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often found to be impossible to leave the shop within one, two, or three hours after it has been closed. So that during a large part of the year, it is a common thing for these young men to be pent up in the shop from six or seven o'clock in the morning until ten or eleven at night.
This is a description of the present mode of carrying on business, as it appears in the most favourable aspect. The far larger number of shops, which are frequented chiefly by the middle and working classes, are kept open until nine or ten o'clock in the winter, and ten or eleven in the summer. So that it frequently happens that the young men are employed from seven o'clock in the morning until twelve at night; that is, for a period of seventeen hours out of the twenty-four ! *
On Saturdays the time for closing (as if in mockery of a preparation for the Sabbath ") is in all cases later. In many shops the young men are often unable to retire to rest until one or two o'clock in the Sunday morning.
Well indeed, may the tired shopman, as he greets the day upon which he then enters, say with the poet,
Welcome, sweet day of REST!” This, reader, is a plain unvarnished statement of the case which we have to plead before you. We have used no hyperbolical language to heighten the effect of facts; we have presented to you no extreme case for the sake of producing a deeper impression; we have stated nothing but what we have ourselves seen and experienced ; and for the truth of the statement, we may appeal to the experience of thousands who are now suffering from this iniquitous state of things.
And who are the persons who have to endure this longcontinued toil and close confinement? Not the negroes of of Africa, else a universal cry of sympathy would ere now have been raised ; not the sons of poverty, inured to privation and suffering from their childhood ;-they are, for the
* During the past winter a slight improvement has been effected in some neighbourhoods, as Chelsea and Islington, but it is so partial as not materially to affect the truth of general statement.
most part young men born of respectable parents, who have received a tolerably good education, who have been brought up tenderly beneath the eye of a mother, and who come from happy homes in all the bloom and buoyancy of youth, to enter upon such a life as this! Besides these young men, there are a considerable number of young women (probably not less than a thousand) engaged in the various branches of the drapery trade; and although their sex procures for them some trifling immunities, they yet share largely in all the evils of this system.
The mere “statement of the case” might seem sufficient to secure a judgment in our favour; yet with a view to obtain for these persons the sympathy of the public, and a just regard to their welfare from their employers, we propose to examine in detail the effects of this system upon the HEALTH, INTELLECT, and MORALS of those who are exposed to its influence; and then to point out some of the advantages which would result to the ASSISTANTS, the EMPLOYERS, and the PUBLIC, from closing the shops at an earlier hour.
I. We are to inquire into the effects of this system upon the HEALTH of those who are subject to it.
Happily the time is gone by, in which men considered health and disease to be matters over which they had no control; and in regard to which they were entirely at the mercy of mere accident without, and of unknown causes within.
They have begun to see that the human body stands in certain established relationships to the external world, and is placed under an economy of fixed organic laws, upon the due observance of which, under God, its well-being mainly depends. It is to be regretted that in this case, as well as in many others, knowledge is so unproductive of corresponding practice. Numbers who admit the truth of the general principle just mentioned, never make any effort to obtain an acquaintance with these laws; while many others who are acquainted with them, are utterly careless about their observance.
Let these carry their own burthen, we ask no sympathy for them. alas! how many are there who are compelled, either by circumstances over which they have no control, or by the
arbitrary will of others, to live in a manner altogether opposed to every condition of health. Among these is to be counted the class of persons whose condition we are now considering. Not, indeed, that they endure the same hardships as have been borne by some portions of the manufacturing and mining population, on whose behalf the legislature has so properly interfered. It is not necessary to shew that the cases are parallel. It is sufficient that here is a large number of young men, estimated at from 15,000 to 20,000 in the metropolis alone, most of them having been used to domestic comfort, and to the watchful care of kind parents—who are placed in circumstances which tend to rob them of youthful vigour, to sow the seeds of disease in their constitutions, and to induce premature death. That such is the case will appear, if we consider some of the most important conditions of health which are violated by this system, especially pure air and exercise.
