A very important movement in Continental
politics is indicated by the series of working
men's Congresses which, during the last
few years, have annually been held in various
cities, as at Berne, Geneva, Brussels, Basle,
Lausanne, &c.  These meeting assume various
names, and their objects are not altogether
identical. But there is a remarkable agreement
on several points.  Whatever may be the con-
stitution of these Congresses (which in almost
every instance are composed of from one to two
hundred delegates from all parts of Europe,
many of whom have great influence amongst
the working men of their respective localities),
they almost invariably unite in denouncing the
present system of "bloated armaments," and
crushing wartaxation, which is producing so
much misery and poverty throughout Christen-
dom.  The burdens thus imposed have been
quietly protested against for years, and with
but little result.  Is it any wonder, then, that
in their distress, the working classes of the
Continent are waxing bold, and propounding
plans for ultra-democratic and general systems
of international union, which they hope may
afford a speedier way out of the present evils
than the existing regime?
 
The English newspapers sharply criticize,
and not unreasonably, some of the speeches
delivered at these Congresses.  But it is not
surprising that, under the present state of
military and naval extravagance throughout
Christendom (and not on the Continent
alone), very strong language should be
heard.  The burdens of war have become
intolerable.  Millions of soldiers are being
maintained, and must be supported by the
industrial masses, a large proportion of
whose strongest helpers are withdrawn by
conscription or enlistment.  Hence the weight
of taxation and hard labour is falling heavily
even on weak women and poor girls.  For
example, one of the complaints latterly raised
against the present system, has come from
the female spinners of Lyons and Anduze.
These wretched women have been compelled
to earn their livelihood by working sixteen
hours a day (and for the pittance of one shilling).
They have had to commence work at four in
the morning, and continue until eight in the
evening!
 
They have at length struck for a change;
but, with a remarkable patience and mod-
eration, only demand that their working
hours should begin at five and end at seven.
Of course the women of France must work
(and exceedingly hard) so long as the present
law continues which renders every man
above 21 years of age liable to conscription,
and enacts a minimum annual draft of
160,000 soldiers.  Further these are pro-
hibited from marriage.  The consequent vice
and distress brought upon the cities and
families of France is incalculable.  Is it any
wonder, then, that the working classes of
that, and other countries similarly situated,
are becoming utterly weary of the intolerable
tyranny of war, and begin to propound plans
for self-deliverance?
 
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