THE HOMES OF THE WORKING CLASSES.*
IT is not likely that this book will be popular, or that it will be read with pleasure except by those who are already devoted to the Cause of sanitary reform. But it ought to penetrate into much wider circles, and there is one class which ought to be compelled to
• The Homes of the Working Classes, with Suggestions for their Improvement. By James Hole. London : Longnums. 1868.
i read it, the class which has not profited by the teaching of such facts as it contains. We pay Mr. Hole a compliment when we say that to this class his book will seem the worst that was ever written. No one can read the history of his own sins without shame and rage, but hardened sinners turn those feelings against the man who exposes their vices, not against the vices themselves. The members of such corporations as that of Leeds, who had the most perfect means of providing against epidemics, as the registrars supplied particulars of every death, and who put a stop to this information because it cost about 100/. a year to collect ; the owners of poor cottages, where there is no drainage and no limit to overcrowding; the great land lords, who keep labourers off their estates, may derive benefit from publicity, if they knew not of their neglect, or may be shamed into a right course by the pressure of opinion. Mr. Hole must be glad that since his book was written the new Sanitary Act has put many things on a better footing, and that some of the evils instanced in his pages have ceased to exist in the interval between their publication and our review of his volume. Still there are clauses of the Act which will not be properly enforced unless the full extent of the mischief is known, while much that Mr. Hole describes is past reform, and must be cured by revolution.
The facts collected by Mr. Hole make up a complete picture of the present sanitary condition of many large towns, and of the total neglect of the simplest laws by local boards, nuisance autho- rities, and landlords. Some cases indeed are so bad as to be almost unfit for publication. The chapter on "Leeds " in the appendix is simply revolting. But even where no gross cases of overcrowd- ing occur, where the dead are not kept in the same room or on the same bed as the living, the high death-rate may tell its own tale of imperfect drainage. In Leicester it was found that while the average age at death in the drained streets was 23k years, and in the partially drained streets 17i years, in streets which were entirely undrained it was only 13f years. In Salisbury the annual mortality was reduced from 28 to 21 in the 1,000, and in Ely from 26 to 21, by drainage. The account given of some houses in Leeds where typhoid fever prevailed shows more clearly than figures can what is the difference between drains and no drains.
"In six there were no main drains in the streets, and the houses were drained into sump holes. In one there was no drainage of any description. In ten the drains ended in the earth at a little distance from the house. One occurred in a house unconnected with the drain, which ran up the centre of the street. In six the drains were perfect, but had no fall, and the sinks were stated to smell 'awfully ' in warm weather. In six more the smell was described in similar terms, but there was a good fall to the drain. In three the kitchen, in which the people chiefly lived, was apparently below the level of the drain. In three more there was a pigsty°, and in four out-buildings close to the house, all in a neglected state. Six cases occurred in one house, in which the drain appeared to be pretty good, bat there was a large crack in the flagstone in front of the door, through which the smell of sewer was distinctly perceptible. In three more cases in one family the dirty state of the house seemed to favour the access of fever, which, however, in this case, as in the last, could be distinctly traced to contagion."
Yet there will always be people to maintain that cleanliness does not matter. The Mayor of Chichester proclaimed publicly that money spent in draining or watering the city would be simply thrown away. A "Gas Director" wrote to the Times lately and proclaimed that the bad smells given out by London gas were favourable to health, because none of the men employed at the gas works had died of the cholera. And though there came a direct contradiction next day, and it was shown that no clam of men had suffered so severely from cholera as the men at the gas works, the director will probably persist in preaching up the efficacy of bad smells. Certain theorists hold that smoke is healthy, and that though the consumption of smoke may make our towns more cheerful, it will be directly prejudicial to health. Yet as man cannot breathe where light will not burn, so the atmosphere which kills plants is fatal to human lungs. And again the figures of the death-rate are significant. In London, during the ten years before the Smoke Consumption Act passed, the death-rate was 25 per 1,000; during the ten years after the Act had passed, though the population had increased half a million, it was 24 per 1,000. The sanitary arrangements of Manchester are in some respects better than those of London, yet the amount of unconsumed smoke is much greater, and the death-rate is 6 per 1,000 higher.
