Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

seas.

Sydenham Hill, nor the iron-clad fleet have been launched upon the

But for this, the Queen could not have seen the Royal Albert Hall brought so near to completion, nor could the new Post Office have been as much as begun.

“Wonderful unanimity” ceases to be a phrase of irony when one contemplates the many marvels wrought by united labour in harmonious conjunction with proportionate capital. What the Psalmist said of the building of the Temple at Jerusalem under Solomon, may be repeated of every similar enterprise by those persons who believe in the sure though silent working of a Divine influence through the hearts, the brains, and the hands of men : “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

And yet, alas ! we know, that, notwithstanding the vast undertakings which have been begun, continued, and ended, through combinations of money, skill, and hard work, there have occurred, amidst triumphs never to have been won without the closest union of all three, disputes, estrangements, conflicts, and even positive wars. It is evident, therefore, that a state of definite relations and of good understanding between them, beyond anything subsisting in their most peaceful times, is wanting, in order to insure to capital and labour, jointly and severally, a future more harmonious and more prosperous than the past. With reason, however, it may be hoped that the working world are making approaches towards a consummation so devoutly to be wished.

In the short series of papers which the present paper will bring to a close, we have seen the intelligent and thoughtful working-man persuaded of the unwisdom, sensible of the expensiveness, and convinced of the wastefulness, of strikes; and the capitalist, in his turn, cooled down by experience from the heats of pride and resentment to the moderate temperature of a right mind, yielding to the sober conclusion that lock-outs, far from being a remedy, are to him a self-inflicted punishment, and to those whom he meant to cure an aggravation of disease. Consequently, as we have also seen, mixed courts of conciliation and arbitration are gradually taking the place of hostile camps in battle array, the one against the other. On both sides we have the frank admission, that it is far better to reason together than to make war against one another. This persuasion, perhaps, is more extensive than the practice founded upon it; but that practice has been tried, adopted, and pursued in cases sufficiently numerous, various, and important to warrant the belief, that, if universal, it would in all cases and everywhere be successful.

When, however, the claims of labour, in comparison with those of capital, are generalized, the discovery is made that they come to this :-Given a definite work brought to a finish by the combined

application of capital and labour, to what share is labour entitled in the profitable result? To make an exact and definitive answer to this question, might seem arrogant in any man, and one-sided on the part of a writer always supposed to be speaking on the side of the working-man. By not a few, however, of both capitalists and labourers, and also of thoughtful and calm-minded observers who look at the question from an independent point and through an impartial medium, it seems to be believed, that, by practical endeavours either to bring the capitalist and the workman into a strict partnership, or to make workmen in groups or in masses their own capitalists, this great problem of the age would naturally evolve and solve itself, and the just claims of labour be effectually established without being either violently extorted or dogmatically asserted.

For my own part, I do not hesitate to record, as the deliberate persuasion of my own mind, that, subject to a Power greater than human, the vindication of labour depends upon itself, and that our attainment of all we can fairly ask or reasonably desire depends upon two conditions:- First, our husbanding of our own resources ; and, secondly, our well-judged application of them.

The prescience of enthusiasm may outrun the forecast of quiet reason as to the expansive capabilities and possible triumphs of particular principles. There can be no doubt, however, that the principle of co-operation is one the susceptibilities and fruitfulness of which are limited only by the resources of the earth and the number of its inhabitants. It is but a rational reckoning to anticipate a time when we may obtain food and raiment, with whatever else we want, in spite of non-intervening monopolists. Whether, in virtue of mere co-operation, we shall ever dwell in houses of our own erection, composed of imperishable materials and of everlasting durability, is another question. Some of us are sanguine enough to persuade ourselves, that we shall find the means of mixing, melting, and moulding the commonest earthy substances—sand, clay, lime, ore, flint, stone, and what not—so as to compose at pleasure dense semi-opaque or wholly transparent pieces, throwing them into such forms and slabs, and placing them in such relations to each other, as to conjoin permanency, beauty, and use in the highest degree. Many have not liveliness of imagination or force of fancy enough to conjure up such glowing pictures of the future ; but we do plainly see, that our knowledge of the contents of the globe and of the possibilities before us is daily increasing; and we can easily understand, that the spread of education and the spur of necessity or of natural desire will by degrees place all these resources at the disposal of those who most need or in greatest numbers appreciate them. “If,” it has been said, we only use and adhere to two inexhaustible and eternal

elements in nature, namely, water and sunshine, we may by the aid of boilers and mirrors, and other appliances for collecting and retaining the heat, produce far more steam-power and heating power than the world will ever require for all kinds of machinery or other uses.” So much steam and heat, even in idea, produces a sense of suffocation in unimaginative souls; and it is, therefore, a relief to find, that those who revel in such magnificent and bewildering conceptions are so condescending as to hold themselves in readiness to co-operate with “a few of the really practical and intelligent kind,” who, though unequal to these soaring heights, are, nevertheless, “pretty free from prejudices,”—free enough, at least, “to appreciate the natural law of progression and the power of association and co-operation.”

