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Tuesday, December 11, 1849
Having given a full account of the earnings and condition of
the various classes of hucksters in London, I now return to consider the state
and income of the artisans.
If we wish to obtain a knowledge of the history and progress of the slop-trade, we must first inquire into the nature and characteristics of that art of which it is an inferior variety; and it is with this view that, before investigating the condition of the male slop-worker, I have made it my business to examine into the state of the Operative Tailors of London.
The Tailors, as a body, form a very large proportion of the population of London. Arranging the occupations of the people of the metropolis in the order of the number of individuals belonging to them, we shall find that the tailors stand fourth upon the list. First come the Domestic Servants of London, numbering as many as 168,000 individuals, and constituting about one-twelfth of the whole population of the metropolis. The second in the order of their numbers are the Labourers, who are 50,000 strong. Third in numerical rank stand the Boot and Shoe Makers, mustering upwards of 28,000; and fourth, the Tailors, amounting to 23,517. After them come the Milliners and Dressmakers; and then follow the Commercial Clerks - both of which classes comprised, at the time of taking the last census for London, upwards of 20,000 individuals.
Of the above 23,517 tailors, there are, according to the Post-office Directory, 2,748 in business for themselves. This leaves a total of 20,769 operatives. But several of those whose names are entered in the Directory are also, I am told, working men; that is to say, they act as journeymen as well as work upon their own account. We may therefore fairly estimate the number of operative tailors in the metropolis at not less than 21,000 individuals.
Taking the number of persons in the parish unions as a test of the poverty or competence of the class, I find that tailoring is far from being a pauperising occupation. Of tailors there is, according to the last Government returns, one pauper in every 241 individuals; whereas of hook-and-eye makers, though the whole class consists of only 144 persons, no less than 142 were, at the time of taking the last census, inmates of some parish union. The framework knitters, according to the same report, were in equally indigent circumstances, two out of three being paupers. In the class of merchants, however, there was only one pauper in every 12,000 persons. I subjoin a statement of the number of paupers in each of the classes of which I have already treated; so that the reader may compare them with the tailors, and, by referring to the account I have given of the habits and earnings of the people, be enabled to say how much of the pauperism arises from deficient wages, and how much from those habits of improvidence which are the necessary consequence of uncertainty of employment.
|Persons engaged as||One pauper in every|
ABOVE THE AVERAGE
|Seamstresses and seamsters||36.1 individuals|
|Stay and corset makers||143.9|
|Average of England and Wales||159.5|
BELOW THE AVERAGE
|Hawkers, hucksters and pedlars||179.3|
|Tailors and breeches makers||241.2|
|Milliners and dressmakers||582.4|
Adopting the same means to arrive at an
estimate of the moral character of a particular class of persons, I find that at
the time of taking the last census there was one in every 340 tailors confined
in gaol; whereas, in the class of knitters (the most criminal of all), one in
every five individuals was an inmate of a prison; while among stuff
manufacturers (which appears to be the least criminal class), there was but one
prisoner in every 6,590 persons.
I subjoin a comparative table of the criminality of the classes that I have already investigated, together with that of the tailors: -
|Persons engaged as||One prisoner in every|
ABOVE THE AVERAGE
|Hawkers, hucksters and pedlars||71.0 individuals|
|Seamstresses and seamsters||260.0|
|Tailors and breeches makers||340.4|
|Stay and corset makers||383.8|
|Average of England and Wales||718.1|
BELOW THE AVERAGE
|Milliners and dressmakers||1,109.0|
By the above tables we shall find that, as
regards the number of paupers in the trade, the tailors are 81 below the
average for England and Wales, while, as regards the number of criminals. they
are as many as 377 above the average. The cause of this excessive
criminality I leave the more intelligent of the operatives to discover. What
connection it has with the acknowledged intemperance of the class, the defective
state of the Government returns unfortunately prevents me from calculating. The
causes of crime and poverty are so little studied amongst us, that, with the
exception of the trite and useless division of criminals into those who can and
those who cannot read and write, we have no means of arriving at any conclusion
on the subject.
The tailoring trade is divided by the workmen into "honourable" and "dishonourable." The honourable trade consists of that class who have the garments made on their own premises, at the supposed rate of 6d. per hour; the dishonourable, of those who give the work out to "sweaters," to be done at less than the standard price. The dishonourable part of the trade is again subdivided into the classes belonging to show-shops - that is, such as do a cheap bespoke business - and those belonging to slop-shops, or, in plainer terms, to such as do a cheap ready-made business.
Of the 21,000 working tailors above specified, as resident in London, I should add that there are not above 3,000 belonging to what is called the honourable portion of the trade. The remaining 18,000 are those who are engaged in the cheap, slop, or dishonourable trade; and from the condition of the operatives working at what are called the standard prices, I am satisfied that but little of the crime above enumerated is connected with that class.
The journeymen tailors working for the "honourable" part of the trade are in "union." This "union" consists of six distinct societies, which meet at certain taverns or public-houses at the west end of the town. The number of journeymen at present in union is 3,000. In the year 1821 there were between 5,000 and 6,000. It is supposed that from two to three thousand have left the "honourable" trade and become "sweaters."
Besides the above-mentioned six societies there are four "outstanding houses," as they are termed, which, though not acting in union with the six others, still are regulated by the same laws and conducted upon the same principles. Two of these are foreign societies, and two supply Stultz only with workmen. The number in connection with the four outstanding houses is 400.
The different societies are likewise used as houses of call for the masters. The men belonging to a particular society, who are out of employ, attend the house at the appointed call-times (there are three in the day). A master requiring extra hands directs the captain of the workshop to engage the requisite number. He generally sends to the society of which he is a member, and there the workmen who stand next upon the books are taken on.
