§ The consideration of Clause 2 was resumed.
moved that the word "silk" be omitted from the second clause. The provisions of the Bill, he thought, would have a most injurious effect, if applied to the silk manufacture. He did not wish by a side-wind to thwart the benevolent intentions of any party: but the persons connected with the silk trade were anxious that the distinctions hitherto recognized between that and other trades should be continued; and that regulations applied to them should be applied to them only, and not comprehended in regulations appli- 1372 cable to other branches of manufacture. He adverted to the progress of legislation on the subject of the silk trade, and observed, that the present was the first time that it had been included in one general measure affecting other trades, and he was at a loss to understand on what grounds. The general provisions of the present Bill would be very injurious to the silk manufacture, on account of the peculiar nature of that manufacture. We understood the hon. Gentleman also to observe, that a great number of children were required in the silk manufacture; that they were not exposed to unpleasant effluvia in the manufacture, and that the masters afforded every facility for education. He thought it necessary to legislate cautiously with regard to such great interests.
§ Sir J. Graham
assured his hon. Friend that he was anxious to deal with caution in reference to the great manufacturing interest brought under the consideration of the Committee, and he also admitted that the silk manufacture had been treated distinctly from the other manufactures included in the Bill. The effect of his hon. Friend's proposition was to take the silk manufacture out of the operation of the present Bill, and to that he could not agree. If there was any portion of the present legislation more defensible than another it was that which extended legislative protection to children. They were comparatively defenceless, and did not exercise with respect to labour an independent will; and the poverty of the parents induced them too often, in spite of their natural affection, to overwork their children, in order to obtain a larger amount of wages. Thus the Legislature appeared to have thought, and its efforts on this subject—at first confined, at the commencement of this century, to apprentices—were subsequently extended to children generally, if employed in factories. At the present moment, in respect to the silk trade, there was no limitation whatever with regard to the age at which children might be employed, and they might be employed at the early age of six or seven years. There was a limitation with respect to the time of their employment, which could not extend beyond ten hours a day, from the time they entered the factory until they attained the age of thirteen years. There was also another regulation to the effect, that children employed in silk manufactories did not require that certificate of education which was necessary in 1373 other cases. He, therefore, thought it was important that with respect to these points the children employed in the silk trade should be brought under the general operation of the Bill; and such was the opinion formed by the Committee which sat in 1841. There was, however, a broad difference between the various processes attending the silk manufacture. The Committee to which he had referred reported that a measure ought to be adopted for the purpose of bringing the children employed in the silk trade within the law, and that they saw no reason why the spinning process of the silk trade should not be placed under the same regulations as spinning in cotton, flax, and worsted mills. With respect to the other processes of "winding" and "throwing," the Committee came to a different recommendation, and stated, that from the great number of children absolutely required, it would be extremely difficult to introduce with regard to those processes the same regulations as were applicable to cotton and other mills. Thus, the Committee in 1841, recommended that the children in the spinning process of the silk manufacture should be brought under the operation of the law as applicable to cotton factories. To give full effect to this recommendation of the Committee, he had to state the course which he should propose to be adopted. He must resist the proposition of his hon. Friend, which would take the silk manufacture entirely out of the operation of the present Bill, and should propose to retain the word "silk" where it now stood; but with reference to the 75th clause, which alluded particularly to the silk manufacture, he would state what he intended to propose with respect to the processes of "winding" and "throwing" silk. They must bear in mind that a very large proportion of children to adults, he believed a proportion of four to one, was employed in this part of the manufacture. He should therefore, propose, instead of limiting the clause as it was now limited, to omit the words "1st. day of October, 1846." The consequence would be that no children in silk manufactories would be employed more than six-and-a-half hours a-day, under the general provisions of the Bill, between the ages of eight and eleven years; hut between the ages of eleven and thirteen years the children might be employed for ten hours in "winding" and "throwing" silk; and when they passed the age of thirteen years they would return under the general provisions of the Bill; and the period of their 1374 employment would be limited in accordance with whatever decision might be come to in respect to the hours of labour. He had reason to believe that this arrangement would be satisfactory to the silk manufacturers generally; he hoped it would be so to the hon. Member, and that the Motion would be of consequence withdrawn.
§ Mr. Labouchere
had felt some apprehension with regard to this particular clause, but he thought after what the right hon. Baronet had said, that the objections of the silk trade had been fairly met, and that the present proposition would doubtless give general satisfaction. He agreed that it was not desirable to see the silk trade excluded from the provisions of a general Factory Bill. If the Legislature were to secure to the children the blessings of education and to guard them against over work, it was surely quite as necessary that the Bill should apply to labour in silk factories as to labour in any other Factories.
§ Mr. Grimsditch
expressed an opinion that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet would prove satisfactory to the trade.
§ Sir G. Strickland
had been a member of the Committee appointed in 1841 to consider the effect of labour upon children in the silk factories, and he must say, that he had been greatly surprised at hearing the interpretation which the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) had put upon the Report which the Committee had presented. If he remembered right, it was almost the universal impression amongst the members of that Committee that the silk manufacturers had made out no case whatever for exemption from the provisions of this enactment. It was proved before that Committee that the children were employed in rooms which were extremely hot; that they were employed twelve hours a-day; that during the whole of that time they were either running about or standing on their legs, and that very often they did not cover, in the course of the twelve hours, less than from fifteen to twenty miles of ground. One surgeon, a gentleman of Derby, whose evidence he perfectly recollected, had stated that he was employed by the masters in his district, and that his opinions were very strong against any limitation of the hours of labour. He said that twelve hours' exertions was healthy and useful to the children. Some Member of the Committee asked him if he was the father of any young children himself, to which he replied in the affirmative. "Do you make them stand on their 1375 legs twelve hours a-day for the good of their health, and walk twenty miles besides?" was the next interrogatory, to which the only rejoinder was that "they were not labourers." It was impossible that the House should fail to see that the children could not endure such Herculean tasks without contortion and deformity. He was glad the right hon. Baronet had conceded so much as he had; he only wished he had conceded more. He feared, too, that his arrangement would be generally liable to invasion, and he particularly referred to the intended difference between the hours of labour of children under and above eleven years of age, as opening a door for fraud in every possible shape.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
said, that if the hon. Member for Cheshire persisted in pressing his motion he should certainly divide with him. He was the representative of a body of persons in Dorsetshire who were engaged in silk-throwing. On their part he had made a representation to the right hon. Baronet, not claiming any exemption from the protection very properly bestowed by Parliament upon young persons, but stating that the difference between their manufactures and the woollen and cotton manufactures was so great, that the regulations which applied to the one could scarcely be considered applicable to the others. The reply which he had received from the right hon. Baronet embodied the proposal the right hon. Baronet had made that night, and was, he was bound to say, satisfactory to his constituents. At the same time, however, he thought it would be better to leave them altogether out of the Bill, and he should therefore vote for this amendment if it were pressed to a division.
§ Mr. Strutt
thought the hon. Baronet, the Member for Preston, had no doubt unintentionally made most extraordinary misstatements respecting the Report of the Committee of which he had been a Member in 1841. There was hardly a word which the hon. Baronet had stated which could be borne out. The hon. Baronet had first of all told them that the children engaged in the silk trade worked in a very high temperature. Now, it happened that precisely the reverse was the fact; for, whilst in the cotton trade the temperature was necessarily high, in the silk trade it was necessarily low, and indeed the silk manufacture could not by any possibility be carried on in au unduly heated room. 1376 The hon. Baronet had further said, that it had been proved by a surgeon belonging to the town which he had the honour to represent, that children in silk factories had been known to run from fifteen to twenty miles a-day. Now, he had a perfect recollection of the evidence referred to, and what was the fact? The surgeon in question stated, no doubt, that he had known children run backwards and forwards from fifteen to twenty miles a-day in pursuance of their occupation as silk-workers, but he had stated the circumstance as a curious fact; and he had said that it occurred, not in a silk-mill—not in any factory that came within the scope of the operations of this enactment—but in a mill for the manufacture of sewing-silk, which was conducted on somewhat the same principle as rope-making, and in which it was necessary for children to run from one end to the other of the building many times during the hours they were employed. The hon. Baronet had also said, that it was a common practice to work children in silk-mills from twelve to fourteen hours a-day, and that that labour was stated not to be injurious to health. Now, there was not a single silk-mill in Derby which worked more than ten hours a day, nor, he believed, was there one proprietor of a silk mill in that town who desired to work more. As to the question which had been put to the surgeon about his own children, he did not recollect that circumstance, but he trusted he had shown that the hon. Member had not sufficiently refreshed his memory upon those subjects to enable him to give quotations with any assurance of accuracy. Upon the general question he (Mr. Strutt) must own that, though he would rather the silk trade had been left out of the Bill altogether, yet that upon the whole be was satisfied with the right hon. Baronet's proposal, and trusted, therefore, that the amendment now before them would be withdrawn.
Mr. T. Egerton
said, that the general feeling being that the proposal of the Government was satisfactory to the trade, he would not attempt to press the Amendment he had brought forward.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On clause 8. No young person or female adult to be employed in a factory in any one day more than—hours.
§ Mr. Sheppard,
before any discussion was taken on this clause, wanted to make a short explanation. He had, in the course of private conversation, mentioned 1377 to several Members of the House that he was sure that the manufacturers in Frome, the town which he represented, were satisfied to employ women and children ten hours a-day. At the time he had said this he had felt a conviction that the fact was as he had stated it, but he had not visited the town for three or four years, and, consequently, was not, it seemed, so well aware of all the facts relating to the employment of its labourers as he should have been. The truth was, as he was now instructed, that the children were altogether excluded from employment in the factories at Frome, and that the labour of young persons was substituted. The men spinners worked there for twelve hours a-day, the women and young persons attending the spindles. He was told that a reduction of two hours from the labour period of the day would inflict a serious injury upon the export trade of the town, particularly at a time when the Belgians were so actively competing with them. He felt it right to make this explanation; and he thanked the House for the attention with which they had heard it.
Mr. V. Smith
said, that upon the words, "no female of any age," in this Clause had turned in fact the whole of the discussion on a previous occasion, as far as the proposal of his noble Friend was concerned. The chief argument was this—that they were restricting labour in the manufactories, and thereby preventing the prosperity arid increase of manufactures, and the competition with foreign nations. It appeared to him that the principal, and indeed the only new restriction in the Act, was the labour of female adults. In two instances the House had decided that they would interfere in behalf of the helpless; not indeed between master and child, but between parent and child, upon the principle that the parents were in such a condition as to make their children frequently, to the injury of health, support them by their earnings. The only argument made use of by the right hon. Baronet the other evening was in favour of the restriction as to married women—that labour in factories might be injurious to women with child, or married women; but he had heard no argument to establish a difference between a man above twenty-one, and a woman above twenty-one, as regarded labour in factories. He should, therefore, be glad if the right hon. Baronet would explain upon what ground he im- 1378 posed a restriction upon the labour of women who were equally capable of determining how far they should employ themselves for profit as men were of a similar age.
§ Sir J. Graham
believed this was the first time any restriction was placed on female labour, and he certainly felt it was a restriction questionable on principle, and an exception to all legislation on such subjects. He had stated, and believed it to be true, that female adults, as well as male adults, tempted by a love of high wages, and honest gain, were disposed to flock to factories where labour might be obtained for a longer period than twelve hours. On the other hand there was every reason to believe that a limit of twelve hours to female labour was absolutely necessary to their health under the peculiar circumstances more especially to which the right hon. Gentleman had adverted. Now, he was bound to state as with respect to children, so with respect to females, that being the weaker part of the community, and married women being under the influence of their husbands, they were often tempted to labour under a desire of gain to an extent not consistent with their health. This was an exception certainly, to the general rule, which ought to guide Legislation on this delicate subject, but it was under the pressure of these exceptions that his noble Friend had urged the limit of ten hours instead of twelve, which he (Sir James Graham) thought dangerous and inexpedient. He was bound, therefore, to say that, arguing this question on principle, he could not give to the right hon. Gentleman a satisfactory answer. At the same time he must state that a general practice had been established in the greater portion of the large manufactories that the term of twelve hours' labour should not be exceeded by females.
§ On the question that the blank in the Clause be filled with the word "twelve," applying to the labour of young children and females,
§ Lord Ashley
said, it was not his intention to detain the Committee by any lengthened observations, and he would state in a few words his reasons for urging the amendment of which he had given notice. He would, however, first call the attention of his right hon. Friend opposite to the Report of the factory inspectors. They allowed that in theory these females were considered free agents, yet that in practice they were no such thing. Now, in the Report of Mr. Horner, in October, 1843, he said, 1379I recently investigated a case in Manchester, in a large mill, where they are now employing workers above eighteen years of age, many of them young women just arrived at that time of life, from half-past five in the morning until eight o'clock at night, with no cessation from work, except a quarter of an hour for breakfast and three-quarters of an hour for dinner; so that these persons, having to be out of bed at five o'clock in the morning, and not getting home till half-past eight o'clock at night, may fairly be said to labour fifteen hours and a half out of the twenty-four. A theorist may say that these people are old enough to take care of themselves. But, practically, there can be no such thing as freedom of labour, when, from the redundancy of population, there is such a competition for employment." (Hear.)Exactly so; he understood that cheer of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ward); all he wanted the hon. Member to admit was that which he now stated; the hon. Member might provide another remedy for the evil, but he only wanted the hon. Gentleman to deal with the fact as he found it. But Mr. Horner proceeded:—Twelve hours' daily work is more than enough for any one; but, however desirable it might be that excessive working should be prevented, there are great difficulties in the way of legislative interference with the labour of adult men. The case, however, is very different as respects women; for not only are they much less free agents, but they are physically incapable of bearing a continuance of work for the same length of time as men, and a deterioration of their health is attended with far more injurious consequences to society.This was the opinion of those Gentlemen who had devoted nearly twelve years to the consideration of this subject, telling them as the result of their experience that females employed in factories were not free agents, and that it was the duty of the House to interfere for them as though they were persons having no self-government or control. It was the invariable opinion of medical men upon that point, and he had never heard it dissented from either by persons in the employment of labour or the labourers themselves, that those females could not be considered as free agents. He would now refer to an opinion that was given in the former debate that Mr. Horner had been giving any opinion in favour of a limitation of labour to ten hours. Now, it happened, that Mr. Horner had given a very important opinion on that subject—one of the most valuable he had seen. In his Report of December, 1841, he said:—There can be but little doubt that working 1380 ten hours a-day would be more favourable to health, and the enjoyment of life, than twelve hours can be; hut, without entering into the question of health, no one will hesitate, I think, to admit that, in a moral point of view, so entire an absorption of the time of the working classes, without intermission from the early age of thirteen, and in trades not subject to restriction much younger, must be extremely prejudicial, and is an evil greatly to be deplored. Some there are, undoubtedly, who by more than ordinary natural energy overcome this disadvantage, but with the great mass it has the effect of rendering them ignorant, prejudiced, addicted to coarse sensual indulgence, and susceptible of being led into mischief and violence by any appeal to their passions and prejudices. With so few opportunities of mental culture and of moral and religious training, it is surprising that there should be so many virtuous and respectable people among them.Mr. Horner then proceeded to show the necessity of a portion of the day being assigned to instruction, and said:—No remedies can be so securely relied on (and they are attainable if the country will consent to give the requisite funds) as of education.Not only that, but to practice that which they might have acquired. Mr. Horner then said, the remedy of such an education, however sure, must be slow in its effects; but much might be done for the existing generation of adolescents, and even adults, by good evening schools, for those at least whose hours of work would enable them to attend schools; and the second remedial measure I have named would save thousands from the public-house and its long train of accompanying vices. Many had said that the reduction of the hours of labour would lead to a reduction of wages: but he would ask the House, whether it were better to have a sound and moral population with a small amount of wages, or a people worse as to their moral condition, but in what might be called a far better financial position? Mr. Horner, who had made this inquiry, had conducted it with the greatest attention and accuracy, and he thought it was not possible for any man to evince more zeal than Mr. Horner had shown in acquiring information upon this subject. But there was one very important fact connected with this subject of wages which showed the accuracy and fairness of Mr. Horner. He gave a long detail of the effect of a reduction of the hours of labour on the condition of the labourer, but at the same time he told them that all the information he had received as to wages had 1381 been obtained from millowners only; that he had endeavoured to obtain statements from the operatives themselves, but without success. Observe that in this great and important question, Mr. Horner stated most fairly that he gave only one side of the case—that he was not able to obtain one opinion from the operatives. That statement, therefore, must be received as Mr. Horner intended it should be, with very great allowances. When he entered into these details, it might appear that he was travelling out of the line he had proposed, but he wished only to put the question upon the great and broad principles of justice and humanity; and when it was said that his proposition, as compared with that of the Government, was the more inhuman of the two, it was necessary for him to prove that, at any rate, whether they concurred or not in the course he took, the proposition he made could be borne out by certain statements of the operatives themselves. This question of the reduction of wages was no new question. It had even been urged as a preliminary argument against any reduction of labour. It was one of the chief arguments in 1816, 1817, and 1818, before the hours of labour were reduced from sixteen to twelve hours a-day. It was the same in 1833, but in both instances the prediction was contradicted by evidence. He recollected perfectly well that it was said, in respect of those children who were put on half-time in 1833, that they would lose in their earnings; but had any such result taken place! Quite the reverse. When he went into the manufacturing districts in 1836, he inquired what had been the effect upon the wages of the children, and he found that in almost every instance—certainly in worsted and in a great part of the cotton manufactures—wages had continued precisely the same, and children for eight hours work got as much as they did formerly for twelve hours' work. There was the same prediction in 1818. But there was a curious statement made at the time, in a petition for restricting the time of labour in the cotton factories, which was presented by Sir Robert Peel, the father of his right hon. Friend; and in presenting that petition he made these remarks:—He rose to present a petition which, he said, was unanimously signed by a class of men who had rendered as great service to the country by their industry and skill as any body of persons of the same order in society. The 1382 petitioners had come to him most unexpectedly, but he felt that they were entitled to his peculiar attention. They were aware that the attainment of their object must be attended with a reduction of wages; but, anxious for health, and wishing to enjoy some of the comforts of life, they were willing to submit to that sacrifice. He had had a communication with some of these poor men this morning, and he could not hear that statement, or witness their appearance, which confirmed their statement, without shedding tears. As the House valued the trade of the country, it could not fail to feel for the sufferings and consider the interests of those by whom that trade was supported. How then would the gentlemen who heard him regard those poor petitioners, who, in rooms badly ventilated and much overheated, were compelled to work from fourteen to fifteen hours a-day? Young persons might endure such labour; but, after a certain period of life, it became intolerable, Premature old age, accompanied by incurable disease, was too often the consequence of excessive labour in such places. He had himself been long concerned in the cotton trade; and, from a strong conviction of its necessity, he brought in a Bill for the purpose of regulating the work of apprentices; but since that Bill had passed into a law masters declined to take apprentices, and employed the children of paupers without any limitation. Hence the law was evaded and rendered ineffective for the object which it had in view, the prevention of inhumanity; and he hoped it was not inconsistent with our Constitution to legislate for the protection of children as well as grown persons against the harshness of their employers. Those immediately concerned in the cotton trade did not perhaps perceive the injury to health which their workmen suffered, as they were in the habit of seeing them every day; but the injury was obvious to every stranger. Such facts were detailed in this petition as presented an appeal which could not be withstood by any assemblage of Gentlemen susceptible of common humanity; and these poor people had no other protection but in that House.The Report stated, that the hon. Baronet manifested throughout very great emotion, and his statement was listened to with profound attention. Now if the statements of the hon. Members for Durham and Manchester as to the amount of wages in the cotton factories were correct, he thought they would agree to his position; because they had shown that the cotton manufacturers were in receipt of such large wages, they could very well afford to give up a portion of those wages; and if, at the same time that it was shown they could And to do so, it was also shown that they were willing to bear with the abatement, he could not understand how 1383 that House could stand up against it. He would now just refer to some little details connected with the domestic condition of operative families in the manufacturing districts. He believed he would be able to show by these statements, which had been furnished by several families, that there was no reason to apprehend any bad result to the operatives from a reduction of wages consequent on the reduction of the time of work from twelve to ten hours. He would suppose the case of a single woman working in a factory and earning 9s. a-week. He hoped the House would allow him to read these statements, for they would prove the case of the operatives—that they had nothing to fear from a reduction of wages consequent on a reduction of work. A single woman, earning 9s. a-week, would have to pay at least 6d. a-week for washing; the expense of making arid mending her clothes would be 4d. a-week; and the cost of her tea, which was, under the existing system, carried to her in the mill, but which, if the period of labour were reduced to ten hours, she might get out of the mill, was 1½d. a-day, or 7¼d. a-week. Her total expenses, therefore, in consequence of her confinement in the mill, and her inability to perform certain domestic duties, would be 1s. 5½d. a-week. But suppose the case of the same person under the ten hour system; and suppose that the reduction of one-sixth of the present period of labour was attended with a reduction of one-sixth of her amount of wages. She would then be a gainer of ½d. a-week, because she would be able to wash and repair her own clothes, and to take her meals at home. That was the case of a single woman, stated by herself. But he would refer to another statement of the expenses of a family of five persons, three of whom worked in a mill twelve hours a-day, the father being out of employment, and the mother and two children working in the mill. The mother obtained 10s. a-week, the eldest child 4s., and the other 3s.; making the total weekly receipts of the family 17s. But what were the outgoings under the present system? The expense of washing, which they were obliged to send out, and mangling, was 2s. a-week; it cost them 1s. a-week to employ a woman to assist the husband—who remained at home, performing the domestic work—in cleaning the house; and a further expense of 1s. a-week was incurred by the necessity of sending meals out to the mills. Hon. Gentlemen were aware that, 1384 if a family dined together, each person satisfied his appetite, and any food which remained might be kept for a subsequent meal; but if the meals of each member of the family were sent to different mills any surplus food was likely to be wasted. A very considerable weekly saving would therefore result from families being able to take their meals together. But there was another source of loss to be taken into account—that which arose from the cooking being performed by the husband. He (Lord Ashley) believed that no man, whether Frenchman or Englishman, could cook so economically as a woman. The loss which resulted from cooking being performed by the husband might be calculated at 1s. a-week. The total loss of the family was, therefore, 5s. a-week; this sum, deducted from the wages of 17s., left 12s. a-week for rent, provisions, clothing, and other necessary expences. But he would state the expences of the same family under the ten hour system, supposing that the rate of wages was reduced in the same proportion as the hours of labour—by one-sixth. The total wages of the family would then be 14s. 2d. a-week; but mark what economy resulted from the happier circumstances in which they were placed. The washing and mangling, which were formerly sent out, would now in a great measure be done by the women, in consequence of their reaching borne earlier, and it might therefore be calculated that the cost of washing, &c., would not exceed 1s. a-week. Then his informant calculated that the cost of employing a woman to assist the husband and wife in cleaning those parts of the house which required the hardest work would be 6d. a-week. The total expence to which the family would be put for these purposes would thus be only 1s. 6d. per week, leaving a balance of 12s. 8d. to meet rent, provisions, and clothing. This statement proved, he thought most satisfactorily, that a family which under the twelve hour system received 17s. a-week, and under the ten hour system 14s. 2d., would, under the latter system, effect a saving of 8d. a-week. These were statements with which he had been furnished by operatives themselves; and he would now refer to another communication which he had received from an operative, the head of a family, and a man of considerable ability. His informant took the case of a family of four persons, all working in different factories. What were their expences? In each case tea had to be sent separately. 