Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

In

is one prolific cause of disease, especially to the young. When the home is near to the place of work, the labourer is enabled to take his dinner with his family instead of at the beer-shop. The wife and children gain by proximity to the employer's family, in motives to neatness and cleanliness, by their being known and being under observation: as a general rule, the whole economy of the cottages in bye-lanes and outof-the-way places appears to be below those exposed to observation. connexion with property or large capital, the labourer gains in the stability of employment, and the regularity of income incidental to operations on a large scale: there is a mutual benefit also in the wages for service being given in the shape of buildings or permanent and assured comforts; that is, in what would be the best application of wages, rather than wholly in money wages.'

We must refer to the Report itself for a long array of most pleasing examples of the practical truth of these statements. Not a few of the great master-manufacturers acknowledged to Mr. Chadwick that what they had done from motives of humanity had turned out, to their agreeable surprise, immensely advantageous to their own purses. But let us content ourselves with what is stated as to one particular source of evil, and the facility of cutting it off by a judicious employer. The example is from Leeds :

'

The effects,' says Mr. Fairburn, produced by payment at the public-house are to oblige the workman to drink. He is kept waiting in the public-house during a long time, varying from two to three hours, sometimes as much as five hours. The workman cannot remain in the house without drinking, even if he were alone, as he must make some return to the landlord for the use of the room. But the payment of a number of men occupies time in proportion to their numbers. We find that to pay our own men in the most rapid way requires from two to three hours. The assembled workmen, of course, stimulate each other to drink. Out of a hundred men, all of whom will, probably, have taken their quart of porter or ale, above a third will go home in a state of drunkenness of drunkenness to the extent of imbecility. The evil is not confined to the men; the destructive habit is propagated in their families. At cach public-house a proportion of the poor women, their wives, attend. According to my own observation, full ten per cent. of the men have their wives and children in attendance at the publichouse. The poor women have no other mode of getting money to market with on the Saturday night than attending at the public-house to get it from their husbands. They may have children whom they cannot leave at home, and these they bring with them. The wives are thus led to drink, and they and their children are made partakers of the scenes of drunkenness and riot; for there are not unfrequently quarrels leading to fights between the workmen when intoxicated.

[ocr errors]

It is only the inferior shopkeepers or hucksters who will sell on the Sunday morning, and they sell an inferior commodity at a higher price. Then the Sunday morning is thus occupied: the husband, and some

times the wife, is kept in a state of feverish excitement by the previous night's debauch; they are kept in a state of filth and disorder; even the face is unwashed; no clean clothes are put on; and there is no church attendance, and no decency. Indeed, by the pressure of the wants created by habits of drinking, there is soon no means to purchase clean or respectable clothes, and lastly no desire to purchase them. The man, instead of cleaning himself, and appearing at church on the Sunday, or walking out with his family on the Sunday afternoon in a respectable condition, remains at home in filth, and in a filthy hovel.

The workman who has been absent from drunkenness comes to his work pale, emaciated, shattered, and unnerved. From my own observation in my own branch of manufacture, I should say that the quantity and quality of the work executed during the first day or so would be about one-fifth less than that obtainable from a steady and attentive workman. Another consideration for the master is the fact that such workmen, the most idle and dissolute, are the most discontented, and are always the foremost in mischievous strikes and combinations.'

Now what is Mr. Fairburn's prescription for these disorders? He sends a clerk into each room in his manufactory immediately after dinner-hour on Saturday to pay each man individually, who, by this simple arrangement, is not taken from his work half a minute. The master thus saves on an average an hour and a half's labour of 550 men, which amounts to 800 hours of labour per week; one great cause of non-attendance at church on the Sunday is abolished; and, lastly, not above four or five of his people arrive late at their work on Monday morning.

Let us turn for a moment to the rural regions. Out of many of Mr. Chadwick's witnesses, let us attend to one :-Charles Higgins, Esq., Chairman of the Bedford Union, thus describes the advantages which have arisen from an improved description of cottages in his vicinity:

'The man sees his wife and family more comfortable than formerly; he has a better cottage and garden; he is stimulated to industry, and, as he rises in respectability of station, he becomes aware that he has a character to lose. Thus an important point is gained. Having acquired certain advantages, he is anxious to retain and improve them; he strives more to preserve his independence, and becomes a member of benefit, medical, and clothing societies; and frequently, besides this, lays up a certain sum, quarterly or half-yearly, in the savings-bank. Almost always attendant upon these advantages, we find the man sending his children to be regularly instructed in a Sunday, and, where possible, in a day school, and himself and family more constant in their attendance at some place of worship on the Lord's-day.

A man who comes home to a poor, comfortless hovel after his day's labour, and sees all miserable around him, has his spirits more often depressed than excited by it. He feels that, do his best, he shall be miserable still, and is too apt to fly for a temporary refuge to the ale

house

house or beer-shop. But give him the means of making himself comfortable by his own industry, and I am convinced by experience that, in many cases, he will avail himself of it.'

Although, in the variegated picture of human life, one can scarcely point out a more striking contrast than between a pale drunken labourer zigzaggedly staggering by night from the alehouse to his family, and a ruddy sober one rationally enjoying his evening at home, yet it is not so very easy to analyse or enumerate the invisible filaments which, acting all together like the strands in a cable, have in the two cases produced such opposite results!

