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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LXI. - Classes and Masses


IN the immediate neighbourhood of Bradford, as already indicated, the "quality." between sales of land, absenteeism, and the dying-out of some old families, fell so low that Mr Ferrand was left alone as a residential and unyielding exponent and champion of superseded feudalism, with its strong blend of Tory-Socialism. Between 1833 and 1860, power and wealth had passed from the old landed gentry to the manufacturing and trading classes. So, when household suffrage and the ballot came, it was chiefly the ruling influence of the newly-enriched which they diminished. As for professional classes, ministers of religion, lawyers, doctors, and teachers, they kept increasing in number in proportion to the growth of population, but they had no prominent part in public affairs.

The Irish Roman Catholics formed a class by themselves. In political and municipal matters they were not so much guided by their priests as by the disloyal and separatist organisations in Ireland and the United States, for which most of the priests had no love; which, indeed, they had good cause to detest, because the Clan-na-Gael crimes in America and the Fenian crimes at home not only brought discredit on their Church, but also because by these unholy secret societies great numbers were led away into utter infidelity. However remiss in the observance of their religious duties many of the young Irishmen of our district might have become, and although some of them might even have swallowed doses of infidel poison imported from Chicago and New York, they all rose like one man in defence of the true faith, to mob the foreigner, called the Baron de Camin, when he came to Bradford to hold forth upon the alleged immoralities of monks and nuns abroad, and especially to denounce the intrigues of the Jesuits. What a riot those defenders of the faith kicked up! English-born Irishmen cannot keep long, by association and environment, from being insensibly Saxonised and forced to look at all public questions in a broader and clearer light.

In public life, and, in a more restricted way, in social life there was a broad line of distinction between Church and Dissent, but on the Church side the line wavered far more than it did on the other side; this was because the chapel organisations were all gathered into a solid host under the Liberation Society and Free Trade conjoint banners. The Church had no counterbalancing organisation and mostly all its manufacturing and commercial members and adherents were free-traders, who had not yet understood that the beautiful dream of free exchange of goods all round was never to be realised, but to lead shortly to the dumping of their goods in our open markets by foreign rivals who shut our goods out of their markets by bounties and prohibitive tariffs. Free imports of food, however, were so great a boon to the working classes that they mistook this part of the theory for the whole and lost sight of the other side of the matter. When Liberal platform speakers could not otherwise get a rise out of apathetic audiences, it was quite a common device of theirs to bring in, by heels or head, the names of Cobden and Bright, which usually, yet not always, evoked loud cheers. Not always, for on questions of foreign policy the masses, with their deep hereditary patriotism and pride in their native land, believed far more in Lord Palmerston "Old Pam" than in Manchester school political economists, however much they felt obliged to the latter for free importation of food. Radical working men did anything but bless the "broad brims" of his Cabinet who prevented "Old Pam" from effectively interfering to save Denmark from German plunderers. It was the general custom of the more advanced Liberal writers and speakers, before and after the Civil War, to belaud the constitution and institutions of the United States slavery excepted. American republicanism was held up for admiration as if the United Kingdom would not be what it should be until it had a President and a Congress. Well, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," John Brown of immortal memory, and the whole long agitation against the slavery in the Southern States of the Union, had enflamed our masses against slavery, and made them at first hot partisans of the North. But when a blustering Federal Navy captain dragged Mason and Sliddel, the deputies sent by the Confederates to plead their cause in Europe, out of a British mail steamer on the high seas, a scowl of rage darkened the faces of our patriotic operatives, which changed into a gratified grin of joy when "Old Pam" promptly resolved to send troops out to Halifax and to make ready for war unless the indignity was atoned for by liberating the seized deputies which was done. That incident, with the wonderful generalship of Lee, the Crornwellian heroism of Stonewall Jackson, and the gallantry of the hopelessly outnumbered Confederates, caused a revulsion of feeling in favour of the weaker side, and, on the suppression of the rebellion, the doings of the carpet-baggers in the Southern States stripped the Great Republic of a deal of its old reputation. Since then scandals of millionairism, syndicates, combines, and gigantic swindles by people who get the manipulation of honest folks' money, have been a constant nightmare to all true American patriots, who wish nobly to find correctives, but as yet have not met with the desired success. The constitution and institutions of the United States are theoretically good, and if they were in the right hands and worked in the right spirit should fulfil expectations. The misfortune is that they have been captured by organised parties looking for spoils, and that by the very machinery decreed for ensuring fulness and freedom of elections and the choice of the worthiest have, by the party ticket trick, been reduced to what is nearly a sham. Liberal payment of members keeps the ball of corruption merrily rolling. Those who would be best men for Congress and State Legislatures, in many instances, turn away from public life, and the voters, who, in the main, are patriotic, honest people, leading industrious, moral lives, are driven to put up with the ticket candidates.

