HC Deb 04 February 1840 vol 51 cc1222-47
Mr. Slaney

said, that in venturing to rise for the purpose of addressing the House upon this subject, he felt that it might be asked why he ventured to bring it forward. He felt, indeed, the necessity of claiming the indulgence of the House, but he assured them that he was acting under a deep conviction of the importance of the question. He was not about to enter into a discussion upon the subject of existing discontents, but he proposed to consider the causes of those discontents, which had prevailed more or less amidst a great proportion of our fellow countrymen, among the densely-peopled districts of the kingdom, for many years. He should first show, that such discontents had existed, and had continued for a very long time. In 1812, great dissatisfaction was exhibited in four of the midland counties of England, and at that time some people, who were called Luddites, broke into lawless outrages in parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire. They went about armed, and presenting a formidable appearance; there were oaths, by-words, and training of bodies of men, and at that time the murder of a most respectable manufacturer took place. In 1815 there were strikes among the working classes of the Tyne, and the surrounding districts, accompanied by great disturbances. In 1817 there was a general ferment amongst the working population, in many of the districts of the kingdom, which eventually assumed a political form, so far, that meetings were held in contravention of the law, and it was in the year 1819 that that unfortunate occurrence took place at Manchester, which to this flay was viewed, on all hands, with the deepest regret. Dissatisfaction was exhibited in various places, and prosecutions were instituted, a circumstance which sufficiently showed the magnitude of the evil which Government had to subdue. In 1820, a rising of many persons took place in Derbyshire, and, headed by a man named Brandreth, they marched into Nottinghamshire, and there, being met by a peace force, they were put down. Their leader, and several others, were tried for high treason, and their conviction having taken place, they were executed. After the panic of 1826, strikes, accompanied by great violence, took place; and, in 1829, meetings of the united trades having taken place, the effect was extremely injurious to the well-being of the inhabitants of the places where the assemblies were held. In 1826, too, similar meetings were held, and riots broke out in Bolton, and other northern towns. In 1827, there was great activity exhibited, and a general meeting of the trades and delegates was held in the Isle of Man, with a view to the convenience of persons going from England, Ireland, and Scotland, when rules and regulations were laid down for certain purposes, and printed. In 1830, the French Revolution occurred, and was soon followed by that in Belgium, and, for two years afterwards, agitations took place, which assumed a political turn, and terminated in the Reform Bill. Since that period, several large strikes had taken place in London and elsewhere; and the strength and power of the working classes were ostentatiously exhibited by a procession of 40,000 men through the metropolis. In 1836 the Working Men's Association took place, and a great meeting was held at the Crown and Anchor, which was succeeded by others at the British Coffee-house, at which eventually the principles of the Charter were determined upon. In 1838, those principles were widely disseminated. The means for obtaining the charter were, at first, what was called "legal agitation;" but afterwards, many misguided persons betook themselves to effect that by terror, which they despaired of producing in a peaceful manner. Riots subsequently occurred at Sheffield, in Montgomeryshire, and elsewhere, and he thought that, upon this statement of circumstances, he might venture to assert, that for a very long period past, a spirit of dissatisfaction, he would not say disaffection, had existed among the working classes. He had no intention of speaking in harsh terms of those persons who were denominated Chartists, however mischievous their projects might be to themselves or other persons; for he thought that he had sufficiently shown that the feelings of discontent which prevailed among them, as well as other persons, was of no recent origin, but had existed during several years past. He begged now to call the attention of the House to what were the real causes of this discontent; it might be stated differently on opposite sides of the House; and while hon. Gentlemen on the other side might declare, that the agitation was produced by the existence of new political rights created by the Reform Bill, or, by want of sufficient precautions on the part of the Government, Gentlemen who sat near him might assert, that they arose from a neglect duly to extend the franchise, or from a neglect of the prayers of the petitioners to the House, for an alteration in the existing corn-laws. He asked the House, however, to lay aside the consideration of those questions until they should be brought under their notice by specific motions in reference to them, and he thought that he should be able to show that it was not from these causes, but from others of a more permanent nature, that the discontent which existed was in a great measure attributable. He conceived that the primary causes of dissatisfaction were the monopolies in the manufactures of the country, and the discovery of new machinery—the effect of which was to deprive many persons of work, and consequently of the means of living. In the year 1793, the workmen who dwelt in towns, and densely-peopled places, were to the agriculturists, as one to two, but, in 1840, the proportions were reversed. He found that the increase of the population during the last forty years had been—in Manchester 109 per cent., in Glasgow 108 per cent., in Birmingham 73 per cent., in Leeds 99 per cent., and in Liverpool 100 per cent.; while the manufacturing or town population had, in the same manner, increased in proportion to the agricultural population. —In Staffordshire three to one, in Warwickshire four to one, in the West Riding of Yorkshire twelve to one, in Lancashire ten to one, and in Middlesex I twelve to one. He had shewn, therefore, the vast changes which had taken place in the character of the populations of these districts, that immense masses of people were congregating in small and confined spaces, and he should now proceed to exhibit to the House, that notwithstanding those alterations in the positions of the people, the Legislature had paid little attention to the question of their convenience for many years past. He thought that the inconveniences of the people might be divided into three heads: first, the want of legislative provision for the preservation of their health, and the comfort of their houses; secondly, the want of provision against the fluctuations which constantly occurred in the commerce of the country; and, thirdly, the want of religious instruction and education. With regard to the social condition of the people, he should refer first to the metropolis itself, and he begged to call the attention of the House to the 4th and 5th reports of the poor-law commissioners—books of undoubted authority upon a point of this description, which admirably pointed out the existing miseries of the population of the poorer districts of London, described their state of poverty and dependence, the wretched hovels in which they lived, and, in short, gave such a report as could not be read by any one without the deepest regret. He begged next to allude to the state of the handloom weavers, many of whom, pressed down by poverty, were obliged to dwell in houses tainted with fever and sickness, which, it was reported, was never entirely removed from them, and he declared his belief, that if that House were to make proper exertions, all those evils which existed, and all those discontents which were exhibited would eventually be removed. To shew what was the state of the poor, he would refer to Liverpool, In 1839, there were 7,860 cellars in that city, inhabited night and day, which were dark, damp, confined, ill-ventilated, and dirty. 