HC Deb 04 March 1839 vol 45 cc1164-87

Lord John Russell moved the order of the day for a Committee of Supply.

Lord Ashley

would avail himself of that opportunity to bring under the attention of the House a subject which, as he conceived, affected the privileges of the House and the character of some of its Members. He had no commission to speak of names other than his own. He spoke only on his own behalf; and as his name had been so frequently introduced into the report of the factory commissioners, he could not suffer the report to pass unnoticed. The House would see the painful position in which he was placed. It was impossible for him not to notice this document, and yet, to do it, he must step between hon. Members and the most important business before the House; he would have delayed his motion had it not been certain that he should have been liable to imputations if he postponed it. The House would recollect that last year a committee of that House sat to inquire into 'the combination of workmen in England, Scotland, and Ireland, which committee reported the evidence to the House. Since that time a report had been made, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, by the inspectors of factories, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The report written by Mr. Stuart, the commissioner for Scotland, contained charges against some persons, not only in their character as Members of Parliament, but also on their conduct as Members of committee, commenting upon their speeches, and imputing to them the very worst of motives. Had these imputation been made in any newspaper, in a speech at any public meeting, or in any correspondence which might have come to his knowledge, he thought, considering the nature of the charges and the source whence they arose he should have treated them with the utmost contempt; but when a Government officer in a report, delivered in the discharge of his duties under an Act of Parliament, put forth serious charges and imputations commenting on the proceedings of that House and bringing in a vast quantity of extraneous matter—when such a report had been received by the Secretary of State for the Home Department—when it had been sanctioned by his authority, and when he had advised the Crown to do what was not required by the Act, to lay it upon the Table of that House, having thereby made the sentiments contained in it his own—and when in addition to all this, he found, that the report was to be printed and circulated at the expense of the public, it assumed a most important aspect, and he felt bound to call upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department either to maintain the charges contained in the report, or to withdraw them. The matter was entirely voluntary on the part of the Secretary of State; the Act required the Commissioners to report to him, but it did not require him to lay the report before the House; and with respect to the Commissioners themselves, the Act bound them down to the points they were to report upon. They were to report the condition of the factories and mills, and the state of the children, and they were to say whether the several factories and mills were conducted according to the provisions of that Act, and of the laws of the realm. When, therefore, the noble Lord saw a report containing extraneous matter having nothing to do with the factories, making charges against Members of that House, and against Committees of that House, instead of presenting it to that House, the noble Lord might have said to the Commissioners, "Your report is not in the terms of the Act, and beyond your jurisdiction, you had better, therefore withdraw it, and send in one more suitable to the occasion;" But the noble Lord took no such course; he had not said so; he had adopted the report; he had adopted the allegations it contained; he had laid it upon the Table of the House, and he had thus lent to it the sanction of his high office, and he had caused it to be printed and circulated at the public expense. In the first place, he complained of what was contained in p. 53, where it was said, The only legitimate object for which the Committee was appointed, was 'to inquire into the constitution and proceedings of any combinations of workmen or employers of workmen,' an object altogether foreign to the inquiry which the Committee was instituted to carry on, which was 'with a view to show the impracticability of the provisions of the Factory Act, and its systematic violation in the cotton spinning factories at Glasgow.' The mildest charge, therefore, was, that the Committee had violated the order of reference for purposes exclusively their own. In the same page he found it stated, The intention of the Committee to institute such an investigation was in no way made known to the factory owners in Glasgow, or generally in Scotland.' What these intentions were he did not know, and he called upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if the Committee had such an intention as was suggested, to prove it. This he held to be a very strong point. The report went on— The course followed by the Committee in concealing their intention to include in their inquiry the enforcement of the Factory Act is the more liable to animadversion, because one of the Members of the Committee, previous to the examination of the three cotton spinners, had a private meeting with theta, when he specially interrogated them respecting the alleged animadversion of the Act, and its violation in Glasgow. There the Committee was charged with having designedly and purposely concealed their real objects from the factory owners, and for that proceeding they were liable to severe animadversions. That might be a fair charge for the noble Lord to make in his place; but he asked whether the noble Lord thought it was within the jurisdiction of an inspector of factories thus to comment upon the proceedings of the Committee in a public document, notwithstanding the privileges of the House, and then to circulate that report through the country at the public expense. Now, involved in that sentence, there was also a personal charge: It is the more liable to animadversion, because one of the Members of the Committee, previous to the public examination of the three cotton spinners, had a meeting with them. Would the noble Lord say who that was? [Lord John Russell: I don't know.] There was the difficulty. The noble Lord laid on the table a document containing a charge against some one he did not know. It was a personal charge against some one Member which the noble Lord sanctioned with his authority, and ordered to be printed; and yet he now said he did not know to whom the charge referred. [Mr. O'Connell: It means me.] No doubt the hon. and learned Member for Dublin was perfectly capable of defending himself against any charge. There was another charge against