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THE ALLEGED DEPRAVITY OF THE WORKING CLASSES.

BY CHARLES HARDWICK, P.G.M.

THERE is nothing mankind more sincerely esteems, in its inward heart, than sincerity. Nay, let but the orator, the author, or even the mendicant succeed in producing this impression, and dazzling honours, huge rewards, or small donations will speedily demonstrate the truth of this position. I have heretofore expressed an opinion, which I have, as yet, seen no reason to retract, that the chief ingredient in successful eloquence is sincerity, or at least its semblance. Of course I do not mean that sincerity will answer as a substitute for talent, but that sincerity gives an irresistible force to average oratorical power. Liberty of conscience is "tolerated" in this country on account of this innate respect for individual sincerity. Do not imagine that a professional thief feels any real contempt for honesty. He may outwardly affect it. He may clothe himself in the devil's toga, with the view to hide his moral nakedness, but the flimsy fabric is more intended for show, and the deception of others, than for his own substantial comfort. No; he inwardly pays bitter homage to the very principle his practical life ignores. He, however, sometimes most cordially hates the honest man, because his truthful life is a standing and bitter commentary upon the turpitude of his own.

But the world is easily, for a time, deceived by appearances. Sham sincerity, with a pious whine, often receives the most respectful consideration; while manly dissent to conventional rule is hustled, kicked, and calumniated. Vice in tatters is a very different thing, in the said world's opinion, to vice in purple and fine linen. It is a very safe affair, to denounce vice in the abstract. It is not quite so safe if you descend to particulars, and especially if you desire to castigate arrogant spiritual pride with a meek and lowly mask upon its face, or expose to the gaze of mankind the dry bones whitening in a gilded charnel-house. In the first place, you will be liable to the unpleasant charge of wilfully wounding the sincere convictions of wellmeaning men. By the bye, it seldom happens that these very thin-skinned individuals are at all squeamish about the sincere convictions of those who happen to belong to an opposite sect or party. They generally prefer to talk very eloquently about the duty of loving one's neighbours as oneself, and leave the bond fidé practical loving to said neighbour, and to very poor people, the latter of whom, somehow or other, often contrive to carry out this doctrine with more truthfulness of heart than "their betters." Truly "none but God and the poor know what the poor do for each other!" In the other instance it is considered very shocking indeed to use free speech upon the peccadilloes of "respectable" proprietors of well-filled purses. To talk about them and their doings in language appropriate enough to the petty pilferings of a beggar's brat, is to proclaim yourself at once a low fellow, utterly unacquainted with the ways of the world or the usages of polite society!

It has often appeared to me that there is a vast amount of moral cowardice, unworthy of an English heart, in this toadying of wealthy scoundrelism. It is genuine demagogueism, of the first water, and in its most contemptible form. But there is another phase of this class of social turpitude, which is even more reprehensible. It is the practice of trumpeting forth a man's own

virtue, or the virtue of his class, by a course of bullying of the poor, and angrily lecturing them en masse on their ignorance and their vices, real and imaginary, exaggerated or otherwise. It has become quite fashionable, of late for highly respectable people to hold forth very eloquently upon what they call the "vices of the working classes." A vast amount of virtuous indignation has been of late expended upon this subject, by individuals who appear to have forgotten the divine command which enjoins that the first stone thrown at a sinner comes with better grace from one with clean hands. It is evidently, to some of them, a very pleasant and agreeable occupation-this public expression of horror at the vices of the "inferior classes," and it is so very "respectable" at the same time.

"Crime clothed in greatness, holds a wondrous claim

On the world's tenderness; 'tis few will dare

To call foul conduct by its proper name,

When it can prowl and prey in golden lair.
But let the pauper sin-Virtue, disgraced,

Rears a high seat, and vengeance stern must all it.
Justice, thy bandage is not fairly placed.

Did God so will it ?"-ELIZA Cook.

It is certainly a singular fact, that after several years of boasting about our glorious national characteristics, our free press, grants for schools, and the great educational progress of the mass of the people, that there should be at the present time so loud an outcry about the "depravity of the working olasses." If you ask one of these disciples of the lady who is reputed to be continually crying in the streets, notwithstanding the indifference of mankind to her warnings, what he means by the term "working classes," you need not be surprised if you find the question very vaguely answered. Statists have never yet, to my knowledge, arrived at any satisfactory method of computing the numbers of those so described. Indeed it is a difficult thing to draw the line where working, in some shape or other, ceases to be a part of any man's daily duty; consequently, each speculative philanthropic statist generally adopts such a one as serves best to support some preconceived theory. In a previous article I noticed a computation which assumed that seventy millions of money were annually consumed in this country in intoxicating liquors, forty millions of which "moistened the clay" of working men. Well, supposing, for the sake of argument, we call the working population of Great Britain and Ireland only twenty-five millions; how much is it per head per week? And supposing we say five millions, which is much above the mark, for the middle and upper classes, how much will the rate be per head per week amongst them? According to this very favourable way of putting it, although the working men are five times as numerous, yet it appears they only consume one-third more in value !

