Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

liable to be broken up by the vote of a majority, and the accumulations divided. In one parish six had been dissolved or had failed within the last few months.* The habit of holding their meetings in public-houses is still prevalent. It is calculated that upwards of 6001. have been spent in this manner by the clubs of two neighbouring parishes within a year. The custom, however, of drinking together on those occasions seems so far to be placed under restrictions by some clubs, that an allowance is made of only 2d. per head to those who attend. An annual dinner has been substituted by others. Three or four mine clubs are so conducted as to be enabled to extend relief to a greater variety of cases. The East Wheal Crofty Mine Club was established in 1834, with a fund of 14621. 2s. At first the payments were 8d. in the pound of all net earnings. As the stock increased the payment was reduced to 6d., and subsequently to 4d. In addition to this, ld. in the pound is deducted from all merchants' bills, on behalf of the club. This tax on the merchant is justified on the ground of his participating in the prosperity of the mine. It is asserted that the articles of ordinary consumption at the mine thus subject to this trifling tax are not thereby enhanced in price to the adventurer. The amount produced by it to the mine in question is between 351. and 401. per annum. The Mine Fund now amounts to 14211. 10s. 8d." In addition to the usual relief of 28s. per month to men disabled by accidents, those who

* The following observations, with which I have been favoured by a gentleman who has bestowed much attention on the subject of the benefit societies of one of the mining districts, appear to deserve general consideration. He states that clubs “ have a most unlucky fate in that district. The people are strongly inclined to their formation, but they appear equally determined to establish them on unsound principles. Two years ago we attempted to form the

District Club, but failed, entirely from the want of knowledge in the people. On that occasion I inquired into the condition of the existing Benefit Societies. All those of about 30 years' standing I found to be insolvent; that is to say, they had not kept their engagements with their members. It was not possible that they should. All ages from 15 to 35, or even above, were admitted on the same terms. The public-house expenses were also considerable. One evil is, that the population is strongly averse to the interference of gentlemen in their concerns. (Elsewhere the gentry take a large part in the matter.) Hence there is a want of both checks and sound principles in the clubs. Neither does charity flow in that direction. If the contributions were required to be according to approved tables, much of the mischief would be prevented.”

a See Instructions for the Establishment of Friendly Societies, with a form of Rules, and Tables applicable thereto. London: Clowes. For Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1838.

Instructions for the establishment of Parochial Societies for granting Government Annuities. The whole money paid being returnable in case the party contracting does not live to the age at which such annuity is to become payable, or if he is unable to continue the payment of the monthly or annual instalments. Pursuant to Statute 3 Will. iv. c. 14. London. For Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1837.

are suffering from disease traceable to their employment as miners are allowed a monthly payment of about 20s. Widows also receive, on the death of their husbands, either the sum of 101., or a weekly allowance, according to the discretion of the agents; the amount depending on the circumstances of the family, and being continued until the children are capable of getting their own livelihood. The four mine clubs which have adopted this, or an analogous system, afford valuable aid in alleviating the distress and lingering suffering into which the family of the miner is often plunged by the sudden accident which strikes him down, or by the slow disease which, contracted in the course of his employment, gradually undermines his frame, and takes from him all power of further exertion. It cannot be doubted that it is most desirable to preserve to the children of those men who have been overtaken by accidental injuries or by ill health that independence of feeling, and the reluctance to have recourse to the poor-rates, which characterise the class to which they belong. One of the most valuable auxiliaries to such an end would assuredly be found in the enlargement of the present restricted system of mine and benefit clubs, so as to comprise a larger number of members, and to extend relief to a greater variety of cases, and in placing the latter description of clubs on the foundation of sound principles. The progressive enforcement of the New Poor Law will probably cause attention to be directed more closely to this subject, and also to that of the formation of loan societies * as existing elsewhere, for supplying aid under temporary pressure, either of unsuccessful speculation in the ordinary course of work, or of the stoppage of a mine, or the accidental necessity of quitting a mine from the falling off of the demand for labour, or from other causes over which the miner has no control. A society of much value in this point of view has been established by the Wesleyan minister in the parish of St. Just, for placing at day-schools the children of widows, or of parents who, by reason of the casualties of the miner's life, are unable to afford the expense. Their funds enable them to keep 30 children at school, at 2s. 6d. per quarter each, and to provide some of them with shoes and clothing. Occasional aid is also afforded in some parishes by clothing societies, conducted by the honorary members, and partly supported by their contributions. Societies of other kinds exist, with a view to general improvement rather than to pecuniary aid. To none of these are more beneficial effects attributed than to the Cottage Gardening Societies, which are numerous, and meet with general and cordial encouragement. In addition to the usual prizes for garden produce, rewards are given to those cottagers who have brought

