Copyright
William Dealtry.

The laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society online

. (page 18 of 33)
Online LibraryWilliam DealtryThe laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society → online text (page 18 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Eight centuries ago the merchant in England was des-
pised by the lords of the manors ; he went from place to
place with his goods, and was often robbed, or paid a large
tribute or toll to be exempt from pillage. He settled the
towns, and gathered around him the men of toil and sorrow.
These became opulent by engaging in manufactures and
commerce. The favor of these merchants was courted by
kings and lords, to gain the ascendency over each other.
These sent deputies to London, who at first sat at the foot
of the House of Lords. These deputies were put in a
room by themselves. Merchants and manufacturers have
become titled lords, and have purchased manors and manor
houses. William Pitt came from a family of merchants.
The Peel family came from a calico printer, and own the
Drayton manor.

Ricardo, a Jewish banker, had a way of " watching the
turn and variations of the [money] market." This watch-
ing yielded him millions of dollars, with which he bought
the estate of two Norman families, Honey wood Yates and
a Scudamore. These estates give a rent of $50,000 a year.
Holland, one of Baring's partners, has bought an estate of
Lord Somers, for $4,000,000. The same lord has sold an
estate to a Birmingham banker, of the name of Taylor, for
$3,500,000. Mr. Drummond, a banker, bought an estate,
pulled down the manor house, and blotted out the memory
of the Goodshalls. Mr. Tinkler, a powder-maker, got the



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 219

old mansion and estate of the Duchess of Marlborough.
Mr. Laing, a West Indian merchant, has a place once
owned by Sir Wm. Temple. Alexander Baring has the
mansion and estate of the Duke of Bolton, and also the
noble mansion, park, and estate of Lord Northington. Sir
Thomas Baring has succeeded the Russells to the estates of
Stratton and Micheldover, which were once owned by King
Alfred. It has been computed that the Barings have swal-
lowed up more than thirty of the -estates of the small nobil-
ity. These sharks that have devoured so many fish, can
yet be destroyed by the working people, if they will only
act soberly and prudently.

There seems to be a mighty change coming over the
English working people : they are forming partnerships to
carry on their trades; others are taken into partnerships
by their employers, who give them a share of the profits.
The greatest change of all is to buy the goods of the whole-
sale merchant, and then divide them without using mer-
chants. This plan uses no bankers.

The most remarkable case of co-operation is that of the
jggr" EQUITABLE PIONEERS' SOCIETY OF ROCHDALE. "~a
This is in England, and was commenced in 1844, by some
forty poor and humble working-men, with less than ten
dollars in their treasury, and an income of two pence in a
week from each shareholder its object being that of pe-
cuniary benefit and improvement of the social and domes-
tic condition of its members. From this simple beginning
it has grown to have seven departments, and the capital is
now $75,000, and its shares are five dollars, of which
$18,000 are in the mill.

The pioneers have incurred no debts and made no losses.
Their aggregate dealings have amounted to $1,500,000.
They have never had a lawsuit, and nearly a hundred per-



22O THE LABORER;

sons are employed by the society. Twelve are employed
in the store. Over the store is a reading-room of papers,
and a library, containing 2,200 books, for the families of the
members. Toad Lane is crowded with cheerful co-oper-
atives ; as much as $2,000 are taken in a single day and
night. Says a writer : " It is not the brilliancy of commer-
cial activity, in which the reader will take any interest ; it
is the new and improved spirit animating this intercourse of
trade. Buyer and seller meet as friends. Toad Lane, on
Saturday night, is as gay as the Lowth Arcade in London,
and ten times more moral.

u These crowds of hard-working men once never knew
when they had good food ; their dinners were adulterated ;
their shoes let in water too soon ; their coats shone with
devil's dust, and their wives' wore calicoes that would not
wash. These now buy like millionaires, and get as pure
food as the lords. They are weaving their own stuffs, mak-
ing their own shoes, sewing their own garments, grinding
their own wheat, slaughtering their own cattle, buying the
purest sugar, and the best tea and coffee. The finest beasts
of the land waddle down the streets of Rochdale, for the
consumption of flannel weavers and cobblers.

