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Why, indeed, should it injure the personal independence or the valiant self-reliance of working-men voters for them to fix by law their own hours of labor ? Why should all the moral qualities of manliness be supposed to depend, in some mysterious way, upon the worker being exposed to long hours or any other form of industrial tyranny? No! Personal independence is produced, not by overwork and fear and suspicion, but by bodily and mental health, by regularity of life, and by that feeling of security which comes when humane conditions of employment are guaranteed to the workers by the only power which they know to be stronger than their masters :: and that is the Power of the Law.
THE NEED FOR GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE. It may, indeed, be contended that the prevention of excessive: hours of labor is one of the essential duties of Government in an advanced industrial community. It is universally admitted to be the primary duty of Government to prescribe the plane on which it will. allow the struggle for existence to be fought out. Of course, the fittest, to survive under the given conditions will inevitably survive, but the Government does much to determine the conditions, and therefore to. decide whether the fittest, by the test of conflict, shall be also the best then and there possible. We have long ruled out of the conflict. the appeal to brute force, thereby depriving the strong man of his. natural advantage over his weaker brother. We stop, as fast as we: can, every development of fraud and chicanery, and so limit the: natural right of the cunning to overreach their neighbors. We prohibit the weapon of deceptive labels and trade-marks. In spite of John Bright's protest, we rule that adulteration is not a legally permissible: form of competition. We forbid slavery: with Mill's consent, weeven refuse to uphold a life-long contract of service. The whole: history of Government is, indeed, one long series of definitions and. limitations of the conditions of the struggle, in order to raise the quality of the fittest who survive. This service can be performed. only by Government. No individual competitor can lay down the rules for the combat. No individual can safely choose the higher plane, so long as his opponent is at liberty to fight on the lower. The honesty which is the best policy is merely just so much honesty as. will not let you fall flagrantly out at elbows with your neighbors. It is for the citizens collectively, through their representatives in Parliament, to do what neither the employers nor the employed canı do individually. Law is but the expression of the common will, and. there is no reason why it should not express our common will as tothe hours of our labor, just as it does our common will on other points.
It may, however, be admitted that the demand, which has. marked the present century, for a more general regulation of the hours and conditions of labor, does represent a marked advance: upon previous conceptions of the sphere of legislation. Such an. extension of collective activity is, it may safely be asserted, ani inevitable result of political Democracy. When the Commons of England had been granted the right to vote supplies, it must havcseemed an unwarrantable extension that they should claim also to. redress grievances. When they passed from legislation to the exercise of control over the Executive, the constitutional jurists were aghast at their presumption. The attempt of Parliament to seize the command of the military forces led to a civil war. Its authority over foreign policy is scarcely two hundred years old. Every one of these developments of the collective authority of the nation over the conditions of its own life was denounced by great authorities as an illegitimate usurpation. Every one of them is still being resisted in countries less advanced in political development. In Russia, it is the right to vote supplies that is denied : in Mecklenburg, it is the right freely to legislate; in Denmark, it is the control over the Executive; in Germany, it is the command of the army; in Austria, it is the foreign policy of that composite Empire. In the United Kingdom and the United States, where all these rights are admitted, the constitutional purists object to the moral competence of the people to regulate, through their representatives in Parliament, the conditions under which they work and live. Although the tyranny which keeps the tram-car conductor away from his home for 17 hours a day is not the tyranny of king, or priest, or noble, he feels that it is tyranny all the same, and seeks to curb it as best he can. The step which these Anglo-Saxon communities are taking unavowedly, and often unconsciously, a smaller Republic expressly enshrines in its constitution. The Swiss Federal Constitution explicitly declares the competence of the legislature to enact statutes “relating to the duration of the work which may be imposed upon adults." The English workman now demands a similar advance.
PRACTICAL PROPOSALS. The leaders of both political parties are continually proclaiming: “ Only let the working classes declare what they want, and we will carry it out at once." The working classes are beginning to declare pretty clearly a want for legislation to shorten the working day. If the party leaders ale fit for anything, they ought to be fit to put such a demant into practical shape. If not, the thing has been done for them often enough already. For instance, if it is desired to limit the hours worked by state and municipal employés, they will find that the State of California has enacted that :
Eight hours labor constitute a legal day's work in all cases where the same is performed under the authority of any law of this State, or under the direction, control, or by the authority of any officer of this State acting in his official capa city, or under the direction, control, or by the authority of any municipal corporation within this State, or of any officer thereof acting as such; and a stipulation to that effect must be made a part of all contracts to which the State or any municipal corporation therein is a party.
