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THE AGRICULTURAL LABOURER-JOSEPH ARCH.
freedom of thought and action; but the con- they had uttered, of which little or no notice dition of the farm labourers was against their had been taken. The farmers said they could combining with any hopeful result. They were not afford to pay higher wages on account of intellectually uninformed; they seemed to be a the rents demanded by the holders of the land; body too numerous to command employment the landowners maintained their right to folat other wages than the farmers or landowners low out the rules of commerce with regard to were able or willing to pay; and their employ- other commodities, and to obtain all the rent ment was to a great degree dependent not only that their land would bring them. Farmers on the seasons but on the nature of the soil and seemed at all events to have enough to eat, and crops and the system of farming adopted in the warm clothing, and most of the comforts, as county in which they happened to be settled. well as many of the luxuries of life. LandThey were for the most part believed to have owners had all the purchasable comforts and a little more ability to assert their rights” or majority of the luxuries and amusements of to represent their wrongs and to seek re- town and country. Hodge had almost forgotten dress by any organized method than the the taste of real meat; bread and weak tea, a bit teams they drove or the cattle they tended. of bard cheese, a bowl of bad potatoes, and an The wretched cottages in which their families occasional scrap of bacon, with intervals of porherded together, the privations which they ridge or water gruel, and not quite enough of endured, their hopeless, aimless lives, which any of these things; old and patched clothes, after years of ill-paid labour had no pross leaky boots; a cottage in which his family pect but the workhouse - all these things herded together in sleeping rooms such as a were known, and people read about them in sporting nobleman would not have tolerated newspapers; but the very fact of their ex- for horses or hounds—these were the circumistence, and of the slow endurance of those stances of the field or farm labourer in many who suffered them, made it seem impossible parts of the country. that there should ever be an agricultural la- In South Warwickshire the pinch was close, bourers' union. “A bold peasantry a country's and hurt sorely, just at the time that a man pride” existed only in the imagination of the returned to his native village after a visit to poet. The artisan of the large towns, sympa- some friends in the manufacturing districts thize as he might with the poverty and suffer- beyond. Such a journey made him an authoings of Giles Clod pole, could scarcely bringrity, and people were eager (if any mental himself to think that unions and committees attitude of theirs could be called eager) to and combinations were meant for him; and hear an account of his travels. yet it was an established, though an unremem- Among the news with which the wanderer bered fact, that Giles or George, when he left returned was that of the strikes among operthe plough or the byre and took the queen's atives, and the slowly stirring imagination of shilling, had soon developed into a sturdy sol- the suffering peasants was moved by what dier who had fought the battles of the country they heard. They could scarcely be worse --or of statesmen-in almost every clime, and off, and desperate as the attempt might be with almost unvarying resolution, courage, and to combine in a demand for wages suffici
The time had arrived for the move- ent to keep them from actual starvation, they ment in favour of an improved condition of might hold out if they could get a little help the population to reach the tillers of the soil; from outside while they made their cause and it was first to touch South Warwickshire. known. The principal organizer of the move
Few people in London knew much about ment was Joseph Arch, a labourer who, by the peasantry of Shakspere's county until it his character and natural ability, had been was rumoured that they had begun to take for some time regarded as a leader among some measures for endeavouring to obtain an them. He was somewhat better educated addition to the wages on which they were than most of his neighbours, and knew how starving. Some faint and imperfect protests to address them, for he had been accustomed
to preach to a Methodist congregation. He assist emigration. The struggle had lasted undertook to call a meeting, and on the ap- for eighteen weeks, and the union had spent pointed day a thousand men met under a great about £25,000, including the sums paid tochestnut tree, and there, in plain, homely, but wards emigration. Out of 2400 men 870 effective language, Arch addressed them. The returned to work, 400 migrated, 4 10 emigrated, thing was done: the union was formed there 350 returned to work without leaving the and then,and various branches were afterwards union, 350 surrendered and left the union, organized. The movement soon spread, and and many remained unemployed. though the men had great difficulty in finding The movement had, however, extended to the means for support, they contrived to hold various parts of the country, a new power had out. In Suffolk the labourers' strike became arisen against which some of the fariners conserious. The demand was for a shilling a tinued to fight, while in some places the week more wages. The farmers formed an grounds of the demands put forward by the association for the exclusion of union men from labourers were recognized, and efforts were employment, and for opposing their claims; made to improve their condition. At anybut aid came to the men on strike from miners'
