§ Sir James Graham
said: The House will remember that when the noble Lord moved for leave to introduce this Bill, I ventured to state my opinion on the great importance of the measure, and to express the doubt which I entertained with respect to the policy of debating the provisions which the noble Lord in bringing forward his Motion brought under the consideration of the House. This Bill was, I think, introduced on the 12th of March, and from that time to the period when we are discussing the second reading, I have been engaged in making very extensive inquiries, which, on the part of the Government, I considered it my duty to institute with respect to a measure that embraces so large a field of manufacturing industry scattered throughout different parts of the United Kingdom. I thought it necessary to assemble in London the Factory Inspectors appointed under the provisions of the Factory Act, and who are employed throughout the districts in which the trades affected by the present Bill are carried on. Under my directions the inspectors repaired to their different districts, and having assembled the sub-inspectors engaged under them, they directed them to proceed with a copy of this Bill in their hands, and to make extensive inquiries, and to enter into communication with all the leading parties connected with these branches of industry in their respective districts. In addition to the information thus obtained, I had also the pleasure of receiving several deputations from the master manufacturers, who are most deeply interested in this measure; and I have likewise given the subject that anxious attention which, as I already stated to the House, it was both my duty and my inclination to devote to it. Because, as I observed on that former occasion, as well as now, all my feelings were in accordance with the wishes of the noble Lord, and a sense of duty to the public alone restrains me from giving an unqualified acquiescence to his measure. I am bound to state that the result of the inquiry which I have made, and of all the information which I have received, has operated in inducing myself and my Colleagues to come to the decision at which we have arrived. If by assenting to the second reading of this Bill it should be assumed for a moment that the Government pledged itself to all the details of the enactment proposed by the noble Lord, then it would, be my painful duty— 1370 but still a duty which I should feel bound to perform—to resist the second reading; but I am at the same time happy to say that though many of the provisions of this Bill must receive my dissent, yet I am not prepared, on the part of the Government, to deny that some regulation is necessary with reference to the employment of children and females in print works; and admitting that necessity, it is our intention to support the second reading of this Bill. But, although it is not, on the whole, necessary, in assenting to the principle of the Bill, that I should go into the details hereafter to be brought under the notice of the House, still, when I recollect the immense interests involved in the measure, I think it is right and proper that I should state what are the provisions of the Bill, as it now stands, to which I object, and what measures I shall be prepared in Committee to suggest, as preferable to those proposed by the noble Lord. In the first place, I would say that a very great extension of the objects of the Bill is created by the terms of construction in the first clause beyond that avowed in the title and preamble. To that extension I have an insuperable objection. The title of the Bill refers only to the regulation of the labour of children in calico print works; but in the interpretation clause the operation of the bill is extended far beyond the print works, and made to apply to all buildings, and, as I understand, even to separate houses in which dyeing, bleaching, and calendering, may be carried on. This is adopted from analogy with the Factory Bill, an analogy which I do not consider quite applicable to these branches of trade, for reasons which I stated at some length on a former occasion. In the factory system labour is dependent altogether on machinery, and it may thus be terminated at any fixed hour; but it is very different in these establishments, for from the nature of the process—from the time occupied in the work, and from the employment of chemical aids; on account also of its being very much unconnected with machinery, and of the effect on the performance of the work which is produced by the state of the atmosphere and many other accidental causes, the determination of a given process, and the quantity of toil and attention necessary for its completion, cannot possibly be prescribed. Moreover, I am bound to state that as far as my inquiries have gone—and I am sure they have been made honestly and with diligence—they lead to the conclusion, that 1371 although in printing works children are extensively employed, yet in dyeing, bleaching, and calendering establishments, apart from the printing works, comparatively very few children are engaged. My first objection to the Bill of the noble Lord therefore is, to the extension of its provisions beyond the print works, to houses in which dyeing, bleaching, and calendering are carried on. The next observation that I would wish to make on the noble Lord's Bill is, that I am satisfied the provision involved in Clause 3, which follows the example set by the Factory Bill, is impracticable in limiting the hours of labour by children, not only in calico print works, but in bleaching, dyeing, and calendering works, either to twelve hours on alternate days, or to eight hours on every successive day. That provision appears to me altogether inapplicable to the case with which we have to deal. There are great peculiarities connected with this trade. Under the most favourable circumstances the demand in this branch of industry is occasionally great; but still the labour of the parties concerned in it is never continuous throughout the year. The demand for labour in them is uncertain. It comes at periods which are well known, as certainly recurring every year at particular seasons, but which demands do not last throughout the whole year. I believe the term in the trade is, that there are "pushes" and "slacks" at different periods of the year. The "pushes" occur every spring and autumn, and they may also return for a third period; and after these the demand relaxes, even under the most favourable circumstances, and the trade then becomes comparatively slack. During the time of the demand everything depends on the work being executed with the least possible delay. The profits and success of the manufacturers, and everything that makes trade advantageous, depends on the absence of all check or delay in the progress of the work while the intensity of the demand exists. It is therefore a material injury, not only to the employers, but to the adult workmen, and even to the children themselves, that any attempt should be made to check their labour while the intensity of the demand is great. I am, therefore, satisfied that the provision of the noble Lord's Bill on the subject of the labour of children in these establishments, founded on the analogy of the Factory Bill, does not hold good; but that peculiar provisions with respect to this trade are indispensably 1372 necessary. I am, therefore, not prepared to assent to the proposition of the noble Lord, that children under thirteen years of age should not at any time work more than eight hours a day, or twelve hours on alternate days, in these establishments. I will now, with the permission of the House, state what are the provisions to which I am ready to assent, provided the House consents to have the Bill read a second time, and to go into Committee upon it. I do think, on the whole—the Bill being restricted to calico print works alone—that the prohibition of the employment of children under eight years of age in them is not a disadvantageous enactment to any branch of trade. That, I will say, would be a wise and humane provision, and in accordance with the principle of the Factory Act. There is also another provision, which is more doubtful, but which I think, nevertheless, proceeds on a principle recognised by the House, to which I am also ready to assent. I mean the prohibition of night-work with reference to children, and also on the principle which this House has more than once affirmed with reference to females employed in factories. Having with some hesitation assented to that principle, and the House having thought it right to interfere with the labour of female adults, and having appointed limits to the duration of that labour, both in the Factory Bill and in the Bill of the noble Lord respecting working in coal mines, I think that on the whole, after the most anxious inquiry that I have been able to give the subject, that it is advisable to adopt the double limitation proposed by the noble Lord: first, that no children under eight years of age should be employed; and also that no children between the ages of eight and thirteen, and that no females, should be employed at night work. These are two provisions to which I could readily assent. It then becomes necessary that we should agree to a definition of the term "night work;" I think that to avoid the perplexity that would be created by the double limitation proposed by the noble Lord with respect to summer and winter, it would be better for the sake of simplicity to have a single definition of the word "night," and the course which I would recommend would be to define night to mean generally the period between nine o'clock in the evening and five o'clock in the morning. The advantage of that definition would be, that during a considerable portion of the year, including the whole of the summer months, the parties could continue at their work 1373 without any artificial lights, either in the mornings or evenings. Though there would be thus a period from five o'clock in the morning to nine in the evening during which children might be employed: still I can state positively, as a general rule, that no children are obliged to work throughout the whole period of sixteen hours. But from the nature of the work in this trade, and from the peculiarity of the employment generally, it is necessary that we should leave a sufficient period for occasional extraordinary demand; and I would, therefore, propose, that it should be competent for children from eight to thirteen years of age to work in calico print works at any times between five o'clock in the morning and nine o'clock at night. I also feel in the strongest manner, in common with the noble Lord and with the general sentiment of the House, that some provision of an effective nature should be adopted for the education of those children, and that no arrangement would be satisfactory—if the Legislature interfere at all in the matter—without including some time for relaxation. I have already stated that the period of intense demand, as compared with the whole year, is in proportion of eight months out of twelve. In deciding on the question of the time to be allowed for the education of children employed in these works, I would prefer looking to the analogy between their condition and that of the children of agricultural labourers, rather than to that of factory labour regulated by machinery. In the north of England and in Scotland, where it is well known the children of the agricultural labourers are, practically speaking, well educated, there are certain periods of the year when, in consequence of the greater demand for labour, there is a suspension of education At seed time and during the hay time and in harvest all the parish schools in Scotland and in the North of England are generally closed; and it is only at the periods between the hay and corn harvests and between that and seed time that the education of the children is mainly conducted. Now I wish in the matter before the House, to be guided by practical experience, derived from other sources of