Page images



and on every principle of calculation, the growth of our prosperity is established,” because we drink twice as much beer, and smoke three times as many pipes, as we used to. But it is quite conceivable to me that a man may drink twice as much beer, and smoke three times as many pipes, as he used to do, yet not be the richer man for it, nor his wife or children materially better off for it.

7. Again, the Morning Post tells you (Fors, October, 1872') that because the country is at present in a state of

nexampled prosperity, coals and meat are at famine prices; and the Daily News tells you (Fors, May, 1873 %) that because coals are at famine prices, the capital of the country is increased. By the same rule, when everything else is at famine prices, the capital of the country will be at its maximum, and you will all starve in the proud moral consciousness of an affluence unprecedented in the history of the universe. In the meantime your wealth and prosperity have only advanced you to the moderately enviable point of not being able to indulge in what the Cornhill Magazine (Fors, April, 1873 %) calls “the luxury of a wife,” till you are forty-five-unless you choose to sacrifice all your prospects in life for that unjustifiable piece of extravagance ; and your young women (Fors, May, 18734) are applying, two thousand at a time, for places in the Post Office !

8. All this is doubtless very practical, and businesslike, and comfortable, and truly English. But suppose you set your wits to work for once in a Florentine or Venetian manner, and ask, as a merchant of Venice would have asked, or a “good man ” of the trades of Florence, how much money there is in the town,—who has got it, and what is becoming of it? These, my Sheffield friends, are the first of economical problems for you, depend upon it; perfectly soluble when you set straightforwardly about them; or, so

1 [Letter 22, 7 (Vol. XXVII. p. 376).]
2 Letter 29, i (Vol. XXVII. p. 527)]
3 Letter 28, § 19 (Vol. XXVII. p. 521).
· Letter 29, Š 10 Vol. XXVII. p. 536).]

far as insoluble, instantly indicating the places where the roguery is.

Of money honestly got, and honourably in use, you can get account: of money ill got, and used to swindle with, you will get none.

But take account at least of what is countable. Your initial proceeding must be to map out a Sheffield district clearly. Within the border of that, you will hold yourselves Sheffielders ;-outside of it, let the Wakefield and Bradford people look after themselves; but determine your own limits, and see that things are managed well within them. Your next work is to count heads. You must register every man, woman, and child, in your Sheffield district (compare and read carefully the opening of the Fors of February last year'); then register their incomes and expenditure ; it will be a business, but when you have done it, you will know what you are about, and how much the town is really worth.

9. Then the next business is to establish a commissariat. Knowing how many mouths you have to feed, you know how much food is wanted daily. To get that quantity good; and to distribute it without letting middlemen steal the half of it, is the first great duty of civic authority in villages, of ducal authority in cities and provinces, and of kingly authority in kingdoms.

Now, for the organization of your commissariat, there are two laws to be carried into effect, as you gain intelligence and unity, very different from anything yet conceived for your co-operative stores—which are a good and wise beginning, no less). Of which laws the first is that, till all the mouths in the Sheffield district are fed, no food must be sold to strangers. Make all the ground in your district as productive as possible, both in cattle and vegetables; and see that such meat and vegetables be distributed swiftly to those who most need them, and eaten fresh.

· (Letter 62, § 3 (Vol. XXVIII. p. 513).]

(See the title to this Letter.]

Not a mouthful of anything is to be sold across the border, while any one is hungry within it.

10. Then the second law is, that as long as any one remains unfed, or barebacked, the wages fund must be in common.*

When every man, woman, and child is fed and clothed, the saving men may begin to lay by money,

if they like; but while there is hunger and cold among you, there must be absolutely no purse-feeding, nor coin-wrapping. You have so many bellies to fill ;—so much wages fund (besides the eatable produce of the district) to do it with. Every man must bring all he earns to the common stock.

“ What! and the industrious feed the idle?”

Assuredly, my friends; and the more assuredly because under that condition you will presently come to regard their idleness as a social offence, and deal with it as such : which is precisely the view God means you to take of it, and the dealing He intends you to measure to it. But if you think yourselves exempted from feeding the idle, you will presently believe yourselves privileged to take advantage of their idleness by lending money to them at usury, raising duties on their dissipation, and buying their stock and furniture cheap when they fail in business. Whereupon you will soon be thankful that your neighbour's shutters are still up, when yours are down; and gladly

* Don't shriek out at this, for an impossible fancy of St. George's. St. George only cares about, and tells you, the constantly necessary laws in & well-organized state. This is a temporarily expedient law in a distressed one. No man, of a boat's crew on short allowance in the Atlantic, is allowed to keep provisions in a private locker ;-still less must any man of the crew of a city on short allowance.1 †

« But how if other districts refused to sell us food, as you say we should refuse to sell food to them ?

