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BETTER DAYS FOR WORKING PEOPLE.
CHAPTER 1.-—WHAT TO AIM AT.
“We believe it to be in reserve for society, that workmen will at length share more equally than they do at present, with capitalists and proprietors of the soil, in the comforts and even the elegancies of life. But this will not be the achievement of desperadoes : it will be come at through a more peaceful medium-through the medium of a growing worth and a growing intelligence among the people.”-CHALMERS.
A GREAT champion of the rights of labour lately proclaimed—“ Life to the working man is a ceaseless degradation, a daily martyrdom, a funeral procession to the grave.” When we read this statement, we could not help thinking of the story of the man whose friends conspired to convince him that he was dying. The man was in excellent health ; but walking one day along the street, he met a friend who, looking him hard in the face, exclaimed with startled look and tone, “Dear me, how very ill you are looking !” In the next street he met another friend, who held up his hands, and declared himself shocked at his frightful appearance. Round the next corner a third friend met him with a similar expression of horror. Feebler and feebler each time waxed the poor man's assurance that he was perfectly well. Before he got home he was convinced that he must be extremely ill; and the story goes, that he took to his bed and died.
Those who would persuade the working men of Britain that their life is a daily martyrdom, a funeral procession to the grave, are practising a similar trick on their credulity, and rousing their imagination to make them miserable. It is not very difficult to make out a plausible case. It is easy to dwell upon the hardships of the working man. With hard work and little for it; long hours and long exposure; a poor dwelling and a heavy rent; with employment often, that like the stone-cutter's or the steel-grinder’s is very unhealthy, or like the scavenger's or the miner’s, disagreeable and offensive; enjoying no political power and little social influence; exposed to sickness without comforts, and to old age without alleviations ; doomed sometimes to look on the illness of wife or child, and feel that the comforts that might restore them are utterly beyond reach ; forced to continue this drudgery and carry this burden from childhood to old age with hardly a hope of relief–here certainly are many ugly elements, out of which it is not difficult to
make a very dark picture. Any one wishing to convince the working classes that their life is “ a ceaseless degradation, a daily martyrdom, a funeral procession to the grave,” has only to work up these things into a vivid picture, excluding every brighter element, and deepening the dark ones to the gloomiest possible shade. A working man, coming under the spell of such an artist, will soon be in the position of the poor man whom his friends beguiled into the belief that he was dying ; he may have thought himself well enough before, and been contented and happy; now all is changed ; his spirits sink, his energies are paralysed; he is a martyr where martyrdom has not even a chance of a crown--of all men most miserable.
Almost every life has a dark side, and every man by dwelling on it may convince himself that he is a martyr. A little while ago, an article appeared in the Times on the miseries of dukes. All that could contribute to worry the life of a rich nobleman was elaborately set out; all the business he had to transact, the servants he had to control and watch, the plans he had to form, the improvements he had to superintend, the contracts he had to sanction, the perplexities he had to adjust, the abuse he had to endure. On reading it, one could understand how even a duke might come to believe that his life