It is cheering news that comes from the head managers of some of the leading industries both in Canada and the United States that notwithstanding disarrangement of business on account of the war, they expect to keep open their factories as far as possible, and that married men are to have the preference in being employed. The closing down of factories in the war zone will of necessity create demand from this country to supply the waste created by war. The manufacturers have had many years of prosperity and good profits, and even if they were to keep the factories going at the bare cost, they would be the gainers in the end, for they would be in better shape when the war clouds roll by to open up with renewed force. There are thousands of men out of employment today who were not prepared for the closing of the factory doors; while, fortunately, there are thousands who laid by a trifle each pay day who are now able to pull through the hard times by strict economy. Judging from the late government report of the chartered banks in Canada, there is now close upon one thousand millions of dollars on deposit in the banks, and over $800,000,000 of that amount are the savings of the thrifty when times were good put away a portion each pay day. It is estimated by a very conservative manager of one of the local banks that there is not less than $35,000,000 on deposit in the savings banks and post office in this city, and nearly all of this are the savings of the workingmen and women who had the forethought to lay by a little as they went along for the proverbial rainy day, that comes sooner or later in every industrial city. Hamilton depends upon its factories to support the workers, and the more saving they are doing during the days of prosperity and plenty of work, the more independent the workman is when the factory door closes. The manufacturers have been reaping a large harvest during the past ten years in the history of Hamilton; they can certainly afford to use some of the profits in running their industries, even on half time, for the benefit of the workers. There is no scarcity of money in the banks, and with one hundred millions of dollars to fall back upon, the financial condition of Canada should be in a very comfortable condition.
For the fourth time in the history of Hamilton as an incorporated city has the cry of war been heard in the streets, and the recruiting officers have been calling for men to accept the King’s shilling and go forth to the field of conflict. The war of 1812 was of an earlier date, when this town was known as the Head of the Lake, and the population was so small that few, if any, saw service. Seventy—even years ago the rebellion of 1837 brought out the patriots to protect the flag from the followers of William Lyon Mackenzie, and they made short work of it. The next call for soldiers was for the One Hundredth regiment, when the recruiting sergeant, accompanied by a fifer and a drummer, beat up for recruits in the streets of Hamilton. This was war in earnest, and many a young man donned the ribbon and took the Queen’s shilling. The Fenian in 1866 was the next thriller to appeal to the patriotism of young and old men, and the Thirteenth Royal regiment saw service. There was no beating up for recruits then, as more men wanted to go than there was a demand for. The boys smelled powder and had a taste of war, just enough to whet their appetites and make them wish that the Fenians would only stand up to the work and have it out in true soldier fashion. The boys of the Thirteenth tell the story that when the bullets were whistling at Ridgeway, a sergeant was hunting for a tree behind which he could play sharpshooter, when he heard a plaintive voice yodeling :
Oh, why was I a soldier
To fight for any royal Guelph,
When I might have been a butcher
In business for myself ?
Going closer to a tree that was no larger than a sapling, he espied a member of his company hugging it very close; and indeed the young soldier was about as slim as the tree, so that it was not very inviting to the fat sergeant. The sweet singer kept on yodeling, and the sergeant was so impressed with the sentiment of the song that he carefully entered it in his diary, and so it has come down to the present day. What is remarkable about the story is that the yodeler has been successfully engaged in the butcher business ever since the cruel war was over. The next call was for the South African war, and Hamilton was heroically represented on many a battlefield in the Boer country.
And now the war cloud has grown to huge proportions in a very few days. The month of July opened as peacefully on the world as a calm summer day, when all at once a storm broke and war was declared by Germany. It began out of a little scrap between Servia and Austria, owing to the assassination of a prince of the royal blood, and at once the whole world plunged into it. It had come sooner or later, for all Europe seemed to be in a state of uneasiness owing to the preparations being made by some of the powers. It was the old story of two boys in a threatening attitude, one daring the other to knock the chip from his shoulder. War is the sport of kings and rulers, but it is death to the man who has to do the fighting in the ranks. The pity of it is the large army of widows and orphans, the wives and children of the private soldiers slain in battle, who are to be the future sufferers. Man is a fighter by nature, and when the war drums beat he wants to answer the call promptly. We had a sample of this during the past week; the old soldiers who had done service in past wars for Queen and country were the first to respond, and the first detachment to leave this city was made up entirely of men who knew what war means. ‘War is hell’ and they know it by past experience but the tap of the drum and the blare of the rumpet started the warm blood in their veins, and they were the first to respond to the call when the recruiting office was opened. ‘Brave boys are they, they rush at their country’s call and yet, and yet, we can never forget how many brave boys must fall.’ That was one of the songs of the civil war in the United States half a century ago, when this old Muser and hundreds of thousands more, were on the firing line, thinking of the loved ones at home and wondering should they ever meet again. Now and then some soldier went into battle with a presentiment that he would not come out alive, and the chances are ten to one that he never got a scratch. It is a good thing that every man thinks he is bulletproof; and while he may be standing in line waiting for the command to open fire or charge the enemy, with his heart in his mouth, yet, when the first volley is fired, he forgets the danger and stands up to duty like a man. They talk about bravery and coolness in battle. It sounds well, but it is the fighting nature of the man, when he gets warmed up to the sound of whistling bullets, that wins battles.
