STATE OF THE AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS. TO THE EDITOR OF THE
" Now my weary lids I close, Leave me. leave me, to repose."
I Will copy from the Report of Mr. AUSTIN part of aletter written by one resi- dent in the county, who, if name and style are to be trusted, is a man of' birth and education.
" With respect to the general condition of the agricultural labourer, I be- lieve the public to be less informed, or worse informed, than about that of any other class of society. His most common vices are, it is true, pretty well known; for they have been exposed with no hesitating pens, have been offi- cially proclaimed through the length and breadth of the land: but the hard- ships of his life at best—its temptations—the hindrances to improvement—the scanty remuneration afforded for his hardest labour—the ingenious methods used to hold him in thraldom, permitting him neither to work where he likes at the wages he could obtain, nor to spend those he does obtain where he chooses—the manner in which be often sees the welfare of the beast he drives more valued than his own, and his own welfare often sacrificed to some caprice of his empleyer—threatened with the ' Union-house' if he refuses them, his wages are settled by the combined interest or opinion of the employers around him—forced to pay an exorbitant rent for a dwelling in which he cannot decently rear his family—if he is single he is to receive less for the sweat of his brow than if he was married, if be does marry every ingenuity is used to make him feel that he is regarded as one about to increase the burdens of the parish ; * * * these are parts of his condition on which the public are not so well informed, or at least of which they seem to act in perfect ig- norance. a • • In nine cases out of ten, the cottage is nothing but a -slightly-improved hovel ; morality is borne down by the pressure of temptation • on minds unfortified by education in good principles ; and the wages of the stoutest and most industrious scarce find the coarsest food, the smallest suffi- ciency of fuel."—Report, pp. 76-7.
Dumdrudge, 14th December 1893.
Sin—Honour to Lord ASHLEY! to him who has exorcised the mart spirit of the mine ; to him on whose ear the " infant= anima flentes vagitus et ingens " from the factories fell not unheeded ; honour once and again to him who has broken through the conventional silence of agricultural meetings as to the state and condition of the agricultural labourer! It requires much moral courage to call men's attention firmly and decidedly to what they are unwil- ling to see ; it requires much to support the unpopular advocate of an unpo- pular cause. Those few words, " I believe Mr. Sheridan has acted on a higher and nobler impulse," will do much towards calling attention to what that gen- tleman has said. Why Dorsetshire has attained to that bad eminence as to be almost a by-word, is difficult to say: according to Mr. AUSTIN'S Report, it is scarcely so bad as the neighbouring counties—certainly not worse. Many feel, many deplore the wretched state of the labourer; but to rouse those who still cry,