§ Order for Committee read, and Motion made that the Speaker do now leave the Chair.
§ MR. DENNISTOUN
rose to propose the Motion of which he had given notice, 109 namely, that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day fortnight. He said, notwithstanding the violent denunciations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Knaresborough of those who opposed this Bill, he should not be deterred from bringing forward his Motion, and of stating the reasons which led him to do so, together with the reasons why he could not agree to the Bill; but at the same time he must disclaim any intention of wishing to defeat the measure by any factious opposition. Unfortunately, any private Member brought forward a measure of this sort at a great disadvantage, as it was in the power of any opposing Member to take advantage of the moment previous to the House rising at six o'clock to move as an amendment the adjournment of the debate. He, however, had never taken an advantage of that sort; on the contrary, on one occasion he had been the means of preventing an adjournment of the debate being moved. He felt most decidedly, that the House understood but little what, in the opinion of the manufacturing interest, would be the result of that measure. When he looked at the history of the various proceedings which had taken place on the subject of a Ten Hours Bill, he was forcibly led to the conclusion that hon. Members had but a very faint comprehension of the measure. He had taken the trouble to look through Mansard. He there found that three years ago, when they divided on the Bill introduced by Lord Ashley, on the 2nd of March, 1844, on the question that the blank be filled up with twelve hours, the numbers were: Ayes 183; Noes 186: Majority of 3 against twelve hours. The Motion was then put that the blank be filled up with ten hours. Ayes 181; Noes 188: Majority of 7 against ten hours, so that at that time the House would neither have a Ten Hours Bill, nor a Twelve Hours Bill. On the 13th of May, 1844, on the clause embodying the principle of the present Bill, the numbers were: Ayes 159; Noes 297: Majority of 138 against the Bill. In May, 1846, on the second reading of the same Bill, the numbers were: Ayes 193; Noes 203: Majority of 10 against the Bill. On the 19th of February, 1847, on the second reading of the same Bill, the numbers were: Ayes 195; Noes 87: Majority of 108 in favour of the Bill. So that while the supporters of the Bill had remained nearly stationary—varying only from 159 to 195 — the opponents commenced at 186, rose to 297, and then fell to 87. And now the 110 supporters of the measure had increased from 159 to 195, whilst the number of opponents of the measure had been reduced from 297 to 87. He would not take upon himself to say what was the cause of these sudden and violent changes, whether the repeal of the corn laws had anything to do with them, or whether the opportunity was seized to retaliate on the manufacturing interest; but it did appear to him that the House had a very unsettled opinion in regard to the measure. He had a preliminary objection to take to the Bill. Its title was a dishonest one, as it was termed a "Bill for limiting the hours of labour of young persons and females in factories." He therefore wished to put this question to those who had charge of the Bill: "Will the Bill not also affect adult male labour?" They must know it was a mockery, a delusion, and a snare to say that if they limited the hours young persons and females were to work, it would not apply equally to all persons. The same deceit was carried through the body of the Bill, The Bill proposed to reduce the hours of labour from twelve to eleven; and it not only did that for five days in the week, but on Saturday it reduced the hours from nine to eight. This might appear a trivial affair; but in reality it would be a loss of two millions sterling per annum. He was not one of those who admitted that former legislation had been beneficial to the operatives. They had already interfered with regard to children, and the result of that interference was that at the present moment there was not employed in Scotland one single young person under the age of 13. He wished to know if it had in any way promoted their interest. On the contrary, he had in his possession an advertisement inserted in a Glasgow paper, calling a meeting to take into consideration the lamentable condition of the children who infested the streets of this, the second city in the empire. How were they brought into that condition? By the measures of that House; and they were alone the responsible parties for having so reduced the comforts of those children. Again, they had prevented women working in collieries at all—the most monstrous interference with the rights of labour that even that House had ever perpetrated; and what was the result? Why, that thousands of honest women were reduced to the utmost misery, and, two years after the passing of the measure, implored that House to allow them to return to their labour, and so 111 gain an honest livelihood. All legislative interference with labour on the part of the Government was, in his opinion, most objectionable. They had interfered in favour of the agriculturists by their corn laws. They had interfered in favour of the shipping interest by the navigation laws. So in the West Indies, their sugar duties were interfering with them, and again, there were the enormous duties they had imposed upon silk. He would ask the House who were the parties who had come there year after year (as an hon. Gentleman opposite had expressed it), whining for protection, but those very parties on whose behalf they had attempted to interfere? They were now about to interfere with the rights of those who had never asked anything at the hands of that House. He had been very much struck with the mode in which the right hon. Member for Tamworth put the case as affecting wages; but the right hon. Gentleman had very much understated the case. The right hon. Gentleman said, that their interference would be equal to an income tax of 12 per cent on wages; but it was in reality equal to an income tax of 16¼ per cent, and more than that, for when they placed an income tax on all property above 150l., they did not, at the same time, tie the hands of all the parties who were liable to it. On the contrary, they were left free, and it was an inducement to further exertion and more determined energy to make up for the loss. But they were not only putting a tax fivefold greater in amount of the income tax upon the labourer, but they at the same time tied his hands, and said that no powers of his should be exerted beyond ten hours of labour. That was neither more nor less than a boon to their foreign competitors. He did think that the House should be more cautious before it gave in to a notion, which he knew was very prevalent, that this country, in its manufacture of cotton, was infallible in its supremacy, and that no foreign nation could touch it. He believed that a more fatal delusion never went abroad; and he might say, that the trade of a country once gone, was gone for ever. Let the House look at the manufactures of Flanders. What was the situation of Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent? At one time they possessed nearly the whole manufacture of Europe; but they had afterwards lost it to England, and had never been able to recover it. It might be said that in these countries they had not the energy of Great Britain; but, as farmers, 112 they stood at the head of Europe. They were the best agriculturists in that hemisphere, and it was, therefore, no answer to say that they had not the energy that we have. But what was the state of the cotton trade towards the close of the last century, and, he might say, towards the close of the war? Why, this country possessed almost the entire manufacture of cotton; but, from one cause or another, competition had gradually sprung up, so that, at the present moment, in the article of cotton, instead of England being the sole manufacturer, her foreign rivals managed to compete with her, and were gaining upon her at a rapid rate. There were many causes for that. Other countries had great water-power, and paid less for the raw material; but would the House step in and make an artificial restriction, which would act as a boon to other countries? He had a statement of the usual hours worked by five of their chief competitors, the United States, France, Prussia, Switzerland, and the Tyrol. They worked upon the average fourteen per cent more than this country. But, said the noble Lord, they could not refer to the United States, because he understood that during six weeks or two months they had holidays allowed to them. He would then strike out the United States altogether, which worked thirteen per cent more than this country, and there remained still an advantage of fourteen per cent in favour of the remaining countries. The Bill proposed to add sixteen per cent more to that advantage, making thirty per cent in favour of the foreigner. But if they looked at it in another point of view, the magnitude of the interests involved in this country was something enormous. It was impossible to say what was the money value of the manufactures of this country. He should take it at the moderate estimate which he had put, namely, 120,000,000l. sterling. Now, if they struck off one-sixth of that amount, they would strike off nineteen millions a year. How would that affect the export trade? for he believed that the great bulk of that loss would come, upon the export trade; and in that case he would wish to know what would become of their imports, and of the enormous amount of trade they would be compelled to forego? How above all, would they pay for the enormous importations of food? These amounted during the past year to little short of fifteen millions sterling, and must be paid for either in goods or in gold. If they prevented the former, the inevitable 113 result must be, that many years would not elapse, till we were compelled either to cease importing corn altogether, or to part with every ounce of bullion in the country. He thought that the late Ministry had well risked their power, even when that power was in its zenith, to resist such a proposition; and, in point of fact, the present Government, although the noble Lord at the head of it was not opposed to it, those who were, and had been more immediately responsible for the finances of the country were opposed to it. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say? There was no man in that House more opposed to the views of the promoters of this measure. What said the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Cambridge; and what said the one before him, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth? What said Lord Monteagle and Lord Ripon? Why they were all opposed to it. The Secretary of the Board of Trade, Lord Clarendon, the Secretary for Ireland, formerly the President of the Board of Trade, every man in both Houses connected with the finances of the country, was diametrically opposed to it. Notwithstanding all that array of authority, they had determined to proceed. At all events, those opposed to the measure had done their duty in warning the House of what in their opinion would be the inevitable result. On the supporters of the measure alone would rest the responsibility. He would make a short statement with regard to the Amendment of which he had given notice. He had given the subject his best attention, and he must say, that it appeared to him to be, as he would show, a feasible one. His only objection was, that it went too far, because, in point of fact, they were to admit the principle of the ten hours altogether as applied to the number of hours to be wrought in a week or in a year, though not in a day. The advocates of this measure said that no female or young person should work more than fifty-nine hours in a week. He took that principle, and agreed with it: all that he had asked was, that they should allow him to work out its details, provided he did not trench on the principles of the Bill. He proposed that they should be allowed to work during the three days as much as twelve hours at a time, the manufacturers binding themselves not to work during the two consecutive days more than twenty hours—that was twelve hours one day, and eight hours on the 114 succeeding day. Their object was to be allowed to work their machinery during three days for twelve hours, so that by a system of relays the productive powers of the country would not be trenched upon. If that point were conceded, it would meet their views almost to a letter. That was a fair proposal, and they would do well at once to agree to it. He called upon the House, however, to delay the measure for one single fortnight. The hon. Member for Knaresborough said that it was a most unfair thing to delay the passing of this measure until after Easter. He would ask the hon. Member for Oldham if there was the slightest chance of another stage being obtained for this Bill before Easter? Even under the most favourable circumstances they could not get beyond the Committee; and when the report was brought up, there would be a discussion upon that. Under the most favourable circumstances, they could not possibly bring up the report until after Easter. He proposed that they should go into Committee that day fortnight, so that the manufacturers of the country should have time to consider the nature of his proposal. They would be able to say "aye" or "no." If they agreed to it, it would be preferable that the measure should have the general concurrence of the masters and men, and there would be less opposition in the House than there was likely to be if they went on at present. It would be difficult to explain to such an audience as he then had, as to the proposed mode of working the mills by the system of relays, and how that system was to be got up. In his mind it was perfectly practicable to use such a system, and they would not require more than twenty per cent, or one-fifth more of the amount of labour. Supposing that a mill at present employed 100 operatives. Under this clause, the same mill would be obliged to employ 120, and of course their wages would continue to be the same in the aggregate amount, though it would be distributed over 120 persons instead of 100. The mode in which this was to be brought about he would explain. Supposing that 120 hands entered the mill on the Monday morning, sixty of these hands would work the entire day. One hundred would begin in the morning, and at the hour of breakfast the first twenty would retire, and their place would be taken by the reserve twenty; and at three o'clock the second twenty would have their places taken by the twenty which 115 had worked for the first three hours. These would be again relieved by another reserve, so that the third branch would only have worked eight hours. The result of that was, that out of the 120 sixty worked for twelve hours, and sixty worked for eight hours. The next day the thing was exactly reversed, for those who worked twelve hours on the Monday would work only eight hours on the Tuesday, and those who worked eight hours on the Monday would work twelve hours on the Tuesday. Thus the thing would go on until the Saturday, when the hours were restricted to nine; but the same principle could be applied to those nine hours. So that the whole 120 would only have been working fifty-seven hours per week—an amount considerably less than the proposed Ten Hours Bill. In a short time he thought that the system would work so well that they would be enabled to carry it on with 116 instead of 120. He had endeavoured to make the system as distinct as possible; but if he had been at all obscure, it was owing to the difficulty of explaining these operations to such an assembly. Looking at the importance of the question at issue, he really did not think that he was asking too much when he requested the House to postpone the Committee for a fortnight, not as a means of thwarting the measure, but in the hope that at the expiration of that time something might have been determined upon calculated to render the measure acceptable to both parties. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment, that the Bill be committed that day fortnight.
§ MR. FINCH
was convinced that the proposal made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow was a bonâ fide proposal. In the opinion, however, of the hon. Member for Oldham, who was well acquainted with the subject, there were grave and insurmountable objections to the system of relays, He should, therefore, consider that the proposition was inadmissible, and he should proceed to argue the question precisely as if it had not been made. The hon. Member had stated there were certain children in Glasgow, who, in consequence of the liberty afforded to them, had gone into excess; but why not institute for them a proper system of education? It would be strange so say that because children were neglected by their parents, and fell into practices of immorality, therefore they must be employed at labour to an extent that was injurious to their health. It was stated and argued by 116 the opponents of this measure, that there was a great variety of opinion amongst those who supported it. It was said that one Cabinet Minister was in favour of eleven hours, while another Cabinet Minister was favourable to ten hours; and that other persons who were supporters of the measure went still further, and advocated an Eight Hours Bill. He would remind the House that when the Corn Bill was first introduced, the same difference of opinion existed. Some persons were in favour of a 10s. duty; others advocated an 8s. duty; and it was proposed by others that there should be a 6s. duty; whilst others were favourable to the proposition for abolishing all duty. But that variety of opinion was not considered to be a valid impediment in the way of the alteration of those laws. Therefore he submitted that the difference of opinion which existed on this subject should not be considered as a valid obstacle in the way to prevent the passing of a Bill which recommended itself so strongly to their good fooling as the Bill before the House. It was said, that they did not propose to look after the young females engaged in those works after they had been released, at the end of the ten hours, or after they left the works, and that the change, it was probable, would tend to the increase of immorality; but he differed from the hon. Members who held that opinion, and thought the effect of the measure must be to improve their condition, and give them domestic habits. It was said, also, to be calculated to affect the rate of wages, for if you took from the hours of labour twelve hours a week, there would be only five days left for work. That he conceived to be a great fallacy. According to the present hours of labour, they worked, in fact, seven days in the week, and by taking off one day, it would still leave six days to work. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth brought forward his proposition for an income tax, he did not bring forward a petition signed by 230,000 of those who had to pay it; but the hon. Member for Oldham, in bringing forward this proposition, was only yielding to the entreaties of the operatives themselves. When he recollected that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and other hon. Members whose opinions were entitled to so much respect, had expressed themselves differently from him, he must assert his opinion with considerable diffidence; but he considered that the market for 117 labour was like any other market, the value of the labour depended upon the supply and demand. In Mr. Porter's book, the opinion was stated upon the dicta of persons supposed to be well acquainted with the circumstances, that with respect to corn, if the produce diminished one-tenth, the price would rise three-tenths; if the produce diminished two-tenths, or one-fifth, it was calculated that the price would rise eight-tenths, or four-fifths. Now, if they diminished the hours of labour from twelve to ten hours, that would be equal to an abstraction of one-sixth of the labour from the market; and, according to the calculation he had referred to, labour ought to rise in value. He did not, therefore, believe that it would be a tax upon labour; but he thought the labourers would receive very much what they received at present. However, the question had been submitted to the operatives, and at any risk they were prepared to make the sacrifice. And even if a portion of their wages were lost, they would receive a quid pro quo by the addition which would be made to their social comforts. Now, as to the apprehensions entertained if this measure were passed, respecting the consequences that might result from foreign competition, it should be remembered that the manufacturers of Saxony purchased their machinery in England, which must cause an advantage in favour of England; then they had not the same facilities for obtaining coal as the manufacturers of England, though labour was certainly somewhat cheaper. Then as to America, the manufacturing operatives in America enjoyed two or three months holidays in the year; and when they considered the amount of labour performed there, as well as the amount of wages, it would be found that they had no advantage over them, while he thought there were disadvantages with respect to the price of machinery and coals; and certainly they were inferior to the manufacturers of this country in point of capital. He conceived that our manufacturers would not work a less number of hours on the whole if this measure were passed, but they would work more equably; for at present, though some mills worked full hours during a certain time, at other periods they worked short time, the operatives were dismissed, and there were most ruinous and depressed prices. He really believed if the manufacturers formed a true estimate of their own interests, they would find their interests would be better ad- 118 vanced by working for ten hours. He had merely to say in conclusion, he trusted the House would carry out this Bill as a Ten Hours Bill. Nothing short of that would settle the question, and nothing could be more injudicious than to leave the country in a state of agitation on this question.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
thought it would be very injudicious for those who were in favour of the Bill, to postpone it by any unnecessary discussion; and the sole question, he conceived, was whether the House would agree to the proposal of the hon. Member to postpone the Bill for a fortnight. He implored hon. Members at both sides of the House to let the Bill go into Committee; and he asked, had the hon. Member for Glasgow brought forward any sufficient grounds for postponement? There was nothing, as it struck his mind, that could render such a course desirable. The postponement of the measure for a fortnight would be a mere waste of time, and he saw no reason for it. The feeling was abroad, that those, masters and manufacturers should not have waited until the eleventh hour to make this proposal. Persons of the opposite interest said, and he thought with reason, that the masters could have done this long ago; and why then should they wait until the Bill was going into Committee? This Bill was introduced on the 26th or 27th of January, and this proposal ought surely in fairness to have been made sooner.
