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THE GOVERNMENT AND THE TRADES' UNIONS. *. It is just three years ago since the Whigs entered the cabinet with the decided approbation of ninety-nine out of every hundred men in the empire. When, in 1832, they were obliged to resign office, in consequence of the opposition of the Peers to the first Reform Bill, they were literally borne back to the seat of power upon the shoulders of the people. They have since done wonders in the way of legislation, and in the preparation of further improvements. Ireland pacified-the reduction of her enormous church establishment actually commenced—the monopoly of the East India Company overthrown-the West India slavery abolished-several obnoxious taxes repealed—public expenditure materially diminished-great improvements realized, greater still promised, in almost every department of the law-inquests going on into the state of the corporations, from which we may expect the most beneficial results—these are all, we may truly say, so many titles, on the part of the government, to the sincere and lasting gratitude of every person who feels a genuine interest in the welfare of the country. · The difficulties which the Whigs have had to contend against are known, in all their extent, only to those who are initiated in the secrets of the cabinet. There was hardly any measure of reform which they could propose sufficiently extensive to satisfy the growing wishes of the people, or sufficiently limited to disarm the hostility of the Peers. While the Radicals taunted them with making sacrifices of principle to the Upper House, that House itself characterised them as traitors to the crown and the constitution. Amongst themselves, it is well known that the elements of dissension exist in some force. As far as the property of the church is concerned, Mr. Stanley is a Tory of the old school. Lord Durham, to whose manly understanding and political courage we owe, in a great measure, the reform statute, quitted the cabinet under the pretext of ill health, but really because his views of church reform could never be reconciled with those of Mr. Stanley. Earl Grey has had the good fortune, by giving way upon some points, and by postponing others, to keep the ministry together, and to that fine Fabian policy by which his counsels have been inspired, we are indebted principally for all the conquests which the people have yet won from the aristocracy, Compelled, however, to preserve, as much as possible, a middle course between the extreme parties on each side, the Whigs may, on some momentous occasion-probably the taxes, or the reform of the English churchbe placed apparently in the wrong by both, so as to bring their power into the hazard of a sudden but irrecoverable termination.
The resistance that has been recently offered to the collection of the assessed taxes points to some of the numerous difficulties, which must seriously embarrass the government at no distant period. It is obvious that these taxes must be altogether repealed, for the country will not continue to pay them. The agricultural interest will next demand, and with equal reason and force, the total removal of the malt tax, If the public establishments be preserved on their present scale ; that is to say, if the royal family are to be maintained at the expense of half a million per annum-if pensions to the amount of another half million are still to be paid-if seven millions and a half are to be raised for the use of the army, and nearly six millions for that of the navy-and above all, if twenty-seven millions are to be created annually for the purpose of discharging the interest of the national debt-we should be glad to know whence the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to obtain funds adequate for those different claims, if he be obliged to relinquish the two classes of impost above mentioned ? It is said that he must propose a property tax. A property tax! Who is there that does not remember the indignant eloquence with which a revenue of that description was attacked at the close of the late war? It may as well be proclaimed at once, for it is the conclusion to which the country will eventually come, that a tax which will convert every collector into a spy_which will compel the gentleman of estate, and the merchant of capital, and the professional man even of limited practice, to disclose the actual net amount of his income to the state,—will never again be tolerated in England. Perhaps, indeed, if a powerful enemy were sailing up the Channel, our fleets having been previously swept from the seas- if our wives and daughters were threatened with pollution-our sacred homes put in danger of being levelled to the earth—our temples overturned our troops flying in despair from the front of countless hosts flushed with triumph---perhaps, in such a case as this, our rent-rolls, our debentures, our mortgages, our books of fees, our incumbrances, and our gains, would be laid open without hesitation to the world; but no state of circumstances much short of this would ever reconcile the country to a property-tax. Modify it as the ministers may--henge it round as they can with all possible safeguards for the personal liberty of the subject, still it must always be of an inquisitorial character, and therefore in decided opposition not only to the feeling of the times, but to the genius of the constitution, si
* We feel ourselves bound to lay before the public these remarks, from the pen of a very able correspondent. They will afford matter for serious reflection, even to those who may not fully subscribe to the opinions of the writer.
