London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3
I CONCLUDE with the statement of a coalbacker, or coalporter—a class to which the term coalheaver is usually given by those who are unversed in the mysteries of the calling. The man wore the approved fantail, and welltarred short smock-frock, black velveteen knee breeches, dirty white stockings, and lace-up boots.
I now resume my inquiry whether stimulating drinks are necessary for the performance of severe labour.
I have already published the statement of a coalbacker, who declared that it was an absolute necessity of that kind of labour that the men engaged in backing coals from the hold of a ship should, though earning only per week, spend at least weekly in beer and spirits, to stimulate them for their work. This sum, the man assured me, was a moderate allowance, for was the amount ordinarily expended by the men in drink every week. Now if this quantity of drink be a necessity of the calling, it follows that the men pursuing the severest labour of all—doing work that cripples the strongest in from to years —are the worst paid of all labourers, their actual clear gains being only from to per week. This struck me as being so terrible a state of things that I could hardly believe it to be true, though I was assured by several coalwhippers who were present on the occasion, that the coalbacker who had made the statement had in no way exaggerated the account of the sufferings of his fellow-workmen. I determined, nevertheless, upon inquiring into the question myself, and ascertaining, by the testimony and experience of different classes of individuals engaged in this, the greatest labour, perhaps, performed by any men, whether drink was really a necessity or luxury to the working man.
Accordingly, I called a meeting of the coalwhippers, that I might take their opinion on the subject, when I found that out of individuals only were satisfied that fermented liquors could be dispensed with by the labouring classes. I was, however, still far from satisfied upon the subject, and I determined, as the question is of the greatest importance to the working men,—being more intimately connected with their welfare, physical, intellectual, and moral, than any other,—to give the subject my most patient and unbiassed consideration. I was anxious, without advocating any opinion upon the subject, to collect the sentiments of the coal labourers themselves; and in order that I might do so as impartially as possible, I resolved upon seeing— , such men as were convinced that stimulating liquors were necessary to the labouring man in the performance of his work; ndly, such men as once thought differently, and, in- deed, had once taken the pledge to abstain from the use of all fermented liquors, but had been induced to violate their vow in consequence of their health having suffered; and rdly, such men as had taken the pledge and kept it without any serious injury to their constitutions. To carry the subject out with the fulness and impartiality that its importance seemed to me to demand, I further determined to prosecute the inquiry among both classes of coal labourers—the coalwhippers and coalbackers as well. The result of these investigations I shall now subjoin. Let me, however, in the place, lay before the reader the following
The above calculations have been made from the Official Returns of the Metropolitan Police. The causes of the different degrees of intemperance here exhibited, I leave to others to discover.
After the meeting of coalwhippers just described, I requested some of the men who had expressed the various opinions respecting the necessity for drinking some kind of fermented liquor during their work to meet me, so that I might take down their sentiments on the subject more fully. of all, came of the most intelligent, who believed malt liquor to be necessary for the performance of their labour. was a basketman or fireman, and the other an "up-and-down" man, or whipper; the doing the lighter, and the the heavier kind of work. The basketman, who I afterwards discovered was a good Greek and Latin scholar, said: "If I have anything like a heavy day"s work to do, I consider pints of porter a-day necessary. We are not like other labouring men, having an hour to dinner. Often, to save tide, we take only minutes to our meals. thing I wish to remark is, that what renders it necessary to have the pints of beer in winter, and pots in summer, is the coal-dust arising from the work, which occasions great thirst. In the summer time the basketman is on the plank all day, and continually exposed to the sun, and in the winter to the inclemency of the weather. What with the labour and the heat, the perspiration is excessive. A basketman with a bad gang of men has no sinecure. In the summer he can wear neither coat nor waistcoat; very few can bear the hat on the head, and they wear nightcaps instead. The work is always done, in summer time, with only the shirt and trousers on. The basketman never takes off his shirt, like the whippers. The necessity for drink in the summer does not arise so much from the extent of the labour, as from the irritation caused by the coal-dust getting into the throat. There is not so much dust from the coals in the winter as in the summer, the coals being more damp in wet than in fine weather. It is merely the thirst that makes the drink requisite, as far as the basketman is concerned. Tea would allay the thirst, but there is no opportunity of having this on board ship. If there were an opportunity of having tea at our work, the basketman might manage to do with it as well as with beer. Water I don"t fancy, especially the water of the river; it is very impure, and at the time of the cholera we were prohibited from drinking it. If we could get pure water, I do not think it would do as well for us, especially in winter time. In winter time it would be too cold, and too great a contrast to the heat of the blood. It would, in my opinion, produce stagnation in the circulation. We have had instances of men dying suddenly through drinking water when in a state of excitement." [He distinguishes between excitement and perspiration: he calls the basketman"s labour an exciting , and the whipper"s work a heating .] "The men who died suddenly were whippers. I never heard of a basketman dying from drinking cold water when at his work; I don"t think they ever tried the experiment. The whippers have done so through necessity, not through choice. Tea is a beverage that I don"t fancy, and I conceive it to be equally expensive, so I prefer porter. When I go off to my work early in the morning, I take about a pint of coffee with me in a bottle, and warm it up on board at the galley-fire for my breakfast; that I find quenches my thirst for the time as well porter. Porter would be too insipid the thing in the morning; I never drank coffee through the day while at my work, so I cannot say what the effect would be. I drink porter when at my work, not as giving me greater strength to go through my labour, but merely as a means of quenching my thirst, it being as cheap as any other drink, with the exception of water, and less trouble to procure. Water I consider dangerous at our work, but I can"t say that it is so from my own experience. I was in the hospital about years ago, and the doctor there asked me how many pints of beer I was in the habit of drinking per day. This was before the office was established. I told him, on the lowest calculation, or ; it was the case then under the old system; and he then ordered me pints of porter a-day, as I was very weak, and he said I wanted a stimulus. I am not aware that it is the habit of the publicans to adulterate their porter with salt and water. If such is the case, it would, without a doubt, increase rather than diminish the thirst. I have often found that the beer sold by some of the publicans tends more to create than allay thirst. I am confident, that if the working