39,000 people inhabited them, being one-seventh, of the whole population of the town, and one-fifth of the working-class. These statements, and others which he should bring before the House, were made on the authority of the Statistical Society of Manchester, from whose publications he quoted them. In Manchester, and Salford also, a considerable portion of the population inhabited cellars, the greater portion of which answered the description of those at Liverpool. Out of 37,000 habitations which were examined, no less than 18,400 were ill-furnished, and 10,400 altogether without furniture. In Bury, the population of which is 20,000, the dwellings of 3,000 families of working men were visited. In 773 of them, the families slept three and four in a bed; in 209, four and five slept in a bed; in 67, five and six slept in a bed, and in 15, six and seven slept in a bed. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne a similar investigation took place. In the parish of All-Saints and another, the residences of 26,000 poor persons were examined, and those who saw them gave a most appalling account of the misery, filth, and want of air which prevailed. The total population of the town is 64,000, and the dwellings of the great majority of the inhabitants were badly ventilated, dark, and unwholesome. As a consequence of this, he would observe that there had been no less than 2,600 criminals of all kinds in Newcastle during the past year. The proportion of female criminals was much greater than in, any other place. Indeed, the sewerage and drainage of the streets in which the dwellings of the working-classes were situated, were almost wholly neglected. The working population of Leeds was 61,000; 383 of the streets were reported to be good and middling, but 224 were declared to be very bad. Half of the latter were covered with lines, on which was, hung wet linen, so that no carriage of any description could pass through them. In the north-eastern districts of the town, where resided 15,400 working people, 38 streets were without sewers. A consequence of this neglect was, that the deaths of infants were at Leeds much greater in proportion than in any other town; and in the report of the registrar of deaths, Leeds was designated the most unhealthy town in the kingdom. He now came to the evils suffered by the working population, in consequence of the reduction of wages. He was of opinion, that it was greatly in the power of the working classes, aided by the Government, to prevent by timely precautions those evils. What was the condition of the artizans of Sheffield? The trade of that town had very much declined. Part of it was gone to the Continental manufacturers, and what remained was dependent on the American market. One part of the misery of the Sheffield artisans was caused by their own violence. Their strikes, and the violence that had accompanied them, had been a main cause of the trade being drawn elsewhere. They took no precaution whatever against fluctuations of wages, and the distress that must accompany them. The committee of 1837, reported that their opinion was, that in the manufactures of cotton, woollens, hardware, linens, and even silks, the average wages paid to workmen, had been such as if duly spread over the whole of a given period, would have sufficed to shield them from want, and to keep them in comfort. Had due precautions been taken, they would never have had any occasion to rush into violence on a fall of wages, or a scarcity of work occurring. The Legislature ought, in his opinion, to give the working men the opportunity of ensuring themselves against those fluctuations. Never was there a time when such provisions were more necessary. The committee in the case of the handloom weavers, declared it as their opinion, that their distress had arisen from the introduction of the power-loom. From this fact, a solemn warning ought to be deduced. If the power of steam produced this effect on the hand-loom weavers, it would produce in time the same effects in other manufactures. Was it not, then, high time to take steps to provide against the forthcoming evil? Up to the year 1834, no means had been afforded by the Legislature to these persons for joining in associations to save their wages, so that they might be sure of an allowance in the event of any contingency happening to them. The Benefit Societies Bill gave to them some of these opportunities. But the usefulness of the benefit societies was confined to the contingency of sickness; no means were provided by the act in question by which a poor man might lay up a store to provide against the time when he might be out of work. No means were provided by which he could ensure a safe deposit of his money, secured against all chances of fraud. An act had, however, since been passed, which opened to them more facilities than had hitherto been possessed by them, but that act was not sufficiently known among them to enable them to avail themselves of it to any extent. Nevertheless some very admirable applications of that act had been made. The fishermen of Brighton and Lowestoft had entered into associations to provide against the loss of their boats and other similar contingencies. Similar associations had been entered into for mutual insurance of the lives of cattle: but generally speaking the act was not sufficiently known, and had therefore not been generally made use of. He was quite sure that if the working classes were aware of it, they would be willing and anxious to avail themselves of its provisions, and of the facilities it afforded them for providing against all contingencies. In one large manufacturing town an association was formed for the purpose of inducing the lower classes to avail themselves of it. Many ridiculed the plan as not likely to take effect. It was said, that the working classes would neglect to avail themselves of it—that they would rather spend their money in beer, than provide against an evil day. But what was really the result? Why that sixty persons joined the society the first year, 160 the second year, and so on until at the end of five years, 700 families had embraced that mode of providing for the future. See what would be the effect of the general adoption