Page:Melbourne Riots (Andrade, 1892).djvu/35
THE MELBOURNE RIOTS.
The chairman then thanked the comrades for entertaining them, and said William Treadway would introduce the principal business of the evening with his promised address on “Labor's Hopes and Prospects.” An intelligent looking young man here arose, and mounted the platform, the applause that greeted him showing that he was a familiar favorite amongst them. Without any ceremony, he commenced his address, the elderly stranger eyeing him with eager attention.
“I shall not trouble you to-night,” said he, “with a repetition of the questions we are always discussing as to the sufferings of the working classes. We are already too painfully familiar with them. Nor will I weary you with the conventional platitudes that must be as tiring to you as to myself. But I will endeavor to treat the subject as thoroughly and clearly as I can in order that some real good may come of it. It is now fifteen years since my poor father lost his liberty in striving to do what we are still striving for; and when I look back I ask myself, What has been accomplished in that time? I think, comrades, you will agree with me when I say ‘nothing.’ Of course, I was but a lad at the time of the famous riots, and have a very imperfect knowledge of the facts connected with it. I lost my dear mother, as many of you may know, in the bloody massacre that took place upon the execution of ‘the Noble Seventeen,’ and my father was taken from me at the same time, never to see my face again; for as you know, he died three years ago in jail—died, so they say, from an hereditary and incurable disease; though I firmly believe they foully murdered him because they could not break his indomitable spirit. I have no relatives surviving that unhappy day, so I can but glean my information from the historical sources known to you all. I have principally taken my facts from ‘McCulloch's History of the Melbourne Riots,’ of which a valuable three-volume edition is in the Public Library. What do I find from a carefully study of it? Why, that matters are no better now than they were in the pre-Riot days; that poverty is as keen as then, if not worse; that the apathy of the masses, their ignorance, their scramble after recreation when they required bread, and their treacherous actions towards their truest champions were as common then as now. And I find too that they rested on the same hopes as we do. They vainly waited, as we are waiting, for honest legislators, just laws, a wide diffusion of humanitarian sentiments, mutual sympathies, the disappearance of vicious habits, and all those other elements that we contend are the essential precursors of the glorious social life for which we are striving. But I now see where they erred, and where you, friends, are erring along with them. They trusted to bad conditions to create good human beings. They tolerated the institutions of human slavery, and hoped, poor fools, for the day when the slave should be noble and the slave-master kind. They believed that the human race was wicked, that it gloried in its wickedness, and that all the vices and crimes it committed were but the natural manifestations of its totally depraved nature. They thought the individual character was superior to the conditions environing it—that the human will was free, and therefore responsible for the individual's wicked actions (although inconsistently giving it small credit for