§ Mr. Sadler
Sir—In rising to move the second reading of the Bill which I have had the honour of introducing into Parliament, for regulating the labour of children, and young persons, not being free agents, employed in our mills and factories of whatever description, I beg leave to remind the House that, consulting the con- 341 venience of that branch of his Majesty's Government whose more especial duty it is to attend to subjects of this nature, I postponed the discussion upon the principle of the measure to this stage of its progress, and that I have, also, from the same motive, deferred, from time to time, the opportunity of moving the second reading of the Bill, for which I have anxiously waited until the present evening. In now proceeding to discharge, as well as I am able, the task I have undertaken, I shall, as far as I can, consistently with the importance of the subject, and the great and general interest which it has excited throughout the entire community, compress the arguments and facts upon which I found the main proposition of this measure. Hence, though I have been long acquainted with the question, still I shall less present my own views and impressions regarding it than those of other and far higher authorities. Nor shall I misapply many moments of the time to which I shall attempt, on this occasion, to limit myself, by any allusion personal to myself, however much I may have been provoked to such a course. In bringing forward this measure I make no pretensions to a degree of humanity beyond that which I share with the people at large; still less am I influenced by any views adverse to the prosperity and extension of our manufactures and commerce: least of all can I be governed by feelings otherwise than cordial to those engaged in these great concerns. On the contrary, in pursuing my present course, I am acting under the impression, at least, that the measure which I propose will advance the true and permanent interests of the manufacturers, the cordial encouragement and support of many of the most humane, wealthy, and best informed of whom, I regard as the strongest proof of the necessity of the measure, and the surest pledge of its success. As to the imputations of those who wish to defeat this attempt as they have defeated preceding ones of a like nature, not only by thwarting the designs, but by maligning the motives, of those who make them; and who, therefore, accuse me of being instigated by a mere desire of popularity in now bringing forward a measure which some of them know well enough, that I had advocated as strongly long before I was in Parliament, as I can do on the present occasion—I say, as to their imputations, I should have passed 342 them over in silence, only that they afforded me an opportunity, which I will not neglect, of proving, even from the mouths of its opponents, that the measure is highly popular—in the fullest and best sense of the term—and the House, I think, has seen that its popularity is founded upon the steadfast principles and sober feelings of the British community, and that those who resist it must reckon on their just contempt and honest indignation. This is no personal question, nor, to the honour of this House, as has been already seen, is it a political question: it is supported by the wise and the good of all parties and of every persuasion, and must finally triumph. Sir, the Bill which I now proceed to implore the House to sanction by its authority, has, for its purpose, to liberate children and other young persons employed in the mills and factories of the kingdom, from that over exertion and confinement which common sense, as well as long experience has shown to be utterly inconsistent with the improvement of their minds, the preservation of their morals, or the protection of their health: in a word, to rescue them from a state of suffering and degradation which, it is conceived, the children of the industrious classes in hardly any other country endure, or ever have experienced, and which cannot be much longer tolerated. Sir, I am aware that some Gentlemen profess, upon principle, a great reluctance to legislate upon these matters, holding such interference to be an evil. So, I reply, is all legislation—upon whatever subject—an evil only to be tolerated for the purpose of preventing some greater evil; and I shall, therefore, content myself with meeting this objection, common as it is, by simply challenging those who urge it to show us a case which has stronger claims for the interposition of the law, whether we regard the evil to be abated in regard to the suffering individuals, to society at large, to posterity, or to the utter helplessness of those on whose behalf we are called on to interfere; or, lastly, the fact—which experience has left no longer in doubt—that if the law does not, there is no other power that can or will adequately protect them. But, I apprehend, the strongest objection that will be offered on this occasion will be grounded upon the pretence that the very principle of the Bill is an improper interference between the employer and the employed, and an attempt 343 to regulate by law the market of labour. Were that market supplied by free agents, properly so denominated, I should fully participate in those objections. Theoretically, indeed, such is the case, but practically, I fear the fact is far otherwise, even regarding those who are of mature age; and the boasted freedom of our labourers in many pursuits will, on a just view of their condition, be found little more than nominal. Those who argue the question upon mere abstract principles seem, in my apprehension, too much to forget the condition of society, the unequal division of property, or rather its total monopoly by the few, leaving the many nothing whatever but what they can obtain from their daily labour; which very labour cannot become available for the purpose of daily subsistence, without the consent of those who own the property of the community, all the materials, elements, call them what you please, on which labour is to be bestowed, being in their possession. Hence it is clear that, excepting in a state of things where the demand for labour fully equals the supply (which it would be absurdly false to say exists in this country), the employer and the employed do not meet on equal terms in the market of labour; on the contrary, the latter, whatever be his age, and call him as free as you please, is often almost entirely at the mercy of the former: he would be wholly so were it not for the operation of the Poor-laws, which are a palpable interference with the market of labour, and condemned as such by their opponents. Hence is it, that labour is so imperfectly distributed, and so inadequately remunerated, that one part of the community is over-worked, while another is wholly without employment; evils which operate reciprocally upon each other, till a country which might afford a sufficiency of moderate employment for all, exhibits at one and the same time part of its inhabitants reduced to the condition of slaves by over exertion, and another to that of paupers by involuntary idleness. In a word, wealth, still more than knowledge, is power, and power, liable to abuse whenever vested, is least of all free from tyrannical exercise, when it owes its existence to a sordid source. Hence have all laws, human or divine, attempted to protect the labourer from the injustice and cruelty which are too often practised upon him. Our Statute-book contains many proofs of 344 this, and especially in its provision for the poor.
The Anti-Truck Bill of last year is an instance of the same benevolent interposition. Above all, that sacred institution which has been adopted and legally enforced, as far as the limits of civilization extends, and which justifies its claim to its divine origin by its humanity and mercy—the institution of the Sabbath, is a constantly recurring interference between the employer and the employed, solely and avowedly in favour of the latter. For myself I cannot help regretting, that almost every other red-letter day is now blotted out from the dark calendar of labouring poverty, whose holidays are now too "few and far between," to cheer the spirits, or recruit the health of our industrious population. Nor has the introduction of machinery redressed this great and growing evil. It was promised, indeed, and might have been hoped, that the great inventions of recent times would have restored some of these; would have abridged human labour somewhat in its duration, and abated its intensity: and it is only by effectuating this that machinery can justify its very appellation, as consisting of inventions to shorten human labour. As now applied, it has too often the contrary effect. Sir, I look forward to the period when machinery will really vindicate its pretensions, and surpass, in its beneficial effects, all that its most sanguine advocates have anticipated: when those inventions, whether so complicate and minute as almost to supplant the human hand, or so stupendous as to tame the very elements, and yoke them to the triumphal car of human industry, shall outstrip our boldest expectations, not so much, indeed, by still further augmenting the superfluities of the rich, as by increasing the comforts and diminishing the labour of the poor; thereby restoring to the mass of our fellow beings those physical enjoyments, that degree of leisure, those means of moral and mental improvement, which alone can advance them to that state of happiness and dignity to which, I trust, it is their destiny to attain. Hitherto, however, I repeat, the effect has been far different. The condition of the operative manufacturer has been rendered more and more dependent and precarious: the labour of those of them that are employed is, in many cases, so increased, as to be utterly irreconcileable with the preservation of either health 345 or life: infancy itself is forced into the market of labour, where it becomes the unresisting victim of cruelty and oppression; while, as might be expected from such an unnatural state of things, the remuneration for this increasing and excessive degree of' toil is regularly diminishing, till at length multitudes among us are reduced, in their physical condition at least, below the level of the slave or the brute. In proof that this is no singular or overcharged view of the present effects, or, at all events, of the inevitable consequences of this dreadful system, I shall appeal to the language of a benevolent and enlightened individual, formerly a Member of this House, and an ornament to it and the country—I mean the late Sir Robert Peel. His deliberate judgment upon this important subject is recorded in a document which he delivered to the Committee on this Bill in 1816:—Such indiscriminate and unlimited employment of the poor (says that distinguished individual) consisting of a great proportion of the inhabitants of the trading districts will be attended with effects to the rising generation so serious and alarming, that I cannot contemplate them without dismay; and thus that great effort of British ingenuity, whereby the machinery of our manufactures has been brought to such perfection, instead of being a blessing will be converted into its bitterest curse.Neither in quoting this passage, nor in making the few observations which introduced it, would I be understood to recommend any interference with the efforts of human ingenuity, or with the market of labour, as applied by free agents. In shewing, however, how far even adults are from being free agents, in the proper meaning of the term, but, on the contrary, how dependent they often are for their employment and their daily bread upon the will of others, I think I have prepared the way for the conclusion, that children, at all events, are not to be regarded as free labourers; and that it is the duty of this House to protect them from that system of cruelty and oppression to which I shall—waiving many observations that here present themselves—presently advert. As for the common-place objection urged against the necessity of a legislative protection being extended to these children, that their parents are free agents, and that the children, therefore, ought to be regarded as such, I apprehend that it has but little force in any point of view. The 346 argument, however, is so often and so confidently urged, that I shall be excused in giving it a moment's attention.
Sir, the parents who surrender their children to this infantile slavery may be separated into two classes. The first of these, and, I trust, by far the most numerous, consists of those who are obliged, by extreme indigence, so to act, but who do so with great reluctance and with bitter regret: themselves, perhaps, out of employment, or working at very low wages, and their families, therefore, in a state of great destitution, what can they do? The Overseer, as is in evidence, refuses relief if they have children capable of working in factories whom they refuse to send there. They choose, therefore, what they deem, perhaps, the lesser evil, and reluctantly resign their offspring to the captivity and the pollution of the mill: they rouse them in the winter morning, which, as the poor father says before the Lords' Committee, they "feel very sorry" to do—they receive them fatigued and exhausted, many a weary hour after the day has closed—they see them droop and sicken, and, in many cases, become cripples and die, before they reach their prime: and they do all this, because they must otherwise suffer unrelieved, and starve, like Ugolino, amidst their starving children. It is mockery to contend that these parents have a choice; that they can dictate to, or even parley with the employer, as to the number of hours their child shall be tasked, or the treatment it shall be subject to in his mill; and it is an insult to the parental breast to say, that they resign it voluntarily—no, Sir,
"Their poverty, and not their will consents." Consents, indeed! but often with tears, as Dr. Ashton, a physician familiar with the whole system, informed the Committee; a noble Member of which, indeed, observed to one of the poor parents then examined, who was speaking of the successive fate of several of his children, which he had been obliged to send to the factory—" You can hardly speak of them without crying?" The answer was "No!" and few, I should suppose, refrained from sympathizing with him. Free agents! To suppose that parents are free agents while dooming their own flesh and blood to this fate, is to believe them monsters! But, Sir, there are such monsters: unknown, indeed, in the brute creation, they belong to our own kind, and are found in our own country; 347 and they are generated by the very system which I am attacking. They have been long known and often described, as constituting the remaining one of the classes of parents to which I adverted. Dead to the instincts of nature, and reversing the order of society, instead of providing for their own offspring, they make their offspring provide for them: provide—not for their necessities alone, but for their intemperance and profligacy. They purchase idleness by the sweat of their infants, and spend the price of their happiness, health, and life, in the haunts of profligacy and corruption. Thus, at the very same hour of the night that the father is at his guilty orgies, the child is panting in the factory. Such count upon their children as upon their cattle—nay, to so disgusting a state of degradation does the system lead, that they make the certainty of having an offspring, the indispensable condition of marriage, that they may breed a generation of slaves. These, then, are some of the free agents, without the storgé of the beast, or the feelings of the man, to whom the advocates of the mill-system assure us we ought to intrust the labour of little children. One of these free agents, a witness against the late Sir Robert Peel's Bill, confessed, before the Committee, that he had pushed his own child down and broken her arm, because she did not do as he thought proper, while in the mill. The Lords refused to hear the wretch another word. And shall we listen to those who urge us to commit little children to such guardianship? Sir, we have heard, in a late memorable case, a dictum, uncontradicted I believe in any quarter, stating that, by the Constitution of England, the first law officer of the Crown, representing the Sovereign, is the guardian of all children, of whatever rank, improperly treated by their parents; but that that Court was limited in its interference by the circumstance of there being property under its control. Will it be contended, then, that in these extreme cases of cruelty and oppression (for such I shall call them), where protection is far more imperatively demanded, that poverty should be a bar against the course of British justice? If so, let us boast no longer of the impartiality of our laws! Why, Sir, if in a solitary instance a parent were to confine his child, or a master his apprentice, in a heated room, and keep him at his labour more hours than nature could sustain, and 348 at length the victim were to die under the tyrannous oppression, and a Coroner's inquest were to return a verdict of murder upon the occasion, what would be the result? And are the multiplication of such lingering murders, and the effrontery with which they are perpetrated, to become their expiation? if not, it is high time that the Legislature should interfere and rescue from the conspiracy of such fathers, and such factory-masters instigated by kindred feelings, these innocent victims of cruelty and oppression.