of such a system for the prevention of want. Now, if a misunderstanding arose between the masters and their workmen about wages, the latter at once proceeded to violence. If they were able to fall back on such a fund as that which he desired to see established, they would not be driven to violence or intimidation, but would have time quietly to digest the question, and leave room for coming to an amicable arrangement, without the necessity for strikes. They would also receive assistance from their society while there was a scarcity of work, and thus avoid all those misfortunes which now attended any temporary stagnation in the demand for labour. There were now many additional reasons for the adoption of such a system as this. There was a greatly-increasing competition in some of our manufactures, on the part of Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. Seeing the evil as they did beforehand, they were I bound to provide against it in time. Another powerful reason for at once grappling with the subject was the constant and increasing immigration of Irish. The change in the mode of holding tenements in Ireland had given rise to such an extensive system of clearing, that thousands of miserable individuals were driven over to this country to obtain a subsistence. They came over the rivals of our own labourers, and unless we contrived to lift them up, assuredly they would pull us down. He had a comparative statement of the number of Irish who had come over to Liverpool between 1836 and 1839. Many of them were, no doubt, Connaught men, who returned as soon as the harvest was over. From March, 1836, to March, 1837, the number of those who arrived at Liverpool was 74,240; of those 50,400 returned—leaving 24,000. No man could doubt the effect of such an importation of labour on our own labouring classes. Between March, 1837, and March, 1838, 45,500 arrived, and 41,200 returned, showing a less number remaining, but still a considerable number. From March, 1838, to March, 1839, upwards of 45,000 arrived, and upwards of 39,000 returned, still leaving 6,000 labourers behind to compete with our own labourers. The Irish residents in Liverpool were, according to the statistics which he relied on, about 40,000, although some were of opinion, that the number was much greater. In Manchester the Irish residents amounted to 60,000, and in Glasgow there were 50,000, besides great numbers in the different villages adjoining. In Birmingham there were from 20,000 to 25,000. In Leeds there were not less than 10,000. Could any one, looking at these facts, in conjunction with the present condition of the working classes, doubt that the legislature was bound to afford them the means of insuring themselves against future want? He maintained, that it was the duty of the Government to take the lead in such a measure. He thought also some mode might be provided by which settlements might be effected between masters and workmen, without those resorts to violence which now attended their disputes. In France there was a Conseil de Prud'hommes, by which questions of wages were decided. He (Mr. Slaney) would suggest the appointment of arbitrators, whose decisions should not be absolute on either party, but persons in whom the working classes would be likely to confide. He thought that in most cases the working men would be ready to abide by the decisions of those arbitrators. He thought also it would be worth considering, whether or not it would be advisable to send out a number of educated, intelligent, practical persons, whose business it should be to inquire into the condition of the poor in those densely-peopled districts, and to suggest measures for its improvement. He thought they should hold out some inducement or bonus for the formation of provident societies of the kind, that he had described. The principle was acted upon now in the case of savings' banks, where they gave a somewhat larger interest than was paid in the funds. Again, the religious instruction of the people was most disgracefully neglected, and no steps had been taken by the legislature to provide the means for their accommodation at the Churches, for the purpose of their attending divine worship. In the diocese of Chester the want of Church accommodation was particularly felt. For instance, at Manchester there was church accommodation for 26,000, while not less than 108,000 of the poorer classes in that town could not attend divine worship in the Church, as there was no room for them. Nearly the same proportion existed in four out of five of the large towns; and, consequently, the great built of the population had no means of attending divine worship. He did not wish to speak in a derogatory tone of the instruction given by other religious communities, but he thought that it was the duty of the House to see that the means existed to enable the great bulk of the people to attend religious worship in the Churches; but the free seats in those sacred edifices in the large towns, in seven cases out of eight, and above all in the metropolitan districts, was not in any proportion adequate to the wants of the community. He would ask how they could expect to deter these persons from the commission of crime, when they took no steps to provide for their adequate moral and religious instruction? Ten years ago he moved for a Committee of that House to inquire into the best means of providing useful education for the poorer classes, and into the present state of education in the large towns. The Committee was formed from both sides of the House, and investigated the subject with great care and attention, without regard to any party considerations; and the result was, that a report was produced, which contained some valuable information on the subject. In one part of their report, the Committee state, in reference to the state of education in the metropolis, "that it appears as a general result, that in the five parishes situated along the Strand and round Charing-cross, which may be considered as holding a mean station between the more opulent parishes of the west and the poorer and more crowded parishes of the north-east and south-east of London, that some sort of daily instruction is afforded to about one in fourteen of the population, instead of one in eight, as is desirable, and that afforded to one third of the scholars is very indifferent." The Committee examined evidence respecting the populous parish of Bethnal-green, situated to the east of London; the population in 1831 was stated at 62,000, and must since have probably increased. It appears from the report of the Spital Fields School Society and other evidence, that less than 3,000 children are educated. The Bethnal-green committee state, that after making allowance for such as must at all times be prevented from attending school, there are at this moment from 8,000 to 10,000 children in Bethnal-green alone, not only without daily instruction, but for whom no means of daily instruction are provided. The Committee hold it to be an established fact, "that, in that one parish thousands are growing up uninstructed in their duty, either to God or man." And when it is added, that this "is only one parish out of many, and that the neighbouring parishes are almost