§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, that in asking the House to consent to the Second Reading of this Bill, which he had had the honour of introducing, in connexion with the hon. and gallant Member for South Nottinghamshire (Colonel Rolleston), he was not insensible to the difficulties he had to encounter. Those difficulties were not diminished in consequence of there having hitherto been no legislative interference with the lace manufacture. But, having convinced himself that it was expedient and highly necessary, if the House regarded either the morals or the social comfort of the classes to whom the Bill applied, he had, at the desire of several persons from the neighbourhood of Nottingham, undertaken the charge of the measure. 915 This question did not stand in the same position as that which was commonly called the factory question, in consequence, principally, of there having been no legislative interference with respect to it. The factory question was a question of degree: the question on this Bill was, whether there should be any interference or not in the manufacture of lace in lace factories. The question was, not whether there should be a certain number of hours' work or not, but upon the principle of interference or noninterference. There might be some details in the Bill which were objectionable. Some Gentlemen, he knew, thought it ought to be restricted entirely to children; others, that it did not go far enough; others, again, that it went too far. All these objections might be removed in Committee hereafter, if the House assented to the principle of the Bill, namely, that there should be legislative interference in lace manufactories. What was the state of the lace trade in this country, and what was the system pursued with regard to lace factories? In the first place, as to a great portion of the lace trade, and more especially with regard to the factories moved by steam or water power. The engine began to run at twelve o'clock on the Sunday night, and it did not stop till twelve o'clock on the Saturday night following. The engine was kept in motion throughout the whole week. Let it be recollected that this was in a species of manufacture which could not be carried on without the assistance of children; and there was no legislative interference or restriction upon the children employed in those manufactories which were at work through the whole week. In the Factory Bill, children under 9 were restricted from being employed; and from 9 to 13 they could only be employed six hours a day. But what would the House say when they were informed that in these lace factories children from 6 to 8 years old were employed—that they were up all night, and, in fact, that many of them never saw their beds? They were employed in winding the bobbins, and in preparing the machines; they lay upon the floor; and they slept as well as they could. Some who resided in the immediate neighbourhood of the factories went home, but they were called up every two or three hours during the night to wind at these machines; and the complaint, which was very properly stated in the petition he had just presented, was, it could not be supposed they were brought up as children 916 ought to be. He asked the House whether such a system could be otherwise than extremely injurious and prejudicial to their health as well as to their morals? And he appealed to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Nottinghamshire (Colonel Rolleston), who knew the fact in his capacity as a magistrate, whether such employment of children was not a prolific source of crime in that neighbourhood. When these children left the factory for three or four hours in the morning, how were they occupied? Why, in robbing gardens and orchards, and in other depredations. They were sent out by the adults for that purpose; and when they returned, the spoils were divided among the adult operatives in these factories. Very often poor peasants residing in villages had been suspected of these crimes, whereas they had been committed by the children from the lace factories, sent out for the purpose. There could, indeed, be no doubt it was most detrimental and injurious to the children themselves. He referred the House for proof of the necessity for interference to the evidence given by Mr. Saunders and Mr. Berry, before the Committee upon Mills and Factories, over which Lord Ashley presided in 1840. He knew contrary opinions had been given by inspectors of factories on this subject. Mr. Saunders and Mr. Berry, however, were both inspectors, and they were decidedly in favour of restrictions in lace factories; both testified to the necessity for legislation on this subject. One consequence of the system of keeping the mills running during the whole week, night and day, was, that those persons who made lace by hand in their own dwelling-houses were obliged to work all night, in order to keep pace with the factories. A prejudice had been raised against this Bill on this account, and the persons who possessed power mills said it would be unfair to put any restrictions on them, unless the same restrictions were extended to the manufacture by hand-power. He (Mr. Duncombe) thought so too; but the most remarkable part of this question was, that the people engaged in the hand-power factories were more in favour of this Bill than any others. [Sir J. GRAHAM: Because it does not apply to them.] His right hon. Friend said the reason was because they did not think it would apply to them. The true reason was, because it imposed limitations upon the hours of labour. Altogether 2,450 children were employed on bobbin-net machines, worked by 917 steam or water power. Of these the number under 13 was 1,300, and above 13 there were 500, and on warp-lace machines 650. Before hon. Members offered any opposition to this Bill, they ought to consider the state of disease produced by the system of night work. Dr. Hutchinson, whose experience was of more than sixteen years in attendance on factory patients, stated his opinion as to its effects. The diseases which it was calculated to produce, and which were amongst its most common consequences, were dyspepsia, nervousness, and dangerous affections of the brain. Besides these, there were still worse consequences, namely, the total destruction of the moral habits. This was most fully established by the testimony of Mr. Small, who, as an illustration of the bodily effects of this overworking, added, that the fact of a man being an operative in some of these factories disqualified him from becoming a member of a benefit society. Mr. Small, on these grounds, strongly urged on the Government to interfere so as to protect the life as well as the labour—the poor man's only capital—from being destroyed by such a vicious system. What he was anxious to effect by the Bill was to restrict the hours of labour to sixteen per day; that was, from six o'clock in the morning to ten at night. Would any man say that that was too little labour for a man in a day? To effect this, he would prohibit the opening before six, and keeping open after ten. The Bill would also prohibit the employment of children under 8 years of age; at present they were employed, and in the night; but surely there could be nothing very injurious to trade, or hard upon these manufacturers, in that prohibition. It might be asked, why not confine the Bill to infantile labour? That would be a point to be decided by the House in a future stage; and if the opinion of the House should be in favour of so confining the Bill, he (Mr.' Duncombe) should be ready to consent to that. It might also be urged, that there would be danger of many evil results, if the House once interfered with adult labour by express enactment; but, in fact, that was done already virtually and effectually by the Factory Act at the present moment, because the adult labour could not be carried on without the assistance of young persons, and that was an argument used against the New Factories Bill the other day. Certainly he (Mr. Duncombe) proposed to do it now in express terms, because his 918 Bill would enact that there should be no labour after ten o'clock at night. The House heard sometimes that trade and manufacturing industry ought to be free from legislative interference. Now, that noninterference system had had its full swing in the case of the lace manufacture; and what was the consequence? Why, there was disease, discontent, and demoralization; and no operatives were so depressed as these. That was the consequence of non-interference; here was a proof and illustration of the results of that system. Again, he had to ask the House not to reject the Bill on the second reading, unless they objected altogether in principle to any interference with the manufacture of lace. He was calling on the House to agree to the Bill with the consent of four-fifths of the proprietors and owners of the property embarked in the lace trade; with the full consent of every operative, whether in the private, or what might be called the public, factory, that which was moved by steam power; and with the full consent of all the inhabitants of Nottingham, the district particularly concerned, who had seen the working of this system; and he hoped and trusted the House would not disappoint their just, and, he would say, their humane expectations. He now moved that the Lace Factories Bill he read a second time.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
said: The hon. Gentlemen who has moved the second reading of this Bill has made a strong appeal to me, and has asked me, at all events, not to resist the second reading; and he has stated that he brings forward this measure with the consent, I think, of four-fifths of the master manufacturers employed in this trade, and with almost the unanimous consent of the workmen. With reference to the consent of the master manufacturers, I have not the means of definitely ascertaining in what proportion they are favourable to this measure; but certainly the information I have received is decidedly at variance with the statement of the hon. Member. However, as I see opposite to me the two hon. Members for Nottingham, and one of the hon. Members for Derby, I will not, at this moment, enter into any dispute as to the feelings and wishes of the master manufacturers, because these hon. Members are better able than I am to go into that part of the statement just made to the House. With respect to the feelings of the working classes, it cannot be dissembled that their wish must naturally be, in the first instance, that some restriction 919 should be put by legislative enactment upon their continuous labour. Their first impressions, their natural impressions, are strong in favour of such a Bill. But it is needless to say that their hopes and their belief are, that if this restriction be imposed, their physical condition will be improved. It is for us, as legislators, to consider whether the interposition of such a restriction will produce that desired effect; and it is precisely because I have come to the opposite conclusion, that this legislative interference now sought would produce upon their condition the worst possible effects, that at once and without hesitation, I feel it my duty to resist the further progress of this Bill. It is right that the House should remember that