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from violation. Legislation is a more and judging from experience, they difficult science now than ever; but believed it was salutary-from the let us hope that a Reformed Parlia- gradually enlightening experience of ment may be Conservative, and that a length of years. We know betthe representatives of the people, ter than not to say that at the same chosen by the people, will consult, time men of the highest wisdom affectionately, firmly, and fearlessly, and humanity looked with suspicion for the people's good. By many or disfavour on all such enactments awful considerations are they called -and among them the illustrious on so to do; for they have them and immortal author of the Wealth selves—too many of them at least of Nations. But that Adam Smith helped all they could-and that too would have counselled their repeal in part from the most selfish mo. at the crisis of affairs when their retives—the motives of a base ambi- peal was passed, we see no reason to tion-to exasperate in the breasts of believe; far less that, supposing he the people that restless and turbu- would have done so, he would have lent discontent which, not occasion- dreamt for a moment of recommendally, and during bad seasons, as it ing to be substituted in their place once was, but at all times, now ran- the wretchedly impotent law against kles there, and within these few assaults by workmen on one another years, all too many, has been fed so frequent in strikes, which the wis. and inflamed by the promulgation of dom of the repealers foolishly supthe most pernicious principles by posed would suffice to curb the violay.preachers, who, while they have lence and keep the rage of the said they abhorred anarchy or mis. “multiform beast” within the bounds rule, denounced the throne and the of justice. It is with respect to the altar, and hope eventually to over- spirit of the arguments by wbich the throw them in a still more radical repeal of all combination laws was revolution than the state bas lately effected, that we desire now to make undergone, till not one stone is left some observations; for we have on another, and the very names be- every year seen stronger and strongcome obsolete in the English lan- er reasons for believing, that to those guage of priest, noble, and king. arguments, spread with the spirit in
The time is not so far by.gone as which they were conceived and utthat it may not be remembered by tered, over all the kingdom by a people not yet old, when the rela- powerful press, must be mainly attrition between master and servant buted the present state of the popuwas strengthened by feelings of mu- Jar mind, allowed on all hands to be tual kindness — and was in very most formidable-full of peril, not truth literally an attachment. It to our national prosperity only, but was not so only in private house- our national existence, and therefore holds; but much of the same spirit on all hands condemned as wicked, belonged to the same relation by all, at least, who are unwilling to throughout the whole system of af- believe the people the whole lafairs-making employers of labour bouring people of Britain-to be labourers’ friends-and preserving simply fools. Fools would they be their common interests by mutual wbo should call them so—but misegood-will and interchange of amica- rably misguided they must have ble affection. Then, that spirit, it been-and the question is, by whom? was believed, so far from being inju We answer,-leaving the base crew red by the care of law, was preser. of their enemies out of sight,-by ved by it-not by fear, which is a bad many who, we shall admit, were, after guardian-but by submission, which a fashion, their well-wishers; by not is often the very best. Law under- a few who, beguiled by their own took-as far as law ever can — to enthusiasm into most dangerous docprotect the rights of labour by pre. trines, were nevertheless their hoventing labour from committing nest, sincere, and ardent friends. wrongs; in the opinion of men not Among the number of the former we deficient in wisdom and generosity, mention, as one of the most eminent, a law against Combinations of work. Mr M'Culloch; and among the nummen to interfere with wages, might ber of the latter, the most distinso be constructed as not to be unjust ; guished by far, Dr Chalmers--who has ever zealously sought to promote fence for artisans or mechanics of the temporal and eternal interests of any description to enter into any his fellow-men in all conditions, from consultation for the obtaining of an the throne to the hovel. We cannot advance of wages, for lessening or introduce our remarks better, than altering the duration of the time of by a clear statement of their sub- working, decreasing the quantity of ject, from the admirable Charge late- work to be done in a given time, ly delivered to the Grand Jury at inducing others to quit the work of Exeter on the case of the Unionists, their masters, or to return it to him, whose trial, we observe, after the or to regulate the mode of carrying Grand Jury had found a true bill, on any business or manufacture, so was removed by a certiorari to the that persons entering into any comCourt of King's Bench.