Unquestionably such matters as drainage, consumption of smoke, and removal of nuisances are public concerns, and should be cared for by the Government. They are things with regard to which the word liberty has no meaning. If our Government has left them to be managed by individuals, it was on the clear understanding that each one would take his share of the general
At, the same time it is objected that the working classes cannot pay enough to make such schemes remunerative. But this is not true. The per-centage paid by the wretched hovels which ought to be condemned by law is almost fabulous. It is calculated that the rents paid in some of the miserable dens of St. Giles's average 6/. per 1,000 cubic feet, as much as is paid for the most aristocratic mansions in. London. The people who live in- the lowest and worst houses are by no means the worst paid, says Mr. ,
Hole. They as little as they can for rent in order to spend as much-as they can at the public-house, and, as the public-houae acts upon the lodgings, so the wretched lodgings. react on the public-house by driving their inmates thither. So great is the passion for saving in house-rent in order to spend on the body, that Mr. Walker, the "Original," and, a police-magistrate, , said that if empty casks were placed along the streets of Whitechapel each one would find a tenant. These facts should prove that model-lodging houses ought to pay, if they were fairly started. But the start is
far from easy. The want is too great, and it will be so long be-
fore the effect on the people would be appreciable that philan- thropy of itself cannot suffice Alderman Waterlow made a suggestion for procuring capital which might answer in a time of low interest and firm credit, but is not certain after the long reign of 10 per cent. and panic.
"The figures and facts he had brought forward made out a proper case for the operations of a public company, a body having a large capital divided into two classes, the protected capital and the unpro- tected capita], the former bearing a fixed rate of interest, four per cent., the latter taking the commercial risk and the rest of the profit. He made this suggestion because he was told, on very good authority, that there were plenty of people who, if they could be guaranteed a fixed rate of four per cent., would be glad to invest large sums of money in such an undertaking ; and he believed that the puolic would be readily tempted to take up the unprotected capital, on the prospect of obtaining 10 or 12 per cent, for their money. In this case he showed a return of over 9 per cent., even under the disadvantage of the high ground-rent which he had mentioned; but if they thought this over-estimated, let them strike off 20 or 25 per cent as a discount on his statements ; that would then leave them more than 6 per cent, and the difference between that and 4 per cent., which would have to be paid on the pro- tected capital, would bring up the other half—the unprotected capital— to 9 per cent."
Another idea is to interest the working classes themselves, as has been done at Halifax, by the plan of a building society. But if the reader wishes to know what has been done by the great benefactors of the working man, he must turn to Mr. Hole's volume, where he will find accounts of Copley, Sal taire, Akroydon, and West Hill Park, with block plans and bird's-eye views which would make many a man sigh for a cottage near a factory.
We think, however, there is one suggestion which has not been properly pressed by Mr. Hole, but which might have an over- duty, and the only fault of the Government was that it did not inspect the performance of the work which it had delegated.
We think, indeed, that such duties should 'be discharged by the Government directly, and the new Public Health Bill is a first step towards this end. There are things, however, mentioned in . Mr. Hole's book which come more strictly within the scope of individual enterprise ; works which must be done by private
persons, though the Government may exercise a proper super- vision. The authorities may check overcrowding, but they can- not provide new houses for the surplus population. They may see that proper arrangements are adopted in the houses of the poor, but they cannot force the inmates to make use of them. They may condemn cellars and hovels, but they cannot build model lodging-houses. That the present owners of the lower class of house property will not introduce any improvements is perfectly clear. Some of them are too poor to look after their own houses, others want too high a per-centage for their money. The question is how capital is to be tempted into the field. It is said that the average dividends paid by model lodging-houses do not exceed 5 per cent., though some of those in London have paid 8. per cent, and others 12i per cent. on the outlay. But if no more than 5 per cent, can be counted on, few will be found to engage in the work as a speculation. Mr. Hole does not like to leave the work to charitable and philanthropic persons :— " The improvement of the dwellings of the poorer classes to any appreciable extent, is not a work which can be accomplished by chari- table subscriptions. Philanthropy can scarcely be expected to grapple with an evil of this magnitude. It may give the.impulse, but the work must be conducted by wise organization and on ordinary commercial principles. In short, unless experiments in this clirectiop pay, they will not be repeated, and they must pay as much as any of the ordinary investments of 'capital, including compensation for the trouble and risk connected with undertakings of this description. The attempts hitherto made, though successful in some aspects, have not fulfilled this cardinal condition. Most of the model lodging-houses of London have not averaged four per cents"
whelmin' g effect in the promotion of his object. Readers of newspapers must have observed that the elevation of Mr. Gathome Hardy to the Presidency of the Poor Law Board has excited a wonderful zeal in the Tories against the abuses of the workhouse system. If the Conservatives would think of the necessary result of -raising the working man, they would be equally zealous in favour of model lodging-houses. A speech by Mr. Scholefiekl, M.P. for Birmingham, is quoted in this volume, and the facts it gives. ought to satisfy Mr. Henley :—
" The objects which Mr. Taylor had in view were not originally what they are at the present time. Mr. Taylor had one object then, which he thought that gentleman did not now see his way quite clearly to achieving. He wanted to create forty-shilling freeholders, and make them all Liberal voters for the county. It was a very patriotic object, and one in which he seconded Mr. Taylor very warmly; but he believed the result was that, after putting a very considerable number of voters on the register for North Warwickshire, a very large proportion of those who had passed as Liberals previously turned round and voted for the Conservatives. He only mentioned the fact in order to show how the society had somewhat changed its objects. Their present object was both political and moral, but political in the larger sense of enabling their fellow-townsmen to increase and extend the franchise, rather than in the narrower sense of creating party voters. As all present would be aware, it was an easy matter to put men on the register, but to tell them how to vote when they got there was another matter. And the promoters of the society now said that it did not matter what a man's politics were, but they wished to extend the franchise in that way which they considered—he would, not say the best, but the safest—namely, to, give votes to the men who were willing, by the exercise of frugality, industry, temperance, self-reliance, and self-control, to earn their votes for themselves. It had been well said that to toss votes to people by Act of Parliament, as you would toss coppers to boys, was not the best. way to make a good franchise. This might or might not be true ; but- he believed that whenever any Reform Bill should be passed, the best class of voters would be those who had earned their right to vote by the means he had just mentioned."
We, who call ourselves Liberals, may be contented with the thought that we have done our duty, and may be satisfied to- place new voters on the register without taking their pledge that they will vote as we tell them. But this is not the principle of the, Conservatives. They want some.ulterior object. They must know what is to be the gain to the cause. It is far easier to talk' about "roughs," and to tell us that the models of Mr. Nicol's. pictures are the people whom Mr. Gladstone wished to reward with, political power, than to engage in any scheme for humanizing those models, and for giving the "roughs" something better to think about than the destruction of park railings. But the Tories are always ready to do good if it does not cost them a vote, and it would be a a great satisfaction to them to rob Mr. Beales of his following.. They have here a very simple method proposed for extending their power, and the only objection to it is that it would not be- at the expense of any other political party. Whether they will adopt it or not remains to be seen.
Should these remarks procure Mr.-Hole's book a sale among the Conservatives, he will forgive us the injury we may seem to have done him by our opening sentence. But even there we in- tended him no injury. We have ourselves read his book with' great interest, and we fully accept most of its conclusions. Much of it indeed was painful to us, but we do not know that any part, was wantonly or unnecessarily painful. As a collection of materials the book has very high merits, and it is no discredit to Mr. Hole that he has not put those materials before the reader' in such a way that the most careless would draw their moral.