the question, whether the lace trade should be included under the operation of our restrictive factory law, is not a question new to Parliament, We have legislated with respect to the factories for nearly twenty years; the subject has undergone frequent discussion both in the House itself and before Committees, and careful inquiries have been instituted. The danger of this description of legislation has been felt by the Legislature; and even while it has taken progressive steps, they have been taken with much caution and with hesitating anxiety. Antecedent to legislation, there have been inquiries both by Committees and by Commissioners. It was impossible that so important a branch of our manufactures as the lace manufacture should not in the course of this legislation and of these proceedings, have been carefully considered; and up to this time, on grounds hitherto held sufficient, the difficulties in the way of introducing into that trade restrictions of the nature proposed, have appeared to Parliament, to its Committees, and to Commissioners, to be insuperable. We are today called upon to come to a decision precisely the reverse of that at which the Legislature, with the best help, has hitherto arrived. Now, considering the importance of the subject, and the immense amount of capital involved in this question, as well as the physical condition of this part of the labouring population, I think the House will pardon me if I bring under their consideration certain facts bearing on the subject which it is desirable that they should recollect before deciding to proceed with this Bill. In the first place, by far the greater part of all the lace manufactured is produced, not by machinery wrought by power, but by hand-loom machinery; and 920 here at once there is presented a very striking difference between the lace manufacture and the cotton manufacture, in which by far the larger porton of the wrought article is produced by machinery worked by power. The hand-loom weaver in the cotton trade protracts indeed a struggle with machinery worked by power; but his struggle is almost a desperate one, and I fear in the long run he must be defeated. But the converse is the case with the lace manufacture; and this opens a most important view of this subject. The hand loom lace manufacture is not conducted in dwellings where a large number of looms are brought together, but the looms are scattered either in small workshops adjacent to the dwelling-houses of the weavers, or if not (and I am told even to a greater extent), in single hired apartments upon the upper floors of dwelling-houses. If, therefore, you are to deal with this manufacture by inspection, the inspectors must have access both by night and day, not only to the dwelling-houses of the weavers, but to every house where a weaver may lodge, occupying perhaps only a single room in that house. I must mention also the extraordinary expense of the machinery employed. The power-looms employed in the cotton trade may certainly be stated to cost not more than from 50l. to 100l. at the utmost for an average loom; but the cost of a single-lace loom, with the whole of the modern machinery, is not less than 300l., and it may be 1,000l. I am told that a new one has been prepared within the last three months the cost of which was not less than 2,000l. This consideration, of the cost of machinery, bears very materially upon the question how many hours that machinery shall be allowed to run. But that is not all—there is this fact also in respect to the lace manufacture, that the demand for lace varies with fashion, and with the fancy for any particular pattern; and I am told that with each change of pattern it is necessary to make a considerable and extensive change in the loom itself. The taste for any particular pattern does not ordinarily last more than six or seven months. Now, consider that you have a loom, the original cost of which is 2,000l., to produce an article, the taste for which does not ordinarily last for more than six or seven months, and at the expiration of that period the loom itself must undergo an extensive change to meet the next fashion. There is nothing at all corresponding to this circumstance in the manufacture of cotton, that great branch of 921 our manufactures which has been made the subject of this species of legislation. Again, let the House refer to the number of persons employed, and the species of labour which is in use. A girl between 13 and 18 years old is quite competent to conduct the manufacture produced by four power-looms in the cotton trade, and it is much the same in the silk and woollen trades; but in the lace trade there must be one adult male person to each power-loom; and two if it is employed for twenty hours, and in some cases it is necessary that there should be one boy employed in addition to each adult. I will next call the attention of the House to the extent of our export of lace, and the nature of our foreign competition. From two-thirds to one-half of all the lace manufactured in this country is exported; this trade, therefore, is to a great extent dependent upon foreign demand, and upon the successful competition of our lace manufacturers with foreign competitors. Observe what has taken place regarding this trade within the last few years. We used to export lace, by smuggling, to France, to be again exported as French lace from that country. Within sight of our own shores, at Calais, upon the opposite side of the channel, lace manufactories are now established with all the modern improvements, without any disadvantage of any sort, and with the paramount advantage of a lower rate of wages; and we have to meet the French lace in the German markets—we have to contend against all the advantages possessed by the French; and even in the British market French lace is imported in considerable quantities. ["Hear!"] Yes, I understand the cheer. I do not dispute the fact of lower wages; but I say place the English manufacturer in all respects on an equal footing with the Frenchman; and then you will find that the Nottingham lace manufacturer will be willing and able to meet the Frenchman either in the English or in the French market. But whilst the English manufacturer is exposed to undue disadvantages—I hope these disadvantages are now certain to be removed by the repeal of the Corn Laws—you cannot expect him to compete successfully with his continental rivals. But whilst you abolish one species of restriction, I hope you will not unwisely, thoughtlessly, and heedlessly place the English manufacturer under other restrictions not less galling or perilous. I must beg the House to observe, that on reference to the evidence taken before the 922 Children Employment Commission, it will be found that the principal causes which are there enumerated, of the evil effects of over-work and long hours upon children, are not in the case of factories wrought by power, but in the private workshops and even in the private dwelling-houses of the hand-loom weavers, who are the competitors of the power-loom weavers. Now the hon. Member proposes to extend his Bill beyond that which has hitherto been the limit of our interference, namely, machinery wrought by power; and he says that to meet the evil you must go one step further than you have yet done, and deal with this manufacture without reference to locality or to power, and interfere wherever it is carried on, even in rooms and private dwelling-houses. He says also, and it is perfectly true, that he for the first time avowedly and directly deals with male adult labour. Nothing can be more frank than that statement of his; he says, I ask you not only to limit the hours of male adult labour, as applied to machinery wrought by power, but, throwing aside all the arguments in favour of past interference, which consist in assertions that to run human industry against never-tiring machinery is cruel, and that in that struggle human strength is over-taxed and over-wrought—discarding all those considerations (he says), I mean to interfere with male adult labour, not only in conjunction with machinery, but wherever that industry may be applied, even in the dwelling-house of the hand-loom weaver. Now the House, I think, will pause before they introduce a principle so new, coupled with the inference, also novel, that actually your right of inspection or regulation shall extend to the dwelling-houses of the labourers themselves. I must also warn the House, with reference to some countenance which has been given to this measure by certain master manufacturers manufacturing lace by power. I have stated to the House the immense cost and value of the modern machinery applied to the manufacture of lace—it is very expensive and very superior; but there is a great deal of old lace machinery, of much less value and of much less power of production, and consequently the owners of that machinery are not indisposed to restrict the hours of their rivals in the trade who possess the superior and more costly machinery; any restriction upon the hours of working improved machinery is a regulation in favour of the owner of inferior and 923 less costly machinery, and decidedly disadvantageous to the proprietor of the modern and more costly. With regard to the hours of working machinery in the lace trade, I differ from the statement of the hon. Member. I am not informed that in any case the machinery runs continuously from the Monday morning till the Saturday night; on the contrary, I believe that the utmost length of time in twenty-four hours, for which machinery runs, is twenty hours, and that whenever the machinery runs for twenty hours out of the twenty-four, the labour is conducted by spells, by reliefs, no person working above eight hours continuously; and with reference to children, the labour is remarkably light, and not continuous. Now the hon. Member has put it to the House under these circumstances, whether they shall or shall not interfere by legislation. He stated, I think, and stated truly, that the morals and health of the population employed, are, after all, the primary consideration to legislators. I do not myself believe that the morals and health of the working classes, or their physical condition, can be improved by any course which shall permanently diminish the demand for their labour, lower their wages, and leave them in a state of hopeless destitution instead of full employment. I am strongly of opinion that in a short time that truth will be found to be irresistible, and that those who really desire the health, the comforts, and the morals of the labouring classes, will take care not so to legislate as to interrupt the continuous demand for their labour, upon which their wages depend. Before you embark in this species of legislation, interfering with male adult labour, interfering with manufactures conducted not by power, but in private dwelling-houses — before you go deeper into the stream, let me call upon you to consider into what a vortex of absurdity, and error, and mischief, you will be drawn. I could produce to you cases ten times stronger than any that the hon. Member has referred to. I believe Lord Ashley mentioned cases of continuous labour on the part of females, not for many hours out of the twenty-four, but in some cases two days and nights of uninterrupted labour. If you interfere