1385The expence and inconvenience of this system, (said the writer), is, that whatever state of appetite the parties are in, the full amount of victuals sent is either consumed or destroyed, by which much waste is occasioned. In working ten hours a day, three meals would be quite sufficient, and ranch more conducive to health than four under the present regulation,—dinner between one and two o'clock, and again an evening meal about six o'clock, would be quite ample for the day.He had been told by operative spinners that, under the present system of working twelve hours a day, their exhaustion was so great, that it was absolutely necessary they should have at least four meals a-day; but that, with a reduced period of labour, they would be content with three meals per day. They stated, that under the existing system, they were obliged to take food even without appetite, as a stimulus to enable them to go through the closing hours of their day's work. The writer of the letter from which he had been quoting proceeded,—By this means a meal would be saved, besides the domestic advantages of all taking our meals together. When the writer of this note worked ten hours a day, in the latter end of 1842, he never had more than three meals a-day, all plain food at home. When working twelve hours in the same mill afterwards, he was obliged to have extras (say a little ham) for his tea, but which he found by no means so adequate to the maintenance of his strength as short hours and plainer food. When the ten hours a-day (short time) was going on in 1842, the persons in the mill established a school, and bought themselves forms, &c., and were taught by some of the spinners to write and read; when the mill commenced working twelve hours the school was abandoned, and all desire for learning almost extinguished.But they must take into consideration that, in consequence of the members of the family being employed in different mills, it was the work of one child to carry their meals to the several mills, and the labour of that child was consequently lost. The general result, then, of the reduction of the hours of labour would be this,—that one meal would be saved, the other meals would be greatly economized, and the labour of the child now employed in carrying the meals might be turned to good account. But there was another consideration more important than any he had yet mentioned. It was calculated, and he believed the statement would be confirmed by every operative spinner, that, if the hours of 1386 labour were reduced from twelve to ten, it would have the effect of prolonging, by at least three years, the duration of the working life of the operatives. It had been said, that such a measure would prolong their working life for five years; but he had not the slightest doubt it would prolong it for at least three years. There was only one other fact—a very remarkable one—to which he would call the attention of the House, as showing the moral character of females in the manufacturing districts. He found, from tables showing the number of criminal offenders in England and Wales in 1841, thatThe proportion of females committed for offences is much greater in the manufacturing and commercial counties than in the agricultural. On a comparison of thirteen agricultural and thirteen manufacturing counties the aggregate proportion was—in the agricultural counties only one female to 601 males; in the manufacturing and commercial counties one female to 388 males.He begged to apologize to the House for having detained them so long; but he was anxious to show what were the feelings of the operatives on this subject—that they did not entertain any fear of the effects of a reduction of wages; indeed, he thought he had shown by the statements he had quoted, that a reduction of wages combined with a reduction of the hours of labour, would be to their advantage. Do allow me (continued the noble Lord) to appeal to the House to consider the position in which this question now stands. Let Her Majesty's Government recollect that this is no new proposition—that it is not now brought forward for the first time; but that for twelve years past this question has gradually been growing up to its present magnitude. For twelve years it has been the subject of deep thought and deliberation, and I entreat you to bear in mind the position in which the question now stands. After a majority in this House—and a majority so constituted, comprising the representatives of the greatest commercial constituencies in this Kingdom, and backed, moreover, by the fervid and undying sympathies of the country—after such a majority has affirmed my proposition, do Her Majesty's Government think it wise, do they think it just, to reverse that decision by the simple exercise of official authority? I appeal to the House whether, having excited the hopes and expectations of the people, they will now rescind their former decision, and 1387 disappoint those animating and fervid anticipations which are entertained by the great body of the manufacturing operatives? I do hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this noble and august Assembly will consider its own character—that it will not so speedily reverse its own decision; but that it will have some regard to the character it has to maintain before this country, and before all the nations of the world. But do Her Majesty's Government really think that this cause will not eventually triumph? Do they suppose that the principles and feelings which have been excited in the minds of the people will ever rest before the desired consummation is attained? I am convinced that, though you may succeed to-night—not that I believe you will—though you may succeed to-night, the effect of your success will only be to give additional vigour and determination to those who have so long advocated this cause, and to those whose interests are involved. And what will you have gained? If you succeed in your attempt to defeat my proposal to-night, you will have gained nothing but a little prolongation of suffering and toil; and, depend upon it, the sympathies of mankind and the feeling of this country will compel you to surrender your position, and you will surrender at last, when concession shall have lost all its grace, and I fear not a little of its remedial power. The House would of course understand, that if his proposal to limit factory-labour to ten hours should be affirmed, he would move the proviso of which he had given notice, postponing the full operation of the Measure till 1846. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the blank in the Clause be filled up with the word "ten."
§ Sir William Clay
should oppose the Motion, but he should do so actuated by the same motives by which the noble Lord stated himself to be guided, viz., motives of humanity and justice. He could assert most sincerely, that if he thought the course recommended by the noble Lord, the most consistent with humanity and justice, he would willingly follow it; but such was not his opinion, nor did he think that the noble Lord, or those who acted with him, were entitled exclusively to atribute to themselves the being actuated by these motives. His opposition to the Motion, arose, not from any bigotted adherence on his part to any dogma of economical science, he did not object to the Motion in limine, because it contra- 1388 vened the great principle of non-interference with industry. Undoubtedly, it was true, in the abstract, that there should be no interference in the transactions between individuals, and that the labour market should be left to regulate itself by the operation of supply and demand, but it seemed to him that by the course of their recent legislation and the precedent they had established, they had precluded themselves from standing by this principle. Were it not so, however, he must confess, that he thought there were circumstances in the present times—symptoms in our social condition, mighty causes in operation, which rendered it highly unsafe, impossible indeed, to consider the mere enunciation of that principle a sufficient answer to those who sought a remedy for any great evil in the relations between labourers and their employers. Still, he thought, and he presumed the noble Lord would go with him to that extent—that non-interference should be the rule, and interference the exception—that the assumption should always be, that it was better to let the value of labour, like all other commodities, be regulated by supply and demand; and that the burthen of proof should always rest on those who sought to interfere between the employer and those he employed. It should be shown, first, that there was a great evil only to be remedied by legislative interference, and, secondly, that the proposed remedy would not produce greater evils, would not, in short, be worse, than the disease. Did the case with which the noble Lord proposed to deal satisfy these conditions? In his opinion, it satisfied not one of them. He was by no means convinced of the extent of the evil as stated by the noble Lord. He was still less satisfied that the plan of the noble Lord would remedy what there was of evil. The evils seemed to him to lie in one direction, and the noble Lord's remedies in another, or rather, he believed that the proposed remedies would aggravate the evils complained of: whilst on general grounds, he entertained the strongest conviction, that the measure of the noble Lord was fraught with danger to the welfare of the community, and above all, to the well-being, the comfort, the very existence of those classes whom the noble Lord sought especially to benefit. Now, was there such an evil to be remedied as to call for the amount of legislative interference contemplated by the Mo- 1389 tion of the noble Lord? Would the system of factory labour as regulated by the Bill now before the House, (for that was the point to look to) be of so severe, so degrading, so repugnant a character, as to require the further restriction sought to be imposed by the noble Lord? He was of opinion, that there was no proof that such was the case, that the evidence, comparing factory labour with almost every other species of labour, tended to the contrary presumption. Without wearying the House with statistics, or going over ground which had been already trodden, let them look at those facts, respecting which there could be no dispute. With regard to the evidence respecting the influence of factory labour on the general health of those engaged in it, he would only make one observation; that, although there was very great discrepancy in the evidence given by medical men on the subject, yet that the opinion of its highly prejudicial influence on the general health was principally entertained by men who had no personal knowledge on the subject, while those medical men who lived among the factory population, and had the experience of years of the effect of factory labour entertained directly opposite opinions. On this point, hon. Gentlemen would do well to consult the able and dispassionate statements of Mr. Noble, in a pamphlet published by that gentleman last year. But turning from opinions let them look at facts—look at the evidence appended to the sanatory Report, and to be gathered from the publications of the Registrar General. Was the mean duration of life less among the operatives of Manchester than among the operatives of other large towns? On the contrary, it was less than at Liverpool, less, he regretted to say, than among his own constituents at Bethnal-green, and there were the very strongest grounds for believing, that the low state of health of the operatives at Manchester or elsewhere, depended far more on the nature of their dwellings and the defective state of sewerage, and other means of securing the health of towns, than on the peculiar nature of their occupations. With respect to the health of the labourers in factories elsewhere than in great towns, they had the unimpeachable evidence of Mr. Senior in the letter referred to the other evening by his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and alluded to in the Chronicle newspaper of that morning, that it 1390 was above an average. Evidence of a like kind was to be found in the Reports of the Commission of Inquiry in 1834. The conclusion to which the evidence of the hon. Gentleman tended, was strengthened by a reference to the very nature of factory labour—it was very light labour. Mr. Senior, in the letter to Lord Sydenham, to which he had already referred, said, that with the exception of the male spinners (a very small portion of factory labourers, probably not exceeding 12,000 or 15,000 in the whole kingdom, and constantly diminishing in number), the work is merely that of watching the machinery and piecing the threads that break. "I have seen," so he says "the girls who thus attend, standing with their arms folded during the whole time that I stayed in the room—others sewing a handkerchief or sitting down." Mr. Tufnel, one of the Commissioners of Inquiry in 1834, in his able Report says, "Of all the common prejudices that exist with regard to factory labour, there is none more unfounded than that which ascribes to it excessive tediousness and irksomeness above all other occupations;" and he goes on to speak of the nature of the occupation, much in the same terms as Mr. Senior. The work of the mule spinners was, however, no doubt laborious, but with regard to that, there was the most extraordinary disparity of evidence. The noble Lord had entered into very elaborate statements on that point. He gave us the results of calculations made, as he said, by one of the most experienced mathematicians in England, the following extraordinary facts. Discarding, the noble Lord said, cases which yet occurred where the mule spinner walks thirty-seven miles a day and taking the average,—The distance travelled will be in a milt spinning number fourteen yarns, twenty-two miles; number fifteen yarns, twenty-four miles; number thirty yarns, thirty miles. But this was not all. In estimating the fatigue of a day's work due consideration," said the noble Lord "should be given to the necessity of turning the body round to a reverse direction not less than from 4,000 to 5,000 times in a day, besides the strain of continually having to lean over the machine, and return to an erect position. The House will be aware," said the noble Lord "of the great strain requisite after leaning over the machinery, in bringing the body back to an upright position. It often happens, indeed, that the body is bent in the form of a right angle.1391 He was quite sure that that noble Lord placed entire faith in these astounding assertions. The noble Lord would pardon him if he expressed his entire disbelief of them, and took the liberty also of saying, that the belief of them by the noble Lord did tend to lessen in some degree in his mind, the weight of the noble Lord's authority, when he saw the little amount of caution with which the noble Lord weighed the evidence tending in the direction of his own views. What, thirty miles a day, and turning the body to a reverse position, and bending the body to a right angle, and bringing it back to an erect position 4,000 or 5,000 times in addition, and this not for one day but continuously! Why, no evidence ought to have convinced the noble Lord of the truth of such a statement. The thing was physically impossible. Did the noble Lord know what was the ordinary day's march of a regiment of infantry?—that which men could keep up. Had the noble Lord never made a pedestrian tour? Had he no opinion as to the number of miles which a man in the prime of life with abundance of food, and in the best health, could walk day by day continuously? Let the noble Lord make an experiment: let him take the most athletic man of twenty-five: let him train him as for a pugilistic encounter, and try for bow many days, continuously, such a man could walk thirty miles, and turn himself round, and bend to a horizontal position and raise himself again, 4,000 or 5,000 times—and then let the noble Lord decide whether it could be done for the year round by all the spinners in all the factories which spun No. 30 yarn. But they knew these facts—the work was carried on in large rooms, necessarily, from the nature of the occupation, not over-crowded, whitewashed, ventilated. By-the-way, he did not know why a provision requiring ventilation should not be part of the present Bill. Most of the factories were ventilated, but he thought a discretionary power might be given to the inspectors that all should be so. They knew that the operatives, when trade was brisk, received wages unknown almost to any other class of labourers—60l., 70l., 80l., 90l. per annum each family—an amount of annual earnings, implying if well husbanded, all the necessaries, many of the decent luxuries of life. Knowing these things, could they think further legislative intervention impera- 1392 tively necessary? Comparing factory labour with the labour in almost every other trade or calling, rural or mechanical—were they not forced to the conclusion that factory labour was to be further interfered with, not because interference was most wanted, but because it was most easy. But whatever might be the amount of evil admitted to exist in the working of the factory system, how would it be affected by the plan of the noble Lord? In his conviction the measure of the noble Lord would tend immeasurably to enhance and aggravate every one of the evils of which he complained. What were the points chiefly insisted on in the eloquent and affecting speech of the noble Lord? Why mainly these—1st. That the present system of factory labour had the effect of superannuating adult males at an age when, according to the usual duration of human life, very many years of unabated health and strength were before them, forcing them, consequently, to seek in employments uncongenial to them, and foreign to their habits, a wretched and precarious existence, 2ndly. That it tended to substitute female for male adult labour—thus diverting women from their proper sphere of action—the discharge of domestic duties. 3rdly. That by the preference of very young persons, and making consequently, parents depending on their children; it disturbed and perverted the natural relations in the members of families, weakening parental authority on the one hand, and filial piety on the other, and producing thereby all the train of disorders and vice, so eloquently dwelt on by the noble Lord. Now, to which of these evils would the plan of the noble Lord apply a remedy? What were the temptations to prefer the labour of women to men, and of very young persons to that of persons of middle age, it might be said almost of adults? Why they were twofold, first, because it was cheaper; but secondly, and mainly, perhaps, because as the machinery was improved, became more delicate and moved faster, and required less human labour,—it became more essential that that labour should be, that of persons at the precise period of life when there was the utmost amount of quickness and activity, when the nerves of sight and touch, were in the utmost perfection. The noble Lord's own statistics showed that such was the tendency now. Would that tendency be de- 1393 creased by the proposed measure? Was it not certain that it would be increased? They were about to take off one entire sixth-part of the time within which the master manufacturer was to obtain a return on his fixed capital. How must he meet this new condition of things? Why, by greater economy in his labour in the first place, and by working his machinery faster in the second. He would seek with tenfold avidity to make his engine, with its Briarean power, do more, and human hands less. He would make his giant of iron and brass work faster too—so fast that it could only have for fellow labourers human beings when the young powers of life were in their utmost intensity, and those powers taxed to their very utmost stretch. Such would be the effect of the noble Lord's plan with reference to the evils he especially proposed to remedy; but far more overwhelming was the argument against its adoption to be drawn from a consideration of the irresistible effect of its adoption on the general condition of the working classes—of those who furnished the labour in factories. It would be at once conceded, that out of the gross returns of the manufacturer, of the amount that was beyond what was necessary to replace the floating capital perpetually employed, must be drawn both the wages of labour and the profits on his fixed as well as his floating capital. If they limited the hours within which he worked his machinery there would be less surplus beyond the mere replacing the floating capital, and either wages or profits, must be reduced. Both would be so; but could there be a doubt which would be so in the greater proportion? The capitalist would take care of himself first. In the present state of supply and demand for labour the operative was at his mercy, and in his (Sir W. Clay's) opinion, the absolutely inevitable result of forced reduction of the working of mills to ten hours would be a reduction of wages in a far greater proportion than as twelve to ten. After the most careful consideration he could give the subject, he did not believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary overrated the reduction at 25 per cent. The force of this argument was so strongly felt by the hon. Member for Oldham—certainly well qualified to judge on the question—that, admitting the truth of the proposition as to the result on profits and wages, of reduc- 1394 ing the hours of working of the mills—he could only meet it by asserting that, if the quantity produced were diminished, the price of the article produced would rise. A moment's consideration would show, that this anticipation was wholly fallacious. It would be true only if either England were the only manufacturing country, or other countries would adopt the noble Lord's regulations. At present it was impossible to raise prices one farthing beyond those at which they could face foreign competition. England sold in foreign markets, as was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, 35,000,000l. annually of the products of those factories now proposed to be dealt with. Now, what would be the result of adopting the noble Lord's proposition? Why inevitably, and as of course, one of two. Either England would still send to foreign markets the present amount of manufactured goods at the same price, and then as he had shown wages must be reduced not only in the proportion of ten to one, but in a much larger ratio, or she must send her goods at a higher price, and thus, to a certainty, lose a portion of her present share of the sales in foreign markets, that displacement of English goods becoming larger and larger each year as their foreign competitors produced, as they then would do, larger and larger quantities of goods at cheaper rates, which could always be done as the quantities increased and thus would the demand for English labour each year become less. To be sure it had been proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton, when examined in 1833, before the Commission of Inquiry, that the English Government should by negotiation with all foreign countries, induce them to adopt a ten hours Factory Bill, in which case the price of the articles produced would be simultaneously raised all over the world; but the House would scarcely think the probable success of such negotiation sufficient ground on which to legislate. Let the House recollect that, in adopting the proposition of the noble Lord, they were taking a step in direct opposition to the opinions of perfectly impartial persons, well qualified by long observation to form a judgment—he alluded to Mr. Horner and Mr. Saunders, whose opinions were quoted by the noble Lord with approbation when they seemed to agree with his own, but whose authority he disregarded 1395 when it went in opposition to his own views. Let them, above all, recollect that they were legislating for classes the most sure to suffer by any error they might commit. The noble Lord had said, apostrophising the manufacturers, "We do not envy you your stupendous wealth. Peace be within your walls and plenteousness within your palaces; we ask but a slight compensation for it." There would seem to lurk in the mind of the noble Lord—perhaps almost unconsciously to him—some vague and undefined belief that manufacturing profits were so vast, that this "compensation" could be deducted from them without inconvenience. That the manufacturers could afford to give twelve hours wages for ten hours work, and not be very ill off. Never was there a more fatal error. In the present superabundance of capital, it was absolutely certain that not more than the ordinary rate of profit could be obtained in any trade, and that rate was a very low one. But the manufacturer would take care of himself; and in the present state of the supply and demand he could do so, and throw his loss on the wages of the unfortunate operative. Should they, moreover, impose on the capitalist burthens he was unable or unwilling to bear, he might (although, no doubt, with loss) transport his capital and skill to other lands—the operative must remain, destitute and helpless, a burthen to himself and to the country on which he would be thrown back for support. Might he, as an illustration of the probable effect of the noble Lord's Motion on the classes he sought to benefit, bring before the House one illustration which had forced itself on his mind? Perhaps, in the whole speech of the noble Lord—powerful and affecting as it was—nothing produced greater effect on the feelings of the House than his statement of sufferings produced by factory-labour on women in a state of pregnancy. He said, that twelve hours' labour is unsafe and improper for women so circumstanced. Does he believe that ten hours would be safe or proper? It was impossible he could think so. But let the House mark the result of what the noble Lord proposed. He would trust nothing to the prudence of the woman herself—nothing to the tenderness or humanity of the husband. He would not permit any woman to work twelve hours, but how immeasurably did he increase the 1396 temptation to those to whom it was most dangerous to work ten? From a family earning 80l. per annum, his plan would take 20l. Will the mother of that family be more or less likely to absent herself from home—from the care of her children, and to work when she ought to be in repose. In conclusion, he would entreat the House to proceed with caution; the Bill on their Table was no mean advance in the direction of the noble Lord's own views. The Bill met the difficulties and remedied the evils pointed out by the inspectors. The work of children was limited; the detection of fraud was rendered easier. No person under eighteen was to work more than twelve hours; no woman was to work more than twelve hours; no young person, no woman, was to work in the night. Were not these important regulations—to be enforced, let it always be recollected, on the free-will of workpeople themselves. Let the House be contented for the present at least, and proceed no further in a path, every step of which, they might rest assured, was beset with danger to the best interests of the country, and, above all, to the interests of the labouring classes. If he might venture respectfully also to offer one word of advice to the noble Lord, he would venture to tell him that there were other departments of British industry where his benevolent labours were more needed than they now were with respect to factory-labour. No doubt elsewhere he would meet with more difficulties; but the noble Lord had shown that he possessed that noblest of all qualities, that enthusiastic perseverance in well-doing, which was not to be daunted by difficulties. Let him go on, and he would be supported, not by narrow majorities, but by the unanimous votes of that House, and the universal approbation of the public.
