HC Deb 29 January 1846 vol 83 cc378-417

presented petitions from various places in Scotland in favour of a measure for limiting the hours of labour of young persons in factories to ten hours.


and one or two other hon. Member's presented petitions to the same effect.


, on rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to effect this object, said: Sir, it has so often been my duty to solicit the indulgence of the House, that I may seem to be acting merely in conformity with ceremonial when I prefer my earnest entreaty for its patient attention on this occasion; but at no time have I felt it more necessary to make this request. I am about to revive the discussion of a proposition oftentimes propounded in this House, and as often rejected; one upon which I can offer no novel arguments, and which moreover was submitted to the House at a period not very distant, and was then determined and decided. I think, however, that I can assign good reasons for the course I am about to take. In the first place, I must assert very respectfully, though very positively, that the decision was not a decision of the House; it was the decision of the Minister. This House has twice affirmed my proposition; and we all know in what way the reversal of that judgment was obtained. Next I observe, that a very large majority of those Gentlemen who from their position and knowledge must be best acquainted with the feelings of the manufacturing and commercial districts, indeed no less than thirty-three of forty-two of the Representatives of those districts, supported my proposition, and voted for the Ten Hours' Bill through all its divisions; and I do expect a similar exhibition of local opinion on the present occasion. Moreover, I must assert the continued and undiminished desire of the workpeople for this measure—a desire that, instead of abating, seems, as far as I can see, to gather strength and resolution under every defeat. Nearly two years have elapsed since I last submitted this question to the House; and during the interval events have occurred of such a character as will illustrate in the most forcible manner the truth and the safety of the principles I have endeavoured to maintain; I have also obtained from foreign countries most important information, justifying, as I think, the strongest assertions and strongest arguments I have ever been able to adduce in this House. It will be my endeavour to abstain from wearying the House by the production of evidence which has oftentimes been brought before it in various reports and debates. I believe it will be some disadvantage to my argument, if I abstain from refreshing the memory of hon. Members with a detail of all that evidence which shows the great pressure upon the physical condition of the workers; but I will forego the advantage, because the question now is narrowed to a single proposition—can this be done without injury to the manufacturer, and without a serious diminution of the wages of labour? For I have met with no one, wherever I have been, who will deny the great moral and physical benefits to be derived, if this limitation were assigned to the hours of work. The first matter to which I shall call the attention of the House is a series of experiments instituted in the manufacturing districts by various parties in respect of the reduction of the hours of labour. Mr. Gardner, a gentleman who has very large mills in Manchester and Preston, instituted those experiments; and he was good enough, in the course of last year, after his experiments had run through twelve months, to send up his son and his principal agent to London, to give me an account of his operations. I put to them several questions, the answers to which were committed to writing; and they are so exceedingly important that I must solicit the indulgence of the House while I read them: they completely prove that the hours of labour may be reduced, not only without loss, but with actual benefit both to the master and operative. The first question I put to them was with respect to the comparative produce of labour where the limitation was eleven hours instead of twelve. The reply was this— The produce of eleven hours at Mr. Gardner's mills was not reduced at all. He added an observation— I could not understand how it was that our men could turn off as much work (and some a little more) in eleven hours as ever they did in twelve. I said to one of them, 'John, will you tell me how it is that you can do more work in eleven hours than you did in twelve?' 'Why,' said he, 'we can lay to in eleven hours a day better than we could when we worked twelve, because we get more rest at night, and we are in better spirits all the day through, and, besides, the afternoons are not so long.' He could spin, he said, ten years longer, if Mr. Gardner would keep on eleven hours. I could give you more such cases. The second question I put to them was, was the quality of the produce for eleven hours better or worse than that from twelve? To this I received the following answer:— The work is decidedly better since the change to eleven hours; when we worked twelve hours I had very often to find fault with the spinners for not making their cops hard enough. Most of our spinners are generally spinning pin cops, which have to be wove wet, and if they are not made very hard they will fly off in the weaving, and they are nothing but waste. I can say that since the change the work is decidedly better. At the present speed at which the machinery is generally run it is very hard work for the spinners to keep up and make such work as will give satisfaction, particularly where they spin coarse numbers and work twelve hours in the day. The next question I put was— Were the wages reduced or raised or kept at the same level in eleven hours as compared to twelve hours? The answer was to the effect that the wages were the same. And the gentleman then gives a statement showing the average rate of wages paid for a certain number of weeks, when they worked twelve hours, and eleven hours; and by this it appears that in fact there was a slight increase of wages under the eleven hour system as compared with the twelve. The next question I put was— What were the effects of the change of system upon the health of the workers? To this it was answered, that— The hands undoubtedly have better health since the change to eleven hours, and I could give you several cases of both weavers and spinners; I will give but one. Joseph Parker, a very sober industrious man, and a very good spinner, having been in the employ of Mr. Gardner for seventeen years, was so often off his work in the winter time, when we worked until half-past seven, that he was obliged to conclude that he could not stand spinning any longer. … Since the change to eleven hours he has done more work than ever he did before, and has only been off work once through sickness, which will be very soon two years. The next point to which I turned my inquiries was, whether the means of improvement (if any) which the diminution of daily labour gave to both sexes for the comfort and duties of domestic life had been turned by the parties concerned to any advantage in their social and moral condition? To this I received the following reply:— Whenever mills worked 12 hours, the number that attended night school were 27; and a few months after the change they increased to 96. The female part of our hands turn their leisure time more to the needle, and those that are married to their domestic concerns. I believe there is a better taste for reading among the workpeople. Mr. Gardner intimated that, as he was a subscriber to the Bible Society, he wished his hands to have bibles and testaments at the society's prices; and the first week I sold myself 136 books, and every week's end I sell a few. On asking as to the feeling produced between employers and employed under the operation of this system, I received the following information:— I can confidently say, that there is not a gentleman in all Lancashire that stands so high in the estimation, not only of his own workpeople, but of all the operatives. I will conclude by saying, first, that the present speed at which machinery is generally run, it is impossible for the hands to keep up, when they work 12 hours a day. Secondly, when the speed and time they work and the atmosphere they breathe is taken into consideration, no one will wonder at the death-like appearance of the factory workers; and if the hours of labour were reduced, it would be like giving them so much more life. But Mr. Gardner himself published a letter describing the results of his experiments; he says— I am quite satisfied that both as much yarn and power-loom cloth may be produced at quite as low a cost in 11 as in 12 hours a day. … All the arguments I have heard in favour of long time appear based on an arithmetical question; if 11 produce so much, what will 12, 13, or even 15 hours produce? This is correct so far as the steam-engine is concerned; whatever it will produce in 11 hours, it will produce double the quantity in 22; but try this on the animal—horse—and you will soon find he cannot compete with the engine, as he requires time both to rest and feed."—"It is, I believe, a fact, not to be questioned, that there is more bad work made the last one or two hours, than the whole of the first nine or ten hours. I saw this gentleman in October last, and he still maintains all the opinions he has expressed heretofore, as to the result of the limitation-of-time system. But there are various other places where this system is in operation, and with similar advantageous consequences. The Messrs. Horrocks and Jackson, of Preston, have made similar experiments, and with equal success. These gentlemen have been working on the eleven-hours system since May last. Mr. Knowles, of Bolton, a very considerable spinner, commenced the reduction in April last. I saw Mr. Knowles," says the writer of a letter, "three weeks since, and he said so satisfied was he with the change, that he never intended to work his mill any longer than 11 hours per day. He had been connected with the working of factories more than 40 years, and he always thought that the hours in factories were far too long. I asked him respecting the work turned off in 11 hours compared with 12 hours. He said, when he made the change, he never expressed any wish that his hands would turn off as much work in 11 hours as in 12; but some of the spinners did as much work in 11 hours as ever they did in 12; others did a little less, but not in proportion to the diminution of time. The difference was so little, that he had no hesitation in saying, that he did not lose one penny in the year by the change. The following is an extract of a letter from a large power-loom weaver in Scotland, which he communicated to me, knowing the part I have always taken with regard to this question; he writes to me thus:— Six months ago we came to the resolution of employing our workpeople only 65 hours a week instead of 69. It has been entirely successful; we have had no reason to regret the change, neither have our workpeople. We make no alteration in the wages, and there never was more earned in our works than at present by those employed at work paid by the piece. We have it in contemplation now to reduce our time to 60 hours. The more I have considered the matter, the more convinced have I become, that for all parties a Ten Hours Bill would be advantageous. A communication received from a worsted mill, near Bradford, informs me— The proprietor has lately been trying the ten hours' principle with his weavers, and with profit and advantage. From a woollen mill near Leeds, I have received the following:— The limitation of the hours of labour has been of the most incalculable benefit to the people in that neighbourhood, not only in relieving physical suffering, but in distributing wages over a longer period during the year. From the West Riding of Yorkshire, a worsted manufacturer writes as follows:— I have been trying the ten hours' principle; I get nearly as much work as — gets, who works a longer time for the same wages. — used to work 16 hours a day; he declares that he gets more work and better work than ever he did in 16. These were the experiments made in various parts of England, and in every single instance you have found that the amount of produce has not fallen off, neither have the wages of the operatives been diminished; and the general facts show a great moral and social improvement in the condition of the people. I was anxious also to ascertain what was the result of this system in Prussia, where, in 1839, the King passed a decree limiting the hours of labour to children under 16 years of age in factories to 10 hours, and where the system has been in full operation ever since. In reply to various questions of mine, I received the following answers from Elberfeld:— There has been no diminution of work in consequence of the limitation of the time for children at 16 and under to 10 hours a day."—"The salutary influence of the law on the physical as well as moral condition of the labouring classes is evident."—"There is no diminution of the wages perceptible in consequence of the limitation of the hours of labour."—"At first there was undoubtedly a very strong feeling against the law in a considerable body of the millowners; but this has literally disappeared. With respect to the observance of the law, on making inquiry of the Director of the Home Department, he says— Not a single remonstrance has been addressed by any one of the millowners to the Government or the provincial states, much less has any resistance taken place. He further says— There were some malcontents. They were afraid of foreign competition; but they seem soon to have been satisfied that this fear was imaginary, the produce of the work not having diminished. The example we have set with respect to the regulation of labour in factories has been followed by various foreign countries. It has been followed by France, and the French Government has passed a law as nearly as possible a transcript of our own. Our example has forced the Government of Prussia into an enactment which provides for the moral and physical improvement of the operatives of that country; and you may depend upon it that if we persevere in the course on which we have entered, we shall compel foreign countries to adopt a similar policy. Let me just point out to the House what are the general results of our factory regulations on the moral, physical, and financial condition of our operatives. I request the particular attention of the House to this subject, for I believe that the results in question offer a complete contradiction to all the opinions put forward in the year 1833, against the measure which I introduced at that period. Let the House see what were the predictions then made, as compared with the actual results of our legislation. I recollect that in the year 1833, when I first brought forward a Bill for a limitation of the hours of labour, there were four predictions, which were constantly ringing in our ears, which were repeated at every meeting, and were transcribed into every journal adverse to the measure. The first of these predictions was, that the great cotton trade would be destroyed by any limitation of the hours of labour; the second was, that the wages of the protected parties would be diminished; the third was, that the wages of children would be reduced to a mere fraction; and the fourth was, that the children would be dismissed, and that great suffering would universally ensue. Now, let the House permit me to state the actual results, as compared with those predictions. It has been said, in the first place, that our great cotton trade would be destroyed by any diminution of the hours of labour. In answer to that prediction, I need only refer to the state of our cotton trade in the years 1835 and 1836, and during the last three years; and it is not, I believe, necessary that I should dwell any further upon that part of the question. But it was predicted, in the second place, that the wages of the protected parties would be diminished. Now, there were two classes who were at that time protected by our legislation. There were, first, persons under the age of thirteen, who were called "children;" and there were, secondly, persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, who were called "young persons." The law enacted that young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen should not be exposed to a longer duration of work than twelve hours in the day. Now, before the year 1833, the average wages of those young persons were 5s. 4d. per week, while their average wages since that period have been 6s. 11d. per week; thus showing an increase of 30 per cent. in the averages drawn from the four great towns of Manchester, Bolton, Preston, and Oldham. Let us next pass to the third prediction, that the wages of children would be reduced to a mere fraction. The average wages of children under thirteen years of age, for twelve or more than twelve hours labour a day, were, before 1833, 3s. 1d. per week; and since 1833, their average wages for six hours labour a day have been 2s. 2d. per week. But although there has been in that case an apparent abatement of wages, the families have not, in many instances, suffered in consequence; because, by that admirable provision restricting the labour of children to six hours a day, a greater demand has been created for the labour of those children, and many families which could formerly obtain employment for one child only, now find employment for two children; so that the aggregate wages are at present frequently greater than the wages received under the old system. Let us look at the fourth prediction, which was that the children would be dismissed, and that much physical suffering would ensue. It is very difficult to obtain statistical returns with respect to children under thirteen years of age employed before the year 1833. But this we know—that very few of them indeed were receiving any education at all; whereas, I have grounds for asserting that there are now 30,000 children, under thirteen years of age, working six hours a day, and receiving education during three hours, that education being in many instances of a very excellent description, and having been much improved during the last two or three years. I have also been informed that in the towns of Manchester, Bolton, and Preston, the increase of children at school has been, since the year 1833, as eight to one, exclusive of those who attend night schools; while the increase of those above thirteen years (who labour twelve hours a day), in places for teaching persons of that age, has been little or none. Let me add the remarks of the Committee of Operative Spinners upon that point—remarks which ought to carry with them great weight, for they had been extremely opposed to the clause which limited the labour of children to half time. They have written to me as follows:— We also instituted an inquiry into the moral and physical condition of piecers and young persons now, as compared with the same class in 1833, and from every quarter we learn that it is much improved; and since the Bill of 1833, which restricted the hours of labour to eight in the day, and that of 1844 to six in the day, with enactments for education, their physical and moral condition has been improved to such an extent that they do not appear to be the same race of beings. We have recently conversed with a large number of the operatives, and those men especially who have devoted a large portion of their time and much of their means to the promotion of this question, and they all declare that the benefits which have arisen to themselves and their children are more than sufficient to repay them for their time and sacrifices, and that sooner than go back to their old system they would part with the last shilling they have in the world in defence of the restrictive system of factory labour. I have felt great satisfaction in reading that statement, for it not only justifies my past conduct, but gives me