There are other descriptions of children, also, whom I should be glad to know how the objectors to whom I am alluding make out to be free agents. I mean poor orphan children—a class which the system is a very efficient instrument in multiplying: very few adult spinners, as it is often alleged, and as I shall prove, surviving the age of forty; in many instances, therefore, leaving their children fatherless at a very early period of life. Indeed, so numerous are these, that a physician, examined on the occasion to which I have so often alluded, was painfully struck with the proportion. Are these orphans free agents? Again, there are in all manufacturing towns a great number of illegitimate children, and these, also, are greatly increased by the system in question. I am aware that a celebrated authority has said, these are, comparatively speaking, of no value to society—others would supply their place—yet still I cannot but regard these as objects of the deepest compassion. To this list of free agents I might also add the little children who are still apprenticed out in considerable numbers, often, I fear, by the too ready sanction of the Magistrates whose hard treatment has been the subject of many recent communications which I have received from individuals of the highest credit and respectability. But, as the objectors to legislative protection for the factory-children can make it out to be unnecessary, because their parents are free vents for them, when they have any surviving, so also it is quite as clear, probably, in their apprehension, that the parish officer is as good a free agent for the poor orphan, the illegitimate, or the friendless little apprentice, who may be under his special protection.
But I will proceed no further with these objections. The idea of treating children, and especially the children of the poor— 349 and, above all, the children of the poor imprisoned in factories—as free agents, is too absurd to justify the attention I have paid to it. Sir, the fact is, that the protection of poor children and young persons from those hardships and cruelties to which their age and condition have always rendered them liable, has ever been held one of the first and most important duties of every Christian Legislature. Our own has not been, entirely deficient in this respect; and it is mainly owing to the change of circumstances that many of its humane provisions have been rendered inoperative, and that the present measure has become necessary. I had meant to take a short review of these various efforts down to the time of the benevolent Hanway; but interesting as the subject is, and applicable to the present discussion, I must forbear, in respect to the time it would occupy. I shall, therefore, just notice that the introduction of Sir Richard Arkwright's invention revolutionized the entire system of our national industry. Previously to that period, the incipient manufactures of the country were carried on in the villages and around the domestic hearth that invention transferred them principally to the great towns, and confined them to what are now called factories. Thus was it that children became the principal operatives; and they no longer performed their tasks, as before, under the parental eye, and had them affectionately and considerately apportioned, according to their health and capacities, but one universal rule of labour was prescribed to all ages, to both sexes, and to every state and constitution. Such a rule, therefore, it might have been hoped and expected, would have been calculated upon what the young, the delicate, and especially the female, labourers could bear. But no speak it with shame, with horror—it was stretched, in many cases—I had nearly said in almost all—beyond what the most athletic and robust of our own sex, in the prime and vigour of life, can with impunity sustain; to the ultimate destruction, in a vast plurality of instances, of the health, happiness, and life of the miserable victims. Sir, our ancestors could not have supposed it possible—posterity will not believe it true—it will be placed among the historic doubts of some future antiquary—that a generation of Englishmen could exist, and had existed, that would task lisping infancy, of a few summers old re- 350 gardless alike of its smiles or tears, and unmoved by its unresisting weakness, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen hours a-day, and through the weary night also, till, in the dewy morn of existence, the bud of youth faded, and fell ere it was unfolded. "Oh, cursed lust of gold!" Oh, the guilt England was contracting in the kindling eye of Heaven, when nothing but exultations were heard about the perfection of her machinery, the march of her manufactures, and the rapid increase of her wealth and prosperity!
Early, however, in this century, the late Sir Robert Peel, knowing well the enormities of the factory system, and finding, from his own experience, that nothing but a legislative enactment could remove them, obtained the first Act for the protection of poor children employed in cotton factories. About fifteen or sixteen years afterwards, he carried another measure of a similar but more comprehensive nature. Lastly, the right hon. member for Westminster obtained another Act last Session, having the same benevolent object in view. But on all these occasions, the attempt by whomsoever made, or whatever was its character, was met with the same strenuous, or as I might well call it, vehement opposition. Whether it was proposed to limit the labour of infants and young persons, beside the time necessary for their meals and refreshments to ten, eleven, or even twelve hours a-day, it was all one, the proposal was scouted and resisted. The motives and conduct of those engaged in attempting to obtain this protection were maligned. The universal humanity of all those engaged in every pursuit, whose power over those children was unrestrained, was boldly asserted; the superior health, happiness, and even longevity of those employed were always maintained. Whatever was the nature or duration of the employment which these young persons, whether daily or nightly pursued, it was contended that no injury, but abundance of good was done to them. On every occasion this opposition has so far triumphed, as to defeat the original intentions of those who have proposed these measures. It has succeeded in lengthening the time of infantine labour—in limiting every act to one particular branch of business—in introducing provisions which have rendered them liable to constant evasions—and it is well known, that the whole of them are 351 evaded and rendered little better than a dead letter. The very same opposition that has so long and so often triumphed over justice and humanity is again organized and actively at work.
A Committee of Inquiry is now again demanded, and I fear in order to postpone, if not finally to defeat, the measure. The nature of the evidence that will be then brought forward is perfectly familiar to those acquainted at all with the subject. Certificates and declarations will be obtained in abundance from divines and doctors as to the morality and health which the present system promotes and secures. Sir, I cannot refrain from giving a sample of what may be expected in this line, and I think it will prepare us for, and arm us against, whatever may be advanced in favour of so unnatural and oppressive a system. I mean not to impeach the veracity or the learning of the witnesses who appeared in its favour, and whose evidence cuts a very conspicuous figure in these ponderous reports; it only furnishes another proof of the strange things that may be perhaps conscientiously believed and asserted, when the mind is under a particular bias. They said, that the children who were worked without any regulation, and, consequently, according to their employers sole will and pleasure, were not only equally, but more healthy, and better instructed, than those not so occupied; that night labour was in no way prejudicial, but actually preferred; that the artificial heat of the rooms was really advantageous, and quite pleasant; that, so far from being fatigued with, for example, twelve hour's labour, the children perform the last hour's work with greater interest and spirit than any of the rest. What a pity the term is not lengthened!—in a few more hours they would be worked up into a perfect ecstacy of delight! A doctor, who is produced, will not pronounce without examination that it could be prejudicial. I must quote a few of his assertions, or rather answers to certain queries. "Should you not think (he is asked) that, generally speaking, keeping a child, eight years old, standing twelve hours in the day would be injurious?" The doctor reverses, perhaps by mistake, the figures, but his answer terminates—" I believe it is not." "Supposing (it is again asked) I were to ask you whether you thought it injurious to a child to be kept standing three-and-twenty hours out of the four-and-twenty, 352 should you not think it must be necessarily injurious to the health, withou any fact to rest upon—as a simple proposition put to a gentleman of the medical profession?" "Before I answer that question," the doctor replies, "I should wish to have an examination to see how the case stood, and if there were such an extravagant thing to take place, and it should appear that the person was not injured by having stood three-and-twenty hours, I should then say it was not inconsistent with the health of the person so employed." "As you doubted," says a noble Lord," whether a child could work for twenty-three hours without suffering, would you extend your doubts to twenty-four hours?" "That was put to me as an extreme case," says the doctor;" my answer only went to this effect, that it was not in my power to assign any limits." The same authority will not say whether it would be injurious to a child to be kept working during the time it gets its meals. Another medical gentleman "is totally unable to give an answer" whether "children from six to twelve years of age, being employed from thirteen to fifteen hours in a cotton factory, in an erect position, and in a temperature of about 80°, is consistent with safety to their constitution." Another boldly asserts, that he does not see it necessary that young persons should have any recreation or amusement, nor that the constant inspiration of particles of cotton is at all injurious to the lungs. Reports of the state of certain mills were also given, but the reporters seem to have totally forgotten that they had examined a body of persons constantly recruited, from which the severely sick, and those that had retired to die, were necessarily absent; and not to have suspected that many of these mills were also previously and carefully prepared for such inspection. Still, I observe, that it is allowed that "many of them" (the children) "were pale, and apparently of a delicate complexion," but "without any decided symptoms of disease." Why, what did that paleness and delicacy in the rosy morning of life indicate? That disease, though not decided as to its symptoms, was decidedly fastening with mortal grasp upon its victims; that early labour and confinement had, "like a worm i'the bud, fed on their damask cheek;" that the murderous system was then about its secret, but certain, and deadly work. In corroboration, however, 353 of all that these learned persons advanced, and in full proof of the excellency of the entire system, bills of mortality of certain places and works were adduced; in some of which, it was made to appear that, in a mean number of 888 persons employed, the mortality had, during eight years, averaged 3–875–1000th only, or one in 229. This sort of evidence suggests many ludicrous ideas, which, however, as unsuitable to the subject, I shall suppress; it will, doubtless, be again adduced in great abundance before another select Committee. Physicians, divines, and others, would be found to testify to the same effects. I will show the true value of all such certificates before I sit down. Parliament, indeed, did not regard these champions of the factory-system on the former occasion, for the Bill was passed in spite of their opposition; and, after what I shall advance, I hope the House will not again trouble them.
Without attending any further to this species of opposition, I now proceed to show the necessity of a general measure for regulating the labour of children and young persons employed in mills and factories, of whatever description, the protective Acts already obtained, having been confined in their operation to one branch of manufacture only, and in that, almost entirely defeated as to their original intention and design. I need not inform the House, that the great invention of Sir Richard Arkwright, originally used for the spinning of cotton, has at length been applied, with the necessary adaptations, to a similar process in almost all our manufactures. Now, the fact that Parliament has several times, notwithstanding the severest opposition, seen it necessary to regulate the labour of children in the former pursuit, proves the same necessity to exist regarding those other factories, now so numerous, which have been hitherto entirely exempted from all such control. It would be the grossest injustice, as well as insult, to argue that those engaged in the cotton trade were one whit less humane and considerate, and, consequently, required legislative interference one whit more than those engaged in spinning any other material. And if it be contended, that the labour of the latter is in many cases either unhealthy or less immoderate than that of the former, I meet the assertion with a direct negative.
And, first, in reference to one descrip- 354 tion of spinners, from some of whom I am now meeting with opposition of every kind, I mean the spinners of flax—I would seriously ask any Gentleman who has himself gone through a modern flax-mill, whether he can entertain the slightest doubt, that the occupation, as now pursued, must, in many cases, be injurious to health and destructive of life? In many departments of those mills, the dust is great, and known to be highly injurious. In those in which fine spinning has been introduced, the air has to be heated, as in certain of the cotton mills; the flax has also, in one of its processes, to be passed through water heated, I am told, to a high temperature, into which the children have constantly to plunge their arms. In the heckling rooms, in which children are now principally employed, the dust is excessive. The rooms are generally low, lighted by gas, and heated in these cases by steam; altogether exhibiting a state of human endurance which I will not trust myself to describe. I will appeal to a higher authority on these subjects. I hold in my hand a treatise, by a medical man of great intelligence—Mr. Thackrah of Leeds, who, in his work "On the Effects of Arts and Trades on Health and Longevity," thus speaks of this pursuit, especially of the dusty parts in it:—"A large proportion of men in this department die young."—" We find, indeed, comparatively speaking, few old persons in any of the departments of the flax mills." "On inquiry at one of the largest establishments in this neighbourhood, we found that, of 1,079 persons employed, there were only nine who had attained the age of fifty, and besides these only twenty-two who had reached forty." It may, however, perhaps, be here remarked, that this factory census does not exhibit the rate of mortality, but merely indicates that few adults are required in these establishments. If so, then another enormous abuse comes into view, namely, that this unregulated system over-labours the child, and deserts the adult, thus reversing the natural period of toil, and leaving numbers without employment, or the knowledge how to pursue it if they had, just at the period of life when they ought to commence active exertions. Why, Sir, this is to realize, in regard of these poor victims of premature labour, the fate of the poor little chimney-sweeper, whose lot, once commiserated so deeply, is now, I think, too much forgotten, and whose 355 principal hardship is not so much that his business is of a degraded kind, as that, when he has learned his business, he has outgrown it, and is turned upon society to learn some occupation late in life, and to seek an employment for which he is unqualified. So far, therefore, this unrestricted factory-system perpetrates the deepest injury, not only on individuals, but upon society at large.