industry; and I think we should rather look to the analogy afforded by the case of the agricultural population than to any analogy arising from factory labour regulated by machinery. Where circumstances vary, your rule should also vary. Having assumed that during eight months out of twelve the work should 1374 continue day by day in these establishments, while the work is comparatively light during the other four months, I would propose that the days for education should be regulated accordingly. We could secure a provision under this enactment, that during one hundred days throughout the year, being about one third of the whole working year, all children employed in these works from eight to thirteen years of age should attend a school daily, as in the case of factory children, say for three or four hours a day; and I would also recommend, in order that there should be no evasion of the intentions of the Legislature, that this period should be divided into fifty days in each half-year. This will not interfere with the other clauses of the Bill. It will be founded on the circumstances of the trade, and will tend to make the Bill, as I hope it will become, a successful measure. Now, I think I remember the noble Lord the Member for London referring on a former occasion—and he did so with perfect accuracy—to the system pursued in the great cotton factories in America, where a similar system of education prevails; and, if I mistake not, a provision of this kind is adopted in Austria. I beg to express my sincere hope that the House will not object to an experiment of this nature being tried to this limited extent. I know not whether I should state to the noble Lord a matter that has occurred to me with respect to this Bill. It is, that if the House be of opinion that any such regulation as I have sketched should be adopted, it would be very advantageous that it should be made a perfectly substantive measure. As the Bill at present stands, it has reference to the Factory Bill; but many of its provisions have no relation whatever to that measure; and I am strongly of opinion, if the House should adopt the suggestions I have thrown out, that it would be very advantageous to make this a perfect Bill, and to have the whole of the regulations with reference to calico print works distinctly and explicitly set forth, without reference to any other enactment. I cannot expect but that the noble Lord, having devoted so much attention to this subject, and having produced this Bill in all its details, will think that the measure might be carried much further than I am prepared to go; yet, on the whole, if he will consent to limit this great experiment within the boundaries that I suggest, I can assure the noble Lord that I shall be anxious, before the Bill goes into Com- 1375 mittee, to meet him on the subject, and to endeavour to aid him in shaping the Bill in such a manner as to give full effect to all the details that I have suggested. After the Bill is read pro formâ, I would suggest that it should be printed and circulated throughout the country in its amended form, in order that the Committee may have the advantage of knowing the general views entertained by the trade on its details. I trust we shall proceed in this manner cautiously, gradually, and at the same time safely, to consider the great benefits that may be conferred on those classes for whom the noble Lord is endeavouring in so praiseworthy and laudable a manner to extend the protection of the Legislature. In conclusion, I beg to state that I most cheerfully give my consent to the second reading of the Bill.
§ Lord Ashley
Sir, my right hon. Friend who has just sat down was kind enough to inform me yesterday of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government as respects this Bill. It is, therefore, to his courtesy and kindness I am indebted, that I am not now taken unawares. I took, Sir, into very anxious consideration the propositions which have been thus stated to me by my right hon. Friend, and I think the result of it is this. I find that my Bill is in this position. Supposing that the Amendments of the right hon. Baronet should be adopted, on one side I lose this—I lose the extension of the provisions of the Bill to those departments connected with the bleaching, dyeing, and calendering of this manufacture, which is not immediately connected with calico printing. I will merely just say, that the right hon. Baronet had omitted to state the condition of the bleaching works in Scotland, which was the great thing I directed my attention to when I introduced the provisions into the Bill which had reference to this branch of the trade. I next find that I shall lose the protection which I proposed to children under thirteen years of age, as I am anxious to limit their labour to a period of eight hours in the day, although a certain protection will be given to them as regards the night work. These children, however, will be left to the possibility of being obliged to labour for sixteen hours every day in the week. These are the points of the Bill which I shall lose. On the other hand, I shall retain the prohibition of the work of children under eight years of age; I shall re- 1376 tain the prohibition of night work of children of both sexes under thirteen, and all females under any age: and I shall also be certain of obtaining an enactment for the education of children under thirteen. That is the state of the case, and I must now make my choice of either alternative. On one side I see myself almost alone; on the other side is the Government, supported, I believe by the great mass of the master printers of the United Kingdom. I do think that the struggle on my part, therefore, would be nearly hopeless; at all events, I would be delaying, if I persisted, the passing of any measure which would tend to alleviate these unprotected classes. On the other hand, I don't think that by agreeing to the suggestions of my right hon. Friend I should delay the eventual success of the principles I advocate, and I do gain two or three collateral points. I shall gain—first, the time and attention of the whole House by not resorting to fruitless divisions. I shall gain the opportunity of fairly and fully having this experiment tried, and of showing that legislation on these subjects was not only applicable, but safe. I shall, thirdly, obtain, I believe, what I have ardently desired—not only the co-operation, but I shall also gain the approval of about nine-tenths of the great proprietors and capitalists engaged in these manufactures. For such insuperable advantages, I am, Sir, prepared to make even larger concessions; for although I might succeed in passing a law that may be found stringent, yet if the great masters were hostile to it, half of the law would become ineffectual, and the other half might be made exceedingly vexatious to all parties. Now, I am prepared to say, that although I reserve to myself my own opinions, and my right on some other occasions, whenever I think a fitting opportunity arises, to try and carry out those principles which I advocate, yet I have no hesitation in saying that I do accept, with thankfulness, the offer which the right hon. Baronet has now made to me. And I am delighted to have the opportunity of saying in this House that I believe I carry with me the co-operation of many Gentlemen whom I see on the opposite side, and who were opposed to me in my endeavours to carry out my principles on a former occasion. I shall have the support, I believe, of Mr. Neile, of Manchester Mr. Thompson, of Clitheroe; 1377 Mr. Bryce, and I know I shall have the support of Mr. Hargrave, of Accrington. I am quite certain of this—that I shall have co-operating with me at this moment a great number of Gentlemen who two years ago, would never have co-operated with me. I therefore entertain a very sanguine hope that in the course of two or three years more I shall succeed in bringing them further over to co-operate with me in the views which I now entertain upon this subject. I say, Sir, at once, that I accept of the offer which has now been made to me, and I do it with the utmost satisfaction and delight; because I hail it as the commencement of a grand co-operation on the part of all employers in one great and grand effort for the improvement and protection of that which is the noblest material of the British and of all empires and nations—viz., the working classes.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
said, that in point of fact, many of the arrangements which the noble Lord and others were so desirous of effecting by legislation were already in existance in many factories, and he thought it was doubtful whether it were wise to effect such improvements by Acts of Parliament, when they found them accomplished by the voluntary efforts of employers of labour in factories. With respect to the proposal that the children should be required to attend schools at the time of a slack, he would remark that those times were the periods when the children would not be likely to be on the premises, whilst during full employment they were on the premises; and it would be therefore difficult to make the employer responsible for the attendance of the children at such a period, when he would not have the same opportunity of insuring their attendance. If the noble Lord were so desirous of improving the condition of the population of manufacturing districts, he ought to look to the improvement or the population in agricultural districts; for it was the agricultural population from which the population of manufacturing districts was drawn, and which supplied those who sent children to be employed in the calico works. The manufacturing districts now drew their labour from that poisoned source, and thus ignorant parents were brought together. If they wanted to improve and enlighten the children, they ought to begin by improving and edu- 1378 cating those labourers who were destined to become the parents of the rising generation in the manufacturing districts. Unless they directed their attention to the moral training of the whole population they could not succeed in their object of improving the moral condition of persons in the manufacturing districts. They might compel children in the manufacturing districts to attend school, and limit their hours of labour for that purpose; but so long as they confined their exertions to one class, and did not extend it to the whole population, they would find their exertions ineffectual. He thought that with respect to this Bill, the word "work" was not sufficiently defined; for a man might be in a print work for many hours, but it did not follow that during all that time he was employed in a manner injurious to his health. From the time an individual rose in the morning until he went to bed at night he was employed constantly in some manner or another—he moved his limbs and employed his mind; but no one could say that he was consequently working during eighteen hours, if that was the period which elapsed between his rising in the morning and lying down at night. The question for them to consider, then, was whether the amount of work required from each individual in calico print works or factories, was such as required its duration to be lessened, in order to preserve the health of such individual. If they were so desirous to improve the condition of those employed in calico works, they ought to ascertain that any limitation of the hours of labour which they caused, would have the effect of bettering the existence of such persons. Until somebody was prepared to show that by limiting the hours of labour in a particular employment, he could benefit the whole existence of persons so engaged, it was useless to make a proposition for so limiting the hours of labour. It was evident that those who derived an income from the employment of their children were the poorest of the population; and if the noble Lord had such a desire to improve their condition, and confer benefit upon them, why did he not endeavour to place them in a better position by reducing