Gladstone, William Ewart - Suppressing obligations - Campaign against the misuse of power
Type of Spiritual Experience
One is reminded of Margaret Thatcher’s concerted efforts to get rid of the ‘closed shop’, an identical form of institution run by the trade unions at the time of her premiership.
A description of the experience
Gladstone became concerned with the situation of "coal whippers". These were the men who worked on London docks, "whipping" in baskets from ships to barges or wharves all incoming coal from the sea.
They were called up and relieved through public-houses and therefore a man could not get this job unless he possessed the favourable opinion of the publican, who looked upon most favourably those who drank. The man's name was written down and the "score" followed.
Publicans issued employment solely on the capacity of the man to pay, and men often left the pub to work drunk. They spent their savings on drink to secure the favourable opinion of publicans and therefore further employment.
Gladstone passed the Coal Vendors Act 1843 to set up a central office for employment. When this Act expired in 1856 a Select Committee was appointed by the Lords in 1857 to look into the question. Gladstone gave evidence to the Committee:
"I approached the subject in the first instance as I think everyone in Parliament of necessity did, with the strongest possible prejudice against the proposal [to interfere]; but the facts stated were of so extraordinary and deplorable a character, that it was impossible to withhold attention from them. Then the question being whether legislative interference was required I was at length induced to look at a remedy of an extraordinary character as the only one I thought applicable to the case...it was a great innovation".