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LONDON LABOUR
THE LONDON POOR.

VOL. II.

THE STREET-FOLK.

BOOK THE SECOND.

INTRODUCTION. In commencing a new volume I would devote a The value of the Capital, or Stock in Trade, of few pages to the consideration of the import of the these people, though individually trifling, ainounts, facts already collected concerning the London collectively, to a considerable sum of money-inStreet-Folk, not only as regards the street people deed, to very nearly 40,0001., or at the rate of themselves, but also in conjection with the general about 11. per head. Under the term Capital are society of which they form so large a proportion. included the donkeys, barrows, baskets, stalls,

The precise extent of the proportion which the trays, boards, and goods belonging to the several Street-Traders bear to the rest of the Metropoli street-traders; and though the stock of the watertan Population is the first point to be evolved; for cress, the small-ware, the lucifer, the flower, or the the want, the ignorance, and the vice of a street chick weed and groundsell seller may not exceed in life being in a direct ratio to the numbers, it be value 18., and the basket or tray upon which it is comes of capital importance that we should know carried barely half that suni, that of the more how many are seeking to pick up a livelihood in prosperous costermonger, possessed of his barrow the public thoroughfarey. This is the more essen and donkey; or of the Cheap John, with his cart tial because the Government returns never have filled with hardware ; or the Packman, with his given us, and probably never will give us, any bale of soft wares at his back, may be worth almost correct information respecting it. The Cen:us of as many pounds as the others are pence. 1841 set down the “ Hawkers, Hucksters, and The gross amount of trade done by the London Pedlars” of the Metropolis as numbering 2045; Street-Sellers in the course of the year is so large and from the inquiries I have made among the that the mind is at first unable to comprehend how, street-sellers as to the means taken to obtain a full without reckless extravagance, want can be in any account of their numbers for the next population way associated with the class. After the most return, the Census of 1851 appears likely to be cautious calculation, the results having been checked about as correct in its statements concerning the and re-checked in a variety of ways, so that the conStreet Traders and Performers as the one which clusion arrived at might be sonjewhat near and preceded it.

certainly not beyond the truth, it appears that the According to the accounts which have been col. "takings" of the London Street-Sellers cannot be lected during the progress of this work, the number said to be less than 2,500,0001. per annum. But of the London Street-People, so far as the inquiry vast as this sum may seem, and especially when has gone, is upwards of 40,000. This sum is made considered as only a portion of the annual expenup of 30,000 Costermongers; 2000 Street-Sellers diture of the Metropolitan Poor, still, when we come of “Green-Suff," as Watercresses, Chickweed, and to spread the gross yearly receipts over 40,000 Groundsell, Turf, &c.; 4000 Street Sellers of Eat-people, we find that the individual takings are but ables and Drinkables; 1000 selling Stationery, 621. per annum, which (allowing the rate of profit Books, Papers, and Engravings in the streets ; to be in all cases even 50 per cent., though I am and 4000 other street-sellers vending manufac- convinced it is often much less) gives to each streettured articles, either of metal, crockery, textile, trader an annual income of 201. 13s. 4d., or within chemical, or miscellaneous substances, making al. a fraction of 8s. a week, all the year round. And together 41,000, or in round numbers say 40,000 when we coine to deduct from this the loss by individuals. The 30,000 costermongers may be perishable articles, the keep of donkeys, the wear said to include 12,000 men, 6000 women, and and tear, or hire, of barrows—the cost of stalls and 12,000 children.

baskets, together with the interest on stock-money The above numbers comprise the main body of (generally at the rate of 4s. a week-and often people selling in the London streets ; hence if we ls. a day--for 11., or 10401. per cent. per annum), assert that, with the vendors of second-hand articles, we may with safety assert that the average gain or as old metal, glass, linen, clothes, &c., and mineral clear income of the Metropolitan Street-Sellers is productions, such as coke, salt, and sand, there are rather under than over 78. 6d. a week. Some of about 45,000 street-traders in the Metropolis, we the more expert street-traders may clear 10s. or shall not, I am satisfied, be very far from the truth. even 158. weekly throughout the year, while the

No. I. Vol. II.

