2 on a stem.:
We are sorry to state that there is scarcely any improvement in the drawer branch, the hands being to a great extent unemployed, those being so some time since, amounted to about 600. To add to the misfortunes of these workmen, some of the hosiers have adopted the system of drop-offs, that is, not shifting the drops in narrowing, leaving them loose to run down, these articles are even worse than cut ups, - and we hope that the buyers will now be aware of the fraud, and will inspect the insides of the seam; the price deducted from the wages is 2s per dozen for pantaloons, and [1s]6d per dozen for drawers.
The system of paying wages by truck is extending in the cotton hosiery trade; we have heard of convictions taking place at the County Hall, for this offence, the Magistrates having evidently come to the decision to suppress this evil and oppressive practice.
A report has prevailed that there is a very increased demand for silk gloves;- on enquiry, we find that such a desirable event is unfounded. The system of [ne]t thumb holes is extending.
The making of Lisle thread gloves, which some time since was nearly wholly confined to Leicester, is increasing in this county. The cut up system is laying the foundation for its ruin - though we believe the journeymen are decidedly averse to this practice. To the honor of the English workmen, they are, in almost every instance, steadfast opposers, as far as their means extend, to every species of fraudulent manufacture.
Note: The payment of wages by a voucher on the factory shop (sometimes referred to as the truck or tommy system) could be a particularly oppressive practice, with the employees forced to pay inflated prices for inferior or even adulterated goods. See Benjamin Disraeli's novel Sybil Book 3,Chap 3 for a description of a Tommy-shop. DBW.
The petition of the undersigned ratepayers and owners of property in the parish of Stapleford in the county of Nottingham.
Sheweth that the parish of Stapleford contains a population of two thousand persons, who are chiefly employed in the manufacture of lace; for which articles there existed a few years ago, an extraordinary demand, which produced high wages and caused a large influx of population from the surrounding agricultural villages. But in consequence of the unprecedented falling off in such demand, the working classes are placed in a situation of great privation and distress, and the burdens of the ratepayers have been increased to an alarming extent, owing to the unequal operation of the present law of settlement and parochial assessment of poor rates.
Your petitioners desire to call the attention of your honorable House to the fact, that while the parish of Stapleford contains no more than eleven hundred acres of land, there are thirteen other parishes in the same union, comprising an area far exceeding as many thousands of acres, which do not, collectively, contribute so large an amount for the support of the poor as the above-named parish.
Your petitioners learn with regret that similar evils exist in many other parts of this country, and believe there is no remedy short of an entire change in the system of assessing and levying poor-rates, making all descriptions of property liable to be equally assessed for the support of the poor.
Your petitioners therefore pray your honorable house to take such steps for the accomplishment of the above objects as your honorable house shall deem meet; and your petitioners will ever pray, &c.
The result has been that a very large portion of the Nottingham weavers, who had established themselves at Calais, have been obliged to return to England or emigrate to America as they could obtain no work; but since the Revolution things have become much worse and those remaining with their families are in a most destitute state. Subscriptions have been got up among the more wealthy of the English for their temporary relief and through the kindness of the British Consul and the directors of the General Steam Navigation Company, who have kindly granted a free passage, several hundreds of them have been enabled to return to their native country.
English mechanics and labourers throughout France are obliged to leave in haste, in consequence of the combination among the French workmen to drive them from not only the railways, but iron foundries and other large establishments, and that in a state of the greatest destitution, as many are unable even to get the money which is due to them, while their tools or instruments are either seized or destroyed. A meeting at which the representatives of 507 English persons, including women and children, were present, was held at Calais a few nights ago; and a petition to the English Government was signed by 170 men, praying to be provided with means of transit to South Australia.
120 have arrived in Nottingham from Calais, as we are given to understand; and they tell pretty tales of French oppression and cruelty. Others from other ports have reached here, and a few have obtained admission to the Nottingham union workhouse.
