ALL this time rations of food and proportions of fuel were being distributed to the families of the cotton operatives, weavers, embroiderers, and tambourers. Members of the Ladies' Committee visited the homes of those people, and where it was found requisite such articles of inner clothing as were needed were given to each family. Sheets and blankets, as well as frocks for girls and children, were made up and distributed.
The Glenmore bleaching concern gave regular employment to about five hundred hands, and it was an exceedingly interesting trait in the character of those workpeople to find them shewing the best sympathy towards the cotton operatives in the form of a contribution of £14 19s. A similar movement was made by the people engaged at the Hilden Flax and Thread Works, who collected £19; the Island Mill people sent in £12 15s. ; those of Whitehouse Mill—Messrs. Bell & Calvert's—forwarded £7 1 1s. ; the employees of Messrs. Black & Wingate, of Glasgow, contributed £5 ; and the people of Messrs. Richardson, Spence & Co., of Liverpool, gave £2 6s. to the Lisburn Relief Fund. All this benevolence on the part of people, many of whom had little to spare, was further evidence of how much good there is in human nature, after all we hear to the contrary.
At the meeting of the Committee held on Tuesday, March 10th, the letter of Mr. Walter Magee, of New York, announcing the successful collection of funds in that city, and also letters from Mr. James, of the firm of Mr. Thomas Richardson & Co., Philadelphia, and Mr, Thomas O'Neill, of the same city, told the Secretary that large subscriptions had been raised there. Votes of thanks were passed to those gentlemen, and it was ordered that by the next American mail letters should be written to each of them, as well in acknowledgment of his successful exertions, as to thank him heartily for his kindly recognition of the necessity of immediate action in the case.
In course of the meeting, the Rev. S. NICHOLSON said "he had received a letter from a brother Wesleyan, Rev. Mr. Livingstone, then of Halifax, Yorkshire. This reverend gentleman was a native of Lisburn, and having read of the distress existing among one class of the people, he purchased a lot of blankets and sent them over as his contribution to the Relief Fund, hoping the gift would be useful to the sufferers of his own town."
Mr. CARLILE expressed himself much gratified at the statement just made by Mr. Nicholson. The Rev. Mr. Livingstone was a minister of great ability, and, as such, an honour to Lisburn. He would propose that a letter of thanks be written to that reverend gentleman.
Mr. J. N. RICHARDSON inquired whether any reply had been sent Mr. James, of Liverpool ; and if so, whether he could see a copy of the letter.
The SECRETARY said he had sent by the early post the following communication :—
" Lisburn, March 10, 1863.
"DEAR SIR,—In acknowledging the receipt of the last shipment of bread-stuffs, which makes a total of 700 barrels of flour, and 167 bags of Indian corn, your Committee has been good enough to send us out of the very liberal benefice that certain citizens of the Northern States of America have displayed towards our distressed people, our Committee return you their warmest thanks.
" It must be a source of high gratification to all classes of persons in this neighbourhood, and more especially those who have interested themselves in our system of relief, to know that so many kind friends had come forward to help them. And wonderful, indeed, is the fact, that at a time of unequalled dulness in the cotton trade, America, forgetting, as it were, her own internal sorrows, and looking with sympathy at the sufferers across the broad Atlantic, sends her queenly gifts of food to Lancashire and Lisburn.
" Ireland can never forget with what a liberal hand the citizens of the United States assisted her in 1S47, a time of poverty and pestilence never previously equalled even in her annals. From a variety of causes, however, the present serious distress in this part of Ulster is in some instances as severe as it was at the time of that famine. Your gifts to our Committee have, therefore, been valuable in proportion to the generosity that bestowed them. In looking over all these incidents of kindly feeling, we can only hope that the noble spirit of benevolence which the open-handed citizens of America have displayed in this and other instances, will have the effect of creating still stronger bonds of relationship between the Western Republic and the old country.
" And new, Sir, let us again thank you for all y0ur kindness, and wishing you, and every other member of y0ur Committee, health, happiness, and long days of future usefulness,
" We remain respectfully yours,
"Signed on behalf of the Committee of the Lisburn Relief Fund,
" HUGH M`CALL, Secretary.