in the case now brought before you, must you not interfere with the private labour of the parties, whose misfortunes—if these are to be considered misfortunes—are far more touching than those of the lace factories? Then again you interfere in the case of the lace 924 makers; but what do you say to the pin makers, the nail makers, the fustian cutters? You cannot stop short; if you begin to regulate the intensity of competition, there will be no species of labour with which you will not interfere by legislation. And when you do that, you will affect the earnings of labour; and you cannot, in justice to the workmen, stop short of the establishment of a minimum of wages. That will be the inevitable consequence; and what then? Why, capital will "make to itself wings, and fly away:" under such circumstances it will infallibly go to other countries where no such restrictions are in force, where there are water power and many other advantages which we do not possess, in addition to a lower rate of wages, than your minimum established by law. The commencement of this career will be the downfal of our manufacturing prosperity; and I hold that we have arrived at a stage in our social condition, when the downfal of our manufacturing prosperity will be the loss of our position among the nations of the earth. I will just glance at some of the objections of detail which may fairly be made to this Bill. I have stated that my first objection was the interference which it proposes with regard to adult labour; and there was another grave objection to it which the hon. Gentleman seems to have overlooked. If this Bill were to pass into law, it would seem to recognise the principle, that it is not inexpedient that children should work from six in the morning until ten at night—children eight years of age and upwards. But any sanction give to the plan of working children of so tender an age as eight years from six in the morning until ten at night, would be qui to inconsistent with what we have hitherto done as regards children employed in other departments of manufacturing labour. I thought I should have to meet an objection, which the superfluous frankness of the hon. Gentleman has spared me the trouble of encountering. I had some doubts as to the interpretation of the word "factory." I thought it meant—as it has hitherto been defined in legislating on such subjects—a building in which machinery is wrought by power. The term is used ambiguously in the Bill; but it is plain that the hon. Member would give it a much more extensive signification than it has hitherto received, for he says, his desire is to embrace lace manufactories whether lace be made in them by power or by hand-looms—whether in a public building or a 925 private dwelling—where there are many looms, or where only a single hand-loom is employed: in short the word "factory" in his Bill includes every place where lace is manufactured. Now, if it were confined to power, you are placed in this plain dilemma—your provision would be most unjust, as it would place the power manufacturer under such disadvantage, owing to the peculiarities of his trade, that the manufacture of lace by power must be extinguished, and we must leave it to our French rivals exclusively, as with such an enactment lace could only be manufactured in this country by hand. Then, if you restricted the law to lace manufactured by hand, you must, in that case, discourage that species of labour which is least severe. Supposing, however, you extend it to all, how are you to carry your Act into operation? You can only enforce it by one of two means—either by inspection or by means of the cemmon informer. If by the former, then all the objections that ever were raised to Walpole's excise laws would be nothing compared to those which would apply to this case. Only think of officers being at liberty to visit private houses at any hour they thought proper, by night or by day; think of them entering the bed-room of a family, which is often the very room where the labour of the loom is conducted. If a weaver continues his work during a long winter's night, after ten o'clock, then you must have an inspector to enter his bedroom at any hour he may please, nominally for the purpose of inspection, but really, from what we know has been done in other countries, often for very objectionable purposes. These objections appear to me insuperable; and in this country, whatever be your legislation, I trust the right of domiciliary visits will not be tolerated. Then we come to the other alternative—that of encouraging common informers, giving a certain sum out of every penalty recovered to any man who chooses to become a spy upon his neighbours. And what is the great crime which would be here committed? If a man, under the pressure of distress, works after ten o'clock at night, with the view of adding to his small income, and of eking out the wretched subsistence of his wife and children by the fruit of his own industrious exertions; the common informer, who may, perhaps, owe him a grudge, gives information, and procures a conviction against him. Let the House consider what would be the moral effect of all this. It would introduce 926 a most fatal spirit of resentment among the workmen themselves—jealousies would be encouraged, and next-door neighbours, for the worst of purposes, would be led to act the part of spies upon each other. It would produce effects most dangerous to the peace of society, and it would be a system incompatible—I will not say with the prosperity, but with the very existence of this branch of manufacture. Do we want warning? Let the House, then, reflect on the consequences of having inadvertently included in the Factories Act one branch of our manufactures—that of ropemakers. Why, they are now petitioners at our bar, both masters and men, praying that we should reconsider our deliberations, and see whether or not we shall exclude them from the operations of that law—a law found by masters and men alike to be so injurious to their common interests, as to lead them to tell you that unless you repeal that Act, so far as relates to them, it will be fatal to the continuance of ropemaking in this country, which must be abandoned, and transferred wholly to other countries. And now we are asked to go a step in advance of anything we have hitherto done in regard to interference with labour. We are called on to interfere with male adults in their labours, not carried on in factories only, but even in their own dwelling-houses. I must say, that it is one of the most painful tasks of the office I hold to be thus constantly opposed to popular wishes, I might almost say to popular delusions; but, entertaining the strong opinions I do that this is a fatal step—a step taken in direct opposition to the real interests of the working classes, I should be wanting in my duty if I hesitated one moment to propose that the Bill be read this day six months.
§ COLONEL ROLLESTON
had given the subject under discussion the fullest consideration, and felt it his duty to give his most anxious support to the Bill. He earnestly entreated the House to take into consideration the provisions of this Bill; and if they did not think it advisable to pass the measure as a whole, to carry at least such parts of it as would extend relief to a class who were labouring under oppressions which, if paralleled, were certainly not exceeded, in any branch of the manufactures of the country. The right hon. Gentleman was, in his opinion, under considerable misapprehensions on this subject, and on other points, as to the views of the machine-workers. Now, he had 927 presented a petition signed by nine-tenths of the machine-holders of Nottingham, in which they strongly expressed their approbation of some measure being introduced especially with reference to the younger branches of the community. At the head of that petition stood the name of the Mayor of Nottingham, and it was besides signed by a great many persons, all of the highest respectability. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the fact of the lace trade having been formerly under the consideration of the House, and of its omission from the Factory Bill. Now, he must admit that he had at first some difficulty in finding why the workers in the lace trade, and especially the children, had not received the same consideration from the Legislature as the workers in other branches of manufactures. With the view of ascertaining how this came to be the case, he had made many minute inquiries, and he had travelled through a great many volumes of reports, and of the debates in that House, before he could arrive at any result as to the cause of this exclusion. He was in the end surprised to find that the only reason given was one, sanctioned by an authority they must all respect—that of Lord Althorp—but which was certainly not a sufficient reason to be brought forward. He found from Hansard that, when the Factories Bill was in Committee, in 1833, an amendment was moved that the lace trade should be excluded from the Bill, and the whole of the argument brought forward in support of this amendment was, that there were very few young people employed in the manufacture of lace, and that the measure would include only one-fifth of the trade. On that occasion Lord Althorp said the statements made—Put the lace trade in a very different light from any other, as the Bill would not include more than one-fifth of it; and he would therefore agree to the Amendment.This was the only ground on which the lace trade had been excluded. There had been many points brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman deserving of notice, but on the present occasion he would chiefly confine himself to the effect the Bill would have on infantine labour; and he hoped the House would not allow itself to be carried away with the notion that it was a measure for giving relief to adult people only. He would lay before the House some points of the evidence taken before the gentlemen appointed to inspect the various 928 factories, from which the true nature of the labour to which children employed in the lace trade were subjected would be seen. The gallant Officer read from the evidence of gentlemen examined in Committee a variety of statements to the effect, that in lace factories at Nottingham, which were kept going night and day, the workers were employed twenty hours a day—that there were children employed from nine to fifteen years of age, many of whom were detained in the factories the whole night, sleeping when not at work upon the floor, and constantly liable to be called up—that those who slept out of the factory were in its immediate neighbourhood, and also liable to be roused from their beds at any hour of the night—that it was no uncommon thing for them to sleep in their clothes, and that they seldom got out of the work-room even to dinner, the general rule being, that whatever number of hours they might be at work, they must be during the whole twenty-four either on the premises or where they could be called out of bed whenever they were wanted, and that the consequence of all this was the continual tear and wear of the physical constitution of those children, who were besides deprived of all opportunities of getting education except on Sundays, when their exhausted condition entirely disabled them from receiving any benefit from it. Another portion of the Bill had reference to adult labour; but in that he saw no great difficulty; his great anxiety was as to the part that related to children and young persons; and he hoped the House would allow the Bill to go into Committee, in order to see if these unfortunate children could not be placed on a better footing. In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Finsbury, as to the moral condition of these children, he felt bound to say, from his experience as chairman of quarter sessions in a district where this manufacture was carried on to a great extent, that hardly a quarter sessions passed without some of these children being brought to the bar as criminals. He cordially supported the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. STRUTT
