Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

about ten, making in the whole 15,000; but this does not include journeywomen who work at their own houses, of whom also there are great numbers.

“623. In some of what are considered the best regulated establishments, during the fashionable season, occupying about four months in the year, the regular hours of work are fifteen, but on emergencies, which frequently recur, these hours extend to eighteen. In many establishments the hours of work, during the season, are unlimited, the young women never getting more than six, often not more than four, sometimes only three, and occasionally not more than two hours for rest and sleep out of the twenty-four; and very frequently they work all night.

"625. Miss O'Neil, Welbeck street, an employer, says

- In the spring season the hours of work are unlimited. The common hours are from six a. m. till twelve at night -sometimes from four a. m. till twelve. Has herself often worked from six a. m. till twelve at night for two or three months together. It is not at all uncommon, especially in the dressmaking, to work all night; just in the drive of the season,' the work is occasionally continued all night three times a-week. Has worked herself twice in the week all night. In some houses which profess to study the health of their young people, they begin at four a. m. and leave off at eleven p. m., never earlier. Has heard there are houses in London which work on Sundays. 66 628. Miss

manager— has been ten years a “first hand,” which signifies the party who takes the superintendence of the business, as overlooker of the young persons, cutter-out of the work, &c. The common hours of business are from eight a. m. till eleven p: m. in the winter; in the summer from six or half-past six a. m. till twelve at night. During the fashionable season, that is from April to the end of July, it frequently happens that the ordinary hours are greatly exceeded : if there is a drawing-room, or grand fete, or mourning to be made, it often happens that the work goes on for twenty hours out of the twenty-four, occasionally all

[graphic]

night. Every season in at least half the houses of business, it happens that the young persons occasionally work twenty hours out of the twenty-four, twice or thrice aweek. On special occasions, such as drawing-rooms, general mournings, and very frequently wedding orders, it is not uncommon to work all night; has herself worked twenty hours out of the twenty-four for three months together; at that time she was suffering from illness, and the medical attendant remonstrated against the treatment she received. He wished witness to remain in bed at least one day longer, which the employer objected to, required her to get up, and dismissed the surgeon. It frequently happened that the work was carried on till seven o'clock on Sunday morning. If any particular order was to be executed, as mournings or weddings, and they left off on Saturday night at eleven, they worked the whole of Sunday; thinks this happened fifteen times in the two years. In consequence of working so late on Sunday morning, or all that day occasionally, could very rarely go to church ; indeed it could not be thought of, because they generally rested in bed.'

- 639. The correctness of these representations is confirmed, among others, by the following medical witnesses : —Sir James Clark, Bart., Physician to the Queen—'I have found the mode of life of these poor girls such as no constitution could long bear. Worked from six in the morning till twelve at night, with the exception of the short intervals allowed for their meals, in close rooms, and passing the few hours allowed for rest in still more close and crowded apartments—a mode of life more completely calculated to destroy human health could scarcely be contrived, and this at a period of life when exercise in the open air, and a due proportion of rest, are essential to the development of the system. Judging from what I have observed and heard, I scarcely believed that the system adopted in our worst-regulated manufactories can be so destructive of health as the life of the

young dressmaker.'

“647. The protracted labor described above,' says the Sub-commissioner, 'is, I believe, quite unparalleled in the history of manufacturing processes. I have looked over a considerable portion of the Report of the Factory Commission, and there is nothing in the accounts of the worst-conducted factories to be compared with the facts elicited in the present enquiry. Gentlemen who, from their official situation, were well qualified to judge, have also stated, in answer to my questions, that they knew of no instance in which the hours of work were so long as those above stated.'

“663. Of the general treatment and condition of these young people, the Sub-commissioner reports :

The evidence of all parties establishes the fact that there is no class of persons in this country, living by their labor, whose happiness, health, and lives, are so unscrupulously sacrificed as those of the young dressmakers. It may without exaggeration be stated, that, in proportion to the numbers employed, there are no occupations, with one or two questionable exceptions, such as needle-grinding, in which so much disease is produced as in dressmaking, or which present so fearful a catalogue of distressing and frequently fatal maladies. It is a serious aggravation of all this evil, that the unkindness of the employer very frequently causes these young persons, when they become unwell, to conceal their illness from the fear of being sent out of the house; and in this manner, the disease often becomes increased in severity, or is even rendered incurable. Some of the principals are so cruel as to object to the young women obtaining medical assistance.'”—(No. 626.)

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE LONDON GLOBE ON WEST INDIA EMANCIPATION.

We find the following frank and explicit admission in the Globe of 10th July, 1856:

“Our own West India Islands are fast relapsing into primitive savageness. When the rich lands of Jamaica are being yearly abandoned, and when in Trinidad and Guiana cultivation has almost ceased, it is not likely that England will care to extend her sovereignty further over tropical territory, which can only be brought into use by a system which has been solemnly condemned."

Now, let us rigidly examine and ascertain what is the condemned system, what the approved system, that has been generally adopted in its stead, and why this system is approved, and the free negro system condemned as a failure.

There is no doubt the writer alludes to the system of domestic slavery, in the general, as the condemned system; and especially, to that serfdom or villienage which lately prevailed, but is now abolished throughout Western Europe. In asserting that the system' of slavery has been condemned, and yet admitting West India emancipation to be a failure, he in effect maintains that the liberation of the villiens has been no failure. He means that it has been no failure, because the liberated villiens do work; aye, just twice as hard and as long as their ancestors, the serfs. He means it is no failure, because they not only work harder and longer, but work for half the pay or allowance of their servile ancestors. He means it is no failure, because the once masters, now employers, get their labor for half what it cost to support them as slaves. He means it is no failure, because free labor in England is more plentiful and far cheaper than slave labor in America. He - means it is no failure, because the employers, besides getting cheaper and more abundant labor, are relieved of all the cares and anxieties of governing and providing for their laborers, in health and in sickness, in old age

and in infancy. In fine, he means it is no failure, because the laborers of England are not half so free now as before their pretended emancipation. They have lost all their rights, half their liberty (for they work harder than before,) and their former masters have been relieved of all their legal obligations and responsibilities. No-British emancipation has not failed, if we look solely to the selfish interests of the property class. And British liberty, we shall show in another chapter, means the unlimited right of the property class to oppress the laboring class, uncoupled with the obligation to provide for them. But this writer well knew, that looking to the effect

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »