Henry John Wrixon.

Jacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) online

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the Province of Excelsior, if he and useful work were brought
together. There were some six hundred of them there. So
in this unemployed lot alone there was a loss to the public


wealth of the State of at least 3 0,000 a year. This was
a score for the Premier to chalk up and have a good look at.
They were all taken a bit unprepared owing to the winter
having set in so early. Well, the wage-earners were blamed
for a good many things, to be sure. In fact, like the eels,
they were getting accustomed to be skinned. But they had
not been blamed for the seasons up to this, and he respect-
fully thought the matter lay between the clerk of the weather
and the Government. It was the straight-out duty of the
State to provide work for honest men that needed it. Sir
Donald MacLever did not deny it. What were the Govern-
ment for? What were they kept up and paid for? Not
for making up political ructions and show, but for the good
of the people ; and where did the good of the people come
in if they were left starving ? He did not want to be
hard on the Ministers, but he must say straight that they
ought to have had their public works determined on and
ready beforehand, so that the men could have been put on
directly the pinch was felt. There was not so much need
in summer, when men could hump their swags and walk the
track on the look-out for a job. But when winter sent them
all in a crowd into the city, what were they to do unless
there was something got ready for them to tackle ? If this
laissez-faire business continued, the best workers would have
to make tracks for Amanta, while they had yet a note left
in their pocket, leaving their wives and families here to pick
up charity; whereas it was the right, the birthright he would
say, of every citizen to remain in his own land and to get
a living there. Likely enough, when the husbands were
driven out of the Province, they would find statists and
political economy men boxing right round the compass to
find out why the population of Excelsior did not increase.
However, though the Government had been caught napping,
he believed that they were now waking up, rubbing their
eyes, and having a look round. He wanted to go in and
give them a gentle shake like. The resolution which he
moved, when adopted by a representative meeting such as
he saw before him, would enable him and the other gentle-
men to go to the Premier with the majesty of the people
behind them, and demand that the Government should do its


duty, and start different sorts of works, to suit the different
needs of the men who were assembled there that day, and
the larger number right over the Province whom they repre-
sented. Then their sufferings would clear right away like
one of their winter fogs when the sun tackled it straight

Hearty applause followed all the points of this speech
and loudly greeted its close. The people felt that Mr.
Caffery meant to serve them, and that they might rely upon
him to see that the Government did something for them
directly. The motion was seconded by the Rev. Simeon
Sinclair. A hint was given to him to be brief, as it was not
intended to prolong the meeting, and he was brief. He
felt for the sufferings of the poor, and was the head of
an unsectarian society that did good work among them.
Mixed up with his charitable feelings there lurked an ambi-
tion, at once enlightened and practical, to be known as the
social reformer, the clergyman of advanced liberal views, no
mere sayer of smooth things to the well-off in their smug
churches. His constant contention was that the Govern-
ment should put the unemployed upon farms, and he fre-
quently quoted the verse from Proverbs, ' He that tilleth his
land shall have plenty of bread.' He was so persistent in
accompanying philanthropic deputations to the Premier
upon a wide range of subjects, and spoke so pointedly at
them, showing in each case the urgent claim that there
was on the State, that Sir Donald had come to regard
him as a troublesome person ; besides, he always felt con-
tempt for the sanguine, plausible, benevolent type of people.
Also, he agreed with Bismarck's objection 'to long-robed
politicians, whether feminine or ecclesiastical.' The Rev.
Simeon Sinclair was brief, but he managed, in the few
minutes that he spoke, to say some effective things for the
purpose in hand, which were based chiefly upon the noble
injunctions of the Bible to help the poor and those who
' had fallen by the wayside.' In this, as in so many other
respects, human society has fallen sadly short of the Divine
standard, and the reverend speaker had little difficulty in
impressing his audience with that fact.