great assurance of future success in my efforts upon this subject. I hope I am not assuming too much for our efforts, when I ascribe to them the collateral advantage of the half-holiday system for warehousemen in Manchester, and other great towns, at one time so energetically opposed, but now as warmly approved by the employers. I have reason to know that the system has been attended with the most beneficial results; and I believe that the hon. Member for Durham will bear me out in that statement. Among all the alterations that have been effected since the year 1833, I am sorry to perceive that nothing has been done for the benefit of young persons between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Those young persons are exposed under the existing law to twelve hours' actual labour per day; now a very large portion of them are females, and I think I may appeal to the House to say, whether it is not cruel to take a young female on the very day on which she has passed the age of thirteen, at the most tender period of her life, and to demand of her precisely the same work in duration, and frequently the same in intensity, which is demanded from ripe and vigorous manhood? Observe the results to which this practice must lead. I believe every one will admit that it is a matter of vital importance to the peace and welfare of society, and to the comfort and well-being of the working classes, that females should be brought up with such a knowledge of domestic arts and household concerns as may enable them efficiently to discharge the various duties of wives and mothers. But how can it be possible that young women, whose labour has been so heavy and so prolonged, that they are in many cases unable to cook their own suppers, or even to eat the suppers prepored for them—how is it possible that they should learn the details of domestic life which constitute the comfort of the working man's home, and contribute so powerfully to the morality of the rising generation, because women must have, and ought to have, almost undivided influence on children during the earliest and most impressible years of their existence? I am not expressing my own opinions merely upon that point, because the Commissioners appointed in the year 1840 to inquire into the employment of young persons, went so far as to state, that it was the universal opinion of clergymen, medical men, teachers, and others, that the condition of the women was one great and universally prevailing cause of the distress among the working classes. I will now read to the House the result of an experiment made by a friend of mine, who had set up in the neighbourhood of several large factories a night school, for the purpose of affording education to the young people employed in those factories. That gentleman writes to me as follows:— In October, the schoolmaster opened two evening classes, one for the young men, and the other for the young women, employed during the day in the mills of —. Each class met twice in the week, on alternate evenings, and between the tours of eight and nine. The eagerness to receive instruction was so great that forty young men, and thirty-eight young women entered immediately … Some of the pupils, after leaving the mills at eight in the evening, came the distance of nearly two miles to the classes. But so great was the fatigue they had undergone during the day, that although they evinced an earnest desire to be instructed, it was soon found that their physical powers were too much exhausted by the day's work to enable them to give proper attention to the teachers, and as many as four and five together were observed to have fallen asleep. Within the space of a few months, the classes were deserted by all but five young men. They were accustomed to excuse their want of attention to the teachers, by saying that they were up at five o'clock in the morning, and that after leaving the classes they had to take their suppers; and, consequently, did not get to bed till eleven, and that owing to the long hours and short nights' rest, they found it impossible to keep awake during the evening lessons. I have often heard it said, that there is a factory establishment in another country which completely proves that twelve hours' labour a day are quite consistent with health, comfort, happiness, and moral and intellectual improvement; and when discussing this snbject, we have always been referred to the case of Lowell, in the United States. Now, I believe that this case of Lowell fully establishes everything that I have urged upon this matter. Let us begin by assuming—for it is only nominally the case—that the hours of labour are the same in both countries—that is to say, twelve hours a day. You must still observe, at the very outset, that there is one great and leading distinction. Dr. Bartlett, an eminent physician of the United States, wrote a book, entitled, "A Vindication of Lowell," and in that book he states— By a statute of the commonwealth it is provided that no person under the age of 15 years shall be suffered to work more than nine months of any year in a manufacturing establishment, the remaining three months to be passed at school. Dr. Bartlett further avers, that— The law is enforced with unflinching strictness, so that even in times of scarcity of hands no plea that he ever heard of was admitted for the wresting of the law from its important design. There is another very great and leading distinction. What is the case in the English factory? In the English factory, children having reached the age of 13 years, are admitted to the full period of 12 hours' labour, and for the whole year. What is the period at which the young people at Lowell begin to work? The average age is very much higher than in England. Out of nearly 2,000 girls employed there, the average age was 23 years. I will take two or three mills. In one mill, 657 young women are employed; what is their average age? Twenty-two years and a quarter; and the average time during which they have been at work in the mill is three years and three quarters; and, consequently, at the period of their entry they were about 19 years of age. In English factories they begin to work 12 hours a day at 13 years of age. I will take the instance of another mill, in which there are 203 young women, whose average time of employment is four years and a quarter. They also were about 19 years of age when they began work. I will just quote now from a most interesting and authentic work, published at the end of last year, called "Lowell as it was, and as it is," published by an American clergyman, the Rev. Henry Mills, who wrote the work at the solicitation of the great proprietor of Lowell, who furnished him with the necessary statistics for the purpose. Observe another great and leading distinction between our factory people and those at Lowell; observe whence they come, and how long they remain in the mills. What does the Rev. Mr. Mills say? He says— We have no permanent factory population. This is the wide gulf which separates English manufacturing towns from Lowell; only a very few of our operatives have their homes in this city; the most of them come from the distant interior of the country. They are mostly, says Dr. Scoresby, the daughters of the provincial farmers. Mr. Mills goes on to say— To the general fact here noticed should be added, that the female operatives in Lowell do not work, on an average, more than four and a half years in the factories; they then return to their homes, and their places are taken by others. Here then (he says) we have two important elements of distinction between English and American operatives. The former are resident operatives, and are so for life, and constitute a permanent dependent factory caste—the latter come from distant homes, to which in a few years they return. The English visitor to Lowell, when he finds it so hard to understand why American operatives are so superior to those of Leeds and Manchester, will do well to remember what a different class of females we have to begin with—girls well educated in virtuous rural homes. Now, let us look at the statistical returns respecting female operatives. On inquiry it has been found that— Of the 6320 female operatives in Lowell, 527 have been teachers in common schools. Again, it is to be observed—and this is another very leading distinction between the two countries—that with us "there are mere married women," says Dr. Seoresby, "than at Lowell." Just let me point out that even at Lowell there is the same predominance of females employed in mill labour, an evil of which we have complained so often in this country, and which I have so often heard ascribed to the operation of the Corn Laws. The total population of Lowell is 30,000, of which the operatives number about 10,000, of which 2915 are males, and 6320 females. So, you observe, even in that country, there is the same predominance of female over male labour; and it must be ascribed to some other cause than to those commercial restrictions that are said to be the cause of so much mischief with us. Well, but now observe again, that notwithstanding all these flattering statements as to the condition of Lowell, notwithstanding that there is in America complete freedom from all commercial restrictions, no limitation, nothing which can prevent the free action of the manufacturer in any way he may think proper—yet in Lowell, with all these advantages, you may hear the language of complaint; you may hear the same language which you hear in this country; you will hear stated by operatives, by word of mouth as well as by petition, the same complaints of overtoil, of premature decay, of sinking health, and an early grave. Look at these documents. I quote now from a public document, proceeding from the commonwealth of Massachusetts' House of Representatives:— Special Committee report that four petitions, signed by 2139 persons, of which 1151 are from Lowell, mostly females, have been presented, praying the Legislature 'to pass a law providing that ten hours shall constitute a day's work.' The petitioners declare that they are confined from thirteen to fourteen hours per day in unhealthy apartments, and are thereby hastening, through pain, disease, and privation, down to a premature grave. If that be true, how much more true must be the language if applied to the case of our own operatives, who begin their labour at eight years of age, confined in the unhealthy towns in which labour is carried on, and continue their work till the latest period at which they are able to gain their livelihood? What opinion does the Select Committee, to whom the petition was referred, express?— We think (say the Committee) there are abuses. We think many improvements may be made. We think it would be better if the hours of labour were less—if more time was allowed for meals—if more attention was paid to ventilation and pure air. They then proceed to comment, with very great severity, and in many instances with unfairness, on the state of the English factories and the people engaged in them. They go on to say:— We acknowledge all this; but we say the remedy is not with us. We look for it in the progressive improvement of art and science—in a higher appreciation of man's destiny—in a less love for money, and a more ardent love for social happiness and intellectual superiority. These are the opinions of the Committee, expressed in their special report; and it appears to me that they have passed an opinion which is applicable, in all respects, to the case before us. Sir, it would really be well, for all parties, both master and operative, if this long-agitated question could be finally set at rest. If you will not concede the whole that we require, concede at first some part of it, and let the success or the failure of the experiments determine the further progress or revocation of the measure. Nothing, you may be assured, will be easier than to repeal such a law should its results prove injurious; the operatives will, themselves, be the first to cry out if their condition be seriously affected; should the results be beneficial, we shall trust to your willingness to accomplish our desires, and give us the remainder of our present prayer. We are ready, at any rate, to try that issue. But without some such arrangement as this, the manufacturing population will never desist from their efforts for redress; vain is the hope to weary them out by perpetual refusals; they gather resolution under defeats; and at no period have they been more unshaken and courageous than in this present hour, in which I am urging, for the tenth time, I believe, their just and reasonable demands. You cannot wonder at their perseverance, it is natural and praiseworthy; they feel the pressure of intolerable and all-absorbing toil, they perceive the success of experiments towards the alleviation of it in their own department of industry; they perceive too the contemporaneous efforts, arising in no small degree out of their own, to obtain the half-holiday system and the early closing of shops, both of which, wherever practicable, have proved highly beneficial. Their growing intelligence shows to them the moral and physical advantages of abridged labour; and their claims, when stated in this House, alway meet with respect, and sometimes with considerable support. Sir, in stating these claims, I have abstained from a repetition of evidence adduced, at various times, to exhibit the amount of moral and physical suffering endured by these young persons. This has been a disadvantage to my argument; but I was fearful of wearying the House. I have abstained also from repeating the several calculations made by experienced operatives themselves, on which we maintained that either there would be no abatement of wages, or that, if there were any, they would be enabled, under a reduced period of labour, to establish such economies as would more than compensate for a diminished income. Be this as it may, I do say on their behalf, that they are fully prepared—and I did not, when I proposed the question to them, hear a dissentient voice—to submit to any contingency, in return for this concession to their prayers. Sir, we have reason to thank this House, that its successive interpositions in behalf of the factory population have produced most beneficial results, and specially by its enactments which enjoin that certain hours in every day should be set apart for the education of the younger workers; but the education of a people requires something more than this one provision: you must give them time, not only for the acquisition of the necessary elements, but time to retain and practise them. You give to the children, by your present system, a certain amount of literary teaching until the age of 13; they are then, at that period, when the acquisition and experience of whatever is practical would begin, advanced to the full extent of labour, and debarred by their unceasing occupation from the attainment of knowledge, useful—we may say indispensable—to their welfare in after life. This is especially true of the females, who form so large a proportion of the manufacturing population. Their accomplishments, though few and simple, yet unspeakably important to society at large, must be learned in the daily detail of household affairs. They are unsexed in nature and habits by such constant abstraction from domestic duties—duties which they alone can perform—and the community suffers in their toilsome devotion to employments which demand the powers and habits of men. It can find no compensating circumstances in any system which hinders the peace, the comforts, or the honour of the working man's home; but these things will rise or fall with the character and condition of the females; and all the statesmen of every age, and all the maxim-mongers have never surpassed the concentrated wisdom of Madame Campan, who, in answer to a question of the Emperor Napoleon, "What shall I do for the benefit of France?" replied without hesitation, "Give us, Sire, a generation of mothers." Sir, I cannot conclude the appeal that I have now ventured to make to the House without a retrospect at the manner in which the question has been conducted from the beginning to its present position. I believe that it has been eminently beneficial to the operatives themselves. Of oversights and mistakes, through human infirmity, I may have committed an abundance, but in expressions and in sentiments, I have nothing to recall or even to regret. I have carefully abstained, both here and among the people themselves, from all exciting language; I have studied to produce and to maintain a good understanding between the employer and the employed; I have never ceased to exhort those who confided this measure to my charge, that their thoughts, their feelings, and their actions, must be brought under the dominion of self-control. Well, Sir, I rejoice to say that the effort has been successful. I might have resorted to other means, and kept up their zeal by every inflammatory topic on a subject—be assured—not less interesting to them than the repeal of the Corn Laws; I might have collected them, not by hundreds but by thousands, and talked to them of their wrongs and their rights, of where submission ends, and where resistance begins; but I have done no such thing; and I may now say, to the high honour of those who have so long and so patiently sustained this conflict, that I have never witnessed one menacing effort, or heard from them one vindictive expression. Sir, we must not shut out of our view the wide surface of society to be affected by our decision. It is the concern of many thousands. This single class has been selected out of many to bear the forefront of the battle; but the vote of this evening will affect them all alike, for it may fairly be taken as a representative of the whole: it will be a fatal night whenever you decide adversely, for you will have closed all hopes of moral, and even of secular improvement to multitudes of the young and helpless. And will not this tend to widen the interval—already a deep and yawning gulf—that separates the rich from the poorer sort? The rise of the more affluent classes is very observable; numberless luxuries of mind and sense, hitherto attainable by none but the wealthy, are brought within the reach of much smaller people—they are elevated proportionally in the scale of society. The overtoiled operatives, both as children and as adults, are alone excluded from the common advantage; a few, it is true, of special genius, may triumph over every opposing obstacle; but the mass are abandoned to a state of things in which moral and intellectual culture, forethought and economy, and the resources of independent action, are far beyond their means, and not even in their contemplation. This, surely, is an unsound and fearful position; the contrast is seen, felt, and resented; it revives and exasperates the ancient feud between the House of Want and the House of Have; and property and station become odious, because they seem founded on acquirements from which multitudes are excluded by the prevailing system. Sir, I cannot fail to perceive that to weary the House with repetitions of these things would be useless, and, therefore, disrespectful. I will persist, nevertheless, to anticipate success, though I must, perhaps remember that the array of capitalists, backed by the weight of the Ministry, will present an obstacle almost insuperable by persons of far greater power and station than myself. By my course in the last few years, I have accumulated such an amount of public and official odium and distrust, that I cannot but feel I am addressing many whose minds are already averted from the proposition. Should I be defeated, I shall wait for fairer times, and more propitious hearts, conscientiously resolved never to abate one iota of my principles; and fully convinced that if this now mighty nation be destined to sustain its independence, and glory, and power, the counsels of thinking and unselfish men, for the social and religious improvement of all classes of the realm, must eventually and abundantly prosper.