§ Mr. Monckton Milnes
said, that perhaps his connection with the West Riding of Yorkshire, where this subject had long excited a deep and enthusiastic interest, might be his excuse for intruding for a short time on the attention of the House. He had never risen under any circumstances with so much individual pain as at the present moment, because he rose to speak upon the subject with the conviction that it would be his duty this evening to oppose the Government, with whom he had generally the honour and the pleasure of acting; and he was compelled 1397 to do so from a sincere belief that the course which the Government had pursued on this question was one neither of benefit to the country, nor of dignity to themselves. In the course of last year the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department brought forward a factory Bill, and he had this year brought forward another factory Bill. The House knew how the former Bill was met, and how it was foiled; and he might be permitted to say, that he considered the yielding up of that Measure by the right hon. Gentleman last year was just as unfortunate as was the perseverance of the right hon. Gentleman in his present course. He said this, because he believed that it was necessary for the dignity of the Government that the Measure of last year should have been carried. He would have risked his seat to have given the right hon. Gentleman any advantage in his power to have carried that Bill. But the question now came before the House under a different aspect, and supported by a different kind of agitation. The agitation which now met the right hon. Gentleman, and which he now so strenuously opposed, was one in which for the last ten years a large portion of the people of this country had been engaged, which had excited the deepest sympathy, and which had now been confirmed by a majority of that House; and yet, under these circumstances, the House was now asked to rescind the solemn Resolution which, after an adjourned debate of two days, it had come to, without any circumstance of casualty or haste, merely because the right hon. Gentleman wished to take the advantage of any chance or contingency which might by possibility induce the House to reverse its own recent solemn decision. He hoped he might be excused for speaking earnestly upon this subject, because he did feel that it was now almost impossible to meet this question with the same calmness that was most becoming and most just on a preceding occasion. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets, who had just addressed the House, had indeed undertaken a most difficult task. While every other Member seemed to feel that the question was one of enormous difficulty—while it appeared to be the general opinion, that whether the remedy proposed was right or not, yet the evils were great and undoubted 1398 —while those evils were generally allowed and unchallenged, that hon. Baronet had undertaken the task of representing the whole matter as a mere dream of philanthropic enthusiasts, and of holding up the factory women and children of this country as persons in so happy and contented a position that it would be most impertinent for the Legislature to interfere with them. He had hoped that that part of the question had long since been settled. He thought that the House felt the enormity of the evils, and that a national guilt had been incurred by the miseries of the unrestricted factory system. They knew that by that system they were bringing up millions of their fellow-creatures in a state of degradation almost lower than that of any slave population. They knew that there were thousands of factory children who had no possible means of receiving either moral or religious instruction. They knew that thousands of them had perished on the very threshold of manhood, it being physically impossible for them, from their exhausted strength, to obtain by labour any of the comforts of life. This question had attracted not only the attention of every Member of that House, but also of Her Majesty's Government; for the Government had this year come down with a Bill directly interfering with labour. On that account he said, that the present Bill had been very unfairly treated. He considered that the debate turning so much upon the presumption that this Bill would not interfere with labour, was unjust to the Bill, to his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), and to the Government itself. A great part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government on a former evening, went far more against the principle which it was the object of the Government Bill to establish, than against any modification of it which his noble Friend wished to introduce. It was most true that it did not interfere with the labour of male adults. But, with regard to children, it provided that those under thirteen years of age should only work half a-day—those working in the morning were not to work in the afternoon, and those working in the afternoon were not to work in the morning. This presupposed the adoption of a system of relays, as regarded children. Now childhood, according to this Bill, ceased at thirteen years of age. What his noble Friend wished to do was 1399 this—to extend the operation of this part of the Bill up to the age of eighteen years. The whole scope of his noble Friend's Amendment, as regarded males, was as to the ages between thirteen and eighteen years. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was, that children up to thirteen years should not labour more than six hours and a half a day; but from that age they were suddenly transferred to labour for twelve hours a day. What his noble Friend required was a sliding-scale in this matter, which the Government had so wisely applied in other ways—that children from thirteen to eighteen years of age should work ten hours a day, and that when eighteen they might work as many hours as the factories worked. He hoped the Committee would keep this steadily in mind, that as far as regarded male labour the sole difference was this—his noble Friend wished so to modify the Bill, that children on attaining their thirteenth year should not be at once transferred from six and a-half hours labour, to the enormous labour of twelve hours. Let the House imagine what twelve hours labour was to a boy of fourteen or fifteen years of age. The hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) had attempted to make out that this labour of twelve hours was nothing at all. The hon. Baronet did this upon the authority of Mr. Senior, who having started from his villa at Kensington, and having taken a run through the manufacturing districts, returned to his home, and drew up a report representing the factory labour as the lightest of all possible occupations. Now he knew Mr. Senior very well, and he knew him to be a very excellent and intelligent man; but he was sure that if the hon. Baronet or Mr. Senior were to be set to that labour for twelve hours a day for a single week, they would come down to that House with very different feelings on the subject. But after quoting this opinion of Mr. Senior, of Kensington, the hon. Baronet most inconsistently made it a matter of complaint against his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) for having taken the opinions of persons who were strangers to all the localities. The hon. Baronet said, with regard to the medical part of the question, that the information obtained was not from surgeons of the neighbourhood, and therefore they knew nothing about it. He found in the evidence of Dr. Hawkins, before the Committee of 1833, this passage:— 1400I am compelled to declare it to be my deliberate opinion that no child should be employed in factory-labour below ten years of age, and that no individual below eighteen should he employed longer than ten hours. As to the reduction of the hours of labour of all below eighteen, I feel the less distrust in my own opinion, because it has the sanction of a large majority of the most eminent medical men who practise in the manufacturing districts.Now, he thought that the authority of Dr. Hawkins, of Manchester, was much more to be relied on than that of Mr. Senior, of Kensington. The hon. Baronet had referred to certain statistics which had been brought forward with respect to the duration of lives in the factory districts, but to him these statements did not appear sufficiently to allow for the great amount of new blood which was daily infused into those factories from the agricultural counties. There were many healthy adults constantly entering those districts, which must materially affect any statistical statement upon this head. The hon. Baronet had said, that the notion of a young person running thirty-seven miles a-day was an absolute impossibility. It had, he believed, been physically established as a fact, that a child running about all day for its own pleasure would run over a much larger space of ground than almost any healthy man would do. Therefore he would say, that if a child was kept up to his full speed all day, with the dread of punishment before him, he might perform some such feat as that. But whether the distance was thirty-seven or twenty-seven miles was immaterial; both required a degree of toil which was frightful. Now, when he heard his noble Friend make such statements as these, and when he found it stated in an Address issued by the delegates from Lancashire and Yorkshire, that they had read his noble Friend's speech, "paragraph by paragraph, and that they could affirm from their own knowledge that every statement made to the House was absolutely correct," he was bound to believe that there did exist a very great grievance on this part of the subject. He would now say one word upon the effect of the proposed Measure upon wages. The hon. Baronet had said, that political economy ought not to be introduced into this debate, though he himself certainly did introduce a considerable portion into it. According to the doctrine of wages, 1401 as it had been scientifically laid down, it was fully understood that there were at least four elements influencing wages—population, capital, fluctuation of the prices of necessaries, and the standard of living. These four elements together determined the amount of wages. All depended upon each, and each upon all. Therefore, he could not believe, that the mere reduction of one of these elements—all the others remaining the same—could effect that considerable diminution of wages which had been mentioned in the course of this debate. With respect also to the shortening of the time of working the mills, this might be avoided if relays of women, as well as of young persons were established. This Bill required relays of children: the only thing therefore required, was relays of women, and then the machinery might go for any period. There was one part of the Bill which he did not understand—that which required the factories to close at half-past seven o'clock. He did not see why the mills should not be allowed to work the two additional hours during daylight in the Summer supposing there was sufficient labour in the neighbourhood, and a sufficient demand for it. This compulsory closing of the mills was infinitely more harsh, and calculated to excite greater discontent than any condition required by his noble Friend. He would conclude by solemnly appealing to the Committee to look well to it before they rescinded the decision they had already come to. He entreated them to consider under what a very different aspect the Question now appeared before them. It had already gone forth to the country that a majority of the Representatives of the people declared it to be their opinion that women and children were not to be employed in factories more than ten hours a-day. At this very moment they were speaking about it to one another. At this very moment they were telling one another of the glorious result that had followed the exertions of his noble Friend, and that after ten years of unwearied labour this great thing had been at last achieved. The people knew this as well as they (the House of Commons) did, and could any Government suppose, that even if by hon. Members coming up from different parts of the country to vote, they should succeed in rescinding the late decision of the House; could any Government suppose that any 1402 such course would turn back into its former channels the feelings of the people, or make them forget what had passed the other night? No! the people would not forget it, and the Government would do well not to think so. He thought it very unimportant which way the majority turned this evening, as regarded the fate of the Measure; because it was already, above all governments and all majorities, absolutely decided. It was impossible now for any Government to stop a ten hours Bill. It was, in every moral sense, as much a part of the law of this country as any part of this interfering Bill which he held in his hand. Wishing from his heart the best in every way to Her Majesty's Government, he most heartily grieved that they had in this matter set themselves against the opinion, against the sympathy, against the good feeling, and against, he believed, the religious sense of so large a proportion of the people of England; and he would now sit down, humbly imploring them, before it was too late, not to persist in that dangerous course, and not drive his noble Friend to extremity. It was a subject he felt deeply upon, and, therefore, he said—not drive his noble Friend to any extremity to which he would be very unwillingly driven, but in which he believed his noble Friend would be supported by a majority of this House. Yes; he believed that a majority would support his noble Friend in an Address to the Throne, declaring to Her Majesty that the only resource was in her benevolence, and in her noble and generous feelings against the short-sightedness or rather blindness of her Ministers.
Mr. Vernon Smith
wished to say a few words in support of the proposition he threw out just now. His noble Friend had said that he was surprised at his making such a proposition, but he did it conceiving that it would do away with the objection to the Bill on the ground of its imposing restrictions on labour. He believed that the whole of the arguments urged the other evening upon the question, at least those coming from Her Majesty's Government were founded upon this principle—that the Legislature ought not to interfere with the labour of the people. How these arguments were more applicable to a ten hours' Bill, he was at a loss to conceive. It appeared to him that 1403 the arguments applied with equal force to their own Bill, for they had declared a limit beyond which infant labour should not go. When he proposed that unmarried adult females should exercise their own discretion as to the length of time they would labour, his noble Friend answered that females in manufacturing districts were so ground down, as not to be free agents. Now, if that applied to them, he thought it equally applied to a large portion of the male population of this country. He would ask whether the male labourers of this country were perfectly free to choose what work they would do, and what wages they would receive, and whether it was not the case, that it was always more in the power of the masters to say you shall work, than in the power of the labourer to say, "I will not." He thought his noble Friend had not answered that point. But they were not interfering with the great principle that regulated these things, namely, that the employer and the employed should settle between them the rate of wages. He would now look at the regulations which were proposed by this measure. They had, at all events, declared that they would interfere on behalf of children. On what score. On the score of their helplessness, because it was alleged that the parent would work their children, to aid in supporting their families, to the prejudice of the health and morals of the children themselves, and because the working of women and children interfered with all the domestic relations, unhinging the whole scheme of society by making men of forty years of age able to live upon the work of their wives and children; whereas, in all the other relations of life the wives and children were supported by the man. All and all that his noble Friend wished to do was, to insert the word ten instead of twelve. Now, if the Legislature had never interfered at all, he confessed, that he should have thought that they had acted rightly. But in 1833 the pressure was so great from without that all parties were determined to interfere on behalf of children. That point, therefore, as far as interference went, was settled. The question now proposed to him, therefore, was, whether a child was more capable of working ten hours than twelve? He could not hesitate a moment in declaring it to be his opinion that ten hours was a better period than twelve. He thought no man 1404 could doubt that at that tender age ten hours was a more proper period than twelve. He had never heard any man say that he thought it was beneficial, or that it was not prejudicial, for a child to work twelve hours a day, or that a child could work that number of hours without prejudice to health, morals, and religious education. The argument of most power which had been advanced against the diminution of power was that which was urged by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He said, "Beware of what you are about!" and borrowing a metaphor from the noble Lord, but using it in a different sense, the right hon. Gentleman said, "You are laying the axe at the root of the tree;" but the noble Lord spoke in reference to the morals of the people, whereas the right hon. Gentleman used the words as regarding money and commerce, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think would be put in jeopardy if they were to diminish by two hours a day the exhausted labours of the poor children of this country. Now, he remembered, in the debate of 1833, a Gentleman with whom he did not much agree in politics, but whom at the same time he considered a person of considerable talent and humour—he meant Mr. Cobbett—he remembered that gentleman saying—"That he had heard that the greatness of this country depended upon its navy; that at other times it depended upon the learned profession, and at other times upon its great Statesmen; but he never till that moment heard that it depended upon the overworking of little girls in factories." It had been said, that a reduction of 25 per cent. in wages would be the result of this limitation of infant labour. How that could be when the reduction of labour was only one-sixth, he could not understand. If there was any honesty in the working of the Bill, the diminution of wages could not amount to more than the diminution of time. But he would venture to say, that though the diminution of time was one-sixth, the diminution of profitable labour would be much less, because the last two hours would be the least efficient, owing to the exhaustion caused by the previous ten hours of labour. But he could not think that the commerce of this country was really in so ticklish, hazardous and perilous a state as to depend von so small an amount, more or less, of 1405 additional labour. But he must own, that if that was the case, he was not prepared to say, that the morals of this country were not to stand beyond even its commercial greatness. He was not prepared, at any moment of his life, when he was told of what was going on in these factories among the children, and that they were being brought up decrepid and depraved, to go on overlooking their condition, and regarding only the advantages to be derived from extended commerce. But he took a wirier view of the question than this. He must own, that if the proposed diminution of labour should induce some evils as regarded our commerce, it appeared to him that the change would be attended, on the other hand, with great advantage to the country. It might diminish wages to a certain money amount, but he was prepared to make up for this by giving an additional hue of health to the people, and rewarding them in moral wages, which would be of more value to them than money itself. [An hon. Member: "How are they to live?"] His hon. Friend asked how were they to live? Why, there was no danger in this country, of their starvation. [Cheers.] He would repeat there was no danger of starvation of any one in this country, and he hoped that the cheer of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was an assenting cheer to the fact that there was no such danger. Well, what was the question, then, he had to decide? It was whether the amount of money wages was of more value to the people than the greater amount which this measure would give them of a moral and a religious education, and a vigorous frame. He believed that advantage was not derived in the manufacturing districts by those who enjoyed a higher rate of wages than what was received by the great bulk of their own class. He was told that those persons were not the most moral, the most thrifty, or the most careful of their families, but that it often happened that having a higher amount of wages they were induced to spend it profligately, and become spendthrifts. He was only stating what he had been told occurred in the manufacturing districts, where particular persons were paid higher wages than the rest of the society from which they sprung. His object would be to put every person in this country upon the footing of as good wages as they could earn. That seemed to be a very general opinion, and no doubt 1406 that would be the object of every wise Legislature. But he did not think that there was any advantage in keeping a particular set of men up by legislation at a higher rate of wages than others could earn; therefore he did not think that very high wages, beyond those usually earned by any particular class, were advantageous to the people themselves. He would much rather allow them some portion of time, which they might devote to education, recreation, and exercise. By so doing, they would raise up a much healthier and sounder population than by allowing them to earn the utmost amount of money wages that they could obtain. The House would do well also to look at the effect of the present system; it was an encouragement to the men to throw the work upon the women and children, and thus new motives were given for forming early and imprudent marriages; the husband would reckon upon being maintained by his family, instead of his family being maintained by him. This was a condition of society it would of all things be desirable to avoid; and if a risk were to be run he was willing to incur it, for the sake of the improvement of the health and morals of the people. He had understood, that by an agreement between the noble Member for Dorsetshire and the Government, the debate on this question was to be taken on the first Clause of the Bill. It had been so taken, and now the House was involved in numerous difficulties by having passed over other Clauses, and by a re-debate of the question of ten or twelve hours' labour. In his experience of Parliament, he had hardly known a question better decided in all respects than this had been on Monday last. Sufficient notice had been given; the debate had been adjourned; and Gentlemen had had abundant time to consider the votes they should give. Government had taken two divisions on the same evening, and now they were preparing to take a third. He had no doubt of the courage of the right hon. Baronet to take another division, but he (Mr. Vernon Smith) doubted the policy of attempting to revoke a decision so deliberate, without a single new argument or a fresh scrap of information. The only difference was, that the Government had since made some fresh endeavours to gather round them their usual allies, well knowing, too, that on the former occasion not one of their independent 1407 supporters had ventured to say a word in their favour.
