HC Deb 30 September 1841 vol 59 cc1017-44
Dr. Bowring

observed, that if as had been declared by the Speaker, it was one of the Privileges of the House, that nothing stated by any of its Members should be called in question either within or without its walls, it became a peremptory duty to make no rash or unsupported averments—and if betrayed into any error to take the earliest opportunity to correct or to explain it. He had, some time since, stated an incident of very great distress, which had so much excited the sympathies of the right hon. Baronet, the head of her Majesty's Government, that he had been induced to establish local inquiries, with a view to the investigation of the melancholy facts to which he had called the attention of the House. And he was ready to acknowledge, that it was peculiarly incumbent on him not to come forward with an exaggerated statement; though to say the truth, such was the distress of the people, that it stood in no need of exaggeration, in order to awaken the deepest interest. His connection with Bolton was a very peculiar one. He went there without local knowledge or influence, and though his being sent to that House as the representative of Bolton was in itself an abundant and striking evidence of the distress that prevailed amongst the inhabitants, still he owned, that the circumstances under which he had been elected, did, in themselves, impose upon him the obligation to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the people, and to state to Parliament such facts as he could rely on. He could have wished, indeed, that his hon. Colleague had been present to confirm his assertion as to the extent of distress existing in Bolton. But he repeated, the statements he had made were substantially true. One of the guardians of Bolton, he must say, had, in an uncourteous and uncalled for manner, ventured to impeach his personal veracity, and to represent him as unworthy of belief. He would tell the House how he had proceeded, and leave it to judge whether he had acted unbecomingly. At a public meeting held in Bolton he heard tales of sorrow told to him, that harrowed up his very heart. Hearing them, it became his duty to inquire into them, and if he found them borne out by evidence, to represent them in Parliament—to plead the cause of the suffering poor in the presence of the privileged and the opulent, One gentleman, who had been a guardian of the poor, brought forward several cases of extreme distress. He asked for the assistance of that gentleman and of Mr. Edmund Ashworth, to inquire into the condition of the people. Mr. Ashworth, as well as the religious body to which he belongs, has been honoured with the disparaging notice of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. He spoke almost sneeringly of a sect that professed benevolence; but in his (Dr. Bowring's) judgment, it would be difficult to find a community iv ho professed so little, and who practised so much of genuine Christian beneficence—and Mr. Ashworth, in particular, was one of those men who "do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame"—one whose history might be recorded in daily acts, by which sorrow is solaced, and happiness augmented. He (Dr. Bowring) visited the cellars of the poor. He made many memorandums; he would read to the House one of these records which he then wrote down, as it would be found to throw some light upon the condition of the poor, and he had not selected it, but it chanced to be the very first on which he had laid his hand, when turning over his papers. It was that of a poor man, aged 40 years, his wife 36. They had had ten children, seven of whom were dead. He had been twenty-one weeks without work. He had 2s. 6d per week, parish relief, and some time before, 50s. had been given them, but all that money was, before his visit, spent, and they had pledged everything they possessed. Their eldest boy was 13 years of age, and when employed got 4s. per week. The family was in nearly a perishing condition, and they had sold all their furniture to procure the necessaries of life. In these inquiries they were accompanied by such a multitude that he was at length obliged to give them up, lest he should be accused of ostentation. He was not of the opinion of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand) that benevolence should sound the trump before it, or come down to that House to parade its own great doings. He found the distress to be very great, and the demands upon his charity larger than he could supply, for he had not the privilege of wealth, and he could say, without shame, that having known many vicissitudes, and been disciplined by many afflictions, they had taught him, at least, to listen willingly, and to feel deeply for the afflictions of others. But having been thus compelled to abandon his personal investigation he had requested Mr. Naisby to give him a statement as to the facts, which had elicited the sympathies of the right hon. Baronet. Under his direction an assistant Poor-law commissioner had been sent to Bolton in order to examine into the facts which he had reported to the House, and he had to thank the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of the Home Department, who had kindly and courteously communicated to him the report that had been made on this subject by the gentleman who had been sent. That report proved that what Mr. Naisby believed to be the case, that a coroner's inquest had been held, and which represented that the man had been found dead at his loom, was undoubtedly erroneous. But the House would forgive him if he read a quotation from the letter that Mr. Naisby sent to him, as it would fully excuse that gentleman from making an intentional misrepresentation. He said that, not being a guardian at the time, he was not called upon till the man was dead. The widow slated to the assistant Poor-law Commissioner that no application had been made to the Poor-law guardians; but then he (Dr. Bo wring), it would be recollected, had brought no accusation against the Poor-law guardians. He had not stated that they had refused relief. He thought now he could show the House that the substantive fact of a man perishing from want, and being found dead on his loom, was borne out by irrefragable evidence. A jury had been called together, but owing to some circumstances, they did not record any verdict, and the only erroneous impression which he would have conveyed to the House was, that the verdict of the jury had been recorded. Why it was not recorded it was not for him to say. He understood the reason alleged was, that no blame attached to any party. But that a jury saw the body could not be denied— for one of the jury called upon Mr. Naisby, the day after the inquest, and stated that they had returned a verdict of "died from want of food." A reporter of the Conservative paper stated to the board of guardians that he was one of the jury, and they had returned a verdict of "died from want of food." Mr. Naisby had sent with his correspondence two letters. The first was from the Secretary of the Benevolent Society, which existed in that town, for inquiring into and relieving distress. This letter was dated September 17, 1841, and was as follows:—

Allow me to lay before you a few facts respecting the case of William Pearce, late of Howell-croft, in this township, who died from want of the necessaries of life. Being a visitor as well as one of the committee of the Benevolent Society, established in this township, for the purpose of relieving sickness and destitution, I was called upon to visit the case of William Pearce. When I found the cellar, he was dead, laid out on a pair of looms; there was no bed, only some little sacking, the whole of the furniture, an old stool or two, an old table, and a set of bedsteads, all of them not worth carrying away. I inquired into the cause of his death, and it was my opinion that the man had died for want of food, though he had been sick some time previously. The earnings of the family were only 4s. a week, unless the man's wife got something by begging. I reported the case to the committee that night, and after stating the particulars, it was the unanimous opinion of that meeting that he died for want of the necessaries of life, and that is their opinion still, the case having been again brought before them on the 10th instant.