Sir, by the courtesy of the noble Lord I have been enabled to acquaint myself with the provisions of the Bill; and in the course of the morning I apprised the noble Lord that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to offer, on the present occasion, any opposition to the introduction of the Bill. The noble Lord said, in reviewing his conduct in reference to this subject, that he had seen no reason to reproach himself for the part he had taken. In that sentiment I entirely concur; for I am aware that the noble Lord, in the course he has pursued on this question, has undergone great sacrifices, and has discharged his conscientious duty at a greater cost than falls to the lot of most men. But, as I do not rise with the intention of opposing the Motion of the noble Lord on the present occasion, I do not think it necessary to advert to many of the arguments the noble Lord has advanced in support of his measure. I might, if I thought it necessary, follow the noble Lord through the various topics he has referred to on former occasions. I might, in the first place, remind the noble Lord of what he stated as having taken place in the manufacturing districts since the passing of the Act of 1844, and which, so far from rendering legislative interference necessary or expedient, rather implies that the House should abstain from any interference between the employer and the employed in these branches of industry. The noble Lord stated that in some manufactories, which he specified, it had been found to be the interest both of the masters and the operatives that the period of labour should not be allowed to extend to the maximum period allowed by the law. The noble Lord stated that, in some instances, it had become quite common to work only eleven hours, instead of twelve hours, the period for which the machinery is by law allowed to run; and the noble Lord stated that the result of that experiment was, that more work had been done, and better work as regarded the interests of the masters, and that equal, if not higher, wages had been obtained by the men. If that be the case—and I am rejoiced to hear it—nothing can be more satisfactory; and, so far from legislation being necessary, it appears to me a conclusive argument against calling on the Government to interpose. I do not mean to deny to the noble Lord merit for the arrangements he has already effected; but I wish to call the attention of the House to the changes which have already been accomplished through the unwearied efforts of the noble Lord. Since 1832, the age at which young children employed in factories have been permitted to enter them, has been limited to eight years, and the period of the work of these young children has been limited to six hours. All night-work has been abolished; we have even gone the length of prohibiting adult female labour for more than twelve hours, and young persons between the age of 13 and 18 are restricted from working more than twelve hours out of the twenty-four. I am quite sure that the noble Lord will admit, and I hope the House will remember, that the restriction on the labour of young persons is virtually and completely to restrict the working of the machinery itself, and the labour of adult males, to the same period of twelve hours; and thus the practical result of our our legislation is this—that in the four great staple manufactures of cotton, woollen, silk, and flax, it is not permitted, by law, that any man shall work his machinery, whatever power it may be worked by, for a greater period than twelve hours per day. I will not, on the introduction of the Bill, pursue the arguments to which the consideration of these matters would naturally bring me; but I must say, that to carry interference further in its application to capital and labour, is a dangerous experiment in a country dependent for much of its prosperity on its commercial and manufacturing resources. The noble Lord adverted to many instances of what had been done in foreign countries, and the state of the law in them; but the noble Lord surely will admit that it matters little what may be the law on the Statute-book in any country respecting the regulation of labour; everything depends upon inspection, and the manner in which the law is administered. No reliance can be placed on regulations only. It is not enough to have such a law: you must have the most accurate inspection with regard to its working day by day, and the manner in which its provisions are enforced. It may be asked, entertaining these opinions, which I might state at greater length, and might advert to former debates in which these opinions have been more fully expressed—it may be asked why, entertaining these opinions, I have consented, on the part of the Government, to the introduction of the Bill. In the first place, I reply that this is the first time—although the noble Lord says the question has been distinctly brought before the House since 1833 eight or nine times—this is the first time the noble Lord has moved for the introduction of a substantive measure. On every former occasion the noble Lord has raised the question incidentally, either in committee on some Bills introduced by the Government, or in some of their various stages. But the noble Lord on the present occasion, representing, as he said, the condition of a very large portion of the manufacturing community, has proposed, on his own responsibility, the introduction of a substantive measure. The noble Lord also adverted to the magnitude and importance of the subject. I at once recognise its magnitude and importance; but, in my opinion, while it is our duty to consider—respectfully and tenderly consider—the hopes and expectations of the working classes in respect to a measure of this description, it is the paramount duty of the Legislature and the Government to consider the real interests and permanent welfare of those classes who are so deeply affected by a measure like this. And with reference to the general interests of the public, I cannot lose sight of the moment at which we are called upon to discuss this question—at a moment when a measure intimately connected with it, and of paramount importance, is under our consideration—I allude to the proposed measure with reference to restrictions upon the importation of the first necessaries for the consumption of all classes of the community, and particularly of the class to which the noble Lord has referred—looking to the whole state of matters, I am deliberately of opinion that it will be expedient to postpone the decision of the House upon the principle of this Bill until its opinion has been pronounced upon the great proposition of my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, in respect to the supply of corn and the laws which regulate that supply. I should be sorry, however, that any misapprehension should go forth in respect to the feelings and intentions of Government with respect to the particular question now under discussion. I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that no decision with respect to the Corn Laws—intimately connected as that subject is with the one now under discussion—can ever alter my opinion with respect to the propriety of interfering with adult labour in the manufacturing districts. I cannot anticipate that the noble Lord would use—certainly he has never yet used—any arguments which can induce me to support the second reading of the Bill. At the same time I must repeat that, considering the circumstances of the moment in which the Bill is introduced—considering that this is the first time the noble Lord has proposed a substantive measure on the subject on his own responsibility—and considering the importance of the interests concerned in it, I think it would not be just to a person of the noble Lord's high station, and one whose motives are so pure, not to allow him an opportunity of laying his proposed measure before the House. On these grounds, I assent to the introduction of the Bill.