" Daniel James, Esq "
At the meeting of Sub-Committee, held on Saturday, the 14th of March, Dr. Campbell in the chair, it was proposed, after the routine business had been gone through, that the Secretary should write to Admiral Seymour, to solicit his aid, and that evening the following letter was written :—
" Cotton Operatives' Relief Fund,
Lisburn, March 14, 1863.
"SIR,—May I beg to call your attention to the distress now existing in
the ranks of the cotton operatives in this part of the c0untry. Since the
commencement of the war in America, the condition of the people has been
gradually becoming more distressing. Several hundreds of them are without
work, and all means of support, and even those who have weaving to d0 can't
earn m0re than a mere pittance, far under the lowest cost of purchasing food
for themselves and families. As the great proportion of these people were
reared on the Hertford estate, the Committee of Relief Fund respectfully
place these facts before you ; and, knowing the connection that exists
between your family and the property of which Lisburn is the capital, they
beg to solicit your favour in support of the destitute.
" I have the honour to be, yours faithfully,
"Admiral Sir George Seymour,
The gallant Admiral was at that time looked upon as heir-apparent to the title and estates Lord Hertford, and consequently the Committee felt that Lisburn had some claim on his generosity ; nor were they disappointed. In bright contrast with the selfish indifference of the Noble Marquis, when appealed to for assistance, is the sturdy old seaman's reply to the Committee's appeal. We here annex a copy of the Admiral's letter :-
"Admiral Sir George Seymour presents his compliments to Mr. M'Call ; and in acknowledging his letter of the 16th instant, which has only this day reached him from the Admiralty, he encloses a bank order for ten pounds towards the relief of the existing destitution in Lisburn and its neighbourhood, of the extent of which he has heard with great regret,
"15, Eaton Square, London,
March 17, 1863."
On the 21st of March, Mr. Frederick Baines, of the Leeds Mercury, wrote the Secretary, requesting to have some information 0n certain points connected with the condition of the cotton weavers. He said it was probable his friends in that quarter would give the Lisburn Committee the means of extending their good work. A letter was accordingly written that gentleman, giving such facts as would best tell the story respecting the state of affairs then existing among the cotton weavers of all ranks in and around Lisburn. The following is Mr. Baines' reply :—
" Leeds, April 2, 1863.
"MY DEAR SIR,-I had this day the pleasure of joining in a vote for presenting a sum of money for the relief of the distress in your neighbourhood, and I believe Mr. Millar, Treasurer of the Lisburn Committee, will shortly hear on the subject from our Mayor. The information contained in your communication to me was just what was wanted. I am greatly obliged to you for sending it so fully and with such promptitude.
" Faithfully yours,
" F. BAINES.
" Hugh M `Call, Esq."
At a very early stage of the Committee's labours it was determined that the area of relief should be divided into districts. That course was found necessary in order to guard against imposition, and it continued to be the rule in all future proceedings.
Sixteen districts were parcelled out, and for each a Sub-Committee was appointed with a paid inspector; and as the boundaries of each area had been specially defined by the Treasurer, the mode of distribution gradually assumed a direct system that worked harmoniously for all interests. The following order was issued for the guidance of officers in the country :—" Sub-Committees are expected to meet once a-week, to arrange the amount of relief to be given to each family. The Inspector of the District is to visit the houses of the weavers and unemployed labourers, and to give in his report to the Committee, who are to decide as to the persons to get rations, and to note the particulars of each case relieved on the blocks of the printed tickets. Relief in all cases to be granted according to the rules posted in the ticket-book."
For so far in the Spring season not the least improvement could be reported in any department of the cotton trade. Destitution had been warded off, but the poverty of the people continued intense. In the hope of obtaining even partially free transit to Australia for a certain number of emigrants, the Secretary had written to Mr. J. H. Knight, of Kensington London, and also to Mr. A. C. Buchanan, as to Canadian passages, but in neither case did he receive a satisfactory reply. The different sub-committees in the country districts were then distributing fully as much of both clothing and food as they had given in the early part of February. On the loth of April, the Chairman of Committee received the following letter from the Mayor of Leeds :-
"Town Hall, Leeds, April 9, 1863.
"J. J. Richardson, Esq.