In this twentieth century the two great English-speaking nations live in bonds of peace and amity. It ought to be so for ever. The bond of blood and brotherhood, their common history, and law, legislation, and social customs should draw them ever closer as the years slide by. But mutual criticism of fair and kindly nature can only do good for both of them. Our Radicals want payment of members of Parliament. They openly advocate that as a first step, but they do not intend to stop at that. Socialists, in their general schemes of plunder, wish to get for the members of all public bodies paid salaries. What has come out of such payments in the United States ought to be taken by sensible Britons as a warning, and not as an example to be imitated. Our constitutional monarchy is after all the truest form of Republicanism, and it saves us from the quadrennial turmoil of a presidential election, followed, when parties change sides, by a wholesale distribution of offices from the highest to the lowest from the village postmaster to the President. Disestablishers at one time were never weary of extolling the United States as a country which was a highly-religious and Christian country, in which all creeds were free, and in which there was no Church connected with the State. I do not know whether they will venture so loudly to praise the religious and moral conditions of things there now. At any rate when, for obtaining their support at elections, they appeal to the predatory instincts of Socialists and Radicals, by suggesting that a vast amount of plunder would be made available for distribution were the Church of England and Church of Scotland disestablished, they should remember that in the United States the various religious bodies have been allowed to accumulate property far exceeding that of the two national Churches of this land, which alone make sure provision for continuous religious worship in every parish from Land's End to John O' Groats.

Republicanism as a speculation and subject of debate was attractive to young men who fancied themselves disciples of Mill, Huxley, and Morley, and likewise to older men who posed as pundits of the so-called science of political economy then in fashion. The hope of a successful rebellion in Ireland was dear to the Irishmen who were connected with Fenian or Land League conspiracy, but, take them in all, our classes and masses were loyal subjects of Queen Victoria, and even chivalrously and romantically proud of their dear Sovereign lady. George Odger, one of the wildest of the London revolutionaries of that time, confessed that revolution would be impossible during the Queen's reign when he said "Me and my friends have resolved that the Prince of Wales shall never ascend the throne of these realms." He and his friends did all they could to make the Prince of Wales unpopular, and little did they profit thereby. The marriage of the Heir-Apparent with the Princess Alexandra of Denmark was celebrated in all our district with great rejoicings. Towns and villages, even country-houses and scattered farmsteads, were made to look gay with flags, arches, and devices of a benedictory and festive character. Bonfires and illuminations followed at night. I have never seen anything so striking as the effect of the Bradford illuminations and bonfires that night. Far up in the sky a dome of light hung over the whole place. No doubt this was caused by the situation of the town, which rises up surrounding heights from the bottom of forked valleys. Soon after their marriage the Royal couple came to visit Lord Ripon at Studley Royal, and the Prince on that visit opened the new town hall of Halifax. The West Riding people on that occasion gave them as hearty and unanimous a welcome as could possibly be given. Years afterwards, when the Prince was lying between life and death ill of fever at Sandringham, the bulletins were scanned with gloomy anxiety from hour to hour until the crisis was over and recovery ensured. Then a feeling of joyful thankfulness spread over all the country.