When the recruiting sergeant beat up for recruits in Hamilton nearly sixty years ago for the One Hundredth regiment, there was a fascination in the tap of the drum and the shriek of the fife that made it easy for the sergeant to get his quota. The Queen’s shilling and the bunch of red, white and blue ribbon caught the thousand men required to fill the ranks, and the One Hundredth sailed for glory, but never got there, as peace was declared by the time they reached the shores of Great Britain. It takes about a man’s weight in lead to kill one soldier in battle in these days of improved weapons, so that in the days of the old flintlock muskets more dependence was put on bayonet charges to rout the enemy. In the civil war in the United States with the improved Springfield rifle, the bayonet charge became a lost art. At the beginning of the war, the federal army was mainly equipped with what was known as the Belgium musket, for the United States had not yet learned the need of arsenals for the making of rifles for its soldiers. In the last few years, every government has been improving its deadly implements of war, till now a rifle will carry a bullet far beyond the sight of the man who fires it, and there seems to be no limit to the power of cannon on land or sea. If ‘war is hell’ in General Sherman’s time, what must it be now to the man on the firing line with all of the improvements in death-dealing implements that the scientist and the inventor have added to its horrors? Away back in 1866, the Royal Thirteenth had a slight inkling of war when they stood on the firing line at Ridgeway. The boys who volunteers for South Africa had all the glory that was coming to them in the conflict with a hostile army that was expert with the gun and accustomed to the lay of the country. But the present war is the climax of all the wars of the past century in the number of men engaged and in the superiority of arms and equipment. In the civil war in the united States at the battle of Gettysburg, the federal army had 35,000 men killed and wounded in the three days’ fighting. If the reports that come to us of the losses of the German and Belgian armies in the preliminary skirmishes seem serious, with only those two nations engaged, what will the slaughter be when the combined armies get into the conflict? ‘War is hell,’ but only when the bully comes out with a chip on his shoulder. The chip must be knocked off.
With all the advantages of the present day mechanical schools and public schools there is no excuse for a boy to be ignorant of books or of the means of earning a living when the time comes for him to make his own way. Boys nowadays seem to be averse to learning a trade, and in a measure the parents are responsible. The mother does not fancy her boy working at a trade, as his father had to, but wants him educated for one of the learned professions. Many of them think that their boys, to become rich or famous, must be a lawyer, a doctor or a minister, or at least a clerk in some office or in a bank. They do not welcome the kind of opportunity that presents itself to the hand of him that is versed in manual labor. Here is a story of a newsboy whose way of thinking was different. He had sold papers on a street corner for thirteen years – let us say on the corner of King and James streets. He was the main support of his invalid father, his mother and the younger members of the family. He was a wide-awake boy, and during his hours of selling papers, his mind was active in taking in the everyday occurrences that surrounded him. Probably his handling of newspapers was an incentive to him to read and study, for he had not the privilege of attending school, his labor to support the family requiring his time when other boys of his age had the good fortune of being able to attend school. What he lacked in opportunity during the daytime, he made up at night, and when other boys of his class were out in the streets at night, he was a close student in his humble home, reading and studying such books as he was able to borrow or get from the public library. There was no technical then for him to take advantage of. That newsboy had spent his early life in a city, and its surroundings did not appeal to him; his greatest desire was to live in the country and become an independent farmer. To the end he took up the study in scientific agriculture, and faithfully he pursued it till he acquired such an elementary knowledge that he was prepared to begin with the practical part.
His brothers and sisters had grown up and were able to do their part in support of father and mother, and this gave the newsboy more time to pursue his studies. Mind you, he had never given up his business of selling papers during these years of preparation and study. The time came at last when he was ready to make the soil yield at once his health and a living. He was not ashamed of the noble ambition to become a farmer, and thus provide a home in the country for his invalid father and for the loving mother who had encouraged him during all the years of his sacrifice and toil. He had a little money that he was able to save during his newsboy days and with it bought a small farm on time for the balance of the price. Today his farm has increased in the number of acres, and as he works it on scientific principles, it yields him large profits. He has no failure in crops. Many struggling doctors, lawyers, preachers have missed their calling through a false idea of their parents that one kind of labor is gentlemanly and another is not. The world does not care for these nice distinctions. It recognizes you for what you are worth, and rates a capable farmer or mechanic above a genteel loafer, who lives on the earnings of his good father. And this little story of the newsboy, true in every particular, reminds us that Hamilton’s generosity has provided a means whereby any industrious boy can work during the day to pay his board, and relieve his old father and mother of the care and responsibility of his support. In the course of the next three or four weeks, the technical school will again open its night classes for the training of boys in the rudiments of a practical education in mechanics and electricity. There are a dozen different studies to select from, any one of which will prepare a boy for an independent manhood, and had our newsboy the advantages of the boy of the present day, it would have made his preparatory studies easier. Fathers, mothers, think it over and send your boy to the technical school to spend time when he will have to enter the battle of life. Go up to the technical school, and see what it is doing, and have a talk with Prof. Witton. He will tell you more about the advantages of manual training for your boy than the writer can tell in a column of the Spectator. The school room is a safer place for your boy during the long winter evenings than the street corners.