HC Deb 18 March 1830 vol 23 cc542-3
Sir M. S. Stewart

begged leave to present a Petition from the Operative Weavers of Glasgow, praying for some relief from the sinking distress under which they suffered. The Petition was signed by about 4,600 individuals; and large as this number was, he was informed that it composed but a very small portion of the thousands that were now suffering the severest privations from the extremely low rate of wages given to Operative Weavers in Glasgow. The petitioners averred, "that the average income of each family, according to the strictest investigation, amounts only to about 3s. 6d. of clear money per week, or does not exceed 4s., and that after ninety-six hours of incessant labour." The petitioners attribute their destitute condition to the rapid increase of population, and the still more rapid increase of machinery in Glasgow,—causes over which the House had no control, and could not, therefore, be responsible for their effects, heavy and afflictive as they in this instance declared them to be, and it was very natural that the petitioners, in their wretchedness should "presume that in the hands of this House rested the power to carry into operation measures of relief for the existing distress, and by efficient regulations, prepare means of happiness and subsistence to almost any amount of population." He sincerely wished that he could feel convinced that it was in the power of the House to afford the asked-for relief, unless it was by opening the vast markets of India and China to the enterprise of their employers. But undoubtedly these petitioners, and thousands of their fellow operatives, were enduring, both themselves and families, deep and heavy misery; and he most earnestly offered their well-drawn petition to the just and compassionate consideration of the House. He begged to take the opportunity of saying, and he had much satisfaction in doing so, which would prevent him trespassing on the time of the House, in the long interesting debate that was to be continued that night, that, with the exception of the operative weavers (and that only made their case the harder), he had good reason to believe,—and he had taken much pains to ascertain the facts from the best sources,—that the manufacturers of Glasgow and Paisley were in rather a better condition than last year; and that, small as profits were, still they had improved, and were considered, by those best qualified to judge as still showing a tendency to improve.

Ordered to lie on the Table.

Mr. Hume

supported the prayer of the petition, though he did not see by what means that House could give the petitioners any relief, except by reduction of taxation. It was a singular anomaly, he observed, in so rich a country as this, that so many thousands of the poor labouring classes should have to work for so many hours in the day at wages of 3s. 6d. per week. He agreed with every part of the prayer of the petitioners, except where they objected to machinery. No doubt, they suffered from it, and he regretted it, but the introduction of machinery had been productive of great benefit to the country.

Mr. Brownlow

presented a Petition from the Operative Weavers of Dublin, complaining of distress, and praying for means of employment. The petitioners thanked the House, the hon. Member observed, for the advantages of civil and religious liberty they enjoy, but they venture to complain of the unparalleled distress from not having a market for their commodities. They complained chiefly of the want of a home market, and they therefore prayed the House to encourage the erection of public works in Ireland. Government, they thought, might advance money without the risk of loss, which, judiciously laid out, would give employment to thousands. All they asked for was employment.

Petition referred to the Committee on Irish Poor.