* See Statute 3 and 4 Vict. c. 110, to amend the laws relating to Loan Societies,

See also Loans on the Mont de Piété system.-Journal of Statistical Society, vol. iii. part iii. p. 293.

up the largest families without parochial relief, and to those whose characters are best known for sobriety and honesty.

The mechanics' institutes in the county are few in number, and receive little support from the labouring miners. The Carharrack Miners' and Mechanics' Reading Society in the parish of Gwennap possesses a library of 300 volumes. Cases are prepared for minerals, and efforts are being made to procure a supply of philosophical instruments. Lectures are read and discussions held on alternate weeks, and the class meets once a week for mutual instruction in mathematics. Two book societies in St. Just, conducted by miners, may be mentioned. One of them has been established 20 years, and consists of 50 members; the payments of Is. entrance, and 2d. per week, producing between 51. and 61. per annum. As the books accumulate they are sold to the members at an occasional meeting. The process of the sale may perhaps be adverted to as characteristic, being a copy of that employed at the large periodical sales of ore in the county. The price offered by each member is written by him on a slip of paper, and given to the secretary; each “ ticket” is then read aloud, and the book is assigned to the member whose ticket contains the highest offer.* The scientific institutions of a higher character possessed by the county, the Polytechnic Society in particular, appear to be most beneficially engaged in directing attention to many of the important subjects affecting the sanatory and general condition of the inining classes. By means also of their periodical exhibitions, and the publicity given to their transactions, they have been instrumental in drawing forth many creditable manifestations of native talent in various departments of art and science.

It may be conceded that some advance has been already made by the mining class towards improved habits, more prudent management of resources, and a stronger sense of duty as regards the instruction of their children; and the actual state of this population, and the advantages which they enjoy, may fairly be said to render further improvement more readily practicable. They possess two of the greatest boons that can fall to the lot of a labouring community leisure and hope. In regard to the latter, among no labouring class does advancement so directly depend on, or so uniformly follow, industry, ability, and prudence. Improveable land is accessible for a very moderate payment; all articles of food, fuel, and clothing are abundant and moderate in price. They see around them numerous examples

* It may be mentioned as an instance of their habits of joint speculation, that in the parish of St. Just the property in each of about 48 fishing-boats, kept chiefly by miners who are fathers of families, is divided into eight shares; some of which are again subdivided ; so that upwards of 500 men have an interest, varying in amount, in these boats, and receive from them their proportion of fish caught by themselves and their comades. The abundance of leisure they enjoy enables them to take advantage of tides and weather for this occupation.

