SKETCH OF THE LATE MR. A. T. STEWART.
IN course of the week following that in which the emigrants landed, nearly all the men and boys had got into work at wages varying from a dollar to a dollar and a-half the day. Some hands were employed in factories at still higher wages, and all the unmarried women were placed in situations on terms far exceeding the highest they ever expected to obtain. It was, indeed, very gratifying to read the letters that arrived from those people during the autumn, each seeming to vie with the other in grateful acknowledgments of their change of position compared with that in which they had been placed in the old country.
Throughout the months of August and September, the amount of relief was much farther reduced, but there were still many families in need of assistance, and this especially in consequence of ill-health and bodily weakness. The terrible privations which had been endured in the early part of the year began to tell on the more delicately constituted operatives, and many of these people required the aid of the Committee as they had done some months before. In the country districts, much distress existed ; for, although the demand for weaving was improved, the rate of wages had fallen so low that the best hands at the loom could not earn above eight shillings a-week. The supplies so amply sent by Mr. Stewart had, therefore, arrived in good time ; and hundreds of households were rendered comparatively happy by the gifts of provisions and grain food. Upwards of one thousand families received rations of the bacon ; and from the proceeds of the sale of a proportion of the Indian corn, flannel shirts, linen shirts, and sheets were purchased, and given to the people in town and country. Immense good was effected by this additional supply of clothing; for, even with all that had been given away in Spring, there were vast numbers of people who would have suffered terribly during the severe winter, had it not been for that further distribution of under-clothing.
The Address for presentation to Mr. A. T. Stewart having been illuminated in the highest style of art-by the Messrs. Ward & Co., the book in which it had been made up was examined in Committee, signed by the Chairman, and an order given the Secretary to have it carefully packed and sent off to its destination. It was further ordered that a letter be written Mr. Stewart, advising him that the box containing the Address had been forwarded to New York. The following is a copy of the communication sent that gentleman:—
"Cotton Operatives' Relief Fund,
Lisburn, Sept. 18, 1863.
" MY DEAR SIR, -.Our Committee has desired me to send you, by the steamer that leaves Liverpool on Saturday for New York, a small box, containing our Address of thanks, and acknowledgment for your princely contribution to the Relief Fund. The artistic decorations which have been so profusely introduced by the Messrs. Ward, of Belfast, in bringing out the work, were greatly admired by those who were permitted to glance over them, and I would hope will be regarded by you as favourable specimens of that beautiful art which those gentlemen have brought to such perfection. Apart, however. from its pictorial illustrations, the Address itself is only a small token of the high estimate at which our Committee, and, I may add, all ranks of people in this part of Ulster, regard the greatness of your benevolence. We feel assured, however, that you will l0ok upon this little souvenir as an evidence that the tie which binds you to Ireland has never been broken. And we trust that, by their grateful recollection of what has been done for them, the poor people whom your generosity enabled us to send out to New York, will so conduct themselves in the Land 0f Hope, as still further to cement the bond of amity between the Old World and the New.
" I can assure you, Sir, that it is to me a pleasure of no ordinary description to be the medium by which this Address is sent to you. Moralists may say as they will, but really the possession of this world's wealth is a great power for good, and especially when Fortune's gifts are enjoyed by one disposed to share those blessings with the people that most require them.
" Very respectfully yours,
" HUGH M'CALL.
" A. T. Stewart. Esq.,
Very interesting letters came to hand from the emigrants by the Old
Hickory, during the month of September. Many of the people seemed to rejoice
in their new homes as if they had, at length, found themselves in the
"promised land." Those of the emigrants that got engagements with farmers
were quite delighted to be once again in the fields ; and although these
were not so green as the meadows of their own Isle, the transition from
poverty to plenty gave them new life, as if the days of boyhood had come
back to them. Among a large class of political economists an idea prevails
that men brought up in manufacturing industry are unfit for any work, save
that of plying the shuttle, or attending to the spindles of a flax or cotton
mill, but all such opinions are most erroneous. During the great scarcity of
employment which followed the commercial disasters of 1826, a number of the
weavers of Paisley got free passages to Canada, as well as Government grants
of land there. Those men when at home hardly knew the difference between a
stot and a dairy cow, but they soon learned lessons in agriculture, and
ultimately became most successful farmers. It has been found that not
one-tenth of the operatives sent out by the Lisburn Relief Committee were
employed at the loom in their American homes. A great number of the more
active and intelligent got employment in warehouses, some were engaged as
light porters, and others found work in the service of livery stable
keepers. One lad, who had never before ridden a horse, was hired at high
wages as groom to a city merchant. Thus it happened that many were engaged
in departments of industry of which they had little knowledge, but soon
adapted themselves to the change, and did the duty satisfactorily.