the price of the great necessaries of life, and thus enable the poorer classes to live at a cheaper rate than at present? He could 1379 inform the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, that within the last four years, since the price of corn and provisions had fallen, the wages of the working people in the manufacturing districts had increased, and their condition had become generally improved. Such had been the effect of a reduction of the prices of the necessaries of life, that not only had the wages of persons in the manufacturing districts been increased within the last four years, but greater numbers had been employed by the manufacturers. That circumstance was sufficient to show the effect of low prices on the condition of the working classes; and those who wished to relieve them from the necessity of lengthened toil ought to do so by reducing the price of the food of the working population. They could not expect to get credit for philanthropy in their efforts to shorten the hours of labour, until they also made an exertion to give the necessaries of life at a cheap price to the poor. It was not by making a law to affect a particular employment only, that they could improve the moral condition of the persons employed in the manufacturing districts. Why did they not look to the moral training of the agricultural population? Why did they not enact that employers of children's labour in the agricultural districts should require a school certificate with a child before they employed him in the agricultural districts? Why did they not take that course of encouraging education amongst a population which was at present in a state of the grossest ignorance and moral degradation? Why should they continue to pour into the manufacturing districts of the north an uncultivated and ignorant population, devoid of all moral training, when they ought to know that, with reference to the improvement of the moral condition of the children in those districts, it was most necessary of all that the population which supplied the adult working people should be educated and receive proper moral training? They were undoing by their neglect of education in the agricultural districts all they had done by their legislation with respect to the manufacturing districts. He hoped the noble Lord (Lord Ashley) would not neglect this important portion of the subject; that he would look to the moral training of the population of Dorsetshire, and call for a provision which would require every farmer to demand a 1380 certificate, before he employed any child in agricultural labour, that the child seeking for employment had been at school for two days in each week constantly. Mr. Horner, who was a very great authority on these subjects, was in favour of such an arrangement; and he trusted that its importance with respect to the working classes in the manufacturing districts would not be forgotten. He (Mr. Gibson) was not disposed to make any objection to the second reading of the Bill, after the statement which they had just heard from the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department; and he should reserve what he had to say with respect to the details of the measure for a future stage. In fact, the principle of this measure might almost be said to be a matter of detail; for it required them to consider how far it would be practicable to carry out certain arrangements consistently with the proper management of manufactories. The noble Lord opposite had urged in that House improvements which he (Mr. Gibson) believed to be impracticable, and which, if attempted to be enforced, would be injurious to the interests of a large body of the manufacturers. He should deal with the new proposals of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department when they came in detail before the House.
said, the hon. Member for Manchester appeared to be so enamoured of the advantages to be derived from requiring school certificates with children, that he proposed to have the system adopted in the agricultural districts; and he agreed with the hon. Member in the great importance of extending education to the population of the country generally—to the agricultural as well as the manufacturing districts. With respect to the necessity of encouraging and diffusing education in the manufacturing districts, they ought to remember it had been stated that such was the constant employment of the children in print works as almost to prevent the possibility of their education, as the teaching of the Sunday schools was insufficient to give them adequate instruction in reading and writing, in addition to which the children were so exhausted in mind and body from their week's employment that they were unable to pay sufficient attention to the instructions at the school on Sunday. If the House of Commons of a former day took care of 1381 the moral training of those who formed the parents of those children whose education they now felt it necessary to look to, they would not be required to interfere, as they were at present called on to do, in order to prevent a gradual deterioration of the moral character of the working classes. The hon. Member for Manchester asked for a definition of the term "work," as applied in the Bill. That definition was sufficiently clear in his opinion. It meant being employed on the premises; for it was quite sufficient that the children were kept on the premises, during their working hours, without being allowed time to receive instruction, to constitute the definition. Nothing was more important than to secure for the operative classes a proper amount of leisure, in order that there might be time for improving their moral condition by a sufficient education. The hon. Member for Manchester had asked what the Legislature had done towards improving the whole existence of the labouring classes, and had spoken as if their legislation on the subject of employment had not produced any effect in improving their whole existence. On that subject he was at issue with the