London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3
OF these I can at present give but a general description. The individual instances of oppression that I have sought out I must reserve for a subsequent page, when I most heartily hope that the publication of the iniquity of which these poor fellows are the victims, will be at least instrumental in putting an end to a most vile and wicked plan for the degradation and demoralization of our fellow-creatures. The tales I have to tell are such as must rouse every heart not positively indurated by the love of gain. I must, however, be here content, as I said before, with merely describing the system.
The duty of the ballast-heaver is to heave into the holds of the ship the ballast brought alongside the vessel by the Trinity-lighters from the dredging-engines. The ships take in ballast either in the docks or in the Pool. When the ship is cranky-built, and cannot stand steady after a portion of her cargo has been discharged, she usually takes in what is called shifting or stiffening ballast. The ballast is said to stiffen a cranky vessel, because it has the effect of making her firm or steady in the water. The quantity of ballast required by cranky vessels depends upon the build of the ships. tons of cargo will stiffen the most cranky vessel. I am informed by those who have been all their lives at the business, that they never knew a vessel, however cranky, but what tons" weight would stiffen her. Some vessels are so stiff-built, that they can discharge the whole of their cargo without taking in any ballast at all. These are generally flatbot- tomed vessels, whereas cranky vessels are built sharp towards the keel. The colliers are mostly flat-bottomed vessels, and could in calm weather return to the north without either ballast or cargo in them. This, how- ever, is not allowed by the owners. The generality of ships discharge all their cargo before they take in any ballast. The crankybuilt ships form the exception, and begin taking in ballast when they are about threeparts discharged. When a ship requires ballast, the owner or of his agents or servants applies to the Trinity House for the quantity needed. If the ship belong to the merchant service, and is lying in any of the docks, the owner has to pay per ton to the Trinity Company for the ballast supplied: but if the merchant vessel be lying in the Pool, then the price is per ton, and if the vessel be a collier, the price is per ton. On application being made at the Ballast Office, the party is supplied with a bill, specifying the name and situation of the vessel, the quantity of ballast required for her, and the price that has been paid for it. The bill is then taken to the Ruler"s Office, where it is entered in a book, and the ship supplied with the ballast, according to the place that she has on the books. If the weather is rough, a ship has often to remain or days without receiving the ballast she wants. The application for ballast is seldom made directly from the captain or shipowner himself. There are parties living in the neighbourhood of and Ratcliffe who undertake, for a certain sum per score of tons, to have the requisite quantity of ballast put aboard the ship. These parties are generally either publicans, grocers, butchers, lodging-house-keepers or watermen, and they have a number of labourers dealing with them whom they employ to heave the ballast on board. The publicans, butchers, grocers, or lodging-house-keepers, are the ballast-contractors, and they only employ those parties who are customers at their houses. It is the owner or captain of the vessel who contracts with these "truckmen" for the ballasting of the ship at a certain price per score of tons, and the truckmen for that sum undertake not only to procure the ballast from the Trinity Company, and save the owner or captain all the trouble of so doing, but also to carry it from the Trinity-lighters on board the ship. The reason of the publicans, grocers, butchers, or lodging-house-keepers, undertaking the job is to increase the custom at their shops, for they make it a rule to employ no heavers but those who purchase their goods from them. The price paid to these truckmen varies considerably. Their principal profit, however, is made out of the labourers they employ. The highest price paid to the contractors for putting the ballast on board colliers (exclusive of the cost of the ballast itself) is per score tons. Many contractors charge less than this—not a few indeed undertake to do it for , and there are or who will do it for the score. But these, I am informed, "are men who are trying to get the work away from the other contractors." The highest price paid to the contractors for
|ballasting small merchant vessels is per score as well. For large vessels the price varies according to their size, and, consequently, the number of heavers required to put the ballast on board. The lowest price paid per score to the contractors for small merchant vessels is or years ago the price for ballasting small merchant vessels was much higher. Then the highest price paid to the contractor was Since that time the prices both for merchant vessels and colliers have been continually falling. This, I am told, arises from the number of contractors increasing, and their continual endeavours to underwork another. Before the establishment of the Coal-whippers" Office, the contractors for ballast were solely publicans; and they not only undertook to put ballast on board, but to deliver the coals from the ships as well. At this time the publicans engaged in the business made rapid and large fortunes, and soon became shipowners themselves, but after the institution of the Coal-whippers" Office, the business of the publicans, who had before been the contractors, declined. Since that period the contracts for ballasting ships have been undertaken by butchers and grocers, as well as publicans, and the number of these has increased every year, and according as the number of the contractors has increased, so have the prices decreased, for each is anxious to undersell the other. In order to do this, the contractors have sought everywhere for fresh hands, and the lodginghouse- keepers in particular have introduced labouring men from the country, who will do the work at a less price than those who have been regularly brought up to the business: and I am credibly informed, that whereas or years ago every ballast-heaver was known to his mates, now the strangers have increased to such an