The Mary Edson was a slow vessel, but, like the Dutch galliots, very safe. She arrived out in September, and landed her living freight at New York in good health, full of joyful anticipations respecting the future ; and as not a single death had occurred during the voyage, that fact was looked upon as a happy omen by every passenger in the ship.
Mr. Stewart had made every preparation for the comfort of the passengers on their arrival in New York. Lodgings were engaged for some time previous to the vessel's reaching port, and until employment was had for the adults every emigrant was supported by Mr. Stewart. The following letter from that gentleman will be read with interest :—
" New York, Nov. 17, 1863.
" DEAR MR M'CALL,:- I laid past your note of 18th September, that I might reply to it when every matter connected with the Mary Edson had been settled, and in order that, after a full survey of what had taken place, I might give you the result. Such is now the situation. All those who came out by the Mary Edson have been placed. They have now the opportunity in which this country affords beyond all others—notwithstanding that we are in war—of earning a livelihood, and ultimately reaching a position of comfort and independence. The passenger about whom you wrote me is establishment and doing well.
" Captain Nickerson, Who received gratifying attention from you, closed up the affairs of the vessel in the same satisfactory manner in which he had performed every duty from the time of leaving to his return to this port. I feel greatly obliged to you for your civilities to him, and am pleased that he has, throughout, shown himself so well entitled to your kindness and my confidence.
"And now, with respect to the token of approbation and regard which you were deputed by the Lisburn Relief Committee to send me, allow me to say, I have been so long absent from the land of my nativity, have acquaintances there, that I had supposed it scarcely possible I could be so much gratified with the honours I have received. But the kindness which has been so warmly and generally shown me by yourself and your friends since the Mary Edson started on her mission, the very pleasing demonstrations of regard which public bodies of Belfast and the Press have showered upon me for the humble act of relief to the sufferers around my early home, have more than rewarded me. And, above all, the beautiful tribute of esteem contained in illuminated address, which I shall ever prize as the most precious possession, these accumulated evidences of approval and regard have aroused in me the earnest feelings which belonged to my youth, and I most sincerely thank you all for giving me this new happiness.
" Expressing my sincere respect to you, and requesting you will present my kindest wishes t0 your associates of the Relief Committee,
" Believe me, dear Mr. M`Call,
" ALEX. T. STEWART.
" Hugh M'Call, Esq."
The winter of 1863-64 turned out rather a severe one, and .although employment was more general, many of the weavers and their families suffered much from want of warm clothing. A portion of the funds which still remained of the ample gift sent over by the Broadway merchant was consequently expended in the purchase of woollen shirts for the weavers and flannel petticoats for their wives. These were distributed very liberally in town and country ; and many of the recipients afterwards stated that the use of the warm inner clothing they had received had proved of greater benefit to them than any other form of gift by which they might have been favoured. The situation of weavers' shops is frequently very low, damp, and ill-ventilated ; hence it had usually been that where there was natural delicacy of constitution among that class of workpeople, consumption prevailed, but that winter passed off with less than ordinary mortality in their ranks. The demand on the Treasurer of Committee had continued pretty large during the early part of the inclement season, and at the commencement of the new year-1864—only a few hundred pounds remained in that gentleman's hands. Early in the month of January, however, the following letter, with its handsome enclosure, came to hand from Mr. Robert Hart, Collector of Customs at Hong Kong :-
" Shanghai, Oct. 18, 1863,
" MY DEAR SIR,—Having read your letters in the Times in reference to the cotton weavers and their great destitution, I take the liberty of handing you one hundred pounds as a subscription towards your fund. This sum to be applied in whatever way you see fit for the relief of the unemployed operatives in Lisburn and its vicinity.
" Yours faithfully,
" ROBERT HART.
" Hugh M 'Call, Esq."