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Now, according to the above estimate, it would , what rates, taxes, or licences do these streetappear that the gross annual receipts of the entire traders pay? Their lodgings may be dear enough, body of street-sellers (for there are many besides but their rates are nominally nothing" (being those above specified-as for instance, the vendors charged in the rent of their rooms). “ From taxes of second-hand articles, &c.) may be estimated in they are blessedly exempt. They are called upon round numbers at 3,000,0001. sterling, and their to pay no imposts on their property or income; clear income at about 1,000,0001. per annum. they defray inerely the trifling duties on their Hence, we are enabled to perceive the importance | tobacco, beer, tea, sugar, coffee" (though these by of the apparently insignificant traffic of the streets ; the way—the chief articles in the excise and for were the street-traders to be prohibited from customs returns-make up one-half of the revenue pursuing their calling, and so forced to apply for of the country). “They ought to be put down. relief at the several metropolitan unions, the poor. We can supply all that is wanting. What may rates would be at the least doubled. The total become of them is simply their own concern.” sum expended in the relief of the London poor, The Act 50 Geo. III., c. 41, requires that every during 1848, was 725,0001., but this we see is person “carrying to sell or exposing to sale any hardly three-fourths of the income of the street- goods, wares, or merchandize," shall pay a yearly traders. Those, therefore, who would put an end duty. But according to s. 23, "nothing in this to the commerce of our streets, should reflect Act shall extend to prohibit any person or persons whether they would like to do so at the cost from selling (by hawking in the streets) any printed of doubling the present poor-rates and of reducing papers licensed by authority; or any fish, fruit, or one-fortieth part of the entire metropolitan popu- | victuals." Among the privileged articles are also lation from a state of comparative independence to included barm or yeast, and coals. The same Act, absolute pauperism.

moreover, contains nothing to prohibit the maker However unsatisfactory it may be to the aristo- of any home-manufacture from exposing his goods cratic pride of the wealthy commercial classes, it to sale in any town-market or fair, nor any tinker, cannot be denied that a very important element of cooper, glazier, or other artizan, from going about the trade of this vast capital —this marvellous and carrying the materials of his business. The centre of the commerce of the world—I cite the unlicensed itinerant vendors of such things howstereotype phrases of civic eloquence, for they ever as lucifer-matches, boot-laces, braces, fuzees, or are at least truths—it is still undeniable, I say, any wares indeed, not of their own manufacture, that a large proportion of the commerce of the are violators of the law, and subject to a penalty capital of Great Britain is in the hands of the of 101., or three months' imprisonment for each Street-Polk. This simple enunciation might appear offence. It is in practice, however, only in the a mere platitude were it not that the street-sellers bawking of such articles as those on which the are a proscribed class. They are driven from duty is heavy and of considerable value to the stations to which long possession might have been revenue (such as tea, tobacco, or cigars), that there thought to give them a quasi legal right; driven is any actual check in the London streets. from them at the capricious desire of the shop- Nevertheless, a large proportion of the streetkeepers, some of whom have had bitter reason, by trading without a licence is contrary to law, and the diminution of their own business, to repent the people seeking to obtain a living by such their interference. They are bandied about at the means are strictly liable to fine or imprisonment, will of a police officer. They must "move on" | while even those street-traders whom the Act and not obstruct a thoroughfare which may be specially exempts--as for instance the street-sellers crammed and blocked with the carriages of the of fish, fruit, and vegetables, and of eatables and wealthy until to cross the road on foot is a danger. / drinkables, as well as the street artizans, and who They are, in fine, a body numbering thousands, are said to have the right of “exposing their who are allowed to live in the prosecution of the goods to sale in any market or fair in every city, most ancient of all trades, sale or barter in the borough, town.corporate, and market-town"--even open air, by sufferance alone. They are classed as these, I say, are liable to be punished for obstructunauthorized or illegal and intrusive traders, though ing the highway whenever they attempt to do so. they * turn over" millions in a year.