extent that at least -thirds of the body are unacquainted with the rest. There is treble the number of hands at the work now, I am told, to what there was but a few years back. The prices paid by the contractors to the ballast-heavers are very little below what the owners pay to them, indeed some of the publicans pay the heavers the same price that they themselves receive, and make their profit solely out of the beer and spirits supplied to the workmen. The butchers and grocers generally pay the men and some in the score less than they themselves get; but, like the publican, their chief profit is made out of the goods they supply. The lodging-house-keepers seldom contract for the work. They are generally foremen employed by the publican, butcher, or grocer contracting, and they make it a rule that the ballast-heavers whom they hire shall lodge at their house, as well as procure their beer, meat, or grocery, as the case may be, from the shop of the contractor by whom they are employed. All the English ships that enter the port of London are supplied with ballast in this manner. The owners always make it a rule to contract with some publican, butcher, grocer, or lodging-house-keeper for the ballasting of their vessels, and it is impossible for the ballast-heaver to obtain employment at his calling but by dealing at the shops of some or other of these parties. According to the Government returns there were ballast-heavers in the metropolis in , and I am assured that there are more than double that number at present, or nearly labourers engaged in the business. There are now publicans who make a regular business of contracting for the supply of ballast. Besides these there are butchers, the same number of grocers, and as many lodging-house keepers. Further than this, there is a foreman attached to each of the public-houses, or butchers" or grocers" shops, and these foremen are mostly lodging--house--keepers as well. The foremen in general have the engagement of the heavers, and the hands they employ are those who lodge at their houses: these hands are expected also to deal with the contractor under whose foreman they serve. The heavers generally, therefore, are obliged to lodge at the house of some foreman, and to obtain their meat, beer, and grocery from the different ballast-contractors, in order to obtain work; indeed, with the exception of clothing, the heaver is compelled to obtain almost every article he consumes through the medium of some contractor. The greater the number of contractors the heaver deals with, the greater is his chance of work. The rule with each of the contractors is to give credit to the hands they employ, and those who are the most in debt with them have the preference in labour. The butchers and grocers generally charge per lb. extra for everything they sell to the heavers, and the publicans make it up in adulteration. Each of the publicans, butchers, and grocers, who make a rule of contracting for the supply of ballast, has, on an average, gangs of men dealing at his house, and if he have more ships to supply than his regular hands are capable of doing, then he sends the foreman to either of the places of call where the unemployed men wait for hire throughout the day. Each ship requires from to heavers to put the ballast on board, and the men generally ship about tons in the course of the day. They often do as much as tons, and sometimes only in the day. The heavers are divided into constant and casualty men.
To complete the different classes of ballastlabourers, I will conclude with the statement of a casualty man:—
In order to assure myself of the intensity of the labour of ballast-heaving, of which I heard statements on all sides, I visited a gang of men at work, ballasting a collier in the Pool. My engagements prevented my doing this until about in the evening. There was a very dense fog on the river, and all along its banks; so thick was it, indeed, that the water, which washed the steps where I took a boat, could not be distinguished, even with the help of the adjacent lights. I soon, however, attained the ballast-lighter I sought. The ballast-heavers had established themselves alongside a collier, to be filled with tons of ballast, just before I reached them, so that I observed all their operations. Their step was to tie pieces of old sail, or anything of that kind, round their shoes, ankles, and half up their legs, to prevent the gravel falling into their shoes, and so rendering their tread painful. This was rapidly done; and the men set to work with the quiet earnestness of those who are working for the morrow"s meal, and who know that they must work hard. men stood in the gravel (the ballast) in the lighter; the other stood on "a stage," as it is called, which is but a boarding placed on the partition-beams of the lighter. The men on this stage, cold as the night was, threw off their jackets, and worked in their shirts, their labour being not merely hard, but rapid. As man struck his shovel into the ballast thrown upon the stage, the other hove his shovelful through a small porthole in the vessel"s side, so that the work went on as continuously and as quickly as the circumstances could possibly admit. Rarely was a word spoken, and nothing was heard but an occasional gurgle of the water, and the plunging of the shovel into the gravel on the stage by heaver, followed instantaneously by the rattling of the stones in the hold shot from the shovel of the other. In the hold the ballast is arranged by the ship"s company. The throwing of the ballast through the porthole was done with a nice precision. A tarpaulin was fixed to prevent any of the ballast that might not be flung through the porthole being wasted by falling into the river, and all that struck merely the bounds of the porthole fell back into the lighter; but this was the merest trifle. The men pitched the stuff through most dexterously. The porthole might be feet above the stage from which they hove the ballast; the men in the lighter have an average heave of feet on to the stage. The men on the stage and the on the lighter fill and discharge their shovels times in a minute; that is, shovelful is shot by each man in every alternate seconds; so that every of the men engaged at the work flings the height of feet every minute, or feet in an hour; and in that time, according to the concurrent computation of the heavers, the men may easily fling in tons, or lbs. a man, The men work with the help of large lanterns, being employed mostly by night.
