§ Lord Ashley
rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice, and addressed the House to this effect: — Sir, The subject which I feel bound to bring under the consideration of the House is so much akin to others which I have had the honour to bring forward, that I fear I cannot promise anything in the way of novelty in the evidence I have to adduce, or in the arguments derived form it; but, nevertheless, I do hope that the House will extend to me its patient indulgence while I bring before it the case of a large class of out fellow-subjects who have never yet been represented here. I am about to speak in behalf of a large body who have been much oppressed, and I may say, have been altogether forgotten—but whose interests are of great value to themselves, and, if taken in connexion with their cotemporary labourers, are calculated to have a powerful influence on the destinies of the Empire. It will be recollected that in the year 1840 I had the honour to move in this House for a Commission to inquire into the employment of children in the various departments of labour. That Commission made a very voluminous Report; and in a Summary of that Report, from which I shall read a few extracts, they stated what was the condition of many thousands, I may say hundreds of thousands, of children. I do not here mean those employed in the factories, but those employed 639 in the various trades and branches of labour in the realm, and who are compelled to commence labour at very tender years. There are instances of their beginning to work at the early age of three and four years; not unfrequently five and six, and in many instances regular employment began from seven to eight, and in most instances between eight and nine. With respect to the employment of girls, the Report stated, that—A large proportion of the children and young persons employed in this branch of trade are girls, the proportion in Lancashire being upwards of one-third of the whole number under thirteen.It further appears from the Report, that the young girls worked as long each day as the adults, which sometimes extended to 16, 17, and even 18 hours consecutively. Schools were wholly out of the reach of these poor children, in consequence of the early age at which they were set to work; and the result is, that the greatest demoralization exists in those districts. This was the summary presented by the Commissioners, and deduced from a close survey of large numbers employed in various trades in the realm. Of all these cruel and pernicious employments—pernicious, I mean, in the extent to which they are carried on—only one has been brought under the consideration of the House. I had the honour of proposing to the House the removal of females from employment in collieries; but of all the trades and manufactures that have been inquired into, that is the only one with respect to which any measure of relief has been afforded, or any motion made. In all other respects nothing has been done, or, rather, every thing has been left undone; not one hour has been struck off from their term of labour,—not an hour added to their instruction. They have not had even the advantage of public opinion being awakened in their favour; that public opinion, which has such powerful influence when brought to bear on other cases, has been of no advantage to those on whose behalf I have ventured to come forward. I own I do not wonder at this, when I consider the enormous labour it would require to wade through those ponderous folios of the evidence collected by the Commissioners, to arrive at all the information they contain, and to drag to light those records of suffering, ignorance, and shame. But it may be said that I myself am chargeable with this neglect; for that it was my duty, being 640 more cognizant of the evil, to endeavour to find a remedy. Undoubtedly, it was more my duty than that of any other; but my excuse is, that I have not had the opportunity and it will not be denied that I have not had any great encouragement. I am, however, now prepared to take up the subject; and I do trust that, in consideration of the urgency of the case, and also of the moderation of what I am about to propose, the House may be induced to give me part, if not the whole, of what I ask on behalf of these young persons. I hope it will be borne in mind, that throughout the whole of the discussion on this question, I limit my demand entirely to children under the age of thirteen, which are children according to the definition of the Factory Act. A vast number of these children are females, and therefore entitled to the special protection of this House. I do not consider that in the exclusion of those of more advanced age from the operation of the measure which I shall propose, justice and humanity will be satisfied; but the demand which I now make is more in accordance with what I hope to obtain than with what I think to be just. Calico printing, to which I now beg to call the attention of the House, is thus described in the Commissioners' Report:—Calico printing, with its subsidiary processes of bleaching and dyeing, is carried on to the greatest extent in the cotton districts of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and the west of Scotland. There are also a few printworks near London, and several near Dublin.With respect to the age of the children employed, the Report said,—In Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, instances occur in which children begin work in this employment at as early as between four and five, and several between five and six inclusive, many begin between six and seven, still more between seven and eight, and the great majority between eight and nine. Out of 565 children taken indiscriminately from returns obtained from each section of this district, it appears that one child began work between four and five; three between five and six; sixty-eight between six and seven; 133 between seven and eight; 156 between eight and nine; 127 between nine and ten; forty-nine between ten and eleven; twenty-six between eleven and twelve; and two between twelve and thirteen. In the east of Scotland children commence work at the same early ages; the Rev. John Dempster, Minister of Denny, states that infants may be seen at work as early as five years of age, having got 641 at school little more than a knowledge of the alphabet, and that they go to continuous employments at all ages, from seven upwards. The Rev. J. A. Bonner states, 'our common schools now often look like infant schools, from the paucity of older children.' But the printfields in Kent afford, in regard to infant labour, a remarkable exception to all others in the United Kingdom. In the works of Mr. Swaisland there were found only two girls and five boys, and in Mr. Applegarth's only six boys, under thirteen years of age. There are instances in Ireland of children beginning work at six; but says the Sub-Commissioner, out of 833 persons visited, only 109 were under thirteen years of age.In Ireland the system presents, as I have shown, a remarkable contrast to the state of things in England, displaying, as it does, a remarkable care for children of tender years. Now a word as to the numbers employed. From returns obtained from printworks in Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, the children under eighteen years amount to 5,646.But," (says the Report) "it must be borne in mind that these Returns give only the number of children employed at the time the Return was made, and it has often happened that at the time half the tables at the work have been standing still.But, we can arrive at it by calculation: there are block tables in these establishments, each requiring one child, 8,156; long tables, each requiring two, 168; total, therefore, if the tables are in full work, 8,492. It is estimated that in the printfields in the whole of Scotland, there are teerers amounting to 5,000.But this estimate," (says the Commissioner) "by no means includes the total number;. … there are several other departments in which, though they commence somewhat later than as teerers, many children are employed. The works at West Ham, in Essex, are on the largest scale, and those at Carshalton, in Surrey, are considerable.Total number, therefore, as stated in the Report, amounts to 13,492. But this is confessedly much under the truth; and when we add the number employed in bleachfields and calendering departments, sometimes detached from printing-works, we cannot put the whole numbers at less than 25,000l. And I have reason to believe, from inquiry that I have made, that this amount is under the reality. I now heft to call the attention of the House to what mast have an important effect on the moral and physical condition of those empleyed—I mean the state of the places in 642 which this work is carried on. On this point the Commissioners state—There is perhaps no description of manufacture in which the convenience and comfort of the places in which the various operations are carried on differ so materially in different establishments, and even in different departments of the same establishments, as in calico printing. … With the view of lessening, as far as practicable, the noxiousness of these operations, some proprietors spare neither trouble nor expense to secure proper ventilation, temperature, and drainage; but in great numbers of cases these conditions of the place of work are deplorably neglected. Here are specimens. The hooking and lashing-out rooms, and the singeing-rooms, are very disagreeable places, the air of which is filled with dust, and in the latter with small burnt particles, which irritate the eyes and nostrils exceedingly. 