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OLD Year, thou hast but an hour to stay,
Another hour, Old Year;

Shall we give that hour to feast and play,
And then lay thee on thy bier,

Or watch thy ending with holy fear?

Thou art hurrying away at thy wonted pace;

Wilt thou not stop to die?

Oh, stop, while we gaze upon thy face,

And catch thy parting sigh,

And whisper a last and a sad good-bye.

Wilt thou talk with me, Old Year, apart;
I am growing old, like thee;

I will show thee all my secret heart,
And thou, my friend, shalt be free
To rail as thou wilt at mankind and me.

We have walk'd together three hundred days
And sixty-five-no more:

Thou art leaving the earth and its miry ways
For the sea without a shore:

Speak out, for our journey is well nigh o'er.
Thy son is coming, grey sire, full soon,
With his budget of weal and woe;

Now honest Old Year, let me beg a boon :
Instruct me, for thou dost know,

What can make men happy, and keep them so.
Not a word!-Look back from thy funeral car;
There is famine in thy rear,

And the sound of slaughter is heard from far,
And thy son is at hand, Old Year,

With no healing balm for a sick world's care.
He is gone-the crazy Old Year is gone;
In silence he has died.

In silence the jocund young Year is born;
He is floating on Time's tide:

Let us speak for a moment, New Year, aside.
He will not stay.-He has work for his hand;
He must build and he must till,

He must scurry about through sea and land,
He must rear and he must kill,

And affright the earth with his restless will.
They are not yet prophets, Old Year or New!
Great Spirit of the Past,

Teacher of Nations, let me view

Thy records dim and vast

By God's pure light, and hold thy lessons fast.


THE year 1846 opens with the prospect that the mysterious potato disease, the general deficiency of the harvest in these islands, and the legislative restrictions which have forbidden us to stretch forth our hands to purchase the surplus produce of other countries, will bring upon us a season of scarcity and of consequent high prices.

This impending evil frowns upon us at a period when there are many mitigating circumstances in our social condition. We speak with reference to the condition of the people of Great Britain. The social position of Ireland is so essentially different, that there is no proportion in the effects of scarcity upon the people of the two great British Islands. In Ireland scarcity is synonymous with famine; in Great Britain it is severe privation. The people of Great Britain are not now suffering from insufficient employment and consequent low wages. Capital is abundant, and is creating new demands for labour in many public works. But nevertheless an insufficient supply of the staple food of the people will disturb the balance of wages and wants; there will be suffering, complaint, perhaps outrage. To mitigate the suffering,

Benevolence will step in; and Benevolence has been known to extend the suffering, instead of diminishing it. We desire, while there is time, to submit a few observations for the guidance of that beautiful principle "which blesses him that gives, and him that takes."

Scarcity has always been a difficult evil to encounter. It was more difficult when our rulers were ignorant of the laws of demand and supply, and held that those who prevented famine by what they called "ingrossing "—that is, buying up food to sell at an advanced price, were culprits. It was less difficult when there was a population of five millions to be fed instead of twenty millions.

Twenty millions of mouths are now daily asking to be fed in England, Wales, and Scotland. Of this number the male persons, 20 years of age, amount to five millions. Of these males the occupiers and labourers in agriculture, taking the rate of the last census with a proportionate increase, amount to 1,400,000; persons engaged in commerce, trade, and manufacture, 2,300,000; capitalists and professional men, 300,000 ; labourers, not agricultural or manufacturing, 620,000; other males, 400,000; domestic servants, 180,000. The females may, in a great degree, be held to be directly dependent on the males, with the exception of female domestic servants, who amount to 1,000,000. It is evident from this statement that the great bulk of the people are those who live by the exercise of industry; and again, that of these the great bulk are those who depend upon wages for the means of subsistence. We may fairly assume that four-fifths of the whole population depend upon wages.

