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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20

IV.—Our Individual Duty in Relation to this Subject

IV.—Our Individual Duty in Relation to this Subject.

1. I begin with Employers of Labour. Their duty is to rest, and give rest; to live and let live. "Masters are to give to their servants that which is just and equal, knowing they also have a Master in heaven." They are to apply the golden rule. They are to do as they would be done by. They are to do by those in their employ as they wished to be done by when they were employed. For I have known very energetic advocates for early closing when they were assistants grow very short memoried about their principles when they became masters, and very loth to yield a single hour of grace. They should remember all the fine and bitter—and true things too—they once said. They should remember how hard the bondage was to them, and mete out the measure they wished to be meted out to them. Employers too are not to shut up their shops, and keep their employeés—a practice very common in the case of milliners, dressmakers and sempstresses—working on far into the night, so that even in Dunedin there are some who can sing with a dolorous voice—

"Work—work—work
Till the brain begins to swim,
Work—work—work
Till the eyes are heavy and dim!

* * *

Work—work—work
From weary chime to chime, Work—work—work
As prisoners work for crime.

* * *

It's oh to be a slave
Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,
If this be a Christian's work."

Employers should, further, as far as practicable, pay their wages on Friday instead of on Saturday night. Then there will be some hope of putting an end to that most pernicious of all practices—late shopping on Saturday nights. The very night when because "the Sabbath draws on." toil should be over earliest, is the very one when it is the most prolonged. The result is, that some are so worn out as to be unable to attend the house of God, and others are so jaded as to be unfit to profit by its hallowed exercises. This accounts for empty pews, and nodding hearers. Then, further still, employers should generously give those in their employ time during page 14 the day to make their purchases, that they who enjoy the blessings of short hours should not be compelled to inflict long ones upon others.

2. I now pass to the Employed. Their duty is to be patient. They are to be subject not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to the froward. It is better to make no mention of force. Anything like a strike invariably places the employed in a false and worse position than the employers. I am well aware the Association on whose behalf I am preaching needs no counsel to orderliness. The members of it have shown they not only know how to plead their cause, but that they know what to do with their time. While, therefore, I urge the general principle of judicious measures, I am far enough from bidding the employed to be content with what has been aptly called "White Slavery." On the contrary, I would say to them, "Work, and work hard, till you get your right. Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! Endeavour by every proper means to obtain remedy and redress. The prayers and hearty sympathies of every philanthropist are with you."

3. And now I come to what I may term the General Public, to which many of us belong. You and I then are to act as if the downfall of the long hour system wholly depended upon us individually. There must be no shirking of personal responsibility. There is no putting an end to any social abuse unless every member of society rises to the dignity of his position, and individually wages war against it. We are not to mind what others do; we are to do right, and use every effort to induce them to do right also. We are not to find refuge in the flimsy excuse that it is a small matter, or that we are very unimportant units of the great whole. It is quite enough that we are units—and what the units do that the whole does If each individual does his duty, society will do its duty.

In this particular case, I have no hesitation in saying that it is the clear duty of every faithful friend of his kind, to withdraw his support from every man who refuses to comply with the reasonable request to close at a reasonable hour; and to give that suppor to those who think that to do what is right, and fair, and equal, is better than to get pelf. Specially they who themselves know the benefit of early hours—specially they—should be foremost to emancipate those who are still doomed to late hours. I hope no working man who leaves off with the bell, goes himself or permits his wife to go buying at eight and nine o'clock. Then ladies who must have their new bonnets and dresses to wear on Sunday, should give their orders early instead of late in the week; and so offer no premium to wrong, no bribe to conscience. We must not expect too much from employers, we must not ask them to be too heroic, we must bear our own part in the work.

I venture to recommend that all purchases of every kind should be made Before Six O'clock. I ask that those who have domestic page 15 servants will grant them time to do their shopping before that hour. If we, the public, enter into a compact to do no buying after that hour, it will be worth no one's while to try and sell. For I desire that not one trade but all trades should share in the benefits of the movement—that even those employed in hotel-bars and chemists' shops should be set free from their interminable work, and in one city in the world at least be permitted to go out in the daylight.

And now I must finish. I have been plain, practical, and pointed, for without particularising I should do no good. I have said but little in the way of appeal to your feelings. Yet I could find materials for a pathetic appeal. There are the sighs of the weary to echo. There are the wrongs of the dumb to give voiced to. There are the rights of the timid to plead for. I could appeal to you on behalf of men, women, children—fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. I could plead for their bodies, their minds, their souls. I fervently pray, though I have not pleaded, you may be persuaded, and nobly, unitedly act.

In conclusion, remember that life itself is but one long day. We are accomplishing it. Evening comes on apace. The night when no man can work draws nigh. Take care—Oh! take care—that none neglect the one thing needful. Life has but one all important work. If that be left undone, all besides is vain and worthless. And this is the work, to believe on Jesus Christ whom God hath sent to save us from our sins, and bring us to that rest which remaineth for the people of God. May it be so when our life's evening comes, when the evening deepens into twilight, and the twilight darkens into night, we may each close our eyes in peace, and then open them where there is no night, and where an eternity of service will bring no weariness.—Amen.