as poor and as destitute of the means of education as this," they think they have established a claim to all who are interested in the welfare of London. It appears, therefore, as a general result, that in this populous parish less than one in twenty of the population have daily education, instead of one in eight. The Committee were not able, from the want of accurate returns, to examine with the same minuteness into the state of other districts of London. After giving a num ber of returns respecting the larger towns, the Committee gave the following as the general result of the state of education in these towns:—" That about one in twelve receive some sort of daily instruction, but only about one in twenty-four an education likely to be useful. In Leeds only one in forty-one; in Birmingham, one in thirty-eight; in Manchester, one in thirty-five. The evidence of several of the most intelligent witnesses referred to in the report, describes in strong terms, the misery and crime likely to arise from the neglected education of the children of the working classes in populous places." The Committee are fully persuaded, that to "this cause (embracing the want of religious and moral training) is to be chiefly attributed the great increase of criminals, and consequently, of cost to the country." He trusted, that the time was not very distant before a complete remedy would be afforded to this great evil, and that even the present Session would not be allowed to pass over without some remedy being applied to this lamentable state of things. Besides the other remedies that had been suggested, he thought that they might at once take care that such aid should be given in all parts of the country, so that the means of attending religious instruction was afforded to all those who were compelled to work six days in the week He would not go into details respecting the increase of crime, but he would merely state, that it appeared, from the returns made to Parliament of the committals for crime in England and Wales that in the twenty years(from 1810to 1832) the committals increased fourfold, whilst the population increased thirty-two per cent. These returns furnished most valuable information on this subject, and clearly showed the lamentable effects of the ignorance, and consequent crime that is spread so generally in the country. Even as a measure of economy it was desirable that the Legislature should take some steps to check the progress of crime. It was stated in the report of the commissioners on the constabulary force in the country, on the authority of a return made to the municipal council of Liverpool, that the cost of crime in that town was estimated at 700,000l. per annum, and those who inquired into the subject declared their conviction "that immense as this sum is, it is not exaggerated, but, on the contrary, is much understated," A number of details were given with the view of, showing the accuracy of this statement. Now, the sum which was annually expended in the correction of crime in one town only, was ten times as much as he should require to carry into effect many improvements that would operate most beneficially on the working classes. Was the House aware of the enormous sums annually expended for the prevention of crime? It was stated in the report to which he had just referred, that the expense of a rural police for England and Wales, together with the cost of management and other charges, might be taken at 450,000l. The expense of the Metropolitan Police was 260,000l. per annum. The expense of the police in the various boroughs, chargeable on the borough funds, was 100,000l., and the amount for the City of London corporation police was 40,000l., making a total of 850,000l. for the charge of police. In addition to this, the charge on the county rates for prisons, prosecutions, &c, was 352,000l.; or not deducting the 80,000l. paid out of the consolidated fund in aid of the county rates, the amount would be 432,000l. There was also the sums annually voted from the Consolidated Fund for the maintenance of prisoners, convicts, &c, amounting to about 380,000l. These sums taken together, amounted to not less than 1,662,000l. paid annually for the prevention of crime, He did not mean to assert, that they would save the whole of this amount by the education of the people; but a very considerable proportion of it would no longer be required for this purpose. But besides this large expenditure, there was also the expense of a great number of voluntary associations for the prosecution of criminals. There was also a large expense for the additional military force that was necessary in consequence of the turbulence of the population in those districts where the people were the least educated; and, in addition, there was also the loss attendant upon those persons wasting their time in criminal indulgencies instead of being engaged in profitable labour. He regretted to find that a great increase in the consumption of spirits had taken place within the last few years, and he found by the returns that in little more than thirty years the consumption of gin had increased from 9,000,000 of gallons to 29,000,000; and that, while thirty years ago the annual consumption of gin in England was only one gallon a year to each person, now it had increased to one gallon and a half each. At the present time the amount of duty paid on spirits consumed in this country, was not less than 8,250,000l. It was greatly to be regretted, that the Government drew such a revenue from the demoralization of the people, and he lamented that some steps were not taken to diminish the facilities that now existed by which spirits were put almost within the reach of almost every poor person. The consumption of spirits had also greatly increased in Ireland and Scotland, and more especially in the latter country, where the annual consumption of spirits within the last thirty years had increased from 2,700,000 gallons to 6,300,000. He was satisfied that the only remedy for this state of things was the moral education and the religious instruction of the people; and he feared if they did not at once take effectual means for this purpose that crime would go on increasing with fearful rapidity. They should regard the signs of the times, and should take warning of the events that had recently occupied their attention, and educate the people; and when they had exerted themselves, and done all in their power in this respect, if the people chose to listen to bad advisers, the legislature would have the satisfaction of knowing that it had done its duty. He knew that the matters which he had alluded to, were distasteful to Members on both sides of the House, for he found that they, more especially since the Reform Bill, preferred party questions to practical measures of improvement like the present. The hon. Member concluded by moving that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes of discontent amidst great bodies of the working classes in populous districts, with a view to apply such remedies as the wisdom of Parliament can devise, or remove as far as possible any reasonable grounds of complaint, in order thereby to strengthen the attachment of the people to the institutions of the country.