The motion was carried by acclamation, and Mr. Stoker
then proposed the second resolution, which ran thus : ' That


the Government be called upon to commence, without delay,
the public works that are required to alleviate, before it is
too late, the prevailing distress, and the danger, if it is pro-
longed, of starvation of the wives and children of those who
are without employment among us.' He spoke briefly, for,
as he truly said, the resolution spoke for itself. It was
seconded by Mr. Eneas Birt, and carried unanimously. The
proceedings then closed, and a deputation was formed of the
leading men present to conduct the workless workers to the
Premier and lay their needs before him.

When the crowd of unemployed, headed by their leaders,
arrived at the Public Treasury, Mr. Caffery sent in to request
an immediate interview for the Deputation, and as many of
the unemployed themselves as the Premier's office would
accommodate. Sir Donald at once put aside other business
and sent word that he would be pleased to see them, but
desired that twelve of the crowd should be selected to repre-
sent the rest, as his room was so small. This was readily
done, and the party was soon in Sir Donald's presence.
Whatever his personal feelings, he realised, and perhaps the
more especially as he was connected with the better-off, that
his official position required him to pay marked attention to
the representatives of the poor.

Mr. Caffery formally introduced them, and handed in
the two resolutions which had been adopted at the meeting.
Something must be done at once. He gave full particulars
of the impoverished condition of many families, and stated
generally the relief that was wanted. As a large number of
the men were married, it was desired that, as far as was
practicable, work should be found for them in or near
Miranda, else, if they were sent up country, their families
must be supported by charity in the city. Here Sir Donald
inquired whether, when any of the married men took work
at a distance from town, half of their wages might not be
paid direct to their wives and families who remained behind.
But Mr. Stoker considered that this would look too like a
reflection upon the men, who would naturally prefer to send
their families the money themselves. The true way was to
find work for them without sending them from home.

For the unmarried men who might be sent up country,


the Government were asked to see that, before they were
despatched away to a distance, they were suited in strength
and otherwise to the work upon which they were to be
engaged. Some variety of employment was pleaded for to
meet the case of the weak, the unskilful, and the aged.
Mr. Birt, the town missionary, supported this view of the
question, stating, from his personal experience, that many
were unfit to do rough work. Mr. Blunt, the social reformer,
urged that if any of the married men were required to go
up country, it should be to some habitable region, where
their wives could go with them and their children have the
advantage of schooling. He also suggested that, with regard
to any men who were sent away from town, arrangements
should be made to enable them to vote at elections in what-
ever district they were registered in.

Sir Donald was most attentive to all the speakers. The
only slight friction that happened was while the Rev. Simeon
Sinclair was speaking. He spoke rather late, when all were
getting tired, and was enlarging upon his favourite remedy
of putting the people on farms, and as usual fell back upon
his old quotation from Proverbs, chapter xxviii., the first
part of verse 19 :' He that tilleth his land shall have plenty
of bread.' Sir Donald, after a Free land deputation some
time before, where the rev. gentleman had cited his favourite
text, had told Du Tell to look up the reference, and they
found that the verse when completed was this : ' He that
tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread : but he that
followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.'
Inwardly he was rather ruffled by the sudden coming of the
deputation, and personally he had no liking for the Rev.
Simeon Sinclair. So he could not refrain from interjecting,
as the familiar quotation came out, turning his cold gray
eyes upon the speaker, together with the MacLever smile :

' Suppose, my dear sir, we complete the quotation.
Perhaps we may derive some instruction from the latter
portion of the verse as well as the former.'

It so happened that no one present except Mr. Sinclair
and the town missionary, Mr. Birt, knew what the ending of
the verse was ; and they were so put out by the satirical
interruption that they could not summon on a sudden the


necessary pugnacity to fight the matter, so the rev. gentle-
man hastily concluded with a feeling reference to the
extent of the existing distress. Sir Donald quickly shook
off his ill -temper, and made a sympathetic reply to the
Deputation. The unexpected need created by the early
nature of the season had already engaged the attention of
the Government. He and all the Cabinet were deeply
impressed by the reports which they had received of the
want of employment. He hoped to be able to announce
the particulars of the State works that would be undertaken
on Monday next.

Mr. Caffery then thanked him, in the name of the
Deputation, for his courteous reception of them ; and the
unemployed dispersed to pass the next two days as best
they could, being sustained, however, by the feeling that by
Monday the Government would be prepared to look after
them. As for Sir Donald, he at once arranged for the
special Cabinet that afternoon at the Water Bureau, in order
to give effect to his promise to the Deputation. Hence the
sudden irruption of Ministers of the Crown upon Slater
Scully that our politician had witnessed.

At the Water Bureau Slater Scully forthwith resigned
the best arm-chair to his chief, and Walter Crane, in a very
deft manner, swept away his master's representative brands
Ministerial, Opposition, and Independent and consigned
them to the cupboard. The position of affairs was then
discussed. Sir Donald, in a few words, told them about the
Deputation, and the men by whom it was supported. He
observed in measured tones

' As for the unemployed, there is no doubt there are a
good many of them. How can it be otherwise ? ' he con-
tinued, leaning back in the large arm-chair and looking round
the ceiling with a dissatisfied air. ' How can it be otherwise,
when you are always promising to find them work in the
city at a wage that they could not earn on the land ? '

He seemed to address himself more especially to Slater

' But they are starving now,' that gentleman replied,
' the wives and children that's the ugly fact that faces His
Majesty's Government. The people starve.'


' Yes, I am afraid that is so/ slowly answered Sir
Donald. ' At any rate, we inherit a system of Government
to help all and sundry, and all and sundry want our help
now and evermore. The question is what we are to do.'

' Feed them feed them/ exclaimed the generous Minister
of the Water Bureau. Then, as he threw himself into a
restful attitude, he continued, speaking in a deliberate,
sententious manner :

' It is the foundation duty of the Government, the bed-
rock of State obligations to citizens, the easy first, with the
rest nowhere, of Ministerial responsibility to see that the
people are fed. We would be the mere simulacrum of a
Government, nay, a fearful phantasmagoria, a camera obscura
of the real thing, a mere spectre '

' Do stop a moment, Slater Scully/ interposed Du Tell,
who had been with Sir Donald when he received the Depu-
tation, and was fully impressed with the need of immediate
action. ' The point is, what works can we get ready by
Monday ? There is no time to be lost. We must find
work for at least five hundred. Humanity forbids delay/
As he made the last remark he looked keenly round the
circle. He then added in an aside to Sir Donald :

' I have gone over the lists, and I find that next session
Caffery will lead from fifteen to twenty straight votes/

The Cabinet were all agreed that the Government must
act without delay, and Sir Donald closed the short prelimi-
nary conversation by observing in his absolute manner :

' Yes, we must act, and act decisively. There is no one
to object if we do too much ; but if we don't do enough,
why, then ' and here he smiled his grim smile again
' why, then, we will soon be among the unemployed ourselves.'

The revenue was in a fairly good condition, so a liberal
scheme of public works was soon resolved upon. Some of
these were designed to be immediately useful to the country ;
others were expected to become so in time ; others again
were what might be called national luxuries expensive
buildings that were justified ostensibly upon the ground that
they were needed by the public, but were really taken in
hand because of the work they would give and the money
that they would distribute in wages. None of them would

VOL. I 2 G


have been undertaken at that particular time were it not for
the need of providing for the unemployed. A large propor-
tion of them were to be done about the city, so as to provide
for the married men. But a good deal of employment was
offered for clearing forest land, with the arrangement that
the worker could become tenant, upon easy terms, of the
land which he cleared. Some painting of public buildings,
repairing of fences, and work about State gardens was pro-
vided for the weaker workers. The local boards throughout
the Province were urged to put in hand whatever could be
undertaken in the country. Even the poor churches were
appealed to to spend what they could in the cause of labour.
Amid these vigorous efforts to give help to labour, no notice
was taken of the mercantile, scholastic, clerical, or genteel

The mixed motives that actuated men in dealing with
this problem of the unemployed were not inaptly reflected
in the different actors in this movement that has engaged
our attention. Mr. Caffery was urgent a good deal no doubt
because he really felt for the unemployed, but also because
every enlargement of the Government functions as an
employer was a step towards the realisation of the full
Socialist programme, when the Government will be the
employer of all. Anything leading to this was as grateful
to him as industrial competition and private enterprise were
distasteful. Obviously the more the State employed, the
more it might employ ; and as its range of employment
widened it would find in time that, in order to be fair, or
even to be able to work effectively, it must employ all.

