THE subject of casual labour is of such vast importance in connection with the welfare of a nation and its people, and of which the causes as well as consequences seem to be so utterly ignored by economical writers and unheeded by the public, that I purpose here saying a few words upon the matter in general, with the view of enabling the reader the better to understand the difficulties that almost all unskilled and many skilled labourers have to contend with in this country.
By labour I mean such labour as can obtain only as contradistinguished from employment. In this definition I include all classes of workers, literate and illiterate, skilled and unskilled, whose professions, trades, or callings expose them to be employed temporarily rather than continuously, and whose incomes are in a consequent degree fluctuating, casual, and uncertain,
In no country in the world is there such an extent, and at the same time such a diversity, of casual labour as in Great . This is attributable to many causes—commercial and agricultural, natural and artificial, controllable and uncontrollable.
I will show what are the causes of casual labour, and then point out its effects.
The causes of casual labour may be grouped under heads:—
I. , or periodical increase and decrease of work in certain occupations.
II. appertaining to the different trades.
, as to the briskness or slackness of employment in different occupations. This depends in different trades on different causes, among which may be enumerated—
A. The weather.
B. The seasons of the year.
C. The fashion of the day.
D. Commerce and accidents.
I shall deal with each of these causes
A. The labour of thousands is influenced by the it is suspended or prevented in many instances by stormy or rainy weather; and in some few instances it is promoted by such a state of things.
Among those whose labour cannot be executed on , or executed but imperfectly, and who are consequently deprived of their ordinary means of living on such days, are—paviours, pipe-layers, bricklayers, painters of the exteriors of houses, slaters, fishermen, watermen (plying with their boats for hire), the crews of the river steamers, a large body of agricultural labourers (such as hedgers, ditchers, mowers, reapers, ploughmen, thatchers, and gardeners), costermongers and all classes of street-sellers (to a great degree), street-performers, and showmen.
With regard to the degree in which agricultural (or indeed in this instance woodland) labour may be influenced by the weather, I may state that a few years back there had been a fall of oaks on an estate belonging to Col. Cradock, near Greta-bridge, and the poor people, old men and women, in the neighbourhood, were selected to strip off the bark for the tanners, under the direction of a person appointed by the proprietor: for this work they were paid by the basket-load. The trees lay in an open and exposed situation, and the rain was so incessant that the "barkers" could scarcely do any work for the whole of the week, but kept waiting under the nearest shelter in the hopes that it would "clear up." In the week of this employment nearly - of the poor persons, who had commenced their work with eagerness, had to apply for some temporary parochial relief. A rather curious instance this, of a parish suffering from the casualty of a very humble labour, and actually from the attempt of the poor to earn money, and do work prepared for them.
On the other hand, some few classes may be said to be benefited by the rain which is impoverishing others: these are cabmen (who are the busiest on days), scavagers, umbrellamakers, clog and patten-makers. I was told by the omnibus people that their vehicles filled better in hot than in wet weather.
But the labour of thousands is influenced also by the an easterly wind prevailing for a few days will throw out of employment dock labourers and others who are dependent on the shipping for their employment; such as lumpers, corn-porters, timber-porters, ship-builders, sailmakers, lightermen, watermen, and, indeed, almost all those who are known as 'long-shoremen. The same state of things prevails at Hull, Bristol, Liverpool, and all our large ports.
, again, is equally inimical to some labourers' interests; the frozen-out market-gardeners are familiar to almost every , and indeed all those who are engaged upon the land may be said to be deprived of work by severely cold weather.
In the weather alone, then, we find a means of starving thousands of our people. Rain, wind, and frost are many a labourer's natural enemies, and to those who are fully aware of the influence of "the elements" upon the living and comforts of hundreds of their fellow-creatures, the changes of weather are frequently watched with a terrible interest. I am convinced that, altogether, a wet day deprives not less than , and probably nearer people, including builders, bricklayers, and agricultural labourers, of their ordinary means of subsistence, and drives the same number to the public-houses and beer-shops (on this part of the subject I have collected some curious facts); thus not only decreasing their income, but positively increasing their expenditure, and that, perhaps, in the worst of ways.
Nor can there be fewer dependent on the winds for their bread. If we think of the vast number employed either directly or indirectly at the various ports of this country, and then remember that at each of these places the prevalence of a particular wind must prevent the ordinary arrival of shipping, and so require the employment of fewer hands; we shall have some idea of the enormous multitude of men in this country who can be starved by "a nipping and an eager air." If in London alone there are people deprived of food by the prevalence of an easterly wind (and I had the calculation from of the principal officers of the St. Katherine Dock Company), surely it will not be too much to say that throughout the country there are not less than people whose living is thus precariously dependent.
Altogether I am inclined to believe, that we shall not be over the truth if we assert there are between and individuals and their families, or half a million of people, dependent on the elements for their support in this country.
But this calculation refers to those classes only who are deprived of a certain number of ' work by an alteration of the weather, a cause that is essentially in its character. The other series of natural events influencing the demand for labour in this country are of a more nature—the stimulus and the depression enduring for weeks rather than days. I allude to the of the circumstances abovementioned as inducing briskness or slackness of employment in different occupations, viz.:—
B. The seasons.
These are the seasons of the year, and not the arbitrary seasons of fashion, of which I shall speak next.
The following classes are among those exposed to the uncertainty of employment, and consequently of income, from the above cause, since it is only in particular seasons that particular works, such as buildings, will be undertaken, or that open-air pleasure excursions will be attempted: carpenters, builders, brickmakers, painters, plasterers, paper-hangers, rubbish-carters, sweeps, and riggers and lumpers, the latter depending mainly
|tion, and in a large way of business, that for weeks or a month before Christmas he required the aid of fresh hands, a shopman, an errand-boy, and porters ( skilled in packing), for whom he had nothing to do after Christmas. If in the wide sweep of London trade there be persons, including the market salesmen, the retail butchers, the carriers, &c., so circumstanced, then men are employed, and for a very brief time.|
The brief increase of the carrying business generally about Christmas, by road, water, or railway, is sufficiently indicated by the foregoing account.
The employment, again, in the cotton and woollen manufacturing districts may be said to depend for its briskness on commerce rather than on the seasons.
, or extraordinary social events, promote casual labour and then depress it. Often they depress without having promoted it.
During the display of the Great Exhibition, there were some thousands employed in the different capacities of police, packing, cleaning, porterage, watching, interpreting, door-keeping and money-taking, cab-regulating, &c.; and after the close of the Exhibition how many were retained? Thus the Great Exhibition fostered casual, or uncertain labour. Foreign revolutions, moreover, affect the trade of England: speculators become timid and will not embark in trade or in any proposed undertaking; the foreign import and export trades are paralysed; and fewer clerks and fewer labourers are employed. Home political agitations, also, have the same effect; as was seen in London during the corn-law riots, about years ago (when only members of the supported a change in those laws); the Spafields riots in ; the affair in St. Peter's-field, Manchester, in ; the disturbances and excitement during the trial of Queen Caroline, in -, and the loss of life on the occasion of her funeral in ; the agitation previously to the passing of the Reform Bill had a like effect; the meeting on Common on the ;—in all these periods, indeed, employment decreased. Labour is affected also by the death of a member of the royal family, and the hurried demand for general mourning, but in a very small degree to what was once the case. A West-End tailor employing a great number of hands did not receive a single order for mourning on the death of Queen Adelaide; while on the demise of the Princess Charlotte (in ) thousands of operative tailors, throughout the kingdoms, worked day and night, and for double wages, on the general mourning. Gluts in the markets, an increase of heavy bankruptcies and "panics," such as were experienced in the money market in -, and again in , with the failure of banks and merchants, likewise have the effect of augmenting the mass of casual labour; for capitalists and employers, under such circumstances, expend as little as possible in wages or employment until the storm blows over. Bad harvests have a slmilar depressing effect.
There are also the consequences of changes of taste. The abandonment of the fashions of gentlemen's wearing swords, as well as embroidered garments, flowing periwigs, large shoe-buckles, all reduced able artizans to poverty by depriving them of work. So it was, when, to carry on the war with France, Mr. Pitt introduced a tax on hair powder. Hundreds of hair-dressers were thrown out of employment, many persons abandoning the fashion of wearing powder rather than pay the tax. There are now city gentlemen, who can remember that when clerks, they had sometimes to wait or hours for "their turn" at a barber's shop on a Sunday morning; for they could not go abroad until their hair was dressed and powdered, and their queues trimmed to the due standard of fashion. So it has been, moreover, in modern times in the substitution of silk for metal buttons, silk hats for stuff, and in the supersedence of material of dress by another.
