and suggesting the remedies; but the employés, emboldened by impunity, went on to establish a scheme which robbed the workmen as well as the shareholders. Against this the expert protested, and threatened to resign if the wrong were not redressed. His reports were disregarded. He went home to the directors, and saw the chief, a man well known in the religious world of London. He asked that at least his reports should be printed for the information of the shareholders. This was refused. He resigned. He consulted his lawyers as to publishing them himself. They told him it was too dangerous. I had an opportunity of seeing one of the richest newspaper proprietors in London, told him the case, said that all could be substantiated, and asked him to print the last report. After thinking a few minutes, he replied: "I can do a good deal; I think I can do as much as any man in London; but I cannot fight a company with 3 millions of capital." So the thing went on. The shareholders, whose money wrought the wrong, knew nothing of it. In a third case, an attempted 66 corner" in metal, the success involved the purchase and closing of the smaller mines, for the benefit of the greater, all over the world. One of these establishments was in the northern part of the United States. The closure took place at the end of autumn. There was no settlement near; provisions, etc., being supplied only to and through the mining establishment. The workmen did not at first take in what was happening. The officials left, and in a few weeks the provisions were exhausted. In the deep snow and cold, men, women, and children had to find their way to the nearest settlements to beg for food and work to save their lives. I do not suppose that one in a hundred of the shareholders ever heard of this, or that they who heard, thought of their responsibility. It was the interest of all to keep the purchase and closure of these lesser establishments secret.

'Now these things are being done in many varied shapes and forms. The injured workman asks: Who is responsible? The immediate officials or agents say that they only obey the orders of the directors; the directors say they are responsible to the shareholders, and are bound to look after their interest. None considers his duty to the workman as a personal responsibility. But are the workmen wrong, nay, are they not right, in protesting, in combining, in seeking by all legal means, a remedy against such things?

'I said above that the modes of tenure of property, and the conditions of the possession of wealth are always changing. Men talk as if the undivided individual possession of

wealth were a law of nature. In Spain and in the Pyrénées we have survivals and examples (a chronological section, as it were) of many forms of property, of communal, of collective, of the House-community, of the "vicinal," of feudal, and many mixed forms. It is quite recently that property has been individual in its modern sense. I have a description before me of one such survival of communal property at Llanabés, in Léon, an account written by the priest, J. A. Possé, who was Curé there from 1793-96. The whole of the land was divided decennially among the inhabitants, and the Curé was delighted with his parishioners and their institutions. The hay was divided among the inhabitants, so was the wheat, and salt, with great exactitude; the doctor, the shepherds, the smith, the chemist, all Church expenses, were paid by the community. There was a communal prison, but the Curé never saw any one in it. The ploughed lands, thus distributed in common by lot, seemed to him to be rather better cultivated than those of the neighbouring proprietors. His testimony to the moral effect is most favourable. Like systems prevailed till lately in some other parts of Spain. In Upper Aragon and in the Pyrénées we have the Housecommunity, only just dying out, where the property does not belong to any individual, but to the House (often three generations) collectively. Then there is the "Vicinal" system, where every holder of property has definite reciprocal duties to his neighbour incumbent on the possession of that property. The modifications of these systems are multitudinous. In Sare, whence I write, the greater part of the land property, and the mills and industrial establishments were communal until the Revolution. The taxes were paid collectively, in a lump sum, by the commune, not by individuals.

'The changes of the modes of holding wealth and property usually go on unperceived; but there are times of sharper transition, when the conditions are changed more rapidly. I believe that we are passing through some such time now, and these are times of difficulty and danger. Such were the periods of transition from slave to serf labour, from serf to free hired labour, from villenage to tenant farming, marked by the wars of the Jacquerie, etc.; such the change of Church property at the Reformation, from feudal tenure to the civil code at the Revolution. What is the duty of the Church and clergy at such periods? Is it not to aid in attenuating the difficulties, to prevent, if possible, the repetition of the old servile insurrections, of the social injustice of the Reformation period, of the horrors of the French Revolution? This is not to be done by rashly, ignorantly branding as wrong,

immoral, or unchristian forms of holding property, conditions of wealth, which were once well-nigh universal, under which people lived quite as quiet, peaceable, and godly lives as they do now; not by shutting one's eyes to the fact that under the present system the working classes are liable to grievous wrong; not by denying them the right to protest against such wrong, and to try and remove it by all lawful means; not by blaming them for studying the history of property in the past; but by helping them in every way to right study of the forms, showing them that we cannot put back the hand of time, the clock of history, but, as fellow-students with them, trying how far the history of the past may enable us better to adjust the holding of wealth and property to the changed conditions of the present.

'Then I think it ought to be impressed on all shareholders and fund or bondholders of wealth and property of every kind, that responsibility is not lessened or destroyed because it is not apparent; that the wrong is not diminished by the careless, complacent ignorance of the doer of it. Shareholders in business, in "corners,” in breweries, in any undertaking in which workmen are employed, or can be oppressed, or wronged, are as fully responsible before God as a landowner or employer. They are bound to inquire into the workers' condition if they benefit by the fruits of their labour.

'I do not believe that the present accumulation of irresponsible wealth can continue. It will be changed in some way, I cannot foresee how or when; perhaps by limitation of the amount of wealth which a man may bequeath by will, by heavy succession duties, by forced equal division in the family, as by the Code Napoléon, or by some means we know not. These silent revolutions are in a great measure beyond the reach of statesmen, or the conscious control of any one. But we may trust God for the future, as well as in the past. Former transitions of this kind always brought some, if not unmixed, good with them. We may pray for help to act aright, not to be misled, not to call good evil, or evil good; not to sit down satisfied and contented because the present forms of holding wealth are so agreeable to the moneyed classes, who have no apparent responsibility or duty attached to it, except to spend, and that if the workmen in any undertaking in which we have a moneyed part are wronged, we shall not be troubled with the knowledge of it. Should not the clergy teach these lessons, not only by precept but by example? We can possess our wealth only under the conditions of the age in which we live. There is nothing wrong in shareholding, co-operation, limited liability;

only let us not shut our eyes to the duties and responsibilities attached thereto because these are not patent; let us see that we act justly and rightly under all conditions. These means of holding individual irresponsible wealth are really new in the world; they follow no law of nature. In all previous forms of possessing wealth, in collective or communal forms, in the House-community, in the "Vicinal " system, in feudality, in landownership, in direct employment of labour, there were direct, palpable duties and responsibilities, which if a man neglected, he fell under the ban of the community, of public opinion, of his own conscience. This is not the case with modern forms; and the working-man cannot be wrong in seeking legally and fairly to defend and secure himself and his class against such irresponsibility.'





IT is difficult for those who have not read something of the history and literature of the Church in France during the Restoration, from 1815 to 1830, and somewhat later, to form an idea of the violence with which the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope was at first assailed by the zealous defenders of the principles of the old Gallican Church. One must have conversed with some of the old priests, educated in these principles, to be able to understand the severity and the horror with which they spoke of the supposed action of the Jesuits of that time and of the early years of Louis Philippe's reign. The needle has now so completely veered round to the opposite point of the compass that we can hardly imagine that it ever pointed otherwise.

A few facts from the life of the Rev. Père d'Alzon, Founder of the Augustins of the Assumption, may help us to understand this a little. For it was under the Restoration, and chiefly through the teaching of Comte Joseph de Maistre and of Lamennais, that the reaction began. Partly under

« VorigeDoorgaan »