The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 71
There's a good time coming, boys, a good time coming;
The people shall be temperate and shall love instead of hate;
They shall use, and not abuse, and make all virtue stronger;
The reformation has begun—wait a little longer.
There a good time coming, boys, a good time coming;
Let us aid it all we can, every woman, every man;
Smallest helps, if rightly given, make the impulse stronger;
'Twill be soon enough one day—wait a littie longer.
It may seem a presumptuous thing to undertake to draw aside the veil which shrouds the future; but this perchance may arise from the fact that to seek to peer into the good or ill of coming days is an effort but rarely attempted. It is held incumbent upon every man to make provision for the future, although he knows not what that future may he. That men cat, drink, and are merry to-day, giving no page 77 thought to the morrow, is an old story. Because it is true that it is not given to man to definitely foretell the events of a single day, therefore the effort to estimate the various probabilities of what a day may bring forth is wholly abandoned. It is forgotten that the experiences of to-day may reasonably be expected to form a strong guide as to what will take place the day after, that the faculty of memory is perhaps the greatest of all the gifts to man, and it was given for a purpose; that all the great events which have happened in the world's history would, under somewhat similar circumstances, inevitably occur again with but little variation; that the characteristics of a people, like those of the individual, change little, and with a knowledge of those characteristics it is possible to say with an approximation to correctness what the course of that people would be from a certain basis or starting point. The progress which has been made by those who depend for subsistence upon the labour of their hands—their education, the expansion of Intelligence consequent upon education, their larger pay, their shorter hours, their better food, better clothing, better homes—during the past fifty years runs like a straight line before the gaze of all. It would be easy to say—" Let that line be extended—let it be produced further—and so will be the course of the future." Twenty years ago the adoption of such a basis for prediction might have been adopted with confidence, for then the working classes had tried their strength; they had achieved some successes; they were still dissatisfied, and what they sought to attain was expressed with more or less clearness. To-day, the position is different. The working classes are satisfied with the rates of wages; throughout Australasia eight hours' labour is the established rule. Now, there is a general resting upon the oars, and throughout the labour world a sweet content prevails. "It is the breathing time of the day." From the fact that all that has been struggled for by Labour during the past thirty years has been won, and from the contentment in consequence now resulting, it might, not improperly be inferred that past experiences cannot confidently be accepted as a guide to aid in the elucidation of the future; but this would be a mistake, for if the history of the past demonstrates anything it proves that the working classes only require a reasonable and definite policy, and, with organisation, patience, and obedience to subsisting laws, it is within their power to achieve it. The power of the State has been transferred from the "classes" to the "masses," and whatever policy the "masses" insist upon they can carry to fruition, so long as they work within the laws. Labour has arisen now and Power is in her hand. Given the general adoption of a policy by the organisations of Labour—a policy for instance, which, whilst affording a just consideration for all rights heretofore acquired, shall have for its leading principles the increase of national wealth through the development of national resources, together with a far-sighted appreciation of geographical advantages; the securing of a more page 78 equal distribution of wealth and of the comforts and enjoyments [unclear: of lif] which the possession of wealth bestows; the conservation of the [unclear: public] revenues so as to keep the circulating medium within the State; and [unclear: the] extension of the capabilities of public institutions so that all the [unclear: benefit] they can he made to confer shall reach the whole people—[unclear: and] observant, thinking person can doubt their power to carry it into [unclear: action] existence. Power now is in the hands of the people. In South [unclear: Australia] and New Zealand "One man one vote" is the law, and there can [unclear: be] no doubt that it will shortly be the law in New South Wales. [unclear: Although] the results likely to accrue from the operation of one man one vote [unclear: may] have been over-estimated, still if only by ten or five per cent, there [unclear: can] be no question that the limitation of voting to one man one vote [unclear: will] operate to an augmentation of the already effective power of [unclear: the] working classes. How the extension of the franchise to women [unclear: is] likely to operate is at present purely a matter of speculation. [unclear: Women] by nature are conservative—they are more timorous in regard to [unclear: the] adoption of proposed changes—and it is apparently in reliance [unclear: upon] this fact that this measure has found such warm support in certain capitalistic quarters; on the other hand the females of the working class are more likely to take a heartwhole, devoted interest in political questions, and prove more eager to go to the poll to make that interest felt, than the wives and daughters of the wealthy.