What then, it remains to be asked, will the Ministers do? What can they do? A property tax will deprive them of the support of the country gentlemen and the capitalists, who will very justly look upon it as nothing more or less than a confiscation of their revenues for the benefit of the lower classes. The lower classes threaten to rise in open insurrection if the assessed taxes be not abandoned. Is there any party prepared to take into their keeping the helm of the state, who will at once disband the army, annihilate all pensions without exception, appropriate to the uses of the state the whole property of the church, and reduce the official salaries to the American scale? The Radicals say that they are prepared to do all this, and even much more. But who are the Radicals ? Have they any men of real weight and talent amongst them?
That a government must speedily be formed of individuals able and determined to redeem the country from its increasing difficulties, it requires no power of divination to foresee. . The choice was three years ago between the Tories and the Whigs ; before another session elapses, the choice must be between the Whigs and those who are disposed to act on Radical principles, unless both are prepared to surrender the vessel of the state to a new party, which has already acquired a considerable degree of strength, and is actuated by pretensions of the most formidable description :
To this party, led by a few vain and ignorant persons of property, who look upon all our institutions with hatred, and composed of the great body of the manufacturing labourers of the kingdom, nothing whatever would be sacred. Having just arrived at that stage of education where presumption begins, and knowledge is dim and defective, they have acquired a general idea, that, as long as they continue to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, so long they shall be in a degraded situation. They have read, in some books of political economy, that labour is wealth. This proposition they look to as their polar star. Not considering that wealth is really capable of being created only by him who, already possessing some capital, applies it to the purpose of combining the exertions of the industrious for his own advantage, these visionaries maintain that the labour of each individual ought to be convertible, like a Bank note, into gold, from which premise they forthwith draw the conclusion, that those who labour ought to be the possessors of all the land and treasure of the country.
With a view to carry this doctrine into effect, a plan of extensive organization has been already adopted and acted upon in London and the manufacturing districts. Each trade forms a lodge, or class, consisting of ten or fifteen individuals; these classes meet weekly, and select delegates, who assist, at provincial lodges, or associations, which meet every month. These associations have in their hands the complete control of all the trades; they appoint delegates to a general assembly, which they call a Congress, which has already met once in Birmingham, once in London, and is appointed to hold its next session at Barnsley about the commencement of spring. The members of this imperium in imperio are bound to each other by secret oaths. They have their unstamped newspapers, by means of which they communicate with each other in every part of the kingdom; and they contribute to the formation of local funds, which are made available to their support whenever they choose to absent themselves from their ordinary occupations. Thus the machinery of agitation is nearly perfect, and unless strong measures be taken for breaking it up in time, it will enable the weavers and the potters to dictate laws to the empire. The volcano is not discovered until it breaks into a flame, and then the elements of mischief being already in full operation, the only chance left to the villagers at the foot of the mountain, from whose summit the lava rolls its flood, is to fly from their ancient hearths and tombs to some spot beyond the range of the eruption. The materials in process of admixture for the creation of a moral volcano may sometimes be detected before they can be effectually combined, as in the present case; but the affinities must be neutralized before they shall have become too powerful for external existence,
It cannot be dissembled that this task--one which must soon be undertaken by the legislature, whoever may be in the cabinet-will be attended with some difficulty. We may easily repress by force of arms the overt manifestations of any principles which are incompatible with social order; but the sedition which now walks abroad assumes the garb of speculative opinion. It affects to be not disobedient to the existing laws, but says that they ought all to be repealed. Discussion is free. Meetings are held without molestation, in which doctrines of the most subversive tendency are maintained by argument, and applauded by enthusiastic audiences. Those doctrines are rapidly propagated from town to town through the medium of penny journals. The time of action is postponed until the sentiments of the malcontents shall have become universal amongst the labouring classes, and then, if no measures of counteraction shall have been previously enforced, we shall certainly behold every mill, loom and steam-engine in the country stopped in one day by a simultaneous act of the whole body, in conformity with a decree of congress.
Now this will not be insurrection; it will be simply passive resistance, The men may remain at leisure: there is and can be no law to compel them to work against their will. They may walk the streets or fields with their arms folded. They will wear no swords, carry no muskets, assemble no train of artillery, seize upon no fortified places. They will present no column for an army to attack, no multitude for the Riot Act to disperse. They merely abstain, when their funds are sufficient, from going to work for one week, or one month, throughout the three kingdoms ;--and what happens in consequence ? Bills are dishonouredthe Gazette teems with bankruptcies-capital is destroyed—the revenue fails--the system of government falls into confusion-and every link in the chain which binds society together is broken in a moment by this inert conspiracy of the poor against the rich. The Trades' Unions have, in some places, already offered to take into their own hands the establishmeuts of two or three manufacturers, whom they actually drove out of the neighbourhood by combinations. Should the day of general distress arrive, to which they look forward as the era of their felicity, they hope that they may be enabled to purchase, at a depreciated price, the abandoned factories, and mines, and fields; and that then labour shall indeed be wealth, in the only meaning which, according to their views, ought to attach to that phrase.
