HC Deb 05 May 1847 vol 92 cc404-21

in rising to move the Second Reading of the Hosiery Manufacture Bill, observed, that he could have no difficulty in making out the extreme distress and misery of these work-people. The degradation and distress of the framework knitters became a subject of commiseration and sympathy many years since. In 1819 a man, to whose memory Leicestershire looked back as to that of one of the first of her worthies—Robert Hall, then a minister of religion at Leices- ter—made an appeal on behalf of the suffering framework knitters, and spoke of —"reduction of wages such as to place the means of subsistence totally out of the reach of the industrious poor;" adding—"That the labourer is worthy of his hire, is as much the dictate of reason as it is of Scripture; and if there be any spectacle which shocks the natural feeling of justice, it is the sight of industry rewarded with famine, of a life devoted to severe and incessant toil without the power of procuring the means of its own support. The distress returned afterwards with aggravated force, and had continued to the present time. In 1844 a Commission was appointed by the Crown to investigate the subject fully, and the Commissioner made an able and elaborate report. He adopted, in that report, the statement of a witness— That while stocking-making had been unpressed by any competition with inanimate power, or even factory regulations or influence, it remaining a hand domestic employment almost without exception, the rate of wages was probably of less average amount than that realized in any other department whether of skilled or even unskilled labour. The Commissioner added, that within the last thirty years, the progressive reduction of wages would average, through the whole range of the manufacture, 30 to 40 per cent. The wages, which were 7s. when Robert Hall wrote, had fallen to 4s. 6d. for the same article in the three years ending in 1841. The Commission had issued, after a period of fuller employment than usual; but the Commissioner stated the average earnings of each frame at from 5s. to 6s. per week, and there had been a great reduction since then. The Commissioner took, not a fancy article, which might have partially gone out, but one of the most staple, and regular, and ordinary articles in the trade, made in narrow frames by manual labour, and which had never been interfered with by the application of improved machinery or steam power; and the gradual depreciation of this article was from 7s. 6d. per dozen in 1815 to 4s. 6d. in 1841. The Commissioner remarked the consequence of such low and scanty wages in the want of comfort in the dwellings of these people, and in their wretched supply of clothing. In the evidence which he took, Mr. Allen, chairman of a board of guardians, stated that the women, in their confinements, were often altogether without clothes and bedding, and that the destitution and wretchedness of knitters were so great that relief had been granted them although in work, the objection to grant relief in aid of wages being overruled by the hardships and sufferings of the applicants. Another witness said— Wages are reduced to the minimum of existence; no set of men in the whole country have had to endure such privations as the stocking-makers of Hinckley and the neighbourhood. Mr. Biggs said— Hunger and distress are fast destroying all honesty in one sex, and chastity and decency in the other. Another witness— Females are in that state of wretchedness that they are indifferent about appearances altogether; their spirits are depressed and broken. The Rev. T. Stapleton— Whole families sleep in the same room, and sometimes three and even five in a bed. Another witness, T. Chaplin, said— There are hundreds of people in Hinckley who have no bed to lie on, and scarcely any furniture of any sort in their houses; there are many families who exist on about 11d., and from that to 1s. a-head per week. The increase of demand brings no increase of wages. There is now more work to be done than men are able to perform, and has been for a length of time; but wages keep falling, notwithstanding there is such a demand, and the quality of the goods increases. The goods are superior almost every week to what they were. Again— Almost invariably the framework knitter is wedded to his trade, and by his poverty-stricken state all his family are so too; they are born to it, they remain there, and they die there. Education was out of the question, except at the Sunday school: the parents could not spare their children's labour; and frequently they were kept from the Sunday schools for want of clothing. The Rev. G. Dealtry stated— The children of framework knitters do not attend the Sunday-schools in proportion to their numbers. National schools, if established here, would be utterly useless, the parents being too poor to spare their children from work after five or six years of age. Now, these being the facts, would the House refuse all consideration of the case? He did not ask any hon. Member to pledge himself as to details; he only asked them to assent to the second reading of the Bill, and proposed then to refer