the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, in which he (Lord Ashley) believed the hon. Member would not acquiesce. The next passage to which he wished to refer was in the 54th page. This was an allegation which affected himself personally, not so much for his conduct in the House as in Committee. It stated that Messrs. Houldsworth, Todd, and M'Naught, the three cotton spinners examined by the Committee, were selected by a meeting of the cotton spinners of Glasgow as the fittest persons to appear before the Committee as witnesses; and it may therefore be assumed, that more respectable or better informed individuals could not be found: yet not a single question respecting the operation of the Factory Act was put to Messrs. Houldsworth and M'Naught; and when Mr. Todd, in answer to Lord Ashley's second question to him, said, that he took no children under thirteen, his Lordship did not put another question to him. He would state to the House how the matter really stood. In answer to the 522d question which was put by Lord Granville Somerset, "Can you state what proportion of labour is displaced by the new machinery, the self-acting mules?" Mr. Todd said, In the self-acting mule the spinner is entirely displaced. The same number of hands are used of little children to keep it in order, but the spinner is totally dismissed." Lord G. Somerset afterwards asked, "How soon do you take your children into your work?" and the answer was, "We do not take any in below the highest ages allowed by the Act, thirteen years old: you can take them in at under age, but there are certain restrictions of working short hours and giving them education." Then it was, that he (Lord Ashley) asked the single question, "Do you take none under thirteen?" and Mr. Todd answered "None," and there it ended. Upon this question thus thrown in, was brought a charge of some unfair dealing, the whole scope of which he could pot quite gather. He perfectly recollected that when the witness said he took no children under thirteen years of age, he wished to ascertain this point: he had been told, that in many mills in England and Scotland the masters anxious to be quit of the burdensome provisions of the law had determined to employ no children under the age of thirteen, or those restricted to eight hours labour a-day. He, therefore, wished to know whether this was one of the mills. He put this question, and having received the answer he was satisfied. How was it possible, to a charge so indefinite he could give a more definite answer. The noble Lord might smile, but he would say, on his word of honour as a gentleman, that he had no other intention or motive. He had no intention of going into the Factory Act, and he had no view, distinct or indistinct, towards an exhibition of the inoperative parts of the Factory Act. He wished merely to ascertain the simple fact he had stated, and on the answer he had received he rested; and yet on this was grounded an accusation, that (if he was to judge from a morning paper of the day) a person more unfair, more disingenuous than himself, did not figure in the House or out of it. But again, in page 54 of the Report, it was stated, that "the examination of the combined cotton-spinners, and of Mr. Alison, was conducted, so far as related to the Factory Act, in such a way as could not fail to inform the witnesses of the answers most agreeable to their interrogators. Thus, Lord Ashley, interrogating Angus Campbell, asks, 'To your knowledge the Act is set at defiance?' Words which the witness never used, and which imply a very different meaning from those which the witness did use." Now, he must be permitted again to refer to the minutes of evidence, from which it would be seen, that he was not the party who moved the inquiry, but that the culprit was the hon. and learned Member for Dublin who opened it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked, "Is it your opinion that the law is honestly worked out by not taking in children under nine years of age, or do you think there is any fraud?" The answer to that question was, "I must say distinctly, that the operative cotton-spinner is necessitated to overlook the law, and in order to keep his machine moving, to take children below that age." Upon that, he (Lord Ashley) came in with the question, "To your knowledge is the law set aside?" Answer, "Yes." The hon. and learned Attorney and Solicitor General may smile, because the question might not have been put according to strict legal forms, but he believed it was put in a manner usual in committees of that House. Being surprised with the strength of the witness's language, instead of adopting his expression, "overlook the law," he (Lord Ashley) merely put the question, "To your knowledge is the law set at defiance?" And was not the law put at defiance? Is not a law set at defiance when its main provisions are actually and systematically disobeyed? Could that be doubted when the witness told the committee, "I most distinctly say, that the operative cotton-spinner is necessitated to overlook the law in order to keep his machine moving." And was it right that such a charge as that contained in the report should be grounded upon these two questions—the only two on which the charge was built against him in the report of Mr. Stuart, adopted by the noble Lord? In pages 58 and 59 the report went on with a number of special charges against him, which he thought the noble Lord had better have made in his place in that House, instead of in a public document, and thus sheltering himself under the guise of a report. In pages 55 Mr. Stuart said, "Having now explained enough of the circumstances connected with the proceedings of the committee to prove them to have been entirely of an ex parte description, and very questionable in other respects, I am now to submit to your Lordships, &c." Would the noble Lord say in what it was questionable? Would the noble Lord state that this was proper language to be used by a Government officer in reference to proceedings of that House? If the noble Lord really entertained those sentiments, it would have been more becoming his high station to have made them the grounds of a substantive motion. In the same page the committee was said to have made assertions which the inspector declared to be calumnious, but that charge might be answered by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, from one of whose speeches an extract was given. In page 59 Mr. Stuart had these words:—"If I had adopted what seems to be Lord Ashley's interpretation of the law, that the inspector is bound to prosecute for every offence against the Act, whether wilful or not." And in page 60 was the following passage:—"The very last case noticed in my first report (report of December 31, 1836) appears to me to furnish a good example of the bad consequences likely to result from adherence to the rule