Page images
PDF
EPUB

movement, which affected the whole valley of the Somme, a movement which is part of a system of disturbances of late date, parallel to and between the anticlinal axes of Boulogne and the Pays de Brai. All the river courses in this tract of France appear to have acquired their parallel directions from this movement. Nor is the problem of the age of the gravels thus rendered definite. For, as these movements were partial and irregular, they cannot be computed by the only formula yet proposed, viz., that deduced from the general and gradual elevation of Scandinavia, which, however, if so applied, would be satisfied with only forty centuries of elapsed time.

There still remain two other grounds of argument to be touched on. The gravels of St. Acheul, Hoxne, and other places which contain shaped flints are older than the peat beds in the vicinity. This is readily granted : but how much older ? The answer is of this kind. Between the date of the flintbearing gravels, and the date of the peat, certain quadrupeds are supposed to have disappeared, while others became plentiful; and a change took place in the shaping of the flints, which are of more finished workmanship in the later deposits. How much time should be allowed for these events is uncertain ; but as cases have occurred of peat containing bones of extinct elks and elephants, there seems no reason on this ground to demand a long interval of post-glacial time between the gravel and the peat. Nor in a general argument, founded on the assumed contemporaneity of man and the mammoth, is there more ground for admitting man to be of immense antiquity, than for allowing to the huge pachyderm the advantage of living nearer to our own time. In such discussions we must not forget the ice-preserved flesh of the famous individual at the mouth of the Lena. And if to effect the improvement of the flints on which already such dexterous handling had been performed, required nine times ten thousand years, what must we think of the human animal, who for all that period has left no better monuments of his ingenuity ? This immensity of time, with nothing to show for it, is a heavy incumbrance on the hypothesis. Even if it were conceded that geological evidence might support some extension of the ordinary chronology, and this could be done without violence to other testimony, there is certainly no warrant for proceeding many steps in this direction, along a slippery path, over which time has gathered many shadows, and along which the torch of science sheds but a feeble and unsteady light.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ART. IV.-1. The Co-operator. A Record of Progress by

Working Men. Nos. 1-42. London and Manchester, 1860-63. 2. Transactions of the Association for the Promotion of Social

Science. London, 1861 and 1862. 3. Self-Help for the People. Fifth Edition. London. 4. Les Associations Conséquences du ProgrèsCrédit du Travail.

Paris, 1863. 5. Good Words. London, 1861. M ORE than thirty years ago,* when exposing the unsound 11 schemes and dangerous theories which, emanating from the teeming brains of St. Simon, Fourier, Owen, 'and others, bade fair to lure many of the uneducated classes to their ruin, we carefully guarded ourselves from confounding the principle of co-operation with these pernicious fallacies; we shall speak,' said we, of the Co-operative Societies in some future paper, wherein their fundamental principle may be considered practically and theoretically, as it has heretofore been developed in history or in political fiction. Their principle is at least harmless in peaceful times, and might probably be found highly beneficial to themselves, and not less so to the community, from which they cannot so separate themselves as not to form a constituent part.'

In a previous article † we had expressed a favourable opinion of the principle of co-operation, although we foretold the failure of the associations for living together which were then being established. We have since more than once alluded to the subject;} but the great progress which has been made of late years seems to call for a more detailed consideratiori.

The contrasts between extreme affluence and luxury on the one hand, and grinding poverty and want on the other, have in all ages led many of the more active brains to speculate upon the reorganization of society, with a view to produce a more equal distribution of the sweets and bitters of life. Most of these thinkers had a glimpse, more or less clear, of the principle of co-operation, that is, of numbers working together to a common end ; $ but unfortunately they were unable to distinguish this principle from that of community of goods, with which it has no necessary connexion. Thus we find that the plans which

* Quarterly Review,' vol. xlv. p. 437.

Vol. xli. p. 359.

Vol. xlv. p. 208; vol. xlvii. p. 410; and vol. lxxxix. p. 495. $ In any case where men are working in concert they may be said to cooperate, but, for the sake of convenience, we use the term co-operation in the more restricted sense which it has acquired of late years.

have from time to time been broached for improving society by altering the position of the worker usually include modes of sharing the produce otherwise than in proportion to the market value of the labour or capital contributed by each member.

Great success has, indeed, been attained by some associations of a communistic character. The monastic bodies of the Middle Ages, some of which were entirely dependent upon the productive labours of their members for subsistence, attained to great wealth and power; and although such institutions may be unnecessary and even mischievous in the present age, it would be most unjust to deny the great benefits they conferred on society, both by their missionary efforts among the heathen and by keeping alive the flame of learning and civilization through long dreary centuries of barbarism and anarchy. In the present day the Shakers and Rappists, who form communistic associations, enjoy much material prosperity.