" When did competition give poor men these advantages ?
And will any man say the moral character of this people is
not improved under these influences? The teetotalers of
Rochdale acknowledge that the store has made more men
sober than all their efforts have done. Husbands, who never
knew what it was to be out of debt, and poor wives, who,
during forty years, never had a six-pence unmortgaged in
their pockets, have now little stores of money sufficient
to build a cottage. In their own market there is no dis-
trust, no deception, no adulteration, and no second price.
Those who serve neither hurry, nor flatter. They have but



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 221

one duty to perform that of giving full weight, fair meas-
ure, and a pure article. In other parts of the town where
competition is the principle of trade, all the preaching of
Rochdale can not produce effects like these."

The "London Morning Star" gives the following inter-
esting account of a co-operative experiment in England,
which has been productive of excellent results, and saves
twenty per cent, of family supplies: "Of all the branches
of the civil service the Post-office is the most enterprising,
and it was in this department a co-operative movement be-
gan. In 1865, the increased dearness of living was press-
ing severely on those with fixed incomes. Half a dozen
members of the Post-office determined to try whether, by
buying in large quantities, and dividing the articles so bought
among themselves, they could not get supplied more cheap-
ly than in the ordinary manner. In order that the pur-
chases be made on the lowest terms, it was settled that all
payments should be in ready money.

"The experiment was commenced on a small scale, with
fifty pounds of tea. Each individual received a share of
tea, which he paid for. It was found that a shilling was
saved on a pound. Whole chests were obtained, and the
consumers increased rapidly. Other articles were also ob-
tained. In the course of a month a little society was at first
formed, and, after much anxious deliberation as to whether
the expense could be met, a small store-room near the of-
fice was obtained, so as to be easy of access. Wholesale
houses agreed to let the members have, for ready money,
goods at reduced prices, on condition that they call on cer-
tain days, and at stated hours.

" From a small beginning this supply association went on,
till it had several rooms, in which were hosiery and station-
ery. The amount of the sales in one year was $100,000.



222 THE LABORER;

There was divided 50,000 Ibs of tea, 20,000 Ibs of cof-
fee, 180,000 Ibs of sugar, 20,000 Ibs of candles, 23,000
Ibs of rice, 12,000 Ibs of soap. This association num-
bers 4,000 members, and they have physicians, lawyers, bro-
kers, and architects, who charge lower rates to each other.
These statements show that, by the co-operation of consum-
ers, the cost of family supplies may be reduced one-fifth.
Similar experiments have recently been made in France
with the same good results."

There are many American mechanics who earn $1,000
in a year; by adopting this plan $200 a year can be saved.
This, in ten years, will give $2,000, which will obtain a fine
house and furniture. Americans can see the injustice of
slaves supporting masters, they can not see the injustice
they do themselves by keeping merchants. In the streets
of Cincinnati, in the fall of 1867, men offered the fore-
quarters of beef for five cents a pound, and the hind-quar-
ters for six. In the market beef sold from ten to twenty
cents a pound. It seems the Englishman buys the fat ox,
hires the butcher to kill him, and distributes the meat. Is
not this evidence that the laborer will prevent the merchant
from buying any more baronial halls or manor lands.

In 1867, dressed hogs sold for seven and a half cents a
pound in Cincinnati. The pork merchants buy these and
cure them ; the retail dealers charge for this meat in the
form of hams, lard, and bacon, from eighteen to twenty-
five cents a pound. As the present generation do not
know how the people lived thirty years ago, it may not be
amiss to tell them. In those days men did not live in cel-
lars and garrets. The cellar was a store-room for meat,
apples, and potatoes. The meat, when cured, had a piece
of wood attached to it, on which was carved the owner's
name, who sent it to the public smoke-house, the owner of



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 223

which charged two cents for smoking a ham. The wife
and children went and gathered a load of apples, or twenty
bushels at a cost of twenty cents a bushel. The farmer
brought to the town family a winter's supply of potatoes,
without the merchant's profits. A barrel of cider cost a
dollar, which made vinegar for a year. At the present time
the merchant fills his cellar with potatoes, at a cost of a
dollar a bushel ; they are sold, too often, to the improvident
laborer for $1.25 to $2.00 a bushel. This was the price
at the gathering time in 1867. In the spring the price was
$2.00. Apples sold at the same rates.