LORD J. RUSSELL
agreed with his hon. Friend who had just spoken, in thinking that the best course the House could adopt was to go immediately into Committee, and not to consent to the proposal made by the hon. Member for Glasgow. He had no opportunity of speaking before the time at which the House rose on the day of the last debate on this question, or he should have taken the opportunity of making some remarks on the general question. He certainly did not say it was the fault of any opponent of the Bill, but because the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel), who spoke until about six o'clock, was carried away by his arguments, and induced to prolong his speech. He was for his own part quite willing to forego the opportunity of speaking now, in order to avoid giving rise to fresh debate. And as the House had decided twice—first, on the second reading, and again on the question of going into Committee—in favour of the general principle of this Bill, he took that question therefore as decided, and he 119 thought it for better that the House should now go into Committee, and there discuss any Amendments that might be proposed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, or any other hon. Member. He could not say he thought, with the hon. Member who spoke last, that when this proposition was made by the masters, they were not acting with sincerity, because they delayed this proposition until the last moment. It was, therefore, wrong to charge them with bringing forward this proposal with the view of delay. It was a proposition from three persons, from three firms—it was their own proposition—they had not been in consultation with other masters, and therefore they were not chargeable with bringing forward this proposition at the last moment, and to give reason for delay. He thought it quite unnecessary to discuss that proposition now—when the House was in Committee the reasons why the proposition should or should not be adopted could be considered. He thought the best course which the House could now adopt was to go at once into Committee on this measure, for there was great anxiety and expectation on the subject. At any rate, as this Bill was only discussed on Wednesdays, it must be some time before the Bill could pass the House, and he trusted therefore they would lose no further time.
§ MR. F. MAULE
thought that when an hon. Gentleman like the Member for Cockermouth adduced arguments to show that no delay should take place in going into Committee on the Bill, he should have refrained from making use of arguments and statements calculated to provoke discussion. That hon. Member had stated, in the first place, that the minds of the operatives were so completely made up, that it was utterly useless to make any proposition to induce them to forego the Ten Hours Bill; in the next place, that the party who had submitted a proposal through the hon. Member for Glasgow had not done so with a bonâ fide intention. Now, he begged most distinctly to tell the hon. Member, that the gentlemen who had made the proposition were largely engaged in the cotton manufacture, and that if the hon. Member should search the records of the factory inspectors, he would find that they were not only honourable in their trade and profession, but had done all that in them lay to carry out the provisions of the Factory Acts; and therefore, he would say, that it was rather hard, and somewhat unfair, to charge these honourable 120 men with making, at the eleventh hour, a proposition in which they were not sincere. [Mr. AGLIONBY: I said the very reverse.] If such were the case, his ear must have misled him. He did hope, however, now that a disposition existed to meet the views of the operatives, that the friends of the Bill would use all their influence to bring the adjustment to a satisfactory hearing. He hoped that the operatives would not be induced to resist a compromise which did not involve the principle which had been sanctioned by the House, and which, having been so sanctioned, he should not again dispute. It was essential to the right working of the Bill, should it pass into a law, that it should go through its remaining stages with the consent of all parties; for he foresaw this, and he begged to forewarn the friends of the operatives of the consequences, that, should the measure be forced down the throats of the masters, continued disputes and heartburnings would be the consequence. He hoped sincerely that a course calculated to avoid such disastrous results would be adopted.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
explained, and repudiated the sentiments which had been attributed to him by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Mr. P. Maule).
§ MR. W. BROWN
was not surprised that the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who did not see any danger to the general interests of the country from protective measures, should take the course which they had done; but he was astonished and amazed to find that so many of his own friends, who were the declared advocates of commercial freedom, should support the Bill now before the House. He was well aware that the Bill had been brought forward by two Gentlemen as kind-hearted, as amiable, and as honest, as could be found in that House, or out of it; but he did feel, as regarded his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, that his kindness and benevolence of heart had, in the present case, perverted his judgment. He could assure the House that nothing would have afforded him greater pleasure than to have supported the Bill, had he been able. His conviction, however, was, that the effect of the measure, if passed into a law, would be similar to the injury inflicted upon the commercial interests of France by the revocation of the edict of Nantes by Louis XIV., by which skilled artisans were banished from their native land, and a blow inflicted from which France never recovered. Knowledge was spoken of as 121 power; and so was commerce. It was commerce which had enabled England, during the most trying times, to resit and lay prostrate the colossal power of France; and was the House now prepared to interfere with and discourage this power? He hoped the House would pause before it adopted such a course. The hon. Member proceeded to predict that if the Bill passed, it would not be possible to keep the manufacturing towns in a progressive state of improvement, and the consequence would be, that the population would be driven back upon the rural districts, thus causing a great increase in the poor rates to be paid by the agriculturists, besides depriving them of the profit of supplying a large body of operatives with the necessaries of life to be paid for from wages. As regarded the competition of foreign countries, England stood in a very different position from what she did some years before. Her competitors were Germany, Belgium, France, and the United States; and in the struggle which existed, a halfpenny or a farthing per pound turned the scale in favour of the one country or the other. Thirty years of peace had made a great difference in the circumstances of these countries. It had enabled them to accumulate capital, and railroads had given access to mineral wealth, and had enabled the foreign manufacturers to press hard on the footsteps of England. Reverting again to the Bill, the hon. Member gave it as his opinion that it was a direct infringement on the liberty of the subject, and was robbing the poor man of a portion of the only capital he possessed, his labour.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, that if the speech of the hon. Member had any meaning at all, it was this, that the proposal made through the hon. Member for Glasgow was not a bonâ fide one; on the contrary, that it was brought forward with the view of ultimately defeating the Bill. If, therefore, he entertained any doubt of the propriety of immediately proceeding with the Bill before the hon. Gentleman rose, the speech he had delivered had left no option to the supporters of the Ten Hours Bill but to proceed; because the whole of his speech, from the beginning to the end, was an argument against the very principle of the Bill. Under these circumstances, the supporters of the Bill had no alternative but to go on, although the proposal, instead of being a postponement for a fortnight, had only been for a few hours. They had heard much of the com- 122 petition in Bohemia and Switzerland; but he would remind the House that these were Roman Catholic countries; and he was satisfied that, by the interposition of saints' days, they worked fewer hours than this Bill proposed. He trusted the Speaker would not permit a discussion on the general principle to be got up under pretence of the present Motion for adjournment. With regard to that Motion, he could not give it his support.