Now these are surely anomalies which it is The authorities, it is true, do not sanction any high time, in these free-trade days, should cease. general arbitrary enforcement of the legal pro- The endeavour to obtain an honest and indescription of the Street-Folk, but they have no option pendent livelihood should subject no man to fine if a section of shopkeepers choose to say to them, or imprisonment; nor should the poor hawker" Drive away from our doors these street-people." the neediest perhaps of all tradesmen-be required It appears to be sufficient for an inferior class of to pay 41. a year for the liberty to carry on his tradesmen-for such the meddlers with the street business when the wealthy shopkeeper can do so folk generally seem to be—merely to desire such "scot-free.” Moreover, it is a glaring iniquity a removal in order to accomplish it. It is not that the rich tradesman should have it in his necessary for them to say in excuse, “ We pay power, by complaining to the police, to deprive his heavy rents, and rates, and taxes, and are forced to poorer rival of the right to dispose of his goods in let our lodgings accordingly; we pay for licences, and the streets. It is often said, in justification, that some of us as well pay fines for giving short weight as the shopkeepers pay the principal portion of to poor people, and that, too, when it is hardly safe the rates and taxes, they must be protected in to give short weight to our richer patrons; but the exercise of their business. But this, in the first place, is far from the truth. As regards the permitted to obtain an honest living according to taxes, the poorer classes pay nearly lialf of the Act of Parliament. To think for a moment of national imposts : they pay the chief portion of “putting downi” street-trading is to be at once the malt duty, and that is in round numbers ignorant of the numbers and character of the 5,000,0001, a year; the greater part of the spirit people pursuing it. To pass an Act declaring duty, which is 4,350,0001.; the tobacco duty, 50,000 individuals rogues and vagabonds, would 4,250,0001.; the sugar duty, 4,500,0001., and be to fill our prisons or our workhouses with men the duty on tea, 5,330,0001.; making altogether who would willingly earn their own living. Be. 23,430,0001., out of about 50,000,0001. Con- sides, the poor will buy of the poor. Subject the cerning the rates, however, it is not so easy to petty trader to fine and imprisonment as you estimate what proportion the poor people con please, still the very sympathy and patronage of tribute towards the local burdens of the country; the petty purchaser will in this country always but if they are householders, they have to pay call into existence a large body of purveyors to quota of the parish and county expenses directly, the poorer classes. I would suggest, therefore, and, if lodgers, indirectly in the rent of their and I do so after much consideration, and an apartments. Hence it is evident, that to consider earnest desire to meet all the difficulties of the the street-sellers unworthy of being protected in case, that a number of poor men's markets" be the exercise of their calling because they pay established throughout London, by the purchase neither rates nor taxes, is to commit a gross in or rental of plots of ground in the neighbourhood justice, not only to the street-sellers themselves by of the present street-markets; that a small toll be forcing them to contribute in their tea and sugar, paid by each of the Street-Sellers attending such their beer, gin, and tobacco, towards the expenses markets, for the right to vend their goods there of a Government which exerts itself rather to that the keeper or beadle of each market be likeinjure than benefit them, but likewise to the rate-wise an Inspector of Weights and Measures, payers of the parish; for it is a necessary conse- and that any hawker found using “slangs" of quence, if the shopkeepers have the power to any kind, or resorting to any imposition whatdeprive the street-dealers of their living whenever ever, be prohibited entering the market for the the out-of door tradesmen are thought to interfere future---that the conduct and regulation of the with the business of those indoors (perhaps by markets be under the direction of a conmittee underselling them), that the street-dealers, being consisting of an equal number of shareholders, unable to live by their own labour, must betake sellets, and working men- the latter as reprethemselves to the union and live upon the labour sentatives of the buyers—and that the surplus of the parishioners, and thus the shopkeepers funds (if any, after paying all expenses, together may be said to enrich themselves at the expense, with a fair interest to the shareholders of the not only of the poor street-people, but likewise market) should be devoted to the education of of their brother ratepayers.

the childreti of the hawkers before and after the Nor can it be said that the Street-Sellers are hours of sale. There might also be a penny interlopers upon these occasions, for if ancient savings'- bank in connection with each of the marcustom be referred to, it will be found that the kets, and a person stationed at the gates on the Shopkeepers are the real intruders, they having conclusion of the day's business, to collect all he succeeded the Hawkers, who were, in truth, the could from the hawkers as they left. original distributors of the produce of the country. There are already a sufficient number of poor

But though no body of Shopkeepers, nor, markets established at the East end of the indeed, any other class of people individually, town-- though of a different character, such as should possess the power to deprive the Hawkers the Old Clothes Exchange to prove the pracof what is often the last shift of struggling ticability of the proposed plan among even the independence-the sale of a few goods in the pettiest traders. And I am convinced, after long street-still it is evident that the general con- deliberation, that such institutions could not but venience of the public must be consulted, and tend to produce a rapid and marked improvement that, were the Street Traders to be allowed the in the character of the London Hawkers. right of pitching in any thoroughfare they pleased, This is the only way evident to me of meeting many of our principal streets would be blocked up the evil of our present street-life-an evil which with costers' barrows, and the kerb of Regent | is increasing every day, and which threatens, ere street possibly crowded like that of the New Cut, long, almost to overwhelm us with its abominawith the hawkers and hucksters that would be tions. To revile the street people is stark folly, sure to resort thither; while those thoroughfares Their ignorance is no demerit to them, even as it which, like Fleet-street and Cheapside, are now is no merit to us to know the little that we almost impassable at certain times of the day, do. If we really wish the people better, let from the increased traffic of the City, would be us, I say again, do for them what others have rendered still more impervious by the throngs of done for us, and without which (humiliating as street-sellers that the crowd alone would be sure it may be to our pride) we should most assuredly to attract to the spot.

have been as they are. It is the continued forUnder the circumstances, therefore, it becomes getfulness of this truth-a truth which our necessary that we should provide for the vast wretched self-conceit is constantly driving from body of Street-Sellers some authorized place of our minds—that prevents our stirring to improve resort, where they might be both entitled and the condition of these poor people; though, if we

LONDON LABOUR AND TAE LONDON POOR.

knew but the whole of the facts concerning That there is every day a greater difficulty for them, and their sufferings and feelings, our very working men to live by their labour-either from fears alone for the safety of the state would be the paucity of work, or from the scanty remunerasufficient to make us do something in their behalf. tion given for it-surely no one will be disposed to I am quite satisfied, from all I have seen, that question when every one is crying out that the there are thousands in this great metropolis ready country is over-populated. Such being the case, it to rush forth, on the least evidence of a rising of is evident that the number of mechanics in the the people, to commit the most savage and revolt- streets must be daily augmenting, for, as I have ing excesses-men who have no knowledge of before said, street-trading is the last shift of an unthe government of the country but as an armed employed artizan to keep himself and his family despotism, preventing their earning their living, from the “Union.” The workman out of work, and who bate all law, because it is made to appear sooner than starve or go to the parish for relief, to them merely as an organised tyranny--men, takes to making up and vending on his own actoo, who have neither religious nor moral princi- | count the articles of his craft, whilst the underpaid ples to restrain the exercise of their grossest pas- workman, sooner than continue toiling from morn. sions when once roused, and men who, from our ing till midnight for a bare subsistence, resorts to very neglect of them, are necessarily and essen the easier trade of buying and selling. Again, tially the dangerous classes, whose existence we even among the less industrious of the working either rail at or deplore,

classes, the general decline in wages has tended, The rate of increase among the street-traders it and is continually tending, to make their labour is almost impossible to arrive at. The population more and more irksome to them. There is a cant returns afford us no data for the calculation, and abroad at the present day, that there is a special the street people themselves are unable to supply pleasure in industry, and hence we are taught the least information on the subject; all they can to regard all those who object to work as appertell us is, that about 20 years ago they took a taining to the class of natural vagabonds; but guinea for every shilling that they get now. This where is the man among us that loves labour ! heavy reduction of their receipts they attribute to for work or labour is merely that which is irk, the cheapness of commodities, and the necessity some to perform, and which every man requires to carry and sell a greater quantity of goods in a certain amount of remuneration to induce him order to get the same profit, as well as to the in to perform. If men really loved work they would crease in the number of street-traders; but when pay to be allowed to do it rather than requestioned as to the extent of such increase, their quire to be paid for doing it. That occupation answers are of the vaguest possible kind. Arrang- which is agreeable to us we call amusement, and ing the street-people, however, as we have done, that and that only which is disagrerable we term into three distinct classes, according to the causes | labour, or drudgery, according to the intensity of which have led to their induction into a street- its irksomeness. Hence as the amount of remulife, viz., those who are born and bred to the neration given by way of inducement to a man to streets -- those who take to the streets and go through a certain amount of work becomes re. those who are driven to the streets, it is evident duced, so does the stimulus to work become weathat the main elements of any extraordinary in kened, and this, through the decline of wages, crease of the street-folk must be sought for among is what is daily taking place among us. Our opethe two latter classes. Among the first the in ratives are continually ceasing to be producers, crease will, at the utmost, be at the same rate and passing from the creators of wealth into the as the ordinary increase of the population-viz., exchangers or distributors of it; becoming mere 14 per cent. per annum ; for the English coster- tradesmen, subsisting on the labour of other mongers and street-traders in general appear to people rather than their own, and so adding to be remarkable rather for the small than the large the very non-producers, the great number of number of their children, so that, even supposing whom is the main cause of the poverty of those all the boys and girls of the street-sellers to be who make all our riches. To teach a people brought up to the same mode of life as their the difficulty of living by labour is to inculcate the father, we could not thus account for any enor- most dangerous of all lessons, and this is what mous increase among the street-folk. With those, we are daily doing. Our trading classes are inhowever, who take to the streets from the love of creasing at a most enormous rate, and so giving a "roying life," or the desire to “shake a free rise to that exceeding competition, and conse, leg”-to quote the phrases of the men them quently, to that continual reduction of prices-all selves--or are driven to the streets from an ina- | of which must ultimately fall upon the working bility to obtain employment at the pursuit to man. This appears to me to be the main cause of which they have been accustomed, the case is far the increase of the London street people, and one different.

| for which I candidly confess I see no remedy.

OF THE STREET-SELLERS OF SECOND-HAND ARTICLES. I HAVE already treated of the street-commerce in | They have comprised the necessaries, delicacies, such things as are presented to the public in the form or luxuries of the street; they have been either the in which they are to be cooked, eaten, drank, or used. raw food or preparations ready cooked or mixed for

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