observed, that the hon. Member had referred to a former debate on the Factory Bill that was introduced when Lord Althorp was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and had said that the lace manufacture was excluded from that Bill; and the hon. Gentleman had referred to his (Mr. Strutt's) remarks on that occasion, 929 which he designated as containing very feeble reasons for that exclusion. That Bill applied only to looms moved by power; and his argument was, that it would be unjust to include the lace manufacture in the Bill, because it would be unjust to apply to machinery worked by hand, as the lace machines for the most part were, the regulations which were applicable to the power looms; that only one-fifth of the lace machines in this country were worked by power, and that the effect of bringing those machines under the operation of the Bill, and excluding the others, would be to give a bonus to the latter. Lord Althorp, when urged to include the lace manufacture in the Bill, said, that if the effect of bringing it under the Bill would be to give facilities to the easiest mode of pursuing the manufacture, and to do injury to the hardest, he should not agree to its being introduced. That was the decision of the House of Commons at that time; and he believed that every Committee that had sat since had come to the conclusion that it would be unjust to include one kind of machinery in a Bill of this sort, and exclude another kind. He must say the hon. Member for Finsbury had been perfectly open and candid on the subject. He (Mr. Strutt) had certainly supposed that the hon. Gentleman meant the Bill to apply to looms worked by power, and not by hand in the workman's own house; he had found, however, from the hon. Gentleman that he meant the Bill to apply to all sorts of lace looms, whether hand-looms or power-looms. The effect of that would simply be to prevent any poor workman who might wish to earn something more than usual for his family from getting up at five o'clock in the morning and working as long as he liked. Were the House prepared to sanction that? Would they be prepared to extend that principle to all other trades? There was evil in all of them; but they knew that all the evil in the country could not be redressed by direct legislation. He wished to ask, supposing the Bill passed, how were they to enforce it? Even in large factories it would be found impossible to enfore the provisions of such a Bill without a system of inspection; and was that to be applied under this Bill to every House and every cottage that contained a lace loom? In 999 cases out of 1,000 the Bill would be wholly inoperative; and in the remaining case the probability was that the Bill would be used to gratify private pique or malice. The machinery engaged in this 930 trade was more expensive, and more subject to alterations, than in any other manufacture. One machine cost from 300l. to 1,000l., and if too great restrictions as to hours were imposed, the owners could not work them profitably. In his opinion the right hon. Baronet had made out a sufficient case for rejecting the Bill.
§ SIR J. C. HOBHOUSE
, as one of the Members for Nottingham, and as having twenty-one years ago taken up this subject of the restriction of labour in factories, when he brought in a Bill which soon after became the law of the land, with some emendations adopted by Lord Althorp, hoped the House would permit him to address to them a few remarks on this Bill. First, he would remark that those who wished to consider and discuss this Bill were placed in a position of some little difficulty; for anybody to look at the Bill would suppose, as he had done, that it was meant to apply to factories according to the common and trite meaning of that term; and having had various communications with many persons in order to obtain their views, he must say that those views, as well as all the arguments he had made out for himself, applied to the Bill as relating to factories, and not to workshops or private houses. Now, however, his hon. Friend said that he intended the Bill to apply to every part of the trade. The preamble stated that night labour should cease henceforth in all factories where bobbin-net or warp-lace machinery is employed, &c., and that no such machinery should work earlier than six o'clock in the morning, or later than ten at night. That was the preamble; but then there was another part of the Bill relating to infant labour, and there were introduced the words "any shop, dwelling-house," &c. The first enacting part was meant apparently to apply to factories only; but then subsequently it appeared to be extended so as to apply to children in all kinds of houses. His hon. Friend said, that he meant to make it apply to all kinds of private houses. The objection was, that it would be almost impossible to carry such a Bill into effect; and that he (Sir J. C. Hobhouse) apprehended was the reason why enactments to the same effect had not before found their way into statutes for similar objects. As to what had been said of the universal feeling of the masters and workmen, he was sorry to say that that statement was not confirmed by the accounts he had received from Nottingham; so far from it, that he 931 had presented two petitions from twenty-five master manufacturers against the Bill; and they thought that the Bill applied only to factories, and not to private dwellings. He had thought it his duty to write down to Nottingham to impartial and influential people living there; and from them he found that opinion was greatly divided. It could not be said, therefore, that all the masters were for the Bill. He was empowered by a certain person to say that in Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, and Derbyshire, the universal feeling was against the Bill; but he should not say so, for he did not believe it. What, then, was the principle of the Bill? To put a stop to night labour in these factories. It was so stated in the preamble; but it was not confined to regulating the hours in which children should be employed. It included that certainly; but all the reasons that his hon. Friend had given for the Bill, and all his arguments, had applied to the regulation of adult labour in factories. The real principle of the Bill was to interfere with the night labour of adults in factories. When he first introduced his Bill for regulating the cotton trade in 1821, it was prepared in a very different way; it was not until after the most cautious examination of the subject by delegates from the master manufacturers, and also delegates from the workpeople, that the framework of the Bill was settled. He had been in conference with them for three Sessions of Parliament; and after mature consideration, and after a complete agreement between the two parties, he had introduced the Bill which had passed into a law without any very material alterations. It had been proposed to include the lace and flax manufactures into that Bill; but after mature consideration and conference with the operatives it was resolved that those trades should not be introduced; and the reason was this—that there was a good case as regarded the cotton trade, which it was feared would be injured by being mixed up with the lace and flax trades, interference with which it was felt could not be supported. In 1827, in another Bill for the same object of regulating the cotton trade, a similar attempt was made, by certain delegates who waited on him, to introduce these two trades. The whole subject for more than three months was under the consideration of these delegates; and again it was resolved that they would have nothing to do with the lace manufacture; because the parties did not think they would be able to carry 932 any enactments interfering with that trade. The general feeling, then, was that there was a difference between the case of the lace manufacture and any other. He now came to that which was in reality the gist of the business; but he should not go into a statement of the evils of this night work; he would only say that all night work was an evil, and, no doubt, if it could be prevented, not only in these lace factories, but in the House itself, the House would be happy to do it; but the fact was, the House never had been, and never would be, able to prevent it. He held in his hand a statement of a gentleman who had not fewer than 200 persons in his employ in lace factories; and he stated most positively that, for the last ten years, he had only two boys who had ever been brought up before a magistrate in consequence of misconduct, and only two young women who had misconducted themselves in any way during that time. He did not mean to say that all factories were equally well regulated; but, at the same time, when instances were given of misconduct in some cases, it was right to quote other instances to show that, upon the whole, the conduct of these parties was such as to reflect the highest credit upon the establishments with which they were connected. He was perfectly authorized to say—and his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Strutt) would confirm what he said—that there was ten times more immorality and misconduct among those who worked in private houses than there was among those who worked in factories. In private houses there was no superintendence; whereas in factories, independent of those officers who were present, and of the police who were at hand, there was a feeling of decency among the men themselves which prevented them from misbehaving among their fellows; but in private houses there were no fellows—there was no check but their own conscience; and the House was aware how often that failed even amongst the best educated of society. At the same time, he hoped the hon. Member for Finsbury would not so far mistake him as to imagine that though opposed to the Bill as it stood, he was against doing that for lace which many years ago he was willing to do for other factories. He was certainly opposed to the present Bill, because he did not believe they could alter it for the better. As the man said of Pope, it would be much easier to make ten new men than to amend such a man as he was. In the same way, 933 he (Sir J. Hobhouse) thought it would be much easier to make ten new Bills than to amend the present. If, however, the hon. Member would do that which the mistakes committed in this Bill would not prevent him doing—if he would introduce a Bill nominally to do that which was actually done by one clause of this Bill, although there was no notice of it in the preamble—namely, to subject children in lace factories to some such regulations as the children in other factories were subject to, the hon. Member should have his cordial support. He begged leave also to say, that he had the best authority for stating that the master manufacturers were not unwilling themselves to accept a Bill which restricted infant labour—he meant the labour of persons up to 18 or 19 years of age — after 10 o'clock at night. But the Bill must really be for that purpose, and not for a purpose altogether different. The present Bill was, in fact, a little bit of an imposture, because it proposed to do that which the parties never hoped to accomplish—on the principle probably of asking a great deal in order to get a little. He therefore could not support the present BUI, though he should give his cordial support to a measure of the nature he had stated.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