But, to return to Mr. Thackrah: He says, "that a visitor cannot remain many minutes in certain rooms without being sensibly affected in his respiration;" also, that "a suffocating sensation is often produced by the tubes which convey steam for heating the rooms." He examined, by the stethoscope, several individuals so employed, and found "the lungs or air tube considerably diseased" in all of them. He adds, that the coughs of the persons waiting to be examined were so troublesome as continually to interrupt and confuse the exploration by that instrument. He says, "that though the wages for this labour are by no means great, still the time of labour in the flax mills is excessive; the people are now (November, 1830) working from half-past six in the morning until eight at night, and are allowed only an interval of forty minutes in all that time." Thus human beings are kept in an atmosphere of flax dust nearly thirteen hours in the day for six days in the week. "No man of humanity," he observes, "can reflect without distress on the state of thousands of children, many from six to seven years of age, roused from their beds at an early hour, hurried to the mills and kept there, with an interval of only forty minutes, to a late hour at night, kept, moreover, in an atmosphere loaded with noxious dust." "Health," he exclaims, "cleanliness, mental improvement, how are they regarded! Recreation is out of the question. There is scarcely time for meals. The very period of sleep, so necessary to the young, is too often abridged. Nay, children are sometimes waked even in the night. Human beings thus decay before they arrive at the term of maturity. "He observed elsewhere" that this system has grown up by a series of encroachments upon the poor children, that the benevolent masters are not able to rectify these abuses. A legislative enactment is the only remedy for this, as well as the other great opprobrium of our manufactures, the improper employment 356 of children." Such, Sir, are the opinions of this medical gentleman on the subject, written long before the present Bill was before the House, and founded upon daily observation and experience.
I might add the opinion of another very excellent practitioner of the same place, Mr. Smith, respecting the cruelty of the present system, and the misery and decrepitude which it inflicts upon its victims; but his opinions, given with great force and ability, have, I think, been already widely disseminated by means of the press. The other surgeons of the General Infirmary, all men of great professional eminence, entertain, I believe, precisely similar opinions. One of them, Mr. Hey, a name that must, on being mentioned, command the highest respect in every medical society, whether of England, or, indeed, of Europe, presided, as Mayor of Leeds, at an immensely numerous meeting of the inhabitants of that borough, when the petition presented from that place in favour of the Bill, signed by between 18,000 and 20,000 names, was unanimously agreed to.
In silk and worsted mills, and especially in the former, the nature of the employment may be less prejudicial in itself; but then its duration is often more protracted, and it falls in a larger proportion upon females and young children. In many spun-silk mills, in which a different operation from that of silk throwing, and one conducted upon Arkwright's principle is carried on, the practice of working children at a very tender age, and often all night, prevails. In one of these, I am informed, they commence at one o'clock on the Monday morning, and leave off at eleven on Saturday night; thus delicately avoiding the Sabbath, indeed, but rendering its profitable observance, either for improvement, instruction, or worship, an utter impossibility.
In the worsted mills the greatest irregularities have, in this respect, existed; and, therefore, occasional oppression has long prevailed. Let the following extract suffice, from a document drawn up by a gentleman in this branch of business, Mr. Wood, to mention whose name is to kindle up at once the most enthusiastic feelings in the bosoms of the honest operatives of the north, and to whom is due the honour of originating and supporting this attempt, and who, while he has conducted his manufacture with 357 the greatest humanity and kindness, has still earnestly sought to ameliorate the general condition of the labouring poor. This gentleman gives the ages of 475 persons, principally females, employed at a worsted mill, which, it appears, average about twelve years and a half. He says, "Children of these years are obliged to be at the factory, winter and summer, by six o'clock in the morning, and to remain in it till seven in the evening, with but one brief interval of thirty minutes, every day except Saturday, ceasing work on that day, in some factories, at half-past five, in others at six or seven pm. Not unfrequently this labour is extended till eight or nine at night, fifteen hours—having but the same interval for meals, rest, or recreation; nay, such is the steady growth of this over-working system, that children have been confined in the factory from six in the morning till eight at night, fourteen hours continually, without any time being allowed for meals, rest, or recreation—the meals to be taken while attending the machines; and this the practice of years." This picture, sufficiently appalling, has also to be darkened by the addition of frequent night labour. Sir, this is the practice at Bradford and the neighbourhood.
But, to show that the evils are confined to no particular neighbourhood, but that they prevail wherever children are the principal labourers of the community, I shall next advert to their usage in the principality of Wales, in the flannel manufacture. I quote the following account, which I have received from the most respectable quarter. With certain fluctuations in the degree of labour, resulting from the difference in the demand of the manufactured goods, the children work twenty-four hours every other day, out of which they are allowed three hours only for meals, &c. When trade is particularly brisk, the elder children work from six in the morning till seven in the evening—two hours allowed for meals, &c,—and every other night all night, which is still a more severe case. For this additional night labour they receive 5d. There is another lamentable circumstance attending the employment of these poor children, which is, that they are left the whole of the night alone—the sexes indiscriminately mixed together—consequently you may imagine that the depravity of our work-people is indeed very great. The adults 358 are employed in feeding the engines. Independent of moral considerations, the accidents that occur to these poor little creatures are really dreadful—the number of mutilated and amputated limbs to be met with are quite distressing, and ever must be, till some better regulation is carried into effect. There is not a single place of charitable education for 8,000 children beyond a Sunday school.—As to woollen mills, certain departments in these, especially since the introduction of the French machines, are injurious to health, but, generally speaking, otherwise. But here I might argue that the reason usually given against the necessity of regulating the excessive labour of children employed in factories no longer holds, as the labour in woollen mills is, in general, much more strenuous than that in most of the before-mentioned factories. But, Sir, I disdain to avail myself of an argument, however plausible, which I believe to be fallacious. It is not so much the degree of labour which is injurious to these workchildren—(how revolting the compound sounds; it is not yet admitted, I think, into our language; I trust it will never be familiarised to our feelings). I say it is not so much the degree, as the duration, of their labour that is so cruel and destructive to these poor work-children. It is the wearisome uniformity of the employment, the constrained positions in which it is pursued, and, above all, the constant and close confinement, which are more fatiguing to the body as well as mind than more varied and voluntary, though far stronger, exertion. Sir, I dwell upon this point with more emphasis, because it is the sole possible plea for the long and imprisoning hours of the present laborious system; though, when properly considered, it is one of the strongest arguments against it. Light labour, Sir, is the labour of holding a pen, and of writing with it strenuously; and yet, ask a clerk in any of the public offices, or in any private counting-house, whether when he has been at his employment some half-dozen hours in the day less than one of these children, he does not think that he has had enough of this light labour—to say nothing of the holidays, of which he has many, and the child none. Ask the recruit recent from the plough, whether an hour of his light exertion is not more fatiguing than any three he ever endured in the field. Ask his veteran offi- 359 cer, how long he can subject even the old soldier to this sort of slight but constrained exertion in the open air with impunity. I might appeal to the Chair, whether the lingering hours which have to be endured here, though unaccompanied with any bodily exertion whatever, are no "weariness to the flesh." But what would be the feelings of the most active individual among us, if we were compelled to pace that table, for instance, engaged in some minute and anxious employment, stunned with the noise of revolving wheels, suffocated with the heat and stench of a low, crowded, and gas-lighted apartment, bathed in sweat, and still stimulated by the scourge of an inexorable task-master: I say, what would be his ideas of the light labour of twelve or fourteen hours in such a pursuit, and when the night also was added to such a day once or twice in every week? And how would be feel if long years of such light labour lay before him. Let him, if he be a parent, imagine the child of his bosom in that situation, and then judge concerning the children of thousands of others, who are as dear to the Universal Parent as are his own. Let him think of his own childhood, and he will then remember that this light labour is the fatigue of youth, and that strenuous exertion, when the buoyant spirits exercise the entire frame, is its sport.
Sir, I might quote authorities on this subject, but it were unnecessary so to do. Common sense and common feeling at once decide the point; and dispose of this plea of tyranny for this slavish captivity of our infants and our youth. Hence the late Sir Robert Peel, in bringing forward his last measure, emphatically observed, that it was not so much the hardship as the duration of labour, which had caused the mischievous effects on the rising generation. But, if hon. Members choose to argue the question on different grounds, and wish to establish a variation in the duration of the labour of children in mills and factories, in reference to the difference in the nature of the employment, be it so. Confident in my own mind that the Bill proposes the utmost limit which the youthful constitution can safely bear in any pursuit, I can have no particular objection that that period should be abridged in the more pernicious and strenuous employments of the country. But, of this limitation, more hereafter.
I shall not attempt at present to give 360 any precise account of the length of labour generally undergone in different mills and factories. It varies according to the humanity of the employer, and the demand for his goods at particular seasons. But let me here remark, that these variations constitute one of the main reasons for a legislative protection, otherwise the humane masters will be driven out of the trade; for these, it is quite clear, cannot control others less humanely disposed. They are, indeed, in the present state of things, as little free agents as the children whom they employ. And, moreover, the want of a due regulation throws the effects of those fluctuations to which trade and manufactures are subject in an undue and distressing degree upon those who are the least able to sustain their effects. Thus if the demand and profit of the employer increase, the labour of the operatives, most of whom are children, augments, till many of them are literally worked to death; if that demand diminish, the children are thrown partially or wholly out of employment. Were their labour averaged throughout the year, as some mill owners, I perceive, have calculated its duration, it might not, perhaps, appear so excessive; for, Sir, at the very moment that a strenuous opposition is being made against the curtailment of infantile labour, in certain flax mills in the north, I find that the masters themselves have curtailed it to some purpose, having diminished the employment in some mills, and, if I am not misinformed, shut up others entirely; and I have no doubt, but at this particular moment, abundance of evidence might be adduced, before a Select Committee, to show that the hours mentioned in the Bill are observed, and, indeed, more than observed. But, then, if it be right that the owners should be allowed to throw out of employment all these children at a day's notice, is it proper that they should be permitted to work them for an unlimited number of hours the moment it suits their purpose so to do? Sir, if the effects of this Bill were, in some measure, to equalize the labour of these poor children, and thereby prevent those fluctuations which are so distressing in both extremes, it would so far accomplish a most beneficial object. I might, I think transfer, a little of the fluctuation from the factory to the stock-room, with great advantage to the operatives, and consequently to the public at large. As I am unable to give any 361 general and uniform account of the hours of labour now endured in these factories by little children, I am unwilling to present to the House extreme cases, although it is the bounden duty of Parliament to provide against such; as it does, for example, with respect to atrocious, crimes, which, I trust, are still extreme cases in civilized society. I shall, therefore, only give one instance, which I have from good authority, of the extent of oppression to which the system is occasionally carried.
The following were the hours of labour imposed upon the children and young persons employed in a certain establishment last summer. Monday morning commence work at six o'clock; at nine, half an hour for breakfast; begin again at half-past nine, and work till twelve. Dinner one hour; work from one till half-past four. Drinking (afternoon meal), half an hour; work from five till eight, rest half an hour; work from half-past eight till twelve (midnight), an hour's rest. One in the morning till five, work; half an hour's rest, half-past five till nine; breakfast; half-past nine till twelve. Dinner; work from one till half-past four. Again, from five till nine o'clock on the Tuesday evening, when the labour concluded, and the gang of adult and infant slaves was dismissed for the night, after having toiled thirty-nine hours, with nine intervals for refreshment (but none for bed), amounting to six hours only in the whole. Wednesday and Thursday, day work only. On Friday morning till Saturday night, the same labour repeated, with the same intermissions, as endured on Monday, Monday night, and Tuesday; only the labour of the last day closed at five, when the poor wretches were dismissed. The ensuing day, Sunday, must, under such circumstances, he a day of stupor, to rouse the children from which would often only be to continue their physical sufferings without the possibility of compensating them with any moral good. And clergymen, Sunday schoolmasters, and other benevolent persons, are beginning to see and feel this to be the case: parents, wishful as they are that their offspring shall have some little instruction, are yet more anxious that they should have rest. Sunday schools have long been rendered absolutely necessary by the manufacturing system, which has necessarily emptied the day-schools for the poor, wherever it prevails; but, not content with monopolizing 362 the whole week with protracted labour, it has now anticipated the Sabbath itself, and rendered it a day of languor and exhaustion, in which it is impossible that due instruction can be received, or the solemn duties of the day duly performed—in fact, a mere fallow of the worn-out frame, that it may produce another exhausting crop of human labour. If some limits, therefore, are not prescribed to these constant and cruel encroachments, the results may be easily predicted—our labouring population will be ere long imbruted with ignorance, as well as enslaved by excessive toil.
