Imatges de pÓgina
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bulk of cases entirely mercenary ; the patriarchal spirit which led in former times to the protection and support of dependants is extinct, and instead of the service and respect then cherished by the servant, wo may now see the manifestation of the blackest passions of the breast. This is so much the character of the system that when any master, conscientiously zealous for the improvement of his workmen, attempts to introduce a moral element into the management of his works, he invariably finds himself hampered by the selfish jealousy and unjust suspicions of the parties whose good he has sincerely at heart. They refer every thing to a mercenary motive, and so thoroughly trained are they from childhood to believe that master and workmen occupy spheres essentially and unchangeably antagonistic, that every movement of the master out of the common track at once alarms them, as if it were a subtle device for the reduction of wages. Does he propose to institute a savings bank as a mechanical help against their besetting sin of improvidence, and a provision for their future comfort! The sly knave wants to know their winnings, that at the next contest for a reduction of wages he may use this fact as a sure means to accomplish his end. Does he introduce the minister among them and congregate them in some large apartment of the works to hear his address? He is still driving the same game and using the minister as a convenient tool for his purpose, or at least there is some snake in the grass which, though in the meantime concealed, will watch its opportunity to infuse the poison. Some masters have been prevented effecting their purposes of moral improvement by the obstinate ig. norance and suspicions of their men ; for such obstacles as meet them at the very threshhold are too formidable to be overcome by isolated efforts.

The direct result of this entire severance of every moral tie be. tween master and men is the interception of that influence by which divine wisdom generally preserves society in a healthy state, or re. generates it when it has become corrupt : for the divine plan would seem to be to revive society downward from parent to child and from master to servant, and never save in rare exceptional cases to revive upward from an inferior to a bigher grade. The exclusion of that influence which ought to leaven the mass of our industrial classes has thrown them upon their own resources in forming their opinions, and has exposed them to become the prey of designing and idle “tramps,” who contrive to carve out a comfortable pittance for themselves by humouring the prejudices and passions of the rest. Every influence is warmly welcomed which coniplies with their ideas of their own ill

usage, and of the shortcomings of the rich ; and hence the political maxims of the extreme Radical School are eagerly entertained. Indeed these operatives, untaught though they be in all useful studies, must yet be regarded as the subjects of a powerful educational training of their own. Grouped together all day in companies, they have every facility to exchange opinions; and among so many there are always some learned enough to purvey mental provender for the rest. Indeed, those not acquainted with factory life would scarcely credit the strange diversities which it displays. Employed at the same handi

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craft may be found a multitude who cannot read a sentence intelligi. bly, some who understand Latin and Greek, some who read Prudhon or Goethe and Schiller in the original, some who are well versed in Natural History, some who understand Newton's Principia, an who understand nothing. The readers, however, are not always the leaders. They furnish materials, but it happens not unfrequently that their committees, delegates, &c., are composed of men utterly illiterate -men who suffer under an insuperable literophobia—who obtain their posts of honour by their power of face, glibness of tongue, and extreme violence. It is amusing to witness the spokesman of a deputation of operatives delivering himself of his charge in presence of his superiors. He rises with the same air of importance that Cobden does on the floor of the Commons' House of Parliament, and with an equally oracular utterance propounds his message. Though he never opened a book in his life, he studies on these great occasions to make use of very ponderous polysyllables, and lays down principles of political and social economy with a confidence which Adam Smith might have envied. Their object on these occasions is to solicit aid in one shape or another; but they do so with the tone and bearing of those who have been cruelly victimized, and who have a right to demand that of which they have been so unrighteously robbed. The nasal protuberance of these fiery orators, and their air of reckless dissipation, abundantly prove that they have victimised themselves; but to tell them so, and offer advice about a more provident and frugal economy, is singularly distasteful to them. They are nursed up in disaffection and rancorous class bigotry, which it will require an immense influenco to subdue; and, indeed, so emptied are they of some of our better national traits, that they do not seem to be of the same stock with the cheerful, broad-chested, and full-hearted Scottish peasantry.