This was strong evidence, and another man, who was a neighbour of the sufferers, sent this additional corroboration: — I slate this as facts, respecting a man that lived a neighbour to me, of the name of William Pearce, late of Howell-croft. The first time that I had any acquaintance with him, he called to see if I had an old pair of shoes that I could give to him; I told him that I gave my old clothes to one of my apprentice's parents, who I thought was in great distress; and he said to me, if they were as bad off as he was, God help them, for he nor his family had not broke their fast since yesterday. So I questioned him, and I found him in a state of starvation. He invited me in, and I found them in the greatest distress. One pair of bedstocks for him, and wife, and two daughters. No bedding at all. They were obliged to sleep in their clothes. The seats they sat upon were bricks and stones, before I gave to them two old stools. This was about six months before the person died. He died on Sunday, on which his wife came to my misses and said that her husband had given over stirring. She thought he was dead. I was sent for, and I found him dead. I went up to the relieving officer and brought him down. He was laid out on a pair of looms, and we found a sheet to lay over him, and when it came back I was obliged to burn it, on account of the hundreds of filth that had crept on it. Their earnings was about 4s. per week, and 1s. 9d. for rent out of that. It was all, with the exception of what his wife got by begging. I have actually seen the man pick potatoes off the midden which had been thrown away on account of being rotten, and I have gone into the cellar in about an hour after and I have found them boiled up together, and they have been seen eating them for dinner. There has been no deceit about it, for I often went in unknown to them. The person actually died from want.

This letter was signed "William Coop, Ashburner-street." He considered it would not have been becoming in him if he did not bring forward such statements as these, for the purpose of showing to Parliament the condition of the people. He had stated, on a former occasion, that there were 1,200 houses unoccupied in Bolton. He dared to say, that in Bolton, as in other places, the rage for building had gone beyond the demand. But then, since he had made that statement, there were 1,400 houses unoccupied, while none had been, built. Now as the population was increasing, could there be a more incontestable evidence of distress than that two hundred additional houses had been abandoned in so short a period? Of the poor-rates, only two-thirds could be collected, in consequence of the great distress that pervaded the town and neighbourhood. By a letter which he had received, it seemed that the work people in iron and machinery were only employed half time; that engineers were nearly in the same situation; that masons, bricklayers, and joiners were only one-third employed, and that tailors, shoemakers, and hand-loom weavers were even worse off than that. On Friday, a meeting had been held at Bolton, when it was unanimously resolved, that a memorial should be presented to her Majesty. It stated the existing and increasing sufferings of the people, and entreated of her Majesty not to prorogue Parliament until there had been a thorough and searching inquiry into the causes of the present embarrassment and distress. At that meeting, an appeal had been made, whether the statements he had made were true, and there was a general cry that the state of things was such as he had represented them to be. Three reverend gentlemen attended that meeting, they were all known to him, and he would venture to say of them that they would not deviate a hair's breadth from the strictest veracity. The rev. Mr. Baker, at the meeting, thus spoke:—

He could appeal to every class for evidence that the distress was universal. He would make no selection; he could go from the capitalist to the labourers of every class— from the hand-loom to the power-loom—from the foundryman to the spade-labourer—from the master-spinner to the operative. He would make no distinction, for the distress was known to be universal. It pervaded every class; it had made large properties small, and small properties had become extinct. Many had sunk from one class to another, until they had become paupers. The cheerful and good-tempered artizan had become sullen and suspicious; they were driven from the markets, and almost from the streets, to hide their poverty and their wretchedness in some corner, the resort of misery, removed from the public eye. It had driven many, and that his professional duties had enabled him to know, from the house of God. They had parted with, or worn out, the decent clothing in which it was once their pride to appear, and they could not obtain other clothing in its place, for it required all they obtained to maintain existence, any man could not do that without contracting debts, and falling into the paths of guilt and misery. The employers were also suffering; they were filling the Gazette, and many who had not appeared in that record of falling trade had made quiet compositions, in the hope of being able to keep on a little longer.

Another clergyman was reported to have stated — Several heart-rending cases of distress, to which the audience listened with breathless silence. One of them was a case where a deserving family wanted for two days. He defied Sir Robert Peel to deny the statement he was making.

He begged to repeat the expression of his gratitude to the Government for having sent down a commissioner to inquire; but then he trusted the inquiry would not be a partial one. He understood that the commissioner who had gone to Bolton had remained there only twenty-four hours. Perhaps it was to make but one particular inquiry. He hoped, however, that it would be more extended, in order that the Government might learn the urgent necessity there, was upon them to make inquiry into the cause of, and to provide some remedy for, the sufferings of the people. The right hon. Baronet had made a statement with regard to savings banks, from which he had drawn the deduction, that already there might be considered to be an amelioration in the condition of the working classes. It would, he believed, be found, on examination, that the savings banks would lead to very deceptive results, if it were supposed that artisans were the principal depositors. The number of artizans, he believed, was comparatively few. The principal contributors he imagined, were domestic servants, a class who did not suffer much in periods of distress, but who at those periods can live cheaper, as the articles they consumed were at a lower price. It would too be well for the Premier to consider, that at the period to which he referred, there was a great deal of money circulated at the elections, and perhaps some of that had found its way into the savings banks. It would, he thought, be desirable that the professions of the depositors at savings banks should be generally stated. It was so done at one of the best-conducted savings' banks in the kingdom. By looking to an extract from its accounts, which was for 1840, they would see how many of the operative classes were contributors. And though the savings banks in the heart of manufacturing districts, was not perfectly analogous, yet the details would serve to illustrate the subject generally. There were, in the Devon and Exeter Bank, 29,643 accounts. Of these there were, 6,130 domestic servants, 11,538 connected with trade, but of these there were 5,445 children. There were 9,252 agriculturists, 1,320 belonging to the army and navy, 1,433 public servants, making in all 29,643, but of these 12,604 were children, while the whole number of artisans classed under the heads of artificers and handicraftsmen was but 2,200, making one-thirteenth of the whole number of depositors. The amount deposited was no less than 868,032l. of this 194,175l. 17s. 4d. belonging to domestic servants and 86,168l. 3s. 5d. to artisans, making about one tenth of the whole money amount. He knew that it was very difficult to argue from particulars to generals, but the fact he stated showed how little reliance could be placed upon savings banks returns, to prove the prosperous condition of the operative classes. He would next direct their attention to the last report of the registrar-general. It was one that must strike them, as showing the mortality that existed amongst the manufacturing population. By that return it appeared that the number of deaths was, in the metropolitan district—

In 1837–38 53,597 deaths
1838–39 46,758
1839–40 45,132

Thus they saw that there was a decrease of 16 per cent, in deaths. Let them take the whole country, and what was the result: —

In 1837–38 335,956 deaths
1838–39 331,007
1839–40 350,101

This made a general increase or deaths in the whole country of four per cent. But what was the return for Lancashire, south of Morecamb? There were—

In 1837–38 22,932 deaths
1838–39 26,606
1839–40 31,983

This showed an increase in the deaths of 40 per cent. What, then, were the facts that these documents presented to them? That there had been in the metropolis a decrease of deaths—that in England and Wales taken together there was an increase of 4 per cent., while in the manufacturing districts, excluding Manchester and Liverpool, for which special returns were made, there was an increase in the deaths of 40 per cent. There could be no doubt that many of these localities had been visited by pestilential and mortiferous diseases; but was it not evident that those diseases were the companions of and the testimonies to the great misery and excessive distress of the people—that this continual increase of mortality was an evidence of still extending sufferings. He looked next to the return of deaths of children under one year of age, for the year 1839–1840, and he found the general average of 1,000 registered deaths was 151—in the metropolis 161, in the manufacturing district of Lancashire 191 in the thousand, and of 1,000 births, the general average was 218 — in the metropolis 194, in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire 248. He stated these facts these indisputable facts; he felt it to be his duty, and for this he had been accused of fomenting popular passions, and of fanning the flame of public discontent. But the danger to the public peace was not in the statements of existing misery—it was in the existence of the misery. Had he however sought to flatter prejudices and to connect himself with the most excited agitation of the working classes, he should have pursued a very different course on the subject of the Poor-laws. On that matter he held a strong opinion, but he had come to the conclusion that the Corn-law and the Poor-law could not long exist together. He was willing that her Majesty's Government should take the question of the Poor-law into their hands, as he did not see any para- mount motive which ought to prevent them from doing that which was just and equitable. It was desirable to protect the rate-payers; it was necessary to aid the suffering; and he agreed with those who thought that the measure ought not to be interfered with in any of its details, for he would not give to tier Majesty's Government the power of turning round upon them, and saying that the Opposition had taken the measure into their hands, and thus throw from their own shoulders the responsibility that ought to attach to them. Again he thanked the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of the Home Department, for the personal kindness that he had shown to him in this matter. He heard from him that there was some technical objection to the production of the documents he desired to see laid before the House. He felt it necessary however in his own justification to say, what he had said, and he had only now to express the wish that no respect for his position as a Member of Parliament—that no apprehension of wounding his feelings, would induce the right hon. Baronet to withhold the report, either as to the particular fact he had mentioned, or as regarded the general condition of the poor. The hon. Member concluded by moving for copies of correspondence between the Home-office and the Poor-law commissioners on the subject, of distress in Bolton; with the report of the assistant-commissioner sent by her Majesty's Government to inquire into alleged cases of destitution and death, referred to in the debates in Parliament during the present Session.

The Speaker

said, that the granting of the latter portion of the motion would be a breach of the privileges of the House.