which Lord Ashley seems to consider to be absolute, to treat offenders against the Factory Act with as much rigour as midnight robbers and murderers." He asked the noble Lord opposite to show him anything which he had ever said or done that justified the application of such terms to his conduct. He asked whether these were proper or even decent expressions by a paid Government officer to be put in the shape of a public document and remain on the records of that House? The next point was one upon which he could not refrain from insisting, because he did think it a matter in which the House was bound to interfere, not as referring to his own character, but inasmuch as it affected the character of the House. Was it fair that any person should be permitted to impute such base and unworthy motives the those who had thought it to be their duty to undertake a very onerous task, exposing them, too, to much obloquy; a task, however, which they had taken on themselves solely through a sense of public duty, The following passage was in page 56:— The real object of all the advocates of the Ten Hours' Bill is altogether different from the avowed object. They probably deceive themselves into the belief that, by their endeavours to have the present law enforced with strictness, by leaving with the inspectors no discretionary power as to prosecutions, and thus converting the law into a means of oppressing the manufacturers, the are, to some extent at least, forcing the factory occupiers into a compliance with their favourite scheme; but their chief aim, although their prejudices and prepossessions may render them blind to it, is to pave the way for a Ten Hours' Bill, by disparaging and bringing the present law into discredit. That might be the opinion of the noble Lord opposite, or it might not; but he would ask the House whether they would justify the imputation of these wholesale charges against the motives of hon. Members, and, above all, whether an individual holding an office in the pay of the Government, and appointed to discharge defined duties, should be permitted to travel out of the line of those duties, for the purpose of throwing foul charges and base imputation against hon. Members, whose sole crime had been to give their conscientious support to a measure for limiting the labour of children in factories? Had he (Lord Ashley) ever inveighed against the bill in terms so strong as those which had been employed the other evening by the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State? If he had spoken for a week, he could not have said a tenth of what that hon. Member had said in reprobation of the system, and he held that nothing could more completely than that language justify the course which he had pursued for so many years. This was the sum of the charges and insinuations which had been levelled at the committee, and at those who had acted in accordance with him in this matter. There were also spread throughout the report a great many charges and insinuations against himself personally; buts as they involved no charge against him as a Member of Parliament, he had too much respect for the House to trouble them with a matter which might be considered merely personal. But as to the other charges contained in that report, to which he had already specifically referred, he Would say that the noble Lord opposite was bound to bring them forward in a more tangible shape. He was bound to give him every opportunity of refuting those charges, and explaining all these hints and dark surmises, which could not fail to discredit him somewhat in the general estimation of the country. There was only one point directed against himself personally to which he thought it necessary to advert, inasmuch as it seemed to involve; not a breach, but the misuse, of privilege. He wished the noble Lord to observe that he laid some stress Upon this, because he found in the Morning Chronicle of that day an attack upon him, a very sharp attack in many respects, and which, as it followed the circulation of the papers in question, he certainly believed was dictated by the contents of the report. The article to which he referred was particularly severe upon him with reference to the fact of his having presented a copy of the evidence taken before the committee to Mr. Macnish, of Glasgow. In page 31 of Mr. Stuart's report was the following passage:— I found on arriving in Glasgow early Us August, that James Macnish was already in possession of the printed minutes of evidence—that is, of the first report of the committee On combinations, which he stated had been sent to him by Lord Ashley. Not one of the master cotton-spinners was then in possession of those minutes. If the master-spinners had not provided themselves with copies of that evidence it was their own fault. He had bought the copy in question at the establishment which Mr. Speaker bad instituted, so much to the convenience of the House. He bought it many days after the report had been put into circulation, and when it was publicly on sale. The noble Lord indicated his acquiescence in what he said. But he trusted that the noble Lord would also see how extremely hard it was, that for no greater an offence than this, for doing that which might have been done by any other individual, he should be held up in a political document of this kind to public view as an individual, having abused his privilege as a Member of Parliament. The whole report was full of things of the same description. He would not at that moment enter into them, because be had already trespassed but too long on the indulgence of the House. He had to express to the House his gratitude for the attention with which they had heard him, but he would not inflict upon them matters of a purely personal character. In short, he held the noble Lord to have received a report which was not warranted by the terms of the Act, which required a mere report upon the state of the factories; whereas the report, in the present instance, was filled with insinuations and personal charges against Members of that House. The noble Lord had taken the report without inquiring into the facts of the case—a report containing serious charges against hon. Members, and one especially made against a party of which the noble Lord admitted that he had no knowledge; and yet the noble Lord laid such a report upon the Table of that House, had it printed and circulated throughout the country at the public expense. He put this question to the noble Lord, as a Secretary of State, and more, us a gentleman—would he withdraw those charges, or did he concur in them, and (if he concurred) would he substantiate them? Let him do one or the other, to him it was indifferent which course the noble Lord took. Would he stand stiffly by the charges, or have the candour to say that they had been rebutted, and were not to be considered as emanating from him?

Lord J. Russell

inquired, whether the noble Lord had said all that he intended to say in support of the statement with which he had set out at the commencement of his speech—that in this report the worst motives were attributed to certain Members of that House?

Lord Ashley

stated, in reply, that he considered the gravamen of his charge to be fully maintained by the paper which he had already read from page 56 of the report, which charged himself and other hon. Members with having tampered with the law of the land, with a view to the forwarding certain private speculations of their own.

Lord J. Russell

was glad that he had asked the question, because the answer had drawn his attention to the precise ground of complaint. With respect to the whole matter, he must say, that the charge against the noble Lord—if it were to be called a charge—was, that he had listened to persons who had described horrors not worthy of belief. That was the whole of the charge. But throughout there was no statement of a charge; but the real fact was, that it was a defence on the part of Mr. Stuart against statements made in that House. It was stated publicly in that House, and particularly by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that the Factory Act was not in any way put in force in Glasgow; and it happened that during that debate the noble Lord desired, that in fairness the evidence given before the Committee, but which was not reported, should be stated to the House. The fact, however, was, that it did get abroad, and when the report was printed, it was found that it charged against Mr. Stuart not merely that the Factory Act had not been put into operation at Glasgow, but that he, being a factory inspector, and being bound, if he had the power, to carry it into effect, had reported to the Secretary of State from time to time, in seven or eight reports, that the act was generally carried into effect—the fact being that it was not, and that its provisions were violated every day. He said, then, that there could be no heavier charge made against a man than this. Was he to say to Mr. Stuart, "You are charged with a violation of your duty—you are charged with snaking false representations to the Government—you are charged with a total ignorance or a concealment of facts which passed daily before your eyes; that the charge is made by a Member or Members of the House of Commons, but I tell you that you must submit to it, and you cannot be allowed to have the means or the power of proving the falsehood of those charges." Was he to say that to any man who was employed in an office subordinate to his own? He felt that if he had done so, be should have been treating that individual in a way which was unworthy of him, and in a manner which he was not entitled to do; for if he had said so, he might have said, "The noble Lord may make his charge, but it is not competent to you to say a single word, to utter a single syllable, to deny the allegations, and to urge that you have acted properly in the discharge of your duty." In fact, the object of the report was the defence of Mr. Stuart. It was, as the noble Lord had said, in pursuance of the provisions of the act to show the manner in which children had been employed under the statute; but in showing that, how could he but show that the allegations that children had been employed in violation of the act were not true, or that the cases which were stated had escaped his attention, or that when they were brought under his attention he had taken due notice of them. That was Mr. Stuart's duty, and he owned that without calling upon him to make any defame, he should have given him some six months longer with these charges hanging over him, without expressing any opinion' upon the subject, but that then, if no explanation were offered, he should have said, "This is most extraordinary conduct on your part; you have permitted it to be said that the act has not been carried into effect within your department in Glasgow, and you have, by your silence, admitted the truth of the charges;" and he, acting under his impression of the circumstances stated, should have thought it his duty to dismiss him from the situation which he held. Then, allowing Mr. Stuart to enter into his defence, was he to make his answer a secret? Was he to say, "It is very true that you have given me reasons which satisfy my mind, but I will not inform the House of Commons?" What had been the course of the noble Lord? He made this charge against the Government for laying the report before Parliament, but he thought that he should be able to show the noble Lord that in doing so he was acting in concurrence with his opinion. The year after he had come into office he desired that there should be more frequent and particular reports made than were before required, and that the inspectors should give him an account of all the mills which they visited, and that superintendents should also give to the inspectors an account of their duties. He did this thinking that this was the course actually in accordance with the wishes of those who were always calling the attention of the House to the Factory Act, and of those who said that the inspection under the act was neglected, and he conceived that its doing so he should be carrying into effect the wishes of those who always told hint, at least, that they desired that the act should be observed. But it seemed that he was mistaken in the opinion which he entertained, and that the charge was to be allowed to be made after the House had received the report. The noble Lord had brought forward the subject in a very singular shape, and the inferences which he had drawn were still more singular, but it was competent to him to show that all these statements were mistaken, and that what he had originally maintained in that House was correct, and that Mr. Stuart, although naturally eager in his own defence, had not wrongly stated the facts of the case. He did conceive, certainly, that he was responsible for nothing more than allowing the defence of Mr. Stuart to be brought before the House, and he believed that the Factory Act would be best carried into effect by allowing general statements to be made in reference. He imagined that it was one of the principles of justice that men who were charged with the commission of any offence should be allowed to revise what they had done, or to amend their proceedings, or to defend themselves