The newly enriched middle classes, who, in urban and mining and manufacturing districts held supremacy from the passing of the Reform Bill to the coming of household suffrage with the ballot, were not lacking in self-confidence, nor in good intentions either. They administered local affairs uprightly and sagaciously. Their ready acceptance of the really grand, although never to be realised, doctrine of cosmopolitan Free Trade somewhat twisted and contracted their patriotism of which, however, they had plenty. The individual freedom and open career which formed part of the Manchester school political-economy creed suited the self-made or luck-made people of that period of transition from handicrafts and domestic industries to the capitalist and company monopolies which were to come, and had to be confronted and counteracted by defensive, and sometimes offensive and detrimental, trade-union forces. To persons who happened to own fields or houses of little annual value before the transformation began, fortunes came without their own merit, but in ninety per cent, of cases it came by devotion to business honestly conducted, prudent investments, and habits of life moulded by Christian morality, and a frugality which, as a rule, was quite consistent with helpful aid to poor relations and general liberality. Here a few typical cases of the rise of the newly enriched may be cited in illustration of the changes brought about by the industrial revolution. Mr Gathorne-Hardy, created Earl Cranbrook in 1892, received his peerage in reward of political services, but derived his wealth from great ironworks near Bradford, in which he had inherited a heavy stake, and which had first been made profitable in a high degree by the chemical discoveries of a clerical ancestor of his. Mr Samuel Cunliffe-Lister created Baron Masham belonged by birth to the old smaller gentry of the locality, but it was in his inventive brains that he had an unfailing mine which finally made him wealthy in old age, after having made and lost one or two previous fortunes by letting others manage his business while he became himself engrossed in new inventions.

Mr Titus Salt, I think, was the first of our successful captains of industry who was created a baronet. Mr Salt, who had made a moderate fortune as a wool-stapler, got hold of a loom fit for weaving alpaca wool, then a drug in the market, and boldly launched into manufacturing that wool, when for a time he could have a monopoly of that branch of business. Wonderful success crowned his efforts. When his wealth grew with something like the rapidity of Jonah's gourd, he bought land on the east of Shipley, on the bank of the Aire, and on it built a gigantic mill, a fine village, and an Independent chapel, on the plan of the Paris Madeleine, in which, when his time came, he was buried, and which he intended to be forever his own and his descendants' mausoleum. He had the biggest funeral that had ever taken place in the Bradford district. A high-class statue of him, in a shrine, was placed in front of the Bradford Town Hall; and and a Dissenting minister wrote a florid biography of him. He liked praise and flattery, and in life and death got plenty of both. He called his new model village Saltaire, joining his own and the river names together. He was generous with his money, founded and endowed a school for Saltaire, was kind to the poor, the old, and the afflicted, and gave donations to many charities. Within his proper limits he was admirable as the organiser and controller of a great undertaking, and the provider on fair terms of comfortable and sanitary houses for his working people. But at the same time he was an enlightened despot to them, or he that must be obeyed. He transgressed his proper limits when he, in his paltry quarrel on a political question with Abraham Holroyd, acted the despot, Abraham Holroyd was a poor, honest man who had a bookstall on the land of Sir Titus. In literary ability and general intelligence he was the baronet's undoubted superior. Having convictions of his own and the manliness to express them, and his views being contrary to the views Sir Titus had adopted, Abraham, who refused to recant or be silent, was deprived of his bookstall stand. On second thoughts, however, Sir Titus saw he was wrong, and handsomely acknowledged his mistake. Masterful but just, generous and well-meaning by nature, Sir Titus, I think, was somewhat spoiled by the obsequiousness of his own people, the hero-worship given to him by his political and religious party, and the well -deserved praises which were bestowed on his model village in home and continental publications.