I shall now state the sentiments of the men generally, and then individually, upon the subject of their grievances.
To be certain as to the earnings of the men, to see their condition, and to hear from a large number of them their own statements as to the hardships they suffered, and the sums they gained, I met bodies of the ballast-heavers, assembled without prear- rangement. At station were present, at the other . The men were chiefly clad in coarse, strong jackets; some of them merely waistcoats, with strong, blue flannel sleeves, and coarse trowsers, thick with accumulated grease from long wear. They had, notwithstanding their privations, generally a hardy look. There was nothing squalid in their appearance, as in that of men who have to support life on similar earnings with in-door employment. Their manners were quiet, and far from coarse. At the meeting were present. man said, "Well, I think I am the oldest man at present, and I don"t get above a-week; but that"s because I"m an old man, and cannot work with the young ones." Upon an average the common men earned a-week the year through, and took home I inquired, "Are you all compelled to spend a great part of all you earn in drink with the publican?" The answer was simultaneously, "All of us—all—all!" Of the remainder of their earnings, after the drink deductions, the men were all satisfied they spent so much, that many only took a-week home to their wives and families on an average. Last week earned , the publican taking from each. earned ; of these took home, the other , both working for publicans; the , who worked for a grocer, took home ; the other being spent in tea and sugar, he being a single man. earned ; , working for a publican, carried home , the difference going in compulsory drink; another , and another did load of ballast, receiving each for it; took home ; another (a private job); another, who did a load for , took home ; the other took home each. man earned , and took it all home, having worked at a
private job for a foreigner. earned nothing in the course of the last week. For the last fortnight had earned nothing. There were present that had earned something in the last weeks. "The fortnight before Christmas," said , "I didn"t earn all that fortnight." "Nor I, nor I," said several others. On being asked, "Are you compelled to spend half of your earnings in drink?" there was a general cry of, "More than that, sir; more than that." I asked if men were forced to become drunkards under this system; there was a general cry of, "We are; and blackguards, too." were married men. Of them, had no children; had child; had children; had ; had ; had ; had . The men all said, that to get away from the publican would be "a new life to them— all to their benefit—no force to waste money in drink—and the only thing that would do them good." Many threw away the drink they had from the publicans, it was so bad; they drank Thames water rather. They were all satisfied "they earned a-week the year through, spending of that sum what they
spend, and what they were induced to spend, from to a-week." "Another thing," they said, "if you get a job, the publican will advance —now and then he may. They hate to give money; there"s trnst for as much grog as you like." All hailed with delight the least possible chance of being freed from the publican. man said he was compelled often enough to pawn something of his own or his wife"s to go and spend it at the publichouse, or he would have no chance of a job. All declare "such a system never was known to have been carried on for years." Many said, "We shall be discharged if they know we have told you the truth." They stated that the ballast-heavers numbered between and . There were craft, each requiring heavers; and many men were idle when all the others were at work. were present when I counted the other meeting. A man said there might be times that number looking for work then, and as many at work belonging to that station alone. In the census returns showed that there were ballast-heavers; the men assembled declared that their numbers had more nearly trebled than doubled since then. Within the last or years many new hands had got to work, on account of the distress in Ireland. The men agreed with the others I had seen that they earned, week with another, , taking home but at the outside, and often only In answer to my questions they said, the winter is the best season; the trade is very slack in summer. Earnings in winter are pretty well double what they are in summer. Many agricultural labourers work among the heavers in winter, when they cannot be employed on the land. Of this body all said they were sober men till they took to
ballast-heaving, and would like to become sober men again. (A general assent.) of the men had taken the pledge before becoming ballast-heavers, and were obliged to break it to get work. They had to drink pots of beer, they declared, where, if they were free men, they would only drink . When asked if the present system made drunkards, they answered with voice, "All; every ballastheaver in it." were married men. All their wives and children suffered (this was affirmed generally with a loud murmur), and often had nothing to eat or drink while their husbands had but the drink. It was computed (with general concurrence) that ballast-heavers paid foremen for lodgings, not half of them ever seeing the bed they paid for. About years ago they could earn twice or times as much as they can now; but prices were higher ( per score, for what is now ), and the men were far less numerous. The following is a precise statement of the sums to which each ballast-heaver present was entitled, followed by the amount he had carried home the week before, after payment of his compulsory drinkings, and of what he might be induced to drink at the house of his employer while waiting to be paid:—
This statement shows, out of earnings, a receipt of less than a-week.
