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THE WORKING MAN.
(Delivered at Messrs. Clarkes' Phoenix Mills, Manchester; Sharp-street
Ragged School, &c.)
To-xigut it is my intention to address a few plain homely words to you Working-Men, upon the Working Man; and I warn you at the commencement to expect no flattery. I see very little use in a
persons assembling together to hear a speaker discourse upon the good points in their character. We are all fully acquainted with these, and have placed a sufficiently high estimate upon them. We are all too much lika the silly raven in the fable;
any flatterer will tell us how good we are, we give great attention, and deem him a very sensible man; but if he mention our faults and failings, we are highly offended, -take our hat and walk, — declaring that we will not hear that fellow again. In olden times the people wished the prophet to prophesy smooth things. And as it was then, so it is now; and I suppose it will be down to the end of the chapter. However, I shall to-night honestly speak what I hold to be the truth. I don't wish you Forking-men to receive it as truth without examination; all I desire is, that you will give your calm consideration to what I
advance. And in the first place, let us get a definition of the phrase, “ A Working-Man.” Who is the
working. man? You reply, the man who throws the shuttle, who wields the hammer, who follows the plough, and 80 on. Very true,-such are doubtless working
But are these all? Is there no other kind of work but hand-work? Is there not sweat of brain as well as sweat of brow? Is not the schoolmaster who spends his days in teaching your child, as truly a working-man, as he who cobbles your child's shoes? Are not some of our members of parliament-many of our newspaper cditors, our surgeons, and authors, and artists,-working-men? Did Hugh Miller, the great geologist, cease to be a working-man when he left the hammer and took up the pen? Nay, did he not work so hard until his brain gave way under the severe pressure? Don't you think Lord Brougham has worked as hard as any man in Manchester? Are there not many teachers of Christianity in this city who work—and work hard ? And head-work is as wearying to the system as hand-work. I dare say that some of you spinners and weavers think that we parsons have very nice times of it—that we have very
little to do; and you wonder how ever we can pass
the time away! 'Tis true that we have to preach on Sunday,—but tren we are used to it,we have only to stand up and open our mouth, and a sermon comes forth without any labour. Now you must excuse me saying that you are wrong-altogether wrong. We preachers have to toil for what we get, -at least, I know that I have; and although some of you may be at your work before me in the morning, yet I shall be working later at night. 'Tis true that there are drones in this as in every other department of labour. There are ministers here and there who have a year's sermons in stock, and at Christmas they turn them upside down and begin again. I have heard of a parson in Cornwall whose sermons became a sort of almanack for the farmers. By many years' observation they found that such a sermon came always at a certain time; and as they left the church, one would say to his neighbour, "It is now time to sow oats." They knew that that sermon always came at that period. However, such
men are the exception; you must not condemn all for the few.
Remember, then, that there are other working men besides those who labour at some handicraft. And remember also that you are not the only workers who are not well paid. Many of those who have worked hard with the head, have been as miserably paid as those who work with the hand. It is very easy to talk that every man should have “a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." I have heard stump orators preach from that text. And the text is good, but
many a wretched sermon is preached from a good text. The question is—How will you get it? Have you not read of John Milton, the greatest man in England, writing "Paradise Lost?"--and yet he had to sell it for five pounds! John Milton did as fair a day's work as any man, but where was his wage? Look into the Church of England, and see if those clerEymen who do the fair day's work get the fair day's wage. Why, to regulate each man's wage according to the worth of his work to society, is the most difficult of all social problems; and, believe me, the men who propound such easy plans for remedying this evil, are nothing better than quacks. I fear their aim is to separate class from class, -and in my judgment the division is already too wide. Each class is prone to exaggerate its own worth and importance. The aristocracy look upon their own order as the main prop and stay of the country ;they think the country would go to ruin without them. The working.men look upon their class as forming the back-bone of society--the base of the social pyramid-the very muscle and nerve of the political body: while the middle classes think that the truth lies between the two extremes, and that Voltaire exactly hit the mark when he said, that “The English were like their butts of beer-froth at the top, dregs at the bottom, in the middle, ex. cellent." And thus we are in danger of forgetting that our great commonwealth is not one member, but many. The eye is tempted to say to the hand, I have no need of thee; and the head to the foot, I have no need of you. But it is time that the higher classes recognised the merits of the hard-handed sons of toil, and to remember that they are as necessary to the commonwealth as themselves. And it is also time that the mechanics and artizans learn that there are others who may fairly claim the title of “working-men,” as well as themselves;—men who work with head instead of hand—who serve the community by sweat of brain instead of brow.
However, my remarks to-night are to be addressed to those who work with the hand, who labour at some handicraft. And let me first observe, that Almighty God has stamped a dignity upon labour; He has placed us in a world where we must toil or starve. If we will not work, neither shall we eat. He who thinks it a disgrace to work—I mean to work with his hands—is either a fop or a fool. The clothes that do a man the most honour are not his Sunılay clothes-not his holiday suit—but his workday clothes: in these he goes forth to do battle with difficulties and dangers. He who when passing that collier on the road with his black face, can curl his lip at his grim aspect, ought to be made to go down the pit and dig his own coal;—for is it not by that collier's labour, that this silly fop can comfortably sit by his winter's fire ? Labour is plainly the ordination of God. And I can fully endorse the eloquent Channing's words when he said—“I would not, if I could, dismiss man from his workshop or his farın; I would not take the spade and axe from his hand, and make his life a long holiday; I have faith in labour, and I see the goodness of God in placing us in a world where labour only can keep us alive. I would not change, if I could, our subjection to its physical laws, our exposure to hunger and cold, and the necessity of constant conflict with the material
World: such a world would make a contemptible race. Man owes his growth, his energy, chiefly to that striving of the will, that conflict with difficulty, which we call effort; easy work never makes robust minds; work we all must, if we mean to bring out and perfect our nature.” However, as you meet with idlers amongst those whose vocation it is to work with the head, -so also you meet with some of the same kind amongst those who labour with the hand. They are slow and slovenly, and do everything in a superficial manner. I heard a story the other day, of a man of this class. A gentleman in Scotland had a friend staying with him, and one day said, that he had as gardener one of the idlest men that ever lived. Bye-and-bye they went into the garden, and the gentleman accosted John,—“John, did you ever when walking see a snail?" John stuck his spade in the ground, and resting his elbow upon it, after due consideration, said that he had. " Then you must have met it," replied the master. Now, it irritates me to see men so slow and sleepy. Solomon had his eye upon such men when he said, ** As vinegar to the teeth, and as sinoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.” One is disposed to shake such a man, and say—“Come now, do stir, be alive, and move a little faster!"
Others of this class you may observe, who right through life seem ten minutes too late. They are always a little bit behind. They have no idea of taking time by the forelock. Their favourite maxim is, “Let belet be; let us alone." Indeed, they would be positively uncomfortable to be beforehand with their work; they are ten minutes too late at the factory, ten minutes too late at home, and ten minutes too late at church or chapel. They are always just in time to be too late. Solomon often had his eye upon a man of this class. He saw him one morning in bed; when he a woke, the sun was shi ing brightly on high,-thic birds were singing