On the announcement of this handsome contribution, the Committee ordered a minute to be taken of Mr. R. Hart's letter, and also requested the Secretary to write that gentleman a note of thanks for his donation. The following is a copy of the letter posted to Mr. Hart :—
" Lisburn, Jan. 1 2, 1864.
" My DEAR SIR,—Many thanks for your liberal donation of one hundred pounds in aid of the unemployed weavers. The Committee have still on hand a pretty large sum, which forms the balance of the Stewart fund, and when that amount shall have been distributed your gift will come in to keep up the good work for some further time. I would hope, however, that now the worst of the season of distress has passed, there will not be any necessity to give out the balance in hand. In common with many of my friends here, I have long felt proud of your success in the land of the Celestials, and still prouder of you as a countryman. There was more than ordinary kindness in this act of yours—this recollection of the poor people of the neighbourhood of your early home, even when you were so far away from the scene of poverty. And now, hoping you may long enjoy the honors you have so nobly won, and long continue t0 exercise the benevolent disposition which usually accompanies the possession of intellectual power,
" Believe me, very truly yours,
" Robert Hart, Esq.,
Comptroller of Customs,
Manufacturing industry had once again risen into activity in the summer of 1864. The linen trade rose at a bound, and the demand for cotton weaving became no less stirring. As there were then about three hundred pounds in the hands of the Treasurer, it was suggested that the balance might be expended in the erection of a memorial lodging-house, in which the wives of cotton operatives would get free residence, and which, at the same time, would tell future generations what had been done in the interests of benevolence during the distress arising from the cotton famine.
Many discussions were held on the subject, and at the desire of some members of Committee, the Secretary wrote Mr. A. T. Stewart and Mr. Robert Hart, requesting those gentlemen should say whether they would approve of such a mode of investing the amount in hand. The balance, it should be stated, consisted of the final remnant of Mr. Stewart's gift, and the sum sent from China by Mr. R. Hart.
In due course, replies were received from those gentlemen, and each of them expressed himself pleased with the proposed plan. Some members of the Relief Committee took different views. It was feared that in case the houses were built much difficulty might arise in getting them managed, and that few persons could be had who would act as Trustees. Still, the practical value of the proposition found much favour in the eyes of others, and the subject was frequently brought forward.
About the close of March, 1865, news came to hand of the death of Mr.
Thomas Richardson, of Philadelphia. Immediately afterwards a meeting of the
Committee was held for the purpose of expressing their regret at the demise
of a gentleman who had been so efficient in collecting funds in his city.
The following report of the meeting appeared in the Belfast papers :-
" THE LATE THOMAS RICHARDSON, ESQ.
"An extraordinary meeting of the local members of the Central Committee was held in the Old News-Room, Lisburn, on Saturday morning last, at half-past eleven o'clock. Mr. J. J. RICHARDSON, J.P., President of the Committee, took the chair. The other members present were :—Captain Bolton, R.N. ; Dr. Musgrave, Rev. Edward Kelly, P.P. ; Dr. Campbell ; Messrs. John Millar, Hugh M'Call, and David Carlisle.
" The SECRETARY said that immediately on the announcement respecting the death of Mr. Thomas Richardson, of Philadelphia, having been heard in Lisburn, he considered that a meeting of the local committee should be called for the purpose of expressing their feeling of sorrow at that mournful event ; and also to place on their minutes some record that would describe the grateful sense they entertained of the exertions which the late respected gentleman had made in collecting funds for their institution. Acting on that feeling, he had summoned every member of the local committee.
" Captain BOLTON said he understood that the Philadelphia house, of which the late Mr. Thomas Richardson was the head, had been remarkably energetic in enlisting the friendly sympathy of the leading merchants of that city in favour of the poor weavers, and that by the kindly interest thus taken in the alleviation of the distress in Lisburn and its neighbourhood, a large accession had been made to the funds of the Relief Society. He (Capt. Bolton) felt gratified to think that, so far as the Committee was concerned, the generous attentions of a gentleman who had shown Such interest in the sufferings of a portion of the people of his native town were not likely to be forgotten.