However these things may be, as in the recent past so it is to-day, the real strength of the working classes is to be found in their [unclear: organisation] and unity of action. In the whole history of elections there [unclear: is] no record to be found of a wealthy constituency—a constituency dominated by the power of commercial, manufacturing, financial or professional interests—having returned a working man to Parliament. In their political acton community of interest has always maintained the capitalistic class a united body, and the votes of the workers have been simply in the nature of superfluities not affecting the maintenance of the governing power, however they might be cast. At this moment the interests of the many millions who live by labour in England are represented by only eight members in the House of Commons. Does it require the possession of any special gift to predict that this state of things will shortly be very greatly changed? In the Parliaments of New South Wales and New Zealand labour can now be said to be in some degree represented, but with the progress which may be anticipated in education, the larger comprehension on the part of the workers of what is due to their own, their children's, and their country's interests, with a still more effective organisation ensuring still firmer unity, there can be no reasonable doubt that Labour is as like to be as well represented in the future as Capital has been in the past. [unclear: Unquentionably] community of interest will bind Labour as it has [unclear: heretofore] bound Capital. In entering upon the consideration of the [unclear: probable] future it is essential to determine where the power to shape [unclear: that] page 79 future lies. If it is admitted that the future will be controlled by the organisations which hold in their hands the voting power of the people, then it only remains to consider what the aspirations of those organisations are likely to be in order to foresee, in some measure at least, what the future will probably [unclear: develop].
Although, as has been said, save for the jarring sounds of strife resounding from far away Broken Hill, it is now a time of sweet contentinent and industrial peace, the various unions have by no means abandoned organisation or fallen, into desuetude; to resist insidious encroachment or open attack they are still maintained in full activity and vigour as the citadels of the wage-earners' power. It may therefore be accepted as a certainty that the first plank of the policy of the future will be not so much the maintenance of Unionism—for of that there can be no doubt—as the solidification of its power, the extension of its authority and control. There are numerous reasons—some of which have been hinted at in these papers—which will probably lead members of Trades Unions to endeavour to put their individual houses in better order, and secure that the one governing body which has control of the action of all is a more thoroughly representative institution than can now be claimed. The power in the hands of a Trades Council to wield is immense. Experience has demonstrated that should any hiatus arise between Capital and Labour in connection with any of the great commercial or producing industries—shipping, coal, wool—the decision given by a Trades Council may be fraught with the most far reaching and disastrous consequences to the whole community; therefore the whole community is interested in any endeavour that may be made to obviate the recurrence of such disputes, and in any scheme that will ensure their speedy settlement when they do occur. Having regard to what is due to freedom of action and the general principles embraced under the name of liberty, it would seem that the only way to afford reasonable protection to the interests of whole people when threatened by industrial warfare is to secure as far as practicable that those entrusted with such power shall be men well informed, of calm disposition and of sound judgment. With regard to Employers' Unions the same may be said. It has been seen that because there were a great number of people unemployed, and labour, it was considered, ought consequently to be obtained cheap, employers have not hesitated to bring subsisting agreements to a close, shut up their mines for many months, brought ruin and distress upon thousands of poor people, subjected themselves to considerable loss, paralysed other industries, inflicted expenses upon the Government, and caused deficiences in the revenue of the State; but, however such a spectacle may affect the minds of the general public it is not of a nature to move to action the Capitalist. There is one consideration, however, not unworthy of notice. In Australia, the two most important Employers' Unions may be said to be the Pastoralists' Associations of Victoria and page 80 New South Wales. Each maintains a suite of handsome [unclear: offices] employs a secretary at £100 or £500 H year, also several clerks [unclear: at] portionate salaries, and there are other expenses, the whole cost [unclear: being] defrayed by voluntarily paid contributions from the members. [unclear: Nov] the time will undoubtedly como—if it has not come [unclear: already]—when those in embers who do all the work in connection with [unclear: the] Associations, who find the principal portion of the funds required [unclear: the] carrying on the work of their organisation, who are exposed to the condemnation which their organs contend will surely fall upon [unclear: that] who unjustly blunder into industrial strife, and who are subject [unclear: to the] whole responsibilities arising from legal proceedings under [unclear: Arbitrail] Acts, will find their position a very hard one indeed when they [unclear: lo] around upon the wealthy squatters—the free labourers of their [unclear: flock]—who, upon one pretext or another, shirk trouble and responsibility, [unclear: and] as refuse to contribute a shilling to the support of their cause. So [unclear: it will] assuredly be with all the lesser employers' organisations. They [unclear: will] some degree at least, feel as the employes' unions have felt, that [unclear: it is] a must unjust thing for a considerable proportion of the class to [unclear: which] they belong to accept and share all the benefits, whilst all the [unclear: expence] all the responsibility, and all the risk of opprobrium fall upon [unclear: those] who have to do the work. Thus it becomes apparent that both [unclear: the] employers' unions and the employés' unions will be constrained to [unclear: see] legislation in order to their respective organisations being placed [unclear: on a] more solid footing, and it will certainly be to the interest of the [unclear: general] public, associated as that interest is with the maintenance of [unclear: industrial] peace, to see that such legislation is extended.