was of opinion that it had been fully proved that every alteration which had taken place with regard to the law regarding the limitation of the hours of labour had been attended with signal benefit to the operatives themselves; and it required more ingenuity than any Member of that House possessed to prove that any thing done further in this matter would be productive of injury. The right hon. Baronet said, that this was a wrong time to introduce such a measure, because the alteration in the Corn Laws the repeal of which he always so determinately supported, would give a great stimulus to manufactures and commerce. If the Corn Laws were to give such a great stimulus, they must foresee a greater demand for labour; and surely, if he understood the subject at all, these were the very reasons why they ought to take the opportunity of doing away with those evils which were in existence, now that they could anticipate the great demand for labour which these evils so much affected. If he understood the noble Lord correctly, he was desirous that the hours of labour should be reduced to ten hours. From the first day he had any thing to do with the question, it was always his endeavour to produce a good understanding between the operative and the master; and his desire was always to induce them to meet in good feeling to settle the grievances of both parties; and he was glad to see that now there existed a better understanding and a more cordial feeling between them, than ever there was since he had any knowledge of them. That cordial and good understanding ought to be taken advantage of to produce a termination of the existing evils; and he thought that the operatives themselves were likely to receive a compromise, however desirous they were to reduce the time of labour to ten hours. He could not sit down without saying a few words to express, at least, his admiration of the great improvement that had taken place in the town which he had the honour to represent. It was in Preston, first of all, that the experiment had been tried; no disadvantage arose; there was no reduction of wages; and he was fully convinced that, if they did not carry the Ten Hours' Bill, some change in the law ought to take place which would prove satisfactory to labourers in the manufacturing districts.