The date and purport of the various enactments in connection with the trade I find stated as follows, in a memorial of the operative tailors of London, to the "Right Hon. the Lords of the Privy Council for Trade," in the year 1845: -
"So far back as the 33rd Edward I, the 6th Henry VI, and the 2nd and 3rd Edward VI, the law directed that master tailors residing within the weekly bills of mortality should, under severe penalty, provide on their own premises healthful and commodious apartments wherein to execute to completion the materials entrusted to their skill and honour. From the 7th George I to the 8th George III, chief magistrates were empowered to regulate the place of work, the hours, and wages of journeymen tailors, within the weekly bills of mortality."
"Within these last twelve or fifteen years, however," says a subsequent memorial from the same parties, "the corrupt middle-man system has sprung up amongst us, which is the cause of leaving so many first-rate operatives unemployed the greater part of the year; for when two home workers, by working over-hours and Sabbath-days, perform the work of three men employed on the premises of the master tailor, as intended by the Legislature, it must prove a great grievance to the numerous unemployed, who are compelled in hundreds of instances to make application for parochial relief as well as the other private charities, for themselves and numerous families; a circumstance unknown until the corrupt middle-man system crept amongst us."
"Many of our unemployed, continues the memorial, "are compelled by necessity to make application to this class of middlemen for employment, who practise the most grievous impositions upon the persons employed by them, by reducing their wages and enforcing the truck system, by compelling the men to take their diet with them at whatever price they think proper to charge, though many of those men have large families of their own to support; and frequently by obliging their men to lodge with them."
Up to the year 1834, the 8th of George III ("which," I am told, "regulated the time of labour for tailors at twelve hours per day, with the intent of compelling the masters to get their work done on their premises, as well as of equalising employment, and giving to each operative tailor the opportunity of earning a decent maintenance for himself and his family" ) was tolerably well adhered to; but at that period the masters gradually infringed the provisions of the act. Sweaters became numerous, and a general strike was the consequence. The strike acted antagonistically to the views of the journeymen tailors; and from that time up to the present. sweaters and underpaid workmen have increased, until the state of trade, as regards the operative tailors, appears to be approaching desperation.
Before entering upon my investigations, 1 consulted several of the most experienced and intelligent workmen, as to the best means of arriving at a correct opinion respecting the state of the trade. It was agreed among us that, first, with regard to an estimate as to the amount of wages, I should see a hand employed at each of the different branches of the trade. After this I was to be taken to a person who was the captain or leading man of a shop; then to one who, in the technicality of the trade, had a "good chance" of work; and, finally, to one who was only casually employed. It was considered that these classes, taken in connection with the others, would give the public a correct view of the condition, earnings, and opinions of the trade. To prevent the chance of error, however, I begged to be favoured with such accounts of earnings as could be procured from the operatives. This I thought would place me in a fair condition to judge of the incomings and physical condition of the class; but still I was anxious to arrive at something like a criterion of the intellectual, political, and moral character of the people, and I asked to be allowed an interview with such persons as the parties whom I consulted might consider would fairly represent these peculiar features of their class to the world. The results of my inquiry I shall now proceed to lay before the public. Let me, however, first acknowledge the courtesy and consideration with which I was everywhere received; indeed, the operatives generally seemed especially grateful that their "cause" had at length been espoused by the press, and wherever I went I found all ready to give or obtain for me any information I might desire.
The first I saw was a trousers hand.
There are three classes of workmen, said my informant - coat, waistcoat, and trousers hands. The trousers hands are a class by themselves. Occasionally the persons who make the trousers make waistcoats also, and these are called "small workers." But in some shops there are different hands for each different garment. For all garments there is what is termed a "log" - that log is the standard of prices in the trade. Formerly the rate of payment was by the day - 6s. for twelve hours' work; but at the time of the general strike (about 16 or 18 years ago) the masters made out another scale of prices, and changed the mode of payment from day work to piece work. The prices of each garment, as determined by them, were regulated according to the quantity of work in it, and the time that such work would take to do. The workman by this log is still paid at the rate of 6d. per hour, but the time required to make each garment is estimated, and the workmen are paid by the garment rather than by the time. An ordinary pair of gentlemen's trousers, without pockets (such as are known in the trade as plain trousers), are estimated at ten hours' work, and consequently are paid 5s. for. The pockets are calculated at one hour extra, and the price paid for making trousers with them is 6d. more. Straps are reckoned to occupy the workman two hours more, and he therefore receives an extra shilling for the making of such garments as have them. If "faced bottoms" (that is, if lined inside at the bottom with a piece of cloth to make them set well) they are 6d. extra. If the trousers are "fork-lined" it is considered to be a half-hour's work, and is paid for accordingly. If the trousers have "lipe seams" (that is, if they are made with stripes down the side seam), they are paid 9d., and sometimes 1s. extra, according to the work. Regimental trousers, with gold lace or scarlet stripe down the side seams, are paid 2s. as four hours' extra work. If they are for riding trousers, and "strapped" - that is, made with an extra piece of cloth laid over the leg seam, and double-stitched all round - then this additional work is reckoned to occupy the workman six hours more than a plain pair of trousers, and then the price for making such garments is 3s. more than that given for an ordinary pair. This scale of prices is in some establishments written out upon a sheet of paper, and hung up in the workshop, to prevent disputes; or, if not, it is so generally understood, both by the masters and the workmen, that it is seldom or never questioned. If any deviation be made from "the log," it is always agreed upon before the garment is made; but if no such agreement is entered into, the workman charges according to the regular scale. Such garments as are not included in the log are paid for according to the time they take making, and at the rate of 6d. per hour. Trousers are generally very good jobs, because I am told the time they take in doing is reckoned "pretty fairly." By the change from day work to piece work the regular trousers hands suffered scarcely any loss upon the prices of the garment. The time of making was justly reckoned, and the price paid in the regular and "honourable" trade remains about the same. The trousers hands have not suffered so much by the change of payment from day work to piece work as by the prevalence of the system of sweating, which has increased considerably since the alteration in the rate of payment.