§ MR. BRIGHT
wished to make a few observations on the petition presented by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It would be recollected that, some time ago, a memorial was laid on the Table of the House, signed by 400 firms, which represented five-sixths of all the capital invested in the cotton trade. The names of the parties, and the number of hands employed in each, were affixed to the memorial. The total number so employed was upwards of 150,000. The petitioners who had signed the petition presented by the noble Lord represented themselves as master spinners and manufacturers, and also that they largely employed the labouring classes. The first name affixed to the petition was that of the hon. Member for Oldham, to which there could be no objection; but he found the signatures of thirteen other persons, almost immediately following, who were not manufacturers. One of them lived within a stone's throw of his own residence, but he had never heard of his being either a manufacturer or spinner, nor did he believe that he was. There was also affixed to it the name of John Scholesfield, living near Rochdale, who described himself as a flannel manufacturer, but who employed only eight men. There was also the name of John Wilde, waste dealer, who employed four persons; and so it was with several others whose names he found on the petition. He believed that few, if any, of the petitioners had any connexion with the employment of steam power or water power in the cotton manufacture. He regretted that such a petition had received the sanction of the noble Lord the Prime Minister, for it had been presented by him; and above all, after the memorial had been presented to him, signed by the representatives of many firms, the capital employed by whom could not be less than 100,000,000l., whereas, the amount of that in the possession of the parties who had signed the petition presented that night, probably did not exceed one million. 123 The noble Lord must be much more simple than he supposed, or the noble Lord had been much imposed on by those who had brought the petition to him. The noble Lord had not done his duty by this Bill, for he had not stated the grounds upon which he had formed his opinions in favour of it. The noble Lord had been asked to do so when the measure was brought in, but the noble Lord did not. On the second reading, the noble Lord had been called upon to express his opinion, but declined, and now they were going into Committee on it, the noble Lord refused. He should not blame the noble Lord for this, if the noble Lord had not been the Prime Minister of the Crown. Since he had first taken part in public affairs, he had been accustomed to regard the noble Lord as a man of great judgment, and of high courage; and as he had been accustomed to sit, on the same side of the House as the noble Lord, he had been accustomed to follow in his steps as those of a leader; but he felt grieved that on the very important question before the House, the noble Lord had declined to state the grounds why he supported the Bill. The noble Lord said that this was not a question of principle, but one of degree; but was a question which involved the stopping the employment of the capital and machinery of the country to a very great extent to be so considered? But whether it were a question of principle or degree, he was surprised that the First Minister of the Crown had allowed it to go so far without stating the grounds on which he had arrived at a conclusion respecting it. He would refer the House to a recent number of a very popular periodical publication, which contained an interesting description of the ragged and industrial schools at Dundee, and which described the effect which the last Factory Bill had had on the employment of children, and on their habits at that place:—There are parents in Dundee who have been known to remove their children from factories in order to make them beggars. It is all a matter of shillings and pence. An Act of Parliament was some time ago passed to prevent children under a certain age from attending in factories more than six hours daily, exclusively of three hours for education. Since this came into operation, the wages of such children have been reduced to fifteen pence a week. The parents of many, believing that more may be realized by begging, remove their children from the mills, and send them out as mendicants. Latterly, a new alternative has presented itself. The Industrial School is known to give three meals a day; and the question 124 arises, whether this quantity of food, independent of the charge taken of the children, is not of greater value than the fifteenpence weekly received from the mills, or the money picked up by begging. … On the day of my first visit to the School of Industry, several children who had been abstracted from factories applied for admittance, but were very properly refused. One girl, however, who had passed through the transition state of mendicancy, I found had, for a special reason, been received some weeks previously. This unfortunate being confessed to me that she had been formerly employed in a spinning mill; that her mother took her away from that occupation because she only got a shilling a week, and had sent her into the streets to beg; from which she was afterwards brought here to school. … In the school a book is kept, in which the particulars of all applications are entered. From this record the following extracts have been handed to me:—'Dec. 13, 1846. William B—, thirteen years old, applied. Father dead. Boy was working at Mr. Edwards' mill; had left, being taken away by his mother in summer, because he was on half time, and has been wandering about the town and country since. He left the work because he got only one shilling weekly. Case refused. Dec. 15. Jessie R—, eleven years old. Applied under the name of Mary Bachelor, daughter of James B—. Lives in Bonnet-hill, Dundee. About a year ago she was taken by her parents from Messrs. Baxter's mill because she was on half time, earning only one shilling weekly, and was sent into the streets to beg. She pretended to be deaf and dumb, and was taught to act in that manner by her father. Admitted.' This is the girl with whom I conversed in the school, and she was described to me as having been a dexterous impostor. She had been induced to speak only after a course of kind treatment.It was proved by the returns of the factory inspectors that there were between 29,000 and 30,000 more young persons employed under the age of 13, than before the passing of the last Bill. He believed that it was a total mistake to suppose that because you prevented young persons being employed in one description of labour, you prevented them from resorting to other kinds of employment against which no objections could be urged. The system which was now proposed of interfering with labour, was one of which Robert Owen should have the credit, and not the First Minister of the Crown. Robert Owen was the proposer of it some years ago, and he had received a newspaper from him a few days since, from which it appeared that this plan had been before the Legislature of the United States, where a Committee had been appointed to investigate the subject; but the result of their deliberations was that they could not come to a satisfactory conclusion. The principle of the present measure went so much in the teeth of the millowners, that the House might depend 125 upon it that it could not be carried out without their sanction. The number of inspectors must be greatly increased, and the result would be that if the Bill did not destroy the manufacturers, it would harass the owners of capital so much that they would form such a formidable combination that the House could not succesfully legislate against it. The hon. Member for Knaresborough said that the working classes would revolt if this Bill was not passed. Nothing could be more contrary to the fact, for he found that great numbers of the working classes had recently entertained great doubts as to the advantage of such a measure; for experience had shown them that all previous reductions on the period of labour had been followed by a reduction in wages, and they believed it would be so again. The manufacturers preferred that the Ten Hours Bill should pass rather than the Eleven Hours Bill. The working men also wished for the Ten rather than an Eleven Hours Clause. The manufacturers said, that if a Bill on the subject was to pass, they wished to try the principle to the full extent, so that the operation of it could be fairly tested. He should, however, support any proposition for the delay of the measure, which was not of a factious character. He had not heard of the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow until that morning, as he had only just returned to town. The consideration of that subject involved an amount of trouble which he would not take upon himself; but, as it showed that there was a disposition to come, if possible, to some arrangement, what objection could there be, on the part of the supporters of the Bill, to listen to it? With respect to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, which had made a great impression on the House, he had an observation to make. His hon. Friend would recollect that since the days when he was employed in the House, no children under the age of 13 could work above six hours a day. There was no doubt but that his hon. Friend was under 13 at the period to which he had referred. They should recollect that in nearly all other trades young people were apprenticed at the age of 14; and he could assert without fear of contradiction that a greater number of those apprentices of about the age of 14 were standing on their legs at work for upwards of twelve hours a day, than the number of all those employed in the factories between the ages of 13 and 18. 126 How, then, could the pretext of cruelty, and of over severity of work, be applied in this case, where there was so much larger a number of young persons engaged in less healthy occupations for a much longer period of each day, and where the temperature and air was not nearly so good? He had been exposed to great obloquy, as the hon. Member for Knaresborough knew, for the part that he had taken on this question; but he opposed this Bill as he supported the repeal of the Corn Laws, from a sincere conviction that they both tended to promote the welfare of the labouring classes. He believed that this Bill would prove most injurious in its operation on the working classes, as well as on the manufacturing interests of this country. Most of the manufacturers were most strongly opposed to it; and nearly all the distinguished writers on politico-economical subjects took the same view of the subject. He should give his vote to the Motion of his hon. Friend, as it would tend to retard the Bill. As for Her Majesty's Government, he was astonished at the course taken by them since 1844 on the occasion of the first Bill; and when they first did so he ventured to prophesy what the result would be, and that it would show that there was nothing so blundering as faction, nothing so blind as party. He hoped that the noble Lord and the other Members of the Government would return to those principles which they had formerly held on this subject; but if they did not, he believed that such would be the effect of this measure, that a retribution would overtake them from which their character and reputation would suffer in the estimation of the country.
§ MR. HINDLEY
appealed to the right hon. Member for Tamworth whether it were possible for the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown to have spoken on the last Wednesday that the Bill was before the House, in consequence of the late period at which the right hon. Gentleman had addressed the House. The hon. Member for South Lancashire had, to his astonishment, charged three free-traders who had supported this Bill with being void of judgment and common sense. Would the House allow him to read an extract from a speech made by an eminent free-trader on the occasion of the Factories Bill in 1844. He alluded to the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport, who said—Now be could toll the hon. Member for Finsbury, who called himself the representative of the 127 working classes, in the first place, that the working classes were no more the advocates of monopoly than the free-traders were; and secondly, that the free-traders were taking the only rational and practical means, and it would come to that by and by, of diminishing the labour of the working claeses, their hard and unreasonable hours of labour. He did not say, as had been said by others, that a reduction in the price of bread would alone afford compensation to the labouring classes for a reduction in the hours of labour. He did not see in the mere reduction of the price of wheat, or sugar, or coffee, the great means of enabling the operatives to get on with fewer hours of labour; but he said this—that if we enlarged the various markets for our productions, if we allowed a full and free exchange of our commodities for the corn, and sugar, and coffee of other countries, this would be the practical means of raising the value of our products, and consequently, of raising the value of the labour which produced them; so that then, indeed, ten hours labour might be as good, or better than twelve hours now for the pockets of the labourer, and produce as much profit to the employer.After this, with what face, he would ask, could the hon. Member come down to that House and charge the free-traders who supported this Bill with inconsistency? He had given his support to the principle of free trade, and he and his friends had been led to suppose that they would receive the support of those Gentlemen in the diminution of the hours of labour. There was one of that body, of whom he could not speak with too much respect, he meant Mr. Robert Greg, who had last year voluntarily reduced the working hours of his mills to eleven hours; but he could get no one to second him in this proceeding. It was with the greatest reluctance the Manchester manufacturers had come to working short hours, notwithstanding the embarrassed state of the cotton trade. In addition to this, he found that the hon. Member for Durham had not always been against a measure of this kind, for upon the occasion to which he had just referred, the hon. Member agreed with the hon. Member for Stockport in his views on the question. The hon. Member then stated—He agreed with the hon. Member for Stockport in thinking it would be a very excellent thing if the workmen could live with ten hours labour, and he believed they might if the House did justice to the industrious population. The manufacturers did not come to that House to ask for favours. He, for one, would scorn to ask for that which was not given to the rest of his fellow-countrymen; but the manufacturers desired that the House, instead of passing a measure which would tend to restrict their market and diminish wages, should give to their workmen the means of obtaining sugar, bread, and other necessaries at a low rate. If there was any real sympathy for the working classes on the part of this House, there 128 would be a disposition to give freedom to their industry, value to the produce of their toil, by relieving them from all restrictions on trade, rather than by miserable legislation on principles false and mischievous, to endeavour to restore a prosperity which their own blunders had well nigh destroyed.He lamented, as a free-trader, that others who professed similar principles, and were most active for the repeal of the corn laws, had not adhered to their promises, and supported the present Bill. He was too anxious for the Bill to go into Committee to trespass longer then on the time of the House.
