§ Mr. Ferrand
rose, pursuant to notice, to move the following resolutions:—That this House considers as highly criminal the conduct of any person or persons who may attempt to induce others to give false evidence before a committee of this House, I and will inflict condign punishment on all such persons, and will also direct them to be prosecuted.That this House will protect and bear 821 harmless every working man who gives true evidence before any committee which may be appointed to inquire into the frauds committed by manufacturers and others, to the injury of the trade of this country, and of the labouring classes.That a Select Committee, to inquire into the existence of frauds in the various manufactures of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; also to inquire into the existence of frauds and oppressions, either directly or indirectly, committed by certain manufacturers of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, upon the persons, employed by them; and also by the workers of mines, collieries, and railways, upon the labourers in their employment.The hon. Member said, that in rising to perform the duty which he had undertaken, he felt, that he had placed himself under a heavy weight of responsibility. Every class of manufacturers in Great Britain and Ireland had their eyes on him. It was felt by the whole community, that we were not in that position to which our skill, capital, and industry entitled us; and it could not but at the same time, be felt, that the motions which he had submitted to the House, ought to have proceeded from certain hon. Members at the other side. But though, perhaps, it might be thought, that the motion ought to have proceeded from others rather than from him, he yet trusted to the kind attention of the House to grant him a favourable hearing. When he first brought forward the charges which were involved in his motion, he was induced to do so in self-defence—he was driven into it by the accusations brought against the landed interest—throughout the whole country, men were hired for the purpose of using the most violent language—placards of the most inflammatory nature were posted in every town and village. The working classes were told, that the evils which they had to endure, were not imputable to any accidental occurrences—were not, in any respect, imputable to their employers, but were solely owing to the conduct of the lauded interest; it was the landed interest, they were told, which deprived them of food—it was the landed interest, they were told, which dried the mother's breast, and excited the outcries of the famished infant, and no one was found to urge the truth upon the attention of the working classes. He and those who generally coincided in opinion with him, did not subscribe to those assertions. They repu- 822 diated the assertion, that the landed interest were the parties to blame, and, on the contrary, affirmed, that the manufacturers themselves, were the causes of that distress under which the working people suffered. The motion of which he had given notice comprehended two resolutions, one of which undertook to deal with a matter which had already been made the subject of a Standing Order of that House. It was important, he conceived, to let the people know, that they would be protected from the effects of any false evidence which the manufacturers might get up against them. It was also important to let the people know, that the House of Commons would really protect them from the consequences of freely and faithfully giving evidence before a committee of that House. They should be assured of enjoying absolute and perfect security for such of the working classes as might be examined before a select committee. The fact was, that the working classes would not venture to come before a committee of that House, if they did not receive such an assurance, for otherwise the prevailing opinion amongst them was, that their utter ruin must ensue. It was well known, that the late Mr. Sadler had done much with a view to improve the condition of the working classes, and they had his testimony to show, that those who were called upon to give evidence, bad been severe sufferers from the consequences of their temerity in so offending those from whom they derived their means of employment. They obeyed the summons of the Speaker, and, for doing so, they lost the means of subsistence; and if they refused to obey the Speaker's summons, they were condemned to prison and to misery, and their families to distress. Two petitions had been presented to the House by Mr. Sadler, stating all the facts which he had now stated. And what now was the language of the working classes? Why, finding that 20,000,000l. of money had been voted by that House to put down slavery and oppression amongst the blacks, and 17,000l. had been granted for the purpose of enabling the hon. and learned Member for Bolton to go to the continent for the purpose of extending trade, commerce, and manufactures, they could not for one moment believe, that the House would refuse them protection whenever they were summoned to appear and give evidence before any of 823 its committees. He thought the House would agree with him, that there was nothing more requisite for the extension of the trade and commerce of this country, than that the manufacturers and merchants employed in it should be persons of unsullied character and undoubted worth, and that in all their various transactions in every quarter of the globe, they should act with justice to themselves and to the honour of their country, not attempting, either directly or indirectly to practise any deceits either upon their fellow-countrymen at home, or their customers abroad. He found, that our ancestors were of the same opinion, for the Legislature of this country, being jealous of the national honour, considered it their duty to pass stringent laws to prevent any attempt at fraud either abroad or at home amongst their fellow-countrymen or foreigners; for in the preamble of the 13th of Richard 2nd, cap. 2, it was declared:—Forasmuch as divers plain cloths that be wrought in the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Bristol, and Glocester, be tacked and folded together, and set to sale, of the which cloths a great part be broken, broused, and not agreeing in the colour, neither be according in breadth, nor in no manner to the part of the same cloths showed outwards, but be falsely wrought with divers wools, to the great deceit, loss, and damage of the people, insomuch that the merchants buy the same cloths and carry them out of the realm to sell to strangers, be many times in danger to be slain, and sometimes imprisoned and put to fine and ransom by the same strangers, and their said cloths burnt or forfeit, because of the great deceit and falsehood that is found in the same cloths when they be untacked and opened, to the great slander of the realm of England.In the preamble of the 5th and 6th of Edward 6th, cap. 6, entitled—An act for the true making of woollen cloth," (it is stated), "Where heretofore divers and many goodly statutes have been made for the true making of cloth within this realm, which, nevertheless, forasmuch as clothiers, some for lack of knowledge and experience, and some of extreme covetousness, do daily more and more study rather to make many than to make good clothes, having more respect to their private commodity and gain, than the advancement of truth and continuance of the commodity in estimation, according to the worthiness thereof, have and do daily, instead of truth, practise falsehood, and instead of substantial making of cloth do practise sleight and slender making, some by mingling of yarns of divers spinnings in one cloth, some by mingling fell-wool and lambs- 824 wool, or either of them, with fleece-wool, some by putting too little stuff, some by taking them out of the mill before they be full thicked, some by over-stretching them upon the tenter, and then stopping with flocks such bracks as shall be made by means thereof; finally, by using so many subtle sleights and untruths, as when the clothes so made be put in the water to try them, they rise out of the same neither in length nor breadth as they ought to do, and in some place narrower than some, beside such cockeling, bandoning, and divers others great and notable faults, as almost cannot be thought to be true, to the great slander of the King our Sovereign Lord, and the shame of this land, and to the utter destruction of so great and notable commodity, as the like is not in any foreign nation.He found again, in the 43rd of Elizabeth, cap. 10, entitled—An Act for the true making and working of woollen clothes," (these words) "The Queen's most excellent Majesty, with the advice of her Highness's Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, weighing and considering the good and godly purposes of divers and sundry statutes heretofore made and ordained for the true making and working of woollen cloth, to be frustrated and deluded by straining, stretching, want of weight, flocks, sollace, chalk, flour, deceitful things, subtile sleights, and untruths, so as the same clothes, being put in water, are found to shrink, be rowey, pursey, squalling, cockling, bandy, light, and notably faulty, to the great dislike of foreign princes, and to the hindrance and loss of the buyer and wearer,The 10th of Anne, cap. 16—An Act for regulating, improving and encouraging the woollen manufacture of mixed or medley broad cloth, and for the better payment of the poor employed thereon," (states in the preamble), "Whereas by the ill practices of some makers of mixture or medley broad cloth, and the unskilfulness of others, by excessive straining such clothes, and other abuses committed in working the same, great damages and disappointments have happened, not only to the buyers and weavers of the said cloth, but much to the disreputation of the said manufacture, both at home and abroad; and the workers or poor labourers employed in working and making up the said manufacture have been impoverished, and are daily discouraged by imposing on them goods and wares of several kinds for their labour instead of ready money, which practices have been great discouragements to the good makers of, and fair dealers in, the said mixture or medley broad cloth.He had read to the House certain clauses of acts of Parliament which were passed by our ancestors for the protection 825 of the public as well as of the working classes. It happened, however, that, about fifty years ago, such new and enlightened principles burst upon this country, that all protective laws were to be thenceforward laid aside, and those laws which restrained the dishonest and made them honest, which protected the working classes, and which our ancestors thought it their duty to pass, were to be removed. Our ancestors knowing, that the labouring people had not an opportunity of voting in that House, they came down, like upright, honourable, and honest men, feeling that the working-classes were imposed upon and robbed and plundered of the just reward of their labour, and did not hesitate to assist in passing acts of Parliament that would protect the working man. But these acts were suspended about fifty years ago. What had been the consequence? Frauds of the most gross description were practised by some of the manufacturers in all the different trades of our country, to the great injury of the character of British merchants and manufacturers, both at home and abroad, and to the certain ruin of those manufacturers in this country, of whom he was prepared to say there were many, who were anxious to be upright, honest, and honourable men, and who wished to carry into market an article for sale which would do them credit and give them a justly remunerating reward for the employment of their capital, as well as enable them to pay just and liberal wages to their workpeople. But the new and enlightened principle which had burst upon the country and had made such rapid strides, day by day, had now opened a new arena for the manufacturers to walk about in. It was the new principle of many of these men to try who could undersell his neighbour, who could compete with his brother manufacturer at home and abroad, and who could produce the greatest quantity of goods at the lowest cost, both in price and labour. He had been told by hon. Members of that House, that the Corn-laws were the drag-chain of the commercial and manufacturing interests of this country; and he had been informed, both in the House and out of it, that the agricultural and landed interests were the causes of the distress which prevailed in the country, and that if free-trade in corn were permitted, the commerce and manufactures of England would spread into 826 every clime; that, in fact, there would be no measurement —if he might use such an expression—to the extent of British commerce and manufactures. Why, he found that the merchants and manufacturers of this country were in possession of the South American market, from the year 1809 to 1822 or 1823. At that time Mr. Canning came down to the House and declared that we had called a new world into existence; and many of the manufacturers and merchants thought it would be a boundless sphere for the trade and commerce of this country. But what was the consequence of the frauds which had been committed by the manufacturers of this country? They themselves were the first cause to a great extent of our loss of the South American market. He had heard it stated by some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, that the use of flour was indispensably necessary in making calico; but he believed, that the use of it was formerly unknown, and that it was never made use of until introduced by the manufacturers for the purpose of cheating and defrauding their customers. He would no longer make use of those expressions upon his awn authority; but he would tell hon. Members who denied his statements, and said they were not true, that they ought to call a committee and prove them untrue if they could before that committee. He was asking for a committee for the very purpose of proving that his statements were true. He would produce the evidence of persons of great experience and influence even amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite, and other evidence of manufacturers of the highest respectability, men of fifty years' standing in business, and also of working people, who would come before the committee, if proper protection were afforded them, and prove the truth of every word he had uttered. He felt so strongly in his own conviction of the rectitude of the position he now held, that he fearlessly asserted, if any rule of the House would prevent his second resolution being granted, he would ask for a committee without it, and he would prove his case by the evidence of merchants, manufacturers, clergymen, tradesmen, artisans, labourers, and others. A late Member of the House, Mr. Baines, had published a work, A History of the Cotton Manufacture, which was reviewed in Tait's Magazine for April, 1835. It was considered a work of great merit, and 827 had been consulted by all persons connected with the cotton trade. He bad never heard of any one attemptiong to depreciate the work. The reviewer in Tait's Magazine said:—We shall extract but one sentence upon a practice which, we have heard, is banishing foreigners from our market, and leading them to countries where this disgraceful practice is unknown:—' To improve the appearance of the cloth, it is usually passed through starch, made of wheaten flour, often mixed with porcelain clay and calcined sulphate of lime, by which the cloth is made stiffer, and appears to have greater substance and strength than it proves to have after being washed,—a con trivance originally devised for the purpose of fraud, and which, though now too generally understood to be regarded as fraudulent, it would be creditable to the trade to lay aside.' How a fraudulent practice ceases to be fraudulent when it becomes general, we do not pretend to understand. In another instance Mr. Baines places, to the advantage of the English manufacturer over the manufacturer of America, that the latter does not, or cannot, use any but good cotton in his yarn, while the former, ' owing to the climate,' can use some of the waste. This is not sufficiently clear. Is the yarn not worsened by using a proportion of what in the United States is accounted waste?That proved that paste was first adopted for the purpose of fraud. He would now submit other evidence to the House, for he was not going to make assertions on his own authority merely, but upon such authority as he trusted would induce her Majesty's Government and the House to conclude that it was high time for them to interfere. He would now read to the House the letter of a gentleman who had paid great attention to this process. He wrote—In your speech, as reported, mention was made of the iniquitous stretching of cloths, and the vast quantities of wheat paste used to disguise that villainous practice; but I do not recollect the manner in which the stretching, alias tearing, is effected, was described by you. Now, as I have several years ago witnessed the whole operation, I will request permission to describe it, as shown to me by Messrs.—, bleach works, not mills, at —. The cloths, if intended to be stretched in width, say from 11-16th to f, or 15-16ths to 1 yard wide, are tentered out on a frame of the required width, and then driven between two grooved rollers or cylinders, the convexities of the one fitting closely into the concavities of the other, thus effecting a series of minute tearings, so as scarcely to be seen; for the sly rogues know well that the widening could not be accomplished by one pull without destroying- the cloth. On witnessing this operation I 828 observed, that it must surely weaken the fabric; ' Oh, certainly,' was the answer, ' but this we make good by the bleachers' worf;' then showing me a large long trough, filled with wheat paste, the machinery was then set going, and the cloth passing between the two grooved or knuckled rollers, by them singularly and appropriately enough called the ' Devil,' it became saturated with the paste, and then passing on through a series of rollers, came out fine glazed calico or muslin. I was next shown the machinery for folding and packing up the cloths, which was exceedingly curious, particularly an assemblage of wooden beaters, about two inches square, and about three feet long, working vertically or endwise in a very rapid manner; such of the goods as were intended for our own colonies, or home consumption were packed with the utmost neatness, and need no description; but, besides these, I observed a number of pieces packed up in a comparatively slovenly manner; on inquiry, as to them, I was told that they were for the Spanish market in South America, (in imitation of some which were shown to me, and really of Spanish manufacture), as on account of the inferiority of our goods and other fiscal regulations they were scarcely saleable, or almost prohibited, and, therefore, these imitations became necessary; but in order to obtain their introduction among the Spaniards an additional and crowning piece of villainy was required,—namely, the stamping them. I was then shown a stamp in exact imitation of those on the genuine Spanish pieces, as, for instance, though I have forgotten the real names, say, ' Jose Pintado, a Sevilla;' "Bartomeo Spinona, a Malaga,' &c. I then naturally remarked, that such a practice differed in no degree from forgery with intent to defraud, and expressed myself with much surprise at such a procedure. 'Oh! we all do it,' was the reply.He would now beg the attention of the House to an extract from a work by Messrs. J. P. and W. P. Robertson, entitled, Francia's Reign of Terror, being the continuation of Letters on Paraguay. One of these writers was a merchant who had traded in that country for many years. They say, vol. 3, pp. 227–229,Not a piece of linen for soldiers' shirts or trousers was purchased without previous inspection by his Excellency; and often, distrustful of Irish and Manchester manufactures, did he unrol with his own hands the piece of goods submitted to inspection. By application to it of the vara, or yard, he ascertained that it was of the length, twenty-five, twenty-six, or twenty-eight yards, labelled on the ticket. So quick-sighted did he become in the quality of manufactured goods, that finding a great many of them had wide interstices between the threads, filled up with starch, he had one end of the piece washed, and then 829 viewing it through a microscope, ascertained the nature of its real texture. If he found, as it must be confessed he often did, the gaps between the thread to be rather yawning, he allowed the owner half of the prime cost for it, and told him to thank his stars, for that he ought to be imprisoned as a knave and impostor. ' This is the way,' said he, on one occasion, to an English merchant, ' that you hucksters of rags vend your unsound and deceitful manufactures over the world. The Jews are cheats, but the English are downright swindlers.What a disgrace was it to this country, that British merchants and manufactures should merit such a rebuke ! When he read that language he declared that his blood boiled in his veins to think that Englishmen should traduce the character of their own country several thousand miles from home. But this reprover of British dishonesty proceeds thus:—With your labels, and your tickets, and your gilt finery upon your goods, your colours that are ' warranted fast,' and yet fade upon a first washing, you are the veriest mountebanks and pedlars that traverse the earth. There is nothing noble in your souls; for filthy lucre, filthily gotten, is the rotting disease of your heart's core. Look ye, Mr. Merchant, for these ten boxes of cotton platillas (they were spread out in the Dictator's audience chamber), for which you asked me 1s. a-yard, you shall have 6d,; and think yourself well off that, I do not send you to some of the Paraguay looms, (no doubt you understand how to manage a shuttle), that you might there learn how to make honest cloth. I am hot, Mr. Pedlar, like my countrymen, to be caught by fine outsides, quack commendations, or the nick-nackery mode of packing up your flash wares. Pan, pan, y vino, vino; [when they say to me, ' there is bread,' let it be bread, and when ' wine,' let it be wine.] If you think that, because Francia is a Dictator, he cannot look after his own affairs, you are a little out of your calculation. Go about your business; and the next time you come to Paraguay with linens, bring them from honest Ger many.What had arisen from this conduct? British manufacturers had lost their trade and commerce in foreign climes, because they had ceased to be honest, because they were covetous and unjust, and cared not what frauds they committed, and encouraged each other by saying—" It will suit our purpose." Would the House know the manner in which these tricks and frauds had been carried on in Switzerland? He would refer them to No. 4 of Chambers's Edinburgh Journal of the 19th of February last, where, in an article en- 830 titled" A few Weeks on the Continent," he found the following passage:—The bulk of the Swiss, it would appear, clothe themselves in materials made by the hand in their own humble dwellings; and what they buy must be substantial and worth the money. English printed calicoes are rarely seen, although they are much lower priced than those of Switzerland, because the people have no confidence in the durability of the colours. The Swiss goods of this class are not only beautiful, but strong and durable in colour—qualities now rarely found in the produce of English factories. There are articles called Swiss prints sold in England, but we were informed by a manufacturer at Zurich that he did not believe a single piece ever was sent to this country, the whole that were passed off as Swiss being mere counterfeits. I am unable to say with what degree of truth this allegation was made; but it is very certain that the growing trashiness of quality of most English tissues is excluding them from the only open market in Europe.He would now read to the House a letter from a highly respectable shopkeeper in Liverpool, who forwarded him a piece of what was called the lower sort of white shirting. When he received the sample and the letter, he could scarcely believe that the poorer classes were so cheated and plundered by the manufacturers; and he wrote down to Liverpool to ascertain the character of this shopkeeper, and was informed that he was a person of the highest respectability. He says:—I have this day had the pleasure of reading the speech delivered by you in the House of Commons on the evening of the 24th instant. In proof of your assertion that a large quantity of flour is used in the manufacturing of calicoes, &c., I beg to hand you a fair sample of the lower sorts of white shirtings, manufactured in this county, and of which you will perceive the poor man's food forms the greatest proportion.One portion of that piece of cloth he sent to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) and another to the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell). Although an attempt had been made to fasten upon him the accusation that he had charged the manufacturers generally, nay universally, with being dishonest, be had only declared that there were fraudulent manufacturers, and he was sorry to say that their number was increasing, and that they were driving the honest manufacturer out of the markets. He would trouble the House with an extract from a work by Mr. Babbage, The Economy of Manufac- 831 tures, respecting the frauds in the lace manufacture, as brought under the notice of that House by a committee appointed to investigate the subject:—The lace trade affords other examples; and in inquiring into the complaints made to the House of Commons by the frame-work knitters, the committee observe, that, ' It is singular that the grievance most complained of 150 years ago should, in the present improved state of the trade, be the same grievance which is now most complained of; for it appears, by the evidence given before your committee, that all the witnesses attribute the decay of the trade more to the making of fraudulent and bad articles than to the war, or to any other cause.' And it is shown by the evidence, that a kind of lace called ' single-press' was manufactured, which was only looped once, and which, although good to the eye, became nearly spoiled in washing by the slipping of the threads; that not one person in a thousand could distinguish the difference between ' single-press' and 'double-press lace;' and that even workmen and manufacturers were obliged to employ a magnifying glass for that purpose; and that, in another similar article, called warp lace,' such aid was essential. It was also stated by one witness, that' the trade had not yet ceased, excepting in those places where the fraud had been discovered; and from those places no orders are now sent for any sort of Nottingham lace, the credit being totally ruined.'What said the book on the stocking trade?In the stocking trade similar frauds have been practised. It appeared in evidence that stockings were made of uniform width from the knee down to the ankle, and being wetted and stretched on frames at the calf, they retained their shape when dry; but that the purchaser could not discover the fraud until, after the first washing, the stockings hung like bags about his ankles.He begged pardon of the House for detaining them by quoting so much, but as there was no important public business before them that night, and as the question he was urging was so very important, and as he was most anxious to discharge his duty, he trusted they would permit him to occupy their time for a few moments longer. He was anxious to substantiate every word he had uttered in that House. They had often heard it asserted that there was much distress in the country, and they had as often heard it imputed to the Corn-laws. He emphatically denied that statement, and would read a paragraph from the Nottingham Journal of April 15th, to show how 832 trade was ruined by the frauds of the manufacturers:—The cotton cut-up hose trade, which has now become an extensive manufacture in this vicinity, has somewhat improved, whilst the system of drop-offs is fast extending in some of the villages south of Nottingham. These drop-offs are stockings made without narrowings at the heels and toes; instead of which, the heels are made full width of the usual length, the web that should have been narrowed two stitches at a time gradually, is then pressed off wholly, a slack course is made in one of the heels in the usual way, and the heels are joined and turned off, by