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always thinking, perhaps erroneously, we can turn out a few strong pairs whenever it is necessary. All, therefore, we ask is, not to be angry with us; we only desire to be let gain a decent livelihood, like respectable tradesmen; and, lastly, if you talk of your little bill, we have one also.”
In a postscript he adds: “ You can tell your employer with ‘ the remarkable powers,’ that I was your faithful well-wisher all through the struggle -a sentiment not the less to be valued in me, that it was opposed to the vast majority of my countrymen; and that if I could have done anything illegal without being discovered, I’d have certainly done it to assist you.
“ To yourself, confidentially, I may say, I got plenty of ill-will at home here through my partisanship for your cause, and I think it certainly somewhat hard that you should send this account in to me, well knowing as you do how my friendship for you has jeopardised my good name and my estimation with all my countrymen.”
A NEW BENEFIT SOCIETY.
WE are eminently a provident people. The virtue belongs to us as a race, and is impressed upon us by the vicissitudes of our climate. In fact, our lives are essentially devoted to preparing against certain casualties; or which, when it is impossible to avert them, we endeavour to render as little damaging as may be.
If any proof of the fact were needed, we have it in the enormous number of our assurance companies, which, in the variety of object, would seem to embrace almost every contingency that can befall a man or his property. We insure against malady in all shapes, against water and against fire, against the effects of climate and collisions on the rail. No sooner, indeed, has any new form of calamity presented itself in these islands, than straightway
terms, to assure you against its consequences, and actually invest misfortune with the interest of a game on which you have taken the long odds.
Of all these associations, none please me so much as what they call Benefit Societies, whose members, by a small periodical payment, secure to themselves a certain weekly allowance when, either by the accidents of ill-health or the vicissitudes of trade, they are out of employment.
It is not the mere help in times of pressure that I admire, however essential that may be. What I like in these fraternities is the peculiar training they disseminate, the habit of prudent forethought, the spirit of cautious forbearance, in times of prosperity, in the consciousness that the road of life has its dark days as well as its bright ones, and that, however favourably Fortune may fill our sails to-day, we may yet have to beat, and tack, and lie-to, and struggle against head-winds and rough seas, braving storm and hurricane, and well content to gain our port at last with split sail and shattered cordage.
I like this spirit, I say; and I am certain it is an admirable moral training.
There is also another view well worth regarding. These small weekly payments in “hard times” are just enough to elevate a man out of the pressure, and, what is fully as bad, the indignity of poverty. The tradesman is not driven, as without them he might be, to labour of an inferior order, and labour which might very possibly unfit him for the future exercise of his own calling. The man has not to suffer in that tenderest of all points, his selfesteem; he is not to experience any sense of degradation because trade is dull and workshops are closed.
It is with a close reference to each and all of these conditions that I have been thinking what an admirable thing it would be to apply these Benefit Societies to the world of Politics, and enable those men, who of all others gain the most precarious of all livelihoods, to secure the means of existence, when, by a change of Government or a reconstruction of party, they are thrown upon the world helpless and unprovided for.
Take an Under-Secretary in the House, for instance, generally a young man of promise and fair abilities. He may have left the ranks of the bar, diplomacy, literature, or some other career, dazzled —not at all unreasonably—by the rank, the dignity, and the emoluments of ofiice, to stand up in his place and defend something in the Colonies or the Board of Trade. To talk ethnologically of a savage race in the tropics, or philosophise commercially of
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some naked populations who have taken to printed calicoes, is a great bribe to a young and ardent mind, new to quarter-day, and fresh from the debating society; and it would not be fair to expect that a noble enthusiasm like this could strain itself to look beyond the horizon of ofl‘ice, and see the dark and dreary hemisphere where Opposition sits, cold, chilled, and comfortless.
Of course, these generous youths never dream of a time when the great party will be “out.” They can no more imagine the nation without them, than they can speculate on the appearance our earth would present the day after being scorched up by the comet.
Older, sager heads think of these things—I believe they seldom think of anything else—but they think of them calmly and moderately. Their long experience has taught them not to trust too far the many- headed monster called Parliament. They know that divisions are ticklish things, and that even whippers-in are occasionally mistaken. They feel, in short, that he who treads public life in a Parliamentary country, walks on the very thinnest of ice, and risks not only a fall but a ducking. But above all this they know that, whether they sit right or left of the Speaker’s chair, they are great people in the nation’s eye, and that the prestige of