§ Mr. Wilson Patten
presented three Petitions from the Cotton Manufacturers of Preston, Blackburn, and Rochdale, praying for a Commission to inquire into the subject of labour in factories. He would then submit to the House the Motion of which he had given notice, for the appointing a Commission to obtain further information on the subject of the Factories' Bill before that Bill itself were brought forward. He had had doubts, whether he should bring the subject forward this evening, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade being absent; but by the advice of several competent and anxious Members, he should, notwithstanding the absence of that hon. Gentleman, proceed with his Motion; and then he should have the satisfaction of having done his duty. His only object in the Motion was, to do an act of justice. He regretted he had not been able to bring it forward at an earlier period of the Session, as he had intended; the inquiry then would have proceeded so far by this time, that on the House commencing its sittings 80 after the holidays, the Bill of the noble Lord (Ashley) could have been immediately brought forward. Circumstances, however, over which he had no control, had prevented him. He said thus much to excuse himself from that charge of wishing to delay the Bill which had been made against him by several Members, and by the public Press. He considered further inquiry to be of the most material importance, so much so, that an efficient Bill could not be framed without it. He had reason to believe, that there would still be plenty of time for this, and to pass the Bill before the end of this Session. He wished, as he had said, to do an act of justice to a large body of men who had been seriously accused, and as he believed most unjustly, but who had hitherto had no opportunity of freeing themselves from the charges brought against them. He also wished to guard hon. Members against the strong feeling of humanity in favour of one side, which must have been produced in their minds by the evidence already laid before the Committee—evidence which those whom it was directed against had not had an opportunity of contradicting up to the present time. That evidence was very voluminous; it was also of a strong and decisive nature. He would say, that if he thought that that evidence gave a true description of what was done in the manufacturing districts—if he believed that what had been asserted was matter of fact, he would go much further than the noble Lord—he would declare that the Bill of the noble Lord was not strong enough. But the evidence on both sides had not been heard, and to procure that was the object of his Motion. He trusted that they would not allow themselves to be hurried away by those feelings of humanity which were so praiseworthy; and for himself, he did not believe that all the statements made before the Committee were true, though certain portions might be so; but, taken as a whole, they were far from giving a correct view of the state of the manufacturing districts. A correct view could only be obtained by further inquiry; but even were the statements which had been made in all respects correct, he believed that better methods could be found of putting an end to the abuses than those proposed in the noble Lord's Bill. The late Parliament had declined to legislate on the subject, because they were not provided with sufficient information as to the existing state of that great manufacture 81 for which they were called upon to legislate, and they had, in consequence, referred the matter to a Select Committee above-stairs; but he thought that the present Parliament was as ill provided with proper information on the subject as before the appointment of a Select Committee. In fact they were much worse off as to information than they were before; because the Committee inquired merely into one branch of the subject, and that branch too, on which there was the least diversity of opinion. The inquiry was so limited also, that the result tended rather to mislead the House than to enlighten it. When the Committee was appointed, it was suggested that all the points connected with the factory system should be taken into consideration; but an influential member of the Committee said, "You had better let me make out my case before other evidence is gone into," and, notwithstanding the opposition of several members of the Committee, in this partial manner were their proceedings conducted. In consequence, witnesses were summoned from the country to appear before the Committee, but the persons to whom the selection of witnesses was intrusted were strictly cautioned not to send up any person on whom they could not rely; that is, as he had good reason to believe, not to send up any persons who would let out anything unfavourable to the views of the Chairman of the Committee. He spoke in the hearing of several Gentlemen who were members of the Committee and who could, consequently, contradict his statement if he were not correct. The witnesses thus called by the Chairman were not less than eighty, and the time occupied in establishing his case satisfactorily was the remainder of the Session. It might be supposed that the examination of these eighty witnesses would have given full evidence with respect to the state of every district of the country—every branch of trade—all the evils, and all the most eligible remedies but no such thing had resulted. Among these witnesses there were twenty-one medical men, but out of them fifteen resided in London, and had had little or no practical experience upon the subject, of which they gave an abstract opinion. There was no information regarding the manufacturers of the West of England—the centre of England, and very little indeed with regard to Scotland. To make up for this, however, there were fifty-one witnesses from Leeds and its neighbourhood. He could produce evidence of the incorrectness 82 and even falsehood of great part of the evidence which had been given, but he would merely state one fact, to show the reliance the House ought to place on that evidence. For this purpose he would select the witness whose evidence had made the greatest impression upon the public, not only by the statement he made of his unfortunate case, and sufferings from the factory work, but from the shocking deformity of his person. This man solemnly assured the Committee, that in his youth he had been as well formed and upright as any one of them, but that, in consequence of the dreadful and peculiar labour he had been obliged to undergo in factories, he had gradually become the crooked object they saw; that the pains he had throughout suffered were dreadful, and that he had been ultimately compelled to leave off working altogether. This was the case made out by the man himself, but he was ready to prove, from incontrovertible evidence, that the deformity of this man had nothing to do with his work in the factories but was the result of injuries received by him in a wrestling match. There were several other instances of a similar nature. The Committee, too, when any evidence was offered which might turn out unfavourable to their views, would never take any proper notice of it. There was a person who had been sent up to London; this witness could be brought up in a few hours to prove what he (Mr. W. Patten) now said, if necessary. When this witness came up to town, one of the Committee waited on her—heard her statements—examined her, and cross-examined her, but finding that what she said, was adverse to their views, he told her that there were fifty witnesses whose evidence was opposed to hers, and so she might go back into the country. Her name was Elizabeth Rushleigh. If such a thing as this had happened in a matter before a Court of Justice, a new trial would most certainly have been granted. He did not, however, ask for a new trial, nor for fresh inquiries; all he wanted was, a continuation of that inquiry; for the House was still as much in want of the information for which a Select Committee had been appointed as ever. He thought that a Bill brought in without having its provisions founded upon the most clear and impartial evidence would tend to crush and fetter the principal branches of our manufactures. He thought that the system of relays of children could be made available. He again advocated further 83 inquiry; for if the evidence now before the House remained unimpeached, the House would, of course, not put any faith in the sincerity of the Members who opposed the Bill. Every means had been taken to raise the feelings of the people, both in and out of the House against the master manufacturers. He would give one instance of an attempt of this sort, which was in a Lancashire paper, purporting to be a report of a speech delivered by one of the hon. Members of that House, but which he fully believed had never been delivered, or at any rate in the terms so reported. It gave a very highly coloured statement of the sufferings of those who laboured in factories, particularly dwelling upon the miseries endured by children; and, for the purpose of illustration, the speaker was made to give an account to the following effect: that a poor little girl, for committing some trifling fault or error had been laid hold of by one of the masters, dreadfully beaten, and ill-used; that the master had hold of the child's head, and that in the struggle such violence was used by the master, that he pulled the child's scalp entirely off! Here was a story! Yet this was the illustration said to be made use of by the hon. speaker. He (Mr. W. Patten) trusted that the House would adopt it as a striking illustration of the sort of thing of which he complained. He would also call the attention of the House to the fact related in some papers presented by the hon. member for Middlesex, from which it appeared that no Committee, though there had been some most expensive Committees, had been so expensive as this Committee on the Factories Bill. It there appeared that not a single witness, rich or poor, old or young, had been called before this Committee but had received nine shillings a-day in addition to his expenses up and down. He believed, however, that a great deal of the money which had been so lavishly expended was appropriated to the smuggling a number of persons out of London, in order that they might not give evidence. Under such circumstances, he must say, that further inquiries were necessary-though, if there were any other way of obtaining his object than by a Commission, he should readily adopt it. At all events he hoped that the House would not proceed to legislate without first having sufficient information, so that they might produce no hasty and crude work. It had been said that he wanted to dupe the Legislature, and that he was himself the dupe of the 84 masters. Neither was true. He only wanted to do justice to the masters; and the men would find that he had as strong a disposition to do justice to them as to the masters. He had no doubt, even, that he was as firm a friend to the factory children themselves as his noble friend. The question was, not whether they should consent to an Act for the abridgment of the labour of children—to that they were all agreed; but the question was, whether they should or should not do that in the best manner? The question was, whether they should not obtain correct information before proceeding to legislate, lest, in their wish to do good to some, they might do harm to others? The hon. Member concluded by moving "That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he will be graciously pleased to appoint a Commission to collect information in the manufacturing districts with respect to the employment of children in factories, and to devise the best means for the curtailment of their labours."