It is a law as certain as the law of gravitation, that the rate of wages depends upon the supply of labour as compared with the demand. The people have it constantly proclaimed to them that every man has a right to a fair day's wages for a fair day's work, and yet they see many unemployed, and more working at insufficient wages; -and they are learning very fast, in spite of their instructors, that the labour-fund cannot be indefinitely increased in the proportion of the number of labourers who ask for labour, but depends upon the profitable return of capital expended in the creation of articles of exchange. The same instructors will tell them, in a season of scarcity, that the rate of wages should depend upon what the labourer can obtain in exchange for his wages. Let us see how this would work.

In a year of abundance a pound of bread costs three halfpence; in a year of sufficiency it costs twopence; in a year of scarcity, threepence and even fourpence. Assume that the heads of four million families earn, upon an average, twenty shillings weekly, and that one half of these earnings are spent upon food, in the average years of sufficiency. If in the time of scarcity the price of food rises fifty per cent.,-if the pound of bread costs threepence instead of twopence - the wages of twenty shillings a week will require to be raised to twenty-five shillings to enable the labourer to buy as much food for fifteen shillings as he could previously buy for ten. Where is the fund for this? A season of scarcity, and especially a season of scarcity in which all countries share the evil, is a season which diminishes the capital of all mankind by the amount of the deficiency of produce. Where is the capital to come from which is to pay those wages which are to advance in proportion to the price of commodities? The weekly wages of four million labourers would require five millions sterling, instead of four millions; or a hundred and fifty-six millions a year instead of a hundred and four, if the natural laws of wages were to be suspended, to enable consumption to be untouched by scarcity.

But suppose that, by some wonderful effort on the part of the owners of capital, this extra fifty-two millions sterling could be found. Suppose the shareholders in the

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118 newly enacted railways were to agree that wages should be raised in proportion to the price of subsistence, and were to bestow all the capital intended for these railways to enable other capitalists' labourers to enjoy a year's full consumption at a time of scarcity. Would this do? Unquestionably not. If the means of consumption remained the same to the great body of consumers, the prices of provisions would continue to rise from the scarcity price to the famine price. The pound of bread would with difficulty be bought for sixpence instead of threepence; and then the improvident consumption of the days of scarcity would bring the curse of pestilence, and famine, and universal destitution. The stocks would be exhausted.

An ill-regulated benevolence may, in a lesser degree, produce the same evils. The first impulse of the benevolent man, who possesses the means of purchasing the necessaries of life, and has some superfluity, is to give to those who want. This impulse may do mischief in ordinary times: it is doubly dangerous in times of scarcity. In such times men come to feel the evil of indiscriminate almsgiving; and they form themselves into committees for the relief of local distress. They make the most praiseworthy efforts for reducing the price of provisions to those whose means of consumption are curtailed. They raise subscriptions. They become large wholesale purchasers, to enable them to make donations, or to sell at reduced rates. In such times of high prices, either the prices are artificially kept up, or there is an insufficient supply, of which price is the barometer. In either case the good which the benevolent committees do is not unmixed with a large portion of evil. Their purchases are large; they do not depend upon the state of the market; they do not wait for a favourable moment to purchase; they rush into the market with large funds to distribute a partial relief; and, as sure as water finds its level, prices are instantly raised upon the independent consumer. Take, for example, a manufacturing population of two thousand souls. The prices of provisions have risen fifty per cent.; wages have not risen and cannot rise in the same proportion. The well-meaning committee tries in a small degree to equalize the difference between wages and consumption by buying a hundred pounds' worth of bread, and selling the bread for eighty pounds. The loaves are eaten without the natural restraint that a time of scarcity demands; and the next week prices rise another ten per cent. The demand is increased at the very moment that it ought to be lessened. In a few weeks the funds of the committee are exhausted; and the two thousand men, women, and children, with insufficient wages, are thrown upon their own resources, with a market raised by the very efforts to relieve them. Then, in old times, used to follow the burning of corn-stacks, and the destruction of mills, and the hanging of forestallers in effigy, and the breaking of bakers' windows. We hope we are wiser now.