The "North British Review," November, 1852, said:
u The number of retail trades and shop-keepers is out of
proportion to the requirements of society, or the number of
the producing classes. There are in many places ten shop-
keepers to do the work of one, such at least is Mr. Mill's
estimate. Now these men, industrious and energetic as
they are, do not add to the wealth of the community ; they
merely distribute what others produce. Nay more, in pro-
portion as they are too numerous do they diminish the
wealth of the community. They live, it is true, many of
them, by snatching the bread out of each other's mouths ;
but still they do live, and often make great profits.

"These profits are made, by charging a per centage on
all articles they sell. If, therefore, there are two of these
retail dealers to be supported by a community when one
would suffice to do the work, the articles they sell must
cost that community more than needs be the case, and so
far the country is impoverished by supporting one unpro-
ductive laborer too many. Any one who has examined in-
to the subject is surprised to find how small a portion goes
to the producer or importer, and how large a portion is ab-
sorbed by the distributer."



224 THE LABORER;

There is another movement in England worthy the at-
tention of the American who sells his labor, on which the
employer frequently makes one-half of the amount of his
wages. Thomas Hughes says: "That by far the most
important question arising, on the occasion of the recent
gathering of the Social Science Congress at Manchester,
is co-operation, a term which expresses a fair compromise
between capitalists and laborers, whose contests for so many
years in England have been severe and expensive to both.
Co-operation, within the last twelve months, has taken a
new start in England.

" The antiquated trammels in which the law bound all
industrial enterprises in favor of great capitalists, were only
finally broken through in 1865. In that year a short act
was passed, for further amending the law of partnerships, in
to which was slipped a clause, enacting that paying work
people or agents by, a share of the business, instead of fixed
wages, should not constitute such work people or agents
partners or enable them in any way to interfere with the
management of the business.

" Immediately after the passage of this act, the firm of
Briggs & Son, very large coal owners in the West Riding
of Yorkshire, converted their business into a joint stock as-
sociation, and declared that their work-people should be
henceforth entitled to a share of all the profits made beyond
ten per cent., which sum has been estimated to be a fair
interest on capital in coal mines. This step was taken at
the suggestion of Mr. Currer Briggs, the eldest son of Mr.
Henry Briggs. The latter gentleman had incurred a great
amount of odium with his men. He received letters threaten-
ing his life. He was denounced in the men's union, where
it passed into a proverb that ' coal owners were devils, and
Briggs is the chief of devils.' In 1863, things had come to



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 225

such a pass that he had to work under the protection of the
county police. His capital yielded him and sons only four
per cent. He proposed to sell the pits, and take their capi-
tal where they could get better interest for it, without con-
stant quarreling. The son said : ' Let us try the plan of
giving the workmen a share in the profits before giving up.'
The father and the other partners consented. The capital
of the concern was divided into shares, small enough for the
work people to buy with ease. They were invited to buy,
and at the same time, whether as shareholders or not, every
man who had worked for a certain time was entitled to a
bonus out of the surplus profits, after the ten per cent, on
the capital was paid, in proportion to his wages earned in
the mines.

u The result of the first year's working has been such a
complete success as to almost stagger those, who for many
years, advocated such plans as the only method of securing
peace between employers and employed. The company
has actually earned nineteen per cent, clear profit. These
results were celebrated at the town hall, in Leeds, on the
evening before the meeting of the Social Science Congress.
The colliery hands, nearly 1,400 strong, came in two special
trains, and met the Briggs family in the hall.

u The workmen gave some silverware to Mr. Currer
Briggs, which was paid for by subscription. Several of the
leaders of the miners, who had been the most bitter oppo-
nents of Mr. Briggs in the old days, stood upon the plat-
form, and spoke from their hearts as to the blessings which
the change had wrought and would bring. Every man
was full of loyalty to the concern, which he now felt to be
his own, and there was a resolution to double the bonus dur-
ing the coming winter. It is believed that the immense
industries of England will be peacefully united."



226 THE LABORER;

These plans show that the Englishman will some time or
other arrive at liberty and independence, though he has no
fourth of July orators or writers on liberty. His savings
will enable him to go to some foreign country where land
is free. It is possible, by virtue and intelligence, for the toil-
ing men of England to emancipate themselves and leave the
merchants and bankers to wait on themselves, and cultivate
their newly-acquired manor lands.