These several causes, then, which could only exist in a community of great wealth and great poverty have rendered, and are continually rendering, the labour market uncertain and over-stocked; to what extent they do and have done this, it is, of course, almost impossible to say but, even with the strongest disposition to avoid exaggeration, we may assert that there are in this country no less than families, or people, who depend on the weather for their food; families, or people, who can obtain employment only at particular seasons; more families, or people, whose trade depends upon the fashionable rather than the natural seasons, are thrown out of work at the cessation of the brisk time of their business; and, perhaps, another of families, or people, dependent on the periodical increase and decrease of commerce, and certain social and political accidents which tend to cause a greater or less demand for labour. Altogether we may assert, with safety, that there are at the least families, or millions of men, women, and children, whose means of living, far from being certain and constant, are of a precarious kind, depending either upon the rain, the wind, the sunshine, the caprice of fashion, or the ebbings and flowings of commerce.
But there is a still more potent cause at work to increase the amount of labour in this country. Thus far we have proceeded on the assumption that at the brisk season of each trade there is full employment for all; but this is far from being the case in the great majority, if not the whole, of the instances above cited. In almost all occupations there is in this country a , and this alone would tend to render the employment of a vast number of the hands of a casual rather than a regular character. In the generality of trades the calculation is that - of the hands are fully employed, - partially, and - unemployed throughout the year. This, of course, would be the case if there were twice too many workpeople; for suppose the number of work-people in
|a given trade to be , and the work sufficient to employ (fully) only half the quantity, then, of course, might be occupied their whole time, more might have work sufficient to occupy them half their time, and the remaining have no work at all; or the whole might, on the average, obtain months' employment out of the ; and this is frequently the case. Hence we see that a surplusage of hands in a trade tends to change the employment of the great majority from a state of constancy and regularity into of casualty and precariousness.|
Consequently it becomes of the highest importance that we should endeavour to ascertain what are the circumstances inducing a surplusage of hands in the several trades of the present day. A in a trade may proceed from different causes, viz.:—
. The alteration of the hours, rate, or mode of working, or else the term of hiring.
. The increase of the hands themselves.
. The decrease of the work.
Each of these causes is essentially distinct; in the case there is neither an increase in the number of hands nor a decrease in the quantity of work, and yet a surplusage of labourers is the consequence, for it is self-evident that if there be work enough in a given trade to occupy men all the year round, labouring hours per day for days in the week, the same quantity of work will afford occupation to only men, or - less, labouring between and hours per diem for days in the week. The same result would, of course, take place, if the workman were made to labour - more , and so to get through - more work in the same time (either by increasing their interest in their work, by the invention of a new tool, by extra supervision, or by the subdivision of labour, &c., &c.), the same result would, of course, ensue as if they laboured - longer hours, viz., - of the hands must be thrown out of employment. So, again, by altering the , as by producing on the large scale, instead of the small, a smaller number of labourers are required to execute the same amount of work; and thus (if the market for such work be necessarily limited) a surplusage of labourers is the result. Hence we see that the alteration of the hours, rate, or mode of working may tend as positively to overstock a country with labourers as if the labourers themselves had unduly increased.
But this, of course, is on the assumption that both the quantity of work and the number of hands remain the same. The next of the causes, above mentioned as inducing a surplusage of hands, is that which arises from a positive , while the quantity of work remains the same or increases at a less rate than the labourers; and the cause is, where the surplusage of labourers arises not from any alteration in the number of hands, but from a positive
These are distinctions necessary to be borne clearly in mind for the proper understanding of this branch of the subject.
In the case both the number of hands and the quantity of work remain the same, but the term, rate, or mode of working is changed.
In the , hours, rate, or mode of working remain the same, as well as the quantity of work, but the number of hands is increased.
And in the case, neither the number of hands nor the hours, rate, or mode of working is supposed to have been altered, but the work only to have decreased.
The surplusage of hands will, of course, be the same in each of these cases.
I will begin with the , viz., that which induces a surplusage of labourers in a trade by enabling fewer hands to get through the ordinary amount of work. This is what is called the "economy of labour."
There are, of course, only modes of economizing labour, or causing the same quantity of work to be done by a smaller number of hands.
. By causing the men to work
. By causing the men to work , and so get through more work in the same time.
. By of work, or hiring, as in the "large system of production," where fewer hands are required; or the custom of temporary hirings, where the men are retained only so long as their services are needed, and discharged immediately afterwards.
, of that mode of economizing labour which depends on an This is what is usually termed over-work and Sunday--work, both of which are largely creative of surplus hands. The hours of labour in mechanical callings are usually , of them devoted to meals, or hours (less by the permitted intervals) in a week. In the course of my inquiries for the , I met with slop cabinet-makers, tailors, and milliners who worked hours and more daily, their toil being only interrupted by the necessity of going out, if small masters, to purchase materials, and offer the goods for sale; or, if journeymen in the slop trade, to obtain more work and carry what was completed to the master's shop. They worked on Sundays also; tailor told me that the coat he worked at on the previous Sunday was for the Rev. Mr. ——, who "little thought it," and these slop-workers rarely give above a few minutes to a meal. Thus they toil hours beyond the hours usual in an honourable trade ( hours instead of ), in the course of a week, or between and days of the regular hours of work of the working days. In other words, such men will in less than a week accomplish work which should occupy men a full week; or men will execute labour fairly calculated to employ at the least. A paucity of employment is thus caused among the general body, by this system of over-labour decreasing the share of work accruing to the several operatives, and so adding to surplus hands.
Of over-work, as regards excessive labour, both in the general and fancy cabinet trade, I heard
|the following accounts, which different operatives concurred in giving; while some represented the labour as of longer duration by at least an hour, and some by hours, a day, than I have stated.|
The labour of the men who depend entirely on "the slaughter-houses" for the purchase of their articles is usually days a week the year through. That is, days—for Sunday work is all but universal—each of hours, or hours in all; while the established hours of labour in the "honourable trade" are days of the week, each of hours, or hours in all. Thus per cent. is added to the extent of the production of low-priced cabinet--work, merely from "over-hours;" but in some cases I heard of hours for days in the week, or hours in all.
Concerning the hours of labour in this trade, I had the following minute particulars from a garret-master who was a chair-maker:—
The East-end turners generally, I was informed, when inquiring into the state of that trade, labour at the lathe from o'clock in the morning till and at night, being hours' work per day, or hours per week. They allow themselves hours for their meals. It takes them, upon an average, hours more every day fetching and carrying their work home. Some of the East-end men work on Sundays, and not a few either, said my informant. "Sometimes I have worked hard," said man, "from morning till the next, and scarcely had any time to take my meals in the bargain. I have been almost suffocated with the dust flying down my throat after working so many hours upon such heavy work too, and sweating so much. It makes a man drink where he would not."
This system of over-work exists in the "slop" part of almost every business—indeed, it is the principal means by which the cheap trade is maintained. Let me cite from my letters in the some more of my experience on this subject. As regards the London mantua-makers, I said:—"The workwomen for good shops that give fair, or tolerably fair wages, and expect good work, can make average-sized mantles in a week, but the slop-workers, by toiling from to hours a day, will make such sized mantles in a week. In a season of weeks workers for the slophouses and warehouses would at this rate make mantles, or more than workers for the fair trade. Or, to put it in another light, these slop-women, by being compelled, in order to live, to work such over-hours as inflict lasting injury on the health, supplant, by their over-work and over-hours, the labour of hands, working the regular hours."
The following are the words of a chambermas- ter, working for the cheap shoe trade:—
The better class of artizans denounce the system of Sunday working as the most iniquitous of all the impositions. They object to it, not only on moral and religious grounds, but economically also. "Every men employed on the Sabbath," say they, "deprive individuals of a week's work. Every men who labour days in the week must necessarily throw other man out of employ for a whole week. The man is thus deprived of his fair share of work by the overtoiling of the other ." This Sunday working is a necessary consequence of the cheap slop-trade. The workmen cannot keep their families by their days' labour, and therefore they not only, under that system, get less wages and do more work, but by their extra labour throw so many more hands out of employment.
Here then, in the over-work of many of the trade, we find a vast cause of surplus hands, and, consequently, of casual labour; and that the work in these trades has not proportionately increased is proven by the fact of the existence of a superfluity of workmen.