against the charges brought against them. But if they were to be told that men were to make no defence—to submit to charges being preferred in silence—they could not expect that any man who had the least regard for his reputation—who had the least regard for his character—would consent to hold one of those offices of factory inspectors, in which they must suffer such injustice. In the very beginning of his report Mr. Stuart gave what passed in the Committee. He first gave the question of the noble Lord—"To your knowledge the law is set at defiance?" and then the answer was, "It was a matter of necessity: the mills would stand if such were not the practice." The opinion of the person giving the evidence being, therefore, that it was necessary to overlook the law by taking young children in below the age of thirteen for twelve hours work, and below nine years for eight hours work; and, in fact, that the machinery would not be kept moving without it; and the noble Lord who had put the question in this particular form, now said, in explanation of the point, that he did not mean that there was a wilful disobedience of the law. But there was another question in the same page with regard to the master-manufacturers and their conduct to the spinners. The noble Lord asked, "What rule do they lay down to the spinners for the employment of children?" Now any one would have thought that a person desiring to elicit the truth would have stopped there; but the noble Lord having had pervious information, on which no doubt he fully relied, went on "Do they not tell them that they must have children in at all hazards?" Why, if he had merely asked the rule laid down it would have been sufficient, but by asking the witness whether it was not said that the children must be had in at all hazards, he suggested an answer which the witness gave in saying "Yes, or drop their work." Then in page 30 the noble Lord said, "Has it been one of the objects of your late combination to enforce the observance of the law for regulation the labour of the children in the factories?" and the answer was, "As far as the hours of labour extend, that had been one of the principal objects of our Association, but we have not interfered in any point, such as enforcing the schools. It is my opinion that the hours would be lengthened by many of our employers were it not for our Association. This and several other questions were put by the noble Lord and other Members of the committee, and the answers were given by Angus Campbell, James M'Nish, and John M'caffer. The observations which were made contained a charge against the factory inspectors, and in particular it was pretended to show that the Act had been frequently violated, and Mr. Stuart accordingly entered into a great deal of proof to show that no willful neglect had taken place; that the Act had been observed, and that he had not stated those willful falsehoods in his report to the Secretary of State which it would be believed he had be any one who attended only to the statements made before the committee and before this House. He then came to the passages of which the noble Lord had complained. It was difficult for him to ascertain which of them it was that imputed to him that he or any other Member of the House had been actuated by the worst of motives; and he could only gather from it that there were certain persons in Glasgow and other places, whose object it was, to obtain a ten-hours bill, and who would go great lengths to do that; and that several Members of that House, among whom was the noble Lord, had adopted their views upon the subject; and he conceived that the might be done without derogating from the opinion of any Member of that House, because some entertained different opinions. The part which had been read was this:— The intention of the committee to institute such investigation was in no way made known to the factory owners in Glasgow, or generally in Scotland; nor, which is more remarkable, to Messrs. Houldsworth, Todd, and M'Naught, the three factory-owners from Glasgow, who were in London at the same period with the three cotton-spinners, and were at the same time examined by the committee on that inquiry, for which alone the committee was appointed. These gentlemen left London on their return to Glasgow, in utter ignorance that the committee had put to the three cotton-spinners a single question respecting the operation of the Factory Act. Now he (Lord J. Russell) did say, with Mr. Stuart, that until an explanation was afforded, and the noble Lord had not condescended to give any, it must appear to be a remarkable circumstance that these three cotton-spinners should have been examined at such great length as to the operation of the Act, more especially as a statement had been founded on that very examination by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that the Act was not enforced, and as the master-spinners had not been questioned upon the subject, and he did not think that it was a sufficient answer to say, that if the peculiarity of that circumstance was pointed out by any individual, he was guilty of a breach of privilege. On the other hand, however, he must express his opinion that a man might fairly say in his defence to a charge made against him, that witnesses were examined who were prejudiced against a particular course, and that those who were able to give testimony in opposition to their evidence, were not examined. In page 54, this question was given: "Are children taken under the age of nine?