Lower Class

A.k.A. The Surplus Population, The Proletariat

In the lower classes, the men make a meager living by doing whatever they can. Vocations are either for life, as in the case of mill workers, or for a couple of weeks of casual labor until the next job appears.

Often women of the lower classes have to earn as well. Although this practice is second nature to inhabitants of the 21st century, it is a scandal to the middle class occupants of the 1800s. Allowing a woman to work shames an upper or middle class family, as it suggest the family cannot look after her otherwise. Her potential desire to improve herself or help her family is immaterial. Many women can and do perform the same factory vocations as men, but are paid less! Many (especially in the cities) have to supplement their incomes by street vending or prostitution. In the rural areas, young women and girls are typically found working the fields along with the menfolk. Once married, they are responsible for the home and bringing up the family; Women are also responsible for the education of any children.

Rural life is less harsh for the lower classes in some ways. There is less crime and vice than in the cities. Unfortunately, due to the urban population drain, the remaining rural workforce is frequently stretched to exhaustion. However, as previously stated, the traditional life of the rural lower classes has been changed in many areas due to the discovery of coal upon their squire’s land. The subsequent sale of the land has forced migration into the cities (leaving fewer neighbors to help those that remain at harvest time). Many of the former rural people cannot adapt to city life, with its crime, pollution and overcrowding and, as a result, often seek solace in alcohol or opium. Others are easily exploited by pimps and organized gangs as they are less wary than the streetwise proletariat, and often have no extended family to support them in their new homes.

As with the middle classes, the greatest opportunities exist abroad, particularly in the white-dominated colonies in the Antipodes, America and South Africa. Here, in theory at least, a poor man can gain status and riches purely by dint of his hard toil and willingness to work the land. It is true that one can gain such wealth by merely staking one’s claim (particularly in Australia, where “squatting” or taking over unclaimed land allows a person reasonably free rein) but often in the Colonies, as at home, it is the traditional moneyed classes who hold the monopoly on trade.

However, the allure of the Colonies can be a strong one, and it is true that many settlers of humble origins have "done well" abroad. (Abraham Lincoln himself was descended from such humble English stock). Also, with rural resources stretched at home, the role of the sheep-farmer in the Antipodes or crop-farmer in British North America is becoming increasingly important. Even an independent small holder can make a fine living by exporting to the mother country.

The Celtic people of the British Isles make up a disproportionate percentage of the lower classes, particularly in Ireland, where the mostly Catholic Irish have been effectively barred from owning land. Catholic fathers have to split their land between all their sons, thus constantly dividing the land into smaller pockets. In Scotland, the destruction of the traditional clan-based life in the highlands following the doomed Jacobite rebellion of 1745–46 led to a largely English or anglicized ruling class over a largely Scottish lower class. This, combined with the Irish potato famine of 1848 (which killed almost 2 million Irish men, women and children), has led to a vast Celtic diaspora in the colonies and the United States of America. In these regions, prejudice against the Welsh, Scots and Irish is either subtler or less apparent.

Resources

A lower class man has no resources to speak of; neither have his friends (unless they are criminals). Not many people do have resources on the poverty line. A working man can receive varying wages depending upon his work: servants often receive a small wage (three shillings and eight pence a week for a maid, seven and six for a butler or housekeeper) with bed and board. Factory workers in the country often sleep on the factory floor, while in the city an independent landlord would provide a slum area fl at or a terraced house in ill-repair. Whitechapel and Spitalfields are two such areas, each with high unemployment, vicious gangs terrorizing the streets and high levels of crime and prostitution. GBH, murder and rape are relatively common crimes in the fog.

A typical wage for a lower class man is one pound, eight shillings and tuppence (£95 a year) for a working week; for a woman doing the same honest work £1.2/6 and for a child 3 shillings to the parents. Hence the tendency for lower class workers to have large families, as the children can earn money that goes directly to the parents.

There is no minimum wage and employers have little regard for the health and welfare of their employees. Ironically enough, the slaves in the cotton states of America are frequently better off than the urban lower classes of Britain. A factory owner does not own his workers – and there are plenty more waiting for work, hence the value of an urban worker is frequently less. A lower class man dreams of a life with a servant, where his children do not have to work cleaning chimneys, where his home does not leak, where he can walk down the street after dark without fear. Sadly, considering that the minimum wage for survival is approximately one pound, five shillings and sixpence a week (£80 a year) for a single person, that dream will probably remain a dream.

Ethics

The lower classes make up the manual and military labor force of the civilized world. They are downtrodden by all, and the majority actually struggle to survive on an 'honest' wage.

  • Money? Money is hard to make, there's no point in talking about it when you should be earning it.
  • Education? Education sounds wonderful, you wish that you could afford it.
  • Other classes? The upper classes are put above you for a reason, it's always been that way, and it always will be. It's not for you to question the likes of the aristocracy. The middle classes are no better than you really, no matter how little they like it with their high and mighty airs.
  • Religion? You always attend church when you can; it is a solace in a hard life.
  • Marriage? Marriage between two folk in love is a wonderful thing, but not something to be taken lightly.
  • Honor? Honor is fine for those who can afford it; you just try to be honest.