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character of the people, had conspired to the institution of a rule that in its nature proposed to set aside all law. I was, however, deceived in this point also; for on crossing the Channel, I found the same rule domineering and laughing at justice and equity throughout South Britain; and finally, having instituted further inquiry on this subject in Scotland, I blush to acknowledge that I found my own countrymen also occasionally guilty of this felony.
Usages in the Iron Foundries - Persecution-Ropemakers - TinsmithsShoemakers-Provision Stores - Coalmen-Sawyers-Farmers-Tobacco Spinners-Coopers - Jewellers and Watchmakers- Painters-PrintersLace-makers-Cabmen-Scriveners' Clerks-Chandlers-Butchers-Marshalsea Prison-Donnybrook Fair-House Smiths-Saddlers.
Foundries.-Among founders the apprentice footing is on the average 10s. 6d.; journeymen's footings the same. In this trade, also, it is usual to pawn men's clothes for the regulation amount of the drinking usages. One informant has seen the pawn ticket made out in a feigned name, and laid where the man might easily find it, and so go to relieve the clothes; but the perpetrators remained unknown. On marriage a sum for drink is exacted, and a flag is hoisted, which will not be taken down till the drinking usage is satisfied. On the birth of a child, also, a sum for drink is required. There are sometimes drink fines imposed for certain omissions in the work, such as not putting out candles at the proper time. Another informant has seen boys carried by force to the public-house, and made to order drink for the footing; and the men having paid it, they exacted so much a-week from the apprentice till the sum was discharged. On one occasion, a poor widow, in whom the master was interested, had sent her son to learn the business; and the men were informed of the unfortunate circumstances of the parent, and warned, and requested not to annoy the boy in case the footing were not paid. This, however, was of no effect: drinking usage is cruel, and knows not how to relax its extortions. The men persisted in persecuting the orphan, till at last it reached the ears of the master.
Here was treatment for a respectable employer to meet with; he had warned the men not to pester the lad on this subject, he had requested it as a favour; here was the persisting in a pernicious custom which had always the worst results; here was barbarity, disobedience, insult, all combined. In a frenzy of indignation he called his men together, rated them, scolded them, and announced the severest judgments he could inflict on those who should dare to disobey. The men retired: he had gained his point, and chuckled for a considerable time over the success of his intrepidity and adherence to duty. This pleasant state of mind continued, and occasionally exhibited itself outwardly, till one day, after the lapse of some time, he met the widow, who informed him that she had paid up her son's footing some months before, for that it was utterly impossible otherwise for him to learn the business.
It has not been unfrequent, states an intelligent founder, that in the midst of the execution of pressing orders, one drink-loving workman would stand up in the midst and say, "I am very dry, boys, I would rather drink than work. Who will go and get a pot?" "Go yourself," said some of the more sober comrades. "No: I won't be the black sheep; you must all go. They won't put us all into jail." On this one after another would acquiesce, and the foundry would be forthwith left empty of labourers, and a day lost.
One severe curb that can generally be put on a man in most iron works by the other workmen, is to refuse to assist, or work along with him. In declining to help a moulder, his companions can effect the spoiling of his work: moulds may thus be injured so that the castings would be of no worth. In many other trades this is also the case. It is of much consequence for an individual to be on general good terms, and we may conceive how great an instrument this circumstance is made, for the enforcement of drinking usages on those soberly inclined. The men, in these cases, get little or no relief from the masters, who are shy in general in interfering in disputes among their people on these points, and frequently have an indulgent sympathy for those who have a kindred relish for liquor. "A master workman acknowledged lately that he was tormented daily and weekly by the drinking of his people: his capital lay useless, his customers were disappointed, and his promises proved to be falsehoods. He requested a Temperance Committee to do something for his men; but on hearing that the reform scheme included refraining from spirits, he declined any farther procedure, 'Because,' says he,
'I drink spirits and water after dinner myself, and cannot permit anything to be said to my men, that would throw disgrace on my own practice.'
Ropemakers. In this business the apprentice's footing amounts generally to 21. 2s. When able to take a man's work, he has to pay 10s. 6d. for drink, and the same when he goes to twine, and one guinea at expiration of the apprenticeship. The journeyman's footing varies from 5s. to 10s. 6d. The custom of paying men in groups with a bank note has a very bad effect. In one ropewalk this evil was in some measure obviated, by a large baker's shop being at hand, where plenty of change was to be had. There are various drink fines payable by the men; among these is coming to work on Monday unshaven. One informant has seen boys not only obliged to give their footing, but to drink it: one boy mentions that he was thus constrained, and drunk eight glasses of whisky; he thought afterwards he should have died, but had relief by vomiting. If drinking usage money is not ready to appear at the set time, the defaulters are taunted, ridiculed, teased, the boys not taught by the men, and ultimately "the wheel would be stopt;" that is, the master being applied to to advance the drink-money out of the wages, and failing to do so, a turn out of all the hands would be the consequence. This affirmation was reiterated.