Up the hills in the direction of Halifax there is a village on the steep which for some cause perhaps the sign of a roadside inn was once called Queenshead. Its centre of industrial life was Foster's mill, and as mill and village steadily grew together the inhabitants objected to let the place be any longer called by a name which had come by public usage to mean a postage stamp. They therefore had their village renamed Queensbury. Mr John Foster, the founder, and in my time, with his up-to-date sons as partners, the head of the manufacturing firm which gave this hill place its prosperity and importance, was, while an excellent business man, an unassuming old gentleman, who liked to speak the dialect and stick to kindly, homely, old-fashioned ways. There were not a few other employers who had gained respect and clannish loyalty from the people in their employment; but I think the relations between Mr John Foster and his operatives were the most patriarchal and materially trustful and confidential that existed anywhere in a district in which much of what was best in the spirit of feudalism had passed from the "quality" to the newly enriched. The Hornby estate with its fine historical castle having come into the market, Mr John Foster bought it for a high price, which he paid down on the nail. He was not the man to buy a pig in a poke, and so we may be sure he had expert opinion to go upon before the sale took place. It seems that he did not himself visit Hornby until after the price had been paid and the transfer completed. One day a man who looked like a well-to-do, honest farmer, and who spoke the dialect as to the manner born, entered the Hornby village inn, and said he wanted to have a smoke and a glass of beer. The innkeeper, who had no other customers at the time, took him into the room reserved for his genteeler guests, and then went for a glass of beer, a churchwarden pipe, and a screw of tobacco. On coming back with these supplies, he found that some uppish young men had entered the room, and that they were looking on the placid, farmer-like man as if they objected to his presence. So, to propitiate these gentry, the innkeeper said to Mr Foster, "Will you please come with me to the kitchen, as I think these gentlemen want to have the room to themselves?" Mr Foster rose at once and said nothing would suit him better than to have his smoke and his drink at the kitchen fireside. When host and guest settled themselves in the warm, comfortable kitchen, they soon became chatty. The stranger asked questions about the district, and the host, puzzled by these questions, tried to find what was the stranger's business in that part of the country, where he had never seen him before. At last the host, finding that circumlocution would not do, put a direct question. The answer was "Oh, I have bought some land hereabouts, and I have come to see it." "Do you mean you have bought a farm" "Yes." "I have not heard of any farm having been sold in this neighbourhood; what is the name of your farm?" "The name of it that was given to me is the Hornby Castle estate." Boniface was overwhelmed with surprise and very unnecessary regret at having taken his new landlord to the kitchen, but it was just the sort of incident best suited to please Mr Foster.

Bradford, when I went there, had a large staff of merchants English, Scotch, German, Jewish who traded with all parts of the world, and who. in their Chamber of Commerce, discussed in the light of experience questions affecting trade, finance, and navigation. Besides those scattered out elsewhere, Peel Square was surrounded by splendid merchant warehouses. But until 1835, or thereabouts, the state of things was wholly different. The manufacturers of the town and neighbourhood brought the product of their mills to the old Piece Hall in Market Street, and sold them there, chiefly to Leeds merchants. When that old yoke of dependence was shaken off, a feeling of rivalry, which continued long, sprang up between Leeds and Bradford. But when once started, the emancipation movement could have but one issue. Bradford, in a few years, made itself the unchallengable capital and emporium of the worsted district. One of the earliest and biggest Bradford merchant firms, that of Milligan & Forbes, was founded by two Scotchmen, who were a credit to their native land. Mr Forbes, on coming to Bradford, set up a draper's shop, in which he modestly prospered for many years. He was dead before my time. Mr Robert Milligan, the senior partner, who, for years after 1860, actively superintended the great business of the firm, started his remarkable career in England as a packman. He brought with him from Scotland a good parish school education, spiced with Shorter Catechism theology, and the aptitude for business and. moral qualities which led to success. An observant and most intelligent and, withal, a most unassuming young man was Mr Robert Milligan. When a merchant prince and held in high reverence and respect by the whole community among whom he had lived and prospered so long, he was so far from concealing his humble start in life, that he placed his old pack in the entrance hall of his mansion of Acacia, and was always ready to draw the attention of guests to it, and to tell stories of his experiences and adventures as a pedlar or travelling merchant who carried all his stock-in-trade on his back. Mr Milligan had the clannishness of a Scotchman. So he found openings for many of his relations, and also for not a few countrymen who were no relations at all. As he had no children of his own, his great wealth was by his will carefully and justly distributed among a large number of people connected with him by blood or marriage, his wife's kindred sharing with his own.