§ MR. FIELDEN
was astonished at the assertions which had been made by the hon. Member for Durham, for he had placed the petition against which this protest was entered in the hands of the noble Lord a fortnight since. That hon. Member had complained, in the protest which he had presented, that the millowners who had signed the petition were not men of property, and that it consequently was not entitled to the attention of the House, and had contended that his own protest was a more valid document. But if it were so, why were not the names of the several partners in the different firms given, together with a statement of the number of men employed in each factory, for that would have given validity to the assertions which it contained. There were 323 firms whose names were signed to this protest; and it was pretended that they represented a constituency of 528,000 people; but he would like to know whether the hon. Member for Durham would make himself responsible for the respectability of these firms, as he would make himself responsible for those who had signed the petition presented by the noble Lord. The memorial appeared to have been got up in some attorney's office at Manchester; or, perhaps, at the office in Fleet-street. There were also signed to that document the names of seven persons who had signed the petition presented by the noble Lord. He would ask the hon. Member for Durham whether he had not taken a leading part in the committee which got up this memorial or protest; and he would further ask whether the hon. Member did not draw it up himself? It apparently was signed by several firms who, he was assured, had never assented to have their names to it. This was the case with some manufacturers of Ashton-under-Lyne, and other places. Mr. Smith, of Preston, said that he had never signed it; and he could quote the names of 129 many other gentlemen whose names were to it, but who had never given any authority to place them on it. The memorial, as he understood, was not signed by the parties themselves, but was got up by means of circulars at an attorney's office at Manchester; while the petition presented by the noble Lord had on it the names of some of the most distinguished men in Manchester, well known throughout the whole of the manufacturing districts. And what did these people say? Why, they wanted to convince him that he did not understand his own business. He, however, would not give way to any body of manufacturers on this question, and he should be ashamed of himself if he did so. More than thirteen years ago he had stated the whole of the case to the millowners, and had then recommended them to adopt the ten hours system. And look at the benefit that would have arisen from it. There was the hon. Member for Durham himself, whose mills were at the present moment entirely at a stand-still, and all his hands standing idle. He did not hesitate to say, that if this Ten Hours Bill had passed last Session, and was at present in operation, that every mill in Manchester would be now at work. England possessed an amount of capital and machinery which, turned to the best account, would enable her to supply all the markets in the world without requiring that the working classes should be employed for more than ten hours a day; and the fact being so, why should they be required to labour for twelve? No man acquainted with the subject could doubt that, even with every restriction, this country could supply the markets of the world. He remembered that in 1833, and subsequently to that period, the plan of working with relays of children was brought under notice, and that children under a certain ago were not employed; but it appeared to him that the adoption of the ten hours limitation of labour was to be preferred. The hon. Member for Durham had told them that five-sixths of the capitalists of Scotland had signed the memorial. Now, he believed that to be one of the greatest falsehoods that could be uttered on the subject. There was a point relating to what passed recently between him and the hon. Member for Glasgow, to which he wished to solicit the attention of the House. He understood that hon. Member to complain that having communicated his intention to him to state his views to the House on the subject of the present measure, he (Mr. Fielden) was 130 not present yesterday to hear them. Upon that subject he begged to say that he had not had any communication with the hon. Member respecting any intention which he might have entertained of stating his views to the House. If he had understood the hon. Member for Glasgow to say that he had intended to make any communication to the House, then he (Mr. Fielden) should have taken care to be present in his place. He did not understand the hon. Member to say that it would have been otherwise than a private communication; and no particular time for making it had, as he conceived, been agreed upon. To recur, however, before he sat down, to the subject of relays, he must be permitted to say, that nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the relays were to the manufacturers. From 1833 to 1846 they had infant labour for eight hours a day. Under such circumstances, there was great difficulty found in carrying on the works; so great that the factory inspectors recommended that the children should work only half the day. But, notwithstanding the disappointments which attended that experiment, the hon. Member for Durham said they might try it again; it, however, had always been thus. Every year some new scheme was proposed, which, in fact, was only brought forward for the purpose of delay. They had heard a great deal that day from the hon. Member for Durham respecting the views entertained by the millowners; they had also heard much from him respecting the sentiments of the working men; but if the hon. Member really wished to be able to speak with authority respecting the sentiments of the working men, why did he not meet him (Mr. Fielden) at Halifax, and Huddersfield, and other places, where large assemblies of the working classes were convened? Why did not the hon. Member go there, and argue the point before the working men themselves? The hon. Member had the gift of the gab, and would not have hesitated to address the working classes if he felt himself to be the advocate of a sound cause. Not wishing, then, to trouble the House further, he should be content with expressing his resolution to adhere to the principle of ten hours.
§ MR. BRIGHT
was sure that his hon. Friend did not mean to say that what he (Mr. Bright) had stated was untrue. The mistake with reference to the memorial had arisen from the misprint of some names. It was got up in this way: there 131 was an association of manufacturers at Manchester, and they had sent circulars, embodying the substance of the memorial, to several hundred of firms engaged in the trade; and answers had been received from a great number, and the names of those who had returned favourable replies had been affixed to the document. The whole of the letters and papers were in existence at Manchester, and if there was any doubt on the subject they could be seen. What had occurred with respect to the signatures was merely a misprint. Two of the names were Roston; and the other, as nearly as could be ascertained, was Charles Haine; the mistake arose solely from a misreading on the part of the printer to the House of Commons. With respect to the manner in which the signatures to the memorial had been obtained, he begged to say that when the memorial was prepared, letters of application were sent round, according to the Directory, to the different firms, inquiring if they wished to sign. Their answers were received, and placed in the office of the town-clerk of Manchester, where any one might see them; and it was under the authority of those answers that the names were affixed to the memorial. There were many firms of the same name, and, in many instances, partners signed for the firms to which they belonged; besides, there were firms consisting of many partners.
§ MR. DENNISTOUN
wished, in explanation, to state that he had met the hon. Member for Oldham in the gallery of the House on Monday, who had asked him whether he intended to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Trelawny); and his reply was, that the hon. Member had not brought it forward with the sanction of the manufacturers. He then said that he had received a communication on this subject from Glasgow, which he had given to the noble Lord, and was to see him again respecting it on the following morning, when he would state the result to the hon. Member. He had, therefore, come down to the House with great inconvenience to himself at an early hour yesterday afternoon in the full anticipation of meeting the hon. Member, so that as far as he was concerned he was under a wrong impression; as it was clear also that his hon. Friend was labouring under a similar impression, he was sorry that he had made the allusion which he did yesterday.
§ MR. STANSFIELD
was sure his hon. 132 Friend had brought forward the proposition with the view to an amicable arrangement between the masters and the workmen. If, therefore, his hon. Friend divided, he should vote with him, although he should be sorry to do anything which would appear like throwing a factious delay in the way of the Bill.
§ SIR R. PEEL
could not support the Motion to postpone the Committee for a fortnight. It appeared to him that it was only a Motion for delaying the Bill without sufficient reason. The Bill had been already fully discussed upon two preceding occasions; it was now proposed to delay the Bill going into Committee for a fortnight, which would bring the House to the Wednesday immediately preceding the adjournment for the holidays—a day which he did not think would be a very convenient one for the purpose of discussion in Committee; and the consequence would be the postponement of the Bill till after Easter. He did not think that sufficient ground had been made out for delaying the measure; and he should, therefore, feel it his duty to oppose the Motion.
§ MR. DENNISTOUN
said, that seeing what the opinion of the House was, he thought he should ill discharge his duty in pressing his Motion, and would therefore withdraw it.