§ Mr. Cardwell
was desirous of addressing the Committee, not because he thought he could throw any new light upon a subject which was already exhausted—but because it had happened to him to pay attention to this question from a period antecedent to that at which it had been taken up by the noble Lord; and although he had not the good fortune of arriving at the same conclusions with him, yet he begged to assure him, and he did not think he asked too much in claiming credit for the sincerity of this assurance, that the main object present to his mind had always been an earnest hope that, in any measure which Parliament might devise, they would at least do nothing to impede—they would if possible do much to promote—the growing prosperity of the great operative classes of the country. Now this question had been divided, with reference to its popularity, into two sides, in a very remarkable way; and it had been stated that one side took a purely commercial view, while the other rested entirely upon a basis of morality and humanity. One hon. Member, who stated this distinction in strong terms, had borrowed, perhaps unconsciously, the language of the classical historian of Lancashire, who spoke of "passing children through fire to Moloch, and through filth to Mammon;" and such was the tone in which it was thought right to speak of those who ventured to differ from the noble Lord. Now, he altogether denied the soundness of this distinction. He did not deny that it was possible to take a purely and strictly commercial view of this question. He did not deny that it was possible for a sordid man to think of nothing but how he might extract from the toil and sufferings of others the largest fortune for himself. But he did deny that they could altogether discard the commercial view of the subject, and rest solely upon considerations of morality and humanity. Did they know what they were talking of? Was it possible for any man who had the least experience on these subjects—or, if he had no experience, who, in the absence of it, applied to the matter a common capacity, not to know how much both the physical and moral comfort of the manufacturing classes depended upon the commercial view of the question? It was scarcely possible for any of them not to know that the success of the manufacturer of this country could do a great deal more for the poorer classes than the 1408 widest efforts of the most diffusive charity, or the happiest results of the best-contrived Legislation. And so he said, not to consider that part of the question—to discard altogether the commercial view—would he a course quite unworthy of the dignity of the British House of Commons, and would lead to consequences which the very people intended most to be benefitted would necessarily be the first to rue. It would be admitted on all sides, that on the subject of labour there were two points which ought always to be kept in view. First, that a real and efficient protection should be afforded to those, who by reason of tender years, were unable to protect themselves, and the other great point was, to leave as free as the winds of heaven the labour of those who were able to protect themselves—to leave free to the management and economy of the parties interested, that labour which had been so often and so justly described in those debates as the only property they possessed. Now, if they did not intend to render all their statutes nugatory, and to make utterly useless all that they had hitherto done on this subject, they must have the cordial co-operation of those whose interests were so deeply staked in it, and to obtain that cordial cooperation, the most calm and dispassionate inquiry, the most grave and considerate legislation, would be necessary. He gave credit to the Government for having addressed themselves to the inquiry in this spirit; and they had laid a Bill upon the Table of the House, which gave increased protection to those who were unable to protect themselves, and which left free the labour of those who were well able to protect themselves, and to guard their own interests. But as these two classes worked together under the same roof, and in connection with the same machinery, it necessarily happened that these two objects, in all their integrity, were not compatible with each other; and that would therefore be the best arrangement which should be found to combine them in the happiest degree. The present Bill accordingly limited the labour of women and children—it afforded to them the opportunity of attending, to a small extent, at least, to their domestic duties—it secured to those of tender years something like an useful education—it afforded to those who most needed it some little leisure time—and, surely, these were advantages which entitled the Bill to the support of Parliament and of the country. If he were not to 1409 have the Bill as it stood, he should like at least to know what was the alternative. He should like to know what was the specific proposal of the noble Lord and those who voted with him. One hon. Member (Mr. M. Milnes) said, that he would speak with great caution on the subject of relays. How far he had kept his promise the Committee perhaps would judge, for he had expressed some opinions on that subject which, he confessed, he had never heard before. But this caution was the very thing he complained of on the part of those hon. Members. He wished to know whether those hon. Members wanted an uniform Ten Hours' Bill. He wished to know whether the noble Lord would admit relays? If he would admit the system of relays, he would tell him that he had no right to say that he had the support of the large body of the petitioners on this subject. He (Mr. Cardwell) knew that the petitioners who had signed the petitions to that House, and that the deputations which had been received by the noble Lord, wanted an uniform Ten Hours' Bill, and that if the noble Lord did not support such a measure, he was not entitled to claim the authority of their sanction. If the noble Lord did support such a measure, if he excluded the system of relays, then he said that he would leave the children working in factories worse—not only than they would be under the present Bill—but worse than they were at the present moment—worse than he had found them. He would be the last to attribute motives, and he firmly believed that those Gentlemen in the House who supported the motion of the noble Lord were influenced by motives of the purest sincerity and philanthropy. But all men were liable to be deceived, and he would suggest to the noble Lord it was just possible there might be designing persons in the world, eager to deceive him on this subject. He would seriously advise them to consider whether, under an uniform Ten Hours' Bill, the adults would not work less and the children more—whether more labour would not be extracted from the worn-out sinews of the children—and less obtained from the fair industry of the men. He said that this would be an evil, which, for die sake of morality and humanity alone, the Committee were bound to guard against. If the noble Lord did not support a uniform Ten Hours' Bill—then he could not claim the support of the petitioners. But, with or without relays, he believed that 1410 such a measure was not practicable. True humanity was practical, end he conscientiously and confidently stated that he believed the motion not to be consistent with true humanity. They had head some strange doctrines on the subject of reduced wages. It was difficult to say whether the right hen. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith) thought high or low wages the best. If he applied to the propositions of the hon. Gentlemen any of those ordinary principles of reasoning with which he was acquainted, he should arrive at the conclusion that low wages were a check on profligate expenditure, restrained imprudent marriages, acted as an encouragement to economy and the other moral and social virtues—and were, upon the whole, precisely that kind of blessing which that House, in its wisdom, should endeavour to secure to these operative classes, for whose welfare the hon. Gentleman was so particularly solicitous. But he had been surprised at what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire on the subject of reduced wages. The noble Lord had seemed to say that the amount of wages must decrease in exact arithmetical proportion to the hours of labour—and the right hon. Gentleman went still further, and expressed his surprise that any other calculation could have ever entered into the mind of mortal man. Why, what was the expense of those establishments? What capital was sunk in they great manufacturing concerns of this country? Were there not great and vast expenses besides the payment of wages? and there must be a profit to the manufacturer over all. He ventured at least to say for those with whom he was acquainted, that if there were to be no profit, they would retire, and the noble Lord must find a set of philanthropists who would undertake to carry on the manufactures and commerce of the country for nothing. He was afraid that no such men were to be found; and as it might be taken as a postulate on this question, that the manufacturer would have interest for his money, so, out of the margin which lay beyond the payment of the other necessary expenses, the wages must come, and the reduction of those wages must depend upon the profit of the manufacturer. The reduction of profit might perhaps be, as had been stated on the high authority of the right hon. Baronet, 25 per cent.; but whatever it was—whether more or less than that—it certainly could not be in proportion to the time of labour required of' the workman. Whatever it 1411 might be, it would press upon the comforts of the working classes, and the House ought to hesitate before they sanctioned it. Another element which the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten was, that the machinery, if it did not wear out, became superannuated by the constant introduction of new inventions, and so there was a frequent call upon the manufacturers for a fresh capital. He would not further refer to this point; but his account of the manufacturer's expenses would have been very incomplete without an allusion to it. But it had been said that the labourer would get comforts in the lieu of wages, and the hon. Gentleman had spoken in poetical language of obtaining a full compensation for his diminished income by an additional hue of health. Now in the experience which his time of life had permitted him to acquire in the manufacturing districts, he had heard innumerable complaints of reduced wages. He had known what suffering had been caused by shortened hours of labour. He had heard often of a fair day's wages for a fair day's work; but he had never heard of a trades' union to enforce short hours on the masters, and an extensive combination to force the noble Lord's measure on Parliament would never be seen in this country. But if the operatives did not agree with the noble Lord on the subject of wages, and if there were many who favoured his present proposal, he could assure the Committee that they thought that this proposal could be carried out without any reduction of wages; and when he was told of the petitions in favour of it, he remembered the placards posted by torchlight on the walls of Manchester—"Less work. More wages. Sign for the ten hour Bill." If there was such a variety of opinions on the subjects of political economy in that House, it was no wonder that the operatives of the manufacturing districts fell into errors on such questions. They thought that the reduction of the time of labour would lessen the produce of the manufacturer, and, consequently, prevent the same amount of competition. But the exact opposite was always the result. It was a matter of history that interference with labour had always been followed by great improvements in machinery, and what was the invariable result of improvements in machinery? the exclusion of adults from the factory, and the increased demand for infant labour. But there was another 1412 thing. If they limited the hours of labour, then they must have increased establishments in order to produce the same amount,—they called into existence a new manufacturing population,—and on the first revulsion of trade a larger community was left to suffer and to starve. He was now arguing not upon principles of political economy, but upon those of the noble Lord—he was now pointing out the evils which followed from the increase of that canker which was said to eat to the core the social happiness of the working classes. But supposing the idea to be correct, and that home competition would be diminished, could they at the present day, under the present circumstances, safely venture to disregard competition from abroad. Take the case of Belgium. Belgium had our machinery. It was no answer to say they got it under the measure of last year. They had it before. But it might be said that they had not capita]. Only let them put restrictions enough upon the trade at home—and it would soon be seen whether capital would be deficient abroad. Belgium had coal; she had a population willing to work long hours—satisfied with a diet to which fortunately the people of England had never yet been reduced to submit—and could it be said that her competition was not to be dreaded! If they thought that their commerce was so secure that they could take liberties with it—if they thought that they were running a race, in which they could afford to carry weight—if they thought that foreigners were not watching them with the utmost jealousy, and availing themselves of their mistakes with the greatest promptitude—they made a mistake which experience would teach them to discover. He implored them to be wise in time. They were sowing the wind and they would reap the whirlwind. Under the semblance and in the guise of humanity, with the loudest applause of the best intentioned men,—disregarding the warnings of those to whom, by a rather broad implication, they denied those chivalrous sentiments of morality and humanity, which they assumed for themselves and their opponents willingly conceded them,—he greatly feared that they were striking a fatal blow at the commercial prosperity of England. And at what period? At a juncture in the history of British commerce, perhaps the most interesting which that eventful history had to tell. There was a circumstance in regard to Great Britain which 1413 was capable of being stated effectively in the shape of a paradox: and it was this: her commercial prosperity was owing to the fact that the master-manufacturers paid the lowest wages, while the operative received the highest wages of any country in the world. The explanation was obvious enough. The master paid the largest wages, but he obtained in a still greater proportion the best return of work. The operative received not merely the highest nominal wages,—but wages so much higher in amount as to command in this highly priced country the largest quantity of the necessaries of life. This end was brought about by the energy, management, and economy of the people of this country, and all was consistent with a gradual and regular amelioration, such as the Bill upon the Table offered to the infant manufacturing population. He firmly and conscientiously believed that if the Legislature pursued the sober and steady course upon which for some years it had been acting, the prosperity of Great Britain would be as unlimited abroad as it was happy in its results at home. The worst enemies of the country at large, but above all of the operative classes, were those whose mistaken zeal urged them to follow the blind impulses of humanity without carefully deliberating on the consequences. They were doing all they could to deprive the operative classes of what was of more consequence to them than the most extensive charity, than the anxious protection of the Legislature he meant commercial prosperity.
said, that this question had agitated the country for twenty-eight years, and it was time that it should be settled. He remembered when cotton machinery was worked by hand, and when it was not usual to work more than ten hours a day. But when the steam engine was introduced, the hours of labour were gradually increased. In 1802, Sir R. Peel had introduced a Bill for regulating the employment of apprentices. Since that time four Acts had been passed, all of which had been, in a great degree inefficient and unsatisfactory. In 1815 another Measure had been brought forward limiting the labour of those under eighteen years to ten hours and a half. A Committee had then been appointed to investigate the subject, and he, entertaining the same opinion then as he did now, had furnished the late Mr. Nathaniel Gould with facts which were recorded by that Committee. He could 1414 have no desire that the manufacturing interest should suffer, because many of his friends were connected with it; he might be mistaken in his views, but he hoped the House would allow him shortly to state his reasons for them. He did not look at, it merely as a question of humanity, but also as a question of policy, and on both grounds he was prepared to justify the vote he had given a few nights ago, and which he intended to repeat. He was not of opinion that the House was called upon to depart from the principles on which it had legislated; for what was the practice of the trade before Parliament began to legislate on the subject? In 1819 Lord Kenyon stated in the House of Lords that more than three-fourths of the factories in Lancashire worked fourteen hours a-day. It had been contended that if the demand for employment were perfectly free, there would be no occasion to legislate. He was not of that opinion. In 1835, 1836, and 1837, when trade was brisk, snore than 2,000 convictions under tic! Factory Bill, and penalties to the extent of more than 6,000l. were inflicted for overworking. At present in certain mills they were working fourteen or fifteen hours a day—females and married women were employed to that excess. He begged to remind those who were opposed to legislative interference, that from the highest authority a restriction had been put upon labour—"Six days shalt thou labour," and rest on the seventh day. That was a direct contradiction to the political economy of non-interference with labour. Those who contended for non-interference must go the length of saying that if we could not compete with foreigners by working for ten or twelve hours the time must be extended, and that if six days were not sufficient, toil must be continued on the sevenths. The question was, were ten hours in the day sufficient? He thought it amply sufficient for man, woman, or child. He was ready to admit that factory labour was not unhealthy; on the contrary, when it was not excessive, he believed that it was as healthy and pleasant an employment as any in which persons could well be engaged. Although he had taken part in promoting every Measure of the kind hitherto passed, he had never been able to obtain due protection for women and children; how could domestic comfort exist, or education proceed, while the people were doomed to endless toil! If they kept moderate time they had nothing to fear from competition. He admitted, that 1415 if they did restrict the hours of labour to a great extent, it must, necessarily, increase the cost of the article, but then the question was who was to bear the increased cost? He had seen a calculation made at a particular mill, of the amount which would be lost to the consumer by a reduction of the hours of labour. He admitted that there would be an increase in the cost of the article, but it was necessary for hon. Gentlemen to see the way in which this would operate. Let him take the case of the purchase of foreign materials of an article to be manufactured—cotton for instance—which on exportation had to enter into competition with the produce of foreign countries, the difference between the price of the raw material, and of the manufactured article, would be the return for labour, interest of capital, and profit. Therefore, to compete with the foreigner they might have to make an improvement in their machinery, and in that case the production might not be reduced. They had reduced the number of working hours from seventy-sic to sixty-nine without decreasing the amount exported. In 1816 there were 10,000,000 lbs. of cotton twist exported; and in 1843, after the reduction in the number of hours, there were 130,000,000 lbs. In 1832, in factories where thousands of persons were employed, the average rate of wages for every person—man, woman, and child—was from 9s. 6d. to 12s. a head. He had got a return from the same factories of the number employed in 1844, and he found that the average rate of wages was nearly the same—perhaps it was a little more than the rate of 1832. The work and the wages, too, of the factory workmen were more regular than were those of any other class of labour; and if there was any loss of profit, it was a loss which fell upon the master and not upon the operative. It was not so with many other kinds of labour. With respect, for instance, to the handloom weavers; they were a class whose occupation was not carried on in factories, and one man ran down another and deceased the amount of wages; but the same was not the case in factories, where the wages of all employed must rise and fall together, and the result was, that there was very little fluctuation in the amount of wages of the operatives. In his opinion, there ought to be one uniform time for the work of all engaged in factories where machinery was used—and he was, for his own part, persuaded that that course alone 1416 would really operate for the benefit of the workmen; for if one portion of the mills were to work short time, and the other portion to work for a different period, it would be productive of great mischief. He did trust that no person under twenty-one years of age would be allowed to work for a greater number of hours than that named in the noble Lord's Amendment. The calculation to which he had referred just now was, that the duty on the raw material of cotton was equivalent to the amount of any reduction of wages that might take place, and that six-sixteenths of a penny per pound would cover such reduction as might take place in wages by the operation of a ten hours instead of a twelve hours' Bill. But he did not believe that, in reality, wages would be reduced—and, even if they were, let it not be forgotten that the operatives worked for the bread-tax—and if they could not compete with the foreigner without that tax being taken off, as well as the tax upon cotton, those taxes must be removed. He thought that the Legislature would feel it was their duty to remove those burthens that pressed upon the manufacturing interests; and then, if they would only come forward and pass an uniform and effective Bill, he was persuaded it would give the greatest satisfaction to the manufacturing classes generally, and that the people would be prosperous, contented, and happy. He should, with these observations, vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord
§ Lord J. Manners
assured the Committee that it had been his intention to have given a silent, though by no means an indifferent vote in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord; but in the early part of this debate the hon. Member for Manchester had thrown out such a challenge to him that he felt himself bound, in fair play and generosity, to rise and answer that challenge; and he begged to assure the hon. Member that if he had hitherto refrained from giving the House what he was pleased to call the benefit of his experience and observation upon this question, it was because he had not thought that anything he could add to the subject would he worthy of being intruded upon their attention, and that in private he had never hesitated to give that fair description of the great manufactories which he was now prepared to give in public. The hon. Member had asked him, and those hon. Gentlemen who had accompanied him on the tour he had made in the manufacturing districts, if they 1417 had seen, in the course of it, what would bear out the harrowing descriptions and details which had been brought before the House by the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire. He had pleasure in saying that they had not. But, if he might be permitted to draw a general description of what they did see, he should say that the general characteristic of the districts they had visited was a small town (if he might so term it) of well-built cottages, those cottages of two stories in height, with two rooms on each story, with large windows, plenty of furniture, capacious back-yards, and a plentiful supply of coals and water—their occupants paying, on an average, 3s. a-week for rent, which in general, he believed, was stopped out of their wages. They saw signs of' much discipline and supervision exercised over the occupants, every shop being licensed by the mill-owner, and every one being dependant upon him for the exercise of his calling. With respect to the workpeople themselves, he agreed with what had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire (Lord F. Egerton) the other evening, as to the impossibility of mere tourists arriving at any very sound conclusion upon that part of the subject—because it was unquestionable that an appearance of health might exist without the reality of it—and ruddy cheeks might be the result of excitement, as well as of health. With this caution, however, he had no hesitation in saying that the general appearance of the young women in the manufacturing districts he had visited in the course of his tour, had struck him as being healthy. He believed, too, that, in reference to wages, the amount was nearly uniform, and that it averaged about 9s. or 10s. a head, man, woman, and child—and that thus, taking them by families, 30s. a-week was about the average receipt of the combined inmates of each of these cottages, an amount sufficiently ample to secure them the comforts and conveniences they require. He had come to the conclusion that these comforts and conveniences were at the disposal of the manufacturing population of the large establishments. He would now proceed to answer a question which the hon. Member had put to him of a more particular kind. The hon. Member had asked him whether he had had any talk with any of those workpeople who had gone from the rural into the manufacturing districts. He found, in a brief note he had taken at the time, the following mentoran- 1418 dum:—In one cottage they had entered, they found a woman with ten children where she came, and having asked her whether she would prefer to go back into the country districts, she laughed at the idea, and said, "No, not on any account." This woman they had found, he ought to add, cooking for herself and family a meal of beef and potatoes. He had now, he thought, fairly replied to the challenge which had been thrown out to him by the hon. Member—and he had done so with the more pleasure because it had enabled him, at the same time, to pay a deserved tribute of praise to the conduct of the large and wealthy manufacturers whom they had visited—and of offering a few observations in support of the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire—against which proposal he did not think that the tribute he had paid to the manufacturers at all militated. For what was that proposal, and what the allegation? The proposal was, to limit labour to ten hours a day, and the allegation, that the consequence of working the mothers of families for twelve hours a day was that inversion of nature which was so injurious to the physical and moral condition of the working population. He believed that the statements of the noble Lord were correct—and that the instances which he (Lord J. Manners) had produced, which seemed to bear out a contrary proposition, were chiefly to be met with in the larger country establishments—whereas the noble Lord's descriptions related principally to the condition of the factory population in the great manufacturing towns—he was sure that he himself and those who had travelled with him, had seen side by side with the prosperity of Turton enough of the misery of Bolton, to make him believe that the same county may easily at the same time, "bloom a garden and a grave." Let the question, then, be divested of all extraneous matter, and what did it come to? Were the Representatives of the people of England of opinion that twelve hours, instead of ten, were a fitting duration for the day's labour of English matrons and young children? But was the question, and the solution of it seemed to him easy; but then came the hon. Members for Manchester, Stockport, and the rest, and pleaded two propositions in bar; first, that the commerce and manufactures of this great Empire would be destroyed, unless these mothers and children were allowed to work twelve hours a day; and, in the next place, that the wages of the 1419 work-people would be reduced. But with something like indignation, and with something like contempt, he begged to ask, was this possible? That the commerce of this great Kingdom was dependent on longer toil by two hours than it was fitting for man to endure! Yes! that will be the confession made by the rejection of the noble Lord's proposal? It was saying to this country—it was affirming in the face of all Europe—that the whole secret of our vast manufacturing power lay in the one hour before sunrise, and in the one hour after sunset, which we snatched from the poor people of England. And this too, after all they had heard of the iniquity of protection! This, then, was the protection they would declare to be necessary for their manufacturing interests? He should rather have imagined that the protection of their manufactures existed in the exemption of machinery from taxation. He should have rather imagined that it existed in the power of a manufacturer to assemble round his dwelling any number of people he pleased, to make addition to his wealth by means of that machinery, if trade were brisk; and who, if trade were dull, would have no claim upon that wealth which they contributed to swell. He should have imagined it to consist in the fact of the very rooms in which that machinery worked, and of that machinery itself, paying nothing to the relief of the poor, or towards the burthens of the State—but now it seemed that the only species of protection which was looked upon as essential, consisted in the over-working of mothers and infant children. He did not believe—he could not believe it; but if it were indeed so, then he must state his sincere conviction, that be their legislation what it might, though they might continue for a short time, a protection of this wholly indefensible iv Lure, they might depend upon it they would not be able to maintain it long. Neither did he think that such a protection would be worth maintaining. Again, as to the allegation about the effect of this proposed reduction of the hours of labour upon wages. They were told that it would create a reduction in wages to the extent of 25 per cent. But he would remark, that if this allegation were true, on the face of it, it would completely annihilate the other, for not even the most devoted free trader would be prepared to assert, that with a reduction of 25 per cent. in the wages, competition with the foreigner is 1420 impossible under a ten hours' Bill. His opponents then must make choice of the one bugbear, or the other, for employed together they would eliminate each other. But he had too high an opinion of the humanity of our great English manufacturers to believe that such would be the case. He could not help feeling that on the contrary, there would be no necessity for such a result—and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite to put to himself this question—whether he really believed that the three or four hundred master manufacturers who had signed petitions in favour of the proposal of the noble Lord below him contemplated any such reduction in the amount of the operatives wages, or whether the hon. Members for Stockport, Manchester, or Durham themselves contemplated any such result? He could not believe that those who had expressed themselves in favour of this proposal had done so with the idea that it would produce the fearful results that had been predicted of its operation. He believed, on the contrary, that the Committee might justly and wisely, because humanely, accede to the proposition of the noble Lord. To that proposal he (Lord J. Manners) gave his cordial and unqualified support—with no lingering regret, however, as some appeared to have done, that it infringed upon the principle of non-interference with the free exercise of labour, but because he believed that the great inquest of the nation was called upon to legislate on this question—and because, if they did not legislate upon it, and in this spirit, the hour was near at hand when they would cease to be, not only in deed and reality, but in very name and theory the representatives of the people of England. On these grounds it was that he had voted on a former night; on these grounds he should so vote again; and he must be allowed to ask whether the decision that was come to the other night did necessitate some far stronger reasons than were then offered to the Committee, before it should now reject the noble Lord's proposal? Sir, said the noble Lord, in conclusion, there may have been, in the opinion of some, a doubt as to the prudence of the decision of a former night. Can there now be any doubt as to the madness of reversing it? By that decision you told the toiling people of England that party difference or indifference to this question was at an end, and that the Legislature was prepared to interfere in behalf of labour—to interfere for 1421 the shirt maker of London—for the poor workman of the metropolis, and in behalf of want and poverty wherever they are to be found throughout the broad Kingdom of England, as well as in favour of the operative spinners of cotton and of flax. By that decision, you caused joy and smiles to prevail where, before, was nothing but despair—and yet that decision you now propose to reverse. You then held out to the parched lips of toil and neglect the cup of hope—will you now dash it to the ground untasted? I would entreat this House, I would implore this Committee, to reflect for a moment on what has occurred during the last three years. Have you learnt nothing from the manufacturing insurrection in the north—have you learnt nothing from the agrarian rebellion in Wales—nothing from the indifference with which your labourers in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere regard your flaming homesteads, and fired corn-ricks? Do all these things teach you nothing? Methinks, when the storm does arise, and the waves of anarchy begin to break upon the barriers of the Constitution, and when all you hold dear and value shall be swept away in the general desolation a poor consolation it will be to you to reflect that such a melancholy result has arisen from your refusal to interfere in behalf of the over-worked labourer who toils beyond human endurance at the manufactures of England, albeit that refusal may be in accordance with the straitest canons of political economy.