" The Rev. EDWARD KELLY, P.P., concurred in all that had been said relative to the late Mr. Richardson ; and in thus noticing the Christian kindness of that gentleman, the Committee, he was certain, would have the sympathy of all those other contributors who, in the time of suffering and distress, so liberally came forward to add their gifts to the general fund. In a distant land, some three thousand miles from the place of his birth, he had recollected the home of his boyhood ; and when he learned that aid was required to keep the helpless from want, he worked with a will among his fellow citizens of Philadelphia to collect money for the old land at home. He (Mr. Kelly) would, therefore, suggest that a letter of condolence should be sent to their late friend's widow, and probably some gentleman present would draw up a resolution to that effect.
" Mr. MILLAR, after some preliminary remarks, alluded to the part Mr. Thomas Richardson had taken in the case of the emigrants who had been sent to Philadelphia in the barque Old Hickory. He said it would be remembered by those present that in May, 1863, upwards of 250 persons, consisting of cotton operatives and their families, had been sent to America. Previous to the arrival out of that ship, arrangements had been made for the reception by Mr. Richardson and other gentlemen of Philadelphia when the emigrants landed. Lodgings were procured, food was prepared, and, for such of the people as required it, clothing was also made up for them, After the people had rested themselves long enough to get over the effects of the voyage, situations were sought out for them, and those who wished to go further into the State were supplied with means to pay their way. In all that good work the late Mr. Richardson, Mr. James (another member of the house), and Mr. Thomas O'Neill (a respected merchant of the city and a native of Lisburn), were engaged for several days. He (Mr. Millar) then referred to the noble response which had been made to their appeal for aid, and the large sums which were transmitted to them from England and Scotland, as well as the still larger contributions from America. The late Mr. T. Richardson, he said, had been one of their most active auxiliaries ; indeed, every member of his family had been very zealous in co-operating with them ; and another local firm—that of Messrs. Barbour & Sons—was no less munificent in its contributions. In looking back at the wonderful extent of liberality shown towards the sufferers of that trying period, he could only say that the total sum raised was remarkably large; and he hoped that the open-handed benevolence of those who so generously supplied them with funds would never cease to be remembered.
" Dr. CAMPBELL said he had listened with great pleasure to what was said on the subject by those who preceded him. The late Mr. Thomas Richardson was born and brought up in Lisburn; and in their case, as well as in many others where his assistance had been sought, he carried with him to a distant land the true feelings of a Christian patriot. Immediately after having been apprised of the calamity that had fallen on the cotton weavers, he had joined in collecting funds with other Lisburn gentlemen then engaged in business in Philadelphia, and, through his own personal exertions, had added largely to their means of aiding distress. He (Dr. Campbell) would, therefore, read to those present a resolution he had prepared, and which he hoped would meet their approval :— ' That the Relief Committee of Lisburn and its neighbourhood having heard of the death of Thomas Richardson, Esq., of Philadelphia—a gentleman who, by his liberal contributions, as well as by his influence and energy in collecting funds from others, had so effectually aided their exertions to alleviate the distress of the cotton weavers—do now place on record their great regret at his decease, and they also beg to express their sincere sympathy with his widow and family in their great bereavement!
" Dr. MUSGRAVE, on rising to Second the resolution proposed by his friend Dr. Campbell, could only say that he coincided very fully with the opinions that had been expressed as to the regret they all felt at hearing of the death of a gentleman whom, as a former townsman, they held in great respect, and to whose very able assistance they owed grateful acknowledgment.
" Captain BOLTON, R.N., then proposed, and Mr. MILLAR seconded, the following resolution, which was passed nem. con.:-' That a letter be written by the Secretary, in accordance with the motion just passed, and enclosing a copy of it, which letter and resolution, after having been signed by the Chairman, should be forwarded to Mrs., Richardson.' "
Under the arrangements made at that meeting, the Secretary wrote to Mrs. Richardson by the next American mail, giving that lady a condensed account of the proceedings that took place, and the sentiments that had been expressed by the different speakers. The Secretary also sent Mrs. Richardson copies of the Belfast papers in which had appeared reports of the meeting.