Every body knows that fresh air is conducive to health. We see it in the superior health of those who live most in the open air,—we read it in the ruddy hue of the ploughman's cheek,—and we feel it in the increased vigour of the system, and greater flow of spirits, which attend a ride or walk. Hence all those of the inhabitants of London who can afford to do so, seek fresh air for themselves and their children in its parks and environs. Every body knows this; but there are many who do not understand how it is that our health is affected by the quality of the air which we breathe, and who have, therefore, no adequate idea of the injurious effects which are produced by breathing an impure atmosphere.
In order that such persons may rightly estimate the peculiar evils to which the assistant-draper is exposed in this respect, it becomes necessary to explain, as briefly as possible, the constitution of air, and its relation to the human body. In 100 parts of atmospheric air, there are 79 parts of nitrogen, and 21 of oxygen, besides about Toboth* part of carbonic acid. Of these gases by far the most important
* Dr. Reid's “Chemistry;" or, according to some chemists, soboth part. is oxygen; the uses of nitrogen are not clearly ascertained, excepting that it serves to dilute the oxygen. According to physiologists, the formation of blood, and the change of venous into arterial blood, depend upon the chyle in the one case, and the venous blood in the other, being brought into contact with the oxygen of the air which is inhaled into the lungs; and the more impure the air, that is, the less oxygen it contains, the more imperfect is the formation of arterial blood, and, consequently, the less perfect is the supply furnished to all the various organs of the body. They also say that animal heat* is produced by the combination of the oxygen with the elements of our food. Now we know that life depends almost exclusively upon the formation of blood and the evolution of animal heat; therefore life itself depends upon there being a due and regular supply of oxygen, that is, of pure air.f That this is the case we know, not only from the deductions of science, but also from common observation. We often hear of deaths caused by breathing impure air, as at the bottom of a well, or as in the well-known melancholy case of the Black Hole at Calcutta. Still more frequently do we witness cases of fainting in crowded assemblies, which are produced by the
Now the assistant-draper, during much of the time which he spends in the shop, breathes an atmosphere which has been rendered impure both by the exhalations of human bodies, and by the fixed air, or carbonic acid, which is given out by expiration, and by the burning of gas.
According to Dr. A. Combe, every individual breathes from 14 to 20 times in a minute, and inhales from 15 to 30 cubic inches of air at each inspiration. Reckoning 15 inspirations to a minute, and 20 cubic inches of air to each inspiration, one man or woman breathes on an average 300
* Liebig's “ Animal Chemistry.” Vide “Quarterly Review,” No. 139.
† For a further exposition of these general principles vide the works of Dr. A. Combe, Dr. S. Smith, Dr. J. Johnson, and Mr. E. Johnson ; also the treatise on “ Animal Physiology,” and “The Physician," published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
cubic inches of air every minute. At each inspiration onehalf of the oxygen is consumed, and its place is supplied by carbonic acid, which is a poisonous gas, formed by the combination of part of the consumed oxygen with carbon, obtained from the venous blood and food.
So that every time the air is breathed, it is not only robbed of a portion of that element which is the support of life, but it also receives an additional portion of another element destructive of life.
Now, if we consider how imperfectly most shops are ventilated*--the number of young men constantly employed in them—the number of customers who frequent them during the day-the shops being, in many cases, nearly full for several hours—and then consider that each of these persons spoils, or renders impure, at least 300 cubic inches of air every minute-we shall have some idea how great must be the impurity of the atmosphere towards the close of the day, after having been subjected for several hours to this rapid process of deterioration.
But this is not all. No sooner is the number of customers diminished by the approach of evening, than another source of impurity is brought into active operation by the lighting of gas. It is well known that flame, like life, is sustained by oxygen ; and a flame of gas from an argand burner of moderate size is said to consume nearly as much oxygen as four human beings. In shops which are not very large there are as many as twenty of these burners. Therefore, in these shops there is in the evening a consumption, by gas alone, of about 3000 cubic inches of oxygen every minute ; or the air is vitiated to the same degree as it would be by being breathed by eighty persons.
Nor is even this all. It is well known that common
* This a point well worthy of the attention of all shopkeepers, especially of those who have many persons in their employ. Even those who may at first be unwilling to shorten their hours of business, will surely think it worth while to adopt other means of promoting their own health, and that of their young men ; and one of the most effectual of these would be the securing a due supply of fresh air in their shops. Hitherto in these places, ventilation seems to have been altogether neglected.