§ Mr. Ward
said, they had been told by the noble Lord that, although they might doubt the prudence of the decision to which the House had come the other night, there could be no doubt of the madness of reversing it; but did the noble Lord recollect the interests which this decision involved, and if they tampered with these interests, without the most pressing necessity,—if they dealt with them without seeing their way clearly, could any madness be equal to that? He had doubted whether he ought to reply to the noble Lord, fur the first half of the noble Lord's facts bore against his own conclusion. The results of the noble Lord's experience were most favourable to the manufacturing system, and disproved the universal misery which it was charged with producing. The noble Lord said that the population lived in good houses, and had comforts which were out of the reach of the agricultural labourer. That they were all in full health, and that their wages 1422 were uniformly on an average of 9s. or 10s. a-head, and this in those places which the hon. Member for Knaresborough was in the habit of representing as a Pandemonium to which labourers were removed from their Buckinghamshire Paradise. The wife of one of these agricultural emigrants was cooking beef for the children, which the agricultural labourers never tasted in Buckinghamshire. The noble Lord, however, had suppressed an answer which, as he understood, he had received from another of these misguided, and deceived, emigrants from the agricultural districts, who told him that "he would rather be transported than go back." In short, if he had not heard the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, which certainly had shown them how much inconsistency could be compressed into a single speech; he should have thought the noble Lord's speech the most inconsistent speech ever delivered, for after disproving all the facts on which the necessity for interfering at all with the Factory System was defended, be came to what he called a just and humane conclusion, which struck at the root of the whole of the comfort and happiness the noble Lord had himself described. Amidst the differences which this question had created—and he had never known a question in that House which had provoked so many differences—it might, perhaps, be something new if he ventured to mention one or two points on which they were all agreed. They were all agreed that there was a great pressure upon the labouring population—not confined to one class of manufactures, he could show its existence to a great extent in the town which he represented—that all were over-worked; and that the stern necessity of living induced this condition of the people, compelling the children almost universally to be called to labour too early, and forced to labour too long a time; so that there was not time for education, for wholesome recreation, or for religious and moral instruction. They did not want Dr. Bissett Hawkins to tell them that it would be better for children, or that it would be better for all classes, to work ten hours instead of twelve. They did not want Mr. Horner to tell them that all classes of the population were overwrought. There was no doubt of this. They did not want to be told that they were not free agents. Who was a free agent?—or that their social and moral condition would be better if they laboured only ten hours;—or that excessive labour tended to debase 1423 human nature, and to prevent acquirements. He admitted the evil as fully as any advocate of a ten hours Bill; and sitting there as the Representative of one of the largest working men's communities, he would not consent to be twitted with any, heartlessness, or indifference, to their sufferings because he did not concur in the remedy proposed. He, and those who thought with him, were called Doctrinaires, Utilitarians, and Theorists, but he held on the contrary that they were the Theorists who thought they could alter by Act of Parliament the conditions of life which pressed hardly, and harshly, on the population of this country. The noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire told them that he had urged this measure in former years; that the present expectations in the operatives were moderate; that they were prepared to expect a fall in their wages; and the hon. Member for Northampton said, that small wages would be a premium upon the morality of the working classes. He gave them the statistics of the poor—he spoke of the way in which a married woman, and a single woman, conceived that the cost of their living would be affected respectively by the changes to be introduced. But he (Mr. Ward) feared that little faith was to be placed in such calculations. He regarded the decision of Monday night as a most unfortunate one: it had awakened and given an impulse to wishes, and feelings, and hopes, that no reasonable man should ever encourage. It had given an immense impulse to the Chartist feeling of the country, associated as it was—and nobody knew it better than the hon. Member for Knaresborough—with the idea of the power of that House to regulate labour and capital; and which he (Mr. Ward) believed to be most mischievous. He had seen all the theories, which he had heard in the course of this debate, advocated strongly by Mr. Feargus O'Connor and Mr. Oastler; and he must tell his noble Friends near him, the Members for the City of London, and for Sunderland, that nothing had given him so much grief as to see such fallacious doctrines clothed with the authority of their respected names. He was bound to say what he thought. The noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, whose opinions he had hitherto held to be most clear on these points, had certainly advocated doctrines which he had never heard advocated before by men, whose opinions he fur one had regarded as too ridiculous to be seriously 1424 discussed. Look too at the contradictions in which the advocates of the present measures had involved themselves. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton told them that tell hours were better than twelve—that the present system was prejudicial to morals, and religion, and education; but he began his speech by saying that he was opposed to all interference with any kind of labour—with adult labour in particular; and then he concluded by saying, he was going to vote for the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire. He seemed to think it a matter of trifling consideration, when be asked him how the population in the manufacturing districts was to be fed? He said, no man could actually starve, and appealed to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department to confirm his statement. Improved health and moral vigour, he thought, preferable to high wages; and these blessings he seriously preferred to the operatives in the factory districts, than to sink, in what the hon. Member for Knaresborough would call the Union Bastiles. If this were not his hon. Friend's meaning, he supposed they were to go back to the system of out of door relief. His hon. Friend afterwards said he wished every man to earn as good wages as he could, and he thought that a slight curtailment of the hours of labour would not materially affect the wages of the manufacturing population as a class. Upon that question—the question of wages—he must entreat the Committee to recollect what it was they had to deal with—to recollect that the home trade of this country, upon which he knew some hon. Gentlemen opposite relied, would be totally insufficient to supply the gap, that would be created by the slightest Legislative Act that would affect our foreign trade. They had been told by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government that out of the export trade of 50,000,000l., 36,000,000l. belonged to these trades, which it was now proposed to interfere with, if they tampered with, if they added to these vast interests the proposed reduction in the hours of labour, to the burthens which already pressed upon the manufacturing interest—such as the duties on the raw material—the absolute monopoly which existed in this country on food—and he only rated it at the price of the agriculturists themselves—he would say, if to this they added the additional burthen of this ten hours Bill, a gap would be created which no new manu- 1425 facturers would step forward to fill up. Once cut off an amount of production equivalent to seven weeks in the year, and how did they think it was to be tilled up? It was said there would be fresh labourers employed under this ten hours Bill. He doubted that fact; he doubted whether any one would be found to build new mills upon so precarious a tenure; for they must recollect that they were told that this ten hours Bill was but the first step in this kind of legislation. The noble Lord who had just spoken had said, that when they had dealt with the factories by limiting labour, they must legislate for other classes in a similar spirit. They must be prepared to take up the trades of London, in which female industry was so fearfully overtaxed, the iron trade, and many other branches of manufacture. He could point out towns engaged in the iron manufacture which left the alleged immorality of the cotton mills far behind. If they held, that the working classes would be as well oft and would receive the same amount of wages when the hours of labour were reduced, the argument amounted to this, that they might reduce them not only from twelve or fourteen, as at present, to ten or eight, but even to one hour daily. There was evidence in abundance, to prove that within three months of the passing of this Bill, the workmen expected to get the same amount for ten hours that they now got for twelve hours. This was the operative theory upon the subject. They thought that if they produced less, there would be increased competition on what they did produce, and that the manufacturer getting a higher price for a smaller quantity of goods, would be able to give higher wages to his men. They said that this would be an advantage to the community at large, for that if the same demand for goods continued as existed then, it would call more labour into employment; and if, with labour restricted to ten hours, full employment was not given, the period might be reduced to eight, as it was better that all should work for eight hours than that some should not be able to work at all. But who would invest their capital in new mills upon such terms? No one: and then our foreign competitors would step in to fill up the gap which we had ourselves created. The hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Hindley) thought, that as we had taught the world to overwork itself, we ought to set the generous example of showing them that they ought to restrict the hours of labour; but he (Mr. 1426 Ward) feared that the Universal Peace Society, of which the hon. Member was also President, would prove quite as feasible a scheme, as the attempt to persuade Foreigners not to take advantage of every restriction in British industry. And what would be the consequence if they did? He recollected, in a work attributed to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Board of Trade, a year or two ago, that the depression, and the misery which this country was enduring in the midst of high civilization, and universal peace, were traced to a diminution in our foreign exports, amounting to not more than one-fifteenth as compared with 1841. The writer said it was the paralysis of our foreign trade that was the cause of the paralysis at home, with all its fearful accompaniments, and yet the decrease was only one-fifteenth. He had no wish to trespass at any length upon the House, and his only apology for the time he had occupied was the strong sentiments which he entertained as to the importance of the question under discussion. He would admit, that to reverse the decision which they had came to the other night would have its disadvantages; but he trusted that if the House of Commons saw that it must prove most perilous to the manufacturing population, it would not shrink from doing what he believed to be its bounden duty to all. The theories which were now afloat, and which were encouraged by the highest sanction of the press, coupled with this unfortunate vote—for so he regarded it—were calculated to reverse all ideas of the proper relation between labour, and capital in this country, and to give an impression of the powers of that House which no act of that House could ever realise. He found the Government accused by those journals which usually supported it, of bringing the Queen's name into contempt by standing between Her Majesty and the boon, which she would so willingly grant to the women, and children in the manufacturing districts by reducing to a reasonable standard the daily labour of her sex and their offspring. Was there a man who believed that the Queen could do this? Was there a man, who believed but that there was a necessity that overruled them, and prevented them from doing it? If the noble Lord in his present view was right, and the Member for London had continued ten years in power, without diminishing the hours of labour, he was responsible for all that the women and children of this country had endured since he first came 1427 into office. If he (Mr. Ward) thought that the period of labour could be reduced without an injury to our trade, and a diminution of wages, he would at once not only support a ten hours' Bill, but, as an amends for past neglect, he would go to an eight, or a six hours' Bill at once, and give the people the means of earning their livelihood upon easier terms than their boldest advocates now proposed. But they must not stop there. They must not confine the boon to the Factory Districts. What did they mean to do with the agricultural population? He knew something of them—he had seen the wretched shifts to which their miserable families were reduced—he had seen their joy when the sun shone on a winter's day because they could not afford fire—for they seldom saw fires in the cottages of the central districts of the kingdom. Could they leave these poor creatures, who were living on the smallest pittance, in their present state? Yes, the noble Lord would say, because they did not pretend to interfere with wages. But they would be, in fact, doing so, if they imagined that they could reduce the hours of labour without decreasing wages. What was it that drove men to the necessity of overworking themselves and their children? The struggle for bread. Could they find no means of relieving their destitution? He thought he could, but the supporters of the Corn Law could not; and yet the noble Lord taunted him with inhumanity—not personally, because he could not speak unkindly to any one—but he assumed a sort of superior humanity in that House, which he would venture to say many of his countrymen would regard as extremely suspicious, so long as they saw him voting for a measure, which had a direct tendency to increase the price of their food. They must not mince these matters—they must, not let one side of the House have more claims to humanity than the other. He believed he could show the noble Lord more suffering amongst the working classes, arising from the Corn Laws, which, as he had said before, raised up, as it were, a wall of brass between the people of the town he represented (Sheffield) and their food; more misery, he repeated, could be shown as resulting from this, than from any other cause. He did not accuse the noble Lord and hon. Members opposite of inhumanity, but he would not be taunted with heartless indifference towards those whom he represented. The right hon. Baronet opposite had gratified him by admitting that in principle the restriction of adult female labour 1428 was indefensible. One of the greatest exaggerations which the noble Lord had committed, was contained in his statement with reference to the employment of married females. If anything was susceptible of proof it was that the number of married women employed in factories was very small. In Mr. Ashworth's mills it was proved that there was only one in 800. He had now stated his opinions. It was the interest of the working classes to which he was looking in the vote that he should give, for the capitalist would take care of himself; but so strongly was he convinced, that in the course which he was taking, he should but serve the real interests of them whom he represented, that he would not mind vacating his seat next week, confident that he should convince his constituents that he had consulted their interests by opposing any Legislative interference with their free arguing as working men.