Mr. W. Smith O'Brien

felt great pleasure in seconding the motion of his hon. Friend. He was convinced that the adoption of some such course as that now proposed, would show to the working classes that that House was not indifferent to their condition, but sympathised with them, If an inquiry were resorted to, it was probable that some of the intelligent artisans that would be examined might throw out suggestions that would tend to improve their moral and physical condition. He believed such to have been the case with respect to an inquiry into the condition of the hand-loom weavers. In the first place, a committee was appointed to inquire into the condition of this class of persons; and after the subject had been investigated before them, a commission was appointed, and the result of the examination had been some extremely valuable reports, which he was convinced would lead to the production of much good, and to the ultimate improvement of the condition of the persons who were the subject matter of the inquiry. He could not help expressing his deep regret at observing the state of alienation that prevailed amongst the working classes throughout the country towards the constitution. This feeling probably prevailed through a greater portion of these classes in this country than in any other enjoying free institutions. As a proof of this, he would refer to the petition that was presented to the House last year on the subject of the charter, signed by upwards of 1,200,000 persons. He feared that one of the effects of the Reform Bill had been to draw a distinction between the middle and working classes, and had excited feelings of jealousy in the latter classes, such as they never entertained before. That bill took a considerable portion of power from the aristocracy, and transferred the representation to the middle classes; and the working classes, who had exerted themselves greatly to promote the success of that bill, finding themselves altogether excluded from the franchise by its operation, entertained the strongest feelings of dissatisfaction, and he thought that the only means of allaying those feelings would be by greatly extending the elective franchise. He was of opinion that the ballot would be found to be unnecessary if they greatly enlarged the franchise, for large constituencies would always be able to protect themselves. The influence of agitators for the charter manifested the want of education in the people; and this should be another reason for more generally diffusing it. Instead of voting the small sum of 30,000l., it was the duty of the Government to render to every one, as a right, the means of attaining a good and sound education, There was probably no instance on record of a country of such wealth doing so little towards promoting the intellectual amusements of the people. In countries of a much inferior character, there was hardly a large town which did not possess its picture gallery, its statue gallery, and its botanical and zoological collections, but all matters of that kind in England were done by private associations, and no one could enter them unless as a matter of favour. He was convinced that it would be in this as in other countries—that if the legislature provided the people with the means of rational enjoyment it would drive them from intemperate habits, and make them intelligent and moral beings. Was it not awful to think that the commitments for crime in the country amounted to 100,000 a year? He believed that in no other country, where there was such an extent of property, was there such a large proportion of the population entirely dependent upon labour for the means of subsistence, and in case of want of employment resorting to the poor-laws. He found that in France there were nearly a million of small proprietors of land, who, in case of calamity, might fall back on their little property, but nothing of this kind was known in England. With her extensive colonial possessions, such a thing as a permanent distress on the part of a large body of the people should not be known, for if emigration was placed on a proper footing by the Government, this evil would be completely remedied. He regretted that the hon. Gentleman had not made his inquiry of a more extensive nature. An investigation into the subject of currency, and its effects upon the condition of the people was highly necessary. The Corn-laws also required close investigation, as having much to do with the existing discontents of the people. He hoped that both sides of the House would support this motion: it was no party question, but a question how best the happiness and prosperity of the humbler classes could be promoted, and he trusted that the House would show the working classes that their interests were a matter of consideration with the representatives of the people.

Mr. Lambton

opposed the motion. It was too indefinite, he thought, to be productive of any beneficial results. Unhappily a great deal of delusion prevailed amongst the working classes throughout all parts of the United Kingdom; they were grossly deceived by the writers who were most popular amongst them, and his remedy for that would be an improved system of national education; no doubt the hon. Mover was also a friend to national education; it formed, however, but one out of fifteen of the various objects to which his proposed inquiry was to be directed. His inquiry was to go back to a remote period, and to embrace almost every portion of our existing legislation: the Corn-laws, the currency, the elective franchise—all were to be subjects of inquiry by the committee. It was a committee to take cognizance of subjects so various and so extensive, that he very much doubted the propriety of its being proposed by any individual Member; and, without meaning the least personal disrespect to the hon. Mover, he must say, that if at all brought forward, it should be by a Member of the very first eminence. His own opinion, however, was, that a motion of this kind should be made, if at all, by the Queen's Government. He must further observe, that if such a committee should be appointed, it ought to include the Members for Durham and for South Northumberland.