|men generally knew that salt and water was invariably mixed with the porter by the publicans, they would no longer hold to the notion that it could quench their thirst; but, to convince them of that, it would be almost necessary that they should see the publican adulterating the beer with their own eyes. If it really is the case that beer is adulterated with salt and water, it must be both injurious and heating to the labouring man. Some of the men who are in the habit of drinking porter at their work, very probably attribute the thirst created by the salt and water in the porter to the thirst created by the coal-dust or the work, and continue drinking it from the force of habit. The habit of drinking is doubtlessly the effect of the old system, when the men were forced to drink by the publicans who paid them. A most miraculous change, and unparalleled in history, has been produced by altering the old mode of employing and paying the men. The reformation in the morals and character of the men is positively wonderful. The sons are no longer thieves, and the daughters are no longer prostitutes. Formerly it was a competition who could drink the most, for he who could do so got the most work. The introduction for a job was invariably, "You know, Mr. So and So, I"m a good drinking man." Seeing the benefit that has resulted from the men not drinking so much as formerly, I am of opinion that, though I take my beer every day myself, a great good would ensue if the men would drink even less than they do now, and eat more; it would be more conducive to their health and strength. But they have not the same facility for getting food over their work as there is for getting beer. You see, they can have credit for beer when they can"t get a morsel of food on trust. There are no floating butchers or bakers, like there are floating publicans or purlmen. If there were, and men could have trust for bread and meat while at their work on the river, I am sure they would eat more and drink less, and be all the better for it. It would be better for themselves and for their families. The great evil of the drink is, that when a man has a little he often wants more, and doesn"t know where to stop. When he once passes the "rubi-can," as I call it, he is lost. If it wasn"t for this evil, I think a pint or of porter would make them do their work better than either tea or water. Our labour is peculiar. The air is always full of coal-dust, and every nerve and muscle of the body is strained, and every pore of the body open, so that he requires some drink that will counteract the cold."|
The next that I saw were men who did the heaviest work; that is, "up-and-down men," or coalwhippers, as they are usually called. They had both of them been teetotalers. had been so for years, and the other had tried it for months. who stood at least feet and a half high, and was habited in a long blue great coat that reached to his heels, and made him look even taller than he was, said,—"I was a strict teetotaler for many years, and I wish I could be so now. All that time I was a coalwhipper at the heaviest work, and I have made of a gang that have done as many as tons in day. I drank no fermented liquor the whole of the time; I had only ginger-beer and milk, and that cost me It was in the summer time. I didn"t "buff it" on that day; that is, I didn"t take my shirt off. I did this work at the Regent"s Canal; and there was a little milk-shop close on shore, and I used to run there when I was dry. I had about quarts of milk and bottles of ginger-beer, or about quarts of fluid altgether. I found that amount of drink necessary. I perspired very violently; my shirt was wet through, and my flannels wringing wet with the perspiration over the work. The rule among us is, that we do tons on deck, and tons filling in the ship"s hold. We go on in that way throughout the day, spelling at every tons. The perspiration in the summer time streams down our foreheads so rapidly, that it will often get into our eyes before we have time to wipe it off. This makes the eyes very sore. At night, when we get home, we cannot bear to sit with a candle. The perspiration is of a very briny nature, for I often taste it as it runs down to my lips. We are often so heated over our work that the perspiration runs into the shoes; and often, from the dust and heat, jumping up and down, and the feet being galled with the small dust, I have had my shoes full of blood. The thirst produced by our work is very excessive; it is completely as if you had a fever upon you. The dust gets into the throat, and very nearly suffocates you. You can scrape the coal-dust off the tongue with the teeth; and do what you will it is impossible to get the least spittle into the mouth. I have known the coal-dust to be that thick in a ship"s hold, that I have been unable to see my mate, though he was only feet from me. Your legs totter under you, both before and after you are a teetotaler. I was of the strongest men in the business; I was able to carry cwt. on my back for yards, and I could lift half-hundreds with my right-arm. After finishing my day"s work I was like a child with weakness. When we have done or tons, we generally stop for a drop of drink, and then I have found that anything that would wet my mouth would revive me. Cold tea, milk, or gingerbeer, were refreshing, but not so much as a pint of porter. Cold water would give a pain in the inside, so that a man would have to lie down and be taken ashore, and, perhaps, give up work altogether. Many a man has been taken to the hospital merely through drinking cold water over his work.
|They have complained of a weight and coldness in the chest; they say it has chilled the fat of the heart. I can positively state," continued the man, "that during the whole of years I took no fermented drink. My usual drink was cold tea, milk, gingerbeer, or coffee, whichever I could catch: the ginger-beer was more lively than the milk; but I believe I could do more work upon the milk. Tea I found much better than coffee. Cold tea was very refreshing; but if I didn"t take it with me in a bottle, it wasn"t to be had. I used to take a quart of cold tea with me in a bottle, and make that do for me all day, as well as I could. The ginger-beer was the most expensive, and would cost me a shilling, or more than that if I could get it. The milk would cost me sixpence or eightpence. For tea and coffee the expense would be about twopence the day. But often I have done the whole day"s work without any drink, because I would not touch beer, and then I was more fit to be carried home than walk. I have known many men scarcely able to crawl up the ladder out of the hold, they were so fatigued. For myself, being a very strong man, I was never so reduced, thank God. But often, when I"ve got home, I"ve been obliged to drink pints of milk at a stretch, before I could touch a bit of victuals. As near as I can guess it used to cost me, when at work, a shilling a-day for gingerbeer, milk, and other teetotal drinks. When I was not at work my drink used to cost me little or nothing. For years I stuck to the pledge, but I found myself failing in strength and health; I found that I couldn"t go through a day"s work as clever as I used before I left off drink, and when I was a teetotaler. I found myself failing in every inch of my carcase, my limbs, my body and all. Of my own free--will I gave it up. I did not do it in a fit of passion, but deliberately, because I was fully satisfied that it was injuring my health. Shortly after taking the pledge I found I could have more meat than I used to have before, and I found that I neither got strong nor weak upon it. After about years my appetite began to fail, and then I found my strength leaving me; so I made up my mind to alter the system. When I returned to beer, I found myself getting better in health and stronger daily. Before I was a teetotaler I used to drink heavy, but after teetotalism I was a temperate man. I am sure it is necessary for a hardworking man that he should drink beer. He can"t do his work so well without it as he can with it, in moderation. If he goes beyond his allowance he is better without any. I have taken to drinking beer again within the last months. As long as a man does not go beyond his allowance in beer, his drink will cost him quite as much when he is teetotaler as it will when he has not taken the pledge. The difference between the teetotal and fermented drinks I find to be this:—When I drank milk it didn"t make me any livelier; it quenched my thirst, but didn"t give me any strength. But when I drank a pint or a quart of beer, it did me so much good after a day"s labour, that after drinking it I could get up and go to my work again. This feeling would continue for a considerable time; indeed, I think the beer is much better for a hard-working man than any unfermented drink. I defy any man in England to contradict me in what I say, and that is—a man who takes his reasonable quantity of beer, and a fair share of food, is much better with it than without."|
Another man, who had been a teetotaler for months at time, and years at another, was convinced that it was impossible for a hard-working man to do his work as well without beer as with. "He had tried it twice, and he spoke from his own experience, and he would say that a little—that is, pints, or for a very hard day"s labour,— would never hurt no man. Beyond that a man has no right to go; indeed, anything extra only makes him stupid. Under the old system, I used to be obliged to buy rum; and, over and over again, I"ve had to pay fifteenpence for half-a-pint of rum in a ginger-beer bottle; and have gone into the street and sold it for sixpence, and got a steak with the money. No man can say drink has ruined my constitution, for I"ve only had pennyworth of antibilious pills in years; and I will say, a little beer does a man more good than harm, and too much does a man more harm than good."