bination of this sort were no longer “ From a very early period of his- held liable to any penalty whattory, as far back as the reign of Ed. ever, either by the statute or comward I., the laws against combina- mon law of the land. This statute tion had commenced, and had con- for repealing the whole of the pretinued down in nearly an unbroken vious acts, was made for the purpose series to the reign of Geo. IV. It of leaving the whole principle of appeared that from a very early contract between the master and period the law on these combina- workmen entirely free; it was passed tions was educed from the circum- in 1824. But the effects of it were stances of the times. Our ancestors found to be such that in the following found it necessary to interfere—and year a state of things had occurred interfere they did with a strong hand which, it was thought, made it im—to put down all combinations of perative to reconsider the whole citizens and handicraftsmen, who, so subject, and a very intelligent and far back as the reign of that king, influential member of parliament had been in the habit of combining (Mr Huskisson), who had taken a to raise the rate of wages above the very active part in effecting the refair market value; to restrict the peal of the combination laws, once hours of labour, and to impose re- more introduced the subject to the strictions upon the masters who legislature for their reconsideration. employed them. He was not com. Accordingly, in the following year, petent, nor had he any wish, to enter the 6th George IV., a modified law, into the political economy of the was passed, which repealed the staquestion. He would not enquire as tute of the preceding year, and laid to the policy or impolicy of the law. down the law as it at present stands. He thought that it was the business This act, after imposing certain punof those who filled either the judicial ishments on certain acts done by situation, or that of the Grand Jury, reason, or for the purpose, of internot to enter into considerations whe- fering either with the rate of wages ther the law was wise or unwise, or the hours of labour, made this demerciful or cruel-but to see what claration on the subject :-that the it really was, and then merely to act should not extend to subject any consider themselves as the persons persons to punishment who should bound to administer it. Our Sta- meet together for the sole purpose tute-book, as he had said, formerly of determining the rate of wages or contained a great number of laws on the hours of labour which they the subject of combination which should work in any manufacture, came down to the reign of Geo. IV., trade, or business. This was the exwhen at length it was thought wise isting law upon the subject. The to reconsider the whole subject; principle upon which it was groundand in the fifth year of that reign a ed was this, that there should be statute passed of so comprehensive perfect freedom on both sides-on a nature, that it repealed pearly the the part of the master as well as the whole of the laws on the subject of workman—that as the master could combination. They were repealed employ any workman he pleased, so by a statute which was made on the the latter should be at liberty to get ground that all interference was im- the best price he could for his lapolitic and mischievous; and in plain bour, just as he would if he bad any terms it was made no longer an of. other commodity to dispose of. It
went even farther than this, to The consequences of the Repeal of shew that it would be lawful for the Combination Laws, so far from two or more, or any number of per- having been such as the supporters of sons, so to meet and consult to- that measure anticipated, had within gether as to what price such per the year been diametrically the resons so met together would sell their verse; and to account for the flagrant labour for, and what period of time enormities perpetrated by too many they would work. This was the pre- of the Combinations that sprung up sent law upon the subject, and the on the repeal, they were forced question was, whether what were to form a somewhat unsatisfactory called conspiracies, or combinations theory, which would have done more of a secret description, where the credit to their wisdom and foresight, parties were bound together by had they suggested it at the time of oaths, meeting in private, and levy- the repeal, or before it, in order to ing subscriptions, being bound by warn the nation of the first disastrous solemn and unauthorized engage- consequences likely to result from ments—whether under this law such carrying the measure into effect. meetings could be considered legal ? They endeavoured to attribute all If illegal, then such combination those enormities to the sudden feelwould assume the character of a con- ing of freedom from the tyranny of spiracy."