looping the slack course in the usual manner. The fraud now commences; the two flaps of the heels are turned inwards, and are somewhat neatly basted down by the seamer, the heels are then seemed, or rather sewn, in the usual method, and to a casual, inexperienced, or inattentive observer, have all the appearance of being full-wrought hose. Nothing can be more unpleasant to the wearer; the joining of the toes being effected in the same manner, by dropping off, instead of narrowing—the deception being, that the toes and heels are turned off in the usual way, to deceive the purchaser. By these practices, one stockinger is made to produce three or four times as many hose as when they are made in a proper manner. This has a greater tendency to curtail employment in the hosiery, than steam or any other invention has in other manufactures, with this marked difference, that the superseding of human labour in most other branches of industry is the result of ingenuity and an extension of the arts; in hosiery it is quite the reverse, as these frauds are a retrogradation in ingenuity and skill, tending to produce inferior workpeople as well as inferior manufactures. The hosiery villages in the vicinity are fast getting isolated, or rather selected, in their employment. Thus, the hands in Bulwell are principally employed in making cotton gloves; Ruddington, in making drop-offs and fancy-caps; Carlton, in making socks, principally worn in the United States; Hucknall, upon cotton fancy hosiery; Arnold, Calverton, and the villages to the east, are most employed in making full-fashioned hose; whilst Stapleford and Sandiacre are engaged principally in making warp lace; but in most of these villages the stockingers are in a most destitute situation, arising from scanty employment and low wages.It was on behalf of these men that he asked for the committee—on behalf of those men who could not protect themselves, and he trusted that no man who had heard the statement but would cheerfully assist him in his object. The hon. Gentleman opposite, who were engaged in manufactures, had promised that no impediment would be thrown in his way; 833 he hoped they would now perform their promise, grant him the committee, and he would prove every allegation he had made. Then, as to watches, the deception was just as bad; he had a letter from a manufacturer which, with permission of the House, he would read:—Sir,—I speak of the disclosures you have lately been making in Parliament as to frauds in manufactures. It is now long time since I broached that subject, and suggested that the old plan of stamping our cloths and linens, &c, should be resumed; using in aid the argument that unless this were done, the character of the country would be lost, as each successive swindler would say to himself, 'It will serve my turn.' I believe the cloths sent out are often only fit for wadding. That the prints become blanks at first washing, I know, but I had no suspicion that even the cloth itself was equally infamous. I have heard that millions of needles have been sent out without eyes; scissors made of virgin steel, that remained virgins in all points, refusing to be of the slightest use; that watches from this country go only half an hour, and are losing all character, that clocks only go once round; that our muskets were only dangerous to the owners till the Tower proof was restored, and that the American woodsman has found our axes such, that he has found it indispensable to decline to use them. These things are so serious, that I think they should at once be taken up; it is thus we are losing business, and deserve to lose it, for we are risking the ruin of millions of the honestly industrious, rather than repress the villanies of a parcel of scamps." [Laughter.]They might laugh, but it was those frauds that had ruined the trade of the country, and it was high time for them to show that the Legislature of the present day were as jealous of the character of the country as it was 500 years ago. He had also a letter from a most respectable manufacturer of Yorkshire, of fifty years' standing, and he said—You have not overstated anything as respects this neighbourhood, for I do not think there is a manufacturer of flushings, druggets, paddings, or pilot cloths, but who uses less or more of the ground-up rags called generally shoddy, or resurrection wool—indeed, so much is it in use, that even the carpet manufacturers are now consuming considerable quantities, and the rugs making for Government are not free from it. Some few years ago these rags were imported from Hamburg and other parts of the Continent; then, of course, this country derived some advantage in pulling them up; latterly they have come pulled up ready for use, they on the Continent having obtained from this neighbourhood the machines for pulling up the rags. You will excuse me, but 834 in my opinion, unless Government imposes some restriction upon the use of such materials, we may cry out for want of trade or business for ever; it is not the Corn-laws which are the cause of our want of business, but it is our manufacturers and merchants who are the cause, for who will come a second time to our markets to purchase goods which when they get home are not worth the carriage. I have seen pieces of druggets stiffened with flour and other things, that were you to set a 6-4 piece to stand on the list, it would do so of itself; besides, this is not the worst evil— for when these goods come to lay some time, they generate a worm or moth, which will very soon consume a whole piece; in fact, such goods get worn out in passing from one to another without any making up, and probably get returned again to this country in the shape of rags, to undergo a second resurrection, or perhaps a third. I have that confidence in our present Government and in Sir R. Peel's measures, that I am sure there is no man but himself can save this country. If Sir R. Peel was to bring in a bill to prohibit the use of rags in any shape in the manufacture of cloth, or any description of woollen goods, I believe it would give most general satisfaction; it would also be an advantage to the agriculturist, as more wool would be wanted; and if the country was not able to produce all the wools necessary for our consumption, we could import any quantity from countries that would take our goods in return. I am of opinion that restrictive measures of this kind might be carried into effect with very little expense to Government. An inspector, appointed by Government, might overlook a very extensive district, and let any penalty which might be thought proper be recoverable before the magistrates. This, I think, would be a complete check against the use of this material, and would be the means of bringing back our trade to a healthy state again, which I am persuaded will never be the case until some measures of this kind are adopted.I have another letter from an old manufacturer in Leeds, who said—I have a fact connected with the woollen manufacture which you are at liberty to make any use of you think proper. There is a manufacturer in this town (who is a; present a member of the Whig-Radical town-council) who has made it a regular practice to buy old stockings and grind them up, and mix them along with his wool in manufacturing blue cloths. He was thus enabled to undersell his honest neighbours, who used nothing but wool. Well may our manufacturers lose their character in foreign markets.But he had still higher authority, for the manufacturers of the north had been committing such disgraceful frauds, that the Government had been obliged to take the 835 matter up; they found it necessary, in order to protect themselves, to take measures for preventing the frauds; they had another duty to perform—they ought to take measures to protect the public. They had found it necessary to issue a circular in order to protect themselves; he called upon them to extend that protection to the country at large. The circular he alluded to was as follows:—The whole of the cloth of which the supply is to be made is to be manufactured from new sound wool; if it is discovered to contain any portion of wool made from woollen rags known by the terms ' woollen waste,' or ' shoddy,' or other than new wool, it shall subject the whole of the supply to be rejected, and the hon. Board will not have any further dealings with the parties so offending.These were the practices of these rogues —the scoundrels[Laughter]—the infamous rogues, for he could call them nothing else; and instead of laughing, hon. Members ought to blush for shame that their countrymen were capable of committing such infamous frauds. Having laid such shameful cases before the House, they would agree with him that he had proved all the charges he had brought against the manufacturers. But if the House had still any doubt upon the matter—if they thought the evidence was still deficient— then let them grant the committee. Was it not high time that the Government should interfere in order to put a stop to those practices which were ruining the trade of the country, and punish the guilty. A poor man committing even a trifling fraud was punished heavily, while those who were fraudulent by wholesale escaped. There was, indeed, one law for the rich, and another for the poor, so long as such a system was allowed to go on. He would now say a few words on the infamous truck system. It was now even of more importance than the frauds, because in consequence of that infernal system thousands of the labouring population were dying; the misery caused by the cruelty of the masters—by their heavy oppression—was incalculable. He had stated before, that a large portion of the manufacturers were in the habit of paying in goods, in place of money, and many firms settled with their workmen only once in three, six, or eight months. On that subject he had a letter from a highly-respectable gentleman, who said—SIR,—In consequence of the spirited part 836 you have taken on a recent occasion, and for which, with every friend of humanity, I feel indebted to you, I beg leave to lay before you the following statement?—On Monday last, March 21st, application was made by a poor weaver, named Irwin, to the Board of Guardians at Cockermouth for relief. He is in the employ of the firm of —, Carlisle, gingham manufacturers. It was stated as a reason why relief should be afforded him, that the material recently given out by that firm to their operatives was so wretchedly bad, that it took six weeks to weave what, if the material was good, they could readily do in three. Two of the guardians conversant in such matters were deputed to examine into this statement, and report to the Board. Their report fully confirmed the poor man's statement, and they produced a specimen of the warp fully corroborating this. Yet such is the thraldom in which these unfortunate creatures are held, that the wife most earnestly entreated that no steps might be taken under the act of Parliament, lest her husband and a crippled son should be thrown in consequence out of bread, as they could do nothing but weave. I have since visited the weaving place, and have obtained from this roan's loom a specimen of the material, taken at random, which I enclose. Much of it appeared greatly worse than what I send, but it was dyed, and the effects of the colour might (as I supposed) have further injured the texture.He had told the House that these poor men were paid in goods in place of money. He had a blank form which was used in many factories, in which there were charges for rent, fuel, cash stopped, and cash overpaid—that would happen very seldom, he thought; but then followed fines, the most iniquitous of all things; for the masters hung up a set of rules, which the poor labouring man could not understand, if he did nothing else from Monday till Saturday, nor could he by any possibility help infringing some of them, by which money was stopped from him. On the truck in cottages he had a letter from a working man, but he must not disclose his name, or he would become a marked man, and would not get work at any factory, unless he changed his name. He said,Masters of one of the largest mills have houses, and compel their work-people to live in them, or whether they do or not, they must pay for them, and well too; and those who do not live in them, let them to other people. The masters stop their rents out of their wages, for these tyrants have the power to do so—some about 3s., others 3s. 6d., 4s. per week, and so on. The oppressed get them let, some for about 2s., some for about 1s. 6d, others 1s. per week, and, in two instances, they have 837 let them for 4d. a-week. Until lately, they kept cows, and forced all that lived under them to have one quart of milk a-day, and, in some cases, three quarts a-day, because they have had three workpeople of a family. When they kill their cows, they compel their workpeople to have shares of it; they sell it at the very top price, whether it be good or bad, and they force them to these things, or they must turn face about. If they happen to speak a word, they will give them a character with which they cannot get any more work in the town or the country either. These are some few of the glaring tricks of these Corn-law repealers, these hypocrites, who tell the working slaves, that they wish them to have their rights, that they wish them to have their liberty; but it is all fudge, they are the same as their leaders, the Anti-Com-law League, they are downright impostors. One of them is now raising his rents for voters, while his hard-working slaves had hard work to keep body and soul together before.Was that a system that the Government ought to tolerate for any longer period, now that it had come to their knowledge? He would next read some letters from a clergyman of the Church of England:—
§ " Wolverhampton, April 2, 1842.
§ " SIR,—I am sure I need not apologise for the intrusion of a perfect stranger upon your valuable time, if my statement will tend, even in the slightest degree, to further the praiseworthy object you have in view, of exposing the iniquities of the truck system. I regret to say, that I have too many opportunities of witnessing the working of this tyrannical system in my own parish, and Mr. Villiers need go no further than the borough which he represents, for proof, that a great portion of the distress now existing amongst the poor, is caused by the payment of wages in provisions instead of money.