The next "whippers" that I saw were both teetotalers. had taken the pledge months before, and the other years; and they had both kept it strictly. had been cellarman at a public-house, and he said, "I neither take spruce nor any of the cordials: water is my beverage at dinner." The other had been an inveterate drunkard. The cellarman is now a basketman, and the other an up-and-down man, or whipper, in the same gang. The basketman said, "I can say this from my own experience,—that it is not necessary for a working man, doing the very hardest labour, to drink fermented liquors. I was an up-and-down man for years, without tasting a drop of beer or spirits. I have helped to whip tons of coal in day, without any; and that in the heat of summer. What I had with me was a bottle of cocoa; and I took with that plenty of steak, potatoes, and bread. If the men was to take more meat and less beer, they would do much better. It"s a delusion to think beer necessary. Often, the men who say the beer is necessary will deliver a ship, aye, and not half-a-dozen half-pints be drank aboard. The injury is done ashore. The former custom of our work—the compulsory system of drinking that we were under,— has so imbedded the idea of drink in the men,
|that they think it is actually necessary. It"s not the least to be wondered at, that there"s so many drunkards among them. I do not think we shall ever be able to undo the habit of drinking among the whippers in this generation. As far as I am concerned, since I"ve been a teetotaler, I have enjoyed a more regular state of health than I used before. Now that I am a basketman, I drink only water with my dinner; and during my work I take nothing. I have got a ship in hands—going to work on Monday morning. I shall have to run backwards and forwards on a oneand- -foot plank, and deliver tons of coals: and I shall do that upon water. That man," pointing to the teetotaler who accompanied him, "will be in it, and he"ll have to help to pull the coals foot above the deck; and he"ll do it all upon water. When I was a coalwhipper myself, I used to drink cocoa. I took it cold with me of a morning, and warmed it aboard. They prophesied it would kill me in a week; and I know it"s done me every good in life. I have drunk water when I was a-working upand- down, and when I was in the highest perspiration, and never found it injure me. It allays the thirst more than anything. If it didn"t allay the thirst I should want to drink often: but if I take a drink of water from the cask I find my thirst immediately quenched. Many of the men who drink beer will take a drink of water afterwards, because the beer increases their thirst, and heats them. That, I believe, is principally from the salt water in it: in fact, it stands to reason, that if beer is half brine it can"t quench thirst. Ah! it"s shocking stuff the purlmen make up for them on the river. When I was drinking beer at my employment, I used seldom to exceed pints of beer a-day: that is what I took on board. What I had on shore was not, of course, to help me to do my labour. I know the beer used to inflame my thirst, because I"ve had to drink water after it over and over again. I never made a habit of drinking,— not since the establishment of the office. Previous to that, of course, I was obliged to drink. I"ve got "jolly" now and then, but I never made a habit of it. It used to cost me about or and sixpence a-week, on the average, for drink, at the uttermost; because I couldn"t afford more. Since I"ve taken the pledge, I"m sure it hasn"t cost me sixpence a-week. A teetotaler feels less thirst than any other man. I don"t know what natural thirst is, except I"ve been eating salt provisions. I belong to a total abstinence society, and there are about a dozen coalwhippers, and about the same number of coalbackers, members of it. Some have been total abstainers for years, and are living witnesses that fermented drinks are not necessary for working men. There are about to coalwhippers, I have been given to understand, who are teetotalers. Those coalwhippers who have been total abstainers for years, are not weaker or worse in health for the want of beer." [This statement was denied by a person present; but a gentleman, who was intimately acquainted with the whole body, mentioned the names of several men who had been, some years, and some upwards of years, strict adherents to the principles of teetotalism.] "The great quantity of drinking is carried on ashore. I should say the men generally drink twice as much ashore as they do afloat. Those who drink beer are always thirsty. Through drinking over their work, a thirst is created aboard, which they set to drinking, when ashore, to allay; and, after a hard day"s labour, a very little overcomes a man. or pots of beer, and the man is loth to stir. He is tired; and the drink, instead of refreshing him, makes him sleepy and heavy. The next morning after drinking he is thirstier still; and then he goes to work drinking again. The perspiration will start out of him in large drops, like peas. You will see it stream down his face and his hands, with the coal-dust sticking to them, just like as if he had a pair of silk gloves on him. It"s a common saying with us, about such a man, that "he"s got the gloves on." The drunkards always perspire the most over their work. The prejudice existing among the men in favour of drink is such, that they believe they would die without it. I am quite astonished to see such an improvement among them as there is; and I do think that, if the clergymen of the neighbourhood did their duty, and exerted themselves, the people would be better still. At time there were as many as coalwhippers total abstainers; and the men were much better clothed, and the homes and appearance of the whippers were much more decent. What I should do if I drank, I don"t know. I got for clearing a ship last week, and shan"t get any more till Monday night; and I have children and a wife to keep out of that. For this last fortnight I have only made aweek, so I am sure I couldn"t even afford a shilling a-week for drink, without robbing my family."|
The teetotaler, who had been an inveterate drunkard in his time, stated as follows. Like most of the coalwhippers, he thought once that he could not do his work without beer. He used to drink as much as he could get. He averaged pots at his work, and when he came on shore he would have pots more.
The man ultimately made a particular request that his statement might conclude with a verse that he had chosen from the Temperance Melodies:—
At the close of my interview with these men I received from them an invitation to visit them at their own houses whenever I should think fit. It was clearly their desire that I should see the comforts and domestic arrangements of their homes. Accordingly on the morrow, choosing an hour when there could have been no preparation, I called at the lodgings of the . I found the whole family assembled in the back kitchen, that served them for a parlour. As I entered the room the mother was busy at work, washing and dressing her children for the day. There stood little things, so young that they seemed to be all about the same height, with their faces shining with the soap and water, and their cheeks burning red with the friction of the towel. They were all laughing and playing about the mother, who, with comb and brush in hand, found it no easy matter to get them to stand still while she made "the parting." of all the man asked me to step up-stairs and see the sleeping-room. I was much struck with the scrupulous cleanliness of the apartment. The blind was as white as snow, half rolled up, and fastened with a pin. The floor was covered with patches of different coloured carpet, showing that they had been bought from time to time, and telling how difficult it had been to obtain the luxury. In corner was a cupboard with the door taken off, the better to show all the tumblers, teacups, and coloured-glass mugs, that, with decanters, well covered with painted flowers, were kept more for ornament than use. On the chimneypiece was a row of shells, china shepherdesses, and lambs, and a stuffed pet canary in a glass-case for a centre ornament. Against the wall, surrounded by other pictures, hung a half-crown watercolour drawing of the wife, with a child on her knee, matched on the other side by the husband"s likeness, cut out in black paper. Pictures of bright-coloured ducks and a print of Father Moore the teetotaler completed the collection.
I then descended into the parlour. The children were all seated on little stools that their father had made for them in his spare moments, and warming themselves round the fire, their little black shoes resting on the white hearth. From their regular features, small mouths, large black eyes, and fair skins, no would have taken them for a labouring man"s family. In answer to my questions, he said: "The eldest of them (a pretty little halfclad girl, seated in corner) is , the next , that , that , and this (a little thing perched upon a table near the mother) . I"ve got all their ages in the Bible up-stairs." I remarked a strange look about of the little girls. "Yes, she always suffered with that eye; and down at the hospital they lately performed an operation on it." An artificial pupil had been made.