it to a Select Committee, that the responsibility might be shared more extensively, and a foundation well laid for legislating upon the subject. The causes of the distress he had described were not inherent in this manufacture; it was the manufacture of a staple commodity, an article of universal use—it might almost be said of absolute necessity. It was pressed by no competition with power; and fashion had not affected the main articles of production, those used by the mass of the people. Compare the condition of the same class of artisans in Saxony with our own. The Saxons had supplanted us in nearly all third markets; their exports to the United States alone in 1843 were three times the amount of ours to all the world; and Mr. Felkin stated in his evidence that the dwellings of the Saxon artisans were much better furnished than those of our own, and the workmen appeared clean and decent in their condition and circumstances. It was the same also in Scotland, as to which he (Sir H. Halford) had the evidence of a Leicester man, who went there and examined into the condition of the knitters; the wages there were a third more for hosiery goods than in England, and the trade was free from the vicious practices this Bill was intended to suppress. A petition had been presented to the House by Leicester framework knitters engaged under a system of no frame rent and charges, and working in frames belonging to manufacturers without being subjected to any deduction from their wages; and they from their own experience prayed the House to pass this Bill and place others on a level with themselves. The great complaint of the workmen was founded on the heavy deductions made from their wages; there was 40 per cent difference between their gross earnings and what they actually received. A heavy rent was charged for each frame, and the workman was obliged to find a place for it to stand in, and to pay for this if he had it not in his own house, and sometimes even if he had. He had also to pay the middleman. Frame rent varied in amount, and was very often excessive; it formed a deduction from the wages, regulated by no fixed rule. Many employers were themselves hostile to the system, but had not been able to meet the undue advantage which its discontinuance would give others. Mr. Biggs stated that frames were a good investment for a manufacturer, if he could sell the produce of them as it was made. He himself employed 1,000 frames in 1835 and 1836. The demand, he observed, was greater than could be supplied, though wages did not appear to have risen. The frame rent paid in for the two years was 5,100l., against which he set interest of a capital of 8,000l., supposed to be the value of the frames, at 5 per cent for two years, 800l., and cost of repairs 2,450l., that sum covering wear and tear, and putting depreciation of the property, according to his own admission, out of the question; in all, 3,2501. had to be deducted from 5,100l., which left 1,950l. for the two years, or 975l. a year net profit, be-sides 51. per cent. interest on the capital invested, and all the profits from the sale of the article; making, in all, 17¼ per cent interest on the capital. In the case of a great bankruptcy, the frames, amounting to four hundred, were sold for 1,350l. The rent of these frames, if employed," said the Commissioner, "would, according to the custom of Leicester, range from 1s. a week upwards, according to width and gauge, and therefore would have realized a rental of 20l. a week at least, or upwards of 1,000l. per annum, on a property the intrinsic value of which was thus proved to have been but 1,350l.; the expenses of keeping them in repair would have to be deducted, and of course the rental at any periods they might happen to be totally unemployed. Mr. Boultbee Brooks, a framesmith at Hinckley, was asked— What do you think is the fair average of expense of repairs in a year, one frame with another —the common narrow frame? He answered, 3d. or 3½d. a week would keep them in capital good repair; that would allow them good insides, and everything to keep them up to the mark." "And would you undertake to do a large number for that? To be sure I would, and should like to do it—

£. s. d. £. s. d.
400 frames for 1,350 0 0 3 7 6
Rent at 1s. a week 1,000 0 0
Deduct repairs at 3½d. a week 303 6 8
696 13 4

More than 50 per cent."

Mr. John Alvey said— The total number of frames in Bulwell making gloves and long hose, which are made in one kind of frame, is 550, and the average value is 6l. a frame, making the aggregate value 3,300l. Each frame will pay 1s. 6d. rent, thus paying annually for the 550 frames the sum of 2,140l. The bagman's charge is 1s. a week for taking in one man's work, amounting, annually, to 1,430l., so that, for a capital of 3,300l. invested in frames, the rent is 2,145l., and all that has to come out of the workmen's annual wages. That has caused the trade to be in the condition it is. The by-frames being introduced into the country, the work has been gradually reducing, and we have been getting worse. An extension of commerce is of no use to us in the state that we are at the present time.