remarked, that whatever might be the fate of this Bill on its second reading, so many admissions had been made in favour of the principle of one important portion of it by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, as well as by others, that he apprehended the opposition of Government must ultimately fail of staving it off. He thought he could rest his defence of the Bill upon one or two statements he had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Hobhouse). The right hon. Gentleman had assumed, that because he had presented a petition from twenty-five master manufacturers of Nottingham, the master manufacturers must be against this measure; but he had presented a petition from 479 master manufacturers engaged in the Nottingham trade in favour of the measure; so that if it were to be decided by their opinions, he claimed the support of the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the second reading. The right hon. Gentleman had also referred to a statement which he thought was conclusive, that the crimes and iniquities which in the case of the people of Nottingham had been laid to the charge of night labour, were not justly so 934 laid; but he held in his hand a return of offences committed and criminal convictions obtained which clearly disproved the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman. This was a return of the names of persons convicted of felony and garden robberies during the night from the 7th of September, 1844, till the present time; and it showed that there were no fewer than twenty-two people so convicted, all of whom used to work at the lace trade during the night. He also held in his hand a return showing the extent of disease and the number of premature deaths among the lace-workers during the same period; but he should not trouble the House by reading it. He would only state, that it was sufficient to vindicate the House in proceeding further with this Bill. They had heard that day a most clear and lucid speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department against this Bill. No one who had heard that speech could fail to be struck with its ability; but he must again remind the right hon. Gentleman that one material portion of his speech was totally misapplied on the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the result of the measure which he had passed in the course of the present Session bearing upon the home manufacturer, as an argument against the present Bill; but he did not think that that was a good answer to the over-toiled manufacturers of Nottingham. He too repeated the suggestion he made on a previous occasion, to replace the duties on foreign manufactures as they formerly stood, and relieve the oppressed people from the burden of night-work. Both the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, laid great stress upon the construction of the word "factories;" but he, in supporting the second reading of this Bill, was not pledged to adopt the construction of the word which had been objected to. It was no argument against the interference of the House with labour in factories that the Bill included interference with labour in private houses. He might support the one, and be careful to exclude the other. He called upon the House to weigh carefully the evidence for and against the interference for which he pleaded. For himself, he would place in one scale the opinion of all the master manufacturers who had petitioned against the Bill, and in the other the unanimous opinion of all the surgeons who had given 935 an opinion on the subject, the opinion of the 479 master manufacturers who had petitioned in its favour, the petitions of the thousands of people unconnected with the trade, and the petitions of the thousands of the workpeople themselves, begging the House to interfere; and upon the result he would rest his case, and ask the House whether all the difficulties suggested by the right hon. Gentleman—all he admitted fair subjects for further consideration—would justify them in rejecting this Bill? For himself, he had no doubt whatever of the principle of interference. He had maintained it over and over again in that House, and he confessed he had seen no reason to shrink from it. If they continued to tell the people that, whatever the amount of their sufferings—whatever the arguments that were brought forward in favour of interference—they were on no account to do so, then he would say that they would do more than anything else to weaken the respect of the people for Parliament, and to shake most seriously and materially the basis upon which the security of property rested in this country. For these reasons, he gave his hearty support to the second reading of this Bill, reserving to himself the right to accede to any amendment that might be proposed, if he thought proper.
§ MR. MUNTZ
could only support the Bill, so far as it affected children. It was quite impossible that he could agree to interfere with the hours in which the mills were employed. What right had that House to interfere with the mills? He himself always worked his mills night and day, but he took care to keep two sets of workpeople. There was one point which seemed to be overlooked by every one who had spoken on this subject, and that was the cause of this extreme pressure of work. What was the cause of these extreme hours? Was it foreign competition, or the competition of the mills, or the competition of the people with each other? It was not foreign competition. He said, without fear of contradiction, that whenever there were these extreme hours, it was because the remuneration to ordinary hours was not sufficient to support the workmen and pay the employers. He had never known an instance where there was an improvement in the state of trade, and in the rate of wages, in which the quantity of work was not reduced one-third or one-half. The worst competition in this country was the competition of manufacturers with each other. The 936 manufacturer was obliged to make up in the quantity of his work for the lowness of his prices, and it was the same with the workpeople. Until the House, then, had proved what was the cause of the pressure, they could not decide whether they were justified or not in interfering in the way proposed. It was his own opinion that some interference was necessary, because he understood that in the lace districts there was a vast pressure on the labour of the children—that they were obliged to work hours which no one ought to sanction, and which were detrimental to both mind and body. He thought, then, that some interference was necessary as regarded the children. It might be also necessary to interfere to some extent as regarded adults. When a manufacturer received a large order which must be executed in great haste, he was apt to forget, in his anxiety to execute the order, the pressure which he threw upon his workpeople; and, when circumstances allowed it, he exacted an amount of work from them which was altogether improper, and committed a crime without knowing it. He had no objection, therefore to protect the workmen against an evil like that. On the whole, he should give the Bill a conditional support, hoping that in its future stages such alterations would be introduced as would be just to all parties.
§ MR. GISBORNE
understood, from communications he had had with his constituents, that the intention of the promoters of the Bill in the first instance was to restrain only such machines as were worked in factories; but that the pressure in the case became so strong upon his hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe), that he could not maintain his ground, and was obliged to include in his Bill the still larger number of machines which were worked in private houses, cottages, and cellars. Now, in order to effect this, his hon. Friend was obliged to furnish the House with some machinery capable of carrying out this intention. And what did he offer to the House for this purpose? Why, he gave to the House the choice of domiciliary visits or common informers. That was the choice the hon. Member was driven to. Now, which would the House choose? He (Mr. Gisborne) declared that not only could he not say which was best, but he could not say which was worst. His hon. Friend in carrying out his Bill was driven to the definition of "a factory" which no one ever heard of before. A factory with him was sometimes 937 a loom, sometimes a flat, sometimes a shop, sometimes a cellar; wherever, in short, a lace machine was placed. Even the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) had found it necessary to repudiate this meaning of the word "factory," though he had adopted an interpretation of the words "master manufacturers" not less objectionable. The noble Lord had said that 469 master manufacturers had signed a petition in favour of the Bill. Now, the fact was, that in the common acceptation of the term, there were not 469 master manufacturers connected with the lace trade in the whole country. He (Mr. Gisborne) would tell the House exactly what sort of master manufacturers these were. In the lace trade there was constantly going on a number of improvements; the consequence was, that machines of smaller power, and which executed less work, were disposed of at exceedingly low prices to make way for the improved machines. These cheap machines were bought by parties who thought that, as they cost little, they might be able to make something out of them; and he (Mr. Gisborne) sincerely wished they could; but the fact was that few people could live by working bad machines. Now, these people having, in a speculating spirit, possessed themselves of these single machines, came to be denominated master manufacturers; and they now petitioned the House in favour of this Bill, in the hope that some legislation which they hardly understood, and the effect of which they were really hardly competent to figure to themselves, would relieve them from the distressed situation in which they found themselves in consequence of their unequal competition with the improved machines. He had no objection to a measure protecting children of eight years of age and under from working in the lace factories; but he could not go to the extent proposed in the present Bill. Why, even the hon. Member for Birmingham admitted that he worked his machines day and night.