Sir Donald MacLever accepted the burden as part of
the day's work, without asking questions as to how it came
there. Simply, it was one of the things that the people
demanded. The politician has to provide for the day that
is passing over him. He was the leader of the Liberal
party, and intended to remain so. In order to do this he
must accept whatever progressive ideas were brought to the
fore. It was better he should do this than a worse man.
The wisdom or unwisdom of the thing was an abstract
question that did not enter into practical politics. As for
Du Tell, he felt deeply upon the subject when he totted up


the Division Lists. Slater Scully regarded only the distress,
and smiled in a vague manner at the warnings of political
economy and perturbation about remote consequences. The
Rev. Simeon Sinclair was full of humanity, slightly leavened
by a love for personal distinction. He believed that he had
a mission, and at the same time derived a pleasure, which
he scarcely acknowledged to himself, in being regarded as
the minister with large, bold views of social questions, who
had too much practical power about him to be contented
merely with the singing of hymns.

Mr. Blunt, the social reformer, and Mr. Birt, the town
missionary, were simply charitable. The most powerful
factors in the movement were Caffery and Stoker, for they
were deeply in earnest ; they regarded all objects in politics
as trivial compared with the one they had in hand ; the
success of their personal careers was bound up with its
success, and they had the force of numbers behind them.
For underlying the whole matter was the determining fact
that all the unemployed had votes. That they were failures
on the industrial side of life did not interfere with their power
on the political side. They still governed the distribution of
wealth which others produced and saved up. And for one
man who was wealthy, there were hundreds who were hard
pressed. Caffery could then truly say that not only ought
they to be looked after, but they must be looked after.
Whoever paid, so long as there was any one to pay, they
must be provided for. Thus it was that the Government in
Excelsior came, almost as a matter of course, to drop into
the position which was defined in the first resolution : ' That
it is the acknowledged duty of the State to provide work for
the unemployed at the market rate of wages.' The full
meaning and necessary consequences of that declaration
were never deliberately considered. It was drifted into.
The practical limitation to its scope was the want of pence.

The following week the combined deputation from the
towns of Brassville, Leadville, and Tinville came to Miranda
to see the Minister and invoke his aid in dealing with the
rabbits. It consisted of the mayors of the towns, the
presidents of the District Boards, several Members of Parlia-
ment, among whom were the Honourable Mr. Lamborn, of


the Senate, and our politician, with Mr. Bunker and other
Members from the House of Representatives, together with
a large number of local celebrities, prominent among whom
was Mr. Birnie Farrar, the Town Clerk of Glooscap, which
was the centre of the district where the rabbits most

Mr. Theodore Bunker, the Member for Leadville, had
undertaken to introduce the Deputation.

Introducing deputations is a weighty part of the Mem-
ber's function in all countries which enjoy popular govern-
ment, from England downwards. To perform it properly a
good deal of trouble has to be taken, and considerable dis-
cretion is required. The time at which the Government is to
be approached must be well chosen, not too late, nor yet too
soon. Then the personnel of the deputation has to be arranged,
and on the appointed day the members of it have to be met
before the Minister is approached ; the precise demands to
be made have to be agreed upon, the line of advocacy
arranged, and the speakers appointed. A good deal of skill
is required in arranging who shall not speak. Upon the
gentleman who heads the deputation rests the duty of
introducing its members formally to the Minister, and ex-
plaining generally what is wanted. He then calls upon the
appointed speakers in turn, and he has to endeavour to keep
any inexperienced men from saying too much, or saying the
wrong thing, and possibly exposing some weak point in the
case that they are presenting.