— No; I cannot say that there are any under the age of nine." Now, he must say, that this question at least showed that those who asked it were instructed that there were children under the age of nine, in order to bring that fact out if possible. [Lord Ashley: By whom was the question asked?] Mr. Stuart did not give the name of the Member; it was stated by him as part of his defence. The paragraph was in page 56, upon which the noble Lord founded his statement, that a charge was made against him and against other Members of that House, of their being instigated by the worst motives. But what was the statement in the report? The paragraph began thus—"Campbell and M'Caffer, two of the witnesses before the committee, when examined on oath at Glasgow, before the superintendent of factories, and the overseers of those factories, declared, that they knew of no instance of any child employed contrary to law, in the factories where they are employed; and M'Nish, when examined at Glasgow on oath, declined, although pressed, to specify any one case of violation of the Act, 'because, (as he alleged) he believed, that the children he named would be put out of employment.'" Mr. Stuart then went on to observe on this subject, and to remark upon the omission to specify cases, and then he continued "the answer is, I apprehend, too obvious, that the real object of the advocates of the ten hours law, as well as of those who deprecate legislation on the factory question, and who take a part in such proceedings as those of which I have found it necessary to complain, is altogether different from the avowed object." He certainly read this as being intended to apply to the witnesses, and all those who agreed with them upon this subject, and to all of them Mr. Stuart said, that they were advocates for the ten hours bill, and that in pursuance of their object, they endeavoured to show, that there could be no practicable factory law for children, that they all endeavoured to decry legislation upon that subject, and that they said, that those laws which were already in operation were not observed, and that none which could be framed would be observed. Was that the case which the noble Lord endeavoured to support in the Committee? If the noble Lord said, that it was, and that no act could be carried out with regard to children, and, further, that he was an advocate for a ten hours' bill in the case of adults, he must say, that he should hear such a statement with extreme surprise. He never heard, that such were the principles which he professed; and he should not, therefore, say, that the noble Lord was one of those who were included in the charge made by Mr. Stuart against those who advocated a ten hours' bill. The noble Lord had asked him, did he adopt this report. Why, he did believe, that there were persons concerned in promoting a ten hours' bill who went to very great lengths, and their opinions with respect to the present act, and of carrying it more completely into effect. They thought, that by decrying the factory act, and enlisting the humanity of those who were supporters of the interests of the children, they would get a ten hours' bill. He believed, that that was the case; he did not know whether the noble Lord was an advocate for the same measure also; but he did not believe, that he or any other Member of the House was included in the denunciation contained in the report. It was a denunciation, that there were those who deprecated the present law; but the case was not brought forward on that point. The blindness the noble Lord showed on the subject, he must say, was somewhat extraordinary: for he took the names of the witnesses who were examined, and he identified himself with them, and then he chose to say, that this was a breach of the privilege of Parliament, and must be intended against the Members of that House. He (Lord John Russell), however must certainly deny that interpretation, for the report did not hear it. That there were persons in Glasgow who had been employed in endeavouring to procure a ten hours' bill, and engaged in a manner far from doing them credit, he would assert; but he must say there were also persons, who, as Mr. Alison said, would take any means to carry their object into effect. But did he say, that they were Members of that House who were engaged in that conspiracy? Certainly not. There were three classes of persons, within one of which the noble Lord might be included. The first consisted of those who were anxious, for the sake of the children, to have the hours of labour limited, and to see, that the provisions of the law were carried into execution. There were others who were engaged in promoting a ten hours' bill; and then there was a third class who came within the description given by Mr. Alison, who said "Their principle is to carry their objects into execution, if they can, by legal means, and, if that will not do, by illegal means; and then, in the last instance, they will come to anything, to fire-raising, or murder, or anything that they choose." That was the account given of them by that gentleman, he being himself an advocate for a ten hours' bill. To say, however, that the noble Lord, because the evidence had been answered, was accused of lying under a charge of the nature he described, was, he apprehended, a complete mistake, for he thought there was a total absence of proof, that he was accused of investigating this subject with any motive but such as was extremely praiseworthy and proper. He was aware, that Mr. Stuart alleged, that many errors had been committed, and he must say, that he thought the noble Lord was so blinded by his zeal on the subject, that he often listened to persons of discreditable character, who were totally unworthy of belief, while he rejected the testimony of those who were persons of integrity and truth, and on whom he might rely with confidence. He made this charge against the noble Lord—he charged him with excessive credulity of all that was said of the hardships of the factory system, and of an excessive incredulity with regard to all that was said in its defence; but, in the end, as he had already said, he did not think, that the noble Lord was charged in the manner which the noble Lord had described. He in his situation in the Government had laid the report of Mr. Stuart upon the Table of the House, and he thought, that that individual, having been attacked, ought to be allowed to make his defence; and he certainly was of opinion, that the truth would be more likely to be ascertained by allowing a person to make the best defence he could to the accusation made against him than by other means. At the same time, however, he could not but say, that there were some phrases in the report with regard to the Committee which he should recommend to be struck out; but while he expressed this opinion he would never say to a man "You are arraigned in your public situation—you are exposed to the world as a person committing the greatest cruelties—as a man who neglects his duty, and misleads the Government by whom you were appointed; but mind—you are a person who must not venture to say a word in contradiction of the Member of Parliament, or of what is stated against you by a Member of Parliament; and, therefore, by tyranny and injustice, your defence shall not be presented to the world."