A gentleman somewhat opposed to the present Bill, who, however, was conscious that a grievance existed which absolutely required redress, had communicated on the subject with manufacturers in a place in Nottinghamshire, Sutton-in-Ashfield:— I proposed," he said, "a poundage of 1d. in the shilling in lieu of rent. One of them saw no objection of any weight, but the other two were strongly opposed to it, and quoted a return of the earnings of 500 men, women, and children, employed in coarse cotton work. They averaged 4s.d. a week at the warehouse, and 4s. d would not give 5d. a week in lieu of l0d. I said that manufacturers could help themselves by reducing the price of goods 5d. if necessary, and that others must lose part of their rents in that branch; that I remembered when in my branch a lad used to be required to get 14s. a week, net, for his master, and for board, lodging, and teaching, and did get it, and made a good deal of over-money for himself; that such a statement as 4s.d. each, gross wages, for 500 hands, was itself evidence that some decisive measure was needed; that such a state of things was a scandal to the country; and that, although I had signed against your Bill, I should discharge my conscience by telling you so.

The grievance was greatly aggravated by the system of middlemen, who took work from the manufacturers, making one bargain with the manufacturers, and another with the workmen. These persons had the workmen absolutely in their power. A case of oppression was mentioned in evidence by Mr. Absalom Barnett, who, as chairman of a board of guardians, had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the circumstances. A man resided with a pauper widow; himself, wife, and two children composed his family; he rented a room upon condition that he should also rent two narrow coarse stocking frames. Each of those frames was stinted to one dozen a week; he paid 9d. a week rent for each frame, standing 3d. each, winding 6d. each, and taking-in 6d.; and the rent of his loom was 1s. 3d. To a young man in his circumstances, the stint to both frames was not sufficient work for one frame. The distribution of work was in the hands of the middlemen, who went to the manufacturer and took out the work. By means of the irregular profits they made, they were able to undersell the fair manufacturer; and hence depreciation and depression in the trade. M. J. W. Hancock gave an explanation in reference to the truck system, which was equally applicable to frame rent. Evidence, indeed, was repeatedly given against taking frame-rent. Mr. R. Wileman, being asked whether it was his practice to take frame-rent, replied, "I am sorry to say it is. That is a great bane and a great curse to the stocking makers." He had felt compelled to take it; others did so, and made great profits. Mr. John Rogers also gave evidence against the system, as the following extract from his examination showed:— What proportion of your hands work direct to yourself?—Very few; although I wish to promote it to the utmost extent I can. I think the greatest curse in the trade is that of working through second hands. I think it is an injury both to the masters and the men. There is no difficulty with the men I have had to do with individually; not unless they are very vicious indeed.

Mr. W. Hannay, a magistrate of Nottingham, said— My own notion is strongly against taking frame-rent. I think it bad in its working department, and the source of great annoyance to workmen and employers. My notion is, if you extinguish frame-rents you would decidedly do away with the bane the trade labours under, that is, the system of middlemen. You will make the trade better, and the men far happier by the abolition of frame-rents.