§ Lord Molyneux
seconded the Motion from feelings of justice, and from motives of sound policy and humanity. He was not a member of the Committee, but he had seen much of the evidence given before it, and he did not believe that there was one atom of truth in the imputations which had been thrown out against the cotton manufacturers. He had seen the large mills of the hon. members for Nottinghamshire, Rochdale, and Manchester; and he was sure that the representations given before the Committee could not apply to them. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not, by acting on a false notion of humanity, proceed to pass an Act which would reduce the profits of the manufacturers one sixth. He was sure, if they passed such an Act, while the manufacturers had to struggle against the Corn Laws, and against the tax on raw cotton, that they would bring about the most disastrous consequences. Members were, perhaps, not aware of the nature of the evidence taken before the Committee, and that it was all collected from one quarter. The persons employed in the wool, the flax, and the silk mills were alone examined, and no information had been acquired of the present state of the cotton districts. There were already several Acts on this subject, and he hoped to see those Acts enforced before they made new laws. It would only be just to grant the Commission, and inquire into the condition of the 85 people working in cotton and other factories in relation to the other labouring classes before they passed any such measure.
§ Lord Ashley
must oppose the Motion. The Commission was not necessary, and if it were necessary, a Commission could not elicit that evidence which was desired by the House. He would not then enter into a discussion of the Bill, and he hoped other hon. Members would not, as he should be unable to reply to them. The subject into which it was now proposed to have a Commission to inquire was not unknown, it having been for forty years under discussion. He would give a brief outline of the proceedings which had taken place. In 1796 Drs. Aikin and Perceval, two very eminent medical men, had dwelt strongly on the evils of the factory system, and called the public attention to them. In 1802, the late Sir Robert Peel brought in his Bill to put a restraint on the hours of labour in cotton mills. If hon. Members would look at the provisions of that measure, they would find that its enactments were much the same as those he had drawn up. In 1816, Sir Robert Peel obtained a Committee of that House to inquire into the subject, and a large volume of evidence was printed. In consequence of the inquiries of that Committee, he brought in another Bill, which passed through that House, and was sent up to the Lords. There were two Committees appointed in 1818 and 1819, and two folio volumes of evidence were the result of those inquiries. The Bill, as it was agreed to by the Lords, was different from the Bill which Sir Robert Peel had brought in. He had extended it to all factories—the Bill which was passed was limited to cotton factories only. His Bill restricted the hours of labour to ten—that Bill extended them to twelve. The strongest clauses and penalties he had put in were struck out. In 1825, Sir John Hobhouse introduced his Bill, but it suffered great delay. It was moved in 1825, and the Bill did not pass till the month of October, 1830. Mr. Sadler brought his measure forward in March, 1832, which was referred to a Select Committee, and in August the Bill was stifled. Now that he had brought in a Bill, a Motion was made to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. The public attention, since it had first been directed towards this subject, had never been long turned away. In 1818, the masters had been heard in their defence, When the Bill 86 went up to the Lords, they petitioned to be heard by Counsel, and be examined upon oath; and he would quote the evidence, to show how imperfect a case they had then made out. The masters had called a considerable number of medical men; but not one of them could bring forward one fact, or give one scientific or physiological reason to justify the long hours of labour. They always gave indirect or evasive answers to the questions that were asked. The noble Lord quoted at considerable length the evidence given by the medical gentlemen who were examined before the Lords' Committee in 1818 and 1819 in favour of the masters, to show that they had made out no justification whatever for the practices of the masters. He was not a member of the Committee of last Session; but he did not build his case upon the inquiries of any Committee. He was struck with the whole system. It was time it should be checked; and he would push the Bill as long as he breathed. He had heard statements against the evidence of the operatives, and he had heard these statements refuted; but as he did not mean to avail himself of the operatives evidence, neither should he bring forward the refutation of the assertions by which that evidence had been assailed. The whole matter had long ago been made to him quite clear, by the evidence of at least twenty medical men, who were as eminent as any men in their profession. The last Committee he considered to be entirely a work of supererogation. There was evidence enough on their shelves before that Committee sat, to convince every reasonable man that a more strong law than was already in existence must be passed. The evidence of the Committees of 1818 and 1819, coincided with the evidence of last year. There was a great number of medical men examined before those Committees, who agreed that ten hours were quite as much as ought to be allowed. Nine-tenths of that evidence related to cotton manufactories; and it could not, therefore, be said that they had not been inquired into. He might be asked, for what reason he had selected ten hours' labour as the maximum? The reason was, because he feared that he could not reduce the hours of labour to nine if he tried. The noble Lord here quoted the evidence given by Drs. Baillie and Blundell, and other medical witnesses, before the Committee in 1819, in favour of a measure similar to that which he (Lord 87 Ashley) had proposed. In 1819 there were eleven medical men who had had experience in the cotton districts examined upon oath before the Committee, and their testimony was in favour of such a measure. The petition to the House of Commons on the subject in 1818 was signed by six physicians and seventeen surgeons, all of whom had had great experience in those districts. Before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1832 Dr. Roget, who had been physician to the Manchester Infirmary, and two other eminent physicians of local experience in the cotton districts, were examined, and their evidence went to the same effect. The requisition for calling the meeting in Manchester in favour of the Bill which he (Lord Ashley) had had the honour of introducing, was signed by five physicians and sixteen surgeons there. Altogether he could appeal to the testimony of not less than ninety medical men connected with the cotton districts in favour of some such measure; and was it possible, under such circumstances, to assert that the House was not put in possession of sufficient local medical evidence upon the subject? The noble Lord quoted the evidence given by some of these medical gentlemen, to show that it was proved in 1818 that the cotton-factory children were injured in their health—stinted in their growth—and distorted in their limbs, by the unwholesome air and excessive labour of the cotton-mills. Having referred to the evidence of 1818, he proceeded to call their attention to the evidence of 1832, from which the noble Lord read several extracts. He also referred to some statements made in one of the cleverest tracts he had ever read, written by Dr. Kay, of Manchester. He referred to the evidence of this gentleman with greater readiness because he had declared himself an enemy to the Bill. He also read some extracts from a pamphlet written by one of the great master spinners, in favour of the Bill. The author was Mr. William Greig, of the firm of Samuel Greig and Co. at Bury, in Lancashire. Having gone through the evidence relative to cotton factories, he then proceeded to read portions of the evidence relative to the worsted and flax mills, and other departments of manufacture. The evidence given by Mr. Thackeray was most satisfactory on this subject. As to the silk mills, when he told the House that the children employed there were almost exclusively females-subject to all those dreadful 88 evils which pressed so particularly on that sex in consequence of this system—he was sure he had said quite sufficient to convince the House that ten hours' labour was more than enough for young females. The evidence of the medical men who had been examined against this Bill was very unsatisfactory. The replies were, generally speaking, of the most evasive character, or else betrayed gross ignorance of the facts. The noble Lord also quoted the opinions of Dr. Blundell, and many of the most eminent medical men in London, who reprobated the present system as productive of the most alarming consequences. The manufacturers who were now asking for a commission to take evidence, had already had full opportunities of presenting their evidence. They had what in reality was—though not legally dignified with the name—a Commission. A committee of the master-manufacturers had engaged several medical men to visit all the factories, and report on the state of the children, and their evidence was afterwards taken before the Committee of the House of Lords. Of the carefulness of their examination, and the value of their testimony, some judgment might be formed from the following statement of one of these medical men. In reply to a question of the number of patients he had examined, and the time such examination occupied, he answered 1,170, and in nine hours. Several operatives who were suffering under the effects of distortion, and various complaints, were subsequently examined before the Lords' Committee, and they proved that they were sent out of the way from the factories to which they belonged when the medical commissioners came there to institute their examination. In consequence of such imperfect visitation, however, reports were made. The supporters of the Bill made out their case before the committee—the masters their's—and a rejoinder followed. He could not, therefore, conceive the necessity of a commission to inquire into further evidence. In the evidence which had been given they had not acted fairly, for it turned out that in many cases which the examining physicians had returned as healthy, the poor children were labouring under distortion and various other afflictions. Two gentlemen connected with the manufacturing districts had lately published pamphlets on this subject. He had read their books with great attention; one of them was addressed to himself; but, it was very imperfect. It was singular, that, from 89 the beginning to the end of the pamphlet, Mr. Kirkman Finlay, the author, made no allusion to the evidence in 1832. He could not conceive how Mr. Finlay could be induced to set that evidence aside, unless it was, that he found it too much. He stated that the cotton system had proved to be healthy, and that twelve hours' labour had not been found too much. If there had been any thing weak in the evidence, Mr. Kirkman Finlay would have been able to refute it; but he said, that he never read it till he read the statement in Mr. Sadler's book. The whole case rested upon the medical statements. The noble Lord next adverted to the evidence of a person named Browne, as we understood, who, on being examined, stated, that he had been a considerable time employed in factories, and had never known any cruelty practised towards children employed in them. On being pressed, however, he admitted that he had a child employed in a factory with himself. The examination then proceeded as follows:—" Did you ever behave cruelly to that child?