Having thus attained to a state of society in which capital [unclear: and] labour are arranged into two thoroughly organised camps, each [unclear: embracing] the whole of those who may legitimately be claimed as [unclear: adherens] there are the Council of Conciliation and the Court of [unclear: Arbitraties] established between, to obviate the dangers arising from a [unclear: possibly] disastrous collision. There does not seem to be anything [unclear: within] the range of mental vision more just to [unclear: the] parties or more to the welfare and advantage of the whole people than such a system [unclear: presents], and its realisation stands clearly out as an indubitable [unclear: portion] of the future.
Accepting this as the result of the next onward movement, [unclear: and] having what has been called here Incorporation fairly [unclear: established] as the first stage, there follows the fact that the new powers [unclear: thus] called into legal being are not likely to rest satisfied with the scope [unclear: of] authority which will be at first granted to them. History proves [unclear: that] this has ever been the way, from the hour when the first public [unclear: body] was initiated in ancient times to the summoning to Parliament [unclear: of] Knights of Shires, and the first local government charter issued to [unclear: an] English town. Already an aspiration—surely in every sense [unclear: an] honourable one—has found expression amongst the working classes [unclear: to] page 81 be enabled to make provision for the sustentation of the aged and feeble of their ordur; Incorporation undoubtedly will have the effect of bringing what at present can be characterised as no more than a shadowy dream within measurable distance of realisation. Upon this follows the care of the sick, the maimed, and the unemployed. In truth without Incorporation nothing further can be achieved—the end is reached. With Incorporation everything is possible—it is the line leading straight and smooth into a new country glowing with fertility and peace. Certain it is that the adoption of Incorporation will at once give to the unions the power to expend upon works of usefulness and social benefit the funds now being gathered and held in reserve for the purpose of carrying on an at all times impending warfare—a warfare which, when it unhappily occurs, can result in nothing but vast waste and possibly national disaster. Opposition will be offered—an opposition based upon the idle fear, the blind distrust, that in seeking to improve and benefit themselves the working classes will rob someone—but that opposition will be vanquished in the future as it has been in the past.
The principle of Co-operation is quite another matter. In Now Zealand it is being tried to a limited extent in the carrying out of public work, and it has operated with success. When all charges and expenses under the contract have been paid, the profits have been divided amongst many instead of going wholly to the enrichment of one, the work in the meantime having been just as well performed. This is in the direction of securing the more equal distribution of wealth. If Co-operation is fraught with any danger to the maintenance of the existing state of society, then it is asserted here that that danger does not arise from the co-operation of Labour, but, as has been already hinted, from the co-operation of Capital. That the principle of Co-operation is certain to find acceptation and make steady if slow progress this writer is fully persuaded. It seems impossible to doubt that the more the people open their eyes to the evils resulting from the aggregation of great wealth in few hands, the more determinedly they will set their faces against everything tending in that direction. Even if consideration of questions of taxation, the subdivision of the land, the securing that it is applied as far as practicable to purposes of production, and the development of resources in other respects, be refrained from, the principle of Co-operation is at least an appreciable security that the acquisition of wealth will in the future be more evenly distributed. As so very large proportion of responsibility is so clearly with the capitalist, as the progress of Co-operation is apparently certain to be slow and the ultimate results are so far away in the future, it would serve no profitable purpose at present to indulge in speculations or possibilities on the state of society likely to arise from its general adoption; it is sufficient that, whatever the course followed by Capital, Labour will assuredly accept Co-operation as one of the planks of its platform in the coming time.page 82
Two certain planks have thus been formed—
Incorporation and Co-operation.