I now proceed to show the consequences of this dreadful system, physical and moral; and as on this important part of the subject I am aware that I shall be at issue with its supporters and apologists, I shall appeal to authorities which none will be disposed lightly to dispute, but, above all, to facts, decisive, as I think, of the whole question—facts which I shall challenge them to controvert or evade. Sir, the authority to which I allude is that of such men as the late Dr. Baillie, Sir Astley Cooper, Sir Gilbert Blane, Dr. Pemberton, Sir Anthony Carlisle, Sir George Tuthill, and many other physicians and surgeons of the highest eminence and celebrity throughout the profession, especially so for their physiological science. Sir, the deliberate opinions of these distinguished persons on the subject under our consideration are contained in these volumes. I cannot read them, nor even select parts from them. Let it suffice for me to say, that they are strong and unanimous against the system of the early and protracted labour of children and young persons. I appeal to the whole of them in favour of this Bill, or rather, indeed, of a limitation far beyond what that Bill secures; so that, when I advert to their deliberate and recorded opinions, I feel a growing dissatisfaction every time I reflect upon its provisions. Sir, many of these distinguished persons still survive. If you institute new Committees of Inquiry, you must again appeal to them; and do you suppose they will contradict their former opinions? Other medical authorities of great eminence have since then appeared, whose views I know in many instances to be, if possible, still more marked and decided upon this important point; and can it be a question, I would ask the House, whether we ought to tolerate a degree of infantile labour which our most eminent 363 medical authorities assure us the human frame is utterly incapable of sustaining with impunity?
If it be objected that these individuals, however great and distinguished, have no practical knowledge of the factory-system and its effects, I will next turn to another description of evidence, namely, to that of professional gentlemen practically acquainted with it, and long residing in its very seat and centre—Manchester. The first is a name equally dear to philosophy and philanthropy, and long without a rival in his profession, in that part of the empire—Dr. Percival. He saw the rise, progress, and effects of the system; and, surrounded as he was by, and connected with, many who were making rapid and vast fortunes by it, still he expressed himself upon it, both as a professional man and a patriot, in terms of the strongest indignation. I regret that time will not permit me to quote his remarks; but who, that is acquainted with general literature, can be ignorant of the writings of Percival of Manchester? I will refer the House to another authority, belonging to a different branch of the same profession, and scarcely a less celebrated one—I mean the late Mr. Simmons. After nearly thirty years' experience in the General Infirmary of Manchester, and being also at the head of other charitable institutions in that town connected with his profession, few men, I should conceive, were more competent to speak as to the effects produced by the factory-system than himself. I must again deeply regret that I cannot quote his opinions at length: his description of the consequences of this species of over-exertion is most appalling; and he adds these emphatic words—"I am convinced that the hours of employment are too long to be endured at any age." Speaking of the evils of the system, he says—"I shudder at contemplating them. I might multiply these authentic and affecting testimonies to almost any extent." I will, however, present, in as few words as possible, the general effects, as described by medical men, of these long hours of confinement, without sufficient intervals for food, recreation, and rest, and continued often through the night in rooms artificially heated, lighted by gas, in which the atmosphere is also otherwise so polluted and offensive as to render it, as it is stated, by respiration even for a few moments, painful. They attribute to this system of labour, in many 364 cases—first, languor, debility, sickness, loss of appetite; pulmonary complaints, such as difficulty of breathing, coughs, asthmas, and consumptions; struma, so common in factories, and other chronic diseases; while, if these more distressing consequences are not produced, the muscular power is lessened, the growth impeded, and life greatly shortened. Deformity is also a common and distressing result of this overstrained and too early labour. The bones—in which the animal, in contradistinction to the earthy matter, is known to prevail in early life—are then pliable, and often cannot sustain the superincumbent weight of the body for so many hours without injury. Hence those of the leg become bent; the arch of the foot, which is composed of several of those of a wedge-like form, is pressed down, and its elasticity destroyed, from which arises that disease of the foot only lately described, but common in factory districts. The spine, also, is often greatly affected, and its processes irregularly protruded, by which also great deformity is occasioned. The tendons also fail, by over-pressure and tension. Hence the hinge-joints, such as those of the knee and the allele, are overstrained, producing the deformity called knock knees and lame ancles, so exceedingly common in mills. Thus are numbers of children distorted and crippled in early life, and frequently rendered incapable of any business whatever. Again, the overworking of these children and others occasions a wearisomeness and lethargy, which it is impossible always to resist; hence, drowsy and exhausted, the poor creatures fall too often among the machinery, which is not always sufficiently sheathed, when their muscles are lacerated, their bones broken, or their limbs torn off, in which case they are sent to the infirmaries to be cured, and, if crippled for life, they are turned out and maintained at the public cost; or they are sometimes killed upon the spot, when, of course, they are burthensome neither to themselves nor the public any longer. I have myself known, in more instances than one, the arm torn off, in one horrible case, both arms were forced away from the body; and a poor girl now exists upon a charitable subscription, who met with that dreadful accident at one of the flax-mills in my neighbourhood. In another factory, and that recently, the mangled limbs of a poor boy were sent home to his mother, unpre- 365 pared for the appalling spectacle. I will not describe the result. It is true that a great majority of these accidents are of a less serious nature; but the books of the infirmaries, in any manufacturing district, will show the number, as will also their accounts, the expense of buying irons to support the bending legs of the young children who become crippled by long standing in mills. Dr. Ashton and Surgeon Graham, who examined six mills in Stockport, in which 824 persons were employed, principally children, have reported the result individually, and a more melancholy list few hospitals, I think, could furnish. The particulars would deeply affect the House, but I must only give the totals. They are as follows:—Of these 824, 183 only are pronounced healthy, 240 are stated to be delicate, 258 unhealthy, 43 very much stunted, 100 with enlarged ancles and knees, and among them were 37 cases of distortion. The accidents, I believe, are not noticed; but I find that Dr. Winstanley, one of the physicians of the Manchester Infirmary, on examining 106 children in a Sunday-school, found that no less than 47 of them had suffered accidents from this one cause; and, Sir, I have this morning received a letter from one of the most eminent surgeons in this metropolis, and, consequently, in the world, in which he informs me, that, on making a tour through the manufacturing districts some years ago, he was painfully struck with the numerous cases of mutilation which he observed, and which he attributed to this too long and wearying labour in mills and factories.
Of the mortality which this system occasions I shall speak hereafter. Can any thing, then, darken the picture which I have hastily drawn, or rather which others infinitely more competent to the task have strikingly pourtrayed? Yes: and that which remains to be added renders it the most disgusting, as well as distressing system, which ever put human feelings to the utmost test of endurance. It has the universally recognized brand and test of barbarism, as well as cruelty, upon it. Sir, it is the feebler sex principally on which this enormous wrong is perpetrated. Female children must be laboured to the utmost extent of their physical powers, and, indeed, frequently beyond them. Need I state the disgusting cruelty, the peculiar hardships which this involves? I speak not, poor things, of the loss of their 366 beauty—of the greater sufferings to which their sex exposes them. But, again taking with me the highest medical authorities, I refer to those consequences of early and immoderate labour which are felt when they become mothers, for which, I fear, their previous pursuits have but poorly qualified them. It is in evidence that long standing has a known tendency—how shall I express it—contrahere et minuere pelvem—and thereby to increase greatly the danger and difficulty of parturition, and render embryotomy, one of the most distressing operations which a surgeon has ever to perform, frequently necessary. I have more than once had communication upon this subject with persons of the highest respectability, and of great professional experience. I confess, therefore, that I feel my indignation roused when I see papers put forth in which it is stated as a recommendation, forsooth, of the present system, and as a reason why it should by no means be regulated, that in certain mills girls are principally employed. This is a matter of exultation! I would ask those who so regard it, in the language of the poet, "Art thou of woman born, and feel'st no shame?"
Nor are the mental, any more than the physical, sufferings of these poor young creatures to be overlooked. In the very morning of life, when their hearts yawn within them for some little relaxation and amusement, to be thus taken captive, and debarred the sports of youth, is almost as great, nay, a greater cruelty than to inflict upon them thus early the toil of advanced life. Their fate, alas, reverses the patriarch's pathetic exclamation, and their infant days are labour and sorrow.
But, Sir, some may be tempted to suspect the accuracy of certain of the foregoing statements, from their improbable character. It may be thought almost impossible that children should be assembled thus early, and dismissed thus late, and still kept through the whole period in a state of active exertion. I will attempt to explain these facts. First, then, this early and punctual attendance is enforced by fines, as are many other regulations of a very severe character; so that a child may lose a considerable part of its wages by being a few minutes too late in a morning that they should not leave too soon is very sufficiently provided against. Now this extreme punctuality is no slight aggravation of the sufferings of the child. It is 367 not one time in ten, perhaps, that the parent has a clock, and if not, as nature is not very wakeful in a short night's rest after a long day's labour, the child, to ensure punctuality, must be often roused much too early. Hence, whoever has lived in a manufacturing town must have heard, if he happened to be awake, many hours before light on a winter's morning, the patter of little pattens on the pavement, continuing, perhaps, for half an hour together, though the time of assembling was the same. And then, Sir, the child is not always safe, however punctual; for in some mills two descriptions of clocks are kept, and it is easy to guess, therefore, how they are occasionally managed. So much for the system of fining: by which, I am told, some mill-owners have boasted that they have made large sums annually.
Then, for the purpose of keeping the children awake till late in the evening, or during the night, as the case might be, and in order to stimulate their exertion, means are made use of, to which I shall now advert, as a last instance of the degradation to which the system has reduced the manufacturing operatives of this country. Sir, children are beaten with thongs prepared for the purpose, and wielded by certain of the overseers. Yes, the females of this country, no matter whether children or grown up—I hardly know which is the more disgusting outrage—are beaten upon their face, arms, and bosoms—beaten in your free market of labour, as you term it, like slaves. These are the instruments. [Here the hon. Member exhibited some black and heavy leather thongs, one of them fixed in a sort of handle.] They are quite equal to breaking an arm, only the bones of the young are, as I have before said, pliant. The marks, however, of the thong, are long visible; and the poor wretch is flogged before its companions—flogged, I say, like a dog, by the tyrant overlooker. Sir, we talk of the cart-whip of the West Indies, but let us see, this night, an equal feeling rise against the factory-thong of England. Is it necessary that we should inquire, by means of a Select Committee, whether this practice is to be put down? Sir, I should wish to propose a clause in this Bill, enacting that the overseer that dares to lay it on the almost naked body of a child, shall tread the wheel for a month; and it would be only right if the master who, knowingly tolerates the infliction of this cruelty on 368 abused infancy, this insult upon parental feeling, should bear him company. But the entire system, as now conducted, has not merely its defenders, but its eulogists. Hence, in a celebrated review, in which its rise and progress are discussed, we find this opinion delivered with the utmost confidence. "We scruple not to say, that the health, morals, and intelligence of the population have all gained by the establishment of the present system." That this ought to have been the result, I have already said; that it will be so, I confidently hope: but it can only become so by adopting regulations of the nature now proposed. Health, morals, and mental improvement can never consist with constant confinement, and excessive labour imposed upon any class of the community, much less upon its youth. That the general intelligence has increased, I fully believe; so it would have done under any system; so it has in almost any country, whether manufacturing or otherwise. And I claim this increasing intelligence in favour of the regulation which I propose, for it has declared in favour of this measure with a force and unanimity rarely known on any other subject.
As to public morals, alas, what has been gained by this excessive slavery of the juvenile part of the manufacturing population? It is during the present century, as the article in question shows, that the system has so greatly increased. The number of the criminal committals has been annually furnished since the year 1805; let us then turn to those important facts for proof upon this subject. In the metropolitan county, including London, in which, if any where, one, of course, expects to find the number excessive, and the increase great, we see that the average of the three first years was 1,192, that of the three last years 3,491 nearly threefold! But in Lancashire (including its rural hundreds) the average of the same years has increased from 369 to 2,088 nearly sixfold. The average proportion of the committals of England, exclusive of these two counties being near almost one in 1,255; those of Lancashire one in about 550 annually. Where is this to end? As to that species of immorality not cognizable by law, I fear that had we equally precise information, we should find that it would afford us as little ground for exultation. Not to mention minor offences, the practice of tippling and drunkenness has astonish- 369 ingly increased, and has been accompanied by an indecency not formerly known among us; women and children publicly indulge in this vice: such are the degrading effects of the system. As to debauchery of another kind, it would be absurd to deny, I never did hear it denied, that the mills, at least those in which night-working is pursued, are in this respect, so many brothels. Yes, Sir, the science of human physiology has been, I may say, disgustingly advanced, and has been able to demonstrate how extremely near the confines of actual childhood the human female may become a mother, from the disgraceful facts which have occurred in certain of these mills and factories. Indeed, it is in evidence, on the authority of medical men conversant with that state of society, that the period of puberty is unnaturally anticipated, and those early marriages contracted which are in every point of view indecent and disgraceful. But these early marriages are, nevertheless, in such a state of things, the best alternative for the parties and the public. Thus we find for instance, that where the same system prevails in France, namely, at Rouen, without the same effect in regard to early marriage, that to every seventy-six legitimate births, there are twenty-four illegitimate ones, a state of immorality only exceeded by the capital of that country always amazingly profligate in that respect.