In the early months of 1865, some recurrence of partial distress was said to exist, but nothing beyond that which had been experienced in other seasons. Some members of the Relief Committee were, however, especially ready to listen to the first cry of real o0r artificial poverty, and when the clamorous and the improvident—always the first to call for aid—appealed to them, a raid was at once made on the balance of money (about £470) which still remained of the General and the Stewart Funds. We hear often of men who, to prevent cash from burning holes in their pockets, guarded against such a casualty by spending it freely; but in the case to which we refer it seemed as though the amount remaining in the Treasurer's hands was burning holes in the pockets of certain Committee-men. It had been stated that some degree of poverty prevailed in the Spring of 1865, and on the 25th of March the Secretary received a requisition, signed by J. N. Richardson, Joshua Lamb, Joseph Richardson, and John Bradbury, requesting him to call a meeting of Committee for the purpose of considering a proposal " to grant a further portion of the balance of funds on hand for the relief of people in want."
A meeting was, therefore, called, and a pretty large number attended it. The Rev. W. D. BOUNDEN occupied the chair.
Mr. J. N. RICHARDSON said that, as one of the persons who had signed the requisition for convening the meeting, he had to state that a good deal of distress existed in his neighbourhood, and several families were suffering privation. He had himself assisted as far as he could those who were in want ; but much more should be done, and he regretted that the Committee had not taken the matter up sooner. It was not creditable that such distress should exist while a large sum remained in the hands of the Treasurer.
Mr. MILLAR, in reply to one portion of Mr. Richardson's remarks, begged
to say that neither himself nor any other of his friends had heard of any
special case of distress in town. He understood from Mr. D. Carlisle and Mr.
J. Sloan that weavers had full work, and although wages were not large,
those people did not require any outside assistance. He might add, too, that
the funds collected were contributed for cotton operatives.
Mr. JOSEPH SHAW, Half-Town, said he was well acquainted with the people in his neighbourhood—indeed, there did not exist a cottage within a two-mile circle of his house the inmates of which he did not know ; but he thought it would not be prudent again to commence giving out relief. Except where real want was found, his opinion quite opposed the system of indiscriminate charity.
Mr. JOHN BRADBURY was of the Same opinion as that expressed by Mr. Shaw. Since he signed the requisition calling that meeting, he had made particular inquiries, and he could say that in the Maze district the weavers were pretty well off; and as to the farm labourers, he himself had difficulty in procuring hands for outdoor work. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J. D. BARBOUR, J.P., said his firm found it no easy matter to find the number of people required at certain portions of their works. And, now that great demand had set in for men in the corn and potato lands, and that higher wages were being paid for farm work, he feared that mill-owners and manufacturers would find it still more difficult to get hands. He did not think it would be advisable to grant any relief at that time, and counselled the holding over their funds, as it might be that real distress would come when they least expected it.
The Rev. ROBERT LINDSAY stated that, in his idea, and so far as the condition of the poorer classes in town was concerned, he did not See any necessity for the relief that had been sought for.
Mr. MICHAEL ANDREWS, Glenone, said he had much knowledge of the condition of the working ranks in a wide district of country round Ballymacash, and he could testify that there was not a single case that required the aid of the Relief Committee.
The Rev. SAMUEL NICHOLSON disagreed with most of the speakers. If those who refused to believe in the existence of poverty would only search for it they would find plenty of it in town. It was not fair that the Treasurer should hold so much of the funds of the Society in his hands when so many poor people were badly off. He would propose that fifty or sixty pounds should be handed over for distribution. Many people had not seed potatoes for their gardens, and he thought that a sum should be expended in buying seed for them.
The SECRETARY protested against the attempts which were being made to fritter away the funds that had been collected with considerable trouble and anxiety. If those members who were so exceedingly prodigal of money which had been placed in their hands for a specific purpose could form any idea of the time and anxious labour that had been devoted to the work, they would pause before rushing to the Treasurer on every trifling occasion that turned up, and calling out for the Squandering away of the funds every time a shower of snow fell around them.
Mr. MILLAR was utterly opposed to the arguments put forth by Mr. Nicholson. No doubt, many of the people to whom that gentleman referred would be well pleased if the Committee undertook to plant potatoes and sow small seeds in their gardens ; but were such a work undertaken all the cash in hands would soon be squandered for very little purpose.
The Rev. MAURICE M'KAY, Broomhedge, did not see any reason for relief in his part of the country ; but as Mr. Richardson had stated that assistance was required in the district around Lissue, the native place of Mr. A. T. Stewart, to whose munificence they were so much indebted, he would move that ten pounds be given to that gentleman, and an equal sum to Mr. Lamb, for distribution. After much discussion, the proposition was carried, but many members dissented from it.