THE WORKING MAN AND HIS FRIENDS.
(From the Morning Star, Feb. 28.)
In one of the Punch cartoons a year or two ago, an artisan with apron and paper cap, wore a somewhat dissatisfied expression ot countenance. And well he might. For standing straight out from his legs, clustering on his shoulders, towering high above his head, like a troop of Bounding Brothers, were various political and philanthropical personages. These political, moral, and philanthropical acrobats were " friends of the working man." To the working man's great annoyance they swarmed upon him, stood out in groups from his legs and shoulders, built themselves into a giddy human pyramid above his paper cap —and looked out for applause! The cartoon was satirical, of course, but the satire was not unneededthen, and it is not unneeded now. The working mau, like all other kinds and degrees of men, ha 3 friends to whom he has every reason to be grateful, and friends from whom he most piously wishes to be Baved ; and of these last the fluent platform talker, the patronising philanthropist, the dealer in moral lollipops, and the vendor of good advices, are perhaps the most exasperating. The working man is a new thing in the world, and an immense pother had been made about him in certain quarters during the last thirty years. At public teaparties —tea extremely diluted—weak-headed noble lords have told the working man that he really must not be naughty any more,that it is a very improper thing to drink his week's wages on Saturday night, and then to knock down the wife of his bosom when he goes home. Spectacled physiologists have informed him that his first duty is ablution, that everything depends upon the cleanliness of his cuticle, and have counselled him to build public baths at once, aud to duck, dive, and disport himself therein as frequently as opportunity offers. To the working man a whole school of literature is devoted, in which impossible villany is titled, rides in a gilded coach, and has a mansion at the Westend, whileimpossible virt ueis continually out ot work, has its watch at the pawnbroker's, its six children ill, and its wife always about to be confined of a seventh. The working man is toadied, coaxed, coddled, and flattered: many people seem to think that he can't be let out of their sight for five minutes at a time without his coming to grief. His way is continually beset by philanthropists, who, with tears in their eyes, implore him to break his pipe, to fly from the face of beer, and to dread skittles as he would the plague. The working man has a committee continually sitting upon him. He is constantly being inquired into and reported upon; nimble brains are scheming in his behoof every hour of the day and night,—in fact, the working man is very much as he was represented in Punch: people who have not much to do are always climbing up on him $0 display themselves. If people are to be seen they must get on the top of something bigger than themselves. The small boy in a crowd is invisible, but wheu once he has climbed the lamp post he is the observed of all observers.
"Why should an audience of artisans be talked to as if they were children with gocarts F The artisans of England built up the commerce of Eogland, created the cotton manufactures, laid railways, made fleets, and it may be presumed that the average intellectual capacity of the class is as high as the average intellectual capacity of any other class. Why, then, should noble lecturers speak to them as to babies of a larger growth —tell them to read good books; not to say naughty words; to keep their skins and houses clean; to respect the parson; to go to church on Sunday; and above all, to avoid the pot-house ? Sensible working men do not like that kind of thing; and the humorous retaliation has often been suggested, that an oratorical shoemaker or quarry man should now and again call meetings of the Upper Ten Thousand, and lecture themon their duties—tell them not todrink rich wines for fear of gout; to avoid betting; to stick sedulously to their Parliamentary work ; and to keep out of the Divorce Court. A lord telling an audience of hard-headed and hardhanded artisans that they should not drink their wages on Saturday night, nor blacken the eyes of their wives, is not a wit less absurd than if a fluent cobbler told a Bclgravian audience that they should not haunt Tattersall's, nor cultivate the acquaintance of Anonyma or any of her sisterhood in the park. It may fairly be presumed that artisans and noblem®n know their duties, and that if they err they, at least, do not err ignorantly. The vending of washy advices and homilies lays a man—whether he be peer or workman—open to the suspicion of dilettanteism; and of all dillettanti the moral dilettante is the most offensive.
During the last year or two working men's clubs have been opened in London and the provinces, and at the inauguration of these institutions speeches of a hortatory kind have been addressed to the members by a benevolent nobleman, or a large-minded magistrate, or some political celebrity who has got a sanitary or physiological bee in his bonnet. The addresses of these gentlemen on the occasions alluded to are objectionable, because the members are spoken to as if they were drunken as helots, dirty as Esquimaux, illiterate as Bosjesmen, and as fierce and savage in temper as a Malay maddened with bang. A club containing a readingroom and library, a chess-room, a billiardroom, a gymnasium, and baths, to which access may be had on payment of sixpence of entrance money, and a weekly fee of threehalfpence, is pretty certain, on its own merits, to attract all the working men in its neighbourhood. And the fact is, that when these clubs have been organised, they have at once been sufficiently supported. The working men of England are perfeetly well aware that " knowledge is power," and the biographies of many of their order are the beat illustration of the adage. They are fond of books, and they know how to use books also. Many of them are tasteful, neat-handed, ingenious, gifted with a genuine impulse, and consecrate their evenings to the fancy and the intellect. Witness the Industrial Exhibition at Islington the other day, which Earl Russell inaugurated. It is a pity that the speakers at the opening of
working men's clubs and institutions of a similar nature do not remember these things more frequently than they do, and abstain from patronage which is insulting, from good advice which is not needed, and from homilies which are inapplicable to the great bulk of the working as to the great bulk of every other class.