galling and unjust restraints. The We shall not expose the miserable Combination Laws had long been attempts at reasoning which may be supposed by workmen to weigh found in the reports of the debates heavily upon them—to subject them in Parliament on the motion for to the will of their masters—to keep the repeal of the old Combination down forcibly and unjustly the poor Laws-nor shew them up in the man's earnings throughout all trades ludicrous light in which they re- to make them, in short, slavesappeared, when the new enactments and their employers tyrants. On consequent on their repeal were being-argued Dr Chalmers-sud. themselves repealed within one denly emancipated from unjust conyear's experience of their utter im- trol, giddy with the intoxication potence, and a second set enacted of freedom, and thereby preventas worthy of all contempt. But, as ed from calmly consulting their we said, we shall confine ourselves own judgment and experience, they to two publications, widely circulated not only grossly exaggerated to in 1826, and highly applauded - Mr themselves the evils which the forM'Culloch's " Essay on the Circum- mer state of things had so long instances which determine the rate of flicted on them, but as grossly misWages and the condition of the La- took the means of curing the real bouring Classes," reprinted, with evils they might have endured. And additions, from several of his other thence all the guilty excesses of works, in which it had appeared in which combined workmen were various shapes and sizes and prices guilty all over the country on the —then sold for the first time at two repeal; excesses never again to be shillings, or one—and circulated by committed, after that great teacher the friends of the people widely over of Political Economy, Time, shall all the manufacturing districts, as an have taught them the folly of attemptepitome of all that was "wisest, vir- ing to alter by force or intimidation tuousest, discreetest, best;” and two that order of things founded in the chapters on Combinations in the very constitution of society. third volume of Dr Chalmers's Civic Now, whatever truth there may be Economy-a volume which, by its in this — and there is truth-why, it bulk and weight, could not have had may be asked, were such effects, laeither a rapid or wide circulation, mentable and disastrous indeed, not but which was almost reprinted, foreseen and predicted by the advopiecemeal, in hundreds of publica. cates for the repeal ? Not only were tions that went among the poor, and they not foreseen, and not predicted, was likewise cried up to the skies by the advocates for the repeal, but as a revelation of saving truth on all those persons whodid foresee,and the secular concerns and temporal did predict them, ourselves among interests of the million,
the number, and, on the certainty of
such effects flowing from a repeal to have been equally extravagant." of the existing laws, opposed that Here wecannot help thinking, with all measure, were scouted as timid and respect for Dr Chalmers, that he prejudiced adherents to a system of ought to have used more definite slavery and restriction. Goodwill to- language in speaking of such a subwards the masters, unanimity and mo- ject. Effervescence—is not exactly deration among the workmen them- the word that may best express the selves, order, regularity, and indus- desperate and murderous character try in all trades, and, above all, grati- of many of the proceedings of the tude to their rulers and legislators, combined workmen all over England were the effects, and the sole effects, and many parts of Ireland. In that any enlightened thinker was to another part of his disquisition, Dr expect from the repeal : Not a word Chalmers calls things by their right of riots, and robberies, and assaults, names-because it was necessary to and homicides, and murders. Every do so to make good bis masterly thing was to go smoothly, and all argument in favour of the enactment the different interests of capitalists, of the severest laws against actual labourers, and consumers, to adjust outrages of the workmen against each themselves without any violent out- other. But here he is anxious to breakings, by means of a great law account for the immediate effects of constantly operating for the good the repeal—and therefore unconof the whole.
sciously has adopted such terms as As far, therefore, as regarded the may render his notion the more immediate consequences of the re- plausible. The same strong objecpeal of the Combination Laws, the tion ought to be made to the exsupporters of the measure pression," if the conduct of the one in the wrong, and the opposers of party have been extravagant.” Exthe measure were in the right. Had travagance is a somewhat too mild the theory proposed to account for word for days, weeks, and months, the evils that followed the repeal been and years' continued and systematic proposed to prepare the public mind outrage and violence, not unfrequentfor them before the measure was past, ly accompanied with bloodshed and more credit would certainly have murder. Nor can we think, however been due to the sagacity of its pro- mistaken they might be in some things, pounders. Their blindness, therefore, " that the other party were equally or ignorance or error, ought greatly extravagant," seeing that their extrato have detracted from ihe weight vagance consisted in an alarm for the of their authority on the whole ques- safety, property, and person, excited tion; and put us on our guard against by the crimes of combinations, that, yielding too entire and unqualified whatever might be the causes of the assent to any of their other reasonings delusion under which they commitbuilt upon a reference to active prin. ted them, proved by their words ciples in the human mind, which, in and their deeds that they were dethis case, they appear either not to termined to respect neither property have understood, or, from undue nor person, in their wanton and zeal in support of a favourite mea- violent efforts to disturb the order sure, to have given a very false ac- and shake the structure of the comcount of its probable operation. mercial world.