It is not easy to say how the disaffection, ignorance and conceit of these increasing masses are to be met—how the corrupting influences which at present exist are to be neutralized, and a restorative discipline created and brought to bear upon them with a closeness and efficiency suitable to the magvitude of the crisis. The habits of the lower class of operatives unfit them for any sustained educational effort, and constitute a formidable barrier to any patriotic scheme for their elevation. The quiet and unexciting industry of a school is by no means attractive to those youth who, from very carly years, are accustomed to draw wages sufficient for their own support, and are consequently tempted to despise the authority of their parents altogether; and even should the children be inclined to respect parental authority, it would be foolish to expect that any great influence in favour of education could be exercised by men who have never felt the benefit of education themselves. And still further, how utterly insufficient must every effort for the education of those children be, who are employed from a Fery tender age at public works, for so many hours a day that it would be as unprofitable as improper to confine them longer! If, however, the attention which statesmen have been for some time devoting to this great question issue in a wise and just measure to equalize and regulate factory labour, we may expect that this barrier will be removed, and that the uneducated masses will be open to the application of moral means which alone can effect their requisite and abiding improvement. That a great effort must be made if the country is to be saved from a deluge of ignorance and crime is now admitted on all hands. The depraving influences to which we have alluded are operating at the base of society with a power so fatal that the hearts of many fellow, countrymen are becoming utterly brutalized. Some of our streets and lanes are like the inaccessible groves of Circe, whence issued the roarings of wild beasts which once were men, and whither were drawn by the power of the wealthy daughter of the sun a ceaseless stream of human beings destined to undergo a similar transformation. Never was the ancient fable more painfully realized than in the stupendous factory which draws unnumbered inultitudes within its mighty embrace, in whom instantly a process of the most degrading transformation begins. By her magical charms and incantations, and by the splendour of her wealth, the cruel goddess allures the voyager to her coasts, and many who sail thither with trim sails, flags gaily dancing in the breeze, and the sound of music, are soon hopelessly wrecked upon her boiling shoals. How pitiful to see the soft smooth cheek of innocence, gradually furrowed with passion, and the life which rose with hopeful aspirations sink in a stormy and starless night!

Is there then no hope of staying the moral pestilence which is ravaging the under class of British society, and of exalting them to the sweet freedom of an upright and honourable life? There is much. It is surely better, however, to look the evil in the face and ascertain its full dimensions, tlian to build sanguine and fanciful theories of the inborn and irrepressible sovereignty of the people. Some writers, borrowing the conceited phraseology of the modern French school, speak of the dreadful heaving of popular passion as if it were the majestic and indignant scorn of wrong; and the violent outbursts of popular fury as of the tossings of a magnanimous spirit goaded to madness by, innumerable oppressions. This language may suit the petty aims of artful traders in politics, but cannot be admitted into the severe service of truth. Ile who will carry the light of truth through the lower regions of society will see, in the character of the mass, unregenerate humanity in some of its worst types of corruption, whose tendency is ever and ever downward : for

In the lowest deep, a lower deep

Still threatening to devour them, opens wide. And, certainly, the lower we descend, we find the corruptions of the human heart more darkly and repulsively developed.

Still let us descend to the very bottom, we cannot find those whom we may cast off as hopelessly reprobate; and though we may be startled at the difficulty of the task of recovering tben, wə cannot regard ourselves as unfurnished with the means of achieving it. Those wretched masses, so disfigured with criminal indulgence,—who, ever and anon, startle the children of luxury from their softness and easy repose by their giant strength, are Scotchmen; and under favouring auspices, all the high principles of Scottish character, would have been nirsed into greatness. Gems of unimagined value are trodden in the moral mud of our cities, which are certainly capable of being rescued from pollution, and made to sparkle with the rays of intelligence and truth. There is scarcely any height of virtue which Scotchmen may not aspire to, whether we look to high acts of faith and self-sacrifice, or to the wise and discreet adjustment of affairs; and we may safely reckon that, in those neglected masses, whose restoration we seek, the same aspirations may be kindled, which have borne upwards others their countrymen to honour and fair fame. When we think what the Scottish nation once was, what a massive solemnity of character she once presented to view—what i grave concern for the interests of truth ruled her councils—what a breadth of power she displayed, in acting out ber convictions, and what simplicity and earnestness of belief marked her attitude; it is not without some sinking of heart that we contemplate her present condition. We turn the eye to her past state, as we would turn it to a stately and fair temple ; but the social debris rapidly accumulating at the base would seem to indicate that the antique and massive buttresses are crumbling away, and that little more will eventually remain to be seen than a ruin. Yet the same divine element which exalted Scotland to a pre-eminence among the kingdoms, was possessed of sufficient virtue to have maintained her at her high elevation, had she only remembered faithfully wherein her great strength lay; and even now, were she to awake to a consciousness of its infinite efficacy, the same divine means would again restore her to more than her old renown. Nothing stands out more broadly and more palpably in her history than the plastic virtue of her religion. Whatever of high faith she displayed—whatever of noble daring and heroic achievement in the battles of religious freedom—whatever of self-relying and hopeful effort in subduing the material evils of her condition, and creating out of bare and meagre resources a foundation of future prosperity and honour-whatever of moral power shone out in her acts -all are traceable for their characteristic vividness and intensity directly to her Bible. She placed the Bible upon the pulpit; she taught it in her schools; she enshrined it in her families; from the Bible she taught the poer to bow and the peasant to walk with an erect mienwith her Bible she extinguished a sturdy pauperism that threatened to absorb all honest industry, and converted hordes of lawless men into steady and upright citizens. Every one acquainted with the history of our country knows well, that this description of the blessed effect of Bible teaching in Scotland is not overdrawn, but is true to the very letter ; and surely it were a dishonour done to the blessed Author of our holy religion to doubt the efficacy of his word to produce the same benign effects again, if properly applied. The forms of evil to be dealt with

