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ones within their reach, but then they would have access to instruction : at present they are impelled to intemperance, because they feel exhausted and depressed; then they would retain the vigour of mind and body which would lessen the craving for such stimulants. Nor is it a necessary consequence of the improved system, that they should have more idle time for vicious pursuits than they already possess. Employers who at present exercise a control so despotic that they dismiss their assistants for any fault or for none, without warning, at their own discretion, could, with equal facility, demand that they should return home at an earlier hour than is now customary. Before their decision and kindness all difficulties would vanish. Let them give to their assistants wages proportionate to their services; provide them with well-aired bed-rooms (either apart or at most to be occupied by only two or three); allow them, in turns, when there is not a pressure of business in the shop, to seek recreation on the river or in the parks ; encourage them to marry as soon as they can earn enough to support a family ; and call them together every day for religious instruction and for prayer; and we may be quite sure that they would dread to lose such advantages, would thankfully acquiesce in the proposed regulations, and would generally be much more virtuous and happy than the recklessness of despair permits them to be under the oppressive system of late hours.
Facts, indeed, contradict the opposite assertion. The earliest houses have the best assistants. And one reason is obvious: the best assistants will naturally seek the most considerate employers ; and, therefore, such employers can make their choice among all the best-conducted young men in the trade.
Some employers may naturally fear a change of system at a time when each is obliged to make every exertion to realise any profits, so that the competition among shopkeepers for business is as keen as that of the young men for employment. But no man of just and honourable feeling can wish to prosper at the expense of the health, morals, and happiness of those who labour in his service. “If I thought,” said an eminent draper, at a late meeting of the Metropolitan Drapers' Association, “ I was living to injure my fellow-creatures, or if I thought oppressions marked my steps in life, I should hope that God would take away all that I obtained.”* Every man with a conscience must adopt that sentiment as his
* Speech of Mr. Redmayne. Report, p. 10.
Should, therefore, the abridgement of the hours of labour be attended with any loss, upright men would be disposed to risk that inconvenience, in contemplation of the immense addition which short hours would make to the comfort of those in their employ. But, in truth, the generous experiment would scarcely ever fail to bring advantage to those who make it. Each shopkeeper (except the very wealthiest, who already subtract their evenings from the cares of business), in giving the evening to his young men, would save it for himself; and thus, securing the opportunities of mental culture, and of repose in the bosom of his family from the toils of money-making, would be a wiser and a happier man. His assistants, more healthy, cheerful, and zealous, would work better for him during the day ; he would save his gas at night, and, to compensate for the loss of a few nocturnal customers, would probably gain some better daylight ones.
On the other hand, the change would be advantageous to the public. Almost all purchases may be made more safely by daylight, when the texture of the goods can be examined and the colours more distinctly seen. Few respectable families would refuse their servants time during the day to purchase what they need. It is better for mothers in the working classes to be at home with their husbands in the evening than to reserve those hours for shopping. And, of all the persons concerned, milliners and dressmakers should most desire the change ; because while others work late their destructive labours will go unmitigated ; but if all other classes are dismissed at an earlier hour, public feeling will not long suffer them to be worn out in early youth by protracted toil.
But who is to accomplish this improvement ? The young men themselves may subscribe to the Association, circulate its papers, and use well whatever relaxation is afforded them.
And parents, too, should take pains to select for their children the most considerate employers, and make on their behalf the best terms in their power. But the relief can never come either from the parents or the young men. For as long as there are multitudes of parents who can find no suitable employment for their children, and multitudes of young men who do not know how to obtain a livelihood, these latter will submit to any terms rather than not be employed. If there were a competition among employers to obtain assistants, the assistants might make their terms; but as there is an eager competition among assistants for employment, the employers may make what terms they please.
After a time, those upright and benevolent employers who have done this justice to their assistants, at the risk of loss, will exercise an influence on those who are less generous than themselves. When they have experienced that this liberality has brought into their service the best young men in the trade, and good assistants bringing good customers, their shops are, cæteris paribus, more popular than others, because better conducted; this experience cannot long escape the observation of the most sceptical.