According to the returns of the Trinity
|House, there were tons of ballast put on board ships in the year . The ballast-heavers are paid at the rate of per ton for shovelling the ballast out of the Trinity Company"s lighters into the holds of vessels. Hence, the total earnings of the ballast-heavers in that year were And calculating -thirds (the men say they always get rid of a half, and often -fourths, of their earnings in drink) of this sum to have been spent in liquor, it follows that as much as went to the publican, and only to the labouring men. According to this estimate of their gross earnings, if we calculate the body of the ballast-heavers as numbering men, the average wages of the class are about per week each man; or if we reckon the class at , then the average wages of each person would be about per week. From all I can learn this appears to be about the truth—the earnings of the men being about a-week, and their real income about
The men shall now speak for themselves.
The that I saw were of the better class of foremen, who volunteered to give me an account of the system.
Another foreman, who was present while I was taking the statement of this man, here observed, that "Many foremen claim tow-tow, or a "-handed" proportion—that is, they will have when the working men have only There is a great deal of imposition on the working-classes here, I can assure you; the general thing, when we go to a job out of a public-house is, that the publican expects the men to drink to the amount of out of every , and out of every that"s coming to them—that is, - part of the men"s money must be spent in liquor. The drink is certainly not the best; indeed, if there is any inferior stuff they have it: it"s an obligation on them that they drink. If they refuse to drink, they won"t get employed, and that"s the plain truth of it. Oh, it"s long wanted looking to; and I"m glad at last to find some inquiring into it. If they went to get the regular beer from the fair public-houses they would have to pay a pot for it; and at the contracting publicans" they must give a pot, and have short measure, and the worst of stuff too. Every pots of beer they give to the men is only pots fair measure; and the rum they charge them half-a-pint more than the regular public-houses would, and far worse rum into the bargain. Besides the profit on their drink, some publicans charge per score tons as well. Out of the money coming to the men after the publican has been paid his score, many foremen claim onefifth part over and above their regular share; or, in other words, the foremen takes shares, and the men only each. When the men have been paid, the publican paying them expects them to spend a further sum in drink, looking black at the man who goes away without calling for his pint or his pot, and not caring if they drink away the whole of their earnings. There"s a good many would be glad if the men sat in their houses and spent their last farthing, and then had to go home penniless to their wives and families."
"I am a "ganger" to a butcher as well as a publican," said of the foremen. "His practice is just the same as the publican"s. He receives per score tons, and pays me for the men The men and myself are all expected to spend about -half of our earnings with the butcher in meat. He charges per lb.; and at other houses, with ready money, I and the men might get it for as good. His meat is at least - dearer than other butchers". I am also ganger to a grocer, and he gets about the same profit out of the men he employs—that is to say, the articles he supplies the men with are at least - dearer than at other shops. If anything, he makes more out of the men than the butcher; for if any man goes a score (which he always encourages) he stops the whole out the man"s earnings, and often leaves him without a penny after the job is done. When the publican, grocer, butcher, or lodging-house keeper has a contract for ballast, he directs the foreman working under him to get together the gang that regularly work from his house. This gang are men who always deal at the shop, and the contractor would dismiss me if I was to engage any other men than those who were his regular customers. Many a time a publican has told me that some man was a good, hard drinker, and directed me to engage him whenever I could. If a man sticks up a score, he also tells me to put him on of all: the grocer and the butcher do the same. This system is the cause, I know, of much distress and misery among the men; the publicans make the men drunkards by forcing them to drink. I know many wives and children who starve half their time through it. They haven"t a bit of shoe or clothing, and all through the publican compelling the men to spend their earnings in drink. After the gang is paid, at least out of the get drunk; and, often, the whole . Many a time I have seen the whole of the men reel-
|ing home without a penny to bless themselves, and the wife and children have to suffer for all this; they are ill-treated and half-starved: this I can safely say from my own knowledge."