—I never did. Did you never correct her?—Yes; I think I corrected her once. Now, answer, Sir, did you not strike her down, and break her arm?—I did strike her once, and she fell; her arm came under, and it was broken. Why did you strike her?—Because she did not do as I wished her." Here, then, was a reason why a child was to be struck down and have her arm broken, merely because she did not do something that her father wished her to do. And this, too, was the admission of a person who deposed that he had never known cruelty practised towards children in factories. He would not detain the House by going further into detail, but would stand upon the evidence, and maintain that it was quite sufficient to enable Gentlemen to make up their minds upon the subject, and induce them to resist the appointment of the proposed Commission; or, if they did not do this, they would be bound to reject the Bill altogether. In the observations which he had felt it his duty to make upon this occasion, he had been careful to avoid touching upon the Factory Bill itself; and he was the more guarded on that point, because he felt satisfied that the evidence of the medical men was more than sufficient in support of his argument; or, if any thing further was wanting, it might be supplied by a reference to the numerous petitions presented on the subject. It should be considered, too, that the persons who had given that evidence, 90 had no motive—could have no motive—beyond the influence of their feelings as humane and Christian men, who felt for the unjust sufferings of their fellow creatures. He was sure, that the appointment of the proposed Commission would lead to no useful object, and that, on the other hand, it was calculated to produce considerable evil. He hoped, in what he said, he had abstained from hurting the feelings of, or giving pain to, any person either in or out of doors. He had, undoubtedly, his own opinions upon the Factory Bill and its effects, and he would venture an opinion that, under the operation even of the best of its clauses, there would be a great deal of suffering; but into this part of the subject he would not then enter. He would, upon the grounds he had already stated, implore the House, unless they thought the whole of the medical evidence unworthy of belief, and, unless they wished to impose additional labour upon the poor little children employed in those establishments, to resist the appointment of this Commission. The country felt deeply on the subject; mankind, he might say, felt it deeply; for whoever read the American newspapers would see that the feelings upon the subject had travelled across the Atlantic. He was sure that every hon. Member who considered the subject for a moment, must be of opinion, that ten hours a-day was a sufficient period during which children should labour in a factory, and that those most interested in the matter would, at length, be obliged to assent to it, as a relief to their own wounded consciences.
§ Mr. Horatio Ross
said, he thought it necessary to direct the attention of the House to one particular point, which was, that when the question was before a Committee, it was arranged that Mr. Sadler should make out a case for the men on the one hand, and that the masters were to be heard in reply. But, owing to the great mass of evidence brought forward, and the delays which unavoidably took place, Parliament was prorogued before the time for hearing the masters had arrived. He, among other members of the Committee, had left town, under the impression that no Report would be made; but by the management of the Chairman, that mass of evidence had been printed, which had had a very painful effect, and which he considered to be exaggerated in the highest degree. He considered it highly necessary, before the House should legislate on the subject, that they should hear the evidence, 91 not only on the part of the children, but on the part of the masters. The owners of factories ought to have an opportunity of rebutting the charges which had been made against them; and he was convinced that in that case, at least in the county with which he was connected, they would be enabled to do away with much of the unfavourable impression which had been made against them. He was himself an advocate for the regulation of the hours of labour, on principles favourable to the children themselves; he was Member for a large manufacturing district; he had better opportunities than many Members of making himself master of the details of the subject; and he was prepared to go a great length for the comfort of children employed in the factories; but he thought it adviseable to leave the regulation of the hours of labour to the masters themselves, who were anxious that they should all be placed on a similar footing in that respect. At present, those who shortened the time of labour in their factories were subjected to a great disadvantage when placed in competition with those who employed the children for twelve or thirteen hours. He was disposed, after consulting with practical men, to support the hon. member for Lancashire, on the ground, that the labours of the Committee of which he had been a member were not completed. He considered it but a measure of justice that they should hear both sides.
said, that before he adverted to the immediate question under consideration, he begged to call attention to a letter which had been written on the 16th of last month relative to this subject, by Mr. Blake, and which letter was addressed to Lord Molyneux. The writer of that letter contended, that the reduction of the hours of labour would be highly injurious to the working classes, and that the party-coloured evidence taken before Mr. Sadler's Committee was either exaggerated or false; and all that the masters wanted was fair dealing and full inquiry. Mr. Blake described himself as being connected with a factory in which no less than 1,700 persons were employed, and that if the Ten Hours' Bill were carried, they must shut up their doors. Having adverted to this as a preliminary matter he would confine himself strictly to the subject under discussion. He asked the House if they thought that they had obtained such full information upon the hours of labour as to set to at once and legislate upon it? That was the question to be 92 decided. He was rather afraid that the House was not aware of the manner in which this question had been agitated. Those persons who opposed the Ten Hours' Bill had been grossly abused and calumniated, as he himself had been by Mr. Oastler, at a public meeting in Leeds, who was, verily the Peter the Hermit who had preached up this crusade against the factories. On a former discussion in that House; he had appealed to hon. Members to suspend their judgment until they heard the evidence on both sides; he had done nothing more; and that simple expression of his opinion had called forth the grossest abuse of him from Mr. Oastler. He (Mr. Gisborne) had no interest whatever in any cotton factory—and it would not be too much for him to ask the House to make themselves more fully acquainted with the subject before they proceeded to legislate upon it. In 1825, the Committee of Sir John Hobhouse never listened to the restriction of juvenile labour to ten hours in the day; and what, he should like to know, had since occurred to render such a restriction a matter of necessity? Did Gentlemen think it right to legislate during every year between the operatives and the masters? Did they think that no imminent danger would arise from their so doing, to the manufacturing and other interests of the country? Mr. Sadler entreated the Committee, that they should hear his case first; and, on his pledging himself to hear evidence on the part of the masters afterwards, the Committee grant ed him his request, but that pledge was entirely falsified; and yet the noble Lord thought they had sufficient evidence to legislate at Once upon so important a question. He wished to remove from the minds of that House and the country the impressions which prevailed relative to the general cruelty which was said to be practised in factories upon children. The noble Lord (Lord Ashley) threw overboard the evidence of the operatives, and he (Mr. Gisborne) would, in return, throw overboard the evidence taken before the Committee to which the noble Lord had so frequently alluded. Since the year 1819 the system pursued at the mills had been entirely altered and improved; they were now airy and commodious; and the dust, which was formerly so injurious to the operatives and the children, had been all but entirely remedied by the introduction of improved machinery. The members of Mr. Sadler's Committee separated 93 with the understanding that none of the medical evidence would be published until the evidence for the masters had been heard; but this was unheeded, and Mr. Sadler obtained his object by publishing this ex-parte evidence. No cross-examination of the medical gentlemen was permitted; a certain string of questions had been drawn up, which no doubt might furnish valuable information for treatises upon medicine; but the questions so put, and the answers to them, did not bear at all upon the subject in discussion. Sir Anthony Carlisle was a very eminent man, and so was Dr. Brodie; but on referring to their evidence he found only ingenious theory in the former, and in the latter the House could see, on referring to the evidence, nothing at all to the subject. The questions put to him occupied 131 lines, while his answers were confined to seventy-one lines; and so it was with the other medical gentlemen. He would not read the treatises of these gentlemen, but the House could not fail to see that in many cases their answers to the questions put by the Committee were—"Yes," "No," "I think so," "Most certainly," "I should consider so." This was a fair sample of their evidence, and yet on such slender grounds they were called upon to unhinge the regulations which subsisted between the labourers and their employers. In the evidence of Mr. Guthrie, again, the longest answer that gentleman gave consisted of seven words; and he for one could place no reliance on the medical evidence. The hon. Gentleman, the member for Kircudbright said, he was ready to proceed without any further evidence. The fact was, that they were here legislating between too much work and too little to eat, and that was the practical part to be considered. Were the children to work as they now did and get a sufficiency of food, or work less and have only an insufficiency? Mr. Sadler had propounded certain theories in medicine, and simply called the medical gentlemen to prove them. The necessity for the Ten Hours' Bill had not been made out, and on these grounds he could not coincide with the views of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley). With respect to evidence given as to the employment of children in the Welsh factories, it was exaggerated, incredible, and false upon the face of it. No one could credit that evidence which went to show that children in Wales worked for twenty four successive hours, and then rested for the next twenty-four. The hon. Member 94 quoted at considerable length the evidence of a medical gentleman, of the name of Lutener, to prove that the whole statements were incorrect, and appealed to the right hon. member for Montgomeryshire, to correct him if he were in error. The same observations would apply to the evidence given as to the employment of children in Dundee; and, if the statements made had any foundation in truth, Dundee should be especially included in the Irish Coercive Bill. That evidence was a tissue of gross improbabilities. If he were allowed he should be able to show, that the statements made with respect to the cotton factories were unfounded misrepresentations, for he had an extensive knowledge of these factories, and he could, without the fear of contradiction, assert, that the children employed in them were as healthy and as happy as any children of the same class in the country. It was a well-known fact, that, connected with the cotton factories, there were benefit societies, and that the contributions of the members were greater, and the amount they received in cases of illness or necessary absence from work larger, than those of almost any other similar institution. This, then, was a proof that the persons employed in the cotton factories were not in so bad a condition as had been described, and, if the opportunity were afforded, he was fully persuaded, that the abstract medical opinion on which the case rested would be easily disproved. Before they proceeded to legislate upon the subject they were surely bound to have proper statistical information, and it was on the simple fact that they had no such information upon which he rested the vote that he meant to give in support of the Motion of his hon. friend.