Let us now turn our attention to the of the causes above cited, viz.,
|, and so to accomplish more in the same time. There are several means of attaining this end; it may be brought about either () by making the workman's gains depend directly on the quantity of work executed by him, as by the substitution of piece-work for day-work; () by the omission of certain details or parts necessary for the perfection of the work; () by decreasing the workman's pay, and so increasing the necessity for him to execute a greater quantity of work in order to obtain the same income; () increasing the supervision, and encouraging a spirit of emulation among the workpeople; () by dividing the labour into a number of simple and minute processes, and so increasing the expertness of the labourers; () by the invention of some new tool or machine for expediting the operations of the workman.|
I shall give a brief illustration of each of these causes , showing how they tend to produce a surplusage of hands in the trades to which they are severally applied. And , as to
Of course there are but direct modes of paying for labour—either by the day or by the piece. Over-work by day-work is effected by means of what is called the "strapping system" (as described in the in my letter upon the carpenters and joiners), where a whole shop are set to race over their work in silence with another, each striving to outdo the rest, from the knowledge that anything short of extraordinary exertion will be sure to be punished with dismissal. Over-work by piece-work, on the other hand, is almost a necessary consequence of that mode of payment—for where men are paid by the quantity they do, of course it becomes the interest of a workman to do more than he otherwise would.
"Almost all who work by the day, or for a fixed salary, that is to say, those who labour for the gain of others, not for their own, have," it has been well remarked, "no interest in doing more than the smallest quantity of work that will pass as a fulfilment of the mere terms of their engagement. Owing to the insufficient interest which day labourers have in the result of their labour, there is a natural tendency in such labour to be extremely inefficient—a tendency only to be overcome by vigilant superintendence on the part of the persons who interested in the result. The 'master's eye' is notoriously the only security to be relied on. But superintend them as you will, day labourers are so much inferior to those who work by the piece, that, as was before said, the latter system is practised in all industrial occupations where the work admits of being put out in definite portions, without involving the necessity of too troublesome a surveillance to guard against inferiority (or scamping) in the execution." But if the labourer at piecework is made to produce a greater quantity than at day-work, and this solely by connecting his own interest with that of his employer, how much more largely must the productiveness of workmen be increased when labouring wholly on their own account! Accordingly it has been invariably found that whenever the operative unites in himself the double function of capitalist and labourer, as the "garret-master" in the cabinet trade, and the "chamber-master" in the shoe trade, making up his own materials or working on his own property, his productiveness, single-handed, is considerably greater than can be attained even under the large system of production, where all the arts and appliances of which extensive capital can avail itself are brought into operation.
As regards the increased production by , it may be said that "scamping" adds at least per cent. to the productions of the cabinet-maker's trade. I ascertained, in the course of my previous inquiries, several cases of this over-work from scamping, and adduce . A very quick hand, a little master, working, as he called it, "at a slaughtering pace," for a warehouse, made plain writing-desks in a week of hours; while a -rate workman, also a quick hand, made in a week of hours. The scamping hand said he must work at the rate he did to make a week from a slaughter-house; and so used to such style of work had he become, that, though a few years back he did West-end work in the best style, he could not now make eighteen desks in a week, if compelled to finish them in the style of excellence displayed in the work of the journeyman employed for the honourable trade. Perhaps, he added, he couldn't make them in that style at all. The frequent use of rosewood veneers in the fancy cabinet, and their occasional use in the general cabinet trade gives, I was told, great facilities for scamping. If in his haste the scamping hand injure the veneer, or if it have been originally faulty, he takes a mixture of gum shellac and "colour" (colour being a composition of Venetian red and lamp black), which he has ready by him, rubs it over the damaged part, smooths it with a slightly-heated iron, and so blends it with the colour of the rosewood that the warehouseman does not detect the flaw. In the general, as contradistinguished from the fancy, cabinet trade I found the same ratio of "scamping." A good workman in the better-paid trade made a -foot mahogany chest of drawers in days, working the regular hours, and receiving, at piece-work price, A scamping hand made of the same size in a week, and had time to carry them for sale to the warehouses, wait for their purchase or refusal, and buy material. But for the necessity of doing this the scamping hand could have made in the hours of his week, though of course in a very inferior manner. "They would hold together for a time," I was assured, "and that was all; but the slaughterer cared only to have them viewly and cheap." These cases exceed the average, and I have cited them to show what be done under the scamping system.
We now come to the Not only is it true that over-work makes under-pay, but the
|converse of the proposition is equally true, that under-pay makes over-work—that is to say, it is true of those trades where the system of piecework or small mastership admits of the operative doing the utmost amount of work that he is able to accomplish; for the workman in such cases seldom or never thinks of reducing his expenditure to his income, but rather of increasing his labour, so as still to bring his income, by extra production, up to his expenditure. Hence we find that, as the wages of a trade descend, so do the labourers extend their hours of work to the utmost possible limits—they not only toil earlier and later than before, but the Sunday becomes a work-day like the rest (amongst the "sweaters" of the tailoring trade Sunday labour, as I have shown, is almost universal); and when the hours of work are carried to the extreme of human industry, then more is sought to be done in a given space of time, either by the employment of the members of their own family, or apprentices, upon the inferior portion of the work, or else by "scamping it." "My employer," I was told by a journeyman tailor working for the Messrs. Nicoll, "reduces my wages -, and the consequence is, I put in stitches where I used to give ." "I must work from to , and later," said a pembroke-table-maker to me, "to get now for my labour, where I used to get a week—that's just a . I could in the old times give my children good schooling and good meals. Now children have to be put to work very young. I have sons working for me at present. Not only, therefore, does any stimulus to extra production make over-work, and over-work make under-pay; but under-pay, by becoming an additional provocative to increased industry, again gives rise in its turn to over-work. Hence we arrive at a plain unerring law—|
But the above means of increasing the rate of working refer solely to those cases where the extra labour is induced by making it the of the workman so to do. The other means of extra production is The shops where this system is enforced are termed "strapping-shops," as indicative of establishments where an undue quantity of work is expected from a journeyman in the course of the day. Such shops, though not directly making use of cheap labour (for the wages paid in them are generally of the higher rate), still, by exacting more work, may of course be said, in strictness, to encourage the system now becoming general, of less pay and inferior skill. These strapping establishments sometimes go by the name of "scamping shops," on account of the time allowed for the manufacture of the different articles not being sufficient to admit of good workmanship.
Concerning this "" system I received the following extraordinary account from a man after his heavy day's labour. Never in all my experience had I seen so sad an instance of over- work. The poor fellow was so fatigued that he could hardly rest in his seat. As he spoke he sighed deeply and heavily, and appeared almost spirit-broken with excessive labour:—
The next means of inducing a quicker rate of working, and so economizing the number of labourers, is by the and In perhaps all the skilled work of London, of the better sort, this is more or less the case; it is the case in a much smaller degree in the country.
The nice subdivision makes the operatives perfect adepts in their respective branches, working at them with a greater and a more assured facility than if their care had to be given to the whole work, and in this manner the work is completed in less time, and consequently by fewer hands.
In illustration of the extraordinary increased productiveness induced by the division of labour, I need only cite the well-known cases:—
M. Say furnishes a still stronger example of the effects of division of labour, from a not very important branch of industry certainly, the manufacture of playing cards. "It is said by those engaged in the business, that each card, that is, a piece of pasteboard of the size of the hand, before being ready for sale, does not undergo fewer than operations, every of which might be the occupation of a distinct class of workmen. And if there are not classes of work-people in each card manufactory, it is because the division of labour is not carried so far as it might be; because the same workman is charged with , , or distinct operations. The influence of this distribution of employment is immense. I have seen a card manufactory where workmen produced daily cards, being above cards for each labourer; and it may be presumed that if each of these workmen were obliged to perform all the operations himself, even supposing him a practised hand, he would not, perhaps, complete cards in a day; and the workmen, instead of cards, would make only ."
