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CO-OPERATION AND POVERTY.
HAT "Heaven helps those who help themselves," is an old proverb, capable of many new and important applications. We have of late been deluged with Lectures and Essays on what the world is pleased to term Self-Help. Now the theory of Self-Help is good, but there is another sort of help that ought not to be despised, although it is almost entirely overlooked, and that is Mutual Help. This is only another name for Co-operation, and within its bounds are to be found the noblest and grandest of life's prob lems. Co-operation is, in fact, a compound lever by which the whole social fabric of society can be regulated, our individual actions tempered and controlled, and our lives be made to approach as near as possible to the divinely beauti ful. There is a principle instituted within the mind of every man that urges him to be continually plodding onward; and if he be faithful to its dictates and promptings, what a glorious harmony of mind and matter it produces!
It is now universally acknowledged that poverty is the great social curse of our nation. If this be so, it follows as a natural consequence, that the great social problem of the age is how to destroy this poverty. Many plans have been proposed, and many systems devised, whereby to reach this desirable end. Some have been successful for a short time, but for want of proper support they fell to the ground as useless; others, less fortunate, have never been able to find a standing place.
The principles and practice of Co-operation furnish us with the only correct data by which to solve this question. A number of reasons can be given in support of this proposition; some of which are as follows:
1st. The principles of Co-operation embody a feeling of natural independence, thus giving a tangible existence to all that is great and good to be found in man's nature. Secondly-They teach self-reliance, and discipline hope, two conquests that are not so easily made as is generally
supposed. Thirdly-they inculcate habits of economy and prudence; virtues that are of vital importance to a nation. Fourthly-They give to man the power of having faith in his fellow-creatures, and call forth those noble sympathies of the soul, and the grand heart-longings of our nature that have too long been withheld in this narrow-minded, grovelling, parsimonious world of ours. Depend upon it, it is no small virtue to love and have faith in one another, more especially at the present time, when a man's worth in society is measured by £. s. d.
These are some of the most prominent features of Cooperation, and they lead me to the rational conclusion, that if men wish to accumulate wealth from their labour, and rely upon themselves, they must co-operate. If they wish to conquer the love of gaudy extravagance, and excessive artificial finery, let them try Co-operation as a weapon of moral warfare. If they wish to maintain the manly dignity and independence of honest labour, they must Co-operate. And if they wish to drive the wolf of poverty from their humble homes, and wish never more to be venomed by the sting of want, let them at once Co-operate; and soon, very soon, will they discern the true majesty of labour, and become satisfied in their own minds that man was not made merely for money-making. Apart from these and many other considerations, the habits of frugality and temperance that accompany the principles of Co-operation, recommend themselves forcibly to the notice of those who profess to have the welfare of the people at heart.
I have before alluded to our great social curse, viz., undivided poverty; and I now make the bold assertion that this evil will never be removed until working men can unitedly see the many benefits arising from an invested capital; then, and only then, will they duly and truly appreciate the value of Co-operation in labour, as well as money. Some people, especially the moneyocracy of our country, sneer at the idea of working men Co-operating ; they say it is wrong for them to do so: but before they proceed any further, allow me to ask them one question, and if they answer it to my satisfaction, I will willingly allow them the benefit of having another sneer. That question is this-"Has not labour as much right to Co-operate with labour, as money has with money." Surely any discerning mind will at once perceive that labour is of immense value,
whilst money is of no use without labour. What a blessing it would be to have this curse of poverty removed from our land, so that each being in whom nature has planted the genial rays of brotherly love, may lift up his head from the mire and filth of poverty, and be able to dwell in peace beneath the silver sheen of Heaven, and hail with delight the smiling sun of prosperity!
Physicians very properly tell us that the knowledge of a disease is half its cure; and surely a more dire disease never existed than poverty. We have a knowledge of the causes of poverty; consequently we can find a remedy, by simply directing our energies against its weak points, be these wilful extravagance, or ignorant mis-expenditure; and it is our duty, as men, to endeavour to prevent its further spread, and to check its desolating and demoralising influence. The rich man may be proud of his gains, and look with disdain upon his humble working brother; in him he can only see a something wherewithal to make money, a mere machine to do a certain amount of work in a certain time. He does not care one iota for his social position. The man may be drunken and depraved, but as long as he answers his purpose, all he cares to comprehend of him as an item of humanity, is his value as a money maker! But little does he think that the heart of his slave swells with many a noble aspiration, and longs to cast off the yoke of servility and labour, for the good and noble cause of self-emancipation. Those who lord it in gold and silks, have a marked disdain for the humble garb and fare of a working man, and they are very slow to acknowledge their equality as men, nor will they until it can no longer be prevented. Many a recreant heart beats beneath a silken vest; but I am proud to add, as an opposite parallel, that many a noble one beats beneath a flannel or a fustian jacket. I cannot see much difference between men, apart from their position in society.
It is my honest and candid belief, that Co-operation, this great revolutioniser of the nineteenth century, is destined to place humanity on its proper level, and make the path of peace as sure for the peasant as the peer. By its influence the stream of progress will flow alike for all, and there will be no need for capital to lord it over labour, without acknowledging its services. There has been many an angry growl uttered against Co-operative Societies, and by those
who ought to know better; yet in spite of grumbling and growling they continue to flourish. If men can combine to protect the rights of their labour, they are the very ones to combine and protect the fruits of their labour. Let the masters who oppose Co-operative stores, know that. Preachers tell us from their pulpits how to regulate our moral conduct, and make our lives beautiful; but they forget to tell us how we are to get that which keeps life in. Dr. Guthrie, that noble philanthropist of this age, tells us that it is no use preaching the gospel to a man with an empty stomach; fill his stomach first, and preach to him afterwards. If preaching can regulate conduct, surely practical working will do so too. Members of Co-operative stores are becoming noted for their good conduct. Many who drank and gambled very hard, have thrown up these evils, and become members of such institutions, and along with that, they are nobler and better men.
I have gathered up a few rules for the regulation of conduct, which may not be out of place here. They are gleaned from various sources, and form by themselves a casket of gems not to be met with every day:~
Always adhere scrupulously to truth; and labour to preserve the strictest integrity, simplicity, and sincerity.
Strive to be as kind and forbearing as you can, both to friends and foes.
Never speak evil of any one, on any pretence whatever.
Strive to recommend religion, by the courtesy, civility, and condescending character of your conduct.
Never censure a friend so as to make an enemy of him.
Brother Co-operators, think of these precepts! practice
them, and they will help to sweeten life.
Of the sweet birds within my nest,
I had but only three,
And this which took its heavenward flight,
Her gleesome voice, her sunny face,
Gave melody and light;
But, oh her loss has plunged us both
Both, did I say?-Ah! yes, indeed,
But time may soothe the stricken heart,
And yet, we cannot help but keep
Recall her winning ways, that made
All love her to the last:
And when some neighbour breathes the name Of our delightsome thing,
Up from our hearts the hidden tears
Gush like a sudden spring.