§ Sir R. Inglis
said Her Majesty's Ministers had proposed a Bill which, right or wrong, was regarded as right by almost all their opponents, and which was regarded as wrong by almost all their supporters. The most experienced Member of the House of Commons could hardly recollect such a discussion as the present, in which Her Majesty's Ministers found themselves in opposition to about 97 out of those who on almost every other occasion gave them their unhesitating confidence; and, with the exception of the hon. Member for Clitheroe, almost every Member who had risen behind the Ministerial benches had uttered strong denunciations against them, whilst on the other side three hon. Gentlemen had risen together to the rescue. He alluded to the hon. Member for Sheffield, the hon. Member for King's County, and another hon. Gentleman, all of whom rose at the same time as he believed to support Her Majesty's Ministers. He certainly was correct in his opinion as to the hon. Member for Sheffield, and he believed he was not wrong with respect to the other hon. Members. The proposition which the Committee were called upon to affirm was substantially this;—Whether they would rescind a solemn decision which had already been come to; not suddenly, but after an adjourned debate; to which a larger majority gave their support than the late Government had during the last year of its existence—a decision which Her Majesty's Ministers thought proper to assist an hon. Member opposite in endeavouring to contravene. He believed that according to the ordinary practice of the House the decision 1429 on the word "six" in one line of a Clause would be considered as binding for the rest of the Clause, and when he remembered that a second division took place after about thirty members had retired, he could not but complain on the part of the independent Members that an attempt was made to stultify the previous decision. It was true that in the case of the malt tax a preceding Government pursued a similar course. They thought it desirable that an impost, amounting to 5,000,000l., which was essential to the maintenance of the public credit, should not be sacrificed without any previous consideration. Lord Althorp complained that the House had been taken by surprise, and proposed to rescind the resolution; but he warned the right hon. Baronet now at the head of Her Majesty's Government to beware of following such an example. The question now was not whether the poor should have a pot of porter the fractional part of a halfpenny cheaper, but whether the House had not encouraged hundreds of thousands to expect a certain remission of their labour under the authority of a formal decision of the House; and he would ask whether it would be safe, whether it would be consistent, he might almost ask, whether it would be decent, to dash the cup of hope from their lips? He had this morning received, along with the other Members who supported the proposition of the noble Lord the other night, addresses from the workpeople of Leeds, Bradford, Keighley, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Ashton, Bolton, Manchester, and some other places, thanking the House for the vote to which it had come on Monday night last; and he could not read some of those addresses without feeling a deep sympathy with those whose hopes would be so fearfully disappointed if the Government should succeed in carrying their proposition. The people of Leeds said they gave their joyous and hearty thanks to the 179 Members of the House of Commons, and above all, to his noble Friend, Lord Ashley, for the part he had taken: he felt it an honour to call the noble Lord his friend. He had listened with deep attention to the statistics with which he had commenced the present discussion. He believed the triumph of last Monday had fixed the fate of the Bill, and he would tell his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, who had led the House for the last two years and a half, that, whoever might fill that post, whether his right hon. Friend, or the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, or his noble Friend the Mem- 1430 ber for Dorsetshire, that the Bill was virtually carried. His right hon. Friend might postpone its operation by rescinding the previous vote, but he, looking at the appearance of the Committee, trusted that his right hon. Friend would be disappointed in the attempt. Whether successful or defeated let not the Government deceive themselves with the expectation that they must ultimately triumph, when there was such a manifestation of public opinion and public principle arrayed against them. On the last occasion when they were engaged in a conflict with their own supporters,—it was on the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill of last session—he then told them respectfully, but firmly, that they would be compelled to relinquish that Bill, and urged them not to endeavour to drag their supporters through the dirt, inasmuch as a portion of that dirt must stick to themselves. He would tell them now most respectfully, but with a deep conviction on his part, that although their opposition to the measure of his noble Friend might meet with a temporary success, yet in the course of another year or two they would be compelled either to come forward as they had done in the case of the Ecclesiastical Courts, with a Bill totally different from the former one, or with a Bill embodying nearly all the propositions which his noble Friend had endeavoured in vain to recommend to their notice. Adopt them they must, but in the meantime they would lose all the grace of concession, and expose their fellow subjects to the bitter disappointment of seeing their hope suspended for one or two years more. Let them recollect that they were dealing with the bodies and the souls of their fellow-men; because, one of the consequences of the present state of things was, that no time was allowed for education, and that their Sundays were necessarily devoted to repose only, after the severe labours of the week. He had listened attentively to the speeches of the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government and the hon. and learned Member fur Clitheroe, but did not find anything in them that did not apply, at least, as strongly to the existing law. The hon. Member for Sheffield would not interfere with labour at all. The noble Lord, the Member for Dorsetshire interfered with labour, but on principle. The question, however, as to principle, was really carried, and it only remained to be seen whether it would be reduced to practice in 1844 or 1846. Such was the modification proposed by his noble Friend of his original proposi- 1431 tion, that if there were a fallacy in his principle, or an error in his conclusions, the power of correcting either remained in their hands, as the measure would not take effect until the 10th of October, 1844, when the hours of labour would be limited to eleven; and the minimum would not be attained until the 10th of October, 1846. During that period, if the House discovered they had committed, through their humanity or excursive benevolence, any such error in their political economy as would require them again to interfere, for the sake of their pounds, shillings, and pence, they would have still the power of retracing their steps and removing the evil. He was convinced that there was no danger by a diminution of wages when it was accompanied by an increase of the physical comforts of the people, wages might be less on any given day, yet more, taking the year together, by being equally distributed, instead of there being occasionally great want of employment. He might take higher ground in support of his view, but he did not think it necessary to do so, inasmuch as he thought he had made out his case, and that the labourers in cotton factories would derive more advantage from the dimunition of labour proposed than they would from the two hours extra pay. It was admitted on all hands that the last two hours labour was the least profitable to the master, and the factory statistics proved that it was within the last two hours that accidents to the children most frequently happened. On that account alone he considered the limitation proposed by his noble Friend desirable, because it seemed clear, if the hours of labour were diminished the repetition of these frightful calamities, which caused often the loss of valuable life, and more frequently a race of deformed beings, would be prevented. Those who supported the proposition of his noble Friend were taunted, and on high authority, with the sufferings of the agricultural population, and it was even said, that women were to be found, during the inclement season of winter, labouring in the fields for six or seven hours a day, without the power of obtaining in the wettest weather a change of clothes. He certainly was not aware of this, and he would ask any one, in or out of the House, to point out, if they could, in what county of England women were to be found during the winter labouring in the fields for six or seven hours a day. Without regarding the thing as impossible, he had never heard of it. But 1432 whether the sufferings of the agricultural population were great or small, this at least he could say, that they had not the same means of obtaining redress for those sufferings as the labourers employed in the factories. It was in the power of that House to stop the great machines by which the operations of the factories were carried on, and if they exercised that power, they could, of course, regulate the labour of those by whom the operations of these great machines were conducted. The House, therefore, had a power in this case, which they had not in reference to the agricultural labourers of either Dorsetshire or Bedfordshire, and one result of exercising the power they possessed was, that in the ratio they diminished labour they would increase the time for acquiring moral and religious instruction. There was no legislation applicable to the agricultural labourers; but it was different in the case of factory labourers. Having on a former occasion stated his general notions on this subject to the House, he would say no more at present than to thank the House for the patience with which they had heard him.
§ Mr. C. Buller
said that Her Majesty's Government intended that night, as they understood from the statement made on a former evening, to resort to the extreme step, on the eighth Clause, of making absolute nonsense of the Bill, by endeavouring to induce the House to nullify the decision which they came to the other night. He thought that they had a right to expect that the Government would at least have laid some ground for such a course by adducing such fresh arguments and information as might justify a change of opinion and vote. To his surprise, however, no Member of the Government had risen to advance a single argument in favour of the extraordinary and violent course proposed by it: and in coming to the discussion of the present evening, he found that he had to grapple with no single supporter from the other side of the course taken by the Government, except the hon. and learned Member for Clitheroe. He admitted that this was no easy task, after the able speech which they had heard, and the force with which the hon. Member had put forward his views. He was sure that he could not pay that hon. Gentleman a more effective compliment than by confessing that he had been betrayed into cheering the very arguments used by that hon. Gentleman in arguing against the opinion which he had 1433 felt himself called upon to adopt. His hon. Friend, the Member for Sheffield, had taken the same side, in a speech, which he must take the liberty of describing as not being quite so remarkable for the strength of argument, as for the strength of the language which he chose to apply to all those who differed from the opinion which his hon. Friend had adopted. His hon. Friend appeared exceedingly hurt, as well he might be, at the notion that he and the other supporters of the Government plan should be thought less humane and considerate than the supporters of the noble Lord's Amendment; and very sensitive as to any language that tended to countenance such a supposition. He certainly did not believe that his hon. Friend, or those with whom he voted, cared less for the interests of humanity and justice, than the supporters of the Amendment; but when he gave his hon. Friend credit for the utmost humanity in his vote for twelve hours, he thought he might fairly ask him to give those who ventured to hold a different opinion credit for some little share of common sense. He felt, however, that the vote which he had given the other night was one which required explanation. He would at once admit that the vote which had been come to by the majority the other night was fraught with most important consequences. It must produce great effects, for good or evil, on the condition of a great mass of the people. If the majority were wrong, undoubtedly its vote would interfere most seriously with the great staple industry of the country, with our main foreign export, with the employment of capital, and with the subsistence of a large portion of the population, But if, on the other hand, the majority was, as he believed it to be, right, then it might take credit to itself for effectually grappling with a mischief of the most pernicious character, a mischief which if not grappled with, and the Government would not grapple with it, threatened to be productive of very dangerous consequences. If the view of the majority was sound and wise, it would be the first great step in a bold and new course of legislation, adopted with a view of alleviating great moral and physical suffering, and of averting national dangers which their old principles of legislation were not calculated to deal with, but which, if not dealt with, must peril the peace, institutions, morality, and greatness of the coun- 1434 try. When he voted with the noble Lord, he deliberately adopted a new and bold principle of legislation. He exposed himself to the charge which was thrown out against all who voted with the majority, that they were voting against all principle; for he voted, he was quite aware, against the principle on which legislation on these matters had hitherto been conducted; a legislation which, while it contented itself with protecting the property of the rich, shrunk from giving its protection to the poor, left the helpless to take care of themselves, and paid no attention to the revolutions which the progress of time brings about in the social condition of nations. New evils require new remedies. A new social state, such as that of England had become in the present century, required new principles of legislation. Could it be said that this was a view of the matter in which no thinking man concurred with him? He would venture to say that no unprejudiced man who looked at the alteration which had been operated, in the course of the last century, in the social condition of the people of this country, could contemplate that alteration without feelings of apprehension. A hundred years ago the great mass of the working people of this country were agricultural, with little community of interest, scattered over the country, without any means of intercommunication, without intelligence, without any idea or capacity of acting in concert, without any power of combination, and entirely influenced by institutions, feelings, and habits which taught them implicitly to act under the guidance of those to whom they had been accustomed to look up with hereditary awe, and, he might add, with hereditary attachment. At that period the population of the towns was limited, and the manufacturing portion were principally skilled artizans, who got high wages, were possessed of great intelligence, and were well able to protect themselves. What was the case now? Millions, he might say, of men had collected together for the first time, in certain limited spaces; millions, not skilled artizans, but men carrying on, in their several classes, some one particular branch of industry, which they practised from the first moment at which they could work, till they could work no longer,—the great mass of them, in fact, just as unskilled as the rudest agricultural labourer. Thus large masses of unskilled, needy, impoverished labourers were 1435 collected together, subjected to terrible privations and discomforts from their very agglomeration;—from the same cause almost at the mercy of their employers;—and from the same cause ready and apt to combine for mischief. Was this a state of things which Parliament could regard with satisfaction? Was it a good state of things? Was it better for the working people? Was it better for the rest of the community? What was the physical condition of these unfortunate people thus collected together? Was it a satisfactory one? He would not go into any lengthened details, but let him simply ask the House to remember what had been shown to be the comparative duration of life in Manchester, for instance, and in the county of Wilts, an agricultural district. In Wiltshire the average duration of life was thirty-three years: in Manchester, it was only seventeen. He did not mean to say that this difference in the duration of human life sprung solely or mainly from the nature of factory labour: but it clearly must arise from the circumstances taken all together, under which that labour was carried on in the great towns. Now, it could not be doubted that the evils of this physical condition were calculated to grow worse in every succeeding generation. A people whose life was reduced to one half of the usual average of the labouring class by no accident, no sudden disaster, no chance epidemic, but by the constant action of circumstances unfavourable to health and longevity, were not likely to propagate a vigorous and healthy race. He thought that no legislature could view with indifference a state of things that thus shortened human life, and tended to deteriorate the species. In some respects, no doubt, the factory labourer was better off than other unskilled labourers. But he did think that there were circumstances in that kind of labour that tended to the injury of health. The mere temperature in which they worked must tend to this result. There were these poor people working for hours and hours together all day long in an Indian temperature, and then turned out to go home and sleep in a northern climate. Nor was their social and moral condition at all satisfactory. No man could venture to say that they were properly educated. No man could say that their religious wants were properly attended to. No man could say that their 1436 moral condition was wholesome or natural. The mode of employment was such as to subvert all the ordinary relations of the sexes as to labour; the women and children did the hard work, the men occupied themselves with the household duties. The women and the children supported the men by their hard labour; though every one must admit that nothing could be of greater importance than that women should he limited to the discharge of their own proper functions. The political bearings of this state of things called for earnest consideration; for it could not but be acknowledged that the number of people thus collected together, with manifold subjects of complaint, with great facilities for combination, with no attachment, as a rule, to their employers, in a condition eminently open to the machinations of agitators—were circumstances fraught with much danger to the country, unless a speedy and effectual remedy was applied. Those who might shrink from the taunt of being actuated by mere humanity would find plenty of justification for legislating on this subject on grounds of mere interest. It was the interest of every friend of order and property to provide the remedy for a social state that could not continue without danger to both. And in looking for a remedy, it was consolatory to think that in the very circumstances which excited alarm there was one counterbalancing advantage. The very proximity of these masses of labouring population placed them more completely under the control and direction of Government, and afforded greater facilities for applying the various remedies which were needed—for properly organising these people, guiding them by religion, bettering them by education, restraining them by police, ensuring their comforts by sanitary regulations, and checking the growth of mischievous social habits among them by legislative interference. It was their duty to do so if they regarded their welfare—their policy to do so if they looked to their own safety. They had neglected the calls of duty and policy—they had allowed this vast population to grow up with the scanty provision for religious guidance which the chances of the old parochial division of several centuries ago had furnished—with the schooling which sectarian competition supplied—in such dwellings as the caprice or avarice of builders and ground-landlords ran up for 1437 them; and they had allowed, without any attempt at interference, the growth of that monstrous subversion of the ordinary relations of society which pervaded the whole labouring population of these towns. There was no thinking man that was not appalled at this state of things, and the prospect of its unchecked tendency. It is not a mere question of sentiment. Political economists did not regard it with unmixed complacency. Even Mr. M'Culloch, no sentimentalist, shook his head, and confessed that the growth of huge masses of manufacturing population was a source of alarm. But he only shook his head and confessed his fears: he suggested no remedy. His noble Friend ventured to grapple with the peril. One frightful, acknowledged evil he saw, and asked them to check, by preventing the weakness of youth and sex from being worked more than the usual period required for the labour of strong men in all other branches of industry in this country. He asked nothing more. He said ten hours' labour is the usual day's labour of grown-up men in this country. There is one immense branch of industry in which poverty and competition have compelled women and young persons to work more than this. Step in and aid them; and prohibit their working more than the full day's labour of men. Even if this prohibition should prevent men doing so, still prevent this mischief; and it would be no great evil if even the adult male cotton-spinner were indirectly prevented from overworking himself. The Government trembled at this proposal. They forgot the mischiefs of our present state—the perils of the future; they shrank from change; and dignified their inertness by the high sounding name of adherence to principle. But he would say these were among the fallacious pretexts by which selfish wealth had always showed its indifference to the well-being of the poor—by which incapable legislators had sought to rid themselves of the duties of Government. Such he conceived to be the importance of the object which the noble Lord sought to attain. His measure would reduce the toil of women and young persons within the limits of the usual day's labour of men in this country. It would tend to the improvement of their health: leave them more, though by no means enough of time, for education, household duties, and relaxation; and check the present dispo- 1438 sition to the use of stimulants. His own expectation was that it would do this to a much greater extent than the mere amount provided by the Bill. He thought in all probability that it would at least in a great many mills induce the master to substitute the labour of men for that of young persons and women. It was known that vast proportions of the young men were now out of employ. They were told now by Mr. Horner that there are hundreds of young men working as piercers for less wages than those of young women. When you could no longer employ the women and young persons for twelve hours, what would be the difficulty of getting the unemployed, or those now employed at less wages to work for the higher wages now given to the women? The natural state of things would thus be restored, men would do the hard work, and women would be entirely left to their household duties. But, in many cases the limiting the labour of women and your, persons, would undoubtedly limit the labour of all ages and all sexes. The mill would only go for ten hours. He must confess he thought this a very desirable result. He should like to see the workmen in our factories work no longer hours than the great body of labourers in the country. It was said that the opinion of practical men was altogether against the view of his noble Friend; but, with all respect for practical men, he was not always particularly inclined to take their opinions on matters affecting their own particular interests. They had always some paradise of a mill of their own or a friend's to bring up in proof that the particular complaint advanced was without foundation; there was always some statement that trade would not bear the weight of a single feather more, and the particular thing proposed to be done was invariably the feather which would bear down the scale. The present Bill, according to some of these practical men, was the feather which would bear down commerce. Comparisons every body agreed, were odious, but he could not help calling to mind that, in like manner, every measure which had been proposed for the removal of negro slavery had been objected to by a number of practical men, each of whom possessed some heaven on earth in the West Indies, whose negroes lived in the utmost happiness; and whether the proposal was to abolish the flogging of women, or the use 1439 of the cart whip in the field, it was always asserted by these practical authorities that that particular change would effect the ruin of the West Indian interest. He was ready to pay the utmost attention to the arguments and proofs adduced by practical men; but arguments and proofs he must require from them, for be would not he deterred by their mere vague assurances of the danger of interference. Nor was he much influenced by an argument, in terrorem, used by the right hon. Baronet, (Sir R. Peel), as to the consequences of interference to the extent proposed by the noble Lord. "If you do what you propose now," he said, "where will you stop? If you interfere with the cotton trade, you will interfere next with the screw-makers, the potteries, the button-makers, domestic servants, agricultural labourers, with all trades and businesses." He would at once inform the right hon. Baronet that, as far as he was concerned, his tendency would be to apply the same principle which the present Bill applied to factories, to every other case of a similar nature, up to the point at which he should be stopped by decided inconvenience, or absolute impossibility. Wherever the same interference would do more good than harm, he would interfere. Government themselves proposed to interfere with a twelve hours' limitation; his noble Friend, on precisely the same principle, thought ten hours a proper limit to factory labour. On the same principle, if there were any other branches of industry which Parliament could regulate as easily and safely as it could the labour in factories, he (Mr. C. Buller) would apply to them precisely the same principles as they applied to the factories. He did not know enough of the particular circumstances of the earthenware and button and screw manufactures to pledge himself as to the course which he would pursue with regard to them; but as far as knew of them, he could not conceive why they were not subjected to the same regulations as were deemed applicable to factories. With regard to domestic servants, he did not think interference would be so beneficial as to counterbalance the immense evils of the domestic inquisition which it would necessitate. In some classes domestic servants might be overworked; but these did not comprise the great body of the class; and certainly gentlemen's servants were not a body whose sufferings 1440 excited much of his commiseration. Then with regard to agricultural labourers, they certainly were not generally overworked. In other respects they had much to complain of. They were too often ill-paid, ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-lodged; but Nature herself, the vicissitudes of night and day, prevented a general excess of out-door labour. As for the hard work in harvest, mentioned by the right hon. Baronet—who would complain if the long hours of labour in the factory prevailed only during two or three weeks of the year, when absolute necessity, arising from natural causes, required them, and if the labourer were stimulated to a brief occasional exertion by high pay, generous food, and the custom of the country, which made harvest a period of festivity, as well as of labour in common? But these, in fact, were the kind of terrors that were always held out to scare them from attempting anything for the benefit of the great body of the people. The wisest of men had said, "The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way: there is a lion in the street." He never saw such a man for lions as the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. He elevated every cat, or shadow of a cat, into a lion, and said, "For God's sake don't go along the street, or you'll be eaten up." But the two right hon. Baronets had advanced more substantial arguments against the the amendment of the noble Lord. One of them had taken great pains to show that the proposed reduction of the hours of labour would exclude our manufactures from foreign markets; the other that it would occasion a large reduction of wages. These were arguments of a commercial nature, which the friends of humanity doubtless could not overlook; for if they were sound, they would be decisive against the humanity and justice of the noble Lord's amendment. There surely could be no real humanity in any attempt to better the condition of the labourer, that should end in depriving him of the means of earning his subsistence. But before he proceeded to discuss these two arguments separately, he must attempt to set them, and, if possible, the two right hon. Baronets who had made them, together by the ears. The one right hon. Baronet went upon the argument that the agreeing to the proposition of the noble Lord would prevent one main branch of our export trade from being able to meet foreign competition, in consequence 1441 of our manufacturers being compelled to raise the prices of their goods; the other right hon. Baronet said that prices would not he raised, but that wages would be be lowered, to compensate for reduced profits, and that the labourers would be the sufferers. But these arguments could not both be correct; for one assumed that prices would, the other that they would not, be affected by the reduction of the hours of labour. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had expressed much alarm at the prospect of the change raising prices and preventing our contending with foreigners in neutral markets. He had most impressively called the attention of the Committee to the magnitude of the export trade, which such a measure would effect, and the numbers dependent on it. These were considerations that could not be too strongly impressed on the House. The right hon. Baronet had then gone on to dwell on the danger of placing any restrictions on manufactures that would at all increase the difficulties of competition with foreign rivals. He hoped that these alarms of the right hon. Baronet, and these admissions, would be borne in mind in the next discussion on the Corn Laws. It was said that the reduction of the hours of labour from sixty-nine to sixty, would diminish one seventh of the labour in factories. He thought this might be disputed: he thought it very questionable whether the last two hours of a person's daily labour were equivalent to two hours of earlier labour. There was one curious fact which had been mentioned in private by an hon. Member who, by the way, voted against him, it was a fact connected with factories in Scotland; and it was so well worthy of attention in its bearing upon the question before them, that he felt it necessary to refer to it. The statement to which he referred was, that for the first fortnight after a period of rest and relaxation, the operatives in those factories produced ten per cent. more than at any other period of their employment. Indeed, could it be doubted that in the last two hours of the twelve in which persons might be employed in factories, there was less labour performed than in the other hours? He would, however, grant, for the sake of argument, that the reduction of produce would be proportioned to the reduction in the hours of labour. Let them calculate with precision what the 1442 effect would be. For this purpose, he should take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to a statement similar to that by means of which his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, who was one of those insane manufacturers that did not understand their own interests, had calculated the amount of that reduction. The calculation which the hon. Member for Salford had made as to the amount of the reduction agreed with the calculation in a pamphlet published by Mr. Kenworthy of Blackburn, a very large manufacturer, who rose from being himself an operative, who was now the partner of the hon. Member for Blackburn, and who was very well acquainted with the subject. The calculation was, that the cost of manufacturing a pound of raw cotton into a pound of yarn—that was not exact, for he was told that it required about nine pounds of raw cotton to make eight pounds of cotton yarn; but as it would be seen that the difference would tell in favour of his argument, he was justified in omitting it for the sake of simplicity;—the cost of manufacturing a pound of raw cotton into a pound of yarn, No. 36, was at the highest 3d. Now, they said that the diminishing the hours of labour would diminish the produce of manufacture in proportion to the number of hours reduced: and in the same ratio increase the cost of production, if wages, profits, and expenses remained the same. If they reduced the hours from sixty-nine to sixty by a ten hour's Bill, they would increase the cost of production in the same proportion—that was, the manufacturing the pound of yarn would cost 3 7/16d., instead of 3d. The reduction of the present hours of labour by an eleven hours Bill, would in the same way increase the cost of production from 3d. to 3 5/16d. Therefore, the increase of cost of manufacture by a ten hours' Bill would be 7–16ths of a penny, by an eleven hours' Bill it would be 5–16ths of a penny. Now the duty on raw cotton was 5–16ths of a penny per pound. Take off that, and they would exactly diminish the cost of production to the whole extent that an eleven hours' Bill would raise it. They would diminish it so as to prevent a ten hours' Bill raising the cost more than 2–16ths of a penny, or half a farthing. Now the price of a pound of' yarn was given by Mr. Horner at 1s. Half a farthing advance on 1s. is just one per 1443 cent. The right hon. Baronet stated that the effect of the reduction would be ruinous to the manufacturers, in consequence of the competition of foreign manufactures; but if the right hon. Baronet wished to relieve the manufacturers from the effect of that increase in the price of production he could find the means, not by repealing the Corn Laws, or by any remedy which it would be difficult to apply, but by the repeal of a tax kept up for financial purposes alone, which was upheld by no interest of any kind, and which he was not sure would not at any rate be repealed whenever the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward that budget, to which every body was looking for the repeal of the particular tax that pressed on him. If the right hon. Baronet wished to relieve the cotton manufacturer from the pressure of the increase of price caused by diminished hours of labour, he had the means in the removal of the tax on raw cotton. That abolition of the tax on raw cotton would reduce the loss on the ten hours' Bill to almost nothing, and reduce it to absolutely nothing in the case of an eleven hours' Bill. That was a question between the labouring class and them, and they would advance their interests and remove from them any pressure from this alteration by giving up the duty on raw cotton, a duty which produces but half a million a year, and which they might without difficulty relinquish with a surplus revenue. If Her Majesty's Government were desirous of relieving the manufacturers from any of those effects which they said would be produced by a reduction of the hours of labour, let them remove the tax on raw cotton. The budget would show whether they were sincere or not in their desire to guard the manufacturers against this danger.