Sir James Graham

said, that if it had not been for the technical difficulty referred to by the Speaker, he would gladly have seconded the motion. He would, however, suggest an amendment which would avoid this difficulty. He would propose that the words "or extracts "be inserted, and as the hon. Member for Bolton had in his hands the entire report exactly as it had been received, he would see that the extracts given would exclude nothing from the report that in any way bore upon the facts of the case. With this single reserve, therefore, out of deference to the privileges of the House, he would consent to the motion of the hon. Member. If such caution was to be observed on account of the privileges of that House in giving answers to statements of facts, he must in passing observe, that the obligation was much more imperative on Members who made those statements, that they should be as careful as circumstances would allow of, to inform themselves accurately of the facts of a case before they brought it before the House. Because it was one thing to make a statement to that House of a very harrowing description, exciting the feelings of the House and the country to the greatest extent, and to allow that statement to go forth uncontradicted under the sanction of that House; and it was another thing, after a lapse of time, when the statement might receive a perfect contradiction, to prevent its having the same authority given to the contradiction, under the plea of privilege. He hoped, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen would feel the cogent necessity for using the utmost caution in making statements calculated to excite and irritate the public mind. He would suggest to Members who had statements to make with regard to the administration of the Poor-law, and affecting the conduct of those who were officially charged with the relief of the poor, that they would have the kindness to transmit their statements of facts to him in writing, and he would take care that those statements should be strictly investigated. He had taken this care with regard to a statement of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand), and he had adopted a similar course with regard to the hon. Member for Rochdale. Those Gentlemen had readily consented to furnish him in writing with the facts which they wished to have investigated, and he should take care that the strictest investigation should take place. Now, with respect to the statement of the hon. Member for Bolton, he appeared to think that the inquiry had been conducted in a most bungling manner, and, because the assistant Poor-law commissioner, Mr. Mott, had only occupied twenty-four hours in the inquiry, he could not have properly investigated the facts. He was not sure as to the duration of the stay of Mr. Mott at Bolton; it was urgent to have an answer to the statements that had been made, but whatever might have been the duration of the stay, in the report which he would present to the House it would be seen that he had brought before him all the leading officers, the members of the board of guardians; he went throngh all the statements seriatim which had been made in the House on the occasion referred to; and in the report would be found, point by point, an answer to every statement. The hon. Member had introduced some fresh statements that night. When the matter really was the accuracy of former statements, it was somewhat extraordinary to introduce new matter to change the issue; and although he did not for a moment mean to say that he had any doubt as to the accuracy of those statements, still he thought he might say, without offence, that he hoped that, with regard to these new statements, the hon. Member had exercised greater caution than on previous occasions. The first case was with reference to a man of the name of Pearce, who was said to have died of extreme want. In this case, the coroner for Bolton was called upon to hold an inquest, but he satisfied himself that there were no grounds for holding an inquest—that there was not even a prima facie case. The coroner for the county was not so scrupulous; he held an inquest in the absence of the relieving officer, and he himself admitted afterwards, that had the evidence of the relieving officer been received, the jury would not have returned the verdict they did. Now, what was the statement of the hon. Member for Bolton? He stated, that he went to the House of Pearce, who had a wife and four children; that he found two of the children lying upon straw, without covering; that he went up stairs, and found the father dead on the boards, without bed or bedding, and that the wife said before he died he wished for a little bread and cheese; that she could not get any from the neighbours, and that he died entirely from want of food. Now he would read the evidence of the wife respecting the death of her husband, as taken by Mr. Mott, the assistant Poor-law commissioner. Mr. Mott stated, that:— He visited the widow of the deceased, and the statement made by her certainly did not justify the original statement of the hon. Member. She informed him that her husband died in February, 1840, a year and a half ago; that he was sixty-five years of age, that he had been ill for eighteen weeks, that he had plenty of work when he was well, and worked at intervals while he was ill; that she herself and her two daughters were fully employed, and earned 9s. 6d. a week at the time of her husband's death, and that they had not applied to the parish for relief because they were comfortably off. The second case, which the hon. Gentleman had not touched upon that evening, but which he referred to on a former evening, was that of a man of the name of Bristow. The following was the statement, namely, that this man, his wife, and two daughters, slept upon straw, that the wife and daughters were out of work, that the man could earn only 4s. a week, and that they were reduced to the greatest distress, Now the fact was, that in August, 1839, the case of Bristow was reported to the relieving officer, and he then received 7s. a week; that the case was subsequently reported to the board of guardians, and they directed 10s. a week to be sent to him, and ordered him a supply of bedding. Now, with respect to the inquiry generally, into the state of the poor at Bolton, he was very far from denying that severe distress existed. He admitted that it did exist unhappily in some parts of Bolton, but gross exaggeration had been employed with regard to the extent to which it did exist. The hon. Member had truly stated that an investigation had taken place into the state of the poor at Bolton; and he had in his hand the report of the assistant Poor-law commissioner on the subject of that inquiry. He believed, however, it would be more satisfactory to the House that he should read, not the statement of the Poor-law commissioner, but of one of the relieving-officers, whose evidence had been taken by the assistant-commissioner, Mr. Mott, within these few days; it was as follows:—

I recollect about Christmas last some of the ratepayers formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of inquiring into the state of the poor at Bolton.

He did not know whether this was prior to the inquiry referred to by the hon. Gentleman or subsequent to it. [Dr. Bowring: I made no inquiry.] Then he (Sir J. Graham) would inform the House of the inquiry which had taken place, its nature, and its results. A statement was made that several families had been visited. I thought it my duty to examine these cases and compare them with what I knew to be the correct state of the facts. The result was, that in every case representations had been made which were not true: the amount of their earnings was incorrectly stated, and in every case a colour- ing had been given implying a greater degree of want than really existed. I charged one woman with telling untruths, and misleading the ratepayers as to the state in which she was, when she confessed she had told falsehoods, and endeavoured to make her case as bad as she could, thinking they were about to distribute blankets, and she owned, if I had not interfered, she expected to get something from them. Very slight dependence can be placed on statements thus obtained. I am told they were published in other districts extensively, and they have had a most mischievous effect. A large meeting was held with reference to the Corn-laws, when those statements of the committee were read and commented upon.

This was confirmed by Mr. Mott. 300 cases were investigated for the purposes of an Anti-Corn-law meeting about to be held at Bolton. There was the grossest exaggeration in all of them; they were got up for a particular purpose; these exaggerations served their object; they were quoted and commented upon at the Anti-Corn-law meeting. They were detected, but they were even now re-produced in Parliament to serve a somewhat subsidiary purpose. He would only observe on one other point which had been touched on by the hon. Member—the number of uninhabited houses at Bolton. That subject also had been investigated by the Poor-law commissioners. It was attempted to be shown that the number of uninhabited houses at Bolton was attributed to the extraordinary distress and great poverty of the inhabitants. Now, the statement made by Mr. Mott was this:— He said, If the number of houses were taken with reference to the given proportion of the population, they would amount to 16,836. Or if the number of inhabited and uninhabited houses had increased in the same ratio as the population, they would be 17,584; but actually the number was 20,292, being 3,490 more than were required, and 2,700 more than would have been built if the number had increased only with the rate of the population, comparing 1831 with the present time.

He then instituted comparisons with other towns, and said, The number of uninhabited houses in Bolton, whether taken in reference to the increase of population, or viewed in comparison with other large districts, cannot be fairly considered as having any bearing on the question of depression; but, I believe, must be attributed to over-speculation in houses, or, in other words, to over-production.