But, not to dwell upon this revolting part of the subject, I will, lastly, advert to the alleged improvement in the health of the people thus engaged. I shall determine this important point by referring to the principal seat of the system, Manchester, especially as the surprising longevity of that town has been over and over again asserted, in proof of the incalculable advantage of the factory system as now conducted in every possible point of view. Speaking of the general health of that town, I, of course, refer to that of the operatives, and not of the higher and more opulent ranks—and, in determining this, I shall still refer to medical authority, and statistical facts, and not to loose and unfounded opinions. I take, then, this tract, just published, entitled, "Remarks on the Health of English Manufacturers, and on the Need which exists for establishing for them Convalescent Retreats." It is written by Mr. Robertson, a gentleman well known in the medical world, and author of previous 370 works of deserved celebrity. He rebuts Mr. Senior's assumption as to the great improvement which has taken place in our manufacturing population, founded on a series of gross mistakes; and says of these so much improved operatives that "the nature of their present employment renders existence itself, in thousands of instances, in every great town, one long disease." He states, regarding Manchester, that during the last year, (1830) the patients admitted at the four great dispensaries amounted to 22,626, independently of those assisted by the other charitable institutions, such as the infirmary, &c., amounting in all to at least 10,000 more. To this he adds other calculations, which bring him to the conclusion that "not fewer perhaps than three-fourths of the inhabitants of Manchester annually are, or fancy they are, under the necessity of submitting to medical treatment." He describes at some length, and with great force and feeling, the evils of the factory-system, and attributes to it what he describes as the astounding inebriety of the population, who have recourse, after long and exhausting toil, to that means of kindling a temporary sense of vigour and comfort. He states the lamentable effects, in other points of view, which are thus produced, and the want of moral and mental improvement with which it is necessarily accompanied. He says that the present manufacturing system "has not produced a healthy population; neither one well instructed and provident; but one, on the contrary, where there exists always considerable and sometimes general poverty, and an extraordinary amount of petty crime: that in several respects they are in a less healthy and worse condition than at any period within the last two centuries." I will give an appalling proof of this general misery and degradation. It appears that, during the last year, there were delivered by the lying-in charity of Manchester, no less than 4,562 poor married women, or, far more than half the mothers of Manchester are assisted by public charities—in a word, that nearly three-fifths of the children of that town are thus branded with the stigma of pauperism at their very birth. If it be supposed that the institution referred to is too indiscriminate in its charity, I will quote in reply the authority of the same individual: "An overwhelming majority," he asserts "of the persons so relieved are in a state 371 of incredible destitution!" So far this judicious and humane writer. I proceed to prove his assertions by still stronger facts.
The main, and, as it has hitherto been held, triumphant defence of the present system of excessive infantile labour, has been placed upon the assumed longevity of Manchester. And had what has been asserted in this respect been true, or at all approaching to the truth, the argument would have been doubtless settled in its favour. Thus we find it stated over and over again that the mortality, which had kept diminishing for half a century, had in 1811 fallen as low as one in seventy-four; and that the proportion in 1821 was still smaller. It is asserted, I see, in a petition from Keighley, against this Bill, that this proportion is one in fifty-eight. It is true, that every community to which large numbers of emigrants, principally in the active periods of life, are constantly added, will exhibit a diminished proportion of deaths, without that circumstance at all proving any real increase in the general health and longevity of the place. But the above proportions were, nevertheless, so extravagant, and the argument founded upon them so important, that I determined to give the subject the most careful and impartial examination. I have done so, and these are the results. Taking the whole parish of Manchester, and so far therefore doing great injustice to my argument, as that parish contains, I think, nearly thirty townships, some of which are principally agricultural; but taking the whole parish, I find that in the Collegiate Church there, and in six other Churches; in the two Churches of Salford; in those of Chorton-row, now part of the town; and ill the eleven chapelries, including the interments in the Roman Catholic and other dissenting burial grounds, there were interred between the years 1821 and 1830 inclusive, 59,377 individuals. The mean population of the whole parish (i. e. the geometric mean, in order to be as exact as possible) was, during the same period, 228,951. Now the burials are defective, one Church, (that of St. Peter's) being omitted, and, I think, other burial grounds also—but does the numbers actually returned give a proportion of one in seventy-four? No, Sir, they give a proportion of one in thirty-seven, nine-tenths as the annual mortality of the entire parish of Manchester, In Salford the number of 372 deaths, during the same term, was 9,966—the mean population having been 32,421, or one death in every thirty-two and a half! And this in a population, let me again repeat, increasing immensely by emigration. But a vast super-proportion of this mortality, we may be assured, rests upon the poor; for nobody disputes that the longevity of the wealthier classes has, in the mean time, greatly improved. Thus in Paris, a large and unhealthy city, where the mortality, however, is, I think, less than one in forty-two. Dr. Villerine found that in the first arrondissement where the wealthier inhabitants principally reside, only one in fifty died annually; while in the twelfth, principally inhabited by the poor, the proportion was as great as one in twenty-four. Apply this reasoning, or rather fact, to the mortality of Manchester, and then let us hear what can be said concerning the poor manufacturers of that place. Sir, it proves to the very letter all that has been advanced concerning the effects of infantile and long protracted labour, which not only enfeebles, but sweeps to their untimely fate, so vast a proportion of the population.
But, on a point of such paramount importance, and so entirely decisive of the argument, no species of evidence ought to be wanting. I have, therefore, examined the forthcoming census of Manchester with great care—I mean that part of it in which the registered burials are given, together with the ages of the interred; and I have compared the proportion of those buried under the age of forty, and those buried above that age, with the corresponding interments of the immensely larger cities of London and Paris, taking the ten years in the former instance, and one intermediate year in the two latter, without any selection whatsoever: these are the results:—to every 100,000 interments in each of these places under forty, there would be above that age, in London, 63,666; in Paris, 65,109; in Manchester, 47,291 only; in other words, 16,375 fewer would have survived that period in Manchester than in London; and 17,818 fewer than in Paris. Can anything, then, be truer than the complaint of the operatives of that place, that few of them survive forty; and where is the man that dares to oppose the effectual regulation of so murderous a system?
In the census of 1821, the population of England was generally given according to 373 the different ages of the people. Manchester, however, furnished no such information; otherwise, I am persuaded, another argument might have been adduced demonstrative of the same melancholy fact. But I have examined the censuses of the hundreds of Salford, of Macclesfield, which includes the towns of Macclesfield and Stockport, containing, therefore, a great number of mills also, and I have compared them with other places; and calculating upon the number of children under five, the proportion which arrived at the different divisions, and especially at the more advanced periods of life, I find that wherever the present system prevails, the most melancholy waste of human existence is clearly demonstrated. These calculations I hold in my hand, but I will not weary the House with giving them in detail.
I cannot, however, refrain from giving the results of one of these, as it disposes of the confident assertion as to the supposed improvement of the manufacturing community. In 1780, the celebrated Dr. Heysham enumerated the population of Carlisle with great care, and divided them into classes according to their ages. In 1821 a similar enumeration took place. In the meantime, the great discovery of vaccination had been made, of such immense importance in these calculations. But what is even that, and all the acknowledged improvements in medical science, compared with the effect of our manufacturing system as at present pursued? Let the following facts answer that question. Calculating on the first division of the population at each period, namely, that under five, and assuming the women to be 1,000, there were, in 1780, from five to twenty years old, 2,229; in 1821, 2,107; between twenty and forty, in the former period, 2,143; in the latter, 1904; above forty, in 1780, 2,084; in 1821, 1,455 only.
Again, between the years 1779 and 1787 inclusive, Dr. Heysham gives the number of interments in Carlisle, which amounted to 1,840, of which 1,164 were of persons under forty years of age, and the remaining 676 above that period of life. On examining the census about to be published I find that, between the years 1821 and 1830 inclusive, there have been buried in the same place 3,025 under forty, and 1,273 above. Now, in the former period, therefore, there would be to 374 every 10,000 deaths under the age of forty 5,808 above that age; whereas, in the latter, the proportion has been 4,208 only. The only way to evade the conclusion to which these facts conduct us is, to suppose that the population has advanced with far greater rapidity since the former period then previously to it; but this supposition would imply gross ignorance of the facts. The population of Carlisle was enumerated in 1764, and it is clear that it had been increasing more rapidly before 1780 than it has done since. But in Carlisle, as everywhere else, the greatest proportion of mortality falls upon the poor; the extension of life, as far as regards the upper classes of society, has evidently increased. What, then, becomes of the statements of the great improvement among our manufacturing poor, with facts like these before our eyes?
I could multiply these proofs of the effects of the system to a great extent. I have them here [showing his papers], but time will not permit me to avail myself of them: nor can it be necessary. I have taken up the challenge regarding the effects of the system as now pursued, as given by its eulogists, and have contested the cause of humanity, as I trust I may call it, in the very arena, and with the weapons which themselves have chosen—the prosperity, health, and longevity of the operatives of Manchester. I have shown that the same results accompany the same system wherever pursued, namely, slavery, profligacy, crime, disease, and death! Transfer the system to the whole country, and then contemplate its effects: those effects are seen rapidly developing themselves as it advances. Infantile labour leads to immature marriage, which crowds the generations upon each other, and, together with the great discoveries in medicine, may have increased the numbers of the people; but, as far as the system has prevailed, it has diminished the athletic and active proportion of them, and given us in their stead a weak, stunted, and degenerate race, and so lessened the relative proportion of those who have to bear the general burthen, and fight the battles of the country. On this latter point I could offer some instructing facts as to the difficulty of passing recruits wherever this system prevails, were such evidence necessary; but I would rather point at its more obvious and general effects, Look, then, I say, at the miserable 375 condition of the feeble beings which are at once its instruments and victims. Supposing that it has increased our numbers, in the emphatic language of the Sacred Volume, "It has multiplied the people, and not increased their joy." I invoke, therefore, the justice, the humanity, the patriotism of this House: the feelings of the country are already roused; I call upon Parliament to assist, by this measure, to lighten the load of an oppressed people, which bows them and their very children to the dust; I call upon it to break the bonds of infantile slavery, and snatch the scourge from the task-master of the country.
The principle features, then, of this Bill for regulating the labour of children and other young persons in mills and factories, are these:—First, the inhibiting of the labour of infants therein under the age of nine; the limitation of the hours of actual work of children from nine to eighteen years of age to ten hours, exclusively of time allowed for meals and refreshment, with an abatement of hours on the Saturday as a necessary preparation for the Sabbath; and the forbidding of all night work under the age of twenty-one. Sir, in this Bill I have left out many important provisions, important at least in my view of the subject, in order to obviate, if possible, multiplied objections, and secure the attainment of its main object. Thus I had drawn up a clause subjecting the mill-owner or occupier to a heavy fine when any serious accident occurred in consequence of any negligence in not properly sheathing or defending the machinery. I had meant to have proposed a remission of an hour of each day's labour for children under fourteen, or otherwise six hours on one day in every week, for the purpose of affording those who are thus early and strangely forced into the market of labour some opportunity of receiving the rudiments of instruction and education, the expense of which upon the modern system would have been nothing, especially if shared between the mill-owner and the parish; above all, I contemplated a clause putting down night labour, at whatever age, at once and altogether. And none of these, I think, are half so extravagant, if duly considered, as the demands now made upon youthful labour, involving as they do the sacrifice of pleasure, health, improvement, and life itself. But, Sir, in order, I repeat, not to endanger the main object 376 I have in view, and feeling assured that the present attempt is only the commencement of a series of beneficent measures on behalf of the industrious classes, all I propose to the House on the present occasion is, the remission of infant and youthful labour to the extent already explained.
And, first, as to the period of life at which the Bill permits children to be laboured in factories, viz., nine years old. I will spend but little time in defending this provision. I will only observe, that our ancient statutes, not always peculiarly favouring the condition of poverty, have not been neglectful of this matter. The 23rd of Edward 3d, if I mistake not, assumes that a male child under fourteen, is non potens in corpore; and the same of a female child under twelve. In the 5th of Eliz., however, I think that period was fixed at twelve years for both sexes, previously to which they were deemed non potentes in corpore. And I may further observe, that another humane provision of certain of these statutes was, the hiring of these young persons by the year, so that they might not be turned adrift, even in sickness, at the pleasure or convenience of their employers. But, to return; the late Sir Robert Peel's Bill originally fixed upon the age of ten, which was ultimately reduced to that of nine, where the present measure leaves it. And where is the individual, if disinterested and humane, that will contend that this is not early enough for these poor creatures to commence their miserable career of labour and sorrow? Then, as to the daily duration of their labour before they arrive at years of discretion, namely, these ten long hours, which, with the necessary intervals, stretch the term to at least twelve. Is not this sufficiently severe? Sir, it is the very extent contemplated for the same class, and about the same age, by the late Sir Robert Peel; and at a period when the professions of humanity are so much louder than formerly, when the penal code of crime has been revised so much, and mitigated so often, that there should be no amelioration proposed in the penal code (for such, I am sure, I may term it) of infantile labour seems indeed strange. The term proposed, I repeat, is that fixed upon by the truly benevolent and enlightened individual just alluded to. His words, on introducing his last measure in 1815, (I quote from Hansard's Parliamentary Debates of that 377 period) are these:—'What he,' Sir Robert Peel, 'was disposed to recommend was, a regulation that no children should be so employed under the age of ten years, either as apprentices or otherwise, and the duration of their labour be limited to twelve hours and a half per diem, including the time for education and meals, which would leave ten hours for laborious employment;' * arguing, that it was not so much the hardship as the duration of labour that was so injurious. I think it would be almost an insult to the House to appeal to authorities in proof that this is enough labour for any age to endure—abundantly sufficient for infancy and youth. A few medical authorities, however, I will quote, who delivered their opinions before Sir Robert Peel's Committee.
