Letter XXXIV: Monday, February 11, 1850
In my last letter it may be remembered that I gave the alterations in the export of foreign boots and shoes for a series of years, together with the rate of importation since the quantity introduced into this country has become in any way worthy of remark. I obtained the official returns in connection with this subject, because I found that the men in connection with the Westend trade attributed the reduction in their wages, in a great measure, to the French boots and shoes brought into the kingdom since the change in the tariff. In the present letter, which treats principally of the women's-men, it will be seen that the journeymen refer the decline in their wages rather to the over-population of the trade, owing to the system of "chamber-mastering," having a tendency to draft into the business all kinds of juvenile labour. As a
means of enabling the reader to test the validity of these opinions, I have taken some little trouble to calculate the rate of increase in the principal trades between the taking of the census of 1831 and 1841; and it will be seen, by referring to the subjoined tables, that the number of hands belonging to the boot and shoe making trade increased during that interval both in the country and in the metropolis, at a far greater rate than any other occupation. It should be borne in mind, that the average rate of increase throughout England and Wales in ten years is about ten per cent.