opposed the introduction of the Bill. He thought persons occupying the position of the noble Lord ought to be the last to touch and injure the rights of property. The noble Lord who had introduced the Bill had stated that no reduction had taken place in the rate of wages since the working of short time; but had he considered a large demand for labour had taken place, which had raised the market? Judging from the exposition made by the noble Lord, the effect of what had been done resembled the action of the Irishman who cut off the bottom of the blanket and sewed it at the top by way of making it longer. If the condition of the labouring classes was as bad as it was said to be, let the Government put on additional taxes to support them—an addition to the Property Tax, if that was deemed proper—but do not make attacks upon the manufacturing interests, which could only end in their injury.


hoped that the House would not be induced by the "wet blanket" eloquence of the hon. Member to reject the wise and humane measure of the noble Lord. With respect to the hon. Member's argument against any invasion of the rights of property, he was deeply impressed with the conviction that if the rights of property were ever disregarded in England, it would be in consequence of their suffering such a defence as that of the hon. Member. He was strongly of opinion that hon. Members should be careful in the utterance of sentiments of this description. He would turn, however, with pleasure to the course taken by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. But how did the right hon. Baronet connect the Ten Hours' Bill with the anticipated measure on the Corn Laws? Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman urged the rejection of this measure on the ground that if carried it must necessitate a repeal of the Corn Laws; well, the right hon. Gentleman was going, if he could, to repeal the Corn Laws; he was still of opinion that there was a most intimate connexion between the two measures, and yet he now said that, whether the Corn Laws were repealed or not, he never would assent to the Ten Hours' Bill. That enigma needed explanation. There was another observation, too, of the right hon. Gentleman, which created his surprise; it was when the right hon. Baronet argued, that in consequence of the good effects which had been produced by the alteration which had already been made, there should be no further legislative interference. When he heard that appeal to the present state of the manufacturing districts, and the good which had resulted already from the laws which had been passed, and when he heard the right hon. Baronet from these facts draw the conclusion that they had better remain as they were, he was forcibly struck by the counter arguments used the other night by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government. His argument, after three years' experience, was, that they should not remain where they were. If they were right in repealing the Corn Laws because a certain diminution in protection in 1842 was found to work beneficially to the country, why not put the same argument in operation in this case? He would say, then, that for the present every argument against the Bill of his noble Friend was completely exploded. He should like to hear the arguments against it after the carrying of the repeal of the Corn Laws. He was convinced that he could do nothing more effectual in conciliating the feelings of the operative to the master than to support this Bill. It was because he wished to see a friendly and cordial feeling between all classes that he gave his most unhesitating and determined support to the Bill of his noble Friend.


said, that while he could not but approve of the good intentions which actuated the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, yet, with all respect for the noble Lord, he could not but think that instead of endeavouring to reconcile differences and to promote good feeling between masters and men, he sought by this legislation to make the masters oppressive, and to interfere with the working man's property, namely, his labour, and with a man's management of his own affairs. His hon. Friend near him (Mr. Trelawny) was, therefore, correct in designating the plan of the noble Lord as an interference with the rights of property. There had been a time (which the noble Lord seemed to have forgotten) when artisans of all descriptions were, by law, thwarted and kept down in all their endeavours to maintain the privilege of using their capital, that was to say, of employing their own time as to them should seem fit. Anterior to the year 1824, only about twenty-three years ago, no labourer could meet with his fellows to talk over or discuss the hours of labour, the amount of wages he received, or to demand 2d. or 1s. a day more than he got, or to seek an amelioration of his condition, without the whole party running the risk of being brought before the courts of law on a charge of conspiracy, and if convicted for the mere attempt to persuade masters to give them an additional shilling per day, might have been liable to undergo, for twelve or fourteen hours per day, six months' hard labour at the treadmill. But Parliament then swept away the laws which so operated, and, under the law as it stood at present, it was impossible that the labourers of the country could be exposed to such injustice. The labourer was now as much protected in his rights as any proprietor of land or manufacturing capitalist in the country. All were equally entitled to protection, and they now to the full equally enjoyed it. But the noble Lord now proposed a different law to operate upon those masters who had embarked their capital in machinery and mills; and by that law to restrict them in the employment of the capital so invested. This he could not but designate as an invasion of the property of the master; because it would prevent him applying it to the best of his skill and judgment. He, looking back to past events, contended that industry and capital ought to be free; and that no individual, possessing either the one or the other, should be restrained, except on the single rule of doing no injury to his neighbour, from exercising his right over that which he possessed. This was the principle, and this had been the object of modern legislation upon the subject. On these grounds, he had objected to former measures which had been submitted with reference to this subject to the Legislature. He had bowed to the decision of Parliament, confident that the time was fast approaching when, from the exposure of the errors committed, the necessity of repealing the whole system would be manifest. Sure he was, that the effect of the laws so passed, had been to produce injury, instead of benefit, to the working classes. He could state that he had himself been at Macclesfield within about a week or some short period, after the noble Lord's Bills had come into operation last year, and he had himself seen 300 men there thrown out of employment, because they could not obtain the labour of a sufficient number of children in the silk factories, where they formerly had full employment. The labourers themselves complained that such was the operation of the noble Lord's enactments. He much lamented that it was necessary, as the noble Lord wished it to be believed, that they should work from the earliest dawn till long after night had closed in; but, at the same time, this circumstance afforded no reason why he should consent to make matters worse, by now adopting the views of the noble Lord. He should wish the noble Lord to look at the state of things in a neighbouring country. In Ireland, the population complained of the want of labour, and would be happy to take the place and situation of those on whose behalf the noble Lord was now interfering upon principles which, if carried into effect, would bring actual misery upon them. On the whole, therefore, he could not think, with the noble Lord, that the laws he had succeeded in passing had either been judicious or beneficial; and hence he concurred in the views expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department. He was satisfied that every argument which had been adduced to-night by the noble Lord could be answered, when the subject came to be fully discussed, to the perfect conviction of every man who gave attention to the subject. The noble Lord had spoken of the town of Lowell, in the State of Massachusetts, and had compared the condition of the labouring population there with similar classes in this country. The comparison, however, could not hold good. The two districts stood in a totally different position. In America the farmers' daughters came to Lowell to spend three, four, or five years, in order, by their industry in manufacturing employment, to earn a dowry for themselves; and after that they returned again up the country, where they married and became farmers' wives. He wished that such could be the case with the unfortunate females who were obliged to toil in the factories of this country. With one part of the speech of the noble Lord he was quite prepared to coincide. He referred to the noble Lord's allusion to a necessary interference by Parliament for the education of the young in principles which would be useful to them in after-life. This he considered an interference which was necessary, and which the welfare of the State required. To afford assistance to the education of young persons in their duties as citizens, and to take that duty where it was neglected by their parents, he would agree; but to interfere, as now proposed, with the employment of capital, whether embarked in machinery or anything else, was in his (Mr. Hume's) humble opinion very injudicious—nay, he would add, very unjust. He was aware that both the noble Lords opposite (Lord Ashley and Lord J. Manners) were sincere in their anxiety to see the condition of the working classes of this country improved; but he regretted to add, that he thought the views they advocated would be mischievous instead of beneficial; and if carried to the utmost extreme, would involve the ruin of the country. On the whole, he was glad the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had not objected to the introduction of the noble Lord's Bill, because he was convinced that when the matter was fully debated, the noble Lord would himself feel, at the conclusion of the debate, that it would be best to leave the matter alone.


said, that as the Bill was not to be opposed until the second reading, it was not necessary to enter upon a debate on its principle to-night; and he should not have risen, were it not for an observation which had fallen from the noble Lord by whom the motion for the introduction of the Bill had been submitted to the House. The noble Lord had stated, in reference to former decisions of the House, that they had not been the decisions of the House of Commons, but the decisions of Her Majesty's Government. This seemed to him to be a novel doctrine. If the House of Commons, after a long debate, had rejected a measure which was not palatable to the majority, the noble Lord turned round upon the representatives of the people and said, that they had not exercised any discretion, but had been influenced by Her Majesty's Ministers. As one who had voted in the majority against the noble Lord's proposition, and who would do so again, he protested against this assumption; and he would tell the noble Lord that there were some persons in the country who attributed the rejection of the measure not to the Government—not to the House of Commons—but to the noble Lord who had himself given up his own measure. With regard to the present proposition, the noble Lord said that it would be good for the people and the capitalist that there should be further interference between capital and labour; but the noble Lord had not ventured to argue that question. The noble Lord had not shown that the working man ought not to be allowed to make his own terms; and, maintaining as he did the strongest opinion that nothing could be so detrimental to the interests of the labouring classes as any interference with them, he had also a strong opinion that some of the alterations already carried into effect at the suggestion of the noble Lord, with the most benevolent intentions, had not produced the good the noble Lord contemplated; but on the contrary, that many hundreds labouring men and their families had been reduced to beggary and ruined by the noble Lord's measures. Believing this to be the case, he should endeavour to show it on the second reading of the Bill, from the evidence contained in the noble Lord's own "Blue Books," which the noble Lord quoted fully, but not fairly. The noble Lord, when he quoted, ought to state the evidence taken on the spot, both on one side and the other. When the proper time came, he trusted that the evidence on the question would be fully gone into and discussed, and then it would be seen whether any further interference ought to be made with the capital or labour of the adult; and whether the strong, sturdy, active, and energetic was to be crippled in his means to support his family, by the mistaken philanthropy of the noble Lord.


observed, that the charge brought by the hon. and learned Member for Winchester against his noble Friend (Lord Ashley), was quite novel, and certainly unfounded; for he was in the recollection of the House when he asked if his noble Friend did not travel over the evidence in the most painstaking and persevering manner, before he came to his conclusion upon the evidence. He would ask if two-thirds of his noble Friend's speech was not composed of a statement of evidence and facts. If his noble Friend were to read the whole of the "Blue Book," he would inflict something like a speech in the American Congress, where a gentleman could occupy the floor of the assembly for a week together. He could not concur with the views propounded by the hon. Member for Montrose, when he stated that the delusions which the noble Lord had raised would be dispelled under a sounder view of the question. If any Member had applied the same arguments to a question of trade, the hon. Member for Montrose would exclaim loudly, and by his gesticulations convey a strong dissent to such a line of argument. After thirteen years' experience, he had voted, in 1833, with the hon. Member for Montrose against the Motion of the noble Lord, and he had then said that it was most dangerous to interfere, by legislation with trade or manufactures. He had then said that their interests were combined, and if by any measures, whether philanthropic or not, manufacturing prosperity was affected, great damage would be done to the operative as well as the manufacturer. But when he found, after the experience of twelve years, that no injury had occurred to the manufacturer, and that wages had rather remained stationary, or had increased, he thought the operative had a right to demand a moderate restriction to his labour. Seeing then that no injury had accrued to either party affected, the claims of humanity required a moderate restriction. A reference had been made to Ireland and the want of employment in that country. What was the reason why manufactures were not introduced into Ireland? The answer was, that the local condition of the people afforded no security for the existence of manufactures and that development of manufacturing industry so much to be desired.


said, that the proposal of the noble Lord was to restrict the hours of labour of persons under a certain age, and who were not sui juris. Granting the admissibility of some such plan, he could not for a moment approve of going a step further—a step he believed the noble Lord meant to take—and interfering with the labour of adults. He would ask the noble Lord what, on his principles, he would do in the following case? Suppose there were a capital of 100l., out of which ten labourers were to be employed, at the rate, say 1s. a piece—that was to say, 10s. a day. Well, the capital was to be thus absorbed. What, then, would be the consequence were Parliament to step in and say to the capitalist, "You shan't employ the labourers for the time sufficient to earn the shilling—we restriet the hours of toil?" The necessary consequence would be, that, as the employer was obliged to have the quantity of labour done paid for in the ratio which would be represented by 1s. per day, in order to obtain his ordinary profits from his money, he would say, "If your hours are so restricted, I must make you work, or get others to work, by the hour, at a proportionate price to that I paid you for the day." Of course, as the same number of hours were not to be employed in labour, wages would fall exactly in the proportion that they were so restricted. Let them depend upon it, that the price of labour depended upon the supply and demand, and that no legislative interference could satisfactorily regulate its wages. Increase the demand for labour by taking away restrictions from trade, and they would be taking the proper plan to raise wages. But attempt to limit hours, and the result would be failure, however philanthropic the motive. He quite coincided with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. B. Escott) in what he had said as to the evidence generally adduced by the noble Lord. No doubt that evidence was, as one of the noble Lord's defenders (Mr. Colquhoun) had characterized it, very full and very elaborate; but he knew enough of evidence to know that there was such a thing as very full and very elaborate garbling of evidence. Nor let them be led away by the hon. Gentleman's appeal to experience, the experience of the last few years. Why, what did that experience prove, but that they had enjoyed a great increase in the demand for labour? But, supposing that the great changes which they were all anticipating, by some accident did not take place, and that the demand for labour should fall off; then they would see, in spite of their legislative attempts, that labour would not be employed, that wages would rapidly fall, and that the operative would be a sufferer instead of a gainer by their philanthropy. The only way to aid the labourer was to give full, free, and complete employment to his powers. The best way to protect labour was to allow it to protect itself. Then it would get its own reward, and legislation would have done for it all that legislation could do. He objected to the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in so easily consenting to the introduction of this Bill. He did see both difficulty and danger in allowing this game to be played. No doubt it was a very advantageous one for those concerned in it. No sort of reputation was so readily gained as that of humanity. It was wonderfully easy—a thing to be achieved by merely accusing oneself of all the cardinal virtues. Indeed, he was surprised that many more hon. Gentlemen did not act upon the plan, did not come forward, and with great pretensions to be kinder-hearted than their fellow men, talk very largely of humanity, and of being the labourer's friends, until their professions came to touch their own pockets, until they were told the real method of relieving the poor—a method involving, perhaps, some self-sacrifices — when in an instant all their humanity vanished—all their generosity was bound up—and it was suddenly found out that to proceed would only end in the dissolution of the State and the destruction of the community. So long as the thing meant words not deeds—bringing in Bills, not practising self-denial—it was very easy to be the poor man's friend.


could not enter into the sublime views propounded by the hon. Member for Bath, nor did he agree with the hon. Member for Winchester, for it so happened that in his neighbourhood there were hundreds of women and children who would be benefited by this Bill. He therefore would support the noble Lord.


thought that further interference at present would be attended with anything but beneficial results towards that portion of the community whose cause the noble Lord advocated. If a ten hours' system were advisable, it would be better it should be put in force by general agreement amongst the manufacturers than by legislative enactment. In agriculture it would be difficult to limit the hours of labour; and if it were difficult to do so in time of harvest, it might also be difficult for a manufacturer, when he received a sudden order, to execute that order within a prescribed period. If this Bill should pass, the noble Lord would have a stronger ground for appealing to the generosity of the manufacturer to persuade him, as a general rule, to limit the time of labour to ten hours. Such an appeal to his generosity would be more efficacious than legislation.


thought the noble Lord had not been fairly dealt with. The question had been argued as if it concerned legislation all over the country. He admitted that the argument was a sound one, if you took the general labour of the country; but he did not admit that it was a sound one in the present case. This Bill was intended to apply to factories, or places where spinning or weaving was done by machinery. So far as his knowledge went, the owner fixed the time the engineer should work, and made the people work. He would advise the Government to take particular care on this subject. He did not think that a manufacturer should fix the time, and then make the women and children work that time, whether they wished it or not; and if they did not wish it, then undertake not to give them work at all. There was another circumstance of great weight upon his mind, which occasioned him to vote for the noble Lord's Motion last year, after he had fully examined the question; and that was, that women's labour was preferable, in this species of manufacture, to that of men, and that if a sufficient quantity of women's labour could be obtained, they were employed to an immense extent, and the men walked about doing nothing. He should feel it to be his duty to vote for the noble Lord's Motion, unless on further inquiry he found he was misinformed; because, notwithstanding what had been said by the hon. Member for Bath, he felt it would be for the interest of the people.