Dr. Jones, a physician of much experience, asserts, that "eight or nine hours are the longest period that he could sanction." Dr. Winstanley, physician of the Manchester Infirmary, affirms that eleven hours could not be endured without injury. Mr. Bautflower, an eminent surgeon of the same place, says, that "ten hours are amply sufficient." Mr. Ogle, another experienced individual of the same profession, says, that eight or nine hours are sufficient. Mr. Simmons, the senior surgeon of the Manchester Infirmary, declared, in reference to the employment under consideration, that the hours of working of a person under sixteen, exclusive of the time allowed for meals, ought not to exceed nine hours in winter, and ten in summer; and he adds that to which I call the attention of the House: "It may become a question," says this eminent and experienced person, "whether, with impunity, the strength of adults is capable of much longer exertion than this." Sir Gilbert Blane says, that, under ten, he "should have no objection in sanctioning five or six hours, and, at a more mature age, ten hours, if not sedentary." I might multiply these authorities at pleasure, but I will close them with the opinion of a physician, after whom, I conceive, few could be quoted with advantage—I mean the late Dr. Baillie. He says, beyond ten hours a day, there ought to be no increase of labour. "I think," says he, "ten hours of confinement to labour, as far as I can judge, is as much as is compatible with the perfect wellbeing of any constitution."* Vol. xxxi, p. 624.378 But these appeals appear to me to be most affecting, whatever has been their result. Is there not, Sir, something inexpressibly cruel—most disgustingly selfish—in thus attempting to ascertain the utmost limits to which infant labour and fatigue may be carried, without their certainly occasioning misery and destruction—the full extent of profitable torture—and in appealing to learned and experienced doctors to fix the precise point beyond which it would be murder to proceed. Are we to treat innocent infancy, then, like the poor soldier, who receives his punishment under the eye of the regimental surgeon, lest he should expire beneath the lash? But, Sir, horrible to relate, these eminent men have stood over fainting infancy, and have long since forbade the infliction, which has, nevertheless, been continued, till scores of thousands have expired under it. They discharged their duty; they said ten hours a-day were fully sufficient. That term has been exceeded, and I have shown the fatal consequences.
If it be still necessary to sanction the term of labour they have fixed, I will appeal to general experience, which, after all, on a point like this, is better than all authority. Hence, in every other description of labour, (excepting, perhaps, some particular branches, identified with the very system under consideration) twelve hours a-day, deducting at least the intervals this Bill also prescribes, is the utmost duration of labour that the master dreams of demanding, or the workman of enduring. Such is the case in agriculture. Look at the county reports, and you will find, that these are the utmost limits in summer, excepting during a few weeks in harvest, and that they are diminished in winter, so as to correspond with the shortening day, averaging, perhaps, throughout the year, not more than eight or nine hours of actual work. The same rule obtains among all those workmen and artisans whose pursuits are most essential to human existence, such as masons, carpenters, bricklayers, and others. Nor is it either humane or patriotic, as an eminent medical writer has remarked, to tempt them to those protracted exertions, which are often endured at the expense of health, and bring on premature decay. And, Sir, this natural regulation prevails every where, and has been observed in all ages. Thus, if we open the most ancient 379 volumes, we shall find that twelve hours still, including the necessary intervals, constitute the longest day of human labour, which is still curtailed as the natural day shortens, and as this limitation is dictated by the law of nature, so also is it affirmed by the law of God. Hear, then, the divine institution in this matter. "Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy stranger that is in thy land within thy gates. At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it, lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee." "Are there not twelve hours in the day? The night cometh when no man can work," is reiterated by still higher authority. Yet, though man cannot—will not—yet, says this system, children shall. I ask, however, whether it be right to work weak and helpless children in this country longer than adult labourers and artizans in the prime of life, in any age or country, have consented to endure?
Sir, I make a second appeal in behalf of these children. I appeal to the utmost labour imposed upon criminals and felons, sentenced to expiate their offences—often of an atrocious character, and almost always perpetrated by the daring and powerful in the prime of life—in the gaols, houses of correction, bridewells, or other places of confinement and punishment in this kingdom. Sir, the law even regarding these provides, that justice shall not degenerate into cruelty, and, therefore, limits the power of its own ministers thus: "Every prisoner sentenced to hard labour shall, unless prevented by sickness, be employed so many hours a day, not exceeding ten, exclusive of the time allowed for meals, as shall be directed by the rules and regulations to be made under this Act," excepting on Sundays and other holidays which it enumerates. Sir, I have examined the whole of these regulations, and find that the average labour imposed falls far short of the limits prescribed by this Bill. Even the convicts at the hulks, I am informed, are only worked, in winter, from eight in the morning as long as daylight lasts; and, in summer, from seven in the morning till six in the evening; from which, time is allowed, in both seasons, about an hour and a half for meals, making, therefore, 380 the duration of their actual labour, in summer, nine hours and a half, and in winter, perhaps, two hours less. But the law, I repeat, limits that which is to be their punishment, their labour, to ten hours at most. Secondly, then, I ask whether it is right thus to give a premium to crime, and to punish innocence by labouring children longer than the law permits adult criminals and felons, whose labour constitutes their punishment.
Lastly, Sir, I appeal in behalf of these children to the protection afforded to the slaves of our West-India colonies. By the Orders in Council, bearing date the 2nd of November last, the labour of the slaves, by whomsoever owned, in all the Crown colonies of England, is regulated as follows: First, by section 90 of those Orders, no slave, of whatever age, is to be worked in any agricultural, or manufacturing labour in the night, but only between six o'clock in the morning, and six o'clock in the evening. By section 91, all such slaves are "entitled to an entire intermission and cessation of every description of work and labour, from the hour of eight till the hour of nine in the morning, and from the hour of twelve till the hour of two in the afternoon of each and every day throughout the year." Hence no slaves can be wrought more than nine hours in any one day. So much for the adult slaves. But, by the succeeding section, 92, it is ordered that "no slave under the age of fourteen, or above the age of sixty, shall be compelled or required to engage in or perform, any agricultural work or labour, in any tithe said colonies, during more than six hours in the whole in any one day."
Passing over many other beneficent regulations, I can hardly restrain my indignation within due bounds while I lastly appeal to the regulations regarding these slaves, and advert to those proposed in favour of British children, which are, nevertheless, vehemently opposed. I compare not the English child with the African child, but I ask this House and his Majesty's Government, whether it would not be right and becoming to consider the English child as favourably as the African adult. You have limited the labour of the black to nine hours, but when I propose that the labour of the young white slave shall not exceed ten, why the proposition is deemed monstrous.
Sir, I might lastly appeal to our treat- 381 ment of the brutes. Acts of Parliament have indeed protected these from cruelty infinitely less than that which we tolerate this system in constantly inflicting. But selfishness in this instance acts as the guardian of the animal creation, and renders such laws almost unnecessary. The gentleman will not ride his hunter before he is full grown, nor does the farmer yoke his yearling foal to the plough, and scourge it forwards as many hours, and even more, than the full-grown colt would bear. No; it is the factory-child alone that is thus treated. But I contend that, even as regards the being esteemed so utterly worthless, it is detrimental to the mere interests of the employer to pursue so cruel a course. Beyond certain limits human industry and attention cannot be profitably stimulated. When those limits are passed what remains, but that imperfect service, equally distressing to the employed anti unprofitable to the employer; and the oppressor may be well addressed in the words of the poet—Thou canst not take what nature will not yield,Nor reap the harvest tho' thou spoil the field.But, in the sober language of prose, I can assure this House, that manufacturers have often confessed, that this excessive labour of their people has been rarely profitable, though they have been urged on to such a course by the rivalry and competition which the system creates. If, however, this practice were ever so profitable, no gains, however ample, no prosperity, however permanent, could justify so cruel and destructive a practice.
Sir, I have not time to enter upon those arguments which the advocates of the present system advance in its favour, nor to refute the objections which they perpetually urge against its proper regulation. They are precisely the same as those put forth by the planters in the Crown colonies against the amelioration of the condition of the blacks and their children, already referred to. In both instances, the capital engaged—the competition to be feared—the irritation which will be produced—the superior condition of those to be protected, are, in both cases, assumed. The capability of children above a certain age to endure long labour, as well as adults, is equally asserted; and, above all, the coincidence of the request from both quarters for a Select Committee is also remarkable. But how have Government met this proposition in each case? Most 382 dissimilarly. As regards the slave, they have declared that inquiries have been pursued long enough, and that they need no further information to enable them to legislate on "the eternal obligations which religion founds upon the law of God." Such are the words of the noble Secretary for the Colonies. Would to God this reasoning and feeling were transferred to these poor oppressed children, slaves in all but name, who now demand our protection. I conceive that, then the eternal obligation which religion founds upon the law of God would suffice to teach us our duty, without committing our consciences to the keeping of a Select Committee.
Sir, another objection of some of the opposing mill-owners I will briefly notice. They cannot consent, forsooth, to an abridgement of the long and slavish hours of infant labour, because of the Corn-laws. Why, these individuals, some of them, not originally, perhaps, of the most opulent class of the community, have, during the operation of these laws, rapidly amassed enormous fortunes; yet, during the whole period they have never found an opportunity, either of increasing the wages or diminishing the toil of these little labourers, to whom they owe every farthing they possess; they have constantly done the reverse—and they talk of Corn-laws as their apology. "This is too bad." Can any man be fool enough to suppose that, were the Corn-laws abolished tomorrow, and every grain we consume grown and ground in foreign parts, that such individuals would cease to" grind the faces of the poor?"
I had meant to have noticed the attempts made to excite the fears of the working classes, regarding the diminution which it is asserted will take place in their wages if the excessive labour of themselves or their children be abated; but time does not admit—we may safely leave that point to be settled by their intelligence and experience. They know what their slavish toil has led to, and they have far less to dread, even in this respect, from over production than from a natural supply of the articles which their industry alone produces. But their opposition to this measure, it seems is grounded on philanthropic considerations, alone. The loss say they, will fall upon the poor whose wages will be diminished just in proportion as their extravagant labour was 383 moderated, I rather doubt this assertion; on the contrary I have often heard from great authorities upon political economy; and were they threatened (as indeed they now were) that their wages will be diminished, and their means of subsistence still more abridged, that severe as are their present distresses, the furnace of their affliction should be heated one seven times more than it was wont to be heated; they have taken their firm resolve they will not bow down to the Golden Image, they will not sacrifice their children to Moloch, and where is the father, the patriot, the Christian, that does not glory in that resolve, and what doubt can exist, that if this House is constituted of such, their cause will triumph?
I must apologize to this House for having so long occupied its time and attention. I owe, however, a deeper apology to those whose cause I have attempted to advocate, for having nevertheless left, wholly untouched many important considerations which they have earnestly pressed upon my attention. If honourable Members, however, will consult their own bosoms, they will find them there. We are about to deal with the strongest instinct and the holiest feeling of the human heart. The happiness and tranquillity of the present generation, and the hopes of posterity depend in no slight degree on ourselves. The industrious classes are looking with intense interest to the proceedings of this night, and are demanding protection for themselves and their children. Thousands of maternal bosoms are beating with the deepest anxiety regarding the future fate of their long-oppressed, and degraded offspring. Nay, their children are made aware of the importance of your present decision, and look towards this House for succour. I wish I could bring a little ragged group of these, of both sexes, to that Bar: I am sure their silent appearance would plead louder than anything I have been able to utter in their behalf. I shall not soon forget their affecting presence on one of those recent occasions, when many thousands of the people of the north were assembled in their cause, when in those intervals of the loud and general acclamations, which rent the air, while their great and unrivalled champion, Richard Oastler, (whose name is now lisped by thousands of them, and will be handed down to posterity with undiminished gratitude and affection)—I say, when this friend of the 384 factory-children was pleading their cause, the repeated cheers of a number of shrill voices were heard, which sounded like echoes to our own, and on looking around, we saw several knots of little factory-children, grouped together amidst the croud, who raised their voices in the fervor of hope and exultation, while they heard their humble state commiserated, and, as they believed, about to be redressed.
