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DEGRADATION OF EXCESSIVE LABOUR.
portion. It is not good when made the sole work of life. In excess, it does great harm. It must be joined with higher means of improvement, or it degrades instead of exalting. Man has a various nature, which requires a variety of occupation and discipline for its growth. Study, meditation, society, and relaxation should be mixed up with his physical toils. He has intellect, heart, imagination, taste, as well as bones and muscles; and he is grievously wronged when compelled to exclusive drudgery for bodily subsistence. Life should be an alternation of employments, so diversified as to call the whole man into action.
“In proportion as Christianity shall spread the spirit of brotherhood, there will and must be a more equal distribution of toils and means of improvement. That system of labour which saps the health, and shortens life, and famishes intellect, needs and must receive great modification.”
In England it is lamentably true, “ that the labourer can gain subsistence for himself and his family only by a degree of labour which forbids the use of means of improvement. His necessary toil leaves no time or strength for thought. He can live but for one end, which is to keep himself alive. He cannot give time and strength to intellectual, social, and moral culture without starving his family.”
In illustration of these truths, suffer me, sir, to relate a conversation I had with a railroad porter in Manchester. On my first visit to this town, I em
ployed a porter to carry my carpet-bag to my lodgings, about two miles and a half. He was a temperate and sensible man.
In passing through one of the principal streets, we met a noisy procession of perhaps 20,000 persons that had collected to receive two celebrated Chartists just liberated from prison. We turned into a bystreet to avoid the crowd, and walked on.
“Have you a family, sir ?" I inquired.
“Yes, sir; I have a wife and nine children, and a pretty hard time we have too, we are so many; and most of the children are so small, they can do little for the support of the family. I generally get from two shillings to a crown a day for carrying luggage; and some of my children are in the mills; and the rest are too young to work yet. My wife is never well, and it comes pretty hard on her to do the work of the whole family. We often talk these things over, and feel pretty sad.
We live in a poor house; we can't clothe our children comfortably; not one of them ever went to school; they could go to the Sunday-school, but we can't make them look decent enough to go to such a place. As for meat, we never taste it; potatoes and coarse bread are our principal food. We can't save anything for a day of want; almost everything we get for our work seems to go for taxes. We are taxed for something almost every week in the
We have no time to ourselves when we are free from work. It seems that our life is all toil; I sometimes almost give up.
A POOR MAN'S STORY.
Life isn't worth much to a poor man in England; and sometimes Mary and I, when we talk about it, pretty much conclude that we should all be better off if we were dead. I have gone home at night a great many times, and told my wife when she said supper was ready, that I had taken a bite at a chophouse on the way, and was not hungry-she and the children could eat my share. Yes, I have said this a great many times when I felt pretty hungry myself. I sometimes wonder that God suffers so many poor people to come into the world.”
“Don't you go to church on Sunday ?"
“No, sir; I am ashamed to say it, but I have been to no religious meeting for several years. I cannot get such clothes as would be decent without depriving my family of some of the necessaries of life; and this I can't do."
“ You spoke about being better off if you were dead. Do you ever think much about the interests of your soul, and what it is to die ???
Why, sir, I have not time to think much about those things; it's all I can do to get through this world, without taking any trouble about another. If I had time to spare, I should like nothing better than to examine into religion, for I believe there is a good deal in it; but I long ago made up my mind that I would do my best in this world to make my family comfortable and happy, and when I came to die, make the best of that too."
“ Have you a Bible in your family, sir ?"
“ No, sir; and if we had it would do us no good; for we can't any of us read it. And, besides, if I had a crown to spare for a Bible, I should rather get a leg of mutton with my money, and that would do some good to my family." When I was about to leave him I
him the sum he was entitled to, and a few shillings for a Bible.
“Yes, sir,” he said, “I will spend it for a Bible, after what you have said ; and perhaps some day
my children will be able to read it." As he turned to go, he said “I wish you would let your
hand once." I gave it to him, and after holding it firmly in his strong grasp some time, he said, “If you will remember to
pray for me once in a while, I shall be glad.” A few large tears came down his face as he said “Good by, sir.” I think I have met in your writings with the following sentiment : “ That a state of society which leaves the mass of men to be crushed and famished in soul by excessive toils on matter, is at war with God's designs, and turns into means of bondage what was meant to free and expand the soul.”
One feels the force of this observation in England, as he never can in America. No, I never desire to see any country exempt from labour. But I would have the labourer related to his employer by other bonds than those of want and stern necessity; for the moment you reduce a man to that condition, you begin to degrade him. He cannot feel that
INJUSTICE HARD TO BEAR.
he is a man, if he knows he is entirely subjected to the will of another. If he has all his physical wants supplied, his misery may still be very great; for man can in no way suffer so keenly as in thinking that he is wronged : I am treated with injustice! That thought goes deeper into the soul than any other.
down and stirs the lowest stratum of man's nature, where God has laid broad and immovable the consciousness of his rights. That feeling, “ I am wronged," was the secret of the French Revolution. It has here gone no farther than Chartism yet; but it will go farther, unless the people can be made to feel they are treated with justice.
England boasts of her manufactures; that she supplies the world with her wares; undersells all nations in foreign markets; can even pay a heavy duty for the admission of her fabrics, and still rival the manufacturers of every land, and amass princely fortunes by the commerce. Let us consider this boasted superiority. The operative must be kept miserably poor and oppressed, or such a state of things could not exist. To maintain the system, there must be laws (made by the master) to regulate the poor man's work; laws to prevent his removing from one place to another in the kingdom.
In Espriella's Letters we find this statement : “ We talk of the liberty of the English, and they talk of their own liberty ; but there is no liberty in England for the poor. They are no longer sold with the soil, it is true ; but they cannot quit the soil, if