Joseph Arch (10 November 1826 – 12 February 1919) was an English politician who played a key role in organizing and unionizing agricultural workers.
The Story of his Life Told by Himself (1898)
- Those who ruled in high places, and had the making of the laws in their hands, were chiefly rich landowners and successful traders, and instead of trying to raise the people, create a higher standard of comfort and well-being, and better their general condition, they did their best or worst to keep them in a state of poverty and serfdom, of dependence and wretchedness.
- p. 11
- Those who owned and held the land believed, and acted up to their belief as far as they were able, that the land belonged to the rich man only, that the poor man had no part nor lot in it, and had no sort of claim on society.
- p. 11
- When a labourer could no longer work, he had lost the right to live. Work was all they [the landowners] wanted from him; he was to work and hold his tongue, year in and year out, early and late, and if he could not work, why, what was the use of him? It was what he was made for, to labour and toil for his betters, without complaint, on a starvation wage. When no more work could be squeezed out of him, he was no better than a cumberer of other folk's ground, and the proper place for such as he was the churchyard, where he would be sure to lie quiet under a few feet of earth, and want neither food nor wages any more.
- p. 11
- With bowed head and bended knee the poor learned to receive from the rich what was only their due, had they but known it. Years of poverty had ground the spirit of independence right out of them; these wives and mothers were tamed by poverty, they were cowed by it, as their parents had been before them in many cases, and the spirit of servitude was bred in their very bones. And the worst of it was the mischief did not stop at the women—it never does. They set an example of spiritless submission, which their children were only too inclined to follow. Follow it too many of them did, and they and their children are reaping the consequences and paying the price of it today.
- p. 18
- "Much knowledge of the right sort is a dangerous thing for the poor," might have been the motto put up over the door of the village school in my day. The less book-learning the labourer's lad got stuffed into him, the better for him and the safer for those above him, was what those in authority believed and acted up to. I daresay they made themselves think somehow or other—perhaps by not thinking—that they were doing their duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call them, when they tried to numb his brain, as a preliminary to stunting his body later on, as stunt it they did, by forcing him to work like a beast of burden for a pittance.
- p. 25
- These gentry did not want him [the labourer's lad] to know; they did not want him to think; they only wanted him to work. To toil with the hand was what he was born into the world for, and they took precious good care to see that he did it from his youth upwards.
- p. 25
- The labourer's lad ... might learn his catechism; that, and things similar to it, was the right, proper, and suitable knowledge for such as he; he would be the more likely to stay contentedly in his place to the end of his working days.
- p. 25
- I had been journeying to and fro on the face of a fine broad bit of English earth, seeking what wages I could earn, what work I could get, and what facts I could devour. I found, I got, I devoured, every morsel which came in my way. I read, marked, learned and inwardly digested, as the prayer book says somewhere, all I could lay my hands or ears or eyes on. At the same time I was taking in a supply of facts which would not be digested—tough facts about the land and the labourer, that accumulated and lay within my mind, heavy as a lump of lead, and hard as a stone. No matter what I did, whether I was working with my hands or my head, that mass of indigestible facts was always in the background, worrying and bothering me. I got no peace; it worried and bothered me more and more as each year went by.
- pp. 42-43
- I flung Churchgoing over early in life, from religious conviction. I did not believe in Church doctrine, as preached by the parson. I did not believe either in ordering myself "lowly and reverently to all my betters," because they were never able to tell me who my betters were. Those they called my betters I did not think my betters in any respect.
- p. 48
- Yes, my religious views are strong ones; but I don't want to talk much about them, for I hold that a man's religion should be more in his life than on his lips.
- p. 48
- This great squire—he was a very rich, influential man—sent for me to go down to his house when my work was over, in order to canvass me. I went down, and after some talk he said to me, "Do your Liberals find you employment?" "What has that to do with my vote?" I said. "I sell you my labour, but not my conscience ; that's not for sale."
- p. 58
- The trodden worms, which had so long writhed under the iron heel of the oppressor, were turning at last. The smouldering fire of discontent was shooting out tongues of flame here and there. The sore stricken, who had brooded in sullen anger over their wrongs, were rising to strike in their turn.
- p. 62