Sir, I thought then, and I still hope, that their righteous cause will prevail. But I have seen enough to mingle apprehension with my hopes. I perceive the rich and the powerful again leaguing against them, and wielding that wealth which these children, or such as they, have created, against their cause. I have long seen the powerful efforts that are made to keep them in bondage, and have been deeply affected at their continued success; so that I can hardly refrain exclaiming with one of old—"I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, and beheld the tears of such as were oppressed; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter." I trust, however, that this House, whose peculiar duty it is to defend the weak, and redress the injured, will interpose, and extend that protection to these defenceless children, equally demanded by the principles of justice, mercy, and policy. Many have been the struggles made in their behalf, but hitherto they have been defeated; the laws passed in their behalf have been hitherto without any practical effect but to legalise cruelty and suffering. Even, at this moment, while I am thus speaking in behalf of these oppressed children, what numbers of them are still at their toil, confined in heated rooms, bathed in perspiration, stunned with the roar of revolving wheels, poisoned with the noxious effluvia of grease and gas, till at last, weary and exhausted, they turn out almost naked, plunge into the inclement air, and creep shivering to beds from which a relay of their young work-fellows have just arisen;—and such is the fate of many of them at the best, while in numbers of instances, they are diseased, stunted, crippled, depraved, destroyed. Sir, let the dreadful pestilence which no longer walketh in darkness among us, but destroyeth at noon-day once seize upon our manufacturing population, and dreadful will be the consequences. A fast is to be solemnized on 385 the occasion; and it is well; let it be one which the Deity himself has chosen, let us undo the heavy burthens, and let the oppressed go free.
Sir, I have shown the suffering, the crime, the mortality, which attends this system—consequences which, I trust, Parliament will at length arrest. I earnestly wish that I could have prevailed upon this House and his Majesty's Government to adopt the proposed measure, without the delay which will attend a further, and, as I shall ever maintain, an unnecessary inquiry. Would to God we might have come to a resolution as to the hours innocent and helpless children are henceforth to be laboured in these pursuits, so as to render the preservation of their health and life probable, and the due improvement of their minds and morals, possible. Would to God we had decided as we could wish others to decide regarding our own children under like circumstances, or as we shall wish we had done when the Universal Parent shall call us to a strict account for our conduct to one of the least of these little ones. As the case, however, is otherwise—as we are, it seems, still to inquire and delay—I will now move the second reading of the Bill, in doing which I believe I shall not be opposed, and then proceed to propose such a Committee as I hope will assist in carrying into effect the principle of a measure so important to the prosperity and happiness of the country.
§ Lord Althorp
did not rise to oppose the second reading of the Bill, as he was ready to admit that the hon. Member had stated the strongest grounds for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry; but he did not think that he had applied his facts to the particular Bill before the House. Undoubtedly, if the statements made by the hon. Member were true, some regulation on the subject was necessary; but, without intending to impute to the hon. Member any disposition to misrepresent, he must say, that some of his statements appeared to be absolutely incredible. The hon. Gentleman had described the employment of children in factories as being productive of much ill health. He was not disposed to contradict the statement of the hon. Member; but he would ask him whether it was probable that any sort of manufacturing occupation could be so healthy as agricultural labour. The hon. Member had described the evils resulting from the 386 existing system at very considerable length; but he had not alluded to the inconveniences which presented themselves on the other side of the question. If the House restricted the employment of children in factories, what would be the effect on the labouring classes, and on the children themselves? The necessary effect must be, that wages would be diminished, and, if the hon. Member's Bill were fully carried into operation, there would probably be no children employed in factories at all; and thus the benevolent intentions of the hon. Member would only tend to inflict greater injury, and create more distress among the labouring classes than they at present suffered. He did not agree with the hon. Member in thinking that a Committee was an improper tribunal for the examination of this subject. In his opinion, the matter could be much more satisfactorily investigated there than by summoning witnesses to the Bar of the House. He hoped alterations would be made in the Bill, for it was impossible for him to support it in its present shape. The subject was one of great importance, and he did not wish, whatever might be, the decision of the Committee, to pledge himself in any way to further the progress of the Bill.
§ Mr. John T. Hope
fully appreciated the active benevolence and general philanthropy of the hon. member for Aldborough, who had undertaken to advocate the cause of the children employed in spinning manufactories: but, whilst he did not yield to the hon. Member in an earnest desire to promote the happiness and comfort of that class of the community, he doubted whether the end the hon. Member had in view could be attained by the means which he advised the House to adopt. He did not propose to enter into any discussion as to the propriety or impropriety of interference with free labour. He believed it was admitted, on both sides of the House, that such interference generally was unwarrantable. He was willing to admit that the labour of children must, in some degree, be considered of a compulsory nature; but he considered that those very circumstances, which give such labour the character of compulsory, carried also with them a remedy for the evil of which the hon. Member complained, in the protection of their parents. He could not comprehend how it was possible, by legislative enactments, to supply the place of parental 387 affections in behalf of the child. If these natural ties were unavailing, legislative enactments would prove equally useless and unavailing. He was, however, prepared to argue the question on more general grounds than these. He doubted, in the first place, whether a case of necessity for parliamentary interference was fairly made out. He admitted that many cases of great individual hardship occurred in manufactories. The hon. Member quoted many such cases; and, aided by his eloquence, they doubtless would produce a great effect upon the House. The hon. Member's general positions were, that children were worked greatly beyond their strength, and that the hours of labour were extended through the night; and that these circumstances combined produced a bad effect upon their morals and education—were injurious to their health, and in many instances occasioned premature death. To these general positions be intended to apply himself; and, therefore, begged to call the attention of the House to some facts contained in the Reports of a Committee of that House which sat in 1816, and of Committees of the Lords which sat in 1818 and 1819. The first point to which he would refer was, the age of the children. The hon. Member was entirely mistaken in supposing that a large portion of the children employed in factories was of a tender age. He found, by a return which was verified on oath, annexed to the Lords' Report of 1819, that, out of a body of work-people amounting to 12,461, employed in cotton factories in England, there were only 196 under nine years of age. From other returns in his possession, it appeared that, of the children employed in the manufactory at Kirkland, in Fifeshire, there were only one in seventeen under twelve years of age, and one in four under fourteen. From these facts he was entitled to say, that the argument, which the hon. Member had founded upon the assumption that a great portion of the children employed in cotton factories was of very tender age, was not entitled to much weight. With respect to the hours of employment, he found, from the returns annexed to the Lords' Report of 1818, that the average number of working hours in the week, taken from fifty-seven instances, was seventy-two; a number little exceeding that established by the Bill introduced by the right hon. Baronet, the secretary-at-War, last Session. The aver- 388 age number of hours per day on the total amount of hours and persons, deduced from the returns of 325 cotton factory establishments, from a table put in and proved upon oath, and inserted in the appendix to the evidence of 1819, was twelve and a fraction. It was material to look at the number of hours in which children were employed in other trades and manufactures. Children employed in the earthenware and porcelain manufactures worked from twelve to fifteen hours per day; file-cutters, nail-makers, forgers, and colliers, worked for twelve hours per day; those employed in the manufacture of hosiery, and in lace manufactories, worked for twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen hours per day; those engaged in calico printing worked for twelve, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen hours per day; needle-makers, manufacturers of arms, and pin-makers, worked for thirteen and fourteen hours per day. He contended, therefore, that the children employed in cotton and other spinning factories were not subjected to greater labour than those employed in other manufactures, to whom no protection was to be afforded by this Bill. As to the effect on the education, morals, and health of the children, he had certificates from several clergymen residing in the neighbourhood of mills in the county of Fife, who certified, that the children and adults employed in those mills were as well conducted, in a moral point of view, as the agricultural population: The reverend Mr. Jones, of the parish of Holywell, who gave evidence before the Lords' Committee in 1819, stated, that such of his parishioners as were employed in the cotton factories were more orderly in their conduct, and better moral characters, than any others. With respect to education, it was in evidence, that all the persons engaged at Cupar in the cotton mills were able to read, and the greater part to write. Out of 891 persons employed in the mills in the parish of Catrene, in Ayrshire, there were very few who were not able to read. At Holywell it was stated that the children employed in cotton factories were better instructed than those engaged in other kinds of labour, on account of the opportunities afforded them of attending Sunday schools. As to the health of the children, it was but natural, as the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had observed, that persons engaged in 389 manufactures should not enjoy the same degree of health as those employed in agriculture. However, he should endeavour to show that the hon. Member had given too exaggerated an account of the ill health of the former. It appeared, from the evidence given before the Lords' Committee in 1819, that, out of 610 children employed in the Holywell mills, the average number of sick was six; whilst, in a regiment of infantry of 600 men, twenty to twenty-five was not considered a large proportion. In the factory of Mr. Bisley, where there were 549 children employed in the mills, the sick were one in seventy: in Pendleton mills, where there were 531 employed, the average number of sick was eight. It appeared, by the evidence of Mr. Lee, in the Commons' Report of 1816, page 341, that there was in his factory at Manchester a sick fund, supported by one two-hundredth part of the wages of children; and the books of this institution showed that the sick were, on the average, only as one in a hundred. But the evidence from the records of the Infirmary in that town was of a still more convincing nature. It appeared, from the statements produced by Dr. Home before the Lords' Committee, 1818, that, whilst the population engaged in spinning-mills formed one-sixth of the total population of Manchester, the proportion of cotton-spinners relieved was in the following ratio to persons engaged in other occupations: in the home patients, as one in twenty-three, or four; amongst the in-patients, as one in fourteen; in the fever hospital, as one in twelve; and in the out-patients of this last establishment, as one in twenty-three. He would now state some facts connected with parish relief. The hon. member for Aldborough had mentioned, as a proof of the poverty which prevailed generally in Manchester, the large number of females who had been admitted to the Lying-in Hospital; but he did not inform the House of the proportion of spinners' wives to those of persons engaged in other occupations—the only true criterion of their comparative health. It appeared in the evidence of the Lords' Committee in 1818, that, out of 1797 persons who applied for parish relief in Manchester, only twenty-eight were cotton-spinners. The other applicants were 576 weavers, and 221 persons engaged in other trades. From the same evidence it appeared that, out of 582 who received parish relief at 390 Preston, there was not one cotton-spinner. He now came to the question of mortality. The hon. Member threw great discredit on a statement, given in evidence before the Lords' Committee, that, out of 866 spinners, the deaths in ten years did not exceed fifty-seven. From the exact coincidence in the figures with a calculation which he had extracted from that evidence, he was disposed to conclude that the witness to whom he alluded was Mr. Buchanan. Now, he could take upon himself to declare, that this gentleman was a person every way worthy of credit in himself, and that his statements were confirmed by the clergyman of the parish of Lorn, in Ayrshire, in which the factory was situated; and that the letter of this reverend gentleman was printed in the appendix to the Report. By the evidence of Mr. Houldsworth before the Commons' Committee, 1816, it appeared, that, out of 10,000 persons employed in factories, there died in the same space of time thirty-seven, whilst of 3,224 persons employed in other trades there died fifteen persons—being a proportion of thirty-seven to forty-eight in favour of factories. In the parish of Holywell the proportion of deaths in factories was stated to be one in 217—in the whole parish one in fifty-eight, on an average of three years. He would now refer to a more general statement, which bore out these particular facts. By a table compiled from the sworn evidence before the Lords' Committee, it appeared that, if 100 families were selected who were employed, both parents and children, in factories, that, in a given time, there were 527 children born, and thirty-eight died out of each 100 born: whilst in 100 families, of which neither parents nor children were employed in factories, 517 children were born, and forty-three children died out of each 100 born. The proportion in Scotland was nearly the same, giving a result of a greater number of births and a smaller number of deaths in favour of persons employed in factories. He would conclude this part of the subject with some general statements drawn from the population returns. Before he did so, however, it was right to state, that the Returns referred to in drawing up these tables were those of 1811; but this circumstance, as the calculations rested on comparison, would not affect their correctness, as applied to a later date. In the population of the four agricultural counties of Red- 391 ford, Bucks, Berks, and Cambridge, the proportion of deaths to 100 births was 64.3; the number of persons in proportion to whom one was buried, 51.1: whereas, in the population of the manufacturing county of Lancaster, the proportion of deaths to 100 births was fifty-nine, and the number of persons in proportion to whom one was buried, fifty-one. Taking again the population of all England, as compared with the parishes of Manchester, Salford, and Wigan, the, respective results were—all England, deaths to 100 births, 64.8; numbers in proportion to one buried, 52.3: Manchester, &c., deaths in 100, 56.71; numbers in proportion to whom one was buried 49.5. From which it appeared that, whether they compared the county of Lancaster with agricultural counties, or the spinning districts with those counties, or with all England, there was a less degree of mortality amongst persons engaged in spinning factories. He would now state shortly a Return of the height of the militia, from a Return given in to the Adjutant General's office, with respect to the growth of persons engaged in these factories. He had selected the militia of the agricultural counties before referred to, and compared them with regiments raised in counties where factories were generally established; and he found the average heights to be—of Bedford, 66.5; of Bucks, 66.4; of Cambridge, 66.7; of Berwick, 66.8: Of Lancashire, 69.02; of West York, 67.37; of Cheshire, 67.01; of Lanark, 68.03;—spewing, both in England and Scotland, a result in favour of the spinning population. The fact was not, perhaps, very material; but, as the hon. Member referred to the stunted appearance of persons engaged in the cotton manufacture as a proof of the necessity of subjecting the factories to some regulations, he might appeal to it to show how necessary it was, that the most accurate information should be obtained before they passed the Bill. He would now proceed to call the attention of the House to another part of the question, namely, the inexpediency, in a national and commercial point of view, with regard to the interests of the master manufacturers, and even of the children themselves. In the first place, it was an objection to the hon. Member's Bill that it pressed unequally on different kinds of mills. In steam mills the works could be carried on at any period, but in water-mills the times of 392 working were uncertain and fluctuating—the mills being impeded both by droughts and by floods. By the provisions of this Bill, the proprietors of water-mills would have no opportunity of regaining the time which they might lose by these casualties. If, therefore, this Bill should pass, the consequence would be, that all persons who had embarked their capital in the machinery of water-mills, would be obliged to remove to great towns. This would be attended with unfortunate results; for water-mills were generally established in agricultural districts, and were productive of the greatest benefit by affording employment to a considerable portion of the population. It was obvious, that if they limited the hours of labour, they would, to nearly the same extent, reduce the profits of the capital on which the labour was employed. Under these circumstances, the manufacturers must either raise the price of the manufactured article, or diminish the wages of their workmen. If they increased the price of the article, the foreigner would enter into competition with them. He need not remind the House of the immense capital which was embarked in the cotton manufacture, amounting to about 50,000,000l., or of the great quantity of cotton manufactures exported to foreign countries. He was informed that the foreign cotton manufacturers, and particularly the Americans, trod closely upon the heels of our manufacturers. If the latter were obliged to raise the price of their articles, the foreign markets would in a great measure be closed against them, and the increased price would also decrease the demand in the home market. To avoid these ruinous consequences the manufacturers would, in all cases where it was possible to dispense with their labour, cease to employ children at all, and employ a greater number of adults than before. The hon. member for Aldborough seemed to consider this an advantageous course; but he could not concur with that opinion, because the labour of children was a great resource to their parents and a great benefit to themselves. But he understood, that, in some branches of the cotton manufacture it was impossible to separate the labour of children from that of adults. If, therefore, the manufacturers complied with the provisions of the Bill now before the House, they must in some instances reduce the labour and conse- 393 quently the wages of adults in the same proportion as those of children. He was of opinion, however, that the manufacturers would endeavour to evade the provisions of the Bill by employing two sets of children to relieve each other alternately, they would of course pay them but half the wages they at present earned, and the masters would accordingly be put to no additional expense. Moreover, it might be calculated upon that the workmen who commonly hired their own piecers, would exchange the children from one mill to another so that they might by such means be constantly employed, and, of course they could derive no benefit from the hon. Member's Bill. A result which was the more to be apprehended, if the doctrine of the hon. Member was correct, that the parental affection of the lower classes was not sufficiently powerful to protect their own offspring. It was, therefore, on these grounds, because, he doubted in the first place, whether Parliament could protect children as effectually as their parents; secondly, that he did not think a case for parliamentary interference had been made out; and thirdly, because he believed, the Bill would be productive of great inconvenience, not only to persons who had embarked large capital in the cotton manufacture, but even to workmen and children themselves, that he should feel it his duty to oppose the measure.