had no expectation that such a debate as the present would have been got up, for, had he been aware that it was intended to enter upon a full discussion of the question, he should have been prepared with more accurate information on the subject than he then possessed. He was willing to admit that much stress had necessarily been laid upon medical opinions but, as a paper had been placed in his hands contradicting in some respects the evidence which had been adduced before the Committee of last year relative to the overworking of children in factories, he should not be doing justice to the individuals from whom it proceeded if he did not state its contents to the House. He would read it just as it had been placed 95 in his hands. The right hon. Member accordingly read the following statement:Names of Jurors before whom the following depositions were taken:—Thomas Williams, John Williams, John Jones, Evan Owen, George Pryse, Evan Thomas, John Jarman, William Bostock, James Morris, Joseph Davies, William Jones, Charles Nichols.Montgomeryshire, to wit.—Informations of witnesses taken and acknowledged at Newtown, in the said county, on Tuesday, the 20th day of November, 1832, before Edward Johnes M. D., one of his Majesty's coroners for the said county, and a Jury there empanelled, to inquire into the death of Jane Jones.Edward Jones, father of the deceased, says the deceased Jane Jones was upwards of eight years old, and was employed in the manufactory of Edward Williams. The time she was daily employed was from twelve to thirteen hours, including meal times, which were half an hour for breakfast, an hour for dinner, and half an hour for tea. Has known children kept at work longer than the above time, when there was a great press of work. They have been kept as much as seventeen hours formerly, but deponent believes that any time now beyond twelve or thirteen hours is entirely voluntary on the part of the children and their parents. His deceased child was brought home from the manufactory on Friday morning last, dreadfully burned—she died on Sunday morning.John Jones is employed in Mr. Edward Williams's manufactory. Was there last Friday morning between eight and nine o'clock; the child, Jane Jones, was warming herself at the fire, the deponent being at his work, with his back turned towards her. Another child cried out that her clothes had taken fire. Deponent immediately ran to her assistance, and endeavoured to extinguish the flames; but before he accomplished this the child was severely burned. He was assisted by other persons in the manufactory; deponent is a stout healthy young man, and has been a manufacturer from his childhood.Evan Thomas.—Was employed in the manufactory at the time Jane Jones's clothes took fire; has heard John Jones's evidence, and believes it to be a correct account of the accident; deponent assisted in taking the child home.John Marpole, surgeon.—Was called in on Friday morning last to attend the deceased; she was severely burned; he attended her from that time to the time of her death which took place on Sunday morning, and which he has no doubt was occasioned by the burns.William Lutener, surgeon.—Has lived in Newtown for the last ten years, and is of course well acquainted with the town. Has been informed, and believes, that children were formerly kept at their work in some of the manufactories thirty-six successive hours, including 96 three hours allowed for meals and relaxation. He more particularly alludes to the manufactory at Milford; has frequently had such information from the children employed in the said manufactory, as they were going to and from their work; the health of the said children appeared to be good. He believes such extraordinary labour was perfectly voluntary. Gave evidence to the above effect before a Committee of the House of Commons.The children from Mr. Edward Williams's manufactory, to the amount of seventeen, were at this period of the inquiry brought into the room, and they all appeared to be in perfect health.Charles Nichols, one of the Jury, says that some years ago the children were kept longer to their labour than they are now; believes that at present their working hours do not exceed thirteen including meal time.Richard Newell Davies.—Is a manufacturer and has been so about eighteen or twenty years. There are two sets of children employed those who are employed through the day being relieved by those who are employed through the night. Those employed in the day are very seldom employed in the night, and never but through their own choice and regulation amongst themselves. Employs at present about fifteen children.Thomas Sayer is a manufacturer, and has kept engines about two years and a half. Employs from twenty to twenty-four children. The rule of his manufactory is to work ten hours exclusive of meal-times amounting to about two hours; there is a set of children for the night to relieve those who work through the day. The day children sometimes continue their work through the night, but it is entirely matter of choice, and for the sake of extra wages. Had never heard of children being kept at work for thirty-six hours till within these two or three last days, and believes, according to his experience, the thing to be impossible. The children deponent employs are, generally speaking, very healthy. Those employed by him during the night are some of the stoutest, not under twelve years of age, and from that to sixteen; and they have extra wages.George Green.—Is a manufacturer, and has been so engaged for thirty years; has employed during the last four or five years twenty-four or twenty five children. Formerly he employed more. He has always employed two sets of children, one for day, and one for night work. The day set never continue their work through the night, except by choice. They do so sometimes for the sake of extra wages, and having the following day to themselves. The deponent employs younger children through the night than last witness, but they are never left without a man to look after them. From his own experience, should think it impossible to keep children at work thirty-six hours; has known them occasionally work for twenty-four successive hours, but this has been entirely their own choice.97David Davies.—Has been a manufacturer about twenty-five years. Employs now about twelve or fourteen children. He formerly kept more. When the trade is brisk he keeps two sets, one for night, and the other for day work. At ordinary times, having no occasion for night work, only one set is kept. Thirteen hours is the usual time of day work, including from two to three hours for meals. Had never heard of children being kept thirty-six hours at work till these last few days, and from his own experience believes it to be impossible.Edward Williams.—Has been in the manufacturing trade thirty years; never heard of children being kept at work thirty-six hours, and is certain from his own experience it is impossible. Has heard the statement of the four last witnesses, and believes it to be correct.Jeremiah Williams, Jeremiah Steele, and Solomon Jones are manufacturers, and carry on work at the Milford manufactory; never heard, till within the last few days, of children being kept at work, either there or anywhere else, thirty-six hours, and are certain it is impossible. Have heard the evidence of the five last witnesses, and are satisfied it is correct.William Davies.—Has been a manufacturer many years, and has been in the habit of employing children. Had never heard, till within these last few days, of children being employed thirty-six successive hours, and thinks it is impossible. Has heard the evidence of the last seven witnesses and believes it to be correct.Mary Davies.—Has a child employed in Mr. Green's manufactory; her usual time of working is thirteen hours, including meal-time. Has occasionally known her work sixteen hours, including meal-times; but this has been very seldom, and only at busy times. She has also been sometimes without work at all, but has at such times always received her wages. Mr. Green is a good master. The child has very good health.Such was the statement shortly of men whom he knew to be most respectable. It had been sent to him by the Coroner for the county who was a medical practitioner of the highest reputation. But, dismissing the evidence given before the Committee of last year altogether from his mind, he still was of opinion that the House had grounds in abundance upon which to legislate. By the medical evidence given before the Committee of the Lords in a former Session it was manifest that more labour was required of children employed in factories than their constitutions could bear, and, such being the case, he did not conceive any rational man could doubt the propriety of limiting the hours of their work, and taking steps to prevent their parents from 98 selling, as it was well known they did, not from any desire to injure their offspring but rather from their necessities, the labour of their children. No one could defend a system by which children were worked beyond their strength, and it was important also to know that by a statement on the subject made at the end of the last Session the mortality occasioned by the practice amounted in some places to as much as twelve per cent. Without going further into detail he thought a complete case for passing the Bill of the noble Lord had been made out; but he was at the same time ready to admit that they would not be doing justice to the masters if they did not afford them an opportunity which they sought of vindicating themselves from the heavy charge of inhumanity under which they laboured. If the Motion of the hon. member for Lancashire were agreed to, a return might be had within such a time as would enable the House to pass the noble Lord's Bill during the present Session; and it was with that view, and upon that understanding only, that he should vote for the issuing of the proposed Commission of Inquiry. He was as unwilling as the noble Lord, or any other hon. Member, to retard the progress of the measure; but he could not, at the same time, help thinking that no inconvenience would arise from the inquiry.