A time of scarcity must of necessity be a time of diminished demand for labour. There is less capital, at home and abroad, to pay the wages of labour. Those who cultivate the earth have less surplus produce left to exchange for the secondary articles of necessity-nothing for luxuries. Mankind are really poorer. The first duty of benevolence at such times is to see if employment can be created. But the extra funds for the creation of labour must be judiciously administered, or they will be worse than useless. In 1817 the staple trade of Tewkesbury, the manufacture of stockings, was greatly depressed for the want of a market for the large stocks on hand. The workmen were out of employ and starving. A public subscription was raised to give employment; and that employment was the manufacture of more stockings. If the stockings were added to the existing stock, the manufacture was so much waste; if they were sold, a new competition was set up to lessen still further

the regular means of finding employment to the stocking-makers. A judicious benevolence never interferes with the regular market for labour.

A minister of the crown, in a time of great commercial depression, some thirty years ago, said in the House of Commons that alms-giving to large parties of unemployed men was bad-which was true; that labour must be found; and that it was better to employ the labourers in digging a hole and filling it up again, than not to employ them. This hole-digging was the refuge of indolence. In a country like ours there is never any want of work to be done that will be useful to the capitalists. We are likely to suffer from scarcity. There are twenty million mouths to be fed in Great Britain in 1846; there will be an additional half million nearly in 1847. What is there to meet the extra-demand and the current demand, but to increase our own means of raising food; or to make such arrangements for receiving food from other countries, as will employ our increasing millions in providing manufactures in exchange; or sending our increasing population to colonies which have elbow-room ;—or all three courses? We may increase our means of raising food to an absolute certainty, by better cultivation. Drainage, it is now well established, will repay the first outlay in four or five years, by increased produce. If a landowner has a solitary hundred pounds that he can rescue from useless expenditure, let him apply it to the drainage of a few of his acres ;—and he will make a right step in the performance of his duty, by giving present employment, and averting future scarcity. There are landlords who might apply their thousands to the same profitable investment. There are many who do so. It is the duty of the rich, even of the moderately rich,-who do not feel very pinchingly the difference between the sixpenny and the shilling loaf-to live in the most economical manner in times of scarcity. Their example is worth a great deal. As improvident expenditure raises prices, so does provident expenditure lower prices. Those who supply the rich with articles of food regulate their own consumption by their profits. If nothing is wasted in the rich man's house, the retailer's supply and consequent profits are diminished; and as a further consequence the rate of consumption is lessened in another large consuming class. The habit of economy descends. If the tradesman resolves to abate some of his ordinary indulgences of table expenditure, to live upon less,-and who cannot make such an abatement without injury, sometimes with great profit to his health and comfort ?—his example goes a step lower, and the mechanic stints his meal with less repining. It comes to that, after all. There is no safety for the great bulk of the people but in their own self-denial. "They really keep the key of the public granary."

When the people—the sixteen millions of wages-takers-are put upon self-denial, then indeed is there a pressure which nothing can mitigate but the spirit of Christian love. Benevolent man, think not thou dost much when thou givest a guinea to a soup-kitchen. The call upon thee is not so to be shuffled off. Thou knowest, indeed, and we know, that if the whole of us, who feed fully and sleep softly, were put upon short allowance in a year of scarcity, the saving would not do much to supply the wants of the sixteen milions. We cannot adequately relieve their wants, do what we will. But we can make the wants more endurable. We can cultivate the spirit of Brotherhood, which has been too long dead amongst us. We can cease to strive for class interests, which, however they may flourish for a season, cannot stand up against the half million of strangers that come amongst us every year, demanding that our first thought should be that they should be fed. It is time that we learnt the difference between charity and alms-giving. Cultivate Brotherhood, and we shall find out many practical remedies for scarcity and every other social evil.

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