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and doors, cupboards, staircases, and other joiner's work was
of the corn-laws. Perhaps the most glaring and the most numerous of these errors are due to Sir Robert Giffen, who, being considered an official statistical authority, continues to be quoted to the Present day as if his statements were to be absolutely relied on. More often quoted than any other of his writings is his “Progress of the Working Classes in the last Half Century" given as a Presidential Address to the Statistical Society in 1883, and issued as a pamphlet, price threepence, in 1884, at the request of several friends, including Mr. Gladstone, who styled it “a masterly paper.” It would occupy a whole chapter to expose the errors and the fallacies that Pervade this paper, and I must therefore confine myself to two points only, that of the rise of wages and of the food of skilled artisans. Mr. Giffen gives the weekly wages of carpenters at Manchester as 24, fifty years ago and 34s. in 1883, an increase of 42 per cent, but he omits to give prices for London. In the Report of the Industrial Remuneration Conference, Mr. J. G. Hutchinson gives the wages at Greenwich in 1832 as 32s. 6d, and in 1876 as 39s. 8d., a rise of only 22 per cent. Again, Mrs. Ellis, a Huddersfield pattern-weaver, told the conference that Mr. Giffen's statements in the same table, of the earnings of her fellow-workers, were grossly inaccurate. He gave them as 25s. a week against 16s. fifty years earlier, whereas they were only earning an average of 20s, in 1883. The wages where my brother worked were 30s. a week for all the men employed. We see, therefore, that Mr. Giffen's general statement that wages have risen “in most cases from 50 to 1oo per cent.” is open to the gravest doubt; while even if it were nearly accurate, it would not by any means prove what he claims—that these workers are very much better off than they were fifty years earlier. He certainly saves himself, verbally, by terming it an “apparent rise,” but he never attempts to get at the real rise, and throughout his argument hardly refers to this point again. Yet it is a most important one, on account of the fact which he notices, that, at the date of his paper as now, in all the building trades wages are reckoned and paid by the hour, instead of by the day as at the VOL. I. G
earlier period, when also men were rarely discharged except at
as a journeyman in large shops and living on journeyman's wages. His statement is as follows :
“Having been Personally associated with the workers in the building trade about half a century ago (from 1835 to 1845), I feel qualified to describe the social condition of skilled mechanics at that period, more especially that of the carPenters and joiners. At that time every kind of work was done by hand, no machines except hand-tools were ever used,
even boards of all thicknesses being sawn on the premises by
hand labour out of thick Planks from Northern Europe or Canada.
“The wages of good work hours; and 6d. an hour was variation from that time, a fair amount of work, a
men were 5s, a day of ten added or deducted for any No wages were paid except for
nd if the work was temporarily *Pended by rain or otherwise, no compensation was given
or expected. All the joiner's work was done in shops, gene
rally well lighted and with good sanitary conditions; nothing
but the rough carpenter's work was done in buildings before
the roof was on. Working hours were from 6 a.m. to 5.3O p.m.,
with an hour and a half out for breakfast and dinner. Men
were paid weekly on Saturday evening, and were generally
discharged at that time, and the last two hours and a half
were allowed for grinding tools.
“The best workmen were seldom discharged unless in
very dull times. At many shops men often worked for years
without ever losing time except through sickness or accident;
but, of course, these were the very best men. There Were
always some out of work, especially in winter or in times of
“As regards their social condition, the skilled work
man with his 30s. a week, if a single man of steady and
frugal habits, could save half his wages and have proper
food, lodging, and clothing suitable to his position. His furnished lodging of one room would cost 4. a week, and his three meals a day, taken at the eating-houses and coffee-shops, would not cost more than 8*. d ". his working clothes were cheap, and * * ave One superior suit for Sundays and holidays. Of course, if he were of a gay disposition, he would spend more and save less, but that would not be the indispensable outlay of a working man.
“In the case of a married man with a family, it would, of course, be more difficult to save money, but I have known men live well and respectably, bring up a family, and put by regularly for the expected ‘rainy day,’ and eventually build their own house, and start in business, in a small way at first, and become masters and gain a competence; but these are exceptional cases.
“The generality of carpenters and joiners with a family would live in lodgings of two or three rooms with their own furniture (much of which the man could make in his spare time in the evening), paying 5s. or 6s. a week, and with a careful and industrious wife could live well on their wages, clothe and educate their children, and still have something to put by. I have never known a carpenter in work, whether married or single, that did not have a good dinner of meat and vegetables every day, and on Sundays something extra ; they always had beer for dinner and often at their work about ten o'clock, and sometimes in the afternoon.
“As near as I can recollect the prices of provisions were for meat from 6d. to 8d. a pound, bread 7d. the four-pound loaf, butter Iod, cheese 8d., and sugar 6d. to 9d. The bricklayers had about the same wages as the carpenters, but owing to lost time during bad weather, they were generally not so well off, or generally so well housed and fed, but I never heard or knew of any destitution or want among them. Of the social condition of the plasterers, painters, and other house finishers I know less, but all appeared well satisfied with their condition, and, at all events, no general dissatisfaction was expressed.”
It is, I think, quite clear from this statement of my brother's that the standard of comfort of the skilled artisan was as high fifty years ago as it is now, notwithstanding his somewhat lower wages and his working ten instead of nine hours a day.