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Bishop Julius on the Labour Question.

Bishop Julius preached m the Christchurch " Cathedral last evening on the present labour question. The Cathe- , dr;il was crowded m every part before tlie ■service began. His Lordship took fov hi.< text part of the. fifteenth versa of Matthew xx : "Is it not lawful for me to do what 1 will-with -iiiiny own," and m the course of an eloquent address ruiid : "I have-; beard those words which I liwo taken as my text. ...They are familiar ,to us m the current speech of our own time. Tho employer of labour put.s this question to-day as the employe: 1 m the text put •ifc : 'May 1 not do-whabl* wiliwith my own ; may I not do a-, I will with my capital ; {nay I not do na I will with my business 1?' The labourer, too, put the .same question, and asked might he not do what he liked with his own—with his skill, with his time, with his strength, with his labour." The question that his Lordship would that night answer was this " May a man do what he wills with his own '(" His hearers would see that he had plunged into the midst of the present strike. Surely no defence was necessary. Some of them, however, would blame him ; some of them would say it was no part of the ministry of the Church. Let the clergy attend to their own concerns. Bub wns it no concern of his? Should ho, a Bishop of the Church of God, look out upon this strike ' unconcernedly 'I It had been hard enough' for him to hold his tongue hitherto, and should he hold it now 1 He had said nothing because he had nothing to say, and it was only because he had something to say that ho spoke now. What was the Gospel of Christ, if not to bring the principle of Christ down; to its bearing upon the common things of life 1 They were all of them'capitalists,|employers and labourers alike. Money was one man's wealth, brains were another's wealth, mußclcanother'.s,and iskillanohhcr'.f. They all Iwoughttheir capital to thecommon weal. L'jt them put their capitalist, of whatever kind, upon a desert island, with all his capital ; he was a man of wealth, and would give all the wealth he had for a ship to take him away ; for what could all his wealth do there, where there was no market for his goods, and no place for his enterprise or ability ? His capital was worthless. Perhaps the poorer man m such a situation would be not only equal to him, bufc even better off, for he knew how to use his muscle ;-;hut yet he, too, would lose the great worih of his capital, for there was no market for it, no means of getting any advantage from it. In other words, liis capital was only valuable because he lived among men. It that was the principle, the answer to the question of his text was—"l can only do what I please with that which I call my own as conditioned by my social position—my duties and my debts to the men around: me." . . . Did they all believe, however, m their responsibilities'? For every ninety or ahundred men who asserted their rights, was there one who acknowledged the responsibility of capital '*. When a. capitalist put this question—and he used the . word capitalist m the sense • of em'ploycr of labor directly ; or'indirectly— what did the capitalist mean by it '. He meant, as he (the Bishop) believed, "I may purchase labor m the cheapest market ; I have a right to manage my business just as I please. If I can get as good a man, or a better, for sixpence, there is no reason 'why' I should p;iy sevenpence. If I can find a woman who can do my work as well as a man, I can take her, and will pay her less, 'because she cannot combine to strike or resist me. If I find'that children can do the work as well as grown up men.,' I have :i right, to employ them, and to pay them s:> niueli less. If I find that it pays me bust to put my work out, then I have a rigiit to do so, and-it is no business of mine to enquire into the conditions of labor under those circumstauces. These aru my rights." He knew that some meant a great deal more than that, and lie would speak quite openly, God .helping him: There were some who meant this much, " I, as a capitalist, have a perfect right to combine, to form syndicates, lings, monopolies if I can ; and, if I choose, to.destroy *s much produce as comes into my hands m order to keep up the market rate, even to throw fish back into the sea, though there may be hundreds of starving, men and women ready to take it, m order that I may keep up the price. I have a perfect right, as a capitalist, to form a bogus Company, and if there are fools to trust me with their money, it is their business not mine, I have a perfect right to trade upon man's ignorance and folly I have a perfect right to adulterate such goods as pass through my hands to. the very utmost point consistent with my . business safety, and if tliere are fjools enough to buy my goods without examination, then it is their business— * Can I not do what I will with iliy own?'" No doubt many an employer present that night would say, "My dear, good Bishop, you are wrong. I am an employer of labour. Do you think I would nob very, much sooner give my men twenty shillings a day rather than ten shillings,; if I could do it? Is it. no I much pleasanter to give a good round sum than a small one 1 Do you think Ido not love my men ? If I could pay them twenty shillings a day or twenty shillings an hour, I would do it with all the pleasure m life ; but how can I?" He believed that this was a question which was sometimes ignored by the opposite side Competition stood m the way, and he would recommend capitalists to federate to obtain fair prices as the labourers were doing. He condemned the practice of buying m the chee'ipest market ; that could be found, irrespective of every other consideration. The working man had the right to combine and do what he would with his own. Continuing, His Lordship said : "I thank God for the Trades Unionism which has put its foot down on the sweating system —on oppression. lamby no means sure that Unionism can accomplish a per-, manent rise m wages, but I am sure that it had done good work ; but when I have said, '' You have a perfect right to combine, to go on strike, to put your foot down on starvation wages and sweating, I pray you to remember that your rights have corresponding responsibilities. You have no right to crush the whole, nation for the sake of one clans ; you have no right to injure the country for the sake of advancing the interest of one ; party. You have no right, as far as I can see, to" put pressure on the rights of any other man ; and why should you ? I look upon this present strike, which has gone so far —too far, God knows, too fay—and as I look at it, I can sec how it is changing its character, and must change its character. I fear that it will withdraw capital from a struggling colony, and break down the good and healthy factories where many men are employed. I see, and fear to sbe,' increasing bitterness on either side, a f bitterness that it will take many years to remove. I see, and fear to see, the growing misery which strikes must cause^even m a land like this, misery especially amongst women and children. I ask : What is all this going on for ? Is there a man m New Zealand to-day who can say that any good can come out of it ? Surely> it is time that it should be broken down ! Let the two sides combine, as they ought to have done long ago. Let us, m the name of God, have done with such a spirit as this on, one side, and on the other which says : "Let the battle be fought out to the bitter end." Shall men m this day of Christ say that to one another ? Oh, God m Heaven, is tliere no spirit of Christ amongst us to show some why of conciliation, some arbitration which should settle finally and peacefully the present strike? I, a Bishop of the Church—oh, tJiat my voice might; be heard, though b]s

the v(.>:t'M <>f (lie weak man —flay "In God's am:", don't 1c led by f,he nose by woi]>--1,11:11 o: '..'.'linlisl.'j m tii'e neighbouring 1 ' dl.r>,i\ hi;;, make peace amount yoiK-

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Bibliographic details

Bishop Julius on the Labour Question., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2530, 29 September 1890

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Bishop Julius on the Labour Question. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2530, 29 September 1890

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