Page images
PDF
EPUB

done? Yes; I have seen that done twenty times, and the boy in the chimney; at the time when the boy has hallooed out, 'It is so hot I cannot go any further ;' and then the expression is, with an oath, “Stop, and I will heave a pail of water down.'"-Ibid. p. 39.

Chimney sweepers are subject to a peculiar sort of cancer, which often brings them to a premature death.

“He appeared perfectly willing to try the machines everywhere? I must say the man appeared perfectly willing , he had a fear that he and his family would be ruined by them : but I must say of him, that he is very different from other sweeps I have seen ; he attends very much to his own business; he was as black as any boy he had got, and unfortunately in the course of conversation he told me he had got a cancer; he was a fine, healthy, strong. looking man; he told me he dreaded having an operation performed, but his father died of the same complaint, and that his father was sweeper to King George the Second."-Lords' Minutes, p. 84.

"What is the nature of the particular diseases? The diseases that we particularly noticed. to which they were subject, were of a cancerous description.-In what part? The scrotum in particular, &c.-Did you ever hear of cases of that description that were fatal? No. I do not think them as being altogether fatal, unless they will not submit to the operation ; they have such a dread of the operation that they will not submit to it, and if they do not let it be perfectly removed, they will be liable to the return of it.-To what cause do you attribute that disease? I think it begins from a want of care : the scrotum being in so many folds or crevices, the soot lodges in them and creates an itching, and I conceive that, by scratching it and tearing it, the soot gets in and creates the irritability; which disease we know by the name of the chimney-sweeper's cancer, and is always lectured upon separately as a distinct disease.-Then the Committee understands that the physicians who are intrusted with the care and management of those hospitals think that disease of such common occurrence, that it is necessary to make it a part of surgical education? Most assuredly; I remember Mr. Cline and Mr. Cooper were particular on that subject. -Without an operation there is no cure? I conceive not; I conceive without the operation it is death ; for cancers are of that nature that unless you extirpate them entirely, they will never be cured."Commons' Report, pp. 60, 61.

In addition to the life they lead as chimney sweepers, is superadded the occupation of nightmen.

(By a Lord.) Is it generally the custom that many masters are likewise nightmen ? Yes: I forgot that circumstance, which is very grievous; I have been tied round the middle and let down several privies, for the purpose of fetching watches and such things; it is generally made the practice to take the smallest boy, to let him through the hole without iaking up the seat, and to paddle about there until he finds it ; they do not take a big boy, because it disturbs the seat.”—Lords' Minutes, p. 38.

The bed of these poor little wretches is often the soot they have swept in the day.

“How are the boys generally lodged ; where do they sleep at night? Some masters may be better than others, but I know I have slept on the soot that was gathered in the day myself.-Where do boys generally sleep? Never on a bed; I never slept on a bed myself while I was apprentice. -Do they sleep in cellars? Yes, very often; I have slept in the cellar myself on the sacks I took out.-What had you to cover you? The same.-Had you any pillow? No further than my breeches and jacket under my head. -How were you clothed? When I was apprentice we had a pair of leather breeches and a small flannel jacket.-Any shoes and stockings ? Oh dear, no; no stockings.-Had you any other clothes for Sunday? Sometimes we had an old bit of a jacket, that we might wash out ourselves, and a shirt."-Lords' Minutes, p. 40.

Girls are occasionally employed as chimney sweepers. Another circumstance, which has not been mentioned to the Committee, is, that there are several little girls employed ; there are two of the name of Morgan at Windsor, daughters of the chimney sweeper who is employed to sweep the chimneys of the Castle another instance at Uxbridge, and at Brighton, and at Whitechapel (which was some years ago), and at Hadley near Barnet, and Witham in Essex, and elsewhere."- Cominons' Report, p. 71.

Another peculiar danger to which chimney sweepers are exposed, is the rottenness of the pots at the top of chimneys ;--for they must ascend to the very summit, and show their brushes above them, or there is no proof that the work is properly completed. These chimney-pots, from their exposed situa

tion, are very subject to decay; and when the poor little wretch has worked his way up to the top, pot and boy give way together, and are both shivered to atoms. There are many instances of this in the evidence before both Houses. When they outgrow the power of going up a chimney, they are fit for nothing else. The miseries they have suffered lead to nothing. They are not only enormous, but unprofitable : having suffered, in what is called the happiest part of life, every misery which a human being can suffer, they are then cast out to rob and steal, and given up to the law.

Not the least of their miseries, while their trial endures, is their exposure to cold. It will easily be believed that much money is not expended on the clothes of a poor boy stolen from his parents, or sold by them for a few shillings, and constantly occupied in dirty work. Yet the nature of their occupation renders chimney sweepers peculiarly susceptible of cold. And as chimneys must be swept very early, at four or five o'clock of a winter morning, the poor boys are shivering at the door, and attempting by repeated ringings to rouse the profligate footman; but the more they ring, the more the footman does not come.

Do they go out in the winter time without stockings? Oh yes.--Always? I never saw one go out with stockings; I have known masters make their boys pull off their leggings, and cut off the feet to keep their feet warm when they have chilblains-Are chimney sweepers' boys peculiarly subject to chilblains? Yes, I believe it is owing to the weather: they often go out at two or three in the morning, and their shoes are generally very bad.Do they go out at that hour at Christmas? Yes; a man will have twenty jobs at four, and twenty more at five or six.- Are chimneys generally swept much about Christmas time? Yes; they are in general ; it is left to the Christmas week. -Do you suppose it is frequent that, in the Christmas week, boys are out from three o'clock in the morning to nine or ten ? Yes, further than that: I have known that a boy has been only in and out again directly all day till five o'clock in the evening.-Do you consider the journeyman and masters treat those boys generally with greater cruelty than other apprentices in other trades are treated ? They do, most horrid and shocking."-Lords' Minutes, p. 33.

The following is the reluctant evidence of a master. “At what hour in the morning did your boys go out upon their employment? According to orders. -At any time? To be sure ; suppose a nobleman wished to have his chimney done before four or five o'clock in the morning, it was done, or how were the servants to get their things done?-Supposing you had an order to attend at four o'clock in the morning in the month of December, you sent your boy? I was generally with him, or had a careful follower with him.--Do you think those early hours beneficial for him ? I do: and I have heard that 'early to bed and early to rise, is the way to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.' Did they always get in as soon as they knocked ? No; it would be pleasant to the profession if they could.-How long did they wait? Till the servants please to rise.-How long might that be? According how heavy they were to sleep.-How long was that? It is impossible to say ; ten minutes at one house, and twenty at another.-Perhaps half an hour ? We cannot see in the dark how the minutes go. Do you think it healthy to let them stand there twenty minutes at four o'clock in the morning in the winter time? He has a cloth to wrap himself in like a mantle, and keep himself warm."-Lords' Minutes, pp. 138, 139.

We must not forget sore eyes. Soot lodges on their eyelids, produces irritability, which requires friction; and the friction of dirty hands of course increases the disease. The greater proportion of chimney sweepers are in consequence blear-eyed. The boys are very small, but they are compelled to carry heavy loads of soot.

“Are you at all lame yourself? No; but I am 'knapped kneed' with carrying heavy loads when I was an apprentice.-That was the occasion of it? It was. - In general, a re persons employed in your trade either stunted or knock-kneed by carrying heavy loads during their childhood? It is owing to their masters a great deal; and when they climb a great deal it makes them weak.”—Commons' Report, p. 58.

In climbing a chimney, the great hold is by the knees and elbows. A young child of six or seven years old, working with knees and elbows against hard bricks, soon rubs off the skin from these bony projections, and is forced to climb high chimneys with raw and bloody knees and elbows.

Are the boys'knees and elbows rendered sore when they first begin to learn to climb ? Yes, they are, and pieces out of them.-Is that almost generally the case? It is; there is not one out of twenty who is not; and they are sure to take the scars to their grave: I have some now.-Are they usually compelled to continue climbing while those sores are open ? Yes ; the way they use to make them hard is that way.-Might not this severity be obviated by the use of pads in learning to climb? Yes; but they consider in the business, learning a boy, that he is never thoroughly learned until the boy's knees are hard after being sore ; then they consider it necessary to put a pad on, from seeing the boys have bad knees ; the children generally walk stiff-kneed. - Is it usual among the chimney sweepers to teach their boys to learn by means of pads? No; they learn them with nearly naked knees. Is it done in one instance in twenty? No, nor one in fifty."-Lords' Minutes, p. 32.

According to the humanity of the master, the soot remains upon the bodies of the children, unwashed off, for any time from a week to a year.

“Are the boys generally washed regularly? No, unless they wash themselves. -Did not your master take care you were washed ? No.-Not once in three months ? No, not once a year.-Did not he find you soap? No; I can take my oath on the Bible that he never found me one piece of soap during the time I was apprentice.”-Lords' Minutes, p. 41.

The life of these poor little wretches is so miserable that they often lie sulking in the flues, unwilling to come out.

“Did you ever see severity used to boys that were not obstinate and perverse ? Yes.Very often? Yes, very often. The boys are rather obstinate; some of them are; some of them will get halfway up the chimney, and will not go any further, and then the journey man will swear at them to come down or go on ; but the boys are too frightened to come down; they halloo out, we cannot get up,' and they are afraid to come down ; sometimes they will send for another boy and drag them down; sometimes get up to the top of the chimney, and throw down water, and drive them down ; then when they get them down they will begin to drag, or beat, or kick them about the house ; then when they get home, the master will beat them all round the kitchen afterwards, and give them no breakfast perhaps.”-Lord's' Minutes, pp. 9, 10.

When a chimney boy has done sufficient work for the master, he must work for the man; and he thus becomes for several hours after his morning's work a perquisite to the journeyman.

“It is frequently the perquisite of the journeyman when the first labour of the day on account of the master is finished, to call the streets,' in search of employment on their own account with the apprentices, whose labour is thus unreasonably extended, and whose limbs are weakened and distorted by the weights which they have to carry, and by the distance which they have to walk. John Lawless says, 'I have known a boy to climb from twenty to thirty chimneys for his master in the morning; he has then been sent out instantly with the journeyman, who has kept him out till three or four o'clock, till he has accumulated from six to eight bushels of soot."-Lords' Report, p. 24.

The sight of a little chiyıney sweeper often excites pity : and they have small presents made to them at the houses where they sweep. These benevolent alms are disposed of in the following manner :

“Do the boys receive little presents of money from people often in your trade? Yes, it is in general the custom.- Are they allowed to keep that for their own use ? Not the whole of it : the journeymen take what they think proper. The journeymen are entitled to half by the master's orders; and whatever a boy may get, if two boys and one journeyman are sent to a large house to sweep a number of chimneys, and after they have done, there should be a shilling or eighteenpence given to the boys, the journeyman has his full half, and the two boys in general have the other.-Is it usual or customary for the journeymen to play at chuckfarthing or other games with the boys? Frequently.-Do they win the money from the boys? Frequently; the children give their money to the journeymen to screen for them.-What do you mean by screening? Such a thing as sifting the soot. The child is tired, and he says, 'Jem, I will give you twopence if you will sift my share of the soot:' there is sometimes twenty or thirty bushels to sift.-Do you think the boys retain one quarter of that given them for their own use? No."-Lords' Minutes, p. 35.

To this most horrible list of calamities is to be added the dreadful deaths by which chimney sweepers are often destroyed. Of these we once thought of giving two examples; one from London, the other from our own town of Edinburgh : but we confine ourselves to the latter.

“James Thomson, chimney sweeper.-One day in the beginning of June witness and panel (that is, the master, the party'accused) had been sweeping vents together. About four o'clock in the afternoon the panel proposed to go to Albany Street, where the panel's brother was cleaning a vent, with the assistance of Fraser, whom he had borrowed from the panel for the occasion. When witness and panel got to the house in Albany Street, they found Fraser, who had gone up the vent between eleven and twelve o'clock, not yet come down. On entering the house they found a mason making a hole in the wall. Panel said, what was he doing? I suppose he has taken a lazy fit. The panel called to the boy, What are you doing? what's keeping you?' The boy answered that he could not come. The panel worked a long while, sometimes persuading him, sometimes threatening and swearing at the boy, to get him down. Panel then said, I will go to a hardware shop and get a barrel of gunpowder, and blow you and the vent to the devil, if you do not come down.' Panel then began to slap at the wall witness then went up a ladder, and spoke to the boy through a small hole in the wall previously made by the mason-but the boy did not answer. Panel's brother told witness to come down, as the boy's master knew best how to manage him. Witness then threw off his jacket, and put a handkerchief about his head, and said to the panel, “Let me go up the chimney to see what's keeping him.' The panel made no answer, but pushed witness away from the chimney, and continued bullying the boy. At this time the panel was standing on the grate, so that witness could not go up the chimney; witness then said to panel's brother, 'There is no use for me here,' meaning, that panel would not permit him to use his services. He prevented the mason making the hole larger, saying, 'Stop, and I'll bring him down in five minutes' time.' Witness then put on his jacket, and continued an hour in the room, during all which time the panel continued bullying the boy. Panel then desired witness to go to Reid's house to get the loan of his boy Alison. Witness went to Reid's house, and asked Reid to come and speak to panel's brother. Reid asked if panel was there. Witness answered he was: Reid said he would send his boy to the panel, but not to the panel's brother. Witness and Reid went to Albany Street ; and when they got into the room, panel took his head out of the chimney and asked Reid if he would lend him his boy; Reid agreed ; witness then returned to Reid's house for his boy, and Reid called after him, 'Fetch down a set of ropes with you.' By this time witness had been ten minutes in the room, during which time panel was swearing, and asking 'What's keeping you, you scoundrel ? When witness returned with the boy and ropes, Reid took hold of the rope, and having loosed it, gave Alison one end, and directed him to go up the chimney, saying, ''Do not go farther than his feet, and when you get there fasten it to his foot. Panel said nothing all this time. Alison went up, and having fastened the rope, Reid desired him to come down ; Reid took the rope and pulled, but did not bring down the boy; the rope broke! Alison was sent up again with the other end of the rope, which was fastened to the boy's foot. When Reid was pulling the rope, panel said, You have not the strength of a cat;' he took the rope into his own hands, pulling as strong as he could. Having pulled about a quarter of an hour, panel and Reid fastened the rope round a crowbar, which they applied to the wall as a lever, and both pulled with all their strength for about a quarter of an hour longer, when it broke. During this time witness heard the boy cry, and say, 'My God Almighty !' Panel said, If I had you here, I would God Almighty you.' Witness thought the cries were in agony. The master of the house brought a new piece of rope, and the panel's brother spliced an eye on it. Reid expressed a wish to have it fastened on both thighs, to have greater purchase. Alison was sent up for this purpose, but came down, and said he could not get it fastened. Panel then began to slap at the wall. After striking a long while at the wall he got out a large stone ; he then put in his head and called to Fraser, ‘Do you hear, you sir ?' but got no answer : he then put in his hands, and threw down deceased's breeches. He then came down from the ladder. At this time the panel was in a state of perspiration : he sat down on a stool, and the master of the house gave him a dram. Witness did not hear panel make any remarks as to the situation of the boy Fraser. Witness thinks that, from panel's appearance, he knew the boy was dead."-Commons' Report, pp. 136-138.