hon. Member, for he was assured that the legislation which had already taken place had been of great benefit to the manufacturing population. It had been ascertained that those young persons whose hours of work had been limited by the recent legislation on the subject, had not suffered any loss of pay or comfort by that arrangement, whilst their existence was certainly much bettered by it. It was evident from the admission of the hon. Member for Manchester, that the regulations affecting night work were practicable, as they had already been adopted by some manufacturers; whilst the advantage of a legislative enactment on the subject would be to prevent less scrupulous manufacturers from employing those persons in night work beyond the proper and allotted period. He was glad that the Secretary of State for the Home Department had been able to come forward with such proposals as had received almost the unanimous assent of all who were interested in the subject, it was most desirable to advance gradually as public opinion advanced; and opinion on this subject had not only very much advanced since they had commenced legislating with respect to it, but it was still progressing; and he had no doubt 1382 that many of the improvements which his noble Friend (Lord Ashley) now suggested, would at a future period meet with the approbation of those connected with the manufactories to which they had reference. He was strongly impressed with the importance of looking to the education of the working classes both in the agricultural and manufacturing districts.
§ Mr. Hume
had one or two observations to make on the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, because he thought his hon. Friend had totally misunderstood the observations of the hon. Member for Manchester. He deplored the extended hours of labour and night-work as much as any man; but what both he and his hon. Friend deprecated was the interference with one class of the community. If they were to interfere with children of a certain age, let them begin with the farming children. The hon. Member denied that young children were employed in agriculture. Had he never seen young children, in wet cold weather, engaged in herding cattle? Why, only fourteen days ago, while the snow was on the ground, he had seen children of six or seven years of age tending cattle in the field. He thought that those children deserved to be taken care of by the Legislature, as I well as the children in the manufacturing districts. Did the hon. Member believe that there were no children of thirteen years of age—[Mr. Cowper: No; eight.] Well, eight years of age; but were there no children of eight years of age employed in agricultural labour? There were plenty of them. He would recommend the hon. Member to go back to the agricultural districts and get better information on this subject. He did not object to education; it was the duty of Government to supply the means of education to the children of all classes in the community, and he complained that the Government had not done so—that they were allowing the present generation to rise up in ignorance. He believed that a Government which neglected the education of a generation had much to answer for; but he would also state that he could not give much credit to those who felt so much for the sufferings of children from over-employment, whilst they kept the food of those children dear. The first duty of the man who felt for the wants and destitution of another was, to place the necessaries of and he had no doubt life, the means of existence within his 1383 reach—to increase his means of getting food; and that could be done by reducing the price of the food of the working classes. He could not give credit for philanthropy to those who, whilst they deplored the condition of the children, interfered with commerce, which gave employment to the idle, and kept up laws which made food dear. If they took a proper course in this respect they would find that the parents would be the best, as they were the natural, protectors of their own children; for the working people of this country were not such brutes as those appeared to think who supposed they would wilfully neglect the proper care of their children. He should be always found ready to give his support to education; but he hoped to see a comprehensive system brought forward, applicable to the agricultural as well as the manufacturing districts. It was well known that the agricultural districts supplied labour to the manufactories; and they ought to educate the agricultural population, in order to act on the population of the manufacturing districts. He did not think the Government did right in giving countenance to this Bill, which contained, in his opinion, a mischievous principle; and if he saw any prospect of success he should divide the House against it. Who were the natural protectors of children? Why, their parents. [Mr. Cowper: If they would do their duty.] The hon. Member said if they would do their duty. Why, natural ties would compel them to do their duty. ["No."] No! then the inhabitants of this country were a race of brutes, worse than the very animals. And it was in this point of view that he regretted the Government had not taken up the question of education generally. If they reared an ignorant race of people, if they made men brutes, they could have no reason to complain if they acted as brutes. He would press upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of supporting the question of education as far as possible; but let them bring in a comprehensive measure, and proceed in one uniform general principle. He did not believe that Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Irishmen, were such brutes as this piece of legislation would induce them to believe. He was of opinion that where children were sent to the factories, to the neglect of the means of education, it was where the parents were driven by want, and thought it was better to allow 1384 their children to earn something, however small, rather than starve.