great promoter of the decrease of manual labour is to be found in the economy of labour from a very different cause to any I have pointed out as tending to the increase of surplus hands and casual labour, viz., to
In this country the use of machinery has economised the labour both of man and horse to a greater extent than is known in any other land, and that in nearly all departments of commerce or traffic. The total estimated machine power in the kingdom is of human beings, and this has been all produced within the last century. In agriculture, for example, the threshing of the corn was the peasant's work of the later autumn and of a great part of the winter, until towards the latter part of the last century. The harvest was hardly considered complete until the corn was threshed by the peasants. On the introduction of the threshing machines, they were demolished in many places by the country labourers, whose rage was excited to find that their winter's work, instead of being regular, had become
But the use of these machines is now almost
|universal. It would, of course, be the height of absurdity to say that threshing machines could possibly increase the number of threshers, even as the reaping machines cannot possibly increase the number of reapers; their effect is rather to displace the greater number of labourers so engaged, and hence indeed the "economy" of them. It is not known what number of men were, at any time, employed in threshing corn. Their displacement was gradual, and in some of the more remote parts of the provinces, the flails of the threshers may be heard still, but if a threshing machine—for they are of different power—do the work, as has been stated, of labourers, the economization or displacement of manual labour is at once shown to be the economization and displacement of the whole labour (for a season) of a country side; thus increasing surplus hands.|
In other matters—in the unloading vessels by cranes, in branches of manufactures, and even in such minor matters as the grinding of coffee berries, and the cutting and splitting of wood for lucifer matches, an immense amount of manual labour has been minimized, economized, or displaced by steam machinery. On my inquiry into the condition of the London sawyers, I found that the labour of men had been displaced by the steam saw-mills of the metropolis alone. At of the largest builder's I saw machines for making mortises and tenons, for sticking mouldings, and, indeed, performing all the operations of the carpenter— such machine doing the work, perhaps, of a men. I asked the probable influence that such an instrument was likely to have on the men? "Ruin them all," was the laconic reply of the superintendent of the business! Within the last year casks have been made by machinery—a feat that the coopers declared impossible. Wheels, also, have been lately produced by steam. I need, however, as I have so recently touched upon the subject, do no more than call attention to the information I have given (p. , vol. ii.) concerning the use of machinery in lieu of human labour. It is there shown that if the public streetsweeping were effected, throughout the metropolis, by the machines, nearly of the manual labourers, now scavaging for the parish contractors, would be thrown out of work, and deprived of , out of their joint earnings, in the year.
It is the fashion of political economists to insist on the general proposition that machinery increases the demand for labour, rather than decreases it; when they write unguardedly, however, they invariably betray a consciousness that the benefits of machinery to manual labourers are not quite so invariable as they would otherwise make out. Here, for instance, is a confession from the pamphlet on "the Employer and Employed," published by the Messrs. Chambers, gentlemen who surely cannot be accused of being averse to economical doctrines. It is true the pamphlet is intended to show the evils of strikes to working men, but it likewise points out the evils of mechanical power to the same class when applied to certain operations.
It must, then, be admitted that machinery, , does displace manual labour, and so tend to produce a surplusage of labourers, even as over-work, Sunday-work, scamping-work, strapping-work, piece-work, minutely-divided work, &c., have the same effect so long as the quantity of work to be done remains unaltered. is the circumstance
|which determines whether the economy of labour produced by these means is a blessing or a curse to the nation. To apply mechanical power, the division of labour, the large system of production, or indeed any other means of enabling a less number of labourers to do the same amount of work , as, for instance, the threshing of corn, the sawing of wood, &c., is necessarily to make either paupers or criminals of those who were previously honest independent men, living by the exercise of their industry in that particular direction. Economize your labour -half, in connection with a particular article, and you must sell twice the quantity of that article or displace a certain number of the labourers; that is to say, suppose it requires men to produce commodities in a given time, then, if you enable men to produce the same quantity in the same time, you must get rid of commodities, or deprive a certain number of labourers of their ordinary means of living. Indeed, the proposition is almost self-evident, though generally ignored by social philosophers: economize your labour at a greater rate than you expand your markets, and you must necessarily increase your paupers and criminals in precisely the same ratio. "The division of labour," says Mr. Mill, following Adam Smith, "is limited by the extent of the market. If by the separation of pin-making into distinct employments pins can be made in a day, this separation will only be advisable if the number of accessible consumers is such as to require every day something like pins. If there is a demand for only , the division of labour can be advantageously carried but to the extent which will every day produce that smaller number." Again, as regards the large system of production, the same authority says, "the possibility of substituting the large system of production for the small depends, of course, on the extent of the market. The large system can only be advantageous when a large amount of business is to be done; it implies, therefore, either a populous and flourishing community, or a great opening for exportation." But these are mere glimmerings of the broad incontrovertible principle, that|
The effect of machinery in depriving the families of agricultural labourers of their ordinary sources of income is well established. "Those countries," writes Mr. Thornton, "in which the class of agricultural labourers is most depressed, have all thing in common. Each of them was formerly the seat of a flourishing manufacture carried on by the cottagers at their own homes, which has now decayed or been withdrawn to other situations. Thus, in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, the wives and children of labouring men had formerly very profitable occupation in making lace; during the last war a tolerable lacemaker, working hours a day, could easily earn or a week; the profits of this employment have been since so much reduced by the use of machinery, that a pillow lacemaker must now work hours daily to earn a week."
The last of the conditions above cited, as causing the same or a greater amount of work to be executed with a less quantity of labour, is Mr. Babbage and Mr. Mill have so well and fully pointed out "the economy of labour" effected in this manner, that I cannot do better than quote from them upon this subject:—
But this refers solely to the "large system of business" as applied to purposes of manufacture and distribution. In connection with agriculture there is the same saving of labour effected. "The large farmer," says Mr. Mill, "has some advantage in the article of buildings. It does not cost so much to house a great number of cattle in building, as to lodge them equally well in several buildings. There is also some advantage in implements. A small farmer is not so likely to possess expensive instruments. But the principal agricultural implements, even when of the best construction, are not expensive. It may not answer to a small farmer to own a threshing machine for the small quantity of corn he has to thresh; but there is no reason why such a machine should not in every neighbourhood be owned in common, or provided by some person to whom the others pay a consideration for its use. The large farmer can make some saving in cost of carriage. There is nearly as much trouble in carrying a small portion of produce to market, as a much greater produce; in bringing home a small, as a much larger quantity of manure, and articles of daily consumption. There is also the greater cheapness of buying things in large quantities."
A short time ago I went into Buckinghamshire to look into the allotment system. And, in parish of acres, I found that some years ago there were farmers who occupied, upon the average, acres each, and who, previous to the immigration of the Irish harvest-men, employed men a-piece, or, in the aggregate, upwards of hands. Now, however, the farmers in the same parish occupy to the extent of acres each, and respectively employ only men Thus the number of hands employed by this system has been decreased -half. I learned, moreover, from a clergyman there, who had resided in Wiltshire, that the same thing was going on in that county also; that small farms were giving way to large farms, and that at least half the labourers had been displaced. The agricultural labourers, at the time of taking the last census, were in number; so that, if this system be generally carried out, there must be labourers and their families, or people, deprived of their living by it.
Sir James Graham, in his evidence before the Committee on Criminal Commitments, has given us some curious particulars as to the decrease of the number of hands required for agricultural purposes, where the large system of production is pursued in place of the small: he has told us how many hands he was enabled to get rid of by these means, the proportion of labour displaced, it will be seen, amounted to about per cent. of the labouring population. In answer to a question relative to the increase of population in his district, he replied:—
"On how many acres?—On about acres." [This is at the rate of in every acres].
Similar to the influence of the large system of production in its displacement of labourers, as enabling a larger quantity of work to be executed by establishment with a smaller number of hands than would be required were the amount of work to be divided into a number of smaller establishments,—similar to this mode of economizing labour, is that mode of work which, by altering the prodnce rather than the mode of production, and by substituting an article that requires less labour for that required more, gets rid of a large quantity of labour, and, consequently, adds to the surplusage of labourers. An instance of this is in the substitution of pasturage for tillage. ", says Sir J. Graham, the great economist of labour, simply because fewer people will be required to attend to the land. But this plan of grazing instead of ploughing was adopted in this country some centuries back, and with what effect to the labourers and the people at large, the following extract from the work of Mr. Thornton, on over-population, will show:—
"The extension of the woollen manufacture was raising the price of wool; and the little attendance which sheep require was an additional motive for causing sheep farming to be preferred to tillage. Arable land, therefore, began to be converted into pasture; and the seeminglyinter- minable corn fields, which, like those of Germany at this day, probably extended for miles without having their even surface broken by fences or any other visible boundaries, disappeared. After being sown with grass they were surrounded and divided by inclosures, to prevent the sheep from straying, and to do away with the necessity of having shepherds always on the watch. By these changes the quantity of work to be done upon a farm was exceedingly diminished, and most of the servants, whom it had been usual to board and lodge in the manor and farm-houses, were dismissed. This was not all. The married farmservants were ousted from their cottages, which were pulled down, and their gardens and fields were annexed to the adjoining meadows. The small farmers were treated in the same way, as their leases fell in,
Even freeholders were in some instances ejected from their lands. This social revolution had pro- bably commenced even before the prosperity of the peasantry had reached its climax; but in it attracted the notice of Parliament, and an Act was passed to restrain its progress; for already it was observed that inclosures were becoming 'more frequent, whereby arable land, ' and that 'tenancies for years, lives, and at will, whereupon most of the yeomanry lived, were turned into demesnes' In , An act was passed strongly condemning the practice of 'accumulating' farms, which it was declared had reduced 'a marvellous multitude' of the people to poverty and misery, and left them no alternative but to steal, or to die 'pitifully' of cold and hunger. In this Act it was stated that single farms might be found with flocks of from to sheep upon them; and it was ordained that no man should keep more than sheep, except upon his own land, or rent more than farms.