I next saw men, who stated that they were oppressed by the publican, and the foreman also. The said, "I work under a publican, and have to pay the foreman onefifth of my earnings; I only have fourpence out of every shilling I earn, and I must be a sober man indeed to get that. Both the publican and the foreman get eightpence out of a shilling, and make their money out of my sweat. years ago I was left, to my sorrow, with motherless children, and I am the slave of the publican. He is my destruction, and such--are my sufferings, that I don"t care what I do if I can destroy the system; I shall die happy if I can see an end to it. I would go to bed supperless to-night, and so should my children, if I could stop it. After I have had a job of work, many"s the time I have not had a penny to take home to my children, it has all gone betwixt the foreman and the publican; and what is more, if I had brought anything home I should have stood a worse chance of work the next day. If I had gone away with sixpence in my pocket, the work that should have come to me would have gone to those who had spent all in the house. I can solemnly say that the men are made regular drunkards by the publicans. I am -and- years dealing with this oppression, and I wish from my heart I could see an end to it, for the sake of my children and my fellow-creatures" children as well. But I suffer quite as much from the foreman as I do from the publican. I am obliged to treat him before I can get a job of work. The man who gives him the most drink he will employ the . Besides this, the foreman has - parts of the money paid for the job; he has twice as much as the men if he does any of the work; and if he does none of the work he takes - of the whole money: besides this, the men do times the foreman"s labour. If I could get the full value of my sweat, I could lay by to-morrow, and keep my family respectably. In the room of that, now, my family want bread often—worse luck, for it hurts my feelings. I have been idle all to-day; for hearing of this, I came to make my statement, for it was the pride of my heart to do all that I could to put an end to the oppression. The publicans have had the best of me, and when the system is done away with I shan"t be much the better for it. I have been -and- years at it, and it has ruined me both body and soul; but I say what I do for the benefit of others, and those who come after me."
The other man said that he worked under a publican, and a grocer as well, and lodged with a foreman. "I pay a week for my lodgings," he said; "there are beds in the room, and men in each. The room where we all sleep is not more than feet long by feet wide, and barely feet high. There is no chimney in it. It is a garret, with nothing in it but the beds. There hadn"t need be much more, for it wouldn"t hold even a chair besides. There"s hardly room, in fact, for the door to open. I find it very close sleeping there at night-time, with no ventilation, but I can"t help myself. I stay there for the job of work. I must stay; I shouldn"t get a day"s work if I didn"t. The lodgings are so bad, I"d leave them to-morrow if I could. I know I pay twice as much as I could get them for elsewhere. That"s way in which I, for , am robbed. Besides this, I am obliged to treat the foreman; I am obliged to give him glasses of rum, as well as lodging at his house, in order to get employment. I have also to drink at the public-house; - of my money is kept, and foremost, by the publican. That goes for the compulsory drink—for the swash which he sends us on board, and that we think the Thames-water is sweet and wholesome to it. It is expressly adulterated for our drink. If we speak a word against it we should be left to walk the streets, for a week and more forward. Even if we were known to meet a friend, and have a pint or a pot in another public-house, we should be called to an account for it by the publican we worked under, and he would tell us to go and get work where we spent our money; and, God knows, very little money we would have coming out of his house after our hard sweat. After the compulsory drink, and the publican has settled with us, and his part of our hardearned money for the swash—it"s nothing else—that he has given us to drink, then I should be thought no man at all if I didn"t have pots of beer, or half-a-pint of gin, so that I would count myself very lucky indeed if I had a couple of shillings to take home, and out of that I should have to spend twothirds of it to get another job. I am a married man, and my wife and children are in Ireland. I can"t have them over, for it is as much as I can do to support myself. I came over here thinking to get work, and to send them money to bring them over after me, but since I have been here I have been working at the ballast-work, and I have not been able to keep myself. I don"t complain of what is paid for the work; the price is fair enough; but we don"t get a quarter of what we earn, and the Irish ballast-heavers suffer more here than in their own country. When I came over here I had a good suit of clothes to my back, and now I"m all in rags and tatters, and yet I have been working harder, and earning more money, that I did in all my life. We are robbed of all we get by the foremen and publicans. I was years a teetotaler before I went to ballast-work, and now I am forced to be a drunkard, to my sorrow, to get a job of
|work. My wife and children have a bit of land in Ireland to keep them, and they"re badly off enough, God knows. I can neither help them, nor send money to bring them over to me; nor can I get over to them myself. The grocers whom we work under rob us in the same manner. I have worked under . He supplied bread, butter, tea, sugar, coffee, candles, tobacco, cheese, &c. It is a larger kind of chandlers" shop. He charges us for the same bread as I can buy for at other shops. The tea, sugar, and other articles he supplies us with are at the same rate; they are either worse or dearer than at other shops. They generally manage to get a part of our earnings wherever we go; but the grocers are best of all, for they don"t ruin our health, as what they give us don"t make us sick. I work for these houses because the foreman that I lodge with has work out of both houses, and we are obliged to deal at the houses that he works under; if we didn"t we shouldn"t get the job, so that if we are not robbed by the publican we are by the grocer. They will have it out of the poor hard-working man, and the foreman must have the gain out of it as well. I only wish to God it was done away with, for it is downright oppression to us all, and if I never have another stroke of work I will strive all I can to have it done away with for the sake of my fellow-men.