"DEAR SIR,—The Committee having had represented to them the destitution now existing in Lisburn and its neighbourhood, have voted to you two hundred p0unds, which I have the pleasure to enclose, for your poor operatives. Please acknowledge receipt, and oblige
" Yours, very truly,"
J. O. MARCH.
" Cotton Relief Fund, Lisburn."
This communication was read by Mr. RICHARDSON at the next meeting of Committee, and when the ordinary business of that day had been concluded,
Mr. BARBOUR, J.P., of Hilden, after referring to the generosity displayed towards the suffering weavers by the benevolent of nearly every country, proposed —
"That Mr. March, the worthy Mayor of Leeds, Mr. Baines, and all other gentlemen who had been concerned in handing over to the Sub-Committee the munificent gift of two hundred pounds, should be written to in terms of grateful acknowledgment for their handsome donation."
It was then ordered that, in accordance with the proposition of Mr. Barbour, the Secretary should write letters to the Leeds authorities, conveying the thanks of the Committee.
Mr. J. N. RICHARDSON begged to say that as they had not been able to prevail on the Government to aid them in their emigration scheme, he had written Mr. A. T. Stewart on the subject, and he felt assured he would get a favourable reply.
A third communication was about this time addressed to the Editor of the
Times, and in course of that letter the Secretary gave further details
relative to the condition of the people and the liberal assistance
contributed to the Relief Fund. The letter appeared in that paper in due
course. Some passages are here given from it :—
" The publication in your paper of my former letters has had the effect of creating for the distressed cotton operatives of this district of the North of Ireland, an amount of sympathy of which our Committee could not have formed the most distant idea. Several private subscriptions have since then been sent us from Hamburg, and many benevolent merchants in the United States of America have also liberally contributed towards the fund. Nearer home, the good spirit of charity has been actively at work. England, that never passes by on the other side' when the wail of distress is heard in this country, has not forgotten her wonted munificence towards our people. Many of the kind-hearted in that land of almost boundless wealth and unlimited benevolence, who had only known Lisburn by name, and, until very recent date, had no idea of its being the seat of Ulster's hand-loom cotton manufacture, have been among the first to send their gifts to our treasury. One good Samaritan, Mr. Chance, the generous philanthropist of Birmingham, contributed 0 in the first instance, and afterwards sent over a large parcel of religious tracts for distribution among the poor people. In my experience of the world I have found a great number of worthy and exemplary Christians who were profuse in their gifts of tracts, and exceedingly chary of their cash; but the gentleman to whom I allude adopted the more effective system of practical philanthropy by sending the money first and the tracts afterwards. To those merchants of Liverpool who have interested themselves so much on behalf of the cotton operatives here and elsewhere, the people around us owe a debt of gratitude, which, I hope, will never be forgotten. Indeed, every Irishman whose heart is in the right place—every man who can appreciate open-handed benevolence, no matter from what quarter it comes—must feel that in this case our fellow-subjects on both sides the Tweed have displayed remarkable liberality towards us, and this, too, at a time when the cry of distress at their own doors was intense beyond anything ever previously known in Britain's industrial history. You are aware, Sir, that a number of noble-hearted men in New York and Philadelphia, in addition to the gifts of money contributed to Lancashire, recently loaded three vessels with different varieties of food, and sent them to Liverpool—the flour, Indian corn, and provisions which formed their cargoes, to be distributed among the sufferers by the cotton famine. Under the auspices of a leading mercantile house in Liverpool, the Committee of the Lisburn Cotton Operatives' Relief Fund applied to Mr. Daniel James, Chairman of the Liverpool Committee of the International Relief Committee, for a portion of the cargo of the good ship George Griswold, and after some correspondence on the subject, in which were given full statements of the great extent of country over which our relief districts ran, we had the gratification to learn that 700 barrels of flour had been allocated to our Committee. Besides that munificent gift, our friends in Liverpool sent over last week 167 bags of Indian corn, with a request that one portion of the lot should be handed over for distribution to the Rev. Mr. Roe, of Ballymacarrett, and who has taken great interest in the cotton weavers of his district ; and an equal quantity