The welfare of these young men may be further promoted by the ministers of Christ. An apostle has charged Christian masters to give unto their servants that which is just and equal, knowing that they have also a Master in heaven.* With equal propriety may Christian ministers exhort this particular class of masters in their congregations, to consider the health, morals, and happiness, of those who serve them, by abridging their hours of labour.
But, above all, the customers have this matter chiefly in their own hands. If every one into whose hands the following Essay may fall, and who may have occasion to buy goods in a draper's shop, will, for the sake of humanity and justice to the young men who labour in those shops, resolve henceforth to shop by daylight alone, and to prefer those shops which, being otherwise equal to their competitors, do likewise close the earliest, almost all the shops would soon find their interest and their duty to be identified.
Similar views to these are detailed at greater length in the following Essay, to which I have been requested to prefix a short introduction. Christian reader, in the pages of that Essay you may perceive how your influence may materially promote the happiness of many thousands of young persons, both in the metropolis, and in the other cities of the empire. But “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Lend your aid, therefore, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free. Give a cup of cold water in your
Master's name to those who are fainting along the dry and dusty road of life. And may the same Christian charity which broke off the fetters of the West Indian slave, protect the comforts of those young persons upon whom the keen and eager competitions of trade have inflicted so much injustice.
BAPTIST W. NOEL. Hornsey, Oct. 30, 1843.
* i Colossians, iv. 1.
Of all the various objects which strike the attention, and excite the wonder, of a stranger upon his first arrival in the “ Great Metropolis,” there are few more prominent than the many glittering shops which meet his gaze in every direction. While passing along the principal streets, you meet with a succession of plate-glass fronts constructed in a costly manner, and often displaying a high degree of architectural skill. Within the windows, and separated from the gazer by enormous squares of glass, the transparency of which seems to mock the foggy atmosphere without, are displayed, in the most skilful manner, all the rich variety of woman's dress. It is as if at the bidding of some magic power, the silks of the East, the cottons of the West, and the furs of the North, after having been wrought into a thousand various forms and patterns, had been collected into one gorgeous exhibition, to illustrate the triumphs of art in ministering to the adornment of the human form. The interior of these shops is not less worthy of attention than the exterior. Some of them, from the profusion of glass-reflectors which they exhibit, might be called “halls of mirrors;" while others, with their stately columns and luxurious carpets, seem to rival the palaces of princes.
Perhaps few of the fair purchasers who admire these shops and their contents ever bestow a thought upon the condition of the young men who so blandly and politely
serve in them. Yet it is a mournful fact, that there exists in connexion with all this bright display much of positive evil,- not to say of misery.
The cause of this evil is as follows:
The young men who serve in the shops are engaged in business variously from the hours of six, seven, or eight o'clock in the morning, to nine, ten, eleven, or twelve o'clock in the evening; these variations being according to the season, the character of the shop, and the custom of the neighbourhood. That is, they are occupied for a longer time each day in the summer than in the winter, in all shops ; while those shops which are frequented chiefly by the middle or working classes are kept open later than those which are frequented by the upper classe . A further difference also exists according to the kind of street in which the shop may be situated. Thus in busy thoroughfares they are generally kept open later than in more retired streets.
The best shops in the best neighbourhoods are generally opened at seven o'clock in the morning (in some few cases at six o'clock), at which hour a certain number of the young men come down to make preparations for business in their several departments. At eight o'clock (or in some cases at half-past seven) the others, who may be called the seniors, come down, when the former party are allowed to retire for half-an-hour for the purpose of dressing. After their reappearance there is no further release from the engagements of the shop (excepting for those wonderfully short periods of time in which assistant-drapers manage to consume the necessary quantity of food at meals), until the whole business of the day is over; and every article, from a piece of silk to a roll of riband or a paper of pins, has been carefully put into its appointed place. Sometimes, when, owing to the weather or some other cause, there have been but few customers during the day, this rearrangement is completed by the time of shutting the shop, which in the present case is from eight o'clock to nine in the winter, and from nine to ten in the summer. But, on busy days, and during nearly the whole of the spring and former part of the summer, it is