wished to make one remark on the observation of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne—that manufactures had not succeeded in Ireland because of the want of security there. Now, he did not hesitate to say that this was one of those calumnies which were often circulated out of doors, but which he thought it rather too bad to hear repeated in that House. It was utterly untrue that manufactures were driven from Ireland by want of security; but they were extinguished by the very country amongst whose people this taunt was readily accepted as true, depriving the Irish of the only means of manufacturing enterprise—capital and rich consumers. He should be most ready to give his support to this Bill, believing it to be intended for the benefit of the people.


said, that the speech of the noble Lord appeared to him to be a better speech than he had ever before delivered. There had been no factory cripples paraded on the floor of the House, or statements as to the horrible condition of the people amongst whom he (Mr. Bright) had the good fortune to live. The noble Lord had quoted some extract of a Report of a Committee of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and he had complained that that report painted the condition of the manufacturing population of England with great unfairness. Who was so eminently responsible for any unfairness which might hereafter be committed against the manufacturing population of England as the noble Lord? For if the committee had read the speeches of the noble Lord, and believed them, he did not wonder they should make statements which bore very unfairly on the population of Lancashire and Yorkshire. There was one part of the question which all were agreed on, and that was, that to work ten hours was more comfortable than to work twelve. They were all anxious that the labouring population should work less and have better wages; but when the noble Lord came to demonstrate that, by a forcible suspension of labour, nobody lost and everybody gained, he was altogether wrong. He had brought before the House the case of Mr. Gardner of Preston, and had gone into details as to his establishment. He had listened to the noble Lord; but he had not told the House that when Mr. Gardner, had reduced the time of working from twelve hours to eleven, the speed of his machinery was increased, and that by a unanimous determination to make the experiment answer, certain minutes at breakfast, dinner, and tea time were spared that before had been squandered, and by extraordinary exertion the same amount of work was produced. But Mr. Gardner gave an expectation to his workpeople that he would proceed further in the reduction of hours, and they expected that this winter the time was to be reduced to ten hours; but he believed that he had not made such a reduction in the hours of his mill, and that his manager had informed Mr. Gardner that such further reduction would not be desirable. The noble Lord did not know so much about mills as he ought to do in order to meddle with this question. He (the noble Lord) had once come to the counting-house of the establishment with which he was connected, and one of his (Mr. Bright's) brothers had invited him to look through the establishment. The noble Lord declined to do so; perhaps he might have seen elsewhere all that he could have seen there; but if he had been anxious to know the exact truth, he would not have refused to make himself acquainted with what was going on. The noble Lord was rather too much disposed to look at one side of the question, and attributed evils to the working of mills which in reality arose from the circumstance of large towns and the labourers being left by their more powerful neighbours in a state of very great neglect. It was proved, by the report of Mr. Clay, chaplain to the Preston house of correction, that that class of persons which furnished the smallest number of offenders, in proportion to its numbers, was the class of female workers in factories. The prisoners were classified according to their occupations, from No. 1. class, which furnished the largest number, down to No. 20, the smallest number. No 19 was the class of domestic servants, and No. 20 was the class of female operatives in factories, and No. 14, he thought, was the class of male operatives in factories. This he took to be, in some degree, a proof that there were not those demoralizing and degrading influences connected with the factory system which the Members of that House had been led to believe from the statements of the noble Lord. Whatever evils did exist, he was persuaded, were diminishing at a very rapid rate; and there was now, on the part of the employer and the employed, a very cordial and unanimous endeavour to improve, as far as possible, the condition of those who were working in mills and factories. There was one reason which the noble Lord's friends amongst the operatives were constantly bringing forward, in defence of a Ten Hours' Bill. He had met it only the last week, when a deputation called upon him, on this question, in the town of Oldham. As far as Rochdale was concerned, he knew that the last ten hours' meeting held there had been got up principally by the hand-loom weavers in the woollen trade; and they openly avowed that their object in seeking a Ten Hours' Bill was to put impediments in the way of working the power-looms, in the hope that hand-loom labour would be made more valuable. He had said to a deputation at Oldham, the other day, "This is your object;" and one of them replied, "Well, you cannot deny that it is a very good object." He denied that it was; for he thought that to place impediments in the way of machinery would be about the most disastrous thing that the House could do. The hon. Member for Birmingham had referred to the old story about women being employed, and men walking about, and he stated that he had carefully examined into this question. But his examination must have been of the most superficial character; for it was notorious that, at this moment, in no part of the country was labour more scarce than in Lancashire; it was notorious that, instead of men being thrown out of work because women were employed, the very employment which the women carried on gave additional employment to the men. And it was also notorious that, in that district, there was, from year to year, a more steady and continuous extension of the demand for labour, and a better remuneration for it, than in any other part of the United Kingdom. In speaking against the Bill which the noble Lord wished to introduce, he confessed he did it with extreme reluctance; for he acknowledged that a large number of the working classes were in favour of some such measure as this. He did not believe that a majority of them were in favour of it; still less, that a majority of the most intelligent were in its favour; but he believed that a large number were in favour of it, and he was extremely sorry to give his vote, or to speak in opposition to the wishes of a number of honest men. He regarded the measures proposed by the Government—measures which he trusted would be rendered more perfect before they passed this House—as an infinitely greater relief to the working class than any which could possibly come from such legislation as this. And more than this, he was satisfied that when this measure had passed, and there was a steady prosperity prevailing throughout the kingdom, the very laudable feeling which now existed in favour of a reduction of the hours of labour would spread very rapidly. For, whilst manufacturers felt that greater justice was done to them, and that their trade was such as would afford something on their part, the working classes would every day become more powerful and more intelligent — not by violent combinations, or collisions with their employers, but—by a rational union among themselves, by reasoning with their employers, and by the co-operation of all classes; and he firmly believed that many years would not pass over before the measure which the noble Lord recommended, so far as an Eleven Hours' Bill was concerned—not a Bill, but an eleven hours' system—would be altogether universal throughout the woollen and cotton districts of the North of England. And no man, not even the noble Lord himself, would more thoroughly rejoice in such a consummation than he should, though he was now compelled to give his firmest opposition to the Bill of the noble Lord.


said, he feared the hon. Member for Durham had mixed himself up so much with some other association, that he had not had time to attend to this question. However, his experience with regard to the factory workers had been as long and as continuous as that of the hon. Member for Durham; and he thought that a Ten Hours' Bill might be passed this Session with the greatest chance of proving a blessing, not only to the working classes, but to the whole country. He would not now advert to any objection that had been made, except one that had been started by the right hon. Baronet opposite, and caught up by the hon. Member for Durham. It was this: the question was put, "Why don't you at once adopt the ten-hour system, without asking the Legislature for a Bill?" Now, he confessed he should be much more satisfied if the manufacturing interest would adopt the system without any such legislative interference. But the hon. Member for Durham knew what the effect of factory working was; he knew that those working in factories were compelled to be there from a certain hour in the morning till evening. They were not free agents; they had not control over their time; and he was surprised at the two hon. Gentlemen below him, who had taken the same course of argument, to the effect that this measure was an interference with the rights of property and of labour; and they designated labour as property. He did not disagree with the opinion that labour was property, though it was not generally considered such; and he thought it as much entitled to protection as any other property. But, in protecting labour, they must take care they did not injure or destroy the labourer. By refusing the labourer protection, they suffered him to be destroyed by the capitalist, and the Legislature neglected its duty. The protection of labour implied that those who ought to be able to labour should have not only the ability but the means of labouring. By working them too many hours in the day, their power to labour at all was destroyed. The commonest and most every-day experience was sufficient to convince every one that a child of thirteen years of age was not capable of sustaining as much toil as the full-grown man. He would ask hon. Members opposite, would they like one of their children, thirteen years of age, to be dragged out of its bed at five o'clock in the morning, and sent to labour in a factory, whence it did not return until eight o'clock in the evening—thus occupying fourteen or fifteen hours? And was this sort of slavery to be continued? The two hon. Members had urged, that to protect labour was to interfere with the rights of property. That was just the hackneyed argument that had been used in that House when it was appealed to to abolish the Slave Trade. As to the opponents of the measure having the public with them, he contended they had not one in a thousand. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Durham advocating this protection of property of labour, without taking into consideration human beings. By connecting the labourers with the steam-engine, they were compelled to work the same time; and this was the state of the factory slaves. He did not rise to make an appendix to the speech of the noble Lord; it needed none, it was complete in itself; but he had risen to answer the arguments of the hon. Member near him. The factory slaves would never forget the services of the noble Lord. Notwithstanding the opposition now made to the Ten Hours' Bill, he was confident it would pass. And what the hon. Member said of the feeling in favour of the Bill, was a very strong argument why the House ought to pass it. On Monday week he had attended, at the request of his constituents, a Ten Hours' Bill meeting at Oldham. The two chief constables had called the meeting, two cotton spinners of considerable importance, who had always before been opposed to the Bill. One of them took the chair; and both expressed their determination to support, in the best way they could, the obtainment of this Bill from the House. Such was the feeling, according to his experience, that prevailed in the country; and the hon. Member for Durham could not deny it. The operatives themselves had no fear of being injured by the result; for they knew that every time the hours of labour had been shortened, more employment had followed, and there had been no suffering from the reduction of wages. And he was quite satisfied, if they passed the Ten Hours' Bill this Session, that the question would be set at rest, agitation would cease, and the country would prosper better under a Ten Hours' Bill than it had done under the twelve hours' system.


begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite, if, after hearing the speech of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat, his opinions had not undergone a change? His hon. Friend the Member for Oldham was one of the most experienced, most wealthy, most intelligent, and most humane men in the kingdom—a man universally respected, and one who had ever been the friend of the poor. He was a practical man, not a mere theorist, who would run through granite after a principle. He was not so bigotedly attached to what was called principle as to refuse to change his opinion, or to resist the conclusions to which facts would lead him. The question was, whether infants in this country were to be sacrificed to a principle? The hon. Member for Oldham, he understood, was at the head of a firm which employed thousands of hands; in his establishment was wrought up nearly one-hundredth part of the cotton imported into this country; and what did he say? Surely, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department would not be insensible to the effect of that speech which the hon. Member had delivered. The right hon. Baronet had intimated that his opinions on this subject were unaltered. Did he not think it rash to make such a statement, after what had lately passed in that House? He must be permitted to say that it was rash and unphilosophical. It was proved now that men could bend their minds to circumstances; that men who had set out with a principle could deviate and adopt a very different course, when reason intimated that it was for the general good to do so. He gave the right hon. Baronet opposite full credit for the sincerity of his change of opinion on the Corn Law question; nothing could be more invidious, or more irrational, than to charge men with dishonesty, because they changed their opinions. In his opinion, that was a disgusting charge, and one altogether unfitted for a legislative assembly. Infinitely worse, and infinitely more dishonest would it be, for a man when his opinions were changed, to utter a falsehood within the walls of that House. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would apply his mind seriously to the subject, and reflect upon the facts that had been adduced for his information. He was extremely sorry to hear that the right hon. Baronet had given an intimation to the House that he should oppose the Bill. His hon. and learned Friend was an advocate for the representation of the working classes; and he had always advocated the widest extension of the suffrage; he had thought that the working classes ought to be represented here, and it would delight him to see the working men voting in that House. The speeches of some of them would be no disgrace to that Assembly; more splendid speeches, indicative of natural eloquence, he had never heard; and he trusted the day would come when they would be heard in that Assembly. Supposing the working people to have been adequately represented in that House, how many Sessions would pass over before there was a Ten Hours' Bill? It would be passed in the first Session; it would take precedence of everything else. But did the noble Lord, the Mover of the Bill, ask for a Ten Hours' Bill with reference to the working classes generally? Nothing of the kind; all he asked was the interference of the Legislature to protect those infant beings who could not protect themselves: and was not this the business of legislation? The wealthy and intelligent, and those of mental and physical vigour, could protect themselves; it was the infant that sued for succour in this case; and every one who had paid any attention to the subject, who knew what was the condition of our overworked population, must anticipate, with the greatest possible joy and satisfaction, the success of the noble Lord's Bill. If they wished a horse to be a perfect animal, how was it treated when young? Did they begin to work it at two, or three, or even at four years old? If this were done, its physical development would be checked; and the laws of animal life were, in this respect, the same in all. Everybody knew that, in our manufacturing towns, the physical system was becoming imperfect; that was universally acknowledged by all writers on the subject. There was not a medical writer who had devoted his attention to the question who did not express his fears for the results to this country, should the system continue of working the young as we now did. The principles of physiology were the same in all animal life; and the imperfection that must arise from this system would be most deplorable in its effects on the people of this country. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, had stated in his speech that he adhered firmly to the principle involved; but he had afterwards knocked down his own arguments, and had completely tripped himself up. The hon. Gentleman had declared his readiness to interfere with reference to mental education, and yet refused to support the noble Lord, whose Bill went at once to promote that object, by raising the physical condition of the working classes. In this case he had completely abandoned his principle. He hoped the noble Lord would be industrious in the collection of his facts—that he would not garble them, but quote fairly. Let him adduce all the facts he possibly could in reference to this question. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman opposite would bring a candid and unprejudiced mind to the investigation of the subject; and if he did so, he must come to the same conclusion as the noble Lord.


rejoiced to hear the speech that the hon. Member for Finsbury had just made. It did him good to hear that theoretical principle was not to be allowed to overbear the experience of many years in the Legislature; and that the people of this country might still hope that our representative system furnished them enough of experienced men to set at nought theory and its mischiefs. He trusted that the right hon. Home Secretary would consider the relation of this measure to those which Her Majesty's Government had introduced. He had, perhaps, cast aside long experience in favour of theory in that matter; but let him well weigh this consideration, whether, when he was about to introduce the competition of the world with the labourers of this country, it would not be well to afford them some protection; and whether their claim to protection was not strengthened by the force of competition which was about to be brought against them. Allusion had been made to America, the great increase of whose manufactures seemed to threaten a severe competition with our own products. Were the labourers there not protected; and was not the protection afforded to their products the means of enabling the masters there to give relaxation and shorter hours of labour to their operatives? If the Government of this country reversed the case—removed protection, and increased competition—had not the noble Lord a still better claim on the Legislature for protection to the operatives of this country? He trusted that Government would reconsider this question before the Bill came to a second reading. He deeply lamented the course they had adopted; he deeply lamented that they had cast aside a weightier and still more extensive measure than the one proposed; but he trusted that, if only in this little item, they would be warned by experience—by the experience of the manufacturers to whom this Bill principally related, and the experience of one whose medical knowledge gave him a good claim to be heard.


said, he could not allow the Bill to be introduced without expressing the favourable sentiments he entertained towards it. He represented a manufacturing town, where the cotton and woollen manufactures were extensively carried on; and when the noble Lord proposed his measure on a former occasion, he had taken the pains to make himself acquainted with the feelings of the manufacturing classes of that town, and he was convinced that the working classes were strongly in favour of a reduction of the hours of labour by the Legislature. On that ground, he had supported the noble Lord all in his power; and he had seen nothing since, and heard no argument on the present occasion, to induce him to alter his opinion. He trusted most sincerely that the object of the noble Lord would be attained, and that the working classes would be thereby greatly benefited.


, in reply, said he would now refer to two statements made by the hon. Member for Durham. The statements which had reference to the increased rate of speed of Mr. Gardner's mills, he, on the best authority, had reason for believing to be incorrect. As to the other statement, he had requested the hon. Member for Durham to wait until he had explained the circumstance to which he had referred. [The noble Lord inquired if the hon. Member was in the House, and having been informed in the negative, proceeded.] He had to complain of great discourtesy on the part of the hon. Member for Durham, who, having made a charge against him—a charge of a personal nature—had not remained in the House to hear his reply to it, though he had been requested by him (Lord Ashley) to do so. The circumstance to which the hon. Member alluded was briefly this. The year before last he was in Lancaster, on a visit with the hon. Member for Oldham; and it occurred to him that, as he was within a short distance of Rochdale, where were situated the mills of the hon. Member for Durham, he might as well go over there. He believed himself to be perfectly conversant with all the operations of mills, and therefore did not deem it necessary to add to his experience by an additional inspection of the mills at Rochdale; but he visited them simply and solely that he might see the hon. Member, or leave his name, because the hon. Member having attacked him in the House in a way which was highly unjustifiable, he thought he would be acting, in colloquial phrase, "like a gentlemen," to show him that he entertained no resentment towards him, and wished to meet him on friendly terms. He saw the hon. Gentleman's brother on his arrival—conversed for half an hour with him, but said that he did not think it necessary to go over the mills. Why did he say so? Because he was afraid, had he done so, that it would have been said by the hon. Member that he wanted to spy out some defect, or discover some mismanagement in their arrangement: that, he solemnly declared, was the reason he did not inspect them. He could not help, therefore, stating that he thought the hon. Member for Durham had travelled a little out of the record, when he stated that he was one-sided in all his statements because he had not gone over his mills; for he could assure the House that he had given them the whole history of the case.

Leave given. Bill brought in, and read a first time.