How did he prove that? He showed, that whereas the number of houses altogether at Bolton, with reference to the population, and in comparison with Liverpool and other towns, should have been only 17,500, in point of fact there were not 17,500, but 20,000, being one-eighth more than was absolutely required with reference to the population of the town. The hon. Member had referred to the increased number of deaths in the county of Lancaster, as evinced by the reports of the registrar-general, which had within these few days been laid on the Table. The hon. Gentleman was versed in statistics, and should have recollected that until the registration of births, deaths, and marriages had been established in this country, there were no returns of sufficient accuracy to be relied on. Great allowance must, therefore, be made for a larger number of deaths being brought to account. At all events, they must not attribute that fact to a larger number of deaths really taking place than at any former given period. If the hon. Member would favour him with any additional facts, he promised that an inquiry should take place. The report he held in his hand should certainly be laid in extenso before the House, when he trusted hon. Members, bearing in mind the statements which had been made, and contrasting them with the facts adduced in evidence before the assistant Poor-law commissioner, would see how much abatement was to be made on the score of truth and misrepresentation.

Sir R. Peel

wished to take this opportunity for making some reference to statements which were made on a former evening as proofs of the distress prevailing in certain districts of the country. He was sure the House would recollect that no man could admit more fully than he did that in certain districts of this country, particularly the districts connected with the cotton manufacture, considerable distress existed, and that the manufacturing population had to submit to severe privation and suffering, which no one could deplore more sincerely than he did. But the question was not as to the extent of the distress, but as to the accuracy of certain statements of it. The distress was not denied; but he did venture to state, that he thought there was great exaggeration on the subject of that distress in certain statements of individual facts, and he ventured to caution hon. Members against aggravating the discontent which naturally prevailed by such exaggerated representations. Before he proceeded to refer to the two points to which he had particularly to call attention, he wished to notice one statement which had been made by the hon. Gentleman who had introduced this subject, with reference to the extent of mortality, and to caution the House against drawing at once an inference. Even if the rate of mortality had unfortunately increased, which he believed to be the fact, notwithstanding the amendment of the system of registration, yet he believed it could not be denied that in those counties which were the chief seats of manufactures, there had been an increase of mortality; at the same time it must be borne in mind, as a proof that conclusions on that subject should not be hastily drawn, that in the very same report to which the hon. Gentleman had referred as evidence of increasing mortality in some of the districts of the country, a caution was given which the hon. Gentleman, after a careful perusal of the report, ought not to have overlooked. The registrar-general stated expressly, that, The prevalence of increased mortality in those counties which comprise the largest proportion of manufacturing population, may probably arise from the circumstances to which the manufacturing classes are peculiarly exposed; but a further examination showed, that not only has the increase varied very much within those counties, but that there has been a decreased mortality in some of those districts which are peculiarly the seats of manufactures. Such has been the case in Manchester, Salford, Ashton, Oldham, Stockport, and Leeds. Now, he did say, when referring to mortality as an indication of severe manufacturing distress, it would have been but fair in the hon. Member, who was evidently master of this report, to have informed the House, that although there had been an increase, yet in those towns which were peculiarly the seats of manufacturing industry—namely, Manchester, Salford, Ashton, Oldham, Stockport, and Leeds, the mortality had decreased. On a former night he had referred to the returns from the savings-banks—not as a proof that there was no distress, that be never doubted—nay, more, he expressly said, that he did not think the returns from the savings-banks could altoge- ther be relied on as a test of the comfort or privations of the working classes; but at the same time no wise Government, in attempting to collect information as to the condition of the labouring poor, would disregard these returns as one of the elements of inquiry; and, so far as they could be relied on, he thought they rather tended to induce those who felt a deep interest in this subject, to take a less discouraging view of the condition of the poor, than some Gentlemen were inclined to adopt. He gave an account of the state of the deposits for the last three months of the present year. The hon. Member for Stockport, following him in the debate, said, that the returns of the savings-banks were entirely delusive. [Mr. Cobden: I said fallacious.] Well, that the returns from the savings-banks were entirely fallacious, and that, at all events, instead of confining himself to the returns for a few months of the present year, he should have brought forward the returns of 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840. [Mr. Cobden: I included 1835 and 1836.] Why, those were the two years which the hon. Gentleman had himself constantly spoken of, as years of a fictitious and delusive prosperity. He had not at present the returns for 1835 and 1836. He would, therefore, satisfy himself with quoting the returns for 1837, 1838, 1839, and 1840, four years, which the hon. Gentleman had certainly challenged him to compare with 1841. And lest it should be again urged, that his statement had especial reference to the agricultural population, he had made inquiry with respect to the manufacting districts, and had selected as of most importance, Manchester and Stockport. Here, then, was the result of the information which had been sent to him. The return, he admitted, began with 1837; the omission of 1836 and 1836 was certainly not intentional. The information was spread over the last five years, including the months of July, August, and September for 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, and 1841. In 1837, 1838, and 1839, taking the number of deposits and the number of withdrawals in the months of July, August, and September, the average for the quarterly period was 22,600l. placed in the bank by way of deposit, and the amount of withdrawals for the same term, 21,030l., leaving a balance of 1,570l. in favour of deposits over withdrawals. In 1839 and 1840, taking the average of these two years, the amount of deposits during these months was 24,300l., and of withdrawals, 23,800l., leaving a balance in favour of deposits of only 500l. In 1841, the deposits amounted to no less a sum than 28,103l., for the months of July, August, and September last, giving an increase, as compared with the average of the first period, of from 22,600l. to 28,103l., and as compared with the average of 1839–40, of from 24,300l. to 28,103l. The amount of withdrawals for the quarterly period of 1841 was 2.5,356l. leaving a balance in favour of deposits, as compared with withdrawals, of 2,847l. on the latter period. The balance on the first period was 1,570l.; on the second, 500l.; and on the last period, 2,847l. But it might be asked, what was the number of depositors? The number of depositors, in this instance, was of great importance. It might happen, certainly, that in the latter period, although the amount of deposits had greatly increased, still, if the number of depositors had diminished, an argument might be founded on it, that the depositors were of the wealthier classes, and the reduced number compensated for the increased deposits. Now, in the first period to which he referred, in 1837, 1838, and 1839, the average number of contributors was 4,300; in 1839–40, the average was 5,103; but the average of contributors in the last three months of the present year, was6,319. He did not wish to push this argument further than he could legitimately follow it. Again, he admitted the returns of the savings-banks were not a criterion on which they could safely rely; but so far as they went in instituting a comparison, he must say, he thought the comparison was a favourable one. In the course of the same debate, the hon. Member for Manchester referred—