of the corn was sent to the Committee of the distressed operatives in Newtownards ; and the remainder kept for the use of the poor people in and around Lisburn. All this amplitude of liberality, as exhibited by the good and generous men in different parts of the world towards the victims of the American war in this country, adds one more proof in favour of the catholic sentiment, that, after all we hear to the contrary, there is far more good in human nature than those who whine about man's depravity would lead us to believe. It shews us that, let national jealousies act as they may on the surface of society—let the people of different climes and countries war as they will on matters of political antagonism—there is still to be found in the deeper strata of human feeling a noble spirit of generosity, which, under every variety of circumstance, never fails to respond to the call of want and wretchedness. It may be asked, what have we been doing with the funds so largely poured in on us for the aid of our suffering neighbours. In reply, I have to state that we have at present an aggregate of nearly 1,000 people on the inspectors' and sub-committees' books. Each family receives weekly rations of meal and coal, and in a great many cases they have been supplied with blankets. Others, again, have obtained from the Ladies' Committee various articles of clothing, the total number of persons so attended to being about six hundred. I regret to state, in reference to the condition of the great mass of the cotton operatives in this quarter, that it is not only more unsatisfactory than it was at the commencement of the year, but that, so far as can be seen into the future, there is little hope for improvement—at least for a long time to come. The Belfast manufacturers are doing very little in the way of production, and the Glasgow houses, who have agents for the giving 0ut of work here, have been gradually lessening their extent of business. One firm, which had held out pretty well through all the dull trade of last autumn, and up to the middle of the past month; has also ceased to give employment, the result of which has been to throw several hundreds of hands into the previous mass of compulsory idlers. In the rural districts many weavers are engaged at field work; but even here an evil arises because of their competing in the labour market with the ordinary class of farm operatives, thus in some degree bringing down the latter to the level of their own state. The weekly earnings even of those who are employed at the loom would not average more than about 6d. a-head for the seven days' support of each member of their families. I have before me a list, prepared by a member of our Committee, of thirty weavers, and of the whole only one realizes 7s. a-week in the gross—say, when expense of loom is deducted, a net income of 6s. a-week. But there are numbers of weavers who don't earn above 3s., and others again only 2s. 6d. a-week. Embroiderers that were able to make 5s. to 8s. at the sewing-hoop some years ago, do not at present exceed 2s. 6d., and tambourers on the average earn about 1s. 6d. for the six days' work."
This letter concluded the correspondence that appeared in the London Times.
During the proceedings connected with the distribution, and especially
when the emigration scheme was under consideration, some strange
propositions were made to the Committee by persons who seemed to know as
little about Ulster as if its geographical position had been amid the wilds
of the Far \Vest. A London gentleman wrote to inquire what was the
proportion of Roman Catholics to Protestants in the cotton districts, and
whether the former were peaceably disposed. To this correspondent the
Secretary wrote to say that " peace and good will prevailed among all sects
in Ulster quite as fully as they did between the different classes of
Protestantism in England." In his reply, that gentleman expressed himself
very much pleased to learn that people of opposite creeds lived on peaceable
terms, but seemed to feel no less astonishment than an Exeter Hall
habitue would have done, had he heard of a missionary and a South Sea
Islander walking arm-in-arm along the Strand.
About the same time, a lady who resided at Sydenham, London, wrote the Secretary to inquire about the different sects of religionists in the North of Ireland. Like many other denizens of the world that exists on the banks of the Thames, the lady referred to had entertained the wildest ideas about the social condition of the Irish, and especially as related to the feeling that existed between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. She had heard that the Lisburn Relief Committee proposed sending a number of the people then being partially supported on the public fund, to some of the colonies, and offered, on certain conditions, to give fifty pounds towards the cost of emigration. In reply, the Secretary wrote as follows :—
" Lisburn, March 23, 1863.
