Matthew to the 9th Lord Kinnaird, 1 December 1864
(MS100/2/bundle719/1, pdf image)
Matthew writes to Kinnaird about improving working conditions for miners. This letter confirms that the “Coal Mine Accidents” newspaper article (Newspaper Articles > Social Issues > Matthew (1862-02-11)) was indeed written by Matthew.
There is a touching portrait of one of Matthew’s sisters (now “long long dead”), and also an interesting reference to a local squabble at the “Megginch Club” (a later letter suggests over cricket!) between Lord Kinnaird and a Mrs. Blair and her son. It is also interesting to note that Matthew feels that he is in a position of mediate.
The letter also reaffirms many of Matthew’s ideas and beliefs: the need for mining reform (safer mines for workers, financial support for dependents); for sanitary reform (healthy dwellings and factories for the working class); his views on race (superiority of the British race, threats to the “degeneracy of the race”); the craving of unhealthy people for spirits (“poison alike to mind and body”); the superiority of men over women (“a man exerting his mind has also a strong biological or sympathetic influence over the mind of a woman”); and an implied independent stance from Christianity (“Love thy neighbour” is described as “its fairest trait”).
Gourdiehill, Dec 1 / 64
It was with pleasure I observed in the public prints your attempt to improve the condition of our mining population. It is a subject upon which I have thought a little & written in the Daily Telegraph. Here, from the inability of the miners to help themselves, legislation is required. I sincerely wish you may succeed in regulating a complete ventilation, & in obtaining a fixed sum for the support of the family or parent who depended for subsistence upon the killed or maimed. The holder of the Royalty & the Master of the mine should mutually contribute this fixed sum. In legislating upon this you will find much opposition from the monied mining masters.
Altho’ this is so exigent a Reform, it is only a portion of what is necessary to the health of the working population. Ill-ventilated dwellings, in which our cities abound & which has so much occupied your Lordship’s attention, is equally a subject for legislation. It is a partial absurdity to punish those who present unwholesome food in the market & not punish those who present unwholesome houses. Here the minor evil is legislated against & the major neglected. Every rented dwelling ought to be surveyed by a public Sanitary Officer & if any house is not such as a healthy family can be reasonably expected to be reared in it, it ought to be condemned. Every house or factory in which work is carried on by hired labourers ought also to be under inspection, never to be below the level of the street & never too crowded – that is, to be such as the workers may be expected to retain good health & vigor. All this is waiting you to carry out. But why do the nobility of England leave these most important objects to a man of Scotland. These sanitary Reforms are essential to the maintenance of the vigor of the British race. Our city & indoor-working population are rapidly increasing while our rural out-of-doors-working population are diminishing (to which the high price of beef, throwing our fields into cattle & sheep runs is also tending). This state of things renders sanitary reform in our cities the more exigent. Under present adverse circumstances, How is our army & navy to be supported in sufficient vigor & physical stamina to maintain our superiority – our position as the foremost nation & Race? We are becoming the factory of the World. We are at the same time planting new Empires upon very unpeopled land suited for the white race of man. How much then is it our object to render our dwellings & factories wholesome? If sanitary reform in our cities is not speedily effected, degeneracy of the race & fall of Empire is our doom.
Besides healthy houses & factories would do much to lessen the craving for noxious stimuli – what is termed spirits – unnatural spirits, certain to be followed by depression & wretchedness,– poison alike to mind & body. In my detestation of these I would go a step farther than your Lordship. In these Reforms, so necessary to the general wellbeing you have shewn you have the will. It is a noble field for exertion,– & altho’ you do not succeed you may pave the way to a future success.
While much gratified by your honourable wise & humane endeavour to place our mining population under more favourable circumstances I am the more anxious to see your Lordship upon friendly relations with your neighbours of Inchmartin. In my attempt to conciliate neighbours I am but a poor imitator. I had a kind sister, long long dead, who gave me a lesson in this. She could not bear to see quarrel, & her power of converting enemies to friends was almost irresistible, you will therefore I hope pardon my attempt tho’ it may appear to you foolish & ineffectual. It is more on account of the stigma thrown upon the members of the Club, that Mrs. Blair & her son are offended than on their own. Where a woman is concerned it is honourable & generous of a man to apologize, even where he may not be in the wrong. A generous & friendly advance on your side will expel all animosity & turn the scale to kind feeling in Mrs Blair, while it will turn social feeling in your favour.
This is my desire. Your Lordship knows all the circumstances & are abler to find the means of propitiating than any other person. Your lordship has entered upon a difficult but noble task – where much is to do. Everyone admits to you[r] public virtue. It is a high private virtue to promote good neighbourhood – to overcome animosity by kindness. “Love thy neighbour” is more especially the Christian injunction, & its fairest trait,
[To] The Right Hon.
P S. The Megginch Club, I regret to say is defective in friendly adhesion of parts – in solidarite,– so as even to induce Mr. Drummond to threaten to leave them to their squabbles. Is what was intended to bind society together to become a cause of propulsion? P.M.
Pardon me for recurring to the unhappy quarrel. It is the more difficult to overcome as both think themselves in the right – your Lordship in your views of the very the mischievous effects of the use of maddening liquors in which I thoroughly concur, & Mrs. B. in her idea of generous hospitality. Still I think she would be easily overcome by kindness – true generous kindness, altho’ she cannot tolerate blame. Your lordship could be of the greatest use to her son, in leading his mind in the direction of yours – to sanitary & agricultural improvement. A man exerting his mind has also a strong biological or sympathetic influence over the mind of a woman. I believe she was inclined to write an apology to your lordship for her son not receiving your proffered hand,– that the lad was taken unawares & did not know what to do; but having heard through some busy body that you had termed her a daft woman she has resiled from doing so. P.M.
Page created: 12 February 2019
Last modified: 12 February 2019