Mr. Gibson

rose to order. The Speaker had laid it down from the Chair, that it was contrary to the rules of the House, and would be very inconvenient in practice, for hon. Members to allude to remarks made by speakers in former debates; and he felt this was precisely one of those occasions in which the inconvenience of the practice would be most strikingly manifested. This was his case. Let the House sbserve what was going to take place. The right hon. Baronet, after a week's preparation, with all the means a Prime Minister had at his disposal, having made every inquiry, came down to the House to attack statements which had been made by an hon. Member. He well recollected what had been stated by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, that no Member in that House could so well dress up a case for temporary effect as the right hon. Baronet. [Hon. Members: You are contravening your own rule, by referring to what took place in a former debate.] The passage he had quoted was from a debate in a previous Parliament, and it was perfectly regular to refer to that. He had no wish to shrink from the fullest investigation into everything he had stated on the subject of the distress in the country; but for the purpose of arriving at the truth it was very desirable, that Members whose statements were about to be attacked, should have time given them to supply themselves with the necessary data for a reply.

Sir R. Peel

said, that if he had referred to former debates for the purpose of argument, or for the purpose of infringing upon the wise rule of the House, he should be subject to the animadversion of the hon. Gentleman, but when a statement of great importance with respect to the distress of the country was made in that House, he did not think, when his sole object was an explanation of that statement—an explanation which it was his duty to make—he did not think that in attempting to ascertain the truth of that statement by inquiry, and in stating what the result of that inquiry was, that he would be called to order as he had been. Whether he was referring to any argument he left the House to judge; whether he was about to be guilty of any infraction of the rules of Parliament which would justify any Member in protesting against the course he was pursuing, he left the House to judge. It had been asserted in that House, that with respect to Manchester, thousands were deprived of employment, and thousands were actually suffering from typhus fever, produced by the want of sufficient food. He appealed to the House whether it were right that a Minister of the Crown should hear a statement so appalling as that without inquiry, and whether the result of his inquiry should not be in some way or the other communicated to Parliament? He left it t the House to judge whether it would be a wise enforcement of technical rules that should permit this country and other countries in Europe to labour under the impression that thousands were actually suffering from typhus fever, produced by the want of sufficient food, and that when a Minister of the Crown merely attempted to administer consolation and satisfaction to minds grieved by such a statement, a Member should get up and appeal to the rules of the House to prevent any statement being made. He only wished to make a single remark, and had thought the hon. Gentleman himself, from his connexion with Manchester, would have been the first to hail with satisfaction the statement he was going to make, and would have admitted at once, that in the heat of debate he had made a statement which might have been exaggerated, and that he was perfectly right to correct an erroneous impression, though he would not have done it in any way whatever to justify the species of interference by which the hon. Member would have prevented his statement. He was about to state that he had received, not a report made in consequence of any commission, but a voluntary communication from a gentleman of the highest respectability in Manchester, who stated that he had been much surprised by observing that it had been asserted in Parliament that thousands in that town were suffering from typhus fever, brought on by want of food. His correspondent continued:— I beg to send you that which appears to me to be the best document upon such a subject—namely, the returns of the Fever Hospital at Manchester. The report from the Fever Hospital is conclusive on the point, as that charity is open to all the population of Manchester and the surrounding districts, and is the general resort of the poor in cases of fever, both on the recommendation of the subscribers, and also as the place to which the workhouse patients are generally brought, so that the annexed comparative statement of the amount of patients admitted in the last five year appears lobe conclusive on this point. The year of the House of Recovery, or Fever Ward, commences in June of the past year, and terminates with May inclusive in the next. In 1837, 799 patients were admitted; in 1838, 1,372 were admitted; in 1839, 1,040 were admitted; in 1840, 843 were admitted; in 1841, 691 were admitted. His correspondent also added the number admitted in the months of June, July, August and September, in order to make the return complete. During those four months of 1837, 340 were admitted; during the same period of 1838, 430 were admitted; during the same period of 1839, 203; during the same period of 1840, 268; and during the same period of 1841 only 196 were admitted. Now, could any man deny that it was of importance that facts of this kind should be known to the House? He was not about to make any comment upon them; he wished to make no comment upon them; but he must say that if a Minister of the Crown was to be debarred by technical rules, not from referring to a past debate, but from attempting to correct an erroneous impression, and that without the unnecessary imputation of political motives—then the country was liable to labour under the greatest delusion, and public discontent might be magnified to an incalculable degree. These consequences, he said, might be expected, if statements were to be made in that House with respect to public privations and suffering, but above all, with respect to typhus fever caused by actual famine, and if a Minister of the Crown, after having caused an inquiry to be made, and having received information respecting them, was not to be allowed an opportunity of stating what he had found the result to be.

Mr. Gibson

thought the right hon. Baronet misunderstood what he had stated. It was not that he wished to enforce any technical rule of the House in order to prevent notice being taken of statements that had been made. But what he objected to was, that due and sufficient notice was not given to hon. Members upon whose statements an attack was to be made, because want of notice was just the very thing that would bring about what the right hon. Baronet so much deprecated— namely, spreading delusion in the country, and preventing it from ascertaining the truth. If the right hon. Baronet was disposed on any future day to make a distinct motion, to appoint a committee to inquire into the distress of the people, he should be most happy to justify on that occasion the statements he had made, or if on any future day the right hon. Baronet would enter into the particular question of typhus fever, he should be happy to meet him. As to what the right hon. Baronet had said about fever hospitals, of them he (Mr. Gibson) had said nothing. He had been told by medical men that they did not put persons who had got typhus fever into hospitals, be- cause it was infectious. He did not know whether that was the case at Manchester. Whether he had used the word "thousands" or not he was not aware, but he had in his possession letters which used the word. By the word "thousands" it was not meant to say that there was exactly a thousand, but that there was a considerable number. [Much laughter from the Ministerial benches.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite were so much disposed to laugh, and take up things in a party way, that they could not see it was a mode of expression commonly used when a considerable number was meant. There might be thousands suffering in this way. He dared to say there were. He did not know there were not. But he had in his possession letters from physicians and surgeons which said, that numbers were brought to a premature death from want of sufficient food, and he had been informed by medical men that when death was brought on in consequence of living in unwholesome habitations, or wanting a sufficiency of food, it was generally preceded by typhoid symptoms. He drew this consolation at least from the disposition apparent among Ministers to disbelieve the statements of distress brought forward by Members in discharge of their duty—that if those statements were proved to be correct, the right hon. Baronet would be prepared to adopt a remedy, and to act on those great principles which had been advocated by her Majesty's late Administration.