'On going into this room with a friend,' (says the Sub-Commissioner,) 'we were both instantly affected, our eyes began to smart, and we felt a ticklish sensation in the throat and nostrils, much the same as that produced by taking snuff. I noticed that all the children who were employed in this room were more or less affected with inflammation and copious discharge from the eyes. The temperature of the workshops usually varies from sixty-five to eighty degrees … the stoves are often overheated, and I have occasionally seen them red hot. The temperature to which the stenters are exposed is very high, from eighty-five to 100 degrees. I have found them between eleven and twelve years old working fourteen hours. The temperature at which,' says the Commissioner, 'I usually found these stoves, when the girls were filling them, was 110 degrees, or fever heat, and the steam rising from the wet goods as they are hung up is still more suffocating and oppressive than dry heat would be.'I will read some of the evidence on this point:—Robert Crawford, blockmaker, states, that in the kiln, where the block runs through on rollers to dry the colours, no one can work above three or at most five minutes. Mary Moody and Mary Maxwell, stove-girls, state, that the girls often faint from exhaustion caused by the heat. John Rodger, machineprinter, slates, that the girls who attend on the dash-wheel have to stand with the feet and petticoats always wet, and that this in severe weather causes great hardship. Mr. David Young, surgeon, of Bridgetown, says, that from his experience as a medical man he knows that at certain periodical seasons the dash-wheel produces very injurious effects on women. But of Mr. Swaisland's works in Kent, there is a different report: the whole of the premises, particularly the room where the teerers work, are clean, spacious, lofty, and well-ventilated, heated in winter by warm-water 643 pipes, and thoroughly drained. The same is said of the works of Mr. Applegarth, and at West Ham, in Essex.Showing, therefore, that health and cleanliness may be consulted by care and attention, and without any formidable loss of profit. Now, Sir, to give a complete picture of the case I have to present to the House, I must likewise show them what is the nature of the employment in which these children are engaged. It is quite true that the labour is not in itself heavy; it is the continuity of it during so many hours that produces a debilitating effect on both body and mind. Sir, I now quote from the Report of the Commissioners:—The work of the teerers does not require much muscular exertion, while it admits of some variety, as they occasionally bring the colour from the colour shop, and it is also their duty to wash the blocks and cleanse the sieves; but, on the other hand, their exertion of attention must be almost unremitting;—they must keep their arms in a continual rotatory motion, and during the whole time they are at work they must be upon their feet.And what are the hours of work?The regular hours of work in the different departments of the printfield are rarely less than twelve—including the time allowed for meals,—but it is by no means uncommon in all the districts for children of from five to six years old to be kept at work for fourteen, and even sixteen hours, consecutively.In those of Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, the nominal—not the actual, be it observed,—hours of work are twelve, including meal hours; but there can scarcely be said to be any regular hours, for all the block printers are in the habit of working over time, and as they are paid, and are independent of machinery, they are at liberty to work what hours they please.Now, what is the testimony on this subject of the persons employed in these works? I am perfectly aware, that in bringing forward evidence of this kind, I am trespassing on the patience of the House. But I would rather lay before you a true picture of facts, than indulge in any general rhetorical display, that might, after all, leave you ignorant of the exact truth. Thomas Sidbread, block printer, says,—I began to work between eight and nine o'clock on Wednesday night, but the boy had been sweeping the shop from Wednesday morning. You will scarcely believe it,—but it is true,—I never left the shop till six o'clock on the Saturday morning, and I had never stopped working all that time;—I was knocked up, and the boy was almost insensible.644There were men there, and children too, who came on a Monday morning, and stayed till Saturday night.Henry Richardson states,—At four o'clock I began to work, and worked all that day, all the next night, and until ten o'clock the following day. I had only one teerer during that time, and I dare say he would be about twelve years old. … I have known children made ill by working too long hours; the boy that worked for me at the Adelphi was sometimes unable to come to his work from being sick with overworking.In the west of ScotlandThe regular hours for work are from six to six, with two intervals for meals, sometimes of one hour each, leaving about ten working hours.But, says the Sub-Commissioner,I have been hitherto describing the regular hours, but these, I am sorry to say are but too frequently prolonged by over hours… Two or three hours of over work a day is, however, not uncommon, making on the whole fourteen or fifteen hours, including meals.The Sub-Commissioner adds,Instances were found of girls working at the steam cans for thirty-eight hours in succession. Now, in some establishments these long hours are not allowed—Mr. T. Greig, of the firm of Watson, Jackson, and Greig, stated to the Sub-Commissioner, that in three years the utmost number of hours actually worked by any one was thirteen per day, and the utmost for the children was ten a day, the average not being above than nine and a half.Proving, most undoubtedly, that the protracted hours I have referred to are not necessary. It is undoubtedly true that this labour is not continued throughout the whole year—the trade has its flushes and its pauses, such is the technical expression to denote periods of great demand and cessation from labour. But this excess on either side is highly injurious, extreme toil or absolute idleness, the one cannot be considered as a healthy compensation for the other. It must, moreover, be borne in mind, that the printworks are always most busy during the winter, in preparations for a spring trade, at the time of the year when toil and exposure are the least endurable. Of all the features of this employment, that I am now about to describe is the most abominable—I speak of the practice of night work. The Commissioner says:—The occasional practice of night work in print grounds in all the districts is universal, while in many it is so general and constant 645 that it may be regarded as a part of the regular system of carrying on this branch of the trade. In Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, night work is stated to be so common that those establishments in which it does not exist are exceptions to the general practice. In working in the night, relays of printers and children are almost invariably used; the contrary is rarely the case except where there is a difficulty in procuring children.Relays are sometimes from six to six, or twelve o'clock in the day to twelve o'clock at night (called twelving), or from four in