The abandonment of the principle of competition is not [unclear: likely] to constitute a popular plank. Labour for a time has fixed the [unclear: prie] of its remuneration, and if manufacturers, merchants, and [unclear: tradent] choose to enter into a mutual bond by which the prices of their [unclear: good] shall be fixed, labour, so far from inconsistently objecting, should [unclear: welcome] such action as tending to strengthen the position it has [unclear: itself] insisted upon. There can he no disguising the fact, however, [unclear: that] should the merchant, manufacturer, and trader fix arbitrary [unclear: prices for] their goods, such a course would seem to press very hardly upon [unclear: those] engaged in the producing industries whose profits or losses are [unclear: dependent] upon the rates ruling in markets beyond the confines of their [unclear: own] State. Whether reefs be rich or barren, whether harvests [unclear: pro] abundant or poor, whether sheep perish by drought or flood or [unclear: increase] and fatten on plethoric pastures, the miner, the farmer, and the [unclear: squatte]—the actual creators of [unclear: the] national wealth and the sustainers of [unclear: the] national credit—would have to pay the settled-as-just demands of the labourer on the one hand and the merchant, manufacturer, and [unclear: trade] upon the other, whilst it was not possible for him to put forwad effectually any demand at all. He is in the position of having to [unclear: take] just what he can get. Against this it can only be said that under [unclear: the] altered circumstance the producer would be very little, if any, [unclear: wor] off than he is now. It is impossible for him to escape having his [unclear: prices] for his products determined for him; the rates he pays for [unclear: labour are] already fixed, and will continue to be fixed; and the proposal to [unclear: for] the prices for what he uses and consumes is of a protective not [unclear: of a] vindictive nature. Anyway this is not a labour question. It is [unclear: a] matter wholly in the hands of those engaged in trade or [unclear: manufactures]. Whether they will follow the lead of labour and [unclear: combine] to save themselves, or continue to submit to reckless and [unclear: ruinous] competition from enterprising "free labourers," what is [unclear: asserted] here is that as unionism is to constitute the future basis of society, [unclear: the] probability is that they will unite in bonds of protection, and [unclear: should] they decide to do so the working classes cannot consistently object.
Verum putas haud [unclear: aegre], quod valde expectis. Of course men [unclear: as] led quite naturally to believe that what they earnestly desire [unclear: will] certainly come to pass, and very possibly such is the case with [unclear: this] writer. The object of these papers must to the reader have [unclear: become] abundantly manifest by this time. It is to assist to the realisation of [unclear: a] definite, well-defined policy in the minds of those who have the [unclear: power] to carry that policy into effect—a policy beyond that which will [unclear: of] necessity force itself upon and be adopted by themselves, such as [unclear: has] now been briefly sketched. The first plank of that policy has [unclear: relation] to education—education to which the people already owe so much- page 83 education which is the highest and noblest wealth which Any people can enjoy—education which leads to the realisation of all other wealth—education, fraught with the future of the human race in every quarter of the world, Surely the people of these colonies will keep watchful eyes upon their educational system, and see that all that is possible is obtained through wise, just, and liberal administration!
The second plank comprehends not only an abstention from further borrowing, but emancipation from the thraldom of debt. The getting out of debt should be held the first duty of any people, as it is held to be the first duty of every honest man. It is not to the interest of any people that men grow rich through interest—unless indeed the interest is paid by other than themselves. However necessary it may have been in the first instance for these colonies to go into debt for the carrying out of public works policies, the time has now arrived when, as soon as practicable, the public works carried out should cease to be mere interest-paying institutions for the benefit of people beyond the seas—they should be rendered reproductive in the fullest sense of the term.
The third plank is the Development of Resources, to which it can scarcely be necessary to add a word to what has already been put forward. Adding these planks to the two which it has been held here will naturally find acceptation, constitutes a programme which may be put shortly as Incorporation, Co-operation, Education, Debt-Abolition, and Development. That is to say:—The obviation of the dangers, waste, suffering attendant upon strikes; the granting to the people of a further means of taking care of themselves and seeking their advancement; the distribution of wealth amongst the many as against its accumulation by the few; the raising of the mass of the people intellectually; the saving of financial resources; the husbanding of the circulating medium; and the increase of national riches by a sensible attention to the sources from which all national riches flow. Surely this is a programme to which all but the desperately selfish can give an unqualified adhesion.
. . . . . . Having reached this stage, a few words may be pardoned upon the duties incumbent upon all in relation to public affairs. The first is the devotion of thought to the consideration of political and social questions; the second, the determination of the general trend of the measures of legislation that should be adopted; as no man can accomplish much by himself, the third is that attachment be made to the cause of that party with which there is closest assimilation. It is upon a presumed attention to these duties that constitutional government is based. At an election the candidate voted for constitutionally counts for very little; it is the principles he practically embodies for which the votes are held to be really cast; and it is through this mediumship that the wishes of the people upon public affairs are supposed to he ascertained. page 84 As it rarely happens that there are more than two parties with distinct policies to claim attention, the duty of resolving which approximates most closely to his own views is not one which should afford an elector any very great difficulty. However opinions may vary, no one can take exception to these words. The advice ventured here is:—Having once, thought out for yourself the policy that should be adopted, and having identified yourself with the party with which you feel your allegiance ought to lie, stick to that party. It [unclear: is] not in the nature of things that a large body of representative men in any country will waver in adhesion to the principles they profess. Therefore—as their principles are yours—attach yourself firmly to them. They may perchance differ from you upon minor questions—they may perhaps do some things of which yon cannot wholly approve—but remember, when you fail in support to your party, you practically render support to the other party, with whose policy upon all great and vital questions you can have no sympathy, and are opposed. At election times there are always a host of false issues—minor questions—raised to confuse and seduce. Heed them not; but, keeping steadily in mind the great principles for the advancement of the country and the welfare of you and of your children now and in the future, do your duty as a faithful and consistent man. Beware of those who declare they are of no party, for such only confess their inability to arrive at conclusions—they thereby admit their inability to form a judgment Better an open enemy than a doubtful friend. They are the pests of public life.