Mr. Cobden

said, that having been referred to by the right hon. Baronet, he wished to say a few words, and he must express his concurrence in what had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester as to the great inconvenience of those incidental allusions to statements which involved matters of great importance, requiring much time and pains to verify the truth of them. With respect to the savings-banks of Manchester, if the right hon. Baronet had taken the trouble to inquire whether they had formed any new district branches, he believed the right hon. Baronet would have found they had done so, and thus any increase in the amount of deposits would have been accounted for by the extension of their branches. As to the case of Bolton, the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had referred to a great mass of statistics, none of which he happened to have an opportunity of verifying, bearing on the comparative number of houses and amount of population in Bolton and Liverpool. The right hon. Baronet had totally omitted to take notice of the very material circumstance, that at the latter town a very considerable number of people lived in cellars. He happened to attend the statistical section of the British association, in which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Sandon) presided, during its meeting at Liverpool. It was there stated, that 50,000 or 60,000 of the inhabitants lived in cellars. The assertion was disbelieved, but the authorities of the town set their police to work, and it was found, that the number of persons inhabiting those abodes was still greater. That was not the custom at Bolton to the same extent, and, therefore, any comparison between Bolton and Liverpool as to the number of houses relatively to that of inhabitants must be fallacious. With respect to the date of the returns, the right hon. Baronet had commenced with 1837; he had said 1835. The right hon. Baronet said, it was not fair to take 1835 and 1836, because they were years of inflated and fallacious prosperity. Suppose it to be so; what were 1837 and 1838 but years of revulsion, and comparatively great depression? So that the right hon. Baronet refused to commence with his year, because it was one of prosperity, and took the year when the country was in the lowest state of revulsion. With respect to the diseases in the fever ward of Manchester, he would prove to the right hon. Baronet the complete fallaciousness of the argument he had brought forward. In 1838, a year of revulsion, 1,402 patients were admitted into the Fever Hospital; but if the right hon. Baronet had gone back to the preceding year, he would have found, that the number of admissions was only 799. [Sir R. Peel: I mentioned it.] He was not aware, that the right hon. Baronet had started from that point; but as to the argument about the savings-banks he believed it to be exceedingly fallacious. Knowing the distress into which the manufacturing districts were now plunged, he believed, that the conduct of Government on this occasion had a tendency to irritate the public mind in those quarters by trifling with this great and pressing question. He had that very day presented a petition, signed by the mayor of Stockport in the name of the inhabitants in public meeting assembled, praying, that before the prorogation took place the subject of the Corn-laws should be inquired into; many other petitions from various parts of the country to the same effect, were crowding in upon them; yet Ministers were about to take on themselves the awful responsibility of advising a prorogation without any inquiry into the question. Returns of deposits in the savings-banks were brought forward, he would not say garbled for the purpose of deception, but stated in a most unsatisfactory way, while at the same time, it was admitted, that they afforded but a fallacious test of the state of the country. What would the public think but that this was done to disprove the existence of any distress? As he might not have another opportunity, he would now exhort the right hon. Baronet, instead of nibbling at these details, to take the question up as a Prime Minister ought to do, and move an inquiry into the state of the nation, and he would venture to predict, that the right hon. Baronet would find, that great meetings of his fellow-citizens had not assembled to bear witness to a lie, and that the evidence of distress was of a character too painful to be questioned.

Mr. Darby

complained of the manner in which general statements of distress were mixed up with other subjects. The hon. Member for Stockport had just said, that 1837 and 1838 were the years in which distress had reached its lowest point, in which the admissions into fever hospitals were most numerous, and the receipts of the savings-banks least considerable; but that in 1839 and 1840 things had mended, and an increase in the amount of receipts at the banks, and a decrease in the number of patients at the hospitals took place. The hon. Member had thus himself admitted, that an improvement had taken place since 1837 and 1838. The ground of the hon, Member's complaint seemed to be, that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had caused an inquiry to be instituted in consequence of the statements that had been made, and the hon. Member was now angry when it turned out that a considerable improvement had taken place, and that too by his own admission.

Mr. C. Buller

thought there was great disadvantage in thus contradicting statements that had been made, without giving due notice to the hon. Member who made the statements. He had heard enough in the House of contradictory statements, as to the existence and non-existence of distress. He had heard Members get up and make statements, and he had always found the Government of the day prepared with statistical details and reports of commissioners, to prove that no distress existed. He was afraid the course taken that evening would entail the disagreeable consequence of a succession of statements and counter-statements, so long as the Session lasted, with the lapse of a week between each, because those who were not now prepared to meet the statements of Ministers would write to their friends in the country to get information, and make statements in answer. He must confess, he thought the House a very bad place for discussing questions of this kind; but he would say, after the statement of the right hon. Member for Dorchester, that he was not very well satisfied with-the discrimination of Mr. Mott in this inquiry; for a more extravagant and absurd argument he had never heard from any public functionary than that about the houses at Bolton. He thought it was a very good primá facie evidence of distress, when several persons well acquainted with the town asserted that a great number of the houses were empty. How was that met? By the assertion that in the course of two or three years there had been an enormous over-production of houses, to the extent of 2,000 or 3,000. He must say that was a statement which to him appeared very improbable; but when he saw that this commissioner took Liverpool as the standard by which the number of houses in proportion to the population was to be regulated in any place, and when he remembered that ever since he had attended to public affairs or examined Parliamentary returns he had heard Liverpool mentioned as of all others the town where the greatest masses of people lived huddled together in the most uncomfortable manner, he was inclined to think the judgment of that person must be of very little value. The right hon. Baronet had admitted the existence of great distress, but if credit were to be given to his returns, it must be believed that this was the year of the greatest prosperity and comfort to the working classes that had ever been known, for his facts and arguments went to persuade that there was no distress at all. He was not disposed to dwell on the subject of distress; he thought that the existence of it should not be made a subject of party debate in that House, but that every statement brought forward with regard to it should be well weighed. Thus, Government would avoid the mischief that would be created, if by any fallacious reasoning or inaccurate statement an impression should be created that they underrated the amount of distress which really existed.