Next I visited a coat hand. He lived in a comfortable first-floor, and had invited several fellow-workmen to meet me. He had also obtained for me an account of the earnings of one journeyman for two years. There are generally three hands, he told me, engaged upon a coat. One makes the collar and sleeves, and the two others are engaged each upon one of the fore parts, or right or left side of the coat. The prices paid for making each of these parts of the coat depend upon the quantity of work. These prices are regulated by the log of the shop. There is no general log for the West-end, but each particular house fixes its own price for the different garments to be made; or rather each particular house estimates the time required for making each garment as it thinks fit, and pays at the rate of 6d. an hour for the work. The estimate of the time for making is frequently under, and never over, the hours necessary for doing the work. "In the shop at which I work," said my informant, "a plain dress coat or frock coat is reckoned at two days eight hours' labour. If with silk sides, and stitched with nine rows of stitches, it is calculated at two hours' extra work; if with edging cord along the edges, it is estimated at two hours more; if with cut sides 'rantered' (that is, fine drawn in a peculiar manner, so that the seam may be rendered invisible), one hour extra; if 'unrantered,' half an hour. This estimate as to the time is paid for at the rate of 6d. per hour; that is to say, we receive 16s. for making a plain dress or frock coat. There are other houses, however, in the trade, who are considered equally 'honourable' by the public, but who pay considerably less than the above price. A person who was present at the house of my informant, assured me that the shop for which he worked paid only 15s. 3d. for precisely the same quantity of work as that for which my informant's shop paid 16s.; the amount of work in the coat being estimated by the one master at two days six-and-a-half hours, and at two days eight hours by the other. All agreed that there are many houses in the "honourable" trade who estimate the time even much lower than the above; so that the log, instead of being a general standard. appears to be merely an arbitrary measure as to time. It is generally understood among the workmen who "belong to society" that they are not to work for less than sixpence per hour. The masters are well aware of this, and consequently never offer to pay less, but avail themselves of their privilege of reducing the estimate as to the time of making. If they wish to have a coat at a lower price than is usually paid, they declare that it takes so many hours less to make. The workmen often object to this, and the consequence is, the master seeks out other hands, who are willing to accept the work at the time stated. In the year 1834 the system of payment was changed from day work to piece work. Before that time, each man employed received 6d. per hour for every hour that he was upon the establishment: it mattered not whether the master found him in work or not; he was paid all the same. Since the piece work system, however, men are kept for days upon the establishment without receiving a penny. It is a general rule now throughout the trade for masters to keep more hands than they have employment for, especially in the slack or "vacation," as it is called. The effect of the piece work system has been this, I am told - that the workman has to work now a day-and-a-half for a day's wages; and that system alone has been instrumental to the reduction of prices. Men have more work to do now to get the same amount of money: and the consequence is, fewer hands are employed, and the surplus workmen offer their labour at a lower price. Again, under the piece work system, work is given out to be done. Hence, the journeyman who takes it home, and gets other hands to do it for him at a lower price than he himself receives, thus becomes changed into a sweater, or middle-man, trading upon the labour of others. Finding that he can get the work done as low as he pleases, by employing women and children upon it, he goes to the master and offers to do it at a lower price than is usually paid for it. Again, the price paid to each particular person is unknown to the other; so that the master, finding that the sweaters can get work done at almost any price, keeps continually cutting down the sum paid for making up the different garments, and then tries to force the regular hands to take the same price. Indeed, this is so frequently the case now in the shops, that I am told that it is the common practice to take off the price paid for some "extra" upon a garment, and to threaten the workmen, if they refuse, to give it out to the, sweaters. One master whom I have been told of offered a journeyman certain work to do at a certain price. This the journeyman objected to do, whereupon the master stated "that women did it at a much lower figure." The workman replied, "That to do it and live they were obliged to make up their subsistence-money by prostitution." The answer of the master was, "That he cared nothing how they did it; he had to compete with others." The master, I am informed, bears the character of being a highly religious man.
