Page:Appeal to the wealthy of the land.djvu/12

This page has been validated.



shoe-buckles, and supplied their place with ribands, shoe-buckles became unfashionable, and the journeymen buckle-makers were reduced to a state approaching to starvation. Cases of this kind occur occasionally, in this country, though not by any means to the same extent, nor arising exactly from the same causes. But, whatever may be the cause, the effect is equally oppressive to the sufferer, deprived of his usual sources of support. Three instances occur to my mind at this moment. The custom of cropping the hair threw half of our hair-dressers out of employment. The general use of lamps produced a similar effect on the chandlers. And the introduction of marble cutting in the New York prisons operated perniciously on the stone-cutters of that state, particularly in the metropolis.

In the second class, the most conspicuous are the shoe-binders, the spoolers, and seamstresses employed on coarse work, who, being far more numerous than the demand for their service requires, a portion of them are at all times but partially employed.

In the third class may be enumerated labourers on canals and turnpike roads, hod-carriers, wood-sawyers, wood-pilers, &c. &c.

Instances repeatedly occur in our cities of decent men, with the most satisfactory recommendations, seeking employment in vain for months, as porters. There is at all times a superabundance of clerks. An advertisement for a clerk will, in an hour or two, produce a dozen or two of applications. I have known persons of this class, burdened with families, obliged to descend to menial and degrading employments for support.

It is frequently said, as a panacea for the distresses of those people—"Let them go into the country; there they will find employment enough." To say nothing of the utter unfitness of most of those persons for country labour, this is taking for granted what remains to be proved. The country rarely affords employment for extra hands, except for a few weeks in harvest time. Farmers are generally supplied with steady hands at all other seasons. But were it otherwise, take the case of a man of a delicate constitution, with a wife and three or four small children; what a miserable chance would he stand of support by country labour!

So far as regards seamstresses and spoolers, the employment of the two classes, through the year, does not average above 40 a 45 weeks. One thousand of the former have been employed by the Provident Society in this city, during a winter, who could procure only four shirts per week, for which they received but fifty cents! Some of them, living two miles from the office, had to travel that distance for this paltry pittance—and above half of them had no other dependence. In the absence of all other evidence, this would be abundantly sufficient to establish the cruelty and injustice of the accusations brought against this ill-fated and oppressed class, when they are involved in the general censure passed on the poor for idleness and improvidence.

The second position which I propose to controvert is—

"That the poor, by industry, prudence, and economy, may at all times support themselves comfortably, without depending on eleemosynary aid: and, as a corollary from this,

"That their sufferings and distresses chiefly, if not wholly, arise from their idleness, their dissipation, and their extravagance."

A primary element in this discussion is a consideration of the wages ordinarily paid to the class of persons whose case I attempt to develope, and whose cause I have undertaken to plead—and first, of the very numerous class, labourers on canals and turnpikes.

By the annexed letter from Joseph McIlvaine, Esq., formerly secretary of the board of canal commissioners, it appears that the average wages of this class, in common times, are from ten to twelve dollars per month and found;