Mr. John Ward, partner in a firm employing upwards of 4,000 frames, gave similar evidence. The objects of the Bill were three: first, to do away with the subcontractors; secondly, to do away with frame-rents; and, thirdly, to require manufacturers to make entry in their books of the wages actually paid. One objection made to such a measure was, that the tendency would be to make the master employ the workmen in factories, rather than in domestic manufacture. But the advantages which the manufacturer possessed when the workmen paid for the use of the machinery were such that the system was not likely to be abandoned for the best and most economical mode of conducting the manufacture. The employment of middlemen was attended by the employment of workmen in shops; which, however, the Bill would discourage. The chief objection to the measure was founded on the principle which was asserted, that there ought to be no interference with the operations of trade. It was somewhat remarkable to observe the circumstances connected with the distress of the framework knitters. When Robert Hall wrote on the subject, Cobbett was employed to answer him, and sought to divert attention from the object of Robert Hall, by representing the distress of the framework knitters as owing to a cause which applied to them in common with others of the industrious classes, namely, the burden of taxation. Mr. Cobbett told them, that there would be no remedy for them till they got a reform, which would do away with the burden of taxation. The Reform Bill had passed, however, and had not improved their condition. There was another generalization, which had been used upon the occasion of introducing the New Poor Law. It was said that the extremely low wages were occasioned by the allowances which were made under the old Poor Law, and that if that practice were done away with, wages would rise. Well, the New Poor Law had passed, and wages had not risen one jot; they were, in fact, formerly higher than they were at present. It was found impossible to do away with the practice referred to. The principle of the New Poor Law was adapted for a sound state of society; but this was not a sound state of society to which he was referring. There was another generalization, which had been used more recently. They had been told that they would find a panacea for their grievances in the repeal of the corn laws. The repeal of the corn laws, however, had brought no relief; and he thought it would be easy to show, that the adoption of a system of free-trade added infinite strength to their claims. Free-trade was a national challenge to competition. He had already shown that the hosiery manufacturers of this country had been supplanted by Saxon competition; and, if free-trade were adopted, it would be still worse, for there would then be an entire absence of protection to their manufactures. What he asked for on behalf of the stocking-makers was nothing more than fair play. He wanted them to be put on an equal footing with their Saxon competitors. But the present generalization was the abstract principles of political economy. It was said we must not interfere with the operations of trade. It was said the workers ought to transfer their children to other employments. This had been urged long ago. Robert Hall had acknowledged twenty-six years ago— It were much to be wished that parents would cease as much as possible to train up their children to this calling, that masters would take fewer apprentices, and some method could be discovered to lessen the number engaged in this branch of manufacture." "But what is to become of the existing generation? To what employ can they turn who have learned no other craft, and whose habits totally disqualify them for agricultural labour, were it to be procured? Under these circumstances to advise them to retire entirely and for ever is to recommend suicide and death.

He was well aware how inefficiently and imperfectly he had been able to discharge the duty which had devolved upon him; but, wider all the circumstances, he did en- treat the House not to refuse the inquiry which he desired to make. As he had said before, he believed that the main provisions of the Bill were such as would be absolutely necessary; but being anxious that the subject should undergo the fullest consideration, and that nothing should be done rashly, he should propose, if his Bill was read a second time, to remit it to a Select Committee.


rose to oppose the Motion, and expressed his hope that the House would bear patiently with him while he offered such remarks and facts as occurred to him to warrant his resistance to the further progress of the measure. He found himself in somewhat a peculiar position, because, from the cheers he had heard, he was led to believe that his hon. Colleague was prepared to consent to the second reading, and to the reference of the subject to a Committee up stairs. He at once admitted that the picture of distress just drawn by the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Halford) was but too true a representation. He had himself witnessed scenes, the details of which would fill every Member with regret and horror. He would not yield to any man in the desire he felt to serve those whose case was now before the House; but he was convinced that the evils sprang from different causes. In his opinion, the real sources of these miseries were to be found in the want of information on the part of the operatives; the want of knowledge how to direct themselves; the absence of proper self-control; and the habit of bringing up their children to the same way of life in which they were engaged. The children had thus to pass through the same miseries that their parents had endured. He saw no necessity, at all events, for referring the Bill to a Select Committee; for not long since, a full inquiry had been undertaken and performed by a Commissioner, and from his report the House was already in a condition, as far as information went, to legislate upon the subject. He was confident that he could show, from the report of that Commissioner, that the causes he had assigned for the present melancholy state of things were the true ones. The first extract he would read, was from page 26:— The amount of wages, or rather perhaps the standard by which they are regulated, in all branches of trade, at all times, and in all countries, will be governed mainly—1st, by those circumstances which affect the supply of labour; and 2nd, those which influence the demand, and funds for its employment. If labour be redundant, and exceed the demand for it, it will be cheap, in spite of strikes or combinations, or any of the innumerable expedients which have been so often and so injuriously resorted to for years past to give it an artificial value. If, on the contrary, it be from any circumstances scarce, it will increase in value in proportion to the extent in which the scarcity is felt by those anxious to employ it. The only limit to the employment of labour is the improbability, or impossibility, of the employer realizing a profit on the produce of industry. For a series of years past the supply of framework knitters has almost invariably exceeded the demand for them, and hence the value of their labour has been progressively, if not constantly, diminishing, except in a very few of the fancy branches of the trade where considerable skill is required, and in which, consequently, the number of competitors for employment has been proportionately lessened. The following, from page 106 of the same report, was applicable to the same argument:— As regards the injury the framework knitters are alleged as doing themselves by bringing up their families to the same occupation, it may be observed generally, that the lower we descend in the scale of society, the less frequent is the opportunity presented of choice of employment. A tradesman, or even a well-paid mechanic, who can afford to pay a premium with his child, may succeed in getting him apprenticed to a trade of his own selection; but no such opportunity presents itself to a workman who is maintaining his family on the precarious earnings of irregular and low-paid daily or weekly labour; and perhaps constantly engaged in a painful struggle with the importunities of destitution and want. If he can get employment for his children of any kind, he will, under such circumstances, be pretty sure to accept it with avidity. Circumstances of chance, rather than choice, may be said usually to determine their occupation. The subsequent passage related to the disproportion between supply and demand in the labour market:— That the leading cause of the low rate of wages earned by the framework knitters is the disproportion existing between the supply of their labour and the demand for it; the latter being usually deficient, and at all times very irregular; while there is a constant manifest tendency in the former to increase, and none to adapt itself to the irregularities, or the amount of the demand. That this excess of supply arises, primarily, from the accessibility of the trade of framework knitting to the unemployed labourers of all other classes; and from the facilities with which a knowledge of the trade, especially in the common branches, is acquired. He was sorry to be obliged to remark that since the year 1814 the export trade had been almost entirely lost. He proceeded to read the following extract from a publication issued within the last three months by Mr. Winks, a most benevolent individual of Leicester, respecting the young women of the town:— If one thing has pained me more than another whilst sitting to administer relief at the board, it has been to see the great number of girls from sixteen to twenty who apply for help; and some of these with one, two, and even three illegitimate children. The others, who have not thus fallen, are on every hand in danger—great danger. When asked why they do not go out as servants, they say, 'We don't know how to do the work'—and they do not; and, 'We have no clothes to go in'—and they have not. Theirs is a most sad and pitiable case. I wish my friend Mr. William Biggs (and I hope he will excuse me), or any other benevolent gentleman or lady, would take this matter in hand, and establish an institution like the Asylum in the Newark, only on a more liberal and comprehensive scale, for these poor girls. What a blessing would such an institution be to hundreds of young women! Good and clever girls as servants are scarce—that every lady knows. Those from the Asylum are eagerly sought and secured as fast as they are ready. The vast importance of this matter is well set forth by Thomas Beggs, in one of his valuable essays just published. These were the causes of these people's misery, and not frame rents. It had been stated, that the gross wages of 500 hands in Leicester, engaged in framework knitting was 4s.d. a week each. This might be true of some branches; but he assured the House that there were much higher wages earned in other branches. Leicester, Nottingham, and Derby, were the great seats of the hosiery manufacture; and in those towns, industry, talent, and ingenuity had produced a great extension of machinery and a vast increase of wealth; although, therefore, it was true that remuneration was low in particular branches, it was not the case in all. He could point to several branches where the earnings of the workmen were larger; and the Commissioner, in his report, bore testimony to this fact. The same writer went on to show how it necessarily happened that they were bad wives and mothers, and that their husbands were reckless and intemperate. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Halford) had last year passed an Act upon this subject; but owing to some defect in the interpretation clause it became inoperative for the principal object in view. Why, then, had he not this Session introduced a Bill to remedy that defect, and then it would have been seen how the principle operated? The hon. Baronet had, however, taken a different course. He had brought forward a measure, which the more it was examined the more it would be found that it was vexatious and expensive to the manufacturer, and injurious to the operative. It embodied also a principle which, if he were not much mistaken, the House would not consent to sanction. It had three objects: first, the abolition of middlemen; secondly, the establishment of book keeping; thirdly, the extinction of frame rents. He would take the liberty of explaining to the House what sort of persons the middlemen were whom it was proposed to do away with. They were the most intelligent and trustworthy men of the operative class. They acquired the position of middlemen because the master manufacturers knew they could have more reliance upon them than upon the other workmen. Their prudence and good conduct often enabled them to save money, with which they procured frames of their own; they hired a shop, and let out the frames at so much a week. He did not mean to say that there were not some abuses in the system; but what he maintained was, that the evils were overbalanced by the advantages, and particularly by the stimulus it held out to good conduct on the part of the workers. One of the most wealthy, amiable, and respectable men in Leicester had been originally a framework knitter, and had afterwards pursued an honourable and industrious course upward through the degree of a middleman. Would the House, then, sanction a principle which told the framework knitter that that avenue to distinction was closed against him? The remuneration of the middlemen was represented by some as excessive; but the representation was not correct. The middleman was responsible to the manufacturers for those under him; and having risen to this position, he saw no reason why the middleman should not be upheld in it. Except through the instrumentality of the middlemen, many of the operatives who had lost the confidence of the masters would be unable to obtain employment. It would be deeply to be regretted, therefore, if the House were to adopt a system which would shut out from employment individuals, who having once blemished their characters, were not permitted by their industry and ability to re-establish it. The adoption of the Bill would render it necessary for the manufacturers to build extensive warehouses, and they must derive a percentage upon the capital employed for that purpose by raising the price of their goods; but the goods would not bear an advance in price in the present state of competition with foreign manufactures. The hon. Member who had just addressed the House, said, that our manufacturers had been shut out of several neutral mar- kets in consequence of having supplied them with inferior articles; but that was not the case. The real cause of the diminution of trade was the severe competition to which our manufacturers were exposed with foreign rivals, who could obtain labour on cheaper terms than ours could. He begged to be allowed to state on his own knowledge, acquired within the last few days, that if foreign countries would but direct a little more attention to the fashion of the articles they manufactured, and would produce a commodity of a better description, which would sell in Great Britain, the protecting duty could be paid upon them, and a profit could be made upon the disposal of them. The system now sought to be established would be more detrimental to the quick and industrious than to the slow and idle operative; and he especially referred the House upon this point to the evidence of Thomas Finney. He maintained, too, that the employment of people in large factories would be prejudicial to them in a pecuniary point of view, and entered into some calculations to show that the earnings of a good workman would, under such circumstances, fall short of their present amount by 4s. 8d. a week. He likewise, with the view of showing that the hon. Member for Leicestershire had considerably underrated the amount of wages received by workmen in Leicester, read a statement, from which it would appear that in some cases workmen were earning 15s., in others 13s., in others 11s. clear each per week. With reference to wages abroad, he would read a letter which he had received from Chemnitz:— Chemnitz, April 20, 1847. I promised you I would write you from Chemnitz on the subject of rents, &c. &c. The parties who live in Chemnitz and keep stocks and sell hosiery, are not manufacturers in our sense of the term; they do not give out material and pay wages—they buy the goods (hose and gloves) week by week as they want them. They are in reality only factors. The manufacturers (really so) are men who own wooden frames, from one to one hundred, as it may happen, and let them out and take rent for them—a very small rent, varying from 3d. to 7d. per week. In the great majority of cases, they own very few frames; the goods are made in their own shops— they come and offer them for sale. The manufacture is spread over all the villages round Chemnitz for many miles. Hose hands get from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per week; the best glove hands from 5s. to 7s.; but I saw many shops where glove hands only averaged 3s. 6d. per week. There are no factories for frames—they are all let out into the villages as ours are; only, instead of the superintendent of a shop of ten frames or more being employed by the manufacturer and paid wages, as a middleman is with us, he is here a little manufacturer, who makes up for himself and sells his own goods to the factors in Chemnitz. This mode has, of course, a tendency to reduce wages to the lowest possible level, and is precisely the position to which Sir H. Halford's Bill would reduce our trade, if it were to pass, and extinguish the middlemen. We must then throw the middlemen upon their own resources, and buy of them as we wanted, instead of, as now, incurring all the risk and occasional loss of stock, Ac. But as for the workmen being employed by a small manufacturer with no capital, who could keep no stock, and could not work for a month without orders, and who would be frequently jobbing and sacrificing, employment would be first irregular, and then reduced, probably, to nearly one-half of what it is at present. If Sir H. Halford means to withdraw regularity of employment from the workman—if he means to commit him to the tender mercies of a small maker without capital, who cannot half employ him, and further by these means to get his wages reduced to the smallest possible amount, i. e. much lower than at present—he cannot do better than to press forward his present Bill. The rent of a frame, then, in Chemnitz and its neighbourhood was from 3d. to 7d., instead of a shilling, as with us, while the wages ranged from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a week. This was the competition to which our manufacturers were exposed. To the corn laws, he contended, was to be traced all the competition that had sprung up against our manufacturers. If the corn laws had never been passed, foreigners would not have possessed the advantages they had so long enjoyed; but, now they were repealed, he feared that, if such a measure as that now proposed were adopted, the competition would be greater than this country could sustain. He thought that he could best prove his earnest desire to serve the labouring classes of the town he represented, and its neighbourhood, by telling them that they were building upon a sandy foundation if they imagined that legislation like this would be beneficial to them. They must look for far different measures, or they would have to endure trials and to pass through an ordeal for which they were little prepared. Having read two farther extracts from the report of the Commissioner, in order to put the House in possession of the fullest information on the subject, the hon. Member went on to impress upon it the injustice and injury that would be inflicted upon the owners of frames, if this Bill were passed into a law. Undoubtedly many manufacturers were the proprietors of frames; but most of them belonged to persons in a lower sphere, who had perhaps five, ten, or fifteen, and who derived a comfortable income from them in times of prosperity. He wished to know on what principle the House would proceed when it declared by statute that the whole of this property should be extinguished. As to the profits derived from the rent of frames, the hon. Member read an addition to that part of the evidence of Mr. Biggs which had been introduced by the hon. Baronet who moved the present stage of the Bill, particularly with reference to the length of time frames had been entirely out of employ from 1837 to 1843. A reference had been made to the case of an unfortunate manufacturer, in order to show that 400 frames had been sold at about 31. 17s. each; but the fact was, that some frames were worth 30l., 40l., or 501. each, and on an average they cost considerably above 20l. No fallacy, therefore, could be greater than that into which the hon. Mover had fallen, when he represented the value of frames so much below their real worth. Mr. Adcock, in his evidence, appeared to be very much opposed to the payment of rents for frames; but when the question was put to him directly, he admitted the tendency of it was to encourage the idler, whilst it injured the owner. With regard to the proposition for sending the Bill to a Committee up stairs, he feared it would be attended with the evil consequence of inducing the operatives to believe they had obtained a triumph over their employers. On this ground, therefore, he should meet the proposal with a decided negative. As to the frame rents, he would ask the hon. Baronet who proposed that they should be abolished, in the event of the Bill being carried, what was to prevent a Bill being brought in next year to abolish house rent altogether? If the principle were established in one case, it was impossible to say where it would stop. The precedent was too dangerous to be admitted into legislation; and he trusted it would be rejected. In conclusion, believing that the Bill was pregnant with great mischief both to manufacturers and operatives engaged in the hosiery trade, he should move, as an Amendment, that it be read the second time that day six months.


seconded the Amendment. He missed from the Treasury bench some Gentlemen whom he should have been happy to see on this discussion. He should have been glad to see there the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, be- cause this measure, in fact, was a corollary to the Factory Bill, and would be followed by many others of the same description. It professed to be founded on the principle of "a fair day's work for a fair day's wages;" and as the Government by their proceedings on the Factory Bill appeared to be able to say what was "a fair day's work," they had laid themselves under the obligation of saying what were "a fair day's wages. With their sanction of the principle of the Factory Bill, the Government could not resist the case of the frame-knitters. The factory workers of this country, taking them altogether, were the best paid, the best lodged, and the best educated of all the working classes; but the poor frame-knitters were at the other extreme of the scale. If, therefore, the House held out to the working classes the idea that they were able, by legislation, to improve their condition, the frame-knitters were those who ought first to be taken in hand. Yet, after the decision of a majority of that House on the Factory Bill, and the votes of the leading Members of Her Majesty's Government, he was at a loss what course they would take upon this Bill. What excuse could they offer for opposing the claims of the frame-knitters? For himself, he was perfectly free from blame upon the subject. He had lived both in the manufacturing districts and in the frame-knitting districts, and in both he Lad always told the working classes that it was utterly impossible for the House to do anything to alleviate their distress. He knew himself that in many cases it was absolutely necessary to make up the wages of the frame-knitters out of the rates; and he had himself land in two parishes in Leicestershire where, for several years, more shillings per acre had from this cause been paid to the poor rates than he had received as landlord. The consequence of this was, that every frame-knitter in the country brought up his children to the same occupation, so that the trade really could not maintain them, it was so excessively overstocked; and no improvement could be looked for except from a diminution in their numbers. He wished Her Majesty's Government could be induced to take wider views upon these questions. The Legislature were engaged in endeavouring to solve a great social problem— the problem of how they could enable the luxuries and the ease of the highest classes to exist without the co-existence of a lowest class, indigent, distressed, and miserable. They were trying so to divide the profits of industry and skill, which formed the national income, as to give to the highest class what its increased numbers and luxury demanded, without giving sufficient comfort to the lowest class. All their Education Grants, Factory Bills, Colliery Bills, and this Hosiery Bill, were so many struggles with the difficulties of this great problem. The United States of America had wisely avoided it altogether. The aristocratic institutions of France had sunk under it. We alone carried on the struggle. Humanity and morality forbid us to allow our own people to suffer; but, at the same time, we were too rigidly aristocratic to allow the masses to rise in the social scale. He was aware that every step ought to be taken with strict and almost mathematical demonstration, and that this was hardly a fit thing for discussion in a public assembly; besides, he was willing to own that up to this time the working classes had struggled manfully against this state of things with considerable success. But if this legislation were continued, his belief was, that they would destroy their self-reliance. There was not a situation in this country to which a subject could aspire, to which members of the working classes had not attained. Men sprung from the working classes were found both upon the legal and ecclessiastical bench, in the Queen's Council, and in every department of art and science. He therefore warned the House and the Government against meddling with a system that up to this day had produced such results. The most dangerous things they could do was to bring in Bills which would take the management of their own affairs from the hands of the working classes; for it was their self-reliance that enabled them to raise themselves, and it was a virtue that might be eradicated. He reminded the House that the last Bill introduced on this subject by the hon. Baronet failed from the general want of confidence in it both on the part of masters and men. [Sir H. HALFORD had that day presented a petition both from masters and men desiring legislation upon the same principle.] He was happy to be corrected if he were in error. How, he would ask, could the House consistently give this Bill a second reading, and affirm the propositions it involved? The first principle of it was, that there should be no frame rent; but he contended they might just as well enact that the owner of a frame who had a house should not be entitled to receive rents for his house. On what principle could it be enacted that the man who had invested money in frames should not receive interest on his capital? Another principle of it was to push down middlemen. He did not know why it was to be considered an offence to be a middleman. But the fact was, the whole Bill was founded upon the assumption that the hosiers were the most destructive and hard-hearted class of men in the country. He repeated it was the greatest kindness to the poor to teach them not to rely upon that House. The House was certainly desirous of improving their condition, and every one of these Bills was a proof of it; but it could not be done by legislating between employers and workmen. The case of the Spitalfields weavers was a case in point. Their wages were regulated by Act of Parliament. They were pets of legislation and charity. From their cradle to their grave they had been the care of the Legislature, and after all, according to the testimony of their best friends, all this care had proved an evil to them as well as to the country. He warned the House against a similar result in this case. The practical suggestion of the Bill obviously was, that instead of trousers and socks, everybody should wear knee breeches and white hose. In conclusion, he repeated that after their proceedings on the Factory Bill, the Government were bound to take the frame-knitters at once under their care, and that he should have been happy to have seen the leading Members of it in their places.

After some conversation, the debate was adjourned.