But stay; another authority, Mr. John Taylor, in a paper read at the late meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, at Bradford, stated that the sum annually spent in intoxicating drinks was £60,000,000, and that £20,000,000 of this was consumed by the working classes! Here is a wide discrepancy indeed. I feel confident, however, it is much nearer the truth than the statement previously referred to, and yet still I am compelled to declare that no data for the construction of such a comparison have yet been obtained that are at all worthy of credit. Certain houses, I suppose, are assumed to be patronized by working men, and certain hotels, &c., by the middle and upper classes. By the aid of the excise returns, some attempt is thus made to guess at the quantities of intoxicating liquors consumed by the two sections. Now, in my own experience, I know that numbers of tradesmen frequent even beer houses, and are the best

customers to some of these places, while working men very rarely patronise your fashionable hotel! I, therefore, and from my own practical experience in life, feel no doubt whatever that even some portion of this £20,000,000 must be added to the middle and upper classes' £40,000,000.

Of course I wish not to make out a case against my own order, but I am anxious that the truth alone should be told. I deprecate, to the fullest extent, the practice of setting class against class, and have used my best endeavours throughout life—and, I am glad to say, not altogether unsuccessfully-in endeavouring to bring them into still further friendly contact, and in strengthening what bonds of union exist between them. But the zeal of certain well-meaning men, and the rancour of others, have lately done much to create mischief and distrust, nay, even disgust, amongst some of the most upright and intelligent of the operative population. The workers are continually being spoken of, en masse, as if all were the mere outscourings of the jail, or the parish workhouse; and falsehoods, the most ridiculous as well as contemptible, are continually being hurled at them from men in high social position. Nay, one gentleman lately, in the House of Commons, spoke of the upper section of the working men of England as a people whom "the criminal returns showed to be ignorant, vicious, and irreligious!" It would be as well if such gentlemen were to remember that the working men of this country are a distinct class from the idle pariah tribes, whose crimes swell the calendars of our quarter sessions and assizes, and whose profession is not honest labour but habitual mendicancy or crime. It would likewise be well, as it is but just, that they should endeavour to arrive at a knowledge of the per-centage of crime amongst the middle and upper classes, as illustrated by such names as Palmer, Dove, Rush, Sadlier, Redpath, Robson, Strahan, Paul, Pullinger, and other bank directors, and especially not to neglect to make due allowance for the chances of wealthy rogues escaping detection. Perhaps their language would be a little more courteous than it is sometimes, after such an investigation had been honestly achieved. At least, such reckless falsehood as that published by the leading journal a few months back, would be received with general disgust and abhorrence by a thoroughly enlightened public on the subject. It is certainly a most singular fact, that the vast amount of provident effort made by the best section of the operative population of Great Britain, an effort unparalleled in the history of humanity, one which has already saved millions to the pockets of the ratepayers of the country, has preserved an honourable independence in the hearts and homes of thousands of noble but unfortunate working men striken by the breath of sickness; an effort, indeed, which has practically done more to elevate them in the scale of manhood, than hundreds of praise-bespattered but impotent efforts to drill free men into a kind of docile, social militia; it is certainly astonishing that so much ignorance should obtain, in the nineteenth century, respecting the true character of, and the difficulties inherent in, such a mighty enterprise, as is evidenced in the following from the Times of the 7th October last:

"There is no greater puzzle in this country than its Friendly Societies. They are at variance with sound principles of morality and prudence; they belie the boasted honour and good sense of the Englishman; they prove him incapable of self-government; not a word can be said in their defence."

And all this simply because this Times writer understands from some one (for he is evidently pitifully ignorant of the question himself) that the true laws which recent experience has demonstrated regulate the average of sickness and mortality, have not yet been made the basis of the financial calculations in many of these clubs! He utterly ignores the great facts that the experiments of these very clubs were absolutely necessary to the obtain

ing of a knowledge of these laws of sickness and mortality, and that the actuaries themselves, as well as the members, have had, until recently, to grope the dark on this subject, and have unwittingly proved false guides to the people in this very respect. Talk about setting class against class, indeed! Would the most violent demagogue in the land use such false and filthy abuse against any other conventionally respectable section of the community? Perhaps the Times itself might when so disposed; for in its turn it appears to have so thoroughly denounced every class, that if mankind did not know the true value of some of its bellowings, England would unquestionably be entitled to the unenviable sobriquet of a "den of thieves." Hear what the Times said, December 28th, 1858, and then, oh ye members of provident societies, weep, not only for your own real and supposed sins, but for the sins of your superiors, and pray for Heaven's mercy on a nation composed of such disreputable elements:

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"We must, however, agree with Viator,' (their correspondent), that people may reasonable throw upon government a great part of this blame. The course which the legislature has deliberately, perversely, and obstinately taken with regard to railways has been just that to ruin them as investments, to create difficulties and panics, and to send the shares alternately up and down. This has continually necessitated sales, and certainly created a gratuitous temptation to purchasers. The timid have retired with loss, and the sanguine have stepped in. The whole country has been infested with a gambling, compared with which the Turf, the London Hells, and the German Watering Places sink into insignificance. The result has been the same as in these more recognized resorts of sharpers and black-legs. The clever, the prompt, and the unscrupulous, who put their whole soul into the game, really learn it, get behind the scenes, and, not caring what agents or instruments they use, get the money. The rest, of course, lose it, and have lost it, in railways. The calamity, too, like most other calamities, has been one which individuals could not escape. Thousands never bought or sold a share, and always advised others against railways. What avails it? They have had to lose half or all their fortune, to sell house, and land, and consols, to break up establishments, and forego all the opportunities of life, in order to rescue less prudent friends from pauperism, IGNOMINY, or perhaps DEATH itself. No doubt the worst of all this is over; (thank God for it); the public are wiser grown;' the territory is well-nigh occupied, and speculation has taken other directions."

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Indeed! so this tremendous vice has merely changed its lodgings, after all! The men of money are merely operating in another direction. As for the trading classes proper, they have been shown up so much for short weights, adulteration, and all manner of "fraud upon the working classes" especially, that we are, however reluctantly, compelled to acknowledge the truth of the preacher's words, that "As a nail sticketh fast between the joining of the stones; so doth sin stick close between buying and selling."

It is somewhat singular that, in the interval between the penning of the last paragraph and the present, I should accidentally have stumbled on an article in the Times on the day of its publication, (May 26,) in which mercantile frauds are exposed and denounced with a just and unsparing hand. The working men will scarcely be prepared to learn the extent to which they are daily plundered by the trading section of the community, as stated by the Times itself.

"Respectable' men systematically sell two hundred yards of thread as three hundred, and 'honourable men' actually forge the labels of celebrated firms and attach the same to articles purposely made to swindle the public! And this is not a casual case of roguery, but a systematic trick of trade,'

and actually receives a kind of passive countenance from certain men of professedly high honour.' Mr. Helps, in his recent work Friends in Council,' says, one of the principal surgeons in a large London hospital distinctly said, Half the cases that are brought to me are caused by the adulteration of food! What is the good of legislation, if it cannot reach such evils as this?"

We have heard enough, from the Times itself, of the scandalous mismanagement of official personages high in authority, as well as of reckless inattention or incompetence on the part of respectable managers of railways, banking firms, and insurance offices. And yet this very journal has stated that if a certain person "had gone about to look for an illustration of a profligate and unprincipled government, he could not have found one more to the point than the Benefit Societies," of the provident British operatives! Of course, the writer is utterly ignorant of the matter on which he so flippantly dilates, or, at least, can know little or nothing of the institutions he so recklessly denounces. He might as well talk of the government of the entire solar system when he refers to some terrestrial political machinery, as talk of the government of Friendly Societies as one either in fact or fashion. There are hundreds, nay thousands of distinct and separate governments amongst them, any one of which has no more to do with any other, than the management of the Times newspaper has to do with that which superintends the destinies of the Family Herald, the Morning Star, or Reynolds' Miscellany! Such random generalization is not only worthless from its falsehood, but criminal in its action, as the germ of truth, applicable to some societies, countenances and propagates the libelous falsehood when the character of others is called in question. I defy any one, well acquainted with the central government of the Manchester Unity for the last ten or twelve years, to say with truth, that he can point to many instances, amongst the societies of the middle and upper classes, to which the terms "profligate and unprincipled" will less apply. In many respects their "betters" might imitate the example with advantage.

Singularly enough, the crammers of the Times, on this subject, draw all or nearly all their information, respecting the imperfect financial structure of a large number of Friendly Societies from Mr. Neison's work, and yet they appear to wilfully ignore the very different conclusions to which he himself has arrived on the question now under discussion. In his last edition, after showing from his own and other data, that "the duration of life, among the members of Friendly Societies generally, is much greater than that of the country at large, or the select class dealing with assurance companies," he honourably and intelligently acknowledges, or rather insists, that "This immunity from disease among the humble and industrious workmen of the country, whose prudential habits are sufficiently strong to maintain them members of these clubs, is only what, à priori, might be expected. The fact of continuing a member of such a society pre-supposes great regularity of habits, otherwise difficult circumstances and distress would ensue, and, from inability to continue his subscription, non-membership follows. Hence, such a member may be regarded as a type of industry, frugality, regularity of habits, and simplicity of life. The member's avocation enjoins on him a diurnal repetition of the different functions of the body in a manner not required of the pampered, the indolent, the intemperate, and the dissolute. He has, therefore, his legitimate reward in the enjoyment of a long, a useful, and, let us hope, a happy and a blessed life."

But I think I have shown enough of the folly of expecting to benefit mankind by vulgar abuse of large masses of men. Those who really deserve condemnation are generally the last either to read it, or care for it when they

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