"MADAM,—On the part of the Relief Committee here, I beg to return you many thanks for your handsome proposal of contributing fifty pounds towards the cost of sending a number of families to some of the British colonies. You inquire what is the state of social feeling that exists between the Roman Catholic and Protestant peoples in this part of Ulster. I have great pleasure in stating that, as a general rule, the utmost good will prevails on both sides. In many parts of Ulster there are a few fire-eating clergymen connected with the Protestant Churches who occasionally forget that their mission should be one of peace, but even such ministers are being taught lessons of toleration ; and except on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and the natal day of Ireland's Patron Saint, the laity usually live in the spirit of kindly amity. National education, which, in its early days, was bitterly opposed by narrow .minded men both of the Episcopalian and Presbyterian Churches in the North of Ireland, has worked miracles in Ulster. And not the least important of these is the improved spirit of kindliness it has cultivated in the social relations of young people, so tar narrowing the confines of Church and creed. Thus the leavening principles of mixed education have brought into play much of the virtue of mutual harmony. The Roman Catholic lad who has sat at the writing desk or on the school form with the juvenile Protestant learns more than mere elementary instruction ; he finds much good fellowship exists with his neighbour, the same feeling is called forth on the other side, and thus mutual forbearance is being taught as well as lessons in arithmetic.
"Among the better educated classes here the difference of creed rarely interferes with the amenities of conventional life, At our meetings of Committee the Protestant rector and the parish priest, the Presbyterian pastor and Methodist preacher, meet together in the utmost spirit of good-will. Our Chairman is a Quaker, several of the most active members belong to the same sect, and in the distribution of relief no questions are asked respecting the private opinions of those requiring assistance.
" I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
" HUGH M'CALL.
"To Mrs. S, S.,
Post Office, Sydenham, London."
To this communication the lady replied, to say that if the Committee would permit to be inserted in the Belfast papers an advertisement, of which she sent a copy, she would pay the cost of sending a certain number of Protestants to America; but would reserve to herself the right of appointing a Scripture-reader to embark with her proteges, and look after them during the voyage. The advertisement alluded to was to the effect that "A lady who resided near London would send over to New York a dozen families of the Protestant faith. She would also appoint a Scripture-reader who would have those people under his spiritual guidance, and that applications for free passages should be made to the Lisburn Relief Committee."
This proposal, well intentioned and kind as it was, could not be entertained, for reasons which will be obvious to our local readers. A second letter was written our lady correspondent, to say that as the people about to be sent out by the Relief Committee consisted of different sects of Protestants and many Roman Catholics, it would not be advisable to send any sectarian teacher. At the same time, we fully acknowledged the very generous proposal as to the money contribution. The lady's third communication will best tell what She wished to have done in the case:—
" Sydenham, London, April 2, 1863.
"Hugh M'Call, Esq., Lisburn, Ireland.
"SIR,-I have to thank you for the clear insight which your letters, the second of which is just to hand, convey to me respecting the general habits of the Catholics of the North. With regard to the insertion of the word ' Protestant' in the advertisement which I sent you, I beg to say that my desire was rather to avoid giving offence to the Roman Catholics than to limit the benefit of emigration to Protestants But, should you consent to adopt the rest of the advertisement, you may omit the word ` Protestant.' Allow me, at the same time, to state that, in order to avoid misconception, if you succeed in carrying out your idea of sending out one hundred emigrants to one of the colonies, I will subscribe £100 towards the expense. I will, however, consider myself at liberty to deduct from that sum a year's salary for an efficient Scripture-reader, and also other means of improvement and comfort for the emigrants. I read with much interest the letter from Paris, as given in the report of proceedings published in the Northern Whig you were go0d enough to forward to me.
" I remain, Sir, yours faithfully,
At the meeting of Committee, held April 4, the Secretary read the letter of his anonymous correspondent "S. S." The emended advertisement that lady had forwarded in her last communication ran as follows:—
"The Emigration Society feel it to be a matter of primary importance that a large number of Protestant emigrants leaving the mother country should be accompanied by a well-instructed Scripture-reader, for whom, on reaching the colony, employment might be found. All the emigrants will be furnished with Bibles and other means of religious instruction, both as a means of safeguard for themselves and as a means of leavening the country of their adoption. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, and results beyond our conception may depend on the new life to be thus infused into the colony."
A lengthened discussion took place on this subject; but, all circumstances taken into account, it was unanimously agreed that, except at the risk of creating disunion among emigrants who were of different creeds, the Committee could not accept the donation. The Secretary was accordingly desired to communicate the result to his correspondent.