" years later it was enacted that the king should have a moiety of the profits of land converted (subsequently to a date specified) from tillage to pastures, until a suitable house was erected, and the land was restored to tillage. In , a law was made which required that on all estates as large a quantity of land as had been kept in tillage for years together at any time since the accession of Henry VIII., should be so continued in tillage. But these, and many subsequent enactments of the same kind, had not the smallest effect in checking the consolidation of farms. We find Roger Ascham, in Queen Elizabeth's reign, lamenting the dispersion of families, the ruin of houses, the breaking up and destruction of 'the noble yeomanry, the honour and strength of England.' Harrison also speaks of towns pulled down for sheep-walks; 'and of the tenements that had fallen either down or into the lord's hands;' or had been 'brought and united together by other men, so that in some manor, , eighteen, or houses were shrunk.'
"'Where have been a great many householders and inhabitants,' says Bishop Latimer, 'there is now but a shepherd and his dog.' And in a curious tract, published in , by William Stafford, a husbandman is made to exclaim, 'Marry, these inclosures do and undo us all, for they make us pay dearer for our land that we occupy, and causeth that we can have no land to put to tillage; all is taken up for pasture, either for sheep or for grazing of cattle, insomuch that I have known of late a dozen ploughs, within less compass than miles about me, laid down within this years; and where threescore persons or upwards had their livings, now man, with his cattle, hath all. Those sheep is
|the cause of all our mischief, for they have driven husbandry out of the country, by which was increased before all kinds of victuals, and now altogether sheep, sheep, sheep.' While numbers of persons were thus continually driven from their homes, and deprived of their means of livelihood, we need not be at a loss to account for the increase of vagrancy, without ascribing it to the increase of population."|
As an instance, within our time, of the same mode of causing a surplusage of labourers, and so adding to the quantity of casual labour in the kingdom, viz., by the extension of pasturage and consequent diminution of tillage, we may cite the "clearances," as they were called, which took place, some few years back, in the Highlands of Scotland. "It is only within the last few years," says the author above quoted, "that the strathes and glens of Sutherland have been , over which the traveller may proceed for miles together without seeing a tree or a stone wall, or anything, but a heath dotted with sheep and lambs . . . . . . The example of Sutherland is imitated in the neighbouring counties. During the last years have been 'weeded' out of Ross-shire, and nearly more have received notice to quit next year. Similar notice has been given to families in Cromarty, and only the other day eighteen families, who were living in peace and comfort, in Glencalvie, in Ross-shire, were expelled from the farms occupied for ages by themselves and their forefathers, to make room for sheep." And still we are told to ""
We now come to the last-mentioned of the circumstances inducing a surplusage of labourers, and, consequently, augmenting the amount of casual labour throughout the kingdom, viz., by At page of the present volume, I have said, in connection with this part of the subject,—
Blackstone, in treating of the laws relating to master and servant (the greater part of the farm labourers or farm servants, as they were then called, being included under the latter head), tells us at page of his volume—
Mr. Thornton says, "until recently it had been common for farm servants, even when married and living in their own cottages, to take their meals with their master; and, what was of more consequence, in every farm-house, many unmarried servants, of both sexes, were lodged, as well as boarded. The latter, therefore, even if ill paid, might be tolerably housed and fed, and many of them fared, no doubt, much better than they could have done if they had been left to provide for themselves, with treble their actual wages."
Formerly throughout the kingdom—and it is a custom prevalent in some parts, more especially in the north—single men and women seeking engagements as farm-servants, congregated at what were called the "Hirings," held usually on the successive market days, which were nearest to May-day and Martinmas-day. The hiring was thus at periods of the year, but the engagement was usually for the twelvemonth. By the concurrent consent, however, of master and servant, when the hiring took place, either side might terminate it at the expiration of the months, by giving due notice; or a further hiring for a twelvemonth could be legally effected without the necessity of again going to the hirings. The servants, even before their term of service had expired, could attend a hiring (generally held under the authority of the town's charter) as a matter of right; the master and mistress having no authority to prevent them. The Market Cross was the central point for the holding of the hirings, and the men and women, the latter usually the most numerous, stood in rows around the cross. The terms being settled, the master or mistress gave the servant "a piece of money," known as a "god's penny" (the "handsel penny"), the offer and acceptance of this god's penny being a legal ratification of the agreement, without any other step. In the old times such engagements had almost always (as shown in the term "God's penny") a character of religious obligation. At the earliest period, the hirings were held in the church-yards; afterwards by the Market Cross.
I have spoken of this matter more in the past than the present tense, for the system is greatly changed as regards the male farmservant, though little as regards the female. Now the male farm-labourers, instead of being hired for a specific term, are more generally hired by week, by job, or by day; indeed, even "half-a-day's" work is known. At period it was merely the
|married country labourers, residing in their own cottages, who were temporarily engaged, but it is now the general body, married and unmarried, old and young, with a few exceptions. Formerly the farmer was bound to find work for or months (for both terms existed) for his hired labourers. If the land did not supply it, still the man must be maintained, and be paid his full wages when due. By such a provision, the labour and wage of the hired husbandman were regular and rarely but this arrangement is now seldom entered into, and the hired husbandman's labour is consequently generally casual and rarely regular. This principle of hiring labourers only for so long as they are wanted, as contradistinguished from the "," spoken of by Blackstone, which requires that "the servant shall serve and the master maintain him ," has been the cause, perhaps, of more casual labour and more pauperism and crime, in this country, than, perhaps, any other of the antecedents before mentioned. The harvest is now collected solely by casual labourers, by a horde of squalid immigrants, or the tribe of natural and forced vagabonds who are continually begging or stealing their way throughout the country; our hops are picked, our fruit and vegetables gathered by the same precarious bands—wretches who, perhaps, obtain some months' harvest labour in the course of the year. The ships at our several ports are discharged by the same "," who may be seen at our docks scrambling like hounds for the occasional bit of bread that is vouchsafed to them; there numbers loiter throughout the day, even on the chance of for the term of hiring has been cut down to the finest possible limits, so that the labourer may not be paid for even a longer than he is wanted. And since he gets only bare subsistence money when employed, "What," we should ask ourselves, " be his lot when unemployed?"|
I now come to consider the circumstances causing an undue increase of the labourers in a country. Thus far we have proceeded on the assumption that both the quantity of work to be done and the number of hands to do it remained stationary, and we have seen that by the mere alteration of the time, rate, and mode of working, a vast amount of surplus, and, consequently, casual labour may be induced in a community. We have now to ascertain how, still assuming the quantity of work to remain unaltered, the same effect may be brought about by an undue
There are many means by which the number of labourers may be increased besides that of a positive increase of the people. These are—
. By the undue increase of apprentices.
. By drafting into the ranks of labour those who should be otherwise engaged, as women and children.
. By the importation of labourers from abroad.
. By the migration of country labourers to towns, and so overcrowding the market in the cities.
. By the depression of other trades.
. By the undue increase of the people themselves.
Each and every of the -mentioned causes are as effective a circumstance for the promotion of surplus labour, as even the positive extension of the population of the country.
Let me begin with the undue increase of a trade by means of
This is, perhaps, of the chief aids to the cheap system. For it is principally by apprentice labour that the better masters, as well as workmen, are undersold, and the skilled labourer consequently depressed to the level of the unskilled. But the great evil is, that the cheapening of goods by this means causes an undue increase in the trade. The apprentices grow up and become labourers, and so the trade is glutted with workmen, and casual labour is the consequence.
