Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/38

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28
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tween master and men there came estrangement more and more, until sometimes the workpeople scarcely ever saw their veritable employer. Under these circumstances the conditions of apprenticeship were completely changed, not suddenly, but gradually, until the apprentice became merely the boy worker, with less wages but more solemn engagements than a journeyman. The master to whom he was bound no longer taught him his trade; he was, so to speak, pitchforked into the workshop to pick up his trade as best he could, or to learn it from the many journeymen who were there employed. It was no one's duty to teach him; there was no pay and no responsibility,"

The present state of British commerce brings home the conviction that it is no idle cry that has sounded ever and anon in our ears, warning us of the deterioration in the quality of our manufactures and in the average caliber of our skilled artisans. International exhibitions have from time to time afforded the means of drawing comparisons between the work of other nations and our own work; comparisons by no means always in our favor, often the reverse. Apprenticeship, with its wholesome rules, having decayed in everything but form, the lads who enter the shops are never properly instructed, but are made the drudges of the older workmen. What wonder that they acquire habits of idleness and carelessness that not only pursue them through the whole of their work, but, worse than this, corrupt and undermine their morals? What wonder that their manij)ulation is but half acquired, or that the methods and devices they learn to apply are those of half a century ago; ancient relics of prejudice and unscientific "rules of thumb," handed down by the tradition of the shops, a veritable survival of the unfittest? Without the shadow of a doubt the truth that there is—and alas, that there is—much truth in the outcry concerning the inferiority of training and capacity of the British artisan, may be very largely imputed to the relaxation and degeneration of the old system of apprenticeship; for, with all its faults, it did at least provide that a skilled master should become personally responsible for the training of the apprentice in his craft. In that famous codicil to his will wherein Benjamin Franklin devised so many thoughtful legacies to promote the well-being of the land and city of his adoption, he wrote—and we must remember how intimate and many-sided was his acquaintance with the condition of labor in his day—these ever-memorable words: "I have considered that, among citizens good apprentices are most likely to make good citizens." If this be true, seeing how rare a good apprentice is in the present day, the aphorism instilled into our ears as schoolboys, Boni cives rari (good citizens are scarce), threatens to receive a weighty comment from the experience of the nineteenth century! Be this as it may, a very little consideration will show how real is the crisis to be faced, and how irrevocably of the past the apprenticeship of the past is.

What, then, must be done? "Apprenticeship is absolutely neces-