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take work in a marine or locomotive engine factory or to go into a tool shop or an agricultural implement-making establishment; and, the question of wages and personal comfort apart, it is a matter of indifference to him whether his shop be a new, a repair, or a general one. In the same way, if a carpenter, he can take anything from coffin-making up to cabinet-making or pattern-making. If an engineer, he is prepared to take vice or lathe or to go into the erecting shop.
In practice there are unfortunately difficulties in the way of such a man turning himself to the best account in this respect. Occasionally an employer, or a 'putting-on' manager or foreman, wedded to extreme views upon the system of subdivision of labour, may be prejudiced against a workman of the all-round type. They may have an idea that the man who has heretofore wrought in a marine shop will not be able to hold his own on locomotive work, but, as they have the remedy in their own hand, in case their doubt should be, or appear to them to be, justified, they do not allow their antipathies to become operative if they really want men.
The greatest difficulty of the all-round workman on this point lies not in the objection of employers, but in the bigotry of fellow-workmen, many of whom have a blind, unreasoning belief in the doctrine of each man to his trade'-trade in the mouths and minds of such men generally meaning some single sub-section of a trade. This is emphatically a narrow-minded view, and those entertaining it, acting after the fashion of their narrow-minded kind, strive to frustrate those who seek to give practical effect to wider views of trade limitations.
The policy of obstruction and occasionally of terrorism resorted to for this end makes itself felt chiefly in those trades which are more or less strictly localised. In such trades as the building and engineering, which are carried on all over the country, and which involve a considerable amount of knocking about' upon the part of many of those engaged in them, more liberal ideas have a greater though not a complete ascendency. Altogether, the feeling here referred to is materially detrimental to the interests of the best class of workmen, and in individual cases often inflicts great hardship. Foolish action is generally supported by foolish argument. When the artisan class or any considerable body of them are blamed for indulging in this form of restriction of trade, they frequently reply as though two blacks did make a white. They retort that the learned professions—and more particularly the law-set them the example, and argue that a course of action that is right for the legal profession can scarcely be wrong for working men.
Whether or not it is demonstrably true that the legal profession does strictly enforce the principle of each man to his (branch of) trade, whether under the euphemism of legal etiquette they are
guilty of practices that are charged as sins against trades-unionism, I cannot say. If it is true, so much the worse for the profession, and especially so much the worse for those members of the public whom an evil fate casts upon the tender mercies of the profession. But also so much the greater the mistake of working men in following their example to do evil. To the cry of 'Every man to his trade,' in the sense of once that trade always that trade, may fitly be applied the saying, “It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.'
On the Continent, I am told, and still more in America, it is no uncommon thing to meet with artisans who have worked not only at two or three branches of one trade, but at two or three distinct trades. Having regard to existing conditions in the mechanical crafts, there is no good reason why such workmen should not be common, though in England such a man in a workshop would be quite a phenomenal personage. In this country there is, as a rule, only one means by which an artisan can benefit by the ability and skill to practise more than one handicraft. If he chooses to become a trade . Hal o'th' Wynd,' and work for his own hand by uniting in his single self the positions of jobbing master-man and journeyman, he can work at as many trades as he likes, which will mean in practice as many as he can show himself sufficiently competent in to obtain employment. I have known men who in this way respectively combined carpentry and watch-making, house-painting and shoemaking, plumbing and bird-stuffing, cabinet-making and sign-writing, and blacksmithing and coopering. In each case these men turned their hands to the second trade at times when they were out of work at their original calling, and in each case they came to do well between the two trades. When they had not a job at the one, they had at the other, and while thus having constant employment, their earnings, time for time, were greater than they would have been as journeymen at either one of the trades. In the same way, I knew a bricklayer who turned monumental mason, and a moulder who became a sewingmachine and bicycle repairer. In these cases, the men were so successful, that from their single-handed and make-shift beginnings, the one in a backyard, the other in a back kitchen, they became master-men in the fuller sense of the word-were able to organise workshops and employ journeymen.
After this fashion it may be said that it is open to English artisans to change or multiply their trades as often as their tastes, ability, or necessities may make them wish to do so; but practically this fashion is available to but a very limited extent. The leading trades of the country cannot be carried on in a general jobbing-hand style. It is an unavoidable condition of their continued existence that they must be carried on by bodies of journeymen, gathered together in workshops and factories; and to the ordinary factory journeyman desirous of changing his craft and still remaining a journeyman, the unwritten but powerfully operative law of each man to his trade offers an almost insuperable obstacle. The point is perhaps not one of first-rate importance, but, so far as it goes, it may safely be said that it is bad for the trades and for workmen in them that it should be so. A young fellow on coming out of his time, or even before, may discover that he has mistaken his vocation, or that those who apprenticed him had mistaken it for him. He may know, moreover, or at least believe that he knows, for what trade he has true vocation. He may be willing and anxious to undergo all the struggle and sacrifice legitimately incidental to a change of trade; to work as a learner or improver at low wages, and abide the risk of peremptory dismissal, if he does not show unmistakable aptitude for his new calling. In the case of his not showing such aptitude, the journeyman of a trade need not fear his competition.
On the other hand, if a man who comes into a trade edgeways proves himself to be the right man in the right place, he is one who is likely to do credit to the trade and strengthen it. The perseverance, energy, self-reliance, and instinctive sense of the fitness of things which enable him to conquer the trade, make him a valuable member of it, a living argument for a good rate of pay. On the same principle, the man who is compelled to remain at a trade in which he is, and is conscious of being, a mistake will always be more or less of a hard bargain in it, and will afford a pretence, if not a justification, for low wages.
