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The New Forces at Work. page 2

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No account of the modern democracy can omit reference to another form of combination - that of the workers or wage-earners against the capitalists or large employers for the purpose of keeping-up or raising the rate of wages in various trades. For British readers "strikes" and "trades-unions" are words of somewhat sinister sound. In this country, in their modern form, the combinations known as trades-unions arose in the 18th century with attempts of artisans to enforce trade-customs under various charters and statutes dating from Tudor and even from Plantagenet days. Many legislative measures - the "Combination laws" - were passed to check the action of the manual workers in this direction, but the advance of democratic influence in Parliament has for many years done away with all restraints on trade-unionism so long as members of the unions do not, by threats or violence, interfere with the freedom of others. The deplorable effects of strikes are in most cases now averted, more or less, sooner or later, by the methods of conciliation and arbitration between employers and employed, and the decision of the chosen umpire or umpires is almost always loyally accepted on both sides. The principle of trade-unionism is now, in this country, recognised and approved in every quarter - in Parliament, the pulpit, the press, and on the platform - and it is probable that the United Kingdom now contains considerably more than 2,000 trade-societies, with a total of members approaching 3,000,000 and an annual income exceeding 2,000,000 pounds sterling. The benefits of these societies for the workers, apart from any advantage due to judicious "strikes," are seen in the weekly payments to sick and unemployed members, and in pensions to men beyond the age for work; in allowances for members disabled by accident, and for funeral - charge s; in insurance against loss of tools by fire, and in benevolent grants of various kinds. The amount of good hereby effected may be, in a slight degree, estimated from the fact that 13 societies, in 40 years, awarded in "provident benefits" alone, i.e. in addition to pay during strikes, nearly 7,500,000 pounds sterling, while their total strike-pay, during the same period, was less than, 500,000 pounds. These very societies were, moreover, those whose members had secured and maintained the highest rates of wages, the shortest hours of work, and the best conditions of labour enjoyed by industrial workers throughout the country. It is impossible to over-estimate the material and moral benefit derived from so splendid a display of self-help, of lawful combination, in the once down-trodden creators of a country's wealth who now, in proud self-respect, with the sanction of all classes, and in defiance of the pauperism which looks to outside support, maintain their own poor, succour their own sick, feed their own aged and infirm, bury their own dead, aid their own sufferers in every case of accident and adversity, pay all local rates and taxes like other citizens, and often afford generous aid, in time of need, to other associations of workers like to themselves. Thrift, sobriety, discipline, order, and obedience to law are inculcated, encouraged, and enforced, and in the great engineers' strike of 1897-98 the high praise of the German Emperor, a potentate of no democratic views, was elicited by the fact that, during a period of great tension and of no small suffering, no serious breach of law on the part of a vast body of working-men and their dependents ever occurred. In other European countries trade-unionism is by no means so advanced as in Great Britain, but progress is being made under the influence of the international labour-congresses, and the chief need is the "freedom of combination," under legal sanction, which exists in this country. The labour-organisations of the United States are on an extensive scale, but inferior in working to the British models. The Australian colonies, far ahead of all other colonies in this respect, have excellent unions of the best home-type.

A grand proof of advancing enlightenment in the 19th century is seen in the development of public international law known as "arbitration." As a positive system, international law has arisen in Europe only since the 16th century, in succession to the formerly beneficent action exercised by the authority of the Church and by the principles of chivalry. Papal authority and advice often settled quarrels between states, and the evils of warfare were lessened by the practice of chivalrous virtues. It was after the atrocities of the struggle between Spain and the revolted Netherlands, and the outrages perpetrated during the Thirty Years' War, that the general feeling of Europe had a grievous want supplied by the rise of a system of international jurisprudence. The first systematic rules were laid down by the great Dutchman, Hugo Grotius, in his work De Jure Belli ac Pacis, published in 1625. Upon the deep foundations laid by a writer who combined profound learning and keen philosophic insight with great experience in worldly affairs, international law still securely rests. The recognised rules depend in a large measure upon awards given by arbitrators, upon the judgments of mixed prize-courts appointed under treaty, and upon the decisions of the British Court of Admiralty and like tribunals in maritime affairs. Express treaties concluded between sovereign states deal with many cases which might, in former times, have given rise to war, and in disputes to which recognised rules do not apply large recourse has been made in these later years to the method of arbitration by a specially chosen tribunal or by some friendly sovereign. Notable instances are found in the dealings between Great Britain and the United States, as the settlement, in 1872, of the famous Alabama claims by five arbitrators sitting at Geneva, and, in the same year, the arrangement of the dispute concerning the possession of San Juan Island, near Vancouver's Island, by the Emperor William of Germany. In 1885 Pope Leo XIII., acting as arbitrator, settled a dispute between Germany and Spain regarding the possession of the Caroline Islands. The most accomplished of European monarchs, Oscar II. of Sweden and Norway, holds the highest position in this peaceful and beneficent work of arbitrating on international questions.

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