After these cases came who said,— "I have been years a ballast-heaver. Just before that I came to this country. When I came I got to be a lodger with a foreman to a publican. I paid him a-week. My family, a wife and children, came over when I had got work as a ballast-heaver. I couldn"t take them to the lodgings I then had; they were all for single men: so I had to take another place, and there I went to live with my family; but to keep my work I had to pay the foreman of the publican — him that lets these lodgings to the ballast-heaver— a-week all the same as if I had been living there. That I had, and I had to do it for years. Yes, indeed. I didn"t earn enough to pay for lodgings, so or months back I refused to pay the a-week for a place I hadn"t set my foot in for years, and so I lost my work under that foreman and his publican. If me and my children was starving for want of a bite of bread, neither of them would give me a farthing. There"s plenty as bad as them, too, and plenty used like me, and it"s a murdering shame to tax poor men"s labour for nothing."
This man reiterated the constant story of being compelled to drink against his will, hating the stuff supplied to him, being kept for hours waiting before he was paid, and being forced to get drunk, whether he would or no. The man also informed me that he now works under a butcher, who pays a score to the hands he employs, he (the butcher) receiving from the captain
This same butcher, I was afterwards informed, had been twice fined for using false weights to customers, such as the man whose statement I have given; he even used wooden weights made to look like lead.
The following is an instance of the injustice done to the men by those who contract to whip rather than to heave the ballast on board.
I have given the statement of a ballastheaver as to the system pursued by those whom he called basket-men. The employer here alluded to is of that class, the difference being, that the ballast-heavers shovel the ballast out of the lighter on to the stage, and from the stage through a port-hole into the hold. men are thus employed, on the lighter, and on the stage. With a large ship men are employed, and stages. When the basket-man or the man contracting by the lump is employed, this process is observed:—There are men in the lighter alongside the vessel to be ballasted, whose business it is to fill baskets. There are men at the winch aboard ship employed heaving up these baskets, and a basket-man to turn them over and empty out their contents.
To ascertain that there was no provident fund—no provision whatever for sickness—I investigated the case of a man who, in consequence of illness occasioned by his trade, was afflicted with a pulmonary complaint. This man was formerly of the wine-cellarmen in the London Dock; he was then made a permanent man at the St. Katherine"s Dock, and was dismissed for having taken a lighted pipe in while at his work; and for the last years and upwards he has been a ballast-heaver. I now give his wife"s statement:—"My husband has been ill for months, and he has been weeks in Guy"s Hospital, and I am afraid he"ll never get out again, for he kept up as long as he could for the sake of the children. We have at home; of them ( years old) I hope to get to sea, having older sons at sea, and being the mother of children altogether. I will tcll you what led to my poor husband"s illness; he was a kind husband to me. I consider it was his hard work that made him ill, and his not getting his rights— not his money when entitled to it. After doing a heavy day"s work he had to go and sit in a cold tap-room, drinking bad beer; but it wasn"t beer—muck, I call it—and he had to wait to be paid, ay, and might have had to wait till the day after, and then come home cold and have to go to bed without a bit of victuals. His illness is owing to that; no horse could stand it long. Ballast-men are worse than slaves in the West Indies. When at work he earned what the others did. He only drank what he couldn"t help—the worst of stuff. No drink, no work. weeks ago she went to the hospital, I conveying him. When I returned home I found strange men had turned my children into the street, doing it in a brutal way. I rushed into the house, and said, "Who are you?" I seized the fellow who said this by the hand kerchief, and put him out. of them said, "Be off, you old Irish hag, you have no business here; we have possession." When I saw the children in the street, passion made me strong, and so I put him out. The collector of the rent, who employed the broker, is a publican, for whom my husband worked as a ballast-heaver until he was unable to work from illness. I was given into custody for an assault, and taken before Mr. Yardley. He considered the assault proved, and as an honest woman I couldn"t deny it, and so I had days with bread and water. The children were placed in the workhouse, where they were well treated. I was very glad they were so taken care of. As soon as I got out I went to see about my children; that was the thing I did. I couldn"t rest till I did that. I brought them home with me, though it was only to bread and water, but I was with them. I only owed about rent, and had been years in the house at the time the publican put the broker in. We paid a-week; it was no use asking such a man as that any mercy. He was in the habit of employing ballast-heavers for many years; and if that doesn"t harden a man"s heart, nothing will. In general these ballast publicans are cruel and greedy. At present I go out washing or charing, or doing anything I can to maintain my children, but work"s very slack. I"ve had a day and a-half this fortnight, earning , that"s all for a fortnight; the parish allows me loaves of bread a-week. The children, all boys, just get what keeps a little life in them. They have no bed at night, and are starved almost to death, poor things. I blame the system under which my husband had to work—his money going in drink—for leaving me destitute in the world. On Christmas-day we lived on a bit of workhouse bread—nothing else, and had no fire to eat it by. But for the money gone in drink we might have had a decent home, and wouldn"t so soon have come to this killing poverty. I have been tenderly reared, and never thought I should have come to this. May God grant the system may be done away with, for poor people"s sake."
