The Evening Star TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 1889.
At tho public meeting on Friday evening Sir Robert Stout stated that “ when he left the Old Land he had felt as others had—that in coming to a new land he was coming to a country that would be rid of the evils that had tormented the land of his birth.’' All good people will sympathise with Sir Robert's disappointment and admire the innocent ingenuousness of his youthful expectations; but we would just point out that a too free indulgence in this kind of expectation on the part of good people has been in part responsible for the footing secured in our midst by such evils as the sweating system. To good people it seems so very necessary and natural that a new country should avoid tho pitfalls of the old societies that they forget how inconsiderable inuumber is theclass to which they themselves belong, and, moreover, how eternally true is the saying that human nature docs not change with a change of scene. It is not the good people alone who emigrate. Consequently, while the good people dream, the bad people work to falsify the beneficent visions. In New' Zealand the old pitfalls have not been avoided in political matters (let Sir Robert Stout attest!); how should we expect to be proof against them in the region of social and mercantile economics ? The community may, indeed, congratulate itself upon having awakened from the dream and to the danger so soon. In future we shall do well to expect bad apparitions; for we shall then the more readily recognise them.
Tin- Sweating Question.
The public meeting of Friday was salFfactory in so far as it evinced the existence of a strong and practically unanimous sentiment ; it was necessarily unsatisfactory in so far as neither the report of the Committee, which was under consideration, nor the speakers who considered it, were able '.o alford any obvious remedy for the evi's lo generally deplored. That the members of the Committee are not responsible for this state of matters is quite clear. These gentlemen have patriotically given their time and intelligent energy to the elucidation of the problem, and we cordially sympathise with the natural disappointment expressed by the Rev. Mr Waddell. The final attitude of the warehousemen, which at one time seemed fairly promising, has prevented the Committee settling the difficulty by means of amicable negotiation, with the result that the latter have had to seek again the advice and co-operation of public opinion. All that they were able to do in the end was to propose two recommendations : That legislative interference should bo sought ; and that a workers’ union should be formed. Meanwhile, sweating still exists in Dunedin ; for though it has been asserted that the agitation has at all events temporarily put a stop to the evil phenomenon, we have good reason for pronouncing the assertion delusive. In regard to the Committee’s recommendation of legislative interference, the public meeting wisely contented itself with requesting the Government to ap point a Commission which should inquire into the nature of the sweating system in New Zealand, and report as to the best means of dealing with it. Despite the popular suspicion as to the questionable utility of Commissions, we think this step a wise one. By it, as Dr Fitcjiett observed, there may be obtained “ an “enormous amount of practical good, from “ getting concentrated action throughout “the Colony, and getting the evidence “printed.” The fact that the warehousemen—ingenuously or otherwise, we do not pretend to say—have advanced the fear of Northern competition as a pretext for their action, or, rather, want of action, renders it necessary that henceforth the agitation should assume a colonial, instead of a merely local character. Moreover, Lord Onslow, who was last year a member of the House of Lords’ Committee upon the sweating question at Home, must be able, and is doubtless willing, to give valuable suggestive assistance. That the final result of a Commission would take the form of repressive legislation wo think extremely unlikely ; and all will agree that it would be infinitely preferable, if it be also possible, that the desired end should be attained through the firm and reasonable exercise of public opinion. Wo trust, by the way, that public opinion will not prematurely assume an unduly hosti'e attitude towards any particular class or individual. Wo are not entirely withov , hope that a conciliatory altitude, in conjunction with the firm exercise of public opinion,may yetdosomethingin Dunedin. On the other hand, we consider that the warehousemen on their part should feel bound to offer some more satisfactory defence for their line of conduct than any which has been yet advanced. Dr FiTCUETr’s desire for absence of friction is deserving of sympathy ; but the consideration must not be all on one side, and the public ought to be put in possession by the warehousemen of any points which tell in their favor—points which Dr Fitch ett evidently believes to exist. Until this is done the warehousemen will have themselves to blame if they meet with little sympathy. The recommendation of the Committee that a workers’ union should be formed was accepted, and properly accepted, by the public meeting; but we would observe that very great care should be exercised iu the inception and managementof such an organisation. We all know that union is strength, and a desirable work may undoubtedly he by co-operation among the workwomen, obvious though the difficulties arc ; but the mottoes of the undertaking must be moderation, conciliation, and, above all, perfect legitimacy, 111-considered and hasty action can only do the cause harm ; and wc believe, as has been hinted, that the best prospect of victory lies in the direction of continued attempts at conciliatory persuasion. It will be said that the failure of such a method has already been demonstrated ; but we are loth to believe this, and only the clearest evidence of hopelessness would justify an attitude of pronounced hostility. The danger is lest the new union should unwisely assume that attitude ; and a very great responsibility will rest upon its advisers. Again, the proposal to adopt a system of “ avoidance ” towards the
“offending firms” would, under certain t conditions, merit support; but we scarcely i think those conditions at present exist, and we are glad that the meeting did not take kindly to Mr Fkashu’s motion The public are not yet in possession of sufficiently definite knowledge to justify such a proceeding. There is a certain vagueness, even an element of hearsay, about some of the “ charges and allegations ” which must bo more specifically demonstrated before it can be right to recommend the public generally to adopt a method of exclusion without fear of injustice, especially as the warehousemen can only be thus touched through the comparatively innocent retailers. It is here that a Commission would be likely to be of material benefit in formulating upon clear evidence, without fear or favor, the exact position of the question. We shall hardly be suspected of desiring in any way to throw cold water upon the patriotic projects of those engaged in cornbating this great evil which affects so deeply the welfare of the entire community. If we have adopted a somewhat cautious tone it is because caution seems hardly to have been sufficiently conspicuous in some other quarters. Wo would venture, in conclusion, to express the sincere hope_ that the leaders in this noble movement will lose no opportunity of endeavoring to remove the unfortunate disinclination for domestic service which obtains among young girls a disinclination which has had no inconsiderable share iu the generation of present conditions of female labor.
[Since the above has been in type we are glad to hear that all the warehousemen save one have met the Committee in a conciliatory spirit.]
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The Evening Star TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 1889., Evening Star, Issue 7930, 11 June 1889
The Evening Star TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 1889. Evening Star, Issue 7930, 11 June 1889
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