“ The effervescence which has Dr Chalmers makes use of a sinfollowed on that repeal,” said Dr gularly unhappy illustration of the Chalmers, “is the natural, and, we theory by which he would account believe, the temporary effect of the for the “effervescence and extravaanterior state of things. There was gance" of the workmen in their com. nothing more likely than that the binations. “The repeal,” says he, people, when put in possession of a “ of the Combination Laws in Engpower that they felt to be altogether land, has been attended with conseview, would take a delight in the quences which strongly remind us exercise of it, and break forth into of the consequences that ensued, misplaced and most extravagant ma- after the Revolution, from the repeal nifestations. But if the conduct of of the game laws in France. The one party have been extravagant, the whole population, thrown agog by alarm of the other party we conceive their new privilege, poured forth upon the country, and variously ac- enormities perpetrated by the memcoutred, made war, in grotesque bers of the various combinations were and unpractised style, upon the fowls to be attributed entirely either to of the air and the beasts of the field. “effervescence or extravagance," or In a few months, however, the extra- to delight in exercising a new faculty, vagance subsided, and the people or sudden escape from a degrading returned to their old quiescent habits and galling thraldom. To ascribe and natural occupations. We feel such enormities, either wholly or in assured, that, in like manner, this chief part, to such a cause, even if delirium of a newly awakened faculty that cause had existed in all the force among our British workmen will ascribed to it, would not have been speedily pass away. They will at philosophical ; but still less so was it length become wise and temperate to ascribe them to a cause taken for in the use of it.” The two cases had granted—and taken for granted too, no earthly connexion; and how has not only without evidence, but in the Doctor's prophecy been verified the face of all eridence. by events ? Circumspice !
For while we are far from saying Mr M'Culloch, in his Essay on that the Combination Laws were Wages, says, that “Those who were not in some respects objectionable, fully aware of the practical operation and, like most other laws, occasionaland real effect of the late act, and of ly mingling injury with benefit, this the feelings it had generated in the is certain, and allowed on all hands minds of the workmen, must have to be certain, that they had not opebeen prepared for most of what has rated to sink below the proper point lately occurred. The violence it did the wages of the labourers. 'The to the right feelings of the labouring history of the country, and the expeclasses, and the oppression to which rience of every one, replied in the it sometimes gave rise, led them to negative. In good times, many of ascribe to it iofinitely more power the working men of manufacturing ful influence than it really possess- and trading places could earn as ed.” Here, too, we should have ex- much in five of the working days of pected some more definite proof, the week, as would both support that previously to the repeal of the their families, and enable them to Combination Laws, the workmen spend the sixth perhaps in idleness throughout Great Britain and Ireland and dissipation, although we are far groaned under them-either under from saying that they generally did real evils which the law produced, 80. If in bad times wages were too or imaginary evils which it was low, this was in general evidently supposed by them to produce. It is owing to the inability of the masters perfectly true that the former law to pay more, and not to the Combicould not be popular among the nation Laws. Wages had, upon the workmen-but where is the proof whole, advanced, and the working that it was, and had long been so classes at the time were enjoying a execrated by them-so utterly de- greater share of the necessaries and tested—and, that it had in many comforts of life than had been encases been made the instrument joyed by those of former generations. of great oppression ? Nothing short Now, although all this may not have of utterdetestation of any law, prevented workmen from actually founded on real and gross grie- believing that they suffered some vances, will serve the purposes of grievance from the Combination this apologetical hypothesis. Now, it Laws, we think that, allowing them is granted, not only in the above pas- to have that degree of intelligence sage but throughout the Essay, that which is commonly and rightly atthe power given by the Combination tributed to them, they could not Law to masters to depress wages had possibly have regarded those laws always been a bugbear-although in with such bitterness of hatred, the above passage it is also somewhat and detestation, and anger, as to invidiously as well as inconsistently account for the crimes subsequent said, that sometimes that power had to the repeal, on the ground which been most oppressive. It does not Dr Chalmers, Mr M‘Culloch, and therefore seem, on the whole, satis- many others then took. Injuries factorily made out, that the many and grievances must be real, galling,