If the almost unanimous demand of the miners for an Eight Hours Bill is to be carried into effect, Mr. W. Abraham, M.P. for Glamorganshire, has introduced a Bill which runs :
A person is not, in any one day of twenty-four hours, to be employed underground in any mine for a period excecding eight hours from the time of his leaving the surface of the ground to the time of his ascent thereto, except in case of accident. Whenever any employer or his agent employs, or permits to be em. ployed, any person in contravention of this enactment, he is to be liable to a penalty not exceeding 40s. for each offence. This penalty is to be recovered in the same manner in which any penalty under the Acts relating to factories and workshops is recoverahlo
After the significant debate in the House of Commons (23rd January, 1891) on the hours of railway servants, it is now quite certain that some legislation on the subject will take place. The Fabian Society's Bill contains clauses in the following form :
No person employed wholly or mainly to work railway signals or points shall se employed continuously for more than eight hours, nor for more than fortyright hours in any one week.
No person employed as engine-driver, firoman, guard, or wholly or mainly in shunting, on any railway, shall be employed continuously for more than twelve hours, nor for more than forty-eight hours in any one week.
If a more extensive Bill is wanted, so that legislation shall automatically follow on the expressed wish of the majority of any trade, the “ Trade Option" clauses of the Fabian Sooiety's Bill are ready for use.
But the exact form of the Act of Parliament is of no great importance at the present moment. What is now wanted is not only that every workman should insist on a promise from his Parliamentary candidate that he will support an Eight Hours Bill, but that even when such a pledge is given by a party candidate, the worker should still threaten to withhold his confidence until the pledge is confirmed by some public utterance on the part of the official leaders of the sandidate's party.
Members of Parliament and candidates are coming reluctantly io recognise the need for conforming to the popular will. An Eight Hours Bill has now become a political necessity. But let no one Imagine that its enactment will accomplish all that is needed. It will not make the three-hooped pots to have ten hoops, nor endow as with a new heaven and a new earth. It will do little to remedy the evils caused by the great disparity of incomes, or by the individ. gal ownership of the means by which the worker lives. It will not restore to social health a “submerged tenth" wasted by the demoralisation of extreme poverty, or the results of drink and disease. But if it secures for millions of tired workers an hour or two of leisure which would otherwise have been spent in toil; if it enables many who would otherwise have plodded the daily round of monotonous labor to ob- • tain access to some share in that larger life from which they are now relentlessly excluded ; if it protects the future generations of the race from physical degradation or mental decay; if it makes brighter the Lives of those who have toiled that a small class among us might have education, and holidays, and culture ; if it accomplishes only partially some of these great ends, an Eight Hours Bill will be no mean achievement even for the greatest statesman, and no unfitting close to the century of the Factory Acts.
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QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES
(OUTSIDE LONDON AND COUNTY BOROUGHS).
REVISED FEBRUARY 1895.
In connection with your Candidature for the office of County Councillor,* I should be obliged if you would be good enough to answer the following questions, and return the paper to me.
I am, yours faithfully,
Name of Elector
Address of Elector...
* See also Tracts 56, 57, 59 and 20, Questions for Parish, Rural District and Urban District Councillors, and for Guardians. The set of Tracts on these and other subjects, post free 2/3; bound in Buckram, post free 3/9. For list apply to the Fabian Society, 276 Strand, London, W.C.
A. Healthy Homes. 1. Will you vote for the appointment of a Medical Officer of Health for the whole county, who shall be independent of local influence ; and do all in your power to ensure that the Public Health Acts are properly put in force in every district ?
2. Will you try to secure the full exercise by the Council of all its powers for the improvement of the dwellings of the people, especially (a) By obtaining and publishing reports
upon the subject from all Sanitary
Authorities within the county ?
authorities neglect to secure an