After this I visited a waistcoat hand. The male waistcoat hands. he told me, are very few, and they are growing fewer every year. In the workshop they are paid by "the log." "The log reckons nine hours for making a single-breasted roll-collar waistcoat, but we cannot do the work that is in them now in less than twelve hours. there are so many extras introduced - such as wadding to pad the breast, back straps, edging, and 'V' cuts, which were all paid for over and above the regular charge till within the last five years, but which are now all included in the price stated by the log. Hence the waistcoats which were originally reckoned at nine hours' work take us now twelve hours to make, and are paid for only at the stated price, viz., 4s. 6d. According to the standard of 6d. per hour, we should get 6s. for the same garment as we now make for 4s. 6d. The extras were gradually reduced." "My master," says my informant, "first objected to pay anything additional for putting on the edging. Then he refused to allow us anything for inserting the wadding in the breast. After this he cut off the extra pay for back straps, telling us that, if we did not consent to this, he would put them all out to be made; and saying that he could get them done much cheaper out of doors. When I first began waistcoat-making I could earn 36s. every week, during the season, with ease; and. indeed, I did as much up to six years ago. But now I must work hard to get 24s. Since the years 1843 and 1844 the prices have been gradually declining, and the waistcoat business getting worse every year for the male hands employed in the workshop; and so I believe it has for everybody outside the shop, excepting the sweaters. What they get, I'm sure I don't know. We never can find out their prices. We only know they get the work done much cheaper than we can do it, for if we murmur in the least at the price paid us, we are told by the master that he can have it made much cheaper out. The reason why they can do this is, because of late years women have been generally employed at the trade. When I first began working at this branch there were but very few females employed in it: a few white waistcoats were given out to them, under the idea that women would make them cleaner than men; and so indeed they can. But since the last five years the sweaters have employed females upon cloth, silk, and satin waistcoats as well, and before that time the idea of a woman making a cloth waistcoat would have been scouted. But since the increase of the puffing and the sweating system, masters and sweaters have sought everywhere for such hands as would do the work below the regular ones. Hence the wife has been made to compete with the husband, and the daughter with the wife: they all learn the waistcoat business, and must all get a living. If the man will not reduce the price of his labour to that of the female, why he must remain unemployed; and if the full-grown woman will not take the work at the same price as the young girl, why she must remain without any. The female hands, I can confidently state, have been sought out and introduced to the business by the sweaters, from a desire on their part continually to ferret out hands who will do the work cheaper than others. The effect that this continual reduction has had upon me is this: Before the year 1844 I could live comfortably, and keep my wife and children (I had five in family) by my own labour. My wife then attended to her domestic and family duties; but since that time, owing to the reduction in prices, she has been compelled to resort to her needle, as well as myself, for her living." (On the table was a bundle of crape and bombazine ready to be made up into a dress.) "I cannot afford now to let her remain idle; that is, if I wish to live, and keep my children out of the streets, and pay my way. My wife's earnings are, upon an average, 8s. per week. She makes dresses. I never would teach her to make waistcoats, because I knew the introduction of female hands had been the ruin of my trade. With the labour of myself and wife now I can only earn 32s. a week, and six years ago I could make my 36s. If I had a daughter I should be obliged to make her work as well, and then probably, with the labour of the three of us, we could make up at the week's end as much money as, up to 1844, I could get by my own single hands. My wife, since she took to dressmaking, has become sickly from over-exertion. Her work, and her domestic and family duties altogether, are too much for her. Last night I was up all night with her, and was compelled to call in a female to attend her as well. The over-exertion now necessary for us to maintain a decent appearance has so ruined her constitution that she is not the same woman as she was. In fact, ill as she is, she has been compelled to rise from her bed to finish a mourning dress against time, and I myself have been obliged to give her a helping hand, and turn to at woman's work, in the same manner as the women are turning to at mine. My opinion is that the waistcoat-makers generally are now unable to support themselves and families by their unassisted labour. A number of female hands have been forced into the trade who otherwise would have been attending to their duties at home."
I shall now lay before the reader certain accounts of the earnings of workmen that have been furnished to me, and of which I have calculated the weekly averages at different periods: -
By the above account it will be seen that
the gross earnings for the year 1848 were ?61 4s. 9d.; hence the average weekly
earnings were ?1 3s. 6d. It will likewise be found that the average weekly
earnings from the beginning of April to the end of June were ?1 l2s. l0?d.,
and that the average weekly earnings from the beginning of Agust to the end of
September were 17s. 1?d.
The average weekly earnings from the beginning of April to the end of June, 1849, were ?1 7s. 8d., or 5s. 2?d. per week less than those of 1848; and the average weekly earnings from the beginning of August to the end of September, 1849, were 11s. 5?d.. or 5s. 8?d. less than those of 1848.
"The above average may be considered high," says the party forwarding me the account; "but I think it is a fair estimate of the wages that may be earned by a steady man in the highest-paid shops at the west-end of London, when regularly employed. One great drawback is the extreme irregularity and fluctuation of the trade, which prevents a working man, in a great measure, from regulating his expenditure to his income, and is, I firmly believe, the great cause of much of the dissipation which occurs amongst the trade, it being literally either a 'hunger or a burst' with them."
Another account, extending over a period of 46 weeks, and which consists of the gross earnings of the men in the honourable part of the trade, gives an average of ?1 1s. 5?d. received weekly by each workman throughout the whole of that period. The gross earnings were ?474 10s. 3d., and the total number of hands employed during the 46 weeks were 442.
By another account I find the weekly earnings to have been ?1 6s. 5?d. during the whole of 1848.
I am assured by those who are, and have long been, intimately acquainted with the trade, that the above are far beyond the average earnings of the class. I can only say that I have not selected the cases. The accounts have been forwarded to me, and I give the bare truth.
I was desirous of seeing certain hands whose earnings might be taken as the type of the different classes of workmen in the trade. These, I had been informed, consisted of three distinct varieties:- first, those who are in constant employment at a particular shop as captains; secondly, those who are tolerably well employed during the year, and have the preference for work as leading men in particular shops; thirdly, those who are only casually employed, either in the brisk season, or when there is an extra amount of work to be done. The captains have continual employment, and receive from three shillings to six shillings per week, over and above their own earnings, for the superintendence of the workmen. The leading men are generally employed. They are always connected with the shop, and remain there whether there is work to be done or not. The casual men are such as are taken on from the house of call when there is an extra amount of work to be done. The casual hand is engaged sometimes for two or three days, and sometimes for only two or three hours-to the great accommodation of masters, who are certain of having their work not only done to time, but paid for by the society to which the hands belong, if damaged or spoiled by the workmen.