§ Lord Morpeth
expressed his pleasure that the Bill had experienced no opposition in the present stage, but was to be referred to a Committee. He accordingly advised the friends of the measure to reserve their strength until it should be necessary to exert themselves in support of it.
did not doubt the benevolent intentions of the hon. member for Aldborough, but he doubted whether he would attain his object by that Bill. Undoubtedly it was a great evil to employ children in factories, but he was very much afraid that it was only a choice of two evils—either the people must work as at present, or be exposed to starvation. It was impossible that we could contend with countries in which there were no restrictions on the food of the people. If the provisions of this Bill were carried into execution, the only effect it would have, would be to drive English capital to foreign countries. He deprecated these measures of interference between masters and labourers. He con- 394 sidered them to be only efforts to patch up our overgrown system of taxation. It would be better to lessen the taxes, and particularly the tax on corn. They might rest satisfied that if the workmen could obtain a sufficiency of food for their families, they would not allow their children to labour in these factories.
§ Mr. Schonswar
felt himself called upon to give his best support to the Bill, for if only a hundredth part of what the hon. Member for Aldborough had stated were true, such a system ought not to be allowed to continue. He knew there was a strong feeling in the minds of many of his constituents in favour of the measure. Indeed every man must feel for the situation of those helpless children, and, he trusted, the efforts of those who advocated their cause would be successful.
§ Mr. Mackenzie
said, he did not consider that the hon. member for Aldborough had made out a case to prove that children under nine years of age had been exposed to cruel treatment. The manufacturers wished every inquiry to be made into the case. From 1802 to the present moment, attempts had been made to regulate cotton factories by parliamentary enactments, but they had all failed; and he did not imagine that the present Bill would be more successful than former efforts.
§ Lord William Lennox
had great pleasure in supporting the Bill of the hon. member for Aldborough, as he felt it to be the imperative duty of every well-wisher to society to use his utmost influence to put an end to the injurious practices now so justly and so loudly complained of, not only with a view of promoting the great cause of humanity, but also of removing from the country the stigma that must be necessarily attached to it by an encouragement of such a nefarious system—a system that was a disgrace to a civilized community—a system which, instead of laying the basis for health, strength, cheerfulness, industry, longevity, independence of parochial aid, was calculated to bring human beings to a premature grave, or to doom them to a protracted life of disease, mental and bodily; bringing pauperism and misery upon themselves, and making them a burthen to society. He wanted no evidence to tell him that the system now carried on was as pernicious to the health of the children as it was destructive to their morals. In order to bring to full maturity the faculties of 395 the body and mind, time must be afforded for meals, exercise, inhaling pure air, recreation, rest, and sleep; and how could that be accomplished when, in many manufactories children laboured seventy-nine hours per week, had an hour for their meals, and perhaps only six or seven for rest. In 1825, it was stated in this House, that, in the evidence furnished before a Committee in 1816, a medical gentleman, was asked, whether, he thought, a child could keep standing on her legs without prejudice to her health, twenty-three hours successively? He answered; the question was one of very great doubt. Another said, the inhaling of cotton fumes was not injurious to the health, as the effect was taken away by constant expectoration. When asked whether expectoration was not injurious? that, replied the medical gentleman, depends upon a variety of facts. He, in conclusion, did not wish to think the master manufacturers were devoid of all feeling—he could not bring himself to believe, that the claim of' humanity was not superior to any mercenary consideration; he, therefore, thought, they would hail this Bill with pleasure—a Bill that went to extirpate English slavery. He would call it by no other name, for, could the annals of West-India slavery produce a case of more persecuted suffering, more pathetically affecting, than the one of the little girl lately published in the newspapers. The child, remembering the severe punishment that would, he inflicted, if she slept too long, was afraid to trust her eyes to repose; deprived of needful rest, she dragged on a miserable existence, badly fed, badly clad, she sank into an early grave, a victim of cruel, slavery. Let the House, then, show by their votes, that, whilst they all wish to ameliorate the state of the foreign slave, they are not wholly unmindful of the condition of their own.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
said, that, without professing any overstrained or exaggerated humanity, he felt bound to vote for the Motion. He thought that, at the present time, when manufacturers were driven by the state of the laws to resort to every mode of cheapening their productions, in order to compete with foreigners, this was the very moment for throwing the shield of British law around the children employed in factories, and who were hereafter to be the defenders of those laws and of the empire. But, although he looked 396 upon the principle of the Bill as already granted, yet he thought its details required very close and cautious examination, which he hoped it would receive in Committee. He should gladly support any measure which would give the weak a due protection against the strong.
said; he trusted that the appointment of the proposed Committee would not create such delay as to prevent the passing of the Bill during the present Session. The public felt a deep interest on the subject, and justly so; and he considered that what was stated in the preamble, and what, therefore, must have been proved up stairs, was sufficient to induce the House to give the Bill a cordial support. The statement that, in many cases, children were employed during the whole night in these manufactories, was quite enough to make it imperative on the House to interfere on their behalf. He could not think that any one could fairly complain that the Bill went too far, when it allowed children to be worked as many hours as a felon condemned to hard labour was allowed to be worked in our gaols. But, it was not only on the ground of humanity that he supported the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought that the children of all classes, and more especially in our crowded towns, should have some leisure for mental improvement. This could not be, where they were liable to be worked fourteen, or sixteen, or eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. It had been said, that former Acts on this subject had been evaded. He hoped this would be guarded against by his hon. friend; and, if this object could not be otherwise secured, he hoped that the Bill, when it should come again before the House, would enact that the mills should cease to work after a certain hour. This would be a sure means of accomplishing the object which he had in view.
§ Mr. Heywood
said, he should support the second reading of the Bill, because he cordially approved of its object; but he must say, it appeared to him that its provisions were directly at variance with its object. He feared that, as the Bill at present stood, it must either be inoperative, as former Bills of the same kind had been, or that, if its provisions were carried into execution, they must produce great distress to the trade, and great consequent suffering amongst the operatives. Every 397 means would be taken to evade the enactment, therefore it would be most necessary to have the whole subject thoroughly examined before a Committee. He knew that an association bad been formed in Lancashire to enforce the former Acts on this subject, but the members saw the transgression of the law without the power to carry the purposes of the association into effect, The present Bill afforded no better security, as it stood, for its observance, than the Acts of former years, and it would offer an immense temptation, both to masters and workmen, to take advantage of its defects, by its diminution of the profits of the former, and of the wages of the latter. He made these observations to show the propriety of extreme caution in this enactment, for it was incumbent on the House to take care, while it cured one evil, not to create a greater. If its provisions were strictly enforced, the effect of them would be, to cause a great reduction of wages, and miserable privation would ensue among the workmen. Food was as necessary as air and exercise, and they should take care that, while they gave the operatives the latter, they did not deprive them of the former.
§ Mr. P. Howard
conceived the hon. Mover had made out a strong case for the restriction of the hours of labour of children under twelve or fourteen years of age; but, at the same time, with every respect for his motives, he must say, that his zeal, as a philanthropist, had exceeded his discretion as a legislator, and those two offices, with an enlightened regard to the interests of the community, could never be severed. With reference to what had fallen from his hon. colleague (Mr. James), he must observe, that a reduction in the price of corn would inevitably be accompanied by a decrease of wages; and though he thought savings might be effected, yet, with a due regard to the public creditor, upon which the security of the poor man's savings and the rich man's capital alike depended, no material reduction in the public expenditure could take place, and he trusted the people would not build too much on that hope of relief. In an altered form, he (Mr. Howard) felt the Bill which bad that night been introduced might serve the country.
§ Mr. Strickland
said, as information bad been received that the mills at Manchester were working from twelve to sixteen 398 hours a day, the House could not proceed too rapidly to put a stop to that practice. He hoped, however, that the penalties, which, he understood, were provided for working beyond a certain period, would not be made too severe, as he feared that would diminish the efficacy of the Bill, and tend to make it inoperative.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that the question was not one of pounds, shillings, and pence, but whether the English people were to be worked beyond their powers of endurance. If any Gentleman would walk into any of the cotton factories, and see the state of the workshops, no evidence of medical men, and no sophistry, would ever convince him that such labour was not destructive of the happiness and comfort of the miserable beings employed in it. It would be a libel upon cannibals, or the worst savages of the human race, to suppose that they would voluntarily suffer their children to be so treated. It would be a libel even upon the beasts of the forest to say that they would consent to treat their young as the children of the poor of this country were treated. It was the necessities of the poor which compelled them to submit to such degradation. An hon. Member had expressed a hope, that the penalties to be inflicted by the Bill would not be heavy. Now, he hoped that they would be as severe as possible, and that one-half would be given to the informer.
§ Mr. Kearsley
thought, that he was acting as one of the best friends of the labouring classes in opposing this measure, which he considered would be productive of great injury to them. He lived in a manufacturing district, and he knew that what he stated was also the opinion of workmen themselves. He had not the least doubt that the statements of the hon. Member for Aldborough were very much exaggerated.
§ Lord Nugent
said, that hon. Members had unnecessarily been discussing the principle of the Bill which was sanctioned by the House.
§ Mr. Blamire
observed, that the population in agricultural districts was more immoral than that employed in manufactures, at least so far as the number of illegitimate children was a criterion.
§ Bill read a second time, and a Committee appointed, to whom it was referred.