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4Ðnr Irate Cormpraknt.

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4Ðnr Irate Cormpraknt. fWe deemitright to state that we do not at t £ times identity (jtseives with oar correspondent's opinions.] Although we are close upon the meeting of Parlia- ment, no one seems to know anything abont Ministerial intentions on the moat important topic of the day. Some think that Ministers will ignore the subject of Reform altogether, not even alluding to it in the Royal Speech; others believe that they will mention the matter with speech and try to meet the popular demand by a Liberal bill; while others again opine that Government will urge the greater relative im- portance of various measures of social and legal reform, but will express their willingness to under- take the work of parliamentary reform, if Parliament consider it advisable that such a measure shall be introduced this Session. But still no one knows anything about it. Ministerial oracles are dumb, the best informed journals can only surmise, and all is speculation aDd uncertainty. Under such circumstances any opinion that I may give will naturally be set down as worthless, but I am neverthe- less convinced from the nature of the case in all its Bearings, that the Government will not omit the topic from the Royal Speech and will try to settle the matter this Session. Meanwhile people are delighted to hear that Her Majesty will open Parliament in person. True there will not be that State ceremony to which we were accustomed before the death of the Prince Consort; there will be no State carriage and no cream-coloured horses nor will Her Majesty read the speech, but merely hand, it to the Lord Chancellor; still, the presence of the Queen will be something, and at all events will be much better than opening the Legislature by com- mission. It has been announced that immediately after the ceremony Her Majesty will return to Windsor, and thence to Osborne, where, "according to present arrangements the Queen will stay till the 13th. Eh bien aprts ? Will Her Majesty return to Windsor, or as has been rumoured, will she come to Buckingham Palace ? I fear the latter rumour is too good to be true; but at all events an impression appears pretty generally to prevail that the London season this year will be somewhat more gay, so far as the influence of Royalty is concerned, than it has been of late years. It is doubtful whether the Reform League will per- severe in their project of presenting a number of Reform petitions to individual members of the House of Commons in Westminster Hall, but there is nodoubt about the preparations for the Reform demonstration. London on the 11th of February will be once more turned topsy.turvy, and, in my opinion, for a very insufficient reason. The more genial weather that we have lately had has had the best possible effect on the condition of the labouring classes, by which I mean a class somewhat lower in the social scale than that which is usually called the working class. The distress throughout London has been very great this winter, but at the East-end of the Metropolis it has been awful. Had it not been for the immense efforts to relieve it (and in this work The Times, the Telegraph, and the Standard have aided nobly), there would have been hundreds of cases of starvation. Despite all these efforts, the suf- ferings of the poor have been intense, and, unhappily, there is a very great deal left. There are two or three lessons brought out into strong relief by what we have been obliged to see and hear. The first is the time. worn lesson that the working classes are greatly to blame that they live so carelessly from hand to mouth. This may be an ungracious thing to say, but it is founded on undeniable truth. Numerous as may be the exceptions to the rule, the rule holds good, never. theless; and it has sometimes occurred to me that em- ployers might do something to prevent this. At The Times' office there has been in working for many years a system of compulsory saving. A small proportion of the earnings of all the workmen is stopped out of their wages and saved up to their several accounts it is an inexorable rule from which there is no appeal, and notice of withdrawal of the whole amount is con- sidered equivalent to notice to quit. The system has worked admirably, and objectors have speedily become admirers. Could not other large em- ployers adopt the same principle ? Another lesson which has been clearly taught by this distress is not now taught for the first time it is the ad- visability of equalising the poor-rates, not only over the Metropolis, but throughout the country. The poor should not be a charge upon each particular parish, which is an antiquated absurdity in these days of shifting residence, but there should be a charge on the State; and the law of settlement and the entire union system should be modified or abolished. And a third lesson is that we want some system of organised charity, or if that word be not liked, of help for the poor. Mr. Dodgson, a student of Christ Church College, Oxford, lately proposed, in the Pall Mall, a scheme which is worth reference, and in my opinion something more. He suggests a National Philanthropic Society. "It would have," he says, "something of the character of a bank, in which money might be deposited to be hereafter assigned to charitable objects, if any choose so to do. It would receive as money, cheques on all country banks, and would transfer the amount without deduction to the accounts of the various charities designated. There would be a register kept, in which, by paying a small annual fee, any charitable society or institution might have its name entered, with a short statement of its history and objects, and might add any further state. ment by paying for it as an advertisement. This register, with list of contributions, would be published as cheaply as possible, and also largely circulated gratuitously. And it would be a great addition to the usefulness of this society if there were a committee, who would receive money sent for general purposes (such as hospitals, churches, tic.), and make grants from such general' funds to whichever institutions they considered most in need of help. The necessary expenses of such a society might be defrayed partly by the fees for registration, partly by the advertise. ments, and partly by voluntary contributions." It may be objected to this that by this Bystematising charity the principle of self-help would be weakened, and that another principle almost as valuable—that of helping the poor to help themselves—would be weakened also. I do not think it. We must not shut our eyes to the fact that in our own country, more than any in the world, we have large masses of per- manent poverty we have the extremes of wealth and poverty, and therefore some such system as this would be a permanent mode of voluntarily taxing the rich generally for the poor generally, which would be far better than frittering away, as we now do, large sums in managing or mismanaging separate local institu- tions. The conference for promoting a revision of the licensing system under the auspices of Lord Shaftes- bury and a band of distinguished philanthropists and public men, will at least have one good result—it will draw public attention to the evils and anomalies of the present system; but it is to be hoped that it will result in something more, and that it will remove some of the present existing facilities for setting up public houses and the consequent temptations to drunkenness. I notice among the names of those identified with this conference those of the Dean of Carlisle, the Rev. Newman Hall and others who advocate total abstinence and legislative prohibitions, but there are the names of many others who are known to be opposed to any extreme measures. The discussions and resolutions at the conference are to be strictly limited to the consideration of the best means of diminishing the present facilities for drinking intoxicating liquors on the premises where they are sold, or in places of public entertainment, and of granting licenses for such con- sumption." The conference in itself is a remarkable sign of the times, and I sincerely hope that some good may result. The number of public-houses and their attractive glitter on the one hand and the wretched houses of the poor (partially caused, by the way, by drinking habits) on the other, constitute one of the greatest evils of the day; and any well-con- sidered reform of this monster evil deserves the utmost consideration. It is a most unfortunate thing that the State derives so large a revenue from the consumption of intoxicating drinks, for this renders any legislative restrio tions all the more difficult to procure. The meeting of men and women employed by the firm of which Mr. John Bright is the head, is perhaps one of the most important that has been held for years. The great personal influence, the brilliant talents, and the thorough independence of Mr. Bright have long made him a shining mark'' for the shafts of satire and the weapons of calumny; but the address which his workpeople have presented to him ought for ever to give denial to those slanders. I say ought," but I do not believe it will do so. Even already there have been leading articles and corres. pondence directed against him in reference to this very meeting, and there is little doubt that slander will outlive its disproof. Bnt wherever slander is repeated, this meeting will afford an unanswerable argument to it. Meanwhile there are two things which strike me. First, the address is evidently a genuine production; it reads as if written by com- paratively uneducated men, and in this respeot it is all the more valuable. The second thing is, why has this address been so long delayed ? The production of Buch a document years ago would have saved a great deal of vituperation and heart-burning. But better late than never.

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