Page images
PDF
EPUB

Besides, even if we allow any force to this objection, the remedy is in the hands of the employers; since there is nothing to prevent them from dismissing any young man on the ground of disorderly habits. It is also in their power to do much to prevent dissipation, by making as much provision as possible for the comfort and improvement of their assistants; especially by promoting the establishment of libraries, the practice of music, or any other harmless and beneficial recreation. Wherever such efforts as these have been made, they have not failed to contribute to the desired end.

III. It yet remains that something be said as to the manner in which the PUBLIC would be affected by early closing.

The relation of this matter to the public is twofold :(1.) To customers; and (2.) to society at large.

1. It may be said that some degree of inconvenience will be felt by those persons who have been accustomed to make their purchases in the evening. Be it observed, in answer to this, that the persons who chiefly frequent shops at night are servants and dressmakers. By this practice these young women are brought into the streets at an hour when it would be far safer and better for them to be at home; so that in respect to them the earlier closing of shops would be a benefit. With these exceptions, the persons who make purchases at night are but few. Some of them do so occasionally, under the influence of trivial circumstances; others do it more regularly merely because they have acquired a groundless habit. Now certainly it cannot be thought a great inconvenience for the one class to exercise a little forethought about their wants, and the other to abandon a habit which is productive of nothing but evil even to themselves. For it is well known that they are often deceived in the quality and colour of the goods which they buy at night, and find them in the morning to be very different from what they had supposed and desired. Besides, even if some little inconvenience should be felt, where is there a woman who would not gladly endure it, rather than continue to sanction and uphold a system

D

which is fraught with the worst consequences to the bodies and souls of her fellow-creatures ? Surely the voice of every woman in England, be she of high or low degree, will answer—where? “ Women may be thoughtless and inconsiderate, but they are not inhumane."

2. The effects of this change would be beneficial to society at large.

We have seen that its tendency would be to cause a great improvement in the health, intellect, and morals of a large number of persons of the middle classes, each one of whom will be a centre of influence for good or evil, and many of whom will hereafter be householders and employers. Now, by securing their improvement as individuals, we increase the probability that their influence will be exerted for good and not for evil. As they will become wiser and better men, they will be more competent to discharge the responsibilities of a father and master; and thus the best interests of their children and servants will be promoted. They will become more fit to perform the duties of the several municipal or parochial offices which they may be called to sustain ; and thus their townsmen and fellow-parishioners will be benefited. They will be better qualified to use their privileges as citizens and electors, and will therefore be more likely to use their votes and influence for the support of good government and the enactment of wise laws; and thus the welfare of a whole nation will be advanced. In short, the direct effects of this change would be to thin the ranks of ignorance and vice, and bring a reinforcement to those of knowledge and virtue. In this manner society would be benefited, and would receive new life-blood into its veins.

Besides this good, another, less direct, would result to society, from adopting the change which we desire. If there be one bad feature in society at the present day which demands our attention more than any other, it is the all-absorbing spirit of business-of money-getting. Men are losing sight of the spiritual in the carnal, preferring the earthly to the heavenly, and treating that which is temporal as though it were of morc value than that which is eternal.

Mammon is the bloody Juggernaut of England, beneath whose chariot-wheels human life and human happiness are recklessly and cruelly cast. The system which has been exposed and condemned in these pages, is but one part of the monster evil which overspreads our land like some huge upas-tree, poisoning the very life of society. Destroy this system, and a blow will be dealt to every thing which is akin to it; for every movement in the direction of what is right, is a movement down an inclined plane, increasing the velocity of the next. Put an end to the loud and just complaints of the assistant-drapers, and we shall be more likely to hear and attend to the feebler yet more mournful cry of the thousands of milliners and dressmakers who are crushed by the same evil in another and a darker form. Other trades who suffer in the same manner as the drapers now do, will not be content until they shall have obtained a like deliverance. The spirit of rational reform will move upon the face of society, and who knows but what the result of that movement may be the overthrow of the despotism of the money-getting passion, and the establishment in its stead of the reign of benevolence and justice, of“ righteousness and peace ?"

And now, reader, if it be true, and surely it is, that the present system of late hours is baneful to the body, mind, and spirit ; that it robs man of true happiness, dignity, and excellence; if, moreover, it be true that a curtailment of the hours of business will bring disadvantages to none,

but benefits to all,—then every principle of benevolence and selfinterest demands that you be willing and ready to assist in effecting a change.

If you be a customer, then, lady, we entreat you by all the gentleness and kindness of your nature, by your regard for the welfare and happiness of your fellow-creatures, by your love of virtue and hatred of vice, avoid and discountenance that which is the main support of this pernicious system, the practice of shopping at night. Let but all the women of London abandon this practice, let them encourage those tradesmen who close their shops at a reasonable hour, and the cause we advocate is gained.

If you be a master, then we beseech you by the memory of that time when you yourself were an apprentice or an assistant, banish every prejudice in favour of long-established evils ; give full play to all the best feelings of your nature, and to the most enlightened views of your duty and interest; lend your sanction to the efforts which the assistants are now making, and avow your readiness to fall in with any reasonable arrangement for effecting their object.

If you be an assistant, then suffer us to warn you against hindering the advancement of your own cause by dissolute conduct or licentious habits. Give, by a contrary course, the strongest proof that when you get more leisure you will use it well. Be alive to your own interests, be ready to support your committee, and doubt not that if you be true to yourselves success will eventually crown your efforts ; for, as it has been said of truth, so it may be said of that which is morally right, it is great and will prevail.

APPENDIX.

FURTHER medical testimony as to the ill effects of excessive labour and long standing, extracted from the Report of Evidence given before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Factories Bill, 1832.

SAMUEL SMITH, Esq., Surgeon. “ 10341. Even supposing no labour whatever were required under such circumstances, the merely having to sustain the erect position of the body for so long a period is harassing in the extreme, and no one can have an adequate idea of it, unless he has been himself subjected to it."

“ 10343. Upon the principles on which you would reason as a professional man, does the effort to keep the body in an erect position require a constant and complicated action of certain muscles, so as to occasion more fatigue than more strenuous exertion ? It does, peculiarly so; and, moreover, there is another circumstance that I would allude to, namely, the increased action of the heart that is required when that position is long sustained; it is necessary that the brain should be supplied with a certain quantity of blood, which the heart has more labour in performing in that position than in any other.

“ 10354. Will you go on to state the further effects of long standing to labour? It has also frequently the effect of producing an ulcerated state of the legs."

“ Exercise has a tendency to increase the strength, when it is carried short of producing actual and considerable fatigue, but when it is pushed beyond that point it has a directly contrary tendency."

CHARLES TURNER THACKRAH, Esq., Surgeon. “ 10532. Excessive labour is the common fault of this country.” “ 10533. Excessive labour assuredly diminishes life."

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »