§ Mr. B. Cochrane,
before this Bill was withdrawn, wished to say he believed that it was generally supposed by those hon. Members who had supported the Noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire (Lord Ashley) that the noble Lord had fully made up his mind as to the course he should pursue on this Bill, and that he had looked beforehand not only into every probable but also into every possible circumstance that might arise; and that the noble Lord was prepared to overstep all those obstacles which a Government might be expected to throw in his way. Under these impressions he had certainly the honour of voting with the noble Lord. He, however, did expect that upon this question of a withdrawal of the Bill—after the energetic 1618 manner in which the noble Lord had expressed himself the other night, that the noble Lord would be prepared to carry out his views to the fullest extent. He would say upon this question that he considered the conduct of the Government infinitely more sincere—indeed, he would not be guilty of throwing any doubt upon the sincerity of the noble Lord, but he must say that he considered the conduct of the Government upon this question more apparently in earnest than that of the noble Lord. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) was defeated on Monday upon his proposition of twelve hours labour. He, however, again brought the question before the House, which, though an unusual course, was, he believed, under the circumstances, a justifiable one; and the right hon. Gentleman was again defeated upon the twelve hours proposition; and on the same occasion the ten hour proposition of the noble Lord was also defeated by a small majority. The right hon. Gentleman then asked for a further delay, so as to enable him to decide upon what course, under the circumstances, he should pursue. The right hon. Baronet subsequently said that he would enter into no compromise or concession upon the point in dispute; and he (Mr. Cochrane) concurred with him so far,—that if the principle for which he was contending was worth anything, he should not submit to any compromise or concession. Though some hon. Members might have thought that an eleven hours Clause might have been a fair question for the right hon. Gentleman to have substituted, he had refused to entertain such a question, and preferred the withdrawing of the Bill altogether. He wanted to know why the noble Lord did not carry out the principle which he advocated so warmly, and object altogether to the withdrawal of the Bill. What was the present state of the House in reference to this Bill? The very same Bill, out of which the twelve hours Clause had been already struck, was again to be introduced to them for their consideration and adoption. What was the object to be gained by this delay? Why, it must be obvious to every person in this House, that the object in view was simply to gain time. It had been said, that the greatest policy of a Statesman was to gain time. Would it be a matter of greater possibility to carry the ten hours Clause after Easter, than at the present time? The noble Lord 1619 might no doubt say, that it was an unusual course of proceeding to object to the withdrawal of a Bill. It might be so; but had not the right hon. Baronet adopted an unusual course of proceeding no the subject? He thought that in a question of this nature, if a man had once put his hand upon the plough, he should never be induced to look back again. The noble Lord might again say, that the Government had declared this to be a party question, and that under the circumstances he did not wish to offer any opposition to the Government in moving for the withdrawal of their Bill, But he should recollect that the question would be equally a party one after Easter, as it was before it. Did not the noble Lord "keep his promise to the ear, and break it to the hope?" Was there a moral probability of the ten hours Clause being carried after Easter, if it were defeated before it? No doubt the fourteen days which should intervene before the reassembling of Parliament would afford a great opportunity for agitating this question. He believed that the noble Lord said the noble Viscount the Member for Sunderland had concurred with him in the propriety of not opposing the discharge of this order. The noble Viscount might delight in agitation outside; indeed he understood that it was the intention of the noble Viscount to go down into the different districts for the purpose of agitating the question. This he would say, in respect to any agitation, he had supported the noble Lord on this question up to the present time, bet he objected to all agitation out of doors, either on corn law repeal, or factory labour. This was a question which should be discussed calmly, dispassionately, and solemnly in this House. He thought that if this measure were only to be carried by the continued display of excitement out of doors, it would be almost better to give it up altogether. There was one point he wished to allude to in reference to what the noble Lord said the other night. He never was more astonished in his life than when he heard the noble Lord state that this Bill, in his opinion, would reduce wages. He (Mr. Cochrane) would have nothing to do with it if he thought it would have that effect. As he had supported the Bill, he should continue his support to the ten hours proposition; and be did not think that the result of such a measure would be to reduce wages. Permit him to state his reasons for saying so. 1620 He considered that in most cases it could not reduce wages much, for in most of the manufacturing towns they had already arrived at the minimum of wages. He would say that the manufacturers would be amply compensated for this reduction of labour, and in a short time they would find that for the two hours' lose they would sustain by the adoption of such a proposition as this, they would be fully compensated by the addition of energy and nerve which would he thrown into the morning's work. "A fair day's wages for a fair day's work," was a good and wholesome maxim. He, therefore, believed that, the proposition they were contending for, would not ultimately have the effect of reducing wages. If the noble Lord, however, thought that wages would be thus reduced, the noble Lord should have followed up his ten hours Clause with a measure like that of Mr. Whitbread, who, in 1793, brought in a Bill for regulating wages. He had thus far ventured to make these few remarks as to the position in which they were now placed in reference to this subject. He was afraid that this question would not now have the result which the noble Lord's party desired. He was afraid that much of the time of the House had been lost. He would only ask every unprejudiced person to look at the state of the House—what it is, and what it was. The noble Lord had, the other night, appealed in terms almost unusual in this House, to those hon. Members who had supported him in his proposition. In the most solemn manner the noble Lord asked them not to give way one inch. Hon. Members were thus kept in town for the purpose of supporting the noble Lord upon this field of battle. But then they found the noble Lord coming forward, and telling them that after Easter he would decide upon what course he would pursue. The country had been agitated to little purpose, and the time of the House had been taken up on this subject, without any object whatsoever being gained. This had been occasioned, not from any want of sincerity on the part of the noble Lord, for no person could accuse him of that, but earnestness of resolution in all relations of life was absolutely necessary to ensure success.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
I am sure the House will excuse me for standing between the explanation of the noble Lord and the observations of the hon. Member for 1621 Bridport, inasmuch as I mean to move an Amendment on the Motion of the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, which may also call for some remarks from the noble Lord. Had it been the pleasure of the Government to have made a House yesterday, it was my intention to have given notice of the Amendment which I now mean to propose. I participate most fully in the great disappointment and surprise expressed by the hon. Member for Bridport, at the course which the noble Lord has pursued. Like the hon. Member for Bridport, I followed and fought with the noble Lord in those ranks, which to the last I thought the noble Lord would have commanded, and more particularly as I believed we had arrived at the hour of victory; and I am sure that no circumstance ever occurred which caused greater regret in the country than the noble Lord's decision in reference to the postponement of the discussion until after Easter. Now, Sir, the Amendment I am about to propose will, at least, rescue those who vote for it, from what I consider the well-merited charge of abandoning those principles which they twice recorded, and of surrendering the advantages of which they are at present in possession. It is, after the words, "the Order of the Day, &c., be discharged," to insert these words—With a view not only of carrying into effect, in any future measure, the recorded decisions, of this House, that the labour to be performed by young parsons and females should be less than twelve hours a day, but also with a view of maintaining good faith with those whose confidence in the integrity of the votes of this House is indispensable to its character and its existence as a deliberative and representative Assembly.Now, how stands the case at the present moment? The House has told you, in three divisions, that twelve hours labour was too m twit for females and young persons employed in factories; and the Government, not being able to convince this House (as they, I believe, never will be) that twelve hours is not an unnatural tune for the labour of such persons, have abandoned their Bill, with the assurance from the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, "You must take this Bill, or something similar, or you can't get any at all." The noble Lord made a solemn appeal to us, on Friday, to stand by our recorded verdict, and to uphold 1622 our own solemn decision. We owe it to ourselves, that in some shape or other, we should give a pledge to the country, that the Amendment which has been carried, will be introduced on a future occasion. I say, we owe it to the dignity of the House, and to the people, that we should put on record some such sentiment. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department dwelt, on Monday night, on the three courses which Ministers had to pursue. I think it might have suggested itself to him, and if it did not, I beg leave to remind him now, that there was a fourth course they might have taken, and that was, that instead of withdrawing the Bill, they might have withdrawn themselves. So far from such a step being at all impracticable, or causing any regret, nothing would have given greater satisfaction to the country. Instead of that, we are told, the Cabinet have solemnly deliberated and determined on this course, to reverse a solemn decision arrived at three times. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, moreover, that he can boll out no hope of introducing anything short of twelve hours; and vet this House, calling itself a reformed House of Commons, and a deliberative Assembly, suffers the Bill to be withdrawn, and does not place on record any opinions as to the conduct of the Government, and gives no pledge as to their future course. We are to take this Bill, or something like it, or none at all. The right hon. Gentleman reminds me of a captain of a merchantman, who freighted his ship to the West Indies with dry stones and cheese. When the ship arrived the cheese was in great request, but there was no demand for the dry stones. Finding this, the captain said, "If you take my cheese, you must also take my dry stones. I will not part with the one without the other." So the right hon. Gentleman comes with his Factory Regulation Bill in one hand, and his twelve hour dry stones in the other; and he says, if you don't please to take the latter, you shall have neither one nor the other. I think the right hon. Gentleman bids fair, like the West Indian captain, to have the whole freight left on his hands; for, I trust, the House will never allow him to pass a Bill with the twelve hours Clause in it. We, who support the Amendment, are accused, I will not say of improper motives, but here and elsewhere charges are brought against us 1623 which are wholly unjustifiable. The right hon. Gentleman found fault the other evening with the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, because he said, in our new social state, a new system had been pursued. Why, can any one doubt that we have arrived at a new social state, particularly in the manufacturing districts? Look at the appalling distress and discontent that exist: look at the state of our working population, whether agricultural or manufacturing, and look at the increase of crime. Our population, we know, has increased within the last ten years 12 or 13 per cent. And what is the increase of crime? 15 to 18 per cent. annually. Read the charge of Justice Creswell, at the last summer assizes at York. He says, that in Yorkshire and Lancashire, crime has increased twofold within the last seven years. Read Sir A. Henniker's address in Suffolk. Does he not say the labouring population is in a state of discontent, and that it behoves the country gentlemen to remove their grievances? Well, then, is it not true that a change has taken place in our social system, that requires the vigilant care of this House? We are told by certain political economists, on our side, that our attempt to regulate the hours of labour is absurd, and that the grand panacea for all our evils is the repeal of the Corn Laws. Now, I believe, if the Corn Laws were repealed to-morrow, the due limitation of the hours of labour would be more than ever necessary. I have seen with much regret the course taken by the Gentlemen of the Anti-Corn Law League on this subject. I am sorry they have not shown that they, the master manufacturers, are prepared to make sacrifices for the benefit of the people. If they had done so, I think they would have been in a better position to appeal to the landed interest, and call on them to make a sacrifice too by the repeal of the Corn Laws. It is quite clear that the working classes cannot, by possibility, submit to further sacrifices; and that sacrifices must be made by those who are better able to bear them. The whole question now turns on this—is the House prepared, when a new Bill is introduced, to stultify itself, and to become a laughing stock in the eyes of the country? I, for one, do not intend to be dragged through the mire with the noble Lord, or with any right hon. or hon. Gentleman. I shall feel it my duty to place on record my opi- 1624 nion. I have been requested by large bodies of the working classes to state their views; and I shall conclude almost in the words of the solemn appeal made to us the other night, to stand by your solemn and recorded verdict, and not to allow yourselves to be dictated to by Her Majesty's Ministers, or sacrifice your consistency, because the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) may find it inconvenient to oppose the rescinding of the Order of the Day. Neither do I wish to oppose that Motion; but I take this course on the express understanding that the views of the majority of this House shall be sanctioned in any new Bill that is introduced.
§ The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment above announced.
§ Lord Ashley
Not having had the advantage of hearing the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Bridport, I must be content to rest under any imputations thrown out in the course of it; but he appears to have confounded my views (and to this I do not object, quite the reverse) with those of my noble Friend the Member for Sunderland; so that much of what he has said against me should have been directed against my noble Friend, and much charged upon my noble Friend I have to answer for. But one of his allegations was distinct enough, and that was that I admitted that a ten hours Bill would cause a reduction of wages. Now, what I did say was, "Suppose, for the sake of argument, my proposal would lead to a reduction of wages, the operatives are perfectly ready to meet that reduction," and I stated to the House what were the arrangements by which they could meet the reduction in their wages. Let me now explain to the House in a very few words the grounds of the course I have taken with reference to the present Motion. I began by doing that which it appears the hon. Member for Bridport had not done—I took the advice of those capable of giving it. When the right hon. Gentleman made his statement I confess I was taken by surprise, and so was the House. The House required a certain time to deliberate before it came to a decision. During that interval I consulted many who voted with me, not quite confined to this side, and supposed to have a sympathy with the Government, but a great many on the other side, who gave me that advice which they thought best for the promotion of the question we all had at heart, totally irrespective of consequences to any party. Just see what would have 1625 been the result if I had taken any other course than that I chose. It is quite true that by the vote on the second Clause we had obtained virtually a ten hours Bill, but on the eighth there was an actual decision that the House would have no such thing. The Bill then presented, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a mass of contradictions. It was quite impossible to proceed, and the Government suggested, by way of extricating themselves from the difficulties by which they were surrounded, that they should be allowed to withdraw their Bill on the promise (a very important matter), that another should be substituted for it. My own impression was, that I should yield to that suggestion; but I was confirmed in that view by men of the greatest experience at both sides. Now, observe the effect of my saying "you shall not withdraw your Bill, but you shall try the effect of another debate and division." In the first place I should be compelled to do that which, during eleven years, I have ever avoided—to take a debate and a division on mere technicalities and points of order. I invariably pursued the course—and up to the present time it has prospered—of never taking a debate except on great and intelligible issues. If I put the question on an issue which could lead to no satisfactory result, in any case success was absolutely impossible. I will venture to say, instead of having a majority only of seven against me, as I had on the ten hours Amendment, I should have had 70 or 80, or 100. What position would the question have then been in? Would it not have been taken, if not by the country, most assuredly by the great body of the operatives whom I represented, as a decided expression on the part of this House of hostility to the great object which they so long and so anxiously sought? That was the reason why I took the step I did; but when I was confirmed in that view by men of the greatest experience, and, as I said before, by men not having any sort of sympathy for those at this side, I felt the course I determined upon to be by far the best with reference to this very question. Do not let it be said—for something like it has been insinuated—that I endeavoured to reconcile the interests of those whom I represented with the continuance in office of my political friends. I am not in the habit spargere votes in vulgum ambiguas; and, as I said before I say again, the course I have determined on I shall pursue, irrespective of consequences to any Government 1626 that exists, or that can possibly be formed. The hon. Gentleman says, I compelled him to come down, and then I cannot tell him what course I mean to pursue. Why, I announced on Wednesday how I should act, and the hon. Gentleman, therefore, cannot complain of being taken by surprise. But not only he says have I taken him by surprise, but that I asked to be allowed time until after Easter to make up my mind. I said no such thing. If the new Bill were now before us, I should give a positive declaration as to the course I meant to take; but surely I cannot be expected to state that until I see the new Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. If I see the Bill on Monday morning, I shall, if the House wish it, declare what course I shall pursue immediately after the recess. I am very unwilling to discuss comments on my own conduct. I do not know what may be the result of Gentlemen rising to attack me in all directions; but this I will say, I believe I have maintained my tranquillity up to this time; and I can assure the House that tranquillity was not external, but internal, for I have not felt in the least degree angry or exasperated in consequence of the remarks of any one opposed to me; and really if I had, I should have been most unreasonable and ungrateful, for I am sure of this, no one ever received from all sides of the House so many marks of constant and unmerited kindness and courtesy. But allow me to say again, whatever may be the insinuations against me for having used the phrase, I solemnly adjure you to stand by your recorded decision, and I declare, for myself, no earthly consideration shall turn me from the course I have endeavoured to pursue; and, so far as I am concerned, I care not what personal consequences may fall on my own head.
§ Mr. B. Cochrane
The noble Lord's absence from the House during my remarks does not warrant him in misrepresenting me. I did not charge against the noble Lord that there was an understanding between him and the Government. I said I thought the noble Lord perfectly sincere. I repeated it again and again. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will prove that frankness which characterises him, and of which he boasted to-night, by withdrawing an expression which was not warranted by anything I said. I am not in the habit of dealing in "insinuation." If I thought him guilty of any connivance with Government I should not make the 1627 charge without good grounds, and I should then make it openly and above board. What I did say was, I believed him to be perfectly sincere, though he had, in my opinion, committed an error of judgment.
§ Lord Ashley
I earl assure the hon. Gentleman I have no hesitation in withdrawing any expression of which he complains. So fat as I gathered from report, I was under the impression that the hon. Gentleman said I was unwilling to press my Amendment, lest I should disturb the Ministers ill their places. As he disclaims having said that, I withdraw everything that could have given him the least offence.
§ Viscount Howick
As I expressed a very strong opinion on the Withdrawal of this Bill, I with to say a few words, particularly as my noble Friend (Lord Ashley) truly said, that I assented to the course which he meant to take. The simple reason on which I agreed to the proposal of my noble Friend was this—that two evenings ago he informed me he had ascertained what was the feeling of his supporters, and he found if he resisted the withdrawal of this Bill, he should lose so large a proportion of his supporters, that he Mud he left in a small minority. I said to him, if that was so, I was quite ready to waive my opinion. I still think, that for those who entertain dear opining, the right and judioious course Would be to resist the Withdrawal of the Bill; but if those who concur in our views object to such a coarse, then it is quite clear it would prejudice our case to have it announced that it was supported but by a small minority, and that I am persuaded thy noble Friend was bound, as is every man having charge of a great subject, to defer in a certain degree to the opinions of his supporters. I further said to my noble Friend—from whom I never for a moment thought of taking the lead on this subject—that if he found that the feeling was against a division on the withdrawal of the Bill, I Would not be the person to divide the tanks of those in favour of a further restriction of the hoots of labour by persevering in the course which, according to my judgment, was the bests But I Still say, that under the very extraordinary circumstances under which we were placed by the course taken by the Government—a coarse anything but respectful to this House and to the majority who voted on a former evening—it would have been better if all acted together to resist the withdrawal of this Bill. Because, what is it we are now called on to do? 1628 Her Majesty's Government have described their course to be this—they are about to obtain the consent of the House to discharge the Order of the Day for going into Committee on this Bill, and, having done so, they mean to introduce a new Bill, which will, it is true, have a different title—which will be called a Bill for Amending the Existing Law as to Factory Labour, instead of a Bill to Repeal the Existing Law, and to Regulate the Labour of Young persons and Women in Factories, but which, in substance and effect, will be precisely the same. Like that Bill, it will for the first time introduce a system of relays in the employment of children; it Will have new regulations as to education; it will impose restrictions on the labour of grown-up women, and like that Bill, and unlike the determination of the House, it will make that restriction twelve hours, and not eleven or ten. I presume that so introduced it will, as a matter of course, be read a first and second time. In the Committee my noble Friend will move precisely the same Amendment he did before; therefore the effect of the course of the Government will ho, that without any division, and with the tacit consent of the parties to the Amendment, our former decision will be reversed. If the Government had determined to do this on the bringing up the Report, or on moving the recommittal of the Bill, we should be in the advantageous position of having already made alterations in the measure, in accordance with our views; but instead of that, they take the indirect and unusual course of virtually defeating the decision of the majority, and placing us after all our debates and but four divisions, exactly where we began. Now, I must say, that this is a most extraordinary course. If the Government were of opinion that they could induce the House to reconsider their judgment, the proper and straightforward proposal would be to move the recommittal of the Bill, in order to go back to the first Clause and consider each Clause ab initio. But in order to gain some temporary advantage, to gain, what they have certainly succeeded in gaining, the advantage of throwing the ranks of the supporters of the Amendment into confusion, and inducing them to surrender, before they were aware of it, aft advantageous position, they have brought things to that pass, that we shall find ourselves in the position in which we were before the discussions and divisions began. I cannot help, then, expressing my regret, that 1629 those who supported my noble Friend did not go along with him in resisting the discharge of the Order of the Day. Suppose that the Amendment of my noble Friend be carried, on coming to the Clause to which it refers in the new Bill, that Measure must be persevered in contrary to the wishes of the Government, or, with a majority in favour of our views, we must acknowledge ourselves defeated, and allow the Government to pass the Measure in any shape they think proper. As to the inconsistency of the two Amendments moved in the present Bill, I think that of no consequence. It is perfectly true there is a technical inconsistency between the first Clause and that amended by my noble Friend; but if either of the propositions to which the House agreed had been settled definitively, the difficulty would have vanished. I understand the meaning of the two decisions to which the House came, to be this—that they desired a compromise. Having rejected the proposal of twelve hours and that of ten, it was clear the majority was in favour of an eleven hours Bill. Now, I think it would have been far better if Government had acceded to that view. Surely they must have a low opinion, indeed, of the energy and enterprise of our manufacturing population, if they supposed that the diminution of an hour in the labour of women and young persons rendered the continuance of our manufacturing superiority impossible. I, for one, do not for one moment entertain such an apprehension. Practically, the workmen and masters would then have found the effect of the reduction, of time, and we should have seen whether there would have been a reduction of wages. In my opinion there would, A less reduction, I doubt not, than there would have been according to the view stated by the Secretary for the Home Department; but still a reduction of wages. The hon. Member for Bridport made a remarkable speech, going over ail the old clap traps of the opponents of the Clause of which he is nominally a supporter, and said he could not at all understand how any one could vote for the Clause with the belief that it would effect a reduction of wages, Now, I think it is quite possible, on the grounds my noble Friend has stated, to support the Clause in that belief. No doubt, a reduction of wages is, in itself, an evil; but this is a question of two evils; which is the least—a reduction of wages, to no very great extent as I believe, or a system of 1630 labour which, we are informed, on the best authority, breaks down the health and strength of those subjected to it? [No, No.] I can only say, that it is the opinion of those best qualified to judge. Of course, I can give no opinion of my own; but I am adducing that of the Inspectors of Factories, whose judgment Her Majesty's Ministers have followed in great part of this Bill; and it is grounded on facts they quote On the authority of medical officers, I am not speaking of men; but for women and children I believe that twelve hours' labour in a day is too much. All I wish to do at present is simply to explain the grounds on which, though I still adhere to the opinion I expressed on a former evening, that the right course for the advocates of a greater reduction of the hours of labour, than that recommended by Her Majesty's Government Was, to resist the withdrawal of the Bill, I have thought it my duty, wishing to do as much as I could in support of the Clause, to waive my own individual opinion, and yield to the judgment of my noble Friend and those with whom he is acting. I can only say, that having made this selection, it is impossible for me to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. I shall await, during the progress of the Bill, after it has been brought in, a further opportunity of discussing the principle on which the Amendment of my noble Friend is founded.
§ Sir R. Inglis
said, the only fault he could find with the speech of his noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, was one of omission—that he had not stated with sufficient distinctness, although doubtless it had appeared by implication, what line he meant to take in respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Finsbury. But he had every reason to believe and to know that his noble Friend intended to give a decided negative to that proposition—a course which he, individually, certainly meant to follow. He wished he could have followed in another matter the example of his noble friend; he wished he could have said, as his noble Friend had said, and as the Whole House admitted he was justified in saying, that he had never introduced into that discussion anything like excitement of temper. He regretted that he could not say this, but there were certainly difficulties in dealing with these subjects which, though met of a party character, were, nevertheless, exciting; and, indeed, involved feelings of a higher kind; 1631 still this did not justify such excitement when it led to any breach of Christian charity. He knew his noble friend could say, and the House admitted the correctness of the appeal, that in the discussion of subjects of this high moral character he had never permitted himself any feeling or expression of this kind. He trusted the example set by the noble Lord would be followed; and in the negative he now desired to give to the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury, he was not actuated by any principle of party warfare. He believed he only expressed the feelings of all parties when he declared his regret that such an apple of discord had been thrown in among them by the hon. Member. It might not be inconsistent on the part of the hon. Member, but it was inconsistent with the understanding which his noble Friend expressed two or three evenings ago, that Government should be permitted to withdraw the Bill of which they had charge, while his noble Friend should reserve to himself the unfettered right of exercising his own judgment in respect to the Bill that was to be brought in. When it came before the House it would be competent for any Gentleman to interpose any Amendment that would best carry out the noble principle which they wished to see adopted; but his noble Friend would also be prepared to bring forward his views in that substantive form which the rules of the House might render most available for his success. He believed his noble Friend could not have dealt with the Bill if it had been left in his hands by Government; he would have been defeated on every stage, by delay, if by nothing else; and, therefore, his noble Friend had exercised a sound discretion in the course he had adopted. One word as to an hon. Member who was not present; the hon. Member for Bridport did not insinuate anything against his noble Friend, but he did state this—that, admitting the sincerity of Her Majesty's ministers, they had acted on their views with consistency; and that while no one could doubt the sincerity of his noble Friend (and he was sure no one who had observed his noble Friend, whether in or out of the House, could doubt it), he, at least, had, not carried out his principles with such sternness as Her Majesty's Ministers. This, to his apprehension, was the effect of that statement. He said this because his noble Friend was not in the House at the time, and might have received an erroneous impression.
rose with feelings of great embarrassment to endeavour to express the view he took on this question. He was one of those who, feeling a very great responsibility which attached, not merely to those in office, but to every individual Member of Parliament, had made up his mind in the course of the debate, and had voted with his noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire. He did so, not from a feeling that a question like this was to be dealt with by looking exclusively to humane or commercial considerations, for he believed that the question was essentially composed of considerations of both kinds; but he hoped he should not be supposed to say anything at all offensive if he did say what was the fact, that he was much inclined to vote as he had done by some of the speeches which fell from that (the Ministerial) side of the House, against the noble Lord. He did think that, in the earlier speeches delivered on this question, there was a too rigid and exclusive application of abstract principles of political economy. He did not mean, in that House, to use any common-place taunts against political economy; but there were two ways of dealing with the question, and it appeared to him that abstract principles were too strongly urged, and that the practical effect of those arguments was to go against a Factory Bill altogether. It was under the influence of that feeling that he had given his vote for a ten hours Clause. He had been greatly disappointed, (the judgment of the House having been expressed for a compromise, by a decision for something less than twelve hours, and yet, by the refusal to take the whole responsibility of the ten hours system,) that some middle point in this question had not been found. When he read the contemptuous statements directed against those Members who had voted against twelve hours in one division, and against ten in the other, he confessed he could not see what common sense there was in such arguments. After the statements of the hon. Member for Leeds, as well as of Members on the other side of the House, that it was a common practice with millowners to work only for eleven hours, and that this was really the best course that could be adopted, it was surely open to them to embrace that practical amendment, by which they would have obtained an eleven hours Bill. He had endeavoured to form an honest and sincere opinion on this question; the noble Lord, arguing in a different sense, had, far 1633 better than he could, also expressed his feelings as to the situation in which the House was placed. He could only say, if the House was prepared to see some one in the Home-office who would execute as well as carry a ten hours Bill, it might be well to stand out for that Bill; those who thought so, would act on their conviction, and take a course which might be attended with that effect; but he confessed he was not prepared for this, he was not one of those who thought it would be on the whole best to take that course. But those who were not prepared to take that course were not acting wisely or for the honour of the House in determining to adhere to the ten hours clause, without intending to carry it, like those who stepped up to the breach, and then shrunk from mounting the walls. He thought it better to pause in time. Independent Members on both sides had come forward and taken a very great responsibility, they had expressed an independent and honest opinion; having done so, if they meant only to protest, they had done enough—if they wished for a change of Government, let them carry out their opinions. He meant to protest in favour of the principle of protection for labour, and that principle he hoped to see carried out eventually. He did not mean, however, to insist on a ten hours Bill during the present Session; it appeared to him impossible; or, if possible, he was not prepared to say it would be worth so high a price. [Cheers.] Well, Gentlemen opposite might cheer; he knew such remarks on a change of Government were always laughed at. He must allude once more to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire (Lord Stanley); he was of opinion that those who voted as he did on the two first divisions ought to be most thankful to the noble Lord for placing the position of the question so clearly before them. It was not a question of principle; the principle of protection to labourers was admitted; but the question was, whether they were prepared at all risks to carry a ten hours' clause at present, or to accept as much protection as they could carry with the consent and concurrence of her Majesty's Government, and of a very large proportion, nay a very great majority, of the manufacturers interested in the question. He would rather accept this alternative. He preferred such a change as would be agreeable to the great body of the manufacturers: he thought it desirable, too, that those who carried a ten hours 1634 Bill should also be those who were to work it. It appeared to him impossible that a ten hours' clause should be carried against the Government, and that they should be obliged afterwards to execute it. He hoped he had not now put himself forward in a position which some might think unseemly. With respect to the course of the Government, they did not yet know what the Bill about to be brought in was to be. He would only say, that the confidence he placed in the Government, on most occasions, would be much impaired if they were now to turn round and say they were prepared at once to carry a ten hours Bill. He retained the right of taking a perfectly free course as to the details of the clauses. The noble Lord's proposal would not give a ten hours clause in less than two years and a half. During that time he trusted the principle of protection to labour would he cleared from some of the asperities and difficulties by which it was surrounded; and the Government would find some reason to moderate somewhat the harsh principles they had applied to this question, and to yield to the increasing public opinion in favour of that mitigation of the horrors of the factory system advocated by the noble Lord.
Lord J. Russell
It appears to me, Sir, that the speech just delivered by the hon. Member has somewhat changed the position of this question as it affects the House. But, before I allude to anything which that hon. Gentleman said, I wish to make some remarks on the difficulties of the position in which the noble Lord who was the mover of the question, and the House, are placed. I cannot but think, I find it impossible to come to any other conclusion, that the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman now makes, coupled with the intimation as to the nature of the Bill he proposes to introduce, cannot fail to be a blow to the authority of this House. That course, no doubt, is the west convenient which the Government could adopt for itself; but with respect to this House, I fear its authority must suffer by their proceedings in this matter. Whet is the state in which it now stands? There have been no less than four divisions on this subject. I certainly had understood, from the statement of my noble Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, that he had come to some understanding with the Government that the question with respect to ten hours or twelve hours should be taken, not on the eighth, but on the second Clause 1635 of the Bill, and that upon the Amendment he was then to propose, the question between those two different periods of labour was to be decided. The House decided on two separate divisions after two nights' debate, separated by the Saturday and Sunday, in a full House, with an opportunity for every person to attend who chose to be present at the discussion, in favour of the noble Lord's proposition. The right hon. Gentleman then declared that he would take—not accepting the decision come to by the House on the second Clause—a discussion and division upon the eighth Clause. On a subsequent night there were two divisions on the eighth Clause; in the first of these the House again put its negative on the period of twelve hours; in the second, on the period of ten. Therefore, the result of the deliberations of the House was, that there had been three divisions against the period of twelve hours, and one against that of ten hours. If the Bill had gone on, either in the hands of Government or in those of the noble Lord, it would have been necessary for the House to come to some decision, either avowedly reversing its former decisions in favour of ten hours, or adopting the middle course of eleven hours. But the right hon. Gentleman proposes that the House should now, by withdrawing the Bill, consent to frustrate altogether the three separate divisions by which the House decided that they would not consent to the time of twelve hours, and that the House should consent to the introduction of a Bill which should contain, as part of its provisions, twelve hours labour for those persons who, by the decision on the second Clause, were to be restricted to ten. Sir, it is impossible that that can be done, and done in this way, without a complete reversal of the decision of the House, shaking the opinion of the country generally as to its consistency. Why, then, was that course not pursued by the noble Lord? I think on grounds very sufficient, which, while they leave the mischief of injuring the authority of the House, must yet be paramount to him, as refers to the question itself, with respect to which, for so many years, he has shown so much perseverance. I cannot but think, with my noble Friend near me, and others, that if it had been made a question in this House whether Government should be permitted to withdraw the Bill they had themselves brought forward, there would then have been an opportunity for repre- 1636 senting to their supporters, whether friendly to the noble Lord or not, that, in refusing to allow the Bill brought in by Government to be withdrawn, they were not behaving with that due regard, respect, and reverence which the Executive Government has a right to expect. The question then would have been changed, and that mischief which my noble Friend has always wished to avoid would have been incurred. Instead of arguing simply on the question to twelve hours or ten hours labour, it would have been confounded with the degree of confidence and support which the House wishes to give to the Government of the day; and my noble Friend would have had a defeat on the legislative question while, in fact, the question was rather one as to the grounds and the degree of support to be given to the Ministers of the Crown—there being also many of my Friends near me who take the same views as the Government on this subject. Therefore, I entirely concur with my noble Friend that there would have been a considerable majority against him on this question, and he would have prejudiced the cause of those whom he defends; and I differ entirely from the hon. Member for Finsbury as to the charge which the hon. Member brought against my noble Friend, of deserting those whose cause he has undertaken. I think, as respects that, my noble Friend has taken the wisest and most judicious course. At the same time, I did not attempt to influence the noble Lord's decision; and if he had come to the opposite determination, that it was wise to oppose the withdrawal of the Bill, I certainly should have appeared here to have given my vote with him against that withdrawal. I come now to a very different question, which is, the mode in which my noble Friend, suffering under the disadvantages he has to encounter, is to treat the Bill which it is proposed to bring in. The Government, as I have already said, getting rid of the whole of the decisions of the House by a course which, though convenient to them, is the least fair they could have chosen, it remains for the noble Lord to consider what course he is to take, so as to bring this question as simply, clearly, and fairly as possible to issue on the point on which he wishes it to be tried; and he will do it, I have no doubt, in such a way that it will be properly a question of legislation which it is competent for this House peculiarly to decide 1637 on its own merits. Because, let us recollect, after the doctrines we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman when in opposition—doctrines which it now appears in office they are following out consistently—Acts of Parliament are passsd by the Queen's Majesty, not with the advice and consent of Her Majesty's confidential advisers of Her Majesty's Cabinet Council, but with the advice and consent of her Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled—so that what we have to consider with respect to any Bills brought forward, which are hereafter to be enacted into laws, is whether we can take on ourselves the responsibility of passing the law with these provisions—looking at it as it may, in its consequences, affect the great body of the people of this country. I do not think that any gentleman has a right to escape from that responsibility which belongs to him as a Member of Parliament, by saying "I think it very cruel, and a great hardship, that young persons of thirteen or fourteen years of age should be kept for twelve hours in a factory; but it is a question between their submitting to that labour, or bringing about a change of Government." Neither do I think that Government have a right to make it a question on which their influence as a Government is to be exerted to the utmost, nor that any one has a right to escape from his responsibility by saying, "I shut my eyes to the merits of the question; I will not look into them; but I have great confidence and trust in the Executive, and as they have declared they will not submit to this change, I will not vote for it." I must declare this, because I see that this question is undergoing a great change, from the manner in which it is placed before us. I certainly had understood at first that Government, having done what was properly their duty in this matter, by considering the subject with the best attention they could give it, and its bearings on the interests of those who were to be affected by it, had placed it before the House of Commons as a legislative body, to affirm or deny the propositions contained in that which was hereafter to be an Act of the Legislature. But it appears, according to the statement of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that, we are hereafter to have an entirely different question to consider, and that Government are disposed to say, "We think it will be so detrimental to our views, so injurious to our interests, if 1638 the opinion of the House is against ours, that all our influence is to be exerted in the question; and therefore we call on our supporters, and not as they are convinced by the merits of the question itself, nor as they are prompted by the statements we shall make to them, but as they wish the Government to be maintained, and no change to take place—to vote for twelve hours." I fear that such an opinion, and it is one which seems to prevail on the Benches opposite, will produce a change, and a very detrimental change, even in the constitution of the country. I do not think it will be for the advantage of the country, if a Government is to consider itself bound to carry every Measure in this House exactly in the shape they propose it. I have heard that doctrine stated, especially I believe, by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, and the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, when they were sitting on these (the Opposition) Benches. Perhaps then they were disposed to require more than could properly be assented to; I would much rather see them change their views on this subject, and disposed to take counsel of the House. If this House were to come to any vote which really shows any want of confidence in them as an Executive, they might then consider it as a proof that the House could no longer put trust in them. But with respect to these large questions of legislation, affecting the whole body of the people, of whose feelings many Members from the places they represent must be cognizant, I do hope that this House is to retain some of its legislative authority, and that the Members are not merely to vote as puppets, according to their party purposes or opinions.