the morning till twelve, and from twelve till nine at night.Now, just hear what are the depositions of the young persons themselves as to the period they work, and of the effects produced on them. The first I shall mention is Margaret Isherwood, eight years old. She says,Before she was six years and a half old, she worked all night three or four nights a week.Henry Hughes, nearly nine, teerer, says,I have worked all night many a time. I have worked all day and all night too, without stopping, except for meals.Julia Cunliffe, aged ten, says—I came on Friday morning at seven o'clock, worked all day and all night until Saturday morning at six o'clock. … I took snuff to keep myself awake.Ellen Radcliffe, aged ten, says,—I was once a teerer, but I could not stand the work. I once worked three nights teering blue colour, but it made me sick and giddy in my head.Margaret Morris, going ten, says,—Many times I worked all day and all night too. Sometimes I have gone at eight o'clock in the morning, worked all day and all night until eight o'clock the next morning.Robert Kellatt, block printer, has seen a child named Hellin, seven years old, work from six o'clock in the morning until eleven o'clock at night for a week together on an average; he teered for his father, who worked him quite beyond his strength.I have known a man," (says William Archer, a foreman) "work three days and three nights, without ever going home, and be had the same teerer all the time.In the west of Scotland night work appears to be very common occasionally in almost all establishments. In the east of Scotland the evidence shows that night work is not uncommon; but in Ireland, which again appears to the greatest advantage, it is said,— 646In general there is no night work in the printfields of Ireland… There are exceptions to this, though rare.With respect to treatment, the Commissioners states that theTendency of the improvements progressively made in the processes of calico printing has been to diminish the labour of the children, and to lessen their danger of injuring their work; at the same time there has been a growing disapprobation on the part of the workpeople of any oppressive treatment of the children … Severe punishment, which was formerly common, is now scarcely known.But here comes the fearful and important consideration for the Parliament and the country—the physical suffering is bad enough, but the moral degradation is worse. The Commissioners state, and this is their general report, thatThe evidence collected in the Lancashire district tends to show that the children employed in this occupation are excluded from the opportunities of education; that this necessarily contributes to the growth of an ignorant and vicious population; that the facility of obtaining early employment for children in printfields, empties the day schools; that parents without hesitation sacrifice the future welfare of their children through life for the immediate advantage or gratification obtained by the additional pittance derived from the child's earnings.This is not my language; it is the language of the Report. But this is not all. The evil is a growing one. The state of things is becoming worse. Mr. Emery, master of the school at Disley says,—When I first came into this district, which is now many years since, my scholars stayed much longer with me; and I had then a chance of making something of them. On looking at the number of scholars, it appeared that they had diminished one-half since 1832, notwithstanding the remarkable increase of population in this district within the last ten years.Mr. Emery attributes the falling-off of the school—To the facility of getting employment at high wages for very young children, and to the indifference of the parents about the education of their children .. The block printers," (he adds) "can make from 20s. to 30s. a week, and of course they might afford, at 2d. a week each, to send their children to school.The Commissioner for Scotland says,—But of the means of instruction that are provided, the children of the manufacturing population generally, and those 647 employed in the printfields in particular, cannot avail themselves on account of the early age at which children are removed from school, and the long hours during which their labour is continued.Of many of the children in the print grounds of Lancashire, and especially of those who have been the least educated, it is stated that they appear to have no sense of moral obligation; they are generally not trustworthy, and are given to pilfering, lying, and fighting.…. Of the same class in Scotland, it is stated that the ease with which parents are enabled to rid themselves of the burden of their children's support weakens all parental and domestic ties, saps the foundation of morality, and stops all progress in the mental and moral culture of the children.Is it then surprising that the Central Board should have reported they are speaking generally on subjects of which my present case is a specimen?—That the girls are prevented, by their early removal from home and the day-schools to be employed in labour, from learning needlework, and from acquiring those habits of cleanliness, neatness, and order, without which they cannot, when they grow up to womanhood, economise their husbands' earnings, or give to their homes any degree of comfort; and this general want of the qualifications of a housewife in the women of this class is stated by clergymen, teachers, medical men, employers, and other witnesses, to be one great and universally prevailing cause of distress and crime among the working classes?I shall not weary the House with any further evidence as to the moral condition of those engaged in the printworks. But I will ask if this be a state of things which should be allowed to continue? Any effort we may make, may in the outset be imperfect on account of the difficulties that stand in the way of all legislation on such a subject; but at any rate we may strike at the main evil, and apply the law as far as we can. In the first instance I shall propose the total abolition of night work for all females of whatsoever ages, and all of both sexes under thirteen, to commence in October next. I am quite sure that in this I am not proposing anything that can be in the least injurious to the interests either of the workmen or their masters. If the House will allow me I will state on what evidence I found that opinion. Morally and physically nothing can be more injurious than this night work. W. Archer, a foreman, was asked,—Did night work affect your health?And the answer was,—Yes, it is the worst part of our trade. I 648 always felt very unwell in the morning, almost the same as if I had been drunk over night.What is your opinion of night work?"—"It is my opinion that night work is the greatest injury both to the children and printers; night work ought to be stopped.John Williams, operative, says,—The working by gas injures the eyes. … More affected at morning after working by night, than in the night after working by daylight.Daniel Hawthorn, gas engineer, say,—Children always look pale and sickly when they have been working night and day.A deputation of calico printers, says,—Night work is doubly distressing on this account, where a great quantity of gas is burning in a room badly ventilated, the air is hurtful to breathe, and bad for the constitution. Children of delicate constitutions are obliged, in a long succession of night work, to desist from coming to the shop, otherwise they die off.When children first come to work, from being robust they will become pallid and weak.Almost all claesss of witnesses in all the districts concur in stating that the effect of night work is most injurious, physically and morally on the workpeople in general, and on the children in particular.The Rev. J. Harbottle, Baptist minister, says,—I consider the unseasonable hours during which young persons are oftentimes employed as unfitting them for any improvement in mind, as well as exceedingly injurious to health.One general effect is, that when any meeting takes place of an evening for moral and religious purposes, the workpeople seem quite overcome with the effect of having been at work so many hours—voung persons especially.Nor is night work necessary or advantageous to the trade. The Report says,—No countervailing advantage is ultimately obtained from it even by the employers.Again,—In working in the night it is generally considered that more work is spoiled than in the day; and an abatement is made