[For a reply see NR 7 Apr 1848 - titled Letter from Calais]
The Absolute Powers fancied, no doubt, that the old system would last for ever. A very tame affair, we dare say, appeared the flaming volcano beneath them; which only required to have its crater bricked over to render a very solid basis for their thrones. We can picture the surprise of their High Mightinesses at discovering that their patent process would not avail. The bricks were excellent, and the cement superior,- and yet, unaccountably, the volcanic element would come through! The attempt to nail down the earthquake seemed feasible enough to them; but the earthquake was not to be fastened down, after all, and the royal erections built thereupon have vanished underground. What a singular circumstance! - How truly surprising!
The people of this country have hitherto been merely spectators of this Revolution; we pray that they may never be called upon to be actors. But there is a growing conviction, that in some way or other, a change must come. Great Britain has not so much to complain of as Austria, or France, or other continental states had; but she too is not as she will have to be. Their trade embarrassed, their employments and means of livelihood lessening every day; their faces not yet recovered from the haggardness of last year's famine, their shoulders blistered and stung by the burden of a national debt already too grievous to be borne,- is this a time, we ask, when the poor people of this country, who already pay out of every pound they spend in food, 6s.8d. towards the war charges, should be called upon to pay out still more to support an increased war establishment;- to nourish into still greater luxuriance a deadly growth of ivy which exhausts the old tree of its life's sap, while pretending to support it? Is this a time when seven millions of property should continue to be devoted to fattening Bishops, and supporting a state-paid, and therefore, state-paralyzed and corrupted Church? Is this a time, when hosts of placemen and pensioners,- aunts and sisters of aristocratic paupers;- or foreign despots, like Ernest of Hanover;- is it now, we ask, when such as these should be revelling in wealth extorted from those perishing for the want of it? Are the wicked, food-destroying, crime-engendering game-laws to last for ever, that squires and gentlemen may have their sport, no matter how many families are forced upon the parish - how many heads of families are driven into jail, or how many hung upon the gibbet? - and is no extension of the suffrage needed, or is it nothing that the direction of the vessel should be almost entirely in the hands of an oligarchy, which manages the helm for its own class-interest, caring comparatively little for the welfare of the crew?
Would it be surprising on the whole, if these abuses, being felt strongly, as they are, be represented strongly, as very possibly they may be? We are convinced her Majesty's Ministers and their friends are not quite aware of their real position. They, too, are inclined to nail down the earthquake.
The drawer, pantaloon, and shirt branch hands have generally got work again, and though the trade is far from being brisk yet it is in a much better condition than it was during the greater part of the year 1847. The silk glove branch, though dull , is in the same improved state when compared with the past year. The cotton glove trade, though rather in a retrograding position, is more improved to what it was last year in this month. The silk hose branches are in a most lamentable state. Letters have been received from the stockingers who embarked with the expedition in Turkey; they complain heavily of the conduct of the agent, who not only neglected to provide them with necessary accommodation, but refused to pay them their wages according to agreement from the time they were hired, but has given them such low wages as to bring upon them the contempt of the Turks and Armenian Greeks, who regard them as dastards and people of no spirit or principle. They have been so pinched as to be compelled to apply to the British Minister at Constantinople for a remedy. It appears that the frames are not at Posa but at a manufacturing village about six miles from the metropolis of the Turkish empire.
The bobbin net trade is in a stagnant condition, but there is a little activity in some of the large factories, which will in all probability increase. The silk lace trade is in a better condition than the cotton and as the traverse method will probably be introduced by the returned English from Calais, this branch will undergo a considerable change as circular [?bolt?] machines will be in request in the fancy laces.
A Subscriber, and Resident in Calais.
The suffering condition of this part of our fellow-countrymen is so intense as to give the edge and point to the weapons of discontent.
I do not anticipate that it will be found practicable, nor does it seem to me desirable, to make the attempt to afford relief by any combined or merely charitable effort, beyond the largest possible exercise of private and discriminating benevolence. That, the present crisis unquestionably demands. I look for permanent relief only from employment, and for the means of employment, only from relief to trade; trade at home (our present only safe dependence) can only come from quiet mutual credit and confidence, and monetary and fiscal relief of the pressure on the middle classes.