§ The Motion was accordingly withdrawn.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said: The hon. Gentleman the Member for Durham has complained very much that I have not taken part in this discussion. As the hon. Gentleman has so complained, without entering further into the causes which have prevented me from addressing the House, I will now state, as shortly as I can, the reasons which induce me to support this Bill. But I hope neither the House nor the hon. Gentleman will forget that on the first occasion I did state, very shortly indeed, the reasons which induced me to support this Bill; and that if I did not take more than ten minutes upon that occasion, the reason was, that the hon. Gentleman who has taunted me and thrown reproaches on my conduct, had left me only ten minutes to speak in. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, on a former evening, stated that he expected to hear my opinions on this subject; and, although I have no doubt that he meant to conclude in sufficient time, or at least leave half an hour for that explanation, it was 133 obvious that he was led on by the argument into which he had entered, and that he was not able to finish that argument in the time he expected; so that again there being only ten minutes left, I thought it would be quite unnecessary for me to rise for the purpose of occupying so small a space of time. Upon this day the friends of the Bill were exceedingly anxious that we should at once go into Committee upon it; and I came to the House, therefore, with the intention of speaking upon the subject; but had we not now reached four o'clock without going into Committee, I should still have run the risk of any imputation or charges on my silence, rather than delay the progress of the Bill by any observations I have to offer. Before, however, I make any such observations, I must say that I do not think the hon. Member for Durham is quite entitled to lecture me for my conduct. The hon. Member spoke of a retribution for the conduct which I and my Friends pursued in 1844. At that time, differing as I did from some of my Friends who were closely connected with me in party, and who would be connected with me in office if I came into office, I thought that such a difference must lead to inconvenience and embarrassment; but, taking the view I did of the question then before the House—thinking that a Bill of this kind would be of benefit to factory children, I gave the Bill then under consideration my support, and I am willing now to bear the inconvenience of that vote. If, however, the hon. Member means to imply, by talking of retribution, that I was then merely factiously endeavouring to thwart and oppose the Government of 1844, I beg to tell him that such imputations are easily retorted. He might be told of great manufacturers, deeply engaged in the Anti-Corn-Law League, who said that ten hours' labour would be quite sufficient if the corn laws were repealed. If I were disposed to retort imputations, I might urge that they held this language merely in order to get the working classes to support the repeal of the corn laws; and that now that object is accomplished, they have not realized the expectations they led the working classes to indulge. That is not my belief; but I remember speaking with gentlemen largely engaged in cotton manufactures, who told me they were sincerely persuaded that if the corn laws were repealed, ten hours would be sufficient; and that by an amicable agreement between the masters and the men, such a change would be made. I 134 give these parties every credit for sincerity; but when they now declare that they are not able to carry their intentions in this respect into effect, let not representatives connected with the Anti-Corn-Law League load me with the imputation that I did not intend to benefit the working classes in 1844, when I supported Lord Ashley's Bill without an ulterior object. Sir, the form of the Bill now before the House, and the object which it proposes to carry into effect, are, I think, quite unobjectionable. It appears to me—and that question has been debated before, so that I need hardly go into it now—that an endeavour to limit the labour of young persons to hours to which their strength was equal, was a perfectly legitimate object for this House to pursue. It is said that it will indirectly limit the labour of adult persons. Admitting that to be the fact, I say that, as a principle of legislation, there is the greatest possible difference between legislating for the protection of women and young children, and thereby indirectly affecting the labour of the country in general, and enacting the principle that there should be a limitation of the labour of adults. I think it would be just as reasonable to argue, with respect to a Railway Bill for a railway from some seaport town to London, that the objections to it were, that it would put an end to the coasting trade between that seaport and London, as that must be the indirect effect of it, as to say that the principle of this legislation is unsound, because it may have an indirect effect upon the limitation of adult labour. But with respect to the limitation of time, as I have said, the object is a perfectly legitimate one; and I think it cannot well be doubted that great benefit would be practically derived from that limitation of the labour of young persons. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth said, that it ought to be our object to elevate the character of the working classes; to give them as much means as possible for their moral and religious instruction; to give them as much time as possible to cultivate their domestic affections, and to learn domestic habits. But I own that whatever we might do in that respect directly for the purpose, would be counteracted and thwarted by the practice of employing persons of that age in factories to the extent of fourteen hours a day. If young persons between 13 and 18 are to rise at five in the morning, and be employed till seven in the evening in a laborious occupation, I 135 cannot see that there would be any sufficient time either for learning, for religion, for the cultivation of their minds, or for that domestic intercourse which is so valuable to all classes of the community. It seems to me that it would be vain to say, with respect to this large class of persons, that we should endeavour by every means to elevate their character and improve their domestic habits, and at the same time to allow them to be constantly employed for fourteen hours a day from the 1st of January to the 31st of December in factory labour. I cannot think that the two things are compatible; and I am not deterred by the arguments I have heard used that we make no provision by this Bill, supposing it were to pass, that that time should be usefully employed. I should be quite content if, instead, this hour, supposing the time to be reduced from twelve to eleven hours, is passed by them in their own homes, with their parents and brothers and sisters, in kindly intercourse. I should think that a compensation sufficient, without any obligation of reading or acquiring other knowledge. If it is a desirable object, then, that more time should be allowed to these children for those purposes to which young persons of that age ought to apply their minds and their attention, let us consider next that very great question, which I confess is raised by this Bill—Can you do this? Can you give that advantage to the sons and daughters of the working classes in the manufacturing towns, without at the same time injuring the manufacturing industry of the country?—without depriving a great number of persons of their employment, and thereby, in fact, injuring the very classes you wish to benefit? I admit that this is a very large and formidable question; and I admit that, though the limitation of time may be indirect, the practical effect of it may be thus to deprive those classes of employment, and to drive the produce of manufactures out of this into foreign countries, and that that is a very serious consideration for this country; yet, in considering that question, I do not think that the case of a very great injury, which it is supposed would arise, is at all made out. In considering this question, let us consider that it is not altogether the whole question, as has been stated, of 37,000,000l. of exported manufactures; because, with regard to a portion of those manufactures, the limitation to eleven hours is a limitation which practically is 136 carried into effect in some manufactories already. It has been established lately by one of the greatest manufactories in this country—by Messrs. Marshall, of Leeds, who are carrying on their great flax mill only eleven hours a day, and I must suppose that they are carrying on that concern with profit with that limitation. We have been told in former debates on this subject, that many other manufacturers at Leeds, engaged in other branches of occupation, do not employ their workpeople more than eleven hours a day; therefore, the question is not altogether one of the whole of the exports of manufactures, to which allusion has been made. But let us next consider how many various elements there are in the price of the article which is thus to be sent abroad to compete with the produce of the foreign manufacturer. With respect to cotton, for instance, there is, first, the original price of the cotton; there is the freight in bringing it across the ocean; there is the commission to the merchant at Liverpool. Afterwards it has to be worked into thread, and afterwards into some species of manufacture; it has then to be embarked again in a ship, and perhaps conveyed to China, to compete with some French, or Swiss, or American manufacture. In putting together all these elements of price, there are very few indeed, in fact only one, in which any loss is to be suffered by the manufacturers by this Bill. I am speaking now of the manufacturer—I will come to the labourer afterwards—and of his power to compete with the foreign manufacturer. In the first place, the original price at which he purchases the raw material is not altered by this Bill. In the next place, with regard to the wages, we must suppose that whatever is the value of the labour of twelve hours, that price will be paid for that labour; and that whatever is the value of eleven hours' labour will be paid for that labour. I have never contended that the same wages, or the same price, would be given for eleven hours, or ten hours, as would be given for twelve hours. I think we must always suppose, that whilst manufactures go on, the manufacturers would be giving generally for that labour exactly what it was worth; and that what is produced in a certain number of hours would bear a certain proportion to the wages paid for it. Well, then, what is the point at the last where the manufacturer would lose by this Bill? With regard to the amount of fixed capital, I would take it at 100,000l. 137 I have made inquiry with respect to this part of the question of different manufacturers. They have given different statements; but I will take it as one of them has stated it to me. He has stated, that he reckons the interest of that fixed capital at 5 per cent—he reckons the wear and tear of his machinery at 6 per cent—he reckons that the oil, and coal, and tallow, and various materials for keeping up the working of his machinery, is 12 per cent—and 1 per cent he reckons for gas; making, altogether, 24 per cent. With regard to the oil, coal, and gas, and wear and tear, if there is a reduction in the number of hours, there is an equal reduction in those items; so that, in the end, there is only 5 per cent upon which any loss can occur—that is to say, with regard to all the others, in order to keep up his machinery, there is no change at all; but the less number of hours, the smaller will be the quantity of the article produced; and there will, of course, be some loss, therefore, with regard to the interest on the fixed capital. As far as I can see, this would be the result of a reduction of the number of hours; but we have, on the other hand, to consider what has been the state of our manufactures in past years, and what is their