Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XII.: HOPE EXTINCT. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3
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Chapter XII.: HOPE EXTINCT. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 3 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 3.
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There had been a lingering hope among some who would fain have stood out longer, that this day's post would have brought the wherewithal to build up new expectations and prolong the struggle. The wiser ones had resolved that not even the receipt of 200l. should shake their determination to return to work; but there was no question about the matter, for no money came.— A prodigious amount of business was done in the few hours preceding the final meeting. The masters met and settled that they would give no more than the medium wages,—that is, the rate given by Wentworth; Elliot carelessly consenting to lower his, and Mortimer being with difficulty persuaded to raise his. Rowe was consulted only as a matter of form, and the other firms had to make slight differences or none at all. They agreed to yield the point of their men belonging to the Union, since it appeared vain to contest it while of importance, and needless when not so. —The men settled that they must agree to a medium rate of wages, and make what they could of having obtained an equalization, such as it was, and of being permitted to adhere to the Union. —Clack agitated for his own private interest,—to get himself appointed to some salaried office in the Union, as he was no more likely to obtain employment from the masters than Allen.—So much was settled beforehand as to leave little to be done at the meeting but to make a public declaration of agreement.
With dark countenances and lagging steps the people came,—not in proud procession, with banners and music and a soldier-like march, but in small parties or singly, dropping into the track from by-streets and lanes, and looking as if they were going to punishment rather than to consultation. There was a larger proportion than usual of ragged women and crying babies; for, as the women had been all along opposed to the strike, they were sensible of a feeling of mournful triumph in seeing it dissolved. Bray was present, without his pipe and his bells, for this was no time for lively music; but he carried his drum to be used as a signal for silence if the speakers should find any difficulty in obtaining a hearing. He beat a roll between each proposition submitted and agreed to; and thus did his last service to the turn-out he had watched from its commencement.
Proposed:— That as the masters are represented to be inclined to concession, the men shall do their part towards promoting an adjustment of their differences, agreeing to take such and such a rate of wages, provided that the masters pay all alike, and that the men be not disturbed in their peaceable adherence to the Union.— Agreed.
Proposed: that the men shall set apart a portion of their weekly earnings, as soon as able to do so, and in proportion to the size of their families, in order to liquidate the debt incurred on account of the strike now about to be closed.—Murmurs.
Allen came forward to state the gross amount of subscriptions and expenses, intimating that the account-books would be left at the Committee-room for one month, open to the inspection of all who could prove themselves to belong to the Union. It would be seen through what, unavoidable circumstances a debt had been incurred, and how essential it was to the honour of the body that it should be liquidated as soon as possible.
No reasonable exception could be made to any of the items of expenditure. The people could only wonder that there should be such crowds of children to receive pay, so many lying-in women to be relieved, so many sick persons to be aided, and so much to pay for printing and advertising. They could not deny that the expenses of the Committee had been very small.
This explanation finished, Allen's part was done. He had neither faults of his own nor favours of theirs to acknowledge. He spoke not of himself, but, when he had rendered his account, gravely made his bow and retired.
Clack then came forward, and, supported by a powerful party of friends near the waggon, succeeded in obtaining the public ear. With more success than delicacy, he enlarged upon his public services, pleaded his betrothment to one who was now suffering under the persecution of the masters, as a title to their support, as well as the certainty that he should not again be employed by any firm in Manchester. He declared that were it only through zeal for their rights, he would marry Ann Howlett as soon as she came out of prison——
“If she will have you,” cried somebody; and the crowd laughed.
Clack repeated his declaration without noticing the doubt, and moreover declared his willingness to travel into every county in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in behalf of the Union. He boasted of his connexions in all places, and pointed out the wisdom there would be in employing him as a missionary of the Union, in preparation for any future struggle.—This proposal went a degree too far in impudence, or Clack might, perhaps, have gained his object; for he seemed to have recovered his hold on the people in proportion as that of better men had been weakened. A plain statement from the Committee that, as they were in debt, they had no power at present to appoint a missionary, served, however, to disappoint Clack's hopes. He skilfully laid hold of the words “at present,” and left it an understood matter between himself and the people that the office was to be his by and by.
Within half an hour, not a trace of the meeting was left but the trampled grass and the empty waggon. The people seemed to try who could flee the fastest, some to obtain the first access to the masters, some to get out of sight of a scene which had become disagreeable, and some few to talk big at the Spread-Eagle of what might have happened if this cowardly Committee would but have stood out a little longer.
Allen's steps were directed to Mr. Wentworth's counting-house. “I will ask work of him and of him only, in this line,” thought he. “If I fail, I must take to some other occupation. They can hardly be all shut against an honest man.”
“I am sorry for you, Allen,” was Mr. Wentworth's reply when. with some difficulty, Alien had made his way through a crowd of people on the same errand with himself. “But you shall pronounce upon the case yourself. I can employ now only two-thirds of the number who turned out from me. Of these, at least half left me unwillingly, and have therefore the first title to employment; and the rest have worked for my firm for many years. At the best, I must refuse many whose services I should be glad to keep; judge then whether I can take on a stranger, be he who be may.”
Allen bowed and had no more to say.
“If the firm you worked under cannot take you on, I fear you have little chance, Allen; for all are circumstanced like myself, I believe.”
Allen shook his head, and would trespass no longer on Mr. Wentworth's time.
In the street he met Bray, who was looking for him to say farewell, while Hannah was doing the same to little Martha. Where were they going, and why so soon?
There was nothing to stay for now, Bray thought; for he had no liking to see honest men stand idle in the labour-market, except by their own choice. Choice made the entire difference in the case. As for where he was going,—he and Hannah must find out where people were most fond of street music and dancing, and would pay the best for it. And this put him in mind of what he had to say. He was as much obliged as Hannah herself, and more, by the hospitality with which she had been received a; Allen's house; but his friend could not suppose he meant his daughter to be any charge upon the family in times like these. On this account, and for old friendship's sake, and from the sympathy which one proscribed man should feel for another, he hoped Allen would do him the favour to pocket this little bit of paper and say no more about it.—Allen agreed so far as to defer saying much about it till better times should come. He only just told Bray that the bank note was most acceptable at present for a very particular purpose, wrung his friend's hand, and ran home to fetch his wife, that the suit of clothes might be rebought without loss of time. They proved a dear bargain; but that was a secondary consideration, poor as Allen was. He went to rest that night, satisfied that his honour was redeemed, and that his wife would scarcely venture to put it in pawn again.
His wife said to herself that she had no idea he could have been so stern as he was all this day; she scarcely knew him for William Allen. —Many people made the same observation from this time forward. His sternness only appeared when matters of honour were in question, and no one who knew by what means he had been made jealous on this point wondered at the tone of decision in which a once weak and timid man could speak. But there were other circumstances which made them scarcely able to believe him the same William Allen. He no longer touched his hat to the masters, or appeared to see them as they passed. He no longer repaired to the Spread-Eagle to hear or tell the news, or to take part in consultation on the affairs of the workmen of Manchester, though he was ever ready to give his advice with freedom and mildness when called upon. He stated that he was a friend to their interests, and therefore anxious to avoid injuring them by being one of the body. He would not even represent his children, who grew up one after another to be employed in the factories, while their father toiled in the streets with his water-cart in summer and his broom in winter; enduring to be pointed out to strangers as the leader of an unsuccessful strike, as long as his family were not included with himself in the sentence of proscription.
When will it be understood by all that it rests with all to bring about a time when opposition of interests shall cease? When will masters and men work cheerfully together for their common good, respect instead of proscribing each other, and be equally proud to have such men as Wentworth and William Allen of their fellowship?