§ MR. GISBORNE
did not see how the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite could be got over, that if by restricting the hours of labour you disabled the workman, you would not be able to 938 resist his claim on you to do that which was, in fact, an impossibility—to fix the rate of his wages. Were the House prepared to go that length? If they were not, it was cruel to mislead the lace makers. He perceived, too, that his hon. Friend the Member for Nottinghamshire, also, had given up nearly the whole of the enactments of this Bill; he was equally ready to give up the domiciliary visits as the common informers. His hon. Friend would pass the second reading and amend the Bill in Committee. He begged to tell his hon. Friend that to amend the Bill was an impossibility. But when the lace trade was done with, were they prepared to say that they would go no further? What would they do with wool? Would they attempt to restrict the hours during which the stocking-frame should run? He could tell hon. Members who were prepared to support the Bill, that if they were to succeed, it would be attended in practice prospectively with such consequences that they would all be obliged hereafter to come forward and oppose that scheme of legislation. Were he to consult his case or his electioneering interests, he should support the Bill; but, believing as he did that it would produce disappointment, injury, and ruin to the working men, he should without any hesitation give his vote against the second reading.
§ MR. WAKLEY
was sorry to have heard the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down; for having told them that the great majority of the working people were in favour of this Bill, yet he could not support it. It was a melancholy thing to hear hon. Members saying that the great masses of the people were in favour of a particular measure; but yet that, in consequence of the views which they themselves entertained on subjects of political economy, they were obliged to vote against measures introduced specially for the benefit of the masses. The people prayed the House to take their case into its consideration; and that if it did wrong at their request, they might be the sufferers—that they would be content to bear the consequences. The substantial question, however, involved in the present discussion, was interference or non-interference. He did not know, indeed, who drew up the present Bill. He was unacquainted with the artist. He was not aware whether or not it was his hon. Colleague who had prepared it. But he confessed he did not think the wording of the Bill was such as 939 reflected credit on its framer. He did not think it was framed to forward the purposes which his hon. Colleague had in view; and if the Motion before the House was for the third reading of the Bill as it then stood, he could not vote for it. But as it might be altered in its form, and amended in Committee, he would vote for the Bill on account of the principle which it recognized. The question before them was, whether or not the House would interfere to protect infants subjected to a species of toil calculated to destroy their physical energies, and to prevent their moral faculties from ever deriving any improvement. It was said that though the persons alluded to might be labouring twelve or sixteen hours a day, that it was a light description of work. But then their attention was kept continually occupied, and that this in itself was no small evil, hon. Members might know who were compelled to sit five or six hours in that House listening to the speeches delivered there. He had heard hon. Members complain of being so much fatigued from such an ordeal, as to threaten to throw up their seats. What then must be the mental and physical fatigue of these poor children who were obliged to attend to one monotonous unceasing task for ten, twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours out of the twenty-four, during all their youth? Was not this a state of suffering from which they ought to be relieved? The House had attempted an interference of this description in multitudes of cases; ought these poor children to be an exception to the general rule? But if his hon. Friend proposed to interfere with the hours of adult labour, he did not think that could be defended on principle, nor in practice did he conceive it would do otherwise than lead to the greatest inconvenience. Where could the Legislature stop if it began this? But the House was bound to separate the question of interference with adult labour from that of interference with infant labour. People were in the habit of saying that the minds of the children should be cultivated in the intervals of labour. How was this possible? Mental toil was the most severe of any, particularly to young minds; and were they to be supposed susceptible of mental improvement after undergoing so many hours of continuous bodily labour? He had on a particular occasion made inquiries as to how her time was spent from a little child in the condition of those whose case they were treating of. She told him she got up at five in the morning, and went to work, 940 then had an hour for breakfast, and after that returned to her employment again. Then an hour came for dinner, and then work again till supper time. He asked her, had she no time for recreation, and questioned her as to how she spent the Sundays. She replied she had no time for recreation, for after breakfast she went to church, and after that to school; and then after dinner to church, and school again; so that it was all church, school, church, school, the entire Sunday. What sort of life was that to lead for so many millions of poor children, in a country where there were so many thousand other children enjoying all the blessings, and luxuries, and comforts which the world could give? How was it possible to suppose mental improvement to progress in young minds so deprived of all the recreations natural to their age? Where was there any enjoyment in such a state of things—where any rewards for good conduct? As the present Bill was framed, he could not, as he said before, vote for its third reading; but he implored the House to permit it to pass its present stage, and it might be amended ill Committee.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, I am surprised, after the speech of the hon. Gentleman, that he should have concluded by affirming the principle of this Bill, and declaring that he would vote for its second reading, because the hon. Gentleman has declared that he feels it would be radically unjust to attempt any direct interference in restricting the hours of adult labour. He thinks that it would give rise—that its inevitable consequence must be, as was so well stated by the hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House (Mr. Gisborne) that if you prohibit by direct legislation adults from making the most of their time, that the next difficulty with which you will have to contend, will be to meet the claim which the workmen will make upon you to fix a minimum rate of wages. How could you resist such a demand? Then, the hon. Gentleman says, that if the principle of this Bill is to restrict the hours of adult labour, that he would oppose it. Sir, I say that the direct and avowed principle of this Bill is to restrict the hours of adult labour. It does not profess to interfere with the labour of children—it does not bear upon the labour of children on the face of it—it does not profess to regulate the lace factories upon the same principles as the Legislature has regulated the linen and the cotton factories. The title of this Bill is "A Bill 941 to regulate the hours of night labour in all factories where bobbin lace and warp lace machinery is employed," and the preamble recites that—For the preservation of health and morals, it is necessary to regulate night-labour in all factories where bobbin-net or warp-lace machinery is employed or worked for making lace or any other fabric.Then the first clause provides that night labour should henceforth cease in all factories where such machinery is employed or worked. It directly prohibits, whether children are employed or not, all working in those mills or factories for more than sixteen hours a day. Now, see what you will be driven to in your attempt to carry out these regulations. You will find, when you prohibit labour in what you call factories—over which you think you have a direct control—that you will give a direct premium upon more severe labour in those smaller edifices which are emancipated from your power. You will feel that the immediate consequence will be, that so far from correcting the evils, you have only prohibited labour in those factories where, from the number of persons who work together, a certain degree of moral control is established; for the very circumstance of working in the face of our fellow creatures imposes obligations and a sense of shame upon numbers, which would be altogether absent where the work is carried on in privacy. There is at present a certain amount of competition in this trade between the hand-loom and the power-loom weavers; and this measure would give a direct premium upon the labour of the hand-loom weaver. We must have another law to prevent that. It must follow, as a necessary consequence, that you must extend your interference. Your measure must necessarily increase the moral evil in the hand-loom department, and lead to taxing more severely the frame of the child as well as of the adult, and then you must interfere with the labour of the hand-loom in the single House, and you must prohibit that. Then, how will you interfere? Take your choice between a common informer and a domiciliary visit. As you shrink from the idea of a common informer—as you will not probably allow a man to be subject to the information of a vindictive neighbour, perhaps of a rival in trade—the practice of domiciliary visits must be resorted to, that is to say, a Government officer, whenever he sees a light burning after ten or eleven o'clock at night, will 942 have a right to enter the House. Take your choice—either the common informer or the domiciliary visit. We shall have domiciliary visits on the suspicion that a man is toiling for the support of his family. Why, the Bill makes no provision for circumstances which are provided for in the case of cotton factories. In the cotton manufactories, should an accident happen to the machinery by which the work will be suspended, in such a case permission is given to work extra hours. But in this Bill there is no such provision. Now, I take the case of an adult who is working in his own house for the support of his family. If he continues his work after ten or eleven o'clock at night, he is liable to a domiciliary visit, or to the accusation of a common informer. Suppose that his loom has met with an accident, or that the man himself has been ill for three days—suppose that he has been subject to a visitation of sickness, so that on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, he has only been able to work five hours a day, and his wages are reduced in a corresponding degree. The man has no alternative in order to obtain subsistence for his family, but to work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, additional hours. It is the case of an adult working without children, and in his own house. If a man says, I must repair the misfortune which befell me at an early part of the week by extra labour at its close—if an accident has happened to his machinery—or if the corporeal machine has been weakened or incapacitated through disease, and the man is afterwards engaged in extra labour to provide for the subsistence of his family—would you tolerate that this man, so engaged from the laudable, the honourable motive of earning a subsistence for his family—do you mean to