« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
loss. The public would not require to buy a smaller quantity of goods than before, and there would be no reason whatever why they should not buy them at the same shops as before. The only difference would be, that these purchases would be made within a shorter time, and completed by an earlier hour. But even if, in any given neighbourhood, there should be some employers who would refuse to accede to such an arrangement, the more enlightened and benevolent might yet carry out their views without any danger of thereby incurring loss. For, in the first place, they would have the exclusive benefit of those advantages which will presently be pointed out--would secure the services of the most valuable assistants, and be served by them with more than ordinary assiduity, because of the peculiar advantages connected with their shops; and, in the next place, they might expect to receive a marked degree of support from the public, as an approval of their praiseworthy conduct. This last end might be legitimately furthered, by placing in their shop-windows some such notice as the following, “ This shop is closed at seven o'clock, from motives of justice and humanity to the assistants.” It cannot be doubted that by such a notice, a large number of our countrywomen would be materially influenced in choosing the shop at which they would deal; and they would be the first to be so influenced whose custom would be most valuable.
There are other considerations which go to shew that a compliance with the proposed alteration would be to the interest of the employer.
It is obvious that the later shops are kept open, the more gas is consumed, and the greater is the expense thereby incurred. So great is this expense in many cases, that it may be questioned whether the profits of the nighttrade do more than cover it, as the number of customers after seven o'clock is in most shops but small, and even these few generally make only inconsiderable purchases. Now, by closing the shops earlier, a large share of the expense of burning gas would be saved, while the profits would remain undiminished, because the customers would come earlier. The nt thus saved would therefore be clear gain. But the actual cost of the gas is not all the expense attending it.
Those who are in the trade know well that many kinds of drapery goods are considerably injured by burning gas. Heat is quite as powerful for extracting colours as light; if this be duly considered, it will be seen that the intense heat of the upper stratum of air in a shop lit by gas is quite sufficient to account for the bad condition in which goods are often found, apparently without any immediate cause. It may safely be said that serious loss is sustained in this manner, often to an extent unsuspected by the loser, or at least not attributed by him to the true source. Now by the proposed change this evil would be to a very great extent removed, since the lights would then be extinguished before the air had reached that degree of heat which is injurious; and the saving thus effected would be so much additional gain to the employer.
There is another advantage, which, though indirect, would not be the less real.
We have seen that there are satisfactory reasons for believing that an amelioration of the present system would be attended, on the part of the assistants, with more vigour of body, superior intelligence, and improved morality. Now just in proportion as the assistants would be benefited in these respects, would the interests of the employer also be furthered; for they would be able to make greater exertions in doing his work; they might be expected to shew more discretion in managing his business ; and he would be able to depend more fully upon their integrity. Moreover, the young men would be less dissatisfied with their condition, and therefore more cheerful ; and there certainly is nothing more conducive to the efficient discharge of duty than contentment and cheerfulness. The services of the assistants would therefore be more valuable, or, what is the same thing, they would be productive of more profit to the employer.
These advantages are of a pecuniary kind; but there is yet one more to be mentioned, the value of which cannot be estimated by money. It is, that many of the employers would themselves share in nearly all the benefits which a change would bring to the assistants.
Time was, when the shopkeeper, who had but a small establishment, combined ease and relaxation with its management. That time has passed away. Nearly all tradesmen now, and especially drapers, find it necessary to be continually in their business, so that they themselves are scarcely better off than those whom they employ. They wear out their constitutions by incessant application ;* they indulge in scarcely any amusement or elegant pursuit; and they deprive themselves of nearly all the happiness which is attainable in this life, excepting that which they find in getting money. If they live long enough, and are sufficiently successful to enable them to retire, they do so with minds so ill-furnished, and bodies so incapable of out-door exercise, as to make their retirement a burden harder to be borne than the toils of business. Surely then, it cannot be a slight recommendation of this change to the employer, that it would afford him the opportunity of enjoying more intercourse with his family, and of taking that recreation which both his body and mind require, without neglecting his business, or making any sacrifice of his pecuniary interests.
Thus it appears that the proposed change is altogether desirable even for the employers.