Lord Granville Somerset

said, that he would not occupy the attention of the House many minutes; but be must say, that he did not think that the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat, had put the point very fairly to the House. The question was, did the noble Lord opposite adopt that portion of this report wherein all persons concerned in these proceedings of which the report complained, were charged with entertaining one object when they professed another. With regard to the credulity of his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), the noble Lord might well apply his remark to him (Lord G. Somerset), and to every other Member of the House, if they believed the explanation given by him of these passages of the report. The noble Lord had said, that the observations of Mr. Stuart applied to the persons who were giving evidence before the Committee; but how did he mean to take away the effect of the expression used in page 56, "that all persons who took a part in the proceedings were those of whom he complained."

Lord John Russell

The whole paragraph must be taken together, as I have already read it.

Lord G. Somerset

was content to do so; and upon the context, he contended that it was the proceedings of the Committee of which Mr. Stuart complained. If, however, the noble Lord withdrew this expression used in the report, and said that something different was intended, he had no doubt that his noble Friend behind him would be sufficiently satisfied with that sacrifice of the English language to him. He begged the noble Lord, however, to turn to page 32 of the report, and there he would find evidence conclusive of the meaning of the observations subsequently used. It was there said, The testimony of the three cotton-spinners, and of Mr. Allison, as given in the report of the Committee, would have been contradicted, however, not only by the evidence of the witnesses examined before the Combination Committee, had they all been examined respecting the observance of the Factory Act; but, as I am now to show, even by their own testimony, had they been cross-questioned, or examined by individuals conversant with factory employment, and warped by no prejudice in the proceedings. Now, was that an expression proper to be used? It did so happen that he had taken part in the proceedings; and he was certainly warped by no prejudices, and he wanted to know what right had an inspector of factories to throw out an accusation against the Members of the Committee of being warped by prejudice, when it was known that they all exercised an independent and impartial judgment? This was what he complained of; not that Mr. Stuart should defend himself, but that he should accuse others. If the committee did not examine the manufacturers, was it their business to go to seek for them? There were friends of the manufacturers on the committee, Members from Scotland—the Lord Advocate, for instance—why did not they inform the manufacturers of the proceedings? The noble Lord opposite and Mr. Stuart, poured out the whole phials of their wrath against his noble Friend, and said, that he really sought one object while he proclaimed another. But it was extremely difficult to find out from the noble Lord's speech, whether he approved of the sentiments in the report or not, as while in one place he objected to certain phrases, in another he stated that he thought that Mr. Stuart was entitled to his defence. In his opinion, the whole report of forty pages consisted of insinuations against the committee. That committee was appointed at the suggestion of the noble Lord, and the right hon. President of the Board of Trade was one of its members.—[Mr. P. Thomson: I never attended.] He was perfectly aware, that the right hon. Gentleman had been inattentive—and therefore he complained, that those who had done their duty should get blame. If the right hon. Gentleman had attended, he would have got his share of the blame; but, having absented himself, he now shirked the blame. But there were two Members of the Government who attended, and even objected to the mode of examination. He did not know if they ever said anything—but he was quite convinced they then objected to the examination. But the inquiry they were now blamed for, was actually forced on them. What were the facts? The cotton-spinners were accused of combining for illegal purposes; and their answer was, that they were forced into the act by their position. Would it have been just, when persons wished to lay before the country their reasons for combining, that they should be refused a hearing? That might be the doctrine on the other side of the House, but not on that on which he had the honour to sit. With regard to the questions attacked, they were those of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who was quite able to defend himself; but Mr. Stuart further alleged that there was no man on the committee competent to examine a witness; and when it was recollected, that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin was the cross-examined, he would leave the matter between that hon. Member and Mr. Stuart. But the Lord Advocate was present; and he certainly would not have sat still while injustice was committing. The fact was, that Mr. Stuart's name was mentioned; and, indeed, the motion of his noble Friend behind procured for that gentleman's report, more of his attention than he should otherwise have given it. He was certainly not conversant with the working of the factory system, but he could not go along with Mr. Stuart in saying, that Manchester and Glasgow would be much worse if it were not for the factories. Further down, Mr. Stuart said— Besides taking the children out of harm's way, they have imbued them with regular, orderly, and industrious habits. Their earnings are considerable, and are a considerable assistance to their parents; at the same time, that they make them perform their tasks with a zeal and alacrity that is rarely manifested by apprentices serving without pay, merely that they may learn some art, trade, or mystery. Many factories have also day-schools or Sunday-schools, or both, attached to them, which the children attend. But, independently of this, the training they undergo in factories is of inestimable value, and is not more conducive to their own interests than to those of the public. Now, he certainly believed, that the factory system, when well conducted, was of course much better than when ill-conducted; but, under any circumstances, he could not believe it fortunate for children of nine years of age, to undergo confinement. He might be warped by prejudice, but, on the whole, he should be sorry to give anything like warm approbation to the factory system.

Mr. O'Connell

was really surprised to see such excellent argumentation and such lofty indignation expended on a very trivial affair. It was, indeed, quite true that no Members could have acted with more impartiality, or with better motives, than the two noble Lords who had just spoken. But he was really surprised that the noble Lord (Ashley) should have considered the vindication necessary, or should even think it imperative on him to enter at all into this discussion. He would defy any one who had read that report, to say that he (Mr. O'Connell) was not the person who was principally attacked in it. He quarrelled with Mr. Stuart for two things. First, because he disparaged his (Mr. O'Connell's) powers of cross-examination, which he thought exceedingly discourteous, because he was an old lawyer, and also a Member of Parliament; and, next, because he said the committee had gone out of their way in the examination, in having had some members of the combination and the Glasgow Cotton-spinners Association, brought before them. He saw two or three of those persons outside the House, and he thought it would be giving fair play to the enemies of the combinators, to examine them. They had made out a complete case, if it were true; but, if it were false, it was a paramount duty to take care that the House did not act upon it. And he would have been obliged to Mr. Stuart, or any one else, who should show them that they were mistaken. Mr. Stuart reproached the committee, for not having examined the master manufacturers. The noble Lord did put one question to a master manufacturer, and obtained a negative answer, which precluded further inquiry. This was before the evidence of M'Nish—and Mr. Stuart was wrong in blaming the committee for not having put those questions to the master manufacturers, the necessity of which they could not have known until they had heard M'Nish. But the fact was, Mr. Stuart was a little angry when he wrote his report. No doubt he would have done his business better if he had written in a better temper. Still it was natural that he should have felt so, for if the evidence were true, it showed that Mr. Stuart had violated his duty—that he had neglected that for which he had received the public money, and to do which he had taken an oath or made a declaration. The evidence went hard on the master manufacturers, who, if the charges were false, ought to be defended. But he did not think that the noble Lord was at all disparaged by the passages in the report which the noble Lord complained of. It was not for him to counsel the noble Lord—nor did he want to obtrude a compliment upon him, but the fact was, the noble Lord stood too high in the estimation of his friends and the public to be affected by such imputations. There was no man who must not admit that his exertions and his anxiety on the factory question had been influenced by the most honourable motives. He, differing as he did, from the noble Lord in politics—a difference which he had never ventured to disavow—felt it now his duty to state that, in the opinion of all who knew him, the character of the noble Lord was not in the slightest degree tarnished by Mr. Stuart's aspersions. The noble Lord had, he submitted, therefore, quite enough of this affair. He would also, as he had already said, excuse Mr. Stuart for his hasty language, as he had been accused of neglecting duties which involved an obligation of the highest order of humanity—namely, the protection of those children on whose behalf the Factory Statute had been enacted. He would now sit down, repeating what he had set out with asserting—namely, that no two gentlemen could have acted with more strict impartiality than the two noble Lords who had last addressed the House.