P

of individuals from their own ranks in every stage of progress towards independence and well-being; many possessing cottages and land, many placed in honourable and responsible situations in the mines, many who have risen to still higher points of social elevation. The hours of labour for those who work underground, including the time occupied in the descent and ascent, are usually eight, and for those who work in the deepest mines seldom more than six, in the 24; all the rest of their time, with the exception of what may be employed in sharpening their tools, and in going to or returning from the mine, they have to themselves. The hours of work on the surface, for those who prepare the ore for the market, are 57 per week in the summer, and 51 in the winter ; or, on an average, nine and a half and eight and a half hours per day, in which they earn full wages. The changes for those who work eight hours at a time take place at 6 A.m., 2 P.m., and 10 P.M.; for those who work six hours, at 6 and 12, of day and night. By this arrangement every man has always a portion, and, in his turn, the whole, of the day at command. The changes from night to day work are made weekly. Those engaged on the surface, men, women, and children, leave work at half-past four or five, according to the season of the year. Although this great and inestimable advantage of leisure is far from being made as good use of as it ought to be, and by very many is entirely wasted, its natural and insensible effects on the miner's character are considerable. His labour is severe while it lasts ; but not being oppressed by lengthened, continuous, and unrelieved toil, his mind and strength, until disease attacks him, have time to recover their elasticity. He has the daily recurring period of repose, and thenfaily opportunity of reflection. His powers of thought are not more exercised by the nature of his employment than by the collision of mind and frequent interchange of ideas resulting from the aggregation of numbers and leisure for conversing. His air is free and unconstrained, and his address intelligent and respectful; he is disposed to cheerfulness and social enjoyment. Music and dancing are the common accompaniments of the Parish Feast, which is held in every parish once a year, and is kept as a holiday for two or three successive days. All who belong to the parish endeavour to return to it on that occasion, and almost every house and cottage is full of guests. If his fondness for social meetings leads to extravagance, it is chiefly on the pay-nights, which occur once a month. Large assemblages then take place in the beer-houses, partly in order to obtain change, and to divide their wages. It is to be regretted that, as the result in some degree of this additional temptation, much

money is still squandered in this manner, and excesses of various kinds ensue ; nor, perhaps, would any regulation be attended with more beneficial effects than one which should ensure a more frequent settlement of wages, and, as far as pos

sible, with each individual separately. To cases of poverty and distress much benevolent sympathy is shown; subscriptions are readily raised among themselves, and assistance given in articles of food or in the performance of domestic offices where required. * Great patience is exhibited in periods of privation, whether proceeding from the stoppage of a mine, from a decline in the price of ore, from unsuccessful speculation, or other causes. The high standard of comfort and sufficiency which prevails among the more fortunate of the mining class appears to have had the effect of raising it among the whole body. In the cottage of the poorest may generally be seen evidences of an attention to selfrespect, and an effort to produce an air of comfort; notwithstanding a deficiency of proper accommodation in proportion to the number of inmates ;-a fertile source of much obvious evil. The amount of crime throughout the county is still small in proportion to population, and is chiefly contined to petty thefts. Crimes of any enormity are rare, and when, unfortunately, they occur, as in a recent instance, they produce a deep impression. The reality of this feeling was exhibited, in the instance adverted to, by a subscription to a large amount, raised chiefly in small sums within a few months, for the widow of the sufferer. Nevertheless, , it would appear, from the criminal returns, that crime is increasing in a ratio much greater than that of the increase of population.

* “ Yet this much I confess of the wealthiest of tynners which happily work together in one tyn-worke with the poore man,—they are very charitable and merciful towards their poore fellow-workers, for at dinnertime, when they sit down together beside their tyn-worke, in a little lodge made up with turfes covered with straw, and made herut with handsome benches to sit upon, then every tynner bringeth forth out of his scrip or tyn bagges his victuals, his bread, and bottle of drinke, as the rich tynners will lack none of them being left in number; then is their charitie so great, that if one, two, or three, or else more poore men, sit among them, having neither bread, drinke, or other repast, there is not one amongst all the rest but will distribute at the largest sorte with their poore workfellows which have nothing ; so that in the end this poore man, having nothing to relieve him at the worke, shall in fine be better furnished of bread, cheese, butter, beefe, porke, bacon, than all the richest sorte.”Extract given by Sir Charles Lemon (Statistical Journal, vol. 1. p. 71, Statistics of the Copper Mines of Cornwall) from an old manuscript book, intituled The Bailiff of Blackmore, supposed to have been written at the commencement of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

4. Proportion of offenders to population, calculated on the census of 1831. Criminal Returns.

1834.

1835.

England and Wales
Cornwall

1 in 619
1 in 1406

I in 631
1 in 1461

The proportion was less in three English counties only for the first, and in four for the last year given, viz.-Northumberland, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Durham.

« ElőzőTovább »