§ Sir R. Peel
I quite admit the just distinction which the noble Lord has drawn between the functions and responsibility of an individual Member of the House of Commons, and those of a Member of the Executive Government. The noble Lord has justly said the Members of the Executive are responsible to the Sovereign for the advice they give; that they stand in a different relation to the Sovereign from that in which Members of the House of Commons stand; and that it is incumbent on Members of this House, acting in their capacity as legislators, well to weigh the merits of every question, and to consider whether or not they are ready to become 1639 responsible for the particular consequences of their legislation. With respect to the last, the noble Lord will admit that the Members of the Executive Government, although they stand in a certain relation towards the Sovereign, have the same privileges as other Members of Parliament, and are bound by the same obligations; and that it is necessary that they, in their legislative capacity, should consider whether they will become responsible for the consequences of any acts of legislation. If they doubt the policy of them, it is their duty and their privilege to consider those acts as Members, and give their advice to Parliament as to how they may affect the public interests. The noble Lord says, and says truly, that with respect to many great measures the sense of the Legislature ought to prevail; that if no great principle be involved, and very dangerous consequences are not expected to result, then Government ought not to declare to Parliament that they stake their existence as a Government on any particular measure, but are bound, on certain occasions, to pay proper deference to the expressed opinions of their supporters. The noble Lord, however, is not always willing to act on these principles, because when we have had to make concessions to the apparent weight of the majority, on matters not involving principle, or any very important consequence, the noble Lord, and some of his friends, have taunted us with yielding our own opinions, and adopting those of a majority. I take, for instance, the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill. [Lord J. Russell: The majority was on the other side.] I beg pardon, the opinion of the House on that Bill was very decisively expressed; and we were told, there would be no hope whatever of proceeding into a Committee on the Bill. I quite agree with the noble Lord, it is not on every occasion that this menace is to be held out, and I am not aware, that in the course of the discussions on this measure, any unseemly menace was held out by Government. We have felt it to be our duty to deliberate, not to act hastily; we have felt that measures of great importance should not be carried by very small majorities, when an opportunity might be afforded, by delay, to consider the consequences. We thought the constitutional practice of this House was, to permit opportunities of frequent deliberation on legislative mea- 1640 sures. The noble Lord is prepared to say, that one decision or two, carried by a small majority, ought to be conclusive. If that be so, let us at once reduce the number of stages through which a Bill must necessarily pass, which number has been expressly provided in order that when opinions appear much divided, or nearly balanced, opportunity may be given for re-considering the decision. There is nothing inconsistent with constitutional usage, or Parliamentary propriety, in taking the sense of the House again on the very same question which has been involved before. Why have we taken this course? On the first night, Gentlemen on the opposite side, as well as on this side of the House, who came to different conclusions from our own, expressly stated that it was a matter of great doubt. If I recollect right, the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, stated, that he had great difficulty in making up his mind: the noble Lord, the Member for London, himself admitted, that it was a matter of the greatest difficulty. We found that, with respect to this Measure, those responsible for its execution, and for the commercial interests of this country, had always contended against a further limitation of labour than twelve hours. When the Bill was introduced by our predecessors, that was the principle laid down. I say not a word against the noble Lord for the change of his opinions; such changes, when produced by subsequent consideration, a public man is not only entitled to, but called upon to avow. I concede, at once, that this change of opinion was the consequence of mature deliberation, and new light thrown upon the subject. But the noble Lord will admit to me, that if I found his Government, when responsible for the consequences, insisting upon the course we are inclined to take, though it entitles me to throw no reflection upon him, it at least offers an element in the decision of the Government, whether they shall give more time to consider. And do I not know how much pain the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the late President of the Board of Trade, and the right hon. Gentleman, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, men holding situations which gave them peculiar authority to speak upon this subject, must have felt when they were compelled to dissent from the noble Lord opposite—dissenting from him, but adhering 1641 to the opinions they had formerly expressed—dissenting, as I do now, reluctantly and with pain, from those with whom I have generally acted. And is not that again a justification of the present Government for entreating the House to pause, and calmly and deliberately to consider the consequence of the present course? It is said, why do you not admit a compromise? It is true there are many cases in which I think a compromise may be the natural solution of a difficulty. In ordinary cases, a Government would be justified in resorting to a compromise. But the policy of admitting a compromise must always depend upon circumstances, and upon the nature of the question. Having deliberately considered this subject for two years, we approached it with the strongest conviction upon our minds, that it was not advisable to propose, or to accede to, a further limitation of the hours of labour, excepting only in one case which we thought grew naturally out of past legislation upon the subject. We found upon the Statute Book an Act which imposed upon the labour of young persons a restriction to twelve ours—we found the existing state of the law to be this—that no person between the age of thirteen and eighteen, should be allowed to work more than twelve hours. The consequence is, that adult women perform the work of young persons; the result of that step in Legislation is, that you encourage the employment of women above the age of eighteen. Now, it might not be wise to interfere if there had not been legislation before; but as you have restricted the time of the labour of young persons to twelve hours, you injuriously affect the position of adult females, by giving an encouragement to the employment of them. Now, all we said was this: we will place adult females upon precisely the same footing upon which the Legislature has placed young persons. If we are wrong, the remedy appears to be, to omit the Clause in the Bill relating to this point. But the lesson to be taught by this is, the danger of further interference. The consequence which interference entails, is the necessity for further interference, for the purpose of redressing the inconveniences arising from the past legislation. The lesson, then, we ought to learn from interference is, rather to avoid than to sanction it. But it is by no means a legitimate argument 1642 to say, "You are yourselves interfering with labour, and therefore we will not admit of your new enactment, but require you to carry out your principle here." If you object to our Act, on the ground of it being a new interference, correct it by omitting the Clause; but it is no logical consequence to contend that interference ought therefore to be carried further. Still it might have been possible for the Government to propose a compromise. If we had proposed eleven hours, we should, I have no doubt, have had a majority; but unless we were convinced that that compromise was a wise one—unless we were convinced that that compromise was a practical and permanent adjustment of the question—I must contend that it was our duty, as responsible Ministers of the Crown, not to consent to relieve ourselves from present difficulties at the expense of causing permanent evils. Of this I am sure. No man can more deeply regret when circumstances place me in opposition to the wishes and opinions of Friends who give such constant and regular support to the Government; but there are occasions, as I before remarked, when if a Government does discharge the duty of responsible advisers of the Crown, they must set themselves in opposition to the wishes and feelings of their friends, and by apparent hostility give effect to their conscientious intentions. The way to secure lasting confidence and respect is to act upon principle. Three months hence the country and my hon. Friends themselves will hold us in higher confidence and estimation for being determined, so far as we can, to act upon our principles and not to yield to those of others. But why do we refuse the compromise of eleven hours? First, let me say, that I will not enter upon the merits of the question of eleven hours now. Subsequent deliberation and communications addressed to me from different parts of the country prove to me that the country was taken by surprise; and when we come to the discussion of the question itself, I shall be enabled to show that a further limitation of the time of labour than a limitation to twelve hours would be productive of most injurious consequences to the manufactures and commerce of this country; but, above all, it would be productive of most signal injury