It is not the fresh air the ploughman has been inhaling all day which, at the conclusion of his work, has irresistibly brought him to his home; nor is it the appetite which healthy labour has created-nor is it the joyous welcome of those rosyfaced children who, following each other almost according to their ages along the garden-path, have run to meet him at bes wicket-gate-nor is it the smiling countenance of his neatly-dressed' wife-nor the homely meal she has prepared for him-nor the general cleanliness of his cottage, nor the ticking of his gaudyfaced clock, nor the merry antics of his children's kitten, nor his warm chimney-corner, nor the cheerful embers on his hearthno one of these tiny threads is strong enough to draw an ablebodied labourer to his cottage; and yet, their united influence, though still invisible to him, produces the happy result: in short, fresh air creates health, and health happiness.

On the other hand, it is not the fountain of putrid air which all day long has been steaming up from a small gulley-drain in front of his shop that causes the workman to spend his evening at the alehouse; nor is it the lassitude of his body or depression of spirits produced by the want of ventilation in the building-nor is it the dust he has been breathing there-nor is it the offensive open drain that runs close under his own window-nor is it the sickly, uncaptivating aspect of his care-worn wife-nor the neglected, untidy appearance of his room-- nor the emaciated countenances of his poor children, who, as if they had lost the bloom of modesty, are lying all huddled together in one bed-nor is it the feverish thirst which assails him-nor is it that black, unwholesome board nailed by Parliament over the alehouse-door which insists that the beer he desires is to be drunk on the premises,' or, in other words, that he himself must be the pitcher that is to carry it away-nor is it the abandoned immoral associates of both sexes which this board has convened for him-no one of these circumstances would be sufficient to estrange an honest workman from his home; and yet, when they give a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together,' the victim obeys their influence,

he

he knows not why, and, accordingly, however crooked may be his path homewards, he, at all events, goes straight to the alehouse.

We have no desire to lecture on the old law which, in order to save trouble and reflection, summarily prescribed punishment as the natural cure for drunkenness. We trust, however, that the day is fast approaching when the attention of our law-makers will be directed to the prevention of the evil instead of its cure: for if it be true that the sobriety of the labouring classes mainly depends upon sanitary arrangements on an extensive scale, which the fiat of Parliament could instantaneously ordain, it certainly does appear that, so long as this branch of legislation shall continue to be neglected, there is reason to doubt whether Parliament or the peasant be the most guilty of those cases of drunkenness which mainly proceed from a series of minute causes not removable by the latter.

Surely, Mr. Chadwick's main remedies-namely, efficient drainage, sewerage, and ablution of towns-come within the legitimate province of the legislature. Surely, the interior arrangements he proposes, such as the ventilation of all buildings in which a body of workpeople are assembled, as well as due attention to a series of other details conducive to their health, are, to say the least, as much within the proper jurisdiction of parliament as the most humane mode of sweeping chimneys, or the proper thickness of partywalls. The health of the nation being nearly synonymous with its wealth, it is evident that the labouring power of the British people is a machine which it is the duty as well as the interest of the State to protect.

In France there has long existed a Board of Health; and whoever has read the Essays of Parent du Chatelet must know of what vast benefits this institution has been productive. Many times has a similar one been recommended and proposed here-but there has always occurred some fatal hitch. We need not at present enter on the discussion of the difficulties hitherto deemed insurmountable. Meantime Mr. Chadwick thinks the machinery of the Poor Law Commission might be rendered highly serviceable; and his practical proposal is, that in order to establish throughout the country an efficient system of sanitary attention, there should be appointed to each district two new superior officers, a superintending Physician and a skilful Engineer.

Mr. Chadwick truly observes that the claim to relief on the ground of destitution created by sickness already propels the medical officer of every union to the precise point where the evil is most rife, and where the public intervention is most called for-namely, to the interior of the abode of the sufferer: indeed, it appears that in the metropolis during one year these officers were required to

visit 14,000 residences of applicants for relief on account of fever alone. When it is considered that the number of medical officers attached to the new unions throughout the country amounts to 2300, it is evident what a searching professional inquiry these intelligent agents have power to make, and what opportunities they would have of recommending immediate attention to whatever physical causes of disease they might discover in their daily visits to the residences of the afflicted. It is equally obvious that the relieving officer of the union would, in the mere performance of his duty, be able to assist the medical officer in searching out removable causes of sickness, by reporting whatever he might deem worthy of attention.

In order, therefore, to carry out this reciprocal assistance, Mr. Chadwick proposes that the medical officers of the unions, whenever they visit the residences of the labouring classes, should be required, as an extra duty for which they should be properly remunerated, to examine, or order to be examined any physical and removable causes which may, in their opinion, have produced disease; and having done this, to make out a report, specifying any nuisances that may require immediate removal-which statement should then be given to the relieving officer, who should thereupon take measures for the removal of the nuisance at the expense of the owner of the tenement, unless he, upon notice being given to him, forthwith proceeds to direct its removal.

These preliminary arrangements being effected, the duty of the district physician would be to receive reports from the medical officers of the unions, and to give general supervision to their labours, so as to correct any error or neglect in their treatment of the destitute; to inspect from time to time the schools of the poor; and to visit in person also places of work and workmen's lodging-houses-in this last department advantageously superseding the sub-inspectors of factories.

It would be found,' says Mr. Chadwick, 'that the appointment of a superior medical officer independent of private practice, to superintend these various duties, would be a measure of sound pecuniary economy. The experience of the navy and the army and the prisons may be referred to for exemplifications of the economy in money, as well as in health and life, of such an arrangement. A portion only of the saving from an expensive and oppressive collection of the local rates would abundantly suffice to ensure for the public protection against common evils the science of a district physician, as well as the science of a district engineer. Indeed, the money now spent in comparatively fragmentitious and unsystematized local medical service for the public, would, if combined as it might be without disturbance on the occurrence of vacancies, afford advantages at each step of the combination. We have in the same towus public medical officers as inspectors of prisons,

medical

« ElőzőTovább »