subject that man to a domiciliary visit? And then it is proposed to enforce upon such a man a 50l. penalty. I should like to see the indictment that would be drawn against him. After five or six persons had been brought up for robbery and for petty larceny before the magistrates, and their cases dealt with, I should like to see this man brought up before the magistrate charged with the offence of working till ten or eleven o'clock at night, and subject to a 50l. penalty, probably by an idle, dissolute fellow, neglectful of his own work, and envious of the advancement of the industrious man. He sees a light in his house, and he says now I shall punish you. I want 10l. I want to advance my- 943 self, and to depress you—I am idle—I am a vagabond—you are industrious, you are honest. I saw a light in your house at eleven o'clock. I found out that you were working for the maintenance of your family—I shall lay an information before the magistrates against you—I shall gain 10l. as a reward for my honourable exertions in maintenance of the law, and you shall be fined 50l., which will probably depress you for ever; because, in order to make up for lost time in the first three days of the week, and to prevent your family from starving, you taxed your physical energies beyond the time allowed by law. The man will be committed and sent to prison, and then he will rejoice at our charitable interference with the rights of labour. Now, what answer can you make to that? The Bill is a Bill to regulate night labour. It is not a question of children. It does not regulate the labour of factories. The question is this, whether a man is to have a right to labour in his own house at such hours as he pleases. To prevent that is the object of the Bill. But the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley) says, that the prohibition of children's labour would be so beneficial as to compensate for all those defects. But does it? I feel all the evils of taxing infant labour too severely, quite as much as the hon. Gentleman. But what is all this to the Bill before us? Is it possible that the hon. Gentleman can consent to such a Bill as this? What does the Bill propose to do? It permits and sanctions the employment of children above eight years of age for sixteen hours a day. It would be to give a legislative sanction—if we were to vote for the second reading—to the principle that children above eight years old may be employed for sixteen hours—that is to say, from six in the morning till ten at night. If I were to interfere with infant labour I should take a different way of doing it. It would be much easier to make a new Bill than to amend the present. If we are to have a Bill which interferes with infant labour, let us have a Bill which shan't compel us on the second reading to affirm the principle that children above eight years of age may work for sixteen hours a day. I would put it to the hon. Gentleman opposite, whether, if we are to have a Bill at all, we should have one which treats the question in this peculiar manner? [Mr. WAKLEY: Oh, I don't like the Bill at all.] You don't like the Bill at all! Then, Sir, I have not a word more to say, except to suggest that hon. 944 Gentlemen who don't like a Bill at all, ought to vote against it.
§ MR. FERRAND
could not but express his deep regret that the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down should have taken so much pains to turn that Bill, and the arguments used in its favour, into ridicule. It was a melancholy fact that whenever an hon. Member in that House proposed to legislate for the welfare of the working population of this country, he was always met with the strongest opposition. The working population for several years had appealed to that House to take the peculiar circumstances under which they laboured into consideration. They had almost appealed in vain, and they had now commenced to legislate for themselves; and he would ask Her Majesty's Government, as well as hon. Members on both sides of the House, to look for one instant to the manufacturing population of the north of England. They were entering at this present moment into an alarming combination to protect themselves against what they called the tyranny and oppression of their masters. Let the House look at the fearful strikes for wages which have taken place in Manchester, Liverpool, and other large towns in the north of England; and he thought there was there sufficient to induce the House to consider that it was high time for Parliament to take into its most mature and deliberate consideration the serious quarrels which had from some causes taken place between masters and their servants. In the case now before the House, they found that the master manufacturers and their own workpeople had united in a body to come before that House, to ask redress; and what had they witnessed that afternoon? Ridicule cast upon this attempt to legislate on their behalf, from both sides of the House. They had asked for the second reading of this Bill; and he had no hesitation in saying, that if that House refused the second read-of the Bill, it would be offering to those working classes a direct insult, and would drive them ultimately to their own resources, as he had before said, to legislate on this matter, which they would do by entering into one universal combination throughout this country, and compel their masters to consent to protect them and their interests, as Parliament had refused to interfere in their behalf. He would not say one word about the question whether the manufacturers of this country 945 were in favour of the second reading of this Bill or not. The working classes of this country were watching the tone and temper of that House on the present occasion; and it was his firm conviction that if Parliament would, by a more conciliatory spirit, endeavour to mitigate the bad feeling which existed between the employers and the employed of this country on the present occasion, they would do more to put a stop to the strikes in the north of England, and the misunderstandings which were taking place between the employers and the employed, than all the efforts of the masters to resist the men, or the men to resist the masters.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
did not deny that he entertained objections to this Bill—he did not deny that he felt an objection to limit the hours of adult labour; but, at the same time, he did not think they were precluded from interfering to prevent the younger portion of the manufacturing classes of England from being overworked. That was what he should desire, and he hoped to effect that object by voting in favour of this Bill. The great question before the House was, whether the infantine labour of this country should be protected from the oppression of the holders of capital. The long hours which they were compelled to work injured their health and morals, and he, therefore, contended that, no matter whether this Bill would injure the interests of the manufacturers or not, the Legislature was bound to extend its protecting influence to the hard-working children of England. The hours of labour, which this Bill sought to restrict, were more than human nature could endure. Taking that position, he conceived it to be the duty of the House to pass some such measure as this, whatever might be the effect of wages. He should, therefore, give his hearty support to the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BRIGHT
wished to make one observation in answer to the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand), who had asked the House to interfere with labour on the ground that certain strikes had taken place in the north of England. He begged to tell that hon. Member that those strikes existed only amongst trades not in any degree connected with mills or factories, and amongst a class of workmen who never worked more than ten hours a day, and respecting whom there was no proposition before the House. With re- 946 spect to the feeling between the employers and employed, he should think that the hon. Member would have recollected that, with the exception of Yorkshire, there had not for a long period been any disagreement or ill-feeling between the cotton manufacturers and those in their employ, and that there never was a better feeling between them than at this moment. He was sure that with respect to the cotton trade there was less reason for any vindictive feeling between the manufacturers and their employed at this moment than at any period since he was acquainted or connected with it. The feeling that had existed between masters and men during the last two years in that trade was equally creditable to both parties. All argument based upon the statement of the hon. Member was fallacious; and so far as it had any bearing upon this question, it was in favour of the present state of things, and against the Bill at present before the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
thought that the present Bill was not to be objected to solely, if at all, on account of its interference with the labour of children. It appeared to him to be a perfectly just principle that, as the State protected the property of minors, who were the children of the rich, so with regard to the children of the labouring classes, the State should, by legislation, take care that neither their bodies nor their minds sustained any detriment by excessive labour. If, therefore, that alone were the object of the present Bill, he should have thought that the details of the measure might be allowed to be considered in Committee. But there were two objects in the present Bill, which seemed to him to violate every principle of prudent legislation. In the first clause of the Bill, night labour was prohibited, and the labourer was required to work from a certain hour in the morning to a certain hour at night. That evidently was an interference with the labour of the adult males of this country. Now, if a man could earn his living by no other means than engaging to work eight or nine hours at night, ought they to legislate to prevent him from earning his wages in that way? Ought his means of subsistence to be endangered by a legislative enactment? Were there not, in fact, cases where they could not prevent night labour? Were there not instances where men had no other means of subsistence except by working at night, such as the driver of a stage coach, 947 the guard of a coach or a police office, and various other species of business, which were carried on at night, and which could not safely or conveniently be abolished, either for the sake of the public or of the parties themselves? Another part of the Bill was nominally for the purpose of interference with children only; but, in fact, it sanctioned entering private houses; and he, for one, thought the interference with private houses, whether through the instrumentality of the informer or domiciliary visitations, would be an act of tyranny impossible for Parliament to sanction. He thought that the labouring classes who asked for this Bill, would soon petition the House to repeal the Act if they were to be subjected to domiciliary visits. The hon. Member for Rochdale said that labour was oppressed by capital, and therefore the hon. Member was for interference, in order to prevent capital tyrannising over labour; but he thought that if the House acted on that principle, and interfered with a voluntary agreement made between a person in the possession of capital, and a person whose property consisted in his labour, they could not interfere with the hours of labour alone, but must legislate with respect to the remuneration which the labourer should receive. Considering, therefore, that two portions of the Bill violated every sound principle of legislation, he should not give his consent to the second reading.