Damned neuters, in their middle way of steering,
Are neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring,
Nor Whiga nor Tories they; nor this nor that;
Nor birds nor beasts; but just a kind of bat—
A twilight animal, true to neither cause,
With Tory wing, but Whiggish teeth and claws.
A great statesman, addressing the people of Liverpool, has eloquently declared:—"It is in the education of the human soul and spirit in [unclear: its] highest aspects that the true end of our being lies." It may be [unclear: so,] but it is suggested here that experience has shown it to be a vain thing to talk to people homeless, naked, and perishing from lack of food of the possibilities of their souls. When the stomach is filled, the [unclear: body] well clothed, a comfortable roof overhead, and a warm bed awaiting reception, then it may not be difficult to throw the mind into other spheres. In these papers religious subjects have been avoided, but it [unclear: is] asked now:—What is it constitutes a gentleman?" Give me the man whose life is pure, whose aims are high, and who adheres to truth always, and him will I hail as gentleman," declares Thackeray. Surely this is the definition of a standard not altogether unattainable by a people! Truly it may be averred that there is no land upon page 85 earth so productive in noble-minded gentlemen as that dear Mother-land of ours across the seas. To what circumstance do the gentlemen of England owe their pre-eminence? To the schools and university'? There are schools and universities in other lands. Is it not rather in their home life that the truta must be found? From their earliest infancy the children of the wealthy in England are removed from my necessity to practice deceit—they never have occasion to resort to paltry shifts, equivocations, untruth, anything that is ignoble or men. In a home life cultured, refined, elevated, pure, it is easy to understand how the higher qualities—love of country, devotion to duty, chivalous consideration for the weak, and underviating allegiance to truth—can be inculcated. If question is made why gentlemen, as defined, are few amongst the humble orders, the answer is that in their home life and in their business—especially the business of the trading class—the essential elements are wanting. In Australasia, where amongst those who have to labour for their bread is to be found the home life, elevated and refined, to attract the young—to save from wandering about the streets exposed to demoralising influences and immoal pestilences? May it not truly be said that we first leave our youth to their fate and afterwards punish for faults arising entirely from our own culpable neglect? If then, O reader, a generous aspiration should find place in your breast to seek to raise up in these beautiful lands of the Southern Cross a brave, chivalrous, and noble race, you must look to it that the tendency of the legislation of the future should be such that it is a race not only liberty-loving and truth-valuing, but great in science, art, and appreciation of the beautiful—you must look to it that the tendency of the legislation of the future shall be such that its benefical influences shall penetrate into every home. It is not enough that there shall be employment for all, infinitely as such a state of things is to be desired—it is not enough that there shall be afforded hours of intellectual recreation and refreshing enjoyment, largely as these have been already acquired—but that largely and broadly wealth shall [unclear: be] more evenly distributed in the future than unfortunately it has been [unclear: in] the past; that the great chasms which now divide society into the [unclear: rici] the well-to-do, the poor, and the utterly destitute shall bu filled up, and man brought nearer and be rendered dearer to his fellow man that union shall prevail instead of disintegration. Day by day the value of human life is rising; let effort be directed to still further exalt it. Let us seek to bring into the home life of the people confidence, comfort, knowledge, peace, and love, for without these it is vain o expect parity, noble aims, and the deep-seated reverence for truth which make men gentle. Let endeavour be concentrated in seeking the emancipation of the people from a condition of things under which man is constantly striving to trample upon his fellow man in older o his own aggrandisation; under which crime is encouraged, and a huge machinery employed for its repression and punishment. Then, [unclear: indeel], page 86 shall in the future success be attained. If instances of drunkenness and crime occasionally appear they will surely arise from domestic miseries beyond the power of any human legislation to reach; then indeed the consolation will be afforded that, so far as merely human power and provision will allow, all has been done that could be done to make man happier, wiser, nobler; then indeed it will no longer be open to be said with truth that, "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!"
Russell and Willis, Printers, Cathedral Squre, Uhristchurch.