rate the agricultural labourer had vindicated and artisans' unions, and even the Dorsetshire his right to be regarded as an integer in the peasants contributed. Mr. Mundella, Lord national estimate, and his claims could not Waveney, and Mr. Brand, the Speaker of the thenceforth be ignored. House of Commons, in vain endeavoured to Sailors scarcely seemed very likely persons effect a compromise. The men asked for to join in a strike, but at some of the seaports fifteen shillings a week. The allowance from there was a temporary combination among the strike committee was nine shillings. the merchant seamen for higher wages. There
In Lincolnshire Mr. Samuel Morley and had, however, been stronger reasons than a Mr. Dixon were more successful, and the men desire for increased pay to account for the returned to work, but in Suffolk 2000 men dissatisfaction of the seamen of the mer- . were locked out by the farmers, who refused cantile marine. The practice of sending out to countenance the union, and the number ships overladen and without a sufficient crew greatly increased. A weekly organ of the was one of them; the frequent neglect to prostrike was published, entitled the Labourers' vide adequate and wholesome rations was Chronicle. The hay harvest had to be gathered another; but worse, perhaps, than either of by casual hands engaged with some difficulty. these was the crazy condition of some of the The labourers then organized a pilgrimage, craft, in which a man who had entered for a and a large number of them started on a voyage was compelled to fulfil his agreement journey, accompanied by a waygon and team under the penalty of imprisonment. Worse bearing a chest which was "the money-box.” still, marine insurance was so easy that owners They appealed for contributions as they could secure themselves against the loss of any tramped to Newmarket, Cambridge, Bedford, ship or cargo by paying a premium. It is Luton, Northampton, Wolverhampton, and as certain that vessels, which could not be sent far as IIalifax. The procession was a strange out without peril to the lives of all on board, one, but the men were orderly, sober, and frequently left port short-handed and overinoffensive. In some places they received laden. It was darkly hinted that there were money contributions, in others they were in- owners who calculated on probable loss, and vited by leading inhabitants to substantial lin- habitually so over-insured as to make that loss ners; but the “pilgrimage” was on the whole more profitable than a safe return. Such sugnot very successful. The funds of the union gestions, horrible as they may seem, were not were rapidly diminishing, and at length the very astonishing. Instances were broadly committee was obliged to declare that the mentioned which seemed to give emphasis to allowances could not continue, but that the the dreadful suspicion. residue of the money would be applied to The subject was taken up by Mr. Samuel
MR. PLIMSOLL--DISRAELI LORD BEACONSFIELD.
Plimsoll, the member for Derby, a man of sion was deep and general that the breach of great sympathy and fervid temperament. Mr. etiquette or of manners was as nothing when Plimsoll published a book in which he brought compared with the apparent indifference of the some amazing accusations against individual government, and the exasperating delays and shipowners, who appealed to the law and sued denials with which the effort to save men him for damages. He next brought a bill into from being drowned at sea had been received. parliament for the protection of the lives of Mr. Plimsoll became for a time a national hero. seamen, proposing a strict inspection of all out- Before the week was up he reappeared in pargoing vessels, the adoption of a load line, and liament, where he tendered a frank and manly other restraints, which were opposed by the apology for his former violence, and begged shipping interest in parliament as being harsh the pardon of the house. and impracticable, and by others as removing Mr. Disraeli had fully and readily withthe responsibility from the owners and placing drawn his motion for a reprimand, and the it on parliament. On a division the bill was government, awakened to a sense of the feeling rejected, but Mr. Disraeli's government pro- of the country by the utterances at public mised to bring in another bill that should deal meetings, pushed forward a very inadequate with the subject. In the next session (1875) a measure for regulating the structure of mermeasure was brought forward of a much less chant vessels, to be supplemented by subsestringent character than that of Mr. Plimsoll; quent legislation on the subject of marine but he was ready to accept it, in the hope that insurance. That promised legislation did not it might eventually be carried further, when, appear, however, and Mr. Plimsoll continued to his dismay, he found that it was to be his agitation, reiterated his demands, and delayed and then postponed to some uncertain even ran the risk of another threat of repridate. Mr. Plimsoll suspected that the govern