That this is so, that the changing about of round and square pegs till they find their right holes would strengthen the pegs en masse, should be, one would think, self-evident. As a matter of fact it is not. A majority of the artisan classes do not see it.' ‘Every man to his trade' blocks the way to change. The cobbler must stick to his last, though he may be a bad shoemaker, and might make a good craftsman of another kind. The chief argument brought forward in support of the each man to his trade' policy is that it is not right that men who have served a regular apprenticeship to a trade should be subjected to competition from men who have picked up the trade by some irregular and shorter method. There is something in this, though hardly in the direct sense in which the contention is generally applied. Men who pick up a trade must in effect serve an apprenticeship. However clever they may be, they cannot become full-fledged journeymen at a single swoop. Their apprenticeship may be irregular and comparatively short, but in one way or another it is made correspondingly sharp, the path of the picker-up being always a more or less thorny one. That men of mechanical proclivities and with a fair share of nous could, if they were allowed, pick up a trade in a relatively short period of time, is no reason for preventing them from acquiring a craft for which they feel themselves fitted.
The conclusion to which such opposition points is, as it seems to me, that the ordinary period of regular apprenticeship is in the circumstances of the present day too long. It exacts a payment from the artisan classes too high and too hard for the value received, a price so high and hard that to men not used to draw fine distinctions it appears to justify a spirit and policy of monopoly and exclusion. When the seven long years' which is the usual period of a bound' apprenticeship was fixed, the contracting master craftsman expressly undertook to teach the apprentice or cause him to be taught the whole art and mystery of his craft. For this the time was not too long, in some cases might be all too short. We are still within very measurable distance of a time when a boy who was bound to such a trade as the engineering was 'put through the shops. He went from department to department, gaining a general knowledge of and a certain degree of handiness in each, and only settling down to the branch to which he was found best suited during the last year or two of his time. Consequently, during the greater part of his seven years he was really a learner, and as such probably earned no more than the small rate of wages paid him, any gain that there might be on his work during his last year or two being regarded as in the nature of counterbalance to loss upon him in his first year or two.
Upon those conditions, apprenticeship was an equitable and effective arrangement. The trained journeyman entered upon his career specially qualified for one branch of his trade, and so far qualified in the other branches that he could readily turn his hand to them, could honourably and confidently either seek or accept employment in them. In whatever branch of his trade he did work, his general knowledge of its other branches added to his value, and, being able to change from branch to branch himself, he had less reason than has the one-job man of the present day for holding monopolist views.
But we have in a great measure altered all this. Under the operation of the subdivision of labour, what were formerly branches have in many instances now come to be classed as trades. Where this is not the case, it is a common practice to stipulate that the apprentice to be, or his parents or guardians for him, may select the branch to which he shall be bound, but that, having selected it, he must keep to it, and to it alone. This is a definite arrangement, and, where it is honourably carried out, all that can be urged against it is that it is much more profitable to the masters than to the apprentice. In a great number of cases, however, the understanding is not honourably carried out upon the part of the employer. The letter of the contract is fulfilled, but not the spirit. The apprentice is not only kept to one branch of the trade, but to some single machine or piece of workmanship in it. At the one thing to which he is thus tied he of course becomes specially expert -and to the masters specially profitable. So much is the latter the case, that employers who in this way evade a fair fulfilment of their contract generally become apprentice farmers as well as—and often more than-manufacturers. Individually they may be successful men, but there can be no doubt that their proceedings tend to injure the manufacturing interests of the country. It is not simply that injustice is done to the particular apprentices whose misfortune it is to be bound to such masters. Apprentice farming for profit, as distinct from journeymen making to meet the legitimate demands of skilled industry, has the effect of overcrowding the trades concerned, and that with incompetent workmen, of lowering their tone and quality, and of weakening them in the battle of international competition. Conscious of this state of affairs, many artisans prefer, if they have the choice, not to have their sons apprenticed. They get them into the workshops simply as boys, letting them take their chance as to the branch of trade to which they may be put. Where this is permitted by employers, the boys are by the good-will of foremen and workmen virtually in the position of apprentices as to opportunities for learning. At the same time they have the substantial advantage over bound apprentices, that if before they are twenty-one years of age they
fancy themselves, they can go elsewhere either as journeymen or improvers. In the latter capacity they are likely to obtain varied experience, while their wages, though below journeymen rate, are above apprentice rate. The possibilities of acquiring a trade in this manner are if anything on the increase, and it may be that the question of apprenticeship will settle itself in this manner. If it does not, I would strongly commend the subject to the serious consideration of the artisan powers that be. It is one of vital importance to their class.
As a broad suggestion, I should think that the seven long years of the good old times might be equitably cut down to four in those cases where it was expressly stipulated that the apprentice was to be taught not the whole, but a part only of the art and mystery of his craft. This would tend to induce employers to revert to the practice of teaching the whole mystery. Where it had not that effect it would qualify an artisan as a branch man at a fairer cost than he is now compelled to pay. It would give him fewer years of apprenticeship and more of journeymanhood, or, if he were of that inclining, afford him a wider latitude for picking up a second branch while still young It may be taken for granted that the narrow-minded among those who had paid a seven years' price for their own trade would be opposed to any reform of this kind; but those who wish to establish reforms must be prepared, not only to meet with, but to ignore narrow-minded and vested interest opposition.
In speaking as I have done of the subdivision of labour, I have of course had no thought of suggesting that it should be done away