I consulted several gentlemen connected with the trade as to a person who might be taken as a fair type of the first class, and was directed to one who gave me the following information: - "I am a captain at an old-established house; indeed, one of the first and best at the West-end. I receive ?1 19s. per week-that is, ?1 16s. for my week, and 3s. extra for my duties as captain. My wages never amount to less. I have been twenty years employed at the same house in the same capacity, and for the whole of those twenty years my earnings have remained the same. I have brought up a large family, and am landlord of the house in which I live. I pay ?55 a year for it, and let off nearly sufficient to pay the rent. Four or five of my shopmates are housekeepers, and they have been in our establishment as many years as myself. It is one of the few honourable houses remaining in the trade, and may be cited as an instance of what the trade formerly was. The workmen in our establishment are all, without any exception, honest, sober, industrious, moral men; the majority of them are married, and maintain their wives and families in decency and comfort. The workmen there employed may be taken as a fair average of the condition, habits, and principles of the journeyman tailor throughout the trade before the puffing and sweating system became general. Ever since the alteration from day work to piece work the condition of the working tailor has materially declined. Under the day-working system a master, taking on a man from a house of call, was obliged to find him work or pay him his wages during the time he remained in his workshop; but now, under the piece- working system, a master will often keep and send for more men than he requires, knowing that he has only to pay for the quantity of work done, and being desirous to make as great a display of 'hands' as possible. Further than this, under the piece-working system, the workman has the opportunity of taking garments home to be made; and the consequence is, being out of the master's sight. he puts on inexperienced hands to the different parts of the garment; and then, finding that by the assistance of women and girls he can get through a greater amount of work than he possibly could by his own unaided labour, he seeks employment from other masters at a lower price than the regular standard, and so subsides into a sweater, and underbids the regular workman. The masters have now learned that tailoring work, under the sweating system, can be done at almost any price; and hence those who are anxious to force their trade by underselling their more honourable neighbours advertise cheap garments, and give the articles out to sweaters to be made by women and girls. By such means the regular tailor is being destroyed; indeed, a man's own children are being brought into competition against himself, and the price of his labour is being gradually reduced to theirs. These evils, I am convinced. do not arise from over-population, but rather from over-competition. Women and. children, who before were unemployed in the tailoring trade, now form a large proportion of the operative part of it. I know myself that, owing to the reduction of prices, many wives, who formerly attended solely to their domestic duties and their family, are now obliged to labour with the husband, and still the earnings of the two are less than he alone formerly obtained. The captains of shops in the honourable trade generally make as much as I do. By the sweating system I am satisfied the public are no gainers; the price of the workmen is reduced, but still the garment is no cheaper. The only parties profiting are the sweater and the dishonourable tradesman. In fact, another profit has now to be paid; so that, though the party doing the work is paid less, still the sweater's profit, which has to be added, makes little or no difference in the price of the garment to the public. I know myself that it is so.
The next person I sought out was one who might be taken as a fair average of the industrious and fortunate workmen. I was anxious to meet with a person whose earnings might be considered as a type, not of the highest wages received by the operatives, but of the earnings of those who are fully employed, in a shop where the best prices are paid, and where the customers are of the highest rank. I consulted with a number of workmen as to a person of such a character, and I was sent to an individual who gave me the following statement: -"I have been fifteen years employed in the same house. It is one of the first-rate houses at the West-end. My master pays the best prices, and I consider him a very fair man. He gives the same price for the better class of garments as he did fifteen years ago. The only articles for which he pays less than at the rate of 6d. per hour are the new-fashioned wrappers or paletots, and these he is obliged to reduce, much against his will, by the competition of other houses. Gentlemen want a cheap over-coat, and tell him that they can get it at such houses for such a price; and my master is compelled to make it at the same price as the cheap West-end slop-houses, or he would surely lose his customers. it is now about five years ago since my master began to make any reduction upon the price paid for making any garment whatsoever. Before that every article was paid for at the rate of 6d. per hour; but between the years 1844 and 1845 - I cannot call to mind the exact date - my master had a consultation with his captain as to making up the new cheap tweed wrappers, which were coming into general fashion at that time; and he decided upon paying for them at a rate which, considering the time they took to make, was less than the regular sixpence per hour. He said that the show-shops at the East-end were daily advertising tweed wrappers at such a low figure that his customers, seeing the prices in the newspapers, were continually telling him that if he could not do them they must go elsewhere. Since then cheap over-coats, or wrappers, have been generally made in our shop, and I believe that my master would willingly give over making them, if it were not for the extreme competition which has been going on in the tailoring trade since their introduction. Amongst all the best and oldest houses in the trade at the West-end they are gradually introducing the making of the cheap paletots, Oxonians, Brighton coats, Chesterfields, &c. &c.; and even the first-rate houses are gradually subsiding into the cheap advertising slop tailors. If the principle goes on at the rate that it has been progressing for the last five years. the journeymen tailors must ultimately be reduced to the position of the lowest of the needlewomen. I have kept an account of my wages for the last sixteen years; but I have destroyed several of the books, thinking them of no value. My wages have not declined since that period, because I am regularly employed, and my master's house has not yet become one of the cheap advertising shops - and I don't think it will in his time. In the year 1833, being the first I was in London, I remember well that my wages throughout the year averaged ?1 6s. per week. I can say so positively, for I have long been in the habit of estimating them. I never did so before that time (because I was not out of my apprenticeship till then). and I recollect the first year particularly. Indeed, as it happens. I have the account here. I thought I had burnt it." He then showed me an account of his earnings for the year above mentioned. It began April 6, 1833, and ended 29th March, 1834. The gross earnings was ?69 3s. 6d., which gave an average of ?1 6s. 7?d. per week. The lowest sum received in any one week during that year was 4s. 6d., and the next week he had no employment whatsoever. This occurred in the month of September. The highest sum earned was ?1 l6s., and this occurred for seven weeks in succession during the months of May and June. At the latter period the business, I am told, is always brisk, and lasts generally three months. The slack usually begins in August and lasts till the middle of October, or two months and a half. The average weekly earnings for three months during "the brisk of the year 1833 year ?1 14s. 8?d. The average weekly earnings for ten weeks during the slack of the same year were 17s. 1d. He has no account-books from the years 1833 to 1844 at present with him. In the year 1844 his gross earnings were ?76 l5s. 9d., which gives an average of ?1 9s. 5?d. The average weekly earnings during "the brisk" season were ?1 13s. 3?d., and the average earnings per week during the slack were ?1 9s. 9?d. He tells me that the cause of the difference between these two years was, that in the year 1844 he had got the best chance of work in his shop; and this is shown by the difference between his earnings during the slacks of those two years. In 1844 he made 12s. 8d. per week more than he did in 1833; whereas, during the brisk season, he made is. 4?d. less per week in 1844 than he did in 1833. He tells me that the cause of this last difference is, that the men are now paid by the piece instead of by the day. and their masters' shops are consequently not opened so early in the morning as they were formerly. During 1843 his gross earnings were ?76 17s. 3d., which gives an average per week of ?1 9s. 6?d. During the brisk of last year he made ?1 10s. 0?d. The cause of the difference between the brisk of this year and that of 1844 was that my informant was partially engaged for six weeks of the time upon a jury at Westminster. In the slack of the year the average weekly earnings were 19s. 9d. During the brisk months of the present year he has earned ?1 3s. 8?d.; so that the decline in the earnings of this person since 1844 has been 1s. 0?d. during the brisk, and 6s. 1d. per week during the slack. The gross earnings during the present year have been ?82 4s., which gives an average per week of ?1 12s. 4?d. per week more than he did in 1844, and 2s. 9?d. per week more than he did in 1848.