He would now deal with the argument which had been brought forward by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and which was altogether of an opposite nature. He said that he did not believe the increase of price caused by the reduction in the hours of labour would fall on the manufacturer, but that it would fall on the operative; and in reference to that portion of the subject, the right hon. Baronet made a statement from Mr. Horner, which he did 'not understand. He understood one part of it, however, namely, the page from which the right hon. Baronet quoted, 1444 and he referred to the data in that page, and made calculations from those data, which he had gone over more than once, and which he believed to be correct. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the reduction in the hours of labour would cause a reduction in the amount of production; that our dependence on foreign markets would prevent the price being raised; that the increased cost of production must fall either on profits or on wages; and that the labourer being the weaker party the reduction would ultimately fall on his wages. Agreeing thus far with the right hon. Baronet, he did not by any means agree with him as to the amount of the reduction, for it seemed to him that the right hon. Baronet had arrived at his conclusion by stopping short in the middle of his calculations. He would show this by going over and carrying on the calculation of the right hon. Baronet. By his hypothesis as much cotton per week must be produced, as would, after replacing the cost of the raw material, and some other fluctuating expenses, sell for
Now, suppose the production to be diminished by nine hours out of sixty-nine, and a proportionate reduction of produce to take place, the value of the total weekly return will be to 498l. 12s. as 60 to 69, that is, it will be 433l. The loss of produce will be the difference between 498l. and 433l., that is, 65l. per week. This, it was said, would have to come entirely out of the wages of the workmen, which being now 302l., would then be 237l., being a reduction of barely more than 21 per cent., or a little more than one-fifth instead of one-fourth, as sometimes assumed in the course of the opposite arguments. The 433l. produced will be divided into 196l., to replace fixed expenses, and 237l. for wages—wages being reduced for each man from an average of 12s. 6d. to 9s. 10½d. per week. Here the right hon. Baronet stops. I say he ought to go much further to ascertain the results of the change. What is the result which he has thus got to in the state of the cotton trade and labour market? The result is, that the price of cotton manufacture will, by this hypothesis, be the same as before, the demand the same, and the profits the 1445 same—the only change being in the amount of wages, which will fall one-fourth, and the supply of manufactured cotton, which will be diminished by about one-seventh. This diminished supply will have to be met by increased production. Prices being unaltered, Great Britain will still have the sure command of the foreign market as before. The customer will still want the sixty-pounds' worth of goods which will not be forthcoming, and still come to us for it; and we shall, owing to the reduction of wages, be able to supply this deficiency as we did before, only we shall have to build a fresh mill producing that amount of cotton. This amount will be raised at a cost of 65l. per week, of which, at the new rate of payment for wages, about 29l. 8s. will be required to replace fixed expenses, and 36l. 12s. for wages. The result of this will be, that the same amount of cotton as before will be raised, and for the same cost; but in order to ascertain the total amount of wages that will be paid before and after the proposed change, we must add this 35l. 12s. to the 237l. paid before. The total amount paid in wages will then be 272l. 12s. Therefore the total amount of wages paid after the change, will be 29l. 8s. less than that paid before, being a reduction of nine per cent. Each workman's wages will be reduced, but new labourers will be employed. Or state it in another way. By cutting off nine hours of labour from the sixty-nine, you will render it necessary to employ more labourers than you had before, at reduced wages. But in order to set these labourers to work, You must expend so much money in rent of mill and machinery, and other fixed expenses, as will amount to 30l. on a weekly expenditure of 498l. This 30l. will have to be borne by the wages of the labourers, the total amount of which will, therefore, be to that extent less than it was before the change. That is, wages will be reduced from 302l. to 272l., or just about nine per cent. Now these were the deductions which he made. He had shown that if Ministers were afraid of the effect of a reduction of hours, in giving an advantage to foreign competition, they had the remedy in their own hands. We have a large surplus, to what better use could they devote it? At least, don't let those, who could remove the whole danger by giving up the duty on raw cotton, talk of the noble Lord's Amendment as fraught 1446 with indefinite mischief. If, on the other hand, the result should be not an increase of prices, but a fall of wages, he had shown that the amount of that fall would be only nine per cent. This was a fall in wages which he did not hesitate to say would, in his opinion, be fully compensated by the increase of comfort and economy that would result from the women attending to their domestic duties. Those who took the same view of the subject which he took, were charged with maintaining that low wages were favourable to morality and comfort amongst the people. Now he would ask, had the comfort of the people always been in proportion to the amount of their monied wages? He had seen labourers in different parts of the Empire, and the highest paid labourers he remembered to have seen, were men employed at the collieries in the north of England—in Durham; but the work at which they were employed and their own habits caused such a total absence of domestic comfort and economy, and proper management, that he had frequently seen numbers of the labouring people at half the wages of those men in the collieries, who were, as a class, possessed of a greater share of comforts. It was not to be supposed that they would in the case before them diminish the comforts of the labourer in the proportion that they diminished his wages. No; he maintained that if there was an increase in the domestic economy and comfort of the labourer, with such a reduction as this would effect, it could not be looked on as a disadvantage. There was one other argument which, however unwilling he might be to occupy the time of the House, be felt it necessary to notice on that occasion—it was an argument which had been much hinted at in private quarters, but which had not as yet been brought fairly before the House in a way to be grappled with. It was said that the Corn-Laws were concerned in this question—that the Corn-Laws were menaced by the proposition to reduce the hours of labour, and hon. Members were told that if they ventured to agree to this proposal, they would be guilty of such an interference with manufactures, and throw such addition burthens on our foreign exports that the Corn-Laws could no longer be maintained: so that though some of the principal members of the League in that House opposed the Amendment, they did so only 1447 as a blind, in order that it might not be seen that the noble Lord was in fact doing the work of the League. He (Mr. Buller) would not say that there might not be something in that. It was not his business to defend the Corn-Laws; and in this case he did not think they were necessarily concerned; for he had ventured to argue that any burthen thrown upon our manufactures by the adoption of the Amendment, would be compensated the reduction of the duty on raw cotton, that would give all the relief requisite, and to which the same objections could not be made that were made in reference to the Corn-Law, for there was no Anti-Tax-on-Raw-Cotton League, nor any league in opposition to that. But he thought he thought he could put the matter in such a light that the advocates of the present Corn-Laws might be induced to think that voting against the Amendment might also be attended with some danger to the maintenance of the sliding-scale. If the House were now to rescind the vote which they had come to on a former night, the public would know how they voted, they would see who changed his vote, arid who maintained the opinion which he had formerly declared—they would know where the whip had been applied, and they would see who were absent, and who were suddenly present. The public would see, if the present system were supported by the friends of the Corn-Laws, on the ground of their being menanced by the proposition; and if they rescinded the vote they had already come to, it would be supposed that they had sacrificed humanity and policy to the support of them, and that, in consequence of such a desire, they had dashed the cup away from the lips of the operatives. The intelligent and thinking classes would be led to believe that humanity and policy together had been sacrificed for a peculiar interest; they would feel that the Corn-Laws had been made a pretext for main-taming another evil, and that to such a feeling the education, the moral and social relations, and the physical well-being of the people had been sacrificed. What would be the feeling of the operative when he worked the additional two hours at his task? Would he not feel, at his hard and prolonged labour, that he was not working during those hours for his bread, but to pay a bread tax? If hon. Members who put forward the argument that the Corn- 1448 Laws were menaced, regarded their own interests—if they wished to support the Corn-Laws, they would not induce the people of this country to believe that they were connected with the maintenance of every abuse and evil which existed in the social system. He had now stated his reasons for the course which he had taken; he had put forward arguments which were convincing to himself, but perhaps it would be too much to expect they could convince those who were opposed to him. The utmost he would ask was, that they would not say he voted against principle and common sense; that they would not refuse to give him credit for common honesty; and, at all events, that he had made out at least a plausible case in sup-poi t of the course which he had taken. The House of Commons would, he trusted, consider the importance of the question before them—the effect of rescinding the vote which they had already given—a course which was most unusual, and whether right or wrong was always dangerous, and of the gravest importance—he trusted they would consider that they might, by their course in this matter, give rise to feelings which had not before existed. He gave full credit to Her Majesty's Ministers for the honesty of the convictions which induced them to oppose the proposition which had been made, notwithstanding the unpopularity of that opposition; but he would call on hon. Members to recollect that they voted in favour of the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) a few nights ago, and he would ask them if they would be less bold to night, or less confident in the justice of their cause now, when they were called upon by the Government, against parliamentary precedent, to rescind their own determination; it was a gratifying vote, the vote of the other night; it was pleasing to witness the union of all parties and all interests in the cause of humanity; he was sure the same feeling which animated them before would animate them now, and that they would not be influenced by the presence of some, or the absence of others, to change the resolution they had come to; and that there would be no difference in their decision to-night from that which they had already come to, but that they would boldly persevere in that course of humanity and sound wisdom which the House of Commons had done itself the honour of adopting.
£196 2 0 to replace fixed expenses, and 302 10 0 to replace wages of 350 men at 10s. 170 men at 15s. Total £498 2 0 520 men
§ Lord F. Egerton
rose for the purpose of removing an impression which a statement of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) with respect to a manufacturer in his (Lord F. Egerton's) neighbourhood was calculated to make. The noble Lord stated that Mr. Peter Holroyd had refused to employ a man because he was forty-three years old; now he was authorised to state that Mr. Holroyd had no recollection of having done so.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
wished to know if it was the intention of the Government to permit the House to go to a division without allowing hon. Members an opportunity of having the opinion of one of Her Majesty's Ministers on the proposition now before them. The House had a right to some explanation, when it was called on to come to a vote diametrically opposite to that which they had come to the Miler evening. The people of this country were prepared for any injustice on time part of that House or the Government; but when they were now called on to agree to the grossest inconsistencies, they aught to have some reason assigned for doing so. The hon. Member for Sheffield said, that he could go cheerfully amongst the operatives of the town which he represented, and meet them upon the vote which he was about to give this evening. But might not those operatives be entitled to look upon this appeal as an insult to them rather than otherwise? Would the hon. Gentleman have been so freely prepared to go amongst them if those operatives had votes at their disposal for the town of Sheffield? If so, and the hon. Gentleman were to appeal to them, he thought the hon. Gentleman would find that his seat was in great peril. Only two years ago he (Mr. T. Duncombe) presented a petition to this House, signed by upwards of 3,000,000 of people, chiefly in the manufacturing districts, and one o the paragraphs in that petition he would beg to recall to the attention of the House That paragraph pointed out as a subject of complaint that the hours of labour in the manufacturing districts were too long and that the atmosphere which they were compelled to breathe for so long a portion of each day was highly prejudicial to their health. When he presented this petition, he asked the House to allow the petitioners to appear at the Bar, and bi heard in support of the statements which they made. The House, however, refused 1450 to accede to this request, and told him (Mr. T. Duncombe) to bring forward specifically any of the grievances complained of by the petitioners, promising to give to them their best attention. The noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire had brought forward one of the very grievances complained of in this petition; the House had given the subject its best attention, and had come to a vote of relief; and now Her Majesty's Government came down, with all their supporters, for the purpose of reversing the decision which had then been come to. Look at it as people might, this question was really one between avarice and humanity; between an insatiable thirst for gain on the one hand, and the amelioration of the moral and physical condition of the people on the other. Honourable Gentlemen might talk of humanity-mongering, and a spurious humanity, but as the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard had said, it was the very principle of humanity which had stood forward, some years ago, in behalf of the slaves of the West Indian colonies, and succeeded in carrying the great measure of negro emancipation; and this spirit, this spirit of spurious humanity, as Gentlemen are pleased to call it, would, he sincerely believed, sooner or later, set free the white slaves of this country. Gentlemen might treat this question as they pleased this evening, but they might depend upon it that was one, the settlement of which could not be any longer delayed. There were very few persons connected with the manufacturing districts who did not think that the measure of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset-shire was a good one, and one which must have an advantageous effect upon the condition of the working classes. Being firmly of the same opinion himself, he should give that proposition, on all occasions, his earnest and best support.