to the labourers of this country. I will net, as I have said, now prejudge the question, but I do believe it will be possible to clearly 1643 demonstrate this position at the proper time. As regards this question being one of principle or one of degree, the question is this—whether you will impose a further limitation practically to the hours of labour? It is not, in one sense, a question of principle. We are imposing no maximum or minimum of labour; we impose a maximum, but we leave it open to the parties concerned, by agreement among themselves, to work for a period as much less as they may think proper. It has been said, that in many great towns the operatives do practically work for only eleven hours a-day. When you say that, can you better show the merit, practically, of the principle we are adhering to than by showing that by voluntary agreement parties are actually working for a less time, although we propose to protect them from the imposition of a greater. But I will revert to the question—what was the objection to accepting eleven hours as a compromise? If a compromise was to be made, it would have been more satisfactory to the Government and more congenial to their feelings, to have acceded to the wishes of nay noble Friend upon this point, than any man in this House. To say nothing of personal feelings of respect, my noble Friend has a right to be looked upon as a leader in this cause. My noble Friend knows very well that the disagreement between us is one of opinion, and that it was solely on account of his conscientious adherence to his own, that he is not now a Member of Her Majesty's Government. That fact only shows that Her Majesty's Government maturely considered this question two years ago, and nothing but the strongest conviction of its propriety and justice could induce them to forego the assistance of my noble Friend. Therefore, if a compromise was to have been made, I would rather have taken the proposal of my noble Friend for ten hours, because I know that eleven hours never could have been satisfactory to my noble Friend and those who think with him on this subject; not, indeed, because they have pledged themselves to ten hours, but because the argument went to show this, that if you adopted ten hours instead of twelve, there would be a possibility of making those domestic arrangements which have been dwelt upon in regard to the comfort of the home of the operative; that there would be a saving of time, and that the means would be afforded of preparing 1644 meals at home, which would compensate to the families for the reduction of wages. But that argument does not apply to the reduction of the time to eleven hours; and to have consented to that would, therefore, have been a concession of our own opinions, but without those countervailing advantages which my noble Friend has represented as resulting from the proposal he has submitted. Not, then, from a mere obstinate adhesion to our own opinions has it been that we have not entertained this compromise of eleven hours, but from the conviction that we should thereby weaken our position, and that without gaining those corresponding advantages which we might possibly obtain from consenting to the proposal for ten hours; so that we should not, by consenting to the eleven hours, give to the working-classes that which it has been represented would be regarded by them as a compensation for that reduction in wages which, if there be truth in the figures of arithmetic, or in the first principles of commercial calculation, must inevitably attend a reduction of the time of labouring. These, then, are the general principles for which we must contend. We have not adopted lately nor hastily the opinions we have avowed. I had hoped that the opportunities for deliberation which have occurred would have induced the House to take a different view of the case. However, Her Majesty's Government have felt that there is no alternative but to steadily persevere in their own opinions, and they strongly and confidently hope that, in the result, the calm and deliberate judgment of the House will be found to be with them.
§ Mr. C. Wood
wished to say a few words, as the representative of a large manufacturing community, and as he had not had an opportunity of taking any part in the discussions which had already taken place upon the Factories' Bill. Though he could not conceal from himself that the position in which the question now stood, would tend to stimulate the agitation which existed, though it might disappoint the hopes, and alienate from the Legislature the confidence of the people, yet he comforted himself, and estimated these evils far more lightly than others, because he believed that a very small number of the working men themselves really wished for shortening the hours of labour, except under the belief—a belief which had been 1645 expressed by the hon. Member for Bridport—that the shortness of time would not reduce the amount of their wages. He wished, on this occasion, simply to state one fact. Representing, as he did, a large manufacturing town, the entire neighbourhood of which was studded with mills, and occupied by a large population which would be affected by this Bill, he had not, up to this hour, from any body or set of men, or from any individual in that neighbourhood, received a representation on the subject, or a request to vote in favour of the short-time Clause. Was it possible that this would have been the case, if there existed, as had been so frequently stated, a universal and general feeling in favour of that Measure. Placed in the difficulty in which the Government had been, be thought that they had adopted a prudent and proper course. Though some mischief might arise from the disappointment of the hopes which had been excited by the vote of the House, yet, he thought if these hopes had been realised, and that the time had been shortened to the extent advocated by the noble Lord, the Member for Dorsetshire, or even if eleven hours, which would not satisfy the country, had been adopted, a more serious blow would have been given to the commercial prosperity of the country, and a more serious injury would have been inflicted upon the prosperity and well-being of the labourers themselves. He thought it right to this extent to express his opinion on this occasion; not that he was presumptuous enough to suppose any weight would attach to his individual opinion, but believing it to be in perfect accordance with the feelings of the large constituency he represented. He hoped this opinion would have some weight, coming from thousands of labourers who would be affected for good or evil by legislation on this subject.
§ Viscount Palmerston
was not about to enter upon the general subject, or even state the grounds upon which he had given his hearty support to his noble Friend; but he must say, if the right hon. Baronet imagined the country had been taken by surprise by the votes that had been given, the right hon. Gentleman must suppose that the country was more easily surprised than roused. Seeing that the question had been so frequently and repeatedly discussed, there was no ground upon which the country could feel surprise at 1646 the decision which had been arrived at. That Government had been surprised he could believe; but it arose from their not being sufficiently aware of the feelings of Gentlemen on their own side. It was perfectly true, as the right hon. Baronet had said, that if the Government were convinced that the proposal they had made was essential to the interests of the country, they were quite justified in not being satisfied with one or two divisions upon it. But it did appear to be an unusual course that they should not only take the sense of the House repeatedly upon the Bill before them, but that they should withdraw that Bill as they were about to do, and then by another Act to replace the House in the same position as when the Bill was first brought in. He agreed that his noble Friend, Lord Ashley, had no choice but to submit to that course, and he was not prepared to make an objection to that course. He was willing to submit to it with other Gentlemen; but at the same time, it was his intention, if his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury should press his Amendment to a division, to vote with him; because, although, he was willing, from inability to make a successful resistance, to acquiesce in the course the Government intended to pursue, he yet thought that it would be expedient that the House should, in consenting to the withdrawal of the Bill, state at the same time that they did not do so from any intention of abandoning the decision they had previously come to, so that it might be carried into effect in the progress of the Bill about to be brought in. He regretted that the Government, whatever might be the preference that they entertained for the period of twelve hours labour, should not, after such repeated expressions of the opinion of that House in favour of the period of ten hours, have been prepared to accept the compromise that might have been made of eleven hours. He could not deem the reasons against it which he had heard to be satisfactory, when he remarked that the Government was not standing upon a principle, but simply a question of degree. They themselves, as the right hon. Baronet had admitted, had extended the principle to a class of persons to which it had not before been applied. In reducing the hours of labour of families, therefore, the question whether the whole of that labour should be reduced to eleven instead of twelve hours, was a question of degree, 1647 and not of principle; and he thought the Government might have yielded to what appeared to be the sense of a majority of that House.
§ Mr. W. Williams
requested the hon. Member for Finsbury to withdraw his Amendment. Although he agreed in the principle, he saw no good to result from a division.
§ Amendment negatived. Main question agreed to. Order for committing the Bill discharged. Bill withdrawn.