It seems proper here to notice two objections which are
* “When I began the world myself, I must say I did labour most desperately hard to establish my credit in the world, and many a painful hour was spent out of my family to get the bread which I thought it my duty to get for them; but I found my physical powers giving way, and they did give way; so much so, that I was obliged to leave town in the middle of May, in the third year of my life of business, and my physician told me, * If you do not relax these hours, I say you will die."" — Speech of Mr. Redmayne as reported in “ Proceedings of a Public Meeting of the Metropolitan Drapers' Association, held at Freemasons' Hall, March 9, 1843.”
“I know the bodily infirmities which my friend on my left, Mr. Owen, has often born with Christian constancy, and which he traces in no small measure to the same severe training.” — Speech of the Hon. and Rev. B. W. Noel, at the same Meeting.
sometimes urged by employers; and which, though they have been in some measure anticipated, yet deserve special notice.
One is, that increased attention to intellectual pursuits would make the young men less fit for business.
Of course this objection is used only by those employers who have been accustomed to confine their attention exclusively to business ; who are, indeed, perpetual monuments of the cramping effects of the old system upon the mind. The objection itself is contrary both to reason and experience. To reason, because there is scarcely any matter of business, however slight, which does not require some exercise of the judgment; and therefore, the general improvement of the intellect, which includes that of the judgment, must increase the power of transacting business well. To say the contrary is absurd.
And it is opposed to experience because it is found that although men of weak minds are sometimes successful, yet the rule is, that other things being equal, success in business is proportionate to mental capacity. Numberless illustrations might be furnished of this rule. For example: of the most eminent and talented members of the Anti-Corn-Law League, the greater number are men who have risen from comparative poverty and obscurity to wealth and distinction by means of trade; one of these, a member of parliament, has lately occupied much of the public attention. Another example, more immediately to the purpose, may be found in the committee of assistant-drapers which sat three years ago for the promotion of the same object as that we are now advocating. It will be supposed that they were among the most intelligent of their class; and it is a fact that nearly all of them held comparatively lucrative and responsible situations, which is the best proof that they were not inferior as men of business. We believe that a more general observation will shew that the same coincidence widely prevails, and that, therefore, superior intelligence is not unfavourable to expertness in business, but the contrary.
The other objection is, that if young men have more time at their disposal, they will spend it in dissipation; and that, therefore, to close the shops earlier will do them more harm than good.
In reference to this objection, we cannot do better than quote the language of the Rev. Mr. Cumming. * He says, “I have heard some of them (the employers) say, “the young men will run into all sorts of mischief if they are allowed to go out earlier.' Now my reply to this is, that if young men choose to be unjust to themselves, that is no reason why the masters should be unjust to them : if they choose to abuse their time, that cannot be a reason on the masters' part why they should withhold it, if it can be shewn that it is their duty to give it. If the abuse of liberty is to be a reason for withholding it, human nature must be put into a Bridewell or place of confinement at once, that it may not misapply the liberty God has given it. Let principle be acted on, and leave the consequences to the providence of God; and let us, the ministers of the Gospel, take the lead in endeavouring to teach young men how to use it.”
Nothing need be added to this, as one mode of meeting the objection ; but there is another answer which with some may be more conclusive. It is, that experience shews that it is unfounded. The fact is, as has been already stated, that those young men who are employed in the shops which are closed at a comparatively early hour, are generally much superior in moral conduct to those who are habitually engaged in business to late hours.t This statement is founded on the writer's own not very limited observation, and on that of others in the same trade.
* Sermon to young men, “Pulpit,” No. 1093.
† “Asmall number of the most respectable tradesmen in Liverpool have set the example of releasing their assistants at seven o'clock in the evening. The assistants of those tradesmen will be found to be orderly and wellconducted
their leisure is passed sometimes in the family circles of the most respectable inhabitants of the town, sometimes at the classes and lectures at the Mechanic's Institution, and sometimes in studying the sublime book of nature which is open to them in the green fields, on the broad heath, on the hill-top, and on the shores of the swelling sea."Tract published by the “ Liverpool Association of Assistant Trudesmen."