We earnestly recommend to the attention of our readers a small pamphlet, price 6d., which has just made its appearance, entitled, “Advice to Journeymen Mechanics and others going to France.” To which is added, “A Brief Account of Paris, the Price of Provisions, Rent, Clothing, Rate of Wages to Mechanics, &c. &c. By C. Best.”
The work is the result of the author’s own personal experience, and has therefore peculiar claims to the attention of his fellow tradesmen. His advice is, that our mechanics should by all means stay at home; but he gives, at the same time, such directions as may enable any of them who may choose to make the experiment of crossing the channel,—either for pleasure, or with a view to settling in France,—to make the trip in the cheapest and most expeditious way, to obtain an asylum among their own countrymen when they arrive there, and to satisfy themselves completely on every point relating to rates of wages, and expence of living.
The author states, we believe most truly, that most of the particulars contained in his pamphlet are “entirely new, and not to be found in any work hitherto published.” We shall extract, as the specimen we like best, some of his reasons for staying at home:—
“If the mechanic leaves England under the idea that he shall obtain constant employ in France, or better wages, he will be deceived—he will not meet with either. I have known numbers of experienced good workmen unable to get work, unless they would take less wages than they could have obtained, and would have refused with disdain, in their own country, and shall hereafter prove, that when in employ, and receiving the highest wages, they fall short of the wages given in England.”
“The very evil the mechanic, by leaving England, endeavours to avoid, he has to contend with in France—not a want of work, but too many hands to execute the business to be done. The consequence is, that having arrived in Paris with little or no money, he is compelled to work for low wages, or submit to a subscription being made by his countrymen to enable him to return to his native country, disappointed and degraded.”
“My Fellow Countrymen! let me advise you to disregard any promises of great wages, three or five years constant employ, artful assurances of the cheapness of living, and other such trash—you who accept such offers, and bind yourselves by agreement, are worse off than those who go on mere speculation. You will find yourselves little better than apprentices, and in the power of unprincipled masters, with this difference, that you will have to instruct a parcel of Frenchmen (at least to work before them, which is nearly the same thing), who will very soon do the work as well as yourselves, and for one quarter of the money. These are facts which cannot be denied.”
“With regard to provisions, there is little difference between London and Paris, if we look at the quality—of French bread for instance, you have more for money, but it is not so satisfying; however, as there are several kinds of bread, you will be able to choose that which suits yon best. If you wish to have bread, and many other articles, equal to what you have in London, you must pay at least as much for them. The following list will give a pretty general idea, as it does not comprise the best articles:
“Vegetables are much the same as in London, but fruit is prodigiously cheap.”
“Good beer is only to be had at the English public houses, which will be named hereafter.—Draught, per pot, 4d., in bottle 5d. The pots of Paris are of earthenware, and smaller than the pots of London, so that this article may be considered dearer than at the latter place: it is likewise, though pleasant, not so good.”
“Brandy may be had very good at thirty sous, or 2s. 6d. the bottle; gin the same; rum is dear, but may be obtained pretty good at five francs, 4s. 2d. the bottle; wine fifteen sous, and upwards.”
“Rent of course varies, as in London, according to the situation. A single man may get a lodging at three francs per week, or I should rather say a bed, for in a cheap lodging-house they generally have two or three beds in a room; if not, he must pay five francs per week at least. A man with a family would find it difficult to get a furnished room under seven francs per week, and then have to purchase almost every thing for his use, there seldom being more than a bed, two or three chairs, and a table, in what the French people call furnished apartments.”
“Clothing is reasonable in Paris, as the following will prove:—”
“Ladies’ wearing apparel, now that silks may be purchased in England as cheap, if not cheaper than in Paris, may be considered dear. Cottons run high. A common cotton pocket-handkerchief, which in England might be purchased for sixpence, and of a better quality, would cost fifteen or twenty pence. Leghorn bonnets are much worn by the English ladies: they may be had as low as ten francs, and as high as one hundred francs.”
“Wages.—The price of labour, in many cases, depends upon the agreement made between the employer and the employed; I shall, however, present my reader with a list of those trades which employ English journeymen; if, therefore, his trade is not in the list, he may take it for granted he would not meet with employ.”
* In the Coach line the journeymen have what is termed the London Prices, reckoning a Franc equal to a Shilling.
“There are a few other trades, such as the Watchmaker, Engraver, Tailor, &c, carried on by little masters, but they do very indifferently, owing to the very low wages given to French journeymen, enabling their masters to undersell the English tradesmen.”
“In stating the prices of provisions, rent, and clothing, I have studied the comfort of the traveller, as, for instance, a lodging may be had for a franc, 10d. per week; a complete suit of clothes for twenty francs, 16s. 8d.; and a single man may exist upon ten sous, 5d. per day; at least he may provision himself (in the French way) for that sum; but I am addressing myself to Englishmen, and I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that such a mode of living as that alluded to, would not suit them, although it may the gay inhabitants of the empire of the lilies!”
“With regard to the rate of journeymen’s wages, I can assure the reader I have overrated rather than underrated them, and a better proof cannot be given that they are low than this, that during ten months I never knew an instance of a mechanic remaining; (who came to Paris on speculation) if he possessed the means of returning to England.”
“In short, France, for those who can afford to go on pleasure, is well worth a visit; but it is a mistaken notion to suppose we can live cheaper there than in England, if we live in the same way; besides, a man who has been accustomed to enjoy that freedom which an Englishman enjoys in his own country, should pause and consider seriously of what he is going to do, before he quits his native land.”
“Then, reader, as we cannot in reality better our condition by going to France, let us endeavour to rest contented at home. Let us not desert poor old England because she has weakened her resources by a long and arduous struggle to rescue a fickle and ungrateful nation from tyranny and oppression; for, although poor, she is still richer than her neighbours, still envied by them, and long may she remain so.”
“ENGLAND! WITH ALL THY FAULTS, I LOVE THEE STILL.”
Mechanics Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, & Gazette – April 3, 1824
5 thoughts on “Journeyman’s Guide to France, with Reasons for Not Staying”
Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
This is a really awesome little read. As always, Chris Schwartz finds the great stuff. Without this sort of literature we would not be able to connect with our ancestors of two centuries ago.
Chris Schwarz still deserves kudos for giving the Jeff the forum. 🙂
If you put that in context, labor unions (combinations) were prohibited at that time, and workers in England had no collective bargaining rights. Having endured a horrible war with France, England’s economy was boom-bust afterward, with massive labor unrest and unemployment. (but Swarf is a Luddite, no? so he already knows bout this…just failed to mention)
1800—Combination Act—labor unions were not encouraged
1802—Factory Act—small beginning in labor legislation, poor-law children
1803—General Enclosures Act—simplifies enclosure of common land
1805—Battle of Trafalgar
1807—Abolition of the Slave Trade
1811—Depression; “Luddite” movement in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire
1813—East India Company’s monopoly abolished
1815—Corn Law Amendment
1817—Slump; the Blanketeer’s march, other disturbances
1819—Factory Act—legislation applied to all children
1819—Peterloo massacre, troops intervene at mass labor reform meeting, killing 11 and wounding 400
1820—Death of George III, accession of George IV
1821-3—Famine in Ireland
1825—Trade Unionism Legalized; commercial depression
cf. Mark Knopfler’s Why Aye Man (YouTube)…workers forced to leave England during Thatcher’s austerity and find work in Germany.
Wherever you go, there you are. The grass is only greener because it’s fertilized with bull****.
…or painted. Did you that the Queen thinks the world smells of paint?
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