But is there any reasonable objection, it may be asked, to a labourer becoming a capitalist if he can ? Certainly no objection that we know of. No country has produced more animating instances of industrious poor men winning their way to great opulence, and even to political influence, than England. Such events occur every day before our own eyes; and there are very few things of which we ought, as a nation, to be more proud, than of the existence amongst us of a numerous class of self-elevated individuals, who are not ashamed to call themselves plebeians, and whose riches very frequently throw the sumptuousness of the ancient aristocracy into the shade. But when we are desired to carry this doctrine farther, and to admit as just and reasonable the pretensions of those who say that, because they labour, therefore they ought, in a mass, to become the proprietors of all the factories, as well as of the capitals by means of which the factories have been erected and hitherto maintained, we answer, without hesitation, that such a demand is a menace of universal plunder, and that it ought to be met with all the power of resistance which society can bring against it.
The objects of these Unionists might be rendered less ridiculous in theory, and less mischievous in practice, if it could be shown that it is possible for an unlimited number of partners, composed of all the members of a trade, to carry on business for their common benefit, even for a single month. Supposing that they had already accumulated a fund adequate for the maintenance of a large manufactory, still they must work, in order to render their capital productive. But when the season
of dull sales arrives; when, by the competition of foreign or other markets, their cloths or their hardware are lowered in price; wheni. vicissitudes—too frequent in all trades-occur, and the capital is consumed in wages, - what, then, would become of the thirty thousand members of the independent union ? Would perfect harmony preside over their commercial operations ?—would they be sure of receiving even a quarter of the wages to which they now object ?
We remember lately to have read, in one of the operative journals, a speech of a journeyman printer, who proclaimed himself and his fellowcompositors to be the real sources of all knowledge. “We are the persons,” said he, “ who find the words by means of which knowledge is communicated.” But what would the types be in his hands if he had not before him the manuscript of the author ? To what use could he convert his time, if his employer had not found the very types which it is his business to arrange? Who could pay him his wages, if there were no paper to receive impressions from those types, no bookseller to distribute the folded sheets, in the shape of books, to the public, or no public to buy them? Nevertheless, the compositors are just as much the sources of all knowledge, as the operatives are the producers of wealth. They are a part of the instrumentality by which wealth is created, undoubtedly; but they are very far from being the whole. Each assists, in his department, to the accomplishment of the object in view ; each is necessary and useful in his sphere. But let all the operatives in the kingdom combine to work only for themselves and by themselves, and they will soon discover the fallacy of the absurd theories which at present appear to their eyes clothed in all the fascinations of novelty.
“ The happiness and harmony of mankind,” says à Unionist of Yeovil,“ render it necessary that the great body of the working people should be owners of house and land. Justice requires this, that those who build the houses and cultivate the soil should build houses for them, selves, and raise the produce of this soil, and then labour for their own enjoyment, rather than for the enjoyment of others--a numerically inconsiderable minority.” In these two sentences, the whole doctrine of the Trades' Unions may be said to be comprised, so far as their immediate objects are concerned. It contemplates a state of wild nature, in which no such thing as the right of property is known. It leads the operatives to suppose that they would be justified, simply by the title of labour, in taking possession of the houses which they assist in building, and of the fields which they help to cultivate. But suppose that species of title to be established by force, or by law, how long would the new occupant remain in possession of his acquisitions ? Why, exactly as long as he would be able to maintain it by superiority of physical power. The moment he should receive assistance from the mason and the reaper, his title would be transferred to them, and they would have, in every respect, as good a right as himself to his habitation and his land. Is there any man in his sober senses who can imagine, that social or individual happiness could exist for a week under such a system of perpetual ejectment as this?
"Far different,” says another of these Unionists, “ from the paltry objects of all former combinations is that now aimed at by the congress of delegates. Their reports show that an entire change in society,--a: change amounting to a complete subversion of the existing order of the