The parties just above the working people, as clerks, small shopkeepers, overlookers, persons who put out work, and such like, are in reality suffering even more than the unemployed artizans, - they have had a position, which is sensibly and rapidly sliding from under them, in spite of every effort to maintain it. I know that many such are almost broken-hearted.
The past twelve months have produced a very important diminution in the amount of confidence felt by the middle classes towards the Government and the Parliament, - a very alarming one unless promptly and effectually met by sound measures for their satisfaction and relief.
On this class the destiny of the empire now mainly depends. I said in a letter to the Premier (then at the Home Office) in 1833,that the question for the years to come would be what is to be done for the working class, I now assert unhesitatingly this question is enlarged to this unhappy extent, viz,what is to be done with or for the middle class as well as the lowest classes amongst us, who are now suffering as they think grievous, yet they believe remediable wrongs?
Many persons who possess a little property, and who see no chance of preserving it, are emigrating, lest, as they express it, they should soon be without the means of leaving the country, which they think is fast going to ruin. Numbers of our best workmen are doing the same, having no prospect but to spend their latter days in an Union Workhouse, - their wages having been reduced nearly 50 per cent, during the last twelve years, - although this has been done with the greatest reluctance on the part of their employers, who are greatly inconvenienced and mortified at having fresh hands to teach.
With one exception they expressed belief that the badness of trade is ONE of the circumstances favourable to the growth of Chartism, and is increasing the disposition of many in the middle classes to promote the experiment of political change.
It is a painful fact, that more than 2,500 wayfarers, persons travelling from town to town in search of subsistence, have within the last eight weeks been relieved by the Nottingham Union.
I have before my mind several cases of decent and industrious men (of about 40 years) who for a long period, some of them upwards of a year, have been supported entirely by the labour of their wives and children. Still, I do not think that the poorest are the most disaffected, although for this cause that the ranks of the disloyal are greatly increased, poverty -or starvation rather, being the reason assigned for the desiring of a change in the Institutions and Government of the country. My own observations, as well as the testimony of the working men themselves lead me to think that a few active mischief are the mainspring of the present excitement. Indeed I believe that the active and violent politicians will almost invariably be found not amongst the poor unemployed operatives, but men in tolerable circumstances, and many of the well off. Still the miserable and destitute are the materials upon which they work: nor do I wonder when I witness the severe and long continued distress which exists, that there should be a disposition to embrace anything which promises improvement; my marvel is that the people generally have not been desperate long ere this...
"The clothing committee have had to purchase nearly twenty dozen of stockings, ninety pair of shoes; in fact no end of garments, both inner and outer, for the men, women and children; the people themselves, of course, and also many others including some ladies' schools, very kindly assisted in making up numerous things, the materials of which were purchased; by which means much expense was saved, in fact all parties did what they could and contributed what they were able, money, of course was not and is not to be expected, for it is a commodity which can hardly be said to have existence in Calais at the present time.
There were no defaulters amongst the emigrants, of whom I have already sent you the list, and they all (188 in number, the other being already in England) sailed away last night about twelve o'clock in great spirits amid the cheers and accompanied by the good wishes of a great crowd of their countrymen who were collected on the quay. We have now to prepare for another cargo, for whom I have already received a considerable number of clothes from Boulogne and expect a further supply from Dover, for Calais is cleared out. I do hope soon to receive the other list, that I may know what is to be done, whom to relieve and whom to send to England. I am constantly receiving applications from work-people wanting to emigrate. I include a list of a few names, which you can forward to the commissioners with any remarks you think proper; all I want is to know, and as early as possible, whether other parties than those whose names are already down, will be accepted."