§ " I will mention one instance with which I think you should be made acquainted; others can be brought forward, if required: but this is a case which I have taken particular pains to investigate.
§ " One of the most active partisans of Mr. Villiers, and a principal member of his committee at the election, who was, by the late Administration, made a magistrate for the county of Stafford, is a chief partner in the —colliery, where the truck system is carried on more infamously than in any other works in the neighbourhood. The men are paid once in four and sometimes five weeks, when they may receive their wages in money if they demand it, but the man who made such demand, would, in all probability, be dismissed; but as it is not possible for their families to wait till the expiration of the month for the means of subsistence, they are compelled to go to the ' Tommy shop,' as it is called here, a ticket to which is given them 838 for any goods they may require. The price of some few of the articles at this shop, compared with that asked by the shopkeepers in the town, I have ascertained, and it will show you at once the dishonest advantage taken by the oppressors of these poor men—
|At Tommy shop. Per lb.||In the town. Per lb.|
|Salt butter||15d. & 16d.||10d. & 11d.|
§ there being a difference of more than 50 per cent, on the article of tea.
§ " I shall not object to your using my name as the author of this information should its truth be disputed, but at the same time, I may add, that I would not willingly have my name made public.
§ " My attention has long been directed to this horrid system, and in July last, a letter of mine, under the signature of 'The Miner's Friend,' appeared in the Wolverhampton Chronicle, but no good resulted from it.
§ " I shall have great pleasure in giving you any further information on the subject.
§ "During the severe weather in 1841, when soup was distributed to our poor at 1d. a-quart, it is a fact, which came to the knowledge of my curate, that some of the families, in the receipt of nominally good wages, actually declined a ticket for the soup, on the plea that they had not the penny to pay for it, as they received their wages in goods."
§ "Wolverhampton, April 13,1842.
§ " SIR,—In reply to your inquiry respecting the quality of the goods sold at the truck shops, I have frequently seen bad salt butter from these shops at 15d. and 16d., while at the retail shops, good was sold at 10d. and 11d. a-pound; the sugar at 9d., and in one instance at 10d. per pound, not so good as at 7½d.; flour of a very inferior quality at 11s. a-bushel, while I find, that at the very time, the best was 10s. at the mill.
§ " Since my last letter, I have ascertained from a huckster upon whom I can depend, that she is in the constant habit of receiving goods bought at the truck-shop in exchange for milk, potatoes, &c, as the men in some instances never receive money ; of course, such barter is not made without a loss to the labouring man."
He begged to call the attention of the House to the following communication he had received as to the city of Carlisle:
Hundreds of the working classes are grateful for the fearless exposure of the deceptions and villanies practised by the master manufacturers and cotton-spinners of this country. The truck system has been carried on for eighteen years by one of the largest firms in this district; they have some hundreds of cottages, which they force their workpeople to occupy, for which they have to pay 30 or
40 per cent. more than others. The master manufacturers, who employ weavers here to the number of 3,000, supply them with shuttles, hiddles, and brushes (all of which the weaver has to find), and for which they charge enormously high. You might be furnished with a full and accurate exposure of the truck system, and other matters of deception as practised here, provided the parties furnishing it, were secured against future persecution. Protection is absolutely necessary.
Then as to Scotland, he would lay before House the following statements:—
Coatbridge, near Glasgow, nine extensive ironworks, at which an immense quantity of people are employed. Each ironwork has its store, and a considerable portion of the wages are paid in goods at a profit to the masters of 15 to 20 per cent, above the common retailer. Some of these masters have acted as conspicuous members of the Anti-Corn-law League.
Paisley.—Working man. Specimen of the nefarious system pursued by our Corn-law repealing masters. Most of them have stores, or cottages, for their workers, particularly those who are the greatest repealers, and their workers are obliged to purchase from such store, and take their cottages, or if not no longer work for them. They are charged about 20 to 25 per cent. above the market price for their goods, with an inferiority of article. The master printers in this country, not content with the above system of robbery, adopt another system of robbery more grievous than the above. They make them work from one to four hours extra per day, what is called overtime, and give them nothing for it. Be so good as not to give up my name, as the master printers would punish me by not employing me.
He had also received this letter from a poor miner, which he would read,—
Sir,—It is with inexpressible pleasure I write to you, having carefully read all the speeches and remarks you have made in Parliament, and find that you are one who wishes the welfare of the toilworn and cruelly-used British artisan. I see you mean to bring on a motion before the House on the 19th inst., which, if carried, will be the cause of bringing to the world an exposure of the robberies and cruelties played off by our employers upon us miners. Every coal and iron master in and round this extensive mining district are lawmakers; and believe me, the laws they make and put upon their office-doors are of the most hideous caste. We are obliged to bend under them, for should any of us resist them, as some actually does, we are pounced upon by them, carried before the sheriff or magistrate of the district, who never fails to decide against the miners, on the ground, that ' these are the rules of the work, and you must abide by them. In consequence the victim has either to go to bridewell, or pay 2l. or 3l. of ex-
penses; the latter he is not able to do, so he is imprisoned, and his family starved. There is a general law practised at all these works which I will take the liberty of exposing. If any miner allow his father, his brother, or his son to sleep one night under the roof of his house, and they are employed at any other work but the work he is employed at, the unfortunate miner is charged double rent for each fault, and compelled to pay, it being a rule at the work ! Our employers have almost all victualling stores at their works; the miners are compelled to take all the provisions they need from these stores, at a rate price far above the market or any grocer's shop. They wish the miner to have nothing left at payday, yet they strive to have him out of debt with them also, by keeping his belly to match his earnings. I know many industrious miners who have not handled a shilling of their own earnings these four years; and it is a general feature in the trade, when they wish to reduce the wages, or introduce any new rule, that they shut their store, and never fail to gain their point, by starving poor men into their measures. At works where there is not a store, the miner has to pay his employer 1s. for every pound he lifts, at any other time than payday, which is bad enough, but nothing to a store.
The pernicious system he was exposing extended also to Ireland:—
In Portland, county of Waterford, said a letter, which he had received, a wealthy firm, who lately offered 80,000l. for a property, carry on the infamous truck system in full operation. The operatives are compelled to live in houses built by their employers, exorbitant rents are demanded, which are stopped out of their weekly wages, and a shop, with numerous articles for sale, is attached to the premises. The poor people are not paid their miserable earnings in money, but in bits of printed card paper (marked with the name of the firm) called ' tokens,' which will only pass as an equivalent for goods at this truck shop belonging to the mill. I need not tell you exorbitant profits are made.
But what would the House say, when he told them, that under this system, which extended through England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, the workpeople were compelled to pay for Anti-Corn-law pamphlets, fined 6d. for speaking, and 1s. for singing; called upon to obey rules which they could not help breaking, and fined enormously for doing so; for money lent, usurious interest was exacted? He wished particularly to draw attention to the following:—
On the 14th December, a manufacturer was convicted before the Sheffield magistrates for paying wages in cloth; he asked 2l. a
yard; the workman gave 1l 15s., and sold it for 11s., proved before the magistrates to be its full value, and a quarter of yard not fit for use; fined 10l. and costs. Two more, 5l. and costs.
No doubt the right hon. Gentleman, at the head of the Home Department, would talk about the law having been enforced; but his case was, that for one case in which the law had been enforced, in ninety-nine it had been successfully evaded. Now, he wished to observe, that when the hon. Member for Wolverhampton had, on a former occasion, read a statement from a person residing in his part of the country, that statement asserted what was utterly untrue,—namely, that he had applied the charges he made to all the manufacturers of Yorkshire, whereas he had only applied them to some, and those belonging to the League. This statement, moreover, had been supported by fraud and forgery, for many of the signatures were positive forgeries; and some of those who signed were making 70 per cent. on the poor. He would also read a passage from the report (p. 552) of H. S. Chapman, esq., of the Middle Temple, an assistant commissioner for inquiring into the condition of the handloom weavers in the United Kingdom, in 1838. It would show, that not only does the truck system prevail in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but that any complaint on the part of the weavers was generally followed by loss of employment, as he had stated in the House.
At Idle, where I held a public inquiry for the townships of Idle, Shipley, Eccleshill, and Bolton, a written statement was handed in, complaining of the existence of the truck system at a small hamlet called Windhill, in the first-named township. It is a fact worthy of notice, that I was begged not to ask questions on the point, as any testimony on the part of a weaver who had suffered from the custom would have been followed by loss of employment. I was, however, assured by many persons, both employers and weavers, that the allegation was correct. This shows how completely impotent is the law, howsoever stringent it may be, where both employer and employed will consent to violate it. The employed is compelled to submit; the constantly overstocked state of the labour-market places him at the mercy of the master, and the same condition prevents him taking a single step to expose the fraud to which he is subjected. At Churwell, south of Leeds, another form of truck was exhibited to me, as existing at Beeston, where there is a factory employing between twenty and thirty hand-bring in the Labourers' Wages Bill, on loom weavers. It is the practice of the
owners of this factory to oblige their weavers to take part of their hard earnings in cloth, in some cases less than half being paid in money.
§ And now as to Birmingham he would read the following:—
§ " To THE EDITOR OF ARIS'S GAZETTE.
§ " Small Arms Department, Birmingham,
§ March 10, 1842.
§ " SIR,—Great complaints have been made to me lately by the labouring men in the gun-lock trade, and I yesterday visited the neighbourhood of Wednesbury and Darlaston, where that branch of manufacture is principally carried on, and I find that the practice of paying the workmen by truck, or' tommy,' as it is called amongst the men, has been, and is at the present moment, carried on to a ruinous extent.
§ " To all those persons who are employed as contractors for the supply of musket locks for her Majesty's service (many of whom, however, I must say, have not lent themselves to the practice), I have given notice that I am determined to put down such a nefarious and illegal system in every way in my power; and that so far as those supplies are concerned, I shall insist that the lock-filers do receive the wages agreed upon in money, without subterfuge, trick, or evasion, either by tickets upon other parties, by discount, by pretence of loan, or by any other dishonest contrivance. The labourer is worthy of his hire. A fair allowance is made for it in the contract price, and he has a right to spend his money as he will in the best and cheapest market.
§ " If you will have the goodness to make this, my resolution, more extensively known through the medium of your widely-spread publication, it may be the means of benefitting a very deserving class of workmen by drawing attention to this destructive practice; and you will at the same time confer an obligation on your very obedient, humble servant,
§ " GEORGE LOVELL,
§ " Her Majesty's Inspector of Small Arms."