The Americans have need of co-operative stores. Are
not many of them the subjects of severe toil. Why should
they give ten dollars for a clock, when it costs at the fac-
tory two dollars and twenty-five cents, and the carriage to
Ohio is fifty cents. This was ten years ago. There are
women's stuffs, having French fancy names, made in Lowell
for twenty-two cents a yard, for which the retail buyer pays
sixty cents. It becomes Americans to use the learning, they
have acquired at such an immense public cost to learn the
cost of the many articles they use, and not be the victims of
the thinking merchants. Printers, with their ink and paper,
will enlighten men on the cost of production of commodi-
ties, if men will find the light.

All merchants do not gain splendid wealth ; some gain
very bitter poverty in old age, and wear thread-bare coats,
and feed their children on bread and molasses. This is
often contrasted with the house, garden, lawns, and fruit
trees of a less gifted person, the labor of a carpenter and
farmer, who did not understand the mysteries of trade, or
the art of keeping books by single entry. The two Pres-
ton barbers began to compete with each other. The one
who offered to shave for a halfpenny to do his best could only
earn thirty pence a day, which did not obtain good and suf-
ficient food. It often happens that the merchants compete
with each other. One richer than all the rest destroys the



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 227

others. At one time a merchant in Cincinnati, supposed
to be worth a great deal more than a million, had a neigh-
bor merchant, who was supposed to be worth less than a
million. Each commenced to put forth arts to get each
other's custom, which resulted in selling at cost and below
cost. It was a strange sight to see thousands of people at
a palace of trade, waited on by hundreds of clerks. The
conclusion of this was the little merchant retired broken and
discomfited. The mischief did not end here; all the other
stores in the city who sold dry goods, had to sell at prices
that yielded no profits. A winter at this gave no rent, no
salary, no money to pay debts, and caused many to go under
the stream of competition, who, if brought to the surface,
will appear in new characters as clerks ; when beauty and
activity is gone, they become street merchants, venders of
stockings, shoe laces, papers, apples, and figs.

Many a one in early life has become a merchant, and
had visions of the pleasures of wealth, such as riding in a
carriage and receiving the homage of men ; it has ended in
becoming the sweeper of a crossing, or the owner of a pea-
nut stand. Happy are those who fail early ; they avoid ca-
lamities like these ; it gives them time to plant a vine, and
enjoy the fruit thereof. It has been computed that all the
merchants fail except six in the hundred, which must be a
cause of sorrow. Merchants have erected walled towns,
which have become to panting, fleeing slaves a city of refuge
from a master's fury. Merchants have done all the good
they can ; it is time their costly power was broken

Merchants brought tulips from Constantinople, in 1611.
In Holland these became a source of speculation. Chim-
ney-sweeps, servants, and noblemen went into a mania on
buying and selling tulips. The demand for them became
great, they kept rising in value. The first buyers made large



228 THE LABORER;

fortunes. The prices went up as high as they could, and
then went down. The last buyers lost their money. For
a tulip root twelve acres of land was given. Another gave
a carriage, two gray horses, and the harness for a root. A
species of gambling came from this. A nobleman says to
a merchant, u I will give for a tulip three months from now
1,000 florins." At that time it was worth 800 florins, at
the time of delivery tulips were worth 1,200 florins [$300].
The merchant gave the nobleman 200 florins ; if the price
was 800 florins the merchant received 200 florins. There
are now men who gamble in stocks, it shows how corrupt is
human society or these men would be at productive labor,
at something that will make men happier.

Mr. Holland, in his book called Plain Talks, says: U A
stock exchange is a paradise of shirks [men who don't work],
a place where not the first particle of wealth was ever pro-
duced or ever will be produced ; where great games of
chance are played in a strictly legal and moral way ; where
men combine to break down the credit of worthy associa-
tions; conspire to give a fictitious value to things that are
of no value, and make a business of cheating each other
and swindling the world.