Well, after viewing the Port, I began to wonder what sort of a place the Town of Adelaide was; so the next day, Monday, after the commissioner had been and examined every person on board, and given such information as he was asked for, I and B.Holmes started for Adelaide to seek for work; but we found plenty out of work as well as ourselves, and began to think we must have come to the wrong place. However, I went backwards and forwards from the ship to the town of Adelaide (which is six miles) for four or five days, making all the enquiries I could, until all my cash was gone; but having £2 to receive when I had been there eight days, for the office I served on board the ship, I determined not to spend it going to Adelaide, but to march straight into the bush at once, and not turn back until I had got work of some sort or other. I told a man my intentions, and he said he would go with me; so, having got my brass, four of us started together, our first place to try being Gawler Town.
The weather was very fine, and hot to us, so by the time we had walked seven miles we were all thirsty. We stopped at a place called Dry Creek, and lucky it proved, for a person whom we met, going to spend his money at Adelaide, said if a cart came past while we were refreshing ourselves, he would pay for us to ride, "For," said he,"thirty miles is too much for you to walk on a day like this."
We thanked him, telling him we could walk it very well, and, while giving him all the information we could about Old England, up came a cart, which runs every day from Adelaide to Gawler Town. He asked the driver what he would take us for?
"Sixteen shillings," said he.
"But they are fresh comers," said our newly met friend.
"Then I will take them for fourteen," said the driver.
Our friend paid the money, in we jumped, shook hands with him, and parted, perhaps never to meet more; if not I shall always think of him with gratitude and respect for the kind manner in which he assisted four strangers. When we arrived at Gawler Town, we called on Mr Calton, who keeps a large inn, and, I am happy to say, is doing well. He is the brother of Chas.Calton who was apprentice at Mosely's when my brother Charles was. I knew H.Calton directly I saw him, and he knew me through seeing me at Adelaide. He held out his hand, and asked me how I did and so on.
"Well," said I, "Mr Calton, we are seeking work, and I want you to give us a bit of advice."
"Go in there first," said he, pointing to a room where about a dozen men were taking their evening's meal. We went in accordingly, and had an excellent supper. He then came and joined us, and I told him how we were situated, that we wanted work, and work we must have. He said he would try what he could do for us, as he had two sheep-farmers in the house,and, after partaking of a glass of ale with us, he went out to them. In about an hour he returned and said he thought it was all right. We saw the two farmers, and one engaged me and two others as shepherds, the wages being 15s per week, with 20lbs of flour, 20lbs of meat, 2lbs of sugar and 1/2lb of tea. I thought this would keep us from starving.
We stayed at Mr Calton's all night, and, after breakfasting next morning, when we called for the bill there was nothing to pay; indeed, he behaved like a gentleman to us. From what I have heard of him and his brother Charles, I should think there are not two men in all the colony more respected. Well, after engaging we went back to the ship with lighter hearts. All we wanted now was a dray to take us the seventy miles into the bush, which was no easy matter. We, however, found a man with three drays who agreed to take all three families up to the place for £7; so we all started on the 18th of September. The first two nights we all slept on the floor of a house; the third at Mr Calton's, who behaved with his usual kindness, charging us nothing for sleeping; the fourth night we slept in the middle of a wood, with a good blazing fire at our feet, and the sky for our canopy; and just before dark the next night we reached our destination; and right glad were we all to think we were once more likely to be settled in a house of our own, for our's had been a wearisome journey.
Well, here we are, located in a mud hut, with only one room in it, for cooking, sleeping, and everything else, with a hundred crevices, through which come the wind and rain; but I have stopped the greater part of them up. As for chairs and tables, our boxes serve for both. I have heard talk of the mud cabins of Old Ireland, but if they are any worse than the shepherd's huts of South Australia, I feel sorry for them. But if our huts are no better than their's, we are better off than them in the "grubbing" department; we do get plenty of mutton, damper and tea. But Ann makes very little damper, as it is too heavy for the children, so we get some yeast from the gaffers and Ann makes some beautiful light bread; but, what makes it very troublesome, she has to bake it in a small frying pan among the ashes. We shall be better off in a bit for cooking utensils and everything else. I can see very plain it takes a married man twelve months to get thoroughly settled, with things proper for his use. For the first fortnight I was jobbing about the master's house, after that I had a flock of sheep to take care of. The same day William went to take care of some shorn sheep, and has been shepherding ever since, though I do not expect they will be able to find work for him all the year. He has been a very good boy. For the first fortnight that we were shepherding it rained during the days which was enough to daunt a man, much more a boy like him, but he stood it out.