may not be in all cases the same, and the circumstances of the present may totally differ from those of bygone times; but the evil incident to human nature, and to every society of men, cannot assume a type for which no answerable remedy can be found in the divine word. On the contrary, there is virtue in the sacred page to heal every evil by which mankind are vexed, and all that is wanting, is the touch of faith to extract it.

But, in truth, the perception of the right means is not so much awanting (in Scotland, at least) as the power of applying the means with an energy and comprehensiveness proportioned to the magnitude of the evil. "The Bible is, no doubt, attempted to be pushed from that central and commanding position to which our forefathers reverently raised it; but the attenipt, upon the whole, has been reprobated by the religion and worth of the Scottish community. Railway companies, and the legislature too, in some cases, have set aside the precepts the sacred word, by desecrating the Sabbath; but their conduct is very offensive to every Christian body, and to every man who is concerned for the moral elevation of the masses. The attempt to exclude the Bible from schools and colleges—which has fortunately not as yet been success. ful--also betrays a dereliction of ourplighted fealty to the sovereignty of trath, but though not specifying, as we might, other irreligious features of the times, we are warranted to affirm that the general mind of the country is alive to the right means of arresting the downward tendency of the poorest class, and of raising them up to be useful and honoured members of the body social. The accomplishment, however, of this noble work must he achieved, if achieved at all, mainly by the Established Church ; for other churches, however sensible of the benefit of Bible instruction to the class hitherto deprived of it, are prevented by the circumstances of their position from calling into operation an organization of means sufficient to insure success.

The Free Church, however, has been in the habit of viewing this achievement as her own special mission, and in all her addresses to the monied section of her own communion, she makes use of this devout fancy, as a means of exciting them to greater liberality. A more arrogant and haughty attitude she could scarcely have taken up than when she proceeded to supply all Scotland with churches and schools, without making account of the Establishment on the one hand, or of the body of Dissenters on the other. From the latter, she at first kept aloof, as if she apprehended the loss of character from their friendship; and the former she pronounced a moral nuisance, which ought to be swept away,--though, later, with a prodigious stretch of charity, she consented to regard it rather as an effete institute-a mere nullity, without the power of producing good or evil. With such a modest estimate of herself and others, she felt constrained to embrace the whole population in her Church and school arrangements, an aim which was much encouraged by the prompt and surprising liberality of lier supporters. Dr. Chalmers, who often, when prosecuting his Church ex. tension scheme within the pale of the Church, expatiated in glowing oratory upon the marvellous power of littles, now found the supply to exceed so far all that even his sanguine imagination had pictured forth

, that he was beside himself with joyful anticipations. A church and a school were to be planted in every parish in Scotland, and the living agency to be instituted was to leaven the popular mind in such wise that the poor parish clergyman was to have no person to preach to, except the beadle, and nothing to do but to batten on the loaves and fishes. Certain itinerating orators grew facetious, and recommended to the Church to get

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