mand for his violence, before, in a new Liberal ment had deluded him, and all his suppressed ministry, further advances were made, in indignation against former delays and the providing for some kind of inspection of shortcomings of the bill burst forth as hesprang outward bound vessels, restriction of loading, to his feet, with words and gestures of hyster- and the regulation of insurance. ical vehemence denounced some of the ship- As Mr. Disraeli sat and listened to the owners, shook his fist in the face of minis- wild tempestuous words, and saw the clenched ters, waved his arms wildly, and declared that hand and whirling arm of Mr. Plimsoll, he he would expose those villains who had sent may have remembered the day, so many brave men to death. The speaker interposed. years before, when he had himself displayed The honourable member must not apply the scarcely less vehemence, and had declared that word villains to members of that house. But the time would come when the jeering cynical the honourable member would not withdraw, | contemptuous house should hear him. By and repeating the word vociferously rushed what an arduous, brilliant, and successful from the house. It was a painful scene, and career-by what an exhausting expenditure with evident reluctance Mr. Disraeli moved of vital force he had made good those words ! that Mr. Plimsoll should be reprimanded by It may be taken for granted that he at least the speaker for his disorderly behaviour. sympathized with Mr. Plimsoll in that Other members, among whom were Mr. A. moment of fierce assertion, for Disraeli was M. Sullivan and Mr. Fawcett, interposed on one of the first to appreciate and admire behalf of the member for Derby, who was, as genuine emotion of that kind, as he would be they said, obviously in a distressing condition one of the first generously to obliterate all of health and of mental disturbance, caused records of its excesses. Sitting there, the by his exertions and by the disappointment foremost man in the realm, the head of a he had experienced. It was decided to post- strong government, and revolving a policy of pone the decision of the house for a week till which he had hitherto only given some scinMr. Plimsoll could be in his place. The impres- | tillating suggestions, he represented many qualities which Englishmen held dear. The to hold a great, perhaps a paramount place, leaders in the parliamentary arena have often and to bear a personal part iu representing been compared to gladiators, and doubtless its power and influence ;--if that had been the heat and conflict of debate stirs up that his dream it was no unworthy one, and in a fighting instinct which is mostly hidden and measure it was to be realized. When Benjasubdued, but sometimes glares out with lion min Disraeli sat in the front ministerial eyes, and alarms its possessor even more than bench in the autumn of 1875, the reward of it startles his antagonist. If leading states- his unremitting labour in parliament was men are to be spoken of metaphorically as awaiting him; the crown of the peerage was gladiators, Disraeli was a veteran whose repu- to mark the step which led to the culmination tation had been made by many an eager con- of his extraordinary career. He already felt test. His onslaught was quick, his feints the effects of the long strife. It was not till crafty and dangerous, his thrust often deadly. some time afterwards, when the resignation He advanced boldly, got away readily, was of Lord Derby from the cabinet on the quesself-contained and imperturbable in defeat, tion of a demonstration by England against in victory neither implacable nor ungenerous. Russia, led to his speaking in graceful and He preserved no personal animosities. The pathetic language of his regret at losing the combat over he could do full justice to his official support of one so trusted and admired, recent opponent — speak gracious words, if that he referred in a marked manner to the need were, and recall the skill with which symptoms of failing physical powers which some stroke was dealt. Can more be said in were among the reasons for his accepting a relation to the gladiatorial character ?
seat in the Upper House. He would be a strangely misled man who On the 22nd of August, 1876, Mr. Disraeli would say that Disraeli did not love England. was elevated to the peerage with the title of The influences of race were strong in him, Earl of Beaconsfield. In his farewell address but they had joined with an influence as to his constituents he wrote:“Throughout my powerful. He was English plus Hebrew public life I have aimed at two chief results. rather than Hebrew plus English after all, Not insensible to the principle of progress, I for his will and his devoted service were with have endeavoured to reconcile change with that the country of his birth. The characteristics respect for tradition which is one of the main of race were there, and asserted themselves, elements of our social strength, and in external especially unsuiting him for playing that part affairs I have endeavoured to develop and of the squire in which he sometimes tried his strengthen our empire, believing that combinskill, but they were subordinated to what he ation of achievement and responsibility elebelieved was for the honour and the welfare vates the character and condition of a people.” of the country to which he belonged. They Before the date on which this title was conwere subordinated, that is, in many instances, ferred, “the Eastern question” was again stirbut when the time came they reappeared in ring discussion. Once more the unspeakable the policy which he first suggested and then Turk was agitating Europe, and the demands avowed. The cast of his aspirations was and ambitions of Russia were exciting deep oriental. The scene which he imagined suspicion in England. as the triumph of his later years had some- In "Les Memoires sur la Chevaliere d'Eon" thing gorgeous in it. Calmer and more se- that man or woman who had once been famous verely thoughtful minds felt that it was as one of the first sword-players in Europe, and theatrical. To him no doubt it was the whose familiarity with almost every country natural outcome of some systematic policy, and every court was attributed to the opporthe gradations of which he had never declared. tunities enjoyed in the capacity of a secret To make the queen the acknowledged ruler agent, there occurred a passage purporting to of an empire as well as of a realm, to be be an extract from the will of Peter the Great. the prime minister of a government that was It was as follows:-“Approach as near as pos
RUSSIA'S ALLEGED GRASPING POLICY.