It has been a very rainy season here; the oldest colonist cannot remember such a wet season. To me the weather has appeared like a very fine spring in England. I was saying that our first fortnight was a wet one; I got wet through two or three times a day, but I would sooner be wet through twenty times here than once in England. In my next I will tell you what I think of the place and my prospects. In the meantime accept the love of my wife, my children and myself.
Nevertheless, I think it all the better for us who had just landed, as we get used to the extreme heat by degrees; and, if I can judge from the short space of time I have been here, taking my own family for example, I should say it is a very healthy country for Europeans, though I believe my mud cabin is situated in one of the healthiest spots in all South Australia, being in a valley within four or five miles of the top of a range of mountains, and within twenty yard of what is called the River Gilbert. But they call anything a river here. The Gilbert is no bigger than the Tinker's Leen in Nottingham Meadows, and is only a river in the rainy season; in the summer time it is nothing else but a string of water-holes. As for the land it is of a fertile description, but the scarcity of water is a great drawback on cultivation. There is not one stream that deserves the name of river. The Torrens, which runs through Adelaide, is the same as the Gilbert, nothing but holes of water here and there during the summer time.
There is plenty of good corn and good vegetables grown here, and the land is well adapted for the growth of the vine. There are many farmers with small vineyards, and I have no doubt before long it will be a very profitable source of commerce. As for the timber, there is very little good about where I am; but they tell me there is plenty of good timber 20 miles off. The principal trees about here are gum-trees. We have often talked and laughed about Colonel Crockett and "Opossum up a gum-tree", but it is a reality; for there are plenty of them. There are plenty of kangaroos and emus within 15 miles of my hut, and if I had a gun I could have plenty of sport, for quails, wood pigeons, ducks and turkeys are here in abundance, and also crows, magpies, hawks, parrots and all others down to as small as tomtit, and no trouble to get at them, for the birds are all very tame, and will let you come within a few yards of them. But the most plentiful thing here is the ant; there are hundreds of thousands of millions of them, and some very large, plenty an inch long. The grass is alive with ants, grasshoppers, beetles and several other sorts of insects - lizards so large that had I seen them in England I should have thought them young crocodiles. The worst of all is the snake, whose bite is death. There is a fair sprinkling of that venomous reptiles about here. I have killed five; the longest between five and six feet. We have had several natives call at our hut. They all seem very harmless, but Ann cannot bear the sight of them, so she does not care how few of them come.
And now to tell you, if I can, what are our prospects; but I think this will bother me at present, for everything seems dull, gloomy and uncertain - wages are coming down and masters are making the flocks a third larger. It is a rather curious fact, that the French Revolution, which was the principal cause of our coming, should be the ruin of several of the sheep-farmers here, yet it is no less strange than true, for the price of wool has come down very low, fetching but one half the price. Several of the poorest farmers have been sold up stick and stump, very good sheep selling for 3s.6d. each, so that you you will see, instead of my getting out of the reach of revolutionary war and its effects, I have been dropt in where it is felt the worst. You know I have not been the luckiest fellow in the world, and this is only another instance of my close connexion with "Fortune's eldest daughter".
I do not feel satisfied with my prospects here, and therefore intend coming back to Nottingham if I can get a chance, that is, if the lace trade keeps anything like as good as was expected when I was there, and for the following reasons:- First, my wife does not like the place, neither does she like the thought of being here by ourselves. While there was some likelihood of some of you coming to us, she was contented, but when we found how things were going, we of course made up our minds that under no consideration would we send for any of you, nor, indeed, would I persuade any other person to come unless he could land with £120 in his pocket. In the second place, wages will be very low, so low that a man, after living very frugally, having nothing but damper, mutton, tea and his "bacca" for a year, will be able to save next to nothing. Indeed, at the time I am writing this, there are no less than nine hundred men and women walking Adelaide streets in search of employment, some begging for work at any price. I really do not know what is to become of all the emigrants who are coming here, unless Government starts some public work such as cutting a canal, or making a railroad, or something of that sort.