§ If he wanted any confirmation of the justice of his motion, he need not go far for it. He would remind the House that this was not the first time the working classes had, by their advocates, appealed to the House for protection, and that their claim had, ere this, been recognized. On the 17th of February, 1795, a motion was made by Mr. Whitbread for a protection of labour, seconded by Sir R. Peel (the present right hon. Baronet's father), supported by Fox and Sheridan, and admitted to be just by Pitt, who sanctioned the payment of wages out of the poor-rates. Then in July 5, 1830, Mr. Littleton moved to bring in the Labourers' Wages Bill, on which Mr. Huskisson said—843
§ "If any hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to inform himself as to what was passing in Staffordshire, and in part of the cotton and clothing districts, he would find that a very great portion of the distress now prevailing there was not so much owing to want of employment as to the undue and unfair competition to which the truck system gave rise, by making the whole trade a struggle between the avarice of the master and the necessities and comforts of the workmen. Why should we not extend the same protection to those who had no friend to guide them, and who looked up to the Legislature as their shield against the extortion of those who regarded only their own advantage, and never thought of the sufferings and afflictions of those whom they employed? It was upon these grounds he was ready to acknowledge that on the score of humanity and feeling he gave his support to the bill, and should do so even if it were opposed to the doctrines of political economy, with which, however, he contended it was perfectly consistent."
On the 3rd of May, 1830, Lord Stanley presented a petition from the manufacturers, tradesmen, and others of Heaton Norris, against the truck system, and stated—
That this system gave great advantage to a few rich men, who acquired immense profits at the expense of the labourers—a system that was as injurious to the manufacturers who did not adopt it as to the workmen who were its immediate victims.
On the 5th of July, 1830, Sir Robert Peel said—
The great evil of the present day was a tendency to diminish the enjoyments of the poorer classes; and he could conceive nothing more likely to reduce them to a state of servitude than that their master, who might be getting 8,000l. or 10,000l. a-year by his manufactory, should take from them 2,000l. or 3,000l. more by dealing in bacon and cheese, He hoped that if this bill were lost by the means which the hon. Member (Mr. Hume) possessed, and might use to defeat it, the working classes would understand that it was he who was responsible for the consequences.
§ The hon. Member concluded:—Sir, I have done my duty in bringing this question forward. The responsibility rests on the House and on the Government, of dealing with the claims for justice and redress of honest manufacturers and distressed workmen. If the Government resist the motion, the responsibility of rejecting it will be theirs. There is, let me assure them, an intense feeling abroad upon the subject. There are not far distant honest manufacturers, who have come from the north at their own expense 844 to give evidence upon this committee, and to declare that they must either be honest themselves and retire from trade, or be as dishonest as those who have till now oppressed the poor and disgraced the country. There are those, not far distant, who are ready before a committee of this House to substantiate those claims for justice which there, and there only they can assert. In their name I appeal to your justice for that protection which here alone they can seek, and which here they have an inalienable right to claim. This motion may be lost; but if it be, it will be lost to the serious injury of trade and commerce; it will cause heartrending affliction to thousands of the working classes who are anxiously awaiting your decision. And ardently I do hope that the Government will discharge the duty they owe to the public as the guardians of the country's honour, and of the Sovereign's dignity (feeling that dishonour at home or abroad must sully the lustre of that Sovereign's diadem)—that they will discharge that duty by agreeing to the motion, which I urge on the unassailable principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire.
§ Mr. Feilden
said, if the practice had taken place which the hon. Member had described, it was a disgrace on the English nation, and a remedy was required. It was high time that the Legislature of the country should make an inquiry into the practices said to prevail, and if such were found to be the case, to apply a remedy.
§ Mr. Wallace
was exceedingly desirous that this committee should be granted. He believed that there was a good deal of truth in what the hon. Member had stated, and he believed also that there might be fallacious statements mixed up with the communications of the hon. Member, be (Mr. Ferrand) believing them to be perfectly true. He hoped the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) would grant the inquiry in whatever form it might be thought most desirable. He believed that it was very unwise to continue the truck-system in any form, and he believed that the Government would do well, if satisfied that the evil existed, if they could provide some easy and cheap means by which those who offended against the law might be prosecuted. The great evil in this country was the difficulty of obtaining cheap justice.
§ Mr. Wakley
had felt surprise at the apparant reluctance of the Members of the Administration to address the House after the speech of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. What he gathered from their silence was this, that there was a desire on their part to ascertain what was the feeling of the House with regard to this proposition. If that were so, nothing could be more commendable. He considered that a motion of this kind could scarcely be granted with a strong feeling of the House against it, and he also thought it scarcely possible that the Government could resist the motion with a strong feeling in the House for it. The charges of the hon. Member for Kuaresborough were of the most serious character, and affecting the comforts and the happiness of millions of our fellow countrymen. Even if these charges were made on false testament of the most heinous description, he considered this House would not be discharging its duty to the working people of the country if it did not insist on inquiry into their truth or their falsehood. It was stated that the working people were completely the slaves of their employers—that they were in such a state of dependence and destitution that they could scarcely be said to be living in a country in which freedom was a part of the constitution. He sincerly hoped that the Government would not oppose a motion of this nature; but in order to make the inquiry effectual, and to do full and complete justice, the investigation must not be a partial one—it must be levelled against all classes of employers, and extend to the employers of agricultural labourers. £" Cheers."] He was glad to hear that cheer; it showed that hon. Members were actuated by far higher motives than self-interests, and that their desire was to do full justice to the working people. The gravamen of the hon. Members charge was that the manufacturers were paying their workpeople in kind, and giving them food instead of money. How was it that the hon. Member had not acquired further information on this subject? Was be aware that in Scotland, and to a very considerable extent in the north of England, the truck-system prevailed on farms as well as in manufactories? Did hon. Members deny his assertions by shaking their heads? He assured them that there was more in his statement than was to be found, in their heads. What he 846 was stating was the plain and naked truth, and hon. Members connected with the north of England would not deny, that it had been the practice, time out of mind, to pay the labourer on farms in kind, and not in money wages, both in Scotland and England. He would not assert that this practice had operated unjustly; but, in order that an inquiry of this nature should be full and complete, and give satisfaction, the investigation proposed should not be partial. He, therefore, wished to introduce in the motion after the word "railways," the words "and by occupiers of land in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland." He hoped the hon. Member for Knaresborough. would not object to this alteration, and that the right hon. Baronet would not object to it, because if they limited their inquiry to the manufacturers, they would be prejudging the case, and assuming that they had been acting in this unjust and oppressive manner towards their labourers, and would cast a stigma on the commerce of the country which it would be difficult to remove. But if they introduced the words he proposed, it would show that the inquiry was to extend to the payment of all labourers. He, for one, tendered his thanks to the hon. Member for the exertions which he had made in the cause of the people. From the fervour of his feelings the hon. Gentleman had occasionally been led into the use of harsh terms, but he believed, that it had arisen from his anxiety for the working people, and that it was not his intention to cast unjust allegations. He most cordially supported the motion, and should feel most grateful to the Government if they acceded to it.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
most cordially seconded the amendment. He thought it was but fair that the inquiry should be general. With regard to the charge that the truck-system was practised amongst the farmers of the north of England, he had never known a single instance of it though he had property in various parts of the north of England. He sincerely hoped her Majesty's Government would assent both to the motion and to the addition moved to be introduced into it.
§ Mr. Brotherton
should wish that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Finsbury should not be persisted in, for two reasons: one was, the act which was passed two years ago for preventing the truck-system specially excluded the 847 agricultural interests. To the manufacturers it was made illegal, but legal to the farmers. He believed, that the practice was very general in Scotland, and in many parts of England; and if the words moved to be added by the hon. Member for Finsbury were inserted in the motion, the committee would never finish its labours; and, therefore, he wished the inquiry to be confined to the manufacturing interests. He would add his request that the committee might be granted. He believed, that there was considerable oppression exercised by the manufacturers. There was no doubt of it; and he did say, that the system ought to be put down if possible. At the same time he wished that a fair committee might be chosen, and that it might be clearly ascertained whether those engaged in the truck-system were members of the Anti-Corn-law League or not. He believed from all the information he had, that where one manufacturer in the Anti-Corn-law League practised this system, there were ten not connected with it who did. He was exceedingly anxious that the whole truth should come out, and that a committee of inquiry should be appointed, and that whether this system were practised by members of the Anti-Corn-law League or not, it should be put an end to.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, he had anticipated, after what had taken place on a former evening, when very strong assertions had been made by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, which were as strongly contradicted on the opposite side of the House, and when hon. Members had been almost taunted to move this inquiry, that the motion would not be objected to. He certainly should not have thought it consistent with his duty to consent to a motion, the terms of which were calculated to convey a stigma upon the manufacturing interest, because, as had been truly stated by the hon. Member for Fins-bury, the adoption by the Government of this motion, upon the presumption that this practice was common amongst the manufacturers, was a step which would be derogatory to the honour of the commerce of this kingdom, and which he should be very sorry to give countenance to. He was certain that both in the home and in the foreign market, the natural effect of honest competition would be to put an end to these fraudulent practices, and that the fraudulent manufacturer and 848 tradesman would not long be enabled beneficially to persevere. He believed, that these were household truths familiar to all Englishmen, and that a departure from these rules was the exception, and the strict observance of them the general rule. He could not, therefore, concur in any sweeping condemnation of the class of manufacturers in this country. He must say, that he saw something to regret in the terms of the motion as they now stood on the orders, in the frequent repetition of the word "fraud." With respect to statutory enactments to prevent those frauds which did occasionally occur, the hon. Gentleman had shown that they were abortive. With regard to the first part of the motion of the hon. Member, he thought it unnecessary, in consequence of the sessional orders which already stood on the journals relative to witnesses to the same effect. He would beg that the sessional order on the subject should be read. [Sessional order read.] He was satisfied (the right hon. Baronet continued) that inquiry as to the necessity of further legislation to prevent frauds in manufactures would be fruitless. He (for one) should altogether despair of the success of any attempt of that kind; and he repeated, that the real remedy would be found in the competition of honest tradesmen. The question then narrowed itself to inquiring as to the payment in goods and not in money. Several acts of Parliament had been passed to prevent this. The last measure of that kind was brought in by Lord Hatherton, then Mr. Littleton, and the act now upon the statute-book had been passed with very general sanction and concurrence. He confessed, that at the time that act passed he did not think it possible not to favour the principle of it. In prosperous times, when the demand for labour was increased, the workman was master over his employer; but in less prosperous times there would always be a strong temptation in the employer to reduce the workman's wages. It was most painful to a master to say, to his workman who had been working for him twelve or fourteen hours per day, "I am paying you too much." He was naturally driven by the pressure of the times to find evasions to reduce his workman's wages; and what was the natural mode to which he resorted? He had recourse to that which the law prohibited. The workman was then no longer the 849 master; he was absolutely dependent on his employer, and his employer, either directly or indirectly, gave him to understand that if he did not consent to the charge he made, either for rent or goods, he should no longer be employed by him. Under the pressure of such circumstances the labouring man submitted, and hence, as had been truly said in one of the letters which had been read to the House by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, the existing law was impotent. The Legislature might make the law as stringent as they pleased; still, when the demand for labour was not effective, whatever enactment might be placed upon the statute book, still, indirectly, wages would be lowered in the way complained of by the hon. Member for Knaresborough. He was aware of the exemption as to farm labourers mentioned by the hon. Member for Salford; and one of the objections he had to granting the committee was the fear that the Government might contribute in the least degree to the perpetuation of those angry feelings which recent discussions in that House had occasioned between the manufacturing and the agricultural classes, and that if the enquiry were limited, the concession of the committee would have the air of partiality. But while he had, in concert with his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, been listening to the present discussion it had occurred to him that it might be possible to open a limited inquiry not subject to the objections he had shortly stated, and which at once would be fair, equitable, and comprehensive. And with this view he was prepared to move that,A select committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the law which prohibits the payment of wages in goods or otherwise than in the current coin of the realm, and into the alleged evasions and defects of the present enactments.He did not anticipate any disadvantage would arise from the most rigid inquiry of the character he had suggested. In the north of England, in Northumberland, and in the Cheviot-hills the shepherds were paid in kind by certain quantities of oatmeal, flour, and other commodities, and he thought it would be found that there was no evil arising from the system, but the contrary. On the other hand, he 850 thought upon an inquiry into the subterfuges of certain classes of manufacturers, it would be found that there were great abuses in the evasion of the statute known as Mr. Littleton's Act. He thought that by a committee impartially and in a fair and candid spirit appointed, so far from evil, good might arise; and, if in the midst of the existing distresses of the working classes this inquiry might be soothing to their feelings—if it would be satisfactory to them, and would allay anything like angry feelings, which, notwithstanding the patience they had exhibited might exist, he should rejoice that he was able consistently with his sense of duty to give such an inquiry his support. There was already an amendment before the House, but, if without impropriety, he could do so, he would move the amendment he had suggested, and which he fancied was in accordance with the general sense of the House.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ [Amendment before given moved accordingly].