Tinsmiths. In this business the ordinary drinking usages seem to be severely exacted. If deferred or refused by any individual, my informant states, that they would "tease the heart's blood out of him;" his life would be "a hell upon earth."
Shoemakers. As the artificers in this trade work frequently at home, and separately, the drinking usages among them are comparatively fewer than in others. Nevertheless, where opportunities occur, the men are accustomed to make use of them. Where there is a trade club or society, it is sometimes the case that at receiving the freedom of the trade, 5s. is imposed for drink. On this occasion the new member is introduced to a merry-making, where he has usually to advance an additional half-crown to keep the glass in circulation.
Drunkards in this trade having few constitutional occasions of getting their favourite potions, sometimes conspire to have a spree" at the common expense. They feign some injury to the journeymen department of the trade; as, for instance, that a certain person is working at wages below the mark. This accusation being reiterated, and a colour given to it, pro
duces a regular meeting of the trade committee for investigation and consideration; and as these meetings are held at the public-house, and an allowance given from the trade funds, the object is obtained. My informant has seen men keep part of the trade some days on "the spree" in this way, and has seen 31. discussed on such sham occasions. There is president of a shop elected, sometimes every month, who must pay for this honour a gallon of porter, the other men "backing him,” that is, adding some money to the sum given by the principal; in this case 4d. each. All these debauches generally end in quarrelling and fighting. My informant has witnessed four regular battles in one night; has seen on such occasions friends made to differ through drink: thus one evening a comrade conducting a drunken man home, the latter turned on him, and knocked his finger quite out of joint. Where wives come to seek for husbands on such occasions, as my informant expressed it, "they are bate out of the public-house, they are bate home, and they are bate at home for coming after their husbands to the public-house."
Labourers in Provision Stores, when working at extra hours, receive large doses of whisky from the master, that they may be stimulated, and more work screwed out of them. As, however, this is understood to be given by way of diet or refreshment, and not a mere conventional occasion, as we have defined a drinking usage, we shall not advert to the practice further than to say, that in one case under our notice, where a man took a substitute of money instead of the drink, the others were offended, and took means to show their resentment.
Coalmen on the Quays.-In the North of Ireland, there are various drinking usages among these, one of which is this: on the occasion of a marriage, a procession of brethren of the trade repair to the house of the bridegroom, and fetch him down the quay, where drink-money is exacted. In Dublin the following have been reported in this trade:-"When a man becomes a coal-porter, he must give from 5s. to 10s. worth of drink; when he gets a cart, he must pay 10s. If he refuse, the wheels will be forcibly taken off his cart, and pledged for the amount of the demand. Getting a new horse, with or without a new dray or cart, comes under the same imposition.
"A coal-porter, on entering a new employment, is obliged to pay half-a-crown for drink. Every sailor who enters the port in a vessel laden with either coals or potatoes, if his first time, must pay half-a-crown for drink; his name is then regularly registered in a book kept for that purpose. When a
coal-porter marries, he must pay a sum sufficient to treat all his friends, which will generally amount to 10s. or 15s.; should he refuse to comply, he is forcibly mounted on a long pole, sometimes square, and sometimes round, and then is carried up and down the quays and neighbourhood for two or three hours; if he pays during the infliction of the punishment, he is set at liberty. Besides the above, there are several fines, all of which are spent in drink. In addition to this, it may be mentioned, that when a wedding takes place in any trade, a number of the lower order surround the house with old pots, kettles, horns, &c. and keep up a continual noise until they receive 'socket-money,' or are dispersed by the police."
Sawyers. The apprentice footing here is generally 17. 18.; journeymen's footing 3s. There are a considerable variety of fines: if these are refused or delayed, the men are not assisted in their work by the others, so that they cannot proceed. This is generally found a mesh, from which it is impossible by any means to escape. When a new saw is obtained, it must be "wetted;" if not, a nail will probably be mischievously driven through the wood, in order to injure the instrument, "a single tear of which," I was informed, “will take the tenth of an inch off the teeth, and cost 10s. to repair the damage."
Farmers. The drinking usages of the agricultural portion of the inhabitants of Ireland do not differ greatly in general character from those of Scotland. At the last cutting in harvest, at churns, (harvest homes,) there is a barbarous and pernicious system of drinking; and upon a variety of other occasions, there is also a profusion of drink served out to labourers by way of diet or refreshment: this, however, scarcely comes within the strict line of compulsory usage, as we have defined it, for the giving of drink at such times proceeds on the mistaken notion that it strengthens and fortifies. After one labourer had broken his arm in consequence of the drink his master had given him, this employer used to serve out coffee instead of whisky, with great advantage.
Agricultural bargains of cattle, grain, and other produce, are very generally settled and concluded, as in Scotland, over strong drink; a source of immense expense and other pernicious consequences, which it looks like national madness to persist in; but the supposed necessity of "wet bargain" is nearly universal, and the usage is unfortunately of great power and extent. Many men, as in Scotland, will not make a sale or purchase out of a public-house; and the same elements of treachery may be detected in this practice among the Irish