§ Mr. Borthwick
had supported the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, ever since he had brought forward this question; and he had done so for this reason, that the noble Lord was the first to introduce into the legislation of the country the principles of humanity as against the exclusive principles of finance. This was an object worthy the ambition of the greatest statesman; and he believed that not England alone, but Europe at large, would reap the benefit of these measures of the noble Lord. He would not have been absent from these discussions on any account; and to-night he did not know whether to congratulate the noble Lord more on the support he had received, or on the character of the opposition he had met with. The support was an admission of his principles, and an offer to assist in carrying them out as far as possible; and the opposition amounted to neither more nor less than this—why do you not carry your principles into the agricultural as well as the manufacturing districts? In addition to that, one hon. Gentleman advised them to cheapen the food of the people, and then they would effect all the good they wished. Now, he questioned that, even if he were to admit, for the sake of argument, but not of fact, that it would cheapen their food. What was the argument of the hon. Gentleman? That it would cheapen labour. ["No."] No; was it not to enable manufacturers to enter into competition with foreign manufacturers; and how could that be done but by cheapening labour? But he thought the argument might be answered on a broader principle. Were they not to do some good because they did not see it their duty at once to do all the good that others might wish? Suppose that the repeal of the Corn Laws were fraught with all the blessings which its supporters expected, were they not to do some good today, because they would not agree to the repeal of the Corn Laws to-morrow? He thought the noble Lord had done wisely in adopting the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, who had admitted as much of the measure as was perhaps practicable in the present circumstances of the country; and he had no doubt that the measure would soon be in active operation. He thought the whole system of education might be prodigiously improved without any serious difficulty, for he thought the 1385 constitution in Church and Stale was well calculated to promote the secular as well as the religious improvement of the people.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
wished to say a few words on this subject. He had formerly presented a petition from the workmen in the manufacturing districts, complaining of the grievances under which they laboured. Their petition went even farther than the noble Lord's Bill, for they asked the House to limit the time in which machinery was to be employed. But he was satisfied that this petition was proposed to the House in the belief that the employers generally would not give the noble Lord's measure their zealous co-operation; that they would be adverse to its provisions, and, being adverse, that they would evade it. But now, when he understood from the noble Lord that several of the master manufacturers were favourable to his Resolutions, and particularly to the abolition of night work, that materially altered the question, and he thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in agreeing to the offer made by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. He trusted the concessions made by the Government would be received by all parties in the spirit in which they were offered.
§ Mr. B. Escott
differed from the principle of the Bill; but, as the persons interested in the question gave it no opposition, and the noble Lord and the Government were agreed as to the Bill, he supposed that it would pass. He could not help thinking that the measure had reached its present stage in a somewhat remarkable manner. The noble Lord had adopted the suggestions of the Government, and had taken what he could get. No doubt that was quite proper. He had given his reasons for doing so; one of which was, that if he had not adopted the suggestions of the Government, he would not have been able to pass any measure at all. The right hon. Gentleman had agreed to the second reading of the Bill, after making a speech, in which he said that he only did so in the hope that he would be able to strike out certain objectionable clauses. He had no objection to that course, if the right hon. Gentleman thought he was able to make it a salutary and good measure. He was, however, astonished at the speeches of the hon. Members for Manchester and Montrose, because they had made strong speeches against the principle of the Bill, and yet they said they would not divide the House. 1386 He was at a loss to understand how persons representing manufacturing constituencies, and feeling the importance of resisting this principle, which they had been told was an aggressive principle, and which they had seen enough of during the last two years to know that it was a dangerously aggressive principle—he was at a loss to understand how they could fail to record their votes against it. He wished any hon. Gentleman supporting this measure would show the House what the consequence of interfering with labour had been during the last five and twenty years. Could it be shown that the comforts of the labouring classes had increased exactly in proportion as these Bills had passed? Not one of the grievances which they were intended to remedy had ever been remedied; but they had led to the forming of still further measures which proved equally inefficient. The first measure they passed interfered with the labour of apprentices. The effect of that was to render necessary the introduction of another Bill interfering with the labour of those who were not apprentices, because the first Bill had forced them into the places which apprentices formerly occupied. The consequence of this second measure was, to force an undue quantity of workmen into the factories, and the effect of that had been that the House was again obliged to interfere with the labour of women. The principle was still going on, and they were properly and justly taunted by the hon. Member for Manchester that they would not extend it; they dared not extend it to the agricultural districts. [Lord Ashley: Why not?] He begged the noble Lord's pardon; he did not mean anything offensive to him; the noble Lord did not so extend it because the thing was utterly impossible, and, therefore, it was wise in him not to do so. That was what he meant. He was astonished that there was no opposition to the measure. He had no interest in the question himself, but he considered it was a petty peddling measure, and if the House were to be divided, he should vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Brotherton