In all these instances, however, it must be recollected that communism is not the ultimate object of the institutions, but merely a means to an end. The Shakers and Rappists, as well as the monasteries, are religious associations, the object of joining which is not merely to enjoy a comfortable, easy life, but to save one's own soul or the souls of others. Persons actuated by such motives are willing to submit to the strict discipline necessary for preserving order, economy, and industry, in a community where the usual motives for good conduct and exertion-i. c., that each man receives the reward of his own diligence and skill, and is dependent upon those qualities for his well being--are wanting.

Societies whose sole object in association is communistic lifesuch as those established by the late Robert Owen in England and the United States have invariably failed after a short trial. The causes of failure are obvious. There are men, it is true, who are gluttons of work'-liking it for the sake of itself, and ready to undertake it irrespective of reward; but these form the exception. The great majority of mankind, though really happier in employment than they would be in idleness, have not taste enough for labour, nor sufficient self-control to set themselves to work unless stimulated by some extraneous reward, and many cannot be induced to toil by any motive less strong than the pressure of necessity. A member of a communistic body, therefore, seeing that however hard he works he receives no more than the idlest man in the institution, is not likely to exert himself much, and thus the labour upon which the maintenance of the community depends becomes more and more inefficient. Again, the number of children who must have to be supported in such an institution must necessarily be very

2 E 2

large. large. A man in the ordinary position of responsibility either postpones his marriage until he sees his way to being able to maintain a family comfortably according to his station, or he is obliged to atone for his imprudence by great labour and close economy. But as all the offspring of a member of a communistic association must be supported by the community, he has no motive either to delay his marriage or to make extra exertions to maintain the beings he has brought into the world. Such a society, therefore, would be soon burdened with the support of a great number of unproductive members, at the time when the inefficiency of the productive labour would be sapping the means of subsistence. It is not, then, a subject of wonder that, except where the bond of religious enthusiasm has enabled a very strict discipline to be maintained—including, indeed, in most instances the injunction of celibacy-communistic associations have never lived more than a few years.

The failure of these societies, and of some whence the communistic spirit was absent, but which were otherwise based on unsound principles or were ill-managed, not unnaturally begot in the public mind a distaste for all schemes for organizing labour or business except those to which it was accustomed, viz. undertakings by private individuals and partnerships or ordinary jointstock companies. And indeed some high authorities have condemned co-operative associations of working people, whether for the purpose of trade or of manufacture; Mr. J. S. Mill being, we believe, the only leading political economist who has written in their favour.

Much inisapprehension prevails about the effects of competition. The common opinion, that it will always secure à supply of articles of the best quality and at the lowest practicable price, is certainly fallacious. Mr. J. S. Mill has well shown that, although competition always produces its effect in reducing the profits made by each competitor, it often-times causes no diminution in what is charged to the consumer, the competition taking the shape of the establishment of a larger number of shops, each of course having its working expenses to be met, and interest to be paid upon its capital, before any profit or remuneration for his trouble and risk can be received by the proprietor. It is, therefore, evident that there may be an intense competition in a trade, diminishing its profits to the lowest ebb, while prices are nowise reduced, or are even raised. Indeed the usual effect of this state of things is to produce adulteration, or the giving of short weight and measure-an apparent lowering of price; and then the contest is, who shall most deceive the purchaser.

It being shown that competition alone is not enough to ensure the best possible service of the public, it seems to follow that there is room for the establishment of some other mode of distribution; and the attainment of this object has been attempted, with what success we shall proceed to show, by the establishment of consumers' societies.

The co-operative system is not, however, confined to distributive stores or shops, but has been largely introduced into manufacturing and other productive industry. Here its success has been considered more unlikely even than in the case of shops. It has been thought that the commercial knowledge and skill requisite for the management of a manufactory and the mutual confidence and harmony among the members, without which success is impossible, would not be found among the working classes. And indeed the failure of numerous attempts of this sort gave much plausibility to this view.

Yet, that some movement of this kind was becoming necessary for our social welfare must long have been perceived by those who looked below the surface of society. For very many years past, the introduction of machinery and the improvements in intercommunication have been effecting a revolution in most departments of industry. The incidents of Hogarth's “Idle and Industrious Apprentices' will give an idea of how manufactures were conducted in the days of our forefathers. Here the apprentices are represented as working at their looms like common weavers; and yet they are evidently considered not to differ greatly in social status from their employer; since in an early stage of the pictorial story thé industrious youth accompanies his master's daughter to church, reading with her in the same prayer-book; and in the end he marries her and is taken into partnership.

In the hardware trades of Warwickshire and Staffordshire, in most of which machinery is little used, a somewhat similar state of things still prevails. Happening once to accompany a friend engaged in the Wolverhampton trade to a lockmaker, of whom he had ordered some goods, we entered a thatched cottage consisting of one room, round which were lathes, work-benches, vices, &c., at which a number of men were employed, among whom was our manufacturer. The workshop, it appeared, belonged to one of these artisans, the others paying him half-a-crown per weck each for his standing and the use of the large tools. Yet the men were all working on their own account, taking orders directly from the merchants and factors. From this class there is an imperceptible gradation up to the greatest manufacturers

of

« PreviousContinue »