, recollecting that the result of the Committee which was appointed last year was, to prevent the Bill from being carried through in the course of the Session, would not consent to a similar proposition at the present time. He could see no object to be gained by the delay. He could understand why hon. Gentlemen connected with the manufacturing districts should wish to give the master-manufacturers an opportunity of explaining their conduct. But with that the House had nothing to do. Their duty was to consider, whether there were sufficient grounds to warrant them in legislating on the subject. He contended that there was abundant evidence for that purpose; and, further, he agreed with the right hon. member for Montgomeryshire, that if there were not a tittle of evidence, the enactments of the Bill were on the face of them such as every body must agree to. For what were they? That no person under age should be worked harder than the slaves in our colonies. He said harder, for by Act of Parliament 99 the slaves in our colonies were not to be worked for more than nine hours in the day, and (besides the Sabbath) were to have one day of rest in the week, while even by this Bill of Amelioration, the factory children were to be worked ten hours in the day, and were not to have any day of rest. But the proposition of the noble Lord was so reasonable, that it would be a waste of time to advert further to the evidence, and he therefore only begged of the House to bear in mind that Mr. Sadler had not sought the Committee, but that, protesting against it as unnecessary, it was forced upon him. One great point to which this question had reference, was the great depreciation in the morals and manners of the people caused by the present system. It should not be considered merely on the ground of the welfare of the children themselves, but on that of the future welfare of the country generally. Could any thing be more frightful and abhorrent than the picture of moral debasement and profligacy which persons so employed presented? It was impossible by such a system to afford them education of any kind, and their bodies were so exhausted by fatigue as to render them unable to sit in church during divine service on Sundays. If, then, the Legislature felt it necessary to interpose on behalf of the slave, surely it was not too much to expect that House to interfere on behalf of a helpless child who was placed in a still worse situation. The object of the Poor Laws was to protect children as well as persons who were destitute, and if the Poor Laws had been properly administered, there would be no occasion for burthening children in this way beyond their power of endurance. Had the children in agricultural districts been treated as those connected with manufacturing places were, the Magistrates would be blamed, and an outcry would be raised which would not easily be stifled. He should resist this or any other Motion which might cause any delay in the progress of the noble Lord's Bill.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, the question divided itself into two heads—first, the claim for the inquiry made by the manufacturers; and next, supposing that claim to be admitted, whether the general case should outride the particular one. What were the facts of the case? The Committee was forced on Mr. Sadler much against his will; he consented to it only because he 100 could not hinder it. The evidence taken before this Committee was all on one side and to support one view; but there was a distinct understanding and agreement that the other side of the case should afterwards be fully and fairly investigated. The evidence closed with the close of the Session, and Members had left London before its publication. Now, he doubted whether in strict fairness this should have been, tending as it did to raise unfair prejudices against individuals; yet, on the whole, he could not regret it, inasmuch as he was sure its publication would have a righteous and benevolent result. He had no hesitation in believing that if the inquiry had been further carried on, as many sleek, straight, and chubby children would have been brought forward as there had been deformed and emaciated ones. He must say, he very much doubted the accounts of deformed bodies and debased minds created by this system, and thought the odium of great and continued cruelty which had been attached to it was the representation of the exception and not of the rule; that what had been advanced was not an accurate representation of the ordinary economy of a mill, nor the true picture of the feelings and conduct of a British manufacturer. He felt, that the manufacturers ought to be allowed an opportunity of showing, that inhumanity formed no part of the economy of a British factory, and that the statements which had been made upon the subject were not the fact. This vindication of the masters was, however, perfectly distinct from the Bill of his noble friend, which rested upon premises that were undeniable, and beyond the reach of cavil or doubt; and if it was, therefore, not to be denied that undue hardship and suffering were inflicted upon children, it must be admitted, that Parliament was imperiously required to enact some substantial and efficient measure for their relief. He had himself been prepared to take upon him the responsibility of introducing a similar Bill, and, that being the case, he hoped his noble friend would not consent to delay the progress of his measure an instant. The matter was not now in his own hands, but he should act just as if it were, and vote against the Motion for a Commission.
§ Mr. George W. Wood
said, he was extremely unwell, and would gladly have refrained from taking any part in the debate, but his sense of duty compelled 101 him to do so. He was bound to advocate most strongly the necessity of instituting a fresh inquiry, and he must contend that the noble Lord (Ashley) had founded his proposition on a contemplation only of the evidence on one side. That noble Lord had also, in his speech on the present occasion, laid great stress on the evidence adduced before the House of Lords in 1815, forgetting that, since that period, such immense changes had taken place in the character and management of factory labour, as rendered that evidence no evidence at all. He was surprised to hear from the noble Lord the argument that the manufacturers ought to be indifferent to the preservation of their characters every where else but in their own districts. The manufacturers only asked the House to complete that investigation which it last year determined to enter upon. It seemed to him rather singular that the noble Lord (Ashley), in quoting and commenting upon the medical evidence which applied to the question, should have selected those portions only which favoured his own view of the case, while he threw overboard all that was of an opposite character. He wished the noble Lord had referred to the evidence of Dr. Holdson, who was much respected at Manchester, but whose opinions were somewhat at variance with those of many of the medical men who were examined last year. The noble Lord proposed, upon what he must call partial and inconclusive evidence, a measure, which, as it stood, would reduce by one-sixth the whole of the productive industry of the country. Was it too much, then, for those who not only were deeply interested in the subject themselves, whose character was involved, and whose property was at stake, and who naturally wished to promote the welfare of their own workmen and people in their own neighbourhood, to ask the House to see how the facts really stood, and whether the regulations which were proposed would accomplish the objects in view before those regulations received the force of law? Would the noble Lord venture to say, that he had ascertained, on his own authority, that such would be the case? Was it not just possible that there might be peculiar circumstances in different manufactures, or even in the same manufacture in different parts of the empire, which would require different enactments? He was anxious to protect the children in factories, 102 but, in doing that, let them take care not to ruin those manufactures on which these children depended for bread. The hon. Member concluded by saying, that he thought the inquiry should be granted, in justice not only to the manufacturers, but also to the working classes themselves.
§ Mr. Robinson
was of opinion that the House was in a condition to legislate at once on this important subject, not only on the evidence taken last year, but on the evidence taken on previous occasions. He was not of opinion the evidence produced had shown that the manufacturers were heartless or unmindful of the health and comfort of their labourers; but the testimony of medical men had convinced him that working for twelve hours a-day was ruinous to the health of the children. And as he saw no limitation on the time of employing them, unless the Legislature imposed it, he was willing at once to legislate on the subject, fie doubted if a limitation of the labour of children would have the effect upon the Poor Laws which was anticipated by hon. Members who had spoken; for working people, when asked for what reason they allowed their children to work for so many hours, uniformly answered, that nothing but distress forced them to commit such cruelty; and when further questioned, they admitted that much of the produce of their labour was spent in medicines and medical attendance. It was but fair, therefore, to suppose that the noble Lord's Bill, in as far as it would have the effect of improving the health of the children, would enable them to work more regularly, and in as far as considerable expense would be saved from the same cause, would not have the effect of increasing the Poor-rates to the extent anticipated by the hon. Members who had spoken for the Motion. He was at a loss to know from what source the hon. member for Lancashire had derived the calculation which went to show that the adoption of the noble Lord's Bill would diminish the productive power of the country by one sixth. He supposed that the hon. Member must have meant the produce of infant labour. He was inclined to go fully as far as the Bill of the noble Lord went; and if the manufacturing and trading superiority of this country over foreign countries was only to be maintained by a continuance of the present system, he would be ready to sacrifice that superiority. He denied, however, that the trade could be 103 maintained by such a system. If there were no other way of maintaining the mercantile superiority of this country than by pressing as at present on the labour of children, their condition would get worse and worse, and the difficulties of the manufacturer would daily increase. He thought, therefore, that in justice to the people, as well as in policy and morality, the House was bound to adopt the proposition of the noble Lord. He hoped, at all events, if the House considered further evidence necessary before proceeding to legislate upon the subject, that they would re-appoint a Committee of Inquiry rather than the Commission moved for by the hon. Member.
§ Dr. Lushington
said, that the only question was, whether the House was in a condition to legislate; and when he looked to the quantity and variety of the evidence which was before them, he could not doubt that the House possessed sufficient information. He thought that they had complete evidence to prove what was necessary to do in this matter; and after all the arguments which he had heard on both sides of the question, he had come to the conclusion that the hon. Member's Motion was not Only unnecessary, but, from the delay it would occasion, decidedly injurious. If the evidence of the medical gentlemen, and the evidence taken before the Committee of last year, and on previous occasions, gave a true view of the state of the children in the manufacturing districts, what would the effect of the delay be? A renewal and continuance of the same miseries to an indefinite period till those Commissioners chose to give in their Report. But what valid evidence could be obtained in the face of the fact stated by Dr. Bailey and the other medical men who were examined, that no infant could labour for twelve hours in a manufactory without injury to health? And why take evidence by means of Commissioners? He did not know what confidence the House might place in evidence taken by Commissioners, but he could say, that he would place none. He knew that Sir John Hobhouse had wished to go further in his Bill than he had gone, and that it was only from a wish to have the co-operation of the manufacturers, in order to ensure a certain quantum of good, rather than have none, that he did not carry the principles of his measure further. He must protest against the Motion.
§ Mr. Mark Phillips
contended that it was but just to the manufacturers to institute a counter-inquiry, in order that the real state of the children employed in the cotton trade might be ascertained. If the contemplated Bill were ever adopted, he hoped it would be accompanied by other measures, to protect the interests of the owners of machinery, in the present depressed state of the cotton trade. It was well known that the cotton-trade was in such a state that the profits were nearly annihilated; and if the noble Lord's Bill passed, he was sure that they would soon hear of that state of things which the hon. member for Birmingham had described. When he heard the manufacturers called murderers, and charged with infanticide—when their factories were termed bastiles, and when there was a system of agitation and excitement on this subject out of the House, great care should be taken to legislate with calmness. He did not ask inquiry for the sake of delay, but because he thought it right in that House to be quite sure of their ground before passing an onerous, and he was afraid a ruinous, enactment.
Mr. Robert Ferguson
gave all credit to Mr. Sadler for the humanity of his motives, but that gentleman had seen only one side of the question. He advocated inquiry, for the sake of the children themselves. He would divide the Commission into three branches, in order that the delay might be as little as possible, and the measure, after due consideration, might be passed in the present Session.
§ Mr. Hardy,
as a Representative of a borough dependent upon factories, said, that the Motion for a Commission, if agreed to, would prevent legislation this year, and excite, and properly, the greatest dissatisfaction in the great body of the country. There had been an open Committee, and a full case had been made out for legislation. The system was monstrous, and even at that midnight hour there were many hapless children suffering from the effects of the present system. If a Commission were granted, its inquiries must be partial, or they must extend to a great period of time. He admitted readily that there were many factories in which not only no cruelty was practised, but every attention was paid to the comfort and welfare of children; but he contended that, upon the other hand, it was established beyond the reach of contradiction that 105 there were also a great many factories in which children were worked to the prejudice of their health, and even of their lives. Why should not the House apply the same rule to the factories as to Ireland? When the Coercive Bill was moved, it was not pretended that the whole of Ireland was a scene of outrage, of bloodshed, and of murder; and yet, upon the statement of the Minister, of facts taken to be notorious, the Bill received the sanction of the great majority of the House. So now it was not pretended that every factory was the scene of cruelty or of premature disease and death; but the Ten Hours' Bill was called for, because it had been proved in a great mass of evidence that, in a large number of factories a system did exist which tended to injure the health and to destroy the life of the children employed. But they were told of the immense value of the factories, and that the manufacturers would be ruined if interfered with. He thought it ill founded; but, if it were well founded, he would apply to it the spirit of a remark he had heard fall from the late Mr. Wyndham. That statesman had exclaimed, "Let our commerce be sacrificed rather than the Constitution." He would say, let the manufacturers perish, rather than justice and humanity.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he had to apologise for the absence of his noble friend (Lord Althorp) and his right hon. friend the Vice-President of the Board of Trade. They had both been anxious to attend in their places, but were compelled by indisposition to be absent. He had been deputed by his noble friend to learn, as well as he was able, the prevailing opinion of the House as to the course that was desirable to be pursued. Undoubtedly, his noble friend was not without an opinion of his own; but the Government were anxious, upon so important a matter, to hear the opinions and the arguments of those hon. Members who were largely engaged in manufactures, and, consequently, intimately acquainted with the subject. He had listened most attentively to the whole of the debate; and he was bound to declare that, in his opinion, the weight of argument was decidedly in favour of the issuing of a Commission. And he took upon himself to say, the best and the readiest way to attain the truth was by the means of a Commission. If the proposition had been for reviving the Committee of last year he should have 106 received it with jealousy, for he was convinced that delay would have been inevitable and the conclusion unsatisfactory. If the Commission proposed were appointed, it would be the duty of Government to select proper persons as Commissioners, to appoint the places to which they should go, and to point out the subjects upon which they should collect evidence. At the present moment he contended the House was not in a condition to deal with the question, whether with reference to doing justice to the manufacturers, to the children, or to the public. What had already been done was a proof of the necessity of a Commission. The subject upon which they were called upon to legislate was not merely one involving money, but involving also a great amount of labour, which was the means of promoting human happiness and national prosperity. What had the previous House of Commons done with respect to the subject? Why, feeling its vast importance, it had determined to acquire information, and a Committee had consequently been appointed. Now, before that Committee, the case of one party only had been heard. Surely they were not prepared to legislate upon a case which had been only half argued, and half inquired into? But it was said the Commission would not help them, because, in order for it to acquire full information, it must be in existence a long while. Why, if more than one Commission was necessary, let there be more. In such a case, when the manufactures of the country were at stake, expense could be of no consideration. But some hon. Members seemed to think that the Government had particular feelings in the matter, and that the Commission might be prejudiced. What interest could the Government have but that of the country? Again, if a Commission were appointed, and the advocates of the noble Lord's Bill found that the inquiry proceeded tardily or unfairly, they might at once move the second reading of their measure. In the Bill of the noble Lord there were many points which required consideration. For instance, was it to be said that the woollen factories of Gloucestershire were to be interfered with?—that, in fact, all the factories worked by water power were to be injured? Suppose that the effect of the noble Lord's measure should be, as was very likely, to throw the children out of employment, what was then to become of 107 them? Granting that the labour was severe, was not severe labour with bread better than no labour without bread? He contended that the evidence had in many respects been proved to contain gross exaggerations. It had been stated that a child was worked thirty-six hours without a pause. Now, that had been found not to be the case. In supporting the proposition for a Commission he was not opposing the introduction of a proper Bill, but taking the readiest means of leading to one. The interests of the manufacturers were by far too vast and important to be lightly dealt with, and they were entitled to the attention which they claimed. "Therefore, all we entreat of you," said the right hon. Gentleman, "is to act with the same discretion as your predecessors, and to get the information first, and then to make what use of it you please."
§ Mr. Matthias Attwood
said, that he, like the right hon. Member, had attended most carefully to the whole of the debate, and he had come to a decidedly different conclusion to that expressed by the right hon. Member as to the weight to be attached to the arguments which had been adduced. He regretted to hear the speech of the right hon. Member. It would be regarded by anxious thousands as a declaration of the intentions of Government to defeat or to retard the Bill of the noble Lord. It could be regarded in no other light; for no one could fail to remark that the arguments used by the right hon. Member were directed against the Bill itself of the noble Lord quite as much as they were to the question then more properly before the House. He therefore could not but infer, that it was the Bill of the noble Lord that was the real mark of objection, and that the proposed Commission was merely a means of arriving at the desired end. Why, what was the object for which the Commission was required? It was said that by the evidence before the Committee last Session the character of the manufacturers had been unjustly prejudiced. Now, surely that prejudice, if it had existed, must be removed by the debate of that night. It was admitted upon all hands that there were many factories well managed; but it must also be admitted that in many factories there were gross abuses. They were told, that in the evidence taken before the Committee, there were many exaggerations. Be it so. Make what allowance it was thought fit for 108 exaggeration, and still an immense mass of evidence would remain, which showed beyond question that a great body of the infant population of the country was subject to a system prejudicial to health and even destructive of life. The right hon. Member and others spoke as if the charge against the manufacturers was in the Bill of the noble Lord. It was no such thing. The charge against the manufacturers was in the evidence, and not in the Bill that had been so sedulously attacked, and to postpone which was the real object in asking for a Commission. Now it was remarkable that, while the evidence was taking, the manufacturers asked for no Commission; and also that they were content to labour under all the imputations heaped upon them by the evidence, until the Bill was again brought forward, and then they found out that their character had been assailed, and must be cleared by a Commission. Speaking of what he called the exaggerations in the evidence the hon. member for Derbyshire had brought forward against them Mr. Gregg, he would quote to the House the opinions of Mr. Gregg, as stated upon the subject, without reference to the measure now proposed. (The hon. Member quoted from a pamphlet written by Mr. Gregg some years ago, in which he declared that nothing could remove the cruel abuses then prevailing in the factories but a reduction in the hours of labour.)—When the House was told to bear in mind the vast importance of the manufactures, he would ask, was not that an inferior or a worthless consideration when its maintenance involved the very existence of the helpless beings who were compelled to produce those manufactures? He would give his vote against the motion for a Commission, because he thought it was unnecessary for the purpose he had in view, and would much interfere with the measure of the noble Lord, the member for Dorsetshire.
§ Mr. Cornish
, amidst unceasing cries of question, opposed the Commission, but his observations were rendered inaudible by the uproar.
§ Mr. William Duncombe
protested against these extraordinary vociferations, and cries of "Question!" He presumed that hon. Members had made up their minds on which side to vote, and so considered discussion unnecessary. He was, however, far from entertaining that opinion, and 109 would not be deterred by such clamour from expressing his sentiments. He was strongly opposed to the Commission as an unnecessary and mischievous thing; and he considered that this Motion would inevitably lead to the ultimate rejection of the excellent Bill of the noble member for Dorsetshire; but this, he supposed, was the object aimed at by hon. Members. As to the evidence about which so much had been said, he fully believed that, making every allowance for certain errors and exaggerations, the statements were substantially correct, and quite sufficient for the House to act upon. As to what had been said about the possibility of procuring the proposed additional evidence in sufficient time to enable them to pass the Bill by the end of the Session, he denied the possibility altogether. If they did not get the Bill upon the evidence already before them, they certainly would get no bill at all. If they wanted local evidence, there was the petition from Leeds; which was signed by no less than 16,000 persons, and fully corroborated the statements they had heard of the cruelty practised in the factories. He would also refer them to the statements made at a public meeting at Oldham by a clergyman, which were equally corroborative. That gentleman said, the question was one which was most intimately connected with the cause of humanity. Every one who felt for his species must conclude that the over-working of infants must be put a stop to; though he was sorry to say there was a most determined party working and straining every nerve to oppose the measure now before Parliament to effect that object. He, however, would give his testimony in favour of the Ten Hours' Bill. He had witnessed the pallid cheek, and the shadow-worn frame, as he stood by the death-bed of the factory child. He had viewed it with pain, and lamented that such scenes existed. He, therefore, now stood forward to aid, by his humble advocacy, in ameliorating this state. He was sorry that the Cabinet Ministers were not in their places. The sudden indisposition of the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer was peculiarly unfortunate. But, however, as they could not have the benefit of the opinions of the present Cabinet Ministers, he would at least give them what had been said by a former Minister—no other than the right hon. William Huskisson—who, in the year 110 1826, delivered a speech, in which, as the subject was not before the House, he went out of his way to give his opinion, and strongly advocated the necessity of doing away with this dreadful system of abuse—an abuse on which the right hon. Gentleman made these powerfully-expressed animadversions.—The hon. Member read the following passage—' I have seen, and many other Gentlemen have no doubt seen, in a Macclesfield newspaper of the 19th of February, 1825, the following advertisement—" To overseers, guardians of the poor, and families desirous of settling in Macclesfield. Wanted immediately, from four to five thousand persons." [Loud cries of "hear! hear!"] The House may well express their surprise; but I beseech their attention to the description of persons required by this advertisement—" from seven to twenty years of age;" so that the silk manufacturers were content to receive children of the tender age of only seven years—" to be employed in the throwing and manufacturing of silk; the great increase of the trade having caused a great scarcity of workmen. It is suggested that this is a most favourable opportunity for persons with large families, and overseers who wish to put out children," children of seven years of age "as apprentices, to insure them a comfortable livelihood. Application to be made, if by letter, post paid, to the printer of this paper." Humanity is not the least remarkable part of this precious document; and the House will not fail to observe, how admirably the cruelty of confining children of seven years of age, to labour in a silk-mill for twelve or fifteen hours out of the four-and-twenty, is tempered, by the inducement to parents to provide for their families for life. What sort of provision that has been, the present wretched state of those helpless infants will best evince. And here I cannot help observing, that, at the very time such an invitation was sent forth to overseers and parents, by the owners of silk-mills, this House was very properly occupied in passing a Bill, to prevent the employment of children under nine years of age in cotton factories.'* He conjured the House once more to reject the motion for a Commission, because, if it were entertained, there* Hansard (new series) xiv. p. 794.111 was but little probability of the Bill of the noble Lord being successful this Session, if it did not prove the means of totally overthrowing a Bill which was loudly called for by the dictates of justice and humanity.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that if he thought that the interests of those connected with, or engaged in, manufactories, could be promoted by the rejection of the Motion before the House, he would willingly oppose it, and go at once to the consideration of the Bill of the noble Lord. He fully admitted, that the subject was one on which the Parliament ought to legislate, and the only question was, how to legislate In the best manner. The hon. member for Lancashire thought that they ought to begin by a Commission. The principal objection to that course was to be found in the Speech of his hon. and learned friend the member for the Tower Hamlets, who asked, were they to allow the present system to go on pending such inquiry? He would say, that there was little danger of any system injurious to the children being continued during such investigation. If ever there was a time when the children stood a chance better than another of being well treated, and not in any degree over-worked, it was when the eyes of Parliament and the country were fixed on our factories. He believed the object of all was, in the result, the same; but as the necessity of legislation was admitted, would it not be better to legislate with all the facts and with the fullest evidence before them, than to make a law on half information which must necessarily be shallow and injurious? Much reliance was placed on the evidence adduced by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sadler) before the Committee; but without detracting from the merits of that Gentleman, he thought that evidence which a Commission would be likely to collect would be more entitled to respect than that which he individually could procure. His noble friend (Lord Althorp), whose absence he regretted, had intimated to him that he should not object to a Commission if the feeling of the House should be for it, but he thought it would be a better course to refer the noble Lord's (Ashley's) Bill to a Select Committee, not with the view of taking evidence, but for the purpose of giving to the whole measure a more full, calm, and deliberate consideration, than it would be likely to get in a Committee of 112 the whole House. He regretted, that the noble Lord (Ashley,) had so changed his Bill as to make it appear that the Government took part with the manufacturers against the workmen; that such was not the wish of any member of Government it was hardly necessary for him to say. At the same time it was now unavoidable, and he could only regret that his noble friend had not framed his Bill with a little more attention to prudence.