William Brown, a saddler by trade, came from Otley, his native place, to Bradford, and bought or rented two united cottages in Market Street, then newly made, one in which he lived and the other in which he had his shop and working place. Having thus established himself, he looked about for a wife, and found one who was a treasure in herself in Elizabeth Ingham, of a good old Bradford stock. Their marriage took place shortly before or after 1800. If the cottages were not his own at first, he became the owner of them before his death some ten years later, when his widow and their only child, Henry Brown, were left with these cottages as all that came to them from husband and father. They prospered because the widow was a strong-minded, high-principled business woman, who managed to lay broad and firm foundations for what has long been, and still is, the largest drapery and outfitting establishment in Bradford and its district. When they married, William Brown was a Churchman, and Elizabeth Ingham belonged to the Independent Chapel which the orthodox Presbyterians formed, when the Unitarian majority got hold of the old Chapel Lane place of worship and its endowment. The strife between Church and Dissent had, at the beginning of last century, for several reasons much subsided in Bradford. One of these reasons was the lapsing of the majority of the Presbyterians into Unitarianism, which gave a shock to orthodox Dissenters, and another was the Wesleyan revival, which swept into its broad stream both church -folk and chapel-folk. It was not also without a modifying effect that the then vicar of Bradford was a fervent evangelical who compelled respect from the old Dissenters, and whom the Wesleyans so honoured that during his life they continued to communicate and have their children baptized and confirmed in the Parish Church. After marriage, while William Brown continued as before to worship in the Parish Church, his wife stuck to her Independent Chapel, and took their boy Henry with her there as soon as he could walk to it. There is, I suppose, everywhere a business connection side to religious associations, and in England, I think, this side is far more apparent than in Scotland. Whether or not her husband's connection with the Parish Church brought customers to Elizabeth when left a widow, I cannot say with certainty, but there is no doubt at all that she profited by chapel connection. On her husband's death she disposed of his stock-in-trade, and converted his saddlering cottage into a drapery shop and a store for children's ready-made clothes. She sold for cash down to the general public, and only gave short credit in exceptional cases to purchasers she well knew and could trust. She had a head for business and closely attended to it. Her customers soon became numerous. They knew her straight-forward way, and that there was no use in haggling with her. They had to pay the price she first mentioned, or else to leave without getting what they wanted. She made few or no losses. She was content with small profits, but as these small profits grew into tidy heaps, she looked about for safe investments, and as the town was growing at a great pace, readily found them. While of a saving disposition, she was anything but miserly. To kith and kin who needed help, she gave it liberally and ungrudgingly. She took care that Henry, her son, should have a good education, and should from infancy be brought up in the way he should go. She bestowed similar care on cousins of his who came under her protection. Her son, Henry Brown, fulfilled her expectations. He was for a life-time a member of the Bradford Town Council, was elected Mayor three times in succession, and took a prominent part in the public life and progress of the town and neighbourhood. The business built by his mother on sure foundations enormously increased under the management of Mr Henry Brown and his brother-in-law, Mr T. P. Muff, whom he took into partnership with him, and in due time new and spacious premises were built for it on the sites of the old cottages and their annexes in Market Street. Mr Brown's son, an only child, died in his infancy. Having no child of his own to educate and provide for, Mr Brown spent a large portion of his wealth upon the promotion of the higher education of the children of other people, especially those who could not afford to pay for it. The Bradford Grammar School and the corresponding higher school for girls received large endowments from him while living, and more by will. Besides what he spent on charitable and educational institutions when alive, his executors had to pay 26,000 to charities of various kinds before distributing the rest of his fortune among his blood relations by father arid mother's side, some fifty in number, according to the specific instructions contained in his will.

