§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, that he should have merely moved the second reading of the Bill, and then waited to hear and answer objections to it, if he had not wished to remove some misconception, which had gone abroad, respecting its nature. He was the more surprised at this misconception, because the measure seemed to speak plainly for itself. It consisted of but a single clause; and anybody who knew the provisions of the Act at present in force, or who had attended to the discussions in Parliament upon it, would find it perfectly clear that the only object he had in view was the repeal of one section in that Act, and to place the law regarding factories in the same situation as that in which it stood on the 1st March last. A Bill had formerly been introduced, 738 in which an attempt was made to restrict the hours of labour of those who might fairly be considered capable of deciding for themselves. It was rejected by the House; and a measure was brought forward by Government, having for object the protection of children under a certain age. After the 1st March, 1836, children between the ages of twelve and thirteen years, as well as under, were restricted from working more than eight hours per day. This was the restriction he wished to remove by the Bill upon the table; and he wished to leave the law as it stood prior to the 1st of March, by providing that children between twelve and thirteen years old, like their seniors, might decide for themselves; and, if they thought proper, might work for twelve hours per day. The grounds for repealing the clause were simply these. The inspectors of factories had made an unanimous declaration that they had found it almost impossible to enforce the law as it had stood since the 1st of March last, and the inspectors, manufacturers, and all the opponents of the Bill, had stated, that if the clause referred to were allowed to continue law, the inevitable consequence would be that all children between the ages of twelve and thirteen years would be thrown out of employment. The Act of 1833 went upon the principle of relays of children, each relay working for eight hours; but experience had shown that the system had entirely failed in Glasgow, Manchester and in all large manufacturing towns, although it had been found to work well in certain districts. In large manufacturing towns it had been found an utter impossibility to procure children enough to keep the manufactories going on the relay system. Hence, therefore, the Bill he was now advocating. Then came the question whether it were advisable for the ends of humanity—if humanity alone were to be considered—and keeping in view the quantity of employment in the country,—at once to put an end to the occupation of 35,000 children, according to the opponents of the law as it stood, or of 25,000 or 27,000 children, according to the best estimate Ministers had been able to make. Upon this point he was ready to meet his noble Friend, (Lord Ashley) even on the ground of humanity; for he was persuaded that having duly protected children under twelve years of age, and restricted them to eight hours' work, well-understood hu- 739 manity required that those between twelve and thirteen years of age should not be thrown out of employment and cast back upon their parents. He did not apprehend that sixty-nine hours' work in the course of the week would be found injurious to them in any way; and respecting the effects of it upon the health of the children, he had taken the opinions of forty-eight competent medical men, forty-three of whom agreed that, provided the children were properly clothed and fed, it would not be injurious to them, while only five had stated that they were of a contrary sentiment. But there was another party who found fault with the measure on entirely different grounds; but he did not consider that this was the stage of the proceeding on which they ought to put forth the strength of their opposition. He alluded to those who were for extending the protection to adults as well as to children, and were for limiting the employment of all to at most ten hours per day. He appealed to his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), whether he would not be defeating his own end by adding his strength to that of such opponents, for the plan of a Ten Hour Bill carried with it the principle that children were also to work for ten hours, and giving them no greater protection than grown persons. Both now and at all times, he protested against a course of that kind, since he believed that it would be to inflict the most grievous tyranny upon those who having only their labour to sell had a right to make the most of it. Great injury would thus be done to manufactures, but double injury to those employed in them. He had not, hitherto, looked at the subject with reference to the general interests of trade, but upon these he might fairly rest his opposition to a Ten Hours' Factory Bill. The right hon. Member for Tamworth, a few nights ago, had shown the great evil of only a very small tax 5/16 of a penny upon cotton but how much would the evils of such a tax to the manufacturers be increased, if one-sixth of the labour now bestowed on the trade were deducted from it. That would be equivalent to a tax of 2d. per lb. on raw cotton? Such a measure would be tyranny of the grossest kind to the operatives, and perfect destruction as regarded our manufactures. Capital and industry would then find their way into other countries, and England, which depended on foreign markets for the sale of two-thirds 740 or three-fourths of our manufactures, would be undersold abroad. In Saxony, Switzerland, and the United States, manufactories were rapidly springing up in every direction, and already with those countries the competition was great, and the contest almost doubtful, and it would be too late to remedy the evil when the operatives in all parts of the kingdom, thrown out of employment by the impossibility of selling their produce, were calling for work, and expressing their willingness, if they could obtain it, to labour even beyond the hours at present required of them. He believed that the operatives themselves were not anxious for the adoption of a Ten Hours' Bill, but they were led away by persons who were anxious to be appointed their delegates, in order that they might come to London and be "hand-and-glove" with Members of Parliament. These persons deluded the operatives into the belief that they would get twelve hours' pay for ten hours' labour. That, of course, was a proposition which could be treated only with ridicule by every person acquainted with the relation which existed between capital and profits. He would propose the second reading of the Bill, and leave the House to deal with it as they thought proper. On grounds of humanity he entreated the House to pass it, for if they did not do so, all children at present employed in factories, between twelve and thirteen years of age, would be thrown out of employment. If the House should determine that the existing law ought to be enforced, and take upon themselves the responsibility of throwing 35,000 children out of employment, the Government must, of course, enforce it; but he feared that all parties would have cause to regret the circumstance. If any hon. Member should propose a Ten Hours' Bill, he should be prepared to deal with it; but at the present moment he was unwilling to re-open the whole factory question. It was most disagreeable to him to be compelled to open a part of that question on moving the second reading of his Bill, and nothing but an imperative sense of duty could have induced him to address to the House the few observations which he had made. The right hon. Gentleman concluded with moving that the Bill should be read a second time.
§ Lord Ashley
trusted, that when the House recollected the active part which he took in 1833, with reference to the 741 question which had been brought under their consideration by the motion and speech of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, they would grant him their indulgence whilst he made some remarks upon the subject. He had the less scruple in presenting himself to the notice of the House upon that occasion, because he seldom occupied much of its attention; and, with respect to the question now before it, he bad cautiously abstained from offering any observations during the last two Sessions. After he was defeated in 1833, in the attempt to carry the Bill which he introduced, he avoided putting questions to the members of the Government on moving for Returns, because he was anxious that the Bill introduced by the Government, and adopted by Parliament, should have a fair trial. Not such, however, had been the conduct of the Government, for within a few days of the time when a clause of his own Act was to come into operation—namely, in March, 1836, the right hon. President of the Board of Trade gave notice that he would introduce the present Bill for the purpose of repealing that clause. This was, in fact, a condemnation of his own measure by the right hon. Gentleman. The main ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman rested the present Bill, are the reports of the inspectors. But if any hon. Member would take the trouble to refer to those documents he would find that the statements contained in them were totally unsupported by evidence. The House was called upon to affirm, by a solemn decision, in defiance of all the evidence obtained from 1802 to the present day, that twelve hours were not too long a period for children, twelve years of age, to labour. Like the right hon. Gentleman, he would not enter into any discussion respecting the Ten Hours' Bill, but would confine himself to the single point which was brought under the consideration of the House by the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said, that in bringing forward this measure, he was actuated solely by a desire to benefit the children. He gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for having that intention, but he doubted whether the provisions of the Bill would allow it to be carried into effect. Every argument which had been directed against his (Lord Ashley's) Bill, in 1833, the right hon. Gentleman now urged against his own Act, The alleged danger from 742 foreign competition was as valid an argument in 1833 as at the present period; but in 1833 the right hon. Gentleman successfully refuted that and all other arguments founded on the danger of legislative interference between masters and workmen. The right hon. Gentleman having then refuted his opponents, now came down and refuted his refutation. The right hon. Gentleman said, that if the House should refuse to pass the Bill, 35,000 children would be thrown out of employment; but he (Lord Ashley) had taken some pains to obtain information upon that point, and he had been told (and amongst others by the hon. Member for Oldham, who was a high authority on the subject) that it was utterly impossible for the mill-owners to carry on their business if they were to dismiss the children under the age of thirteen in their employment. If his information was correct, the argument upon which the right hon. Gentleman founded the anticipated dismissal of the children must fall to the ground. He would read some extracts from the evidence of the inspectors to show that it was at least extremely improbable that the services of children under the age of thirteen could be dispensed with.
Mr. Rickards said,—An influx of fresh hands from the agricultural districts would be no relief to them (the larger mill-owners), for children entering mills for the first time at thirteen and fourteen years of age never can become expert workers; they must begin at an earlier age.Mr. Homer:—The tendency of improvement in machinery is more and more to substitute infant for adult labour.Also:—We have found that the number of children employed, are rapidly increasing, in consequence of the tendency of improvements in machinery to throw more and more of work upon children, to the displacement of adult labour."—1st Report, p. 51.Mr. Rickards, in his Report of February:—New mills are now erecting in various parts of the country, and many old ones being at the same time enlarged Of improved, more and more hands will consequently be wanted; the demand for children will proportionally increase.In page 26, speaking of the determination of masters to part with their younger hands, he says,— 743I cannot, however, bring myself to believe that this determination will be carried to the extent threatened, because it appears to me that, as a general measure, masters will be unable to furnish themselves with the required substitutes; but that it will be generally attempted and partially executed I cannot doubt, and that much inconvenience and injury will be the result.He appealed to the hon. Members who sat behind the right hon. Gentleman, and who had experience upon this subject, and he challenged them to declare whether they believed that factories could he carried on at all without the assistance of children under the age of thirteen years. If they answered, as they must do, in the negative, there was an end of that part of the right hon. Gentleman's case. He would now advert to the original necessity which existed for legislation upon this subject. The House would recollect that in 1833, he brought in a Bill which was founded upon the evidence taken before the Committee of which Mr. Sadler was the Chairman. Many Members contended that the case of the operatives only had been considered by that Committee, to the exclusion of the case of the mill-owners. A Commission was subsequently issued to collect evidence in the country, and those Commissioners made a long Report, from which he proposed now to read a few extracts. He begged the House to bear in mind, that he would read only from the Report of the Commissioners, which might be said to contain the mill-owners' case, and he would not quote one word from the evidence given before the Parliamentary Committee.In Scotland (where the hours are somewhat longer than in England), complaints of children uniform—'sick, tired, especially in the winter nights;' 'feels so tired, she throws herself down when she goes home, not caring what she does.' 'She looks on the long hours as a great bondage; thinks they are not much better than the Israelites in Egypt, and their life is no pleasure to them.' 'Are the hours to be shortened,' earnestly demanded one of these girls of the Commissioner who was examining her, 'for they are too long?' These statements were confirmed by the evidence of the adult operatives. 'The young workers are absolutely oppressed, and so tired as to be unable to sit down or rise up; so tired, that they often cannot raise their hands to their heads! 'The children, when engaged in their regular work, are often exhausted beyond what can be expressed.' 'The sufferings of the children absolutely require that the hours should be shortened.' An over looker states,—'Hours of labour too long; has twenty-four boys under his charge, from nine to fourteen years old, gene- 744 rally much tired; always anxious, asking if it be near the mill stopping.'This was not the evidence of young children, but of children whose ages ranged between sixteen and eighteen. If such were the sufferings endured at the age of sixteen or eighteen, must not the sufferings of children of tender years be tenfold greater? Of Yorkshire, the Report said,—The children bore the long hours very ill indeed; exhausted in body and mind by the length of the hours and height of the temperature. I found when I was an overlooker (says one) that after the children, from eight to twelve years, had worked eight, nine, or ten hours, they were nearly ready to faint; some were asleep; some were only kept to work by being spoken to, or by a little chastisement, to make them jump up. I was sometimes obliged to chastise them when they were almost fainting, and it hurt my feelings; then they would spring up and work pretty well for another hour; but the last two or three hours was my hardest work, for they then got so exhausted. I always found it more difficult to keep my piecers awake the last hours of a winter's evening. I have told the master, and I have been told by him, that I did not half hide them. This was when they worked from six to eight. I have seen them fall asleep, and they have been performing their work with their hands while they were asleep, after the billy had stopped, when their work was over. I have stopped and looked on them for two minutes going through the motions of piecening, fast asleep, when there was really no work to do.The General Report proceeds:—Pains in the limbs, back, loins, and side are frequent, but not so frequent as fatigue and drowsiness. Girls suffer from pain more commonly than boys, and up to a more advanced age; occasionally men, and not unfrequently young women, and women beyond the meridian of life, complain of pain; yet there is evidence that the youngest children are so distressed by pains in their feet, in consequence of their long-standing, that they sometimes throw off their shoes, and so take cold.'I have seen children,' says a Leicestershire witness, 'under eighteen years of age, before six at night; their legs have hurt them to that degree that they have many a time been crying. The long standing gives them swelled feet and ancles, and fatigues them so much that sometimes they do not know how to get to their bed. Night and morning their legs swell.' That this affection is common (says the General Report) is confirmed by the concurrent testimony of parents, operators, overlookers, and managers.The extracts which he had read, were only a fraction of the evidence which might properly be brought under the consideration of the House. The House might re- 745 collect that when he introduced his Bill in 1832, he grounded it principally on the evidence of the medical witnesses, and upon the same ground he opposed the present Bill. Four medical Commissioners were appointed in 1832 to collect evidence, and he would read some passages from their reports. The four Medical Commissioners were Dr. Southwood Smith, Sir David Barry, Dr. Bisset Hawkins, and Dr. Lon-don. Dr. S. Smith remained in London on the Central Committee.
Dr. London reports:—In conclusion, I think it has been clearly proved that children have been worked a most unreasonable and cruel length of time, daily, and that even adults have been expected to do a certain quantity of labour, which scarcely any human being is able to endure. I am of opinion no child, under fourteen years of age, should work in a factory of any description, more than eight hours a-day. From fourteen upwards, I would recommend that no individual should, under any circumstances, work more than twelve hours a-day; although, if practicable as a physician, I would prefer the limitation of ten hours for all persons who earn their bread by their industry.Sir David Barry reports:—Although all the sources of immediate and prospective suffering may be so far remedied or mitigated, as to render twelve hours of factory work compatible with average health and longevity, yet I am of opinion that less labour ought to be required from the infant workers, and that more time should be allowed them for sleep, recreation, and the improvement of their minds, than they at present enjoy.Dr. Hawkins reports:—I am compelled to declare my deliberate opinion, that no child should be employed in factory labour below the age of ten; that no individual, under the age of eighteen, should be engaged in it longer than ten hours daily, and that it is highly desirable to procure a still further diminution of the hours of labour for children below thirteen years of age.Again, as to the reduction of hours for all below eighteen, I feel the less distrust in my own opinion, because it is sanctioned by a large majority of eminent medical men, practising in this district (Lancashire).This Bill does not accomplish the object at which it purports to aim. Its professed object is the protection of children, but it does not protect children. In the same evidence, which shows that the legislative protection of children is necessary, it is also shown that the restriction of the labour of children to ten hours a day is not an adequate protection."—p. 32.He found, in fact, from the Report of the 746 Commissioners, that out of thirty-one medical gentlemen who had been examined, no less than sixteen were opposed to the present Bill, and in favour of a Ten Hours✶ Bill, stating that the latter was the full amount of labour to which children ought to be subjected. Of the remaining fifteen medical gentlemen, Dr. Shaw, of Manchester, said that ten to eleven hours was sufficient. Mr. Robertson and Dr. Bardsley said much the same. Dr. Carbutt, of Manchester, seemed uncertain, and stated, "perhaps twelve hours;" but of all the fifteen there was only one medical man (namely Dr. Phillips, of Manchester) who boldly asserted that twelve hours' labour was by no means injurious. All these witnesses were speaking as to the employment of persons under and up to eighteen years of age. In summing up the evidence, the Commissioners said:—That this successive fatigue, privation of sleep, pain in various parts of the body, and swelling of the feet, experienced by the young workers, coupled with the constant standing, the peculiar attitudes of the body, and the peculiar motions of the limbs, required in the labour of the factory; together with the elevated temperature and impure atmosphere in which that labour is often carried on, do sometimes ultimately terminate in the production of serious, permanent, and incurable disease, appears to us to be established.They afterwards made a proposition, which was this:—That until the commencement of the fourteenth year, the hours of labour during any one day, shall not in any case exceed eight, and they justified the proposition by saying, the grounds on which we recommend the above restriction on hours of labour are—1st. 'that at that age, the period of childhood properly so called ceases, and puberty is established.'2nd. 'That, ingeneral, at or about the fourteenth year, young persons are no longer treated as children; for the most part they cease to be under the complete control of their parents and guardians—they begin to retain a part of their wages, they usually make their own contracts, and are, in the proper sense of the words, free agents.'The existing law had now only been tried two years and a half, and though that measure had been passed with a view to relieve young persons, yet the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. Thomson) now came down and proposed to repeal the whole of that measure which was at all beneficial to those children. He (Lord Ashley) protested against the proposition 747 in their behalf—on behalf of those whom the House was now called upon to subject at once to labour for twelve hours per day. The Act now in force had been accepted by parties interested and entertaining extreme opinions upon the matter, and he maintained that the Legislature had no right to repeal a single clause or provision, without first obtaining the assent of both those parties. Had that assent been obtained? And if so, where were the petitions in favour of the proposed change? All the petitions were in favour of the Act, or for passing a Ten-Hour Bill, and one petition, with the object in view, had been sent from Manchester, with 33,000 signatures. When the former Bill was before the House, Lord Althorpe, then the leader of the House, moved an instruction to the Committee, that children should be protected to the age of thirteen years. That was adopted—the pledge was given by the noble Lord, and redeemed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Should it be said that the House, which was a party to that transaction, would withdraw from those children the been and benefit which they had enjoyed in prospect for the last two years and a half, but in reality only nine months, we believe? Let hon. Members recollect that the Negro Emancipation Act contained a clause providing that the negro population of the British Colonies should not work more than forty-five hours per week, which was three hours less than it was recommended in the Report to impose upon children employed in factories in this country. That having become law, what would be said of the Minister who, having been party to such a measure, came down to that House and said, "We repent of the been and benefit which we granted by that clause to the negro population: the planters find that eight hours' labour per day is insufficient to remunerate them, and, therefore, we propose to cancel this been and benefit so conferred, and to compel the negroes, instead of eight hours to work twelve hours per day." Did the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. Thomson) think that either the House or the country would entertain so monstrous a proposition? The present case was precisely parallel, and he hoped the House would so deal with it. There was something in the character of the present Bill which strongly excited his suspicion. Why did the right hon. Gentleman only propose one amendment; upon it, when 748 the Report of the Commissioners recommended several? It had been said the old Act had been constantly violated, but he could tell the right hon. Gentleman, that with this single amendment, the new Bill would, if passed, be open to still greater daily violation. He very much feared that the present Bill had only been put forward merely as a feeler before a further measure was proposed, and that if the House should be found to consent to repeal one part of the clause of probation, as was proposed, it would be told next year that it could not consistently refuse to repeal the remainder. He was confirmed in that opinion by the evidence he found in the Report of the Select Committee, moved for and appointed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, on the subject of manufactures and commerce. Before that Committee one witness, a Mr. William Rathbone Gregg, was asked, incidentally, a question relating to factory labour, and his answer was, that "he had little doubt that after all these attempts at legislative interference in the matter had been found utterly unavailing, the mill-owners would then be quite at liberty, and would not work much more than twelve hours a-day." Now, this Bill was but the first step, in his judgment, towards a total repeal of protection to the children, and to the accomplishment of that of which this witness had spoken. He could not, therefore, conscientiously suffer this Bill to go to a division without stating, that though he should be ready to surrender the clause itself, he never would consent to surrender its principle. If his Majesty's Government was ready to give him an understanding that they would provide in this Bill a substitute for this clause, of protection to children, he would retire from all further opposition to the Bill, and suffer it to pass. But if not, he should certainly persevere in his opposition. He would now, therefore, move, as an amendment, that the Bill be read a second time this day six months; inasmuch as there being only a choice of evils, he preferred inconveniencing the masters to inflicting cruelty on the children.
§ Mr. Poulter
seconded the amendment. He observed with great regret that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had introduced a measure of a partial character to abrogate the law as it now stood. If the fears of the right hon. Gentleman were well founded there would be petitions sent up against the law 749 from all the manufacturing towns of the kingdom; but the total absence of them showed that the parties most interested entertained no apprehensions whatever on the subject. The source of all the right hon. Gentleman's fears was, the competition that existed among the mill-owners, who were running a race against each other. The children who were employed in manufactories had, for the most part, no natural protectors, and the House ought to act towards them in loco parentum. There was at Bradford, in Yorkshire, an excellent establishment, in which 1,768 persons were employed, and of these 6l6 were under the age of 18 years, and they worked only ten hours a day, one hour being allowed them for instruction—an admirable example, and one which ought to be generally followed. How was this effected? Human power was kept in action about eleven hours, and about one-tenth more young persons than was necessary were employed, and so the magnificent establishment was carried on, with a due regard both to profit and humanity. Instead of asking the House to reduce the existing law, the right hon. Gentleman ought to require its enforcement. At present it was grossly violated. He knew nine factories, in one town, in which it was grossly violated. In those factories they had compelled the children to work on Good Friday. There was a clause in the existing Act which provided that the children should have eight half-holidays in the year. Now, if such a day as Good Friday was taken from the children, what chance was there that they would he allowed any of those half-holidays? In some factories means were taken to evade the law, by making children look older than they were. Children of eleven years of age were made to look as if they were thirteen. These things ought to be looked to, and the law be enforced, not relaxed. If there were not inspectors enough, let the number be increased, let their visits be more frequent, and let those visits be made at times when they were not expected. These were the things that were wanted, and not an alteration of the law. When he found, that of 616 young persons under eighteen years of age, no less than 567 were females, a most important inference suggested itself to him in relation to the welfare of society. Many of these were destined to be the mothers of families, and to such this excessive labour was very pernicious. It endangered their health, and produced distortion and debility. The 750 health and constitution of their children were deteriorated, disease supervened, and distortion, debility, and wretchedness, were their lot through life. Baron Humboldt declared that in a million of savages he did not see a single deformed person. How different was the case in our manufacturing districts! In almost every case personal deformity was acquired, not original; and it was to be apprehended that deformity and distortion would be entailed on their children's children, and transmitted to future generations. Whenever the laws of nature were violated, she revenged herself by gradually deteriorating large classes of the people. The education of these unfortunate children, too, was neglected, and their religious instruction ought to be more attended to. Unless previously educated, it was impossible to bring together young people of both sexes without demoralisation. And yet, at the time most important for their moral and religious instruction, they were left without a chance of improvement. During the week they had no time, and on Sundays they were too much exhausted to attend any school. He was a great friend to political reforms; but political reforms should always be accompanied by the moral education of the people. If not, those reforms would be misused, and would be turned to evil. It was on that ground alone that he had supported the political reforms which had taken place during the last few years; it was in the hope that the privileges which those reforms conferred upon the people they would be taught to use beneficially to themselves. He trusted the House would never consent to the Bill proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He was no politician on the present occasion. He was much attached, politically, to his Majesty's present Government; but he was much more attached to the poor factory children.
§ Mr. Gisborne
was desirous of stating the views which he entertained on this subject. He greatly admired the temperate and candid manner in which the noble Lord had expressed his sentiments respecting it, and he trusted that he (Mr. Gisborne) should be influenced by the same spirit, and give no utterance to any party feeling or sarcasm. Whenever the noble Lord's Bill should come before the House again, the House would give it the most serious consideration. But he might perhaps be allowed to doubt whether the Legislature at this protracted period of the session, would be disposed to make so 751 great a change as that of enacting a Ten-Hour Bill as the restriction to be laid on the moving power in our factories. But it was at this moment important to consider the present state of the law, and its mode of operation; because, unless the right hon. Gentleman who had brought in the Bill could establish that the practical effect of the present law would, by inevitable deduction, be to turn out of work all children between twelve and thirteen years of age, this House ought not to consent to the right hon. Gentleman's motion. He remembered that a great many of the manufacturers told the House at the time, that the effect of the clauses imposing restrictions on the labour of children under thirteen years of age would be, that they should turn all such children out of their factories. The House did not believe them; or legislated in disregard of their warning. He appealed to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne whether that prediction had not been verified?—whether the system of relays had not failed?—and whether more than five per cent, of such children had been since so employed?—He asked the hon. Member whether the system of relays and education was in operation in any part of the manufacturing district with which he was acquainted?—He asked whether, in the large establishment with which he was connected, he had not found it impossible to work upon that system; and whether all the children, up to the age of twelve years, had not been practically excluded from those works? He knew that the system of relays was tried by persons in that neighbourhood—that they tried it honestly, and with the most perfect intention of conforming themselves to the law, and making the system work well. Mr. Thomas Ashton gave the system a fair trial, but he failed—how?—Because all the children left him. They would not work under these restrictions. It was only in places where the manufacturers had the opportunity of procuring a large number of children, and where employment was difficult to be obtained, that the relay system and education clauses had had any beneficial effect. This was how the Bill had operated with respect to children of the ages often, eleven, and twelve years; and the simple question was whether, if the existing regulations operated well with respect to children from the age of ten to eleven, 752 and from the age of eleven to twelve, they should not be applied to children from the age of twelve to thirteen, who would otherwise be turned out of employment, with the exception of about five per cent. It was well known, that from Buckinghamshire and other agricultural districts, many families had removed into manufacturing districts, with a view of obtaining employment for their children. It was also well known that children in the factories, from twelve to thirteen years of age, could frequently earn from four to seven shillings a week each. How would the inducement for persons in the agricultural districts to remove into the manufacturing districts, for the purpose of obtaining employment for their children, be reduced, if the law which occasioned the dismissal of so many children of twelve years of age were continued? To accede to the amendment of the noble Lord would be to prevent the removal of families to which he had alluded being beneficial to either party. Much more misery, therefore, would be created by prohibiting than by allowing children from twelve to thirteen years of age to work twelve hours a day. The amount of misery so produced was so great, that the House ought to pause before it continued it. On these grounds he should cordially assent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Benett
could never for a moment admit that any loss which the manufacturers might sustain ought to be put in comparison with injury to the health and and morals of the children employed in the manufactories. He had seen a great deal of the manufacturing districts and towns; and his own observation, no less than the evidence which had been heard before the Committee, convinced him that children between twelve and thirteen years of age could not be employed for the number of hours in the day which the Bill before the House allowed them to be employed, without great detriment to their health and morals. Much was said of the danger of throwing so many children of that age out of employment. How could such a danger exist, when new factories were starting up in every quarter, and such a rivalship was created among them? On the contrary, he believed that at present children of the age in question could earn more in eight hours than they formerly did in twelve. Nothing, in his 753 opinion, could be more fallacious, unjustifiable, and wicked, than to consider wealth, even in a great commercial nation like England, as that which, under any circumstances, ought to be put in comparison with the health and morals of the people. He would willingly support whatever measure would tend most to better the condition of the children, and he would look first to those which were calculated to promote their physical health, increase their physical power, improve their morals, and enlighten their minds. As he did not think that the Bill before the House was one which would obtain those objects, he felt himself bound to support the noble Lord's amendment.
§ Dr. Bowring
gave the hon. Member for Wiltshire all honour for his sympathy with, and interference in favour of, the labouring population. But if it appeared that the hon. Gentleman's opposition to the Bill before the House would be injurious instead of beneficial to that population, then his opposition lost all claims to justification. He mistrusted that interference on behalf of the poor which the poor were themselves to pay for; and would never lend himself to those delusions by which the meritorious classes of society were taught to believe that their wages, like everything else, did not depend on supply and demand. Let the question be presented to them honestly and fairly. Let the parents of factory children know—but they know it well—that the diminishing the hours of daily toil must inevitably diminish the amount of weekly pay. To protect them, as it was called, was merely to protect them against the comforts which the two hours additional labour would purchase. Certainly, there were cases of hardship and oppression, but he disliked all legislative interference between master and man—between parent and child and doubted whether the evils it brought with it were not greater than any promised good;—moreover, all such interference would be unsuccessful, and thwarted by common consent of all interested parties. What had every speaker confessed? Why, that the laws were trampled on—that the regulations were not obeyed—that the Act of Parliament could not be enforced! Why continue in this course of helpless legislation? Why struggle, perpetually, to maintain a state of things which the common interest overthrew? What was the use of laws to which no power could give effect? Happi- 754 ly, no law could shake to their foundation the great social interests of mankind at large. There would be no bounds to the absurd freaks of legislators, did not the common interest—the general instinct—check their progress. They prohibited foreign trade—but the smuggler came—a public benefactor, though a breaker of the laws—and tumbled down the barrier that legislation had raised against friendly communication. So laws to regulate wages, and hours of labour, and conditions of contract for work, were merely cobwebs broken through at will; because it was the interest of master and servant that they should be broken. The hon. Member had contrasted children in the country with children of towns, and claimed for the former a great superiority. He held an opinion wholly opposed to that of the hon. Member. He had acquaintance among both classes; and ventured to assert, that the children in the manufacturing districts were better instructed, more intelligent, more moral, than the children of country places; and so, in fact, were the manufacturing population as a whole. In what part of Europe, for example, was the minimum of bastardy to be found? In the manufacturing districts of Switzerland! In our agricultural counties the number of illegitimate births was as one to twenty; in parts of Switzerland it was as one to forty-four. It had been said, that we had nothing to fear from foreign rivalry—this was an error. But if foreign rivalry were not more perilous, it was because many other nations, following our example, had taxed food and raw produce, and built up a system of protection, and illiberality of which they had to pay the inevitable cost. But look to the emancipated countries—look to Switzerland—remote from all the means of supply, but without a Custom-house—without a tax on food or labour—without any legislative interference—without Factory Bills or Boards of Trade, or protection of any sort—her manufactures had found their way to every market of the world—and her people had grown and prospered in the unbounded liberty of exchange. Was the House aware that in Switzerland half the manufacturing population had become proprietors of the land on which they lived, and the houses in which they dwelled? They wanted no protection but the protection of freedom; and they were formidable rivals, and must be so—formidable in proportion to their emancipation from an interfering policy. He hoped the time was 755 not distant in which the true cause of the distressed condition of our labouring population would be boldly investigated. But it was not by laws which could not be enforced, nor by prohibitions, nor by restrictions, that they could be relieved, but by a total change of system. "Abrogate," said Dr. Bowring, "your Corn-laws—liberalize your commercial system—cultivate commerce with all the nations of the world; thus will you raise wages—thus prevent the necessity for exhausting labour." All other projects were but palliatives—the source of the evil was untouched by them.
§ Mr. Brotherton
, conversant as he was with the manufacturing districts hoped he might be excused for trespassing for a short time on the House. The attention of Parliament had been frequently called to the condition of the manufacturing population. Various Acts had been passed on the subject. He confessed that by some of those Acts the condition of children working in factories had been much ameliorated; but much remained to be done. He considered it to be the bounden duty of the Legislature to regard, in all their proceedings, the physical, the moral, and the intellectual condition of the great mass of the people; and he could never believe that the prosperity of this or of any country could depend on the continued violation of the principles of justice and humanity. Let any one who was well acquainted with the subject get up and say that the number of hours of working proposed by the right hon. Gentleman's Bill was not too much. He knew a good deal of the matter, and he said unequivocally that the labour was too much for children to bear. When they considered that 400,000 or 500,000 persons were labouring from half-past five or six o'clock in the morning till eight or nine o'clock at night, and this, not upon a few particular occasions only, but day after day, week after week, and year after year, he asked whether any person professing the Christian religion would stand up as the advocate of such a system, or would express a wish that such a state of things should continue? He begged the House to consider how frightful that state of society must be in which so many hundreds of thousands of human beings were regarded merely as machines, or instruments of labour, out of which the utmost possible degree of exertion should be extorted. Of what benefit was constant enployment if opportunities were 756 not afforded to them of moral and religious instruction, in order that they might become good men and good women? He held in his hand a Bill which was brought into Parliament in the year 1815, by the late Sir Robert Peel, whose memory was held in grateful remembrance by the great mass of the labouring classes in the manufacturing districts. The object of that Bill was to limit the hours of labour for all persons working in factories to ten hours and a half a day. But the late Sir Robert Peel had, in the year 1815, and for many succeeding years, to struggle with the same difficulties as those who were friendly to a like humane measure were compelled to contend against now. He (Mr. Brotherton) was a master spinner at that time, and he believed he stood almost or quite alone at Manchester in rendering assistance to those who, with the late Sir R. Peel, were endeavouring to accomplish these benevolent intentions. With the exception of himself, all the master spinners of Manchester were opposed to the measure. What was the consequence? Sir Robert Peel was four years endeavouring to accomplish what he designed, and at last, in the year 1819, he succeeded only in carrying a Bill which limited the period of labour to twelve hours a day, or seventy-two hours a week, for all children under the age of sixteen years. It was found, however, in the course of a very short time, that that part of the Bill which limited the application of the general provisions of the Act to children under sixteen years of age was likely to be evaded? and subsequent experience showed that it was evaded. The consequence of this was, that in the year 1825 another Bill upon the subject was introduced and carried, limiting the hours of labour to sixty-nine in the course of the week; and in the year 1831 another Act was passed, called Sir John Hobhouse's Act, and which, for many reasons, he was always disposed to consider the very best Act that had ever been passed upon the subject. One of its chief recommendations was its simplicity—it was easily understood, and could not easily be evaded. That Act applied to persons under eighteen years of age, working in factories in the day, and prohibited any person under the age of twenty-one from working in the night. The fault of Sir John Hobhouse's Bill was, that it applied only to persons employed in cotton factories. But its effects, where-ever it was applied, were found to be most 757 beneficial. The cotton factories called, perhaps, most loudly for the adoption of some measure of that description, but at the same time, great excesses and many abuses were heard of in the woollen trade and also in the silk manufactories; and the late Mr. Sadler afterwards introduced a Bill which applied to all these alike. It was not, however, till the year 1833, that the existing Act was brought forward, and although he resisted some of the clauses of that measure, he must still claim the merit of consistency in opposing the Bill which was now brought forward, for altering one of its most important provisions. He told Lord Althorp, when the Bill of 1833 was under consideration, that the relay system would never do; and as the Bill passed through Committee, he pointed out the provisions which he was satisfied, (and subsequent experience showed he was correct) would be evaded. It could not be denied, that the Bill had totally failed in many of the great objects for which it was intended. The attempt to proportion the hours of labour to the age of the child was constantly evaded, and the consequence was, that little or no protection to the children was afforded. If they wished for evidence to show that the Bill had not been acted upon as it ought to have been, it was only necessary to refer to the return which had been laid upon the table of the House of the number of masters who had been guilty of a violation of the law. By that return, it appeared that in the course of the very short time during which the law had been in operation, no less than 250 masters of mills had been convicted under the Act, and paid penalties to an amount of upwards of 1,000l. When it was considered, that these masters of mills were men of education, and as one would suppose of superior moral feelings, to those whom they employed, was it not disgraceful to find them violating an Act of Parliament so grossly and so constantly as these persons appeared to have done? He repeated, that he considered such conduct most disgraceful. In the majority of instances in which the penalties of the Act had been enforced, it was for the offence of compelling the children to work for more than twelve hours a day. If the masters were guilty of such infractions of the law, how could they expect the poor and comparatively uneducated artisans to respect all the provisions of laws which probably they did not distinctly under- 758 stand? How could the Legislature expect the laws to be obeyed by the poor, when they were hourly and daily violated by the rich. Having thus pointed out the defects of the existing system, he begged for a moment to be allowed to consider the remedy. He never liked to object to any measure unless he thought it was in his power to suggest a remedy. This then was his remedy: that for all persons employed in factories under the age of twenty-one, there should be one uniform period of labour, with such restrictions and such subjection to inspectors as should secure the execution of the law. The system on which the large factories was conducted was such, that persons of all ages and all constitutions, old and young, weak and strong, must all necessarily work together at one and the same time. Let the Legislature, therefore, fix upon some period of labour within the range and compass of human strength, and make it applicable to all alike; or, at all events, to all persons under the age of twenty-one. Under the existing law, frauds as to age were constantly committed, and would continue to be committed as long as the present law remained, because they were connived at, not only by the masters, but the parents of the children, and by the children themselves. The simple question which they had now to consider was this, should they reverse the former decision of the House by which it was declared, that no child under the age of thirteen should work more than eight hours a-day? He thought, that the simplest and best law that could be passed upon the subject would be one by which the period of labour should be limited to ten hours a-day for persons of all ages, men, women, and children. But when any proposition of this kind was made, whenever the voice of humanity interposed between the master and the labourer, the House was assailed with the cry of "beware of foreign competition—if you reduce the period of labour, you put a fatal restriction upon the British manufacturer, and render him incapable of competing with the manufacturers of the Continent." Now, they had it in evidence, that previous to the passing of Sir Robert Peel's Act, the usual number of hours that persons were employed in factories was seventy-seven in the course of the week; and it was proved that it was not unusual for children of seven and eight years old, to be kept at work as many as 759 ninety-three hours in the week. Sir Robert Peel's Act reduced the number of hours to seventy-two in the week; and when this was done, the Legislature was told by those who professed to understand every thing connected with the subject, that the possibility of our manufacturers continuing to compete with the manufacturers of foreign countries was completely taken away. Let the House remark how this assertion was borne out by the fact. At the time of the passing of the late Sir R. Peel's Act, and in 1819, the exportation of cotton twist from this country amounted annually to 18,000,000 lbs. The period of labour was again reduced in the year 1825, and then, of course, all idea of competing with foreign nations was at once abandoned. Yet the year afterwards, the exportation of cotton twist amounted to 45,000,000 lbs. Again, in 1833, when a further reduction of time was effected, the same argument was used, and nothing but positive and immediate ruin could fall on the heads of the devoted manufacturers of this country. What was the fact? In the year 1834, the exportation of cotton twist amounted to 76,000,000lbs. Facts proved, then, that they had nothing to fear from foreign competition. He differed from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Dr. Bowring) and others, who said, "only Repeal the Corn-laws, and all laws bearing upon free trade in labour, and then the people will be much better off, and will never be so unmercifully worked." All the inspectors agreed, that if there were no legislative interference the children employed in manufactories would be overworked. And when free labour was talked about, let it never be forgotten that the labour of persons in these manufactories was not free. It was impossible for a man, or a woman, or a child to say that they would work only so much or for so great a length of time. He had been grieved many times to see females stand at work when it would be much better for them that they should go home; but they dared not leave their employment a moment before the usual time, lest they should lose it altogether. Such was the positive fact. No discretion was left to the operative as to the number of hours he should be employed; he must work the usual time, or he would not be allowed to work at all. The effect of this was most prejudicial. The right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, in the course of the 760 observations he made in moving the second reading, threw out an intimation which he (Mr. Brotherton) was most anxious to refute. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the reason why the operatives wished for this restriction was, that they might have twelve hours wages for ten hours work. It might, with just as much justice, be said that the masters, when they violated the law, and kept the children at work beyond the time prescribed by the Legislature, were anxious to get twelve or fourteen hours' work for ten hours' wages. The fact was, that the House was not aware of the great temptation that there was for over-working these persons. To many master-manufacturers, an additional hour a day obtained from each of the persons he employed, would make a difference of not less than 100l. a week. Thus an enormous advantage was gained by those who violated the law, and the honest manufacturer was left without a chance of competing with them. This would necessarily be the case, till some uniform time was adopted for persons of all ages, and some effectual steps taken to see that the provisions of the law were rigidly carried into execution. If the present Bill for amending the last Act were passed, he had no doubt that many mills would be found working sixteen and seventeen hours a day. Persons engaged in these manufactories were generally desirous of making rapid fortunes, and the Legislature might as well expect to extract oil from granite as to obtain anything from the humanity of the worshippers of mammon. He begged to bear his humble but honest testimony against the existing system. Many humane men were compelled to continue it contrary to their wishes; and they, like himself, were most anxious that some uniform time should be prescribed for persons of all ages. He had considered the report carefully and for a considerable length of time; and he did not hesitate to say, that if such a system as that which he proposed were adopted, it would not be injurious to the master, whilst the operative would be satisfied, children protected, the commercial prosperity of the country extended, and the people contented, healthy, and happy.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
congratulated his Majesty's Government that they had at last got a gentleman who was connected with the manufacturing interest to rise and support their present proposition; for only 761 two hon. Members connected with that interest had as yet supported it. It was stated, in a letter read by the hon. Member for Tynemouth, that the labour of the children in the factories exceeded the average daily marching of an English soldier; that every child had to walk fifteen miles a day. Did the hon. Member for Manchester mean to say, that this was a just conclusion from the evidence? [Mr. Mark Philips: It is an extremely difficult question.] Supposing it, then, to be only equal to ten miles a day, was it fit that children under thirteen, who are subjected to it, should be left unprotected by the law? If ever there was a case in which two and two did not make four, this was one; for it had been clearly proved by the statistics of hon. Members, that where the number of hours of labour had been reduced, there had been an accompanying increase in the produce of the labour. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock, as an advocate for pure abstract political government, appeared to regard the children merely as machines for the production of cotton; he told the House that smugglers are beneficial to a country, inasmuch as they correct the errors of legislation. The connexion of that argument with the Bill before the House he was not fortunate enough to perceive. He was quite willing to admit, that they had no right to expect an equal amount of wages for a lower amount of labour; but, at the same time, he believed that if human labour were forced beyond its physical power, the very element out of which the power proceeded was destroyed. The statements made by the hon. Member for Salford were uncontradicted by the hon. Member for Manchester, and they satisfied him that an economy of human labour was not likely to impair, but increase its productiveness. Were not the children in our manufactories as much entitled to protection as persons of a different colour on the other side of the Atlantic? The statement of the physicians who had given their testimony, was, that no child under eighteen years of age should be worked more than ten hours a day. He trusted, therefore, that the House would adhere to the principle established in 1833, when it passed a measure, which was laid before them as a compromise of the Ten-Hour Bill, proposed by his noble Friend, the Member for Dorsetshire, whose present amendment he should feel it to be his duty to support.
supported the motion. The noble Lord, the Member for Dorset-shire, had not quoted an instance, since the operation of the present Bill, to prove that the present system of factory labour was injurious. Although many hon. Members had spoken in reply to the noble Lord, they had not made any allusion to this point. It had been said that no petitions had been presented from the manufacturers. That might be the case; but there were several deputations from the manufacturing districts now in London, who united in stating, that serious injury would accrue to them and their property if the amended Bill of his right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, should not be carried. As those parties were interested, it might be supposed that their representations would be biassed; but when he stated to the House that they were wholly borne out in their representations by Mr. Rickards, the factory inspector, he trusted that full credit would be given to them. He lived in a populous manufacturing neighbourhood, and was bound to say, that these legislative interferences with labour were vexatious, oppressive, and uncalled for. Further restrictions would only promote additional frauds, while they would tend to ruin the manufacturers by provoking foreign competition. On the continent, where labour was cheap, they laboured for fifteen hours a-day, and as labour was cheap, he considered that they would, but for our unrivalled machinery, soon undersell us. As far as his own observations went, he could state most distinctly that factory labour was neither injurious to the health nor the morals of the children; and he strenuously recommended the House rather to set labour free, than impose on it further restrictions.
would take the liberty of expressing his opinion upon this subject, notwithstanding he had not the advantage of any personal experience on the working of the system. He remembered Mr. Canning saying, when it was urged that great danger must arise from persons legislating for the West Indies who were not acquainted with West-India society, that they might as well tell him that he was not to take part in legislation respecting the mines of Cornwall, because he had never travelled through the town of Truro. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock had advocated the principle of free trade, as applicable to labour; but what was the 763 principle of free trade, he should like to know, when it came to be applied to children between twelve and thirteen years of age? Free trade was this: where all parties were capable of judging for themselves, and of protecting their own interests, in that case, they had a full right to say that the Legislature should not interfere with their own discretion and judgment, as the interest of each individual would induce him to adopt that course which, in the end, must promote the general prosperity. The question, then, for the House to consider was, would they or not afford legislative protection to those who were incapable of protecting themselves? They had admitted the principle already by affording legislative protection to another class that could not protect themselves—namely the chimney-sweepers. If the chimney-sweepers required protection, would any man say that the children employed in factories were less in need of it? He defied the most ardent advocate of free labour to state, that eleven hours and a half's labour to children under thirteen years of age, was not destructive of their morals and their health. The rules of political economy were totally inapplicable to the present case. They might be true as a general principle; but this was a case of exception, and did not admit of their application. He begged to appeal to his right hon. Friend, who had introduced the present measure, whether he was not, on this occasion, acting rather as the Member for Manchester than as a Minister of the Crown? He would ask his right hon. Friend, whether he was not legislating for particular interests, rather than for the general good? And in saying this, he was sure his right hon. Friend would not suppose that he imputed to him any improper motives. He was only stating what was a well-known fact—that the representatives of the people in that House were influenced by the opinions and feelings of their constituents. He agreed with the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, that the Bill brought forward in 1833 was the result of a compromise, and he therefore considered the present measure to be a violation of the pledge given on that occasion.
§ Mr. Baines
said, that he had been the whole of his life among factory labourers, and he would take upon himself to say, that there was not a set of children in this kingdom better fed, better clothed, better lodged, and more healthy than the children in the factories. Did Gentlemen on the 764 opposite side of the House think that, because he was a Member for Leeds, he should be deterred from speaking the sentiments he entertained upon a subject of this kind? Or did they think that men who had an opportunity of observing circumstances that were daily passing before their eyes, were less capable of judging as to what those circumstances were, than those who had not that opportunity? Previous to his coming to London, he went to almost every factory in Leeds, to ascertain what was the state of the health of the persons employed in them, and if the House would give him credit for judging impartially, he would declare, that he never saw a set of children who had more the appearance of great health and strength than those he then saw. He afterwards consulted with the masters, to ascertain whether they wished the time of labour extended, or the age of the children, as now required by the law, abridged; and the answer he received was in the negative. He also put the same questions to the parents of the children employed in the factories, and the answer he received from them was, "We think the hours of labour ought to be abridged one hour, and the age of the children ought to be reduced from twelve years to ten." These were the opinions of the masters and the operatives whom he had consulted. But hon. Gentlemen should not run away with the notion that these regulations, of which they complain as being severe, are peculiar to factories. What reason had they to determine that children of thirteen years of age should not be introduced into factories to work twelve hours a-day, when they had a law in the statute-book which empowered parishes to put boys out as apprentices at nine years of age?
§ Mr. Potter
supported the motion, and observed that the importation of cottonwool into Great Britain in 1815, was 371,000 bales, while the importation and consumption of France and other States of Europe was inconsiderable, and the cotton manufacture of America quite insignificant. In 1832, the consumption of cotton-wool in Great Britain was 865,000 bales; in the same year that of America was 173,000 bales, of France 272,463 bales, and of other States of Europe 200,000; making in all 646,263 bales, being nearly double what was imported into Great Britain only seventeen years before, and two-third parts of what was imported into Great Britain in 765 the same year of 1832. In 1835, the consumption of the States of America had increased to 2 16,888 bales. If we suppose France and the other States of Europe to have increased their manufacture only in the same proportion, then the whole consumption of rival foreign States would be 748,000 bales, while that of Great Britain for 1835, is estimated at 944,673 bales. Thus it appeared, that in twenty years the foreign rival cotton manufacture had increased so much in amount as to consume, in the last year, four-fifth parts of the quantity of raw cotton-wool that was used in Great Britain during the same period.
§ Sir John Elley
said, that although he had not, like the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), visited the manufacturing towns lately, he could not say, that he had ever witnessed in them a redundancy of health. When there was a scarcity of employment man of the labourers inhabiting them entered the army, and having had some experience in recruiting, he must say he would never go to a manufacturing district to select grenadiers. The pursuits and mode of living of these men rendered their physical powers inferior to those of other portions of the male population who were differently engaged. A recruiting officer would reject five out of every ten men from a manufacturing district, while in a rural district he would not reject a greate proportion than one in ten.
§ Mr. Charles Villiers
could not admit that the present was a question between wealth and health. He thought that these factory regulations proceeded on the false principle that the poor were more indifferent to the welfare and happiness of their children than the rich, an assumption which his experience led him to deny. The promoters of this Bill were acting on a principle which must strike at the root of the domestic government of the poor, for the Bill deprived parents of the right to dispose of the time of their children to the best advantage. He was as anxious for the protection of the factory children as any other hon. Member of that House, but he thought, nevertheless, that there were many objectionable points in the proposition before the House. It went the length of saying to the parents of children, "Your necessities drive you to send your children to work, yet we will deprive you of that power of augmenting the means of subsistence for your family, without, at the same time, providing you with a substi- 766 tute." Now, he thought that there was something very inconsistent in such legislation as this. He was not for working the factory children too long; nothing could be more foreign to his views; but he thought that while there was a tax on the great necessary of life, which prevented the poor from feeding their families, a partial system of legislation such as this should not be adopted. Let hon. Members who wished well to the operatives consent to a repeal of the corn laws. No one ought to support a Factory Bill like the present, unless prepared to repeal the tax on corn.
said, if the manufacturing interest had for twenty years together put a tax on home grown corn, and the result had been that the agricultural labourers had been reduced by competition among themselves to great distress, he wondered whether the agriculturists would have invented no better remedy than asking for an Act to regulate the hours of agricultural labour, to prevent the plough-men, and plough-women, and plough-children from being overworked. He suspected they would have hit upon something much more substantial; he therefore rejoiced that his hon. Friend (Mr. Villiers) had broken the ice upon a topic which he had begun to be afraid had by common consent been banished from the debate. He hoped the manufacturing interest, both operatives and capitalists, would in time see the advantage of turning the tables on their opponents, and that they would not fail to make some use of the parallel he had now supplied to them. Having been applied to by the working classes as one they deemed their friend, he felt some difficulty in deciding how to vote, because whichever way he did it, there were some that would say they had expected better things from him. On the one hand, it would be painful to vote against the expressed opinions of the working classes as to what they thought best for themselves; and on the other, he could not think of doing anything that should be construed into giving in to the miserable delusion which had induced the operatives to accept the Factory Act at the hands of those he must call their adversaries, in lieu of demanding the removal of the prohibition on foreign trade which was at the bottom of their sufferings. He should certainly have voted against the original Factory Act; but since that folly 767 had been committed, he did not know why the operatives should not have it in the way they liked, as well as in the way they did not. If therefore the operatives would give him full credit for opposition to the impolicy of accepting the Factory Act as a composition for their wrongs—as he would have voted for letting the law alone before, so he would vote for letting it alone now, unless he heard something to change his mind. In fact, the whole matter now in dispute was so small in proportion to the mighty interests that were ruthlessly thrown away—it was such a mere difference between "tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee" in the comparison—that he did not think it worth while to go against the wishes of the working classes by voting for alteration in the law. Much had been said of foreign competition. If the manufacturing capitalists were afraid of the effects which might arise from the difference between working children under thirteen years of age according to the present law and the proposed alteration, why did not they set about looking after the effects arising from the prohibition of foreign trade enacted by the corn laws? They allowed themselves to be told they could compete with foreigners, because they could compete with some foreigners; because they were not at a stand-still altogether. Just so, a man with one leg tied up in a race, might hop at a certain speed; he might find some so maimed or lazy, that he could go beyond them; with these it might be proved he could compete; but was that the sort of competition the manufacturers should be content with? It was plain to every man with his eyes open, that setting aside this fallacy, foreigners had outrun us, were outrunning us, and would outrun us hereafter. There might be no recovering what had been already thrown away; but that was no reason why something should not be tried for preservation in the future.
§ Mr. Hindley
, having presented many petitions on this question, he trusted the House would allow him to give his reasons for opposing the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Though he was aware that the question of the propriety or impropriety of legislating on the subject was not necessarily involved in the proposition, yet—as many hon. Members seemed to have doubts upon the subject, he would for a moment advert to it. The opinion of Gentlemen engaged in trade had under- 768 gone a considerable change since the last agitation of the factory question. At that time, the general cry was, Laissez nous faire; now, no such exclamation was heard, and it appeared to him that legislation was generally admitted by the masters to have been beneficial. The Reports of the Inspectors bore out this view of the subject. Mr. Horner said, as to the regulation of the hours of labour, by putting all parties upon equality, "this part of the Act is hailed as a great benefit by a large majority of mill-owners." Mr. Saunders said, "considerable advantage to all concerned must inevitably follow a more regular and uniform system than that heretofore acted on." Nay, so sensible did Mr. Rickards appear to be of the necessity of legislation, that he said, were the Act to be suspended,He believed it would throw these districts into great confusion. Overworking would be generally, if not universally, practised. Children would be devoid of that legislative protection which has hitherto done much good and is calculated to do more. The excesses of former times will be renewed; and at some future period we may have to recommence our labours under increased difficulties and disadvantages.Mr. Inspector Howell also stated—In visiting the mills in my district, I have been pleased to find instances in which the Act has been acknowledged to work benefit, by limiting the hours of the children, and more particularly by putting a stop to their working in the night.The theory that legislation was unsuitable was completely refuted by these results of experience; and fully bore out the assertion that legislation had been productive of improvement in the factory system? But Gentlemen might ask, if this were so, why were there so many new Factory Bills? Since 1815, there had been ten or twelve. Why continue to amend previous measures? His answer was, that certain Gentlemen averse to any legislation, finding that they could not prevent a law, had studiously contrived to make it ineffective, in the hope of inducing the House eventually to reject legislation on the subject altogether. When the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, brought in his Bill the mill-owners contrived to reject a valuable clause suggested by his hon. Friend, the Member for Salford, and so made the Bill ineffective; yet when the present Act was in progress, the hon. Member for 769 Bolton, on the part of the masters, declared that "all the legislation required was, to make Sir John Hobhouse's Bill effective!" Whatever difference of opinion, however, might exist as to the propriety of legislating on the subject, there could be no difference as to the proposition of the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman's Bill, stripped of all legal mystification, repealed the protection now given to children between twelve and thirteen years, who are not to be worked more than eight hours a-day, and enacted that they—i.e., children of twelve years of age, should work twelve hours, which, with two hours for meals, one for going to and returning from the mill, and eight for sleep, made twenty-three hours, leaving only one single hour to the child for improvement, recreation, and the enjoyment of domestic society. That was the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman; and there could not be two opinions upon it. Would any Member of the House affirm, that a child of twelve years of age, travelling eighteen miles a-day during the course of its work of twelve hours, should have only one single hour in which it could possess the consciousness of existence? Why, the Legislature, in 1833, had guaranteed, both to it and the adult negro, four hours more! What would be said, asked the noble Lord (Lord Ashley), if this proposition had been made regarding the adult slave? Why, the whole country would have been in arms; and it would have been the downfall of any Ministers who persevered in such an attempt. And why was an equally inhuman proposal to be made respecting factory children? For pecuniary considerations? The right hon. Gentleman's own colleague (Sir John Hobhouse) had already answered these questions on the second reading of his Bill in 1825. He said—Ought we to allow a portion of our fellow-subjects to be rendered miserable for such a consideration? No. It would be better to give up the cotton trade altogether than to draw such a sum out of the blood and bones and sinews of these unfortunate children. The Legislature was bound to protect them."✶The Bill now to be altered was no hasty measure, passed without examination or discussion. After much evidence the House affirmed the principle on the second reading of the Bill of the noble✶ Hansard, New Series, vol. xiii: 645.770 Lord, that no child under eighteen should work more than ten hours a-day. Further inquiry, however, was demanded. Commissioners were sent into the country to examine the condition of the children, who were weighed, and measured, and subjected to the most minute inspection. The result of all this was stated in the Report thus—The Commissioners are of opinion that, with regard to children under fourteen years of age, the Bill of the noble Lord does not go far enough. They are of opinion that children under fourteen should not work more than eight hours a-day.On this recommendation, though not to its full extent, the present Act was passed, children of thirteen only, and not of fourteen, as originally proposed, being included in its protection, and the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) was actually taunted with cruelty, for supposing the children of so tender an age could, by any possibility, be suffered to work ten hours a-day. For the convenience of the trade, two years and a-half were given before the Bill came into full operation. And how had the mill-owners been employed? In equalizing the hours of work? To some extent they had—the beneficial consequences of which were acknowledged in the Reports. But the children had not received that protection to which they were entitled, through the evasions of the system. The Return, laid upon the Table of the House, of the number of children of each age who had been certified, completely proved this. According to the Population Returns, there appeared to be a mere fractional difference between the number of children of thirteen and twelve years of age in existence; whereas there appeared from the Factory Returns to be from thirty to forty per cent more children of twelve years of age than of thirteen employed. Thus they employed in Lancashire, of twelve years of age 13,300; of thirteen only 10,200; in Derbyshire, of twelve 518; and of thirteen, only 391. It was very singular, too, that in Glossop (a well known place for overworking), the number of children of twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years of age employed in factories, was 756; and the number of those of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, was only 394. In Yorkshire, the number twelve years of age was nearly 8,000; and of thirteen, only 5,600. In Cheshire and in Scotland similar proportions were found. It was 771 impossible not to conclude from this statement that a great portion of the children certified to be twelve years of age were really below that age. In corroboration of this surmise, he would state, that, during a recent visit to a mill in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, Mr. Horner, the inspector, was examining the children, and on inquiring for the certificate of a boy apparently not twelve years old, he received one stating him to be twelve and a-half. His younger brother then came forward, and his certificate attested him to be twelve! The Parliamentary Returns presented a similar result with regard to young persons of eighteen years of age, who were allowed to work more than twelve hours per day. In Lancashire, the number certified to be seventeen years of age was 6,503; of eighteen, 8,463; and of nineteen, 6,772. In Derbyshire, the number seventeen years of age was, 226; of eighteen, 437; of nineteen, 268; and of these there were in Glossop, of seventeen, 165; of eighteen, 354; of nineteen, 198. It appeared exceedingly singular that there should be so many young persons of the age of eighteen in Glossop; but a case, however, which was brought before the magistrates against one of the large manufacturers there, for over-working children elicited the explanation. On examining the certificate-book of that gentleman, whose name he would not mention, being anxious to avoid all personalities, it was found that it contained no fewer than sixty-six cases of children certified in 1834 to be twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen years of age respectively, who in 1835 were certified to be eighteen years of age. He would next advert to the fact, that the Returns regarding children employed in silk-mills, to which the restriction of twelve years of age did not extend, did not exhibit the same difference with respect to the numbers of the different ages employed. In Cheshire, the Returns state that there are employed in silk-mills, children of twelve years of age, 790; of thirteen, 791. In Leek, of twelve, 117; of thirteen, 118; and in Scotland, of twelve, 51; and of thirteen, 52. With these facts before them, it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Act was ineffectual for the protection of the class for whose benefit it was stated to have been passed. Indeed, Mr. Horner stated, in his Report, that full one-third of the children employed in his district had obtained certificates of being twelve years of age by deceptions practised 772 upon the surgeons. "With all this proof of the ineffectiveness of the present Bill, it might have been expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have come down to the House to enforce, and not to repeal, the protection given the children. But when asked, on the introduction of the measure, he said it was his intention merely to place the Act as it stood upon the 1st of March last. And upon what grounds, and on whose part did the right hon. Gentleman take this course? Had there been any petitions presented in favour of this measure? No! But numerous petitions had been presented against it. This day was presented against it one signed by 35,000 from Manchester, another by 15,000 from Glasgow, another by 9,000 from Leeds, by 8,000 from Stockport, by 4,000 from Ashton, and by 3,000 from Warrington. Surely the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, who called upon the House not to vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Harvey) on the Pension List, because there were only two small petitions in its favour, would give the weight of that argument to the Bill, and recommend his right hon. Colleague to withdraw his Bill, as it was unsupported by any petition, and opposed by the loudly-expressed desires of the great body of the people. The hon. Member for Bolton said, though there had not been petitions there had been memorials and deputations. True! The parties whose interests the right hon. Gentleman advocated, had had recourse to another mode of proceeding. Instead of publicly making known their wishes to this House, they had privately memorialized the Board of Trade; and, in acceding to their wishes the right hon. Gentleman became the advocate of the masters, instead of the arbitrator between the two parties. He ought not to occupy such a position. But, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman might say, that it was not upon these memorials, but upon the Reports of the Inspectors, that he had been induced to bring forward his Bill. If so, why did he not adopt the other alterations they proposed? Why did he not take the advice of Mr. Rickards, and do away with the distinction between two classes of children, which that Gentleman said could not be maintained? "I believe too," said Mr. Hickards, "that the limitation of one class of children to a certain number of hours, and another class to another, in the same mill, can never be put in force by legal or official means. Eva- 773 sion is so easy in the interior of mills, and detection so difficult, that when private interests combine, the vigilance of public officers, if not always on the spot, may, and will be continually defeated." Why did not the right hon. Gentleman do away with the Education Clauses, which were on all hands allowed to be impracticable? Mr. Horner and Mr. Saunders both stated in regard to these clauses, that they were the great error of the Act; and if attempted to be put in force would cause the dismissal of all the children liable to them. And, above all, why did the right hon. Gentleman not limit the most unconstitutional powers which the inspector at present possessed, and which Mr. Rickards declared to be contrary to principle? Why, if the right hon. Gentleman professed to proceed upon the Reports of the inspectors and not upon the representations of the masters, did he not propose these and other alterations suggested by the official gentleman? The reason was evident. He was anxious to relieve the manufacturers from an immediate and pressing difficulty, and he feared, lest by introducing otheralterations, public attention might be directed to the subject. He would advise the right hon. Gentleman to open up the whole question of factory labour, and to introduce such a Bill as would be practicable—not injurious to the masters, and just and beneficial to the operatives, and in that he should be happy to lend the right hon. Gentleman his humble but hearty assistance. But to the present proposal he felt it his duty to give his strenuous opposition; for he was quite at a loss to tell what new arguments had been or could be advanced, which were not known before the passing of the present Act. Were they to be told that parents and masters would concur in endeavouring to obtain, the one as much money, and the other as much work as possible out of the children? This had been long ago proved from the Commissioners' Report. The hon. Member quoted several passages showing that the parents of the children stimulated them to extraordinary exertions, by holding out to them a hope of having the produce of the extra hours for themselves, of which the parents afterwards defrauded them. Nor was this desire on the part of the parents to derive a profit from their children at all times dictated by necessity, as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton wished the House to believe; he had known instances of men earning 30s or 40s. per 774 week, who were extremely anxious to have their children introduced into the mill before the age permitted by law. "And why not?" some hon. Gentleman might ask. "It does the children no harm; they are as happy and as healthy as children can be." The extracts read by the noble Lord, the Member for Dorsetshire, from the medical evidence, led to an opposite conclusion. In addition, he would trouble the House with the result of the careful examination made by Dr. Hawkins, of two schools in Manchester. He reported—In order to ascertain the state of health of the youthful factory classes, compared with youth in other conditions, I made a careful examination of the Bennett-street Sunday School, at Manchester, in which abundance of all trades exists. I accordingly took an account of 350 of both sexes not engaged in factories, and of 350 of both sexes engaged in factories. Of the former, several remain at home and do nothing; some are in service; some are dress-makers; some engaged in warehouses and shops. Their age varied from nine years to twenty for the most part. Of the 350 not in factories, twenty-one had bad health, eighty-eight had middling health, and 241 had good health; but of 350 in factories, seventy-three had bad health, 134 had middling health, and 143 had good health.Again, at the St. Augustine's Sunday School, at Manchester, I compared fifty boys engaged in factories, with fifty boys not in factories; some of whom lived at home doing nothing, while others were engaged in shops and in various trades. Of the fifty not in factories, one had bad health, eighteen had middling health, and thirty-one had good health; but of the fifty in factories, thirteen had bad health, nineteen had middling health, and eighteen had good health.It will be seen that the advantage of health is at least double at these institutions on the side of those young people who are not engaged in factory work. The information afforded towards this comparison by the registers of sick clubs or benefit societies, is not conclusive, since these sick clubs usually contain all classes indiscriminately. The average quantity of illness for every member of the Bennett School Sick Club, during the year 1832, was one week, one day, and six hours; but about one-half of this club is composed of youth not engaged in factories. It appears to me also, that factory children are usually very slow in coming on the sick list of these clubs; they usually go on working to the last possible moment, so eager are the parents to secure their wages!The weight of this evidence, however, was attempted to be shaken by the masters, in what was called an authentic document, 775 which had been sent round to hon. Members—being the statement of a sick fund connected with a Sunday School at Bolton, from which it appeared that there
|Cotton Mill Operatives.||Other Trades.||Cotton Mill Operatives.||Amount.||Other Trades.||Amount.||Cotton Mill Operatives.||Other Trades.|
Similar statements were made twenty years ago, and in answer to one of them, the right hon. Member for Tamworth in-indulged in a strain of irony so good humoured and so pointed, that I will venture to read it to the House:—
The instances produced from the evidence were certainly strong enough to support the most unqualified of the assertions which had been made as to the healthiness of cotton mills. One of the instances was that of a mill at Glasgow, in which, he believed, an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Finlay) was concerned. It was given in evidence, that in this mill, 873 children were employed in 1811, 871, in 1812, and 891, in 1813. Among the 873 there were only three deaths; among the 871, two deaths; among the 891, two deaths; being in the proportion of one death in 445 persons. So very extraordinarily a small proportion had naturally excited the astonishment of the Committee, and, therefore, as was to be expected, they questioned medical gentlemen as to the proportion of deaths in different parts of the kingdom. When this statement was shown to Sir Gilbert Blane, he expressed his surprise, and observed, that if the fact was not asserted by respectable persons, he should not believe it; and being asked why he distrusted it, he said that the average number of deaths in England and Wales, was one in fifty (in 1801 there had been one in forty-four). There were favoured spots certainly, Cardigan, in which the deaths were as one in seventy-four; Monmouth, in which there was one in sixty-eight; Cornwall, one in sixty-two; and Gloucester, one in sixty-one; yet, in cotton factories, they are stated as one in 445! In one of Warton's beautiful poems, which begun with these lines,
Within that mountain's craggy cell
Delights the goddess health to dwell?
After asking where the abode of this coy goddess was to be found, whether on "the tufted rocks" and "fringed declivities" of Mortlock,
§ was less sickness and death among the cotton spinners than among the operatives of other trades. The statement was as follows:—
near the springs of Bath or Buxton, among woods and streams, or on the sea-shore, it certainly would have been an extraordinary solution of the perplexity of the poet, if, when he inquired—
In what dim and dark retreat
The coy nymph fixed a fav'rite seat?
it had been answered, that it was the cotton-mills of Messrs. Finlay and Co., at Glasgow; yet such was the evidence respecting this mill, that its salubrity appeared six times as great as that of the most healthy part of the kingdom. This was the sort of evidence which had been brought to disprove the evidence of disinterested persons, of medical men, and even of persons who had an interest opposed to the measure before the House.
The hon. Member for Leeds said, factory children were well fed, and well clothed, but in a letter to Mr. Rickards by Mr. Harrison, a surgeon of Preston, whose authority must be conclusive, as he states he had measured and weighed upwards of 1,200 factory children, it was asserted,
If factory children were as well fed and clad as other children, and if their abodes were as cleanly and as well ventilated as those children employed in other branches of labour, I believe that few employments would be found equally healthy.
He would appeal, however, to higher considerations than those which had reference to these children, as mere animals, brought into the world for the sole purpose of spinning thread and weaving calico. They were moral agents, endued with powers of mind, in the improvement of which the whole of the social system was materially interested. To what was it owing, that machinery was brought to such a state of perfection? To The effects of mind. And the individuals connected with its daily operation had time to combine with the exercise of phy-
sical power, the workings of mental ingenuity, who could tell what new triumphs of genius—what new developments of our resources might be manifested? The present system crushed all the exertions of men of science and benevolence. It was in vain to offer to young people working twelve hours a day the advantage of mechanics' institutions or village libraries. They were worn out with fatigue and could not read; and if, in consequence, they formed habits of intemperance, who could wonder, and upon whose head would fall the responsibility? Ought it not to rest, in some degree, upon the House, if it sanctioned a proposition by which the children should be deprived of the opportunities of education? And was it, at this time of unexampled prosperity, that we were to be called upon to make this sacrifice of the intellect and the physical energies of our youthful population? He had intended to have considered the argument respecting foreign competition; but seeing the desire of the House to come to a division, he would only say, that since the first Factory Bill was passed in 1819, the import of cotton had more than trebled, and though the mill belonging to the hon. Member for Manchester, which spins for the Russian market, had been reduced by law from seventy-seven to sixty-nine hours of working per week, the export of yarn to Russia had increased from 4,500,000l. to upwards of 18,000,000l. per annum, notwithstanding the reduction of hours, and the protective duty of 6d. per pound, which the Russian Government had imposed upon all yarn imported into that country.
said, those who like him advocated a moderate system of legislation, were pointed at as persons acting contrary to the dictates of humanity; but that he denied; and he knew it would be believed in the district to which he belonged, that there was nothing he said in the House, which he should not be prepared to assert, maintain, and answer for, out of the House. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had adverted to the gentlemen who came to London as a deputation, charging them with a want of sufficient boldness; but such an accusation came with a bad grace from him, a manufacturer, and well acquainted with those gentlemen, who certainly were not liable to the imputation he was, who, reading the law, and knowing it, yet acted in violation of it, as was shown by the evidence on the Table. He cer- 778 tainly would not have alluded to that subject, but for the charge of insincerity which the hon. Member had made against his Majesty's Government: such an accusation, if just, could not apply to himself; because he was not among the advocates of the measure of 1833, and he stated his opinion to that effect when it was before the House. Since that time, an improving spirit had sprung up in the consideration of this measure; and he rejoiced to see the calm and dispassionate manner in which it was now discussed. He would not refer the House to the evidence of the medical men: doctors differed on this subject as on most others; but he would refer to the sequel of the evidence laid upon the Table of the House three years ago, and widely circulated. This was a document against which mere theory could not stand; it came from the most unquestionable source, and it showed the condition of the population of the borough he represented, which might be taken as a fair specimen of the state of other manufacturing districts. In legislating on behalf of the children, the House had gone beyond its own intention. They had a right to be raised to an equality with the other residents in the community,—but the House had raised their condition 100 per cent. above their fellows, and—all the while led away by false humanity, those who did it believed they were conferring the greatest benefit upon them in so doing; instead of which, they had merely driven them from one trade to another, which was worse for their health, and worse for them in every other respect than that from which they had been driven. He called upon the House, therefore, to make a stand, by which it would best meet the wants of those for whom it was legislating. All the operatives wanted was some restriction; they were satisfied that the factory labour did not injure a child of ten years; the document he alluded to proved it beyond disputation. It was for the House and the country to consider whether they would continue a restriction which had not been acted upon hitherto, and which if it were acted on would throw 35,000 children out of employment. The concern to which he belonged employed 1,400 hands, and it would be obliged to discharge at least 250 of them if this Act were enforced; and where would those persons go? Was it for their benefit to be deprived of employment? Not for the benefit of their health, certainly, for no trade could be more healthy than the 779 cotton trade. The hon. Member who spoke last, alluding to a meeting at Bolton, asked where are the clergymen of the district to be found; he would tell the hon. Member that the clergyman of his parish was always on the spot; he went every morning to the infant school in which there were no less than 150 children; he regularly attended and delivered a lecture at the workhouse once in every week; he attended a parochial meeting every Saturday at the library, for the purpose of seeing that proper books were distributed; he attended the savings' bank on the same day, so that he was pretty well qualified to judge of the state of the parish with respect to education; and the children in the Sunday-school, perhaps receiving no other education, were as well qualified to read their Bible, the only true source of all true education, as any others? All education beyond that was a matter of opinion; though some persons appeared to him disposed to fill the minds of the working classes with a species of knowledge which was like giving people drams instead of good sound home-brewed ale. He was disposed to support the measure of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade, because it was the better of the two. There must be a relaxation of the present Bill. The only question then was, how shall we accomplish it? If the House had taken a false step, let it repeal the clause, and the best results would follow. It was better that the children should work under the care of the parents; and if the legislature prevented this, it would do an injustice both to the parent and to the child.
§ Mr. John Fielden
could not suffer this debate to close without offering a few observations to the House; for if there was any subject discussed in that House, which he (Mr. Fielden) was acquainted with, it was this one, as he was so extensively engaged in manufactures himself, that he could not but thoroughly understand the necessities and condition of the working people engaged in them. The hon. Member for Bolton had boasted of the superior condition of the factory hands of Bolton over other classes living in that borough; but before he would listen to the comparison, he must know what was the condition of the people against whom the hon. Member compared the factory hands. Now, he happened to recollect that a Committee of this House had sat for two years to examine into the condition of the hand-loom 780 weavers, and as a Member of that Committee he could assert, that it was proved that one-half of the inhabitants of Bolton were hand-loom weavers, and moreover, that they and their families lived throughout the year upon an average sum of two pence three farthings a head per day. Why, he knew this fact; it was proved to the satisfaction of the Committee; let hon. Members contradict it if they could. But if this be the case, what became of the comparison; it was good for nothing; for it was only comparing the factory hand of Bolton with a large body of the poorest possible community. He said nothing, therefore, in favour of factory labour at Bolton; and he (Mr. Fielden) would say, that so futile a comparison ought not to sway the House for a moment, and then he would put it to hon. Members whether they had not heard enough this evening to determine them to resist the Bill of the right hon. President of the Board of Trade. That right hon. Gentleman had said, that 35,000 children would be thrown out of work if this Bill did not pass. He was convinced that not thirty-five would be thrown out of work by throwing out the Bill. He felt satisfied of it as a manufacturer. Again, the House was told that the manufacturers would suffer by yielding to the noble Lord's (Ashley's) amendment. This was the worst appeal that could be made to the House; for he was sure that if there was a spark of humanity in it, the House would never set private interests against the life and happiness of these poor little over-worked children. At any rate, he as a manufacturer, and a large one, too, would say that he would throw manufactures to the winds rather than he would balance for a moment. But the House would do its duty; it would not drive back these 35,000 little children to labour incessantly for twelve hours a day, with an addition of the time they often had to spend in walking to and from their homes. It surely would not do this! Allusion had been made, in the course of this debate, to the statement of Mr. M'Williams as to the number of miles that a little child had to walk in a factory. It was stated at fifteen miles. Now, he recollected, that at a meeting of Members of Parliament and operatives at Manchester last December, similar calculations had been brought to the attention of himself and the Members of Parliament present, by the operatives. One had made a statement, showing that a child in one mill walked 781 twenty four-miles in the day, merely walking after the machine. He was surprised at this statement, and he observed that few could believe it possible. He, however, was not satisfied until he had tried its correctness; and, therefore, when he went home, he went into his own factory, and with the clock before him, he watched a child at her work, and having watched her some time, he then calculated the distance she had to go in a day, and to his surprise he found it to be nothing short of twenty miles. Talk to him of lightness of factory work after this! It was monstrous. And yet it was this that the hon. Member for Bolton wanted. He called on the Government, on the contrary, to enforce the present Act, and not attempt to repeal it; to send more inspectors down into the cotton districts, and have it put in force rigidly. All the work-people worked harder than they ought to do; but the children were unmercifully treated. The inspectors had given their opinion as to what quantity of work a child could bear, and they had referred also to medical men in the districts where they were employed; But he would like to know who would value such evidence as this, collected by the inspectors for anything, when compared with that of such men as Sir Anthony Carlisle, Dr. Farr, Mr. Green, Dr. Blundell, and the other eminent men who had pronounced our factory system to be nothing short of infanticide? There had never yet been an efficient Act of Parliament on this subject, and if he had to bring in one, it should not allow more than ten hours' labour for any age in factories. We were told of foreign competition. He believed it to be the greatest humbug in the world! But this was "political economy." Now, we had been warned by one of the able physicians examined by the Committee, that we have no right to trench on "vital economy" to support "political economy;" and he would say, that, if this House would pass this Bill and make these poor little children go back into slavery, then it wanted another reforming. But what did the political economists say: when the Noble Marquess (Chandos) brought on his motion about agricultural distress, they said it would not signify if England did not grow a bushel of wheat or barley, so prosperous were manufactures, and so completely were we independent of the land; and yet it seems that we cannot go on in manufactures without working these poor little children for twelve 782 hours a day! That was our prosperity! His fear was that this was only a beginning of a total repeal of Lord Althorp's Act, and that the right hon. Gentleman would bring in a Bill next year to repeal that Act. He knew that the present Act was inconvenient but it did, in some measure, save the little children. It was inconvenient, but it was not impracticable, as it was called. He (Mr. Fielden) knew it, for he observed every clause of it himself, schooling clause and all. But he had always known that the "relays," as they were called by those who speak of the working people as they speak of cattle, could not be had. His opinion, however, as a manufacturer, and as one of some feelings of humanity, was, that Lord Althorp's Act ought to be maintained and enforced, and if it was repealed by this night's vote, he would go on working for a Ten-hours Bill, and he would never cease while he had life. We had always been told that shortening the hours of labour of these poor children would ruin us. When the hours were ninety hours a week, eighty-nine hours, seventy-two hours, sixty-eight hours—at every time when we wanted them reduced—our opponents have said the lessening the time would ruin us; and yet we have shortened them: and we are told now that we are more prosperous than ever. Then he asked the House if such predictions were not false, and he implored it to adopt the amendment of the noble Lord.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished to separate the appeal which the hon. Member for Oldham had made to the reason and deliberate judgment of the House, from that which he had made to their passions; an appeal, he must say, however, which, standing as the hon. Gentleman did, free from the imputation of all interested motives, came from him with peculiar grace. There was no speech that had been delivered that night, however creditable it was to the hon. Gentleman who pronounced it, that had so great an effect in convincing him of the impropriety of acceding to this motion, as the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, unless, indeed, it was that of the hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Hindley). What was the result of the argument of that hon. Member, a Bill passed in 1833, which provided that the children under the age of thirteen should not work more than eight hours a-day in cotton factories. That Bill assumed, that there could be two relays of children, and the mills might consequently work sixteen hours a-day, The hon. Gen- 783 tleman, however, admitted, and he understood the hon. Member for Oldham to be of the same opinion, that this system of relays was impracticable, so that the law in effect prohibited working more than eight hours a-day. He had come down to the House perfectly unfettered, and uncertain what course he should pursue. He had received several communications upon the subject, and seen several parties, but had avoided to pledge himself upon a question which had appeared attended with so many difficulties. The two speeches he had already referred to had, however, convinced him that some alteration was necessary. That legislative interference was necessary he was convinced; because he was afraid that the natural affection of parents in this case was not to be trusted. The point to be gained was to regulate the hours of labour, so that the law should, on the one hand, prohibit the undue working of children, and, on the other, not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the mill-owners, which might operate as a check on this great branch of national industry. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to have limited his Bill to the single point to which it referred, because the present law had been found inoperative in several respects; but if he rejected the proposed amendment of the law, though he thought it did not go far enough, he should imply that he was content with the law as it stood, which was not the case. By voting for the Bill, however, he should still preserve his right to alter it in Committee, and at the same time prove his readiness to amend the present law, should he even act as a friend of the children by refusing to alter the law. The hon. Member for Oldham had stated, that he knew of 3,000 cases of false certificates granted, in the district of the country with which he was connected, by which children under age evaded the law. Now, ought the House to be satisfied with such a state of things? Even the hon. Member for Oldham himself, firmly as he opposed the right hon. Gentleman's motion, had proved that he was not satisfied with the law as it stood. He told the House that the practical effect of the Act was to reduce the number of working hours to eight, while, in his opinion, the number should be ten. The hon. Member added, that he would not be satisfied until he succeeded in procuring a Ten Hours' Bill. If so, why did he resist the present motion? "Oh," said the hon. Gentleman, "I resist it because I think that by keeping in force 784 an absurd law—a law which must in the long run prejudice the masters,—I shall compel them to submit to my wishes." Now was that the fair way to legislate? Was that the way to make the law respected? The hon. Member thought the present law absurd, and yet he was prepared to vote for its continuance. Other hon. Members, he was sorry to say, supported the hon. Member for Oldham; and prominent in the list stood the hon. and gallant Member for Hull. That hon. Member had compared the dispute about the hours" of child-labour in factories to that which existed "'Twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee." He should only say, that had the hon. Member enacted the part of Tweedle-dum-b on the present occasion, he would have shown more wisdom. If the existing law was bad, here was a proposition for its amendment; for the title of the Bill was, An Act to amend the Acts for regulating the labour of young persons employed in factories. That title would admit of any amendment of the law. It would admit of an amendment with respect to the granting of certificates. If that part of the law which required the production of certificates as to age were worth anything, it ought to be enforced. At present no penalty could be inflicted upon a person who might grant a false certificate, unless an information were laid within fourteen days from the commission of the offence. The inspectors reported, that under this restriction it was almost impossible to visit the offence with punishment. After reading the Reports of the Commissioners, and seeing the manner in which the law was violated, it was impossible, on the score of humanity, to leave the law in its present state. He must say, that the inspectors, judging from their Reports, appeared to be disinterested witnesses, and to give their evidence free from any undue bias. Mr. Horner stated, and he was confirmed by the testimony of Mr. Howell, that, through the abuse of certificates, the provisions of the existing Act were constantly violated by the employment of children in factories, under the age limited by the Statute; and that new provisions might be devised for obviating these infractions of the Act. Now he appealed to his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), for whose intentions he entertained the utmost respect, and he asked him whether he was content to leave the law in its present state, when Mr. Horner said that an amendment would prevent it being evaded. He knew that it was necessary to take some precaution against 785 the cupidity of parents, and he thought that that might be done by a more simple law than the present. He thought it would be preferable to the existing law to declare, that no children below a certain age should be allowed to work in factories (making provision at the same time against the granting of false certificates), and then to prescribe the number of hours during which all persons above that age should work. By sanctioning the system of relays of children, we hold out an inducement to adults to overtax their strength, for they would then work sixteen hours a-day. Then, again, how could the system of relays be extended to remote districts? There were a great number of mills in England not in the vicinity of large towns, and which did not work by steam, but by water-power. Suppose one of these with a hundred hands, and forty children, how could the relay system be extended to it? The restrictions here gave no security, for the law could not be acted on. Why, then, preserve a clause which, if not carried into effect, might, in consequence of its frequent violation, bring into disrespect and contempt those which might otherwise prove operative? Supposing the system of having two sets of children to work eight hours each were adopted, would not a premium be held out to adults, on whom no restriction was imposed, to tax their powers to the utmost, in order that by working double they might obtain that degree of employment their wants would require. While, therefore, they professed to support the children working in factories, by compelling the masters to adopt the system of relays, they would be doing an act of great injury to the adult labourers. Then with regard to schools, as they would be affected by the relay system. Was the school to be connected with the factory? If not, it must be but a short distance from it? Was the school to be opened during the entire time of labour? If not, you have made no corresponding provisions for the hours of work and the hours of education. As he understood the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman it was this:—That children under twelve years of age should continue subject to the present law (or, in other words, that their period of labour should be eight hours), but that children above twelve years might be called on to work for sixty-nine hours a-week, or twelve hours for five days, and nine for the sixth, being Saturday. He thought that even with this amendment the law would be in an unsatisfactory state, but 786 feeling that it was quite impossible to please all parties, and that the cure was not quite so bad as the disease; feeling, also, that the existing law was not consistent with humanity; he was willing to entertain the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. Then, one word as to the danger of foreign competition, said to be likely to result from this question, and urged as an argument against it. The danger of competition was a perfectly good ground for reducing the duty on cotton-wool, but the danger of competition was not a good ground for endangering the health of the factory children. He was quite opposed to the adoption of any severe restrictions on labour, from the belief that they were calculated to undermine the commercial energies of the country, and thereby to strike a blow against the happiness and comfort of the people; but when he was asked whether he would resist any attempt at amendment, or whether he would support the continuance of the present law, he felt bound to say he was conscious of the necessity of amendment, and, therefore, that he would vote for the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Lord Francis Egerton
felt altogether disinclined to join with those who attempted to throw discredit on the course taken by his Majesty's Government, although, at the same time, he entertained the opinion that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman who acted as its organ was by no means adequate to meet the defects which the existing law permitted. His intention was to vote in favour of the original motion; but, following the example of his right hon. friend, the Member for Tamworth, he would not pledge himself to be confined by the precise terms of the amendments, the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had in contemplation. He would only further observe, that he should be very apprehensive of any measure upon the subject under consideration, which left out of view the question of foreign competition.
said, that although he, for the most part, concurred in the argument of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, he could not concur in the vote he intimated his intention of giving 787 In voting against the right hon. Baronet, he felt the greatest distrust in his own judgment; but after having heard the discussion, he felt he had no alternative but to give his support to the amendment. He quite concurred with his right hon. Friend in thinking that the original Factory Bill of 1833, called for great and considerable amendment; and if the right hon. Gentleman opposite were then proposing to the House a Bill for the purpose of generally amending that measure, he would have given him his support; but when he was called upon only to amend the Bill so far as to subject children under thirteen years of age to twelve hours' labour, he contended the question then took a totally different shape. In his view it was the duty of the House not to repeal the clause, the repeal of which the right hon. Gentleman viewed as indispensable, but to amend the other parts of the Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman admitted were objectionable, he felt it impossible to lend his support to the proposition. They were told that great frauds were perpetrated under the cloak of the existing law; but in his opinion, the opportunities for the commission of fraud would be far more increased than diminished, by the adoption of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition. Under this view of the case, therefore, he felt called upon to support the amendment of his noble friend.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, it was evident that a conspiracy had long existed to evade the provisions of the Factory Act, and the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade, instead of endeavouring to enforce its provisions more effectually, now came down with a Bill to destroy one of the most important parts of the Act. He hoped and trusted that the House would, upon every principle of sound justice and humanity, reject such a proposition.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
assured the House, that he was most anxious to cooperate with hon. Gentlemen opposite in any measure likely to render the law on this subject operative and effectual. The great evil of the law, as it at present stood, was, that it had thrown a large number of children out of work. The number stated was 25,000, and the statement had not been contradicted; that was an evil which, for the sake of the children, ought to be remedied. If the Bill went into Committee, he should be most willing to lend his best attention to any amendments which might be proposed in respect to 788 certificates and other regulations, to prevent deception and fraud.
§ The House divided on the original Motion:—Ayes 178; Noes 176:—Majority 2.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adam, Sir C.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Forster, C. S.|
|Astley, Sir J.||Gisborne, T.|
|Baines, E.||Gordon, R.|
|Bannerman, A.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Barclay, D.||Greene, T.|
|Baring, F. T.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Baring, W. B.||Hale, R. B.|
|Barron, H. W.||Hastie, A.|
|Barry, G. S.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Beckett, Sir J.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Heneage, E.|
|Biddulph, R.||Heron, Sir R.|
|Blackburne, J.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Blamire, W.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Blunt, Sir C.||Holland, E.|
|Boiling, W.||Horsman, E.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Brady, D. C.||Howard, hon. E.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Howard, P. H.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Hume, J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Ingham, R.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Burton, H.||Johnstone, J. J. H.|
|Byng, G.||Kearsley, J. H.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Knight, H. G.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Campbell, W. F.||Lee, J. L.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Lees, J. F.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Lefevre, C. S.|
|Chalmers, P.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Childers, J. W.||Lennox, Lord G.|
|Clive, E. B.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Loch, J.|
|Cole, Lord||Long, W.|
|Collier, J.||Lowther, Lord|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Crawford, W.||Mackenzie, S.|
|Crawley, S.||M'Leod, R.|
|Curteis, H. B.||M'Namara, Major|
|Curteis, E. B.||M'Taggart, J.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Mahar, J.|
|Denison, J. E.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Divett, E.||Marshall, W.|
|Donkin, Sir R.||Maule, hon. F.|
|Duncombe, T.||Morpeth, Lord|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Dundas, J. D.||Murray, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Dunlop, J.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Ebrington, Lord||O'Brien, C.|
|Egerton, W. T.||O'Connell, D.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||O'Connell, J.|
|Ellice, right hon. E.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Entwisle, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Evans, G.||O'Conor, Don|
|Ewart, W.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Fazakerley, J. N.||O'Loghlen, M.|
|Fielden, W.||Oswald, J.|
|Fergus, J.||Parker, M.|
|Ferguson, R.||Parker, J.|
|Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.||Seale, Colonel|
|Parrott, J.||Sheppard, T.|
|Parry, Sir L. P. J.||Smith, R. V.|
|Patten, J. W.||Speirs, A.|
|Pease, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Strutt, E.|
|Pelham, hon. C. A.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Pendarves, E. W. W.||Stuart, V.|
|Philips, M.||Talbot, J.|
|Philips, G. R.||Thomas, Colonel|
|Pinney, W.||Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.|
|Potter, R.||Thornely, T.|
|Power, J.||Trelawney, Sir W.|
|Price, Sir R.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Pryme, G.||Turner, W.|
|Pusey, P.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Reid, Sir J. R.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Rice, rt. hon. T. S.||Walker, R.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Warburton, H.|
|Roche, D.||Ward, H. G.|
|Rolfe, Sir R. M.||Wemyss, Captain|
|Russell, Lord J.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|Russell, Lord||Winnington, H.|
|Ruthven, E.||Wood, C.|
|Ryle, J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Sandon, Lord||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Sanford, E. A.||Young, J.|
|Scott, Sir E. D.||TELLERS.|
|Scott, J. W.||Steuart, R.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Stanley, E. J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Codrington, C. W.|
|Afford, Lord||Compton, H. C.|
|Alsager, Captain||Corbett, T. G.|
|Angerstein, J.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Ashley, Lord||Darlington, Earl of|
|Attwood, T.||Dillwyn, L. W.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Dottin, A. R.|
|Baillie, H. D.||Dowdeswell, W.|
|Balfour, T.||Duffield, T.|
|Baring, T.||Dunbar, G.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Buncombe, hon. W.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Benett, J.||East, J. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord W.||Eastnor, Viscount|
|Bethell, R.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Bewes, T.||Egerton, Lord F.|
|Blackburne, I.||Elley, Sir J.|
|Bonham, R. F.||Elwes, J. P.|
|Borthwick, P.||Ferguson, G.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Fielden, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Finch, G.|
|Brownrigg, S.||Fleetwood, P. H.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Fleming, J.|
|Bruen, F.||Foley, E. T.|
|Buller, C.||Forbes, W.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Canning, rt. hon. Sir S.||Freshfield J. W.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Gaskell, D.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Chaplin, Colonel||Gladstone, T.|
|Chapman, A.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Chichester, A.||Gore, O.|
|Churchill, Lord C.||Goring, H. D.|
|Clive, Viscount||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Grimston, Lord||Perceval, Colonel|
|Grimston, hon. E. H.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Gully, J.||Plunket, hon. R. E.|
|Halford, H.||Polhill, F.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Pollen, sir J. W.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Pollington, Lord|
|Hardy, J.||Poulter, J. S.|
|Harland, W. C.||Praed, W. M.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Price, S. G.|
|Hector, C. J.||Pringle, A.|
|Henniker, Lord||Robinson, G. R.|
|Hill, Sir R.||Rundle, J.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Rushbrooke, Colonel|
|Hope, J.||Scarlett, hon. R.|
|Howard R.||Scholefield, J.|
|Hoy, J. B.||Scourfield, W. H.|
|Hughes, H.||Shaw, right hon. F.|
|Jackson, Sergeant||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Jervis, J.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Smith, A.|
|Johnstone, A.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Jones, W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Jones, T.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Irton, S.||Talfourd, Sergeant|
|Kemp, T. R.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Kerrison, Sir E.||Thompson, Colonel|
|King, E. B.||Townley, R. G.|
|Knatchbull, Sir E.||Trevor, hon. A.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Langton, W. G.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Lawson, A.||Twiss, H.|
|Lefroy, A.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Verner, Colonel|
|Lister, E. C.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Longfield, R.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Walter, J.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Wason, R.|
|Lushington, C.||Welby, G. E.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Mahon, Lord||Wilbraham, hon. B.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Marsland, T.||Williams, T. P.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Williams, W.|
|Maxwell, J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Musgrave, Sir R.||Wilson, H.|
|Neeld, J.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Neeld, J.||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.|
|North, F.||Wyse, T.|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Young, G. F.|
|Owen, H. O.||TELLERS.|
|Palmer, R.||Hindley, C.|
|Penruddocke, J. H.||Wakley, T.|
|Mr. Humphery||Mr. Beilby Thompson|
|E. Stanley.||General Sharpe.|