This apprentice system is the great bane of the printer's trade. Country printers take an undue number of boys to help them cheap; these lads grow up, and then, finding wages in the provinces depressed through this system of apprentice labour, they flock to the towns, and so tend to glut the labour market, and consequently to increase the number of casual hands.
cause of the increased surplus and casual labour in such trades as dressing-case, work-box, writing-desk-making and other things in the fancy cabinet trade (among the worst trades even in Spitalfields and ), shoemaking, and especially of women and children's shoes, is the taking of many apprentices by small masters (supplying the great warehouses). As journey-work is all but unknown in the slop fancy cabinet trade, an apprentice, when he has "served his time," must start on his own account in the same wretched way of business, or become a casual labourer in some unskilled avocation, and this is way in which the hands surely, although gradually, increase beyond the demand. It is the same with the general slop cabinet-maker's trade in the same parts. The small masters supply the "slaughterhouses," the linen-drapers, &c., who sell cheap furniture; they work in the quickest and most scamping manner, and do more work (which is nearly all done on the chance of sale), as they must confine themselves to branch. The slop chairmakers cannot make tables, nor the slop table-makers, chairs; nor the cheffonier and drawer-makers, bedsteads; for they have not been taught. Even if they knew the method, and accomplish other work, the want of practice would compel them to do it slowly, and the slop mechanic can never afford to work slowly. Such classes of little masters, then, to meet the demand for low-priced furniture, rear their sons to the business, and frequently take apprentices, to whom they pay small amounts. The hands so trained (as in the former instances) are not skilled enough to work for the honourable trade, so that they can only adopt the course pursued by their parents, or masters, before them. Hence a rapid, although again gradual,
|increase of surplus hands; or hence a resort to some unskilled labour, to be wrought casually. This happens too, but in a smaller degree, in trades which are not slop, from the same cause. Concerning the in the boot and shoe trade, when making my inquiries into the condition of the London workmen, I received the following statements:—|
Akin to the system of using a large number of apprentices is that of to displace the work of men, at the less laborious parts of the trade.
As in all trades where lowness of wages is the rule, the boy system of labour prevails among the cheap cabinet-workers. It prevails, however, among the garret-masters, by very many of them having , , or youths to help them, and so the number of boys thus employed through the whole trade is considerable. This refers principally to the general cabinet trade. In the fancy trade the number is greater, as the boys' labour is more readily available; but in this trade the greatest number of apprentices is employed by such warehousemen as are manufacturers, as some at the East end are, or rather by the men that they constantly keep at work. Of these men, has now and another boys in his service, some apprenticed, some merely "engaged" and dischargeable at pleasure. A sharp boy, in or months, becomes "handy;" but out of of the workmen thus brought up can do nothing well but their own particular branch, and that only well as far as celerity in production is considered.
It is these boys who are put to make, or as a master of the better class distinguished to me, not to but to put together, ladies' workboxes at a piece, the boy receiving a box. 'Such boxes,' said another workman, 'are nailed together; there's no dove-tailing, nothing of what I call , or workmanship, as you say, about them, but the deal's nailed together, and the veneer's dabbed on, and if the deal's covered, why the thing passes. The worst of it is, that people don't understand either good work or good wood. Polish them up and they look well. Besides—and that's another bad thing, for it encourages bad work—there's no stress on a lady's work-box, as on a chair or a sofa, and so bad work lasts far too long, though not half so long as good; in solids especially, if not in veneers."
To such a pitch is this demand for children's labour carried, that there is a market in Bethnalgreen, where boys and girls stand twice a week to be hired as binders and sewers. Hence it will be easily understood that it is impossible for the
|skilled and grown artizan to compete with the labour of mere children, who are thus literally brought into the market to undersell him!|
Concerning this market for boys and girls, in Bethnal-green, I received, during my inquiries into the boot and shoe trade, the following statements from shopkeepers on the spot:—
But , is an equally extensive cause of surplus and casual labour.
A small master, working, perhaps, upon goods to be supplied at the lowest rates to wholesale warehousemen, will often contribute to this result by the way in which he brings up his children. It is less expensive to him to teach them his own business, and he may even reap a profit from their labour, than to have them brought up to some other calling. I met with an instance of this in an inquiry among the toy-makers. A maker of common toys brought up children to his own trade, for boys and girls can be made useful in such labour at an early age. His business fell off rapidly, which he attributed to the great and numerous packages of cheap toys imported from Germany, Holland, and France, after the lowering of the duty by Sir Robert Peel's tariff. The chief profit to the toy-maker was derived from the labour, as the material was of trifling cost. He found, on the change in his trade, that he could not employ all his family. His fellow tradesmen, he said, were in the same predicament; and thus surplus hands were created, so leading to casualty in labour.
The labour of the wife, and indeed the whole family—family work, as it is called—is attended with the same evil to a trade, introducing a large supply of fresh hands to the labour market, and so tending to glut with workpeople each trade into which they are introduced, and thus to increase the casual labour, and decrease the earnings of the whole.
Here is the statement of a worker at "fancy cabinet" work on the same subject:—
"Why, I stood at this bench," said the wife, "with my child, only years of age, from o'clock on Friday morning till minutes past in the evening, without a bit to eat or drink. I never sat down a minute from the time I began till I finished my work, and then I went out to sell what I had done. I walked all the way from here  down to the , to get rid of the articles."
In answer to my inquiry as to what dependence he had in case of sickness, "Oh, bless you," he said, "there's nothing but the parish for us. I belong to a Benefit Society about years ago, but I couldn't keep up my payments any longer. I was in the society above fiveand- year, and then was obliged to leave it after all. I don't know of as belongs to any Friendly Society, and I don't think there is a man as can afford it in our trade now. They must all go to the workhouse when they're sick or old."
The following is from a journeyman tailor, concerning the employment of women in his trade:—
"The cause of the serious decrease in our trade," said another tailor to me, "is the employment given to workmen at their own homes; or, in other words, to the 'sweaters.' The sweater is the greatest evil to us; as the sweating system increases the number of hands to an almost incredible extent—wives, sons, daughters, and extra women, all working 'long days'—that is, labouring from to eighteen hours per day, and Sundays as well. I date the decrease in the wages of the workman from the introduction of piece-work and giving out garments to be made off the premises of the master; for the effect of this was, that the workman making the garment, knowing that the master could not tell whom he got to do his work for him, employed women and children to help him, and paid them little or nothing for their labour. This was the beginning of the sweating system. The workmen gradually became transformed from journeymen into 'middlemen,' living by the labour of others. Employers soon began to find that they could get garments made at a less sum than the regular price, and those tradesmen who were anxious to force their trade, by underselling their more honourable neighbours, readily availed themselves of this means of obtaining cheap labour. The consequence was, that the sweater sought out where he could get the work done the cheapest, and so introduced a fresh stock of hands into the trade. Female labour, of course, could be had cheaper than male, and the sweater readily availed himself of the services of women on that account. Hence the males who had formerly been employed upon the garments were thrown out of work by the females, and obliged to remain unemployed, unless they would reduce the price of their work to that of the women. It cannot, therefore, be said that the reduction of prices originally arose from there having been more workmen than there was work for them to do. There was no superabundance of hands until female labour was generally introduced—and even if the workmen had increased per cent. more than what they were years back, still that extra number of hands would be required now to make the same number of garments, owing to the work put into each article being at least onefourth more than formerly. So far from the trade being over-stocked with male hands, if the work were confined to the men or the masters' premises, there would not be sufficient hands to do the whole."
According to the last Census (, G.B.), out of a population of the proportions of the people occupied and unoccupied were as follows:—
Of those who were occupied the following were the proportions:—
Of those who were engaged in productive employments, the proportion (in round numbers) ran as follows:—
Here, then, we find nearly -, or per cent., of our producers to be boys and girls, and upwards of per cent. to be women. Such was the state of things in . In order to judge of the possible and probable condition of the labour market of the country, if this introduction of women and children into the ranks of the labourers be persisted in, let us see what were the proportions of the men, women, and children who years ago still remained unoccupied among us. The ratio was as follows:—
Here the unoccupied men are about per cent. of the whole, the children nearly -thirds, and the wives about -. Now it appears that out of say people, were, in , occupied, and by far the greater number, , unoccupied.
Who were the remaining millions, and what were they doing? They, of course, consisted principally of the unemployed wives and children of the millions of people before specified, millions and a half of the number
|being females of years of age and upwards, and millions being children of both sexes under . Of these children, millions, according to the "age abstract," were under years, so that we may fairly assume that, at the time of taking the last census, Let us suppose, then, that these millions of people are brought in competition with the million producers. What is to be the consequence? If the labour market be overstocked at present with only millions of people working for the support of millions (I speak according to the Census of ), what would it be if another millions were to be dragged into it? And if wages are low now, and employment is precarious on account of this, what will not both work and pay sink to when the number is again increased, and the people clamouring for employment are at least treble what they are at present? When the wife has been taught to compete for work with the husband, and son and daughter to undersell their own father, what will be the state of our labour market then?|
But the labour of wives, and children, and apprentices, is not the only means of glutting a particular trade with hands. There is another system becoming every day more popular with our enterprising tradesmen, and this is the In the cheap tailoring this is made a regular practice. Cheap labour is regularly imported, not only from Ireland (the wives of sweaters making visits to the Emerald Isle for the express purpose), but small armies of working tailors, ready to receive the lowest pittance, are continually being shipped into this country. That this is no exaggeration let the following statement prove:—
The labour market of a particular place, however, comes to be overstocked with hands, not only from the introduction of an inordinate number of apprentices and women and children into the trade, as well as the importation of workmen from abroad, but the same effect is produced by This, as I have before said, is specially the case in the printer's and carpenter's trades, where the cheap provincial work is executed chiefly by apprentices, who, when their time is up, flock to the principal towns, in the hopes of getting better wages than can be obtained in the country, owing to the prevalence of the apprentice system of work in those parts. The London carpenters suffer greatly from what are called "improvers," who come up to town to get perfected in their art, and work for little or no wages. The work of some of the large houses is executed mainly in this way; that of Mr. Myers was, for instance, against whom the men lately struck.