The room was closed in from the passage by a rudely built partition. "That I did myself in my leisure," said the man; "it makes the room snugger." As he saw me looking at the clean rolling-pin and bright tins hung against the wall, he observed: "That"s all my wife"s doing. She has got them together by sometimes going without dinner herself, and laying out the or in things of that sort. That is how she manages. To-day she has got us a sheep"s head and a few turnips for our Sunday"s dinner," he added, taking off the lid of the boiling saucepan. Over the mantelpiece hung a picture of George IV., surrounded by other frames. of them contained merely locks of hair. The man, laughing, told me, " of them are locks of myself and my wife, and the light in the middle belonged to my wife"s brother, who died in India. That"s her doing again," he added.
After this I paid a visit to the other teetotaler at his home, and there saw of his sons. He had children altogether, and also supported his wife"s mother. If it wasn"t for him, the poor old thing, who was seventyfive, and a teetotaler too, must have gone to the workhouse. of his children lived at home; the other were out at service. of the lads at home was a coalbacker. He was years of age, and on an average could earn It was years since he had taken to backing. He said, "I am at work at of the worst wharfs in London; it is called "the slaughter-house" by
|the men, because the work is so excessive. The strongest man can only last years at the work there; after that he is overstrained and of no use. I do the hardest work, and carry the coals up from the hold. The ladder I mount has about steps, and stands very nearly straight on end. Each time I mount I carry on my back . No man can work at this for more than days in the week. I work days running, then have a day"s rest, and then work days more. I myself generally do days" work out of the . I never drink any beer, and have not for the last months. For years and months I took beer to get over the work. I used to have a pint at , a pot at dinner, a pint at o"clock, and double allowance, or a couple of pots, after work. Very often I had more than double allowance. I seldom in a day drank less than that; but I have done more. I have drunk pots in minutes and a-half. So my expenditure for beer was a-day regularly. Indeed, I used to allow myself half-crowns to spend in beer a-week, Sundays included. When a coalworker is in full work, he usually spends a-day, or a-week, in beer. The trade calls these men temperate. When they spend the trade think they are intemperate. Before I took the pledge I scarcely ever went to bed sober after my labour. I was not always drunk, but I was heavy and stupid with beer. Twice within the time I was a coalbacker I have been insensibly drunk. I should say threefourths of the coalbackers are drunk twice aweek. Coalbacking is as heavy a class of labour as any performed. I don"t know any that can beat it. I have been months doing the work, and can solemnly state I have never tasted a drop of fermented liquor. I have found I could do my work better and brisker than when I drank. I never feel thirsty over my work now; before, I was always dry, and felt as if I could never drink enough to quench it. Now I never drink from the time I go to work till the time I have my dinner; then my usual beverage is either cold coffee or oatmeal and water. From that time I never drink till I take my tea. On this system I find myself quite as strong as I did with the porter. When I drank porter it used to make me go along with a sack a little bit brisker for half-an-hour, but after that I was dead, and obliged to have some more. There are men at the wharf who drink beer and spirits that can do days" labour in the week. I can"t do this myself. I have done as much when I took fermented liquors, but I only did so by whipping myself up with stimulants. I was obliged to drink every hour a pint of beer to force me along. That was only working for the publican; for I had less money at the week"s end than when I did less work. Now I can keep longer and more steadily at my work. In a month I would warrant to back more coals than a drunkard. I think the drunkard can do more for a short space of time than the teetotaler. I am satisfied the coalbackers as a class would be better off if they left off the drinking; and then masters would not force them to do so much work after dark as they do now. They always pay at public-houses. If that system was abandoned, the men would be greatly benefited by it. Drinking is not a necessity of the labour. All I want when I"m at work is a bit of coal in the mouth. This not only keeps the mouth cool, but as we go up the ladder we very often scrunch our teeth— the work"s so hard. The coal keeps us from biting the tongue, that"s use; the other is, that by rolling it along in the mouth it excites the spittle, and it moistens the mouth. This I find a great deal better than a pot of porter."|
In order to complete my investigations concerning the necessity of drinking in the coalwhipping trade, I had an interview with some of the more intelligent of the men who had been principally concerned in the passing of the Act that rescued the class from the "thraldom of the publican."
"I consider," said , "that drink is not a necessity of our labour, but it is a necessity of the system under which we were formerly working. I have done the hardest work that any labouring man can do, and drank no fermented liquor. Nor do I consider fermented liquors to be necessary for the severest labour. This I can say of my own experience, having been a teetotaler for months. But if the working man don"t have the drink, he must have good solid food, superior to what he is in the habit of having. A pot of coffee and a good beef dumpling will get over the most severe labour. But if he can"t have that he must have the stimulants. A pint of beer he can always have on credit, but he can"t the beef dumpling. If there is an excuse for any persons drinking there is for the coalwhippers, for under the old system they were forced to become habitual drunkards to obtain work."
I also questioned another of the men, who had been a prime mover in obtaining the Act. He assured me, that before the "emancipation" of the men the universal belief of the coalwhippers, encouraged by the publicans, was, that it was impossible for them to work without liquor. In order to do away with that delusion, the principal agents in procuring the Act became teetotalers of their own accord, and remained so, for months and another for years, in order to prove to their fellow workmen that drinking over their labour could be dispensed with, and that they might have "cool brains to fight through the work they had undertaken."
Another of the more intelligent men who had been a teetotaler:—"I performed the hardest labour I ever did, before or after, with more ease and satisfaction than ever I did under the drinking system. It is quite a delusion to believe that with proper nutriment the
|health declines under principles of total abstinence."|
After this I was anxious to continue my investigations among the coalporters, and see whether the more intelligent among them were as firmly convinced as the better class of coalwhippers were, that intoxicating drinks were not necessary for the performance of hard labour. I endeavoured to find of each class, pursuing the same plan as I had adopted with the coalwhippers: viz. I sought , who was so firmly convinced of the necessity of drinking fermented liquors during his work, that he had never been induced to abandon them; secondly, I endeavoured to obtain the evidence of who had tried the principle of total abstinence and found it fail; and thirdly, I strove to procure the opinion of those who had been teetotalers for several years, and who could conscientiously state that no stimulant was necessary for the performance of their labour. Subjoined is the result of my investigations.