Old Mrs Brown was able to grow with her circumstances and to wisely enjoy the fortune she had made, although to the last she was, by precept and example, a preacher of righteousness against waste, laziness and fechlessness. When she saw the business nourishing in her son's hands, she removed her habitation from Market Street to a commodious house in the suburbs, in which friends and acquaintances were sure of receiving a hospitable welcome, and which was a place of recuperance for the many young relatives whom she had helped on their onward course. Mrs Eennie, the well endowed and comfortably housed widow of a merchant, was not able, like Mrs Brown, to grow with her circumstances, and yet she was a sympathetic and generous helper to afflicted people she knew, and liberal in her donations to chapels and charities. As far as food, fire, and other comforts were concerned she did not stint herself and her servants. But she stuck to some habits of her early days, probably days of pinching and struggling, which made her seem very eccentric to later generations. When her husband was alive she made dresses for herself out of fents or remnants of webs, of different shades of one colour say red, blue, or grey, because the fents could not be better utilised, and the dresses were as clean and comfortable as if they were of the same shade of colour. From early days to the end of a long life, Harrogate was the only place to which she went for her summer "outing." There were some cottage lodgings there which she had trysted from year to year. She used to go with the carrier's cart, and to take supplies from home with her. Then came a year when a coach regularly plied between Bradford and Harrogate, but Mrs Rennie stuck to the carrier, and would not look at the coach nor afterwards at the railway either. Unfortunately her faithful allegiance to use and wont gave her, when quite an old widow, a broken leg, through a fall from the top of the carrier's cart. After that accident, I think she gave up going to Harrogate. She had no patience with dressy servant maids nor with any man or woman that would not put their hand to any kind of useful work. A lady friend, when passing Mrs Rennie's house one day, saw her hastily coming out with a jug in her hand and crossing the street to a milk cart standing on the other side, where she got it filled, and paid the milkman. The lady stopped till Mrs Rennie crossed back, to remonstrate with her for not sending her maid on all such errands. "Bless you!" was the reply, "my maid would take half-an-hour to dress before she would think herself fine enough to come out of the house, and do you think I could let the man stop waiting for her when I could come myself at once for my three pennies' worth of milk?"

It was in a larger measure than is generally recognised owing to the British mothers who kept a firm grip on Christian faith and morals that a hundred years ago our country escaped the double danger of conquest by the greatest war lord the world has ever seen, and of suffering severe and instant demoralisation from an industrial revolution, which substituted collectivism for the old handicraft arts and domestic industries, and made the working classes to a large extent mere attachments and slaves to machinery. With unshaken confidence and fixed family-life principles, which they knew to be blessed by Almighty God, the noble British mothers of that era bred and trained brave sons and virtuous daughters. Many of the sons went forth to fight for their country by sea and land. By sea victory was always with the British warriors. By land the British soldiers fought on undismayed by trials and disappointments until Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo, and sent like a caged eagle to the lonely yet pleasant island of St Helena. The daughters had to fight their own battles against demoralising influences in the mixed assemblages of mills and other places where many worked together, and upon the whole they fought these fights victoriously, and became in their turn wives and mothers like the mothers who had borne and trained them.

One of my first impressions of the natives of the worsted district was that they were much alike, whether rich or poor, a hard-headed, practical people, of whom it was not easy even for a Yankee, although that happened once if not oftener to get the better in a deal. But if hard they were upright in their dealings, and in social relations their hardness frequently converted itself into the generous deeds, which shun rather than seek publicity and applause. Further acquaintance revealed unsuspected strains of romance and stores of sentiment, well kept out of sight, but which had still a softening influence on life and character. They had much humour of a caustic kind, which sometimes, as in the case of a Wesleyan local preacher, assumed an irreverent or grotesque form. When working up a revival movement, this local preacher is said to have fervently prayed, "Lord, send down Thy Spirit upon us this minute, through the ceiling, and never mind expenses." On another occasion, to illustrate how easy it was to slide downward into sin, and how difficult to pull upwards without Divine help, he slid down the bannister on the outside of the pulpit stair, and then began to struggle to pull himself up with puffing and difficulty. But the highest flight of his peculiar humour took place in an outlying village, where he was to hold a series of meetings. He was much dissatisfied with the poor attendance at the first meeting, and said so. He then with a solemn face announced that at the next meeting he intended to make a pair of shoes in the pulpit. That singular announcement gave him a crowded audience at the next meeting all agog to see how he was to fulfil his promise. He made his way through that crowd with a pair of old boots in one hand and a big sharp knife in the other. He mounted the stair into the pulpit, turned to the audience without a smile on his face, cut off the tops of the boots and flung them over the side, then held up the truncated remains, and called them the pair of shoes he had made in their presence. After that he launched out in racy dialect ridiculing them for their readiness to be attracted by such a silly device as a promise to make a pair of shoes in a pulpit, and their unreadiness to assemble to hear God's Word, and to come with their sins, to pray for grace and mercy and guidance at His footstool.


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