« PreviousContinue »
spinners are nearly the sole employers of the children, and consequently answerable for the cruelty, if any there be, in their treatment. Why, then, it may be asked, did they not leave the promotion of this bill to those of their fellow-workmen, who could support it with a decent regard to consistency? Those, who have not penetrated their secret motives, may think this surprising; the circumstance, however, admits of an easy solution.
The effect produced by the Spinners' Union, affords an explanation of this anomalous conduct. It has been before stated, that the high wages given in this business, cause a greater number of persons to enter it than the trade can employ, and that those superfluous labourers receive a weekly stipend from those who are in work, to prevent them from engaging themselves under the combination prices. The Union calculated, that had the Ten Hour Bill passed, and all the present factories worked onesixth less time, one-sixth more mills would have been built to supply the deficient production. The effect of this, as they fancied, would have been to cause a fresh demand for workmen; and hence, those out of employ would have been prevented from draining the pockets of those now in work, which would render their wages really, as well as nominally high. Here we have the secret source of nine-tenths of the clamour for the Ten Hour Factory Bill; and we assert, with the most unlimited confidence in the accuracy of our statement, that the advocacy of that bill amongst the workmen was neither more nor less than a trick to raise their wages—a trick, too, of the clumsiest description; since it is quite plain, that no legislative enactment, whether of ten, or any other number of hours, could possibly save it from signal failure.'
It is not an easy matter to speculate on the doctrines or objects of Mr Sadler, or upon the view which he may now take of this great interlude in his unsuccessful dramatic performances at Leeds. But we should think Lord Ashley, for whose character and motives we entertain sincere respect, must look back with some degree of compunction on his connexion with those with whom he then associated, now that their wishes and plots have been more fully brought to light.
This is the point-namely, the enormous expenses which necessarily accompany the most successful combination which we should wish to see most strongly insisted on by the numerous writers who are now endeavouring to instruct our industrious artisans in the real elements of their prosperity. So sanguine are the anticipations with which they invariably look forward to the result of a contest, that the history of ten unsuccessful Strikes, and of the misery, the debt, the demoralization which they have produced, would probably be listened to with less interest than the exposure of the real state of facts in a single case where similar efforts have proved successful.
As to the extent of the mischief which these Unions have done, and are still doing, to our manufacturing population, we confess we
do not quite entertain the dark apprehensions with which many reasoners consider this subject. We have a confidence, not easily to be shaken, in the versatile and elastic character of British industry we believe, too, that the unrivalled steadiness of our men-that very circumstance which makes their Strikes so stubborn, so lasting, and so peaceable-will prevent them from being hurried by passion into excesses, which can only produce lasting injury to themselves and their employers. It cannot be denied that Trades'-Unions may exist and flourish along with a flourishing trade, so long as their demands are not unreasonable, and their leaders uninfected with the levelling fancies which now beset them. This has been the case for many years, for example, in the spinning trade, in many respects the most important branch of our industry; inasmuch as most of the processes in the cotton manufactory are necessarily dependent on it. Mr Babbage has drawn a very discouraging picture of the state to which the repeated Strikes of the workmen have reduced that ancient and staple branch of British skill, the cutlery of Sheffield. It appears that this town is fast losing its long vaunted preeminence; that in some of the finest articles of steel fabric, France, with her high-priced iron, and her half-developed industry, is said to be already superseding England in the foreign market! In many other towns the effects of multiplied combinations are more or less conspicuous. Many of the most respectable manufacturers at Derby, Manchester, and other places, are supposed to be planning the abandonment of their factories; less from actual loss than from the constant annoyance to which they are subjected by the unreasonable demands and rude dictation of the committees.* Not content with fixing the rate of wages, these bodies decide on the fitness or unfitness of men to be employed, on the hours and division of labour; and the punishment for every infraction of their laws, inflicted frequently without any notice, is a turn-out. The men cannot wonder if, under such circumstances, the respectable portion of their employers, those who wish to deal fairly with them, are gradually driven to relinquish the contest; and that their
* It must, however, be confessed that this threat has been too often repeated to produce much effect on our minds. As long ago as 1807, the late Sir Robert Peel declared in Parliament, that in consequence of the combinations then existing in the cotton trade, there were many men of property who seriously thought of moving themselves and their capital to some other country where their property would be better pro'tected.' The subsequent extension of the greatest manufacture in Europe has sufficiently answered these predictions, although uttered by one of those most conversant with its details.
place is supplied by adventurers of inferior capital and character, who may be willing to bow to the Unions for a while,-waiting for the first opportunity of obtaining the upper hand, and practising exaction in their turn.
There are many alleviating circumstances which have accompanied the recent extension of the Unions. One of these is, the impulse which they give to the ingenuity of the masters in the production of new machinery. High wages and dictation infallibly sharpen the wits of the masters and their agents. • Corn laws and combinations,' says Colonel Torrens, have pro'duced the same effect, of causing machinery to be employed in this country more extensively than it otherwise would have 'been.' We must refer to a very interesting section of Mr Tufnell's pamphlet (the second on our list) for an account of Mr Roberts's self-acting mill; of the employment of steam-power in raising materials for building; of the wool-combing machine; and of others, which have been introduced into general use within the last four or five years by masters at variance with the Unions in those trades. Undoubtedly similar machinery would eventually have been discovered and employed without such a stimulus. But it is well remarked by Mr Tufnell, that the obvious ' result of this forced and premature adoption of new machinery ' is to displace labour with inconvenient rapidity; and, instead of improvement proceeding by those gently varying gradations which characterise its natural progress, it advances, as it were, 'per saltum, and comes upon the workman unprepared for the change which his course of life must subsequently undergo.' The new engines are put in action, not to meet the gradual extension of demand, but to replace the unnatural deficiency in the supply of labour. How slowly, where no particular cause exists to accelerate the operation, labour is displaced by the invention of new machinery, may be calculated from the well-known fact, that in 1830 the number of hand-looms at work was nearly the same as it had been in 1820, after ten years of competition with the giant strength of the power-loom.