Concerning the motives and reasons for the great consumption of beer by the coalporters, I obtained the following statement from of them:—"I"ve been all my life at coalportering, off and on, and am now . For the last years or so I"ve worked regularly as a filler to Mr. ——"s waggons. I couldn"t do my work without a good allowance of beer. I can"t afford so much now, as my family costs me more; but my regular allowance time was pots a-day. I have drank pots, and always a glass of gin in the morning to keep out the cold air from the water. If I got off then for a-week for drink I reckoned it a cheap week. I can"t do my work without my beer, and no coalporter can, properly. It"s all nonsense talking about ginger-beer, or tea, or milk, or that sort of thing; what body is there in any of it? Many a time I might have been choked with coal-dust, if I hadn"t had my beer to clear my throat with. I can"t say that I"m particularly thirsty like next morning, after drinking or pots of beer to my own work, but I don"t get drunk." He frequently, and with some emphasis, repeated the words, "But I don"t get drunk." "You see, when you"re at such hard work as ours, "s tired soon, and a drop of good beer puts new sap into a man. It oils his joints like. He can lift better and stir about brisker. I don"t care much for beer when I"m quiet at home on a Sunday; it sets me to sleep then. I once tried to go without to please a master, and did work day with only half-pint. I went home as tired as a dog. I should have been soon good for nothing if I"d gone on that way—half-pinting in a day. Lord love you! we know a drop of good beer. The coalporters is admitted to be as good judges of beer as any men in London—maybe, the best judges; better than publicans. No salt and water will go down with us. It"s no use a publican trying to gammon us with any of his cag-mag stuff. Salt and water for us! Sartainly, a drop of short (neat spirit) does good in a cold morning like this; it"s uncommon raw by the waterside, you see. Coalporters doesn"t often catch cold—beer and gin keeps it out. Perhaps my beer and gin now cost me a-week, and that"s a deal out of what I can earn. I dare say I earn a-week. Sometimes I may spend That"s a of my earnings, you say, and so it is; and as it"s necessary for my work, isn"t it a shame a poor man"s pot of beer, and drop of gin, and pipe of tobacco, should be so dear? Taxes makes them dear. I can read, sir, and I understand these things. Beer— pots a-day of it doesn"t make me step unsteady. Hard work carries it off, and so doesn"t feel it that way. Beer"s made of corn as well as bread, and so it stands to reason it"s nourishing. Nothing"ll persuade me it isn"t. Let a teetotal gentleman try his hand at coal-work, and then he"ll see if beer has no support in it. Too much is bad, I know, but a man can always tell how much he wants to help him on with his work. If beer didn"t agree with me, of course I wouldn"t drink it: but it does. Sartainly we drops into a beer-shop of a night, and does tipple a little when work"s done; and the old women (our wives) comes for us, and they get a sup to soften them, and so they may get to like it overmuch, as you say, and "s bit of a house may go to rack and manger. I"ve a good wife myself, though. I know well enough all them things is bad—drunkenness is bad! All I ask for is a proper allowance at work; the rest is no good. I can"t tell whether too much or no beer at coal-work would be best; perhaps none at all: leastways it would be safer. I shouldn"t like to try either. Perhaps coalporters does get old sooner than other trades, and mayn"t live so long; but that"s their hard work, and it would be worse still without beer. But I don"t get drunk."
I conversed with several men on the subject of their beer-drinking, but the foregoing is the only statement I met with where a coalporter could give any reason for his faith in the virtues of beer; and vague as in some points it may be, the other reasons I had to listen to were still vaguer. "Somehow we can"t do without beer; it puts in the strength that the work takes out." "It"s necessary for support." Such was the pith of every argument.
In order fully to carry out this inquiry, I obtained the address of a coalbacker from the ships, who worked hard and drank a good deal of beer, and who had the character of being an industrious man. I saw him in his own apartment, his wife being present while he made the following statement:—"I"ve worked at backing since I was , and that"s more than years ago. I limit myself now, because times is not so good, to pots of beer a-day; that is, when I"m all day at work. Some takes more. I reckon, that when times was better I drank pots a-week,
|for I was in regular work, and middlin" well off. That"s pots, or gallons a-year, you say. Like enough it may be. I never calculated, but it does seem a deal. It can"t be done without, and men themselves is the best judges of what suits their work—I mean, of how much to take. I"ll tell you what it is, sir. Our work"s harder than people guess at, and must rest sometimes. Now, if you sit down to rest without something to refresh you, the rest does you harm instead of good, for your joints seem to stiffen; but a good pull at a pot of beer backs up the rest, and we start lightsomer. Our work"s very hard. I"ve worked till my head"s ached like to split; and when I"ve got to bed, I"ve felt as if I"ve had the weight on my back still, and I"ve started awake when I fell off to sleep, feeling as if something was crushing my back flat to my chest. I can"t say that I ever tried to do without beer altogether. If I was to think of such a thing, my old woman there would think I was out of my head." The wife assented. "I"ve often done with a little when work"s been slackish. , you see, we bring the coal up from the ship"s hold. There, sometimes, it"s dreadful hot, not a mouthful of air, and the coal-dust sometimes as thick as a fog. You breathe it into you, and your throat"s like a flue, so that you must have something to drink. I fancy nothing quenches you like beer. We want a drink that tastes. Then there"s the coals on your back to be carried up a nasty ladder, or some such contrivance, perhaps feet, and a sack full of coals weighs cwt. and a stone, at least; the sack itself"s heavy and thick: isn"t that a strain on a man? No horse could stand it long. Then, when you get fairly out of the ship, you go along planks to the waggon, and must look sharp, "specially in slippery or wet weather, or you"ll topple over, and then there"s the hospital or the workhouse for you. Last week we carried along planks feet, at least. There"s nothing extra allowed for distance, but there ought to be. I"ve sweat to that degree in summer, that I"ve been tempted to jump into the Thames to cool myself. The sweat"s run into my boots, and I"ve felt it running down me for hours as I had to trudge along. It makes men bleed at the nose and mouth, this work does. Sometimes we put a bit of coal in our mouths, to prevent our biting our tongues. I do, sometimes, but it"s almost as bad as if you did bite your tongue, for when the strain comes heavier and heavier on you, you keep scrunching the coal to bits, and swallow some of it, and you"re half choked; and then it"s no use, you must have beer. Some"s tried a bit of tobacco in their mouths, but that doesn"t answer; it makes you spit, and often spit blood. I know I can"t do without beer. I don"t think they "dulterate it for us; they may for fine people, that just tastes it, and, I"ve heard, has wine and things. But we must have it good, and a publican knows who"s good customers. Perhaps a bit of good grub might be as good as beer to strengthen you at work, but the straining and sweating makes you thirsty, more than hungry; and if poor men must work so hard, and for so little, for rich men, why poor men will take what they feel will satisfy them, and run the risk of its doing them good or harm; and that"s just where it is. I can"t work days running now without feeling it dreadful. I get a mate that"s fresher to finish my work. I"d rather earn less at a trade that would give a man a chance of some ease, but all trades is overstocked. You see we have a niceish tidy room here, and a few middling sticks, so I can"t be a drunkard."|
I now give the statement of a coalporter who had been a teetotaler:—"I have been twentytwo years a coalheaver. When I began that work I earned a-week as backer and filler. I am now earning, week with another, say We have no sick fund among us—no society of any sort—no club—no schools—no nothing. We had a kind of union among us before the great strike, more than years back, but it was just for the strike. We struck against masters lowering the pay for a ton to from The strike only lasted or weeks, and the men were forced to give way; they didn"t all give way at once, but came to gradual. can"t see "s wife and children without bread. There"s very few teetotalers among us, though there"s not many of us now that can be called drunken —they can"t get it, sir. I was a teetotaler myself for years, till I couldn"t keep to it any longer. We all break. It"s a few years back, I forget zactly when. At that time teetotalers might drink shrub, but that never did me no good; a good cup of tea freshened me more. I used then to drink ginger-beer, and spruce, and tea, and coffee. I"ve paid as much as a-week for ginger-beer. When I teetotaled, I always felt thirsty. I used to long for a drink of beer, but somehow managed to get past a public-house, until I could stand it no longer. A clerk of ours broke , and I followed him. I certainly felt weaker before I went back to my beer; now I drink a pint or as I find I want it. I can"t do without it, so it"s no use trying. I joined because I felt I was getting racketty, and giving my mind to nothing but drink, instead of looking to my house. There may be a few teetotalers among us, but I think not. I only knew . We all break—we can"t keep it. of these broke, and the other kept it, because, if he breaks, his wife"ll break, and they were both regular drunkards. A coalporter"s worn out before what you may call well old. There"s not very old men among us. A man"s done up at , and seldom lives long after, if he has to keep on at coalportering. I wish we had some sick fund, or something of that kind. If I was laid up now, there would be nothing but the parish for me, my wife, and
|childer (here the poor man spoke in a broken voice). The masters often discharge old hands when they get feeble, and put on boys. We have no coals allowed for our own firesides. Some masters, if we buys of them, charges us full price, others a little cheaper."|
I saw this man in the evening, after he had left his work, in his own room. It was a large and airy garret. His wife, who did not know previously of my visit, had in her domestic arrangements manifested a desire common to the better disposed of the wives of the labourers, or the poor—that of trying to make her "bit of place" look comfortable. She had to tend a baby months old; elder children were ill clad, but clean; the eldest boy, who is , is in the summer employed on a river steamboat, and is then of great help to his parents. There were beds in the room, and the bedding was decently arranged so as to form a bundle, while its scantiness or worn condition was thus concealed. The solitary table had a faded green cloth cover, very threadbare, but still a cover. There were a few cheap prints over the mantelshelf, and the best description I can give is, in a phrase not uncommon among the poor, that the whole was an attempt to "appear decent." The woman spoke well of her husband, who was kind to her, and fond of his home, and never drank on Sundays.