The cause of his wages not having declined is, he tells me, that he has the first chance of work at his shop; but his earnings constitute no average of the earnings of the workmen generally. He estimates the weekly income of those who have the second-best chance of work, and are employed in the same shop all the year round, at ?1 2s. During the slack he considers their average weekly earnings to be about 10s., and during the brisk about ?1 5s. He tells me that of those that are casually employed (and such appear to constitute about one-tenth of the trade) the average earnings are about 12s. a week all the year round. During the brisk (which with them lasts but two months of the year) he thinks they make ?1 1s. per week, and during the slack (which with them lasts full three months) they are wholly unemployed, and make nothing whatsoever. They then generally pass their time in the tap-room or the club-room of some society's tavern. The number of journeymen employed in the regular and honourable trade has decreased, he tells me, nearly one-half since the year 1834, and this, he says, is owing to the increase of the principle of sweating, which he asserts to be mainly owing to the system of giving out the work to be done. Before the introduction of piece work the men were employed generally in the shop, and paid at the rate of 6d. per hour; then the great majority of the workmen were contented and happy; but since then, owing to the work being taken home to be done, those who before were journeymen tailors have passed into sweaters, and live upon their fellow-workmen's labour. These sweaters will take work at any price, and they are the principal cause of the decline of the trade; and my informant says his opinion is, that if the masters were prohibited from giving their work out to be done, and compelled to find comfortable workshops for all the hands engaged upon their work, the people employed in the trade would be as comfortable as before.
The statement of the casual hand is far different from either of the above. He says: "I am not 'in the command of a shop' - that is, I have no regular work, but am employed principally at the brisk season of the year. The brisk season lasts for three months in the shop, and for two months outside of it, or, in other words. the work at the commencement and end of the brisk season is only sufficient to keep the hands, regularly employed in the shop. fully engaged, and between these two periods extra hands are taken on to do the work, which then becomes more than the regular hands can accomplish. I am one of those extra hands, and May and June are the two months I am principally employed. During those months I earn ?1 5s. per week, and I must be fully employed to get as much as that. The reason of this is, because the time required for making the garments is not fairly estimated. After the brisk season the casual hands are mostly off trade, and have little or no work at the honourable part of the business. From the month of July to the end of the month of April, the journeymen tailors who have not the command of a shop are principally dependent upon what is termed 'sank work.' This consists of soldiers'. police, Custom-house, post, and mail clothing. At this work I could earn about 6s. per week if I could get as much as I could do, but there is not enough to keep all the men in full employment. Some weeks I do make my 6s.; others I make only 4s.; then again I occasionally make only 6s. in a fortnight. I think I can safely say my weekly earnings at 'sank work' average about 4s.; but during the time I am engaged at 'sank work' I have the chance of the calls at my society. I attend at the house twice a day regularly. Since the brisk season I have not been employed at the honourable part of the trade more than one day per month, and I never missed attending a single call. Hence I make upon an average about ?10 by my work at the honourable part of the trade during the two months of the brisk season; then I get about ?8 16s. by 'sank work,' at 4s. per week, for the rest of the year; and besides this I earn by casual employment at the honourable part of the trade about ?3; this altogether brings my yearly income to ?21 16s., which gives an average of 8s. 4?d. per week. This I really believe to be exactly what I do get. Those casual hands that do not take to 'sank work' work under the sweaters, at whatever the sweater may be pleased to give them. At the sweaters they make more than at the 'sank work,' but then they have to work much longer hours. Such is the difference of prices in my trade. that during the months of May and June I make trousers at 5s. per pair, and after that I make them at 6?d. per pair. The garments, of course, have not the same amount of work in them, but at those which are better paid I can earn in a day 5s., whilst I can only earn 1s. at the others in the same time. I believe the hands that cannot command a shop are similarly situated to myself. There are from 600 to 700 persons off work for ten months in the course of the year. I know this from having heard a gentleman who has paid great attention to the trade affirm that the unemployed were from 20 to 25 per cent. of the whole number of the operative in union."