There used to be always a demand for shepherds but there are too many now. The masters used to think 900 or 1000 a sufficient quantity for one flock, but now they have made three flocks into two, thus throwing every third shepherd out of employ, besides hut-keepers; so you will see they do not want any new hands for shepherding for some time to come. The third reason is, I should not like to stop here to do no better than at home, and at present I do not see any chance of doing so well, much more better, - that is, always supposing trade to be as good as when I left. I expected to find good land cheap, so that a poor man would have a chance of buying some; but I find on the contrary, land is very dear near to the large towns. There is certainly plenty of land to be bought for £1 per acre, but it would not be of any use to a man like me, for the produce of such land would cost more in carriage to the market than it would be worth when it got there, all kinds of cartage being extremely dear, which is principally owing to the very bad roads.
As I have now given you my reasons for thinking of returning to Old England, you must not think that they are any worse than I have stated, I have neither made them better nor worse, but just what I really think they are. Neither must you think that we are miserable, or short of "grub", we have plenty of victuals, and generally a good plum pudding on a Sunday. You know I have not been here long, and therefore may be writing under false impressions, but I have stated what I think is true.
I remain your affectionate son,
"We arrived in Sydney harbour on the 6th of October, 1848, just four months from the time we sailed from Blackwall. We had a beautiful passage, and I was not in the least sea-sick.
Soon after casting anchor, commissioners came on board, and gave us the names of three places, from which we had to make a choice of one for our settlement. No other person being allowed to come on board, we were unable to make any enquiries as to which place offered the most advantages, and we therefore made choice of Goulburn, a town distant from Sydney about 150 miles.
Our party, consisting of 53 men, their wives, and children, were occupied eight days in travelling to the adopted locality, sleeping out at night. On this journey, for twenty-four hours we were exposed to a pitiless storm of rain. Having reached Goulburn, we were ushered into the emigration barracks, where there was not a bedstead to be seen, and we made our beds on the floor, one beside the other.
The following day our dormitory was visited by parties desirous of engaging servants, for, with the exception of shoemakers, joiners, tailors, and blacksmiths, there is no trade in the place. I engaged as gardener, and my wife as cook, for £18 per year each, including board and lodging. We had again to travel 140 miles further into the interior to our situations. We soon discovered that, despite our engagement, we must succumb to the dictates of our employers. For my £18 per year, I had to milk two cows, fetch wood and water, and shepherd. If any sheep were lost, I had to pay for them.
My labour began at sunrise and terminated at 'sun-down'. I lived in the bush, where a stranger is not seen for months, and probably eight miles from the nearest hut; my provisions consisted of salt beef, tea, potatoes, greens, onions, and 'damper' (flour mixed with water, and thrown on to wood ashes to bake). Apples are grown only for the rich.
The country is very fine and healthful. In summer we have no rain for four or five months, and were it not for the shade of the trees, there would not be a blade of grass to be seen. During the summer you are obliged to wear crape over your eyes, to preserve you from the flies and the 'blight' (disease which affects the eyes, causing blindness for two or three weeks, and frequently permanently injuring the sight). In the winter it rains for weeks together.
Snakes are numerous, and their bite is deadly. Ants, one or two inches in length, are a great nuisance, for you suffer four or five days after being bitten by them. Other insects are annoying, for the swelling arising from their bites incapacitates the limb from ordinary exertion.
I have not enjoyed the pleasure of sitting in a chair for a long time, a block or stool being generally used instead. The price of a small glass of ale was ninepence; rum, 12s half-a-pint; gin 14s half-a-pint; tobacco, 7s per pound; a pair of fustian trousers, such as you might buy in Nottingham for 5s. I paid 12s. for; for shirts, shoes, &c. an exorbitant price is charged. What we have endured, were we to attempt to tell you, would put your faith to the test, and our powers of description to their utmost limit."