§ Mr. Wakley
asked, whether the amendment which the right hon. Baronet would substitute would extend as far as his amendment would have carried it?
§ Sir J. Graham
said, he conceived that the clause of the act to which the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) had referred, and which exempted domestic servants and servants in husbandry might be considered in the terms of his amendment as one of the defects of the existing enactment, and therefore the committee would have the power of going into that question.
§ Mr. Ferrand
inquired if the investigation as proposed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, would extend to the frauds in manufactures of which he had spoken?
Mr. J. S. Worthy
said, that when he had risen a short time since, it was with the intention of offering to the House a few observations very much to the same effect as those which had just now been made by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and he 851 had intended to suggest the appointment of a committee, in terms nearly coincident with those submitted by him, but at the same time comprising expressions which he thought it desirable to add to the terms of that appointment, with a view to extend the inquiry to a particular issue. The right hon. Baronet by his amendment would appoint a select committee for the purpose of inquiring into the evasions and defects of the existing law, but he did nothing which would practically direct the attention of the committee towards the improvement of that law. The terms which he had intended to submit to the House were, that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the statute 1 and 2 William 4th, chap. 37, with a view to ascertain how far it was possible to render that act more effectual for the protection of labourers from the abuses in respect of the payment of their wages. The attention of the committee would thereby be more especially directed to the remedy of the abuses of the law as it at present stood. He was afraid the provisions of that law were in spirit most extensively evaded, and that the right hon. Baronet took too favourable a view of the matter when he supposed that the abuse was confined to times of distress. If the hon. Member for Marylebone were present, he must admit, that in the districts connected with the iron trade, the abuses prevailed to a much greater and a more deplorable extent than the right hon. Baronet seemed to imagine. He did not mean to say, that such evasions and practices were universally prevalent, or that the manufacturers generally might not be able to stand the test of such an inquiry; but nevertheless, he could not help thinking, that when this House had declared its intention, so far as in it lay, to interfere for the purpose of preventing practices of this kind, and to interpose the arm of its power to resist abuses of the nature spoken of, and when it had already interposed by legislation to resist abuses which pressed so heavily on that extensive class of the community, the working class, it was a fair and legitimate object for inquiry how far the statute had been effectual in the accomplishment of the objects for which it was placed upon the statute-book. He had intrinsically no objection to an inquiry of the largest description; for if these illegal practices prevailed to the extent asserted, and when the hon. 852 Member for Knaresborough stated he could prove all he had stated, that fact alone, affecting as it did the industry, the commerce, and the honour of this country, was deserving the most serious consideration of this House. When he said thus much, he must add, that he doubted whether he could proceed as sanguinely as his hon. Friend, the Member for Knaresborough bad done. When his hon. Friend talked of frauds, he doubted whether it would be right so to interpose as to place an effectual check or guard upon practices so vague and complicated. His hon. Friend had quoted instances of different descriptions, collected by him with great industry, but with which it would be extremely difficult to deal. For instance, his hon. Friend had spoken of watches, manufactured and sent to foreign markets, professed to be of the best description, but on trial it was found that the hands would only go once round. Now he should be glad to know by what means his hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough would prevent the maker from manufacturing such articles. But there were many other manufactures in which the vigilance and ingenuity of the Legislature might be utterly and entirely evaded. On the whole, he thought there would be so much difficulty involved on the part of his hon. Friend's motion, that there would be no chance of the committee coming to a satisfactory conclusion, and therefore it would be better to confine the inquiry to the limits proposed.
§ Mr. Muntz
was perfectly convinced, that no legislative enactment could prevent or put down the truck-system. He had himself been extensively and for many years engaged in manufactures, but he bad never practised it, and he was convinced it never permanently could answer the purpose of any man who adopted it. It was not necessary in order to carry the truck-system into effect, or to commit this crime, as he supposed it must be called, that the party should appear in the matter. All that the party adopting the truck-system had to do was to support a shop in the neighbourhood of his own manufactory, and to take care that his workpeople were recommended to that shop, and that those who did not buy there should have no employment. No law could prevent this; and therefore it was that he contended the motion in its present 853 terms would prove an abortion. He hoped the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) would extend this inquiry, and give the hon. Member for Knaresborough full scope to prove all the exaggerated charges he had made against the manufacturers of the country. He did not hesitate to say that the hon. Gentleman had been grossly made use of on this question. It had been stated, that in Wales the truck-system was extensively practised. Now, he lived near Swansea Heath and other places where the iron trade was carried on, and he knew only of one party who adopted it, and that too in so easy, plain, and proper a manner, that it was praised and eulogised by the workmen themselves. They derived an advantage rather than otherwise from it. It was true there was distress now in the country, and that distress naturally gave the power to the masters to take advantage of the truck-system. But he could only see one way of remedying the evil complained of, and that was by legislating so as to place the country in that situation which would render the men independent of the masters. The committee proposed would be utterly useless, and no good end would be derived from it. The trouble would be thrown away, and the hon. Member for Knaresborough would be prevented from proving the case, -which he was bound, after the charges he had brought, to make out. He was extensively connected with the export trade, but he had never heard any complaint against the manufactures of the country. It was true, that pen. knives had been made from cast iron, but they were sold at a penny a piece, and nobody expected they were made of refined steel. He had bought thousands of gross of scissors at 3s. 6d. a gross; it was true they were not finely polished, and it was quite enough that they would cut. They were made at those low prices in order to meet the competition with foreign manufactures. He repeated, that the hon. Member for Knaresborough had been grossly made use of, and if he had spoken the truth, he ought to have full scope to prove the charges he had made against the manufacturing interests.
§ Mr. M. Philips
thought the amendment of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J, Graham) extremely judicious. He was not there to palliate the practice of fraud in any branch of manufactures; but he must say, he thought a discussion like 854 the present would tend very greatly to the injury of the trade of this country by lessening this nation in the eyes of foreigners. On these grounds he should deprecate any inquiry into the allegations of the hon. Member for Knaresborough. With reference to the truck-system, he was not aware that it was practised in the district with which he was connected; but he candidly admitted it was adopted in many districts. There were numerous concerns in this kingdom, situate at such distances from towns that the workpeople employed were in a state of complete isolation. If the hon. Member for Knaresborough proposed to make any inquiry as to these alleged frauds, he would only complete half the investigation if he limited it to those branches of trade to which he had alluded; but if he extended it to others, he might consider his committee a permanent one, and might find frauds to the same extent in every trade. He thought, too, that the hon. Member, in some of his observations with reference to foreign trade, had much mistaken the position of this country with regard to that trade. The hon. Member had referred particularly to the trade between this country and Brazil, and seemed to think that it was owing to some imperfect—fraudulent, he believed, the hon. Member called it— mode of manufacturing British cotton goods, that we were losing our trade with that country. Now, the hon. Member must recollect that the manufacturers of this country were not allowed to send what quality of goods they pleased, but must submit to foreign orders, and he would only point out the peculiar character of a great part of the Brazilian trade to show that the British manufacturers were innocent in following the instructions that were sent to them. There had been, he regretted to say, an enormous slave traffick between Brazil and the coast of Africa, and many of the articles sent to the Brazil markets had been manufactured for the purposes of exchange between those sordid individuals, the slave-owners of Brazil, and the traffickers in human blood. He had himself been engaged in the Brazil trade, and it was with a Brazil merchant that he commenced his commercial life; but he had the pride of being able to gay, that the firm he joined, although engaged in that trade, never would sully its character or honour, or Christian feeling, by sending 855 one article of British manufacture to the Brazilian market which it knew would be destined to the African trade. He therefore felt that he came out of this question with clean hands. We had been driven from the continental markets, the most valuable for the sale of British cotton goods, to the most distant and poorest markets in the world, and the tendency had been to deteriorate the quality of the articles manufactured. The cause of that was, he thought, our having pursued an unwise policy in not exchanging our articles for the produce of the continent. We bad also not only been driven to those distant markets, but had been placed in competition with continental manufacturers. With regard to using paste in the manufacture of cotton goods, he would recommend the hon. Member for Knaresborough to visit the manufacturing districts, and to inquire whether it was possible to weave certain cotton fabrics without flour or paste. Recently, in consequence of the high price of flour, the article of sago had in some manufactories been substituted, for it. But he wished to point out the extent and importance of the use of flour as a necessary article in the manufacture of cotton goods, and for that purpose he would refer to the evidence of Mr. W. Graham, of Glasgow, who was examined before the committee in 1833. In his own firm that gentleman said they paid as much as 600l. or 700l. per annum for the flour they used, and he considered that on an average in the year not less than 41,050,000 lb. of flour were used in manufacturing cotton goods. The hon. Member had employed exceedingly strong terms in his condemnation of the manufacturers, and he thought that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had taken a very proper course in regard to the hon. Member's motion. He did not think that any legislative enactment could put down the frauds described by the hon. Member; but, knowing bow much this subject affected the happiness and prosperity of the working classes, he thought such an inquiry as was proposed by the right hon. Baronet would not be useless, and so far, therefore, he agreed with him on this subject.