Co-operation in the purchase and sale of consumable articles, especially for food and drink, has the double advantage of securing them to the consumer at the natural price and in a genuine substance. Acts of Parliament had tried in vain to prevent those adulterations against which men, by simple association, can secure themselves and their families. The interest of buyer and seller having been made one, the mean temptation to fraud and imposition ceases to operate; . and, in the long run, the ordinary dealer must either become honest or shut up shop. There is another almost unspeakable advantage. As evil begets evil, so a return to good leads on to further improvement. Society knows no greater curse than credit. By it the well-to-do are impoverished and the poor pauperized. Co-operation is the very thing to redeem us all from descending into the bottomless abyss. The co-operative store will be the death of the ginshop and the pawnbroker's, as the Civil Service Supply Association will put to flight the obscene flock of money-lending Jews and other harpies who haunt the precincts of the Government offices, seeking whom they may devour.

The co-operative agency in London, by the way, is not in so advanced or perfect a state as could be wished. So certain is it, however, that the existence of such a centre must be highly advantageous, as well as convenient, for all co-operative associations of every kind throughout the country, that no long time will elapse before the one small room in the Strand where the goods entrusted to Mr. Robert Stephens are now huddled together, will be exchanged for more suitable and more adequate accommodation. The marked success with which the experiment has been attended on a limited scale and with slender means, warrants the bolder measures in contemplation. At the Co-operative Congress, held in the summer, it was resolved, that, in extending the operations of the Manchester Wholesale Society, so as to embrace the purchase and sale of co-operative-manufactured goods, the London agency should be merged in

that association, with a view to the greater efficiency of the metropolitan establishment, as a means, not merely of local supply, but of stimulating the slow progress of co-operation in the South of England. Meantime, it is satisfactory to learn, as the result of Mr. Stephens's limited experience, that the goods with which he has been entrusted by manufacturing societies, thirteen in number, are the cheapest in the market of their kind.

The principles and practice of co-operation have made progress in foreign countries as well as in the United Kingdom. To begin with the United States of America : the tailors of New York struck a note to which all Europe will eventually respond, when they resolved to throw down the sword of strikes, and to depend upon the shield of co-operation. The iron-founders of Troy, in the Empire State, have evinced the excellence of the choice by dividing in one year to each shareholder and each workman £122 more than he could have earned in a private firm.

In the little kingdom of Denmark it is refreshing to find a clergyman taking the lead in this great movement. It began with co-operative stores, which, in spite of interested prejudice, have succeeded; but a commencement has been made in its application to production. This experiment has taken the form of a store for the sale of goods made by the shareholders in their leisure hours. The rudiments, however, of an industrial partnership are to be found in arrangements with their workmen by a firm of piano-makers at Copenhagen. And besides friendly societies applicable to cases of sickness and of death (which have no place in this paper), there exist six for mutual assistance with credit (which involves the principle of co-operative banking); and among societies for making the members owners of their own houses, is one in the capital which has already built fifty dwellings accommodating twice as many families.

In Norway there were, in 1869, six co-operative stores, in as many towns or districts, one, from bad management, having been wound up in 1868: 1867 being the earliest date at which any were established. A number of others have been set on foot since 1869.

Productive associations are but an infant brood in Sweden, where, however, the workers are already learning to co-operate, both for domestic supplies and for intellectual improvement.

The stores of Switzerland are reported to be flourishing.

They are becoming numerous in Austria, in which empire productive associations are being added, with fair prospects of more general adoption.

In Saxony the two methods stand in about the same relation.

The Wurtembergers, in their not unsuccessful measures to introduce and extend the system, have encountered a combined opposition,

and been driven upon a special expedient. The wholesale and retail dealers conspired against the co-operators; who, therefore, had no alternative but to make their purchases outside their own territory. Mr. Walter Morrison, M.P., however, has given it as his opinion, if not his expectation, that they will be able to form such a connection with foreign houses as to enable them to dictate terms to the wholesale houses at home; or, should these be so foolish as to persist in rejecting their custom, to carry on a wholesale business of their own, as is done in Manchester.

In short, co-operation in Germany constantly increases. Of 2,746 towns, 1,800 have people's banks, and for the most part stores. Even the villages have stores, or their inhabitants are members of city associations which buy for smaller societies. There are three wholesale establishments—one in South Germany, a second in Saxony, and a third in Westphalia ; and it is proposed that the wholesale stores in Germany and in England should make arrangements to procure the products of the two countries, each for the other, at prime cost. The establishment of productive societies has been retarded by failures in Berlin and at Olmütz; but the banks have succeeded, and will continue to succeed and spread. The subdivision of the land among millions of real agricultural labourers, and the nearly total absence of those branch banks which are available to the British farmer, create a wide demand for credit, which the people's banks supply, to the great chagrin of those usurers who once battened upon the necessities of the small proprietors. In most of the States of the Confederation the laws encourage these banks, those of the North German Bund itself especially ; while in Bavaria the principle of limited liability has been applied to them. In number they have increased from 8 in 1855, to 961 in 1865, and from 300 in 1860, to perhaps 2,000 in 1870; so that, as Herr F. Wirth informs us, hundreds of thousands of florins now circulate in places where even a hundred or two were formerly but seldom seen. In fact, among a multitude of honest and industrious men who before the establishment of these banks would have been unable to borrow a single farthing, they were able, in the year 1869, to advance loans amounting, on the testimony of Professor Vigano, to more than thirty millions of pounds of our money.

Poor France is not in a state favourable to the development of economical principles of any sort.

On the restoration of peace, nevertheless, it may be hoped that she will take a new start. In the three main branches, however, our unfortunate neighbours had made some advances when this cruel war overtook them-consumption, production, and mutual credit. Their stores, as we call them, were numerous and flourishing, though in many of the departments few,

« ElőzőTovább »