Viscount Sandon

said, he would advise hon. Members opposite, henceforth, when speaking of the distresses of the people, not to indulge in vague rumours and exaggerated statements, multiplying thousands into tens of thousands. In making statements respecting the condition of the people, which were intended to go forth, not only to this country, but to the whole world, nothing could be more reprehensible than the practice of indulging in conversational looseness of expression. It was absurd to object to the right hon. Baronet bringing forward his statement that evening without notice. It must be expected that a Minister would take the opportunity of replying to such assertions as had been advanced upon this subject. Distress to a great extent doubtless prevailed, but exaggerated statements upon the subject could have no other effect than to excite alarm, and shake public confidence.

Mr. Aglionby

did not object to the general tone of the lecture which the noble Lord had been pleased to address to his side of the House; but he did object to its exclusive application. The noble Lord ought, in justice, to have addressed part of it to hon. Members on his own side of the House. If the noble Lord had been in his place not many nights ago, he would have heard from a Member on the Ministerial side of the House, a speech characterised by considerable violence of expression, exceeding anything he had ever heard from the Opposition side. He entirely concurred with the noble Lord in thinking that highly coloured statements, such as the House had lately heard, exaggerating the distress of the people, were calculated not only to do harm to the public interests, but to the very cause which they were intended to serve. Many Members were very anxious that a remedy should be found for the distress which prevailed; but they mistook the best mode of effecting their object, when they indulged in exaggerated statements and violent expressions. The distress of the people was, unfortunately, so severe, as not to require high colouring. As he had before said, he approved of the tone of the noble Lord's remarks, but he could not admit that all the blame was due to one side.

Mr. Hardy

said, that an hon. Member on the Opposition side, had condescended to go into particulars of the distress that existed, and made a statement with regard to a certain poor family whom he named. Now, what did the right hon. Baronet do as to this particular statement? Why, he sent an officer into the country to make inquiry at the fountain head, and ascertained from the family itself whether the facts were such as had been stated in that House. The result was, that the information thus derived did not bear out the statement of the hon. Gentleman opposite. Then an hon. Member made a general statement, of thousands dying of typhus fever, induced by a want of the necessaries of life. And what did the right hon. Baronet do with respect to this statements. Why, he sent to that source which was the best, and indeed the only one to apply to. He sent to the Fever Hospital to learn the number of patients, and so forth. What other step could the right hon. Baronet take? And the result was similar to that in the case of the family which had been particularised. As to what had been said on the subject of empty houses in our manufacturing towns, no information had been given as to what was the description of those houses, whether they were old ones which had been inhabited before, or recently built. The fact was, that in the manufacturing districts, as trade flourished, new mills and new houses might be seen rising all round, and when a flatness took place in the market, the mills stopped, and the houses in the vicinity became uninhabited. He believed that the cause of all this was over-production. The conclusion hon. Gentlemen opposite drew from houses being uninhabited was, that the people had been obliged to abandon them to take care of their stomachs. He thought it to be unfair, also, to impute the distress that prevailed in any part of the country to the operation of the Corn-law; in his opinion, they could not properly attribute consequences to the Corn-law in 1841 which it had not produced in 1835 and 1836.

Mr. Aldam

did not wish it to go forth to the world that the woollen manufacture was in a perfectly satisfactory slate. During the summer there had been much complaining amongst the persons engaged in manufactures. The state of things was now, however, much better, because the trade always improved in autumn on account of the winter demand. But this autumn there had been indications of a different nature from those observed heretofore at the same season. At this season there was usually a rise in price, and a scarcity of goods; but these results had not taken place this autumn, and a person who had been in the business for forty years, had informed him that he had never known such a state of things to exist before. When the winter demand ceased, as it naturally would, in the course of trade, prices would fall, and there would be less work, and therefore it was probable that there would be distress in the woollen manufacturing districts, as there now was in those which were the seats of the cotton manufacture. He found by Mr. Porter's tables, that the value of the exports of woollen manufactures for the year 1840, was nearly 1,000,000l. less than the exports for 1839; and that the value of the same exports for the former year was between 500,000l. and 1,000,000l. less than the average of the five years beginning with 1820. He found that the population of the West Riding of Yorkshire increased between each two of the three last censuses by twenty-two per cent.; that the population of Leeds, the centre of the woollen district, increased by one-half between the last two censuses; that of Bradford, the centre of the worsted district, in the same interval, doubled itself—thus, while the population of the Riding had increased by, probably, forty per cent, in the last twenty years, and that of Bradford and Leeds in a much higher ratio; the foreign trade had not increased, but diminished. The increase of the population of the whole country had been 30 per cent, in the same period of twenty years, supposing the rate of increase to be uniform; the home trade can hardly have increased in a greater ratio than this of 30 per cent.; thus, the population of the seats of the woollen manufacture has increased in a more rapid ratio than the home trade, and there has been no increase whatever in the foreign trade; a state of things which would appear almost to de- monstration, to involve a great deterioration in the condition of the manufacturing population.

Papers moved for, ordered to be laid on the Table.