§ Mr. Plumptre
doubted whether the practice of using paste in the manufacture of cotton goods justly came under the denomination of fraud; for he believed it 856 was the practice of the manufacturers to use it for the purpose of thickening certain cotton goods, and they did it openly and without concealment. As to the inferior nature of the articles, it must be remembered that inferior prices were paid for them.
Mr. R. Yorke
thought the original motion of the hon. Member for Knaresborough was the best form in which this question could be put; and recollecting, as he did, how the Government, as a body at least, cheered on the hon. Member when he made what were doubtless very strong allegations against the manufacturers, it was their bounden duty to leave the question in its original form.
§ Mr. Cobden
said, the question of the truck-system was first mooted on the fifth night of the discussion of the Corn-laws, and was mixed up with that discussion by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, who closed that night's debate with one of the most extraordinary and extravagant speeches ever heard in that House. It was full of charges against the Anti-Corn-law League, or those persons who advocated free-trade in corn, and the hon. Member was cheered on by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member had repeated those charges that evening, but had included in them the iron-masters in the neighbourhood of Glasgow. He had, indeed, gone further, and embraced within his charges the whole of the manufacturers of Ireland. He had taken down the words and distinctly stated that those were the words of the hon. Member. He had been so often subject to this recantation, that he took down the words. But what he wished to say was, that the manufacturers of Ireland, and the iron and coal-masters of Lanarkshire, who were not Members of the Anti-Corn-law League, were included in the charges. The hon. Member also took in the Midland counties, and included the iron-masters of Staffordshire and Wales, who were not prominent supporters of free trade doctrines. It appeared, then, that the charge was comprehensive and fair; that all manufacturers and miners were included in this charge of the truck-system. And what did he find on the other side but that a perfectly fair spirit prevailed. The right hon. Baronet had fairly laid the question before the House, and he approved of the whole plan laid down by him. But he would ask the right hon. Baronet why he 857 had not shown the same fairness before when the accusations were levelled at a political party? The right hon. Baronet then sat with a smile upon his countenance as complacently as on this occasion, when there was no longer any reason for allowing those charges to go forth. And what was the effect of the hon. Member's charges? They were printed and circulated throughout the manufacturing districts; and the organs of the press took up the subject and attacked the Anti-Corn-law League as being persons addicted to the truck-system. He did not attach much importance to the hon. Member's statements, because he feared that they were made on insufficient evidence, as he had proved in his own case. but he looked with considerable pain at the conduct of Members of the Administration, who allowed those calumnies on a great part of the manufacturers to go forth to the civilized world, and did not say one word in discouragement of the rapturous applause with which they were received on the other side. But it was no longer a party question. The whole of the manufacturing and mining interests were included in it. [" No."] Did the hon. Member charge the Anti-Corn-law party exclusively. [Mr. Ferrand, "No."] Then the hon. Member included all manufacturers and miners. But the question was taken out of the hon. Members hand's, and they had the motion of the right hon. Baronet before them. He therefore presumed that the committee would be fairly appointed from both sides of the House, and that the inquiry would embrace all parties. As to the consequences of the inquiry, he was perfectly at ease. With respect to the accusation of adulterating manufactures, he did not fear that any statements that were made in that House would have the least effect on our foreign trade. We were exporting more manufactured goods than all the countries of the continent put together, and did they think that if all the goods were spurious the sale would continue? If it was in regard to the home trade, then the remedy was in their own hands. The manufacturers said, "Give us free trade in corn, and you shall have free-trade in manufactures." If, again, labour was redundant in this country, let them widen the field of industry, and open greater sources of employment. The inquiry that was to be made could not affect those gigantic 858 capitalists of whom he had heard so much as being implicated in the truck-system, but would affect the indigent manufacturers, who were only able to keep themselves by the truck-system, which virtually had the effect of lowering wages.
§ Sir Robert Peel
was surprised at the tone in which the hon. Gentleman had spoken, and at the charges he had brought forward against his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham). He did not know under what peculiar obligation was his right hon. Friend to vindicate the Anti-Corn-law League. He had understood that this body had been pretty well represented in that House, and if they were charged with malpractices, surely these hon. Members would speak for them. How could his right hon. Friend, who knew nothing of their affairs, rise to defend them? A more intolerable inquisition than the hon. Member had established over the cheers and smiles of that side of the House he could not conceive. The hon. Member said—" You cheered, you were absolutely guilty of cheering; there was a smile upon your countenances, and therefore you sanctioned these imputations." Then it was said that this great party had circulated the speeches of the hon. Member for Knaresborough He had never heard of it, and he could not be responsible for such a distribution. It was just as unreasonable to say that the party took great interest in that speech, because it was distributed, as to make a reference to the Anti-Corn-law Circular, or some such publication, and inquire what part the hon. Gentleman took in its circulation. He thought it would be better if they left out those references to smiles and to cheers. If a motion had been made affecting the Corn-law League, he would have made proper inquiry, and would have acted from no party feeling, but upon the Corn-law debate it was not for him to vindicate the Anti-Corn-law League. This was the first time he had been called upon by any motion before Parliament to express his opinion, and he was now quite ready to say what course the House ought, in his opinion, to pursue in relation to the motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough. He was not prepared to go into any inquiry such as was proposed, nor into any inquiry into the frauds which were said to have been committed by members of the Anti- 859 Corn-law League; for he was not prepared to throw any such imputation upon them as was made, but he was prepared to go into any inquiry upon the principle upon which the House of Commons ought to undertake it. It was not sufficient to say that an hon. Gentleman had made a speech which contained matters of grave charge; because, if the House were to yield to every such provocation, hon. Members might at any time command an inquiry into any subject upon which they chose to make assertions in the nature of charges against any body of men; but they had to determine whether, upon other grounds, this inquiry was to be had. With regard to the first branch of the proposition of the hon. Member, he should be exceedingly sorry to be a member of a committee having to make such an investigation. First, he could not acquiesce in a course, the effect of which would be to throw such an imputation upon the great body of the manufacturers of this country; for the House of Commons to presuppose the manufacturers of this country, with qualification or exemption, to be concerned in the commission off frauds such as were suggested, would be to sanction an imputation to which he could not lend himself. He had no doubt that frauds were committed; and so long as the world existed such frauds would continue to be carried on, and dishonest men would be found, whose criminal ingenuity would evade the operation of any law which might be adopted. The best security against such frauds was that which was afforded by free competition, and by the preference which the exertions of an honourable and an honest man would always gain over those of a person whose conduct was characterised by fraud. And the second ground On which he should oppose this part of the motion was, that precautions such as those proposed to be taken very frequently defeated themselves—that when the legislative precaution was supposed to be sufficiently strong, private care and attention was in a great degree lost sight of, and so the door was opened to increased frauds!. He recollected that when he first went to Ireland the butter trade was one in which great frauds were supposed to exist, and, in order to provide against the evil effects produced by the system which had been carried on, it was determined that a butter taster. should 860 be appointed, and there was not a single firkin of butter went into the market which was not tasted by this officer, and stamped with the Government seal. The consequence of this was, that the tasted butter always fetched its price, and the ordinary precautions of the public against frauds being no longer employed, a false reliance was placed in the legislative precautions used, and the frauds in the trade increased tenfold. Depend upon it, the natural interest of the purchaser was his greatest security against fraud; and the man in whose conduct, both as respects the home and foreign consumer, the greatest integrity and honesty was displayed would eventually succeed the best. Therefore it was that he should decidedly object to any proposition which would bear upon the face of it a general imputation against the whole of the manufacturers of this country. He firmly believed that the manufacturers of the country were exempt from that imputation; and he never could consent to hold it out to foreign countries that the House of Commons had thought it necessary to institute an inquiry into the frauds of our manufacturers. But another reason for which he should disapprove of such an inquiry as was proposed was, that he was sure, that even confined as it was proposed to be by his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), it would be exceedingly difficult to see when there would be any probability of its termination. Referring to the truck system alone—that was a subject upon which he had had some experience, and upon entering into the discussion of such a question, it appeared, primâ facie, that the principle of any law to be agreed upon, should be, that all wages should be paid in the current coin of the realm. But he cautioned the House not to adopt any such view, because he believed that it would be found that it could not be sustained. Why, the Government itself was the largest truckmaster in the country. Let them take the navy or the army of this country; rations were paid to them both, and they were both supplied with clothes in lieu of pay, and this was a case in which the principle of the truck could not be departed from. In the course of any inquiry instituted into this subject, they would find gross and unwarrantable frauds, and he could imagine nothing worse than the conduct of a master who abused the 861 power which he possessed over his work-men, compelling them to purchase of him articles inferior to those which they could obtain elsewhere, but at the full price. He believed, however, that that was a state of things which existed, and he believed that even where a demand for labour existed, the master might yet possess the power to continue a system so obnoxious. It might be very difficult for the labourer, fixed by any ties to a particular spot, to escape from such a system; and when a master, directly or indirectly, compelled his workmen to deal with him without necessity, he said that it was a gross offence against society, and that he should rejoice to find that some law could be framed, which such a system could be effectually stopped. Cases would be found, however, where a system of truck was necessary; for in cases of mines and other works carried on in a part of the country remote from towns, and in a position where a daily visit to a town four or five miles distant, for the purchase of food, was requisite, for each of which a deduction would be made in the amount of wages to be received by the labourer, he thought that it would be admitted to be for the benefit of the workmen, that shops should be established in their own vicinity, even though it was by their masters, to supply their daily wants. Cases of this kind would be found, even where the masters had pursued a system of this kind to their own loss, the charges made by them for their commodities being perfectly fair and equitable. If such a system was contrary to law, undoubtedly it ought not to exist, but he believed that the result of any inquiry would show the extreme difficulty of getting rid of a mode of proceeding, in some instances so favourable to the men, whom it was supposed to injure. But taking the case of the rural labourer; he had heard it said that the measure the most prejudicial to the interests of this class of persons, was that which drove the farm labourer from the house of the farmer, and who by that means removed from him that moral check to which hitherto he bad been subjected by the watchful eye of his matter. But it was necessary to observe, that even this system of maintaining the labourers in rural districts had partaken of the truck system. While he Consented to this inquiry, therefore, in its modified form; while no one could repro- 862 bate more than he did the oppressive use of the authority of the master over his workmen, and still more the conduct of those men who passed off an inferior article to the labourers whom he employed, without affording him any option of purchase at the full price, he felt it his duty, in the first place, to notify to those who had had less experience than he had, that he thought that the time when the report of this committee would be made would be a very remote one; and that he also thought that they ought not to be too confident in their expectations of being able to put an end to the practice of paying wages in any way other than with the current coin of the realm.