"I can perceive no difference between the professional
gamblers in stocks, and any other professional gamblers.
Both are men who produce nothing; who play at games of
skill and hazard for money ; who never win a dollar that
does not leave some other man poorer. The commercial
exchanges are points of attraction for the shirks of the
world. They stand ready to grasp at some portion of the
profits of trade men who minister to the vices of the rich,
who speculate in the necessaries of life, who invent fancy
schemes of plunder, who eat the subsistence of needle-
women, who stand at the counter instead of plowing."




This boy has now become an adopted son, and has abundant leisure to destroy
labor he never created. He visits a hospital, it may be to stifle his conscience,
which upbraids him for not assisting those who sustain him, for not enduring the
summer's heat and winter's cold. "Bear ye one another's burdens," is a com-
mand which we truly observe when we share with those who do them the se-
vere duties of life. Lord Oliphant convinced of the injustice of being supported
by others' labor, left the pleasurers of his English home, his country's honors, and
united with a body of co-religionists on the banks of Lake Erie, where he plows
and wears home-spun. If all will practice this, hospitals for sick will be unknown.

5



A REMEDY FOR HIS WRONGS. 229

The law has been regarded as the standard by which to
measure all offenses and irregularities, as affording infor-
mation to the different members of community, respecting
the principles which shall be adopted in deciding their ac-
tions. One result of the institution of the law is, that the
institution, when once it is begun, can never be brought to
a close. Edict upon edict is heaped up, volume to volume
is added. It is said the published laws of England are con-
tained in forty folio volumes, to read which will take a life-
time. Every body in England is supposed to know the law ;
many suffer from not knowing it. To many its stern code
ot laws is darker than the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

"^here is no maxim more clear than this, 'Every case
ile in itself.' It seems to be the business of justice to
distinguish the qualities of men, and not confound them.
As new cases occur, the law is perpetually found deficient.
Lawyers have not the faculty to look into the future, and
can not define that which is boundless. Hence lawyers
are continually wresting the law to include a case which
was never in contemplation by its authors, or else get laws
mau j to suit the case. The quibbles of lawyers, and the
arts by which they refine and distort the sense of the law
are proverbial.

"The education of a lawyer enables him, when employ-
ed by a prosecutor, to find out offenses the lawmaker never
meant ; to discover subterfuges that reduce the law to a
nullity. The laws, in order to escape evasion, are frequently
tedious, 'nute, and circumlocutory. The volume in which
justice ,ords her prescriptions, is forever increasing, and
the world will not contain all that might be written.

" The consequence of the infinitude of law is its uncer-
taint Laws were made to put an end to ambiguity, and

that eacii man might know what he had to expect. Two
21



230 THE LABORER;

v.

men would not go to law unless they were both promised
success by their lawyers. Law was made for a plain man
to understand. Yet lawyers differ about the results. Does
it make the case any the less uncertain, if it had been trusted
to a jury of neighbors with the ideas they entertained of
natural justice? Lawyers absurdly maintain that the ex-
pensiveness of law prevents the multiplication of suits;
when the true source is the uncertainty of the law, which
is a code none can master; a labyrinth without an end ; it is
a mass of contradictions that can not be disentangled. Study
will enable a lawyer to find plausible, perhaps, unanswer-
able arguments for almost any side of any question. It will
be the utmost folly to suppose that the study of the law can
lead to knowledge and certainty.

u The task of the law is to describe what shall be the ac-
tions of men, and to dictate discussions respecting them.
Law says it is so wise, that it can not draw additional knowl-
edge from future circumstances, and that future knowledge
which may be acquired shall have no effect. Law tends to
fix the human mind in a stagnant condition, and substitute
duration in the room of unceasing progress.

" If a code of laws is wrong, a lawyer is a dishonest man,
a subject for censure and regret. Men are the creatures of
circumstances under which they are placed. To be sur-
rounded by vice is to be vicious. To be dealing in quibbles,
false colors, and sophistry can not fail to make lawyers lose
the generous emotions of the soul, and the discernment of
rectitude. The more successful he is in quibbling the worse
he is tainted with evil. A lawyer may be full of sublime
virtues, in time he becomes inconsistent and accessible to



Online LibraryWilliam DealtryThe laborer; a remedy for his wrongs; or, A disquisition on the usages of society → online text (page 18 of 33)