The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
The Merits of Ale
The Merits of Ale.
Companions and brethren of manual toil,
Who have no hopes of wealth your pains to beguile,
Nor to sweeten the night have fair lovely pet,
But through the long day we must labour and sweat;
Though to drudgery doomed no lament shall appear,
Whilst earnings afford us a glass of good beer.
Let clergymen preach of the snares of the devil,
And term our glories indulging in evil;
Though scanty of wit we are gifted to see
His wiles and his threats are to finger the fee,
To deprive us of all Nature's god esteems dear,
And even forbid us a glass of good beer.
Let the brave soldier fight in his country's cause,
Let statesmen uphold her by well-balanced laws,
Let sages teach science and learning in schools,
Let parsons preach quack to dull bigots and fools;
But naught so becomes jolly men like we here,
As the toils of our country supported by beer.
When Adam and Eve in the garden of old,
For an apple bewitched immortality sold,
When its exquisite taste on their appetites palled,
Dread horrors of labour their spirits appalled;
Our Lord in his charitised mercy sincere.
To mitigate torture provided them beer.
When men grew too wicked t' reform, though divine,
In despair God resolved them to floods to consign;
When Noah and beasts in the Ark were secure,
The wide-spreading water all threatened t' immure,
The terrified sinners, though quaking with fear,
Bold heroes met death when inspired by beer.
Thy terrors, O winter, gloom, fog, frost, and snow,
When blood-curdling winds to the marrow will blow,
When the aged and inform are all shivering with cold
And the miseries of life on its brink you behold,
Though death with his scythe will in fancy draw near
To retreat like a coward 'fore life-staying beer.
When hot winds all Nature hath shrivelled to death,
And millions of toilers are gasping for breath
Exhausted and faint, nigh to give up the ghost,
Dread Satan fork brandishing, threatening to roast,
And boasting o'er God earth is won to his sphere,
Unmindful his conquests must yield to God's beer.
Dame Fortune on man bright as woman will smile,
He will ride in her glorious chariot awhile,
Then frowning, alas, against efforts profound
She'll fling him all helpless and naked to the ground;
Then who will assist him—there's nothing will cheer
The fallen state of man like a glass of good beer.
Sweet, strong, faithful beer, all true men confess,
Firm supporter of man in despair and distress,
Vile cheats and imposters thy name will abuse,
These gentry pure virtue with vice would confuse;
Still we who must toil will partake and revere
The friend of misfortune, a glass of good beer.
When grim-visaged war our sovereign alarms,
The nation calls forth all her brave sons to arms,
The total abstainer, so weak and so pale,
When the foe him observes our approach he will hail;
But we sturdy men, with the sword and the spear,
Will give him the force of a barrel of beer.
When the time comes, alas! we this life must lay down,
Alike with the lowly must those of renown;
Whilst we honest men join the blissful in heaven,
The hypocrite clergy to Satan are driven
To be tortured and wracked in hell's fires severe,
For cursing man's drinking God's gift of good beer.
Our worthy and public-spirited townsman, Mr. Samuel Vaile, has spent a considerable part of his life in studying railway management in the public interest, and not feeling confident of his opinions being infallible, invited public criticism, but when T offered to help him he refused my assistance; he wanted only page 62 favourable comments and support, he was horrified at the idea of an idol on which he had spent so much of his life being unceremoniously demolished.
Henry George had leisure enough not only to study Mr. Herbert Spencer but to write the perplexed philosopher a criticism and exposition of the illogical and conflicting opinions he found in his work, but he had no time to defend his own opinions.
All opinions on the subjects I have treated will be welcomed by me, particularly such as differ, provided they offer their own ideas grounded on personal study. A man of parrot knowledge, acquired at a University, may retail J. S. Mill's opinions with little personal knowledge of the subject. My own opinions are grounded chiefly on my own observations and investigations of our industrial, commercial, and social customs, as they appear to me, and my knowledge from books has been rather to assist than lead me. I should feel indebted to those who can detect and point out my errors. However much I may have cherished and esteemed an opinion, I will abandon it willingly the moment I find it is not impregnated by truth.
My industrial system possesses greater potentialities and promise to civilised society than any one of the great mechanical inventions or scientific discoveries of the last century. Suppose an undiscovered impediment or obstacle should intervene and diminish, or even prevent, the valuable results I anticipate, how much should we lose by giving it a reasonable trial. If I went on the goldfields and discovered a reef as promising, and offered to float it into a public company, I should be besieged by would-be shareholders. This would only benefit a few at the cost of many, and the many who suffered by the gains of the few would suffer in silence, without even a murmur of discontent. Why, then, should any section of the public hold aloof or hesitate to embark in an undertaking which promises to benefit all and injure none?
Before concluding, I am seized with a strong desire to make it clear to the thoughtful reader how easily my scheme could he carried out. Suppose, some day, the managers for the capitalists find a number of men or women for which they have no work, that circumstance would be proof positive that the consumption was below the production. When a manufacturer discharges hands it is because his goods are accumulating, or he cannot procure sufficient raw material. The former inconvenience can be remedied by paying wages to the unemployed, who will then become non-productive consumers, and if the capitalists continue to live at the same standard, the unemployed will become a kind of pensioners; but if the capitalist class raise their own standard of living, there will soon be employment for all. If a manufacturer runs out of raw stuff it is a proof of bad management of the capitalists' premiers, or the result of failure of crops, or some- page 63 thing beyond their control. It is not, strictly speaking, my aim in this work to show what should be done in case of failure of crops or a famine; that is already well understood—it is to divide among all what there is till the next harvest. It is the trade depression, the unemployed difficulty, the surplus crops, the starving amid plenty, the incompetence, the gross ignorance of the Parliaments and heads of nations I am endeavouring to enlighten.
I am told England permanently, from generation to generation, supports in her workhouses, an army of paupers. If the services of these paupers were required to support the present standard of living, these paupers would be forced to do something, though they might not be able to average more than a-half or even a-quarter what her present industrial army does. It is the ignorance of trades union leaders and capital's leaders which tolerates the able-bodied pauper; in a Socialistic community all must do their share, according to their ability.
A general or public famine has never happened in a civilised community for 100 years past, or a trade depression in a savage one. When the so-called potato famine of Ireland occurred in 1847 and 1848, it was not a general or public famine; the Irish capitalists and English capitalists had plenty of surplus capital which they could have exchanged with foreigners for food for the starving Irish. If we except Holland, they then had the largest capital in the world. Though India is a very poor country, it has always sufficient capital, or at least surplus wealth, with which to relieve its periodic famines.
I recollect, about 1890, Sir R. Stout, then Premier of the colony, visiting Auckland. This was during a severe depression, when about a-fourth of the male workers were unemployed, and, as Henry George said, our stores were full of goods, for which there was little effectual demand. Sir Robert was asked what we were to do. He replied, "Work harder and consume less." This advice would, of course, aggravate the difficulty. If we had asked Sir Robert for a remedy for a famine, he would, no doubt, have prescribed the same remedy, which would have been a proper one. No doubt Sir Robert understood the civil law, and how to please the electors of the colony, as well as Mr. Seddon or Ward, but his knowledge of the economic law was limited, like theirs, to its simpler problems.
John Johnson,Richardson Road, Mount Albert, Auckland, New Zealand.
November 13th, 1909.