In the unfortunate state of hostility which at present subsists between the employers and workmen in so many districts of our empire, no victory obtained by either party can be regarded with satisfaction. Whichever side wins can only do so at the expense of much suffering and distress among parties, whom the natural fluctuations of trade expose but too often to calamity. But such have been of late the tyrannical and unjust demands of some of the Unions, that we must be permitted to hope that the recent defeats they have encountered will eventually prove of service to the country. All seem agreed, that the dissolution of the late combinations among the tailors in London, and the clothiers at
Leeds, was justly provoked by their unreasonable conduct. But a difference of opinion has arisen, whether or no the masters have acted rightly in requiring from men, on returning to work, a written renunciation of their Union. It is said, and with justice, that to deprive the mechanic of the right of combining, which the legislature has recognised, would be an abuse of authority on the part of the employer. Whatever the real effects of Trades-Unions may be, it is quite impossible that, while the liberal professions maintain among themselves a minimum rate of remuneration, and while all the landed proprietors in the country are combined in one great Union against the consumer, with Parliamentary enactments at their back, any argument can be employed to convince the workmen that they act with injustice, in endeavouring to raise wages by the best means in their power. Nor are these organized associations without some utility. They have occasionally exercised a beneficial interference with regard to the admission of apprentices. They have not unfrequently prevented masters from taking an unfair advantage of their workmen's necessities;-for example, in cases of piece-work, by increasing the size of the blocks in calico-printing. Many other instances might be pointed out in which the men have protected themselves from injustice by their Unions; and nothing can be more visionary than the apprehensions which some profess to entertain of the general association of the working classes throughout the empire. To unite in one body, for the purpose of fixing the rate of wages, the calico-printers and spinners, who make 30s. a-week, with the poor weavers, whose toil can often hardly procure them seven, would require power and contrivance such as no human authority could command. The regulations proposed at the convention of the defunct National Association at Manchester, (in June, 1830, when twenty trades sent delegates,) will afford to any one who consults them abundant evidence of the hopelessness of such a project. On these grounds, and also because it may appear impossible to put down a Union by exacting declarations from its members, it is urged that the masters should be content to readmit the men to employment without the requisition of any pledge. We are, nevertheless, of opinion that the masters have, in the present emergency, acted rightly. Although an extorted pledge be in itself of little value, yet the disgust and weariness of the men themselves at combinations, which have involved them so deeply in debt and distress, will give it additional force; many will abide by it on principle; many more, perhaps, as a sufficient plea to excuse them when they are solicited to reconstitute their Ünion. And should the present associations be broken up, no fear need be entertained lest, when any real occasion occurs on which they may be of service, there should be a difficulty in organizing fresh ones.
Be this as it may, we apprehend that Government ought on no account to interfere, unless, without any restrictive legislation, additional protection can be afforded to the persons and properties of manufacturers, and of operatives who desert the Unions. Some suggestions of Mr Tufnell on this subject may be worthy of attention; for instance, that of giving to the police a power to apprehend persons stationed topicquet' the mills of refractory masters, although it is evident that there would be considerable difficulty in justly exercising such authority. The appeal which is given to the Sessions, in cases of summary conviction under the present combination laws, is productive of much mischief; as time is thereby afforded for the Unions to put their funds into action, and to intimidate or buy off adverse witnesses. But here also it is difficult to suggest a remedy which should not interfere unwarrantably with the liberty of the subject. The resolution which has been lately adopted in so many instances by parish vestries to refuse relief to any applicants who belong to a Trades'Union in an actual state of turn-out, is obviously no less demanded by common justice to the rate-payers, than by sound policy. But it is vain to expect that any discouragement, either by the laws or by the higher classes, can disarm the Unions of their mischievous tendencies. Our chief reliance must be on the accumulated experience of unsuccessful Strikes, and on the slow but steady progress of sound commercial knowledge among the people.
ART. IV.—Cours de l'Histoire de la Philosophie, par M. VICTOR COUSIN. Tomes 1. 2. 8vo. Paris: 1829.
SINCE the revival of learning, speculative philosophy has owed its advancement chiefly to the nations of Teutonic descent. France, it is true, has not failed to acquire fame in this, as in every other province. She has produced acute and profound metaphysicians; but she can boast no independent system of native growth, with the single exception of the Cartesian. The various doctrines which have prevailed since the abandonment of those of Descartes, have all been transplanted from foreign soils. Thus Condillac derived his inspiration from the works of Locke; and the philosophy of Sensation,' founded on an imperfect conception of the opinions of the great English master, was handed down by him to the authors of the Enyclopédie, and firmly established in France through the instrumentality of that powerful organ of opinion. More recently, M. Royer Collard intro
VOL. LIX. NO. CXX.