§ Sir John Guest
stated, that he entirely concurred in the appointment of the committee, but knowing the time which must necessarily occur before the committee could report to the House, he felt it necessary to repel the charge brought by the hon. Member for Knaresborough against the whole of the iron trade of South Wales. He could most positively assert that in the iron works within the borough which he had the honour to represent, and which contained six of the largest of the iron works in the kingdom, not one farthing was stopped for goods, but the whole of the wages were regularly paid in the current coin of the realm; indeed he could say for himself, and which he would not do hut for the charge brought against him, that he employed about 5,000 workmen, and paid in wages last year 250,000l., every farthing of which was paid] in money. But although he exculpated the proprietors of works in Glamorganshire, he was bound to say that the truck-system did prevail in a very extensive degree in his neighbourhood in Monmouthshire, and his constituents were exceedingly anxious to have a stop put to it. Nor was it at all confined to bad times but prevailed always. Much had been said at to Members on that side of the House being parties to the truck-system; but he must say that an hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House, who had been so actively employed in prompting the hon. Member for Knaresborough, knew perfectly well that an iron-work in his immediate neighbourhood was most deeply implicated in this practice of the truck-system; indeed, so far did they carry it, that they not only compelled their workmen to purchase food, but they bad erected a brewery to supply the work- 863 men with beer also. He also stated that it was not done directly, but by advancing money in their shop, which they were compelled to buy goods with, or were discharged.
§ Mr. Alderman Copeland
had no hesitation in taking to himself the observations of the hon. Baronet (Sir John Guest) who had just sat down, in reference to the connection which he had with extensive iron works in Wales, or in stating the circumstances under which the shop to which the hon. Baronet had referred was carried on. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had well stated that there were occasionally circumstances which would justify the adoption of a system very like truck, and where the interests of the workmen themselves demanded that such a plan should be carried out, and he had instanced the case of mining operations carried on in the midst of a barren country, at a distance from any of the ordinary means of supplying the daily wants of a large body of persons. So far from the workmen of the iron works with which he was connected, being at all treated upon what was called ordinarily the truck system, he might venture to assert that each workman received his wages in the current coin of the realm, and that if he chose to deal at the shops established for his convenience he might do so, but that he might go elsewhere if he pleased; he denied that he was compelled to lay out his money in the particular way which had been asserted. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Guest) had spoken of his having prompted the hon. Member for Knaresborough in bringing this subject before the House; he had no hesitation in saying that he had been endeavouring to persuade his hon. Friend to accede to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, but he for one would most cordially have seconded the motion of his hon. Friend, for an inquiry, had he been in his place, and that it was only to the unavoidable circumstance of his having been absent from the House, that he had not presented himself as its seconder. But although he denied the existence of what was properly called the truck system in the iron works of Rhymney, he could not but state, that in the Staffordshire Potteries, and iron districts of South Staffordshire, with which he was also connected, it did exist to a very con- 864 siderable extent. He believed that in these districts it was not only carried on to a great extent as regarded the provisions of the labourers and the renting of their cottages, but that the working men were compelled to go even to the place of worship which their employers pointed out, and that the rental of their seats in chapel was deducted from their wages. This was an astounding fact; but be believed that if the inquiry took place, he should have no difficulty in proving it. The hon. Member concluded by expressing a hope that the hon. Member for Knaresborough would accede to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department.
§ Mr. E. Turner
protested against the supposition that the wages of the working classes of Cornwall were paid in any way except in the current coin of the realm.
§ Mr. C. Villiers
said, that after all that had been stated with respect to the truck system, and with respect to the admission that it did exist, and that to a considerable extent, as well as with respect to the circumstances under which it did exist, and the great difficulty of preventing its continuance—and feeling that he was in some degree answerable for this motion having been brought forward, he thought that he was called upon to say a few words to the House. He thought, that the hon. Member, for the satisfaction of his own mind and of the House, after the charges which the hon. Member had brought forward, the hon. Member was bound to move for this inquiry in the terms which he had originally proposed. The hon. Member had proposed an investigation into the question of whether these frauds did exist, and whether those persons whom he charged with them did evade the law. The hon. Member had proposed to prove the affirmative of these two propositions: that was what the hon. Member ought to be allowed to prove. He should support the motion of the hon. Member, and he could not think that the hon. Member would act wisely as regarded his own character, and the interests affected by this inquiry, if he confined the investigation to anything short of that which he had originally proposed. The hon. Member for Knaresborough had thought proper to make personal allusion to him with respect to a memorial which he had asked permission to read to the House, but which he had been unable to read in consequence of the etiquette of the House; and the hon. Gentleman had said, 865 that he was surprised that he should have brought a memorial from Yorkshire to which forged signatures were attached. The memorial which he had produced had been prepared in consequence of the statements made by the hon. Member when a similar memorial had been presented by him on behalf of 106 manufacturers in Lancashire, that he dared not attempt to bring such a memorial from Yorkshire. He had, in answer to that taunt, produced this 'memorial, in which it was distinctly denied, that there was one word of truth in anything that the hon. Member had said. He knew nothing of the parties who signed this memorial at the time, and as it had been decided that it would be out of order for him to read it to the House, he had sent it to the public newspapers, in order that the hon. Gentleman might refute the allegations contained in it, if they were untrue. The hon. Member not only charged the parties who had signed this memorial with practising the truck system themselves, but he had said also that some of the signatures appended to the document were forged. This, he thought, afforded an additional reason why the committee which he sought to obtain should be granted. With reference to this allegation of the hon. Member, to which he had last alluded, he had not only letters from the persons to whom this conduct was imputed, denying the truth of what the hon. Member had said, but he had had other memorials sent to him supporting that which he had first received, but which, of course, he could not produce to the House. He thought, therefore, that it. was incumbent on the hon. Member to press his motion in its terms on the attention of the House, and that he could not, in justice to himself, withdraw any portion of it.
§ Mr. Hardy
objected to the motion in its present form, for there was no knowing to what extent it would go; and he thought, that under all the circumstances, it was most inexpedient to agree to such a proposition. It had been justly said, that the frauds which our manufacturers might practise abroad were of a nature that must soon remedy themselves; but there was another part of the inquiry which appeared to him most material, and that related to the frauds practised by master manufacturers on the persons whom they employed. Into that subject it was high time that they should institute an inquiry for the immediate purpose of ascertaining if there were any means by which frauds of that nature 866 could be prevented. There was no one who took the trouble to make himself acquainted with the real condition of the manufacturers, who [could for a moment doubt, that they were to be found in some places in a state of perfect oppression, and they might, to some extent, be considered in a state of slavery, which one could not suppose to be possible in such a country as England. For the purpose of putting an end to that, and for the purpose of preventing its recurrence, some enactment might probably be deemed necessary. Much had, in former discussions on this subject, been said against the truck system, but he must be allowed to say, that that system was not altogether without its advantages: in many places it proved of great use, for it protected the working man against the frauds of small shopkeepers, who gave him, whenever they could, bad articles at a high price, and frequently contrived to get the working man into his debt, and to exercise over him an unendurable tyranny by means of law expenses and their inevitable consequences. To counteract those frightful mischiefs the master manufacturers in several places had established warehouses, where in many cases they sold goods to the working people in their employment, not merely without profit, but frequently at considerable loss, and that from no other motive than to save those poor persons from the frauds of shopkeepers, or the necessity of travelling great distances to market towns. Though he was not favourable to going so far as a portion of the motion proposed to carry them, yet he thought a case had been made out. for agreeing to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the operation of the law as suggested by the right hon. Baronet. On the whole, he was opposed to the revival of those absurd regulations interfering with the freedom of trade by which the legislation of our ancestors were so disadvantageously marked. Having troubled the House with these few brief observations, he should merely say, that he intended to vote for the amendment proposed by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department. If the hon. Mover went further than that, he would aim at accomplishing impossibilities —if he wished to be useful, he would content himself with the amendment proposed by the right hon. Baronet.
§ Dr. Bowring
objected to the generalisations in which hon. Gentlemen on the other side so largely dealt; the effect of 867 them was more pernicious than perhaps many Members at all supposed—nothing could be more injurious to the interests of this country than to have it supposed that our merchants were in the habit of vending bad articles, or of committing frauds upon their customers on the continent. He had had many opportunities of estimating the character of our merchants and manufactures; of comparing their character and their conduct with those of the merchants of other nations, and he did them no more than bare justice when he said that their honour and reputation stood higher than those of the merchants of any nation on the face of the earth. He thought, therefore, that it was alike unjust and unwise to indulge in any complaints against the quality of the merchandise sent abroad, and he always was of opinion that nothing could be more absurd than any attempt to imitate the pernicious interference which our ancestors were so ready to practise in all that related to commerce and manufactures. Instances could be adduced in which manufactures had actually perished from unwise but well-intended interference. Our object should be to emancipate, but not to enthral, our manufactures.
§ Sir C, M. Burrell
confessed, that he did not think the assertions made by the last speaker were at all borne out by the facts; he thought, on the contrary, that the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, and the speeches of other Members of that House, could leave no doubt on the minds of those who heard them that frauds were occasionally committed by British merchants, and upon that ground, as well as for other reasons, he did think that the hon. Mover was fully justified in the course which he had taken, and he sincerely wished that the House would afford the working classes an opportunity of being heard before a committee. The hon. Mover had done his duty by manfully and fearlessly bringing the question under the consideration of Parliament.
§ Mr. Ferrand
observed, that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Dorchester had said that his second resolution was useless—that the standing order was sufficient for all the purposes which could be required; but he would ask how were the suffering parties to be indemnified? To that it was necessary that a reply should be given. He was extremely anxious that the working classes should derive some benefit from the motion which he had made, and rather than lose the advantage 868 of it altogether he should agree to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. It was said that the people might make their complaints known by means of the right of petition; but let it not be forgotten that even petitioning was attended with a degree of expense which poor men could not always defray. But the main question was this, did the standing orders sufficiently protect those witnesses who might come before committees, and who were disposed to speak the truth? In his opinion, it was absolutely necessary that they should have more protection than the standing order in its present state was capable of affording to men who, the moment they returned from London after giving their evidence, were in danger of losing their employments. He, under all the circumstances, thought it best to accept the proposition of the right hon. Member for Dorchester; but the House might rest satisfied that that would not supersede the demands of the people. Those demands would go on from day to day, increasing and gaining ground, until at length Parliament would see the necessity of granting the sort of inquiry which he wanted.
§ Amendment agreed to, and select Committee appointed, in accordance with the motion of Sir J. Graham.