§ Sir J. Graham
[on rising to speak, was sect by considerable cries of "Adjourn," and "Go on."] The right hon. Baronet said, I can assure the Committee, that if I knew what their wishes were as to proceeding or not with this debate this evening, I should endeavour to meet it. If it be your pleasure that we should go to a division this evening I should wish to address you very stoutly in reference to the merits and present position of this case. Having already, on the former occasion, addressed the Committee on this 1451 subject at considerable length, I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible on the present occasion. [Mr. Hindley here moved that the Chairman report progress.] Tue right hon. Baronet however continued. As I believe I am in possession of the House, I must beg to be allowed to make the few observations which I have thought it my duty to offer on this subject. If I could agree in opinion with the hon. Member for Finsbury that the moral and physical condition of the people would be improved by the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, no one would more cheerfully acquiesce in that proposal than myself; but it is because I do not think that it would have this effect, that I feel it to be my duty to persevere in the opposition which I gave to it on a former evening. Notwithstanding the threat of the hon. Member for Pontefract that Her Majesty would be addressed to remove Her present Ministers if this measure be carried in the form which I propose—notwithstanding the prediction of the noble Lord the Member for Newark, that the country would be thrown into convulsion, unless the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire were affirmed—notwithstanding the unfriendly opposition of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, and the combined attack, rather an extraordinary one, of the hon. Baronet and of the hon. Member for Finsbury, I am bound to say, that considering all the circumstances I never remember a a case upon which I less hesitatingly came to a conclusion as to the course I should take, than on the present occasion—and the result is, that I feel it to be my imperative duty again to divide the Committee upon this important question. With regard to the charge of taking the House by surprise, I beg to remind the Committee that I endeavoured to avoid any pretence for such an accusation the other evening, when, after the division on the second clause, I stated distinctly that I should feel it to be my duty to take the sense of the Committee again upon the principle involved in the eighth clause; and I will state the reasons which led us to cane to this determination. I am bound to state that I was taken by surprise, more or less, at the result of the division on a former evening. The hon. Member for Finsbury says it would be useless to attempt to deceive the country. I am not one who has ever been inclined or accustomed to do so, and, therefore, I state fearlessly that I was certainly as- 1452 tonished by the vote which was come to the other evening, when it was my misfortune to vote against the noble Lord the Member for London, and several other Members of the late Government. I was the more surprised, because I recollected, in 1833, and again on a more recent occasion, so late as 1839, giving my cordial and strenuous support, in aid of their administration, to the very course which the present Government is now adopting. After the vote of the other night, I felt, that, considering the great interests which were at stake, time should be given to reconsider the question and that as the division was not one of party, on the contrary, party seeming to be dissolved in reference to it, some short interval should be allowed to enable public opinion and discussion out of doors to operate in some degree upon the decision which this House might ultimately adopt. I thought it of great importance, in arguing upon a case depending in great measure upon facts which might have been erroneously understood, that time should be given for communication with those districts in which those facts could be best verified. The noble Lord the Member for London rested his vote the other night very much upon the speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, who stated that 300 master manufacturers of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and forty-three of the city which he represented, were in favour of the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire. This was a statement, which was certainly calculated to produce a very great effect against the measure which we proposed; and it became advisable on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to take steps to ascertain what the feeling really was in the city of Leeds and in the cotton districts of Manchester and other parts of Lancashire and of the West Riding. Now, a deputation from Leeds waited on my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government to day, headed by Mr. Mar. shall, and they declared that all the great flax manufacturers of Leeds were strongly adverse to the noble Lord's proposition. With regard to the woollen trade, some information has also been received, but it does not go to the same extent. There appears to be a greater division of opinion amongst the woollen manufacturers than amongst the manufacturers of flax upon this subject. I think it seems, however, pretty well agreed amongst them, that although they might concur in an eleven 1453 hours Bill, they strongly object to a ten hours Bill. But a more important question, is, what is the nature of the communications received by the Government from the great manufacturing interest of the county of Lancashire. It would be impertinent at this late hour for me to refer to written communications; but I will state as shortly as I can to the Committee a summary of their contents. And I can assure the Committee that that great and important interest has been taken entirely by surprise by the vote which the House came to on a former evening. I have received a deputation to day of eight or ten gentlemen, employing no fewer than 8,000 workmen amongst them, and representing no less than 140 firms of the cotton trade of Lancashire; and the summary of their communications is to this effect:—That 129 of those firms join in earnestly entreating the House not to abridge the twelve hours of labour in factories; seventeen others consent to the proposition for limiting the labour to eleven hours, and the remainder four only in the number can be considered as favourable to a ten hours Bill. Now, I have been asked by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller), to give the Committee some new arguments, and some fresh reasoning to induce it to reconsider its decision of the other night. I am bound, in answer to that appeal, to state, that whether it be from the weakness of my reasoning powers or possibly from the exhaustion of this subject, I have no fresh arguments—no additional reasons to offer—having stated already most fully all the arguments and all the reasoning which occurred to my mind as conclusive on the subject. I have dispassionately and carefully considered those reasons and those arguments, and the conclusion to which they lead irresistably, before I stated them to the House; and subsequent consideration and subsequent inquiry have only contributed to stengthen my conviction that the course proposed by my noble Friend (Lord Ashley) is, beyond all doubt, that course and that measure which is most fatal to the interests of those whose cause he espouses, and whose welfare he, in common with us all, is most anxious to promote. It has been said, the working operatives are themselves willing to submit to a great decrease of wages, should it be necessary, as consequent on the proposed limit of time. I must say, however, that I should conclude from the language of a letter I have in my 1454 hand, signed by Mr. Hoare, the chairman of a deputation of workmen now in London, that a priori they feel sensible that a reduction of wages will not be the certain result of a diminution of the hours of labour. The hon. Member for Knaresborough assents to that proposition. If so, and I ant right—[Cheers.] and the hon. Member cheers Inc and assents to it—then, I say, satisfied as I am that they are grossly in error on that point, believing that a large and an early reduction of wages must result inevitably, I am satisfied that disappointment of the most poisonous kind would ensue from the success of the proposed restriction. It could not fail to lead to enmity between the master and their men, to strikes for an increase of wages, to wide spread tumult, to protracted discontent, and to consequences endangering both life and property:—therefore, there is no effort I would not make, there is no odium I would not incur, rather than run the risk of occasioning such disappointment and of fostering delusions which must end in ruin. [Mr. Ferrand: "Give the proposition a trial."] The hon. Member says—give it a trial. But there are certain experiments from which, once tried and failing, there is no return. The risk is too great. This, therefore, is an experiment I am not prepared to make. Then, it is said, agree to this proposal, and it will be a final settlement. But, Sir, the House must bear in mind what was stated on a former evening, by the hon. Member for Oldham, who has been all along the most active and faithful coadjutor of the noble Lord (Lord Ashley). He told us that a ten hours Bill would not, and ought not to be received as a satisfactory settlement of the question; and that he will never rest satisfied until he obtain a Bill to limit the hours of labour to eight. Is this, then, the settlement—is this the conclusion at which we are to arrive by agreeing to the noble Lord's proposal? But it is put in the shape of an alternative, and the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard says, either my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) was wrong when he warned the House as to the effect of the measure in regard to foreign competition, or I was wrong, when I stated the great reduction of wages which I thought would inevitably ensue. My belief is that if our manufacturers, with expensive machinery, are compelled to work only ten hours a day, while their foreign rivals work fourteen—if our operatives are limited to sixty hours a week, while their competi- 1455 tors, whether in America, in France, in Switzerland, on the borders of Austria, or in Germany, and in Belgium, work eighty-four hours in the week—I say competition under such circumstances can only end in defeat; it may be sooner or later; but I am certain defeat must, under such circumstances, inevitably attend the British manufacturer, unless, indeed, the wages of labour be reduced in this country below the level of the Continent. But, then, it is said the noble Lord's proposal is not at once to come into operation. Now, Sir, I am by no means satisfied that if it be done at all it should not be done immediately. For, observe the effect. We are now discussing whether we shall substitute for twelve hours, ten hours a day as the limit of factory labour, on the ground that religion and humanity demand this limitation. That is the proposition upon which we are about to divide. The noble Lord has given notice that he intends (having carried that) not to bring his new restrictions into operation until October next, when, for two years, the limit shall be eleven hours, and at the end of that period of two years it shall be further reduced to ten hours. Now, with that warning before him, what master manufacturer, does the noble Lord suppose, will venture to renew his machinery, to increase it, or to lay out one farthing of money in the maintenance or extension of his trade? He will regard the success of this proposal as a notice to quit, and I am satisfied that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Cardwell) has stated the point with the force of simple truth. I am satisfied that now, with the power unlimited of transferring our machinery to foreign countries, where there is no limit of hours (for though there is an apparent restriction in France, in the absence of any system of inspection it is not operative, and cannot be carried into effect) and we know of large establishments on the confines of Austria where they work for fourteen hours every day for six days in the week—in Austria, which, next to Belgium and Switzerland, is our greatest manufacturing rival—if you limit us here to ten hours a day we shall lied that our manufacturing capital will soon follow our machinery to foreign countries. I am as satisfied as I can be of any mathematical proposition, that the first effect will be, if wages do not greatly fall, to transfer our manufacturing capital to those foreign countries which are already our rivals, and that the inevitable and speedy result will be the downfall 1456 of our domestic manufactures. And what will be the effect of diminishing the demand for labour amongst the masses congregated together in our manufacturing districts? Will morals be improved as degrading poverty advances? Will education spread, when wages become lower? Will manners become more civilized, and will religion penetrate the masses when discontent has taken the place of prosperity, and when ease and comfort have given place to despair? I will not follow the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard through his calculation in opposition to mine, which I stated on a former evening; but I must, notwithstanding what the hon. and learned Member has asserted, repeat that the calculation I submitted to the House was founded upon the most accurate data, and compiled with the most competent assistance; and since then, by my direction, the factory inspectors have referred those calculations to six of the principal master manufacturers of Lancashire; and if time would permit, I would read the answers given, and there is no possibility of concert or collusion with the parties making them; the conclusion to their concurrent testimony is, that the necessary reduction in wages consequent upon this Measure being carried cannot be less than 20 per cent. (a reduction to be made not only in reference to the diminution of time, amounting to one-sixth of the labour for which wages would be paid, but accompanied also with the burthen which must be thrown on the labourers to meet the decreased profits of the master manufacturer, and to pay the interest of his fixed capital, which must be replaced within a limited time), and I will repeat that, according to that calculation, though it has been put at 20 per cent. the reduction can not be less in my opinion, than from 23 to 25 per cent. And I assure the House, that these master manufacturers, to whom the question was referred, have furnished me with returns, founded on their own book accounts for the year 1843, and all concur in the statement that the diminution of wages if tested by the trade and the returns of the last year cannot be less than from 20 to 25 per cent. [An hon. Member: For how long?]—The calculation proceeds on the assumption that ten hours a day is the limit of labour, and that the power of production is reduced in the ratio of one-sixth; and then, the demand for the manufactured article remaining the same, the permanent reduction of wages without a decrease of profits, must be at 1457 least 20 per cent. Now, Sir, if the House should be of opinion with me, that one of two consequences must result immediately—either that there shall be a large reduction of wages—whether 25 or 15 per cent. I care not—or a fearful decline in the profits of the manufacturer—I ask, whether the diminution of two hours labour in each day, will compensate for the evils which the labourer must endure in either case? The point, to be determined by the Committee is this;—whether by a diminution by one-sixth of the hours of labour you can compensate the working classes for the inevitable misery that must be consequent upon a reduction of wages to the amount of 20 or 25 per cent.; or if that shall not be the immediate consequence—if the consequence should be the advancement of foreign competitors—that which cannot occur without eventual loss to the manufacturing labour of this country—I put it, then, to the Committee whether any diminution of labour such as the noble Lord contemplates can be compensated by the sufferings induced by a diminished demand for labour and a large reduction of wages? It is most painful to me to be opposed upon this occasion to the great body of Gentlemen with whom I have acted with great satisfaction, and from whom Her Majesty's Government have received so cordial and generous a support; but I am so deeply impressed with the magnitude of the interests that arc at stake—I feel so sincerely that I cannot yield on this point—that all personal considerations are but as dust in the balance, compared with my sense of duty. I am quite satisfied that in point of fact our commercial and manufacturing prosperity is at stake upon the decision of this evening. With our manufacturing and commercial prosperity I am satisfied the peace, happiness, and future greatness of the community are indissolubly connected. A serious injury is likely to be done by the proposition that is now made, and any such result it is my duty to oppose—feeling and believing that it will have that effect, I do most strenuously oppose it. It is my duty, as a Minister of the Crown, not to flinch on such an occasion, and I now call upon you to re-consider your last decision in the hope that the House will rescind a Vote which Her Majesty's Ministers believe to be dangerous. It is our duty, as men of honour, to give you the opportunity, and therefore, upon that ground I now go to the division. If I had had the opportunity of speaking at an earlier hour I should have said much 1458 more, and have read to the House as evidence of the correctness of my views the documents of which I am in possession. It is sufficient for me now to entreat the House to pause in the career on which they are now entering. It will be to me a matter of great regret if they should confirm their former decision; for I should regard it as the first step in the decline of our commercial greatness. On the other hand I shall indeed rejoice in the reversal of your former Vote, because I shall receive this careful revision, not unworthy of a deliberative assembly, as a proof that you are still anxious to cherish the great commercial and manufacturing interests of this country, which, if they be maintained, will still secure our national greatness; if they languish—if they perish—our strength and our power are gone never to return.
denied, that be had ever said that 300 manufacturers of the West Riding were for a ten hours Bill. He had stated that of seventy-eight manufacturers, there were forty-seven in favour of ten hours, thirty-one in favour of the work being between ten and eleven hours, and not one in favour of twelve hours. On a former occasion he had stated that they were in favour of eleven hours, and that, too, he could say was the general opinion of his constituents. The right hon. Baronet had spoken of a deputation waiting on him. Did the right hon. Baronet dare to ask that deputation if they were in favour of twelve hours? He had seen the deputation, and they had asked him to go with them to the right hon. Baronet; but as he had opposed the Government on this question, he declined doing so. By the Petition which they had shown, they declared that they would prefer that the Bill were withdrawn, rather than that a ten hours Bill were adopted. He himself asked the deputation a question as to a Twelve Hours Bill, which they deprecated, and one of them said, they would get as much work in eleven hours as out of thirteen hours, and to let the people home at six o'clock. But then they were afraid of a ten hours, whilst they were in favour of an eleven hours Bill. That document was most respectfully signed, and the gentlemen who formed the deputation were also most respectable.
§ Sir James Graham
wished to read to the Committee the prayer of the memorial. It was signed by Marshall and others; but he need not enumerate all subscribers. 1459 There could be no doubt but that the memorial contained the names of the principal flax manufacturers of Leeds. It was stated in this memorial that the great body of the flax manufacturers, and also of the woollen manufacturers, had signed it, and the prayer of the memorial was this. They stated then, in their memorial, that the mode of working the mills in Leeds and its neighbourhood was not oppressive to the working people, nor injurious to their health, and that a reduction of labour to fifty-eight hours in the week, as proposed by Lord Ashley, would be followed by a serious reduction in the earnings of the working people; that it would cause great distress, inflict great injury, and increase the difficulty of persons in this country contending against foreign manufacturers. His hon. Friend who had just sat down had stated that the master manufacturers did not desire a twelve hours Bill, but were satisfied with eleven hours. His hon. Friend had said distinctly that this was their wish, and he should now let them speak for themselves. The memorialists respectfully represented their earnest desire that no legislative enactment might be passed interfering with the present practice in the mills in that town and its neighbourhood. and praying that Her Majesty's Government would withdraw the Factory Bill, if the House of Commons insisted on retaining the provision moved by Lord Ashley.
hoped he might be allowed to appeal to his hon. Colleague, as to whether the feeling in Leeds was not in favour of an eleven hours Bill.
§ Mr. Aldam
observed, that the memorial presented by the deputation had the name of almost every flax manufacturer. There had not been one refusal to sign it. It had been taken round without selection, and the same was the case with the woollen manufacturers. There were in that trade but two refusals; one from a person not in the habit of signing memorials, and the other from a person in favour of a ten hours Bill, because with it, he said, they would get rid of inspectors, and all trouble whatsoever. With respect to an eleven hours Bill, he must say that public opinion in Leeds was favourable to such a measure. The opinion of the manufacturers, then, in general, was against a ten, and in favour of an eleven hours Bill. It was, however, but fair to state that the adoption of an eleven hours Bill would not make any 1460 material difference in the ordinary hours of working. In flax mills, eleven hours and-a-half was the ordinary time of working. and in woollen mills eleven hours. That was the average time, 1f the mill-owners were anxious for an eleven hours Bill, it was in order to bring about a final settlement.
§ Mr. Mitchell
had consulted an eminent flax spinner upon the subject of the ten hours Bill, and he stated that the effect of such a measure would be to withdraw one-sixth of the males employed in driving, weaving, and plashing flax. He had, 4,000 men employed in his manufactory, and one-sixth of them would be thrown out of employment by a ten hours Bill.
§ Mr. Muntz
wished merely to notice a paradox stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe. He said that no masters paid so little as English manufacturers, and that no men received so much as English workmen. Now, he believed that no manufacturers paid so much as English masters; and some conversation he had lately held with a foreign manufacturer confirmed him in this opinion.
§ The Committee divided on the question that the blank be filled with the word "twelve":—Ayes 183; Noes 186: Majority 3.
|List of the AYES.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Childers, J. W.|
|Allix, J. P.||Chute, W. L. W.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Clay, Sir W.|
|Arkwright, G.||Clayton, R. R.|
|Bailey, J.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Baillie, Col.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Balfour, J. M.||Collett, W. R.|
|Baring, hn. W. B.||Corry, rt. hn. H.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Craig, W. G.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Cripps, W.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Currie, R.|
|Bell, M.||Darner, hn. Col.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Darby, G.|
|Blackburne, J.||Divett, E.|
|Blakemore, R.||Dodd, G.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Botfield, B.||Douro, Marquess of|
|Bowes, J.||Dugdale, W. S.|
|Bright, J.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Duncan, G.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Duncannon, Visct.|
|Buck, L. W.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Buller, E.||Eliot, Lord|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Escott, B.|
|Cardwell, E.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Carnegie, hon. Capt.||Evans, W.|
|Cartwright, W. R.||Feilden, W.|
|Castlereagh, Visct.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Fitzmaurice, hn. W.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Neeld, J.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Forster, M.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Fox, S. L.||Ord, W.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Parker, J.|
|Gisborne, T.||Patten, J. W.|
|Gladstone,rt.hn.W.E.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Gordon, hn. Capt.||Peel, J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Philips, G. R.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hale, R. B.||Powell, Col.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Pringle, A.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Protheroe, E.|
|Hastie, A.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Hay, Sir A. L.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Herbert, hn. S.||Russell, C.|
|Hinde, J. H.||Sanderson, R.|
|Hodgson, F.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Hodgson, R.||Scott, R.|
|Holmes, hon. W. A'Ct.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Sheppard, T.|
|Hope, G. W.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Howard, P. H.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hussey, T.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Hutt, W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Irving, J.||Stanley, E.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Johnston, A.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Johnstone, H.||Stuart, H.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Strutt, E.|
|Jones, Capt.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Knatchbull, rt hn. Sir E.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Labouchere, rt. hn. H.||Thesiger, F.|
|Langston, J. H.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Thornely, T.|
|Leader, J. T.||Thornhill, G.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Tollemache, hon. F.J.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Trelawney, J. S.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Lockhart, W.||Villiers, hn. C.|
|Lyall, G.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Wall, C. B.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|McNeill, D.||Warburton, H.|
|March, Earl of||Ward, H. G.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Wellesley, Lord. C.|
|Marshall, W.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Williams, T. P.|
|Martin, C. W.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Masterman, J.||Wood, Col.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Mildmay, H. St. J.||Wyndham, Col. C.|
|Mitcalfe, H.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Young, J.|
|Morrison, J.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Adare, Visct.|
|Acland, T. D.||Adderley, C. B.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Fox, C. R.|
|*Aldam, W.||French, F.|
|Antrobus, E.||Fuller, A. E.|
|*Archdall, Capt. M.||Gardner, J. D.|
|Arundel and Surrey,||Gill, T.|
|Earl of||Gore, M.|
|Bankes, G.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Bannerman, A.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Granger, T. C.|
|Beckett, W.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Beresford, Major||Grey, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Berkeley. hon. Capt.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Bernal, R.||Grogan, E.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Blake, M. J.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Borthwick, P.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Broadley, H.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Hardy, J.|
|Browne, hn. W.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Buller, C.||Hawes, B.|
|Busfeild, W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Butler, hon. Col.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Butler, P. S.||Henley, J. W.|
|Carew, hon. R. S.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Cavendish, hn. C. C.||Hindley, C.|
|Cavendish, hn. G. H.||Hollond, R.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hornby, J.|
|Chapman, B.||Horsman, E.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Cochrane, A.||Howard, Lord|
|Colborne, hn. W. N. R.||Howard, hn. E. G. G.|
|Collett, J.||Howick, Visct.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Humphery, Mr. Ald.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Cowper, hn. W. F.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Kemble, H.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Knight, H. G.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Knight, F. W.|
|Dawnay, hn. W. H.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Denison, W. J.||Lawson, A.|
|Denison, E. B.||Lefroy, A.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T||Leveson, Lord|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Lindsay, H. H.|
|Disraeli, B.||Macaulay, rt. hn. T.B.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Mc Geachy, F. A.|
|Douglas, J D. S.||Macnamara, Major|
|Duff, J.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Mainwaring, T.|
|Duncombe, T.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||*Martin, J.|
|Easthope, Sir J.||Marton, G.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Miles, W.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Ellice, E.||Mordaunt, Sir J.|
|Ellis, W.||Morris, D.|
|*Ewart, W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Fielden, J.||Neville, R.|
|Fellowes, E.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Newly, Visct.|
|O'Brien, A. S.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|O'Connell, D.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Smith, A.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Smith, J. A.|
|Packe, C. W.||Standish, C.|
|Paget, Col.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Palmer, R.||Stewart, J.|
|*Palmer, G.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Taylor, E.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Plumridge, Capt.||Tollemache, John|
|Polhill, F.||Tomline, G.|
|Pollington, Visct.||Towneley, J.|
|Praed, W. T.||Trowbridge, Sir E. T.|
|Pusey, P.||Tufnell, H.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Rashleigh, W.||Wakley, T.|
|Rendlesham, Lord||Walker, R.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Richards, R.||Williams, W.|
|Ross, D. R.||Wilshere, W.|
|Russell, J. D. W.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Ryder, hon. G. D.||TELLERS.|
|Sandon, Visct.||Ashley, Lord|
|Scholefield, J.||Brotherton, J.|
§ The Committee again divided on the question that the blank be filled up with the word "ten".—Ayes 181; Noes 188: Majority 7.
§ [It seems needless to republish the names on the second division as they were nearly the same on both. Those who voted Aye on the first voted No on the second. The Gentlemen marked with an asterisk voted with the Noes on both divisions, and caused the neutralizing result.]
|Paired off (First Division).|
|Attwood, J.||Drax, J.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Russell, rt. hn. LordJ.|
|Hume, J.||Benett, J.|
|Loch, J.||Egerton, Lord F.|
|Master, J. W. C.||Byng, rt. h n. G.|
|Wood, C.||Wortley, S.|
§ Sir J. Graham
As the Committee has decided against both ten hours and twelve hours, I think I shall best show my respect for the decision of the House as well as my regard for the great interests concerned, by postponing until Monday all further proceedings as to this Bill.
§ Lord Ashley
Sir, no man is more ready than I am to bow to the decision of this House; and although I ventured at the outset to make a solemn appeal to their feelings, I will never presume to impugn, even in thought, the justice or humanity of this great assembly. But, though defeated now, I have a right which I shall 1464 endeavour to assert on every legitimate occasion. I shall persevere to the last hour of my existence, and I have not the slightest doubt that with the blessing of heaven I shall have a complete triumph.
§ House resumed; Committee to sit again.
§ The House adjourned at two o'clock.