for bad work.Mr. Robert Hargreaves, of Accrington, one of the highest authorities in the kingdom, says,—I do not like the principle of night work; there is danger of fire, and a necessity for a double set of superintendents. The work done is much worse.649 The Sub-Commissioner for the West of England reports that,—The great majority of printers would not object to a prohibition of night work for children and young persons.Mr. Gilbert Jones, manager of Cogan print works,—Is very strongly of opinion that over hours are injurious both to workmen and employers.HeConsiders that a law reducing and regulating hours of work in printfields, would put all on a footing, and so would soon produce no inconvenience.Mr. Kennedy, the Sub-Commissioner for Lancashire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, reported—and this is a most valuable statement,—I have been favoured by an influential house with an inspection of those books which show rates of production in their roller printing machines, during a period of four months, when they worked fifteen hours a day. … The proportion of spoiled work from the beginning of the first to the end of the fourth month, actually doubled itself; whilst the average production of the machines decreased from 100 to 90 per cent. In fact, the amount of spoiled work increased to such an alarming degree, that the parties referred to felt themselves compelled to shorten the hours of labour to avoid loss; and as soon as the alteration was made, the amount of spoiled work sank to its former level.I am informed, he adds,The general experience of this branch of trade is, that under whatever circumstances night work is tried, the produce is distinguished by a larger share than ordinary of spoiled work.I am also enabled to read the following extracts from two most respectable and intelligent persons. Mr. John Graham, superintendent of works, at Mayfield, says,—So far as we are concerned at Mayfield, it would be advisable to give up night work for young women, young persons, and children, night work being understood as those hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.Mr. David Cooper, of Primrose Works, Clithero, says,—I allude only to Messrs. Thompson's works. There may be other printers who may be unable to adopt such regulations.He says that Mr. Thompson for many years carried on night-work, but had been for years induced to give it up, partly from 650 feelings of humanity, and partly from motives of economy, because he found it injurious to his workpeople, and because the amount of spoiled work was so considerable. It is clear, therefore, that a law must be proposed to save these unfortunate children from the effects of such a system. I would next propose a reduction of the hours of labour with respect to those under a certain age—under the age of thirteen, for instance. I am bound to state, that those two gentlemen whom I last quoted, Mr. David Cooper and Mr. John Graham, do not recommend a reduction of the hours of labour. They confine their recommendation to the abolition of night work; but the evil of excessive labour on the part of these young persons is so manifest and extensive, that it must not be left without a check. I propose, therefore, that in October, 1846, allowing thereby nearly two years before the operation of the enactment, none under thirteen years of age shall be allowed to work more than eight hours a-day for six days in the week, or more than twelve hours a-day for three alternate days in the week. I shall propose also, in conformity with the provisions of the Factory Bill, that two hours a-day of schooling should be required with respect to those children who work eight hours a-day for six days in the week; and three hours of schooling, on alternate days, with respect to those who work twelve hours a-day for three days in the week. Should more labour be required, it may be obtained by relays, to which the trade is accustomed. I do not know whether it is necessary for me to notice the number of arguments which I may anticipate as likely to be urged against my proposed provision with respect to the education of the children. In the first instance, I may be told, that parents may be safely trusted to attend to the physical and moral welfare of their children. Now, in answer to this I may refer to the results of the investigations of the Commissioners, which prove the utter carelessness of the parents of those children in reference to their education, even when they have ample means for providing for that education. Mr. Kennedy says,—One of the chief points for observation is the carelessness of the parents as to the future welfare of their offspring, as shown by depriving them of the advantages of education. This they invariably do without reference to their ample means of supporting them.Commissioners were sent to examine all the various mining and manufacturing districts; 651 and one of them Mr. Fellows (Derbyshire) states,—The sole wish of parents examined by him to be to make all they could of their children at as early an age as possible, without regarding their future welfare.Mr. Austin (Lancashire) says,—Parents will not avail themselves of the many facilities afforded in that district for the education of their children; they will not send them to school.In Scotland, all classes of witnesses state that the difficulty is to get the parents to send their children to school; and as respects Wales, it is stated that the parents estimate even one penny a-week as more than education is worth. Perhaps may be told that poverty is the cause of this indifference on the part of the parents; but attend to the statement made by that intelligent individual, Mr. Symons. He, on the contrary says,—That the evidence of all witnesses shows that when trade improves fewer children will remain in school, and that sensual gratifications are far oftener the obstruction to education than poverty.Mr. Fletcher says,—That the earnings of the population in the neighbourhood of Oldham in prosperous times are amply sufficient to enable parents to pay for their children's education, but they will take nothing but Sunday school instruction, because it does not interfere with work, and costs nothing.Mr. Grainger says,—Many of the parents are utterly indifferent to the moral and physical welfare of their offspring; and it would be a serious error to mistake this indifference for desperation arising from distress and misery.He adds,—That in the best of times, when, in Birmingham for example, many mechanics were earning from 2l. to 5l. or 6l. a-week, instead of making provision for the future, and promoting the welfare of their families, these large wages were but too often wasted in vice and extravagance.In this deplorable state the population is being brought up. It must, I think, be evident to every one, that unless parents themselves receive the benefit of education, they will be indifferent as to the education of their progeny, and yet we are bringing up a race of parents in an entirely demoralized condition, and who will be ignorant of the great advantages which 652 would accrue to their offspring from proper attention to their education; for we find the present generation of these children neglected as far as their physical and moral condition is concerned; and we find also that such a complication of evils has been suffered to accumulate, that even the powers of this House will scarcely be able to extricate the population from them. I have very great fears that not only in the delivery of individual speeches, but in the frequent reproduction of subjects of the same class, I shall become exceedingly tedious to the House. It may, therefore, be some compensation to know, that I suffer nearly as much as I inflict; the labour of research—the extent of correspondence, the trespass on the time of this House, cheered by little or no prospect of success—may be urged as an adequate proof that these endeavours have not been wantonly undertaken; but where the interests are so serious, much may and ought to be hazarded, and it is better to fail in the attempt than never to have aspired to such a measure. Sir, I am at a loss to conceive on what grounds an opposition will be made to my proposal: it cannot be said that I have selected one interest only as the object of attack—this is the third in the series that I have ventured to reform. I have, too, I hope, been careful—for such at least was my intention—in my language respecting the conduct and character of individual print masters: I have endeavoured to