I now give the statement of women, the wives of ballast-heavers, that I may further show how the wives and families of these men are affected by the present system.
The other woman had been married years, but has no children living.
"We can"t get shoes to our feet," said the woman.
"We," interposed the elder woman, "haven"t a stitch but what"s in pawn except what wouldn"t be taken. We have worth in pawn altogether—all for meat and fire."
"I can"t, I daren"t," the younger woman said, "expect anything better while the present system of work continues. My husband"s a slave, and we suffer for it."
The elder woman made a similar statement. After his score is paid, she said, her husband has brought her , , , , and often nothing, coming home drunk with nothing at all. Both women stated that the drink made their husbands sick and ill, and for sickness there was no provision whatever. They could have taken me to numbers of women situated and used as they were. The rooms are bare walls, with a few pieces of furniture and bedding such as no would give a penny for. The young woman was perfectly modest in manner, speech, and look, and spoke of what her husband was and still might be with much feeling. She came to me with a half-clad and half-famished child in her arms.
I then took, for the sake of avoiding repe- tition, the statements of ballast-heavers together——working under different publicans. The account they gave me of the way in which the publicans contracted to ballast a ship was the same as I have given elsewhere.
"Yes," added the other man, "and so publican told me; for I turned teetotaler myself somewhere about years ago, and took the pledge from Father Mathew in the Commercial-road. The publican told me, that if Father Mathew chose to interfere with me, why Father Mathew might get employment for me, for he—that"s the publican— wouldn"t. So I was forced to break my pledge to live—me and my youngsters—I had then, and I"ve buried since."
"Work," resumed the man who gave me the statement, "keeps getting worse. Last week I carried only home, and if I"d got paid by the captain of the ship for the amount of work I did, and on the same terms as the publican, I should have taken home at the very least The publican that employs us gives us only a-score, and receives from the captain. All the publicans don"t do this; some give what they get from the captain, but some publicans takes -thirds, and that"s the truth. (The man assented.) week with another I"ve taken home, this winter, from to , and but for this shameful starvation system, having to work for a publican"s profit, and to drink his drink, I"d take home my every week. It makes a man feel like a slave; indeed, I"m not much better. We should be in heaven if we got away from the publican or butcher either; it"s compulsion "s life through. Some of the publicans have as many as single men lodging in their houses, paying half-a-crown a-week; ay, and men that don"t lodge with them, when the house is full, must pay half-a-crown all the same, to get a job of work, as well as paying for the places where they do lodge."
The man continued:—
The other man then made a further statement.
I next obtained an interview with a young man who was the victim of a double extortion. He made the following statement:—
Then came who was the of a publican and grocer. He said:
I shall now set forth as fully as possible the nature of the system by which the ballastheaver is either forced by the fear of losing all chance of future employment, or induced by the hope of obtaining the preference of work from the publican, his employer, to spend at least half of his earnings every week in intoxicating drinks. Let me, however, before proceeding directly to the subject of my present communication, again lay before the reader the conclusions which I lately drew from the Metropolitan Police returns for , concerning the intemperance of the labouring classes of London. It is essential that I should prove the fact, and show its necessary consequences. This done, the public will be more ready to perceive the cause, and to understand that until this and similar social evils are removed, it is worse than idle to talk of "the elevation of the masses," and most unjust, to use the mildest term, to condemn the working men for sins into which they are positively forced. To preach about the virtues of teetotalism to the poor, and yet to allow a system to continue that compels them to be drunk before they can get work—not to say bread—is surely a mockery. If we would really have the industrious classes sober and temperate men, we must look , it seems, to their We have already seen that the intemperance of the coal-labourer is the fault of the employer, rather than the man; but we have only to go among the ballast-labourers to find the demoralization of the working man arising, not from any mere passive indifference, but from something like a positive conspiracy on the part of the master.