sible to Constantinople and towards the Indies. the Mediterranean was ordered to Besika Bay, He who reigns at Constantinople will be the not, as Mr. Disraeli afterwards declared, with real sovereign of the world, and with that the intention of menacing anybody, or to proobject in view provoke continual wars with tect the Turkish Empire, but to protect the Turkey and with Persia: establish dockyards British Empire. At a conference of represenin the Black Sea; get possession of the shores tatives of the powers held at Berlin, it had of that sea as well as those of the Baltic, these been proposed that there should be a suspentwo things being necessary for the ultimate sion of hostilities between Turkey and the success of our project; hasten the decay of provinces for a month, during which a peace Persia; penetrate as far as the Persian Gulf, should be negotiated, and that if the negotiare-establish the former trade of the Levant tions failed the powers should agree to adopt by appropriating Syria; and, if possible, extend further measures to secure peace and compel the power of Russia to the Indies, which are Turkey to observe her former promises. the emporium of the world.”
Lord Derby was opposed to the proposed The first Napoleon published this alleged concerted action, which he believed was the extract from the plan for compassing European outcome of a former secret agreement between supremacy left by the Czar Peter for his suc- Russia, Austria, and Germany. There was cessors, and deposited in the archives of the also a suspicion that Russia had fomented the Palace of Peterhoff. The whole matter was insurrection in some of the provinces. The declared to have been an invention of the memorandum was not adopted, and public French emperor for his own purposes, and excitement was kept at a high pitch by intellithe existence of any such document was posi- gence that the Mussulmans at Salonica had tively denied by the late Emperor Alexander. risen against the Europeans and murdered Whether it ever had any existence or not need the French and German consuls; that at Connot be discussed. Nothing could have been stantinople a revolutionary party had sucmore ingeniously devised to express what has ceeded in deposing the sultan Abdul Aziz, more than once appeared to some European who shortly afterwards had committed suicide politicians to be the practical aim of Russia. by opening the veins in his arm with a pair During the Franco-German war Russia had of scissors; that his nephew Murad had been demanded that as some of the provisions of appointed his successor, and had promised to the treaty made after the Crimean war had appoint a government to secure the liberties been disregarded, the clause restraining her of all his subjects. In three months, however, from maintaining armaments in the Black he also was dethroned, and his brother Hamid Sea should be expunged. There was a con- reigned in his stead. Then came the news of ference at Berlin, and the demand became a the insurrection in Bulgaria, and of the horrequest to which the powers conceded. This rible cruelties of the savage Bashi-Bazouks, “concession” turned out to be important, as who were sent to suppress it. The bodies of Russia, no doubt, foresaw it might be. In 1875 slaughtered women and children lay in heaps. she was already advancing into Central Asia Forty girls who had shut themselves in a by steady strides, and at the same time house were burned to death; 12,000 persons Turkey had declined into the condition from had been killed in Philippopolis; at Batak which she had previously suffered because of above 1000 persons had taken refuge in the an evil and corrupt government. There came church, which resisted the attempts of the rumours of oppression and barbarous cruelties Bashi-Bazouks, who thereupon fired through perpetrated against the people of the Danubian the windows, climbed to the roof, and dropped principalities. It soon became evident that burning faggots and lighted rags, which had the Emperor of Russia would claim the right been dipped in petroleum, amongst the refuto interpose for the protection of the Christian gees. Mr. Gladstone urged that the European populations on the frontier, whatever might powers should combine to settle the Eastern be bis ultimate object. The British fleet in question. Mr. Disraeli explained that the