Last of all, I obtained an interview with coalporters who had been teetotalers for some years:—
Another coalporter, who has been a teetaler years on the of last August, told me, that before he took the pledge he used to drink a great deal after he had done his work, but while he was at work he could not stand it. "I don"t think I used to drink above pints and a half and a pennyworth of gin in the daytime," said this man. "Of an evening I used to stop at the publichouse, generally till I was drunk and unfit to work in the morning. I will vouch for it I used to take about pots a-day after I had done work. My reckoning used to come to about a-day, or, including Sundays, about per week. At that time I could average all the year round about a-week, and I used to drink away of it regularly. I did, indeed, sir, more to my shame."
The other coalporter told me his earnings averaged about the same, but he drank more.
"Richard Hooper! He"s been a teetotaler now about years. He was the of the coaleys as signed the pledge, and he instilled teetotalism on my mind," said the other man. "Where he works now there"s out of men is teetotalers. Seeing that he could do his work much better than when he drinked beer, induced me to become . He was more regular in his work after he had given it up than whenever I knowed him before."
"The way in which Thomas Bailey put it into my head was this here," continued the other. "He invited me to a meeting: I told him I would come, but he"d never make a teetotaler of me, I knowed. I went with the intention to listen to what they could have to say. I was a little bit curious to know how they could make out that beer was no good for a body. The man that addressed the meeting was a tailor. I thought
|it might do very well for him; but then, says I, if you had the weight of lbs. of coals on your back, my lad, you couldn"t do it without ale or beer. I thought this here, because I was taught to believe I couldn"t do without it. I cared not what any man said about beer, I believed it was life itself. After the tailor a coalporter got up to speak. Then I began to listen more attentively. The man said he once had a happy home and a happy wife, everything the heart could wish for, but through the intoxicating drinks he had been robbed of everything. The man pictured the drunkard"s home so faithfully, that the arrows of conviction stuck fast in my heart, and my conscience said, Thou art a drunkard, too! The coalporter said his home had been made happy through the principle of total abstinence. I was determined to try it from that hour. My home was as miserable as it possibly could be, and I knowed intoxicating drink was the cause on it. I signed the pledge that night after the coalporter was done speaking, but was many months before I was thoroughly convinced I was doing right in abstaining altogether. I kept thinking on it after going home of a night, tired and fatigued with my hard work, some times scarcely able to get up-stairs through being so overwrought; and not being quite satisfied about it, I took every opportunity to hear lectures upon the subject. I heard on the properties of intoxicating drinks, which quite convinced me that I had been labouring under a delusion. The gentleman analysed the beer in my presence, and I saw that in a pint of it there was ozs. of water that I had been paying for, oz. of alcohol, and oz. of what they call nutritious matter, but which is the filthiest stuff man ever set eyes upon. It looked more like cobblers" wax than anything else. It was what the lecturer called the—residyum, I think was the name he gave it. The alcohol is what stimulates a man, and makes him feel as if he could carry sacks of coal while it lasts, but afterwards comes the depression; that"s what the coalporters call the "blues." And then he feels that he can do no work at all, and he either goes home and puts another man on in his place, or else he goes and works it off with more drink. You see, where we coalporters have been mistaken is believing alcohol was nutriment, and in fancying that a stimulant was strength. Alcohol is nothing strengthening to the body—indeed, it hardens the food in the stomach, and so hinders digestion. You can see as much any day if you go into the hospitals, and look at the different parts of animals preserved in spirits. The strength that alcohol gives is unnatural and false. It"s food only that can give real strength to the frame. I have done more work since I"ve been a teetotaler in my years than I did in my or years before. I have felt stronger. I don"t say that I do my work better, but this I will say, without any fear of contradiction, that I do my work with more ease to myself, and with more satisfaction to my employer, since I have given over intoxicating drinks. I scarcely know what thirst is. Before I took the pledge I was always dry, and the mere shadow of the potboy was quite sufficient to convince me that I wanted something. I certainly haven"t felt weaker since I left off malt liquor. I have eaten more and drank less. I live as well now as any of the publicans do, and who has a better right to do so than the man who works? I have backed as many as tons in a day since I took the pledge, and have done it without any intoxicating drink, with perfect ease to myself, and walked miles to a temperance meeting afterwards. But before I became a teetotaler, after the same amount of work, I should scarcely have been able to crawl home; I should have been certain to have lost the next day"s work at least: but now I can back that quantity of coals week after week without losing a day. I"ve got a family of children under years of age. My wife"s a teetotaler, and has suckled children upon the principle of total abstinence. Teetotalism has made my home quite happy, and what I get goes twice as far. Where I work now, out of of us are teetotalers. I am quite satisfied that the heaviest work that a man can possibly do may be done without a drop of fermented liquor. I say so from my own experience. All kind of intoxicating drinks is quite a delusion. They are the cause of the working man"s wages being lowered. Masters can get the men who drink at their own price. If it wasn"t for the money spent in liquor we should have funds to fall back upon, and then we could stand out against any reduction that the masters might want to put upon us, and could command a fair day"s wages for a fair day"s work: but as it is, the men are all beggars, and must take what the master offers them. The backing of coals out of the holds of ships is man-killing work. It"s scandalous that men should be allowed to force their fellow-men to do such labour. The calves of a man"s leg is as hard as a bit of board after that there straining work; they hardly know how to turn out of bed of a morning after they have been at that for a day. I never worked below bridge, thank God! and I hope I never shall. I"ve not wanted for a day"s work since I"ve been a teetotaler. Men can back out of a ship"s hold better without liquor than with it. We teetotalers can do the work better—that is, with more ease to ourselves—than the drinking men. Many teetotalers have backed coals out of the hold, and I have heard them say over and over again that they did their work with more comfort and ease than they did when they drank intoxicating drink. Coalbacking from the ship"s hold is the hardest work that it is possible for a man to do.|
|Going up a ladder feet high with lbs. weight on a man"s back is sufficient to kill any ; indeed, it does kill the men in a few years, they"re soon old men at that work: and I do say that the masters below bridge should be stopped going on as they"re doing now. And what for? Why, to put the money they save by it into their own pockets, for the public ain"t no better off, the coals is just as dear. Then the whippers and lightermen are all thrown out of work by it; and what"s more, the lives of the backers are shortened many years—we reckon at least years."|