present state. Let us consider then, in the first place, with regard to the cotton trade, there was a tax amounting to about 700,000l. a year on the raw material. Let us reckon, in the next place, that there has been, as I believe, and as all those who voted for the repeal of the corn laws believed, a very considerable relief by the change in the corn laws. Whatever may be the ultimate reduction of price, this, at least, is obvious—there can be no longer, supposing the corn laws entirely repealed, that difference between the price of corn on the continent of Europe and in this country; and that consideration is just the same, whether you suppose the price of corn to be very high or very low. Supposing the general average of this country to have been 55s. a quarter, and the general average of France to have been 45s., it must take place that the average of future years must be nearly the same in France and in England; and so, likewise, if there is a year of extraordinary scarcity and a deficient harvest, and the price should rise to 70s. or 75s., the foreign manufacturer will not have the advantage of his corn at 60s. a quarter, whilst the English manufacturer is obliged to have his workpeople living upon corn at 70s.; but there will be an 138 equalization of price. I think that that advantage is, at the least, equal to 700,000l. to those engaged in manufactures. Of this I am sure, that all those who contended in this House for a repeal of the corn laws always maintained, that it was the greatest disadvantage that they had to contend in foreign countries, in China or South America, against the foreign manufacturer, whilst they were debarred from the use of corn and provisions at the same price at which the foreign manufacturer could obtain them. I consider, therefore, that we have given two great advantages to the cotton manufacturers of this country: first, by the repeal of the duty on the raw material; and next, by the repeal of the duty on corn. With regard to wool, there was a very few years ago a duty on foreign wool, which has since been taken off; and cotton and wool are the two great articles with the manufacture of which this Bill is to interfere. It is said, with regard to the workmen, that this must be a great loss, and that you are in fact inflicting upon them a very large diminution of their wages; but, with regard to that subject, the working men engaged in manufactures are, I find, willing to run the risk of that reduction. I believe, that the state of manufactures being the same, the working men will not be paid as much for the smaller number of hours as for the larger. But it must be remembered that the wages at any particular time depend upon the demand for labour at that time, and the price paid in consequence of that demand. I think, Sir, it is an assumption without foundation, that the working people, with their children and wives, are employed for twelve hours every day in the year at present, and that the production of this country is to be measured by that standard. It is always argued as if there is produced every year from the mills of our manufacturers an amount which is equal to the production of twelve hours' labour per day, and that you are now going to reduce it one-sixth. The hon. Member for Durham says that assertion is perfectly true; yet I have heard it stated in the course of this debate, and not contradicted by him, that with regard to his own mills that is not the case. It was stated by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, that there are many mills in Lancashire that are totally stopped at the present time—that there are others which are working short time, eight or ten hours a day; and others only work- 139 ing three days a week. So that our production at the present moment is not what is assumed by this argument, but is diminished at a time when there is a glut of our manufactures, and when there is no sufficient employment for the people. Then, Sir, speculating on what is going to happen—disavowing, as I do, any intention of legislating in order to make employment more equal, it yet seems to me that with an Eleven Hours Bill we shall see more steady and equal employment extended through different years than we have at the present moment. It has been said that, under the operation of this Bill, there might not be at certain times a sufficient number of mills to supply the demand. At all events, that is not the case now. No one will maintain that there is now any deficiency of the power of producing cotton sufficient for the demand of the world. I own that, so far from considering this a bad or uncongenial time to pass an Eleven Hours Bill, it seems to me a peculiarly fit time; because the production of Yorkshire and Lancashire can be kept up without adding a single mill or power-loom to the manufacturing power of the country. If the Bill restricting the hours of labour of women and children to eleven hours should pass, I think that the production of our manufactures will be equal to what it now is—that there will be fewer fits and starts—that there will be more equal employment—and that the manufacturing power of the country will be brought into force more equally and more steadily than at the present moment. But then it is said that, after all our endeavours, such is the keen competition kept up by foreign nations, our manufacturers will be unable to meet that competition. Well, if that be so, I should like to know how it happens that they have been able to meet that competition until now, under the heavy disadvantages which are now removed? I am obliged to ask that question, because I see that our manufacturers have been working under disadvantages that ought to have absolutely overwhelmed the manufacturers of this country, if the apprehensions of foreign competition had been well founded. Take the case of Russia. In Russia, the people are allowed to work ninety hours per week, and money is advanced by the Government of that country to support the cotton manufacture. There is no tax on the raw cotton, and the people of that country have the cheap corn which our manufacturers have been unable to obtain. 140 With these advantages, Russia ought to have beaten out of the field the manufactures of this country. It would have been impossible to keep our position. But I believe that these things depend on many considerations, rather than on the mere circumstances attending the manufacture. I believe that this country derives its manufacturing prosperity from the general freedom which it enjoys, as well as from its greater manufacturing skill; and these are advantages of which you will not be deprived by reducing the; hours of labour for young persons to eleven hours per day. I see that in many countries manufactures have sprung up, and that in others they have decayed; but it is, I think, impossible to say that these changes have followed effects of this nature, or that their permanence can be estimated by these considerations. Take the case of America. The competition of America, you say, is dangerous; but, in one of the States—Massachusetts, I think—there is a law that no persons under the ago of 15 years shall work more than nine months in the year in a factory; the other three months being devoted to their education. Why, if it were proposed to enact such a law in this country, that all young persons under 15 years should abstain from work for three months in the year, we should be told that such a measure would be fatal to our manufactures; and that it would be impossible to keep up the competition with America. Yet America keeps up, notwithstanding, a competition with this country; and she will continue to furnish a great part of those manufactures which go to other parts of the world. These things depend upon general considerations, upon the commercial enterprise of a country, and upon its manufacturing skill. Thus it happens that Russia is unable to compete with us in manufactures; while America, with great disadvantages, and with wages a third more than ours, is able to keep up this competition with us. The general rule of wages in the mills in America is, I believe, 15s. per week against 10s. in this country. Sir, if it be right and wise to restrict the hours of labour of young persons and women to a period not exceeding eleven hours per day, I look forward with confidence that the fears so loudly expressed on this subject will give place again to confidence soon after the Bill has come into operation. We have seen repeated instances in which measures of this kind have been introduced, and have met with 141 complete success; and I think we shall be better off in every respect after this measure has passed. I believe it will be better to enact a Bill for eleven hours than for ten. The hon. Member proposes to limit the number of hours to eleven for the present year; but I think it will be better to take eleven hours for the future rather than to go to the shortest limit proposed in the Bill. Sir, I do not believe that our manufacturing prosperity will suffer if such a Bill should pass; and I think that if it is possible, without injury to their own interests, you owe it to the rising generation to make an alteration so beneficial to them. I cannot look with indifference to the statement that the great proportion of the people of this country have only to work, to sleep, to eat, and to die. In my opinion, it is the duty of the State to endeavour that you should have a population, in the first place, aware of the doctrines of religion; that, in the next place, they should be able to cultivate domestic habits and domestic affections; and that, in the third place, they should be likely to look up to the laws and Government of the country as their protectors from undue inflictions upon the young of this country. I do not see that these objects can be obtained, so long as the hours of young persons are so prolonged as they have hitherto been. I cannot see how a girl of 14 years of ago, actually employed for twelve hours in a mill, and engaged there for two hours more, coming home tired and exhausted, and unable to do anything but rest, in order to be prepared for the labours of the next day—I say, I do not understand how that girl can be brought up to be a good wife and a good mother. I am ready to incur that risk which is said to attend the passing of an Eleven Hours Bill, in the hope of improving the character and elevating the condition of the manufacturing population. I may be mistaken in that view; but I can state that I act after seriously considering the subject. I am, therefore, ready to go into Committee upon the Bill; and I shall be ready when you leave the chair to vote for the clause limiting the labour of women and young persons employed in factories to eleven hours. I should wish the Bill to remain in that shape, and it will then show, that while the House has considered the arguments of those who object to the Bill, the measure remains a proof that this House is disposed to do everything it can to promote the relief of this part of the community.
§ House in Committee.
§ MR. DENNISTOUN
asked whether, at that late hour—approaching five o'clock—it would be fair to proceed with the consideration in Committee of the clauses of the Bill?
§ MR. HUME
thought that if the Bill were to be considered in Committee, the course of proceeding with it at once would be more just than deferring the consideration to another day. For his own part, he had already deprecated legislative interference with the hours of labour. He dissented from the principles of the Bill altogether; but as there appeared to be a determination to carry it through the House, he hoped that hon. Gentlemen who agreed with him would not be parties to any alteration of the clauses, but would allow them to be carried as they stood. He believed that, with a view to the final settlement of the question, the sooner the hours of labour were limited to eight, instead of ten hours, the better; for the operatives, having once gained the ten-hour concession, would not rest satisfied until the limitation was fixed at eight hours. He did not intend to propose a single Amendment, and he should advise other hon. Members who coincided in opinion with him to act similarly.