Mr. Goulburn

was glad the matter had been brought forward by the noble Lord, as it would contribute to stop, at the very first outset, a practice which, if allowed to be continued, would very materially affect the privileges of the House; for if it were to be allowed that individuals employed by the Government, and paid with the public money, might come forward and make charges against Members of that House as regarded the manner in which they performed particular portions of their duty, the effect would be very serious on that freedom of examination and discussion which was essential to the due performance of it. Mr. Stuart, too, had directed his attack against the noble Lord, the Member for Dorsetshire: but the charges against Mr. Stuart, out of which had arisen his report, were made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He well remembered what took place on that occasion, and he could not help asking why the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, did not then stand up and defend Mr. Stuart, instead of calling on him to defend himself in a special report. He must also be allowed to say, that he conceived it to be the duty of a Secretary of State, when laying official documents such as the present on the Table of the House, to take care that no matter was allowed to be contained therein for which, had it appeared elsewhere, the writer might have been brought before other legal tribunals. He was glad to hear the noble Lord opposite bear testimony to the purity of his noble Friend's motives. His noble Friend's character stood fairly before the public, for no one who had observed his course with regard to the factory question could doubt, that his motives were most pure, and that he was actuated by the most enlarged benevolence towards the persons employed in factories, who were, indeed, already reaping so much benefit from the measure which had resulted from his exertions.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite asked why the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department had not stood up in his place and rejected, when it was made, the statement that the Factory Act was not observed in Glasgow, he must have totally have forgotten what took place in the debate in question. On that occasion he had answered, and as he believed, conclusively, the accusation. He then quoted certain passages from the evidences of the witnesses, for the purpose of proving, that the charge then made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin and the noble Lord opposite was unsupported by the facts. The charge in question was founded on the evidence of the witnesses M'Nish M'Caffer, and Angus Campbell, the effect of which was, that Mr. Stuart had neglected his duty, and that the mill-owners of Glasgow had been accessory to that neglect. Mr. Stuart, therefore, was bound, not merely on his own account, but in justice also to the mill-owners of Scotland, to give the most effectual refutation to this charge. He did not resort to the written defence until he was actually compelled to do so by the noble Lord's refusal to afford him any other means of refutation. Did not Mr. Stuart call on the noble Lord to name any one instance where there had been a violation of the Act, in order that an investigation of the circumstances might be made? Did not the noble Lord refuse to name any such particular case? And did he not also decline to go and judge for himself personally whether the facts stated were true or false? If the noble Lord was so situated as not to be able or ready to afford Mr. Stuart the opportunity of refuting the charges by personal observation, and if the noble Lord refused to specify any one particular case in which there had been a violation of the law, was not Mr. Stuart justified, compelled, in justice to himself, to take the only course open to him, the course of which the noble Lord had complained? He must say he was surprised at the ready credence given to the evidence of the witnesses in question. All the three had been for a long time members of the Combination Committee, and were prepared to go any lengths to attain the objects of the combination; and Angus Campbell had been committed as an accessory to a murder committed by the combinators, when he remained three weeks in prison. Yet it was on the evidence of such witnesses as these that charges had been made against Mr. Stuart. That gentleman had, in his opinion, acted quite justifiably in the course which he had taken for the purpose of refuting such charges.

Lord Ashley

had by no means desired to preclude Mr. Stuart's right to defend himself; on the contrary, he had been anxious to give that gentleman every opportunity so to do. What be objected to was, that in defending himself be should have thought it necessary to cast what he felt to be a foul and unfounded imputation on an individual Member of Parliament. It was quite true, as the hon. Gentleman opposite had just said, that when the charge was made he (Mr. F. Manic) did contradict certain allegations; but he did so in a very different tone and temper from that of this report. As the noble Lord opposite, however, had given up his position, and seemed very frightened at the noise himself had made; he should not pursue the matter further.

The subject dropped.