But the unskilled labour of towns suffers far more than the skilled from the above cause.
The employment of unskilled labourers in towns is being constantly rendered more casual by the migrations from the country parts. The peasants, owing to the insufficiency of their wages, and the wretchedness of their dwellings and diet, in Wilts, Somerset, Dorset, and elsewhere, leave their native places without regret, and swell the sum of unskilled labour in towns. This is shown by the increase of population far beyond the excess of births over deaths in those counties where there are large manufacturing or commercial towns; whilst in purely agricultural counties the increase of population does not keep pace with the excess of births. "Thus in Lancashire," writes Mr. Thornton, in his work on Over-Population, "the increase of the population in the years ending in , was , and in Cheshire, ; whilst the excess of
|births was only in the former, and in the latter. In particular towns the contrast is still more striking. In Liverpool and Bristol the annual deaths actually exceed the births, so that these towns are only saved from depopulation by their rural recruits, yet the increased the number of its inhabitants in years by more than -, and the other by more than -. In Manchester, the annual excess of births could only have added to the population between and ; the actual increase was . The number of emigrants (immigrants) into Birmingham, during the same period, may, in the same way, be estimated at ; into Leeds, at ; into the metropolis, at . On the other hand, in Dorset, Somerset, and Devon, the actual addition to the population, in the same decennial period, was only , , and respectively; although the excess of births over deaths in the same counties was about , , and ."|
The unskilled labour market suffers, again, from the depression of almost any branch of skilled labour; for whatever branch of labour be depressed, and men so be deprived of a sufficiency of employment, especial result ensues—the unskilled labour market is glutted. The skilled labourer, a tailor, for instance, may be driven to work for the wretched pittance of an East end slop-tailor, but he cannot "turn his hand" to any other description of skilled labour. He cannot say, "I will make billiard-tables, or book-cases, or boots, or razors;" so that there is no resource for him but in unskilled labour. The Spitalfields weavers have often sought dock labour; the turners of the same locality, whose bobbins were once in great demand by the silk-winders, and for the fringes of upholsterers, have done the same; and in this way the increase of casual labour increases the poverty of the poor, and so tends directly to the increase of pauperism.
We have now seen what a vast number of surplus labourers may be produced by an extension of time, rate, or mode of working, as well as by the increase of the hands, by other means than by If, however, we are increasing our workers at a greater rate than we are increasing the means of work, the excess of workmen must, of course, remain unemployed. But are we doing this?
Let us test the matter on the surest data. In the instance let us estimate the increase of population, both according to the calculations of the late Mr. Rickman and the returns of the several censuses. The census, I may observe, was taken in , and has been regularly continued at intervals of years. The table given refers to the population of England and Wales:—
Discarding, then, all conjectural results, and adhering solely to the returns of the censuses, we find that, according to the official numberings of the people the increased rate of population is, in round numbers, per cent. every years; that is to say, where persons were living in the United Kingdom in , there are living in the present year of . The average increase in England and Wales for the last years may, however, be said to be . per cent. per annum, the population having doubled itself during that period.
How, then, does this rate of increase among the people, and consequently the labourers and artizans of the country, correspond with the rate of increase in the production of commodities, or, in plain English, the means of employment? is the main inquiry.
The only means of determining the total amount of commodities produced, and consequently the quantity of work done in the country, is from official returns, submitted to the Parliament and the public as part of the "revenue" of the kingdom. These afford a broad and accurate basis for the necessary statistics; and to get rid of any speculating or calculating on the subject, I will confine my notice to such commodities; giving, however, further information bearing on the subject, but still derived from official sources, so that there may be no doubt on the matter. The facts in connection with this part of the subject are exhibited in the table given in the next page.
The majority of the articles there specified supply the elements of trade and manufacture in furnishing the materials of our clothing, in all its appliances of decency, comfort, and luxury. The table relates, moreover, to our commerce with other countries—to the ships which find profitable employment, and give such employment to our people, in the aggregate commerce of the nation. Under almost every head, it will be seen, the increase in the means of labour has been more extensive than has the increase in the number of labourers; in some instances the difference is wide indeed.
The annual rate of increase among the population has been . per cent. From to the population of the kingdom at the outside cannot be said to have doubled itself. Yet the productions in cotton goods . The increase in the use of wool from to was more than sixfold; that of the population, I may repeat, twofold. In years ( to ) the hides were more than doubled in amount as a means of production; in years the population has not increased to the same amount. Can any , then, contend that the labouring population has extended itself at a greater rate than the means of labour, or that the vast mass of surplus labour throughout the country is owing to the working classes having increased more rapidly than the means of employing them?
Thus, it is evident, that the means of labour
Here, then, we find, that the property assessed to the property tax has increased in years, from to , or upwards of sterling a year; this is at the rate of . per cent. every year, whereas the population of Great has increased at the rate of only . per cent. per annum. But the amount of assessment under the property tax, it should be borne in mind, does not represent the full value of the possessions, so that among this class of proprietors there is far greater wealth than the returns show.
As regards the annual profits of trade, the increase between the years and has been in years. This is at the rate of . per cent. per annum, and the annual increase in the population of Great is only . per cent. But the amount of the profits of trade is unquestionably greater than appears in the financial tables of the revenue of the country; consequently there is a greater increase of wealth over population than the figures indicate.
The above returns show the following results:—
Far, very far indeed then, beyond the increase of the population, has been the increase of the wealth and work of the country.
And now, after this imposing array of wealth, let us contemplate the reverse of the picture: let us inquire if, while we have been increasing in riches and productions far more rapidly than we have been increasing in people and producers—let us inquire, I say, if we have been numerically increasing also in the sad long lists of paupers and criminals. Has our progress in poverty and crime been "" or been more than commensurate in the rapidity of its strides?
Here, then, we have an increase of per cent. in less than years, though the increase of the population of England and Wales, in the same time, was but per cent.; and let it be remembered that the increase of upwards of paupers, in years, has accrued since the New Poor Law has been in what may be considered full working; a law which many were confident would result in a diminution of pauperism, and which certainly cannot be charged with offering the least encouragement to it. Still in years, our poverty increases while our wealth increases, and our paupers grow nearly times as quick as our people, while the profits on trade nearly double themselves in little more than a quarter of a century.
We now come to the records of criminality:—
From these results—and such figures are facts, and therefore stubborn things—the people cannot be said to have increased beyond the wealth or the means of employing them, for it is evident that The above are the bare facts of the country—it is for the reader to explain them as he pleases.
As yet we have dealt with those causes of casual labour only which may induce a surplusage of labourers without any We have seen, , how the number of the unemployed may be increased either by altering the hours, rate, or mode of working, or else by changing the term of hiring, and this while the number of labourers remains the same; and, secondly, we have seen how the same results may ensue from increasing the number of labourers, while the conditions of working and hiring are unaltered. Under both these circumstances, however, the actual quantity of work to be done in the country has been supposed to undergo no change whatever; and at present we have to point out not only how the amount of surplus, and, consequently, of casual labour, in the kingdom, may be increased by , but also how the work itself may be made to decrease. To know the causes of the we must ascertain the antecedents of the other. What, then, are the circumstances inducing a decrease in the quantity of work? and,
|consequently, what the circumstances inducing an increase in the amount of surplus and casual labour?|
In the place we may induce a large amount of casual labour , not by decreasing the gross quantity of work required by the country, but by merely shifting the work into new quarters, and so decreasing the quantity in the ordinary localities. "The west of England," says Mr. Dodd, in his account of the textile manufactures of Great , "was formerly, and continued to be till a comparatively recent period, the most important clothing district in England. The changes which the woollen manufacture, as respects both localization and mode of management, has been and is now undergoing, are very remarkable. Some years ago the 'west of England cloths' were the test of excellence in this manufacture; while the productions of Yorkshire were deemed of a coarser and cheaper character. At present, although the western counties have not deteriorated in their product, the West Riding of Yorkshire has made giant strides, by which equal skill in every department has been attained; while the commercial advantages resulting from coal-mines, from water-power, from canals and railroads, and from vicinage to the eastern port of Hull and the western port of Liverpool, give to the West Riding a power which Gloucestershire and Somersetshire cannot equal. The steamengine, too, and various machines for facilitating some of the manufacturing processes, have been more readily introduced into the former than into the latter; a circumstance which, even without reference to other points of comparison, is sufficient to account for much of the recent advance in the north."