You Sheffielders are to re to sell food only because food is scarce with you, and cutlery plenty. . And as you had once a reputation for cutlery, and have yet skill enough left to recover it if you will, the other districts of England (and some abroad) will be glad still to give you some of their dinner in exchange for knives and forks,-which is a perfectly sagacious and expedient arrangement for all concerned.

[Compare Time and Tide, 65 (Vol. XVII. p. 372).]


promote his vice for your advantage. With no ultimate good to yourself, even at the devil's price, believe me.

11. Now, therefore, for actual beginning of organization of this Sheffield commissariat, since probably, at present, you won't be able to prevail on the Duke of York to undertake the duty, you must elect a duke of Sheffield, for yourselves. Elect a doge, if, for the present, to act only as purveyor-general :-honest doge he must be, with an active and kind duchess. If you can't find a couple of honest and well-meaning married souls in all Sheffield to trust the matter to, I have nothing more to say : for by such

persons, and by such virtue in them only, is the thing to be done.

Once found, you are to give them fixed salary * and fixed authority; no prince has ever better earned his income, no consul ever needed stronger lictors, than these will, in true doing of their work. Then, by these, the accurately estimated demand, and the accurately measured supply, are to be coupled, with the least possible slack of chain; and the quality of food, and price, absolutely tested and limited.

12. But what's to become of the middleman ?? If

you really saw the middleman at his work, you would not ask that twice. Here's my publisher, Mr. Allen, gets tenpence a dozen for his cabbages; the consumer pays threepence each. That is to say, you pay for three cabbages

* The idea of fixed salary, I thankfully perceive, is beginning to be taken up by philanthropic persons (see notice of the traffic in intoxicating liquors in Pall Mall Budget for December 2, 18764), but still connected with the entirely fatal notion that they are all to have a fixed salary themselves for doing nothing but lend money, which, till they wholly quit themselves of, they will be helpless for good.

' {At the time when Ruskin wrote, there was, however, no Duke of York, the title having been in abeyance from the death of George VIl.'s son Frederick in 1827 to the creation of the present Prince of Wales as Duke of York in 1892.]

: [The question is taken up again in the next Letter : see below, pp. 41-42.] ; (That is, since Ruskin preached the idea in Unto this Last (1860): see Vol

. XVII. pp. 33 seq.]

' [A leading article entitled “The Traffic in Intoxicating Liquors,” discussing Mr. Çhamberlain's advocacy of the "Gothenburg System.” One of his proposals is described as being “to einpower local authorities to carry on the trade themselves through the agency of managers remunerated by fixed salaries."]


and a half, and the middleman keeps two and a half for himself, and gives you one.

Suppose you saw this financial gentleman, in bodily presence, toll-taking at your door,—that you bought three loaves, and saw him pocket two, and pick the best crust off the third as he handed it in ;—that you paid for a pot of beer, and saw him drink two-thirds of it and hand you over the pot and sops,—would you long ask, then, what was to become of him?

To my extreme surprise, I find, on looking over my two long-delayed indexes, that there occurs not in either of them the all-important monosyllable “Beer.” But if you will look out the passages referred to in the index for 1874, under the articles “Food” and “Fish,”? and now study them at more leisure, and consecutively, they will give you some clear notion of what the benefit of middlemen is to you; then, finally take the Fors of March, 1873, and read § 10 carefully,--and you will there see that it has been shown by Professor Kirk, that out of the hundred and fifty-six millions of pounds which you prove your prosperity by spending annually on beer and tobacco, you pay a hundred millions to the rich middlemen, and thirty millions to the middling middlemen, and for every two shillings you pay, get threepence-halfpenny-worth of beer to swallow !

13. Meantime, the Bishop, and the Rector, and the Rector's lady, and the dear old Quaker spinster who lives in Sweethriar Cottage, are so shocked that you drink so much, and that you are such horrid wretches that nothing can be done for you! and you mustn't have your wages raised, because you will spend them in nothing but drink. And to-morrow they are all going to dine at Drayton Park, with the brewer who is your member of Parliament, and is building a public-house at the railway station, and

1 [See Vol. XXVII. pp. 437, 505, 553, 568.]
. (See the Index, below, p. 631 ; and for the entries now supplied under “ Beer,”
[Letter 27 (Vol. XXVII. p. 497). ]

p. 615.

« PreviousContinue »