Front Page Titles (by Subject) Changed Attitude of the Working Classes - Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (LF ed.)
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Changed Attitude of the Working Classes - Albert Venn Dicey, Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century (LF ed.) 
Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England during the Nineteenth Century, edited and with an Introduction by Richard VandeWetering (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Changed Attitude of the Working Classes
On the 10th April 1848 the Chartists fought their last fight, and suffered a crushing and final defeat.30 The advocates of the Charter (who might, at this period, be identified with the artisans of the towns) abandoned chartism, and either gave up all interest in public affairs, or devoted their efforts to movements of which the object was not political, but social. Of these the chief was trade unionism.
This change of attitude told in more ways than one on the course of opinion.
The abandonment of the Charter was a distinct step away from democratic Benthamism; an increased interest in trade unionism was a step in the direction of collectivism. Trade unionism, which means collective bargaining, and involves practical restrictions on individual freedom of contract, could find no favour in the eyes of Liberals who belonged to the school of Bentham.31 The most liberal judges had, as we have seen, under the influence of Benthamite ideas, interpreted the Combination Act of 182532 —in accordance, no doubt, with the real intention of Parliament—so as to put a check, not only upon all physical violence, but upon any so-called moral pressure which curtailed the right of an individual master to purchase, or of an individual workman to sell, labour upon such terms as might suit the contracting parties. To this view of the law trade unionists offered strenuous resistance. If some of them had at one time accepted the doctrine of laissez faire, they interpreted this dogma as allowing the right of combination for any purpose, which would not be in the strictest sense unlawful, if pursued by an individual acting without concert with others. They maintained that trade unions, even though they aimed at the restraint of trade, should be treated as lawful societies, and that unionists were morally, and ought to be legally, entitled, as long as they made no use of physical violence or the threat thereof, to bring the severest moral pressure to bear upon the action, and thus restrain the freedom of any workman, who might be inclined to follow his own interest in defiance of union rules intended to promote the interest of all the workmen engaged in a particular trade. Here we have the essential conflict between individualism and collectivism.
The changed attitude of the working men facilitated the alliance between the artisans and men of the middle class who, on whatever ground, dissented from Benthamite liberalism.
Chartism had been discredited by the fact that some Chartists sought to attain their ends by the employment or menace of physical force.33 Trade unionism had during its “revolutionary period” been linked with chartism, and had by acts of violence, and by the use of threatening language, secret oaths, and all the paraphernalia of revolution and conspiracy, excited the opposition of all persons who valued the maintenance of law and order.34 But between 1848 and 1868 unionism came under the guidance of capable, and, from their own point of view, moderate leaders. The abandonment, therefore, of the Charter, combined with the changed character of unionism, made it possible for men who were opposed to all violence or revolution to enter into an alliance with the artisans, or at any rate to sympathise with their policy. When Young England came under the guidance of Mr. Disraeli, Tories could afford at times to exhibit sentimental friendliness towards workmen engaged in conflict with manufacturers, whose mills offended the aesthetic taste, and whose radicalism shook the political authority of benevolent aristocrats.35 Among young men, again, who though not Tories, dissented from the social and economic dogmas of utilitarianism, working men found lawyers willing and able to suggest changes in the law of the land fitted for the attainment of the ends aimed at by unionists.36
[30. ]For the Chartist demonstration meant to overawe Parliament and ensure the enactment of the People’s Charter, see Walpole, History of England, iv. pp. 335–337.
[31. ]See pp. 107, 135–146, ante.
[32. ]See pp. 142, 143, ante.
[33. ]In 1848 popular leaders and their opponents were the victims of a delusion fostered by the traditions of the French Revolution. Insurgents, it was supposed, were able to defeat disciplined troops. This notion rested in the main upon the successes achieved during the great Revolution, and again in 1830 and 1848, by the mob of Paris. No idea which has obtained general currency was ever less justified by fact. The belief in the mysterious force of popular enthusiasm was nothing better than a superstition. On no one occasion during the whole revolutionary history of France from 1789 up to the present day, have disciplined troops, when properly led, been defeated by insurgents. Nor has the army shown any special disposition to join the people. On this matter the events of 1848 and 1871 are decisive. In June 1848 the insurgents had every advantage, they had been arming for weeks, they fought with great enthusiasm, and they fought behind well-constructed barricades. Their opponents were to a great extent National Guards and the Garde Mobile, raised from the poorer classes of Paris, on whose absolute fidelity it was difficult to count. Yet the forces of insurrection were vanquished. In 1871 the troops employed by the Government were many of them men who had been vanquished in war. Among the defenders of the Commune there were many trained soldiers. Victory remained with the army.
[34. ]See Lord Londonderry’s Manifesto, Webb, History of Trade Unionism, p. 150.
[35. ]Trade unionism came far oftener into conflict with manufacturers than with landowners. See, however, as to the case of the Dorchester labourers, Webb, pp. 123, 124; R. v. Lovelace, 6 C. & P. 596; Law Magazine, xi. pp. 460, 473; and Walpole, History, iii. pp. 229, 231.
[36. ]The repeal of the corn laws, though the triumph of liberalism, had one indirect effect not looked for by philosophic Radicals. The repeal so completely removed the root of bitterness which had created animosity and distrust between the different classes of the community, that, like the abandonment of chartism by the artisans, it promoted the growth of goodwill, and therefore the formation of an alliance between all persons who, to whatever class or party they belonged, had common proclivities towards socialism.