Of late years the products of many of the west of England clothing districts have considerably declined. Shepton Mallet, Frome and Trowbridge, for instance, which were at time the seats of a flourishing manufacture for cloth, have now but little employment for the workmen in those parts; and so with other towns. "At several places in Wiltshire, Somersetshire, and Gloucestershire, and others of the western counties," says Mr. Thornton, "most of the cottagers, years ago, were weavers, whose chief dependence was their looms, though they worked in the field at harvest time and other busy seasons. By so doing they kept down the wages of agricultural labourers, who had no other employment; and now that they have themselves become dependent upon agriculture, in consequence of the removal of the woollen manufacture from the cottage to the factory" [as well as to the north of England], "these reduced wages have become their own portion also;" or, in other words, since the shifting of the woollen manufacture in these parts, the quantity of casual labour in the cultivation of the land has been augmented.
The same effect takes place, of course, if the work be shifted to the Continent, instead of merely to another part of our own country. This has been the main cause of the misery of the straw-plaiters of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. "During the last war," says the author before quoted, "there were examples of women (the wives and children of labouring men) earning as much as a week. The profits of this employment have been so much reduced by the competition of Leghorn hats and bonnets, that a straw-plaiter cannot earn much more than in the week."
But the work of particular localities may not only decrease, and the casual labour, in those parts, increase in the same proportion, by shifting it to other localities (either at home or abroad), even while the gross quantity of work required by the nation remains the same, but the quantity of work may be less than ordinary at , even while the same gross quantity annually required undergoes no change. This is the case in those periodical gluts which arise from overproduction, in the cotton and other trades. The manufacturers, in such cases, have been increasing the supplies at a too rapid rate in proportion to the demand of the markets, so that, though there be no decrease in the requirements of the country, there ultimately accrues such a surplus of commodities beyond the wants and means of the people, that the manufacturers are compelled to stop producing until such time as the regular demand carries off the extra supply. And during all this time either the labourers have to work half-time at half-pay, or else they are thrown out of employment altogether.
Thus far we have proceeded in the assumption that the actual quantity of work required by the nation , owing to a greater quantity than usual being done in other places or at other times. We have still to consider what are the circumstances which tend to To understand these we must know the conditions on which all work depends; these are simply the conditions of demand and supply, and hence to know what it is that regulates the demand for commodities, and what it is that regulates the supply of them, is also to know what it is that regulates the quantity of work required by the nation.
Let me begin with the decrease of work arising from a for certain commodities. This decrease of demand may proceed from of causes:—
. An increase of cost.
. A change of taste or fashion.
. A change of circumstances.
The may be brought about either by an increase in the expense of production or by a tax laid upon the article, as in the case of hair-powder, before quoted. Of the , as a means of decreasing the
|demand for a certain article of manufacture, and, consequently, of a particular form of labour, many instances have already been given; to these the following may be added:—"In Dorsetshire," says Mr. Thornton, "the making of wire shirtbuttons (now in a great measure superseded by the use of mother-o'--pearl) once employed great numbers of women and children." So it has been with the manufacture of metal coat-buttons; the change to silk has impoverished hundreds.|
The decrease of work arising from a may be seen in the fluctuations of the iron trade; in the railway excitement the demand for labour in the iron districts was at least tenfold as great as it is at present, and so again with the demand for arms during war time; at such periods the quantity of work in that particular line at Birmingham is necessarily increased, while the contrary effects, of course, ensue immediately the requirements cease, and a large mass of surplus and casual hands is the result. It is the same with the soldiers themselves, as with the gun and sword makers; on the disbanding of certain portions of the army at the conclusion of a war, a vast amount of surplus labourers are poured into the country to compete with those already in work, and either to drag down their weekly earnings, or else, by obtaining employment in their stead, to reduce the gross quantity of work accruing to each, and so to render their incomes not only less in amount but less constant and regular. Within the last few weeks no less than policemen employed during the Exhibition have been discharged, of course with a like result to the labour market.
The circumstances tending to of certain commodities, are—
. Want of capital.
. Want of materials.
. Want of labourers.
. Want of opportunity.
The in a trade may be brought about by several means: it may be produced by a want of security felt among the moneyed classes, as at the time of revolutions, political agitations, commercial depressions, or panics; or it may be produced by a deficiency of enterprise after the bursting of certain commercial "bubbles," or the decline of particular manias for speculation, as on the cessation of the railway excitement; so, again, it may be brought about by a failure of the ordinary produce of the year, as with bad harvests.
The , as tending to diminish the supply of certain commodities, may be seen in the failure of the cotton crops, which, of course, deprive the cotton manufacturers of their ordinary quantity of work. The same diminution in the ordinary supply of particular articles ensues when the men engaged in the production of them "strike" either for an advance of wages, or more generally to resist the attempt of some cutting employer to reduce their ordinary earnings; and lastly, a like decrease of work necessarily ensues when the Some kinds of work, as we have already seen, depend on the weather—on either the wind, rain, or temperature; while other kinds can only be pursued at certain seasons of the year, as brick-making, building, and the like; hence, on the cessation of the opportunities for working in these trades, there is necessarily a great decrease in the quantity of work, and consequently a large increase in the amount of surplus and therefore casual labour.
We have now, I believe, exhausted the several causes of that vast national evil—casual labour. We have seen that it depends,
, upon certain times and seasons, fashions and accidents, which tend to cause a periodical briskness or slackness in different employments;
And secondly, upon the number of surplus labourers in the country.
The circumstances inducing surplus labour we have likewise ascertained to be .
. An alteration in the hours, rate, or mode of working, as well as in the mode of hiring.
. An increase of the hands.
. A decrease of the work, either in particular places, at particular times, or in the aggregate, owing to a decrease either in the demand or means of supply.
Any of these causes, it has been demonstrated, must necessarily tend to induce an over supply of labourers and consequently a casualty of labour, for it has been pointed out that an over supply of labourers does not depend on an increase of the workers beyond the means of working, but that a decrease of the ordinary quantity of work, or a general increase of the hours or rate of working, or an extension of the system of production, or even a diminution of the term of hiring, will also be attended with the same result—facts which should be borne steadily in mind by all those who would understand the difficulties of the times, and which the "economists" invariably ignore.
On a careful revision of the whole of the circumstances before detailed, I am led to believe that there is considerable truth in the statement lately put forward by the working classes, that only - of the operatives of this country are fully employed, while another are partially employed, and the remaining wholly unemployed; that is to say, estimating the working classes as being between and millions in number, I think we may safely assert—considering how many depend for their employment on particular times, seasons, fashions, and accidents, and the vast quantity of over-work and scamp-work in nearly all the cheap trades of the present day, the number of women and children who are being continually drafted into the different handicrafts with the view of reducing the earnings of the men, the displacement of human labour in some cases by machinery, and the tendency to increase the division of labour, and to extend the large system of production beyond the requirements of the
|markets, as well as the temporary mode of hiring —all these things being considered, I say I believe we may safely conclude that, out of the million people who have to depend on their industry for the livelihood of themselves and families, there is (owing to the extraordinary means of economizing labour which have been developed of late years, and the discovery as to how to do the work of the nation with fewer people) barely sufficient work for the employment of half of our labourers, so that only are fully and constantly employed, while more are employed only half their time, and the remaining wholly unemployed, obtaining a day's work by the displacement of some of the others.|
Adopt what explanation we will of this appalling deficiency of employment, thing at least is certain: we cannot , ascribe it to an increase of the population beyond the means of labour; for we have seen that, while the people have increased during the last years at the rate of . per cent. per annum, the wealth and productions of the kingdom have far exceeded that amount.
 Lord Bacon's Hist. of King Henry VII., Works, vol. v. p. 61.
 25th Henry VIII. cap. 13.
 5 & 6 Edw. VI., cap. 5.
 Eden's Hist. of the Poor, vol. i. p. 118.
 Latimer's Sermons, p. 100.
 Pictorial History of England, vol. ii. p. 900.
 Reports of the "Commissioner" of the Times Newspaper, in June, 1845.
 It might at first appear that, when the work is shifted to the Continent, there would be a proportionate decrease of the aggregate quantity at home, but a little reflection will teach us that the foreigners must take something from us in exchange for their work, and so increase the quantity of our work in certain respects as much as they depress it in others.
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