The next party whom I saw was one to whom I had been referred as a type of the intemperate and improvident, but skilful tailor. I was anxious, as intemperance is said to be one of the distinguishing characteristics of the working tailors, to hear from one who was notorious for his indulgence in this vice what were the main causes that induced the habit, so that by making them public the more intelligent workmen might be induced to take some steps to remedy the evil. As I before said, the necessary consequence of all uncertain labour is to produce intemperate habits among the labourers; and tailoring, it has been shown, has its periods of slack and brisk, as well as dock-labour. But it will be seen that there are other causes as well at work to demoralize, and occasionally to change, the operative tailor from the sober, industrious, and intelligent artisan, into the intemperate, erratic, and fatuous workman. I would not, however, have it inferred from the above remarks that the intemperance is a vice for which the whole or even the majority of the class are distinguished. On the contrary, from all that I have lately seen and heard, it is my duty to state that I believe intemperance to be an exception rather than a rule with the body. I have found the operative tailors - and especially those who have regular employment - enlightened, provident, and sober to a degree that I certainly did not anticipate. Indeed, the change from the squalor, foetor, and wretchedness of the homes of the poor people that I had lately visited, to the comfort, cleanliness, and cheerfulness of the dwellings of the operative tailors, has been as refreshing to my feelings as the general sagacity of the workmen has been instrumental to the lightening of my labours. The person to whom I was referred gave me the following extraordinary statement: -"I work at coats generally, and for one of the best houses. I am reckoned one of the most skilful hands in the trade. I might be always in work if it were not for my love of drink. Most of the foremen know me, and object to give me work on account of my unsteadiness. If it were not for my skill I should be out of work altogether, for I never would consent to work under a sweater. I would rather starve than be instrumental to the reduction of the price of my labour. As an instance of my skill, I may mention that I recently made a waistcoat of my own invention, which was highly esteemed by my fellow-workmen. I do not wish to particularize the waistcoat more fully, lest it should be known who it is that supplies you with this information. I am not a leading hand in any shop, but one who is casually employed. I might be a leading man if it were not for my love of drink, but, owing to that, I am only taken on when the brisk season commences. It is to the casual hands that the intemperance of the tailors as a class is mostly limited; those who have regular employment are in general steady, decent, and intelligent people. The intemperance for which the casual hands are distinguished arises chiefly from their being 'called on' at public-houses. A master who wants an extra number of workmen to complete his work, sends to a certain house of call in the neighbourhood; this house of call is invariably a public-house, and there the men who are out of work assemble as early as a quarter before nine in the morning, to hear whether any call will be made. There are three of these calls in the course of the day; one at a quarter before nine (as before mentioned), a second at a quarter before one, and a third at a quarter before nine at night. Then men off trade, and seeking for employment, are kept knocking about at the public-house all the day through. The consequence of this is, that the day is passed in drinking, and habits of intemperance are produced which it is almost impossible to withstand. Those who have got money treat those who have none; and indeed, such are the inducements to drink, that it is almost impossible for the tailor who is not regularly and constantly employed to remain sober. During the slack season or vacation, there are from 50 to 100 hanging about each of the houses of call; and there are five of these houses in society.' and four foreign houses, or nine in all. In the vacation there must be from 500 to 1,000 people out of employ, who pass their days continually at the public-house. It astonishes me how some of them live. They cannot go home to their garrets, for they have no fire there, and if they absent themselves from the public-house they lose their chance of work. Some of those who are 'off trade' go into the country during the vacation, and others join the sweaters. But the majority remain about the public-house. They can't spend much, because they have it not to spend, but every penny they can get goes in drink, and many of the number pawn their coats and waistcoats in order to get liquor. I myself have duplicates enough to make a small pack of cards, for things that I have converted into gin. Ah! I like gin; you can see through it. Beer is like a fish-pond. What I hang on to is 'Old Tom;' a glass of that neat is my weakness; to mix it spoils it, to my fancy - that's true. I drink a tremendous lot. I can drink twenty glasses in the course of the day easy. I drank more than that yesterday, I am sure; I know that by the 'shakes' I have got to-day. I have them 'rattling bad' this morning. When I get another glass-or two, or three-I shall be all right. If I was to try to lift a glass to my mouth now, I should spill the half of it before I could get it there. One barman, who knows me, always puts my gin into a large tumbler for me, when I go to him the first thing in the morning. I have tried to give it up, but I never shall be able. The scars on my face do not arise from the small-pox, but solely from drink. When I take a great deal it flies to my nose and breaks out, and about five years ago my face was one mass of sores, of which these 'pits' are the scars. When I can get it, I will drink as much as three pints of gin in the course of the day. Upon an average, I think I drink about half-a-pint of raw gin every day, and if I could get the money I should drink double that quantity. I am sure it costs me 5s. a week in gin. I used to be a very lucky chap at the 'DERBY- SWEEPS' that used to be held at the public-houses. I have won as much as ?8, ?6, ?5, and ?4 twice; and whenever I got a prize I never did a stitch of work until I had drunk all the money away, and then I was sure to get the sack from my employer. The ?8 did not last me above two or three days; I was 'roaring drunk' all that time, and afterwards I was ill for a week. I made all my companions in the same state. I am not very greedy over my halfpence, and always share what I get. The public-house got all I won. Another cause of the intemperance of the tailors is, that the operatives are usually paid at a tavern or beer-shop. There are generally three hands employed in making one coat, and these go partners - that is, they share among them the sum of money paid for making the entire garment. It is necessary, therefore, that change should be got in order to divide the proceeds into 'thirds.' This change the publican always undertakes to provide, and the consequence is, the men meet at his house to receive their weekly earnings. I have known the publican often keep the men an hour waiting for their change. The consequence of this system of paying at public-houses is, that the most intemperate and improvident of the workmen spend a large portion of their wages in drink. I myself generally spend half (unless my Missus comes and catches me); and on several occasions I have squandered away in liquor all I had earned in the week. My Missus knows my infirmity, and watches me of a Saturday night regularly. She was waiting outside the public-house where you picked me up, and there were three or four more wives of journeymen tailors watching outside of the tavern, besides my old woman. These were mostly the wives of the men who are casually employed. The intemperate operative tailors seldom take half of their earnings home to their wives and families. Those who are employed by the sweaters are as intemperate as the casual hands in the honourable part of the trade. The cause of the drunkenness of the men working under sweaters is, that the workmen employed by them are the refuse hands of the regular trade. They mostly consist of the men who have been scratched off the books of the societies through spoiling or neglecting the work of their employers from intemperate habits. I know the misery and evil of this love of drink; it is the curse of my life, but I cannot keep from it. I have taken the pledge four or five times, and broken it just as often. I kept it six weeks once, and was quite a little king at that time. I had always money in my pocket, and my wife got me a watch out of my earnings as well. Doctor Wormwald told me, when my face was bad, I should lose my nose if I continued drinking, and I said I would have my drop of gin if I had no nose at all. Any person who could prevail upon me to take the pledge, and make me keep it, would be the saviour of me. My wife is a hard-working body, and is obliged to keep me half the year round. I am a civil and well-disposed person when I am sober, but when I get a drop of drink I am a madman. I break open the doors and smash the teapot and tea-things, and indeed break or disfigure everything I can lay my hands on."
