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if improvements, would not fail to swell the tide of our prosperity ; but, if not improvements-if damaging to the interests of the community-if not most cautiously admitted—would be like a torrent and an avalanche, undermining and destroying the social structure before the error could be controlled, and the false step retraced.
Great changes are generally effected with most safety when operated by trifling and gradual, but earnest, amendments. I am no advocate for passive indifference and absolute Conservatism.
The day will come when our Middleton, by reason of its intelligence, its important and valuable silk industry, its population, and its wealth,—will be entitled to, and will have, its representative among the Commons of England. But, my friends, that time, though looming in the distance, is too far to reach at present. Let us develope our resources, and patiently abide the result.
I deprecate all hasty and sweeping measures : and, looking to chronology, I think we make good progress. Reflect upon the events of the last half-centary; consider the wonderful inventions -the astounding progress of education,--the healthful improvement of our sanitary condition, the freedom of trade, - the vastly-increasing power of the empire,—the widely-extending spread of civilisation, the benevolent extension of the Gospel, -the increasing and weighty influence of the Saxon race, which in China and Japan has broken through the last barriers opposed by superstition and idolatry, and which now, like a great ocean of good intentions and good deeds, washes every shore of this world. Consider the mighty power of this vast empire, as indicated in the titles of our Sovereign :-“Queen of Great Britain and of the Colonies dependant in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia, Defender of the Faith.' Read the proclamation recently issued to our brothren in India, and you will acknowledge its justice and its mercy. Criticise the debates of our legislative assemblies; look to the long roll of acts passed for the benefit of the people,-and especially for the working classes. Contemplate calmly-compare accurately all these events and facts with those done in the same space of time in any period of our history; and I think you will conclude that though there are imperfections still to remove,-though we have yet much to learn and much to do,—though our rulers have, like other people, faults and weaknesses, -still, we have made more progress than any other people, and all in the right direction-all tending to promote the greatness of this kingdom, and to extend for participation to the uttermost parts of the world, the blessings we ourselves enjoy. Surely if the Roman's proudest boast was to be a Roman citizen, how much more may we rejoice in being British subjects !
My object and desire thus far in my remarks, has been to prove that labour is an honourable calling and condition of society; that it has equal means of happiness with any other class; that the richer classes collectively are kindly considerate towards their poorer brethren; and that the working classes of this country are more prosperous than the working classes of any other country; and hence that without murmur and discontent, and without class envyings, we should continue our course by improving our means and our talents, and so promote each other's interests and well-being.
“Know, then, this truth (enough for man to know),
* Virtue alone is happiness below:-
Never elated while one man's opprest, -
Since but to wish more virtue, is to gain.” Now a question may fairly be asked by you—If England increases so rapidly and prodigiously in wealth and power, why do we not share it in having our wages proportionately higher? The money paid as wages for work done, will not vary much on account of the constant competition for it. You may occasionally obtain an increase (as recently from silk manufacturers, and right glad am I that you have) when masters compete for you; but when you compete for masters, a decrease will follow. Individually you may attain wealth and power; but your own talents and industry must be the means of your
elevation above the average level of your class,—the monetary value of which will depend upon the supply of and demand for labour.
You each represent the unit of labour, the profit upon which is of course small; but the employment of many, as I have shewn you, yields in proportion. Thus wages represent mere manual labour; but profits, and capital, the accumulation of profits, are the result of skilled, prudent, and united industry. A loom-shop having ten or twenty looms, can produce work at less cost to each weaver, than it would cost the same weaver with a single loom at his own house : and why? Because there is combination of talent, emulation in skill, and economy in production. These are points you should have in view, and which I will now endeavour to shew you may practically attain, even with your present means—(mark that)and thereby add proportionately to your comforts and your prosperity.
The prudent manufacturer considers how he can economise his productions; and he estimates the value of any outlay, not so much by its present cost, as by its probable return in profit. He knows, with
"Poor Richard," that
“A stitch in time saves nine :"
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost ;
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
There is philosophy here to be applied: for there is economy in a wise expenditure-such as for cleanliness and neatness, which are my two first recommendations to start with on the road to improvement, —both being conducive to health and respectability.
Perhaps no motive urges us so much to adopt those advantages, as the feeling of self-respect, which is one of the paramount qualities I earnestly recommend you to cultivate; for its absence in so many families is productive of the most serious and lamentable consequences. I assure you you will be respec. ted by all who know you, in proportion as you justly respect yourselves. Respectability will apply to, and be enjoyed by any class. “A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees." Any one may be clean in person, neat in attire, kind and civil in behaviour, and moral in conduct. The possession of these constituents of a good member of society, costs no money, and is productive of great gain. Employers of labour give a preference to those who possess them. We do not look to the value of the material, but to the condition and the neatness of a working man's garments. The very habit of attention to those qualities, induces naturally a strong desire to continue the improvement; and then follows better health, prosperity, and enjoyment of life. My remarks on these points are, I know, superfluous to
you; for often have I had the pleasure of entering a poor man's cottage, and of noticing the clean sanded floor; the excellently made and handsome old chest of drawers-token itself alone of
respectability and comfort; the good solid furniture; the fine old clock, upright as its master, and ticking off the fleeting moments of time; and the Family Bible, evidencing that its holy contents are not there unknown. The shuttles are heard in the back loom shop; chubby and healthy-looking children in the front room; the good housewife and mother occupied with her domestic concerns, and the industrious father at his work. But I have likewise had the pain of witnessing the reverse of that picture ;-the consequences not of poverty alone, but of absence or disregard of all self-respect. This need not be. For comparative views-look to some of your streets and narrow courts, after your Nuisance Act Commissioners have so well drained and purified them; and estimate the advantages to health in being free from the horrid stenches which too often polluted the atmosphere in various parts of this district. So important, indeed, is cleanliness, that our first physicians assert that 25 per cent. of deaths are prematurely caused by impure air and dirty habits, both personal and general. You have therefore much cause for thankfulness to those gentlemen who constitute your Sanitary Board, who kindly, benevolently, and perseveringly, under much annoyance and opposition, are exerting themselves to purify your dwellings, increase your comforts, and strengthen your health.
Another serious and costly evil with many, is a disregard of all religious duties, and especially of those on the Sabbath-day. Few places have the degree of advantage we enjoy, of hearing and profiting on that day by (if we will) the excellent precepts and advice of inestimable worth, illustrated by example of equal value. There is no more mistaken idea of pleasure than that which leads a man to suppose he can, without disadvantage to himself, dispense with the duties of the Lord's-day. No one ever yet attained a happy position, who habitually profaned it. It should not, and need not, be a day