We have been thus particular in stating the case of the chimney sweepers, and in founding it upon the basis of facts, that we may make an answer to those profligate persons who are always ready to fling an air of ridicule upon the labours of humanity, because they are desirous that what they have not virtue to do themselves should appear to be foolish and romantic when done by others. A still higher degree of depravity than this is to want every sort of compassion for human misery when it is accompanied by filth. poverty, and ignorance,-to regulate humanity by the income tax, and to deem the bodily wretchedness and the dirty tears of the poor a fit subject for pleasantry and contempt. We should have been loth to believe that such deep-seated and disgusting immorality existed in these days ; but the notice of it is forced upon us. Nor must we pass over a set of marvellously weak

gentlemen, who discover democracy and revolution in every effort to improve the condition of the lower orders, and to take off a little of the load of misery from those points where it presses the hardest. Such are the men into whose -heart Mrs. Fry has struck the deepest terror,—who abhor Mr. Bentham and his penitentiary ; Mr. Bennet and his hulks; Sir James Mackintosh and his bloodless assizes ; Mr. Tuke and his sweeping machines, -and every other human being who is great and good enough to sacrifice his quiet to his love for his fellow creatures. Certainly we admit that humanity is sometimes the veil of ambition or of faction ; but we have no doubt that there are a great many excellent persons to whom it is misery to see misery, and pleasure to lessen it; and who, by calling the public attention to the worst cases, and by giving birth to judicious legislative enactments for their improvement, have made, and are making, the world somewhat happier than they found it. Upon these principles we join hands with the friends of the chimney sweepers, and most heartily wish for the diminution of their numbers, and the limitation of their trade.

We are thoroughly convinced there are many respectable master chimney sweepers; though we suspect their numbers have been increased by the alarm which their former tyranny excited, and by the severe laws made for their coercion : but even with good masters the trade is miserable,-with bad ones it is not to be endured; and the evidence already quoted shows us how many of that character are to be met with in the occupation of sweeping chimneys.

After all, we must own that it was quite right to throw out the bill for prohibiting the sweeping of chimneys by boys—because humanity is a modern invention ; and there are many chimneys in old houses which cannot possibly be swept in any other manner. But the construction of chimneys should be attended to in some new building act; and the treatment of boys be watched over with the most severe jealousy of the law. Above all, those who have chimneys accessible to machinery should encourage the use of machines, * and not think it beneath their dignity to take a little trouble, in order to do a great deal of good. We should have been very glad to have seconded the views of the Climbing Society, and to have pleaded for the complete abolition of climbing boys, if we could conscientiously have done so. But such a measure, we are convinced from the evidence, could not be carried into execution without great injury to property, and great increased risk of fire. The Lords have investigated the matter with the greatest patience, humanity, and good sense ; and they do not venture, in their Report, to recommend to the House the abolition of climbing boys.t

MISSION TO ASHANTEE. (E. Review, October, 1819.) Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee, with a Statistical Account of that Kingdom, and

Geographical Notices of other parts of the Interior of Africa. By T. EDWARD BOWDICH

Esq., Conductor. London: Murray. 1819. CAPE COAST CASTLE, or Cape Corso, is a factory of Africa, on the Gold Coast. The Portuguese settled here in 1610, and built the citadel ; from which, in a few years afterwards, they were dislodged by the Dutch. In

* The price of a machine is fifteen shillings.

+ The chairman of this Committee was Lord Auckland, whose name may be always a guarantee to the public for good feelings regulated by good sense.

« PreviousContinue »