cordially approved of the course taken by the noble Lord. He had been a spinner in Manchester for the last thirty-one years; and for a long time he stood alone in advocating legislative interference with the labour of children. In 1815, the late Sir Robert Peel took up 1387 the question: he proposed to limit the work to ten hours and a half a day, but he was then opposed by all parties, although it was given in evidence that children of six and seven years of age were worked in factories for the space of sixteen or seventeen hours a day. He, however, obtained a Bill, limiting the employment of children to twelve hours; and that measure was found to work well. He thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in accepting the present concession; and he was convinced that if they proceeded with caution, the masters in the country would find that the measure was not opposed to their interests, nor to those of the working classes. He trusted that all measures of this kind would carry public opinion along with them. He thought the noble Lord entitled to great credit for his exertions.
§ Lord F. Egerton
was glad to hear those opinions which had been expressed by one who, peculiarly on a subject of this kind, had the strongest claims on the attention of the House, from the experience of a long life, during which he had been connected with the manufacturing industry of the country. He did not know from what quarter of the country the hon. Member for Winchester had obtained his information; but he must say that, as far as his own information extended, he believed that, upon the whole, great and substantial benefit had been derived from the legislation which had taken place with respect to the manufacturing industry of the country. He would not, upon this occasion, enter into the discussion of the various questions of political economy connected with this subject, or into the distinctions of different kinds of labour, so far as they became the subject of legislative interference. With respect to the machinery invented by man, it was found that there was a disposition to attach to labour for too long periods those connected with it; and it was found that legislative interference and regulations were necessary with respect to those engaged in these labours. With respect to agricultural labour, it might be said that that was also connected with machinery—the machinery of the earth. But there was this distinction, that the machinery of the Mighty Architect was one which worked silently and in secret, unlit by their gas and unviewed by their light—it still worked on silently and beneficially in 1388 its operations. With respect to the machinery invented by man, it was necessary to interfere occasionally by legislative regulations. He admitted that that principle might be carried too far, and required to be watched with care. He would be far from wishing to apply that principle rashly or intemperately. He had hitherto concurred in and supported the measures of his noble Friend. At the same time, if he thought that his noble Friend was proceeding too hastily, he would be ready to oppose him. He was happy to say, that on the present occasion he fully concurred with him. He congratulated him on the success that had that night attended his labours, and which would not only redound to his credit for the moment, but would conduce to the best interests of those whose interests it was his object to promote.
§ Mr. Ainsworth
begged to thank the noble Lord, on behalf of his constituents, for his exertions on this subject. He thought that, in matters of this kind, those whose interests were concerned, namely, the working classes themselves, ought to be able to form an opinion as to what was best for their own interests. He wished that the hon. Member for Winchester had been present, to see the way in which the working classes of Bolton had expressed their thanks to the noble Lord for his exertions in their behalf. He wished that the hon. Member would pay them a visit, and look into their mills, and see the improvements that had taken place in ventilation, in baths, and in various other ways conducive to the comfort of the working classes, and all in consequence of the system of inspection that had been established. Why, the state of things had been altogether changed within the last twenty or thirty years. He knew an establishment in his own neighbourhood, in which a large room was kept for the amusement of the working classes. The benefits derived from the exertions of the noble Lord had been very great.
§ Lord Ashley
, in reply, would only detain the House by reading five lines of a letter which he had received. The effect of the letter was, that the improvement that had taken place in the morals and manners of children and young persons engaged in mills and factories was so great, that they did not appear to be the same race of human beings; and that so sensible were those most interested of the im- 1389 portance of the change, that they would suffer any hardship sooner than go back to the old system.
§ Bill read a second time.