Mr. Hume

agreed that a subject so vast and important ought to have been introduced to the House by her Majesty's Government, for he did not think that any person unconnected with the Government would be able to bring before the House at once, in a condensed form, the information which it was desirable to obtain. As to the motion before the House, he thought that the hon. Member for Durham must think this a sufficient ground for inquiry. The hon. Member had no doubt read her Majesty's Speech, in which her Majesty stated that she could not see, without deep concern, that a spirit of insubordination and disobedience to the law had begun to manifest itself, and had broken out into open violence. Her Majesty further stated, that the commercial embarrassments which had taken place in this and other countries were subjecting our manufacturing districts to severe distress. He thought, then, that they ought to inquire into the causes of the discontent and distress that prevailed. Would the hon. Member for Durham say, that, after the paragraph in her Majesty's Speech to which he had now called his attention, the House would do their duty unless they inquired into the causes of this distress? He would also remind the House of the petition presented last year, and signed by 1,258,000 persons. The parties who signed that petition stated what were the causes of their distress and discontent. Would any one tell him that the manner in which that petition was disregarded by that House was not calculated to increase the discontent of the great bulk of the people? Whatever might be the causes of discontent, he thought that the inquiry ought not to be limited. He did not agree with the hon. Member who stated that the people were ignorant. If the hon. Member attended a meeting of the people in the manufacturing districts, he would find that his opinion on that point was erroneous. The way in which the working classes supported the Reform Bill showed that they entertained large expectations of an improvement in their condition. He (Mr. Hume) must say, that the noble Lord was himself one of the causes of the present discontent, for the noble Lord had stated when he brought forward the Reform Bill, that "the ancient constitution of this country demanded that no man should be called upon to pay taxes for the support of the State, who did not contribute either by himself or his representatives to the imposition of these taxes." He believed the noble Lord was sincere in the expectations which he had excited, but after seven years the people complained that they had been disappointed, and they have been denied a remedy. The House supported monopolies which checked commerce, and produced distress. Therefore he thought that the House was bound to institute inquiry. The working classes were not incensed against our institutions so much as against the abuses of those institutions. And it was his honest conviction that no inquiry as to their situation could really be beneficial, which did not embrace the great questions of such monopolies as the Corn-laws, and of the extension of the franchise. The Government had been' accused by Sir James Graham of being favourable to Chartist principles. He wished they were more favourable to those principles than they were; they would thereby increase the peace and the contentedness of the people. He certainly blamed the Chartists for the means they adopted and the language they had used in seeking for those measures, but though they might have acted in a manner which he did not approve of, yet the principles were not thereby influenced, and he hoped the noble Lord would not altogether deny any advance towards what the great mass of the people required. He thought that Corn-laws and an extension of political privileges were proper and appropriate subjects for inquiry, and he trusted they would not be forgotten. Was it to be supposed that the people could be contented whilst five out of every six individuals were deprived of their political rights and had no more to do with the making of laws than the negroes in the West Indies had before the passing of the Emancipation Act? If they persevered in opposing the demands of the people, complaints would continue to increase. For his part, he should not be inclined to agree to the appointment of the committee, if it did not consider fairly and fully the evils under which the people were suffering; and in that case he hoped the noble Lord beneath him would appoint one of his colleagues to take care of that committee. He hoped they would thus be enabled to ascertain those means by which they could bring back that allegiance and good-will which formerly prevailed where now there was distress and discontent

Mr. Ingham

would by no means attempt to follow the hon. Member for Kilkenny through the desultory series of contentious and exciting, as well as irrelevant topics which he had thought proper to name. He wished the committee which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, from motives so benevolent and laudable—he wished that committee to apply itself to objects of really practical utility. It had been truly stated that the working classes were not generally aware of the facilities given by recent acts for the establishment of friendly and saving-bank institutions, in a manner calculated to enable them to avail themselves easily and with effect of the salutary plan of depositing. Could the lower classes be induced to avail themselves more generally of such institutions, the result would be highly beneficial to the community, for the acquirement of property gave the possessor an immediate and powerful interest in maintaining allegiance to the laws. The allotment system was calculated to produce no small benefit to the labouring classes. As to the right of primogeniture, it was so inseparably associated not only with the laws, but with the habit and feelings of the people, that even if abolished from the statute book, it would be maintained by voluntary consent. And he believed that, anxious as the people might be to possess landed property, they would not generally disapprove of the law of primogeniture, and that they would prefer transmitting their estates to their eldest sons, in contradistinction to the minute subdivision of land in vogue on the continent, especially in France. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury had alluded to the state of crime in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and he could state that the return to which the hon. Member had alluded was not at all truly indicative of the state of crime in that town. It had been framed by the police, and the offences embraced all those which were offences against the police regulations, such as blowing a horn in the place where such was prohibited by the police. A great cause of the number of offences reported, was to be found in the fact that every repetition of any of the slightest description was put down separately, as for instance, in the case he had mentioned, every blast of the horn would be reckoned as a separate offence. He was of opinion that the committee ought not to extravagate into the wide field which had been recommended.

Mr. Brotherton

considered that the best mode of improving the industrious classes was by educating them; and their condition was to be ameliorated by a reduction of taxation. He considered it of the highest importance that the people should be furnished far more than they were with the means of education, for much of the evils in their condition arose from intemperance. If they were better instructed, and if they were temperate in their habits, it could not be doubted that they would have many comforts which they did not now enjoy. He could not but remark on the enormous increase of intemperance which had recently taken place. He believed that a people were much more taxed by their vices than by the Government. Fifty millions annually were sunk—lost— in the crime of intemperance. How soon could the people attain comfort and content, would they but discard the habits of intemperance. Whereas the consumption of ardent spirits was dreadfully on the increase. It had augmented from 9,030,000l. to 50,000,000l. within the last twenty or thirty years. In England the consumption was seven pints to every man, woman, and child; in Ireland thirteen; in Scotland, twenty-three. In England the cases of insanity were one in a thousand; in Ireland, one in 800; in Scotland, one in 450. Thus it was plain that insanity was the result of ardent drinking. From all the inquiries he had made, he was sure that intemperance was a main cause of crime. And he was convinced that the people themselves must be the chief authors of their own improvement, which must always principally be the result of amendment in their moral habits.

Mr. Villiers

was sure the proposer of the motion before the House would not wish that motion to be the cause of a practical delusion, and he would therefore beg to suggest that its terms should be altered. When a committee was moved for to inquire into the general causes of the discontent which prevailed, expectations would be raised which would be disappointed if the inquiry was limited. He believed that it was the intelligence, not the ignorance, of the people, which was the cause of the discontent; and if relief were denied, the House ought to be ready to prove that there was no cause for discontent, and that the laws were equal and good, and were properly administered.

Lord J. Russell

confessed that his difficulty in regard to the present motion arose, in the first place, from the terms in which it was expressed; and in the second place, from the arguments of those who had supported it. As to an inquiry into many of the objects which had been alluded to, he felt, that as a responsible Minister of the Crown, he should not be justified in agreeing to that inquiry, as he could not see any remedy that could be proposed. If, however, an inquiry was instituted with the view of collecting facts relative to the state of the people in the manufacturing districts, such an inquiry might be productive of important results, and he should be inclined to agree to a motion for the appointment of a committee with that object. But such was not the object of the proposer of the present motion. The hon. Gentleman said, that the committee should enquire into the causes of the discontent prevailing amongst the masses of the working classes; and the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and other hon. Members said, that the committee should inquire also into the effects of the poor laws, and of the corn laws, and in regard to the operation of the laws of primogeniture, and the laws which regulated the mode of voting. Now, certainly these were important questions, and in his opinion rather too important to be discussed and decided by a select committee of that House. As to the question of an extension of the suffrage, for instance, he might disagree with the hon. Member for Kilkenny on that subject; but it was not likely that he would be satisfied by the evidence which might be brought before the committee of the correctness of the hon. Gentleman's views. That evidence was not likely to be such as to enable the House to act upon it. He did not think that Parliament could decide in such a way upon the important questions which had been alluded to, and he therefore thought that the arguments of the hon. Member for Kilkenny told against the motion. This was unquestionably a matter which the House was not to treat as a trifle; but it would be anything but satisfactory to the people at large, to bring these subjects forward before a select committee. He had frequently before stated to the House, that in many of the manufacturing and mining districts, where a large population had grown up suddenly, there had not been adapted to that population with sufficient care the means of preserving order and providing adequate instruction. With regard to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham, though they might have from time to time to complain of lamentable occurrences, yet the state of the population was much more satisfactory than in the large manufacturing villages, as he might describe them, where there was a great and dense population, but nothing like local government of any kind. It very often occurred that the growth of a disposition to turbulence by no means kept pace with the growth of the population, and, if they were only to take proper care of the growth of these districts, security, peace, and good government would be found to prevail as they increased in extent. The metropolis contained, within a small space, a greater number of human beings than any authentic accounts informed them of having been collected together in any former period. At the same time it furnished an example of an orderly population, conducting themselves as well, if not better, than any other population of the same extent, of which there was any record. Though this was the year 1840, yet they were unquestionably much safer, with regard to riot and disorder, than in the year 1780, when the population of London was not nearly so large. Still there was a great deficiency of religious instruction in the metropolis. As to the crowding of the population within a small space, and the production and reproduction of typhus fever, he thought that a committee would throw a good deal of light on that point. If his hon. Friend were so to amend his motion, as to confine it to these practical points, he would be quite satisfied. As to the general questions involved in the hon. Gentleman's motion, he did not think that a select committee would be the proper place to state the remedies.

Mr. Briscoe

objected to the manner in which the hon. Member had shaped his motion, inasmuch as he suggested remedies, while he at the same time moved for a select Committee to inquire into the cause of these grievances. One of the great grounds of complaint among the people was the inequality of taxation, inasmuch as they were impressed with the belief that most of the articles of necessity consumed by them were more heavily taxed than the luxuries of the rich. Now, if they were mistaken on that point, it would be the duty of the Committee to undeceive the people, or to suggest a remedy where they were right. He was of opinion, that in the agricultural districts, there was a greater portion of distress prevalent than even in the towns. To his personal knowledge, there were large masses of the agricultural population living on potatoes. He did not know how the House could better employ its time than in considering the deep-seated and wide-spreading discontent that at present existed among the working classes. He hoped therefore it would receive the early and anxious attention of the House.

Mr. Wakley

thought the motion was of so extraordinary a character that the House would not have listened to its details for more than a very few minutes. He believed if a Committee was appointed in accordance with its terms, that Committee might sit for thirty years without coming to any practical or satisfactory result. He sat upon a Committee for two Sessions involving only one point included in the hon. Gentleman's motion—theworking of the Poor Laws—and without investigating the twentieth part of the subject, they made a report, which was not, and could not be satisfactory to any one. Why, the proposed Committee would be a Committee sitting on "the miseries of human life."—The working classes knew well the sources of their present discontent, and they knew that the House also was aware of it, but that they would not take the matter seriously into their consideration, not having either the disposition or the capacity to apply the remedy. The people knew that there was excessive taxation, that there was a system of Corn-laws which made food 40 or 50 percent, dearer than it ought to be, that there had been a profligate expenditure, and cruel and useless wars which had entailed an enormous National Debt upon the country. Now, to none of these would the House venture to apply a remedy. If the Committee was appointed, he was satisfied that it would be productive of nothing but disappointment and delusion, and he should therefore oppose the motion.

Sir H. Verney

thought the hon. Member had introduced too many subjects into his motion, which it would be impossible for any Committee to investigate, and he was, on that ground, inclined to vote against it. He should, therefore, move as an amendment, on the suggestion of the noble Lord, that a select Committee be appointed to inquire into the condition of the working classes in the populous manufacturing and mining districts.

Mr. Baines

thought the original motion involved subjects too large to be grappled with by a select committee, but in the manufacturing towns there were many evils interfering with the comforts of the poor, and the health of the inhabitants, particularly with regard to the state of the sewerage and the cleansing of the streets, which required legislative interference, and without which it was found impossible to put them in such a state as to conduce to the objects contemplated by his hon. Friend. It was also very desirable, but he did not know how it could be effected by Legislative enactments, to promote provident habits, and to induce them, when they were in full work, to make provision for those periodical returns of want of employment to which they were so frequently exposed. If, however, any suggestions could be made in a select committee to induce such habits as would effect this object, important public advantages would be derived from its labours. As to religious and moral instruction, which had also been adverted to by his hon. Friend, and which was so much required, he was happy to say, that the town missions were effecting much good in this way, by visiting the dwellings of those who either from want of proper clothing, or from disinclination, neglected to attend places of public worship, and were only to be reached by the labours of the town missionaries, or by the visits of serious and benevolent individuals. If encouragement could be given to persons so employed by any facilities that might be afforded to them, much benefit would accrue to vast numbers of poor families who had hitherto been left in a state of deplorable ignorance as to their moral and religious duties. The only other general topic to which his hon. Friend, the Member for Shrewsbury had alluded, was the education of the children of the poor, though he (Mr. Baines) was happy to say, that considerable attention was now paid to this subject in the great manufacturing towns in the north of England. Yet there was still much room for improvement, and if in the select committee proposed, any measures could be suggested by which the instruction, of the rising generation could be made more general in those densely-peopled districts, it would tend essentially to the repression of crime, and the elevation of the character of the labouring classes of the people. With these views he very cordially seconded the amendment of the hon. Baronet.

Mr. Slaney

was satisfied with the terms of the amendment.

Mr. Wakley

was sorry that the noble Lord did not rise after the amendment. In the mining districts the people were in a state of commotion. In the agricultural districts they were in distress, but they were quiet; yet the object of the committee was to inquire into the mining and manufacturing districts, thus treating the agricultural population with neglect. Nothing could be more unjust than the amendment. If there was to be an inquiry into the condition of the labouring classes, it should embrace the labouring classes generally, and especially those who had shown most patience under suffering.

Mr. Hume

said, it should be understood whether the inquiry was to be into the civil or political condition of the people. The noble Lord had better allow no committee at all than a partial inquiry.

Lord John Russell

said, his reason for objecting to the motion of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury was, that it would lead to inquiries into political grievances, and the suggestion of political remedies. As to the civil condition of the working classes, he had no objection to an inquiry, but he thought it not wise to institute inquiries into their political condition.

Mr. Hume

asked whether it were the intention of the noble Lord that the committee should inquire into the price of provisions, and the Corn laws?

Lord G. Somerset

asked whether the committee were to have the power of inquiring into the causes of the disturbances in Monmouth? Did the noble Lord conceive any committee so appointed as this, could be conducted without involving inquiry into political matters? He should be glad to have a committee with a definite object, civil, political, or economical; but he objected to a committee so appointed that some members might object to the introduction of political subjects, and others might wish them to be introduced.

Lord John Russell

said, it was not at all impossible for the committee to inquire into the condition of the mining districts without going into political matters. If the noble Lord could suggest any more specific words, he was ready to agree to them.

Lord G. Somerset

said, he now understood that the committee were to inquire into everything.

Mr. Slaney

would withdraw his motion, and bring it forward in a different shape.

Sir E. Knatchbull

had never, in his experience, seen the House of Commons in such a position. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury had brought forward a motion in a two-hours' speech, and the Government had not been prepared with any conclusive proposition on the subject. Any stranger who should have come into the House an hour ago, and tried to discover who were the Government Members, would be led to suppose they were the hon. Member for Kilkenny and those about him. The motion was of too vague and indefinite a nature, and such an inquiry should be superintended by the Government, which, in thus abdicating its functions, gave another decisive proof of its imbecility, which was felt from one end of the country to the other.

Lord John Russell

said, the hon. Mem ber for Drogheda had communicated to him a motion of this kind, and had stated that the object it had in view was connected with the well-being of the working classes, and not with any political object. He said he could not undertake to bring forward such an inquiry, but he had no objection to an inquiry into those objects. When other hon. Members said, they had political objects, he had declared that he was willing to agree to one object, and not to the others. He did not conceive that this was a state of things which ought to call for the strictures which the right hon. Baronet had made. His hon. Friend, the Under Secretary for the Home Department, had agreed to sit on the committee so appointed, and if he attended the committee, this was all the Government was bound to do, and he could not conceive that the Government, because it showed a readiness to acquiesce in a motion for inquiry in that House, deserved the invectives of the right hon. Baronet. He should hardly have been able to account for such an ebullition, if had not been for a recent disappointment, and defeat.

Amendment and original motion withdrawn.