expose the pernicious system of their labour, but without imputing to them either the authorship or the encouragement of the mischiefs that afflict the present generation—the evil has, as it were, come down to them by inheritance. Now, in every debate on similar subjects it has been invariably conceded that protection should be extended to young children; their inexperience, their helplessness, the deep interest that the State was supposed to have in their moral and physical welfare, extorted this admission. There may have been some, though very few, who thought differently, and believed that they might safely be left to the affectionate solicitude of parents and guardians—these objections were overruled, and the Legislature has, in various enactments, asserted the principle for which I now contend—I ask no other; for this Bill, I must again observe, will affect young children only, those only of the age which the Government, in the Factory Bill of 1833, protected by a limitation of eight hours of daily labour, and regular attendance 653 at school; a measure of unequal and imperfect success, but productive, nevertheless, of much moral and physical benefit to thousands of the workers. Sir, in the various discussions on these kindred subjects, there has been a perpetual endeavour to drive us, who seek the aid of the law, from the points under debate, and taunt us with a narrow and one-sided humanity; I was told that there were far greater evils than those I had assailed, that I had left untouched much worse things. It was in vain to reply that no one could grapple with the whole at once. My opponents, on the first introduction of the Ten Hours' Bill, sent me to the collieries; when I invaded the collieries, I was referred to the printworks; from the printworks I know not to what I shall be sent, for can anything be worse? If I judge by what I have heard and read out of doors, I conclude that it will be to the Corn Laws; but let me appeal to the most zealous advocate, for their abolition, and ask him what their repeal could do more for the benefit of the manufacturing classes than to perpetuate the present state of commercial prosperity? We have cheap provisions and abundant employment; but what, nevertheless, is the actual condition of these children? The repeal of the Corn Laws would leave these infants as it found them, neither worse nor better, — precisely in the condition in which they are in those countries where no Corn Laws prevail—in France or Belgium. Whatever it might do for others, it would do nothing for these; but I solemnly declare that, if I believed the removal of the impost would place these many thousands in a position of comfort—and keep them in it — I would, in spite of every difficulty, and in the face of every apprehension, vote at once for the entire abolition. Sir, it has been said to me more than once,—"Where will you stop?" I reply, without hesitation,—"Nowhere, so long as any portion of this mighty evil remains to be removed." I confess that my desire and ambition are to bring all the labouring children of this empire within the reach and the opportunities of education—within the sphere (if they will profit by the offer) of happy and useful citizens. I am ready, so far as my services are of any value, to devote what little I have of energy, and all the remainder of my life, to the accomplishment of this end; the labour indeed would be great, and the anxieties very heavy, but I fear neither the one nor the other; I fear nothing but 654 defeat. I should cheerfully undertake it all, had I but the hope of your countenance and support. And who will deny that it is a matter well worthy of the time and deliberations of this august Assembly? Look to the increasing numbers of your people—look to the increasing facilities for mischief. I speak not of this class or that—manufacturing or agricultural—the principle is the same in both, though the danger may be less in the one than in the other—the march of intellect, as it is called, bearing with it both good and evil, while it multiplies the agents of mischief, leaves millions of the poorer sort only as fuel for the fire. Crime is increasing in amount, and deepening in character and intensity; the valuable Tables of Criminal Offenders prepared at the Home Office, attest the accuracy of this assertion. In 1843, "thirteen persons were hung for murder." "Of these," says the preface, "three were females for the murder of their husbands; two were males for the murder of their wives; one for the murder of his child; one of his father." And in a summary deduced from these tables, written by Mr. Jelinger Symons, and published in a most able article of the Law Magazine for last December, it is stated,—Murders, and attempts to murder and maim, have increased 38 per cent. on the average of the last four years; rapes, 57 per cent.; other horrid offences, 53 per cent. Arsons, which exhibit malice in its worst shape, have increased by 28 per cent.; and if those, of the present year were taken into account, the increase would be far greater.The public journals confirm to the full this horrid statement; scarcely a week elapses but that the newspapers detail some crime that, in novelty and atrociousness, exceeds the imagination of mankind. I will not dwell on many cases; of two only I will ask, whether the records of sin in England present any instances of similar wickedness:—one mother, a year ago, who poisoned her four children in succession, for the sake of their burial money; another, within these few days, who held her own daughter alive over the fire until the wretched infant was roasted to death? To what, Mr. Speaker, will all this grow, if no remedy be applied, or even attempted? If we will not, as a nation, undertake the mighty task, let us not, by a continuance of the present system, render it impossible to private enterprise. Within the last few years, the means of education, though still inadequate, have been greatly diffused; 655 schools are multiplied, and zealous and qualified persons, within and without the Established Church, are ready to devote their energies to this service; but the entire absorption of the children by almost unceasing toil in so many departments of industry, defeats their efforts and breaks all their hopes. Does this state of things afford us any security? Far from it. Time was, when men believed, or rather maintained, that utter ignorance and excessive labour were the best guarantees for the tranquillity of the people—a sad delusion; for the most hardly worked and the most brutally ignorant can ever find time and intellect for mischief. Hundreds throng to the beer-shops and pot-houses to listen to seductive compositions in prose and verse, in which vice and violence are dignified into heroism; compositions written with fancy and power, and embellished with all the excellence of modern art. What a monstrous perversion of the noblest faculties, of talents bestowed to refine and elevate mankind! But their guilt is our guilt; we incur it by conniving at it — certainly by not repressing it.Oh gracious God! how far have weProfaned thy heavenly gift of Poesy;Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,Debased to each obscene and impious use,Whose harmony was first ordained above,For tongues of angels, and for hymns of love.Sir, I much fear that I shall appear dogmatic, if I again presume to impress upon this House the hollowness and danger of our actual position. We may obtain a surplus and reduce taxes, increase our fleets and extend our commerce—excellent things in their way, but all unavailing, if they rest not on the moral and physical prosperity of the great mass of our people: it may flourish for a while, and we may exchange congratulations; but an hour of difficulty will soon disclose that we have done nothing whatever to assure our external dignity or internal peace. But while there is life there is hope; we have little to fear but from indifference or delay: and facilities for mischief, now so rife, are, in the order of a merciful Providence, alike facilities for good. The march of intellect, the restless activity; the railroads and steam-boats, the stimulated energies of the mind and body, the very congregating of our people into masses and large towns, may be converted into influences of mighty benefit. Let the State but accomplish her frequent boast; let her show herself a faithful 656 and a pious parent; such efforts, be assured, will not be lost in the sight of God, and her children will speedily "rise up, and call her blessed."