"I wish to say this much," said the other teetotaler: "it"s a practice with some of the coal-merchants to pay their men in publichouses, and this is the chief cause of a great portion of the wages being spent in drink. I once worked for a master upon as paid his men at a public-house, and I worked a week there, which yearned me and some odd halfpence. When I went on Saturday night the publican asked me what I was come for. In reply, I said "I"m come to settle." He said, "You"re already settled with," meaning I had nothing to take. I had drinked all my lot away, he said, with the exception of I had borrowed during the week. Then I told him to look back, and he"d find I"d something due to me. He did so, and said there was a halfpenny. I had nothing to take home to my wife and children. I asked the publican to lend me a few shillings, saying my young un"s had nothing to eat. His reply was, "That"s nothing to me, that"s your business." After that I made it my business. While I stood at the bar in came the teetotalers, and picked up the each that was coming to them, and I thought how much better they was off than me. The publican stopped all my money for drink that I knowed I"d not had, and yet I couldn"t help myself, "cause he had the paying on me. Then something came over me as I stood there, and I said, "From this night, with the help of God, I"ll never taste of another drop of intoxicating liquors." That"s years ago the of last August, and I"ve kept my pledge ever since, thank God! That publican has been the making of me. The master what discharged me before for getting drunk, when he heard that I was sober sent for me back again. But before that, the teetotalers who was a working along with me was discharged by their master, to oblige the publican who stopped my money. The publican, you see, had his coals from the wharf. He was a "brass-plate coal-merchant" as well as a publican, and had private customers of his own. He threatened to take his work away from the wharf if the teetotalers wasn"t discharged; and sure enough the master did discharge them, sooner than lose so good a customer. Many of the masters now are growing favourable to teetotalism. I can say that I"ve done more on the principle of total abstinence than ever I done before. I"m better in health, I"ve no trembling when I goes to my work of a morning; but, on the contrary, I"m ready to meet it. I"m happier at home. We never has no angry words now," said the man, with a shake of the head, and a strong emphasis on the "My children never runs away from me as they used to before; they come and embrace me more. My money now goes for eatables and clothes, what I and my children once was deprived on through my intemperate habits. And I bless God and the publican that made me a teetotaler—that I do sincerely—every night as I go to bed. And as for men to hold out that they can"t do their work without it, I"m prepared to prove that we have done more work without it than ever we have done or could do with it."
I have been requested by the coalwhippers to publish the following expression of gratitude on their part towards the Government for the establishment of the Coalwhippers" Office:—
I shall now conclude with the following estimate of the number of the hands, ships, &c. engaged in the coal trade in London.
There are about wharfs, I am informed, from to , as well as those on the City-canal. A large wharf will keep about horses, waggons, and carts; and it will employ constantly from to gangs of men. Besides these, there will be waggoners, I cart-carman, and about trouncers —in all, from to men. A small wharf will employ gang of men, about horses, waggons, and cart, waggoners, trouncer, and cart-carman. At the time of the strike, years ago, there were more than coalporters, I am told, in London. It is supposed that there is an average of gang, or about men employed in each wharf; or, in all, coalporters in constant employment, and about and odd men out of work. There are in the trade about waggons and cart to each wharf, or waggons and carts, having horses; to these there would be about waggoners and cart-carman upon an average to each wharf, or in all. Each wharf would occupy about trouncers, or in the whole.
Hence the statistics of the coal trade will be as follows:—
I continue my inquiry into the state of the coal-labourers of the metropolis.
The coalheavers, properly so called, are now no longer known in the trade. The class of coalheavers, according to the vulgar acceptation of the word, is divided into coalwhippers, or those who whip up or lift the coals rapidly from the hold, and the coalbackers, or those who carry them on their backs to the wharf, either from the hold of the ship moored alongside the wharf, or from the lighter into which the coals have been whipped from the collier moored in the middle of the river, or "Pool." Formerly the coals were delivered from the holds of the ships by the labourers shovelling them on to a series of stages, raised above the other till they ultimately reached the deck. or men were on each stage, and hove the coals up to the stage immediately above them. The labourers engaged in this process were termed "coalheavers." But now the coals are delivered at once from the hold by means of a sudden jerk, which "whips " them on deck. This is the process of coalwhipping, and it is performed chiefly in the middle of the river, to fill the "rooms" of the barges that carry the coals from the ship to the wharf. Coals are occasionally delivered immediately from the ship on to the wharf by means of the process of "coalbacking," as it is called. This consists in the sacks being filled in the hold, and then carried on the men"s backs up a ladder from the hold, along planks from the ship to the wharf. By this means, it will be easily understood that the ordinary processes of whipping and lightering are avoided. By the process of coalwhipping, the ship is delivered in the middle of the river, or the "Pool" as it is called, and the coals are lightered, or carried to the wharf, by means of barges, whence they are transported to the wharf by the process of backing. But when the coals are backed out of the ship itself on to the wharf, the preliminary processes are done away with. The ship is moored alongside, and the coals are delivered directly from the ships to the premises of the wharfinger. By this means the wharfingers, or coalmerchants, below bridge, are enabled to have their coals delivered at a cheaper price than those above bridge, who must receive the cargoes by means of the barges. I am assured that the colliers, in being moored alongside the wharfs, receive considerable damage, and strain their timbers severely from the swell of the steamboats passing to and fro. Again, the process of coalbacking appears to be of so extremely laborious a nature that the health, and indeed the lives, of the men are both greatly injured by it. Moreover, the benefit remains solely with the merchant, and not with the consumer, for the price of the coals delivered below bridge is the same as those delivered above. The expense of delivering the ship is always borne by the shipowner. This is, at present, per ton, and was originally intended to be given to the whippers. But the merchant, by the process of backing, has discovered the means of avoiding this process; and so he puts the money which was originally paid by the shipowner for whipping the coals into his own pocket, for the consumer is not a commensurate gainer. Since the merchant below bridge charges the same price to the public for his coals as the merchant above, it is clear that he alone is benefited at the expense of the public, the coalwhippers, and even the coalbackers themselves; for on inquiry among this latter class, I find that they object as much as the whippers to the delivery of a ship from the hold, the mounting of the ladders from the hold being of a most laborious and injurious nature. I have been supplied by a gentleman who is intimately acquainted with the expenses of the processes with the following comparative account:—
By the above account it will be seen, that if a collier of tons is delivered in the Pool, the expense is , but if delivered at the wharf-side the expense is , the difference between the processes being Hence, if the consumer were the gainer, the coals should be delivered below bridge a ton cheaper than they are above bridge. The coalwhippers ordinarily engaged in the whipping of the coals would have gained each man if they had not been "backed" out of the ship; but as the coals delivered by backing below bridge are not cheaper, and the whippers have not re-