The man has given me his solemn promise that, "for the honour of his craft" and "the sake of his wife," he will keep from all intoxicating drink for the future.
I now give the views of an intelligent Chartist, in the same calling, and in his own words: -"I am a Chartist, and did belong to the Chartist Association. My views as to way in which politics and Government influence the condition of journeymen tailors are these - Government, by the system now adopted with regard to army and police clothing, forces the honest labouring man, struggling for a fair remuneration for his labour, into a false position, and makes him pay extra taxes to those paid by other branches of the community; they force him into this false position by disposing of Government work at such contract prices that no man can make a decent livelihood at it. One of the best workmen, employed the whole week, cannot earn more than l2s. weekly on soldiers' or policemen's clothing, out of which he must pay for all the sewing trimmings, except twist; and having to make the articles at his own place, of course he must find his own fire, candles, &c. Tailors in prison are put to work by the Government at clothes that come into the market to compete with the regular trader employing the regular artisan. The public pays the taxes from which prisons are supported, and the smallest amount, even a penny a pair, is regarded by the authorities as a saving on the cost of prisons; and, indeed, they keep the prisoner at work, if he earns nothing. as the public pays all the expense of the prison. The working tailor pays his quota of the taxes out of which the tailor put to work in prison is maintained, and the prisoner so maintained is made to undersell the very tax-payer who contributes to his support. My opinion is, that if tailors in gaol were not employed by Government. it would leave the market more open to the honourable portion of the trade, and there would be no discreditable employing of a felon - for felons are so employed - to diminish the small earnings of an honest man. At Millbank, they teach men to be tailors, who are always employed, while the honest operative is frequently subjected to three months' compulsory idleness; six weeks, towards the close of the year, is a very common period of the tailor's non- employment. I think that if the Charter became law, it would tend to improve our (the journeymen tailors') condition, by giving us a voice in the choice of our representatives, who might be so selected as thoroughly to understand the wants of the working man, and to sympathise with his endeavours for a better education and a better lot altogether.
To the gentleman who furnished me with the subjoined account of the causes of the decline of the honourable part of the trade, I was referred to as one of the most intelligent and experienced of the class. I was informed that he had made the trade his peculiar study for years, and was one of the representatives of the societies "in union," and consequently a member of the general committee, and one of the arbitrators between workman and workman, or between workman and master. I found him a person of superior understanding, and a man who had evidently thought long upon the subject. He placed in my hands a variety of statistical papers connected with the trade, and several documents of his own drawing up. He had evidently the interest of his class deeply at heart, and was altogether a fine specimen of the better kind of English artisan. He said, "I have been connected with the honourable part of the tailoring trade 24 years. I have paid considerable attention to the circumstances affecting the interests of the operative tailors. When I first joined the trade there were about 5,000 men in union. The number of men in full employment at that time was, as well as my memory serves me, about four-fifths of the whole, or 4,000. The average earnings of these were ?1 16s. per week, making a total of ?374,400 per annum. Besides this, the casual men averaged about half the amount, which gave a gross total of ?46,800 per annum; and this sum added to the other makes the gross annual earnings of the operative tailors in union at that time amount to ?421,200, or say, in round numbers, ?42,000. The average number of men in union is, in round numbers, 3,000. Of these there are 1,000 earning weekly upon an average 25s., and 1,000 earning 18s., and the remaining 1,000 earning 8s. At this rate the gross annual income of the working tailors at present would be ?132,000. Now. if we compare the present earnings of the class with the past, it will be seen that the gross annual income of the operative tailors in union has fallen off no less than ?288,600, or upwards of a quarter of a million pounds sterling, in twenty-four years, while the number of workmen has declined nearly one-half. The cause of this serious decrease is the employment given to workmen at their own homes, or, in other words, to the 'sweaters.' The sweater is the greatest evil in the trade, 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 sixteen to eighteen hours per day, and Sundays as well. By this system two men obtain as much work as would give employment to three or four men working regular hours in the shop. Consequently, the sweater, being enabled to get the work done by women and children at a lower price than the regular workman, obtains the greater part of the garments to be made, while men who depend upon the shop for their living are obliged to walk about idle. A greater quantity of work is done under the sweating system at a lower price. I consider that the decline of my trade dates from the change of day work into piece work. According to the old system, the journeyman was paid by the day, and consequently must have done his work under the eye of his employer. It is true that work was given out by the master before the change from day work to piece work was regularly acknowledged in the trade; but still it was morally impossible for work to be given out and not paid by the piece. Hence 1 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. 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 twenty-five per cent. more than what they were twenty 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 one-fourth more than formerly. It is the principle of the workmen generally to uphold the price of their labour, and of the master continually to reduce it, which the sweating system has afforded him the means of doing. 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."