration of Labour a thing necessary before there can be any great change in the character of the labourer in this country — before he can feel that it is a sort of moral degradation for a healthy able-bodied man to throw himself (and in the present state of things he is obliged to do so) upon the parish the moment he is out of work. Nor can the farmer think, nor does he in fact think, that the labourer is wrong in doing so. Now, in blaming the labourer for doing this, and for having so little of a spirit of independence as to throw himself unscrupulously upon the parish the moment he is sick or out of work-every one must feel that it is in reality a part of his wages, and this is implied—between both parties—the employer and the employed—the present system of wages always supposes a third party to the contract—the parish—and never contemplates anything beyond getting on from one Saturday night to another, and in case of sickness, or work
failing, the parish do the rest. A system like this necessarily leads (and we all know what in times past it has led to) to an unhealthy state of society ; each individual employer is willing to save himself as much as possible, in order to throw the rest on the general ratepayer —the labourer, from ignorance, has lost sight of his true interests and of what constitutes respectability and self-dependence; he is become improvident, without forethought, these being in his case not at all necessary, and is quite as contented to take part from his em. ployer and part from the parish, as if he had the whole at once ; perhaps more so, as in the one case it would imply he must take care of himself in case of sickness, want of employment, etc.; and in the other, he is taken care of by others; but at all events, the present system treats the labourer through life as a child that cannot take care of itself—as one that neither reflects upon the past, nor looks forward to the future,
The following passage from Mrs. Marcet's “ Conversations on Political Economy,” well expresses what ought to be the tendency of the education given to the labouring classes; she says:
“ I would endeavour to give the rising generation such an education as would render them not only moral and religious, but industrious, frugal, and provident. In proportion as the mind is informed, we are able to calculate the consequences of our actions ; it is the infant and the savage who live only for the present moment; those whom instruction has taught to think, reflect upon the past and look forward to the future. Education gives rise to prudence, not only by enlarging our understanding, but by softening our feelings, by humanising the heart, and promoting amiable affections. The rude and inconsiderate peasant marries without either foreseeing or caring for the miseries he may entail on his wife and children; but he who has been taught to value the comforts and decencies of life, will not heedlessly involve himself and all that is dear to him in poverty and its long train of miseries."
It certainly appears to me to be the true theory of a healthy state of society, and certainly more consistent