Mr. Grantley Berkley
said, that as the representative of the western division of Glocestershire, he could not consent, by legislating in haste, and without inquiry upon this subject, to trample upon the character of all the manufacturers of England. He gave his assent most cordially to the Motion then before the House.
said, that if the Motion could be so limited, as not to prevent the passing of the Bill, he would consent to the appointment of a Commission, but on no other condition.
§ Mr. John Fielden
had been engaged in the cotton trade since he was ten years of age. He was then introduced into his father's mill, and laboured for ten hours a-day. If he thought that this inquiry would elicit truth, he should be the last to vote against it; but he was sure it would not. He was confident that if a Commission went down, the Commissioners would return with evidence that was anything but the truth, or, at least, anything but the whole truth. Preparations would be made to receive them, and the cotton mills would be put into such a condition as they were never in at any other time. He himself had always petitioned the Legislature for a reduction in the time of labour for the children in the factories. On occasion of Sir Robert Peel's Bill, he had petitioned in its favour; he wrote a letter to say, that all that was required to be known was then before the House, and that the attempt to have a Committee to examine evidence was an attempt on the part of the opponents of the measure, to delay the Bill altogether. It had that effect then, and he believed that it would have the same effect now. What evidence could be wanted to show that children of ten years of age were not fit to labour for twelve or fourteen hours a-day? He knew, from his own experience, that they were not capable of undergoing that labour. When he worked 113 in the mill, he was much worn by the fatigue, although he only worked for ten hours a-day, and of course had many indulgences that other children had not. He had had ample opportunity since that time of knowing the effect of such continued labour not on children alone, but on grown-up men, and could bear full testimony to its wearing effect upon the constitution. The subject was one of importance, and the petitions they had had ought not to be treated with disregard, and it ill became those who were legislating for the protection of children to treat it with levity. He thought that the medical evidence already given on this question was clear enough, and he himself could so completely corroborate it, that he should have no difficulty whatever in saying that further inquiry was quite needless.
Mr. John Stanley
admitted, that a case was made out for some legislation, but he did not know whether the hours should be nine, ten, or six, and on the ground that this was not decided, he supported the Commission.
§ Sir Oswald Mosley
said, that from Wiltshire, Glocestershire, and Somersetshire, no witnesses whatever had been examined, and yet the manufactories in those counties were to be subject to the proposed regulations. A Clause in the Bill, for example, prohibited labour after eight o'clock in the evening, and in some water mills they only began to work at twelve or two o'clock, which would prevent their labouring more than six hours.
§ Mr. Wilson Patten,
in reply, said, that he would meet the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite if he altered his Motion to the following:—" That an Address be presented to his Majesty, requesting his Majesty to appoint a Commission to proceed with the utmost despatch to collect evidence in the manufacturing districts as to the employment of children in factories; and as to the propriety of curtailing the hours of labour, so as to enable the House to legislate upon the subject during the present Session."
§ The House divided on the Motion—Ayes 74: Noes 73: Majority in favour of a Commission 1.
|List of the NOES.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Baillie, Colonel J.|
|Attwood, M.||Bainbridge, E. T.|
|Attwood, T.||Banks, W. J.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Baring, A.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Lamont, N.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Bayntun, S. A.||Lincoln, Lord|
|Bellew, R. M.||Lyall, G.|
|Bewes, T.||Martin, J.|
|Beauclerk, Major A.||Maxwell, Sir J.|
|Bish, T.||Morpeth, Lord|
|Blackstone, W. S.||O'Brien, C.|
|Bowes, J.||O'Connell, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||O'Connell, M.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Paget, F.|
|Childers, J. W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Cornish, J.||Poulton, J. S.|
|Corry, H.||Pringle, R.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Robinson, G. E.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Ruthven.|
|Etwall, R.||Scholefield, J.|
|Fergusson, C.||Stewart, C.|
|Finn, W. F.||Strickland, G.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Gaskell, D.||Troubridge, Sir T.|
|Gore, M.||Tynte, C. J. Kemyss|
|Greene, T.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Grey, Hon. C.||Vincent, F.|
|Grey, Sir G.||Vivian, Sir R.|
|Gully, J.||Welby, G. E.|
|Hardy, J.||Wilks, J.|
|Hughes, H.||Young, F.|
|Jerningham, Hon. H.||Ashley, Lord|
|Jones, Captain||Inglis, Sir R.|
§ Lord Ashley
said, that from the division which the House had just come to it was clear that some Bill for the regulation of factories must pass this Session. As the House had decided to appoint a Commission, he thought that he had a right to ask Ministers to appoint the Commission immediately, and to place upon it medical men of the highest skill and eminence. If they did not, the country would be of opinion that justice was not done to this question. He was of opinion that a Commission would be of little use, as individuals who were interested might refuse to give evidence before it, and the Commission had no power either to compel the attendance of witnesses or to force them to answer. He thought that the Commission should be armed with power to compel evidence. It was said, that the Commission was to proceed with despatch, in order to enable the House to legislate on the subject during the present Session; but he wished to know how it could travel over the different parts of England and Scotland, and collect evidence in time for that purpose? It had been said that the evidence collected by Mr. Sadler was too general; he was afraid that the evidence collected by this Commission would be too particular. He 115 hoped that the Commission would turn out advantageously. He disclaimed all desire of obtaining popularity by bringing forward this measure, and, at the same time, expressed his belief that his Bill would be of as much advantage to Ministers as it would be to himself.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that the disclaimer of the noble Lord was perfectly unnecessary. He might be satisfied that the utmost care would be taken by Government in the selection of the Commissioners, for it would be worse than folly to appoint Commissioners whose characters were not far beyond all impeachment. It ought, however, to be observed, that this appointment of a Commission was not upon the motion of the Government, but on that of an individual wholly unconnected with Government. If information were necessary on this subject, it could be rendered valuable only by having it procured by well-qualified persons, and, therefore, Ministers had the strongest interest in appointing competent men. He did not think that any persons would refuse to answer questions put to them by the Commissioners; but if any person did refuse there could be no doubt that the House would immediately pass a short Bill to compel them to answer, and even upon oath, if required. As soon as the Commissioners were appointed, the terms of the Commission, and the names of the parties appointed, should be laid before the House, and the noble Lord would then have the opportunity of objecting to the Commission and Commissioners, if he thought proper.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
suggested to Ministers the propriety of making the Commission not only able and intelligent, but also numerous, in order that it might institute inquiries in different places at the same time.