§ MR. M. PHILIPS
advised the hon. Member who had introduced the measure to withdraw it, and bring in another Bill, confined to protection to infant labour. Even the hon. Member's Colleague—for Finsbury was divided against itself on this question—could not give the measure a cordial support. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for Knaresborough, namely, that it would be an insult to the working classes of the community if those who were sent to that House, and saw the practical difficulties of the measure, did not assent to it, he could only say that he differed entirely from the opinions which that hon. Member seemed to entertain. The principle of having recourse to informers and domiciliary visits, he, for one, could not consent to; and he thought that they ought to point out the absurdity of such regulations to the people, who, he was sure, would be thankful to have the practical difficulties in the way of the measure exposed. He wished to see a measure introduced for the protection of 948 infants engaged in this trade, for no man could be an advocate for excessive infant labour; and, therefore, seeing that the present Bill was full of absurdities—he did not wish to use the word offensively—he recommended the hon. Member to withdraw his measure, and bring in a Bill having similar clauses to the Factory Act which was now in force.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
had for the last thirty years taken a part in restricting the hours of labour in factories, but he must confess that he had great difficulty in supporting such a measure as this. His feelings were in favour of it, but it appeared to him that the hon. Member for Finsbury tried to attain two objects which were incompatible with each other. If all the trade in lace-making was carried on in factories, he should have no hesitation in voting for the measure; but it appeared that the greater proportion of these machines were worked in private houses. The House ought, therefore, to pause, before they sanctioned such a principle as interference with domestic labour. Where, he would ask, was such an interference to stop? They might just as well interfere with the hand-loom weavers. It appeared to him, also, that the Bill sanctioned the principle of working children, above eight years of age, sixteen hours a day, and therefore, upon the whole, he did not feel disposed to give his vote in favour of the measure.
MR. W. COWPER
would put it to his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, whether it were desirable, for the object which he had in view, to put the House to the trouble of a division. It appeared to him that many hon. Gentlemen who had declared their intention of voting against the present Bill, had also declared in favour of the principle of interference with infant labour. The division, therefore, which the House was about to take, would not be a division on the question of interference or non-interference. He himself should have great difficulty in voting for the Bill, and he would wish his hon. Friend to withdraw this measure, and introduce one which he had framed himself.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
observed, that if this Bill were thrown out he should not be much worse off than if he were to accede to the suggestion made by his hon. Friend. He should certainly take the sense of the House upon the question. He should not think it worth while to take any notice of the ridicule and sarcasm which had been 949 thrown out against the Bill if it had been his own composition and the production of his own pen; but the fact was, that he was the reluctant instrument, as he had already stated, of a highly respectable, hard-working, and industrious body of men; and he represented not only the industrious population, but four-fifths of the capital employed in this trade. Admitting that the Bill divided itself into two branches, namely, interference with infant labour and adult labour, there was nothing to prevent the House amending the Bill in Committee. The Short Time Committee took as deep an interest in that Bill as they did in the Factories Bill. They considered it, in fact, part and parcel of the same system. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) seemed, by the course he was pursuing with regard to the Bill, to wish to retrace his steps upon the Factories Bill; but he trusted that the noble Lord would reconsider the matter. It was no argument against the Bill to assert that, because the lace machinery was set up in shops and private dwelling-houses, that the same measures as had been extended to great factories could not be made to reach them. He contended that the word "factories" was in itself sufficient to include, not buildings devoted exclusively to the working of machines alone, but also all workshops, dwellings, and private houses in which factory labour was carried on. But in order to set the question at rest, he would suggest that in the next alteration of the Factory Bill a proper explanation of the word "factory" should be inserted. But ridicule was not the mode by which the arguments adduced in favour of the Bill should be met. He did not complain of anything said or done by the right Baronet (Sir J. Graham) during the discussion; but he would say, if the principle of non-interference with adult labour were to be adopted, whilst the regulation of infantine labour was to be kept up, the proper course would be to pass the second reading of the Bill, all clauses in which having reference to adult labour might be struck out, and to confine themselves in all future legislation to infantine labour solely. But as to the difficulty of bringing labour in dwelling-houses under the operation of a Factory Act, he would refer the House to the report of Mr. Berry, one of the sub-inspectors of factories, who was clearly of opinion that it was not only possible, but very much desired by the manufacturing population, that the works carried on in such 950 places should be brought within the operation of the Act. The fact was, the House was against all interference with factory labour; and it would be more honest and manly to come forward openly and boldly, and say at once they would not interfere, instead of pretending to argue the question, and using ridicule instead of argument. He, hoped, however, that the House would not disappoint the expectations of a very meritorious body of the working population, but would follow the course he had suggested.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
, understanding from the hon. Gentleman's observations that he was willing to withdraw all the clauses of the Bill which had reference to adult labour, confining its operations to infantine labour only, would, under such circumstances, vote for the second reading.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 66; Noes 151: Majority 85.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Kemble, H.|
|Allix, J. P.||Knight, F. W.|
|Baillie, W.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Bankes, G.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Bennet, P.||Long, W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Beresford, Major||March, Earl of|
|Borthwick, P.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Brisco, M.||Miles, W.|
|Broadley, H.||Morris, D.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Christie, W. D.||Norreys, Lord|
|Christopher, R. A.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Clifton, J. T.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Pollington, Visct.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Etwall, R.||Sheppard, T.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Fielden, J.||Spooner, R.|
|Fellowes, E.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Stuart, J.|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Verner, Col.|
|French, F.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Gore, W. O.||Wakley, T.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Williams, W.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Henley, J. W.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||TELLERS.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Duncombe, T.|
|Irton, S.||Rolleston, Col.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adare, Visct.||Arundel and Surrey, Earl of|
|Baillie, Col.||Howard, P. H.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Howard, hon. H.|
|Baine, W.||James, W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Jervis, J.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Beckett, W.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Benbow, J.||Langston, J. H.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Lascelles, hon. E.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Legh, G. C.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Lindsay, H. H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bright, J.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||M'Neill, D.|
|Cardwell, E.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Maitland, T.|
|Carnegie, hon. Capt.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Marsland, H.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Martin, J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Cobden, R.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Moffatt, G.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Morrison, J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Cripps, W.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Northland, Visct.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Denison, J. E.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Ord, W.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Douro, Marq. of||Palmer, G.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Peel, J.|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Philips, G. R.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Philipps, M.|
|Duncan, G.||Powell, C.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Reid, Col.|
|Escott, B.||Romilly, J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Round, C. G.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Round, J.|
|Evans, W.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Flower, Sir J.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Forman, T. S.||Smith, J. A.|
|Forster, M.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Gisborne, T.||Smollett, A.|
|Godson, R.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Stuart, H.|
|Greene, T.||Strutt, E.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Hastie, A.||Thornely, T.|
|Hawes, B.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Hay, Sir A. L.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Walker, R.|
|Hindley, C.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Hobhouse, right hon. Sir J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Holmes, hon. W. A.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Wood, C.|
|Hope, G. W.||Wood, Col.|
|Wood, Col. T.||TELLERS.|
|Wrightson, W. B.||Young, J.|
|Wyndham, Col. C.||Baring, H. B.|
§ Bill put off for six months.