According to the criminal returns for the metropolis, there were males and females, making altogether a total of individuals, charged with drunkenness in the year . This makes in every individuals in London a drunkard—a proportion which, large as it seems, is still less than onehalf what it was some or years back.
For the sake of comparison I subjoin, in the following page, a Table, taken from the Government Report on Drunkenness; being a return of the number of charges of drunkenness which have been entered upon the books of the Metropolitan Police in the years ,
|, and , with the number of officers employed in, and the locality of, each division: also the amount of population in each, according to the Parliamentary returns of .
Now, comparing these returns with those of the year before last, we find that the decrease of intemperance in the metropolis has been most extraordinary. In the year , in every individuals was drunk; in the number increased to in ; whereas in it decreased to in ; and in the average had again fallen to individual to every . This decrease of intemperance was attended with a similar decrease in the number of metropolitan beer-shops. In there were , and in only beershops in London. Whether this decrease preceded or succeeded, and so was the cause or the consequence of the increased sobriety of the people, it is difficult to say. The number of public-houses in London, however, had increased during the same period from to . Upon the cause and effect of this I leave others to speculate.
Of the total, persons, male and female, who were charged with being intoxicated in the year , no less than individual in every belonged to the labouring class: and, excluding the females from the number, we shall find that, of the males, every individual that was taken up for drunkenness was a labouring man. Taking the whole population of London, temperate and intemperate, only in every is a drunkard; but with the labouring classes the average is as high as in every . Of course, where the habit of drinking is excessive, we may expect to find also excessive pugnacity. That it is the tendency of all intoxicating liquors to increase the irritability of the individual is well known. We might infer therefore, , that the greater number of common assaults would be committed by the greatest drunkards. In there were individuals assaulted in London, and nearly onefourth of these, or , were attacked by labouring men, in every of the entire body of labourers having been charged with this offence. The "simple larceny," of which the labouring classes appear, by the same returns, to be more guilty than any other body of individuals, is also explained by their inordinate intemperance. When a man"s bodily energy is destroyed by drink, labour is so irksome to him that he would sooner peril his liberty than work. What wonder, then, that as many as in every labourers should be charged with theft? Whereas, of the rest of the population there are only in every individuals. Thus, of the labouring classes, in every is charged with being drunk; in every with committing an assault; and in every with being guilty of simple larceny.
For the truth of the connexion existing between drink, pugnacity, and theft, I would refer to the statement of of the most intelligent and experienced of the coal whippers,—, indeed, to whose unceasing and heroic exertions that class principally owe their redemption:—"The children of the coal-whippers," he told me, "were, under the old system, almost reared in the tap-room." He himself had known as many as youths that were transported; and this, be it remembered, out of a class numbering only men.
Such, then, are the proved consequences of an inordinate use of intoxicating liquors. It becomes, therefore, the duty of every who is anxious for the well-being of the people, to diminish the occasions for drinking wherever possible. To permit the continuance of certain systems of employment and payment, which are well known, both to tempt and compel the men to indulge in intoxicating liquors, is at once to breed the very crimes that it is the office of Government to suppress. The custom pursued by the coal-merchants of paying the labourers in their employ in publichouses, as I lately exposed, appeared bad enough. The "backer," jaded and depressed with his excessive work through the day, was entrapped into the public-house in the evening, under the pretence of receiving his wages. Once inside he was kept waiting there hour after hour by the publican (who of course was out of silver, and had to send some distance for it). Beer is called for by the men in the meantime. Under the influence of the stimulant, the fatigue and the depression begin to leave the labourers, the burden that is still on their backs (it will be remembered that such is the description of the men themselves) is shaken off, and their muscles no longer ache and are stiff, but relax, while their flagging spirits gradually revive under the potent charm of the liquor. What wonder, then, that the poor creatures finding it so easy, and when the habit is once formed, so pleasant, a cure for their ills, should be led to follow up draught with another and another? This system appeared to me to be vicious enough, and to display a callousness on the part of the employers that quite startled me. But the system under which the ballast-labourers are now suffering, is an infamy hardly to be credited as flourishing in these days. I have, therefore, been at considerable pains to establish such a mass of evidence upon the subject as shall make all earnest men look upon the continuance of such a system as a national dishonour.