§ Sir J. Graham
It has fallen to my lot, on previous occasions, to oppose the noble Lord in discussions similar to the present; but, though I have been unfortunately opposed to him, I have always been ready to acknowledge the purity of his motives, the singleness of his purpose, the honesty with which he endeavours to obtain the great object he has in view, and also the touching eloquence with which he enforces his views. My noble Friend seemed to think it necessary for him to apologize for the want of novelty in the subject; but where the intention of the advocate of any particular question is fair, and his object is to aid, as he believes, in the moral and physical amelioration of his fellow-subjects, the want of novelty is no fault. Another reason why my noble Friend need not apologize for again introducing this subject to the House is the vast number of persons—no fewer than 25,000—connected with one of our staple manufactures—who are affected by the measure proposed. But my noble Friend has also coupled with the considerations which this fact suggests, others well worthy of our mature deliberation; he has referred to facts which I fear cannot be contradicted—facts of the most grave importance connected with the state of crime. My noble Friend urges us to consider both the moral and the physical condition of the working classes of this country. Doubtless, as regards the moral condition of the people, the considerations he urged were of the greatest importance; but I was glad to observe that my noble Friend did not overlook their physical condition. And when we consider the rapidily increasing population of the country, the increased supply of labour, and the competition consequent on it, as well as the consequences of that increase and of that competition on the physical condition of the people,—I am not, at the same time, undervaluing the importance of their moral condition, and of education in connexion with it,—I say when we look at these things, it behoves us, and especially the Government, to be extremely cautious how we deal with any subject materially affecting the physical condition of a large portion of the community, and naturally and intimately connected with their means of employment. My noble Friend has made many admissions on the subject which appear 657 to me to be very important. In the first place, he said that a large number of masters had given up night work; that the labour in which children are employed is not of a heavy kind; and that the condition of the children has of late years been much improved. My noble Friend further admitted that children employed in some other branches of manufactures were in a worse condition than those employed in printfields and the other branches of manufactures referred to by him. But my noble Friend went further, and informed us in the most frank manner, that it is his intention not to stop with the particular branches of manufactures brought before us on this occasion, but that he will proceed to apply as opportunity offers similar principles to all the great branches of industry in this country, and will not stop until he has succeeded in bringing the hours of labour of all children, if not of young persons, under legislative regulation. Now, I am bound to say, that if we are to proceed at all in dealing with the labour of young persons engaged in this branch of manufactures, nothing can be more moderate than the propositions of my noble Friend; but at the same time, it is my duty to call the attention of the House to the step which my noble Friend asks us to take. There are several marked and striking distinctions between the labour with which he seeks to interfere, and factory labour properly so called, with which there has been hitherto an interference. In the first place, it cannot be denied that this particular kind of manufacture—the printworks, bleaching, and drying-grounds—is, generally speaking, a healthy mode of occupation. Certain parts of it must, it appears, be carried on under a high temperature; but those employments are of short duration, and, speaking generally, the children thus employed have access frequently to the open air, and it cannot, therefore, be called an unhealthy employment. These facts appear to me to point to some distinctions which require caution in treating this particular kind of labour as compared with what is usually called factory labour. Again, the factory labour with which we had to deal last year, was labour connected with machinery. Now, there is one particular feature in factory labour which bears materially on the question of interference; it is, that factory machinery can be regulated with respect to time. Factory labour can be stopped, and the machinery can be stopped, without injury to 658 the process. You may suspend or terminate it for a day by your regulations. All these peculiarities are wanting to the printing business. In that, when a piece is once begun, the process must be continuously carried on until it is completed, or the whole work runs the risk of being destroyed, or at all events inevitably and irrecoverably injured. Again, the nature of factory labour permits its continuance to be uninterrupted from week to week and month to month. But in printworks there are periods of temporary prosperity—three or four months, perhaps, of extraordinary demand, and for the rest of the time business is comparatively slack. While those periods of prosperity continue, the demand is intense, and the production must be continuous, and in proportion to that demand. If a new pattern be devised, fashion requires that it shall be immediately brought forward, or the market might be lost; and that the supply shall be equal to the demand. To interfere with this operation would be to destroy the profit of the manufacturer, for which continuous production at those periods is necessary. It appears also that the labour of children is indispensable in these works. Without a very large sacrifice of profits, it would not be possible to employ mixed labour of young persons and adults. My noble Friend has alluded to the class of children in the works who are technically called "teerers." It appears that without children this part of the manufacture could not be carried on, and that adults and young persons are also necessary in the operation. Of course, the wages of children are less than those of the young persons and adults; and if by your legislation you compel the suspension of the labour of children, you run the risk not only of suspending the whole work, but also of compelling the employment of those who would require much higher wages, and so destroy the profits of this kind of work. Here, then, are many circumstances which distinguish this kind of labour from what is usually called factory labour. I will now advert to what I consider a peculiar and increasing difficulty. On the former occasion, when the subject of the regulation of this kind of labour was before the House, it was admitted by the noble Lord, that in France the regulations as to the labour of children and young persons were, in his opinion, as satisfactory as he could desire. So they are satisfactory, as far as they stand on the Statute Book but in practice they are rendered 659 altogether nugatory and inoperative, for there are n inspectors to see that they are carried into effect. From the use of machinery, factory labour is necessarily concentrated—therefore easily inspected—therefore difficult of evasion — therefore rendering the operation of the law on the persons employed in the manufacture easy. Apply these observations to the class or kind of labour which it is now proposed shall be placed under regulation. There is either no machinery, or it is not worked by steam power; and it is of a comparatively rude and inartificial kind. Labour, too, is not concentrated, but dispersed. Supervision is therefore difficult, evasion therefore easy, and where evasion is easy, and competition great, evasion may be expected to take place. What would be the effect of that? Why, that the honest man who obeys the law will be placed under a cruel disadvantage, as compared with the dishonest man who endeavours to evade it. My noble Friend has also said, that night work is very frequent in this branch of manufactures, but that, in fact, it is not advantageous to the musters. Now, I must be permitted to question the latter part of the noble Lord's view. The persons who conduct business of this kind are so acute, so alive to their own interest, so capable of fully calculating the advantage to be derived from any particular mode of pursuing it, that I cannot help thinking, if they found any one unnecessary, they would not have recourse to it, more particularly if it were disadvantageous. The fact of their continuing night work rather seems to show, that the pressure of competition requires that there should be night work, even although the work done at night may not be so good as that done in the day. For this reason, I hope the House will pause before it accedes to all the propositions of the noble Lord. I am bound to say, that I feel great hesitation concerning the introduction of this Bill. I see the impossibility if we now advance on this line of stopping here. The noble Lord tells us he will not stop here, and that he purposes applying legislative interference to the whole working population of the country. I cannot view that alternative without a serious apprehension that a fatal effect will be produced on the trade and manufactures of the country. At the same time, however, I cannot withhold my consent to the introduction of the Bill; this I feel it my duty to state to the noble Lord in consequence 660 of the moderation with which he states his proposal; but, while consenting to its introduction, I must reserve to myself and to the Government the most perfect latitude and discretion as to the mode in which the proposition shall be dealt with. We shall give it the utmost attention, in the hope that it may be hereafter consistent with our duty to support it. At the same time, I cannot consent to the introduction of the Bill without also an the same time showing how difficult and how perilous its operation may be. Having discharged this duty, I have only to say that I give my consent to the introduction of the Bill.
§ Mr. Wallace
was very glad the right hon. Baronet had consented to the introduction of the Bill. At the same time, the arguments used by the right hon. Baronet against it, would, he hoped, impress on the people of England the necessity of making out a good case before the Bill came on for discussion. Certainly the principle applied to all trades. At present he merely rose to say, that at the proper stage he should move to include the bleaching and dyeing trades in the provisions of the measure.