It had been arranged that the members of the Deputation
should forgather at eleven o'clock on the appointed day at
the Tramway Arms Hotel, where the travellers who would
come from the country could get some refreshment, and the
final arrangements would be made for meeting the Minister.
It was wisely determined not to weary him with too many
speeches ; the more so as it was known that the Minister of
Lands being absent, owing to indisposition, his place was to
be taken by Mr. Slater Scully, who had thus, during his
colleague's absence, a double set of deputations to receive.

When it was half-past eleven o'clock all was arranged
for the advance upon the Minister ; but it was found, on
mustering the forces, that Mr. Fred. Dubbs, M.H.R. for the


Tinville district, and his contingent had not yet arrived ; so
Mr. Theodore Bunker and the others determined to go on to
the Water Bureau and await the coming there of the Tinville
party ; and accordingly all were marshalled in due order into
four capacious cabs, which had been engaged by Mr. Birnie
Farrar, the Town Clerk of Glooscap, who, as acting for that
part of the district that was most concerned, took a promi-
nent part in the arrangements.

Walter Crane had been for some time on the look-out for
them on the top of the long flight of steps going up to the
Water Bureau. When he saw the four vehicles coming up,
he hurried in to inform Mr. Thomas Blinks, the Secretary of
the Department of Lands and Agriculture, who had come
over to attend the Minister, as this was a matter that con-
cerned his Department. He was back at the steps as Mr.
Bunker and his party came up, bowing low, and with a
pleased expression upon his aged countenance, as if it made
him quite happy to meet them. He considered it a dis-
tinctly respectable deputation, including so many Members
of Parliament and several substantial-looking country gentle-
men. Crane had rather a leaning towards the landed
interest, and preferred to the spare, restless city man the
solid countryman who owned fat oxen ; though he had all
the Irishman's indignation against the oppressive landowner
who would grind the faces of the poor. It was now twelve
o'clock, and Mr. Bunker thought it better to go in with the
main portion of the Deputation, and let Mr. Dubbs and the
Tinville men follow them in when they arrived. So Crane
led them down the passage to the Minister's room, and
ushered them forward in a reverential manner, and with
some sense of responsibility upon his part in connection with
the demonstration.

Mr. Slater Scully, with Mr. Thomas Blinks by his side,
to keep him right on his facts, received them in his open,
jovial manner, bidding them the time of day, and asking, to
begin with, could he oblige them in any way. Mr. Bunker
bore himself with much gravity. Indeed, the duty he now
had in hand belonged to a serious part of his work in life,
and he spared no pains to perform it properly. He was
in a slight difficulty about Dubbs and the Tinville men, and


thought it better to mention their temporary absence to the
Minister, so that, if he went on at first without them, at the
Minister's desire, they could not blame him.

1 Dubbs unpunctual ? Dubbs behind time ? Then fall
Caesar ! It's the first time I have known him so. But pray
proceed, Mr. Bunker make me acquainted with these worthy
gentlemen here, and perhaps before we have got thus far into
the bowels of the question, Dubbs and the men of Tinville
will be here.'

Accordingly the party settled into their places, Crane
bringing up chairs as they were wanted, and when all were
seated, retiring to his own perch at the end of the room, to
be ready if required for anything, and to listen attentively,
as was his wont, to the proceedings.

Mr. Bunker then introduced them to the Minister. He
was at pains to be accurate in giving the name and descrip-
tion of each one correctly, right down to the town clerks and
other municipal officers, beginning with Mr. Birnie Farrar, as
he had managed all the details of the deputation.

Sure enough, when he had got to the end of the intro-
ductions, a knock was heard at the door, and Mr. Dubbs and
the Tinville men entered. All looked round to greet the
missing wing of the party, and our politician, as he nodded
to Dubbs and some of those whom he knew, was somewhat
surprised to see the face of a new-comer who followed in at
the back none other than the keen, grievance-laden counte-
nance of Jacob Shumate, the shoemaker of Glooscap. His
dark eyes took a sweeping glance round the room, and then

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 41 of 45)