Dora B. Montefiore, New Age September 1905
Source: New Age, p. 602-3, 21 September 1905;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
It must be really too unpleasant during these brilliant autumn days for the crowd of golfers, grouse and partridge-shooters, motorists, and bridge players, who are enjoying all the exquisite refinements and delights of country-house life, to find, even in their most exclusive “dailies,” columns devoted to that increasing nuisance, the unemployed. Matters have, indeed, become so annoying that, besides the fact that legislators were forced at the fag end of the session to pass hurriedly an incomprehensible measure called the Unemployed Workmen’s Bill, the attempts to administer this undigested piece of legislation, instead of pushing into the background this undecorative subject (from an imperialistic point of view) of the unemployed, have brought it more prominently and statistically before the public, even to the extent of proving, out of the mouth of the clerk of the Poplar Board of Guardians that among a population of 168,822 there are 10,456 persons in receipt of parish relief; and through the medium of official figures that at Tower Hamlets, in consequence of the prevailing distress “considerably over a thousand otherwise eligible rate-payers have lost their votes.” As, therefore, neither charity doles out of superfluities, nor unwillingly conceded and scamped legislation seem likely to have any lasting effect on the rising tide of unemployment at the bottom of society, the unemployed at the top of society have called to their aid their trusty henchman, “General” Booth, and have ordered him to sweep off into the colonies five or six thousand of these families, who are showing signs of refusing to starve any longer in peace and quietness. The thing is to be done outwardly decently, of course. Mr. Deakin, the Premier of the Australian Commonwealth, is asked if he can “place” these thousands of families during the coming English winter. The Victorian and Queensland Governments have wisely cabled for further information regarding the means and working capacity of the immigrants General Booth proposes sending to Australia. Western Australia, through its Agent-General, cables that one of its principal objects is “to further encourage the immigration of agriculturists,” and another object is the construction of light railways to agricultural districts; and New South Wales states that she has 2,000,000 acres available close to railways.
We have in Ireland an object lesson of what wholesale emigration does for a population. The strong, the healthy, the capable, are taken; the weak and undesirable are left to become the parents of the next generation. The result is weakness, degeneracy, disease eating out the heart of the people. If the five or six thousand families sent out under General Booth’s auspices are to be (according to a leader in the Morning Post) non-destitute, and belonging chiefly to the agricultural and allied industries, then England is being bled of valuable workers, who should be tilling her own and their own soil! If this wording of the cablegram is only a cloak for the underlying intention of shipping off just sufficient of the already half-starved unemployed as shall suffice to prevent the unemployed problem becoming acute in England, and especially in London, during the forthcoming winter, then a most wantonly cruel act is about to be perpetrated under the guise of religion and humanity. Willing, enlightened emigrants, with money their pockets, sufficient to keep them for some weeks or months, till they fit themselves to the new environments, and find suitable work, are one thing; and a crowd of helpless, destitute, ignorant, poor people, sent miles up country after a long sea voyage, to find awaiting the uncleared land, little or no shelter till they themselves can construct it; and who are brought face to face with a daily elemental struggle with nature, is another thing. Let not forget that these poor unemployed were bred for capitalist labour; they are just as much one of the products of industrialism as are the successful merchants and manufacturers, who are buying up the few remaining oak-panelled and oak-beamed houses of England. As such they have just as much right to remain here and – as their occupation, like Othello’s, is gone – take their share out of the wealth of the country, as have the gentlemen with a taste for sixteenth century houses. To sweep them out unwillingly into the Australian colonies with a Salvation Army broom, even though the survivors of the sweeping operation would find themselves in the end in infinitely superior conditions than anything they could expect here whilst the present system of society prevails, would be a most unjustifiable act of tyranny; and should be resisted by every lover of liberty.
A Committee has been appointed by the President of the Local Government Board to obtain information for the guidance of the Government in framing a scheme for the redistribution of seats at Parliamentary elections. The office of the Committee are at 49, Parliament Street S.W., and Mr. Charles Knight is their secretary. In reference to this Redistribution Seats Bill, the Women’s Social and Political Union, whose headquarters are in Manchester have recently passed the following resolution two public meetings, held under their auspices. “That no scheme of redistribution of seats can lead to the effectual representation of the people unless provision is made for the registration of qualified women as voters.” A copy of the resolution has been sent to the secretary of the Committee on Redistribution, and I would urge on all Women Suffrage Societies, branches of the Co-operative Women’s Guilds, and all associations of women who are interested in the real representation of all sections of the people, to forward without delay copies of resolutions a similar nature.
The Manchester Guardian of the 13. inst. gives publicity to a protest made by Miss. Elisabeth Walsh, of Pendleton, who, during the visit of the revising barrister to the Salford Revision Court, attended the court, and claimed the Parliamentary vote. The revising barrister of course told her that according to the law of the country she had no right to the vote Whereupon Miss Walsh replied, “If I cannot have my vote I will not pay any more rates.” The revising barrister remarked, “I cannot help you”; and Miss Walsh, before leaving the court, entered a strong protest against the law, on behalf of herself and other women in the district. As a passive resister, who has suffered financially for her protest against “taxation without representation,” I hail Miss Walsh’s visit to the Registration Court, and her public protest against the existing anomaly in the law; and I hope that in some way this word of greeting and cheer from a fellow-protester will reach her. Now that revision is going on all over the country many women, who, except for sex, are duly qualified voters, might follow her example, and attract attention to the subjrct, by making a public protest. I have, already in this woman’s column to-day, called attention to the unjust loss of thousands of votes in consequence of the “crime of poverty”; it is only meet that we women should remind men, whenever the opportunity presents itself, of doing it effectively, that thousands of votes are lost yearly in consequence of “the crime of sex.”
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.