|ceived any money, it follows that the which has been paid by the shipowner to the merchant for the expense of whipping has been pocketed by the merchant, and the expense of lightering, , saved by him; making a total profit of , not to mention the cost of wear and tear, and interest of capital sunk in barges. This sum of money is made at the expense of the coalbackers themselves, who are seldom able to continue the labour (so extreme is it) for more than years at the outside, the average duration of the labourers being only years. After this period, the men, from having been overstrained by their violent exertion, are unable to pursue any other calling; and yet the merchants, I am sorry to say, have not even encouraged them to form either a benefit society, a superannuation fund, or a school for their children.|
Wishing to perfect the inquiry, I thought it better to see of the seamen engaged in the trade. Accordingly, I went off to some of the colliers lying in Mill Hole, and found an intelligent man, ready to give me the information I sought. His statement was, that he had been to sea between and twentyseven years altogether. "Out of that time," he said, "I"ve had or years" experience at the coal-trade. I"ve been to the East Indies and West Indies, and served my apprenticeship in a whaler. I have been to the Mediterranean, and to several parts of France. I think that, take the general run, the living and treatment of the men in the coal-trade is better than in any other going. It"s difficult to tell how many ships I"ve been in, and how many owners I"ve served under. I have been in the same ship for or years, and I have been only voyage in ship. You see, we are obliged to study our own interest as much as we can. Of course the masters won"t do it for us. Speaking generally, of the different ships and different owners I"ve served under, I think the men are generally well served. I have been in some that have been very badly victualled: the small stores in particular, such as tea, sugar, and coffee, have been very bad. They, in general, nip us very short. There is a regular allowance fixed by Act of Parliament; but it"s too little for a man to go by. Some owners go strictly by the Act, and some give more; but I don"t know that gives under. Indeed, as a general rule, I think the men in the trade have nothing to complain of. The only thing is, the wages are generally small; and the ships are badly manned. In bad weather there is not enough hands to take the sail off her, or else there wouldn"t be so many accidents as there are. The average tonnage of a coal-ship is from up to about tons. There are sometimes large ships; but they come seldom, and when they do, they carry but part coal cargo. They only load a portion with coals that they may be able to come across the bar-harbours in the north. If they were loaded altogether with coals, they couldn"t get over the bar: they would draw too much water. For a ship of about from to tons, the usual complement is generally from to hands, boys, captain, and men all included together. There might be men before the mast—a master, a mate, and a boy. This is sadly too little. A ship of this sort shouldn"t, to my mind, have less than hands: that is the least to be safe. In rough weather, you see, perhaps the ship is letting water: the master takes the "hellum," hand, in general, stops on deck to work the pumps, and goes aloft. Most likely of the boys has only been to sea or voyages; and if there"s hands to such a ship, of them is sure to be "green-boys," just fresh from the shore, and of little or no use to us. We haven"t help enough to get the sail off the yards in time,— there"s no on deck looking out,—it may be thick weather,—and, of course, it"s properly dangerous. About half the accidents at sea occur from the ships being badly manned. The ships generally, throughout the coaltrade, have hand in too little. The colliers, mostly, carry double their registered tonnage. A ship of tons carrying , will have hands, when she ought to have or ; and out of the that she does have, perhaps of them is boys. All sailors in the coal-trade are paid by the voyage. They vary from up to for able-bodied seamen. The ships from the same port in the north give all alike for a London journey. In the height of summer, the wages is from to ; and in the winter they are Them"s the highest wages given this winter. The wages are incrcased in the winter, because the work"s harder and the weather"s colder. Some of the ships lay up, and there"s a greater demand for those that are in the trade. It"s true that the seamen of those that are laying up are out of employ; but I can"t say why it is that the wages don"t come down in consequence. All I know is they go up in the winter. This is sadly too little pay, this a journey. Probably, in the winter, a man may make only journeys in months; and if he"s got a wife and family, his expenses is going on at home all the while. The voyage I consider to last from the time of sailing from the north port, to the time of entering the north port again. The average time of coming from the north port to London is from to days. Sometimes the passage has been done in : but I"m speaking of the average. We are generally about days at sea, making the voyage from the north and back. The rest of the time we are discharging cargo, or lying idle in the Pool. On making the port of London, we have to remain in "the Section" till the cargo is sold. "The Section" is between Woolwich and Gravesend. I have remained there as much as weeks. I have
|been there, too, only et-day—that is, days. It is very seldom this occurs. The average time that we remain in "the Section" is from to weeks. The cause of this delay arises from the factors not disposing of the coals, in order to keep up the prices. If a large fleet comes, the factors will not sell immediately, because the prices would go down; so we are kept in "the Section," for their convenience, without no more wages. When the cargo is sold we drop down into the Pool; and there we remain about days more than we ought, for want of a meter. We are often kept, also, a day over the day of delivery. This we call a "balk day." The owners of the ship receive a certain compensation for every of these balk days. This is expressed in the charter-party, or ship"s contract. The whippers and meters, too, receive a certain sum for these balk days, the same as if they were working; but the seamen of the colliers are the only parties who receive nothing. The delay arises entirely through the merchant, and he ought to pay us for it. The coal-trade is the only trade that pays by the voyage; all others paying by the month: and the seamen feel it as a great grievance, this detention not being paid for. Very often, while I have been laying in "the Section," because the coalfactor would not sell, other seamen that entered the port of London with me have made another voyage and been back again, whilst I was stopping idle; and been been , or , the better for it. or years since the voyage was or better paid for. I have had, myself, as much as the voyage, and been detained much less. Within the last years our wages have decreased per cent, whilst the demand for coals and for colliers has increased considerably. I never heard of such a thing as supply and demand; but it does seem to me a very queer thing that, whilst there"s a greater quantity of coals sold, and more colliers employed, we poor seamen should be paid worse. In all the ships that I have been in, I"ve generally been pretty well fed; but I have been aboard some ships, and heard of a great many more, where the food is very bad, and the men are very badly used. On the passage, the general rule is to feed the men upon salt meat. The pork they in general use is Kentucky, Russian, Irish, and, indeed, a mixture of all nations. Any kind of offal goes aboard some ships; but the I"m on now there"s as good meat as ever went aboard; aye, and plenty of it—no stint."|
A basketman, who was present whilst I was taking the above statement, told me that the foreman of the coalwhippers had more chances of judging of the state of the provisions supplied to the colliers than the men had themselves; for the basketmen delivered many different ships, and it was the general rule for them to get their dinner aboard, among the sailors. The basketman here referred to told me that he had been a butcher, and was consequently well able to judge of the quality of the meat. "I have no hesitation," said he, "in stating, that half the meat supplied to the seamen is unfit for human consumption. I speak of the pork in particular. Frequently the men throw it overboard to get it out of the way. Many a time when I"ve been dining with the men I wouldn"t touch it. It fairly and regularly stinks as they takes it out of the coppers."