§ Mr. Hume
expressed his satisfaction at the statement of the right hon. Baronet; but he regretted the right hon. Baronet had allowed the Bill to be introduced. He feared it was only raising hopes that could not be realised, and encouraging people to meddle in other people's affairs, with which they had nothing to do. He felt every admiration for the noble Lord's desire to improve the condition of the people; but advised him to turn his attention to the state of the agricultural labourers, who were worse off than all the rest. He regretted that the noble Lord had, on the former occasion, succeeded with his measure; for all interference for the regulation of labour was mischievous to those whom it was intended to benefit. If the people were compelled to labour, if they were the servants of taskmasters, who could order them to work at any time, in season or out of season, the case would be different. But the English artisan might work for whomever he pleased, and on whatever agreement he liked as to the hours of his labour. He was at liberty to come away when he pleased. The same was the case with the children. He admitted, that individual acts of cruelty might take place, but, looking to the whole people, he depended much on the natural instincts of humanity, and 661 the love that parents bore to their own offspring. A stranger could not come in and act the part of a parent better than the parents themselves. He did not believe that, if society were properly constituted, distress could exist, however abundant the labour. Nor did he believe that parents would allow such oppression as the noble Lord had stated, except under the pressure of extreme want. For all these reasons he protested against a measure which could not do good, and must do evil. He, therefore, submitted to the noble Lord, that if he took the superintending management of children, he was running counter to nature, and that legislation upon that principle would be injurious in the end. Did they mean to say, that in England, the most enlightened country in the world, there were monsters existing who would destroy, or take means to destroy, their own offspring, and place themselves in a situation of danger? He could not give credit to those statements that were brought forward as a general feature of society, though there might be individual cases; but let the noble Lord visit any place in this metropolis where the workman lived, and examine the state of his children and his hovel, and he would find it equally necessary, if distress were to be the reason, why he should interfere there. He objected to the principle of the Bill, and had objected to the proceedings of the noble Lord from the first moment the noble Lord had attempted to interfere with hours of labour. In fact, his first efforts in that House were directed in 1811 to throwing out the Framework-Knitters' Bill, which would have placed the labouring classes under the same trammels which the noble Lord now wished to impose. That Bill was rejected, and he never had regretted the result. Before he sat down, he wished to call their attention to a pamphlet which he held in his hand, and which was called "Common Sense Truths, proposed for the consideration of the Working Classes, addressed to philanthropic Gentlemen and to the Lord Bishop of Exeter," in which the writer said that zealous philanthropists were bad legislators, as they took a one-sided view of the evils they wished to cure, and that all busybodies were nuisances, but that the worst of all were Government busybodies. He had no objection to interference in certain cases; but when they included in the same category thousands and tons of thousands who did not require that interference, he said it was a desecration 662 of government, and was one of the evils of the present day. The working classes were trammelled and tied baud and foot by the Legislature; they were deprived of all the advantages they ought to have, and all these efforts only made them paupers, and were demoralizing and injurious. There was no place in the world possessing the means we had, and yet there was no place where there existed so much misery, as had been truly stated by the noble Lord. If that were so, surely there was some error somewhere. He believed that they had meddled too much already, and he therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, though he now gave his sanction to the introduction of this Bill, would stop it in its progress, and would not allow any further restriction to be imposed on the working classes of this country.
§ Mr. Cobden
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Home Department, had stated very accurately the distinction between printworks and factories; and he rose to make a few remarks upon the noble Lord's statement as to calico printers in general. He gave the noble Lord credit upon this occasion for avoiding all invidious personal allusions; but he thought the House would admit that the noble Lord had wandered into other irrelevant cases of demoralization, not having any direct reference to the question before the House. He did not mean to say that persons employed about calico printworks were better than other persons; but surely it must appear invidious that in connexion with this question the noble Lord should have gone into details—such as of the number of men who had been sentenced for murder and arson, and that one unfortunate and wretched woman had burnt her own offspring. He protested against the tendency of this discussion, leading the public to suppose that there was something peculiarly demoralized about the printers of calico. He believed that the character of those people was much the same as that of other workmen The children about whom they were so much concerned worked in a mild temperature, under shelter from the weather, and earned 3s. a week; whilst in the agricultural districts he believed they worked for 1s. 6d. a week, and were exposed to all the changes of the atmosphere. The noble Lord said the children were punished for lying, stealing, and fighting; but he believed it was the same in other trades. There were one or two errors into 663 which the noble Lord—he was sure unconsciously—had fallen. The noble Lord had said that children were employed in these works at three or four years of age. The noble Lord was, he believed, a father, and he must know that it was morally and physically impossible that children of such an age could be employed about a factory. Then, with reference to the case of persons working for eighteen or twenty hours together, he had never heard of such a case, and he ought to be perfectly acquainted with such matters; but he merely mentioned this to show that, the noble Lord had on this, as on former occasions, been led into error. He might be said to be an interested party, and he had rather the matter was left in other hands; but the difficulties to which the right hon. Gentleman adverted were difficulties which the noble Lord would meet with on going into Committee on this Bill. He would find in this, as in other trades, peculiar features. In the cotton factory the business was regulated by the steam-engine; when that stopped the whole machinery was stopped; but in calico printworks more than half the persons employed were dissevered from machinery. But, with reference to the general project, the noble Lord was bringing them under a Chinese system of legislation; for the noble Lord said he should never stop until he placed all the children employed in every branch of industry under legislative regulations; but, in order to do that, he must go into every house where children were employed, and prescribe the time of their employment.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that as an act of political civility to the noble Lord, the right hon. Gentleman had determined that the noble Lord should bring in his Bill; but he thought it was quite clear that it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman strenuously to oppose the second reading of the Bill. [Sir J. Graham: I studiously avoided making any such declaration.] The right hon. Gentleman did so; but he studiously inferred from the manner of the right hon. Gentleman, that he was not mistaken. He believed the result would prove that his anticipations were correct—that the right hon. Gentleman would most strenuously oppose, upon the part of the Government, the second reading of this Bill. It was right that people out of doors should know the state of things in that House; and he anticipated for the noble Lord—if the friends of humanity would move in the matter—a splendid victory. 664 He called upon the noble Lord not to be dismayed when he obtained it. He entreated the noble Lord to push forward to the final goal, when he did obtain the second reading of this Bill, because he (Mr. Wakley) did not forget what happened in that House last Session, when the noble Lord did not anticipate success, and was dismayed when he obtained it. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) had said that it was physically impossible that children of three or four years of age could be employed in calico printing. He believed that the hon. Gentleman had stated what was the fact; but the hon. Gentleman had not told the House what was the age at which they were employed, whether at five, six, or seven; and the hon. Gentleman had refrained most properly from so doing, because it appeared that he could not do it after the allegations which the noble Lord made in moving for leave to bring in this Bill. The facts of the noble Lord were striking; and the subject was one of the most painful character. Was it possible for that House to entertain such acute sympathy with reference to foreign slaves, and not to protect our infant slaves in this country? The noble Lord said that 25,000 were so employed; and the hon. Member for Montrose said that the parents in this country were at liberty to make such engagements as they pleased, and then the hon. Gentleman went on to say that children could do the same. That was a novel doctrine to him. He was not aware that children had any such liberty. In fact, it was notorious that they had not, and, from the statements of the noble Lord, it was certain that their state was one of infant slavery. Could that House, then, act in a more praiseworthy manner than in removing these infants from such a species of thraldom as was described by the noble Lord? Is would be disgraceful if the House allowed such a state of things to continue without making an effort to remedy it. The noble Lord said he would not allow anything of this sort to last without endeavouring to bring it under legislative regulation. He thanked the noble Lord for that pledge; but he constantly found that when the noble Lord made any of these efforts in the manufacturing districts, other hon. Members always referred to the agricultural districts. But it was not because greater evils existed that you must not deal with lesser ones, and he strongly recommended the noble Lord to take the evils of the agricultural districts in hand. If he did not, his motives would 665 be misrepresented and thwarted by persons in that House. Let the noble Lord go into the agricultural districts, and see what was the state of the people there. His belief was that they were as badly off in the cottages as in any of the manufacturing towns. The noble Lord would find there evils with which he must grapple in some way or other; and he advised him not to postpone doing it, but at once, in the present Session, to move for a Committee, or take some other means to improve the condition of the labouring classes in the agricultural districts. The right hon. Gentleman, in the remarks he made, stated, with that peculiarly imposing and solemn manner which he could always exhibit when appealing to the commercial interests in that House, that it was a question of profit—it would interfere with profit. Granted. But were we to prefer our children or profit? Were we to sacrifice thousands of children in this country to make a few pounds of profit? The noble Lord said that in Ireland, at calico works, the labour was performed, not by very young children, and that they appeared to be extremely considerate in that respect. But an hon. Gentleman behind him said at the time it was very true, because they could obtain there adult labour at such a cheap rate. If that were true, then it was clear that the work could be performed by adults, and that it was not necessary for children of such tender years to be employed. In a great measure, therefore, the question of profit might be discarded. But did not that show what was the effect of the whole system of neglecting education? For that was what they were doing—they were neglecting education. An hon. Friend of his said, educate the men; but he said, educate the boys—they might make a boy a good man, but they never could make a man a good boy. Educate the child, and we should then have a good and respectable member of society. They were told that the Poor Law was to remedy all these evils: but from the returns made to that House it appeared that it had only led to the increase of crime. In the last Session the right hon. Gentleman brought forward a plan for educating the poor in the unions; but that was abandoned, because it was opposed most strenuously on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. The noble Lord had opened the case again with reference to another branch of the community. They had proofs of the awful condition in which part of the population were placed, and he therefore entreated the noble Lord 666 to pursue his labour, and he would live to see the happiest results from his exertions. The noble Lord must not be again dismayed—he must marshal his forces and go on to a completion of the object he had in view.
§ Mr. M. Philips
thought it was a matter of the greatest importance that this question should be divested of everything like error. And when he heard the hon. Member speak of 25,000 children being hired in the manner he had described, he must enter his protest against any such statement. It must be remembered that a great part of those children were brought forward by their own parents, and were not sought for by the manufacturers. In the operations of factories some work required to be performed by manual labour, and when assistance was required by the workmen, they to a very great extent brought their own children in to do it. If, then, the operative parents of this country placed their own children in the factories, were the masters to be called slave drivers? It was the greatest libel he had ever heard on the manufacturers of this country.
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that he hoped his noble Friend would fix an early day for the second reading of his Bill. The House stood in a very peculiar situation with respect to that subject, after the line of proceeding which had been taken that evening by Her Majesty's Government. He was by no means disposed to say that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had exercised an unsound discretion in allowing his noble Friend to lay his Bill before the House. But he confessed he was surprised to find that the right hon. Baronet, who had had the most ample means of inquiring into the subject, and who had had the most favourable opportunities, in the Reports of Commissioners and other documents, for forming a judgment with respect to it—he confessed he was surprised to find that the right hon. Baronet was not prepared to state to the House, upon the part of the Government, what were their views with regard to the proposal of the noble Lord, and what was the course they should take upon the question. It was most important that the intentions of Her Majesty's Government should be made known upon a subject of that nature. If he rightly conjectured from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the intentions of the Government, he had reason to believe that they had made up their minds to resist the proposal of his noble Friend; but, if that were the case, it appeared to 667 him that the wisest and most discreet course which they could have pursued would have been to have announced their determination, and not to have given rise to expectations which they might hereafter deem it their duty to disappoint. They all should feel, whatever might be the points upon which they differed, that nothing could be more unfortunate than a continuance of a system of agitation upon a question of that kind, which created between employers and employed relations most prejudicial to both parties. He should not then enter into the question at large; but he must say that he entirely concurred in the very excellent observations of his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport; and he thought that his noble Friend upon that occasion, as upon former occasions, had been too apt to connect the ignorance and the immorality prevailing in the manufacturing districts with some particular branch of manufactures; thus leading the House and the country to draw the inference that the ignorance and the immorality in question were to be attributed to our manufacturing system, and were the almost inevitable results of that system. Now, he at once admitted that a deplorable degree of immorality and of ignorance prevailed among the manufacturing classes in this country; but he was not prepared to admit—on the contrary, the more he considered the subject, the more was he convinced that the conclusion would not be a correct one—that the manufacturing classes were peculiarly distinguished by their immorality and ignorance, as compared to the other classes in this country. His noble Friend had alluded to some dreadful cases of crime which had occurred in the manufacturing districts; but his noble Friend should have remembered that crimes no less appalling had been committed in the agricultural districts. That was a subject which involved the most serious considerations, and it was the duty of the Government to see whether they might not by the promotion of education put a stop to the perpetration of crimes which, be agreed with his noble Friend in thinking, were becoming every day of a more frightful character. He admired the spirit in which his noble Friend had brought forward his proposal, while he doubted the soundness of those practical measures which he would apply as a remedy for those evils which they all acknowledged. He should observe, however, that his principal object in 668 rising upon that occasion was to express the regret which he felt, that upon a question of that kind the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had not given a more decided opinion upon the part of the Government as to the course which they proposed to follow.
§ Leave given.