§ MR. BRIGHT
The noble Lord at the head of the Government had spoken on this subject, and had expressed an opinion favourable to the first clause of the Bill, which limited the hours of labour in mills and factories to eleven instead of twelve a day. Now, he took, it that the clause would require to be altered, as it fixed a certain time, and that time the noble Lord did not desire to fix. If the clause stood at all, it ought to be final in its operation. There were, no doubt, very divided counsels on this point; but the House were fully in possession of his sentiments. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Montrose, that because they disapproved in toto of the principle of the Bill, they should suffer it to pass without seeking to amend the clauses. He felt bound at every stage to vote against the clauses; and, of course, the greater the limitation proposed and sought to be attained, the more zealously did he feel himself called upon to oppose it.
§ Clause 1, enacting that from the 1st of May, 1847, no person under 18 shall be employed in any mill or factory more than eleven hours in any one day, nor more than sixty-three hours in any one week, agreed to.143
§ On Clause 2, limiting the number of hours to ten, from and after the 1st of May, 1848,
§ MR. FIELDEN
said, that the original intention of the promoters of the Bill was, that the eleven hour system should last until May, 1848, and that then the ten hour system should come into operation; but in deference to the wishes of a large number of persons connected with the manufacturing interests, he was desirous of extending the eleven hour period for an additional year. He should, therefore, propose to fill up the blanks in the clause by the insertion of the word "forty-nine," instead of "forty-eight," as they at first intended to do.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Before the clause is put, I wish to say a word. It was originally intended that the transition state from twelve hours' labour to ten hours' labour should be one year, to commence in May, 1847, and terminate in May, 1848, the ten hour system to have date from the latter period. The hon. Member for Oldham, however, appears to have abandoned that intention; and he seeks to leave the eleven hour system in operation until May, 1849. Now, one of the great arguments relied upon in support of the Bill throughout the entire of this discussion, was the evil consequences which resulted from the non-settlement of the question of factory labour; yet the hon. Member for Oldham wishes, if I understand his Motion aright, to leave the ten hour limitation unsettled for two years more—in spite of all that has been said. I am so accustomed to hear changes of opinion upon the subject, that I do not wonder at inconsistencies; but as the noble Lord at the head of the Government has rather angrily retorted on the hon. Member for Durham, I cannot help referring to my recollection, which I have somewhat refreshed by reading the particular passage, to an expression of opinion by the noble Lord, the leader of Her Majesty's Government, namely, that such a change in the hours of factory labour as that now sought to be effected "would be the most destructive that could possibly be applied to the manufacturing interest of England." That sentiment was uttered by the noble Lord in 1844, so that only three short years have since rolled over. [An Hon. MEMBER: Not 1844, but 1842.] Yes, the hon. Gentleman is correct—I now remember it was on the 3rd of February, 1842. Still the change effected in his opinion on the factory labour question 144 is just as great, and the hon. Member's correction of the date only shows that he was a little longer about it. The great argument, as I have said, relied upon throughout the debate, for interfering between the manufacturer and the factory operative, was the great mischief likely, nay certain, to be produced if the Legislature allowed the working classes to be constantly excited in expectation of a great change which is to bring about a state of perfection. With that oft-repeated statement staring him in the face, I cannot understand how it is that the hon. Member for Oldham has agreed to postpone the ten hour system for another year beyond the period originally arranged by the promoters of the Bill. For my own part, I should like that we began the ten hours period of labour at once, and I shall insist that the words May, 1848, as printed in the clause, do remain.
LORD J. RUSSELL
As the hon. Member has referred to this part of the Bill, I think that the hon. Member for Oldham, who has charge of the Bill, should put the clause in whatever shape he thinks best; but, for my own part, I shall only say that when we come to a division, I shall vote that the clause limiting the period to ten hours be omitted altogether.
§ MR. FIELDEN
said, the factory people were willing to work eleven hours a day for two years if they could come to ten hours after that period.
pressed it upon the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill not to depart from his original intention as to the period when the ten hours clause should take effect.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
considered that the limitation of the hours of labour proposed by this Bill would materially affect the interests of the children now employed in factories, and he had, therefore, throughout opposed the measure. The effect of past legislation on this subject had been to throw many children out of employment. The Act of 1844, which limited the labour of children under 11 years of age, in silk mills, to six hours, had very materially reduced the number of children employed in that branch of manufacture. He found, from the report of Mr. Horner, that in 1835 the number of persons employed in factories in his district was 145,000, of whom 22,000 were children under 13 years of age; while now the total number of 145 persons employed was 155,000, of whom only 14,000 were children. The effect of this legislation in Manchester had been to drive great numbers of children, who were formerly employed in factories, to obtain employment as fustian cutters, a trade in which they were engaged for a greater number of hours than they would have been in factories.
§ LORD MORPETH
said, that at this late hour of the afternoon, and after the opportunity he had before had of stating the course he should think it his duty to pursue on this question, he did not intend to trouble the Committee with his reasons for voting that this clause be expunged from the Bill. He would merely observe that, with the hope of securing the advantages which might be obtained from a limitation of the period of labour, and which had been eloquently shadowed forth by his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) and other hon. Members who had taken part in this discussion, he was willing to consent to some reduction on the hours of labour; but, with the view also of diminishing, to the lowest possible point, the risk which he feared must be incurred by the adoption of such a measure, he could not consent to a greater reduction than that of one hour, at all events, till he saw the results which that limited reduction might produce. He was the more fortified in this resolution, because the period of eleven hours, to which the period of labour would by this Bill be reduced, was at this moment the regulated time for work with regard to an important department of trade in a large district of this country; and his opinion was further strengthened by the actual experiments which had been tried by Mr. Marshal, in Leeds, by Mr. Gregg, in Cheshire, and by Mr. Gardner, in Lancashire.
§ MR. FERRAND
observed, that after the statement of the noble Lord who had just sat down, he was surprised that that noble Lord could object to try the ten hours' principle. The noble Lord had stated that the eleven hours' system had been tried, and had been successful; and he (Mr. Ferrand) could not conceive, therefore, on what ground he should object to a limitation to ten hours.
referred to some statistics to show that the exports of flax and other articles of manufacture had very considerably diminished within the last few years; and he contended, on this ground, that the present was a most unfit 146 time for attempting the important experiment now proposed. He believed that the measure would inflict the greatest injury on the country, and he, therefore, felt bound to oppose it in every shape and form.
§ The Committee divided on the question that the clause as amended stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 144; Noes 66: Majority 78.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acton, Col.||Grogan, E.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Ainsworth, P.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Allix, J. P.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Baillie, W.||Henley, J. W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Bennet, P.||Hindley, C.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hodgson, R.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Hollond, R.|
|Beresford, Major||Hornby, J.|
|Bernal, R.||Howard, hon. E. G. G.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Howard, P. H.|
|Blake, M. J.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Brisco, M.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Broadly, H.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Bruen, Col.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Buck, L. W.||Kemble, H.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Butler, P. S.||Layard, Major|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Lefroy, A.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Chapman, A.||Lowther, Sir J. H.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Christopher, R. A.||March, Earl of|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Masterman, J.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Collett, J.||Miles, W.|
|Conyngham, Lord A.||Morgan, O.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Morris, D.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Newport, Visct.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Newry, Visct.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Duncombe, T.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||O'Connell, Dan. jun.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||O'Connell, J.|
|Entwisle, W.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Etwall, R.||Packe, C. W.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Paget, Col.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Finch, G.||Palmer, R.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Palmer, G.|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Polhill, F.|
|Fox, C. R.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Rich, H.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Richards, R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Russell J. D. W.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Ryder, hon. G. D.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Sandon, Visct.||Turner, E.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Sibthorp, Col.||Vyse, H.|
|Smith, A.||Vyvyan Sir R. R.|
|Smith, rt. hon. R. V.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Spooner, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||Walker, R.|
|Staunton, Sir G. T.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Stuart, J.||Williams, W.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||TELLERS.|
|Tollemache, J.||Fielden, J.|
|Tower, C.||Brotherton, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Lambton, H.|
|Antrobus, E.||Langston, J. H.|
|Baine, W.||Lawson, A.|
|Barkly, H.||Legh, G. C.|
|Bell, M.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Lindsay, Col.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.|
|Bowes, J.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Brown, W.||Morpeth, Visc.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Buller, C.||Patten, J. W.|
|Busfeild, W.||Philips, M.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Protheroe, E. D.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Pusey, P.|
|Denison, J. E.||Rice, E. R.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Ross, D. R.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Duncannon, Visct.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Evans, W.||Thornely, T.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Towneley, J.|
|Forster, M.||Tufnell, H.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hawes, B.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||TELLERS.|
|Hume, J.||Bright, J.|
|Jones, Capt.||Duncan, G.|
§ The remaining portions of the Bill agreed to. The house resumed.
§ House adjourned at a few minutes to Six o'clock.